WI Hot Topics 12-15-16

Gateway DC Site for Holiday Celebration for Southeast Youth

Children in Southeast are in store for a great holiday gathering geared toward families with kids 4 to 12 years of age when DJ Flava of WKYS spins the sounds, WPGC’s Joe Clair reads magical stories and local entertainers take the mic for a “Cozy Christmas” community party.

Sponsored by Events DC in partnership with Washington Informer Charities, the celebration takes place at Gateway DC (2730 Martin Luther King, Jr. Ave.) from 5 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 15th.

There’ll also be face painting, holiday treats, inflatables and more. Dress warmly as the events will be held outside. Children must be accompanied by an adult. And it would be wise to get there early with your crew before all of the gifts and goodies are snatched up.

To pre-register, email CozyChristmas.Splashthat.com or text Brian Atkins, 202-295-7142.

D.C. Council Passes Historic Paid Leave Amendment

The D.C. Council recently approved one of the country’s most generous paid family leave programs that will allow workers employed by the District to take advantage of eight weeks of paid leave for the birth or adoption of a child.

But despite an 11-2 vote by the Council, many remain concerned that the leave program will negatively impact small businesses and could even cost some workers their jobs. While a handful of states already guarantee paid family leave, they all fund the additional benefit through employee contributions. However, the City Council voted to impose a new tax on businesses in order to foot the bill.

Mayor Muriel Bowser has not said if she will sign the bill. However, the 11-2 margin would not require her approval and would be veto-proof should it hold when the Council votes again in the next few weeks, prior to sending it to the mayor. Council members who side with Bowser point to the program’s costs, concerns over its impact on businesses and the caveat that more than 60 percent of those who would receive the benefit live in Maryland and Virginia – not in D.C.

Report: District Lagging in Services for Returning Citizens

A District-based nonprofit that advocates for improvements to D.C.’s criminal justice system, has just released a report that criticizes District services for returning citizens.

The 100-plus page report, “Beyond Second Chances,” shows a bleak road for those with criminal records in need of housing and work. Not only does D.C. have a high cost of living, but many jobs require a college degree. The report indicates that 1-in-22 adults in the District are “under some form of correctional control,” including probation or jail and that most of the struggles resulting from a criminal record are heaped upon the shoulders of the city’s Black residents.

Kevin Donahue, D.C.’s deputy mayor for public safety and justice, issued a statement saying the city will continue to look for ways to improve support for inmates and returning citizens so that recidivism can be reduced. He added that the city will soon select a new Department of Corrections director.

Costs Too Much for Many Second Chance Program Hopefuls

Many states now offer a program called pretrial intervention, often referred to as “diversion,” which allows first-time offenders, among others, a way to avoid time behind bars and a criminal record. By agreeing to participate in 12 weeks of classes, perform 24 hours of community service and stay out of trouble, cases can be dismissed and the arrest expunged.

But a significant problem has become evident: because of fees connected to the program, even those who successfully complete the program, if unable to pay restitution often find themselves back in court, facing prosecution.

So while diversion is supposed to reduce the number of cases in an already overburdened court system and therefore keep crowded jails from becoming even more crowded and make it possible for low-risk offenders to avoid the lifelong impact of a criminal record, it only benefits those with money.

Diversion programs, which now exist in almost every state, have become revenue makers for an increasing number of jurisdictions and their prosecutors with some fees reaching $5,000 for a single offense. One prosecutor from Florida said in a New York Times report, “pretrial diversion is a voluntary program; fees are not eligible for reduction or waiver.”

About D. Kevin McNeir – Washington Informer Editor 158 Articles

Award-winning journalist, book editor, voice-over specialist and author with 17 years in the industry. Currently an education and religion beat reporter for The Washington Informer. But I also tackle local (D.C. and Maryland) politics, entertainment, business and health articles to maintain my edge.

Born and raised in Motown and a staunch Wolverine – that is a graduate of the University of Michigan, I left corporate America (IBM) to pursue my passion for writing, accepting a beat reporter’s gig under the tutelage of the late Sam Logan, founding publisher of the Michigan Chronicle. I continued to hone my craft at N’DIGO Magapaper, Windy City Times and The Wednesday Journal, all in Chicagoland; the Atlanta Voice and The Miami Times. I’ve been fortunate to be chosen twice as the Feature Writer of the Year by the Chicago Association of Black Journalists. Later, as the senior editor of one of the country’s oldest Black-owned newspapers, The Miami Times, I helped my staff bring home the NNPA’s highest honor – Publication of the Year, 2001. That same year I picked up first and second place awards for news and feature writing, respectively, also from the NNPA.

Today I’m based in the nation’s capital where I’m honored to serve as the editor for The Washington Informer. Recognizing the importance of education, I’ve earned two master’s degrees from Emory University, Summa Cum Laude and Princeton Theological Seminary, majoring in theology and philosophy.

If I can slow down, I may actually complete and publish a collection of essays I’ve been working on for many years, “Growing up Motown,” sharing childhood memories of experiences with musical legends like Marvin Gaye, Kim Weston, the Four Tops, the Miracles, Gladys Knight and Take Six. My favorite foods: spinach, lasagna, pancakes and Oysters Rockefeller. My mom, 86, always my “best friend” and “cheerleader,” now lives with me and she brings me great joy. I’m a fiercely protective yet encouraging father and grandfather always down for traveling, shopping or celebrating the natural beauty of God’s world. I live by the following words: “Less is more” and “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

You can reach me on Twitter (@dkevinmcneir), Facebook (Kevin McNeir) or via e-mail, mcneirdk@washingtoninformer.com