Ward 6 Update 3-16-2024

Spring is in the air, and that means three things: cherry blossom bloom is imminent, we'll have pollen everywhere soon, and it's time for the city to start debating our budget (that's what you think of in springtime, right?!).

With the warmer weather and all of the colors of spring returning, it's getting beautiful outside. I hope you get the chance to stroll through a market or park and dine outside more than once in the coming weeks. I want to thank everyone at the International Spy Museum for hosting their second Ward 6 night, distributing tickets to more than a dozen Ward 6 community groups, and inviting hundreds of neighbors to check it out. We had a great evening!

We have plenty to talk about below, but for a good read at the top, I wanted to be sure you saw this Post article on how the District and the region are outpacing most other major cities in recovering from the pandemic with population growth. Even though we face very real and urgent challenges on several fronts, it's a good reminder that DC remains a place where people want to be.

Finally, a quick heads up I'll be holding community office hours in Mt. Vernon Triangle this Friday -- info below. Now, let's jump into the newsletter. 

Quick Links: Public Safety | FY25 Budget Schedule | Budget Priorities | Union Station | E-Bike Rebate | H Street Oral History | Feed Phil on H Street | Atlas Art Lab | Pacci's | DCHA | Shirley Chisholm Film | DC TAG | Great Spring Clean | Zero Waste DC | MVT Office Hours | Spirit Tickets at Audi

Public Safety Update

Last Tuesday, the Secure DC bill unanimously passed the Council and has since been signed into law by the Mayor. Several components went into effect immediately as part of an identical emergency bill we passed at the same time. If you missed it, I sent out an email update last week with a longer reflection. As I mention in that update, this was an important step the Council took to close gaps in our laws and be responsive to changing court precedents. And the Council preserved the commonsense police accountability and transparency laws that help build trust between officers and the communities they serve. 

But this one law won't be a cure-all. Much of what needs to improve, as I've said many times, is a far more coordinated, whole of government approach that brings everyone together to solve these complicated issues. For example, the Department of Forensic Sciences, our crime lab, is still barely back to processing drug evidence, and there's no timeline for when it might earn approval to process guns and ballistics. There's no question the loss of the lab has slowed investigations and forced both our federal and local prosecutors to triage cases. Our US Attorney's Office, a federal agency, has recently made a concerted media push against criticism that the office is declining too many cases for prosecution. Certainly the crime lab's collapse plays a significant role here, but I think it's also clear our USAO doesn't have the resources needed (and DOJ's announced surge in January backs that up). All of that is to say we can't abandon the hard work required to increase coordination between federal and local systems, among law enforcement partners, and among non-law enforcement agencies on the small number of people most likely to be involved in crime.

On the legislation front, I'll plug two bills I've introduced that can strengthen our laws and one I'll be introducing soon. 

First, I'm pushing for action on my bill that would require the Department of Forensic Sciences to preserve rape kits when the victim doesn't want to come forward to the police immediately. This is a no-brainer: save the evidence (it's literally a shoebox-sized kit), and if a victim later wants to report, we have somewhere to start. But the Executive didn't support the bill at the hearing because of "unknown costs". That doesn't make sense; we preserve every rape kit today where the victim does want to come forward, so really, refusing to move forward is just punishing victims who don't feel comfortable telling the police instead of empowering them to make their own decisions. I'd much rather find a climate-controlled room at the crime lab and catch a potential rapist. I'm hopeful my the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety will move the bill to a vote before the end of the year.

Second, my bill to increase hiring and retention incentives at our 911 Call Center, where we've had plenty of issues with staffing and call handling. While a lot of focus and discussion remains on police officer hiring, we have other critical staffing challenges in our public safety cluster that deserve the same energy. I introduced a bill to extend the same home purchasing assistance to 911 call-takers and dispatchers that I created a few years ago for police and fire personnel. It's a big way to help recruit and retain the staff we need. In return, they'd sign a five-year service commitment with the District. There's a hearing for that bill coming up on Monday, March 18. Thanks to my colleague, Councilmember Robert White, for holding the hearing in his committee.

Third, I'm currently working on a bill I'd like to introduce soon aiming to lower the truancy rate at our schools, particularly for older children. This is a canary in the coal mine for young people in trouble, and we need to get out in front of it. I look forward to sharing more details soon.

Finally, thanks to neighbors, ANC Commissioner Ahmad Abu-Khalaf, and officers from the Fifth District for a safety walk in NoMa. We focused on issues around 1st and M and down M Street (where there are also significant sidewalk blockages and sidewalk conditions concerns). I appreciated the perspectives from neighbors and Commissioners, as well as the focus from 5D officers who have upped their patrols following several recent gun violence incidents.

Upcoming Public Safety Walks

March 26, 12pm: Join MPD's First District officers and resident leaders at nearby buildings for a walk starting at 1050 New Jersey Avenue, NW. 

FY25 Budget Hearings Schedule

Once the Mayor's proposed budget arrives, the Council kicks off our public budget hearings for every single agency, and we want your feedback on the issues and projects you care most about. You can find every hearing and sign up to testify here (filtering by committee is helpful): https://lims.dccouncil.gov/hearings/

A few notable hearings for members of the public (some of these have government witnesses testifying on a different date due to long public witness lists): 

  • Department of General Services: April 5
  • Department of Transportation: April 1
  • DC Public Schools + All Education Agencies: April 3 
  • Metropolitan Police Department: April 9
  • Office of the Attorney General: March 27
  • Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development: April 1
  • Department of Buildings: March 27
  • Office of Tax and Revenue: April 3

Budget Priorities Letter

I wanted to share the letter I sent to Mayor Bowser outlining my budget priorities for the coming FY25 budget process, which begins with the Mayor proposing her own budget that the Council then works from. I shared my priorities in advance to ask the Mayor to include them in her initial budget proposal. I'll note much media coverage of DC's budget seems to paint a negative picture. DC's growth continues. The main challenge is we have substantial cost drivers that have to get funded in the budget, which will make things a lot tighter, including $200 million for WMATA's operating costs on top of our normal payment. So I'm not pretending we don't have tough choices ahead, but I want to also be clear that DC is moving in a positive direction by nearly every economic indicator, with the largest source of concern remaining struggling commercial properties downtown. 

The letter gives you a good idea of what I'll be focused on in the budget as we begin deliberations between now and May/June, when the budget will be finalized. You can read the whole letter above, but I'll run through a few areas specific to Ward 6 and citywide here:

Priorities for Ward 6

  • Maintaining Funding for Ward 6 School Modernizations: We have four schools in the pipeline for a full modernization (JO Wilson, Brent, Shirley Chisholm, and Amidon-Bowen). My goal is to ensure these are maintained and we start to identify swing space for each school within a shorter commute than 45 minutes to an hour.

  • Advancing Rumsey Aquatic Center's Redesign: Last year, I worked with key leaders around Eastern Market to identify and secure funding to add a second floor to the coming renovation of Rumsey and create a brand new space for seniors to enjoy, as well as first floor space to support Eastern Market vendors and new makers. 

  • Support Small and Local Businesses: I talk with far too many small businesses barely making it work right now. There's an easy way to give them a little support: double the existing Small Retailer Property Tax Credit. This is an existing, proven way to get a little relief back to our businesses at a time when margins are razor thin. 

  • Dedicated Funding for H Street NE: We've seen other major corridors in the District receive funding to improve public safety and public space and draw more people to the corridor with events. I'd like to see similar targeted investments in H Street NE, as we work to activate and uplift the corridor.

  • Maintenance, Repairs, and Programming at Eastern Market Metro Park: We've invested millions in a new, beautiful Eastern Market Metro Park, and we now need to make sure the maintenance and repairs stay on track. I've asked the Mayor to create a standing pot of capital dollars for repairs and to also fund a new Park Manager position to help coordinate and focus on the park's day-to-day. This would pair with the funding I've added in the last two budgets for grants for programming the park.

Priorities for the District

  • Fund WMATA: Job number one for me is securing funding to avoid WMATA's fiscal cliff in the coming year. I worked closely with Chairman Mendelson and Mayor Bowser to commit to identifying $200 million dollars, joining with Virginia and Maryland to head off the worst doomsday budgets WMATA proposed. 

  • Make SNAP Increases Permanent: Last year, the Council funded an increase in the amount of local tax dollars that were matched to federal SNAP (Supplementary Nutritional Assistance Program) dollars. We need to maintain these increases for neighbors who are really struggling to make ends meet and put food on the table.

  • Fully Fund Public Safety: Within the broad topic of public safety, my priorities will be funding for MPD to allow them to retain and recruit new officers, and specifically for the Cadet Program. MPD's Cadet Program is a reliable pipeline that gets young DC residents into good-paying public service jobs while they also get college credit. I'd also like to see us take on one of the biggest issues highlighted in last year's MPD workforce survey: reliable childcare. This is a tricky one, but it's critical to retaining good officers who have or start a family and also want to have a career. We need flexible childcare that reflects the nature of shift work, and this could be a meaningful pilot program.

  • Funding STEER Act for Safer Streets: Finally, I want to push for funding and implementation of the STEER Act, which recently passed the Council and will become law after congressional review. Most of the law can be implemented without funding, but the largest cost comes from reducing outstanding fines for drivers who take a safe driver course, something we want to encourage to change dangerous driving behavior. This will have a major impact on quality of life for every single neighborhood and on every street in our community.

Generational Union Station Redevelopment Passes Major Hurdle 

Big, big news late this week as the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) completed the Final Environmental Impact Statement to allow redevelopment planning for Union Station to move forward! This is huge, as it clears the project's core direction, and we can move on to identifying funding. Over the past years, I've joined nearby ANC leaders, neighbors, and businesses to advocate that the final design for Union Station -- which will be a massive, once-in-a-hundred-years project -- needs to achieve two goals: 1) build capacity to continue to be a major transportation hub on par with DCA, Dulles, and BWI for the region, and 2) fit in with the surrounding neighborhood and have a smoother and much more natural connection with local DC. I think this design is a winner on both of those fronts. A new train hall, expanded rail, right-sized parking, modern bus facilities, concourses with retail, dining, and shopping...This is what we fought hard for and will transform our entire region. Read more in Bisnow and the Washington Business Journal.

DC's E-Bike Rebate is Going Live in April

On Monday, DDOT rolled out the details on the District's e-bike purchase program, which I created to provide a voucher to cover the cost for DC residents to purchase their own e-bike! If you've never ridden an e-bike, I strongly recommend you give it a try (and if you're a Capital Bikeshare member, it's very easy to find one). E-bikes unlock the city and provide an entirely fresh perspective on your neighborhood -- all without breaking a sweat! I talked with WTOP about the program.

The District's program, created from the legislation I introduced and led the Council to unanimously pass, is a little different. We want to be sure this benefit is available to all DC residents, and that means we wanted to create a program that could equitably benefit low-income neighbors. That means a few things: there's a larger benefit available to low-income residents, including covering a lock, disability modifications, and accessories. And DDOT is taking it even further -- the window will first be open to low-income residents (in this case, anyone eligible for SNAP, TANF, Medicaid, or the DC Healthcare Alliance). After that initial window, if there's still funding, it will open up to all residents. Right now, DDOT estimates funding for around 250 vouchers between April and the end of September. Demand will certainly outpace availability, but it will be critical to show this is a program that DC residents support. Details from DDOT here: https://ddot.dc.gov/ebikes

Free Tickets to H Street Oral History Festival 

If you're interested in local history, this weekend's H Street Oral History Festival is a can't-miss event. Pulled together by Mosaic Theater and taking place at H Street's own Atlas Center for Performing Arts, you can still get tickets for most performances (the walking tour is sold out). All tickets are free. This is a multi-year project in which the oral history of H Street NE has been collected, documented, and turned into live performances. 

Two H Street Businesses Featured on 'Somebody Feed Phil'

I love seeing Ward 6 restaurants get the recognition they deserve -- and two spots on H Street NE are featured in the Netflix series "Somebody Feed Phil": Maketto and Mozzeria. A recap of the episode is here from Washingtonian

Free Atlas Arts Lab on March 22 

One more update along H Street from Atlas Theater: "Join the artists for an open rehearsal. Experience behind the scenes of our new artists incubator series Atlas Arts Lab. This event is free to attend. ‘syBLINGS!’ is an intentional forever collaboration between Asali Ruth-Mandla McIntyre and Spirit Paris McIntyre. Since the beginning of time, these two have used their: comedy, shared love of language, music, experiences, and the telepathic unspoken energy that exists only between syblings as tools for survival. Asali is a Professional Violinist, Singer-Songwriter, Improvisational Performer and Creative based in the DC Metropolitan area. She has honed her skills in these disciplines for 30+ years. Spirit is a Speaker, Composer, Cellist, Lyricist, Reiki Practitioner, Facilitator, and Visual Artist, who promotes empowerment and healing by any medium necessary. Take a peek into ‘syBLINGS!’ Ancestral world-building practice. Guests will learn about how syBLINGS!’ holds their rehearsals and creative spaces sacred, actively participate in a ritual and will get to observe the development of a performance piece."

RSVP here: https://www.atlasarts.org/events/syblings/

Pacci's BZA Decision Delayed to April 10

A lot of residents -- 1,225 to be precise -- jumped on my sign-on letter over last weekend in support of Pacci's application for a variance on the zoning of their property to enable them to add seating on their second floor. I don't normally weigh in on matters before the Board of Zoning Adjustments (BZA), but in this instance, I'm concerned that this location is zoned in a way that won't allow any business to be successful or to be a meaningful residence. This is an opportunity for the BZA to support a much-loved local business and allow them to make ends meet in the vibrant and active Lincoln Park community. The BZA was set to decide on the application this past Wednesday, but pushed back a final decision until April 10 in order to get more information from the business. At this point, the record is closed, but I think members of the BZA have heard loud and clear the support for Pacci's. Photo credit to The Hill is Home.

Preview Screening of New Shirley Chisholm Film for Shirley Chisholm Elementary School Families (and Neighbors)

To celebrate the recent renaming of Tyler Elementary to Shirley Chisholm Elementary School, my office worked with Netflix, the Chisolm PTA, and Miracle Theater on Barracks Row and school leadership to coordinate a special screening of a new Netflix documentary about Shirley Chisholm at the Miracle Theater on March 27 at 6pm. What a great way to celebrate this change and learn more about the school's namesake! I'm excited we could make this partnership and special opportunity come together. Hope to see you there! RSVP here.

DC TAG Now Open

This year's schedule was delayed, but DC TAG (Tuition Assistance Grant) is now open and accepting applications. Remember, this builds off of your FAFSA form, so keep that handy. You can get all the details here. Please, please don't miss this deadline -- because it's federal funding, there's very little that can be done for families who miss the deadline, which is September 6, 2024.

The 2024 Great Ward 6 Spring Clean!

I sent out a dedicated email on this (and thanks to the nearly 200 people who've already RSVP-ed!), but in case you missed it, the 2024 Great Ward 6 Spring Clean is happening on April 6 from 10-12. This is our third year bringing neighbors together to do a little spring cleaning across the Ward. RSVP here to get all the details once we have sites finalized in the next few days. If you'd like to organize a specific site with your neighbors, email Kimberly on my team, and we'll add you to the list!

Zero Waste DC Community Fair

If reducing trash and waste's your thing, don't miss the Zero Waste DC Community Fair on Saturday, March 30, at 10am in the North Hall at Eastern Market. The fair will feature DC gov zero waste resources, sustainable businesses, and recycling and reuse tips and opportunities. More here.

Mt. Vernon Triangle Office Hours 

Next Friday, March 22, start your weekend with me at Bar Chinois in Mt. Vernon Triangle (455 I St., NW) for my latest community office hours. These are informal times when Ward 6 neighbors can chat with me and my team about any issue, big or small. All are welcome. RSVP here.

Spirit Tickets!

We know you love a good ticket giveaway. This newsletter, we've got two tickets to the Spirit v. Bay FC at Audi Field on March 23 at 7:30pm. Just reply to this email, and we'll enter you in the drawing!

I'll see you around the neighborhood,

Charles Allen

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