Newsletter: Recess is Over. Bring on Fall Hearings!

Dear Resident,

It’s officially the first week of fall, and the D.C. Council is back in full swing! 

Post-recess has been action-packed so far: Last Thursday, I joined my colleagues at a historic hearing on D.C. Statehood before Congress. Thank you to everyone who showed up at the Rayburn House Office Building, called members of the House and Senate to support the statehood bill, wrote an email, sent a tweet, told a friend, or simply wore a statehood button. The hearing was a step forward in highlighting this voting rights and civil rights injustice. I hope you will continue to lend your voice to the call for District statehood and stay engaged on ways to advocate. We need each of you to make D.C. the 51st state!

On that note, I want to spend a moment celebrating the life of Mark Plotkin, who died at the age of 72 over the weekend. Thursday’s hearing wouldn’t have happened without Plotkin’s tireless efforts to promote D.C. statehood. This city owes a lot to Plotkin, who was a savvy, sharp-tongued political commentator for both WAMU and WTOP over the years. He pretty much single-handedly saved the Wilson Building, then known as the District Building, as the seat of D.C. government. He was a relentless crusader for the District, always fighting against our step-child status with the federal government. Personally, I learned a lot from Mark, and he was supportive of my switch from journalism to politics. That’s because he himself ran for D.C. Council to represent Ward 3, and those of you who have attended a meet and greet in that ward might recall that I always start off my remarks with a suggestion from Plotkin! The Post has an excellent obituary, as does Mark Segraves of NBC4, and my guess is we’ll talk about Plotkin’s impact on D.C. affairs when I join Kojo Nnamdi and Tom Sherwood on the Politics Hour this Friday. We’ll continue the work you passionately pursued on behalf of District residents, Mark. Rest in peace.

Along with statehood, I’ll be prioritizing several big items through the end of this year and into next year. I am especially interested in maintaining our public housing stock and taking a detailed look at the D.C. Housing Authority’s recently released transformation plan, as well as continuing to make sure that our paid family leave program is ready to provide benefits to residents in July 2020. I’ll also be working to move forward my Student Loan Authority Establishment Act, which creates an independent agency to issue and refinance student loans for D.C. residents. Stronger enforcement of both the District’s First Source and wage theft laws will continue to be a large focus of my Labor and Workforce Development Committee, and I hope to work with my colleagues to include stronger language to increase affordable housing and prevent displacement when the Comprehensive Plan comes before the Council again for a second vote next month.

Finally: I’ll be cheering on our Washington Mystics, as they advance in the playoffs. Tonight, I’m hoping that the Nats will clinch a postseason spot. And Vamos United! We have three teams vying to advance in the postseason. Let’s fill the stands and support our teams!

STAFF UPDATES

I want to share some news within my own office. Many of you have had the pleasure of working with Michele Blackwell, who served as my Chief of Staff for the last three years. Our office wished Michele a bittersweet farewell earlier this month as she moved into a new role outside of the Wilson Building. We know Michele will shine in her new professional adventure! 

I’m excited to share that Sam Rosen-Amy is our new Chief of Staff! Many of you already know Sam from his last role as Legislative Director. As well, Ashley Fox is moving into a new role as Deputy Chief of Staff, handling much of the operations of the office. That means we are now on the search for a Communications Director, which we will be advertising soon.  If you’re in the Wilson Building over the next few weeks, I hope you will stop by to say hello and get acquainted with our new office structure! 

LEGISLATIVE UPDATES

Ensuring D.C. Residents Get First-Shot at Jobs: Last Tuesday, I introduced the First Source Community Accountability Amendment Act of 2019 to ensure District residents have access to information about jobs and hiring outcomes from taxpayer-funded projects subject to the District’s First Source law. Our First Source laws are intended to reduce unemployment by requiring developers with contracts over $300,000 to hire a certain number of District residents. 

 The bill proposes three changes to increase transparency and accountability:

  1. The Department of Employment Services (DOES) would provide a list of active First Source projects online and send notice of active projects to the Advisory Neighborhood Commissions where the projects are located. 
  2. Reporting requirements would become project-specific, not aggregate numbers that are currently provided, to determine whether hiring requirements are met.
  3. Any special hiring agreements between DOES and First Source contractors would be required to be developed prior to the start of a project, with that information also made available online. (For example, the Line Hotel's controversial tax abatement was an agreement made after original First Source requirements weren't met.)

I was thrilled to have support for this legislation from nine of my colleagues, and I look forward to holding a hearing on the bill in my Labor and Workforce Development Committee soon! If you have questions or feedback, contact Daniel Savery in my office at dsavery@dccouncil.us

Hearing on How Marijuana Use is Treated in the Workplace: Tomorrow, my Labor Committee will hold a hearing on two bills focused on how recreational and medical marijuana use affect current and future employment for District workers. I routinely hear from employers, employees, and training providers how much of a barrier marijuana testing is to employment. There is a lot of confusion about our marijuana law and employment. You may have read news reports of District employees who were reassigned at work due to medical marijuana use. This hearing is an important step toward better balancing workplace safety with our marijuana laws. 

If you have thoughts, I hope you will either testify in-person tomorrow, September 25, starting at 11:00am or submit written feedback to labor@dccouncil.us. Here are the two bills we are considering, and what they intend to do:

COMMUNITY UPDATES

Celebrate Rock Creek Park: Join neighbors at Rock Creek Park this Saturday for both National Public Lands Day and Rock Creek Park Day! Saturday will mark the anniversary of the creation of Rock Creek Park in 1890, which makes it the third-oldest national park! The day will include ranger talks and a volunteer clean-up from 9:00am-3:00pm at the Rock Creek Park Nature Center (5200 Glover Rd NW). Volunteers will receive a complimentary lunch and a coupon for one fee-free entrance to any national park. The event is free, but registration is required! You can contact Jesse Buff with questions at jbuff@rockcreekconservancy.org.

2019 DC Parent and Family Engagement Summit: The Office of the State Superintendent of Education is hosting its annual engagement summit this Saturday to inform parents and families about all education options available for children in the District. Contact Valrie Brown at Valrie.Brown@dc.gov or (202) 299-2093 for additional information. 

Washington Ballet’s City-Wide Dance for All: The Washington Ballet’s city-wide Dance for All event is back! Find free performances, lectures and demonstrations, and dance classes for all ages all across the District now through October 19.

Upcoming Events:

Thanks so much for reading, and I hope to see you at the Barracks Row Festival or the Tenant Summit this weekend!

Elissa.