‘Tis the season for gratitude and cheer – and there is so much to brighten our spirits as we head deeper into the holiday season. As many of you are aware, our younger residents ages 5 to 11 are finally eligible to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. Booster shots are now available for all residents 18 and older who received their second COVID vaccine shot on or before May 29, 2021. You can find sites here. Twenty months into this pandemic, getting vaccinated still remains the number one form of protection.
As of last week, the Mayor has lifted the mask mandate with the exception of schools, childcare centers, District government buildings, public transportation, congregate settings, and private businesses who require it. The timing and broad nature of this announcement was surprising to me. For months I have been calling on the Mayor to provide the metrics underpinning the mask mandate so that we could anticipate the eventual wind down. We need clear communication and transparency in data and decision-making if we want to continue to save lives as this pandemic becomes an endemic. I will continue to fight for transparency and keep you informed of updates like this one.
In addition to this news, I want to share legislative updates the Council has considered this past month. You will find a full summary of items like ranked choice voting, cannabis legislation, and student immunizations below. This month, I also spoke on the busy Council schedule with WAMU’s The Politics Hour, please feel free to listen to the episode.
Further, I have redistricting news for you. After 11 public hearings, 40 hours of testimony from 150 residents, and 220 map submissions the Subcommittee on Redistricting approved an updated Ward map on Friday, November 19th. You can find the map depicting the updated ward boundaries here and the subcommittee’s report describing the changes here. Thank you to all the public witnesses who engaged in this process and those who took time to submit maps. The full Council will vote on December 7th.
Finally, I want to take a moment to acknowledge that this month we also observed the Transgender Day of Remembrance. I hope you will take a moment to honor the memory of those trans and gender-diverse people who have been victims of homicide in 2021. Earlier this month, the Council passed a resolution to celebrate the resilience of trans individuals in our community.
It is hard to believe we are nearing the end of this calendar year. I wish you a healthy beginning to the holiday season with family. I look forward to seeing you around the community before the end of this year.
Christina Henderson Councilmember, At-Large ChristinaHendersonDC.com
Locations across the District to get your children 5-11 years old vaccinated. These sites are open until December 4th. Find more information at vaccinate.dc.gov.
The First Map Released on Future Ward Boundaries
Over the past two months, the Subcommittee on Redistricting has held 11 public hearings, engaged residents in all 8 wards, and received 220 draft maps from our neighbors. I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge the leadership of Councilmember Silverman who chaired the subcommittee, making this process the most transparent and engaging we’ve seen in modern times.
In addition to the subcommittee’s work, I have engaged in discussions outside of the public hearings through social media, ANCs, members of Greek organizations, and more. If you have not had the opportunity to make your voice heard throughout this process, you can still submit a proposed map for consideration.
Below is the final map that the Subcommittee approved and will advanced to the full Council. You can watch our first full Council vote on the proposed redistricting bill on Tuesday, December 7th. The full timeline ahead is below.
Dec. 7th | First Council vote on new Ward boundaries
Dec. 21st | Second Council vote on new Ward boundaries
Early Dec. | Ward task forces are appointed and begin work on ANC boundaries. More information below about this.
2022 | ANC boundary hearings will happen throughout March and April with a final vote on the new lines before the end of June.
Participating in ANC Boundary Task Forces
As you can see from the above timeline, our next step in the redistricting process will be to redraw our ANC boundaries. As an At-Large member of the Council, I have the opportunity to appoint one resident to each Ward task force. The Ward task forces will ensure a transparent process, producing map recommendations that the public can understand with confidence.
If you are interested in being appointed to one of the Ward task forces, please complete and submit this form. The deadline for submissions is December 7th. Nominees will be notified by December 14th. Thank you in advance for your interest.
Public Hearing Summaries and Impact
The Council continues to have a busy hearing schedule into the end of the year. Public hearings provide an opportunity for both public and government witnesses to support legislation or offer suggestions for improvement on what has been introduced. Just this past month, I have heard from many residents on different bills that I introduced earlier this year and more meaningful issues. Below is a summary of the hearing highlights from last month. Thank you to all the public witnesses who took time to testify.
Wed., October 27 -- Coronavirus Immunization of School Students and Early Childhood Workers Amendment Act of 2021 (B24-423)
Summary: My bill would add the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of required immunizations for students to receive in order to attend school. As written, this requirement would go into effect on December 15th, however we heard from many witnesses at the hearing with concerns about implementation on that timeline. I am open adjustments to the legislation, in accordance with logistical concerns surrounding vaccine deployment. Overall, I thank all the public witnesses – namely school community leaders, teachers, high school students, and more – who came out to testify. I am working to create the safest environment for our kids to learn in person.
Impact: The next step for this legislation will be a markup in the Committee of the Whole. The Chairman and I are working closely to make sure an implementation plan and path to success is clear and I am hopeful we can pass this bill in December.
Wed., November 10 – Public Oversight Roundtable on the Conditions of Confinement at the DC Jail
Summary: Prior to this hearing, I visited the DC Jail and discussed the findings of the US Marshal report with Department of Corrections Director Quincy Booth. Since my first visit to the DC Jail in 2014 as a Council staffer, we’ve known that conditions require significant investment in a new facility. We must stop placing band-aids on infrastructure that requires such deep improvements. This visit and hearing confirmed my observations, and led me to ask how we will work to implement both short-term and long-term solutions. We have the opportunity to holistically consider the proper size of our facility and whether all residents of the Jail could remain here in the District for their sentences, with routine access to family and counsel, and not subject to the whims of the federal Bureau of Prisons.
Impact: With the support of the DC Deputy Mayor for Public Safety, the DC Department of Corrections, and the US Marshals Service came to an agreement on improving conditions of the DC Jail. The Jail is not built for rehabilitation, that must change.
Fri., November 12 – State Superintendent of Education Dr. Christina Grant Confirmation Resolution of 2021 (PR 24-393)
Summary: The Committee of the Whole held a public hearing on Dr. Christina Grant’s nomination to the Office of State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) as the new State Superintendent of Education. During the hearing, many witnesses vocalized support for Dr. Grant and urged the Committee to approve her nomination. I asked Dr. Grant about her plans for OSSE regarding the District’s special education, postsecondary education, and early childcare programs. I look forward to working with Dr. Grant in the future.
Impact: The Committee of the Whole will hold a markup on the resolution appointing Dr. Grant before the measure moves to the Council for first and second reading.
Mon., November 15 – Minor Access to Medical Records and Appointments Amendment Act of 2021 (B24-0231)
Summary: Currently, our regulations permit minors to seek medical care without parental consent for treatment in four areas: pregnancy and birth control, sexually transmitted diseases, substance abuse and mental health. At this hearing, we heard powerful testimony from a public witness who is a public health professional and who shared her experience attempting to book appointments while posing as a minor for the purpose of this hearing. She could only book her appointments with 2 of 14 clinics called. This bill would give older teens capable of giving informed consent to their provider a lifeline to act on their own.
Impact: This bill would allow residents 16 or older to access their own medical records and make their own medical appointments. It’s time we allow those who have teenagers’ best interests at heart to make sure they get care – and that person is themselves. I am optimistic for a forthcoming markup in the Committee of Health.
Thurs., November 18 – Voter Ownership, Integrity, Choice, and Equity (VOICE) Amendment Act of 2021 (B24-0372)
Summary: This legislation would bring Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) to the District for our 2024 elections and establish a voter education campaign to implement this change successfully. When I was one of 24 candidates in the last At-Large race, I actually ran my campaign with an RCV approach. Many voters had not made up their mind on their second vote, so I went citywide asking for it. We heard from over 100 witnesses Thursday, many from the District who shared how this new system would support their collective voting power. We heard from experts on the mechanics of RCV and former candidates who support the system. Finally, we heard from residents who are still unsure of how RCV would work in DC. We must focus on facts and data to thoughtfully examine the opportunity the VOICE Act presents. It’s time to expand representation and participation in the District.
Impact: The Committee will need to hold a markup on this bill. RCV is proven to support women of color and first-time candidates, re-engage voters, and supplant negative campaign tactics. When every voter is confident that their voice has been heard, that is a win for democracy and the health of the community.
Fri., November 19 – Cannabis Industry Legalization and Regulation
At this hearing, the below two pieces of legislation introduced different approaches to regulating the anticipated, legal cannabis industry. We still need Congress to remove the rider which currently prevents proper taxation and regulation for this industry. The District of Columbia deserves to join 18 other states who have established such regulations for recreational and medical cannabis.
Comprehensive Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Act of 2021 (B24-0118) was introduced by Chairman Mendelson and has 4 key points.
Reserves 50% of cannabis business licenses for residents who have been convicted for cannabis-related offenses, or those who live in areas of high crime, poverty, or unemployment
This legislation would tax recreational cannabis sales at 13% and medical at 6%
Funds from tax revenue would go to two funds: The first receives 30% of the tax revenue from both recreational and medical marijuana sales to conduct outreach to residents who may be interested in employment in this new market. The second fund gets 50% for grants to community-based organizations. The rest goes to the general fund.
Establishes a point system for who would receive the first right to business licenses
This legislation would tax recreational cannabis sales at 17% and medical at 6%
Additionally, this bill would establish a need for business and management licenses for anyone in the cannabis industry
Funds from tax revenue would go to two funds: The first would receive all licensing fees, the second would receive all tax revenue.
I joined the DMV Perinatal Mental Health Symposium held by Mary’s Center. Sharing the zoom room is Dr. Faith Gibson Hubbard, former Director of Thrive by Five DC, and Jamie Zahlaway Belsito, Founder and Policy Director at the Maternal Mental Health Leadership Alliance (MMHLA).
COVID Testing and Vaccination Resources
As we near the holiday season, I am looking forward to time with family and friends. I continue to talk with families in the District about how important it is to make sure your loved ones are protected from the COVID-19 virus before an increase in travel, encountering new people, and both indoor and outdoor events. We know the best protection against the virus is vaccination.
In the District, we have over 74% of our residents partially or fully vaccinated. Our daily case rate per 100,000 residents has dropped below substantial spread for over 2 weeks now. As we see vaccinations increase, positive cases are decreasing. I urge you to support your family and friends who may still need the shot. I look forward to a new normal that is on the horizon.
Here are some helpful resources for vaccinations and testing:
Find the schedule for DC Health pop-up sites that are vaccinating 5-11 year olds here.
Find private companies across the District vaccinating 5-11 year olds here. Find locations for a first dose, second dose, or booster shot for anyone 12 years old and older here.
Councilmember Christina Henderson visited the Remembrance Wall at Union Station. This space led by DC Families for Safe Streets DC to honor those who have lost their lives to traffic violence. Better policy, infrastructure, and enforcement can save lives. We must act quicker.