We’ve had a week full of oversight work, new legislation, and being in community. First, I’m excited to share that I am co-hosting a Ward 4 Youth Career Building Workshop this coming Monday, February 27 from 10am-2pm at Emery Heights. Please make sure the young people in your life (ages 17-24) who want support building a career know about the event! We are keeping the focus on youth this week, with big updates on recreation opportunities in this newsletter and a Council roundtable happening this Saturday at noon at the RISE Demonstration Center to hear directly from young people about the issues that matter most to them. There are also some key deadlines coming up next week, including: DC School Lottery applications for children in PK3-Grade 8, the Summer Youth Employment Program, and the Ward 4 DC Public Library Survey.
At the Council, this week I listened to community members and engaged agency leaders at performance oversight hearings with the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety, the DC Attorney General, the Department of Buildings (formerly DCRA), the Department of Human Services, and the Department of Parks and Recreation about the needs of our community. And tonight as you receive this message, I am chairing an important performance hearing with the Child and Family Services Agency and the Office of the Ombudsman for Children, which play a critical role in overseeing the wellbeing of children in our community. And, in between hearings this week, I reintroduced three bills to reduce trash and littering in DC. Next week will be just as action-packed with performance hearings for DDOT, DOES, and DGS all scheduled.
DPR to Expand Hours at Rec Centers
In Ward 4, we love our recreation centers and our public pools — but late last summer DPR cut operating hours, relocated rec center staff, and reduced some programming at several rec centers across our community and the District. These changes relocated some of the experienced staff with strong community ties that make our rec centers welcoming and safe for everyone. And they reduced opportunities for youth recreation at a time when our young people need it most. Rec centers like Petworth and Fort Stevens were hit particularly hard. Together with our community and ANC Commissioners, I have been advocating for hours and programming to be restored at our Ward 4 rec centers.
This week, after months of engagement with the agency, DPR announced at its performance oversight hearing that it would be expanding its hours this spring — restoring many of the hours and programs that were cut last year. For neighborhood rec centers like Petworth and Fort Stevens, that means the facilities will stay open from 12pm-8pm each weekday (they currently open at 3:30pm). Community centers will also see expanded hours from 9am-9pm on weekdays and 9am-5pm on Saturdays. DPR will begin expanding operating hours in early March and fully implement these changes by June. I also confirmed with DPR that they will prioritize returning staff to rec centers where they have strong community relationships. This is a positive step, but we need to add even more recreation hours, staff, and programs. I’ll keep advocating with DPR to make these improvements. I have also introduced legislation to open Roosevelt pool at least one day per weekend and co-introduced a bill to keep recreation centers open on Saturdays and Sundays.
At our oversight hearing with DPR, I pressed for repairs and maintenance needs at Riggs LaSalle and Lafayette Pointer, swimming lessons at Roosevelt pool, more programming for our youth and our seniors, the ballet program in Chevy Chase, improved communication from DPR when programs are cancelled, and ensuring our community is deeply engaged about the upcoming modernizations of Upshur Rec Center and Pool (2024) and Emery Heights Community Center (2025). DPR also shared that they are exploring relocating the fitness center from Takoma Aquatic Center to Takoma Community Center, where gym equipment can be maintained in good shape so the gym can remain open for the public. I also thanked DPR staff for their amazing work serving our community at its many facilities across Ward 4. If you missed the hearing, you can send in written testimony about DPR to the Committee on Recreation at email@example.com until February 27.
Fiscal Year 2024 Budget Request Letter
Even before performance oversight hearings conclude, DC budget season is already underway. Ahead of the Mayor releasing her budget proposal on March 22, I shared my budget request letter centered on investing in city services and infrastructure, supporting Ward 4 neighborhoods, building safer and stronger communities, and becoming a more equitable District. Please keep in mind that this is only one of many opportunities we will have to shape the DC budget. Some key investments I called for in the letter included:
- Increasing pay and hiring incentives for essential workers in direct service, health and human care, behavioral health roles, school clinicians and counselors, homelessness outreach workers, case managers, and victims services professionals.
- Acquiring property at the intersection of 5th & Kennedy NW to build public facilities that bring valuable resources to our community and improve safety.
- Expanding paid family leave for DC government workers by fully funding the District Government Paid Leave Enhancement Act.
- Improving transit options in Ward 4, including an expansion of the Neighborhood Connect program, a school-hours bus line for Coolidge High School to and from Lamond-Riggs, and training and staffing support for OSSE DOT services.
- Deepening investments in school leadership academies, violence prevention, victims’ services, housing for survivors of domestic violence, and overdose prevention centers.
- Securing a larger facility to house the work of the Ethiopian Community Center.
- Making critical repairs to Ward 4 schools, resolving longstanding maintenance issues at Ward 4 rec centers, and improving safety at several Ward 4 corridors and intersections.
Three Bills for Cleaner Neighborhoods
This week I reintroduced three pieces of legislation aimed at reducing trash on our streets and improving government services. Here are the reasons I introduced these bills and how I believe they will help:
- Last year, residents started seeing public litter cans disappearing from their neighborhoods without notice or explanation. Predictably, this has burdened neighbors and led to more trash piling up on our streets. We found out that DPW was removing public litter cans because it found they were being “misused” by people disposing of trash from their homes in these cans. But this response has only made problems worse. We need public education, smart cans, more service, and strategic enforcement — not fewer cans. That is why I reintroduced a bill to requiring DPW to provide a Notice of Intent to ANC Commissioners before removing a public litter can in their neighborhood. This will provide a clear explanation for why cans may be removed, give our communities a chance to weigh in, and prevent more public litter cans from being suddenly removed in our neighborhoods. At DPW’s oversight hearing, the agency agreed that engaging ANCs and their constituents on changes to public litter cans is important. It also committed to reach out to Commissioners to review cans that were removed and begin the process of replacing them.
- But dumping household trash in public cans does happen, and it is worth exploring why. In DC, homeowners are regularly serviced by the city while many tenants live in buildings without regular collection or enough dumpsters. Given this disparity, it is no surprise that trash from multifamily buildings often ends up in public cans or on the street. DC law currently has no specific requirement for how often trash and recycling must be collected at multifamily buildings or how many cans or dumpsters each building must have. As a result, these needs are often neglected — leading trash to overflow and fester in our communities. To address this issue, I reintroduced the CLEAN Collection Act to require a minimum service level for trash and recycling in multifamily buildings. The bill holds apartment building companies and collection companies accountable for providing adequate waste services to residents. This will help prevent trash from overflowing, reduce rodents, address neighborhood blight, discourage illegal dumping, and make our communities cleaner.
- I also reintroduced legislation to tackle a third issue: “paper alleys” are DC-owned, unmaintained alleys that are typically made up of dirt or gravel. In some cases they cause safety issues or blight for neighbors. The District has approximately 45 paper alleys, but DDOT is only on track to address 1-2 of these paper alleys per year. My bill requires DDOT to develop a long-term plan and budget to improve all of DC’s paper alleys — starting from high-use alleys and alleys in under-resourced areas. Since some neighborhoods want their paper alleys to remain unchanged, this process will be driven by community input.
Shellfish Market Launches on Kennedy Street
I am so excited that Shellfish Market has started serving customers! Located at 443 Kennedy Street NW, they have a welcoming space, friendly staff, and delicious seafood. I tried their lobster grilled cheese and buffalo shrimp, and they were both fantastic. Congratulations to Dwayne Prince for turning this dream into a reality and bringing a brand new, Black-owned business to our Kennedy Street corridor. Shellfish is open most days starting six days a week from 1pm-9pm and closed on Sundays. You can follow them on Instagram or Facebook, and their menu is up online. Stop by soon and show them some Ward 4 love!
Vehicle Safety Briefing at Emery Heights
On Saturday, February 25 at 10am MPD will be providing a Vehicle Safety Brief at the Emery Heights Community Center parking lot (5701 Georgia Ave NW). They are inviting community members to come meet other neighbors and learn about vehicle safety from MPD at this event.
This Sunday: Blueprint for Wellness and Pharmacy Clinic
On Sunday, February 26 from 11am-3pm Nineteenth Street Baptist Church (4606 16th St NW) will host a Blueprint for Wellness event and simultaneous Giant Pharmacy Clinic where residents can get vital information about their metabolic, weight, and coronary indicators — as well as COVID vaccines, boosters, flu shots, shingles shots, and HPV shots (with insurance card). This is a free event but registration is required, so please call or text the Church’s Health Navigator Janyce Jefferson at 410-804-9325 to reserve your spot.
Ward 4 Youth Career Building Workshop
On Monday, February 27 from 10am-2pm the DC Gun Violence Prevention Coalition and our office are hosting a Ward 4 Youth Career Building Workshop at Emery Heights Community Center (5701 Georgia Ave NW). Young people in Ward 4 are invited to come learn about job opportunities and how to build a roadmap to a career. Register to attend and spread the word!
AARP DC: Parks Sharing Vision and Key Priorities (Virtual)
On Tuesday, February 28 from 1pm-2:30pm AARP DC will host a virtual discussion about public spaces and parks that are accessible to residents from 8 to 80 years old. The 90-minute virtual seminar will highlight best practices and provide ideas on how to ensure that all District residents have access to the outdoors. Register online.
Know Your Rights: Special Education
On Tuesday, February 28 from 6:30pm-8pm the Office of the Student Advocate and DC PAVE will host a Know Your Rights event with special education organizations and DC agencies to answer your questions about your child’s needs. Sign up on Eventbrite.
Bracing for Reductions to SNAP Benefits on March 1
On March 1, more than 90,000 DC households that have been receiving SNAP Emergency Allotments (increased SNAP benefits) throughout the pandemic will see those increased benefits reduced after Congress let the expanded benefits expire. If you are not receiving the maximum SNAP benefit for your household, please contact our office so we can support you in adjusting your benefits. Additionally, there are many DC programs that can support nutritional needs, so don’t hesitate to reach out to my office for support with applying. While Congress is reducing SNAP benefits, I co-led the Council in passing a monthly basic income program for working families in DC that are eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) with Councilmembers Charles Allen and Brianne Nadeau in order to strengthen our city’s safety net.
Reporting Back from Our Listen As We Climb Events
The insights, ideas, and priorities I heard during our seven Listen As We Climb events are already shaping our work on the Council and in our community. My team and I are committed to following through on these issues to the extent that we can, so we compiled this report with some (though certainly not all) of the key issues that were raised and overall themes from our listening sessions. Thank you to the more than 200 Ward 4 residents who joined us!
DPR Spring Program Registration Starts Next Week
Set your reminders! DPR announced today that registration for its 2023 spring programs will begin next week. Registration for aquatic programs will start at noon on Wednesday, March 1, while registration for all other spring programs will start at noon on Thursday, March 2. Learn more and find a full listing of spring programs on DPR’s website.
Free Steering Wheel Lock for 2011-2021 Kia or Hyundai Owners
In response to the nationwide rise in car thefts for 2011-2021 Kia and Hyundai vehicles, DC is now providing owners of these vehicles free steering wheel locks. Owners must bring proof of having a 2011-2021 Hyundai or Kia Vehicle, a steel key ignition, DC registration, and a DC ID. These free steering wheel locks are available on a first-come, first-serve basis while supplies at MPD District Stations, including Fourth District at 6001 Georgia Avenue NW in Ward 4.
DCPS: Upload Your COVID Test on Sunday
I wanted to remind parents that DCPS is requiring that students and staff upload proof of a negative COVID test on the DCPS website this Sunday, February 26 in order to return to school after winter break. Tests were distributed to students last week or can be picked up at our DC COVID Centers. Learn more and upload negative tests on the DCPS website.
Survey on Public Art on Upper Georgia Avenue
Upper Georgia Avenue is seeking community input on a public art project that will add decorative artwork to traffic control boxes on Georgia Avenue around its intersections with Eastern Avenue, Kalmia Road, and Alaska Avenue. The project will bring color and vibrancy to the corridor. They’re specifically asking for input on the theme of the artwork, which will be used later to gather artist submissions for the project. Take the survey by the March 3 deadline.
Last Chance: DC School Lottery Deadline for PK3-Grade 8
The deadline for DC School Lottery applications for children attending PK3-Grade 8 next school year is this Wednesday, March 1. Visit the My School DC website for the application and a list of open house events to check out our local schools.
Last Chance: 2023 Summer Youth Employment Program
Applications are open 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.
Last Chance: DC Public Library Ward 4 Survey
As part of their long-term facilities planning, 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 deadline to fill out the survey has been extended to February 28. Ward 4 residents are encouraged to weigh in through DCPL’s survey. The survey is also available in Spanish and Amharic. As your Councilmember, I voiced strong support for a two-library solution in my February 3 newsletter.
Last Chance: Discard Your Holiday Tree or Greenery
Friday, March 3 will be the last day that DPW collects holiday trees or greenery. Residents should place holiday trees or greenery in a treebox or curb and call 311 to alert them to the need for collection. Trees can also be dropped off at Benning Road Transfer Station (3200 Benning Road NE) or Guy Mason Rec Center (3600 Calvert Street NW) from 10am-6pm on Monday-Saturday until March 3.
DOEE Lead Pipe Replacement Assistance Program
Does your home have lead pipes? DOEE’s Lead Pipe Replacement Assistance Program provides assistance to homeowners to replace lead service lines serving their home. While every household can receive assistance, income-eligible homeowners can have 100% of their lead pipe replacement costs covered under the program. Consult DC Water’s database to see your home’s service line information. (Please note that this database is based on DC Water’s best available data and may not be accurate.)
DC Health to Stop Distributing Rapid Tests at Libraries and Senior Centers
DC Health has announced that on February 28 it will suspend the Test Yourself DC self-service kiosk program and rapid test distribution at libraries and senior centers. The agency cited falling COVID case counts and similar actions on the federal level in explaining this change. It also emphasized that DC residents can receive rapid tests and PCR tests at all of our COVID Centers, local pharmacies, and healthcare providers.
Truesdell Elementary Is Being Modernized, Not Closing
There has been some confusion about Truesdell Elementary in Brightwood Park. Truesdell is not closing; its building is being modernized during school years 2023-24 and 2024-25, meaning that in two years time Truesdell will have a brand new building to serve its wonderful school community. And thanks to budget investments we secured last year, Truesdell will have a swing space right here in Ward 4 to relocate to during these two years until its new building is ready. Additionally, DCPS has committed to providing swing space transportation for students from the current school address.
Thank you to our EL Haynes PCS school community for hosting such a powerful Black History Month celebration full of music, art, dance, spoken word, and so many other inspiring talents on full display. It was an honor to join you on Wednesday!
Local News Links
Channel 9: Councilmember introduces legislation to keep public litter cans on the street
HillRag: Are You Eligible for Monthly Basic Income? File Your Taxes
HR Records: Home Rule Music Festival Returns on June 17, 2023 at The Parks
Washington City Paper: Swing Beat: Takoma Station Returns as a Major Jazz Venue
Petworth News: Two Petworth parents advocate for more DPR swim lessons
Eater DC: Best Breakfast Spots Around DC (features Tony’s Place and Donut Run)
DCist: The District To Pilot Curbside Composting Pickup This Summer
Next Stop Riggs Park: Culture Coffee Too Closing at the End of March
DPR: $3 Million in Community Grants Available to Engage Youth with Barriers to Access
Ward 4 Dispatch: Five Bills Introduced, DCPS School Budgets, Key Hearings, and Presidents Day Weekend
We are feeling grateful for three new speed tables on Rock Creek Church Road in Petworth before and after its intersection with Varnum Street. DDOT has also approved an all-way stop to be installed at Rock Creek & Varnum NW in the spring and widening the sidewalk (on the Soldiers Home side) to make it ADA-accessible. We have had many car crashes, car swipes, and near-misses here so this will make the neighborhood safer for everyone! Thank you to DDOT for approving these changes and to our neighbors and ANC Commissioners (past and present) for their strong advocacy to make it happen.
Last weekend I joined tenants from several multifamily buildings on Peabody Street in Brightwood. These tenants were speaking out about the unsafe and undignified living conditions they have been experiencing for years, including broken locks, damaged showers, defective appliances, broken mailboxes, and rodent and bug infestations. They have had enough of their homes being neglected and their voices not being heard, and they have asked for our community’s support. I am grateful to these tenants for welcoming me into their homes to show me these issues first hand. My team and I will work with DC agencies to push for the fixes that should have happened long ago. Thank you to Commissioner Singleton, Commissioner Bolton, Candace Nelson, and neighbors for showing up to support Peabody tenants’ right to have a secure and dignified place to live.
If you made it this far, thank you for reading a particularly long newsletter. I hope you enjoy the weekend and get plenty of rest, Ward 4!
Yours in Community,