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Ward 4 Dispatch: Budget Hearings, Playground Repairs, and Spring Clean-Ups!

Dear Neighbors,

It’s a very busy time here at the Council, with many hearings, budget discussions, and addressing constituent needs. While more of the focus is on the budget and there is still a lot of work to be done, I’m excited to announce a few Ward 4 wins that we learned about this week.

With warm weather in the forecast, it’s a great weekend to get out in the neighborhood and attend one of the many events happening on Saturday and Sunday, including a book sale, community clean-ups, and DC’s Emancipation Day celebration.

Here’s the latest on the past week on the Council and in Ward 4:

Supporting the Kennedy Street Library Project

Following last week’s budget release, we learned that the Mayor’s budget proposal would eliminate funds to buy land for a public library on Kennedy Street. The budget also risks moving the Juanita E. Thornton-Shepherd Park Library from its current location, which would cause many community members to lose access to the library. Ward 4 residents have been clear about their opposition to both of these proposed changes, and I stand firmly beside them in this fight.

Luckily, there are still opportunities for community members to voice their opposition to the plan being reversed. On April 24th, the Committee on Recreation, Libraries, and Youth Affairs will hold a budget oversight hearing on the DC Public Library’s FY25 budget, which will be open to public testimony. Public input from the community is one of the most impactful things the public can do to effect change in the budget process. I encourage all community members to sign up to testify or simply attend this hearing to make our voices heard on this important issue. To register to testify at the hearing, or to submit written testimony, click here.

DC Public School Reports

This week, the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education released two important reports containing recommended changes to DC’s school system. These reports examine issues that will be considered for implementation over the next few years.

The first report, the Boundary and Student Assignment Study, includes recommendations from a committee of parents and public school representatives. One key recommendation calls for expanded access to dual language education and equitable access to special education for students as they progress through elementary, middle, and high school. This is an important step forward that will give families the power to send their kids to schools based on their unique educational needs, instead of simply based on where they live.

The report also makes recommendations that will impact Ward 4 students. Specifically, the report recommends ending dual middle school feeder rights for a handful of Ward 4 neighborhoods, including MacFarland Middle School. This means that elementary school students who previously had the option of enrolling in either MacFarland or Alice Deal Middle School, and students who had the option of enrolling in either MacFarland or Columbia Heights Education Campus now only have access to the school that corresponds to their elementary school attendance zone. 

The second report, the DC Public Education Master Facilities Plan, examines options to improve the educational infrastructure in our schools. This report makes a number of recommendations, including conducting a thorough review of overcrowding in DCPS and considering possible additions that can be made to schools to make room for increased enrollment. The report also emphasizes the importance of reducing Department of General Services work orders. Over the last several years, DCPS has seen an average of over 15,000 work orders each year, including repairs to HVAC, bathrooms, and building locks. However, these repairs can often become a disruption to student learning when they remain open for long periods of time. As the chair of the Committee on Facilities and Family Services, I am working to make sure that work orders can be closed quickly and effectively, including by investing in preventative maintenance to reduce the frequency of repairs.

If approved by the Mayor, these public school recommendations will go into effect during the 2025-26 school year. As the Councilmember for the ward with one of the highest public school enrollments in DC, I look forward to engaging further with these recommendations to make sure our students receive the best educational opportunities possible. 

Protecting our Green Investments

Last Friday, I chaired the first budget hearing of the Committee on Facilities and Family Services, where we heard from public witnesses on the FY25 Department of General Services budget. Then on Monday, I chaired the second hearing, also on the DGS budget, this time hearing from the agency’s leadership. There were a number of takeaways from both days, but I’d like to focus on the environmental issues we covered during these hearings. 

A particularly important issue involves the Sustainable Energy Trust Fund, a city fund specifically dedicated to supporting green investments. This money is crucial to helping DC reach net zero emissions through new city projects and developments. However, the Mayor’s budget calls for a redirection of SETF funds to pay unrelated utility costs for the city. This is a harmful misuse of funds that are intended to go towards sustainable investments. Additionally, the proposed budget requests exemptions from two important laws on energy efficient building requirements. If the budget passes as it stands now, the city would exempt from net zero requirements for all residential buildings over 10,000 square feet, and the requirement for District-owned buildings to meet energy efficient standards would be delayed by three years. This would be a major step back in the work we have done to reduce DC’s carbon footprint. 

If we are truly committed to reaching net zero emissions and increasing green development in DC, we can’t accept these substantial carveouts. In the hearings to come for my committee, and for the remainder of the budget process, I will remain steadfastly committed to our sustainability goals. 

Summer Playground Repairs

Over the next couple of months, the Department of Parks and Recreation will be kicking off its annual Summer Playground Blitz, making repairs to equipment in parks and playgrounds around the city. My team has been working closely with DPR to make sure the needed fixes are made to Ward 4 playgrounds, but we have been waiting for the exact details of the plan to be released. 

On Tuesday, I was thrilled to learn of the planned repairs for this summer, which include a number of maintenance needs across Ward 4! Here are some of the expected fixes:

  • Hamilton Rec Center will receive a new climbing structure, slide, and poured-in-place playground surfacing.
  • Lafayette-Pointer will receive a new climbing structure and ropes.
  • Lamond Rec Center will have a new swing set designed and installed.
  • Petworth Rec Center will have shading elements replaced at existing shade structures.
  • Riggs-LaSalle will have a new shade structure designed and installed over the 2-5 playground and will have new vertical netting installed around portions of the football field. 
  • Shepherd Community Center will have new vertical netting installed.
  • Takoma will receive a new seesaw, climbing equipment, and fencing as well as attachment of signage, graffiti removal, and repairs to the sensory table.

As the repairs get underway this summer, I hope kids and families throughout Ward 4 are able to get outside and enjoy our renewed parks and playgrounds!

Community Resources

Kite House Affordable Housing Seminar

On Saturday, April 13th from 10am – 12pm,Kite House Condominiums at the Parks at Walter Reed are hosting an affordable housing homebuying seminarfor community members to learn about its Inclusionary Zoning Residences.Inclusionary Zoning is a District program requiring most new residential developments to include affordable housing units. Kite House homes are available for as little as $1,000 down payment and are not subject to a lottery. Register to attend here!

Thornton Library Used Book Sale

The Friends of Juanita E. Thornton-Shepherd Park Library will be hosting a used book sale at the library on Saturday, April 13th from 10am to 4pm and on Sunday, April 14th from 1pm to 4pm. The events will feature over two thousand books, CDs, and DVDs, with no item costing more than a dollar. Plus, kids’ books will cost just 50 cents each, and bulk purchases will be discounted!

DDOT E-Bike Subsidies for Eligible Residents

Until April 15th, DDOT will be accepting applications for the District E-Bike Incentive Program, which provides up to $2,000 for DC residents to buy electric bicycles (e-bikes) and supports bicycle businesses in the District. The first phase of the program is limited to DC residents on SNAP, TANF, Medicaid, or DC Healthcare Alliance. In the unlikely event funds are still available after this initial phase prioritizing lower-income residents, a second application window will open that any DC resident can apply for. Learn more about the program, application process, and pop-up events on DDOT’s website.

DC Commission on Poverty Listening Session

On Thursday, April 18th from 5:30 to 7:30pm, the DC Commission on Poverty will be hosting a Ward 4 listening session at Petworth Neighborhood Library. The session will provide space for community members to share thoughts, experiences, and recommendations with the Commission, which evaluates policies to reduce poverty in DC. Sign up to attend here.

DPW Community Conversation

The Department of Public Works will be holding its second 2024 quarterly Community Conversation on April 24th at 6:30pm. The conversation will be a chance for residents to learn about what DPW has been doing in their communities and hear directly from DPW leaders about the services they provide. Sign up here!

DC Water Rate Adjustment Town Halls

DC Water will be holding its final town hall on April 30th at 6pm to give community members more information about DC Water’s budget and proposed rate adjustment for next year. The meeting will take place on Microsoft Teams. Learn more about the town hall and sign up here.

Roosevelt High Host Families

From May 28th – June 1st, Roosevelt High School will host 16 students and 3 chaperones from Homburg, Germany. Roosevelt High is looking for families who would be interested in hosting students in their homes for the duration of their stay. Responsibilities would include providing dinner during the week and meals on the weekends, taking part in activities on the weekends, and answering questions about DC and the United States in general. For families who are interested, sign up here!

Apply for Tuition Support from DC

Applications opened last month for DC Futures, DC Tuition Assistance Grant (DC TAG), and the Mayor’s Scholars Undergraduate Program. These are three popular tuition support programs for DC residents pursuing higher education. Applications will close on Friday, September 6th. Learn more and apply!

Disputing a DC Water Bill

A number of community members have expressed confusion or concerns about how to dispute charges with DC Water.  After receiving a charge, occupants have a 20-day period to submit a dispute and should submit it in writing with reasons why the bill is believed to be incorrect. Disputes can be filed via mail, email, or through DC Water’s dispute form. Learn more here.

Neighborhood Events

Spring Clean-Up Week

Starting this Saturday, ANC 4B will be organizing 9 consecutive days of community clean-ups throughout the ANC. Last year, volunteers picked up over 150 bags of litter! Check out the list of clean-ups below, which also include food, drinks, and opportunities to meet neighbors. 

Grant Circle Clean-Up

On Sunday, April 14th from 10am to 12pm, ANC 4C will be teaming up with Petworth Blooms to lead a community clean-up on the north side of Grant Circle. In addition to picking up trash, volunteers will be able to plant flowers and plants in the large pots in the Grant Circle playground. Kids are encouraged to join, and all supplies will be provided. Sign up here!

DC Emancipation Day!

April 16th is DC Emancipation Day, the anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln signing a bill abolishing slavery in the District of Columbia. On Sunday, April 14th, the city will be holding an Emancipation Day celebration in Freedom Plaza, featuring a parade, concert, and fireworks. RSVP and learn more here!

Thornton Library Teen Game Space

On Friday, April 19th from 3pm to 5pm, the Juanita E. Thornton-Shepherd Park Library will be hosting an after-school program for teens to play Nintendo Switch, socialize, and have fun. Participants ages 13-19 are encouraged to attend!

Upshur Park Cleanup and Community Picnic

With Earth Day coming up, the 16th Street Neighborhood Association will be organizing a spring cleanup on April 20th in Upshur Park, followed by a community picnic. Meet at the playground picnic tables at 10am to help with some spring cleaning, and then head to Piney Spring Green for a grill lunch with burgers, hot dogs, and kids’ activities. Both activities are free and open to everyone. RSVP here to attend!

William Beckett Project Conversation and Reception

On Saturday, April 20th, the Friends of Peirce Mill and HumanitiesDC will be hosting an event at Picnic Grove #1 in Rock Creek Park to share the life story of William Beckett, a former enslaved DC resident who went on to become a distinguished DC business owner, presidential coachman, and doorkeeper at the Library of Congress. The event will begin with a conversation about Beckett’s life at 1pm, followed by an exhibit and reception at Klingle Mansion in Rock Creek Park starting at 2:30. Learn more here!

Petworth Porchfest

It’s almost that time of year! Petworth Porchfest is set for Saturday, April 27th. Local bands will be performing throughout Petworth, with residents hosting performances on their porches. Porch performances will go from 2 – 6pm, and main stage performances from 5 – 8pm. It’s not too late to sign up to volunteer, host, or even perform. Click here for all the details on this exciting event. 

Takoma ES Hype Squad

Takoma Elementary School students begin CAPE (Comprehensive Assessments of Progress in Education) testing this month, with 3rd and 4th graders testing on April 23rd and 5th graders on April 30th. To kick off testing, TES is seeking volunteers for a “hype squad,” where participants will give high fives, hold inspirational signs, and cheer on students. Volunteers are encouraged to rep TES’s colors, blue and yellow. Sign up here!

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

Ward 4 in the News

Next Stop…Riggs Park: Neighborhood Items of Interest in Mayor’s Proposed FY2025 Budget 

Next Stop…Riggs Park: Zoning Order for UDC Lamond-Riggs Campus Plan

Chevy Chase News and Notes: April 2024 Edition

Petworth News: Join a fun and rewarding upcoming neighborhood clean-up at Grant Circle

Saturday was the first day of the Uptown Main Street Farmer’s Market, and even though the weather was cold, I got to spend the morning meeting with constituents and exploring the stands selling fresh produce, baked goods, coffee, and more. It was great to meet some of the dozens of amazing vendors and volunteers who are working to support this amazing community event, and I’m looking forward to coming back in the months to come!

Monday was the solar eclipse, which won’t take place again in the U.S. until 2044. I know eclipse glasses were in short supply, so hopefully you were able to track down a pair and take in this rare and breathtaking event!

And Tuesday night was the start of Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. I hope all in Ward 4 who observe were able to spend time with friends and family and celebrate this joyful holiday.

Until next week, enjoy the warm weather and have a great weekend!

Yours in Community,