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Grosso writes to Board of Elections about voter registration problem

Over the weekend, Councilmember Grosso heard from a long time resident, who has been voting in D.C. elections since 1964, that she received a notice of no longer being registered to vote from the D.C. Board of Elections. Subsequently, other residents also reached out with the same problem. After looking into it, Grosso found the agency's response inadequate and wrote to the Board today to ask that they address the issue immediately, as early voting for the 2016 election starts next month. See the letter below, followed by an example of what residents received--and the registration card that shows a birthdate in 1800, which is the source of the problem.

Update: Less than a day later, the Board of Elections responded to Councilmember Grosso's letter saying they will be sending a clarifying mailer to voters affected by the original confusing notice.  You can see their response below. 

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DOH updates Grosso on opioid overdoses, LGBTQ policies, and other health issues

In August, Councilmember Grosso sent a lengthy letter outlining a number of concerns to Department of Health Director Nesbitt. The letter covered the agency’s response to the increase in opioid overdoses, changes to home visiting programs, updates on LGBTQ health policies, health impact assessments, and the agency’s medical marijuana program.

On September 13, Grosso received a response from Nesbitt, which you can view below along with Grosso’s original letter. This past week brought further progress on some issues, as the Council’s Committee on Health and Human Services passed the Substance Abuse and Opioid Overdoes Prevention Amendment Act of 2016 and the mayor announced the doubling of the amount of cannabis medical marijuana program participants may request in a month. Grosso, a member of the Committee on Health and Human Services, will continue to monitor these topics and push DOH to improve its policies and programs, and make them known to the public.

Councilmember Grosso's original inquiry letter:

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Grosso invites D.C. youth to public roundtable on issues facing the city's young people

Councilmember David Grosso announces the scheduling of a public roundtable of the Committee on Education on youth issues. The roundtable will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Thursday, October 13, 2016 in Hearing Room 500 of the John A. Wilson Building.  The purpose of this roundtable is to hear testimony from District of Columbia youth regarding issues that impact their lives as they make their way through the public education system. 

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Grosso tackles pay gap, student debt, and out-of-school time as Council returns to work

For Immediate Release: 
September 20, 2016
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, (202) 724-8105
mnocella@dccouncil.us

Grosso tackles pay gap, student debt, and out-of-school time as Council returns to work

Washington, DC – The Council of the District of Columbia returned from its annual summer recess today and Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) wasted no time proposing solutions to challenges faced by the District of Columbia. The gender and racial pay gap, funding for critical out-of-school time activities, and the growing student debt problem were the focus of new legislation introduced by the councilmember.

Closing the District Wage Gap

Grosso introduced the Fair Wage Amendment Act of 2016 to address persistent pay inequities for women, especially women of color, face in D.C.

“Equal pay for equal work is a simple concept. Yet, even in D.C. the wage gap that women experience persists,” said Grosso.

The bill would prohibit employers in the city from requesting information about a prospective employee’s salary and benefit history before an employer makes a job and compensation offer.  This would help to end a practice that perpetuates the wage gap.

“Leaving a job that is unfairly compensating you is no guarantee that your pay will be much better when employers make job offers based on previous, deflated wages. We can break that cycle.”

According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, women in D.C. make 90 cents for every dollar paid to men.  It’s much worse for women of color: African-American women earn just 56 cents on the dollar and Latinas just 50 cents when compared to white, non-Hispanic men.

Addressing Student Loan Debt

Grosso also introduced the Student Loan Ombudsman Establishment and Servicing Regulation Act of 2016 to address the increasing burden student loans are placing on D.C. residents

“Growing student debt presents a serious challenge for our residents and our local economy, creating a burden that follows them and stifles every aspect of their lives: buying a house, starting a business, saving for retirement, and furthering their education,” Grosso said.  “This bill is a first step that assists District borrowers and increases servicer accountability.”

The bill would create an ombudsman in the Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking empowered to establish licensing requirements for student loan servicers in the city.  They would also be charged with informing D.C. residents about their options when seeking student loans and when working to repay them.

Recommitting to Youth Development

Finally, Grosso, along with Councilmember Brianne Nadeau, introduced the Office of Youth Outcomes and Grants Establishment Act of 2016.  The bill establishes a framework for greater strategy-setting, coordination and funding for out-of-school programming.

Out-of-school time programming has myriad benefits to youth who participate, improving their educational, behavioral, and physical health outcomes. Funding for such programming currently comes from many government agencies, including grants to youth-serving groups via the D.C. Trust, which dissolves on September 30.

“What we are proposing today provides equitable access to quality out-of-school time services, which we know help best position our students to succeed,” Grosso said. “As Chairperson of the Committee on Education, I see this coordinated, data-driven, multi-agency effort as an opportunity to create real results, insulated from the political manipulation and financial impropriety of the past.”

The bill establishes both an Office and a Commission on Youth Outcomes and Grants charged with overseeing inter-agency coordination, tracking data and assessing need and outcomes, and making grants to organizations that provide out-of-school programming to District of Columbia youth.

“This legislation is informed by the efforts led by the Deputy Mayors for Health and Human Services and Education to plot the next steps for our out of school time efforts in light of the Trust’s dissolution. I look forward to continuing to work with them and other stakeholders to incorporate their input as we move through the legislative process.”

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Ensuring Our Children's Safety On The Way To School

Guaranteeing our children not only feel safe at school, but also on their way to and from, allows them to focus on learning and is a primary concern of Councilmember Grosso.  In August, he requested that the Deputy Mayor for Education Jennifer Niles and Chief of Police Cathy Lanier share their plans to keep students safe and what information they are sharing with parents. With the recent increases in violent crime and delays caused by Metro’s SafeTrack programming, these plans are even more important.

Deputy Mayor Niles responded to the councilmember with a letter laying out their efforts on school safety planning as well as for SafeTrack.  Below you can find the letter Councilmember Grosso received from the deputy mayor, a summary of the SafeTrack communications plan, the Metropolitan Police Department's Annual School Safety and Security Report, as well as the original letter Councilmember Grosso sent.

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Helping Miriam’s Kitchen provide “more than a meal”

In July, my staff and I took advantage of the Council recess period to volunteer at Miriam’s Kitchen in Foggy Bottom.

Miriam’s Kitchen does outstanding work assisting our neighbors who are experiencing homelessness. On one of the hottest days of the year, they provided visitors a welcoming place to cool off, grab a drink of water, and wash up.  After I toured the facility, I had the opportunity to meet with guests who were participating in art therapy, hand out essential toiletries, and assist with meal preparation. 

Miriam’s Kitchen is so much “more than a meal”, as they like to say.

Throughout my experience, I was impressed by how Miriam’s staff and volunteers were not just serving guests, but treating them with respect and dignity, just like everyone deserves. They have developed a rapport with each visitor that allows them to address their specific needs, connect them with services, and help put them on the path out of homelessness.

I am dedicated to promoting the human rights of all the people of the District of Columbia through my work on the Council.  I believe that all have the right to integral facets of our society like access to quality education, health care, and employment.  Every day we grapple with how to address the myriad challenges facing residents who are experiencing homelessness and how those impede the fulfillment of those guarantees. 

I have spent my first term working on these issues, from making it easier for these residents to obtain identity documents that are critical to modern life, to ensuring that homeless students are in the best position to continue their education. Policy decisions often have immediate and longstanding impacts.  For this reason it is important for lawmakers to stay connected to what is happening on the ground to ensure we are getting it right.

There is still much to do to combat chronic homelessness in the District of Columbia. My staff and I look forward to the day when there is no longer a need for organizations like Miriam’s Kitchen.  Until then, we’ll be back as soon as we can to do our part hands-on, in addition to our daily policy work. I hope you will consider volunteering your time to support Miriam’s Kitchen and the people they serve.  You can learn more at www.miriamskitchen.org/volunteer.

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DCHR Modifies Use of Offensive Gender Terms at Grosso's Urging

At the urging of Councilmember Grosso, the Department of Human Resources (DCHR) has modified the offensive gender terms utilized on a background check application form administered by an outside vendor.

Originally, when filling out the form, candidates and employees would be presented with gender options that were unacceptable and inconsistent with the D.C. Human Rights Act. DCHR worked with the FBI and the vendor, Fieldprint, to modify the gender options to “Female”, “Male”, and “Other”.

Councilmember Grosso believes all D.C. residents and employees should be treated with dignity and respect and appreciates the quick remediation of the issue on the part of DCHR.

Below, you will find the letter from DCHR.  The original letter from Councilmember Grosso to the city administrator can be found here.

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Grosso Shares Important Characteristics of Next Chancellor with Mayor

Councilmember David Grosso, chairperson of the Committee on Education, sent a letter today to Mayor Muriel Bowser, outlining important characteristics that should be considered as she moves forward with the search for a new chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools. 

In Councilmember Grosso's view, the ideal candidate for the job will have past work demonstrating a commitment to closing the achievement gap; share Chancellor Henderson's commitment to equity; have a track record of engaging the whole community to serve the whole child; be willing to engage in cross-sector collaboration; and "keep the trains running on time".

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Grosso exchange with DCPL over anti-Mulsim incident

During an oversight hearing with the D.C. Public Library this spring, Councilmember Grosso asked Executive Director Richard Reyes-Gavilan and Board of Trustees President Greg McCarthy about an incident at Shaw Library in March. A DCPL police officer asked a library patron to remove her hijab, a headcovering used by many Muslim women, and allegedly threatened her with arrest if she did not comply. Mr. Reyes-Gavilan and Mr. McCarthy both committed to following up on the incident and ensuring that similar incident would not happen again. Grosso sent a letter this summer to inquire about the library's complaint process, training, and other actions taken to address the incident.  You can read Grosso's letter and the library's response below.

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Grosso Connects with Educators at Summer Conversations

On July 18 and August 2, Councilmember David Grosso, Chairperson of the Committee on Education, invited educators throughout the District to attend a summer educator townhall to discuss issues that impact their ability to teach students. Some fifty teachers candidly engaged in a provocative dialogue with Councilmember Grosso about some of the most pressing issues troubling public and public charter schools throughout the District of Columbia, from their point of view.

We’ve highlighted just some of the comments made during the conversations below.

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Grosso Requests Fix to Offensive Gender Terms on Background Check Form

Today, Councilmember David Grosso sent a letter to City Administrator Rashad Young requesting remediation of offensive and unacceptable language relating to an individual's gender identity on a background check application form administered by an outside vendor utilized by the D.C. Department of Human Resources.

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Grosso Receives Update from DHS on Efforts to Serve Homeless LGBTQ Youth

Councilmember Grosso remains passionate about helping people experiencing homelessness and has consistently led on these issues while on the Council. After Grosso and his colleagues passed two important bills addressing homelessness among youth in 2014, the LGBTQ Homeless Youth Reform Act and the End Youth Homelessness Act, the District of Columbia has come a long way in improving its response to young people who are homeless.

Earlier this year, D.C. published the results of its first ever census of homeless youth and found that almost half identify as LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity). The survey also found that over 300 young people are literally homeless, with hundreds more in precarious housing situations (like couch surfing). Based on these findings, the Council and the Mayor included $2.3 million in new funds in the fiscal year 2017 budget for homeless youth services.

Councilmember Grosso was concerned that this money be properly allocated based on the data—with a significant portion of it going to fund additional beds and services for LGBTQ youth. In July, the Councilmember wrote a letter to Department of Human Services Director Laura Zeilinger, asking her about the agency’s plans for youth homelessness funding for the coming fiscal year and how LGBTQ-specific services would be augmented. Director Zeilinger’s response shows that the agency has been thoughtful about this process and is already in the process of awarding new grants with the goal of expanding those services.

You can read both Councilmember Grosso’s original inquiry and Director Zeilinger’s response below.

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Grosso Applauds Department of Parks and Recreation for Taking Action on Discrimination

For Immediate Release: 
August 5, 2016
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, (202) 724-8105
mnocella@dccouncil.us
 

Grosso Applauds Department of Parks and Recreation for Taking Action on Discrimination

Washington, D.C. - The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) on the announcement by D.C. Department of Parks and Recreations (DPR) that it will strengthen and expand its staff training on the D.C. Human Rights Act and cultural competency, after an incident involving discrimination against transgender and gender non-conforming young people by DPR employees:

“It is critical that all employees of the District of Columbia respect the human rights and dignity of each and every resident of our city.  Unfortunately, what occurred last month at Banneker Recreation Center shows that we still have work to do to create welcoming public facilities for all. I want to apologize to the youth who were involved in this incident and thank them for being voices for their community.

“I applaud DPR and Director Anderson for taking steps to prevent a similar situation from occurring in the future by immediately implementing training and taking appropriate administrative action for those involved. In fact, all employees of District of Columbia, particularly those working directly with the public, would benefit from trainings like those being conducted by DPR, in conjunction with the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs.

“Furthermore, I believe our public facilities and agencies should reflect the diversity of our residents. Another effective way to transform culture at agencies and ensure all staff treat everyone with respect is for agencies to hire more transgender employees, for which D.C.'s transgender community has long advocated.”

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Grosso Responds to Police Killings in Baton Rouge

For Immediate Release: 
July 18, 2016

Contact: Matthew Nocella, (202) 724-8105
mnocella@dccouncil.us

Grosso Responds to Police Killings in Baton Rouge

Washington, D.C. – In response to yesterday’s tragic killings of three police officers in Baton Rouge, Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) released the following statement:

“I am appalled and deeply saddened by yesterday’s killings of three police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  My heart goes out to the families and friends of those killed. These cruel attacks against law enforcement underscore the urgency we have as a nation, and locally as a community, to commit to nonviolence.

“Last week, I released a statement in response to the recent killings that we saw in St. Paul, Baton Rouge, and Dallas. Lives were lost – police officers and civilians. These killings – all killings – must stop. But the killings will not end without bold leadership.

“There is too much hostility in every corner of the globe and we as community leaders must stand against it. President Obama has called on our nation to temper our words and open our hearts.  As government officials – elected leaders, law enforcement officers, agency heads, and school principals – we must be the first to follow this call and commit to nonviolence. 

“I ask that D.C. government leaders commit to nonviolence to help our communities channel our collective grief and frustration into just and peaceful resolution of conflict in our homes, neighborhoods, and schools. It starts by opening our hearts, recognizing each person’s humanity, and treating each other with dignity.”

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Birth Certificate Fee Waiver for Homeless Individuals Included in Budget

Over the past year, Councilmember Grosso has been working to make it easier for D.C. residents to get access to identity documents, including birth certificates, identity cards, and driver’s licenses.

These documents are critical to modern daily life and Grosso began to learn in 2015 from advocates about the challenges that many residents face in obtaining them. Since then he has worked with his colleagues and groups like Bread for the City, Miriam’s Kitchen and Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless to tackle these issues.

Grosso introduced legislation to waive fees for various identity documents for low-income residents, worked with the Department of Human Services and Department of Motor Vehicles to help homeless residents get IDs more easily, and co-introduced legislation to make driver’s licenses more accessible to undocumented immigrants and low-income residents.

The latest victory in these efforts happened during the budget process. Grosso was able to secure language in the budget to waive the fee for copies of birth certificates for residents who are homeless.

The Department of Health will implement this policy starting October 1, 2016, the start of the new fiscal year.  Until recently, some social service providers in the city would help cover these costs, but they are no longer providing that service.

A birth certificate is critical to helping an individual exit homelessness, yet is easy to lose during the course of unfortunate events that someone who is homeless might experience. Including this language in the budget is a small but important win, and Grosso will continue the push to make it easier for residents to obtain identity documents. 

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Grosso Introduces Sense of the Council Resolution to Implement Police Reform

For Immediate Release: 

July 13, 2016

Contact:

Matthew Nocella, (202) 724-8105
mnocella@dccouncil.us

Grosso Introduces Resolution Calling for Police Reform

Washington, D.C. – Yesterday, Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) introduced a “Sense of the Council to Implement Police Reform” resolution to support families of victims lost to police violence; to implement widespread police reform; and to acknowledge support for all persons fighting for equal treatment under the law.  The move comes in the wake of the gun violence that occurred in Dallas, St. Paul, and Baton Rouge last week.

“I am tired of standing by and simply offering my condolences every time another person has been fatally shot,” Grosso said. “Violence is not a solution to our problems.  We must proactively examine our policies to reduce the use of violence as a solution to conflicts.”

The resolution states that the Mayor and the Council should study Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) policies and practices to assess their impact and make necessary improvements to reduce incidences of police shootings and use of violence in D.C.

The killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile by police galvanized Grosso to introduce the measure, though they were just the latest in a string that highlights the systemic racial disparities in our criminal justice system.  Recent analyses indicate that African-Americans are 2.5 times as likely as white Americans to be shot and killed by police officers.

While D.C. has not experienced fatal shootings on the same scale as other cities, Mapping Police Violence found that police fatally shot 17 people, 16 of which were African-Americans, between January 2013 and April 2016.

“As the Chair of the Education Committee, I’m particularly concerned about the kind of message that these shootings send to our children of color about how they are perceived,” Grosso said.

Grosso sent a letter to Mayor Muriel Bowser asking her to establish a citywide call to action to implement data-driven police reform measures and to strengthen police-community relations. He also sent a letter to Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie, Chairperson of the Judiciary Committee, requesting he hold a hearing in the fall to examine MPD’s implementation of recommendations made last year in a report from the Office of the District of Columbia Auditor.

Grosso also acknowledged the horrific killing of five police officers in Dallas and his desire to strengthen the relationship between residents and police.

“To acknowledge that this nation and our city faces a serious problem does not mean that we do not respect and appreciate the vast majority of police officers who risk their lives to protect us every day,” he said. “As we mourn the loss of those officers, we must hold our police, government, and each other accountable for treating every person equally and with dignity under the law so that confidence is restored between our communities and those charged with their protection.”

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Below is the resolution, as introduced:

 

Below is the letter Councilmember Grosso sent to Mayor Bowser:

 

Below is the letter Councilmember Grosso sent to Councilmember McDuffie:

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Grosso Commits to Advancing Family Leave Legislation this Fall

For Immediate Release: 

July 11, 2016

Contact:

Matthew Nocella, (202) 724-8105
mnocella@dccouncil.us

Grosso Commits to Advancing Family Leave Legislation this Fall

Washington, D.C. - It was determined last week that the Council of the District of Columbia will not consider the Universal Paid Leave Act of 2015, a measure introduced by Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) that provides 16 weeks paid leave to all workers in D.C., before it adjourns for its summer recess.

"The working families of the District of Columbia need the security and stability this legislation provides," Councilmember Grosso said.  "I'm disappointed that we're not moving forward, however I remain committed to the goals of the bill and to enactment by the end of the year."

The bill, which Grosso co-wrote with Councilmember Elissa Silverman, would allow any employee in D.C., or any D.C. resident employed outside of the city, to access a government-run fund that would pay for up to 16 weeks of leave for a qualifying event. Qualifying events include a baby born or adopted or major medical operations for the worker or a family member. The bill's definition of family and major events are inclusive of the diversity of D.C.'s workers and families, including low-income workers, single-parent households, caregiving for non-child family members, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals, and more.

"I greatly appreciate the efforts of Chairman Mendelson, Councilmember Silverman, the D.C. Paid Leave Coalition, the National Partnership for Women and Families, Family Values @ Work, and the many other advocates working on this measure.  We will continue our efforts over the summer recess to get a bill that is progressive and fiscally responsible that we can act on in September."

"As a country we lag behind the rest of the world on family leave-we need pro-family policies that encourage care taking and nurturing," said Grosso when he introduced the legislation last October. "The Universal Paid Leave Act will support our D.C. workers and families, while giving our local businesses a competitive advantage in attracting and retaining highly qualified employees."

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Grosso Statement on Recent Gun Violence Across the Country

For Immediate Release: 

July 8, 2016

Contact:

Matthew Nocella, (202) 724-8105
mnocella@dccouncil.us

Grosso Statement on Recent Gun Violence Across the Country

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) on the recent acts of gun violence in Dallas, TX, St. Paul, MN, and Baton Rouge, LA:

“My heart breaks over the senseless violence in this country that continues to be ignored by our national leaders. My heart breaks over the killings of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the five Dallas police officers, whose lives were cut short without cause.  My heart breaks for the family, friends, and communities torn apart by this bloodshed. My heart breaks especially for the children of the victims, some who witnessed firsthand these horrific acts, forced to carry that trauma with them the rest of their lives.

“We have serious questions to reflect on as a city and as a nation. Why is it that in our country shooting another human being is even considered a solution? Why are unarmed African-American men seven times more likely than unarmed white men to be killed by police?

“I cannot stand by, simply offering thoughts and prayers.  To say that it does not happen here in the District is simply untrue and ignores the reality faced by our residents.  My hope is that the Mayor and the Council can seriously study the Metropolitan Police Department’s policies to determine what improvements can be made to reduce incidences of unnecessary shootings and violence in our city.

“It is critical that we are proactive to ensure all residents of D.C. are treated equally with dignity under the law and to restore the necessary trust between our citizens and those charged with their protection.”

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