Happy November! I hope you had a fun and safe Halloween and that you got out to enjoy the last few warmer days in the District -- the photo to the right is from the beautiful day we had last week for community office hours in Southwest at James Creek. We've got a lot of important updates to get into below, but first, I want to share two big events every Ward 6 neighbor should have on their calendar:
First, it's officially Brickies season! That’s right; nominations are now open, and my annual Ward 6 Brickie Awards Celebration is right around the corner on December 6. More details below, and let the nominating begin!
Second, the 150th anniversary of the opening of Eastern Market is coming up in two weeks (the official celebration is Nov. 12, but the whole weekend will be packed). Everything you need to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the opening is at the end of this newsletter.
Finally, a quick scheduling note: I'm waiting still for a negative test for my current case of COVID, so I won't be able to make this afternoon's office hours at as you are. on Barracks Row. My team will still be there, but in the interest of keeping everyone safe and healthy, I won't be able to join. I have more office hours coming up this month, including at Prost in Mt. Vernon Triangle on Nov 17 at 4 pm if you want to put it on your calendar now.
Quick Links: Public Safety | Digital Trackers for Cars | MPD and ANC Community Walks | WMATA Funding Update | 2023 Brickie Awards | Dangerous Driving Enforcement | Bus Lane Enforcement Update | Seizure-Safe Schools Bill | DC BOE Data Breach | DC Suing Landlords for Price Fixing | GGW Transit Diary | DPR Winter Programs | | Leaf Collection Reminder | DC Health Link Open Enrollment | Provide Input on Tax Policy | Get Reduced Metro Fares | 150 Years of Eastern Market
Public Safety Update
Last week, the Mayor introduced a bill focused on policing and crime. As with all of District government, the Council and Mayor agree that public safety is our shared top priority. As the bill makes its way through the legislative process, I'm open to considering what tools or changes need to be made. To evaluate each proposal, I'll be asking a few important questions. Is it a smart, equitable, and most importantly, effective way to prevent and reduce crime? Does it fill a gap in the law that needs to be filled? And does it help require strategy and coordination across government and with the community that is so needed? These are what I believe a successful violent crime reduction effort absolutely needs to be effective. This bill and others need to reduce the serious violent crimes we're seeing persistently in Ward 6, specifically homicides, armed robbery, and carjacking. I expect there will be a public hearing scheduled by the Judiciary Committee, so I'll look forward to learning more and hearing from the public -- and I'll keep you posted, should you want to weigh in.
Last week, I also met neighbors and MPD for a Community Walk and Talk to discuss concerns along Barracks Row and Eastern Market Metro Park - thank you to the many neighbors who attended and raised issues ranging from enforcement against so-called "gifting shops" to illegal drug distribution, from park maintenance to traffic safety. At the walk, MPD announced they're going to have additional uniformed and plain clothes presence in the metro plaza, which is much-needed. And just this week, MPD was able to make three arrests of people on charges of illegal drug possession and distribution, including crack cocaine and PCP. I've been asking MPD to focus their efforts on the metro plaza to disrupt and break up these illegal drug sales and distribution, which is driving much of the negative behavior we've seen on the site. Disruption will also give more space for efforts by behavioral health workers to get people with substance use disorders help.
I'm encouraging MPD to maintain their focus here because I think it's going to take a sustained effort to root out the illegal activities. But this is a big improvement from a meeting this summer where MPD officials told us they didn't see anything illegal taking place in the plaza. Commander Hall and I have talked frequently about the plaza and the impact it's having overall on the surrounding neighbors. It's got to be a safe space for everyone, so I'm grateful for the Commander's attention to this and the officers' actions. We'll keep at it.
There are more joint MPD and ANC walks coming up this month (see the list below), and my team and I will be at all of them to problem solve with residents. No one is satisfied with where we are, but I've been encouraged to see more targeted policing where we need it and community building through these walks.
Ward 6 Public Safety Updates: I received a thorough summary of recent arrests made in the First District from Commander Hall and want to share them here. I know too often we hear about the crime when it's committed, but we don't always know what happens next.
Assault at 905 6th St., SW: A woman stabbed the victim before fleeing, she was observed in the 500 block of K St. NW, and the adult female was arrested thereafter. The victim is in stable condition.
Armed Robbery at 1412 A St., SE: A resident was robbed at gunpoint by two juvenile suspects. After she screamed, they fled, and an apprehension was made by responding officers on 8th St., SE. Arrested was a 14 y-o juvenile male.
Robbery (Fear) at 500 E St., NE: Two suspects exited a vehicle being driven by a third suspect, who approached a victim demanding his belongings, and displayed an object he believed to be a gun. (Case closed with arrest connected to the below robbery).
Robbery (Force and Violence) at 1520 A St., SE: Three suspects threatened to shoot the victim as she was walking. They then went into her pockets stealing her property and fled in a vehicle. MPD officers located the suspects. After a foot pursuit, all three suspects (15 y-r-o juveniles) were apprehended and arrested for the robbery. The investigation also tied them to the previous robbery at 500 E St., NE. They were charged with both robberies, and the cases were papered (charged) by the Office of the Attorney General. The vehicle they were driving was a stolen auto which was recovered.
Theft 2 (Package Theft) at 1226 Maryland Avenue, NE: H Street Bike Unit Officers observed a subject with a bag containing packages. They continued to investigate and found the subject had stolen an Amazon box from the front door of a resident. He was placed under arrest for Theft 2. The bike unit is relatively new, and I wanted to be sure to highlight their work recovering a stolen package, something far too common.
Possession with Intent to Distribute While Armed at 1000 14th St, SE: MPD conducted a traffic stop at the location for No Front Tag and Tint Violation. A subject within the vehicle was found to be in possession of a black Smith & Wesson .40cal handgun. The firearm was loaded with one round in the chamber, and thirty-one additional rounds of ammunition in the high-capacity magazine. Additionally, a second subject was found to be in possession of cocaine, heroin, and oxycodone, while also being wanted out of Maryland for vehicle theft. Both were placed under arrest.
Armed Carjacking at 1365 F St. NE: Two juvenile suspects armed with handguns demanded the victim's property and vehicle. The vehicle was later observed by officers, and Air Support tracked them to 2700 Bladensburg Road, where the suspects fled from the vehicle. A perimeter was set up around the flight path, but MPD was unable to locate the suspects. However, the vehicle was recovered quickly after the carjacking, which likely prevented further robberies and allowed for quick collection of forensic evidence. MPD is still investigating this case.
Related: Pilot Program Providing Digital Trackers for Cars: Yesterday, the Mayor and MPD announced a pilot program to provide District drivers in selected police service areas (PSAs) with free digital tracking tags for their vehicles. Installing tracking tags in vehicles can assist MPD in locating and recovering stolen vehicles and holding those responsible accountable. Two of the selected PSAs are in Ward 6 (find your PSA here), and residents can attend distribution events next week at the times listed below. From working with several victims, these tags can help MPD solve the crime and locate your car quickly. If you feel comfortable, I wanted to be sure you had the information:
- Tuesday, November 7 from 4:30-7:30 p.m. at 100 I Street, SE (PSA 106)
- Wednesday, November 8 from 4:30-7:30 p.m. at 1309 5th Street, NE (PSAs 501 & 502)
Related: Upcoming Ward 6 MPD and ANC Community Walks: My office will be joining officers from MPD’s First District and Ward 6 ANC Commissioners for several community walks in November. I encourage folks in the neighborhoods below with any concerns or questions to join if you can:
- Wednesday, November 9th, at 6pm; Meeting at 4th & M SW in the open lot - with ANC 6D04 Commissioner Pawley
- Tuesday, November 14th, at 6pm; Meeting at 8th & Independence SE - with ANC 6B05 Commissioner Durkit
- Tuesday, November 28th, at 5pm; Meeting at 5th & K NW (Mount Vernon Triangle) - with ANC 6E01 Commissioner Hart
Update on WMATA's Funding Shortfall
This Tuesday, Councilmembers convened for a Mayor-Council Breakfast to discuss the future of WMATA and its funding. WMATA CEO Randy Clarke presented some great news on ridership, as well some concerning updates on funding. We've got to find $650 million for the next year between us, Maryland, and Virginia, in addition to a longer-term solution to keep Metro funded without major service cuts. It's worth keeping in mind two points as we head into this effort: 1) WMATA hasn't ever truly been set up for long-term financial success with the right funding (fares were never intended to come close to paying for the system), and 2) WMATA needs to be more transparent about its operations and budgeting decisions.
As I've said consistently, every crisis is also an opportunity. And this is the moment to be bold and set WMATA up for success with the right funding moving forward. I don't want to keep facing annual funding shortfalls. I don't want to debate cutting service or raising fares in drastic terms because that ultimately leads to less ridership, not more. I want a system ready for the 21st century, and I want a solution that recognizes the central role WMATA plays in our success as a region. Ridership is on its way back. Service has vastly improved. We're investing millions in improving bus reliability with the Clear Lanes Program and more and more bus lanes to improve performance. We can't take our eye off the ball now. This will be difficult because we're partners with Maryland and Virginia in this, and any funding compact needs to be agreed upon among all three. I have been in regular meetings with my regional counterparts and DC leadership, and I think we all agree: we aren't going to entertain significant cuts to service, which do very little to solve the issue in the first place.
Save the Date and Now Accepting Nominations for the 2023 Brickie Awards!
The Brickies are back! The 17th annual Ward 6 community celebration will take place on December 6 from 6-8pm, with a location to be confirmed in the coming days. And the nominations page is now open! Send me your recommendations for which Ward 6 residents, businesses, and organizations should be recognized with the Neighbor Award, Community Organization Award, Business Award, Public Service Award, and Civic Pride Award until Friday, November 17, at 5pm.
Second Hearing on Dangerous Driving Fixes
Yesterday, I chaired the Committee on Transportation and the Environment's second joint hearing with the Committee on Public Works and Operations to consider legislative solutions to curb dangerous driving in the District, including on drivers who get behind the wheel after drinking.
There are four bills before the Council taking on many aspects where the District seems to be falling short in the areas of enforcement and accountability. And check out the chart to the right to get a sense of just how widespread and common it is for people to drive 10-30 miles per hour OVER the speed limit!
The bills before the Committee included my STEER Act, which takes several steps to get at dangerous driving, including prioritizing repeat offenders (regardless of whether you pay your fine) and empowering the District's Attorney General to bring a civil suit against the worst offenders from DC or elsewhere. This was part two of the first hearing we held last month for public witnesses, this time to hear from government witnesses. Before yesterday's hearing, we got answers to our pre-hearing questions from the Executive agencies that revealed a disturbing lack of progress in making our streets safer. Here were some takeaways (WTOP has a good summary here):
Only eight people are enrolled in the mandatory ignition intervention device program (aka a breathalyzer that requires a driver to pass before starting the car) required when someone is arrested for, or convicted of, driving under the influence, and it appears that the DMV has only just started notifying an additional 335 drivers that they must enroll. That's 335 people with a history of drunk driving who have fallen through the cracks of a system meant to hold them accountable. These devices are yet another tool in keeping our roads safe, as they prevent someone from turning on their car if they have been drinking.
- Approximately 50,000 tickets per year are issued for driving 20-30 mph over the posted speed limit - or on average, nearly 150 times per day, confirming what many DC residents experience daily.
- There is a single Maryland-registered vehicle with more than $100,000 in accumulated unpaid violations, and 42 vehicles with more than $50,000 in unpaid violations. The STEER Act would give the District’s Attorney General the power to go after these drivers in civil court, which could help target these most egregious offenders. Getting just a small number of drivers to either change their behavior or lose their driving privileges would have a significant impact on road safety.
The responses we received show that there appears to be very little information-sharing between agencies to identify drivers who have shown repeated dangerous or reckless driving behavior. This limits the District’s ability to prioritize its enforcement efforts. I'm committed to making sure we improve coordination across government to ensure we're holding dangerous drivers accountable and putting systems in place that prevent dangerous driving in the first place.
Update on Bus Lane Ticketing Program
During yesterday's hearing, I also asked the Acting DDOT Director why the city had suddenly delayed the launch of the Clear Lanes Enforcement program, which mounts cameras on buses and automatically tickets cars parked in bus lanes and at bus stops. The goal is to ensure our buses can move faster and stay on schedule. DC has invested in bus priority lanes so that we can keep DC students getting to school on time, make sure that workers can clock in to their shift downtown, and get residents to where they need to go quickly. But that can't happen without enforcement. I wrote a letter to DDOT last month seeking answers, and they finally responded yesterday. Here's the latest:
- DDOT will begin enforcing ticketing for anyone parking in a bus loading zone on November 15.
- DDOT is now raising new concerns about the ticket proposed for people who park in a bus lane, which DDOT itself set at $200. I'm fine with lowering the fine and plan to move legislation to try and achieve that faster. For me, the important part is to begin to have some accountability, not that it has to be so steep. But I am frustrated that after the Council moved emergency legislation to speed up this process, and after DDOT and WMATA jointly designed the entire program, we're just now hearing these concerns about ticket cost at the last minute. Residents (and bus riders) are tired of the inaction. If this is the latest barrier cited in the delay, then I'll remove it for them, but let's get enforcement of DC's bus priority lanes on track and get these busses moving now.
As I said, these stop-and-start delays are extremely frustrating, so I'm going to be moving emergency legislation at the Council next week to speed up enforcement.
New Legislation to Ensure Safe Schools for Students with Epilepsy and Seizure Disorders
I’m proud to be co-introducing legislation with my colleague Councilmember Robert White that would make sure every DC student with a seizure disorder can access the care they need while at school and that our schools are safe, well-equipped places for our students with epilepsy. The Seizure-Safe Schools Amendment Act of 2023 would require that at least two teachers or administrators at DCPS, public charter, and private schools be trained in seizure recognition and administering emergency seizure medication, ensure students have individualized Seizure Action Plans, require schools provide age-appropriate epilepsy and seizure awareness education for all students, and more. Thanks to Ward 6 student Oliver Tineo Coppola and his mom Maria who have been dedicated advocates of this legislation, in addition to the other parents who've reached out and Ward 6 State Board of Education Representative Brandon Best. I hope to see the bill move forward this fall at the Council and will keep you updated on its progress.
DC Board of Elections Data Breach
I've heard from many of you with concerns about the DC Board of Elections data breach that was reported a few weeks ago and want to provide an update on the latest information. In early October, a group claimed to have hacked BOE's records and supposedly accessed 600,000 lines of voter data. After becoming aware of the breach, BOE shut down its website and swiftly conducted network vulnerability scans. The initial investigation found that the breach contained fewer than 4,000 voter records only from voters who participated in the agency's canvassing process between August 9, 2019 and January 25, 2022, but the hackers may have had access to the full voter roll. The investigation is ongoing, and BOE will be reaching out directly to voters who were impacted. They've also assured that no internal BOE databases or servers were directly compromised, as the records were accessed through a breach of the web server of DataNet Systems, BOE’s website hosting provider. BOE has hired a cybersecurity firm to assist with next steps.
DC Suing Tech Company and Landlords for Alleged Price-Fixing of Rental Units
This week, DC Attorney General Brian Schwalb announced that his office is suing RealPage, a tech company whose software is used to determine rental prices, and fourteen District landlords for engaging in illegal price fixing by sharing data to drive up rental prices for more than 40,000 apartments across DC -- that's a significant portion of our housing supply! At a time when rents are drastically rising, and we're facing a housing affordability crisis, these are very serious claims of collusion to take advantage of District residents. Good on AG Schwalb for his work to hold housing providers accountable and protect DC renters. More from DCist and Washington City Paper.
Greater Greater Washington Transit Diary
Last month, I participated in DC's first National Week Without Driving and documented my journey getting around without a car for Greater Greater Washington's "Transit Diary" series. As I mention in the diary, I live in a very transit-rich part of the city, with plenty of car alternative options to get around, yet I still found this to be a challenge at times. Notably, I had a meeting with a Ward 8 ANC about some transportation issues, and my trip there (via Metrorail, bus, and bike) highlighted the vast differences in the quality of transportation infrastructure across the city and the need to provide all areas of DC with access to high-quality transit choices. Thanks to GGW for inviting me to participate, and I encourage you to check out their other transit diaries to gain insight about how other folks get around our region.
DPR Winter Program Registration is Open!
Registration for DPR’s winter aquatic programs opened yesterday, and all other program registration opened up yesterday at noon! While some of the high demand programs are already full, there are still openings available. Winter program offerings include:
- Aquatics programs, including learn-to-swim, aquatic fitness, water polo, and lifeguard training.
- Team and individual sports programs, including basketball, soccer, cheer, gymnastics, tennis, pickleball, and more.
- Out-of-school time programs for young people like Fun Day, Winter Wondercamp, Young Ladies on the Rise, and Supreme Teens.
- DPR Roving Leaders programs like Girls Who Code!, Little Chefs University, and Art Escape.
- Arts programs, including ballet, piano, drawing & painting, and sewing.
- Senior-centered programs like cardio, aquatics, and overall fitness.
And just another reminder that eligible residents who qualify for reduced rates can get up to 75% off registration. Learn more, and apply here.
Reminder about Leaf Collection Changes
I wrote about this in my last newsletter, but just in case you missed it, there are some significant changes to the way DPW is doing leaf collection this year – and it's a big enough deal that DCist even wrote about the change. Instead of a set schedule planned out in advance for the whole season, DPW will assess where collection is needed in the city and provide residents with a notice at least a week in advance if their section is going to be collected. A weekly notice with the sections for the next week is supposed to be going on all DPW’s communications channels every Friday, as well. Residents can check the latest schedule every Friday through the online leaf tracker or by calling the DPW Leaf Line at (202) 671-LEAF (5323). And if you’re notified of collection and DPW misses it, remember report it to 311.
Related: Starter kits for DPW’s Curbside Composting Pilot Program have been delivered to approximately 9,000 participating households in all eight wards, and food waste collection has started. For missed collections, residents can file a 311 service request for "Missed Curbside Compost Collection" by calling or visiting 311.dc.gov. If your bin is lost, stolen, or broken, please file a service request for "Lost/Stolen Compost Bin, Broken Compost Bin, or Opt-Out of Curbside Composting Pilot Program."
DC Health Link Open Enrollment is Open!
If you get your health insurance coverage through a plan from the DC Health Link online marketplace, open enrollment is now open until January 31, 2024! This Saturday, DC Health Link is putting on an Open Enrollment Kickoff & Health Fair with fun activities and helpful resources like people to help residents navigate the web portal and to answer questions about benefits and the enrollment process. The event is taking place this Saturday at 11am at the MLK Library.
Provide Your Input About the Future of the DC Tax Code
Join the DC Tax Revision Commission for a public town hall on Monday, November 6, at the MLK Library. This is your opportunity to shape the city's future tax code. Every ten years, the DC Tax Revision Commission provides recommendations to the DC Council about how to improve the DC tax system. The Commission has been considering roughly 80 tax reform proposals. Registered participants who attend in person will have an opportunity to speak briefly to the Commission. You can provide feedback on a specific proposal, or you can speak more generally about what you think is wrong with the DC tax system. Register here.
Reduced Metro Fare for Eligible Residents
I want to remind you about Metro’s reduced fare program, Metro Lift, which offers 50% off Metrobus and Metrorail trips for local customers enrolled in SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). The program is designed to expand access, increase affordability, and advance equity for people across the region.
Customers who qualify will need their SmarTrip card, an active SNAP Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card issued by DC, Maryland, and Virginia, a current government-issued photo ID card, and a phone number. Residents can enroll online or sign up for an in-person enrollment appointment here.
Celebrate 150 Years of Eastern Market!
I want to make a special ask that you circle the weekend of Nov 10-12 on your calendar to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the opening of historic Eastern Market.
Founded on November 12, 1873, Eastern Market is a cultural and economic hub and a central part of life in Ward 6 and the District. Everyone has a favorite Eastern Market memory, and I'm sure many of us have a home full of special items from the amazing vendors inside and outside who make it such a destination.
There's a whole weekend of fun activities to celebrate the past, present, and future of Eastern Market, the oldest continually operating public market in the United States. Come celebrate the 150th Anniversary Weekend on Friday, November 10 - Sunday, November 12. Check out easternmarketmainstreet.org/150 for a full rundown of the weekends' activities, including ghost tours, a kids scavenger hunt, games, classes and cooking demos, and more! I hope you and your neighbors can join me for as much of the fun and history as you can, because this will be a special celebration not to be missed. 150 Cheers for 150 Years!
Thanks for reading along again this week. Hope to see you at office hours, Eastern Market's 150th celebration, and around the Ward!