Mayor Muriel Bowser will hold a press conference at the entrance to the Eastern Market Metro station tomorrow morning to introduce a new initiative to combat the increase in robberies across the District.
The press conference will be held at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday to announce the new Robbery Intervention Partnership Task Force. According to a press release from Bowser, the task force will involve cooperation between the Metropolitan Police Department, the Metro Transit Police Department, the Office of the Attorney General and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to focus on stopping robberies.
Residents around Eastern Market and the Capitol Hill area more generally have expressed concerns at numerous community meetings about the increase in robberies in the area over the past year. The press release from Bowser says that the task force will focus particularly on repeat offenders.
Earlier today, the District Council also targeted crime by unanimously approving a bill introduced by Ward 6 Councilman Charles Allen that will offer incentives for residents and businesses to install security camera systems.
The bill authorizes up to $200 per camera installed and registered, with a maximum rebate of $500 for homes and $750 for businesses, nonprofits or religious organizations.
The Made in DC Program Establishment Act of 2015 would task the District Department of Small and Local Business Development with making a “Made in D.C.” logo, brand and marketing campaign. The DSLBD would then certify local products and help market them at major District events.
“With the holiday season in full swing, I’m proud to help promote the District’s growing creator economy with a program to communicate the importance of buying local and having pride in DC-made products year-round,” Allen said in a statement about the bill.
The bill also includes instructions for the DSLBD to look into opportunities for a District-sponsored “innovation space” that would provide local artisans with studio space, shared equipment and classrooms.
The bill was co-introduced by District Council Chairman Phil Mendelson.
Photo via Councilman Allen/ Compass Coffee
If passed, the Youth Vote Amendment Act of 2015 will allow 16-year-olds to vote in all District elections.
In a statement on the bill, Allen cited the responsibilities and obligations with which 16-year-olds are trusted and argues that they should have a say in government.
“As a government, we are holding 16-year-old youth accountable for a wide array of decisions and responsibilities, but we do not grant them a meaningful voice in these issues,” the statement says. “The Youth Vote Amendment Act of 2015 aims to do just that — by lowering the voting age to 16, we can bring our young people directly into the political process and, hopefully, create lifelong voters.”
The bill, which is now under consideration by the Council, was cosponsored by At-Large COuncilman David Grosso and Ward 1 Councilwoman Brianne Nadeau.
Chef Cathal Armstrong Planning at Least Two Eateries at The Wharf — Chef Cathal Armstrong, an owner of Restaurant Eve and Eamonn’s in Alexandria, is planning to open an Asian restaurant and at least one other eatery at The Wharf development in Southwest. [Washington Business Journal]
Barracks Row Eatery Zest Bistro Closed Indefinitely — The owners of Zest Bistro at 735 8th St. SE posted a sign yesterday announcing that the restaurant has closed as the owners focus on their new restaurant, Agua 301, in Navy Yard. [Capitol Hill Corner]
Washington City Paper Casts Colin Hanks to Play Councilman Allen in Fictional Council Movie — The Washington City Paper Arts Desk gave their suggestions for which Hollywood celebrities could play D.C. councilmembers, picking Colin Hanks to play Councilman Charles Allen of Ward 6. [Washington City Paper]
School Within School Students Take Inspiration from Sunflowers for Exhibit at Hill Center — The Hill Center’s Young Artists Gallery will display artwork created by School Within School students inspired by sunflowers that they painted at the end of last school year. [Hill Rag]
Navy Yard resident Keenan Austin has joined as Grosso’s chief of staff, while Southwest resident Jess Giles is now working as a committee assistant for the councilman.
Austin previously worked for U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) Grosso’s former chief of staff, Dionne J. Calhoun, is now a deputy chief of staff for Councilman Kenyan McDuffie of Ward 5.
Giles was a staffer for U.S. Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) before joining Grosso’s office.
“I am thrilled to welcome Keenan and Jess to my team as the Council returns to legislative business,” Grosso said in a statement today. “They each bring important experience and talents to my team.”
Photo via Flickr/ShashiBellamkonda
The D.C. Council is used to a lot of back-and-forth, but it’s not usually this literal.
Councilman Charles Allen of Ward 6 joined seven other councilmembers for a ping pong tournament in Farragut Square this afternoon. The event was organized by at-large Councilman Vincent Orange and the Golden Triangle BID, which holds events in the square every Friday.
Allen faced off against Orange, as well as Council Chairman Phil Mendelson; at-large Councilwoman Elissa Silverman; councilmen Brandon Todd of Ward 4 and Jack Evans of Ward 3; and councilwomen LaRuby May of Ward 8 and Mary Cheh of Ward 3 in singles and doubles tournaments.
The Ward 6 councilman entered the tournament with little confidence, saying “I’m going to embarrass myself aren’t I?” before explaining that he hadn’t played ping pong since at least high school.
Allen faced a tough first-round game against Orange, who had the best serve on the Council. Orange knocked Allen out of the singles tournament easily with an 11-5 victory on his way to winning the whole competition.
Evans had the last laugh in the singles tournament, though. As Orange posed with his trophy, Evans interrupted and accused Orange of using deflated ping pong balls.
The smack talk from Evans continued into the doubles round, where Evans and Allen were paired. The two easily beat Mendelson and Silverman in the first round, but lost to May and Orange.
Allen joked throughout that his staff was not allowed to examine the ping pong tables prior to the tournament and was “playing in protest.” He joined several other councilmembers in accusing Orange of having an unfair advantage due to the orange-colored ping pong ball used.
Although he left the tournament empty-handed, Allen said he had fun competing against his fellow councilmembers and complimented the Golden Triangle BID on its work organizing events for the square.
“It’s just nice that the park is being used, whether it’s for ping pong or places people can sit and eat from the food trucks,” he said. “It’s good that it’s not just an empty space.”
David Garber has a strategy: Hit incumbent at-large Councilman Vincent Orange where he’s vulnerable. In a campaign announcement video, Garber grabbed the attention of some voters by scolding Orange’s ethics. “We simply deserve better,” Garber said. But Garber acknowledges it takes more than shaming an incumbent to win an election.
Borderstan, a Hill Now sibling publication, spoke with the challenger and former Navy Yard ANC commissioner about his upcoming campaign:
Borderstan: Tell me why you’re running for Vincent Orange’s at-large D.C. Councilmember seat.
David Garber: I’m running for this seat because I want to be the advocate for communities across the District. What that’s meant for me in the past, both as an engaged citizen and as a two-term elected ANC Commissioner, has been that a lot about learning the value of listening to residents as anything is happening within neighborhoods and District-wide, and making sure that, in the way the city grows and in the decisions that are being made and what’s being prioritized across the District, we’re taking a lot of our feedback from the people in these actual communities.
What will be your first priority or new initiative, and why?
The three top issues for me right now are education, public safety, and housing. I’ve had a fair amount of experience within the education sphere, whether as a substitute teacher or advocating for a new public elementary school in the neighborhood where I was ANC commissioner. That school is opening this fall.
With regards to the growth of the city, I’ve lived in three very different neighborhoods in my time in the District. I’ve lived in Anacostia, east of the river, I’ve lived in Navy Yard, and I’ve lived in the Logan Circle/Shaw neighborhood. I feel like those are all pretty distinct, and have given me a pretty unique perspective for understanding how certain parts of the city have been overlooked and haven’t been served well in the past and wanting to make sure that, as we go forward, we’re being equitable about our development and our investments across the city.
Which parts of the city do you think have been overlooked?
A lot of people, especially east of the river, are concerned that real investment hasn’t been made in a lot of those communities over the years in the way that it has been other places. As a resident there, myself, what I was seeing at the time was that it was coming down to the decisions of political leadership. That was my first crash course in realizing that, if I want to see something change with regards to how the communities were being prioritized I needed to get involved, myself.
But you could point to other communities. Kennedy Street NW in Ward 4. Places in Ward 5. Fortunately, we’re in a time where there is a lot of investment in D.C. and different areas are being brought up in different ways. Hopefully we’re doing that while taking care of all of the existing residents that are in these communities. But I do think that more could still be done.
What did you learn from your time as an ANC commissioner in Navy Yard that you could apply to serving on the D.C. Council?
One of my first lessons was in the absolute importance of listening to residents at every step of the way, both in my decision making and with regard to any issues that were coming through the neighborhood.
I started a citizens’ development advisory committee, for example, that was able to speak into a lot of development that was happening in the Navy Yard ballpark area, and I made sure that I was reaching out to the community both online and in-person on issues there were really important. A lot of these issues did relate to development.
Navy Yard is a neighborhood where a lot of the people there were really excited about a lot of the changes that were happening. … But they wanted to make sure it was done in a right way and in a way that we’re really proud of 10 years from now and 20 years from now.
The other lesson I learned was just about the importance of working with my colleagues to make our work on the ANC as effective as possible. I think it’s easy to come into an elected position feeling very black-and-white on issues and not wanting to work with others who might disagree with you. One of the things that I enjoyed the most during my time on the ANC was working with people who we might not have lined up 100 percent on issues, but we had to work together and we had to find a common solution. As a councilmember, it’s important to be effective.
As you know, crime is a big topic in D.C. right now. Last night, you went on a ride-along with police. What did you learn?
My biggest priority right now is making sure that I’m doing everything I can to learn about what possible changes need to be made or what actions can be taken right now to improve the safety situation around the District.
I live in Shaw, and me and my neighbors feel like there’s a lot of violent crimes taking place almost daily. There has been an uptick in violent crime, it absolutely feels like there has been. I know people are looking to leadership right now to both make changes, whether it’s within the policies of the Metropolitan Police Department or how they’re doing their beats around the District. I’m trying to both listen to as many neighbors as possible, listen to police officers, try to get a sense for what’s working and what’s not working, so that we can move forward in a way that everybody feels safe in their communities, regardless of where they are.
Based on what you saw last night, is there anything that you’d want to change?
One thing that kept coming up was the need for more police officers in the District. There was a hiring boom in the ’80s and ’90s that is now turning into a retirement boom. Unfortunately, the new hires and police academy graduates aren’t catching up to the people leaving the force.
We need to make sure that we are providing the best place for these police officers to be when they’re choosing where to work. Whether that is offering incentives for living within the District or what have you, I think there are absolutely ways to making this a city where officers want to live because they feel supported and they’re able to get their work done.
Orange is the incumbent, so he most likely has an advantage. How do you feel about the upcoming race?
I feel really great about this upcoming race. I’ve felt really humbled over the last couple of weeks by the incredible amount of support that I’ve felt from people around the District, both in the encouragement and in their financial support, which at the end of the day, is going to mean a great deal in this election.
I’ve got an awesome team behind me. … I’m excited to start some of the more visible elements of my campaign, like door-knocking, meet-and-greets and introducing myself to voters and listening to issues that they care about.
This interview has been edited slightly for clarity and length
Photo courtesy of David Garber
A New Challenger Approaches — Former president Calvin Coolidge will be joining over-sized depictions of George Washington and Theodore Roosevelt as the Washington Nationals’ newest Racing President. His character is expected to make his first fourth-inning dash tomorrow. [WTOP]
Ben’s H Street Opener — Ben’s Chili Bowl’s new location on H Street NE are planning an ambitious rollout when they open on July 8th. Mayor Muriel Bowser, D.C. Rep. Eleanor Holmes-Norton and the Chuck Brown Band will be in attendance.
Safe July 4th Transport — The nonprofit Washington Regional Alcohol Program will offer free cab rides from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. on the night of July 4th. The group hopes to curb drunk driving. [Capital Community News]
Council Gets Closer Goal — Recent legislation leaves only two more acres, currently owned the real-estate developer Akridge, that need to be secured before construction of the new D.C. United stadium can start. The city needs to acquire the land, either through sale or eminent domain, before Sept. 30. [WTOP]
The new Ward 6 councilman has taken the oath of office.
Hill resident Charles Allen was sworn in as the D.C. Councilman for Ward 6 this morning (Friday). With 2-year-old daughter Cora Neal in his arms and wife Jordi Hutchinson alongside him, Tommy Wells’ former chief of staff took office about 11 a.m.
He spoke about the symbolic importance of the district.
“From Shaw to Southwest, from H Street to Hill East, from NoMa to Navy Yard, and across Capitol Hill, Ward 6 is a snapshot of our city,” he said. “It represents and celebrates our diversity, and I believe it reflects not only the District’s tremendous success stories, but it also reflects the challenges we must confront.”
Allen told an anecdote about meeting a woman on the street on Election Day, as he and his family walked to the polls.
“Wait, did I just vote for you?” the woman called out after him.
“I sure hope so,” Allen replied.
“I’m counting on you to do what you say, and represent my family,” the woman replied.
“I said I’d work hard to do just that,” Allen recounted.
Three or four days later, Allen received a card in the mail. “Dear Mr. Allen, You did it,” it said. The note was signed, “Peace, the person you met on 15th Street as you were heading to the polls.” The encounter reminded Allen of his deep responsibility, he said.
“I’m not interested in just filling a seat on this Council, I’m interested in rolling up my shirtsleeves, getting to work to make our lives better, to make our children’s lives better,” he said. “Our neighborhoods and our city have got to be a great place to grow up and a great place to grow old, and I believe they will be.”
“I’m ready to get to work.”
The Ward 6 D.C. Councilman-elect announced his staff appointments today (Tuesday), including ex-ANC 6B Commissioner Nichole Opkins and Jamaal Jordan, a former staffer for Councilman David Catania.
“I know first-hand the importance of a strong Council staff and I’m excited to welcome aboard this outstanding team,” Allen said in a statement. “They bring a wealth of experience and relationships, both at the Council and in our Ward 6 neighborhoods.”
Opkins was appointed general counsel, and Jordan will be director of constituent services. Allen’s chief of staff will be Laura Marks, a Hill resident who was chairwoman of the councilman-elect’s campaign. Council committee director Anne Phelps will be legislative director. Naomi Mitchell, who is the community liaison for Tommy Wells, will remain in the role. Scheduler Myisha Atchison will also retain her position.
Allen will hold an inaugural open house on Friday.
Bowser praised the “livable, walkable” brand of her former campaign rival, and his role in instituting the plastic bag fee.
“He’s been focused on how we can green our city and make our city sustainable for his entire time on the Council,” Bowser said. “He’s going to help us clean up the Anacostia.”
Wells, who is the first agency director Bowser has appointed, said he was ready for the challenge of making the District more environmentally friendly.
“As someone who keeps an canoe on the Anacostia River, I could not be more thrilled to have this role in the nation’s capital,” he said.
Wells noted that he will be the first former D.C. Council member to serve in the cabinet of a mayor.
“That’s what states do all the time,” he said to applause.
In other Council news, committee assignments have been made, according to Washington Post reporter Aaron C. Davis. Ward 6 Councilman-elect will sit on the Education, Transportation and the Environment, and Business, Consumer and Regulatory Affairs committees. Elissa Silverman, a Hill resident and at-large Councilwoman-elect was assigned to the Finance and Revenue, Housing and Community Development and Business, Consumer and Regulatory Affairs committees.
The announcement was made inside 400 E St. SW, where a new fire station, Hyatt Place hotel and retail are being built now. The LEED Silver building is set to open in fall 2015, officials said.
Council Chairman Phil Mendelson praised Wells in the Council Chamber and give him and other soon-to-be ex-members each a ceremonial glass bowl.
“You’re one of the few Council members who actually has a brand … Livable/walkable,” Mendelson said. Wells can largely take credit for the plastic bag fee and an investigation of ex-Council Chair Kwame Brown’s use of a Department of Public Works SUV, Mendelson said.
Wells said he is looking forward to the next year.
“This will be a great legislative body with a great executive branch, and I’m so proud to have served on the D.C. Council,” he said. He thanked his staff and other members.
Departing Councilman David Catania poked fun at Wells in his own remarks. Catania needed to keep his job at construction firm M.C. Dean Inc. “just to cover Tommy’s liquor bill,” he joked.
Photo via D.C. Council