Amid Congressional gridlock, pressure mounts on DC to apply for $300 weekly federal unemployment benefits
By Avi Bajpai and Eunice Sung, Street Sense Media, August 28, 2020
More than a month after the $600 per week federal unemployment benefits expired, Congress has yet to negotiate an extension of the program, and pressure is now mounting on D.C. to apply for the temporary relief measure being offered by the Trump administration...
At-large Councilmember Elissa Silverman, who chairs the D.C. Council Committee on Labor and Workforce Development, agrees. In a statement, Silverman said the District should apply to the grant program as long as Trump’s executive order is “legally sufficient,” adding that the main goal “is to keep these households and our local economy as stable as possible in this uncertain time.” She said she has heard from some workers asking why D.C. hasn’t yet applied for the unemployment benefits.
“Households are on the brink right now. Unfortunately, I think the executive order and the Congressional deal are caught up in 2020 electoral politics,” Silverman said. “Let me be clear, for the sake of our country and our city, we need Trump voted out of office. But families shouldn’t face an economic abyss because of presidential politics.”
Despite COVID-19 Case Increases in Phase 2, Mayor Declines to Scale Back Any Activities
By Amanda Michelle Gomez, Washington City Paper, August 19, 2020
“INCREASING TREND” reads a July 23 press release from the District’s health department. An accompanying line graph shows multiple red dots that represent peaks in new COVID-19 cases throughout the month of July. That press release was the first time the Bowser administration acknowledged that the number of cases in D.C. was climbing again, after the city experienced weeks of declines and plateaus at the end of spring and into early summer...
At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman says she sees weekly calls with DC Health as a way to provide oversight. She continues to call for more transparency around contact-tracing data, and suggests DC Health publish its findings on its online dashboard, as a few other states have. She’d like to see something like Louisiana’s public data, which includes a list of the settings where outbreaks are happening and how many cases are associated with those settings.
Here’s one way Trump could try to steal the election, voting experts say
By Robert McCartney, The Washington Post, August 17, 2020
There’s a plausible way that independent voting experts worry President Trump could try to steal the election: by blocking the counting of mail-in ballots.
Democrats are much more supportive of voting by mail than Republicans, according to recent polls. That’s partly because Trump has falsely smeared mail-in voting as subject to widespread fraud.
“Right now, there’s just massive confusion about what we’re doing,” D.C. Council member Elissa Silverman (I-At Large) said. “I’ve been on two community chats where people have no idea what’s going on.”
Bowser seeks ethics review of aide who discussed job at Howard after negotiating tax break for university
By Fenit Nirappil and Michael Brice-Saddler, Washington City Paper, August 15, 2020
D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser has requested an ethics review of a freshly departed top aide who discussed taking a job with Howard University months after negotiating a deal for nearly $300 million in tax breaks and public funding for a new hospital for the university...
Council member Elissa Silverman (I-At Large) said she was surprised to learn about Young’s actions given his reputation as an ethical actor.
“Certainly the optics are very bad here, that he was the lead negotiator for the administration both with Howard and with the council getting this deal passed, and then to turn around and work for Howard,” Silverman said in an interview. “Whether it’s an ethics violation, I don’t know, but it certainly doesn’t look good and doesn’t seem to pass the smell test.”
Amid national Postal Service crisis, D.C. area residents struggle without consistent mail
By Julie Zauzmer, The Washington Post, August 15, 2020
In the Washington region, the problems besetting the U.S. Postal Service nationwide sometimes look like a missing check that is badly needed to pay the rent, a bottle of medication delivered days after the last prescription ran out or a mailbox that sits empty day after day...
As constituent services director for D.C. Council member Elissa Silverman (I-At Large), Pat Joseph has been keeping an eye on mail complaints in D.C. neighborhoods. She knows about the problem firsthand: “Last week I got no mail at all,” she said. “Usually I get something, even if it’s a circular, or a postcard trying to buy my house. I talked to my neighbors. They said the same thing … To go a whole week with nothing, that’s bad. That’s really bad.”
DC Officials Apologize for Voting Mailer With Crucial Design Flaw
By Mark Segraves, NBC 4, August 13, 2020
A mailer sent to every registered voter in Washington, D.C., was supposed to help residents cast their ballots. Instead, it sparked confusion.
The D.C. Board of Elections apologized on Thursday after a design flaw confused voters ahead of the general election. As many as 500,000 of the faulty mailers were sent out.
The mailer lets voters confirm or change their mailing address. But if you follow the instructions and tear the card along the perforated line before you mail it back, some of your vital information will not be included.
“This election is too important to fail,” said D.C. Council Member Elissa Silverman. She’s one of several elected officials raising concerns about the latest error by D.C. election officials.
DC mailer sent to voters causing confusion, concern
By Bob Barnard, FOX 5, August 13, 2020
A D.C. Board of Elections mailer intended to confirm voters’ addresses in order to send them mail-in ballots this year is already creating confusion for some – and it’s all because of a design flaw. In the era of the novel coronavirus, many jurisdictions are asking residents to vote by mail. While voters in Maryland and Virginia must apply for a ballot, D.C. elections officials are trying to make it as easy as possible.
So they sent out the mailer to confirm residents’ addresses. Some recipients noticed, however, that if you tear the mailer along a perforation, crucial information may be lost.
A mailer was supposed to make voting easier for D.C. residents. Instead, it confused them
By Michael Brice-Saddler, The Washington Post, August 12, 2020
A mailer from the D.C. Board of Elections meant to help registered voters in the District confirm their address has spurred confusion for some residents, who say the form’s poor design and instructions have prevented them from filling it out as intended.
The Politics Hour: Friday, July 31, 2020
Kojo Nnamdi Show, WAMU 88.5, July 31, 2020
After two whirlwind meetings, the D.C. Council passed the 2021 fiscal year budget. D.C. Councilmember Elissa Silverman joined The Politics Hour to discuss that, plus the latest D.C. coronavirus news.
D.C. Council approves amendments to $16.7 billion budget
By Shen Wu Tan, The Washington Times, July 28, 2020
The D.C. Council on Tuesday approved supplementary legislation for the fiscal 2021 budget, finalizing the city’s multibillion-dollar spending plan.
The 13 lawmakers discussed proposals about affordable housing, charter schools and an expansion of cash assistance for workers who don’t qualify for unemployment insurance, having approved the overall $16.7 billion budget last week.
The Council shot down an amendment by Council member Vincent Gray, Ward 7 Democrat, that would have included Northeast and Southeast as being eligible for tax abatements for affordable housing.
Despite Self-Quarantine Exemption, Officials Say Maryland Beachgoers Should Exercise Caution
By Nathan Diller, DCist, July 28, 2020
D.C. began requiring travelers from areas with high levels of COVID-19 to self-quarantine for two weeks on Monday, and the city released a list of 27 states deemed high-risk, including Delaware, where many locals vacation in towns like Rehoboth Beach and Bethany Beach.
Maryland and Virginia, though, are exempt from the list, meaning visitors from Delaware must remain at home or in their hotel rooms after arriving in D.C., while those coming from Ocean City, Maryland — just a half-hour drive from Bethany Beach — will not.
New affordable development incentives survive in D.C.'s coronavirus-constrained 2021 budget
By Alex Koma, Washington Business Journal, July 28, 2020
A new program to provide tax breaks for the construction of affordable housing in D.C.’s wealthiest neighborhoods survived the finalization of the city’s 2021 budget, though lawmakers frequently scuffled over the exact contours of the plan.
Tuesday’s unanimous vote by the D.C. Council ensured the new tax abatement will be included in the spending plan, offering developers up to 40 years worth of real estate tax savings if they build affordable projects in areas traditionally walled off from new construction. It’s one element among many approved in the council’s final consideration of the 2021 budget, bringing to a close one of the most tumultuous budget seasons in the District’s history, as the Covid-19 pandemic drained the city’s coffers and forced some difficult choices by lawmakers.
City-State Brewing breaks ground in DC’s Edgewood neighborhood
By Jeff Clabaugh, WTOP, July 27, 2020
After more than three years of fundraising and planning, a former Senate staffer’s brewery started construction last week near the Rhode Island Avenue Metro station in D.C.’s Edgewood neighborhood.
Attending the official groundbreaking were representatives from the office of D.C.’s deputy mayor for planning and economic development and the Department of Small and Local Business Development, as well as Council Member Elissa Silverman.
D.C. Attorney General Sues 16 Real Estate Companies, Professionals For Alleged Discrimination
By Hannah Schuster and Jenny Gathright, DCist, July 23, 2020
D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine has filed eight different lawsuits alleging that landlords, property managers and realtors discriminated against D.C. housing voucher holders.
Racine is suing 16 real estate companies and professionals for allegedly creating online ads that said they would not rent to prospective tenants who used housing vouchers — actions that disproportionately harmed Black D.C. residents.
D.C. Council Repeals Short-Lived Ad Tax As Lawmakers Close Out Challenging Budget Season
By Martin Austermuhle, DCist, July 23, 2020
The D.C. Council on Thursday repealed a new and controversial tax on the sale of ads before unanimously approving an $8.5 billion budget for 2021. With the votes, lawmakers closed out a testy and challenging process that saw them grapple — almost exclusively over Zoom — with a budget that for the first time in years didn’t have the benefit of growing revenues.
The final vote on the local portion of the city’s budget was delayed by two days after what some lawmakers called a “debacle” and “dumpster fire” of a debate on Tuesday over a proposed 3% tax on the sale of advertisements and personal data. While the Council signed off on the new tax earlier this month — a move that was expected to raise $18 million a year — growing opposition from local newspapers and small businesses led many lawmakers to reconsider this week.
D.C. Council pushes St. E’s, Howard University hospital deals closer to reality
By Sara Gilgore, Washington Business Journal, July 22, 2020
D.C. just took another step toward bringing two new hospitals to the city.
The D.C. Council Tuesday approved a bill for a new community hospital on the St. Elizabeths East campus that would replace the dilapidated, financially ailing United Medical Center in Southeast and “catalyze a comprehensive health care system for wards 7 and 8, for the first time ever in the history of this city,” said Councilman Vince Gray, D-Ward 7, at the meeting.
D.C. Council looks to scrap advertising tax hike amid industry opposition, delay budget vote
By Alex Koma, Washington Business Journal, July 21, 2020
In a sudden reversal, D.C. lawmakers appear to be ditching plans for an advertising sales tax increase amid fierce industry opposition, pushing a final vote on the city's fiscal 2021 budget out at least a day.
The D.C. Council was set to finalize roughly $8.6 billion in local spending for 2021, and that included a 3% tax on the sale of all advertisements and personal information. But lawmakers called off those plans at the last minute, opting instead to find $18 million in budget cuts so they can avoid the tax hike.
D.C. Council backtracks on advertising tax; delays vote to address budget hole
By Fenit Nirrapil, The Washington Post, July 21, 2020
The 3 percent advertising tax was among the last-minute tax increases authorized by the council when lawmakers cast their first budget vote on July 7. Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) proposed the tax on July 6.
The DC Council is expected to take its first vote on a Vision Zero Omnibus bill Tuesday
By Alex Baca, Greater Greater Washington, July 20, 2020
On Tuesday, the DC Council will take its first vote on the Vision Zero Omnibus bill, which passed unanimously out of its committee hearing on July 10. This legislation is part of the District’s larger goal to end traffic deaths by 2024.
Members of the Committee on Transportation and the Environment all supported the bill, which was co-introduced by Councilmembers Charles Allen (Ward 6), Anita Bonds (At-large), Robert White (At-large), Kenyan McDuffie (Ward 5), Brianne Nadeau (Ward 1), David Grosso (At-large), Elissa Silverman (At-large), and Brandon Todd (Ward 4).
District Links : Coronavirus cases rise in DC and region; Bowser plugs statehood on Tax Day; and more
By Chris Kain and Cuneyt Dil, The DC Line, July 15, 2020
Happy Wednesday. Tax Day usually falls on or around DC Emancipation Day, but last-minute filers are rushing in the midsummer heat thanks to the reprieve from the customary April deadline. Now, just less than two weeks removed from Independence Day, Mayor Muriel Bowser has designated July 15 as "Officially End Taxation Without Representation Day" in the District.
"2020 will be remembered for a lot of reasons — we know that," Bowser said at this morning's press conference. "But we want to add one more reason: We want to make 2020 the year our nation finally ended taxation without representation."
D.C. streetcar's extension just survived a budget challenge. But its future still looks murky.
By Alex Koma, Washington Business Journal, July 8, 2020
District lawmakers will keep money in the budget to fund the much-maligned extension of the H Street streetcar to Benning Road Metro station — but the future of the project looks far from settled.
D.C. Councilman Robert White, D-At large, came just a few votes shy of convincing his colleagues to shift away $35 million in funding for the project Tuesday, as part of a plan to redirect that cash to public housing repairs instead. And while that effort may have failed, the budget debate still revealed a broad lack of confidence in a project that’s been in the works for the better part of the last six years.
D.C. Council Grants Initial Approval To Deal For New Hospital In Ward 8
By Aja Beckham, DCist, July 8, 2020
After years of failed efforts, the District is one step closer to reaching a deal to build a new hospital in Southeast D.C., where residents face the most stark health inequities in the city.
On Tuesday, the D.C. Council voted in favor of a bill approving a deal with George Washington University Hospital to build a new hospital on the St. Elizabeths campus in Ward 8. The bill still needs to come up for a second vote before its final passage.
Inside DC Council's marathon Tuesday meeting: equity, budget, police reform, and more
By Heather Graf, WJLA, July 7, 2020
Tuesday marked the first of two required council votes on the District's $8.5 billion proposed budget. And ahead of that vote, council members took part in a marathon virtual meeting that started at 10 a.m.
The conversation also comes as protests continue on Black Lives Matter Plaza, with demonstrators calling on council members to defund the DC Police Department and instead invest that money in Black communities.
D.C. Council Vote Cuts Corporate Tax Breaks And Funds Affordable Housing, Other Supportive Services
By Jenny Gathright, WAMU, July 7, 2020
Against the backdrop of a pandemic that has laid bare the life-and-death consequences of racial and economic inequality in the District, the D.C. Council took its first budget vote on Tuesday. Much of the debate centered on whether to increase taxes on the city’s wealthiest residents and corporations in order to free up funds for affordable housing, violence interruption programs, school-based mental health, economic relief for undocumented workers and other interventions that benefit the city’s poorest residents.
In the end, the council voted to move about $60 million in additional funding toward these programs, funds they freed up by increasing the city’s estate tax, further increasing cuts to a tax credit for tech companies, delaying some corporate tax cuts, increasing the gas tax by 10 cents per gallon and increasing a tax on advertising.
D.C. Council nudges St. E’s hospital bill to next stage
By Sara Gilgore, Washington Business Journal, July 7, 2020
The D.C. Council unanimously advanced legislation Tuesday evening that would bring a new $306 million community hospital to the District’s eastern side, filling a gaping hole in the city’s health care landscape that has only worsened amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The bill, entitled the “New Hospital at St. Elizabeths Amendment Act of 2020,” passed on its first reading before the full council, less than a week after sailing through a health committee vote — and, now, bringing the District a step closer to departing the hospital-operating business.
Jaffe Report: Why Selling DC's Football Team Would Be a Win for Dan Snyder
By Harry Jaffe, NBC Washington, July 3, 2020
Remember how Dan Snyder reacted to demands he change the name of Washington, D.C.’s pro football franchise? “NEVER.”
He said in 2013, “We'll never change the name. It's that simple. Never — you can use caps."
Let’s take the owner as a man of his word. Never means never. But under pressure from financial backers, Snyder might be knuckling under to calls for change that have become more insistent amid a national movement for racial equality in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd and too many others.
As D.C. Budget Vote Looms, Needs Are Acute For Public Housing Residents
By Eliza Berkon, WAMU, July 3, 2020
On Tuesday, the D.C. Council will vote on a budget proposal that designates some $40 million for public housing repairs over the next two fiscal years. But affordable housing advocates say that’s not nearly enough to revitalize homes that are riddled with health hazards and that put their mostly Black and Brown residents at greater risk of contracting the coronavirus.
“Many of the properties have issues with vermin, dust, lead paint issues, mold, and that directly connects to having health conditions like asthma,” says Doni Crawford, a policy analyst with the DC Fiscal Policy Institute, a member of the Fair Budget Coalition. “And those are the underlying conditions that are directly associated with contracting COVID-19.”
From rent cancellation to tax breaks, D.C. lawmakers face demands for more coronavirus relief
By Alex Koma, Washington Business Journal, July 1, 2020
Has the D.C. Council crumbled under pressure from big landlords in crafting the city’s response to the coronavirus crisis? Or are lawmakers too eager to please tenant advocacy groups at the expense of mom-and-pop property owners?
It depends whom you ask. But the council’s next phase of a coronavirus recovery plans could be shaped by which group can make the more convincing argument.
Bowser bid to subsidize affordable housing in wealthy D.C. neighborhoods faces council tweaks
By Alex Koma, Washington Business Journal, June 30, 2020
The D.C. Council is tinkering with Mayor Muriel Bowser’s plan to incentivize the construction of affordable housing in the city’s wealthiest neighborhoods, with some lawmakers aiming to strengthen affordability requirements and others working to open the program to include many more projects.
The council’s housing committee, chaired by Councilwoman Anita Bonds, D-At large, and its business and economic development committee, chaired by Councilman Kenyan McDuffie, D-Ward 5, are both advancing a series of changes to Bowser’s proposal, which would provide real estate tax abatements for developers building new housing in “high-need areas.” Bowser pitched the measure as part of her 2021 budget proposal, building on her previous efforts to identify a need for more housing in wealthy neighborhoods like Chevy Chase, Foxhall Crescents and Palisades.
D.C.’s Paid Family Leave Program Gets Final Go-Ahead To Launch July 1
By Rachel Sadon and Colleen Grablick, DCist, June 26, 2020
Paid family and medical leave has crossed its final hurdle in the District.
The city’s chief financial officer has certified that the program, which would give employees of D.C. businesses up to eight weeks of paid parental leave, has enough funding to move forward on July 1.
D.C.'s paid family leave program to launch July 1
By Alex Koma, Washington Business Journal, June 26, 2020
D.C.’s paid family leave program looks set to launch July 1, meeting the city’s target date even as the coronavirus crisis raised questions about how the policy should move forward.
A spokesperson for the D.C. Department of Employment Services, which is managing the program, confirmed to the Washington Business Journal that the agency is “on track” for the launch Wednesday. Starting that day, District businesses will be required to provide employees with eight weeks of paid time off to care for a new child, six weeks to nurse a sick family member and two weeks to recover from a medical emergency.
Paid family leave benefits start July 1 in D.C.
From the Office of Councilmember David Grosso, June 26, 2020
Washington, D.C. – Councilmember David Grosso released the following statement regarding the Chief Financial Officer’s certification of sufficient funds to begin the payout of benefits on July 1, 2020 under the Universal Paid Leave Amendment Act, which Councilmember Grosso introduced along with Councilmember Elissa Silverman:
“This is monumental. Today’s certification by the CFO finally makes universal paid family leave a reality in the District of Columbia and creates an economy that works for both residents and businesses alike. No longer will working families in D.C. be forced to make the difficult choice between earning a paycheck or caring for a new family member or ailing loved one. Businesses across the District now have a competitive advantage in attracting and retaining highly qualified employees with a progressive benefit that they can offer to every employee at a fraction of the cost of providing it themselves.
“I want to thank Councilmember Elissa Silverman for her partnership in introducing this bill and her tenacious oversight of its implementation.
jonetta rose barras: Paging Emmett Fremaux
By Jonetta Rose Barras, The DC Line, June 25, 2020
After listening last week to DC Board of Elections (BOE) chair Michael Bennett and executive director Alice Miller trying to explain the chaotic mess they made of the June 2 primary, I wondered, Where is Emmett H. Fremaux Jr.? The well-regarded Elections Board director from 1983 to 1996 may be the only person who can successfully ensure a well-run November general election.
Before Fremaux arrived in the District, “elections in DC were a national embarrassment,” recalled Dorothy Brizill, co-director of DC Watch, a government watchdog group that has focused for decades on election issues in the city.
States failed to get absentee ballots to thousands of voters in recent primary elections, signaling problems for November
By Marshall Cohen and Kelly Mena, CNN, June 22, 2020
Washington (CNN) — As Washington, DC's June 2 primary approached, Matthew Miller and Nima Sheth, married professors who live in the District, decided to vote absentee. With elderly, immunocompromised parents at home, plus a 1-year-old baby, it felt like the safest choice in the age of coronavirus.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser finds herself in the national spotlight as Trump’s latest foil
By Tracy Wilkinson, The LA Times, June 22, 2020
WASHINGTON — When President Trump on Saturday used his first political rally in months to attack Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser as an incompetent radical, she was ready to slap back.
Bowser quipped that it seemed she was Trump’s new obsession — “living in his head, and apparently there’s a lot of empty room in there ... just like tonight’s half-empty Tulsa arena.”
D.C. Election Officials Say They Lost 1,100 Absentee Ballot Requests Ahead Of June 2 Primary
By Martin Austermuhle, DCist, June 19, 2020
At least 1,100 requests for absentee ballots were lost by the D.C. Board of Elections ahead of the city’s June 2 primary, forcing hundreds of voters to cast ballots in-person while others apparently did not vote at all.
The revelation came during a D.C. Council hearing on Friday, where members of the public complained about multiple problems ahead of and during the primary — from missing absentee ballots to hourslong waits at polling places on Election Day — and election officials tried to explain to exasperated lawmakers why things went wrong and how to prevent a repeat during November’s general election.
DC Council unanimously approves sweeping police reforms in emergency legislation
The D.C. Council voted unanimously Tuesday afternoon to approve emergency legislation that includes sweeping police reforms.
The police reform legislation put forward by Ward 6 Councilman Charles Allen prohibits neck restraints, or “chokeholds” — moves the D.C. Council declared lethal force, “an unnecessary danger to the public” and limited in 1986.
D.C. Council Approves $5 Million In Funding For Undocumented Workers Impacted By Coronavirus Crisis
By Andrew Giambrone, DCist, June 9, 2020
Two months after Events DC, the District’s sports, entertainment, and conventions authority, set aside $5 million for undocumented workers who were laid off or furloughed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the D.C. Council on Tuesday approved the contract that enables the money to get into those workers’ hands.
The action came during a meeting of the D.C. Council at which lawmakers ratified various legal changes meant to alleviate the economic fallout from the coronavirus crisis. The contract authorizes the Greater Washington Community Foundation to manage the $5 million so that it’s disbursed, via local nonprofit organizations, to undocumented families, many of whom work in the region’s hospitality industry. That industry, including hotels, restaurants, and event firms, has seen severe damage because of the pandemic.
The Cybersecurity 202: D.C.’s use of email voting shows what could go wrong in November
Joseph Marks and Tonya Riley, The Washington Post, June 4, 2020
The District of Columbia’s last-minute decision to allow voting by email in this week’s primary is sounding warning bells for election security hawks.
The practice puts election results at higher risk of hacking because there’s no way for voters to verify their votes were recorded accurately, they say.
And the scramble is a disturbing preview of how election officials beset by challenges may bargain away security if they’re not better prepared by November.
D.C. Officials Say They’re Demanding Answers On Long Lines And Lost Ballots On Election Day
By Martin Austermuhle, DCist, June 4, 2020
The bevy of problems around Tuesday’s D.C. primary—including hours-long lines at the polls and absentee ballots that were never delivered—have prompted calls for accountability, with Mayor Muriel Bowser and the D.C. Council asking the city’s independent elections board to explain why things went wrong.
Speaking on Wednesday, Bowser—who herself voted in person in Ward 4—called Tuesday’s primary “nothing short of failed execution,” and said she would be asking the D.C. Board of Elections for answers. Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen, who oversees the board, also announced a public hearing on June 19 at which election officials will be asked to testify.
AG Barr Says He May Remove Some Federal Law Enforcement From D.C.
By Jordan Pascale, Ally Schweitzer, Rachel Kurzius, and Andrew Giambrone, WAMU, June 4, 2020
3:28 p.m.: Attorney General William Barr told reporters Thursday that he may pull back some law enforcement from the District now that demonstrations are increasingly peaceful.
Demonstrators and members of the media have pushed back against characterizations of violent protesters, describing the presence of police and military forces as excessive. Barr has been heading up the federal response to D.C. protests from an FBI command center in Chinatown, the Washington Post reports.
Brandon Todd loses his D.C. Council seat, and voters soundly reject Jack Evans
By Fenit Nirappil and Julie Zauzmer, The Washington Post, June 3, 2020
D.C. voters upended city hall politics in Tuesday’s Democratic primary, ousting an ally of Mayor Muriel E. Bowser in favor of an insurgent left-leaning candidate and ending the political career of a veteran lawmaker tarred by scandal.
D.C. Council member Brandon T. Todd (D-Ward 4) lost his reelection bid to Janeese Lewis George, a lawyer and self-identified democratic socialist who had been endorsed by her former employer, D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine (D).
Voting problems in D.C., Maryland lead to calls for top officials to resign
By Julie Zauzmer, Jenna Portnoy, and Erin Cox, The Washington Post, June 3, 2020
They called for top elections officials to resign after botched delivery of absentee ballots and hours-long waits at polling places left some voters disenfranchised.
Long Lines at DC Primary Polls Were ‘Failed Execution,' Mayor Says
By Sophia Barnes and NBC Washington Staff, NBC Washington, June 3, 2020
The mayor of Washington, D.C., called long lines at polling sites during the primary election Tuesday a failure. Voters reported waiting for hours at polls and some said they never received mail-in ballots.
“I know that D.C. voters spent hours at the polls yesterday and that is nothing short of failed execution,” Mayor Muriel Bowser said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon.
Unofficial Election Results: Janeese Lewis George Overtakes Brandon Todd In Ward 4, Brooke Pinto Narrowly Leads In Ward 2
By Rachel Kurzius and Rachel Sadon, DCist, June 3, 2020
After an election night marked by wait times stretching past four or five hours at polling sites, Janeese Lewis George appears to have bested incumbent Brandon Todd in Ward 4 in the Democratic primary, while Brooke Pinto holds an extremely narrow lead in Ward 2, according to unofficial election results that don’t include special and some absentee ballots.
Incumbents Vincent Gray and Trayon White, in wards 7 and 8, appear to be handily holding on to their seats. Both lead by margins of around 2,000 votes.
Bowser ally Brandon Todd loses D.C. Council primary to left-leaning challenger; Evans far behind in Ward 2 race
By Julie Zauzmer and Fenit Nirappil, The Washington Post, June 3, 2020
BREAKING: D.C. Council member Brandon T. Todd lost Tuesday’s Democratic primary to challenger Janeese Lewis George, according to preliminary returns, while attorney Brooke Pinto narrowly leads a crowded field for the Ward 2 council seat.
Former council member Jack Evans — who relinquished the Ward 2 seat in January while facing expulsion for ethics violations — trailed far behind in the mostly mail-in primary.
Lost Ballots And Long Lines Mark A Bumpy First Foray Into Vote-By-Mail In D.C.
By Martin Austermuhle, DCist, June 3, 2020
It was an inauspicious start to an election season: Only days after the D.C. Board of Elections announced in late March that it would try and conduct a majority of the June 2 primary by mail, a number of staff members developed COVID-19 symptoms, forcing the board to quickly shutter its offices.
And in the two months that followed, the city’s independent elections office scrambled to piece together a vote-by-mail election that many states implemented over the course of years. It received some 90,000 requests for absentee ballots, a tenfold increase over the prior election cycle.
D.C. Voters Wait Past Midnight To Cast Ballots In Primary Election
By Rachel Kurzius, Dee Dwyer, and Andrew Giambrone, DCist, June 2, 2020
More than four hours after polls closed for D.C.’s primary election, some District voters throughout the city were still waiting in line to cast their ballots, as the June 2 primary stretched into June 3.
At Ida B. Wells Middle School in Ward 4, more than 100 people remained in line to vote as of 11:15 p.m., per Andrea Crooms, a volunteer for the campaign of Ward 4 candidate Janeese Lewis George. Crooms, who voted by mail, says that most people at the polling center are sticking it out—many have been on line since 7 p.m.—and “people are really positive and patient.”
D.C. opens two more coronavirus testing sites, one open to walk-ups
By Adam Zielonka, The Washington Times, June 1, 2020
The District has opened two more COVID-19 testing sites, one of which will accept walk-ups without an appointment required.
The walk-up site opened in Northwest on F Street between 4th and 5th streets.
In D.C.’s Ward 8, Trayon White’s grass-roots activism approach is on the ballot
By Fenit Nirappil, The Washington Post, May 31, 2020
No one charts their own way in District politics quite like D.C. Council member Trayon White Sr. (D-Ward 8).
Voters in Ward 8 — the most impoverished, heavily African American part of the city — elected White as their representative in 2016, following a grass-roots campaign in which he vowed to be the “people’s champ.”
Coronavirus upends campaign season as D.C. primary nears
By Lou Chibbaro Jr., Washington Blade, May 29, 2020
Nearly all of the 25 candidates running in D.C.’s June 2 Democratic primary for five D.C. Council seats and three congressional seats have expressed strong support for LGBTQ rights, prompting activists to predict that LGBTQ voters will likely choose a candidate to vote for based on non-LGBTQ issues.
Early voting for the primary began on May 22 and was scheduled to continue each day except Memorial Day on May 25 at 20 voting centers located throughout the city from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. The 20 voting centers were scheduled to be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on June 2. The location of the voting centers can be found at dcboe.org.
How This Primary Could Shift The Direction Of The D.C. Council
By Rachel Kurzius, DCist, May 28, 2020
D.C. legislators are duking it out over the direction of the D.C. Council this primary season.
On the one side, you have the powerful chairman. In the upcoming D.C. Council primary, Phil Mendelson has endorsed Brandon Todd, the sitting council member in Ward 4, and Patrick Kennedy in Ward 2, the candidate supported by many of the former backers of longtime council member Jack Evans, who resigned in January amid a growing ethics scandal. In making those endorsements, he is joined by At-large Council member and former chair of the local Democratic Party Anita Bonds.
From unions to The Post’s editorial board: An overview of endorsements in DC’s June elections
By Amanda Menas, The DC Line, May 22, 2020
The ethics scandal that prompted Jack Evans to resign from his longtime seat as the Ward 2 council member is just one of the storylines figuring into the upcoming June 2 primary and June 16 special election for the seat. With early voting now open and absentee ballots available on request through May 26, here is a breakdown of endorsements that candidates have secured across the at-large and four council seats on the ballot.
Many are watching the endorsements of progressive groups, as incumbents Brandon Todd and Vincent Gray face challengers from their left, and which candidates are using public financing through the new Fair Elections program. Incumbent Trayon White is participating; Robert White is not but says he will not take contributions from corporations, either.
Endorsements, Voting Changes Ramp Up as D.C. Primary Looms
By James Wright, The Washington Informer, May 20, 2020
The upcoming June 2 primary has produced important endorsements in the ward D.C. Council seat races and changes in the city’s voting system that includes absentee mail-in ballots.
Candidate forums have been taking place throughout the District, including a May 16 virtual event primarily sponsored by the Ward 8 Democrats. The forum featured D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), shadow Sen. Paul Strauss (D), D.C. Council member Robert White (D-At Large), Ward 8 Council member Trayon White (D) and Ward 8 council hopefuls Mike Austin, Yaida Ford and Fred Hill.
As Bowser Proposes Budget, Some D.C. Lawmakers Eye Tax Increases
By Martin Austermuhle, DCist, May 20, 2020
Faced with the first budget in almost a decade stricken by revenue shortfalls instead of surpluses, D.C. lawmakers on Tuesday alternated between praising Mayor Muriel Bowser for her proposed 2021 spending plan and gently hinting that they’re looking for new sources of money — including possible tax increases — for affordable housing, schools, health care, and violence prevention programs.
Bowser’s $8.5 billion budget, which she unveiled on Monday, largely relies on a pay freeze for D.C. government employees and the use of rainy day funds and past budget surpluses to make up for a $774 million shortfall in revenue caused by the pandemic’s shutdown of the city’s economy.
DC Council passes emergency relief bill; small landlords required to offer rent plans
By Will Vitka, WTOP, May 19, 2020
The D.C. Council passed an emergency coronavirus relief bill Tuesday that is aimed at helping residents and businesses hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis as the District’s economy has slammed to a halt.
Included in the bill is an amendment pushed by Council members Brianne Nadeau (Ward 1) and Charles Allen (Ward 6) that requires landlords with five or fewer units to establish alternative options with tenants facing hardships during the pandemic.
DCision 2020: Your Primary Voting Guide During The Pandemic
By Rachel Kurzius, Martin Austermuhle, Andrew Giambrone, and Colleen Grablick, WAMU, May 19, 2020
D.C.’s primary election is happening June 2. In the heavily Democratic District, the primary is usually more competitive than the general election, with the winner often sailing to victory in November. (There’s one major exception, which we note below.) The District has a closed primary, meaning that only registered Democrats can vote in the Democratic primary. The deadline for party registration was May 12.
This year’s primary promises to be like no other, thanks to the pandemic. D.C. officials are promoting mail-in ballots this year as a way to avoid crowds in polling places on Election Day. (Here’s more information about how to obtain an absentee ballot — registered voters need to request them from the D.C. Board of Elections by May 26.) Early voting starts May 22 with 20 voting centers throughout the city. And on Primary Day, D.C. won’t have its typical 144 polling centers open — it will still be those 20 locations, all requiring social distancing. D.C. allows for same-day registration in person.
D.C. Council must approve the new St. E’s hospital deal. Some issues still need to be resolved.
By Sara Gilgore, Washington Business Journal, May 12, 2020
D.C.’s new agreement with George Washington University Hospital’s majority owner to run a planned Ward 8 hospital must get the D.C. Council’s green light, something that’s sure to bring up points of contention new and old.
Council members are aware of the overall contents of the agreement with Universal Health Services Inc. (NYSE: UHS), which owns 80% of George Washington University Hospital, but the specific terms are still going through legal and financial review. The deal is expected to come before the council in June, but there already appear to be a few sticking points for some council members, including what it means for existing employees of United Medical Center, the only hospital currently east of the Anacostia River, and how the planned facility will improve existing health inequities.
D.C.’s Ward 2 special election is far from irrelevant
By Colbert King, The Washington Post, May 11, 2020
But the special election is far from irrelevant.
The victor on June 16 will almost immediately assume office and get plunged into the District’s most consequential budget battle since 1996, when the city returned from the brink of disaster to fiscal solvency.
Coronavirus Latest: Northern Virginia Leaders Say They’re Not Ready To Reopen
By Staff, DCist, May 10, 2020
May 10, 1:45 p.m.: As Virginia moves to enter Phase 1 of its reopening plan on Friday, local leaders from Northern Virginia say it’s too soon for them to move forward.
The top elected officials from Northern Virginia’s five biggest jurisdictions sent a letter on Sunday asking the governor to delay the region’s reopening. While the leaders support Northam’s plans in general, they believe their jurisdictions haven’t met the criteria for entering Phase 1.
Press Release: Councilmember Nadeau Introduces Foreclosure Moratorium To Protect Homeowners and Prevent Displacement
By the office of Councilmember Brianne Nadeau, May 5, 2020
WASHINGTON – Today, in an effort to pause foreclosures during the ongoing public health emergency and for 60 days after, Councilmember Brianne Nadeau introduced the Foreclosure Moratorium Emergency Amendment Act of 2020. The emergency legislation was passed unanimously by the full Council.
The mortgage relief previously passed by Council was not applicable to all homeowners, and the foreclosure moratorium included in the federal legislation Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act only applies to homeowners with federally backed mortgages. The legislation introduced by Councilmember Nadeau closes the existing gaps by providing explicit and clear language to broaden the protections to all homeowners. By enacting this measure, the District joins 15 other states that have passed similar protections.
DC Announces Plans for 2 New Hospitals in Wards 1 and 8
By Sophia Barnes, NBC Washington, April 30, 2020
Washington, D.C., has announced plans to open two new hospitals in Wards 1 and 8 over the next six years, investing more than $700 million in new health centers operated in part by Howard University Hospital and George Washington University.
The mayor's office says the hospitals will help address health care inequality in the District, which has been highlighted during the coronavirus pandemic. The new hospitals will replace Howard University's current hospital and United Medical Center in Southeast D.C.
D.C.’s paid family leave debate reignites amid coronavirus fallout
By Alex Koma, Washington Business Journal, April 29, 2020
The coronavirus outbreak has forced D.C. leaders to confront very new and uncomfortable questions these days, but one debate covers some well-trodden ground: what to do about paid family leave.
The District’s new leave program has taken years to pull together amid a back-and-forth between activists and prominent business leaders, enduring a bruising legislative fight and even a local election centered on the issue. It’s finally set to launch July 1, but the pandemic has prompted new questions about whether businesses can afford the program’s payroll taxes or if it’s even a good use of the city’s suddenly limited resources.
Bowser’s ReOpen D.C. Advisory Group Includes Allies And Lobbyists
By Martin Austermuhle, DCist, April 28, 2020
A crop of well-connected allies and lobbyists have been named to serve on Mayor Muriel Bowser’s ReOpen D.C. Advisory Group — but D.C. Public School parents and owners of local bars and restaurants say they are underrepresented on the panels that will guide the mayor on how and when to start lifting restrictions in the city.
Bowser unveiled the members of the advisory group on Monday, starting with two prominent chairpersons: former National Security Advisor and UN Ambassador Susan Rice and former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff.
Business tax relief proposal inspired by coronavirus raises questions from D.C. Council
By Alex Koma, Washington Business Journal, April 20, 2020
A business-backed tax relief proposal for industries hit hardest by the coronavirus crisis is earning a decidedly lukewarm reception among some District leaders, who still have questions on how to fund it amidst a sizable budget hole.
The pitch from the newly formed business group DC2021 would involve District officials waiving a full year of property taxes for all restaurant, retail, hotel, sports and entertainment companies to offset the impacts of the pandemic, in addition to the creation of several other targeted tax relief provisions. That would come with a hefty price tag, costing upward of $400 million at least per council estimates, but the business executives want to secure another $750 million in federal stimulus funding to fill the revenue void left by those tax changes.
Now in effect, DC’s follow-up COVID-19 relief legislation includes varied consumer protections
By Amanda Menas, The DC Line, April 17, 2020
As residents continued into week four of social distancing, the DC Council unanimously passed the COVID-19 Response Supplemental Emergency Act of 2020 last week during its first-ever virtual meeting. Mayor Muriel Bowser signed the bill last Friday, putting a diverse set of measures into effect.
“I think we all recognize that our worst days are probably still to come, but this city has shown that we will stick together, that we will rise to the occasion. And I think that this bill speaks to our ability as a city to protect our residents and to be sensitive to both what people are going through and also to make sure that we are setting ourselves up for strong recovery on the tail end,” said at-large Council member Robert White.
District business leaders warn of bankruptcies and permanent closures, plea for rapid help
By Steve Thompson, The Washington Post, April 16, 2020
A newly formed business group made an urgent plea to the D.C. Council on Thursday for tax abatements and other help for restaurants, retailers, hotels and entertainment venues devastated by the coronavirus-related shutdown.
During a hearing held online and via teleconference, members of the recently launched DC2021 forecast a wave of bankruptcies and permanent closures for District businesses unless the city steps forward with help.
Laid-off workers wait weeks to get unemployment benefits in DC
By Matt Gregory, WUSA9, April 14, 2020
WASHINGTON — As the coronavirus pandemic grows in our area, so do jobless numbers. In D.C., it is estimated, by the end of the week 60,000 people will have applied for unemployment in a month.
The overload caused many problems with the city trying to get benefits to the workers. Many workers said between the obsolete website and call centers, they’ve spent weeks trying to get benefits, but have had no luck.
Update on unemployment benefits for 1099 and gig workers
Letter to the Editor, PoPville, April 10, 2020
I know a lot of readers (myself included) have been anxiously waiting for DC to update their system to be able to process unemployment claims for 1099 and gig workers. I found this update posted yesterday on Elissa Silverman’s website. Pretty crazy it’s taking them a whole month to roll this out since the legislation passed!”
Ed. Note: Elissa Silverman’s office and website have been very helpful answering folks various questions about unemployment.
In First-Ever Virtual Meeting, D.C. Council Passes Bill Halting Rent Hikes, Offering Some Mortgage Payment Deferrals
By Martin Austermuhle, WAMU, April 8, 2020
The votes may have come from their living rooms, but on Tuesday the D.C. Council unanimously approved an emergency bill extending additional relief to residents and businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
The measure — approved during the Council’s first-ever virtual meeting, conducted via Zoom — puts a halt on rent increases during the ongoing public health emergency and 30 days after it ends and requires some mortgage companies to offer property owners a 90-day deferral on payments.
D.C. mayor implements hiring freeze amid pandemic
By Sophie Kaplan, The Washington Times, April 6, 2020
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser signed an executive order Monday implementing a hiring freeze for the city government as a means to cut costs during the pandemic.
“Just as residents and businesses are making tough choices, the District will make tough choices too,” the Democratic mayor said.
Undocumented Immigrants Laid Off From D.C. Restaurants Worry About the Future
By Jessica Van Dop Dejesus, Washington City Paper, April 6, 2020
Immigrant workers keep restaurants going, whether they be hip bistros in hot neighborhoods or fast-food chains. Many of these line cooks, bussers, and servers are undocumented or waiting for the resolution of their immigration cases. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, D.C. area restaurants have closed or reduced their operations to take-out and delivery only and many of these workers were laid off. Without access to unemployment benefits or other formal support, this group is especially vulnerable.
Although they worked at different types of restaurants, these D.C. area residents encounter similar challenges. Many of them lack information and immediate income, and fear that a lack of work will jeopardize their futures. Some also worry about not being able to assist relatives in their home countries. Four of these workers discussed their situations with City Paper in Spanish. We are only identifying them by first name to protect their privacy.
A Delayed Makeover of D.C.’s Unemployment Website Impacts Tens of Thousands of Residents
By Mitch Ryals, Washington City Paper, April 2, 2020
When D.C. first announced plans to modernize its antiquated unemployment insurance system, Adrian Fenty was mayor, Barack Obama lived in the White House, and LL was too young to legally drink.
That was in June 2010, and at that time, the D.C. Department of Employment Services (DOES) estimated it would cost about $11 million to upgrade the system, which features components that date to the 1970s. The goal was to upgrade both arms that make up the unemployment insurance system: tax collection and benefits.
Delays in overhauling D.C. unemployment site add to turmoil of coronavirus layoffs
By Fenit Nirappil and Darran Simon, The Washington Post, April 2, 2020
Long before the coronavirus began to decimate the local economy, the D.C. Department of Employment Services promised a modern, user-friendly portal for submitting unemployment claims.
The agency told the federal government and the D.C. Council that the project could be finished as early as 2018. Then they said the winter of 2019, and later July 2019, according to documents reviewed by The Washington Post.
The Immigrants Who Feed D.C. Don’t Have the Same Safety Net as Other Out-of-Work Employees
By Laura Hayes, Washington City Paper, March 26, 2020
Ana Cristina Plaza and her colleagues at Ayuda have been making runs to the Capital Area Food Bank and dropping groceries off at clients’ houses, along with essentials like diapers. Food runs are outside the organization’s usual scope of work. So is writing rent checks. Ayuda typically provides translation help and legal assistance to immigrants and social services for immigrant victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, or human trafficking.
Seventy-five percent of the 120 families Ayuda supports include at least one restaurant industry worker, according to Plaza, a caseworker and Ayuda’s manager of emergency assistance programs. Many have been laid off and told to apply for unemployment. But doing so requires a Social Security number, which Plaza says 99 percent of her clients don’t have because they’re undocumented.