There's lots to share this week: the 2023 budget had its final vote, an update about Columbia Heights Civic Plaza, lots of powerful new legislation, and more! As always, thanks for being interested and involved in our ward.
Council’s FY2023 Budget is Building the Strongest Safety Net in the Country
After weeks of hearings and hard work, having passed the Second Vote, I can share that every one of these priorities have been fully funded. The 2023 budget represents my commitment to making the District safer, stronger, and more equitable for everyone, tackling inequalities and making this the best possible place to live.
$11.3 million for the Cure the Streets Violence Intervention Program, which will support ten sites across the District with one in Columbia Heights.
- $7 million to the Office of Victim Services and Justice Grants (OVSJG) for Access to Justice’s grants program: $3 million in one-time funds to provide legal support to address improper public benefit terminations or denials, protect survivors of domestic violence, assist in family law cases, and advocate for children who receive special education services; $3 million for eviction diversion coordination; and $1 million in recurring funds for access to justice grants.
- $2 million for services for survivors of domestic and sexual violence through OVSJG grants.
- $475,000 to the Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement (ONSE) for life coach client incentives to support individuals identified as a high risk to commit gun violence.
- $531,735 to hire 5 full-time paralegals for the Office of the Attorney General's (OAG) through the Mayor’s Office of Returning Citizens Affairs/Georgetown Paralegal Program.
- An additional 347 Metropolitan Police Department officers – including an enhancement to hire 108 new officers, convert 42 cadets, and keep on 17 senior police officers as well as recruitment and retention incentives. The budget also requires MPD to report additional information on staffing and budget levels for greater transparency.
- New stop and frisk data reporting by the Metropolitan Police Department, with an enhancement for transparency into budget and spending, hiring, attrition, staffing, and overtime.
- $397,000 to DC Fire and EMS for new exercise equipment and employee wellness programming.
- $100,000 to the Office of Unified Communications (OUC) for recruiting incentives for 911 call-takers and dispatchers and $95,640 to provide training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to all OUC call takers and dispatchers.
Housing and Homelessness
- $13.6M for Targeted Affordable Housing (TAH) vouchers to provide a safe and stable home for 400 families who will time out of the Family Re-Housing Stabilization Program. It builds on an investment we made last year in over 500 units for the DC Flexible Rent Subsidy Program (DC Flex) which extended housing subsidies to families that needed them. The DC Flex pilot will be extended for another five years.
- $1.8M for 60 additional Local Rent Supplement Plan (LRSP) vouchers: 20 for adults on the DCHA waiting list, 20 LRSP vouchers for LGBTQ+ residents, and 20 LRSP vouchers for returning citizens.
- $120M of new investments in the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) in FY22 and FY23 to provide critical support for District residents facing housing emergencies in the coming year. This, coupled with a $300,000 investment from the DC Council, will anticipate and address housing emergencies for our most vulnerable residents in the coming year.
- $1.3M for the District’s youth homelessness service providers to get the resources they need to ensure that young people in the District have the services necessary to receive and maintain housing. A special thank you goes to the Budget Office on this — we worked together to identify an extra $215,000 for this priority.
- Restored $300,000 in reductions made by the Mayor to Project Reconnect, a program that prevents homelessness by providing shelter diversion services that draw on the networks of people who need somewhere to stay.
- $100,000 in the Close Relative Caregiver Program and $50,000 in the Grandparent Caregiver Program to increase subsidies for low-income kinship caregivers.
- An additional $1.1 million for long-needed public housing repairs and maintenance.
New Investments in Ward 1
I'm more excited to announce these new investments right here in Ward 1 — all fully funded in the 2023 Budget. Each of these addresses real needs in our communities, and I'm proud to be able to share them.
New and Improved School Facilities
- $110 million for a new Center City Middle School in Ward 1. I have been fighting for a new middle school here since before I was on the Council! And now we'll finally have the funding to establish that school right here and address a longtime need. This is the culmination of years of work, and I'm grateful to parents, educators, and everyone else who helped make this happen.
- $99 million to modernize Tubman Elementary School in Columbia Heights.
- $64 million to renovate Adams Education Campus in Adams Morgan.
Recreation and Open Spaces
- $500,000 to create Amigos Park, a vital gathering space for the Central American community and Mount Pleasant neighbors. I negotiated to shift some of that funding into our current fiscal year so negotiations on the site can begin right away.
- $100,000 for improvements to the Park @ LeDroit, a community asset that's seen recent improvements, including a new splash pad, but is in need of some proactive maintenance and improvements. I want to address two big constituent concerns: the pathways in the park itself and the dog park.
- $12 million to modernize the Park View Recreation Center in Park View.
- $22 million for a new Rita Bright Family and Youth Center on 14th Street.
Health and Safety
- $31.4 million for violence reduction programs in Columbia Heights, Park View, and LeDroit Park through the Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement. This office had a budget of $2.1 million when it was first created in 2018, making this a truly historic investment in police alternatives and community-based violence prevention.
- $25 million towards a new Howard University Hospital.
- Clean Team Expansion and Cost-of-Living Adjustments. The Adams Morgan, Columbia Heights/Mt. Pleasant (“Ward 1”), Mid-City, Shaw, and Lower Georgia Avenue Clean Teams do wonders for our ward and are often made up of returning citizens. I want to expand the Clean Teams to cover a nine-block gap on 14th Street NW as well as give our hard-working teams a raise.
- Funding for continued programming and outreach at Columbia Heights Civic Plaza, 14th and Girard Park, and Unity Park.
Transportation and Road Safety:
- $11.7 million to construct a new streetscape on U Street, including safety fixes to critical intersections at 16th and U and 18th and U.
- $100+ million for the six-year bus priority program, which will improve bus service and maintain schedule times throughout our ward along Columbia Road, 14th Street, U Street, Florida Avenue, and Georgia Avenue. These projects will help street safety, too.
- $2.4 million to finally complete the Eastern Downtown protected bike lane project, which I fought for after years of delay.
- $150,000 to begin design on the extended Kenyon Street protected bicycle lanes from 11th Street to 14th Street. The lanes are on track to connect to 11th Street this year, addressing a critical part of the bicycle network.
Enshrining Human Rights in the District
This month, in response to the horrifying draft opinion from the Supreme Court, I introduced the Human Rights Sanctuary Amendment Act of 2022 with my colleagues on the Council. This legislation makes this city a safe place for people seeking abortion care, for LGBTQ+ people and their families, for people in need of gender-affirming care, and more — regardless of what happens in other states. Under this law, the District won't cooperate with investigations or out-of-state bounty lawsuits meant to block and criminalize human rights.
Banning Infant Formula Price Gouging
As a mother whose children needed it, I've watched the recent infant formula crisis in horror. I worked with Attorney General Karl Racine to write the Infant Formula Consumer Protection Emergency Amendment Act of 2022, which was co-introduced on May 23 with every member of the Council. Access to formula is life and death, especially in the District, where 1 in 3 infants do not breastfeed. Under this legislation, anyone profiting from exploiting families and caretakers can be sued by the Office of the Attorney General for $5,000 for the first offense and $10,000 for each subsequent offense.
Expanding Our Work at Columbia Heights Civic Plaza
In addition to the above items in this year's budget, I'm proud to announce $180,000 to expand the behavioral health outreach work at Columbia Heights Civic Plaza.
This is based on promising results from dedicated staff working under District Bridges, who engage the men on the plaza grappling with substance use disorders. After just a few months of work, they’ve established relationships, built trust, and helped six men achieve sobriety. They're now working with her to reach out to their peers in the plaza.
Along with the DC Peace Team, we're now able to prevent and defuse more conflicts through relationships and de-escalation. I funded this work and it feels like it's returning results.
It's taken years of work and listening to neighbors to get here. And when constituents come to me to ask for more attention to this area, I'm eager to help.
To address the physical facilities, I pushed District agencies to keep the plaza clean, to repair broken pavers, to be thoughtful about landscaping, and address rat issues. When the fountain went out, I made sure it was restored to full operation. I increased funding to the Clean Team in order to have more staff focusing attention on the plaza and surrounding areas.
The Columbia Heights – Mount Pleasant Main Street program, run by District Bridges with funding I secured, supports businesses in the area and offers programs on the plaza that bring people of all backgrounds together. My dream is to have consistent programming there that activates the space and shows people how great it can be. To reach our unhoused neighbors there, I established the Homeless Street Outreach team to spend time working with unhoused residents and asked the Department of Behavioral Health to bring more resources to address substance abuse and addiction.
I work with MPD, too, to address violent incidents in the plaza and keep violent individuals from returning. To be a welcoming place, it has to be safe. I'm working to identify more funding for a more consistent presence in Columbia Heights Civic Plaza and will share more when I can.
There's always more to do here, but I see progress — and even more potential for one of the great spaces in our ward.
Addressing Violence on U Street
U Street is one of the biggest draws in our ward, a center of District nightlife, entertainment, and local business. But recent violence has threatened the community of residents and businesses working hard to recover from the pandemic. I've organized a task force to address issues in the corridor and preserve the legacy of Black Broadway. This working group will include representatives from ANC 1B, U Street Main Street, Shaw Main Streets, The Alcoholic Beverage Regulatory Agency (ABRA), the Office of the Attorney General, the Department of Regulatory Affairs (DCRA), the Metropolitan Police Department and community leaders who have experience working in both the U Street corridor and in others with similar challenges. I'm eager to work with these partners on a collaborative plan to address needs in the community.
Diaper Affordability and Access
On May 13 I joined the Greater DC Diaper Bank to talk about District families and theDiaper Affordability and Access Act, which I co-sponsored with my colleagues on the Council. As written, it would provide an additional $100 a month in aid to families enrolled in the Temporary and Needy Families (TANF) program. As a mother of two, I know the cost burden this can be on a family — it's time to extend these benefits!