Today is Juneteenth, the commemoration of the day (June 19, 1865) Black slaves in Texas learned of their freedom. For many, it is a day to celebrate freedom, the African-American community, and Black culture. This year, given the galvanizing work of Black Lives Matter, global protests over the murder of George Floyd, and the spotlight on unjust policing of Black Americans, there is a heightened awareness of Juneteenth. There are many celebrations/protests happening around the city today. Here’s a good list from Washingtonian magazine... [Click to continue reading]
It’s Saturday, and I usually don’t bug you on the weekend, but there are three urgent items that I feel are so important that I wanted to communicate with you today: the protests condemning police brutality around the country, and, specifically in our city; the militarization of DC streets by Trump and DC government’s efforts to resist; and, finally, the absentee ballot debacle and investigation into what happened on Election Day...
On June 3, 2020, At-large Councilmember Elissa Silverman sent the following letter to the DC Board of Elections (BOE) calling for the Board to contract with an outside firm to do a full audit of the primary to determine why absentee ballots were not processed and identify other widespread failures that might have occurred. The letter is posted in full below and can also be found in PDF form here.
On June 2, 2020, At-large Councilmember Elissa Silverman sent the following letter to the DC Board of Elections (BOE) regarding hundreds of voters missing their requested absentee ballots. The letter demands answers as to why so many voters who requested absentee ballots never received them. The letter is posted in full below and can also be found in PDF form here.
Last night was chilling. It was downright frightening to hear and see the almost totalitarian words and actions of Trump, and then experience its impact, by sitting in our homes listening to the whirring of combat helicopters and watching combat vehicles encircling our city.
As a local elected official, I always think about what actions I can take and what impact I can have. We are the nation’s capital, and we need to be the model of safeguarding the First Amendment right to free speech and peaceful protest. Our Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) has put in place many trainings, reforms, and lessons learned from Pershing Park and other protests, so I was also disturbed by reports in the press, in social media, and of on-the-ground phone calls I made to hear about actions taken by MPD in response to protesters who remained out after the curfew.
Particularly, I am concerned about the tactics used at 15th and Swann Street NW and alleged reports of officers blocking alleyways to prevent exit.
The murder of George Floyd is angering, particularly for Black and Latino residents who worry daily they could be put in a similar circumstance because of the color of their skin. The very real issue of police brutality and excessive use of force targeting people of color in our country is cancerous, and protests like the ones we are seeing in our city and others is part of the solution in moving toward justice and healing.
I am also very disturbed by the violent activity, including fires set, vandalism and looting that has taken place over the last few days. It is heartbreaking to see our city boarded up and many windows smashed and small businesses damaged. I understand that MPD wanted the curfew to be able to protect residents and isolate the violent actors.
Tonight, I and members of my staff will be joining the Office of Police Complaints observation team to document and do oversight over MPD’s response to the protests and curfew. It’s not usually how I would spend an Election Night, but I think this is incredibly important to our city and our democracy.
That’s my awkward segue to Election Day: This is It! Today is the day. If you have an absentee ballot, you need to have it postmarked by today or drop it off at one of DC’s 20 Voting Centers. Voting Centers are open till 8pm tonight.
Many of you requested a ballot, but it never came in the mail. If that is the case, please email [email protected] and cc: me at [email protected]. If DC Board of Elections received your request but you never got your ballot, the Board is giving voters in this case the option of having a ballot emailed to them. More information below.
Finally, I know many of you disagree with the two-day curfew Mayor Bowser ordered, which is again in place from 7pm tonight until 6am tomorrow. I expressed my concerns to the administration that this is confusing for voters, given the polls remain open until 8pm, but the Mayor is not moving the time. If you need to vote between 7pm and 8pm, that is considered an essential activity. Please talk to my office if you have concerns.
More information below on the curfew and voting.
Stay safe, DC.
Yesterday, Mayor Bowser announced that she issued a mayoral order to begin Phase 1 of #ReOpenDC tomorrow, May 29.
What does this mean? Some nonessential businesses such as barbers and hair salons can serve customers by appointment only, and restaurants will be allowed to serve diners in a limited capacity in outdoor seating only. As well, residents will be able to use our public parks and some other public amenities. Gatherings of under 10 people are now permissible, so if you feel comfortable you can host non-household family and friends for a dinner party or gathering in your home. You can get more specifics by reading the reopening order.
While we need to start moving into recovery and resumption of economic activity, I remain concerned about the public health threat to our city. We have experienced 453 deaths of DC residents from coronavirus, and COVID-19 remains in our community. These are difficult decisions, and we need to make sure they are rooted in the best known practices of public health and accurate data. Like some of you, I have struggled to understand both the selection and calculation of the administration’s metrics governing how and when to reopen.
I want to make a few reminders. Even though we will enter Phase 2 of reopening, social distancing is still extremely important. Although masks are only required in certain public settings such as supermarkets and public transportation, I strongly urge you to wear a mask when you are outside your home. And please continue to practice good hygiene by washing your hands and staying home if you feel sick. If you think you might have contracted COVID-19, please get tested and information on how to do that is below.
We continue to be in a public health emergency, but life does go on! Here are a few big-ticket ways you can participate and make our city a better place:
- Vote! The deadline to request your absentee ballot has passed, but you can still vote safely by voting early at any of the District’s 20 Voting Centers! And if you did request and receive an absentee ballot, remember to mail it in by June 2! Please let me know if you requested a ballot and never received one.
- Participate in Discussions on Next Year’s Budget! Budget hearings are continuing, including for my Committee on Labor & Workforce Development! Scroll down to our budget section for more details, or click here for a full schedule of hearings.
- Get involved with #ReOpenDC! The #ReOpenDC Committee released their first set of recommendations last week, but this process is still ongoing! Please reach out to my office, to other Council member offices, and to the mayor to share any thoughts or recommendations you have about how we can reopen safely and equitably.
Yesterday I asked the Bowser administration how we will determine whether to move to Phase 1. I was told those metrics are yet to be decided. Bottom line is that we need to safeguard the public’s health and protect our workers and residents. If you have questions, thoughts, or recommendations regarding our reopening, please feel free to contact my office any time.
Stay safe and stay well, DC.
I want to highlight at the very top three very important events that have a major impact on the future of our city: Election Day, Budget Season, and the release of Mayor Bowser’s Re-Open Recommendations!
First, Election Day! Are you a registered voter affiliated with a political party in DC, such as a registered Democrat? Then you should vote in the June 2 primary! Let me anticipate your next question: Aren’t we still under the Mayor’s stay at home order? That’s why DC has shifted largely to a vote-by-absentee-ballot election! The DC Board of Elections is encouraging DC voters to vote by mail, though 20 vote centers will be open on Election Day, June 2. This is a large decline from the 144 voting precincts usually open on Election Day.
How do you vote by mail? You need to request your absentee ballot by Tuesday, May 26. That is only five days away. Here’s how you can request your absentee ballot:
- Download the Vote4DC App
- Call (202) 741-5283 to have your mail-in ballot request mailed to you
- Download the mail-in ballot form and email the completed form to [email protected]
- Download the mail-in ballot form and fax the completed form to (202) 347-2648
- Download the mail-in ballot form, print, and send the completed form to: DC Board of Elections 1015 Half Street, SE, Suite 750, Washington, DC 20003
The list of voting centers open on Election Day is here.
Second: It’s not just election season, it is also budget season! On Monday, Mayor Bowser delivered her proposed fiscal year (FY) 2021 budget and Tuesday she answered questions about it before the DC Council. Certainly this is a different budget than we thought we’d be looking at only a few months ago. Due to declines in sales and income tax receipts, the Mayor needed to cut $476 million from the current year’s budget (FY 2020) and $578 million from next year’s budget (FY 2021). I share more thoughts on the budget below.
Finally, this morning the Mayor previewed her ReOpen DC committee recommendations. You can read these recommendations here. I’m just absorbing them myself, so we’ll spend more time on this in next week’s newsletter, but I wanted to make sure you had access to them.
I know this is an anxious and stressful time for everyone. I hope you are all finding safe ways to enjoy the spring weather and taking the time to unwind when you can. Stay well and continue to stay home if you can, DC. We will get through this, and if we do it in a smart and strategic way, I think we will be a stronger and more equitable city coming out of it.
Please feel free to call or email my office any time with questions or concerns.
This is hard.
It’s hard to keep this Groundhog Day pace, and it’s so hard to keep up with all the news around COVID-19. And it just got harder, as Mayor Bowser, Governor Hogan of Maryland, and Governor Northam of Virginia all made different pronouncements this week about starting to relax restrictions and move toward reopening.
I want to highlight what Mayor Bowser announced yesterday: The District’s stay-at-home order will extend another three weeks, until June 8. So we are asking you to continue to stay home if you can, and travel only for essential activities such as going to the grocery store or pharmacy. It is vital toward our efforts to slow down transmission of the virus. The Mayor also announced a more comprehensive mask-wearing policy: Everyone nine years of age and older in the District needs to wear a mask in public if they cannot consistently maintain six feet of social distance. You can read the Mayor’s order here.
So what did the mayor say about her budget? The big news here is that the budget proposal has been postponed until Monday, May 18. This means that many of the DC Council’s budget hearings have been rescheduled. Details on my Committee on Labor & Workforce Development’s hearings and how to testify, as well as other key dates and committee information, are included in the budget section of the newsletter, so keep reading!
A final thought: Next week will be a big news week. At the beginning of the week, the Mayor’s budget is expected to be released, which will include both next year’s budget and revisions to this year’s budget. Then toward the end of the week, the Mayor’s COVID-19 ReOpen DC Committee will release its recommendations. I have many questions about this, as will many of you, I am sure. Stay tuned.
Feel free to email or call with questions.
Stay well, stay safe, and for the next three weeks, continue to stay home!
Usually at this time of year, my colleagues and I are in the thick of budget season, figuring out how to leverage your taxpayer dollars to meet our goals of creating a prosperous, equitable city.
This year is different.
And because of the pandemic, the budget process will be different too. A week from today, on May 12, Mayor Bowser will transmit her budget for fiscal year 2021. In order to keep everyone safe and healthy, the Council’s committees will only be taking testimony virtually, and there will be limited time for live comments (though all written and voicemail testimony will be included). Read more about this year’s budget process below.
We are also looking ahead to when we can reopen businesses as we continue to safeguard the public’s health. You might have read Mayor Bowser launched a plan last week – ReOpen DC – as well as named committee members from our city to help lead that process. What we know right now is that our current public health protocols will be extended at least through May, and that the District will only begin reopening after the established public health criteria have been met.
I am continuing to connect with residents and share Unemployment Insurance (UI) updates and other information on COVID-19 resources through virtual town halls. My next events will be:
- Wednesday, May 6 at 7pm, The Ask Rayceen Show, discussing how to stay safe and strong through the public health crisis. Tune in on Facebook here.
- Thursday, May 7 at 6pm, Freelancers Happy Hour! Focusing on support for freelancers and gig workers through the unemployment extension program: Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). Grab a drink and tune in on our Facebook page.
Interested in hosting a virtual town hall with our office? Email my Deputy Chief of Staff Ashley Fox at: [email protected]. I will also be getting more regular info out to you by moving my newsletter from bi-monthly to weekly, so look out for more updates next week!
Stay well and stay strong DC. I know many of you are hurting and struggling right now. We will get through this, and if we do it strategically, we will be a stronger and more equitable city because of it.
Groundhog Day, that 1993 Bill Murray classic, used to be one of my favorite movies. Now I feel I am living it, and the consequences are much higher than determining if Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow and Murray’s beleaguered weatherman ends up with Andie McDowell.
These days and weeks have been hard. They are hard for parents, many of whom are homeschooling their children while also working. They are hard for our seniors and immune-compromised, who are most vulnerable to the virus and often isolated from family and friends. They are hard for the 70,000+ workers in our city, who have lost employment and filed for unemployment.
As Chair of the Council’s Labor and Workforce Committee, I have been focused on how to help our District's workers. My staff and I are (tele)working hard to help those who are having difficulty getting unemployment insurance (UI) and also working on policies that will make wage replacement more accessible, keep all households in the District stable, and position us for economic recovery. I know some of you are frustrated with the unemployment office. It is frustrating. As I mentioned, more than 70,000 workers have filed for UI in the last five weeks, which is twice the number that usually apply ALL YEAR. The Department of Employment Services has gone from 9 call takers to nearly 200, including volunteers from other District agencies. I’m now one of those volunteers, though I admit Council business has limited my call time.
I’m continuing to work with my team to keep our COVID-19 resources updated with the latest info, which you can always find at elissasilverman.com/coronavirus. We have received some encouraging news on UI recently – applications for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) for independent contractors, 1099 recipients, and gig workers will now open April 24 (tomorrow!) instead of April 28. Email [email protected] to ensure you are on the alerts list.
I hope each of you is staying safe and finding ways to support one another.
Stay well, and of course, please stay home if you can.