Newsletter: The Budget Is Here!
Yesterday Mayor Bowser released her budget for fiscal year 2018. And so begins the Council’s eight week examination of the proposal, including a second round of agency hearings to learn how each plans to spend your taxpayer dollars on programs and services. Our office will be examining the budget closely, and, in a very cursory look, I’m pleased to see the Mayor fund several items I highlighted in my budget letter. Funding for items like affordable housing and housing preservation, childcare, and a new 14th Street express bus line. Please be in touch about your thoughts; I’ve heard from hundreds of residents already on a variety of issues—from school infrastructure to public safety to housing to parks and recreation—and some of the best advocacy has come from residents under the age of 21.
Last month, I was thrilled to join the Mikva DC Action Civics Fair to hear presentations on civic action projects from students across the District. I saw presentations on gentrification and building the District’s middle class. I also saw analyses of strategies for increasing safety and accountability on our public transit system. But I admit that one really caught my eye—and that was a presentation from Roosevelt Senior High School participants on how to build more comprehensive, year-round job training programs for high school students. Their insights were of particular interest because my Committee on Labor and Workforce Development held a public hearing on strategies to improve employment outcomes for District youth on Monday. Students are telling us exactly what they want and feel they need to be career ready, and I’m excited to incorporate the terrific ideas from our public school students, and Monday’s witnesses, into my committee work. It helps keep me energized—and on my toes.
I also want to take a moment to express my condolences to friends and family of Sharon Ambrose, who served the city in so many ways. As Ward 6 Councilmember, she was a smart, sharp-witted, and savvy advocate for the neighborhoods and constituents she represented. I never had the honor of working with Sharon, but I learned a lot from watching and covering her during my time as a reporter. Her impact on the city, especially Capitol Hill and surrounding neighborhoods, is lasting and visible.
LABOR AND WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE UPDATES
Improving Our Workforce Partnership with DOES, DMGEO, and WIC: Last month, the Committee on Labor and Workforce Development held an oversight hearing for the Department of Employment Services, the Workforce Investment Council, and the Deputy Mayor for Greater Economic Opportunity. I heard from a wide swath of the community about the importance of the work these agencies do, what is working well, and what areas we can improve. With the delivery of the Mayor’s budget, we will begin another round of hearings on these critical agencies. I am hopeful that this is the beginning of a fruitful collaboration between my Committee and the District’s workforce agencies to build a workforce development system that will truly serve the needs of our residents, our businesses, and our city as a whole.
WHAT’S HAPPENING WITH THE BUDGET?
As I mentioned, performance oversight hearings have come to a close, which means public hearings on the budget are up next. The Council will soon begin holding agency budget hearings throughout April and May. I encourage you to check the hearing schedule and testify on issues of interest. You are always welcome to call or email my office with questions or recommendations as well. But before we shift gears fully, I wanted to share a few final notes about performance oversight hearings that addressed one of my legislative priorities: housing.
Holding Our Housing Enforcement Agencies Accountable: The March 16 performance oversight hearing for the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) provided us with updated information on changes the department is making and also identified areas that need improvement. The vacant and blighted properties legislation I introduced that was passed by the Council in 2016 has been fully implemented, and DCRA Director Melinda Bolling testified that the new process is allowing her inspectors the time they need to better identify problem properties. That will, in turn, allow the District to appropriately tax delinquent properties and incentivize owners, particularly bad actors, to get their properties back into use.
Unfortunately, we also learned that there continues to be a problem with identifying substandard rental properties that many of our neighbors are living in and appropriately penalizing the property owners. That problem was also highlighted in the DC Housing Authority (DCHA) performance oversight hearing on March 20. When DCHA cancels a voucher contract with a property owner because the apartment has deteriorated below District standards, there is no official system reporting that substandard unit to DCRA. I look forward to working with both agency directors to correct that problem and was happy to hear that DCHA is improving the process for getting voucher clients into housing by using some of the $15 million in public housing repair funds that I advocated for last year. With even deeper cuts likely at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, I believe we’ll need to continue putting local money into that repair fund, or we will continue to lose this vital housing stock. You can learn more about why public housing is so important in this article from the DC Fiscal Policy Institute.
WHERE I’VE BEEN
Securing Housing for All: Keeping up the momentum to make sure the District keeps its promise of providing affordable housing for all is one of the many reasons I joined Mayor Bowser, At-Large Councilmember Anita Bonds, and over 100 advocates and concerned residents at the annual Housing for All Rally. It is events like these that keep me energized and focused on the seriousness of the housing crisis we are working to alleviate.
Hearing Tenant Experiences at Barry Farm: For the affordable housing options the District does have, essential to making sure housing providers are maintaining safe, clean, and comfortable living spaces is understanding the day-to-day experiences of tenants. Thank you to Barry Farm tenants in Ward 8 for candidly raising concerns and allowing me to see the property in-person. From pest infestations to chronically unusable appliances, it is very clear that we have much work to do, especially for lower income residents.
Joining Community Meetings Across the City: Thank you to ANC 4B for including me at last week’s meeting and Palisades Citizens Association for including me earlier this week. As summer approaches, I'm hearing timely points about where the District can improve access and availability to summer activities for District kids, along with better recreation center resources for families and seniors.
Where to Next? In the coming weeks, I’m excited to join neighborhood conversations with ANC 2F (tonight), Woodley Park Community Association (tonight), ANC 6C (April 12), ANC 4D (April 18), and ANC 2A (April 19). Hope to see you there!
Weighing in on the Comprehensive Plan: Last month, Mayor Bowser, the DC Office of Planning, and the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development opened the record for public amendments to the Comprehensive Plan through Friday, May 26. Community office hours are being held through April 11 at various locations to speak with staff or receive technical assistance. See the office hours schedule here. Amendments can also be submitted online or via email.
“Celebration of Youth” Student Essay Contest: The 29th "Celebration of Youth" essay contest has launched and is open to all DC Public School and DC Public Charter School students in grades 4 to 9. This year’s theme is around small actions students can take to improve their personal wellbeing. Essays are due by 6:00 p.m. on Monday, May 1. Multiple cash prizes will be awarded. Contact Dorothea Brady with questions at (202) 244-1682 or DorotheaBrady@globalharmonyexcellence.org.
The Zoo is Hiring! Friends of the National Zoo is now accepting applications for summer jobs. Open positions include carousel supervisors, student camp assistants, retail team members, and membership sales associates. Applicants must be at least 16 years old.
You can take a look below for a list of more upcoming community meetings and family-friendly activities:
- Register for Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) Spring Break Camp: Registration is filling quickly, but several sites are still open. Programming is available for kids ages 3 to 13.
- Comprehensive Plan Community Office Hours: Hosted by the Office of Planning from Monday, March 27 to Tuesday, April 11 at locations across the District.
- Free Income Tax Assistance at DC Public Libraries: Nine libraries, in partnership with AARP, are hosting income tax return preparation services through April 18 for qualified residents.
Coming Up Soon
- Emancipation Day Celebrations at Hill Center begin on Thursday, April 6, and run through Sunday, April 9. All events are free and open to the public.
- Ward 8 Conversation with DCPS Chancellor: Thursday, April 6, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Turner Elementary School (3264 Stanton Rd SE)
- Know Your Rights Workshop for National Crime Victims’ Rights Week (English and Spanish): Thursday, April 6, from 7:00-8:30 pm at Mt. Pleasant Neighborhood Library (3160 16th St. NW)
- Woolly Mammoth “Block” Party: Saturday, April 8, from 10:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company (641 D St. NW)
- Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival: Saturday, April 8, from 10:30 a.m.-6:00 p.m. at M St. and New Jersey Ave. SE
- 15th Annual Poet in Progress Reading Series: Saturday, April 8, from 6:30-8:00 p.m. at Folger Shakespeare Library, The Haskell Center (301 E. Capitol St. SE)
- Anacostia River Festival: Sunday, April 9, from 1:00-5:00 p.m. at Anacostia Park (Anacostia Dr. & Good Hope Rd SE)
- Emancipation Day Celebration Concert with Sweet Heaven Kings: Sunday, April 9, from 6:00-7:00 p.m. (225 7th St. SE)
DC Public Charter School Board (PCSB) Town Hall: Tuesday, April 11, at 6:00 p.m. at the DC PSCB Headquarters (3333 14th St. NW, Suite 210).
- Learn more about eight applications from groups seeking to open a new public charter school in the District.
- Ward 6 Conversation with DCPS Chancellor: Tuesday, April 11, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Eastern High School (1700 East Capitol St. NE)
Pepco Rate Increase Community Hearing: Wednesday, April 12, at 6:00 p.m. at 1325 G St. NW
- To testify, contact (202) 626-5150 or firstname.lastname@example.org by 5:00 p.m. on April 7. Walk-ins will also be allowed. Written comments will be accepted until April 25.
- Ward 1 Conversation with DCPS Chancellor: Thursday, April 13, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Columbia Heights Education Campus (3101 16th St. NW)
- Rhode Island Ave. Main Street PorchFest: Saturday, April 15, from 2:00-6:00 p.m. along Rhode Island Avenue NE Main Street
Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the neighborhood soon!