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Ward 4 Dispatch: Leaf Collection, Council Updates, and Holiday Festivities!

Dear Neighbors,

This Friday I’m bringing you a whole host of updates from the DC Council, touching on redistricting, encampments, rent relief, a new name for Wilson High School, legislation I passed to promote safe driving, and more.

I also have an updated schedule for leaf collection in Ward 4, which has been significantly delayed. This week we’re also celebrating a new walk-up vaccine site at Petworth Library, where our Ward 4 adults and children can get their first shot, second dose, booster, or flu shot.

We have some exciting holiday events coming up in our area. I want to give a special shoutout to the PTO Holiday Fair at Dorothy Height Elementary this Sunday from 10am-2pm planned by the PTOs of 7 local schools. Stop by for holiday shopping and festive fun! I also encourage everyone to check out the holiday light displays along Uptown Main Street (Petworth and Brightwood Park) and The Parks Main Street (Riggs Park and Manor Park). Also, don’t forget to check out the lights up in North Portal Estates along Redwood Terrace and North Portal Drive. This impressive light display attracts many visitors and carolers every year!

Ward 4 News

Get Your Booster to Protect Our Community from the Omicron Variant

In light of rising COVID cases in DC and news that the vaccine booster is effective against the new COVID Omicron variant, I wanted to encourage every in our community to get their booster (or your first and second dose if you are not yet fully vaccinated). And of course, don’t forget to wear a mask in public indoor spaces. Thankfully, you can get your first shot, second shot, or booster right here in Ward 4 with a new vaccine site at Petworth Library (4200 Kansas Ave NW). Petworth Library is offering the Pfizer vaccine for people ages 5+, Moderna for ages 18+, Johnson & Johnson for ages 18+, and flu shots for ages 3+. The clinic at Petworth Library is open on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 11am-5pm as well as Wednesdays and Thursdays from 1pm-7pm. I know how challenging it is for families to plan around all of their commitments so I asked DC Health to share the full schedule for vaccine clinics in DC several days in advance instead of just the night before. I’m grateful that they met this request and now list the weekly schedule of clinics on (scroll down to the third table). Also, we confirmed today that DC Health has already updated its procedure to allow 16 and 17 year olds to get the Pfizer vaccine booster at both its walk-up clinics and school-based clinics after FDA approval.

Updated Schedule for Leaf Collection in Ward 4

I know I’m not the only one frustrated by the leaves pilling up in our neighborhoods well after their scheduled collection date! I’ve been communicating regularly with DPW’s Director about the status of leaf collection in our community. DPW is approximately two weeks behind schedule. Here is a very recent update on where things stand. Please consult the map below to see which section of Ward 4 you’re in.

  • If you live in Section A, B, C, or D, your first round of leaf collection should have been completed by now. If not, please file a 311 request to let DPW know they missed your block. If that doesn’t work, contact my office so we can escalate the request.
  • If you live in Section E, your first round of leaf collection should happen between December 13-17 so please rake your leaves to the curb or tree box by this Sunday, December 12 (if you bag them, be sure to use a paper bag).
  • If you live in Section A, your second round of leaf collection is now scheduled for December 20-24, so be sure to rake your leaves by December 19.
  • And if you live in Section B, your second round of leaf collection is now December 27-31, so please rake your leaves by December 26.

The dates for the second round of leaf collection for Sections C, D, and E has not been determined yet, but I will share that as soon as it is. Again, I share your frustration about the delays and inconvenience this has caused. The Mayor’s team shared with me today that they have authorized DPW employees to work overtime and brought staff in from other divisions in to accelerate the pace of leaf collection and prevent further delays. They have committed that every neighborhood will receive two rounds of leaf collection by winter’s end.

Legislative Updates

On Tuesday the DC Council held its monthly legislative session and addressed several high-profile issues. Here are some key highlights and how they might impact you.

Updated DC Redistricting Map Gains Initial Council Approval

After extensive debate, the Council gave initial approval to a new redistricting map for the District that leaves Ward 4’s boundaries and population completely intact. Changes to Ward 4 have been contemplated throughout the process but have not moved forward due to a lack of consensus among affected neighbors and the effect it would have on the population threshold of neighboring Wards. Chairman Mendelson made some substantial changes to the boundaries of other Wards compared to the boundaries proposed by the Subcommittee on Redistricting. Perhaps the most contested aspect of the map is the Armed Forces Retirement Home (Old Soldiers Home), which is currently being developed. Old Soldiers Home is currently in Ward 5, but the Council’s proposed map moves it to Ward 1. An amendment to move it back to Ward 5 failed by a vote of 6-6 (it required 7 votes to pass), but the matter is likely to come up again during the second vote on DC’s new map when all 13 Councilmembers are present. The last opportunity for further changes to DC’s Ward boundaries for the next decade will be the second vote on Tuesday, December 21. But the redistricting fun will continue next year as the Council reshapes ANC boundaries.

Council Postpones Vote on Bill to Pause Encampment Evictions

DC’s controversial encampment clearing pilot program has been pitched as a “housing first” program, but the reality on the ground is that only a fraction of unhoused residents at encampments receive housing before bulldozers, police, and sanitation workers in hazmat suits show up to evict them and destroy any of their belongings left behind. At the most recent clearing in Truxton Circle, only 12 of 32 residents on DHS’ list received housing prior to the clearing, and DHS’ list excluded several residents who were not there during DHS’ one-time visit to the site. Some encampment residents are sent to shelters or emergency hotels for an uncertain amount of time, while others are forced to move to another encampment or a nearby street corner to brave the elements. Encampment clearings sow chaos and fear, and they shatter the fragile trust that’s needed to connect encampment residents with housing and support services. Encampment clearings during the pandemic violate guidance from the CDC, HUD, and the US Interagency Council on Homelessness. They’re even opposed by the providers hired by the city to do housing outreach with our unhoused neighbors.

This week the Council was set to vote on a temporary pause on these harmful encampment clearings while continuing to house their residents and making conditions at encampments safer and healthier for the community as a whole. This temporary freeze would last through hypothermia season, when encampment clearings have historically paused to safeguard residents who could lose their life without the warmth and protection of their tent and encampment community. However, the vote was postponed to December 21 in order to find common ground with other Councilmembers regarding provisions that exempt certain public spaces. Because of the Homes and Hearts Amendment, DC has ample founding to provide safe, stable, dignified housing to our neighbors who are sleeping outside – but only if we let these programs work. The solution to homelessness is not to move our unhoused neighbors to another encampment or a less visible street corner. The solution to homelessness is housing.

Wilson High School Renamed as Jackson-Reed High School

The Council’s Committee of the Whole voted to rename Wilson High School to Jackson-Reed High School to jointly honor Vincent Reed, the school’s first Black principal and a DCPS Superintendent, and Edna Jackson, the school’s first Black teacher. I voted ‘Present’ because I do not believe an outstanding, barrier-breaking Black woman like Edna Jackson should have to share an honor that is usually reserved for a single individual. I was incredibly moved hearing from community members about her incredible life and the backlash she had to overcome as Wilson’s first Black educator. That being said, Vincent Reed was a dedicated leader in our education system with a long legacy of service to DC schools. I supported honoring Vincent Reed by naming another school after him. Two additional Council votes are needed to finalize the renaming.

Resolutions: Rent Relief, Rough Riders Football, and Uptown Craft District

The Council also unanimously passed three resolutions I introduced:

  • Sense of the Council Resolution calling on the US Treasury to allocate more rental assistance funds to the District, and calling on Mayor Bowser to draw from DC’s local funds to keep our residents housed. DC families urgently need rent relief to prevent a wave of evictions, and action is needed at both the local and federal level to make this happen.
  • Ceremonial Resolution honoring the Roosevelt Rough Riders football team on their historic season as regular season champions and winners of the 51st Turkey Bowl.
  • Ceremonial Resolution proclaiming 3 Stars Brewing, ANXO Cidery, Chacho Spirits, and Hellbender Brewing together as the emerging Uptown Craft District that’s bringing jobs, community, and dynamic energy to Ward 4.

Council Passes My Legislation to Promote Safe Driving 

We must work to improve road safety from every angle. In addition to fully funding the Vision Zero Act, $1.7 million in safety improvements to Georgia Avenue, and daily work with our community to make our neighborhood streets safer, Council also passed my legislation to promote safe driving in the District. This bill expands access to defensive driving courses in the District, incentivizes these evidence-based courses through car insurance discounts, and aligns course material with Vision Zero with a focus on ensuring pedestrian and cyclist safety. It will go into effect after Mayoral review. Thank you to our community who helped shape and advocate for this legislation, including Naima Jefferson and ANC 4B08 Commissioner Alison Brooks. Learn more about the bill in the graphic below.

Neighborhood Events

Park View Holiday Market. On Saturday, December 11 from 10am-2pm at Hook Hall on 3400 Georgia Ave NW (just south of Ward 4) Park View Market will have its second holiday market of the season, featuring nearly 20 local makers, artisans, and producers. They’ll have food and festive drinks for sale. Santa will also make a special appearance from 11-12pm. Join them to support small and local businesses and to spread some holiday cheer!

Ward 4 DCPS PTO Holiday Market! On Sunday, December 12 from 10am-2pm at Dorothy Height Elementary (1300 Allison St NW) there will be a Holiday Market organized by Ward Parent Teacher Organizations from Dorothy Height, Barnard, Lewis, Truesdell, Powell, MacFarland, and Bruce Monroe. Come for the local crafts, gingerbread houses, holiday card decorating, hot chocolate and coffee, ornament decorating, gift wrapping, snack bar, handmade crafts, and more! Learn more from Petworth News.

Northern Bus Garage Reconstruction Project Virtual Community Meeting. On Tuesday, December 14 at 6pm-8pm WMATA is hosting its winter community meeting on the Northern Bus Garage Reconstruction Project. Join Metro to discuss recent project updates and engage with Metro’s project leaders. They’ll give a project overview, environmental update, electric bus updates, and discuss art in transit. RSVP here.

UPDATED DATE: Community Discussion of Maret School Lease of ECC Property at 5901 Utah Ave NW. On Thursday, January 6 from 7pm-8pm my office will host a virtual community forum to hear from residents about the Maret School Lease of the ECC Property at 5901 Utah Ave NW. The purpose of this forum is to hear from residents interested in the project as well as discuss the role of the Council vis a vis the DC Board of Zoning Adjustment. The BZA will hold a hearing on March 9, 2022 to discuss Maret’s application for special exception to local zoning regulations. Please register for this meeting in advance at this link.

I also want to thank Lamond Riggs Citizens Association Senior Committee and President Barbara Rogers as well as DPR legend Ms. Settles for having me at Riggs LaSalle Recreation Center this week. It was wonderful to join our senior citizens in Lamond Riggs for tea time to celebrate the holidays and discuss our work and vision in Ward 4. 

Community Resources

Deadline Coming Up: Ticket Amnesty Program. If you have outstanding parking or traffic tickets, DC currently has a ticket amnesty program that allows you to pay it off the original balance of your ticket(s) without any penalties or late fees. The program also applies to drivers from other states. The ticket amnesty program ends in exactly three weeks on December 31 so be sure to pay those tickets soon!

Say Goodbye to Gas-Powered Leaf Blowers. Starting January 1, 2022, DC will no longer allow the sale or us of gas-powered leaf blowers. In 2018 the Council approved a ban of gas-powered leaf blowers due to their noise pollution and harmful environmental impact. That ban is finally taking effect next month. DC just introduced a rebate program to help people switch from gas-powered blowers to electric alternatives, and the city is working to auction off its existing leaf blowers.

Keeping Warm and Safe in Colder Temperatures. November 1 through March 31 is hypothermia season in DC. If you encounter a neighbor who may need shelter, please offer to call DC’s Shelter Hotline at 202-399-7093. It helps to include the specific time, location, and description of the person when you call. The Shelter Hotline operates 24/7. Save this number as a contact on your cell phone so you have it available when the need arises. 

Roosevelt Pool and Turkey Thicket Pool Are Now Open. This is a friendly reminder that Roosevelt High School’s Indoor Pool is now open for community members to enjoy on Monday-Friday from 6am-8am and 5pm-9pm. Enter through the new entrance on Upshur Street. I know people have been asking about classes, but there are none scheduled at Roosevelt pool at this time. There are however plenty of options at other pools across the city. Recently, Turkey Thicket Pool in Ward 5 also reopened for those who live closer to that location or require a pool with Saturday hours.

Free After-School Meals at DPR Facilities. Come have supper at no cost for children 18 years of age and younger at 19 DPR facilities, including Raymond Recreation Center and Emery Heights Recreation Center in Ward 4. Meals are available Monday through Friday from 4pm-5pm. No application or ID is required. Find more information at this link.

I also want to congratulate Roosevelt’s Culinary Arts NAF Academy chefs for winning the inaugural Willard Hotel DCPS Academies of Culinary Arts Gingerbread Contest! The Ward 4 team also has the opportunity to win the People’s Choice Award. You can vote for your favorite Gingerbread house online.

This week I got to visit Takoma Wellness Center. Takoma Wellness Center is recognized as the District’s first and longest-running medical cannabis dispensary. It’s also a family-owned Ward 4 business that has been serving our community since 2013. I appreciated the chance to tour the facility and share ideas on what a just cannabis system would look like. 

As always, don’t forget to share the newsletter with anyone who doesn’t receive it, and encourage them to sign up. I’ll write to you again next week with my final Ward 4 Dispatch of 2021!

Wishing you all a happy and restful weekend.

Yours in Community,