From Charles Allen <[email protected]>
Subject Ward 6 Update: 6-29-2023
Date June 30, 2023 2:33 PM
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I hope you and your family and friends are ready for summer fun, because the heat has certainly arrived! Pools are now open throughout the week <[link removed]>, though be sure to check which day each facility might be closed. With summer also comes the Barracks Row 4th of July Parade, <[link removed]> as well as my office's annual Ward 6 Week—more details below. And speaking of the Barracks Row 4th of July Parade, would you like to join me and walk in the parade? Just reply to this email and I'll get you the details!

At the Wilson Building, even with the budget work wrapping up recently, the Council is holding numerous hearings and votes mixed in with opportunities to spend more time with neighbors. Last Friday, my constituent services staff member Kimberly and I visited neighbors on the Hill at Kentucky Courts, Potomac Gardens, and Hopkins apartments. And the week before, another member of our team, Jeanne, and I did some old-fashioned door-knocking in Southwest. 

Before we turn to the latest across the Ward and in the Wilson Building, a big congratulations to all of our DCPS and DC Public Charter students for another year in the books—and to our teachers on some well-deserved rest. I'm especially proud of all our graduates! 

Quick Links: Public Safety <#Public%20Safety%20Update> | New Bill to Support Sexual Assault Survivors <#New%20Bill> | Council "Safer, Stronger" Hearing <#Safer%20Stronger> | DMV Suspended Licenses <#DMV> | Green Jobs at Anacostia <#Anacostia> | Ward 6 Week <#w6w> | WMATA Funding <#WMATA> | WMATA Updates <#wmata%20updates> | Brent ES & Greenleaf Tours <#brent%20es> | Dave Thomas Circle <#dave%20thomas> | Beech Trees <#beech%20trees> | 8th St SE Buses <#8th%20st%20bus> | First-Time Homebuyers <#homebuyer> | Minimum Wage <#minimum%20wage> | Fourth of July  <#fourth%20of%20july>

Public Safety Update <>

Earlier this week, the US Attorney’s Office, MPD, DEA, and other federal law enforcement agencies announced a major arrest of 12 individuals known as the Kennedy Street Crew— <[link removed]>12 people arrested in possession of more than 40 guns and illegal substances. This is exactly the kind of work we need to see our law enforcement agencies focus on: inter-agency investigations to hold serious offenders accountable, especially the small number of people in the District actively committing most of the harm. This is an important development for the city, even if it isn’t in Ward 6.

As we head into the holiday weekend, the Mayor announced some additional public safety steps being implemented <[link removed]> here.

New Bill: Supporting Sexual Assault Survivors by Requiring DC to Preserve Evidence from Unreported Assaults <>

On Monday, I introduced legislation to close a major gap in how the District handles forensic evidence from sexual assaults. Right now, if a survivor doesn't immediately report the assault to MPD, there's no protocol in place to ensure that medical forensic evidence collected at the hospital is preserved in case that survivor later wants to report the crime to MPD. This includes physical evidence recovery kits (PERK)—commonly called a “rape kits." There are many reasons a survivor may not want to come forward or report an assault to law enforcement immediately, and without a law requiring that evidence to be properly preserved in the District's forensic lab, we run the risk that a later prosecution won't be able to move forward, and the offender will remain free. Preserving forensic evidence means we are able to upload it to our national offender DNA databases—this helps us catch the offenders and hopefully close other open cases. My bill, the "Ensuring Safe Forensic Evidence Handling for Sexual Assault Survivors Amendment Act of 2023," was developed with our incredible sexual assault providers like the D.C. Forensic Nurse Examiners, and would require the creation of a protocol for how to collect, handle, and preserve these "anonymous" kits for later testing. More here. <[link removed]> <[link removed]>

Hearing on the Mayor’s Proposed Public Safety Legislation, "Safer, Stronger 2.0" <>

This week, the Council’s Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety held a hearing on the Mayor’s proposed legislation to address public safety, known as "Safer, Stronger 2.0". Like many of my colleagues on the Council and leaders in the public safety space, there are some elements of this bill that I support, as well as others I don't believe will reduce violence and prevent crime. Just as I did when I was Chair of the Public Safety Committee, I'm looking at this legislation with an open mind and with the goal of implementing things that will help reduce crime now. There are a number of provisions in the bill that sound effective, but others that the hearing this week showed don't seem focused on preventing violence or crime on the front end.

If we want to deter more crime, we need greater certainty of prosecution, not just longer sentences for the few people who do get arrested, charged, and convicted. One of the biggest issues right now is the low rate of prosecution for people found in possession of an illegal gun. About one in three arrests move forward—too many others are simply dropped and don't see a prosecution. In some cases, there may be valid reasons for why prosecutors can't move forward like a bad stop or insufficient evidence, but there are also likely a lot of problems preventing us from holding bad actors accountable.

That’s not because our laws are weak or lacking (we have some of the "toughest" gun laws in the country with serious sentences for those convicted), but because our hybrid local-federal criminal justice system is about as poorly designed as it could be if you want to see effective accountability and successful rehabilitation. With that said, the Attorney General—our local, elected prosecutor—noted that there is very little in the Mayor’s bill that will improve prosecution rates or change policing tactics. There are several provisions focused on accountability, and those should be fully considered, but we also can't just wait until after the violence takes place or the harm is caused. I want to make sure the legislation we move forward does both: ensures accountability for bad actors and actually reduces violence. As you've heard me say before, we can't restrict our public safety response to "either/or" solutions; we need "both/and".

I'll share one part of the bill that isn't focused on the crime we're actually seeing today. There's a provision included to limit the ability of the court to reconsider the sentences of people convicted decades earlier who are found to no longer be public safety risks. This has been law for many years, and we have ample evidence that the voices of victims and the specifics of the original crime are thoroughly considered in every petition. We're seeing these now middle-aged or elderly folks pick up their grandkids, not guns. Among the people who have been granted a second chance and are out now, the recidivism rate overall, let alone for a violent crime, is incredibly low—exponentially lower than what you see for people returning home from the federal Bureau of Prisons or DC Jail generally. This is not the group of people who are committing gun crimes, and they shouldn't be scapegoated in the legislation the Council moves forward. Let's stay focused on solving the actual problems we're seeing. Why? Because we won't reduce crime if we're not focused on the people committing it.

As I mentioned earlier, there are elements of this bill I support and we consider it, I will keep an open mind and work with Councilmember Brooke Pinto, who chairs the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety this Council Period, on what's next for the bill and what more could be added.

DMV and Court Issues Must Be Resolved <>

The ongoing communication issues between DC Courts and the DMV when someone has their license suspended is going to require a major overhaul. Whatever coding issues, it is clear the DMV just doesn't have a good grasp on an important process. More in DCist. <[link removed]>

Hearing at Anacostia High School to Talk Green Jobs Pipelines <>

This week, my Committee on Transportation and the Environment left the Wilson Building and headed to Anacostia High School to hold a public hearing on Creating a Sustainable Green Workforce in the District. In short: jobs. Between the millions of dollars coming to the District over the next few years from the federal government, and the  massive investments being made by private companies into solar, building energy efficiency, and other green industries, there are going to be a lot of jobs created in the District. And yet, workforce development, training, and career pipelines are missing from most of our climate change planning. That’s a huge mistake!

There's going to be enormous demand for electricians familiar with solar power, people who can make buildings of all shapes and sizes more energy efficient, and more as we transform our electric grid and even more of our infrastructure. I wanted to hold this hearing at Anacostia HS to (1) highlight that the school is doing a wonderful job with its existing programs and partnerships, and (2) to illustrate that, along with all of our high schools, it would be a great site for helping students get on the path to potential green careers. I heard from a range of witnesses, from instructors to green employers to students. We talked about current opportunities and the barriers—real or perceived—to getting a diverse array of residents into these fields. You can watch the hearing here <[link removed]>. Developing a clear strategy for green jobs creation and workforce development as part of mitigating climate change is a top priority for me as Committee chair.

Related: As I noted above, lots of jobs are going to count as "green jobs" moving forward. For example, I spent Monday morning at The Well in Ward 8, which is a farm run by DC Greens that helps connect residents to the environment, the food chain, and neighbors. It's a great location, and I'd recommend anyone interested give them a visit. But it also shows the possibilities for careers in urban farming and restoration. Here's a quick one-minute primer on The Well <[link removed]>. 

Ward 6 Week is Around the Corner! Save the Date: July 17-22 <>

Summer time means it's also time for Ward 6 Week! This is an annual tradition that brings neighbors together to explore different parts of the Ward and have some fun. This year, Ward 6 Week will be July 17-22. If you’re in town, save those dates. We’ll be rolling out the full event list shortly, and there's something for everyone. I hope you can make a few events—everything will be listed on my website's <[link removed]> community calendar, and there will be an email with the details to come soon!

Funding WMATA Isn’t a Question. It Has to Get Done. <>

Last week, WMATA began a coordinated media rollout to raise awareness on the looming “fiscal cliff” <[link removed]> the agency is facing starting next year. This comes from a combination of rising operating costs, decreased federal pandemic funding, and seemingly permanent changes in ridership trends. I want to note WMATA would be in a pretty serious hole even if rail ridership returned to pre-pandemic levels. These are big structural funding issues that need to be resolved.

And they will be. Allowing WMATA to fail—which is what the region would be doing if we don’t reach a funding agreement—would be a massive mistake and catastrophic for the District, Maryland, and Virginia. Next year, I'll be chairing the regional Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, and I see that body playing a central role in determining a permanent, dedicated source of funding that can put WMATA on solid financial footing moving forward. I spoke more about this issue with ABC 7 <[link removed]>.

Speaking of WMATA, a Few Notable Changes <>

First, I'm glad to see WMATA has rolled out a “courtesy stop” option for bus riders using service between 9 pm and 5 am. As WMATA implements the 24/7 bus service I led the Council to put in place, courtesy stops allow riders to get off the bus along the route at their preferred location rather than at a designated stop. This can minimize walk times to home or their next destination. Great work, WMATA.

Second, Metro Lift is a discounted fare system for lower-income riders. This is really important as WMATA has slightly increased fares. If you're enrolled in SNAP, you can enter into this program for 50 percent discounts on every bus and rail ride. More information here <[link removed]>.

Third, WMATA received a $100 million grant in federal funding to aid in the transition to electric buses. I'm pleased that it's taking advantage of funding opportunities made available by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. And while I want to see all of our buses converted to electric, for me, the bigger emissions priority is getting more people onto those buses sooner, rather than later.  

Brent Elementary and King-Greenleaf Rec Walk-Throughs <>

I want to thank my Ward 4 colleague, Councilmember Janeese Lewis George, who in her role as Chair of the Committee on Facilities and Family Services, has undertaken an effort to get out to a number of District government facilities needing urgent repairs by the Department of General Services. In Ward 6, that included Brent Elementary School (where we've had repairs in the queue for years) and King-Greenleaf Rec Center. In some cases, these tours were about specific issues that we've been working to repair in the facility, but they also showed the challenges we have with DGS in ensuring preventive maintenance, timely response to more urgent needs, and clear communication. 

"Dave Thomas Circle" Construction Update <>

Through next Wednesday, DDOT is beginning its initial work to transform what we lovingly call "Dave Thomas Circle", which borders Ward 6 and Ward 5. This is a LONG overdue improvement to a dangerous and inefficient intersection. Right now, the work is in advance of when the old Wendy’s will be demolished. While it's connected to the work taking place on Florida Avenue, it's a distinct project on its own. More info here <[link removed]> on the project, and updates will be forthcoming. 

Beech Tree Health at Risk - How You Can Help <>

One of the District’s most common trees within our canopy are under attack from a pest—and we need your help to spot any issues. This WAMU story breaks down the issue <[link removed]>, which is potentially quite urgent, and how concerned tree watchers can help spot the pest and head it off before it becomes too widespread.

Provide Input on the 8th St SE Bus Priority Project <>

As part of their citywide Bus Priority Project, DDOT is in the early stages of considering changes to 8th Street, SE, between East Capitol Street and M Street, SE, including the very busy Barracks Row Corridor. This is the stretch several bus lines run on, including the 90 and 92, as well as two Circulator routes on the southern end. The project is in the early, pre-design stages, but now is a great time to weigh in if you have thoughts on how to make buses run on 8th Street faster (right now, buses have an average speed of just 8 mph along the corridor). You can learn more about the project here <[link removed]>, and submit any initial thoughts here <[link removed]>. 

First-Time Homebuyer Program Runs out of Funding <>

The District's Department of Housing and Community Development announced that the Homeowners Purchase Assistance Program has run out of funding for the remainder of the fiscal year (through September) this week. That's disappointing news for a popular program that makes it easier to buy a first home in the District and serves as an important tool for affordable housing and home ownership. There will be more funding available beginning on October 1. But for anyone in the middle of the stressful and tedious home-buying process and counting on this, make sure you check in on your status, and reach out to us <[link removed]> if you need help. More from DCist <[link removed]>.

Minimum Wage Increases to $17/hour on July 1 <>

And one last important note: effective July 1, the District's minimum wage will go up from $16.10/hour to $17/hour for non-tipped workers and from $6/hour to $8/hour for tipped workers. For helpful information for employees and employers or questions or concerns about the minimum wage or wage theft, you can reach out to the Department of Employment Services' Office of Wage-Hour Compliance <[link removed]>.

Fourth of July <>

As I mentioned up top, I'll be walking in the Barracks Row annual Fourth of July Parade to kick off the holiday next Tuesday—I hope to see you there! Parade kicks off at 10 am. 

With the holiday, government services will be limited. Trash and recycling collection will slide. DPR outdoor pools and splash parks will be open 10 am to 6 pm. 

Thanks for reading, everyone, and have a safe and happy holiday weekend!

Charles Allen

<[link removed]>


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

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