Statement on Withdrawal of Measures:
With a deep sense of regret, today I withdrew my proposed legislation to revive the planning and community engagement process for the Eastern Downtown Cycletrack project on 9th Street NW.
I truly believe that this bill represents a strong compromise that respects the daily uses of existing institutions and enhances safety for all. If this process continues to stall – both here and where projects have been promised across the city – more people will be hurt and killed.
Contrary to what has been said, this measure does reflect engagement and input from churches, going so far as to put parking protections into law.
It has become clear, through months of outreach, dialogue, tweaks and more tweaks, that this bill has become a lightning rod and a symbol for some of the most deeply felt racial conflicts in our city. I am deeply disappointed that this bill, which was meant to restart dialog that has been stalled indefinitely by the executive, has been so misunderstood.
I am disappointed, but I am not deterred.
My pledge today is to continue to do all I can to restart that dialog with everyone at the table – just as they were before this process was halted.
I want to rebuild trust where there has been none for too long. I know in my heart there is a way to honor the legacy and present-day mission of faith institutions on the 9th Street corridor while improving safety for the thousands of people that travel on 9th every day.
My colleague Councilmember Silverman has offered to convene church leadership, safe streets advocates, and others to break bread and resume dialog. Let’s start there.
Many of my colleagues on the dais today committed to aiding in this dialog. Even if they were not in support of voting on emergency measures today, I’m glad so many members of the Council have the courage to have the difficult conversations that many in our government have been frightened away from engaging in.
I will continue our work on ensuring that life-saving infrastructure is able to move forward at the pace that it needs to. I want to thank Councilmembers who stood with us today and I welcome anyone who wishes to join us in a collaborative spirit to get this done.
Today I am introducing the Eastern Downtown Cycletrack Project Transparency Emergency Amendment Act, which will revive the community engagement and design process for a project that was quietly cancelled by the Executive and for which the Council allocated money in the budget in FY20.
I want to stress that this should be an extraordinarily rare action, and not something the Council should typically have to do.
But after multiple levels of escalation through the budget and oversight process, it’s clear that the agency is not delivering on a promise to the Council and the community and not giving us the transparency that we’ve asked for.
This is in direct opposition to our stated Vision Zero goals and lies in direct contrast to very similar projects on 22nd Street NW and Irving Street being built next year. Those two improvements were meant to be implemented around the same time as 9th Street, and neither has been in the planning phase for remotely as long.
I also want to clarify why we’re pursuing emergency legislation. A hearing on regular legislation is not necessary or appropriate. DDOT already has a public input process, and the Council should not create a separate and parallel one. We are not moving forward with any decision that hasn’t already been made by the agency.
This infrastructure is urgent.
A community member was killed crossing 9th Street in Shaw just a few years ago and his family is still seeking justice. The next time that happens, I’m afraid that blood will be on our own hands.
The people I’ve heard most loudly asking for safety on 9th Street are not single, white gentrifiers. They’re families who are afraid every day when they take their children to school.
They’re service workers who need inexpensive and safe transportation, and local businesses having a hard time keeping employees because people are living further and further away.
A letter of support for these measures was signed by over 50 ANC Commissioners, two dozen businesses on 9th Street, two civic associations, and the entire Bicycle Advisory Council.
It’s been three months since I first heard concerns from faith leaders in the community about this project, and since then multiple members of the Council, including the Chairman, have met with pastors and congregants in Shaw and across the city.
Yesterday I attended a meeting of the Missionary Baptist Ministers Conference and I have committed to meeting with them on a regular basis. A significant part of the legislation today is as a result of my engagement with faith leaders over the past several months.
I took it very seriously when my office met with congregants and they stressed the importance of parking on 9th for services. That’s why, if we approve this, it will not only be law that the number of Sunday spaces on 9th will not decrease, I added language that would actually increase Sunday parking beyond what it is now. That’s in addition to DDOT revisiting RPP rules to better accommodate weekday events in the corridor.
Further, I added language that would mandate reporting from the agency of stakeholder engagement, including how the design addresses specific concerns.
There is no technical reason to disapprove of these measures. This project has been studied for five years. It’s desperately needed, and we’ve incorporated the most pressing concerns about parking access into the legislation itself. If my colleagues want there to be a collaborative dialog about this project, this legislation is the means to do that.
Fighting gentrification and building safe streets are not incompatible goals. I’m committed not only to protecting our residents and institutions from displacement but also to preventing them from being harmed.
Let’s at least have the courage to do what the executive has failed to do. With that, I move the declaration.