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What Snow Days Show Us

Dear Ward 5 neighbors, 

This week, the District experienced two of its most significant snowfall days in years. There have been sledding parties, snowball fights, and of course the beauty of snow-laden trees and homes. 

But snow days show us more than a winter wonderland and child-like joy. They also reveal District agencies’ capabilities for serving residents well. My team and I have spent much of this week escalating countless snow removal issues with the Department of Public Works (DPW), Department of Transportation (DDOT), Metro (WMATA), and the National Park Service (NPS). While major arterial corridors—largely used by commuter traffic—were cleared quickly, many Ward 5 residents faced untreated walkways and sidewalks in front of schools on Wednesday and Thursday, packed snow and ice on essential pedestrian bridges connecting residents to public transportation, and the Metropolitan Branch Trail—a primary route through Ward 5 for pedestrians and cyclists—sat untreated for days. 

We’ve also heard from residents about issues with the timeliness of DC Public Schools’ closure announcements and coordinating with DC government employees. My team stopped by Burroughs Elementary yesterday as they endured heating issues that left children, teachers, and staff in frigid classrooms while we waited for clear updates and a resolution from the Department of General Services (DGS). All of this is coupled, of course, with many residents’ need for food assistance and stable housing, needs that are brought into stark relief during times of dangerous weather. Today, my office received a call from a senior resident in Woodridge who had been without heat and gas since early yesterday. My office worked today to get the neighbor connected with Washington Gas.

In short, snow days show us where District agencies can and must improve. Neighbors deserve an equitable distribution of snow removal services, clear and timely communication from schools, warm classrooms, agency responsiveness, and assistance for basic needs. While my team has worked this week to escalate issues for short-term resolutions, oversight season on the Council is an opportunity to press into questions for District agencies on why they are not better prepared to serve residents in the long-term during weeks like this one. I invite you to sign up to testify at upcoming hearings and join me as we work for accountability and improvement.