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Ward 4 Dispatch: Conflict Resolution, Safety Meeting, SNAP News, and MLK Day Weekend!

Dear Neighbors,

There is a lot to unpack this week. Our hearing on teaching conflict resolution. Major legislation to increase traffic enforcement. The new Council performance oversight hearing schedule. The implementation date for expanded SNAP benefits. Our Ward 4 community safety meeting and other safety updates. Our first Listen As We Climb event in Chevy Chase, Hawthorne, and Barnaby Woods. Community cleanups in Takoma, Petworth, and Crestwood. Modified DC services for MLK Weekend. And updates on leaf collection!


Conflict Resolution and Enhancing School Safety

Our legislation to expand conflict resolution education in DC schools and a bill to enhance safety supports for our school communities received strong support at Thursday’s Council hearing to consider the two proposals. We benefitted from testimony from educators, students (shoutout to Ward 4 students Naomi, Andrew, and Alexis), parents, advocates, and community members who discussed safety needs at their schools and the important role that conflict resolution, school safety directors, and stronger safety protocols can play in making our schools safer. Just this week, our schools had to deal with fights and bomb threats (that were thankfully unfounded) — underscoring the real safety challenges that our schools face and the need for improved resources. At a time when our children face so much pressure and hardship, we can teach them the skills they need to manage their emotions, deescalate conflicts, build positive relationships, and make our schools and communities safer. DC is fortunate to already have amazing groups like Teach Peace of Mind and the Alliance of Concerned Men that do this impactful work with our young people. We can expand conflict resolution education to more of our schools that need it. The next step is to work with the Committee of the Whole to mark up this legislation and bring it before the full Council!

Bill Passed to Address Dangerous Driving

This week the Council passed major legislation to confront dangerous driving in our neighborhoods and step up traffic enforcement in DC. Currently, traffic enforcement in the District is fairly lacking. MPD has limited capacity to enforce traffic laws, and some drivers (especially in our neighboring states) drive recklessly throughout our city and rack up ATE camera tickets that they do not pay. DPW has the ability to boot and tow vehicles with outstanding tickets, but they only reach a small number of cars and generally do not prioritize between drivers with a small number of outstanding tickets and the drivers that rack up thousands of dollars in tickets in a matter of months. The STEER Act enhances the booting, towing and impounding of vehicles that repeatedly commit traffic violations within a six-month time period using a new point system that emphasizes the most dangerous violations: speeding 20 miles per hour or more over the speed limit and reckless driving. It also empowers the Office of the DC Attorney General to bring civil suits against dangerous drivers, which helps ensure that the most dangerous drivers in other states can also be held accountable despite our lack of ticket reciprocity with neighboring states.

The bill also fills other gaps in our traffic enforcement system by: improving communication between agencies to suspend an individual’s license when they are convicted of a DUI; addressing DMV notification failures around Ignition Interlock enrollment; supporting victims by stopping tickets from stolen cars from being sent to car owners; and establishing a safe driving class that drivers can take to waive some of their traffic fines as an alternative for residents with lower incomes. Before it goes into effect, this bill still needs to pass a second Council vote and be funded. In a separate Committee, the Council is also planning to pass legislation to address the proliferation of fake tags on our streets. 6,000 DC residents were injured and 52 DC residents lost their lives in traffic crashes last year (more than any other year since 2007), and far too many of us experience near-misses daily in our neighborhoods. Combined with improving the design of our streets and intersections, this legislation will make our roadways safer for all road users.

Performance Oversight Hearing Schedule

Performance oversight season is the best part of the year, because it is when I get to bring up your feedback and ideas directly to DC agency leaders so we can make improvements in how DC government is run. Better yet, it is also when any DC resident can come before the Council and the agency director to share their experiences with us. This week the Council approved the performance oversight hearing schedule for January and February. We also made it easier to sign up this year by creating a centralized hearing portal where any resident can sign up to speak at a hearing or submit written testimony. Please look through the schedule and try to sign up for the hearing that is most relevant to you — whether it is DDOT, MPD, DPW, DGS, DCPS, OSSE, or any other agency that impacts your life. If you have any questions, just reach out to my office at teamjaneese@dccouncil.gov. Performance oversight is one of the strongest tools we have to make government work better, so let’s put it to use!

Expanded SNAP Benefits Begin March 1! 

Good news tends to come out on Fridays these days! Today it was announced that the expanded SNAP benefits we fought for will begin on March 1, and that SNAP recipients will receive their January and February expanded benefits retroactively on February 23. This new program will deliver additional food assistance to nearly 83,000 families in DC at a time when many are struggling with food insecurity, reduced federal benefits, and sky-high food prices at the grocery store. Recipients will receive notices about their expanded benefits by mail, so keep an eye on your mailbox if you rely on SNAP. I introduced the budget amendment that funded this SNAP expansion because no child, adult, family, or senior citizen in the District deserves to go hungry. Thank you to the DC Department of Human Services for working to deliver this food assistance to all the DC residents who are counting on it.

Community Safety Meeting and Updates

I am looking forward to convening our public safety leaders to hear from our community and discuss solutions at our Ward 4 Strategic Safety Meeting on Thursday, January 18 at 6pm at EL Haynes PCS. Please contact Barbara Rogers at brogers@dccouncil.gov with any questions or requests — including if you need interpretation in Spanish, Amharic, or ASL. This week our community has been responding to several disturbing and traumatizing incidents — including robberies, carjackings, and burglaries — that underscored the need for stronger interventions against crime and improved coordination between our communities and across DC government. Fourth District made several important arrests this week, including arresting the suspect for a stolen vehicle in Sixteenth Street Heights and a carjacking in Manor Park. MPD also arrested a suspect for at least one of the burglaries that took place in Sixteenth Street Heights, and it conducted a traffic safety checkpoint on the 7100 block of Georgia Avenue NW that yielded multiple arrests. I have been in communication with Commander Lavenhouse and neighbors about the urgent need to improve safety in Manor Park. MPD has increased patrols in the neighborhood to deter crime and apprehend suspects when crime occurs, and we are working together to improve lighting in the neighborhood to improve visibility and safety. At the same time, the Council is preparing to vote on comprehensive public safety legislation to address crime that makes more than 100 different interventions across every facet of our criminal justice system. While I am still reviewing the omnibus bill and will examine every provision carefully, there are important changes included that will make it easier to prosecute carjackings and help MPD identify and apprehend more suspects to close cases.


Community Resources

Leaf Collection Continues in Section 4B, Section 4C on Deck

The second pass of DPW leaf collection continues in Section B the week of January 15. Neighbors in Sixteenth Street Heights, Crestwood, and Petworth west of Georgia Avenue, please keep your leaves raked to your curb, treebox, or easement for collection in the coming days. You can monitor progress on leaf collection on DPW’s online tracker. Meanwhile, the second round of collection in Section 4C begins the week of January 22. If you are a Ward 4 resident in Lamond, Riggs Park, South Manor Park, or Manor Park and Takoma east of 8th Street NW, please have your leaves raked to your curb, treebox, or easement by Sunday, January 21 for DPW crews to collect.

Modified DC Services: DPW Collection Slides Next Week

DC services will be modified over the holiday weekend as the District commemorates Martin Luther King Jr Day. DPW trash, recycling, and composting collection will slide one day later than usual next week. Homes that regularly have Monday collection will receive it on Tuesday, Tuesday collection will slide to Wednesday, and so on through Saturday. All DMV locations will be closed on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. DPR indoor rec centers and pools will be closed on Monday, but outdoor parks and fields will be open. Our Ward 4 Council office will be closed on Monday, and we will reopen again on Tuesday. A limited number of libraries will be open on Monday from 9:30am-5:30pm, and those include Petworth Library, Tenley-Friendship Library, and Martin Luther King Jr Memorial Library. Check out this link for more details. Meanwhile, WMATA will operate a Saturday holiday schedule on Monday.

Free Rapid COVID Tests at DC Libraries 

With COVID cases and hospitalizations surging again this winter, I want to remind neighbors that you can still pick up free rapid COVID tests at select DC libraries during their regular operating hours, including our local Petworth, Takoma, Chevy Chase, Juanita E Thornton/Shepherd Park, and Lamond-Riggs/Lillian J Huff libraries. Check out the full list of libraries with free rapid COVID tests. Distribution is expected to continue until March. 

Interim Corrective Action Plan for Northern Bus Barn

DDOE recently approved an Interim Corrective Action Plan for the Northern Bus Garage Reconstruction Project to address soil impacts at the site of the project. The approved plan includes the removal and disposal of underground structures like fuel storage and piping, excavation and off-site disposal of impacted soil material, the installation of a vapor mitigation system in proposed buildings, and the installation of seven recovery wells. This interim plan is meant to cover the handling of impacted soils during construction, and a future Corrective Action Plan will address potential remediation of groundwater impacts separately. Read WMATA’s announcement and the full Interim Corrective Action Plan for more details.

Limited Lanes at Takoma Pool This Weekend

Heads up: Takoma Aquatic Center will have limited lap lane availability for the public on Saturday, January 13 and Sunday, January 14 due to a swim meet that is taking place there.

Rental Assistance Portal Closes Again 

On Tuesday, January 2 at noon the website portal for Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) opened briefly and then immediately crashed. The portal was back up and accepting applications an hour later but then closed again at 5pm after receiving its maximum number of 3,500 applications for this quarter. As things stand, residents will have to wait until April 1 for another chance to apply for rental assistance. The need for rental assistance in the District is overwhelming right now. This year the Council increased funding for ERAP by $37 million after the Mayor’s original budget proposed only $8 million for ERAP. Still, the need for rental assistance is greater than available funds and it is clear we need to do more to prevent our neighbors from losing their homes. There is some good news to report: In November, the Council denied a request from the Administration to divert $20.6 million away from ERAP to another housing program. Last week we learned that DHS is restoring the $20.6 million back to ERAP and will make those funds available in the next two application periods in April and July. That means that DHS will accept 8,500 applications in April and 4,000 applications in June (as opposed to 3,500). While it is not immediate relief, this will help thousands more DC residents stay in their homes this year. 

Volunteer for the DC Point in Time Count 

On Wednesday, January 24 from 8pm-2am community members, outreach teams, and DC government employees will conduct the annual DC Point-in-Time Homelessness Count. The event is critical because it secures federal funding and allows DC to better meet the needs of our unhoused neighbors. Sign up to volunteer for the Point-in-Time Count by January 15

Christmas Trees and Holiday Greenery Collection

DPW has started collecting holiday trees and greenery for DPW-serviced households. All you need to do is take off any decorations from your tree and place it on the curb or treebox in front of your home for DPW crews to collect. If it is not collected within 7 days, you can report it to 311 under the “Christmas Tree Removal – Seasonal” service category. All trees and greenery collected by March will be composted, and DC residents can collect up to five 32-gallon bags of the free compost year-round at the Fort Totten Transfer Station.


Neighborhood Events

Weekly Chevy Chase Farmers Market

On Saturday, January 13 from 9am-1pm and every Saturday year-round the Chevy Chase Farmers Market takes place at Lafayette Elementary (5701 Broad Branch RD NW) and brings fresh, local food and goods to Chevy Chase neighbors.

Takoma MLK Weekend Community Cleanup

On Saturday, January 13 starting at 11am 4B02 Commissioner Erin Palmer and 4B04 Commissioner Evan Yeats will host a Takoma community cleanup in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. starting from Takoma Elementary (7010 Piney Branch Rd NW). They will pick up litter and submit 311 requests for city services. All supplies are provided, as well as snacks and water. They are also happy to sign off on community service hours. After the cleanup they will gather at El Sabor a Mexico to enjoy food and drinks.

Artist Talk with Redeat Wondemu at Art of Noize

On Saturday, January 13 from 3pm-6pm Art of Noize Gallery in Petworth (821 Upshur St NW Rear) will host an artist talk with Redeat Wondemu to learn about the people in her work, her photography process, and the reasoning behind the “Her” exhibition. “Her” delves into a profound narrative of subtle resilience and strength, and it is on display through January 20.

Weekly Takoma Park Farmers Market

On Sunday, January 14 from 10am-2pm and every Sunday year-round the Takoma Park Farmers Market takes place at 6931 Laurel Ave in Takoma Park, MD. Come find seasonal produce, breads, meats, artisan cheese, eggs, baked goods, and more from local farms.

Petworth Community Cleanup 

On Sunday, January 14 from 12pm-2pm 4C01 Commissioners Casey Carter Swegman and 4E01 Commissioner Vanessa Rubio will host a Petworth community cleanup as part of the MLK National Day of Service. They will meet at Petworth Library and clean the area around the library, Roosevelt HS, MacFarland MS, and the 800 block of Upshur Street NW. Grabbers, gloves, and trash bags will be provided. Check out the flyer for more details and sign up.

Invasive Plant Removal at Crestwood

On Sunday, January 14 from 1pm-4pm a group of Crestwood volunteers who are part of Rock Creek Park’s Weed Warriors program will host an Invasive Plant Removal event to remove invasive plants from the park. They will meet at Crestwood Point Park (18th & Shepherd NW) and focus on removing English ivy from the many trees it is attached to.

Resource Fair and Community Pantry at Xi Omega Center

On Monday, January 15 from 9am-12pm the AKA Xi Omega Chapter will host a resource fair and community pantry at the Xi Omega Center (4411 14th St NW) in honor of AKA Founders’ Day and Martin Luther King Jr Day. Families in need can pick up a box of 21 meals, neighbors can donate non-perishable food items, and local nonprofits will be on-site providing resources. 

Listening Session for Chevy Chase, Barnaby Woods, and Hawthorne

On Tuesday, January 16 from 6pm-8pm I will host our Listen As We Climb community listening session for neighbors in Chevy Chase, Barnaby Woods, and Hawthorne at Lafayette-Pointer Rec Center (5900 33rd St NW). The insights and ideas neighbors share at our listening sessions will shape my legislation, budget, and agency oversight work. Sign up to join this event or one of the other listening sessions we will host in Ward 4 (including a virtual option).

DC Tutoring & Mentoring at Petworth Library (Volunteer)

On Saturday, January 20 from 11am-12pm the DC Tutoring & Mentoring Initiative will host a volunteer onboarding event at Petworth Library for neighbors looking to support its mission of providing tutoring and mentorship to elementary, middle, and high school students in DC.

Free Health Screenings and Shots at NSBC

On Sunday, January 21 from 10am-3pm Nineteenth Street Baptist Church (4606 16th St NW) will be hosting a community health event offering free Blueprint for Wellness health screenings (compare your results from last year); COVID vaccines and boosters, as well as Flu, RSV, and Shingles vaccines; and prevention of blindness glaucoma screenings. Sign up by contact Health Navigator Janyce Jefferson at 410-804-9325 or jfjhealthnavigator19@gmail.com.

Listening Session for Petworth and Brightwood Park

On Tuesday, January 23 from 6:30pm-8:30pm I will host our Listen As We Climb community listening session for neighbors in Petworth and Brightwood Park at Roosevelt High School (4301 13th St NW). The insights and ideas neighbors share at our listening sessions will shape my legislation, budget, and agency oversight work. Sign up to join this event or one of the other listening sessions we will host in Ward 4 (including a virtual option).

Race, History, and Rock Creek: The Story of Rock Creek

On Wednesday, January 24 at 5:30pm-7pm Rock Creek Park NPS Acting Superintendent Brian Joyner and historian Joan Zenzen will lead a virtual discussion titled “Race, History, and Rock Creek” on the park’s establishment and management over time in the context of public use, park management, and the field of preservation. Sign up to attend.

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


Ward 4 in the News

Post Opinion: We Can’t Talk About Crime in DC Without Talking About Hunger

DC News Now: Dozens Testify for New Student Safety Push in DC Schools

Washington Informer: The Collins Council Report (January 9, 2024)

Washington City Paper: DC is Cutting Badly Needed Funding for Housing and Homelessness Nonprofits

DCist: DC Runs Out of First-Time Homebuyer Assistance Four Months into Fiscal Year

DSLBD: New Greenbook to Help Small Businesses Access DC Government Procurement

Petworth News: Reimagine Justice at Lincoln’s Cottage through a New Art Exhibit

Washington Post: In Reversal, Bowser Administration Will Implement SNAP Boost

DC News Now: Woman Facing Eviction After Being Unable to Access Rental Assistance

DCist: DC Attorney General Offers Grants Up To $50,000 For Violence Prevention

Source of the Spring: Sticky Fingers Transitions to Takoma, Holds Equipment Auction

Next Stop… Riggs Park: Ready2Play Long-Range DPR Parks and Rec Centers Plan

Petworth News: Local Pickup Frisbee and Soccer Games Help Tie Neighbors Together

DDOT: Construction Updates on the Metropolitan Branch Trail (Fort Totten to Takoma)

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

Ward 4 Dispatch: SNAP Breakthrough, Crime Lab, New on 311, and Listen As We Climb


Shortly before our Council hearing on Thursday, I got to reconnect with Ward 4 residents Naomi and her wonderful mom Yael, who were at the Wilson Building to testify in support of conflict resolution education. Naomi provided excellent testimony on how her Peace Studies course at Lafayette Elementary helps her and her classmates thrive in school. Thank you Naomi for reminding us that it is never too early for someone to begin impacting change in DC! 

As we head into Martin Luther King Jr. Day Weekend, let us reflect on the enduring injustices in our communities and our world — and recommit ourselves to being agents of change through our voice and our actions. As Dr. King teaches us, our lives begin to end when we become silent about things that matter.

Have a great holiday weekend, Ward 4!

Yours in Community,
—Janeese