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Ward 4 Dispatch: School Legislation, WMATA Buses, and Open Streets Georgia Ave!

Dear Neighbors,

I hope you are enjoying the early shades of Fall weather!

It’s a new fiscal year and the Council is back from Recess! I am gearing up our first legislative session this Tuesday, which includes emergency legislation on health and safety protocols in our schools. This week I also engaged in hearings on the (inadequate) state of school facilities during reopening and a roundtable on the need for faster electrification of WMATA’s bus fleet. And I wrote to WMATA calling attention to bus routes in Ward 4 that need improved service or restoration.

We have yet another action-packed weekend in Ward 4 this weekend. On Saturday Georgia Avenue hosts Open Streets DC, a 3-mile-long car-free street festival! Meanwhile, the Parks at Walter Reed will host their final outdoor music and movie screening for the season – and Shepherd Park will hold its annual community yard sale. Oh, and Sunday will bring us the 40th annual Takoma Park Street Festival!

Scroll down to Neighborhood Events to make sure you don’t miss anything


Ward 4 News and Legislative Updates

Emergency Legislation to Improve Health and Safety for Students

This Tuesday, October 5, in our first legislative hearing for this fiscal year, the Council is taking up emergency legislation introduced by myself and six other Councilmembers to improve health and safety protocols in DC schools. If passed, it would:

  • Expand the virtual option to students under the age of 12 who either (a) have someone in their household at high risk of severe illness from COVID, or (b) receive a recommendation from their doctor. This is a far less restrictive standard from what we have now, which is that only a doctor requiring that a student avoid in-person learning is enough to provide access to the virtual option. The current standard also completely neglects to account for vulnerable family members.
  • Add reporting requirements to include more details on testing by school, DGS reporting on HVAC issues, and unfulfilled requests for outdoor learning equipment. This is a measure to bring more transparency and accountability to issues where school reopening has clearly missed the mark.
  • Broaden the definition of “excused absences” to include several circumstances related to COVID, and require that CFSA referrals must include information on COVID concerns. Under this legislation, if a member of a student’s household tests positive for COVID then that student’s absence is excused. It also gives schools more discretion to excuse absences so they can account for the challenges that COVID poses to families. And if you qualify for virtual learning based on the new conditions laid out above (see my first bullet) then your passed absences will be retroactively excused.

I am also working on legislation for Tuesday to expand testing in schools to address the weaknesses we’ve seen in our efforts to detect and prevent the spread of COVID. That may be incorporated into this legislation or be introduced as its own amendment.

I want to name that these common sense measures should have already been in place by the start of school, rather than something that parents and educators had to advocate for – and that Council has to step in and mandate. I also want to recognize that while these are important steps, they do not go as far as many parents, educators, and advocates have called for – or as far as I or other Councilmembers would like to go. For example, many families have understandably been calling for a robust, widely-accessible virtual option, which is something that I support.

One of the barriers we face is that for legislation to have an immediate effect, the Council must pass emergency and temporary legislation. But emergency or temporary legislation by law cannot have a negative fiscal impact (cost). Changes like offering a robust virtual learning option for all families that want it would definitely have a cost, meaning we cannot pass emergency or temporary legislation to require it. In theory, agencies could decide to absorb the cost of emergency legislation but the decision whether to do that lies with the Executive. If we tried to pass permanent legislation to offer a robust virtual option, that law wouldn’t go into effect until it is funded through the DC budget, which couldn’t happen until after the end of the school year. For that reason we are limited to legislating on school issues without a fiscal impact and using our platform and oversight power to press for the other changes that are needed.

I believe we need to address a root cause of the shortcomings in school reopening by reforming education governance in DC. The failure to anticipate and adjust to the changing conditions of the pandemic, the failure to listen to and respond to key stakeholders like parents and educators, and the failure to properly oversee DC’s significant spending, safety protocols, and facility conditions in our schools are linked to the reality that there are no checks and balances in our education system. All of our education agencies report directly to the Mayor, meaning there is little incentive to hold our education system accountable or pursue different approaches. I introduced legislation to bring much-needed balance and independence in our education system by bringing the Office of the State Superintendent (OSSE) under the oversight of the DC’s democratically elected State Board of Education (SBOE). That legislation will have a hearing on Tuesday, October 26 where the public can sign up to testify.

Letter to WMATA Calling for Improved Bus Service in Ward 4

If you find yourself missing your pre-pandemic bus route, you’re not alone. Even as WMATA gradually expands service, many important Metro bus lines in our community remain out of service or do not provide enough service to meet our needs. For example, I heard from countless families about the unreliability of the D31 bus, which left Ward 4 students who attend Wilson High School or Deal Middle School stranded on several occasions. This week I wrote to WMATA’s Board of Directors asking for additional service and more reliability on the D31 and other D30 buses. My letter also called for the full restoration of the E6 serving neighbors in Chevy Chase, Hawthorne, and Barnaby Woods and the S1 bus that many neighbors rely on for their commutes to work or school at Potomac Park downtown. If you’re impacted by these routes, I encourage you to contact WMATA and other DC elected leaders about restoring these important routes. As a community we succeeded in bringing back the 63 bus earlier this year, and I know we can be equally successful here with our advocacy.

Open Streets on Georgia Avenue This Saturday! What to Know:

This Saturday, October 2 from 10am-3pm a three-mile stretch of Georgia Avenue from Missouri Avenue all the way down to Barry Place will be clear of cars and open up for people to enjoy. Open Streets DC will create activation zones across Georgia Avenue with music, dancing, food, drinks, fitness classes, yoga, kids games, and more. Local businesses will stretch their patios into the street to better serve residents. Check out the event website for a full schedule of activities. You might even see your Ward 4 Councilmember there!

Parking restrictions on Georgia Ave kick in tonight at 2am and end at 5pm on Saturday. Cars parked on Georgia after 2am will be given a free ‘courtesy tow’ to a vacant legal spot nearby. Meanwhile, here is a notice of Metro bus detours in case you’re planning to ride any of the bus lines that frequent Georgia Avenue that day. There’s also an information sheet for businesses located on Georgia Avenue.

Besides being a fantastic festival, Open Streets is a powerful reminder of all the ways we need to make our streets safer and more hospitable to pedestrians, cyclists, and public transit passengers. Georgia Avenue is a commercial corridor, school street, and community hub – but most of it is designed as an urban highway and drivers treat it as such, which puts our safety at risk. This year we secured $1.7 million in the DC budget earmarked for traffic safety improvements on Georgia Avenue, but that will not be enough. We need a complete overhaul of Georgia Avenue so it can meet the needs of our communities and keep people safe. And we need comprehensive traffic safety changes across our city even beyond what will be provided by the Vision Zero Omnibus Amendment Act that the Council funded this year for DDOT to implement in the months ahead.


Neighborhood Events

Shepherd Park Community Yard Sale! On Saturday, October 2 and Sunday, October 3 the Shepherd Park Citizens Association will be hosting a community yard sale with dozens of homes participating. A map with street addresses for all participating homes will be circulated on the day of the sale on SPCA’s website early tomorrow, and some of the items can be previewed on Facebook. A printed map will also be available for pickup at 7900 Eastern Avenue NW and at various sales locations.

Open Streets Returns to Georgia Avenue. On Saturday, October 2 from 10am-3pm Open Streets will return to Georgia Avenue in Wards 1 and 4. During that time period, a miles-long stretch of Georgia Avenue will close to cars and will instead host an urban festival of activities ranging from food, drinks, fitness classes, obstacle courses, children’s games, live music, and other educational and entertainment programming. Check out the event page for a full schedule and more information.

Closing  Reception for “A Woman Amongst Men” Exhibit at Art of Noize. On Saturday, October 2 from 3pm-7pm Art of Noize gallery in Petworth hosts a closing reception for its “A Woman Amongst Men” exhibition. The works in this exhibition are comprised of photography, film, and poetry, chronicles Nyeusi Mwezi’s travels within Accra, Ghana with a group of seven men, while creating balanced, healthy, and vulnerable experiences. Art of Noize is a fantastic multi-disciplinary artist studio at 821 Upshur St. NW Rear, 2nd floor (in the alley between Petworth Citizen & Willow).

DPR Hosts Shepherd Park Alumni Day. On Saturday, October 2 from 10am-5pm DPR will host Shepherd Park Alumni Day. “Shepherd Park Alumni Day was established to reinforce the relationships that formed the fabric of our community. It is a day of simple gatherings to share food, fellowship and fun while re-kindling friendships; welcoming new neighbors; catching up on each other’s families, interests and needs.” Reserve your spot at this link.

Final Music and Movies on the Lawn for the Season! On Saturday, October 2 at 5pm-9pm the Parks at Walter Reed will host their final outdoor concert and movie screening for the season. The event starts at 5pm with a soul/funk performance by band StonedXrch, followed by a screening of Disney’s Queen of Katwe (PG) around 7pm. (Queen of Katwe has a 94% rating on Rotten Tomatoes!) Blankets will be available if the ground isn’t too damp. Bring your own chairs or picnics. The event is free, and all are welcome. Food and beverages will be available for purchase from Anxo Cider; Kennedy Street ice cream shop Everyday Sundae; popcorn by Capitol Kettle Corn; and tacos from local favorite J&J Mex-Taqueria. The Parks events team organized this first-ever film series in partnership with Blackfilm.com and the Home Rule Music and Film Preservation Foundation, and HR Records.

40th Annual Takoma Park Street Festival! On Sunday, October 3 from 10am-5pm Carroll Avenue in Takoma Park, MD and Carroll Street, NW in Takoma, DC will host the 40th annual Takoma Park Street Festival. There will be no shortage of vendors, art, music, food, drinks, or activities so be sure to stop by if you’re in the area. You can even get your Pfizer vaccine shot there. Scope out the full schedule and more details on the festival website, brought to you by Takoma Main Street!

Ward 4 Community Cleanup in Brightwood. On Saturday, October 9 at 9am-11am my office, Commissioner Brenda Parks, and a group of energized students are hosting a community cleanup in Brightwood! Meet at the intersection of Georgia Ave and Rittenhouse St NW by the laundromat to help make our community more clean!

A Music Festival in Ward 4: Down in the Reeds. On Saturday, October 9 from 11am-7pm Down in the Reeds Festival is back in Ward 4 hosted by The Parks at Walter Reed! It’s a free all-day festival celebrating the power of music to heal across communities and cultures. Check out the website for ways to plug in and follow them on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram for updates.

Petworth Movie Night at Lorenzo Allen Memorial Park! On Saturday, October 16 at 6:30pm the recently refreshed Lorenzo Allen Memorial Park will host a free movie night featuring the film “SOUL.” The movie night is brought to you by Commissioner Zach Israel and DPR’s Roving Leaders. RSVP at this link!

Live at Larry Allen Memorial Park! On Sunday, October 16 at 1pm-6:30pm Lorenzo Allen Memorial Park will also host a free concert featuring three bands: American Nomad, The Mongrels, and The Treads. Come enjoy some great tunes as a way to celebrate our community! They’ll also have COVID vaccines and flu shots available at the show. The concert is presented by ANC Commission 4D. RSVP here!

Ward 4 Weekly Farmer’s Markets. We have: 


Community Resources

DC Ticket Amnesty Program Extended to the End of the Year. This week the Mayor extended the ticket amnesty program, which forgives all late penalties and fees from parking and traffic tickets as long as you pay the original principal amount of the ticket, to December 31, 2021. The program has helped more than 32,000 drivers clear their debt to the District for a total of $44 million in revenue, most of which comes from Maryland and Virginia drivers. Take advantage of the program while you can!

New Hours at Fort Totten Transfer Station!  DPW Recently announce that Fort Totten Transfer Stations hours have changed! Resident hours will now be Monday through Friday from 10am-2pm and Saturdays from 7am-2pm. For more information, check out their website.

DC Health Advises Eligible Residents to Receive Their Booster Shot! Today DC Health issued a press release encouraging eligible residents to get their third COVID vaccine booster shot. The CDC had already recommended that people who are moderately to severely immunocompromised (have a weakened immune system) receive three doses of a mRNA COVID-19 vaccine. The updated guidance now advises additional following groups to get their booster shot too. Details here.

DDOT Extends 2020 Annual Visitor Parking Passes. We’ve heard from many of you about issues with DDOT’s new centralized parking permit system, ParkDC. This week DDOT announced that the 2020 Annual Visitor Parking passes will remain valid through the end of 2021, providing more time for DC residents living on Residential Permit Parking (RPP) blocks and their visitors to sign up for and start managing their visitor parking permits through the new ParkDC Permits online portal.

The Parks at Walter Reed Neighborhood History Project. The Parks at Walter Reed is partnering with the DC History Center on a history-gathering project in fall 2021 to uncover historical facts and stories from the people and neighborhoods surrounding the former historic Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Specific focus will be placed on stories from the historically Black communities surrounding the campus in the neighborhoods of Shepherd Park, Colonial Village, Brightwood, North Portal Estates, Takoma, and environs. 

Do you have stories to tell? Know a neighbor or friend who does? Please get out your photo albums and come to one of three community meetings this fall: 

  • Saturday, October 16 at 9-11am
  • Wednesday, October 27 at 7:30 to 9:30pm
  • Thursday, November 4 at 7:30 to 9:30pm

To receive updates on the process, fill out this brief form. Info about the project will be kept up-to-date on the website. Questions or suggestions on who we should talk to? Contact Rachel Davis at info@theparksdc.com.

Speaking of community resources, here are three of your hard-working, brilliant ANC 4C Commissioners (Audrey Duckett of 4C05, Clara Haskell Botstein of 4C08, and Namatie Sia Mansaray of 4C06) at Celebrate Petworth last weekend. Thank you to everyone who helped make the festival such a joyous success!


I want to end with an acknowledgement for everyone who worked to pull together Art All Night last weekend in Ward 4! From Manor Park to Upper Georgia Avenue to Kennedy Street, our community was full of events celebrating the arts and supporting our small businesses.

This is also a broader acknowledgement for everyone working behind the scenes to plan community events. As you can see from this weekend’s schedule, Ward 4 has no shortage of  celebrations, festivals, summits, screenings, concerts, and more. It takes a lot of hard work and many people coming together, but it’s part of what makes our community so special. Thank you.

Yours in Community,
—Janeese