One of the most important aspects of my job is to be responsive to constituents. I work closely with the Mayor and each agency director to address ongoing concerns across the ward, large and small. When an issue isn’t easy to resolve, I escalate that concern, so that we can all work together to make the city work better for our residents, and examine the underlying causes of recurring issues.
Families & Education
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.
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.
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.
Protecting student borrowers: As chairperson of the Subcommittee on Consumer Affairs, I advanced legislation that creates a new Student Loan Ombudsman in the District to ensure that District residents with student loans are treated fairly by loan servicers. The bill ensures proper licensing of student loan servicers in the District and gives student borrowers good information regarding their rights and obligations.
Supporting PTOs and civic organizations: Also in my role as subcommittee chairperson, I advanced legislation that updates regulations to help PTOs and civic organizations raise money and help leverage community resources. Current DC regulations are so out of date that much of the money they raise has to go back to the District government in fees.
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: I supported 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.
Producing affordable housing: 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. Under my leadership, we now have more than 500 units of affordable housing in the pipeline in Ward 1, as part of several different projects.
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.
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.
Safe, Strong Neighborhoods
Public Safety: Safe neighborhoods in which to live, work and visit are vital to ensuring our community remains strong. That’s why I work hand-in-hand with the Metropolitan Police Department to ensure they have the resources they need to keep Ward 1 safe. I also partner with community organizations that keep our youth engaged in positive activities and recently secured $250,000 for Ward 1 gang prevention and intervention programs. Another key piece of reducing crime is providing good jobs and opportunities for all of our residents. As Councilmember, I have supported funding and provided oversight for the programs that address these issues. I also host an annual event at which neighbors can meet their police lieutenants and learn more about how to report and prevent crime.
Strong Neighborhoods: In 2016 I secured funding for two new Clean Teams. The Clean Team program not only creates jobs for some of our hardest to employ residents, it also keeps our streets clean and safe with daily sweeping, trash and graffiti removal, attention to infrastructure, and by connecting those struggling with addiction or homelessness to the services they need. Ward 1’s two new Clean Teams do their work along Lower Georgia Avenue, 11th Street, 14th Street and Mount Pleasant Street. I also established a brand new Main Street program for Columbia Heights & Mount Pleasant that will support small businesses to help them thrive.
As chairperson of the Committee on Human Services, I am working to ensure all of our residents have safe, secure housing and the supports they need to thrive. In this role I oversee the work of the Department of Human Services, the Interagency Council on Homelessness, the Child and Family Services Agency, the Department of Youth Rehabilitative Service, and the Department of Disability Services.
Defending our Communities
Statehood: While the most recent national election may have set us back on our long term goal of achieving Statehood for the people of the District of Columbia, I have not tired in my efforts to lobby colleagues across the country to support us. Whether it’s at the National Conference of State Legislatures where I advanced a Statehood resolution, or at the Young Elected Officials network where I have engaged strong allies, I’m out there working hard for the cause.
Standing up for immigrant residents: Last year, I introduced a Council resolution opposing federal immigration raids, which passed the Council unanimously. 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.
Providing immigrants legal services: This year I introduced legislation to provide immigration legal services for the District’s documented and undocumented immigrant residents. The legislation is supported by immigrant rights organizations, direct service non-profits, and student advocates.
Fighting back against bigotry and hatred: Last year I introduced a resolution condemning anti-Muslim bigotry and expressing solidarity with Muslims and all those targeted for their ethnicity, race or religion.