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Ward 4 Dispatch: Redistricting, Foreclosure Moratorium, and Oversight of DC Agencies

Dear Neighbors,

We’re wrapping up a short but busy week at the Council. On Tuesday we passed my emergency bill to extend DC’s moratorium on foreclosures, as well as several other measures. We then transitioned to multiple performance oversight hearings, where I was grateful to see many Ward 4 residents testifying and where I pressed agency leaders to deliver on their commitments to Ward 4. In my update this week I lay out the schedule for upcoming hearings so you can more easily testify and make your voice heard!

This week also marks the beginning of the Ward 4 redistricting process for ANC and SMD boundaries. If you’re willing to miss part of the Rams v. Bucs game, you can watch the Ward 4 Redistricting Task Force’s first meeting this Sunday from 2pm-4pm! Also, I’m looking forward to hearing from Takoma and Manor Park residents at our Listen As We Climb event next Thursday evening. Thank you to 140+ neighbors from Crestwood, Sixteenth Street Heights, Brightwood, Shepherd Park, and the Parks at Walter Reed who joined our first two sessions!

Read about all of this as well as city services and Ward 4 events in my update below.


Ward 4 News and Legislative Updates

Ward 4 Redistricting for ANC and SMD Boundaries

While DC’s redistricting process left Ward 4’s ward boundaries intact, the growth in our population over the past decade means our boundaries for Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANCs) and Single Member Districts (SMDs) within Ward 4 will likely have to shift. Each SMD is represented by a single Commissioner and should generally have between 1,900 and 2,100 residents. The process for reshaping ANC and SMD boundaries kicks off this month and will be finalized in June of this year. It will be led by a task force of Ward 4 residents that was appointed by myself as the Ward Councilmember as well as At Large Councilmembers, who were each able to appoint one person to each Ward task force. I’m grateful to these residents for stepping up and volunteering their time to ensure that our communities have balanced and accessible representation at the super-local level. The Ward 4 Redistricting Task Force will submit their recommendations to the Council’s Subcommittee on Redistricting, which will then hold hearings and potentially revise these recommendations before they’re voted on by the whole Council.

The Ward 4 Redistricting Task Force’s first meeting is taking place this Sunday, January 23 from 2pm-4pm by Zoom. You can sign up to join the meeting at this link. All meetings will be open to the public and include ASL and Spanish interpretation. You can learn more about the redistricting process on Councilmember Silverman’s website or my dedicated page to Ward 4 redistricting.

DC’s Foreclosure Moratorium Extended to Protect Struggling Homeowners

On Tuesday the Council passed my emergency legislation extending DC’s moratorium on foreclosures until June 30, 2022 – and also protecting homeowners who have applied for housing assistance funds at least through September 30, 2022. DC is about to receive $50 million in Homeowner Assistance Funds from the federal government through the CARES Act, but the foreclosure moratorium was set to lapse next month before those funds could be redistributed – putting homeowners, condo owners, and residents in coops who fell behind on their payments at risk of losing their home. The extension we passed will give our neighbors time to receive the support they are counting on. I know from some of the responses I received that this will make a difference in protecting some of our Ward 4 neighbors from displacement.  At the same time, I continue to strongly advocate for the Mayor to draw from DC’s vast resources (including a huge budget surplus) to support tenants who need rental assistance. Despite some additional federal aid, STAY DC will not be accepting new applications and our local emergency rental assistance funds cover only a small fraction of the vast need. We have the resources we need to keep people housed.

Other Highlights from Tuesday’s Legislative Session

During Tuesday’s legislative session, the Council also acted on several other measures:

  • We approved an emergency bill requiring DCPS to notify families of positive COVID cases within 24 hours to help prevent the spread of COVID in schools. The bill also requires reporting on asymptomatic testing and on the hiring of full-time substitute teachers and COVID safety coordinators. These positions were promised to each school in October, but as of early January none had been placed at any of our schools.
  • We passed a Sense of the Council resolution urging WMATA to accelerate the electrification of its bus fleet to reduce pollution and confront climate change. The resolution included language calling for no diesel buses to be placed at Northern Bus Barn in Ward 4.
  • We renewed existing temporary laws that provide DC government workers who lose a child an additional 10 days of bereavement leave, give workers in the District up to 48 hours of paid leave per year to be vaccinated and recover from any symptoms, and allowing ANCs to continue operating remotely and support our response to the pandemic by providing grants.

Performance Oversight Week Recap and Upcoming Hearings

Thursday this week was a marathon day of hearings! In the morning I joined a hearing on proposed legislation to change DCPS’ budget process for schools. I’m focused on making the budget process smoother and more transparent for school communities. I also want to safeguard “at risk” funds, which are supposed to supplement base funding for schools but instead have largely been used to supplant base funding. After briefly joining a markup with the Committee on Human Services, I joined our performance hearing with the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety where I asked about conditions at the DC Jail, our efforts to combat gun trafficking into the District, police accountability, the use of behavior health crisis teams, and more. I’m pleased that (after a long wait) a site has been identified to host the Ward 4 Pathways cohort. Pathways is a very effective transitional employment program to help residents who are considered at risk of gun violence.

I then joined the performance hearing for the Mayor’s Office of Community Affairs, where I pressed on the status of establishing the Office of Caribbean Affairs (they are currently interviewing candidates to direct the office). This office was funded in this year’s budget and will play an important role supporting our vibrant Caribbean-American community in Ward 4. This week we also had an important performance hearing with the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) and the Housing Production Trust Fund (HPTF). I want to take a moment to thank the Ward 4 residents and ANC Commissioners who delivered powerful testimony on the need to create more affordable and deeply affordable housing through the Housing Production Trust Fund. I will be asking agency leaders about the issues you raised when they come before the Council.

I will never tire of encouraging Ward 4 neighbors to testify or submit written comments for oversight hearings. It’s truly residents’ best opportunity to make their voice heard to both DC agency leaders and the Councilmembers who oversee them. I created this graphic to highlight some of the key hearings coming up. You can find a full schedule of hearings and instructions for how to testify for each Council Committee that’s hosting hearings at this link. If you need help signing up to testify for any of these hearings, please contact me or anyone from my team for support. I’m looking forward to hearing and lifting up your testimony over the coming weeks!


Community Resources

The Parks at Walter Reed Events and Community Survey

The team at the Parks at Walter Reed hosted more than 11,250 visitors at their many events this year. They have a community survey out to gather feedback on events to host this year! They take community input seriously, expanding their farmers market by four weeks based on survey responses last year. Take the survey, especially if you live in or near The Parks.

Updates on City Services

  • Leaf Collection: DPW is continuing to catch up on leaf collection next week with a focus on Section B and Section C in this Ward 4 map.
  • Tree Collection: Holiday trees and greenery are being collected through February 28 from your curb or at your normal point of collection for trash and recycling.
  • Update Your WMATA Card: WMATA is installing new faregates at rail stations and will upgrade fareboxes on Metrobuses in the fall. If your SmartTrip card was issued before 2012 it will need to be replaced. Tip: see if you have the digits 0167 on the back of your card. If you don’t, you must replace your card. Learn more on WMATA’s website.
  • New COVID Centers: This week DC launched four COVID Centers as a one-stop shop where residents can get their vaccine, get their booster, pick up take-home rapid tests, pick up take-home PCR tests, or get PCR testing on site. The centers will have extensive, varying hours to support residents regardless of their work schedules. The current testing and vaccination sites (like Petworth Library) will remain open for now, but we expect DC to move most of these functions to COVID Centers over time. I’m sharing the locations and hours for the DC COVID Centers that have already been announced, and I’m excited to share that we will be opening a COVID Center in Ward 4 too later next week!

Neighborhood Events

DPR Table Tennis Tournament at Emery Heights Recreation Center

On Saturday, January 22 at 9am-4:30pm DPR will host a table tennis tournament at Emery Heights Recreation Center. Participants will have the opportunity to compete for 1st, 2nd, 3rd place trophies in a Double Elimination Tournament. Save your spot here!

Ward 4 ANC/SMD Redistricting Meeting

On Sunday, January 23 from 2pm-4pm the Ward 4 Redistricting Task Force will host its inaugural meeting. The Task Force will lead the process of updating the boundaries for Advisory Neighborhood Commissions and Single Member Districts for Ward 4. All meetings will be open to the public and include Spanish and ASL interpretation. Register here to watch.

“Betty White Unites!” Exhibit at Zenith Gallery

Zenith Gallery (1429 Iris St NW) in Ward 4 has launched an exhibit celebrating the life of the great late Betty White, who passed away less than three weeks before her 100th birthday on January 17. The exhibit is running from January 14-29 for anyone would like to check it out! Find more information on their website or coverage from the Washingtonian and other outlets.

Ward 4 Mutual Aid Volunteer Re-Engagement Call

On Tuesday, January 25 from 8pm-9pm Ward 4 Mutual Aid is hosting a re-engagement call for volunteers and organizers looking to get more involved in mutual aid in the new year. This is one of the most direct and effective ways to support your neighbors alongside other neighbors. Members from each team will join to discuss what each team does and what they need. I always encourage residents to get involved with Ward 4 Mutual Aid. RSVP here!

Traffic Safety Walkthrough in Shepherd Park

On Thursday, January 27 starting at 3pm I will host DDOT Director Lott, DDOT staff, community leaders, and neighbors for a traffic safety walkthrough in Shepherd Park. We’ll begin at Alaska & Geranium at 3pm, then assess Kalmia Road between Georgia Ave & 16th St NW, followed by 12th St between Fern St NW and Alaska Ave. This walkthrough is limited to these streets and this intersection to ensure there is enough time for them to receive DDOT’s full attention. Neighbors are encouraged to attend.

Listen As We Climb: Takoma and Manor Park

On Thursday, January 27 at 6:30pm we will host our third Listen As We Climb virtual community listening session, this time focused on Takoma and Manor Park. RSVP here to chat with me and your neighbors about the changes we want to see in our community. What we discuss will help shape my legislative work, oversight of DC agencies, DC budget advocacy, constituent services, and efforts in our community. If you haven’t yet, take a moment to go to my website and sign up for your neighborhood’s event.

Ethiopian Cooking Class with Truesdell Parent

On Saturday, February 5 from 5:30pm-6:15pm Truesdell Parent Rahel Tewoldemedhin will be leading a 45-minute Zoom class to teach our community how to make Atakilt Wat, a traditional Ethiopian dish with cabbage, potatoes, and carrots. You can sign up to receive a bag of ingredients and sign up for the class by contacting Ms. Lawrence by email, text, or call at Jessica.Lawrence8@k12.dc.gov or 202-423-3950.


Wellness Businesses in Ward 4

It’s a new year so I want to give a shoutout to our health and wellness businesses in Ward 4! These are small businesses that are a pivotal part of our community and help so many of our residents stay health and well. I’m grateful for how these businesses have implemented strong health protocols and started also offering virtual and outdoor classes and services during the pandemic. So here are just some of Ward 4’s health and wellness businesses highlighted by our Main Street Associations. What is your favorite wellness business in Ward 4?

Upper 14th Street

Kennedy Street

Upshur Street and Lower/Middle Georgia Avenue

Upper Georgia Avenue

Riggs Park and Manor Park 

Takoma



To close out, I want to thank everyone who found a way to reflect and serve over MLK Weekend. During a difficult time period for our nation, the people finding ways to give back to their community and fight back against injustice give me hope for the future. Here’s part of the mighty crew that helped clean up Fort Slocum last Saturday with the Rock Creek Conservancy, including 4B06 Commissioner Tiffani Johnson.

Happy Weekend!

Yours in Community,
—Janeese