The weather is (sort of) cooling down, the kids are back in school, our local coffee shops are breaking out the pumpkin drinks, and fall is just around the corner! Fall also means the legislative calendar at the Council kicks into full gear, because the current Council session ends December 31, and all bills that are going to pass need to do so by then. So it’s going to be a heavy legislative sprint to the end, and you’ll find the latest in the newsletters as they happen. If you want to learn more about the Council work coming up this fall, take a look at this roundup from DCist, which first highlights my Metro for DC bill. Of course, life in Ward 6 is also picking up – don’t miss the H Street Festival this Saturday and Art All Night next week at Eastern Market. So let’s jump into a long newsletter. Feel free to use the quick links to hop around. And as always, you can reply to this email or reach me or my team here with any issues.
Quick Links: Public Safety Update | H Street Festival | Fresh Food in SW | COVID Boosters | Back to School Vaccine Deadline | Utility Cut-Off Warning | Deadline for Early Childhood Care Educator Fund | H St. Bridge | Apply to be an Election Worker | Home Purchase Assistance Program | Small Business Grants | DPR Fall Programs | Automatic Voter Registration Expansion | DCRA Split | Office of Migrant Services | Diverse City Fund Grants | New Circulator Route | Phone and Broadband Discount Program
As I do in most of my email newsletters, I want to dedicate a significant portion to public safety updates. Improving public safety remains a top issue in the city for residents and for every elected leader, myself included. In recent weeks, I’ve joined neighbors for a community safety walk on H Street, joined ANC Commissioners and MPD for a community forum on public safety, and have convened meetings of various public safety agency leaders to analyze trends and outline specific steps the city is taking to target violence. Our goal is to stop the violence from happening in the first place, but when it does happen, I connect with our MPD leadership and District commanders after and talk through their plans to adjust patrols accordingly, provide updates on investigations, and more. To that end, I want to share that in talking with Commander Bryant, her leadership team is making several patrol adjustments specific to target recent car-jackings. In addition, the Regional Car-Jacking Task Force is engaged to review video and evidence to hold suspects accountable. Everyone should feel safe in your home and in your community, and anything less is unacceptable. And for too many people, the District is not where it needs to be on public safety and gun violence, in particular.
But I've also seen that when tackling complex problems, reaching for quick and simple solutions almost always misses the mark. Unfortunately, I’ve seen a few opinion pieces recently that misled people on the challenges the District, the region, and the country are facing. It's not the first time, and likely not the last, when someone will try to hold up smart public safety responses like the District's Youth Rehabilitation Act (YRA) as a bogeyman to a community's legitimate fears and concerns. And in doing so, they oversimplify real challenges a community faces, and in this case, undermine an important law we’ve worked hard to reform in recent years (and the young people who are succeeding with its support) that works to actually stop them from reoffending. This column last week and this one before rightly capture the urgency to intervene with young people, but wrongly - and without any evidence - blames the YRA for crimes we see in the District today. In fact, it seems to blame the old version of the law from 1985, before I led the Council to pass major reforms in 2018 to overhaul how it works and also importantly, build in regular evaluations to measure impact.
I want to make sure you have the facts. Without going into too much detail on sentencing law (more here. if you really are interested), the YRA is a tool for young adults that creates an opportunity after a young person has done harm, after they've been convicted of that crime, and after they've *successfully* completed their sentence, to go back to the court to show the judge how they succeeded and demonstrate their rehabilitation. This then allows them to request that their criminal record as a young person be sealed so it no longer outright bars them from lifetime housing, financial aid, jobs, and more that can help them be successful in society and prevent them from reoffending. Nothing about it is automatic or easy, but it's exactly the kind of sentencing reform that improves public safety. The evidence is very clear that when a young person is successful at completing their sentence and having their record sealed, they're much less likely to reoffend and cause harm. In short, second chances quite literally save lives in the District.
Data also shows us that while less than 10% of all crime is committed by juveniles, we're seeing a disturbing trend in young people both committing carjackings and being victims of gun violence. Those trends are true not just in DC, but across the region and in other cities around the country. But to suggest the YRA is a cause of the current young people being arrested for carjackings is simply not true and not backed by any data. The YRA is a tool that judges can use on a case-by-case basis as they review the facts of each case before them. It allows for developmentally-appropriate sentencing that makes us all safer. And one other important item to note: when I took over the Council's Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety and found that the old version of the law had never been evaluated, I not only had a full and independent evaluation completed, but also built into the law that there have to be ongoing reviews every few years to see what is working and what isn't. That's how policymaking should work, and in this case, it has. The data from the evaluation showed that young people reoffend much less frequently when they can move forward.
I don’t mind criticism in the press. It comes with being an elected official. But I do mind when sound policies, crafted in careful consultation with many different people with expertise at all points of the criminal justice system, are held up as a bogeymen in place of more substantive, challenging conversations about how to reduce violence. I wanted to take time to speak to it here, because I know many people are feeling anxious about safety across the District, and like me, aren't satisfied with where things stand today. But we truly won't move the needle without being both smart and just on safety.
Legislatively this fall, I’ll be leading the Committee to advance a wide range of bills as we head toward the end of the Council session in December. The first major bill I'll move forward is a significant expansion of services and rights provided to victims and survivors of crime (here’s WTOP’s take on the bill when I introduced it last year). In fact, it was just unanimously approved this afternoon in committee and next heads to the full Council. I talk and meet with victims and survivors of crime regularly. And too many are shut out of the programs and help the District could be providing. Through the city's budget process, I've added millions of dollars to expanding victim services, but this legislation will help fix and strengthen the supports victims need. Helping victims is an important way to begin to heal after a traumatic event and also a critical way to break cycles of violence.
My bill, created in close partnership with and strongly supported by organizations serving victims and survivors in DC, does a few things (this list is not exhaustive):
- Expands eligibility and smooths the process to apply for crime victim compensation;
- Creates an independent crime victim counselor to work with victims in the aftermath of their experience;
- Takes steps to make our hospital-based violence intervention programs even more effective. You may recall DC is one of the first jurisdictions in the nation to place violence interrupters inside emergency rooms to intervene immediately when someone presents at the ER with a gunshot or stab wound;
- Creates a new crime when a stay away order is violated to ensure MPD can intervene quickly; and
- Prohibits the execution of arrest warrants on sexual assault victims and victims of serious violent injuries while they’re seeking emergency medical treatment or medical forensic care.
Finally, I want to once again share the proposed Gun Violence Strategic Reduction Plan, an actual plan to reduce gun violence in the District. I can’t tell you how often I’m talking with residents following a serious incident and folks tell me they appreciate the quick response from MPD and others, but they want to know the plan. I couldn’t agree more. This plan was put together through the District’s Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, an agency focused on coordination and data collection around public safety. It is thoughtful, specific, and well-rounded. You've heard me say before that the city is resource rich, but coordination poor. Just earlier this week I was meeting with leaders of MPD and DC's Gun Violence Prevention Director about the need for more coordination between all those agencies to drive down gun violence and improve public safety in our city. So what's critical is coordination; now that we have a plan, let's implement it together.
- Arrests Made in Armed Carjacking (Gun) Offenses in the First District
- Arrest Made in a Misdemeanor Sexual Abuse Offense: 800 Block of H Street, Northeast
Join me for one of Ward 6’s best events of the year this Saturday! The H Street Festival stretches 11 blocks long and puts on display some of DC’s best music, poetry, artwork, fashion, food, and more. The festival runs this Saturday from 12-7pm, and I hope to see you there! Please remember that if you have non-festival plans on Saturday, be aware that H Street NE will be closed from 3rd Street to 14th Street beginning early in the morning and running into the evening. If you need to travel around H Street, it’s probably best to plan to take either North Capitol Street on the west or use Maryland Avenue to connect to the Starburst Intersection on the east.
Earlier this week, I joined members of the Southwest BID and neighborhood leaders to pack and distribute more than 150 bags of fresh food to homes in need. Food insecurity impacts more than a third of DC residents - with little access to fresh food and groceries. I was excited to lend a hand to this effort that packs up fresh food and produce from DC Central Kitchen each Monday and partners with neighborhood leaders across Southwest to get the food exactly where it’s needed most. Check out my longer post and video on this to see how it all works and why it’s so important!
Great news! The Bivalent COVID boosters (also known as the Omicron boosters, targeting the BA.4 and BA.5 variants) are now available at DC Health COVID Centers and pharmacies throughout the District. And now that we’re heading into fall, flu season is also right around the corner, so you can save time and receive both your COVID booster and flu shot together. Here is the latest vaccine and booster guidance from the CDC:
- People ages 6 months through 4 years should get all COVID-19 primary series doses.
- People ages 5 years and older should get all primary series doses, and the booster dose recommended for them by CDC, if eligible.
- People ages 5 years to 11 years are currently recommended to get the original (monovalent) booster.
- People ages 12 years and older are recommended to receive one updated Pfizer or Moderna (bivalent) booster.
- This includes people who have received all primary series doses and people who have previously received one or more original (monovalent) boosters.
- At this time, people aged 12 years to 17 years can only receive the updated Pfizer bivalent booster.
- People who are moderately or severely immunocompromised have different recommendations for COVID-19 vaccines, including boosters.
With most schools back in person and the weather cooling off, both COVID and the flu are expected to circulate more this fall and winter. Make sure to protect yourself and your community and get your shots! Here are locations near Ward 6 offering the Bivalent.
Related: DC Health continues to operate COVID Centers in each Ward. You can receive free masks, vaccines + boosters, and testing. The Ward 6 location is on Barracks Row at 507 8th St., SE. Hours and other locations here.
Speaking of shots, the deadline I emphasized in my last newsletter for getting your kids their routine pediatric immunizations (RPI) and COVID vaccines for school has been pushed back. Originally, kids had to provide immunization records within 20 days of school starting. The new guidance is as follows:
- For RPIs (excluding the COVID vaccine), pre-K to 5th graders must be vaccinated by October 11.
- 6th-12th graders need to be vaccinated for their RPIs (excluding COVID) by November 4.
- All students 12 and older must be vaccinated for COVID by January 3, 2023.
I know that every parent, guardian, and teacher wants to see our kids in school, as we know in-person learning is critical. Spread the word and make sure to protect your kids and community by getting them up to date on shots. Visit https://dcpsstrong.com/vaccines/ for more details.
The Office of the People’s Counsel for DC has flagged some utility disconnections that occurred in July and August. This is due to the moratoriums on disconnections in place because of the pandemic ending, as well as seasonal temperature laws that prohibit disconnections when the heat index is over 95 degrees. If you’ve received a notice of intent to disconnect or are behind on utility bill payments, act soon to avoid any service shutoffs. If you’re unable to make your regular payments, contact the utility company to ask about a payment plan and inform them of any special circumstances (like a resident with medical equipment that needs electricity). If you’re unable to arrange a payment plan, contact OPC at 202-727-307 before your service has been disconnected.
I want to remind early childhood educators to apply for the Early Childhood Educators Pay Equity Fund, a program that can provide up to a $14,000 supplemental payment to eligible educators! Time is running out - the deadline to apply is next Tuesday September 20! Feel free to reach out to Chris Laskowski or Anthony Thomas-Davis on my team if you have questions.
This funding, providing a much needed boost for our childcare professionals, was possible as part of the Homes and Hearts Amendment that I fought to include in last year’s budget. It’s a transformational piece of legislation, funded by a modest tax increase on the highest earners, that also made possible our new, groundbreaking monthly basic income program and historic increase in housing vouchers. Early childhood educators have the critical job of nurturing our city's youngest residents. And they do it because they are passionate about it, not for money. This support will help them stay in their chosen careers and thrive in a city that is getting increasingly expensive. Spread the word to any early childhood educators in your community or at your family’s childcare.
Good news to share for anyone eagerly awaiting the massive modernization of Union Station. First, we have to fix the “hopscotch” bridge on H Street so it will meet grade for the new Union Station and align for maximizing the rail capacity growth below it. And in order to start that project, we need a clean environmental assessment, which was delivered this week and represents a big milestone toward a once-in-a-generation upgrade for Union Station. Check out the latest plans, which I think are fantastic and a major upgrade over the shell of a station that we have today. As exciting as this is, I’ll temper my enthusiasm on the timing, as the work isn’t scheduled to start right away, and we’re looking at a time frame of many, many years to see this through. But still, this is an exciting and major milestone to cross.
Now that the primary has passed, the Board of Elections is gearing up for the November General Election and needs poll workers! Poll workers are paid, and student poll workers (must be at least 16 years old) can earn either service hours or payment. Learn more, and apply here.
Are you looking to buy your first home in the District? The Home Purchase Assistance Program is available to first-time buyers in DC to provide gap financing to assist with purchasing a home. The program will provide assistance on a down payment and closing costs in the form of a deferred interest-free loan for first-time District homebuyers in very low to moderate income levels. Learn more here.
For small business owners: Comcast RISE Investment Fund will provide 100 $10,000 grants to small businesses in DC owned by people of color. The application window will be open October 1-14, and more specific info and the application can be found here.
The Department of Parks & Recreation has a full slate of fall activities for kids, adults, and seniors! Learn more and register for the many sports leagues, youth development programs, and classes like cooking and computer skills available this fall.
Additionally, DPR announced it will be offering a series of Saturday field trips to kids ages 6-12. The trips will be free, and DPR will be providing transportation, meals, and entrance fees. There are some really fun trips lined up, and here are the dates and destinations:
- Saturday, September 17 – Hershey Park
- Saturday, September 24 – Adventure Park USA
- Saturday, October 1 – St. James Sports Complex
You can register for the field trips here.
Related: Although fall is upon us, we still have some warm September days ahead. In case you missed it, DPR will be keeping all the standalone spray parks open until September 30 (they usually close after Labor Day). Find a spray park near you.
This morning, I held a hearing on a bill I introduced to expand DC’s automatic voter registration system (which I also created in 2017). It would improve how the system works and include more source agencies for registering potential voters, like the Department of Health Care Finance, which handles Medicaid enrollment (read this recent piece highlighting the bill). DC’s system, as detailed in this 538 article, has already been very successful at registering *and turning out* new voters, bringing more people into our elections process. I'm proud that I introduced the bill to bring AVR to DC and am always interested in how we can improve and expand it -- as we also did last year when we added the Department of Corrections and Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services to the program.
If you’ve heard of the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, hopefully it's because of something good! But we know the agency has long had problems stemming from the fact that its purview is simply too broad. In late 2020, the Council approved splitting DCRA into two agencies, which is set to take place in just a few weeks on October 1st. This will establish two new agencies, the Department of Buildings (DOB) and the Department of Licensing and Consumer Protection (DLCP) that will each take on different parts of DCRA’s portfolio. DOB will have a focus on construction and housing, while the DLCP will issue business and occupational licenses and enforce consumer protection laws. You can visit https://dcratransition.dc.gov/ to learn more about the transition to these two new District agencies.
As I am sure you've heard, the governors of Texas and Arizona have been engaging in a public stunt to politicize a humanitarian crisis by busing migrants from the Southwest border to DC, dropping them off with little to no guidance and at all hours of the day and night. Our local nonprofits, mutual aid groups, and neighbors have been volunteering their time and effort to coordinate logistics and provide resources. Frankly, our local and federal government response to supplement this effort hasn't matched the work of our community and nonprofit organizations. We’re now finally making some progress on the local level. The Mayor recently declared a public health emergency, allowing the city to access $10 million to aid newly-arrived migrants. We'll also be voting Tuesday to authorize the establishment of the new Office of Migrant Services to provide additional support and services. I’ll share more as I have it.
Next Friday, September 23, Eastern Market Main Street and Barracks Row Main Street are putting on a fun event called Art All Night, showcasing visual and performing arts in the neighborhood. Public and private spaces will become pop-up galleries and performance venues from 4pm to midnight. Come join for an evening of great art!
The Diverse City Fund is a grantmaking organization focused on investing financial and social capital in racial and social justice work. Its Fall 2022 Grant Program is open for groups and coalitions focused on mobilization, advocacy, organizing, healing, and liberation. Groups and organizations can receive up to $5,000, while coalitions of 3+ organizations can receive up to $15,000. Applications close on Friday, September 30th. Learn more and apply at the Diverse City Fund website.
DDOT released its DC Circulator Transit Development Plan, which includes a proposal to add a new Circulator Bus route from Deanwood to Union Station, which would serve both Ward 6 and 7 by traveling East Capitol Street from Deanwood, past RFK Stadium, to 3rd Street NE, then to Union Station. DDOT is still evaluating and accepting comments on where this line should have stops located. I agree with ANC 6B’s recommendation that the route have a stop located at Lincoln Park to better serve and connect the neighborhood to this new route. As you may know, the DC Circulator presently runs six routes, with rides costing only $1.
The Lifeline Program, under the Federal Communications Commission and the DC Public Service Commission, helps make phone and broadband services more affordable for low-income residents. Eligible consumers get a discount on monthly phone and/or broadband service that can be applied to either a wired or wireless service (but you can't receive discounts on both at the same time). DC’s Lifeline program is called Economy II and is offered through Verizon. Wireline phone service for those under 65 years of age is $3.00 per month and $1.00 per month for those over $65 and includes unlimited calling in the DC metropolitan area. Check eligibility status and learn how to apply here.
Alright, I'll wrap it up now. Thanks for reading along if you've made it this far - I hope this has been informative and interesting! And if you're looking for an after work Friday activity today, I'll be tapping a keg at Wundergarten's Oktoberfest kickoff at 5pm. Hope to see you there or at any of the other great neighborhood events I highlighted above.
Have a great weekend!