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Grosso proposes bills to deal with opioid crisis, improve public health as Council returns from summer recess

For Immediate Release:
September 19, 2017
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Grosso proposes bills to deal with opioid crisis, improve public health as Council returns from summer recess

Washington, D.C. – Today Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) introduced two bills to address the opioid crisis in the District of Columbia.

“For decades we have attempted to use criminal penalties to solve drug addiction and its associated consequences,” Grosso said.  “This ‘War on Drugs’ has failed and in recent years, D.C. has adopted a public health and evidence-based approach to reduce harm and help people find appropriate treatment.  My proposals continue that approach.”

Last year, D.C. reported 216 opioid-related deaths—nearly triple the number reported in 2014. Grosso’s proposals would remove penalties for possession of certain drug paraphernalia and promote access to the medical marijuana program, both of which have been shown to reduce overdoses.

The Safe Access for Public Health Amendment Act of 2017, allows for access to new technology that enables drug users to test their own drugs to avoid overdosing and supports harm reduction efforts for injection drug use by improving access to clean syringes to reduce the transmission of HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C.

The bill achieves this greater access by removing criminal penalties for possession for personal use of syringes and drug testing kits, and expanding the areas in which D.C.’s successful needle exchange program can operate.

“There is no scientific basis for criminalizing paraphernalia possession,” Grosso said. “It only increases the likelihood of harm to those who are struggling with addiction and continues the failed policies of the War on Drugs that has had a disproportionate impact on our African-American communities.”

Councilmember Vincent Gray joined Grosso in co-introducing this bill. Grosso joined Gray in co-introducing two other opioid focused bills: Opioid Abuse Treatment Act of 2017 and the Opioid Overdose Prevention Act of 2017.

The Medical Marijuana Improvement Amendment Act of 2017 reduces two major barriers to the city’s medical marijuana program: the requirement for a doctor referral and long wait times to get a registration card.

Under the bill, patients would be granted provisional registration and same-day access to medical marijuana like any other medicine. Patients without a primary care physician, or with one who does not wish to recommend medical marijuana, would be able to self-certify.

“Medical marijuana has been shown to be a viable alternative to the prescription of opioid painkillers, which can set people down the path to addiction,” Grosso said. “While we have made significant improvements to our medical marijuana program here in D.C., there is more we can do to improve access for patients and reduce opioid reliance and overdose.”

A study in JAMA Internal Medicine found that medical marijuana programs reduce opioid overdose death rates by as much as 25 percent.  Americans for Safe Access also reported lower prescription rates of painkillers in states with medical marijuana programs.

Grosso believes D.C. can go even further to combat the opioid crisis.  In a letter sent to Department of Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt today, the councilmember asked her to examine how D.C. might set up supervised injection sites where injection drug users could be monitored to prevent overdose and be connected to treatment.  He also believes DOH should find a way to allow Narcan, the opioid overdose prevention medication, to be obtained over-the-counter at any pharmacy in the District of Columbia.

“I hope that Dr. Nesbitt and her team will find a way forward,” Grosso said.

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Grosso denounces Trump's heartless decision to end DACA

For Immediate Release:
September 5, 2017
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Grosso denounces Trump's heartless decision to end DACA

Washington, D.C. – Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large), chairperson of the Committee on Education, released the following statement, on today’s announcement that President Donald Trump will end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in six months:

“President Trump’s decision to end DACA is simply heartless.  These young people have built a life here—living, learning, and working alongside neighbors, families, and friends. The District of Columbia and the whole country are better for it. Casting their lives into further uncertainty, he has chosen to abdicate his moral leadership and recklessly pin their futures on the whims of Congress by delaying action for another six months.

“Only hate could motivate a president to tear these individuals from their communities like this. I urge Congress to act before the March expiration of the program to secure the place of DACA recipients in our country.

“As the Chairperson of the Committee of Education, I am particularly concerned about how this assault on families and neighborhoods will negatively affect students, filling them with fear and causing emotional distress over the possibility that they or a loved one could be snatched away at any time. Trauma such as this stands as a significant barrier to the success of our students—one that I have worked to address as a top priority of the committee.

“The District of Columbia stands for the human rights of everyone, including our immigrant neighbors regardless of legal status.  I pledge to do everything I can on the Council to protect their place in our city and in our nation.  I implore the young people impacted by this terrible decision to keep studying, working, and striving toward their dreams.

“This year, Mayor Bowser and the Council provided $500,000 in new funds for legal service providers who stand ready to help those who need it.  I urge anyone with questions about their immigration status to contact one of the following organizations.”

  • AYUDA - (202) 387-4848
  • Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, Inc. - (202) 772-4352
  • Asian Pacific American Legal Resource Center - (202) 393-3572, ex. 22
  • Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International - (202) 529-2991
  • Whitman-Walker Health Legal Services - (202) 745-7000
  • Human Rights First - (202) 547-5692
  • KIND Inc. - (202) 824-8680
  • Asian/Pacific Island Domestic Violence Resource Project Confidential Helpline - (202) 833-2233
  • DC Affordable law Firm’s D.C. Immigrants’ Rights Project, in partnership with the Ethiopian Community Center and Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area (202) 844-5430
  • CARECEN - (202) 328-9799
  • CAIR Coalition - (202) 331-3320

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Grosso requests update from DCPS on changes to Early Stages

Earlier in August, Councilmember Grosso, chairperson of the Committee on Education, wrote a letter to District of Columbia Public Schools' Chancellor Antwan Wilson requesting an update from him on planned changes to the Early Stages' role with Child Find.  

His request, and the Chancellor's response, are below.

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DHS responds to Councilmember Grosso's concerns over D.C. Healthcare Alliance

Earlier this month, Councilmember Grosso wrote to the Department of Human Services raising concerns that individuals were being denied eligibility to the D.C. Healthcare Alliance program based on their immigration status, which he believes should not be relevant to the determination of their eligibility for the program.

For the particular issue that the councilmember raised, DHS informs him that they are in the process of considering precisely how an asylum seeker on a tourist visa may prove thier intent to reside in D.C. to make eligibility for the program.

You can read the full letter from Councilmember Grosso, and DHS's response, below.

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Grosso calls for removal of Confederate statue

Councilmember David Grosso, along with Attorney General Karl Racine and Councilmembers Kenyan McDuffie, Anita Bonds, Charles Allen, Brianne K. Nadeau, Elissa Silverman, and Robert White, Jr. sent the below letter to the National Park Service calling for the removal of the statue of Confederate General Albert Pike from Judiciary Square.

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Grosso applauds tentative new teacher contract

Washington, D.C. – Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large), chairperson of the Committee on Education, released the following statement on the announcement of a tentative contract between the Washington Teachers’ Union and D.C. Public Schools:

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Grosso reacts to U.S. Attorney's decision not to charge MPD officer in Terrence Sterling's death

For Immediate Release:
August 10, 2017
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Grosso reacts to U.S. Attorney's decision not to charge MPD officer in Terrence Sterling's death

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) on the announcement that the U.S. Attorney’s Office will not charge the Metropolitan Police Department officer in the September 2016 death of Terrence Sterling:
 
“Another African-American life was lost at the hands of a police officer last fall, and Terrence Sterling’s family and community waited nearly a year to learn that no charges would be filed against the man responsible.  
 
 “Faith and trust in our law enforcement officers has been tarnished—not just by this incident, but also by others across the country.
 
“To restore that trust, it is every government officials’ and police officers’ obligation to continue to scrutinize the actions of the Metropolitan Police Department and hold to account those who do not live up to the duty of protecting the communities they serve.  I support and applaud the mayor and MPD for requesting the officer’s resignation and committing to a full disciplinary review of the incident. 
 
“I hope these steps will give those who loved Mr. Sterling some sense of justice, though no action that can be taken will return Terrence home.
 
“We must also commit ourselves to a public health and community-based approach to policing, and more importantly, further utilize non-violent methods to rebuild that necessary trust and improve the safety of our communities for all residents.”

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Exploring Cuisine and its Role in D.C.’s Creative Economy

By Zoe Fredrickson*

For as long as I can remember, cooking has been my passion. Early mornings were spent poaching eggs for breakfast, afternoons planning elaborate tea parties for my friends, and evenings decorating the dining room for family dinner parties. When I couldn’t sleep at night, I’d close my eyes and envision how I would one day open a world famous restaurant featuring my star dish. I would dream about what table cloths the restaurant would have and what my logo would look like, all at the age of 7.

Growing up in an urban metropolis like D.C., my love for the culinary arts was fostered everywhere I went. Going out to dinner was more than just a nice family outing-- it was a culinary expedition; sampling and critiquing, studying and assessing what I liked and meticulously picking it apart to see how I could recreate it. In my junior year of high school I began to work at Craft Kombucha at Union Market, the conflicting smells of sweet pastries, spicy Korean barbeque and salty salami greeting me whenever I stepped through the door. Since its restoration and reopening in 2012, Union Market has embodied D.C.’s commitment to culinary innovation and accessibility. Home to 40 vendors, including a mix of informal restaurants, fast-casual cuisine, and pop-up stalls, Union Market provides a place for chefs to experiment and flourish. Cutting out the need to buy restaurant space, it makes starting in the food industry far more attainable, and it reinvigorated my love of the D.C. food scene. 

The District of Columbia’s gastronomic character has become a blend of its roots in southern soul food, a distinct French backbone, seafood from the Chesapeake Bay and flairs from the many immigrant cultures prevalent across the city, all of which provide endless culinary possibilities. But the world of cuisine is an underappreciated and overlooked profession and is often thought of as a pit stop to other careers. By valuing the food industry for the true art that it is and incorporating it into the city's creative economy, we can provide meaningful jobs in cooking, catering, mixology, management, and serving to our young people.

With nearly 60% of the District's workers employed in the creative class, D.C. is one of the most creative cities in the United States. A recent study also shows the District is a top five "most inspiring city" for young artists. Councilmember Grosso has worked to support the creative economy through his ArtsActionDC initiative, which allows the creative communities of D.C. a space for open dialogue among themselves and with the government. Investing in our city’s creative economy-- the industries based on human innovation and creativity-- is about more than supporting the arts, it opens up pathways for job expansion, creative expression, cultural inclusion, and a general increase in quality of life for all.

Walking down the aisles of Union Market, I can’t help but think of an art gallery; vendors proudly displaying products they spent hours, maybe even years, working to perfect; each stall a rainbow of colors and smells. Just like WeWork provides a space for entrepreneurs to bounce ideas off each other and network, Union Market is a collaborative home to culinary creatives, promoting and building upon each other's work. And like the art world, the culinary one is a complex mix of culinary school professionals along with self-taught talents.

As an alternative to a four year college experience for students, the culinary industry provides many entry-level jobs that can lead to lifelong careers. Although as young people we are constantly told that college is the only successful way forward in life, for some, going to college is simply not their reality. This could be for many reasons to include: lack of support at home or in school, the exorbitant costs, or lack of interest. By showing these young people that there are other options for them and supporting them in school with cooking programs, we can provide more opportunities to succeed. In 2015, the culinary arts accounted for over 40,000 jobs District wide. With new restaurants popping up every day this is only increasing.

Shared kitchens and farmers markets are another option for entry points into the food world without much prior experience. MessHall, Taste Lab and Union Kitchen all provide communal commercial kitchens to small businesses who, without health department licensed kitchens, could not legally produce their food. Not only does this decrease the price for these businesses, but it also allows for collaboration and diffusion of ideas. In addition, this space encourages local employment, diminishing the possibility that these small businesses will be bought out by larger national food producers. Instead of the revenue going to businesses like Safeway or Giant, money stays in the hands of the community. Farmer’s markets also offer local entrepreneurial opportunities and in the Washington region, we enjoy more than 174 farmer’s markets. Although these goods are not as cost effective as those from national chains, by providing food stamps and other subsidies for low-income families to be able to take advantage of them, we can create a culture of local-minded conscious consumerism.

I’d consider myself a fairly academic person -- I’ve taken multiple APs in high school, I get pretty good grades -- but one of my favorite parts of cooking was being able to let loose and fully explore my more artistic side. Designing menus, elaborate plating, and coming up with new recipes were all ways I could use my imagination, without the threat of grades looming over me. I like to joke with my friends that “su cocina es mi cocina” (your kitchen is my kitchen) because whenever I visit their homes, I rummage through all the cabinets -- whipping up a quick stir fry, finding seven different ways to use ramen noodles and maybe even cooking their parents’ dinner. It is through my love of cooking and my exposure to the culinary arts that I’ve come to realize and fully appreciate one universal truth:  food has the powerful ability to bring everyone together.

Unfortunately, we don’t always recognize this power.  Across the District of Columbia there are distinct ethnic groups and yet, we often do not highlight them.  I think about this regularly because D.C. has the largest community of Ethiopians outside of Africa; in Columbia Heights, you cannot turn a corner without passing at least a dozen pupuserias.  The U Street corridor is littered with incredible soul food joints serving half smokes and mumbo sauce.  All of these communities, with rich histories and vast cuisines, are here in the District of Columbia for a reason, so why are we not highlighting them?  How is it that for the majority of D.C.’s culinary past, it has been known for mediocre steak houses and sandwich shops, when the potential for exciting and flavorful food is simply brushed away? By encouraging and educating young immigrants on entering the culinary workforce or how to start their own businesses, we as a city can foster a more diverse and accepting community. When it comes to employing young people, who better to hire than a person who grew up cooking certain food?

In addition to creating a new workforce and establishing a pipeline of jobs, helping students and youth to cook and appreciate food can provide other benefits as well. America's obesity problem and food deserts are issues facing our children. In the last few years DCPS has introduced programs to provide school gardens and nutrition support. When I was in middle school I remember joining one of these classes. It had amazed me that one of my fellow students went from refusing to eat anything remotely green and leafy, to becoming a full-fledged vegetarian, even to this day. By educating students on how to prepare cost-efficient and nutritious food, while also encouraging them to pursue a career later in life, we can inspire them to do more and teach their families. Although home economics classes were taken out of school curriculum to provide more productive instructional time, we are doing our children no favors when the alternative is malnutrition and lifelong health problems. Making an initiative to provide every DCPS school with their own plot of land to nurture and funding for a teacher to educate on health literacy, we can help end this cycle.

When I think of who I’d be without my love of cooking, I can’t separate the two. My organized and meticulous nature can only be explained from a childhood of meal prepping, double and triple checking recipes, and filling pages of notes from cooking shows I’d watch. Even my love of science and how things work comes from the countless failed baking attempts, and books I read on the science of food. Education, exposure and ensuring every child is in the best position to succeed are crucial to expanding and strengthening our city’s creative economy and I hope that others are afforded the opportunity to fall in love with food the way I have on this incredible culinary journey.

 *This post is part of an ongoing series of posts by Councilmember Grosso’s staff to support professional development. All posts are approved and endorsed by Councilmember Grosso. Zoe is a rising senior at School Without Walls and will be interning with the Office of Councilmember Grosso for 3-weeks.*

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Supporting Immigrant Students and Their Families

By Eli Moraru*

In the Trump era, immigration has become a hot topic across the country. With a new push for deportations and the “Muslim ban” taking effect, immigrants across the nation fear for their safety and rights. The District of Columbia has promised to be a sanctuary city for all, but for many immigrant students and their families, these policies and laws are not enough to help them feel at home in our city.

For immigrant students, the new Trump policies are affecting their ability to succeed in school and feel safe in their communities. Supporting these young people and their families is key to making D.C. a better city. With around 23% of all D.C. residents being foreign born, it is important that immigrants and immigrant students are able to thrive in our communities.

As a member of the Woodrow Wilson Senior High School community and leader of the student group Estudiante 2 Estudiante (a student run group that pairs new immigrant students with accustomed students to create a sense of community for immigrant students through discussions, soccer, tutoring, mentoring, and fostering friendships between these students), I am able to talk to the students who are most affected by the Trump administration’s policies. I have met Angel (name has been changed for privacy), a rising junior and an undocumented immigrant. Angel and I have been able to develop a friendship through E2E and because of this, I have become more aware of the issues he faces as an immigrant student in D.C. during the time of the Trump administration. He has told me of his fear of getting deported like his brother, of spending another birthday in a detention center, and his frustration at not being able to understand what his art teacher is assigning. Every day he must face the obstacles of school, his limited English, and the fear of deportation in a city that is new to him.

Angel is just one of thousands of local immigrant students who are affected by the Trump administration's policies. Like Angel, these students are often unable to communicate with their faculty, don’t know their rights, and feel isolated in their school communities. To make D.C. better for these students and their families, they must be supported in and out of school.

Councilmember David Grosso has been a key leader in pushing for legislation supporting immigrant students and their families. In 2015, Grosso introduced the Language Access for Education Act, and reintroduced it in 2017, to increase the standards of language access for all education and government services for D.C. residents without proficiency in English. It would require all schools to have translations of all essential information, which would be key for enabling immigrant families to be involved in their school communities. This act would help immigrant students and their families to communicate with their schools and would create interactions between students and faculty that would lead to greater success for immigrant students in school.

The success of immigrant students heavily relies upon them feeling safe in their academic and local environments. These learners should be able to focus on school and not worry about their immigration status and the status of their family members. To protect these immigrants and help keep peace of mind, Councilmembers Grosso, Jack Evans, and Brianne Nadeau introduced the One License for One DC Amendment Act of 2017. This act would make all IDs produced by the DMV look identical, regardless of immigration status. This would prevent ICE agents from using government-issued IDs as a means of targeting undocumented immigrants. By having one less fear, immigrant students can focus more on school and pursue their academic dreams.

The Access to Justice for Immigrants Amendment Act of 2017 is another extremely important bill, currently under Council consideration.  This bill will help to further defend the rights of immigrants, by supporting nonprofit organizations that provide civil legal assistance to low-income residents as well as civil immigration legal services.  With the passage of this bill, the District will have more lawyers capable of protecting the rights of all residents.

At the Columbia Heights Education Campus (CHEC), announcements are made about ICE raids to ensure that students are aware of safe routes home after school. Staff members at Woodrow Wilson Senior High School have posted papers of what to do when approached by an ICE agent and the DCPS policies regarding ICE raids. An annual resource fair for non-English speaking students is held at CHEC to help all D.C. students find the resources they need. DCPS has also released statements of their policies to ensure students know their rights and access their education. The actions taken by these schools have supported immigrant students and has made their school communities safer.

The D.C. Council has promised to “defend the safety, dignity, and liberty of all our residents.” While they have passed a lot of legislation that helps immigrant students feel safe, protected, and aware of their rights, our city still has a long way to go to guarantee this during the Trump era. It is necessary to promote diversity and cross-cultural interactions in our schools and our city, help immigrant students and their families feel safe, make sure all D.C. residents know their rights, and create a greater sense of community.

School staff should be encouraged to be bilingual and our city should attempt to campaign for more people to learn another language. All messages (phone calls, emails, etc.) sent out by D.C. schools, not just essential information, should be sent out with translations to help immigrant families of young learners have a better understanding of their school community.  Monthly legal meetings should be held at all schools so immigrants can know their rights and feel safer in their communities. School staff should obtain basic legal training to be able to educate immigrant students and their families. These changes help support immigrant students and their families and will make D.C. a better city for all residents.

As a sanctuary city, D.C. is a community for all. For Angel and the thousands of immigrant student like him, D.C. is their new home. To resist the divisive policies and rhetoric introduced by the Trump administration such as the “Muslim Ban” and the “border wall”, the District of Columbia must support immigrants in every way possible. Helping immigrant students become a part of our city’s community is necessary to make our city, and our country, stronger.

*This post is part of an ongoing series of posts by Councilmember Grosso’s staff to support professional development. All posts are approved and endorsed by Councilmember Grosso. Eli Moraru is an intern with the Office of Councilmember Grosso and a rising senior at Woodrow Wilson Senior High School.*

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DCPS responds to Grosso's request for information on discretionary school placements

D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Antwan Wilson sent a letter to Councilmember David Grosso, Chairperson of the Committee on Education, in response to Grosso's June 1 request for all documentation related to the discretionary placements made by the Chancellor for the school lottery process from 2014 to the present. 

The letter and supporting documentation is below.

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Michael A. Stoops Anti-Discrimination Amendment Act of 2017

Michael A. Stoops Anti-Discrimination Amendment Act of 2017

Introduced: July 11, 2017

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Brianne Nadeau, Mary Cheh, and Robert White

Summary: To amend the Human Rights Act of 1977 to protect individuals experiencing homelessness from discrimination.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Today, along with my colleagues Councilmembers Brianne Nadeau, Robert White, and Mary Cheh, I am introducing the Michael A. Stoops Anti-Discrimination Amendment Act of 2017.

Virtually all homeless people experience some form of discrimination.

A 2014 survey conducted by the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) and George Washington University found that out of 142 individuals experiencing homelessness, 132 claimed they had been discriminated against because of their homeless status.

Discrimination on the basis of homelessness runs rampant throughout our city- from law enforcement to private businesses, medical and social services.

Therefore this bill amends the Human Rights Act of 1977 to add homelessness as a protected class to help eradicate discrimination for individuals experiencing homelessness in employment, in places of public accommodation, in educational institutions, in public service, and in housing and commercial space.

The bill is aptly named the Michael A. Stoops Anti-Discrimination Amendment Act of 2017 to honor the life and legacy of a person who was a long-time advocate for the rights of individuals experiencing homelessness and a tireless warrior for overcoming income inequality.

During his 67 years of life, Michael was able to accomplish many great things on behalf of individuals experiencing homelessness.

In the 1980s, he help founded the National Coalition for the Homeless.

He also fasted and slept on the street in order to pressure Congress to pass the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, a federal law that provides funding for homeless shelter programs, and is the primary piece of federal legislation related to the education of children and youth experiencing homelessness.

Later, he pushed the standards of living for homeless people by organizing over 100,000 people to join the “End Homelessness Now! Rally”.

In the 1990s, Michael co-found the North American Street Newspaper Association (or “NASNA”). NASNA is a nonprofit trade association of street newspapers that helps to support 110 papers in 40 countries, including our own local newspaper, Street Sense, where Michael served on the board from 2003 to 2014.

Unfortunately, tragedy struck in 2015. Michael suffered a massive stroke, which caused him to be wheelchair bound and unable to speak. However, he still remained dedicated to his life’s mission until he passed away earlier this year.

Passing this legislation will help eliminate discrimination against homeless people simply because they are homeless.

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Instant Runoff Voting Amendment Act of 2017

Instant Runoff Voting Amendment Act of 2017

Introduced: July 11, 2017

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Elissa Silverman, Brianne Nadeau, Mary Cheh

Summary: To provide for the election of the Mayor, the Attorney General, members of Council, and members of the State Board of Education using instant runoff voting, to require that District voting systems be compatible with an instant runoff ballot system, and setting a date and conditions for implementation.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Reforming the District of Columbia’s campaigns and elections to ensure more residents are engaged in the political process and their voices are accurately reflected in government remains a high priority for me.

Earlier this year, I introduced the Fair Elections Act of 2017, which aims to reduce the influence of big money in local campaigns by establishing a strong public financing system.

This morning, along with Councilmember Nadeau, I continue that push by introducing the Instant Runoff Voting Amendment Act of 2017.

Instant Runoff Voting ensures that individuals receive a majority of the vote of the electorate, by allowing voters to rank the choices on their ballots in order of preference.

Tabulation of results proceeds in rounds. The first round eliminates the person with the fewest votes, then reallocates those votes to the voter’s second choice in the next round. This continues until one person receives a clear majority of the vote, and we can be sure that this is the preferred candidate of the electorate.

Unlike traditional runoff voting, this method does not require the expense of an additional election since it all happens on one ballot.

Many times in the District of Columbia, we have crowded primaries, open seats and special elections. These are opportunities for individuals to make an attempt at running for public office and giving back to their communities. Therefore the candidate field is often crowded, and victors emerge with less than a majority of the vote.

This will help change how we run for office, and force fields of candidates to focus on vigorous and spirited policy debates that appeal to a wide range of voters.

Instant runoff voting is currently used in San Francisco, Berkeley, Oakland, and San Leandro California; Minneapolis, and St. Paul Minnesota; Portland, Maine; Takoma Park, Maryland; and Santa Fe, New Mexico. Many states also use instant runoff on their military and overseas ballots.

The potential benefits to the District through instant runoff voting are immense.

We can expect higher voter turnout - as voters will be free to mark their ballot for the candidate they truly prefer without fear that their choice will help elect their least preferred candidate.

We can expect positive and more widespread campaigning - since candidates will not only be seeking to be a voters first choice but all will be asking to receive the voter’s second-choice and third-choice.

Instant runoff voting will make our elections more competitive and fair, and strengthen confidence in our electoral outcomes.

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Contract Interference Mitigation Resolution of 2017

Contract Interference Mitigation Resolution of 2017

Introduced: July 11, 2017

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Anita Bonds, Mary Cheh, and Kenyan McDuffie

Summary: To Declare the sense of the Council that the District of Columbia is committed to government transparency and consistency with regard to contracting and procurement; and to call upon the Mayor to more accurately document interactions with lobbyists, especially regarding contracts, to update and standardize the solicitation and bid review process across government agencies, and to take steps to combat the perception of favoritism in the contracting process to mitigate the potential for interference in the contracting process.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Thank you Mr. Chairman.

Today I am introducing the Contract Interference Mitigation Resolution of 2017 along with Councilmembers Cheh, Bonds, and McDuffie.

The Committee on Transportation conducted an investigation into the resignation of Admiral Weaver from the Department of General Services, the firing of two DGS employees by a member of the Mayor’s executive team, and the handling of two contracts awarded by DGS.

The Committee combed through thousands of pages of documents, including e-mails, correspondence, meeting records, personnel files, and documents related to those contracts, and heard over twenty hours of testimony in December of 2016. 

On June 14, 2017, Councilmember Mary Cheh released findings and recommendations, which included steps that the executive can take, independently of Council action.

While I know there is pending legislation that addresses some of the short-comings raised through Councilmember Cheh’s findings, I thought it would be appropriate for the Council to at least encourage the Executive to take these necessary steps as soon as possible.

That is why we are introducing this resolution to declare the sense of the Council that the District of Columbia is committed to government transparency and consistency with regard to contracting and procurement; and to call upon the Mayor to more accurately document interactions with lobbyists, especially regarding contracts, to update and standardize the solicitation and bid review process across government agencies, and to take steps to combat the perception of favoritism in the contracting process to mitigate the potential for interference in the contracting process.

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Grosso introduces bill to end discrimination against people experiencing homelessness

For Immediate Release: 
July 11, 2017
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, (202) 724-8105

Grosso introduces bill to end discrimination against people experiencing homelessness

Washington, D.C. – Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) introduced legislation today to end discrimination against people experiencing homelessness in the District of Columbia.

“Discrimination against people experiencing homelessness perpetuates the very problem of homelessness,” Grosso said.  “If we want to put people on the path to stable housing, we must end discrimination that creates another barrier in the way of people seeking to improve their situation.”

The Michael A. Stoops Anti-Discrimination Amendment Act of 2017 amends the Human Rights Act of 1977 to add homelessness as a protected class to help eradicate discrimination for individuals experiencing homelessness in employment, in places of public accommodation, in educational institutions, in public service, and in housing and commercial space.

The legislation is named to honor the life and legacy of Michael A. Stoops, a long-time advocate for the rights of individuals experiencing homelessness and a tireless warrior for overcoming income inequality. He helped found the NCH, protested to pressure Congress to pass federal legislation to combat homelessness, and co-founded the North American Street Newspaper Association, which helps to support our own local newspaper, Street Sense.

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Grosso continues elections reform push with instant run off voting

For Immediate Release: 
July 11, 2017
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, (202) 724-8105

Grosso continues elections reform push with instant run off voting

Washington, D.C. – Today, Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) introduced legislation that ensures that elected officials have the support of a majority of voters by changing the way votes are counted in local elections.

The Instant Runoff Voting Amendment Act of 2017 would provide a method of casting and tabulating votes whereby a candidate for office must secure a majority of the votes cast before being declared the winner.

In the District of Columbia, primaries, open seats, and special elections result in crowded fields, as these provide opportunities for residents to give back to their communities by seeking public office.  However, victors often emerge with less than a majority of the vote.  Instant run off, or ranked choice, voting would ensure that voters’ preferences are more accurately reflected in the results.

"It is extremely troubling that candidates can be elected to public office with as little as 30 percent of the vote," said Grosso.  "This important legislation will increase voter turnout as voters will be free to mark their ballot for the candidate that they truly prefer without fear that their choice will help elect their least preferred candidate. More importantly, instant runoff voting ensures that the elected candidate has true majority support.”

When tabulating the results, the Board of Elections would proceed in rounds.  The first round eliminates the person with the fewest votes and then reallocates those votes to the voter’s second choice in the next round.  This continues until one person receives a clear majority of the vote.

“Instant runoff voting will help change how we run for office, and force fields of candidates to focus on vigorous and spirited policy debates that appeal to a wide range of voters,” said Grosso.  “In short, it will make our elections more competitive and fair, and strengthen confidence in our electoral outcomes.”

Reforming the District of Columbia’s campaigns and elections, and ensuring more residents are engaged in the political process, remains a high priority for Grosso.  Earlier this year, he introduced the Fair Elections Act of 2017, which reduces the influence of big money in local campaigns by establishing a strong public financing system, and the Local Resident Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2017, which qualifies permanent residents to vote in local elections.

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National Children's Awareness Month highlights domestic violence's impact on children

By Ismail Lapp-Kamara*

Domestic violence is prevalent in all communities across the United States. It exists across religion, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, race, gender, educational level, and nationality. Victims include spouses, intimate partners, family members and people co-habiting with one another.  However, it is important to note that a higher percentage of victims of domestic violence are women and domestic violence disproportionately affects people of lower income based on their inability to leave their abuser due to financial reasons.

The District of Columbia is not exempt from the prevalence of domestic violence.  In 2015, 34,966 domestic violence related calls were made to the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department (MPD). Additionally, 5,867 people sought assistance at the D.C. court’s domestic violence intake center.  While it is unacceptable for anyone to experience violence of any form, it is particularly detrimental to children. In the United States alone, over 3 million children live in fear through their exposure to domestic violence each year. As a result, the month of June has been established as National Children’s Awareness Month to increase the awareness of the vulnerability of children exposed to violence.

Domestic violence impacts children differently than adults given their developmental differences. At the early years of their cognitive development, children are still learning how to conceptualize the world around them. Whether that is learning what is right and what is wrong or learning what is healthy or unhealthy, it becomes very dangerous for children to live in an environment where there is domestic violence. The number one risk factor in the continuance of domestic violence generationally, is whether an individual witnessed violence between their parents or caretakers.

A child’s framework of the family is powerful. It is where many children look for role models, meaning and guidance in their lives. For children, relationships that are violent and abusive aren’t easily identifiable as unhealthy or wrong.

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) defines domestic violence as “the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another”. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, domestic violence can constitute being physical, sexual, emotional, economic, psychological, threats, stalking, and cyberstalking.

It is hard for children to conceptualize family members as perpetrators of any wrongdoing, especially when it is their parents or guardians. Often children have no concept of what domestic violence is or looks like. What happens in the home at a young age is often seen as normal and is not questioned until they are presented with alternative frames of reference. This highlights the importance of education in helping kids to identify domestic violence.

Domestic violence destroys the home as a sanctuary for a child; a space normally associated with safety and comfort. Domestic violence threatens how children conceptualize the home, love and family. Further, it can result in trauma, physical injury and death.  It is something that damages the fabric of the family and can potentially become a cycle, reoccurring generationally, if not addressed through preventative measures.

In D.C. schools today there are preventative programs targeted to reduce domestic violence. Programs such as rape prevention education for students, bullying and violence prevention, and Good Touch/ Bad Touch programs help to teach children what abuse is and give them resources if they need help. Additionally, there are education sessions designed to aid teachers in identifying and preventing unhealthy relationships among their students. A critique I have however is it appears that these are only assigned to public and charter schools within Wards 7 & 8, and not throughout the whole city.

The D.C. Council has done much work to address the issue of domestic violence that occurs across the city through proposed legislation and laws to strengthen the protections and resources available to children and the public. In 2015 and 2016 the D.C council proposed legislation Postsecondary Sexual Assault Prevention Act of 2015 and Campus Sexual Assault Victims Assistance Act of 2016 to require postsecondary institutions to require incoming students to participate in a sexual assault prevention program within the first six weeks of enrollment; in-person trauma-related training for campus safety officials; and required schools to have a sexual assault worker on campus. Additionally, the bill required the registrar to be held responsible for recording information of students who are under investigation for violation of the institutions’ rules on sexual misconduct.

In January of 2017, Councilmember Grosso, along with three of his colleagues, introduced the Childhood Protection Against Sexual Abuse Amendment Act of 2017. This act seeks to eliminate the statute of limitations in civil court for child sex abuse claims. It also provides a two year period for individuals to bring forward claims that previously were disallowed due to the statute of limitations.  A hearing on this bill was held on June 15, 2017.

Additionally, Chairman Mendelson at the request of the Mayor introduced the Sexual Assault Victims' Rights Amendment Act of 2017 to expand the rights of victims of sexual assault with sexual assault advocates, and to make clear what communications are deemed confidential. Most recently, the Chairman also introduced the Child Neglect and Sex Trafficking Amendment Act of 2017, which was unanimously approved on an emergency and temporary basis.  The purpose of the legislation is to expand on the definition of “neglected child and abused” to include a victim of sex trafficking. It also demanded mandatory reporting by physicians and institutions of the physical abuse identified.

Though much as been done to strengthen protections for victims of domestic abuse, there are areas that need to be improved upon.  For example, the city should explore increasing funding for domestic violence shelters. In 2015, a report by the National Network to End Domestic Violence showed that in one day, 35% of unmet requests were for housing. We should have enough resources as a society to allocate for people fleeing from violence with nowhere else to turn for safety, comfort, and peace of mind. This is a public safety concern given the danger people face when fleeing from their abuser(s). With nowhere to turn, we as a society shouldn’t make people decide between living on the streets or living in a dangerous home.

Another area for continued improvement is to establish a program to make it mandatory to educate not only teachers about healthy and unhealthy relationships, but youth in schools. It is important to teach our youth how to develop healthy relationships so they can help prevent abuse from happening in their own relationships and prevent domestic violence from occurring in the future. This is an investment in their future to help them identify what is healthy and unhealthy in the relationships they have with family, friends, and romantic partners. It would help to prevent the cycle of domestic violence in our communities.

I find it important and essential to conclude by thanking the amazing local domestic violence shelters and organizations that provide shelter and resources to those escaping from domestic violence. These organizations include, but are not limited to: Break the Cycle, House of Ruth, My Sisters Place, The Center for Child Protection and Family Support, and The Family Place. I am personally thankful for their work and tireless commitment to aiding individuals seeking safety from violence and abuse. Without them, I do not know where the thousands of children, individuals, and families (including my own) would be today.

*This post is part of an ongoing series of posts by Councilmember Grosso’s staff to support professional development. All posts are approved and endorsed by Councilmember Grosso. Ismail is a rising senior at Earlham College and will be interning with the Office of Councilmember Grosso for 7-weeks.*

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Grosso gets update from DDOT on efforts to reduce bicycle congestion

Earlier this month, Councilmember Grosso sent a letter to the District Department of Transportation request a plan for measuring the traffic in existing bike lanes and upgrading routes as necessary to accommodate the growing number of cyclists in the District of Columbia.

He was pleased to hear back from the agency that they are conducting counts of bicycle traffic already, have made improvements to bicycle lanes , and remain committed to expanding bicycle infrastructure throughout the District.

Read the letter from Councilmember Grosso and DDOT's response below.

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Grosso proposes re-designating government officials to bolster statehood movement, reflect D.C. status

For Immediate Release: 
June 20, 2017
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, (202) 724-8105

Grosso proposes re-designating government officials to bolster statehood movement, reflect D.C. status

Washington, D.C. – Today, Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) introduced legislation that would redefine District of Columbia government titles to advance the statehood movement and align them with the actual status of the D.C. government.

The “Washington D.C. Preferred Terms Establishment Act of 2017” designates D.C. as Douglass Commonwealth and redefines the Mayor as Governor of Washington, D.C. Additionally, the bill renames the Council as the Legislative Assembly with a Speaker, rather than a Chairman. Further, Councilmembers would be referred to as Representatives of the Legislative Assembly.

“As we continue the fight for statehood, it is my hope that this legislation will mobilize community advocates, organizers and residents and reinvigorate the movement as a whole,” Grosso said. “Changing these names, of course will not make us a state. However, I believe changing them can move us closer toward statehood."

One of the major barriers to statehood is that many across the country view the District of Columbia as a city. To them, statehood seems like quite a leap. But, the change put forward in this legislation can help rectify that perception.

It also aligns titles with how D.C. operates.

“The District of Columbia government acts concurrently as a state, county, and municipal government,” Grosso said. “It’s time the titles accurately reflect the work we do in the Wilson Building.”

Councilmembers Anita Bonds (At-Large), Elissa Silverman (At-Large), Robert White (At-Large), and Brianne Nadeau (Ward 1) joined Grosso as co-introducers. Councilmember Vince Gray (Ward 7) signed on as a co-sponsor.

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Washington D.C. Preferred Terms Establishment Act of 2017

Washington D.C. Preferred Terms Establishment Act of 2017

Introduced: June 20, 2017

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Anita Bonds, Elissa Silverman, Robert White, and Brianne Nadeau

Summary: To designate the Governor of Washington, D.C., the Legislative Assembly of Washington, D.C., Representative, and Speaker as preferred terms for references to the District of Columbia and its executive and legislative branches, respectively, and to direct the Mayor to develop a plan for implementing such terms.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Thank you Chairman Mendelson.

Today, along with my colleagues Councilmembers Brianne Nadeau, Elissa Silverman, Anita Bonds and Robert White, I am introducing the “Washington D.C. Preferred Terms Establishment Act of 2017.”

By way of history, the Home Rule movement began in earnest after World War II and Presidents Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy each supported home rule bills with a governor and legislature.

President Johnson ultimately initiated the terms Mayor and Council, possibly to mollify conservative opposition and under the Nixon administration, those terms remained.

As we continue the fight for statehood, it is my hope that this legislation will provide a tangible medium around which we can mobilize community advocates, organizers and residents and reinvigorate the movement as a whole.

The purpose of the legislation is to designate D.C. as Douglass Commonwealth and redefine the Mayor as Governor of Washington, D.C. Additionally, the bill renames this Council as the Legislative Assembly with a Speaker. Further, rather than Councilmembers, we would be referred to as Representatives of the Legislative Assembly.

The legislation further provides that within 30 days of the effective date of the act both the Mayor and the Council must adopt the preferred terms for use in the functions and activities of those respective offices. Finally, within 90 days of the effective date, the Mayor must submit to the Council for review, a plan implementing the preferred terms throughout the District.

Changing these names, of course will not make us a state. However, I believe changing them can move us closer toward statehood.

One of the major barriers to statehood is that many across the country view the District of Columbia as a city. To them, statehood seems like quite a leap but the change put forward in this legislation can help rectify that perception.

Adopting the terms Governor and Legislative Assembly will have the significant effect of giving the statehood movement new momentum. Most importantly, it will help build an expectation in the public mind of statehoods’ logic and inevitability.

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