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Ward 4 Dispatch: Five Bills Introduced, DCPS School Budgets, Key Hearings, and Presidents Day Weekend

I hope you’ve had a good week. Thank you to everyone who joined our Ward 4 Budget Forum on Wednesday, or any of our other Listen As We Climb events. Through these listening sessions, my team and I have heard from more than two hundred neighbors, and your ideas and priorities are already shaping our work this year on the Council and in our community.

This week has been full of performance oversight hearings, where I engaged agencies on the issues that impact our community, including improved government services from DPW, filling critical vacancies in DC government, truly affordable housing, more economic opportunities, and improving public safety. I also chaired my first performance oversight hearing with the Committee on Facilities and Family Services, which focused on the agencies that serve DC residents with disabilities. I am really grateful for the dedicated public servants in these agencies and the work they do. I’m also grateful for all the community members who joined our hearing to speak about how services can be improved, including reducing wait times for service delivery, better wages for care workers, and more strategic employment opportunities.

Beyond oversight hearings, this week I reintroduced five bills focused on making government work better for workers and families. We also have a lot of community events and resources to share, so scroll all the way down so you don’t miss anything. Also, please remember that trash and recycling collection will ‘slide’ one day back next week due to the holiday weekend!

Bills for Worker Rights, Pool Access, and School Transit

At the start of each Council term, Councilmembers reintroduce bills that did not make it through the full legislative process in the previous term but are still worth consideration. To that end, I reintroduced five bills this week focused on worker rights, recreation, and school transit. This legislation aims to address some of the lesser-known but important issues in government.

  • The Minimum Wage Clarification Amendment Act would require that any person working at least 2 hours per week in the District is guaranteed DC minimum wage rates. Currently, employers only have to pay the District’s minimum wage rate for employees who, in practice, spend a majority of their time working in the District. This requirement leads to confusion on how to compensate certain hourly workers who only work occasionally in the District. Some companies reportedly rotate employees between different job sites in the region to intentionally keep employees below a certain threshold of hours worked in the District to avoid having to pay DC’s minimum wage. Closing this loophole is particularly important for construction workers, who are vulnerable to this form of wage manipulation. Read the full legislation.
  • The Universal Paid Leave Portability Amendment Act would allow workers in the District to receive paid family and medical leave benefits when they are between jobs, provided that they are not receiving unemployment benefits at the same time and have worked for a covered employer for part or all of the past year. Because of their health or caregiving status, these workers are often ineligible for unemployment benefits because they would not be considered “ready, willing, and able to work.” Portable paid family leave benefits would give DC workers economic stability while they care for a new child, support an ill family member, or recover from a serious health condition. And because the District’s Universal Paid Leave system is funded through tax payments in advance of benefits being allocated, the employer has already contributed the funds to cover the cost of these benefits regardless of whether the worker is still employed by the company. This legislation was first introduced by Councilmember Elissa Silverman last Council term. Read the bill.
  • The Short-Term Disability Insurance Benefit Protection Clarification Act would prohibit private market disability insurance companies from using the DC Paid Family Leave program to offset payouts they owe to District workers; short-term disability insurance policies are often paid for by the worker directly. When insurance companies use offsetting tactics, workers are shortchanged needed income replacements during medical emergencies and while recovering from childbirth. The Council first outlawed this practice by amending the Universal Paid Leave Act in 2021. However, private market disability insurance companies continue to flout the law. This legislation solidifies the Council’s intent to protect worker benefits by amending the District’s insurance regulations. This legislation was introduced last Council term by Councilmember Elissa Silverman. Read the legislation.
  • The Swing Space Transportation Support Act of 2023 would require DCPS to provide transportation for students  traveling to swing space locations that are more than half a mile away from the school’s regular address while their school building is being modernized. Currently, for schools being modernized, DCPS’ policy is to only provide transportation to swing spaces more than a full mile away from a school’s regular address and outside its neighborhood boundaries. But a mile is not a walkable distance for children to go to and from school each day, so my bill would update the policy. We know from past experience that schools undergoing modernizations in distant swing spaces without transportation provided to them risk seeing their enrollment plummet. And students that remain enrolled face the unnecessary burden of walking up to a mile to and from school each day. Our schools and students deserve better. Read the bill.
  • The Weekend Equal Access to Swimming Amendment Act would require all publicly-owned indoor pools in DC to be open to the public at least one weekend day per week. Currently, indoor public pools located in DCPS facilities do not offer any weekend hours: Roosevelt pool in Ward 4, Dunbar pool in Ward 5, Woodson pool in Ward 7, and Ferebee-Hope pool in Ward 8. Providing our communities access to these pools on weekends will provide more recreation and exercise opportunities, allow residents to access the pools at more convenient times, expand capacity for more classes and events, and help ease crowding at pools. Read the legislation.

Key Hearings Alert: DPR, MPD, DHS, and DOB

On Thursday, February 23 from 2pm-6pm the Council will have its performance oversight hearing with the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR). DPR has incredible staff and great programs, but unfortunately the agency has made citywide cuts in operating hours and changes to programming due to staff vacancies — and these changes have impacted some of our Ward 4 DPR centers. I have strongly opposed these cuts to recreation opportunities. This is a time when our young people, seniors, and families need recreation more than ever. So I am inviting neighbors to join me at Thursday’s hearing as we advocate for hours and programs to be restored at our Ward 4 DPR centers. Fill out this form by COB Tuesday to sign up to speak at the hearing, or email your written comments to for the record. DPR is not the only important agency with a hearing next week: the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety & Justice and the DC Attorney General have their hearing on Wednesday; MPD, the Department of Buildings (formerly DCRA), and the Department of Human Services are on Thursday; and the Child and Family Services Agency and Office of the Ombudsman for Children have their hearing on Friday. Find the full schedule of hearings and instructions for signing up on the Council website.

Initial DCPS Budgets Released

Earlier this week, the Mayor released initial SY23-24 budgets for all DCPS schools. I joined an oversight roundtable on Monday, before the budgets were released, to share my frustration with another year of delays, which fall most heavily on our principals and Local School Advisory Teams (LSATs) to deal with. Principals have been given approximately two business days to convene their LSATs, review initial budget allocations, and petition DCPS Central Office for any requested changes. This just is not enough time to do a good job. Although I’m pleased to see that librarians were allocated to all schools and are now non-negotiable positions, I’m very alarmed that some schools are reportedly seeing staffing cuts — particularly related to English Language Learner (ELL) staff and mental health staff. It is even more confounding that some schools that are facing potential budget cuts had relatively steady enrollment, or even enrollment increases. That means that next school year they could be asked to educate and support the same number of students or more with fewer staff. Cuts to school budgets are both ill-advised and violate the Schools First in Budgeting Act that the Council passed unanimously last year. I will continue to monitor school budgets, and I plan to participate in the Council’s performance oversight hearings for education agencies in two weeks. Community members can sign up to speak at those hearings, which will take place on Wednesday, March 1 and Wednesday, April 5.

A Legacy of Leadership and Service: Remembering Stephen Whatley

I am heartbroken to share that this morning our beloved Ward 4 community leader Stephen Whatley passed away. Stephen Whatley served as 4A03 Commissioner since 2001, representing residents in Shepherd Park, Brightwood, and Walter Reed for more than two decades.

Selfless service was the consistent thread stitched into the fabric of Commissioner Whatley’s life. He served in the United States Army for 22 years, retiring with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Army Reserves. His civic career spanned three federal government agencies, where he served in key positions and received numerous awards. He was a lifelong champion for civil rights, marching with Dr. King in the March on Washington and the Poor People’s Campaign. In DC, he fiercely advocated for lower utility costs, affordable health care, local infrastructure projects, and fully-funded neighborhood schools. And he devoted himself fully to his community as a tireless and compassionate ANC Commissioner, a kind mentor, a gifted youth soccer coach, and a talented choir member at Nativity Catholic Church.

Commissioner Whatley’s contributions to our community are immeasurable, but they include the 66-acre Parks development on the Walter Reed campus. Through years of thoughtful engagement, community advocacy, and hard work, Commissioner Whatley helped shape and implement a vision for the Walter Reed campus that is bringing thousands of new homes, jobs, green space, and amenities to our community — including for our most vulnerable neighbors.

Commissioner Whatley leaves behind a profound legacy of leadership and service. He has transformed our community, our city, and our country for the better through his life’s work. At our next Council session, I will move a ceremonial resolution to honor Commissioner Whatley. Please join me in praying for his close friends and caring family — especially his wife Annie and his daughter Christina, whom he loved above all else. Ward 4 is forever indebted to Stephen Whatley for all that he has done. He will be missed dearly.

Photo courtesy of The Parks at Walter Reed.

Neighborhood Events

Black History Swim Meet at Takoma Aquatic Center

On Friday, February 17 through Sunday, February 19 Ward 4’s Takoma Aquatic Center (300 Van Buren St NW) will host the 36th Annual Black History Invitational Swim Meet. Nationwide swimmers ages 5-18 will gather in DC to compete in one of the longest-running minority swim meets in the world during Black History Month. Takoma pool is closed throughout the holiday weekend for this event. Learn more about this historic event on DPR’s website.

Manor Park Community Cleanup

On Saturday, February 18 starting at 9am 4B05 Commissioner Kevin Gilligan will host a community cleanup in Manor Park starting at 8th & Peabody NW. They will focus on cleaning the area around Georgia/Missouri/7th/Tewkesbury. Bags, gloves, grabbers, and snacks will be provided. Commissioner Gilligan will host clean ups on the third Saturday of every month.

eCYCLE Event for Recycling Electronics in Takoma

On Saturday, February 18 from 10am-2pm DOEE and Reverse Logistics Group will host a free eCYCLE event for Ward 4 residents to safely discard their old electronics, including TVs, computers, and other electronics. Check out the list of eligible electronics on DOEE’s website.

Ladies’ Night at Petworth ACE Hardware Store

On Wednesday, February 22 from 5pm-8pm Petworth ACE Hardware Store (1240 Upshur St NW) will host a Ladies’ Night with 20% off the entire store, DIY demos, special vendors, giveaways, tasty bites, and drinks from Right Proper Brewing. RSVP for an extra raffle ticket.

EL Haynes Black History Month Celebration

On Wednesday, February 22 at 6pm EL Haynes PCS (4501 Kansas Ave NW) will host an event honoring Black History Month. Join the school community for an evening of student performances, artwork and projects, and a shared meal. Everyone is encouraged to wear black to the event. Ward 4 stands in solidarity with EL Haynes students, families, and staff!

Blueprint for Wellness and Giant Pharmacy Clinic

On Sunday, February 26 from 11am-3pm Nineteenth Street Baptist Church (4606 16th St NW) will host a Blueprint for Wellness event and simultaneous Giant Pharmacy Clinic where residents can get vital information about their metabolic, weight, and coronary indicators — as well as COVID vaccines, boosters, flu shots, shingles shots, and HPV shots (with insurance card). This is a free event but registration is required, so please call or text the Church’s Health Navigator Janyce Jefferson at 410-804-9325 to reserve your spot.

Ward 4 Youth Career Building Workshop

On Monday, February 27 from 10am-2pm the DC Gun Violence Prevention Coalition and our office are hosting a Ward 4 Youth Career Building Workshop at Emery Heights Community Center (5701 Georgia Ave NW). Young people in Ward 4 are invited to come learn about job opportunities and how to build a roadmap to a career. Register to attend and spread the word!

Community Resources

Modified City Services for Presidents Day Weekend

During Presidents Day holiday weekend on February 18-20, DC government will have modified government services. Household trash and recycling collection will ‘slide’ forward, meaning your collection will take place one day later than usual. DMV locations will be closed all weekend, while DPR rec centers and pools will be closed on Monday. However, COVID centers, outdoor DPR facilities, and some public libraries will remain open on Monday. Learn more about DC government operations and WMATA service levels over the holiday weekend.

DC School Lottery Deadline for PK3-Grade 8

The application for DC School Lottery applications for children attending PK3-Grade 8 next school year is Wednesday, March 1. Visit the My School DC website for the application and a list of open house events to check out our local schools.

DC Health to Stop Distributing Rapid Tests at Libraries and Senior Centers

DC Health has announced that on February 28 it will suspend the Test Yourself DC self-service kiosk program and rapid test distribution at libraries and senior centers. The agency cited falling COVID case counts and similar actions on the federal level in explaining this change. It also emphasized that DC residents can receive rapid tests and PCR tests at all of our DC COVID Centers, local pharmacies, and healthcare providers.

DOEE Lead Pipe Replacement Assistance Program

Does your home have lead pipes? DOEE’s Lead Pipe Replacement Assistance Program provides assistance to homeowners to replace lead service lines serving their home. While every household can receive assistance, income-eligible homeowners can have 100% of their lead pipe replacement costs covered under the program. Consult DC Water’s database to see your home’s service line information. (Please note that this database is based on DC Water’s best available data and may not be accurate.)

Deadline Coming Up: 2023 Summer Youth Employment Program

Applications are open for the Marion S. Barry Summer Youth Employment Program. DC youth ages 14-24 can apply to work from June 26 through August 4 to gain enriching summer employment experience in the public and private sectors. Apply by February 28.

Immigration Legal Clinic / Clínica Legal de Inmigración

On Thursday, February 23 from 5:30pm-8:30pm our friends at Emory Beacon of Light will host a free legal clinic for any immigrant neighbors that need legal support. Call 703-979-1240 to make an appointment. El 23 de febrero de 5:30 a 8:30 de la tarde, nuestrxs amigxs de Emory Beacon of Light tendrán una clínica legal para cualquier persona imigrante que necesite ayuda legal gratis. Llame al 703-979-1240 para hacer una cita.

Deadline Extended: DC Public Library Ward 4 Survey

In 2020, DC Public Library released its 10-year Facilities Master Plan, which outlined recommendations to maintain, adapt, and grow the city’s public library system. As part of their planning, DCPL is gathering community feedback on the possibility of relocating the Shepherd Park/Juanita E. Thornton Library to The Parks at Walter Reed, retaining the existing site, or moving it to an alternative location. The deadline to fill out the survey has been extended to February 28. Ward 4 residents are encouraged to weigh in through DCPL’s survey. The survey is also available in Spanish and Amharic. As your Councilmember, I voiced strong support for a two-library solution in my February 3 newsletter.

DC Public Library Passport Acceptance Office

Did you know that MLK Library (901 G St NW) has a Passport Acceptance Office on the second flood of the building? They’re open five days a week to help you renew or apply for a new passport. Reach them at or 202-727-3257 with questions.

Refunds for Instacart Workers in DC 

If you made deliveries for Instacart between October 1, 2016 and April 30, 2018, you are eligible for a cash refund of $150 or more because of a lawsuit brought by the Office of the DC Attorney General. File your claim online and let your friends and neighbors know; as many as 10,000 workers across the DC region are eligible for payments. 

Updated Design for Crestwood Triangle Park 

Last week DPR and DGS shared an updated design for a proposed nature-inspired play area in Crestwood Triangle Park (Argyle Terrace & 18th Street NW). Compared to the previous design from November 2022, the new design shifts the play area to the corner of the Triangle, preserving more open space in Crestwood Triangle Park. Another improvement is that DPR will install bike racks in the park, which is a DDOT requirement for all new facilities. DPR plans to build the new play area during the fall of 2023. DPR’s full presentation has additional details. 

Truesdell Elementary Is Being Modernized, Not Closing

There has been some confusion about Truesdell Elementary in Brightwood Park. Truesdell is not closing; its building is being modernized during school years 2023-24 and 2024-25, meaning that in two years time Truesdell will have a brand new building to serve its wonderful school community. And thanks to budget investments we secured last year, Truesdell will have a swing space right here in Ward 4 to relocate to during these two years until its new building is ready. And DCPS has committed to providing swing space transportation for students from the current school address. In addition, DCPS shared a presentation with three concept drawings of the new building at the January SIT meeting and announced that they are planning to proceed with Concept #1 (Park Pavilion) for the new facility and soccer field.

Local News Links

Washington Post: DC overpays landlords millions to house the city’s poorest

Washington InformerCouncilmembers Criticize Contract Procurement Practices

DCist: Some Parents And Teachers Struggle With Aging Schools That Are Years Away From Being Modernized

PopVille: Unhoused Resident’s Belongings Set on Fire in Petworth

Washingtonian: DC’s Most Adventurous Record Store Just Opened in Chevy Chase

Petworth NewsAn Upshur Street original: This Old “Petworth” House (part 3)

Next Stop Riggs Park: Culture Coffee Too Closing at the End of March

Washington Post: Hot spots to pull you through the end of winter (including Red Derby)

DCistWhat Is The Cherry Blossom Indicator Tree, And Why Is It Budding In February?

Petworth News: Petworth Porchfest returns on April 22, and you can play or host!

WMATA: Takoma and Fort Totten Metro Stations to Get New Bus Shelters This Year

DPR: $3 Million in Community Grants Available to Engage Youth with Barriers to Access 

DGS: Preview of Raymond Elementary’s Future Building Under Construction

Greater Greater Washington: Over the river and onto TranspoBINGO

Urban TurfAll Three-Bedrooms: Douglas Plans Missing Middle Project in Takoma

Ward 4 Dispatch: WTU Contract, Budget Forum, Council News, and Hands Off DC

The highlight of the week for me was getting to be with our seniors at Hattie Holmes Senior Wellness Center on Valentines Day. The Quilters Club at Hattie Holmes has an incredible set of handmade quilts on display through the end of the month. The tradition of quilting is woven into the very fabric of Black history and Black heritage. Dating back to the time of slavery, Black families made quilts to keep warm and to share stories across generations. Then, during the Underground Railroad, quilts were used to send coded messages that would help enslaved families find freedom. One quilt that particularly moved me was made by a Hattie Holmes member for her sister, who is battling serious illness. The quilt was titled “Hope.” Hattie Holmes also has a room dedicated to Black History Month with books, newspapers, and other noteworthy items that the community can see. Be sure to stop by Hattie Holmes (324 Kennedy St NW) before the end of the month to see both the Quilters Club and Black history exhibits. Thank you to our Hattie Holmes seniors for a day full of love and inspiration.

Wishing you a great Presidents Day Weekend, Ward 4!

Yours in Community,