They are examples of how the Wilson Building’s two new Jewish legislators are going bold in their first year serving on the District of Columbia Council.
“They both bring new energy, fresh energy to the council — and they continue the liberal tradition of the council,” Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said.
Silverman teamed up with David Grosso (I-At Large) on the paid family leave measure that they pushed for months. If enacted, the benefit would provide up to 16 weeks of paid family and medical leave for Washington workers.
Nadeau played a pivotal role in moving a project forward that would bring 106 units of affordable housing and a Whole Foods Market to Florida Avenue in the Shaw neighborhood of Northwest Washington.
“Traditionally freshmen don’t have that much influence on the council,” said Will Sommer, who writes the Loose Lips local politics column for Washington City Paper, a position held at one time by Silverman. He said that Nadeau is settling into the council seat.
The first piece of legislation Nadeau introduced as a councilmember was an ethics reform bill; she had campaigned on the issue. Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), the third freshman on the council, said that after what he described as “some pretty tumultuous times” in the D.C. Council and city government, voters were hungry for elected officials with integrity and that is what he, Silverman and Nadeau are providing.
“Elissa and I both ran by not taking any corporate contributions. The three of us have talked about campaign finance reform. We have talked about ethics reform. And so I think that the city sees that leadership and I think that Elissa and Brianne are really important parts of it,” Allen said.
Both Silverman and Nadeau have collaborated with the Jewish community on social justice issues, including paid family and medical leave, which Nadeau said came from the grassroots advocacy group Jews United for Justice.
In addition to Jews United for Justice, her office is regularly in contact with the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington about the issues that it is working on.
As members of lay-led egalitarian Jewish communities — Nadeau at DC Minyan and Silverman at Hill Havurah — their focus on social justice as lawmakers extends to the Jewish communities they associate with in their personal lives.
This shared sense of purpose and values has led to their collaboration on many issues, including tackling dangerous construction practices and creating pathways to living wage jobs and careers, according to Silverman.
“Elissa and I collaborate on almost everything, actually. We are very similar-minded in our approach to preserving affordable housing and human services, ensuring that there are adequate jobs for all of our populations across the District and that there are pathways to these jobs,” said Nadeau. “I’m really pleased that we have the opportunity to serve together because I think that we’ve been able to tag team on a lot of these issues and really move them forward.”
Nine months after being sworn in, Silverman is showing no signs of slowing down, introducing two new bills after the council returned from recess in September. The Unemployment Benefits Modernization Amendment Act of 2015 would increase maximum weekly unemployment benefits to match Maryland’s rate of $430 per week and index it to inflation; and the Solar Energy Amendment Act of 2015 would keep residential solar panel incentives in place until 2023 in order to keep the nation’s capital on track to becoming a more sustainable city.
“Brianne’s been a wonderful partner,” said Silverman. “We work a lot with Councilmember Nadeau. We have a shared agenda of creating a progressive and inclusive District of Columbia.”