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Ward 4 Dispatch: Secure DC, School Boundaries, and Local Business Spotlight!

Dear Neighbors,

This was a really impactful week with Council amending and passing Secure DC, the passage of a restaurant relief bill, important updates on school boundaries, public safety updates, increases in SNAP benefits, the restart of residential street sweeping, and much more:

School Boundary Recommendations

Over the past year, the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education (DME) has convened an Advisory Committee on Student Assignment composed of education stakeholders from all eight wards. The group has been meeting monthly to draft recommendations for updating DCPS attendance zones, feeder patterns, and school assignment policies. Updating school boundaries and feeder patterns is something the District now does once per decade, with the last overhaul taking place in 2014. I know how impactful this process is for many Ward 4 families and schools, so my team and I have been closely tracking the process to keep you updated. After dozens of meetings and listening sessions, the Advisory Committee shared their final recommendations this past Wednesday. You should be able to review the meeting presentation and video from all meetings on their website. I want to extend my sincere gratitude and appreciation to Julie Lawson, Vanessa Rubio, Diana Delgado, and Cathy Reilly for representing Ward 4 and citywide interests on this committee.

Here’s how the final recommendations might impact Ward 4 schools: First, there are no proposed changes to existing feeder patterns or attendance zones for Ward 4 schools — with the exception that the Advisory Committee will recommend ending dual middle school feeder rights effective School Year 2025-26. Dual middle school feeder rights allowed students in neighborhoods that were drawn into the newly-reestablished boundary for MacFarland MS in 2014 to also retain their feeder rights to their previous in-boundary middle school (Deal) until 2022 — four years after the opening of MacFarland MS — to allow “enough time for them to make a smoother transition.” Secondly, the committee recommends that DCPS and PCS schools that enroll less than the citywide average of “at-risk” students (about 50%) set aside a portion of existing lottery seats for “at-risk” students (SNAP, TANF, or unhoused). For DCPS Pre-K seats at neighborhood schools, this would only apply to in-boundary students — to avoid creating capacity challenges in by-right grades. For K-12 grades, the policy would apply to all grades at DCPS and PCS schools, but it would not affect K-12 access for students living in-boundary. Third, the committee is recommending that DCPS evaluates assigning Military Road Early Learning Center to feed into Brightwood Elementary starting in kindergarten, if Brightwood’s facility expands during a future potential modernization. And fourth, the committee is recommending that DCPS and the PCSB create an aligned and transparent planning process by December 31, 2024 for opening new schools and identifying grade configurations in both sectors together. The committee’s final recommendations will be packaged into a report, transmitted to the Mayor for consideration, and then released to the public by the end of March.

Secure DC Passes with Amendments

At our Legislative Meeting on Tuesday, the Council passed Secure DC unanimously on its second and final vote. The sweeping legislative package includes a wide set of interventions aimed at confronting crime: stronger criminal penalties for violent crime, increased tools for law enforcement, changes to make it easier for cases to be prosecuted, measures to improve data-tracking and coordination across DC government, and prevention initiatives that help end cycles of violence. During the first reading of the bill, I passed an amendment to streamline criminal record sealing and expungement for returning citizens to lift barriers to housing and employment that bring stability to people’s lives. Then this week, I led the Council in passing an amendment to keep DC’s current felony threshold for lower-level theft offenses at $1,000 — while still adding new tools to confront organized retail theft and repeat theft offenses. My second amendment this week clarified that Secure DC’s ban on masks does not prevent DC residents from wearing masks for health, religious, or First Amendment activities. This amendment, which was approved unanimously, also made the mask prohibition easier for MPD to enforce against suspects committing violent crimes because it ties the prohibition on an intent to commit those offenses. The Council also passed an emergency version of Secure DC to allow most of the bill to take effect this spring. I will share even more information on Secure DC with you in the coming days, detailing how it will impact our community and the other work being done to improve safety.

Restaurant Relief Bill Passes

Beyond Secure DC, the other major bill the Council passed on Tuesday was the Restaurant Revitalization and Dram Shop Clarification Act. The bill made several changes to support local restaurants, including: ensuring food delivery platforms are fair and transparent about the fees they charge restaurants; allowing some restaurants to claim a discount on their rents by excluding service charges from their sales calculations; creating a clear legal framework for liquor liability in the District to drive down insurance premiums, which are significantly higher in DC than other nearby jurisdictions; and creating a “safe harbor” for restaurants from being sued for service charges as long as the charge is no higher than 20% and clearly disclosed to patrons (I voted against this provision largely because of my opposition to service charges). The bill also requires restaurants to make their restrooms available to delivery drivers and commissions a study on delivery driver working conditions to be completed by July 2025. Finally, we were able to defeat an amendment that would have accelerated the timeline for eliminating DC’s tipped minimum wage by two years. When DC residents overwhelmingly passed Initiative 82, they approved a gradual timeline to phase in Initiative 82 by 2027. The Council should uphold the timeline that DC residents approved instead of altering it.

Pastor John W. Davis Way Designation Act

The Council also passed my legislation to designate the 5100 block of 14th Street NW between Hamilton Street and Gallatin Street as Pastor John W. Davis Way in honor of the late, longtime pastor of Mt. Zion Baptist Church. Pastor Davis served as senior pastor of Mt. Zion for four decades until his death on September 21, 2021. Over forty years, Pastor Davis grew the congregation significantly, expanded its ministries, cared deeply for its members, and facilitated many acts of service for our broader community. He dutifully visited the sick, provided food to the homeless, and established scholarships for students to further their education. This designation is a small acknowledgement of the significant debt we owe to Pastor John W. Davis for his life of service.

Ward 4 Small Business Spotlight

Over the past few weeks, I was lucky enough to visit three of our new businesses in Ward 4! As Councilmember, I work to support our local businesses by helping them address constituent services issues and increasing grant funding — including working with our community to establish the Petworth Main Street Association and secure DC funds for Takoma Main Street.

  • I joined all-vegan bakery Sticky Fingers last month for their grand opening at 314 Carroll Street NW in Takoma. Thank you to Takoma Main Street for
  • I also had the chance to visit Almeda Restaurant, a new Afro-fusion restaurant at 828 Upshur St NW in Petworth from Danielle Harris, the owner of Little Food Studio.  
  • And late last year, I went to celebrate the opening of Jinya Ramen Bar at The Parks at Walter Reed. They are located at 1155 Dahlia St NW in new Retail Marketplace.

Here is a quick glimpse from the ribbon-cutting for Sticky Fingers. Thank you to Takoma Main Street, Tara Hoot, and all the neighbors who showed up to make it a special day!

Community Resources

Increased SNAP Benefits for DC Residents

If you receive SNAP food assistance, DC’s SNAP expansion is being added to your regular monthly benefit that is loaded to your EBT card at the start of this month. The increase is worth 10% of a household’s maximum federal benefit — with a family of four receiving an extra $97 per month.  All together, it adds up to $40 million in additional food assistance for DC families struggling with steep grocery bills, reduced federal food aid, and financial hardship. 

DPR Spring Programs Registration

DPR will open registration for its spring programs next week! Residents will be open to sign up for Aquatics programs on Tuesday, March 12 at noon and for all other DPR spring programs on Wednesday, March 13 at noon. Check out DPR’s website for more details.

Street Sweeping Ticketing Begins Next Week

DPW restarted residential street sweeping this week, so please avoid parking your car in sweeping zones during the marked sweeping periods. This week only warnings have been issued, but DPW will begin ticketing cars beginning next week. Street sweeping cleans our streets and helps prevent thousands of tons of trash and pollutants from spilling into our rivers.

Fill Out DPR’s Court Survey

Are you interested in more opportunities to play basketball, futsal, tennis, or pickleball? Then fill out DPR’s survey on sport courts to shape how DPR utilizes its courts for our community!

DC Alert: Jury Duty Phone Scam

MPD is warning the public about a phone scam where scammers impersonate MPD officers on the phone and attempt to extort people by claiming an arrest warrant has been issued against them for not appearing at a jury duty summons. The scammer then asks for money to remove the warrant. Please remember that MPD will never solicit anyone for money, bank information, or social security numbers. Learn more from MPD’s scam alert.

Safety News: Carjacking and Homicide Arrest Made

Last Friday, the Capital Area Regional Fugitive Task Force arrested an individual for the fatal stabbing of Rashawn Phifer on the 500 block of Riggs Rd NE on November 11, 2022. The suspect was apprehended in Virginia Beach and is being extradited to the District to face charges for second-degree murder while armed. In addition, MPD announced that a suspect was arrested and charged for six armed carjackings and one assault with a dangerous weapon across our community, including Petworth, Sixteenth Street Heights, Brightwood, andTakoma. This case reinforces how critical it is to solve cases and follow through on pressing charges for individuals that perpetrate violent crime in DC — in order to prevent individuals from repeatedly targeting our communities. Congratulations to MPD and to its law enforcement partner agencies for assisting with these arrests. I also want to remind neighbors that MPD is still seeking the public’s assistance on two homicide cases: the February 12 killing of Jeremy Dewayne Johnson at Georgia & Shepherd NW and the January 20 killing of Andre Wilson at Arkansas & Emerson NW. MPD is offering a $25,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for either case.

Addressing Blighted Properties on 14th Street NW

This week I brought neighbors and agencies together to address a blighted property on 14th Street that has been causing health and safety issues in our community, including security breaches at Twin Oaks Community Garden. Thank you to DOB, MPD, OAG, ANC 4C, and neighbors for coming together to work towards a lasting solution for this property. This is one of many Ward 4 properties my team and I have been working to abate and bring back into productive use. DC levies high property taxes on vacant properties and even higher property taxes on blighted properties to disincentivize neighbors from leaving properties empty or neglected. You can look up whether any property is classified as vacant or blighted on DC’s Real Property Tax Database by looking at the “Assessment” tab. If a property on your block is blighted but not being properly assessed, you can request a DOB inspection.

Neighborhood Events

Zenith’s 46th Pearl Anniversary Exhibition Opening

Our team is looking forward to honoring Zenith’s 46 amazing years in our community. Zenith Gallery will host a free opening reception on Saturday, March 9 from 2pm-6pm for its 46th Pearl Anniversary Exhibition, which features the work of nearly 50 artists in an intriguing juxtaposition of materials and themes. Please sign up on on Eventbrite if you plan to attend.

Meeting on Lafayette-Pointer Erosion and Field Project

On Wednesday, March 13 from 6pm-7:30pm DPR, DGS, and DCPS will host an in-person community meeting at Lafayette Elementary (5701 Broad Branch Rd NW) to review and discuss the designs for the Lafayette-Pointer Erosion and Field Project.

Hand Dancing Event at Lamond Rec Center 

On Saturday, March 16 from 12pm-5pm DPR will host Shake Your Shamrocks, a cabaret-style event with hand dancing at Lamond Rec Center (20 Tuckerman Street NE). Bring your own food for your table and come socialize with other dancers.

Community Peace Dinner in 16th Street Heights

On Saturday, March 16 from 5pm-7:30pm several organizations are coming together to hold a community peace dinner for neighbors in Sixteenth Street Heights at AKA Xi Omega Center (4411 14th St NW). This is an open event for neighbors to meet, connect, and enjoy a warm meal together with free groceries, kids activities, and resources from community organizations. Our office will also be tabling at the dinner. The event is co-hosted by Simpson-Hamline UMC, AKA Xi Omega Chapter, the 16th Street Neighborhood Association, and Uptown Main Street.

Senior Spa Day at Riggs-LaSalle Rec Center

On Wednesday, March 20 from 10am-3pm DPR will host a Senior Spa Day at Riggs LaSalle Rec Center (501 Riggs Rd NE). Senior Spa Day provides free pampering services such as haircuts, manicures, entertainment, and access to community resources.

Save the Date: Healthy Homes Fair on Electrification

On Saturday, April 6 from 1pm-5pm there will a major Healthy Homes Fair at Stadium Armory for DC residents interested in electrifying their homes! Come learn about exciting state-of-the-art technologies like heat pumps, induction, battery storage, EV chargers, and more.

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

Ward 4 in the News

Washington Post: Virginia Lawmakers Nix Arena Plan, Leaving Youngkin Few Options

Channel 7: Roosevelt High School Student Surprised with Full Scholarship to GWU

Petworth News: Former Powell Elementary PTA treasurer being sued by DC AG for theft of money meant for students

Washington City Paper: The Debate Over Secure DC is Finally Over. Will Any of It Matter if Prosecutors Don’t Do Their Jobs?

DC FPI: Even with Funding Increases, Schools Face Constrained Budgets Next Year

Post Opinion: Deported to Sierra Leone, He Lost Everything. He’s Fighting to Return.

DDOT: Temporary Lane Closures on Oregon & Military NW through April 12, 2024

WAMU: DCist Archive Will Be Available for 1 Year, Seeks Long-Term Home

Channel 7: DC Councilmember Introduces Bills to Prevent Youth Violence

Washington Informer: DC Unveils Ambitious Plan to Divert 80% of Solid Waste

Petworth News: Kennedy Street Community Is Hopeful for Proposed Library

Chevy Chase News & Notes: March 2024 Edition

DCIAA: Ida B Wells Wolves Become Cheerleading Novice Level 2 Champions

DCIAA: Coolidge Cheer Squad Clinches Grand Championship!

Ward 4 Dispatch: SNAP Increases, Progress with DGS, and Women’s History Month!

It is not every day that you have the US Secretary of Education come visit your school, but that’s exactly what EL Haynes PCS students were treated to this week! Secretary Miguel Cardona joined school leaders, teachers and staff, and students of all ages to learn more about the school and show his support for the work being done in our DC schools. He gave special attention to our youngest scholars and even dusted off his calculus with the high schoolers.

This is a pivotal point in the year for our schools. Students are gearing up for spring learning. Outdoor sports and extra-curricular activities are starting back up. Parents are waiting on DC school lottery results. The District is in the process of making changes to school boundaries. Our teachers are back on the bargaining table seeking a fair contract.  Families are advocating for local swing spaces and easing crowding in their school buildings. And school communities are fighting back against potential budget cuts and the loss of important staff. Let’s keep supporting our schools every day and giving our kids everything they need to thrive.

Wishing you a wonderful weekend, Ward 4!

Yours in Community,