This week I talk about the importance of defending DC self governance, share a glimpse into our oversight work with DGS, provide community safety updates, highlight helpful government services and community resources, and round up some upcoming events in Ward 4.
Standing Up for DC Home Rule
This week the President of the United States and many Senators turned their backs on DC residents and our fundamental right to self determination by backing a resolution to overturn a local District law for the first time in more than three decades. This is the latest chapter in a long, dark history of Congress forcing its will on the people of DC. It harkens back to when Congressmen openly opined that DC’s Black leaders were incapable of self governance. Instead of burying that racist legacy, Congress and the President seek to resurrect it.
This country was founded on the principles of self governance and democratic representation that have always been denied to DC residents, who continue to be disenfranchised. The President has consistently shared his support for DC Statehood and Home Rule, including this very week. But supporting DC Statehood and Home Rule means standing with the District now — not only when it is politically convenient.
Republicans in Congress have chosen to lie about, distort, and weaponize the Criminal Code Revision for their political purposes. Their objections were never about safety. As I have shared before, DC’s current criminal code is outdated, unclear, inconsistent, and fundamentally broken. Every day in our courtrooms, it makes it hard for judges, defense attorneys, and prosecutors to enforce and uphold the law. Instead of enacting the modern, clear, consistent, and evidenced-based code that we need, Congress is sentencing us to the violent status quo.
This is a defining moment for the District. We are all called to stand up against this affront to our democracy and autonomy, which would set an incredibly dangerous precedent for our nation. Together with our community and people across the District, I will fight to defend DC’s right to self governance against this and any future Congressional intervention. DC residents deserve nothing less than full equality, full self governance, and full representation.
Two Days of Chairing DGS Hearings
This week I chaired the Council’s performance oversight hearings for the Department of General Services (DGS). To ensure we had ample time to engage each resident who was testifying, we split the hearing over two days — hearing from community members on Tuesday and engaging DGS officials on Thursday.
At Tuesday’s hearing, we heard from more than 30 public witnesses covering the wide range of DGS’ mission to “build, maintain and sustain” the District’s real estate portfolio. Parents and community members spoke about ongoing issues with the maintenance of schools and parks, including representatives from Whittier Elementary, the Friends of Riggs-LaSalle Recreation Center, the Ward 4 Education Alliance, and Ward 4 State Board of Education rep, Frazier O’Leary. We also heard from Ward 4’s “Weed Warriors” about DGS’ landscaping responsibilities and the need to fend off invasive plant species. Since DGS manages utilities for all DC government property, we heard from the Sierra Club, the DC Environmental Network, and others about how DGS can continue lowering the District’s carbon footprint.
At Thursday’s hearing, we heard from Director Keith Anderson and his senior leadership team. Director Anderson shared DGS’ accomplishments from fiscal year 2022 and 2023 to date: the completion of several capital projects, an expanded HVAC maintenance program, and the completion of DGS’ comprehensive Energy Management Plan. I focused my first questions on the work of DGS’ Facilities Management Division (FMD) which is responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of our schools and parks. FMD has struggled to resolve work orders in a timely way, and my questions focused on identifying the root causes of these delays. I pledged to keep the focus on routine issues like HVAC repair, plumbing, and school safety — and begin monthly meetings or hearings to push for continuous improvement. Next, I turned to DGS’ key performance indicators (KPIs), which, in my opinion, could be refined to drive DGS’ work and resources more strategically. The rest of my questions focused on five important areas:
- Contracting and procurement: focus on contractor accountability;
- Portfolio management: leverage our annual facility condition assessments;
- Capital construction: control costs and stay on schedule;
- Protective services: clarify responsibilities for school security; and
- Sustainability and energy: improve trash and recycling collections.
As an agency, DGS touches the life of nearly every DC resident. We need it performing at a high level to ensure that our children have safe and comfortable learning environments, that we have welcoming and well-maintained pools and recreation centers, and that we are building and sustaining DC facilities in a timely, sustainable, and fiscally sound way. As chair of the Facilities and Family Services Committee, I’m grateful for the chance to dig deeper on these issues and see how we can improve services for residents citywide and home in Ward 4.
This was our final week of performance oversight, and I joined in several other hearings to raise the issues that Ward 4 residents have been raising with me. That included the Council’s hearings with DDOT, DACL, education agencies, and our marathon hearing with the Office of the Ombudsperson for Children (OFC) and the Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA) last Friday. I’m grateful for everyone’s time and energy participating in the Council’s performance oversight hearings. Ward 4 showed up big each year, and I’m proud to amplify your requests with my Council colleagues and the Mayor. The Mayor is scheduled to deliver her Fiscal Year 2024 budget in a few weeks, and the hearings held this past month will help inform where we need additional investments or policy changes to do more and be better.
Community Safety Updates
It has been a devastating week with several disturbing acts of violence taking place in our community and across DC. Between Council hearings, my team and I have been responding to incidents to coordinate with agencies, speak to neighbors, and gather information to follow up on and update our community. What has been most alarming about this week is the close proximity of violence to public places like recreation centers, schools, and libraries that should be refuges for all who visit them. While some arrests were made in response to these incidents, MPD is actively investigating cases and would benefit from any additional information or footage. Neighbors can share information or video by calling 202-727-9099 or anonymously 50411 to help hold perpetrators accountable and prevent further violence.
Our team is engaging agencies to address unsafe conditions in these areas that contribute to safety risks, such as a lack of lighting and broken fencing. We recognize the trauma that violence causes on all who are near it, so together with our community we are working to support the rec center and library staff who have been impacted. In performance oversight hearings, I have been pressing DC government leaders on areas where our public safety ecosystem needs improvement, such as filling essential vacancies, better cross-agency coordination, and ensuring cases for serious offenses are not unnecessarily dropped. I also centered community safety in my budget requests to the Mayor, including bringing a new public library and other resources to Kennedy Street, expanding successful violence prevention programs in schools, and increasing housing support for returning citizens, gun violence victims, and domestic violence survivors.
Having spoken to witnesses and nearby neighbors, it is impossible not to see the connection between the public safety issues our communities are facing and DC’s broader challenges. Just last week, I wrote to you about the importance of expanding hours and staffing at our recreation centers. Just days later, there was a shooting of a teenager by the field at Raymond Recreation Center. Thankfully, the teen’s injuries were non-life-threatening, but having additional experienced staff to supervise our youth and facilitate safe recreation can help address the issues we’re seeing now. Then, on Thursday night, our unhoused neighbor Ali Zarrincalaki lost his life in attack from another unhoused resident at Petworth Library. Tragically, Ali was matched with a housing voucher last summer but was still waiting for his placement months later. DC government needs to move with far more urgency to turn housing vouchers into stable homes that help keep our neighbors safe.
Last month, many of my colleagues and I wrote to the Administration to call for an emergency plan by March 15 to clear DC’s housing voucher backlog. And I am grateful that DPR will expand hours at our Ward 4 rec centers over the coming weeks, and we will keep advocating for more programming. One hopeful part of this week was the Ward 4 youth career building workshop I co-hosted at Emery Heights Community Center, which brought together young people from our community to prepare for their future career. We will follow up the event with a Ward 4 job fair on Saturday, April 1 at Coolidge High School. The inescapable truth is that the other major challenges that our city faces — issues like housing, education, mental health, and opportunity — are deeply connected to our work to make DC safe. That is why we will stay focused as a community on both immediate safety interventions and comprehensive solutions that build lasting peace in our neighborhoods.
Deadline Extended: 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 to August 4 to gain enriching summer employment experience in the public and private sectors. The deadline was extended to Monday, March 6.
SOME Opens Senior Center at the Parks at Walter Reed
Today So Others Might Eat (SOME) DC celebrated a new Senior Center in Ward 4 that is based at Karin House (1395 Aspen St NW) at the Parks at Walter Reed to provide enriching wellness, recreational, and supportive services to local seniors (ages 60 and older). Check out SOME’s website for information about the programs offered at this new Senior Center.
Ward 4 Mutual Aid Groceries Distribution
On Wednesday, March 15 at 5pm and Saturday, March 18 at noon, Ward 4 Mutual Aid will be distributing groceries at Brightwood Park United Methodist Church (744 Jefferson St NW). They will provide gift cards, diapers, food, and other items as available to the first 100 families. They also offer a limited number of home deliveries on Saturdays. If you physically cannot make it to the church, please call or text the Ward 4 Mutual Aid Hotline at 202-681-3098.
All DC COVID Centers to Close on March 31
DC Health has announced that all DC COVID Centers will close on March 31. In explaining their decision, the agency cited “a significant drop in COVID-19 cases, high vaccination uptake, and an increase in the availability of vaccines and testing kits for at-home use.” I am disappointed that an impactful decision like this was made without community input, and that the closure is not being phased out gradually so that residents who still depend on these centers can still utilize them longer. Our COVID Centers have been an incredible resource.
Roosevelt High School Field Temporarily Closed
The Roosevelt football field will be closed to the public until further notice due to damage done to the field that needs to be repaired. Except for approved permit holders, community members will not be allowed to use the field for the time being. Thank you for your understanding.
Participate in Petworth Porchfest
Organizers are gearing up for the third annual Petworth Porchfest on Saturday, April 22 from 2pm-6pm. They are looking for bands to perform, porches to host bands, volunteers to lend a hand, and businesses to take part. Contact email@example.com with questions!
SNAP Benefits Reduced This Week
On March 1, more than 90,000 DC households that had been receiving SNAP Emergency Allotments (increased SNAP benefits) throughout the pandemic saw those increased benefits reduced after Congress let the expanded benefits expire. If you are not receiving the maximum SNAP benefit for your household, please contact our office so we can support you in adjusting your benefits. Additionally, there are many DC programs that can support nutritional needs, so don’t hesitate to reach out to my office for support with applying.
Community Building on Kennedy Street: Black and Women’s History Month
On Saturday, March 4 at 3pm-5:15pm the Brightwood Petworth Community Association will host a kid-friendly community building event titled “Harriet Tubman’s Wildest Dreams: Celebrating Black and Women’s History Month” at 7th & Kennedy NW with local businesses: Soup Up, Everyday Sundae, Brightwood Pizza and Bottle, and Anxo Cidery. There will be music, dancing, free food, kids’ activities, fellowship, and a panel of women (including myself and DC children’s book author Donna Henry). Check out the flyer with more information.
16th Street Clean Up & Fix Up Days
On Saturday, March 11 at 9:30am-11:30am and Sunday, March 12 at 9:30am-11:30am DC residents are taking part in two consecutive days of cleaning up and fixing up 16th Street from H Street all the way up to the Maryland border. Neighbors choose any segment of 16th Street to pick up litter and trash, rake remaining leaves, sweep up sand or mud, or report needed repairs to 311. To sign up, contact Merrit Drucker at 202-440 0733-or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Crestwood Seed Exchange
On Sunday, March 12 from 1pm-3pm the Crestwood Citizens Association Green Team is hosting a seed exchange in the 17th Street alley between Webster and Varnum Streets. Please join if you have seeds to share, want seeds, or just enjoy discussing gardening.
Rep. Norton Town Hall Meeting with NPS and Smithsonian Zoo
On Wednesday, March 15 from 6pm-7:30pm Congresswoman Norton will host a town hall meeting with the National Park Service to discuss questions, comments, and concerns about NPS parks in DC. They will also have representatives from the Smithsonian Zoo to discuss the Zoo Loop Trail and the Zoo’s timed entry pass policy. Register online to attend.
Save the Date: Ward 4 Jobs Fair on April 1
On Saturday, April 1 at 11am-3pm I will co-host a Ward 4 job fair with the DC Business Gun Violence Prevention Coalition. Please help spread the word about this event in our community, and join us to meet local employers, businesses, contractors, and social services hiring now.
Local News Links
DCist: Brightwood Rent Strike Gains Steam As Tenants Protest Unsafe Conditions
Washingtonian: Cherry Blossom Peak Bloom Is Predicted for March 22-25
Capital City PCS: Capital City PCS’s Liv Birnstad Named Coca-Cola Scholar
DCist: Fare-Free Buses In Jeopardy As DC Revenue Projections Drop
NBA: 10 Black-owned restaurants to visit in DC (featuring Oohhs And Aahhs)
HR Records: Home Rule Music Festival Returns on June 17, 2023 at The Parks
City Paper: Officers Convicted in Karon Hylton-Brown’s Death Ask Judge to Throw Out Jury’s Verdict, Grant A New Trial
Channel 9: Councilmember introduces legislation to keep public litter cans on the street
Petworth News: Two Petworth parents advocate for more DPR swim lessons
HillRag: Are You Eligible for Monthly Basic Income? File Your Taxes
City Paper: Swing Beat: Takoma Station Returns as a Major Jazz Venue
Previous Ward 4 Dispatch: Recreation Centers, Oversight Continues, and Bills on Trash
As we begin the month of March, let’s all take time to honor the brave and brilliant women who shaped history, share their stories, and ready the next generation of history-makers.
At Tuesday’s legislative session, I will move a resolution recognizing March 2023 as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, when we celebrate the great contributions of people with developmental disabilities and deepen our solidarity with them.
March is also Social Worker Appreciation Month, so please share love with the people who commit their lives to breaking barriers for others and guiding them to the resources they need.
Wishing you a restful weekend, Ward 4.
Yours in Community,