The other week, at the end of a day-long legislative meeting wrapping up much of the year-end business of the Council, I was riding the bus home, a little wiped out but at the same time feeling incredibly lucky to have this opportunity to work on behalf of our community. Throughout that day at the Council, we worked on huge topics including campaign finance reform, establishing a new hospital in the Eastern part of our city, and passing some of the most ambitious environmental legislation in the nation.
In between, we worked on bills to create affordable housing in Hill East, regulate tour bus parking in Southwest, and create an independent research partnership to support evidence-based improvements in our public schools. All the while, my office and staff were answering calls and emails from neighbors around Ward 6 with questions or requests for city services. That's what I love about this work and what I love about representing Ward 6 -- everyday, working together with neighbors like you, we work on the issues that matter most to you.
I’m proud of the work we’ve done together, and honored that you’ve given me the opportunity to continue for another term.
Next week, on January 2, at 9:30 am, I’ll be sworn in for my second term as your Ward 6 Councilmember at the Washington Convention Center. Please join me for this special event! Afterward, my staff and I will be holding an open house (with snacks!) at the John A. Wilson Building (1350 Pennsylvania Ave, NW) in Suite 110 from 1:30-3:30 pm. Please stop in and see where we work on your behalf and chat with me about what we should be focused on in the new year.
Before we jump ahead to January, I wanted to take a moment to look back at both 2018 and my first term as your Ward 6 Councilmember:
A renewed focus on our Ward 6 Schools: One of my first goals when I took office was to jumpstart the modernization of our neighborhood public schools. Our kids and our teachers deserve school buildings that are functional, comfortable, and safe. I was able to move many long-delayed projects forward and secure more than $220 million toward much-needed improvements. I’m also focusing on student safety, ending the school-to-prison pipeline, improving school funding transparency, and increasing socio-emotional supports so every child can succeed at school.
We still have much more work to do but thanks to so many dedicated parents and community members, we have accomplished a great deal in four years.
Books From Birth is getting more kids and parents reading: My first bill as a Councilmember was Books From Birth, creating the DC Public Library's wonderful program that mails a book every month to each child under the age of five for free. In just under three years, more than 500,000 books have been delivered to DC’s children.
It's a program I've enjoyed with both of my children as a chance to explore dozens of new stories together. My thanks to the wonderful team at DCPL who have done a fantastic job growing this program across the city and targeting especially neighborhoods with lower literacy rates.
Big steps forward to address health equity issues in the District: Before running for elected office, I worked in public health advocating for improved access to care for vulnerable and underserved communities. Despite not sitting on the Committee on Health, it's still close to my heart and an area of policy I continue to prioritize. This Council Period, I worked with my colleagues to get several bills passed targeting health disparities in our community. I introduced a law that converts many of the Affordable Care Act's benefits specifically for women into local law (remember Trump and Congress have tried three times to outright overturn the law). I created the Maternal Mortality Review Committee to begin providing data on why giving birth is so deadly in the District, especially for black women. And I introduced a law that modernizes our surrogacy laws in the District, taking us from one of the most regressive to one of the most progressives places in the county to be or use a surrogate to build your family.
Reforming elections to put power back in the hands of DC voters: I hope we will look back on 2018 as a watershed moment in DC when the voices of residents reclaimed priority over corporations and big-money influences. First, I was proud to write the law bringing Automatic Voter Registration to the District in 2016. Next, I wrote a law creating a public financing option for campaigns for local office. And just this month, Council passed my bill overhauling our campaign finance laws, banning pay-to-play contributions by those seeking government contracts and requiring greater transparency around campaign advertising by third-party groups. As these laws take effect over the next two years, we will see more power returned to the hands of DC residents to shape the District’s future, more trust by voters in our elections and campaigns, and new candidates stepping forward to run without the backing of big money interests. I'll be working hard in 2019 to see these new laws are implemented successfully.
Creating green spaces and protecting our rivers: One of the best parts of working in local government is the joy of a long-awaited project completed. New parks and play space were created in Southwest, Hill East, NoMa, and Capitol Riverfront, and more new parks are on the way in Eastern Market, Mt. Vernon Triangle, and at the RFK Campus. I also prioritized improving and educating our neighbors about the Anacostia River -- a historic gem of a river returning to good health thanks to major work by DC Water, DC’s Department of Energy and Environment, and several great community organizations like the Anacostia Watershed Society and the Anacostia Riverkeeper. I was proud to declare 2018 the Year of the Anacostia, and celebrate the designation of portions of Kingman and Heritage Islands as State Conservation Areas and a historic $4.7 million investment in educational and recreational improvements on the islands.
Of course, improving our parks and rivers offers many benefits for neighbors, but it's also a key part of our local strategy to combat climate change. I was proud to pass legislation growing the District's tree canopy (planting trees is one of the best and easiest ways to fight climate change), establishing the Climate Change Resiliency Committee to provide ongoing data and strategy to ensure the District is preparing for major changes in climate, and I proudly cast my vote for the Clean Energy DC bill at the final Council meeting this month. With the federal government backsliding on climate change, cities and states will have to lead.
Making the District a safe and just community: Finally, as one of my first major tasks as Chair of the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, I worked on reforming and improving the Youth Rehabilitation Act. The original YRA, passed in 1985 just as the United States was embracing mass incarceration, was ahead of its time but often failed to deliver on the promise of rehabilitation to young people nor on safety benefits to the community. I took a deep dive into this law to learn how the Courts use it, who was making the most of a second chance, and how it was impacting lives across the District. My bill made several key improvements to improve public safety, lower recidivism, and set young people convicted under the law up for success. I’ve also worked hard with our first responders and public safety agencies to ensure they have the resources they need to protect DC residents and recruit the workforce we need. And in our last legislative meeting, the Council unanimously passed my firearms bill to make our community safer.
It's been a very busy four years and I'm incredibly grateful for the chance to serve Ward 6 for four more.
Happy New Year,
P.S. - Since this is still a newsletter, holiday tree collections will be taking place as part of regular trash and recycling collection the week of January 13 and February 2. More info here.