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Muriel Bowser

The D.C. Council passed an eight week universal paid leave act after 15 months of public debate Monday.

With a vote of 9 to 4, the Council sent the bill to Mayor Muriel Bowser for her signature.
If signed, the bill would give all workers in the District the opportunity to take an eight week parental leave, a six week leave to assist a sick family member and a two week personal medical leave.

The paid leave will be funded by a 0.62 percent increase in employer payroll taxes, which is expected to raise $250 million.

These approved paid leave amounts were dramatically cut down from the original proposed bill, which would have given 16 weeks of paid leave to employees experiencing events like caring for a sick relative or having a baby.

Council chair Phil Mendelson said the leave coverage for all D.C. workers, including Maryland and Virginia residents, was important to bring workers to D.C.

“This is a benefit program for every employer in the District that people who want to work will be attracted to working for them,” he said.

Ward 2 Council member Jack Evans has previously brought up concerns for funding paid leave for those who live outside of the city, including during the last Council meeting, claiming it could drain funds intended for D.C. residents.

Under the original bill first proposed last year, employees could have 16 weeks of paid leave. After a little more than a year of negotiations, the family paid leave time was reduced to eight weeks.

Previously, GW teamed up with other universities and businesses to promote an employer mandate program as an alternative to the proposed paid leave plan.

Similarly, an amendment Evans and Ward 3 Council member Mary Cheh’s proposed would have funded the leave through an employer mandate, but provided the same amount of leave for workers. Bowser supported the amendment more than the unamended plan, The Washington Post reported.

In this system, small businesses would receive a tax credit to fund leave programs and have the opportunity to a hardship petition if they are having trouble funding the leave, instead of raising the employer payroll taxes and with a goal of decreasing government bureaucracy.

Evans, along with Council members Yvette Alexander of Ward 7, Brandon Todd of Ward 4 and LaRuby May of Ward 8, voted against the legislation after his and Cheh’s amendment failed.

“I can’t support raising the tax,” Evans said. “I can’t support paying this money to Virginia and Maryland people.”

Cheh of Ward 3 decided to “reluctantly” support the bill to guarantee paid leave to workers by the end of the meeting.

“I thought the amendment that we offered was much better,” she said. “I will vote for this, but I do not think it is the best way to go.”

She was the only Council member to vote for her and Evan’s amendment and for the legislation.

May said she would call on Bowser to veto the bill once it passed.

“It’s upsetting that we’re more focused on helping folk outside the city than the District itself,” she said.

At-large Council member Robert White supported the legislation and said he hopes the nation follows D.C.’s lead in the future.

“This bill although it is not perfect – it will move the District in the right direction for now,” he said.

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Members of the D.C. Council supported a bill that would provide overtime pay during snow emergencies. Ethan Stoler | Hatchet Photographer

Members of the D.C. Council supported a bill that would provide overtime pay during snow emergencies. Ethan Stoler | Hatchet Photographer

Updated: Nov. 18, 2016 at 10:40 a.m.

This post was written by reporter Chase Smith.

In an effort to provide better walkability during snow emergencies like January 2016’s “snowzilla,” D.C. Council members met at the John A. Wilson building to hear testimony for proposed amendments to current snow and ice removal legislation.

The District spent $55.3 million in response to the January blizzard, or eight years worth of snow removal budgets in response to the emergency. This new legislation would authorize Mayor Muriel Bowser to enter into an agreement with the Business Improvement Districts and Main Streets programs for snow and ice removal from sidewalks, curb cuts and crosswalks in their district or program area during a snow emergency.

Ward 6 Council Member Charles Allen, who proposed the amendment, said representatives from BIDs and Main Streets programs worked to clear snow and ice for the businesses and residents in their areas voluntarily. The D.C. organizations help improve conditions for people working in D.C. businesses and using District streets.

However, the BIDs and Main Street programs were not compensated for extra hours of snow and ice removal and instead millions were paid to contractors with little to none of it going to sidewalk shoveling.

Allen said he would like to see this conversation about pedestrian accessibility to be moved along because he has seen many people walking and not driving in the first few days of a snow emergency.

“I would love to be able to say out of that 55 million, five percent went to making sure we had clear pedestrian paths,” Allen said. “I would wager not even five percent, I would be surprised if even one percent, went to that pedestrian experience for clean and safe sidewalks.”

Representatives from the Main Streets programs in D.C. and BIDs testified in approval of the proposed amendment at the hearing.

Charlie Whitaker, the CEO of Career Path D.C., said the new amendment would allow his team to purchase more ice melt in snow emergencies, because last year’s blizzard saw them exhaust their whole years supply of ice melt in two hours.

“I love to see kids go to school on time every day,” Whitaker said. “If we could remove snow at a faster rate and more efficiently, we can keep our government open, our kids can get to school on time and we won’t have to worry so much about our seniors slipping and falling.”

Kyle Todd, Executive Director of Rhode Island Ave. Main Streets program, said his team rose to the occasion and removed “tons” of snow during the blizzard in January.

“However, when it came time to pay them overtime, well, that’s why we’re here today,” he said.

He added they could have removed the snow very quickly with the appropriate equipment and that it should be purchased in advance so his team can have proper training before the next big winter storm hits.

Natalie Avery, the executive director of the D.C. BID Council, said the current situation of D.C. prioritizing road clearing instead of sidewalk clearing should be changed.

Avery expressed frustration with street plows that push snow back onto already cleared sidewalks, which “erases hours of work.”

Ana Harvey, the director of the Department of Small and Local Business Development, testified in support of the proposed legislation on behalf of Bowser.

Harvey said the January snowstorm taught the city that they need to be ready for unexpected snow emergencies while also thoughtful of budgetary considerations.

“This bill explores a potential solution by allowing the Mayor to enter into agreements with BIDs or Main Street programs for snow and ice removal and improving efficiency by utilizing existing government resources,” she said.

This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported the Ward 6 Council member as John Allen. His name is Charles Allen. We regret this error.

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Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier announced she will resign from her position in MPD Tuesday to take a job leading security for the National Football League. Katie Causey | Hatchet file photo

Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier announced she will resign from her position in MPD Tuesday to take a job leading security for the National Football League. Katie Causey | Hatchet file photo

Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier announced Tuesday that she will resign from her position next month to head security for the National Football League.

Lanier, who has been MPD’s chief for 10 years and on the force for 26 years, said she decided to take the job for the unique opportunity it provided for her, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.

Lanier’s time as MPD chief is longer than usual for chiefs, who usually stay for three or four years. D.C.’s first female police chief said she turned down offers to head other police city departments because “I owe my life to this city and to MPD.”

“This is the nation’s capital,” Lanier told The Washington Post. “What’s more important than being responsible for public safety and security than the nation’s capital? Where do you go from here right? When I thought about the NFL, it’s America’s favorite sport and what’s more important than making sure America’s favorite sport is safe?”

Mayor Muriel Bowser said she will appoint an interim chief in the next few days and then start the search for the new permanent chief, according to The Post.

“She’s built a fantastic force, professionalized the force, built a force that the community trusts which is going to be a lasting legacy,” Bowser told The Post.

Lanier earned two degrees from Johns Hopkins University and a masters from the Naval Postgraduate School.

Lanier headed the department amid the city’s homicide spike last year, with the homicide rate increasing by 54 percent in 2015, according to MPD crime data. The department also created a Robbery Intervention Task force in January to combat an increase in robberies in the city.

City officials also responded to the crime spike by confiscating illegal guns from the streets. The city recovered more than 1,600 guns in 2015, according to MPD data.

Lanier also headed MPD during communication mishaps with the University Police Department. In 2013, both MPD and UPD mishandled a pair of gun threats on campus: MPD officers waited hours to inform UPD about an armed robbery on campus, and UPD waited 15 minutes to inform MPD about a reported gun threat in South Hall, which turned out to be unfounded.

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The D.C. Council approved a revised version of Mayor Muriel Bowser’s plan to replace the D.C. General homeless shelter Tuesday. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor.

The D.C. Council approved a revised version of Mayor Muriel Bowser’s plan to replace the D.C. General homeless shelter Tuesday. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor.

Updated: May 18, 2016 at 10:06 a.m.

The D.C. Council voted Tuesday to tweak Mayor Muriel Bowser’s plan to close the D.C. General homeless shelter, which drew criticism from the mayor.

Bowser’s proposed plan to close the much-maligned D.C. General homeless shelter required the city to put up smaller shelters in each of the D.C.’s eight wards. Residents in some wards complained of the shelters’ locations the cost of the overall plan.

The Council’s unanimous revision of the plan stipulates that each of the ward’s new shelters must be on city-owned property, Washington City Paper reported Tuesday. The Council’s plan would save the District $160 million.

Only two of Bowser’s proposed shelters were owned by the city – in Wards 7 and 8. Bowser would have to change the proposed sites, buy the land or use “eminent domain” under the Council’s plan.

Ward 8 Council member LaRuby May proposed another amendment to the plan that would require a minimum of 50 units in each shelter, which was shot down by the Council in a four-to-eight vote.

Earlier in the day, Council chair Phil Mendelson said Bowser’s plan was “hampered by obfuscation and misinformation,” according to Washington City Paper.

“These problems would all have been avoided if there had been more collaboration…[and] there would not be questions about credibility,” Mendelson said.

Bowser cursed at Mendelson about his comments in a hallway in the Wilson building, according to Washington City Paper.

“You’re a fucking liar! You know it can’t close in 2018,” she told Mendelson, according to Washington City Paper.

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D.C. legislators passed a ban on public marijuana clubs Tuesday, DCist reported Tuesday.

The D.C. Council passed the ban by one vote on its first reading. Seven council members voted in favor the ban, including chairman Phil Mendelson, Judiciary Committee chair Kenyan McDuffie from Ward 5 and Ward 3 Council member Mary Cheh, according to DCist.

City officials extended the marijuana ban in January at Mayor Muriel Bowser’s suggestion. The council voted to allow the clubs, but Bowser did not support the legislation because the city would not be able to regulate the clubs.

The decision comes after city officials set up a task force to look into the marijuana clubs. The task force will meet for the first time on Friday, DCist reported.

Ward 1 council member Brianne Nadeau is a member of the task force and called the ban “a a slap in the face,” according to DCist.

“This narrative that the permanent ban can be revisited is false as long as the (Congressional) rider is in place,” she told DCist. “A task force with a 120-day timeline is supposed to be planning for the present, not the future.”

McDuffie said the task force will still be relevant and the council will likely revisit marijuana clubs.

“Until we have that ability [to regulate], we should maintain the status quo,” Mendelson told DCist.

D.C. could make almost $100 million from taxing the sale of the drug by 2020, according to a study released earlier this year.

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Monday, Jan. 25, 2016 6:53 p.m.

GW to have 10 a.m. start Tuesday

GW will open at 10 a.m. Tuesday, according to a campus advisory posted at 7:03 Monday.

All classes, events or other activities due to start before 10 a.m. are canceled, according to the post.

Vern Express service started at 4 p.m. Monday after a weekend-long hiatus but will shut down at 7 p.m., and Gelman Library will close at 10 p.m.

D.C. public schools to open Wednesday

Mayor Muriel Bowser announced late Monday afternoon that public schools in the District will be closed again Tuesday, but would reopen on Wednesday. Ten area schools served breakfast and lunch on Monday to students and families, WJLA reported.

D.C. government to operate normally Tuesday

Bowser announced that the District government will open on a normal schedule Tuesday. The mayor added that the Obama administration pledged to help the District-wide effort to remove snow from city streets.

Howard University announces closure

Howard University officials announced Monday that the institution will be closed again on Tuesday.

Jeanine Marie contributed reporting.

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Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016 11:12 a.m.

Snow keeps some services shut down Monday

Updated: Jan. 24, 2016 at 6:07 p.m.

The snow may not be falling anymore, but it’s still closing schools (and setting off alarms).

GW announced around 3 p.m. on Sunday that the University would be closed on Monday. The federal government and the Washington Metro Transit Authority have not announced whether they will be closed tomorrow. But we’ll keep a list of closures updated here:

D.C. public schools closed Monday

Mayor Muriel Bowser announced Sunday that the city’s public schools will be closed on Monday. Bowser declared a state of a emergency for the city on Thursday. City officials have been urging residents to remain off the roads so that city employees can continue the cleanup.

University of Maryland stays closed

Our neighbors in College Park were supposed to start classes after winter break on Monday. Instead, University of Maryland students have another two days off due to the storm.

Vern Express service suspended Sunday

The Vern Express will not run on Sunday, the service tweeted Saturday night and again Sunday morning. The bus between the Foggy Bottom and Mount Vernon campuses has been suspended since Friday at 5:15 p.m.

GW closed on Monday

A University advisory said that classes were canceled and offices closed on Monday. All GW classes and events on Sunday were canceled on the Foggy Bottom, Mount Vernon and Virginia Science and Technology campuses.

American, Howard and Georgetown universities closed Monday

GW is in good company. American, Howard and Georgetown universities are also closed Monday.

Limited Metro service Monday

Metro announced “lifeline” services on underground rail only on Monday, according to a tweet. Officials waved the fare on all rides. Officials also said trains would run every 20 to 25 minutes starting at 5 a.m., and more service could be added during the day, according to a release. The orange line will run from Ballston to Eastern Market. The red line will run from Medical Center to Union Station. The green line will run from Fort Totten to Anacostia.

Metrobus will run on 22 routes about every 30 minutes. There will be no MetroAccess service on Monday, according to the release.

Officials also extended free overnight parking in Metro lots until Tuesday.

D.C. and federal governments closed Monday

The D.C. government and the federal government will both be closed on Monday.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser urged residents to stay off the streets so the cleanup can continue.

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Customers poured into the Foggy Bottom Whole Foods to stock up before the storm. Paige James | Hatchet Photographer

Customers poured into the Foggy Bottom Whole Foods to stock up before the storm. Paige James | Hatchet Photographer

Updated: Jan. 22, 2016 at 3:09 p.m.

It’s all anyone in D.C. can talk about – snow, snow, snow.

Capital Weather Gang is now predicting that as much as 15 to 30 inches of snow could hit D.C. this weekend, and while students (and some faculty) hope for a snow day, other D.C. agencies have already shut down in anticipation of the storm.

While there’s still no word from the federal government on whether or not they will be open tomorrow, here’s what’s already been shut down in D.C.:

The Vern Express resumes service

The Vern Express resumed service at 30 minute intervals at 7 a.m. this morning after officials suspended service at around 8 p.m. last night due to “poor road conditions,” University spokeswoman Maralee Csellar said in an email.

The shuttle opened from 11:15 p.m. until midnight last night to bring students back to their respective campuses, Csellar said. She said the University had staff members posted at the pick-up locations on both campus to provide updates to students and also updated the community through Twitter.

“We thank everyone for their patience during the weather that resulted in challenging road conditions,” Csellar said.

After resuming operation this morning, the Vern Express then began operating on a 15-minute schedule at 8:30 a.m., according to the bus’s Twitter account.

Eckles Library tutoring shut down Sunday

The University cancelled tutoring at Eckles Library on the Mount Vernon Campus Sunday due to weather concerns, according to the library’s official Twitter account.

D.C. public schools closed Friday

Mayor Muriel Bowser announced Thursday that the city’s public schools will be closed on Friday. Schools began classes two hours late on Thursday after snow Wednesday night left roads coated in ice and snow.

Bowser apologized for the the city’s delayed response to the weather Wednesday night in a press conference, The Washington Post reported Thursday. She declared a state of emergency in D.C. ahead of Friday and Saturday’s expected snowfall.

“We are very sorry for the inadequate response,” she said. “We did not provide adequate resources at a time when it could have made a difference with the commute.”

D.C. government to close early Friday

Bowser also announced that the D.C. government will close early on Friday because of the impending snowfall.

Howard University closed Friday through weekend

Howard University will be closed Friday until Sunday, the university said in a statement Thursday.

“Students, faculty and staff are encouraged to take caution and adhere to warnings/alerts,” the statement reads. “Essential employees should report to work unless otherwise indicated by their manager.”

Metro closed for the weekend

The Metro will operate from 5 a.m. Friday to 11 p.m. Friday, and remain closed on Saturday and Sunday, according to a press release from the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority.

“Metro will protect hundreds of railcars by storing them in the tunnels during the storm,” according to the release.

Metrobuses will only operate on major routes during the day on Friday, and shut down system-wide starting at 5 p.m., according to the release.

Colonial Health Center closing at noon on Friday

The student health center will be closed until next week, according to an email from campus housing. Students are advised to ensure they have at least a five-days supply of their prescriptions, and can call the numbers listed on the Health Services website for medical and mental health questions.

Federal Government is out, too

The Federal Government is closed starting at noon on Friday, according to the Office of Personnel Management, with all federal offices in the D.C. area closing.

Emergency employees will remain at their worksites, unless otherwise directed by their agencies.

Looking to study through the storm?

Look somewhere other then Gelman: the library will be closing at three on Friday, according to its twitter. If you’re looking to drown your sorrows in a hot beverage, hurry, because its beloved counterpart, Gelbucks, has posted it will also be closing at 1:30 p.m.

Gallery has your back

Gallery Cafe will remain open this weekend from 6:30 a.m. to “late night,” according to a sign posted in the window of the joint. If you didn’t stock up enough food beforehand, feel free to satisfy your midnight cravings at this brave cafe.

Limited 4RIDE service

There will be no 4RIDE service Friday night or Saturday, according to a tweet from the Division of Operations. Service will resume on Sunday.

J Street to open for weekend service

J Street, which is normally closed on the weekends, will open in two-hour shifts for breakfast, lunch and dinner on Saturday and Sunday.

The Marvin Center dining hall will open from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m, noon to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, according to an update to GW’s advisories website.

The Vern Express suspends service

The Vern Express suspended service at 5:15 p.m. on Friday and weekend service is dependent on road conditions.

The University encouraged students to “consider being on the campus where where they intend to spend their weekend by Friday afternoon to avoid any transportation related issues” on its advisories website.

Jacqueline Thomsen, Lila Weatherly, Ellie Smith, Colleen Murphy and Jeanine Marie contributed reporting.

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Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016 12:33 p.m.

Nearly half of D.C. homeless youth are LGBT

Nearly half – 43 percent – of D.C.’s homeless youth are LGBT, according to a new survey of the city’s homeless youth, the Washington Post reported Thursday.

The Homeless Youth Census – the first survey of its kind in the city – tallied 330 youths who were on the streets, in a housing program or without a permanent home, the Post reported.

The city announced $45,000 in Verizon grants to two nonprofit organizations that serve LGBT youth – Casa Ruby and the Wanda Alston house – in conjunction with the release of the results. Those funds come in addition to a $1.3 million increase in September to support single homeless use, the Post reported. The city’s total annual budget for homeless youth programs is more than $5 million.

Ruby Corado, executive director of Casa Ruby – the city’s only bilingual, multicultural LGBT advocacy group and shelter –estimated that 70 percent of homeless youth in D.C. come from outside the District, the Post reported. Corado spoke on campus last year. She was also profiled in The Hatchet’s Faces of D.C. series last spring.

Mayor Muriel Bowser spoke at Casa Ruby, which is located on Georgia Avenue, on Wednesday.

“We know that these young people face the most bullying and discrimination and assault, you name it, not only from the outside world but often from their own families, neighbors and close associates,” she said then, according to the Post report.

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This post was written by Hatchet reporter Madeline Sklar.

The city is giving residents an easier way to access D.C. information like population and employment statistics, DC Inno reported Wednesday.

The new program, called the Economic Intelligence Dashboard, compiles information about the District, including information on affordable housing and real estate projects and up-to-date wage and tax numbers. Mayor Muriel Bowser said in a statement to DC Inno that the new tool will promote transparency with city statistics.

“Moving forward, we will continue to use technology and innovation to build good government and create more pathways to the middle class,” Bowser said.

While D.C. residents could find similar information like construction updates for city projects on separate websites, the new dashboard compiles the statistics into one accessible webpage. The program’s website explains that it is meant to “drive positive change and build good government.”

“We focus on collecting and compiling information about our city, in particular on D.C.’s economic development priorities that create more pathways to the middle class: jobs, quality affordable housing, and community-focused development,” the webpage for the program reads.

Joaquin McPeek, a spokesman for D.C.’s Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, told DCist that the office created the program because of the number of residents asking questions about this information, especially on the lack of affordable housing in D.C.

“It’s a response to a lot of residents who ask these questions,” McPeek said.

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