Ward 6 Update: 12-20-21

I hope the end of the year and the holiday season offers you and your loved ones an opportunity to rest. A lot of news is coming at us all so fast. No matter how you spend your day, simply going through each day can take a lot from all of us. As much as I wish it weren't true, the pandemic is as serious as it's ever been, we're struggling with a number of challenges. And yet, each day I find more and more reasons to love calling Ward 6 home. There is a LOT of timely information below so let's jump into some updates -- it's been a true sprint to the end of the year, and I've got a lot to catch you up on. But don't miss some great ways to enjoy the holidays in Ward 6 at the bottom.

Quick Links, Long Newsletter: New Ward 6 Map | New COVID-19 Updates | Some Good News | Public Safety | Holding Jan 6 Accountable | WatkinsLeaf Collection | Groceries | Holidays in Ward 6Brickies Recap

Council Passes Re-Districting Map in First of Two Votes

Two weeks ago, the Council took its first vote on the newly drawn-ward boundaries, passing the map that will likely be our new ward boundaries until the next census. It will come up for a second and final vote this week. 

I don't like it at all, but I understand the reality - redistricting legally requires that ward lines must be redrawn to balance out the number of residents in each ward. And Ward 6 has to lose around 20,000 residents into surrounding wards. To put this in perspective, this is the largest single shift of a Ward population in the history of the District of Columbia. Never before has a Ward had to change so dramatically and there is no way to do this easily.

That said, there was never going to be a map that I liked. Over my two terms representing Ward 6 on the Council, I've built relationships with neighbors in every neighborhood to build schools and modernize rec centers, install parks, improve safety, and more. And trust me, those relationships won't end with this new map. My hope is every neighborhood that moves into Ward 2, 7, or 8 from Ward 6 will now have two members working to solve problems. I shared some longer thoughts during the meeting you can watch here. And because I have been asked this the most, I want to make sure I state again that your Zone 6 RPP parking will not change even if your Ward boundary does - we had that written into the law so that parking remains untouched and better reflects the parking needs you have. More on redistricting from the Post.

COVID-19 Updates: Take the Threat of Omicron Seriously; Mayor's Updates Announced Today

Cases are spiking this week in a concerning way - last week, DC set its single day record for COVID-19 cases, and then broke that record the very next day! Make no mistake - we don't yet have a clear understanding about the newest variant, Omicron, but early data suggests we should be taking this very seriously - certainly that's the call from the World Health Organization. Even if individual risk ultimately isn't very different from Delta, the same challenges are going to apply to people who cannot get vaccinated, aren't vaccinated yet, and those whose immune systems can't fight as well even with a vaccine. I found this assessment in The Atlantic (might have a paywall) timely. I just want to really emphasize that while we may not know enough about how this virus impacts different age groups and different folks with compromised immune systems, the news and rapid community spread is alarming. Get boosted if you haven't already. Get vaccinated if you haven't already. Wear a mask to protect yourself and others. Exercise caution this holiday season. Getting vaccinated and boosted is crucial to protecting yourself, your loved ones, and ensuring we don't have a wave of hospitalizations.

The Mayor made several announcements today. Here are the critical updates:

  • The indoor mask mandate is reinstated through January 31. I'm glad to see this and have been recommending this step.

  • The Department of Health will partner with schools to make their stock of rapid antigen tests available for students and educators. I called for this last week and this will be crucial for students returning after the holidays.

  • Schools will now be closed on January 3 and 4 to allow families and staff to pick-up antigen rapid tests, which will be available for pick-up at schools. Look for more details shortly from your school.

  • Nine new walk-up take home up test sites announced: I'm glad to see a significant expansion of testing sites, including two new locations in Ward 6 to pick-up and drop-off home PCR tests beginning today, December 20 at both Southeast Library and Northeast Library (adding to Southwest and Rosedale). Again, I've been recommending this step. The demand for testing is far outpacing the supply and we're seeing people standing in lines for hours. Just a heads up, during the Mayor's press conference, I wanted to see for myself how Northeast Library looked. They had not received tests yet, which I've flagged for DC Health leadership.

  • New, free, at-home, rapid tests for DC residents: The Mayor also announced eight sites that will distribute 1,000 DC Health rapid tests a day. Each kit contains two tests. The obvious hole in their plan? The only site in Ward 6 is in Shaw, which is a pretty far distance to travel for most of Ward 6. I've already asked that DC Health add a site more central to most residents who are in Ward 6 and will keep you updated.

  • Reporting over-the-counter test results: if you've tested using an over the counter rapid test, you need to report it yourself since the results aren't processed by a lab. It takes two minutes to upload your results by visiting coronavirus.dc.gov/overthecounter

Facing this massive surge, we need to normalize these behaviors in each household to understand we're all pulling in the same direction. Handling this latest variant will require a combination of mitigation (masks, physical distancing, contact tracing), surveillance (testing on-demand and random testing in schools and crowded indoor settings), and protection (vaccines). 

If you or a child or family members aren't vaccinated, or if you need a booster, here are 14 locations that offer either appointments or walk-ins within a mile of Ward 6. As a reminder, vaccines are free for all residents with or without insurance.

Don't believe if anyone who tells you the vaccines aren't working -- just look at this chart at the difference in cases between people who are vaccinated fully and those who are not. Vaccines are saving lives. 

And bookmark this page to keep an eye on daily vaccination clinics and locations operated by DC Health.

Council Passes Vaccine Mandate for Students: First, the Council has passed a law requiring COVID-19 vaccines for students, starting with students ages 16 and 17. The requirement will only be for vaccines that have been approved for children by the FDA, which right now is only the Pfizer for 16 and 17 year-olds (vaccines on emergency approval cannot be mandatory). Learn more in DCist ahead of a second vote tomorrow.

Get Boosted! Or Vaccinated for the First Time! DC's full vaccination rate is around 66% of the population (including children of all ages - eligible or not) and our partial or full vaccination rate is 84.1% - full data here. Only around 30% of folks have received their booster. The best way to protect against serious effects of the virus is to get vaccinated and boosted when you are eligible. You can find sites offering appointments here and check DC Health's sites here.

Here's guidance on boosters, as provided by Vaccines.gov. You are eligible if:

  • You received a second Pfizer or Moderna shot more than 6 months ago and are age 18+ years
  • You received a Johnson & Johnson shot more than 2 months ago
  • You are moderately or severely immunocompromised—find out more about getting an additional dose

You can choose the kind of booster you prefer regardless of what you got in the past. Visit CDC for more information about boosters.

Changes in COVID-19 Testing Coming for Early Childhood: After several months of pushing, I'm glad to share that OSSE has agreed to change from a saliva sample for random testing at the District's early childhood education centers. As a parent to a five-year-old, I know it's nearly impossible to get a good saliva sample from children that young. Beginning in January, expect to see new testing formats being announced that I hope will make testing much more feasible. As we wrestle with a new variant and try to ensure childcare and early education sites can remain open, we absolutely need to have a reliable way to surveil the virus' spread. More from WTOP.

Quick Action from DC Fire and EMS and Ward 6 Neighbors Saves a Life

Folks, we need some good news today and here's one to celebrate. A lot of the bad news gets the bulk of coverage, but sometimes we need to seek out and celebrate the good. A great example of that is a ceremony I joined last week. On October 27, a Ward 6 neighbor went for a morning jog around the Capitol building and had a sudden medical emergency. She was in distress. Soon though, other Ward 6 neighbors out for a morning jog found a stranger and jumped into action. They quickly alerted US Capitol Police and those officers did heroic and quick work that saved her life. They then handed off to DC FEMS to provide more medical attention and got to her quickly. In a heart attack, minutes matter and on that October morning a community came together to save a few minutes and saved a life. It was a honor to see these neighbors reunited under better circumstances and to personally thank the fast action and life saving steps taken by US Capitol Police officers and DC Fire and EMS members. 

Public Safety Update

This has been a tough week for violence in our neighborhoods. Last week, there was a terrifying shooting along K St, NE and then several hours later another spate of gunshots on the same block. While no one was struck in these shootings, it is traumatizing for thousands of people in the immediate area, not to mention the immediate neighbors whose homes or workplaces were hit. And yesterday, as a father took his children out for a walk near the MPD substation, a horrific and unprovoked attack left him and his child injured. Whether its gun violence or a senseless attack, this is unacceptable any day and in any neighborhood. I'm grateful for MPD's quick response in each of these instances - being on scene within seconds and making an arrest of the attacker of the father and child. But violence -- especially as folks are running errands, taking walks, letting kids play before bedtime -- robs residents of the peace and security we all deserve in our homes and our neighborhoods.

In regard to the K Street NE shooting, MPD had a cruiser just down the street and responded within 20 seconds. I've spoken with Commander McLean about the incident, what they know, and where the investigation is headed. I can't share all of the details of their investigation, but I can share this was a shooting targeting a specific home, putting them and surrounding neighbors in direct harm. And MPD is investigating this as a very high priority. I met with several neighbors in the immediate neighborhood and connected with others, but if you'd like to reach out to me (in this neighborhood or elsewhere), please email me at [email protected].

In regard to the weekend attack on the sidewalk, thanks to the help of neighbors and eye witnesses, and the quick work of MPD officers, an arrest was made. I've been asked by a few neighbors if the suspect is the same as from another violent act near Eastern Market a few weeks ago. In that case, an arrest has been made, felony charges have been brought, and the Courts decided to hold that individual pending trial. The person arrested yesterday is being held currently and I will encourage the Courts do same as before as well. I also reached out to the Department of Behavioral Health this weekend because I want to know what more they can do. In each of these attacks, the suspect is being described as having mental health needs. We've given DBH more resources and staff to do more aggressive community-based outreach and I want to know what more they can be doing. MPD has done a very good job of moving quickly to make arrests, but the city has to move more to prevent this and get people in crises off the street. It takes more than just DBH, but they are an important player needed to make improvements.

I wish there was going to be a simple solution, but it will take a sustained, citywide effort to address the reasons people choose to carry and use a firearm and commit violence, particularly when considering how the pandemic has upended people's lives. Still, I've worked to fully fund a broader public safety response that is nimbler and more responsive to what we know works to stop the small group of people who become violent offenders.

I wrote last newsletter about the District's challenge with illegal firearms. Last week, we convened a long work session including myself, MPD Chief Contee, United States Attorney's Office, Office of the Attorney General, Superior Court, Department of Corrections, Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice, Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement, DC's Gun Violence Prevention Director, and more. In our work, we focused on the shared strategies needed to turn the tide of violence. We see increases all over the region and the country, but we're focused on solutions here at home - with focused deterrence of those committing or at-risk of harm, intervening in cycles of violence that lead to more violence, and taking the 'both/and' approach I've talked about before to both hold those that create harm accountable, and also working upstream to stop and prevent the conditions that led to the harm being caused in the first place. 

It's a focus on how prevention and intervention can complement the work of law enforcement. In the budget that just took effect this fall, there are significant investments in violence prevention, intervention, and accountability.

Preventive work can complements the work of MPD, which is to hold bad actors accountable. Another way to think about this: what are the jobs we ask police officers to do that they are well-suited to? Investigating crimes, tracking down leads, documenting evidence, and ultimately making an arrest. But who should we turn to when we think about crime prevention? Certainly the presence of law enforcement can sometimes be a deterrent, but we also know it makes other people feel less safe and more wary. Historically, aggressive police efforts to prevent crime have eroded trust in some of the communities where crime is most damaging. And the lack of accountability when policing violates a neighbors' rights creates further distrust, as highlighted in this serious and detailed report by WAMU, DCist, and Reveal. We should be clear-eyed about how that legacy actively hurts our efforts to solve crimes and prevent new ones.

When it comes to preventing new incidents, this is where a different skillset can be helpful. As credible messengers who are often from the neighborhood and don't have the ability to arrest you or use force, they work to build relationships and communicate in a way that people who are at-risk of violence can understand. It can still be dangerous work, but it can be very effective immediately and over time in communities that historically have lower levels of trust with law enforcement. We deploy our violence interrupters by following the data, and listening to the community. 

It is impossible to see the many people working hard to make our neighborhoods safer. And when you are the victim of, or even just near to, violent crime, your sense of security is shattered and you just want to see the situation improve. I know that as both a victim of gun violence myself and as your neighbor raising my kids right here with you. And I take seriously that you and your family both are safe and feel safe in your community - and am focused on solutions that will be both immediate and lasting.

Public Safety Walk with Northeast Neighbors:  Last Tuesday evening, I joined residents near 10th and D Sts, NE for a community public safety walk with MPD, ANC leaders, and representatives from the Mayor's team. We focused on recent incidents and steps we can take to improve accountability for those who have done harm and ensure our neighborhoods are safe to enjoy. Thanks to Captain Savoy, 1D officers, ANC Commissioners Soderman, Dooling, Gove, and Gentile, and many neighbors joining us.

Suspected Arson Involving Leaves in Hill East: I've heard multiple reports (and seen video captured by neighbors) of fires being set using piles of leaves in parts of Hill East. This is scary stuff -- earlier this week, a fire spread from leaves to inflaming two cars in the middle of the night. Thankfully no one was injured. Neighbors have told me other incidents have happened as well. DC Fire and EMS's Arson unit is working the case, as well as MPD. And of course, we needed to get those leaves collected in a first pass, which I believe has been done on most blocks. Feel free to reach out to me as well if you have details to share: [email protected]

Online Sales Safe Exchange Sites: This holiday season, just a quick reminder you can use MPD District Stations as a safe place to complete an online sale with another person safely. That includes the First District Station at 101 M St., SW in Ward 6. While this tweet is a year old, it's still good information.

Ward 6 Incident Updates: Sharing a few updates as announced by MPD. As a reminder, an arrest does not equate guilt nor justice. I share these updates because residents don't often hear about next steps for crimes that take place in your neighborhood if you aren't directly involved and that can feel both frustrating and overwhelming.

DC is Holding the Organizers of January 6 Accountable

I was proud to join Attorney General Karl Racine on Tuesday as he announced a civil lawsuit to hold the organizers and participants in the January 6 insurrection accountable for the harm and damage they did to DC residents, our Metropolitan Police Department Officers who answered the call when the President of the United States did not activate the National Guard, and to our neighbors who work in the Capitol or surrounding area. That day has had a lasting effect on the people of the District of Columbia. And those who organized, coordinated, and participated in it must be held accountable. Read more in the City Paper.

Note on Watkins Elementary 

Late Sunday, news broke that a librarian at Watkins Elementary School forced students to recreate scenes from the Holocaust. I am appalled and angry. This employee had students pretend to dig mass graves, pretend to play Adolf Hitler, pretend a death by suicide, and much more disturbing behavior and anti-Semitic actions. This hate has no home here. Last night, I asked the Chancellor for urgent action to ensure there is an immediate plan to support the students and families at Watkins Elementary and repair the harm that has been done. That work can't wait until after the winter break and must include the entire Watkins community. In addition, I have made specific inquiries about the background and vetting process that was taken with this hire and what they knew. While many of those details will likely remain confidential as personnel actions, the community needs answers. I've been in touch with the PTA over the weekend and have also begun conversations with the Hill Havurah, Jewish Community Relations Council, Jewish Social Services, and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) about how best the school community and students can the resources they need.

Leaf Collection Update

You've certainly noticed that DPW's scheduled first round of leaf collection dates have come and gone...more than a month ago. This was an issue I had been communicating with DPW's director on going back a few weeks, and escalated it after someone started lighting fires in northeast. And while delayed leaf collection is an annual problem, this year has been especially bad. I'm happy to share that DPW has made up a ton of ground on the first collection, with all streets completed. I've heard from a few residents about specific street issues that still haven't been collected and were still marked as such. Reply to this email if that's your block and I'll what I can do. But keep in mind this only the first of two collections.

The map to the right shows the boundaries for each area, which does not correspond with ANC. This obviously shifts the second collection, which I've been advised will be as follows: 

The updated timing for the second pass for leaf collection will be communicated to all Councilmembers, ANC’s, and community liaisons. Below outlines the updated timing.  

  • For the second pass at leaf collection residents in sections A of their respective wards should rake their leaves out Sunday, December 19. 
  • For the second pass at leaf collection residents in sections B of their respective wards should rake their leaves out Sunday, December 26.   

Free Groceries to Anyone Who Needs Them on Sundays

Just a heads up from a Ward 6 neighbor -- there are free groceries being given to anyone who needs them every Sunday at RFK starting at around 8 am until 1 or 2 pm. This is apparently through USDA's grants to get food to more families. 

Holidays in Ward 6! 

I just want to quickly drop in some ways to enjoy official holiday activities next week and into the new year around Ward 6.

Our Second Brickies was a Testament to Community

I want to close with a huge thank you to all the Ward 6 neighbors who joined me for our second virtual Brickie awards. Obviously I would prefer we were able to get back to spending an evening together and celebrating some of the work of our neighbors in-person. But I do think we made the best of it and still had a wonderful evening. I want to congratulate our five honorees this year, and if you'd like to watch their portions of the 2021 Brickies, here is the link and I'll provide the timestamp below for each: 

  • Community Organization Award (pictured right, bottom): Capitol Hill Village (13:09)
  • Public Service Award(pictured right, top): Monica Williams, Mary Scott, and Kendra Ambrose | DC Traffic Control Officers assigned to Tyler Elementary School and Digital Pioneers PCS (23:09)
  • Civic Pride Award: Eastern Market Metro Park (33:47)
  • Neighbor Award: Wendy Hammond (45:51)
  • Business Award: Shop Made in DC (59:07)

If we don't talk sooner, enjoy the holidays and end of year. I look forward to seeing you around the neighborhood soon,

Charles Allen

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