Newsletter: Housing, Jobs, and Legislative Updates

Dear Resident,

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!

We also shared tips on how to best communicate with residents, so I’m excited to share my redesigned website! Here you can find legislative news, updates from me, and information on how to contact the right person in my office. Take a look around and make sure to follow my Facebook page and Twitter for the office too. Many thanks to Ashley Fox and Sam Rosen-Amy for shepherding this process, as well as Veracity Media.

LEGISLATIVE WORK

November Legislative Meeting: Last Tuesday, the Council debated several significant public policy issues at our legislative session. You might have read about the meeting in the Washington Post. A first vote was taken on a $60 million tax abatement for the Advisory Board Company. I don’t begrudge the Advisory Board for trying to get as much money as possible out of the District to benefit their shareholders, but I believe my responsibility is to get the best deal for my shareholders—D.C. taxpaying residents and businesses, especially our neighborhood-anchoring small businesses. This is becoming an increasingly common strategy of large, publicly-traded companies to create bidding wars among neighboring jurisdictions. Often, in our case, the threat is to move to Arlington or Prince George’s County if we don’t give generous tax subsidies.

The subsidy to the Advisory Board has a District resident hiring requirement, which is good, but I wanted to make sure the $60 million foregone in taxes would benefit those who need employment the most. At the legislative meeting, I introduced four amendments to try to increase safeguards around the benefits that District residents would receive as a result of granting the abatement. Those amendments are outlined below:

  • A Living Wage Amendment to ensure that all employment generated on the designated property, including jobs through subcontractors, is subject to the District’s Living Wage Law ($13.80 per hour).
  • A Fair and Honest Calculation Amendment to more closely tie the abatement amount to the Advisory Board’s progress toward its goals of increasing the number of new, full-time District hires over the course of ten years.
  • An Investing in Jobs for Job Seekers Amendment to hold the Advisory Board accountable for hiring District residents who have participated in specific District or nonprofit employment training programs as full-time employees.
  • An Investing in Jobs for Current D.C. Residents Amendment to clarify that new hires only count toward the Advisory Board’s hiring goals if they were already a District resident at the time they received their employment offer.

In the end, my colleagues voted against these reasonable requirements, and I voted against the abatement. You can read more about this issue on my website.

Another large focus of the legislative meeting was discussion around Mayor Bowser’s bill to close D.C. General. Never again should we have another case like Relisha Rudd, and there is no disagreement about closing D.C. General. There was discussion over what the six emergency family shelters that will replace D.C. General should look like, and I supported an amendment moved by Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh to provide private bathrooms for each family in the new facilities. I feel it is practical and humane. In the end, we did not get enough votes for that amendment, but you have my word that I will continue to follow this issue closely. The Bowser administration has said they will be announcing locations for the new shelters soon.

WHERE I’VE BEEN

D.C. Fall 2015 Career Fair: I’m excited to share that my office recently partnered again with Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen’s office to host a career fair for unemployed and underemployed residents across the city. Special thank you to Arena Stage for hosting us. Thank you also to Pat Joseph and Charnisa Royster in my office and Naomi Mitchell, Jamaal Jordan, and Myisha Atchison in Councilmember Allen’s office for their hard work planning and managing the event! We welcomed attendees to a joint job training workshop and hiring event that included workshops hosted by 24 partner organizations. Providing residents with career pathways continues to be an important focus for me. We’re looking forward to hosting another career fair in the spring, so please contact my constituent services director, Pat Joseph, at pjoseph@dccouncil.us if your organization would be interested in participating.

MPD Ride-Along with Chief Lanier: I am continuing to work with my Council colleagues and MPD to address crime incidents and voice resident concerns about safety in their communities. I recently went on a ride-along with Chief Lanier and my legislative fellow, Kelly Hunt, to better understand what our MPD officers prepare for and address on a daily basis. Our three-hour ride mostly focused on the eastern side of the city, especially hotspots in Wards 5, 6, 7, and 8. We visited sites including H Street NE and Starburst Plaza in Wards 5 and 6, Woodland Terrace in Ward 7, and Barry Farm in Ward 8. I reiterated requests made by colleagues and residents for more visibility of officers, and the Chief explained ways they are addressing particular neighborhood issues. We also discussed my office’s work on housing and employment services and how we can align those efforts with MPD better.

Affordable Housing: I am very optimistic about the D.C. Housing Preservation Strike Force, the 18-member team of city representatives, nonprofit housing experts, and industry professionals that Mayor Bowser has tasked with coming up with bold strategies to save the affordable housing that is most at risk of slipping away. I am excited to be a member and am taking our housing conversations outside of the team’s weekly meetings last week.

Last Friday, Tom Borger, one of my fellow strike force members and chairman of Borger Management, took me and my legislative fellow, Kelly Hunt, on a tour of some of the company’s units across the city. This stemmed from a conversation on how we define affordable housing in a market where a family of four is considered low income at $68,000. Thank you to Tom for taking time to show me and Kelly a number of properties. I certainly left thinking about new opportunities to broaden the way we think about affordable housing needs in the District. You can take a look at national data sets on housing, rent, and income on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s website.

IN THE COMMUNITY

Crime Prevention Trainings: MPD has recognized neighborhood watches as one of the most effective ways residents can be proactive about keeping their communities safe. They have been hosting training sessions in each police district and scheduled quite a few for November. When you find a training you can attend, make sure to bring a neighbor!

  • Tonight: Monday, November 9 at 7:00 p.m. at Park View Recreation Center, 693 Otis Place NW.
  • Tuesday, November 10 at 7:00 p.m. at Friendship Public Charter School, 1345 Potomac Avenue SE.
  • Saturday, November 14 at 11:00 a.m. hosted by the Hillcrest Citizens Association. Location to be announced.
  • Monday, November 16 at 6:30 p.m. at Cedar Heights Apartments, 1510 Butler Street SE.
  • Thursday, November 19 at 6:30 p.m. at Meadowbrook Run Apartments, 3635 6th Street SE.
  • Saturday, November 21 at 11:00 a.m. at Trinidad Recreation Center, 1310 Childress Street NE.

DCPL Books to Birth Focus Group: I support a number of organizations that work to increase adult literacy in the District, but strong reading skills begin at an early age. That’s why I supported Councilmember Allen’s Books to Birth initiative. I’ve been asked to help get the word out about a D.C. Public Library focus group that will explore early childhood literacy and is looking for participants. Representation from all parts of the city is needed to make sure all voices are heard, so please share with anyone you think may be interested. Focus groups (in English and Spanish!) start this week across the city, and participants will be compensated for their time. Contact Poet Taylor at ptaylor@reingoldlink.com or 202-629-9330 for more information.

Giving Thanks: Community Connections serves families and individuals in the D.C. region who are afflicted with mental illness. They are one of the biggest providers of permanent supportive housing, a very effective housing-first approach to helping our most vulnerable residents get off the street and address their health issues. Help them help their clients by donating to their Thanksgiving Food Drive, which takes place next Tuesday, November 17, from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at their Capitol Hill Headquarters at 801 Pennsylvania Avenue SE (next to Dunkin Donuts)! I’ll be stopping by with some bags filled with yams, pumpkin pie filling, and other holiday fixings! Hope to see you there.

Finally, with Veterans Day on Wednesday, I want to take a moment to sincerely thank our public servants who commit themselves to preserving the freedoms that we enjoy every day. A special thanks to our veterans who served our country honorably.

Thanks so much.

Elissa.