Happy New Year, Neighbors!
I hope this new year is filled with new opportunities for you, quality time with loved ones, and plenty of fun and rest. As we bid goodbye to 2023 and welcome 2024, I want to share important updates on DC services and look back on what we accomplished together this past year.
Updates on DC Services
DPW trash, recycling, and curbside composting collection are all sliding one day later this week. That means that if your collection typically takes place on Wednesday, it will happen on Thursday this week. If it takes place on Thursday, then it will happen on Friday, and so forth until Saturday. Fort Totten Transfer Station also reopened today for normal residential drop-off.
The second pass of DPW leaf collection continues in Section A this week. If you live in Chevy Chase, Barnaby Woods, Hawthorne, Colonial Village, North Portal, Shepherd Park, the Parks at Walter Reed, Brightwood, or the small part of Takoma and Manor Park west of 8th Street, please keep your leaves raked to your curb, treebox, or easement for DPW crews to collect this week. You can monitor progress on leaf collection on DPW’s online tracker.
The second pass of DPW leaf collection begins in Section B the week of January 8. Neighbors in Sixteenth Street Heights, Crestwood, and Petworth west of Georgia Avenue, your second round of leaf collection will begin the week of January 8. Please have your leaves raked to your curb, treebox, or easement for collectionby Sunday, January 7.
Christmas Tree and Holiday Greenery Collection begins Wednesday, January 3 (today). If you’re in a DPW-serviced household, all you need to do is take off any decorations from your tree or greenery and place it on the curb or treebox in front of your home for DPW crews to collect. If it’s not collected within 7 days, you can report it to 311 under the “Christmas Tree Removal – Seasonal” service request category. All trees and greenery collected by March will be composted, and DC residents can collect up to five 32-gallon bags of the free compost year-round at the Fort Totten Transfer Station. But there is no need to rush to take down your tree if you don’t want to: collection will continue until March 2!
Applications are open for the DC School Lottery for next school year. Families now have the opportunity to apply to attend any DCPS and PCS school next school year ranging from PK3 through Grade 12. Families have until February 1 to submit high school applications and until March 1 for PK3–Grade 8. Visit the MySchoolDC website for more information, and please strongly consider listing our incredible Ward 4 schools in your top choices!
Listening Sessions and Outreach Days in Every Ward 4 Neighborhood
Everything I do as your Councilmember starts with community engagement. Throughout 2023, we hosted Listen As We Climb community listening sessions and Ward 4 CARE community outreach days in every Ward 4 neighborhood. The events allowed me to hear directly from neighbors, deliver resources to our community, connect with new neighbors who are not used to engaging DC government, and gather input to guide my work on the Council and in Ward 4. We brought agencies directly to neighborhoods to address unmet needs and reached more than two thousand Ward 4 residents with these events. I am excited to continue this work later this month with new “Listen As We Climb” listening sessions across Ward 4.
Improving Maintenance and Repairs at Our Schools and Rec Centers
In my first year as Chair of the Council’s Committee on Facilities and Family Services, I am focused on the critical mission of improving how DC maintains its schools and rec centers. We passed the Work Order Integrity Act, which will ensure important repairs in our schools are actually done by empowering school staff to confirm if work orders were completed properly before a work order is closed. We passed the School Security and Transparency Act to ensure our schools have working door locks, security cameras, and PA systems that help keep our students and educators safe. We funded the Greener Government Buildings Act, which requires all major new or substantially improved DC government buildings to be constructed with net zero energy standards when feasible. We required DGS to make common service requests available to the public on DC’s 311 system, including broken equipment and overflowing recycling cans in parks, playgrounds, and recreation centers — making it easier for residents to report issues for quick resolution. We increased DC’s facility operations budget by 5% to improve preventative maintenance, keep projects on track, and complete faster repairs. And we conducted facility readiness tours of schools, rec centers, and other government facilities in all 8 wards to identify and address systemic issues in how DC maintains its public buildings. Every child, adult, worker, and senior citizen in DC deserves safe and well-maintained facilities where they can learn, play, work, or receive city services.
Making Northern Bus Barn an All-Electric Bus Facility
After years of community organizing, WMATA announced early in 2023 that Northern Bus Barn in Sixteenth Street Heights will have an all zero-emission, electric bus fleet when it opens in 2027! Since taking office, we consistently raised this issue at Council hearings, advocated with WMATA’s leadership, passed a resolution from the whole DC Council calling for an all-electric Northern Bus Barn, and kept pushing so that our community’s voice would be heard. This will protect our community’s health from the harmful effects of diesel fumes – especially on the elderly, on children, and on communities of color. A fully-electric bus fleet at Northern will also help reduce the noise pollution in our neighborhoods – ensuring that MetroBuses move more quietly through our streets. Once it reopens, the facility will maintain the building’s historic facade and bring new retail, art, streetscape improvements, and a community meeting space for Ward 4 – adding even more life and commerce to our 14th Street corridor. And, crucially, a bus garage with all-electric buses is a monumental step towards a sustainable future as we confront the urgent reality of climate change.
Addressing Crime and Violence in Our Neighborhoods
This year we have been focused on addressing the unacceptable and devastating surge in crime that the District is facing and finding ways to improve safety in our community. This past year we more than doubled the number of closed-circuit security cameras in Ward 4 to help deter crime and help identify and hold perpetrators accountable when crime occurs. For the third year in a row, we funded more officers than MPD is able to hire with major hiring incentives to help fill officer vacancies. The US Attorney’s Office for DC also charged a dozen alleged members of a local crew in a major indictment aimed at getting guns off the street and curbing violence and drug dealing in our Kennedy Street community. At the Council level, we also invested $27 million to fully restore funding for services for victims and survivors of domestic violence, as well as $28 million in violence prevention programs that include violence interruption, hospital-based intervention, transitional employment and job training, restorative justice, housing relocation, and programs that support at-risk youth. One targeted investment we made is funding a new ONSE Leadership Academy at MacFarland Middle School to provide positive mentorship and development for at-risk students. This program has a successful record of improving behavior and academic results at schools like Paul PCS. I also coordinate closely with MPD, OAG, and all of our public safety agencies to address crime trends and make immediate interventions that improve safety. And when a shooting occurs, my team and I respond to the neighborhood to brief neighbors, gather information, and share resources with those who are impacted. Lastly, this year I introduced legislation to teach conflict resolution in all of our DC schools. Conflict resolution skills empower students to overcome conflicts, promotes positive and lasting relationships, and makes our schools and communities safer. The bill will have its Council hearing next week!
Fighting Back Against Rent Hikes and Undignified Housing
At the start of the year, DC tenants in rent-controlled housing faced steep rent increases up to 8.9%, which would have been the largest rent increase since 1982. I worked with my colleagues and tenants to block these massive rent hikes and limit increases this past year to 6% for most tenants and 4% for seniors and tenants with disabilities. And tenants whose rents rose before our legislation went into effect will have their rent relief next year. In 2023, we also took a stand against a small group of landlords who neglect housing conditions in their properties by introducing legislation to prevent bad actor landlords from expanding their foothold in our communities. After public outcry and Council legislation introduced to force the change, the DC Housing Authority ended its policy of overpaying landlords millions to house voucher holders. This policy incentivized landlords to displace rent-controlled buildings and naturally-occurring affordable housing in our city in order to fill buildings with voucher holders, profit at their expense, and neglect their needs without consequence. We also broke ground and cut the ribbon for affordable housing in Ward 4, including all-affordable senior homes at Riggs Crossing Senior Residences, The Hampshire in our Brightwood Park/Fort Totten neighborhood, and the Hartley, Common Clover, and Kite House at The Parks at Walter Reed (complemented by the new Whole Foods and other retail). And this year we took an important step forward to bring social housing to DC by convening housing experts at a Council Housing Committee hearing to discuss how to make DC-owned, mixed-income, deeply affordable, sustainable, and public transit-oriented housing a reality.
Standing Up for Workers in the District
After DC expanded paid family leave benefits to cover 12 weeks of paid parental leave, 12 weeks of family care leave, and 12 weeks of personal medical leave in late 2022, this past year I led the Council in passing legislation to close a paid family leave loophole that allowed some companies to short change workers their benefits based on their separate short-term disability benefits. I also introduced and passed a bill to prevent companies from exploiting low-wage workers in DC by rotating them between job sites across the region to avoid paying them a living wage. And this past year we secured the funding necessary to implement the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights — a bill that extends basic workplace protections to domestic workers in our city who have been exploited and denied basic rights for decades while doing essential care work for families. Domestic workers in DC are overwhelmingly Black and Brown women and include house cleaners, nannies, and home health aides. 2023 was also the year our teachers secured a long overdue union contract with significant raises, retention bonuses, and stipends for school supplies. Prior to this new agreement, our DCPS educators had been working without a union contract since 2019. And when DC residents overwhelmingly approved a raise for tipped workers through Initiative 82, we worked to protect the wage increase and prevent it from being overturned.
Making Our Local Streets Safer and Expanding Public Transit
Together with neighbors and our ANC Commissioners, we continue to work hard to make our streets and intersections safe for all road users. In 2023, we successfully advocated for new traffic signals that are being installed at dangerous intersections like Georgia & Farragut NW, Varnum & Iowa & Georgia Avenue NW, 16th & Blagden NW, and Sligo & Eastern & Sheridan NE. We also have new all-way stops coming to or installed at Beach Drive & Blagden NW, 13th & Hamilton NW, 15th & Crittenden NW, 5th & Farragut NW, Rock Creek & Varnum NW, and Arkansas & Farragut NW. And we have important traffic safety improvements at intersections that had frequent crashes, such as Iowa & Arkansas NW, and the 2nd & 3rd NE intersection behind Walmart. And more than 50 different streets around Ward 4 this year are benefitting from new speed bumps, speed tables, or raised crosswalks. DDOT has also committed to overhauling traffic safety on Grant Circle with a proposed plan that it will improve based on community input. At the same time, we know that traffic safety still needs to be addressed on many of our Ward 4 streets and intersections, so we will redouble our efforts in 2024. Beyond these specific improvements, we also secured $58 million in funding to implement the Safe Routes to School Act starting this year, which will bring traffic safety upgrades to all DC schools and prioritize the schools most needing improvements. In 2023, I also co-introduced several bills that confront dangerous driving and fake license plates with stronger enforcement, and I am working with Council colleagues to advance these bills early this year. Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Branch Trail has already made it to Fort Totten, and our budget includes funding to continue extending the MBT to Takoma. DDOT is also bringing improved bus service and traffic safety improvements to key Ward 4 transit corridors through the 14th Street Bus Project (Newton to Arkansas NW) and the Georgia Avenue Bus Project (Barry Place to Eastern NW). Speaking of buses, this past year we launched 24-hour MetroBus service along 14 key bus routes, including the 70, S2, 52, and 80 buses that directly serve Ward 4 residents.
Investing in Our Ward 4 Libraries, Parks, Pools, and Businesses
This year we went to the mat to fight for new investments across our community. We secured $5 million in funds to acquire land to bring a DC public library to Kennedy Street and passed legislation requiring Juanita E. Thornton Shepherd Park Library to remain open at its current location. Additionally, we approved $1.5 million to redesign and upgrade Petworth Neighborhood Library by 2025. We also enhanced funding for our local rec centers with $19 million to modernize Upshur Recreation Center and Pool next year and $13 million to modernize Emery Heights Community Center in 2025. Our DC budget also included a $6 million enhancement to build a new outdoor pool at The Parks at Walter Reed by 2026, as well as funding to renovate the Fort Stevens and Takoma spray parks and a new roof for Fourth District Station. Other Ward 4 improvements funded in 2023 included $100,000 to improve the small park by Truesdell at 9th & Illinois & Ingraham NW, $200,000 to replace the tool-sharing library fieldhouse at Twin Oaks Community Garden, and $75,000 to install a new swing set with ground cover at Lamond Recreation Center. Our budget also included increased funding for our Main Street Associations in Petworth, Uptown, The Parks Main Street, Upper Georgia Avenue, and Takoma so they can continue supporting our local businesses and drawing new businesses to our Ward 4 commercial corridors.
Supporting Our Ward 4 Schools, Students, and Educators
When the proposed DC budget was released at the start of the year, many of our local schools were facing steep budget cuts despite having a similar or larger number of students enrolled compared to the previous school year. Working with the Chairman, we successfully reversed all proposed cuts at Ward 4 DCPS schools and restored more than $400,000 in additional funding to Barnard Elementary, Dorothy Height Elementary, Lafayette Elementary, LaSalle-Backus Elementary, MacFarland Middle School, Powell Elementary, Raymond Elementary, Truesdell Elementary, and Takoma Elementary. In addition to fully funding the new Washington Teachers Union contract, we also funded $74 million to raise pay for DC Public Charter School educators and $4 million to create a flexible scheduling pilot program for educators to boost teacher retention. Our budget also includes full modernizations for Truesdell Elementary by 2025, Whittier Elementary by 2027, and LaSalle-Backus Elementary by 2029 — one year earlier than originally planned. We also approved funding to renovate Barnard Elementary by 2026, install new playgrounds at Brightwood Elementary and Barnard Elementary, and build a new cafeteria for Coolidge High School to resolve overcrowding issues with Ida B. Wells Middle School. Other school investments included $3 million to bring a child care facility to Roosevelt STAY Academy to support adult learners enrolled there, $400,000 to address leaks by partially replacing the roof of MacFarland Middle School, $200,000 to level the Powell Elementary playground, $50,000 for new water fountains at Roosevelt High School, $125,000 for HVAC repairs at Whittier Elementary, and $50,000 for recently-installed traffic safety upgrades at Barnard Elementary. Late last year, we also launched a new DC School Connect pilot shuttle program to safely transport students from LaSalle-Backus Elementary to their feeder middle school, Ida B Wells as an important step in advancing transit equity. And the Council invested $6.3 million to create a free Master of Social Work degree program at UDC for DC residents to become social workers that serve our city. Lastly, the Homes and Hearts budget amendment I led continues to bring major raises to early childhood educators and support our child care system.
Showing Up for Our Ward 4 Community
The work we do in our Ward 4 community is just as important as my legislative work on the DC Council. This past year we hosted several events across Ward 4 to meet unmet needs in our neighborhoods. In April, we organized a Ward 4 Job Fair at Coolidge High School to connect hundreds of Ward 4 residents to dozens of local employers. In August, we held a Ward 4 Back-to-School Giveaway at Emery Heights Community Center to distribute school supplies and backpacks to children in our community ahead of the new school year. In October, we hosted a Ward 4 Senior Jubilee at Lamond Recreation Center to celebrate and share resources with our amazing senior citizens in Ward 4. And in November, we coordinated a Ward 4 Turkey Giveaway at Riggs LaSalle Rec Center alongside the Lamond Riggs Citizens Association to distribute free turkeys to Ward 4 families in need for Thanksgiving. And beyond these events, we partnered with our dedicated ANCs, Main Street Associations, community groups, and neighbors to plan and amplify many other community events across Ward 4!
Every day as your Councilmember, I get to work alongside devoted ANC Commissioners, community leaders, and neighbors to deliver results for our community. Everything we accomplished this year is a result of that teamwork. And the resounding willingness of so many Ward 4 residents to work together to improve our community and meet unmet needs is what makes Ward 4 such a special place. I look forward to building on this work with you in 2024!
On another note, it was a blast ringing in the new year with so many neighbors on Sherman Circle for the annual New Year’s Eve Ball Drop last weekend! I will write to you again on Friday with the weekly Ward 4 newsletter.
Take care, and enjoy the rest of this week!
Yours in Community,