It is officially fall this week and the Council is back in session! We passed several bills at our first legislative meeting, including a free Master’s of Social Work program at UDC, stronger tenant and worker protections, and a new e-bike rebate program that will launch next year. In honor of Public Lands Day, I also introduced major legislation to improve how DC maintains our forest land and combats invasive plants in our parks. I also warn residents about heavy winds on Saturday as Tropical Storm Ophelia makes its way to our region. Unfortunately, Celebrate Petworth is cancelled this weekend, but Chevy Chase Day and several other Ward 4 events are still taking place indoors. Read all of my community updates:
New Legislation: DC Forest Land Conservation
This week I introduced legislation to address a critical gap in how DC government maintains its facilities: the Office of Natural Area Conservation Establishment Act of 2023 will transform how DC manages its forest land, spearhead community partnerships, and launch a strategic vision for conservation in DC. The District has approximately 500 acres of forest land under its control — and that doesn’t even include National Parks Service land like Rock Creek Park. But DC agencies currently do not have the expertise, sustained resources, or focused mission to consistently maintain our forest land, including addressing the invasive plants and vines that are overtaking our natural forest areas. These invasive plants drive the public away, block access to trails, limit the natural regeneration of the forest, harm native species, and compromise the usability of the park. This also impacts public safety: community members often report that when our parks fall into neglect, they become less safe. Invasive plants and vines are used to conceal criminal activity and hide guns, while also driving away our youth who need access to safe recreation.
Our bill would establish a conservation office within the DC Department of Energy and the Environment with a dedicated mission of maintaining and activating our natural forest areas by removing invasive plants, improving trails and signage, partnering with NPS, facilitating trash removal, coordinating volunteer activity, providing tools and grants to community groups, and developing a long-term strategic plan for conservation in DC that gets the job done equitably. I am grateful that this legislation already has the support of nine other Councilmembers. The bill also has support from and was developed in partnership with leading DC conservation groups, including organizations that serve Ward 4 like Casey Trees, the Rock Creek Conservancy, and the Shepherd Park Weed Warriors. You can also check out press coverage of the bill in the Washington Post and on Channel 9. Healthy forests improve air quality, lower temperatures, reduce pollution, sustain wildlife, enable recreation, promote health, and offer a respite from urban life. As a city, we need to be all in on conservation — and not let our forests and parks fall into neglect.
Council Highlights: Free Master’s in Social Work, E-Bike Rebate, and Closing a Paid Family Leave Loophole
The Council convened for its first regular legislative meeting since July on Tuesday. Here are some of the key measures we voted on and how they might impact you:
- We passed Councilmember Robert White’s bill on first vote to create a free Master’s in Social Work program at UDC for DC residents that covers tuition, books, and other living expenses. After graduation, participants would have to work for at least two years for a DC school, agency, or nonprofit that contracts with DC government. This bill, which the Council already funded in the DC budget, aims to create a social worker pipeline to address DC’s shortage of therapists, counselors, and social workers.
- We also passed the Electric Bicycle Rebate Act by Councilmember Charles Allen on second and final vote to create a rebate program for DC residents who purchase an e-bike.The rebate reimburses up to $1,000 for most DC residents to buy an e-bike, and the incentive doubles to $2,000 for DC residents on SNAP, TANF, or Alliance. The voucher program also covers other e-bike related costs, like a replacement battery, bike lock, and e-bike parts to accommodate riders with disabilities. The rebate, which we already funded in the DC budget, will likely be launched in 2024. DDOT will set the specific timing and rules, but it is expected that the rebate will only apply to e-bikes purchased after the program launches rather than apply retroactively. Half the rebate funds will be set aside for low-income residents to benefit from the program.
- We passed the Fairness in Renting Clarification Act from Councilmember Christina Henderson on second and final vote to eliminate loopholes that landlords use to charge exorbitant fees for rental applications. The bill also increases the notice period for rent increases to 60 days (up from 30 days) so tenants have more time to respond to destabilizing rent hikes before they take effect.
- And the Council gave final approval to my legislation to prohibit disability insurance companies from using the DC Paid Family Leave program to offset payouts that they owe to workers. This practice shortchanges workers the income replacements that they need — and paid for — when they have medical emergencies. I am grateful that we are closing a significant loophole in DC’s paid family leave law and ensuring more workers get their full benefits.
Upcoming Hearings: Public Safety, Dangerous Driving, Child Welfare, and School Readiness
The Council has several key hearings coming up about issues that impact our daily lives. Signing up to speak at a hearing or sending in comments is easier now through the Council’s new one-stop-shop online platform.
- Wednesday, September 27: A public roundtable to consider the nomination of Pamela Smith to be MPD Chief. This is also a great opportunity for residents to discuss what they want to see from MPD in their work to improve public safety in the District.
- Wednesday, October 4: A joint hearing on four bills that aim to confront dangerous driving in our communities by targeting cars with fake tags, suspending licenses for drivers who act negligently, and ensuring traffic enforcement cameras are placed on our most dangerous traffic corridors. I wrote more about these bills in my July 21 newsletter.
- Thursday, October 5: An oversight roundtable on the 911 Call Center in the DC Office of Unified Communications and the serious issues it faces with staffing, dispatch errors, dropped or missed calls, and inconsistent adherence to agency protocol.
- Thursday, October 12: A bill hearing to consider the Work Order Integrity Act, a bill I introduced to require school verification that a repair was actually made before a DGS work order can be closed. The hearing will also focus on school readiness, including a review of the start of the 2023-24 school year and preparing for the cold season.
Please consider testifying, sending in written comments, or tuning in for these hearings!
Prepare for Tropical Storm Ophelia on Saturday
The National Weather Service has issued a Wind Advisory for DC for Saturday, September 23 from 8am-8pm with heavy wind and heavy rain expected throughout the day. We are expecting winds 20-30 mph with gusts up to 45-50 mph. Please take a moment to prepare and plan ahead to mitigate the storm’s impact on you and your neighbors. Take time to secure outdoor objects that could become airborne in high winds. Use extra caution when driving, and try to limit time outdoors during high winds. If you see downed trees or branches, please report them to 311. If there are downed wires, assume they are live, report them immediately to Pepco at 1-877-737-2662, and call 911 if you see smoke or fire. It also helps to make sure your downspouts and your drains are clear of debris to prevent flooding. The forecast for the storm is changing rapidly, so make sure you’re signed up for Alert DC updates. Stay safe!
MOVED INDOORS: Chevy Chase DC Day!
On Saturday, September 23 from 1pm-4pm Chevy Chase Community Association and Chevy Chase Main Street are teaming up again to host Chevy Chase DC Day! The event will take place rain or shine with activities taking place inside the Chevy Chase Community Center in the event of rain. Come and bring your family for a day with live music, arts and crafts, face painting, balloon twisting, kids masquerade mask-making, a ballet performance, a police car and firetruck, a juggler, bounce house, free yoga classes, local business specials, and free ice cream and cupcakes. Check out the full list of activities, and see you there!
CANCELLED: Celebrate Petworth Festival
Given the heavy winds and rain forecasted for Saturday, the Celebrate Petworth Festival that was scheduled for Saturday, September 23 is cancelled to keep attendees safe. Organizers are encouraging neighbors to show support to the vendors and businesses that were supposed to be part of the festival, and they are looking into potentially rescheduling to a later date.
DC Senior Games Swim Meet at Takoma Pool
On Saturday, September 23 from 8am-1pm the annual DC Senior Games Swim Meet will take place at the Takoma Aquatic Center (300 Van Buren St NW)! Register by September 20. There are more than a dozen swimming races available for seniors to participate in.
Finance Workshop at First Baptist Church
On Saturday, September 23 from 10:30am-1:30pm First Baptist Church will host a finance workshop open to all Ward 4 residents. The event will educate community members on topics like long-term care, investments, risk management, tax diversification, transferring assets, and more. Check out the flyer and join them at 712 Randolph Street NW.
Neighborgoods Studio Opening Party in Petworth
On Saturday, September 23 from 12pm-5pm Neighborgoods Studio will host an open studio party with sips and snacks to celebrate its new space in our community at 4300 Georgia Ave NW. Neighborgoods bills itself as “a one stop shop to pick up witty and unique goods” and has grown to sell its goods to 600 stores nationwide. Give them a warm Ward 4 welcome!
Weed Warriors Event at Shepherd Field
On Sunday, September 24 from 2pm-4pm the Shepherd Park Weed Warriors will be celebrating Public Lands Day by hosting their third annual Weed Wrangle at Shepherd Field. Join in as they remove invasive plants and plant native ones on the slope of Shepherd Field.
Bone Health Presentation for Wellness Wednesday
On Wednesday, September 27 at 11am-12:30pm Nineteenth Street Baptist Church (4606-16th St NW) will host a bone health presentation at Wyatt Fellowship Hall with useful health info and snacks. RSVP by calling NSBC Health Navigator Jan Jefferson at 410-804-9325.
Final Ward 4 CARE Day in Petworth
On Wednesday, September 27 from 4pm-7pm we will have our final Ward 4 CARE Community Day event in Petworth at the Petworth Rec Center (801 Taylor St NW). This will be a day of sharing resources, bringing DC agencies to our neighborhoods, providing constituent services, talking about resident needs, and bringing our community closer together. Please RSVP if you are able to join us!
Lafayette Elementary HSA Outdoor Movie Night
On Saturday, September 30 at 6pm the Lafayette Elementary HSA will host a free Outdoor Movie Night on the Lafayette field. They’ll be screening “Book of Life” as part of their Hispanic American Heritage Month celebrations. Gates open at 6pm and the movie starts at 7:15pm.
Enjoy Our Ward 4 Farmers Markets
Get your fresh goods, crafts, and community vibes at our Ward 4 Farmers Markets:
- Uptown Farmers Market at 5501 Colorado Ave NW on Saturdays from 9am-1pm
- Chevy Chase Farmers Market at Lafayette ES on Saturdays from 9am-1pm
- Petworth Community Market at 9th & Upshur NW on Saturdays from 9am-1pm
- Takoma Park Farmers Market at 6931 Laurel Ave on Sundays from 10am-2pm
- Whittier Farm Stand at 6201 5th St NW on Tuesdays from 3pm-5pm
Join Us at Ward 4 Senior Jubilee!
On Friday, October 6 from 12:30pm-3:30pm we will host our second annual Ward 4 Senior Jubilee at Lamond Recreation Center! This will be an opportunity to gather together, celebrate our community, and enjoy music, dancing, food, games, prizes, and important resources from DC agencies. RSVP online or by calling my office at 202-724-8052 to save your spot!
Order Free COVID Tests Starting September 25
The federal government is again offering to mail free COVID tests to any US household starting on Monday, September 25. Each household can receive up to four free rapid tests, which are designed to detect the variants that are currently circulating. COVID hospitalizations are on the rise, so testing and keeping up with your vaccine boosters remain important.
ANC 4B Student Art Submission Contest
Students in the 3rd-12th grades who live in or attend school within ANC 4B boundaries can submit original art to 4B08 Commissioner Alison Brooks (4B08@anc.dc.gov) for the ANC 4B Student Art Contest. Winners will receive a prize and be featured in ANC 4B’s annual report.
Georgia Avenue Bus Priority Open Houses
DDOT is planning a series of open house events to share potential concept design alternatives for the Georgia Avenue NW Bus Priority Project. Open houses in Ward 4 will include Petworth Library on September 25, Emery Heights Community Center on October 3, and Shepherd Park Juanita Thornton Library on October 4. Stop by these events anytime from 4:30pm-7pm to review potential design concepts and weigh in on the project.
Sidewalk Closures for Sixteenth Street Bridge Project
Starting next week, there will be a month-long double sidewalk detour on Sixteenth Street Bridge (over Piney Branch Parkway) as part of the Sixteenth Street Bridge Rehabilitation Project. Pedestrians walking on Shepherd Street will have a detour on the East sidewalk, and will have to cross again to the West sidewalk as crews conduct historical repairs and traffic signal electrical work. We have asked if there is a less burdensome alternative for this phase of the project given the impact on pedestrians. On the more positive side, the current pedestrian detour on the North end of Shepherd Street will end next week.
DME School Boundary Study Town Halls
The Office of the Deputy Mayor of Education is hosting two School Boundary and Student Assignment Study virtual town halls on Tuesday, September 26 at 12pm and Wednesday, September 27 at 6pm. “Participants will review the landscape of DCPS boundaries and student assignment analysis, provide feedback on policy tools, and be introduced to the online web tool.” Check out the flyer in English and Spanish, and register online.
Monday Deadline: DC Public Library Survey
DC Public Library has a new survey out so it can better understand how residents’ library use has changed in the last three years and how it can better meet the needs of our communities. Completing the survey takes about 10 minutes, and the deadline to do so is September 25.
New Playground at Brightwood Elementary
In addition to Barnard, Brightwood Elementary also received new playgrounds this summer through capital investments in the DC budget. One playground serves 1st-5th graders while the other is dedicated to pre-K students. Thank you to DGS and DCPS for completing the work in time for the new school year. Brightwood students are already enjoying the new playgrounds!
Ward 4 in the News
Washington Post: New DC Bill Would Boost Upkeep of the City’s Forested Land
Channel 9: DC Councilmember Says Cleaning Up Parks Contributes to Public Safety
DCist: DC’s Annual Art All Night Festival Returns With New ‘Dine All Night’ Event
WTOP: DC Delays Implementing Fines for Using Bus Lanes, Extends Warning Period
DC Line: Recent Reforms Helping DC Distribute Unused Vouchers for Foster Youth
US Department of Education: Roots PCS in Ward 4 Selected as Blue Ribbon School
DC Water: Major Piney Branch Sewer Rehabilitation Project to Begin Work This Month
Washington Post: The 9 Best Coffee Shops in DC, According to the Woman Trying Them All (featuring La Coop and Zeke’s in Ward 4)
Team Rayceen Interview: Councilmember Janeese Lewis George, Ward 4
Urban Turf: 3,000 Units, 20 Acres of Open Space: Zoning Change Looks to Pave Way For DC’s Biggest Development at Soldiers Home
Fiscal Policy Institute: DC Made Progress on Poverty Thanks to Public Investment
DCist: Growing Share Of DC Renters Spend At Least Half Of Their Income On Rent
Washington.Org: 5 Reasons to Experience the World Culture Festival
Washington Business Journal: Historic Hospital Building at Walter Reed for Sale
Channel 4: Loretta Neumann Shares How Son of a Slave Explores Husband’s Legacy
WMATA: Take This Survey on Potentially Renaming MetroBus Routes
Pepco: Pepco Energizes First Capital Grid Project Substation in Takoma Park, MD
Rock Creek Conservancy: 2023 Rock Creek Weed Wrangle to Remove Invasive Plants
Next Stop… Riggs Park: Save the Date: The Parks Main Street Art All Night September 30
Ward 4 Dispatch: Council Returns, Upshur Modernization, and New Barnard Playground
Thank you to all the neighbors who came to our CARE Day in beautiful Lamond this week. We will be in Petworth on Wednesday of our final CARE Day event. I hope to see you there!
To our Jewish neighbors observing Yom Kippur this weekend, we wish each of you meaningful fast and fruitful reflection. G’Mar Chatimah Tovah!
After dedicating recess to being in our community, it felt good to be back in Council session this week so I can fight to address the issues I saw through oversight and legislation. We have important hearings and votes coming up, so you can count on me to keep you updated.
Enjoy the weekend, and please stay safe as Storm Ophelia passes through our area!
Yours in Community,