Remarks on Being Sworn in to Third Term
January 2, 2023
I am grateful to stand here today with the partnership and support of our community in Ward 1 and beyond. I’m here with my Council and campaign staff past and present and my beloved family: my mother Davida, my husband Jayson and my daughters Zoe and Madeline. Thank you all for your love, encouragement and support.
You’ve undoubtedly heard me call Ward 1 the most diverse ward in the District, and that’s something I fight to preserve every day. And though the boundaries of our ward have not changed for many years, what happens within our boundaries is dynamic and ever-changing. This afternoon I’ll be making history by swearing in the commissioners of ANC1E - and ensuring that the eastern part of Ward 1 will have its own representation at our most local level. I could give you a long list of things we’ve accomplished together over the past eight years but instead, I want to focus on several collaborative efforts that illustrate the complexity and beauty of my work.
If Ward 1 is the heart of DC, then Columbia Heights is the heart of Ward 1. It's our melting pot. Two decades ago hundreds of people came together to design the public space in Columbia Heights, and even today dozens of those folks are still engaged in helping it meet its full potential. As Councilmember, I started out early convening residents, business leaders and government offices to address ongoing maintenance issues and human services needs. With seemingly no hope of the formation of a BID, I established a Main Street program now run by District Bridges. Residents volunteered their time. ANCs pitched in. But several years ago it became clear that the issues we faced needed still more resources. By establishing a grant for a plaza manager, we now have a dedicated person at District Bridges engaging those suffering from substance use disorder, AND IT’S WORKING. In the first month of the program, a handful of men made the choice to go to rehab. Then there were more. One day this summer there were 38 men who approached our plaza manager wanting to get sober and healthy. Through this work we are also now able to do more public programming - whether it’s exercise programs or holiday festivals we are starting to see our public spaces in Columbia Heights live up to that vision laid out nearly 20 years ago. And that’s one of the things I love most about Ward 1. We have big plans, folks are willing to pitch in to make them come together, and we never give up. And we are doing this work in neighborhoods all across the ward - not just Columbia Heights.
Ward 1 is also a place where we have not only a significant number of vulnerable residents, but also many residents who care very deeply about helping others. That’s why I sought out the chairmanship of the Committee on Human Services and it’s why I persevered in advancing the piece of legislation for which I am most proud: the Homes & Hearts Amendment. For years I heard from those who worked directly with our homeless residents about the need for more housing – the only true solution for homelessness. Each year I added millions of dollars to the budget and helped house hundreds more people. But it never seemed like it was enough – in such a wealthy city, surely we could come together to end homelessness. So that’s what I aimed to do. By raising taxes on wealthy Washingtonians the Council was able to fund $65 million annually: ending homelessness for thousands of people. Thousands of people who will have their own place to call home after living on the streets for sometimes decades, who will get the healthcare and supports they need, and live the dignified lives that all Washingtonians deserve. Thank you, to all those who worked for the passage of Homes and Hearts – it is an accomplishment for which we should all be proud.
I’m thrilled that I will now be moving on to chair the Committee on Public Works and Operations. The Department of Public Works touches many aspects of daily living and the quality of life in the District and in our ward. We know how dedicated the DPW workforce is and how hard their work has been throughout the pandemic. I am committed to working with them to reduce waste, keep our streets and neighborhoods clean, and address parking challenges across the city. I look forward to working with a new director to lift up this agency for all our residents. The committee will also have oversight of other agencies that protect consumers and provide basic and necessary services for our residents. I’m excited to get started.
There is work ahead of us to make our ward and our city vibrant, livable, and equitable; to keep our streets and communities safe for all; and the difficult, but attainable work of preserving and protecting affordable housing everywhere across the District.
The past several years have brought incredible challenges that many would have found insurmountable. But in the District of Columbia, we are practiced at coming together to triumph over these threats. That’s how we have managed through a global pandemic, through the Capitol insurrection, the reversal of Roe and through constant threats to our autonomy even as we get closer and closer to Statehood.
We are tough, we are strong, but we are also collaborative and caring. And that’s what makes me most proud to serve as your Ward 1 Councilmember. When I stood here 8 years ago I pledged that I would do this work in partnership with residents, and that is what I’ve done. Whether you’ve sent me an email or a DM, attended my monthly community office hours or offered testimony on a bill, I’ve brought your ideas, input and experiences to life through my efforts on the Council. Thank you for your trust and belief in me. I’m so excited to get back to work.