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Ward 4 Dispatch: SNAP Breakthrough, Crime Lab, New on 311, and Listen As We Climb 2024

Dear Neighbors,

One week in, 2024 is already roaring! We have breakthroughs on SNAP benefits and DC’s crime lab, new DGS services available on 311, key Council hearings on school safety and the Kennedy Street Public Library, an important development on rental assistance, Ward 4 community listening sessions for every neighborhood, a community safety meeting, and updates on DC services like tree collection, leaf collection, and snow preparedness


DC Will Expand SNAP Benefits After All

Over the last few weeks, I have been updating you on the fight to expand SNAP food assistance to fight hunger in DC and support the 141,000 DC residents who rely on the program. Congress reduced SNAP benefits last spring, driving down benefits to only $30 per month for thousands of our neighbors even as food costs have soared. I introduced the budget amendment that secured the funding to expand SNAP benefits in DC because our office was receiving a flood of calls from Ward 4 seniors and families who were struggling after benefits were slashed. Last month, we found out that the Mayor was refusing to implement the program despite it being required by law and fully funded since September. The Administration cited other unrelated spending pressures to excuse not implementing the program, but my colleague Councilmember Christina Henderson explained why these claims did not add up.

Since then, the Office of the DC Attorney General weighed in and said that the Mayor lacks the legal authority to withhold or divert SNAP funds without Council approval. Then, the full DC Council sent a letter urging the Mayor to follow the law. Additionally, the DC CFO certified again in December that the District has the funds to expand SNAP benefits. And finally, both the Council and Legal Aid DC prepared to take legal action to uphold the law and ensure the food assistance reached the people who need it. At the same time, there was a public outcry from DC residents and strong advocacy that helped turn the tide. In the face of mounting pressure, the Administration reversed its position this week and announced that it would implement the increase in SNAP benefits after all! Now it is critical that DHS work to implement the program and get these funds out the door as quickly as possible. Expanded SNAP benefits will be a lifeline for the thousands of families, children, seniors, and people with disabilities in DC who depend on SNAP to get by. 

I am grateful the Administration ultimately made the decision to implement the SNAP expansion. DC residents do not want to see the Council and the Mayor at odds, but we also cannot set a precedent that laws and budgets can be unilaterally ignored. We are accountable to DC residents, one third of whom are struggling with food insecurity. I also want to thank everyone who spoke up about this issue and helped make expanding SNAP a reality for our neighbors. It should not have taken this much effort, but this was worth fighting for.

Key Hearings Alert: Sign Up to Speak

Next week the DC Council will hold two hearings that are particularly important for Ward 4, and I encourage residents to consider signing up to speak or submitting written comments: 

  • On Wednesday, January 10 starting at 10am there will be a confirmation hearing for Nina Albert to become Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED). DMPED is the agency responsible for buying the land that will house the Kennedy Street Public Library with the $5 million the Council allocated for this purpose. Please sign up to speak or send written comments to emphasize how important it is for DMPED to follow through on this commitment.
  • On Thursday, January 11 starting at 10:30am there will be a Council bill hearing on my legislation to teach conflict resolution in all DC schools and Councilmember Zachary Parker’s bill to enhance school safety. Both bills can help provide better support for our students and our educators and contribute to making our schools safer.

I am eager to hear from you next week or to read your input on these critical issues!

DC Crime Lab Partially Reaccredited 

We got some good news shortly before Christmas: DC’s forensic crime lab has been partially reaccredited after nearly three years of being unable to process evidence. The crime lab’s lack of accreditation over the last three years has made prosecutions harder and slower, which has exacerbated public safety issues in our city. During this period, prosecutors have had to rely on federal labs and private labs to test evidence at a reduced capacity. The US Attorney’s Office cited the problems with DC’s forensic crime lab as a contributing factor in the large share of cases they decline to prosecute. The two crime lab units that were reaccredited are the forensic biology and forensic chemistry units that process evidence like drugs and DNA analysis. While this is a positive step, it is also imperative to reaccredit the crime lab’s other units, especially the firearms unit that plays an important role in prosecuting offenders for gun crimes. Additionally, the lab now needs to be staffed up with qualified experts who can process evidence for criminal cases. And lastly, the Council is advancing legislation to strengthen oversight over the crime lab and prevent past mistakes from being repeated.

New on 311: Rec Center Repairs and Overflowing Cans

Have you been been to a rec center and noticed broken equipment or overflowing litter cans? For many years, neighbors could not report these all-too-common issues to DC government via 311. That officially changed this week with a new requirement I passed in the DC budget: You can now directly report broken equipment and overflowing litter cans at DPR and DCPS parks directly to 311 for them to be addressed. All you have to do is to call 311 or submit a request via the 311 website or 311 mobile app under the “DGS Playground Repair” or “DGS Overflowing Recycling Can” category. It is a modest but helpful change that will make government services more accessible and transparent. As Chair of the Council Committee on Facilities, this year we also increased DGS’ facility operations budget to help complete repairs faster. One point I want to stress is that while 311 currently tells residents to allow up to 180 days for repairs, DGS’ own Service Level Agreement is 45 days for routine repairs and 10 days for high-priority fixes. It should not take months for basic repairs unless a key part needs to be specially procured or there are other unique factors. I will drill down on this more during oversight. In the meantime, please use this new tool to help keep our parks in good condition!


Listen As We Climb 2024

Over the coming weeks I will be hosting Listen As We Climb community listening sessions for every Ward 4 neighborhood to hear from neighbors and gather community input to shape our work on legislation, government oversight, and the DC budget.

This will be our fourth year holding Listen As We Climb events since 2020. Each year, the feedback we received from Ward 4 residents has led to new legislation and new budget investments on issues like education, abandoned vehicles, clean corridors, small business support, conflict resolution, and more. I also take the concerns I hear from neighbors and raise them directly with agency leaders during Performance Oversight and Budget Oversight Council hearings.

I will also host a Ward 4 Community Safety Meeting on Thursday, January 18 from 6pm-8pm at EL Haynes PCS (4501 Kansas Ave NW) with DC public safety leaders to discuss safety issues in our community and strategies to address them.

Please sign up to join us at an upcoming event to share your ideas and make your voice heard. All of the dates, times, and locations are listed in the graphic below and on my website. You can also reach out to Barbara Rogers (brogers@dccouncil.gov) with any questions or requests. I look forward to seeing you!


Community Resources

Next Week: Second Leaf Collection in Section 4B

The second pass of DPW leaf collection begins in Section B the week of January 8. Neighbors in Sixteenth Street Heights, Crestwood, and Petworth west of Georgia Avenue, please have your leaves raked to your curb, treebox, or easement for collection by this Sunday, January 7. The second pass of leaf collection in Section 4B should take 1-2 weeks, and you can monitor progress on leaf collection on DPW’s online tracker. Meanwhile, if you live in Section 4A and your leaves are not collected by next week, please report it to 311 so DPW can circle back and ensure it is addressed. Section 4A includes Ward 4 residents who live in Chevy Chase, Barnaby Woods, Hawthorne, Colonial Village, North Portal, Shepherd Park, The Parks at Walter Reed, Brightwood, and the part of Takoma and Manor Park west of 8th Street

Inclement Weather Preparedness for This Saturday

DC is preparing for a wintery mix of snow and rain to begin this Saturday morning that may create icy conditions for pedestrians, motorists, and bicyclists. The city is pre-treating roads with brine and planning to deploy snow plows on Saturday morning. Meanwhile, residential and commercial property owners should spread abrasives like salt or pet-friendly deicer on their sidewalks and walkways to reduce the possibility of slips and falls. Other safety and preparedness tips include clearing your gutters of leaves, calling 311 for clogged drains and catch basins, having a snow shovel and a solid supply of abrasives, and avoiding travel during the worst part of the storm. Check out this full announcement for more details and tips.

Rental Assistance Portal Closes Again

On Tuesday, January 2 at noon the website portal for Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) opened briefly and then immediately crashed. The portal was back up and accepting applications an hour later but then closed again at 5pm after receiving its maximum number of 3,500 applications for this quarter. As things stand, residents will have to wait until April 1 for another chance to apply for rental assistance. The need for rental assistance in the District is overwhelming right now. This year the Council increased funding for ERAP by $37 million after the Mayor’s original budget proposed only $8 million for ERAP. Still, the need for rental assistance is greater than available funds and it is clear we need to do more to prevent our neighbors from losing their homes. There is some good news to report: In November, the Council denied a request from the Administration to divert $20.6 million away from ERAP to another housing program. Today we learned that DHS is restoring the $20.6 million back to ERAP and will make those funds available in the next two application periods in April and July. That means that DHS will accept 8,500 applications in April and 4,000 applications in June (as opposed to 3,500). While it is not immediate relief, this will help thousands more DC residents stay in their homes this year.

Volunteer for the DC Point in Time Count

On Wednesday, January 24 from 8pm-2am community members, outreach teams, and DC government employees will conduct the annual DC Point-in-Time Homelessness Count. The event is critical because it secures federal funding and allows DC to better meet the needs of our unhoused neighbors. Sign up to volunteer for the Point-in-Time Count by January 15

DC School Lottery Is Now Open

Last monthapplications opened for the MySchoolDC Lottery, where families have the opportunity to apply for DCPS and PCS schools for next school year ranging from PK3 through Grade 12. Families have until February 1 to submit high school applications and until March 1 for PK3–Grade 8. Visit the MySchoolDC website for more information, and please strongly consider listing our incredible Ward 4 schools in your top choices!

Ride MetroBus 24-7 on 14 Key Routes 

WMATA now offers 24-hour MetroBus service on 14 key bus routes. Between 9am-7pm, MetroBus runs every 20 minutes or better along the A6, A8, B2, H4, S2, V2, W4, X2, 32, 33, 52, 70, 80, and the 92. Each ride costs only $2, riders are allowed ‘courtesy stops’ so they can get off closer to their destination, and Metro Transit Police is available 24/7 to enhance safety. This was an important investment we made in the DC budget to expand access to public transit, especially for late-night and early-morning essential workers in hospitality and healthcare. Read WMATA’s full announcement for more details. 

Preservation Grants for Ward 4 Properties 

The Brightwood Car Barn Preservation Initiative is offering preservation grants worth up to $50,000 for preservation projects in Ward 4 that “enhance the citizens’ knowledge and understanding of historic resources in the community that add to the area’s unique cultural heritage.” Visit the grant website for more information, grant workshops, and the application! 

New ANC Commissioners in Ward 4

Last month we welcomed our two newest Ward 4 ANC Commissioners: 4E04 Commissioner Randy Zmuda (4E04@anc.dc.gov) in Sixteenth Street Heights and 4D02 Commissioner Abel Amene on Kennedy Street (4D02@anc.dc.gov). I was proud to swear in Commissioner Zmuda and Commissioner Amene, who stepped up to fill important vacancies on their respective Commissions. Abel Amene is also the first noncitizen to hold public office in DC.

Christmas Trees and Holiday Greenery Collection

This week DPW started collecting holiday trees and greenery for DPW-serviced households. All you need to do is take off any decorations from your tree or greenery and place them on the curb or treebox in front of your home for DPW crews to collect. If it is not collected within 7 days, you can report it to 311 under the “Christmas Tree Removal – Seasonal” service request category. Our team is also happy to assist! All trees and greenery collected by March will be composted, and DC residents can collect up to five 32-gallon bags of the free compost year-round at the Fort Totten Transfer Station. But there is no need to rush to take down your tree if you don’t want to: collection will continue through March 2!


Neighborhood Events

Weekly Chevy Chase Farmers Market

On Saturday, January 6 from 9am-1pm and every Saturday year-round the Chevy Chase Farmers Market takes place at Lafayette Elementary (5701 Broad Branch RD NW) brings fresh, local food and goods to Chevy Chase neighbors.

Invasive Plant Removal at Fort Slocum Mini-Oasis 

On Saturday, January 6 from 10am-12pm the Rock Creek Conservancy and NPS will host an invasive plant removal restoration event at Fort Slocum Mini-Oasis. You can bring water, snacks, and your own gloves (if you have them), but tools will be provided.

Petworth Get Wise Crime Awareness Training

On Saturday, January 6 from 12pm-2pm the Petworth Get Wise Coalition will host a Crime Awareness and Preparedness Training at Center City PCS (510 Webster St NW). The event will share safety strategies in partnership with the FBI’s Office of Partner Engagement.

Free Jazz Show at Hellbender Brewery

On Saturday, January 6 from 6pm-8pm Hellbender Brewery will host a free jazz show featuring Bad Luck Gold, as well as Cajun sausages (and fill menu) and fresh baked king cakes and other baked goods. The taproom will be open from 1pm-9pm with music at 6-8pm!

Weekly Takoma Park Farmers Market

On Sunday, January 7 from 10am-2pm and every Sunday year-round the Takoma Park Farmers Market takes place at 6931 Laurel Ave in Takoma Park, MD. Come find seasonal produce, breads, meats, artisan cheese, eggs, baked goods, and more from local farms.

Pee Wee Pirates Theatre at Shepherd Park Library

On Sunday, January 7 from 3:30pm-4:30pm Shepherd Park Juanita E. Thornton Library will host a Pee Wee Pirates theatre performance suitable for families with young children ages 3+.

Takoma MLK Weekend Community Cleanup

On Saturday, January 13 starting at 11am 4B02 Commissioner Erin Palmer and 4B04 Commissioner Evan Yeats will host a Takoma community cleanup in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. starting from Takoma Elementary (7010 Piney Branch Rd NW). They will pick up litter and submit 311 requests for city services. All supplies are provided, as well as snacks and water. They are also happy to sign off on community service hours. After the cleanup they will gather at El Sabor a Mexico to enjoy food and drinks.

Resource Fair and Community Pantry at Xi Omega Center

On Monday, January 15 from 9am-12pm the AKA Xi Omega Chapter will host a resource fair and community pantry at the Xi Omega Center (4411 14th St NW) in honor of AKA Founders’ Day and Martin Luther King Jr Day. Families in need can pick up a box of 21 meals, neighbors can donate non-perishable food items, and local nonprofits will be on-site providing resources. 

For more local events, check out DPR, DC Public Library, NPS, and Rock Creek Conservancy. If you are looking for an opportunity to volunteer during MLK Weekend, the Conservancy has eight local cleanup events already lined up.


Ward 4 in the News

Washington Post: In Reversal, Bowser Administration Will Implement SNAP Boost

DC News Now: Woman Facing Eviction After Being Unable to Access Rental Assistance

DCist: DC Attorney General Offers Grants Up To $50,000 For Violence Prevention

Source of the Spring: Sticky Fingers Transitions to Takoma, Holds Equipment Auction

PopVille: “*Potential Coyote* sighting at the Armed Forces Retirement Home?”

Petworth News: Traffic Safety Meeting for New Hampshire & Taylor NW on January 11

Next Stop… Riggs Park: Ready2Play Long-Range DPR Parks and Rec Centers Plan

Channel 9: Hundreds Gather to Watch the Ball Drop in DC’s Petworth Neighborhood

Washington Post: Meet the First Noncitizen to Hold Public Office in the District 

Petworth News: Local Pickup Frisbee and Soccer Games Help Tie Neighbors Together

Washington Post: Councilmember Vincent Gray Won’t Seek Reelection Amid Health Challenges

Washington Informer: Alpha Kappa Alpha’s Xi Omega Chapter Celebrates a Century of Service to DC

Yahoo News: DC Council Passes Bill Requiring Employers to Post Salary Ranges, More

Washington City Paper: The People Issue 2023 (Featuring Owner of Slash Run)

WMATA: Northern Bus Barn Winter 2024 Community Newsletter

DDOT: Construction Updates on the Metropolitan Branch Trail (Fort Totten to Takoma)

Next Stop… Riggs Park: Update on the Metropolitan Branch Trail South Manor Off-street Alignment and Its Takoma Segment

Ward 4 Dispatch: The Year We Had and the Year Ahead!


Yesterday, while checking in on a Ward 4 resident in Sixteenth Street Heights, I encountered a Little Free Food Pantry that neighbors set up on the 1300 block of Kennedy Street NW. We talk a lot about the importance of building strong safety net programs — like expanding SNAP food assistance — but it is also about community members stepping up and supporting their neighbors. It was a reminder of what makes our Ward 4 community so strong and inclusive.

Wishing you, your families, and your loved ones a Happy and Healthy 2024!

Yours in Community,
—Janeese