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Ward 4 Dispatch: Safe Routes to School and Covid Precautions for the Holidays

Dear Neighbors,

This Friday I’m excited to share my new legislation to require major traffic safety improvements at DC schools. I also have important updates on the surge of COVID cases in DC (don’t forget to get your booster and be frequently tested), the ANC boundary redistricting process and how you can be part of it, Ward 4 small businesses, two holiday markets this weekend for your holiday shopping, and much more!

This will be the last Ward 4 Dispatch for the year and our office will be closed from December 23-31. I’m excited about all we have in the works for 2022 and to continue serving you in our community and representing you on the DC Council. Happy Holidays!

Safe Routes to School Act

Our young people deserve to be safe before, during, and after school – and our families deserve streets where they can walk, run, bike, or drive safely. The streets around our schools should be the safest in the city, but instead we repeatedly see close calls, serious injuries, and tragic fatalities on these streets caused by dangerous driving. That needs to change.

That’s why yesterday with the support of all 12 of my colleagues I introduced the Safe Routes to School Act, sweeping legislation that will vastly improve traffic safety at every DCPS or DC Public Charter school in the District.

This legislation requires DDOT to install traffic safety infrastructure like raised crosswalks, curb extensions, speed bumps, flashing pedestrian signs, pavement markings, designated pick up/drop off zones, and an all-way stop or traffic light at local intersections near every District school. It expands school zones and and activates them seven days a week to safeguard both students and the surrounding community. It also adds traffic safety cameras within school zones and invests funds raised from these cameras to improving school traffic safety. And because we know that traffic safety infrastructure is not equitably distributed in DC, this bill directs DDOT to start by improving traffic safety at schools in communities that have been left behind.

To highlight what traffic safety improvements are needed at our schools, I visited Powell Elementary in Petworth. They have raised crosswalks, speed tables, crossing guards at nearby intersections, and other things that help keep Powell students safe on their way to and from school. Here’s the problem: most of our schools in DC lack these basic, common-sense protections, which contributes to a disturbing number of crashes involving children. And here’s the other problem: despite strong advocacy, Powell was only able to get a lot of this infrastructure installed after children were struck. As I worked on this bill with my team over the past months, every new tragedy on our streets reinforced the idea that we can’t afford to be reactive when it comes to protecting our kids’ lives. The Safe Routes to School Act will create a proactive, comprehensive, and equitable approach to school traffic safety in DC.

I want to thank our incredible ANC Commissioners, community leaders, and neighbors who have been advocating to improve traffic safety for years. To the extent that we have areas with good traffic safety infrastructure in Ward 4, it’s because our community worked and pushed to make it happen. I will need all of us to stay engaged around this issue to help pass and implement the legislation and make our streets safe for our young people. No family should have to face the despair of losing a child.

Check out my video about the Safe Routes to School Act to get a better sense of what changes it will bring to our community. You can learn more about the legislation in the graphic below, on my website, and in news coverage by the DCistWAMUChannel 7 News, and the Washington Post. I’m also proud to co-sponsor Councilmember Brianne Nadeau’s legislation to make DC a national leader in installing continuous sidewalks, raised crosswalks, and raised intersections. We know what it takes to make our streets safe. It’s time to turn words into action and make it happen.

Ward 4 News and Legislative Updates

COVID Cases Are Surging Across DC. Please Get Your Shot or Booster!

The District had 508 COVID cases on Thursday and 844 new cases today, more than we’ve ever had by a long shot. If you’ve been busy and haven’t had the chance to get your booster yet, or even your first or second vaccine, please do not wait any longer. Make an appointment with a pharmacy or health provider, or go to one of DC’s free walk-up vaccine sites. Here are some the sites that are open tomorrow (Saturday, December 18):

  • Petworth Library (4200 Kansas Ave NW) from 11am-5pm
  • Fort Stanton Rec Center (1812 Erie Street, SE) from 12m-5pm
  • Capitol View Library (5001 Central Avenue, SE) from 11am-5pm
  • MLK Jr Memorial Library (901 G St. NW) from 11am-5pm
  • Woodridge Library (1801 Hamlin St NE) from 11am-5pm

Also, don’t forget to be frequently tested to ensure you’re not unknowingly spreading the virus. There are daily walk-up sites open where you can get a free PCR test and 27 sites where you can pick up and drop off free at-home PCR tests. If you take an at-home rapid test and test positive, report your results on this website. And, of course, if you test positive, please isolate yourself and cooperate with the DC Contact Trace Force to help limit the spread.

This new wave has been impacting our schools particularly hard. I’m sending love to Whittier Elementary students, teachers, staff, school leaders, and families, who have had to transition to virtual learning this week after many students and staff were out with COVID or quarantining after exposure. My heart is also with our other Ward 4 school communities that have had a significant number of cases but remain open. I’ve asked for a clear answer on what triggers schools to temporarily switch to virtual learning, but DCPS has only shared that they make these decisions on a case-to-case basis. I also continue to believe and urge the Mayor to reinstate DC’s indoor mask mandate, which should have never been lifted in the first place. This is a difficult spell for our community, but we will get through it together by taking the precautions needed to keep each other safe.

Serving in the Ward 4 Redistricting Task Force for ANC and SMD Boundaries

The Council is set to finalize DC’s redistricted Ward boundaries on Tuesday, which will move us to the next step of the process: redistricting ANC boundaries. As part of this process, each ward Councilmember appoints a ward task force to make recommendations for how the Council should adjust the ANC and single-member district (SMD) boundaries. The Chairman of the Council and each At-Large Councilmember also get to appoint one person to each ward redistricting task force.  If you are a Ward 4 resident and a registered voter who is interested in serving as part of this task force, please email your name, contact information, and street address for consideration to my Legislative Director Joanna Blotner at jblotner@dccouncil.usTo prevent the potential of a conflict of interest, I plan for the Ward 4 task force to be independent from ANC-level elected office; please do not apply if you are a current ANC Commissioner or if you are considering running for an ANC position next year. Task force members will be dedicating a significant amount of time and serve without compensation. Their service will continue until the task force files its final report with the Council. ANC redistricting task forces will be finalized in early January, begin meeting on January 16, and submit their recommendations on ANC and SMD boundaries by April 2022.

Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad is Ending Direct EMS Service to DC

The Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad is ending its direct ambulance service to Upper Northwest DC, including operation of the Rescue Squad’s direct emergency telephone line, after December 31, 2021. This decision, made in concert with DC officials, was announced earlier this year. Beginning January 1, 2022, DC residents in this area will need to call 9-1-1 for emergency medical service. “The decision came after a thorough examination of response data and consideration of the region’s current and planned emergency medical services and 9-1-1 communications capabilities. Both DC Fire and EMS as well as Montgomery County Fire and Rescue officials were consulted throughout the process. DC Fire and EMS assured BCCRS officials that the District has adequate resources to respond appropriately to medical emergencies anywhere in Upper Northwest DC.” Read the full announcement on their website.

Celebrating Resilience and Responsibility from Our Ward 4 Businesses

Last weekend I got to join The Parks Main Street team, board, volunteers, and businesses from Riggs Park and Manor Park for their annual meeting and celebration (photo below). I’m grateful for our vibrant, resilient businesses throughout Ward 4 and our community that has supported them steadily through this long pandemic. Moving further east, congratulations to Uptown Main Street for winning the competition for best holiday lights in all of DC. Be sure to stop by Kennedy Street or 14th Street to do some last-minute holiday shopping and check out the award-winning lights. I also want to give a shoutout to Slash Run restaurant and bar in Petworth. Despite all employees being fully vaccinated, one worker tested positive for COVID so they are staying closed this weekend out of caution to keep customers and other employees safe. Let’s remember to support them once they reopen for doing the safe and responsible choice to protect our community.

Community Resources and Events

Small Business Holiday Market at Toro Bar and Jackie Lee’s.
If you still have some holiday shopping to do this weekend, stop by Toro Bar on Saturday, December 18 from 12pm-4pm for their Holiday Market Shop, or come to Jackie Lee’s on Saturday, December 18 from 5pm-10pm to visit their Holiday Pop-Up Market. It’s a great chance to check out some awesome local vendors while supporting two Ward 4 businesses and getting presents for your friends, your loved ones, and maybe even yourself!

Updated Schedule for Leaf Collection in Ward 4.
My team and I have been communicating with DPW about the unacceptable delays in leaf collection this year, flagging constituents who never had their leaves collected and pressing the agency to accelerate the pace of collection. Here is a recent update on where things stand. Please consult this map below to see which section of Ward 4 you’re in.

  • If you live in Section A, B, C, or D, your first round of leaf collection should have been completed by now. If not, please file a 311 request to let DPW know they missed your block. If that doesn’t work, contact my office so we can escalate the request.
  • If you live in Section E, your first round of leaf collection is currently happening. Check out DPW’s map to see if your block is marked as completed or not. If it is marked as completed but your leaves remain, please submit a 311 request for leaf collection. If that doesn’t work, you can contact my office so we can flag your home for DPW.
  • If you live in Section A, your second round of leaf collection is now scheduled for December 20-24, so be sure to rake your leaves by Sunday, December 19.
  • And if you live in Section B, your second round of leaf collection is now December 27-31, so please rake your leaves by Sunday, December 26.

The dates for the second round of leaf collection for Sections C, D, and E have not been determined yet, but I will share that as soon as they are. The Mayor’s team shared with me recently that they have authorized DPW employees to work overtime and brought staff in from other divisions to accelerate the pace of leaf collection and prevent further delays. They have committed that every neighborhood will receive two passes of leaf collection by winter’s end.

Deadline Coming Up: Ticket Amnesty Program.
If you have outstanding parking or traffic tickets, DC currently has a ticket amnesty program that allows you to pay it off the original balance of your ticket(s) without any penalties or late fees. The program also applies to drivers from other states. The ticket amnesty program ends in exactly three weeks on December 31 so be sure to pay those tickets soon!

No More Gas-Powered Leaf Blowers in the District.
Starting January 1, 2022, DC will no longer allow the sale or use of gas-powered leaf blowers. In 2018 the Council approved a ban of gas-powered leaf blowers due to their noise pollution and harmful environmental impact. That ban is finally taking effect next month. DC just introduced a rebate program to help people switch from gas-powered blowers to electric alternatives, and the city is working to auction off its existing leaf blowers.

Community Discussion of Maret School Lease of ECC Property at 5901 Utah Ave NW.
On Thursday, January 6 from 7pm-8pm my office will host a virtual community forum to hear from residents about the Maret School Lease of the ECC Property at 5901 Utah Ave NW. The purpose of this forum is to hear from residents interested in the project as well as discuss the role of the Council vis a vis the DC Board of Zoning Adjustment. The BZA will hold a hearing on March 9, 2022 to discuss Maret’s application for special exception to local zoning regulations. Please register for this meeting in advance at this link.

Last weekend I had a great time stopping by the Ward 4 PTO Holiday Fair and supporting our school communities. Thank you Powell Padres for wrapping our gifts, Dorothy Height for bringing back the gingerbread houses, John Lewis Elementary for the coffee and hot chocolate from the Good Trouble Cafe, MacFarland for the tasty cookies and rice pudding, Barnard for the holiday cards, Bruce Monroe for the crafts, and Truesdell for the orgaments and holiday cheer!

This is my last Friday newsletter for the year. It’s been a pleasure staying in touch with you week-by-week about everything that’s happening in our community and DC government. Thanks to all of you for taking time to read my updates and encouraging neighbors to sign up to get them too. I’m excited to report back on a lot of exciting things in the works come 2022!

Wishing you safe and happy holidays, Ward 4.

Yours in Community,