Happy New Year Ward 6! I hope you’ve all had a great start to the year. After taking a few days around the holidays with my family, I kicked off 2023 being sworn in on January 2nd for my third term as your Ward 6 Councilmember.
I’m honored that you’ve placed your trust in me to do this work and fight for a better Ward 6 and District of Columbia on the Council. There’s plenty to cover, so let’s get started with the first newsletter of 2023!
Quick Links: Inauguration | Transportation and Environment Committee | Public Safety | New Traffic Safety Input System | Union Station | WMATA Officers to Carry Narcan | Reduced Rates for DPR Programs | MetroAlerts | RCCA Veto | MLK Day Trash Collection | COVID Centers | Verizon Switch to Fiber | Caps Tickets
Last Monday, Councilmembers, our new Attorney General, the Mayor, ANC Commissioners, and State Board of Education members were sworn in for their new terms. You can watch the full ceremony here – my swearing-in begins at 51:30. We welcomed two new members to the Council, Councilmembers Matt Frumin (Ward 3) and Zachary Parker (Ward 5), I’m excited to work with them and for the fresh ideas they’ll bring to the Wilson Building. And congratulations to our new SBOE member Brandon Best and new Ward 6 ANCs who I had the honor of swearing in last week. And just a reminder that many of the ANC boundaries were redrawn during redistricting, so make sure to see who your commissioner is here. And if you live in 6E07, 6E08, or 6D04 - those are our three vacant seats that need to be filled. Maybe you're interested in serving? Let me know!
Even though this was my third time being sworn-in to represent Ward 6, it’s still humbling to be standing up on stage with my family to take the oath of office and reflect on the importance of this job. In my speech I spoke about the need to do big, bold things. We face a lot of challenges ahead, and tackling them will require making hard decisions, ones that will not necessarily be the most convenient or politically expedient. But the people of the District deserve nothing less than for their government to pursue the most ambitious solutions to affordable housing, health inequity, racial inequity, access to a quality education, public safety, accessible transit, a cleaner environment, and more. We sit at a critical moment, as our city recovers from a tumultuous few years, with the opportunity to come back as a city that is more equal, provides a culturally rich experience for residents, and solves both immediate, quality-of-life concerns while also looking forward to where we need to be with to I’m committed to pursuing these big, bold ideas in my third term.
Last month, the Council announced the new committee assignments for Council Period 25. After 16 years in office, the longtime chair of the Committee on Transportation and the Environment Councilmember Mary Cheh decided to retire from council service. I’m thrilled to share that my colleagues have asked me to take her place and chair the Committee on Transportation and the Environment, and then added in oversight of WMATA to expand the committee's portfolio. The committee is one of the most consequential at the Council — and will be even more so with the billions of dollars heading to the District over the next couple of years for transportation, climate, energy, and infrastructure. It has jurisdiction over a wide range of issues and agencies, everything from the Departments of Transportation and Energy and Environment, to the DMV to DC Water to WMATA. We have a lot of work to do in this space. We’ve got to plan for a greener and more resilient climate future, rethink transportation and how we move around the city and region, improve traffic safety for all road users, and so much more.
I will sit as a member of the following committees: Committee on Health, Committee on Business and Economic Development, and the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety. Education issues will remain in the Committee of the Whole, and each member sits on that committee as well.
Last year I introduced a pair of bills aimed at shifting DC towards a greener, more electric future, and doing so with a focus on equity. One created a framework to build out the infrastructure we’ll need to have as more people switch to a fully electric car (Wash Informer). The other put in place a plan to help electrify home heating and other gas uses with electric appliance(WAMU). Both bills have in common that a lot of federal funding is coming soon to help drive those. I plan to reintroduce both.
I look forward to taking a more hands-on approach to oversight of the District’s Vision Zero goal, which I've worked to strengthen through legislation (WaPo), to have zero traffic deaths by creating ways for people to travel safely — be it in a car, on a bus or train, bike, scooter or walking. And I look forward to overseeing implementation of my Metro For DC Act, which passed the Council unanimously late last year.
Taking on a new committee assignment means that after six years I will no longer chair the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety. But as your Ward Councilmember, I remain very focused on public safety. It is still my priority to see the District achieve long-term, sustainable reductions in crime, particularly in gun violence.
The District ended 2022 with drops in nearly every crime category compared to 2021, largely thanks to significant drops in trends from the first half of 2022, including an 8.5% reduction in homicides, a nearly 17% reduction in Assault with a Deadly Weapon (ADW) incidents, and reductions in nearly every category of property crime aside from motor vehicle thefts, which are up. Axios DC did a year-end piece comparing data going back five years, which found more significant reductions. But I don’t say that because I think we are close to where we want to be on public safety. Let me be perfectly clear: we’re not. For the second year in a row, we had more than 200 homicides in a year. And if a crime happens to you or on your block, no stat in the world can repair the trauma you've experienced or restore the broken sense of safety everyone deserves. But we do need to be clear-eyed about what’s happening, because it helps inform where we need to make investments and focus our different tools.
Following two shootings in Navy Yard across the border from Ward 6, I spoke with MPD leaders. Both incidents were highly-targeted and unrelated to the other, and in at least one case, there's ample video to help detectives and they expect to ID the suspect soon and hopefully make an arrest. I'll share more as it develops.
I also wanted to speak to a different homicide in our city over the weekend. On Saturday, a 13-year-old was shot and killed in Ward 5 by a resident who reportedly believed the child had broken into some vehicles and went outside to confront him with a gun. MPD is investigating, but to date, has not released the name of the suspect nor has there been an arrest or charges filed. This week, grief counseling is set up as the student's school for his friends and classmates. Like so many, I send my condolences and thoughts to the family and am outraged at the loss of a young life, but let me also be clear that no resident should take these actions. I am deeply concerned about a lack of transparency thus far in this horrific killing and authorities must take action to build trust. A theft from a vehicle is a matter for calling 911, not carrying a gun out to investigate and confront — and the actions of this individual require accountability.
Related: A judge dismissed a lawsuit challenging WMATA’s ban on concealed carry weapons while in the system, a big win for safety in the system. More from WAMU.
Many of you saw that DDOT rolled out a new system to prioritize traffic safety requests. “TSI 2.0” will use a quarterly prioritization model based on “factors such as roadway characteristics, crash patterns, race, and social equity, proximity to Vision Zero High Injury Network corridors, and locations with vulnerable road users near schools, community centers, Metrorail stations, and bus stops." DDOT will identify 200 priority locations each quarter to conduct traffic studies, followed by recommended design and construction. You can find a more detailed overview and FAQ on the new system here.
I'm still processing what this shift will mean both for DDOT's operations and for neighbors who recognize unsafe streets and want to see changes. I've already heard several concerns from ANC Commissioners in Ward 6 and around the city. I'll be receiving a briefing from DDOT on this shortly, and you can be certain this will be an early focus on mine during oversight hearings in the next two months. Feel free to reach out to me or Kevin Whitfield on my committee staff with your concerns or thoughts. We all share a goal of making dangerous sections of streets safer — fast.
Union Station is undoubtedly critical to our region and its role in ensuring the District’s future as a leader in the region and nationally — but it is also a part of our neighborhood and we want it to be successful because for too long, it’s been a sore spot, rather than a point of pride. I’ve been very involved in ensuring that the once-in-a-century overhaul coming to the entirety of Union Station in the next decade will make it more accessible and integrated into the surrounding neighborhoods. But we can’t wait until the ribbon cutting to see Union Station restored. I’m very encouraged by recent changes with Union Station’s management to sign new leases and re-activate one of our great public spaces, especially as ridership climbs and Union Station likely retains its position as the busiest station in the system. More in the Post from this weekend. And I'll just say this: I was skeptical of Starbuck's claims in the first place, and I'd rather see a local business greet visitors as they arrive, all things considered.
Related: Metro Officers Will Now Carry Narcan: WMATA announced last week that all Metro Transit Police Officers and Metro crisis intervention specialists will now carry naloxone (also called Narcan), which can save the life of someone experiencing an opioid overdose. I pushed hard for our Metropolitan Police Department officers to carry Narcan and since they began a couple of years ago, they used it successfully and deploy it regularly. This is critical, because opioid addiction and overdose remains a serious public health concern, particularly among our older residents. Steps like this can and will save lives. I am confident WMATA police will have the same positive experience and we're offering help as they start this new effort. This is an important step in preventing overdose deaths, which is now the leading cause of accidental death for adults in the US.
And in case you didn't know, Naloxone is available at pharmacies and other locations throughout the District in all eight wards at no cost, or can be ordered online. The District's "Good Samaritan Laws" protect against charges of drug paraphernalia and drug possession if someone is seeking help for someone overdosing. Good Samaritan Laws also protect people, including people who are not licensed health care providers, from medical malpractice when providing help in a medical emergency.
Registration for spring and summer DPR programs and camps are coming up! In an effort to reduce income barriers to programs, DPR offers reduced program rates for eligible families. Learn more about DPR reduced rates and requirements, see the DPR page here and apply here. That being said, this form is pretty onerous. Hopefully we can improve it, but in the meantime, I don't want folks to miss out based on cost.
If you’re a frequent rider for either MetroBus or MetroRail, do you know about MetroAlerts? It’s a way to get alerts via text or email whenever there’s a service disruption that affects any line in the WMATA system. Sign-up here (the interface is a little clunky, but it works well).
Sign-up for alerts for your most frequented lines!
I wrote last month in the Hill Rag about why I believe the Revised Criminal Code Act is so important and why I led the Council to complete this 16-year-long process to overhaul our entire criminal code last year. The modernization has been the subject of a lot of confusion and even misinformation, and I've heard from a lot of residents that the Hill Rag article helped them understand the changes and the need for this overdue update. The bill makes massive improvements to our entire criminal code — consistently ranked as one of the worst in the nation — to modernize it, improve it, and make it far more consistent and practicable. I can’t think of another piece of legislation that has more compromise, consensus, and work put into it and into incorporating public feedback and the preferences of every key partner in our criminal justice system. All this to say: it was very disappointing to see the Mayor veto this bill last week.
That being said, my colleagues on the Council and our newly-elected Attorney General, understand this simply must get done. The Network for Victim Recovery DC, one of the leading organizations advocating on behalf of crime victims, included their support at the end of this op-ed. As did the ACLU DC.
I feel confident the Council will override the veto and get this important bill into law. We have a three-year runway before it takes effect — that'll be critical for training law enforcement officers and court employees, as well as staffing at our courts to prepare for the changes.
Related: Our courts do need more judges. I successfully pushed the Senate to confirm judges to the DC Superior Court and look forward to getting more vacancies filled to ensure the court's capacity to implement the RCCA's jury trial expansion.
Remember that next Monday, January 16 is MLK Day. DPW trash collection “slides” by one day, so if your trash is usually picked up Monday, it will be collected on Tuesday. Take a look at this helpful “slide guide” from DPW for 2023 holidays for future reference. I'm sharing this because there was a lot of confusion over the holiday break about when DPW was actually doing the collections.
Related: Remember to dispose of your Christmas trees properly. DPW is collecting them until March 3.
I don't know about you, but I know a ton of folks who have had a bout with COVID recently. Be sure you're up to current on your vaccination, as it can help reduce the chances you catch COVID, and increase the likelihood its a milder case. As news of a new COVID variant has come out, and infants 6 months and older just became eligible for bivalent boosters last month, I want to remind you about the District's fantastic COVID Centers. There's one in each ward where you can get free vaccinations, boosters, masks, PCR and rapid tests — a one-stop-shop for COVID prevention. Find your nearest center here. The Ward 6 COVID Center s at 507 8th Street SE.
Verizon recently informed consumers that they will no longer provide telephone services over copper lines and to maintain service with Verizon, they must switch to their fiber-based product. The DC Office of the People's Counsel invites impacted customers to join a community discussion this Thursday at 6pm to learn more. You can join the meeting via Zoom.
My office has two free tickets for Ward 6ers to see the Caps play the Pittsburgh Penguins on January 26 at 7pm at the Capital One Arena. Reply to this email if you're interested! You must be a resident of Ward 6 to be eligible. We'll hold a drawing of all who have entered on Friday morning.
That's it from me for now. See you around the neighborhood,