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Ward 4 Dispatch: City Services Delays, Listen As We Climb, and a Snow Start to the New Year!

Dear Neighbors,

We’ve certainly had a snow start to the New Year! I hope your streets are now clear and that you’ve found joy in the snow (and not just inconvenience). I earned a lot steps chasing down snow plows this week for Ward 4 neighbors!

Today I’ll be updating you on what the Council did during its legislative session on Tuesday, my work to make the return to school safer, and efforts to improve city services. I’ll also be previewing performance oversight, which already starts next week!

I’ll also be sharing community resources and events, including a reminder about our Listen As We Climb virtual community listening sessions that kick off next Thursday, January 13 with an event for Shepherd Park, Brightwood, and The Parks at Walter Reed. I’m excited to hear from you and want to structure my priorities and work this year based on what you share with me.

Ward 4 News and Legislative Updates

Letter to DPW Director Regarding Leaf Collection and Staffing Shortages

Since the fall, I have heard from countless Ward 4 residents about problems with leaf collection. Many neighbors never received a first round of leaf collection even though their block was marked as completed. When 311 requests are filed for missed collections, they’re often closed without action. Some streets aren’t even in DPW’s system, causing their leaves to go uncollected. That’s why I wrote to DPW’s Director to get to the bottom of these issues and emphasize the need for reliable city services and clear communication so people can know what to expect.

We’re currently in a pandemic so not everything will run smoothly, but we need clear communication when that’s the case. People raked leaves and seniors on fixed incomes paid to have leaves raked based on the schedule DC shared — only for leaves to pile up for weeks. At a time when we are asking people to trust government when it comes to protecting public health, we cannot afford to undermine faith in government by failing to follow through. I also inquired about staffing shortages at DPW that are affecting operations. Our workers are the backbone of the city and their safety and wellbeing must be prioritized. We need to fill vacancies so we can safely provide services without putting essential workers at risk.

So where do things stand with leaf collection and trash collection? DPW crews will be working through the weekend to pick up trash that was missed earlier this week. If your trash wasn’t collected on schedule, please file a 311 request to help make sure it isn’t missed. Meanwhile, leaf collection will resume on Tuesday next week in Section B of DPW’s leaf collection map. So if you live south of Sheridan St, north of Ingraham St, east of Rock Creek Park, and west of 4th St, be sure to rake your leaves to your tree box or curb by Monday. If you bag it, make you use paper bags; plastic bags won’t be collected.

DC Council: Eviction Record Sealing, Period Products, and Visitor Passes

The Council held its first legislative session in 2022. Here’s some of what got done:

  • The Council gave initial approval to a bill that would require that eviction records be sealed immediately in cases where a landlord lost the case in court or withdrew their claim – and seal all eviction records after three years. This bill was strengthened through engagement with housing advocates. Record sealing may not make for exciting legislation, but it’s a really important way to ensure that people who have faced housing instability aren’t discriminated against as they look for places to live.
  • The Council also passed legislation that requires all DC schools to provide free period products to students. In middle schools, high schools, and universities, the period products must be provided in every girls’ or women’s bathroom, as well as every bathroom with no gender designation. If there are no gender-neutral bathrooms, at least one boys’/men’s room must also be so equipped. In elementary schools, at least one bathroom per school must be outfitted with period products. Since this bill was already funded in the DC budget, this bill can go into effect right away. I was proud to cosponsor this legislation introduced by my Ward 2 colleague, Councilmember Brooke Pinto.
  • The Council also passed an emergency bill extending the applicability of current paper visitor parking passes until mid-April, 2022. Residents reported a lot of issues with DDOT’s new online visitor parking program, ParkDC. Parking passes that were originally set to expire December 31, 2020 had already been extended to December 31, 2021, and now they’ll be extended at least through April. So if you have a paper parking pass, don’t throw it out! For new visitor parking passes, visit DDOT’s website.

Performance Oversight Hearings Begin Next Week

Where did the time go? It’s already time for performance oversight hearings. This is our chance to hold DC agencies accountable and ensure they are meeting our community’s needs. As many of you know, I strongly encourage residents to make their voice heard at oversight hearings. If you have any questions about how to sign up to testify or submit written testimony, please contact my team. On Monday I’ll be at the DACL oversight hearing advocating for our Ward 4 seniors and putting a focus on transportation and health access issues. 

Here are key hearings coming up next week:

  • Monday, January 10 at 9am-3pm: Performance Hearing for the Commission on Aging, Age-Friendly DC Task Force, and the Department of Aging and Community Living (link)
  • Monday, January 10 starting at 10am: Hearing on Climate Resilience Planning in the District and the Flood Resilience Amendment Act of 2021 (link)

The Council’s full performance oversight schedule is still being finalized, but as soon as it’s ready I will share it with you so you can get involved.

Improving School Safety As Students Return to Classrooms

Ahead of the start of school, I wrote a letter to DCPS’ Chancellor to ask about important safety improvements to help keep students and educators safe as they return to the classroom. Back in October of last year, the Mayor announced $22 million to hire a COVID logistics coordinator and a full-time substitute teacher at every DCPS school and additional DCPS contact tracers. But as of last week, no schools had actually onboarded a COVID coordinator or a full-time substitute teacher, and DCPS contact tracers were still undergoing training. I called attention to the delay in implementing these important investments to make our schools safe, and I called for additional steps DCPS should take, including expanded testing, expedited case notifications, transparent metrics for transitioning to virtual, KN95 masks for students, and paid leave for DCPS staff caring for loved ones in quarantine.

On Thursday my team and I monitored students’ return to schools in Ward 4. I cannot express how grateful I am to students, parents, teachers, staff, and school leaders for working around the clock to get everyone tested before reopening. I visited Ida B. Wells Middle School during test distribution and saw the great efforts being made to promote safety during a really challenging time period. I also send love and support to the LaSalle-Backus school community as they transition to virtual through MLK weekend because of a surge in COVID cases among staff and students. Today during my call with the Mayor’s team I pressed for testing to happen regularly to help keep our students, educators, and our whole community safe.

Community Resources and Events

Vaccine Clinic for Kids Ages 5-11 at Powell Elementary.

On Saturday, January 8 from 10am-2pm Powell Elementary is hosting a vaccine clinic for children ages 5-11. Walk-ins are welcome or you can make a vaccine appointment for your child at this link. I’m hoping for a great turnout to help keep our families healthy and safe!

“I Have a Dream” Essay & Poetry Contest at Petworth Library.

Petworth Library is hosting an essay and poetry contest for children and young adults ages 5-19. “In 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. made his famous I Have a Dream speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Share your dream and vision for a better world in an essay or poem.” All entries are due by Thursday, January 20 at 5pm You can submit your work either in person at the library, or by emailing and including the student’s name, age, and school in the body of the email. Winners will be selected from various age groups, and winning essays and poems will be published on our website and displayed in the library.

Traffic Safety Walkthrough in Shepherd Park.

On Thursday, January 27 starting at 3pm I will host DDOT Director Lott, DDOT staff, community leaders, and neighbors for a traffic safety walkthrough in Shepherd Park. We’ll begin at Alaska & Geranium at 3pm, then assess Kalmia Road between Georgia Ave & 16th St NW, followed by 12th St between Fern St NW and Alaska Ave. This walkthrough is limited to these streets and this intersection to ensure there is enough time for them to receive DDOT’s full attention. Neighbors are encouraged to attend.

Responding to Issues with Mail Delivery.

Our community and our region have been experiencing significant delays with mail delivery. While those issues were exacerbated by the snowstorm this week, they have been going on for months and cannot be fully attributed to the weather. We know that staffing shortages and the rapid surge in COVID cases has undercut USPS capacity. Delayed mail is not just an inconvenience; it has a real impact on our lives by preventing many residents from receiving their medicine, paychecks, benefits, and other necessities. Early next week I will write to the Postmaster on behalf of our community to address these issues. My team has also been communicating with USPS and having them look into mail delivery for the address of each constituent who write to us about this problem. We have also been in touch with the Office of Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton, who oversees USPS as a federal agency. She wrote to USPS during the Fall and received this response. Lastly, residents can contact USPS at this link to share the issues they’re experiencing. The more complaints USPS receives from us, the more likely it is that they will take the necessary action to improve mail delivery in our area.

Listen As We Climb: Shepherd Park, Brightwood, and Walter Reed Next Week!

As I shared earlier this week, I’m very excited for the opportunity to hear from neighbors from every corner of Ward 4 during January and February during my Ward 4 community listening tour Listen As We Climb. Every Thursday at 6:30pm I will host an event with Ward 4 residents from specific neighborhoods to discuss the changes you want to see in our community. What we discuss together 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. We have Shepherd Park, Brightwood, and Walter Reed coming up first this Thursday, January 13 at 6:30pm.

Like many of you, I spent some time this week reflecting on the one-year anniversary of the insurrection. January 6, 2021 was only my fifth day in office. I and so many other DC residents watched as violent insurrectionists breached our Capitol trying to overturn a democratic election. For DC residents, it wasn’t just an attack on the Capitol — it was also an attack on our home. And for our nation, it was an assault on our democracy.

But I also remember how our community banded together that day. People checking in on their neighbors, providing rides, and delivering mutual aid amidst the chaos. And all of the essential workers and first responders who were out serving our communities at great personal risk.

We will never forget what happened on January 6 and the trauma it inflicted. A year later, we still have a sacred responsibility to do all we can to defend our democracy. That means making DC a state. That means expanding voting rights. And that means confronting fascism and building community at every turn. Let’s keep doing that important work together.

Yours in Community,