We have quite a few updates, events, and resources this week, so let’s get into it right away.
Building Conditions Matter Across DC Government
Today I started a two-week readiness tour of a wide range of DC government facilities, including: DACL senior centers, DHS homelessness shelters, MPD police stations, DYRS juvenile justice facilities, and DC Fire and EMS engines and training facilities. These types of facilities do not typically get as much attention as schools or rec centers, but they are critical for DC government to function well. I will be working closely with DGS and their partner agencies to improve maintenance of these sites as part of my duties as chair of the Council’s Committee on Facilities. As we did with our DCPS and DPR readiness tours last summer, my goal is to identify and address systemic issues, make process improvements, and fill communication gaps between agencies when it comes to building maintenance. Facilities conditions matter on so many levels: employee morale, staff retention, agency operations, community health, accessibility, building security, public safety, and more. We need well-maintained buildings to do right by both the DC residents who depend on these facilities and the public servants who keep our city running. That is why I am focused on confronting this issue across all DC government facilities. Our first stops today were the DYRS facilities at the Youth Services Center and New Beginnings Youth Center. Thank you to agency staff and leaders for joining our visits. I will report back on our key takeaways after the tours conclude later this month.
ACT Now Bill and Public Safety Updates
This week, the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety held a hearing to consider the Mayor’s Addressing Crime Trends (ACT) Now Act legislation that aims to address retail theft, establish ‘drug-free zones’, and make changes to police accountability and transparency measures. We heard from dozens of community members and government witnesses, including MPD Chief Pamela Smith, Office of Police Complaints Director Michael Tobin, Special Counsel for the DC Public Defender Service Katerina Semyonova, and Criminal Code Reform Commission Director Jinwoo Park. I had the opportunity to question all of the government witnesses who were called to testify about the legislation over several rounds. All the community and government witnesses provided valuable testimony about the potential benefits and risks of the legislation, as well as ways to improve the bill and additional strategies to address crime. If you can, take time to listen to the witnesses and the insights they shared.
Now that the hearing has concluded, the Judiciary and Public Safety Committee will determine the next steps for this legislation and other public safety bills. I look forward to working with community members, DC agencies, and colleagues to pass comprehensive legislation and to using the tools that we already have at our disposal to improve safety. Public safety is the most critical priority for our city and every agency needs to be doing its part.
I also raised the safety issues we are seeing in our Ward 4 community, especially the need to deploy officers to the areas most impacted by crime and the surge in vehicle break-ins, carjackings, and robberies. These brazen and traumatizing crimes cannot be tolerated. Just this week, we had an incident where students were forced into cars during robberies so they can unlock their phones before being let go. Unfortunately, many of these incidents involve youth targeting other youth to steal items in their possession. I am working closely with our public safety agencies to enhance safety and hold those targeting our students accountable. A lookout photo and description has been released by law enforcement to help identify those responsible. The impacted schools already have an increased MPD presence and Safe Passage program in place, but recent robberies have been taking place outside of regular school arrival and departure times. To respond, we are working to increase coverage hours for both police patrols and Safe Passage.
This month MPD has been able to make multiple arrests for violent crimes in Ward 4, including multiple robberies in Manor Park, a string of robberies in Petworth, an armed carjacking in Takoma, armed robberies in Brightwood Park, and three armed robberies that took place in Takoma and Fort Totten on Thursday night. Typically, suspects are linked to multiple offenses, so making arrests is critical to disrupting repeated patterns that put our neighbors in harm’s way. Beyond closing cases, we must also ensure our entire public safety ecosystem functions more effectively. That means bringing charges when there is a viable case. It means having evidence collected and analyzed in a timely manner. It means making effective interventions in people’s lives to address issues like addiction, family instability, and mental health that drive them towards risky behavior. And it means addressing the underlying causes of crime — from education and family supports to stable employment and secure housing.
Key Upcoming Council Hearings
I want to alert neighbors of these three important upcoming hearings so you can consider testifying or sending in written comments:
- Whole Government Response to Crime Act: I co-introduced this legislation with Councilmember Robert White. The bill focuses on making our entire public safety system work better, including recertifying DC’s troubled crime lab, improving our 911 call center’s performance, tracking performance metrics for violence prevention programs, and increasing coordination across agencies. The hearing is on Monday, December 11.
- Ronald ‘Ron’ Austin Memorial Park Designation Act: I introduced this bill to rename the park between North Dakota Avenue, 2nd Street, and Quackenbos Street after Ron Austin in honor of his service to Ward 4 and District government. The hearing will take place on Friday, December 15 and community members can sign up to speak or weigh in in writing. Special shoutout to 4B06 Commissioner Tiffani Johnson for working with our office over several years to advance this bill.
- Conflict Resolution Education Act: I authored this legislation to develop a model curriculum for conflict resolution education and to require conflict resolution to be taught at every public school in DC. We already have successful conflict resolution courses in select schools in DC that are instilling lifelong skills in students, helping them overcome conflicts, building positive relationships, and making our communities safer. Sign up to speak at the bill hearing on Thursday, January 11 to expand this model to all of DC.
Another Step Towards Social Housing
Last year, the Council Committee on Housing convened a marathon hearing on my legislation to bring social housing to DC. Social housing is DC-owned, mixed-income, environmentally sustainable, affordable housing. Social housing generates deeper levels of affordability by reinvesting rent paid by tenants into keeping rents affordable. Social housing aims to confront DC’s housing crisis, displacement crisis, and climate crisis with a comprehensive approach that puts our people and our planet first. We see successful models of social housing in other jurisdictions as distant as Vienna, Austria and as nearby as Montgomery County, Maryland. This week, Councilmember Robert White convened a follow-up hearing on how to implement social housing in the District with testimony from public housing residents, local and national housing experts, and public officials. The hearing moved us closer to distilling a vision for what social housing may look like in DC and how it can best fill the major housing gaps in our city. Just this month, a new study found that more than one of every ten DC residents lacks stable housing. I am determined to work with fellow Councilmembers and our communities to strengthen this bill and advance it. If you want to weigh in on bringing social housing to DC, you can send written comments to the Housing Committee until December 12.
Leaf Collection Status Updates
Next week, the first pass of leaf collection will continue in Section 4C, which includes Riggs Park, Lamond, South Manor Park, and the parks of Takoma and Manor Park that are east of 8th Street NW. Then, the week of December 11, leaf collection will begin in Section 4D, which includes all of Brightwood Park and all of Petworth east of Georgia Avenue. So if you live in this area, please plan to rake your leaves on your tree box, curb, or easement by Sunday, December 10. DPW will also collect leaves in paper bags, but they will not collect leaves in plastic bags. All neighborhoods will get two rounds of leaf collection.
Free Rapid COVID Tests at DC Libraries
DC residents can now pick up free rapid COVID tests at DC libraries during their regular operating hours, including our local Petworth, Takoma, Chevy Chase, Juanita E Thornton/Shepherd Park, and Lamond-Riggs/Lillian J Huff libraries. Check out the full list of libraries with free rapid COVID tests. Distribution is expected to continue until March.
Ward 4 Roll Off Day to Dispose Bulk Items
On Saturday, December 2 at 10am the Office of the Clean City will host a Ward 4 Roll Off Day at Lamond-Riggs/Lillian J Huff Library (5401 South Dakota Ave NE) for neighbors to dispose of bulk items, furniture, and debris at no cost. Check out the flyer for more details and find the list of acceptable items and prohibited items on DPW’s website.
Attend EdFest This Weekend or Next Weekend
EdFest is DC’s annual public school fair and it’s now upon us! EdFest for PK3-Grade 8 is taking place this Saturday, December 2 from 10am-1pm at DC Armory and EdFest for Grades 9-12 is next Saturday, December 9 from 10am-1pm at Eastern High School. Representatives from DC Public Schools and public charter schools will be there to showcase their programs. Check it out before DC School Lottery applications open on December 11!
Consumer Alert: Retailers Must Treat SNAP Customers Equally
This week DC Attorney General Brian L. Schwalb issued a consumer alert to DC residents reminding them that retailers must treat SNAP customers equally. Retailers may not charge a transaction fee, set a minimum transaction fee, require a minimum SNAP card balance, or require a pre-purchase SNAP card balance inquiry for customers paying with SNAP. If you know of SNAP retailers in DC that are not following the law, report it by calling the Consumer Protection Hotline at 202-442-9828, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or filing an online complaint.
New Automated Traffic Enforcement Cameras
DDOT recently announced new traffic enforcement cameras across DC, including speeding cameras on the 5500 Block North Capitol Street NW (southbound), the 4900 Block Georgia Avenue NW (southbound), and the 5700 Block Georgia Avenue NW. DDOT is also installing a new stop sign camera at 13th & Randolph NW. Warnings will be issued for an initial period before tickets start being issued. Drive cautiously to help avoid tickets and improve safety.
DC Private Security Camera Incentive Program
If you haven’t yet, please consider taking advantage of DC’s Private Security Camera System Incentive Program, which helps cover the cost for DC residents, businesses, non-profits and religious institutions to install security camera systems on their property. Cameras can help deter crime and aid with law enforcement investigations if a crime occurs.
Holiday Toy Drive in Manor Park
In Manor Park, 4B06 Commissioner Tiffani Johnson is organizing a Holiday Toy Drive for Manor Park youth. New toys can be dropped off at 5806 3rd Street NW (in the box on the porch) anytime from December 1 through December 15.
Run for ANC in SMD 4B10 in Riggs Park
We still have an ANC Commissioner vacancy in Single Member District 4B10 in Riggs Park (pictured below). If you live in this area and are interested in advocating for your community, please consider running for ANC. Petitions to run can be picked up from the DC Board of Elections starting December 11.
Holiday Market and Celebration at The Parks
On Saturday, December 2 from 11am-4pm The Parks at Walter Reed will host their annual Holiday Market and Celebration at Marketplace Plaza (7175 12th Street NW) by Whole Foods. The event will feature Carolers, a 30-foot holiday tree, a kids craft station, local vendors, photos with Santa, a holiday gift drive for children in need, and deals at Whole Foods and JINYA.
Takoma Crafters 41st Holiday Sale
On Friday, December 1 from 12pm-8pm, Saturday, December 2 from 12pm-6pm, and Sunday, December 3 from 1pm-6pm Seekers Church (276 Carroll St NW) will host their 41st Takoma Crafters Holiday Sale across from Takoma Metro. Local crafters will be offering fiber art, pottery, soaps, cards, jewelry, baked desserts, and other locally-made goods. Check it out!
Mini-Oasis Restoration at Fort Slocum
On Saturday, December 2 from 10am-12pm the Rock Creek Conservancy and NPS will host an invasive plant removal restoration event at Fort Slocum. Join in to lend a hand!
Hellbender Brewery Record Fair
On Saturday, December 2 from 1pm-7pm Hellbender Brewery will host a family-friendly record fair with a wide selection of vinyl records, two food trucks, live DJs, and beer.
Opening Reception: “The Spirit of Giving”
On Saturday, December 2 from 2pm-6pm Zenith Gallery will host an opening reception at 1429 Iris Street NW for its special holiday exhibit, The Spirit of Giving, featuring works from 28 different artists that will be on display from today through January 27. RSVP on Eventbrite.
Takoma Pajamarama: Shop Early and Holiday Market
On Sunday, December 3 from 8am-3pm Takoma Main Street’s annual Pajamarama event returns with holiday sales and special discounts for pajama-wearers from 8am-11am in businesses across Takoma and Takoma Park — and a holiday market from 10am-3pm at Takoma Theater (6833 4th St NW) with local artists, makers, and collectors offering handmade items, treats, music, and local shopping. Check out the event page for more details!
Christmas Bazaar at Simple Bar & Grill
On Sunday, December 3 from 1pm-6pm Simple Bar & Grill will host a Christmas Bazaar event with local artists, local vendors, vinyls, jewelry, vintage clothing, and free hot chocolate!
Miracle on Upshur! Upshur Holiday Craft Fair
On Saturday, December 9 from 11am-4pm the annual Upshur Street Craft Fair will take place on the 800 block of Upshur Street NW. Come enjoy local artists and makers, a Gingerbread House Contest, a Pop-Up Holiday Lounge with delicious wintery treats, amazing activities by Upshur Street businesses, and an appearance from Santa from 11am-2pm!
Live Nativity and Petting Zoo on 16th Street
On Sunday, December 10 from 3:30pm-5:30pm Simpson-Hamline United Methodist Church will host a Live Nativity and Petting Zoo on its lawn at 16th & Allison NW. They will have live animals, music, warm treats, and space to gather in fellowship. The church will remain open during the event so neighbors can also check out the building. RSVP on Facebook.
Ward 4 in the News
AP News: Cities must replace harmful lead pipes within 10 years under new Biden plan
DCist: New Bill Would Reduce Responsibilities Of DC’s Embattled 911 Agency
DCist: Chronic Absenteeism Remains Stubbornly High In DC Schools
Washington City Paper: Despite Fearmongering and Congressional Pushback, DC Could Soon Have Its First Noncitizen Elected Official
Washington Informer: Music Veteran Bo Sampson Celebrates 60 Years
PopVille: DC Snappy’s Bar Opening in Petworth on Saturday
DPR and DGS: Update on Crestwood Triangle Park Construction
Next Stop… Riggs Park: Run for ANC 4B10 Seat in Riggs Park and Lamond
Petworth News: Some Pictures from Celebrate Petworth Festival
DCist: Proposed Law Aims To Prevent Slumlords From Renting Out More Apartments
Ward 4 Dispatch: Have a Wonderful Thanksgiving, Ward 4!
Whether you travelled to loved ones or stayed home here in DC, I hope each of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving! I’ve said it before, but I’m so grateful to everyone who is stepping up to give back to our community this holiday season through turkey giveaways, coat drives, food distributions, toy drives, sponsoring families, supporting local businesses, and so much more.
Have a great weekend, and remember to visit our holiday markets in Ward 4!
Yours in Community,