Before we bid goodbye to 2023, I want to share these updates on what is happening at the Council and in our Ward 4 community. This newsletter covers new laws the Council passed, important updates on SNAP, updates on public safety, changes to DC services, rental assistance, Ward 4 events, and much more… I am excited to connect with you in 2024, including our annual Listen As We Climb community meetings in every Ward 4 neighborhood!
Council Action: Housing, Health, Schools, Worker Rights, Safety
As always, I want to keep you updated on what happens at the Council and how it may impact your life. Here are some of the bills we voted on at our December 19 legislative meeting:
- The Council passed the School Improvement Act on its first vote. The bill will create a new office at OSSE to provide tailored resources and support to the 5% lowest-performing schools in the District (both DCPS and public charter).
- We approved the Proactive Inspection Program Act on its first vote, a bill to create a proactive inspection program at the Department of Buildings for identifying and addressing housing code violations. Currently, we have a complaint-driven inspection system, which causes poor housing conditions at some buildings to go unnoticed and unaddressed. The new proactive inspection system will prioritize inspections based on building risk factors, such as building age and past code infractions.
- We advanced the Childhood Continuous Coverage Act on first vote, which will help ensure young children in DC do not lose their health insurance. The bill requires that children ages 0-5 enrolled in Medicaid, CHIP, or the Immigrant Children’s Program not face a redetermination that could lead to their loss of coverage.
- The Council also advanced the Home Visiting Services Reimbursement Act on its first of two votes. The legislation expands access to home visiting services by ensuring they are covered under Medicaid, DC Alliance, and the Immigrant Children’s Program. Home visiting services drive down infant mortality and help create safe and supportive home environments for DC families with infants.
- Additionally, we approved a temporary bill allowing retired DC firefighters and retired MPD officers to work at DC’s troubled 911 Call Center to fill critical vacancies. These veteran first responders know our emergency response system well and can help improve staffing at our 911 Call Center to make it more dependable to DC residents.
- HPAP is DC’s popular home purchasing assistance program. This summer, DC abruptly ran out of HPAP funding and then changed the eligibility rules — suddenly rendering ineligible many residents who had already started the process of buying their first home through this program under the previous rules. On Tuesday, we passed an emergency bill to restore HPAP eligibility for residents who lost eligibility under the new rules.
- We passed the second and final vote for the Wage Transparency Omnibus Act, which requires employers in DC to publicize salary ranges on all job postings and ban them from asking job candidates about their past salaries or screening candidates based on wage history — among other protections. The bill goes into effect in June, and it aims to improve salaries and prevent wage discrimination based on people’s backgrounds.
- The Council also gave final approval to my legislation to strengthen DC’s minimum wage protections. Currently, DC’s minimum wage only applies to workers who work a majority of their work hours inside the District — allowing companies to evade the law by rotating workers between job sites across the region. Our bill closes this loophole.
- And finally, we passed my Work Order Integrity Act on its final vote. The legislation ensures that the building repairs our schools need are actually completed properly by empowering local school staff (like a principal or foreman) to sign off on whether the work was actually done. The bill will also improve communication about building repairs between schools and DCPS, DGS, and DGS contractors.
The Council is also preparing to take up several public safety bills in early 2024. These bills had their required hearings and are now before the Committee on Public Safety and Justice to update the legislation based on the feedback they received from DC residents. I also wanted to alert neighbors that my legislation to teach conflict resolution in all DC schools and Councilmember Zachary Parker’s bill to increase school safety will have a joint hearing on Thursday, January 11. Please sign up at this link to speak about the bills or submit comments to express your support or ideas. It only takes a 5 minutes to weigh on this critical legislation. I will continue to keep you updated on all these bills as they come before the full Council.
Update on the Fight to Expand SNAP
Last week, I told you about how the fully-funded $40 million increase to SNAP food assistance for 140,000 DC residents hit a major snag: the Mayor is refusing to provide the increased benefits to the DC residents who depend on SNAP. Since Congress let expanded SNAP benefits expire earlier this year, thousands of DC residents are down to receiving just $30 to cover their groceries for the entire month — even as food prices have skyrocketed. The full Council recently took action by sending a letter criticizing the decision and urging the Mayor to change course and follow the law. Council letters do not always make for good reading, but this letter is worth your time. It succinctly describes how we got here, why the Administration’s justifications do not add up, and why withholding this SNAP assistance compounds other failures in DC’s social safety net. Beyond the Council letter, the Office of the DC Attorney General has also weighed in and said that the Mayor lacks the legal authority to withhold or divert SNAP funds without Council approval. More than one out of every three DC residents struggles with food insecurity. As we enter this holiday week, please join me in urging the Mayor to reverse her decision, which is both unlawful and harmful.
Safety During This Holiday Week
We are entering this holiday week at a time when the District is facing alarming levels of crime, so I want to update you on what our public safety agencies are doing to improve safety. Fourth District is closely monitoring crime trends and is focused on patrolling crime hot spots in our community. MPD has well-known staffing issues, so Fourth District has expanded its capacity by authorizing overtime units, detailing officers from the Violent Crime Suppression Initiative, and receiving additional support from MPD’s Civil Disturbance Unit. The aim is to deter crime and to apprehend offenders soon after crimes are committed — everything from car break-ins and porch thefts to armed robberies and gun violence like the shootings our Kennedy Street community experienced this week. MPD is seeking information and offering a $25,000 reward for information related to the homicide that took place on December 18 on the 5400 block of Illinois Avenue NW. Neighbors with information that can bring the perpetrators of this horrific act to justice are urged to call 202-727-9099 or text an anonymous tip to 50411. There was also a non-fatal shooting on the 500 block of Longfellow Street NW on December 21 that is being actively investigated by MPD and appears to be domestic in nature. My team and I are also continuing to work with our agency partners to address safety issues in Sixteenth Street Heights. Beyond increasing police patrols in the area, we have also worked with Metro Transit PD to more closely monitor the 14th Street corridor and we partnered with DDOT to increase lighting on Buchanan Street NW. Lastly, during the holidays we typically see an increase in car break-ins and porch thefts, so please be extra careful not to leave valuables in your car or let boxes sit visibly on your porch for extended periods of time.
Modified DC Services: DPW Collection Slides Next Week
There will be changes to DC services as agencies observe the holidays. Next week, trash and recycling collection will ‘slide’ one day later through Saturday. Curbside composting collection will also slide one day this coming week and the following week in observance of Christmas Day and New Years Day. DPR indoor rec centers, community centers, and pools will be closed on Monday and reopen on Tuesday with regular hours — while outdoor fields, parks, and playgrounds will remain open. All DC Public Libraries will be closed on Sunday and Monday. DMV locations will be closed Saturday through Monday. And DPW parking enforcement will be suspended on Monday. Find more details about DC government operations at this link. Our Council office will be closed through January 2 to allow my staff to enjoy the holidays with their families, and there will be no Ward 4 newsletter sent next Friday, December 29. WMATA will also be running modified service on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day. On New Year’s Eve, Metro will stay open until 2am and have overnight bus service to help revelers get home safely.
Second Pass of Leaf Collection Starts in Section A
Next week, the week of December 26, DPW will begin the second pass of leaf collection in Section A, which includes our neighborhoods in Chevy Chase, Barnaby Woods, Hawthorne, Colonial Village, North Portal, Shepherd Park, and a small sliver of Takoma and Manor Park west of 8th Street. If you live in Section A, please have your leaves raked to your curb, treebox, or easement by Sunday, December 24. If you live in another section of Ward 4 and your leaves were not collected during your collection week, you can report missed leaf collection on the 311 website. All neighborhoods will get two rounds of leaf collection.
Rental Assistance Portal Reopens January 2
On January 2, DHS will reopen applications for its Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) for eligible DC residents who have fallen behind on their rent. The portal will close again once it receives 3,500 applications, which may only take a few days. That is why it is important for residents to apply as soon as they can once the portal reopens. At the Council, we increased funding for emergency rental assistance by $43 million this year to meet more residents’ needs and have resisted efforts to divert rental assistance funding to other programs.
Winter Break Youth Meals in DC
OSSE and USDA are providing free youth meals for DC children 18 years and under at select rec centers throughout DC during the winter school break on December 27-29 from 12pm-1pm each day. Rec centers offering free meals include Shepherd Park, Raymond, Riggs-LaSalle, Lamond, Emery Heights, and Fort Stevens in Ward 4. Learn more on DPR’s website.
DC School Lottery Is Now Open
Last weekapplications opened for the MySchoolDC Lottery, where families have the opportunity to apply for DCPS and PCS schools for next school year ranging from PK3 through Grade 12. Families have until February 1 to submit high school applications and until March 1 for PK3–Grade 8. Visit the MySchoolDC website for more information, and please strongly consider listing our incredible Ward 4 schools in your top choices!
DC Now Has 24-hour MetroBus Service
WMATA has now launched 24-hour MetroBus service on 14 key bus routes. Between 9pm-7am, MetroBus runs every 20 minutes or better along the A6, A8, B2, H4, S2, V2, W4, X2, 32, 33, 52, 70, 80, and the 92. Each ride costs only $2, riders are allowed ‘courtesy stops’ so they can get off closer to their destination, and Metro Transit Police is available 24/7 to enhance safety. This was an important investment we made in the DC budget to expand access to public transit, especially for late-night and early-morning essential workers in hospitality and healthcare. Read WMATA’s full announcement for more details. In addition to launching 24-hour MetroBus service, WMATA also expanded MetroBus service frequency on dozens of routes, including the 52, 70, 79, 80, S2, and S9.
Preservation Grants for Ward 4 Properties
The Brightwood Car Barn Preservation Initiative is offering preservation grants worth up to $50,000 for preservation projects in Ward 4 that “enhance the citizens’ knowledge and understanding of historic resources in the community that add to the area’s unique cultural heritage.” Visit the grant website for more information, grant workshops, and the application!
Making Improvements to DC PLUG
This week I met with the DC PLUG Project Team to press for improved communication with neighbors, making construction less disruptive, and better coordination with our schools and small businesses. DC PLUG is a long-term, citywide joint project from DDOT and PEPCO to bring DC’s power lines underground, which will help prevent future power outages during storms, improve utility infrastructure, and make our city more climate resilient. DC PLUG is currently active in Takoma and Manor Park (Feeder 15009) and has projects planned in Crestwood and Sixteenth Street Heights (Feeder 15001) and Brightwood and Missouri Avenue (Feeder 15021). Check out this presentation from DC PLUG on the work taking place in Ward 4. In response to the concerns we have been raising, DC PLUG has made some initial improvements. The project team now has a dedicated contact in Takoma and Manor Park to address constituent inquiries as they arise: Ann Walters (email@example.com). There is also a DC PLUG hotline (844-758-4146) and email (firstname.lastname@example.org) where residents can ask questions directly. DC PLUG has also started releasing a three-week preview to give neighbors more notice of upcoming work. We will continue pushing for improvements in both communication and in making the work less disruptive for neighbors.
Welcoming New ANC Commissioners in Ward 4
Please join me in congratulating our two newest Ward 4 ANC Commissioners: 4E04 Commissioner Randy Zmuda (4E04@anc.dc.gov) in Sixteenth Street Heights and 4D02 Commissioner Abel Amene on Kennedy Street (4D02@anc.dc.gov). I was proud to swear in Commissioner Zmuda and Commissioner Amene, who stepped up to fill important vacancies on their respective Commissions. Abel Amene is also the first noncitizen to hold public office in the District. Meanwhile in Riggs Park, a candidate has stepped up to fill the vacancy at ANC 4B10 and other candidates can also file their petitions to run through January 2.
Invasive Plant Removal in Shepherd Park
On Saturday, December 23 from 9am-11am the Shepherd Park Weed Warriors will host their final event for the year: an invasive plant removal on the slope of Shepherd Elementary field. Bring water, sturdy shoes, warm layers, gloves, and pruners if you have them!
Holidaze Art Market at Treehouse
On Saturday, December 23 from 3pm-8pm Treehouse will be hosting a special holiday art market featuring art, jewelry, t-shirts, and prints from local vendors at 4722 14th Street NW in Sixteenth Street Heights. The event will also feature food and drinks!
Crestwood Caroling: a 50-Year Tradition
On Saturday, December 23 at 5:30pm the Crestwood Citizens Association will continue its five decade tradition of Crestwood Christmas Caroling at 3904 18th Street NW. There will be light refreshments and cookies, but feel free to bring your favorite drink or cookie to share. Caroling will begin at 6pm, and Santa will make an appearance at 6:30pm to hand out candy canes before departing for the North Pole! You can preview the song list with lyrics at this link.
eSports Open Play at Raymond Rec Center
On Wednesday, December 27 from 4pm-8pm, Raymond Rec Center (3725 10th Street NW) will host eSports Open Play for DC youth. Come enjoy eSports and video games! This is part of a weeklong series of DPR events for teens who are out of school during the holiday break!
Petworth Get Wise Crime Awareness Training
On Saturday, January 6 from 12pm-2pm the Petworth Get Wise Coalition will host a Crime Awareness and Preparedness Training at Center City PCS (510 Webster St NW). The event will share safety strategies in partnership with the FBI’s Office of Partner Engagement.
The lineup of local events is understandably short this week due to the holidays, but look forward to a busy 2024 with plenty of community events! For more local events, check out DPR, DC Public Library, NPS, and Rock Creek Conservancy.
Ward 4 in the News
Washington Post: Meet the First Noncitizen to Hold Public Office in the District
Washington Post: Councilmember Vincent Gray Won’t Seek Reelection Amid Health Challenges
Washington Post: DC Faces an Attendance Crisis. Its Leaders Are Struggling to Solve It
Washington Informer: Alpha Kappa Alpha’s Xi Omega Chapter Celebrates a Century of Service to DC
Petworth News: Local Pickup Frisbee and Soccer Games Help Tie Neighbors Together
Yahoo News: DC Council Passes Bill Requiring Employers to Post Salary Ranges, More
DDOT: Construction Updates on the Metropolitan Branch Trail (Fort Totten to Takoma)
WMATA: Red Line Construction Expands to Gallery Place, Judiciary Square Through Weekend Only
WMATA: No Red Line Service between Dupont and Gallery Place Through December 30
Washington City Paper: The People Issue 2023 (Featuring Owner of Slash Run)
Channel 7: DC Bureau Chief Sam Ford Bids Farewell After 50 Years in Journalism
LaSalle-Backus Elementary: Leopards Meet Vice President and Second Gentleman
Washington Post: DC Families Expected a SNAP Boost. But the City Isn’t Delivering
Washington City Paper: Bowser Opts to Ignore the Law, Raiding Money for Increased SNAP Benefits Mandated by the Council
Next Stop… Riggs Park: Update on the Metropolitan Branch Trail South Manor Off-street Alignment and Its Takoma Segment
DCist: Looking Glass Lounge Will Stay Open After Reaching a Deal With Landlord
Ward 4 Dispatch: Work Order Integrity, Safety Initiatives, and Ward 4 Holiday Fairs
From Lamond and Crestwood to East Rock Creek Village and Hattie Holmes Senior Center, it has been wonderful celebrating the holidays with so many Ward 4 neighbors. Thank you to everyone who brought neighbors closer together this holiday season.
And I’m sharing my deep gratitude to all the ANCs, congregations, non-profits, school communities, and neighbors who stepped up to fill unmet needs in Ward 4 through toy drives, coat drives, food distribution, and more. These are the types of initiatives that make our community so special.
That is all from me for the rest of this year! On behalf our entire team, we wish you all Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, a Joyous Kwanza, and a Happy New year!
Yours in Community,