Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Ward 7 gets new farmers market September 3

Photo by m4tik, Bartosch Salmanski
Ward 7 will welcome the Parkside-Kenilworth Farmers Market on Saturday, September 3 from 9:00 am – 1:00 pm, opening day.   The market will be open each Saturday until Thanksgiving and will return next spring.   The market is located on Burnham Pl NE, across 295 via footbridge from the Minnesota Ave. Metro Station.

Opening day activities will include a demonstration by Ward 7’s own "Chef T" as well as entertainment and a variety of food.   Local farmers will bring produce.

This market helps address the area's "food desert" status, a result of the poor access to healthy and fresh food options.   The market will accept WIC coupons and EBT payment.   Seniors (60 and older) may be eligible for free food under the Commodity Supplemental Food Program.

As an added bonus, Parkside-Kenilworth is working with the Capital Area Food Bank to ensure that excess or leftover produce remains in the community.

CityInterests, UDC's Cooperative Extension Service, and DC Promise Neighborhood Initiative are among the project partners.

Resident suggestions shared with DC decision makers about dc.gov

The letter (Word, .doc) to the mayor's communications director and CTO Rob Mancini with recommendations to improve the family of DC government websites has been delivered.   I am hopeful that the recommendations will gain some traction with the added attention of Andrea (Andi) Pringle, Mayor Gray's new deputy CoS.

The letter contains the recommendations made by residents to improve dc.gov as well as a few other thoughts on the subject.

Thanks to those who took the time to participate in the survey, to improve the way the government shares information online.   I can't wait to see what happens!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Mayor Gray adds two senior staffers

Today Mayor Vince Gray announced the appointments of Chris Murphy as Chief of Staff and Andrea (Andi) Pringle as Deputy Chief of Staff.

Murphy comes to the District government from HUD where he served as Deputy Chief of Staff.   Earlier in his career, he founded and led City Year Washington, DC.   Murphy will oversee and manage all operational elements of the Executive Office of the Mayor (EOM).   You may reach Murphy via email, phone (727-8196) or his office (JAWB Suite 310-312).

Pringle's background is in communications and political campaigns.   She also has experience working with nonprofits on communications.   Pringle will manage all communications and public-engagement efforts.   You may reach Pringle via email, phone (727-2643) or her office (JAWB Suite 310-312).

Read more about these two new Gray Administration staffers in the press release.

Mayor Gray's weekly presser, August 30

Mayor Gray 's regular weekly presser is being held August 30 from 10:00 - 11:00 am in Room G-9 of the JAWB.   The mayor will announce his choices for chief of staff and deputy chief of staff.

Later in the day, Mayor Gray will appear on WHUR’s Daily Drum With Harold Fisher; this is from 7:05 - 7:30 pm.   Tune in to 96.3 FM to hear the interview.

Monday, August 29, 2011

New events added to Advocacy and Learning Calendar

New to the Advocacy and Learning Calendar:
  • DC Parent Power Organizing Meeting, August 31
  • Weatherization Interest/Volunteer Meeting, August 31
  • Rally for Recovery's Recovery Fair, September 17

If you've got an event to add, email me the information (text and PDF or JPEG) and link to the information on your website.

Nonprofit news

The Children's Law Center has a new legal director, Chrissy Smith.   And two organizations have new EDs, DC Employment Justice Center (EJC) and Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children of DC (CASA).   Barbra Kavanaugh is new to EJC and Richard Harris has joined CASA.

Open house with staff of CM Catania and Committee on Health

Meet and chat with the staff of At-large CM David Catania and the Committee on Health at the September 13, 2:00 - 4:00 pm open house.   The open house will be held in Suite 404, CM Catania’s main office, in the JAWB.   Light refreshments will be available.   Direct questions to the Committee on Health at 724-8170.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Getting ready for and responding to Irene-related disaster needs

The mayor has posted important contact information for residents and DC stakeholders to get information about Hurricane Irene.   That information is on the DC government website here.   You will find links to DC government agencies involved in the potential disaster preparation and prevention along with recommended supplies to have on hand.

Information of note for those working with or finding homeless individuals and families:

  • Shelters are open through 7:00 am Monday, August 29.   Meals will be served.   Call the Shelter Hotline at (800) 535-7252 to identify available space for individuals or families.
  • If you know of any families who are staying outdoors, in cars, etc., refer them to the Kennedy Recreation Center at 7th and P Streets NW which will be open as a temporary shelter site on Saturday through the weekend.

Finally, HSEMA is encouraging residents to take responsibility for their own storm preparations.   The government can only do so much.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Registration is open for DC Budget 101 in September

September is the right time to get the fundamentals of the DC budget under your belt.   Register today for the September 15 workshop, DC Budget 101 being held at East River Family Strengthening Collaborative in Ward 7.

You will learn the basics of the budget process, the roles of the various agencies, advocacy intervention points, key terms, what those darned acronyms stand for, where to get a copy of the budget, and much more.

Feel free to share the flier about the event (PDF) with colleagues, volunteers, board members, and neighbors.

Recommendations to improve the DC government website

The DC government website is undergoing some changes and I believe the public should have a formal way to offer suggestions.   They have not, so far as I know, so I conducted a survey to collect ideas.   The results are here; I will be sharing this post and the unedited results (link is below) today with the mayor's communications staff and OCTO.

The recommendations fall into three categories, DC government website general, agencies, and tech.

The recommendations include:

DC government website general
  • Daily/weekly "did you know" feature, where the city highlights a city service that residents may not know about.   For example, the city will bait your neighborhood for rats.
  • Daily/weekly tips on being a good urban resident.
  • Proactive and reactive search tool that sends request once entered.
  • Ability to hire more traffic and more traffic faster.

Agency websites
  • Make sure that everything current is on the website, no just what agencies feel like posting.
  • Get rid of the agency self promotion.
  • Top-level pages for each agency should provide detailed "where is" lists that meet the needs of users.   Government websites must be designed so information can be retrieved easily and not require a high degree of familiarity with the particular agency.
  • Searchable, staff directory for city agencies.
  • Bring back data.dc.gov as a full-service page.   Include budget and spending information that correlates to appropriate data (key result measures) and DCPS data.   Post disaggregated DC CAS scores for the past few years (down to the class level) and feeder pattern/migration data (for each school where do kids come from, at the neighborhood level, what grade do they leave, what schools do they go to when they leave DCPS (charter? other DCPS? if possible, private?).
  • Information about ANCs—their activities, how to find yours, the role of ANCs—should be significantly more prominent.
  • Important information for renters such as renters rights, responsibilities of landlords, and how to report abuses.

Tech issues
  • Technology needs to be improved so the searches are more intuitive making it easier to find things.   If I put "zoning maps" in the search field, I should be directed to the appropriate page, not to a list of inappropriate pages.
  • Proactive and reactive search tool that sends request once entered.
  • Ability to hire more traffic and more traffic faster.

My recommendations for improving the DC government website family are:

  • Post the Children's Budget on budget.dc.gov.
  • Replace the current FY 2012 budget text with "this is what happened" and this is how you can participate in the FY 2013 budget (budget.dc.gov)
  • Make the glossary of budget terms printable.
  • Fix the agency template so policy documents and reports are posted and easy to find.

The complete public responses are online.

FYI, seven people—one resident and three each ANCs and advocates—offered recommendations.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Mayor Gray's weekly presser, August 24

Mayor Gray's weekly press briefing is being held August 24 from 10:00 - 11:00 am in the JAWB.   If you can't make the presser in person, watch on OCT.

Does your child have a library card?

Did you know that the most important school supply of all is a library card?   For adults, a library card is the smartest card in their wallet.

Yup, ‘tis true.

The whole world is available to young and old at the library.   At the DC Public Library, you can check out books and movies.   Young children are exposed to stories, the excitement of language during story hour.   Young people can get homework help and some teens even can get a job at the library.   Older folks can get assistance with resumes and job searches.

The library opens up a whole new world.   So visit your library today, get a card and start checking out the world – here and very far away.

Getting a library card is easy.   You can do it online or in person.   School-age children may apply for a card; young children may receive one upon request by a parent.   [Note:   A child’s record cannot be reviewed by the parents under the "District of Columbia Confidentiality of Library Records Act of 1984" (DC Law 5-128).   The child must initiate such a request.]

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Upcoming learning and advocacy events

Check out these events on the Advocacy and Learning Calendar:
  • DCPNI Community Update Dinner, August 24
  • Final stakeholder meeting on South Capitol Street Tragedy Memorial Act of 2011, August 26
  • Rock a Bye Baby, Now Safely Lay Me Down to Sleep: Infant Suffocation Deaths in the Sleep Environment, September 8
  • Washington Area Women's Foundation's 2011 Leadership Luncheon, October 19

If you've got an event to add, email me the information (text and PDF or JPEG) and link to the information on your website.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Final day to submit suggestions for improving dc.gov survey

This is the last day I will be accepting suggestions to improve the DC government website.   Share your ideas here and I will summarize for a blog post and share all the results with the mayor's communications staff.

Deadline for submitting ideas is August 22.

If you don't share ideas here, you can always email them directly to the mayor's comms staff.

Violence prevention learning and sharing event, August 25

Join Columbia Heights/Shaw Family Strengthening Support Collaborative August 25 from 6:00 - 8:00 pm at The Thurgood Marshall Center (1816 12th St NW, first floor) for the 2nd Annual Youth Violence Intervention Stakeholder's Meeting and Unity Fair.   Go and learn about successful violence prevention strategies the Collaborative and it's partners have implemented across the city this year.

Attendees are encouraged to share information about their program and services and network to effectively intervene in and prevent youth violence as youth head back to school.

RSVP to Carmona Ross.

More information is in the English flier (PDF) and the Spanish flier (PDF).

Friday, August 19, 2011

Ayuda has a new home!

Ayuda has a a new home:   6925B Willow St NW, Washington DC 20012.

Their limited access to internet and phone service due to the Verizon strike makes communications a challenge, but they are open for intakes for the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault and Anti-Trafficking Program (9:00 am - 5:00 pm walk-in).   The Community Interpreter Bank has also continued operations.   The weekly Thursday morning immigration consultations/intakes start up again August 25 from 9:00 - 11:00 am.

All of this information is in three fliers, perfect for clients:

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Mayor Gray on News Talk With Bruce DePuyt August 18

Mayor Vince Gray is Bruce DePuyt's guest on TBD's NewTalk today from 10:00 - 11:00 am.   You can watch online here.

Another thing I would improve on dc.gov

As a budget and policy analyst, I use DC government websites a lot.   The Fenty Administration's new design--which is far superior to its predecessor--left no place for policy documents and reports.   My suggestion to the Gray Administration, then, is to fix the agency template so this information is not only posted but easy to find.

What are your ideas for improving the utility of the DC government website?   Share them here; I will summarize for a blog post and share all the results with the mayor's communications staff.

Deadline for submitting ideas is August 22.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Final stakeholder meeting on South Capitol Street Tragedy Memorial Act of 2011

The Committee on Health is convening its last group stakeholder meeting to review and modify B19-211, "South Capitol Street Tragedy Memorial Act of 2011" (PDF) August 26 from 10:00 am to Noon in Room 123 of the John A. Wilson Building.

The committee staff will brief government and community stakeholders on comments that were heard over the course of the meetings and where the committee is taking those suggestions as a new draft of the legislation is written.   This meeting will provide everyone with the chance to see where the new draft of the bill currently stands as well as provide any additional final feedback before a new draft is completed.

Those who plan to attend should RSVP to 724-7772 by 5:00 pm August 24.

Loving Nana and vintage

So completely off the topic of budget and policy, I know, but I just have to put in a plug for Nana.   I love everything about this store.   The staff are wonderful.   The clothes (new and old) are divine.   The ambiance of the shop is calming.

If you've not ever been, you must stop by (3068 Mt. Pleasant St NW) Saturday, August 21 for their summer sale.   How you can walk by this sweet storefront is beyond me, so stop in Saturday and support this local retailer.

Photo from Nana's website, courtesy of Carrie Anne Seaver of Anemone Design

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

CM Catania's staff changes

Jordan Hutchinson is CM Catania's new Chief of Staff.   Jordan isn't new to the council; you may know her as the Committee on Health committee director.   In her new role, she will do whatever COS's do and also maintain some involvement in public health policy.

Senior Policy Advisor Justin Palmer is taking on the role of Committee Director.   Justin brings wide ranging health policy and legislative experience at both the local and Federal levels to his new role.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Making dc.gov all it can be

What are your ideas for improving the utility of the DC government website?   Share them here; I will summarize for a blog post and share all the results with the mayor's communications staff.

Deadline for submitting ideas is August 22.

Two new budget workshops coming this fall

Coming this fall:   a workshop on the DC capital budget with a cap budget expert and DC Budget 102 focusing on getting ready for agency meetings during budget development.   The details of both will be published on Helping Others Better as soon as they are available.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Just when you thought you had heard the last of the FY 2012 budget

The Office of the Chief Financial Officer announced August 11 that the FY 2012 budget was transmitted to the President.   You can find the budget online.

Mayor Gray on WPFW at 9:30 am today

Tune in to WPFW, 89.3 FM from 9:30 - 9:45 am to hear Gloria Minott interview the mayor.   You can listen on a radio or online.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Public safety and bullying topics of August 20 youth town hall

The Department of Employment Services in Ward 7 is the location of the second Youth Town Hall sponsored by Mayor Vince Gray and the DC Youth Advisory Council.   The event is being held August 20 from 11:00 am - 1:00 pm at DOES (4058 Minnesota Ave NE).

DC youth up to age 21 are encouraged to attend to talk about public safety and bullying.

The flier is here (PDF) and below.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

SYEP roundtable witness list

Here (Word, .doc) is the witness list for the FY 11 SYEP roundtable today at 2:00 pm.

I'm quite surprised there are only eight public witnesses.

Resident input sought on DC's health insurance exchange

The Mayor’s Health Reform Implementation Committee (HRIC) is seeking public input on planning for a Health Insurance Exchange for District residents.   The HRIC has held numerous meetings in the community and is now seeking input via this survey.   The deadline for participating in this survey is August 31.   More surveys will be available in the future.

A Health Insurance Exchange, which is similar to a virtual marketplace, is required by the federal health care reform law, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and will serve a critical function in helping District residents secure affordable health care coverage.

The city needs to design a Health Insurance Exchange that meets the needs of District residents who can take advantage of the new opportunities for health care coverage under the law, as well as provide a sustainable model.   Through the Exchange, individuals and small business employers will shop for, and compare health plans, purchase health insurance and, in many cases, receive tax credits.

More information about the HRIC and the need for an exchange is on the HRIC website.

Some things I would change on dc.gov

To get this party started, here are some of my suggestions for improving dc.gov:

What are your ideas for improving the utility of the DC government website?   Share them here; I will summarize for a blog post and share all the results with the mayor's communications staff.

Deadline for submitting ideas is August 22.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Volunteers needed to help kids make good salad bar choices

Volunteers are needed to show students how to create balanced meals at new DCPS salad bars!   The commitment is one lunch shift on the day of your choice from August 29 through September 2.   This is a great opportunity to teach, learn and have fun!

Details about volunteering are in this flier (PDF).

Do we really have what it takes to identify waste in DC spending?

Photo by Tracy O
There's been a resurgence of thinking about waste, fraud and abuse as a result of Tim Craig's August 4 blog post Brown lashes out at Gray, proposes commission.   Craig reports Council Chair Kwame Brown is considering creating a commission "to explore potential cuts and savings to the city’s budget."   Specifically, the chairman wants to identify "'wasteful spending within the government'" and to "'right-size'" the government.

I am not convinced the commission will yield many thoughtful results.   After all, the City Council just finished the budget analysis process in June following two months of oversight hearings in February and March.   All the committees managed to do was nibble around the edges of the budget between April and June.   For those who have been around the DC budget for any length of time, edge nibbling by the City Council is familiar.

Monday, August 8, 2011

How do YOU want dc.gov improved?

The mayor's office has said that the DC government website dc.gov will soon undergo changes.   I don't know about you, but I have some very specific ideas that would improve the utility of the main site and agency sites.

To facilitate idea sharing, I have created a survey to collect the ideas.   I will summarize the results in a blog post and share all the ideas with Mayor Gray's communications staffers.

The deadline for offering suggestions in this survey is August 22.

Join the Bread for the City team as a community organizer

Bread the the City is looking for the perfect candidate to fill the new Community Organizer position in the southeast office.   The deets are here.   And hurry.   BFC has a target start date of September 6.

DeBonis takes on the District

As Mike DeBonis blogged on Friday, his beat is changing.   Starting today, DeBonis will be blogging about that which strikes his fancy on the latest of the WaPo blogs District of DeBonis.   Gone are the daily summaries (boo!) and the focus on the John A. Wilson Building.   DeBonis will now write about that which strikes his fancy including, of course, DC politics.

Get your advocacy on

The Committee on Housing and Workforce Development (At-large CM Michael Brown, chair) is holding a public roundtable on the implementation of the FY 2011 Summer Youth Employment Program.   The roundtable is being held August 10 at 2:00 pm in the JAWB.   The public is encouraged to testify and must register by August 9 COB.   Additional information about the hearing is in the notice.

The Committee of the Whole (Council Chairman Kwame Brown, chair) is holding a public oversight roundtable on "Middle Grades Education in the District: Preparing our Students for Success in High School and Beyond" September 7 at 10:00 am in the JAWB.   According to the notice, "The purpose of the roundtable is to allow middle grades experts, families, students and other community members to discuss the District’s current approach to educating students in grades 6-8 and best practices for moving forward."   The public is encouraged to testify; details are in the notice (Word, .doc).

Coming up: Learning and advocacy events

Check out these events on the Advocacy and Learning Calendar:
  • Evaluating Family Engagement Strategies: Addressing Measurement Challenges, August 18
  • Ward 8 Health Council meeting, August 19
  • DC Women’s Agenda’s August Lunch & Learn, August 30
  • DC Summit on Evidence-Based Programs for Families, October 3

If you've got an event to add, email me the information (text and PDF or JPEG) and link to the information on your website.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Suggestion to improve healthy food choices

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about the results of a study that found, according to the extract, "Greater supermarket availability was generally unrelated to diet quality and fruit and vegetable intake, and relationships between grocery store availability and diet outcomes were mixed."

I asked readers to share their ideas about influencing behavior change.   One reader responded with this:

UDC has a partnership with the Farmers Markets (I know with Ward 8 Farmer's Market) to help people make good food choices at the Farmers Market and to cook/prepare the food they get there. Farmers Markets are a good choice because they rarely offer the processed foods, just the stuff that is normally in the outer aisles at a grocery store. They have limitations as few are open year round or even daily. But they are a start and can help figure out what to do when you are in the grocery store.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

What the council's committee shuffle means to advocates

As you've heard, Council Chairman Kwame Brown proposed and the members approved committee changes in July.   The changes added a committee, changed chairs, and restructured committees.   The new assignments are on the City Council website and in the council rules, PR19-324 (PDF).

There is more to the changes than committee assignments of members as chairs.   For example, the staff of the new Committee on Libraries, Parks, Recreation and Planning used to be the staff of the Committee on Public Works and Transportation (Ward 6 CM Tommy Wells, chair and former chair, respectively).   The same goes for the Committee on Government Operations and the Committee on Libraries, Parks, and Recreation (Ward 4 CM Muriel Bowser, chair and former chair, respectively).

Moving staff from one committee to another requires the staff to learn not only new subject areas—libraries, recreation and planning—but content and dynamics in agencies, advocates, budgets, public policy, and more.

Changes were also made to committee membership, requiring new committee members to get up to speed on issues generally and committee activity, specifically.

What does this mean for advocates?   First, it means advocates have to get to know new committee staff.   You can start with the latest Council directory (updated July 29) (PDF).   Second, it means advocates will have the opportunity to educate the staff.   Third, advocates will have to start a new kind of relationship with these staffers.   Finally, it means that advocates will have to get to know the member in his new role.

The dynamics of childhood poverty

Years ago I found this list (Word, .doc) of conditions children in poverty will likely experience.   I found it useful when writing reports or testimony; I would pick one or more and present data about them to present a picture of DC children in poverty.   Maybe you can find a use for it, too.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Save the date: D.C. School Garden Week, September 26 - October 1, 2011

This annual celebration will feature
  • Photo contest for students
  • Mass release of monarch butterflies
  • Workshops
  • Schools teachings and learning outdoors
  • Tours of schoolyard projects
  • School garden work days
  • ...and more!

This event is organized by DC Schoolyard Greening, a program of the D.C. Environmental Education Consortium.   The consortium includes nonprofit organizations, government agencies, teachers, and concerned individuals interested in improving green spaces at schools and expanding the outdoor educational opportunities for DC students.

More information is available from P. Trinh Doan via email or (202) 535-1653.

Mayor Gray's weekly presser, August 3

Mayor Gray's weekly presser is being held August 3 from 10:00 - 11:00 am at Guy Mason Recreation Center (3600 Calvert St NW).   The press briefing is part of the rec center ribbon cutting at which the mayor will offer remarks.   Also on the agenda are summer successes and a transportation costs study.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Make sure kids in foster care have the school supplies they need

More than 2,300 school-age children and youth from the District are in foster care or receive supportive services from Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA).   That's right, 2,300.

You can help make their first day of school great by making sure they have the school supplies they need.   CFSA is collecting supplies through August 15.   Details are in this flier (Word, .doc).

Library card = access to the world

Did you know that the most important school supply of all is a library card?   For adults, a library card is the smartest card in their wallet.

Yup, ‘tis true.

The whole world is available to young and old at the library.   At the DC Public Library, you can check out books and movies.   Young children are exposed to stories, the excitement of language during story hour.   Young people can get homework help and some teens even can get a job at the library.   Older folks can get assistance with resumes and job searches.

The library opens up a whole new world.   So visit your library today, get a card and start checking out the world – here and very far away.

Getting a library card is easy.   You can do it online or in person.   School-age children may apply for a card; young children may receive one upon request by a parent.   [Note:   A child’s record cannot be reviewed by the parents under the "District of Columbia Confidentiality of Library Records Act of 1984" (DC Law 5-128).   The child must initiate such a request.]

Monday, August 1, 2011

Updated: Advocacy and Learning Calendar

Just added to the calendar are these events:
  • Teen Pregnancy forums, August 2, 9, 16, and 23
  • Public Forum: Let's Talk Comp Plan, August 10
  • Ward 8 Emergency Preparedness Meeting, August 18
  • DC Builds: Big Box Retail, September 8
  • Implementing Bolder Strategies: Engaging Youth & Families As Changemakers, September 27
  • Children's Justice & Safety: Unite, Build, Lead Conference, October 12 - 14

If you've not stopped by the Advocacy and Learning Calendar lately, do so today.   Lots of other events are listed.

If you've got an event to add, email me the information (text and PDF or JPEG) and link to the information on your website.

Please join me in supporting an independent community college in DC

Support for a community college in the District of Columbia has been strong for years, from the anti-poverty work done under the leadership of DC Primary Care Association to the analysis done by DC Appleseed and Greater Washington Research at Brookings to the interest of the Council of the District of Columbia.

Support from the University of the District of Columbia was also strong, early on at least.

Now, it seems, UDC's president has thrown a wrench in the works and the students of the Community College of the District of Columbia (CCDC) are none too happy.

CCDC students take issue with the latest UDC decision, the name of the community college vis à vis UDC's name.   Students have questions and want answers.   They deserve answers.   So do taxpayers and stakeholders.

I've signed the student-developed petition Keep CCDC separate from UDC and I encourage you to do the same.

My reasons for signing the petition are different from the students' reasons.   I took offense during the FYs 2010 and 2011 oversight hearings when UDC blamed the community college for the need for an additional $8 million.   Why?   First there was the questionable spending by the UDC president.   Then there was credible word from inside UDC that the $8 million was not in any way related to CCDC but wholly to UDC.

I support a separate community college to give the students a chance in a way that UDC will never be able to.   As the petition site says, "Ultimately, CCDC students have their own wants and needs and therefore, require their own, independent institution."