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Letters to Agencies

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Grosso urges quick implementation of protected bike lanes on 6th and 9th Streets NW

Councilmember David Grosso sent a letter last week to Director of the D.C. Department of Transportation expressing his disappointment at the lack of progress of protected bike lanes on 6th Street and 9th Street NW between Florida and Pennsylvania Avenues, NW.

Changes in the area, including the reopening of MLK Library and removal of bike and bus lanes, necessitate a speedy implementation of both these protect bike lanes to improve mobility and safety for cyclists on corridors that touch Wards 1, 2, and 6.

You can read the full letter below and here.

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Chairperson Grosso sends follow up questions to education agencies after roundtable on improving school attendance,

Councilmember David Grosso, chairperson of the Committee on Education, today sent letters to the acting D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Dr. Lewis Ferebee, the Deputy Mayor for Education Paul Kihn, and Office of Victim Services and Justice Grants Director Michelle Garcia with follow-up questions related to the joint Committee on Education/Committee of the Whole roundtable on Improving School Attendance held on January 31.

  • Read the letter sent to Acting Chancellor Lewis Ferebee here. Responses are due Feb. 22, 2019

  • Read the letter sent to Deputy Mayor Paul Kihn here. Responses are due March 1, 2019

  • Read the letter sent to Director Garcia here. Responses are due Feb. 22, 2019.

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Grosso leads Council comments opposed to Trump Administration's proposed Title IX changes

Councilmember David Grosso, chairperson of the Committee on Education, sent a letter signed by every member of the Council of the District of Columbia, to U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos opposing the Trump Administration’s proposed changes to Title IX enforcement for failing to properly address the realities of sexual harassment and assault in schools.

“As local elected officials, including the chairperson of the D.C. Council Committee on Education, we support a robust oversight role by the Department and we look to the Department to set the bar for ourselves and other jurisdictions in protecting our students,” the Councilmembers wrote. “The proposed rules would restrict our ability to build upon the floor that federal laws and rules should allow, thereby undermining your goal of providing greater control over these decisions to local communities.”

Last year, Grosso introduced and the Council unanimously passed the School Safety Act, which requires all schools to have policies in place to prevent and properly respond to sexual abuse by adults against children and sexual harassment and assault among students, including dating violence. The act also increases the requirements of what efforts D.C. Public Schools and charter schools must make to uncover past sexual misconduct of any potential employees who will have direct contact with students.

Councilmembers expressed their concerns that changes to Title IX could undermine this work, including its ability to address off-campus incidents which have on-campus effects.

“We heard consistently from schools, students and parents, and experts about the need for schools to be able to respond to incidents of abuse or harassment that happen outside of school hours or off-campus,” Councilmembers wrote, referencing testimony they heard in considering the school safety legislation. “This could include online harassment or an abuse near school that significantly disrupts students’ ability to learn. The proposed rules would contradict this by requiring schools to dismiss a complaint if the alleged conduct “did not occur within the [school’s] program or activity.”

The Council also raised concerns over language that forces schools to ignore harassment until it becomes incredibly severe, raise the bar on what is considered “deliberate indifference” to complaints of misconduct, and allow parochial schools greater freedom in claiming religious exemptions from fulfilling their Title IX responsibilities.

“Taken together, these proposed rules represent a serious misstep in the ongoing effort to address safety and stop discrimination in education. We ask that you withdraw the proposed rulemaking and reconsider the best way to ensure safety for students,” the Councilmembers concluded.

You can read the full letter below and here.

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DISB responds to Councilmember Grosso on delayed public bank study

On January 16 the Department of Insurance, Securities, and Banking (DISB) sent a response to Councilmember Grosso’s Jan. 9 letter inquiring about the status of a study to determine the feasibility of establishing a public bank in the District of Columbia and requesting an explanation for the delay in its delivery.

In the letter, Director Stephen Taylor informed Councilmember Grosso that the feasibility study was delayed due to additional requested work and that the draft report is currently under review. The final step will be final review from the Executive Office of the Mayor, but Director Taylor was unable to provide a date certain for public release of the study.

The councilmember secured the funding for the feasibility study in the FY2018 budget.

“I have long advocated for a public bank because I believe its establishment would enable the city to serve as a participation lender, partnering instead of competing against local banks, to drive lending to small businesses and others that have been historically denied access to credit,” Grosso wrote.

Read the letters below.

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Dept. of Corrections response leaves unanswered questions on employees in medical marijuana programs

In November, Councilmember Grosso sent a letter to the Department of Corrections to inquire about the Department’s policy and practices for drug and alcohol testing of employees. Specifically, the councilmember was interested in whether or not DOC was taking into account employees’ enrollment in medical marijuana programs as part of such testing.

“If an employee, for example, is undergoing treatment for cancer and is prescribed medical marijuana by a doctor to help with the side effects of treatment, it seems unreasonable and inappropriate that the employee would be penalized, or even subject to termination, because of seeking such medical care,” Grosso wrote.

After a delayed response, Director Quincy Booth laid out DOC’s practices and procedures and its adherence to District law. However, the response sidestepped a question specifically aimed at how DOC takes into account an employees enrollment in the medical marijuana program, instead focusing on how DOC complies, as other D.C. agencies do, with the impact of Initiative 71.

Initiative 71 dealt with recreational, not medical, marijuana.

The D.C. Department of Human Resources specifically sets out an exception for medical marijuana in District Personnel Manual Instruction No. 4-34, similar to exceptions for other prescription drugs

Councilmember Grosso will follow up with the Department of Corrections and the Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety to ensure District government employees in the medical marijuana program are treated equally to those who require other prescription drugs for medical purposes.

Read Councilmember Grosso’s letter and DOC’s responses below.

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Councilmember Grosso requests update on delayed public bank feasibility study

Councilmember Grosso sent a letter to the Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking (DISB) today inquiring about the status of a study to determine the feasibility of establishing a public bank in the District of Columbia and requesting an explanation for the delay in its delivery.

“I have long advocated for a public bank because I believe its establishment would enable the city to serve as a participation lender, partnering instead of competing against local banks, to drive lending to small businesses and others that have been historically denied access to credit,” Grosso wrote.

The councilmember secured the funding for the feasibility study in the FY2018 budget.

“As we are now four months into Fiscal Year 2019, I am deeply disappointed that neither I nor the public has seen the study.”

Grosso requested an update on the study and a specific date for finalization from DISB Commissioner Stephen Taylor by Wednesday, January 16.

Read the letter below.

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Grosso expresses concerns over Providence Hospital closure

On September 26, 2018, Councilmember David Grosso sent a letter to the Department of Health about his concerns regarding the planned closure of Providence Hospital’s acute care services and to better understand DOH’s role during the transition.

“Ascension’s decision to close acute-care services at Providence Hospital is devastating as three-quarters of patients accessing care at Providence are D.C. residents primarily coming from Wards 5, 7, and 8,” wrote Grosso. “This loss of much needed medical care on the east side of the city greatly limits access and may exacerbate already troubling health outcomes for our residents in these communities.”

On October 3, the Department of Health respond with a letter outlining their role. Both can be found below.

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Grosso questions Bowser administration on implementation of changes to Kids Ride Free program

Today, Councilmember David Grosso, chairperson of the Committee on Education, sent a letter to Director of the District Department of Transporation Jeff Marootian, interim Deputy Mayor for Education Ahnna Smith, and City Administrator Rashad Young after constituents reported that hundreds students have not yet received new Kids Ride Free (KRF) SmarTrip cards which provide free access to Metrorail, Metrobus, and D.C. Circulator.

“Recently, I learned that 775 students at D.C. International School need KRF cards, but have not yet received them, and this problem extends to other schools as well. This is unacceptable. The KRF program was created four years ago to ensure our school system is more equitable for students and families in the District of Columbia. Without access to public transportation, I am concerned that many students will not be able to go to school.”

UPDATE: City Administrator Rashad Young responded to Councilmember Grosso on September 25. The letter can be found below.

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Grosso inquires about access to home and hospital instruction services for students

On July 11, 2018, Councilmember David Grosso, chairperson of the Committee on Education and member of the Committee on Health, sent a letter to interim D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Amanda Alexander expressing concern that some children may not be receiving Home and Hospital Instruction Program (HIPP) services which are aimed at supporting students with physical disability and/or health impairment who are confined to home or hospital for three or more weeks.

"...there seems to be a lack of information and transparency about the process for determining a child's eligibility for HIPP and for appealing that decision," he wrote.

UPDATE: Grosso provided a list of questions to DCPS and received a response on August 3rd from DCPS which can be found here and below, along with the HHIP program manual and original letter from Councilmember Grosso.

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Grosso sends questions on graduation accountability to DCPS Chancellor

Today, Councilmember David Grosso, chairperson of the Committee on Education, sent a letter to D.C. Public Schools Interim Chancellor Dr. Amanda Alexander with several questions in advance of the upcoming June 13, 2018 public oversight roundtable on graduation accountability. The purpose of the roundtable is to get an update from OSSE, DCPS, and PCSB on the implementation of Alvarez and Marsal’s recommendations on improving graduation accountability. The councilmember has given Chancellor Alexander until no later than close of business next Monday, May 21, to respond.

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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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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 raises concerns over police militarization with MPD

Councilmember Grosso is deeply concerned that we are not doing enough to prevent the militarization of law enforcement in the District of Columbia. To that end, he sent two letters to Metropolitan Police Department Chief Peter Newsham last month asking him about two separate programs.

The first letter asked Chief Newsham to reject changes made by the Trump administration to Obama era guidelines that placed critical safeguards on the transfer of military-grade equipment to local law enforcement agencies under the 1033 Program.  Councilmember Grosso believes that continuous improvement of police-community relations requires both good practices and projecting the right image.  A militarized police force is not the right one for our city.

The second letter expressed Councilmember Grosso's concerns over the planned participation an MPD leader in a training with military forces and intelligence services in Israel. While he believes strongly in cross-cultural exchanges and the importance of training for our law enforcement officers, learning from military advisors is not what local law enforcement needs.

Chief Newsham responded to both of Councilmember Grosso's letters.  His responses, and Councilmember Grosso's original letters, can be found below.

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

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

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

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

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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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Grosso concerned over implementation of student loan ombudsman

Councilmember Grosso sent a letter to the Department of Insurance, Securities, and Banking (DISB) raising concerns over the dual-expertise qualification needed for the District of Columbia's Student Loan Ombudsman that could delay hiring of the vital position.

Legislation introduced by Councilmember Grosso and passed by the Council last year created an ombudsman in DISB empowered to establish licensing requirements for student loan servicers in the city.  They are also charged with informing D.C. residents about their options when seeking student loans and when working to repay them.

DISB advertised the position as a "Student Loan and Foreclosure Ombudsman", requiring applicants to have qualifications in both fields, a move that Councilmember Grosso feels will yield no qualified candidates and thus delay the hiring of a student loan ombudsman.

"The District of Columbia, one of the most educated cities in the U.S., is the most indebted jurisdiction when it comes to average federal student loan debt," wrote Grosso. "The 140,000 student loan borrowers residing in D.C. owe an average of $40,885, about 40 percent higher than the national average."

Recent actions by the Trump Administration to halt a planned overhaul to student loan management initiated under President Barack Obama have cast the system into doubt and made the need fir a dedicated student loan ombudsman in D.C. even more important.

"Now more than ever, a dedicated Student Loan Ombudsman is necessary to ensure that our residents will be able to lodge complaints and receive vital educational information as it relates to their student loans.  Further, this role will enable the District of Columbia to take a critical step in protecting student loan borrowers by creating servicer accountability and providing stringent oversight of this industry," Grosso wrote.

Read the councilmember's full letter below.

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Second letter sent to DDOT, DGS regarding lack of sidewalk outside Wilson Building

Councilmember Grosso sent a follow up letter to the District Department of Transportation and the Department of General Services to inquire about the lack of sidewalks in front of the Wilson Building; his initial letter received no response.

Councilmember Grosso believes access to adequate sidewalk space, especially around government buildings that the public should be able to access easily, is a public safety concern.  Pedestrians have been observed walking into the street while multiple lanes remain available to cars.

A sidewalk should be established in the roadway immediately to allow for pedestrian safe passage.

Here is the councilmember's letter sent today:

Here is Councilmember Grosso's initial letter, sent December 7, 2016.

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