Newsletter: Wet Hot D.C. Council Summer (Recess)
Starting today, the D.C. Council joins many of our public schools and public charter schools in taking a summer break — or legislative recess, as we call it. This means there will be no official D.C. Council legislative business for the next nine weeks: No Council hearings, markups, or legislative meetings. This doesn’t mean we completely shut down: My staff and I will be taking vacation time for sure, but we’ll also be brainstorming, researching, writing, doing site visits, and holding our own meetings in and out of the office to put together our fall legislative agenda. Please send along your ideas!
Though we officially kick off summer July 15, I always feel summer unofficially kicks off with the July 4 parades. For all those who say D.C. is a transient town lacking identity, they haven’t been to the Barracks Row or Palisades Independence Day celebrations. It was fantastic seeing so many of you on the parade routes—and if we missed saying hi or you missed the cameo appearance by Teddy Roosevelt at Barracks Row and our award-winning Wonder Woman theme in the Palisades (yes, we actually did win an award)—take a look back at pictures from the day on my office Facebook page!
While we work on getting a head start for the fall, I’ll be taking some vacation time to visit family and friends who live out of the District. I’ll also be taking an adult swim class at Anacostia pool with our Department of Parks and Recreation so I can use the inflatable kayak I just got to explore the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers more. I’ll be sending email updates a little less frequently until the Council gets going again in September, but keep reading to see what’s new and what exciting things are coming up!
LEGISLATIVE AGENDA UPDATES
The Council held one legislative meeting in July before our official recess. You might have seen in the press that we took an emergency measure to join other states in denying the request for voter data to the bogus Trump voter fraud commission. Thank you to Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen, who has committee oversight for the D.C. Board of Elections, for leading the charge.
There were a few other notable items. I introduced a bill to clearly detail our spending on getting residents into jobs, and I voted against two contracts that got sent down at the last minute. I provide some quick explanations below:
Increasing Transparency and Accountability with Workforce Spending: The District spends more than $100 million on workforce development—and there is currently no comprehensive guide to where that money goes or whether the spending is effective. That’s right: We really don’t know what we spend and whether it does any good. That’s why I introduced a bill at our final legislative meeting before recess that would detail spending and performance outcomes to determine what programs and providers are actually successful at placing residents into good jobs and keeping them there. It got the support of 11 of my colleagues. You can read more about the Workforce Development System Transparency Act of 2017 in the bill text here and the press release here. You can also follow the bill’s progress online here.
Saying No To Unaccountable Or Runaway Spending: I also cast two no votes on contracts that were sent for approval to the Council in the final hours before recess. The first no vote was a $4 million increase to the $160 million and still rising Duke Ellington School modernization project contract. Ellington is a great example of arts education at its finest, but the school modernization of the Ellington building has been a prime example of how we let spending on capital projects get out of hand. The $4 million request was going to pay for enhancements like upgraded lighting, rubberized flooring and additional floor whitening that could come under the label “scope creep.” This has been a problem with many of our school modernization projects and was discussed in a D.C. Auditor report on Ellington. I think it is time to stop this enabling behavior; we need to live within our means.
I also cast a no vote on the school food contract extension, along with two of my colleagues. You might remember last summer, right before recess, we got a last minute contract for the same thing. After discussions with the chancellor and executive, it was agreed that our new contractor, Sodexo, would provide data so we could monitor the contract. This would include measuring waste, for example, which is an indicator of how much of the food students are eating, as well as surveys. Lo and behold, that information was unavailable when we had to vote on a contract extension July 11. I believe our students deserve the best meals and nutrition, and given we don’t know how Sodexo is performing, I voted no.
LABOR AND WORKFORCE COMMITTEE UPDATE
Seeing Job Training First-Hand: I’ve been visiting a number of job training sites and hands-on workforce programs around the city to better understand what types of programs are available to District residents, what skills are in high-demand, and how jobseekers can build those skills—and convert them into full-time work.
At Run Hope Work, a District-funded job training program that combines exercise, mindfulness, and occupational training in flooring and painting, I met Charles. Charles is a 24-year-old Ward 4 resident who is a returning citizen. Through his parole officer, Charles learned about this job training program and put his heart into it. Today, he will be starting a paid apprenticeship program with the Painters Union. This is what we want to see with our workforce dollars! I wish Charles much success today and beyond
One observation I’ve had is that we do not connect training to employers. I recently met with Dave Cantwell of Recycled Aggregates, who was representing the National Utility Contractors Association of DC. Dave told me he wants to hire a welder who lives in D.C. but hasn’t been able to find one in years. I told Dave: We spend taxpayer dollars on a welding school in Ward 8! So last Thursday, Dave came with me and my staff to visit the school. There he learned the school does the training Dave and his fellow utility contractors want but there was a problem: The school has trouble getting referrals from our Department of Employment Services! This is so frustrating, given the amount of infrastructure work our city is doing right now! More on this soon…
Summer Youth Employment: My office is thrilled to be hosting our second Marion S. Barry Summer Youth Employment Program (MBSYEP) intern, Jamari Winston. Jamari is a recent D.C. Public Schools graduate and joins us through an MBSYEP partnership with the Mikva Challenge Program, which focuses on getting youth active in the local decision-making process. Jamari has already become a valuable voice in our office, sharing firsthand feedback on some of the issues young people face in finding and keeping summer and year-round employment in the city. He’s also been an extra set of eyes on my workplace site visits with the Committee!
- Free Youth Arts Academy: Words Beats & Life Arts Academy is hosting free evening classes three times a week for young people to learn photography, chess, poetry, and how to DJ. Classes end on Friday, August 4, and a registration form is required.
- Veterans Job Fair: Wednesday, July 19, from 10:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. at the D.C. Armory (2001 E Capitol St SE
- Splendor Fest for the Homeless Community: Saturday, July 22, from 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. at Franklin Park (13th to 14th St. between I and K St. NW)
- Petting Zoo at Milian Park: Saturday, July 29, from 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. at Milian Park (5th St. and Massachusetts Ave. NW)
- Petworth Jazz Project: Saturday, July 29, from 6:00 p.m.- 9:00 p.m. at the Petworth Recreation Center (801 Taylor St NW)
- Ward Day at the National Building Museum: Tuesday, August 1, from 9:00 a.m.-11:00 a.m. at the National Building Museum
- Explore! Children's Museum Summer Festival: Saturday, August 5, from 11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. at the Mission Mobile Launch Pad (5234 4th St. NE)
- Career Fair at the Wharf: Thursday, August 10, from 9:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. at Arena Stage (1101 6th St. SW) If you’ve been to Hains Point or crossed I-395 over the Potomac recently, you’ve seen the shiny new development known as The Wharf. This project, which received taxpayer-funded assistance from District government, will have many jobs in our retail and hospitality industry when it opens in October. In order to get as many District residents into these employment opportunities, we’re hosting a job fair with The Wharf at Arena Stage on August 10!
On a final practical note: The heat index is getting close to 100 degrees. You can brush up on the available heat advisory and cooling centers here and remember to watch out for elderly neighbors, pets, and children.
Thanks for reading!