Newsletter: Bike Ride Saturday, Plus Big Legislative Updates!
First thing: Join me this Saturday morning to ride the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail! If you participated in last year’s Veterans Day bike ride, you know that fall is one of the most beautiful times to get some exercise and enjoy our urban outdoors! Like last year, we’ll be joined by the Washington Area Bicycle Association (WABA) and members of the Bicycle Advisory Council (BAC) to ride through the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens and explore Bladensburg Waterfront Park! As long as the rain holds off, we’ll be leaving at 10:30 a.m. from the Capital Bikeshare station at 19th Street SE and East Capitol Street SE in front of RFK stadium. You can find more information and RSVP here. Fingers crossed that the 60-degree forecast holds! Thanks to Ashley Fox in my office, WABA, and our office’s BAC member, Jeff Johnson, for coordinating the ride.
On to other athletic feats: Baseball season is over, but you might not know that DC brought home a championship! This month I had the privilege of presenting a ceremonial resolution to DC Force, the Washington area’s first all-girls baseball team, and their coach, to celebrate their recent success at this year’s Girls Baseball National Championship. Members of the 11u team came in fourth place, and members of the 13u team took the title of 2017 Girls Baseball National Champions!
If you’re wondering what blew me away about this team besides their outstanding performance among over 200 girls at the largest girls baseball tournament in the country to date, just read more about what makes one multi-talented player particularly special on the field or check out the coach’s boundary-defying journey to founding DC Force. As a woman, a former student athlete, and a baseball fan, I’m so proud of the model these young ladies are setting for the country during a time when there’s a robust national discussion about treatment of women in the workplace. I’ll be a DC Force fan for many seasons to come.
Ensuring Quality Medical Care for All Residents: As you might have read or heard in the news, I voted with a majority of my colleagues to disapprove a contract extension for Veritas of Washington LLC to operate United Medical Center in Ward 8. Here’s a good WAMU overview of the management concerns with Veritas, and the Washington Post’s Peter Jamison had a series of stories reporting extremely concerning details about UMC that made it clear that District residents deserve much better.
I thank Ward 7 Councilmember Vince Gray for his diligence in holding hearings to discuss how critical it is to improve service standards and health outcomes for residents in Wards 7 and 8—starting with a high functioning hospital. You can read my full statement on the Council’s decision to disapprove the contract here.
I remain concerned about the state of health care on the eastern side of our city. DC’s Department of Health shut down the maternity unit at United Medical Center, which remains closed, and last month Providence Hospital closed its maternity ward. This means that there are now no functioning hospital maternity wards in the entire eastern half of the District.
Less Parking, More Affordable Housing: You may have also read about the Union Market Tax Increment Financing (TIF) legislation that passed at last week’s legislative meeting that sets aside $82 million for infrastructure improvements and full development of the Union Market area. Nearly $36 million of the TIF is slated to go toward building additional parking—even though our District Department of Transportation, Department of Energy and Environment, and Office of Planning have raised concerns about the excessive amount of parking at the Union Market site. The District’s Chief Financial Officer also concluded that city taxpayers don’t need to fund this additional parking, which is why I proposed an amendment to use that $36 million to build affordable housing and expand multimodal transit options.
The amendment did not pass, but I thank my at-large colleague David Grosso for supporting the proposal and speaking to the importance of prioritizing urgent needs. Our city is in an affordable housing crisis, and I hope that the city will more wholeheartedly put actions behind words to make sure urgent needs (like affordable multi-family housing and easily accessible, reliable transit) are addressed in whatever ways we can.
Feeding Our Kids Quality School Lunches: I was a school hot lunch eater as a kid, and I think making sure our students have the nutrition they need to learn is very important. I also think the lunch should be tasty. I’m glad that DC Public Schools have been much more focused over the past couple of years on making sure our students have quality, healthy meals that actually taste good. You may remember the former Chartwells food contract that sparked this conversation after complaints of mismanagement and serving expired food.
Last year we approved a new contract with food vendor SodexoMagic. Having spent time visiting schools across the city when I first took office to hear what our students thought about Chartwells’ meals and taste it for myself, I returned this month to Malcolm X Elementary and Anacostia High School to see how SodexoMagic is performing. The food was noticeably more flavorful and visually appealing. I look forward to discussing our approach to school food more at Thursday’s hearing on the state of school food services and receiving more feedback directly from the students.
Building Career Pathways through Apprenticeships: This week is Apprenticeship Week! One of my primary focuses as Chair of the Labor and Workforce Committee is building a stronger apprenticeship program across the city to ensure residents are being trained with sustainable skills and the promise of a job at the program’s completion. Data shows that apprenticeships are one of the strongest workforce tools that we have to build job-ready employees and ultimately provide a return on investment for companies who invest in these longer-term, paid work experiences.
I recently visited Urban Alliance in Ward 1, DC Water in Ward 6, and a George Pelecanos-scripted movie filming to better understand how our existing job training programs are working, where there are opportunities for improvement, and how the District can build workforce training opportunities in lesser known sectors. These visits add to the over 30 sites I visited across this city since the start of the summer.
Holding DC Slumlords Accountable: As I wrote in my last newsletter, I’ve been working on a bill with the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) to add more accountability for fixing housing violations and to deter chronic mismanagement. I introduced that bill, the Slumlord Deterrence Amendment Act of 2017, with the support of six colleagues last week. Under the bill, DCRA can deny basic business licenses and building permits to rental property owners who neglect their properties until all outstanding housing code violations have been resolved. Class 1 infractions triggering the bill include failure to repair unsafe structures, failure to obtain required permits or exceeding a permit’s scope, failure to comply with a Stop Work Order, and allowing a nuisance that affects tenants’ public health, comfort, and safety.
Putting an end to what has become clear, rampant abuse of vulnerable residents and negligence of the city’s affordable stock begins with impacting these bad actors’ financial interests. You can follow the bill’s progress here.
Limiting Wage Garnishments for Workers: Last week I also introduced legislation that will hopefully help break the cycle of poverty for some of the city’s lowest wage earners. The Wage Garnishment Fairness Amendment Act of 2017, supported by five of my colleagues, would strengthen outdated limitations on how much a worker’s wages can be garnished when a court orders an employer to divert an employee’s wages to pay for a debt. Wage garnishments are often destabilizing for workers and their families, disproportionately affecting low-wage earners and people of color.
To better safeguard working families, my bill would require that workers receive advance notice of any pay that will be withheld and puts limits on how much pay can be garnished based on annual income. Residents making less than approximately $39,000 per year would receive complete protection from wage garnishments. For individuals earning above this threshold, wage garnishments would be limited to 25% of a resident’s earnings above the approximate $39,000 baseline to add safeguards for working families while still allowing creditors to collect.
You can follow the bill’s progress here, and please encourage the Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety to hold a hearing soon!
Joining Neighbors Across the City: Over the last couple of weeks my staff and I enjoyed getting across the city to celebrate school festivals, Halloween festivities, legislative progress, and the new Wharf waterfront. A few highlights included the Lafayette Festival in Ward 4, the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center Gala in Ward 8, joining a Clean Elections debate with Attorney General Karl Racine in Ward 6, and celebrating Hilloween with my neighbors on Capitol Hill. Special thanks to the Washington Teachers Union for also inviting me to their Teacher Leaders meeting the other week and engaging in a thoughtful discussion about career readiness, equitable development, and early childhood needs.
Register for DPR Winter Programs: Residents can now enroll in sports activities, fitness classes, and enrichment programs for all ages through our Department of Parks and Recreation. The full listing of winter programs is available online, but you must have an account to register for a program. Registration must also be completed online.
- DC Health Link Open Enrollment is November 1, 2017-January 31, 2018. Apply online or visit an enrollment center to make sure you’re covered!
- Education Committee Hearing on School Food Services: Thursday, November 16 at 11:00 a.m. in Room 412 of the John A. Wilson Building (1350 Pennsylvania Ave. NW)
- Employer Mandate Legislation Luncheon: Thursday, November 16 from 12:00-1:00 p.m. at the DC Bar (1101 K St. NW)
- Walter Reed Small Business Outreach: Thursday, November 16 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Emory Recreation Center (5701 Georgia Ave. NW)
- Ride the Anacostia River with Elissa: Saturday, November 18, from 10:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m. beginning at the Capital Bikeshare at the DC Armory (2001 E Capitol St. SE)
- OSSE Parent Feedback Forum: Monday, November 20 from 6:00-7:30 p.m. at Benning Library (Large Meeting Room, 3935 Benning Rd NE)
- 4th Annual CityCenterDC Holiday Tree Lighting: Saturday, November 25, at 6:00 p.m. (825 10th St. NW)
Public Service Commission Hearings on Washington Gas Merger:
- (Ward 8) Monday, November 27, at 6:30 p.m. at Anacostia Library (1800 Good Hope Rd SE, Ora Glover Community Room)
- (Ward 5) Tuesday, November 28, at 6:30 p.m. at Trinity University (125 Michigan Ave. NE, O'Connor Auditorium)
- (Ward 2) Wednesday, November 29, at 10:00 a.m. at the DC Public Service Commission (1325 G St. NW, Suite 800)
- (Ward 1) Thursday, November 30, at 6:30 p.m. at the Greater Washington Urban League (2901 14th St. NW, Pepco Community Room)
Stay warm and thanks for reading. See some of you Saturday for the bike ride!