Ward 6 Update: Back-to-School, Healthy Homes Funding, DOB Issues, and more

I can't believe it's August already, and the first day of school's around the corner! I hope you and your family have been enjoying the summer and staying safe and dry during these intense storms we've been having. Below, you'll find the latest on public safety, back-to-school news, and more. Let's get to it!

Quick Links: Public Safety | School Vaccinations | School ReadinessBack-to-School Events | Special Education Resources | Kids Ride Free | DC Central Kitchen's New HQ | Switching to Cleaner Appliances | RFK Site News | DOB Enforcement IssuesSouthwest Neighborhood Assembly Scholarship Fund | Social Security Basics | DPW Yard Waste Funky Friday | Join My Team! | Nats Ticket Giveaway

Public Safety  

Public safety remains my top concern, particularly as we're seeing persistent and troubling increases in gun violence District-wide and in Ward 6. Last week, I met with Acting Chief Pamela Smith, who the Mayor has nominated to lead the Metropolitan Police Department. In our conversation, we talked about her background and some of her vision for MPD, and I shared my priority that the District employ a "focused deterrence" policing model, which strategically uses data to inform deployment and operations around the relatively known group of people who commit most gun violence (also known as "hot people"). I also asked for increased MPD visibility on the beat, as I've heard from many residents and businesses that they want to see officers on patrol on foot or bike, rather than in cars, and we talked through the "hot places" we're seeing in Ward 6. Her nomination will come down to the Council formally in September, and the Judiciary Committee will hold hearings for the public to weigh in. Acting Chief Smith has also been joining Ward 6 neighbors for a number of community walks, including just this Wednesday near Potomac Gardens, and you'll likely see her near you in the coming weeks.  

But as we know, MPD is only part of the District's public safety response. As this DCist article highlights, the Executive Branch still hasn't adopted a plan on paper to have the entire government work in coordination with the community to reduce gun violence. We have one, though, and I'm going to continue to loudly push for the city to move on it aggressively. We also have two major challenges in our criminal justice system that are compounding this lack of strategic coordination: first, getting our Department of Forensic Sciences re-accredited (it hasn’t been able to process certain types of crime scene evidence in-house since 2021, meaning cases take longer and are more likely to be "no papered" - not charged - by prosecutors), and second, increasing the ability of the federal US Attorney’s Office to prosecute more cases with solid evidence from MPD. To that point, I was glad to hear US Attorney Graves, who prosecutes most of our adult crimes, acknowledge this last week and say his office - as I said to Chief Smith above -  is targeting those people who commit most gun violence. Swift and certain accountability to disrupt gun violence requires immediate law enforcement and non-law enforcement interventions for those "hot people" - which includes charging and successfully prosecuting cases.

I want to note that much of this actual work is going to be carried out by the Executive Branch and prosecutors, but the Council has a big role to play with oversight and legislation. For example, in a recent newsletter, I highlighted the amendments I moved to the emergency legislation the Council passed one month ago - namely, to require the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice to pull together law enforcement to conduct bi-monthly reviews of every single shooting in the District. Basically, an immediate after-action process with all the right players at the table. This model is implemented successfully in many major cities, but not here - yet. A shooting review is then followed by a second review with more partners at the table like social services, violence intervention, school representatives -- the bigger universe of all those government players with roles to play in reducing gun violence. These two strategies are pulled directly from the plan I linked to above, and they've been very effective for similar cities struggling with gun violence. We should see them get off the ground here shortly, as they're now required by law.

Turning specifically to Ward 6, either I or a member of my team have joined neighbors and government partners for at least seven public safety-related conversations or walks in the past two weeks, including near Lincoln Park, Eastern Market, three along H Street, near Potomac Gardens in SE, in Southwest, and near Tyler House in Northwest. Follow-up looks different depending on the neighborhood's specific needs, but in addition to more MPD or violence interrupters, it also means having DDOT trim back branches and ensure street lights are working, having DPW remove litter and illegal dumping quickly, pushing the Department of Buildings to enforce against vacant properties, going after the nuisance businesses with the Attorney General that are attracting crime, engaging mental health professionals in areas where we're seeing substance use - and the very real public safety strategy of building strong neighborhoods by residents coming together. So don’t hesitate to reach out if you'd like our office to join you and your neighbors to talk public safety strategies. I know the challenge can sometimes seem overwhelming, but there are concrete steps we can all take today, and I'm so proud of the many Ward 6-ers fighting this fight with me.

School Vaccinations Reminder 

While it certainly still feels like summer, the school year is right around the corner! Most schools begin their new year on August 28th in about two weeks, but some come back sooner! It’s important that your children are up to date on their vaccinations before they return in order to keep them, their classmates, and their teachers safe. You can see which immunizations are required for different grades in this guide, and there's more information here from the Office of the State Superintendent of Education. Also see locations of immunization clinics where you can get your kids vaccinated. 

Getting Schools Ready for the New Year

Over the summer, we typically see a blitz of repairs and improvements made to school buildings. I've been checking in with school leaders, staff, and parents to make sure DGS is staying on top of needed repairs. We all understand that conditions in a school building can suffer from a lot of use by active young people. But we also have expectations that the buildings be maintained well and urgent repairs are made to keep our students and staff safe.

I'm working on several issues at schools around the Ward - for example leading DGS through a walk at Brent Elementary School on Capitol Hill earlier this summer. This morning, I spent time with school leaders at Jefferson Middle School in Southwest to hear directly from the principal, foreman, and educators about the outstanding issues that need to be addressed by DGS in the next couple of weeks. We left with a good list of action items that I'll escalate with DGS! If you have specific school building issues that need to be addressed, please let me know and my team and I will work to focus the attention of DGS to get the job done.

Back to School Events  

Speaking of back to school, we’ve got several great back-to-school events coming up in Ward 6.

  • ANC 6E04 Commissioner Denise Blackson is holding a Back-to-School Event this Saturday, August 12, from 12-4pm at the Mount Airy Baptist Church green space (1100 Block of First Place NW at the end of the block). 
  • The annual Serve Your City/Ward 6 Mutual Aid Back to School Bash will be on Saturday, August 26, at Eastern Market Metro Plaza from 11am-4pm. Backpacks must be requested ahead of time through this form. 
  • The Hill Family Biking Back to School Bike Ride will start at Maury Elementary and ride past Hill area schools on a progressive bike ride (you can either join at the start or at a school of your choice), ending at Watkins for some fun at the splash pad and the athletic fields: Saturday, September 2, from 10:30am-12:30pm. 
  • Various back to school events hosted by District agencies outside of Ward 6, including a Ready for Pre-K virtual workshop, back to school celebration, and of course, the annual Chuck Brown Day, where free backpacks will be given out to kids.  

Related: For any families navigating special education at their school, I want to make sure you’re aware of the DC Special Education Hub, an initiative of the DC Ombuds for Public Education, an independent, impartial office that helps students and families with questions, concerns, and complaints about DC public and public charter schools. Their team connects families with tools, information, and one-on-one support so families can make informed decisions to guide their child’s learning. They have several events coming up, including an Introduction to the Special Education Eligibility Process Online Training and an in-person training on the Terminology of Special Education. 

Kids Ride Free 

It's also important to make sure your kids have a transportation plan for getting to and from school every day on time. If they take public transit, make sure they take advantage of the Kids Ride Free program. Kids ages 5-21 who are District residents and attend elementary or secondary public, public charter, private, or parochial school located in DC, or youth in the care of the District are eligible. Students and families should contact the main office at their school to connect with their school’s Kids Ride Free ID Administrator. Students new to the District will be prioritized for new 2023-24 cards, as the 2022-23 school year cards will work until September 30. Learn more.

If your school is having a hard time getting kids their cards (and trust me, I hear from a lot of frustrated parents and students that can't get their cards from the program), please let me or my team know so we can assist!

DC Central Kitchen’s New Ward 6 Headquarters

Last week, I got to visit and tour DC Central Kitchen’s new Southwest DC headquarters in Ward 6. DC Central Kitchen does great work to combat hunger in the District by providing nutritious meals to thousands of DC residents. By the end of the year, there will be 250 full-time jobs at the new headquarters, as well as the capacity to train another 250 per year for jobs in hotels and restaurants. I fought hard to bring their new HQ to Ward 6 and Southwest and the jobs they both bring and create is the major reason why. The facility is beautiful and built around people. And you've probably encountered the food they prepare out at your neighborhood corner store or elsewhere. They have a café, as well, at the front entrance, so if you find yourself on Buzzard Point, drop in for lunch or a coffee. I'm really glad we've got DC Central Kitchen as neighbors, and I hope you feel inspired by the great work happening for all of DC right here in Ward 6.

Funding to Transition to Cleaner Appliances 

Back in February, I introduced a bill that would make it easier and faster for District residents to switch to clean electric stoves and electric heating from fossil fuel-powered appliances - and, importantly, to make this expensive process affordable. The legislation would use the federal dollars coming to the District through the Inflation Reduction Act to cover the costs of the appliance and installation for households earning less than $80,000 and create programs to train residents and small businesses to make installations. The Washington City Paper reported last week that the District is set to receive $59.4 million through the Home Energy Rebate programs funded by the Inflation Reduction Act and can now apply to submit implementation plans. The rebate programs and my "Healthy Homes Act" are major steps towards progress in climate, health, and housing justice. There is increasing consensus that gas appliances lead to poor air quality in homes and can contribute to respiratory disease. And fossil fuel-powered appliances emit carbon – if we’re going to meet our goals as a city for reducing carbon emissions, this switch is necessary and urgent. We know that lower income communities disproportionately bear the brunt of the effects of climate change and are more likely to experience negative health outcomes tied to home air quality like asthma. It’s critical that we make clean air in our homes and reducing each household’s carbon emissions a priority that is accessible to all District residents. I’m hopeful that the Healthy Homes Act will advance at the Council this fall. 

Capital One Arena, Not RKF, Should Be the Priority Stadium Deal 

I spoke a bit about the future of the land at RFK in my last newsletter following the finalization of the sale of the Commanders to Josh Harris. Since then, we’ve seen Rep. Comer, chair of the US House committee with oversight of the District, introduce legislation that would give control of the land to the District, something I fully support. However, as I argue in my recent op-ed for the Washington Post, I remain opposed to a new stadium for the Commanders. Not only are NFL stadiums a poor use of land and you tax dollars, but we already have proven economic generators in Capital One Arena and Nationals Park that will need investment from the District in the coming years and should be priorities over a new space that will sit dark for 90 percent of the year. This is especially true for Capital One Arena when we’re talking about what that space and its year-round programming mean for the economic future of our downtown. Keep in mind, while the sale of the team and introduction of the Comer bill are exciting developments, there’s no proposal in front of the Council just yet; this will be a years-long process. 

DOB Enforcement of Misused Capitol Hill Residences 

For many, many years, Capitol Hill neighbors - particularly those close to the Capitol - have lived with a challenging situation in which homes are owned by bad actor anonymous or obscure LLCs and, while ostensibly serving as residences, actually function more as political or commercial spaces. It’s a problem I've worked with neighbors on for years, with little enforcement action taken by the agency formerly known as DCRA (now two agencies: the Department of Buildings and the Department of Licensing and Consumer Protection). However, the Department of Buildings is under new leadership in Acting Director Brian Hanlon. In my first meeting with him, I raised this challenge, and he's taking it seriously. While this might not be the top issue facing the city, these should be homes people can live in – and when those homes aren’t available because they’re being misused for activities they aren’t zoned for, it takes up our housing stock. They also come with unacceptable noise, parking, and trash impacts to surrounding neighbors. Hope to share more on the Department of Buildings' actions soon, and neighbors and ANC leadership have been working hard to identify problem properties for enforcement.  

Celebrating the Southwest Neighborhood Assembly Scholarship Fund

This past weekend, I spent time with students and families at the 50th anniversary celebration for the Southwest Neighborhood Assembly Scholarship Fund, which provides support for young folks going to college and beyond. The Scholarship Fund started in 1974 with three awards and $1,500 and has since provided more than $580,000 in scholarships to support our young District residents pursuing their future goals. Congrats to all our scholarship winners, and keep up the good work, SWNA!

Basics of Social Security with Congresswoman Norton

Join Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton for a discussion on the basics of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid with the Social Security Administration, the Center for Medicare, and Medicaid Services, and the DC Healthcare Finance Agency next month on September 12th from 12-1:30pm. Link to register. 

How to Successfully Get Yard Waste Removed 

My office has received a number of calls lately in which yard waste hasn't been collected. Since the process has switched, let me take a quick moment to share how to ensure your yard waste gets collected by DPW. You can find all of the guidance here, including what is and is not acceptable yard waste. The quick points: 

  1. Yard waste does not get collected or belong with regular trash and recycling collection.
  2. You must make an appointment for collection via 311 (there's an app, or just call 311 or on the website).
  3. And please remember to bag it in paper bags, not plastic, with none of the items of yard waste larger than 4 inches.
  4. Enjoy the great feeling of a clean and tidy yard!

Don't Miss Funky Friday at Eastern Market on August 25

Main Street organizations can - and should - be great support structures for our favorite local businesses and help create new ways to promote them and generate foot traffic on our commercial corridors. Barracks Row Main Street has had some successful events this year, and Eastern Market Main Street has some fun ways to shop and support local coming up with Friday’s getting fun and funky in Eastern Market! Come along for an end of summer fair on Friday, August 25th. Silent Disco is happening on the C St. SE plaza, along with some fun fair food vendors. Visit the Eastern Market Main Street tent for a map of the participating locations, where every $5 spent will earn you an entry to a great giveaway. Runs from 5-10 pm. 

Join My Team!

We've got an exciting job opportunity in my office. If you care about clean air and water, climate change and resiliency, and the future of the District's transition away from fossil fuels, keep reading. I'm looking for someone to join my team as a Legislative Counsel or Policy Advisor for the Committee on Transportation and the Environment. This person will be primarily focused on environmental, climate, resiliency, energy, and natural resources issues. We're committed to building a diverse, inclusive team, and please see the full job posting with more details and application instructions. 

Tickets to the Nats Game on September 5

I've got another pair of Nats tickets to give to Ward 6 residents for the game on September 5th vs. the Mets at 7:05pm. As always, reply to this email to let me know you're interested, and I'll randomly select someone.

That's all for now. I hope you're staying cool and enjoying the final weeks of summer. Good luck to all our youngest Ward 6-ers (and parents and guardians) on the first day of school (I've got a new middle schooler, myself!), and we'll see you around the neighborhood! 

Showing 1 reaction

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.