My newsletter this week shares many ways neighbors can make their voice heard: performance oversight hearings, community listening sessions in Ward 4, the opportunity to run for ANC in Brightwood, and several important surveys. I also update our community on the District’s criminal code revision, two great Ward 4 businesses, neighborhood events, public meetings, government services, and community resources. I hope you find this useful!
Make Your Voice Heard at a Performance Oversight Hearing
Strong civic engagement is essential for a healthy democracy. In a few days, the Council will begin its performance oversight hearings for each DC agency. This is our opportunity to drill down on what each agency can do in order to better serve our communities. In DC, any resident has the opportunity to come before the Council to testify about what they want to see from their government — with agency leadership listening in. I am strongly encouraging neighbors to sign up to speak at a performance oversight hearing (or a future budget hearing in the spring) about the issues that are impacting our community.
Do you believe leaf collection or similar services need to be improved? Speak at the hearing with DPW. Are you concerned about cuts at Ward 4 rec centers? Come to the performance oversight hearing for DPR. Are you frustrated by the maintenance of our schools? Testify at our hearing with DGS, which I will be chairing. Do you want our public safety agencies to do more to improve community safety? Every agency involved in addressing crime and crime violence has a hearing where you can make your voice heard. I will be participating in as many performance oversight hearings as possible to advocate for our community and double down on the issues that Ward 4 residents bring to these hearings.
To make the process simpler for residents, I highlighted some key performance oversight hearings in the graphic above. You can find a full schedule of hearings and instructions for signing up to testify on the Council website. Because Council Committees were reshaped this year, some Committees are still updating their sign-up process for hearings. If you have any challenges finding the right hearing or signing up to testify, please email me or my team for support. I’m looking forward to hearing from neighbors and showing up strong for Ward 4!
Upholding the Criminal Code Revision Act
On Tuesday, the Council voted overwhelmingly to override a veto of legislation that revises DC’s criminal code. I wrote to our community when the Revised Criminal Code Act (RCCA) was first passed to explain what the bill does, how it came to be, and why it is important. Given this week’s vote to uphold the RCCA and all the news coverage it received, it feels important to break this down again and answer many of the questions I hear from neighbors. Unfortunately, there is a wide gulf between what has been said about the Revised Criminal Code Act and its actual impact on our laws when it is phased in between October 2025 and 2030.
First, some background. This legislation is the outcome of a 17-year process, three Council hearings, and the recommendations of an independent commission made up of key stakeholders from the US Attorney’s Office, the DC Attorney General’s Office, the Public Defenders Service, and legal experts. You can learn more about the Criminal Code Reform Commission and its work on its website. The final bill incorporates countless compromises between prosecutors, defense attorneys, public safety agencies, courts, experts, community stakeholders, the Council, and the Executive. Modernizing DC’s criminal code has been a major undertaking led by Councilmember Charles Allen and the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety. The committee report alone for this legislation stands at 2129 pages.
Why is it important for DC to revise its criminal code? First, DC’s code is severely outdated. It was adopted all the way back in 1901 and has not been revised comprehensively since. To give you a sense of its shelf life, it includes laws that govern the transportation of livestock in the city and prohibit the playing of ball games in streets and alleys. But beyond archaic statutes, DC’s code lacks clarity and is inconsistent. For example, simple assault is the most commonly charged offense in DC, but the current code does not include a clear definition for what simple assault is. This matters in courtrooms. When I served as an Assistant Attorney General in DC, I saw first-hand how ambiguous and undefined terms in our criminal code made it hard for judges, defense attorneys, and prosecutors alike to enforce and uphold the law. The current code is also full of overlapping offenses and contradictory sentences — inviting errors, arbitrariness, and bias in our judicial system. That is why the vast majority of changes to the criminal code involve creating clear definitions of offenses, using modern terms, and codifying common defenses into law for the first time. The other reason DC’s code needs to be updated is that it was written for us by Congress more than a century ago (before World War I) and does not reflect our contemporary values or the science we now have on human development, criminology, incarceration, deterring crime, and preventing recidivism.
The revised criminal code maintains serious penalties for violent crime. Despite what you may have heard, this bill does not remove punishments for violent crimes or prevent those who harmed others from being held accountable. What the bill does is create a uniform, proportionate classification system of penalties. This is important because sentences will now depend more on the severity of the conduct, the facts of the case, and whether vulnerable people, repeat offenders, or weapons were involved. Take carjacking, for example, which is a serious offense that is on the rise in the District. A first-time offender could be sentenced up to 24 years in person if weapons and serious bodily harm are involved in the crime. But an unarmed carjacking that causes no bodily injury still carries a sentence of up to 4 years in prison. First-degree armed robbery carries a sentence up to 20 years in person if weapons are involved and significant bodily harm is caused. First-degree murder carries a sentence up to 45 years in prison, and second-degree murder carries a sentence up to 24 years even without any penalty enhancements.
Looking at individual sentences can also be misleading because prosecutors have wide discretion to charge multiple offenses for a single case and to request that the sentences for these offenses be served consecutively. The RCCA also increases existing penalties for some violent crimes like sexual offenses. And it establishes new offenses to combat gun violence, such as Endangerment with a Firearm. This new offense punishes the shooting of a weapon without requiring prosecutors to prove the elements of an assault, which typically requires finding a victim or eyewitness and persuading them to testify.
While preserving strong consequences for violent crime, the RCCA also takes important steps to responsibly roll back mass incarceration polices that have devastated DC communities. The bill expands DC’s successful “Second Look” law to allow all adults who have served at least 20 years of imprisonment to petition for sentence review by Superior Court judges. These petitions would be evaluated based on a defendant’s demonstrated maturity, their rehabilitation, their fitness to reenter society, the perspectives of victims and their families, and other factors. This policy is backed by research showing that most people ‘age out’ of crime gradually. States with similar policies have extremely low recidivism rates, and the District already has many successful petitioners who have reintegrated into society and are actively contributing to our communities.
Another important component of the bill is the elimination of most mandatory minimums in our code. Research strongly indicates that mandatory minimums do not deter crime, but they do tie the hands of judges, juries, victims, and defendants — while also driving up DC’s incarceration rate, which is already one of the highest in the nation. Finally, the bill restores the right to a jury trial for all misdemeanors that carry a penalty of incarceration. This change aligns the District with most other states and reflects our constitutional right to be judged by a jury of our peers. However, expansion of jury trials will be phased in gradually from 2025 to 2030 with a required annual review to ensure that it can be implemented without overstraining our courts. To that end, we made encouraging progress this week as DC Superior Court swore in six new associate judges. The new judges will help clear the backlog in our courts, hold trials sooner, and ensure that our judicial branch has the resources it needs to administer justice.
I am disappointed by the divisive rhetoric, misleading claims, and fictitious editorials about the revised criminal code. They undermine our unity as a city at a time when it is desperately needed, and they distract us from real solutions to the crises that we face. We need a strong focus on getting guns off the street, closing cases, and confronting the factors that exacerbate gun violence in our neighborhoods. And we need to strengthen our response to the underlying causes of crime and expand resources for our communities — especially mental health. In Ward 4, we are working collaboratively with all of our agencies and communities to bring both immediate relief and lasting peace to our neighborhoods. I voted for the Revised Criminal Code Act because it makes our criminal code clearer, fairer, more consistent, and more aligned with best practices and our values as a city. Amidst a gun violence crisis and this era of mass incarceration, it strikes the right balance between holding accountable those who commit harm, making our communities safer, ensuring our criminal legal system is constitutional and just, and promoting the rehabilitation and reintegration of our neighbors.
Ward 4 Business Spotlight: Gelberg Signs and Petworth Social Bar & Grill
As we begin a new year, I wanted to highlight two great Ward 4 businesses that I recently had the chance to visit: one that’s been in our community for decades and a new business that just opened. Gelberg Signs in Lamond has been in business for 80 years now, employs more than a hundred union workers, and is constantly giving back to our community. It has constructed many of the District’s most iconic signs right here in Ward 4 — from the Anthem to Ben’s Chili Bowl to the Washington Post. It is a family-owned and family-operated shop that President Obama visited in 2010. It was amazing to visit and see their quality work up close.
I also visited the brand new Petworth Social Bar and Grill at 821 Upshur Street NW (previously home to Taqueria Del Barrio). Led by owner Ranu Rawat, his wife Cathleen Hsu, and Chef James Oakley, Petworth Social Bar & Grill serves delicious Southern-style American dishes and a great selection of drinks. I can personally vouch for the quality of their salmon and seafood etouffee! The restaurant is spacious and welcoming, and it includes a great space in the back for special events. Petworth Social Bar & Grill will make a great addition to our Upshur Street corridor and help foster community and good memories for Ward 4 residents.
Join a Listen As We Climb Event in Your Ward 4 Neighborhood
During the rest of January and early February my team and I are hosting our third annual series of community listening sessions across Ward 4. These conversations give neighbors the opportunity to shape our work on the Council when it comes to legislation, budget priorities, constituent services, and community initiatives.
- Sunday, Jan. 22 at 3pm: Lamond, Riggs Park, and South Manor Park
- Tuesday, Jan. 24 at 6:30pm: Sixteenth Street Heights, Crestwood, and Brightwood
- Thursday, Jan. 26 at 6:30pm: Takoma and Manor Park
- Monday, Jan. 30 at 6:30pm: Petworth and Brightwood Park
- Tuesday, Jan. 31 at 6pm: Chevy Chase, Barnaby Woods, and Hawthorne
- Thursday, Feb. 2 at 6:30pm: Virtual, all are welcome!
Please register for the listening session that best works for you on my website or by calling 202-724-8052. And please spread the word to your neighbors. I’m looking forward to seeing neighbors from Lamond, Riggs Park, and South Manor Park this Sunday!
Artist Talk: “Capital Light” at Zenith Gallery
On Saturday, January 21, 2023, from 2pm-3pm Zenith Gallery (1429 Iris Street NW) will host an artist talk titled “Capital Light” with painter Bradley Stevens on his new series of luminous DC paintings, which render familiar city scenes in breathtaking light. The Capital Light exhibit is on display through January 28 from Wednesday to Saturday at 12pm-6pm, so make your way over while you still can. Residents can RSVP for this Saturday’s artist talk on Eventbrite.
Maret Field Neighborhood Information Forum
On Tuesday, January 24 at 7pm the Maret School invites neighbors to a virtual information forum to discuss their work on the athletic fields project in partnership with the Episcopal Center for Children. Maret plans to begin work on the site in early 2023 relocating and removing trees based on their Tree Preservation Plan and Tree Transplant Plan. Maret and ECC officials will be present to answer community questions. RSVP on Zoom to attend.
Carter Barron Memorabilia ‘Show and Tell’
On Thursday, January 26 from 5pm-6pm the Carter Barron Alliance will host a Carter Barron Memorabilia ‘Show and Tell’ event. In this unique event, they’ll be gathering concert-goers from all over to share their personal memories and artifacts from the shows they have attended at this historic venue. Please bring old ticket stubs, programs, photographs, stories, and collectibles from the historic venue. Preregistration at this link is required to attend.
Northern Bus Garage Project Winter Community Meeting
On Thursday, January 26, 2023, from 6pm-7pm Metro will hold its winter community engagement meeting on the Northern Bus Garage Reconstruction Project. The meeting will include updates on construction, environmental progress, Art in Transit, and Metro’s Zero Emission Bus Update. RSVP on Eventbrite to attend.
Weigh in on Plans for the Rock Creek Park Golf Course Rehabilitation
On Thursday, January 26, 2023, from 6:30pm-8pm the National Park Service (NPS) and National Links Trust (NLT) will host a virtual public meeting on initial concept designs for the Rock Creek Park Golf Course Rehabilitation project and invite public comment on potential impacts to cultural and natural resources by Wednesday, February 8. In 2020, NPS signed a 50-year lease with NLT to operate three historic golf courses in DC, including the Rock Creek Park Golf Course. The NPS and NLT are proposing to rehabilitate the Rock Creek Park Golf Course as part of NLT’s long-term management of the course — including addressing deferred maintenance, increasing playability, broadening course appeal to the local community, achieving financial stability, improving environmental sustainability, and preserving the historic integrity of the original William Flynn-designed golf course.
Serve as an ANC Commissioner in Lower Brightwood
Ward 4 currently has two ANC Commissioner vacancies in Single Member Districts 4A06 and 4A07 just north of Military Road in Brightwood. These two districts include schools, small businesses, faith communities, single-family homes, apartment buildings, Rock Creek Park Golf Course, and Fort Stevens. If you live in this neighborhood, please consider stepping up to serve or encouraging a dedicated neighbor to do so. The petition period to fill these seats has opened and will run until January 30, 2023. To learn more about the process of running and find the required forms, please visit the Board of Elections website and their vacancy guide. Ward 4 deserves full representation!
Safe at Home Program Expands for Seniors
DACL has expanded the Safe at Home program, which provides safety adaptations in and around the homes of qualifying seniors and adults with disabilities to reduce the risk of falls. Preventative adaptations can include handrails, grab bars, bathtub cuts, shower seats, furniture risers, and chair lift. Starting this month, the program will allow participants to voluntarily participate in vision screenings, medication management, and evidence-based balance and strength training classes to give seniors more options to reduce the risks of falls and live healthy lives. Virtual balance and strength training classes can be found on the DACL website, while in-person classes are being held at Hattie Holmes Senior Wellness Center (324 Kennedy Street NW; 202-291-6170) and other senior centers across the District. Learn more!
Propose a New Name for a Petworth Alley
A small development is being planned on two vacant lots in an alley in Petworth located between Georgia Avenue, 9th Street, Crittenden Street, and Buchanan Street NW. As part of that project, a new name must be given to the alley. One suggestion is to name this alley after artist Elizabeth Catlett, but the architect is also inviting proposals from the community. Andrew Linn is especially interested in hearing suggestions about individuals who have been particularly important to the neighborhood.
Last Chance: Take the Parks at Walter Reed Events Survey
The Parks at Walter Reed has an annual survey for neighbors to have a say on what types of events and activities they’d like to see at the Parks this coming year. Responses are due by January 26, so be sure to weigh in if you live at the Parks or any nearby neighborhood!
Metro Seeks Input on Parking and Bus Bay Changes at Takoma Station
Metro is seeking public input on proposed changes to parking and bus facilities at Takoma Station as part of the 435-unit proposed development that will replace the current parking lot at Takoma Metro. Proposed changes include relocating the bus loop and Kiss & Ride, adding one drop-off only bus stop, removing 144 Kiss & Ride spaces, and adding a traffic signal on Carroll Street NW at the bus loop and Kiss & Ride entrance. The changes are intended to promote transit-oriented development and increase Metro ridership. Through engagement with ANC 4B, WMATA, and neighbors, the development will also bring significant community benefits, including permanently affordable housing, green space, sustainable design features, and safer pedestrian facilities. Visit WMATA’s web page to see how you can weigh in on these changes to parking and bus facilities by 5pm on Friday, January 27.
Shepherd Park Library Survey by DCPL
In 2020, DC Public Library released its 10-year Facilities Master Plan, which outlined recommendations to maintain, adapt, and grow the city’s public library system. As part of this early planning and with no final decisions made, DCPL is gathering community feedback on the possibility of relocating the Shepherd Park/Juanita E. Thornton Library to the Parks at Walter Reed, retaining the existing site, or moving it to an alternative location. The current deadline to fill out the survey is February 10, and so far more than 800 residents have weighed in. Residents in Shepherd Park, North Portal Estates, Colonial Village, Takoma, Brightwood, Brightwood Park, Manor Park, and other nearby neighborhoods are encouraged to weigh in on this with DCPL’s survey.
Composting Your Tree or Holiday Greenery
DPW is 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.
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: 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.
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.
The Latest Update on Leaf Collection
DPW leaf collection crews are working hard seven days a week to catch up on leaf collection. They are currently working on the second round of leaf collection in Area B, which includes Crestwood, Sixteenth Street Heights, and Petworth west of Georgia Avenue. Next week, they will start their second round of leaf collection in Area C, which includes Takoma, Manor Park, South Manor Park, Lamond, and Riggs Park. 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. And if you live in Area A or Area D and your leaf collection was missed, contact my constituent services team so we can ask DPW to return to your block.
Local News Links
Petworth News: Councilmember Janeese Lewis George asks for a cease of gunfire
Local DMV: Dental Wellness with Dr. Stella Chukwu of Shepherd Park’s Rockstar Pediatric Dentistry
Washingtonian: West African Artist Gives President Lincoln’s Cottage a Makeover
Washington Informer: Nineteenth Street Baptist Church Hosts 2023 Presidential Awards
Channel 9: Proposed DC bill would offer residents $400+ to buy electric bikes
Channel 7: A brand new location and concept for DC’s favorite Spice Suite
Petworth News: This Old Petworth House: Fireplaces galore on Otis Street NW
DCist: Residents Upset Over Changes To DDOT’s Traffic Safety Request Process
Previous Ward 4 Dispatch: Community Safety and Neighborhood News
One of the highlights from this week was getting to visit Ms. Vandalia Joyner-Taylor in Riggs Park to share my appreciation for her! Through her volunteerism and civic engagement, Ms. Van always finds ways to give back to our community — including volunteering at our Thanksgiving Turkey Giveaway last November. She is one of the many Ward 4 residents who quietly and steadily support their neighbors and make our community a more compassionate place. They may not always make headlines, but they make a real difference in Ward 4.
I want to wish a Happy Year of the Rabbit to everyone in our community celebrating Lunar New Year this Sunday. May it bring peace, prosperity, and hope to all.
I will leave you with one of Bradley Stevens’ great paintings featuring a Ward 4 gem: Boulder Bridge in Rock Creek Park. You can hear directly from the artist at Zenith Gallery this weekend, and we can enjoy Ward 4’s beautiful parks and trails any day!
Yours in Community,