Council Wrap Up, New Committees
Posted on December 21, 2016 at 6:48 PM
Yesterday marked a flurry of activity at the DC Council as it convened for the last time before newly elected members join next year. As Council Period 21 comes to a close, I want to express my gratitude for the opportunity to serve as Ward 1 Councilmember. The past two years have been a privilege, allowing me to come to work every day and fulfill my passion.
Here’s what I’ve been up to:
Passing universal paid family leave: With my strong support, the Council passed paid family leave that gives workers in the District eight weeks to care for a new child, six weeks to care for an ailing family member, and two weeks for personal medical care. This bill is about our values as a community. When this becomes law we won’t be asking people experiencing the joy of a new child or the devastation of a family member’s serious illness to make the choice between their jobs and caring for their new child.
Giving tenant advocates more power over negligent landlords: The Council passed a bill I wrote that gives the Office of the Tenant Advocate more power to go after landlords who don’t maintain their properties. If you had to go to a hotel or rent a temporary room due to poor maintenance of your unit, OTA could go after your landlord for those temporary relocation costs.
Tax credit for first-time homebuyers: The Council passed a tax reduction for first-time homebuyers to lower the one-time recordation tax on new home purchases in the District for the next five years. This encourages home ownership, makes the District more affordable, and helps residents who are thinking about buying a home in the near future. First-time homebuyers who earn 180% of the area median income (approximately $195,000) or below, are eligible.
Park Morton replacement apartments: Long in the making, the Council moved forward a plan to redevelop the Park Morton public housing complex in accordance with DC’s New Communities Initiative rules, which ensure residents of public housing are not displaced from their communities, and only have to move once. Part of the old Bruce Monroe school site will serve as a “build first” site and will include subsidized units and market rate housing, as well as preserved and renovated park space. The second phase of the project will replace the existing Park Morton site with a mix of subsidized and market rate housing. The process has been the subject of numerous community meetings and is supported by the local ANCs. In all, the project will create new housing for hundreds of low income families.
Funding youth programs equitably and transparently: The Council approved a bill I introduced with Councilmember Grosso to reform the way the District funds youth-serving organizations to create a more equitable, transparent process that is focused on outcomes, not politics. The bill replaces the now-defunct DC Trust and will create streamlined funding and centralized application processes and will coordinate data collection and set District-wide goals to show us how we’re measuring up. At the end of the day, the bill will ensure District youth get the support they need to stay on a path to success.
Standing up for immigrant residents: Earlier this year, I introduced a Council resolution opposing federal immigration raids. The resolution calls for an end to federal raids targeting Central American refugees and for protecting immigrant children and families as full members of the community. This legislation passed in yesterday’s session.
Clarifying short-term rental rules and protecting affordable housing: In my role as chair of the Subcommittee on Consumer Affairs, I introduced a resolution that aims to clarify gray areas around short-term rental sites such as Airbnb and VRBO after discovering an unlicensed hotel in Columbia Heights that hurts efforts to preserve affordable housing. We need to strike a balance between allowing residents who use the sites to make a little extra money renting a spare bedroom, and stopping commercial enterprises undermining our affordable housing. The resolution calls on the Zoning Commission to revise its rules on short-term rentals to allow their use, but ensure health, safety and neighborhood concerns, such as affordable housing, are addressed. It also calls on the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs to establish a business license for short-term rentals offered through platforms such as Airbnb and VRBO.
Capping co-pays on expensive prescription drugs: Another bill that moved through my subcommittee makes medication more affordable for residents who rely on expensive “specialty drugs” by capping co-pays at $150 for a 30-day supply and $300 for a 90-day supply, among other consumer protections for patients who rely on these medications.
Cracking down on vacant properties: The Council passed a bill I co-introduced that cracks down on vacant properties by making it harder and more expensive for buildings to remain vacant. The goal is to improve neighborhoods by getting rid of blighted properties and pushing owners to keep their buildings in good repair.
It has been an incredible two years. Today I learned that next year I will be the chair of the Human Services Committee, while joining the Committee on Government Operations, the Committee on Health, and the Committee on Housing and Neighborhood Revitalization as a member. I look forward to taking on these new challenges on behalf of the people of Ward 1, and the entire District. Thank you for the opportunity.