Vincent Gray
**FILE** Ward 7 Council member Vincent Gray (Shevry Lassiter/The Washington Informer)

Vincent Gray, Ward 7 D.C. Council member and chair of the council’s health committee, has floated legislation to expedite the creation of a comprehensive, integrated health care system, particularly for residents on the east end of the city.

The East End Health Equity Act of 2018, introduced by Gray and fellow Council members Trayon White, Jack Evans, Charles Allen and Brandon Todd, aims to exempt District Hospital Partners, LP — known as George Washington University Hospital — from the certificate-of-need process, which would allow the project to skirt much of the process’s regulatory red tape.

Gray and his colleagues made the announcement ahead of what could count as a busy 30th legislative meeting, which convenes at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 2.

In August, after months of delay, George Washington University Hospital was selected through a competitive process to operate the new hospital, which has long been a goal of Gray, the former District mayor.

“As everyone knows, building this new hospital on the St. Elizabeths campus to anchor a health care system has been a goal of mine since I first proposed it as mayor in 2014,” Gray said.

Since his return to the council two years ago, Gray has worked with others to revive the capital project to build a new hospital and dedicate $325.8 million to its construction and to legislatively mandate that the hospital is located on the St. Elizabeths campus, where it will be fully accessible by Metrorail and bus, he said.

“With the overwhelming disparities endured by residents on the east end, it is critical that the new hospital be completed and opened by the end of 2021, said Gray, who added that the projected completion date of 2023 is too far off.

The legislation Gray has proposed exempts health care projects such as the George Washington University Hospital — which includes the construction of the new hospital, the expansion of its existing hospital and the creation of urgent care centers in Wards 7 and 8 — from the certificate-of-need process.

“The need for this comprehensive health care system in Wards 7 and 8 is inarguable,” he said. “This legislation will exempt this project from the often time-consuming and costly process to expedite the creation of a robust health care system for residents in the District of Columbia particularly those on the east end.”

Gray hasn’t been alone in conducting city business. When the council met for its 29th session and first post-recess meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 18, At-Large Council member Anita Bonds immediately introduced two pieces of legislation.

Bonds, chair of the council’s Committee on Housing and Neighborhood Revitalization, proposed the District of Columbia Department on Aging and Community Living Amendment Act of 2018, would upgrade the District of Columbia Office on Aging (DCOA) to a city department to continue advocating for stronger health, educational and social services for aging residents.

As a department, it would also work to combat abuse, neglect, and exploitation. Bonds said.

Today, seniors make up about one-sixth of the city population and that population projects to grow by 17.5 percent by the year 2030, Bonds noted.

“With such numbers and statistics it’s critical that DCOA be given the authority and resources as a Department to handle the comprehensive issues for the growing population of seniors in our city,” she said.

Bonds also introduced the Rental Housing Smoke Free Common Area Amendment Act of 2018, an effort to protect multifamily building residents from the health hazards and harmful effects of secondhand smoke.

To balance the desire of smokers with the need of nonsmokers to breathe smoke-free air, the measure prohibits smoking within common areas and entryways or windows by allowing housing providers to designate smoking areas.

It also protects tenants who violate these prohibitions from eviction and Bonds said it’s consistent with the District’s policy prohibiting smoking in public areas such as playgrounds, schools and restaurants.

Additionally, Council member David Grosso (I-At Large) introduced legislation that would make the District’s state education agency more independent.

Grosso, chair of the council’s education committee, said the bill would also help increase public confidence in the work of the agency.

The State Education Agency Independence Amendment Act of 2018 would establish the Office of the State Superintendent for Education as an independent agency and extend the term of the superintendent from four years to six years.

It would also take away the mayor’s discretion to remove the superintendent at will and grant OSSE exclusive hiring authority for its personnel.

“Over the past few months I have heard a desire from the community for a more objective superintendent of education, one that more closely aligns with state education agencies across the country,” Grosso said. “We can deepen the public’s and the Council’s trust in its work by removing and insulating OSSE from the day-to-day political considerations of the mayor.”

Stacy M. Brown is a senior writer for The Washington Informer and the senior national correspondent for the Black Press of America. Stacy has more than 25 years of journalism experience and has authored...

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