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Ward 4 Dispatch: Secure DC First Vote, Council Action, and DPR Summer Camps

Dear Neighbors,

It was hard to summarize everything that we covered at the Council this week. Beyond the first vote on Secure DC, we also had a full legislative meeting, a handful of oversight hearings, and other Council action on funding for Metro and opposing Project Pipes. Here is my full rundown of what is happening at the Wilson Building and in our Ward 4 community.

Council Passes Secure DC on First Vote

On Tuesday, the Council passed a major legislative package called Secure DC that aims to confront crime in DC with more than 100 different interventions across our public safety system. The bill draws provisions from more than a dozen separate bills. It still needs to pass a second vote in early March to become law, and parts of it will need to be funded in the DC budget. Parts of Secure DC will help DC confront crime in several ways: strengthening our laws to make it easier to prosecute violent crime, adding investigative tools to help MPD solve cases, and improving oversight and coordination across our public safety agencies. We succeeded in removing some provisions from the bill that would have done nothing to promote public safety — like rolling back police transparency measures when it comes to officer misconduct and an expansion of warrantless DNA collection that would have overwhelmed DC’s crime lab, which is heavily understaffed and is already failing to test sexual assault kits within the legally-required time period of 60 days. I also led the Council in passing an amendment to accelerate record sealing and expungement in DC. This will lift barriers to housing and employment for thousands of returning citizens in our city and help them successfully rehabilitate back into our communities after they have served their sentences. Accessing stable housing, employment, and opportunities makes returning citizens far less likely to reoffend. It makes all of us safer. I voted to advance Secure DC with my Council colleagues because it includes critical and urgent measures that will improve safety now and implement more effective strategies to drive down crime. But there are still provisions in the bill that will cause real harm in our communities, and you can count on me to call them out and work to mitigate that harm before the bill’s final passage. Stay tuned for a deeper dive from me on Secure DC, its many provisions, and how they will impact our Ward 4 community. 

Other Legislative Updates

Kennedy Street Library

After last year’s hearing with DMPED, our advocacy for a Kennedy Street Library continued this week at the Council’s oversight hearing with DCPL. Together with strong testimony from our ANC Commissioners and neighbors, we pressed Director Reyes-Gavilan to advance the Kennedy Street Library project. DCPL has $5 million to acquire land for the site this year, but it needs to work swiftly with DMPED to issue a Request for Proposals. On other library matters, the upgrades to Petworth Library we funded in the DC budget will be designed this summer, begin towards the end of the calendar year, and last about 6 months. The Director is also taking up my suggestion to allow seniors to pick up Senior SmarTrip Cards (that offer reduced Metro fares) at our public libraries. The program will launch at MLK Memorial Library before being rolled out to neighborhood branches!

Office of the City Administrator

Our City Administrator Kevin Donahue oversees nearly every facet of District government, so I stopped by the Council’s hearing with OCA to advocate for a number of Ward 4 priorities, including using his office to coordinate land acquisition for the Kennedy Street Library, the potential for a better swing space for Whittier Elementary, the need for transparency with DPR and DGS’ plans for the field at Lafayette-Pointer Rec Center, and the urgency of improving the distribution of Kids Ride Free cards to DC students and recruiting more social workers in DC government.

DPW Oversight Hearing

I also stopped by the DPW oversight hearing to raise issues that our community is experiencing. On parking enforcement, DPW confirmed that they collect VIN numbers for vehicles with fake tags or no tags at all, and they committed to increasing enforcement near locations like Georgia & Farragut St NW where we have repeated issues. Last year, DPW added a second impound lot to increase their capacity to boot and tow approximately 1,000 cars, but they are now looking for a third lot because they are regularly reaching their capacity for both current lots. On solid waste collections, I asked about getting stronger, rat-resistant trash cans and pitched providing free replacement cans for seniors. DPW is looking to pilot a new type of can made of stronger material, and they revised their procurement process to keep ample stock of all trash can types on hand throughout the year.

Bill Passed to Address Dangerous Driving

At Tuesday’s legislative meeting, we gave final passage to Councilmember Charles Allen’s STEER Act, which confronts dangerous driving in the District. The bill steps up traffic enforcement in several ways: it enhances the booting and towing of vehicles that repeatedly commit traffic violations within a six-month time period; it empowers the DC Attorney General to bring civil suits against the most reckless drivers (even in neighboring states where we do not have ticket reciprocity), and it fills other interagency communication gaps in our traffic enforcement system. I described the legislation in detail in my January 12 newsletter, and you can also learn more about the bill in the Washington Post.

Staving Off Major Metro Service Cuts

We cannot have a thriving and equitable DC without a strong public transit system. That is why the DC Council and Mayor came together earlier this month and committed $200 million in additional funding for WMATA this year to help fill its major budget shortfall for this year and prevent Metro’s draconian service cuts and station closures starting this summer. These cuts would have devastated families, students, workers, and small businesses in DC. Together with increased support from Maryland and Virginia and other one-time savings, WMATA announced a revised budget for Fiscal Year 2025 that prevents the devastating service rollbacks and station closures that WMATA originally faced. While we are relieved that Metro’s budget crisis is being addressed this year, the District still needs to work with our regional partners on dedicated funding for Metro so that we do not find ourselves in the same situation in the future.

Opposing PROJECT Pipes

This week I joined a majority of Councilmembers in calling on the DC Public Service Commission to reject Washington Gas’ proposed plans to charge DC ratepayers $672 million in order to completely rebuild DC’s entire natural gas distribution system. Beyond the outrageous cost that DC families would have to bear, the plan also runs counter to the District’s climate goals and doubles down on an outdated gas system that undermines public health. It would be significantly more cost-effective and climate-effective for Washington Gas to focus on finding and repairing leaks. Read our full letter for details.

Council Hearings: MPD, DHCD, CFSA, DOB

Public safety, housing, tenant rights, illegal construction, blighted properties, and child welfare are just some of the issues you can weigh in on in the next two weeks at the Council. Check out the full performance oversight hearing schedule for February and sign up to speak at the hearing that matters most to you. Even if you cannot make it to a live hearing, you can still submit written comments by selecting “Submit Testimony” and then choosing “Record Testimony.” Key upcoming hearings include:

Community Resources

Apply for DPR Summer 2024 Camps

This Monday, February 12, DPR will open camp applications for Summer 2024! But there is no need to rush: like last year, DPR will be using a lottery application system where applications remain open from February 12-26, and parents will be notified via email of lottery selection by March 1. Please visit DPR’s dedicated website to check out the full list of summer camps and locations. This year, the DPR Summer Camp Lottery is happening earlier to provide families a two-week window to explore camp options and make their selections.

Last Chance for Leaf Collection in Ward 4!

DPW has completed its two rounds of leaf collection in each section of Ward 4. However, I know several neighbors still have leaves on their block that were missed, so DPW crews will be making additional rounds to get to these leaves too. If you still have uncollected leaves on your street, please report them on the 311 website under the “Leaf Collection Missed” category. Try to include a photo of the leaves to help DPW locate and address your leafy pile. Leaves need to be raked on your curb, treebox, or easement to be collected — or gathered in paper bags in front of your home. You can also share the 311 request number with my constituent services team so we work to ensure it is addressed. Thank you for neighbors’ patience with leaf collection this season, and thank you to our hard-working DPW crews.

No Weekend Red Line at Fort Totten and Brookland

Due to the installation of new radio and fiber-optic cables, there will be no Red Line Service at Fort Totten and Brookland Metro Stations this weekend (February 10-11). Free shuttles will replace the trains from Takoma to Rhode Island Ave Stations, while the Green Line platform will remain open at Fort Totten Station. Check out WMATA’s announcement for details.

DC TAG Applications Delayed to March 11 

The DC Tuition Assistance Grant (DC TAG) program announced this week that it will begin accepting applications on March 11 — not February 1 as originally planned. That is because the US Department of Education will not make FAFSA information available until mid-March, and DC TAG relies on that information to determine student eligibility. DC TAG, which is also known as the DC OneApp, is a program that subsidizes the cost of eligible DC residents to attend out-of-state public universities, private colleges in DC, or private HBCUs nationwide. 

Apply for the Summer Youth Employment Program 

Applications are now open for the Mayor Marion Barry Summer Youth Employment Program for DC youth ages 14-24! This is a great way for young people in the District to earn pay, gain valuable experience, and contribute to the work of our agencies, local businesses, and community organizations. Youth can apply for SYEP through March 6 and organizations can also apply to host SYEP participants. 

Free Income Tax Help at DC Libraries for Seniors

The AARP Foundation is providing free income tax filing assistance for eligible seniors at libraries across the District until April 15. In Ward 4, the income tax help is offered at Petworth Library on Mondays and Fridays from 11am-4pm, and residents must make an appointment ahead of time by contacting 202-656-1341 or Review the list of participating libraries and the list of documents seniors should bring on DCPL’s website.

Other Helpful Tax Resources for DC Residents

With tax season upon us, I want to ensure you are aware of these additional resources:

Thanks to the Homes and Hearts Amendment we passed, the DC EITC gives DC residents 70% of their Federal EITC amount for 2023 — one of the highest match rates in the US. 

New DOES Unemployment Benefits System

DOES launched a new unemployment insurance system on February 5 that aims to make it easier to apply for benefits and reduce fraud through a new identity verification component. Residents now have a centralized portal where they can submit and request documents, file new claims or check the status of pending claims, and communicate with DOES staff. DOES is urging residents to verify their identifies through the DOES portal to ensure they continue to receive benefits.

District Government Winter Hiring Fair 

DC government will host a winter hiring fair on Tuesday, February 13 from 10am-4pm at MLK Library (901 G St NW) with nearly 30 agencies and businesses participating. Although preregistration is closed, candidates can register on site on February 13. Check out all the employers and openings on DCHR’s website

Become an Election Worker for $250 or Service Hours  

The DC Board of Elections is recruiting DC residents ages 16 and older to serve as election workers for the 2024 election. Election workers can earn up to $250 or 16 hours of community service hours, while also supporting our local democracy! Apply on the BOE website.  

Arrests Made in Homicide and Multiple Robberies 

This week MPD announced an arrest for the December 18, 2023 homicide on the 5400 block of Illinois Ave NW. Two arrests were also made this week for multiple robberies in Petworth, Columbia Heights, and Brightwood. Typically, suspects are linked to multiple offenses, so even a small number of arrests can disrupt crime trends by preventing multiple future incidents. Thank you to our MPD officers and detectives for their work on these cases.

MPD Amazon Lockers Program Expands to 4D and 2D

If you are having problems with package theft, Ward 4 residents ordering from Amazon now have the option of ordering their packages to be delivered to new Amazon Lockers at Fourth District Station (6001 Georgia Ave NW) or Second District Station (3320 Idaho Ave NW). We should not have to take these precautions, but this is a valuable resource for residents who want to take advantage of it while package thefts are high. Learn more from MPD’s notice.

Neighborhood Events

ANC 4B Crime Prevention Training and Resource Fair

On Saturday, February 10 from 10am-12pm ANC 4B’s Executive Committee will host a crime prevention training and resource fair at Friendship Ideal Academy PCS (6200 Kansas Ave NE). Neighbors are invited to learn practical self-defense and bystander intervention skills, get valuable information, and access safety resources. The training will include ANC Commissioners, DC agencies, MPD, and our Council office. Sign up to attend at this link.

West African Dance Class at Faith Moravian Church

On Saturday, February 10 from 10am-12pm join Faith Moravian Church for an exhilarating West African Dance Class! Get ready to move your body and immerse yourself in the vibrant rhythms and energetic dance styles of West Africa. Please RSVP on Eventbrite.

Bulk Collection Event at Chevy Chase Community Center

On Saturday, February 10 at 10am the Office of the Clean City is hosting a bulk collection event at Chevy Chase Community Center (5601 Connecticut Ave). Bring your bulk items and debris to dispose of for free and contribute to a trash-free DC!

Community Book Swap in Sixteenth Street Heights

On Saturday, February 10 from 11am-12pm Petworth and Sixteenth Street Heights neighbors will be hosting a Community Book Swap at Zeke’s Coffee (4602 14th St NW). Bring a book to exchange, meet your neighbor, and enjoy a cup of coffee!

Emery Heights Hand Dance Valentine’s Party 

On Saturday, February 10 from 12pm-4pm DPR will host a Valentine’s Day Hand Dancing Party at Emery Heights Community Center (5701 Georgia Ave NW). Come celebrate love, friendship, and admiration by sending messages of love and having a Hand Dance party! 

Lamond Community Cleanup at Milligan Point 

On Saturday, February 10 from 1pm-3pm newly sworn-in 4B10 Commissioner Jinin Berry will host a Lamond community cleanup at Milligan Point (Sligo Mill & Rittenhouse NE). If you live in the area, please come lend a hand in cleaning up the neighborhood!

Opening Reception at Art of Noize in Petworth

On Saturday, February 10 at 7pm-10pm Art of Noize Gallery will host an opening reception for the F is For February Exhibition by BUCK! and Alanzo Robles-Gordon. “F is For February features works by two immensely talented local artists who just so happen to be black.”

Pal-entines Puzzle Swap Party at Neighborgoods

On Tuesday, February 13 from 6pm-8pm Neighborgoods Studio in Petworth (4300 Georgia Ave NW) will host a free Pal-entines Puzzle Swap Party. Bring in puzzles you no longer want, take home some newbies, benefit from store discounts, and enjoy some bubbly and snacks.

For more local events, check out DPR, DC Public Library, NPS, and Rock Creek Conservancy.

Ward 4 in the News

Washington Informer: The Collins Council Report (February 6, 2024)

Washington Post: Five Red Line Stations to Close This Summer to Link Metro with Purple Line

Next Stop… Riggs Park: Complete Riggs Park Traffic Control Box Community Art Project Survey by March 4

DPR: New 2024 Recreation for All Grants to Create Recreation Opportunities for Youth

DPW: Take the Curbside Composting Pilot Program Feedback Survey

Petworth News: On Upshur Street, A Former Sniper Now Looks to Fight Crime with Pizza

Fox 5: “AWARENESS: Through an African American Lens” Zenith Gallery Exhibit Artists Featured on Fox 5 DC

PBS: “Fly With Me” Documentary Featuring Shepherd Park’s Own Phil Tiemeyer

Petworth News: PorchFest is Coming April 27 — Volunteer your Porch or Time

Washingtonian: No Station Closures, But Fares May Increase Under New Metro Budget

Washington Post: DC Student Activists Are Pushing for Greener Schools

Greater Greater Washington: Curbside Composting Is Working in DC. But Don’t Knot Those Bags!

Chevy Chase News and Notes: February 2024 Issue on Bioretention Beds, Chevy Chase Civic Core RFP, New Northwest Neighbors Village Director, and More

Washington Post: Shooting Hoops, Changing Perceptions: Roosevelt Students Face Off vs. FBI

Washington Post: DC’s Most Significant Black Landmarks, According to Its Black Leaders

Ward 4 Dispatch: Black History Month, Safety News, and Two More Listening Sessions

At our legislative meeting and our oversight hearings this week I found myself reflecting back on our conversations during our Ward 4 community listening sessions. The issues I raise at the Council, the way I vote, my work on the DC budget, and the requests I share with agencies are all drawn from your input and ideas. Thank you to every neighbor who participated in our Listen As We Climb events for helping shape my work on the Council on your behalf!

I hope you have a wonderful weekend and Valentine’s Day!

Yours in Community,