Last Friday was DC Flag Day, a chance to celebrate what it means to be a proud resident of the District of Columbia and highlight that 702,000 Americans don't have a voice in the legislative branch of our federal government. I took the opportunity to head to Capitol Hill and take a photo in the Rayburn House Office Building, where a historic hearing to consider H.R.51 will be held on July 24. While I think DC statehood is long overdue and the status quo is indefensible, not all of our country's leaders agree. Keep an eye out for ways to show your support as we get closer to the hearing.
Council, CFO Reach Agreement that Funds Public Housing Repairs, Certifies Budget: Good news! For a few weeks, I've been working with Chairman Mendelson and my colleagues on the Council to dedicate excess tax revenue currently sitting in Events DC's coffers to fund urgent repairs in our public housing. Initially, the city's CFO was refusing to certify the budget over the proposal, but we have reached an agreement that allows the CFO to certify the budget and ensure the city continues to meet its obligations to bond holders while using excess revenue to fund repairs to more than 400 public housing units, which are deeply affordable homes for families and seniors. If you're wondering what this debate was about, I co-authored an op-ed in the Washington Post with Chairman Mendelson explaining why the Council was right to take on this fight for our most vulnerable neighbors. This was part of what is called the Budget Support Act, the part of the budget that includes all of the relevant laws that pass along with the budget to ensure a smooth implementation on October 1.
Additionally, the budget includes supplemental funding for 31 neighborhood schools (see page 28) that saw their budgets cut for next school year, including some Ward 6 schools: Payne ES, Walker-Jones EC, and Watkins ES. While I'm glad Council was able to direct these additional funds to the schools that are most in need, we still weren't able to make up for all the cuts proposed in the Mayor's budget. We must do more to support our public schools and fund them equitably, and I welcome the Education Committee hearing next Wednesday on my At Risk School Funding Transparency bill to help improve this process going forward.
New Fields at RFK are Spectacular: On Saturday, June 8, we cut the ribbon on beautiful new playing fields in what was once 27 acres of empty asphalt (Hill Rag has the story). Today, there are three full-sized fields that can accommodate a wide range of sports, a really fun new playground, picnic area, new walking paths, shade structures, more than 400 new trees, access to Kingman Island and the Anacostia Rivertrail, concessions, and most important, bathrooms onsite. I remember meeting with neighbors nearly 10 years ago to discuss bringing playing fields to replace the oceans of asphalt that have sat unused for close to a generation at RFK. I taped a quick video from the fields. The fields are open on a schedule that might vary a little in the next few weeks while the final punch list of work is completed, so check here before you head over for community use hours.
Florida Avenue Re-Design Meeting on June 20: DDOT is ready to share interim safety changes to Florida Avenue in a public meeting this Thursday, June 20, at 7 pm at New Samaritan Baptist Church (1100 Florida Avenue, NE). This long-delayed project is finally moving forward with some immediate upgrades to reduce vehicle speeds, improve pedestrian crossings, and provide protected bicycle infrastructure. This will be your opportunity to get a look at the design as DDOT is on a fast-track to implement safety designs this year.
DC Free Summer Meals Program Began on June 17: Many families count on school meals for their students, and summer can be very challenging for kids who normally get breakfast and lunch at school. That's why the District has a Free Summer Meals Program, open to all kids and youth under the age of 18. The program runs from June 17 - August 23, though some sites open June 24. In Ward 6, there are plenty of sites serving meals Monday through Friday. Breakfast is served 8am to 9:30 am and lunch is 11:30 am to 1 pm. Here are the Ward 6 sites:
- Eastern High School (June 24-July 26),
- Miner Elementary School (June 17-July 26),
- Jefferson Middle School (July 15-July 26),
- Payne Elementary School (June 24 - July 29),
- Seaton Elementary School (June 17 - July 26),
- Stuart-Hobson Middle School (June 24 - July 26),
- School-Within-School @ Goding (June 17 - August 9),
- Watkins Elementary School (June 17-July 26),
- Peabody Primary (June 17-August 2),
- Brent Elementary School (June 17-July 26),
- J.O. Wilson Elementary School (June 17 - August 2),
- Capitol Hill Montessori @ Logan (June 26-July 26),
- and Amidon-Bowen Elementary School (June 17 - July 26).
- Here's the full list of DCPS sites, as well as a helpful map you can search based on address. Or text "FOOD" to 877-877.
5G Installation Updates: I know some neighbors have raised a variety of concerns around the installation of infrastructure to bring 5G technology, known as Small Cells, to the District and Ward 6. There was a special meeting called by ANC 6B last week to discuss the topic. I am sorry that I was out of town and my staff were already committed to other meetings and could not make it, but I am glad the companies doing the installation were there to share their plans and answer questions. I'll stay engaged on this issue and look forward to future conversations. I've had a few questions asked about 5G, so let me share a little more:
- On Process: Verizon has a master license agreement and has submitted applications for public space permits for its first wave of installations. Per FCC regulations, DDOT has 90 days to approve the permits. If the permit complies with the design guidelines that DDOT has approved, the application is approved and Verizon can begin work. There were opportunities for public input on the design guidelines themselves, but there’s no additional opportunity for public input at this point if the application complies with the guidelines. If the application does not comply with the design guidelines, it would go before DDOT’s public space committee, and there is opportunity for the ANC to weigh in there. For public space permit applications that fall within an historic district, DDOT is sending the applications for review by the Commission on Fine Arts, the Historic Preservation Review Board, and the Office of Planning. There is also opportunity for public input there as well.
- On Health Concerns: For anyone who wants to know more about wireless devices and health concerns, here's what the Federal Communications Commission has issued, which DDOT follows: https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/wireless-devices-and-health-concerns. I will certainly stay engaged and have been working on this issue with neighbors for a while now. I do take the concerns of neighbors seriously, however I also want to note that the New York Times has documented foreign influence to overstate 5G's health effects in an effort to slow down implementation. I share this not to be dismissive of residents' concerns or to overlook any impacts, but to be sure we all have a complete picture of some of the outside influences we need to be aware of as we try to make the best decisions we can for our community.
Pride Has to Be More than A Parade: On Saturday, June 8, the city came together for our annual Pride Parade. I want to thank Atlas Vet for letting me join them in the 2019 Pride Parade - those folks are serious about their celebration and it was an honor to walk alongside a Ward 6 small and locally-owned business! And while I believe Pride Parade is important, Pride must be more than a parade, more than a proudly flown rainbow flag. I wrote some thoughts on Facebook, reflecting on a really fun day in Dupont while remembering we aren't that far removed from some hard-fought wins for equality for our LGBTQ neighbors.
Checking out the New Downtown Bus Lanes! Last week, the Council got an up-close look at how the new dedicated bus lanes are working through downtown. So far, I think they've been very successful. If you haven't seen them, the lanes are bright red and reserved for buses, including charter buses, as well as marked taxis, school buses, and bicycles. Single-occupancy vehicles may only use the lane immediately before making a right turn. The goal of these lanes is simple - make it faster for the bus to get through its route and be a more attractive option for residents. Bus lanes are an easy way to make it easier to move more people through the busiest parts of our city and these lanes are moving as many as 70 buses per hour. That's a major improvement that lowers congestion, lowers our city's carbon output, and gets more people to their destinations faster.
Congressional Hearing on Black Fatherhood, as told by Black Men: Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton will hold a public forum this Thursday, June 20, called "Black Fatherhood: Understanding the Effect of Fathers Who Care" on Capitol Hill from 3-6 pm. The event is organized by the Congressional Caucus on Black Men and Boys, of which Congresswoman Holmes Norton is a co-chair. It promises to be an informative and interesting conversation, open to the public, focused on the many positive effects of having a great father in a child's life.
Pools and Splash Parks Now Open Daily: With school out for the summer, public pools and spray parks shift from weekend only to daily hours. Find a pool here and a spray park here. Be mindful outdoor pools have a standard day or two each week when they will be closed.
Recycle Electronics at Northeast Library on June 22: This Saturday, bring old electronic equipment (DVD players, TVs, and computers) to be recycled properly at a special collection at the Northeast Library as part of eCycle DC. More information here and here's where you can find a list of recyclable items.
Walk with Me In Fourth of July Parade: Everyone knows Barracks Row has the best Fourth of July Parade in America! If you would like to walk with me and my team in the parade, feel free to meet up with us at 9:30 am (parade kicks off at 10 am) on July 4th at 8th and I St., SE.
Two More Office Hours Before Recess: As usual, when the Council goes on summer legislative recess and many families take a vacation, I put my weekly office hours on hold until September. I still have two upcoming office hours before the break - this Friday at The Pretzel Bakery in Hill East and July 12 at Lot 38 in Capitol Riverfront. And of course, over recess my team and I will still be working, so reach out if you have any issues you need some assistance with.
Ward 6 Week 2019 Returns This July! Every summer, my office organizes a week (give or take a day or two) to get together and check out different parts of Ward 6 through fun community events. We're finalizing the schedule now, but save the date for July 23-30, 2019 - more information coming soon!