A huge thank you to everyone who came out to celebrate Ward 6 Week with me and my team last week! We had a blast at trivia, our Ward 6 Days at ARTECHOUSE and the National Building Museum, getting a tour of Engine 18 on Barracks Row, chatting with you at office hours, watching our Nats win against the Giants, and more! I particularly enjoyed our first ever Lemonade Stand Contest. It was great to bike around the neighborhood on a cool Saturday morning to hear about the charities our young lemonade vendors were supporting. I’m so grateful for another fun-filled Ward 6 Week!
And although Ward 6 Week is officially over, there’s still plenty of summer activity going on around the Ward!
Quick Links: Public Safety Update | Heat Emergency | Celebrate 150 Years of Eastern Market | DDOT Repaving Issue Resolved | Commanders Sale and RFK | Dave Thomas Circle | New Bills Introduced | New Domestic Violence Shelter | Free Anti-Theft Upgrades for Hyundai Owners | Bus-Only Lane Warnings | Green Bank | Free Youth Baseball Clinic | DPW Services | EventsDC Community Grants | Nats Tickets
Last week, the Mayor nominated a new chief to lead the Metropolitan Police Department: Acting Chief Pamela Smith. Acting Chief Smith takes the helm after Chief Robert Contee departed last month. She's only been at MPD since May 2022, but she had a 24-year career with the US Park Police. As a member of the Council's Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, I look forward to learning more about the Acting Chief's qualifications. I appreciate early on that her opening remarks acknowledged the need to focus on "hot people" (those most likely to be involved in violence), a direction in which I've tried to steer the District's public safety response. There will be a public hearing on her nomination in the fall, and I'd encourage you to share your priorities and concerns with the Judiciary Committee on the record once that hearing date has been announced. Coverage of the announcement here from DCist and Washington Post.
In case you missed it, earlier this month, the Council also passed an emergency bill strengthening and expanding the District's ability to respond to rising crimes of violence. I wrote about it in the last newsletter and am linking that here.
Ward 6 Public Safety Updates:
Public Safety Meeting and Update on July 3 Homicide: Earlier this week, I joined ANC 6A for a community meeting on public safety with both MPD leadership and the Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement. We provided several updates for the community and spent most of our time in discussion with residents about concerns and actions to take - both today and also long-term. One update MPD shared was related to the murder committed on July 3rd near 11th and D Streets, NE. I’ve been working with several neighbors in the immediate area who have been frustrated by the lack of communication from MPD following the homicide of Nasrat Ahmad Yar, a US Afghan Interpreter and Lyft driver. Understandably, MPD can't share information publicly that could compromise the ongoing investigation, but they did share that they are “making significant progress and anticipate a closure imminently.” More in Capitol Hill Corner.
Improving Safety and Visibility Near Mott's Market: I recently worked with DDOT and neighbors around Mott's Market in SE to trim back trees that were blocking streetlights and leading to low visibility on the surrounding sidewalks. Several neighbors had reached out to me asking for help getting DDOT to act. DDOT Director Lott and his team were quick to respond. It's a small thing but a good reminder that improving public safety involves many different agencies and tactics - and steps we can take immediately.
Public Safety Walk Near H Street, NE: I recently joined neighbors and MPD around the western end of H Street, NE for a safety walk. The goal here was to troubleshoot several specific areas where we've had repeat issues. Big thanks to MPD for their presence and updates on recent incidents.
As you’ve probably heard (and felt), we’re currently experiencing some extreme temperatures in the District, as the heat wave impacting much of the country has made its way east. The Mayor has activated a “hot weather emergency” through Sunday, as temperatures are predicted to reach or exceed triple digits through the weekend. Make sure to look out for each other and check in on our seniors, unhoused residents, and other vulnerable neighbors. Make sure to also familiarize yourself with the District’s cooling centers: map here. Our Ward 6 cooling centers are the Sherwood Rec Center, Rosedale Library, Southwest Library, Northwest One Library, and Northeast Library. You can call 311 or 202-399-7093 to request transportation to a shelter for yourself or someone else. See some other heat emergency resources below:
- Locations and hours of DC’s spray parks, indoor pools, and outdoor pools
- DC’s 2023 Heat Emergency Plan
- Symptoms of Extreme Heat Overexposure
- Keeping Your Dog Safe in Extreme Heat
- Activities to do to while staying cool from the Washingtonian
In November, we'll celebrate the 150th anniversary of the founding of our beloved Eastern Market. But you don't have to wait that long to celebrate -- you only have to make it to the end of the week! Tomorrow, Friday, July 28, around 5 pm, join me, the team from Atlas, and Eastern Market leaders, neighbors, friends, and more for a tasting of the commemorative beer released by Atlas Brew Works celebrating the Market's 150th anniversary. It was so fun to work with the Atlas team on this special beer. I'll be giving a toast at the tasting at 5:30 pm, and we'll meet at the C Street Plaza outdoors at Eastern Market. Free to all, but you'll of course need to be 21+ to participate in the tasting.
While I was door knocking in Southwest in early June, some neighbors pointed out a problem that they needed help solving. DDOT had recently repaved the 300 block of G Street SW, but then weeks later, the contractor had packed up and gone home without replacing the previous two speed humps and crosswalk. They told me drivers were already starting to fly down the block at higher speeds. All the signage had stayed in place, but the DDOT contractors failed to do their job and left the street more dangerous than they'd found it. A couple of years ago, I had passed legislation that required DDOT to replace safety features like crosswalks and speed humps within 24 hours after repaving, or contractors start facing daily fines. So after our walk with neighbors, I contacted the DDOT Director to get these safety features restored and hold the contractor accountable. It took several weeks of emails and calls, but I'm glad to share that both speed humps have been rebuilt, and the high visibility crosswalk has been restored, improving safety and slowing speeds for neighbors living on this block (check out the before and after photos). In addition, the contractor has been fined $71,000 for leaving this street unsafe! All over the city, I find paving projects that leave a fresh layer of asphalt but fail to restore crosswalks, lane markings, and other safety features (or residents wait a month or longer before they're restored), and it leaves our public roads less safe. DDOT and their contractors must be held accountable to do their job to keep streets safe, and thanks to DDOT for enforcing the law here when we brought it to them. If you see any blocks where crosswalks, speed humps, bike lane markings, and other safety measures aren't replaced immediately, please let me know, and my team and I will follow up with DDOT to get this done.
It's been a busy few weeks surrounding the Washington Commanders and the future of the RFK Campus. The NFL approved the sale of the franchise from billionaire Dan Snyder (who drove the franchise into the ground on and off the field) to billionaire Josh Harris. The change in ownership is a welcome one for everyone who wants to see the franchise succeed. Then, just this week, Kentucky Congressmember Jim Comer introduced legislation that would renew the District's lease at the federally-owned RFK campus and expand the permitted activities to include commercial, residential, recreational, and the possibility of a stadium to bring back the Commanders. I want to emphasize possibility. Nothing I see in the legislation would require the stadium to be part of any development package, but it seems to leave it open along with a much broader range of activities. As far as I can tell, it ultimately leaves the final debate where it should be -- among DC residents. And as you probably can guess, my stance remains unchanged: I don't support building a costly and rarely used NFL stadium at that site, and I really don't support a stadium that requires substantial District tax dollars. That's not because I don't like football or the Commanders -- I want to see the team do well, and I root for them on Sundays, too. But an NFL stadium is a uniquely poor investment of our tax dollars. Game days are a thrill, but a stadium requires a lot of land, especially for parking, and it sits empty most days of the year outside of the dozen or so home games and special events. This means not a lot of economic activity. I'd rather the District target its investments toward our current teams, including keeping the Wizards and Capitals at Capital One Arena in downtown -- a much better investment in a neighborhood that's far more successful on every level, including jobs, tax revenue, days and nights activated, and more.
Last week, I joined the Mayor, DDOT, Councilmember Parker, the NoMa Business Improvement District, and other members of the community to kick off the beginning of the construction project that will redesign the dangerous intersection known as “Dave Thomas Circle,” where Florida and New York Avenues intersect. This intersection is confusing, dangerous, and has long been a source of frustration for drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists alike. We broke ground on the infrastructure project by tearing down the old Wendy’s at the center on the intersection. As it sits in an important location that connects several neighborhoods, it’s crucial that this intersection be safer for everyone, whether traveling by car, foot or wheelchair, bus, or bike. The project, which begins this month and is scheduled to be completed in December 2024, includes:
- Realigning and adding two-way traffic to First Street NE
- Restoring two-way traffic on Florida Avenue NE
- Including protected bicycle lanes
- Creating three new public park spaces
The NoMa BID is also inviting the public to help name the new space by voting for your favorite of the names selected during the first round of the naming process this spring. While I’m sure it'll be tough to call the space something besides “Dave Thomas Circle” at first, all of the options are names that honor people, places, and symbols significant to the District. You can learn more about the project and vote for the name here.
New Bills to Support Sexual Assault Survivors, Protect Consumers, and Provide Immunity for Good Samaritan Architects and Engineers
I recently introduced a few important pieces of legislation I’m very excited about. I wrote about the first bill a few newsletters ago, but in case you missed it, the bill will support survivors by closing a gap in how the District handles medical forensic evidence in sexual assault cases when victims choose not to report their cases to law enforcement. The Ensuring Safe Forensic Evidence Handling for Sexual Assault Survivors Amendment Act will ensure that the Department of Forensic Sciences will properly store and maintain medical forensic evidence, including physical evidence recovery kits (commonly called “rape kits") when cases aren't reported to the police. Today, MPD's only required to collect and deliver kits to DFS if an assault has been reported to them. But there's no process in place to retrieve and store kits administered to the many survivors assaulted in the District who choose not to report, whether the evidence is collected from the survivor at a DC hospital or outside DC. This creates a risk that these "anonymous kits" could be mishandled, lost, damaged, or destroyed. If a survivor wanted to come forward and report the crime in the future, the evidence may no longer exist, and there would be nothing to upload into national DNA databases. This bill both protects survivors and their right to choose whether or not to report an assault and ensures offenders are more likely to be held accountable. You can read more about the bill in this write-up in the Washington City Paper.
The Sunshine in Litigation Act will protect consumers through more transparency when there’s a lawsuit related to defective products, dangerous environmental conditions, and other matters that might pose a serious risk to the public. The bill will ban courts from keeping the details of legal proceedings hidden through the use of sealed settlement agreements or protective orders if there's a public interest in the information. For example, these kinds of secret settlement confidentiality clauses and protective orders allowed drug makers and pharmaceutical companies to continue marketing opioids and other painkillers as safe during the opioid epidemic.
Finally, the Architect and Engineer Good Samaritan Act will provide civil immunity to architects and engineers who volunteer their efforts to help communities in the aftermath of natural or human-made disasters. “Good Samaritan” laws like this protect people from liability in situations where they might use their professional expertise to aid in an emergency, most commonly for doctors or nurses in medical emergencies. But this can also apply to disasters and emergencies where licensed architects and registered civil, geotechnical, or structural engineers help communities rebuild and respond by conducting safety evaluations of buildings or other infrastructure in the event of a fire, building collapse, or severe weather. Forty-one other states have similar Good Samaritan laws in place to protect architects and engineers who provide disaster assistance in good faith and pro bono. This is really important after disasters like Hurricane Sandy or 9/11 when the government is too overwhelmed to respond to all the safety needs. I’m excited for all three of these bills to get hearings and hopefully votes at the Council this fall.
I was honored to attend the ribbon-cutting in Northeast last week for DC SAFE’s newest low-barrier, 24/7 emergency shelter for domestic violence victims. I identified several million dollars of the funding as Chair of the Council's Judiciary Committee, and I'm so proud to see your tax dollars at work with this incredible project now opening its doors. The new facility has 30 apartment-style units, can serve more than 700 people annually, and also brings together several different service providers under one roof for office space. I’m extremely grateful for everything DC SAFE does for our city and victims of violence, and congratulations on many, many years of hard work to get to this point.
Beginning today through Monday, July 31, the District government and Hyundai will be providing free anti-theft software upgrades for people who own or lease certain Hyundai car models. The installations will be performed by on-site Hyundai service technicians who will install and complete the software upgrades, which are expected to take less than an hour. The installations will take place at RFK Parking Lot 8, located at 2400 Independence Avenue SE, with no appointment necessary between 8am-7pm.
If you or someone you know owns one of the car models listed, please spread the word and swing by RFK to get this free upgrade. You’ve likely heard that the District is experiencing an increase in car thefts this year, and this is in part due to viral videos showing how to steal Hyundai and Kia cars that are lacking “immobilizer” anti-theft systems. The upgrade provided will prevent the cars from starting if someone is attempting to steal it using the method widely shown in the social media videos.
Warnings for the WMATA and DDOT Clear Lanes Project will begin this week. This initiative to improve bus travel time and safety includes cameras mounted on buses that will capture license plate information for cars that use designated bus-only lanes. For right now, you’ll only get a warning in the mail, but starting September 18, you could be fined up to $100 for driving, or $200 for parking, in bus only lanes. Learn more about the Clear Lanes Project.
During the work to craft the District's budget this spring, one of the steps I took as Chair of the Committee on Transportation and the Environment was to create secure and dedicated funding for the Sustainable Energy Trust Fund (SETF), which funds - among other important efforts - the DC Green Bank.
Just last week, the DC Green Bank announced $3.3 million in financing toward two projects to create eight new units of affordable housing and preserve four existing units in Wards 7 and 8. The Green Bank's funding ensures these affordable homes will also be sustainable and demonstrates the important work ongoing to ensure no one is left behind in the all-important effort to move to a more sustainable city.
Last week, as a part of Ward 6 Week, my team and I joined the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy for their summer PLAY programming site at the King-Greenleaf Rec Center. PLAY is a summer-long free instructional baseball clinic for kids ages 5-12 in Wards 5-8. Their goal is to lower barriers and increase the consistent participation of kids in baseball who might not otherwise have the chance to play. They provide all the equipment, and no prior baseball/softball experience is needed! There’s one week left for this summer, and you can still sign your kids up to play next week at the Trinidad Rec Center (Ward 5), King-Greenleaf (Ward 6), Nats Youth Academy (Ward 7), or the Ferebee Hope Rec Center (Ward 8).
I just want to remind folks about DPW's spring/summer services like street cleaning (make sure to to check the signs when you park!), alley cleaning, yard waste collection, and more. And a quick refresher that residents with recycling collection shouldn't bag your recyclables! It jams up the machines and can mean all of your effort to recycle goes to waste! More tips on how to ensure you're recycling successfully here.
This also includes the Helping Hands Clean Up program for anyone who wants to organize Saturday neighborhood cleanups. With a $20 refundable deposit, DPW will provide five rakes, brooms, two shovels, and 20 trash bags, and send a truck to collect bagged trash afterwards. Applications must be submitted at least two weeks before your desired clean up date.
And for those who were selected to participate in the curbside composting pilot program, DPW has announced that they're aiming to start in late August! You'll receive an email with your starter kit delivery date soon.
Events DC will be providing funding for FY24 for its community grant program in the amount of $500,000, distributed during two cycles of $250,000 each. The grant program provides financial support to qualifying organizations that are dedicated to supporting children through sports, performing arts, and cultural arts in the District. The first cycle for FY24 opened on June 12, and it closes on August 1, 2023. Learn more about the grant program.
Ward 6 Week was Fantastic!
To the many Ward 6 neighbors that joined me at events in every part of Ward 6, thank you. I really enjoyed our conversations and the chance to get to know you, family members, and friends. And thanks to our partners ranging from the Nationals to ARTECHOUSE to National Building Museum to Engine 18 on Barracks Row.
Thanks for reading this far if you’ve made it to the end (or if you clicked on the quick link for Nats tickets, that’s okay, too)! I’ve got another set of tickets to give away to Ward 6 residents, so reply if you’re interested, and I’ll randomly select someone for the Tuesday, August 15, game at 7pm v. the Red Sox.
Please stay safe this weekend; it’s going to be a hot one!
See you around the neighborhood,