Newsletter: What a Week. See You in 2020!
Posted by Elissa Silverman on December 13, 2019 at 5:39 PM
Expulsion is an ethics insurance policy; a legislative body has it in place and hopes to never use it. Unfortunately, this week, the D.C. Council needed to exercise that authority. The Council’s Ad Hoc Committee investigating Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans unanimously voted to recommend expulsion to the Committee of the Whole, which means that 12 out of 13 councilmembers (all but Evans himself) are in agreement that Councilmember Evans is no longer fit to serve.
What became apparent to me by reading all the exhibits in our investigation was that this wasn’t just about Councilmember Evans: All of his colleagues became unwitting participants in his ethics violations by voting for legislation, sometimes moving amendments to legislation for him, and helping with what we thought were constituent issues without knowing that Councilmember Evans was getting paid by clients who benefitted from these actions. He gave his clients information about his colleagues and how we were thinking about legislation, as well as used his staff and prestige of office to enrich himself and help his clients. It is a tremendous abuse of power. What Councilmember Evans did infected this entire Council body, and it has corroded the public’s trust in our government.
The first step in restoring that trust is removing Councilmember Evans from public office. Previous council classes did not have the power to expel when they were dealing with ethics scandals. I was not on the Council at those times, but I imagine this tool was put in place so we could act in an instance like this. While it saddens me that expulsion is necessary, I am hopeful that the new year will bring a renewed commitment to ethics oversight and to rebuilding your trust in our government.
Labor Committee Hearings: 2019 may be coming to an end, but this is year one of our two-year Council session. My Labor and Workforce Development Committee held two hearings last week to finish 2019 strong and help advance bills to a vote next year.
Last Friday, I held a hearing on legislation to ban the use of non-compete agreements for entry-level workers in the District. This is something that many states are doing, and I am eager for our city to join in. As workers build a portfolio of skills and experience, they should be able to pursue better job opportunities and move up the ranks in their field without interference. But in recent years, more and more employers are interfering with workers’ abilities to benefit from our growing economic prosperity by requiring employees to sign non-compete agreements if they want a job—or if they want to keep their job. We had several experts on the issue testify, as well as District workers who have been restricted in their ability to work for the best salary and benefits because of these agreements. I am excited to move this legislation forward. You can follow the progress of my Ban on Non-Compete Agreements Amendment Act here.
Also last week, I heard from workers and union representatives at a hearing on my legislation that would allow District government employees, particularly those in a union, to negotiate fair salaries that are competitive with peer cities. Current law limits negotiations to salaries in the greater Washington region, such as Fauquier County, VA, but not to cities such as New York City, Boston, or Baltimore. Our government employees do invaluable service for our city and community, and my bill fixes these limitations that make it hard for the District to attract and retain the best people. Private-sector District employees certainly can negotiate based on salaries in other cities, and District government employees should be able to as well. You can follow the progress of my Collective Bargaining Fair Compare Amendment Act here.
Ensuring D.C. Residents Get Jobs First: Last Tuesday, I introduced a bill to help employers meet their First Source hiring requirements by promoting existing District-resident employees into higher-skilled positions. I have routinely heard from employers like behavioral health providers that they have a hard time meeting First Source requirements for positions that are above entry-level.
Under our current law, there’s not an incentive to move D.C. residents from entry-level positions into higher-skill First Source positions because they are not “new” hires. My First Source Resident Employment Amendment Act of 2019 fixes this and promotes clearer career pathways, which ultimately open the door to higher wages. The bill also gives community-based organizations (CBOs) the ability to help identify, vet, and refer candidates for First Source projects. CBOs serve District residents on a daily basis and are well-positioned to connect these residents to First Source jobs. I look forward to holding a Labor Committee hearing on this bill early next year.
Supporting WMATA Strike Workers: Last week, I sent a letter to WMATA’s general manager, Paul Weidefeld, urging him to take a larger role in helping to resolve the ongoing strike at WMATA’s Cinder Bed Road Bus Garage. This strike has already lasted more than six weeks, as contracted workers try to get better pay and better working conditions. A similar strike with the Fairfax Connector bus service was resolved in a matter of days once the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors threatened to weigh in. I hope WMATA will do more to ensure good faith negotiations with the contractor, Transdev, now that they are back to the bargaining table. You can read my letter to WMATA's leadership here.
Keeping Public Housing Affordable: Affordable housing is the number one issue for most District residents, but this week the D.C. Housing Authority (DCHA) Board of Commissioners agreed to sign a contract that misses a golden opportunity to build new housing for our residents living at the lowest income levels. I spent most of yesterday at the DCHA Board Meeting where a resolution to redevelop DCHA's headquarters was being discussed and testified during the public comment portion. My ask was that the Board table the approval resolution and take one more month to make sure the public fully understands the plan, as well as get much needed answers to concerns about the deal. In a close 6 to 5 vote, the Commissioners decided to move ahead with their plan. I remain concerned about the implications and will continue to follow this closely. You can read my full statement here.
Celebrating the Holidays with Neighbors: The Wilson Building is officially in the holiday spirit! Our tree in the building was lit this week, and I’ve had a fun time with neighbors across the city kicking off the season’s festivities. Special thanks to the Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners who stopped by the Council’s ANC Holiday Reception and to the Capitol Hill BID for including me in their 13th Annual Tree Lighting. I’ll be hosting a New Year’s Open House in late January, so watch for more details about that soon!
Making D.C. the 51st State: It has been a historic year for the D.C. statehood fight. Thank you to D.C. Vote and the many residents, advocates, and elected officials who have added their voices in support of making D.C. the 51st state. I was glad to stop by D.C. Vote’s Champions of Democracy Awards Gala last month to commemorate all of this year’s hard work. Every advocacy effort brings us one step closer!
Honoring Kojo Nnamdi: It was a true highlight of my year to present a ceremonial resolution this month to a D.C. resident with one of the most recognizable voices in the Washington region: Kojo Nnamdi! The resolution celebrated not only his 20-year mark as host of The Kojo Nnamdi Show but also Kojo’s commitment to educating residents about their city, this region, and their neighbors. He is inquisitive, compassionate, and knowledgeable with a commitment to elevating community voices. I look forward to many more years of the show’s authoritative voice on everything from local arts and literature to thorny issues around race and politics.
2020 Visitor Parking Passes: The Visitor Parking Pass Program allows D.C. residents' guests to park for more than two hours on Residential Permit Parking (RPP) zoned blocks. Residents can now register for a visitor parking pass online (https://vpp.ddot.dc.gov/vpp/) or by contacting the DDOT Call Center at (202) 671-2700. Note that the pass is free for eligible residents and only valid in the same RPP zone and ANC boundary as your residence.
- D.C. Public Schools Fair: Saturday, December 14, from 11:00am-3:00pm at the D.C. Armory (2001 East Capitol St. SE)
- Ward 8 Holiday Brunch & Awards Reception: Saturday, December 14, from 1:00-2:30pm at Martha’s Table (2375 Elvans Rd SE)
- Capitol Hill Menorah Lighting: Sunday, December 22, from 5:00-6:00pm at Reformation (212 East Capitol St. NE)
Best wishes for a peaceful holiday season with friends and loved ones. See you in 2020!
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