We are living in unprecedented times.
At the time of this writing, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has claimed over 650 lives across the District and left numerous more residents sick. Tens of thousands have lost work and now struggle to make ends meet. Parents have had to juggle putting food on the table and providing childcare. Computer screens have become temporary classrooms for our students, and an imperfect means to staying connected with our elderly and vulnerable residents.
It has been a year of loneliness, anxiety, uncertainty—and reckoning. While COVID-19 has laid bare the inequities that have long plagued communities of color, an eruption of racist police violence has made it impossible to look away.
Yet over these solemn months, I have watched the District meet this crisis with undeniable discipline, determination, and resilience.
I have seen essential workers—doctors and nurses and EMTs, police and firefighters, delivery drivers and cooks and grocery store workers and many more—dutifully serving the District and its residents, particularly our most vulnerable, despite great personal risk.
I’ve heard the District and the nation find its voice within a multiethnic, multigenerational, and global movement demanding true equality under our nation’s economic, educational, criminal justice, and healthcare systems.
I’ve witnessed our decades-long dream of gaining the full rights of citizenship leap closer to reality, as the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 51, the D.C. statehood bill.
And I’ve discovered hope.
I believe this moment can be our opportunity to build a better, fairer future. And I know the Office of the Attorney General can play a role, just as we have worked to contain this virus’s damage.
We may have been teleworking since March, but our commitment to providing the District with first-class legal services has never wavered. We’ve continued to defend your rights and emergency protections—stopping price gougers, rooting out scams and fraudsters, standing up for tenants in need, and fighting for workers’ health and safety.
We’ve leaned on virtual community outreach and our Cure the Streets violence interruption teams to keep residents informed, safe, fed, and counted in the U.S. Census. We’ve advised and collaborated with the Council and Executive Office of the Mayor on emergency legislation. And we’ve worked with the courts, the Metropolitan Police Department, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to make sure we’re addressing our public health and public safety needs.
All the while, we have filed and settled lawsuits to protect our environment, advanced evidence-based strategies to address racial inequities, taken on discriminatory property managers and neglectful slumlords, and so much more. 2020 has strengthened our resolve to fight for District residents. So if there are ways OAG can better serve you, we want to hear about them. Together, we can chart a path for a future that marks this unparalleled year as the beginning of an extraordinary new era.
Karl A. Racine