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Ward 4 Dispatch: Proposed DC Budget, Budget Season, and The Welcome Table at Fort Stevens

Dear Neighbors,

It is now officially spring and officially budget season! My team and I have been analyzing the Mayor’s proposed budget since it was released on Wednesday, and I laid out some initial impressions for you in this newsletter. I am grateful that this week included a powerful listening session with Ward 4 residents hosted by DC Attorney General Brian Schwalb and his team. The experiences, priorities, and ideas that neighbors shared there are grounding me as I begin my work on the DC budget on behalf of our community. In addition to the deep dive on the budget, I highlighted 17 events in Ward 4, city services you should know, and other local news.

Breaking Down the Proposed DC Budget

On Wednesday, the Mayor released her proposed DC budget for Fiscal Year 2024. Since then, I have been combing through the budget with my team to see the Mayor’s proposed changes to the agencies and how it will impact our communities. On one hand, DC’s revenue is not growing as quickly as before largely due to declining long-term commercial real estate values (due to telework), and we no longer have a huge influx of federal funds from pandemic legislation passed by Congress. Also, DC needs to fund new collective bargaining agreements with well-deserved raises for our educators, first responders, and many other critical DC government workers. But on the other hand, even in this more measured economic environment, DC has a $19.7 billion budget that’s even larger than last year’s budget. We have the resources to meet our communities’ core needs, so I will work to ensure that the final DC budget makes those critical investments in safer communities, stronger schools, traffic safety and public transit, improved city services, and affordable housing.

The proposed DC budget we received makes important investments in better maintaining DC facilities and expanding recreation. While other areas of the budget are facing budget cuts, there are strong investments in modernizing our schools and rec centers, small capital improvements, preventative HVAC maintenance, and funding to complete more repairs. The school maintenance budget alone is increasing 12.5% from $63.3 million to $71.2 million. This is important, because DC needs to do a better job of keeping its facilities in good condition so that our communities can have safe and comfortable places to learn, swim, exercise, and play. As the Chair of the Facilities and Family Services Committee, I will work to strengthen these investments even more. I am also grateful that this budget proposes increased recreation opportunities through longer rec center and pool hours, more after-school activities, and expanding DPR programs with a focus on underserved communities and the summer.

Additionally, the proposed budget maintains important investments in Ward 4 that our community, Commissioners, and I have been advocating for:

  • Completing the modernizations of Raymond Elementary and Dorothy Height
  • Modernizing Truesdell Elementary by School Year 2025-26
  • Modernizing Whittier Elementary by SY27-28
  • Modernizing LaSalle-Backus by SY29-30
  • Renovating Barnard Elementary by SY26-27
  • New playgrounds for Brightwood Elementary and Barnard Elementary
  • Building a new cafeteria for Coolidge High School in FY24 to resolve crowding issues with Ida B Wells Middle School
  • Upgrading Petworth Library in FY24 ($3 million)
  • A new roof for Riggs-LaSalle Rec Center in FY23
  • Modernizing Upshur Pool and Rec Center in FY24 ($6 million increase)
  • New outdoor pool at The Parks at Walter Reed in FY25 ($6 million increase)
  • Modernizing Emery Heights Community Center in FY25
  • Renovating the spray parks at Fort Stevens and Takoma
  • Upgrading the roof at Fourth District Police Station on Georgia Avenue
  • Improvements to the small park by Truesdell at 9th & Illinois & Ingraham
  • Key transit projects, including the Georgia Avenue Bus PriorityEastern Avenue RehabilitationAspen Street Rehabilitation, and streetscape improvements to Georgia Avenue (Juniper to Eastern)

As many of you know, I am fighting alongside our community for a new public library and jobs center on Kennedy Street — and to also keep and improve our library in Shepherd Park. The proposed budget includes funding to build a new library in Ward 4, but it plans to replace the current Juanita E. Thornton/Shepherd Park Library instead of maintaining a library in Shepherd Park and building an additional library on Kennedy StreetThat is unacceptable because it requires one community to gain at the expense of the other. We cannot neglect the massive library service gap in Brightwood Park and Manor Park or the great need for public resources along Kennedy Street. But we also cannot leave thousands of families in Shepherd Park, Brightwood, The Parks, Colonial Village, and North Portal without a public library. As your Councilmember, I will work with the Mayor, Council colleagues, ANC Commissioners, and neighbors to preserve a library in Shepherd Park and bring a new library to Kennedy Street.

I am alarmed by many of the devastating cuts this budget proposes in critical areas, including housing. Last year DC set aside $43 million for emergency rental assistance, but the need was so high that the program ran out of funds only five months into the year. This budget only allocates $8 million in emergency rental assistance. At that funding level, DC will have no funds to prevent evictions for almost the entire year, which will inevitably lead many families to face displacement or homelessness. And I am disappointed that this budget proposal fails to expand DC paid family leave benefits for DC government workers. Through DC’s Universal Paid Family Leave program, private sector workers in DC get 12 weeks of paid leave to be with a new child, care for a sick family member, or recover from serious illness. DC government workers and their families deserve the same. I also want to work with my Council colleagues to reverse budget cuts to many DCPS schools, which never should have happened in the first place. At a time when students need greater support, some schools are slated to lose staff despite having the same number of students or even higher enrollment compared to last year.

I am even more alarmed by cuts that will hurt community safety. There are deep cuts to victim services, including services for survivors of domestic violence. And there are funding reductions in gun violence prevention programs, including proven programs like Pathways transitional employment and ONSE’s school-based Leadership Academy that provides dedicated mentorship to at-risk students. These programs should be expanded to confront the violent crime surge that DC is experiencing citywide. MPD’s proposed budget is more mixed. There is a reduction in patrol services but more resources for investigations to help close cases and increased civilian staff to take administrative burden off sworn officers. The big MPD hiring incentives from this year are still in place in the proposed budget, but the incentives to fill other critical vacancies in our government like 911 call takers and social workers are far smaller.

Traffic safety takes a major hit in this proposed budget too. The Council passed a law last year dedicating future traffic camera revenue to implementing vital traffic safety bills, such as Vision Zero, Safer Streets, and the Safe Routes to School Act. It is only fair that revenue from these cameras be reinvested back into making our streets safer with more traffic lights, all-way stops, speed bumps, raised crosswalks, and protections around schools. Instead, this proposed budget defunds most of those initiatives and reclaims traffic camera fines as general revenue for the city. Only a week ago, the DC Auditor published a report showing that a lack of funding and staffing is driving the failure of DC’s Vision Zero efforts. The Mayor’s proposed budget also fails to fund the law that would have made MetroBus fare-free in DC and kept routes like the S1 and 70 running overnight. It is now up to the Council to fund this legislation, and the earliest it could happen is late this fall. 

Speak at a Budget Oversight Hearing

The most important thing to know about the DC budget is that you can help shape it. Over the next few weeks, the Council will host budget oversight hearings with every DC agency where community members can come speak about what changes they want to see. Check out the full schedule and sign-up instructions on the Council’s website, and please contact me or my team if you need any support signing up. Ward 4 always shows up strong at budget hearings, and it makes a difference. I will be at as many budget oversight hearings as I can to listen and lift up your testimony. And these are the hearings I will be chairing with the Committee on Facilities and Family Services:

  • Wednesday, March 29 at 9am: Budget Hearing for Department of Disability Services (DDS), Mayor’s Office of Deaf, DeafBlind and Hard of Hearing (MODDHH), and Office of Disability Rights (ODR)
  • Thursday, April 6 at 9am: Budget Hearing for Department of General Services (DGS)
  • Tuesday, April 11 at 12pm: Budget Hearing for Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA) and Office of the Ombudsperson for Children (OFC)

Neighborhood Events

Tax Town Hall at Shepherd Park Library

On Saturday, March 25 at 10am Chairman Mendelson will host a Tax Town Hall at Shepherd Park Library. This will be an information session focused on property tax assessments and the appeals process, with Office of Tax and Revenue (OTR) staff present to answer questions.

First Time Homeownership Seminar at Shepherd Park Library

On Saturday, March 25 at 11am-2pm Supreme Lending will host a First Time Homeownership Seminar and Home Tour event at Shepherd Park Library. I will be one of the speakers discussing DC’s Black Homeownership Strikeforce and the importance of the Home Purchase Assistance Program. Come learn about pathways to homeownership in DC! RSVP to attend.

ANC 4B06 “Rat Riddance” Walkthrough

On Saturday, March 25 at 10am-12pm 4B06 Commissioner Tiffani Johnson will lead a “Rat Riddance” Walkthrough for neighbors starting from Capital City PCS (100 Peabody Street NW).

Spring Trash Pickup at Grant Circle

On Sunday, March 26 at 10am Steve Feingold and neighbors will meet at Grant Circle for a spring trash pickup focused on removing trash that the wind has blown into the park. 

“The Welcome Table” Event Led by Ward 4 Clergy  

On Sunday, March 26 from 1pm-4pm Clergy Members of Ward 4 are hosting a community event at Fort Stevens Battleground (6001 13th St NW) to offer residents a peaceful place to voice concerns, listen to others, bring neighbors together, and grab a bite! There will be food, games, family-friendly activities, speakers, and community resources. This is a follow-up event to the 72-hour prayer vigil that was held by our congregations in Ward 4 in the movement to build peace in our neighborhoods. Learn more online.

Upcoming DPR Events for Ward 4
DPR is hosting several great events for Ward 4 families:

POSTPONED TO NEW DATE: South Manor Neighborhood Association Cleanup

On Saturday, April 1 from 10am-12pm the South Manor Park Neighborhood Association will host a neighborhood clean up. They will meet at the South Manor sign at the intersection of Longfellow & New Hampshire Ave NE. Trash bags and tools will be provided. This clean up has been rescheduled from March 25 because of expected rain.

Mini-Oasis Restoration at Fort Slocum

On Saturday, April 1 at 10am-12pm the Rock Creek Conservancy and the National Park Service will host an invasive plant removal restoration event in Rock Creek Park. Invasive plants are a major threat to our fragile forests, and stopping their spread helps allow for a thriving native understory. Register here.

Petworth Library Spring Carnival

On Saturday, April 1 at 10:30am-3pm the Petworth Library will host a Spring Carnival and Used Book Sale featuring a used book sale, merchandise, face painting, arts and crafts, and more! Come have fun with your neighbors and support our Petworth Library.

Ward 4 Community Jobs Fair at Coolidge

On Saturday, April 22 from 11am-3pm I will co-host a Ward 4 Jobs Fair with the DC Business Gun Violence Prevention Coalition and ANC 4B at Coolidge (6315 5th St NW), and lunch will be provided! If you’re an employer, please reach out to participate. Residents can register to attend on Eventbrite. Please spread the word with this flyer!

Community Resources

Expanded Hours at Emery Heights and Ward 4 Rec Centers 

Starting Monday, March 27, Emery Heights Community Center in Ward 4 will expand its operating hours to 6am-9pm on weekdays and 9am-5pm on Saturdays — adding 39 extra hours of recreation each week! The same change will be made at eight centers citywide, including Columbia Heights Community Center and Turkey Thicket. Then, later in April, other Ward 4 rec centers will also have their hours extended, too.

Homestead Deduction, Senior Citizen, and Disability Property Tax Relief

At the peak of tax season, I want to remind every eligible resident to submit your application for a homestead, senior citizen, or disability property tax deduction. Residents can apply online or use a paper form that’s accessible by calling 202-727-4829. If a properly completed and approved application is filed by March 31, the home will get the benefit for the entire tax year.

Convert Your Tax Lot to a Lot of Record

The Department of Buildings (DOB) is temporarily offering a substantially reduced fee of $100 for homeowners who want to convert their tax lot to a lot of record. Why is this important? A tax lot designation limits homeowners from being issued permits for home improvement projects. How do you find out if your property is recorded as a tax lot or lot of record? Review your deed or consult this database. Learn more about this process and get started on DOB’s website.

AARP Tax Assistance at Petworth Library 

On Mondays and Fridays from 12pm-4pm each week, AARP Foundation offers assistance with income tax return preparation by appointment only at Petworth Library and many other DC libraries. Email to make an appointment at Petworth Library, and visit DCPL’s website for more information about the program and needed documents. 

COVID Centers Closing on March 31

DC’s COVID Centers will close on Friday, March 31 as federal funding lapses for this resource. I know the COVID Centers have been an incredible resource for neighbors, so remember to stop by in the next few days if you still need your shot, booster, or additional tests and masks.

700 Next-Generation E-Bikes Capital Bikeshare 

This week DDOT added 700 next-generation e-bikes to their Capital Bikeshare fleet. The new e-bikes have a larger battery with a 60-mile range, are more visible at night, can better accommodate tall riders, and feature new sensors that can self-report maintenance problems.

Street Sweeping Is Underway: Avoid the Ticket  

On March 1, DPW restarted street sweeping to clean up residential streets and prevent trash and pollutants from spilling into our waterways. DPW has now started issuing tickets (instead of warnings) so look out for posted signs restricting parking during street sweeping hours. 

DDOT Switching to New Parking Permit System 

Mayor Bowser is encouraging neighbors with residential parking on their street to sign up for ParkDC, which is DDOT’s new system for using, issuing, and applying for permits for parking for visitors, home health aides, contractors, and school staff. Neighbors can access ParkDC online, on the mobile app, or at 202-671-2631. DDOT also announced that the 2020 visitor parking passes (paper placards) will stop being valid after April 15, 2023

Sign Up for DPR Summer Camp Lottery 

Parents can sign up for DPR’s new lottery sign-up system for summer camps. Instead of all residents competing to sign up at the same time, the new lottery system allows residents to submit their top camp preferences until April 5 with about 5,000 additional spots this year. 

ANC Commissioner Vacancies in 4A03 and 4C07 

Ward 4 has two important vacancies for Commissioners to serve in ANC 4A03, which encompasses the Parks at Walter Reed and nearby homes, and 4C07 in Petworth south of Grant Circle. If you live in these Single Member Districts, please consider stepping up to serve your neighborhood. The Board of Elections has all the information you need to run. The petition gathering period for ANC 4A03 is running from March 13 to April 6, while the petition gathering period for ANC 4C07 is running from March 20 to April 13. Spread the word to neighbors! 

Local News Links

City Paper: Petworth’s Little Vietnam Goes Big With Fun, Flavor-Charged Fare

WMATA: Brand New Three-Platform Escalators at Takoma Metro Station

Upper Georgia Avenue: Call for Artists to Design Traffic Boxes on Georgia Avenue

Petworth News: Petworth blooms as Spring rains bring colors to our neighborhoods

City Paper: DC in Danger of Missing 2030 Deadline To Remove Lead Pipes

Riders TimesRoosevelt gets much-needed space to accommodate growing enrollment

Hellbender: New Cherry Blossom-Inspired Beer “In Bloom” Released

Previous Ward 4 Dispatch: School Repairs, More Buses, and Safety around Schools

I want to give a big shoutout to our Coolidge Colts Cheerleaders on clinching the DCSAA 2023 Advanced Cheerleading State Championship, and to our Lafayette Elementary Bears on winning the DCIAA Boys Basketball Championship. Ward 4 is proud of you!

To our neighbors who are observing the holy month Ramadan: our community joins together to wish you peaceful reflection and a fruitful fast.

Special thank you to Ms. Mann and our Whittier school community for inviting me to read to our Whittier scholars this week. I always love reading to our Ward 4 scholars, and I will be back at Whittier next month for the ANC 4B Earth Day Resource Fair.

And to all of Ward 4, I hope you enjoy the cherry blossoms reaching their peak bloom around our neighborhoods. Please rest up and enjoy your weekends!

Yours in Community,