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Jack Evans

Ward 3 Council member Mary Cheh introduced a ban on gasoline-powered leaf blowers in D.C. at a D.C. Council meeting Tuesday, DCist reported.

Cheh, who is also a professor at GW Law School, said she had heard noise complaints from residents in her ward about the leaf blowers. Those neighbors recently formed a group called the Concerned Wesley Heights Neighbors, who complained about the leaf blowers publicly at a November Advisory Neighborhood Commission meeting in their area.

The neighbors argued at the meeting that the equipment powered by gasoline is louder and pollutes more than other types of leaf blowers. Cheh told DCist that banning a piece of machinery that also may be harmful to the environment is an added benefit because she could not regulate the leaf blowers solely on their emissions.

“We couldn’t predicate the ban on the issue of emissions, but I got enthusiastic because those machines are big polluters,” Cheh said.

Cheh’s bill, which was co-sponsored by Ward 2 Council member Jack Evans, who represents Foggy Bottom, would prohibit the use of the lawn machinery after Jan. 1, 2022, giving a six-year window for D.C. residents to switch out their gasoline-powered blowers for electric ones. At that point, D.C. residents could face fines of up to $500 for using the banned blowers.

“If we could make life more peaceful and more environmentally friendly, I think we should do that,” Cheh told DCist. “It’s not a zero-sum game. It’s not this and nothing else.”

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Ward 2 Council member Jack Evans discussed transportation at Tuesday's Foggy Bottom Association meeting. Max Sall | Hatchet Photographer

Ward 2 Council member Jack Evans discussed transportation at Tuesday’s Foggy Bottom Association meeting. Max Sall | Hatchet Photographer

This post was written by Hatchet Reporter Nick Andricola.

Transportation and city officials heard concerns from Foggy Bottom community members at the Foggy Bottom Association meeting on Tuesday night.

Foggy Bottom Council member Jack Evans and Leif Dormsjo, the director of the District Department of Transportation, were in attendance and took questions from neighbors about issues ranging from Metro delays to traffic in Washington Circle.

Peter Sacco, a 2015 alumnus who is also the executive director of the Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission, brought up declining ridership on the Metro and asked about the possibility of providing unlimited rides for college students in the city. He added that Ward 2, which includes Foggy Bottom, has more college students than any other ward.

“Yes I support that and I know we’re doing that at American University. GW is on the list, as is Georgetown,” Evans said. “It’s a great proposal and we’re trying to boost ridership.”

Evans, who is on the Metro’s board of directors, called the train system expensive and inconvenient. He also said trains must run on time.

“I would like to lower fares. We have to get metro to be both affordable and try to make it more convenient,” Evans said.

Still, Evans said it is impossible to avoid all delays, because track work must be done on the weekends.

“We’re always going to be running late on weekends until we get caught up on maintenance,” Evans said.

Evans has advocated for years that the Foggy Bottom Metro station, one of the busiest in the city, should have a second entrance.

“I think that’s what people in Foggy Bottom really want – a second entrance to the system,” he said.

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The D.C. Council approved Mayor Muriel Bowser's suggestion for $23 million in additional spending Tuesday.  Jamie Finkelstein | Hatchet Photographer

The D.C. Council approved Mayor Muriel Bowser’s suggestion for $23 million in additional spending Tuesday. Hatchet File Photo by Jamie Finkelstein.

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Kendrick Chang.

In its first legislative session in a month, the D.C. Council approved Mayor Muriel Bowser’s request for $23 million to be added to the budget and passed legislation directed at crime prevention, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.

When Bowser requested the additional funding last week, several D.C. Council members, including Chairman Phil Mendelson, asked for more details, enough of which were provided Tuesday for the Council to unanimously pass the legislation.

The funds would include funding for body cameras on police officers and expand employment assistance for young people in D.C. according to The Post. Of the additional funding, nearly half will go towards improving D.C.’s crime lab and the police body cameras.

Kenyan McDuffie, a Ward 5 Council member who is the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, also proposed a crime prevention bill that would identify at-risk youth in the city and give them access to programming that could prevent them from entering a criminal lifestyle.

“What’s clear is we cannot arrest our way out of this crime problem,” McDuffie said.

Jack Evans, the Ward 2 Council member who represents Foggy Bottom, introduced a bill that would use funds to keep at least 4,000 police officers in the Metropolitan Police Department, which he said currently only has 3,800 officers.

Evans also introduced another bill that would require police officers, public school teachers and firefighters to live in the District, because about 80 percent of those employees live outside the city, Evans told The Post. He said this would be a way to keep D.C. tax money in the city, and said he will likely face backlash from teacher’s associations and other groups for the bill.

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Metro leaders were questioned by members of the House of Representatives about the safety of D.C.’s public transportation system Tuesday.

Two House subcommittees, one on transportation and public assets and another concerning government operations, both scrutinized Metro officials after a fatal incident near the L’Eftant Plaza stop left one woman dead, according to The Washington Post.

Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-Va.) said that an aging Metro system, maintenance problems and no consistent source of funding has led to a “perfect storm of problems,” The Post reported.

And Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) vaguely threatened the transportation leaders with privatizing the system if changes don’t happen soon.

“There are companies that can operate transit systems,” Mica said.

On Monday, transportation officials announced that they added a new fire and rescue liaison position to Metro to watch its control center and to help coordinate response efforts to emergencies in the Metro.

Jack Requa, Metro’s interim general director, spoke before both subcommittees, and told representatives that the search for a permanent general director is in full swing after disagreements from the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority board of directors slowed the process, according to The Post.

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In the D.C. Council’s last legislative session before the fall on Tuesday, lawmakers proposed several pieces of legislation that targeted crime in the District, The Washington Post reported.

Ward 2 Council member Jack Evans, who represents Foggy Bottom, introduced a bill that would require Metropolitan Police Department officers to tow and impound cars if the officer had probable cause that the owner was involved in prostitution. Calling the bill “Honey, I lost the car,” Evans told NBC Washington the measure was meant to deter people from trying to pick up prostitutes because they would be embarrassed to lose their car for the crime.

Evans said prostitution is becoming a problem in the District and the law would deter people from driving out of state to downtown D.C. to pick up prostitutes. He passed similar legislation in 2005 that gave a local agency permission to tow people suspected of supporting prostitution, but said it hasn’t been effectively enforced.

Anita Bonds, an At-Large council member, proposed legislation that would require universities in D.C. to permanently mark a “scarlet letter” on the academic transcripts of students convicted of sexual assault. She cited a survey from The Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation that found 20 percent of college females in the past four years had an unwanted sexual experience at school.

“I hear these statistics and I am as outraged as many in the community are,” Bonds told The Washington Post.

Bonds also proposed a bill that would make it illegal to financially exploit elderly residents of D.C., saying the older population is “less equipped to recover from the loss.”

Kenyan McDuffie, the Council member from Ward 5 and the chair of the Council’s Judiciary Committee, introduced a bill that would increase fines for multiple offenses of having illegal dirt bikes and ATVs in the city. The bill would keep the current $250 fine for the illegal vehicles on the first offense, but increase punishments for later offenses to up to a $1,000 fine or 180 days in jail for a third offense.

“I have heard from countless residents, and police officers about the illegal use of dirt bikes and ATVs,” McDuffie said in a press release. “Currently our laws just do not serve as a sufficient deterrent to the use of these machines. Dirt bikes and ATVs are not appropriate for use on our roads, are dangerous, and have been used completely irresponsibly on sidewalks and in packs to intimidate pedestrians and drivers.

The bill against dirt bikes were co-sponsored by Council members Charles Allen from Ward 6 and Brianne Nadeau from Ward 1.

The Council also confirmed 20 appointments by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, including Gregory Dean, the new chief of D.C. Fire and EMS, and five other agency heads.

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Tuesday, June 9, 2015 4:42 p.m.

D.C. United stadium deal finalized

D.C. just scored a new stadium.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser held a press conference Tuesday to announce that the D.C. United soccer team has finalized plans with with D.C. government to build a stadium in the city, according to her Twitter account. The stadium will be located at Buzzards Point in southwest D.C., according to The Washington Post.

Bowser said in a statement that legislation regarding the stadium will be submitted to the D.C. Council for final review. D.C. United currently plays at RFK Stadium.

“This agreement will add vibrancy to a neighborhood on the banks of the Anacostia River and generate jobs for District residents as my administration creates pathways to the middle class,” she said in the statement.

Council members surrounded Bowser during the press conference, clad in red, white and blue D.C. United scarves, according to a tweet from Ward 2 Council member Jack Evans.

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D.C. Council chairman Phil Mendelson said Tuesday that the Council will vote in favor of most of Mayor Muriel Bowser’s proposed budget Wednesday morning, WAMU 88.5 reported.

“The big picture is… the mayor will be receiving in the budget that I am proposing tomorrow 99 percent of what she’s requested,” Mendelson told WAMU 88.5.

Bowser’s proposed $12.9 billion budget included investing $100 million in affordable housing in an effort to end homelessness by 2018 and an increase of about $32 million in funding for D.C. public and charter schools.

Bowser proposed raising the sales tax in D.C. from 5.75 to 6 percent to cover the cost of her budget increases and help fund her war on homelessness, a move rejected by the Council two weeks ago. She cited a poll from the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute that said 70 percent of D.C. residents supported the tax hike. Jack Evans, a Ward 2 Council member and chair of the finance committee, opposed Bowser’s sales tax increase, saying it was fiscally irresponsible and the increase should happen when D.C.’s economic growth slows down.

Mendelson said that the council will still be able to fund many of her proposed initiatives without relying on the $22 million in projected revenue from the rejected tax increase. The Council approved an increased $10 million to services for the homeless.

“We’re going above and beyond in areas where there’s a real need for citizens in the District, whether we’re dealing with homelessness, or affordable housing, or with seniors, or with victims of crime,” Mendelson said.

The Council also cut in half the number of body cameras Bowser proposed for Metropolitan Police Department Offices from a proposed 2,400 cameras with a price tag of about $5.1 million to 1,200 new cameras. Ward 5 Council member Kenyan McDuffie said a full commitment to the policy should wait until the Council agrees on issues surrounding body cameras, including who will have access to the footage.

Bowser first presented her budget in the beginning of April and the Council soon reviewed her proposal and provided criticism.

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Monday, April 13, 2015 11:52 p.m.

D.C. Council members critique mayoral budget

Mayor Muriel Bowser receives feedback from members of the D.C. Council on her proposed fiscal year 2016 budget. Charlie Lee | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Mayor Muriel Bowser receives feedback from members of the D.C. Council on her proposed fiscal year 2016 budget. Charlie Lee | Hatchet Staff Photographer

D.C. Council members had their first opportunity to publicly comment on Mayor Muriel Bowser’s proposed $12.9 billion budget Monday, honing in on her plans to increase funding for homeless shelters and affordable housing.

The Council members centered their feedback on funding that would most impact their own wards and asked specifics on the budget over the course of a three-hour-long meeting. The budget, which covers fiscal year 2016, would include $1.3 billion for upgrades to public schools and $31.4 million to increase enrollment in public and charter schools.

But discussion at the meeting centered on Bowser’s plans to eradicate homelessness and increase affordable housing, which Council members criticized as not solving the root of the problem.

Bowser has stood by her pledge to end family homelessness in the District by 2018 and end homelessness altogether by 2025. In the budget she proposed raising the sales tax to 6 percent, up from the current 5.75 percent. She also allocated $100 million to the Housing Protection Trust Fund and would put $2.4 million toward rental assistance for low-income families and individuals, according to budget documents.

“Too many residents are just one missed payment away from homelessness,” Bowser said.

Bowser also proposed creating a new family shelter to replace emergency shelters like D.C. General, which came under fire last year when 8-year-old Relisha Rudd went missing from the complex. Rudd has still not been found.

Ward 2 Council member Jack Evans, who represents Foggy Bottom,  said everyone on the Council wants to eradicate homelessness in the District, but said he would only support spending the funds if it went directly toward services for the homeless.

“What assurances do I have that the money is going to go into affordable housing?” Evans said.

Ward 3 Council member and GW Law professor Mary Cheh called Bowser’s plans “short-sighted” at the meeting.

Cheh said she is also concerned about cutting funds from public schools in her ward and the University of the District of Columbia while also raising taxes.

The University of the District of Columbia, the city’s only public institution, would see a 5 percent or $3.5 million reduction under Bowser’s plan, according to budget documents.

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Council member Jack Evans hears testimony on marijuana legalization in D.C.  Dan Rich | Hatchet Photographer

Council member Jack Evans hears testimony on marijuana legalization in D.C.
Dan Rich | Hatchet Photographer

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Regina Park. 

D.C. voters haven’t decided whether they will back legalizing marijuana at the polls next week, but D.C. Council held a joint public hearing to plan out its potential roll out.

Planning how to legalize the use and possession of up to two ounces of marijuana in a city would need a lot of collaboration across departments and organizations, Council members said. The Committee on Business, Consumer and Regulatory Affairs and the Committee on Finance and Revenue heard opinions about the consequences of legalizing the drug through the ballot referendum.

Council member Jack Evans, who represents Foggy Bottom, and Council member Vincent Orange led the hearing, which heard from policy makers, marijuana activists and other Council members. Here are the three biggest takeaways from the hearing.

1. A potentially complex roll out

Most of the hearing focused on the details of how marijuana legalization would be implemented in D.C. if the measure were to pass on Election Day.

Council members and experts discussed whether marijuana would be taxed at the same rate as alcohol in D.C., and Orange asked if the packaging and sale of the drug would also reflect the policies in place for alcohol.

The hearing also focused on the policies other states that have legalized marijuana have dealt with the rollout of the law.

“Marijuana legalization is a policy that has become very popular among policy makers.” Robert J. Capecchi, Deputy Director of State Policies of the Marijuana Policy Project, said. “A vast majority of the states are considering legalization of marijuana.”

2. Extra income for the city

The marijuana market in D.C. would be a $130 million industry, according to The Washington Post. If marijuana is legalized, Evans said the taxes levied from marijuana could add some surplus cash to the state budget.

“Taxes on marijuana could be nearly $20 million a year.” Evans said.

Malik Burnett, policy manager of the Drug Policy Alliance, said the money should aid development in the largely African American neighborhoods hit hardest by marijuana arrests.

“Nine out of ten people arrested for possession of marijuana were African Americans,” he said.

3. The effect on youth

Some Council members like Orange, who chairs the Committee on Business, Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, voiced concern over whether legalization would send the message that marijuana use was not harmful to those under 21.

“Can we legalize marijuana without sending the message to youths that it’s risk-free?” he said.

Orange also said there are still harmful health effects for those using marijuana, citing a weakened immune systems and memory loss.

Council member At-Large David Grosso, who sponsored the referendum, countered and said the city could use the revenue gained from taxes on the drug to fund education programs about the negative impacts of marijuana.

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Maybe serving as a politician really is a full-time job – or maybe less so for the two D.C. Council members with ties to GW.

Fewer Council members relied on large incomes from jobs outside of the John A. Wilson Building last year than in previous years, according to the most recent financial disclosure statements. Council members’ salaries are about $130,000.

Jack Evans earned $190,000 in his of-counsel position at Patton Boggs law firm last year. Hatchet File Photo

Jack Evans earned $190,000 in his of-counsel position at Patton Boggs law firm last year. Hatchet File Photo

But Jack Evans, Foggy Bottom’s representative on the Council, also earned $190,000 for his work at the Georgetown law firm Patton Boggs. GW Law professor Mary Cheh pulled in $207,263 from her University job, plus about $24,500 for bar review lectures and royalties from her legal writing. She disclosed $280,000 in outside earnings four years ago, the Washington Post reported.

The legislators also reported ownership interests or investments worth more than $1,000. Chairman Phil Mendelson disclosed about $700,000 in stock holdings from companies like Pepco, Verizon and ExxonMobil. Cheh reported that she owned $10,665 worth of IBM stock.

At-Large Council member Vincent Orange, who made an unsuccessful bid for mayor earlier this year, and Ward 5 Council member Kenyan McDuffie both reported owning income properties in the city.

After embattled Council member and former mayor Marion Barry reported taking $7,000 in gifts from city contractors last year – a disclosure that kicked off an ethics investigation and cost him a committee chairmanship – he did not report accepting any such gifts this year.

D.C. Council members’ salaries stack up second-highest among other big cities, falling behind Los Angeles. New York City council members earn about $112,000, and legislators in Minneapolis make about $80,000.

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