Ward 6 Update 3-3-2024

This was the last week of agency performance oversight hearing season at the Council, usually a busy week as we start to transition into considering next year's proposed budget, coming from the Mayor to the Council on March 20.

In addition to chairing hearings with my committee, Transportation and the Environment, my staff and I spent time in hearings focused on the Deputy Mayor for Education, DC Public Schools, and the Department of General Services. 

Outside the Council hearings, it's been busy all across the Ward. On Monday night, I joined the Southwest Neighborhood Assembly (SWNA) to celebrate Black History Month and recognize the life and work of Chuck Hicks (second from left in the photo), a Southwest neighbor and passionate leader in memorializing and celebrating Black history. I've known Chuck for a long time and have worked with him on many fronts, including passing legislation to create a Juneteenth Commission here in the District. It was great to celebrate him and spend time with so many neighbors and leaders.

Before we get into the newsletter, I want to take a moment up top to acknowledge the loss of DCist and WAMU staff this week. While I'm relieved to see DCist will be available for the next year as a source of record, we lost some really dedicated local journalists in the layoffs. Good government thrives with a strong and free press, and my hope is we see our local press corps rebound. Please don't take their work for granted. 

Let's dive in -- there are a lot of updates on public safety and upcoming hearings I want to be sure you know about.

Quick Links: Public Safety Update | Healthy Homes | DC Revenue Forecast | Downtown Plan | SNAP Increase | Protect Historic Homes | Hearing on Pot Shops | RFK Bill Advances | Traffic on 11th Street | Morgan Kane | H Street Oral History Festival | Street Sweeping | Road Closure MVT | Vacant Property Action | Great Ward 6 Spring Clean | Upcoming Office Hours | Tickets 

Public Safety Update

Arrest in the Murder of Nasrat Ahmad Yar: Many will remember the shocking murder of a former Afghan interpreter and Lyft driver, who was killed at 11th and D Streets, NE on the Hill last July. On Friday evening, MPD announced the arrest of a 15-year-old in the case. During the announcement, MPD confirmed the investigation continues into other suspects. My deep appreciation to MPD and DC's Office of the Attorney General for never giving up on the case. This murder was shocking and traumatic for Mr. Yar's family and our entire community. I hope this is a first step toward justice that provides some closure for his family.

Secure DC: On Tuesday, the Council will take a second and final vote on the Secure DC legislation, which is an omnibus bill containing a wide range of provisions focused on improving public safety. It's a response DC needs to both add more tools to both hold people accountable if they commit crimes and also work on preventing violence in the first place. I continue to hear from many neighbors about this bill - some in strong support and some voicing concern about a few of the provisions. As I've shared before, on the whole I support this bill because it has targeted provisions that will make a difference on public safety in our city. Like any consensus and compromise package, it includes things I strongly support and others that I think we'll need to evaluate closely. In particular, these are elements I'm most supportive of: 

  • Mandatory Shooting Reviews: I added this part of the bill to create two different gun violence review processes - one bi-monthly meeting comprised of law enforcement partners and one comprised of community and government agencies outside of law enforcement. Both will review the details involved in every single shooting in the District and coordinate a focused, informed response to improve investigations, arrests, and prosecutions, as well as prevention and rehabilitation after release. Shooting reviews are a tool that by necessity demands coordination between government agencies whose first instinct is to be siloed, and it's been adopted successfully by many other cities.

  • Expanding the District's Private Security Camera Program for Local Businesses: This comes from a bill I introduced last year to help more of our local businesses get exterior security cameras and anti-theft devices to protect themselves and, in the event of a break-in, get the necessary evidence to law enforcement. It builds on the highly-popular program available for exterior cameras for residents and businesses that I created many years ago. The main difference here is we are expanding it to cover expenses for security measures inside the building, whereas the current program is for external cameras only.

  • Strengthening Carjacking Laws: This is a good example of closing gaps in the law revealed by recent court rulings. Secure DC includes updated language to help ensure behavior that should be considered carjacking is actually considered part of that crime.
  • Increased Gun Penalties from Last Year's Criminal Code Reform Bill: Secure DC advances several proposals to close gaps in our firearms laws. These had been included in the Council's massive criminal code reform bill last year that Congress overturned.

  • Evaluating Changes to Pre-Trial Detention: One question I've gotten a few times about Secure DC is an amendment the Council added at first vote related to the expansion of pre-trial detention. Pre-trial detention is exactly what it sounds like -- being detained in the DC Jail while you await your trial. In DC, judges determine if someone is a risk to the community and should be detained. In Secure DC, we're expanding the ability of judges to hold someone in jail for certain serious crimes. At our first vote, the Council also required an evaluation of this expansion after one year so we can review if it's working the way we hope and if this authority should be extended further. If people aren't actually being detained under the change to the law, it's important to know that.

Barracks Row Safety Walk: Last Friday, I brought together MPD's First District, DDOT's Street Lighting Team, DC Health's Rat Abatement Team, Barracks Row Main Street, and the Office of the Attorney General to hear concerns from businesses and residents about security in the alley on the west side of 8th Street, SE. The group assessed patrol routes for the First District, improved street lighting for the entire alley, considered the potential for installing security cameras, and led some good old fashioned rat abatement. My team and I will stay focused on this spot to ensure we see improvements as the weather warms. 

DC Housing Authority Officer Shot, Suspect Arrested in Navy Yard: On Thursday morning, MPD and DC Housing Authority Police pursued a suspect after a reported attempted break-in. One DC Housing Authority officer was shot but is thankfully recovering, and the chase led to a scary lockdown around 4th and M Street, SE before an arrest was made after significant work by both DC Housing Authority Police and MPD. While this took place in the Ward 8 side of Navy Yard, I know it was unnerving for Ward 6 families at Van Ness or just a few blocks away. This is the second recent shooting involving law enforcement officers in the line of duty, which is a sobering reminder of the danger of their work and further evidence it is simply too easy to get your hands on an illegal gun in this country.

NoMa BID Meeting on Public Safety: Earlier this week, the NoMa BID pulled together an opportunity to discuss public safety after last week's double shooting on M Street NE (MPD has arrested both individuals involved), which was alarming for everyone in the area and completely unacceptable. I joined a discussion with Maura Brophy, the BID President, our 5th District Commander Sylvan Altieri, and 1st District Commander Colin Hall. This was a really productive and honest conversation, with many concerns shared by our businesses. I shared updates from the Council and the broader challenges and issues in the criminal justice system -- coordination issues with our federal partners, our crime lab's loss of accreditation, and national police hiring challenges -- and what we're doing about each. Both Commanders were able to share updates on specific crimes and strategies they're using to target robberies and car thefts, in particular. And those initiatives are having an impact, as year-to-date crime numbers are down for that specific area overall. That said, that doesn't mean anything if a crime takes place on your block, and the urgency remains to ensure a safe environment for everyone who lives, works, and visits NoMa. 

Southwest Focused Patrol Efforts: Commander Hall shared recently that he's begun a new partnership with WMATA Metro Transit Police to implement foot patrols in Southwest Ward 6 around 4th and M Street SW. Officers from both departments will work together in the early evening to increase visibility and patrol the area around the Metro station.

Arrest Made in 22 Thefts from Vehicles: This week, MPD announced an arrest of an individual that they've linked to 22 theft from auto charges. Most incidents seemed to involve stealing tools from contractors' trucks or vans. This was an outstanding arrest by 1st District officers, and the ability to link all these cases shows how comprehensive the work of the detectives was, with many of the cases happening in and around Capitol Hill and Mt. Vernon Triangle. I'm glad to see this arrest made, and we'll follow the next steps closely.

Work of ANC 6B on Public SafetySome of our ANCs have formed public safety committees in recent months, and I wanted to highlight the work of one in particular. ANC 6B's committee has been working on partnering with Potomac Gardens residents and leaders to improve safety in and around the neighborhood, reviewing legislation before the Council, and continuing to focus on 911 oversight. Their next meeting's scheduled for March 25, and you can find more info about their membership and points of contact here.

March MPD Public Safety Walks: Check the graphic to the right for the planned walks led by MPD and with other government partners. I attend as many of these as I can and it's always a great opportunity to troubleshoot specific areas or get updates on recent crimes.

Want to Understand Adult Supervised Release?: DC's Criminal Justice Coordinating Council is holding a panel discussion in Eastern Market's North Hall to talk about adult supervised release (both pre-trial and after being released from prison). If you're interested in learning more about this part of our federal-local system, I'd recommend attending or tuning in on the live stream.

Healthy Homes Act Committee Vote Scheduled for Monday, March 4

On Wednesday morning, I announced that the Council's Committee on Transportation and the Environment will vote on the Healthy Homes Act, a bill I introduced to retrofit 30,000 DC homes with electric heat and appliances by 2040. The program is voluntary and would cover some or all of the costs of doing the work to install heat pumps and electric appliances like stoves and water heaters. I made this announcement at a press conference hosted by a coalition of DC residents advocating to block Washington Gas's PROJECTPipes, which is a massive, expensive proposal to replace the pipes that deliver methane gas across the District. You may recall I wrote a letter with 10 of my colleagues urging the District's Public Service Commission to deny the request, which would cost at least $672 million. All of the costs being passed on to you, the ratepayers. I see Healthy Homes as part of that same effort in our goal to get as many of our daily tasks electrified as possible, which is good for our health, wallets, and climate change. You'll be able to watch the hearing live here at 9am Monday. 

To dive deeper, check out this piece in Greater Greater Washington about how energy costs can be yet another barrier to Black home ownership. The Healthy Homes Act is part of the solution.

DC's Revenue Estimates Show Encouraging Signs

This week, DC's Office of the Chief Financial Officer released its quarterly estimates of our revenues. The CFO checks quarterly to compare actual revenue (taxes, fees, fines, etc.) against their best guess. The February report is always a key one because this is what we build our budget around. And because of that, the CFO tends to make a slightly more conservative estimate every February (since it's better to underestimate your funding than overestimate it). So big picture, the encouraging signs of economic activity have been increased consumer spending and strong wage growth. And our population increased in the last year, which is always a good sign -- more neighbors! But overall, DC's economic growth lagged behind the US in general. Some of that won't be surprising because our economy weathered the worst economic days of the pandemic better than most other places, so we had less room to grow in the first place. But it's something to be mindful of in our work moving forward.

So what's the impact of the revenue estimates? Remember WMATA and that massive fiscal cliff I've been telling you about? DC’s share of fully funding the shortfall next year is about $200 million. This quarterly estimate identifies $64M in new revenue, but even if we took all of that new revenue and only put it toward the WMATA financial gap, we still have $136M to find for WMATA. And that’s assuming there aren’t other significant gaps and needs. I think the takeaway is that the District’s economy is proving that it’s growing and recovering – and really it’s the vibrant mixed-use neighborhoods like the Wharf, NoMa, Capitol Hill, Mt. Vernon Triangle, and H Street that are keeping the economic engine going. But that growth is hindered by what we see downtown, and an urgent downtown recovery is necessary for the city overall. This budget will be challenging. We shouldn't live in a scarcity mindset, as DC’s economy is growing and we have important investments we need to make in our residents, our small businesses, our schools, our neighborhoods, and for our future. But this may be one of the most consequential budgets the District has seen in a long time in terms of solving the tough budget decisions in front of us.

Downtown Action Plan Update

On Monday, the Mayor announced the larger framework of a multi-year plan to help transform downtown, outlining several years of budget investments she's advocating for. I share the Mayor's urgency on transforming downtown. As I noted above, the main drag on the District's growth has been the multi-year shift in remote work that's hit our dense, commercial-centric downtown hard. The opportunity to transform won't happen overnight, and it'll require leadership. I'll give the Mayor's proposal a serious read, especially when the finer details come in. But I'm also mindful that while downtown is important, we can't overlook providing support to our local businesses in our neighborhood corridors, many of whom have stayed open despite the challenge of the last few years. I want to be sure we aren't overlooking our local businesses even as we rightly focus on downtown's future. The Post has a good piece on the rollout if you want to see the Mayor's pitch for yourself.

'Give SNAP A Raise' Reaching Residents

In this year's budget, the Council identified funding to boost the amount families using SNAP benefits receive. Those benefits are finally starting to arrive, and I know they'll make a difference. The increase will last through September. More from DC News Now, and if you're a SNAP recipient in Ward 6, please connect with my team if you aren't seeing a change in your benefits, and we can check on it. The delay in receiving these benefits came after the Mayor wouldn't implement the increase once it was passed by the Council in the budget - here's a recap from DCist from earlier this year.

Related: Another way to boost your income if you're a parent and earned less than $63,393 per year is to file your taxes! I created an expansion of a tax credit for lower-wage families that is in place now. All you have to do is file your taxes, and if you're eligible, you'll receive additional funds each month. Learn more here. Single filers without a child may be eligible, but the federal tax credit this is based off on focuses on families for the majority of its benefits.

Hearing for Historic Preservation Enforcement Bill Set for March 27

As some of you may remember, after a historic home was nearly demolished in the Capitol Hill neighborhood earlier this year, we reached out to the Office of Planning to learn more about the District’s enforcement of our historic preservation laws. We learned that fines imposed for violations of the District’s historic preservation laws aren’t nimble enough to account for the severity of the violation and can easily be absorbed as a cost of doing business by a property owner, developer, or contractor. For example, the current $4,187 fine covers all kinds of bad behavior, from a violation of repointing, or repairing the joints in brickwork, to outright demolition and substantial alterations of a historic home. This isn’t right. A property owner can easily absorb the cost, and we get a destroyed historic home and a diminished historic district overall.

This bill would make it so the current fees vary by severity.  For more serious cases where there's been a substantial demolition, alteration, or new construction, this legislation would create a new fine that would start at $10,000 and go up to $100,000 per violation. Capitol Hill Corner wrote about the bill back when I introduced it.

Relatedly, I know some of you have raised the number of enforcement officers at the Office of Planning and Department of Buildings and the lack of nominees to the Historic Preservation Review Board as serious issues that are also plaguing our overall enforcement scheme in the historic preservation space. I agree, and the hearing, along with OP’s and DOB’s budget oversight hearings, will be an excellent opportunity to raise these issues so we can take this on Ward-wide.

How to testify: Sign up here by March 25 at 5pm.

Hearing for Permanent Bill on Enforcement Against Illegal Pot Shops

I worked with many Ward 6 ANCs to draft a bill to increase enforcement against illegally operating, so-called cannabis “gifting” shops - and an emergency version of the bill passed in January. But I need you to speak out - especially our H Street and Barracks Row neighbors - as the Council has scheduled a hearing on the permanent version of the bill next Wednesday, March 6 at 9am. As a reminder, illegal cannabis shops had the ability to apply to become lawfully-operating medical cannabis businesses over the past few months, and those applications have been going through public and ANC comment. But for the illegal shops that don't apply and keep their doors open, there hasn't been teeth in the law until now for the DC government to really go after them. So the bill I wrote allows:

  • The Alcoholic Beverage and Cannabis Administration to extend the 45-calendar day public comment for ANC feedback on a medical cannabis license by an additional 30-calendar days;
  • ANCs within 600 feet of the establishment to protest the issuance of a medical cannabis license;
  • ABCA to enforce against unlicensed establishments that don’t apply to be a part of the Medical Cannabis Program by issuing warnings, fines, and cease-and-desist orders to those establishments as well as commercial property owners where these establishments are located;
  • ABCA to hold unlicensed establishments liable for holding themselves out as “I-71 compliant” or displaying signage or imagery that advertises or relates to cannabis, cannabis products, or the prices of cannabis or cannabis products;
  • OAG to bring a “nuisance” action in Superior Court against unlicensed establishments that aren't in the Medical Cannabis Program; and
  • ABCA to examine the books and records of an establishment and receive notifications from other agencies about violations of these other agencies’ rules, specifically, the Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department, Office of Tax and Revenue, Department of Licensing and Consumer Protection, and the Metropolitan Police Department.

If you'd like to testify on the permanent bill or follow along, you can sign up here by March 4 at 5pm. 

RFK Bill Advances Out of House, Heads to the Senate

On Wednesday evening, the US House of Representatives passed a bill that would transfer control of the entire RFK Campus to the District (good recap from the Post). It was a bipartisan vote, with 384 in favor. You might think, with this Congress especially, what's the catch? As best as I can tell, there is no catch. This is a good thing, as it hands control of this important stretch of land over to DC with no requirement for a stadium and clears the way to build more city -- with locally elected officials and residents deciding how the land would be best used. The bill still needs to advance in the Senate. But should this come to pass, it strikes me as a good step forward in ensuring something happens with RFK. Obviously you know my stance that a stadium there is a bad idea, especially if the deal requires the use of DC tax dollars. And depending on how things shake out with the Wizards and Capitals in Virginia, you can expect the political urgency to bring in a new sports team will only ramp up among team boosters. 

A few years ago, I started a campaign to fight a stadium returning to RFK. Now that it looks like the real debate might be kicking off, if you want to stay updated, sign up here: HailNoRFK.com 

Slowing Down Traffic on 11th Street SE Near Two Schools

Thanks to WTOP for covering the challenges parents and students face navigating the stretch of 11th Street, SE just north of 695 -- and especially for telling the story of how our wonderful neighbor Allison McGill puts herself on the line to ensure kids can get to Shirley Chisholm Elementary and Digital Pioneers Academy each morning. That's not acceptable, and I partnered with ANC 6B to lead a safety walk earlier this month with neighbors, DDOT, and DPW to look at the road design and demand change. Those changes are desperately needed to provide short- and long-term updates to this stretch of road. 

Happy Retirement to Former First District Commander Morgan Kane

This week, I joined the Southwest BID for a celebration of former MPD 1st District Commander and MPD Assistant Chief Morgan Kane, who recently retired from the force after a long career serving the District. While she was in charge of the 1st District, then-Commander Kane and I worked together daily, and I always appreciated her approach to the job and her dedication to Ward 6 specifically. She's not going far and now has an incredible opportunity at the Smithsonian Museums. I wish you all the best in your next steps, Chief!

H Street Oral History Festival - March 16 + 17

From our friends at the Mosaic Theater Company at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, comes the H Street Oral History Festival in March. You can take in plays and readings based on a multi-year process to collect the oral history of H Street NE. Tickets are free, but RSVP is required. 

Street Sweeping Is Back! Don't Forget to Move Your Car.

On Friday, March 1, regular weekly street sweeping resumed. Everyone gets a warning for one week before ticketing resumes. So be sure you remind yourself of the date and time if you live on streets that receive street sweeping services. Info here on the program overall.

Upcoming Road Closure for Mt. Vernon Triangle

Passing along this road closure notification from DDOT: "The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) is scheduled to begin roadway maintenance work which includes concrete work on Massachusetts Avenue NW from I (Eye) Street NW to 6th Street NW starting on or about Wednesday, March 6, 2024, weather permitting. The roadway project is anticipated to be completed by Wednesday, March 20, 2024. Temporary lane closures are to be expected with one travel lane remaining open."

Constituent Services Win - Tackling a Vacant Property in Hill East

I posted on Instagram about a visit I made to talk with neighbors about a vacant property. It's been both vacant and blighted, and I walked the site with ANC Commissioner LaFortune and several neighbors to see just how bad it had gotten. There were broken windows, unsecured doors, and leaking water. Happy to report we got the Department of Buildings out there quickly, and they've boarded up the home and secured it from people coming in and out. Next step is getting this home back into productive use, because even secured, it's still not doing anyone any good as a vacant property, and we want to see this house returned to a place to call home. A big thanks to Kimberly Kennedy on my team, our partners at DOB and MPD for the assistance, and the neighbors we're working with.

The Great Ward 6 Spring Clean Returns on April 6!

That's right - we're getting close enough to spring and warmer weather that it's time to save the date for our third annual Great Ward 6 Spring Clean! Each year, this has grown bigger and bigger, and it's a great reason to come together as a community and roll up our sleeves. The way it works is pretty simple: my team will coordinate a few main sites for clean up around Ward 6, and we welcome anyone who wants to join us there. But if you'd like to pick a spot (maybe it's just your street or alley) and organize it yourself, we're happy to support you and send neighbors your way. We had 12 sites last year, but I know we can do better! Let's show Ward 6 some love! RSVP here to be included in the planning.

Mt. Vernon Triangle Office Hours - March 22

Join me and my team for an evening office hours at Bar Chinois in Mt. Vernon Triangle from 4:30-6 pm on Friday, March 22. RSVP here. And thanks to neighbors in NoMa who joined me at Chopsmith on Friday morning -- it's always a great way to start the day having coffee and chatting with folks.

Wizards Tickets Giveaway

You made it to the end! We're giving away two tickets in the DC Council suite at the Capital One Arena for the March 21 Wizards game against the Kings. Ward 6 residents can just reply to this email, and we'll enter you in the raffle. 

See you around the neighborhood,

Charles Allen

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