The winter weather seems to have finally arrived in DC and holiday festivities are in full swing!
The year is winding down in Ward 6 and on the Council, so I’ll touch on some recent and upcoming fun Ward events – including last week’s first in-person Brickies since 2019.
We have our last legislative meeting next Tuesday, when we'll take a final vote on more than 50 bills, and a few more hearings and roundtables. Then on December 21, Council Chairman Phil Mendelson will announce committee assignments for the next Council Period, which begins in January.
But outside the Wilson Building, there's a lot of great things happening in schools all over Ward 6! In the last week, I was excited to visit with 2nd grade students at Two Rivers PCS, as well as the 3rd graders at Ludlow-Taylor Elementary School! But there's been even more star power at our Ward 6 schools recently! NASA Administrator Bill Nelson and a few NASA astronauts from the Artemis Crew visited Amidon-Bowen Elementary School to distribute STEM activity kits, do some rocket launching, and tell the students how they can become astronauts. And then Olympic swimmer Katie Ledecky spoke to kids at Eliot-Hine Middle School as a part of the STEM Forward program she founded. And folks from Google visited Tyler Elementary to teach some kids about coding an innovation! It's an exciting time inside our schools and I love seeing our students get such incredible experiences on a regular basis!
Even with that exciting news, there's still plenty more to get through this month. So let's dive in, starting with some major news on public transit.
QUICK LINKS: Metro for DC | Council Legislative Updates | Brickies Recap | Traffic Closures for US-Africa Summit | Public Safety Update | Extended and Free Metro for NYE | More Out of School | 100 Years of SE Library | Leaf Collection Delays | Shop Small | Hypothermia Season | Helping Seniors Live at Home | School Lottery Applications Open | New DCPS Teacher Contract | W6 Holiday Events | Prevent Package Theft | Tix Available for Trans-Siberian Orchestra Concerts | World Cup | Aya Shelter Profile | New Composting Drop-off Sites |
It’s been a long few years since I introduced Metro For DC in March 2020, just a few days before the pandemic hit the United States. But last week, the Council unanimously passed the bill on first vote, with two major additions that are very exciting: the bill would make all buses free inside the District of Columbia, and we will be expanding 24-hour service to 12 different bus lines. That’s in addition to the original bill I introduced, which will create a $100 monthly balance on a SmarTrip card that any DC resident could sign-up for and also creates a $10 million annual fund dedicated to improving bus service.
The good news is that the Council also passed an emergency bill that sets up a way to fund the program, and to get it up and running sooner. With an eye to equity, here’s the priority order for funding once it passes into law: free bus service first, overnight bus service second, $10 million annual fund third, and the $100 monthly SmarTrip balance last. Depending on how soon DDOT enters into an agreement with Metro, we could see free bus and service improvements begin as early as next July, and likely preparation for the $100 monthly SmarTrip benefit in Fall 2024. I’m incredibly proud of this bill, and grateful to the entire coalition that has kept it a priority through the pandemic, understanding the District can be a leader in creating and investing in a world-class transit system that is affordable and reliable.
Related: Alexandria's DASH Bus, which went fare free last September, has released rider survey data that should give us a good preview of what Metro For DC could deliver. WAMU's Jordan Pascale has the highlights here.
In addition to Metro for DC, the Council passed a slew of significant bills at last week's marathon legislative session as we close out this Council Period. As a reminder, the Council operates in two-year Council Periods. Here are some other notable bills:
The Safe Routes to School Act: I was proud to co-introduce this bill from my colleague Councilmember Lewis George, and it expands and creates several traffic and pedestrian safety measures to protect our students as they get to and from school. This includes things like raised crosswalks, curb extensions, speed bumps, expanding school zones, strengthening and simplifying the school crossing guard program, all-way stops at school zone intersections, directing DDOT to prioritize schools that are more vulnerable to traffic danger, and more.
Domestic Worker Bill of Rights: I co-introduced the Domestic Worker Bill of Rights from my colleague Councilmember Silverman recognizing that domestic workers, vital members of our community and economy, deserve the same worker protections as other employees. This bill will provide protection against discrimination for several protected classes, includes domestic workers in the District’s occupational health and safety laws, requires employment contracts, and more. Domestic workers like cleaners and home healthcare aides, who are predominately Black and Brown women, play an essential role in our city, and deserve the protection, respect, and dignity of basic worker protections.
Criminal Record Sealing and Expungement: The Council passed the Second Chance Amendment Act - something I worked on with the Mayor and several Council colleagues - that makes several changes to the way the city handles criminal records for individuals who were arrested but charges were dropped, they were never found guilty, or their sentences have been completed years ago. Criminal records are serious barriers for individuals trying to take meaningful steps towards a life outside the criminal justice system, so we need to carefully balance how we use those records. They can prevent access to housing, employment, education, and public benefits. This bill will expand options for a variety of offenses for both automatic and by-motion (upon request) sealing (removing the records from public view, although they may still be available to certain parties like law enforcement and the courts) and expungement (removes access to the records for all parties in most circumstances, essentially erasing a person’s criminal record for the offense in question).
Comprehensive Policing and Justice Reform: The Council also unanimously passed a permanent version of many of the reforms we put in places in the summer of 2020 to reform police practices and take steps to build trust between the police and the community they serve. In addition to many changes that have been in effect for two years, the permanent bill also includes new legal guidance on police chases, transparency with FOIA and public access on sustained misconduct allegations, and much more.
Department of Corrections Reform: It's no secret that the DC Department of Corrections (DOC) has been plagued with problems around transparency and accountability. The Council passed my DOC reform bill, the Corrections Oversight Improvement Omnibus Amendment Act, to implement urgent reforms to DOC. It includes several important provisions to bolster oversight through the Corrections Information Council (CIC) and give the Council Committee with oversight over DOC additional tools. It requires DOC to allow unrestricted access to its facilities, provide timely notifications of resident deaths, provide body-worn camera footage in a timely manner upon request, and provide unredacted documents about operating procedures, as well as strengthens the CIC.
Internet Equity Amendment Act: My bill to expand internet equity in the District would ensure that the District takes full advantage of the many new federal programs Congress created in recent legislation. These bill will make huge sums of money available to states, and my bill will requires that as we spend the money we will receive over the next few years, it will be spent to provide equitable, affordable access to true high-speed internet service. As the District builds new access point for internet service, the Office of the Chief Technology Office will have to show how that new infrastructure is increasing equitable internet access. And it would make equity a legally required goal of the Office of the Chief Technology Officer.
Establishing the Office of District Waterways: Despite being a city on two rivers, DC doesn't actually have anyone in charge of managing our waterways. This will soon change with the passage of my bill to establish a District Waterways Office, whose role will be to coordinate our growth on the water and ensure access ensures that District residents have access to our waterways, but that any new activity protects the important ecosystems in and around our bodies of water. As our waterfront neighborhoods grow, the growth must be paired with oversight of the actual waterways as well. I'm excited that we will soon have a body that can specifically focus on the unique economic, safety, environmental, and transportation-related issues that impact our rivers and adjacent land.
- Local Solar Expansion Act: This bill out of the Committee on Transportation and the Environment keeps the District on the path to meet and even exceed our climate change goals. Importantly, it stabilizes DC's solar nascent industry, by ensuring that our small, locally-owned solar energy development companies can continue to access the capital that they need to build renewable energy generation right here in the District—including building solar systems for households who can’t afford to pay tens of thousands of dollars up front. And it allocates more funding for programs that reduce utility cost burdens on low-income households. If you want to learn more, the committee report is a thorough read.
I think it’s safe to say that getting to come back in person for the 16th annual Brickies was one of the highlights of this year! Thank you to our sponsors who provided the great food and drinks, the Hill Center for hosting us, neighbors who nominated folks, and the many, many neighbors who joined us. This is always such a special evening as it reminds us of the many bonds we share as neighbors, block by block. Here are the 2022 Brickie Award Winners:
- Community Organization: Friends of Southwest DC
- Neighbor Award: Jerome Jefferies (AKA the “Mayor of 10th Street”)
- Business Award: The Queen Vic
- Civic Pride Award: Save Mott’s Market
- Public Service Award: Nathaniel “Coach Skip” Greene
I'm sure you're aware of it if you live nearby, but avoid driving this week near the Convention Center. The US-Africa Leaders Summit is taking place this week in DC through this Saturday. Given the nature of the event, security measures include closing roads and rerouting traffic around the Convention Center. MPD has provided lots of helpful information to help navigate the closures. You can see an interactive map of closures and parking restrictions here, and follow DC Police Traffic for updates.
As the year winds down, too many people are still being harmed by people choosing to use a gun to do terrible harm to others and the broader community. The numbers are down and trending in the right direction, but they’re still far too high. People want to know what the plan is. Regular readers of the newsletter might recall I’ve mentioned before the Gun Violence Reduction Strategic Plan, which was developed by a great team of criminologists who have a long history with the District of Columbia. It’s a plan that factors in many of the both/ and solutions you’ve heard me talk about.
Tomorrow, Thursday Dec 15, beginning at 9:30 am, I’ll be hosting a roundtable hearing on the plan, and we’ll hear from the plan’s author, David Muhammed, as well as Thomas Abt, another leading thinker in long-term, sustained violence reduction. And we’ll hear from a panel of organizations working in the District to reduce violence, as well as government leaders. It promises to be an informative discussion and I’ll be pushing to find out what the plan is as we head into a new year and we absolutely have to see the number of gun-involved incidents drop. If you're interested in what and how the District can make sustained, long-term reductions in gun violence, tune in.
Arrest Made in 20+ Offenses on Capitol Hill: MPD detectives made an arrest of a couple in late November and charged them with a staggering number of violent offenses committed around Capitol Hill. This is great work by MPD to track and make an arrest, with more still under investigation. It was remarkable how many offenses MPD was able to tie in charging documents, which demonstrates that a small number of people are responsible for the majority of violent incidents. More in the Washington Post.
Related: If you've heard about the revised criminal code, but aren't sure what it's really about, read my recent Op-Ed in the Hill Rag - "The Revised Criminal Code Act: An Important Step Forward, But Often Misunderstood"
Today, WMATA announced that for New Years Eve, Metrorail and Metrobus service will be extended until 2 AM on Sunday, January 1 and that all trips after 8 PM on Saturday, December 31 will be free (no need to worry about forgetting your SmarTrip card when you're out celebrating). Normal fares and service hours will resume January 1 at 4 AM for the bus and 7 AM for trains. Metro is by far the best option to get around on busy nights like New Years Eve to avoid drinking and driving, as well as to lessen traffic congestion in the city on a night where lots of people will be walking out and about on foot. So stay safe, have fun, and take the Metro this New Years Eve!
The Mayor recently announced 113 nonprofits that will be recipients of grant funding to expand existing and create new programs for about 15,000 school kids for beyond the school day. As any parent can tell you, finding ways to keep kids engaged before and after school hours, as well as days off, can be a huge challenge. The $16.4 million funding comes from the Office of Out of School Time Grants and Youth Outcomes (OST) to provide kids with access to free or low-cost programs in academics, art, sports, dance, financial literacy, music, social-emotional support, and more. Developing strong youth development programs for students to be involved with after school and on weekend are important for students’ ability to feel connected to their communities, discover and cultivate interests and passions, and create pathways to future opportunities.
There are obvious connections to public safety as well, especially when we talk about reaching youth, connecting them to support systems, and getting them involved in the community before they interact with the criminal justice system. Additionally, kids who get involved in this kind of programming are more likely to then go back and get involved or contribute to their communities in other ways once they’ve left school. You can explore the programs available through the Learn24 Program Finder.
The Southeast Library is 100 years old! It opened on December 8, 1922 and has been serving the Capitol Hill neighborhood ever since. Beginning next spring, the library will be undergoing a significant renovation I was proud to secure funding for in the budget. Having attended many, many meetings at the Southeast Library as we work through our process, I can promise you the renovation will set us up nicely for the next 100 years. You're going to love it. Check out the latest on the project here, including updated designs.
As I’ve mentioned in previous newsletters, DPW has not been able to stick to their published leaf collection schedule. I estimate they’re currently about two weeks behind. I understand the frustration and have been able to get some information or action when I’ve contacted DPW when neighbors are flagging issues for me. I recommend first contacting 311 if your block has been missed, and then feel free to reach out to me or my team if it does not get resolved. There is also a map where you can track the status of leaf collections around the city, as well as the myDPW app for alerts about leaf collection as well as street sweeping and towing and booting. Of course, we've also needed to flag for DPW blocks that are incorrectly marked "collected", so flag that for us as well.
As you go shop for your holiday gifts this year, remember to support our local small businesses in Ward 6 and around the District. Check out this video from my Ward 6 Small Business Day tour I did last month ahead of Small Business Saturday. Our small businesses are great neighbors year-round and when you spend local, more of your dollars stay right here in our community. If you need some ideas, check out https://www.dcshopsmall.com, a great guide to small businesses around the DMV.
It feels like we had nice fall weather all the way until early December, but it seems like winter has finally arrived. DC’s Hypothermia Season is November 1 – March 31, and any time the temperatures drop below freezing, the District opens extra shelter sites and beds to ensure we can get everyone in from the cold, as well as expanding hours and meals during the day. The District’s Hypothermia Alert has started being activated on particularly cold days and will continue more frequently as the temperatures drop. Make sure to look out for our unhoused neighbors and call the shelter hotline at 202-399-7093 or 311 if you see someone who needs transportation to a shelter. You an also find a map of the shelters here.
In 2016, DC launched the "Safe at Home" program based on legislation I led the Council to pass to help seniors live and age safely in their homes by funding modifications like railing, stair lifts, and bathroom cut-outs, to reduce the risk of falls and other accidents to the elderly. Last week the Mayor and Department of Aging and Community Living announced an expansion of this program — Safe at Home 2.0 — with more holistic support beyond just home additions and modifications, for seniors to be able to live comfortably and independently. Beginning in January, the program will include voluntary vision screening, medication management, and balance and strength classes. The classes will take place at senior wellness centers across the District — the Ward 6 location is the Hayes Senior Wellness Center. Make sure to spread the word to seniors and their families in your community who you think would benefit from these supports!
Up top, I mentioned some fantastic events taking place at our schools in Ward 6 just this week. With all the excitement, don't miss that the lottery application for DC Public Schools for the 2023-24 school year is open! You have until February 1, 2023 to submit applications for high school and March 1 for PK3-8th grade. Visit myschooldc.org/ to learn more about different schools and what to expect from the lottery application process. Here some helpful links where you can start:
It’s been a long road to get here, but I’m elated at the news that our DCPS teachers have reached and approved a new contract with DCPS. Our teachers in public schools have had an incredibly long and challenging few years. They deserve a pay raise and the certainty that comes from a contract. Kudos to WTU and DCPS for finally landing in a place of agreement. Read more.
Check out some great events and opportunities for giving going on around the Ward this holiday season!
- Southwest Comm-Unity Toys for Tots Distribution: Saturday December 17, 11AM – 3 PM
- 9th Annual Capitol Hill Menorah Lighting (Hill Havurah) - Dec 19, 5:30pm
- Riverside Baptist Church Christmas Concert: December 15
- Ward 6 Mutual Aid Coat Drive (Christ United Methodist Church): through December 17 (Wed & Fri 3-5 PM and Sat 11 AM-2 PM)
- Ward 6 Mutual Aid Turkey and Ham Distribution (Christ United Methodist Church): December 17
- Mount Vernon Triangle Winter Warm-Up Clothing Drive (details to come)
- MVT Holiday Gift Drive for Families at Plaza West
Make sure you take measures to keep your holiday packages and deliveries safe this year. Last year was the first time in several years that reported package theft was down in the city. Let's continue this trend by tracking packages, send them to alternative pickup sites, work with neighbors to bring packages inside, or have them delivered where or when someone is available to immediately get them. There are also two programs to assist people in purchasing security cameras at homes and businesses:
- Private Security Camera System Incentive Program: Residents and businesses/organizations who purchase and install security camera systems on their property and register them with MPD can get a rebate of up to $200 per camera, with a maximum rebate of up to $500 per residential address (e.g., home offices, condo buildings, and apartments) and $750 for all other eligible addresses.
- Private Security Camera Voucher Program: Provides a private security camera system to eligible residents free of charge. District residents—either owners or tenants—who receive public assistance may be eligible to have a camera system installed at their home.
Additionally, if you choose to purchase anything online from somewhere like Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace, I encourage you to take advantage of MPD Safe Exchange Zones. These are designated areas serve as a safe place for people to exchange goods or money to prevent pre-staged robberies. MPD also strongly encourages the public to be especially wary of meeting people who refuse to meet at a Safe Exchange Zone location. See the list of Safe Exchange Zones.
Got plans for the day after Christmas? You might now. My office has two tickets to giveaway to both Trans-Siberian Orchestra showings at Capital One Arena (3pm and 7:30pm) on December 26. You must be a Ward 6 resident. If you’re interested, send a note to Erik Salmi ([email protected]) and we’ll do a drawing early next week.
In addition to the holiday season, the World Cup is in full swing, with the final taking place this Sunday! There are many great places showing the games and hosting watch parties around Ward 6 including Wunder Garten, The Queen Vic, Biegarten Haus, Fight Club, Prost DC, Kirwan’s, and more. I hope you've enjoyed the extended hours the District granted during the World Cup.
Check out the article that Bloomberg's CityLab wrote about Ward 6's Aya homeless shelter and the inspiration and motivation behind the design and architecture:
"Families that stay at the shelter are quite young: The average age for children there is 3. So the city required it to offer safe spaces for play. Studio Twenty Seven designed a series of outdoor-style indoor play rooms on the building’s east side, rooms that climb in a stair-wise pattern up the building. Brick brise-soleil screens along these rooms offer a playful mirror of the architectural textures found in mid-century apartment buildings in the neighborhood."
DPW is expanding its Food Waste Drop-Off program to add two new locations in the spring! They are accepting applications from community members to establish, manage, and staff a new sites to operate weekly for 52 weeks, rain or shine. Each location requires one site manager to lead operations and serve as the primary point of contact for the site, working closely with DPW and its FWDO contractor. All members of the public are encouraged to apply, including passionate community members, nonprofits, faith-based organizations, businesses, business improvement districts, or other interested parties. Learn more and apply here.
Thanks for reading along if you've made it this far! I hope you have a wonderful rest of the holiday season and are able to make it out to some of the many festive events going on around Ward 6.
And for all my Caps fans, sharing a big congratulations to the Caps’ Great 8, Alex Ovechkin, on becoming just the third player in NHL to score an astounding 800 goals in his career. So many Ward 6 residents have fond memories of that incredible Stanley Cup run and Ovi’s hall of fame career so far.
I'll be back in your inboxes once more before the end of the year for a year in review wrap-up and to share some my thoughts as we look ahead to the new Council Period and new year.