Thanksgiving is less than a week away(!). And as the holiday season gets underway, I want to be sure you've got two dates saved on your calendar: November 25 for Small Business Saturday and tonight (Saturday November 18th) for the annual tree lighting at Eastern Market Metro Park
It feels incredible that Thanksgiving is less than a week away!. And as the holiday season gets underway, I want to be sure you've got two dates saved on your calendar: November 25 for Small Business Saturday and tonight (Saturday November 18th) for the annual tree lighting at Eastern Market Metro Park. There are also many more great Ward 6 holiday events and resources that I’ll share below, including the Brickies on December 6!
I enjoyed seeing so many neighbors last weekend as we marked the 150th anniversary of Eastern Market's founding. Look for more ways to celebrate throughout the year as we commemorate this historic milestone! Speaking of milestones, a big shout-out to Music on the Hill, who I also joined last weekend to celebrate their 10th anniversary. Congratulations!
Quick Links: Public Safety | Community Walks | Brickies 2023 | Restaurant Notes | Capitol Hill Christmas Tree | Seizure-Safe School Bill | Southeast Library Update | Committee of 100 | Historic Home Protections | Open Streets Bills | Hill Family Library Bike | Artechouse Day | School Boundaries | EdFEST | Tutoring | Constituent Services Win | Thanksgiving Happenings | Eastern Market 150 | | Small Business Saturday
Public Safety Update
In the coming month, there's likely to be a good amount of public discussion and consideration of legislation around public safety. The Council's Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety will hold two public hearings on November 29 and December 11. It also recently held a hearing on November 8 you can watch here. I've been asking the witnesses in each hearing three questions to help evaluate whether and how the Council should move forward with the proposals:
- Is it a smart, equitable, and most importantly effective in reducing crime?
- Does the legislation fill a gap in our existing laws that needs to be filled?
- Does it mandate strategy and coordination across government and with the community?
In the hearing we just held on November 8th, I focused with our witnesses on an example of something that I think can answer the first and second questions with a 'yes'. Recently, prosecutors noted that a Court of Appeals decision has changed the way that armed carjacking charges can proceed. Under this interpretation, the victim of the crime needs to be in or next to their vehicle at the time the robbery of their keys and taking of their vehicle occurs. But if the victim has parked their car and is down the block or has walked up the steps of their home when the robbery takes place, and even if the suspect then gets in the victims car and drives away, the Court may not recognize that robbery and theft as a carjacking. To be clear, someone with this fact pattern could still be charged with armed robbery and motor vehicle theft - both serious offenses under DC law. But if you believe like I do that armed carjacking represents a unique form of harm and violence to the victim, then this is a gap in the interpretation of the law we need to fill. I think legislation closing this gap can meet both the first and second question I asked, to make the law more effective in reducing crime and ensuring accountability, and I'm working with my colleagues to make this change.
The third question I list above is one I also want to emphasize, because improving public safety requires the challenging work of strategy and coordination - and smart program implementation combined with oversight. For example, in recent weeks, the Council has raised concerns with the performance of the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services, particularly the conditions in its detention facilities which work with youth involved in the juvenile justice system.
In 2020, DYRS successfully exited a three-decade court consent decree process. Part of the agreement to end that intense oversight and monitoring required the Mayor to create an independent oversight office focused on conditions and operations at DYRS. That office is fully funded through next September, but the Mayor has announced plans to close it at the end of the year. This isn't the right move, especially at a time when we seem to be backsliding at DYRS on overcrowding and assaults among young people in the facilities and on staff. Detained kids need both the certainty of accountability for their actions, and also the right rehabilitative focus and attention to get on a different track than what led them there, or they're going to keep cycling in and out and committing harm. Overcrowding and low staffing is a recipe for disaster and a public safety concern - and sunshine on these conditions will help make sure they're improved. So I'm working with my colleagues Councilmember Trayon White and Christina Henderson to move an emergency bill next week that would keep the oversight office open through next fiscal year while we work on a permanent fix.
Ward 6 Public Safety Walks Updates
My staff and I joined MPD, ANC Commissioners, and neighbors for several public safety walks since the last newsletter, including north of Eastern Market and around the Waterfront Metro. There are a few more scheduled in the next few weeks, and we'd love to see you:
- Tuesday, November 21, 5-6pm: Meet at the corner of 4th and C Streets, SE, to walk the 300 block of C Street, SE near Seward Square; coordinated with ANC 6B Commissioners Avery and Sroufe
- Monday, November 27, 6-7pm: The Wharf (exact location TBD); coordinated with ANC 6D Commissioner Link
- Tuesday, November 28, 5-6pm: Meet at 5th and K Streets, NW; coordinated with ANC 6E Commissioners Hart and Hans.
Update on Ward 6 Public Safety Incidents:
- Arrest made in Two Carjackings in NE and SE
- Arrest made in Armed Carjacking in 300 block of 9th Street SE
The Brickies will be at the Atlas Performing Arts Center on December 6!
Yes, we can finally share all the details, and I'm very excited. The Brickies are returning to H Street NE this year at the beautiful Atlas Performing Arts Center on December 6 from 6 to 8 pm -- get your tickets now (you will need a ticket, which is 100% free through Atlas's website). These are the 17th Annual Brickie Awards, which are Ward 6's annual get-together. We have some great food and drink from local businesses (if your business wants to get involved, send Erik Salmi in my office a quick note), great conversation, and yes, we give out literal bricks as a fun way to recognize some of the best neighbors, organizations, businesses, and happenings in our community.
And on that point, I need to hear from you! Who would you nominate for a Brickie? Nominations close this weekend, so if you have someone in mind, don't wait. Get your submissions in. We're looking for Ward 6 neighbors, organizations, groups, and businesses that go above and beyond to make the Ward a great place for all to call home:
- Neighbor Award
- Community Organization Award
- Business Award
- Public Service Award
- Civic Pride Award
Being Clear-Eyed About Challenges to Our Restaurants
I want to note the Metropolitan Restaurant Association of Washington released it's annual survey this week, and their findings were that on average, restaurant costs had risen significantly since 2022 and it's having a big impact on your favorite local dinner spot. In the last year alone, the average restaurant costs for food and payroll has risen more than 20 percent. And as they've had to raise prices to absorb that dramatic rise over just a single year, that in turn makes customers less likely to come in. Their survey found that 52 percent of DC diners are eating at home more often directly due to rising prices, and more than a third of DC restaurants are seeing a reduction in sales. That's an impact felt across the city. In the last couple of weeks, we've seen several restaurants announce closures across the city, including on Barracks Row, in Navy Yard, Shaw, and downtown. Of course, we've also seen some exciting new restaurants open on those same corridors. But the economic impacts hitting restaurants aren't likely to change overnight, and I think we'll see many still struggle to recover from the pandemic, high impacts from inflation, and other cost drivers. At the Council, we've got several bills (including two that I've authored - DCist coverage here for both bills) that would specifically target more assistance to our restaurants and help flatten that curve that is hurting them so much. I hope to see these bills move forward soon to deliver relief and assistance to our local restaurants and I'm excited that continue to see plenty of new exciting spots open up and succeed as vital parts of our community.
Capitol Hill Christmas Tree Lighting This Evening!
Join me tonight at Eastern Market Metro Plaza at 5:30pm for the 17th annual Capitol Hill Christmas Tree Lighting! Come out and enjoy hot chocolate and doughnuts served by the Capitol Hill BIDs "Men and Women in Blue" while local musical groups perform and we bring "Sonny" the tree to life in our town square.
I'm told there will be a new and enhanced programmed light show with music, presented by Barracks Row Main Street and the Department of Parks and Recreation, both at the event and playing through December. Hope to see you there to kick off the holiday season on Capitol Hill!
In the News: Seizure-Safe Schools
I told you in my last newsletter about legislation I introduced with my colleague Councilmember Robert White to ensure that DC schools are safe and supportive environments for students with epilepsy. We recently sat down to talk with Oliver, the Ward 6 resident and student advocate who helped this bill become a reality, to hear more about his experience.
Additionally, WTOP did a nice write up of the bill highlighting another Ward 6 family I’ve worked with on these issues. I’m hopeful about seeing this bill advance at the Council soon and will keep you updated on any progress.
Southeast Library Renovations Upcoming
The long-awaited renovation of the Southeast Library will be starting soon! I'm including some helpful information from our ANC6B commissioners and DCPL about the modernization as well as interim services during the closure. Highlights are below:
Notification of closure: While the exact date of closure hasn't been determined yet, residents will receive notification six weeks prior to the closure through the DCPL Beyond Words email newsletter, DCPL's website and social media channels, signage on the fence outside the library, and a specific email that will go to Southeast Library cardholders. Additionally, DCPL has committed to notifying ANC6B, Friends of the Southeast Library, Barracks Row Main Streets, Capitol Hill BID, neighborhood schools, and my office. I'll be sure to share this information as soon as I receive it. There will also be a final community meeting date to be announced at the same time as the closure. The meeting will be held within the six-week period prior to closure.
- Interim Services: During the modernization, most library services will shift to the Northeast Library at 330 7th Street, NE. I worked with DCPL and ANC 6B's Library Task Force to ensure that some services such as holds pickups, returns, Wi-Fi, public computers, printing, copying, and scanning will take place at the nearby Arthur Capper Community Center at 1000 5th Street, SE. The Council funded additional staff and equipment in the budget to have this temporary site at Capper. Note that they will not be housing a standing collection of books to browse at Capper. And in addition to interim services at Capper and NE Branch, they will also have story time programming move to 700 Pennsylvania Ave., SE.
I'll share more information about the closure, modernization, and interim services as soon as I receive it. In the meantime, you can learn more about the project on the DCPL project website.
Speaking Before the Committee of 100
Thursday I was honored to speak at the monthly meeting of the Committee of 100, a group of dedicated residents who take on a wide range of challenges and advocacy around many important issues. We focused our discussion on the futures of the RFK campus and Union Station, and how we solve the WMATA fiscal cliff. I've always enjoyed their partnership and attention to detail, and this was no exception.
New Legislation Beefs Up Fines for Construction Damage to Historic Homes
Earlier this week, I introduced legislation that's particularly relevant to our historic Capitol Hill neighborhoods. The bill will protect historic homes from unauthorized destruction and demolition by contractors and construction companies. Earlier this year, a historic home on the Hill was nearly destroyed, a situation that was enabled in part by our current historic preservation fine structure being too low to serve as a deterrent and the same for both minor and severe violations.
The bill comes from reviewing demolition records and fines for historic buildings, which made clear the existing fine structure wasn't deterring construction companies. Few contractors were required to pay more than even $4,000 for violations that were severe, sometimes amounting to a wholesale tear-down. Notably, the fine was the same for something smaller, like repointing, as it was for a larger, near-full scale demolition. I'd say we want to have a system that's flexible enough that the fine can match the severity of the action, and not try to be a one-size-fits-all solution.
The Protecting Historic Homes Amendment Act of 2023 would create scaled, higher fines for significant violations of the Historic Landmark and Historic District Protection Act of 1978, the legislation that created the District’s current framework for historic preservation. The new bill provides that penalties assessed by the Historic Preservation Board must vary by degree of severity of the damage, up to $100,000 per violation. Read more about the issue in Capitol Hill Corner.
Bill Introduced to Allow Streets to Close to Cars and Open to People and Businesses
I also introduced a pair of bills that would encourage the closure of streets to cars to create areas that are more pedestrian-friendly. As shown by the popularity of events like Open Streets and Adams Morgan Day, as well as how bustling the pedestrian-friendly City Center and the Wharf are (not to mention the downtown Holiday Market, which closes down parts of F Street until nearly Christmas), there's obvious demand for walkable areas. But right now, we give up a tremendous amount of our public space to car movement and parking, meaning we trade off the opportunity to use that space in other ways that can help bring us together. The Public Life and Activity Zones Amendment (“PLAZA”) Act of 2023 directs DDOT to identify and designate one corridor that's at least a quarter mile long to be closed to traffic for at least 24 daytime hours per week starting in October 2026, with two more corridors to be designated by 2027. I'd like to note here that in these closures, we'd be urging that a plan is in place for emergency vehicles, public transportation, and services for neighbors with disabilities to ensure the space is accessible to everyone.
The second bill, the Game On: Providing Leisure Activities for Youth ("GO PLAY") Amendment Act of 2023 is a reintroduction of legislation I originally proposed back in 2018, and would establish a process to close a residential block to create play space for kids, similar to a block party permit but with a simplified process. Residents could apply for their block to become a “preauthorized block.” On a preauthorized block, any of three designated residents could close the street for street play on any weekend, holiday, or a scheduled day off for DCPS. The resident would simply post notice on the block 48 hours in advance and notify DDOT, and on a preauthorized block, the permit would be deemed approved—and the street closed—unless DDOT affirmatively objects. Preauthorizing a block would require annual agreement from 80 percent of residents on the block and approval from DDOT, which would determine whether frequent closing of the block would create public safety or traffic concerns. The goal here is to make it easier for neighbors who want to see their block be safer and more available for community activity to be able to take action quickly.
Both of these bills will be coming to the Committee on Transportation and the Environment in the coming months, and I'll keep you posted on their progress.
Related: I spoke to WUSA 9 about the need for the District to begin enforcing violations of cars blocking bus stops and bus lanes, an issue I updated you about last newsletter. Enforcement for bus stop violations became on Wednesday, with bus lane enforcement due to begin later this winter.
Hill Family Biking: Library Edition
The next Hill Family Biking Ride is today at 10:30am will have a special guest: DCPL Librarian Jo Percell and the new Book e-Cargo Bike. They’ll be riding around to the libraries on the Hill, starting at Eastern Market Metro Plaza to talk about the upcoming SE Library renovations, heading up to the NE Library, and ending at Rosedale Library for storytime and letter writing to DDOT. There'll be volunteers marshaling to ensure the group stays together, and the MPD bike team will also be participating in the ride to connect officers with the community.
If your family’s bikes need some TLC, please come 15 minutes early to get some assistance – there'll be bike maintenance tools available, as well as some experienced amateur bike mechanics on hand to assist. See the map for the route and this link for more details.
Ward 6 ARTECHOUSE Community Day
I'm excited to share that Ward 6's ARTECHOUSE has set aside a Ward 6 Day to check out their ongoing exhibit "Beyond the Light", created in collaboration with NASA, on December 11 from 3-6 pm. During that time, Ward 6 residents (you'll need to show proof of residency) can enter the exhibit for free. We've done partnerships in the past with ARTECHOUSE during our Ward 6 Week in the summer, and I'm incredibly excited we get the chance to do one while this exhibit is running. RSVP here.
Latest Updates on Potential School Boundary Changes
Here's the latest on the District's school boundary revision process, and pay attention, because this might be very relevant to you! The District's Deputy Mayor for Education has been working with a group of advisory committee members from each Ward to think through potential problems with our current boundaries and how we might solve them. This Boundary and Student Assignment Study 2023 reviews DCPS boundaries and feeder patterns and District-wide public school student assignment policies. The last time this happened was ten years ago.
So where are we now? The Advisory Committee has met a number of times, and the Deputy Mayor is now holding school-specific meetings to talk about what it sees as those problems and potential responses. My team joined the Capitol Hill Cluster School and Brent this week for their school-specific meetings, and dozens and dozens of parents came out to chime in. Thank you to our principals and parent leadership for quickly mobilizing parents and getting them out to see the concepts with not much notice.
I think this is such an important (and mostly unseen) process that I've decided to host a Ward 6-specific school boundaries town hall, so save the date for December 4 at 7pm on Zoom. More info on the agenda and Zoom link will be posted on my website soon. After that, the Deputy Mayor will then host two city-wide town halls in mid-December and ask for feedback on more concrete proposals.
Come Learn about Your DC School Options!
MySchoolDC is hosting EdFEST, a great opportunity for families to explore the city’s public school options for PK3 – Grade 12. EdFEST for PK3-Grade 8 is on Saturday, December 2, from 10am-1pm at the DC Armory and on Saturday, December 9, from 10am-1pm at Eastern High School for Grades 9-12.
Representatives from DC Public Schools (DCPS) and public charter schools will showcase their programs. With the launch of the My School DC lottery application on December 11, 2023 for the 2024-25 school year, EdFEST is a timely event to help you make informed school selections.
EdFEST will also feature many free services and fun activities for the whole family, including guidance from the My School DC team and Parent Advisory Council, flu shots and COVID vaccines, recreational activities from the Department of Parks and Recreation, free meals from DC Central Kitchen (Dec. 2), and more.
Capitol Hill: Coming Together for Kids & Community at the Southeast Library
Join the DC Tutoring & Mentoring Initiative (DCTMI) today, Saturday, November 18, from 10:30am-12:30pm at the Southeast Library to learn about volunteer opportunities with DC students! DCTMI aims to provide elementary, middle, and high school students with tutors and mentors.
This event offers a chance to get involved and strengthen the social and educational fabric of our community. It takes a village to raise a child - this is one way to contribute to that village!
RSVP at the Eventbrite link here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/capitol-hill-coming-together-for-kids-community-tickets-753408594387
Constituent Services Solutions Spotlights
My office handles a wide variety of issues for Ward 6 constituents every day, and I’d like to tell you about two different cases we helped Ward 6ers with recently as examples of problems we can help solve!
We had a constituent who is a small business owner and currently expecting her second child in March come to us with a problem regarding taking Paid Family Leave ("PFL"). She's self-employed and had been paying the PFL tax from 2019-2021 and took PFL when her first child was born in 2020. There were several IT issues and miscommunications with the Office of Tax and Revenue about whether she was self-employed or an employer, since she employed someone for a short period. When she came to us, her payroll company was reporting the tax paid for an employee when, in fact, she was paying the tax for herself. My team reached out to the Department of Employment Services, and the PFL team was able to put her back in the system as both self-employed and an employer, and she’ll be able to take her important PFL when her child is born in March!
In the second case, some neighbors reached out to me directly about a streetlamp that was removed on 6th Street, SE, with no replacement installed for almost two months. The resulting dark street was a safety concern for neighbors, especially as the nights have been getting darker earlier. I reached out the Interim DDOT Director and asked that their streetlight team ensure it would get replaced as soon as possible. The light was replaced within 24 hours, and the Interim Director herself drove by to confirm with me that it was up. Thanks to the neighbors who brought this to my attention and to the team at DDOT who made sure this got resolved quickly!
If you have a neighborhood issue, problem with a District agency, or other challenge we might be able to help solve, please reach out to my team to see how we can help!
Thanksgiving Happenings in Ward 6
We’ve got several Thanksgiving events in and around the Ward, whether for neighbors in need of a meal, community members looking to donate their time or resources, or just a fun event.
- GOODProjects (multiple events and volunteer opportunities)
- Mount Vernon Triangle Fresh Food Drive and Canned Food Drive
- Safeway Feast of Sharing
- Project Giveback Thanksgiving Food Distribution
- SOME Trot for Hunger
- Nationals Philanthropies Turkey Palooza: November 20 at 3pm at Nats Park
Reflecting on Eastern Market's 150th Anniversary
As I noted up top, this weekend was the 150th anniversary of when Eastern Market first opened on November 12, 1873. It's hard to sum up all that the Market means to our community. It's a familiar hub of comfort and activity on weekends year-round. It's home to amazing vendors inside and outside. It holds our meetings. It hosts weddings and parties. As one Eastern Market vendor Eleanor Drabo said during Sunday's event, it's a place where people from around the world gather together and work in harmony. I feel lucky to play a small role in growing and protecting our Market along with so many dedicated volunteers, professionals, and neighbors. As many have said more eloquently than this, Eastern Market is much more than just a building -- it's us. There'll be many more ways to celebrate the 150th year through 2024, and I'll share them all here. But for now, a big thank you to Eastern Market Main Street, especially, for an incredible amount of work with our office and others over the past year to plan out such a lovely weekend.
Support Small Local Businesses This Holiday Season (and Year-Round!)
Finally, since Thanksgiving's right around the corner, that also means Black Friday and Small Business Saturday are coming up! A friendly reminder to support our local DC businesses next weekend and throughout this holiday season. Our small business are an integral part of our communities, and I hope we can show them the love they deserve! The DC Shop Small website has a great guide to local small businesses. And check out the video of last year's Ward 6 Small Business Tour to hear directly from owners and employees of some favorite Ward 6 businesses about why it’s so important to shop small and local.
That’s all for today, have a safe and happy Thanksgiving, and I hope to see you at the Capitol Hill Tree Lighting tonight or one of the many other holiday events coming up.