The Council is back in full session with plenty happening that will impact your neighborhood, with updates below on a wide range of topics.
Updates on a wide range of topics are below. But before we jump in, I wanted to be sure you saw this helpful roundup of ways to celebrate Halloween from Hill Rag -- these are great traditions that I'm glad to see back. Let's celebrate safely and enjoy some haunted fun!
Public Safety Update
The last few weeks have seen some devastating gun violence in our city, including in our Ward 6 neighborhoods. I've met with neighbors, victims, and families following incidents, and I've been working with MPD Chief Contee and leadership, city agencies, and community organizations in the aftermath. Just this weekend - near 12th and D Streets, SE – a personal conflict between people who knew each other quickly turned deadly as one decided to use a gun. That shooting led to a life lost, a family grieving, and neighbors traumatized. It's a violation of our sense of security and completely unacceptable.
Across the country, gun violence has gone up this year after a rise last year – in many cities, by a lot. Easy access to guns and personal conflicts being settled through violence is driving a significant portion of what we've seen. We have no real clear idea of how much damage the pandemic and the health and economic impacts have had on all of us.
We know solutions aren't easy, but the city has to lean in and treat this as the crisis it is. And I strongly believe when we talk about ensuring accountability and also getting at the root causes of violence, that we must take a "both/and" approach, rather than one that is "either/or." That is exactly the strategy I've pushed my colleagues on the Council and in the criminal justice system to pursue, with unprecedented, transformative investments underway in the budget that just started on October 1. These investments build on a few years of work starting programs from the ground up.
At the Council, this both/and approach means I've increased the criminal penalties for illegal guns used and carried on our streets, expanded MPD's Cadet program to build a stronger pipeline of future recruits from the communities they serve, and demanded accountability for harm and violence committed in our neighborhoods. And at the same time, I've pushed for significant investments in proven community-based violence prevention programs, expanded “credible messengers” in our communities to focus on at-risk young people before they become victims, and significantly increased interventions to break cycles of retaliation, trauma, and violence. Just this February, the Executive’s “Building Blocks DC” initiative was launched, embracing the "whole of government" approach to violence reduction I've long advocated for. I'm waiting to see how Building Blocks DC fills this central role, but certainly I want it to think outside of the box about violence reduction, such as embracing environmental improvements that have proven to reduce crime in other cities. These investments and policies, long neglected by our city, will make us a safer community now and in the long-term (click on the graphic to the right to see a more comprehensive look at the citywide strategy).
In times of crisis, it can sometimes be easy to retreat to our corners, saying solutions can only be found in doing things either this way or that way, or that government holds all the answers. The city has to do more on several fronts at the same time and find the urgency and political will to tackle this violence as the emergency that it is. With that in mind, please join me tomorrow, Tuesday, October 19, for a conversation with the Attorney General's office, the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice, MPD leadership, the Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement, and other District agency leaders to talk about the strategies and action needed to make this change: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZwtcequrT8vE9UqmtekzAUuq71L8uwyxLgk
Updates: MPD has made an arrest in a series of robberies along H Street NE earlier this month, as well as an arrest in a non-fatal stabbing at 13th and E St., NE earlier this month. I'll share more updates as I receive them from ongoing Ward 6 investigations.
COVID-19: Preparing for Vaccine Approval for Kids
Parents are eagerly awaiting approval (on emergency basis) for kids ages five to 11 years old. I know I'm not alone in wanting to get my own children vaccinated and protected as quickly as possible. I've gotten a lot of questions about how the city is preparing and what a timeline will look like once approval is given. I wanted to share the latest based on conversations with the DC Department of Health.
There will be two steps that have to happen before vaccines can be administered. First, the FDA Vaccine Advisory Committee has to give approval. That meeting is scheduled for October 26. Next, the CDC Vaccine Guidance Committee has to approve guidance on how to administer the vaccine to children and that should come about a week later. Providers can start to order the pediatric vaccine after FDA approval, but cannot administer the vaccine until after the CDC approval (and obviously, you have to build in some time for distribution and delivery).
Based on previous experience, many providers will take a day or two to make sure they fully understand the guidance before shots start hitting arms (and again, that's assuming that orders were placed and delivered). DC Health has not yet announced clinics or mass vaccination plans for pediatrics yet. One thing to remember from earlier this year was that due to limitations on the vaccine allocation at the time, the District was not able to set up mass sites because there simply wasn't enough supply of vaccine for adults to meet the demand initially. It's unclear if that will play out again in the first weeks of the pediatric vaccine availability, but DC Health is keeping that experience in mind as it prepares. We expect to hear more on this in the coming weeks and I'll share more updates as they come in.
Get Vaccinated: For DC residents 12 and older, it's free and very easy to get vaccinated right away near your home.
Track Data and Metrics: The District has made a lot of helpful information available to all residents to evaluate risk by understanding the impact of COVID-19. Check out the data here.
Wear a Mask in Public Indoor Settings: Vaccines are the most important tool, but so is being smart about minimizing spread -- wear a mask when you are around others indoors (and for prolonged periods outdoors). The District continues to have an indoor mask requirement. Please wear your mask when around others or in public spaces indoors. Don't give employees at businesses a hard time -- just wear the mask. And get vaccinated if you haven't yet. It's safe and really effective at preventing serious hospitalization and death and slowing the transmission to others.
Self-Testing in Ward 6: If we're going to beat this virus, testing will be a critical part of our fight. After DOH initially rolled out only a single self-test site for all of Ward 6, I asked DC Health to expand the number of self-test sites in the Ward and am happy to share they have expanded to five sites (covering all four quadrants of our Ward) offering simple COVID-19 test kits you can use at home. The locations are:
- Arthur Capper Community Center (1000 5th St SE)
- Rosedale Recreation Center (1701 Gales St NE)
- Southwest Library (900 Wesley Pl SW)
- Watha T. Daniel Library (1630 7th St NW)
- DC Health (899 N Capitol St NE)
Testing Sites are still operating: Find daily updates about where and when here.
I've Re-Introduced Metro For DC. Let's Transform Public Transit.
I'm excited to announce I've re-introduced my Metro For DC legislation, which would create a program to transform how we get around the District in two ways:
- Provide a balance of $100 on a SmarTrip card to any DC resident;
- Dedicate an annual $10 million fund to improving bus service in the District.
I originally introduced this bill back in March of 2020, right before...well, all of *waves hands* happened. Now that we're focused on vaccinating residents and recovering stronger, I believe this is the time to revisit this bill, which could transform our public transit system and be a major boost to family budgets. Learn more and sign-up for email updates on the progress of the bill at MetroForDC.com.
Related: Late Sunday night, WMATA announced a massive change in service to pull all 7000 series cars after a derailment. This is going to have a big impact on Metrorail users, including 30 minute headways, while the issue is dealt with on around 60 percent of the train fleet. That being said, WMATA needs to act with speed and caution to understand the scope of the issue. We are fortunate no one was hurt in the derailment, but the public deserves transparency given the enormous investment we all have in the system's operation. Keep an eye on this page for updates on the investigation. For me, this incident drives home just how critical it is that we have great Metrobus service to help us keep getting around.
Latest on DC's Redistricting Moves
The District's review of the 2020 Census data and required redistricting of the Ward lines continues. The Council's special committee on redistricting, chaired by Councilmember Elissa Silverman, met two weeks ago for its first hearing and has begun individual ward-level hearings for residents to share their recommendations. Make no mistake, this is incredibly hard. The math is very straight-forward that Ward 6 will have to become smaller, but it's unclear where and what that will look like. On November 3, 10am, this special committee will host the hearing specifically for Ward 6. You can sign up to testify via Zoom, or email your comments and recommendations to [email protected] or by visiting https://www.elissasilverman.com/redistricting. Following the hearings, the special committee (which I'm not a member of) will vote on a proposed new Ward-level map in mid-November.
New DCRA Reporting Forms for Illegal Construction, Vacant Properties & More
Sharing this request from DCRA with neighbors on how to report common issues in your neighborhood that need DCRA's inspection and enforcement response. Please let me team know if this isn't helpful.
Intake Form Name
Housing and Property Maintenance
Housing and Property Maintenance
DC is getting a new area code - 771
Sharing this helpful note from the Office of People's Counsel (OPC) on DC's new area code, which will start being assigned to new numbers on November 9:
"All customers with the 202 area code should prepare for mandatory ten-digit dialing on October 9, 2021. All local calls made within the DC 202 area code must be placed using ten digits (area code + the seven-digit telephone number). On and after this date, calls placed using seven digits will not be completed.
Also, customers with new telephone lines or services may be assigned numbers using the new 771 area code beginning November 9, 2021. The key facts for consumers to know about the upcoming DC 202/771 area code overlay are:
- Your current telephone number, including current area code, will not change.
- If you seek new phone service on and after November 9, 2021, you may be assigned a phone number with the 771 area code.
- You will need to dial area code + telephone number for all local calls, including calls within the same area code.
- You will continue to dial 1 + area code + telephone number for all long-distance calls. What is a local call now will remain a local call.
- The price of a call, coverage area, or other rates and services will not change due to the overlay.
- You can still dial just three digits to reach 911. You can also dial three digits to reach 211, 311, 711, and 811.
For additional information, please visit the Commission’s 771 webpage or contact your local telephone, VOIP or wireless service provider."
Parents - Two workshops to make sure you're getting full tax benefits!
Passing on this important information from Mother's Outreach to ensure parents, even those with no income, know the tax benefits available to them, including the monthly $300 Child Tax Credit from the federal government. This summer, I led the Council to pass what will soon be a nation leading expanding Earned Income Tax Credit, paid out monthly (we refer to it as a Monthly Basic Income in short). But one of the biggest challenges we're already anticipating is making sure people know these resources are available to them. Workshops like this are critical to making sure the help actually gets to the families who need it! Two workshops coming up on October 19 and then on October 26. Please help spread the word in your neighborhood!
Fall Outdoor Office Hours are Here!
Every Friday this Fall, I'm holding outdoor office hours at different locations around the Ward to be sure I can meet and talk with neighbors one-on-one about any issue on your mind. This Friday afternoon I'll be at Lincoln Park in Capitol Hill. You can see the full list here and RSVP to get a reminder email with any last minute updates.
Thanks as always and hope to see you soon.