DC Council is baaaack!
Today is the first Council legislative session after the recess. Right now Councilmembers just finished introducing bills. Here are a few of particular relevance:
Brookland streetscape: Harry Thomas, Jr. introduced a resolution asking DDOT to postpone the 12th Street streetscape project in Brookland until something can be worked out about burying the power lines. Co-introducers: Graham, Brown, Cheh, Barry. Cosponsors: Schwartz, Alexander, Mendelson.
Church angle parking: Thomas also introduced a bill to allow churches to apply angle parking on Sundays, but only with the consent of their ANC and petitions with support from neighbors. In introducing the bill, Thomas expressed his hope that this could also provide a way to add more parking in business corridors as well. Cosponsors: Mendelson.
Tree removal in parks: Jim Graham introduced two bills concerning trees. One would tighten notice requirements for DDOT to remove trees in public parks. DDOT recently took down two old trees in Kalorama Park with no notice, prompting a big outcry from residents who doubted whether removing the trees was the only option and were upset by the suddenness of this irrevocable action. Co-introduced by Schwartz. Cosponsors: Mendelson, Thomas, Gray, Evans, Alexander.
Hazardous trees in public space: Graham also introduced a bill making the District responsible for hazardous trees in public space. In DC, much if not all of homeowners' front yards is technically in public space, not privately owned, but the homewoners landscape and tend to the land. According to Graham, there are situations where trees in public space present a hazard to others, but who can't afford to remove the trees. The bill would shift this responsibility to the government. Cosponsors: Schwartz, Cheh, Bowser, Mendelson, Alexander, Brown, Evans, Gray.
Impervious surface WASA fees: Right now, WASA charges sewer rates based on the total amount of water each property uses. However, properties covered with impervious, paved surfaces (like large parking lots) dump much more water into the sewer system in storms than properties mostly covered with dirt that can soak up the water. Graham also introduced a bill to allow WASA to charge an "impervious surface fee" based on the percentage of property that's covered with impervious surface. The bill will also cap rate increase for low-income ratepayers.
Graham's bill also lets DC WASA restrict the amount of storm sewer outflow it takes from Maryland. This gets at an existing political issue: Environmental law will force DC to spend about $2 billion to construct holding tanks so that sewage doesn't run into the river during a storm when the sewers fill up, but much of that runoff comes from Maryland. DC officials don't feel Maryland is doing enough to contribute to this problem, and by letting WASA limit what it takes from Maryland, according to Graham, it will force Maryland to negotiate in better faith to solve the problem. Cosponsors: Bowser, Cheh, Thomas, Schwartz, Alexander, Brown, Evans, Catania, Gray, Barry.
Protesters interrupted the bill introductions chanting slogans about public property. Currently, DC can sell underutilized public property, which some activists want to prevent. There was originally supposed to be a hearing this morning on a bill by Harry Thomas, Jr. to restrict such sales, but at some point the agenda changed to cover these bill introductions and a measure about prohibiting "aversive intervention techniques" in special education. Activists want a hearing on the public property bill.
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