Today the Council returns from recess and begins what will be a very busy fall legislative session. Whether overhauling campaign finance laws to limit big money in politics, crafting new regulations for short-term rentals like AirBnB, increasing energy and sustainability requirements, pushing for public safety and criminal justice reforms, and much more, I'll be working hard to keep you updated on a wide range of important issues the Council is considering. I wanted to begin this newsletter talking about Initiative 77 and today's public hearing considering a bill that would repeal the law.
Council debating Initiative 77: You might recall from the June primary that a ballot initiative was voted on that would end the tipped minimum wage for tipped employees in the District of Columbia. Here's a quick recap if you aren't sure: the ballot initiative changed how all tipped employees - including servers, bartenders, and others - get paid. Currently, they are guaranteed by law to earn the minimum wage ($13.25/hour this year, and increasing each year to $15.00/hour), but their total wage is a combination of a "tipped minimum" paid by the employer, with their tips making up the difference to the full minimum wage. If their tips do not make up the difference to the full minimum wage, the employer must pay the difference. With the ballot initiative, the "tipped minimum" is eliminated for tipped employees and replaced by the full minimum wage.
While I have led on the Council to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour and fight wage theft by employers, I personally decided to vote against the ballot initiative in June. I heard directly from a diverse group of Ward 6 tipped workers who did not want their hourly wage to change because they believed it would mean reduced jobs, hours, and overall wages. Local Ward 6 business owners also raised concerns that it would dramatically alter how their businesses operate and result in fewer jobs and higher costs. Proponents in support of the ballot initiative argued it would raise wages for lower-income and vulnerable workers.
The initiative was taken to the voters of the District of Columbia, and it passed. A majority of Ward 6 voted in support of the measure. Repealing a ballot initiative is something that I don't take lightly. That's why you don’t see my name on the bill that seven other Councilmembers introduced to repeal Initiative 77. Today, there is an all-day public hearing listening to tipped employees, local business owners, District residents, and others to hear their thoughts on this bill that would repeal ballot Initiative 77. I wanted to ask for your thoughts and feedback as well. What do you think?
- Do you believe the Council should repeal or uphold Initiative 77?
- Would you want to see any compromises or amendments to make some changes to the bill?
If you have thoughts on these questions or others, please reply to this email and let me know.
Sept 24 Community Meeting on DCPS Chancellor search: In August, I wrote a letter to the Mayor and her selection committee laying out some of my concerns and priorities for the next leader of DC Public Schools. It's a critical time for Ward 6 schools and I was disappointed there were no Ward 6 residents appointed to the citywide search committee. I held a meeting over the summer to hear concerns and priorities from Ward 6 DCPS stakeholders, but recognizing many people might have been out of town, I'm inviting you to join me on Monday, Sept. 24, at 6:30 pm in the library at Watkins Elementary School, together with co-hosts Joe Weedon, the Ward 6 State Board of Education Member, and the Capitol Hill Public Schools Parent Organization. I'll look forward to hearing your thoughts on the search process and priorities for the next DCPS Chancellor.
Lead testing in housing needs to improve: The Washington Post highlighted a scary series of incidents where lead paint was found in housing throughout the District and its horrifying effects on young children. Tomorrow, I am introducing legislation that would strengthen the rights of all tenants to know their rental property or unit has been tested and is free from lead-based paint and beef up what landlords must do to ensure a rental unit is lead-based paint free. The bill also reinstates a fund that would assist landlords with a demonstrated financial need in order to complete those repairs, which could be costly. This is especially a concern for families trying to find decent housing with a voucher -- they may already feel pressure to accept substandard or unsafe housing with few other options. They deserve to know their home isn't putting the health of their young children at risk.
Related: DC Water offers free lead testing kits annually for households that want to check lead levels in their water. Here's a link for residents and businesses to see if you have a lead service line.
Ward 6 Week was a blast! Each summer, as the city takes a break in late July and August, I like to use it as an excuse to get together and have some fun exploring the activities that make our community such a special place to live. This year we biked, played in a fun house, joined two community cookouts, had coffee on Kingman Island, and more. Photos are up on Facebook and my website. Thanks to the hundreds of Ward 6 neighbors who came out and made it a great week!
New playing fields coming to RFK: In late August, I was proud to join the ground breaking to turn 27 acres of RFK's ocean of asphalt into something the community can use and enjoy -- public parks and playing fields. I remember meeting with neighbors seven years ago to talk about a vision for how the District could reclaim all of the empty parking lots for the community and I've been fighting for it ever since. This is what comes along with an NFL stadium - after hosting only eight games a year, the community is left with acres of empty parking lots. Well, this groundbreaking was a milestone moment as we take back that space. The Hill Rag has the story.
Wellness and fun events at Hopkins Gardens: Through September and into October, DC Bridge Park will host wellness and exercise events every Tuesday and Saturday for residents at Hopkins Garden. Click the image to see more.
Office Hours return in October: I'll be resuming my Friday morning office hours starting Friday, October 5, at Mt. Vernon Triangle's A Baked Joint.
Upcoming Events I'll Be Attending:
PARK(ing) Day at the Wilson Building: Friday, Sept 21, 9 am - 5 pm
DC State Fair: Sunday, Sept 23, from 11 am - 8 pm
Ward 6 DCPS Chancellor Town Hall: Monday, Sept 24, 6:30 pm
Barracks Row Festival: Saturday, Sept 29, at 11 am - 5 pm
Mt. Vernon Triangle Office Hours: Friday, Oct 5, 8 - 9:30 am
(New Date!) H Street Festival: Saturday, Oct 13, 12-7 pm
Upcoming Community Events:
Free Child Car Seat Installation at the DMV: Saturday, Sept 29, 2-7 pm