Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The next step in ethics reform, November 30

The ethical lapses of elected officials have some in the community stewing and others, like Martin Austermuhle of DCist, suggesting that simplicity is the best solution.   Austermuhle contributed to WaPo's November 4 piece The ethics reform that D.C. needs most, writing that the solution is to have members of the DC Council think simplistically (no snarky response here, folks, this one is just too easy).   The example is an "Ethics Quick Test" (see the DC government's here on DCist) which is similar to one used by Texas Instruments:
  • Is the action legal?
  • Does it comply with our values?
  • If you do it, will you feel bad?
  • How will it look in the newspaper?
  • If you know it's wrong, don't do it!
  • If you're not sure, ask.
  • Keep asking until you get an answer.

Laugh, snicker, snort if you must; I did.   I'm with DCist's Aaron Morrissey on this one:

Of course, this "quick test" assumes that the person thinking about committing a violation would actually be sentient enough to honestly answer such questions, which, as we all know, is quite the assumption to be making.

Back to the serious discussion.   The fevered pitch of the public outcry has died down over the past month or so but the need for reform remains.   Former Councilmember Kathy Patterson is spot on when she said this (Word, .doc) at the October 26 public hearing on multiple ethics bills:

only the Council can restore public trust in the Council and ensure that trust is retained in the future; that cannot be accomplished by outside entities no matter what their scope and responsibility.

The same can be said for the mayor.

I don't have any answers.   But I do have expectations and I expect elected and appointed officials to behave ethically.   I am sure we cannot legislate ethical behavior any more than we can legislate moral or socially acceptable behavior.   That doesn't mean we don't try and it certainly doesn't mean the community should not hold elected officials accountable.

Part of this thing called accountability is weighing in on legislation.   Eighteen members of the public have registered to testify (see the draft list, circulated November 29) (Word, .doc) at the Committee on Government Operations (Ward 4 CM Muriel Bowser, chair) public roundtable on the Draft Committee Print of Bill 19-511, the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability Establishment and Comprehensive Ethics Reform Amendment Act of 2011 November 30 at 11:00 am (PDF) in the JAWB.

Watch the event via OCT.

The November 30 roundtable is focused on the specific proposal of the Committee on Government Operations, not the issue generally and not about the numerous bills before the committee.   The committee may make changes to the proposal depending on comments made at the roundtable.

A gift idea for your favorite advocate

Looking for a gift for your favorite DC advocate?   Consider giving them Communications for DC Advocates: How-to's and lessons learned over 15 years.   The guide makes a perfect holiday or job-well-done gift.   Also a terrific item for new staff.

You can learn more about the guide and purchase it here on the blog.

Community learning forum on child sexual abuse—a must-attend event

Safe Shores - The DC Children's Advocacy Center is hosting a free Community Learning Forum December 8 from 6:00 - 8:30 pm at Safe Shores (429 O St NW).

Attendees will leave with an increased awareness of the prevalence, consequences and circumstances of child sexual abuse and new skills to prevent, recognize and react responsibly when you suspect or witness abuse occurring.   The organization, which services children in the District who have been sexually or physically abused and offers affordable prevention and identification training to child- and youth-serving organizations, was spurred to offer this forum following the recent child sexual abuse allegations at Penn State and Syracuse University and the ensuing national dialogue.

Dinner will be provided.   This event is free, but space is limited.   RSVP by December 5 to Jada Irwin via email or by calling 645-4436.

Safe Shores' Community Learning Forum is co-sponsored by National Children's Alliance, Children's National Medical Center, Metropolitan Police Department, Child and Family Services Agency - Child Protective Services Administration, and Downtown Cluster of Congregations.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Rules published in the 11/25 DCR

  • Final rules protecting kids in foster care from identity theft:   Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA) issued final rules (Word, .doc) to protect children and youth in a variety of ways.
  • Proposed rules for assessing families who may be abusing or neglecting their children:   CFSA issued proposed rules (Word, .doc) detailing the procedure for referring a family for a family assessment in lieu of an investigation in response to certain reports of abuse or neglect.    The public is encouraged to comment in writing on the proposal; more information is in the proposed rules.    The public has 30 days to submit comments.

Walmart in DC: Good, Bad, Indifferent?

Seems like there are mostly lovers or haters of Walmart with a few agnostics thrown in for good measure.

On the lover side is Mayor Vince Gray.   On November 22, he announced a deal with Walmart that "represents an unprecedented, citywide commitment from a retailer that is already poised to help create more than 1,800 permanent jobs in our city."   The mayor is touting as a major success the community benefit agreement—calling for filling jobs with DC residents, investing $21 million over the next seven years in local charities, and forming a Community Advisory Committee to broker retailer-community relations.

The hater side is somewhat more nuanced.   Some simply loathe the retailer, the emotion typically fueled by Walmart's less than worker-friendly business practices and impact on small business.   But there are others in this camp; these folks exercise extreme caution when talking about/working with Walmart.   Marina Streznewski, Executive Director of the DC Jobs Council, is an example of the extreme caution group.   She has invested significant time and energy in getting the most for the community out of Walmart and offers this assessment:

Walmart really did not commit to anything specific, such as paying a living wage, or guaranteeing a certain percentage of full-time jobs. And there is a big question as to whether this agreement is legally enforceable; the second-to-last paragraph seems to suggest it is not.

The second to the last paragraph?   "Any intentions or commitments contained in this document are subject and contingent upon business conditions that will continue to ensure a productive relationship with the city and its residents."

According to the DC Environmental Network (DCEN), the plan Mayor Gray presented was actually a document created by Walmart.   And the nonprofit environmental group takes the mayor to task for failing to "include any substantive environmental commitments beyond following laws already on the books."   Surely, this response is to be expected from an environmental group.   But there's substance behind the criticism.   DCEN and others saw the promise of Sustainable DC, a collaborative effort to make the District the greenest, healthiest, and most livable city in the country.   While it's true that there has been considerable public input so far in the initiative, it's ironic that the Walmart decision was made before the project ended.   (The kickoff for Sustainable DC working groups is November 29, a week after the Walmart announcement.)

Learn more about the environmental and other impacts of Walmart on the community at the DC Environmental Network's "Walmart & DC: How Walmart's Sustainability Plan is Not So Green" December 1 at Noon.   The event is free and open to the public.   More information is on the DCEN website.

As to the issue of whether Walmart will be good for the District, there is something to be said for new jobs going to DC residents.   I'm not naive enough to believe all the government hype, but I do believe that the public can and will try to get real benefits for the city and her residents.   My advice?   Attend the DCEN event even if the environment is not your main cause and participate in Sustainable DC.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Rules noticed in the 11/18 DCR

  • Proposed rules from the DC Housing Authority (DCHA):   DCHA issued proposed rules (Word, .doc) concerning the waiting list for the Housing Choice Voucher Program.   Public comments will be accepted for 30 days from the date of publication.   Details about submitting comments are in the rules.
  • Proposed rules for mental health services:   The Department of Mental Health issued proposed rules (Word, .doc) for peer specialist certification.   Peer specialists will deliver Medicaid-reimbursable mental health rehabilitation services to children, youth, and adults.   Public comments will be accepted for 30 days from the date of publication.   Details about submitting comments are in the rules.
  • Proposed rules from UDC about issuing a warning during an emergency:   The UDC Board of Trustees issued proposed rules (Word, .doc) regarding the establishment of policies and procedures for timely warning in the event of an emergency.   Public comments will be accepted for 30 days from the date of publication.   Details about submitting comments are in the rules.   (Presumably, these rules are a result of crises like that at Virginia Tech.   One wonders why it has taken so long for UDC to develop these plans.)
  • Proposed rules to implement a discrimination and harassment policy at UDC:   The UDC Board of Trustees issued proposed rules (Word, .doc) to implement a discrimination and harassment policy at UDC that conforms with local and federal laws.   Public comments will be accepted for 30 days from the date of publication.   Details about submitting comments are in the rules.
  • Proposed rules for UDC to comply with crime notification law:   Proposed by the UDC trustees, the purpose of the proposed rule (Word, .doc) is to comply with the Campus Safety Act, also known as the Jeanne Clery Act, which requires college and universities to report annual crime statistics, provide timely warnings of serious crimes when there may be a threat to others, and to keep a public log of campus incidents.   According to Complying With The Jeanne Clery Act, the law ties disclosure to participation in federal student financial aid programs.   Public comments will be accepted for 30 days from the date of publication.   Details about submitting comments are in the rules.
  • Proposed rules to establish alcohol policy at UDC:   The purpose of the proposed rule (Word, .doc) is to establish an alcohol policy in compliance with the Higher Education Act, Campus Safety Act and other federal and local laws.   Public comments will be accepted for 30 days from the date of publication.   Details about submitting comments are in the rules.
  • Proposed and emergency rules from CFSA:   CFSA has just issued these emergency and proposed rules (Word, .doc) about foster homes even though they were effective in August.   CFSA seeks comments on these rules.   They've explained that these rules include substantial revisions from the previous emergency and proposed rules on the same subject.

DC Council hearings noticed in the 11/25 DCR

Need some help preparing your testimony for one of these hearings?   No worries.   Buy the affordable Communications for DC Advocates: How-to's and lessons learned over 15 years and you can follow the outline or use the template.   The PDF guide offers instructions, tips, and notes for writing letters, preparing and delivering testimony, holding briefings, templates for written communications, and much more.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Quick and easy hermit bar recipe

Got a bit of time and a hankering for something sweet and spicy?   Take a few minutes to make these Hermit Bars and you'll be happy you did.   They are moist and yummy and easy to make.

Friday, November 25, 2011

DC Council hearings noticed in 11/18 DCR

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Nonprofit news

  • Connecting Classrooms with Careers, December 5:   The Brookings Institution is holding this roundtable to discuss the recent Brookings report, Strengthening Educational and Career Pathways for D.C. Youth and the broader issue of rebuilding career and technical education in DC high schools.The event is being held December 5 from 2:00 – 4:00 pm at Brookings (1775 Massachusetts Ave NW ).   RSVP to Karen Slachetka via email by December 1.

    The report recommends the District adopt the goal that by 2022, 90% of DC youth will earn a post-secondary credential and obtain full-time work by age 24.   Ross contends that one way to improve outcomes for District youth is to reinvigorate Career and Technical Education (CTE) in public schools.   Career Academies are a particular form of CTE that blend small learning communities, integrated academic and occupational curriculum, and strong partnerships with employers.   Research shows that Career Academies provide strong labor market payoffs and do not reduce post-secondary enrollment and completion.   Come hear about the opportunities and challenges for CTE programs in DCPS and public charter schools and participate in a roundtable discussion.

    Event speakers are:

    *Martha Ross, Fellow, Metropolitan Policy Program
    *James Kemple, Executive Director, Research Alliance for New York City Schools and formerly with MDRC, where he was principal investigator of the Career Academies evaluation
    *Thomas Penny, General Manager, Courtyard by Marriott Convention Center and Board of Trustees, Hospitality High School
    *K-12 representative TBD
  • New report on employment opportunities for previously incarcerated:   The Council for Court Excellence has just released the first major study to document the enormous obstacles to employment facing DC residents with a criminal record. Unlocking Employment Opportunity for Previously Incarcerated Persons in the District of Columbia offers practical and inexpensive solutions for addressing the issue of reentry and unemployment.   This free report is in PDF.
  • How supportive housing is funded:   CNHED's Elizabeth Falcon offers a look into the daunting issue of funding for affordable programs in DC with this November 7 blog post Supportive Housing Funding.
  • Fair Chance has moved:   Their new address is
    2001 S Street, NW
    Suite 310
    Washington, DC 20009

    Their phone and email are unchanged.

  • Bread for the City's now farming:   The University of the District of Columbia has granted access to 1.8 acres to Bread so the nonprofit can plant about 1,000 apple and Asian pear trees along with hundreds of blueberry and blackberry bushes.   City Orchard, as the new project is called, is just outside of the District.   Learn more about the project in this WAMU piece and in this blog post.
  • DCFPI continues to offer valuable insights:   DC Fiscal Policy Institute continues to offer solid evaluations of public policy and budget ideas along with well thought out recommendations for improving people's lives through policy.   Be sure to follow them on their blog District's Dime.
  • Safe Shores ED featured in Essence magazine:   Michele Booth Cole was featured in the October 2011 issue of Essence magazine in an article entitled "The 10 Principles of Power" (and in PDF here) about successful women in leadership positions.   Booth Coles is featured on the title page of the article; she talks about her work to secure Safe Shores' newly renovated home at the former Bundy School in northwest DC.   She also discusses some of the obstacles she encountered and how she overcame them to ultimately ensure that Safe Shores acquired a larger, child-focused facility to serve children and families affected by abuse, trauma and violence in the District.

    You can learn more about what inspires and drives Booth Cole in 7 Questions – Michele Booth Cole (Safe Shores).

  • Workshop on crimes against children, December 8:   Psychiatric Institute of Washington (PIW) and Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington are sponsoring "Facebook Gangsters and Other Computer Crimes Against Children" December 8 from 4:00 – 7:30 pm at the Ophelia Egypt Health Center (3927A Minnesota Ave NE).   More info below.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

New community calendar for Ward 5

Ward 5 resident Nolan Treadway has started the Ward 5 Calendar, a terrific resource for the community.   The calendar will include community events, ANC meetings, Single Member District meetings, education events, book events, community gatherings, and political events relating to Ward 5.

Submit events to Treadway via email.

Think child abuse happens only happens in poor families?

Think child abuse happens only happens in poor families?   Check out Wednesday's Child, an episode of Prime Suspect.   True, it is a tv show, but it reflects the truth.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Make the call when it's cold

Thanks to Marina Streznewski for this fab idea!

Where things are on the improved DC Council website

As I use the new and improved DC Council website I sometimes wander around looking for things.   'Cause you might do the same, I thought I'd share two bits of useful information.   Note Catherine Wigginton, queen of the council website, pointed me in the right direction.
Looking for a page listing all the hearing notices?   Here's the page.   You can get to this page from the home page by selecting Hearing Notices under the top right General Info menu.   Also, once you’re anywhere else in the site, you’ll see the sidebar links for Hearing Notices, Register to Testify at a Hearing, Watch Hearings Live, and Register to Vote in DC.

Looking for CM and committee office numbers?   You can find that in the Council two-page directory, found on the About the Council page.   You can get to the About the Council page from the home page in three ways.   First from the middle row with images (Watch Hearings; About the Council; Current Legislation; etc).   Second at the very top right of the home page are three header links (RSS, Press Center, General Info).   Look under the General Info tab, "About the Council."   Third in the home page footer section, "Learn, Engage, Find."   Look in "Learn" and you'll find another link to About the Council.

Public hearing on release of DYRS escapee photos

The Committee on Human Services (Ward 1 CM Jim Graham, chair) issued an abbreviated hearing notice November 17 about a public hearing on B19-301, The "Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services Escapee Photo Identification Release Amendment Act of 2011".   The hearing is scheduled for December 2 at 11:00 am.

B19-301 would amend Title 16 of the District of Columbia Official Code to provide that if a respondent escapes from a secure juvenile facility, the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS) shall release to the public any and all information subject to disclosure, including a photograph, within one hour of the absconding or escaping, shall list the respondent as a fugitive from justice with any other designation deemed appropriate, and shall release additional information if it is necessary to protect the respondent or the public safety and welfare.

The public is encouraged to testify.   Details are in the unofficial hearing notice.   Note:   Official notices are published in the DC Register and there is no notice in the November 18 DCR.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Nearly 150 witnesses for 11/18 oversight hearing on re-entry programs

The witness list for the oversight hearing on re-entry programs being held November 18 at Noon should help viewers follow along.

Student essay contest about democracy

The DC Arts & Humanities Education Collaborative is sponsoring an essay contest, encouraging students in grades 5-12 to write about the topic, "As a citizen of DC, what does democracy mean to me?"

The contest is open to students in public and public charter schools.   The top ten contestants in each grade grouping will be invited to attend an awards ceremony in April 2012.   Winners from each grade grouping will be awarded $1,000 and have the opportunity to read their essay aloud at a library, as well as win a new book for their schools and professional development opportunities for their teachers.

The submission deadline is February 29, 2012.

Mediation now available for time-sharing schedules during holidays

Superior Court's Multi-Door Dispute Resolution Division has kicked off "Same Day Express", a mediation service being offered to discuss time-sharing schedule of children surrounding Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's, and/or school winter break.   More information is in this flier (Word, .doc).

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thanksgiving baskets for foster kids

There's still time to participate in CFSA's Thanksgiving food basket drive to benefit children and youth involved in the child welfare system.   Donations are to be dropped off at CFSA November 22.   Need more info?   Call Beatrice Williars, 497-4264.

Advocacy and Learning Calendar updates

Some of the events recently added to the Advocacy and Learning Calendar are:
  • Public Dialogue on Community Needs and Community Spaces, November 21
  • Poverty, Inequality, Mobility, Oh My!, November 22
  • Webinar about "Criminalizing Crisis: The Criminalization of Homelessness in America", November 29
  • Paid Sick Days for Tipped Workers Briefing, December 5
  • Housing and Transportation Affordability in Washington, DC, December 6

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.

Mayor Gray on NewsTalk, November 17

Mayor Vince Gray will appear on NewsChannel 8’s NewsTalk With Bruce DePuyt November 17 from 10:00 - 11:00 am.   Watch online.   Tweet questions to TBDNewsTalk, call (703) 387-1020, or email DePuyt.

Are DC Council URLs correct on your website?

Do you have links to the DC Council on your website?   Have you checked them since the council revamped its website?   You should since URLs have changed.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Writing competition: What does home mean to you?

What makes where you live a home?   Is it the memories, family gatherings, or friendly neighborhood?   Have you struggled to find a place that you could call home?   What is important to you about your home? The Coalition for Nonprofit Housing and Economic Development (CNHED) wants to hear your stories.

CNHED is having their first writing competition where we are asking youth and adults to answer the question: "What does home mean to you?"

Prizes will be awarded in a youth and adult category and will be recognized at the December 10 Housing for All Rally.   For more information about the entry process and prizes, click here. Submissions are due November 21, 2011.

Getting personal with local journalists

Do the names Mike DeBonis, Sommer Mathis, and Harry Jaffe ring any bells?   Aside from being DC-based journalists, they all call Borderstan home.   (A map of Borderstan, as shown on the Borderstan blog illustrates the multi-neighborhood area.)

Learn something more personal about each of the journalists by reading interviews with them: Mike DeBonis, Sommer Mathis, and Harry Jaffe.

Federal grant information now online

CFO Natwar Gandhi announced November 15 that information on federal grants is now available via   You can now see info by agency, program (in EOM-speak, division), federal grant and by program/division, and expense type.

According to the press release (Word, .doc),

"This is just the latest step in our ongoing efforts to improve transparency of the District’s budget and finances," said Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi. "We will continue to seek new ways to provide more detailed data to our citizens and taxpayers," Gandhi added.

No matter what Gandhi says, this is only a mini step toward transparency.   District government agencies budget to the activity level (human services) and the service level (including public safety agencies).   This means that CFOInfo is keeping a tremendous amount of information off the website, away from the public.

Even with this significant shortcoming, this new info is useful. The site slices and dices the data in some very helpful ways as shown below.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

November 15 Committee of the Whole

The Committee of the Whole (At-large CM Kwame Brown, chair) is scheduled to meet November 15 at 10:00 am.   The agenda is online (PDF).   If you can't make it to the JAWB, you can watch the session from the COW meeting page or via the OCT website.

Test your knowledge of DC Council committees

Here's a little something to test what you know about DC Council committees: A game (Word, .doc) wherein you match the committee to the committee director/clerk.   (UPDATE: List corrected 9:45 a 11/15.   Thanks to Karen Sibert in chair's office for correction!)   Feel free to use in workshops or with colleagues.

Rules noticed in the November 11 DC Register

  • DC ONE card replacement fee final rules:   The Office of the Chief Technology Officer issued final rules (Word, .doc) on this issue in the November 11 DCR.
  • Fuel surcharge on cabs emergency rule:   The DC Taxicab Commission issued emergency rules (Word, .doc) to extend a fuel surcharge of $1.00 per taxicab trip originating in the District of Columbia.   The emergency rule will be in force for 120 days unless changed earlier by the commission chair.   The rules become effective November 18.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The real Penn State story

Much of the mainstream press would have you believe that the Penn State/Sandusky child abuse story is about Joe Paterno, a football legend.   Many in the public believe this too.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Indulge me while I tell a real-life story.

There once was a seven-year-old girl living in a solidly-middle class family that loved and did all they could for her.   This little girl and her family lived in a solidly middle-class neighborhood.   The adults in the neighborhood looked out for the girl and her younger brother, as they did all children in the neighborhood.   Step out of line and an adult admonished the child.

This child could not have lived in a more stable environment.   She lived in luxury compared to the children in the Hartford public school in which her mother volunteered.   She may have wanted toys that she did not get but there was nothing about her upbringing that had her wanting for the important things—love, shelter, food, medical care.

This young girl was molested by two adults and an older teen.

That's right, this solidly middle-class girl was molested by solidly middle-class people.

Skip ahead to young adulthood and the girl acted out knowing full well the cause.   People around her didn't know and she didn't tell her parents until she was in her mid-20s.

This woman was lucky and had a great support system to get through the disclosure.   Her family was incredibly supportive.   This young woman bravely went public in a healing service at the church in which she grew up.   All was going well during the service until her father broke down in tears, almost inconsolable.

Back to the Penn State story.

The Chicago Tribune's David Haugh got it right in Penn State's Paterno deserves no pity with this: "Save your pity for the trusting boys who may grow up into tortured men, not JoePa."   And this: "Right now, I still see a guy who was one of Pennsylvania's most powerful people who looked away and failed to protect children."

When I hear stories about child sexual abuse, I cringe, get mad, reflect on my past, and move on.   Not possible with this story.   There is something so wrong with the narrative that focuses on the adults at Penn State who knew what Sandusky is alleged to have done to boys.   The story is about the boys, about the impact of the abuse now and forever, about their families now and in the future.

Sexual abuse is not something you can just shake off.   Take it from me.

I wish I could make the pain go away for those Sandusky abused.   I can't.   What I can do is to continue my work in the area of child abuse and neglect and to speak out when I hear folks pity the likes of the abusers or those who knew and took the easy, cowardly road of saying nothing.

DC Council hearings noticed in the November 11 DC Register

  • A continuation public oversight roundtable on the winter plan for homeless people:   The Committee on Human Services (Ward 1 CM Jim Graham, chair) is holding this roundtable November 18 at 10:00 am.   The purpose is to hear more from the director of the Department of Human Services, David Berns.   Berns' first appearance on the issue was October 20; watch the hearing here.   More information is in the notice (PDF).   Watch the hearing live via the hearing's event page.
  • Oversight roundtable on the role of DPR and DC Public Library in emergency preparedness:   The Committee on Libraries, Parks, Recreation, and Planning (Ward 6 CM Tommy Wells, chair) is holding this roundtable November 30 from 1:00 – 5:00 pm.   The public is invited to testify; details are in the revised notice (PDF). More about the roundtable and to watch it live, go to the roundtable page.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Join the 12/1 discussion of the transformation of the District's juvenile justice system

Notorious to Notable: How the Foundation Community Pushed to Transform the District of Columbia's Juvenile Justice Agency is taking place December 1 from 11:45 am – 2:00 pm at Public Welfare Foundation (1200 U St NW).   The event will feature a briefing on the new report Notorious to Notable, an interactive discussion among juvenile justice system stakeholders, and a screening of "The Road to Rehabilitation and Reform: a short film about D.C. and its disconnected youth."

Space is limited.   RSVP by November 22 to Sarah Joy Albrecht via email.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Health committee actions November 10

The Committee on Health (At-large CM David Catania, chair) is holding two events November 10:
  • Additional committee meeting to mark-up B19-0002, "Health Benefit Exchange Authority Establishment Act of 2011".   The meeting takes place at 10:15 am in Room 120.   The draft committee report is online in three parts.   The committee is also taking action on committee staffing appointments (PDF).
  • Public oversight hearing on the status of health care reform implementation in the District.   The hearing will take place at 11:00 am in the Council Chambers.   The purpose of the hearing is to receive updates on the District’s efforts to implement federal health care reform, the work of the Mayor’s Health Reform Implementation Committee, and the status of health information technology in the District.

You can watch the hearing live via streaming video using the DC Council website or OCT.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Got a book you want to review?

By OpenClipart
Guest reviewers are sought to write book and article reviews for the blog.   This is a great opportunity for a policy wonk, academic, avid reader, voracious learner, subject area expert, or regular person to share their views on books about organizing, advocacy, public policy, and other issue areas.   I am especially interested in reviews of:
  • Coase’s Penguin, or, Linux and The Nature of the Firm by Yochai Benkler
  • Wiki Government: How Technology Can Make Government Better, Democracy Stronger, and Citizens More Powerful by Professor Beth Simone Noveck
  • Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't AND Good to Great and the Social Sectors: A Monograph to Accompany Good to Great by Jim Collins
  • Great by Choice by Jim Collins

The length and delivery date are entirely up to you.   Email me if you are interested in one of the above or something else.

This is a reposting from mid-October.

Thoughts about doing better for the city's youth

If you're not familiar with the new blog UnSectored, you are missing out on something special.   This online space focuses on "working towards social change in ways that cut across sectors and elevate the dialogue beyond a sectored paradigm."   The UnSectored blog
isn’t about nonprofits. It isn’t about for-profits. Not social entrepreneurship, nor social enterprise, nor social innovation. It’s about using the tools around us to solve the problems before us. It’s about seeing the world in a different way, creating a more connected society to live in, and a better life for all.

Let's take the November 8 post We Can Do Better as an example of the roles various sectors play in the issue of youth employment and disengagement.   UnSectored blog author Allison Corbett, currently working at a Northern Virginia non-profit in adult ESL education, briefly reviews the new Brookings Institute report Strengthening Educational and Career Pathways for D.C. Youth and supplements it with a summary of roles for numerous sectors and an appeal for other ideas.

Read Corbett's post below.


"The District can and should do better."

This is an oft-repeated theme in the new report from the Brookings Institute, Strengthening Educational and Career Pathways for D.C. Youth, published this October. The report is peppered with charts obtained from survey data, bulleted recommendations, and a surprisingly clear message about what needs to happen in the District to improve educational and employment opportunities for DC’s youth.

The Diagnosis
The report concludes that DC youth are far too disconnected from employment, educational, and economic opportunities. The importance of post-secondary education is growing and has a direct impact on the future earning potential of individuals. It also identifies preparation for employment and post-secondary education as critical to an effective transition to adulthood.

Though much attention is paid to the abundance of jobs in the city, employment statistics in the District are dismal. In fact, "unemployment in Washington, D.C. is consistently higher than national and regional averages. In July 2011, unemployment in the District reached 10.8 percent, compared to 6.3 percent in the region." Unemployment stats for youth are downright shocking: There’s a 17 percent unemployment rate among youth 20-24, and one in two 16-19 are unemployed.

Among the report’s central concerns are the lack of coordination and collaboration between the various youth service-delivery providers in DC and the lack of alternatives for those not pursuing a four-year degree.

The report highlights the potential damage that such a strict emphasis on funneling students into four-year institutions can have for those not likely to pursue that path. According to national statistics, they report "only about 30 percent of Americans earn a four-year degree by their mid-twenties, showing that the 'college for all' approach is not translating into the desired outcomes.' Significant gains in earnings can be achieved by attaining two-year degrees and certificates. In fact, as many liberal arts graduates have realized during this Great Recession, "certificates with real value in the labor market can sometimes out earn higher education levels." For example, "a person holding an engineering certificate earns more on average ($47,000) than a person holding an AA in the liberal arts or a BA in education."

The Prescription
The report’s recommendations detail the ways that DC institutions and organizations can improve their youth employment programs through improved coordination and communication. The Brookings Institute partnered with the Center on Law and Social Policy (CLASP) to research best practices and lay out recommendations to improve DC’s youth employment delivery system. (These are presented in a separate report, Building a Comprehensive Youth Employment Delivery System: Examples of Effective Practice.)

Based on this research, Brookings recommends, among other things, that: the District adopts a goal stating by 2022, 90 percent of DC youth will earn a post-secondary credential and obtain full-time work by the age of 24; develops clear engagement points for employers; works to improve the programs supporting youth transition into a successful adulthood; and dramatically improves the city’s capacity to generate and use data.

For the Unsector
The Brookings Institute seems to be calling for an unsectored effort to address the problem of disconnected DC youth. Essential to the success of such improvement efforts is a collaborative and pan-systemic approach to strengthening the pathways between education, job preparation, and employment. Employers across all sectors must be engaged in providing opportunities for youth and communicating their needs to youth service-providers, non-profits, and schools. Policy makers can play a huge role in creating systems and spaces that create cohesion and offer central bodies through which policies and practices can be debated and decided.

With so many students falling behind, failing out, and ending up unemployed, how can we serve them better? What else does the unsector have to offer to bridge the gaps that these "disconnected" youth fall through?

This was originally posted on the blog UnSectored. You can read the original post here.

Some of my thoughts about how other sectors can help address this important issue are:

  • Family engagement in education is essential.   DC Public Schools is making an effort to do just this, in part by asking parents what they need and incorporating the ideas in the Parent Resource Centers RFP.
  • Truancy must be dramatically reduced.   At-large CM David Catania is addressing this issue in legislation (see the CM's website).   Last year, Ward 6 CM Tommy Wells also took on this issue (more here).
  • Bolstering parenting skills.   With so many parents working multiple jobs or trying to make ends meet, there is often little time for quality interaction with their children.   Unfortunately, some parents still rely on "old-school" parenting while others do little parenting at all.   Others are just too tired to seek out better ways.
  • Reducing reliance on youth earnings.   I've long held that too much emphasis is placed on serving a gazillion teens in the Summer Youth Employment Program in order to bolster family earnings.   Giving young people quality work experience is an entirely different issue than family poverty and should be treated differently in policy and practice.
What are your ideas?   Join the conversation by leaving some comments on UnSectored.

Witness list for employment legislation hearing November 9

The Committee on Public Services and Consumer Affairs (Ward 7 CM Yvette Alexander, chair) is holding a public hearing on Bill 19-38, the "Equal Access to Employment for All Act of 2011" November 9 at 11:00 am.   The draft witness list (Word, .doc) shows 13 witnesses, one of whom is the government representative (Lisa Mallory of the Department of Employment Services).   You can watch the hearing streaming live on the DC Council website and on OCT.

The purpose of the legislation is to prohibit the use of consumer credit checks against prospective and current employees for the purpose of making adverse employment decisions.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Yummy fall cake recipe

My time in Connecticut for the past five weeks, including the snow storm on October 29 that has left my mother without power still, got me into the fall cooking mode.   So today I baked a stand-by in the Connecticut Cambria household, Tomato Soup Cake.   Before you shudder too much, it's a spice cake with the soup as moistener.   Seriously yummy.   And here's the recipe (Word, .doc).   Have fun baking!

Advocacy and Learning Calendar updates

Some of the events recently added to the Advocacy and Learning Calendar are:
    Webinar on new advocacy tools to cut poverty, November 9

  • “Young Kids, Hard Time” documentary premiere, November 10
  • Webinar: Building Strong Systems of Support for Young Children's Mental Health, November 28
  • Workshop on new Nonprofit Corporation Code in DC, November 30
  • A Capital Collection of Holiday Shops, December 2 - 4
  • St. George's Episcopal Church: Episcopal Church Women's Annual Christmas Bazaar, December 3
  • Activist Awards Grassroots Gala, December 8

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.

Mayor's November 8 sked

Mayor Vince Gray will attend the Early Stages Northeast Assessment Center (4058 Minnesota Ave NE, DOES Building) ribbon cutting November 8 from 9:30 – 10:15 am.   The mayor will offer remarks.   The mayor will also be participating in the press conference to launch   The presser is being held from 10:30 – 11:30 am on the front steps of John A. Wilson Building (1350 Pennsylvania Ave NW).

Monday, November 7, 2011

Ward 4 mayor's youth town hall, November 19

Mayor Gray's next Youth Town Hall (flier here in Word, .doc) is being held November 19 from 12:30 – 2:30 pm at Takoma Community Center in Ward 4. The focus of this youth-focused event is school truancy.

The mayor is encouraging young people to turn out and speak their mind about this important issue.

Selected items from the November 4 DC Register

  • Public oversight hearing on "Status of Health Care Reform Implementation in the District of Columbia", November 10:   The Committee on Health (At-large CM David Catania, chair) had changed the time of this hearing; the new start time is 11:00 am.   Thus this revised notice (PDF).

    The purpose of the hearing is to learn the status of the city's effort to implement health care reform passed by the feds and related issues.

  • Public hearing on DHCD Consolidated Annual Performance Evaluation Report, December 1:   The Department of Housing and Community Development is holding a public hearing to discuss the District’s FY 2011 performance in its use of funds received from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).   The hearing is being held December 1 from 6:30 – 8:30 pm at DHCD (1800 Martin Luther King Jr., Ave SE).   The public is encouraged to testify about the agency's effectiveness in spending the nearly $47 million from HUD; details are in the notice (Word, .doc).
  • DHS changes name of agency division:   The Department of Human Services (DHS) has changed the name of the Income Maintenance Administration (IMA).   The new name is Economic Security Administration (ESA).   The change was effective October 20.

Need a primer on writing testimony or comments on proposed rules?   Communications for DC Advocates: How-to's and lessons learned over 15 years, a 41-page guide (PDF), offers instructions, tips, and more.   The guide is affordable at $35.   Learn more and buy the guide here.

Parents: What services and programs do you need to work with your kids?

DC Public Schools parents are encouraged to share their views on how Parent Resource Centers (PRCs) can best help parents help their children in school.   The meetings are:
  • November 7 from 6:00 - 8:00 pm at the DCPS Central Office (1200 First St NE, 10th Floor)
  • November 8 from 6:30 - 8:00 pm at Eliot-Hine Middle School (1830 Constitution Ave NE; use the 19th Street entrance)

Child care, food, and interpretation will be provided.   Direct questions to 442-8824 or 442-5036.   RSVP to those same numbers.

At the meetings, parents will review the draft Request for Proposal to re-open the PRCs and have the opportunity to comment on the types of services and programs they think are needed to help parents work with their children.

This is just one way the public can help DCPS create and strengthen their new approach to family engagement.

The new

The Council of the District of Columbia has, as promised, updated their website.   The new and improved site is cleaner and easier to navigate, offers useful tools to streamline communication between the legislature and the public, and easier access to legislative archives.

The new site launched November 3.

Perhaps the best part of the new site is the functionality. boasts:

  • Online registration form to sign up to testify at a public hearing or roundtable
  • Email updates
  • Online form to contact the council (though there is no indication where the email will go)
  • RSS feeds for news, legislation, and hearing notices)
  • Watching archived events from directly
  • A new calendar now lists all meetings, hearings, roundtables, and other legislative events.   The main page presents the basic information—committee, date, time, subject, and room number.   The hyperlink for each record links to the hearing (roundtable) notice.   It's expected that witness lists will be added.
  • Recent votes of CMs is listed on the overview page of each Councilmember
  • The DC Council is now on Facebook
  • The DC Council's on Twitter

Another important improvement is the availability of more than 600,000 records previously available in print only.   The new digital legislative documents go back to 1989.   Not only are the records available but they are searchable by keywords.

You may recall that some of the improvements were suggested by the community some time ago.   Only the pushing content recommendation was adopted.   Community members recommended the DC Council push content via RSS feed, Facebook, and Twitter and while the tools are now in place, it's too early to tell how they will be used.

The majority of the recommendations not adopted by the council relate to the behavior and performance of individual CMs.   The categories of outstanding ideas to improve DC Council communications are: using social media to listen to residents and answer questions, making improvements related to legislation and Council actions, CM newsletters, prompt response from staff and elected, and miscellaneous ideas.

The IT office doesn't consider the new site done.   Soon to come is an update of LIMS (Legislative Information Management System), fixing bad links, tweaking, and making other changes as necessary.   If you find an error on the site or a tool not functioning properly, email the IT office.   Also send an email with suggestions for other improvements.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Communications for DC Advocates, November 16

On November 16 at 10:00 am, join the DC Environmental Network for a special opportunity to polish your advocacy skills and learn about a new resource available to help guide your efforts to influence decision makers here in the District of Columbia.   I will be talking about the new Communications for DC Advocates: How-to's and Lessons Learned Over 15 Years.

In a recent email, DCEN had this to say about the session:

As environmental advocates in the District of Columbia it is often necessary to communicate our story and ideas to decision makers and the staff they work with. We communicate in many ways including through letters, meetings, fact sheets and briefings, to name a few. We often ask ourselves questions like (partial):
  • What is the best way to write a letter to the Mayor or DC Council member?
  • How do I prepare and deliver testimony and statements for the record?
  • How do I create a fact sheet?
  • What is the best structure for a meeting with an elected official or their staff?

All are welcome to attend this event.   RSVP online.

If you want to bring a copy of Communications for DC Advocates with you to the session, you can buy a copy here.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

SCHEDULE PREVIEW: Discovering Technology Fair at Bread for the City November 5

The schedule for the November 5 Discovering Technology Fair (the sked's also here) at Bread for the City (1525 7th St NW) is terrific.   I hope you, your family, your board, your clients plan on attending.

Some offerings Saturday are:

  • Screening and talk, Internet is Serious Business at 1:00 pm
  • Bridging the Digital Divide with the DC Community Access Network, 2:00 pm
  • 211 and Beyond (Marina Havan of DC DHS, Natalie Kaplan of the Bridge Project, Tom Pollack of the Urban Institute) at 3:00 pm

The organizers of this event are looking for volunteers, folks to donate computers that can be raffled off, or print up flyers to share in your community.   Contact Broadband Bridge via email if interested.

Selected notices from October 28 DC Register

  • Public oversight hearing on "Re-entry Programs and Services for the District's Returning Citizens", November 18:    The Committee on the Judiciary (At-large CM Phil Mendelson, chair) and the Committee on Housing and Workforce Development (At-large CM Michael Brown, chair) are sponsoring this joint hearing November 18 at Noon.   This hearing notice (PDF) reflects a revision in hearing sponsors.   Details about testifying are in the notice.
  • Public hearing on B19-76, "Inclusionary Zoning Amendment Act of 2011", November 17:   The Committee on Housing and Workforce Development (At-large CM Michael Brown, chair) is holding this hearing November 17 at 1:00 pm.   Details about testifying are in the notice (PDF).
  • Notice of Proposed Rulemaking - Amendments to 3 DCMR § 3100 (Lobbying):   The District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics issued proposed rules so as to comply with Section 1271 of the Fiscal Year 2010 Budget Support Act of 2009 (PDF; page 27), effective March 3, 2010 (D.C. Law 18-111; D.C. Official Code § 1-1105.02).

    A great friend on Twitter, @DCdotNerd has done a red-line (Word, .doc) to make understanding the proposed rule easier.

  • Emergency and proposed rules (Word, .doc) regarding the billing rate for Functional Family Therapy (FFT):   The Department of Health Care Finance has issued these rules so that the District can receive federal funding under Title XIX of the Social Security Act for this community-based intervention.
  • Need a primer on writing testimony or comments on proposed rules?   Communications for DC Advocates: How-to's and lessons learned over 15 years, a 41-page guide (PDF), offers instructions, tips, and more.   The guide is affordable at $35.   Learn more and buy the guide here.

DC Council staff updates

  • Personal and committee staff for CM Tommy Wells:   The staff listing is online.
  • Ward 7 CM Yvette Alexander announces new staff:   Sirraya Gant is the CM's Assistant Director of Constituent Services.   Gant will assist Ward 7 residents with their concerns relating to social services, financial assistance requests, and public services.   You may reach her via email.   Melanie Williamson is now Legislative Counsel on the Committee on Public Services and Consumer Affairs of which CM Alexander is Chair.   Williamson will provide oversight and counsel on issues pertaining to the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs and the Office of the Tenant Advocate.   You may reach her via email.
  • Budget office staff change:   Michelle Dee in the council's budget office is now covering health and human services along with her old portfolio of all of capital except DGS and education agencies; Environment, Public Works and Transportation Committee; and the Libraries, Parks, Recreation, and Planning Committee.   Her email is and phone is 724-8139.
  • CM Catania's staff:   The current staff list is online.
  • CM Cheh's personal and committee staff:   The current list is online.
  • Ward 2 CM's staff:   Personal and committee staff are listed here.
  • Ward 4 CM Bowser's staff:   The list is online.

Wondering where the rest of the lists are?   I emailed twice and did not get responses from the rest of the CMs.   I don't trust websites though some are updated on a regular basis.   If I get information from other CMs, I will certainly share the info on the blog.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Interested in assuring web access for people with disabilities?

Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University is hosting "Preventing Societal Discrimination: Accessible Web Design for People with Disabilities" November 8 at 12:30 pm.   The event will be webcast live at 12:30 pm and archived on their site shortly after.

About the issue and the online session:

Technical standards already exist to make web sites accessible for people with perceptual and motor disabilities, while research is underway to better understand web design for cognitive disabilities. Despite the existing resources and knowledge, many categories of web sites continue to be inaccessible for people with perceptual and motor disabilities. For instance, over 90% of federal government web sites are inaccessible for people with disabilities, denying users access to important government information. Social media tools tend to be inaccessible, cutting people with disabilities out of the chance to socialize with friends and contribute to important discussions, both interpersonal and societal. E-commerce web sites are inaccessible, often meaning that people with disabilities are denied the online-only discounts available on the web. Online employment applications are often inaccessible, denying people with disabilities the ability to apply for jobs on an equal footing. This presentation will provide an overview of web accessibility for people with disabilities, including the technical standards and laws, as well as reporting on recent research projects documenting how inaccessible web sites lead to various forms of discrimination against people with disabilities.

More about the session and speaker are online.

Free webinars for nonprofits

Wild Apricot does a great service again with their November list of free webinars for nonprofits.

Offerings include social media, fundraising, volunteers, and organizational development.

Important information about the FY 2013 budget

Council Chair Kwame Brown introduced "Fiscal Year 2013 Budget Submission Requirements Resolution of 2011" (Word, .doc) at the November 1 legislative meeting.   The resolution requires the mayor to "submit to the Council, and make available to the public, not later than March 23, 2012, the proposed budget for the District government and related budget documents."   Furthermore, the DC Council has required the executive to present the following information:
  • Summary statement or tables (all funding sources, FYs 2010 and 2011) at the Organizational Level I (DC Council)/Agency (exec branch) levels
  • Funding sources for FY 2012 approved and FY 2013 proposed at the Organizational Level I (DC Council)/Agency (exec branch) levels
  • Summary statement or tables for expenditures for FYs 2009 and 2010, FY 2012 approved and FY 2013 proposed by Comptroller Source Group at the Organizational Level I (DC Council)/Agency (exec branch) levels, by Program or Organizational Level II (DC Council)/Division (exec branch), and Activity or Organizational Level III (DC Council)/Sub-division or activity (exec branch)
  • Details by Comptroller Source Group for each Organizational Level I (DC Council)/Agency (exec branch) level
  • A narrative for each program and activity that explains the purpose and services to be provided
  • FTEs by Comptroller Source Group and by Program Organizational Level II (DC Council)/Division (exec branch), and Activity or Organizational Level III (DC Council)/Sub-division or activity (exec branch)

See the resolution for more requirements.

Need to brush up on the rest of the budget process?   Take a look at the The DC Budget Process Explained (PDF).   You might also find What the DC Budget Is and Isn't (PDF) of interest.   Both are free.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Not ignoring my readers!

Good morning.   Not ignoring you.   I'm stuck in the storm that hit Connecticut Saturday and without power; can blog this 'cause a local Starbucks has power and internet.   Will start blogging policy and budget stuff as soon as I can!   In the meantime, take care :-)