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Ward 4 Dispatch: Key Hearings, Baby Bonds, and Carter Barron Concert!

Dear Neighbors,

There’s a lot to get into this week so I’ll try to get right into it. Here is my update on key legislative hearings coming up next week, a new baby bonds program established by the DC Council, a reflection and video for Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and many Ward 4 events – including a rare concert at Carter Barron Amphitheatre, a Fall Festival at First United Church of Jesus Christ, and some of the many Halloween events happening next week!


Legislative Updates

Next Week Is Packed with Important DC Council Hearings

We have an action-packed week coming up with key hearings on important issues. As always, I encourage Ward 4 residents to shape legislation and make an impact by participating in these hearings. The link for each hearing lays out how you can sign up to testify, send in written comments, or watch the hearing to stay updated. My team and I are also available to help answer any questions you may have.

Bringing Checks and Balances and Accountability to DC’s Education System

Tuesday, October 26 at 11am: The Committee of the Whole holds a hearing on two bills to make the Office of the State Superintendent (OSSE) an independent agency so it can more effectively monitor and support our schools. Under the current system of complete mayoral control, all major education agencies report to the Mayor. That creates a conflict of interest where the agencies that are supposed to oversee the Mayor’s handling of schools are appointed by the Mayor, report to the Mayor, and can be fired by the Mayor. Making OSSE independent would provide necessary checks and balances in DC’s education system to ensure greater transparency, accountability, and schools that meet the needs of our communities. Even if passed, this would still leave DC Public Schools under the authority of the Mayor. One of the bills discussed during this hearing is my legislation to bring OSSE under the DC State Board of Education (SBOE) and correct a longtime imbalance by allowing DCPS teachers and staff to run for seats on the SBOE.

Improving DC’s Response to Abandoned Vehicles and Confirming DDOT’s Director

Tuesday, October 26 at 12pm: The Committee On Transportation and the Environment holds a hearing that will double up as hearing on my legislation to improve the city’s handling of abandoned vehicles and consider whether to confirm DDOT’s interim director Everett Lott as permanent director of the agency. Not a day goes by when I don’t hear from a Ward 4 resident about the need to make our streets safer, and that’s because the stakes are incredibly high. Yet for too long neighbors’ requests to DDOT for traffic safety improvements have been bogged down in bureaucracy. This hearing is an opportunity to speak on DDOT’s priorities and performance, especially given upcoming changes announced by DDOT to speed up traffic safety upgrades. Along similar lines, I’ve heard our residents describe the frustrating delays in removing abandoned vehicles from their neighborhoods. That’s in part because DC law sets the bar too high for when vehicles can be removed and includes overlapping definitions for abandoned vehicles and dangerous vehicles (which are handled differently). If you’ve ever had to struggle to get an abandoned car removed from your block, consider testifying in support of my legislation to address these issues!

Considering A Vaccine Mandate for Eligible DC Students

Wednesday, October 27 at 10am: The Committee of the Whole holds a hearing on legislation to create a vaccine mandate for all eligible DC students in DCPS, public charter, private, and parochial schools. DC already has a vaccine mandate for student athletes who are 12 years or older. The bill would require employees of licensed child development facilities in the District to be vaccinated against COVID as well. The COVID vaccine mandate would have an allowable medical and religious exemption.

Redistricting in Ward 4

Thursday, October 28 at 10am: The DC Council Subcommittee on Redistricting is holding a virtual roundtable focused on redistricting in Ward 4. This is an important opportunity to testify, submit written comments, or just stay updated on potential changes to our Ward boundaries. I wrote in detail about DC’s redistricting process and how it will impact Ward 4 in my September 17 newsletter. If you cannot make it on the 28th but still want to testify ‘live’ there is also a citywide redistricting roundtable on Friday, November 5. I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts, and I know the At Large Councilmembers in charge of the redistricting process are also eager to hear from you too.

DC Council Unanimously Approves Baby Bonds Legislation

The Council had an usually brief legislative session on Tuesday, but we did give approval to legislation that will create Baby Bonds in DC! Baby Bonds is a program that invests as much as $1,000 per year into trust funds for low-income children in DC. Children will be able to access their funds once they turn 18 to pay for college, buy a home or commercial property, create a business, or invest in stocks, bonds, or shares. The program was proposed by Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie from our neighboring Ward 5 as a way to reduce the gigantic racial wealth gap in the District. For a child to be eligible, their family must be enrolled in Medicaid, make less than 300% of the federal poverty line (currently $79,500 for a household of four), and live in DC of at least 16 years prior to turning 18, including the last 12 months before their 18th birthday. Learn more about the program from DCist. Combined with the monthly basic income we established this year with our Homes and Hearts Amendment, these programs will be game changers for working families.

Raising Awareness and Responding to Domestic Violence

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, so I want to shine a light on the need to support and empower survivors of domestic violence. This felt particularly important this year because some of the tragic shootings we’ve experienced in Ward 4 were the outcome of domestic violence. That’s why earlier today I hosted an Instagram Live conversation with Dawn Dalton of the DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Jenny Wesberry of DC SAFE, two organizations on the frontlines of responding to domestic violence in our community. DC SAFE is based in Ward 4 and is the only 24/7 crisis intervention agency for domestic violence in DC. Watch the video of our conversation at this link. If you are experiencing domestic violence, know that you can get support by calling the DC Victim Hotline at 844-443-5732 (844-4-HELP-DC). And if you know someone who may be experiencing domestic violence, make sure they know you’re there to support them, give them the help they ask for, and be there as a patient partner as they make their own decision on what to do.


Neighborhood Events

Fall Festival at First United Church, The Church of Champions. On Saturday, October 23 from 10am-4pm First United Church, The Church of Champions (7901 16th Street, NW) will host their annual Fall Festival! Several local entrepreneurs will be present with custom and handmade items just in time for the holiday season.  In addition, they are partnering with Safeway to administer the Pfizer vaccine to area residents. The weather is looking perfect!

Carter Barron Amphitheatre Mini Concert Festival! On Sunday, October 24 at 2pm-9pm the Friends of Carter Barron Foundation for the Performing Arts are hosting a one-day mini concert at Carter Barron, the historic and scenic amphitheater nestled in Rock Creek Park. They have amazing acts lined up, including Grammy-nominated Maysa and a Tribute to Go-Go, and are focusing this event on gun violence prevention. The Friends group is also steadily advocating for this beautiful venue to be fully restored and reactivated so we can host events like this there all the time. Get your tickets for Sunday’s festival here.

Shepherd Park Weed Warriors Back at Shepherd Field. On Sunday, October 24 from 1pm-4pm the Shepherd Park Weed Warriors are returning to Shepherd field to clear the vines growing on the slope between the school and soccer field. Consider coming by with work gloves, pruners, or loppers (if you have them) to lend a hand! No experience is necessary and help is much appreciated! 

Takoma Community Cleanup: Spooky Edition. On Sunday, October 24 at 4pm Commissioner Erin Palmer (4B02) will host a costumed community cleanup starting at the intersection of Van Buren St & Piney Branch Rd NW. Community service, costumes, and roasting marshmallows all rolled into one!

DPR Boos and Ghouls Halloween Parade at Petworth. On Tuesday, October 26 at 11am-1pm, DPR is inviting Tiny Tots (Ages 0-5) to parade around the Petworth Recreation Center Playground in their Halloween costumes, collect treats, and participate in fun activities. Reserve your child’s spot here.

Council Hearing on Redistricting in Ward 4. On Thursday, October 28 at 10am the Council Subcommittee on Redistricting will hold a virtual public hearing dedicated to redistricting Ward 4. Sign up to testify at this link by 5pm on October 26. Find more details about the hearing here. Make your voice heard! For more info on the redistricting process, check out this piece in Petworth News.

DPR Harvest Festival Lamond. On Thursday, October 28 at 4pm-6pm DPR is hosting a costume parade, games, arts and craft, and fun activities at Lamond Recreation Center. This event is for children ages 5-12. Reserve your spot here.

Boos and Ghouls Halloween Parade at Upshur. On Thursday, October 28 at 11am-1pm DPR is inviting Tiny Tots (Ages 0-5) to parade around Upshur playground in their Halloween costumes, collect treats, and participate in activities at Upshur Recreation Center. RSVP here.

A Day of Prayer for Peace in the Streets. On Thursday, October 28 at 3pm-4pm a group of DC faith leaders and the Center for Racial Equity and Justice are gathering at Georgia Ave & Kennedy Street NW to call and pray for an end to gun violence in our communities.

Afternoon Fright and Fun at Lafayette-Pointer. On Friday, October 29 at 3:30pm-5:30pm DPR is planning a fun-filled afternoon of costumes, candy, and activities at Lafayette-Pointer Recreation Center. Children ages 0-13 are all welcome! Sign up to be there on DPR’s website.

Community Boo Treats at Fort Stevens. On Friday, October 29 from 4:30pm-6:30pm DPR is planning some harvest holiday fun for children ages 6-12 at Fort Stevens Recreation Center with sweets, face paintings, and crafts for the family. And earlier in the day at 10am-2pm Fort Stevens Senior Center staff will pass out candy bags to the seniors (55+). Find more details and RSVP online.

Glow in the Dark Egg Hunt Takoma. On Friday, October 29 from 5pm-7pm DPR is inviting children ages 3-12 to Takoma Community Center to search for candy-filled glow in the dark eggs and do arts and craft activities. Join the fun at this link.

Trunk or Treat at Emery Heights. On Friday, October 29 and Saturday, October 30 from 6pm-8pm on both days DPR will host Trunk and Treat Halloween Extravaganza at the Emery Heights Community Center, featuring a haunted house on the park site and a kids movie on the Basketball Court. Sign up at this link.

Halloween at Shepherd Park. On Friday, October 29 from 6pm-8pm DPR is planning a fun evening of music, games and costume contest at Shepherd Park Community Center for children ages 5-12. Save a spot to attend.

Riggs-LaSalle Treat Giveaway. On Friday, October 29 from 6pm-8pm DPR is planning a fun evening of music, games, and costume contest at Riggs-LaSalle Recreation Center. Guaranteed to be a great time! Save a slot here.

Grant Circle Autumn Clean Up Project and Illinois Ave Yard Sale. On Saturday, October 30 at 8am-10am Petworth Get Wise is hosting its cleanup of Grant Circle, starting at the South Triangle of the Park. Bring your gardening tools and the spirit of caring to help clean up your community! There will also be a neighborhood-wide yard sale kicking off at 11am-4pm on the 4100 Block of Illinois Avenue NW. Check out their flyer for more information.

4th Annual Dia de los Muertos Celebration in Petworth! On Saturday, October 30 from 9am-1pm join the Petworth Arts Collaborative at the Petworth Farmers Market (9th & Upshur St NW) for a spectacular day of Altar Making Workshops, Calavera face painting, live performances, and more! Our community will gather to remember lives lost, to celebrate life lived, and honor our loved ones. Thank you to Eddie Suarez of Compass Realty for sponsoring the event, Laurie Bailer of Bailer Design and Maria Mandle of Creativecouch Designs for organizing and producing, The Petworth Community Market for hosting, and District Bridges for supporting!

The Sherman Circle Halloween Spooktacular! On Sunday, October 31 from 4pm-6pm Petworth Peanuts, DC Kids Makerspace, and ANC 4C/4D are planning a free Halloween Spooktacular event at Sherman Circle with free goodies, a costume contest (with prizes) and lots of spooky fun! Masks and social distancing are required.

Ward 4 Weekly Farmer’s Markets. We have: 


Community Resources

IMPORTANT: Deadline to Apply for Rental Assistance through STAY DC. The Mayor recently announced that federal rent assistance funds are running out and that this coming Wednesday, October 27 at 7pm is the deadline for tenants to apply for rent and utility assistance through STAY DC. It’s very important for everyone who is behind on rent, can’t cover future rent payments, or owes water, gas, electricity, and internet utility bills to apply for STAY DC before the October 27 deadline. Please spread the word to your DC friends and neighbors who may be struggling right now. DC hopes to receive more federal funding in the future, and I’m calling for DC to invest its own resources in STAY DC to keep residents housed, but there’s no guarantee that either will happen. So please apply for help with rent and utility bills through STAY DC (833-478-2932).

The Parks at Walter Reed Neighborhood History Project. The Parks at Walter Reed is partnering with the DC History Center on a history-gathering project in fall 2021 to uncover historical facts and stories from the people and neighborhoods surrounding the former historic Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Specific focus will be placed on stories from the historically Black communities surrounding the campus in the neighborhoods of Shepherd Park, Colonial Village, Brightwood, North Portal Estates, Takoma, and environs. Do you have stories to tell? Know a neighbor or friend who does? Please get out your photo albums and come to the last community meeting this fall: Thursday, November 4 at 7:30-9:30pm.

It was a busy week but I got to slip out of the office and visit the amazing students and educators at Paul Public Charter School in Ward 4 as they celebrated the school’s 21st year anniversary. A few weeks ago we passed a resolution at the DC Council honoring Paul PCS!


I want to end with a shoutout to the DC Youth Orchestra, which I got to visit last weekend at Ward 4’s own Takoma Elementary School. It was a blast meeting all the talented young musicians in our community and see them putting in the work to get better and share their talents with us. As a proud flautist alum myself, I was seriously impressed!

Yours in Community,
—Janeese