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Ward 4 Dispatch: WTU Contract, Budget Forum, Council News, and Hands Off DC

Dear Neighbors,

My weekly newsletter includes an important opportunity to share your DC budget priorities with me and my team, updates from our oversight work and Council legislative meeting, Ward 4 news, community resources, local news, and quite a few community events. Check it all out!

Ward 4 and Council News

Ward 4 Budget Forum and Virtual Listening Session

We have rescheduled our final Listen As We Climb virtual listening session that was originally scheduled for February 2 to Wednesday, February 15 at 7pm by Zoom. The event will also jointly serve as our Ward 4 budget forum. Neighbors can register on Zoom to join us on Wednesday to share their ideas, insights, and budget priorities for our community and our city. It has been incredibly helpful to hear from so many neighbors at our previous Listen As We Climb events. Your feedback is already shaping the work I’m doing on the Council and in our community. I’m looking forward to hearing from even more Ward 4 residents on Wednesday. 

Council Action: DC Auditor, Hotel Workers, WTU Contract

At Tuesday’s legislative session, we took action on several measures that may be of interest. First, we reconfirmed Kathy Patterson to a new 6-year term as DC Auditor. Our Auditor’s office does an incredible job supporting District government by producing insightful, detailed performance audits of DC agencies and making recommendations to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability in government. We also extended the requirement for hotels in DC to provide regular room cleanings. This is important for both maintaining high standards in our hospitality industry and supporting good union jobs for our hotel workers, who are predominantly Black and Brown women in an industry that is still recovering from economic effects of the pandemic. And we redirected funds within DDOT to expedite the installation of suicide prevention barriers on Taft Bridge. This is a critical, evidence-based way for us to save lives. These barriers are finally being installed to prevent further tragedies thanks to the tireless advocacy of community members, including Dr. Chelsea Van Thof.

We also approved the new union contract for the Washington Teachers Union, delivering well-earned raises and other benefits more than three years since their last union contract expired. The contract includes a 12% raise over four years, retroactive pay, a 4% retention bonus for teachers, a $1,500 retention bonus for “hard to fill” positions like special needs professionals, funds for each teacher to purchase school supplies for their classroom, and much more. WTU members can expect their cost of living adjustment and retention bonus to show up in their paychecks on March 24 and retroactive pay to be processed on May 19. Our educators and school staff are everyday heroes, and I hope that the Council approving this contract reflects how much we value their hard work for our students.

Performance Oversight: Safety, Businesses, Mental Health

One of my focuses this week was engaging DC agencies at performance oversight hearings. At our hearing with the Office of Neighborhood Safety Engagement (ONSE), I spoke to agency leaders about the need for increased collaboration between government and community and drilled into specific needs for our community. One update they shared is that they are currently in the process of evaluating and choosing a new vendor to operate ONSE’s violence interruption program in Ward 4. I also found out that ONSE does not have any Latino or Spanish-speaking violence interrupters, despite our Latino community also being disproportionately impacted by gun violence. In addition, we discussed the successful ONSE Leadership Academy program at Paul PCS in Ward 4, which offers school-based mentorship, conflict mediation, and individualized supportive services to students. I asked Director Hunter to explore expanding this model to another Ward 4 school. Then, at our hearing with the Department of Small and Local Business Development, I praised our Main Street Associations in Ward 4 and the invaluable support they provide to our small businesses Uptown, in Petworth, in Manor Park, in Riggs Park, in Takoma, and on Upper Georgia Avenue. I also emphasized the importance of Clean Teams in helping to create clean, safe, and inviting places to do business. These efforts should be tailored to the specific needs of each area, and DC should provide additional funding to enhance the Clean Teams’ efforts in Ward 4.

I also participated in our oversight hearing with the Department of Behavioral Health (DBH), where I raised the urgency of filling the critical vacancies for behavioral health clinicians in our schools. At a time of great anxiety for our students, it is unacceptable for so many of our schools to be without mental health professionals. While DBH recently implemented $16,000 bonuses to hire more clinician supervisors and $5,000 bonuses for school-based clinicians, more must be done to meet our families’ needs. This is exactly why last year I secured funding for a study into hiring and retention challenges for school-based behavioral health clinicians and how these challenges can be addressed. DBH is working to finalize that study now to guide our efforts. This will be a major focus area for me in this year’s DC budget.

Letter on the Future of Chevy Chase Civic Core

This week I submitted a letter to the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) articulating both the concerns and hopes of many Ward 4 residents in Chevy Chase, Barnaby Woods, and Hawthorne regarding the future of the Chevy Chase Civic Core. The site has the potential to become a successful mixed-use site that provides multiple direct public benefits, including affordable housing and a modernized library, community center, and green space. As chair of the Council committee that may be asked to designate a portion of this site as “surplus” property so that it can be developed as affordable housing, I decided to now express my support for affordable housing here if certain conditions are met. My letter called for DMPED to deepen its engagement with the broader Chevy Chase community on the mechanics of the surplus and disposition processes for this site, as well as to commit to publishing a community input-driven Request for Proposal (RFP) prior to filing a surplus resolution with the Council. My hope is that the process accomplishes the goals set by my Green New Deal for Housing legislation, particularly to maximize the number of affordable units and deepen their affordability to the extent possible — even if this site sees traditional affordable housing development instead of innovative social housing. In addition, I echo neighbors’ support for green space, bike storage, underground parking, and prioritizing family-sized apartment units and senior residences to the extent possible. I believe my letter complements a similar statement from Ward 3 Councilmember Matt Frumin, with whom I intend to work closely. Read my full letter for additional details, and stay tuned for more updates and opportunities for neighbors to make their voice heard in this important process. I had the opportunity to attend and ask questions at the performance oversight hearing for the Office of Neighborhood Safety Engagement (ONSE). I was excited to hear about the increased collaboration with government agencies and community partners to bring more community-based solutions to our neighborhoods. ONSE is also in the process of evaluating and choosing a permanent violence interruption team to serve Ward 4.

Neighborhood Events

Fort Stevens Clean Up Day

On Saturday, February 11 at 10:30am-12:30pm ANC Commissioners Kim Patterson (4A05) and Patience Singleton (4A04) and the Mayor’s Office of the Clean City will host a clean up day at Fort Stevens Civil War Memorial (6001 13th Street NW) to show Valentine’s Day love for Brightwood and celebrate President Lincoln’s Birthday. Trash bags and gloves will be provided!

Oasis Restoration at Fort Slocum

On Saturday, February 11 at 10am-12pm the Rock Creek Conservancy and the National Park Service will host an invasive plant removal event at Fort Slocum (5800 Kansas Ave NW). Invasive plants are a major threat to our fragile forests, and stopping their spread helps allow for a thriving native understory.

Roosevelt High School Family Engagement Event

On Thursday, February 16 from 6pm-8pm Roosevelt High School will host a premier family engagement event in collaboration with the Greater Washington Urban League. Young entrepreneurs who will be showcasing their products and services, music and dance will be provided by students in the Visual and Performing Arts Department, and DC area restaurant owners will be on site offering samples. Tickets on Eventbrite are $20.

Celebrating Black Life with Art at Petworth Library

From today through February 24 Petworth Neighborhood Library is inviting children ages 5-8, 9-12, and 13-19 to submit creations and projects related to celebrating Black life and Black history to Petworth Library as part of Black History Month. DCPL staff will display some pieces in the library. All entries must be dropped off in person.

Black History Swim Meet at Takoma Aquatic Center

On Friday, February 17 through Sunday, February 19 Ward 4’s Takoma Aquatic Center (300 Van Buren St NW) will host the 36th Annual Black History Invitational Swim Meet. Nationwide swimmers ages 5-18 will gather in DC to compete in one of the longest-running minority swim meets in the world during Black History Month. Takoma pool will close at 3pm on Thursday, February 16 to prepare for the event. Learn more about this historic event on DPR’s website.

Manor Park Community Cleanup

On Saturday, February 18 at 9am 4B05 Commissioner Kevin Gilligan will host a community cleanup in Manor Park starting at 8th & Peabody NW. Bags, gloves, grabbers, and snacks will be provided. Commissioner Gilligan will host clean ups on the third Saturday of every month.

Community Resources

OSSE DOT Hiring Fair for Bus Drivers and Other Staff

OSSE’s Division of Student Transportation will hold a two-day hiring fair from 10am-6pm on Thursday, February 16 and Friday, February 17 at 441 4th St NW to fill important vacancies in bus attendants and other positions that have been impacting the services that DC families receive. Registration is required by February 14 at noon to participate. Spread the word!

Deadline Extended: DCPL Ward 4 Library Survey

In 2020, DC Public Library released its 10-year Facilities Master Plan, which outlined recommendations to maintain, adapt, and grow the city’s public library system. As part of their planning, DCPL is gathering community feedback on the possibility of relocating the Shepherd Park/Juanita E. Thornton Library to The Parks at Walter Reed, retaining the existing site, or moving it to an alternative location. The deadline to fill out the survey has been extended to February 28. Residents in Shepherd Park, North Portal, Colonial Village, Takoma, Brightwood, Brightwood Park, Manor Park, and other nearby neighborhoods are encouraged to weigh in through DCPL’s survey. The survey is also available in Spanish and Amharic. As your Councilmember, I voiced strong support for a two-library solution in my February 3 newsletter.

Refunds for Instacart Workers in DC

If you made deliveries for Instacart between October 1, 2016 and April 30, 2018, you are eligible for a cash refund of $150 or more because of a lawsuit brought by the Office of the DC Attorney General. File your claim online and let your friends and neighbors know; as many as 10,000 workers across the DC region are eligible for payments.

Constituent Services: DC Medicaid Renewal

I’m hearing from several Ward 4 residents who submitted their DC Medicaid renewal application only to find out that their application was never received. If you need help with your renewal or are experiencing difficulties with your insurance, please contact my constituent services team for support.

New Grants for Local Businesses

There are several new grants available for local businesses in Ward 4 and across DC:

Applications Open for Summer Youth Employment Program

Last week, applications opened for the Marion S. Barry Summer Youth Employment Program. DC youth ages 14-24 can apply to work from June 26 through August 4 to gain enriching summer employment experience in the public and private sectors. Apply by February 28.

The End of Leaf Collection Season

DPW has shared that leaf collection service is concluding this Saturday, February 11.  Residents can still dispose of remaining leaves by scheduling a yard waste collection via 311 for leaves that can be picked up in leaf brown paper bags.  Residents can also bring leaves to Benning Road Transfer Station (2300 Benning Rd NE) on Wednesdays-Fridays from 10am-2pm. Meanwhile, DPW is still collecting holiday trees and greenery at tree boxes and curbs in front of DPW-serviced households.

Ward 4 Mutual Aid Grocery Distribution Dates  

In 2023, Ward 4 Mutual Aid is continuing its important work supporting our community. On the following dates and times, the first 100 families that arrive at Brightwood Park United Methodist Church (744 Jefferson St NW) will be able to receive gift cards, diapers, food, and other items as available: Wednesday, February 15 at 5pm; Saturday, February 18 at noon; Wednesday, March 15 at 5pm; and Saturday, March 18 at noon. Ward 4 Mutual Aid also offers limited home deliveries on Saturdays. If you physically cannot make it to the church on a Wednesday or Saturday, please call or text the Ward 4 Mutual Aid Hotline at 202-681-3098 to sign up for delivery. Learn more on their website

Updated Design for Crestwood Triangle Park

This week DPR and DGS shared an updated design for a proposed nature-inspired play area in Crestwood Triangle Park (Argyle Terrace & 18th Street NW). Compared to the previous design from November 2022, the new design shifts the play area to the corner of the Triangle, preserving more open space in Crestwood Triangle Park. Another improvement is that DPR will install bike racks in the park, which is a DDOT requirement for all new facilities. DPR plans to build the new play area during the fall of 2023. DPR’s full presentation has additional details.

By shifting the play area from the center of the park to the corner, more open space is preserved for community events and recreation opportunities.

Local News Links

Petworth News: Petworth Porchfest returns on April 22, and you can play or host!

Channel 9DC woman celebrates Black figures with yard display combining Black History Month with Valentine’s Day

WMATA: Takoma and Fort Totten Metro Stations to Get New Bus Shelters This Year

DPR: $3 Million in Community Grants Available to Engage Youth with Barriers to Access 

DGS: Preview of Raymond Elementary’s Future Building Under Construction

Greater Greater Washington: Over the river and onto TranspoBINGO

Petworth News: West African Artist installs a new “portrait” at Lincoln’s Cottage

DCist: Racial Disparities In DC HIV/AIDS Cases Widened During Pandemic, Report Says

City Paper: The Carry-out Critic Enjoys Ethiopian Pizza and Hospitality at Ice N Slice

Fox 5: DC’s Zenith Gallery honors local, national artists for Black History Month

Urban TurfAll Three-Bedrooms: Douglas Plans Missing Middle Project in Takoma

DC News NowBill proposes free counseling, social work master’s program at UDC

Fox 5DC ice cream shop Everyday Sundae part of a community of giving

Last Week’s Dispatch: Public Libraries, Takoma Metro Housing, and Summer Youth Jobs

Also, do not miss this wonderful feature and moving performance by Barnard Elementary’s excellent Choir Program, which is led by music director Joel Lehman.

This week we experienced the latest chapter in a long, dark history of Congress attempting to force its will on DC residents as a Republican-led House voted to overturn two DC laws that expand voting rights and modernize the District’s criminal code. Historically, these interventions have been rooted in the racist belief that Black people should be denied the right to govern themselves. At times, Congressional meddling in our affairs has had life-and-death consequences. For nearly a decade, Congress prohibited DC from using local funds on needle exchange, a safe and evidence-based way to prevent the spread of HIV. Since Congress’ prohibition was lifted, new HIV cases attributable to injection drug use decreased by 99%.

I do not believe for one second that the same Congressmen who fostered a violent insurrection in our city to overturn the results of the Presidential election — and who refuse to pass strong gun control measures to stop the spread of guns in our communities — care about either our safety or our democracy. And it is the height of hypocrisy that the politicians who loudly decry federal government overreach are always the first to meddle in our local affairs. Instead of playing politics, Congress pass DC Statehood and leave DC alone.

With our local autonomy on the line, it is imperative that we all unite against this appalling assault on Home Rule. Despite the House’s vote, our laws will not be overturned unless both the Democrat-controlled Senate and the President choose to go along. I am grateful to President Biden for a strong statement in support of DC autonomy and our case for Statehood. I am also thankful for every DC resident who is raising their voice and mobilizing in defense of the District and our right to self govern. Together, we will fight back against this and every future attack by those who seek to make decisions on our behalf.

Yours in Community,