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Human Rights Violations in DC, how can we confront them?

By David Schwartzman
Chair, Political Policy and Action Committee
DC Statehood Green Party
Member of ONE DC, Empower DC, Fair Budget Coalition
dschwartzman@gmail.com, 202-829-9063

“If you can convince the lowest white man that he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll even empty his pockets for you.” -Lyndon B. Johnson

"People who dismiss the unemployed and dependent as "parasites" fail to understand economics and parasitism.A successful parasite is one that is not recognized by its host, one that can make the host  work for it without appearing as a burden. Such is the ruling class in a capitalist society." -Jason Read, Professor of Philosophy, University of Southern Maine

The most serious human right violations in our DC community are:

  1. Homelessness and the big lack of affordable housing which forces many residents, especially low-income, to pay a high fraction of their income for housing thereby neglecting other essential needs of individuals and families, such as medicine and nutritious foods. (HUD criteria: housing is unaffordable if a household pays more than 30% of their income for rent or mortgage).
  2. Child poverty

Note: DC became the nation’s first Human Rights City in 2008, recognized officially by District government; go to http://afsc.org/resource/report-state-human-rights-dc for assessment reports of DC’s status.

ONE DC is on the frontlines fighting for affordable housing. Here is a proposal regarding eliminating child poverty. No child poverty in DC, let’s make this possible asap!
 
TANF income enhancement, a multi-year goal
Proposed goal: Make DC government increase the TANF income benefit over the next three fiscal years, reaching 100% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) by no later than FY 2021.

Why?
The poverty level of Income support for TANF is the main cause of child poverty in DC. The high level of child poverty in DC, especially in Wards 7 and 8, has a lasting negative impact on children and their families, indeed the whole DC community. Therefore, boosting the TANF income benefit should be a high priority for all concerned about human rights violations in our Human Rights City (footnotes 1 and 2).
 
The scheduled increase in the TANF income benefit in FY 2019 to 36% of the FPL, an increase from the present benefit of 30% FPL (footnote 3): this increase is already budgeted according to Kate Coventry, DCFPI.

Note: the income benefit as a percentage of the FPL in Maryland is now 38.1%, New York 46.4% with New Hampshire having the highest in the nation, 60.0% (footnote 4).

Most TANF recipients in New Hampshire are white. In New Hampshire the monthly income benefit for a family of three is $1,021, in DC it is now $508. Why should Black children receive one half the income benefit that white children in New Hampshire get?

The DC TANF income benefit has declined 21.5% since 1996 (corrected for inflation). The present TANF income benefit plus Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefit is 56.4% of the FPL. Assuming the SNAP benefit stays constant, with the scheduled TANF income increase for FY 2019 the combined benefit will go to roughly 60% FPL. In New York the combined benefit is now 74% FPL, for New Hampshire it is 77%. (Source: footnote 4).

Of course boosting income security is necessary but not sufficient, complementary funding is imperative for universal child care, adult literacy, mental health and substance abuse, and of course job opportunities at living wages. Note that even with TANF income benefit at the FPL plus the SNAP benefit the overall income level would be significantly below the family income necessary to reach self-sufficiency in DC, roughly two to three times the FPL, given the high cost of living.

Reaching the FPL by FY 2021 will require a well-thought out strategy. ONE DC and its allies will have to confront head on the long-standing prejudice regarding TANF recipients which has served to divide the working/middle class community thereby serving the interests of the neoliberal agenda (trickle-down solutions, “education is the only answer to poverty” etc.) which has long dominated the policies of DC elected government.

Appendix
Estimate of funding required to bring TANF income benefit up to the Federal Poverty Level (FPL):
According to DCFPI (footnote 3) if the scheduled increase is funded in FY 2019 the DC monthly benefit for a family of 3 will be $644 corresponding to 36% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). Therefore this family of 3 would get $1,789/month at the Federal Poverty Level (644/0.36 = 1,789).   Assuming a total of 40,000 recipients (the 2011 level), and that all families correspond to 3 members (this is an approximation), there would be 13,300 families, each receiving an income benefit at the FPL, totaling $23.8 million/month or $286 million per year.  In FY 2015 the budget for income support was $70 million. With these assumptions, the increment in funding to reach the FPL will be approximately $216 million, not taking into account the change in the cost of living as well as potential decrease in the number of TANF recipients by FY 2021, pending the performance of complementary programs and economic conditions. This estimate is rather modest given the size of the DC budget, and if implemented would have a major impact towards reducing child poverty.

Footnotes
(1) http://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/tables/43-children-in-poverty-100-percent-poverty?loc=1&loct=2#detailed/2/2-52/true/870,573,869,36,868/any/321,322; https://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/news/housing-complex/blog/20835238/poverty-in-dc-is-getting-worseeast-of-the-anacostia-river-study-finds.
(2) https://www.dcfpi.org/all/when-every-dollar-counts-child-poverty-has-lasting-negative-effects-but-even-small-income-boosts-can-help/; Greg Duncan and Katherine Magnuson “The Long Reach of Early Childhood Poverty”, Pathways, Winter 2011.
(3) https://www.dcfpi.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/TANF-Toolkit-FY-2018-Approved.pdf.
(4) https://www.cbpp.org/research/family-income-support/tanf-cash-benefits-have-fallen-by-more-than-20-percent-in-most-states.

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ONE DC Monthly Voice - February 2018

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"Nobody is free until everybody is free."
-Fannie Lou Hamer


Congress Heights Updates

1. Judge Mott authorizes $50,000 payment to the receiver for the Congress Heights properties.
On February 16th, DC Superior Courtroom 518 was packed with Congress Heights supporters. Judge Mott authorized a $50,000 payment to be paid to the receiver to address some of the immediate issues on the property. Additional funds will be asked for once ownership issues regarding the recent, possibly illegal properties transfer, are clarified. Judge Mott also made clear that it was essential that the tenants be able to live in safe, habitable conditions, until they are able to exercise their rights regarding the broader redevelopment. Tenants at Congress Heights continue to fight to exercise their TOPA rights in order to build 200 units of quality, affordable housing over the Congress Heights metro. Stay tuned for updates about the next receivership hearing on March 21.

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Pictured: Ruth Barnwell, President of Alabama Ave/13th Street Tenant Coalition,
and Dorothy Davis, tenant leader from Brookland Manor following the
February 16 receivership hearing at DC Superior Court.

2. Click here to participate in the "One Click Action" for Congress Heights, sponsored by the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless!

“What we are fighting for is our right to live in safe and affordable housing.”
-Ruth Barnwell, President, Alabama Ave/13th Street Tenant Coalition

The Alabama Ave/13th Street Tenant Coalition is the tenant association consisting of the residents of the buildings above the Congress Heights Metro Station in Southeast Washington, DC (1309, 1331 and 1333 Alabama Avenue SE Washington, DC, as well as 3210 13th Street SE Washington DC). The tenants have been living with conditions that threaten their health and safety as a result of the pattern of neglect that took hold as soon as Geoff Griffis (of CityPartners), and Sanford Capital, began working toward the redevelopment of the properties into luxury apartments and retail.

Over the past several years, as they personally endured abhorrent conditions and treatment, the tenants’ steadfastness unmasked a horrific pattern at Sanford buildings and impacted the conversation around affordable housing in the District. DC residents who are recipients of housing subsidies often struggle to find reputable landlords who will rent to them, and many have no choice but to live in Sanford Capital buildings. This means that Sanford Capital profits handsomely from taxpayer-funded subsidies and the affordable housing crisis.

The tenants’ struggle has led to public outcry, lawsuits filed by the Office of the Attorney General of the District of Columbia, horror expressed by city officials at speeches, public hearings, and roundtables, and extensive media coverage. The Congress Heights properties have been subject to a receivership since September 2017, and Sanford Capital was ordered to ‘negotiate exclusively’ with the tenants regarding the terms of sale for a period of 60 days, starting on November 9, 2017. On December 27, 2017, Sanford Capital quietly transferred the properties above the Congress Heights Metro station to its own development partner for the proposed Congress Heights project: Geoff Griffis/CityPartners.  Griffis is now attempting to move forward the luxury redevelopment that has already caused great harm, and doesn’t reflect the wishes or participation of the residents who currently live on that land.

The Congress Heights Tenants’ Goal: Inclusive and equitable development at Congress Heights

The Coalition seeks to exercise rights under the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act, and partner with its chosen non-profit developer, National Housing Trust-Enterprise Preservation Corp., in order to redevelop this land in line with the vision and goals of the people who live there, and build nearly 200 truly affordable units above the Congress Heights Metro station.

The key to any redevelopment at the site is an abandoned building that is currently under the control of the DC Department of Housing and Community Development. We are in solidarity with Alabama Ave/13th Street Tenant Coalition as they ask Mayor Bowser and the District of Columbia government to work with the community by transferring 3200 13th Street SE to the Coalition and its representatives in order to achieve a win in the struggle against displacement and for safe, dignified, affordable housing.

3. Save the Date for the next People's Platform Event!
This month: Cooperation DC! Learn about how DC residents are organizing economic alternatives by developing worker-owned cooperative businesses. We will also hear lessons learned from the cooperative movement in Baltimore. Free food, music, & vendors!
Thursday, March 22 - 5:30 PM to 8:30 PM - Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company - 641 D St NW.
Click here to RSVP


Black Workers & Wellness Center Renovation Updates

We are making progress! This past month, we:

  • Hired a property management company, Delwin Realty, to help us with routine management & maintenance of the property
  • Worked with our project manager, long-time member & supporter Martha Davis, to apply for licenses & certificate of occupancy
  • Made progress in applying for grants to fund the renovations
  • Hired an architect, Emotive Architecture, to begin the measuring & planning stages of renovating the building, with direction from ONE DC members.

Stay tuned for:

  • A survey to gain input from the ONE DC community about the design of the BWC.
  • Info on volunteer clean-up & painting days
  • The pace of renovation depends on ongoing fundraising! If you would like to help plan or host a house party, fundraiser, or social to help raise money, please contact Dominic at dmoulden@onedconline.org

BWC_Fundraising_Goals_jan_2018.jpegClick here to donate


Save the Date - ONE DC Annual Membership Meeting

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Click here to RSVP

We are pleased to invite you to the ONE DC 2018 Annual Membership Meeting on Saturday, March 24th from 2 to 5 PM. The Annual Membership Meeting is a space for members to guide the vision of ONE DC. The agenda will include: Elections for an open seat on the ONE DC Shared Leadership Team, overview of our 2017 wins & outcomes; community learning exercises on Shared Leadership; financial updates; and exciting campaign developments from the People's Platform, Brookland Manor, Congress Heights, the Black Workers Center, and more.

About 2018 Shared Leadership Team Elections

ONE DC is governed by a Shared Leadership Team (SLT) made up of appointed and elected board members, other designated ONE DC member-leaders, and ONE DC staff. At the 2018 Annual Membership Meeting, we will hold an election for one (1) open elected position. You can nominate yourself or another person by sending an email to organizer@onedconline.org and we will take nominations from the floor on March 24th.

The qualifications for being appointed or elected to the Shared Leadership Team are:

  1. Be a resident of the District of Columbia,
  2. Be at least 18 years of age,
  3. Be a ONE DC member for at least 6 months and current in the payment of membership dues,
  4. Complete ONE DC leadership and capacity training, and
  5. Demonstrate commitment to ONE DC’s values, work and mission as demonstrated through an interview process with the Shared Leadership Team.

Click here for more information about the roles and responsibilities of being on the ONE DC Shared Leadership Team. If you are interested in learning more, please contact SLT member Nicole Newman at nicole.a.newmn@gmail.com or SLT Member Charles Turner at charlesrickturner@outlook.com or 202.427.5844.

The ONE DC Annual Membership Meeting is open to the public and all are welcome and encouraged to attend. However, only members whose names appear on the membership list will be eligible to vote in the election and on other matters put before the members for a vote. If you are unsure of your membership status, please contact Claire at ccook@onedconline.org or 202-232-2915.

2018 Call to Membership

Membership dues are used to build a people's movement funded by the people. They are used to fund membership activities & the ongoing campaigns & projects of ONE DC. Our goal for 2018 is for 300 people to pay their membership dues this year and bring our total membership up to 750!
Click here to pay your dues for 2018.

If you would like to join the planning committee or help with phone banking, outreach, or other volunteer roles for the Annual Meeting, please email organizer@onedconline.org.

Click here for more information or to RSVP


Community Discussion: Development & Gentrification in Shaw

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Click here to RSVP


Upcoming Events

Pack the Oversight Hearing: MPD
Thursday, March 1 - 9:30 AM to 6:00 PM
John A. Wilson Building - 1350 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Hosted by Keep DC 4 Me, Stop Police Terror Project DC, & Black Lives Matter DC
We want to bring a strong presence to the Metropolitan Police Department oversight hearing to make it clear that there is forceful and mounting opposition to racist, militarized policing in DC or anywhere. RSVP below if you can make it, and please wear black to the hearing to show your support and solidarity!
Click here to RSVP

Palestine and the Struggle for Liberation Community Forum
Saturday, March 3 - 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM
Justice Center - 617 Florida Ave NW
Hosted by the Party for Socialism & Liberation (PSL)
For over a century, the Palestinian people have been struggling against colonial rulers for independence and self determination. The racist and zionist American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) will be launching its national convention in Washington, D.C., on Sunday, March 4. In response, Palestinian activists have called for a day of protest. This forum, the day before the protest, will explore the history of the Palestinian liberation struggle, from 1948 up until now, as well as up-to-date information on the National Rally to Support Palestine & Protest AIPAC (#SupportPalestineInDC2018). PLUS: meet DC advocates for mental health awareness, BTF Clothiers
Click here to RSVP

#SupportPalestineInDC2018
Sunday, March 4 - 12:00 PM to 5:00 PM
Meet at the White House
Hosted by Al-Awda & the ANSWER Coalition
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Click here to RSVP

Knocking on Labor's Door- Author Talk with Lane Windham
Tuesday, March 6 - 6:30 PM to 8:00 PM
The Potter's House - 1658 Columbia Rd NW
Lane Windham will discuss her new book, Knocking on Labor's Door: Union Organizing in the 1970s and the Roots of a New Economic Divide. Windham's book reveals an unseen wave of union organizing attempts in this pivotal decade, driven by women, people of color, young workers and Southerners. Exploring union organizing in shipbuilding, textiles, retail, and service, Windham overturns widely held myths about labor’s decline, showing instead how employers united to manipulate weak labor law and quash worker organizing. Knocking on Labor's Door dramatically refashions the narrative of working-class struggle during a crucial decade and shakes up current debates about labor's future. Windham's story inspires both hope and indignation, and will become a must-read in labor, civil rights, and women’s history.
Click here to RSVP

Comp Plan: Pre-Hearing Workshop
Saturday, March 10 - 1:30 PM to 4:00 PM
Union Temple Baptist Church - 1225 W St SE
Hosted by DC Grassroots Planning Coalition, Empower DC, & Metro DC DSA
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Join the DC Grassroots Planning Coalition to learn more about the Comprehensive Plan and prepare to pack the DC Council Hearing Room on March 20th. The DC Grassroots Planning Coalition is dedicated to not only stopping this attempt to gut the Comprehensive Plan, but building grassroots capacity to fight gentrification and displacement through participating in the Zoning process, strengthening ANCs and Civic Associations, and reforming of the city's planning and zoning agencies.
Click here to RSVP


Project Retail - Fighting to Decriminalize Fare Evasion on Metro and Buses

Have you ever not had enough money to get to work? Have you ever been stopped or harassed by transit police for not paying for a metro or bus trip? Share your story, and help Project Retail support efforts to decriminalize what they call "fare evasion."

The city should not support the criminalization of poverty, and should not allow transit police to harass and give criminal penalties in order to restrict freedom of movement on the basis of race, age, or economic status.

Contact Kristi Matthews at k.matthews0827@gmail.com to share your story.

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New Tax Legislation - Who Really Benefits?

By David Schwartzman
Chair, Political Policy and Action Committee
DC Statehood Green Party
Member of ONE DC, Empower DC, Fair Budget Coalition
dschwartzman@gmail.com, 202-829-9063

Who benefits most from the new federal tax legislation? And how could we use this to increase our revenue stream for low-income residents, meeting unmet needs?

This chart shows the overall tax burdens of DC residents, with all the DC taxes included (sales/excise, property and DC income taxes):

taxes.jpg
Source: Who Pays?, ITEP

Note: these tax burdens change slightly with the 2014 Tax legislation (“triggers”) now fully in place: For example, the lowest 20% pay 4.8% of their family income, the top 1% pay 6.3% and the middle 20% pay 10.1%.

Thus DC millionaires continue to pay a lower percentage of their income in DC taxes than all but the poorest residents. The average income of the top 1% is now over $3 million per year. The highest burden falls on low-income and working class families.

The top 4% of DC's taxpayers with incomes above $347,000 will get the biggest tax cut in 2019, while those making over $135,000 will get 78% of the total. The top 1%, averaging over $3 million/year and will get an average tax cut of $81,240, while the poorest averaging $13,700/year will get a $120 tax cut. 

So how much new revenue could be gained for low-income programs in DC’s budget?

In 2019, DC can and should get at very least the equivalent of this tax cut for the wealthy back as revenue by hiking, if necessary, the DC income tax rate for the wealthy. In 2015, according to the IRS, the taxable income of DC millionaires (adjusted gross income) was $5.39 billion. For those making $200,000 and more, the total taxable income was $12.8 billion. Thus, an average 2% hike in their DC income tax payment in 2019 would generate more than $250 million/year.

Sources: ITEP’s up-to-date analysis of the impact of the GOP tax legislation on all the states, plus DC: https://itep.org/finalgop-trumpbill/, Taxable income in 2015: http://www.irs.gov/uac/SOI-Tax-Stats-Historic-Table-2; open DC, MD, VA on the map.


ONE Bit of Good News - The Library is Open!

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We have some great news! ONE DC’s library is open so come by and borrow a book! We have books on community organizing, resistance movements, history, Black liberation, and much more. Click here to check out our listing of books.

If you’d like to check out and read one of these books, you can arrange a time to come by the office by calling 202-232-2915 or sending an email to organizer@onedconline.org.
We are also actively seeking book donations relevant to our organizing work. For an (incomplete) list of books we'd like to add to our library, please check out our Wish List or send us your recommendations!

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Tell Mayor Bowser: Take Action for Congress Heights!

CLICK HERE to Tell Mayor Bowser to Take Action for Housing Justice at Congress Heights!

“What we are fighting for is our right to live in safe and affordable housing.”

-Ruth Barnwell, President, Alabama Ave/13th Street Tenant Coalition

The Alabama Ave/13th Street Tenant Coalition is the tenant association consisting of the residents of the buildings above the Congress Heights Metro Station in Southeast Washington, DC (1309, 1331 and 1333 Alabama Avenue SE Washington, DC, as well as 3210 13th Street SE Washington DC). The tenants have been living with conditions that threaten their health and safety as a result of the pattern of neglect that took hold as soon as Geoff Griffis (of CityPartners), and Sanford Capital, began working toward the redevelopment of the properties into luxury apartments and retail.

Over the past several years, as they personally endured abhorrent conditions and treatment, the tenants’ steadfastness unmasked a horrific pattern at Sanford buildings and impacted the conversation around affordable housing in the District. DC residents who are recipients of housing subsidies often struggle to find reputable landlords who will rent to them, and many have no choice but to live in Sanford Capital buildings. This means that Sanford Capital profits handsomely from taxpayer-funded subsidies and the affordable housing crisis.

The tenants’ struggle has led to public outcry, lawsuits filed by the Office of the Attorney General of the District of Columbia, horror expressed by city officials at speeches, public hearings, and roundtables, and extensive media coverage. The Congress Heights properties have been subject to a receivership since September 2017, and Sanford Capital was ordered to ‘negotiate exclusively’ with the tenants regarding the terms of sale for a period of 60 days, starting on November 9, 2017. On December 27, 2017, Sanford Capital quietly transferred the properties above the Congress Heights Metro station to its own development partner for the proposed Congress Heights project: Geoff Griffis/CityPartners.  Griffis is now attempting to move forward the luxury redevelopment that has already caused great harm, and doesn’t reflect the wishes or participation of the residents who currently live on that land.

The Congress Heights Tenants’ Goal: Inclusive and equitable development at Congress Heights

The Coalition seeks to exercise rights under the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act, and partner with its chosen non-profit developer, National Housing Trust-Enterprise Preservation Corp., in order to redevelop this land in line with the vision and goals of the people who live there, and build nearly 200 truly affordable units above the Congress Heights Metro station.

The key to any redevelopment at the site is an abandoned building that is currently under the control of the DC Department of Housing and Community Development. We are in solidarity with Alabama Ave/13th Street Tenant Coalition as they ask Mayor Bowser and the District of Columbia government to work with the community by transferring 3200 13th Street SE to the Coalition and its representatives in order to achieve a win in the struggle against displacement and for safe, dignified, affordable housing.

 

Sponsored by

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Judge Mott Orders $50,000 to Congress Heights Receiver

On Friday, February 16th, DC Superior Courtroom 518 was packed with Congress Heights supporters. Judge Mott authorized a $50,000 payment to the receiver for the Congress Heights properties. The $50,000 is to be paid to the receiver in the short-term in order to address some of the immediate issues on the property, but will not address long-term solutions to the conditions issues at Congress Heights.

Additional funds will be asked for once ownership issues regarding the recent, possibly illegal properties transfer, are clarified. Judge Mott also made clear that it was essential that the tenants be able to live in safe, habitable conditions, until they are able to exercise their rights regarding the broader redevelopment. Tenants at Congress Heights continue to fight to exercise their TOPA rights in order to build 200 units of quality, affordable housing over the Congress Heights metro.

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Tenants have been unwavering in this fight, and have deeply appreciated the solidarity demonstrated by the broader community last Saturday in the pouring rain, and yesterday in the courthouse. In the coming days, the Alabama Ave/13th Street Tenant Coalition and their attorneys will release a major update to the public, including a call for continued action in the fight to preserve and expand affordable housing at Congress Heights.

Yasmina Mrabet, Housing Organizer

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Making the Just City Update

MPC is the lead organization for a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF)
Interdisciplinary Research Leaders (IRL)
grant. MPC director Derek Hyra partners with Dominic Moulden, a resource organizer with ONE DC, and Dr. Mindy Fullilove of the New School on a project centered on understanding the relationships among gentrification, health disparities, and the affordable housing crisis.
 
Recently, the team submitted an article "A Method for Making the Just City" to Housing Policy Debate. The paper advances a “community science” approach to investigating gentrification, involving a systematic knowledge-creation process through intimate community participation. On January 19, the team presented their situation analysis methodology to a group of RWJF’s IRL grantees. Look out for further updates on this innovative, community-based research project.

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ONE DC Featured on Loud & Clear with Brian Becker: The fight against slumlords in the nation's capital: Congress Heights tenants fight back

Listen to "The fight against slumlords in the nation's capital: Congress Heights tenants fight back" on Spreaker.

In cities nationwide, longtime working-class city residents face higher rents and increased pressure from landlords and developers. The nation’s capitol is no exception, and two groups are taking the fight to a developer’s own house this weekend, with a march up a main DC street in upper Northwest. The hosts talk about the details of the march and the broader picture of gentrification in DC. Yasmina Mrabet, a housing organizer with ONE DC, a leading organization in the group that put together Saturday’s march, and Will Merrifield, an attorney with the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless who is representing the tenants of Congress Heights, join the show.

Click here to listen to the interview with Loud & Clear's Brian Becker.

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People's Platform: Call to Action for Congress Heights

Below is an update from our friends at Justice First. As part of our People's Platform call to action this month, ONE DC and Justice First are calling for continued action and solidarity with the tenants of Congress Heights! Join tenants and their supporters to pack the courtroom at their upcoming receivership hearing! RSVP here.

 
Justice First  
 

Dear Friend,

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This past Saturday, February 10th, 120 people defied rainy conditions to march on the home of Geoff Griffis, in solidarity with the tenants in Congress Heights he hopes to displace (check out a video report here). The march follows what appears to be an illegal transfer of the properties at issue and renewed attempts by Mr. Griffis to distance himself from the terrible treatment of the residents currently living on the site he wants to turn into luxury condos and offices.

This protest was crucial because Griffis, his business partner Ben Soto, and Sanford Capital have been engaged in a multi-year process designed to prevent tenants from exercising their right to purchase the buildings. Despite his current claims Griffis has been involved since the very beginning and only disappeared from the public eye when the slum conditions at the property became known.

The three business partners are peddling a whole range of untruths about what they plan to do at the property in a list ditch effort to push their plan through. Indicative of who they really are, as the rain poured down on the heads of demonstrators Saturday, some tenants were dealing with leaking ceilings that could not be fixed, why? Well the apparently illegal sale perpetrated between Sanford and Griffis has blocked payment to the court ordered receiver who is conducting the repairs.

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They have all the money in the world, and have even hired a slick new PR firm and have politicians in their pockets. So this march was designed to a send a message that not only will the Congress Heights tenants not back down but that we aren’t afraid to make public the real culprits behind the criminal living conditions and displacement plans at Congress Heights.

The struggle for justice at Congress Heights continues this week on February 16th at noon in Room 518 of DC Superior Court. That is the date for a crucial hearing where Sanford Capital will be forced to explain how the sale they engaged in was not illegal. We need to pack that courtroom with as many people as we can and make it clear that D.C. residents do not, and will not condone slums, displacement and unbridled gentrification..

In Solidarity,

Justice First



Justice First · 5614 Connecticut Ave NW, #149, Washington, DC 20015, United States
This email was sent to ymrabet@onedconline.org. To stop receiving emails, click here.
You can also keep up with Justice First on Facebook.

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Griffis Promotes Imaginary Luxury Development at Congress Heights

Despite engaging in numerous and potentially illegal tactics to circumvent the TOPA rights of existing tenants at Congress Heights, and despite violating an existing court order, Geoff Griffis, through his company "City Partners LLC," is touting an imaginary development proposal to build luxury apartments over top the Congress Heights metro. Previously, Sanford Capital also promoted luxury redevelopment plans at Congress Heights, and have since shut down their website due to their ongoing legal issues as the most notorious slumlords in Washington, DC. Their slumlord activities have been widely reported, including by the City Paper and the Washington Post.

In order for Geoff Griffis's company, "City Partners LLC," to move forward with his luxury redevelopment that would price out and displace current residents at Congress Heights, he would need the following:

  1. For the existing tenants to leave the property without exercising their TOPA rights, which the Alabama Ave/13th Street Tenant Coalition have made clear they will not do, as evidenced by the fact that they have led and continue to lead this fight for the last five years.
  2. To have legal control over the properties, which is currently being challenged by the Attorney General's office, and under review by the tenants legal team, which includes Arnold & Porter and the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless.
  3. To have control over the long-vacant building at 3200 13th St SE, which is under the control of the District government and also tied up in litigation.
  4. To have control over the WMATA parcel of land, for which Griffis currently does not have.

Strangely, Griffis continues with what Ruth Barnwell, president of the Alabama Ave/13th Street Tenant Coalition recently referred to as an "obsession" with gaining control over this valuable land over top the Congress Heights metro, by forcing existing residents out. The tactics remain the same: forced displacement through slum conditions. As we previously reported, the recent and possibly illegal land transfer from slumlord Sanford Capital to Geoff Griffis not only circumvents tenant TOPA rights, but also forces tenants to continue living in slum conditions by interfering with a court-ordered receivership.

Tenants have been clear that despite Griffis's attempts to force them into agreeing to buyouts or forced relocations, that they will continue to fight to exercise their TOPA rights in order to move forward with their plan to work with premier non-profit developer NHT (National Housing Trust) to build 200 units of high quality, affordable housing in the midst of an affordable housing crisis in the nation's capital.

Earlier this afternoon, on the WPFW 89.3 FM show "Taking Action," hosted by Empower DC's Parisa Norouzi, featuring Congress Heights tenant Robert Green, we gave an overview and update of the ongoing tenant-led struggle at Congress Heights. Click here to listen.

Join us this Saturday, February 10th, as we take the fight for affordable housing directly to slumlord Geoff Griffis's doorstep, and stand in solidarity with the tenants of Congress Heights. RSVP here.

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To learn more about the tenant-led struggle at Congress Heights, including a full history, visit the Justice First website at www.justicefirst.org.

For the latest Congress Heights updates on the ONE DC website, check out www.onedconline.org/congress_heights.

Yasmina Mrabet, Housing Organizer

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Griffis Hires Seven Oaks Media Group Amid Displacement Deal at Congress Heights

Following a recent and possibly illegal land transfer from slumlord Sanford Capital to their business partner Geoff Griffis, Griffis hired Seven Oaks Media Group. As you can see from their website, linked here, Seven Oaks specializes in crisis communication and media placement. Clearly, Geoff Griffis is attempting to wage a campaign in the media to obscure the facts, which are these:

1. Geoff Griffis’s latest move has forced tenants to remain in slum conditions at Congress Heights properties by interfering with a court-appointed receivership, which facilitates Griffis's continued attempts to displace tenants.

2. Geoff Griffis’s latest move has interfered with a court order instructing Sanford Capital to negotiate exclusively with Congress Heights tenants by selling their properties to NHT (National Housing Trust), in order to prevent displacement and build 200 units of affordable housing.

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Click here to hear directly from Congress Heights tenant leader Robert Green, as he provides an overview of Griffis's dealings.

Stand in solidarity with Mr. Green and the Congress Heights Tenants Association:

MARCH AGAINST SLUMLORD GEOFF GRIFFIS

Saturday, February 10

12 Noon

Meet at Cleveland Park metro station

(RSVP)

To learn more about the tenant-led struggle at Congress Heights, including a full history, visit the Justice First website at www.justicefirst.org.

For the latest Congress Heights updates on the ONE DC website, check out www.onedconline.org/congress_heights.

 

Yasmina Mrabet, Housing Organizer

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ONE DC Monthly Voice - January 2018

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"I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept."
-Angela Y. Davis


Congress Heights Residents Plan March Against Slumlord

By Yasmina Mrabet, ONE DC Housing & People's Platform Organizer

Two days after Christmas, on December 27, 2017, real estate developer and slumlord Geoff Griffis cut a back door deal with long-time partner and fellow slumlord Sanford Capital in an attempt to acquire their properties at Congress Heights, via an irregular and possibly illegal land transfer. This attempted transfer is a desperate and last minute move by Griffis to circumvent two Court orders that would have otherwise resulted in either a negotiated agreement with Congress Heights tenants to prevent displacement and jump start the building of 200 units of affordable housing, or, a $2 million payment to the court to be used to repair the property as part of the ongoing receivership action.

This shameless attempted transfer of property from Sanford Capital to Geoff Griffis also took place during a 60-day period within which the court ordered Sanford Capital to negotiate exclusively with Congress Heights tenants via their chosen non-profit developer, NHT (National Housing Trust). In response to this latest maneuver by Geoff Griffis, Attorney General Karl Racine filed a contempt motion against Griffis in an effort to expose the underhanded nature of this latest displacement tactic.

To be clear: Griffis's intent is to stop money from being paid to the court by Sanford Capital (his partner), thus preventing desperately needed repairs that would protect the health and well-being of Congress Heights tenants. Moreover, the move is designed to prevent tenants from being able to exercise their rights under the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA), thus depriving them the opportunity to take control of the redevelopment process for themselves.

This usurping of tenant rights in the midst of an affordable housing crisis prevents tenants from doing exactly what TOPA was designed for, namely, giving the tenants a legal tool to prevent their own displacement, and also, to preserve and expand affordable housing in their own community.

Geoff Griffis is willing to subject Congress Heights tenants to continued unsafe, unhealthy conditions in order to push forward a luxury development plan at the expense of community interests. However, Congress Heights tenants are in the midst of fighting back. Their legal team, including Arnold & Porter and the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, is actively working to dispute Griffis's attempts to circumvent TOPA and the receivership.

Justice First and ONE DC are gearing up for mass mobilization in support of affordable housing and against displacement at Congress Heights. Tenants have worked for four years in order to control the land in their community. This is a line in the sand and a battle that cannot be lost. Join us at noon on Saturday, February 10 as we march on the home of slumlord Geoff Griffis!

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Click here to RSVP


Black Workers & Wellness Center Capital Fundraising Campaign Enters Phase II

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With the Black Workers & Wellness Center Building purchased, ONE DC is now in the process of retaining a property management company to help with routine management of the property. We also will embark on a planning process for upgrade and renovation of the building. The pace of renovation will depend on ongoing fundraising, but in February an architect will be hired to start the planning work and receive direction from ONE DC members. Click here to donate!

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The Resource Committee is looking for long-time DC residents to join our committee in 2018. Come be a part of a team that is making sure the work of ONE DC and a more equitable DC is possible! Time commitments vary from 4-10 hours a month. No previous training or experience is necessary. If interested, please reply to this email or contact Dominic at dmoulden@onedconline.org or Nawal at nrajeh@onedconline.org


Save the Date - ONE DC Annual Membership Meeting

What is the people's vision for 2018 and beyond? What is ONE DC's financial standing? How did we win in 2017? How can you as a member get involved? Join us to find out at our Annual Membership Meeting on Saturday, March 24th.

Special Elections 2018!
There is an open seat on the ONE DC Shared Leadership Team (SLT). At the Annual Membership Meeting, eligible candidates will be nominated or self-nominated from the floor. We will then hold a vote by secret ballot. All are welcome to attend the Annual Meeting, but only members who are up to date on their annual dues will be eligible to vote. Below are the qualifications for being elected as a member to the Shared Leadership Team:

(1) Be a resident of the District of Columbia,
(2) Be at least 18 years of age,
(2) Be a ONE member for at least 6 months and current in the payment of membership dues,
(3) Complete ONE leadership and capacity training, and
(4) Demonstrate commitment to ONE’s values, work and mission as demonstrated through an interview process with the Leadership Committee.

There are also open seats on the Shared Leadership Team that can be appointed. We encourage anyone interested to contact SLT member Nicole Newman at nicole.a.newmn@gmail.com or call 202.232.2915 to learn more about the roles & responsibilities.

Click here to RSVP


Making the Just City
By Raheem Anthon

In December 2017, the Making The Just City team based in DC made a trip to conduct a learning exchange with the team in Orange, NJ. The meeting started off reaching agreement on the type of analysis we will use for the project in the following year. Situation analysis, put forward for discussion by Dr. Mindy Fullilove, examines complex interpersonal episodes in their embedding context in order to: 1) name the situation and 2) discern a set of strategies for action. The team decided this was a good way to delineate the episodes taking place in both cities.

The Making The Just City project started in early spring of 2017. The acting team members in DC, Serita El Amin and Raheem Anthon, were selected by IRL (Interdisciplinary Research Leadership) members Dominic Moulden and Derek Hyra, with input from the ONE DC Shared Leadership Team. The Making Just City project also has a New Jersey team: members Dr. Mindy Fullilove, Molly Fullilove, and Audrey Murdock.

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Gentrification across different cities shares many similarities such as displacement, rent increases, extreme poverty, and many more crippling effects. Yet, within each city that faces gentrification, there are unique episodes. Examining these unique experiences provides an opportunity for a deeper understanding of the effects. Since Orange is in the beginning stages of gentrification and DC in a late stage, applying situation analysis will give the team the ability to examine both areas and compare them to come up with solutions.

Developers have continued a type of “Jim Crow era” housing polices whereby poor Brown and Black folks are kicked out, replaced by an increasingly white population largely removed from the existing community. The DC team discussed this before arriving in Orange, referencing scenes from Baltimore. When looking at Baltimore, it becomes clear how displacement is not just made up of bad policy decisions, but is an attack on the Black and Brown (and even poor white) communities that have been occupying these spaces for years.

After the discussions, the Orange team guided the DC team through the Valley District. The area is working class (majority Black and Brown residents) with many industrial buildings vacant, which was the same situation in DC before gentrification. The team also learned some history of local organizing, such as Ironworks; a youth-led organization that focuses on culture, art, and community. After leaving the Valley, the team made a trip to the inner city of Orange, stopping at a local bakery whose owners expressed their dedication to staying connected to the changing community.

Once the tour was over, the team gathered for a community concert that celebrated the day Rosa Parks refused to give her seat to a white customer during the Jim Crow era, sparking protest that eventually evolved into the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The concert had many musical performances, from Oakwood Avenue Community School singing “Vivir Mi Vida” by Marc Anthony, to a solo performance by cellist Terrence Thornhill preforming “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” dedicated to his recently deceased grandmother.

On the final day of the trip, the MTJC team summed up how we want to apply “situation analysis” within our area of study. We drafted a chart of who were the key players within the communities (residents, politicians, developers, and business owners) to delineate a conceived observation of each area. In the coming year, MTJC will be working on a plan on when to conduct the interviews, meetings, and one-on-ones. The team is looking forward to making sure that this project will be a cornerstone of research dealing with community health as related to gentrification and displacement.

Click here to learn more about the Making the Just City project


Upcoming Events

Beyond the Capitalist Enterprise - The Movement for Worker Coops
Wednesday, January 31 - 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM
St. Stephen Church - 1525 Newton St NW
Hosted by Democracy at Work
Criticizing capitalism can be easy, especially after the 2008 Financial Crisis, but what many of us are looking for is the solution, the fix, and a way forward. Join Prof. Richard D. Wolff, Professor of Economics Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and author of many books including "Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism", to discuss how worker co-ops are a viable alternative to building a new and better economy for the future.
Click here to RSVP

Eyewitness Cuba -- The Revolution Continues!
Saturday, February 3 - 3:00 to 5:00 PM
Watha T. Daniel Library - 1630 7th St NW
Hosted by the Party for Socialism and Liberation
2016 Presidential candidate Gloria La Riva joins us in D.C. to report back after being invited to Cuba with a PSL delegation for a celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Antonio Maceo Brigade. The brigade was formed to stand in solidarity with the Revolution, by Cuban youth living abroad because their parents had left the island. Hear eyewitness reports and see video and images from the delegation's trip, as well as an update on the Cuban economy, the remarkable hurricane recovery, recent biotechnology innovations and the need to end the U.S. blockade. A group discussion will follow the presentation.
Click here to RSVP

DC Jobs With Justice Community Meeting
Wednesday, February 7 - 5:30 PM
St Stephens Church - 1525 Newton St NW,
Join the JWJ community to learn about our 2018 campaigns and what you can do to fight for justice in Washington, DC.
Click here to RSVP


DC Grassroots Planning Coalition Meeting
Saturday, February 10 - 2:00 to 4:00 PM
Southwest Neighborhood Library - 900 Wesley Pl SW
Trump is cutting Fed programs and funds that help DC's working families -- like housing, food stamps, and other social uplift programs. This slashing of Federal funding elevates how Mayor Bowser and the DC City Council spend local money and utilize local public assets. In recent years we've seen tax gifts and public land given to developers to build luxury condos, hotels and stadiums all decided in a top-down way. But our local money and assets requires grassroots planning and that is where our local communities and Wards come in. Self-determination of our neighborhoods own futures is imperative no matter who is in office! We want to invite all of the people we work with on these zoning and planning issues into the room. We want to continue to build the Ward-level and neighborhood level teams we will need in 2018 to win key policies we want in the Comprehensive Plan to help shape the future of our communities.
Click here for more info

Chocolate City: A History of Race and Democracy in the Nation's Capital

Thursday, February 15 - 6:00 PM
UDC Student Center Ballroom - 4200 Connecticut Avenue NW
Authors, Chris Myers Asch and George Derek Musgrove will discuss the tumultuous, four-century story of race and democracy in our nation's capital. Book signing and cupcake reception to follow the presentation.
Click here to RSVP

2018 Transit Rider Organizing Bootcamp
March 8 & 9, 2018
Tommy Douglas Conference Center - 10000 New Hampshire Avenue, Silver Spring, MD
Hosted by Americans for Transit
An action packed 1.5 days of speakers, panels, and workshops. Connect with community and labor partners. Learn from transit rider organizers on the ground working to improve service, increase funding, and hold decision makers accountable to the riding public.
Click here to register


WMATA Continues Crackdown with Anti-rider Fare Initiative

By Save Our System Coalition

Amid an ongoing funding crisis - which in a recent report by Ray LaHood, stated the system needs at least $500 million additionally a year to sustain - WMATA has decided to end their negative balance program in an effort to regain “lost revenue.” WMATA has lost $25 million over a period of 17 years.

Previously, if you were taken metro bus and you had less than $2 on your smarttrip, the system would let you on and you could pay the next time you are at a metro station. On January 8th, WMATA will do away with this policy and riders with low or negative balances will have to add additional fare to their SmartTrip cards at fare boxes on the bus or exit fare machines on the metro. Because these methods of adding fare are cash and coin only, bus and station operators will be forced to provide additional assistance to riders during busy times such as rush hour. ultimately this will increase disputes over fares, which WMATA has claimed its working to reduce in its ongoing campaign to criminalize low income people - namely black and brown communities - who cannot afford high fares.

Ultimately this will increase disputes over fares, which WMATA has claimed its working to reduce in its ongoing campaign to criminalize low income people - namely black and brown communities - who cannot afford high fares.

It’s true - Metro needs funding. But securing this funding thru high fares, service cuts and other anti-rider initiatives that inevitably results in the criminalizing low income communities and targeting those who are already struggle to pay metro fares is the wrong way to achieve this.

These policies only serve to make Metro more inaccessible to those who need access to public transportation most. Undermining access to public transportation will only worsen the racial and economic divides that plague our city all the while distracting the public from the real fare evaders looting the system.

Click here to continue reading on SaveMetro.org


Community Learning Walking Tours Continue in  2018

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"Thank you so much for such a powerful learning experience in visiting ONE DC as part of our trip. We are back in San Francisico, and thinking about all the connections to the issues impacting DC natives and people of color just as we are wrestling with our own affordability and displacement crisis. We greatly appreciate your support for our students to have a localized DC learning experience, and for the great organizing resources by ONE DC which we hope they'll continue to think over this semester as we further explore community organizing and activism. I am sending along a pic from our visit, and please let us know if you are ever in SF!" -Esther Madriz Living Learning Community at University of San Francisco

ONE Bit of Good News

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ONE DC Shared Leadership Team member and native Washingtonian Dewayne Brown (pictured above, third from left) was shot in October and seriously wounded. His miraculous recovery was celebrated when he visited ONE DC with his family.

Do you want to be a writer, editor, or designer for the ONE DC Monthly Voice? Email organizer@onedconline.org
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