Bowser shares COVID-19 updates, rallies D.C. statehood support at ANC meeting

Media Credit: Grace Hromin | Assistant Photo Editor

Bowser said indoor theaters will open at 25 percent capacity, restaurants can host live entertainment outside and recreational facilities will reopen by the first week of May.

A local governing body hosted D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser to share updates about the District’s COVID-19 mitigation efforts during a meeting Wednesday.

Bowser and several D.C. agency directors spoke at the Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission meeting, where commissioners also approved a Virginia Avenue bike lane and budgeted $12,000 in grants for local nonprofit organizations. Bowser discussed the city’s progress with reopening venues, like indoor movie theaters, and reiterated her support for D.C. statehood before the U.S. House of Representatives voted Thursday to make D.C. the 51st state.

Here are some of the meetings highlights:

Bowser talks the coronavirus, D.C. statehood
Bowser updated commissioners on her plans to increase access to vaccines in the District with pharmacy registration and walk-up vaccination sites. She said city officials hope to vaccinate around 60 to 70 percent of residents as soon as possible as a threshold to loosen more COVID-19 restrictions.

“That’s when we know that we’ll really be at a point where we can say that we’re crushing the virus because so many people have been vaccinated,” she said.

Bowser said indoor theaters will open at 25 percent capacity, restaurants can host live entertainment outside and recreational facilities will reopen by the first week of May. She said city officials also intend to resume in-person learning in D.C. Public Schools for all students by Aug. 30.

Bowser said the city would also begin full enforcement of parking laws in June, which had been temporarily suspended after the outbreak of the pandemic.

“We had to pause those activities to ensure that our enforcement personnel were safe,” Bowser said. “Now we’re at the point where we can restart those programs.”

Bowser also reiterated her support for D.C. statehood during the meeting before the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill Thursday to make the District the 51st state. She said she will work with federal officials in hopes of passing the bill through the U.S. Senate.

Bowser pledged that a D.C. statehood bill would be delivered to President Joe Biden’s desk within the first 100 days of the 117th Congress in a statement released Jan. 6 – the same day when District officials failed to use their local authority to prevent rioters from storming the U.S. Capitol.

“It would appear that the Democrats in the Senate, White House and Congress are putting their shoulder to the wheel because they recognize that statehood is not just important for us with a lack of representation and autonomy, but it’s important for our democracy,” Bowser said.

Everett Lott, the interim director of the District Department of Transportation, also spoke at the meeting and said DDOT is taking actions to address the slew of recent pedestrian and traffic deaths, with block-by-block walkthroughs with local leaders, like Ward 2 D.C. Council member Brooke Pinto, to identify “problematic” areas for traffic in D.C.

“We’ve taken somewhat of a new approach as well,” Lott said. “We are walking block by block in the community with Council members, with ANC members, and we just actually did this with Council member Pinto.”

Commissioners look to fill vacancy
Commissioner Yannik Omictin, a senior at GW, said the ANC is now eligible to fill the vacancy in ANC 2A08, the district with an entirely student-based constituency aside from University President Thomas LeBlanc’s on-campus residence. Omictin said interested candidates must email the D.C. Board of Elections to request a nomination petition and gather 25 signatures by May 10 to qualify for election.

2A08 has remained vacant since January, but Omictin said he hopes to fill the seat before the ANC’s June meeting. The BOE approved the vacancy last week, which allowed the search for a candidate to begin.

The district includes District and Potomac houses, South, Guthridge, Lafayette and Strong halls, Greek life townhouses and the F Street House – LeBlanc’s campus residence.

ANC advances bike lane project

The ANC unanimously voted to approve a project that would construct bike lanes along Virginia Avenue this summer or fall. The bike lanes, which were initially announced in January, would stretch from Rock Creek Trail to the National Mall to improve safety for bicyclists near campus.

Kevin Harrison, a DDOT official who spoke at the meeting, said the project aims to attract more cyclists who avoid biking along Virginia Avenue because of safety concerns.

“We want to make a Virginia Avenue facility that is comfortable for a broad audience of users,” Harrison said.

The public comment period for the DDOT project closed last week, and Harrison said officials made several revisions made to the project, including an improved bike lane at the intersection of Virginia Avenue and G Street. He said the final design of the project should be completed in about a month, and the bike lane will be ready for construction in the late summer or fall.

Committee receives budget for nonprofit grants
The ANC passed a unanimous resolution to allot $12,000 to the humanitarian grants special committee, which was formed last month to provide economic relief to residents affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The committee, led by Omictin and Commissioner Trupti Patel, is required to distribute the money to local nonprofit organizations.

“We have proven that there is so much need in our district, especially with some of the seniors of Foggy Bottom, that I worry about their food security, I worry about their rent, I worry about a lot,” ANC Chair Jeri Epstein said.

The ANC initially planned to budget up to $15,000 of their funds to the committee, but that number was lowered to $12,000 this week.

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