On several occasions--including yesterday when I absentmindedly barreled into her leadership team coming off the elevator--Mayor Muriel Bowser has said that we are the "new kids on the block." Yet the Mayor certainly proved herself to be a poised and forceful advocate for the District when faced with Congressional meddling into the implementation of Initiative 71 last week. I applaud and stand with the mayor on this; I believe the will of District voters should be upheld. If you have questions about the implementation of Initiative 71, here is information.
I also want to thank the mayor for taking action on another issue: trash. The Bowser administration made a 72-hour "all hands on deck" push to do trash collection last weekend in alleys which had been skipped due to inclement weather. I received inquiries from some of you about this, and let me know if you are still waiting for collection.
Initiative 71 stole the headlines last week, but the Council also held important performance oversight hearings, including in the three committees in which I am a member. I also attended a very interesting forum on homelessness, sponsored by advocacy groups and service providers which are part of The Way Home Campaign. The main takeaway was that putting chronically homeless in housing and then providing the supportive services these residents need--what is known as the housing first approach--is not only more humane but more cost-effective for the District.
Today was a big day for our office. This morning at the Council's legislative session, I introduced two bills that will bring greater transparency and accountability to our government and our city. I want to thank my legislative team for getting these bills into shape, with big kudos to Legislative Director Ari Weisbard and Chief of Staff Kitty Richards.
The first bill was a co-introduction with At-Large Council member David Grosso, who chairs the Council's Committee on Education. The "Public Charter School Fiscal Transparency Amendment Act of 2015" gives D.C.'s Public Charter School Board more tools to review the financial operations of schools, identify conflicts of interest, and make sure that expenditures are made in the interest of kids, parents, and educators--not in the financial self-interest of school leaders. As many of you know, this has been an issue with two charter school operators recently. I want to thank Council Member Grosso and his staff, as well as the D.C. Public Charter School Board, for working with me and my staff on this important bill. You can read the bill here.
The "Wage Theft Prevention Clarification and Overtime Amendment Act of 2015," which I introduced along with five colleagues, builds on the wage theft prevention bill that was passed toward the end of last year. The bill makes permanent some emergency and temporary clarification acts made since then. It authorizes the Mayor to issue regulations, sets maximum penalty levels, and clarifies how employers receive and provide notice of the act in languages other than English. In addition, the bill closes a longstanding loophole that prevented parking lot attendants from being protected under the District's overtime law, even though there are overtime requirements for these workers under federal law. Workers in parking lots and garages earn some of the lowest wages in our city; according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median wage in 2013 for these workers was $9.15 an hour, which was legal then but less than today's minimum wage of $9.50. You can read the bill here.
This week, I want to ask for your help.
As I start to settle into the Wilson Building, I don't want to lose touch with grassroots events happening across our city. I want you--or at least some of you--to keep me informed of what is happening in your neighborhoods and in your wards.
So I am asking for volunteers to be part of ward teams to keep me and my office plugged in. If you are interested in helping me with this effort, please contact my special projects coordinator, Ian Maggard (email@example.com). Ian and I are hoping that we can get several residents from each ward to help be the eyes and ears for our office, as well as let us know of meetings and events to attend. Please contact Ian if you'd like to help.
Thanks so much.
It's hard for me to believe that it has already been two weeks since many of you witnessed the swearing-in of me, my fellow council members, and Mayor Bowser! I want to give you an update on what I've been up to in that time, and what I'll be focused on in the next week and upcoming weeks ahead.
First, I want to say how thrilling it is to work with my colleagues in the Silverman council office! On Monday, Jan. 5, our first official day in the Wilson Building, I sent out an email announcing our stellar lineup. In case you missed it, you can find our staff profiles here. My ambition was to have a diverse staff of D.C. residents--some Wilson Building veterans, some who bring fresh eyes to our local government--who all have a passion for integrity, accountability, and creating opportunity for all our residents. It is gratifying to see that team in place. I look forward to you getting to know them soon.
MY FOCUS THIS WEEK (AND LAST WEEK)
Getting our office up and running was a major focus of last week, and I am happy to say we are fully operational! You can reach me and my colleagues in the Silverman office at 202.724.7772. If you want to send an email--which some of you already have!--you can send it to me and my colleagues in our office by addressing it to first initial and last name at dccouncil.us. As in, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Much of my time this week has been focused on getting immersed in our committee work on the Council. I will serve as a member of the committees on Housing and Community Development; Business, Consumer, and Regulatory Affairs; and Finance and Revenue. As part of my council duties, I will also serve as a member of the Transportation Planning Board that is part of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.
I, along with my office colleagues, have been in multiple meetings every day this week with housing developers, advocates, researchers, and residents to get a handle on what we are currently doing as a government and as a city to provide safe, affordable housing for residents and where we need to go. It's a challenging policy area to get your arms around because it has so many tentacles--rental and homeownership, preservation and creation, etc. I think it is critical to the health and prosperity of our city, as well as a foundation for other efforts in areas like education reform. If our kids do not have a stable home to get a good night's sleep, then it is tough for them to read and pay attention in class.
I've also been in meetings with the DC Business Coalition, small business owners, adult education providers, and workforce development groups to get immersed in the work of the Business, Consumer, and Regulatory Affairs Committee. I want to make sure DC government is an enabler of opportunity, not an obstacle. One of my favorite events of the past week was attending the graduation of more than 1,200 D.C. residents from the University of the District of Columbia Community College Lifelong Learning & Workforce Development Division. This division of our community college is providing a critical opportunity for our residents to establish career pathways in some of our most strategic economic sectors: healthcare, IT, hospitality, and real estate. Doing just that--preparing DC residents for not only jobs but careers in our growing sectors--is one of the reasons I wanted to serve on this committee and on the Council. Thanks to Dean Kim Ford for inviting me and congratulations again to all our graduates.
On Tuesday, I sent a letter to D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine thanking him for joining twelve states in filing an amicus brief supporting President Obama's executive action on immigration. Allowing more immigrants to work legally in the United States will provide many social and economic benefits to states and the District, and it is the right thing to do. You can see my full letter here.
Finally, I am very concerned about the Metro incident Monday in which one rider died and more than 80 riders suffered injuries. I am a frequent rider of both Metrorail and Metrobus, and I think all riders as well as the public need to know exactly what happened Monday and how we can learn from that tragic incident to improve safety for WMATA passengers and workers. I am also concerned about DC's first responder agencies and how their efforts can be supported. WMATA comes under the purview of the Finance and Revenue Committee, and Tuesday morning I spoke with its chairman, Jack Evans, who was also just appointed as a DC member of the WMATA Board of Directors. I worked with Chairman Evans on questions that remain unanswered about Monday's incident, and we have circulated those to colleagues on the Council with other oversight responsibilities, as well as to the Bowser administration. I met Thursday afternoon with Mayor Bowser, City Administrator Rashad Young, and Deputy City Administrator Kevin Donahue to go over these concerns. Later today, a preliminary report will be issued on the first response of District agencies, and a more in-depth report will come out early next week. I asked to work with the Bowser administration and my colleagues on questions to WMATA in light of the findings. I will keep you updated.
Full immersion into my committee work will continue. I am also looking forward to participating in several Martin Luther King Day events over the weekend. Tonight, I am honored to help light the Shabbat candles at the annual MLK Shabbat at 6th & I. This is such a cool event, that highlights the promise of our city. It is a service that combines the DC Jewish community that currently worships at 6th & I, with Turner Memorial AME, which used to worship at 6th & I. I'll also be marching in the MLK Peace Walk in Ward 8 on Monday. Feel free to join me!
Every day it is my honor to serve you, the residents of the District of Columbia. I think that every time I climb the steps of the John A. Wilson Building.