Newsletter: Happy Halloween!
We have two big civic-oriented holidays coming up: Scherzday/Strasmas and Halloween!
First, Scherzday/Strasmas! Many of you know I grew up in a baseball-rooting family, so I can’t hide my excitement that our Washington Nationals are in the World Series! This has been an exciting couple years in D.C. sports with a Stanley Cup championship, a Women’s NBA championship, and now a World Series bid. Let’s #StayInTheFight and cheer on our Nats.
Many of you also know I apprentice as a balloon maker, and I’m trying to learn how to make Baby Shark balloons. I’ll be rocking the red and twisting balloons at one of my favorite kids’ costume celebrations in the District this Friday at Hilloween in Eastern Market! I’ve ordered a hefty batch of candy for the festivities. For those with little ones, I hope you will dust off your favorite Halloween wig and stop by! The Department of Parks and Recreation is also back with a full schedule of Halloween activities happening this week in every ward for both kids and adults. Our Metropolitan Police Department will be hosting citywide Halloween events this Friday too. Take a look at where to stock up on candy, do some pumpkin carving, visit a haunted house, and even join a Halloween game night.
Now onto legislative updates!
Local Progress Housing Convening: One of the annual conferences I attend is with a group called Local Progress, a national network of progressive-policy oriented local elected officials. In July, I joined nearly 200 elected officials from across the country for policy workshops on strategies for building more equitable cities. It was my third convening, and I was asked to join a new Local Progress Housing Committee to focus specifically on policy solutions to increase and preserve affordable housing. As part of the Local Progress Housing Committee, I joined about 50 of my local government counterparts from across the country in Durham, North Carolina earlier this month for our inaugural Local Progress National Housing Convening. My focus there was to learn from affordable housing and anti-displacement experts and hear what other cities are doing to grapple with the challenges that come with tensions between neighborhood growth and inclusion.
An important note from my conversations in Durham: The District has a larger bucket of resources than many other cities facing affordable housing challenges. While there is much more to do, the Housing Convening was confirmation that our city is on the right track, and many cities across the country are looking to us as a leader and innovator in investing in affordable housing. I look forward to continuing to prioritize affordable housing legislatively and applying lessons learned from Durham here at home.
Jelleff Field Contract: You might have read or heard about a recent decision by the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) to extend a contract with the independent Maret School for use of Jelleff Field, a public field owned by the District. I’ve remained concerned that DPR’s process in awarding the extension was not transparent and not made in the best interests of all District residents.
I want to be clear: I don’t think Maret did anything wrong asking for the extension. My issue is with how our own government made the decision to grant the extension. There are some oddities about this agreement: First, it was done as a “use easement” not a contract. Second, it seems to be crafted as a ten year easement with a nine year extension so that the agreement would not come before the D.C. Council for approval. That raises big red flags for me.
I want to thank my Ward 8 colleague Trayon White, Chair of the Committee on Recreation and Youth Affairs, for convening a roundtable on the issue. More than 100 residents testified. Many were from the Maret community, and they emphasized that Maret has fulfilled its obligations and has been a good neighborhood partner. That is true. But the District of 2019 is much different than the District of 2009, when the initial easement was signed. Green space in our city is at a premium, and Hardy Middle School sits directly across the street from Jelleff Field. Our public school students there are in need of the field too—but can’t access it because of Maret’s rights to the field. Given these needs, I would have hoped DPR would have altered the extension to try to meet the needs of our entire community, but it does not appear that ever happened.
At yesterday’s roundtable, DPR Director Delano Hunter did not provide much information about why the agreement was extended without a public process, despite concerns being previously raised. I hope a solution that meets the needs of both Maret and the Hardy/Jelleff aftercare program community might be possible.
Implementing Paid Family Leave: Last week, I held my eighth public roundtable with the Department of Employment Services (DOES) to ensure that paid family leave benefits are still on track to become available to residents in July of 2020—less than one year from now. Good news: The District reached $70 million in reserved funds by the end of the first quarter from employer contributions, and we are well on our way to meeting financial benchmarks as we now near the end of the second quarter.
I also confirmed at the roundtable that a contract has been awarded to build the program’s IT system that will distribute benefits. I look forward to continuing to work with DOES Director Unique Morris-Hughes to understand the timeline and readiness goals as the buildout process for the system begins. You can find last week’s testimony from the DOES Director on my website here.
Fall 2019 Workforce Rountables: In my last newsletter, I mentioned upcoming roundtables in my Labor Committee to do rigorous oversight of workforce training programs that received conditional funding in the most recent budget cycle. The conditional funding was applied because these programs had not yet provided reliable data showing District residents graduating with skills certifications and securing jobs. The first of those roundtables will happen next week, and DOES has provided the new performance data that we will be discussing for four specific programs. Those programs are the D.C. Infrastructure Academy, Local Adult Training Program, Project Empowerment, and D.C. Career Connections.
You can find the new data from DOES at elissasilverman.com/workforceroundtables. The first roundtable on the D.C. Infrastructure Academy & Local Adult Training Program will be on Wednesday, October 30, starting at 10:00am in Room 412 at the John A. Wilson Building.
Joining Neighbors Across the City: Over the past few weeks, I had a chance to reconnect with residents, advocates, and businesses across the city to hear about upcoming priorities for our new fiscal year and share legislative updates from my office. I most recently joined the Marshall Heights Community Development Organization in Ward 7 for a discussion about the city’s next steps to expand affordable housing and job training options. I also met with Delta Sigma Theta’s Washington, D.C. Alumnae Chapter for a robust conversation about improving health care options and quality of care at United Medical Center for women residents of color, particularly in Wards 5, 7 and 8.
I was also honored to present the High Road Award to D.C. Central Kitchen at the 2019 Think Local First Awards last week and met with an incredible group of young people at Catholic University on Monday night to talk about why having women leaders in elected office matters.
Hamilton Relay Scholarship: The Hamilton Relay Scholarship is again available to support graduating high school seniors in the District who are deaf, hard of hearing, deaf-blind or have difficulty speaking in their goals of continuing their education. The scholarship is $500, and applications must be received or postmarked by January 31, 2020. The application documents can be found online at hamiltonrelay.com.
- Hilloween: Friday, October 25, from 5:30-7:30pm at Eastern Market (225 7th St. SE)
- 17th Street High Heel Race: Tuesday, October 29, from 7:00-10:00pm between P and S Streets NW near Dupont Circle. The race begins at 9:00pm.
- Labor Committee Roundtable on D.C. Infrastructure Academy & Local Adult Training Program: Wednesday, October 30, starting at 10:00am at the John A. Wilson Building (Room 412, 1350 Pennsylvania Ave. NW)
- DowntownDC Fall Festival: Thursday, October 31, from 10:00am-2:00pm at the Woodrow Wilson Plaza (1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW)
- MPD Community Fall Festival: Thursday, October 31, from 4:30-8:00pm at Friendship Recreation Center (4500 Van Ness St. NW)
- D.C. Veterans Hiring Fair: Friday, November 15, from 10:00am-3:00pm (2001 E. Capitol St. SE)
- Labor Committee Roundtable on Project Empowerment & D.C. Career Connections: Thursday, November 21, starting at 10:00am in Room 500 at the John A. Wilson Building (1350 Pennsylvania Ave. NW)
Thanks so much for reading. Have a safe and fun Halloween, and let’s go Nats!