Council Chairman Phil Mendelson Credit: Darrow Montgomery/file

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Hemos publicado esta historia en inglés y español. Para leerla en español, haz clic aquí. The translation was provided by Multicultural Community Service.

In the D.C. Council’s first legislative meeting of 2022, D.C. councilmembers gave initial approval to a bill that would seal eviction records in certain cases. Introduced by Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh, the bill seeks to protect tenants against housing discrimination. The Council also unanimously approved a bill from Ward 2 Councilmember Brooke Pinto, the Expanding Student Access to Period Products Act, that will make sanitary pads and tampons free and available in bathrooms at all D.C. schools.

The Council also confirmed mayoral nominations to the D.C. Housing Authority, Ronnie T. Harris and Melissa Lee, and to the Real Property Tax Appeals Commission, Olufemi Abayomi-Paul. The Housing Authority confirmations come after an abrupt dismissal of one commissioner and eyebrow-raising corruption allegations against former board chair Neil Albert

Council Chairman Phil Mendelson gave off sparks in response to Cheh’s Visitor Parking Pass Extension Emergency Amendment Act, which extends the validity of expired 2020 visitor passes while the District Department of Transportation modernizes its system. The DDOT system currently requires residents living on blocks with residential parking to have access to a computer and printer and pre-register their visitors online. The chairman called that system “stupid,” citing technology access gaps and the absurdity of pregistering surprise visitors, but he abandoned an idea to enact a 225-day extension for expired passes. He, and the rest of the Council, opted for a 90-day extension. 

Chairman blocks emergency bill on COVID protocols in schools

One item that didn’t make it into the legislative debate, but ate up some time during the Council’s pre-meeting breakfast gathering, was an emergency bill from At-Large Councilmember Robert White. The legislation would have required Mayor Muriel Bowser’s administration to establish a COVID case-rate metric that would automatically trigger a shift to virtual learning for each school. The bill would also require schools to report positive cases to families of students in affected classrooms within 24 hours, among other provisions. 

But Mendelson refused to put the bill on the agenda because White did not file by the deadline set in the Council’s rules. White, who is running for mayor, argued that he could not have filed the bill earlier because Bowser hadn’t announced COVID protocols for schools. Making an exemption for White’s amendment “would open the floodgates” to what Mendelson saw as a crisis in future Council process, the chairman said at the breakfast meeting.

Emergency legislation takes effect immediately, but for only 90 days, and no congressional review is required. Council rules require emergency bills to be filed three business days before a legislative meeting. White circulated the bill Monday.

White’s bill addressed a common concern from families and school advocates about a perceived lack of transparency and consistency in the decision-making process for DCPS online instruction. Shortly before winter break, while announcing a growing list of schools moving instruction online due to the COVID surge, DCPS Chancellor Lewis Ferebee failed to give any specifics about this decision making.

At the breakfast meeting Tuesday, Mendelson suggested holding a roundtable on DCPS protocol next week. Ward 4 Councilmember Janeese Lewis George expressed doubts that the discussion would do any good and said Bowser had outsmarted the Council by publicizing COVID protocols without enough time for councilmembers to respond with legislation.

But even if White’s bill had made it onto the agenda, there’s no guarantee it would have had the nine votes needed to pass. As WAMU reporter Martin Austermuhle pointed out, Cheh, who initially supported White’s bill, said she doesn’t support a metric to determine when schools switch to virtual learning.

Ambar Castillo (tips? acastillo@washingtoncitypaper.com)

  • To see today’s COVID-19 data, visit our coronavirus tracker.
  • Over 800 D.C. employees are facing termination for not complying with COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Five others were suspended or resigned. [NBC4]
  • Metro will reduce bus and rail service due to COVID illnesses and exposure among employees. [WTOP]
  • Virginia has reopened I-95 after a snow storm left motorists stranded—some for over 24 hours—on untreated roads. [WTOP]
  • Howard University and six other HBCUs received bomb threats Tuesday. [Axios]

By Ambar Castillo and Bailey Vogt (tips? acastillo@washingtoncitypaper.com and bvogt@washingtoncitypaper.com)

  • Ward 7 Councilmember Vince Gray is still recovering from a stroke. [Informer]
  • Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh complained that her street wasn’t plowed fast enough. [Twitter]
  • The D.C. Council approved two new DCHA board members and the Board of Elections chair. [Post]

By Mitch Ryals (tips? mryals@washingtoncitypaper.com)

  • The owners of Rooster & Owl are opening a second restaurant in Falls Church. [Washingtonian]
  • Captain White Seafood finds a new home near National Harbor. [WBJ]
  • Employees at Feedfeed accuse the media company of racism and sexism. [Post]

By Laura Hayes (tips? lhayes@washingtoncitypaper.com)

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  • It’s been fun, but All Things Considered’s Audie Cornish will depart NPR after Jan. 7 for new adventures. [NPR]

By Sarah Marloff (tips? smarloff@washingtoncitypaper.com)

  • The Wizards look for their second win in a row when they play the Houston Rockets tonight at Capital One Arena. [Bullets Forever]
  • Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts sent a letter to the Washington Football Team expressing his concerns after fans fell onto the ground near Hurts when a railing collapsed at FedExField on Sunday. [ESPN]
  • Both Ilya Samsonov and Dmitry Orlov suffered unspecified injuries at Capitals practice yesterday. [Russian Machine Never Breaks]

By Kelyn Soong (tips? ksoong@washingtoncitypaper.com)

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