Newsletter: On to 2016!

Dear Resident,

Happy 2016! I hope you and your family had a fun and restful holiday season and a good start to the new year. I’m excited for what’s next. My first year in office certainly was exciting (and at times a bit terrifying) because every experience was new. What truly jazzes me about the year ahead is that I’ll be building upon the institutional knowledge accumulated in Year One about District policy and programs, about the budget, and about how the Council and executive branch work to move us closer to a city of opportunity for all. Our staff of eight came with eclectic backgrounds and experiences, and I’m thrilled every day to work with such a talented group.

This is the second year of Council Period 21, so I’ll be working to push the great legislation introduced last year toward hearings, markups, and passage. This includes our bills on universal paid family leave and vacant property, as well as transparency in education reform and campaign finance reform. I’m also planning for performance and budget oversight season, which is fast approaching. I can’t emphasize enough how much I’d like to hear from you about your experiences with our District agencies and your thoughts on how we can improve.Rachel-headshot.jpg

I’m also excited we have a new addition to our office! I want to introduce you to Rachel Leach, our part-time spring extern supporting our legislative efforts over the next couple of months. An Arizona native, Rachel is in her final semester at The George Washington University Law School and has extensive experience working on child justice, sexual assault, and domestic violence issues.

   WHAT’S UP WITH LEGISLATION?   

Using D.C. Tax Dollars for Living Wages: Every time we invest District tax dollars in economic development, we want to create a multiplier effect that includes living wage jobs. That’s why last Tuesday I introduced the Living Wages for Publicly Supported Jobs Amendment Act of 2016 to require that anyone who receives government assistance in the form of tax benefits provides jobs that meet the District’s living wage standards.

The city has required recipients of this type of benefit to pay a living wage for almost a decade, but it doesn’t apply to all categories of economic development assistance. My bill fills those gaps by expanding the definition of “government assistance” to include any tax exemption, abatement, credit, or similar tax reduction—categories that were previously excluded and exempted nearly $46 million in assistance from the living wage requirements. The living wage is currently calculated to be $13.84 per hour or $28,787 per year for a 40-hour week.

Thank you to Councilmembers Charles Allen, Mary Cheh, LaRuby May, Kenyan McDuffie and Brianne Nadeau for their leadership in co-introducing the bill. You can follow the bill’s progress here and read more about the details on my website.

Jan. 5 Legislative Meeting: I want to quickly note a few other newsworthy items from last week’s legislative session. I was pleased to co-introduce a bill with Kenyan McDuffie, my Ward 5 colleague who chairs the Judiciary Committee, on requiring more frequent reporting of PACs to promote cleaner elections. I also supported the emergency legislation to enable the subsidy program for private security cameras to move forward. The emergency legislation to keep the policy toward private cannabis clubs in place until the Committee on Judiciary crafts permanent legislation also received my support. I do not sit on the Judiciary Committee, but I will be following the committee’s efforts on this closely.

How to Best Invest $50 Million in Ward 8: You might have read about legal action Attorney General Karl Racine is taking against landlords of four properties in Ward 8 that, though affordable, are in reprehensible states of disrepair. The day before the AG filed his lawsuit, these properties were discussed in a hearing about the future of the 30-years-idle St. Elizabeths campus in Ward 8. The properties are right across the street from phase 1 of economic development on this historic campus.

As I mentioned in last week's hearing and one several weeks ago on the Wizards practice facility, the time for investing in economic development in Ward 8 is long overdue. I’m happy the St. Elizabeths project has a number of affordable housing units (though I believe these units should be affordable in perpetuity, not the current 40-year covenant plan), and it has the chance to be a  truly transformational project for this part of the city. I remain concerned about the plan to spend $50 million on a NBA practice gym; I think as a city we need to think about the best use of our tax dollars.

   UP NEXT: PAID LEAVE FOR D.C.   

What Paid Leave Means for Businesses: Last Friday, I joined my fellow at-largeCHAMPS-breakfast.png colleague David Grosso at a breakfast with CHAMPS, the Capitol Hill Association of Merchants & Professionals, to answer questions about the bill and discuss the way paid leave would impact their businesses. It was a great discussion, and I want to thank all the business owners for taking time out to participate.

Paid Leave Hearings: On Thursday, the Council will hear testimony from invited national experts and D.C. government witnesses on the impact of the proposed legislation. We’ll be in Room 500 at 10:00 a.m. if you want to join in-person or you can watch the live stream.

How Can You Voice Your Opinion? The public hearing is scheduled for February 11, 2016 at 4:00 p.m. in Room 500 of the Wilson Building. To sign up for the witness list, call the Committee of the Whole at (202) 724-8196 or email Christina Setlow at csetlow@dccouncil.us. You must provide your name, address, telephone number, organizational affiliation, and title (if applicable) by close of business Monday, February 8, 2016.

   IN THE COMMUNITY   

With 2016 in full swing, I’m looking for new ways to meet and hear from you! If you’re interested in hosting a get together at your home, at your community or civic association, or with your ANC, I’ll be happy to come. Please contact Ashley Fox in my office at afox@dccouncil.us if you’re interested in being a host.

UDC Workforce Program: As many of you know, I’m a strong advocate for workforce development programs across the city. The UDC Community College Division of Workforce Development and Lifelong Learning (WDLL) is currently registering participants for the spring 2016 term. WDLL provides D.C. residents with job skills training leading to employment. If you or someone you know can benefit, visit the website, email workforce@udc.edu, or call (202) 274-7181 for more information.

Disney on Ice Tickets: Have kids or simply young at heart? We’ve received numerous community vouchers for Disney on Ice at the Verizon Center that are up for grabs! If any of the dates below work for you, please email Ashley Fox at afox@dccouncil.us to coordinate pick up.

  • Wednesday, February 10 at 7:30 p.m. ($9 tickets)
  • Thursday, February 11 at 7:30 p.m. ($9 tickets)
  • Monday, February 15 at 12:30 p.m. ($16 tickets)

I’m excited about working together! I’m also excited about working with progressive local legislators across the country; check out this great Washington Post story on Local Progress that appeared in the Business section over the weekend.

Elissa.