It’s October! And I’ve got good news to share: Hilloween is back (see old photo of me dressed as a councilmember with a princess), among a host of fun events happening this month. As I’ve mentioned in recent newsletters, we’re in the final stretch to get bills passed at the Council this session.
It’s pencils down at the end of this calendar year, and then anything that doesn’t pass has to start over again in January. So we’re moving bills – a lot of bills – and I’m including summaries of many of them below because they’re good bills that will help make life better for residents. At the same time, life doesn’t slow down in Ward 6, so I’m including plenty of news items about the Ward. As always, thanks for reading!
Quick Links: Metro for DC | WMATA Fare Enforcement | Public Safety Update | Southeast Library | Racial Justice Bills | DCPS Visitor Policy | Protecting Seniors | Voting in the District | November General Election | Boosters and Flu Shots | School Immunizations | Free School Vaccine Clinics | Monkeypox Vaccine Clinics | Pediatric Health Town Hall | Director of Office of Deaf, Deafblind and Hard of Hearing | H St. Murals | Outdoor Movies | Zero Waste DC | SW Cleanup | Florida Ave Construction | SW Waterfront Homes Tour | Wharf 5-Year Anniversary | SW Mutt Strutt | Hilloween | Free Fresh Produce | Utility Disconnections | Constituent Services
I'm very excited to share that last week, the Council's Committee on Transportation and the Environment unanimously passed my Metro For DC bill (NBC 4), a big step toward making it law! I first introduced the bill just days before the pandemic hit. At the time, I felt it was an important idea to invest more in our community and make public transit free or a heck of a lot cheaper. Now, more than two years later, I think it's imperative to WMATA's recovery and our region's.
As a quick reminder, the bill has two parts: first, it would allow any DC resident to sign up to receive a monthly balance of $100 loaded onto their registered SmarTrip card. Second, it would create a $10 million annual Transit Equity Fund to improve bus and transit service in the District, starting in neighborhoods in which WMATA has historically underinvested.
The bill passed the Committee with only one significant change: it made the benefit universal to all DC residents immediately. We had initially drafted the bill in a way that could be rolled out first to lower-income residents, but always with a goal of getting it to everyone. I’m fully supportive of the change. We don't means test our sidewalks or roads. We don't means test our schools or libraries. And we shouldn't means test our public transit if we believe it's truly a public good, which I do.
This bill comes at a critical time. WMATA faces a budget shortfall as federal pandemic funding ends. I have no doubt that the recovery, and future, of the District is going to be tied to WMATA’s success. At the same time, as we strive to make WMATA more affordable for District residents, that can’t come at the expense of good, reliable service. That’s why this bill provides the balance to the customer, not to WMATA. That way WMATA needs to earn riders with its service, in addition to the Transit Equity Fund's investment directly into better bus improvements.
Next steps? It needs to pass a similar mark-up in the Committee of the Whole, and then it would head to the full Council later this fall. Once it passes, the work of funding and implementation begin. So, we’re still a ways away from this being operational, but this is a big step in the right direction. I discussed the bill and what’s next on the second half of last week’s Kojo Nnamdi Show. Read more: Washington Post | DCist | Greater Greater Washington
At the same time that I believe in my Metro for DC proposal and that transit is a public good, I also believe that everyone needs to pay their fare. I’ve been encouraged by the balanced tone the new General Manager has struck in recognizing that many residents have to depend on public transit, regardless of their ability to pay, with ensuring we have a system everyone supports. We're going to see announcements in the coming days from WMATA about new fare evasion enforcement efforts, like civil tickets, which will hopefully also include common sense design changes we can make to discourage evasion.
To be clear, I don't support criminal penalties for fare evasion, and the Council passed Councilmember Trayon White's legislation to shift from a criminal to a civil ticketing system a few years ago out of recognition of the serious consequences of criminal tickets on people's futures. Criminal citations were actually legal arrests that could bar you from lifetime financial aid, access to jobs, and public housing...all over a $2 fare. So we now have civil fine authority in DC, just like for parking or most traffic tickets. Although the Council gave WMATA all the tools it needed to set up the new civil ticketing system with the District, they hadn't acted since the law passed, but we've learned they're soon to roll out what that will look like.
Last newsletter, I revisited the changes I led the Council in making in 2018 to reform the Youth Rehabilitation Act, a sentencing law for young adults. Part of my reforms called for an analysis of how the law was being used over time and whether it was successful. Well, the most recent study by the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council was just released the other day. It goes into a deep analysis with data from MPD, the Courts, and other criminal justice agencies. You can read it here.
Without getting too wonky, there are two important parts to the reformed "YRA". First, I changed the law so that judges can now decide to give a young person an appropriate sentence based on the specific facts of the case and the young person. Second, the law gives that young person the chance to get their record sealed - a "benefit" of the YRA - after they complete their sentence, rather than during the initial sentencing process in the courtroom. Judges don't have a crystal ball at the time of sentencing to know whether a young person will be successful down the road, so this both gives judges discretion and creates a "carrot" for the young person on the other end. The purpose of the law and the reforms we made were to hold people accountable, help them rehabilitate after doing harm, and prevent them from reoffending. All of which make us safer as community.
The new analysis is really fascinating and, in short, shows us the reforms are working. Looking at two years' worth of recent cases, the data clearly show that being sentenced and going on to earn a set aside (that carrot) under the YRA has been effective in reducing reoffending for young people, compared to young people who weren't sentenced under the law. And in particular, the biggest decrease in reoffending is of young people between ages 22-25, which was an expansion under the reforms. But this also makes sense. When we use smart tools to hold young people accountable when they do harm, and also give them the opportunity and incentives for rehabilitation and tools to get back on their feet, it can dramatically reduce reoffending. It means it's good for community safety, as well as getting that young person's life back on track - in short, a second chance. I won’t dig into the entire report here but urge you to check it out for yourself.
Public safety remains front of mind in our neighborhoods. I’m talking with neighbors, meeting with resident groups, and partnering with MPD, ONSE, and every other agency about steps needed. And my constituent services team is working with MPD and DDOT and DPW to make physical space improvements in hot spot areas – improving lighting, cleaning up trash, and even installing speed bumps can help be a deterrence.
I’d also note a host of legislation I’ve moved out of Committee passed on first vote just yesterday. That includes my Expanding Supports for Crime Victims Amendment Act, which is a historic expansion of support and help to victims of crime. I talk with victims and survivors of crime regularly, and too often, they're locked out of the help they need to heal from the harm they've experienced. This legislation includes expanding who can benefit from the crime victims compensation program, laying the groundwork for more counselors to work with victims, giving victims greater legal rights, ensuring MPD can respond immediately to a stalker violating a victim's stay away order, and strengthening the District’s hospital-based violence intervention programs. All of this is the right thing to do to help our victims and survivors, and it will also help make our community safer because working with victims and making sure the system works for them is an important way we break cycles of violence.
On Thursday evening, I joined neighbors in the basement of the Southeast Neighborhood Library to see the latest, and near final, designs for our new Southeast Branch Library. And they look wonderful! I’m glad the architecture firm has taken seriously concerns around noise and lighting for neighbors. The design itself is fantastic – and includes a near tripling of dedicated space for a children's section, significant increases in space for adults and people needing access to computers, tons of light and air throughout, an improved meeting room, an enhanced historic entrance off of 7th Street SE, and a new ground level entrance on South Carolina Avenue to meet accessibility requirements. Check out the latest images here. What do you think? Please let me know! The timeline is on pace for the library to temporarily close next year, with construction taking about two years, and a reopening of the new library branch in early 2025. We're still working with DCPL about how to create interim access and uses, including picking up your favorite holds, nearby in the neighborhood during construction.
I want to share information about three bills I moved through the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety in recent days that are going to have a big impact in reducing racial inequity in the legal system.
First, just last week, the Committee advanced the Stormiyah Denson-Jackson Economic Damages Equity Act, which bans the practice of reducing lawsuit payouts based on race, gender, and other protected traits to plaintiffs who have been significantly harmed or even lost a loved one. Currently, when calculating money damages in personal injury and wrongful death cases, courts use statistical tables that literally value the future economic worth of Black and Brown people, women, and transgender residents less, compared to white men, mostly based around existing pay gaps for those populations. For example, a Black woman with a college degree will earn an average of $1.2 million over her lifetime, compared to the $2.3 million earned by a white man. I'm happy to report that practice of valuing some lives less than others will soon end in the District under the bill.
Early in September, I led the Committee to advance a different bill that puts in place stronger protections for people selling an inherited home or property when a will wasn't left behind. The problem we’re trying to solve is a familiar one: a home, often the source of a family’s wealth, might have many family members who legally own a piece of it when their loved one passes. Often, one of those family members will either force the sale of the home or sell their stake to a third-party, who then forces the sale of the whole. The other members of the family have little ability to stop the sale or get a fair market value. The bill we passed puts in place much stronger protections in these cases to at least ensure if a sale moves forward, it does so fairly. And it gives family members first right of refusal to buy the home. This practice - called the partition of "heirs' property" - has led to incredible amounts of Black land and wealth loss across the country and here at home, as Black families are much less likely to have attorneys and much more likely to die without wills.
Third, the Committee passed my bill making it easier for low-income people to have court fees waived in civil cases, including landlord-tenant, family law, employment, and domestic violence cases. These filing fees - an annoyance for some - are outright barriers to access to justice for lower-income residents. Because if you can’t afford the fees, your rights don't have much meaning. This bill will make more people eligible for fee waivers out of the gate, based on their participation in other social services programs like Medicaid.
Each of these bills, on its own, is going to make a difference in the lives of District residents, and particularly residents of color. But together, they'll reduce systemic racial inequities and make our justice system work better for everyone.
I heard from several concerned parents before the start of the fall semester about restrictions on visiting schools hindering the ability to meet your kids' friends, teachers, other parents, and generally foster strong school communities. We have good news! Beginning Monday, October 3, DCPS has returned to its pre-pandemic School Visitor Policy, allowing for parents and caregivers to visit their child’s school. You will still need to follow previously established protocols like showing ID and signing in. Learn more, and read the full policy here.
We recently passed another important bill out of the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety (you might be noticing a theme here) to strengthen the baseline protections for powers of attorney to better serve seniors and other vulnerable residents. A power of attorney is a legal tool that allows a third-party to act on your behalf in financial and other serious legal matters – and handing over that power can come with terrible consequences, if done without safeguards. So we passed a bill, working closely with the AARP and Legal Counsel for the Elderly, to put in place better protections to guard against elder abuse.
We’ve seen that District residents just love mail-in voting. This new option has led to a huge surge in ballots cast and those cast by mail, when comparing the primary election this past spring with the same off-cycle primary from 2018: in 2022, we saw a whopping 42% increase in ballots cast – and nearly 2/3 of voters used a mail-in ballot, rather than a traditional, in-person polling place. I’m happy to say my bill making mail-in voting and many other election improvements from the pandemic permanent passed unanimously out of Committee and on first vote at the full Council yesterday. You won’t notice a big difference from this past spring’s primary election, however, as much of the bill has been in effect through temporary legislation to give the Board of Elections this kind of authority.
Also on the voting front, the Committee passed the Local Resident Voting Rights Act, which would extend the right to vote in local elections (Mayor, Council, AG, State Board of Education, and ANC) to all residents, regardless of their citizenship. The bill had been introduced many times before, but most recently by Councilmember Brianne Nadeau. Non-citizens would still need to register and meet the exact same residency and age requirements as all other voters, and the Board of Elections would provide them with a local election ballot. Our non-citizen neighbors still pay taxes, raise their children here, run local businesses, and are governed by the laws passed by their representatives. They should have a seat at the table, and we'll all be better for it. We aren’t nearly the first jurisdiction in the country to consider this. And besides, I think DC residents know a little something about taxation without representation. One note: the bill does have a cost, so it'll need to be funded in the budget before taking effect (so to be clear, this isn't in effect for next month's general election).
The November General Election is right around the corner! As I mentioned above, we have several accessible and secure ways to vote here in the District. Check your mailbox this week because ballots will be arriving soon! Ballot drop boxes open October 14. Make sure you have all the details, starting with these tips:
- There’s still time to register to vote. Register before October 18 to receive a mail-in ballot or register in person at any Vote Center during Early Voting (October 31-November 6) or on Election Day (November 8). Voter registration and proof of address requirements are here. Voter registration forms in languages other than English are here.
- Check your voter registration status and update it to make sure you receive your mail-in ballot at the correct address.
- You don’t need to request a ballot for the General Election, but you can change the address where you want it sent. The Board is mailing all registered voters a ballot with a pre-paid return envelope. Follow the instructions included with your ballot.
- Voters should consult the Board of Elections’ map to find Vote Centers and Ballot Drop Boxes near them.
Vote early in one of four ways:
- Return your ballot quickly by mail – no postage required. Leave plenty of time for your ballot to reach the Board. Ballots must be postmarked on or before Election Day (November 8), and they must be received by the Board no later than November 15.
- Return your ballot in one of the Board’s 55 secure drop boxes across the District until 8 p.m. on Election Day
- Drop off your ballot at any Vote Center from 8:30 a.m. – 7 p.m. during “Election Week” (October 31-November 6) and from 7 a.m. – 8 p.m. on Election Day (November 8)
- Vote early in person at any Vote Center during “Election Week” (October 31-November 6) from 8:30 a.m. – 7 p.m. Voters can vote at any Vote Center during Election Week, regardless of residential address within the District. Early Voting Vote Center Locations.
- If you choose to vote in-person on Election Day, plan ahead! Bring water, snacks, and a mask, and dress comfortably. The polls will be open from 7 a.m. – 8 p.m. Voters can vote at any Vote Center on Election Day, regardless of residential address within the District. Vote Center Locations on Election Day.
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 get both your COVID booster and flu shot together. Last week COVID Centers had run out of flu vaccine, but they are back in stock. Here's 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 booster.
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 previously 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.
Visit https://dcpsstrong.com/vaccines/ for more details.
To ensure no kids in the District are excluded from school due to vaccine noncompliance, DC Health and Children’s National Hospital will offer free childhood vaccines at five clinics across the city from October 3 to November 18, 2022. They'll be operating Monday–Friday from 8am–4pm. The clinic appointments are expected to be in high demand, so families should first contact their regular pediatrician if they have one. The five Children’s National clinic locations are:
- THEARC: 1801 Mississippi Ave., SE (1st Floor)
- Columbia Heights: 3336 14th St., NW
- Shepherd Park: 7125 13th Pl., NW
- Shaw Metro: 641 S St., NW
- Anacostia: 2101 Martin Luther King Jr Ave., SE
Click here to learn more.
DC Health announced on September 23 that residents will no longer need to pre-register for monkeypox vaccines, and the three vaccine clinics will shift to a walk-up only services. Eligible individuals can visit any of the three DC Health monkeypox clinics for their first and second doses. The clinics’ locations and hours are:
- Ward 2: 1900 I St NW (12-8pm, Sun-Fri)
- Ward 4: 7530 Georgia Ave NW (12-8pm, Sun-Fri)
- Ward 8: 3640 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave SE (12-8pm, Mon-Sat)
For more info on vaccines and latest case data in the District, visit: https://dchealth.dc.gov/page/monkeypox.
Have questions about any of the kids vaccines and health updates above? Join the American Academy of Pediatrics and and DC Health tomorrow at noon for a free virtual Pediatric Health Town Hall and hear directly from medical experts. Link to Register.
Just a quick note to share the Council held its first-ever confirmation hearing to consider a nominee to head the newly-created Office of Deaf, Deafblind, and Hard of Hearing, Kari Cooke. You can watch her hearing here. This Office was created by legislation I wrote working closely with our residents who are deaf, deafblind, and/or hard of hearing to make DC government work better for them and meet their needs. I'm excited to finally see it get up and running. It's an important moment for our city, which has such a rich deaf or hard-of-hearing community.
Recently, I joined the Department of Public Works and the Commission on Arts and Humanities to celebrate the 15th Anniversary of the MuralsDC initiative. We unveiled 10 new murals by DC artists in the alley art gallery - or the “allery” - between H Street Country Club and Atlas Performing Arts Center. Check out some photos above and this quick video tour of the beautiful new pieces highlighting DC culture and history. And make sure to go see them next time you’re in the H St. neighborhood!
Summer might be over, but there are still a few outdoor movie nights remaining! The weather looks fantastic headed to the weekend, so don't miss these great opportunities to join some neighbors outdoors. Check them out:
- NoMa BID's CiNoMatic Wednesday night movie series at Alethia Tanner Park (okay, this is technically in Ward 5, but Ward 6 you're welcome to take a super quick trip up the Met Branch Trail to join in):
- October 5: Encanto – 7:15pm
- October 12: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – 7pm
Movies in Milian Wednesdays in Milian Park in Mt. Vernon Triangle, put on by the Mt. Vernon Triangle CID:
- October 12: Coco – Sundown/Approx. 7pm
Do you have a burning passion to see less waste and more recycling and reusing? DPW's Office of Waste Diversion is continuing to seek public input in developing its Zero Waste DC Plan. DPW is encouraging Ward 6 residents to join a virtual community engagement session on October 24 from 6-8pm. You can register here and learn more about the Zero Waste DC plan.
Our next Southwest cleanup in partnership with MPD is coming up on Saturday! We'll be getting started a little earlier, but this is a great way to kick off your weekend and meet some neighbors. Join us on October 8th at King-Greenleaf Rec Center at 9 am. We’ll have plenty of gloves and other needed supplies. Please contact Jeanne Mattison on my team if you have any questions. Hope to see you there!
Northeast neighbors: this week, the District Department of Transportation began a construction project on Florida Avenue NE between 2nd and H Streets NE (see map). The project will add streetscape and operational enhancements to improve safety and access for pedestrians, cyclists, motorists, and transit along the corridor. This is the permanent version of the temporary improvements I pushed through a few years ago to immediately address safety concerns. It's been a long time coming, and while I know there are going to be headaches while the work happens, we're going to be glad with the final product. The team at DDOT is going door-to-door sharing information on the project with residents and businesses who will be affected by the construction. You can learn more and subscribe to receive updates on the project at https://floridaavene-streetscape.ddot.dc.gov/
Come celebrate the five-year anniversary of The Wharf’s grand opening on October 12 from 5-8pm! There will be live music, pop-up entertainment, specials at Wharf restaurants and businesses, and a fireworks finale over the Washington Channel. Learn more, and see the full event schedule.
Looking for something fun to do this Saturday with your four-legged friends after the Southwest cleanup? Join the Southwest Community Center and the Southwest BID from 11am-2pm for this year's Mutt Strutt! It’s a roughly 2-mile walk around the neighborhood, ending at Lansburgh Park, for a party that will include a raffle, pet-friendly vendors, a pet photographer, and a pet costume contest (that a certain Ward 6 Councilmember may or may not be judging). More info, and registration details here.
October is here, which means the best Halloween festival in DC is right around the corner! That’s right, HILLOWEEN is back on Friday, October 29, from 5:30-7:30pm! Join me and your neighbors at Eastern Market (indoors and outdoors) for trick or treating, face painting, glitter tattoos, a 360 Photo Booth, pumpkin decorating, games, prizes, and more.
From 8:30-10:30am on the first Saturday of every month, the Capital Area Food Bank will be distributing fresh seasonal produce at no cost at the Rosedale Recreation Center (1701 Gales Street NE) for residents in need of assistance. Spread the word to those in your community who may benefit!
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.
My Constituent Services Team Can Help
Finally, I want to shout out my constituent services team of Jeanne Mattison, Jen DeMayo, and Kimberly Kennedy for their work in service to Ward 6 neighbors. Just the last month, the team helped a homeless senior move into her own home, connected a resident to overdue unemployment benefits, helped get a library card fixed, fought to fix incorrect tax classifications, got sidewalks repaired, and so much more. I share all of this both to ensure this often invisible job doesn't go unnoticed, and to be sure you know they are here to help you if you need assistance with any issues with DC Government.
Thanks so much for reading along this week. As always, feel free to reach out to me or my team if you have any questions or concerns.
See you around the neighborhood,