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Ward 4 Dispatch: ANC Redistricting, Key Deadlines, and Lifting Up Teacher Voices

Dear Neighbors,

I want to begin by thanking every resident who made time to join our Listen As We Climb community listening sessions over the past two months. We had 7 events, covered 17 Ward 4 neighborhoods, and heard from more than 300 Ward 4 residents about how to strengthen our community! I can’t tell you how valuable it was to hear your perspectives, which are grounding the work I do on the Council on your behalf. Shoutout to my team for working hard behind the scenes to coordinate these events, and stay tuned for an exciting announcement next week about the next phase of community engagement in Ward 4.

As always, I’m sharing highlights from our performance oversight hearings this week with DC agencies. I’ll also update you about legislation I introduced to allow DCPS teachers and staff to serve on DC’s State Board of Education (it will be voted on this Tuesday). Also, this Sunday the Ward 4 Redistricting Task Force will release its preliminary draft maps for new ANC/SMD boundaries.

I also want to share some reminders about key deadlines coming up soon, including applications for the Summer Youth Employment Program (February 28), replacing old SmartTrip cards that are being phased out (March 1), DC School Lottery for PK3-Grade 8 (March 1), the end of DC’s citywide indoor mask mandate (March 1), and DC’s homestead and senior property tax deduction (March 31). More on all of this and more below! We also have some great neighborhood events coming up soon, including a book signing at Zenith Gallery and a closing reception at Art of Noize Gallery tomorrow. And if you’ve been meaning to get more involved with Ward 4 Mutual Aid, you’re in luck because their volunteer onboarding call is coming up on Tuesday.

Ward 4 News and Legislative Updates

Including DCPS Educator Voices on the State Board of Education

We’ll be back on the dais on Tuesday for our next legislative session, and I’ll be moving legislation to allow DCPS teachers and staff to serve on the DC State Board of Education (SBOE). DCPS employees are currently barred from serving on the SBOE, even though public charter school employees and private school employees are eligible to serve. Growing up as a DCPS student I saw first hand the passion, skill, and knowledge that educators bring to their work. They serve on the frontlines of our education system and are more than qualified to advocate for our students and for our schools on the SBOE. Their expertise would be particularly valuable now that DC is facing a teacher retention crisis. This change would make our SBOE more representative and correct a longtime imbalance between our education sectors.

Councilmember Charles Allen and I are moving this as emergency legislation because DCPS employees have to submit a Declaration of Intent to Not Return by the end of March if they plan to leave DCPS. This emergency bill will prevent educators from having to leave their classrooms in order to serve in public office. Serving on the SBOE is a part-time position, which allows representatives to hold full-time employment. Also, the SBOE is a state-level body, so being a member does not present a conflict of interest with DCPS employment. For example, the SBOE has no decision-making authority over wages and benefits for DCPS staff. While we’re moving this as an emergency bill, this provision was included in two permanent bills that were already considered in legislative hearings, where the provision received strong community support. Councilmember Allen plans to move a permanent version of this change later this year.

Key Issues from Performance Oversight Highlights This Week

We covered a lot of ground during performance oversight this week. Here are some key issues I raised with DC agencies.

  • I engaged the Office of Planning and the Office of Zoning around the use of racial equity analyses of land use and zoning plans in the District as an important tool to prevent further displacement.
  • I also raised the concern that Chevy Chase neighbors haven’t heard enough from the Office of Planning about the Chevy Chase Small Area Plan, and I emphasized the importance of widespread communication and robust community engagement in this process.
  • During DCRA’s oversight hearing, I took the agency to task for falling short of its mission to protect DC residents and help make our communities safer. I shared stories of Ward 4 neighbors whose homes have been endangered due to inadequate oversight over developers and illegal construction, and I highlighted DCRA’s failure to address vacant and blighted properties in our community. The issues I raised were summed up in my opening statement and follow-up thread on Twitter.
  • Ward 4 residents also offered compelling testimony about these same problems with DCRA during the hearing. This is why I voted to break up DCRA into two smaller, more responsive agencies – which will happen this October after a yearlong planning process. I’ll keep showing up at oversight hearings to press for improvement and share the stories of Ward 4 residents who need support.
  • I also attended the oversight hearing for the Department of Human Services (DHS) to call attention to several Ward 4 residents who are still waiting for STAY DC rental assistance several months after their application was accepted. I also made the case for funding additional rent relief for DC tenants so we can keep our neighbors housed.
  • Finally, I joined the oversight hearing for the Building Blocks gun violence prevention program to make the case for better coordination and more strategic interventions, dig deep on the changing focus of the program on at-risk young men through tailored supports (rather than on neighborhood blocks), and ask about many job vacancies across DC government, which offer opportunities for stable employment for our youth.

I also want to put a plug in for community members to testify at the performance hearing with DC’s education agencies next Wednesday, March 2 to help lift up the needs of our Ward 4 schools. I’m excited to hear from you!

Ward 4 Redistricting Task Force to Release Preliminary Maps with New ANC/SMD Boundaries

This Sunday, February 27, the Ward 4 Redistricting Task Force will release draft discussion maps for Ward 4’s new ANC and SMD boundaries based on community input and the Task Force’s deliberations over the past few weeks. You can RSVP at this link for the Task Force’s meeting on Sunday, February 27 at 2pm where the maps will be released. The maps will also be posted on the Ward 4 Redistricting website. Here are some key points to keep in mind:

  • The maps that will be released this Sunday are only preliminary drafts. They’re meant to spur more community input and provide context to some of the ideas that the task force is considering as a recommendation to the Council. There will still be several opportunities for the public to weigh in, and for the Task Force to make further changes.
  • Save the date for the Ward 4 Task Force’s next community meeting on Tuesday, March 8 from 7pm-9pm. It will be a chance to share your feedback and ideas with the Task Force as they work to finalize their recommendations to the Council. RSVP by March 7 at this link to make your voice heard.
  • You can also weigh in with the Redistricting Task Force at any point by emailing or leaving a voicemail with your input at 202-642-5714. The Task Force will revise its proposal based on community input and issue a recommendation to the Council at the end of March. To ensure transparency, please do not privately contact individual Task Force members with redistricting requests or feedback – Task Force members should all hear the same ideas equally and openly from the public.
  • The DC Council’s Subcommittee on Redistricting will then provide more opportunities for public input. Then they’ll consider making changes to the Task Force recommendations from each ward before the proposed map is brought to the entire Council for final consideration and two votes.
  • Thousands of Ward 4 residents will be included in a new SMD. Here’s why: DC law calls for Single-Member Districts (SMDs) to encompass between 1,900-2,100 residents. Ward 4’s population growth over the past decade puts most current SMDs above that range, meaning that many new SMDs will need to be drawn in Ward 4.
  • All Ward 4 Redistricting Task Force meetings are open to the public. You can sign up to attend any future meeting and find recordings and presentation slides from past meetings on the Ward 4 Redistricting web page. Also, all meetings offer ASL and Spanish interpretation.
  • As your Councilmember, I do not have decision-making power in the Task Force’s recommendations. Ward Councilmembers provide staff support to the Task Force, appoint some of its members, and help share information about the Task Force’s work with residents, but I have no say in how AND and SMD boundaries will be drawn by the Task Force. I also do not sit on the Council’s Subcommittee on Redistricting, which is made up exclusively by At Large Councilmembers. However, I am deeply grateful to the members of the Task Force for volunteering countless hours to lead a thoughtful, transparent process in service to Ward 4.

Community Updates

What You Need to Know About City Services

  • DC to Lift Indoor Mask Mandate in Some Settings on March 1. Starting this coming Tuesday, masks will no longer be required in many indoor settings in the District. Check out the graph above for a full breakdown of where masks will still be required, including education settings, health care facilities, and at any business that still wants to require masks to help keep its customers or employees safe. Face coverings (especially N95 and KN95 masks) are proven to lower the odds of testing positive for COVID. Regardless of whether there’s a mandate in place, masking up inside is a helpful way to keep ourselves and our community healthy.
  • DCPS Test to Return Requirement. DCPS parents and staff, reminder that a negative test will be required for all students and staff to return to school following the February break. Upload your test results on the DCPS Reopen Strong website on Sunday, February 27.
  • Deadline for DC School Lottery PK3-Grade 8: The My School DC Lottery application deadline for parents of children in PK3 through Grade 8 is March 1, 2022. If that includes you, be sure to submit your application for the next school year!
  • Homestead Deduction, Senior Citizen and Disability Property Tax Relief. Ward 4 homeowners: with tax season upon us, I wanted to remind you to submit your application for a homestead, senior citizen, or disability property tax deduction. Residents can apply online or by using a paper form that’s accessible by calling 202-727-4829. If a properly completed and approved application is filed by March 31, the property will receive the Homestead benefit for the entire tax year.
  • Update Your WMATA Card: WMATA is installing new faregates at rail stations and will upgrade fareboxes on Metrobuses in the fall. If your SmartTrip card was issued before 2012 it will need to be replaced by March 1, 2022. Learn more on WMATA’s website.
  • Summer Youth Employment Program: The 2022 Summer Youth Employment Program is accepting applications from DC residents ages 14-24. It will run from June 27 through August 5, and there are both virtual and in-person options within the program. Applications will be accepted until Monday, February 28.
  • DPR Adaptive Programming: DPR is partnering with several groups to bring DC residents new Adaptive Programing. Adaptive Programs are built for DC residents of all ages who have unique needs and wish to participate in group sports and specialized classes. They’re created for a range of diverse abilities and interests. Check it out!
  • Ward 4 COVID Center: We have a Ward 4 COVID Center at Peoples Congressional UCC (4704 13th St NW) where residents can get their vaccine, booster, PCR test, rapid tests, or free KN95 masks all in one place. Find a full listing of all DC COVID Centers and their operating hours on DC Health’s website.

Neighborhood Events

Book Signing with Sheryll Cashin at Zenith Gallery

On Saturday, February 26 from 2pm-4pm Zenith Gallery will host a book signing with renowned legal scholar, author, and Ward 4 activist Sheryll Cashin. Her new book, White Space, Black Hood: Opportunity Hoarding and Segregation in the Age of Inequality, details “the history of anti-Black residential caste—boundary maintenance, opportunity hoarding, and stereotype-driven surveillance—and unpacks its current legacy so we can begin the work to dismantle the structures and policies that undermine Black lives.” RSVP on Eventbrite.

Closing Reception: Dany Green at Art of Noize

On Saturday, February 26 from 3pm-5pm Art of Noize gallery in Petworth will host the closing reception for the February exhibition “A Family Portrait” featuring the work of mosaic glass artist Dany Green. Over the years, Dany has developed a unique approach that pushes the boundaries of traditional mosaics to spark dialogues about race, wealth, and health disparities in this country. Don’t miss your last chance to check it out.

Celebrate Black History in Person at Sandovan Restaurant

On Saturday, February 26 from 5pm-7:30pm the joint Brightwood/Petworth Community Association will host its monthly meeting at Sandovan Restaurant and dedicate the time to sharing food, discussion, and our shared history as part of Black History Month. Check out the event on Facebook.

Public Meeting on PUD Application for Dance Loft Project

On Monday, February 28 at 7pm there will be a public meeting at Mosaic Church of the Nazarene on the proposed Dance Loft development. A scale model of the proposed project will be on display for those in attendance. Please contact Commissioner Ulysses E. Campbell at with any questions or to RSVP. Mosaic Church is located at 4401 16th St NW, and the entrance to this meeting is at the rear of the Church parking lot on Webster Street.

Ward 4 Mutual Aid Volunteer Engagement Call

On Tuesday, March 1 from 8pm-9pm Ward 4 Mutual Aid will hold its March volunteer engagement call to onboard new and returning volunteers. Learn about all the roles that support our mutual aid work in Ward 4, including answering hotline, grocery distribution, supply packing, mask making, fundraising, and more. Register to join the call at this link.

After hearings wrapped up today my team and I canvassed Jefferson Street and met with neighbors to discuss steps that can be taken to improve community safety in Brightwood Park in light of continued shootings. Thank you to the neighbors who joined to talk about the devastating impact of gun violence on our community and identify solutions.

Mark Your Calendars:

  • The Parks at Walter Reed will host their grand Spring Celebration on Saturday, April 23 from 10am-12pm with activities for all ages including relay races and an egg hunt.
  • Petworth PorchFest returns on Saturday, April 30 from 2pm-6pm (sign up to volunteer, perform or host a band on your porch).
  • The Shepherd Park Citizens Association Garden Tour will be back and bigger than ever on Sunday, May 22.

After hearings wrapped up today my team and I canvassed Jefferson Street and met with neighbors to discuss steps that can be taken to improve community safety in Brightwood Park in light of continued shootings. Thank you to the neighbors who joined to talk about the devastating impact of gun violence on our community and identify solutions.

This past weekend I got to join the Nineteenth Street Baptist Church community in Ward 4 to celebrate Rev. Darryl Roberts’ five-year anniversary as senior pastor. He has has faithfully led the congregation through the pandemic and continued the Church’s proud tradition of advancing social justice and civil rights. Thank you for all that you do, Rev. Roberts!

Yours in Community,