Residents share ideas at Ward 1 Community Conversation - Office of Councilmember Brianne K. Nadeau
Councilmember Nadeau recently held a Ward 1 Community Conversation, which was a chance for residents to help set her legislative agenda by speaking with her and her staff about important issues and potential solutions.
Residents broke out into small group conversations with the Councilmember and her staff and each group was based on a specific topic area including:
- Homelessness and Human Services
- Economic Development
- Public Health and Public Safety
Each small group reported on their conversation to the larger group. Below is a summary of the concerns raised by residents in these small discussions, and their thoughts about how to begin addressing those issues:
Community Thoughts on Homelessness and Human Services
- There is a feeling that there is poor coordination between DC agencies that support families experiencing homelessness.
- Families in shelter often have needs to be addressed and without knowledge of all the agencies that serve families they go to the Child and Family Services Agency, which may not be the best first step.
- There should be a better way to coordinate services offered, like the coordinated approach in the new Office of Youth Outcomes, which the Councilmember helped establish this year to guide DC grants to youth organizations.
- There is strong support for new family shelters, but concern about a backlash against them. The question is: how can we anticipate backlash so neighbors are not alienated and families get the support they need? Trying to bring people together to develop resources and share stories and information before there’s tension. Participants suggested a “Talk to Your Neighbors First” program. Talk to people you don’t know to build bridges before conflict arises.
Community Thoughts on Housing
- There is widespread agreement that Ward 1 is changing quickly and housing is less and less affordable.
- Several community members had concerns with the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA). They support the idea but feel that it’s outdated at this point and there are issues with tenants being able to sell their rights on the Internet.
- There is support for increasing vouchers and rent supplements that help low-income residents afford housing.
- There is a desire to reduce barriers to access to housing, perhaps waiving credit reports, to make housing more accessible.
- People would like accessory dwelling units, such as being able to use your basement for rental to increase availability of rentals.
- There is support for more family sized units when most new condos are small, but we still have families living in the community.
- Parking is a double edged sword. We have some parking lots where there could be housing, but also not enough parking.
- There is support for increased density and height.
- Development should not lead to displacement, we don’t want to displace people who already live in the neighborhoods.
Community Thoughts on Immigration
- Immigration is a topic that fits into so many other areas – education, housing, economic development.
- In schools, students are feeling anxiety. There is a desire to strengthening the resolution of teachers and students so ICE can’t act with impunity.
- Support for eliminating the “Not for Federal Purposes” from the District’s limited purpose driver’s license.
- Funding for the NEAR Act. It was passed by Council, but has not been funded. It puts money into services that people need.
- Support for permanent funding of an immigrant legal defense fund, such as the one proposed by Councilmember Nadeau.
- Support for an end to the requirement that every 6 months one must renew their coverage under the Alliance health care program.
- Support for more affordable housing for immigrant residents in the District.
- An invited representative of Sanctuary DMV talked about resources available to support immigrant-led efforts across the city. They discussed how to maximize public attention on the issue, connect with congregations that are active, and accompany immigrant residents on their required check-ins with ICE. They are also working on canvassing in Ward 1 to inform residents of their rights.
Community Thoughts on Economic Development
- Support for better communication and promotion of existing small businesses. Concern that the new Whole Foods on Florida Avenue could squeeze out corner shops.
- Interest in finding ways to utilize idle and vacant commercial properties on Georgia Ave and at DC USA. Local tenants and businesses could have access in that space.
- Encouraging DCRA to inspect and label properties that are vacant so higher taxes can be applied.
- Revising the tax code to increase incentives for properties to be used/rented.
- Reducing barriers to entry for new businesses and access to capital. Great Streets Program is one way but we should explore other ways.
Community Thoughts on Public Health and Public Safety
- Improving alerts – Silver and Amber alerts are working, but what about when members of the community are going missing and not everyone knows? Consolidating communication processes could help and working with HSEMA to improve their alert system. The moment someone goes missing, the sooner we can work to bring them home.
- Street cleaning and rat abatement is an issue. There is a belief that this is especially true when residents loiter and trash builds. Some ways to address this would be to work with businesses and minimize loitering on private property.
- Health insurance in the District is at risk if the ACA is being repealed. DC should be prepared to handle the fallout of the repeal.
- Nurse practitioners in the city have a lot of barriers to get their job done and a lot of technical obstacles. There is a desire to change the regulations and reduce obstacles.
Community Thoughts on Education
- School modernization – The physical environment affects learning. Consolidation and transparency in school modernization and improvements is needed instead of one giant budget item. We should be able to answer questions such as:
- What schools are in the pipeline and what does that look like for them?
- Where is that money coming from and where is it going?
- Support for extending programming for 13 year olds. The government provides funding through childcare vouchers until age 12, then another program picks up at age 14, but there is a gap. The programming will help people who don’t have the means that people west of the park do. There is a feeling that the elimination of funding for the 21st century learning centers is bad for DC.
- DCPS Budget – It only went up 2% even though our population increased 6%. The needs of our students especially in Ward 1 aren’t decreasing. Enrollment counting changed to 2x/year but we’re underestimating the population in our schools. Parents can’t supplement the costs when 99% of the students at the school qualify for reduced and free lunch. Teachers end up having to pay.
- Maybe the amount of funding is fine, but the way it’s allocated is not best. DCPS teachers haven’t had a cost of living increase in 5 years and they don’t have a contract. They feel the demands go up and their pay doesn’t.
- There needs to be increased child care access. The cost for families to have a child in childcare is prohibitively expensive. People hire nannies and share the cost.
If you have any feedback on these issues, feel free to reach out to Councilmember Nadeau at firstname.lastname@example.org. She and her staff are reviewing the results of the conversations and working to incorporate elements into her legislative agenda.