Newsletter: Join Me on 2/23 to Celebrate Black History Month!
In celebration of Black History Month, I invite you to join me and my staff for a free screening of HARRIET on Sunday, February 23, at 2:00pm at the Watha T. Daniel/Shaw Neighborhood Library (1630 7th St. NW)!
Special thanks to Pat Joseph and Charnisa Royster on my staff, along with D.C. Public Library, who have organized the screening of this film based on the inspirational life of Harriet Tubman. The movie follows Tubman’s escape from slavery and road to becoming one of our country’s most revered freedom fighters and icons of courage. If you’re still undecided, we’ll even have popcorn and light refreshments thanks to Naval Lodge No. 4! Additional details about Sunday's screening are here.
In the spirit of historic moments, I also joined my colleagues last week for a committee mark-up and vote on H.R. 51, the bill in the House of Representatives that would grant the District statehood. As we get closer to determining who will lead both the White House and Congress in November, it was a special moment for the District and a significant milestone in making our case for becoming the 51st state.
Keep reading for news about paid family leave, my latest legislative efforts, and more!
Keeping Our Ethical House in Order: I’ve become very focused on making sure that our local institutions of government draw very bright lines around ethics. Even the appearance of conflicts of interest need to be addressed to restore your trust in our government. With that in mind, I recently introduced a bill that would prohibit the D.C. Housing Finance Agency’s (DCHFA) Board of Directors from using agency programs during their terms of service to help prevent actual and perceived business-related conflicts. Right now, board members are put in the position of giving approval for tax incentives for their colleagues on the board.
Like most state and local housing finance agencies, DCHFA’s board was designed to represent a cross-section of professionals who are knowledgeable about home lending and development. Developers are often the product of those combined areas of expertise, and currently all five DCHFA board members are also housing developers who develop real estate in the District. Many of the board members’ developments are financed using tax-exempt bonds and Low-Income Housing Tax Credits issued by DCHFA. Certainly this gives an appearance of conflicts even if board members strictly follow ethics rules. My bill adds additional protection for taxpayers by preventing board members’ explicit use of these programs given their decision-making authority.
Paid Family and Medical Leave for District Workers: At the end of January, I held my ninth oversight roundtable on implementation of the District’s paid family and medical leave law that will enable District workers to begin receiving benefits this upcoming July. I have received a number of questions from District workers about whether their current circumstances (for example, the expected birth of a child before July) would allow them to qualify for benefits when the program goes into effect. One of the key discussions at this roundtable was about finalizing the rules and regulations that will help answer those types of worker and employer questions. The Department of Employment Services (DOES) will complete these rules and regulations by the end of March. DOES will then be able to advise the public about the benefits’ clear guidelines. You can expect to see an outreach campaign about access and eligibility for our family and medical leave program in the spring.
If you would like to read the latest testimony from DOES Director Unique Morris-Hughes at my roundtable, it can be found on my website here.
Keeping Affordable Housing a Priority: If you have been following the D.C. Housing Authority’s (DCHA) plans to redevelop its headquarters, you may share many of my concerns about whether the agency is meeting its mission and working in the best interest of those who need affordable housing the most. DCHA is a top focus for me, which is why I spent a recent Friday night attending the Committee on Housing’s public oversight roundtable on DCHA’s 20-year Transformation Plan. This is the agency’s plan to address deferred maintenance and capital improvements at more than 6,000 units in DCHA’s public housing stock. After over six hours hearing testimony from the public and DCHA Director Tyrone Garrett, I continue to have serious concerns about the city’s strategies for using millions of taxpayer dollars to fund redevelopment projects. Their plans continue to lack clear guarantees that the city will maintain ownership of these properties and safeguard current public housing tenants’ abilities to keep their homes.
What’s Happening with the Budget: Thanks to the many new and already-familiar partners who attended my winter open house to meet my staff and share upcoming budget and legislative priorities! Earlier this month, the District’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO) distributed his Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) on the financial health of the District based on our last fiscal year. At the annual hearing on the CAFR, the CFO confirmed that the city’s finances are in good standing and that we even saw a significant surplus of revenue.
Performance oversight is a critical part of our process for deciding what needs should be better met by District agencies, which is why I’ll urge you again to advocate for the issues that are most important to you. I’ll begin performance oversight hearings for agencies within my Committee on Labor and Workforce Development this week. Find my committee's schedule below, and the full Council schedule of performance oversight hearings here.
- Friday, February 21: Office of Human Resources & Office of Labor Relations and Collective Bargaining
- Wednesday, March 4: Department of Employment Services & Workforce Investment Council (public witnesses only)
- Friday, March 6: Department of Employment Services & Workforce Investment Council (government witnesses only)
- Friday, March 27: Office of Employee Appeals & Public Employee Relations Board
On the Air with Kojo Nnamdi: I recently joined Kojo Nnamdi and Tom Sherwood in WAMU’s studio for The Politics Hour! We talked about why investing in housing is more important than building a new NFL stadium, my concerns about the ongoing crisis with the D.C. Housing Authority, the importance of transparency in our procurement practices, and much more. If you missed us live, you can listen here!
Summer Youth Employment Program Open: Applications for the Marion S. Barry Summer Youth Employment Program (MBSYEP) are now open through February 29! Youth ages 14-24 years old are eligible to participate and can apply here. If you are a business owner interested in hosting MBSYEP participants this summer, we need you too. You can register to become a host employer for summer youth here.
- Labor Committee Oversight Hearing (DCHR & OLRCB): Friday, February 21, at 10:00am at the John A. Wilson Building (Room 500, 1350 Pennsylvania Ave. NW)
- Black History Month Movie Screening of HARRIET: Sunday, February 23, from 2:00-4:00pm at Shaw Public Library (1630 7th St. NW)
- WMATA Public Hearing on Proposed Service Changes: Wednesday, February 26, beginning at 4:30pm at the Metro Headquarters Building (600 5th St. NW)
- Labor Committee Oversight Hearing (DOES & WIC public witnesses): Wednesday, March 4, at 10:00am at the John A. Wilson Building (Room 500, 1350 Pennsylvania Ave. NW)
- Labor Committee Oversight Hearing (DOES & WIC government witnesses): Friday, March 6, at 10:00am at the John A. Wilson Building (Room 500, 1350 Pennsylvania Ave. NW)
- Labor Committee Oversight Hearing (OEA & PERB): Friday, March 27, at 10:00am at the John A. Wilson Building (Room 412, 1350 Pennsylvania Ave. NW)
Thanks so much for reading.