It’s finally feeling chilly in the District, both basketball and hockey seasons are here as our Caps and Wizards return to Capital One Arena, Hill-O-Ween costume planning is underway, DPW leaf collection is starting up (more on that below) - fall in Ward 6 is truly in full swing!
Below, you'll find lots of information about events in the community and what's happening down at the Wilson Building, but please also read the important public safety updates right in the beginning. This week, I joined two safety walks and spent time with neighbors around Tennessee and C St., NE after a very troubling homicide on that block. On Monday, I joined my colleague Councilmember Pinto, who chairs the Council's Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, on a safety walk with MPD, neighbors, the Office of Gun Violence Prevention and others. We aren't nearly where we want to be, and to get there, it's going to take a whole of government and community strategy. Let's jump in.
Quick Links: Public Safety | Ward 6 Public Safety Updates | Tyler ES Renaming | DOB Director Hearing | Barracks Row Community Walk and Talk| Ward 6 Biz Help | Leaf Collection | Opioid Abatement Commission | Prescription Drug Take Back Day | Contract Win for Commercial Building Cleaners | New HPAP Dashboard | Lunch with SW Seniors | Bill to Prevent Prostate Cancer Deaths | SW Fall Food Drive | MVT Fall Fun Day | Congressional App Challenge | Estate Planning Awareness Week | Atlas Performing Arts City at Peace Youth Development Program | Hill Family Halloween Bike Ride | Southwest Office Hours on 10/24 | Wizards Ticket Giveaway
Recent crime in our city and in Ward 6 has been alarming -- earlier this week, I spent time with grieving family members and neighbors around Tennessee and C Street NE following a horrible homicide, which was then followed two days later by an armed robbery and stolen car. That's unacceptable, period. I also met with neighbors around Potomac Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue SE to work on public safety issues with a community walk there. And as mentioned above, I joined my colleague Councilmember Brooke Pinto, chair of the Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety, plus MPD and government leaders for a focused walk and discussion about public safety in Southwest. I know that safety walks may not seem like they're valuable at first glance, but in each walk we do, the point is to make sure MPD and other responsible agencies hear from neighbors and local ANC leaders about what they're seeing. They're also excellent ways to spot and immediately address environmental issues like overgrown trees and lighting that can facilitate criminal behavior. As I've said many times before, law enforcement plays a critical role in reversing our rise in violent crime. But these walks are also meant to demonstrate that solutions involve more than MPD: it truly takes a whole of government approach.
So what do we mean by a "whole of government approach"? I'll give you two examples. One is truancy at school. Post-pandemic, absenteeism is way above where it was pre-pandemic. Lots of kids are simply not going to school. There might be some valid reasons a child occasionally can't make it to school, but high rates of truancy never lead to good outcomes elsewhere. It's a canary in a coal mine situation, and it demands urgency and focus. A second example: a few weeks ago, I sat down with government workers who are part of AFSCME, the largest union representing most unionized government employees who aren't teachers or police or firefighters. I was struck by the picture painted by a social worker with DC's Child and Family Services Agency. He told me there are so many vacant positions, that there are literally thousands of home visits not happening. Social workers are the ones who engage parents (including those of chronically truant students), identify at-risk youth, and redirect them.
I don't make these two points because I think they can replace law enforcement's role to hold bad actors accountable. They do a different job entirely, one that works in tandem to prevent crime. But when I say we need a whole of government approach, what are we doing to improve school attendance? What are we doing to conduct more home visits? A seemingly dry policy issue like government hiring and vacant positions has an important and immediate relationship to public safety. And how are we using those tools to reach the people we know are most at risk of being involved in gun violence? It all matters, and making gains in school attendance and home visits will show results in keeping families together and ensuring kids are where they're supposed to be.
Arrest Made in Hit and Run: Sharing that MPD made an arrest in the terrible hit and run on C St NE last week, where a mother, child, and dog were struck by a driver ignoring a stop sign, who then fled the scene. Over the last week, I've been in touch with a lot of neighbors on that block and beyond who were deeply concerned about finding this dangerous driver and holding them accountable. And you might recall, this hit and run happened the same day that I was chairing a hearing on legislation to bring new focus on getting dangerous drivers like this off the road (including going after repeat speeders, fake tags, impaired driving, and more). My thanks to neighbors who responded immediately to help the family and ID the vehicle as the driver fled, and our thanks to the First District officers that kept pursuing the case to an arrest.
Shooting at Tennessee and C St. NE: Like many Capitol Hill neighbors, I was horrified to learn that two men were shot at Tennessee Ave and C St. NE on Monday night. As I explained in a video Tuesday after speaking with MPD, it's believed that at least one suspect in a white sedan drove up to the victims sitting in a car and shot them both before fleeing. The driver was tragically killed, but the passenger is expected to recover. I spent some time with the family of the young man killed, as well as neighbors in the area, on Tuesday afternoon. Because it’s still early, I have limited information from MPD I can share, but their initial investigation does not lead them to believe it was a carjacking or robbery. But as their work continues, these details can change. If you live in the area and have home security camera footage or any other information that could be useful, please share it with MPD or reach out to my office. I will be sure to update you as I hear more from MPD in the coming days.
Sentencing in June Metro Stabbing and Robbery: A man was sentenced last week for both assault with a dangerous weapon and robbery in two cases that occurred this past June -- one in which the man robbed an individual at knifepoint at the Eastern Market Metro Station and the second in which he then robbed and stabbed another victim at the Potomac Avenue Metro Station several days later. You've read in these emails and heard me talk before about my criticism of low prosecution rates by the US Attorney's Office. But I also want to ensure I commend and share with you when the USAO moves a case quickly to get justice. That's how we want the system to work - swiftly and with certainty. I was glad to see this outcome - from the police investigation and arrest, to the charging and successful prosecution by USAO, all within five months. And I'm encouraged by recent announcements from the USAO about ways to improve their path forward and increase their rate of bringing cases for MPD arrests.
On Wednesday, I spent the evening with the Tyler Elementary PTA to discuss several issues, including facility needs and the upcoming modernization. The most exciting news, however, is that the school community has decided to rename Tyler, which will soon be called Shirley Chisholm Elementary School, a change that recognizes the problematic history of John Tyler, who supported the Confederacy and enslaved people, and instead will now honor a feminist and civil rights trailblazer.
Working with the school community, I've already introduced legislation at the Council to make this change, and I expect it to pass and go into effect in time for next school year. There will be a public hearing on the legislation this fall, and I'll share more in a future newsletter.
This week, the Council held a public hearing to consider the nomination of Acting Director of the Department of Buildings Brian Hanlon as the permanent leader for the agency. I've been grateful thus far for the working relationship I've had with Acting Director Hanlon on several issues where the Department of Buildings plays a key enforcement role, but especially one that's been challenging for many years and only getting worse: commercial entities, often associated with national politics on Capitol Hill, using private residences for commercial uses. During the hearing, the Director and I had a lengthy back and forth on the issue I'm sharing here for neighbors who want to see action. Thanks to the many neighbors and ANCs who are pushing so hard to see stepped up enforcement here.
Next Wednesday I'll be joining ANC 6B Commissioners D'Andrea and Sobelsohn and MPD's First District Officers for a Barracks Row Community Walk and Talk to discuss challenges and solutions for the neighborhood. We'll be meeting at 8th and Pennsylvania Ave SE on October 25 at 6pm - I encourage neighbors to come join us.
Supporting a Ward 6 Business with Office of Tax and Revenue
This week my team was able to assist a Ward 6 business with resolving a tax issue with the Office of Tax and Revenue that threatened to force them to close their doors unfairly. We worked with the business and government to resolve the issue without forcing the business to close its doors for even a minute. The error wasn't the business' fault, but did need to be fixed. Thanks to the OTR staff for their hard work -- it's that kind of work that can help show DC is a good place to do business.
Leaf collection season begins in a few short weeks on October 30. Most Ward 6 neighbors know to greet this time of year with some healthy skepticism. For the last several years, it's almost an annual tradition that the city sends out a nice brochure telling you a schedule for leaf collection on your block and then promptly falls weeks behind schedule. Well, this year, they finally caught on, and there's a pretty big change to how they will run the leaf collection program (and they're finally moving away from announcing a schedule they're never able to keep up with). From DPW:
"Instead of sending a set schedule that goes out once in October, DPW will assess the city every two weeks and update the leaf collection schedule. Residents can check the latest schedule every Friday through an online leaf tracker at dpw.dc.gov or by calling the DPW Leaf Line at (202) 671-LEAF (5323). The tracker will be updated every Friday with more precise information on scheduled collection. In addition to the trackers, teams will be going out weeks in advance with door hangers that let neighbors know that they are within their two week collection window. Residents are asked to rake their leaves to the curb or into the tree box in front of the residence the weekend before the Monday of their announced collection week. To help facilitate the vacuum process, residents are also asked to keep vehicles away from the curb lanes on the scheduled collection days. Leaf collections will still occur twice in each neighborhood for residents who receive DPW trash and recycling services."
I know that in the past, neighbors (including myself) have been frustrated that leaf collection and communication from DPW about changes has been very unreliable and inconsistent. I'm hopeful that the new process, in addition to the additional funding in FY24 that was dedicated to make the leaf collection program more reliable and efficient, will make for a better leaf collection season. As always, please reach out to my team if you notice your leaves weren't picked up when they were supposed to be or your neighborhood hasn't received adequate communication from DPW.
This week, 21 people were named to the Opioid Abatement Advisory Commission, the new group I created in legislation last fall that's tasked with advising the District on how to best utilize the more than $80 million that will be coming to us from various settlements with drug companies. As I’ve explained before, getting the members of this Commission named has been a significant hurdle to planning how to spend the money, lagging as we’re seeing unacceptable loss of life due to overdose deaths. We’re luckily already seeing some progress now, as the Commission is set to meet on October 25. I’m hopeful that the Commission and District government can work swiftly to best identify where to spend this money and get it out the door for the best, evidence-based uses.
National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is next Saturday, October 28. Live Long DC, the city’s initiative to fight the opioid epidemic, will have unused prescription drop-off sites this Saturday from 10am-2pm in all eight wards. This is your opportunity to join DC’s fight against the opioid epidemic by returning unused prescription medications. The Ward 6 locations are:
- Southwest Library - 900 Wesley Place, SW
- First District MPD Station - 101 M Street, SW
- First District MPD Sub-Station - 500 E Street, SE
Exciting update on an item from my last newsletter: a strike has been averted after commercial building cleaners of 32BJ reached a tentative agreement with the Washington Service Contractors Association on a four-year contract covering 9,100 workers in DC, Maryland, and Northern Virginia.
Among other benefits, included in the new tentative agreement is an hourly wage increase of $3.55 to $3.75 over the four-year contract. Cleaners currently earn hourly wages between $12.50 and $18.60, varying by market. I’m glad to see both sides were able to come to the table to avoid a strike by negotiating for a contract that gives our building cleaners the wages and benefits they deserve, and I congratulate the dedicated workers and organizers of 32BJ.
DC's Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) has created a dashboard for FY24 (the current fiscal year, which just started) to keep residents updated on available funds for the Home Purchase Assistance Program (HPAP). HPAP provides interest-free loans and closing cost assistance to qualified applicants to purchase single family houses, condominiums, or cooperative units in the District. The amount awarded is based on income, the size of your household, and the amount of your down payment, with a maximum of $202,000 in assistance and an additional $4,000 in closing costs.
For more details on HPAP eligibility, click here.
I had the opportunity to join the October monthly meeting for DC's Southwest chapter of AARP. We had a great discussion on a wide range of topics, including public safety and illegal gun use, as well legislation on estate planning and prostate screenings and the importance of the Eastern Market - L'Enfant Circulator route in future bus planning.
After a hearing where we heard powerful testimony from doctors, survivors, and advocates, my bill to address the high rates of prostate cancer deaths in District was highlighted in a recent piece from WAMU. The District has the highest per capita rate of prostate cancer deaths of any US state and the seventh highest per capita number of new cases. And as WAMU pointed out, we see stark racial inequities, with Black men more likely to die from prostate cancer than white men. My legislation, the Cost-Free Coverage for Prostate Cancer Screening Act, would require all insurers in the District to cover one screening for prostate cancer per year free of charge. I’m looking forward to the bill moving forward to a vote at the Council this fall.
Serve Your City/Ward 6 Mutual Aid is holding a fall food drive from October 14 - November 18 to stock up on food and supplies to support our neighbors through the coming fall and winter months. They are accepting shelf-stable food and toiletries. You can donate online or in person at any of the following locations:
- Christ United Methodist Church (900 4th St, SW, back entrance off the pathway to the SW Public Library), on Wednesdays from 3-5pm and Saturdays from 12-2pm
- SW Farmers Market (425 M St, SW) at the Serve Your City/Ward 6 Mutual Aid booth, on Saturdays from 9am-1pm
- Check your building or church to see if they are hosting a donation box
The annual MVT Fall Fun Day returns next Saturday! Come out to Milian Park on October 28 from 10am-noon for the Little Monsters Parade, dog costume contest, and a slate of free activities like mini pumpkin decorating, a photo booth, and face painting.
Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton's office is participating in the 2023 Congressional App Challenge. This challenge is for middle and high school students in the District of all coding abilities. Educators have assigned the program as extra credit or implemented it as a part of their curriculum. To learn more about the rules and prizes, you can visit their website here. The deadline to enter is November 1, 2023.
It’s National Estate Planning Awareness Week, which is a great time to take a moment to make sure that you have personal plans in place. DC Affordable Law Firm is one of two organizations charged with launching and running the District’s first "heirs’ property" program to help low- and modest-income families clear title to their homes following the death of a loved one. They have partnered with DC’s Department of Housing and Community Development to reach and serve more residents. I have worked hard on these underappreciated but critically important issues at the Council with legislation aimed at protecting intergenerational wealth like a recent probate reform bill I introduced and the Partition of Real Property Act that became law last year.
Passing on an opportunity open to all District residents with Atlas Performing Arts Center on H Street. The City at Peace Youth Development Program is a free, five-week program that uses the performing arts to teach leadership and create a space for young people to confront the many challenging issues they encounter and live with. More from Atlas: "City at Peace intentionally brings together a culturally diverse group of young people to examine systems of oppression that marginalize them, like power imbalances, and uses them as a lens for young people to unpack racism, adultism, sexism, classism, heterosexism, and more. The outcome of the program is realistic tools created by young people to interrupt harmful behaviors and negative attitudes. Our young people show positive change and leadership abilities inside their peer and family groups within the first few months of the program. Our alumni are strong advocates for themselves as well as for people with smaller voices and diverse backgrounds. This program is FREE and youth will earn a considerable amount of community service hours. To join, email [email protected] today."
Join Hill Family Biking for its first ever Halloween ride! The ride will start at the Maury Elementary Parking Lot on 12th Pl NE, but the route will be a mystery until the day of the ride! They will be using the Spooky Hill is Home map to ride the scariest blocks on the Hill. You can contribute to that map here. The ride will end at Lincoln Park for some spooky fun including a costume contest with prizes donated by The Daily Rider.
Join me next Tuesday for community office hours in Southwest at James Creek as part of a regular food distribution event -- we'll be set up in the painted alley just across the street from Greenleaf Rec Center from 11:30am-1pm. All are welcome, and I’m available to talk with you about issues big or small. RSVP here.
We've got two tickets to see the Wizards v. the Memphis Grizzlies at Capital One Arena on Saturday, October 28 at 7pm. Reply back to this newsletter, and we'll let you know if you're our lucky winner!
Thanks for reading along this week. I hope you're able to get out to enjoy the weekend - rooting for the rain to hold off. See you at one of our many fall/Halloween Ward 6 events!