Newsletter: Shouldn’t “Take On Me” Be Our 7th Inning Stretch Song?
I’m still trying to figure out what exactly happened in the 5th inning of Game 5 of the Nationals vs. Cubs. To those who don’t follow baseball and the Nationals, I’ll move quickly to other matters. To those who cheer for our hometown team, I wish I could pass a bill to make sure the Nationals win a Game 5 of the National League Division Series. Maybe for next year.
The night of Game 1, I had the opportunity to visit Ward 8’s Excel Academy for a screening of Zero Weeks, a moving documentary about the need for paid family leave in the US. One of the film’s subjects, Kesha Scrivner, is a Ward 8 resident who is currently battling cancer. Her daughter is a student at Excel (pictured in photo). You can read more about Kesha’s story and ways to support her here. Echoing Kesha, people can’t heal if they can’t rest. And they can’t rest if they can’t pay their bills. More thoughts on why we shouldn’t get distracted with last-ditch efforts to delay providing paid family leave to District residents and workers are in my full statement from last week’s hearing online here. You can also watch testimony from the 10-plus-hour hearing here and catch the Twitter conversation here.
One other small note on the Attorney General’s decision not to appeal the Wrenn gun case to the U.S. Supreme Court: I agreed with AG Racine. It was too big a risk. But the Council can come back to this issue, using the Appeals Court decision as a roadmap. Along with my colleagues, I’ll do everything in my power to keep guns off the street. However, even the most restrictive guns laws have limited impact when most guns on DC streets are illegal but purchased legally in other states with much more lax gun laws.
Protecting Seniors from Losing Their Homes: You may have seen an August Washington Post article chronicling a 92-year-old Petworth resident’s battle to keep her home after falling behind on her annual property taxes and insurance, all after taking out a reverse mortgage. Sadly this happens more frequently than we’d like to believe. That’s why I introduced a bill called the Reverse Mortgage Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2017 to make sure reverse mortgages do what they were intended for the District’s senior residents—help them keep their homes, not lose them.
The bill creates an assistance program for District seniors who are facing foreclosure under a reverse mortgage by paying overdue property taxes and insurance for borrowers who might lose their homes because of nonpayment. To qualify, homeowners would have to prove an inability to pay their outstanding balance during an active foreclosure, verify an annual household income at or below 80% of the area median income, and provide a plan for paying the annual tax and insurance costs going forward. The assistance would also have a limited number of times it can be accessed and require repayment once the homeowner pays off the reverse mortgage or no longer chooses to keep the property. You can follow the bill’s progress here, and encourage the Committee on Housing and Neighborhood Revitalization to hold a hearing soon!
Incentivizing Businesses to Pay Living Wages: I want every resident to be able to afford to live, work, and stay in the District long-term. A number of small and large District businesses already voluntarily pay their employees a living wage (currently $13.95) under the District’s Living Wage law that requires employers for certain government projects to pay their employees a living wage. There are 50,000 District residents supported by our recently increased minimum wage, and, while some businesses voluntarily pay above the minimum wage, we want more to rise to the challenge!
The Living Wage Certification Program Amendment Act of 2017 that I introduced earlier this month would allow the Department of Small and Local Business Development to certify District businesses that pay their employees a living wage and create a directory of local companies paying a living wage for consumers to reference. Certified businesses would get an “I pay a living wage” decal (like the UK Living Wage Foundation’s example) to display in their businesses or on their products—so consumers who want to provide their support can find them!
I’m hopeful that Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie, Chair of the Business and Economic Development Committee, will hold a hearing on the bill soon. You can follow the bill’s progress here and check out why a local business is making headlines for paying above and beyond the living wage here.
Holding DC Slumlords Accountable: Being a slumlord should never be a viable business model in the District, but unfortunately right now it can be. My staff and I have been working with the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) to figure out ways to combat this ugly reality.
At a recent Committee of the Whole hearing on DCRA’s inspection and enforcement practices for tenant housing, I asked DCRA Director Melinda Bolling if revoking business licenses and permits for delinquent landlords was a possible approach. The District could do this but would then have to vacate their buildings, displacing already-victimized tenants. Instead, we can prevent bad actors from expanding business ventures by blocking new permits and licenses until all outstanding violations have been fixed. My office is now working with DCRA to write a bill that does this. I’ll share more updates as this develops and welcome other ideas/recommendations to consider. Please reach out to Kelly Hunt in my office at [email protected].
Supporting Shaw Main Streets: One of DC’s Main Streets Programs, Shaw Main Streets, is one of 25 finalists (out of 1,500) selected as a finalist for a $150,000 grant to re-do the historic facade of a blacksmith shop-turned-bar called Ivy & Coney. Voters can submit 5 votes per day through the end of the month, with the top 10 vote-getters receiving funding to restore their “ugly duckling.” You can cast your votes at http://voteyourmainstreet.org/DCMetro!
Joining Neighbors Across the City: My staff and I rounded out the first month of fall with trips to Ward 4 for the Takoma Street Festival and Ward 6 for the Barracks Row Fall Festival and Capitol Hill Jazz Foundation’s Hill Fest! I also spent some time East of the River last weekend supporting workforce champion Raymond Bell’s HOPE Project IT Summit in Ward 8, along with DC Green’s Grocery Walk to support the urgent need for East of the River residents to have better access to quality food and more grocery stores. Currently there is only one full-service grocery store in Ward 8 and two in Ward 7, not nearly enough to support the over 148,000 residents in two wards east of the Anacostia River.
Take a look below for more upcoming community events to mark on your calendar:
- No Muslim Ban Ever March: Wednesday, October 18, from 11:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. at Lafayette Square (1520 H St. NW)
9th Annual Ward 8 Breast Cancer Awareness Day: Saturday, October 21
- Awareness Walk from 8:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. beginning at Bald Eagle Recreation Center (100 Joliet St. SW)
- Wellness Fair and Play Day from 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. at Oxon Run Park (Wheeler Rd. & Mississippi Ave. SE)
- Dinner & Discussion: Is Big Money a Threat to Our Democracy?: Tuesday, October 24, at 7:00 p.m. at Mr. Henry’s (601 Pennsylvania Ave. SE)
- Hilloween: Friday, October 27, from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. in Eastern Market
- Fall Fun Day: Saturday, October 28, from 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. at Milian Park (5th & Massachusetts Ave. NW)
- Eckington Day: Saturday, October 28, from 1:00 - 5:00 p.m. on Harry Thomas Way NE
- Ladies Tea Dance: Sunday, October 29, from 2:00 – 5:00 p.m. at Annie’s Ace Hardware (Brookland location, 3405 8th St. NE)
- Volta Park Day: Sunday, October 29, from 2:00 - 5:00 p.m. at Volta Park (1555 34th St. NW)
Thanks so much for your continued advocacy and have a great rest of the week.