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Councilmember Grosso endorses plan to expand protected bike lanes by 2020

Councilmember David Grosso, joined by six of his Council colleagues, today sent a letter to District Department of Transportation Director Jeff Marootian in support of the Washington Area Bicycle Association’s proposed 20x20 plan which calls for the creation of 20 miles of protected bike lanes to be completed by the end of 2020.

You can read the letter below:

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Public comment period now open on Trump Administration's anti-transgender health care rule

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is currently accepting public comments on a proposed federal rule that would roll back civil rights protections for transgender individuals, making it more difficult for them to access vital health care in the United States.

Today, Councilmember Grosso ensured that the D.C. Council submits comments opposing the proposed rule-making.

Last November, Councilmember Grosso 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.

“Transgender, intersex, and gender non-conforming people exist and deserve the full and equal protection under the laws of District of Columbia and the United States, the U.S. Constitution, and international law including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” reads the resolution. ”Stigma and discrimination based on gender identity or expression are well documented, including in a national survey of nearly 28,000 transgender individuals that found that…one-third of those who saw a doctor in the previous year faced discrimination. There is no evidence that ensuring civil rights protections for these communities causes harm to anyone else, and in fact leading national experts and associations in the fields of education, health care, child health and welfare, and support for survivors of domestic and sexual violence roundly reject any such claims and support nondiscrimination protections for transgender people.”

The resolution includes a requirement that the Secretary of the Council submit the resolution as public comment on any relevant proposed rule-making, on behalf of the Council of the District of Columbia. I will be following up to ensure that this happens. Today he sent a memorandum to Secretary Nyasha Smith to ensure it is submitted.

“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,” Councilmember Grosso said in May. “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.”

Members of the public are encouraged to submit their own comments opposing the proposed rule before the public comment period ends on August 13, 2019. You can visit https://protecttranshealth.org/ to learn more and submit your own comments.

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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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Grosso and five other Councilmembers request DOC comply with exceptions for employees in medical marijuana programs

On April 25, Councilmember David Grosso, joined by Councilmembers Robert White, Brianne Nadeau, Charles Allen, Vincent Gray, and Trayon White, sent a letter to Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice Kevin Donahue and Department of Corrections Director Quincy Booth requesting that the DOC immediately comply with instructions that allow for employment-related drug testing exceptions for enrollees in medical marijuana programs.

“We are writing out of deep concern for the Department of Corrections’ current practices in regard to employees, or candidates for employment, who are participants in the District of Columbia, or another state’s medical marijuana program. We ask that you immediately bring the DOC into compliance with Department of Human Resources District Personnel Manual Instruction No. 4-34,” they wrote.

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

“…[O]ur concern is not about recreational use of marijuana but rather medical use, a topic that the District of Columbia government experts in human resources have considered,” the councilmembers wrote. “The result of that consideration is DPM instruction No. 4-34, and the DOC should follow that expert advice, or have a very compelling reason for deviating from it.”

The councilmembers also requested that DOC reverse any adverse personnel actions toward employees or candidates for employment which were based solely on their status as a patient enrolled in a medical marijuana program and a positive THC test.

The letter sent yesterday represents the latest inquiry on the topic after Director Booth failed to explain the DOC’s policies in his January response to a letter Councilmember Grosso sent in November 2018 asking 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 in November.

Director 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 treats employees enrolled 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.

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

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FY2020 Budget Oversight Questions and Responses

Councilmember Grosso, as chairperson of the Committee on Education, has received responses to his pre-hearing budget oversight questions from D.C. Public Schools, the Public Charter School Board, D.C. Public Library, the Office of the State Superintendent for Education, the Deputy Mayor for Education, the State Board of Education, The Office of the Student Advocate, and the Office of the Ombudsman for Public Education.

You can find the Committee's questions and agencies responses here.

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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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FY2018 Performance Oversight Questions and Responses

Councilmember Grosso, as chairperson of the Committee on Education, has received responses to his pre-hearing performance oversight questions from D.C. Public Schools, the Public Charter School Board, D.C. Public Library, the Office of the State Superintendent for Education, the Deputy Mayor for Education, the State Board of Education, The Office of the Student Advocate, and the Office of the Ombudsman for Public Education.

You can find the Committee's questions and agencies responses 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 sends Education agencies pre-hearing FY18 performance oversight questions

Councilmember Grosso, as chairperson of the Committee on Education, today sent to the agencies under the Committee’s jurisdiction the pre-hearing questions for the annual performance oversight process, covering fiscal year 2018. find the questions posed to each agency at the links below:

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Councilmember Grosso requests information from City Administrator on D.C. government's acceptance of cash

Last month, Councilmember Grosso sent a letter to City Administrator Rashad Young requesting a full accounting of which D.C. government agencies accept money from the public, for what services, and, of those, which cannot be paid in cash.

Federal data indicates that 1 in 3 D.C. residents are underbanked, while 1 in 10 are unbanked. Additionally, many residents prefer to use cash to better manage their budgets and protect their identities.

Last year, Councilmember Grosso also introduced legislation to stop the trend toward cashless-only payments at local food establishments over concerns about equitable access for residents who are unbanked or underbanked.

Councilmember Grosso also has been monitoring the impact of the pilot program being undertaken on the 79 express bus route.  This pilot will ban the use of cash payment or SmarTrip reloading and Grosso fears that the change could worsen commute options for riders with disabilities or lower income residents.

Councilmember Grosso expects a response from City Administrator Young by January 18, 2019. You can read his letter below:

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Councilmember Grosso urges Congresswoman Norton to oppose backdoor RFK deal

Citing the racist name and lack of transparency and community engagement, Councilmember Grosso today sent a letter to Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton urging her to oppose efforts by Mayor Bowser, Washington Football Team owner Daniel Snyder, Republicans in the House of Representatives, and the Trump Administration to slip a provision into the must-pass end of year federal spending package that would pave the way for a return of the football team to RFK, as first reported by the Washington Post.

“The current effort is the latest ploy by the team and congressional Republicans to avoid public scrutiny,” wrote Grosso. “This process lacks transparency and there has been no engagement with District of Columbia residents or tribal leaders to afford them an opportunity to voice their concerns. The prospect that the District of Columbia would once again welcome a team whose name promotes prejudice and reinforces harmful ethnic stereotyping runs counter to the ideals of equality, diversity and inclusion for all that we have long embodied.”

In his time on the Council, Grosso has repeatedly called for the team to change their name–a racial slur against American Indians–most recently joining indigenous peoples and activists to deliver petitions to the football team. Last year, Grosso joined bipartisan lawmakers from Maryland and Virginia to introduce an interstate compact to prohibit all three jurisdiction from offering public incentives or financing for the construction or maintenance of facilities for the football team.

“As a vote on the appropriations bill could be imminent, there is an urgent need to do whatever is necessary to ensure that this backdoor attempt fails. I stand with the National Congress of American Indians, Advancement Project, NAACP, National Urban League, Race Forward, and other organizations working actively to oppose this effort and I urge you to do all you can to thwart this closed door process,” Grosso concluded.

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Councilmembers Grosso and Nadeau seek clarity on services for transgender youth in CFSA's care

On Oct. 4, Councilmember David Grosso, chairperson of the Committee on Education, and Councilmember Brianne K. Nadeau, chairperson of the Committee on Human Services, sent a letter to the Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA) seeking clarification of its policies regarding the provision of medical services to transgender youth in the agency’s care.

“The governor of California recently signed legislation in that state…setting the appropriate care for youth in foster care to receive gender-affirming health care, including mental health care. Media outlets praised the state as being the first to ensure these rights for transgender youth,” the two councilmembers wrote. “However, it is our belief that this should have already been policy in the District of Columbia based on the provisions of our Human Rights Act and its interpretation, particularly with regards to the Mayor’s Order from February 27, 2014 prohibiting discrimination in health insurance based on gender identity or expression.”

CFSA Director Brenda Donald responded to Grosso and Nadeau on Oct. 19, reaffirming its commitment to provide youth in its care with all appropriate medical and mental health services, including related to maters of sexual orientation and gender identity.

“In the District of Columbia, youth in the care of CFSA have a right to be provided with timely, adequate, and appropriate medical and mental health services from health care professionals, which includes medical care, behavioral health care, and counseling,” Donald wrote.

“CFSA’s practice is to support and ensure that transgender youth obtain and have access to gender-affirming healthcare, gender affirming mental healthcare, and any other support and services they might need. Should a youth express an interest in undergoing gender reassignment surgery with their social worker, health care professional, or foster parent, CFSA would treat such request as we would any medical request. The agency will refer the youth to the appropriate medical and mental health services, establish what is medically covered, and determine the best way forward to ensure that all medical needs are met. If a youth requests reassignment surgery, CFSA must ensure that the youth receives the appropriate mental health support. The Department of Health Care Finance (DHCF) will cover sex reassignment procedures for beneficiaries with an established diagnosis of gender dysphoria.”

Read the full letter to CFSA, and their response to Councilmembers Grosso and Nadeau, 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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