Happy 2016! I hope you and your family had a fun and restful holiday season and a good start to the new year. I’m excited for what’s next. My first year in office certainly was exciting (and at times a bit terrifying) because every experience was new. What truly jazzes me about the year ahead is that I’ll be building upon the institutional knowledge accumulated in Year One about District policy and programs, about the budget, and about how the Council and executive branch work to move us closer to a city of opportunity for all. Our staff of eight came with eclectic backgrounds and experiences, and I’m thrilled every day to work with such a talented group.
On Tuesday, At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman introduced the Living Wages for Publicly Supported Jobs Amendment Act of 2016, legislation that requires recipients of government tax benefits to pay living wages on their contracted projects. Co-introduced by Councilmembers Allen, Cheh, May, McDuffie, and Nadeau, the bill seeks to expand the benefits of the living wage law to many District workers currently excluded by a tax benefit loophole.
“D.C. tax dollars should not support poverty wage jobs—jobs that do not allow D.C. residents to live and support families in our city,” said Silverman on the need for more comprehensive legislation.
What an amazing first year in office! I wouldn’t be in this position--able to do this great, important work--without your support. So thank you! Thank you for your passion and commitment to making the District of Columbia a progressive, innovative, inclusive city of opportunity for all.
My staff and I worked hard this year to focus on the issues that matter most: schools, public safety, affordable housing, workforce and economic development, WMATA and public transportation, homelessness, clean energy, clean government, and clean elections! OK, that’s a pretty long list. There’s a lot that matters. I put great energy into oversight, making sure I understood how and why we were investing money and other government resources. I worked with my twelve council colleagues to lead the introduction of six bills and be a co-introducer of 48 more bills that I truly believe will make our city more accountable and accessible.
And we’re just getting started…
Today, At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman introduced legislation to address the growing number of vacant and blighted properties across the District by strengthening oversight laws. The Vacant and Blighted Building Enforcement Amendment Act of 2015, co-introduced by Chairman Mendelson and Councilmembers Cheh, May, Nadeau, Orange, and Todd, requires property owners to take action if they wish to remove their property from the vacant or blighted property list.
“By placing the responsibility on owners of vacant or blighted properties to provide evidence that their property has become occupied or is qualified for an exemption, this legislation ensures inspectors can spend more time responding to new complaints instead of re-inspecting the same properties every six months,” said Silverman.
On Monday, I joined Councilmembers Cheh, Allen, and Grosso in sending a second letter to the Public Service Commission urging rejection of the revised Pepco-Exelon merger proposal.
Under the merger agreement, we are getting reliability standards that are worse than Pepco’s current performance, along with employment promises that are misleading. The merger is also setting ratepayers up for a spike in electricity costs come 2019. I believe there are few, if any, long-term benefits to this merger.
It’s hard for me to believe that it’s been almost a year since taking the oath of office! Being a new councilmember is much like being a new business owner--or a new parent: I’ve spent a lot of time putting people, systems, and infrastructure in place. We’ve even knocked down a wall (and closet)! Thanks to everyone, but particularly Chief of Staff Kitty Richards, Senior Policy Analyst (and construction chief) Sam Rosen-Amy, and Community and Communications Coordinator Ashley Fox for implementing these changes.
We’ve spent a lot of time this year laying the foundation, and now we’ve entered a very exciting time of seeing those pieces in action. This week I’m especially excited to share with you legislative efforts I consider central to our core mission of a more progressive, effective government that creates opportunity for all: universal paid family leave and elections/campaign finance reform.
Councilmember Silverman Introduces Bill to Increase Election Transparency and Accountability in the District
Today, At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman introduced the Clean Elections Amendment Act of 2015 to strengthen District laws that ensure elections are financed fairly and transparently. The legislation, co-introduced by Councilmembers Charles Allen, Mary Cheh and Brianne Nadeau, intends to make compliance with campaign finance laws simpler, as well as increase public confidence in the integrity of District elections and associated fundraising.
“We have all run campaigns. We know that they are fast-moving. Making the financial contribution rules simple, transparent, and uncomplicated makes compliance easier,” said Silverman when introducing the bill.
Under the legislation, District law would clearly outline when election contributions to political action committees and other groups would be considered independent expenditures and when they would be considered coordinated with or controlled by candidates or public officials.
The District of Columbia is a wonderful place to live—if you can afford it.
I am very concerned that our city’s housing is becoming too expensive for residents of all stages of life, and I am particularly worried that many residents who are trying to provide for themselves and their families don’t make enough money to rent or buy even a one-bedroom apartment.
The high cost of housing makes ending homelessness in our city more of a challenge. Yet I am optimistic that this is a challenge we can and will overcome. No District resident who works, or who has spent a life working, should be in poverty and homeless. Those who have struggles which cause homelessness should be housed in a safe, humane shelter until those difficulties can be addressed.
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.