I hope you had a safe and happy Thanksgiving last week! Leading up to the holiday, I was fortunate to join neighbors in Southwest at James Creek with my kids to help serve an early Thanksgiving meal, followed by the annual Safeway Feast of Sharing with some Council colleagues, where nearly 5,000 meals were served to DC residents. After celebrating the holiday with family, I headed out to support our great Ward 6 local small businesses for Small Business Saturday.
There’s still lots going on at the Council and in the Ward over the next few weeks as we head into the the homestretch of 2023, so let’s dive in.
Quick Links: Public Safety | W6 School Boundaries Forum | DME School Boundary Town Halls | PLAZA Act in the News | Ward 6 Holiday Events | Shopping Local for the Holidays | Hypothermia Alerts and Winter Supply Drive | SNAP Consumer Alert | Hill Family Biking | The Case for E-Bikes | Red Line Closures | WMATA Funding Update | Brickies | Tyler Renaming
Despite the chilly temps, I've joined neighbors for a few well-attended community safety walks over the past two weeks that have led to productive and focused conversations block-by-block. The goal with these walks is to be very solution-oriented to specific issues to that neighborhood. Monday, I joined Southwest neighbors and MPD's First District at the Wharf. Tuesday, I joined MPD and neighbors in Mt. Vernon Triangle and Chinatown, where we specifically focused on a few hot spots where vacant property needs to be addressed, better lighting is needed, and illegal drug sales will get more focus from officers. MPD shared updates on steps it had been taking in each of these locations - and with improved results. And later that same night, I joined ANC 6/8F's meeting on public safety with my colleague Councilmember Robert White to work with neighbors on solutions.
Also at the Council this week, the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety held a hearing and heard testimony from about 80 witnesses on a bill introduced by the Mayor on policing reform and public safety. This Post recap does a great job of summarizing some of the bill's components and some of the flash points the Council will be considering. Public safety is my top priority, and I went into the hearing with an open mind and a belief that inaction is not an option. There are some elements of this proposal and others before the Council that I support, and the feedback from DC residents was incredibly helpful. And as I consider the various bills, my thinking is along these lines:
- Will this be effective, and can this be implemented fairly? Said another way, if this became law tomorrow, will this reduce and prevent armed carjackings, robberies, and gun violence in our community?
- Do these proposals fill gaps in our laws that are preventing accountability from taking place? (I shared an example of this related to carjacking laws in my last newsletter)
- Does this improve coordination among government agencies to target specific public safety needs to prevent violence and keep communities safe?
A yes to any of those questions is important - otherwise, our action won't lead to results. I heard many neighbors and leaders outline what they thought would work or how they would change the proposal. In my at during the hearing, I probed how the bill might work to address drug sales, retail theft, and carjacking. And I want to know how the proposals would speak directly to many of the violent crimes, such as this week's carjacking of an FBI vehicle near Lincoln Park at 3:45 in the afternoon. These crimes rightfully drive significant concern and anxiety among neighbors, and any legislation needs to be able to show a clear and effective path to reduce violence immediately. And of course, in addition to the laws on the books, we need to see more from the US Attorney's Office to prosecute cases. We need to have a functioning and accredited Department of Forensic Sciences to process criminal evidence. We need a 911 Call Center that can answer and dispatch quickly when you call for help. And most urgently, we need to see ongoing and most importantly - focused - coordination between all agencies.
Ward 6 Public Safety Updates:
- 11-27: H Street NE Scooter Robbery Arrest
- 11-30: Retail Theft Operation Arrest at Multiple Ward 6 Locations
There are some big potential changes being floated to school boundaries in the District that could impact Ward 6. Just as the District has redrawn Ward and ANC boundaries, now the Executive Branch is redrawing school boundaries to align with changes in population size and demographics. It can be a challenging process, since families are deeply invested in their school communities, and many parents understandably don't even know it's happening.
So please join me, the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education (DME), the Ward 6 members of the DME Advisory Committee on Student Assignment and Boundaries, and Ward 6 and 7 State Board of Education Representatives Brandon Best and Eboni Rose-Thompson to learn more about the DME's 2023 Boundary and Student Assignment Study process and its potential impacts on Ward 6 schools. DME will present on its Study process and potential recommended changes for Ward 6 schools, I'll give my perspective on what I've heard from the DME and parents so far, and then I want to hear from you. The forum is intended to bring awareness to the important boundary revision process as DME moves toward recommended revisions and gather and amplify feedback from parents and other community members. Please RSVP here for the Zoom link.
The Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education (DME) is also hosting three town hall events to get feedback and discuss the study of the boundaries and feeder patterns and District-wide public school student assignment policies. DME's town halls are Tuesday, December 12 from 6-8pm (in person at Anacostia High School), Wednesday, December 13 from 6-8pm (virtual), and Thursday, December 14, 2023, from 12-2pm (virtual).
In my last newsletter, I told you about a bill I recently introduced that would encourage the closure of streets to cars to create areas that are more pedestrian-friendly. I was excited to see the the Public Life and Activity Zones Amendment (“PLAZA”) Act of 2023 get some media coverage after I announced it. As I mentioned in these stories, cities around the world have different versions of “open streets” programs that have turned car-free areas into vibrant community spaces.
The Post references some great examples like Edinburgh closing some streets in its city center to cars one Sunday per month, Barcelona reorganizing some streets into superblocks, and permanent car-free corridors in Stockholm, Paris’s Rue de Rivoli, and New York’s 34th Avenue in the Jackson Heights neighborhood. My bill starts small: just one corridor to be closed 24 hours per week starting in 2026, and expanding to three by 2027. And of course, we'd ensure access for public transit, freight, and emergency vehicles. But I believe it can be a great start to rethinking how to prioritize space in the District and could create some exciting new public areas to gather, walk, dine, shop, and more.
It's that time of year - the holiday season is in full swing in Ward 6! Check out some upcoming events in our neighborhoods:
- Saturday, December 2: Holiday Boat Parade at the Wharf
- Thursday, December 7: Kick off the first night of Hanukkah with the Capitol Hill BID and Hill Havurah for the 10th Annual Capitol Hill Menorah Lighting.
- Saturday, December 9: "Christmas Open House at the Hill" with the Capitol Hill Seventh-Day Adventist Church: Join the Capitol Hill SDA Church for a festive tour of the historic building with the dome, beautifully decorated for the Christmas season, Christmas music, a photo booth, and caroling from 3-6pm.
- Saturday, December 16: Join the James Creek Resident Council for its Winter Wonderland Toy Distribution event (link to volunteer)
If there's a holiday community event in the ward I missed that's free to the public, please reach out to Casey on my team at [email protected] so we can spread the word.
Still need to get your holiday decor? We've got two ongoing holiday sales put on by Ward 6 schools that end this weekend! Get your holiday greenery and some delicious baked goods from the joint Miner and Eliot-Hine PTO sale today from 5-8pm and tomorrow from 9am-2pm at Miner.
If you still need a tree, head over to Brent Elementary's tree sale today until 7pm or 9am-5pm this weekend at the school at 301 N. Carolina Ave. SE.
Cold Weather Means the Hypothermia Alert is Being Activated; Spreading the Word About Urgent Winter Supply Donations Needed
We had some very cold nights this week, so let me take a quick minute to remind you to plug the Shelter Hotline at (202) 399-7093 into your phone. If you see a neighbor struggling in the cold, make a quick call, and someone will respond to check on them and offer to take them to a shelter. On nights when the temperature is expected to drop below freezing, the Mayor will activate the hypothermia alert, which creates extra bed spaces at our emergency shelters to ensure everyone can get inside safely. More information here.
I also wanted to share information about urgent winter supplies needed for migrants arriving in the District. Last night, I visited the Capitol Hill United Methodist Church on Seward Square, which has partnered with Migrant Solidarity Mutual Aid to run a "store" in the church for migrants recently arriving in DC by bus to get needed donated adult and children's clothing. They also share an evening meal while they're there, and it's a safe place for kids to just be kids and play together while parents shop and access needed resources. I spoke with some of the migrant neighbors there about the importance of legal ID to get needed housing, jobs, and social services. So how can you help? Here's a list of urgently needed winter supplies to be donated for adults and children.
After receiving several complaints from residents that they were not able to purchase SNAP-eligible items at stores because the retailers were denying purchases or imposing illegal requirements, the Attorney General has issued a consumer alert and business advisory about consumer rights when making SNAP purchases. It's important that residents enrolled in SNAP and businesses that are certified SNAP retailers are aware of these guidelines, especially as we head into the busy holiday shopping season. SNAP retailers cannot:
- Charge a transaction fee to consumers paying with a SNAP card
- Set a minimum transaction amount for qualified SNAP purchases
- Require a minimum SNAP card balance in order to make a qualified purchase
- Require SNAP users to make a SNAP card balance inquiry before making a purchase
Thanks to AG Schwalb for getting the word out about this important issue and protecting District residents. And you can find a full list of SNAP-eligible items here.
The next Hill Family Bike Ride is coming up on Saturday, December 16! The theme for this ride is “tiny streets.” Read more about the ride from Hill Family Biking:
What's a "tiny street"? A one-block street, of course! And Capitol Hill is full of them. We'll be riding down some of the most beautiful blocks on the Hill then off to P.S. Mercantile for hot chocolate, coffee and treats. What's not to love?
Earlier this year, the Council passed my bill creating a two-tiered subsidy (based on income) for DC residents to purchase an e-bike, and the program is expected to launch sometime in the first half of 2024. I see this as an easy way to improve a few parts of daily life: it's accessible to more people, it reduces the number of car trips for short trips, and it helps riders get some exercise all at the same time. But if you'd like to do a deeper dive into why I think this program can have enormous benefits big picture, this article is worth your time: The world’s 280 million electric bikes and mopeds are cutting demand for oil far more than electric cars.
An important heads up for Metrorail riders: starting on Monday, December 18, WMATA will begin a two-week construction project on the Red Line for safety repairs to the tunnel and track infrastructure, upgrading signal and communications systems, and installing new platform edge lights.
Service will be unavailable at Farragut North, Metro Center, and Gallery Place stations with free shuttle buses replacing trains from December 18 through Saturday, December 30. Service will continue to be available on the Blue, Orange, and Silver lines on the lower level at Metro Center and Green and Yellow line service on the lower level at Gallery Place. Additionally Judiciary Square Station will be closed from Friday, December 22, through Sunday, December 24.
In recent newsletters, I've shared updates on the looming financial crisis at WMATA. In short, with the end of federal relief on the horizon, and compounded by recent rising costs and inflation, WMATA is facing a roughly $750 million per year shortfall. The three jurisdictions that make up the region - DC, VA, and MD - are going to have to increase their contributions to ensure service, safety, and reliability continue. Failure isn't an option, and WMATA is simply too crucial to our city and region's success to miss this moment. Everyone from students getting to school, to businesses driving our economy, to neighbors getting to the grocery store or doctor's office are counting on a solution.
As the Chair of the Council's Transportation Committee, I'm working closely with my elected counterparts in the Virginia and Maryland legislatures to develop solutions, and as the incoming Chair of the region's Council of Governments, this is a top priority across all government. The solutions will be hard and take months, if not a year or more, to craft. But in about two weeks, you're going to see the WMATA General Manager release his budget for next year, and as that funding solution hasn't yet been found, they must propose a budget that reflects the current gap (though we’re all working to make sure this won’t happen). But for now, the proposed budget is going to be rough. WMATA has been publicly warning about the stakes, so this shouldn't be a surprise. But the degree of impact on service, fares, and the workforce will be startling and I think will focus the region’s resolve on finding a solution. While we’ve pushed WMATA to find efficiencies and cost savings within the organization, I'm committed to ensuring the District does its fair share by increasing our support. Reducing service to our neighborhood buses or turning our rail system into an infrequent commuter line aren't viable paths forward. I'll use my newsletter to continue sharing regular updates and actions as we work to solve this challenge.
The 17th Annual Ward 6 Brickie Awards are only five days away! I’m very excited for this year's event to celebrate the Ward 6 community, enjoy some great food and drinks donated by Ward 6 businesses, and of course, hand out bricks to the winners of the Neighbor, Community Organization, Business, Public Service, and Civic Pride Awards. We'll be meeting on H Street NE this year - so you know the food is gonna be great. Winners will be revealed early next week ahead of the event, so keep an eye out for that announcement!
Now that I've sold you on the event, here's the bad news: it's at capacity. However, the Atlas is maintaining a wait list. So if you'd like to go, please get your name on that list, and you'll be automatically registered if someone can't come. And if you have a ticket and can't make it, please let me know so we can get it to someone who can attend.
This week, the Council's Committee of the Whole held a hearing to consider proposed renamings of a few District facilities, including Tyler Elementary School in Ward 6. It was my absolute pleasure to hear testimony from students, parents, and others in support of renaming the school after Shirley Chisholm. The hearing was the culmination of several years' work by the PTA and school community to build consensus around a name change and honor an incredible role model, rather than someone who advocated for slavery and betrayed their country. I believe this change will take place in time for next school year and definitely as part of the upcoming school modernization plans. Great work everyone - especially our incredible students!
Thanks again, and see you around the neighborhood,