I hope your Women’s History Month is off to a good start! I was lucky to wrap up this week speaking to our young bright scholars at Brookland Middle School about the importance of women’s history and women’s rights.
We have a lot of good news to share this week, including: a big expansion of DC’s paid family leave program; emergency legislation to protect our urban tree canopy; permanent legislation sealing eviction records; fruitful performance oversight hearings; preliminary maps adjusting Ward 4’s SMD/ANC boundaries were released for feedback; the launch of Ward 4 CARE Days; the nonprofit that will run the Cure the Streets site in Ward 4 was announced; and free child-sized KN95 masks are now available at DC COVID Centers. Let’s get into it all!
Huge Paid Family Leave Expansion for Private Sector Workers in DC
Big news: DC will be dramatically expanding paid family leave benefits for workers in the private sector under its existing paid family leave program to 12 weeks of parental leave, 12 weeks of medical leave, 12 weeks of family care leave, and 2 weeks of pre-natal leave. This change will provide workers precious additional time to share with their babies, take care of sick family members, or recover from serious illness. This issue has been close to my heart since needing to take unpaid leave to take care of my father before he passed away. Expanding paid family leave is how we support working families and live out our values as the District. It gets better: DC will also be able to significantly reduce the payroll contribution tax on employers (from 0.62% currently to as low as 0.26%). These changes are certified to go into effect on July 1, 2022. This was possible because of a change made to the budget by the Council’s Labor Committee, where I serve under the leadership of Councilmember Elissa Silverman. I’m grateful for all of the hard work and community advocacy that led up to this, including by my Legislative Director Joanna Blotner, who worked persistently as an advocate and as a Council staffer to make paid family leave a reality in DC. Please visit the DC Paid Family Leave website to learn more about the existing program and ask questions. Our work is far from done: we also have legislation in the Council (that just had a hearing this week) to expand paid family leave benefits for DC government workers. And we need to keep pressing our neighboring counties, states, and the federal government to enact legislation that guarantees every worker paid family leave. No one should ever have to choose between taking care of their family and paying their bills.
Council Levels the Playing Field for DC State Board of Education
At Tuesday’s legislative session, I’m grateful that the Council unanimously passed legislation that Charles Allen and I introduced allowing DCPS teachers and staff to serve on the DC State Board of Education (SBOE) starting this year. Up until now, DCPS employees were barred from serving on the SBOE, even though public charter school employees and private school employees are eligible to serve. The State Board is a non-partisan office whose representatives serve part-time – and whose limited responsibilities do not pose a conflict with DCPS employment. This change will make our School Board more representative, correct a longtime imbalance between our public education sectors, and bring valuable educator perspectives to the SBOE’s mission of advancing student achievement citywide.
Council Passes Emergency Bill to Safeguard Our Urban Canopy
Also from Tuesday: the Council passed emergency legislation granting stop-work authority to DDOT’s Urban Forestry Division so they can step in and prevent Special Trees and Heritage Trees from being unlawfully cut down in the District. Our community was outraged when a healthy heritage tree in Takoma was cut down by a developer without a permit and in violation of District law. The developer considered a potential fine as the mere cost of doing business, and none of the agencies present were able to intervene. It exposed a major loophole in our laws, which this emergency bill will partially address. I’m also working with my colleagues on the Council to pass broader, permanent legislation to safeguard DC’s urban canopy, which plays a pivotal role in mitigating climate change, cooling our city, creating shade, improving air quality, and reducing stormwater runoff. Thank you to our community for your powerful advocacy on this issue.
Oversight Highlights: Schools, Recreation Centers, and More Schools!
Amidst everything else this week, we had several important performance oversight hearings where I showed up for our community. The hearings covered all of our DC education agencies, the Department of General Services (DGS), the DC Jail, the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), and DC Water – a hearing that I unexpectedly chaired for the first time while Chairwoman Cheh had to step out! I can’t recap everything, but I did want to share some Ward 4-related highlights:
- I pressed DGS about long-standing maintenance issues at Riggs-LaSalle Rec Center, Powell ES, and Roosevelt HS.
- Meanwhile, DGS told me that they no longer plan to follow a summer blitz strategy for school maintenance, with schools repairs instead happening year-round.
- I also secured commitments to finally fix the school sign at MacFarland MS and get new signage for John Lewis ES to reflects its new name.
- DGS updated me that Takoma Aquatic Center is on track to finally reopen this spring.
- Since early last year, I’ve been pressing DGS to increase transparency by creating a work order dashboard for Council and residents to track repairs. DGS has now shared a beta version of this dashboard. This represents real progress but more upgrades are needed.
- I also raised concerns with DGS’ waste collection services at DCPS and DPR properties and pushed Director Anderson to upgrade their waste cans to include “smart” sensors that alert management when trash is overflowing.
- In addition, DGS and DPR agreed to join me in touring every DPR site in Ward 4 this spring to help facilitate repairs and resolve issues.
- I dedicated Wednesday to listening to more than a hundred community witnesses discuss how to improve our schools and education system. Shoutout to all the Ward 4 folks who made time to testify! I made a point to raise the issues you highlighted with our education agency leaders.
- I engaged the Deputy Mayor of Education and the Chancellor about identifying an appropriate, local swing space with outdoor play space for our school communities at Truesdell, Whittier, and LaSalle Backus while their buildings are being modernized.
- I also pushed for a community working group to identify solutions to overcrowding at Roosevelt HS and Roosevelt STAY in their shared building.
- Finally, I raised several other education issues, including safe passage, OSSE-DOT services, early childhood pay, the Charter Board’s new accountability framework coming in 2023, a potential expansion of the SchoolConnect program, teacher burnout and retention efforts, and ways to support students’ mental health.
Ward 4 News
Ward 4 Redistricting Task Force Releases Preliminary Discussion Maps
The Ward 4 Redistricting Task Force released four preliminary draft “discussion maps” for Ward 4’s new ANC and SMD boundaries. These maps were created to highlight some of the ideas that the Task Force is considering and spur additional community input. Check out the draft maps and other information on the Task Force’s webpage, and please share your insights with the Task Force so they can reshape Ward 4’s new ANC and SMD boundaries based on as much community input as possible. You can weigh in with the Task Force by emailing Ward4Redistricting@dccouncil.us, leaving a voicemail at 202-642-5714, or speaking at their community meeting on Tuesday, March 8 from 7pm-9pm (RSVP by March 7 to speak). The Task Force is considering several important questions, such as whether to create a new ANC that encompasses Crestwood and Sixteenth Street Heights, whether Georgia Avenue or 13th Street should be the dividing line between ANCs, and align SMDs with Census tracks in Chevy Chase or break up Census tracks in favor of continuous, more compact SMD boundaries. Find all the information you need on the Ward 4 Redistricting website.
Nonprofit Selected for Ward 4 Cure the Streets Violence Interruption Site
Today DC Attorney General Karl Racine announced the nonprofit that will the new Cure the Streets violence interruption site in Petworth and Brightwood Park: InnerCity Collaborative CDC. “InnerCity Collaborative CDC is a nonprofit that operates as a community development program that focuses on assisting disadvantaged youth and families through mentoring, high risk strategic interventions, housing assistance, counseling, and other social service referrals.” Cure the Streets will begin hiring program managers, outreach workers, and violence interrupters after March 15 (jobs will be posted on their website) and will begin their work in our community in April. Stay tuned for ways to support them as they help us prevent gun violence. Read my announcement from November for more on what this means for Ward 4.
Launching Ward 4 CARE Community Outreach Days
Yesterday we launched Ward 4 CARE Days, a new community outreach initiative where my team and I, community leaders, representatives from District agencies, and Ward 4 residents will be hitting the streets one neighborhood at a time to check in on our neighbors, share DC resources they may need, build stronger relationships, and help our neighbors address problems they face. We’ll be having these outreach events at one neighborhood at a time throughout 2022. I’d love you for you to join us for our first Ward 4 CARE day in Shepherd Park or have you do your own outreach on your block the same week we’ll be covering your neighborhood. Feel free to post a photo on social media tagging my account (@cmlewisgeorgew4) or using the hashtag #Ward4CARES to share stories of neighbors reaching neighbors. I’m excited to go door-to-door with neighbors and help bring our community even closer together. For more on Ward 4 CARES and how you can participate, check out my full announcement. See you out there, Ward 4!
I also wanted to shout out young Ward 4 resident Tyler for his amazing performance at the Jim Thorpe Invitational Golf Tournament. You made us proud, Tyler!
Zenith Gallery’s 44th Anniversary Celebration Exhibit
On Friday, March 4 from 5pm-8pm and Saturday, March 5 from 2pm-6pm Ward 4’s Zenith Gallery (1429 Iris Street NW) will host opening receptions for its 44th anniversary exhibit: The Zeitgeist of Zenith. RSVP to join the reception happening today or on Saturday as we celebrate a gallery that has been a true pillar of our Ward 4 community.
DDOT and Pepco DC Plug Virtual Open House for Brightwood Park
On Thursday, March 10 from 6:30pm-8pm DDOT and PEPCO will host a virtual open house to discuss the DC Power Line Undergrounding Initiative (DC PLUG) with a focus on Feeder 15001, located primarily in the Brightwood Park neighborhood. DC PLUG is a joint initiative between DDOT and Pepco, focused on the underground placement of 30 of the most vulnerable power distribution lines in DC to improve the electric system’s resiliency and reliability. The project team will discuss the location of the work that will take place and engage residents with questions about DC PLUG. Sign up to attend the meeting.
Ward 4 Residents Dance Performance: Joteria: Our Untold Stories
On Saturday, March 12 at 7:30pm Ward 4 residents Gabriel Mata and Adrian Gaston Garcia will host a dance performance titled Joteria: Our Untold Stories. This performance will be part of the Atlas INTERSECTIONS Festival and will celebrate the experiences of queer Latinx men through a series of scripted and unscripted scenes. Get your tickets here.
Rebuild Ward 4 Small Business Summit
On Wednesday, March 16 from 10am-2pm the Beacon Brightwood Business Alliance is teaming up with our office and several DC agencies and community organizations to host a Ward 4 Small Business Summit. The summit will feature workshops on non-traditional sources of capital, services from DC agencies, and support from neighborhood associations. Please spread the word to Ward 4 businesses! Register and find out more information by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 202-829-5732.
City Services and Community Resources
Ward 4 COVID Center Now Provides Child-Sized KN95 Masks. Residents can now pick up up to 10 free child-sized KN95 masks at our Ward 4 COVID Center at Peoples Congressional UCC (4704 13th St NW) or any other COVID Center in DC. No need to bring your child, but don’t forget your proof of DC residency. Residents can also go to COVID Centers to get their vaccine, booster, PCR test, rapid tests, or free adult KN95 masks all in one place. Find a list of all DC COVID Centers and their operating hours on DC Health’s website.
Street Sweeping is Back. As of March 1, DPW has restarted residential street sweeping in our neighborhoods. They will just be issuing warnings for the first couples of weeks, but it’s best to get in the habit of moving your car from the designated sweeping zone because tickets will start being issued after March 14. Street sweeping cleans our streets and helps prevent trash and pollutants from spilling into our waterways.
Yard Waste Collection Is Now Year-Round. Yard waste collection is now year-round, and residents must make an appointment by calling 311 or using the 311 mobile app or website. DPW only collects yard waste in paper bags (up to 20 per home). Learn more at this link.
Bridge Fund for Small DC Businesses. DMPED has opened a second round of applications for its $40 million bridge fund for small DC businesses that experienced revenue loss from the pandemic. Find out more about the grant at this link and sign up for one of the two information sessions. Let’s spread the word to our Ward 4 businesses!
Help Ward 4 Mutual Aid Unhoused Advocacy with Cooking. If you’re looking for a new way to get involved with mutual aid, the Unhoused Advocacy team for Ward 4 Mutual Aid is looking for a dozen folks who can cook a couple of times this year for 10-15 folks on Saturdays. Drop-off is at Mosaic Church (4401 16th St NW) between 1pm-1:30pm. If you’re not interested in cooking, you can still come to Mosaic Church to help distribute the meals and other items, and build relationships with our neighbors on Saturdays from 1:30pm-3:30pm. Email email@example.com with any questions.
Shepherd Park’s Ward 4 English Ivy Challenge (#DCFreesTrees). The Shepherd Park Weed Warriors and the Rock Creek Conservancy are sponsoring a neighborhood competition to remove invasive English Ivy from trees in Ward 4 neighborhoods. Sign up here for the friendly competition to see which neighborhood can remove English ivy from the largest number of trees! Prizes include free native plants to the winners from neighborhood. Use the hashtag #DCFreesTrees to show your love for Rock Creek Park and our city’s trees.
I know so many of us have our minds and hearts set on what’s unfolding in Ukraine right now. I’ve spoken to some of you who have loved ones in Ukraine and are worried for their safety. I wanted to share that earlier this week the Council lit up the Wilson Building in blue and yellow to join the international solidarity with the Ukrainian people. I’m also heartened that the Biden Administration is extending Temporary Protected Status for Ukrainians who escaped to the United States. Let’s continue to pray for peace and the safety of all people in Ukraine – and do our part in assisting humanitarian relief efforts.
Yours in Community,