From Charles Allen <[email protected]>
Subject Ward 6 Update 4/21/23
Date April 21, 2023 12:02 PM
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Friend --

Well, it's been a beautiful spring, even if the temperatures are jumping all over and the tree pollen gives everything a lovely green/yellow sheen. I was lucky to get out of the office to join Southwest neighbors for the other annual DC Easter Egg Roll <[link removed]>, which was a blast. Down at the Council, each committee is getting ready to roll out their proposed budget changes for the agencies under their oversight. Every budget "markup" vote will be streamed live on the Council's website. As things begin to take shape, I'll share  Ward 6 budget wins and give a longer update on the proposal from the committee I chair, the Committee on Transportation and the Environment.

A quick note right up top: with Monday's Emancipation Day holiday, trash and recycling collection slid one day from your standard day (I see a lot of cans out a day early). Just a reminder!

Plenty happening in the Ward, so let's go ahead and jump in!

Quick Links: Budget Update <#budget> | Opioid Use Treatment Funding <#opioids> | Public Safety <#publicsafety> | Hands Off DC <#handsoffdc> | New Fire Truck! <#firetruck> | Delivery Fees <#deliveryfees> | School Enrollment <#school> | K Street Art <#kstreet> | Building AC <#buildings> | Visitor Parking <#visitor> | Compost Pilot <#compost> | Tax Facts <#taxes> | Workplace Rights <#workplace> | Southwest Spring <#kickoff> | Southwest Food Drive <#fooddrive> | Flavored Tobacco Win <#tobacco> | Standing with Survivors <#survivors> | Literacy Survey <#literacy> | Drug Take Back <#drugtakeback> | RAMMYs <#rammys> | Tickets <#tickets> | Twitter <#twitter> | Live Jazz <#jazz>


Budget Update: Oversight Hearings in the Books, Now Decision Time.

Last week, the Council's committees completed our agency budget oversight hearings. Thank you to the many residents and organizations who testified about where we need to make different investments or preserve what's been proposed. As I've said, this budget is tighter than past budgets. That's largely because of two factors: remote work has changed the way downtown's commercial buildings are valued, creating a significant drop in tax revenue. Even as inflation is slowly lessening, the cost of almost everything is up, and that means we see more dollars required for all of the different government functions. That's true across every sector of government, from construction costs to salary and purchasing.  

Committee on Transportation and the Environment Notes

As Chair of the Committee on Transportation and the Environment, there's plenty in this budget I like and plenty where I'm frankly really concerned. As we're now wrapping up our budget oversight, here's where I am.

I'm looking at our challenges with the same lens I've had since chairing the Council's Special Committee on Pandemic Recovery last Council Period: how do we ensure the District's recovery is equitable and doesn't just get us back to where we were? For example, there's an urgent need to transition the District away from fossil fuels and to clean energy, and also tremendous opportunity in doing so to build an entirely new industry that can be based right here in DC and benefit DC residents. And we also need to make our streets safer, thereby improving our economy by making it easier to get to any neighborhood in the city. 

On the transition to more electrification, a key decision facing the Committee is whether or not to support the Mayor's proposal to delay Building Energy Performance Standards (or BEPS), the first stage of which is just about to go into effect after a significant amount of work has already been done by many building owners in the District. WAMU digs into the issue really well here <[link removed]>. If we delay, that's going to reset the baseline, actually making it a lot more strenuous on buildings down the road to meet the same goals. I'm very mindful of the challenges downtown faces (this first stage is mostly for large buildings), but I'm not sure delaying the law actually does what they were hoping and testimony at the hearing actually suggested the Mayor's proposal will do the opposite. No matter what though, a delay would mean not moving toward our climate goals.

What has gotten the most attention has been the Mayor's decision to use the fines collected from Automated Traffic Enforcement (ATE) cameras to balance the overall budget, instead of investing them in safer streets. In past years, the Council had tied ATE fines to improving street safety, because the point behind the cameras isn't revenue, but rather to change road infrastructure and improve safe passage in our neighborhoods. While we can't untangle this fully in this budget at the Committee level, we will be restoring the law for future years that requires ATE fines be reinvested into street safety, and not part of balancing the budget.

About a week from now, we'll roll out our decisions from the Committee. As a reminder, committee budget markup votes are public and available to view online <[link removed]>. They're also still the first stage of several rounds of changes that happen between now and when we take that final, second vote on the budget later in May.


Mayor's Budget Sweeps Settlement Money for Opioid Use Treatment

I was very upset to see that within the proposed budget, $2.1 million had been swept from a special fund for collecting and distributing tens of millions of dollars of legal settlement money from big pharma, paid out for their role in creating and facilitating the opioid crisis. The District recently overtook West Virginia as the jurisdiction with the most fatalities from opioid overdoses, and twice as many people died from opioid overdoses as homicides last year in DC. Ward 6 has been deeply impacted, especially our Southwest community. This money is *legally* required to be spent on public health treatment for opioid use and addiction, and it will be transformative if it's overseen and distributed appropriately. I did a longer thread on Twitter <[link removed]> on the proposal, but in short, I don't support sweeping the very first dollars of nearly $100 million to come to DC over the next 18 years, especially after legislation I just passed to oversee the funds took effect last month. 


Public Safety Update

I'm regularly in communication with neighbors as crime - especially certain categories of violent crime - remains far too high. For folks trying to simply make sense of it all, there's a lot going on. I'll run through a few issues specific to law enforcement and successful prosecution here. I've also shared beneath that updates on a few arrests MPD announced recently for crimes committed in Ward 6. Here's three bigger stories within the public safety space you should be aware of: 

- Budget-wise, the Mayor's proposed budget cuts 2% of MPD's budget and anticipates continued challenges in hiring, something we see in the region (every local police department in the area has since matched the $20k recruiting bonus for new officers I included in the budget last year) and across the country (and also for many other government jobs). Our MPD staffing isn't where it needs to be, and while we can continue to work on short-term hiring, there are other steps we should be taking to make us safer.

- The number of arrests that aren't prosecuted was very high last year -- close to 65% of all of MPD's arrests didn't result in a charge (more in the Post <[link removed]>). That's up from just 30-some percent a few years ago. Now the number of violent crimes not prosecuted is much lower-- closer to 13% of arrests in a violent crime category didn't have a charge brought, as reported in the Post <[link removed]>. One of my biggest areas of frustration is how little collaborative feedback there is between USAO and MPD when a case isn't charged. Here's some reporting from Washington City Paper <[link removed]> that helps break down the issue.

- One challenge to charging cases raised by the US Attorney's Office in that piece I fully agree with is the withdrawal of accreditation for the District's Department of Forensic Sciences, our independent lab that processed a wide range of evidence until recently. The lab's poor management had led to serious concerns with the integrity of its analysis and its resulting loss of accreditation, which means those forensic analysts and their work now can't be used in prosecutions, and their past cases and convictions are also in question. I introduced legislation that passed the Council last year overhauling and strengthening the lab's ability to ensure diligent science, oversight, and transparency. In the current budget proposal before the Council, however, Mayor Bowser is proposing stripping most forensic analysis duties  from the independent agency and putting them under MPD. <[link removed]>I don't support this, especially after the years of oversight I conducted to get an independent lab back up and running. Forensic science needs to be objective and apolitical in order to charge and successfully close cases. That's why the District pulled crime scene analysis out of MPD more than a decade ago to create the Department of Forensic Sciences in the first place. Law enforcement obviously has an important role to play in crime solving, but it's not handling scientific evidence -- leave that to the scientists. This protects the integrity of cases - thereby bringing justice to victims and also innocent defendants - by ensuring evidence is handled by neutral parties. 

- The Post has reported well on challenges relating to how members of MPD's 7D Crime Suppression Team <[link removed]> improperly conducted and failed to document gun seizures or make arrests, which has resulted in at least 65 cases for illegal gun possession from those officers and their colleagues being tossed out of court so far. This speaks to the importance of ensuring good, sound police work. When we talk about holding violent, repeat offenders accountable, it's entirely reliant on air-tight, constitutional seizures and arrests. The last thing we want is a case being dropped for gun possession due to an illegal stop or search, and then that gun is used by someone to later commit a violent crime. 

Ward 6 Updates

- Arrest made in carjacking in Hill East <[link removed]>

- Arrest made in multiple carjackings and robbery offenses <[link removed]> - covers multiple offenses in the Ward

- Arrest made in burglary of an establishment on 1100 Pennsylvania Ave SE <[link removed]>


US House Reps Deem Themselves a Local Legislature, Meddle in DC Affairs. Again.

Directly related to the public safety items above, I'll note that the House voted to overturn the District's police accountability and transparency legislation (that had already been in effect for nearly three years). Special thanks go to Congresswoman Norton and Rep. Raskin for standing up for DC. This was a foregone conclusion, given the vote has everything to do with national politics and nothing to do with the well being of DC residents. You'll see some say the bill "ties officers' hands", but what they're really mad about is that one piece of the thirty or so provisions reserved discipline as a right for management in contract negotiations. This is a critical reform to improve public safety, because MPD chiefs have long decried being unable to fire officers for serious, sustained misconduct. In fact, the District has paid out millions to reinstate them years later, with backpay, including for misconduct like child abuse, domestic violence, and sexual assault. Most of the substance of the bill closely mirrors the federal George Floyd Justice in Policing Act <[link removed]>. While the prospects look good going forward, as President Biden has said he'll veto, this is once again a reminder that until we have statehood, we are at the mercy of people we didn't vote for, who don't share our values, and who make decisions that directly threaten public safety in DC. 


New Fire Department Truck Arrives at Engine 18

Speaking of budget wins and public safety, did you see the shiny, brand new ladder truck at Engine 18 <[link removed]> on Barracks Row? This was part of the apparatus funding I approved for many years during my time as Chair of the Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety to make sure our first responders have the equipment and resources they need to help residents in need. Glad to have this beautiful new truck in service to Ward 6 neighbors and take a look next time you're walking down Barracks Row!


Putting Real Protections for Small Restaurants Against Delivery Fees Into Law

Last month, I introduced an emergency bill that would have put stronger protections for small businesses who work with delivery apps like DoorDash or Uber Eats in place to ensure the apps' 15% basic package commission fee doesn't mean your business gets buried in search results it should otherwise appear in unless you fork over a higher percentage. My Council colleagues wanted to consider the measure further, so we'll be revisiting it again on May 2, and I'm planning to expand its protections. This is an issue that's cropped up fast, as pandemic restrictions on these fees were removed. Earlier this year, some of our favorite Ward 6 restaurants were suddenly facing fees climbing closer to 30%, at which point they're not making any money on the meal. Keep in mind, that fee -- be it 15% or 30% -- isn't tacked onto the total bill and paid by the customer; it comes out of the restaurant's side of the sale. If I had to guess, most of us think we're helping out our favorite neighborhood spot when we order delivery from them. But as these fees increase, that's not always the case.

These delivery apps are taking advantage of the law, which requires them to offer a 15% plan but doesn't restrict them from making that basic plan unworkable for a restaurant (which is exactly what started happening last month to our businesses). At a time when our restaurants are really worried about making ends meet, and these delivery apps are hauling in billions and billions in profits, I'll be looking to get this emergency bill across the finish line on May 2 and also introduce a permanent bill. I met with a group of restaurant owners earlier this month to talk through several major challenges - this bill was informed greatly by their perspectives. There's no question these delivery apps are here to stay and can offer value to both restaurants and customers, but we need reasonable limits to ensure our favorite businesses, drivers, and customers aren't losing out at a time when the industry is still very much struggling to make it work.

Related: I was honored to offer opening remarks this week at Georgetown University's event report release event for The Instant Delivery Workplace in D.C. <[link removed]> As we debate how to handle these fees, a few of my colleagues understandably raised concerns about how this might affect gig workers who carry out the delivery work. I don't really see a conflict here -- these tech companies make a ton of money while paying gig workers minimally and squeezing as much out of local restaurants as they think they can (as a top line takeaway from the report, nearly half of all delivery workers reported underpayment of wages owed). Pretending we have to choose between our restaurants or our workers is a false choice. I do think a bill dedicated to improving working conditions for gig workers should be introduced, and I'm working on that for later this year.


Don't Forget to Finish School Registration for Your Student

With the annual lottery behind us (and I hope you landed where you wanted!), don't forget the school enrollment process isn't over yet. If you're enrolling in a new school or for a new student, you need to complete the My School enrollment <[link removed]>, including the required uploads by May 1, or you could lose your spot to someone on the waitlist. Trust me, you don't want to have that happen.


K Street Digital Art Gallery

There's a brand new, outdoor, digital public art exhibit in NoMa. Next time you're out for a walk in the neighborhood, check out the underpass on K Street NE between First and Second Streets. The exhibit is from artist My Ly, sponsored by the NoMa BID. I love public art and the way it transforms ordinary spaces into something special. The exhibit will be on display through the end of the summer. 


Live in a Building Where the AC Hasn't Been Turned On Yet? The Council is Aiming to Fix That.

I'm working with a number of colleagues on legislation that would modernize an outdated regulation that allows landlords and building managers to delay turning on the AC until mid-May. With each year getting warmer, we need to update this regulation so folks aren't struggling on our earlier and earlier steamy days. My at-large colleague Councilmember Christina Henderson has already circulated a bill on this that I'll happily support, and Councilmember Brooke Pinto is looking to have the Executive update the regulations.


Updates on Visitor Parking Permits

It hasn't been the smoothest transition, but the District's Department of Transportation (DDOT) has moved away from its old visitor parking pass system to a newer system that aims for more flexibility for residents while trying to minimize some of the abuse of the old system. They've just rolled out a change that many residents have been asking for: temporary paper passes that you can print out and stick in the windshield for a visiting car. The entire system, now part of ParkDC, does grant folks a lot more flexibility by registering vehicles within your account and drawing from a sizable bank of visitor parking hours to use throughout the year. 

- Sign-up here: [link removed]

- Specific details about the new temporary printed passes here: [link removed]


Saturday: Sign Up to be Part of DC's Curbside Compost Pilot

This Saturday, April 22, at 9am, the District's first curbside composting pilot will open up for interested residents. There are 1,500 household slots per Ward, so if demand is high enough, not everyone will be able to participate. Click here for the information on the program and to find the registration link once it opens <[link removed]>. 

Related: Of course, DPW will continue to run its highly successful Food Waste Drop-Off <[link removed]> at some of your favorite farmer's markets, which turns food waste into compost available to the city!


Tax Day Has Passed, But Here's Some Background on Your Tax Dollars at Work. 

I'm hoping you were able to get your taxes filed this week (or successfully filed for an extension). Give the Office of Tax and Revenue some time to process everything, as this is their busy season, but if you need help getting an update later this month or year, don't hesitate to reach out to my constituent services team. Now that we're on the other side of the big day, I wanted to share a little more about your taxes and how the District government uses them. 

- Every year, the Office of the Chief Financial Officer does a very thorough analysis <[link removed]> of what's called residents' or business' "tax burden." This is an analysis looking at the total taxes (income, property, sales, etc.) for both residents and businesses and comparing our rates to surrounding jurisdictions and national averages. Overall, District residents in nearly every household income band pay a total lower tax burden than our neighbors. It's an interesting and helpful analysis.

- These two pie charts lay out both where the District gets most of its taxes and where it spends them in our budget (click each pie chart to view a larger image). This was as of the breakdown in the Mayor's budget proposal from March.

<[link removed]> <[link removed]>

- Third, the District has a lower share of our budget that comes from federal funding than any state -- compare the chart of our revenue sources with this helpful Pew States analysis <[link removed]>. Keep that in mind anytime someone tries to tell you we shouldn't be a state because we get so much more federal support. The opposite is actually the case. 

- If tax policy is your passion, the Tax Revision Commission <[link removed]> wants to hear from you. This is a commission assembled every 10 years to take a broad look at our entire tax code and make recommendations. They're set to release their final work product at the end of this year but are about to enter into a public comment period. Here's how to participate <[link removed]>.


Know Your Workplace Rights: Free Info Sessions

Passing along this opportunity from DC Jobs with Justice, which will host two information sessions on workplace rights at MLK Library on May 3 and May 4. More information here <[link removed]>.


Southwest 10th Annual Spring Kickoff

On Saturday, April 29, a fun tradition in Southwest continues with the 10th Annual Spring Kickoff. Volunteers will be planting the communal beds and doing various other garden tasks. You can RSVP via Facebook <[link removed]>, if you like. Event leaders are also looking for volunteers to lead different stations throughout the day, like welcoming people to the garden, weeding, painting, and planting (no prior experience is needed, and we'll tell you everything you need to know). If you're interested, sign up for a slot here <[link removed]>.


Southwest Food Drive through April 30

The Ward 6 Mutual Aid group in Southwest continues to hold a food drive to collect donations to distribute right here in our neighborhood throughout the spring and summer. Donate food at Christ United Church. 


DC Attorney General Wins Case Against JUUL

In late March, DC Attorney General Brian Schwalb announced a $15.2 million settlement with JUUL (DCist) <[link removed]> for marketing flavored tobacco to children. This is tied to the Council's recent law banning flavored tobacco product sales, which I passed in the Judiciary Committee to prevent another generation of DC residents from becoming hooked on flavored tobacco. 


Standing with Survivors of Sexual Violence

I'm honored to be long-time partners with the DC Coalition to End Sexual Violence and also help recognize the Network for Victim Recovery DC during April’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month. In my time as Chair of the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, I fought hard to protect and increase funding each year to reach and serve survivors of sexual violence. It remains a commitment of mine going forward, especially this year with very deep cuts in the Mayor's proposed victim services budget.


DC Literacy Education Survey

Care about the future of literacy education in the District? Take this survey <[link removed]> from the Office of the State Superintendent for Education.


Drug Take Back Day is April 22

Just a reminder that this Saturday, April 22, the federal Drug Enforcement Agency has organized a nationwide Drug Take Back Day to help people safely dispose of surplus medication. Find a site near you using your zip code <[link removed]>. More on this effort from DCist <[link removed]>.


Ward 6 Restaurant Finalists for 2023 RAMMYs

Congratulations to the Ward 6 restaurants that were named as finalists for the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington's 2023 RAMMY Awards! That includes Duck and the Peach, Crazy Aunt Helen's, RASA, Fight Club, Maketto, Moon Rabbit, Grazie Grazie, and A Baked Joint. Check out all of the nominees here, <[link removed]> and vote for your favorites (go Ward 6!). 


Tickets Giveaway!

With the weather so great, who doesn't love a night out at the ballpark? We're giving away two tickets to see the Nats take on the Cardinals on June 20, 2023 for Ward 6 residents. We also have tickets for upcoming concerts at CapitalOne Arena for 5/20 for Anuel and 6/9 for Ricardo Arjona. Reply to this email with your name and address, and you might be the lucky winner!


Twitter Is Changing. I'll Maintain My Account. 

As Twitter drops the verified program, I want to reinforce that as an elected official, I'm planning to maintain my Twitter account. My personal account will remain @charlesallen <[link removed]> and my staff-run account will remain @cmcharlesallen <[link removed]>. These will also be posted on my website, <[link removed]>, if you need to verify if something you saw is from me or my team.


Live Jazz at Eastern Market Metro Park Tonight at 5 pm

Don't forget there's live jazz happening today at Eastern Market Metro Park starting at 5 pm today. Bring a chair and join neighbors on what should be a warm, but clear evening. More from Capitol Hill Corner <[link removed]>.

Okay, that's enough from me. Hope to see you around the neighborhood!

Charles Allen


Councilmember Charles Allen - 1350 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Suite 110, Washington, DC 20004, United States

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