From Charles Allen <[email protected]>
Subject Ward 6 Update: Budget Wins, Public Safety, + Better Bus 2.0
Date May 18, 2024 1:48 PM
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Friend --

The last two weeks have felt like a sprint between Council committee hearings and votes on next year's budget. But I was excited to still have time to connect with Banner Lane residents moving back home after the their new affordable homes were built at Sursum Corda. It was a special opportunity to welcome them back - a long process that started with a community partnership and a promise - and it also calls for a big thanks to Lonnie Duren who has stood with me to advocate and fight for that community for many years. 

The budget is starting to take shape, and there are some really exciting investments for Ward 6 neighbors already, with more to come. Check out the highlights below for what we're delivering in your neighborhoods. Also, check out the public safety section, and if you're free on Monday evening, snag a free ticket to join me for a conversation with Dr. Laura Meyers, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, where we'll talk about the landscape for reproductive rights in DC and beyond.

Alright, let's jump in.

Quick Links: Budget Updates <#budget> | Budget Work Remaining <#budgetneeds> | Public Safety <#public%20safety> | Historic Transit Moment <#WMATA> | Better Bus 2.0 <#better%20bus> | Fare Evasion Down <#fare%20evasion> | Weekend Rec Centers <#rec%20centers> | How to Vote <#voting> | Southwest Town Center <#SW%20Town%20Center> | Garfield Park <#Garfield%20Park> | Composting Pilot <#composting> | Live Jazz at Eastern Market Metro Park <#live%20jazz> | Tickets <#tickets> | Remembering Nate Bell <#Nate%20Bell>


Budget Town Hall Rescheduled & Ward 6 Budget Wins So Far

Last week, the Council's 11 various committees finished their budget work, and everyone voted to advance their recommendations to the full Council. Already, there's a lot of improvement over what the Mayor had proposed. I want to thank everyone for understanding our last-minute cancellation of the Ward 6 Budget Town Hall. Our colleague, Nate Bell, was seriously injured the night before, and sadly, he passed away a few days later. I've included some remembrances of him at the bottom of this email, including of his love for his city and Ward 6.

We have a new date for our Ward 6 Budget Town Hall -- Thursday, June 6 from 6 to 7:30 pm at the Northeast Branch Library <[link removed]>. I hope you can join me. We'll be close to the Council taking its first vote the following week, so the feedback on what you like and don't like will be very timely. 

I'd like to share a few big picture wins for the District as a whole so far in the budget process, and then turn to items I've secured new funding for in Ward 6.

Pay Equity Fund to Raise Wages for Child Care Employees: This is probably the biggest source of calls, emails, and drop-ins so far. I helped created the Pay Equity Fund <[link removed]> in FY22, but unfortunately, the Mayor slashed funding this year. Hundreds of you reached out to me about this and I know you agree that these dollars are crucial to raise wages for our childcare workers and support working families in Ward 6 and across DC. The Council has restored about $53 million for this fund so far in the budget process and will continue to look for ways to meet the rest of the gap. 

STEER Act Funding To Hold Dangerous Drivers Accountable: First, I secured funding to hire new attorneys at the Office of the Attorney General to go after drivers in Court that keep racking up repeat dangerous driving infractions. These cases can be brought no matter which state the driver and car are from. Second, I've funded a provision installing speed governors in the cars of people convicted of criminal reckless driving. These governors act like ignition interlock devices for drivers with histories of DUIs, but instead restrict your driving to the speed limit. They stay installed for a year per offense once any license suspensions or revocations expire.

Funds MPD's Hiring Budget: Just as in the past four years, the Council is planning to approve MPD's full hiring budget request. Under Chief Smith, we've seen recruitment increase, and more cadets are making the transition into the department than ever before.

A Quick List of Major Ward 6 Wins Delivered in the Budget (So Far)

- Preserved funding and timing for Ward 6 school modernizations at Brent, Amidon-Bowen, JO Wilson, Chisholm, and substantial renovations at Ludlow-Taylor.

- Secured restored funding for several DCPS schools to avoid losing staff positions and support school needs, including $371,955 for Stuart-Hobson, $253,140 for Ludlow-Taylor, $600,821 for Walker-Jones, $522,764 for SWS@Goding, and more. This funding helps ensure schools have what they're supposed to receive under the Schools First in Budgeting law we had previously passed. 

- Added $400,000 in both FY25 and FY26 for ongoing capital maintenance and repairs at Eastern Market Metro Park.

- Added an additional $1,700,000 in FY25 for Eastern Market for the completion of the bollards installation safety project, chilled water piping replacement, and stabilization of hot water piping.

- Identified $81,000 to fund weekend security coverage at Eastern Market.

- Funded a new $100,000 grant through the Office of LGBTQ Affairs to preserve LGBTQ nightlife and retail establishments along DC Main Street retail corridors in Ward 6, including Barracks Row.

- Includes $1.5 million for a new field at Greenleaf Rec Center in Southwest.

- Enhanced the existing Department of Parks and Recreation grant I created in FY22 for Eastern Market Metro Park programming to create a new Park Manager position. This person will be responsible for managing maintenance, repairs, activation, and programming with relevant agencies, Main Streets, and the Capitol Hill BID. This is the same grant bringing live music back to the park <[link removed]>!

- Funded new Safe Passage grants to improve safety for kids getting to and from schools between the Potomac Avenue and Eastern Market metro stations; this will support students commuting to and from several schools in close proximity to the stations, including Brent ES, Chisholm ES, Payne ES, Watkins ES, Digital Pioneers Academy, Capitol Hill Day School, St. Peter School, and Friendship PCS Chamberlain Campus.

- Restored the Mayor's cuts to the FRESHFARM FoodPrints <[link removed]> program to provide farming, cooking, and nutrition curriculum at DC public schools. FoodPrints serves many Ward 6 schools, including Ludlow-Taylor, Payne, Peabody, School Within School, Amidon-Bowen, and Watkins.

I've secured funding for several new initiatives for the H Street NE corridor:

- A new $350,000 grant to work with our local businesses to create corridor and vacant storefront activation, events, and arts and cultural programming to boost foot traffic and business.

- We also extended the Department of Buildings’ newPop-Up Permits Program <[link removed]> from the current boundaries of only Downtown to now along the H St NE corridor – this new program speeds up permitting to activate vacant buildings. This is a way to fast-track getting empty storefronts back in business.

- And funding was approved for my legislation to install private security cameras and other tools like glassbreak sensors inside small businesses – this bill was introduced after a series of break-ins at H Street restaurants to cover the cost of improved security.


Budget Areas Where Improvement is Needed

Finally, there are still a few priorities I'd like to see addressed by the full Council. I'll quickly touch on three of them: 

- Department of Forensic Sciences / Crime Lab: In the wake of the recent mass resignation of the oversight board for DFS over concerns of transparency and effectiveness, it highlighted the need for the reform law for DC's crime lab to be funded and implemented. This is a bill I wrote and led the Council to pass while Chair of the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety. It will improve how our crime lab actually works in helping secure justice and accountability, and avoid slipping right back into what caused it to lose accreditation in the first place. We need to fund this law in the weeks ahead.

- Access to Justice: This is the DC government's highly effective investment in providing civil legal services to low-income residents, ranging from representation in landlord-tenant court to assistance with probate and wills to custody. I know it remains an area where Chairman Mendelson wants to find additional funding. These small investments head off big expenses down the road.

- Restore Cuts to the Earned Income Tax Credit: The Mayor's budget reduced how much money the District provides in tax returns through the Earned Income Tax Credit. This is effectively a tax increase on working parents who don't earn a lot of money - one that will hit tens of thousands of households. It might be tough to unwind the cut, but I think it should be seriously examined by the Council.

- Increase the Small Retailer Property Tax Rebate: In 2018, I worked with Chairman Mendelson to create a simple $5,000 tax rebate for our small and local businesses to help afford rising rents. It has remained at the same level through the pandemic and the steep rise of inflation since. I'd recommend as a simple and direct way to support our local businesses that we double that amount. Given how much funding in the budget is dedicated to downtown's recovery, this is a small way to support the neighborhood businesses who form the backbone of our communities.

In case you missed it, on Monday, I sent out a specific update on budget changes <[link removed]> recommended by the Committee on Transportation and the Environment (or get the quick hits on Instagram <[link removed]>) to advance our efforts to fight climate change and hold dangerous drivers accountable as part of the budget recommendations by the Council's Committee on Transportation and the Environment.


Public Safety Update

I want to spend time in this section looking at big picture issues around public safety. Despite significant reductions in crime year-to-date (homicides are down 50% in Ward 6) <[link removed]>, DC has a lot of work ahead of us to truly get public safety under control. Yes, crime is down significantly from last year by the numbers. But that's little comfort when crime happens to you, someone you know, or down your block. And, we're nowhere near where we want to be. It remains the top priority for me and most Ward 6 neighbors.

There have been a lot of strawman arguments made about why crime went up so drastically in DC last year. However, there's a straightforward and simple explanation that's backed by data: in recent years, fewer people arrested for a felony crime received a felony conviction. The most important way to reduce crime is to ensure swift and certain sentencing when someone breaks the law, and that's just not happening after an arrest. Not because of our laws, which are quite strong, but because when an arrest happens, there are fewer prosecutions under those laws in our courts and a lot more plea deals settling for lesser charges, including misdemeanors. This has a downstream impact creating emboldened, repeat offenders.

I think there are three clear, systemic issues where we need improvement to see long-term reductions:

1) The federal US Attorney's Office (USAO) is securing fewer serious felony convictions than they were from 2014-2018. Thanks to the DC Sentencing Commission's recently released annual report <[link removed]> (the image to the right is from the report), we have new insights into what happens to cases after arrest. If you want to dive into the numbers, DC Crime Facts <[link removed]> analyzed the data. (As always, I share this post with the caveat this is an anonymous writer sourcing everything to publicly available data.) This analysis is alarming -- between dropped cases and plea deals that lower punishments from felonies to misdemeanors, only around 20 percent of people arrested with a gun faced a felony conviction. No prosecutor can successfully secure a conviction rate of 100 percent, pleas deals will always be a part of the Court system, and as the USAO has noted, there are valid reasons why cases may not be able to move forward, but that's a tougher sell to community members when we're talking about people arrested for illegal gun possession. We're seeing DC's strong gun laws go underutilized after years of increased violence, translating into hundreds of people being caught with an illegal gun, arrested, and released. The whole post is worth a read if you've got 20 minutes. Either way, our prosecution rate is lagging behind on the number of felonies secured for violent, non-violent, and drug crimes compared to what the same office was doing as recently as 2018. 

Notably, for all of the concern about DC's carjacking laws in the past few years, there were only seven sentences for adult carjacking from January to September last year. Seven in a year where we had an increase of nearly 70 percent! It won't matter what the maximum penalty might be if the law doesn't lead to a conviction. 

2) The failed crime lab remains a bottleneck delaying accountability. It was welcome news that at the end of last year when the DC Department of Forensic Sciences (the "crime lab") regained accreditation to process *some* evidence from crime scenes <[link removed].'s%20forensic%20crime%20lab%20has%20been%20reaccredited%20after%20nearly,which%20processes%20drugs%20for%20testing.>, most notably drug-related. When the lab lost accreditation in 2021 for covering up errors, drug prosecutions fell off a cliff. Having the lab back in the game helps more drug prosecutions move forward - in the last two years, we've lost more than 900 people to fatal overdoses. However, there's no timeline for when the lab might be reaccredited to handle firearms. That's a huge problem as it clearly forces prosecutors to triage and prioritize cases based on lab availability, not the merits of the case. And, to be fair to the USAO after the critique above, certainly the crime lab's collapse is a serious explanation for some of the drops in prosecutions. As a reminder, I wrote a law passed by the Council <[link removed]> to improve oversight at the lab and prevent another coverup and that is on my short list for funding before the Council finalizes the budget. Last year, the Mayor tried to repeal the law in her budget proposal, but the Council blocked her actions.

3) DC Superior Court is missing 20 percent of its judges. Blame the US Senate, past and present. Every judge at our local court must be nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. No, this doesn't happen anywhere else. Vacancies have been a red alarm for years (in 2022, I wrote this letter with my colleagues to President Biden and US Senate President Chuck Schumer <[link removed]>, and he then advanced a number of nominees now serving). In fact, it has been 11 years since our local courts had a full bench. This is a serious issue - judges are moving at a breakneck pace through far too many cases, and DC residents are waiting years for justice. The issue was well-covered by NBC 4 in this story. <[link removed]> It aired the same day, ironically, that the US House passed a ridiculous bill interfering with how DC can govern itself, proposing to limit any changes to criminal penalties (up or down). If Congress insists on denying DC residents full representation through statehood, at the very least, it could take useful steps within its control to improve public safety -- most urgently by appointing judges to fill the vacancies. 

Other Public Safety Items of Note:

CityLab: What DC Police Learned About Luring Package Thieves <[link removed]>. Good piece on the innovative work out of our own Fifth District to tackle porch pirates. More of this, please!

US Attorney's Office Announces 10 Arrested in Fentanyl and Cocaine Distribution Conspiracy: This is great news. In a multi-agency approach, USAO announced yesterday there were 10 people arrested and charged in a crew or gang working near 21st and Maryland, NE <[link removed]>, including two facing additional charges for a shooting in March. An excellent example of local and federal law enforcement coordinating and working together. This is a welcome disruption, and this group is likely responsible for additional crimes and violence where evidence wasn't as clear.

Ward 6 Public Safety Updates: 

- Arrest Made in Assault at 7th and A Street, NE <[link removed]>
- Another Teen Arrested From April CVS Theft, Bringing Total to Nine <[link removed]>
- Arrest Made for Burglary of Penn Ave Business <[link removed]>
- Arrest Made in Multiple Auto Thefts in Ward 6, DC <[link removed]>


Historic Effort Underway to Solve Future of Regional Transit

At the start of the month, I co-chaired the first-ever joint meeting <[link removed]> between the Council of Governments (essentially a representative from every locally elected body in the region) and the WMATA Board of Governors to kick off a year-long effort to reach consensus on what the future of public transit looks like in the region, including what could be a dedicated funding source for WMATA and how to bring the region's 14 different public transit systems together. WMATA has never had a dedicated funding source, unlike every other major city transit system. That's why it feels like we careen from crisis to crisis, including the most recent "doomsday" budget WMATA had to release this winter in the event local jurisdictions didn't provide additional funding. My hope is that, over the course of the next six months, this group is moving fast toward progress. I think we all share a recognition that WMATA and great public transit are critical to our success as a region and in unlocking economic potential. 


Check out the Next Round of WMATA's Better Bus Project System Redesign Plans

On Tuesday, WMATA officially released the next round of its Better Bus Project Redesign plans. As a refresher, this is WMATA's first major redesign of the entire bus network in a generation. It's a massive undertaking. Last year, they released a first draft, and took a lot of feedback from riders and residents (you may recall we had a Ward 6 Bus Town Hall at Watkins to go over the Ward 6 routes). This week, WMATA's team released their revisions and based on my early review, are leaving serious gaps in bus service and reductions in routes that would harm parts of our community. They're soliciting feedback on the new designs, which include some significant changes (I'll already note I've heard plenty of concern about getting rid of the 96 bus). WMATA has set up an interactive page where you can leave feedback <[link removed]> on the proposal and how it compares to existing routes. I'll be holding another Ward 6 Bus Town Hall in mid-June - stay tuned for the details. 


WMATA's New Gates Reduce Fare Evasion Significantly

In just the first month, new gates at the Waterfront Metro Station in Southwest have reduced fare evasion from around 20% to 2% - about a 90% reduction. That's fantastic, and it follows similar reductions at stations across the system that have installed the new higher gates - with fare evasion reduced 70%+. This is common sense, and in 2018 when WMATA was planning to spend $70 million dollars replacing every fare gate in the system, I urged them to pursue a more modern design rather than the old fare gate that was never very effective. That didn't happen. But when the new WMATA General Manager started last year, they made the improvements a priority and we're seeing those results. The design matters. A lot. Glad we got there and that we're seeing the significant reductions we are.


Why Aren't Our Rec Centers Open More on Weekends?

This week, my colleague Councilmember Trayon White held a public hearing on my bill to expand DPR's operating hours at our rec centers <[link removed]> to include weekends, with the goal of providing the community with safe places to play and exercise, and doing so with the same predictability residents expect from our libraries. You can watch the hearing here <[link removed]>. Here's coverage  <[link removed]>on ABC 7 <[link removed]>of the bill from when it was first introduced <[link removed]>.


Early Voting, Mail-In Voting Underway for 2024 Primary Election

Just a reminder that DC residents can cast your ballot in this year's Primary Election. Remember that we still have in-person voting on Election Day itself - June 4 - at centralized Vote Centers across the District, but every registered voter also willautomatically get a ballot in their mailbox. This was a change we made after COVID to modernize our elections. And they're hitting mailboxes now!

Here are all the important dates you need to know: 

- Sunday, May 26 - Sunday, June 2 (but not Memorial Day), 8:30am-7pm: Early voting at Early Vote Centers.Here's the full list <[link removed]>, and note the Ward 6 sites at Walker-Jones MS/Terrell Rec, King-Greenleaf Rec, and Sherwood Rec (and Ward 6-adjacent sites at Rosedale Rec and Arthur Capper Community Center).Remember that you can vote at any Vote Center, regardless of your Ward residency.
- Tuesday, June 4, 7am-8pm: Primary Election Day with in-person voting at Vote Centers; postmark those mail-in ballots by today!Here's the full list <[link removed]>of Election Day Vote Centers, including nine in Ward 6. You can also vote at any Vote Center in the District on Election Day.
- Friday, June 14: Deadline for the Board of Elections to receive the ballot you mailed in on or before June 4. 

Make a plan to vote usingthis cool map <[link removed]>, view sample ballots, and ensure your registration is up to date all in one place: [link removed]


Southwest Town Center DPR/DGS Meeting

The Southwest Town Center Parks are coming along, and our last community meeting showed much improved designs. The next meeting, scheduled for May 22 at 6:30pm, will present schematic drawings and include additional details based on our previous meetings. Please plan to join so we can ensure this park meets all of the interests and needs of the neighborhood. The meeting will be at the Southwest Library. 


Garfield Park Construction DPR/DGS Meeting

Very welcome news! Construction is about to begin on upgrades to Garfield Park. Please join the  Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) and the Department of General Services (DGS) for a construction kickoff meeting where we'll meet with the general contractor onsite and go over the plans for the playground, park renovation, logistics, and timeline for construction. The meeting will be on Wednesday May 29, 2024 from 6-7pm at Garfield Park Playground near 2nd St, F St, & South Carolina Ave, SE.

For more information and to RSVP, please visit: <[link removed]>

For additional information about the project, please visit:

[link removed] <[link removed]>


DPW Composting & Get a Smart Bin Near You!

- Curbside Composting Waitlist: If you have neighbors, friends, or family interested in participating in the next phase of the Curbside Composting Pilot Program, DPW's started a waitlist. They can fill out this waitlist form <[link removed]> to be one of the first to hear about program updates and openings.

- mart Bin Interest List: DPW is working to install 30 "smart bins" throughout the District to provide 24/7 food waste drop-off access to residents. Want to help determine where these smart food waste bins will go? Fill out this interest form <[link removed]> to get involved.


Live Music Returns to Eastern Market Metro Park on Friday Evenings

One of the best warm weather traditions in Ward 6 is back: Live Jazz at Eastern Market Metro Park on Friday evenings. It's just the excuse you need to get out for some live music before enjoying dinner nearby. Programming in the park is funded through a grant I created to ensure we're activating the park and creating a welcoming space for all. See you there! Full schedule and new events coming soon, all on Barracks Row Main Street's calendar <[link removed]>. 


DC United Ticket Giveaway! 

You made it to the end! Now, to the giveaway. This newsletter, we're giving away two tickets to the June 1 DC United v. Toronto FC match at 7:30pm at Audi Field. Just reply to this email, and we'll enter you in the raffle.


Remembering Nate Bell

Finally, it’s with a heavy heart I share that Nate Bell on our team tragically passed away at the top of the month. Born in DC and now a Hill East resident, Nate was called to public service, working for both Councilmember Bonds and Mayor Bowser before recently joining our committee staff. He loved his city, and we’re going to deeply miss him. We've had the chance to meet and visit with members of his family, and it's clear from every conversation that Nate truly loved our city and loved being of service to others. 

See you around the neighborhood,

Charles Allen
<[link removed]>

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