ANC 4D June 16th meeting notes

The meeting started a few minutes late with the Treasurer's report ($9,935.08 on hand) then some shuffling of the agenda to accommodate some presenters’ and commissioners’ schedules.

First to present was Cynthia White, President of the Jefferson Homestead People United Tenants Association (812 Jefferson ST NW). Ms White was coming to the ANC seeking a letter of support for the Tenant Assoc to partner with UrbanMatters Development Partners  to purchase their building at 812 Jefferson St NW

Cynthia White, president of Jefferson Homestead People United Tenants Association.

As way of background, the landlord of 812 Jefferson asked for a hardship increase in the rent of $200/month; however, the owner put the building up for sale, so tenants used their right to block the sale and attempt to purchase the building. 

“We don’t want to be pushed out,” said Ms White. “Residents want to stay in DC in an apartment we can afford.” 

The tenants group received five offers on buying the building as partners with the Tenants Association. UrbanMatters put offer in that meshed the closest with the tenants needs. 

Raymond Nix, the CEO of UrbanMatters Development Partners, got up to speak about his company. 

“We’re a district-based firm focused on affordable housing for public and private initiatives and mixed-income housing since 2008,” Mr Nix said. “It’s refreshing to work with residents who are standing up for their rights for affordable housing."

Mr. Nix said his company and the tenants are in the process of purchasing the building, and have until October to acquire the building. They are planning on doing a $60-70K per unit renovation, put in new energy efficient systems, etc. A resident asked if UrbanMatters was planning on redoing the external masonry with more environmentally friendly / efficient bricks. 

Mr. Nix said that they “haven't done our 100% walk around yet. We’re waiting until contract, to know what we can and can not do. It's a beautiful building and probably won't need brick replacement, maybe some pointing up."

The ANC voted and approved the letter of support for the tenants association to support funding from the city.

Three representatives from the Washington Teachers Union, Signe Nelson (Whittier EC), Alicia Hudson (Brightwood EC) and Chris Bergfaulk (Truesdell EC) spoke about their efforts on negotiating on behalf of teachers and schools. Ms Nelson said they have been operating without a contract since 2012. 

Signe Nelson, Alicia Hudson & Chris Bergfaulk.

Signe Nelson said what they’re asking for is a contract. “Teachers don't have the supplies they need to do their job. Yes, we mean paper and pencils, but also there have not been any new text books adopted in 8 years,” she said.

The DCPS Chancellor recently said that DCPS has put high-quality literature in each school -- but what she left out, according to Ms. Nelson is that there's only one copy of a particular book in a classroom or a school. This means teachers have to go photocopy sections of the book to teach to kids. 

“Teachers resort to the Internet, personal libraries, public libraries and photocopy what they need,” Ms Nelson said. “We’re only seeing minimum gains in student achievement gap. It's really an opportunity gap, a wealth gap,” she said, with some passion. “Children from the poorest families are not doing as well, and are being disadvantaged by poverty in their home, in their community and a lack of resources."

The group showed some slides of DC, with various areas outlined in color to show their relative prosperity. Red is high poverty, yellow is middle, green is low. “The gap has doubled in 7 years,” said Mr. Bergfaulk. “An increase in poverty is mirrored in an increase on the achievement gap.”

Ms. Nelson said the Union’s proposal is to reduce the number of students in a class exponentially based on number of at-risk students (for example, 2 at risk students in a class would equal to 4 less students in that class) allowing teachers to spend more time with students.

Alicia Hudson said, “Societal factors that impact student achievement  are not being addressed in school, such as stress, health, emotional health, school violence, unsafe school environments.” The Union wants to see DCPS and the city work to improve these factors as well.

A resident asked, “Since this is a systemic problem, do you have the numbers of schools where there are shortages of books, resources and other issues? Are they identified?"

"Most of the schools east of the park," answered Ms. Hudson. 

Resident: “If you don't have a specific list, you can't identify anything."

Ms. Nelson responded that they don’t have access to all the DCPS data, and that DCPS hasn’t been easy to work with."We're asking for the Chancellor to come back to the table,” she said. “The Chief negotiator has only been at 7 out of 50 meetings, her designee has missed 2/3s of the meetings. We showed up 3 weeks ago and the other side simply didn't show. The chancellor has unilaterally suspended negotiations,” she said. 

“We want residents and the ANC to pressure DCPS to negotiate in good faith,” Ms Nelson said. “Everything is transparent, and while what we may be asking for could be unrealistic, we're asking from a basis of what we need. We want every teacher, every child, to have what they need to be successful. That's what we want. We've been polite, quiet, good little teachers and listened, but now we have things we really believe that this city needs. This city is going in the wrong direction. I'll retire soon, but a child in 3rd grade doesn't have another shot. We're cheating them people, we're cheating them!" 

Mr Bergfaulk added, “We used to have a Ward 4 representative on the Education council, but not any more. Only the mayor has oversight now, you don't have a voice, we don't have a voice. We want to change that,” said Mr. Bergfaulk. "The mayor can't micromanage DCPS, and then who can we go to?"

(I asked Ms. Nelson for copies of their slides so I can share them, and I agreed to meet to learn more about their concerns but haven’t heard from them as yet.)

After that impassioned presentation, Commissioner Sheon talked about efforts to put a community agreement together with Castello's Restaurant and Lounge. “The process has been very slow. They have counter offered on issues like quiet, entertainment license, staying open to 3am,” he said. “They do seem like they're moving in the right direction, but haven't heard back from them.” Shen said the owners of the Lounge were also considering selling the property for a series of reasons.

Commissioner Sheon then discussed the Emergency Community Meeting he held in his single member district (4D04), regarding the sexual assault at Gallatin & 9th St 2 weeks ago. Councilmember Todd and 4D Commander Manlapaz attended. MPD said the assault occurred during the daytime. The victim reported that she has seen a man watching her on several occasions, and on this occasion he forced her into his vehicle and assaulted her. There are no leads the police can share. (Scary - be vigilant!) Sheon went on to say that “There have been seven daytime break-ins in the last 60 days; someone must have seen these people. Call 911 if you see something that doesn't look right.”

Chair Lisa Colbert talked about the upcoming ANC 4D Day, now called “4D Fun Day.” They held a fundraiser May 30th (in honor of older American's month). 20 people attended and only $50 raised (seriously?). Colbert is looking for volunteers to help with marketing, clean up, games & activities for the September 19th event. More info will be forthcoming as the summer progresses.

Commissioner Bowser presented her proposed resolution opposing large billboard in mixed use areas of DC. The city has a proposal to expand large electronic billboards like those on the Verizon Center throughout the city. The city proposal would allow large signs in mixed residential commercial space. These are currently allowed in an "entertainment zone”; however, the mayor can determine a zone at will.

These signs are not for or about business where the sign may be posted, but large video screens advertising other businesses, movies, etc (“like you see at Verizon Center) put up on buildings near people’s homes. Bowser’s resolution opposes expansion of these signs that are contained now downtown. The ANC voted to approve the resolution opposing the proposal (with one abstention). 

Jasmin Benab from the Mayor’s Ward 4 liaison office got up to speak briefly. She said the city has a new crackdown on synthetic drugs and that the Department of Health will now track hospital admissions for synthetics. Ms. Benab also mentioned that there is a personal document shredding and privacy conference coming up at Nativity Church on Georgia Avenue on June 26. Residents can bring any personal documents to be shredded free of charge (from 10am - 2pm) and attend a conference on how to protect themselves against identity theft, scams and fraud (from 10-11:30am).

Commissioner Sheon introduced the owners of “Ooohs and Ahhhhs” restaurant, Karen Abbott and her son Chef Andre Abbott. “We are sharing family recipes, embellished by the chef.” The new restaurant is opening in Walmart's property, near the credit union. (Commissioner Quirk pointed out that Chef Abbott was recently voted as having the “best wings in DC.” 

Dolly Turner, the Deputy Chief of Staff for Councilmember Brandon Todd, got up to introduce herself. She said either she or another staff member will attend 4D meetings and represent the councilmember at the meetings. She talked about the new Chief of Staff, Sheryl Newman, as an asset to Ward 4, as Ms Newman has “a lot of government experience and is well respected.” She said CM Todd was very focused on constituent services, and has several people on his staff dedicated to it. Constituent services in Ward 4 is run by Jackson Carnes (Jcarnes@dccouncil.us)  Ms. Turner also said that CM Todd was appointed to education, transportation and environment and regulatory committees on the council. 

Ms Turner said that she “is a problem solver, I enjoy solving problems, and we think we can provide the best constituent services in the city.”  She mentioned that she is a 4th generation Petworth resident, Howard grad, and has lived in Ward 4 twice, even though she grew up in Oklahoma. She has seen the gentrification take place and wants to make sure longterm residents have an opportunity to participate in the prosperity. She can be reached at dturner@dccouncil.us.

The Ward 4 Family Fun day is coming up on Sunday, June 28 from 3-5pm at the Kingsbury Day School (5000 14th Street NW). There will be food, games, music, bingo, and activities for all ages. RSVP to Jackson Carnes at jcarnes@dccouncil.us.

Commissioner Branton discussed working with the city to get dog poop bags and other supplies more available at local businesses, as a way of controlling poop. She said DDOE will take names of residents and streets where dog signs are needed. It takes 4 weeks to install signs. Branton is also holding her next SMD meeting on July 7th, from 6:30-7:45pm.

Branton also mentioned the Youth Summer Skate Jam (which sounds awesome), coming up on July 20th at Barnard Elementary School at 430 Decatur St, from 3-5pm. It’s free for city residents, and offers training on how to skate, ramps and even a fun wagon for smaller kids. DCPS, DPR and MPD partnership. Skates will be provided at no charge.

As time ran out, the Commissioners mentioned a few upcoming meetings:

  • Roosevelt Modernization Meeting (MacFarland Auditorium, June 18)
  • CAC, Thursdsy at 6001 GA Ave June 18 7pm
  • Kennedy ST Festival, Saturday 6/20 11-3pm
  • DHCD Housing Expo, Sat June 27 11-5 convention center
  • Ward 4 Educational Town Hall with CM Grosso, June 29th 6:30-8:30pm Petworth Library

Next ANC 4D meeting is July 21st.  Cheers!

Drew Schneider

Local DC blogger in Petworth, Washington DC.



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