Newsletter: A Busy Start to 2018
Happy New Year! Welcome to the first update of 2018!
It’s been a busy two weeks so far, with several important issues needing immediate attention. I am very disturbed about the troubling findings from an investigation into DC school attendance and high school graduation rates. This critical assessment was triggered by outstanding accountability reporting from WAMU/NPR on the 2017 graduating class of Ballou, a DCPS high school that received a lot of press and praise from city officials for having every member of the senior class get into college.
As the initial findings make clear, the problem is not just at Ballou but at high schools across our city: Many students are truant or coming to school late regularly but still graduate, sometimes using “credit recovery” classes. As I learned in a December hearing on the matter, there are no regulations or rules around credit recovery. This needs to be addressed swifty. I see the impact in my position as chair of the Labor Committee: Our young people are not prepared to enter the world of work. Some still need help in reading and writing. Many more lack so-called “soft skills,” the essential skills that are important not only on the job but in life: showing up on time, being able to write and speak effectively, and knowing how to resolve conflict and be resilient. These basic habits are the obstacles to employment for many jobseekers in our city. These habits start in school.
I am also troubled about the quality of care and the lack of transparency in operations at United Medical Center (UMC). At a time when we are safeguarding the right to local healthcare access and family planning from wrongheaded federal policies, we need to make sure that every resident of our city has quality care. Even though I am not a member of the Health Committee, I have been very engaged on UMC, and I support my colleagues’ efforts to get answers from the UMC Board of Directors and health officials.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day provided a good reminder about the importance of both compassionand accountability. I remain committed to making sure we are providing the best services for your taxpayer dollars and preparing our residents for the future in the best way possible. I enjoyed participating in the MLK parade on Monday as I have done for three years now, accompanied by my father and brother.
Strengthening the Marion Barry Summer Youth Employment Program (MBSYEP): I think we need to focus much more as a city on “soft skills,” these essential habits that lead to success in school, work, and life. That’s why it is a centerpiece of my bill to enhance DC’s most well-known program, the Marion Barry Summer Youth Employment Program. Last week, the Labor Committee held a hearing on the bill and more than two dozen policy experts, participants, employers, and non-profit trainers gave testimony.
You may remember from my last newsletter that the bill not only prioritizes essential life skills but also focuses on age-appropriate placements, hands-on work experience, and streamlining the certification process. The testimony we heard was incredibly valuable and will inform how we move forward. Thanks to all who testified.
You can find all materials related to the bill and testimony from last week’s hearing, along with a place to leave additional comments, on a new section that I’ve added to my website. You can also read a more detailed press release about the bill here.
Bringing Public Campaign Financing to the District: I am excited that public financing, the Fair Elections Act of 2017, passed unanimously on its first reading last week! Many of you were among the 23,000 District voters who signed petitions to put on the ballot Initiative 70, which would have allowed only individuals to give to candidates for elected office in DC.
I have fabulous news for all of you: If a candidates agrees to public financing, they can only take contributions from individuals, not LLCs or other corporate entities. So it may have taken five years, but we accomplished our goal!
Here’s a few other things the bill will do:
- It will decrease the influence of big donors and increase the influence of small donors. Candidates who participate have to meet donor and contribution amount thresholds, but the maximum donation amount will be much lower. In exchange for agreeing to lower amounts, qualified donations from DC residents receive a five-to-one match.
- It will make being a candidate and raising money much easier for those who don’t come from money or have networks of wealthy contributors.
- It will allow candidates to focus less on “maxed-out” donors and spend more time on issues and voters.
- It will enhance the Office of Campaign Finance, making operations more muscular and transparent.
This is an investment in the health of our local democracy. I also look forward to participating in our public finance system in the future!
Preparing for School Lottery Deadlines: The My School DC lottery application must be completed to attend participating public charter schools (PK3–12), DCPS schools outside of your boundary or feeder pattern for any grade (PK3–12) including DCPS citywide schools, PK3 or PK4 programs at any DCPS school including your in-boundary school, and DCPS selective high schools (9–12). Applicants must apply by February 1 for grades 9-12 and March 1 for grades PK3-8. Find more information and apply at myschooldc.org.
Celebrating Workforce Program Graduates: After the holidays, a number of career training programs are preparing to push participants into exciting new job opportunities with hard-earned credentials. This was the case for AmeriHealth Caritas DC “Pathways to Work” graduates and DC Alliance of Youth Advocates Youth Workforce Leaders Academy graduates that I had the chance to cheer across the stage. I’m so proud of our young people who are working hard—often also balancing other work and family responsibilities—to build pathways to fulfilling careers.
Getting Rid of Christmas Trees: Beginning this week, the Department of Public Works will be picking up Christmas trees and holiday greenery throughout the city. Trees will be collected on your regularly scheduled recycling collection days through February. Recycling days slide to the next day this week because of the holiday. Place trees and greenery next to your blue recycling bins—not at the curb, unless that’s where your recyclables are normally collected.
Residents can also bring their holiday trees and greenery to either of the District’s transfer stations:
- The Fort Totten Transfer Station (4900 John F. McCormack Drive, NE) is open Monday-Friday from 1:00-5:00 p.m. and Saturdays from 8:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.
- The Benning Road Transfer Station (3200 Benning Road NE) is open Monday-Friday from 1:00-4:30 p.m.
- Women’s March on Washington 2018: Saturday, January 20, from 11:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool
- Bilingual Education Fair: Saturday, January 20, from 1:00-5:00 p.m. at the Thurgood Marshall Center (1816 12th St NW)
- Temporary Protected Status Know Your Rights Town Hall: Saturday, January 20, from 3:00-5:00 p.m. at All Souls Unitarian Church (1500 Harvard St NW)
- Elissa Joins Southwest Neighborhood Assembly Meeting: Monday, January 22, at 7:00 p.m. at Arena Stage (1101 6th St SW)
- 2018 Point in Time Count of Homeless: Wednesday, January 24, from 10:00 p.m.-2:00 a.m.
- Town Hall on Wage Theft and Gentrification: Thursday, January 25, from 7:00-8:30 p.m. at the Rita Bright Recreation Center (2500 14th St NW)
- Ward 8 Education Fair: Saturday, January 27, from 11:00-2:00 p.m. at DC Prep’s Anacostia Elementary Campus (1409 V Street SE)
- Labor Committee Roundtable on Implementation of Paid Family Leave Law: Wednesday, January 31, at 10:00 a.m. at the John A. Wilson Building (1350 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Room 500)
Thanks for reading and stay warm!