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Councilmember Grosso calls on Councilmember Evans to resign from the D.C. Council

For Immediate Release:
July 8, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Councilmember Grosso calls on Councilmember Evans to resign from the D.C. Council

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso regarding Councilmember Evans’ latest dishonesty to the Council about the nature of his relationship with lobbyist Bill Jarvis:

“Tomorrow, the Council will consider resolutions to remove Councilmember Jack Evans as chairperson of the Finance and Revenue Committee and hire a law firm to conduct an investigation into his potential violations of the Council’s Code of Conduct. While I appreciate that the Council is finally acting to take Councilmember Evans’ misconduct seriously, it is frustrating that it has taken us this long to act to protect the Council’s reputation and hold our colleague accountable.

“Regardless of the actions we take tomorrow, given new revelations over the weekend of Councilmember Evans’ dishonesty, I believe the public trust in Councilmember Evans is irreparable and it is in the best interest of the Council and the residents of the District of Columbia that Jack Evans resign as the Ward 2 Councilmember. Short of that, I will be offering an amendment that would also remove him from all committees until the conclusion of this investigation.

“Last week, Councilmember Evans attempted to present his case to Councilmembers in response to the release of a memo from a law firm hired by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority to investigate Evans. This memo illustrated that Mr. Evans was not forthcoming and not truthful with his colleagues and the public about the findings of the WMATA investigation.

“My colleagues and I asked many questions, including the nature of the relationship between Mr. Evans and his consulting firm NSE Consulting with lobbyist Bill Jarvis. Councilmember Evans maintained that Mr. Jarvis was merely a long-time friend who helped file the paperwork creating NSE Consulting. However, over the weekend The Washington Post ran a story contradicting Mr. Evans’ claims yet again, summarizing e-mails demonstrating that Mr. Jarvis acted on behalf of the firm by negotiating contracts with potential clients.

“It is no longer possible to trust anything that Councilmember Evans has told us since this ordeal began. Councilmember Evans lied about what happened with the WMATA report, and now he’s lying about the nature of his relationship with a well-known lobbyist, Mr. Jarvis. We must now question votes and actions he has taken on the Council during his many years as chairperson of the Finance and Revenue Committee, and particularly during the past decade in which he has not once recused himself from a Council vote.

“Especially troubling is his rush to legalize sports wagering and to sole-source the contract to ensure his business partner’s client remains the incumbent vendor. The relationship between Councilmember Evans and Intralot’s lobbyist Bill Jarvis only reinforces my view that we should disapprove the proposed $215 million lottery and sports wagering contract, decouple the two issues, and open both to competition.

“This is an unfortunate situation of our own making. The Council failed to address the allegations of Councilmember Evans’ corruption, conflicts of interest, and misconduct when they first surfaced in early 2018. At that time I privately requested that Chairman Mendelson create an ad hoc committee made up of five Councilmembers to investigate. I re-iterated those calls in the subsequent months as new allegations and information came to light. The Chairman still has not appointed an ad hoc committee and has indicated that he is unlikely to do so until the fall.

“Rather than investigating these allegations at the first hint of wrongdoing, it has taken the work of the press to bring Councilmember Evans’ conflicts and dishonesty to light. We are continually distracted by new allegations of wrongdoing or new information that casts doubt on Councilmember Evans’ honesty. Who knows what else this week will bring? Further distraction can be avoided if Councilmember Evans takes the appropriate action by resigning from the Council.”

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In Recognition of National Children’s Awareness Month

In Recognition of National Children’s Awareness Month

By: Alejandra Barrera* 

The month of June has been established as National Children’s Awareness Month. It is the perfect time to raise awareness on the vulnerability of children exposed to violence and the importance of providing school-based mental health support.

At the most fundamental level, investing resources in children to help them flourish and develop to their full potential is a moral imperative. But investing in children is also important on practical grounds. Their well-being contributes to poverty reduction, income equality and economic growth in our common future.[1]  Since the foundation of an individual’s health and well-being is set in early childhood, it is during that time that we have to provide the most support with better policies and interventions.

While maltreatment and traumatic experiences are unacceptable for anyone, it’s particularly detrimental and damaging during childhood as children are going through a process of cognitive, emotional, and physical development. Today, children and youth are in high need of mental health support given the high exposure to different forms of violence, such as domestic violence, bullying, and gang and gun violence that are prevalent in our schools and communities. These environments put children in a state of distress that can eventually lead to lasting physical, mental and emotional harm.

A report of child abuse is made every 10 seconds, and 91 percent of child abuse is committed by parents.[2] Further, 4 to 5 children die from abuse or neglect every day in the U.S., and 75 percent of these children are under the age of 3 years old.[3] U.S. teens and young adults have reached their highest suicide rates. In 2017, suicide claimed the lives of 5,016 males and 1,225 females between the ages of 15 and 24 in the United States.[4] More than 3 million adolescents aged 12-17 reported at least one major depressive episode in the past year.[5]

The latest Child Maltreatment report published by the Children’s Bureau at HHS’ Administration for Children and Families (ACF) shows us that as society, we are making progress in reducing victimization and deaths due to maltreatment; however, the numbers of victims and deaths are still higher than they were five years ago, which is concerning.

In 2017, Children Protective Services agencies received a national estimate of 4.1 million referrals of child maltreatment in the United States involving more than 7.5 million children. Of that estimated 7.5 million children who were included in referral, 3.5 million children received an investigation or alternative response. An estimated 674,000 children were determined to be victims of maltreatment. In total, three quarters or 74.9 percent of victims were neglected, 18.3 percent were physically abused, and 8.6 percent were sexually abused.  For 2017, an estimated 1,720 children died of abuse and neglect at a rate of 2.32 per 100,000 children in the national population.[6]

D.C. has historically had one of the country’s highest child fatality rates. [7] In 2008, 182 children died in the District; by 2013, it dropped to 91. Child fatality statistics show that total deaths have increased steadily again since 2013, rising to 100 in 2014 and 124 in 2015, though the city’s overall rate of child deaths decreased from 2008 to 2015. According to Child Fatality Review Committee in the District of Columbia, between 2011 and 2015, only 17 of the child fatalities reviewed were the result of abuse or neglect.[8] In the Child Maltreatment report, DC reported four fatalities in 2017, and its child fatality rate per 100,000 children was 3.21, demonstrating the city's commitment to reducing violence of any form against children. [9]

For this FY 2020 budget, Councilmember David Grosso and the Committee on Education worked to fund a number of priorities that focused on child welfare.[10] These investments included fully funding bills such as the School Safety Act, which will ensure schools are working to prevent and properly handle cases of sexual assault and abuse through better policies, including protocols for responding to and reporting allegations.  

Additionally, the Fair Access to School law will reduce the use of exclusionary discipline and address the root causes of student behavioral issues through school-based mental health services. Councilmember Grosso and the Committee on Education were also able to  fully fund Students in the Care of D.C. Coordinating Committee Act that will create a committee to identify challenges and resolve issues that students in detainment, commitment, incarceration, and foster care face in order to improve educational outcomes.  

The commitment of the community, parents, caregivers, teachers, leaders, government officials, and students themselves have helped shape policies that better serve our children as a whole, however there is room for continued improvement in the District’s child welfare system. 

Advocates, parents, and Councilmembers alike have all called for the allocation of additional funding to support and expand school-based and community-based mental health services so that kids can get the help they need, or tackle risk factors that lead to dysfunctional families, which in many cases increase the likelihood of child maltreatment or neglect. Additionally, the city should continue working to implement a comprehensive counseling program in our schools by setting counselors-to-student ratios.

Though more work can be done to strengthen our policies, the city should take pride in its efforts thus far. The D.C. Council and the Mayor have demonstrated a shared commitment to comprehensively addressing critical issues facing children and youth, by bringing new approaches and bills that seek to optimize child well-being in the District of Columbia. Through these efforts and continued engagment with the community, the District of Columbia will become a leader in advancing robust policies that protect the health and well-being of our children and youth.  

*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. Alejandra is a former intern and now current Office Manager with the Office of Councilmember Grosso.*

[1] (UNICEF, n.d.)

[2] (Health Alliance, 2018)

[3] (Health Alliance, 2018)

[4] (Los Angeles Times, 2019)

[5] (Los Angeles Times, 2019)

[6] (Children's Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2019)

[7] (Washington City Paper, 2019)

[8] (Washington City Paper, 2019)

[9] (Children's Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2019)

[10] (David Grosso DC Council At-Large Blog, 2019)

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Councilmember Grosso inquiries into Max Brown's views on Washington Football Team's return to the District

On June 21, 2019 Councilmember David Grosso and Councilmember Brianne Nadeau sent a letter to chair of the Board of the Washington Convention and Sports Authority Max Brown in advance of his re-nomination.

The councilmembers stated their unequivocal opposition to the construction of a new stadium for the Washington Football Team in the District of Columbia, citing both the team’s use of an offensive mascot and racist name; and the failure of NFL stadiums to generate the promised economic growth. They requested more information regarding his views and any actions he has taken to pave the way for the team’s return to D.C.

Mr. Brown responded today, June 28, in a letter the indicated his awareness of the councilmembers’ opposition, but would not rule out that the RFK Campus could be anchored by a new stadium for the Washington Football Team. He did however acknowledge that the ultimate decision will be left up to elected officials, including the Council.

You can read both letters below.

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Councilmember Grosso requests more information on DCPS deficit

Today Councilmember Grosso, chairperson of the Committee on Education, and Chairman Phil Mendelson sent the below letter to D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Lewis Ferebee requesting more information on issues raised at the June 26 hearing on school budgeting, including what the scope of their projected deficit is for the current and next fiscal years. They have requested a response by Friday, July 12, 2019.

Update July 12, 2019: Chancellor Ferebee sent a response to Councilmember Grosso and Chairman Mendelson. You can read it here and below.

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Councilmember Grosso reiterates need for the D.C. Council to conduct a full investigation of Councilmember Evans and calls for the removal of Evans from all committees

For Immediate Release:
June 21, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Councilmember Grosso reiterates need for the D.C. Council to conduct a full investigation of Councilmember Evans and calls for the removal of Evans from all committees

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso on the ethical issues plaguing Councilmember Jack Evans:

"Councilmember Evans’ ethical lapses have created a terrible distraction for the Council of the District of Columbia and it is preventing this body from moving forward with its work in a manner that instills trust and confidence in the public. The Council has abdicated its responsibility to conduct an investigation of one of its members–to its own detriment. We cannot continue to incrementally sanction Councilmember Evans based on a slow trickle of information from media outlets. Only a full investigation will provide Councilmembers with the necessary information to act appropriately and with finality.

"Chairman Mendelson must appoint an ad hoc committee to fully investigate Councilmember Evans and Councilmember Evans should be removed from all Committees while that investigation moves forward."

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Councilmember Grosso calls on Councilmember Evans to resign from WMATA Board and for the D.C. Council to conduct a full investigation

For Immediate Release:
June 20, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Councilmember Grosso calls on Councilmember Evans to resign from WMATA Board and for the D.C. Council to conduct a full investigation

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso on recent news reports of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority's ethics investigation into Councilmember Jack Evans:

"Councilmember Jack Evans’ reputation and ability to faithfully represent the people of the District of Columbia to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority are beyond repair and he should resign from the Board of Directors immediately.

"Councilmember Evans has represented the citizens of the District of Columbia on the WMATA Board since 2015. In that time, he has 'knowingly' engaged in 'a pattern of conduct in which Evans attempted to and did help his friends and clients and served their interests' rather than the interests of WMATA or D.C. residents. Worse still, his attempt to obfuscate WMATA’s Ethics Committee’s findings have tarnished the District’s reputation in the eyes of our partner jurisdictions. There are 12 other members of the Council who could bring a strong, ethical, diverse, and respected voice to the WMATA Board and begin to repair our critical regional relationships.

"Furthermore, Councilmember Evans’ actions throughout the WMATA ethics investigation and his statements this week have called into question his honesty. His entire strategy is to avoid public accountability for his actions. By eschewing an ad hoc committee to investigate Councilmember Evans’ potential violation of the Council’s Code of Conduct in favor of a mere reprimand and minor committee reassignments, the Council has abdicated its responsibility to hold its members accountable.

"If the WMATA Ethics Committee can investigate without interference from federal authorities, the Council should do the same and hold Councilmember Evans accountable. I grow increasingly concerned that our failure to conduct a thorough and full investigation will allow further media reports of Councilmember Evans’ behavior to distract the Council from its work on behalf of the residents of the District of Columbia and corrode the public trust.

"The people of the District of Columbia deserve a full accounting of the misuse of his public office and potential violations of the Council’s Code of Conduct. I urge Chairman Mendelson to immediately appoint an ad hoc committee to carry out this task."

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Council preserves independence and dedicated funding for arts and humanities in final action on FY2020 budget

For Immediate Release:
June 18, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Council preserves independence and dedicated funding for arts and humanities in final action on FY2020 budget

Washington, D.C. – The Council provided strong support for the arts and humanities today as it finalized the fiscal year 2020 budget with policy changes that preserve dedicated arts funding and improve the independence of the Commission on Arts and Humanities–both priorities for Councilmember David Grosso.

“The restoration of dedicated funding for the arts and humanities sends a strong signal that the Council is committed to a stable funding stream for our cultural institutions,” Grosso said. “It is especially important that we have provided a past due dedication to the humanities, which elevates the appreciation of our local history and culture.”

Last year, Councilmember Grosso worked with his colleagues to secure a dedicated funding stream for the arts and humanities in D.C.’s fiscal year 2019 budget. However, the mayor’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2020 repealed that dedication

“I am also excited about the restructuring of the Commission on Arts and Humanities that we passed today,” Grosso said. “These reforms will insulate the commission from political interference, ensure more equitable and reliable funding for the arts, and provide stability through the authorization of multi-year grants.”

“I appreciate Chairman Mendelson’s partnership in these efforts that put the arts and humanities on a path to become an even greater cultural force in the District of Columbia,” Grosso said. “I’m looking forward to where we go from here. I look forward to a productive hearing on the Cultural Plan and how we can work together over the coming months to focus on elevating arts education as a policy priority across the District of Columbia.”

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Statement of Councilmember Grosso on suspension of Springboard programs at D.C. schools

For Immediate Release:
June 12, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Statement of Councilmember Grosso on suspension of Springboard programs at D.C. schools

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso, chairperson of the Committee on Education, on the suspension of Springboard Education’s before- and after-care programs following a sexual abuse incident that involved a Springboard employee at Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan:

“I take very seriously the issue of sexual assault and abuse, especially against our students. Youth deserve a safe environment in which to learn and incidents like what happened at Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan violate their sense of security. We must redouble our efforts to prevent these violations. 

“That is why I recently introduced, passed, and fully funded the School Safety Omnibus Amendment Act. This law 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. The bill also increases the requirements of D.C. Public Schools, charter schools, and private schools to uncover past sexual misconduct of any potential employees who will have direct contact with students, including those who provide before- and after-care. Schools must also train staff, contractors, and volunteers on preventing, detecting, and reporting sexual abuse or misconduct. 

“In just the past year, several incidences of sexual assault—whether perpetrated by students or by adults against students—have occurred here in the District of Columbia, in traditional public, public charter, and private schools. It was upsetting enough to learn of these incidents, but in too many cases we also learned that the school’s response was inadequate.

“I want to commend DCPS for following the proper protocols and referring the situation to the Metropolitan Police Department when they were informed of the incident. I also applaud both DCPS and charter schools who have contracted with Springboard for acting swiftly to suspend their services. However, greater efforts must be made before employees ever step foot in our schools to guarantee that they do not intend to harm our students. I have further questions about how schools, and the Office of the State Superintendent of Education when appropriate, are ensuring that contractors like Springboard have conducted the proper screening of employees. This incident also shows the need for training and clear policies on detecting sexual abuse including red flags of potential violations.”

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Sense of the Council Urging the Federal Government to End its Embargo Against Cuba Resolution of 2019

Sense of the Council Urging the Federal Government to End its Embargo Against Cuba Resolution of 2019

Introduced: June 4, 2019

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

BILL TEXT

Summary: This resolution reaffirms the District's status as a guardian of human rights for all people and calls on the President and Congress to act quickly to end all aspects of the U.S. economic, commercial, and financial embargo against Cuba, as well as, end all restrictions on travel to Cuba by U.S.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Today along with my colleagues, Councilmembers Brianne Nadeau, Mary Cheh, and Robert White, I am introducing the Sense of the Council Urging the Federal Government to End its Embargo Against Cuba Resolution of 2019.

Since 1959, when Fidel Castro seized power in Havana, overthrowing the U.S.-backed government of Fulgencio Batista, the relationship between the United States and Cuba has been plagued by distrust and hostility.

In the decades to follow, economic and diplomatic isolation have come to characterize the U.S. government's policy toward Cuba, with the United States at times engaging in hostile, aggressive and sometimes violent actions against the island nation.

Under the Obama administration, enormous strides were made to reestablish diplomatic relations between the two countries. President Obama eased restrictions on travel and trade, repealed the "wet foot, dry foot" policy, and eventually announced that he and Raul Castro would work to restore full diplomatic ties.

Unfortunately, the Trump administration has altered several Obama-era regulations including eliminating the "people-to-people educational travel" category for U.S. citizens to qualify for a license from the Treasury Department to travel to Cuba.

Additionally, the Trump administration has pulled 2/3rds of its embassy staff from Havana and imposed prohibitions on commerce.

The more the Trump administration seeks to asphyxiate Cuba, the harder the Cuban government will impose political discipline on its people. In the end, the Trump administration's approach will only serve to create scarcity, desperation, and chaos for the Cuban people.

This resolution reaffirms the District's status as a guardian of human rights for all people and calls on the President and Congress to act quickly to end all aspects of the U.S. economic, commercial, and financial embargo against Cuba, as well as, end all restrictions on travel to Cuba by U.S. Citizens.

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Councilmember David Grosso re-introduces legislation to decriminalize sex work in D.C.

For Immediate Release: 
June 3, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, (202) 724-8105

Councilmember David Grosso re-introduces legislation to decriminalize sex work in D.C.

Washington, D.C. – With increased support from Council colleagues, Councilmember David Grosso today announced the re-introduction of legislation that would reduce violence and improve public health and safety by removing criminal penalties for consensual sexual exchange in the District of Columbia.

“It is long past time for D.C. to reconsider the framework in which we handle commercial sex—and move from one of criminalization to a new approach that focuses on human rights, health, and safety,” Grosso said at a press conference and rally held in support of the bill with the Sex Worker Advocates Coalition on Monday.

The Community Safety and Health Amendment Act of 2019 eliminates criminal prohibitions and penalties for consensual sex work and establishes a task force to evaluate the effects of removing criminal penalties and recommend further improvements to public safety, health, and human rights.

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

Removing criminal penalties for engaging in sexual exchange reduces public violence and protects sex workers. People in the sex trade are safest when their work is not criminalized. It allows them to better screen clients, to negotiate safer sex practices, and to report incidents of trafficking or client and police violence.

“Decriminalizing sex work will make life easier not only for the people that complain about K Street, but also for the girls who are getting turned away from jobs, housing, health care, and more. Everyone needs to survive, and everyone needs to make money. If Sis has to turn to sex work so she can buy a room or so she can eat, don't send her to jail,” said Tiara Moten, Lead Organizer with No Justice No Pride.

Eighty percent of sex workers report experiencing some form of violence in the course of their work. This is especially true for sex workers from communities that already face increased discrimination such as immigrants, LGBTQ individuals, and individuals of color. Criminalization discourages sex workers from reporting these incidents.

“It is appropriate that we address this issue at the start of LGBTQ Pride month that commemorates the 50th anniversary of the riots at the Stonewall Inn. We know that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and especially transgender individuals engage in sex work at higher rates, making decriminalization of sex work an LGBTQ issue,” said Benjamin Brooks, Assistant Director for Policy at Whitman Walker Health. “Removing criminal penalties recognizes the dignity of the individual and removes key barriers to preventing HIV and improving health for our communities.”

"As a faith leader, a Black woman, and an advocate for abused and neglected children, at-risk youth, adjudicated youth, victims of domestic violence, women’s issues, and cancer patients I believe that Black women deserve to live free from violence and provide for themselves and their families. I support the decriminalization of sex work because criminalization only harms our communities and we must support and love one another not ostracize each other,” said Rev. Shirley Currie, associate minister at Allen Chapel A.M.E. Church.

Protections for minors and prohibitions against coercion, exploitation, and human trafficking already exists in D.C. law and remain untouched by Grosso’s bill.

“This legislation slightly differs from the previous version by leaving some language in the code making it crystal clear that coercion, exploitation, and human trafficking are not tolerated in D.C.,” Grosso said.

Grosso’s proposal now enjoys expanded support on the Council. Only Councilmember Robert White co-introduced the legislation back in 2017. This time, Councilmembers Anita Bonds and Brianne Nadeau have added their names.

Grosso developed the legislation in close partnership with the Sex Worker Advocates Coalition (SWAC), a coalition of more than nearly two dozen local and national organizations: HIPS, ACLU DC, GLAA, Collective Action for Safe Spaces, D.C. Rape Crisis Center, Amara Legal Center, National Center for Trans Equality, Whitman Walker Health, Casa Ruby, Best Practices Policy Project, SWOP-USA, Black Youth Project (BYP) 100, Black Lives Matter DMV, No Justice No Pride, D.C. Center for the LGBT Community, Bread for the City, Network for Victims Recovery DC, National Center for Lesbian Rights, Ultraviolet, Center for Health and Gender Equity, and URGE.

“I want to thank everyone who has contributed their voice to the development of this legislation, has endorsed its approach, or engaged with elected officials to build to the unprecedented level of support we see here today,” Grosso said. “ 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.”

The bill will officially be re-introduced tomorrow, June 4, 2019 at the Council's regular legislative meeting. It will likely be referred to the Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety.

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Community Safety and Health Amendment Act of 2019

Community Safety and Health Amendment Act of 2019

Introduced: June 4, 2019

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

FACT SHEETS | BILL TEXT | PRESS RELEASE | MYTH vs. FACT

Summary: To amend 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.


Community Safety and Health Amendment Act of 2019 - FACT SHEET.png

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Councilmember Grosso seeks to protect medical marijuana patients from employment discrimination by D.C. government

For Immediate Release:
May 28, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Councilmember Grosso seeks to protect medical marijuana patients from employment discrimination by D.C. government

Washington, D.C. – Councilmember David Grosso today introduced legislation that would protect current or prospective District of Columbia government employees from discrimination based on their enrollment in medical marijuana programs.

“Medical marijuana is no different than any other prescription medication. Individuals who are using it to manage their personal medical conditions should not have to also worry that they will lose their job or not be hired,” Grosso said. “However, over the past several months I have heard in the press and from constituents that some D.C. agencies are willfully ignoring existing policy allowing for exceptions for these individuals.”

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

However, current and prospective employees of from several government agencies have reported treatment inconsistent with official policy.

The Medical Marijuana Program Patient Employee Protection Amendment Act of 2019 would enshrine in the law a prohibition against D.C. government agencies discriminating in employment against an individual for participation in the medical marijuana program.

“Unless there is a federal law or rule that requires it, D.C. government should not refuse to hire, fire, or penalize individuals for using medical marijuana, as long as they are not consuming on the job or showing up intoxicated."

Councilmember Grosso, himself a member of the District’s Medical Marijuana Program, has corresponded with DOC Director Quincy Booth since November 2018 to resolve this issue. Grosso, along with five of his colleagues, also sent a letter to the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice Kevin Donahue seeking his intervention. Both efforts were unsuccessful.

“I have tried to work with the Department of Corrections to get this fixed, but it has now become necessary to legislate and immediately correct this inconsistency,” Grosso said. “To that end, I will also be moving this bill as emergency legislation at the next legislative meeting.”

Councilmembers Anita Bonds, Robert White, Brianne Nadeau, Mary Cheh, and Vincent Gray joined Councilmember Grosso as co-introducers of the legislation. Councilmembers Jack Evans, Kenyan McDuffie, and Charles Allen co-sponsored the bill.

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Councilmember Grosso’s priorities funded in final fiscal year 2020 budget

For Immediate Release: 
May 28, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, (202) 724-8105

Councilmember Grosso’s priorities funded in final fiscal year 2020 budget

Washington, D.C. – Councilmember David Grosso, chairperson of the Committee on Education, celebrated investments in his budget priorities included in the District of Columbia's fiscal year 2020 budget following today’s final approval by the D.C. Council.

“Putting our students in the best position to succeed requires a greater commitment to funding education. The Committee on Education was able to work with several other committees to increase per student and at-risk funding to better support our students’ needs and set them up for academic success,” said Grosso. “While we must continue to provide additional resources, I am proud of the budget we have passed today. It fully invests in the Committee on Education’s efforts over the past two years to reduce exclusionary discipline, combat sexual assault and abuse in our schools, and improve the academic success of our most vulnerable students.”

Education investment highlights include:

  • Increases per-student funding by 3%, including an increase in the weight for students at-risk of academic failure to 0.225.

  • Fully funds the Fair Access to School law to reduce the use of exclusionary discipline and address the root causes of student behavioral issues with $9 million more for school-based mental health services.

  • Fully funds School Safety Act to ensure schools are working to prevent and properly handle cases of sexual assault and abuse through better policies, improved hiring practices, and age-appropriate consent education.

  • Fully funds the creation of a multi-stakeholder Students in the Care of the District of Columbia Committee to identify challenges and resolve issues that students in detainment, commitment, incarceration, and foster care face in achieving academic success.

  • Promotes safe passage to increase student attendance with funding for a District Department of Transportation safe routes coordinator to work with schools.

  • Invests over $2 million in the successful early literacy intervention program that gets students at or above reading level by third grade.

  • Restores funding for St. Coletta of Greater Washington to support their work educating the District’s most vulnerable students. 

Grosso also succeeded in his fight to restore $53 million for the long-delayed modernization of Banneker Academic High School and relocate the school to the former Shaw Jr. High site on Rhode Island Avenue NW to ensure it would not face further delays.

“Today’s budget passage is a major victory for the Banneker community which has waited far too long for a school building that meets its academic needs. I’m proud of the students and community members who have advocated for their school. Their voices have had a tremendous impact and their modernization will now move forward in a timely manner,” Grosso said.

In addition to his work on the Education Committee, Councilmember Grosso secured or supported changes to the budget in the areas of health, public safety, human services, the arts and humanities, transportation, and good government:

  • Over $4 million increase to expand violence interruption teams to additional neighborhoods.

  • Initial funds to implement Grosso’s Medical Marijuana Patient Health and Accessibility Improvement Amendment Act of 2019 when it passes, specifically to set up facilities where medical marijuana patients can consume if they are not allowed to do so at their home.

  • Restores dedicated funding for arts and humanities grants and strengthens the independence of the Commission on the Arts and Humanities.

  • Fully funds public restrooms legislation to build two new public restrooms sites each year and give incentives to businesses downtown to make their restrooms available to the public.

  • Funds 60 new shelter beds, 50 new transitional housing slots, and 35 permanent supportive housing units to combat youth homelessness.

  • Invests in ending chronic homelessness for about 600 individuals through permanent supportive housing and targeted affordable housing and continues homeless outreach despite the end of a federal grant.

  • Combats family homelessness with 180 new units of permanent supportive housing and 200 new units of targeted affordable.

  • Reverses the mayor’s cut of about $500,000 Emergency Rental Assistance Program and further increases it by over $600,000.

  • Advances the design of the East Downtown protected bike lane project, for which Grosso has advocated.

  • Leaves out an inappropriate Freedom of Information Act amendment which would decrease government transparency and accountability.

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Medical Marijuana Program Patient Employment Protection Amendment Act of 2019

Medical Marijuana Program Patient Employment Protection Amendment Act of 2019

Introduced: May 28, 2019

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Anita Bonds, Robert White, Brianne Nadeau, Mary Cheh, and Vincent Gray

BILL TEXT | PRESS RELEASE

Summary: To amend the District of Columbia Government Comprehensive Merit Personnel Act of 1978 and the Department of Corrections Employee Mandatory Drug and Alcohol Testing Act of 1996 to prohibit the District of Columbia government from discriminating, in employment, against an individual for participation in the medical marijuana program.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Today I am introducing the Medical Marijuana Program Patient Employee Protection Amendment Act of 2019, and I thank Councilmembers Vincent Gray, Robert White, Anita Bonds, Brianne Nadeau and Mary Cheh for joining me as co-introducers.

The voters of the District of Columbia approved establishment of a medical marijuana program in 1999, but due to Congressional interference, the program was not set up and running until a little less than ten years ago.

Since that time, the Council and the executive have worked to improve the program to make medical marijuana available to D.C. residents who need it.

Unfortunately, unlike a number of other jurisdictions, we never updated our laws regarding drug testing to account for the fact that D.C. government employees could be patients registered with the program.

On the positive side, the Department of Human Resources on its own implemented a policy for employees who are registered with the medical marijuana program and who test positive for marijuana in the course of the routine testing that happens for some positions.

I found this out after I began to hear complaints from constituents last year about the fact that some agencies were NOT following the DCHR policy.

While those agencies, including the Department of Corrections, have the right to set their own policies on the topic, the decision to penalize employees for seeking medicine is definitely not the right one to make.

I have tried to work with the Department of Corrections to get this fixed, including sending a letter along with several of my colleagues asking them to follow the DCHR policy.

DOC did not respond for over a month, and then claimed that they were following the policy, which is not true. While they are allowed to do routine testing for safety sensitive positions, they must also allow patients to present their medical marijuana card as explanation for positive results.

Simply put, unless there is a federal law or rule that requires it, D.C. government should not be refusing to hire, firing, or penalizing individuals for using medical marijuana, as long as they are not consuming on the job or showing up intoxicated.

Frankly it is embarrassing that it has taken us this long to take up this measure.

I hope that between this bill and the proposal from Councilmember Trayon White a few weeks ago regarding pre-employment drug testing, the Committee on Labor and Workforce Development can lead a comprehensive discussion in the city about drug testing in both the public and private sectors and come up with a common sense set of reforms to pass.

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Statement of Councilmember Grosso on latest federal government attacks on transgender communities

For Immediate Release: 
May 24, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, (202) 724-8105

Statement of Councilmember Grosso on latest federal government attacks on transgender communities

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso, chairperson of the Committee on Education, on the new proposals from the Department of Housing and Urban Development and Department of Health and Human Services to roll back protections for transgender people accessing shelter and health care:

“The latest efforts by the federal government to retreat from its responsibility to protect everyone’s human rights are deeply upsetting. It is especially appalling that the Trump administration is proposing to repeal protections for transgender individuals on the eve of LGBT Pride Month, on the heels of the murders of three black transgender women, and one week after International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.

“While the Trump administration wants to give a green light to shelters, housing programs, doctors and medical institutions to turn away transgender people, in D.C. the law will not change. Our local Human Rights Act explicitly protects our transgender, intersex, gender non-conforming, and non-binary residents, workers, and visitors from discrimination. It is critical that the D.C. government double down on its commitment to protect these community members from discrimination and get the word out that anti-transgender bias has no place in the District of Columbia.

“When I first learned of the possibility of rulemaking by the federal Department of Health and Human Services to redefine sex discrimination to explicitly exclude transgender protections, I introduced, and the Council unanimously passed, the Sense of the Council in Support of Transgender, Intersex, and Gender Non-Conforming Communities Resolution of 2018 last November. That resolution includes a requirement that the Secretary of the Council submit the resolution as official public comment on any relevant proposed rulemaking, on behalf of the Council of the District of Columbia. I will be following up to ensure that this happens.

“Even before this latest news, the transgender community of D.C. has been calling on the government to do more. One of those requests has been to stop arrests for commercial sex and to focus law enforcement efforts on ensuring the safety of sex workers and stopping exploitation or coercion. Next month I will be re-introducing legislation to that end.

“To the transgender communities of D.C. please know that you are loved and that the District stands with you.”

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Statement of Councilmember Grosso on CDC study regarding students who trade sex for survival needs

For Immediate Release: 
May 16, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, (202) 724-8105

Statement of Councilmember Grosso on CDC study regarding students who trade sex for survival needs

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso, chairperson of the Committee on Education, on a new analysis of Youth Risk Behavior Survey results that found 7.4 percent of D.C. high schoolers have exchanged sex for money, a place to stay, food or something else of value, as first reported by WAMU:

“Students turning to trading sex for survival needs is a stunning failure of the District of Columbia to aid the youth who need our support most. What is most frustrating is that we know these kids. We have the opportunity to help them every day when they step foot into our school buildings. Yet we do not meet them where they are with the services they need.

“How can we demand academic excellence from them and put them on the path to a successful future when they do not know where they will rest their head that night or where their next meal is coming from? The study also notes that these students are at a greater risk of contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. If these students do not have access to food and shelter, it's unlikely they have regular access to medical treatment.

“Compounding these disadvantages, D.C. continues to take a failed law enforcement approach to the sex trade. While I helped end the prosecution of minors involved in commercial sex in 2014, they are still subject to arrest. Adults are still fully criminalized, even though these conditions of poverty do not change when someone turns 18. Criminalizing those who engage in sex work directly undercuts their efforts to leave behind homelessness or hunger, while exposing them to greater physical and health risks. Arrest records become a barrier to other income sources or opportunities, leaving them with fewer options than before. It’s a trap.

“Despite this upsetting state of affairs, I believe we continue to make progress. We have included more money in this year’s budget to support homeless youth and provide greater access to food. I have been meeting with education leaders to address our rising HIV and STI rates among youth through comprehensive sexual education and reproductive health resources in schools.

“However, to say ‘We need to do more’ is a gross understatement. We need to provide additional social, behavioral, and physical health supports in our schools, policies I have pursued during my time as chairperson of the Committee on Education. It’s also time for a new approach to how D.C. handles sex trade, from one of criminalization to one that is focused on health and safety.”

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Councilmember Grosso introduces progressive property tax to fund equitable public investments

For Immediate Release: 
May 13, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, (202) 724-8105

Councilmember Grosso introduces progressive property tax to fund equitable public investments

Washington, D.C. – Today Councilmember David Grosso, chairperson of the Committee on Education, introduced legislation to generate new revenue for the District of Columbia’s budget priorities with a progressive tax on high-value properties.

“D.C. has experienced tremendous economic growth in the past decade, but not everyone has shared in that prosperity,” said Grosso. “Instead, the income and wealth gap has widened in that period and is starkest along racial lines.”

The wealthiest 20 percent of households in D.C. make 7.5 times as much income annually compared to the poorest 20 percent. The average wealth of white households is now 81 times that of the average Black household.

“Every budget cycle, investments in educating our students, ending homelessness, and preventing violence in our communities fall short. A high-value property tax would address racial inequity by raising resources from those most well off to fund public investments to lift up those who have been left behind,” said Grosso.

Currently, residential property is taxed at 85 cents per $100 of value, prior to deductions for principal residences and for senior citizens. The Residential Real Property Taxes Equitable Alignment Act of 2019 would create two additional marginal rates for high-valued properties, taxing $1.25 for every $100 of value over $1.5 million and $1.50 for every $100 in value over $5 million.

“The richest 1 percent of D.C. households pay less in property taxes as a share of family income than households at any other income range–just 1.7 percent compared to 3.6 percent for our lowest income families. My proposal makes our property tax structure more equitable by increasing the rates on those at the top,” said Grosso.

Grosso originally planned to offer the legislation as a budget amendment but decided to introduce it as a standalone bill to continue the public conversation.

“I appreciate the public engagement I have received on this issue since I first raised it as part of the Council’s budget working session last week. I have made changes to the original proposal based on that input, but believe we need to consider additional revenue streams to aid those who have not reaped the benefits of our city’s economic growth. I hope the public continues to share their thoughts through the traditional legislative process on this measure and other options for raising revenue.”

Councilmember Brianne Nadeau joined Grosso as a co-introducer of the legislation.

The legislation will likely be referred to the Committee on Finance and Revenue, chaired by Councilmember Jack Evans.

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Curb Extensions Act of 2019

Curb Extensions Act of 2019

Introduced: May 7, 2019

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Anita Bonds, Elissa Silverman, Brianne Nadeau, Mary Cheh, Brandon Todd, and Charles Allen

BILL TEXT | PRESS RELEASE

Summary: To require the installation of curb extensions to reduce pedestrian crossing distances when the District performs reconstructions and repavings of roadways.

Councilmember Grosso’s Introduction Statement

Thank you Chairman Mendelson.

All road users, and especially pedestrians, are incredibly vulnerable at intersections.

Unfortunately, we are constantly reminded of this fact, as many of the pedestrians killed recently on our streets were in a crosswalk, like Monica Adams Carlson and Cora Louise Adam just a few blocks away from here on Pennsylvania Avenue.

The standard now is for pedestrians to cross the parking lanes before they have a chance to cross the general travel lanes.

This makes them less visible to cars, extends the crossing time, and makes it too easy for drivers to park in areas that block crosswalks.

Today, along with my colleagues Brianne Nadeau, Elissa Silverman, Charles Allen, Brandon Todd, and Anita Bonds, I am introducing the Curb Extensions Act of 2019 to require the District Department of Transportation to install curb extensions whenever it performs road reconstruction or repavement work.

Curb extensions prioritize pedestrian safety by raising crosswalks to sidewalk level and shortening crossing distances. They also provide an opportunity to beautify our streets and expand our urban tree canopy with additional space for greenery.

Further, curb extensions narrow the turning radius for vehicles, forcing cars to slow down at intersections and effectively making our streets and sidewalks safer for all modes of transportation, not just pedestrians.

We need to change the culture at DDOT in order to achieve our Vision Zero goals of eliminating serious injuries and deaths on our roads. This will never happen as long as we, by default, continually rebuild our dangerous intersections in their same unsafe configurations.

Thank you and I welcome any co-sponsors.

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Councilmember Grosso introduces legislation to improve pedestrian safety with extended curbs

For Immediate Release: 
May 7, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, (202) 724-8105

Councilmember Grosso introduces legislation to improve pedestrian safety with extended curbs

Washington, D.C. – Councilmember David Grosso today introduced legislation that would increase pedestrian safety at crosswalks by requiring curb extensions as part of any future District Department of Transportation road improvements.

“All road users, especially pedestrians, are incredibly vulnerable at intersections,” Grosso said. “Unfortunately, we are reminded of this too often with the deaths of pedestrians in crosswalks, like Monica Adams Carlson and Cora Louise Adams last year just a few blocks away from here on Pennsylvania Avenue.”

The Curb Extensions Act of 2019 would target intersections for improvement by forcing DDOT to extend the curbs whenever it performs road reconstruction or repaving work.

Curb extensions lengthen the curb to align with parking lanes and reduce the amount of time pedestrians spend in the crosswalk.

“Curb extensions make pedestrians safer. Pedestrians are more visible to drivers, crossing times are shortened, and vehicles are forced to slow down at intersections,” said Grosso. “As an added benefit, it also expands opportunities to beautify our streets and expand our urban tree canopy with additional greenery.”

“Meeting the District of Columbia’s Vision Zero goal of eliminating serious injuries and deaths on our roads means shifting the culture of DDOT to focus on the safety of all modes of transportation, not just cars,” Grosso said. “This will never happen as long as we continually rebuild our dangerous intersections in their same, unsafe configurations.”

Councilmembers Anita Bonds, Elissa Silverman, Brianne Nadeau, Mary Cheh, Brandon Todd, and Charles Allen joined Grosso as co-introducers of the legislation.

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