Newsletter: It's Recess!
Posted by Elissa Silverman on July 17, 2019 at 5:09 PM
Today starts summer recess at the D.C. Council!
Of course, the people’s business never stops, but for the next nine weeks the Council will not meet as a legislature. We’ll still be working on constituent concerns, as well as doing research on policy proposals and continuing oversight of executive agencies. Summer recess is also a time to give my great staff a chance to take vacations and spend some time with family and friends out of the office. I’ll be taking some time, as well.
Before I share my thoughts on last week’s legislative session, I want to invite you to join me at the Nationals game next Monday, July 22. It’s not summer without a trip to the ballpark! And this time, it’s free. I have 200 free tickets available to District residents that are first-come, first-served. Reserve yours using the link here.
It’s a great time to root for the Nats! Max Scherzer was just named Major League Baseball’s June Pitcher of the Month. He is amazing! And the Nats have been the best team in baseball since mid-May. Come cheer on the Nats, and we’ll talk baseball and maybe a little D.C. politics, too.
See you at the game!
LEGISLATIVE MEETING RECAP
You probably read the The Washington Post’s coverage of last Tuesday’s legislative session, in which I joined a majority of my colleagues in voting to remove my Ward 2 colleague, Jack Evans, from his position as chair of the Finance and Revenue Committee. We also voted to hire an outside law firm to conduct our own investigation into alleged ethics violations by Councilmember Evans. I supported an effort to go even further, given the findings of the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority (WMATA) ethics investigation. I was one of six members who voted to remove Councilmember Evans from the other committees he serves on: Government Operations, Business and Economic Development, Transportation and the Environment, and Judiciary and Public Safety. We need to restore your trust in our government, and I believe even the appearance of conflicts of interest is reason to take action. For example, Judiciary oversees BEGA, the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability, that has an investigation into Councilmember Evans.
In the end, the vote was 6 to 6 and the measure failed. I know many of you are in disbelief that Councilmember Evans was permitted to vote on his own reprimand, which turned out to be the deciding vote.
The dispersion of agencies and responsibilities under Finance and Revenue was also disappointing, to say the least. Chairman Mendelson did not discuss his plan prior to Tuesday’s meeting with all members of the Council, or even all members of the Finance and Revenue Committee. There’s a reason for that: Chairman Mendelson has not denied that he discussed giving parts of the Finance and Revenue Committee in the same conversations he discussed votes on the controversial sports gambling/lottery contract. All four members who received new agencies under committees they chair also ended up voting yes on sports betting. More on that below.
I have to point out what is particularly galling about this decision: Councilmember Evans will remain on the Business and Economic Development Committee, which was given most of the agencies under Finance and Revenue such as the Office of the Chief Financial Officer, so Councilmember Evans will still have a vote on issues like a parking tax. Yet I will not, because I am not a member of the Business committee. In fact, I have lost a full committee vote due to the dismantling of Finance and Revenue. You can read my full statement about the Finance and Revenue Committee’s reorganization here.
Removing Corbett Price from WMATA: Last Tuesday, I also introduced a resolution to remove the District’s other WMATA representative, Corbett Price, from the Board of Directors. You might have read about Mr. Price’s false public statements about the ethics investigation into Councilmember Evans—actions that have shown he is not the right person for this role. There are a number of other recorded concerns that have been raised about Mr. Price’s commitment to representing the District truthfully, and I moved the amendment because, especially at this time, the District needs a voting member on the WMATA Board who is well-regarded, credible, and always acts in the city’s best interests. I was disappointed that my amendment failed, but you can read the letter I sent to my colleagues urging Mr. Price’s removal from the WMATA Board here.
Voting No on Sports Betting: I voted against the legislation at the end of last year to sole-source sports gambling to our incumbent lottery vendor, Intralot, and give them a new lottery contract as well. I remain firmly against this and voted no on their contract last Tuesday. In the end, the Chairman nailed down precisely seven votes to approve the contract, and as I mentioned earlier, he has not denied that he discussed how members would be voting on that controversial contract along with allocation of agencies from the Finance and Revenue Committee.
That’s not the only dubious aspect of this deal. Along with several other colleagues, I asked Councilmember Evans to recuse himself from the vote given that one of Intralot’s lobbyists, Bill Jarvis, assisted Evans with his consulting business. He did not recuse himself. Then there’s the fact that the District's Chief Financial Officer has already reduced the projected revenue that sports betting will bring to the city, even though the argument was that we needed to sole-source to rush to be first to market to profit from the revenues. And then there’s Intralot’s shaky finances: Intralot, the operator of the now-approved sole-sourced contract, has also been downgraded by all three ratings agencies.
I could go on and on, but in summation: This deal stinks and serves the needs of political insiders, not D.C. taxpayers.
Comprehensive Plan: In the lead up to last Tuesday, I received over 100 emails and many calls raising concerns about moving forward on a draft framework to the Comprehensive Plan that was shared over the July 4 holiday weekend. Since the bill’s hearing last March, I have heard requests from many residents and advocates for stronger language that prioritizes increasing the city’s affordable housing stock, preventing displacement of longtime residents and applying a racial equity lens to development, along with being more environmentally responsible.
The District still has a 30,000-unit shortage at the lowest income levels, and I was glad to see the updated framework rightly put our affordable housing crisis front and center. Yet there’s still room to do much more to build a framework that works for our city, not just developers. For example, prioritizing how the District recoups at least part of the value increase that’s created when we provide development incentives for developers is an area that I’m particularly interested in focusing on over recess. I’ll be working on this issue and others as we move to a second vote on the Comprehensive Plan this fall. Please email me your ideas and thoughts over the summer!
PAID FAMILY LEAVE UPDATE
Exciting news for all of the District workers, businesses, and residents who have been asking me about what’s happening with the city’s new paid family leave program! On July 1, the Department of Employment Services (DOES) started collecting employer contributions for the paid family leave program fund so that benefits can begin being distributed on July 1, 2020 to eligible residents and employees. I held my seventh roundtable on implementation of our paid family leave law last Thursday and have been working closely with DOES Director Unique Morris-Hughes to make sure the tax collection system for businesses was ready on time. I thank Director Morris-Hughes for her leadership and diligence to ensure a smooth program system rollout. You can find more information about what to expect as preparation continues over the next year and sign up for updates on the Office of Paid Family Leave’s website at dcpaidfamilyleave.dc.gov.
Celebrating Fourth of July: Thanks to all who joined me and my staff in Ward 6 at the Barracks Row Parade and in Ward 3 at the Palisades Parade for this year’s Fourth of July celebrations! Teddy Roosevelt made a special guest appearance again at Barracks Row, and I was joined by a fantastic Go-Go DJ to carry my team through the Palisades Parade. Special thanks to DJ Supa Dan for bringing the #DontMuteDC campaign with us to the Palisades Parade and helping us dance our way down MacArthur Boulevard to the truly local tradition of go-go. If you missed the fun, you can see a few pictures here.
Mentors Needed: Roosevelt S.T.A.Y’s Pathways Program is seeking mentors for its Mentoring Academy, a mentoring and internship program that is designed to help prepare students for the professional workplace. Each student is paired with a mentor who works in the student’s career field of interest. Students and mentors meet twice per month from November to May on either a Tuesday or Thursday for an hour and a half. Interested individuals should complete this online mentor application by August 10.
Civil Rights Listening Sessions: The Office of the Attorney General is starting a new Civil Rights Section to ensure robust enforcement of the District’s Human Rights Act. They are scheduling listening sessions throughout the city to assist with learning about potential cases and issues that are affecting District residents. All sessions are free and open to the public:
- Friday, July 18, from 6:00-8:00pm at the Reeves Center (2000 14th St. NW)
- Tuesday, July 23, from 6:00-8:00pm at the Anacostia Neighborhood Library (1800 Good Hope Rd. SE)
- Thursday, July 25, from 6:00-8:00pm at the Georgetown University Law Center (120 F St. NW, 12th Floor)
- Silverman Day with the Nationals: Monday, July 22, at 7:00pm at Nationals Park (1500 S. Capitol St. SE)
- Silverman Day at the Building Museum: Tuesday, August 6, from 9:00-11:00am at the National Building Museum (401 F St NW)
Thanks so much for reading, and stay cool is this summer heat!