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Ward 4 Dispatch: Budget Forum, ANC/SMD Redistricting, and Raising Pay for Child Care Workers

Dear Neighbors,

I’m looking forward to leaving today’s rain behind us and enjoying some sunshine over the coming days. Here’s the latest on what’s happening at the DC Council and in our Ward 4 community. There’s a lot to be excited about this week, including the Council approving a major (well-deserved) pay bump for child care workers in the District. Also, in case you missed it, yesterday I sent a bonus newsletter to highlight some of the ways you can make your voice heard these coming weeks. The first community meeting on redistricting Ward 4’s ANC/SMD is happening this Sunday, I’m hosting a community budget forum next Saturday, WMATA is asking for responses to its important budget survey, and we continue to have performance oversight hearings and community listening sessions every week. Lastly, I know DPW is working to complete leaf collection next week, so if you have uncollected leaves on your block (like many of us do), please submit a 311 request to make sure it’s on their radar.


Legislative Updates

Raising Pay for Early Childhood Educators in the District

During Tuesday’s legislative session the Council took a huge step towards pay equity for early childhood educators by authorizing payments between $10,000-$14,000 to early childhood educators in childcare centers licensed by OSSE. We depend on early childhood educators to nurture our children during their most foundational years and care for them so parents can go to their jobs. It’s the work that makes all other work possible. Yet the predominantly Black and Brown women who do this work have been underpaid for decades and are being forced out of the field in large numbers because the pay is unsustainable. Dignified wages will bring long-term stability and growth to child care in DC as we work to ensure that every family has high-quality, affordable early care and education. This was one of the three provisions of the Homes and Hearts amendment that I led in passing with Councilmember Nadeau and Councilmember Allen last year. It modestly raised taxes on high-income individuals to make transformative investments in child careending homelessness, and creating a monthly basic income for working families.

During this first year, the District is issuing grants directly to early childhood educators. But for future years, a pay equity task force is developing a sustainable, comprehensive mechanism to ensure child care workers earn higher wages through their regular paychecks in future years. I will update our community when the process of distributing the grants begins later this year. Thank you to all of our early childhood educators for all they do for our children, and for their advocacy alongside so many families and advocates to make this pay increase a reality.

Other Legislative Updates: Streetlights, Foreclosures, and Medical Marijuana

Increased child care pay was not the only development in Tuesday’s legislative session. Here are some other highlights to keep you updated:

  • The Council approved a $309 million contract to upgrade the city’s 75,000 streetlights with high-efficiency LEDs and install 239 Wi-Fi access points in DC neighborhoods with low internet connectivity. Under the contract, DC’s streetlights will be completed by 2025 and the company will be in charge of maintaining the lights for another 13 years. Accountability is built into the contract by linking pay to performance, meaning the company will be incentivized to quickly repair streetlights so it can collect full payment. The new streetlights will also be automated, meaning that the city won’t have to rely on neighbors to alert them when a streetlight goes out. The company is also calibrating the temperature of the LED lights to mitigate the effect on residents and the environment. Read more in DCist.
  • The Council also passed legislation expanding access to medical marijuana through District dispensaries. Residents’ medical marijuana cards now won’t expire until the end of September. Also, senior citizens (65+) will now be able to attest to their own medical need for medical marijuana rather than having to see a doctor for authorization (the Council is considering doing the same for all adults). This legislation also created a week-long medical marijuana tax holiday in late April. These changes are largely driven by a desire to help long-standing, regulated medical marijuana dispensaries compete with the unregulated gray market storefronts that offer “gifts” of marijuana. Learn more in Axios.
  • On Tuesday the Council also gave final approval to my legislation extending the foreclosure moratorium until June 30, 2022 and adding protections for homeowners who have applied for housing assistance funds through September 30, 2022. DC’s federal homeowner assistance funds totaling $50 million will start being distributed this spring. It would make no sense to foreclose on any homeowner, condo unit owner, or coop member when help is on the way to help them catch up on payments.

Save the Date: Safe Routes to School Act and Walk Without Worry Act 

I’m excited to share that the Safe Routes to School Act I introduced in December now has a legislative hearing scheduled for Monday, March 14 starting at noon! This is an opportunity for any community member to testify on the legislation. Community testimony will help determine whether this legislation will advance, how fast it moves through the process, and what provisions in the bill are added, removed, or amended. If passed, the Safe Routes to School Act would make sweeping traffic safety improvements around our schools and surrounding neighborhoods to ensure that students and neighbors are safe on our streets. It will be considered alongside the Walk Without Worry Act, legislation from Councilmember Brianne Nadeau that proposes expanding the installation of raised crosswalks, raised intersections, and continuous sidewalks to increase pedestrian safety in our city. I’m asking every Ward 4 resident to consider testifying on these two important bills. You can sign up for these hearings by emailing your contact information to abenjamin@dccouncil.us or calling 202-724-8062. You can also send in written comments to abenjamin@dccouncil.us that will be included in the hearing record. Transformative legislation can only pass and be implemented if there is strong community support behind it. I’m excited to hear how this issue impacts your life and your thoughts on the legislation.

The Council is also continuing to have performance oversight hearings with DC agencies where anyone can testify. These hearings are an important accountability tool to ensure that government is meeting our needs. DPW, DSLBD, DCPL, ONSE, OAG, DOES, MPD, DDOT, DCRA, DHS, and DGS are just some of the agencies with hearings coming up. Find the full hearing schedule and sign-up instructions for each Committee at this link. I also created a simpler flyer highlighting key oversight hearings. Please let me or my team know if you need support signing up to testify for any hearing. We’re here to help you engage!


Meanwhile, today I had the great honor of addressing the graduates of DC Central Kitchen’s renowned Culinary Job Training Program. This is a competitive 14-week program that provides culinary arts education, career readiness training, and real-world internships for adults who have experienced barriers to employment. The talented group I met today was the 127th class to graduate from the program, and DC Central Kitchen is already accepting applications for its 128th group! I’m energized about supporting and expand programs like these that transform lives in our community.


Community Resources

Updates on City Services

  • Ward 4 COVID Center: We now 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. COVID Centers now exist in every ward, including a new site in Ward 3 (5335 Wisconsin Ave NW) that just opened today! Find a full listing of all DC COVID Centers and their operating hours on DC Health’s website. Tip: be sure to scroll down and check the KN95 mask supply tracker before visiting a COVID Center to ensure that you don’t visit a center that has already run out of masks for the day.
  • Leaf Collection: DPW will have leaf collection crews out this weekend to clean up streets that have been reported as incomplete. Then, starting on Monday, they will have six crews assigned to responding to any service request for missed leaf collection. So if your block still needs leaf collection, please submit a 311 request so DPW can complete it next week. Important note: DPW can only collect leaves on curbs, sidewalks, and treeboxes. They are not permitted to collect leaves on private property even if it’s directly adjacent to a sidewalk, so please be sure that leaf piles you report are accessible for the agency.
  • Tree Collection: Holiday trees and greenery are still being collected through February 28 from your curb or at your normal point of collection for trash and recycling.
  • MetroBus Service: WMATA has announced that regular weekday Metrobus service will resume this Monday, February 7.
  • WMATA Budget Survey: If you believe that a MetroBus route in our community needs to be restored or offer more frequent service, be sure to weigh in on WMATA’s proposed budget for next year by filling out their budget survey. It only takes a few minutes, and this is our best shot to ensure Ward 4 receives the MetroBus service we depend on.
  • 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. Tip: check to see if you have the digits 0167 on the back of your card. If you don’t, you must replace your card. Learn more on WMATA’s website.

$40 Million Bridge Fund for Small Businesses Struggling from the Pandemic

Last week DC opened applications for a $40 million bridge fund to support brick-and-mortar small businesses in the restaurant, entertainment, and retail industries who have struggled during the pandemic. Grants can be as high as $100,000 and can now cover rent and payroll costs. The Bridge Fund is prioritizing DC businesses that had no more than $2.5 million in revenue in each of the last three years and that did not receive an award from the Paycheck Protection Program. The deadline to apply is February 25 at 5pm, and there are several information sessions scheduled. Please spread the word to our Ward 4 businesses!

2022 Summer Youth Employment Program Accepting Applications

Last week the 2022 Summer Youth Employment Program started accepting applications from DC residents ages 14-24. The program is set to serve 14,000 this year, so be sure to share the application with the young people in your life who need a job for the summer! The program 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.


“River Dance” by Doba Afolabi. Featured in The Colors and Forms of History at Zenith Gallery.

Neighborhood Events

“A Family Portrait” by Dany Green at Art of Noize Gallery

On Saturday, February 5 from 3pm-6pm Art of Noize Gallery (821 Upshur St NW, Rear) is hosting an opening reception for “A Family Portrait,” a new exhibit by Dany Green. “The stories behind the work in this mosaic glass series come together to tell a larger narrative about American life, and uses the Artist’s family as a microcosm of American History. Through this work, Dany Green aims to spark dialogues about race, wealth, and health disparities in this country.” The exhibition will be on view from February 5 – February 26.

“The Colors and Forms of History” at Zenith Gallery

This weekend Zenith Gallery (1429 Iris Street NW) is launching The Colors and Forms of History, an incredible new exhibit inspired by Black History Month featuring artists Doba Afolabi, Sheryll Cashin, Bernie Houston, and Chris Malone. The exhibit is running from February 4 – February 26 and includes an opening reception on Saturday, February 5 from 2pm-6pm (mask and Eventbrite RSVP required). Watch this WJLA Channel 7 segment featuring the new exhibit.

Ward 4 ANC/SMD Redistricting Public Meeting: Open to the Community To Testify

On Sunday, February 6 from 2pm-4pm the Ward 4 Redistricting Task Force will host a public meeting where community members who sign up to attend the meeting can speak (up to 3 minutes) on how Ward 4’s SMD and ANC boundaries should be updated. There will also be a second community meeting where neighbors can speak on Tuesday, March 8 at 7pm. Additionally, you can share your input with the Redistricting Task Force at any point by emailing Ward4Redistricting@dccouncil.us or leaving a voicemail at 202-642-5714. Register to join the meeting and find more information about future meetings on the Ward 4 Redistricting webpage.

Listen As We Climb: Lamond Riggs, Riggs Park, and South Manor Park

On Thursday, February 10 at 6:30pm we will host our fifth Listen As We Climb virtual community listening session, this time focused on Lamond Riggs, Riggs Park, and South Manor Park. RSVP here to chat with me and your neighbors about the changes we want to see in our community. What we discuss will help shape my legislative work, oversight of DC agencies, DC budget advocacy, constituent services, and efforts in our community. If you haven’t yet, take a moment to go to my website and sign up for your neighborhood’s event.

Ward 4 Community Budget Forum

On Saturday, February 12 at 3:30pm I will be hosting a Ward 4 community budget forum to hear directly from neighbors and ANC Commissioners about what they want to see included in the DC budget for next year. Each Ward 4 resident will have the chance to share their budget priorities as we head into budget season. Last year, I advocated for the investments that residents asked for at this forum and several of them ended up in the DC budget! Sign up to join the budget forum.

DPR Valentine’s Day Events in Ward 4

The Department of Parks and Recreation is coming through for our community with three Valentine’s Day events in Ward 4. Reserve your spot while you still can!

  • Friday, February 11: Movie Night at Emery Heights Recreation Center
    “This event provides movies for the kids in the community to get together and enjoy.”
  • Monday, February 14: Love is in the Air (Seniors) at Fort Stevens
  • Monday, February 14: Valentines Day Dance at Raymond Recreation Center
    “Come join us by celebrating Valentine’s Day with a dance.”


I’ll round this out with an ode to Black History Month. Let us celebrate the incredible Black history in our community, our city, and our nation while grounding ourselves in concrete action towards Black liberation. Black History is American History.

Have an amazing weekend, Ward 4!

Yours in Community,
—Janeese