It’s hard to believe Thanksgiving is here! It is a time to reflect on what we are thankful for in our lives, and I am certainly grateful for wonderful colleagues both in my office and in the Wilson Building working to make our city a place of opportunity for everyone. I also want to thank all of you for your support--and for taking time to read this newsletter every other week!
Our office has been involved in several holiday-related activities. Not everyone has the resources for a bountiful holiday dinner, so we were happy to donate food to both the WHUR food drive and to Community Connections so our most vulnerable neighbors can have a happy holiday. Yesterday our office headed over to Food & Friends, to help pack meals for those in our community who might not be able to prepare their own due to long term illnesses. On Thanksgiving Day, I’ll be participating in the So Others Might Eat (SOME) Trot for Hunger 2015. If you’re looking for a great event to participate in with your friends or family this week, consider joining me that morning to support the housing and employment programs that put our neighbors back on a path to stability and the pursuit of happiness.
I wish you a happy Thanksgiving whether you are spending it with family, visiting with friends, or taking a little time for yourself.
Talking to District residents and businesses, I often hear that it is difficult to understand what fees and regulations apply to them. Today I introduced the Fee Transparency Act of 2015, legislation to make those fees more transparent.
This legislation would require the City Administrator to publish a list of every fee charged by the District government. It has been done before, and this legislation would make it a yearly practice. In 2012 and 2013, the Gray administration published a master fee schedule that listed more than 2,500 fees across almost 40 different agencies.
It’s been a busy couple of weeks!
First, a report back from the Local Progress Fourth Annual National Convening, where I met more than 100 progressive local elected officials from across the country. It was a great learning experience. I had the opportunity to discuss fair elections, police reform, and inclusive and equitable economic development, among other topics. A very impressive contingent from Brooklyn, NY helped me understand New York City’s public financing of elections, and two great legislators from the other Washington, Mike O’Brien and Nick Licata, explained a very innovative proposal that was approved by Seattle voters last Tuesday. The proposal would give publicly-funded “Democracy vouchers” to expand who donates to and participates in city elections. I was also excited to answer questions and share information about the District’s legislative proposal for Paid Family and Medical Leave. Almost everyone said they heard about it on NPR or read about it in newspapers and were very interested!
Today, At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman introduced four amendments to the Local Jobs and Tax Incentive Act of 2015, the legislation to give a $60 million property tax abatement to the property expected to be leased by the Advisory Board Company (ABC). The amendments sought to ensure that economic development incentives for private companies continue to benefit District taxpayers and support job growth and security for District residents.
“While I’m not convinced we need this abatement to keep the Advisory Board in the District, I believe there are ways we can make this a better deal for the District and our residents,” said Silverman about the proposed legislation. “When we’re making an investment in a company like this, we need to think critically about our return on investment for the District and our residents.”
Today and tomorrow, I am meeting with progressive local officials from across the country at the 4th annual Local Progress conference (www.localprogress.org). I am looking forward to meeting counterparts in places such as Kansas City, New York City, Minneapolis, Los Angeles, and Baltimore—sharing ideas on how to close our income and opportunity gaps and creating economically vibrant, competitive, and inclusive communities. I hope to learn a lot from what has—and hasn't—worked elsewhere. But there is a lot going on in our city and at the Wilson Building. I want to give you a few quick updates, and I'll be writing more in the next newsletter.
THE MEAD CENTER FOR AMERICAN THEATER
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 30, 2015, 9:00 A.M.–4:00 P.M.
At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman, in partnership with Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen and Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater, will join with over 10 non-profit organizations to provide a job training workshop and hiring event on Friday, October 30 from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Mead Center (1101 Sixth St., SW/Waterfront Metro).
The two-part event will focus on providing job training, hiring services, and professional development resources to participants with a job search and interview training workshops in the morning, 9:00 a.m.- noon, followed by an afternoon job fair with hiring organizations, 1:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m.
Participants must pre-register with one of the partner agencies to receive personalized resources and career guidance. Event information and details on how to register can be found by visiting arenastage.org/careerfair. Opening remarks will begin at 10:00 a.m.
In case you just returned from a remote part of the world where they have paid family leave—that is, almost everywhere except the United States—you might have missed the introduction last week of our universal family leave bill for D.C.
I’m so excited to have introduced the legislation on Oct. 6 with David Grosso, the bill’s co-writer and my fellow independent at-large councilmember. Many thanks to the hard work of advocates, including the D.C. Paid Family Leave Coalition and Jews United for Justice, as well as Legislative Director Ari Weisbard and Chief of Staff Kitty Richards for making this first step in securing paid family leave for the District a reality. Thanks also to Councilmember Grosso and his staff for their partnership in developing the bill and our five colleagues who signed on as co-introducers (Nadeau, McDuffie, Allen, May, and Cheh). The bill has been referred to the Committee of the Whole under Chairman Mendelson. You can read the full press release here and follow the bill’s status here.
I’ve been overwhelmed by emails saying how groundbreaking and impactful this bill is going to be. I’ve heard from expectant parents and people who have suffered through severe illnesses or cared for family members. They’re cheering us on and asking how soon this benefit might begin. I’ve heard from small businesses saying how this bill would make it easier to offer an attractive benefit to their employees. I’ve also heard from the D.C. Chamber of Commerce expressing concerns. This newsletter is focused on understanding how the program would work, how you would benefit, and how you can support pushing the legislation forward.
When families go through big life challenges, like having a new child or fighting a serious illness, they all too often struggle to make ends meet. Nearly everyone needs to take time away from their job at some point to care for a relative, deal with a serious personal illness, or welcome a new child but most often their leave is unpaid. Fewer than 40% of workers earn any income when facing a serious personal health issue. Only 13% of workers nationally have access to any paid family leave. Most staggering though is lack of access to family leave for our lowest-paid and most marginalized workers – in low income jobs, a mere 5% of parents are able to continue earning an income when caring for a newborn or a seriously ill relative.
The Universal Paid Leave Act will ensure that everyone living or working in the District will be able to take paid leave when they need to care for themselves or their family. Learn more about our efforts to secure #PaidLeave4DC!
Read answers to frequently asked questions and make sure to share this overview on Paid Family Leave with your friends. You can also read the press release on Councilmember Silverman's introduction of the Universal Paid Family Leave Act and her newsletter on how the program would work in the District.
Today, At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman introduced legislation focused on boosting solar energy production across the District. The bill was co-introduced with support from eight Councilmembers and the Office of People’s Counsel.
“Solar energy is becoming a critical part of the District’s energy supply,” said Silverman. “As more solar panels are installed in the District, residents are gaining protection against rate spikes when oil and gas prices fluctuate and reducing the amount of carbon produced in the District.”
Today, At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman introduced legislation focused on increasing unemployment benefits in the District and expanding unemployment support to part-time workers. The bill was co-introduced or co-sponsored by ten Councilmembers.
Unemployment insurance (UI) is one of the most important safety net programs for workers and benefits 30,000 District workers each year. Similar to social security, UI is considered an “earned benefit,” a benefit only available to individuals with a history of working.