Ward 6 Update: May 31, 2024

I hope you had a great Memorial Day! The pools and spray parks are open (only on weekends until June 23), DC is celebrating a record number of visitors in 2023, and summer is fast approaching. That also means the Council is close to finalizing next fiscal year’s budget (to start in October). On Wednesday, the Council took the first of two votes – with the final vote in two weeks and plenty of work still to come in that time. While it's been a difficult process, the budget is in a much better place than it was just two months ago when the Mayor sent her proposal to the Council. Read below for all the exciting investments coming for Ward 6 neighborhoods, and I want to plug right up front that next Thursday’s Ward 6 Budget Town Hall will be a great place to learn about the budget and share concerns with me before the Council takes its final vote in June.

Plenty of updates, so let’s jump in.

Quick Links: Budget Updates | Public Safety | Clean Energy | Better Bus RedesignDC Parks | Top LibrariesSmall Business Census | Construction Accountability | SUN Bucks  | DOEE Resource Fair | Pacci’s ZoningTruck Touch | Grant to Fight Gun Violence | Folger Shakespeare Library | Updated Speed Signs

Budget Passes First Vote with Great News for Ward 6

After weeks of hearings and committee votes, the Council approved the FY25 budget Wednesday on the first of two votes. What began as one of the toughest budgets I've ever seen – a proposal that would have disproportionately harmed low-income neighbors and devastated critical programs – has transformed into a still lean but much more thoughtful and fair budget. With the changes made by the Council over the last two months, this is a really strong budget for Ward 6, and I want to highlight key investments I've fought for below and exciting new projects coming to your neighborhood!

Top Ward 6 Investments

  • School Modernizations: Our Ward 6 school modernization projects at Shirley Chisolm ES, JO Wilson ES, Brent ES, and Amidon-Bowen ES remain on track for FY25 and beyond. 

  • Rumsey Aquatic Center: This is one of the most exciting new projects coming online in Ward 6 in the next couple of years. A modernized Rumsey will create not just a top-notch pool and aquatic facility, but also a multi-generational community space in the heart of Capitol Hill. I was able to work with the Chairman to secure an additional $12M in funding at first vote this week to fund a full $36M renovation with a second story, including aquatic facilities but now also with space for senior programming and maker space. For neighbors who've already been asking about next steps, first off, the pool is not set to close for renovation any time soon. There will be a community engagement process likely to begin in the fall. There will then be a lot of stakeholder engagement on the designs and plans in the months to follow. You'll see my office work hand-in-hand with Rumsey stakeholders and neighbors to ensure the project realizes the community's vision for this once-in-a-generation opportunity.

  • Eastern Market: Every year, I work with the Eastern Market Community Advisory Committee and DGS to ensure that the Market – a city-owned facility – has the capital funds it needs to stay on top of emerging needs. This year is no different, and I added additional funds to complete critical infrastructure projects, including the installation of safety bollards. 

  • Eastern Market Metro Park: I've been very disappointed with how DGS and DPR have maintained and programmed Eastern Market Metro Park, a multi-million dollar town center we worked for years to build. It's become clear that we're going to need a sustained pot of capital funding to ensure the space aligns with our vision. For example, we already have irrigation, brickwork, lighting, and surface erosion issues, and those can't continue to worsen. So I've added funding – $400k in FY25 and FY26 – to give DGS what it needs to take care of the space. But that doesn't address the programming or overall management of the park, which is an operating budget issue. Over the past two fiscal years, I've added funding to create a grant through DPR that's been awarded to Barracks Row Main Street. We've increased the grant this year to add a new full-time Park Manager position, charged with coordinating both the programming and maintenance of the four parcels in the park. My goal is to create a position whose entire job is to activate and care for this beloved space, from staying on top of repairs to the splash pad to rodent control to concerts to planning for the modernized library's seamless connection with the park. 

  • Watkins ES playground: Thanks to the neighbors who joined me earlier this month for a walk and talk with DGS and DPR about moving forward with the funding I identified two years ago to redesign the playground. I've added another $500k in the project's budget to get the redesign this space really needs.

  • Cobb Park: Construction for this Mt. Vernon Triangle green space is on track and expected to start soon.

  • King-Greenleaf Rec Center: Thanks to my colleague, Councilmember McDuffie, for partnering to secure $1.5M in funding for a new field for the Rec.

  • Other major project budgets protected include Randall Rec Center, the NoMa Metro pedestrian tunnel (moved up from FY29 to FY27-FY28), the Garfield Park Connector, and the Penn & Potomac Circle redesign.

Support for Small Businesses

  • Doubling the Small Retailer Property Tax Credit! This is a big, big deal for small businesses grappling with rising costs and rent in Ward 6. Last year, I introduced a bill to double the property tax credit for rent small businesses pay, which would put money right back into their pockets. I asked the Chairman to include my proposal in the budget, and I'm very thankful that he did. It will also expand eligibility to include slightly larger, but still small, businesses.

  • New H Street NE Grants & Vacant Property Activation: Our office's work with the new H Street Alliance made clear that the H Street corridor needs significant and sustained focus on vacant storefront activation and creative event planning – and funding for that kind of specific need doesn't really exist in the DC government. So I'm excited that we've funded a new $350,000 grant for just that purpose. It'll bring the corridor together more cohesively and allow small businesses and restaurants to be nimble in bringing their great event ideas to life. We also added new staff at the Department of Buildings to expand its Pop-Up Permitting Program along the H Street NE corridor. This new initiative expedites permits for vacant building activations. 

  • Private Security Camera Rebate: There's funding in the budget for my expansion to the DC private security camera rebate program to include interior cameras and glassbreak sensors for small businesses. This idea came from the asks of businesses along the H Street NE corridor following a rash of break-ins.

Public Safety (more in the next section, too)

  • Opioid Outreach Team: We've worked with Councilmember Henderson to fund a new team in Southwest to combat overdoses. The District lost more than 400 lives to opioids last year, and we know Southwest has been hit particularly hard.

  • Public Safety Investments: The Council continued its support for police staffing, firefighters, juvenile prosecutions, 911 call center hiring, and for crime survivors.
  • Safe Passage for Students: I've sent now three letters with Ward 6 State Board Representative Brandon Best to the Deputy Mayors for Education and Public Safety and Justice asking for funding to include the Potomac and Eastern Market metro stations – and the space between them – in the city's safe passage program. (Thanks, as well, to ANC 6B for their advocacy on this). And the answer has been no each time. That's unacceptable. This budget, I identified $300,000 to create new teams to serve this space, which will support students commuting to and from several neighboring schools, including Brent ES, Chisholm ES, Payne ES, Watkins ES, Digital Pioneers Academy, Capitol Hill Day School, St. Peter School, and Friendship PCS Chamberlain Campus.

Keeping Our Commitments to Our Vulnerable Neighbors

  • Early Childhood Educator Pay Equity Fund: I created this program with Councilmembers Nadeau and Lewis George a few years ago. It helps support those who take care of and educate our youngest residents, which in turn, supports all working families. The Mayor proposed eliminating the fund, but the Council was able to come close to fully restoring it. Your local daycare (and the families enrolled) are breathing a sign of relief today.

  • Earned Income Tax Credit: In the same law that created the Pay Equity Fund, the Council also created a new local match to the federal EITC – which operates in practice like a monthly basic income for low-income working families putting money back in the pockets of tens of thousands of DC residents. The Council fully restored the program from the Mayor's cuts. 

  • Access to Justice grants: The Access to Justice initiative provides tens of millions in grants each year to civil legal services providers. This means attorneys for hundreds of Ward 6 residents facing eviction, domestic violence, elder abuse, and immigration challenges, among many other legal needs. When I started as Chair of the Judiciary Committee in 2015, the program's budget was around $5M annually. We grew it to $30M over the next decade, but the Mayor would have cut it back to $10M. We can't go back, so the Council fully restored the cuts.

Transportation & Environment Priorities

  • Solving WMATA's Fiscal Cliff: We secured funding to prevent the "doomsday" budget scenarios and ensure WMATA's stability. But it's only a temporary solution: We need a path toward regional dedicated funding for the years to come. 

  • Restoring Climate and Environmental Priorities: My Committee identified $23 million in enhancements to reverse sweeping cuts to our climate programs and support the city's clean energy commitments, including funding the Healthy Homes program that will provide low- or no-cost electrification upgrades to 30,000 DC homes.

  • Street Safety: The Council just passed my STEER Act to hold dangerous drivers accountable. In the budget, we've funded three pieces of the law: (1) to hire attorneys at the Office of the Attorney General to go after dangerous drivers – in any state or DC – with outrageous unpaid tickets, (2) to require the DMV to install speed governors in the cars of people convicted of criminal reckless driving to cap their speed, and (3) to close the loophole resulting in victims of car theft having to pay for tickets incurred by the thief.

Despite the challenges, this budget is a remarkable turnaround. I want to thank the Chairman, my colleagues, hardworking staff members, and the Council Budget Office for creating a budget that avoids many devastating cuts and rebalances our priorities.

We're not done yet! I also hope you'll be part of the conversation by joining me next week for the Ward 6 Budget Town Hall, where I’ll share how the budget is shaping up for schools, parks, roads, public safety, and more. Before I cast my final vote on June 12, I want to update you on where we are, including what we’ve accomplished for Ward 6, and hear your feedback. Significant changes can still happen before the final vote. Invite your neighbors and plan to be part of the conversation from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 6, at the Northeast Library (330 7th St. NE). You can RSVP here.

Public Safety Updates 

Last newsletter, I wrote about long-term issues in our public safety responses that concern me, even as we see significant drops in violent crime year-to-date citywide and in Ward 6 (we've seen a reduction of 25% in violent crime in the Ward over this time last year). If you missed that, I’m linking it here.

Continuing that theme, this column in Politico, “The Ludicrous System That Makes It So Hard to Fight Crime in DC,” is spot-on and a very good accounting of a lot of the issues I’ve been highlighting, given our system is split between local and federal control.

Since my last newsletter, DC’s Attorney General Brian Schwalb has introduced legislation to overhaul oversight and operations at the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS), DC's juvenile justice agency. The bill takes on juvenile recidivism and recognizes DYRS isn’t getting the job done. Until recently, DYRS was under decades of federal receivership, and I’m very concerned we’re seeing backsliding quickly (and a refusal to recognize the problem). As much as I see the split of federal and local responsibility for public safety as the key driver in a lot of our challenges, this is a local issue and a failing. I look forward to following the bill – the next step would be a public hearing in the Council’s Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety.

And to an issue we've seen happen not just in DC, but across the entire region, the damaging thefts of contractor power tools just saw a huge break in the case in Howard County, MD. The Washington Post reported today that with the help of one carpenter and local police, they've uncovered a massive theft ring and recovered more than 15,000 power tools! I've worked with neighbors and contractors after this hit here, just like it did elsewhere in the region. And now we see that a large amount of this is organized theft being run from Howard County. These thefts aren't just inconveniences for workers, but they put them at risk of safety and create big financial costs. 

I also want to applaud MPD's diligent work in making a recent arrest for a 2022 homicide at 11th and L Streets SE.

A Note on the FY25 Public Safety Budget

Within the public safety agencies, there are a few budget items of note:

  • MPD’s budget increased based on anticipated hiring this year of sworn officers, following years of slower hiring than departures (a trend we saw nationally). This year, the Council again approved the Mayor's budget request for sworn officers. This budget also maintains the suite of incentives we approved a few years ago to attract and retain officers.

  • The budget also maintains the MPD Cadet Program. Regular readers will know this is something we've expanded from 15 slots to 150 annually, creating a pipeline of young DC residents who can use the program to launch their careers in law enforcement.

  • We've added new prosecutors and truancy intervention staff at the Office of the Attorney General.

  • The 911 call center's budget is increasing to hire additional operators, and the Council is including my legislation in the budget to offer the same first-time homebuyer incentives to call-takers and dispatchers as we do to police and firefighters, a key retention tool. This is all aimed at improving 911’s unacceptable response times.

  • The Council has also restored dangerous proposed cuts to funding to serve survivors of domestic violence.

Protecting Residents, Businesses, and Churches Who Went Solar

One budget item I want to spend a moment on is the solar market, and specifically steps the Council took to protect it from the Mayor’s cuts. In her budget proposal, the Mayor effectively opted the District out of buying renewable energy credits in a complicated budget gimmick. The whole issue is captured well in this two-minute video. I call it a budget gimmick because when you opt out of buying renewable energy, you have to pay a higher fee, or penalty. The purpose, of course, is to incentivize more consumption of clean energy. However, the Mayor redirected that higher fee back into the city's coffers, effectively double counting the fee as new revenue. In real life, that’s the same dollar just going in one big circle.

I’ve heard from an increasing number of anxious neighbors, businesses, and churches who installed solar with the understanding that they could earn back their investment by selling solar credits. This is the system that has made solar panels more viable for regular people – be it on a rooftop, over a parking lot, in a large field, or on a church. The District government is one of the largest energy consumers, and thus, one of the largest buyers of those credits, so when the Mayor proposed opting us out of the market, it was going to lead to serious aftershocks to the market.

The budget gimmick was unfortunately too expensive to undo. In a tight budget like this one, it would have required painful cuts elsewhere. So, what the Council did – and this may read a little counterintuitive – is officially opt the District out of having to meet the District’s renewable goals, the same goals you, as a resident or business owner, are held to, instead of the Mayor's complicated paying-ourselves-a-penalty-for-dirty-energy-consumption gimmick. This isn't what the Council wanted to do, nor where I want us to be. But it makes the maneuver and lack of commitment on climate clearer. 

As I said, the DC government leaving the solar market means a drop in demand for those credits sold by anyone who owns solar panels. To help offset that drop, the Council also limited out-of-state renewable energy that can be sold on the solar market, dropping supply to meet this reduced demand. I know this is complex, but if you stayed with me to the end, thanks for reading, and I hope you have a little more clarity. The aim is that all of the homes, businesses, and churches with built solar won’t notice much of a change at all because the bad policy decision will effectively cancel out the out-of-state loophole closure by balancing supply and demand. And for folks who care about climate change, we’ve restored nearly all of the cut funding that went to the gimmick (and away from our climate programs) while still protecting the solar credit market. Whew! Complex but super important to the fight for climate change.

Reminder: Save the Date for Our Better Bus Town Hall

For the first time in decades, WMATA is redesigning its entire bus system to better serve residents across the District and beyond. But their latest map is creating significant concerns about a loss of bus service in some parts of our community. While you can learn about the system and submit feedback online, I’m planning to host a second Better Bus Town Hall for residents on WMATA's second draft proposals on Thursday, June 20. More information to come soon, and please plan to join us - there are lots of important changes in the Ward.

Update on Shirley Chisholm ES Gas Leaks

This has been a harrowing few weeks for families with students at Shirley Chisholm Elementary School, where classes have been canceled multiple times due to gas leaks. The resulting evacuations have been both disruptive and scary for kids, parents, teachers, and staff. It’s unacceptable. I’ve been pushing DGS and DCPS to diagnose and solve the issue, and I'm working with school leadership and the PTA to host a town hall for the school community next week to get answers from DCPS, DGS, and Washington Gas. Please keep an eye on my social media for the details as they come together.

Our Parks Are the Best (Again!)

For the fourth year in a row, the Trust for Public Land has ranked DC the No. 1 city on its Park Score index. TPL ranks 100 of the most populous US cities, comparing equity, access, investment, amenities, and acreage, and we land at the top. According to this score, 99% of DC residents live near a park, 24% of city land is used for parks, we budget $345 per capita in park spending, and we have 697 parks and greenspaces. Need a reminder to get outside today in Ward 6? This is it!



DC Public Library Earns a Top Honor

Now, if you're looking to find some A/C, you can get that and so much more at DCPL, which was just awarded the 2024 National Medal for Museum and Library Service by the Institute of Museum and Library Services! This is the nation's highest honor, celebrating institutions that make significant and exceptional contributions in their communities. DCPL has demonstrated its commitment to promoting literacy, ensuring equitable access to resources, and promoting the District's rich cultural history. We've got some really stellar (and recently modernized ones) right here in Ward 6, so make a stop in to get your summer reads at the Northeast, Southwest (which just celebrated its third birthday yesterday!), or Northwest One library branches. And if you're missing the Southeast branch, catch up on the latest renovation progress. Wow!

Are You a Small Business Owner?

The Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) is conducting its 2024 DC Small Business Census through the end of summer to better understand who makes up the community and ensure DC is a place where small business owners of all backgrounds can thrive. Business owners may receive a call or visit from a member of the census team to answer basic questions — available in English, Spanish, Amharic, French, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean — that should take 3 to 5 minutes.




Report Illegal Construction

If you witness a possible illegal construction (such as construction without required building permits), you can now submit a newly updated form through the Department of Buildings (DOB). Following the complaint, a DOB inspector will investigate, and they may contact you for more information. And of course, if you need help with a problem property, that's what we're here for! Contact our Constituent Services team any time: Kimberly for SE Ward 6 ([email protected]), Jeanne for NW and SW ([email protected]), and Jen for NE ([email protected]). 

SUN Bucks Applications Open Monday

Applications for SUN Bucks, or Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer (SEBT), open on Monday, June 3. This program provides grocery-buying benefits to income-eligible families when schools are closed for the summer. Some students are pre-approved and don't need to apply, while others can fill out an application, which will take about 15 minutes to complete.

Learn How to Make a Positive Impact on the Environment

From our friends at the Department of Energy and Environment:

DOEE is hosting a resource fair from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday, June 1, on Kingman Island, offering an array of resources, including educational materials, interactive programming, engaging activities, and giveaways. You can also speak with subject matter experts about the most pressing environmental issues affecting your neighborhood.

Pacci's Officially Cleared to Expand Upstairs

While the good news broke last month, it's now official that Lincoln Park’s Pacci’s has received the necessary zoning variation to expand its dining room upstairs. This is excellent news not just for Pacci’s, but for any and all future businesses. Since 2010, that site has seen three businesses open and close, and Pacci’s ownership was using this zoning variance as a last-ditch effort before becoming the fourth casualty. The problem stemmed from not being able to use the second floor to expand seating to scale the business to match the cost. With this variance, there’s a lot more space. Thank you, once more, to the 1,400+ people who co-signed our letter to the Zoning Commission

Grab the Kids: Truck Touch is Saturday Morning!

Just a quick walk from DOEE’s fair will be DC’s Truck Touch, where activities for all ages will fill Lot 8 at RFK Stadium from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. this Saturday, June 1. Brought to you by the Department of Public Works, this family-friendly event allows children to climb aboard nearly 30 distinct vehicles from various DC government departments. Adults even get a chance to operate some of these machines that are behind street cleaning, traffic management, waste disposal, snow removal, emergency services, and even mobile healthcare. There'll also be tennis, basketball, and fitness challenges, as well as free lunches for attendees younger than 18. Come touch a truck!

Micro-Grants Available for Neighborhood Safety

The Office of Gun Violence Prevention has opened its next round of seasonal "Building Blocks" grants to support community-based activities that can make neighborhoods safer. Priority will be given to those areas affected by recent gun violence, and categories include, among others, community cohesion and encouragement, neighborhood outreach, healing and mental wellness, and direct intervention activities. We've worked with neighbors across Ward 6 to apply, to great success. Some recent grantees include Chisolm ES and Potomac Gardens housing leadership!

Folger Shakespeare Library to Reopen June 21

My team and I got an exciting tour of the new spaces throughout the stunning Folger Shakespeare Library, where we explored new exhibits, played in a print shop, saw incredibly rare books, and, of course, learned a bit about the world’s earliest books and William Shakespeare. As before, these spaces are committed to welcoming everyone, from Shakespeare experts to someone who just wants to take in the architecture. The Great Hall's now flooded with natural light, where design and programming are headed soon. Guests can reserve timed-entry passes now for the June 21 opening and onward. The reading room plans to reopen on June 25.

Take a Look: Speed Limit Signs Adjusted on and around East Capitol Street

DDOT has adjusted speed limit signals from 25 MPH to 20 MPH at the following locations:

  • East Capitol Street from 8th Street NE/SE to 19th Street NE/SE
  • North Carolina Ave NE from 13th Street NE to Constitution Ave NE (extended to C Street NE)
  • 19th Street NE from East Capitol Street to Benning Road NE

Though it took years of pushing, I’m pleased to see this progress. Thanks for all your advocacy, neighbors!

Tickets! Tickets! Tickets!

It's ticket giveaway time. This edition, we've got two tickets to the June 29 Spirit match against the NC Courage. Ward 6 residents, just reply to this email, and we'll enter you in the drawing!

See you around the neighborhood,

Charles Allen

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