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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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It’s time for real change to help survivors of childhood sexual abuse heal

For Immediate Release: 
June 15, 2017
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, (202) 724-8105

It’s time for real change to help survivors of childhood sexual abuse heal

Washington, D.C. – Today, the Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety held a hearing on two laws to eliminate the criminal and civil statute of limitations on sexual abuse. Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large), a member of the committee and author of the Childhood Protection Against Sexual Abuse Amendment Act released the following statement:

“I believe there are few actions more depraved than sexual violence against children. Full of boundless curiosity, bold imagination, and care-free spirits, the unique innocence of childhood is something to marvel.

“Unfortunately 1 in 10 children will be stripped of this innocence before their 18th birthday.  Alarmingly, children are most vulnerable to sexual abuse between the ages of 7 and 13. Because children have no comprehension of adult sexual behaviors and activity, any exposure to these aspects of adult life can and often does result in mental and emotional trauma.

“The experience of sexual violence as a child is one that endures for ages.  Most survivors do not come forward until well into adulthood, suffering for years with depression, feelings of guilt and sometimes difficulty forming intimate relationships. 

“My legislation eliminates the civil statute of limitations for recovery of damages arising out of child sex abuse claims.  Additionally, the bill creates a two-year window for individuals whose claims of child sex abuse were previously time-barred, enabling victims to go back in time and begin working to heal.

“Child safety depends on legislators holding institutions, not just individual perpetrators, accountable for their actions.  We cannot continue to allow individuals or institutions to maintain their depraved secrets. We must instead encourage and empower victims to come forward and know that a fair and just system is in place to help them right unspeakable wrongs.

“Given the passage of time, the evolution of this body and society as a whole on this issue, it is my sincere hope that we can affect real change for victims by enacting these critical measures to enhance their legal recourse.

“I want to thank everyone who testified today, especially those who are survivors of such crimes.  Your bravery today will help those like you who have endured so much and seek justice for their anguish.

“I also want to thank Chairperson Charles Allen for holding a hearing on these two critical measures.  I look forward to working together with him to advance them to the full Council.”

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Council approves 2018 budget with Grosso priorities

For Immediate Release: 
June 13, 2017
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, (202) 724-8105

Council approves 2018 budget with Grosso priorities

Washington, D.C. – Today, the Council of the District of Columbia gave final approval to the budget for fiscal year 2018, which contained top priorities that Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) worked closely with his colleagues to include.

“The budget approved today invests in education, our children, our neighbors, and the future of the District of Columbia,” Grosso said.

As chairperson of the Committee on Education, Grosso fought for increased investments in education, including per pupil funding, early childhood literacy, and the public library system.

“Ensuring that every child is in the best position to succeed is my top priority on the Council. I’m heartened to see that the other members of the Council share that priority.  Nowhere is this more evident than in the collaborative efforts to double the mayor’s proposed per student funding increase to three percent,” Grosso said.

He also pushed to accelerate the modernizations of D.C.’s aging school buildings in order to provide a quality learning environment for every student. Working with his colleagues, he was able to move up West Education Campus, Jefferson Middle, Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan, and School Within a School at Goding, among others.

The Council also funded many policies that were enacted through legislation that Councilmember Grosso authored, such as startup funds for the implementation of the universal paid family leave law, investments to provide youth quality out of school time programming, and incentives for first time home buyers.

In addition to the councilmember’s education priorities, he supported and worked with his colleagues to secure funding for other vital programs. Click here to learn more.

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Councilmember Grosso supports rainbow crosswalks to celebrate LGBTQ community

Councilmember Grosso in April sent a letter to the District Department of Transportation supporting the idea of painting crosswalks on 17th Street, NW rainbow to commemorate the important place of the LGBTQ community in the District of Columbia and to further celebrate D.C.'s welcoming and inclusive values. The idea originated with ANC Commissioner Randy Downs (2B05).

Yesterday, Councilmember Grosso received a response from DDOT.  Although the painting cannot be made permanent, he is excited to hear that temporary rainbow crosswalks will be painted in time for the Capital Pride Parade.  Councilmember Grosso plans to volunteer to get them painted this Saturday morning. He appreciates the work of DDOT, Commissioner Downs, and Ms. Sheila Alexander-Reid, the Director of the Mayor's Office of LGBTQ Affairs, to come up with this compromise solution.

Additionally, DDOT has informed Councilmember Grosso that DDOT has coordinated with the Department of Energy and the Environment on their Storm Drain Mural Project, operated in partnership with the Anacostia Watershed Society.  They are currently seeking artists to create designs for storm drain murals along 17th Street, NW.  The goal of these murals is to raise awareness of storm drains as a connection to our local waterways, as well as to promote the neighborhood's LGBTQ identity. Learn more about the program here.

You can read Councilmember Grosso's letter below, followed by DDOT's response.

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Statement of Councilmember Grosso on recent noose incidents

For Immediate Release: 
June 5, 2017
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, (202) 724-8105

Statement of Councilmember Grosso on recent noose incidents

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) on the recent incidents involving nooses in the metropolitan area:

“It is extremely disturbing to see stories like this on what feels like a daily basis. The District of Columbia is a diverse and welcoming city that strives to affirm and protect the human rights of all residents. That includes the right to be free from intimidation.

“No one should be afraid to go to work, visit a museum, worship in church, or walk to school. These acts violate that right. They seek to instill fear in our communities.  We cannot allow them to succeed. And we will not.

“If you do have any information about these incidents, I urge you to contact the Metropolitan Police Department at at 202–727–9099 or text 50–411.”

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Grosso Budget Victories

Grosso Budget Victories

Education

As chairperson of the Committee on Education, Councilmember Grosso’s number one priority during the budget process was ensuring that our schools have the resources they need to improve learning for all residents across the District of Columbia. 

The Council largely endorsed the work of the Committee on Education that increased per student funding, invested in early childhood learning, and improved the resources of our public libraries, while also accelerating modernizations for many schools to provide a better learning environment.

Highlights of the education budget include:

  • An increase in the uniform per student funding formula of 3.0%, doubling the mayor’s proposed 1.5% increase, with a special thanks to Councilmembers Cheh, Gray, and Chairman Mendelson in particular for making that possible.
  • Investing in the successful early literacy intervention program that gets students at or above reading level by third grade.
  • Accelerating the modernization of schools, including West Education Campus, Jefferson Middle, Eaton Elementary, Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan, School Within a School at Goding, and planning for the now-vacant Shaw Middle School.
  • A commitment to alternative approaches to school discipline with an enhancement in the Restorative Justice program funding.
  • Additional investment in the Community Schools program to improve student outcomes.
  • Funding to set up the Office and Commission of Out Of School Time Grants, which was established in legislation introduced by Councilmember Grosso.
  • Enhancing the learning opportunities of all D.C. residents with investment in expanding D.C. Public Libraries’ collections.
  • Preserving local history with ongoing funding for the D.C. Public Libraries’ D.C. Oral History Project, through partnerships with D.C. Historical Society, and Humanities D.C.

In addition to his work on the Education Committee, Councilmember Grosso secured or supported changes to the budget in other areas.

Judiciary and Public Safety

  • Commit D.C. to a new approach to public safety by investing in the NEAR Act which the Council passed unanimously last year.
  •  Funded a grant for organizations working with incarcerated young adults utilizing literacy-based interventions to improve their success while incarcerated and upon transition back to the community.

Health

  • Supported a rate increase for behavioral health providers.
  • Increased funding for in-home delivery programs for D.C. residents living with chronic health conditions such as HIV/AIDS, cancer and diabetes.

Human Services 

  • Supported Councilmember Nadeau’s changes to strengthen Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits for District residents by reducing penalties and eliminating time limits.
  • Supported further investment toward meeting the goals of the Homeward D.C. plan to end homelessness, and implementing the new plan on youth homelessness.
  • Supported additional funding to the Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA) Rapid Housing program to help youth emancipating from and aging out of foster care achieve housing stability.

Housing

  • Supported strong investment for the Housing Preservation Fund to preserve affordable housing units across the city.
  • Supported reducing the waiting list for tenant-based Local Rent Supplement Program vouchers with the allocation of the additional funds.
  • Funding for Grosso’s First Time Homebuyer Tax Credit to lower the barrier to home ownership in the District of Columbia.

Business and Economic Development

  • With monies provided by the Committee on Education, funded a study of the feasibility of establishing a public bank in D.C.
  • Supported the inclusion of a study of certified business enterprises’ capacity to better understand why so many waivers are granted in government-assisted projects.

Labor and Workforce

  • Supported investment for adult transit subsidies for adult learners, removing a barrier to educational attainment for non-traditional students. Grosso appreciates Councilmember Silverman's efforts on this issue.

Committee of the Whole

  • Supported funding to establish the administrative infrastructure for paid family leave, which will provide a competitive advantage to businesses and relieve families of the difficult choice between paying their bills and caring for their loved ones.

Transportation and the Environment

  • Supported allocation of funds to the Department of Health to waive the fee for birth certificates for D.C. residents experiencing homelessness.
  • Working with Councilmembers Evans and Cheh, included language to qualify rooftop farms for tax incentives.

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3 Comments

Stop The Cuts

On Tuesday, May 30, 2017, the Council of the District of Columbia will consider Mayor Bowser’s proposed fiscal year 2018 budget. I’ve said many times on the record that this is the worst education budget I’ve seen in my five years on the Council. It’s not only the education portion of the budget, but the entire city budget that needed improvements. The Council has worked together to improve this budget, but there is still more to be done. In particular, I have yet to understand why we are continuing to give tax cuts to the wealthy while we are underfunding education, social services, and the arts and humanities.

Just in the Education budget, the Committee on Education worked to restore cuts to early childhood literacy programs, increased the Universal Per Student Funding Formula (UPSFF) to 2.38% over last year’s approved budget (the Mayor’s increase was 1.5%), expanded the number of pre-K enhanced slots, and increased the book budget for the D.C. Public Library. You can find out more about the Committee’s work here. However, we still have so much more to do not only in education but throughout the entire government.

This is why I support stopping the estate tax cut, which will only benefit approximately 150 families in the District of Columbia, and cost the District $12 million in annual revenue. I also support a new proposal by the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute of stopping the implementation of the business franchise tax reduction for businesses earning $5 million or more in annual revenue. This would save the District approximately $21 million per year that we could put right back into education, social services, and the arts and humanities. We can also use this money to plan for potential federal funding losses due to Trump’s reckless policies and heartless budget proposal.

Let the Council know that the wealthy should not benefit while our education system, social services, and arts and humanities communities suffer. E-mail and call your Councilmembers and let them know that you support stopping the estate tax cut permanently, and only allowing the business franchise tax cut to be implemented for businesses earning under $5 million in annual revenue. This will provide much needed investments across the District of Columbia.

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Surviving CFSA

By Ashley Strange*

Six years is more than enough time to learn how foster care operates. Surviving it is another thing. I entered the foster care system at the age of 15, one month before my 16th birthday, and was emancipated six years later. Year one in the system left me confused. Who were these strangers I am being told to live with? Year two was when I lost hope of living with my family. Separation and unintentional isolation will change anyone’s behavior. Year three is when things started to look hopeful because I had finally settled into a loving home. Year four I found my voice. I started demanding my clothing and transportation stipends, and advocated for the Youth Bill of Rights to be provided to every foster home. Year five is when the fear of emancipation struck hard. With no immediate family support, I became depressed and worried about homelessness. Year six, I finally cracked. I was aging out of foster care and I was afraid of what adulthood would bring. The struggle to maintain grades, travel across town to school, have enough money, and find housing in an overpopulated and expensive city is enough to drive anyone crazy, but I survived. It is because of my story that any significant changes that deal with child welfare concern me.

Child and Family Services Agency

Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA) is the District of Columbia’s child welfare agency that protects child victims and children and youth at risk of abuse and neglect, and assist their families. Overall, CFSA currently serves 2,675 children and youth: 951 (36%) youth are in foster care and 1,724 (64%) youth are served in their homes. [1] CFSA is responsible for investigating allegations of abuse and neglect of children and youth under the age of 18 that are residents of the District of Columbia. When victims of child abuse and neglect are identified, CFSA’s trained social workers work to keep children safe by assisting families and connecting them to services to prevent future endangerment. The agency also provide safe out of home care which involves the temporary removal of a child from a dangerous home with the hope of reestablishing permanent homes.

Youth in care are people too, and they deserve what is owed to them. To ensure that youth are aware of their rights, by law CFSA must provide all youth in care a copy of the Bill of Rights.

Safe Haven Redesign

CFSA’s goal is to continue to reduce the number of children in foster care by increasing placement in homes, reunification with the child’s family, guardianship, and adoption. Recently, CFSA’s Director Brenda Donald announced significant changes to the agency. She proposed a Safe Haven Redesign which will reduce foster care providers from seven to one, eliminate the traditional and therapeutic designation, bring all D.C. foster homes under direct care of CFSA, and ensure that the entire system is trauma-informed. In early March 2017, CFSA released a Request for Proposals (RFP), which solicited applications for services of a contractor to provide foster care placement and case management services for approximately four-hundred (400) children and youth in foster care who will be placed in Maryland only. For more information, please view Safe Haven Redesign Request For Proposal (RFP). The RFP closed on last Friday. A few providers have applied.

Safe and Stable Families Redesign

Additionally, CFSA plans to leverage the fiscal flexibility of the Title IV-E Waiver to spend more funding on community-based prevention and family-strengthening services rather than foster care resources due to the reduced number of children and youth in foster care. CFSA hopes to revamp their prevention and in-home services for families to stay together in a safe environment.

Concerns about the changes

On April 7, 2017, Mayor Bowser released her proposed fiscal year 2018 budget for CFSA. The Mayor’s proposal allocates $226,485,929 for CFSA’s budget in fiscal year 2018, which is a $6,143,893 reduction from fiscal year 2017. Though these redesigns could bring about some benefits, I am concerned that the current proposed budget does not provide CFSA with adequate funding to properly implement these changes or to respond to unanticipated challenges. CFSA has maintained that the reductions in the budget corresponds with the decrease in the number of youth involved in the foster care system. However, this theory may backfire on them.

I am also concerned about the timing of these changes. In 2015, CFSA experienced a shortage of foster care placements when the agency terminated two contracts that placed children in homes. In CFSA’s FY2016-2017 pre-performance oversight responses, CFSA alluded to the fact that the agency is still experiencing difficulty when it stated it “continues to refine the process of matching children entering care to available foster care homes.”[2] 11 children in out-of-home care slept overnight at CFSA’s offices while awaiting a licensed placement in fiscal year 2016.[3] In fiscal year 2017, 6 children slept overnight in an office. Although some of these instances were exceptional cases, they still underscore the difficulties that the agency experiences placing children, especially youth in certain sub-populations: teens, pregnant and or parenting youth, or youth with special needs. Only 25 % of foster children are expected to be placed with kin by the end of this year.[4] I experienced this shortage first hand.

In 2015, my second foster home allowed me to stay there as long as I needed while completing school. However, CFSA began pressuring my foster parent to take in another child immediately. My foster parent became overwhelmed with the number of calls she received. I began to receive calls asking about my housing plan and was provided a list of shelters. I made the decision to leave and entered a transitional living home, named Wayne’s Place.

Wayne’s Place

Two years ago, Mayor Bowser and Director Donald announced the opening of a new transitional home for youth between the ages of 18 and 24. The Wayne’s Place Project is a partnership between CFSA and the Department of Behavioral Health that is managed by the Far Southeast Family Strengthening Collaborative. Wayne Place is a complex of six buildings with 22 two-bedroom apartments that can house up to 44 youth. It receives an annual funding of $1,015,250. The program was designed to help young adults who need support to live independently and succeed.

I lived in Wayne’s Place in my sixth year, from September 2015 to March 2017. When I first entered the transitional home at the age of 21, the security guards consistently made inappropriate comments to me. Additionally, some of security guards were engaging in inappropriate relationships with some of the young women there. Both issues were more or less taken care of after I testified before the Committee on Health and Human Services on March 3 2016. Still, Transitioned Aged Youth (TAYs) complain about unprofessional staff. Many of the female TAYs continue to express to me that they feel uncomfortable, and several have left the program. Additionally, TAYs voice frustration that their caseworkers did not provide enough housing and employment support. Thankfully, I had great caseworkers who supported me. The idea of Wayne’s Place is good idea in theory, but there still remains a lot of unresolved issues that need to be addressed. Their goal to transition youth to middle-class, for the most part, is proving more difficult than they had hoped.

Tutoring Services

The Mayor’s FY18 proposed budget insufficiently provides tutoring services for youth in care. In a letter to Director Donald, Councilmember Grosso asked about the agency’s budget plans, and funding for tutoring services for youth. Director Donald responded that the “proposed budget is sufficient to improve the educational progress” of their children. However, I disagree.

Just a few years ago when I requested tutoring services for a college course, I was denied and told to used my school’s services. When I explained that the process to request a tutor at the school would take time, and that I desperately needed one now, I was provided a tutor who could not help me.

Similarly, when I first entered foster care my foster family grew impatient with waiting for the agency to respond to tutoring requests and eventually paid for outside tutoring services. My math and reading tutors came three times a week for two hours each. These tutoring sessions allowed me to make up what I missed in elementary and middle school. Eventually, the cost became too much for them to pay. My foster family was very frustrated that they were never reimbursed for services the agency were supposed to provide. 

I am grateful that the Committee on Human Services added $250,000 for increased tutoring services when they unanimously voted on the budget on Wednesday, May 17, 2017. I believe this additional funding is sorely needed. I am also pleased that the Committee provided $500,000 additional dollars for rapid housing. I would have liked to take advantage of this program but I was told by an officer at the Office of Youth and Empowerment that 23 years olds could not receive these vouchers, which is unfair.

In closing, my time in care was not all horrible. Without services like the Education Training Voucher (ETV), a college scholarship for youth foster care, and Capital Area Asset Builder, a match savings program, I would not have been able to graduate debt-free or pay my first month’s rent. Now I am a college graduate with full time employment. No system or organization is perfect, but if CFSA wants to reach their goal of protecting and serving all youth under their care they need to do three things: improve, improve, and improve!


*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.

 

[1] Pg. 3. March 1, 2017. Fiscal Year 2016 CFSA Performance Oversight Hearing: Testimony of Brenda Donald, Acting Director of CFSA

[2] February 21, 2017. CFSA Performance Oversight Hearing FY2016 2017 (First Quarter) p. 113

[3] Ibid p. 117

[4] Ibid p. 111

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