Unfortunately, time ran out before we were able to address all of the questions submitted by the audience at the March 4th Ward 2 Candidate forum, hosted by DCCA and LCCA. Directly following the event, all legible questions submitted by residents who attended the forum, were compiled in a questionnaire forwarded to the candidates. Here we have cataloged the verbatim responses received from the candidates who completed the questionnaire. Candidates' responses to each question are listed in alphabetical order.
Neither DCCA nor LCCA endorse or oppose any of the candidates for public office, and candidates' fitness for office should be judged on a variety of qualifications that go beyond their responses to the questions contained in this response set. To watch a video of the candidate forum and see pictures of the event, click here. To see candidate response to questions in each category, click the topic area below:
*Note that all questions including those about coronavirus/COVID-19 were written on March 4th, prior to the Mayor declaring a public health emergency. Candidates received the questions on March 16th and responses were submitted on a rolling basis.
In 2018, the $1,700 personal exemption on the DC Income tax return was eliminated. As a result, every DC taxpayer’s income taxes were increased. Do you support reinstating the $1700 personal exemption?
Evans, Jack: Yes.I have the most accomplished Council record with regard to reducing taxes for DC residents and would welcome a chance to work on this as well.
Fanning, John: Yes.
Grossman, Jordan: Generally, I believe we should have a predictable tax environment, including with respect to income taxes. The rates the Council enacts should not be constantly changing and causing uncertainty for residents – especially long-time residents – and businesses.
That said, in light of COVID-19, I believe we ought to conduct a comprehensive review of all DC taxes and the urgent needs we must address to ensure our neighbors and local businesses can survive this crisis, particularly those who have been hit the hardest or have been excluded from the response programs that have already been enacted. It is also more important than ever to implement a fairer tax structure by repealing or clawing back the corporate tax breaks that have long been championed by Jack Evans – and that cost the District tens of millions of dollars a year. We also must fight to restore full funding for DC in the federal coronavirus legislation and explore access to alternative funds available to state and local governments, such as the Federal Reserve’s emergency coronavirus initiatives.
As we rebuild from this public health emergency, we must invest in the basic needs of residents rather than effectively leaving individual families to fend for themselves. As Ward 2’s councilmember, I will focus on making it easier for all people – from fifth generation DC residents like me to our immigrant communities and other new arrivals – to stay and thrive here in the homes and neighborhoods that we love. That means taking concrete steps to make it possible for all Ward 2 residents to afford a place to live, find high-quality child care for their kids, walk, bike and take public transit all across the city, and pay off student loan debt.
Hernandez, Daniel: I believe what should ultimately be considered is the overall impact and distribution of tax collection, not necessarily the specific way to achieve that.
Kennedy, Patrick: I support reinstating the personal exemption as soon as it is fiscally prudent to do so. We face a large budget shortfall due to COVID-related impacts in the near-term, but I support reinstating the personal exemption as soon as practical because many taxpayers, particularly those who aren’t affluent, experienced a net tax increase when the federal tax code that D.C.’s tax rates are tied to was changed to eliminate the personal exemption in favor of an increase in the standard deduction.
Specifically, I would support legislation phasing the personal exemption back in by decoupling the income tax schedule from the federal standard based on a process similar to how the D.C. Tax Revision Commission’s recommendations were phased in a few years ago. That is, when the District’s revenue estimates reach certain “targets,” the tax cut would automatically be triggered and go into effect.
Pinto, Brooke: Yes, the $1,7000 personal exemption provides some much needed relief to taxpayers, and I would be supportive of legislative action working to reinstate it.
Putta, Kishan: The personal exemption is important because it takes money off the top of taxes, particularly for those right at the margins and that money is important to them. It also helps families save a little to offset the money that they spend in a given year on taking care of their children.
Venice, Katherine: First, let me point out that DC Council has a pronounced, significant lack of any substantive economic, fiscal, business or financial expertise and literacy, which is going to increasingly cost not only Ward 2 residents but all Washingtonians immensely – especially now that we have entered this new pandemic era. This is now the third economic fall-out that I have experienced from the heart of the business, finance, economic and academic community at the national level. Among not only other Ward 2 candidates but also sitting Councilmembers, I have unrivalled experience and background in this critical regard.
In my letter of March 24 to DC Council (posted on my campaign website), I highlighted that the Council’s rescue package of March 17, and the then-forthcoming federal package, would not be nearly enough to help DC residents and small businesses through the consequent economic fall-out, which is being significantly under-estimated by DC Council. I pointed that far more aggressive preventative action, focusing on our small business community (restaurants, bars, etc), is required now to stop the economic fallout of the pandemic spreading out of control across DC’s economy and causing lasting damage that will take years to recover from. I highlighted issues such as the solvency risk that small businesses face and what they need now. Let me be clear: we have never seen such a complete and sudden shut-down of not only the local economy, not only the national economy, but the entire global economy, and at the same time.
In these historic times, DC Council desperately needs an economically, financially and business qualified - at a meaningful, national level – Councilmember, and I am the only candidate that comes close to what is required. Prior to my campaign, I collaborated with the world’s leading (including Nobel laureate) economists, leading business academics across Ivy League institutions, the UN, state pension funds and other largest institutional investor groups, pioneering a path of ethically reforming capitalism and reversing economic inequality; I was responsible for the investment of $1 Billion of pension fund assets; as one of the leading long-term pension fund investors in the country, I have advised and exercised oversight over CEOs of the largest publicly-listed companies in the US and beyond, on strategies to build long-term sustainable, inclusive businesses that can survive economic down-turns; I have previously been an economics advisor to an overseas government minister; I am a graduate from the number-one ranked business school in the world for executive education, and I hold the CFA charter (the international finance gold standard).
We are not in an economic bubble that is localized to Ward 2 or DC: we are being affected by macro-economic, international dynamics, which are affecting all dimensions of economic, fiscal and monetary policy, etc. Never before has it been so essential for Ward 2’s next Councilmember to have expertise and experience that goes far, far beyond Ward 2.
On this tax question: I very strongly support re-instating the $1,700 personal exemption as soon as possible: it will help keep DC affordable for residents.
But in addition, and just as importantly, I am the only candidate who will focus heavily on implementing basic fiscal discipline via effective oversight of fiscal, policy and program outcomes.
One of the many problems of DC being essentially a one-party Democrat state is that it has become a rampant tax-and-spend machine. Partisan loyalty has meant that none of the Councilmembers has been willing to rock the boat and exercise meaningful oversight over how tax-dollars are being spent. Meanwhile, we have seen spending per District resident rise by a staggering 27% over the last 3 years alone (from $11,000 to $14,000 per resident), as the DC Auditor has pointed out.
This is yet another reason why Ward 2 and the District as a whole urgently needs a Republican Councilmember, who is genuinely empowered and oriented towards reining in such fiscal recklessness.
Even before the pandemic hit (for example, at the LCCA/DCCA forum), I repeatedly emphasized that we are entering a new era of slower economic growth. Now that the pandemic has fallen upon us, my statements have turned out to be grossly optimistic. Let there be no mistaking that we are in a new era of considerable economic difficulty that is likely to endure for the next 6 months at least (see my letter to the Council of March 23 for more detail on the District’s economic outlook, on our campaign website): and so meaningfully addressing the Council’s long-established fiscal recklessness, as I promise to do, is more critical than ever.
Among the steps that I will take to remedy the basic lack of effective Council oversight are: addressing the lack of standardized internal controls, operational frameworks and processes governing the day-to-day administering of services and programs across many of DC Government’s agencies to ensure implementation consistent with policy goals; and addressing the lack of basic processes in place to systematically and comprehensively capture institutional knowledge to allow for seamless personnel changes that do not disrupt a program’s efficiency nor efficacy.
Indeed, these are core operating issues that the DC Auditor has repeatedly highlighted over the last several years, but to no avail. The Council simply failed to act. In the DC Auditor’s own words: “The District does not have the organizational structures, laws, and standards necessary to guide its employees and managers as they design and implement processes to achieve their mission. .. Each agency sets and reports on its [own] metrics annually, but the strategic goals reflected in such reports do not consistently find their way to program operators or even program managers. .. Goals and metrics are not consistently reflected in standard operating procedures. .. The D.C. government doesn’t have a set of rules to guide its operations across agencies and across programs so that all its stakeholders get an opportunity to review timely, meaningful, results.” This is the very definition of hard-working DC residents’ tax-dollars being frittered away with abandon.
For more on DC Council’s fiscal recklessness, see my letter of March 24 to Council (posted on my website) about the economic and fiscal impacts of the pandemic.
Zhang, Yilin: The financial impact of COVID-19 will be long-term; even after the stay at home, closing of non- essential businesses, and ban on dine-in services is released. Some businesses already operate on very thin margins and, this period, even with the relief funding, could mean that they do not survive past this year or next. We will need to evaluate what makes sense holistically over these next few months. We need an economic model that allows individuals and businesses to thrive, and provides enough relief to the community so that it incentivizes spending and stimulates economic recovery.
Evans, Jack: Yes. I have worked for decades on numerous initiatives designed to strengthen Ward 2’s neighborhood commercial corridors including Connecticut Avenue, 17th Street and the 14th Street corridors of Dupont and Logan Circles. Easing taxes and rents for local businesses could be a vital step to ensure these valuable community anchors continue to thrive.
Fanning, John: Yes.
Grossman, Jordan: I don’t think we need yet another bank branch taking over retail space from local enterprises in our neighborhoods. I support proposals to make it easier for long-time local businesses, such as those on Connecticut Avenue in Dupont, to stay in our community. Many of these businesses are financially sound but can’t compete with big national chains to pay skyrocketing rents or to guarantee lengthy terms of occupancy. I strongly support solutions like those proposed by Councilmembers Allen, Nadeau, and McDuffie to provide rent guarantees for small local businesses so they can compete with larger national chains for retail space, financial support similar to housing vouchers or emergency residential rental assistance to prevent small local businesses from being forced out of their space, and grants or loans for long-time local businesses to modernize their facilities or adapt to emerging needs.
I also believe we should make navigating DC’s regulatory system simpler easier for these businesses and help them become more competitive. Particularly in my service on ANC 2F’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration Policy Committee, I frequently hear from local businesses that navigating DC Government is confusing and difficult – especially for those who can’t afford to hire an expensive lobbyist. To address these challenges, I would propose a new program that provides “DC Government Ambassadors” to each qualifying small or new business. These officials – essentially publicly funded advocates that provide individualized service for small local businesses – could help facilitate and expedite the process of getting a business up and running or trouble-shooting challenges that arise, particularly when issues involve multiple agencies or regulatory systems. Our government should work for everyone – not just the biggest or best-connected businesses.
Hernandez, Daniel: I am absolutely concerned about supporting local business and preventing the proliferation of vacant storefronts.
I won’t claim to be an expert and would look to establish a working group, similar to the Tax Revision Commission, to consider and evaluate policies. Some ideas that are top of mind for me are ensuring we’re properly enforcing (and considering increasing) the vacancy taxes we have in place and considering incentives for locally owned tenants.
Further, we should consider the overall business climate and the currently laborious permitting processes.
Kennedy, Patrick: Yes. The retail climate is very different now than it was 20 or 30 years ago, when property values, and therefore rents, and business costs were lower and before the dawn of e-commerce. Mature neighborhoods like Dupont and Georgetown, in particular, additionally thrived and had a diverse retail mix partly because there wasn’t the degree of competition from other retail nodes nearby as there is today with the 14th Street and U Street corridors.
Faced with the stark change in the retail climate, one which will only be exacerbated by the extended quasi-shutdown of the local retail economy under COVID-19, I think the District absolutely needs to consider tax relief and strategies to promote lower rents, to reduce vacancies and promote a better mix of retail (i.e., not just a succession of banks).
In advocating for this with colleagues from elsewhere in the District, who might, and often do, underplay the issues in our ward, I’d emphasize that this strategy is important not just for the people who live nearby and not just for improving the general quality of life in the District, but because Ward 2 produces over half of the District’s tax revenue.
Many people visiting D.C. (regionally, nationally, and internationally) will come here (along with high-income earners who commute daily to the concentration of professional services jobs in and around the Central Business District) will spend their time in Ward 2 either exclusively or overwhelmingly because the lion’s share of tourist attractions and activity generators are located here.
We can either seize on that built-in advantage and encourage thriving retail environments in central neighborhoods to generate business, thereby benefiting residents from all across the District via the jobs and tax revenue generated from visitors and residents alike choosing to spend their time and money here, or we can let our retail storefronts atrophy and have the jobs and revenue go elsewhere.
So not only do I support development of a comprehensive retail strategy, but I also have a vision for how to make the case to colleagues on Council: we need to support and invest in things that will drive a return for the District far greater than whatever the initial investment (be it tax credits, incentives, marketing, infrastructure, etc.) might cost.
Pinto, Brooke: There are many tools at our disposal to support local businesses on Connecticut Avenue in Dupont and across the city. We also need to make sure that our tax assessment process accounts for vacant buildings in the area. I will propose legislation to encourage landlords to lease their spaces for less than market rate if they are unable to fill their vacant storefronts at market rate. I believe that those leases should be reflected in the tax assessment for each property every year.
Putta, Kishan: The vibrancy of our commercial corridors is vital to Ward 2’s neighborhoods and culture. In my time as an ANC in Dupont Circle and since, I have had conversations with Dupont Main Streets, Dupont Circle Business Improvement District, and individual business owners, including as a small business liaison for DC Health Link. What I’ve heard from them is that brick and mortar businesses are in jeopardy - and if something doesn’t change, they won’t survive.
Rising property taxes are been passed on to the businesses from the property owners. DC government is not distinguishing between residential property values and properties used for retail space. Therefore I would study the implications of providing some relief from rising property taxes for retail space. This relief would cease if the space was converted. We must protect and preserve our neighborhood commercial corridors, and as your Councilmember I will fight for small businesses to have the ability to thrive in our Ward.
Venice, Katherine: Certainly, especially as the effects of the pandemic will continue to hit small and local neighborhood-serving businesses hard over the coming months and beyond.
Given my background, I am of course very passionate about this issue.
As I have previously pointed out, small and local businesses matter immensely to our community for a multitude of reasons: as well as providing essential goods and services to our community, they are also community hubs, providing community cohesion and identity; they greatly enrich residents’ daily quality of life; and they are also important routes towards economic opportunity and inclusive economic growth.
However, even before the pandemic hit, as I previously pointed out, DC is one of the hardest cities in the US to be a small business owner. Rents and property taxes are exceedingly high. Small businesses are treated as a magic money tree, with new taxes, arbitrary costs and fees randomly imposed. This makes it exceedingly difficult to plan and sustainably grow a small business, and the rate at which the District loses businesses to surrounding jurisdictions is testament to this.
Now that the pandemic has hit, the imperative to reduce taxes and other burdens on small, local busineses is of utmost urgency. As I wrote in my letter to DC Council of March 24, the local measures that the Council had passed the previous week do very little to assist these small, local businesses. I was also correct in pointing out that the pending federal package would similarly not be enough. I asked the Council to take more aggressive action to save our small businesses and enumerated the package required - having modeled in considerable detail the various options to make room in the budget for this, as well as modeling the grave longer-term fiscal and economic outcome, should the Council fail to implement a more effective rescue package. I also modeled various scenarios of different policy responses on a typical restaurant and small business’ balance sheet, income and cashflow statements.
Zhang, Yilin: We need to implement long-term, sustainable measures that allow local, small businesses to thrive.
Evans, Jack: Yes. I am proud that I was among the members that introduced the 2017 bill and the 2019 bill. The 2019 bill is still in the Committee on Business and Economic Development and I urge the committee to hold a hearing, send the bill to the Committee of the Whole, and for the Mayor to sign it. If the Council does not act this year, I will introduce the 2021 version of the bill and work with seniors to make sure other members hear that they need support. I have for years fought for seniors on a mixed income through lowering their property taxes so they can stay in their homes.
Fanning, John: Yes.
Grossman, Jordan: It appears that a similar bill, #B23-0667, the Senior Citizen Property Tax Exemption Amendment Act of 2020, has already been introduced.
Hernandez, Daniel: I wouldn’t promise at this time to reintroduce that specific proposal, but we do need to ensure we’re supporting the ability of seniors to age in place in DC.
Kennedy, Patrick: I think the goal is worthy, and I am supportive. Despite the property tax relief programs that exist for seniors currently, the tax burden for low- and modest-income seniors especially is often prohibitive for those who seek to age in place and pass their property on to surviving relatives. This inhibits intergenerational wealth transfer in the African-American community especially, where a disproportionate amount of the assets held by many households is tied up in the value of their home. The choice for many, then, often is to either liquidate the asset now (i.e., sell and relocate, a form of coaxed displacement) or plan to do so later as part of estate settlement.
In either event, property taxation in these cases is a burden effectively promoting involuntary displacement of low- and modest-income people who don’t have the means to pay for taxes in combination with the cost of upkeep. This is true with historic properties especially. Circumstances forcing a premature sale also leads to families foregoing future appreciation of the value of their asset; think of someone forced to sell a family home in Shaw ten years ago at the sale prices there at that time as compared to what they are now.
For many long-term residents, property taxes are very poorly correlated to their means and ability to pay. The property values on which their bills are based have soared since the date of purchase many decades ago, well beyond the growth in family incomes. If we care about preventing displacement, ensuring diversity, promoting intergenerational connections, and ensuring that every neighborhood has a place for people at all income levels, then we need to tackle tax policy that leads to inequities.
I would talk to colleagues on Council in order to determine why the earlier bill did not advance and what degree of support exists for the measure currently. Clearly our fiscal situation right now precludes implementing this legislation fully in the near-term, but I’d like to work toward it as the District rebounds financially.
Sometimes councilmembers introduce or sponsor bills that they know won’t move or pass just to signify to their constituents that they support something. I’d like to work on bills that actually have a chance to pass, and I think doing that requires undertaking a large degree of due diligence beforehand to build support and craft language with an appropriate attention to detail. In this case, that means understanding and planning for the fiscal impact.
Separately, I will say that another part of that legislation that should be advanced in some form or fashion is the provision granting income tax relief for certain forms of retirement income. The District is one of the least hospitable jurisdictions in the country in terms of how it treats retirement income for tax purposes. I think we need to be more balanced in that respect and more toward the middle of the pack among states, not just as a matter of fairness for modest-income residents, but because this treatment causes many people to domicile elsewhere for tax purposes.
Pinto, Brooke: Absolutely! The bill would provide much needed relief to our senior population in D.C., many of whom have lived in the District for decades. Residents who have paid property taxes on the same house for at least 20 years and have an annual income of less than $60,000, deserve this exemption.
Putta, Kishan: Yes we must help support our seniors to age in place and stay in their homes and communities - that is better for everyone. That’s why I chose to work in the Village movement, working to support the East Rock Creek Village and their mission to support neighborhood seniors.
I do not believe that the DC government should be balancing its budget on ever-increasing property taxes charged to seniors. The bill does have my support, but the bill provided a full property tax exemption for only one class of seniors, property owners over 70 who have owned a residence in DC over 20 years with an adjusted gross income under $60,000, with less than $12,500 in dividend or interest income. I do not know how many people would apply for this provision, or would easily be able to know if they do.
Venice, Katherine: Absolutely. This is a part of my Keep Seniors in Ward 2 program, which helps our senior population remain in their homes and keep the District affordable for those who have been hard-working long-term residents, making an invaluable contribution to the local community and economy.
Zhang, Yilin: Prior to re-introducing, we need to re-review the bill and see if there are items to update/enhance where appropriate. With a significant percentage of Ward 2 residents as renters, we need to assess and ensure that all individuals, especially those above the age of 70, and those who do not have a steady stream of income, have the relief they need.
Evans, Jack: Yes. The District’s seniors are the foundation of our neighborhoods and city. It is crucial we ensure our longtime residents are able to continue to age in place – this is even more true for those who have made public service their career and who may need additional assistance in their later years to remain in the District.
Fanning, John: Yes, and plan to introduce The Senior Pension and Retirement Abatement Act – increasing the DC retirement income tax deductible from $12,200 to $20,000.
Grossman, Jordan: As noted above, in light of COVID-19, I believe we ought to conduct a comprehensive review of all DC taxes and the urgent needs we must address to ensure our neighbors and local businesses can survive this crisis, particularly those who have been hit the hardest or have been excluded from the response programs that have already been enacted.
Hernandez, Daniel: Yes. As in my previous response, we should have a serious commitment to enabling seniors to age in place.
Kennedy, Patrick: Yes. I think my previous answer largely covers my sentiment with respect to this question, and I would further be happy to look at what can be done for retired civil servants as a class in adjunct to that answer.
Pinto, Brooke: Yes, I will support tax relief for the District’s senior population. I will increase the homestead deduction for seniors and will re-introduce the senior tax relief amendment of 2017. I think it is incredibly important to support the senior residents in D.C., a community that is oftentimes one of our most vulnerable. When I represented the Office of Tax and Revenue, I had a case where a senior resident was unable to afford her real estate tax bill. Her house had no heating and she was hesitant to reveal that her property value had significantly declined out of fear that her house would be condemned. This was one of my experiences working in the DC government that inspired me to run for Ward 2 DC Council. Our city must reform our tax laws to ensure that DC residents are never put in this position.
Putta, Kishan: I believe that the taxable assessment of an owner-occupied property should not exceed the taxable assessment in effect on the date the owner reaches age 65, until the property is sold, transferred to someone other than the owner's spouse, or otherwise no longer owner-occupied. It would apply to everyone and would turn property tax into a fixed cost that someone can plan for as opposed to an adjustable cost. The Total Value of the property would continue to be evaluated and recorded such that when the property is sold or transferred to someone other than a spouse, the Taxable Assessment will reset to the Total Amount. The DC Office of Tax and Revenue already does this type of thing for properties where the Total Value increases at more than 10% a year, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to implement on a wider scale.
Because it applies without regard to income level, it would cover retired public servants and it would squarely resolve the concern with increased property taxes due to gentrification happening around a senior property owner. For those seniors whose household AGI is lowest, they would still qualify for the 50% reduction in place today - this proposal would not eliminate that reduction. This plan provides every senior certainty and predictability when it comes to their property taxes. It makes it a little more likely that every senior who wants to stay at their home is able to do so, and it ensures that if they are forced to leave their home it will not be because the DC government increased their property taxes. I hope to continue to hear more thoughts and insights from other members and organizations in the community.
Venice, Katherine: Absolutely. My Keep Seniors in Ward 2 program focuses on recognizing how the affordable housing crisis hits our seniors community hard. We must recognize too the years (often decades) of dedicated service and the invaluable contribution of retired public servants to our community.
Zhang, Yilin: The financial impact of COVID-19 will be long-term; even after the stay at home, closing of non-essential businesses, and ban on dine-in services is released. Some businesses already operate on very thin margins and, this period, even with the relief funding, could mean that some businesses do not survive past this year or next. We will need to evaluate what makes sense holistically over these next few months. We need an economic model that allows individuals and businesses to thrive, and provides enough relief to the community so that it incentivizes spending and stimulates economic recovery.
Evans, Jack: Yes.
Fanning, John: No.
Grossman, Jordan: Absolutely not. Initiative 77 passed after a sustained and successful campaign for one fair wage that received widespread coverage in the media and was the subject of extensive community debate. The DC Council should respect the voices of DC voters in the ballot initiative process, just as those of us who strongly support DC statehood argue that Congress should respect the voices of DC voters.
Hernandez, Daniel: No. While there are some valid arguments for alternative measures, I would not support overturning a voter passed initiative.
Kennedy, Patrick: No, I would not have overturned the results of Initiative 77. I believe that repealing a voter-approved initiative three months after it passed sends a very poor signal about respecting the will of the voters, especially when the initiative passed in seven of the eight wards (including in Ward 2). I am further concerned that the Council has set the District up for a continuing, divisive debate when we needed to settle the issue and move on.
Pinto, Brooke: I would not have voted to overturn the results of the Ballot 77 initiative because I believe that the initiative process should be respected. However, I was personally not in support of Initiative 77 because those who are most affected, including workers, consumers, and restaurant owners, were not in support. The Council should have done a better job of educating the public on the drawbacks of the Initiative to help voters make a fully informed decision.
Putta, Kishan: I supported Initiative 77 despite great pressure because it was the right thing to do, because other states have done it successfully, and because there was a long transition period to minimize disruption. I continue to believe that if it had been enacted, vulnerable workers would be more secure, and endure less harassment from customers and managers.
I don’t believe that the Council should overturn initiatives that have been voted on by the majority of residents. It is fair to consider whether the process could be improved and clarified. But I believe in honoring the will of the voters.
There are new requirements on restaurants and other tipped worker employer to report wages, provide information to employees, and hold sexual harassment training, but the city isn’t enforcing those actions. I will make it a priority to fund the enforcement of these provisions and I will use my oversight role on the Council to ensure that the agencies are doing their job. I take oversight very seriously and I have already testified at over twenty-five oversight hearings. This is the least we can do for our tipped workers after the council we overturned the will of the people.
NOTE: The council also overturned the will of the people when they overturned the initiative to establish term limits on DC elected officials. I believe in term limits and am the only candidate who has pledged to abide by term limits. I admired Councilmember Grosso for doing this and I would do the same after 8 years of service to-=as he put it-=“pass the baton to a new generation of progressive leaders.” We have very few full-time elected officials in DC and I believe that more turnover would be helpful to bring new ideas and perspectives.
Venice, Katherine: [No response submitted]
Zhang, Yilin: I support the will of the people. A Councilmember’s only priority is to serve her community.
Evans, Jack: Revitalizing Ward 2 neighborhoods, Dupont Circle, Logan Circle, Chinatown, Penn Quarter. We have accomplished a great deal in the past several years, but more work needs to be done. With my experience and proven results advocating for Ward 2, I know that we can make progress to ensure the strength of the city for decades to come.
I’m proud of the progress we have made as a Ward and a city during my tenure as Ward 2 Council member. Through decades of working to make the District financially stable, in 2019 the city was awarded a Triple AAA bond rating, the highest possible rating, putting the city on firm financial footing for the first time. I am equally proud of the role I played in building the Washington Convention Center, Capital One Arena, Nationals Park – home to our World Series Champion, and our newest addition, Audi Field.
I have always said that our residents who have lived in the city during the bad times should be able to stay during the good times. Many of you are long-time residents of Washington DC - and the city's success may have affected your home value and taxes. I have consistently fought to keep the 10% cap on the assessment of primary residences so you can afford to stay in the home you may have owned for many years.
I'm proud to have been, and continue to be, an advocate and a champion in the LGBTQ community’s quest toward unequivocal full equality, championing equal rights for the LGBTQ community when most elected officials were afraid to do so. I'm proud of having been on the frontline throughout the early years of the AIDS epidemic securing funding for treatment, prevention programs, and research, while providing comfort to those struck down by the disease.
We must continue to improve access to education and improve our schools; create jobs and strengthen workforce development; address affordable housing, and help our homeless residents. I want to continue to grow and develop our city and establish DC as the best city in the nation for each and every resident to live, learn and grow.
Grossman, Jordan: I have dedicated my entire career to public service, working to make government services better and more responsive for residents and families in Ward 2, DC more broadly, and throughout the United States. During the Obama Administration, I was Chief of Staff of an agency dedicated to modernizing the health care system for hospitals, health care providers, and patients across the country, including at George Washington University Hospital and MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. I also served as Senator Amy Klobuchar’s Deputy Legislative Director, where I fought to protect Obamacare from repeated Republican repeal efforts that would have resulted in more than 109,000 DC residents losing their Medicaid coverage. More recently, I oversaw a division of D.C.’s Medicaid agency that’s making it easier for one in every two DC residents to enroll in programs that provide housing, food, health care, and other assistance. Earlier in my career, I worked for Judge Christopher “Casey” Cooper on DC’s federal court dealing with cases involving DC Public Schools’ students with disabilities and the constitutional rights of DC residents treated improperly by law enforcement. Finally, I serve on the ANC 2F Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) Policy Committee, where we work closely with neighbors and local businesses to ensure our community remains a dynamic and welcoming place for all – especially new and small business owners.
Hernandez, Daniel: I’d like to avoid playing favorites, so I’ll say that what I love most about living in Ward 2 is the ability to walk around. I walk to the grocery stores I frequent, I walk to most dining and nightlife establishments I frequent, and I walk to my recreational sports league games.
Kennedy, Patrick: What gives me the greatest amount of personal satisfaction are the instances where we’ve confronted tough situations, been able to bridge divides, and ultimately come to a compromise or agreement that manages to achieve something meaningful to improve people’s lives. I’ve been very fortunate to work with amazing colleagues and neighbors over the years and we’ve been able to achieve many such things, whether it was negotiating the community agreement to facilitate the construction of a new helipad at GW Hospital, forging consensus around a Protected Bike Lane to connect Dupont Circle and Foggy Bottom, and advocating across neighborhoods for better bus service.
I would say that what I am most proud of is the work that we’ve done over the years with the School Without Walls @ Francis-Stevens. Not two weeks after I was elected to the ANC in 2012, DCPS announced that they were going to close that school and thereby eliminate the only neighborhood public school covering a swath of Foggy Bottom, the West End, and Dupont Circle, only five years after they had closed Stevens Elementary on 21st Street. Despite the fact that the school had struggled from disinvestment, it was an amazing, diverse community with a lot of potential. We were seeing a tremendous growth in the number of families with young children who were moving in nearby, and some of them had started to invest in Francis. This would have pulled out the rug from under them.
So we got to work. We convened community meetings at Francis and with our two ANCs, Dupont Circle and Foggy Bottom, and started lobbying DCPS to keep the school open. I remember testifying before the Council at midnight, going over to DCPS Central Office late one afternoon in December, and going to DCPS’ community forum on the closures all the way up in Brightwood in Ward 4 to make the case. The parents at the school were incredible and came up with a marketing strategy, we engaged Richard Trogisch at the School Without Walls who was tremendously supportive and willing to take on Francis as a PreK-to-8 adjunct of the SWW High School, and we fought really hard to convince DCPS to keep the school open.
To their credit, they did. Of something like 24 schools system-wide slated for closure that year, Francis was one of three that were kept open. But our work didn’t end there. There was a lot of skepticism in the SWW High School community about the merger and a lot of parents who were opposed to it. They didn’t think it would benefit their kids and that Principal Trogisch shouldn’t oversee both campuses. In reality, his leadership was central to pulling off the merger and implementing the vision that was going to put that school on a path to success. There were a lot of contentious meetings between the school communities and one very tough ANC meeting, but we ultimately secured the merger.
Seven years later, that school is thriving and I think a crown jewel example of the turnaround that is possible in our schools. When it was slated for closure, there were 190 students in a building rated for about 480; today there are 554 students in a building that has room, with enhancements, for maybe 510. The school is thriving. There have been a lot of bumps along the way, and we’ve had to fight most years to try and get the school appropriate staffing levels or facility improvements.
The school is doing phenomenally well, and I’m enormously proud of how far it has come. We’re seeing families that are staying in our part of the District in a way they hadn’t done for decades, and having a quality neighborhood public school has made that possible. What’s really special about Francis is the degree of diversity that it has maintained, and which I hope that it always will. The school is the successor to an amazing legacy from Francis and Stevens of educating African-American students in the District. Only about 30% of the kids in the school are from Ward 2, many of the kids there are out-of-boundary and have legacy ties to an education tradition that dates back 150 years.
The experience of working with Francis and seeing its success over the years has been probably the most powerful thing I’ve taken part in personally. When I walked into the building last fall and spent a morning with a class full of sixth graders and recognized some who were in Pre-K when the school was about to be closed, I got emotional. To be able to keep that community together and contribute with a group of amazing people to make it better has been the greatest joy of my life, and it invigorated a passion in me for public education and the latent potential that exists in every school in the ward, and every child that attends them.
Putta, Kishan: At Stead Park on P Street, between Dupont and Logan Circle, I have helped secure over $16 million for a beautiful field and recreation center upgrades to serve people of all ages and interests. Amenities include a splash park for kids, an all-weather field, and a jogging/walking track. The park will soon also include a modern green building with spaces for parties, meetings and fitness/hobby classes, and for a new affordable childcare coop program. To get these improvements done, I worked with the community, fellow commissioners and with Friends of Stead Park, where I serve as Vice President of the board.
I have also been a constant advocate for expanding public transportation options throughout the city. When I first ran for ANC in 2012, bus riders told me they were waiting too long with full buses passing them by and schedules made unreliable by horrible traffic. I enquired and was told it would be impossible to get Metro and DC’s Department of Transportation (DOT) to work together and address this. But I worked hard to organize residents and advocates and we succeeded in getting more buses, longer buses, better reliability and got the city to commit to implementing bus-only lanes; which just rolled out downtown and are coming to 16th Street NW in the next year because of our advocacy!
When I was first elected in November 2012, our neighborhood got the bad news that both Garrison Elementary School and Francis Stevens Elementary School were slated for closure. I strongly opposed both of these closures. I will never forget the huge rally we helped to promote and organize at Francis Stevens and all the passionate stories and speeches we heard from the community. My family was in-boundary for Garrison Elementary and over the years, I attended several PTO meetings, LSAT meetings, as well as construction planning meetings to help support the renovation and revitalization of the school. I am so proud that both schools are doing much better and look forward to supporting them and all Ward 2 schools.
Venice, Katherine: Please allow me to suggest that this question highlights an important point - what criteria should be used to choose the next Ward 2 Councilmember? Constituent services is an essential, but not the only, part of the Councilmember’s job.
As I explore in more detail under the ethics questions, Jack Evans was not the only Councilmember with repeated ethical lapses: ethical lapses are systemic on DC Council. However, with a Ward 2 focused background, it is very hard for such dysfunction not to be normalized. It takes an outsider’s perspective, greater objectivity, understanding of the alternatives, and considerable breadth of real-world experience, to be able to bring the ethical change so necessary to DC Council.
There is also a wide body of academic literature (Scott E. Page is one of the best-known academics on this subject) that shows that cognitive diversity – i.e. different ways of thinking, which results from people coming from entirely different walks of life, different cultures, nationalities, spheres of life, and a myriad of other dimensions that make people’s thinking different – is critical to successfully solving complex problems.
DC has a myriad of complex, long-entrenched problems, but the Council lacks entirely any meaningful cognitive diversity. Hence, it has a long track record of failure to address any of these meaningful issues: so we are the worst in the US for economic inequality, affordable housing, the racial wealth divide, the most underserved, neglected children, homelessness, the most hostile environment for small businesses, and so on. It is clearly time to select someone who can bring this much needed cognitive diversity – and I am that ideal candidate for Council. The Council is clearly not lacking local experience: it is clearly lacking the outside perspective that can see the wood from the trees.
I have an extraordinary breadth of world and life experience across numerous silos, both professionally and non-professionally (see my website biography for more). Furthermore, no other candidate has the experience (as I do) of the issues most driving Ward 2, which are not local in nature, but rather shaped by top-down nationwide dynamics (such as economic inequality, the affordable housing issue, homelessness, and more). Understanding that these issues are shaped by dynamics that are much bigger than Ward 2 is critical for successfully managing them. DC Council has clearly, demonstrably failed so far to do that.
Of course, Ward 2 knowledge is critical too: but thanks to my world-class research skills and experience (which projected me to the top of institutional investor community and to the cutting edge of the effort to ethically reform capitalism), I am ready to stand and be judged on my knowledge of Ward 2’s key issues.
In terms of my proudest work, I am proud that I founded The Ethical Capitalism Group, and for most of the last decade, have worked completely on a pro-bono basis, pioneering a path to ethically reform capitalism and reverse economic inequality, drawing partners and collaborators including the leading thinkers in the country and beyond. My work has had incredible impact.
I did this pioneering work on a pro-bono basis, at considerable personal cost to me. But I did it because it needed to be done. I did it because, as I felt deeply the magnitude of the harm done to so many across the US (and beyond) by unethical capitalism. I felt very deeply that, as Hillel the Elder said, “If not us, who?” If not now, when?”; Albert Einstein, “Try not to become a [person] of success but rather try to become a [person] of value”; Churchill, “What is the use of living, if it be not to strive for noble causes and to make this muddled world a better place for those who will live in it after we are gone?” That is what it means to serve – not to look to others to solve the problems shaping our communities around us, but to step up oneself.
No other candidate, nor sitting Councilmember has ever made such an immense personal sacrifice in order to serve one’s community. The past is the best indicator of the future.
And here in Ward 2, I am also immensely proud of the relentless, dogged advocacy that I have done on behalf of the homeless community, in particular over the last 2 years. No other candidate can match the time that I have spent ‘in the trenches’ and the insights that I have accumulated on the homeless crisis.
Zhang, Yilin: I have been fighting for DC Statehood with the League of Women Voters DC for the past two- and-half years. In the process, I have learned much about our history and, similarly importantly, worked with dedicated and passionate Ward 2 residents and DC residents. It is evermore important, especially as we saw that DC received $750 M less in COVID-19 relief funds versus other states.
Evans, Jack: We should ensure that every health and homeland security official nominated by the Mayor, have credentials or a professional background dealing with public health matters. District residents can have an impact now on how we recover from the effects of COVID-19 by listening to and following the public health messages from the Center for Disease Control, DC Department of Health, and the Executive Office of the Mayor. We need to flatten the curve so that our health systems are not overwhelmed and we can overcome this crisis in a matter of weeks instead of months.
We will have an incredible amount of work to do after the immediate health crisis to ensure the city is better prepared for future health and financial challenges.
Through my decades of work assisting with DC’s efforts to fight HIV/AIDS, I know addressing massive public health challenges such as COVID-19 requires even more work and attention after the immediate impact to help those still struggling with the crisis while also ensuring our community is better prepared for the next challenge which will inevitably arise.
Fanning, John: [No response submitted].
Grossman, Jordan: Here in DC, we often hear about the need to save tax dollars for a rainy day. That day is here. In the near term, we need to take further action to support residents experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity; frontline health care personnel; restaurant, retail, and other workers who have lost their jobs; grocery and delivery workers who have always been the backbones of our communities and have become essential personnel in this crisis; educators who are quickly becoming experts in distance learning and trying to address inequitable access to online tools among students; families and small businesses who will struggle to make upcoming rent and mortgage payments; and all DC residents who — as this crisis shows more than ever — deserve affordable health and child care, paid family, medical, and sick leave, and enforcement of wage and workplace protections.
Hernandez, Daniel: I think the main role of a council member in this time is to evaluate and support legislative initiatives that will help us weather this crisis, such as the currently under consideration relief package.
Kennedy, Patrick: A councilmember must have a strong understanding of the needs of residents, the ability and inclination to rely on science and data, and possess the courage to make bold decisions and do the right thing. Moral leadership is contagious. I personally do not think that the District acted as quickly as it could have, and we know the federal government didn’t. On seeing the impact at Christ Church in Georgetown after the first D.C. case was confirmed, and hearing firsthand the concerns of neighbors, I would have pressed to take stronger action and do so more quickly.
I believe we were the first campaign in D.C. to suspend in-person canvassing and events, as profiled in DCist, and immediately adjusted our campaign plans to engage neighbors by phone, email, video calls, and other safe means. We scaled back all situations where people could be put at greater risk. At that time, many people and some campaigns were still questioning the severity of COVID-19 (later that weekend people were still gathering at bars and cafes in large numbers) and I am proud that we quickly unified our team to do what was right.
Even while our campaign has continued in different mediums, in my capacity as a community leader I’ve also worked hard to connect neighbors and constituents to resources, to check in on people, organize and publicize community meetings and town halls, and I’ve even taken to delivering meals to seniors in need most days of the week.
I don’t think that you have to wait to be elected to higher office and get a title to exercise leadership, but projecting forward I think that a councilmember dealing with this crisis has to look at immediate relief for neighbors who have lost work and businesses struggling to stay open. I was monitoring the progress of the COVID-19 Response Emergency Amendment Act of 2020 and weighing it with the needs being expressed by residents, employees, restaurateurs, and entrepreneurs during this time. I see this as only the first part of relief to protect our neighbors who are out of work, keep those employed with jobs, and keep our businesses operating.
The work doesn’t end when people are able to move freely again as we’ll need to have significant recovery efforts to help businesses open their doors again and get people connected with jobs. As well, we need to look at longer term reforms to our systems so when this type of crisis happens again we can respond and stabilize our communities faster.
We need to be more resilient in the face of crises like this; we were just not prepared to implement things like distance learning in our schools and remote access to government services across a range of different agencies. There are lessons that we can take from this which we can use to pilot different and better ways of serving people on a permanent basis, so after this has concluded I would like to lead a comprehensive after-action investigation of how our government dealt with the COVID crisis, what we needed to do differently, and what innovations and adaptations were made in our city and other places in dealing with the crisis that might make sense to adopt on a permanent basis moving forward.
Even simple things like allowing people to participate remotely at Council hearings or ANC meetings is one very small example of a change in practice that has been forced by this crisis that might make sense to integrate in some way into standard operating procedure moving forward.
Pinto, Brooke: The Council has a tremendous challenge ahead to ensure that our city not only recovers from this crisis, but comes out even stronger. Ward 2 needs a Councilmember who understands how our city government works and has the tax and business experience to make impactful change. As your Councilmember, I will pull from my experience representing the Office of Tax and Revenue to make smart tax reforms that help our small businesses and most vulnerable residents get back on their feet, while also addressing the severe budget deficit we are now facing.
I will also pass a stimulus package for our small businesses and workers and build our city’s medical stockpile so we are prepared if this pandemic returns. The inequities that already existed in D.C. and across the country have ballooned. Recovery and resiliency requires getting to the root of inequality. If this crisis has proven anything, it is that our community only succeeds when all of our neighbors are thriving. I am prepared to meet the challenges ahead, and see them as an opportunity to make our city even stronger than before.
Putta, Kishan: I have over 15 years of health care experience, 6 years of D.C. public health experience, and have been endorsed by President Obama’s Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy, a Ward 2 resident, who wrote:
“Kishan and I share a passion for improving public health. As a community and small business liaison for DC Health Link, he helped thousands of residents and small businesses. Kishan cares so much about keeping DC healthy. He has the local health care and small business experience to help DC get through this crisis.”
My top priority as a Councilmember would be to protect our healthcare and frontline workers and ensure that they have the supplies they need to do their vitally important job. If the federal government is not providing the resources we need, I would make sure that we sought other procurement options.
Another priority would be to prevent businesses from suffering collapse from the economic fallout. This can be done by providing funding to Main Street organizations so that they can revitalize their businesses.
Another priority would be to protect one of the most vulnerable populations, the homeless population, from exposure on the streets by getting all of them a clean safe room for the duration of the outbreak and having free health services for those that have symptoms or preexisting conditions that make them more susceptible to catching the virus.
Venice, Katherine: There is no other way to put this: the failure at the federal level to respond effectively and efficiently to this pandemic has been deeply, tragically morally abhorrent.
While the Mayor has been quick to step up and do an absolutely phenomenal job in an impossible situation with severely limited resources to meet the gargantuan need, DC Council has been far less effective, with little more than token gestures (including the March 17 and April 7 legislation). It needs to show more initiative/leadership.
That starts with recognizing that federal help of the sort (and magnitude) that is needed is not coming anytime soon, at least in terms of DC’s medical and health needs. So the Council must step into this leadership vacuum much more than it has. We are in historic times, for which there is no how-to guide.
The prospect of Washingtonians losing their lives to the pandemic means that we must aggressively pursue far greater, more targeted action. In addition, the prospect of so many Washingtonians also losing their livelihoods is already causing, and will continue to cause considerable suffering. (Let us remember how many residents are surviving paycheck-to-paycheck in the District.)
As Ward 2’s Councilmember, I will help focus the Council’s coronavirus strategy and response by recognizing the core problems first: (i) DC lacks a critical supply of hospital beds equipment, PPE, and more, to successfully manage the pandemic’s effect in the District and protect workers vital to responding to the health crisis, etc, and that this will be an on-going issue for the duration of the pandemic; (ii) there is a critical lack of testing and tracking infrastructure to manage the on-going virus re-infection waves that will inevitably occur over the next 18 months (before a vaccination becomes widely available) as residents start to leave their homes again, and some return to work; (iii) during the period that it takes to gain any effective management over the virus in DC (which might easily take 6 or more months), there will inevitably be immense pressure from residents to break the stay-at-home orders (for social and economic reasons), thus setting back any progress in managing the virus; (iv) that the DC economy cannot start to recover until the pandemic is being successfully managed – otherwise, with uncontrolled, sky-rocketing infection rates, small businesses cannot function with sick workers and customers will not chance going to those businesses.
There has been confusion over this last point above. To be clear: if the pandemic’s health impact is not effectively controlled, the economy simply cannot recover and function. “Saving lives and saving the economy are not in conflict right now; we will hasten the return to robust economic activity by taking steps to stem the spread of the virus and save lives”, wrote former Secretaries of the US Treasury Hank Paulson, Tim Geithner, Robert Rubin and Larry Summers, former Fed Chairs Janet Yellen and Ben Bernanke, Business Roundtable CEO Josh Bolten, and others in a combined statement on March 25.
(Note that the $2 trillion federal package diagnoses the wrong problems: hence it will not be effective in mitigating the pandemic’s economic damage. You can read my March 24 letter for more on this, or my recent Tweets since then.)
My next steps as Ward 2 Councilmember would be to focus on two goals: first, to minimize the health consequences of the pandemic on DC’s population; and secondly, planning a gradual, carefully-sequenced path back to normal functioning for the District that mitigates the risk of re-infection as much as possible. The latter goal is achieved via precisely planned variations of targeted lock-down (both temporary releases and re-imposition as required on a dynamic basis); the use of testing (including newer antibody testing) and tracing; certification of those who have immunity; and on-going physical distancing. Note that it will simply not be possible to keep DC in lock-down for the next 18 months (which is the length of time that companies such as Moderna, J&J and Abbott already developing a vaccination have indicated it will take before a vaccination becomes widely available): hence the second goal, in combination with the first.
In order to achieve this, there is only one viable option: to re-purpose DC’s economy as quickly and as much as possible to become a pandemic-centric one, for the duration of the pandemic.
It is imperative that we implement a mobilization program to repurpose DC’s economic resources and infrastructure as much as possible and immediately in order to meet the health crisis and to safeguard our lives, by meeting the shortages above. This also offers a safe path to safeguarding DC’s livelihoods and our small business community too. Fiscally, it potentially converts tax-dollars spent on unemployment insurance into output and pandemic solution generation
As many of our country’s leading academics, including my former collaborator Nobel laureate economist Edmund Phelps (a frequent collaborator with the AEI) and the coronavirus team of multi-disciplinary scholars at Harvard’s Center for Ethics, as well as a highly regarded global management consulting think-tank, have pointed out, it makes sense to utilize the considerable now-idle capacity across the local economy towards solving the health crisis.
For example, the considerable empty office space in DC, as well as the empty hotels should be immediately re-purposed at scale to add extra hospital, quarantine and recuperation capacity. Remember that this is also fiscally prudent, since our tax-dollars are already being spent bailing out such companies, and so this creates a return-on-investment on those tax-dollars that tax-payers otherwise will not see. (Remember too that 55% of American households are actually shareholders of these companies, via their pensions and other savings. So there is a double-rationale for the repurposing of such idle capacity. And the largest shareholders of these companies are the Democrat state pension funds in the states that are also among the hardest hit so far by the pandemic – NYC, NYS, FL, CA, etc.)
Meanwhile, advice around wearing masks has evolved, and it now appears to be appropriate that we all wear face masks outside – for the purpose of limiting spreading the virus to others, and to remind us not to touch our faces, etc. However, it is critically important to stress that we should not be obtaining medical (surgical or N-95) masks, but rather making our own and initiating community efforts to do the same, etc. The expert advice is still evolving on this issue however (the CDC recommends the public wearing masks to stop those who do not realize that they are carrying the virus inadvertently transmitting it to others: the WHO seems not to dispute this but says that it does not protect the wearer) and so we must all keep monitoring this.
Zhang, Yilin: During this time, it is important to provide information that is aligned with official recommendations from the CDC and WHO. And, it is critical to be completely transparent, and tell residents what we know and what we do not know, and what individuals and families can do to protect themselves.
DC is in a unique location and residents of MD and VA often travel into DC. We need to work closely with regional leadership to ensure rules are aligned and enforced across state and city boundaries. Compliance with rules is critical.
I would work closely with DC Health and other health care organizations, to streamline efficiency and safety in the process. We need to protect our residents and health workers.
I would work with DOES and community organizations to help facilitate the process so that individuals who need access to resources, such as unemployment benefits, can get access as efficiently as possible.
This is also a time where some communities will feel the impact the most. This includes our undocumented community. They need to feel safe and be able to access unemployment benefits and other community resources.
We must continue to work toward DC Statehood. Because DC does not have statehood, even though we pay the most in federal taxes per capita and have a greater population than two states, we received $750 M less in COVID-19 relief funding.
As you know rats have been a big problem in DC, including Ward 2, for many years. Rats are not only a serious health danger, but they also destroy property. We just had rats eat wiring under our car causing over $3,000 of damage, and I have heard from a number of others with a similar experience. A major cause is overflowing garbage containers in most allies/streets. How will you work with the DC government to give stiff penalties to people, restaurants, organizations and businesses who do not ensure their garbage/trash is in closed containers?
Evans, Jack: To be clear, penalties should be utilized for repeat offenders of basic sanitation offenses. I will work to increase the number of inspectors and fines for not complying with the District’s laws.
However, the most effective solution to the city’s rat problem is the continued education of residents and business owners on what they can do to decrease the proliferation of rats in the densest areas of the city.
I started working on vector control when I was first elected as a Dupont Circle ANC Commissioner in the late 1980s. Tools and strategies to get rid of rats have evolved over the years, but the most effective tool in reducing rodents is to cut off their food supply. To prevent the abundance of waste available to rats I introduced the Waste Compactor Grant Program in 2008, and in other Council Periods since, to give businesses an opportunity to apply to have a trash compactor installed in their alleys to avoid putting waste in large unsecured dumpsters. I will continue to make sure this program exists in the city budget and be available in perpetuity. In the mid to late 1990s, I worked with the DCCA to implement the “Scoop your pet’s poop” campaign.
Moving forward, we need to install smarter public trash and recycling containers that can compact trash and that city staff and BIDs can easily utilize to remove waste. The city should also increase the budget for additional staff to clean receptacles and make sure BIDs have the resources they need to keep their neighborhoods clean and safe.
Fanning, John: As chair of ANC 2F, I held the first ever Rat Summit, with government officials, pest control companies, and local businesses to develop a strategy to eliminate the rat population. As your next Councilmember, one of my top priorities will be to eliminate the rats. I will develop innovative trash management initiatives to reduce the rat population, including increasing our investments for more trash compactors, Bigbelly smart trash bins, composting stations and tougher enforcement of sanitation rules.
Grossman, Jordan: In my service on ANC 2F’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration Policy Committee, we frequently work with local restaurants and bars to ensure that they are engaging in appropriate waste management techniques to address the major harms and damages caused by rats, including by explicitly incorporating commitments to this effect in formal Settlement Agreements. I also
Hernandez, Daniel: I’d like to see a broad modernization of data accessibility and tracking, which I believe will lead to more effective government agencies.
Specific to rats, if we’re better able to track reported rat incidents, we’ll have the data to hold DCRA accountable. It will also be easier to show where we’re repeatedly revisiting and need to establish a more comprehensive approach.
Kennedy, Patrick: Rats have been a serious problem in our neighborhoods, probably since time immemorial. I personally know groups of neighbors who have organized to grapple with this issue on their own.
The rodent abatement program with DC Health has been more effective as of late, but neighbors have to be engaged with it. That’s where community leadership counts. Enforcement can be enhanced, as not everyone has been doing their part. The Department of Public Works’ Solid Waste Education and Enforcement, or SWEEP, is responsible for enforcing the District’s Solid Waste regulations and I strongly support scaling this up to have more rigorous enforcement. Inspector Street, in particular, is extraordinarily responsive and does a great job when called out to remediate site-specific issues but she needs backup and more resources.
Enforcement should be paired with better education for businesses and residents so everyone can stay compliant and participate in abating rats in our neighborhoods. It’s not just about fining people, you want to fix the problem and that takes coaxing a durable culture change where there are issues.
The Dupont Circle ANC was very effective many years ago at abating one particular concentration of issues for the residents who live on Jefferson Place, who were surrounded by restaurants and bars. When the liquor licenses for those establishments came up for renewal, the ANC protested all of them en masse and brought everyone to the table to negotiate and agree on purchasing a trash compactor to bring the waste disposal issue that was at the root of the rat problem under control. That’s just one example of a creative solution that can be deployed in a site-specific way.
Pinto, Brooke: While I served as the Assistant Attorney General for Policy and Legislative Affairs, I toured a commercial building that was owned by a landlord who was attempting to have his property taxes reduced. When we entered the building’s basement we discovered hundreds of dead rats covering the floor. The landlord tried to argue that because the building had a rat problem, that his taxes should be reduced because his property value had declined. I was furious that someone would so blatantly abuse our laws at the expense of the health and safety of his neighbors, many of whom were restaurants, for his own financial gain. Accordingly, I ensured that DCRA inspected the property and got rid of the rodent infestation there.
This is to say, I know firsthand that our city has a serious rat problem. Property owners must be held responsible for allowing rat infestations to go unaddressed. I will continue to work with the DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) to ensure our existing laws are consistently enforced.
Putta, Kishan: I take this problem seriously. In 2017, I teamed up with neighbors and DC officials to bring rodent abatement services to over 60 homes/backyards, treating hundreds of burrows. I was even on NPR’s The Kojo Nnamdi Show talking about this. I know the health officials involved and will push to get more done for you to fight this public health problem. We must better contain our trash - the food supply for these rodents. We give rebates for security cameras - we should also provide rebates to businesses (especially food businesses) that purchase rat-proof secure trash containers with compacting mechanisms.
Venice, Katherine: First of all, I want to acknowledge the incredible dedication and service of DC’s rat guru (who certainly deserves a cult following as a civic if not urban legend), Gerard Brown and his team. As Mr Brown, who heads up the DoH’s Rodent Control Program, and rat experts across other big cities have emphasized, rats thrive only when people leave food around for them.
All other prevention methods (including dry ice, poison, anticoagulants, solar trash cans, etc) fail, because firstly, rats are extraordinarily intelligent (they have thrived alongside us for millenia), resourceful, adaptive, as well as being highly acrobatic, fabulous climbers and great swimmers (Seattle’s rats have a reputation for swimming up toilet bowls to meet-and-greet their human neighbors, by the way). Their biggest evolutionary advantage is their prolific rate of breeding – so even if all rats were to be exterminated tomorrow in DC, neighboring rats in Maryland and Virginia would simply migrate across and quickly breed out across DC very quickly. So focusing on extermination merely leaves us chasing our tails, so to speak. What stops rats co-habiting with us is for us to change our behavior, by realizing that we are providing abundant food and water sources throughout our community for rats, without which they would not survive and thrive as they do.
While code enforcement and penalties are an important tool for remedy, I would also want a greater focus on education. Ensuring that all garbage containers are always kept closed is an important first step in terms of changing human behavior as the best form of rat prevention. But we need to go far beyond this first step, and realize that rats also adore other food sources such as dog feces, bird seed, pet food left in yards, while water sources such as dog water bowls outside restaurants and shops, and dripping taps are also key rat enablers. I would also want to focus on the imperative of working together and mobilizing as a community, to educate and enforce within Ward 2’s community networks (such as the ANCs and other community groups), which can play a significant role.
The DoH Rodent Control team has highlighted problems such as limited residential enforcement powers, as well as a lack of clarity guiding inter-agency co-operation (for example, with the Department of Public Works). As Ward 2 Councilmember, it will be very important to me to understand what I can do to better assist these teams in doing their jobs; they are the experts, and it is important to listen and heed their requests in order to better leverage their expertise in helping better manage Ward 2’s rat problem.
Zhang, Yilin: DC Rodent and Vector Control provides information on rules and regulations to businesses, and encourages the public the provide information on where they do not see compliance. Businesses are given warnings and/or tickets that they can contest if they resolve the issue within a specified period. We should review the process for continued offenders and if the time period to correct the issues needs to be shortened.
The bottom line is that where there is food, there will be rats. It is a community-wide effort to minimize the rat population.
Evans, Jack: I didn’t know Alice personally, but from what I’ve heard, she was a kind person and everyone who walked, dined, and shopped on 17th Street knew her. In addition to enhancing existing programs, I have proposed legislation ensuring permanent supportive housing through Housing First. I’ve worked with stakeholders such as the Washington Interfaith Network, DCAYA, The Way Home and Good Faith Communities Coalition, to develop a fully funded platform to end chronic homelessness.
In addition, I cannot stress how important it is to make sure transgender residents have basic protections and rights that everyone enjoys in the District. Allice shown a light on how we can be more attentive and offer all of the services at the city’s disposal. Every person deserves decency and should be given the chance to improve their lives with services provided by the city.
Grossman, Jordan: Our current public health crisis makes clearer than ever how vital it is for the entire community that every single resident has a safe place to live. We must do more for residents like Alice who experience homelessness – including treating them as our neighbors, not as a nuisance. Specifically, I support a “housing first” approach with wraparound services and strengthening and expanding outreach teams and day services centers. Moreover, as the Way Home Campaign has pointed out, it “costs less money for the District to end chronic homelessness than it does to manage it.” Along these lines, I support the Fair Budget Coalition’s recommendations to increase funding for Project Reconnect and the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, programs that help residents near or newly experiencing homelessness with family reunification or financial assistance for rent or security deposit costs.
Similarly, because the best solution to homelessness is affordable housing, the Council should use its oversight powers more aggressively to prevent residents from experiencing homelessness in the first place. The District has some of the strongest housing protections in the country on the books, but they are not a reality for many tenants in their day-to-day lives. For example, despite the fact that DC law prohibits discrimination against tenants who rely on housing vouchers, enforcement has been so sporadic that some landlords literally advertise in writing that they do just that. The recent tragic deaths of two DC residents, including a child, in a fire also make the urgency of stronger oversight and accountability regarding tenant protections heartbreakingly clear. According to a Washington Post investigation “of the city’s handling of the code violations at the property . . . virtually every relevant regulatory mechanism of the city government appears to have failed” these two victims, who lived in “life-threatening housing conditions.”
To address these issues, the Council should dramatically boost its oversight of local housing laws. Specifically, the Council should invest in additional housing inspectors and demand stronger oversight (and conduct stronger oversight itself) to ensure that landlords are maintaining safe and livable units and do not exploit or unjustly evict tenants. These efforts could be implemented fairly quickly at relatively low cost, would help identify areas where misspent tax dollars could be recovered and/or redirected, and – most importantly – would put the day-to-day experiences and welfare of DC residents most vulnerable to housing insecurity front and center.
Hernandez, Daniel: To keep my answer brief, I believe we need a holistic approach to address homelessness, leading with housing-first policies.
I think we broadly understand many of the priorities involved in that, but I want to call particular attention to something that I feel is often missed. To be able to more effectively help more people, we need the right data and the right data tracking. Other communities in the country, including Bergen County, NJ, which is home to over 1 million, was certified in 2017 as functionally ending chronic homelessness.
One key piece of that was an information dashboard that tracked all of their homeless residents and what they needed to help them. When you know what people are experiencing and can easily track what assistance they need, it’s much easier to ensure no one and no issue is slipping through the cracks.
Kennedy, Patrick: We need to connect residents experiencing homelessness to housing, and we need to do so in a way that is responsive to and respectful of their circumstances. That’s why cultural competency is so important. Alice was someone that the system failed, and having visited with and spent time learning about the challenges of homeless LGBTQ youth, in particular at Casa Ruby, I’ve seen first-hand many others that are in similar circumstances who are being let down.
The District has invested a lot of resources and attention to addressing family homelessness, and I believe we’ve seen a reduction in family homelessness of about 40% because of those efforts. Providing places for people to live in dignity to replace the dilapidated D.C. General was the right thing to do. Now, the focus needs to shift to single adults and childless couples.
Part of the strategy should involve looking at our shelter system, reducing barriers to entry and making the shelters themselves smaller and safer. Many people sleep on the streets because they rightfully perceive some of the shelters as unsafe. Many don’t accommodate couples or pets and those with underlying substance abuse challenges are often turned away and don’t get the help they need elsewhere. Most shelters aren’t open in the daytime, and so many of these factors contribute to people not seeing them as places that are hospitable to live in. It isn’t that the bar is particularly high either, given that the alternative is living on the street, which should instill just how serious the issues are with our shelters.
The permanent solution is finding permanent housing. The District has overused its rapid rehousing program in the past, and given people vouchers to cover some or all rent for up to a year. That works if the goal is to get people who have fallen on hard times and are homeless due to financial challenges, off the street so that they can stabilize themselves and their lives. Those people just need the space to rebuild their lives so that they can be self-supporting.
But for those with underlying mental health or substance abuse challenges, the needs run deeper than just merely a short-term fix. Targeted affordable housing programs, rent supplements, and vouchers can help many people by providing a long-term form of assistance, but we should look to expand Permanent Supportive Housing as well to not just provide people with a place to live but also the support structure (including case workers and follow-through) for those who need to overcome substance abuse or mental health challenges.
What’s important to center in all discussions around this issue is that people experiencing homelessness are all unique. They have unique life stories and backgrounds, and unique challenges. We have to prioritize engagement with those on our streets so that we can work to find a housing solution that suits their circumstances and clear barriers that stand in the way of that solution.
Pinto, Brooke: The system failed Alice Carter and it is completely unacceptable. I have worked closely with organizations that support individuals and families struggling from housing insecurity, and while at the Office of the Attorney General, I helped write legislation to protect tenants. As your Councilmember, I will support Housing First policies so that our city not only addresses housing needs, but also the social challenges that accompany housing insecurity through supportive services.
While in law school and afterwards, I worked with the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless which provides legal representation to our neighbors struggling from housing insecurity. I saw firsthand how important support from our government is to ensure that our clients had wrap around services to address the needs of the whole individual and family. Without providing meaningful support that goes farther than housing, we will never adequately address our chronically homeless population.
Putta, Kishan: I knew Alice when I was a Commissioner in Dupont Circle and I was very sad to hear of her passing. This hits particularly home for me.
I strongly believe in the Housing First approach and have proudly supported organizations like Pathways to Housing. I’ve seen this model work for so many homeless residents facing multiple challenges. Under this approach, these residents are given housing first and simultaneously supported with health, mental health, nutrition, substance abuse, and employment services, and more. This helps ensure these residents will stay housed and not return to homelessness.
We will only eliminate homelessness in DC if increased funding is paired with effective policy solutions. We first need to increase the supply of affordable and supportive housing. I believe that Mayor Bowser’s Homeward DC program is a step in the right direction, but it’s not a complete solution-=there are still approximately 7,000 individuals without a permanent home in DC. I support fully funding the plan to end homelessness and filling the funding gap from the previous four fiscal years. The Council and the Mayor need to increase investment in the Permanent Supportive Housing and Targeted Affordable Housing programs, and ensure that the funding comes from a variety of sources. First, I support funding programs to end homelessness with at least a $40 million investment in the city budget. To do this, I support using government revenue sources such as those from taxes on online purchases to help fund the plan. Second, I would also explore how we can work with partners outside of the government to encourage private investment to end homelessness.
Lastly, as Councilmember, I promise to work together with other councilmembers to ensure that the DC Council presents a united front. Homeslessness is not limited to Ward 2; it is pervasive across all wards of DC. I will work with other council members across all eight wards to combat homelessness and make sure needs are being met in shelter and transitional housing settings. This also means working across public and private sector partners to ensure that individuals are getting the mental and physical health care and other vital services and support that they may need.
Venice, Katherine: Among the candidates, I have un-rivaled depth and breadth of knowledge of DC’s homeless problem. I have spent much of the last 2 years very deeply involved in the homeless community and have relentlessly advocated for change to the abusive shelter system.
The current shelter-based system is an immense waste of tax-payers’ dollars, compared to what would be the far more fiscally prudent – and far more humane – approach, permanent supportive housing. As well as the former costing more than the latter in direct costs, the former is also a system so steeped in institutionalized abuse that it turns temporarily homeless into permanently homeless persons. The personal cost to those homeless people, as well as the economic/fiscal cost to the District is immeasurable.
Let’s explore the shelter-based system and the context surrounding homelessness a little:
First of all, we can all agree, including homeless people, that no-one should have to live on the street. It is a truly grim, truly grueling experience and no-one should have to be exposed to that.
However, there is an extremely rational reason why so many homeless people – like the poet Alice Carter (and other street-dwellers) – make that choice rather than live in a shelter. Even a fleeting glance through this ACLU report quickly indicates why: https://www.aclusocal.org/en/publications/thisplaceiskillingme. (Although this particular report covers shelters in LA, it is also an accurate description of DC’s shelters.)
If we had asked Alice about her choice, she would have explained to us the incredibly tough – but eminently sensible - decision to choose the street over the shelters: she chose the least dangerous environment to live in. (Even domestic violence organizations in DC say that the streets are actually often less dangerous than the shelters.)
In other words, we cannot solve the problem of the homeless being on the streets until we start to include them in the conversation and solution design. We have to realize that most of the homeless are not mentally-incompetent. For as long as we continue to deny the homeless a credible voice, there will continue to be no improvement in the situation. (Indeed, it will get much worse, now that we are in a new economic era.)
For as long as we allow those who abuse the homeless in shelters to speak for those they abuse (institutional gas-lighting), then the shelters will continue to be a poor second choice to the streets for many homeless persons, like Alice.
Think of it this way: if we had shut out the voice of the LGBTQ community (for example) as a prejudged and stigmatized group, we would never have made any progress at all in reversing LGBTQ abuse, prejudice and discrimination (and there is still have a very, very long way to go on that too, unfortunately). We have to let those at the heart of the matter – those most affected by homelessness - drive and shape the narrative around what the best solutions are. So too, the homeless community, quite simply, has the lived-experience and thus expertise (and thus credible knowledge) that we ourselves entirely lack. Our current approach of shutting out such qualified voices is demonstrably not working.
In short, the shelters are trauma mills. They turn temporarily homeless persons into permanently homeless persons, by subjecting them to such harrowing abuse (by the guards and staff) that it is exceedingly difficult for a temporarily homeless person to rebuild their life from such a place. It is something that those of us who have it take completely for granted: if a person does not have a safe place to lay their head at night, it is impossible to rebuild their life and move forward. Remember that many people become homeless because they have escaped harrowing abuse: one in three homeless women are victims/survivors of domestic violence. Many homeless persons became homeless because of harrowing trans abuse. One in three homeless persons are actually employed, but cannot find housing that they can afford. So we have to realize that our notions of who and what a homeless person is, is simply not based upon reality. Until it is, we will continue to get the homeless problem in DC horrendously wrong, with homeless persons paying the catastrophic price of all that goes with having to endure the psychological torture of shelter or street living.
Another important aspect to understand is this: mental ill health is often not so much the cause of becoming homeless, but rather the outcome of being homeless. Surviving life in the shelters and/or the streets will put an immense burden on anyone’s mental health. We must fix the causes of homelessness - such as domestic violence, trans abuse, the affordable housing crisis, etc – and fix the response to homelessness (moving from a shelter-system to a PSH-based system).
As such, the shelters – as well as surely being DC’s worst, but hidden, human rights scandal - are also a monumental waste of tax-payers’ dollars. The shelter system perpetuates and worsens homelessness.
Instead, we have to move to a permanent supportive housing (PSH) model as soon as possible. Many readers will be familiar with Pulitzer-winning academic Matthew Desmond’s work, and with housing-first policy. The PSH approach is also a far more fiscally responsible one than the current shelter system. There is an abundance of research across the country that shows that the current emergency-based system (shelters, etc) is far more expensive than a PSH approach. The current emergency-based system (with the immense mental health consequences of surviving such severely harmful environments) carries an enormous health cost, in terms of ER visits, addiction services, etc. When the total costs of this emergency-based system are taken into account, it is up to 30% cheaper to actually move to a a PSH system instead.
I believe that the Mayor is a phenomenal, genuinely and deeply committed advocate for the homeless. But she is being failed in her efforts by the Council, which fails entirely to do its job of assisting these efforts via oversight. The legislation to prevent the abuse of homeless persons inside shelters by guard is already on the books, but is simply ignored, because it is not enforced - because there is no effective oversight by the Council. For example, all Council needs to do is ask for the DHS records that show, for example, the hours logged by each security firm for each of its guards for trauma-training. This is part of the relentless advocacy that I myself have been doing on behalf of the homeless for the last couple of years. Of course, no such training records exist because this legal requirement has never been implemented nor enforced. If something is not measured, it is not managed. And if it is not a criteria in an executive’s performance appraisal, no attention will be paid to it. In other words, the well-designed legislation is nothing more than wishful-thinking.
As Councilmember, I will exercise the informed oversight that has been so entirely absent on the Council on this issue. I know the relevant code inside out; I know the operational parameters and criteria to oversee in considerable detail; and I will enforce the implementation of all of the legal obligations towards the homeless community that are designed to prevent homelessness by allowing recovery, yet are so casually ignored – at immense cost to both tax-payers and the homeless community. I will initiate the change-over from the current shelter/emergency-based system to one focused on a PSH model.
This underscores another point: the Mayor needs better partnership from the Council, and that is what I will provide as Ward 2’s next Councilmember. The Council is overly focused on notching up new legislation to parade in front of the PR machine, and not focused enough on oversight and implementation of existing legislation, which matters immensely in terms of better serving DC residents and tax-payers.
Furthermore, as the full economic consequences of the pandemic transpire, the homeless crisis will get much worse. Ward 2 needs a Councilmember with my level of on-the-ground, in-depth experience and expertise of the shelter system and infrastructure in DC. Ward 2 also needs a Councilmember who has in-depth knowledge of the homeless crisis from the extensive body of academic and think-tank research on this issue. I am by far the best qualified candidate on this issue.
Lastly, if Ward 2 residents want to help to end homelessness, I strongly recommend the phenomenal work by the Ward 2’s extraordinary resident Maria Foscarinis, who founded the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty.
Zhang, Yilin: Alice’s death was a tragedy and her story sheds light on many issues our homeless population faces. Not living in stable housing is only one issue, and may often be the result of other challenges. This includes mental and behavior health challenges, drug abuse, and facing discrimination when one has a different social and sexual identity. Our homeless population need wraparound services, in addition to stable housing, and long-term case managers who can provide continual, coordinated care.
Yes. I think if there can be a secure system established; and to increase voter participation, we should strive to make more aspects of voting as digital as possible.
Yes, I would support a secure process for online petition signing for ballot initiatives and candidate qualification during public health emergencies.
I support improvements to our processes to allow citizens to engage with their government in faster and more secure ways, including in our election process. There should be a way to qualify initiatives and candidates for ballot access during a public health emergency that doesn’t compromise public health and can be implemented in a fair, timely, and proper way by the Board of Elections. We need to have a system and process in place regardless of the circumstances that ensures maximum participation, and which voters and participants can trust.
The priority during a public health emergency is the well-being and safety of every DC resident, no matter their circumstances. Obviously in terms of social distancing and stay-at-home orders, this has a dramatic effect on our economic ability as a city and a region. I do wholeheartedly believe in making it as easy as possible for citizens and residents to be involved in the democratic process, from signing petitions to being able to vote. This crisis has shown some of the cracks in the democractic process here in DC, especially in regards to our voting process. I believe it is essential to be able to mail every DC voter an absentee ballot, and that is something we must transition towards. In terms of supporting online petition signing, we must be extremely cautious as to the security and legitimacy of any such online system. That being said, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Florida is allowing their candidates for the State Senate and House to gather online petitions for their candidacy. I deeply believe that every individual should be able to easily be a part of our electoral process because that is what makes this country great. When something is right and worth it, I want to find a way to say yes and do it. I believe this is right and worth it.
I support online petition signing, with the appropriate parameters
Evans, Jack: Amazon’s arrival will create several occupational opportunities. The District’s job training programs need to focus more on organizational and administrative support, customer service, business and merchant development, database administration, hardware development, facilities maintenance and real estate management.
We should focus on education and job training in the trades that are currently in demand in the city in order to keep up with industry demand. If our children want to enter into a trade, they should be able to obtain a four-year degree from an accredited university. If someone wants to be retrained in a trade, job training should be available and affordable to adapt to a changing economy. Skilled labor trades are always in demand and job training should focus on these professions.
As previously committed, I support additional supplemental funding to the Department of Employment Services that is targeted to community-based organizations that work to help District residents overcome barriers and get their high school diploma or GED and provide job placement assistance.
Grossman, Jordan: In order to prepare as a city for the jobs and economy of the future, I believe we must prioritize structural changes that will enhance the District’s infrastructure and make daily life better and easier of DC residents. The most economically competitive cities in the country are the ones that are desirable and livable for workers and their families. That means affordable child care and housing, good schools, paid family and medical leave, frequent and reliable public transit, and quality and affordable health care. Cities with the lowest taxes or that offer the biggest tax incentives often do not perform the best economically or have the best community-based goods and services; rather, it is the vibrant family-friendly cities with well-educated workforces and relatively strong transit infrastructure that stand out.
Here in DC, we are at risk of falling short on these criteria. Too often, I hear from Ward 2 voters who feel squeezed in our current economy – even those who tell me that they have good jobs with good salaries – because their wages just don’t match up with the skyrocketing costs of housing, child care, transportation, and student loans. Families shouldn’t have to scratch and claw to afford a home, nearly $24,000 a year for a safe place for their infant to learn, or the mountain of student loan debt facing so many Ward 2 residents. Unless we address these issues head on, we will hold back the job growth and economic vitality that is essential for our city and for our children’s future.
Hernandez, Daniel: We need better career preparation. I’d like to see more vocationally focused educational options. Something we’ve seen grow over the past several years across the country are coding bootcamps to help people land a career in software engineering.
I think we need to encourage similar options for students, in addition to expanding existing apprenticeship programs for various trades.
Kennedy, Patrick: We need to promote workforce development partnerships with major employers in the area. My first professional job was with STEMconnector, which worked to align companies and their corporate social responsibility budgets with nonprofit and education partners. Government leaders should be working along that concept: establishing partnerships with our major employers and encouraging them to donate time, resources, employee volunteer hours, and expertise to supporting programs in our schools that are relevant to the type of jobs that they offer.
Looking at the STEM programs offered in many of our high schools and at McKinley Tech writ large specifically is where I think there exists the greatest promise to establish workforce development pipelines quickly.
The jobs market can change considerably, along with the skills required, in a very short period of time. That realization makes the case for a sustained commitment to continuing education and adult learning; we can’t just assume that a high school diploma or even a college degree is going to be sufficient for most of our residents to reach their potential for the entirety of their professional lives. UDC has done some promising early work with their community college; I think scaling that, in particular, can be very helpful in filling the gap and training or retraining adults so that they have the skills needed to qualify for the job opportunities available.
What is most important to instill at an early age is critical thinking capability, because someone who can think critically is well-positioned to adapt to changing circumstances and better equipped to be a lifelong learner. Critical thinking is at the core not just of whether we’re producing skilled workers, but good citizens as well. To that end, teaching concepts rather than rote facts and encouraging children to develop their intellectual curiosity with stimulating and specialized curricula are especially important.
Pinto, Brooke: I think we should be focusing on innovative learning. Skills and subjects like coding, technology, science and other special skills would serve as preparation in an increasingly technologically evolving world.
Putta, Kishan: For years I have been fighting to close the technology gap so that our students throughout DC can be prepared for jobs of the future. In a day and age of global connection and the internet, it is vitally important that our students have access to computer devices early on so that they can learn to properly navigate and use the internet as a source of information and learning. T
That is why for years I have worked with parents city and the DC Digital Equity Coalition to bring computers to our students and I am so proud to say that just in the nick of time, before schools were shut down, we were able to secure $5 million for over 16,000 new computers for every 3rd, 6th, and 9th grader in the DCPS system. This is just the first step in preparing our children for the future, and as your councilmember I will fight to improve IT services, help create courses to help learn about disinformation and how to properly use the internet, and continue to find innovative ways so our children can hit the ground running when they enter the workforce.
Zhang, Yilin: We can always do more to promote collaboration and relationship-building between our public schools, universities, non-profits, and commercial businesses. This may come in the form of internships/co-ops, job shadowing, educational programming, etc.
Evans, Jack: I was proud to support the Clean Energy DC Act to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2032. This is a bold 12-year plan, but we need to start thinking beyond 2032. The good news is that we accomplish a set of goals now on top of more science-based initiatives.
We can build out our bike infrastructure throughout the District. Through 2022 we should have an additional 20 miles of bike lanes as WABA suggested. DDOT is working to put in place new bike lanes, but we should be further ahead. Similar to my support for the bike lanes on Pennsylvania Avenue east of the White House, the 15th Street cycle track and the planned lanes for Penn Ave. west of the White House and the 9th Street bike lane, we should add more protected lanes to complete a bike lane system that makes sense and works with other forms of transportation in the District.
I support making all busses electric and finding creative ways to encourage people to get out of their cars and onto public transportation, bikes, or walking to work.
Metro is an important part of achieving the goal of a carbon free DC by 2050. First, public transportation should be treated as a necessity (like MPD or Fire and EMS) not a luxury. We should decrease fares and decrease headways. We should also increase service on bus routes, not cut them.
Throughout my career, I have been endorsed numerous times by many environmentally focused entities. From being the first and most vocal advocate for keeping Klingle Road closed, to ensuring Nationals’ ballpark was the nation’s first LEED certified stadium, to actively supporting many other efforts to boost DC’s sustainable efforts. I have an extensive history of championing environmental issues and look forward to continuing this advocacy.
Grossman, Jordan: If elected, my top environmental priority will be effective and transparent implementation of the historic Clean Energy DC law that takes aim at our biggest sources of carbon pollution: buildings and transportation. A persistent focus on implementation of Clean Energy DC is one of the best paths toward becoming carbon free by 2050. Yet members of the DC Council too often treat passing a law or holding a press conference as the end of the process, rather than the beginning. From my career in public service over the past decade, including working in DC’s Medicaid agency, DC’s federal trial court, the U.S. Senate, and two different federal agencies, I have extensive experience fighting to carry out laws as intended – including years after passage. In particular, I have learned the vital importance of continued oversight and accountability to ensure that laws like the Clean Energy DC Omnibus Act actually achieve their goals and make a difference in the day-to-day lives of residents.
If elected, I would press for proactive accountability hearings and check-in mechanisms for every significant deadline included in the Clean Energy DC Omnibus Act, including the 100% renewable portfolio standard by 2032, the 10% solar standard by 2041, and the Building Energy Performance Standards (BEPS). If necessary, I would fight to include additional triggers and claw back provisions to ensure compliance not only with these deadlines and requirements, but also with open or unaddressed recommendations from the Offices of the Inspector General and DC Auditor. Additionally, I will press for additional legislation needed to meet or accelerate progress on the overarching goals of the law. For example, I believe we should explore “requiring DC’s electric utility to buy electricity through power purchase agreements, or long-term contracts for renewable energy,” as the initial draft of the bill did, as well as explicitly applying the law’s electrification requirements to “large private fleets that may not be based in the District but that operate in DC.”
Hernandez, Daniel: I think the biggest difference we can make, both on carbon and overall quality of air and the environment, is to better support biking and metro. In particular, we need a more expansive network of protected bike lines and we need to ensure buses are able to reliably and efficient get around DC.
Kennedy, Patrick: Much of moving to carbon-free will involve reducing vehicle emissions, which will take large investments in public transportation and creating safe infrastructure for people to bike, walk, or commute using means other than automobiles. Our transit vehicle fleet will also need to transition to electric as well, something that the Circulator has done to much a much greater extent so far than WMATA.
We also need to focus on efficient energy usage, not just in new construction but in promoting retrofits to reduce our carbon footprint and make the transition to green energy more feasible. The District has a very ambitious Clean Energy plan to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2032 and we need to build on those efforts and leverage the regulatory process to coax Washington Gas and Pepco into sourcing more sustainably. Project PIPES, underway by Washington Gas, will hopefully go a long way toward repairing pipe infrastructure that is very susceptible to leaks of greenhouse gas-intensive methane.
Pinto, Brooke: Cars and buildings are the largest contributors to our city’s carbon footprint, so we should be especially focused on reducing their emissions. I will support legislation that encourages the use of public transportation, increases our investment in electric buses, and expands protected bike lanes. I also know that our laws are only as strong as their enforcement, so I am committed to ensuring that our current laws that protect our water and air are strictly and consistently enforced. I will also expand tax credits for residents who install solar panels on their houses and/or businesses, and will work closely with community organizations to find creative solutions to expand solar energy across our city.
Putta, Kishan: The steps we take now to combat climate change are an investment in the future of our city. DC set the goal to go carbon neutral by 2050, but the only way to accomplish this is through accountability for our community - this includes Washington Gas. The new Clean Energy law is a good start, but needs to be expanded to include methane gas, which accounted for nearly 1/5th of the District's 2016 emissions. Washington Gas is starting their research on low/no carbon fuel sources, but at the same time, they’re seeking a 3 year extension on a pilot program that subsidized gas line hookups for new apartment & condo buildings - and those costs are passed on to the customers, making their monthly bills more expensive. We need to make sure we’re holding Washington Gas accountable to their promises to our city; make sure they’re investing in new, cleaner fuel sources, and not just putting on a show while continuing their same old practices. There are a plethora of ways that we can push our city to go carbon free by 2050. We could combat political influence by making some or all members of the Public Service Commission be voted by the public or push utilities to be municipally owned. We can utilize the DC Green Bank, created by our legislation, to give out low-interest loans to help transition to renewable energy. We also need to set up more vehicle charging stations throughout DC and find tax breaks to help people transition to sustainable energy. I also will push for WMATA to transition to electric buses.
Zhang, Yilin: The Clean Energy Omnibus Act of 2018 is considered one of the most ambitious renewable electricity standards in the country. The Act plans to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2032. In order to get there, and to limit emissions overall, we need to ensure compliance from old and new buildings, promote education and awareness on environmentally-friendly behaviors, and ensure that we efficiently distribute the resources in place so that lower-income individuals and families can identify ways to lower emissions.
Evans, Jack: The most important step we can take is to maximize existing areas while creating new ones. My tireless work over decades on both of these fronts to enhance the green areas in the Dupont and Logan areas, include:
Grossman, Jordan: I believe the scarcity of public green spaces is linked to the health and environmental injustices that long-time DC residents continue to suffer to this day as a result of years of discrimination. For example, recent research shows that neighborhoods that previously suffered from redlining—a racist practice in which the federal government excluded black and racially integrated neighborhoods from a program that subsidized mortgages for white families—"are on average 5 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than non-redlined districts.” This stems from the fact that these neighborhoods did not receive the “decades of intentional investment in parks, green spaces, trees, transportation and housing policies” that “more affluent and historically white neighborhoods” did. We must make these kinds of investments in areas where they have long been absent—including by working with effective local organizations like Casey Trees to preserve and expand green space and our tree canopy. More broadly, we must always apply a racial equity and environmental justice lens to our efforts to combat climate change to address the effects of this kind of
Hernandez, Daniel: I’d like to identify opportunities to activate open spaces for our residents in addition to supporting our existing green space. Specifically, I’d like to see Francis Field to be better available for the community and activities. I’d like to see a multipurpose athletic field in addition to other amenities. The current field conditions are not suitable for many activities.
Kennedy, Patrick: We need to be creative in dense, constrained urban environments to program our existing green spaces in a way that is attractive and responsive to community desires, and we should look to repurpose otherwise-underused or nuisance parcels as attractive park land. The Tenth Street Community Park in Logan, as well as the Square 80 park on GWU’s campus, are great examples of how this has been done in a way that has created great new neighborhood parks. The same with improvements that were made to the S and T Street triangle parks on New Hampshire Avenue in Dupont Circle a decade ago.
I’m particularly excited about the deckover project that will cap the Connecticut Avenue underpass north of Dupont Circle to create a public plaza. That’s one prospective example of how an investment in otherwise-dead air rights space above a roadway can create a quality space out of nothing that exists currently. It will be a gathering point for the community, something that can be programmed uniquely with farmers markets and other things as compared to Dupont Circle park, and which will boost traffic to the small businesses located nearby.
I think that there are other great examples of park land, some under National Park Service control, that can be improved for the betterment of the community, such as Scott and Washington Circles, the P Street Beach area, and some of the triangle parcels around Logan Circle. We have a great opportunity under recently-passed federal legislation to establish public-private partnerships with NPS to have community organizations maintain and improve some NPS parks, since NPS doesn’t have the resources to do a proper job of it themselves. The Downtown Business Improvement District is piloting one such partnership at Franklin Square, and I want to scale the same concept with other BIDs and community groups to improve public spaces all across the ward.
Pinto, Brooke: We should provide incentives to large building owners to create green roofs, which will not only increase green spaces, but have additional benefits, such as providing a rainwater buffer, air purification, and saving energy by regulating indoor temperatures. There have also been exciting developments around urban gardens that demonstrate the environmental benefits of growing food close to the consumers.
Putta, Kishan: Urban areas are constrained by their limited space so I have focused my advocacy efforts on revitalizing the existing spaces we have and giving more people in the community access to these resources. I have worked to increase access to public areas around the city. As a Board Member of the Friends of Stead Park, I have overseen the renovation process from the beginning and have appeared at multiple Department of Parks and Recreations hearings to speak out about the delays that have plagued the project from the beginning. I have also been a vocal advocate for renovations to Jelleff Community Center as well and for making the field available to the public instead of only being accessible to private school students.
It has been a long frustration of mine that so much of DC’s public space and even Ward 2’s public space is federally owned, including many small parcels of “triangle parks”. I have long wanted to make improvements on these parks, and have worked with the Department of Parks and Recreation for over a decade. This, along with my constant advocacy in front of the DC Council, testifying over 30 times, has made this a deep issue to me. I am happy to see Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton’s work on the Franklin Square partnership between the National Park Service and the Downtown Business Improvement District, and would love to expand on that model to improve the various public green spaces in the District.
Zhang, Yilin: I am a proponent of more parks and green space, for all residents to enjoy. This third space is a critical part to community building.
Evans, Jack: The best solution would to reduce the cap on increase on property tax from 10% to 5% to 3%.
Fanning, John: Nothing. It is not the role of the Council to create laws that interfere with the right of residents to get the most return on their investments.
Grossman, Jordan: One key tool the Council should use to prevent displacement of long-time residents is the Comprehensive Plan, the “framework that guides future growth and development” in DC. Current regulations do not set priorities with respect to the list of potential public benefits for development projects and do not include prevention of displacement whatsoever. As Ward 2’s councilmember, I would fight to send an explicit and enforceable message to the courts and agencies like the Zoning Commission that maintaining and producing affordable housing and preventing displacement should be the most important objective in guiding development decisions and priorities in DC in the years to come. Such policies would not involve significant new government spending but should help address this dynamic that threatens the ability of long-time property owners who have not improved their homes to stay in our community.
Hernandez, Daniel: We cannot control the market value of properties. California is a clear example of what goes wrong when you freeze property tax assessments. We should, however, absolutely support the ability of seniors to age in place and provide property tax relief and assistance when necessary.
Further, we should ensure housing production keeps pace with job and population growth in DC.
Kennedy, Patrick: This points to some of the issues with our system of property taxation that I addressed above in another question. The axiom that “a rising tide lifts all boats” is true, and that’s very good for property values if you’re looking to sell, but if you see your house not as a commodity but as the place that you call home and want to stay in, it can make your cost of living unaffordable.
I would look to the tax relief options that I discussed above to make sure that property taxes don’t scale out of proportion to the ability of long-time property owners to pay. If someone bought a house in Logan Circle 40 years ago for $60,000 because it was an affordable place to live, they shouldn’t be taxed today as though they can afford a $1.5 million home.
Our longtime residents are the people who invested in our communities when they weren’t popular, and they are the people who worked to make our neighborhoods the thriving places that they are. For their role in that, we have a moral obligation to make sure that they have the ability to stay if they want to, and not be financially pressured to leave.
Pinto, Brooke: I would allow residential property owners making below a certain threshold on an annual basis to defer real property taxes until the time of sale.
Putta, Kishan: As a Commissioner and long-time Ward 2 resident, I have met so many people who feel like they can no longer live in Ward 2 and worry that they have to leave the homes that they love. I have great sympathy for these long-time residents and I will work hard to try and help support them by providing targeted relief to support those who need help to stay in their homes.
As mentioned above, I support and would be willing to introduce bill #22-0044 to provide a full property tax exemption for targeted seniors, property owners over 70 who have owned a residence in DC over 20 years with an adjusted gross income under $60,000, with less than $12,500 in dividend or interest income.
I also believe that the taxable Assessment of an owner-occupied property should not exceed the taxable Assessment in effect on the date the owner reaches age 65, until the property is sold, transferred to someone other than the owner's spouse, or otherwise no longer owner-occupied. It would apply to everyone and would turn property tax into a fixed cost that someone can plan for as opposed to an adjustable cost. This can help long time owners be able to plan out their finances and retirement so that they can stay in our city.
Venice, Katherine: Even before the pandemic struck, it was evident that we (the local and nationwide economy) had already started a new economic era of slower growth over the next decade or so. Now with the pandemic, the deterioration in the economic outlook intensifies. With my Keep Seniors in Ward 2 initiative, I am focused on taking aggressive steps to help keep our seniors in Ward 2 and mitigate the risk of displacement.
This includes stepping up tax measures to alleviate the pressure on long-time property owners and assist in the high maintenance cost of older properties, as older homes are also an important source of affordable housing. Clearly, existing measures, such as the Long-Term Homeowners Credit and the Senior Assessment Cap Credit are not enough and have done little to mitigate the displacement risk for our seniors community.
Zhang, Yilin: We need to work toward a greater supply of affordable and deeply affordable housing. This means housing below the 80 percent and 50 percent area median incomes (AMIs). In future buildings, we need to set tangible goals for affordable and deeply affordable housing units, and ensure compliance.
Evans, Jack: I would insist that any new housing construction in our historic neighborhoods must comply with all DC Historic Preservation Review Board established procedural rules, design standards, design guidelines and compatibility with historic properties. I have worked tirelessly with LCCA and DCCA for decades on many detailed and complicated zoning and regulatory issues related to this so as to ensure that the “creep” of commercial development which threatened the very existence of Logan and Dupont Circle neighborhoods in the 1980s was not continued. While I recognize there are opportunities to create additional housing within the Dupont and Logan communities, it must be done in a fashion which does not weaken our historic preservation standards.
Fanning, John: I think it would be appropriate to conduct a review of our historic preservation laws to see how we can find more housing options.
Grossman, Jordan: My family and I have a deep appreciation for DC’s history, starting from when my great-great-grandfather immigrated to DC and worked as a kosher butcher in Georgetown and then downtown. Yet the District is a living and breathing city that has undergone many cycles of change since then, many of which are very positive developments. While Ward 2 has some of the oldest neighborhoods in the country, we can do much better to balance historic preservation with our need for more affordable housing and promoting inclusive, dynamic, and growing communities.
Recognizing and preserving DC’s history does not require neighborhoods to remain static, but rather can and should complement efforts to confront urgent contemporary challenges like the affordable housing crisis and the existential threat of climate change. I support sensible reforms that would help strike the right balance, such as shifting away from the application-based historic review process and toward a system that would involve proactive and comprehensive surveys of potential historic sites by experts. It may also make sense to include retrospective reviews of prior historic designations as part of any new survey and prioritization process. I also support policies that would direct the Historic Preservation Review Board “to balance the needs of a growing city with their mission of protecting DC’s historic resources.” On a related note, not all historic buildings or districts warrant a maximal level of preservation. We should permit more flexibility to accommodate efforts to mitigate climate change, promote more sustainable transportation, and produce and preserve more affordable housing, among other important goals. For example, absent living in a truly significant historic home, residents generally ought to be able to install solar panels without having to undergo extensive bureaucratic reviews or application processes.
Hernandez, Daniel: We do need to respect existing laws, but job and population growth have long outpaced housing growth. This is simply unacceptable unless we want a housing market like San Francisco only for the very wealthy. We need more housing in DC and we can’t simply concentrate it in underprivileged areas.
Kennedy, Patrick: Historically, in the 1940s, the population of D.C. was over 800,000, and more people were living in our neighborhoods than there currently are today. And this was before the era of modern, six-to-nine story apartment houses. More housing is not incompatible with our historic building stock.
We’re experiencing a degree of population growth in this District that is extraordinary, but not unprecedented. Our response in previous periods of population growth has been to supply more housing, whether in the early apartment buildings of the 1920s and 30s, the rooming houses during the Second World War, and more modern apartments in the 1960s and 70s.
We can rise to this challenge all the same and accommodate population growth in historic districts by establishing clear guidelines for by-right approvals and rear additions. Landowners and neighbors will then know with more certainty what is and is not acceptable.
The financial incentivization of office-to-housing conversions and zoning flexibility for residential density along key corridors are also both ways to address the housing shortage so development pressure doesn’t fall entirely in historic districts.
Pinto, Brooke: I am supportive of the Historic Preservation Society’s work; however, I would also be in favor of reforms to increase clarity of their requirements and efficiency of their review process. The Historic Preservation Society has maintained the character of our beautiful neighborhoods for decades, and I believe that through collaboration, there is a way to meet the housing needs while adhering to the historic preservation laws.
Putta, Kishan: I have been working on Ward 2 historic preservation issues the better part of this decade across Ward 2 on both sides of Rock Creek. I am the only candidate running who has been elected on both sides of the Ward. I have reviewed hundreds of projects in historic districts. Last year, my constituents were asked to vote on whether Burleith should apply for Historical Designation. I opposed it and it failed by a 76% to 24% margin.
One of the reasons my family has stayed in Ward 2 for so many years is the concentration of beautiful historic buildings. Some of our favorites are Heurich House, Tutorski Mansion (our view for a decade), Old Korean Legation, Halcyon House, Fillmore School, and The Octagon.
But I have seen too many homeowners struggle with the regulations. One was recently complaining that he wants to install solar panels but may not be able to afford to do so because of HD rules.
Honoring the past is important, but so is protecting our future. As a new dad raising a child in DC, I worry about the impact of climate change on my son’s future on the future of low income neighborhoods of DC. A recent NPR study found that as temperatures rise, low-income city communities are disproportionately at risk.
I’ve spoken with some DC experts and am glad to hear that new HD guidelines are being considered to promote environmental sustainability for issues such as solar panels.
And if we can consider District priorities like sustainability, other DC priorities, like affordable housing, should be considered in the historical preservation review process. That will help DC and Ward 2 reach a better balance between preserving the past and planning for the future.
Venice, Katherine: While addressing the affordable housing crisis in DC is one of my biggest priorities, I am also deeply concerned about the growing pressure on our historic neighborhoods in Ward 2, potentially jeopardizing the unique character and irreplaceable architectural legacy of these neighborhoods.
For example, while the Comprehensive Plan rightly emphasizes the importance of “cultural conservation”, “local cultural identity and traditions”, it has also replaced language focusing on “conserving” to instead “supporting” historic neighborhoods. The Plan also unfortunately uses weak, nebulous language regarding the scale (height and bulk) of new developments (“sensitive to the nature and character”) in historic neighborhoods, as well as stipulating “sensitive design and appropriate transitions” rather than setting maximum permitted floor-area ratios and height limits. Better protection is required for historic row houses in Ward 2’s historic neighborhoods, especially in the Dupont and Logan Circle areas.
The push to add more affordable housing in Ward 2 (and in all other wards) will not go away. But an important opportunity to alleviate current and future pressure on historic neighborhoods in finding space and solutions to the affordable housing crisis lies downtown.
With an emphasis on preserving sightlines of historic monuments and without turning it into one filled with skyscrapers, the downtown area has to present the possibility of adding affordable housing capacity by raising the height restriction by a very limited number of floors (e.g. 5 or 6), and the Mayor was right to raise the possibility of re-visiting the Height Act in her 2019 inauguration speech. Indeed, both the District and its affordable housing crisis have changed greatly since the National Capital Planning Commission released its findings in 2013. However, such an increase should be largely focused on affordable and smaller units to suit single and dual person households (the housing segment that has the greatest shortage in the District) and utilizing innovative formats such as micro-units with shared living spaces, etc. As well as opening up affordable housing opportunities for our seniors community and young persons, this would also assist small, local businesses recruit and retain staff, as well as shift the District towards more environmentally-friendly, walking, cycling and public transit-based living.
Zhang, Yilin: Part of the issue DC now faces is not just the supply of housing, but the supply of affordable housing. We need more housing that is affordable and deeply affordable, below the 80 percent and 50 percent area median incomes (AMIs). The other part is that we need to evaluate the supply of vacant units; if they can be repurposed, they may be able to also help alleviate the shortage in affordable housing.
DC’s rent control law needs to be renewed in 2020. The reclaim rent control campaign has proposed a series of improvements to not only renew the status quo, but strengthen rent control, by closing loopholes and increasing the units covered by rent control. Last week, Councilwoman Nadeau committed to introducing our campaign bill. Do you also support the campaign’s platform? If not, how would you improve DC rent control?
Evans, Jack: Yes. I supported the “Permanent Rental Housing Act Protection Amendment,” which would have made rent control permanent throughout the District. I also supported the “Tenants Rights to Information Act,” which would force landlords to disclose the rent, rent ceiling, any pending or completed petitions; any rent surcharges and how often, if any, rent increases may be implemented. I fully support legislation that would limit rent increases for hardship petitioners and co-introduced “Elderly and Disabled Tenant Rent Control Prevention Amendment Act” which supports rent control for seniors. I have a long record of championing many tenant issues and have been endorsed numerous times by DC tenant organizations.
The preservation of affordable rental housing is critical. When that type of affordable housing goes offline it is too rarely replaced. For this reason, support for the Housing Production Trust Fund and tax credits is something I have championed at the Council. I believe both building, but more importantly preserving, affordable housing is one of the key roles of the HPTF. There are buildings in Ward 2 which have used the Fund to assist in tenant ownership of the building. That is why I created the funding mechanism for the HPTF.
Fanning, John: I support the Council’s extension of rent control until 2030; however, I believe the city’s rent control law should be strengthened and expanded to include apartment building built before 1995.
Grossman, Jordan: I was proud to stand with the Reclaim Rent Control coalition at the rally on February 29th where Councilmember Brianne Nadeau committed to introduce the platform as a bill in the DC Council. We must enact reforms championed by Reclaim Rent Control to close loopholes that exist in the current rent control law – such as eliminating vacancy increases that provide an incentive for landlords to push tenants out of their units rather than incentivizing them to retain long-time tenants. Additionally, I believe we should implement stronger oversight of all petitions for exemptions from rent control, including through better and more frequent audits and requiring proof of general compliance with the housing code as a prerequisite; tie building eligibility for rent control to a dynamic date rather than it staying the same for decades on end; and restrict landlords in market-rate housing to one rent increase a year to strengthen baseline protections for tenants who do not currently benefit from rent control. More broadly, preserving or rehabilitating existing housing is one of the quickest and least expensive ways we can address our housing affordability crisis. As noted above, this is an especially important priority for long-time residents who are at risk of displacement from their homes and communities as housing and other costs continue to increase. I strongly support other tenant protections to preserve DC’s deeply affordable housing stock, including strengthening the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA) and implementing the District Opportunity to Purchase Act (DOPA) where tenants are unable to exercise their TOPA rights.
Hernandez, Daniel: I support the principles of the platform and some of the proposals. The proposals that are more consumer-protection focused, such as ending voluntary agreements and certain predatory practices I am on board with. Some other policies I’m concerned of the economic impact.
I’m happy to discuss with anyone my thoughts in detail.
Kennedy, Patrick: I support strengthening the District’s rent control program and many aims of the coalition. I have consistently called in our campaign for rent control to be expanded on a rolling basis to buildings built after 1975, to start with, and testified in support of enhanced rent control at the Council’s recent hearing on the matter in November.
For long-term tenants, particularly those on fixed incomes, it is only by the grace of rent stabilization that many are able to stay in their apartments, or in their neighborhoods writ large, since they’re protected from exorbitant increases in their housing costs even as the District becomes more expensive to live in. I see that in my own community firsthand, as a tenant in a rent-controlled building with many who have lived there for decades.
We have lost tens of thousands of rental units from rent stabilization protection since 1985, through building conversions and loopholes, and we need to reset and begin to reverse the trend. I’m also open to tightening up other aspects of the program to prevent abuse, including examining how to prevent questionable hardship petitions to get around limits in the rate of allowable increase.
For both older tenants and younger ones who may have student loan debt and pay half of their incomes every month on rent, home ownership is a distant prospect or just not a preference. Even with the District’s fairly generous home purchase assistance programs providing financial help with down payments, it is very difficult for many people to save enough money if they want to own a home and stay here. That’s why for many, being a renter long-term is a likely prospect. To protect those renters from displacement and promote income diversity in our neighborhoods, they need to be able to count on stability in their rent so they’re not forced out by abrupt, consequential increases.
I believe a gradual increase in the rent controlled inventory is the best way to approach this rather than adopting something more sudden that might backfire and chill construction of new rental units. The number one problem facing the entire District, present crisis excepted, is a lack of affordable housing, and I fear that consequential, sudden changes and a lack of predictability in the rental market could drive new construction elsewhere and incentivize efforts to convert existing buildings and projects in the pipeline from apartments to condominiums.
On the other hand, I think providing a window for housing to be built under market-rate conditions (say, for a period of, 40 years) would not be so rash as to consequentially disincentivize new construction but would result in substantial increases in the inventory of rent controlled units over several years.
Simply building more housing isn’t the long and short of solving our housing crisis, but discouraging new construction and making housing supply more scarce relative to demand is an easy way to make it worse. We need to balance the equities of supply and demand with particular policies geared toward protecting long-term tenants, like rent control, as well as inclusionary zoning and investment in public housing for those that the market will just never realistically serve.
Pinto, Brooke: Yes, I support the platform. Rising rents pose an unbearable burden to low and middle-income families across the District. Rent control is a necessary step in combating this burden and ensuring that all residents have the right to desperately needed affordable housing. I pledge to address the needs of our renters and ensure that landlords violating the law are held accountable.
Putta, Kishan: So many residents depend on rent control. I know how vital it is. I support the core components of the Reclaim Rent Control platform, and I am a strong advocate for the reauthorization of DC’s rent control law. My thoughts regarding the three components of the platform are as follows:
Venice, Katherine: I am extremely concerned about the financial pressures facing our seniors community – even more so now in the new pandemic economic era, which impacts on retirement incomes as companies across the country slash dividend policies, etc. (Nobel laureate economist Robert Shiller, for example, estimates that it could take up to 10 years before dividend payout rates recover to pre-pandemic levels.)
The existing rent control law was designed for a very different era (the 1980s), and it is not reflective of the realities of today’s housing market, either before or after factoring in pandemic related economic scenarios.
So I believe that not only should rent control for our seniors and disabled community be renewed, it should be strengthened. For example, some economists predict that the pandemic and policy responses to it will drive CPI considerably higher than the historic average CPI of the last 20 years. These new but significant economic risks for our seniors community need to be factored into the Reclaim Rent Control Campaign’s proposals and Councilmember Nadeau’s bill.
I also support closing loopholes that enable and incentivize dysfunctional choices (such as allowing property conditions to deteriorate) by landlords that are extremely detrimental to goals of keeping housing safe and sanitary as well as affordable for our seniors community.
Zhang, Yilin: I support the continuation of rent control, and agree that the current law needs to be re- evaluated. The Reclaim Rent Control platform is comprehensive. My only question is how the change from landlords with 4 or fewer to landlords with 3 or fewer will impact these smaller buildings.
Evans, Jack: As the former Chair of the Committee on Finance and Revenue, I have a strong record of supporting tax incentives to create affordable housing throughout the District. I was instrumental in creating the Housing Strategy Task Force, which is designed to assess the quality and availability of housing for residents and workers at all income levels. I also introduced legislation to create a “Community Impact Fund,” an offset program that provides support to the District’s social benefit programs and could be utilized by the District to provide new revenue sources for various projects such as affordable housing.
Grossman, Jordan: The District faces a housing crisis. As Ed Lazere said when he led the DC Fiscal Policy Institute, housing represents just "3 percent of the city’s budget” but “it’s way more than 3 percent of the city’s problems.” While no one silver bullet will allow us to achieve all of our affordable housing goals, there are a number of ways we can make major progress.
First, we need significant new investments in housing that low- and middle-income residents can afford. As the State of the Capital Region 2019 report noted, “the region added almost twice as many people as housing units” from 2010 to 2017, “housing values have risen faster than income” across our area, and “rising housing costs have regressive economic impacts.” To do so, the Council should press for substantially increased investments in the Local Rent Supplement Program and the Housing Production Trust Fund and enact more effective requirements for ensuring that units produced with Trust Fund dollars are affordable for low-income residents and families. Ideally, the gap financing provided by the Trust Fund will help bring the cost of a home within reach for many in Ward 2’s workforce who cannot currently afford one. This is also a prime example of an area that deserves more robust Council oversight. The DC Auditor recently found that the Department of Housing and Community Development’s failure to follow its procedures resulted in “a net loss of 353 affordable units, including a reduction by 95 units of those targeting the District’s most vulnerable households earning up to 30 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI).”
As noted above, I also strongly support tenant protections to preserve existing deeply affordable housing stock for DC’s workforce. The Council must do better to ensure that the strong tenant protection laws we have on the books are actually making a difference in tenants in their day-to-day lives. Specifically, the Council should invest in additional housing inspectors and demand stronger oversight (and conduct stronger oversight itself) to ensure tenants have safe and livable units and are not unjustly evicted. These efforts could be implemented fairly quickly at relatively low cost, would help identify areas where misspent tax dollars could be recovered and/or redirected, and – most importantly – would put the day-to-day experiences and welfare of Ward 2 residents front and center.
Additionally, as noted above, one key tool the Council should use to produce more affordable housing and prevent displacement of long-time residents is the Comprehensive Plan. Current regulations do not set priorities with respect to the list of potential public benefits for development projects and do not include prevention of displacement whatsoever. As Ward 2’s councilmember, I would fight to send an explicit and enforceable message to the courts and agencies like the Zoning Commission that maintaining and producing affordable housing and preventing displacement should be the most important objective in guiding development decisions and priorities in DC in the years to come. Such policies would not involve significant new government spending but should make a meaningful difference in addressing our housing crisis.
I believe we should also explore a homebuying assistance program for lower and middle-income residents in which the District retains an ownership interest in the property – somewhat like an individualized community land trust. By doing so, we can make homeownership more accessible to Ward 2 residents who may not have sufficient resources for a down payment but who ought to be able to build wealth by buying a home, while at the same time giving the District government an important tool for maintaining and growing the supply of affordable housing over time. Enabling DC residents – especially long-time residents at risk for displacement – to buy homes and build wealth is particularly important in light of the racial wealth gap.
Moreover, many of the younger residents of Ward 2 can’t plan to start a family or buy a home because of the mountain of student loan debt they face. Common jobs in our area — working on Capitol Hill, in a federal agency, in a research institution, or for an advocacy group — often require a higher education, but don’t pay enough to manage student loan payments on top of local housing and child care costs. Fully 85 percent of Ward 2 residents have a bachelor’s degree, including 54 percent who have a post-graduate degree. The fact that DC residents owe more than $6 billion in student loan debt sadly reflects that dynamic. To address this barrier to buying a home and entering the middle class, I would fight for the District to establish an independent student loan authority—similar to the approach taken by a number of other states—to issue new low-interest student loans and allow students in the District to refinance existing loans to more reasonable rates. I would also advocate for using this independent student loan authority to administer a nation-leading program to provide tuition assistance at the outset of DC residents’ higher education or loan repayment obligations for those who make a commitment to staying in the District for at least ten years after graduation. This would be a powerful tool for retaining our young residents and enabling them to buy homes and start families here in the DC communities they love.
Additionally, I strongly support the Racial Equity Achieves Results (REAR) Act, which would require the District to examine racial equity considerations in budgeting decisions and performance metrics. In light of the stark racial wealth gap in our country, doing so may help Ward 2 residents – especially long-time residents at risk for displacement – find and maintain affordable housing. Nationally, “the gap between white homeownership rates and Black homeownership rates today is about 30% — bigger than it was in 1960 when housing discrimination was legal.” That is simply unacceptable. The racial equity assessments required by the REAR Act could help us address these homeownership disparities locally by ensuring that we:
Finally, as discussed more fully above and in the next question, we must do more for the many Ward 2 residents experiencing homelessness. Ultimately, the best solution to homelessness is also the best solution for those struggling with rising rents or to buy a home: affordable housing.
Hernandez, Daniel: I support strengthening of inclusionary zoning requirements as well as other avenues to expand housing production in DC, such as planned unit developments.
Kennedy, Patrick: There isn’t a silver bullet to the issue of affordable housing, but here are a few things in particular that I would look to pursue:
Pinto, Brooke: I will be a strong advocate for strengthening our rent control laws. We also must ensure that all new construction includes multi-bedroom affordable housing units. We cannot continue to bow to pressure from developers. There must be more severe consequences for developers who do not meet affordable housing standards. I will also prioritize enforcing laws that are already on the books to make sure our slum landlords are held accountable and our tenant’s needs are addressed.
Putta, Kishan: Although it has been wonderful to see our city growing in recent years, DC must work hard to plan for its future. As Ward 2 Councilmember, I would prioritize providing housing options that people of all income levels, from all backgrounds, can afford.
Housing is one of the most critical issues to consider when thinking about the affordability and inclusivity of a city. As such, it has a direct impact on issues of racial and economic equity. A recent study explains how DC’s lack of affordable housing exacerbates the displacement of longtime low-income residents of color. As the study explains, where we live affects many other aspects of our lives: our quality of life; where our children are able to attend school; and what jobs and other opportunities are available for us as adults, as well as our children.
A recent study by the Urban Institute recommends 374,000 new units of housing region-wide by 2030. I support more money for the Housing Production Trust Fund (HPTF) but want to provide stronger oversight to ensure it results in as much quality housing as possible.
Recent audits show that less qualified projects are getting funded over more qualified projects and that the government (DCHD) is not enforcing the requirement that at least 80% of the funds are spent on affordable housing. The result is that far fewer units have been built than should have been built - especially for the lowest-income residents. As your councilmember, I would work hard to increase transparency through more regular audits to ensure developers are upholding their commitments. I would also advocate for DCHD to engage in proper monitoring of HPTF projects. This includes making sure that site visits are executed and that sites are submitting their required annual certifications. I’ve conducted oversight as a commissioner on both sides of Ward 2 and have testified at over 20 agency oversight hearings at the DC Council! I care about agency oversight and I will be tough about pushing for the vital HPTF dollars to be used properly. I would also support many of Councilmember Silverman’s housing reform proposals - including a change to allow the Council to appoint two members of the DC Housing Authority’s board.
As a Ward 2 Council Member, I would take a holistic approach to any major changes in housing and the related community impacts—considering access to fresh food, affordable childcare, public transportation, and social services, to encourage diverse and accessible communities throughout Ward 2 and greater DC.
Venice, Katherine: Since 2010, the growth in the number of housing units has been just half the growth rate of people moving to the District. This mis-match of supply and demand has resulted in prices and rents sky-rocketing, creating the affordable housing crisis, which is one of the worst in the country. Further, since 2010, only 10% of new housing units have been affordable for households earning up to $54,000 per annum.
This makes day-to-day life exceedingly hard for many of Ward 2’s residents – from millenials to families to seniors. But it also holds back economic growth in our community and hampers the ability of small, local businesses to survive and serve as community hubs. (Higher housing costs make it difficult for small, local business owners to recruit and retain staff.)
The Mayor has targeted 36,000 new homes by 2025, of which just 12,000 must be affordable. These numbers are actually extremely modest. For example, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments estimates that 320,000 new units are needed by 2030, 75% of which must be affordable; and the Urban Institute estimates that 374,000 new units are needed by 2030, 80% of which must be affordable.
Basic economics indicate that the most effective way to solve such a problem is to focus on removing the barriers to supply. Indeed, much of the discussion around the affordable housing crisis leaves this side of the equation out too often.
How to do so?
Firstly, address the un-necessary regulatory burden that makes it unaffordable to build quality, affordable housing. Secondly, address the zoning and land cost issue, which also makes building affordable housing unaffordable. Thirdly, focus more on innovation (in terms of building materials and techniques, and types of unit) that make better quality, safer homes more cost-effective to build.
Starting with the urgent need for reform of DC’s byzantine regulatory building processes, which experts point out lacks objectivity, transparency and predictability. The District’s building codes have been poorly designed and are a composite of negotiations and now out-dated technical and scientific data, which holds back innovation that would result in safer, better quality building methods and materials. Further, there is not enough emphasis on building outcomes such as optimizing safety and quality, and too much emphasis on micro-managing construction choices using out-dated technical knowledge.
As well as resulting in lower quality buildings, this also has considerable cost outcomes, making new housing un-necessarily more expensive to build and thus unaffordable.
Further, the regulatory process (zoning and building codes) is very poorly administered, from the permit stage through to construction plan reviews, inspections and appeals.
Housing economist Paul Emarth demonstrated that regulatory costs account for almost 25% of total building costs. For example, inefficient administration of the regulatory process make homes 6% more expensive due to financing needs to cover delays caused by inefficient regulatory administration.
Additionally, two reports by the National Bureau of Economic Research (Glaeser/Gyourko, and Gyourko/Molloy) state that the unwieldy, inefficient regulatory process has “a massive impact on housing prices” and that “the bulk of the evidence ... suggests that this form of government regulation is responsible for high housing costs”.
As Ward 2’s next Councilmember, I will push to reform the regulatory process by streamlining it, re-designing it and using technology to make it more efficient, predictable and transparent. Priority streams should be set up for affordable housing projects, especially those focusing on the most acute affordable housing shortage – small units for single and dual person households, as well as for family starter-homes. (Targeting this segment relieves pressure on other segments of the market, such as family housing.)
I will also push reform through to re-configure the regulatory process to enable greater innovation in building methods and materials, with a greater focus on better quality and safer building outcomes and productivity growth. Innovation in unit formats is also key: for example, micro-unit, shared living apartments, etc.
Lastly, the overly-complex regulatory maze has resulted in poor enforcement. Regulations are currently inconsistently enforced, with donors to Councilmembers allowed to ignore regulations – as highlighted by Public Citizen and Councilmember Cheh, for example. Streamlined regulations would allow streamlined, more effective enforcement.
Secondly, turning to the zoning and land cost issue: land, as a scarce resource in the District, adds an additional upward pressure on housing costs and thus barrier to affordable housing.
Within Ward 2, I have covered this issue above, with my comments on the need to focus adding supply in the downtown area to alleviate pressure on Ward 2’s historic neighborhoods.
Outside Ward 2, I would pursue initiatives aimed at ‘gentle density’ increases close to transit corridors and metro stations. For new buildings close to well-serviced transit corridors and stations, I would also reduce or abolish the minimum parking requirements, especially those with five or fewer units. Such requirements do not reflect today’s reality that one in three District residents does not own a car. Also, parking spaces make the cost of building new housing less affordable, adding approximately $25,000 for each parking space to the cost of a new building. (Such buildings would need to be exempted from eligibility for residential parking permits however.)
One final point
with regard to the Mayor’s 2025 new housing goals: Ward 2 residents should have a much greater
part in determining where such new housing goes. The community needs to be given the
opportunity for more engagement and decision-making around planning and zoning
in Ward 2.
Turning away from the supply issue, another important aspect of the affordable housing crisis is the tenant protection system. I am particularly concerned about the likelihood of unlawful evictions (already a well-entrenched practice in the District before the pandemic, as an accepted symptom of the housing crisis) sky-rocketing now that the Council has passed a moratorium on evictions. Legislation in the District to prevent unlawful evictions is notoriously weak: accessing legal assistance is cost-prohibitive for most tenants, while legal remedy is helplessly retrospective (enforcement of any protection granted by the courts takes many months) and lacks any teeth. This leaves seniors and disabled persons particularly vulnerable. If elected Ward 2’s next Councilmember, I will tighten up enforcement, responsiveness and sanctions of tenant protections in this regard.
With regard to the Housing Production Trust Fund, the DC Auditor’s findings (of mis-spent tax-dollars) were no surprise. Like most programs and agencies, there is simply no active monitoring or measurement of outcomes of tax-payers’ dollars, as the DC Auditor has repeatedly highlighted. It is hard to support more funding for this program without this fiscal waste first being effectively addressed and remedied. I have a track record of effective oversight, accompanied by hard-core economic, financial skills to effect such oversight.
Zhang, Yilin: The Mayor has committed to 36,000 units by 2023, and one-third of them will be affordable. We need future units to be truly affordable, below the 80 percent and 50 percent area median incomes (AMIs). Additionally, we need to assess where there can be more starter homes, so that families can afford to stay in DC.
Evans, Jack: As cited earlier, in addition to enhancing existing programs, I have proposed legislation ensuring permanent supportive housing through Housing First. I’ve worked with stakeholders such as Washington Interfaith Network, DCAYA, The Way Home and Good Faith Communities Coalition, to develop a fully funded platform to end chronic homelessness.
I worked to establish the Interagency Council on homelessness to coordinate with organizations to identify, track, and offer solutions to end homelessness among populations hit hardest, including veterans. I also passed the “Returning Veteran’s Tax Credit,” which encourages businesses to hire veterans and championed funding to local organizations housing homeless veterans through the “Southeast Veteran’s Access Housing.”
The “DC Homelessness Services Reform Act,” implements policies to help families in need of housing. I believe in its goal of preventing families from becoming homeless, moving families out of shelters and into housing quickly as possible.
Although it is estimated roughly 10% of the population identifies as LGBTQIA, identifying members account for 30% of youth receiving homeless services. That is why I co-sponsored the “LGBTQ Homeless Youth Reform Act,” to develop policies to reduce the rate of homelessness within this community.
Grossman, Jordan: As noted above, our current public health crisis makes clearer than ever how vital it is for the entire community that every single resident has a safe place to live. We must do more for residents experiencing homelessness – including treating them as our neighbors, not as a nuisance. I support a “housing first” approach with wraparound services and strengthening and expanding outreach teams and day services centers. Moreover, as the Way Home Campaign has pointed out, it “costs less money for the District to end chronic homelessness than it does to manage it.” Along these lines, I support the Fair Budget Coalition’s recommendations to increase funding for Project Reconnect and the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, programs that help residents near or newly experiencing homelessness with family reunification or financial assistance for rent or security deposit costs.
Similarly, as discussed above, because the best solution to homelessness is affordable housing, the Council should aggressively use its oversight powers to prevent residents from experiencing homelessness in the first place. The District has some of the strongest housing protections in the country on the books, but they are not a reality for many tenants in their day-to-day lives. For example, despite the fact that DC law prohibits discrimination against tenants who rely on housing vouchers, enforcement has been so sporadic that some landlords literally advertise in writing that they do just that. The recent tragic deaths of two DC residents, including a child, in a fire also make the urgency of stronger oversight and accountability regarding tenant protections heartbreakingly clear. According to a Washington Post investigation “of the city’s handling of the code violations at the property . . . virtually every relevant regulatory mechanism of the city government appears to have failed” these two victims, who lived in “life-threatening housing conditions.”
To address these issues more effectively, the Council should dramatically boost its oversight of local housing laws. Specifically, the Council should invest in additional housing inspectors and demand stronger oversight (and conduct stronger oversight itself) to ensure that landlords are maintaining safe and livable units and do not exploit or unjustly evict tenants. These efforts could be implemented fairly quickly at relatively low cost, would help identify areas where misspent tax dollars could be recovered and/or redirected, and – most importantly – would put the day-to-day experiences and welfare of the DC residents most vulnerable to housing insecurity front and center.
Hernandez, Daniel: I’ll copy my answer from the previous question on addressing homelessness: To keep my answer brief, I believe we need a holistic approach to address homelessness, leading with housing-first policies.
I think we broadly understand many of the priorities involved in that, but I want to call particular attention to something that I feel is often missed. To be able to more effectively help more people, we need the right data and the right data tracking. Other communities in the country, including Bergen County, NJ, which is home to over 1 million, was certified in 2017 as functionally ending chronic homelessness.
One key piece of that was an information dashboard that tracked all of their homeless residents and what they needed to help them. When you know what people are experiencing and can easily track what assistance they need, it’s much easier to ensure no one and no issue is slipping through the cracks.
Kennedy, Patrick: I outline this above in my answer to “What will you do to end chronic homelessness to ensure no one else dies on the streets?”
Pinto, Brooke: As your Councilmember, I will support Housing First policies, to address the need for housing and supportive services. Shelters should not kick people out in the morning. We must adopt a more compassionate approach to addressing housing insecurity through providing support wherever it is needed, whether it be with jobs, healthcare or getting kids to school.
Putta, Kishan: I strongly believe in the Housing First approach and have proudly supported organizations like Pathways to Housing. I’ve seen this model work for so many homeless residents facing multiple challenges. Under this approach, they are placed in housing first and simultaneously supported with health, mental health, nutrition, substance abuse, and employment services, and more. Providing permanent housing is only half the battle; enabling them to take control of their own lives is the even tougher part - but it can only happen after permanent housing.
We will only eliminate homelessness in DC if increased funding is paired with effective policy solutions. We first need to increase the supply of affordable and supportive housing. I believe that Mayor Bowser’s Homeward DC program is a step in the right direction, but it’s not a complete solution-=there are still approximately 7,000 individuals without a permanent home in DC. I support fully funding the plan to end homelessness and filling the funding gap from the previous four fiscal years. The Council and the Mayor need to increase investment in the Permanent Supportive Housing and Targeted Affordable Housing programs, and ensure that the funding comes from a variety of sources. First, I support funding programs to end homelessness with at least a $40 million investment in the city budget. To do this, I support using government revenue sources such as those from taxes on online purchases to help fund the plan. Second, I would also explore how we can work with partners outside of the government to encourage private investment to end homelessness.
Lastly, as Councilmember, I promise to work together with other councilmembers to ensure that the DC Council presents a united front. Homeslessness is not limited to Ward 2; it is pervasive across all wards of DC. I will work with other council members across all eight wards to combat homelessness and make sure needs are being met in shelter and transitional housing settings. This also means working across public and private sector partners to ensure that individuals are getting the mental and physical health care and other vital services and support that they may need. Families who need affordable units not only deserve a place to live, but deserve a place that is well-maintained. In order to encourage building maintenance, I will support legislation to offer loans for repairs and maintenance to property management companies that offer affordable units.
We also need to build more homes. A recent study by the Urban Institute recommends 374,000 new units of housing region-wide by 2030. By that measure, the Mayor’s 2025 goal of adding 36,000 new homes is commendable, but DC must work harder to build more homes for its residents. And to do so, we need to make better use of Housing Production Trust Fund (HPTF) dollars. Recent audits have revealed that there has been insufficient oversight of this program and that these vital funds have resulted in much less affordable housing than they should have provided. As Councilmember, I will ensure greater oversight to make sure that the best-planned housing projects are the ones receiving money. I will also ensure regular check-ins and monitoring to ensure developers are actually building and leading affordable units.
Of course, part of what makes a neighborhood affordable is not only the housing but also transportation, childcare, and other vital services. I am prioritizing these services alongside housing to make sure all residents have access to high-quality affordable transportation, childcare, and education.
Venice, Katherine: Please see my answer above to the question about Ward 2 poet and trans abuse survivor Alice Carter, under the ‘Public Health’ section.
Evans, Jack: Safe streets, strong neighborhoods, thriving businesses, successful schools with wrap-around services, and responsive government public services (DPW, DMV, DCRA).
Fanning, John: Support legislation that increases economic quality, job creation, homeownership programs, small business opportunities and public safety initiatives. Perform aggressive oversight of all government agencies to ensure the most efficient delivery of services to all residents of the city.
Grossman, Jordan: To me, making lives better for members of the community involves ensuring the basic needs of all residents are met rather than effectively leaving individual families and residents to fend for themselves. In other words, everyone should be able to not only live but thrive here in the neighborhoods that we love. Achieving this vision not only requires proposing new policies and passing better legislation, but also effective oversight and implementation of existing laws and programs so they make a real difference in residents’ daily lives. Too often, I hear from Ward 2 voters who feel squeezed – even those who tell me that they have good jobs with good salaries – because their wages just don’t match up with the skyrocketing costs of housing, child care, transportation, and student loans. Families shouldn’t have to scratch and claw to afford record-high home prices, nearly $24,000 a year for child care, or a mountain of student loan debt. To truly make our neighbors lives better, we need to build a ward and a city where all residents can find a good job and earn a decent wage, afford a place to live and raise a family, have quality health and child care, live free of discrimination, vote in fair elections, and participate in transparent and ethical government processes.
Hernandez, Daniel: There are many ways I’d like to do this, but for a few things in particular:
Improving the responsiveness and pleasantness of interaction with our local government.
Improving our streetscapes and green space.
Improving our experience of transportation, in particular reliability of our bus system and the safety of street crossings.
Kennedy, Patrick: Making lives better for community members is about solving problems. That’s why I was drawn to serving at the community level and working in local government, because everything is about solving the problems that have the most direct impact on people’s lives. It’s about knowing what’s important to people and being able to work together to find solutions.
Whether that’s issues that are large (affordable housing and education) or small (getting a sidewalk fixed, a bus stop restored, or fixing a noisy work site so people can sleep), as someone who has been interested in public service I’ve been tremendously fortunate to find an opportunity to contribute to making people’s lives better. It’s even better that those people are my neighbors and the people that I see every day.
The role of government is taking care of people’s problems so that they can live an enjoyable and fulfilling life. Government is doing its job when it is achieving things collectively better than what people could do individually or in loose confederations. That means, most of all, facilitating opportunities and equity for those who would otherwise be left behind if left on their own.
What my experience serving the community has taught me is how much can be achieved when people work together, and when leaders focus on finding solutions and common ground. There are times for stark choices and divides, but I have discovered that I’m best suited to working at the local level because in a place like D.C. the great majority of us share the same basic values. That being the case, it should be possible to work together to make our city greater. The time and effort expended in conflict takes away from that which can be put in the service of achieving more constructive ends. That’s how we ultimately can, as the question poses, make people’s lives better.
Pinto, Brooke: Our quality of life is determined by so many factors. At the very least, access to basic needs must be met - housing, food, education and jobs. We also benefit when our neighborhoods have green spaces and recreational opportunities. We should expand bike lanes, pedestrian streets, and provide incentives to building owners to create green roofs.
Putta, Kishan: While economics textbooks teach the theory of the free market solving everything, I’ve learned from over 30 years of public service and journalism, that over-relying on markets can hurt the vulnerable who are disadvantaged and don’t have a chance to participate fairly.
I strongly believe our government should foster and encourage an economy that cares more and tries to help those who are disadvantaged - a “caring economy”. A caring economy is one in which there are many economic opportunities; where people are able to live affordably with the ability to save up, and climb the economic ladder.
I have firsthand experience in reaching out to communities that feel like they have been left behind by the system: as a DC Health Link employee, I supported efforts to help returning citizens know their health coverage options and to help enroll them in healthcare. As your Councilmember, I hope to be able to write legislation that can set up services, training, and systems to help support our communities, ensure economic growth in the region, and hold government agencies accountable for my constituents. The DC Council needs to work now more than ever to ensure our residents aren’t left behind in the economic aftermath of this pandemic and prepare them and their children for success in the future.
Zhang, Yilin: A Councilmember’s only priority is the community she serves. I believe in a democracy where individuals have a voice that is heard. In Ward 2, my vision is for a high quality of life for that is centered on being inclusive, safe, and community-centered.
Evans, Jack: It is inevitable that As Ward 2’s population grows at a faster pace than most of DC, our current boundaries will continue to move inward. The 2020 Census will be my fourth redistricting effort and I learned from previous efforts that a core guiding principle when redrawing boundaries is to ensure that neighborhoods must remain as intact as possible. I have made many painful decisions, such as letting the Southwest neighborhood move to Ward 6 after the 2000 Census, in an effort to ensure that Ward 2’s core neighborhoods adjacent downtown continue to remain as intact as possible. And, those long-time residents will remember that I was the single leading factor in the creation of the Logan Circle ANC after the 1990 Census. I have often said that effort was one of the most challenging of any issues I tackled during my 29 years on the Council but I knew then that Logan Circle deserved to have its own representation and fought tooth and nail to ensure that happened.
Fanning, John: I think that the 2020 Census will give us the opportunity to return Shaw to its rightful place in Ward 2. There will be some impact to our culture, however, it will contribute to our Ward 2 diversity and significantly contribute to our Wards small business community.
Grossman, Jordan: I believe the boundaries that will be based on the 2020 Census will result in Ward 2 becoming younger and more diverse, particularly on the eastern side of the ward, further enhancing our vibrant culture and economy.
Hernandez, Daniel: I’d expect Ward 2 will grow a little, but I don’t expect many significant adjustments.
Kennedy, Patrick: This is a great question, but one that’s hard to answer because it’s very difficult to predict the Census count accurately at a ward level of detail. Ten years ago, for instance, American Community Survey estimates leading up to the Census did not predict what the actual enumerated count established as the population in the different wards. Ward 2 grew larger than expected relative to the other wards, and as a result had to shrink much more than most were prepared for in redistricting.
This Census is especially difficult to predict, given the Trump Administration’s problematic handling of it and the unknowable impact that COVID-19 will have on our ability to get an accurate count, particularly as it relates to college students who are counted at their schools. That, especially, can influence the numbers in Ward 2 quite a bit. In theory, if everything is done properly, we won’t have a significant undercount but it is something that I am concerned about.
My best guess is that Ward 2’s boundaries will probably stay more or less as they are. I think it’s possible that Ward 2 will recover at least a chunk of the Shaw neighborhood that was moved to Ward 6 ten years ago, just because Ward 6 will need to lose population to bring the ward populations into rough equilibrium under any scenario, but I wouldn’t anticipate substantial changes otherwise.
I think it’s fitting that Shaw should return to Ward 2. It had been part of the ward continuously until ten years ago; many residents there had lived their whole lives in Ward 2 and there remain ties that bind Shaw to Ward 2 more so than other wards. I think having a diverse, thriving, neighborhood back in the ward mostly or fully would also add greatly to our overall diversity and collective vitality.
I certainly don’t want to lose any part of the existing ward, though, which is what has happened in the last three redistricting cycles. At one time Ward 2 stretched all the way from 8th Street NE/SE to the Palisades. It was enormous, and the most diverse ward in the District at one time. As the District’s population increased and more people moved back to the urban core, the boundaries shrank and neighborhoods like Shaw and Southwest were moved elsewhere.
The only neighborhoods that have been in the ward consistently since home rule are Foggy Bottom, Dupont Circle (below S Street), Logan Circle, and Downtown. The rest have moved in and out. That constant flux in boundaries, and the diverse set of sensibilities in the different neighborhoods have made it difficult to establish and maintain a cohesive civic identity and culture at the ward-level.
On the flip side, I think the best thing about this ward is that it does consist of neighborhoods with very different characteristics. That diversity is at the root of our identity.
Pinto, Brooke: The importance of the Census cannot be overstated and I fear that DC residents will be significantly undercounted due to a lack of reporting and spread of information regarding the Census during the COVID-19 crisis. It is more important than ever that our city receive adequate federal funding. Recently, we saw that DC already receives considerably less funding just because we are not a state. We have to make sure every DC resident is counted.
Putta, Kishan: I have experience working to support the Census in DC, working with the Mayor’s Asian Pacific Islander Commission to increase outreach to immigrants and other communities who are often undercounted.
I always believe that redistricting should be nonpartisan and not politicized. I hope that we will have a nonpartisan and non-political commission to do so.
No matter what the new boundaries are, I will work hard to keep our economy strong and support the small business community, being aided by my experience as a Small Business Liaison with DC HealthLink.
Zhang, Yilin: The priority is to ensure as many individuals as possible respond to the 2020 Census, so that it is representative of the changes in our culture and economy.
Evans, Jack: Smart growth and economic and financial prosperity, sensible and accessible public transportation, permanent affordable housing, academically successful public schools.
Fanning, John: That we continue to build on the progress made over the past twenty years and that we achieve more equity for residents. That the city improves health outcomes for all residents and that crime and public safety improve.
Grossman, Jordan: I believe we’re at an inflection point in our city: we’re at risk of becoming a place where only the very wealthy can afford to live. But I know most Ward 2 residents don’t want to go down that path. We can make choices now to help ensure that, ten years from now, we have a livable city that is diverse, inclusive and welcoming to people of all incomes, races, and backgrounds, from long-time DC residents and workers to our immigrant communities and other new arrivals. That means using all the tools at our disposal to make it possible for everyone to stay and thrive here in our community. Specifically, I hope that a decade from now our elected leaders have taken concrete steps to make it possible for all DC residents to afford a place to live, find high-quality child care for their kids, walk, bike and take public transit all across the city, and pay off student loan debt and close the racial wealth gap.
Hernandez, Daniel: A more walkable (and bike-able and metro-able) and affordable DC.
Kennedy, Patrick: My vision for the District in ten years entails having a city where meaningful amounts of affordable housing is available all across the city, where neighborhoods and the small businesses in them are diverse and thriving because of the mix of residents new and old living within them at all income levels.
It entails having an education system where we have fully funded investments in Birth-to-3 and where there are multiple systems of feeder schools (not just Wilson) where a family can start their child at school in kindergarten and feel confident in the education that he or she will get all the way through high school. It also means we’ll have made meaningful progress closing our achievement gap, establishing a more collaborative and constructive relationship between families with children who have special needs and the schools that serve them. It also means that we have established a more cooperative relationship between DCPS and the charter sector under the auspices of a State Education Agency and Deputy Mayor who facilitate coordination between the two such that they complement, not crowd out, one another.
I also envision a public transportation that is the envy of peer cities across the country, where we’ve started work on the next generation of new Metro lines to serve a growing region with the District at its center, but where we’ve made considerable down payments by improving our bus system so that everyone in the
District lives within a quarter mile of a bus route that operates every 15 minutes, at least 15 hours a day, seven days a week. We’ve also built out a network of safe street infrastructure so that people feel safe and comfortable riding bikes and scooters in the street, making our sidewalks more comfortable for pedestrians. All of this has contributed to reduced congestion and reduced vehicle emissions, improving our air quality.
Finally, and most comprehensively, I would say that my vision of where we’re going to be in ten years is that we have recovered from the current health crisis and taken the lessons that we’ve learned from it to make a better city. Ten years from now, I hope that we’re still prospering the way that we have for the last decade, but I hope that we’ve done a better and more purposeful job of making that growth inclusive, and using the proceeds of that prosperity to reduce health, education, and housing disparities for the less fortunate.
Pinto, Brooke: I hope that in 10 years, D.C. will be a more equitable city that is stronger and better prepared for crises like the one we are currently experiencing. All of our policies, from housing to education, should be guided by compassion and an appreciation for diversity. Our schools and neighborhoods should not be segregated by race and socio-economic status. We should implement more creative housing strategies that mix income levels and lead to more inclusive neighborhoods.
Putta, Kishan: DC in 10 years needs to be affordable for all residents. We cannot continue our current trajectory - prices and housing costs are increasing to the point that current residents are displaced, cost of living is increasing faster than salaries and wages, and in times of crisis there is too little assistance that comes too late. I hope in 10 years, the District shall foster and encourage an economy that cares more and tries to help those who are disadvantaged, something I think of as a “caring economy”. A caring economy is one in which there are many economic opportunities; where people are able to live affordably with the ability to save up, and climb the economic ladder. To do this, we need to begin working now, and that means helping our most vulnerable during the health crisis, setting up training and job opportunities for the recovery, pushing for federal assistance, and ensuring quality educational opportunities are provided for all.
Venice, Katherine: We all know that DC is an absolutely phenomenal, truly unique city. It is the city that I chose to make my permanent home, having previously lived in 5 countries and a number of other cities in the US. As someone who is very committed to my community, I care deeply about striving to make it a better city for all Ward 2 residents and Washingtonians.
This is my vision for DC, which I will work hard towards if elected Ward 2’s next Councilmember:
Zhang, Yilin: I think it’s important to remain open and flexible to what our future could look like. With that said, I am committed to creating an environment that is inclusive, safe, and community-centered.
Evans, Jack: During my tenure on the DC Council, I was referred as “the” Councilmember of the Arts. I have always been a strong advocate and supporter for the DC Commission for Arts and Humanities. I have advocated for and supported: The Arena Stage, Shakespeare – Harman Center, Studio, Woolly Mammoth Theater Companies; Corcoran, Phillips, Women’s Arts Museums and National Portrait Gallery.
Grossman, Jordan: Our vibrant and dynamic arts community is one of Ward 2’s most treasured resources. If elected, I would strive to be the arts community’s biggest advocate on the Council. Specifically, I would fight to maintain the Commission on Arts and Humanities’ independence and resist any efforts to change grants to loans or to allow political censorship of projects. I also believe we must ensure arts and culture venues have the support they need – including operations and maintenance support – to keep their doors open. We also must be cognizant of the diverse needs of the vast array of arts organizations in Ward 2 and across DC, particularly smaller or newer entities and organizations. One way to do so is to provide predictability regarding the timing and length of application processes and grant awards – as well as providing funding for the longest time periods possible – to facilitate longer term planning for arts and culture enterprises whose very existence can be threatened by delays or uncertainty in public support for their work.
Hernandez, Daniel: I’d continue existing support of the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities. I’d also like to see more streamline permitting processes for events.
I’d also like to ensure we continue to support the DC Underground as an artistic space.
Kennedy, Patrick: We should support arts and culture not just for their intrinsic value of what they do to enrich people’s lives and promote creativity, but because they contribute tremendously to our economy. Whether it’s the performing arts and the events that are put on which attract people to our city or art galleries that enliven neighborhoods and give people a place to showcase their talent and find fulfillment, a great city cannot be without a commitment to great culture.
In a high-cost area like Ward 2, in particular, though it is a challenge for many in the arts to maintain a presence here. The cost of rent in our commercial areas is prohibitive for many galleries, to take one example. That’s why I would focus on two things in particular: facilities and business plans.
We need to better consider how we can use existing public facilities to promote and facilitate access for those that are in the arts communities, so as to enhance public exposure to the arts. We should also establish a pool of financing to be made available for cultural institutions to acquire, renovate, and maintain their own spaces.
To ensure cultural institutions can operate sustainably, we should offer robust assistance to artists and cultural promoters in terms of creating a viable business plan. The same way the Department of Small and Local Business Development aims to support small businesses, connect to opportunities, and learn best practices (however imperfect it may be at doing that), there should be an equivalent mandate on the part of D.C. government to help cultural institutions who face many of thesame challenges in terms of needing to be financially sustainable, but who have a unique role and pathway to success as compared to other small businesses.
Pinto, Brooke: I pledge to protect funding for our arts and culture programs. We should also invest in after school education for kids, so they can learn new skills, develop new interests, and develop a passion in the arts.
Putta, Kishan: My family has supported the local arts scene in Ward 2 for years. We even sponsored a show at our favorite playhouse - Keegan Theater - on Church Street. With such a historic and culturally rich city as DC, we must allow our artists room to grow and thrive with assistance through educational partnership and public-private programs. If elected, I will make sure that we continue to find innovative ways to help support our artists and to continue to cement the culture and legacy of our Ward and its neighborhoods. As Councilmember, I will push for individual neighborhoods to revisit their history and use local artists to set up murals or other artistic endeavors to help integrate our long neighborhood history into our present and future. I will also do what LA does and hire artists into residencies in the DC government to help bring creative approaches to public policy.
Venice, Katherine: As a professionally-trained artist myself (classical musician, opera and choral singer, who has performed repeatedly at the Kennedy Center and other leading concert halls in NYC, London and beyond), the arts have always been the backbone and enabler of my life, shaping even my two-decade career as one of the largest pension fund investors in the country and later as a pioneering ethical reformer of capitalism, reversing economic inequality.
The world-class arts and culture scene here in Ward 2 and DC as a whole is truly extraordinary, and one of the many blessings that make the District such a unique place to live.
Arts and culture play an incredibly important part in civic life, providing community cohesion, vibrancy and identity. They are also key re-enforcers of strong mental well-being for the community and greatly enrich quality of life for residents – which in turn enable residents to be more productive as economic assets and in other areas of their lives.
Arts and culture are also an important part of the local economy, responsible for numerous jobs not only in the front-lines of art and culture, but also behind-the-scenes, with technical and other support roles. They also function as economic growth anchors for surrounding small businesses such as restaurants, bars, retail outlets and more.
Unfortunately, the arts and culture sector experienced a considerable challenge last year with the upheaval and uncertainty plaguing DC’s Commission on Arts and Humanities over a sustained period, wrecking havoc on the ability of artists and small arts entities’ to plan ahead and thrive. Now, with the economic effects of the pandemic hitting the local economy hard, this has thrown a once-in-a-lifetime sucker-punch straight at the arts and culture community. Not only that, but the recently-announced federal fiscal stimulus package has left the community with far less than what it needs, as most of the funding targeted large institutions, not individual artists, most of whom eke out a living in the gig-economy holding other gigs and part-time jobs.
As tax revenues fall and the imperative to cut expenditure across DC Government mounts, the arts and culture sector will come under immense funding pressure. It will be important to realize that trickle-up economics – the vital importance of supporting DC’s artists, local entrepreneurs and small businesses – will be critical in terms of preserving jobs and stopping the already-gigantic economic impact spreading further across the District’s economy, creating potentially long-term damage. I have detailed more of this economic imperative in my letter to DC Council of March 24.
Zhang, Yilin: The arts and humanities are both an important part of Ward 2 and DC culture. I believe we need to put equal focus on the arts and humanities, and have more creative, affordable spaces like STABLE arts studio.
Evans, Jack: I strongly support Events DC, with proper oversight. When created, it merged the Convention and Sports entertainment facilities: RFK Stadium, National’s Park, Audi Soccer Stadium, Capital One Arena and Training Facility, Washington Convention Center and Convention Center Hotel (Marriot Marquee).
Fanning, John: Events DC provides a critical role in promoting the hospitality and tourist industry which employs over 55,000 residents and generates a significant amount of tax revenue that funds important social service programs in our city.
Grossman, Jordan: Events DC has made a number of questionable spending decisions, such as sponsoring a second division Welsh second team and paying for an esports-themed bar, as well as giving its CEO a $150,000 bonus. Additionally, the Office of the DC Auditor estimated that Events DC would have nearly $180 million in excess reserves above and beyond what is needed for all existing commitments in fiscal year 2020. At a time when it’s getting harder and harder for Ward 2 residents to afford the housing, child care, transportation and other costs necessary to stay in our neighborhoods, these are simply not the right uses of public funds. As a councilmember, I would explore any available options to redirect these dollars to affordable housing, funding the Birth-to-Three for All DC Act so no family spends more than 10 percent of their income on child care costs, and other priorities that will make the District a more progressive and equitable place for residents and their families.
Hernandez, Daniel: I do think there is value in the existing segmentation of spending and finance control. Direct council control I could see as problematic and it is necessary to encourage tourism and events.
I would, however, like to see us better able to address surpluses in revenues. Whether that’s a readjustment of the actual taxes or better allocating the funds to address homelessness and education needs.
Proper auditing of expenses and pay packages (in particular performance bonuses) should also be up for review.
Kennedy, Patrick: It’s important to have an organization performing the functions of Events DC. That is, maintaining venues and marketing efforts that boost our tourist economy and draw entertainment dollars into the District while enriching cultural and recreational opportunities for residents.
That said, the organization has become too self-perpetuating. It has accumulated reserves beyond what it needs to conduct maintenance on its existing facilities and I’m concerned that our elected officials have taken a back seat in terms of its strategic planning. I am not convinced that we should, for example, be stockpiling money and facilitating the construction of a football stadium as a top priority.
Decisions like that have been made without a real public discussion. Sometimes Events DC gives the impression of being an organization on auto-pilot, proceeding in accordance with an economic development strategy set long ago and which few current elected leaders seem to have a say in.
Perhaps this impression isn’t fair, but that points to a particular issue with Events DC which is that it hasn’t operated with much transparency. It is a quasi-public entity with a considerable, dedicated stream of funding outside of the direct control of elected leaders. I think businesses invested in the tourist economy would contend that that’s important, to keep some of the tax revenues raised from tourists in the realm of things that serve the tourist economy. That’s a legitimate point of view, but we’re currently out-of-balance and I’m concerned the current structure of the organization and its relationship to the Council doesn’t allow for a proper re-balancing.
What I don’t want to end up facing, one day, is a request for the Council to ratify a stadium project or the infrastructure elements thereof without a full discussion of our spending priorities. The current system essentially incentivizes the construction of sports and entertainment venues because the dedicated revenue that funds Events DC is restricted from being spent on other potential uses. These projects are prioritized, then, under a structure that is somewhat self-perpetuating.
The District of Columbia might have needed to front public money for large stadium projects and things like the convention center decades ago because the city was in a different place and needed to lure people back. It didn’t really have a lot of leverage negotiating with sports teams, and it certainly didn’t when Major League Baseball could have relocated the Expos anywhere. There was a time and a place for the strategy it has pursued, then, but I believe it’s outmoded for our current time. Seattle and San Francisco are two excellent examples of cities whose leaders and residents have made the conscious decision to no longer engage in public financing of new professional sports venues.
So as we consider future requests, as might surely come from Ted Leonsis for a new arena or upgrades to Capital One Area, or the Lerner family for improvements to Nationals Park (a retractable roof enhancement was already floated seven years ago), I think that we should be in a better position vis-a-vis Events DC to insist on private financing for new or replacement venues. Right now, we’re essentially negotiating against ourselves or not negotiating at all by stockpiling public money (and it is public, whether it’s raised from tourists or residents) and limiting its potential use to a narrow set of cases that basically entail funding new or renovated sports venues.
Pinto, Brooke: It is important that EventsDC, while independent, realizes they must uphold the public trust. When the Mayor nominates board members, we must have a full and thorough public vetting before Council confirmation. I commit to vigorous oversight, and I’m proud that I was at OAG when we determined that EventsDC had to turn over more than $40 million they were holding in reserves to the general fund for important city services.
Putta, Kishan: Events DC provides does help promote our city and that is important for our economy. But I believe we need to be much more vigilant in our oversight of their funding levels. As we face a strong upcoming economic crisis thanks to COVID-19, it is essential that we assist those who need it most. But there must always be a balance, in times of crisis and in times of prosperity.
Venice, Katherine: With regard to Events DC, various advocacy groups, ethical experts and the DC Auditor have pointed to a long list of deeply-concerning, material examples of a lack of basic oversight, accountability and transparency; to financial irregularity, blatant ethical lapses and conflicts of interest; to the mis-use of DC residents’ hard-earned tax-dollars to fund Councilmember perks, lobbyists’ eye-watering pay-checks, and projects that lack demonstrable value-creation for tax-payers; and to the public subsidization of badly-managed private enterprises, allowing private businesses and individuals to benefit far more from public assets than tax-payers themselves are.
This is a clear case of government over-reach, as well as value-destruction of tax-dollars that could be far more meaningfully spent and leveraged on addressing the lack of affordable housing in the District. In this regard, I believe that Chairman Mendelson, Councilmember Allen and the DC AG took the ethically and fiscally correct stance on this point last year.
It is also another example of the difficulties imposed unduly upon the District’s small business community (Events DC is of course funded by taxes imposed upon restaurants and hotels), who have been struggling to survive even during the economically strong pre-pandemic times.
Going forward, given that we are now already in a deep recession, which the country’s leading economists warn could well turn into an economic depression, it is clearly time to offload Event DC and divert those funds and resources towards keeping a roof over the heads of the District’s housing-vulnerable residents and other more pressing priorities impacting District residents’ lives.
Indeed, with the majority of the economic fall-out of the pandemic still ahead of us, big cuts to the DC Government budget are a given, and this is one obvious place to start.
Evans, Jack: Before moving forward, it must be further examined and studied. While I am against the ban (the ban will dilute the available residential parking spaces that are already in short supply), I support the creation of dedicated bus lanes on 16th Street.
Fanning, John: I am supportive and know it could reduce congestion and air pollution in the city. However, I would like to do more research into the feasibility study and see if the proposal adequately addresses the community’s transportation needs.
Grossman, Jordan: As discussed in more detail below, I believe we must take bold action to enhance public transit options throughout the District, particularly on major arteries like 16th Street. This may require the use of public space currently reserved for parking in order to better serve the community as a whole.
Hernandez, Daniel: I don’t personally see 16th ST during rush hour enough to comment on DDOT’s assessment of the necessity. I feel like I remember both directions being busy in the afternoon, but I don’t frequent it enough at that time to comment.
If it’s determined necessary for efficient bus travel, we should move forward with it. If not, we should consider keeping parking on the typically non-rush direction.
Kennedy, Patrick: I strongly support the 16th Street NW Bus Lanes Project, because I think it’s important that we take concrete steps to improve the reliability and speed of bus service in our congested areas. We need to prioritize the modes of travel that move the greatest number of people in the least amount of space. On 16th Street at rush hour right now, 50% of the people are moved in 3% of the vehicles (buses), yet experience overcrowded conditions and vehicular congestion that make their commute times no faster than for those traveling in single-occupant automobiles. That dynamic is not what we should be striving for if we want to encourage more people to use public transportation.
That said, my understanding is that parking would be eliminated in the off-peak direction on 16th Street despite the fact that the bus lane itself would only be in place in the peak direction (i.e., southbound in the morning and northbound in the afternoon). If it’s just a matter of a general travel lane or a parking lane, I would support restoring the parking during times and situations where it would not negatively interfere with bus traffic. I additionally support measures to increase enforcement of illegally stored vehicles on neighborhood streets so more curb space is freed up for residents and visitors who need to park a vehicle at the curb.
Pinto, Brooke: I am not in support of the planned ban. While I appreciate the sentiment behind it, the plan would eliminate 133 parking spaces. Parking is already limited for our neighbors, and we should not be losing more.
Putta, Kishan: On major transportation routes, it is uncommon to allow parking during rush hour. Most of 16th Street does not. I have spoken to DDOT, and they strongly believe that there will be strong benefits from this because their analysis shows that many people travel in both directions during rush hours, not just the peak direction. But we should see that data and I’ve requested it.
In fact, DDOT and Metro have been studying this project for over a decade, with the initial study being done 11 years ago in 2009! With over a decade of studies, analysis of alternative changes, and a plethora of public input, DDOT has concluded that by providing a dedicated bus lane during the rush hours in the morning and afternoon, we can improve bus service in one of the largest transit routes in our Ward. I do sympathize with residents affected by the few hours of parking restrictions.
Venice, Katherine: While we all want to transition DC to being a public-transit based city and reduce car usage, this clearly has to be done gradually and on an inclusive basis over time, recognizing and building into transition planning the complex needs (such as seniors with restricted mobility, etc) and transition costs for car owners. The parking ban on 16th Street was badly designed and badly implemented: it was clearly un-necessary to eliminate parking on both sides of the street at both morning and evening rush-hours, given very limited traffic flow northbound in the mornings and southbound in the evenings. Further, the public comment period was closed prematurely, resulting a lack of responsiveness to the public and a lack of remedy to a clearly dysfunctional outcome.
As such, I reached out repeatedly to three DDOT executives, asking for remedy to this.
Zhang, Yilin: I would first like to review the traffic history along 16th St. It’s possible that both sides are busy during rush hour, or possibly it is just one side. If the latter is the case, I would be more supportive of a ban on the busier side (if warranted) during rush hour. Ultimately, we do want less traffic in DC, but some residents require their car for their work or may require a car to travel within DC.
Evans, Jack: I strongly oppose any proposed cuts in bus services. Metro should provide bus service, especially to neighborhoods that don’t have immediate access to trains. DC should also invest to expand bus service.
Fanning, John: I am concerned that some of these cuts might have a negative impact on poor and working - class and senior residents who rely on these services. I will support increased funding for Metro if necessary to keep some of these routes in service.
Grossman, Jordan: I strongly oppose the planned bus cuts: we need to increase bus service, not cut it back. In fact, if elected, one of my top priorities will be dramatically improving bus service to provide a frequent, reliable, and affordable alternative to car use in all parts of DC in order to build a more sustainable future. Consistent with the Washington Area Bus Transformation Project’s recommendations, I believe we need to establish many more dedicated bus lanes on major arteries throughout the area, complete these projects much more quickly, give buses priority on roadways, run buses more often on as many routes as possible, set clear and specific targets for frequency, reliability, safety, and affordability, and empower local and regional officials to achieve a truly integrated regional transportation system.
More broadly, I believe we must prioritize equity considerations in the design and implementation of all our transportation initiatives. Many of our neighbors live in areas that have historically been poorly served by alternatives to cars or have been displaced from more transit-friendly DC neighborhoods that they or their families have lived in for decades. These residents may be forced to rely on cars – a means of transportation that they may not have chosen and may not be able to afford – due to the absence of frequent, reliable, sustainable, and attractive alternatives. If elected, one of my top priorities will be improving such alternatives in a way that prioritizes transit equity. This would include fighting for processes and resources for better bus and rail service, a truly comprehensive network of protected bike/scooter lanes, and street and infrastructure design that elevates the safety and comfort of pedestrians, transit riders, and cyclists. To do so, I would press the Council to use the type of racial equity tool called for in the Racial Equity Achieves Results (REAR) Amendment Act in order to ensure lower-income residents, as well as communities of color, are not unfairly or disproportionately affected by new or existing transportation programs and policies.
Hernandez, Daniel: Study after study shows that frequent, reliable service is the number one priority for riders and potential riders considering whether to use it. It is not the time to cut bus service.
We are unfortunately not in control of WMATA’s decision, so at best we can try to influence them. As DC, we should look at every option to ensure frequent, reliable bus service for our residents.
Kennedy, Patrick: I was against the bus cuts, authored and passed an ANC resolution against a few of them that impacted our neighborhood, and spoke out at the Metro Board hearing on behalf of our ANC. I’m pleased that the Metro Board opted not to advance them, particularly the proposals to cut the G2 and D1. There were some good things that Metro wanted to advance in the budget for next year, most notably free transfers between buses and trains, but it was unfortunate that to advance that they felt that they need to balance the budget on the backs of bus riders.
Such choices are, unfortunately, forced by laws adopted in Virginia and Maryland that limited the growth in those states’ operational subsidy for WMATA to no more than 3% on an annual basis, as part of the bargain that created a dedicated capital funding stream for the system a couple of years ago. Efforts are currently underway in both states to exempt service increases from that cap, but until the law changes it will be extraordinarily difficult for Metro to enhance service in any consequential way given that its organic growth in expenses just to provide the same service eats up most of the 3% allowance.
Though the exemption will be helpful, what we need to do (in order to avoid having to operate our transit service at a level set by the lowest regional common denominator) is take greater control of bus service in particular and fund it directly. We should work with Virginia and Maryland to get more Metrobus service classified as “non-regional” routes, because these are funded via a direct subsidy from the jurisdiction that they operate in rather than from the regional formula that pays for regional routes. An example of the difference is that the D2 is a “non-regional” route and the S2/S4 along 16th Street or the 52/54 on 14th Street are regional routes.
We need bus service that operates frequently, all day and every day, for those living a car-free or car-lite lifestyle in the urban core. Too much of our transit service is focused on peak commuting times. We maintain a bus fleet scaled to run rush hour service that sits dormant most of the day and all of the weekend, we need to invest in providing better service along routes like the G2 that run at unacceptable 30-minutes-or-greater frequency much of the time. That’s not a level of service that people can depend on, particularly if they need to transfer.
District leaders should also be more aggressive about creating dedicated bus lanes in congested corridors so that bus service can be made more reliable. I’m happy that DDOT has started to implement dedicated lanes like H/I downtown without the exhaustive, multi-year planning process that has delayed implementation of lanes on 16th Street. We need to scale these efforts, though, because buses that get stuck sitting in the same traffic with cars don’t move any faster. That’s not fair to those who use them, who are commuting in a space-efficient and environmentally sustainable way, and it’s also not encouraging drivers to switch modes either. It’s counterproductive.
Having worked at Metro in college and been passionate about public transportation all of my life, I think getting it right is so central to whether we create strong, equitable, and sustainable cities. We’re not building new, $1 billion-per-mile Metro tunnels in the short-to-medium term, so if we want to improve public transportation we have to invest in our bus service. I’ve fought on the ANC to try and get Circulator routes added and cobbled together cross-ANC support around advocacy to turn the H1 Metrobus between Foggy Bottom, Dupont, Adams Morgan, Columbia Heights, Washington Hospital center, and Brookland into an all-day service. We have to think intelligently about filling in the gaps in our rail system, and operate service that will be frequent enough and reliable enough to actually attract riders and compete with Uber, Lyft, and private cars.
Pinto, Brooke: I am not in support of the bus cuts. We need more access to bus routes, not less. We should be encouraging the use of public transportation, and part of that is making sure it is accessible. I will push for expanding bus lanes around the city to make sure they serve everyone.
Putta, Kishan: When I was first elected ANC Commissioner in 2012, I saw people waiting 20-40 minutes at bus stops on 16th Street as buses passed by full and way off schedule. I promised to help them, but many in DC government told me it would be too hard. I didn’t listen.
I printed and taped up signs up at every bus stop between downtown DC and Silver Spring - over 40 each way! As WAMU reported in an on-air story: “Putta tried to solicit commuters’ concerns on Facebook and Twitter, but drew his largest response the old fashioned way: he put up posters at bus stops asking commuters to contact him.” I held community meetings with WMATA and DDOT and testified before the council and WMATA. Our persistence paid off and we got larger buses, more buses, and finally convinced DDOT to bring back dedicated rush-hour bus lanes for the first time since Metrorail.
I care deeply about expanding bus service in DC, especially as DC’s congestion problems are only getting worse. And just like back then, when WMATA proposed these bus cuts I fought time and time again, testifying five times to extend the public comment period and get information out to the public so they can protest these bus cuts that would have been so detrimental to the lives of so many DC residents. And thanks to that advocacy and the work of my constituents, we were able to get WMATA to reverse all the bus cuts affecting Ward 2. I know how challenging it can be, what an uphill push it is, and I know bus issues and bus policy intimately. Progress has been frustratingly slow and I want to change that.
I will make transit - and especially bus service a top priority and will aim to join the Committee on Transportation and Environment. I will conduct strong oversight of our transportation agencies because we need to make much more progress much faster. I will push to implement more dedicated bus lanes, signal prioritization for buses, all-door boarding, and pre-payment -= improvements other cities have made to make bus trips quicker and easier and to encourage more ridership. I will also push to transition to a new fleet of reliable electric buses.
Lastly, I will push DDOT and WMATA to work together and to work faster on important priorities. I will suggest that both agencies fall under the same DC Council Committee and chair - it is inefficient to have them separated.
Venice, Katherine: I am very happy to see that most of the proposed bus cuts were dropped. I also salute Commissioner Kishan Putta’s long and dedicated advocacy on this. Going forward, we must continue to prioritize a bus service that better enables residents to transition away from car usage, by providing a more reliable, broader, affordable bus network.
Zhang, Yilin: I am not in favor of mass bus cuts. Many rely on the bus as an affordable way to travel into/out of and within the city.
Evans, Jack: As Chair of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, I advocated and supported a flat fare of $1.00 for everyone to travel anywhere in the region. I will continue to speak out on a flat fare and work to achieve this for every resident as Councilmember. I also championed the District’s Kids Ride Free program for all students in the city to ride public transportation at no cost.
Fanning, John: I am supportive of efforts to provide subsidies for poorer residents to use metro.
Grossman, Jordan: As noted above, I strongly support efforts to dramatically improve bus service to provide a frequent, sustainable, reliable, and affordable alternative to driving in all parts of DC. Consistent with the Washington Area Bus Transformation Project’s recommendations, we need to run buses more often on as many routes as possible, give buses priority on roadways, establish more dedicated bus lanes on major arteries throughout the area, set clear and specific targets for frequency, reliability, safety, and affordability, empower local and regional officials to achieve a truly integrated regional transportation system, and complete these projects more quickly.
More broadly, I believe the Council should make comprehensive transportation projects and initiatives a top priority. In addition to improving bus service, this means pressing for processes and resources that will provide for better rail service and address Metro choke points like the Rosslyn tunnel; establishing a truly comprehensive network of protected bike/scooter lanes; and executing street and infrastructure design that elevates the safety and comfort of pedestrians, transit riders, and cyclists. Doing so will make affordable transportation alternatives a much more realistic alternative for many in the District while also reducing the use of single-occupancy vehicles and improving air quality.
In addition to affordability, equity must be a central consideration in the design, implementation, and impact all of these efforts – particularly for those who live in areas that have historically been poorly served by transportation alternatives or who have been displaced from the neighborhoods their families have long called home. This is yet another reason that I strongly support the REAR Act, as mentioned above, to require the District to examine racial equity considerations in budgeting decisions and performance metrics. Similarly, we must ensure that transportation equity is central to Vision Zero efforts by actively resisting transportation proposals that disproportionately burden DC’s most marginalized communities, such as reductions in bus and rail service east of the River or late at night when many low-income workers need reliable transit the most.
Hernandez, Daniel: We need to expand bus service and ensure its affordability. I like that WMATA included ending the transfer penalty when going from bus-to-train.
I would like to see DC itself support night owl bus service as we continue to struggle with WMATA resuming late night service.
Kennedy, Patrick: I think it’s really important to implement free transfers between the bus and rail system, for starters. Most of our peer cities like New York and Chicago already have this in place; it’s the fair thing to do, because it makes it financially possible for users to take the combination of rail and bus trips that work best for them and not necessarily take a longer or more convoluted series of bus trips just to avoid an expense upcharge to the Metro. WMATA was most of the way toward implementing this in next year’s budget, but unfortunately for the reasons I articulated in the last question, it couldn’t quite get there. But I have advocated for this in opinion articles, through the ANC, and at the Metro Board for years and I will continue to fight for it because I think it’s foundational to creating a rational, equitable transit system where users are not bus riders or rail riders but Metro riders.
Separate from that, I really like Councilmember Allen’s idea of funding a $100 transit subsidy per month for every user. Clearly, it is off the table in the short term because of the public health and financial crisis that we face, but I liked the proposal (even if I thought the financing needed work) because it offered a meaningful financial incentive for people to use public transit. It would have been available only to residents, so unlike “fare free” policies that other systems have implemented or are considering, tourists and out-of-state commuters traveling in the District would still be paying fare revenue into the system. And because the District would be picking up the tab for its residents, Metro wouldn’t lose fare revenue and would actually gain ridership...making bus routes and rail service more cost-effective for them to operate and enabling WMATA to reinvest in improving service.
Pinto, Brooke: I am in favor of Councilmember Charles Allen’s proposal to provide DC residents with an $100 Metro subsidy. This should help decrease the burdensome cost of transportation for residents and encourage more people to take public transportation.
Putta, Kishan: I believe that ensuring that we have a comprehensive and reliable bus system is one of the paths to an affordable transit system in DC. The bus is one of the more affordable ways to get around DC as opposed to the metro or rideshares. I’ve long fought for better bus service in our city and my work was cited in the new book “Better Buses, Better Cities.” When Metro proposed bus cuts that would affect residents around the city, I testified 5 times against the cuts - thousands of neighbors, workers, and students relied on the routes they proposed to cut and could not afford the alternative options.
I agree with the principle of Councilmember Charles Allen’s bill to provide all DC residents funds to be able to access public transportation. It is a bold initiative to help ensure equitable access to affordable transportation. It is my wholehearted belief that if public transportation is efficient, affordable, and reliable, then ridership will increase dramatically, people will drive less, and carbon emissions will be greatly reduced. As a member of the Council, I will be a fierce advocate for maintaining affordable transit options and expanding services so that people all around the city have access to reliable public transit.
Venice, Katherine: [No response submitted]
Zhang, Yilin: We need to ensure a variety of available, convenient, and efficient modes of transportation. I believe the long-term goal needs to be to ensure access to quality grocery stores, quality education, comprehensive health care facilities, and community parks in all neighborhoods, within a specified walking distance.
What are your thoughts on the regulation of scooters on the sidewalk? What are your thoughts on how to ensure everyone who uses our streets obeys the same traffic laws and regulations, and respects driving (road use) protocols? (Bikes, scooters, etc).
Evans, Jack: Scooters should be ridden in bike lanes and on the street. The sidewalks should be used primarily for pedestrians and people with disabilities. With that said, we should look to have stronger traffic enforcement and build safe alternative transportation infrastructure so that way scooter users, bicyclists, and others, feel safe traveling on the streets.
Fanning, John: I am currently opposed to scooters being used to ride on our sidewalks if there's designated bike/scooter lanes available. I think that there should be greater enforcement of the traffic laws in the city and that bikes and scooters should be part of this oversight.
Grossman, Jordan: a truly comprehensive and integrated transportation system that serves all users well – pedestrians, scooters, cyclists, and drivers.
Hernandez, Daniel: Two things here I’d like to touch on.
First, I believe the best way to keep scooters off sidewalks are to make them feel safer on the street. Part of that is protected bike lines. Part of that is raising the speed limit from 10 to at least 15.
Second, I’d like to see a specific, dedicated traffic enforcement division similar to New York. MPD must juggle many different priorities and requirements. Traffic enforcement, understandably, often takes a backseat. By having agents dedicated to traffic enforcement, ensuring regular reliable enforcement is more achievable.
Kennedy, Patrick: In Ward 2 certainly, sidewalks aren’t a great place for scooters and bicycles, both for the users themselves and the pedestrians around them. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard from seniors, people with strollers or pets, and those with disabilities about close interactions with sidewalk riders and how uncomfortable it has made them. I think that underscores the need to work much harder to make sure there is safe, protected infrastructure so people who wish to use these and other personal mobility devices can do so safely and in the roadway.
These devices can play a constructive role in urban mobility to the extent that they replace trips that would otherwise be taken by car, but we need to adapt our infrastructure and establish a better culture of adherence to road rules by all users in order to promote better co-existence. There are lots of obligations to go around, and we ought to look at implementing things like the Idaho Stop and other regulatory changes as well that will facilitate a culture of compliance with the law. There also needs to be enforcement. Rules without enforcement are just suggestions, and right now there is one police officer that regularly does traffic duty in the whole of Ward 2. That’s not going to move the needle with scofflaws on any mode of transportation, so we need a more conscious strategy of resource deployment on MPD’s part into traffic enforcement.
Pinto, Brooke: Current scooter laws are too confusing as they are inconsistent throughout the city. Speed regulations also deserve more attention because scooters are able to reach a much higher speed than the current speed regulation limit . We either need to require scooter companies to make them slower or we need to change the existing speed limit laws. I would also like to expand bike lanes so that they are safer for bikes and scooters.
Putta, Kishan: I’ve spoken with many residents about this issue. Some see the scooters as a revolutionary manner of traveling short distances quickly, all while not adding to congestion or to greenhouse gases. But others, including the visually impaired are concerned about instances of poorly parked scooter and safety.
While I think scooters have promise in our multimodal transit system, we must do more to ensure safety. And the companies need to do more too to ensure/enforce safe parking by their members.
In my opinion, more protected/separated lanes would help. Data shows that dedicated lanes, for public transportation or bikers/scooters, dramatically lower the threat of being hit by a vehicle and forces vehicles to adhere to these lanes. Along with this, when people have dedicated infrastructure, they are more likely to abide by the laws and regulations for road use. As councilmember, I will push for more dedicated lanes, just as I have done with the 15th street dedicated bike lanes and 16th street dedicated bus lanes.
I will also push for more and better signage and have lots of experience doing so.
Venice, Katherine: While being supportive of scooters and all environmentally-friendly forms of mobility, it is clear that Ward 2 residents feel that pedestrian safety on sidewalks has been greatly compromised. This is especially important for seniors, for persons with disability, for parents with children, and for dog-walkers and their dogs. We need to prioritize safety on our sidewalks. That starts with enforcing the scooter ban on sidewalks in the CBD, but also ensuring that one car parking slot on each block is dedicated to scooter parking, so that scooters do not need to parked on sidewalks. As a cyclist myself, I also think it important to prioritize a network of protected bicycle lanes rather than painted lanes as much as possible, as the latter are too often problematic in terms of vehicles being in these lanes.
Zhang, Yilin: I do not believe scooters should be on the sidewalks. It can be a safety hazard for pedestrians and those riding scooters. With that said, we need more bike lanes where appropriate, so that those riding scooters can also have a place to travel.
Evans, Jack: It’s vitally important that Metro continues to work on segments of the rail system that need improvements to avoid situations like the 2015 L’Enfant Plaza smoke incident where one person died and many more were sent to hospitals. However, we should be at a point where Metro can do routine maintenance and focus on large scale projects while providing a level of service that riders can depend on.
Metro should return to late night service hours so that way the people who work in the hospitality industry can have a reliable and safe ride home. As Chair of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, I led negotiations to eventually return to late night hours. Now is the time to return to later hours.
There should be 8 car trains that should run every three to five minutes to increase service. Everything needs to be done in balance to ensure quality, affordability, and accessibility for riders while prioritizing safety.
Fanning, John: I support expanding the operating hours for metro service, both bus and rail service.
Grossman, Jordan: I will push for the Council to leverage its authority in the appointment and budget processes to achieve meaningful Metro reforms. In addition to the changes outlined above – such as a relentless focus on frequency, reliability, and safety, addressing Metro choke points like the Rosslyn tunnel; dramatically improving bus service; and executing street and infrastructure projects that improve the daily experience of transit users – I would fight for restoration and expansion of late night hours, new initiatives to make transit more affordable and accessible, especially for marginalized communities, and reforms to achieve a truly integrated regional transportation system featuring routes and procedures that are easily understood by all residents.
Hernandez, Daniel: As Metro is outside of the DC Council jurisdiction, I cannot promise any specific changes. I’ve touched on my priorities for public transportation earlier in the questionnaire that I would advocate for, however.
Kennedy, Patrick: Since the earlier question dealt with buses, I’ll focus on answering this specifically in respect to Metrorail. I think that the single best thing we can do with Metrorail is improve service frequency during off-peak periods, that is, mid-days, evenings, and weekends. We have a fleet of railcars that is substantially unused outside of rush hours because we provide peak-focused commuter service, but if we’re going to be providing public transportation options to people that enable them to live more sustainable lifestyles (living car free or going from two cars to one and taking fewer trips), then we have to recognize that people’s commuting needs don’t solely exist around going to work in the morning and returning in the evening.
Whether it’s running errands, or going to appointments, a place of worship, or out to eat or for entertainment, we want to operate a public transportation that serves as many of those trips as conveniently as possible. That’s going to mean improving our bus system, but it also should mean that trains come so frequently during so-called “off-peak” hours that people know they can show up and reliably board a train every five or six minutes. That’s how our peer cities who take public transportation seriously operate their rail lines, because (especially if your trip requires a transfer) 15-to-20 minute waits are just not acceptable for most people. Faced with that, they will choose another mode.
The reliability of the rail system has improved a noticeable amount in the last few years, and I do credit a lot of that to Metro’s current leadership. I think the system is better than it was, and we have to ensure that WMATA has the track time and space to perform maintenance on the system to keep up reliability, but I think that we can also do a much better job of performing track work efficiently and minimizing customer disruption. Again, Metro has gotten somewhat better at this, but there was a regular practice that they undertook where if a segment of a line was single-tracking for maintenance purposes over an entire weekend, that the entire line’s frequency was reduced considerably. That, in effect, took a localized maintenance job and metastasized its service effects across the entire system. By taking a more strategic and customer-focused look at some ongoing rail maintenance, using strategies like mid-line turnbacks, using dropback operators to turn trains around more quickly, and considering the merits of bus substitutions more regularly to maintain normal service along most of the line, I think that the system can continue to perform its needed level of preventative maintenance while establishing a degree of usability off-peak that many other systems in the world that are much older manage to do.
Finally, I think it’s really important to implement a more equitable fare policy to allow free transfers between buses and trains like most of our peer cities do, similar to Chicago or New York City. This was proposed but largely stripped out of the WMATA budget for next fiscal year. If implemented along with the $2 flat rail fare that will be in place next year, it would mean that someone could go from anywhere in the region to any other part of the region using regular rail and bus services for $2. That’s how you incentivize people to use public transportation financially, and make life easier for those who already do.
We really need to center it as a priority so that people are encouraged to use the system holistically. That will make service planning easier, enable low-income people to take faster trips (and not necessarily have to take buses over long distances to avoid a rail surcharge), and make the system considerably more affordable for its best customers. We should want people to think of themselves not as bus riders or rail riders, but as Metro riders, and we should strive to offer affordable, reliable, frequent, fast, and high-quality service on all modes.
Pinto, Brooke: Fully funding the metro should be a priority. I am in favor of stopping expansion projects until Maryland and Virginia agree to pay a fair share of the upkeep costs.
Putta, Kishan: I’ve been working with and pushing Metro for almost a decade.See earlier answers on better bus service. I will push to implement more dedicated bus lanes, signal prioritization for buses, all-door boarding, and prepayment -= improvements other cities established to make quicker and easier bus trips and to encourage more ridership.
In addition to the points made above, I will push for a cleaner, all-electric bus fleet.
I will make transit - and especially bus service - a top priority and will aim to join the Committee on Transportation and Environment. I will conduct strong oversight of our transportation agencies because we need to make more progress, much faster.
Lastly, I will push DDOT and WMATA to work together and faster on important priorities. I will suggest that both agencies fall under the same DC Council Committee and chair as it seems inefficient to have them separated.
Venice, Katherine: [No response submitted]
Zhang, Yilin: The metro needs longer hours, like it had in the past. Many individuals who work in DC full-time but do not reside in DC, and work late hours, including in the restaurant industry, often rely on the metro to get to and from work.
As a parent of a child attending a Title I school, we feel that charter schools get more money while undertaking fewer responsibilities and with less accountability. What would you do to ensure equity among all of DC’s children?
I believe that any government department, agency, school or institution that is publicly funded by DC tax revenue should be subject government oversight and FOIA request processes.all schools, DCPS and public charter schools should be subject to FOIA requests.
Fanning, John: Each charter and public school receive the exact amount of money per pupil. I will continue to support the adoption of more stringent educational standards for all public and charter schools.
Grossman, Jordan: I am very proud to have the endorsement of the Washington Teachers Union. If elected, equity in our schools will be my top education priority. This includes rigorous oversight to ensure that at-risk funding supplements rather than supplants base school funding and that legal protections against sharp, unfair funding cuts to neighborhood schools are enforced. I will also support efforts to establish a unified, city-wide education plan that provides for cooperation and planning across sectors and brings all of the many education bodies in the District together to forge agreement on the shared, high-level objectives and outcomes that the Council, the Mayor, parents, teachers, and students should focus on over the long term.
With respect to disparities in treatment between traditional and charter schools, I believe the use of public dollars should be accompanied by public accountability. This includes applying the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) equally to charter schools, which educate nearly half of DC students. If elected, I would support Councilmember Charles Allen’s Public School Transparency Amendment Act to equalize the transparency requirements between the traditional and charter public school sectors. I have not seen persuasive evidence that doing so would result in an overwhelming financial or administrative burden for charter schools in the District. More broadly, I believe conducting rigorous oversight of all publicly funded entities is an essential function of the DC Council, and that responsibility applies to traditional public schools and public charter schools alike—despite the differences that exist in their structures, standards, or how they are governed.
I will also take action to combat teacher turnover—an issue that can contribute to inequity in or schools. DCPS teachers are regularly required to go above and beyond their core duties to address challenges that extend far beyond the classroom. I support enhancing opportunities for teachers to make their voices heard in DCPS policies, providing more support to special education students and teachers, reducing unnecessary or overly burdensome requirements, and funding for social-emotional programming and trauma informed practices and screening. We also must support teachers and students outside the classroom to make it easier for them to stay and thrive in their communities. This includes investments in addressing gun violence, fighting corruption, and making it easier to afford a place to live, find high-quality early education, walk, bike, or take public transit to school, and pay off student loan debt.
Finally, I believe we must fix the broken contracting and facilities management challenges that hold back our schools. The Council has a clear responsibility to ensure that the money it appropriates is being spent effectively and efficiently, particularly when it comes to school facilities serving our children. This process also should be transparent. School staff and community members must be kept informed of the status of work orders and clear processes and procedures should be effectively communicated and actually followed to minimize the burden and confusion that we see all too often with respect to the facilities our schools rely on every day. The Council should bolster oversight of these issues to ensure repairs and other needs in our schools are addressed in a satisfactory and equitable manner that prioritizes the safety of students and school staff, minimizes disruption and confusion, and keeps school staff and the community up-to-date every step of the way.
Hernandez, Daniel: As someone who grew up in an under resourced school in a low income neighborhood, I will be deeply engaged in ensuring our students see the support they need.
Part of this is funding, and part of this is ensuring effective use of that funding through oversight.
Kennedy, Patrick: I think this might be a case where the grass always looks greener from where one stands. Many charter school parents and administrators that I talk to feel like they get shortchanged in funding because charter schools are responsible for obtaining and maintaining their own buildings, and many feel that the facilities allotment they get for this has not kept up with the rising cost of physical space in the District. Additionally, because each charter school is its own Local Education Agency, they are responsible for certain administrative expenses that are otherwise born for DCPS schools by the Central Office, and which therefore doesn’t get passed down to the school-based budget.
That being said, there are certainly some charter operators that are very well-capitalized with private endowments that supplement the public money that they receive, so relative to Title I DCPS schools there absolutely can be a divide. I certainly agree that since charter schools are public schools, they should be subject to a greater degree of transparency and accountability to match.
As someone who has spent the vast majority of my time in education advocacy invested in and working with my local DCPS school (saving it from closure and fighting for staff and facilities every year), I nonetheless feel that approaching education issues like they’re a zero-sum isn’t constructive.
I don’t believe that one has to be anti-charter to be strongly pro-DCPS, and I think we have to respect the fact that parents are always going to attempt to put their kids in the school that they feel is right for them, and that choice is not always ideological but personal.
My goal is to devote time, attention, and effort to making sure that DCPS competes and wins over more of those families. Education in this city is, as a matter of reality, a function of choice and competition now. There are a lot of charter schools that provide a great education for families, with specialized curricula and learning models that can provide a template for scaling success. There’s nothing wrong with that at all, but I think that we can work to build up a strong system of by-right, neighborhood DCPS schools and application DCPS schools so that families don’t have to win the lottery to place their child in a quality school.
To that end, I think that one thing that we can do to promote equity in our system is introduce an at-risk preference for the lottery and set aside a certain number of seats at both DCPS and charter schools for at-risk families. I’m enormously proud that Stevens Early Childhood Education Center, opening this fall in my neighborhood, will be the first school in the District to have an at-risk preference in its admissions process to give a leg up to the families that are most in need and who have traditionally lacked the advantages that more privileged families have in getting their kids into the best schools.
The other thing that the Stevens example points to that will be central to equity is investment in early childhood education, specifically Birth-to-3. There is a tremendous amount of cognitive development that occurs at the early ages, and the most persistent issue in our education system is the achievement gap. A lot of that is baked into the system at the start, from the difference between children that are read to at a young age and are exposed to thousands more words than children from less-privileged backgrounds. Giving all families in the District access to high-quality early childhood education from birth is critical to closing that gap before it is even allowed to open.
Pinto, Brooke: Charter’s play an important role in providing alternative education options for marginalized families. Charter schools serve 46% of DC students, and 90 percent of those students are black or Latino. Charter schools must be held to the same standards of transparency and accountability as neighborhood public schools.
Putta, Kishan: I am a strong supporter of public schools and served proudly on the DCPS Chancellor’s Parents’ Cabinet. In my ANC district, I represent 2 DCPS schools, Hardy Middle and Duke Ellington. I also have many current and former constituents who attend charter schools and are well-served by them.
The city has a responsibility to ensure that all of its students have access to a quality education. When I talk to teachers, parents, and school leaders at PTO meetings, the Parents Cabinet, and my other civic engagements, what I hear is that there seems to be a lack of communication and engagement between school systems, the community, and elected officials.
I’ve heard from some DCPS principals that their schools are accepting students mid-year without getting the funding they need for them. I therefore think we should consider making per-pupil funding disbursements not just once a year, but either twice a year or quarterly to account for changes in school population. I also believe in more accountability and transparency for all schools and local education agencies (LEAs).
Another way to better ensure equity is to have a city-wide educational plan that would ensure alignment between DCPS and charter schools, as well as with other other critical child services including wraparound services (e.g. physical and mental health services, family support, and parent education). I would like to see a city-wide educational plan that includes our city’s strategy for ensuring that we have quality schools in every neighborhood, transparent and equitable school funding, and plans for collaboration across sectors. The process should be community-driven rather than top-down. It should involve community meetings in every ward, opportunities for teachers and school-based staff to provide input, engagements for students, and opportunities for community based organizations to come together. And from this, we can prepare to plan where funding should be given, what areas need reforming, what is working and what is not, so that we can ensure quality, affordable education for all our children.
Venice, Katherine: [No response submitted]
Zhang, Yilin: Every child deserves quality education, no matter where they live and what type of institution they receive their education. This means, to name a few examples, working to lessen teacher turnover (it has been found that in underperforming schools tend to have higher teacher turnover, access to quality recreational resources, and working with local organizations to expand the classroom experience.
Currently, neighborhood DCPS schools are required to have all parents who wish to volunteer in their child’s school or chaperone field trips undergo background checks. This requirement has made it impossible for undocumented members of the community to participate fully in their children’s schools. Notably, this requirement does not apply to charter schools. What are your thoughts on this policy, and would you change it?
Evans, Jack: Policy should include all DC residents, documented and undocumented. Background checks should be in place to ensure students’ safety, but shouldn’t prevent undocumented parents from participating in their child’s education. I support policies that allows undocumented parents to be involved with their child’s education that also doesn’t put them in legal jeopardy.
I worked to bolster local protections for migrant citizens. I supported measures that assist DC’s undocumented immigrant residents in search of a better life by supporting and voting for the “DC Driver’s Safety Amendment Act.” I voted for the “Immigration Detainer Compliance Act”, which ensures the protection of our residents from the Federal government’s Secure Communities program which mandates fingerprints and detainment regulations that unfairly target immigrants.
Fanning, John: I think charter schools should also consider adopting this policy. Also, the District of Columbia is currently a sanctuary city and as a policy, doesn’t ask for the residency status of residents asking for background checks. We could also explore a waiver process.
Grossman, Jordan: I support changing this policy because I believe we should make it easier for all parents in our community to participate actively in their children’s education.
Hernandez, Daniel: While I can understand the extensive checks for some regular volunteers, parents should be able to chaperone their child’s field trips. I would support changing it.
Kennedy, Patrick: I think it’s worth considering whether school leadership should be empowered to make exceptions for trusted members of their community who can demonstrate good cause as to why the requirement amounts to an unjustifiable burden, perhaps using personal references as a substitute for a full background check. Alternatively, it has to be clear as a matter of law and DCPS policy that information obtained in a background check process cannot and will not be shared for the purposes of immigration enforcement.
It’s an unfortunate reflection of the times, but I think the basis of policy itself is in place for good reason. Many charters have adopted it voluntarily. In this day and age, schools assume a tremendous amount of scrutiny and liability if they facilitate close, regular access by adults to other people’s children without having performed any sort of background check.
Given the outrage that was expressed when it was revealed last year that a third of DCPS staff were on the job with expired background checks, and the outrage that would inevitably follow a school-based incident with a volunteer if that person had a checkered background, I’m not sure that it’s realistic to do away with the policy altogether.
Pinto, Brooke: This is extremely concerning. Parents should be able to chaperone their children’s field trips without the fear of being deported. I would like to know more about the specifics of the background check to find a solution so that they can be conducted without causing fear among undocumented parents.
Putta, Kishan: Field trips are very important, especially when we are blessed to live in such a historic city with great educational opportunities outside of school. I hope my son is able to learn as much outside of class as he does inside the classroom. But as a parent, while his enrichment is important, his safety is of the utmost priority. I would be willing to look into how restrictive these policies are, and see if there is any way to keep children safe but allow parents to participate.
I believe parental involvement is key to children’s education and would want to have as much opportunity for involvement as is possible. For example, I believe PTO meetings should be held with conference call capabilities for parents who work late hours, etc. And while this COVID-19 pandemic is an extremely scary and uncertain time, it has allowed many people to learn how to make meetings accessible remotely, and I hope to continue to work and expand this access so parents can continue to contribute and be involved in their children’s education.
Beyond that, I also think it is important to look into making equal safety standards for both DCPS and charter schools. If we are going to provide equitable education access for all students, the safety standards should also be equitable.
Venice, Katherine: [No response submitted]
Zhang, Yilin: All parents, regardless of their legal status, should be able and feel safe to participate in their children’s school activities. This is a vital part of a child’s upbringing, and helps make them and their families feel like part of the community. The technical response is to review the form, understand why the requirement (if important) does not apply to charter schools, and see if the question can be taken off without unintended consequences. The most important piece is that there needs to be trust in the community, and that requires ongoing work with community and faith-based organizations to ensure immigrant communities understand their rights and know where they can go to seek assistance.
Evans, Jack: I will work with all appropriate city agencies to ensure all our schools are performing at their peak. Although improving, DC schools continue to have an unacceptable low graduation rate. I believe it is essential to educate all students to deeper levels of learning, one which transcends surface levels of standardized models. We must push methodologies and comprehensive metrics which track individuals school improvement, morale, turnover, and graduation rates, that gauge whether students are engaging in higher-order-thinking, problem solving and communications skills.
Many classrooms are over capacity and teachers are not being given enough resources to meet educational objectives. I will make sure teachers and schools have enough resources to meet both of these needs. Education is the doorway to opportunity and teachers are the gatekeepers. As such, we must ensure that our teachers are supported, fully equipped, and operate in a supportive climate. That is why I introduced a mandate that every school be equipped with a full-time art teacher, music teacher, physical education teacher and librarian in every public school to make sure schools are well-rounded. I also proposed the “Character Education Implementation Act,” that will infuse our kids with the basic universal values into all aspects of school culture: honesty, hard work, self-respect, concern for others, cooperation, and self-knowledge.
Fanning, John: I would take a holistic look at some of the challenges facing Cardozo HS students and work to ensure that there is adequate fiscal support.
Grossman, Jordan: In addition to the approaches discussed above to prioritize equity, oversight, planning and coordination, structural support for teachers and students, and better contracting and facilities management, I believe we should explore suggestions from successful veteran teachers at Cardozo like Frazier O’Leary, Ward 4’s State Board of Education (SBOE) representative. O’Leary recently proposed a “concerted effort that places new teachers with mentors from within their school as well as via professional development opportunities, partner organizations or experienced teachers in other schools.” The Council should also support efforts to gather and analyze reliable data—such as the SBOE’s cross-sector survey of teachers and the new Education Research Practice Partnership—to better understand what schools like Cardozo need most.
Hernandez, Daniel: This is too complicated of an answer to address in this questionnaire. On my campaign site, I detail some starting positions for how I believe we can improve education across DC. I’m more than happy to chat at length on this topic.
In the briefest of terms, we need to ensure our children feel supported and are fed.
Kennedy, Patrick: It is very important to get the middle school feed functional for Cardozo as a first step to improving its performance. The current Cardozo Education campus retains
only about 13% of the students in its feeder pattern, a proportion which is among the lowest in the District. It is surrounded by application high schools like Banneker and Walls, and Columbia Heights Education Campus in Ward 1 captures many of the families from areas to its north that would otherwise feed Cardozo. Additionally, Dunbar High School is not a great distance away and has a competing feeder pattern of its own.
Faced with those challenges, it’s critically important that the District follow through on its commitment to establish a new Shaw Middle School. Without it, we’re losing families after the elementary grades to the charter sector, private schools, application schools, or relocation. Families need to have confidence that they can stay in the system and that their by-right school will provide their kid(s) with a high-quality education.
We have achieved phenomenal success with many of our elementary schools in and adjacent to this ward, including those that feed into Cardozo EC. Garrison is an amazing success story of a school whose test scores grew at some of the highest rates in the entire city. I would look to engage with the school communities (particularly at Garrison, Seaton, and Cleveland), DCPS planners, the mayor, deputy mayor, and chancellor, as well as neighboring councilmembers, to create a plan for a new Shaw Middle School on the best remaining site. More importantly, I would seek to attain buy-in for the school by securing investment in high-quality programming that aligns with the feeder elementaries (perhaps continuing dual-language offerings from Cleveland ES).
The curriculum and programming needs to be coherent, predictable, and aligned from kindergarten all the way to high school, .not only to attract neighborhood families, but also out-of-boundary students who would be attracted to specialized programming. We live in a city where close to 70% of public school students don’t attend their assigned DCPS school. Most people choose then attend either an out-of-boundary DCPS school or a charter school. We should embrace that as the opportunity that it is: to achieve diverse school communities alongside a rigorous, by-right system of neighborhood schools.
While the middle school piece is unquestionably pivotal for Cardozo’s success in the long-term, I don’t think that we have to wait to push for meaningful improvements at the high school in the near term. Since DCPS classified Cardozo as a one star school last year, some steps have already been taken that probably needed to be years ago: additional funding was put on the table and efforts have been made to give the middle school grades and high school grades different leadership so that more accountability and administrative attention can be focused.
One of the basic issues at Cardozo continues to be that the school’s programming and operations are too unfocused. DCPS has consistently expected that school to serve a great many functions across a student body that isn’t that large in size, and as a result it has never quite had the space, investment, time, and stability to do any single function well.
To take one example: the middle school grades were grafted onto the high school abruptly after Garnet-Patterson was closed seven years ago. There really wasn’t a great plan for how to integrate that into a 6-12 campus. The assumption for the last decade has been that that arrangement would be temporary, because a new Shaw Middle School had been consistently promised and planned for. As a result, the middle grades have always seemed to exist at Cardozo in a holding pattern without full commitment or investment from DCPS.
That said, I think Cardozo has a lot of potential. It is a phenomenal building, and there are some amazing equipment labs, resources, and course offerings there relating to STEM education. I think that more effort and attention just needs to be put into strengthening its feeder pattern, promoting alignment within that feeder pattern (including at Francis-Stevens, which is starting to break through DCPS’ traditional struggle to establish quality middle schools other than Deal) so that more families see Cardozo as a viable option.
Having worked closely to help turn around Francis, I see establishing Shaw Middle School and creating a strong PreK-12 feeder system in the center city all the way up to Cardozo as my number one localized priority and something that I’m excited to devote energy and attention to.
Pinto, Brooke: I will prioritize reducing the student to teacher ratio so that all students can have a tailored learning environment to address their needs. I would also expand the number of Advanced Placement classes offered. In the 2018-2019 school year, only thirteen percent of Cardozo students took an AP exam, compared to almost 50 percent of Wilson’s student body. We have to even the playing field at high schools across the city and ensure that all students have the tools they need to succeed in college.
Putta, Kishan: I am a strong supporter of public schools and served proudly on the DCPS Chancellor’s Parents’ Cabinet. The city has a responsibility to ensure that all of its students have access to a quality education.
When I talk to teachers, parents, and school leaders at PTO meetings, the Parents Cabinet, and my other civic engagements, they tell me their priority is that their children should have a quality educational path from kindergarten through high school.
When I was first elected in November 2012, our neighborhood got the bad news that both Garrison Elementary School and Francis Stevens Elementary School were slated for closure. I strongly opposed both of these closures. I will never forget the huge rally we helped to promote and organize at Francis Stevens and all the passionate stories and speeches we heard from the community. My family was in-boundary for Garrison Elementary and over the years, I attended several PTO meetings, LSAT meetings, as well as construction planning meetings to help support the renovation and revitalization of the school. I am so proud that both schools are doing much better and look forward to supporting them and all Ward 2 schools.
I’ve been to Cardozo several times - it’s a beautiful school and I was there for its grand reopening after its gorgeous renovations. Just like Garrison and Francis Stevens, I believe that if we support Cardozo, its performance will also improve. While there is security separating the two parts of the school, the middle school and the high school, I think we can do more to reassure parents and also establish some unique aspects or areas of focus to encourage parents. I would work hard to support these schools and families and to raise performance. It may not happen over night, but I believe that with commitment and support from the community and DC leaders it will happen. And I would be committed to that cause.
Venice, Katherine: [No response submitted]
Zhang, Yilin: Academic performance can and should be measured in different ways, not just by test scores. For the long-term success of our children and our schools, we need to look across the board and ensure the correct key indications and measures are in place, and the appropriate amount of staffing and resources are provided at each school.
Evans, Jack: I believe that there is no greater priority than the safety and security of our citizens. I have long recognized the unique public safety challenges confronting the Districts communities. The most important street to everyone is the street in front of their house.
As Chair of the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary (1997-1998), I introduced a myriad of legislation to reverse our city’s reputation as the “Murder Capital”. Since that time, crime in the District has significantly declined. This was no accident; I passed and endorsed legislation such as the “Omnibus Public Safety Amendment Act” to get prostitution off the streets and supported the creation of Gun and Drug Free Zones.
I worked to establish the Interagency Council on homelessness to coordinate with organizations to identify, track, and offer solutions to end homelessness among populations hit hardest, including veterans.
I will continue to build upon the foundation of my previous work by making public safety a priority. This includes strengthening the Metropolitan Police Department by ensuring they have the resources to successfully do their jobs. I introduced the MPD Minimum Staffing Act, which mandates a minimum police staff of 4,000 officers. It is also important to empower community organizations who are focused on making streets safer and reducing crime, through incentives, grant awards or tax relief.
Grossman, Jordan: As Ward 2’s councilmember, I would support policies to prevent violence and incarceration in the first place. I believe we should expand the Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement and the Attorney General’s Cure the Streets program, which use “proven, public-health strategies that treat violence like a disease that can be interrupted, treated, and stopped from spreading.” This includes recruiting “violence interrupters” who have deep roots in their neighborhoods to intervene before disputes escalate into violence – and before law enforcement needs to get involved.
I also strongly support the full and transparent implementation of the Neighborhood Engagement Achieves Results (NEAR) Act. Unfortunately, the NEAR Act is at risk of becoming an example of a dynamic that happens far too often on the DC Council, where members think their work is done after they pass a law. As I’ve learned from a decade in DC government and all three branches of the federal government, when a bill is passed, the work has just begun. Whether it is making benefits easier to access through a program that will affect nearly half of DC residents at DC’s Medicaid agency, implementing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) at the Department of Health and Human Services, or conducting oversight of the Trump Administration’s attempts to limit funding for states that chose to use a little-known provision of the ACA to help low-income residents in the U.S. Senate, I have extensive experience fighting to carry out laws as intended – including years after passage.
As a member of the Council, I will push for regular, transparent, and proactive NEAR Act oversight. The Council’s efforts here should involve a continuous process of examination, progress reporting, and improvement rather than seeking simple yes-or-no answers about the implementation of individual provisions. This kind of approach is particularly important for achieving the law’s overarching objectives of meaningfully shifting our criminal justice system to focus on violence prevention and addressing troubling racial disparities in policing. Such disparities have been confirmed as a result of the District finally beginning to comply with the NEAR Act’s data requirements. We should use this data to help guide reform efforts to prevent many of the unjust arrests and convictions that lead to incarceration. The NEAR Act also promotes better community engagement for law enforcement to build trust and ongoing relationships in the neighborhoods they patrol in order to produce better outcomes – for both law enforcement and the community. The law also includes important provisions to divert those with mental health needs who encounter law enforcement to treatment rather than incarceration.
Additionally, one of the many reasons I strongly support DC statehood is that the District deserves the right to guide our own criminal justice system. In the interim, I support efforts like those of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton to regain control of elements of the local criminal justice system incrementally, such as the organization of the District’s court system and the selection of judges. The District should also pursue federal legislation to shift our parole system back to local control from the U.S. Parole Commission. According to the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, the U.S. Parole Commission “helps drive mass incarceration in DC” by “not releasing people on parole who arguably should be released from prison” and “revoking parole or supervised release (and re-incarcerating returning citizens) for minor technical violations.” What’s more, the sentences for these minor technical violations “are much harsher than the sentences issued by the former D.C. Board of Parole.” Additionally, keeping DC inmates in federal custody often means they are hundreds of miles from home, straining family and community ties that are essential to avoiding recidivism. Further, federal authorities often fail to coordinate with the DC government when releasing those in its custody. None of this federal involvement in our local affairs actually helps reduce violence in DC.
Finally, we must improve the systems and processes for connecting returning citizens to the DC services for which they qualify, from enrolling in housing assistance and Medicaid to receiving job training and other supports. As I saw when I worked for a DC agency that is making it easier for all residents to enroll in these kind of benefits, returning citizens can face particularly difficult challenges navigating the bureaucracy. As a member of the DC Council, I would focus on ensuring that efforts like the recently established READY Center, which is intended to serve as a “one-stop shop” for these services and supports, are making a meaningful difference. Reconnecting returning citizens with family and friends, seamlessly enrolling them in the services they need to get back on their feet, and facilitating smooth re-entry into the community and the workforce will go a long way to creating a safer DC for all.
Hernandez, Daniel: I would like to see a return to community policing. Officers should be on regular foot patrols and deeply familiar with the community they serve.
Kennedy, Patrick: The challenge of people experiencing homelessness is part-and-parcel of the affordable housing challenge that we face. It’s not a coincidence that our population of people living on the streets tracked upward with the rising cost of housing. And although people often correlate homelessness with crime, homeless residents are statistically more likely to be victims of crimes than they are perpetrators. So, with respect to the portion of the question about homelessness, I think the answer is largely around getting people into housing, lowering barriers to housing for homeless residents, and making sure that the support structures are in place for those who have mental health or substance abuse challenges that might compromise their ability to live independently.
We have to remember that these people are our neighbors with unique stories and unique challenges. Given that people have rights and the legal precedent against criminalizing homelessness is clear, the best way to get people out of encampments is to connect them to places where they can live in dignity.
As far as crime specifically is concerned, I think the Council, MPD, the Office of Neighborhood Safety & Engagement, and the Office of the Attorney General have done some constructive work around starting to treat the root causes of crime and identifying it as a public health issue at its core. Violence interrupter programs are very helpful at both giving returning citizens an opportunity at legitimate employment that doubles as a mediating influence to reduce gang confrontations and the gun violence that often spirals from that.
There is a balance to this as well around enforcement. I think too often, police resources are triaged after a large number of complaints or particular heinous incidents...whereby police forces are deployed to a particular neighborhood along with watchlights in a show of visibility for a short while, and then after a couple of weeks it is reassigned elsewhere.
I am a big believer in community policing and promoting regular engagement with police and neighbors. I think that’s how relationships are formed, how the police get good intelligence to avert serious crimes before they happen, and I think it gives residents, business owners, and others a sense of comfort to have a cooperative safety presence. It also discourages criminal activity the more visible and continuous that it is. Part of the issue with flooding the zone is that drug dealers, car thieves, and other common criminals in urban areas just avoid an area for a short duration but know they can wait out the police and return when their presence recedes.
Finally, there needs to be a much more cooperative relationship established between MPD, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Council, and communities around criminal justice policy and follow-through on particular cases. We’ve made a major commitment to criminal justice reform in this city, and I believe rightfully so since we want to center rehabilitation and restorative justice to the greatest extent possible, but the schisms that we’ve seen over the last few years are not helpful.
MPD officers need to have the backing to focus enforcement resources on victim-based (as opposed to more “victimless”) crimes, and as part of that they should know that they’ll be backed up and that the U.S. Attorney’s Office won’t no-paper (i.e., not prosecute) the people they take off the streets. Crime victims too need to know that their interests are not forgotten and that the system is looking out for their welfare even as the focus shifts to implementing more constructive forms and scale of punishment. The punishment should fit the crime, and our criminal justice system should absolutely be focused on facilitating rehabilitation and second chances, but for the social contract to function properly there does need to be a meaningful deterrent in place and crime victims are entitled to fair and certain resolution as well.
Pinto, Brooke: I will expand the Cure the Streets pilot program, which has proven to be extremely effective in reducing crime, to all eight Wards. The Cure the Streets Programs, implemented by the Office of the Attorney General and the Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement, uses credible messengers to interrupt violence in our communities before it occurs. I will also invest in cameras for public transportation and adequate street lighting, which are simple, common-sense measures that have been proven to reduce crime.
Putta, Kishan: I have strong public safety experience. I served as Public Safety chair of the Dupont Circle ANC and worked with the community and police to reduce crime, especially car break-ins. In 2015, I accepted an appointment to be a member of the MPD Citizens Engagement Academy, where I regularly worked with police leaders, and encouraged them to engage in cultural competency training.
I support using neighborhood and community engagement as a means to promote public safety, and it is my belief that to lower crimes in our community, we must use a public health approach. As the community outreach specialist at DC Health Link, I prioritized using community engagement to promote healthcare enrollment. We worked with trusted local organizations—many of which primarily served DC’s low-income, residents of color—to encourage their members to enroll in healthcare.
The NEAR Act is a great start in helping to not only lower violence and crimes in DC, but also understand why these crimes are happening and if MPD’s responses are the best approach to tackle crime. As a two-time ANC Commissioner who has worked on grassroots public safety issues, I also support the NEAR Act’s initiatives to engage neighborhoods in policing themselves, such as the creation of the Office of Neighborhood Safety. The NEAR Act gets the District one step closer to moving beyond a “tough on crime” attitude—but we must work harder.
As Councilmember, I will work with the MPD and prioritize police reform as a means to promote decarceration efforts. I will work with the MPD to ensure that they are in compliance with the NEAR Act’s requirements regarding demographics tracking related to stop-and-frisk searches. With this data, we can start to understand where there is room for improvement in MPD practices or public engagement so we can understand how to better address instances of crime.
Please see my earlier responses on how to address homelessness.
Venice, Katherine: In terms of homelessness and vagrancy, please see my comments in the above section on homelessness and public health.
In terms of crime, Ward 2, and the rest of the District, has seen a worrying increase in gun crime, with the District’s homicide rate rising nearly 40% last year. (The on-going tragic toll of gun crime on children across the District, especially in under-served wards, is shockingly largely ignored by DC Council.) Street crime is also a meaningful issue for many Ward 2 residents.
I believe that a multi-pronged strategy is required.
Firstly, we must have more police officers being visible on the streets in Ward 2. That the District spends more on interest payments than it does on its police department is inexcusable.
Secondly, the lack of quality education, economic opportunity, and pathways to inclusive economic growth in underserved neighborhoods across the District must also be addressed. Otherwise, those problems will continue to be exported into other areas of the District, including Ward 2.
Thirdly, environmental trauma in under-served neighborhoods is a critical public health issue that must be rigorously addressed. The trauma of having to daily navigate violent neighborhoods (especially for children) has to be addressed, as one of the biggest barriers to being able to thrive educationally and economically. CPTSD is a major disability, holding back too many lives; yet the District lacks an accessible, plentiful service structure to meet this healthcare need. The consequences are devastating on too many lives, and these consequences sometimes spill into other wards, including Ward 2.
Fourthly, early intervention and violence interruption programs are essential, and the DC AG has already pioneered some outstanding programs here. The NEAR Act is an important dimension of the strategy. But it is not enough.
While DC has restrictive gun licensing laws, unlawful gun possession proliferates. Guns are easily accessible, while there is also little deterrent - there is an consistent and too often delayed approach from the various components of the criminal justice system, while the sentencing guidelines are lax and enhanced penalties rarely applied. This needs to be reformed.
Zhang, Yilin: A significant percentage of the crime in DC is categorized as armed robbery. We need to assess these cases deeper, and why they are occurring. We need to take a public health approach to resolving crime, and work with not only law enforcement, but also closely with community organizations and schools.
Evans, Jack: Yes.
Fanning, John: Yes. However, I think that it is up to voter to define that standard. I have trust that the voters usually get it right and chose the most ethical candidate.
Grossman, Jordan: Absolutely. Candidates and elected officials should avoid even the appearance of impropriety; merely avoiding criminal indictment is far too low a bar for our public servants. If elected, I would fight to ban councilmembers from outside employment; prohibit councilmembers from ever lobbying the DC Council on behalf of for-profit entities, even after they leave office; eliminate councilmember slush funds; and fully fund and implement the District’s new clean elections law to ban pay-to-play campaign contributions from those seeking large government contracts. We need bold actions like these to stop the revolving door culture at the Wilson Building, where former elected officials so often become lobbyists – sometimes even before their terms are up. These reforms will also help address structural issues that not only undercut public trust, but also systematically marginalize less privileged residents when it comes to the operations and decision-making in the government that is supposed to represent them.
Public servants also ought to demonstrate awareness that they are responsible and effective stewards of taxpayer dollars. In my career in public service over the past decade, I have dedicated myself to effective oversight in order to protect residents and save their money. For example, I was awarded the Department of Justice Civil Division’s Perseverance Award for my work during the Obama Administration on an investigation that not only resulted in a strong, enforceable corporate integrity agreement to protect patient safety but also returned nearly $155 million to taxpayers. Similarly, my oversight efforts when I worked in the U.S. Senate not only helped protect health care coverage for low-income people benefitting from a little-known provision of the Affordable Care Act, it also forced the Trump Administration to provide millions of dollars to the states choosing to use it.
Rather than the current practice of some members of the Council to wait for a tragedy, a news story, or the executive branch – or all three – to spur action, I would fight for proactive Council oversight from my first day on the job. For example, the Council should, as a matter of course, proactively plan for accountability hearings and check-in mechanisms for every significant deadline included in legislation that becomes law. If necessary, I would fight to include triggers and claw back provisions to ensure compliance not only with these deadlines and requirements, but also open or unaddressed recommendations from inspectors general from across DC government and the Office of the DC Auditor.
Furthermore, I believe the Council should enact a mechanism to review the use, or lack of use, of all the enforcement, oversight, and accountability tools it has provided to the executive branch over the years. For example, although DC “has some of the strongest labor laws on the books” and the Council passed the Wage Theft Prevention Amendment Act in 2014, the DC Just Pay Coalition has found “wage theft remains pervasive” and the Department of Employment Services “is not using the full extent of the law to ensure workers are fully paid” or effectively deterring bad faith employers “from being out of compliance with this or other labor laws.” One can imagine similarly lackluster implementation or enforcement may take place with respect to the Universal Paid Leave Amendment Act, particularly in light of regulations that would inappropriately narrow the number of workers who could receive benefits. The Council should explicitly provide for systematic and proactive assessments of the enforcement tools it has passed into law to ensure that they are actually being put to their intended use to improve the lives of District residents. If they aren’t, the DC Auditor or another reviewing body should provide specific recommendations to the Council for how to make sure they do.
Hernandez, Daniel: Haha, I think I know why this question is here. Simply: Absolutely.
Kennedy, Patrick: Yes. The standards have always been higher for elected office, notwithstanding the case of the current occupant of the White House. You must be accountable to the people you serve and maintain the integrity of the office you hold or are seeking.
Pinto, Brooke: Voters absolutely have the right to decide whether they think a candidate is worthy of their trust and fit for office. I do believe, however, that public servants should be held to a higher standard of ethics. We are leading the community, and our choices should reflect the values of that community. These are powerful positions that require a powerful heightened standard of ethics.
Putta, Kishan: Yes. We are all human, but if you are running to represent and gain the trust of your constituents, you need to prove that you can be trusted. Not just doing what is legal, but also what is ethical and what “sets a good example” for our community and our children. I’m not perfect but I try to do the right thing and set a good example for my son and prioritize my constituents' interests.
Venice, Katherine: Yes, absolutely. This should be obvious.
This highlights just how systemic the ethical breakdown is on Council, and the need for root-and-branch ethical reform goes far beyond Mr Evans being replaced. He was not the only Councilmember acting unethically.
I would point out that a key flaw of DC Council having no genuine political diversity is that ethics suffer: partisan bonds prevent Councilmembers meaningfully holding each other to account. A Republican Ward 2 Coucilmember is a necessary part of improving the ethical standards on Council.
French philosopher Joseph de Maistre (whose philosophy otherwise I do not share) said that we get the leaders we deserve. I believe that that is only partly right: it also depends upon the choices offered. I want to offer meaningful choice and an alternative to Ward 2 voters – one that is the antithesis of the carefully packaged career politician, using snappy social media and slick, sound-bite marketing. I offer an authentic, considerable breadth of real-world experience; I offer far more substantive, intellectually-engaging content; and I offer far greater complex, nuanced thinking, guided by a breadth of research and expert knowledge. This especially matters if we are to resolve the systemic on-going ethical lapses by DC Council.
Track records speak volumes: in my case, I dedicated my career over most of the last decade to pioneering a path of ethically reforming capitalism. I also put the public’s interest over my own personal interest, by pursuing this work without being paid. I am clearly well-placed to lead the ethical reform of DC Council.
Zhang, Yilin: Everyone should be held to the same standard. Where a candidate has tarnished public office,they should resign from the office and not run for re-election.
Evans, Jack: I plan on introducing legislation that prohibits outside employment for Council members. Period. No exceptions. I will also introduce legislation abolishing and prohibiting constituent service funds and replacing them with appropriated funds.
The Council needs an overhaul on ethical rules and conflict of interest guidelines. From my personal experience, these guidelines are vague and the Bureau of Ethics and Government Accountability has no teeth to really enforce them.
I recognize that I have personally tarnished my legacy of public service. I apologize to all the citizens of the District of Columbia for the embarrassment that I have caused our wonderful city. By not doing a better job of familiarizing myself with the full range of conflict of interest rules and the necessary methods for compliance, I made mistakes which were an embarrassment to both my colleagues and the residents of Ward 2, including you. I know how hard we have had to work in recent decades to redeem our city’s image and it indescribably pains me that I damaged our proud record. And, of course, I apologize to the residents of Ward 2 for leaving them without representation.
I also recognize that DC residents are a generous and redemptive citizenry and extend second chances. I believe the constituents of Ward 2 should decide their representation, a right they were recently denied, and I would truly appreciate an opportunity to redeem myself in the eyes of the voters and my colleagues on the DC Council, and make amends for my mistakes.
Fanning, John: I think that councilmembers should do everything in their power to ensure that the decisions they make help the residents and great effort should be made to ensure that there is no impropriety. As councilmember, I will publish my calendar and report on all meeting I have.
Grossman, Jordan: I have spent my entire career in public service, and I know that working in government is a privilege, not a business opportunity. Ward 2 residents should not have to compete for the time and attention of their councilmember with the paying clients who can afford his price. I’m not running to represent Ward 2 because I want to be part of the insider crowd at the Wilson Building, or because I’ve been seeking the title of “councilmember” for years. I’m running for a very simple reason: we’re at an inflection point in our ward and in our city. If we don’t act now, we’ll become a place where only the very wealthy can afford to live. Yet I believe that, in this election, we can build a more equitable, inclusive, affordable Ward 2 for the years and decades to come. But doing so requires a clean break from Jack Evans’ corruption as well as his political machine.
I’m participating in the Fair Elections public financing program to shift power from the wealthy corporations and well-connected insiders that traditionally supported Evans to individual, grassroots members of our community. As noted above, I also support banning councilmembers from outside employment; prohibiting councilmembers from ever lobbying the DC Council on behalf of for-profit entities, even after they leave office; eliminating councilmember slush funds; and fully funding and implementing the District’s new clean elections law to ban pay-to-play campaign contributions from those seeking large government contracts.
More broadly, I believe ethical governance should involve everyone having a seat at the table and decisions being made in transparent processes with clear rules, not in secretive backroom meetings with just a few wealthy corporations and well-connected insiders. To make that vision a reality, I would establish office policies to ensure that we hear from every constituent who wishes to share their thoughts and concerns; convene regular working sessions for all Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners in Ward 2 to collaborate on issues and hear feedback; and conduct active and persistent outreach to involve Ward 2 residents who work nontraditional hours or to populations whose voices often go unheard – like those experiencing homelessness. Canvassing – or alternatively the virtual meet and greets we are conducting during the coronavirus public health emergency – and other campaign tactics to meet residents where they are should not stop on Election Day. As a councilmember, once it is safe, I will continue to have meet and greets, knock on residents’ doors, and ask for constituent feedback at Metro stations, farmers markets, and other community events. I will also host “office hours” in every neighborhood in the ward. I believe that it’s on us as public servants to find a way to reach as many residents as possible, including those who feel disconnected from the political process or who – due to financial, family, or other obligations – can’t come to the Wilson Building on a regular basis.
I also believe that ethical governance should involve ensuring that key communities and stakeholders throughout the District are involved in policymaking. That means ensuring unions and working families have a prominent voice in decisions about establishing a fair minimum wage, tax policy, and paid family leave, and restoring voting rights to residents who have been involved in the criminal justice system and lowering the voting age to 16. That’s also why I was one of the first candidates to sign the No Pepco Pledge – refusing contributions from fossil fuel corporations or their lobbyists and being open and transparent about meetings with them. And that means robust implementation of campaign finance reforms like Fair Elections and the District’s new clean elections law to ban pay-to-play campaign contributions from those seeking large government contracts.
At the end of the day, I believe that being an effective, ethical councilmember means fighting for inclusion so that we have a government where decisions are based on the policy merits and the lived experiences of all our constituents, not the narrow preferences of those who can cut the biggest checks.
Hernandez, Daniel: I believe voters should not have to question whether their representative is voting to represent the voter’s interest or the representative’s. I can’t promise that you will always agree with me, but I do hope you always think I’m doing what I believe is best for DC.
Kennedy, Patrick: Ethical governance to me starts with one’s motivation for seeking office. Are you seeking status or are you running because you have things that you want to do in order to serve people and solve their problems? I think you can look to someone’s record, how they carry themselves, and whether the people who have worked with that person and know them best trust them. When a candidate speaks on the issues, do you get the sense that they believe in something and want to do something larger than themselves?
The impression formed by the answers to these things can, I think, establish why someone is running and you can get a pretty good sense from that whether they’re likely to believe in ethical governance. All people who seek public office are ambitious, but the only matter of distinction is whether their ambition is strictly personal or about achieving meaningful things for other people.
Status seekers, I think, have a much greater propensity in office to believing that the rules don’t apply to them, that they’re entitled to perks not available to the people that they serve, and that (as a rule) the ends justify the means.
Ethical governance is the antithesis of all of that: it’s the idea that serving in government is a public trust and that public officials are public servants who should put the public interest first, before their own. There can and should be reasonable differences of opinion around ideology and policy among elected officials, but I think ethical governance is practiced when there isn’t a reasonable question as to someone’s motivations. For that reason, I think central to upholding both the perception and reality of good governance is avoiding actual and perceived conflicts of interest, and where an actual conflict exists, promptly and thoroughly removing oneself from anything connected to the matter at hand that bears on the person’s public duties.
I’ve pledged as a councilmember that I won’t hold outside employment, that I won’t use the special license plates that enable councilmembers to special parking privileges, and that I won’t maintain a Constituent Services Fund. The last, in an effort to eliminate the conflict point of maintaining a pot of money usually populated with funds raised from people with business before the District, for which there are few meaningful controls on expenditures. Further to this point, I think that the Council should abolish these funds altogether and ban outside employment for future members.
Thinking prospectively, the best thing an elected official can do in office to maintain the public’s trust is be transparent about their decision making, be responsive and accountable, and stay grounded in their constituency. I will always operate that way if elected.
Pinto, Brooke: Ethical governance governing in the best interest of your constituents and providing equal weight to the concerns of each person. I will govern ethically through supporting legislation to hire an in house ethics counsel to review all matters before the Council. Every decision must be reviewed to ensure there are no conflicts of interest -= actual or perceived. I will also eliminate the constituent service fund, which Jack Evans demonstrated is ripe for abuse.
Putta, Kishan: Accessible & Transparent – I will hold a monthly meeting with residents which will stream live for those with access to the internet and who can’t attend in person. Additionally, the video and audio will be archived for those who are not available and they can at least watch or listen at a later time and stay informed of issues, concerns, and the Council’s efforts. I have already led by example, holding monthly conference calls for my ANC constituents who can’t always come to the ANC meetings in person.
No Special Treatment – Unlike our last Councilmember, I will not use special council license plates in order to get any special treatment from parking enforcement. I have already led by example by being the only candidate refusing to accept my ANC parking placard. I do not want such special treatment.
Term Limits – After 3 decades of one councilmember, I promise to abide by the will of the people of DC who voted for term limits only to have the council overturn their will. I am the only candidate who has pledged to abide by term limits. I have said for many years that DC needs term limits. I will advocate for term limits and I will lead by example, just as Councilmember David Grosso has done; as he wrote, “I have always believed at my core that holding the same seat for too long is not good for the office, it’s not good for the institution, and it’s not good for Democracy… I have decided… to pass the baton to the next generation of progressive leaders.”
Venice, Katherine: Governance is the manner of governing. I define ethical governance, as it relates to DC Council, as governance that prioritizes and never compromises the well-being and interests of the public. But the current (and historic) modus operandi of DC Council is governance-by-lobbyist: allowing lobbyists to purchase Council influence. This is deeply wrong. This is the corruption of our local democracy and the corruption of the duty of Councilmembers to prioritize at all times the interests of the public without compromise.
Unfortunately for Ward 2 voters, Mr Evans’ former campaign chair, Democract candidate Patrick Kennedy has already very clearly broadcast that he does not respect this core tenet of democracy: firstly, he has publically rejected transparency (at the Sierra Club forum); secondly, he has already held closed-door meetings, refusing any transparency, with the very same lobbyist-colleagues of Jack Evans, who have been very clear about their purchasing Mr Kennedy’s influence and appointing themselves as overseers of his “political education”. At least Jack Evans at the same stage in his political career, at the age of 37, was still talking about rejecting such influences; and more recently has at least made the appearance of apologizing for selling himself out to lobbyists. (See my letter of March 2 on my website for more details.) Patrick Kennedy is a really lovely person and no doubt means well - but unfortunately, his only life experience is at the heart of Mr Evans’ world and he has no other frame of reference.
In other words, Mr Kennedy is clearly the next generation version of Jack Evans.
Even Mr Evans’ former lobbyist-colleagues agree on this and are heavily promoting his candidacy.
Voting for Mr Kennedy is to actively vote for governance-by-lobbyist.
With my candidacy, Ward 2 has the option to chose a new path that is free from such corruption and the corruption of core democratic principles. As Ward 2’s next Councilmember, I will implement the much-needed broad ethical reform of DC Council.
Zhang, Yilin: I believe a Councilmember’s only priority is the community she serves. This means transparency and accountability in the way I operate day-to-day and make decisions. The public deserves to know the issues that are being reviewed, and the major decisions to be made.
Evans, Jack: I am participating in Fair Elections, by using public financing, which means I will not be taking any financial contribution from corporations.
Fanning, John: We have not actively solicited corporate of lobbyist support for our campaign. However, we do have donors who are business owners and contribute a great deal to our city.
Grossman, Jordan: Our disgraced former councilmember’s corrupt relationship with special interests – including serving as a corporate lobbyist himself while on the Council – is just one of many reasons that we need to get corporate money out of our politics. That’s why I’m proud to participate in the Fair Elections public financing program. I don’t accept any contributions from corporations and political action committees; I only take donations of $50 or less from grassroots supporters. I was also one of the first candidates in this race to take the No Pepco Pledge to “reject all contributions from Pepco, Washington Gas, and fossil fuel companies” and publicly disclose any and all meetings with these powerful businesses. Contrary to the Jack Evans approach, if I'm elected, I'll make decisions based on the merits, not based on money or lobbying from corporate special interests. This kind of approach is essential for taking real action on the needs of our community and making it possible for Ward 2 residents to stay and thrive in the neighborhoods that they love.
Hernandez, Daniel: Pay-to-play corruption is why we have two elections in Ward 2 this year. Lobbyists should not be able to make campaign donations or otherwise support campaigns. All but one of us candidates are similarly prohibiting corporate support with participation in the Fair Elections Program.
Kennedy, Patrick: It is important that our elected officials are supported by the people who elect them and not be beholden to outside or special interests. I was proud to be the first candidate in the District’s history to participate in the Fair Elections Program, signifying from day one that I won’t accept contributions from corporations or PACs. I am only accepting contributions of up to $50 from individuals.
To date, I have more Ward 2 contributors than any other candidate; about 60% of the money we’ve raised has come from within the ward, that’s among the highest of any candidate. That’s what it looks like to run a grassroots campaign with a broad base of support in the ward. So if campaign contributions are a proxy measure for who a candidate would be accountable to in office, the answer for me is very straightforward: the people who live in this ward.
Pinto, Brooke: We have not received any corporate or lobbyist campaign contributions. While we are open to receiving donations from local businesses, our campaign is built on individual contributions. All campaign contributions are capped at $500 and are publicly recorded.
Putta, Kishan: Ending Pay-To-Play Politics: – I have always felt that our government would serve us better if the political playing field was more fair and that people’s voices should stop being drowned out by moneyed interest groups. That’s why I’m so excited to enter this race as a publicly-financed candidate, limiting myself to small contributions only, with all DC donors receiving a 5:1 match for contributions of $50 or less. I helped advocate for this Fair Elections program, even testifying at the DC Council in support of it. I am proud to participate in it, and proud to pledge that I will never have my decision-making influenced by big money.
Venice, Katherine: I am so far the only candidate who has had the courage to very publicly condemn the involvement in successfully shaping the outcome of the Ward 2 Council race by one of Jack Evan’s longest-associated lobbyist-colleagues. (See my letter of March 2 on my website.)
For too long, we have had DC Council run by and for lobbyists. That has to stop. It is clear that there is still much work to be done further to the recent changes in campaign finance laws – as evidenced by Mr Kennedy’s stunning collaboration just last month with Jack Evans’ former lobbyist-colleagues (as reported in the local media).
But I also want to point out that Mr Evans’ collaboration with lobbyists behind the scenes was far from unique on the Council. For example, a recent investigative analysis showed that “Councilmembers, once in office, all draw a significant portion of their campaign contributions from businesses seeking approval on contracts.”
So my first ethical reform for Council will focus on terminating lobbyist influence. I believe that lobbyists should have no involvement in Council activities. If a lobbyist attempts to interact with a Councilmember even on an individual basis (i.e. representing themself, not others), all such communication should be recorded and made publicly available. (Even Wall Street investors and traders have all of their telephone calls recorded and messages screened.)
My second ethical reform will be terminating (or at least radically reforming) constituent services funds for DC Council, which lobbyists have used as a “back-door .. to buy influence on Council” (to cite Public Citizen). Indeed, The Washington Post has labeled these funds “private slush funds”, while the Washington City Paper has called these funds “a joke”.
But again, Mr Evans was far from the only Councilmember who abused such funds. Public Citizen has pointed out that just 24% of constituent services funds across all wards have been used for lawful purposes, with the rest spent unlawfully on various personal benefits for Councilmembers, such as in self-promotional materials, which campaign finance rules prohibit.
With Mr Evans’ behavior being widely emulated by his Council colleagues, it is no wonder that for too long they steadfastly refused to take seriously their colleague’s well-known extraordinary ethical lapses of judgment, thus actively enabling it.
My third ethical reform will be term limits. Term limits are critical to boosting cognitive diversity on the Council by opening up participation from non-career bureaucrats and residents of a broader, ‘real-world’ background. As well as being more in tune with DC residents, such real-world experience allows the perspective and thus ability to challenge such institutional ethical lapses on DC Council.
Indeed, if ever there were a blazing advert for why term limits are absolutely necessary for DC Councilmembers, Mr Evans is it. Research shows an increasing risk of abuse of power correlating with duration of power held,
Ironically, DC residents previously made very clear their desire for term limits, approving a ballot measure imposing term limits: however, Councilmembers (in 2001) subsequently chose to blatantly put their own personal career interests before the clearly-expressed preference of the public, and repealed this measure.
Opponents to term limits protest a loss of institutional knowledge: yet to point out the obvious, clearly such systemic corruption on Council shows that such institutional knowledge clearly needs to be lost.
Indeed, if an organization is correctly run, institutional knowledge of the right sort is efficiently codified, ensuring no unnecessary barrier to rapid on-boarding of a steady stream of diverse cognitive skillsets to continually refresh and upgrade the institutional knowledge (essential to what should be the on-going skills development of the Council: it should not be a skills-stagnant entity).
My fourth reform will be to create an ethics committee specifically for the Council.
Both Mr Evans’ and the above ethical lapses of the entire Council illustrate the need for the Council to have its own ethics committee. The National Conference of State Legislatures has long recommended that state legislatures should have permanent ethics committees, and indeed most state legislatures do. DC Council needs to catch up with best practice nationwide.
This is additionally pertinent, given several recent lapses by the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability, whose coverage is clearly far too extensive to be effective. The DC Auditor has highlighted repeated, significant failings by BEGA, including ignoring for a year a whistleblower’s report of improperly directed funds, despite referral from the Office of Inspector General. Further, BEGA is not independent: as per DC Code $1-1162.03.(j), the Mayor hires and fires the board. DC Government’s own organization chart also shows it reporting to the Mayor’s City Administrator. The BEGA Director was recently replaced, but these structural issues remain with regard to BEGA’s ability to be an effective ethical infrastructure around Council.
Zhang, Yilin: I am participating in DC Fair Elections, where I am not taking any corporate donations, and can only take individual donations up to $50. I do not believe in soliciting corporate and lobbyist campaign support.
Longtime DC residents have seen Council Members on multiple occasions put the interests of new construction, new businesses and new zoning changes ahead of the interest of existing residents and neighborhoods - be it parking density, height, hours of operation or use of public space. What can we expect from you to turn this feeling around and how do you plan to implement change to gain the trust of the public?
Evans, Jack: The city is facing a housing shortage for low- and moderate-income residents and families. We also have more people moving here every year in search of jobs. There is no question that we need to build more multi-family buildings in the District to match the demand for housing. However, we need to strike a balance to accommodate the influx of new residents and affordable housing for middle class and low-income residents, and current longtime residents and homeowners.
I believe that we need to preserve the historical integrity and character of Ward 2 neighborhoods. I believe that’s why people decide to move here and businesses want to set up shop here. We have a robust historic preservation board that cares for the small details and character of our neighborhoods. We can successfully support our neighbors who need assistance, new residents, and the integrity of our neighborhoods.
During my tenure as Ward 2 Councilmember, I personally spent countless hours visiting all of the ANCs, community meetings and neighborhood associations on a regular basis. I maintained an on-going and robust dialogue with the myriad of individuals, concerns and challenges which Ward 2 encompasses. For 29 years, I had the most effective constituent services outreach team and I look to continue this active record of outreach.
Fanning, John: I respectfully disagree with this sentiment. The city has significant needs that require substantial government funding. Smart growth helps build a more solid tax base which will fund the programs needed for all residents.
Grossman, Jordan: In order to combat perceptions of favoritism or processes that put a thumb on the scale for wealthy or well-connected interests, I believe we need to shift from making these kinds of decisions on an individualized, case-by-case basis to more of a consistent, structured approach. In other words, rather than recreating decision-making processes and procedures for each new debate or project, councilmembers should enact transparent, predictable, and evidence-based policies and decision-making processes that govern in the vast majority of cases across the District. Every individual proposal will have its unique and particular elements and effects, but it will be very difficult to make progress if each project or initiative is litigated anew or is subject to different standards or procedures that can feel arbitrary, unfair, or unpredictable to neighbors, developers, and government officials alike. Having consistent and transparent processes that everyone knows from the outset will guide decision-making can and should reduce mistrust and confusion among all stakeholders while also improving the efficiency and effectiveness of government projects and programs.
Hernandez, Daniel: I will always do what I believe is best for our residents and DC.
Kennedy, Patrick: I think it’s important for community and Council leaders to facilitate a cooperative environment and foster trust between residents and stakeholders. My experience on the ANC after seven years of service (including five terms as the Commission’s chair), is that reasonable compromises can usually be found to protect residential quality of life and still facilitate growth and new amenities.
Where it can’t, or where stakeholders are unreasonable, I think elected leaders should fight for their residents. I’ve done both: I’ve negotiated scores of reasonable compromises around settlement agreements for liquor licenses, zoning cases, and the operations of major area institutions like GW University and GW Hospital. But under my leadership, the Commission also successfully fought two zoning appeals, pressured problematic ABC-licensed operators into closing, and rallied against Council legislation that would have negatively impacted the neighborhood.
We weren’t always successful, but we were a great majority of the time, and I think it’s largely because we achieved credibility as a body of community advocates that approached issues fairly and transparently, such that the facts and burden of reasonability always favored us when we did need to challenge something to the hilt.
I therefore see the role of a ward councilmember as being about half-honest-broker and half-advocate. I think the person in the role needs to be constructive and balanced, someone interested in facilitating solutions that gives everyone what they need if not entirely what they want. It’s important for the councilmember to be transparent in their decision-making when a determination is required, and the process of arriving at a decision should involve maximum community engagement, listening, and input so that everyone’s perspectives and concerns are validated and accommodated, to the extent possible.
That’s how I’ve approached my role on the ANC, and I would like to think that’s why I have the open support of my colleagues, half the ANCs in the ward, and the vast majority of the neighborhood activists that know me best. The people who I’ve represented and worked with in Foggy Bottom and the West End trust me to do the right thing, and I would operate in a similar spirit for all Ward 2 residents as a councilmember.
Pinto, Brooke: It is of the utmost importance to me to have the trust of the public. I believe that responsible governance requires listening to the input of all affected parties for any decision or legislation. Voters deserve to have a Councilmember who represents them - not special interests.
Putta, Kishan: As a grassroots advocate elected in 2 different neighborhoods of Ward 2, I know this feeling well. Regaining trust - and keeping it - will be my top priority. I have already led by example for my constituents in ANC 2E.
To be more accessible and transparent with Ward 2 residents, I will hold a monthly meeting with residents which will stream live for those with access to the internet and who can’t attend in person. Additionally, the video and audio will be archived for those who are not available and they can at least watch or listen at a later time and stay informed of issues, concerns, and the Council’s efforts. I have already led by example, holding monthly conference calls for my ANC constituents who can’t always come to the ANC meetings in person.
I have always felt that our government would serve us better if the political playing field was more fair and that people’s voices should stop being drowned out by moneyed interest groups. I helped advocate for this Fair Elections program, even testifying at the DC Council in support of it. I am proud to participate in it, and proud to pledge that I will never have my decision-making influenced by big money.
I believe that the will of the people should always be put before special interests. In the case of ballot initiatives, when the people have spoken, the Council must listen. That is why I have vowed to only serve two terms on the Council. The council overturned the will of the people when they overturned the initiative to establish term limits on DC elected officials. I believe in term limits and am the only candidate who has pledged to abide by term limits. I admired Councilmember Grosso for doing this and I would do the same to-=as he put it-=“pass the baton to a new generation of progressive leaders.” We have very few full-time elected officials in DC and I believe that more turnover would be helpful to bring new ideas and perspectives.
Venice, Katherine: Please see my previous answers regarding the lobbyists who previously ‘bought’ Jack Evans, and have now switched their focus to Patrick Kennedy.
If Ward 2 voters want a Ward 2 Councilmember who relentlessly puts Ward 2 residents first and has already had the guts to take a very firm, very public stand against these very lobbyists (as I have – and no other candidate has clearly and directly), then those voters should consider voting for me.
Zhang, Yilin: A Councilmember’s only priority is the community she serves. I am running for DC Council because I believe in and am committed to public service. I am only interested in serving the community.
Evans, Jack: Yes. As examples of what DC sports betting can fund: the DC Council passed the landmark “Birth to Three” legislation providing universal child care at subsidized rates; however, they failed to fully fund it. I proposed that funds from DC Sports betting to be directed at this effort but it was not properly implemented. I have also proposed that revenue from DC sports betting could fund affordable housing.
Fanning, John: Yes. I think it has the potential of generating more revenue and additional economic opportunities for the city.
Grossman, Jordan: I do not think the new sports betting operation is a good thing because it did not include a transparent, competitive bidding process and appears to benefit well-connected special interests far more than most DC residents. We have seen story after story about questionable business and contracting processes associated with this effort, as well as delay after delay when speed was the justification used for subverting proper procedures in the first place. That said, if this extremely problematic operation remains in existence, I believe half of all revenue should go to expanding affordable child care and half to violence prevention – as initially promised during this legislation’s flawed and deceptive path to passage.
Hernandez, Daniel: I don’t have a strong feeling either way. I’m not a big fan of legal prohibitions on “vices.” I think the war on drugs and alcohol prohibition before that are prime examples of the issues with that.
As to how we’ve gone about recent council decisions on it in DC, I think it was very haphazard and questionable.
Kennedy, Patrick: I stated in April of last year that I would have voted against the sole-source Intralot sports gambling contract. This contact was rushed, as was the underlying legislation authorizing sports gambling, under the pretense that the District needed to get its operation up-and-running quickly to beat surrounding states to the punch and secure a competitive advantage.
As it happened, neither of our neighboring jurisdictions passed legislation to legalize sports betting last year; they’re certainly not close to launching anything. We could have taken time to more thoughtfully consider the underlying policy and use that process to either inform the asks made of prospective vendors in a competitively bid Request for Proposals for the Lottery, or consider the appropriate tax and regulatory structure for private firms seeking to operate sports betting in the District if the decision was made not to place sports betting under a Lottery-operated monopoly.
The District supposedly went with the Lottery because the CFO claimed that this model would produce the best financial return for the city. I was not convinced of that argument then and nothing that has taken place since has caused me to reconsider my skepticism. I think private firms engaged in competition, who market their product in many different states and therefore have a much more established proof-of-concept and considerable resources to invest in their IT infrastructure, probably would have made sports betting more user-friendly and induced additional business (and therefore tax revenue) beyond what the Lottery is capable of.
What we got, however, was unquestionably the worst of all worlds: A sole-source contract that was greenlit before receiving property scrutiny, which provided fodder for an endless series of articles about the deficiencies of the firm selected, their subcontractors, and oversight of the CBE program more generally. The optics of it were terrible, particularly when the original authorizing legislation for sports gambling proffered that a large portion of the revenue generated would be set aside in a dedicated way for youth violence prevention and early childhood education, only for that language to be changed almost immediately in the following budget. This saga, in combination with Councilmember Evans’ ethics issues, gave the Council a black eye last year. And for all of it, there still was not a sports betting operation set up and functional in the District before live sports were suspended.
Pinto, Brooke: Yes, it will be a significant new source of revenue. But the way the Intralot contract was awarded was a huge problem. The Procurement Practices Reform Act was established for a reason and the Council just exempted themselves from the procurement process. That circumvention of a fair bidding process is extremely problematic and should not be done that way moving forward.
Putta, Kishan: I was very disappointed in the initial rollout of this program. DC small businesses and residents were supposed to benefit. Instead, Intralot won the main contract without competitive bidding and politically-connected entities took advantage of the system to secure subcontracts. That is why I pushed so hard for our Fair Elections and Campaign Finance Reform in DC. I even went to the Council to testify for it, and I am proud to run under the new program.
I believe in strong oversight and have worked on DC government contracts before to ensure compliance. As your councilmember, I will always push for strong oversight and compliance regarding important government contracts. I will push hard for DC residents to get as much of the benefits as possible from this new program.
Venice, Katherine: Firstly, the jaw-dropping multi-faceted scandal of the Intralot back-story illustrates yet again that the corruption on the Council is core operating procedure and goes beyond merely Jack Evans, involving many other Councilmembers who clearly and repeatedly disregard their responsibility and obligation to DC residents and focus on serving lobbyists instead. (The investigative media and ethics watchdogs have performed an incredible service to the community with their diligent, persistent coverage of this systemic and blatant corruption by Councilmembers and lobbyists.) This is yet another example of the inevitable outcome of the Council as a one-party entity that steadfastly refuses to hold its own to a standard higher than corruption.
This is why it is so critical for Ward 2 to have an outside voice, free from Tammany Hall-style partisan bonds, if Ward 2 residents want a corruption-free Councilmember and Council.
What is more galling is that saving childrens’ lives from gun violence was used as the justification to quickly force this legislation through (several Councilmembers stunningly admitted to failing to actually read the bill they voted on, as one of DC’s finest investigative journalists highlighted), and then ruthlessly dispensed with once the legislation was passed.
If Ward 2 voters want more of this desperately egregious corruption, vote for Patrick Kennedy, who has already submitted himself to the “political education” of Jack Evans’ former lobbyist-colleague.
Lobbyists should not be running our Council, and they are. I have been the only candidate to understand the degree and magnitude of this corruption, and to have had the guts to stand up to it.
Secondly, this is not an ethically appropriate way for DC Government to raise tax revenues. Nor does it make any fiscal or economic sense, because the cost to DC tax-payers of dealing with the extremely harmful consequences of this activity on DC residents will vastly outweigh the tax revenues generated by sports gambling.
Gambling is also an economically unproductive activity and it exploits the lack of economic opportunity (by creating a mirage of economic opportunity) for those with least access to economic opportunity. It causes profound harm to the most vulnerable in our community (those with least access to economic opportunity), and at great cost to our community. Gambling is correlated with increased violence inside and outside the home, blighting lives and communities, while incurring considerable costs to both individuals, families and the community in terms of healthcare, welfare, economic and other costs associated with addiction. Lastly, of course, addictive pursuits undermine personal liberty.
Gambling businesses are also contrary to the core principles of ethical, inclusive and sustainable capitalism, which is the future of capitalism being shaped at its top echelons (both in academia and business leadership groups such as the World Economic Forum, the Business Roundtable, the Coalition for Inclusive Capitalism, etc) today. Adam Smith’s defining purpose of capitalism is to create plenty of good, economically-productive jobs for everyone. My former collaborators Prof Colin Mayer CBE and the Financial Times’ Martin Wolf CBE have pointed out that business is not supposed to be sociopathic (and gambling sociopathically exploits economically vulnerable people), and that the purpose of a business is to provide solutions to problems of people and planet – not cause these problems. Let us also remember Adam Smith’s companion-piece to The Wealth of Nations - The Theory of Moral Sentiments, which articulates the moral obligation within capitalism and of businesses towards society.
Gambling clearly does the latter. Anyone can figure out business models that exploit vulnerable people and are value-destructive: but it takes intelligence and talent to figure out business models that advance and are value-creative to society and humanity. Hence businesses that harm society are a cop-out and an “excrescence of capitalism” (to cite another of my former collaborators, Prof John Kay CBE) - and DC Council has no business encouraging such.
Zhang, Yilin: I did not agree with the sole source solicitation. Contracting needs to be an open and transparent process.
I supported Senator Elizabeth Warren but will gladly and actively support the Democratic nominee.
I don’t think this question is very relevant anymore, but Elizabeth Warren has been my pick since June of 2019. Now that Joe Biden is the presumptive nominee, I’m in full support of him and can’t wait until his 2021 inauguration.
I intend to vote for Joe Biden.
Both of the leading Democrats would be much better for DC, the US, and the world than President Trump.
When I became an American citizen, I swore an oath to “ support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic”. I take this oath extremely seriously and this governs my choices. I believe in equal dignity, liberty and justice for all, including our LGBTQ+ and other minority communities.
Being an educated, conscientious citizen also means never relegating one’s ethical nor intellectual choices to another.
Political party leaders come and go: ones values should last much longer. My political values most closely align with Rockefeller Republicans and the Northeastern Republicanism of the earlier half of the twentieth century, or today’s lesser-visible moderates. To learn more about my Republican values, please visit my website.
Evans, Jack: I oppose the Mayor’s position. As a lover of dogs and former owner of two Golden Retrievers, Kayla and Kelly, as a quality of life factor, I appreciate the value of having a neighborhood dog park. As Councilmember I will speak out on the bad decision to close the park and I will work to re-open and keep open Shaw Dog Park.
Fanning, John: It is unfortunate that the Shaw Dog Park had to be closed during constructionI will continue to work with DPR and residents to secure a temporary location. I will also make sure that the Shaw Dog Park returns to its original location.
Grossman, Jordan: I am disappointed that the Shaw Dog Park was not kept open. I believe we should be able to work together to keep valuable community spaces like this open to all.
Hernandez, Daniel: Public officials should keep their promises. If you can’t guarantee it, don’t promise it. I can understand that the construction process might necessitate the closure.
Kennedy, Patrick: I’m pleased to see that, since this question was written, DPR announced that a temporary dog park will be open at Q and Rhode Island for the duration of the Banneker construction. I think that’s a fair accommodation for residents (and their pets) whose routines and ability to recreate would otherwise be substantially disrupted.
The irony is that the existing Shaw Dog Park was originally built as a “temporary” facility under the Fenty Administration, to be relocated (and eventually re-established) within a couple of years so that work could proceed on a new Shaw Middle School, which the community was also promised more than a decade ago.
The history of community engagement and promise-keeping regarding this parcel is therefore a very tortured one, and I think underlies the lack of trust on the part of nearby residents. I look forward to resetting the conversation, welcoming a new and improved dog park back to the existing site next year, and working to fulfill the promise of a new middle school on an alternative site nearby.
Pinto, Brooke: The lack of communication between the DC Department of Parks and Recreation and the residents of Shaw is unacceptable. While it may be necessary to temporarily close the park for construction on Banneker High School, residents should have been involved in the decision-making process through community meetings and other outreach efforts.
Putta, Kishan: I am a strong supporter of dog parks in our city. Dogs make city life more enjoyable and dog parks are important to quality of life for them. As Dupont Circle Commissioner, I supported the S Street Dog Park, attended clean ups and always enjoyed meeting neighbors and their dogs. I also supported the Francis Dog Park in the West End, which is beautiful. I have strong relationships with the Department of Parks and Recreation after my work with Stead Park and Jelleff Rec Center. Shaw needs a dog park as well and I would definitely work with the Department of Parks and Recreation and the community to establish a new Shaw Dog Park.
Venice, Katherine: [No response submitted]
Zhang, Yilin: I am a proponent of more parks and green space, for all residents to enjoy. They are a critical part to community building.
Evans, Jack: Yes, and I have worked for years to advance this issue.
Fanning, John: Yes, and so should every resident of the District of Columbia. The lack of representation in the U.S. Senate resulted in COVID-19 stimulus bill that saw the District of Columbia receive far less than states that have a small population or have contributed less in federal tax dollars.
Grossman, Jordan: I strongly support DC statehood because DC residents have a fundamental right to govern ourselves and we deserve full representation in Congress. It’s unconscionable that right-wing Republicans in Congress have undercut critical local laws and protections – like preventing DC from using local tax dollars for women’s reproductive health care. Because statehood is closer than ever to becoming a reality, the DC Council should initiate a thoughtful and comprehensive planning process to ensure we are ready and able to transition into statehood as soon as possible.
Hernandez, Daniel: Definitely, and I’ve participate in lobby days at congressional offices with DC Vote and Veterans for DC Statehood.
Kennedy, Patrick: Staunchly. We needn’t look further than the recent COVID-19 relief funding bill, wherein the District received $750 million fewer than any state, to find a recent example of how our status as a non-state prejudices those living here. This issue directly impacts our residents’ lives, to say nothing of the injustice of lacking the basic democratic rights enjoyed by our neighbors.
On a personal level, I was a vocal statehood advocate in college. In 2012, I was arrested protesting for D.C. Statehood and was recognized by Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton in the Congressional Record for those efforts. The issue is something I care deeply about, and I will continue to advocate for it both personally and in my capacity as councilmember.
Pinto, Brooke: Yes, I absolutely support D.C statehood. We recently just saw that the District was snubbed with COVID relief funding. All states received $1.25 billion, but D.C. only received $750 million. Statehood clearly matters! I have advocated on behalf of D.C. Statehood before the National Attorneys General community and on various matters before Congress. I am committed to continue advocating on behalf of the District for our constitutional right to representative democracy. It is imperative that the District be granted autonomy so that we can earn control over our budget priorities, manage our own criminal justice system, and make our own determinations about the best path forward for our residents.
Putta, Kishan: We deserve to decide how to govern for ourselves. And that includes making sure all our residents feel safe, live comfortably, and can make a life for themselves and their families. Reducing the federal government’s ability to interfere and impose their will over the local government and on DC residents is just one reason why I support DC statehood. I support D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton’s efforts to introduce bills that would de-federalize DC’s criminal justice system, and allow for more local control over the criminal laws that govern our own residents. This is just one reason I have actively supported DC Statehood, and I spent a large part of the summer of 2016 advocating for statehood in DC and at the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia.
The painful implications of the district’s federal status have never been more brutally stark as they were last week in the federal relief bill. States, no matter the size, are poised to receive over double what DC is set to receive in federal aid. This is unacceptable. D.C. residents are getting cheated and we deserve our fair share. The residents of DC are just like the residents of any state – we pay taxes, fight in the military, serve on juries – but without voting representation in the House or Senate, we will continue to be treated unfairly. Residents of DC deserve to be treated like first class citizens – equal to the citizens of every state in the country. The only way to achieve this is for D.C. to finally become a state with equal rights and equal access to resources.
Every state in the country will be receiving AT LEAST $1.25 billion while DC, which has a larger population than some states, will only receive less than $500 million. Even though D.C. currently pays the most in federal taxes per capita, we would be receiving the least amount per capita of any state in the country.
And just like surrounding states, we will be responsible for paying our taxes, despite the destruction that the virus has caused to our economy. Not only have hotel businesses and restaurants suffered significant losses that would cripple them any time of the year – they are experiencing these losses during one of their busiest times of the year, cherry blossom season, which regularly attracts tourists from all over the country and all over the world. Small businesses have been asked to shoulder the burden of shutting their businesses to prevent the spread of the virus with little help from the government. What will DC look like after the virus if we don’t help residents and businesses?
Not only will DC be receiving less than half of what the states are receiving in relief – they also have more confirmed cases of COVID than in 19 states. Without the necessary funds to purchase protective equipment and upgrade hospitals for the increased volume of patients, medical professionals will be put at an increased risk and won’t be able to stem the spread of the virus. I’m already hearing from my constituents that they are short on supplies. As the number of cases continues to rise, a preventable tragedy will be at Congress’ feet.
Venice, Katherine: Let me make clear: the federal government’s response to the District’s needs under the pandemic emergency have been shocking and morally bankrupt. This has ramifications for the Statehood issue.
Leaving aside the merits or otherwise of the push-back against Statehood, last September’s congressional hearing highlighted a key barrier to DC Statehood: the inability of a de facto one-party state to adequately hold its own to account, as demonstrated by DC Council’s repeated failure to hold Jack Evans to account until they were finally forced into a corner towards the end of last year, to avoid being disgraced along with him.
If Washingtonians want to progress towards Statehood, DC needs Councilmembers who are genuinely free from entrenched partisan bonds (not Democrats disguised as ‘independents’), and thus able to freely and robustly critique and exercise oversight over itself and DC Government. That would then remove a key argument used against Statehood.
Further, if DC Council has a Councilmember who is oriented towards fiscal prudence, as I am, and has the hard-core economic, financial, business experience and credentials that I have (which the Council lacks, as do all other Ward 2 candidates), then it removes another argument that has been used by Congress against DC Statehood.
I have had a long career of vigorously exercising robust oversight: firstly, over corporate CEOs and CFOs of the largest publicly-listed companies in the country and beyond; later, over Wall Street, on behalf of Main Street’s savers and pension-fund beneficiaries; and in my spare time, as a vigorous advocate on human rights and against disability discrimination, presenting to overseas government ministers on behalf of a leading human rights NGO. In other words, I have a long track record of applying a rigorous, powerful oversight.
Without any meaningful oversight from a DC Councilmember like me, DC Statehood will remain a distant dream. Ward 2 voters should see me as a resource to this end.
Zhang, Yilin: Absolutely. I have been fighting for DC Statehood with the League of Women Voters DC for the past two-and-half years. It is evermore important, especially as we saw that DC received $750 M less in COVID-19 relief funds versus other states. DC residents pay the most in federal taxes per capita, and we have a larger population than two states.