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Ward 4 Dispatch: Our Public Libraries, Housing at Takoma Metro, and Summer Youth Employment

Dear Neighbors,

Here is my Friday newsletter with important updates, resources, and events for our community.

Ward 4 and Council News

Centering Equity in a New Ward 4 Library

On Wednesday, we held our performance oversight hearing with DC Public Library. Ward 4 loves its libraries, and we are grateful for our brand new Lamond-Riggs/Lillian J. Huff Library, the DCPL Library on the Go-Go mobile unit that is active in our community, and $1.5 million in upgrades to Petworth Library coming in 2024. But we also have a major library service gap in Brightwood Park and Manor Park that DCPL itself recognized in its 2020 “Next Libris” master facilities plan. Neighbors in these adjacent neighborhoods need to travel more than a mile away to reach their closest public library, which is a prohibitive distance for many people without cars. In its master facilities plan, DCPL noted that “this area has a high concentration of individuals with low educational attainment, children ages birth to 9, and single-parent households.” It observed that many families living in the area that cannot currently access public libraries would become regular users if library services were expanded to this area. A new library in Manor Park or Brightwood Park on a location like the Kennedy Street corridor could also replace longtime vacant buildings, activate small businesses, bring valuable resources to an underserved community, and improve safety and community health.

We are already on track to build a new public library in Brightwood Park or Manor Park starting in 2027 with $25 million designated for this purpose in the DC budget we approved. However, DCPL recently shared a community engagement survey that only lists The Parks at Walter Reed as a potential site for this new library. While The Parks are a great, growing community with many amenities, building this new library there would fail to address the massive service gap that DCPL identified in Brightwood Park and Manor Park. It would also mean that Shepherd Park Library would be moved from its current location on Georgia Avenue to the Parks at Walter Reed. This would hurt our Upper Georgia Avenue corridor and its many small businesses, would place the library further away for most Shepherd Park and Colonial Village residents, and would tear down the historic library building that Juanita E. Thornton successfully persuaded DC government to build in her “Books Not Burgers” campaign.

There is a better way. Together with neighbors, I have been advocating for a two-library solution that maintains the Juanita E. Thornton-Shepherd Park Library at its current location with the necessary upgrades, while also building a new library in Brightwood Park or Manor Park to address our communities’ needs. We cannot accept the idea that one community must lose for another to gain. I am encouraging neighbors to weigh in on this by filling out DCPL’s survey by the February 10 deadline and by signing up later on to testify at DCPL’s budget oversight hearing on Thursday, April 13 from noon-3pm. Thank you to everyone who has been active in supporting our public libraries and advocating for an equitable solution.

Community Update on Gun Violence

Our community is mourning the tragic loss of a neighbor and continuing to confront the trauma caused by gun violence after Monday’s fatal shooting at 5th St & Somerset Pl NW. Because of all the guns being trafficked into our city, conflicts that would have otherwise been resolved without violence can turn into deadly shootings. Michael Gaddis was a beloved Ward 4 resident and father. In addition to his work with Safe Passage, he was a barber in Takoma and had a deep love for our community — especially helping young people see their potential. Michael should still be with us. While this shooting did not involve any students and appears to be unrelated to last week’s incident, it is heartbreaking and unacceptable to have bullets flying so close to our schools. We need every agency mobilized and working with community to prevent more violence. There is an increased officer presence in the area to ensure safety. MPD is pursuing leads and actively investigating the case to bring the person who killed Michael to justice. There is a $25,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest and conviction. We also need to scrutinize the Safe Passage program more closely to ensure that it has the proper screening criteria, training, and supervision to be effective. I have been in touch with school leaders at nearby Coolidge, Ida B Wells, and Whittier to ensure our school communities have the support and mental health resources that they need. I’m proud of how school staff responded quickly and facilitated the safe dismissal of students in a situation that they should have never had to face in the first place. Thank you to neighbors who made time to speak to me and my team this week to share their frustration with gun violence and hope for solutions. I’m also grateful to our Ward 4 faith leaders and congregations who led a 72-hour vigil of ceaseless prayer, conversation, and unity to lay the foundation for more action towards peace.

New Transit-Oriented Housing at Takoma Metro

Last week I shared my support for proposed changes to parking and bus bay changes at Takoma Metro Station. These changes are part of proposed new housing that would replace an underutilized surface parking lot with more than 400 units of new transit-friendly housing — including deeply affordable and family-sized apartments. At a time when our community and the entire DC region are facing a housing affordability crisis that is driving widespread displacement, these new housing units are much needed. And DHCD could approve a tax credit for high-need areas like ours that would more than double the number of units in the building that are affordable. The development would also bring significant community benefits, including improved bus-route accessibility, safer pedestrian facilities, modern bike storage, expanded green space, new retail, stormwater management, solar energy, and sustainable features. Over several years, ANC 4B — including Chair Alison Brooks (4B08), Commissioner Evan Yeats (4B04), Commissioner Erin Palmer (4B02), and former Commissioner Geoff Bromaghim — has led an extensive public engagement process that has shaped this proposal for the better, added community benefits, and ensured that residents voices’ are being heard. Read my full letter on why these changes should be approved.

Neighborhood Events

Greater Petworth Gardeners Pre-Season Seed Swap

On Saturday, February 4 from 1pm-2pm the Greater Petworth Gardeners will host a free seed swap event at Petworth Neighborhood Library (4200 Kansas Ave NW). Seeds are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. You do not need to bring seeds to receive seeds (they have extras thanks to Ward 4’s own ACE Hardware), and please label any seeds you do bring so swappers know what they are getting. Read instructions for the event on Facebook.

“Honoring the Black in US” Opening Receptions

On Friday, February 3 at 4pm-8pm and Saturday, February 4 at 2pm-6pm Zenith Gallery will host opening receptions for its Honoring the Black in US exhibit that runs from February 3 through March 4. The exhibit uplifts Black culture and history, and it features many talented local artists, including Ward 4 residents Sheryll Cashin, Claudia Aziza Gibson-Hunter, and Sabiyha Prince. Please RSVP for the Friday reception or Saturday reception on Eventbrite.

Oasis Restoration at the Carter Barron Mini Oasis

On Saturday, February 4 from 10am the Rock Creek Conservancy and National Park Service will host an invasive plant removal event around historic Carter Barron Amphitheatre (4850 Colorado Ave NW). Invasive plants are a major threat to our fragile forests, and stopping their spread helps allow for a thriving native understory. Sign up to attend.

Celebrating Black Life with Art at Petworth Library

From today through February 24 Petworth Neighborhood Library is inviting children ages 5-8, 9-12, and 13-19 to submit creations and projects related to celebrating Black life and Black history to Petworth Library as part of Black History Month. DCPL staff will display some pieces in the library. All entries must be dropped off in person.

Crestwood Triangle Park Community Meeting

On Tuesday, February 7 from 6:30pm-8pm DPR and DGS will host a hybrid community meeting to share the final concept design for Crestwood Triangle Park at Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church (4300 16th Street NW) and virtually. Neighbors can attend in person or find the virtual link on the project website.

Kidney Health Smart Class for Wellness Wednesday 

On Wednesday, February 8 at 11am Nineteenth Street Baptist Church (4606 16th Street NW) will host a Kidney Health Smart Education class as part of their Wellness Wednesday initiative. Join the class in person to learn how to take control of your kidney health and get your questions answered by certified kidney care educators. Learn more from this flyer.

TPSS Co-op Food Insecurity Discussion

On Wednesday, February 8 at 12pm Takoma Park Silver Spring Co-op will host a virtual discussion with local food system leaders about food insecurity, food sovereignty, and what’s happening in the community. This will be a great opportunity to learn how local organizations support those in need and to discuss what could be done better. Register on Zoom to attend.

“Hidden Figures” Movie and Panel Q&A

On Wednesday, February 8 from 5pm-8:30pm Children’s National Research & Innovation Campus (7185 13th Place NW) will host a film screening of Academy Award-nominated Hidden Figures followed by a panel of amazing women trailblazers within the DC scientific community. RSVP for this family-friendly event celebrating the achievements of girls and women in science.

Oasis Restoration at Fort Slocum

On Saturday, February 11 at 10am-12pm the Rock Creek Conservancy and the National Park Service will host an invasive plant removal event in at Fort Slocum (5800 Kansas Ave NW). Invasive plants are a major threat to our fragile forests, and stopping their spread helps allow for a thriving native understory. Sign up to attend.

I want to thank the nearly two hundred Ward 4 residents who joined our Listen As We Climb events across Ward 4 these past two weeks. Your ideas, insights, and priorities are already shaping our work this year at the Council and in our Ward 4 community. I was looking forward to hearing from more neighbors last night by Zoom, but we had to postpone our virtual session. I’m sorry for the change, and please stay tuned for a new date and time to be scheduled soon.

Community Resources

Refunds for Instacart Workers in DC

If you made deliveries for Instacart between October 1, 2016 and April 30, 2018, you are eligible for a cash refund of $150 or more because of a lawsuit brought by the Office of the DC Attorney General. File your claim online and let your friends and neighbors know; as many as 10,000 workers across the DC region are eligible for payments.

Constituent Services: DC Medicaid Renewal

I’m hearing from several Ward 4 residents who submitted their DC Medicaid renewal application only to find out that their application was never received. If you need help with your renewal or are experiencing difficulties with your insurance, please contact my constituent services team for support.

Responding to OSSE Bus Delays 

In recent weeks DC has been experiencing serious OSSE bus issues that are disrupting families’ school routes and primarily impacting students with disabilities. We have been in contact with OSSE about the urgent need to resolve these issues and improve communication with families. OSSE is implementing a plan to address driver and attendant shortages that includes hiring private contractors, hosting a driver hiring fair, working with schools to expand capacity, and streamlining communication with parents about delays and cancellations. OSSE has a dedicated webpage with regular updates to keep families and schools updated, as well as a reimbursement page for parents who transport eligible students to and from school.

New Grants for Local Businesses

There are several new grants available for local businesses in Ward 4 and across DC:

Brightwood Car Barn Preservation Grant Fund 

The DC Preservation League is distributing preservation initiative grants open only to individuals and 501(c)3 organizations within Ward 4. Grants are for preservation planning, preservation research, preservation outreach and education, and preservation bricks and mortar to enhance residents’ “understanding of historic resources in Brightwood and Ward 4 that add to the area’s unique cultural heritage.” Applications are due by March 1, and there are open houses scheduled on February 1 at 12pm and February 15 at 7pm.

AARP DC Tax-Aide Information Session (Virtual)

Do you need information about filing your taxes? Join AARP DC and AARP Foundation for a virtual session  on Thursday, February 9 at 11am-12pm about the resources provided by Tax-Aide to DC residents. This session will provide general information regarding the available resources, including 2023 tax preparation service offerings; preparation locations, virtual options, and self-service tools; important tax filing documents; filing deadlines, and Q&A. Individual tax assistance will not be provided during the webinar. Register online to participate.

Metro Increasing Train Frequency in February 

Metro announced last week that starting Tuesday, February 7, riders on the Blue, Blue+ (Yellow Line replacement), and Orange lines will see trains every 12 minutes from 6am-9am and 3pm-6pm on Tuesdays through Thursdays. And starting Tuesday, February 21, Red Line riders will see trains run every 8 minutes all day until 9pm on Tuesdays through Thursdays.

Leaf Collection and Holiday Tree Collection

DPW has now completed both rounds of leaf collection in Ward 4. If your block still has leaves that need to be collected, please ensure they are raked onto the tree box or curb and call 311 to request collection. DPW is also continuing to collect holiday trees and greenery left in front of residents’ homes. If they’re not collected within five days, neighbors can call 311 to report the tree. If 311 doesn’t do the trick, please contact my constituent services team so we can work with DPW to ensure that the leaves or holiday trees on your block are collected.

Applications Open for Summer Youth Employment Program

This week, applications opened for the Marion S. Barry Summer Youth Employment Program. DC youth ages 14-24 can apply to work from June 26 through August 4 to gain enriching summer employment experience in the public and private sectors. Apply by February 28.

Local News Links

City Paper: The Carry-out Critic Enjoys Ethiopian Pizza and Hospitality at Ice N Slice

DC Eater: Short-Lived Korean Eatery Magpie and the Tiger Bounces Back in a Big Way

Fox 5: DC’s Zenith Gallery honors local, national artists for Black History Month

Channel 9‘Absolutely amazing’ | Family, friends mourn slain DC Safe Passage worker

Petworth News: What Northern Bus Barn with all electric buses means for Ward 4

Channel 9Faith leaders in Ward 4 holding 72-hour prayer vigil after series of shootings

Urban TurfAll Three-Bedrooms: Douglas Plans Missing Middle Project in Takoma

DC News NowBill proposes free counseling, social work master’s program at UDC

Zero Waste DC: DPW Seeks Applicants to Establish New Food Waste Drop-Off Sites

Fox 5DC ice cream shop Everyday Sundae part of a community of giving

Past Dispatch: All Electric Buses at Northern, Listening Sessions, and Key Deadlines

I want to take a moment to introduce you to my new team members who will be serving Ward 4! Kelly Hunt (Petworth resident) is serving as my Chief of Staff, Charnisa Royster (Manor Park resident) comes on as Deputy Chief of Staff, Will Singer (Barnaby Woods resident) is joining our office as Senior Legislative Advisor, Barbara Rogers (Riggs Park resident) is serving as Community Engagement Director, and Nikita Easley (Brookland resident) joins the team as Deputy Committee Director for the Committee on Facilities and Family Services. Learn more about their background and find contact info for everyone on my staff on my website.

As we enter Black History Month, let us all take time to lift up Black history and culture — not only Black struggle but also Black joy, Black life, Black love, and Black expression. DC Public Library has an entire set of powerful events, exhibits, recommended reads, videos, music, and local history collections dedicated to Black History Month. The National Park Service also has several great events and resources planned.

Before wrapping up, a quick ‘thank you’ to the Shepherd Park Citizens Association for another wonderful potluck dinner last Sunday. Not only did we enjoy great international food, but we also honored some of our most dedicated neighbors for their hard work for Shepherd Park.

Have a nice weekend and stay warm, Ward 4!

Yours in Community,