Hard to believe January is already almost over! My team and I have been busy getting out in the Ward to connect with folks — speaking of, make sure to check out my upcoming office hour dates below! We're also gearing up for a busy season of performance oversight hearings on the Council (more on that below). This week, I also had the pleasure of meeting with several Ward 6 parent leaders of DC PAVE at the Wilson Building to discuss their priorities and vision for education in the District — just one of many groups of residents I've had the pleasure to sit down with and talk through their annual priorities as we gear up for oversight and budget season.
Quick Links: RCCA Veto | Public Safety | Eastern Market Park Update | Performance Oversight Hearings | Monthly Basic Income | Metro Updates | DPW Leaf and Tree Collection | Office Hours | DC Health Link Open Enrollment | Wendt Center Teen Grief Ensemble | Understand Your Credit Score | Barracks Row in WaPo | MVT Survey | Pennsylvania Ave Construction Project | Events DC Grants | DC Statehood Bill | Wizards Ticket Giveaway
Last week, the Council overrode of the Mayor’s veto of the Revised Criminal Code Act. Upfront, I want to reassure you this is a strong and important law that the District badly needs in place, and one that will now begin the process of implementation. Vetoing it was the wrong call – which is why you saw the Council unanimously approve the law twice and then so forcefully override and push back. But, if you’re a resident, this debate can be hard to follow.
It’s an immensely broad bill as it deals with nearly every aspect of the criminal code – it is not a crime bill (despite some people's best efforts to call it that), but a best practices bill that was crafted over 16 years to thoroughly review and modernize DC's outdated criminal code rather than try to respond to current trends in public safety. If you've read almost any newsletter I've sent over the last 6 months, you probably saw regular updates on this process and know that it doesn't even take effect for another 3 years at best. But if there are questions, I’m still hoping I can help provide some clarity.
Let's be clear though - it will not make us less safe, as some as claimed. It will hold people accountable who do harm, with serious consequences that largely are matching sentences that judges are handing out right now. And it does not change how our police do their jobs, other than charges are better defined to aid in making good arrests that hold up in court. In fact, when the bill was up for consideration earlier this past fall, I made several changes to the bill at the direct request of the Mayor and Chief of MPD to ensure officers can respond to several quality-of-life concerns. Nor does it change our pre-trail detention and release processes, which are at the discretion of a judge and attorneys only – aka there is no “catch and release.”
But public safety is a big priority - for everyone. And leaders need to work together to find solutions and work collaboratively to address what we see happening today. But if you’ve started hearing more about the criminal code (especially as certain congress members hope to misconstrue what the law is to score political points back home), or are concerned about some of the criticisms you had read, I’d like to recommend some good sources of information:
- First, following the outright false statements from the Post’s Editorial Board a couple of weeks ago, they published this letter to the editor in the Post correcting many of their mistakes.
- Second, this Slate article makes a deep dive into the RCCA to highlight where the fear mongering and misinformation have misled people.
- Third, you might have seen this CBS 9 Verify piece explore the ways penalties have changed in the Revised Criminal Code and helps explain how the RCCA maintains or *even strengthens penalties* in many offenses, particularly ones where great harm is done.
- Fourth, Washington Post columnist Colby King wrote a thoughtful piece that cut to the chase "That the 100-year-old code needs revision and updating isn't up for debate" and titled his column "DC's crime problem is not the criminal code. It runs much deeper." He gave honest and sobering accounts of young people experiencing violence in our city.
- Finally, if you missed it, I wrote about the need for this new criminal code in the Hill Rag.
I’d like to quickly provide a few updates on arrests in recent crimes within Ward 6 and ongoing public safety efforts. First, an arrest was made in the homicide on the 1200 block of Half Street, SE. While this is now Ward 8, I know many neighbors nearby were alarmed and I want to continue to work with my Ward 8 colleague to ensure we see improvements in Navy Yard. MPD had a lot of video and after an investigation, were able to make an arrest on this very targeted and dangerous shooting.
Second, the 15-year-old who shot Washington Commanders running back Brian Robinson on H Street last August was found guilty and sentenced recently. I am grateful that Mr. Robinson has been able to make a full recovery and get back on the field, and I am grateful to both neighbors and businesses on our bustling H Street corridor for engaging proactively with my office, with MPD, and with other agencies to improve safety along the corridor.
Third, just this week, US Capitol Police made an arrest on two 18-year-olds who had carjacked out in Maryland, but were spotted in the District and apprehended after hiding in an outdoor freezer. As with other arrests, it is very likely these two may have been involved in other incidents in the region. I’ll share more as I learn about it, but it's also an example of the improved coordination and collaboration of our law enforcement officers across the region following the Car Jacking Task Force created last year.
You may notice a trend here. Young people were involved in all of these incidents. Nationwide, and in the District, youth crime is rising significantly after nearly a decade of decline this WSJ piece is actually a pretty good evaluation of the national picture and highlights this is something both big and small cities alike are confronting. If a young person does harm - just like anyone else - there needs to be accountability for that action. But there are also likely some obvious culprits in the national trends we're seeing here: the devastation of the pandemic, particularly on vulnerable households, can’t be overlooked. Nor can the social isolation that took place be denied on how hard it would have been on young people suddenly disconnected from supports and services in school, rec centers, faith-based institutions, and more. And after the federal government declined to extend the child tax credit, which had literally lifted tens of thousands of families out of poverty, we know there are households that are absolutely desperate.
I don’t want folks to lose perspective, however, as youth-involved incidents remain a small percentage of total crimes committed annually (and its more likely with youth that in any single event, there might be multiple young people arrested). As I head into this year’s oversight and budget season, the District must focus on these youth with community efforts to reach kids, keep them engaged in healthy environments, meet their needs and that of their family. During my time as chair of the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, I commissioned a study every two years to do a deep dive into the causes of youth involvement in the criminal justice system - the most recent of which was released just last fall.
If you’d like to dive a little deeper into this topic, in December I chaired a roundtable diving into the District’s gun violence reduction plan – here's a link to the roundtable (which had a lot of substance), here’s a link to the Post’s coverage.
When Eastern Market Metro Plaza Park opened up a year and a half ago, it was rightfully a victory for a vision to reimagine this public space and a significant investment in rebuilding the park by the District. Since that day, we've had concerts and celebrations, chess tournaments and holiday festivals, and any number of exciting events. While it's the site of many positive public events, the plaza park has also had struggles with individuals experiencing mental and behavioral health that well pre-date the renovations.
A couple of months ago, I hosted a walk-through of the park with the Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services and the Director of Behavioral Health after which, they committed to developing a plan for increased outreach and services in the park. This week, they presented their plan to me and it will represent an significant increase in a coordinated approach to serving all the needs of this public park. Here's a quick outline:
- DBH’s Public Engagement Team has begun weekly community outreach and constituent engagement activities. The team will be present Mondays and Wednesday every week and will coordinate their efforts with other District agencies and work in close collaboration with Community Connections which is onsite daily.
- The Community Resource Team (CRT) will conduct outreach activities once per week during the day shift and will vary which day of the week that takes place.
- The Department of Behavioral Health Mobile Unit will be present and provide on-site assessment, referral, and outreach services the first Monday of every month from 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
I appreciate the increased outreach and services that will be brought to the park - and I expect that the city will pair and coordinate these efforts with the community, local businesses, provider organizations, and partners across government. I welcome all feedback from neighbors and look forward to seeing you all soon in the park when the Friday night concerts start back up this spring!
It’s performance oversight season at the Council! Annually, this is the Council's regular check-in on how nearly every DC government agency is doing at its most basic tasks. And its a great time for me to bring your concerns (or praises) into the official record. My Transportation and Environment Committee held our first one this morning on the DC Green Bank — you can watch the video of it on my Facebook page. Next up is the DMV. Oddly enough, we have no one that has signed up to testify at the oversight hearing. What do you think? Has the DMV improved that much? Do you have any other agencies where you think improvements are needed (and before you mention DPW leaf collection, please know that's on my radar already!).
I want to hear from you on what concerns or questions you have about District agencies. My staff and I review these submissions and they help us know where to focus. This will help inform my questions during performance oversight hearings. Take one minute and complete this form to submit questions or desired topics you would like addressed. Be sure to specify which agency you’re talking about. Additionally, the public is welcome to testify or submit written testimony at performance oversight hearings. You can find instructions on testifying for each committee here.
Now, in what I see as a related piece, let me share a major step the District is about to take forward. I’m really excited to share that this tax year, District residents are going to start to see a monthly basic income. This is the year the District will begin what is effectively a monthly basic income for low-wage workers and families who are eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit.
Oh, in English please?
It means DC residents who earn less than roughly $60,000 annually will begin receiving monthly cash payments they can use for whatever the biggest holes in their monthly budget are – food, rent, diapers, even a chance to have a night out as a family. I believe getting more agency to our lowest income families is critical to the future of our city. And to sign-up, you just need to do your taxes and you’ll automatically be enrolled if you are eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit! I am proud to have fought hard to pass this as part of the Hearts and Homes Amendment the Council included two years ago in the budget. And while sign-up couldn’t be easier, we need to get the word out now to anyone who is eligible for the EITC that there is money available to help them pay their bills every month. It is estimated far more residents are eligible to benefit from the EITC than apply annually. They may literally be leaving money on the table that can pay the rent, put food on the table, and ensure their kids have the school supplies they need.
Related: All you need to do to receive this monthly cash payment if you’re eligible for the EITC is file your taxes! AARP DC is holding a virtual Tax-Aide information session on Thursday, February 9 to provide details and resources on filing your taxes this year. Register here.
Metro has been in the news a lot lately, and you may have heard about supposed service interruptions, that were then reversed. This was primarily due to a disagreement between WMATA and the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission. This confused a lot of folks, so last week I provided a quick explanation of the issue. Since then, WMATA has met the Safety Commission’s deadline for getting all train operators trained and certified. As I explained in the video, much of the problem stems from a lack of communication and coordination between WMATA and the Safety Commission.
Additionally, WMATA announced today improved train service on the Blue, Orange, and Silver lines during rush hour with service increasing to every 12 minutes during rush hour windows (I know, that's still not nearly good enough), and every 8 minutes on the Red Line. The good news is that all orange line trains will be 8-car trains, hopefully helping mitigate larger ridership.
I will be addressing these and other Metro issues at next the Committee on Transportation and the Environment’s performance oversight hearing of both agencies on February 17. Members of the public are welcome to testify – if you’re interested, please email [email protected] with your name, title, and organization (if applicable). My goal is to consider to partner with WMATA to bring them back to being a world-class system we can plan around, depend on, and enjoy.
Additionally, WMATA is encouraging riders to provide feedback on its draft strategic plan, titled “Your Metro, The Way Forward.” You can provide feedback either through written comments, a survey, or uploading documents; or attending a public hearing. You can find more details and instructions here.
I have heard from many of you about DPW’s leaf collection delays, and I share your frustration. Due to being off schedule, leaf collection has been extended to February 11. DPW is currently in the second round of collecting leaves in the B Section of each ward, and will continue the second pass of collection until February 11. Remember that you can check the real time tracker, which I've found to usually be accurate.
And remember that holiday trees and greenery are still being collected curbside, or can be dropped off at either the Benning Road Transfer Station or Guy Mason Recreation Center until March 3.
My first two office hour sessions of the year are coming up! I love hosting these events and during the pandemic, it became difficult to host the way we used. Over the last year, we tested some different ideas - combining some outdoor versions, some in the evening, some in the morning - and I'm excited that we're putting together a series of community office hours that will be varied in time and location to try and make a time that works best for you. We have a long list for the next couple of months, but two coming up right away. Come meet me and my team, bring any questions or concerns, or just come say hi. Information and links to RSVP are below. Hope to see you there!
- February 3 from 9-10:30am at the Southwest Safeway (1100 4th St. SW)
- February 10 from 9-10:30am at Maketto (1351 H St. NE)
Open enrollment for health insurance through DC Health Link ends January 31st. There are several plans to fit every need and budget. Standard plans have no deductibles for essential care. And with the recent Inflation Reduction Act, premiums are now as low as $11/month. Visit DCHealthLink.com/residents.
Applications are being accepted for the Wendt Center for Loss and Hearing’s “Voices of Now” program for teens who are experiencing grief. It is a way to help youth process and explore their experiences though performance. Applicants participate in weekly sessions developing a script about their feelings, thoughts, memories, and experiences related to death related losses in their lives. The program takes place at Arena Stage and is a four-month commitment from February-May 2023. The program is free and community service hours are provided. Applications are due January 30: Apply here.
Do you have trouble understanding your credit score or what it means? The DC Public Library is holding a “Coffee & Conversation” workshop at the Mt. Pleasant Public Library to help residents understand the ins and outs of credit scores. Afterwards, you have the opportunity to sign up to meet with a lawyer or financial counselor for additional help. More details and registration here.
The Washington Post recently profiled Ward 6’s great Barracks Row. They interviewed several residents who shared their favorite things about the neighborhood, from restaurants and bars to public space and community events. You don't need to hear it from me to know Barracks Row is a phenomenal neighborhood. Glad to see they're getting some well-deserved attention.
Do you live, work, dine, or shop in Ward 6’s Mount Vernon Triangle neighborhood? If so, the MVT Community Improvement District encourages you to complete its Neighborhood Perception Survey to Ten respondents will receive $40 gift cards to Mount Vernon Triangle businesses!
Exciting news – construction of the in-street shared bike and bus platforms along Pennsylvania Ave SE has begun! Ten platforms will be constructed, each taking about a week. The project is scheduled to wrap up in April of this year. Construction of the bike lane part of the project will begin after the bus platforms have been completed. For more information, visit the Pennsylvania Ave SE Multimodal Project website for details and project updates.
Applications are open for Events DC's Community Grants Program, promoting youth participation in both the arts and athletics. The program supports non-profit organizations in the District with grant amounts ranging from single grants of $2,500 to $25,000. Learn more and apply here.
This Tuesday, Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) reintroduced the Washington, D.C., Admission Act, which would make DC the 51st state. The bill received a Senate hearing last year and has already passed the House twice. Congressional leadership threats to interfere with local DC issues like our legislation on nonresident voting rights and the revised criminal code (not to mention the restrictions already on the books regarding abortion funding and marijuana legalization) highlight the importance of the continued fight for statehood. There's a long and awful history of Congress meddling in DC law's that does real harm. Thank you to Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton for her tireless advocacy for the District up on the Hill.
Finally, I have two tickets for a lucky Ward 6 neighbor to take in the Washington Wizards vs. the Charlotte Hornets in the Council’s suite on February 8. We’ll do a random drawing this Friday afternoon, so please reply back to this email if you’d like to be considered.
That's all for today. I hope to see you at one of my upcoming office hours and hear from you about upcoming performance oversight hearings. Thanks for reading!
See you around the neighborhood,