Newsletter: Black History Month, Big Legislative News & More!

Dear Resident,

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As we jump into Black History Month, I’m thrilled to extend an invitation to the second Celebration of Black History in the District happening next Thursday, February 15, from 2:00-3:00pm at the John A. Wilson Building (1350 Pennsylvania Ave. NW)! This year’s program will be emceed by WUSA9’s Bruce Johnson with keynote remarks by Chris Myers Asch and George Derek Musgrove, authors of Chocolate City: A History of Race and Democracy in the Nation’s Capital. We’ll also be joined by choirs from the Washington School for Girls and Wilson High School.

If you’re able to make it, then you will also get to meet the newest member of my staff. I’m excited to welcome Velonte Chambers as anintern in my office this semester. Velonte is a current DC Public Schools high school senior who is passionate about community outreach, equitable development, andyouth civic engagement. You may have heard about him on WAMU after his winning speech at the Mikva Challenge Project Soapbox competition last December. I was a judge at that competition and was immediately impressed by his charisma, confidence, and authenticity.

I look forward to introducing Velonte personally Velonte2.pngat community meetings and seeing you at the Wilson Building next week for our Black History Month celebration!

One final thought before heading into our legislative and community updates: I did not support Trump’s first walk down Pennsylvania Avenue, and I certainly don’t support armored tanks rumbling through the District in a military parade. I support our troops, but there are many more constructive ways to celebrate our men and women in uniform. Of course, this is not about them but about Trump. I will do everything I can to ensure public safety if this event does take place, but also make sure your taxpayer dollars are not spent on a wasteful show of muscle by a narcissistic Commander in Chief.

WHAT’S ON OUR LEGISLATIVE AGENDA

Assisting Homeowners with Property Damage from Shoddy Construction: At numerous hearings about our Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA), I heard testimony after testimony of construction projects gone wrong. Horror stories of negligent developers who have damaged neighboring property to a construction site are far too common—cracked foundations and flooded basements resulting in years of battling contractors who refuse to take responsibility for careless work.

That’s why on Tuesday I introduced the Substandard Construction Relief Amendment Act of 2018, which gives homeowners the option of choosing a different contractor to repair any damaged property at the expense of the contractor who caused the damage. I also introduced the Blighted Property Redevelopment Amendment Act of 2018 to better reward good developers who do quality work. You can read more about both bills here and encourage the Committee of the Whole to hold a hearing soon!

Saving Residents Money While Supporting Education: I have also heard many concerns from a number of residents who will be negatively affected by the new federal tax reform bill limiting District income and property tax deductions for residents at $10,000. Following the lead of Maryland, California, and New Jersey, I introduced the District of Columbia Education Charitable Donations Act of 2018 to create a new local income tax credit for donations to the District in support of public education. You can read the press release and find a two-page explainer here.

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What’s Happening with Paid Family Leave: Recently, my Committee on Labor and WorkforceDevelopment held an oversight roundtable on implementation of the District’s new paid leave law. The Office of Paid Family Leave will be housed within the District’s Department of Employment Services (DOES), so this was an opportunity to hear updates from DOES about our progress preparing to administer the program.

I was pleased to hear that Chairman Mendelson recently said in a public forum that he will not move any of the repeal and replace bills that were introduced last year to change the law. That is great news. We have a good law in place, and we need to get our program up and running so District workers and employers can benefit from it.

I am concerned that the uncertainty surrounding the financing and administration of the law has slowed down implementation. DOES Director Odie Donald repeatedly assured me that we will hit all the implementation target dates, and I know he is focused on the law. However, the fact remains that we have yet to make one permanent hire for this program. We are scheduled to start collecting the tax in less than 16 months. Our businesses deserve to have certainty about the tax collection and certainty that their employees will be able to start using the program beginning July 2020.

DOES will be providing quarterly reports on their progress, and you can read the first progress report of 2018 here. I am focused on making sure we have a high-quality program.

Bringing Public Campaign Financing to the District: On Tuesday, my colleagues and I voted to make a small donor matching program, otherwise known as public finance, District law! Now on to funding this program in the budget! Thanks to my colleague Charles Allen, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, for moving the bill through the Council. You can read my full statement on what public financing system means for the District here.

Letting Us Know How District Government Is Doing: The Council is currently in performance oversight season, which means that this is your chance to tell us how our District agencies are doing in meeting resident needs. You can find the schedule of public hearings for each agency here. I hope to see or hear from many of you over the next couple of months as we determine where agency performance can improve and how we can spend taxpayer dollars more effectively. Every law must also be funded to be enforced, so stay tuned for more information about budget hearings that will be underway next!

COMMUNITY UPDATES

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Joining Neighbors Across the City: Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve enjoyed hearing what is top of mind for residents across the city. Thank you to Marshall Heights Community Development Organization for a robust discussion around job and workforce needs East of the River, as well as the Dupont Circle Citizens’ Association for new ideas to bring more affordable housing stock and equitable development. If you would like me to visit your community meeting, please email Ashley Fox on my staff at afox@dccouncil.us. I would be happy to come!

DPR Summer Camps & Jobs: Registration for the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) 2018 summer camp season is now open! Programs are available for youth ages 3-17. Visit dpr.dc.gov/service/summer-camps or contact the DPR Summer Camp office at (202) 671-0372 or dpr.camps@dc.gov.

DPR is also accepting job applications for Summer 2018. Employment opportunities include positions with Summer Aquatics staff as lifeguards or pool managers, Summer Camp staff as facilitators or program monitors, Roving Leaders staff, and Summer Support Services staff operating motor vehicles.

Upcoming Events:

Thanks so much for reading. Hope to see you next week!

Elissa.