A few more days of summer remain, but you're forgiven if this part of September has us looking forward to the fall and cooler temperatures. If you're like me, in-between trying to figure out who is playing for the Nats these days, there's a lot going on right now.
Kids are back in school (a lot more on that below), outdoor events are taking place, and COVID-19 still has a strong hold on all our plans (also, a lot more on that below). I'm also thinking about two upcoming events. The first, is the 20th anniversary of the September 11th attacks. Amidst the many losses that day, were three DCPS students - Asia Cottom, Bernard Brown, and Rodney Dickens - and their three teachers - Hilda Taylor, James Debeuneure, and Sarah Clark - on their way to a field trip in California. Asia, Bernard, and Rodney would be 31 years old this year. All six of them will be on my mind this Saturday, as well as so many others and the surviving families.
The second upcoming event I'm focused on is the scheduled rally of insurrectionists on September 18th. I take this potential threat seriously and have met with the new US Capitol Police Chief one-on-one to talk about their plans and preparations. I am also meeting with our local DC leaders to ensure every contingency is anticipated. While I can't share tactics and all the planning details publicly, I do plan on sharing an update next week as plans come into focus on both the Capitol complex and the surrounding neighborhoods. With that, let's jump into several important updates below!
Quick Links, Long Newsletter: COVID-19 | Back to School | Public Safety Update | Live Music on the Hill | USPS Issues | Rosedale Repairs | New Bridge | Act Local on Climate | ParkDC | DMV Deadlines | Splash Parks | DC Water Construction | Redistricting
COVID-19 Update: Living with Delta, Protecting Our Kids
It shouldn't be news to anyone that the delta variant of Sars-Cov-19 is quite serious, particularly for anyone who isn't vaccinated. And as every parent knows, that includes every single child under the age of 12. Delta as a variant is coming off as far easier to transmit, and packs a serious punch. And data is showing us clearly that younger people are being more impacted by COVID-19 at this stage than ever before. I've said it before and I'm sure I'll say it again: one of the best ways to protect our kids is by surrounding them with vaccinated adults. Our vaccines continue to be safe and effective in protecting us from the most serious effects, including hospitalizations and deaths. But our youngest residents don't even have a choice to get vaccinated. That's why I've continued to advocate that DC should have a stronger vaccine mandate - especially for all educators, school staff, and childcare workers.
If you haven't yet been vaccinated, here are 12 locations with open appointments offering the vaccine for free within a mile of most of Ward 6. Get vaccinated today, for free!
Wear a Mask in Public Indoor Settings: Vaccines are the most important tool, but so is being smart about minimizing spread -- wear a mask when you are around others indoors (and for prolonged periods outdoors). Give plenty of space. Many businesses and other public spaces, such as our WMATA system, require or ask patrons to wear a mask. Please do so.
Expanded Self-Testing in Ward 6: As the pandemic drags on, testing will be a critical part of our surveillance and tracking of the virus. After DOH initially rolled out only a single self-test site for all of Ward 6, I asked DC Health to expand the number of self-test sites in the Ward and am happy to share they have expanded to five sites (covering all four quadrants of our Ward) offering simple COVID-19 test kits you can use at home. The locations are:
- Arthur Capper Community Center (1000 5th St SE)
- Rosedale Recreation Center (1701 Gales St NE)
- Southwest Library (900 Wesley Pl SW)
- Watha T Daniel Library (1630 7th St NW)
- DC Health (899 N Capitol St NE)
Back to School Check-In
We're halfway through our second week of a return to the classroom for most students and teachers since early March 2020. I'd love to hear from parents of students how things are going. Do you feel safe? Is your school well supported? For teachers, how are you feeling?
My biggest concerns, and the areas where I'm pushing the hardest for improvement, remain around safety protocols, testing, communications with parents, outdoor learning and lunching, and understanding how it is consistently done across different schools and what the plans are for quarantine. The Mayor's team has made several recent changes I was pushing for - changing the asymptomatic testing from opt-in to opt-out, ditching the unnecessary legal liability language that was a barrier to testing. But many more remain. I continue to believe that a more robust virtual option is needed - especially as we see students have to quarantine at home, but also for families that simply cannot send their child back into school. I am also pushing for the city to create school-level data so that school communities are better informed and can check up on their student's school, not just the systems at large. And I also need to see more support for our teachers with the appropriate supplies in the classroom and paid leave they may need outside of it as they are doing their best to make this challenging setup work for their students.
I also want to share this link, which as of now, is the source of reports on COVID-19 cases in school settings: https://coronavirus.dc.gov/data/schools
I spent the last month visiting schools ahead of opening (and trying to get DGS to make long-promised repairs or upgrades at schools across the ward), cutting the ribbons on a brand-new Banneker High School, a fully modernized Eliot-Hine Middle School, and a stunning modernization of Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan. We also held a virtual Back-to-School Town Hall, and spent time checking out the awesome work being done in our community to ensure every student has the supplies to start the new year off strong.
Public Safety Update: Arrests made in ATM Armed Kidnappings, Armed Carjackings
I've written several times with updates on our efforts to get gun violence under control. This has been a hard summer, one full of grief for far too many families. We have too many people choosing to use a firearm in our community. And too many guns that are easy to get their hands on. Our solutions to reduce gun violence and improve public safety require both law enforcement and dedicated, committed efforts to reach those who are most at-risk of using a gun and/or being the victim of gun violence. I speak regularly with MPD Chief Contee and our local commanders and patrol officers, as well as neighborhood leaders and nonprofits who are all working to the same goal -- a safer and more just DC for everyone.
Just this week, MPD announced arrests in a series of armed carjackings that took place in parts of Ward 6. They have arrested three juveniles, two under the age of 14 and one under the age of 17. In addition, MPD has announced arrests in a series of armed kidnappings (one of which took place in Ward 6) where victims were driven to an ATM and forced to make withdrawals. The laws that the DC Council has passed treat each of these offenses seriously, but especially armed kidnappings with decades long sentences if convicted.
That last point reinforces something we've talked about before. Accountability matters. Making arrests and having consequences when harm is done matters. But we also want to break the cycle and stop it from repeating over and over again - and that means we have to ask tough questions about why someone has so little hope or so little options that they turn to violence. There has to be urgency both for actions needed today and within immediate responses, and at the same time, a commitment to do the long-term work to root out longstanding, generational cycles of violence and poverty that are sometimes impossible to separate.
It means funding after school programs so kids aren't alone for hours while their parents work a full day and can instead stay connected. It means getting serious about getting additional funding into the classrooms where teachers are working with at-risk students who need extra help. It means putting special effort into rehabilitation and redirection for returning citizens and at-risk individuals so they can see a way to pay the rent, put food on the table, and enjoy the many benefits of living in DC. It also means making bold investments in families with things like a monthly basic income (here's a great podcast on the national policy I helped lead us to adopt locally in this year's budget), baby bonds, and other economic benefits meant to relieve the pressure on low-income households. The budget that begins on October 1 has transformative investments that build on investments I've worked on the Council to make since I first began serving Ward 6.
I know when a crime or a series of crimes happens near your home, it's scary. It shakes us. I share this longer update in hopes you understand just how seriously I take your concerns, and that I believe the Council and the District are moving to build a more comprehensive response to not just react to, but work to prevent gun violence and crime.
Related - Building Blocks DC Youth Peace Conference: If you know a young person ages 15-22 interested in helping bring peace to the District, share this upcoming youth conference this Saturday on how to roll up your sleeves and get to work on a safer District.
Every Weekend in September - Free Concert on Eastern Market Metro Park On Friday Nights; Kids' Performance on Saturday Mornings
Last weekend, we had our first in a series of live concerts at Eastern Market Metro Park. In fact, on every Friday evening in September from 5-6:30 pm, we'll have live music in Eastern Market Metro Park and then more live music for kids and families on Saturday mornings from 10-11:30 am. Now that we've got a beautiful new park in the center of Ward 6, it's time to enjoy it. I've been working with Barracks Row Main Street, Eastern Market Main Street, Capitol Hill BID, CHAMPS, and more to pull together "Live on the Hill" and the first weekend did not disappoint. Hundreds turned out, grabbed a meal or treat at a nearby local business, and enjoyed great music together as a community and enjoyed the new park and some great weather. I hope to see you there on Friday evening!
USPS Mail Service Needs to Improve Now
I've heard from many of you about missed, delayed, and lost mail. I'm experiencing it as well on my block. Last week, I sent a letter to the Postmaster General with a renewed call that the United States Postal Service needs to address ongoing and longstanding delivery issues that are causing real problems for Ward 6 neighbors. We aren't just talking about the occasional late birthday card or catalogue -- we're talking about legal documents, medical bills, and other documents critical to daily life. And as we see this slow service drag on for close to a year, I'm concerned USPS leadership views this as a minor inconvenience, and not the critical failure it is. Here's my letter. I'll share any updates or next steps here when I have them.
Rosedale Library Closed for Repairs
Important update for Hill East and Kingman Park residents. Starting Sept. 7, the Rosedale Library, located at 1701 Gales St. NE, will be closed while the DC Department of General Services repairs the HVAC system. We expect to reopen the library on Oct. 4. During this closure, customers can visit Northeast Library, 330 7th St. NE, or the Benning Library, 3935 Benning Road NE. In addition, holds placed for the Rosedale Library will be available for pickup at the Northeast Library.
I'm glad DGS is finally getting to work on an HVAC system that has failed the patrons and staff of this library for a long time now. I've secured funding in the budget for a full modernization of the library, but these repairs are badly needed to ensure the library can serve the community in the meantime.
The Frederick Douglass Bridge is a Showstopper
This week I joined Mayor Bowser, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, and many leaders to cut the ribbon on the District's largest ever infrastructure project - the Frederick Douglass Bridge, which connects Ward 6 and Ward 8 over the Anacostia River along South Capitol Street. Great cities have great bridges. And if you haven't made the trip to see it yet (great views from Yards Park), it's worth the trip alone. It's a stunning bridge that I think will become an iconic image for our city. It will open for traffic and pedestrian / bicycles / scooters / whatever very soon. Read more in the Informer.
Concerned About Climate Change? Some Ways to Act Locally
Last month, the United Nation's IPCC released a major and extremely concerning report on climate change. And believe it or not, I'm not including it here to bum you out. Yes, it's serious and bad and even if we made enormous changes right now, we'd still live with serious changes to the climate for decades to come due to the carbon already in the air from the past.
But the point isn't to give into resignation and simply spend our days doomscrolling social media. It is to spur change. And while the most critical changes must take place at the highest levels of governments across the world, including our own, there are steps you can take locally that will have a big impact.
Ride Public Transit: Just this week, WMATA officially transitioned into some major and important changes that are meant to improve service. Eliminating short trips that don't need to be done in a car is a great way to cut carbon output while supporting our WMATA system. Check out the changes here, which include shorter headways, flat rates, and the elimination of the bus-train transfer.
Join Capital Bikeshare and Try Biking: The District has one of the most well-run and widespread bike share programs in the United States. If you're curious about biking in DC, an annual membership (just $7 a month) is a great way to try it out. And when our FY22 budget kicks in on Oct 1, you'll start to see even more e-bikes, which are a blast to ride and really make bicycling a lot more accessible and interesting to more people for just a $1 more per ride. Try it out and let me know what you think!
Go Solar: There's no better place in America to power your home or business with solar energy than Washington, DC. Seriously. We have the highest value offsets for SRECs - Solar Renewable Energy Credits - in the country. SRECs are the credits created by renewable energy that Pepco and other utilities can purchase on their way to meeting escalating legal requirements for sourcing the energy they provide to DC customers from renewable sources. Because there are established buyers of these credits, there is demand to create more solar within a community or on your home because it makes it a viable business model and helps reduce the upfront cost of a system. And the good news is, there are a lot of different ways to take advantage of clean energy.
If you can't afford to install a solar system right now, the simplest way to switch over to renewable energy sources is to tell Pepco to purchase your energy from a renewable source instead of fossil fuels plants such as a coal-powered plant. Pepco is just the intermediary that delivers you electricity. It buys it from other places, largely out-of-state. But it also pays for extra solar generated by small solar arrays.
That might be on a home, or a community solar array, which is where the value of those SRECs I mentioned come in. If you're interested in solar panels, there are a lot of options for residents at all income levels and for both renters and homeowners. Start here if you want to explore.
Protect our Rivers through DC's Riversmart Program: Cleaning up the rivers that define DC, the Anacostia and the Potomac, requires all of us to pitch in to prevent run-off into the rivers. Through DC government, you can apply to get trees, rain gardens, rain barrels, and more that keep more water from hitting our sewers. Learn more here.
Take Your Recycling Game to the Next Level: Like anything else, recycling hinges on supply and demand. Aluminum, paper, plastic, and more -- it can all be recycled under the right circumstances, but it has to be done right to even be usable. For instance, did you know you should leave the caps on bottles when you recycle them? Or that you can't recycle the small plastic containers typically used for sauces or dressing in takeout unless you stick it in a larger plastic container? Whether or not you're a newbie to recycling (such as don't bag your recyclables) or a pro, DPW's Charlotte Dreizen's Twitter feed is full of great tips to ensure the things you put into your recycling bin have the best chance to actually live a new life as another product. I heartily endorse a follow!
Food Waste Drop-off: An easy and popular way to help out is to collect food waste in your kitchen and drop-off during your weekend run to a Farmer's Market. The DPW Food Waste Collection program has been a huge success and it helps feed the compost used in gardens around the District. Find hours and sites here.
Grow Our Tree Canopy: The evidence is pretty clear that urban environments get hotter and stay hotter. And we also know that trees are an incredibly easy and effective way for both cleaner air and lower temperatures. Casey Trees always has opportunities to help get more trees planted. Start with their volunteer page here.
Related - Hill East Trail Entrance Clean-up: Big thanks to Kimberly Kennedy on my team for working with ANC Commissioners Alison Horn and Edward Ryder to organize a clean-up of the Hill East entrance to the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail. I brought my daughter Cora with me and with the help of supplies provided by the Clean City initiative, a great group of neighbors made a big impact with a little bit of work. With 12 volunteers, we made quick work to collect 40+ bags of litter.
ParkDC Permits Update and Information
I've heard from many Ward 6 neighbors about ongoing confusion, frustration, and issues with DDOT's new visitor parking system. While the system is attempting to make permits more efficient, limit abuse, and better manage limited curbside parking spaces, I have been concerned with the initial rollout. The new system requires you to print out a parking permit for your guest - but not everyone has a home printer and this presents a serious equity concern. In response, DDOT has provided kiosks at MPD stations and libraries to allow residents to print at those locations. However, not everyone can take the time to make those trips, especially if visitors are coming on short notice or a contractor needs to be there quickly. Currently, DDOT plans to let the existing annual Visitor Parking Pass expire on September 30th. I have written to DDOT with my concerns and asked them to extend the annual pass at least through the end of this calendar year while they continue to make changes and improve this new ParkDC system. Here's my full letter to DDOT.
In the meantime, you can visit the ParkDC website here to learn more and register. I'll share more updates as I have them.
DMV Renewal Deadline Sept 9, Ticket Amnesty Ending on Sept 30
This Thursday, Sept 9, is the last day to renew driver's licenses or identification cards before additional requirements kick-in. And September 30 is the final day of the ticket amnesty program -- allowing residents to pay moving violations, parking tickets, or other DMV-related tickets without paying a late penalty. If you have outstanding fines, pay them quickly to save yourself a whole lot of money down the road. You can view fines associated with your license plate here (and pay quickly).
Splash Parks Stay Open Until Sept 26
Good news for parents - the DPR Splash Parks are staying on and active through September 26! Find a splash park near you (or explore a new splash park for the first time) and check hours.
Construction Alert: DC Water to replace water mains
Heads up to some Ward 6 residents. DC Water is set to begin major work just north of Seward Square from 4th to 7th St., SE and a little in NE. Click the map to the right to see it zoomed in. This work includes replacing small diameter water mains, replacing residential lead pipes, new fire hydrants and more infrastructure upgrades that are critical to maintain. Construction is expected to last until May of next year, depending a bit on weather. The normal work hours will be from 9 am to 3:30 pm Monday through Friday.
Council Public Hearing on Redistricting on Sept 29
We are about to move into a legally-mandated process following the official release of the 2020 Census data to redistrict and balance our wards. The process is led by three at-large members of the Council on a subcommittee, and includes this initial public hearing to take feedback and things to consider as the ward lines are redrawn to meet certain population thresholds. There will be many more meetings and public discussion throughout the fall. If you'd like to testify, you can sign up here or submit your testimony in writing. This hearing will be on Wednesday, September 29 at 10 am live on Councilmember Silverman's Facebook page.
Thanks as always and hope to see you soon.