Newsletter: It's Still Budget Season!
Budget season is in full swing! These are your taxpayer dollars, so please check the budget hearing schedule and budget office website to see when agencies and issues you care about will come before the Council. If you cannot make a hearing in-person and want to share your thoughts with me, please feel free to call my office or email me directly. Either way, remember that this is your time to let me and my colleagues know what investments matter most to you.
You may have seen some discussion of the budget in the press. In the big picture, I share concerns about the overall growth in spending, and that’s why we need to make the right investments in education, housing, public safety, transportation, etc. When it comes to spending on labor and workforce development, our success needs to be measured by how many residents not just get a job but a living-wage career. In the past we have spent money on training, but it has not led to employment. That’s not a good return on investment. We need to create pipelines of employment into our biggest industries, including healthcare and infrastructure. Mayor Bowser has restructured her government so that workforce agencies fall under the education cluster, and I am thinking more broadly with this budget about strengthening a focus on career and technical education in our public school system.
Before we get further into committee and legislative matters, I want to update you on an issue a number of you have written me about. Last week, my colleagues and I voted to move forward with removing EventsDC and the Commission on Arts and Humanities out of the Committee on Finance and Revenue and into the Committee of the Whole. The change was characterized as a punitive action to address a violation of our Code of Conduct by Councilmember Jack Evans, and though it was a good first step, I believe there is more we need to do to rebuild public trust in our government. Several ideas were introduced by my colleagues last Tuesday, and I hope those ideas will be seriously considered as we try to move forward.
Preparing for Paid Family Leave: The District is less than three months away from a big milestone in the paid family leave program, when employer contributions to the fund are scheduled to begin in July. My Labor Committee staff has been diligently conducting oversight and working with the Department of Employment Services (DOES) on the technology system. If you are an employer or resident who wants to learn more about the IT system for employer contributions, DOES is hosting five employer engagement forums to answer questions and prepare businesses for the transition. Employers can find registration details here and see a list of the dates below.
- Employer Webinar: Wednesday, April 10, at 1:30pm
- Employer Webinar: Friday, April 19, at 1:30pm
- Employer Town Hall: Tuesday, April 23, from 11:00am-2:00pm at the Convention Center (801 Mt. Vernon Pl. NW)
- Employer Webinar: Wednesday, May 8, at 1:30pm
- Employer Webinar: Wednesday, May 22, at 1:30pm
Reviewing Workforce Agency Budgets: Last Friday, I held the Committee’s first budget hearing to discuss the Office of Employee Appeals (OEA) and the Public Employee Relations Board (PERB). These agencies make sure city employees have due process in personnel matters and resolve disputes between labor and management. You can watch my hearing discussion here with OEA Executive Director Sheila Barfield and PERB Executive Director Clarene Martin.
Co-Hosting the Semi-Annual Career Fair: ‘Tis the season for the semi-annual career fair I co-host with my Ward 6 colleague, Charles Allen, and, more recently, my at-large colleague, Robert White! This is truly one of my favorite traditions as the Labor Committee Chair because residents walk away with job interviews, job offers, and hope that the District can be a place where they can earn a living wage.
Help us spread the word about this career fair that is open to District residents only on Wednesday, April 17, from 9:00am-1:00pm at Arena Stage (1101 Sixth St. SW). It is guaranteed to have employers who are ready to hire!
Discussing DCRA with the New Director: You may remember reading significant local coverage about the change in leadership at the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) toward the end of last year. DCRA is a vital agency, safeguarding residents and businesses through housing code enforcement and proper permitting, and it has been a priority of mine as a councilmember. That’s why I attended the Committee of the Whole budget oversight hearing for DCRA on March 27 and met with DCRA Director Ernest Chrappah last week. I remain concerned about the agency. In addition to working with Director Chrappah directly, I will also continue to introduce legislation that strengthens consumer protections and reduces red tape for rehabilitating neglected properties.
Strengthening D.C. Public Schools: Thank you to the parents, teachers, advocates, and students who have written to me about funding needs across D.C. Public Schools (DCPS). I attended the DCPS budget hearing on March 29 because I am extremely concerned about the impact of the proposed budget on a number of schools next year, especially schools in Wards 7 and 8. If we are going to close the achievement gap, meet the social-emotional learning needs of our students, and support equitable learning environments, we will have to prioritize this in next year’s budget.
Celebrating Capitol Hill Group Ministry: Last week, I had the chance to present a ceremonial resolution with Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen to celebrate Capitol Hill Group Ministry’s 50th Anniversary! What started as a group of Capitol Hill churches is now a thriving organization that operates the only daytime drop-in center in Southeast D.C., runs a street outreach program for the homeless, and operates a volunteer-based Homeless Assistance Response Team for individuals and families across the District in need. Congratulations to Executive Director Karen Cunningham and her team!
Joining Neighbors Across the City: When I haven’t been in budget hearings over the last few weeks, I have been spending time talking with students, advocates, and local businesses about what they think the pressing issues are right now in our city. It was compelling to hear from students on climate change, school safe passage routes, and peer-mediation at Mikva DC’s 4th Annual Action Civics Fair, as well as teachers emphasizing the need for education equity at EmpowerED’s Spring Benefit in Anacostia.
I also recently attended the Think Local First Builder Dinner to hear how local business owners believe we can see more equitable development, and I was glad to again join Jews United for Justice at this year’s Social Justice Labor Seder. I look forward to continuing to listen to what matters most to you—and may be coming to your community next!
- Labor Committee Budget Hearing #2 (Office of Labor Relations and Collective Bargaining & Office of Human Resources): Wednesday, April 10, at 1:00pm at the John A. Wilson Building (Room 123, 1350 Pennsylvania Ave. NW)
- Emancipation Day Parade and Concert: Saturday, April 13, beginning at 2:00pm at 10th St. NW and Pennsylvania Ave. NW
- Fifth Annual Anacostia River Festival: Sunday, April 14, from 1:00-5:00pm at Anacostia Park (Anacostia Drive and Good Hope Road SE)
- Semi-Annual D.C. Career Fair: Wednesday, April 17, from 9:00am-1:00pm at Arena Stage (1101 Sixth St. SW)
- Labor Committee Budget Hearing #3 (Dept. of Employment Services & Workforce Investment Council, public witnesses): Monday, April 22, at 1:00pm at the John A. Wilson Building (Room 500, 1350 Pennsylvania Ave. NW)
- Labor Committee Budget Hearing #4 (Dept. of Employment Services & Workforce Investment Council, government witnesses): Wednesday, April 24, at 10:00am at the John A. Wilson Building (Room 412, 1350 Pennsylvania Ave. NW)
Thanks so much for reading, and remember to spread the word about our April 17 career fair!