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Today's newsletter is 923 words — a 3-minute read.

1 big thing: 🥊 Lucas vs. Leonsis

Louise Lucas isn't pulling punches. Photo: Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images

👋🏼 It's Cuneyt, back with Town Talker — my column on money and power.

An 80-year-old veteran of Richmond politics has become D.C.'s unlikely hero — and, so far, a nightmare for Ted Leonsis' plans of a new arena in Alexandria.

Why it matters: Sen. L. Louise Lucas, a Democrat from Southeast Virginia, controls a powerful committee that can make or break Gov. Glenn Youngkin's proposal to build the arena, and she is a "hell no" on the legislation.

State of play: Lucas is a godsend for Mayor Muriel Bowser, Washingtonians who have turned on Monumental Sports for trying to relocate the Capitals and Wizards, and Alexandria NIMBYs who want the teams to stay in downtown D.C.

📣 A glossary of what she has said since putting the deal on ice last week:

  • "This is not a good deal for Virginia" to reporters on Sunday.
  • "Let's compete by both offering $0 in taxpayer dollars" — a message to Bowser, basically challenging her to withdraw the city's $500 million offer to stay in Chinatown. (Bowser's office is mum on all this.)
  • And laying down the gauntlet: "The last thing anybody should ever try to do is bully me," Lucas tweeted on Sunday. "I was a teenage mother who broke the gender barrier with a physical job at the shipyard. At 80 years old I will kick their ass and make sure everyone is watching."

It was a cryptic comment that ended with, "Not calling any names YET but you know who you are."

Context: Lucas, the first Black woman to be president pro tempore of the Virginia senate, has an incredible life story.

  • Her mother was a homemaker and her father worked at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, where at the time water fountains were still segregated, as told in the Washington Post last year.
  • Lucas became a single mother by 14. She dropped out of high school and by the time she turned 21, she was married with three kids. Then she got a job at Norfolk's male-dominated shipyard.
  • A civic force, she climbed the local political ladder in Portsmouth and over the years became a businesswoman. She was elected to the statehouse in 1991.

Between the lines: Even though the House of Delegates passed its version of the arena legislation, Lucas chairs the Senate's influential finance committee, where she has said it will wither.

Yes, but: Some Democrats want a compromise.

Keep reading

2. School lunch meets food justice

Lunchtime! Photo: courtesy of Red Rabbit

Red Rabbit, a New York-based school food management company that specializes in nutritious, "culturally relevant" meals, is expanding to D.C.

Why it matters: Since launching over a decade ago, Red Rabbit's "food justice" model has proven successful: Give kids in underserved communities healthy, familiar meals — think pollo guisado over chicken fingers — and they have the fuel to thrive.

How it works: Red Rabbit currently partners with high-need charter and smaller public school districts in New York, New Jersey, and Philadelphia, and transforms their meal programs with the help of chefs, community organizations, and federal funding.

  • "We're more of a social justice organization," CEO and founder Rhys Powell tells Axios. "A lot of school food starts with nutrition, and we think that's the wrong way."
  • It's all about identifying what resonates with kids and teachers — whether that's jerk chicken in Caribbean neighborhoods or jollof rice in West African areas. "We interview students and ask what their families eat," says Powell. "How do they celebrate and uplift?"

What's next: Red Rabbit is currently in the research and development phase in D.C., targeting schools in Wards 7 and 8 — home to some of the city's largest food deserts — and making connections with community organizations like D.C. Central Kitchen.

Keep reading

A chef chops vegetables in a Red Rabbit kitchen
A working Red Rabbit kitchen. Photo: courtesy Red Rabbit

3. Biggest neighborhood price jumps

D.C. ZIP codes with the greatest home price increases in 2023
Data: Bright MLS. Table: Axios Visuals

The Northwest D.C. ZIP code encompassing some of D.C.'s priciest neighborhoods (20016) — such as Spring Valley, the Palisades, AU Park, and Kent — saw the biggest spike in median home price in 2023.

Why it matters: While high mortgage rates caused some buyers to sit out last year and slowed overall sales, D.C.'s inventory remained low, especially among highly desirable areas — meaning prices in some of these spots crept up.

The big picture: All the ZIP codes in the top five are in Northwest.

  • 20037 includes West End and Foggy Bottom.
  • 20008 includes Kalorama, Woodley Park, and Van Ness.
  • 20005 covers Logan Circle and the area of downtown surrounding McPherson Square.
  • 20007 spans Georgetown, Burleith, and Berkley.

4. Around the Beltway: Another recall attempt

Photo illustration: Allie Carl/Axios. Photo: The Washington Post via Getty Images

❌ Ward 1 residents filed paperwork to create a committee that would lead a recall effort against Council member Brianne Nadeau, according to a press release sent to Axios. Advocates cite increased neighborhood crime as well as what they call Nadeau's failure "to take any consequential action to reduce crime."

🏫 The Supreme Court will not hear a case concerning an admissions policy adopted by Thomas Jefferson High School in Fairfax County that cut standardized testing to diversify its student body.

  • While an appeals court found that the move did lead to more school diversity, some community members and parents alleged it discriminated against Asian American students who previously made up a large percentage of the school. (Axios)

✏️ Virginia labor unions announced that they don't support the arena move. The unions, which represent Capital One Arena concessions workers and construction workers who could build the new stadium, say they're opposed due to "low wage jobs because the developer would not accept any labor agreements." (Washington Post)

Stay booked and busy

📅 Upcoming events around the city.

  • Candle Making Workshop with Elevation Lifestyle at Shop Made in DC - Georgetown on Monday: Dive into the world of fragrance and wax as expert instructors guide you through the process of creating a personalized aromatic masterpiece. $40
  • Trellix Public Sector Cybersecurity Summit at The Ritz-Carlton West End on Tuesday: Top technology leaders from across the public sector will discuss emerging cybersecurity topics at the Trellix Public Sector Cybersecurity Summit. Free

Hosting an event? Post an event.

Looking for other events? Check out our Event Board.

5. 🤔 Tweet du jour: Not for sale

Post courtesy of Washington Post editor Dan Steinberg/@dcsportsbog, via X

The end of an era? We'll leave you with this punchline:

🦆 Anna is recovering from a Peking Duck coma.

👟 Cuneyt is going for a jog.

😭 Mimi is still crying from the "One Day" finale.

Today's newsletter was edited by Alexa Mencia and copy edited by Patricia Guadalupe.