A funny thing happened on the way to the community meeting: a policy discussion broke out.
The Ward 4 Democrats kicked off their fiscal year by hosting an intimate discussion with the Honorable Elissa Silverman, At-Large Councilmember, at their October meeting at the Washington Ethical Society.
President Candace Nelson began the evening by delivering a concise President’s Report and then proceeded to introduce Councilmember Silverman.
The Universal Paid Leave Act
Ms. Silverman jumped into the discussion energetically and began by outlining the curious history of her most well-known bill to date: The Universal Paid Leave Act. In brief, this law provides up to 8 weeks of annual paid leave for a birth or adoption, up to 6 weeks to care for a sick relative and up to 2 weeks for self-care for employees of private employers in the District. The benefits are to be funded by a .62% payroll tax that functions in a manner similar to Unemployment Insurance. The law is scheduled to be administered by the D.C. Department of Employee Services.
Despite the law’s passage, it still attracts some powerful opposition. Two amendments to the law were the subjects of a recent eleven-hour Council hearing. CM Silverman coyly described the leaders of the opposition as “the consortium of Universities” (whose members happen to be the city’s largest private employers).
What was most interesting, however, is that many audience members appeared to be extremely well-informed on the benefits and burdens of Universal Paid Leave, the Family and Medical Leave Act and other employment regulations and issues. One neighbor displayed extensive management experience and relayed stories of the abuse of current benefits by some employees. She wondered aloud how the city could prevent similar circumstances with the new law.
CM Silverman was only too happy to engage on that point and cited California’s long and mostly successful track record with Paid Universal Leave as a model to follow. She also seemed genuinely interested in continuing the discussion with the audience members who spoke knowledgeably and skeptically about it.
Other Legislative Priorities
While the Paid Leave discussion was clearly the hot topic of the evening, CM Silverman made sure to carve out some time to discuss a few other items on her Council wish list. Her three priorities are:
- Inclusive Development, including housing that is affordable
- Jobs for DC residents
- Transparent and Accessible government
The most interesting factoid from this part of her discussion is that the Committee on Labor and Workforce Development*, which she chairs, is currently studying ways to improve the popular Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP).
Did you know that the city spends over $20 million each year on the SYEP?
No cuts to the program are envisioned. CM Silverman is interested in finding ways that we can best use those resources to teach our youth the key “soft skills” they need to have a successful career path. These skills include:
- Coming to work on time
- Being dressed appropriately
- Having good communication skills
Overall, this was a great discussion. It was nice to delve into such a robust policy chat. I was very impressed with the eagerness of the Councilmember and the audience to scratch below the surface of some tricky issues. Kudos to the Ward 4 Democrats for another successful session. Their next meeting will take place on November 21st.
Check out our previous coverage of the Ward 4 Democrats meetings: Mayor Bowser Visits the Ward 4 Democrats.
*A previous version of this story mistakenly attributed the SYEP study to the Committee on Government Operations.