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First round results of graduation investigation highlight need for continued scrutiny

For Immediate Release:
January 16, 2018
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

 

First round results of graduation investigation highlight need for continued scrutiny celebrates unanimous first vote for Fair Elections Act

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large), chairperson of the Committee on Education, regarding the first report of the independent investigation of graduation and attendance at public high schools in the District of Columbia:

“Today, the Committee on Education received the results of phase one of the investigation into attendance and graduation at Ballou High School and internal procedure of District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS), as conducted by independent contractor Alvarez & Marsal through the Office of the State Superintendent for Education (OSSE).  Additionally, we have received OSSE’s own report on citywide attendance of DCPS high schools and the oversight and review of the Public Charter School Board (PCSB) methodology.

“The results are extremely troubling. I am deeply concerned with the findings of inappropriate use of credit recovery courses, intentionally misleading attendance coding, and the pressure exerted by administration to pass students with failing grades. It was the hope of the community that these allegations were isolated or inflated, but the first wave of reports tells a much more harrowing tale. We still await the internal investigation being conducted by DCPS and on the remaining portions of the independent investigation to understand the full scope of the issues. I have spoken with State Superintendent Hanseul Kang and Chancellor Antwan Wilson about their initial reactions to the reports and expressed my grave concerns.

“On February 8, 2018 I will reconvene the public roundtable that began on December 15, 2017 to publicly review the findings of the Chancellor’s internal report on DCPS high schools and OSSE’s independent investigation. I will be looking to government leadership to present their findings as well as offer immediate and long-term solutions that address the systemic issues we are facing in our neighborhood high schools.

“I continue to encourage the public to build on the testimony we received over the course of the last month by submitting testimony to the Committee on Education. Testimony will be compiled as part of a formal Committee Report and anonymity or redaction will be granted upon request.

“I encourage the public to review the initial reports and provide comments here  and sign up to testify for Committee on Education performance oversight hearings for DCPS, OSSE, PCSB, and the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education this February and March. 

“It is heartbreaking that we have failed these students. In all likelihood, their senior year was not the first time they struggled with school related subject matter or with attendance. Therefore, as a city, we must all come together to find immediate solutions that move us forward and rapidly away from these unethical practices.” 
 

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Grosso celebrates unanimous first vote for Fair Elections Act

For Immediate Release:
January 9, 2018
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

 

Grosso celebrates unanimous first vote for Fair Elections Act

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) on the unanimous D.C. Council first vote on the Fair Elections Act of 2017, which he introduced in March 2017:

“Today, the Council of the District of Columbia gave resounding, unanimous approval to establish a strong public campaign finance system for our local elections.

“I believe strongly that public financing of elections is one of the most vital tools to combat the corrupting influence of outsized campaign spending. Public financing of campaigns was among the first bills I introduced when I joined the Council five years ago, and I have introduced some version of this bill in every Council period since.

“This public financing system incentivizes candidates to spend more time meeting with residents and constituents, empowers residents of ordinary means to have a meaningful ability to compete for elected office, reshapes our donor class to be more inclusive and representative of the entire population of the District of Columbia, and combats the perception of pay-to-play politics.

“Fair Elections is about amplifying the voices of everyday D.C. residents.

“I look forward to final passage at the Council’s next legislative meeting. Furthermore, I remain fully committed to ensuring the success of this program when it becomes law and will work with the mayor and my colleagues through the annual budget process to make a strong investment in our local democracy by funding this legislation.

“I would also like to thank Councilmember Charles Allen and his staff, who worked tirelessly to shepherd this legislation through the Council; Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie, who has been an original co-introducer of this legislation with me since 2013; as well as the Fair Elections Coalition, which organized events throughout D.C. to mobilize people to support public financing of campaigns.”

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State Park Amendment Act of 2018

State Park Amendment Act of 2018

Introduced: January 9, 2018

Co-introducers: Councilmember Vincent Gray

 BILL TEXT 

Summary: To amend the National Children’s Island Act of 1995 to establish Kingman Island State Park for wildlife management and preservation as well as outdoor recreation activities; to establish the Office of State Parks, to manage Kingman Island State Park and future state parks; and to establish the State Parks Commission to facilitate coordination between agencies and other stakeholders for encouraging outdoor recreation and wildlife preservation in the District.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Today, along with my colleague Councilmember Gray, I am introducing the State Park Amendment Act of 2018.

This bill celebrates the progress that our city has made in improving access to the Anacostia River, provides new outdoor recreation and outdoor education opportunities, and supports the growth of our outdoor industry.

As we know, the nearly 700,000 residents of the District of Columbia lack the rights that come along with statehood in our country.  This bill renames Kingman Island, formally Children’s Island, as Kingman Island State Park.

As a state park, similar to all other states, this land will be dedicated to preserving and enhancing wildlife and access to nature by supporting the addition of new trails and facilities for mountain biking, camping, hiking, and more.

These improvements will support the implementation of the recently completed Kingman and Heritage Island Planning and Feasibility Study Act of 2016.

This bill will also create a new Office of State Parks within the Department of Parks and Recreation, as well as a State Parks Commission, both of which will help support the continued growth of the outdoor industry in Washington, D.C.

Our city already has a thriving outdoor industry, with multiple National Parks, boat houses along both rivers, regional bike trails, and more.  We even have a flagship location of outdoor retailer REI.  This industry supports thousands of jobs and contributes to a greener and healthier city.

The new office and commission in this bill will help coordinate amongst the multiple jurisdictions and organizations that provide and advocate for outdoor recreation to ensure that all residents, in all eight Wards, have ample opportunities to learn about, and enjoy, the natural world.

I have been proud to work on improving recreation access and restoration of the Anacostia River for over 15 years, from planning Yards Park to helping create the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative.  In taking this next step, I’d like to thank all of the agencies and organizations who we’ve met with over the past year to work on this bill to advance this essential endeavor.

Mayor Bowser has announced that 2018 shall be the “Year of the Anacostia” in Washington, D.C., and I applaud her commitment to this.  There are so many communities that front onto the river, and it will certainly take a major effort, with all of us working together, to make these dreams a reality.

Ensuring that all District residents have easy access to outdoor recreation and education opportunities at our own state park will be an important step towards fulfilling this important initiative.

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Grosso sends letter to Mayor Bowser outlining budget priorities for FY2019

Today, Councilmember David Grosso, chairperson of the Committee on Education, sent a letter to Mayor Bowser outlining his budget priorities for the Mayor to consider for inclusion in her FY2019 budget proposal.

Ensuring that our students are in the best position to succeed remains Grosso's number one priority as the Chairperson of the Committee on Education.  Fully supporting our students, teachers, and school communities means providing the necessary resources.  For FY2019, Grosso asked the Mayor to:

1.       Meet the non-academic needs of our students through increased investment in the Department of Behavioral Health’s School-Based Mental Health program.

2.      Invest in the successful early literacy intervention program that gets students at or above reading level by third grade.

3.       Give our teachers the tools to educate all our students by funding school-based special education teacher training.

4.      Support the expansion of vital out-of-school time programs with increased funding for the Office of Out of School Time and Youth Outcomes.

5.      Continue equitable investment in community based organizations who are providing care to at-risk pre-kindergarten children.

6.      Aid child care providers by raising the subsidy reimbursement rates to more closely align with the cost of care.

Additionally, Grosso asked the Mayor to support funding for many of his policy priorities that have become law in the past few years:

1.       Provide financial stability for workers caring for themselves or their family by investing fully in the implementation of the Universal Paid Leave Amendment Act of 2016.

2.      Assist residents managing their educational financing by funding a separate student loan ombudsman at the Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking.

3.       Support the newly established D.C. State Athletics Commission with funding for two new full-time position.

4.      Provide equitable access to vital identity documents by funding fee exemptions for low-income residents.

5.      Remove the influence of big dollar donors and promote equitable participation in our local elections by fully funding the Fair Elections Amendment Act of 2017

You can read the full letter to Mayor Bowser below.

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Judiciary Committee holds hearing on Grosso bill to modernize criminal record sealing

For Immediate Release:
December 14, 2017
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

 

Judiciary Committee holds hearing on Grosso bill to modernize criminal record sealing

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) on today’s Judiciary & Public Safety Committee hearing on several measures to improve the process of sealing criminal records in the District of Columbia, including Councilmember Grosso’s Record Sealing Modernization Amendment Act of 2017:

"I am extremely encouraged by the broad agreement heard in today’s hearing that improvements can be made to the way the District of Columbia handles the sealing of criminal records.  Proposals from myself, Councilmembers Robert White and Trayon White, and Mayor Muriel Bowser, demonstrate the strong will within both branches to move forward with reforms that will remove barriers to successful reentry for our residents with criminal records.

"My legislation is the result of extensive research and consultation.  I recognize that it pushes the envelope. The negative impacts of criminal records harm tens of thousands of residents of our city, as do the decades of discriminatory criminal justice policies and practices, disproportionately affecting African Americans. We have an obligation to confront it and seek bold remedies. My hope is that we can take the proposals discussed today and bring them together into one reform package to be advanced in the new year.

"All of the community members, advocates, and especially returning citizens who contributed to the development of the Record Sealing Modernization Amendment Act of 2017 or testified today deserve thanks, and have my deep appreciation for their engagement. I also want to thank Chairperson Charles Allen for holding this important hearing so quickly, as well as Councilmember Robert White, Councilmember Trayon White, and Mayor Bowser for their passion on this issue.  I look forward to working with them and the rest of my colleagues to make these necessary changes a reality."

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Statement of Councilmember Grosso on findings that killing of Terrence Sterling was unjustified

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

Statement of Councilmember Grosso on findings that killing of Terrence Sterling was unjustified

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement by Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) on the announcement of the findings of the Use of Force Review Board in the case of Terrence Sterling:

"I welcome the announcement from Chief Newsham today on the conclusions of the Metropolitan Police Department’s Use of Force Review Board regarding the September 2016 killing of Terrence Sterling.  As D.C. strives to improve faith and trust in law enforcement, it is every government official’s and police officer’s obligation to continue to hold MPD members to the highest standard in protecting the communities they serve.

"Though I believe the officer should have been charged by the U.S. Attorney, I supported the mayor and MPD’s request that the officer resign back in August, as well as the full disciplinary review.  That review is now complete. It has been determined that the shooting was unjustified and that the officer should be terminated. This is the right course of action. I hope that it can give those who loved Mr. Sterling some sense of justice.

"I remain committed to further utilization of non-violent methods, along with a public health and community-based approach to policing, in order to prevent incidents like this from happening in the future and rebuild the trust necessary for the safety of all our residents."

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Grosso introduces bill to reduce exclusionary discipline in D.C. schools

For Immediate Release:
November 21, 2017
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Grosso introduces bill to reduce exclusionary discipline in D.C. schools

Washington, D.C. – Building on his work to end the school-to-prison pipeline, increase school safety, and put every child in the best position to succeed, Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large), chairperson of the Committee on Education, today introduced legislation aimed at curbing the use of exclusionary discipline at schools in the District of Columbia.

The Student Fair Access to School Act of 2017 limits out-of-school suspension of students in kindergarten through eighth grade to the most serious of circumstances and bans its utilization in high school for minor offenses. If exclusion becomes necessary, it protects a child’s right to an education while they are off premises and requires a plan for the student to successfully return to the classroom.

“Every student has a right to an education, which suspensions and expulsions potentially deprive them of,” Grosso said. “Even as we are in the midst of a citywide campaign to encourage every student to attend school every day, thousands of students are pushed out of school buildings each year as a result of excessive use of exclusionary discipline practices.”

According to the Office of the State Superintendent of Education, over 7,000 D.C. students—about 1 in 10 kindergarten through 12th grade students—were suspended or expelled during the 2015-2016 school year.

OSSE also found that African-American students in D.C. are seven times more likely to be suspended than their peers and students who are economically disadvantaged, receiving special education services, or at-risk of academic failure were twice as likely to get sent home.

“We know how negatively suspensions and expulsions affect the students pushed out of school—they are more likely to fail academically, to drop out, and to end up involved in the criminal justice system,” Grosso said. “We need to change our approach to set every student up for academic success.”


Additionally, the bill outlines the supports that the Office of the State Superintendent of Education must provide to schools and educators to promote these goals, including developing a trauma-informed educator certification and increasing supports for schools for restorative justice and mindfulness practices.


“This culture shift will require the full investment of D.C. government to be successful,” Grosso said. “I plan to increase funding for behavioral health staff in schools and professional development for school staff in the coming fiscal year 2019 budget.”


“I greatly appreciate the engagement of the school leaders, government agencies, policy experts, and education advocates who engaged with me and my staff over the last several months,” Grosso said. “The Student Fair Access to School Act is a direct result of a collaborative, months-long process and I encourage continued input throughout the legislative process.”

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Student Fair Access to School Act of 2017

Student Fair Access to School Act of 2017

Introduced: November 21, 2017

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Anita Bonds, Brianne K. Nadeau, Mary Cheh

FACT SHEET | STATISTICS & RESEARCH | BILL TEXT | PRESS RELEASE

Summary: To establish parameters for local education agencies’ discipline policies to ensure student safety and access to education, including limits on the use of suspensions and expulsions, reporting, and supports provided by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education to promote trauma-informed educational settings.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

I started working on this bill last spring, looking at the research and what other jurisdictions are doing.

Starting in July I convened several working group meetings with school leaders, advocates, and government officials to discuss the legislation.

Over 25 charter LEAs and DCPS have weighed in, and I have spoken directly with teachers, school leaders, parents, students, advocates, lawyers, researchers, and other experts about the language in the bill.

We may not all agree, but I have solicited and received feedback far and wide on these provisions and made many changes to reflect that engagement.

I have visited a dozen schools recently, and most are already moving in this direction, so it will not be a heavy lift for them to comply with this law.

This bill would limit the use of suspension and expulsion in kindergarten through 8th grade to instances of physical and emotional injury, whether actual, attempted, or threatened.

It would ban suspensions in high school for minor incidents like disobedience or uniform violations.

It would require schools--both DCPS and charters--to have discipline policies that avoid exclusion, address bias, and seek the root causes of misbehavior.

Despite the progress made over the past years, black students in D.C. are 7 times more likely to be suspended than white students—that should outrage us all.

When those students are suspended, they are more likely to fail academically, to drop out, and to end up involved in the criminal justice system.

Research also shows that these practices do not make schools safer, and may actually harm other students.

This bill is about ensuring student success, and disrupting the school-prison pipeline.

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DOH, DBH responds to Grosso letter regarding safe injection sites to combat the opioid crisis

Councilmember David Grosso received a letter from Department of Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt and Department of Behavioral Health Director Dr. Tanya Royster in response to his Sept. 19 letter urging exploration of supervised injection facilities (SIFs) as part of a comprehensive public health approach to combating the opioid crisis and saving lives in the District of Columbia.

DOH/DBH's letter details Dr. Nesbitt's findings from a recent site-visit to a SIF in Vancouver. SIFs there have led to a decrease in opioid-related deaths and, to date, have not experienced an overdose related death on-premises. 

DOH and DBH noted that the success of such facilities has been made possible by coordination between local and federal authorities in Canada, which could present a barrier to implementation in the District of Columbia.

However, the Opioid Working Group is committed to reducing harm and deaths associated with the opioid crisis and will consider what would be required to implement SIFs in D.C. as it develops the Opioid Strategic Plan over the next few months.

You can read the response letter and the original letter sent by Councilmember Grosso below.

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Grosso introduces bill to protect abortion providers from discrimination

For Immediate Release:
November 7, 2017
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Grosso introduces bill to protect abortion providers from discrimination

Washington, D.C. – Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) today introduced legislation that would prohibit discrimination against health care professionals who provide or support abortion care.

“Doctors and nurses are vital patient advocates,” Grosso said. “They should not fear employer discrimination for speaking up in the interest of patients who have decided to have an abortion.”

The Abortion Provider Non-Discrimination Amendment Act of 2017 would amend the Human Rights of Act of 1977 to make it unlawful to discriminate against health care professionals for providing or being willing to participate in abortion and protect their ability to speak publicly about their support for abortion. It also prevents hospitals from denying staff privileges just because the health care professional is an abortion provider.

Health care professionals across the country, including in the District of Columbia, report hostility and outright discrimination from their employers due to their support for abortion access or participation in abortion care. For example, Diane Horvath-Cosper, a physician who provided abortions at a private secular nonprofit hospital in D.C., was threatened with termination for speaking with the media about the importance of abortion access.

“D.C.’s health care industry employs over 45,000 people. While only a few of those would be likely to need the protection of this bill, we pride ourselves as a jurisdiction that staunchly defends the right to an abortion, and we should ensure that no nurse or doctor fears that they will lose their jobs or careers because of participation in abortion services or advocacy,” Grosso said.

“Health care providers should be able to pursue work as abortion providers, without fear of discrimination,” said Fatima Goss Graves, president & CEO of the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) in support of the legislation. “The Abortion Provider Non-Discrimination Amendment Act is a common-sense solution that voters support and health care providers need. Amid relentless efforts by the Trump Administration and Congress to attack a woman’s right to abortion, it is more important than ever to protect those providing this crucial care.”

Grosso previously introduced and the Council passed into law the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act to protect individuals from employment discrimination on the basis of their, or a dependent’s, reproductive health decision making.

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Abortion Provider Non-Discrimination Amendment Act of 2017

Abortion Provider Non-Discrimination Amendment Act of 2017

Introduced: November 7, 2017

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Brianne K. Nadeau, Jack Evans, Charles Allen, Robert C. White, Jr., Anita Bonds

FACT SHEET | BILL TEXT | PRESS RELEASE

Summary: To amend the Human Rights Act of 1977 to prohibit discrimination against health care professionals by a health care provider, based on the professional’s participation in, willingness to participate in, or support for abortion or sterilization procedures, or public statements related to abortion or sterilization procedures.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Despite the protection provided by Roe versus Wade, elected officials in state houses across the country and up on Capitol Hill are trying to make it effectively impossible to access abortion services.

This includes a climate of demonization of the medical professionals who provide these services.

A doctor, nurse, or other health practitioner should not have to fear for their job based on their support for the right to choose or their willingness to participate in abortion services.

In fact, discrimination based on an employee’s participation in abortion – or willingness to do so – has been illegal under federal law since 1976.

But there are gaps in the federal law, which has led a number of states to legislate additional protections.

The District of Columbia does not done so, but this legislation would fix that.

It is a rather simple bill, adding protections under our Human Rights Act for health professionals who speak publicly about abortion, or who have a second job providing abortion services.

At a time when speaking out about the importance of access to abortion is critical, we had an incident here in D.C. last year in which a hospital tried to silence a doctor who was an outspoken defender of reproductive rights.

This sort of retaliation, or the firing of healthcare professionals for treating a woman seeking an abortion as has happened elsewhere, is inappropriate and discriminatory.

With over 45,000 people employed in the healthcare industry in the District of Columbia, we need to protect these individuals from employment discrimination like this.

While only a few of those would be likely to need the protection of this bill, we pride ourselves as a jurisdiction that staunchly defends the right to an abortion, and we should ensure that no nurse or doctor fears that they will lose their jobs or careers because of participation in abortion services or advocacy.

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Grosso seeks to prioritize fair practices and equitable community development in awarding of D.C. banking contracts

For Immediate Release:
November 7, 2017
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Grosso seeks to prioritize fair practices and equitable community development in awarding of D.C. banking contracts

Washington, D.C. – Today, Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) introduced legislation to strengthen existing responsible banking laws to ensure that the District of Columbia is investing in financial institutions that engage in fair lending practices and meet the needs of historically underserved communities.

”While there is certainly no perfect financial institution, we should endeavor to prioritize partnerships with business entities, banks, and other financial institutions that are committed to engaging in fair and responsible business practices and those that fulfill their obligations to meet the credit and other needs of the communities they serve,” said Grosso.

The legislation introduced today, the Strengthening Community Development Amendment Act of 2017 requires that financial institutions seeking to do business with the city highlight the programs, products, and any partnerships they have established to promote affordable housing and equitable development, in addition to submitting community development plans.

The bill also increases the weight D.C.’s Chief Financial Officer must give to a financial institution’s community development score, a rating of how well it meets the credit needs of its local communities, in awarding the District’s banking business.  Finally, it requires the CFO to seek public comment before executing an option year on a contract with banks doing business with D.C.

“Public transparency and accountability should always be paramount when the District of Columbia seeks to conduct business with financial institutions,” Grosso said. “We must ensure that these banks will serve the convenience and needs of their local communities and invest responsibly to help maintain the vibrancy of our neighborhoods through sound services and lending.”

Grosso has been pushing for greater scrutiny of the financial institutions D.C. does business with since earlier this year, calling on the CFO to reassess its business with Wells Fargo and introducing a Sense of the Council resolution urging divestment.

In March, Wells Fargo, D.C.’s bank of record, received a national rating of “Needs to Improve” on community lending from its federal regulator. Despite this and other reports of unethical business practices, D.C. continues its relationship with the troubled bank.

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Strengthening Community Development Amendment Act of 2017

Strengthening Community Development Amendment Act of 2017

Introduced: November 7, 2017

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Anita Bonds, Robert C. White, Jr., Trayon White

FACT SHEET | BILL TEXT | PRESS RELEASE

Summary: To amend the Community Development Act of 2000 to require the Chief Financial Officer to regularly evaluate the community development plans of deposit-receiving institutions and to seek public comment prior to the execution of an option year on a contract with a deposit-receiving institution; and to amend section 47-351.05 of the District of Columbia Official Code to increase the weight the Mayor or CFO must give to a financial institution’s community development score in competitions for District banking business.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

In 2014, the Council unanimously passed the Community Development Amendment Act of 2013, a responsible banking law designed to ensure responsible loans, investments, and services are being provided to our low and moderate income and minority communities.

That law required, among other things, an evaluation of financial institution performance in servicing these communities as part of the criteria for deciding which institutions receive municipal deposits and other city business.

The bill was an enormous victory and step in the right direction to hold large financial institutions accountable to historically underserved communities and ensure their continuous investment in these neighborhoods.

Today, that law needs to be strengthened.

In March, Wells Fargo, the city’s bank of record received a national rating of “Needs to Improve” on community lending from its federal regulator.

Despite the misdeeds cited in the evaluation, the city continues its relationship with the much-maligned Wells Fargo.

While there is certainly no perfect financial institution, we should endeavor to prioritize partnerships with business entities, banks, and other financial institutions that are committed to engaging in fair and responsible business practices and those that fulfill their obligations to meet the credit and other needs of the communities they serve.

My legislation seeks to improve upon the existing community development law in three key ways.  First, it requires that financial institutions seeking to do business with the city must, in addition to submitting their community development plans, highlight the programs, products and any partnerships they’ve established to promote affordable housing and equitable development.

Second, the bill increases the weight the CFO must give a financial institution’s community development score in competitions for District banking business.

Finally, the bill requires the CFO to seek public comment, prior to executing an option year on a contract with banks doing business with the city.

Public transparency and accountability should always be paramount when the District seeks to conduct business with financial institutions. We must ensure that these banks will serve the convenience and needs of their local communities and invest responsibly to help maintain the vibrancy of our neighborhoods through sound services and lending.

 

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Grosso’s out-of-school time law marks several milestones in implementation

For Immediate Release:
October 24, 2017
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Grosso’s out-of-school time law marks several milestones in implementation

Washington, D.C. – Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large), chairperson of the Committee on Education, released the following statement today on the continued implementation of the Office of Out of School Time Grants and Youth Outcomes Establishment Act of 2016, which he introduced and was passed into law last year:

“Today marks several important milestones in our efforts to provide equitable, high quality out-of-school time programming to the youth of the District of Columbia. I applaud the Deputy Mayor for Education on the launch of the Office of Out of School Time Grants & Youth Outcomes and look forward to working together.

“Today we received a better picture of the current programming and gaps that need to be addressed in our city with the release of the D.C. Policy Center’s Needs Assessment of Out-of-School Time Programs in the District of Columbia. The findings and questions raised will be excellent material for discussion at the Commission on Out of School Time Grants and Youth Outcomes, which will be responsible for setting the strategic priorities and plan for this work. This afternoon I reconvened and concluded the hearing on the public member nominees and I look forward to approving their nominations next week.

 “As the Chairperson of the Committee on Education, I know that out-of-school time programming is critical to the educational, social-emotional, and physical well-being of our youth. What happens outside the classroom is just as vital to our students’ success as what happens inside of it.  I’m very excited to see all of these pieces coming together and that we are on the path to addressing these gaps in an equitable and data-driven manner.”

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Reducing Criminalization to Improve Community Health & Safety Amendment Act of 2017

Reducing Criminalization to Improve Community Health & Safety Amendment Act of 2017

Introduced: October 5, 2017

Co-introducers: Councilmember Robert White

FACT SHEET & SECTION BY SECTION | BILL TEXT | RESOURCES & STATISTICSCOALITION CONTACTS | PRESS RELEASE

Summary: To repeal an Act for the suppression of prostitution in the District of Columbia; to amend an Act in relation to pandering, to define and prohibit the same and to provide for the Punishment thereof to remove certain criminal penalties for engaging in sex work in order to promote public health and safety; to repeal Section 1 of an Act to enjoin and abate houses of lewdness, assignation, and prostitution, to declare the same to be nuisances, to enjoin the person or persons who conduct or maintain the same and the owner or agent of any building used for such purpose, and to assess a tax against the person maintaining said nuisance and against the building and owner thereof; to repeal An Act to confer concurrent jurisdiction on the police court of the District of Columbia in certain cases; and to create a task force to assess the impact of this legislation and recommend further reforms to improve community safety and health by removing criminal penalties for engaging in commercial sex.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Good morning. I am At-Large D.C. Councilmember David Grosso, and I am pleased to be here with community members and the Sex Worker Advocates Coalition.

As you may know, all my work on the Council is based in the human rights framework.

That commitment includes speaking out for the human rights of the most marginalized communities, including sex workers.

I believe that we as a society are coming to realize that excessive criminalization is causing more harm than good, from school discipline to drug laws to homelessness.

It is time for D.C. to reconsider the framework in which we handle commercial sex—and move from one of criminalization to a focus on human rights, health, and safety.

That is why today I am announcing the introduction of the Reducing Criminalization to Improve Health and Safety Amendment Act of 2017.

I developed this legislation in close partnership with the Sex Worker Advocates Coalition, and the bill is in line with recommendations from Amnesty International, the World Health Organization, U.N. AIDS, Human Rights Watch, and numerous other expert organizations.

The bill is quite simple really—it repeals a number of laws, or parts of laws, that criminalize adults for exchanging sex for money or other things of value.

By removing criminal penalties for those in the sex trade, we can bring people out of the shadows, help them live safer and healthier lives, and more easily tackle the complaints we hear from communities about trash or noise.

Some of the laws that this bill would repeal are over a hundred years old, showing how the criminalization approach has been a total failure.

There is plenty of other evidence that this approach puts people at risk for violence, inhibits the fight against HIV, and results in the exact opposite of what the laws purported intentions, but I will leave that to my fellow speakers to describe in greater detail.

The bill does not change any of our laws regarding coercion or exploitation, which will continue to be prohibited. Nor does it change how minors involved in sex trade are considered.

Sex workers themselves are often some of the best-positioned people to identify and help people in situations of exploitation, and by removing the criminal sanctions on them, we can improve our efforts on that front.

I want to thank everyone who has helped me work on this legislation and I also want to appreciate all the sex worker activists who have spoken out for their human rights, from Sharmus Outlaw here in D.C., to Gabriela Leite in Brazil, to countless others around the world.

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List of Organizations Providing Immigration Legal Services

Starting last fiscal year, the Council and Mayor have provided $500,000 annually in new funds for legal services to aid undocumented immigrants.  I urge anyone who has been, or knows someone who was, affected by the DACA decision or recent Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids to please contact my office at 202.724.8105 so we can connect you to organizations who can assist. That list of organizations and their contact information can be found below:

  • 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 introduces legislation to aid residents’ student loan repayments

For Immediate Release:
October 3, 2017
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Grosso introduces legislation to aid residents’ student loan repayments

Washington, D.C. – Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) today continued his push to address the looming student debt crisis by introducing legislation to assist borrowers in repaying their federal student loans.

“While we have taken a preliminary step to tackle student debt with the creation of a student loan ombudsman, we need to do more to invest in our workforce and ensure that attending college is not a financial drain on individuals and families who call D.C. home,” said Councilmember Grosso.

The Student Loan Debt Forgiveness Act of 2017 establishes a student loan forgiveness program for D.C. residents who are currently enrolled in a federal income-driven repayment plan. Qualified applicants would be eligible to receive an award equal to 100% of their monthly payment for up to 60 months if they were enrolled in a post-secondary institution after January 1, 2016.

“Growing student debt presents a serious challenge for our residents and 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. “What is worse is that our communities of color are being hardest hit by student debt.”

The District of Columbia maintains the highest concentration of student debtors in the country, according the U.S. Department of Education.  Over 112,000 D.C. residents collectively owe $5.6 billion in federal student loans.  Residents in the East End of D.C. carry twice as much debt and are three times more likely to be at least nine months behind on their loan payments as their neighbors in other parts of the city.

“This legislation, along with the work of the city’s new student loan ombudsman, could mean the difference between success and default for our residents,” said Councilmember Grosso.

Last year, the Council passed Grosso’s Student Loan Ombudsman Establishment and Servicing Regulation Act of 2016. It established a student loan ombudsman in the Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking empowered to establish licensing requirements for student loan servicers in the city.  The office is also charged with informing D.C. residents about their options when seeking student loans and when working to repay them.

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Student Loan Debt Forgiveness Act of 2017

Student Loan Debt Forgiveness Act of 2017 

Introduced: October 3, 2017

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Elissa Silverman, Brianne K. Nadeau, and Trayon White

FACT SHEET | BILL TEXT

Summary: To establish a student loan debt forgiveness program for residents of the District.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Currently, the national student debt exceeds $1.3 trillion, surpassing all other types of non-mortgage debt.

As one of the most educated cities in the U.S., the District of Columbia is home to several reputable colleges and universities; so it should come as little surprise that our residents experience significant student indebtedness.

In fact, the District of Columbia maintains the highest concentration of student debtors in the country.  Just last week, the U.S. Department of Education released state-specific information on student debt, for the first time ever.  According to their analysis, D.C. residents owe $5.6 billion dollars in federal student loans with 112,200 student loan borrowers in our city.

Repayment of this type of debt is challenging generally, but it is especially difficult for students who attend community college or for-profit colleges for some time, but never earn a degree or certificate.

Making matters worse, here in D.C. our communities of color are being hardest hit by student debt, as residents East of the River are three times more likely to be at least 9 months behind on their loan payments, than residents in the rest of the city who carry twice as much debt.

The negative impact of educational borrowing on a borrower’s potential wealth accumulation cannot be overstated. Carrying a high amount of student debt can severely limit an individual’s purchasing power and can have a detrimental effect on the greater economy.  Increased student debt impairs home sales, decreases retirement security, stifles entrepreneurship and discourages individuals from seeking careers that require additional education.

Last year, we created a Student Loan Ombudsman position within the Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking and required student loan servicers to become licensed to ensure that servicers are responsive, acting according to clear standards and not creating obstacles to repayment and driving borrowers into default.

While this was certainly a critical step and I am thrilled that Dr. Charles Burt has been hired as the Student Loan Ombudsman, we need to do more to ensure that attending college is not a financial drain on individuals and families, especially families that may have little to no experience with college.

That is why today, along with my colleagues Brianne Nadeau, Trayon White and Elissa Silverman, I am introducing the Student Loan Debt Forgiveness Act of 2017.

This bill establishes a student loan forgiveness program for D.C. residents who are currently enrolled in a federal income-driven repayment plan and meet other eligibility guidelines.

The program will be administered by the Office of the State Superintendent for Education and qualified applicants would be eligible to receive an award equal to 100% of their monthly payment for up to 60 months.

Passage of this legislation, coupled with the work of the Student Loan Ombudsman, ensures that we are protecting our student loan borrowers to the fullest extent and providing them additional opportunities for success.

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Grosso statement on the death of SNAP founder Barbara Blaine

For Immediate Release:
September 26, 2017
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Grosso statement on the death of SNAP founder Barbara Blaine

Washington, D.C. – Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) released the following statement on the death of Barbara Blaine, founder and former president of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP):

“My wife Serra Sippel and I are deeply saddened to learn of the sudden death of our friend Barbara Blaine. For three decades, she dedicated her life to giving voice to the voiceless. Those who have suffered unimaginable trauma at the hands of clergy lost a powerful and relentless advocate.

“For more than a decade, Serra and I had the opportunity to work with Barbara on holding the Catholic Church accountable for the abuse of minors at the hands of priests. Just over two years ago, Barbara reached out to me urging me to stand up for survivors of childhood sexual abuse in the District of Columbia. Her wealth of knowledge, tireless effort, and collaboration were instrumental in the development and introduction of the Childhood Protection Against Sexual Abuse Amendment Act in 2015. I re-introduced it this year and it is currently under consideration by the Council of the District of Columbia.

“Barbara reminds us that our lives are most impactful when lived in service of those who are most vulnerable. We must honor her life by continuing her work.”

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