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Ward 4 Dispatch: New Commissioners, New Committees, and a New Year!

Dear Neighbors,

I hope your 2023 is off to a good start and that you’re enjoying the days starting to get a bit longer. This week I’m reporting back on our new Ward 4 ANC Commissioners, my Council Committee assignments, two important public safety meetings in Brightwood and Riggs Park, DDOT’s new traffic safety request system, the status of leaf collection, holiday tree and greenery collection, community resources, neighborhood events, local news, and more!

Ward 4 and Council News

The New Year Brings New ANC Commissioners

This week I had the great honor of swearing in both new and returning ANC Commissioners for Ward 4! Most Commissioners were sworn in at a citywide ceremony on Monday at the Convention Center, but others who could not make it that day were sworn in at their homes or virtually. I am deeply grateful to these dedicated neighbors for stepping up to serve our community — and I look forward to meeting and working with each of them. Because of redistricting and turnover, most of us have new ANC Commissioners this year. I encourage you to take a moment to review the new ANC and SMD boundaries and then look up who is your ANC Commissioner on the Office of ANC website. It’s worth taking the time to reach out to your Commissioner to thank them for choosing to serve (or continue serving) and to get to know each other before an issue comes up where you may need to work together.

Chairing the Facilities and Family Services Committee

This week the Council approved its Committee assignments for this Council term. I am proud to be serving as the Chair of the Facilities and Family Services Committee, which includes oversight over the Department of General Services (DGS) and joint oversight over the Department of Buildings (DOB), which is one of the two new agencies that replaced DCRA. I am eager to lead oversight of DGS next Council period, which was my top agency request, because it is critical for DC to improve repair and maintenance of facilities — especially our schools and our recreation centers. And joint oversight over DOB will allow me to deepen my work addressing blighted properties, housing code violations, and illegal construction. I’m looking forward to working with the agency, colleagues, and our communities. I’m also grateful for the opportunity to deepen DC’s support for children, families, and people with disabilities with oversight over the Child and Family Services Agency, the Department of Disability Services, and other important agencies. And I will be proud to serve as a member of the Committees on Transportation and the Environment, Labor, and Public Works so I can keep fighting for policies that confront climate change, create green jobs, improve traffic safety, support working families, and make government work better for people.

Community Safety Meetings in Riggs Park and Brightwood

I want to alert our community about two important community safety meetings coming up next week where DC public safety agencies will speak to neighbors about actions being taken to improve safety and confront gun violence. The Riggs Park meeting will take place on Tuesday, January 10 at 6:30pm Riggs-LaSalle Recreation Center (501 Riggs Road NE). The Brightwood meeting will be held on Tuesday, January 10 from 7pm-9pm at St. John United Baptist Church (6343 13th Street NW), and it is being coordinated by the Brightwood Community Association. Both meetings come in response to recent shootings in each area. I was on scene at Georgia & Sheridan NW on Tuesday shortly after a shooting that claimed one life and caused non-life threatening injuries to three others, including a young child that thankfully has since been released from the hospital. MPD is investigating the case with support from the FBI and the ATF. Neighbors are asked to share any information or footage of the shooting with law enforcement by calling 202-727-9099 or texting 50411. This gun violence should anger each and every one of us. It has no place in our city. We need a relentless and coordinated focus on getting guns off the street, closing cases, bringing perpetrators to justice, and confronting the factors that exacerbate gun violence in every neighborhood — including crew conflicts, nuisance properties, resource gaps, and more. And we need to strengthen our response to the underlying causes of crime and deepen support for our communities until we get to to point that no one who grows up in our city decides to pick up a gun and shoot it at their neighbors.

Big Changes to DDOT’s Traffic Safety Request System

Did you receive a notice today sharing that a traffic safety request you submitted has been closed? You’re not alone. DDOT rolled out a new “Traffic Safety Input” system today where the agency will choose 200 traffic safety requests each quarter to prioritize based on factors like crash patterns, proximity to high-injury corridors, equity, and proximity to schools, Metro stations, and bus stops. Traffic safety requests that are prioritized in a given quarter will be evaluated within 130 business days, with installations usually taking place the following quarter. Requests that are not prioritized by DDOT this quarter will stay in the system to be considered for future prioritization. You can see which requests are being prioritized and track progress on DDOT’s traffic safety request database, and new Traffic Safety Input requests can be submitted on the 311 website. DDOT also shared a frequently-asked-questions explainer of the new system. One counterintuitive aspect of the new system is that new Traffic Safety Input requests are ‘closed’ upon submittal but are logged into the system to be considered for prioritization in a future quarter. That means that your new request will be considered, even if you receive a notice saying that it is closed.

I agree that we need greater equity considerations in how DDOT manages traffic safety requests, and that it is important for DDOT to be able to prioritize the most dangerous streets and intersections for faster interventions. However, I have several concerns about DDOT’s new system. First, there is little transparency about how prioritizations are actually made. Secondly, the system seems to eliminate community input, which can be critical in identifying issues that do not show up in the data at first glance. For example, several intersections where we have had repeated crashes were not prioritized for this initial quarter. And that’s to say nothing of all the near-misses that neighbors experience regularly. I also do not believe it is acceptable for neighbors to submit traffic safety concerns to DDOT but have no guarantee that their concern will ever be investigated (if it is consistently not chosen as a priority quarter-after-quarter). I will be raising these issues with the agency through Council oversight. We have made real progress working with Commissioners, neighbors, and DDOT to improve traffic safety in Ward 4, and it is important for that to continue.

Community Resources

Composting Your Tree or Holiday Greenery

DPW has started collecting Christmas trees and holiday greenery for composting this week through March 3! Place your tree or greenery in front of your home on the curb or tree box — or drop them off at Benning Road Transfer Station (3200 Benning Road NE) or Guy Mason Rec Center (3600 Calvert Street NW) during their regular business hours. Remember to remove all decorations from the tree and do not bag your tree and greenery. You can submit a 311 request for trees not collected within five days under the category “Christmas Tree Removal – Seasonal.” Trees and greenery collected through March 3 will be composted, and DC residents can collect up to five 32-gallon bags of the free compost year-round (while supplies last) at the Benning Road Transfer Station by bringing their own bags. String LED lights can also be dropped off at Benning Road Transfer Station for electronic waste recycling on Saturdays from 7am-2pm. Learn more in DPW’s announcement.

Ward 4 Mutual Aid Grocery Distribution Dates

In 2023, Ward 4 Mutual Aid is continuing its important work supporting our community. On the following dates and times, the first 100 families that arrive at Brightwood Park United Methodist Church (744 Jefferson St NW) will be able to receive gift cards, diapers, food, and other items as available: Wednesday, January 18 at 5pm; Saturday, January 21 at noon; Wednesday, February 15 at 5pm; Saturday, February 18 at noon; Wednesday, March 15 at 5pm; and Saturday, March 18 at noon. Ward 4 Mutual Aid also offers limited home deliveries on Saturdays. If you physically cannot make it to the church on a Wednesday or Saturday, please call or text the Ward 4 Mutual Aid Hotline at 202-681-3098 to sign up for delivery. Learn more on their website, and thank you to all our neighbors who support these efforts.

Honoring Martin Luther King Jr with DC Public Library

Two of our local DC Public Libraries are commemorating Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as part of upcoming MLK Day celebrations. Shepherd Park (Juanita E. Thornton) Neighborhood Library is creating a collaborative community display that neighbors can visit and contribute to from January 3-15. Meanwhile, Petworth Neighborhood Library is inviting young people ages 5-19 to submit essays celebrating Dr. King’s life and vision by January 20 at 6pm. Selected essays will be displayed at the library.

Visit our COVID Centers for Flu Shots, Boosters, Masks, and Tests

Don’t forget that our DC COVID Centers offer free COVID shots, the bivalent booster, flu shots, masks, rapid tests, and walk-up PCR tests. Infants 6 months and older recently became eligible for the new bivalent booster. We are fortunate to have a great Ward 4 COVID Center with dedicated staff at 4704 13th Street NW that is open six days a week. Be sure to stop by for anything you need to stay healthy!

DC School Lottery Applications Are Open

DC school lottery applications are open for DC families. The application deadline will be February 1, 2023 for Grades 9-12 and March 1, 2023 for Pre-K through Grade 8. Check out the My School DC website for more info on how to apply. And be sure to check out the calendar of open house events for all of our schools throughout the coming months.

What You Need to Know About Leaf Collection

As I have shared before, DPW is significantly behind on leaf collection. For the next two weeks, DPW will be working on its second round of leaf collection in Area A, which include Shepherd Park, Colonial Village, North Portal, Brightwood, Hawthorne, Chevy Chase, and Barnaby Woods. If you live in these neighborhoods, please rake your leaves onto your curb or tree box (not in bags or on the street) so they can be collected. If you live in Area D, which includes most of Petworth or Brightwood Park, DPW should be finishing the first pass of leaf collection in your neighborhood this weekend. If your street is missed, please contact our office so we can follow up with DPW to ensure that your leaves are collected. We are happy to help. Neighbors can check DPW’s online tracker to see whether crews have reached your area. We expect second collection in Area B to happen during the last two weeks of January.

Neighborhood Events

Community Cleanup in Takoma 

On Saturday, January 7 at 10am Commissioner Palmer and Takoma neighbors will host a community cleanup starting from the east side of Butternut & Georgia Ave NW. In addition to cleaning litter, they will share details on how to submit 311 requests for city services. Cleaning supplies and donuts from Donut Run will be provided, and kids are welcome to join.

Public Forum on Redevelopment of Chevy Chase Library and Community Center Site

On Tuesday, January 10 from 6:30pm-8pm the Chevy Chase Citizens Association and ANC 3/4G will jointly host a virtual public forum to explore issues surrounding the redevelopment of the Chevy Chase Library and Community Center together with mixed-income and affordable housing. The forum is taking place two days before a surplus hearing planned by DMPED on Thursday, January 12 from 6:30pm-8pm to take public comments on the matter, which residents can attend in person at Chevy Chase Presbyterian Church or virtually at this link. The public forum on Tuesday has been organized prior to this hearing, so that the community can learn about DC’s surplus and disposition process and to explore various approaches for developing this important community asset.

Piney Branch Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) 049 Storage Project

On Wednesday, January 18 at 7:30pm DC Water is hosting a virtual public meeting on the Piney Branch Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) 049 Storage Project with the National Park Service. The project proposes building a 4.2-million-gallon underground storage tunnel to capture sewage, combined with stormwater, that would otherwise overflow into Piney Branch during heavy rains. This will keep millions of gallons of sewage out of Piney Branch and Rock Creek. Check out the meeting notice for details on how to attend.

Visit Our Great Ward 4 Public Pools

Indoor swimming is a great way to get your exercise and recreation during the winter months. Many neighbors don’t yet know that Roosevelt High School Pool is open to the public every Monday through Friday from 6am-8am and 5pm-9pm with a public entrance on the 1200 block of Upshur Street NW. I secured funding in the DC budget to staff Roosevelt pool so we could open it last year for our Ward 4 community to enjoy. We also have our great Takoma Aquatic Center (300 Van Buren Street NW) as the only public pool in DC that is open seven days a week. And our neighboring Wilson Aquatic Center (4551 Fort Drive NW) is now back open after a few weeks of repairs. Visit DPR’s website for a full list of pools and operating hours.

Local News Links

Washington Post: Bowser pitches plan to revitalize downtown as new DC lawmakers are sworn in

The NationReflections on Vienna’s Social Housing Model From Tenant Advocates

Hearing the Council PodcastJaneese Lewis George Talks Green New Deal for Housing

Petworth NewsThis Old “Petworth” House (part 1)

Washington PostLittle Vietnam is a good thing in a small package in Washington

Washington Post: Roosevelt High School Boys Basketball Coach Rob Nickens gets 400th win

RIP Baseball: Obituary for Ward 4 Resident and Former Baseball Outfielder Fred Valentine

And last month So Others Might Eat (SOME) celebrated the grand opening for a new residential property in our Ward 4 community at 4711 Kansas Avenue NW. The building offers 40 new affordable family and single adult housing units for households earning between 50%-80% area median income (AMI) in Ward 4. The property is accepting applications from eligible residents, so please spread the word!

As we enter the new year, I wanted to remind neighbors that the first two weeks of January are historically the slowest in the hospitality industry. That means that we have a great opportunity to support our local restaurants and bars by visiting them for a meal, drink, or takeout. So don’t forget to plan a visit to your Ward 4 favorites in the coming days, or check out that place that you’ve been meaning to try for a while. You deserve it and our small businesses will appreciate the support! I ventured a bit south last weekend for a trip to Ben’s Chili Bowl to wish the great Virginia Ali a Happy 89th Birthday!

I hope this weekend brings joy and rest for all of us.

Yours in Community,