Like many of you, I’ve been thinking a lot about how we can make the District a safe city in every neighborhood, in every ward. I want to thank you for writing to me with your concerns and ideas on how to improve public safety. I’ve seen some of you at community meetings focused on this issue; thank you for your time and input. It is so important for me and my colleagues to hear from you. The recent uptick in crime, particularly homicides and armed robberies in specific areas of the city, has been upsetting and unnerving. I want to let you know that there is a sense of urgency at the Wilson Building on this matter, and I am committed to making sure we use evidence-based policies to approach this important issue in a way that truly protects all residents.
I am very pleased with the Public Service Commission’s decision today. The Pepco-Exelon merger was clearly not in the public interest, and the Commission’s decision recognizes this fact. Had this merger gone into effect, it would have almost certainly resulted in higher rates in the future, less public accountability, and slower progress towards clean and renewable energy. That is why more than half of the District’s elected advisory neighborhood commissions took action to reject the merger, and thousands of District residents testified before the Commission or wrote in opposing the merger. Today, the Commission listened to those voices in rejecting the merger.
Last week we made more progress on our efforts to expand the District's supply of affordable housing. At Tuesday's legislative meeting, a resolution I championed that will strengthen our efforts to build permanent affordable housing in all wards of the city was unanimously approved by my colleagues. The resolution sends a strong message that we need to amp up a housing program known as Inclusionary Zoning (IZ) so that middle-income residents--teachers, administrative assistants, nurses, and chefs, for example--can live in neighborhoods with access to good transit, schools, and retail that they otherwise couldn't afford.
Last Wednesday was an eventful day in the District!
As many of you know, the D.C. Council gave preliminary approval to a budget for next year that puts meaningful and significant investments into our priorities: making the District a city that is affordable to all ages and income levels; ending chronic and family homeless by moving those without shelter quickly into stable, permanent housing with appropriate supportive services; improving our public education system by having additional funds go directly into the schools of our most at-risk students; moving thoughtfully forward with body-worn cameras for officers to create better communication and transparency in public safety; and creating opportunities by piloting innovative approaches to adult job training, entrepreneurship, and community development.
Today, my colleagues approved an amendment I put forward to the Summer Youth Employment Program. This is one of our largest employment programs, and it employs thousands of teenagers every summer. My amendment requires the Department of Employment Services (DOES) to produce, and publish, basic information on program participants, most importantly on their employment following the end of the program. Additionally, it encourages DOES to work with the Council to create a more rigorous evaluation of the summer youth program for next year.
On several occasions--including yesterday when I absentmindedly barreled into her leadership team coming off the elevator--Mayor Muriel Bowser has said that we are the "new kids on the block." Yet the Mayor certainly proved herself to be a poised and forceful advocate for the District when faced with Congressional meddling into the implementation of Initiative 71 last week. I applaud and stand with the mayor on this; I believe the will of District voters should be upheld. If you have questions about the implementation of Initiative 71, here is information.
It's hard for me to believe that it has already been two weeks since many of you witnessed the swearing-in of me, my fellow council members, and Mayor Bowser! I want to give you an update on what I've been up to in that time, and what I'll be focused on in the next week and upcoming weeks ahead.
First, I want to say how thrilling it is to work with my colleagues in the Silverman council office! On Monday, Jan. 5, our first official day in the Wilson Building, I sent out an email announcing our stellar lineup. In case you missed it, you can find our staff profiles here. My ambition was to have a diverse staff of D.C. residents--some Wilson Building veterans, some who bring fresh eyes to our local government--who all have a passion for integrity, accountability, and creating opportunity for all our residents. It is gratifying to see that team in place. I look forward to you getting to know them soon.
We did it! You did it! It was just around this time last night that we started to celebrate.
What happened last night didn't happen out of the blue; it’s the result of a local movement that’s been building for a long time. Many of you have been a part of these efforts, which have included the initiative to ban corporate contributions, advocacy for an increased minimum wage and expanded paid sick days, and progressive-focused candidates and campaigns.