For nearly a year, we've talked about what a recovery should look like as DC emerges from the pandemic. We are now in the critical few weeks when a lot of important decisions are going to get made.
I'm going to spend a good amount of this newsletter talking through a few important parts of that because it will affect almost every Ward 6 neighbor in one way or another. But I hope as this very challenging, and hopefully unique, school year ends and DC re-opens, you, your family, and friends are able to enjoy a more normal life and some well-deserved time off this summer.
And speaking of getting back to normal, I'll be holding my first in-person community office hours this coming Wednesday, June 30, at 4:30 pm at the Eastern Market Metro Park (near the playground and splash pad). Feel free to stop by anytime between 4:30-6:00 pm and talk to me about whatever is on your mind. All Ward 6 residents are welcome to attend. You are asked to wear a mask if you are not currently vaccinated. Of course, if you are more comfortable wearing a mask regardless, please feel welcome to.
I can't wait!
Quick Links: EMMP Community Ribbon Cutting | Get Vaccinated | Public Safety Update | Circulator Cuts | Taxes & Budget | Budget Town Hall Recap | Stay DC | DMV | DC Statehood | Jobs! | Pools & Splash Parks | Tree Canopy | July 4
Join Me At a Community Ribbon Cutting for Eastern Market Metro Park July 4
More than a decade of hard work has gone into transforming Eastern Market Metro Plaza into Eastern Market Metro Park - a job nearly complete with just a few finishing touches still to go. After a journey like that, we need to celebrate our new space together! Join me and the many folks who put in the hard work to build a vision, advocate for what was possible, and champion this change through an almost never-ending series of community meetings to make this park a reality! We'll cut the ribbon immediately following the Barracks Row July 4 Parade on Sunday morning. Enjoy some live music, neighbors, and take a moment to celebrate this beautiful new space that will redefine how we spend time as a community together. As I've said from the beginning, my goal was to transform this space from a place you walk through, to a place you walk to! We'll cut the ribbon about 11 am and be done in time for everyone to enjoy the afternoon!
Science is clear: Vaccines work. And the Delta variant of COVID-19 is dangerous for unvaccinated people.
Look, I wrote a similar sentiment in the last newsletter, so apologies for being repetitive. But I want to keep driving home the message: the vaccine is safe and it saves lives. It is incredibly effective, especially against the serious risk of hospitalization. And the Delta variant of COVID-19, which is already here in the US, is a big threat to the health and well-being of anyone who hasn't been vaccinated -- it spreads more easily and is packing quite a punch. And that means it is a big threat to those who cannot get vaccinated or are immunocompromised. If you've been hesitant or simply haven't made it a priority, now is the time to get serious about protecting yourself and the people around you from the Delta variant and other strains of COVID-19. If you have concerns or questions, talk to your doctor. Or email me (you can just reply to this email) if you like and I can connect you with answers.
That being said, our region is a frontrunner nationwide in vaccinations and reached President Biden's July 4 goal of 70% with at least one shot. That's great news!
But Students... Let's Talk. I want to highlight a challenge we're seeing in parts of our city - and in Ward 6. According to the latest data from DOH, Ward 6 is lagging behind on students getting vaccinated. Students (and parents), let's talk about why this matters and some practical impacts beyond the obvious health implications. In late August (just two months from now), the new school year will start. Most schools will be back fully in-person, but there will still be COVID-19 protocols and precautions in place. Did anyone go through these protocols when there was a positive test in your classroom or school - requiring your kid to suddenly quarantine at home for a week or so? I know my kids had that happen and it's hard on everyone. Depending on the type of possible exposure, vaccinated students may not need to quarantine, but unvaccinated students will. In a school year that we're all hoping will return to something more like normal, this type of thing will be highly disruptive and have a big impact on students and families. And remember, the Pfizer vaccine for students age 12 and up requires two doses - so to avoid what I just described, they need both doses before school starts. Let's get this done, Ward 6, and lead the way for everyone's sake!!!
Where to Find Vaccines: Residents who are not yet vaccinated can still receive their shot for free almost any day of the week at local pharmacies and doctor's offices. Use vaccines.gov, which is a very simple and easy-to-use website that shows what shots are available and in-stock near you: https://www.vaccines.gov/
With so many vaccines completed, most of the mass vaccination sites are closed at this point. Eastern High School has transitioned back to summer camp duties. In Southwest, Arena Stage has wrapped up as a site, and for our Shaw and MVT neighbors, the Convention Center has also stopped being used for mass vaccinations. See the full list of changes here.
DC Health continues to offer in-home vaccinations for any residents who are homebound. Yes, you read that correctly. DC Health will bring the vaccine and administer it right in your own home if you need it. Call 855-363-0333 to schedule that visit.
Public Safety Update: DC Goes After Ghost Gun Manufacturers
Two years ago, I worked with the Mayor to pass legislation banning so-called ghost guns. These are firearms that are produced without a serial number, typically through an assembly kit ordered online, but could even be created with a 3D printer. This week, DC Attorney General Karl Racine and his team scored a big win with a lawsuit against one ghost gun manufacturer. This is exactly the kind of legal action we hoped to enable in passing the law and goes straight to eliminating a source for guns being used more and more often in crimes in the District.
Separately, you should know the Council recently authorized the Mayor to begin spending funds to reduce gun violence in advance of when they'd otherwise be available via the federal American Rescue Plan. This will get tens of millions of dollars into our community immediately to work on gun violence prevention and reduce any summer crime spikes.
Related: Later this week, I will lead a mark-up on the recommended budget for the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety's agencies. Expect more information on major public safety and justice funding initiatives to follow.
Related, Pt. 2: A Twitter user overlaid a map of DC households with no internet service by neighborhood with the locations of homicides. It's a giant, flashing arrow telling us what we need to be focused on to improve public safety (hint: let's start by guaranteeing every home can connect to the internet). My thoughts in a tweet thread here.
Proposed Changes to DC Circulator Routes between Eastern Market and Southwest; Extending from Navy Yard to Mt. Vernon Triangle
Late last week, we got news that DC Circulator was proposing to cut routes between Eastern Market to Navy Yard, the Ballpark, and Southwest, but at the same time looking to extend the route to Mt. Vernon Triangle. DDOT did not brief me on these proposed changes and based the feedback I've gotten in the last couple of days, they didn't seem to do much outreach with the community either. While I support an extension to Mt. Vernon Triangle, I cannot support a cut to the route connecting Eastern Market, Barracks Row, Navy Yard, and Southwest. I've already let the DDOT Director know and will be following up to fight this cut.
Major Investments in Childcare and Housing Require Asking More of Those Doing Well
Earlier this week, DCist ran a story about a recent poll showing 80 percent of DC residents' support for a tax increase on highest-income earners in the District to help pay for the many priorities of an equitable recovery facing our community. And at this point, I think it's pretty clear that for households who could work remotely, didn't lose their jobs, had reliable internet, and weren't threatened with losing their homes, it was a very different experience than for essential workers or many other households that have been hit hard by the recession that came with the pandemic. These jobs already tended to be among the best paying and many households are coming out of the pandemic in better shape than before. I believe, and I've heard from a lot of people as well, that it's reasonable to ask them to give a little more to help their neighbors hardest hit by the pandemic.
As I see it, two areas where we can help families the most are the cost of childcare (and, relatedly, increasing the near minimum wage pay for childcare professionals) and the rising cost of housing. If we want to help lower and middle income families thrive in the District, you'd be hard pressed to find better ways to do it than making child care and housing costs more affordable.
As part of the Council's landmark Birth-to-Three legislation, the District would commit an increased subsidy to childcare providers to raise the wages for the people caring for infants and toddlers. Anyone who has young children understands that childcare is both incredibly expensive and our childcare workers are underpaid for the important work they do. And the work to dig out of years of inadequate housing construction and preservation means we need to make significant investments to create a lot more affordable housing for all income levels and family sizes.
The popular counter argument this year to any sort of tax increase is to point to the unprecedented $2.7 billion in federal funding the District has at its disposal this year. But remember, that money will be gone in a couple of years and we can see in our budgets the cliff coming when that needed aid is gone. Much of it is directed toward helping states dig out of significant holes from the pandemic and make key investments. A just recovery means we need to be smart and intentional to plan for these needs now. I get the sense there's a lot of interest on the Council to be bold right now in addressing these issues.
Discussions on tax increases tend to get outsized attention compared to the actual impact on a person. Last year, I proposed a modest increase that narrowly failed after much discussion in the meeting and in the press. At that time, we were talking about an annual increase of around $125 for a single adult earning $300,000 a year (not a household earning that level, an individual). That breaks down to just $10 a month more. I don't think that's too much to ask given the challenges we're facing.
- When you compare the entire tax burden (that is, all taxes you pay ranging from sales tax to property tax to income tax), the District is actually lower than surrounding jurisdictions in Maryland and Virginia. DC's Office of the Chief Financial Officer publishes a very thorough report every few years. Despite the rhetoric often associated with taxes, DC residents at every income level measured by the comparison are taxed at the lowest rate in the region (the graph to the right is from the appendix of the linked report).
- Taxes in the US are marginal. That means everyone pays the same rate in each tax bracket. So if you earned $1,500,000 last year, and the tax rate is raised for income over $1,000,000, you're only paying the new, increased rate for that last $500,000, not the full $1,500,000.
- Any tax increase will certainly be tied to individual earners and not combined household income.
So that's where I am as we enter the key two months that will determine a very consequential budget. I've talked about this frequently but want to make sure I'm sharing with you my thinking on an issue certain to garner a lot of attention. And I welcome your feedback, too!
Here's Where the Budget Process Stands
The Council has completed one part of the budget process - public oversight hearings - and we're now into the next: committee mark-ups will take place this week and finalization of the budget over the next month or so. Committee mark-ups are when each committee presents and discusses proposed changes to the budget and then votes to approve the changes. It's easiest to understand this by remembering the budget is a piece of legislation going through the normal steps to approval, except in every committee.
From now until each committee's vote, key decisions are being made based on public feedback and other factors. So is that it for the budget? Not quite. After every committee approves a recommended budget for the agencies under its oversight, the Council will hold a full day meeting to present and discuss the budget as a whole (since to this point we've all largely had to focus on our specific committees). That meeting will be televised live as it takes place all day on July 8.
After that, the Chairman will make any final changes to the budget as a whole. There can be surprises here as the Chairman has access to every part of the budget in a way that committee chairs do not. After that, the Council votes twice (set for July 20 and August 3) to finalize the budget or make changes. At any of these points, you can continue to advocate for any changes or funding priorities to me, or any of the members of the council. Keep in mind you have five at-large members representing you as well, including Chairman Mendelson and at-large members Anita Bonds, Robert White, Elissa Silverman, and Christina Henderson.
Miss the Ward 6 Budget Town Hall? It's All Here
If you weren't able to join me and Ward 6 neighbors the other week for the Ward 6 Budget Town Hall, I'm including a link to the full video of the event below and access to the slidedeck I used during my presentation.
- Video here (first 45 minutes or so is my presentation, Q+A on the back half).
- Slidedeck is available here.
Behind on Rent or Utility Bills? There's Money to Help You.
It can't be stated clear enough: there's a fund of $350 *million* dollars. Regular readers know I've been sharing information regularly about STAY DC, the fund that can assist DC residents with missed rent payments dating back to April 2020 and up to three months from now. This can also include missed utility payments. But you'd be surprised how many people who could use this help don't know about it.
If you haven't yet, get an application into Stay DC (and PLEASE share with neighbors who may need this kind of help to stay in their homes):
- Website: https://stay.dc.gov/
- Phone: 1-833-4-STAYDC
I realize the entire application is lengthy and complicated -- if you've submitted yours already and haven't heard back, feel free to get in touch with Jeanne, Jen, or Kimberly on my team. My staff continue to be part of a working group considering improvements to make it easier to complete. Still, the glitches will get worked out. But you need to apply now so you aren't at-risk of eviction once the moratorium is lifted.
DMV Update: In-Person Hours Return Week of July 19
The DMV announced it would return to in-person services beginning the week of July 19. If you've booked an appointment between now and July 17, don't worry, it will still be honored.
A few things to remember:
- If you are simply trying to renew registration or inspection for a car newer than 2005, you can do it all online and using the District's self-service kiosk in Takoma Park.
- Enforcement on expired identification, including driver's licenses, has been delayed until September. All other enforcement related to DMV services resumed on June 1.
- There's a long list of services that can be taken care of online without having to make an appointment or go to the DMV. Be sure to check it first.
DC Statehood Hearing
On Tuesday, for just the second time in our nation's history, the US Senate held a hearing on admitting the District of Columbia as a state. I think most folks at this point understand how we can be so tantalizing close, but we aren't quite there yet. The only thing I want to drive home is that taxation without representation is wrong and it shouldn't depend any perceived short-term political gains for one party or the other. Just like voting, the right to representation should be above the fray and considered a sacred right for every American! I shared some comments in advance of the hearing on Facebook.
The DC Infrastructure Academy Can Open Doors to a New Career Starting at $22 an Hour!
For any DC resident interested in a career working in the solar industry, with Washington Gas, with Pepco, or in infrastructure, the DC Infrastructure Academy is your foot in the door. From orientation to job training to help landing that first gig, DC residents can start a new career. It all begins with attending an information session, held every Tuesday and Thursday. And results from other classes should be eye-opening: so far 80% of graduates land a job after, at an average salary of $22 an hour! Sign up here.
Find a DPR Pools and Spray Park to Beat the Heat!
Folks, the pools and spray parks are back and I am here to tell you they are very good places to be on a hot DC summer day. My kids are thrilled and we were splashing away last weekend in the heat! I know this is something we all missed last year because, no lie, Ward 6 has the best pools and spray parks (I think, anyway). And after staying closed all of last year, they're back open.
Beginning today, pools will be open most days -- check schedules to know if there's a maintenance day at your neighborhood pool. Find your closest pool here: https://dpr.dc.gov/service/find-pool
Spray parks are open and operating every day already. Watkins, King-Greenleaf Rec, Hill East, Eastern Market, Kennedy Rec, or any other location: https://dpr.dc.gov/page/spray-parks!
DC's Tree Canopy is Looking Up
Ward 6 loves trees and I've been proud during my time at the Council to expand and grow DC's tree canopy. You could make a pretty long list as to why trees are a very important part of life in our city, I'll give you my top 3:
- Trees are the single best way to cool off the urban heat effect, a major way climate change is playing out right now. Trees literally can lower the temperature.
- Trees clean the air. Everyone knows this, but it's important not to forget their role in providing breathable air.
- Trees are just really nice to be around. Being able to get a little dose of nature, enjoy a park, walk on a shady sidewalk are all well-documented parts of improving mental health for all of us.
DCist has a great update on how DC's tree canopy is improving across the city, building in equity to ensure every neighborhood gets the benefits.
Related: This week we are going to experience some hot temperatures. If you have the ability, give any trees on your street an extra bit of water you can.
Join Me at the Capitol Hill Fourth of July Parade
In case you missed the news, the Barracks Row Fourth of July Parade is coming back! That's right, America's Biggest Little Parade is back. I'll be walking in it (all of three blocks, mind you) with the many neighbors, organizations, and businesses that make our community so great. And if there's ever been a time to celebrate (safely), I think after the year we've all endured, this might be it. The parade kicks off around 10 am at 8th and I Streets, SE, and ends at the Eastern Market Metro Park. It's a perfect way to begin your holiday. A little more from the Hill Rag.
Hope you can make it out on July 4!
P.S. - Since I mentioned it right at the beginning, one more reminder that I'll be holding an in-person community office hours this Wednesday, June 30 at Eastern Market Metro Park. You can RSVP here. (This is in addition to the community ribbon cutting event on July 4).