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“Loose Lips” writer Mike DeBonis, in a recent conversation with me, misrepresented his intent behind a request he made to borrow my copies of negative mailings that my opponent sent to Republican voters in advance of the Sept. 9 primary election. He told me that he only wanted the mailings because a picture of me that was used in many of them was taken by a City Paper photographer. The mailings were needed, Mr. DeBonis said, in case the City Paper, which was not credited for the photo, decided to act against those who used it. Imagine my surprise when some of those mailings were reproduced in his “Loose Lips” column on Sept. 19.
In my primary opponent’s campaign against me, he bombarded residents with dishonest mailings that distorted my strong record of service to this city. The charges made against me in the three mailings that are visible in the City Paper all mischaracterized my positions and my votes, and I answer them as follows:
Charge No. 1: That I favor higher taxes and spending.
Totally untrue. I have a strong record of fiscal responsibility and reducing taxes that includes speaking out and voting against the bloated budgets in the mid- and late 1980s that led to the District’s near-bankruptcy when I was not on the Council in the early and mid-1990s; saving taxpayers millions of dollars by renegotiating contracts and leases; decreasing the tax burden on residents in order to keep them in D.C., such as lowering income and inheritance taxes, capping property tax increases, and decreasing the property tax rate; encouraging shopping opportunities at D.C. businesses by establishing two annual sales tax holiday periods (totaling 19 days) and giving free parking at most meters evenings and weekends; and opposing sole-source, non-competitively bid earmarks to favored outside groups. Check the record.
Charge No. 2: That I oppose open government.
Untrue. I certainly believe in and have always supported open government. In fact, earlier this year, I stopped government e-mail deletions proposed by the Executive. There has also been a law in the District for many years stating that no Council action can be taken except in a public forum, and I have always supported that. Several years ago, the Washington Post drafted a bill that would, in essence, fine Councilmembers $1,000 each if they talked about anything other than the weather should they happen to pass each other in the hall, and criminal penalties would have been assessed, too. Because I and two of my colleagues denied a quorum on such an overreaching bill, the Post wrote an editorial describing us as “disgusting and cowardly.” I would say that the Post, as the drafter of the bill, had a conflict of interest here. Regardless, I subsequently wrote an op-ed piece responding to its attack, which I titled “Improving—But Not Crippling—Our Government.” The Post unfairly, and without my knowledge, changed my title to “Open Government Is Overrated.” More evidence of its conflict of interest. The very next day, the Post ran my letter to the editor addressing the inherent unfairness of its title change, and then the Post at least titled my letter “Headline Injustice”—an obvious acknowledgement of its unfairness. Check the record. Unfortunately, the unfairness continues—my opponent latched onto the Post’s “Open Government” headline and repeated it over and over again in spite of my telling him the truth that it was not my title. And now the City Paper is continuing that unfairness by making sure that this untruth gets circulated, and now, to an even bigger audience. Check the record.
Charge No. 3: That I gave myself “free parking.”
Not totally true. Decades ago, 535 members of Congress gave themselves here in D.C., and undoubtedly back in their home districts as well, the ability to park in some areas such as closer to intersections, but only while on official business. Such parking abilities are routinely provided for local elected officials all around the country. In fact, the Mayor, and even D.C. government workers who use government vehicles during the course of their jobs also have this ability. So why not the 13 elected members of the Council? Unlike a number of officials in the Executive Branch, we drive our own personal cars and buy our own gas. We are entitled to the use of a government car and government-paid gas, but we choose to drive our own cars. And we are expected to be at numerous events during the same time frame on many occasions. Therefore, we gave ourselves through an official vote in a public forum the same ability to park while on official business that 535 members of Congress and a multitude of government workers have. And we’re not talking about parking in front of fire hydrants or in hospital entrances. We are talking about closer to intersections and in building entrances. And when I am not on official business and I receive a ticket, I pay it. Check the record. Through official actions, I have also given residents the ability to park overnight in most of these same spaces without penalty, and I have given everyone in D.C. free parking at most meters on nights and weekends. Again, check the record.
It seems that my opponent in the recent primary hoped to use such untruths and distortions to secure votes from those who are either new to the District and do not know my true history, or from those capable of being swayed by his misrepresentations and negative attacks. And, thanks to the bait-and-switch pulled on me by Mike DeBonis, the greater D.C. population as a whole, rather than just the few thousand registered Republicans in the city, now have seen reproductions of these mailings. How unfortunate, how unfair. But I do appreciate the opportunity the City Paper is providing me to set the record straight.