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Ward 4 Dispatch: Letter to Postmaster, Vaccine Requirement, New Businesses, and MLK Weekend

Dear Neighbors,

We made it to Friday! I’m writing to report back on our work on your behalf and on what’s happening in Ward 4. This week I wrote to the DC Postmaster calling for reliable mail service for our community and improved communication from USPS. I also joined my colleagues on Council’s Transportation Committee in asking WMATA to restore MetroBus service as much as possible and ensure it’s following the schedule that it shared with residents. DC also secured additional rental assistance from the federal government, but even more is needed to meet the needs of our communities. Meanwhile, we just wrapped up our first week of performance oversight hearings (with a focus on seniors) and have several important hearings you can participate in next week.

Tomorrow is the day that DC’s vaccination entry requirement goes into effect, which will require residents (12+) visiting restaurants, gyms, bars, and several other businesses to have proof of vaccination (at least one shot) and some form of ID if they’re 18 years or older. Now’s a good time to make sure you have a photo or a copy of your vaccination card in your wallet or phone. We also welcomed some great new businesses to our community to satisfy your food, fitness, and flower needs!

I also shared ways you can honor Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday here in Ward 4, including volunteering with the Rock Creek Conservancy this weekend or reengaging with Ward 4 Mutual Aid. Children ages 5-19 can also enter the essay and poetry contest at Petworth Library or help make a collaborative portrait of Dr. King at Shepherd Park Library.

This week we also had our first Listen As We Climb community listening session! Thank you to Shepherd Park, Brightwood, and Walter Reed neighbors who joined and made it such a great conversation. Crestwood and Sixteenth Street Heights neighbors, I’m excited to hear from you next Thursday, January 20!


Legislative Updates

Responding to Long Delays with Mail Delivery in Our Community

On Monday I wrote to DC’s Postmaster to sound the alarm about severe delays with mail delivery in our community and across our region. My letter called for additional staffing and resources to be directed to our Post Office locations, as well as clear and regular communication from USPS about mail service so residents know when to expect delays and where they can pick up their mail if necessary. Congresswoman Norton then followed up with a letter to Postmaster DeJoy calling for answers as to why USPS laid off more than 250 postal workers in DC at the end of last month given significant backlogs and delays with mail delivery. My team has also been communicating with USPS representatives about each resident who has reached out to us regarding mail delivery to their home.

The surge in COVID cases and last week’s snowstorm exacerbated mail delays, but residents have had an unacceptable level of mail service for months. Mail delivery is an essential public service that our community depends on to receive medicine, pay bills, get paychecks, file taxes, access benefits, communicate with loved ones, and stay civically engaged. It’s also shaping up to be an integral part of our democracy and our public health strategy as the District expands voting by mail and as the White House finalizes plans to mail COVID tests to Americans who request them. Here in Ward 4 we love and appreciate the postal workers who sort and deliver our mail. All we are asking for is for USPS to ease the burden on the current force with additional staffing and resources so they can get the job done week in and week out.

Here are some additional links that you might find helpful:


DC Receives Additional Rental Assistance from Feds, But More Is Needed

Late last year I introduced and passed a Sense of the Council Resolution calling on the federal government to provide additional rent relief to the District after we exhausted our STAY DC funds. This week we heard some good news: the federal government announced that DC would receive $17.7 million in reallocated rental assistance funds. However, those funds will likely only cover existing STAY DC applications that were filed before the October 27, 2021 deadline. With DC’s local rental assistance funds also running out soon, DC tenants in need could be left without any rent relief for most of this year. That’s why our resolution also called on the Mayor to dedicate local funds to helping keep DC residents housed. Meanwhile, on Tuesday the Council will vote on emergency legislation I introduced to extend DC’s ban on foreclosures through June 30, 2022. DC has millions of dollars in foreclosure prevention funds from the federal government that it is working to make available to struggling homeowners. Since that hasn’t happened yet, we need to step in and protect residents from losing their home.

Performance Oversight: Housing, Behavioral Health, and Office of ANCs

The DC Council finally has a full schedule for performance oversight hearings this year. This is your best chance to make your voice heard by testifying on how agencies can better serve our communities, so I hope you will consider signing up for a hearing or submitting written testimony for the record. You can scroll down the schedule to find instructions for how to sign up to testify or submit testimony for each Committee’s hearings. My team and I are more than happy to help answer questions or help you sign up if you have any challenges. I love seeing Ward 4 residents testify at hearings and do my best to lift up your testimony with agency directors once their questioning begins.

Oversight officially started this week with a focus on the agencies that serve our seniors. I was one of only two Councilmembers who showed up to the hearing with DC agencies serving seniors, including the Department of Aging and Community Living (DACL). I used the extra time to press for improved service for our seniors, particularly with health access and nutrition issues, as well as access to public transportation. In particular, we have a problem where hundreds of seniors on the Walter Reed campus lack access to public transit and I’m calling DC agencies to address it. We cannot wait for the development to be fully completed to provide these basic services. You can still submit testimony for the hearing by emailing a Word/PDF document to housing@dccouncil.us or leaving a voicemail at 202-350-0894 by 9am on Monday, January 17.

Meanwhile, here are some important hearings coming up in case you’re able to testify, send written comments, or tune in:

  • Wednesday, Jan. 19 starting at 12pm: Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) and the Housing Production Trust Fund
  • Thursday, Jan. 20 starting at 9:30am: Department of Forensic Sciences and the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice
  • Thursday, Jan. 20 starting at 12pm: Office of Advisory Neighborhood Commissions
  • Monday, Jan. 24 starting at 10am: DC Health Benefit Exchange Authority and the Department of Behavioral Health
  • Tuesday, Jan. 25 starting at 12pm: Department of Energy and the Environment, Green Finance Authority, and the Commission on Climate Change & Resiliency

Restoring Service and Predictability on MetroBus

Speaking of the need for reliable service and clear communication, the Council also called on WMATA to address significant issues with MetroBus since it adopted a Saturday Supplemental Schedule due to a shortage of drivers. Not only did DC residents have to contend with reduced service this week, many were also stranded when several buses did not keep with this reduced schedule or failed to come at all. We had particular issues on bus routes that students rely on to get to (and return from) school. The Council letter from Councilmember Henderson, myself, and our colleagues on the Committee on Transportation asked GM Wiedefeld to expand MetroBus service or at the very least follow the modified schedule it told riders it would follow — while also protecting worker health and safety. This is particularly important given that WMATA will have reduced service on MetroRail for at least three more months as it investigates the root cause of the defect on the 7000-series cars. We understand that the huge numbers of COVID cases in our region will have an impact on the services we rely on. Still, agencies need to do all they can to sustain essential services that families rely on (transit, mail, etc.) – and when that’s not possible, agencies need to clearly communicate that with residents so they’re not left stranded and uninformed.


Ward 4 News

DC’s Vaccination Entry Requirement Starts Tomorrow for Many Businesses

On Saturday, January 15DC’s vaccination entry requirement goes into effect for most businesses and establishments. Residents who are 12 years or older will be required to have at least one dose of the COVID vaccine to enter places like DC restaurants, gyms, nightclubs, movie theaters, and concert venues. By February 15, residents 12 and up will need to be fully vaccinated to enter these establishments. The requirement does not apply to other establishments such as grocery stores, retail stores, houses of worship, health care facilities, shelters, and most government buildings. Adult patrons (18+) will also have to show some form of ID. To get a better sense of which places are covered and not covered by this requirement, what types of proof of vaccination and ID are acceptable, and how this will all work please visit vax.dc.gov and check out DC Health’s guidance. And find out where you can get your free vaccine or booster shot on any given day at vaccinate.dc.gov.

Meanwhile, this week it was also announced the DC seniors (65+) can now pick up free rapid tests from senior wellness centers. This is something I requested for our seniors, and I am grateful to DC Health and the Mayor for setting it up. Our senior pick up spot in Ward 4 is Hattie Holmes (324 Kennedy St NW) on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1pm-3pm. Residents can find all their PCR and rapid testing options on DC Health’s website, which is updated daily.

New Ward 4 Businesses Offering Great Food, Exercise, and Flowers

Two weeks into the new year and we’re already welcoming several amazing new businesses to Ward 4! I had the pleasure of visiting Honeymoon Chicken on Wednesday for their grand opening and to taste their delicious food. “Fried Chicken Made Fancy.” Visit them at Georgia Ave & Upshur St NW any day of the week from 11am-9pm or order takeout. Right down Upshur street where Himitsu and Pom Pom used to be, Korean-American restaurant Magpie and the Tiger has opened for takeout! They are offering a coveted Magpie dinner (already sold out until Sunday) as well as Hot Lola’s sandwiches throughout the day and evening. And according to Petworth News, all their staff receive a living wage and paid health insurance.

Meanwhile, at the corner of 9th and Upshur, Alexes Haggins is reopening her father’s flower shop, Flowers by Alexes, almost two decades after it first closed its doors. Alexes is already accepting orders via Instagram and hopes to open with regular hours later this month. And that’s not all! Gueny’s Cafe and Market also opened and is serving coffee, smoothies, breakfast, sandwiches, Ethiopian food, and desserts at 5320 Georgia Ave NW between Brightwood Park and Sixteenth Street Heights. Check out the full menu for this Black immigrant woman-owned business in Ward 4. We also had Onelife Fitness open its first District location in the Fort Totten and Queens Chapel area at 5198 South Dakota Ave NE just across the Ward 4 boundary in Ward 5. The gym offers “40,000 square feet of premier health and fitness.”


MLK Weekend of Service with the Rock Creek Conservancy.

From Saturday, January 14 to Monday, January 17, the Rock Creek Conservancy is hosting more than a dozen volunteer events as part of an MLK Weekend of Service. You can help clean up Rock Creek Park and some of our favorite green spaces, including Piney Branch and Fort Slocum in Ward 4! Sign up for your preferred event before registration runs out. You can also remove invasive species or do the ‘Plogging Challenge’ of removing litter while walking or running.

“I Have a Dream” Essay & Poetry Contest at Petworth Library.

Petworth Library is hosting an essay and poetry contest for children and young adults ages 5-19. “In 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. made his famous I Have a Dream speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Share your dream and vision for a better world in an essay or poem.” All entries are due by Thursday, January 20 at 5pm You can submit your work either in person at the library, or by emailing petworthlibrary@dc.gov and including the student’s name, age, and school in the body of the email.

Martin Luther King Jr. Collaborative Portrait at Shepherd Park Library

Throughout the month of January, Juanita E. Thornton Shepherd Park Library will be creating a collaborative portrait poster of Martin Luther King, Jr for children ages 5-18. The poster will be cut into pieces jigsaw style. Each child can color and add their dream onto their respective piece. Once complete, they will glue all pieces together to complete the MLK collaborative portrait. Drop in any day in January to participate. This is a self directed program.

Listen As We Climb: Crestwood and Sixteenth Street Heights

On Thursday, January 20 at 6:30pm we will host our second Listen As We Climb virtual community listening session, this time focused on Crestwood and Sixteenth Street Heights. RSVP here to chat with me and your neighbors about the changes we want to see in our community. What we discuss will help shape my legislative work, oversight of DC agencies, DC budget advocacy, constituent services, and efforts in our community. If you haven’t yet, take a moment to go to my website and sign up for your neighborhood’s event.

“Betty White Unites!” Exhibit at Zenith Gallery

On Friday, January 14 Zenith Gallery (1429 Iris St NW) in Ward 4 is launching an exhibit celebrating the life of the great late Betty White, who passed away less than three weeks before her 100th birthday on January 17. While opening receptions today and this Saturday are sold out, the exhibit will run from January 14-29 for folks who would like to check it out! Find more information on their website or in coverage from the Washingtonian and other outlets.

Ward 4 Mutual Aid Volunteer Re-Engagement Call

On Tuesday, January 25 from 8pm-9pm Ward 4 Mutual Aid is hosting a re-engagement call for volunteers and organizers looking to get more involved in mutual aid in the new year. This is one of the most direct and effective ways to support your neighbors alongside other neighbors. Members from each team will join to discuss what each team does and what they need. I always encourage residents to get involved with Ward 4 Mutual Aid. RSVP here!

Traffic Safety Walkthrough in Shepherd Park.

On Thursday, January 27 starting at 3pm I will host DDOT Director Lott, DDOT staff, community leaders, and neighbors for a traffic safety walkthrough in Shepherd Park. We’ll begin at Alaska & Geranium at 3pm, then assess Kalmia Road between Georgia Ave & 16th St NW, followed by 12th St between Fern St NW and Alaska Ave. This walkthrough is limited to these streets and this intersection to ensure there is enough time for them to receive DDOT’s full attention. Neighbors are encouraged to attend.


Community Resources

Updates on City Services for MLK Weekend

  • DCPS is closed for the holiday on Monday, January 17.
  • DPW trash and recycling collection slides one day forward through Saturday.
  • Here is a full list of modified government services over MLK Weekend.
  • We are expecting 1-4 inches of snow on Sunday followed by ice and rain, so keep an eye on snow.dc.gov for updates on the city’s operational status and try to avoid travel during the afternoon and evening.
  • Also, please remember to clear your sidewalk and help your neighbors do the same!
  • For leaf collection, DPW says that due to the inclement weather and the upcoming holiday they will resume leaf collection early-to-mid next week. They’ll be focusing on finishing sections A and B and starting Section C. Check out DPW’s map for Ward 4 to find out which section you’re in. If you live in Section A or B and still have uncollected leaves, please submit another 311 request for good measure.
  • Holiday trees are still being collected curbside or at your normal point of collection until February 28

Traffic Light Activated at 1st and Riggs NE to Boost Traffic Safety

Today we celebrated the activation of the traffic light at 1st and Riggs NE, which will help students at DC Bilingual and residents of Lamond Riggs and South Manor Park cross Riggs Road more safely. This has been a long time coming, and it wouldn’t have happened without the hard work of Commissioner Alison Brooks (4B08), neighbors, and the families and staff at DC Bilingual. We are grateful for this improvement from DDOT and will keep working for more traffic safety improvements on Riggs Road and across Ward 4.



“We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
– Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from a Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963.

This is what first comes to mind as I reflect on Dr. King’s legacy and our present moment. The pandemic has illuminated just how much the health of our community is interconnected, and how much we depend on each other to do our part.

Being vaccinated. Getting boosted. Being tested. Wearing a mask. Mutual aid. Serving others. Looking out for our most vulnerable neighbors. These are the ways we are called to care for our community and help keep each other safe.

This moment also calls for giving each other grace, because we recognize that we’re all living through a pandemic and trying to get through it. It’s impacting us all in different ways, seen and unseen. Despite the frustration and disappointment we may experience, let’s heed Dr. King’s call to shine the light that drives out darkness and radiate the love that drives out hate.

We all depend on one another.

Yours in Community,
—Janeese