Posted tagged ‘Government’

Brief Notes from Paid Family Leave Panel Discussion

February 7, 2017

paid-leave(Tom Sherwood moderating panel on Paid Family Leave Act.)

Last night, NBC4’s Tom Sherwood moderated a panel discussion at Busboys and Poets (14th Street) organized by the Ward 1 Democrats on the District’s new Paid Family Leave Act. The legislation was approved in December and Mayor Bowser has until 5:30 pm February 16th to act on the bill. While many are of the opinion that she will not veto the bill, there is a possibility that she may allow it to move forward without her signature. After February 16th, Congress has a 30 day passive review process. If they take no action, the bill becomes law.

The panel consisted of Phil Mendelson (DC Council Chair), Joanna Blotner (Jews United for Justice), Maria Gomez (Mary’s Center), Vincent Orange (DC Chamber of Commerce), Jonathan Cho (Sakuramen and Bul Korean), and Jonetta Rose Barras (Barras Report). Mendelson, Blotner, and Gomez spoke in support of the legislation, and Orange, Cho, and Barras were critics of the legislation.

Mendelson opened the discussion by stating that the goal of the Act was to help local businesses by making employment in the District of Columbia attractive and competitive to employees. Even so, implementation will not take effect until 2020 as money can’t be collected for the program until an agency is set up to administer the Act.

Those opposed to the Act stated they were not opposed to universal paid leave, but rather how the leave was being funded. As enrolled, the funds to support the program are raised in the form of a tax paid for by District businesses. Cho stated that the money should come from employees in the form of a payroll deduction and be administered as an insurance program as other cities and countries are currently doing this. Barras was critical that residents from Maryland and Virginia who work in the District will benefit and that the Act excludes Federal and District of Columbia employees. Orange stated that he preferred a mandate that employers provide leave when needed by employees.

Blotner stated that mandates don’t work and expressed support to increase the leave from 8 weeks to a longer period in the future. Gomez acknowledged that the Act will have a significant cost to Mary’s Center, but that providing universal paid leave to take care of District families is the right thing to do.

Mendelson did acknowledge that he would have preferred the structure described by Cho (payroll deductions), but that the District’s unique relationship with Congress and the Home Rule Act prohibits payroll deductions — an issue that has frustrated the Council for many years.

Overall, I left the discussion with the impression that the Act will be implemented and the city will move forward to set up the agency in support of the program … but that the Act can also be amended to make the legislation and program better.

Striving to Make Government Better at the Advisory Neighborhood Commission Level

May 29, 2015

ANC1A logoOver the past 4 1/2 years as I’ve served on ANC 1A, I’ve been looking for ways to improve the Commission’s operations in addition to weighing in of the various business that requires ANC review — such as liquor licenses and zoning variances. One small change I recently identified and which could easily be solved is giving the Board of Elections clearer instruction to declare a seat vacant when a  Commissioner stops attending meetings. While many ANCs do not have a problem with absenteeism, others do (especially in the second half of a term).

Not only does an absentee Commission fail to represent the people who elected them, but it has resulted in instances where a Commission has failed to achieve quorum which results in the entire Commission being unable to officially vote on the issues at hand. In 2014 ANC1A had two absentee Commissioners — one ceasing to attend meetings after January 2014 and another ceasing to attend after the June 2014 meeting — which did contributed to a failure of quorum at the July meeting and fragile quorums for the last quarter of the term.

Understanding that few people — even the most dedicated — are able to attend every meeting, it struck me that there should be a reasonable solution, so I drafted a resolution which passed with eight in favor, one against, and one abstaining with the following resolve:

Advisory Neighborhood Commission 1A urges members of the Council of the District of Columbia and the Mayor to introduce and pass legislation adding the following language to D.C. Code § 1-309.06 to address ANC absenteeism and assist in keeping Commissions functional:

  • § 1-309.06(i) Any member of an Advisory Neighborhood Commission who ceases to attend the Commission’s official public meeting for three consecutive months shall be considered to have resigned, and the office shall be declared vacant.

The full resolution (read here) was sent to Councilmembers Bonds and Nadeau, and in speaking with a member of Councilmember Bonds’ office, has been received favorably. There is a good chance this simple change will move forward and help keep Commissions operating.

Candidates Still Needed in Many Advisory Neighborhood Commission Races

July 21, 2014

As of today, Monday July 21st, there are 16 days left for those interested in picking up and returning nominating petitions to run for Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANCs). The deadline to turn in petitions is Wednesday, August 6th.

After the first 10 days, 240 candidates had picked up petitions to put their names on the November Advisory Neighborhood Commission ballot.  Of those picking up petitions so far, the number is split almost equally between incumbents (121) and “non-incumbents” (119).  Four ANCs (2C, 5B, 7C, and 8A) have candidates for all of their Single Member District (SMD) races.  However, a little more than one-third of all the SMDs (109) do not yet have a candidate. If you have ever considered being involved in your community by serving on an ANC, this is a good time to check with the Board of Elections to see if  your community needs a candidate come November.

Thus far, within Advisory Neighborhood Commission 1A, 9 potential candidates have picked up petitions to run for seats in 7 of the 12 SMD races. This leaves 5 SMDs with no potential candidates thus far. You can see the names of potential candidates and the SMDs they are interested in as of close of business on Thursday, July 17th, below:

ANC 1A candidates as of July 17

In reviewing the list of interested candidates for ANC 1A, I noticed that the areas in most need of candidates are largely west of 14th Street and/or in the southwest section of the Commission area (see map below). Two of the races — SMD 1A08 and SMD 1A09 — show multiple potential candidates. However, until nominating petitions have been successfully circulated and turned in to the Board of Elections we won’t know who the final list of candidates will be.

If you know of anyone who has ever expressed an interest in serving on the ANC — especially someone living in the areas shaded in blue below — this would be a great time to encourage them to pull petitions and get on the ballot for the November elections.
ANC 1A map July 20 election(As of close of business on July 17th, no candidates had expressed interest in running for the Single Member Districts shaded in light blue).

 

Voter Precinct Boundary Realignment In Progress

November 7, 2013

The Board of Elections has proposed to realign all voting precinct boundaries in the District of Columbia. You can read the entire 59 page document from the Board of Elections here. I haven’t really seen too much chatter about this so I thought I’d give it a little more exposure. Overall, in looking at the before and after maps, I think the proposed precinct boundaries make a lot of sense — at least in our area.

Below is a detail of the existing map showing the current voting precinct boundaries.

Existing voting precincts in ANC 1A

The problem that the Board of Elections is proposing to solve is to align voting precinct boundaries to correspond with existing Advisory Neighborhood Commission Single-Member District boundary lines. They also will be revising the precinct numbering system to associate each precinct to its designated ward.

The realignment will couple each SMD into a single precinct boundary as opposed to dividing some SMDs into multiple precincts. The majority of the new precinct boundaries will only contain 2 SMDs.

Below is what the proposed voting precincts look like for our neighborhood.

Proposed new precincts detail

The following advantages will be achieved by the realignment:

  1. Allow voters in the same SMD to vote at a single polling place on Election Day;
  2. Provide for a more balanced distribution of voters to precincts;
  3. Polling place efficiencies that will reduce wait times and enhance poll worker performances on Election Day; and,
  4. Reduce the ballot printing costs incurred by the Board of Elections and reduce administrative burdens.

The public comment period has been extended to November 30, 2013, to allow for more opportunities for public feedback.

State of the District Address Scheduled for February 5th

January 29, 2013

SODAThe Mayor’s State of the District Address should be of interest to many. I know that the location may be difficult for some and, as the announcement states, seating will be on a first come basis, so I’m hopeful that anyone who can make it will report back to the community. The announcement from the dc.gov Website is below:

Mayor Vincent C. Gray to Deliver 2013 State of the District Address on February 5

The Sixth & I Historic Synagogue Will Be the 2013 Venue for Annual Speech

WHAT/WHO:

Mayor Vincent C. Gray will deliver the 2013 State of the District Address, where he will report on the status of the city and his administration and outline his agenda and priorities for the coming year.

WHEN:

7 pm, Tuesday, February 5, 2013

WHERE:

Sixth & I Historic Synagogue, Sanctuary, 600 I Street NW

BACKGROUND:

The Sixth and I Historic Synagogue is a cultural institution and community center that connects the District’s past, present and future and symbolizes the city’s multicultural nature. Originally built in 1908 as the home of Adas Israel, one of DC’s oldest Jewish congregations, the building was purchased by Turner Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1951. It served as Turner Memorial’s home for half a century before that congregation moved to a new facility. A group of civic leaders acquired and renovated the Sixth & I building, reopening it in 2004 as a non-denominational, non-membership-based synagogue that serves as a cultural and educational center for the entire DC community. Emblematic of the rebirth of the District’s downtown, the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue has become a center for the arts, entertainment and community engagement.

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Early Voting Has Rough Start, Resumes Today, What Are Your Thoughts on At-Large Candidates?

October 31, 2012

I was very dismayed last Saturday morning when I started to get phone calls from upset residents who reported to me how truly messed up, under supported, and unprepared the DC Board of Elections and Ethics was when early voting began throughout the District’s eight wards. The wait at the Columbia Heights Community Center (1480 Girard Street) was over an hour at the start of the day and grew to more than a two hour wait for some voters. In disgust, some would-be voters left without voting.

Then, when Sandy threatened the east coast early voting was cancelled on Monday and Tuesday. It resumed this morning with extended hours. Early voting locations will be open between 8:30 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. today.

While I’m sure that all of these kinks and delays will be/have been sorted out, I do want to urge anyone that attempted to vote over the weekend and left to return this week or vote on November 6th. Not voting won’t impact the national election, but it does have a significant impact on our local races, particularly with the At-Large and ANC races.

Which brings me to the question of the at-large candidates. Each voter gets to vote for two candidates. I highly favor David Grosso for one of my votes but am undecided on the other vote. Of the candidates, who do you think are the best choices to represent us on the council?

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Mayor Gray Presents his FY2013 Budget to Ward 1

May 1, 2012

Mayor Gray at the Ward 1 FY2013 Budget presentation

Mayor Gray presented an overview of his proposed budget priorities for FY2013 last night at Bell Multicultural High School, 3101 16th Street, NW. The Ward 1 presentation was the last of his eight Ward presentations.

According to the Mayor’s PowerPoint presentation, his FY2013 budget proposal has three main goals and four development principles.

The goals:

  1. Diversity and grow the District’s economy;
  2. Educate and prepare our work force for the New Economy; and,
  3. Improve the quality of life for all.

The principles:

  1. Continue to prioritize strategic investments in education, public safety, and workforce development;
  2. Protect our most vulnerable residents;
  3. Ensure a structurally balanced budget (no use of fund balance); and,
  4. Balance the budget with no new taxes or fees.

There was a notable emphasis on education — both in funding schools and in capital improvements (such as school modernizations). In responding to a question after the presentation that questioned all the money going into schools, especially for adults without children, Gray replied that investment in education was investment in the District’s future in all areas.

Because there is a projected budget gap for FY2013, one of the Mayor’s proposed methods of making up some of that revenue would be to expand sales hours for alcoholic beverages by bars and restaurants. While very little print was give to this proposal, the Mayor actually spent some time discussing it during the presentation and it was a topic of concern by more than a couple residents during the follow up questions to the Mayor. Residents from Adams Morgan, in particular, noted their observations that services responding to concerns in that neighborhood are already inadequately addressed. Some noted their belief that any money raised by extending the sales hours for alcohol would merely pay for the increased policing, etc., of the problems that the extra hours would create.

For those interested in exploring the FY2013 budget proposal themselves, many relevant documents are currently available online and can be accessed here.

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