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Ward 4 Dispatch: A Fight for SNAP, Metro’s Future, Council Action, and Holiday Events

Dear Neighbors,

I am writing to share some important updates covering SNAP food assistance, Metro funding, 24-hour bus service, Council action, public safety, the DC School Lottery, leaf collection, the DC Plug Project, Ward 4 events this weekend, and more. I hope this is helpful for you!


A Fight for SNAP Food Assistance

On January 1, 2024, more than 140,000 DC residents are supposed to receive a badly-needed increase in SNAP benefits that the Council funded in the DC budget. Earlier this year, Congress let expanded SNAP benefits expire — significantly reducing food assistance for DC families while they were already struggling to keep up with rising food costs. Thousands of our neighbors are now receiving just $30 to cover their groceries for the entire month, which is causing many DC families to regularly run out of food. Increased SNAP benefits is a necessary lifeline for so many children, adults, and senior citizens who face hunger in our city. But we recently received word that Mayor Bowser is currently blocking this food assistance from reaching families despite the program being fully funded and required by law. The Administration is citing other unrelated spending pressures to excuse not implementing the program, but my colleague Councilmember Christina Henderson explained why these claims are baseless. Increased SNAP benefits are a necessary lifeline for so many children, adults, and senior citizens who face hunger in our city. We cannot let $40 million that was earmarked for food assistance be withheld when so many of our neighbors need relief. As we enter the holiday season, please join me in asking the Mayor to urgently get this aid out the door and to the District families that need it. 

Metro’s Draconian Proposed Budget 

You may have noticed that WMATA has been making some major strides over the past year. Service has been expanded significantly. Despite more people working from home, ridership is back to 95% of pre-pandemic levels and more than 100% on weekends. Bus driver vacancies have been filled, new stations have opened, and the system is making important safety improvements. And in Ward 4, Metro committed to making the Northern Bus Barn a zero-emission all-electric bus facility. WMATA is even launching 24-hour MetroBus service this Sunday on select routes. But despite major progress, our transit system is staring down a projected $750 million budget deficit next year due to several factors, including the lasting impact of the pandemic, structural changes in our region’s economy, the drying up of federal funding, and (most importantly) structural issues with how Metro is funded. This deficit led WMATA to release a draconian proposed budget this week that would decimate service and make Metro unrecognizable. The new budget would take effect in July 2024 and would have 10 Metro stations shut down completely, systemwide Metro station closures at 10pm, nearly half of bus lines eliminated, drastically reduced service, widespread layoffs, and fare increases. There’s no overstating how devastating these changes would be for our families, our students, our seniors, our workers, our small businesses, and our communities as a whole. DC needs a reliable, robust public transit system, which means this budget can never become Metro’s reality. I will be working closely with my Council colleagues to ensure DC does its part alongside Maryland, Virginia, and WMATA to avert this doomsday scenario. 

The bottom line is that we are going to keep fighting for our city — and that includes protecting our Metro system, fighting to keep our teams here in the District, and delivering food assistance to the DC residents who are counting on us.

Council Legislative Updates 

Here is a quick recap of some of our work on the Council this week:

  • On Monday, we had a hearing for a bill that is key to solving our ongoing public safety crisis. The Whole Government Response to Crime Act requires the government to collect and publish firearm tracing data, track performance metrics of our violence reduction programs, and make needed improvements to our Department of Forensic Sciences and the Office of Unified Communications 911 call system.
  • My Council colleagues and I also sent a letter to US Senate leadership urging them to expedite the confirmation of judges for our courts. DC Superior Court and the District Court of Appeals currently have twelve judicial vacancies, slowing the administration of justice and adversely impacting public safety in our city.
  • As someone who benefited tremendously from after-school programs growing up, I was proud to co-introduce the Universal Out of School Time Act with Councilmember Frumin, which would guarantee after-school and summer programming for every District student.
  • This week Chairman Mendelson held a roundtable on the growing problem of school absenteeism and truancy. I believe the District’s Children and Family Services Agency has an important role in solving this problem and I will continue to focus the agency on the issue during oversight season.
  • On Thursday, I was proud to chair a bill hearing on Councilmember Robert White’s Common Ground Amendment Act, a bill that requires a much-needed overhaul of the District land surplus and disposition process so that we ensure we get the best deal for District residents when using District resources.
  • And today, I was grateful speak at the Committee of the Whole hearing on the Ron Austin Memorial Park Designation and Pastor John Davis Way Designation. I introduced these designations to honor two residents for their lasting legacy in Ward 4. 

We have an additional legislative meeting on Tuesday that I will report back on next week!

Public Safety: Addressing Gun Violence

Our community suffered a horrific and traumatizing act of violence this week when a man was shot and killed on the 1400 block of Buchanan Street NW. Commander Lavenhouse and I gathered neighbors the next day to update them on what happened and what is being done to address it. While the investigation is still ongoing, MPD believes that the victim and the suspect were known to each other and that the shooting appears to be targeted. There is a $25,000 reward for information that can bring the perpetrator to justice, and MPD has requested additional video and information to be sent to anntonoinette.martin@dc.gov. This incident was part of an alarming rise in crime in the area that needs to be urgently addressed. As an immediate step to deter crime, the Fourth District has deployed officers from another police district to strengthen safety in Sixteenth Street Heights. MPD’s Violent Crime Suppression Unit is also focused on patrolling the neighborhood and monitoring nuisance properties that may be exacerbating safety issues. I am also working with Metro Transit PD to provide more coverage along the 14th Street corridor and coordinating with DDOT to increase lighting along this block. We also discussed what neighbors can do to help improve safety, including taking advantage of DC’s private security camera program, immediately reporting suspicious activity to 911, and taking a more active role in getting to know their neighbors and supporting youth in our community with programs like the DC Tutoring & Mentoring Initiative and opportunities at DC’s Infrastructure Academy. We also discussed Council legislation that is being quickly advanced to strengthen every aspect of our public safety system from policing, prosecutions, sentencing, getting guns off our streets, violent prevention programs, our 911 Call Center, DC’s Crime Lab, and more. Violence like this senseless killing and last week’s shooting at Petworth Metro have become disturbingly common in DC, and it will require both stronger enforcement and better crime prevention to curb the tide. Our community deserves to feel safe and to be safe.


Community Resources

24-hour MetroBus Service Begins This Sunday

On Sunday evening, December 17, WMATA will launch 24-hour MetroBus service. Between 9pm-7am, MetroBus will operate every 20 minutes or better along 14 key routes: A6, A8, B2, H4, S2, V2, W4, X2, 32, 33, 52, 70, 80, and the 92. Each ride will cost $2, riders will be allowed ‘courtesy stops’ so they can get off closer to their destination, and Metro Transit Police will be available 24/7 to enhance safety. This was an important investment we made in the DC budget to expand access to public transit, especially for late-night and early-morning essential workers in hospitality and healthcare. Read WMATA’s full announcement for more details. In addition to launching 24-hour MetroBus service, WMATA also announced that this Sunday it will increase MetroBus service on dozens of routes, including the 52, 70, 79, 80, S2, and S9.

DC School Lottery Is Now Open

This weekapplications opened for the MySchoolDC Lottery, where families have the opportunity to apply for DCPS and PCS schools for 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!

Feet on the Street: Improving Student Safety

Our Whittier, Ida B Wells, and Coolidge school communities are asking for community support with improving safety in the area around the schools by getting “feet on the street.” The new initiative calls on neighbors to have an active presence in the neighborhood by going for a walk, taking out their dog, riding their bike, or sitting on their porch on weekdays between 8am-10am and 3pm-5pm when students are coming and going from school until December 21. If neighbors see something suspicious, they should call 911 or text 50411 immediately.

Making Improvements to DC PLUG

This week I met with the DC PLUG Project Team to press for improved communication with neighbors, making construction less disruptive, and better coordination with our schools and small businesses. DC PLUG is a long-term, citywide joint project from DDOT and PEPCO to bring DC’s power lines underground, which will help prevent future power outages during storms, improve utility infrastructure, and make our city more climate resilient. DC PLUG is currently active in Takoma and Manor Park (Feeder 15009) and has projects planned in Crestwood and Sixteenth Street Heights (Feeder 15001) and Brightwood and Missouri Avenue (Feeder 15021). Check out this presentation from DC PLUG on the work taking place in Ward 4. In response to the concerns we have been raising, DC PLUG has made some initial improvements. The project team now has a dedicated contact in Takoma and Manor Park to address constituent inquiries as they arise: Ann Walters (awalters@dpconsultants.net). There is also a DC PLUG hotline (844-758-4146) and email (questions@dcpluginfo.com) where residents can ask questions directly. DC PLUG has also started releasing a three-week preview to give neighbors more notice of upcoming work. We will continue pushing for improvements in both communication and in making the work less disruptive for neighbors.

Brightwood Elementary Coat and Toy Drive

Ward 4’s Brightwood Elementary is organizing a toy drive and a coat and winter clothes drive to support families in our community this holiday season. It is one of many holiday drives that our schools are organizing to ensure every family has a special holiday season.

New Speeding and Stop Cameras in Ward 4 

DDOT recently announced new traffic enforcement cameras across DC, including new speeding cameras on the 5500 block of North Capitol Street NW (southbound), the 5400 block of South Dakota Ave NE (northbound), the 3900 block of Georgia Ave NW (southbound), the 4900 block of Georgia Ave NW (southbound), the 5400 block of Georgia Ave NW (northbound), and the 5700 block of Georgia Ave NW. DDOT is also installing new stop sign cameras at 13th & Randolph NW (southbound), 13th & Madison NW (southbound), 5th & Webster NW (southbound), and 13th & Quincy NW (northbound). For new cameras, warnings are sent out instead of tickets for the first 30 days, and then tickets start being issued. Please remember to drive cautiously to avoid tickets and improve safety for all road users. You can find the full list and learn more from DDOT’s November and December announcements.

Run for ANC in SMD 4B10 in Riggs Park 

We still have an ANC Commissioner vacancy in Single Member District 4B10 in Riggs Park. If you live in this area and are interested in serving your community, please consider running for ANC. Petitions to run can now be picked up from the DC Board of Election and must be completed and delivered to the Board by January 2. You only need 25 voter signatures to run! 

Leaf Collection Continues in Petworth and Brightwood Park

The fist pass of leaf collection is almost done! Next week DPW will complete the first pass of leaf collection in Section D, which includes Brightwood Park and Petworth east of Georgia Avenue. If you live in this area, please keep your leaves on your tree box, curb, or easement for DPW crews to collect. Then, DPW will begin the second pass of leaf collection in Section A the week of December 26. Section A includes our neighborhoods in Chevy Chase, Barnaby Woods, Hawthorne, Colonial Village, North Portal Estates, Shepherd Park, and a small sliver of Takoma and Manor Park west of 8th Street. If you live in Section A, please have your leaves raked to your curb, treebox, or easement by Sunday, December 24. Neighbors can report missed leaf collection on the 311 website if your block is missed (try to include a photo with your report). All neighborhoods will get two rounds of leaf collection.


Neighborhood Events

Upshur Street Holiday Cookie Crawl

On Saturday, December 16 from 10am-2pm neighbors will have an extra reason to visit Upshur Street: a holiday cookie crawl with free cookies from Lulabelle’s, Fia’s Fabulous Finds, Art of Noize, Cookiewear US, Flowers by Alexes, and Loyalty Bookstores (while supplies last).

SOLD OUT: DC Tutoring and Mentoring at Zeke’s

On Saturday, December 16 from 11am-12pm the DC Tutoring & Mentoring Initiative (DCTMI) will host an event at Zeke’s Coffee in Sixteenth Street Heights (4602 14th St NW) for neighbors to learn about volunteer opportunities to support DC students. The event is sold out, but there will be another event on Saturday, January 20 at Petworth Library. You can also get involved with DCTMI right away by filling out this form or signing up for a 15-minute chat with a DCTMI member. DCTMI pairs DC students with tutors and mentors — and encourages community members to take an active role in supporting our youth.

Invasive Plant Removal at Hellbender Hill

On Saturday, December 16 from 11am-1pm Casey Trees will host an invasive plant removal at Hellbender Hill (5788 2nd St NE) in Lamond. Join your neighbors in restoring this protected greenspace and stick around for drinks at Hellbender Brewery after your hard work!

Petworth Community Cleanup

On Saturday, December 16 from 12pm-2pm join 4C01 Commissioner Casey Swegman, 4E01 Commissioner Vanessa Rubio, our Ward 4 Council Office, students, and neighbors to clean the area around Roosevelt, MacFarland, Petworth Library and Upshur Street. Meet by the Petworth Library front steps at noon — grabbers, gloves, and trash bags will be provided.

Shop and Sip at HR Records

On Saturday, December 16 from 3pm-7pm HR Records on Kennedy Street will host a holiday event for neighbors to enjoy drinks, shop for vinyl records, and listen to great music!

NEW DATE: Live Nativity and Petting Zoo

On Saturday, December 16 from 3:30pm-5:30pm Simpson-Hamline United Methodist Church will host a Live Nativity and Petting Zoo on its lawn at 16th & Allison NW. They will have live animals, music, warm treats, and space to gather in fellowship. The church will remain open during the event so neighbors can also check out the building. RSVP on Facebook.

Unsilent Night Returns to Sherman Circle

On Saturday, December 16 at 6pm neighbors will gather at Sherman Circle for the return of Unsilent Night, a family-friendly, free music parade. “What’s different about this musical performance is that it’s you — the public — who ‘performs.’ The magic begins when the crowd hits ‘Play’ simultaneously on any 1 of 4 original instrumental tracks from the Unsilent Night website on portable speakers, phones, and boom boxes.” Find more details in Petworth News.

Fourth District CAC Holiday Party

On Monday, December 18 at 6:30pm the MPD Fourth District Citizens Advisory Council will host a holiday party and gift drive at Fourth District Station (6001 Georgia Ave NW).

For more local events, check out DPR, DC Public Library, NPS, and Rock Creek Conservancy.


Ward 4 in the News

WMATA: 14th Street Saturday Parking Restrictions for Northern Bus Barn Construction

WMATA: No Red Line Service between Dupont and Gallery Place on December 18-30

Channel 7: DC Bureau Chief Sam Ford Bids Farewell After 50 Years in Journalism

Washington Informer: After Delay, Council Conducts Hearing on Chronic Absenteeism

LaSalle-Backus Elementary: Leopards Meet Vice President and Second Gentleman

Washington Post: DC Families Expected a SNAP Boost. But the City Isn’t Delivering

Washington City Paper: The People Issue 2023

Washington City Paper: Bowser Opts to Ignore the Law, Raiding Money for Increased SNAP Benefits Mandated by the Council

Next Stop… Riggs Park: Update on the Metropolitan Branch Trail South Manor Off-street Alignment and Its Takoma Segment

DCist: Looking Glass Lounge Will Stay Open After Reaching a Deal With Landlord

Washington City Paper: Despite Fearmongering and Congressional Pushback, DC Could Soon Have Its First Noncitizen Elected Official

Ward 4 Dispatch: Work Order Integrity, Safety Initiatives, and Ward 4 Holiday Fairs


I had a lot of holiday stops this week, and one of my favorites was Lamond Rec Center’s holiday party with music, singing, dancing, great food, and fun activities. Thank you Rick, Gale, Ms. G, and all our DPR rec center staff for planning such a festive celebration for our seniors!

I will write again with one more community update ahead of the holiday break. Safe travels to all of you traveling to see loved ones in the coming days. Have a nice weekend, Ward 4! 

Yours in Community,
—Janeese