Well, summer's officially here! That means schools are out, pools are open daily, the Nats are...well, they're doing something, I guess. It also means the District's minimum wage increases as of...today!
DC's minimum wage is now $16.10 and $5.35 for tipped employees. The Council is headed toward its annual legislative recess beginning July 15 which puts a pause on active legislative work like hearings and votes, but we'll still be in the office and in the Ward full time. As we head into the long weekend, sharing some updates for Ward 6 neighbors below. Of course, don't miss the Barracks Row Fourth of July Parade Monday morning at 10am! There will be food, music, fun, and you'll see all your neighbors. I rate this parade as America's Best every year!
Quick Links: Roe v Wade | Public Safety | Parks Mowed | Homeowner Help | Vote By Mail Success | Monkeypox | COVID-19 | Job Fair | Pools | DPW Truck Touch | Recycle Better | New CFO | 74 Bus | MVT | July 4 Services | Thank You, Naomi!
Roe v. Wade and the Future of Reproductive Health in the District
Last week, the US Supreme Court struck down Roe vs Wade, decades of established law that promised the right to an abortion across the nation. I strongly disagree with their decision and believe it will have a devastating impact. Like many of you, I went down to the Supreme Court to protest following this ruling. But we know more is needed. Locally, I've written and supported a number of laws to protect women's health and reproductive justice, and we're working on even more protections within our local laws. But while DC has protections for women's reproductive rights, because we lack statehood we are uniquely vulnerable as Congress could use any number of its federal tools to change our local laws. Nothing has changed for now and I'm working with my council colleagues to take any and all steps we can to protect women's health and rights. Attorney General Karl Racine has a helpful post on what resources and rights exist.
Public Safety Update
In another Supreme Court decision I disagree with - one that struck down New York's concealed carry law - I wanted to share how this might affect DC's laws. A lot of people have been reaching out to me asking what it means for our gun laws. In striking down the law, the Court effectively expanded the universe of people who can carry a firearm in public to be many, many more people. As best as we can tell from initial legal reviews, this immediately has no changes for the District, in part because we proactively maintained a concealed carry permit standard that anticipated the Supreme Court. That being said, this was a terrible decision.
The main way this will now play it out is by inviting lawsuits that try to test the fences where they can -- such as this lawsuit that has already been filed by people wanting to carry guns on Metro (DCist). Our gun laws are strong, and I'll do everything to protect DC residents and our laws. Unequivocally, more guns in public means more shootings. For a lot of reasons that go beyond the borders of the District of Columbia, we have way too many guns at easy access to escalate disputes. It sits at the core of our challenges with gun violence, and continues to exacerbate the damage done. I find some limited hope in what I've seen included in the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which was signed into law by President Biden earlier this week. The law includes some notable improvements, even as it doesn't go nearly far enough. A few provisions are promising, including stronger laws against straw purchasing (a big source of illegal guns that come into the District) and more support for Red Flag Laws such as what I passed through the Council to get guns out of the hands of someone before they commit violence.
Our communities continue to struggle with homicides and gun violence specifically, with heart wrenching results. I've spoken with too many victims' families in the aftermath. In the Ward, my team and I are engaged with neighbors in every neighborhood to come together and find solutions. These meetings and conversations are happening now and offer both hope and a way to become engaged. I'd love to connect with you if I can help bring the right folks to the table to focus on ways to make your neighborhood safer. Specifically, we've been working with neighbors near Barracks Row, Southwest, near northeast, and Hill East of late.
On the legislative front, yesterday I chaired a hearing in the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety to overhaul the District's Department of Forensic Sciences (often referred to as our crime lab). DFS has been without accreditation since last year after major management and quality control lapses undermined the work of the fingerprint and firearm analysis teams, notably. The failures and dysfunction at DFS have had a huge impact across our criminal justice system, and my legislation is aimed at restoring the trust and integrity in this important function. Here's a recap from DCist.
Related: For folks who want to dive deep into a comprehensive plan to tackle gun violence immediately and long-term, I'd recommend this Gun Violence Reduction Strategic Plan prepared for the District. I've shared this in the past, but wanted to be sure you had it as a resource.
Update: National Park Service FINALLY Gets Mowing Contract Underway
You might recall an update I shared a few weeks ago about the federal National Park Service parks around Ward 6. Short version: they're in bad shape.
A lot of our neighborhood parks are actually federal parks, not DC-owned parks. Think Stanton Park, Seward Square, Marion Park, Lincoln Park, pocket parks along Maryland Avenue NE, the median of Pennsylvania Avenue SE, and more. Throughout May and June, these areas were constantly overgrown with grass and weeds knee high, with benches overrun with bushes and shrubs and trash not being collected. What maybe was confused for a 'Don't Mow May' movement, quickly was realized to be a failure to get the work done. I can't remember seeing it this bad. I've been reaching out to NPS to get them to send crews around, but I learned they had let lapse their mowing and maintenance contract for Capitol Hill's parks. Yesterday, I was informed that they now have a new contract in place (and it's a 5-year contract), and we're already seeing progress. In fact, Marion Park (which had gotten so bad it created its own Twitter account) was just cleaned up the other day. Let me know if you see any of these NPS federal parks that need more attention, and I'll pass that along to our contacts to request more action.
There’s $50 Million Available to Help DC Homeowners
Applications opened this week for the $50 million DC Homeowner Assistance Fund, providing much-needed relief for homeowners who've fallen behind on housing-related costs like mortgage payments or utilities because of financial hardship related to the pandemic. These funds are going to be critical for so many residents who experienced financial challenges in the past two years. This week, the Council took action to delay the deadline by one month to September 30 because the city has been slow to get this fund up and running.
Relief is available in the following areas:
- Provides funds to bring mortgage accounts fully current. This includes forward mortgages, reverse mortgages, and amounts advanced by the mortgage company on the borrower’s behalf such as property taxes or homeowner’s insurance premiums.
- Reinstatement of past due payments (maximum assistance $100,000)
- Forward payments of up to 3 months for qualified applicants (maximum assistance $18,000).
Property Fees Assistance (Housing Association Assistance, Insurance, Property Tax)
- Provides funds to resolve any property charge default that threatens a homeowner’s ability to sustain ownership of the property that is not paid as part of the regular mortgage, such as homeowner’s insurance, property taxes, and housing association fees, Common Charges, or other special assessments. Includes interest or reasonably acquired legal fees.
- Reinstatement of past due payments (maximum assistance $100,000)
- Forward payments of up to 3 months (or next property tax installment) for qualified applicants (maximum assistance $18,000)
- Provides funds to bring delinquent accounts fully current under circumstances in which a delinquency threatens access to utility or internet or internet services.
- Electricity, gas, and/or water to PEPCO, Washington Gas, and DC Water (maximum assistance $4,000)
- Internet and broadband services to RCN, Verizon and Comcast (maximum assistance $1,000
Vote By Mail and Drop Boxes Boost Last Week's Election Turnout
While a few final ballots are still being tallied, there's a clear winner from last Tuesday's Primary Election: mail-in ballot voting. DC eclipsed 2020 primary vote totals by nearly 17,000 votes. And this year's primary blew past votes in the 2018 primary by a whooping 42,000 votes! All of that is to say I think we've found a great way to help expand the franchise to more and more residents and boost civic engagement. This is great news and what we had hoped for. Because it turns out when we put ballots in every voter's hands (via their mailbox), they're much more likely to vote. A bill I introduced to make Vote By Mail permanent moving forward is making its way through the Council.
Info on Monkeypox Vaccines
This week, DC Health began offering monkeypox vaccines to eligible residents. Unfortunately, as of Friday, July 1, DC Health can't schedule new appointments because of limited supply. Please continue to check back at preventmonkeypox.dc.gov and @_DCHealth on Twitter for updates on appointment openings. Find eligibility info here.
To many parents’ relief, COVID vaccines are now approved for kids under 5! Vaccinations are available for all residents six months and older at COVID centers or at your child’s pediatrician. If you’re unable to bring your child to get vaccinated yourself, you can print out and sign the Trusted Party Consent and Verification Forms so someone you trust can accompany your child for their shot (the Trusted Party must bring an ID).
As a reminder, DC Health publishes weekly data updates to help residents gauge risk. You can follow along here: https://coronavirus.dc.gov/key-metrics
COVID Centers Remain a Great Resource: If you need a test, a vaccine, or masks, the District operates COVID Centers in every Ward (ours is on Barracks Row at 507 8th St., SE). You can get masks, vaccines, and tests for free. And for those ages 5-11, boosters are available today - following CDC guidance approved last night - by walking into the COVID Center to get one for your child if it's been 5 months since their initial vaccine. And if for some reason your 5- to 11-year-old never got vaccinated, well, there's no time like the present, and the COVID Center can make that happen, too.
Get Vaccinated and Boosted: All residents over the age of 12 are eligible for vaccination and a booster. Having the vaccine provides immense protection against the most serious effects of COVID-19, and we have a number of highly transmissible variants right now. If you got your first shots, be sure to bring your vaccine card so the provider can verify you're eligible. Find a location in Ward 6 now.
The Ward 6/DC Job Fair Returns!
Our Ward 6 Job Fair at Arena Stage returned on Tuesday for the first time in two years -- with more than 600 residents registered to meet with employers! This is a long running event in the Ward to put employers looking to hire and Ward 6 residents who need jobs in the same room. More recently, I’ve teamed up with my colleague, Councilmember Elissa Silverman, who chairs the Council's labor committee, to expand to more of our residents working with DOES and other job search assistance teams. And this year we partnered with Ward 8 Councilmember Trayon White following redistricting to ensure our neighbors and businesses in Capitol Riverfront could benefit.
We focused on finding good-paying jobs with the businesses about to open as part of Phase 2 of The Wharf and the many businesses open along the waterfront already. District residents were able to connect with more than 25 local employers in industries such as hospitality, sports, fitness, and more, and with local job resource providers. Events like this are how we ensure Ward 6 and DC residents are benefiting from the growing opportunities in the District, especially as we recover economically from the pandemic. Before the pandemic, we hosted one or two job fairs a year, and I’m glad we were able to return.
Making a Splash: DC Outdoor Pools Now Open Daily
School is (finally) out for the summer, and DC outdoor pools are now open daily. After a few weeks of weekend-only schedules, pools around the District are now open six days a week. You can find individual pool schedules on the Department of Parks and Recreation website.
Our own Randall Pool in Ward 6 is open from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends (and closed Wednesdays). Rosedale Pool (now just over the border into Ward 7) is closed on Wednesdays and otherwise open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
East Potomac Pool (now part of Ward 6) remains closed for renovations this summer.
DPW Truck Touch Returns July 16
Parents of children who love big trucks (and any of us big kids who love big trucks), be sure you save the date for Saturday, July 16 from 8 am to 1 pm for the annual truck touch with DPW! This is a great summer event for kids of all ages. Get to see our trucks up close. More here.
Level Up: How to Ensure Your Recycling Actually Gets Recycled
As an activity we all do, I've been meaning to share a few tips for folks to make sure our recycling is making it successfully through the process. It's a bigger challenge than most folks realize to successfully recycle materials. But there are a few easy steps you can take to give your goods a head start:
- Don't bag your recyclables - no bag, just the goods go into the bin.
- Cardboard can't get wet. So keep those lids closed!
- Curbside recycling can't handle plastic bags of any kind -- but most large grocery stores collect them and sell them to third-party vendors. One re-use of plastic bags? Composite decking (it's true; look it up).
- Sorting machines can't handle small plastic (like small sauce containers from to-go meals). But you can rinse them and stuff them into larger plastic cups that can be sorted successfully.
- You don't need to rinse plastic bottles that contained soaps or cleaning materials - those residues can help with the process down the line.
- Food waste is also recycling: you can bring food waste to Eastern Market or Southwest Farmers Markets every Saturday to become part of the city's composting program.
- Here is DPW's guide to what can go into your curbside recycling can for weekly collection. Please follow these rules to improve the District's overall recycling success!
DC has a New Chief Financial Officer
This week, the Council confirmed the appointment of Glen Lee as the District's next Chief Financial Officer. I probably don't need to tell you this, but the CFO is an incredibly important position in ensuring we run a strong and inclusive city. I had the chance to meet Mr. Lee in advance of his hearing and confirmation and believe he'll be a good leader in maintaining the District's financial health and strength while making improvements in how offices under his leadership, such as the Office of Tax and Revenue, serve residents.
Restoring Service to the 74 Bus
I've been pushing WMATA to figure out service issues with the 74 bus, which services Southwest and downtown. I'm glad to say WMATA has finally shared a permanent route while major construction takes place in Buzzard Point. Click the map to the right to see the new route. I'll stay on this with Southwest leaders to make sure the 74 gets back on track.
Save the Date: Ward 6 Week!
I'm pleased to announce we'll be bringing back Ward 6 Week this summer. This is an annual summer tradition of mine for folks who are in town to have some fun exploring our neighborhood together. We'll have a list of events out shortly, but save the week of August 8-12!
WaPo Profiles Mt. Vernon Triangle
The Washington Post recently profiled Ward 6's Mount Vernon Triangle neighborhood. The piece highlights MVT's walkability (50 percent of residents commute on foot!), community events like "Tunes in the Triangle" and the Fifth and I farmers market, and the Plaza West affordable housing community with units uniquely dedicated for "grandfamilies," grandparents raising grandchildren. Read the full profile here.
Quick Rundown of July 4 Government Services
Open: Test Yourself Dropboxes (10 am to 8 pm collection times); DPR fields, parks, courts, and splash parks open as normal.
Closed: COVID Centers, DC Libraries, Test Pick-up Locations, DMV.
As with all holidays, trash and recycling collection will slide back one day due to the holiday.
Thank You, Naomi Mitchell!
Finally, I'm writing to share that today is the last day that Naomi Mitchell, my longtime community liaison, is serving in the Ward 6 office. Naomi is stepping into her retirement after serving Ward 6 dating back to when Tommy Wells was first elected Councilmember, and I've been lucky that she's stayed on with me every day until now. I can't begin to describe how grateful I am for Naomi's work on behalf of so many constituents.
I bet nearly every Ward 6 resident who's interacted with my office, or with Tommy Wells' office before me, has a Naomi story. She's attended nearly every ANC meeting in the past 17 years, she's formed relationships and friendships in every part of the Ward, and has made an incredible, long-lasting mark on Ward 6. She also helped run dozens of Ward 6 Job Fairs, including the one we had this week (here's Naomi and me in a quick video at the job fair)! She's been a close advisor to me, especially on senior issues and with vulnerable and hard-to-reach populations, and worked around the clock for truly months after the Arthur Capper fire a few years ago.
She'll still call Ward 6 home, but she's made the decision that it's time for a new chapter. She's spent the last few months downloading all of her experience and knowledge with our team, and I feel confident we can carry on her excellent work, even if not one of us could do it the way she did. I wish you all the best Naomi, and I am so, so grateful for your dedication to our team and Ward 6. Here's a lovely tribute to Naomi in Capitol Hill Corner.
Okay, that's enough from me. Be safe this weekend, and happy Fourth of July.