Illustration by Carlos Carmonamedina

D.C.’s primary election day looks very different in 2020.

For the first time in nearly three decades, the Ward 2 seat is vacant and it’s anybody’s guess who will claim it. Jack Evans, who resigned from the seat in January just before his colleagues would have expelled him for violating ethics rules, is running to regain it. So are seven other challengers who have their own ideas about how to improve D.C. and reinvigorate their ward.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, voters hopefully won’t be congregating at polling stations. While a few sites have been open for in-person voting since May 22, voters are strongly encouraged to vote by mail. It will keep people safe, but it will also delay results. A Board of Elections official says that in order to allow mailed ballots enough time to arrive, results may not be certified until June 21—five days after the special election that will determine who will serve the remainder of Evans’ term.

Here at Washington City Paper, we’re also doing our election guide differently. Thanks to a grant from the Solutions Journalism Network, we were able to reach out to readers and ask them what they wanted elected officials to do. More than 200 individuals responded and from those responses, we generated a list of questions we directed to candidates. Every Democratic candidate running for the Ward 2, Ward 4, Ward 7, and Ward 8 seats whose name appears on the ballot was asked to participate in the poll. All but two of them agreed and their answers to select questions appear below. (Ward 8 candidates Mike Austin and Trayon White Sr. did not respond to interview requests.) —Caroline Jones

Interviews by Chelsea Ciruzzo, Amanda Michelle Gomez, Laura Hayes, Mitch Ryals, Kelyn Soong, and Tom Sherwood. 

All photos courtesy of the candidates.

WARD 2

 Jack Evans 

Age: 66 

Neighborhood of residence: Georgetown 

Hometown: Nanticoke, Pa. 

What’s your new quarantine hobby? What are you binge watching during quarantine? 

I’ve been running for reelection so that’s been taking up most of my time. Beyond that, I still run my five miles every day. I watch TV. The most recent show I’m watching, oh what was it called, [daughter shouts the title] Belgravia. It’s like Downton Abbey. I just finished. 

EDUCATION

What will you do to combat education inequality across the District, particularly given the setbacks students experienced this year? 

I’ve been a strong advocate for education since I have been on the Council for 30 years. The most important thing we can do is birth to 3. I believe we can get kids in school, in some setting, when they are 1 or 2 years old, and then into the education system—that makes all the difference. Many children who come from a disadvantaged background—however you want to describe it—come to 1st grade with a vocabulary of 1,000 words. Then in a different setting, they come with 5,000. So you have to make up the deficiency right at the start if they are going to make real progress. That’s something I have worked on and lived, and continue to work hard on. In many ways, you have to have kids to understand what I’m talking about. That something I bring to the Council. I raised three children by myself.

Should the mayor maintain control of DCPS?

Yes. 

CRIME

Mayor Muriel Bowser supported federal prosecutors’ shift to charging some gun crimes in federal court, rather than in D.C. Superior Court, as a tactic to combat gun violence. Attorney General Karl Racine recently argued the practice perpetuates racial disparities and suggested there is no evidence that it reduces crime. Do you support the practice? Explain your answer. 

I understand the arguments on both sides of that. One reason the mayor did it was the federal court’s sentencing is different and maybe more than in local courts. Karl makes a really good point as well. We want to handle our own matters locally. I understand the positions. 

Explain how you would address gun violence. 

The NEAR Act is something that [Ward 5] Councilmember [Kenyan] McDuffie worked on, and I have been very supportive of. What it does is start in the neighborhood to try to prevent violence up front.

It would be great—but it is hard—to get rid of the guns. We had and still have some of the strictest gun control laws but guns are still prolific because of Maryland and Virginia. If we can get more cooperation from surrounding jurisdictions that would be helpful as well.

Some believe greater police presence will lead to less crime. Others fear more officers will lead to more harassment of black and brown people. Should D.C. increase or decrease the size of its police force? Explain your answer.

I would say we need to increase the police force. You go back to the 70s, it was 5,000, in 1990 it was 4,800, and now it’s dropped down to 3,800. I’ve championed 4,000 or more. There was not a meeting I’ve gone to where they don’t ask to see more [of a] police presence. It makes people feel safer.

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION 

Oslo, Norway, eliminated pedestrian and cyclist deaths in 2019 with the help of Vision Zero initiatives. Those include replacing on-street parking with bike lanes, congestion pricing fees in the city center, and lowering speed limits. Do you support any of these initiatives? Describe your vision for eliminating pedestrian and cyclist deaths.

I support all of them, actually. Just slowing speed limits isn’t going to do anything. We need to enforce and design streets to calm traffic down. Another area that I constantly supported is getting rid of one-way streets. Two-way streets slow traffic down. 

What about bike lanes? 

We can’t eliminate street parking. People have cars. But there are ways to put in protected bike lanes at the same time to keep parking. It’s a balancing act.

And public transportation? 

We have to add miles of Metro. An example is Paris. There is no place in Paris where there is more than 100 yards from a Metro stop … We have to strive for that. The last thing: affordability. Metro is way too expensive. You should ride anywhere in the system for a dollar. That is how it is in Paris. New York City has a uniform fee. You don’t know how much you have to pay here. It depends on time and such.

HOUSING

Do you support eliminating single-family zoning, as other cities have done in order to increase housing density?

Probably not. I wouldn’t eliminate it, no. 

The Council is considering a bill to extend the District’s rent control law to 2030. There is a push to also expand the law to include more units. Do you support the bill? Do you support the expansion? Explain. How would you craft an ideal rent control scheme?

Yes, I support the bill. 

Do you support advocates’ calls to expand? 

I would have to see what they were talking about. I would be open to suggestions. Like all new units? Changing dates? A lot of specific things are involved in that.

What’s the ideal rent control scheme? 

We have a very good rent control law, but it needs some strengthening.

GOOD GOVERNMENT

Do you support ranked choice voting in D.C.?

I don’t have an opinion one way or another. I operate on winner take all. I don’t know. A couple of places have it. I would be interested to see how it runs. Where is Susan Collins from? [City Paper: Maine] I’d be willing to take a look at it.

Jack Evans’ ethics violations stem largely from his private employment. Do you support a ban on outside employment for councilmembers? Explain. Should there be any exceptions? Should the ban come with a raise?

If someone bans outside employment, I’d support that. I will not have outside employment if I’m re-elected to Council.

[City Paper: Should there be any exceptions?] I don’t know. Mary Cheh is a teacher, so everyone wants to go along with that. What if I’m a fireman, grocery worker? Why teachers and not doctors? I’d be willing to take a look. If you are going to have exceptions, I don’t know if you’d single out just teaching. 

[City Paper: Should a ban come with pay raises?] I don’t think we need to do that now, no. We have one of the higher paid councils in the country. I think we are being paid at the right level.

Constituent services funds are one way councilmembers are able to receive money from people and interests with business before the city. Should we change the rules around how the funds can be used? Eliminate them altogether? Explain.

I think they have served a purpose. I don’t know if I’ll have one if I return to Council. They helped a lot of people who got behind on rent at one time, or their utility bill. You could always put restrictions on what to put. It’s an issue I’d take a look at.

CLIMATE

Do you support a Green New Deal for D.C.?

Yeah, sure. 

[City Paper: What does that mean to you? What would you include?]

I think Mary Cheh—I worked a little bit with her on her proposals, carbon levels, etc.—so what Mary Cheh and others have done in the environmental committee, I’ve been supportive of. 

SMALL BUSINESS

How will you protect existing small businesses and support future ones that may hope to open?

The government is going to have to play a very big role because small businesses have certainly been hurt by the epidemic. It begins with rents, how small businesses are going to pay rent when this is over. Just because the virus comes to an end, there’s going to be a chunk of change they’ll have to pay. So there needs to be payment plans for small businesses, [and] potentially other subsidies to help businesses with other expenses that occur with reopening. Also, just encourage everyone to shop locally.

ECONOMY

How would you balance the D.C. budget (including program cuts) in light of the shortfall caused by the pandemic?

The mayor’s budget is a multi-phase project. She used our reserves and surplus from last year to fill a $700 million hole in 2020 and an $800 million hole in 2021 … We have $3 billion in our various reserves, the four major reserves. These four areas—AAA bond rating, 60 days of extra cash, full pension, and reserves—enable us to balance ’20 and ’21 and not cut into the safety net or fire any employees. 

A lot of our local budget is payroll. It’s payroll in schools—paying teachers— etc. What [Mayor Bowser] did is freeze pay increases, so she didn’t have to furlough anyone. That saved us. You take those steps, you are able to balance the budget without causing any harm. The catch to all this, it presumes we are coming out of this beginning next year. If that doesn’t happen—if it comes back with a vengeance— we used a lot of our one-time fixes and then we have hard decisions to make programmatic cuts. 

Patrick Kennedy

Age: 28

Neighborhood of residence: Foggy Bottom

Hometown:  Clearwater, Fla.

What’s your new quarantine hobby? Or what are you binge watching during quarantine?

That’s a great question. Phonebanking? Zoom chats. I haven’t been able to get into [watching] anything. I don’t think I have quite the attention span for it right now.

EDUCATION

What will you do to combat education inequality across the District, particularly given the setbacks students experienced this year?

Distance learning, I think, has widened some of the inequalities, because there are just certain students that benefit from having more regular check-ins, and the degree of an adult presence in their lives that I think they only get through being in school, and because of the digital divide, some families don’t have equal access to technology.

So I think it’s critically important to have a system of strong neighborhood schools, but there is no one-size-fits-all approach to education.

There needs to be coordination between the charter and traditional DCPS sectors. I don’t think we can fall into the trap of setting up these mutually exclusive false choices between the two sectors. So many families will go from DCPS to charter back to DCPS. Whatever choice it is that they’re making for their kids to choose the school that’s right for them. And the only way that you can do that, I think, is through sustained investment.

Should the mayor maintain control of DCPS?

I think so. We’ve tried every education model in this city, in the course of the last 50 years, and all of them have had their downsides, but I think that we’ve made the most sustained progress under the current model.

CRIME

Mayor Muriel Bowser supported federal prosecutors’ shift to charging some gun crimes in federal court, rather than in D.C. Superior Court, as a tactic to combat gun violence. Attorney General Karl Racine recently argued the practice perpetuates racial disparities and suggested there is no evidence that it reduces crime. Do you support the practice? Explain your answer. 

I’m ambivalent about it. For someone who is vested in local control, I think the maximum number of cases possible should be prosecuted under local statutes, and optimally long term I think we should absolutely resume prosecutorial authority locally under the attorney general.

There is a major concern, and, I have to say, anxiety in this ward about the rising amount of gun crimes particularly on the eastern end of the ward. I think that the mayor is trying the best way she can to try and combat gun crimes. I think the most effective approach is going to be trying to intercept the traffickers from Virginia and other states.

How would you address gun violence?

I just can’t emphasize enough how much the problem is rooted in the trafficking. Fortunately, I think we have a better state government in Virginia this year that I know is looking to implement a lot of new gun restrictions, including restrictions on purchasing. These guns don’t get into the communities by accident, and they don’t get there by magic. They get conjured up by merchants of death. And they are putting guns into the hands of people who are making irresponsible decisions, some of whom are very young and don’t have the cognitive development where they can weigh the long-term consequences of things appropriately. It’s a real problem, and the gun traffickers need to be held accountable to the highest extent of the law. 

Some believe greater police presence will lead to less crime. Others fear more officers will lead to more harassment of black and brown people. Should D.C. increase or decrease the size of its police force? Explain your answer.

I think D.C.’s police force is probably fine where it is. I think the issue with our current police force is that we have a lot of turnover and a lot of attrition. Many of them are working to the point of fatigue.

I think the pressures and the demands of urban policing are such that we lose a lot of people, and we lose a lot of really good people, to the lower stress jobs in Fairfax County or one of the suburban jurisdictions. So a tremendous amount of our resources, I think, are wasted if we can’t retain our officers. 

I think community policing does work when you’re talking about [the] sort of issues in communities that have that sense of comfort. I think in Ward 2, for instance, there’s a constructive working relationship with the police that’s largely been formed, especially in the western parts of our ward. When people only see officers in the context of stops, that particularly has been a source of tension in areas, perhaps in Wards 7 and 8, and other parts of the city where there are legitimate tensions and issues with the police. I’d like to think that we don’t have that to the same degree in Ward 2, but I think that the antidote to a lot of that is really working through and establishing relationships proactively. 

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION 

Oslo, Norway, eliminated pedestrian and cyclist deaths in 2019 with the help of Vision Zero initiatives. Those include replacing on-street parking with bike lanes, congestion pricing fees in the city center, and lowering the speed limit. Do you support any of these initiatives? Describe your vision for eliminating pedestrian and cyclist deaths.

I support all of those initiatives. And I think we’ve made a rhetorical commitment to Vision Zero, and I don’t doubt the intent of those who are working on it. We’re just simply not moving quickly enough. 

We just have tremendous opportunity to really build out dedicated bus lanes. My issue with how our city is operated in transportation is we’ve sort of let transportation innovation get ahead of our policy. We haven’t designed for the city that we want to be. We’ve let sort of the private sector come in with these innovations, and we’ve sort of tried to play catch up with them. 

I think that [Ward 6 Councilmember] Charles Allen’s bill [aimed at subsidizing Metro fares] is a fantastic start. We want to incentivize people to use public transportation, and we need to have a bit of a carrot and stick approach. The carrot is incentivizing people with [a] $100-a-month subsidy, and the stick is to say that if you are driving into a congested area in a single occupant automobile at peak times that you’re going to be charged a bit. 

HOUSING

Do you support eliminating single-family zoning, as other cities have done in order to increase housing density?

Yes, I think that there is a tremendous opportunity to move towards duplexes in other parts of the District. Minneapolis has adopted this model. It’s not the end of the world. It really is just a question of whether the city can adapt its building stock to the needs of an expanding population, as we do have an expanding population in the city. 

The Council is considering a bill to extend the District’s rent control law to 2030. There is a push to also expand the law to include more units. Do you support the bill? Do you support the expansion? Explain. How would you craft an ideal rent control scheme?

Yes, we need to reauthorize rent control. We do need to extend the number of units in rent control.

The way that we do it is by expanding gradually the number of buildings that are enrolled in rent control. I don’t think that you want to do it too suddenly. You don’t want to ramp it up to such a degree as to lend uncertainty to the housing market, because I think what you would do in that instance is just encourage housing providers to switch apartment buildings to condos or not invest in the District.

GOOD GOVERNMENT

Do you support ranked choice voting in D.C.?

Yes, absolutely. I think this race has proved positive that it’s necessary here. 

Jack Evans’ ethics violations stem largely from his private employment. Do you support a ban on outside employment for councilmembers? Explain. Should there be any exceptions? 

I do support a ban on outside employment. I think out of fairness, you should probably grandfather in [Ward 3 Councilmember] Mary Cheh, because she’s had her job for 13 years. She’s been on the council for 13 years. I think that it’s appropriate when you have an existing member, serving under conditions that were legal when they took office that they be allowed to continue under that condition. 

Should the ban come with a raise?

I don’t support a raise for people at this time

Constituent services funds are one way councilmembers are able to receive money from people and interests with business before the city. Should we change the rules around how the funds can be used? Eliminate them altogether? Explain.

I’m in favor of eliminating them altogether. I think that this is another thing that was created in a different place and time and really is symptomatic of a more dysfunctional form of government where you say, “Well, the government can’t necessarily be effective at providing new services. But here’s some walking around money for you to pay your rent or your heating bill or whatever, since you can’t access that through the government.” 

I think our government has just simply gotten a lot better from that sort of model. I think that we are more effective at service delivery.

CLIMATE

Do you support a Green New Deal for D.C.? If so, what would you include in it. 

I do. I think part of it was the Clean Energy DC plan that got passed a year or two ago, which has set a lot of aspirations for us to move away from fuel sources that are not renewable and things that have an emissions impact. I think that we need to focus a lot on building retrofits, and especially phasing out gas installations altogether.

The critical factor with transportation that has been ignored here for decades, we’ve let our bus service atrophy completely. We didn’t take the approach that Seattle has taken, where Seattle has said, we’re going to expand our light rail system, but we’re not going to cut our bus service as we do that. We’re simply just going to redesign our bus service so that it feeds the rail system better so that we can invest in service frequency on lines that feed our rail service. 

SMALL BUSINESS

How will you protect existing small businesses and support future ones that may hope to open?

We have to set the conditions to make small businesses succeed. And that stretches across a couple of different areas. One is looking at the rents. I think that one aspect of COVID that might end up coming out is I think that we’re going to have a market correction. I think rents are going to come down. Part of that is looking at our tax structure, and especially whether we can incentivize a mix of tenants in some of these areas, especially for art galleries and things like that—looking at the Commission on the Arts and Humanities and whether they can subsidize certain locations, whether they can help art-based businesses, especially come up with business plans, because those are the sorts of businesses that have catalytic impacts. 

ECONOMY

How would you balance the D.C. budget (including program cuts) in light of the shortfall caused by the pandemic?

I think the mayor has done an admirable job with her budget, making the most of a really difficult circumstance. She was able to come up with a balanced budget that does not involve programmatic cuts, that actually does involve a 3 percent increase in uniform per pupil student funding formula for the schools.

I think it’s really important that we invest more in providing grants to LGBTQ groups, especially those who serve the trans community and trans women of color in particular, places like Casa Ruby, places that serve homeless youth, like SMYAL and other groups that really did not get made whole for their budget requests last year.

If I win the special election I would be on Council towards the tail end of the budget debate. And I really want to exercise whatever influence I have to get those resources to make the Office of Planning whole. I was disappointed to see that cut. And I think that more needs to be put into housing preservation actions and workforce development action.

Kishan Putta

Age: 46

Neighborhood of residence: Burlieth

Hometown: Albany, N.Y.

What’s your new quarantine hobby? 

I did cut my own hair very carefully for the first time in my life. Didn’t come out half bad.

EDUCATION

What will you do to combat education inequality across the District, particularly given the setbacks students experienced this year?

A big part of the achievement gap is the digital divide. So much of the training needed for the future is tied to technology, which is expensive. And the lowest income families and kids in our city don’t have laptops or any devices in their homes.

We pushed and pushed for two years and finally got them to fund it, over $5 million, for 16,000 laptops.

So what will you do? So that’s what we’ve done, and I think we will have to double check that people have good internet connectivity. That still could use some work to fully bridge the digital divide. I want to beef up the distance learning. I’m hearing a lot of the lessons are not live lessons, and I think more of them should be. The teacher should be there talking with kids. There should be more one-on-one with kids and teachers.

Should the mayor maintain control of DCPS?

I think it’s definitely worth re-examining. I would be more than open to public hearings and debate the pros and cons, listening to all stakeholders.

You’re not willing to say yes or no? 

I’m saying yes, there should be some changes, but we should have hearings on this, because changes should be made.

CRIME

Mayor Muriel Bowser supported federal prosecutors’ shift to charging some gun crimes in federal court, rather than in D.C. Superior Court, as a tactic to combat gun violence. Attorney General Karl Racine recently argued the practice perpetuates racial disparities and suggested there is no evidence that it reduces crime. Do you support the practice? Explain your answer. 

I am hesitant to go to the federal system, because the federal system has in the past had the tendency of being overzealous with sentencing, and indeed the track record has been disproportionately harmful to certain communities.

Explain how you would address gun violence.

I am a strong supporter of the NEAR Act. That’s where we fail so often in D.C.: enforcement and funding. It’s a very good law that needs to be implemented and fully funded.

The violence interrupter program has great promise. So much of the gun violence in our city is preventable, and there are trusted members of our communities who we need to partner with to do so. We need to train and groom more of them. It’s going to save lives.

Some believe greater police presence will lead to less crime. Others fear more officers will lead to more harassment of black and brown people. Should D.C. increase or decrease the size of its police force? Explain your answer.

Through [the MPD Community Engagement Academy], I got to learn a lot about policing and what I came away learning is that while I respect that they’re putting their lives on the line for us, the resources of MPD should be better used. Before you spend more, make sure you’re getting the most out of your current resources.

More police is not the obvious solution to me. I think we can do more with the resources we have. It’s about using our resources as widely as possible. Targeted increases can be called for.

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION 

Oslo, Norway, eliminated pedestrian and cyclist deaths in 2019 with the help of Vision Zero initiatives. Those include replacing on-street parking with bike lanes, congestion pricing fees in the city center, and lowering the speed limit. Do you support any of these initiatives? Describe your vision for eliminating pedestrian and cyclist deaths.

I’ve been really focused on safer streets my entire career with the D.C. government. The short answer is yes, I support safer streets and smart ideas to make our streets safer and to reduce traffic fatalities.

We need more traffic lights for cyclists. Study after study shows that when you build infrastructure for travelers, they obey the rules better and everyone is safer.

On congestion pricing, I’m very interested in seeing how New York does with it, and I used to live in Singapore. I’ve seen it work. Our streets really are clogged. Since 2013, I’ve been pushing for a dedicated bus lane on 16th Street NW.

When we have more efficient public transportation, people will stop driving. And if we give them a dedicated bus lane, I think more people will stop driving and hop on the bus to zip downtown.

HOUSING

Do you support eliminating single-family zoning, as other cities have done in order to increase housing density?

I support incremental changes to zoning laws. Specifically in areas with lots of transportation, high-trafficked corridors with lots of commerce and lots of things that are walkable. We should also push to beef up walkability and transit connections to transit areas so we can incrementally have more housing in these areas.

A general policy of mine is for any big changes, let’s phase them in incrementally. We don’t need to take a hatchet. We can bring everyone together and keep everyone together.

The Council is considering a bill to extend the District’s rent control law to 2030. There is a push to also expand the law to include more units. Do you support the bill? Do you support the expansion? Explain. How would you craft an ideal rent control scheme?

I’m definitely in favor of reauthorizing rent control, and I’m willing to expand rent control, but I’m an incrementalist. I want to do things in phases. We shouldn’t do wholesale expansion of rent control. We can ease it in, so we can help people, but also make sure everyone can transition along.

I also think there’s a lot of loopholes in the rent control laws that need to be closed. So I’m supportive of closing loopholes proposed by the Reclaim Rent Control coalition, but I’m not signing onto that bill for certain. I’m for it in spirit, but want to closely look at the specific policies and possibly change those proposals before I vote yes or no.

GOOD GOVERNMENT

Do you support ranked choice voting in D.C.?

I support voting reforms in D.C. I would be supportive of ranked choice voting. I also support a top two runoff.

Jack Evans’ ethics violations stem largely from his private employment. Do you support a ban on outside employment for councilmembers? Explain. Should there be any exceptions? Should the ban come with a raise?

I do support the ban. Our D.C. councilmembers are among the highest paid councilmembers in the country from what I understand. I believe it’s enough of a salary, and I also believe the job of a councilmember is a big enough job that it really should be a full-time job.

Constituent services funds are one way councilmembers are able to receive money from people and interests with business before the city. Should we change the rules around how the funds can be used? Eliminate them altogether? Explain.

We should make some changes if not eliminate them altogether. I won’t set one up.

I’ve already pledged during the pandemic to take a pay cut and dedicate up to 20 percent of my salary to homeless services relief because the homeless are really suffering right now more than ever. I envision that maybe 10 percent of my salary would be set aside for constituent services, as needed, even if it’s just paying for coffee with constituents.

CLIMATE

Do you support a Green New Deal for D.C.? If so, what would you include in it. 

My first step of our Green New Deal should be implementation of the energy laws we passed recently and dedication to implementing them and funding them, including solar panels on government and private buildings.

We do need to protect our rivers and waterways as well. And I’ve led by example on that. I’ve pushed for and worked with the city to implement the green alleys for the Clean Rivers project. This is to protect our rivers from pollution and sewage by making sure that storm water doesn’t get dumped into our sewers and rivers. I would also push to put in cool pavement, they call it, in some of the hotter parts of our city.

SMALL BUSINESS

How will you protect existing small businesses and support future ones that may hope to open?

I’ve always been in support of grants to Main Streets organizations just like I helped small businesses who were too busy to deal with health coverage for their employees. 

In this changing economy where there’s so much online retail hurting small businesses, they need to be able to compete. Training on new ways of business, especially some of these older small businesses, small changes can go a long way in modernizing their systems.

I have laid out a bunch of policies on my website and those include the microgrants program. I think that needs to be renewed and expanded to help small businesses weather the storm, and in the future, when sales go back up, we can consider some businesses of larger sizes can do some repayment. We’re not going to save all of them but as many as possible.

ECONOMY

How would you balance the D.C. budget (including program cuts) in light of the shortfall caused by the pandemic?

I was looking closely at the mayor’s budget, and I think that generally it has a lot of good approaches in it. I’m glad there’s investment in schools. We know the long term consequences of poorly educated children, and it’s only asking for trouble down the road if we don’t do something about it now. 

In terms of cost of living increases, I do support the idea of shared sacrifice. I don’t know that there should be no cost of living increases at all, but that is one place to look at for a shared sacrifice. And the other place would be some of the unnecessary corporate welfare we have in our system.

Jordan Grossman

Age: 34 

Neighborhood of residence: Shaw 

Hometown: “Washington D.C.” (Editor’s note: Although he was born at a D.C. hospital, Grossman was raised in Potomac and moved to D.C. as an adult.)

What’s your new quarantine hobby? Or what are you binge watching during quarantine?

Binge watching? Never Have I Ever, which is awesome. In terms of new hobbies, we have a two-month-old son. I wouldn’t call it a hobby, but I’ve been spending most of my time either hanging out with him or doing campaign stuff.

EDUCATION

What will you do to combat education inequality across the District, particularly given the setbacks students experienced this year with closures?

Number one, we need to invest in funding. Number two, we need to invest in trauma-informed care and mental health in schools. I think that was a need we had before COVID-19, but I think this crisis is going to hit a lot of students really hard in a lot of different ways, and we have to be prepared for that. It’s not just covering all the content that we missed, it’s treating students as whole people and making sure they are OK and [can] be in a place they can learn. 

Should the mayor maintain control of DCPS?

My preference would be no, but I think addressing inequity would make more sense rather than fighting over another reorganization of the various bodies that govern education in D.C.

CRIME

Mayor Muriel Bowser supported federal prosecutors’ shift to charging some gun crimes in federal court, rather than in D.C. Superior Court, as a tactic to combat gun violence. Attorney General Karl Racine recently argued the practice perpetuates racial disparities and suggested there is no evidence that it reduces crime. Do you support the practice? Explain your answer. 

I agree with Attorney General Racine. I strongly support the attorney general’s Cure the Streets program and the Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement. I think we need to invest in public health approaches to addressing crime and that includes investing in violence interrupters.

Having the federal government involved in our criminal justice system has not been helpful or productive [when it] comes to returning citizens. It’s unhelpful at best to push more of our local criminal justice system to the federal government. 

Some believe greater police presence will lead to less crime. Others fear more officers will lead to more harassment of black and brown people. Should D.C. increase or decrease the size of its police force? Explain your answer.

I don’t think we need to increase or decrease the size of the police force. I think we need to invest in public health approaches to preventing crime, like violence interrupters. We have a lot of inequity in our city and a lot of folks who suffer from a lack of opportunity, so whether that’s affordable housing, childcare, access to healthy foods—the list goes on, but I think we need to invest in those structural issues.

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION 

Oslo, Norway, eliminated pedestrian and cyclist deaths in 2019 with the help of Vision Zero initiatives. Those include replacing on-street parking with bike lanes, congestion pricing fees in the city center, and lowering the speed limit. Do you support any of these initiatives? Describe your vision for eliminating pedestrian and cyclist deaths.

I think we need to make Vision Zero into a concrete approach and not just a slogan. I think that comes from some of the proposals you mentioned, especially reclaiming some of our public space from cars and making them dedicated to pedestrians and cyclists and public transit. 

I think number one, we can reclaim more of our space, and number two, I think we can reduce speed limits, and number three, we need to make our public transit more reliable and more frequent so it feels like a more attractive alternative to people who feel like they need to use cars. 

HOUSING

Do you support eliminating single-family zoning, as other cities have done in order to increase housing density?

Yes. I think we should legalize apartments throughout the city. I support something that some folks call “gentle density.” Even if you just increase density to two, three, or fourplexes, which is similar, I think, to what Minneapolis did, you can increase our housing capacity by thousands of units without fundamentally changing the character of neighborhoods.

The Council is considering a bill to extend the District’s rent control law to 2030. There is a push to also expand the law to include more units. Do you support the bill? Do you support the expansion? Explain. How would you craft an ideal rent control scheme?

Yes. I do support advocates’ calls to not only extend, but strengthen rent control and close loopholes. I think rent control is extremely important to preserving the affordable housing we do have, especially for middle-income folks.

I don’t think it makes sense for the date when buildings come into rent control to be one date that’s decades in the past, I think it should be a dynamic date, so we are not only losing units, but also bringing into rent control.

GOOD GOVERNMENT

Do you support ranked choice voting in D.C.?

Yes. 

Jack Evans’ ethics violations stem largely from his private employment. Do you support a ban on outside employment for councilmembers? Explain. Should there be any exceptions? 

I definitely support banning outside employment. There are examples like Councilemember Cheh, who’s a professor, which creates no conflicts of interest. So I think, sure there could be very limited exceptions.

Should the ban come with a raise?

Councilmembers make a pretty good salary right now. I think public service salaries should be tied to inflation, but otherwise I don’t think the council needs a raise.

Constituent services funds are one way councilmembers are able to receive money from people and interests with business before the city. Should we change the rules around how the funds can be used? Eliminate them altogether? Explain.

I don’t think constituent services funds should go to Jack Evan’s parking tickets or sport tickets. I think absolutely we need to fundamentally reform them. Most things in government, you need to submit a receipt and justify it’s an appropriate expense. That should definitely be the case with constituent services funds. If they are maintained at all, they should be very strictly limited to direct help for residents, like rent payments, utility payments, funeral costs.

CLIMATE

Do you support a Green New Deal for D.C.? If so, what would you include in it. 

Yes, I think our top environment justice priority in D.C. should be the shameful state of our public housing stock. I believe it was in Washington City Paper, there was an article about children getting sick and being rushed into the emergency room, and elderly folks, etc., because of conditions in government housing that they live in. That’s just not acceptable. 

We should not only invest and rectify those hazards, but making sure we are rehabilitating or building new housing in a way that is green and sustainable—especially if we are going to achieve the goals of the historic clean energy law that the Council passed. A huge source of emission is buildings. I think we need to modernize our approach to making our buildings much more sustainable. Also, I think it ought to come with good union jobs and doing that work.

SMALL BUSINESS

How will you protect existing small businesses and support future ones that may hope to reopen?

A few ways we can address small businesses, One: Councilmembers Allen, McDuffie, and Nadeau have proposals where we can make it easier for small businesses to compete when it comes to, say, rent. A lot of these places have come up against landlords wanting to raise the rent a lot and want a five-year guarantee of rent. Even a well off institution might not be able to compete with Chase Bank for five years of rent. Maybe the city can step in and make that guarantee for small local businesses. 

We can do grant programs for small time businesses who are otherwise financially sound but need grants to moderate their facilities or moderanize more generally. 

I serve on my local ANC’s committee, one of the things you see over and over again with small and new businesses, especially some of our folks from the immigrant community who are trying to start a businesses, is the D.C. government can be very difficult to navigate especially if you can’t afford a lobbyist or are not well connected yourself. I think we ought to create a program of government ambassadors for new small businesses that are essentially publicly funded advocates who help you navigate the D.C. bureaucracy so you can get your business off the ground and address these thorny obstacles especially ones that cross multiple agencies.

ECONOMY

How would you balance the D.C. budget (including program cuts) in light of the shortfall caused by the pandemic?

I just put out a statement on this today, with others. We had called for a budget that prioritizes workers and families and small businesses. We don’t go down the path of an austerity budget as we’ve seen in other crises. It could have longful effects and hurt the folks who suffer from inequity already the most.

There are ways you can do this in a responsible way. One: ending these special interest tax breaks that especially Jack Evans had always given to people. Two: We can address Events DC. It often has reserves over its requirement. And it spends its money sometimes in very questionable ways—like sponsoring a Welsh soccer team—that shouldn’t be where taxpayers are going. And so there are ways we can invest in critical investments, affordable childcare for when our economy reopens.

Daniel Hernandez

Age: 32

Neighborhood of residence: Dupont

Hometown: Kansas City, Mo.

What’s your new quarantine hobby? 

I have a little more time for video games now than when I was going door to door all the time. I picked up Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord. A little bit of the strategy genre.

EDUCATION

What will you do to combat education inequality across the District, particularly given the setbacks students experienced this year? 

I think, particularly in the current crisis, some of the things to focus on are ensuring students continue to have access to food. It’s very hard to learn when you’re hungry. We’re not going to close the digital divide in a matter of months, but we need to do our best to ensure kids still have the ability to learn and attend school in whatever format that’s possible.

Those are things like providing laptops to students, providing WiFi to certain public housing areas or buildings that may not have that available. Whether that’s working with some partners or nonprofits, providing WiFi out of a van or bus or making sure WiFi is available from libraries, even if students can’t go in.

When we look at the budget, looking at how we do mental health counseling and assistance, as well as living up to goals of at-risk funding and making sure those are properly used as opposed to augmenting staff budget.

Should the mayor maintain control of DCPS?

No, I don’t believe so. I don’t feel super strongly about whether there should be an elected school board, and they appoint a chancellor, or if we should have an elected superintendent.

CRIME

Mayor Muriel Bowser supported federal prosecutors’ shift to charging some gun crimes in federal court, rather than in D.C. Superior Court, as a tactic to combat gun violence. Attorney General Karl Racine recently argued the practice perpetuates racial disparities and suggested there is no evidence that it reduces crime. Do you support the practice? Explain your answer. 

I’m on Racine’s side here. I think it’s a bit of the mayor trying to look like she’s doing something while some surrounding jurisdictions aren’t as helpful or cooperative as we try to tackle the availability of guns. 

Explain how you would address gun violence.

I believe very strongly we have to look more toward the root causes of violence to really make progress. We can’t arrest our way out of a problem, and those policies have continued to destroy communities. We do have to hold people who break the law accountable, but if we do better about making sure people have access to employment, job training, aren’t going hungry, and can put a roof over their head, I think you’ll see a continued drop in violence. 

Some believe greater police presence will lead to less crime. Others fear more officers will lead to more harassment of black and brown people. Should D.C. increase or decrease the size of its police force? Explain your answer.

I’m comfortable with where we are in terms of the amount of police we have. We need to shift the culture and approach of policing. As someone who’s grown up with both sides of that conflict in the sense that I’ve grown up with family in and out of the criminal justice system, as well as several family members who are now retired police officers or working at the department, I think too often in police training and culture there’s too much antagonism, and an us-versus-them mentality.

I think we should emphasize community policing, officers on foot patrol, and officers getting to know the community. And when you do that, I think you cut out a lot of that fear and anger on both sides.

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION 

Oslo, Norway, eliminated pedestrian and cyclist deaths in 2019 with the help of Vision Zero initiatives. Those include replacing on-street parking with bike lanes, congestion pricing fees in the city center, and lowering the speed limit. Do you support any of these initiatives? Describe your vision for eliminating pedestrian and cyclist deaths.

Yes, absolutely. There’s a lot of things that we need to do. Some are street redesigns, traffic calming measures. Lowering the speed limits is something we can do, but it’ll essentially be a revenue raising activity if we don’t change the streets to accommodate the speed limit we’d like them to have.

We’ve put together some pretty decent plans to address this, but this mayoral administration has continued to slow walk or sideline projects. I think we need legislatively required milestones and progress, and need to push back against the mayor when she doesn’t follow through on what we should be doing there.

HOUSING

Do you support eliminating single-family zoning, as other cities have done in order to increase housing density? 

Yes.

The Council is considering a bill to extend the District’s rent control law to 2030. There is a push to also expand the law to include more units. Do you support the bill? Do you support the expansion? Explain. How would you craft an ideal rent control scheme?

I do support extending rent control. There are some pieces of the reclaim rent control platform I think are good. Things like ending voluntary agreements, which have clearly been abused.

Things like the CPI plus 2 percent for the allowable increase in rent probably needs to be revisited. There are good consumer protection changes as part of the Reclaim Rent Control platform that I think are good ideas. There are others that I’m a little more wary of. I support a rolling inclusion basis for bringing new units under rent control, but I’m not sure what the best time window for that is. Maybe 30 years, so extending it up to 1990, and a rolling basis from there, but I would like to see more research.

GOOD GOVERNMENT

Do you support ranked choice voting in D.C.? 

Of course, that could be a real help in this current election.

Jack Evans’ ethics violations stem largely from his private employment. Do you support a ban on outside employment for councilmembers? Explain. Should there be any exceptions?

I do support the ban, though don’t think it’s the only option. There could be stronger conflict of interest rules and requirements on recusal, but I don’t feel strongly either way of which of those solutions should move forward.

Should the ban come with a raise?

I do think Council pay is enough, but if that’s part of the legislation moving through the Council, I don’t have a problem with doing so.

Constituent services funds are one way councilmembers are able to receive money from people and interests with business before the city. Should we change the rules around how the funds can be used? Eliminate them altogether? Explain.

I thought Councilmember Grosso’s proposed reform of constituent services funds was a good starting point. I would support elimination of them if we can’t accomplish some reforms like that. I think there’s multiple ways to go about fixing the current situation, but I don’t feel strongly about which of those we do. Spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on sports tickets should clearly be unacceptable.

CLIMATE

Do you support a Green New Deal for D.C.? If so, what would you include in it. 

I think we do have a pretty good clean energy act we’re still implementing. Other things I think we can do are emphasizing renewable energy particularly for new D.C. buildings. Some things like the historic preservation board has done much better on solar panels then they did initially.

Basically we should be allowing solar panels even if some people don’t think it’s super pretty. I think we have more serious concerns in our society.

I think it’s also about transportation reforms: Expanding access and reliability of public transportation, more frequent bus service, bus lanes, as well as expanding the Metro system itself and treating it more like New York City’s system as opposed to a commuter rail.

SMALL BUSINESS

How will you protect existing small businesses and support future ones that may hope to open?

A few things: making available or enabling low interest loans as much as possible and making those accessible and not too onerous to go through the process.

Research has shown one of the biggest challenges for small businesses is the continuing rise in commercial rents. So things like vacancy taxes, a lot of times landlords will hold out for a marquee tenant. I think stronger vacancy taxes, and better enforced vacancy taxes will encourage them to be a little more reasonable to keep properties occupied.

I think also while we’re still in shutdown, providing cash assistance to people and continuing to provide unemployment insurance, allows people to continue to shop and spend money and support businesses. I think a lot of times the permitting processes/requirements for businesses can be fairly onerous, like how long it takes to get a liquor license here in D.C. and how much work might go into extending alcohol service hours on the weekend, opening up a sidewalk cafe, this leads to a ton of legal expenses. Some of those are necessary, but I think we can reduce the sheer amount of legal costs built into the current system.

ECONOMY

How would you balance the D.C. budget (including program cuts) in light of the shortfall caused by the pandemic?

I think the mayor actually did a pretty decent job of preparing the current budget given the crisis. I would like to see some assistance for undocumented workers. There’s no federal help coming there. They live here, they work here, they contribute to the community, and we should be helping those whose jobs and careers are impacted by the shutdown.

The qualified high tech [companies] credit (QHTC), some of those tax expenditures that aren’t necessary are things we could get rid of. The K Street Transitway, some things can be pushed off, and that one in particular needs to be evaluated anyway. 

Brooke Pinto

Age: 28 

Neighborhood of residence: Logan Circle 

Hometown: Greenwich, Conn. 

What’s your new quarantine hobby? Or what are you binge watching during quarantine?

I wish I had a more fun answer for you. I have been calling voters mostly—all day and all night. I’ve heard of a lot of great shows that I look forward to watching one day in the future. 

EDUCATION

What will you do to combat education inequality across the District, particularly given the setbacks students experienced this year?

I’m concerned about making sure all of our teachers have the training necessary to provide distance learning, particularly since most health experts predict a second wave of this virus in the fall or winter. We need to make sure that teachers across the city have the requisite training to provide meaningful distance learning.

We also need to have greater focus on our run-down vacant buildings that need to be updated to fit the needs of our current students and not fall into disrepair. I was really discouraged to see the mayor, in her original budget, had pledged to increase education spending by 4 percent, but now with everything going on, she reduced that to 3 percent. Education is one area where funding needs to be increased, especially now. Age 3 through 17, if you fall behind one year, that can affect you for the rest of your life. 

Should the mayor maintain control of DCPS?

Yes, but shifting mayoral control is not among my first list of priorities.

CRIME

Mayor Muriel Bowser supported federal prosecutors’ shift to charging some gun crimes in federal court, rather than in D.C. Superior Court, as a tactic to combat gun violence. Attorney General Karl Racine recently argued the practice perpetuates racial disparities and suggested there is no evidence that it reduces crime. Do you support the practice? Explain your answer. 

As a city, we need to be moving toward a model of more local control over our criminal justice system, not less. We have very strict gun control laws here, we should be empowered as a city to have our elected prosecutors bringing those charges.

We’ve seen a lot of great success with our restorative justice program wherein victims of crimes can opt in to a restorative justice model, when perpetrator and victim come together for a targeted mediation to address not just the punishment of the crime, but why it happened in the first place, and to show a human face of that trauma to the perpetrator. We’ve found there’s great success when the person who committed a crime understands how deeply they have affected and traumatized the victim. That program needs to be expanded so we can handle our crime and our residents within our own borders.

Explain how you would address gun violence.

We need more lighting on our streets. We need more cameras in our public spaces. And in the longer term, I want to expand the “cure the streets” model that’s carried out through OAG and the Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement.

Some believe greater police presence will lead to less crime. Others fear more officers will lead to more harassment of black and brown people. Should D.C. increase or decrease the size of its police force? Explain your answer.

We have a community trust problem in our city, when many members of our community have been traumatized by police officers through stop and frisk and other violatory practices.

There’s a lot more work we need to do to build community trust and make sure our police department has clear rules on what is and is not acceptable behavior. I want to make sure we’re building up community trust and listening to the needs of each neighborhood, as opposed to applying a one-size-fits-all increase or reduction. 

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION 

Oslo, Norway, eliminated pedestrian and cyclist deaths in 2019 with the help of Vision Zero initiatives. Those include replacing on-street parking with bike lanes, congestion pricing fees in the city center, and lowering the speed limit. Do you support any of these initiatives? Describe your vision for eliminating pedestrian and cyclist deaths.

What they’ve done in Oslo is impressive and is worth aspiring to. Linda Bailey and the District Department of Transportation have done a great job with Vision Zero in D.C. But we need more connected and truly protected bike lanes. I don’t think we are in a place like Oslo, where we can eliminate all of our parking spaces. Many of our residents and small business owners still drive and need access to residential and commercial parking. I want to be careful that we’re not applying a one-size-fits-all approach and saying we’re eliminating all of our parking spaces for this really important goal of reducing or eliminating cyclist deaths. 

HOUSING

Do you support eliminating single-family zoning, as other cities have done in order to increase housing density?

This is another area that depends on the neighborhood. There are certain neighborhoods where I’m in favor of eliminating single-family housing and increasing density.

I think the social housing options that have been proposed in other countries like Denmark is the future of our city to have true mixed-income people living together. We’ve seen great success there. I’m very interested in leaning into that model in D.C.

The Council is considering a bill to extend the District’s rent control law to 2030. There is a push to also expand the law to include more units. Do you support the bill? Do you support the expansion? Explain. How would you craft an ideal rent control scheme?

We need more rent control units in our city and we need greater enforcement of those rent control laws so that tenants aren’t being taken advantage of. We know that many tenants sign these leases, and years later, they’re getting utilities charges and other types of add-ons that aren’t readily apparent upon first glance that are in violation of rent control laws. It’s important that we have greater oversight, enforcement, and accountability, which will lead to protections for tenants and deterrents for landlords.

GOOD GOVERNMENT

Do you support ranked choice voting in D.C.?

Yes. 

Jack Evans’ ethics violations stem largely from his private employment. Do you support a ban on outside employment for councilmembers? Explain. Should there be any exceptions? Should the ban come with a raise?

I will not have any outside employment on the Council. I don’t believe there needs to be a raise. I do think [Ward 3 Councilmember] Mary Cheh’s work as a law professor is entirely reasonable. 

Constituent services funds are one way councilmembers are able to receive money from people and interests with business before the city. Should we change the rules around how the funds can be used? Eliminate them altogether? Explain.

This one makes me so sad. The original purpose of constituent services funds was to do just that—help constituents. The fact that our previous councilmember abused public trust in such a great way demonstrated how ripe for abuse these funds are. I do think the model needs to change. We should not have constituent services funds anymore.

CLIMATE

Do you support a Green New Deal for D.C.? If so, what would you include in it. 

Despite this terrible crisis we’re in, I’m hopeful it affords us the opportunity to reimagine how we use our public spaces. I support some proposals introduced this week to allow neighbors to apply for a permit to close off certain streets so that they can be used for walking and biking. I’m in favor of allowing restaurants to take advantage of their sidewalk space so diners can still patronize their restaurant and stay a safe distance from each other. I want to expand our solar energy credits. I want to expand our enforcement of those who are violating our climate justice goals. I want to increase the number of [electric vehicle] charging stations. There’s a lot we can do to clean up the Anacostia and Potomac rivers to make sure they’re potable and swimmable. It’s good for the environment and good for tourism. 

SMALL BUSINESS

How will you protect existing small businesses and support future ones that may hope to open?

There’s a lot we need to do to support our small businesses. We need to increase our direct grants we’re providing to them as well as interest-free loan programs. We need to ensure the bureaucratic processes in place to tap into those programs are working and streamlined. I talk to small business owners all the time who tell me they’ve been on hold for nine hours.

Our Certified Business Enterprise Program that aims to provide preference to small and local businesses here in D.C. has been defrauded and taken advantage of by out-of-state businesses.  They’re taking advantage of our local programs that are meant to help our local businesses. So I really want to have greater focus on expanding those programs and making sure we’re providing the resources and support and priority to our businesses that were here or are and need additional support as opposed to a larger focus on bringing in new businesses. 

ECONOMY

How would you balance the D.C. budget (including program cuts) in light of the shortfall caused by the pandemic?

I’m a tax lawyer. I used to represent the Office of Tax and Revenue. So I think there are lots of creative ways to utilize our tax code to yield different results in a way that balances the budget. But my first step is getting the additional $755 million that we’re owed from the federal CARES Act. I’ve been endorsed, I have support of sitting members of Congress like Senator [Richard] Blumenthal from Connecticut and Congressman [Joe] Kennedy from Massachusetts and former Senate minority and majority leader Tom Daschle among others.

I believe if I and others can make that argument more effectively, we can get the $755 million we’re owed so we can provide for more support for our small businesses, get more PPE and drive through testing centers, get more training for teachers, and other important things we have to focus on. If we get the $755 million that would solve a lot of these problems and I’m hopeful and confident in my ability to deliver there. 

Yilin (Ellen) Zhang

Age: 32

Neighborhood of residence: Kalorama

Hometown: Troy, Mich.

What’s your new quarantine hobby? Or what are you binge watching during quarantine?

I like watching these little otters on YouTube—I don’t really watch movies anymore—and then rewatching some documentaries, Knock Down the House.

Otters? Kotaro and Hana, this one video has like 14 million views. It’s interesting what people are interested in watching.

EDUCATION

What will you do to combat education inequality across the District, particularly given the setbacks students experienced this year?

In D.C., approximately a third of students in public schools at home don’t have access to the internet. To combat this, we need to make sure the resources are delegated equally, and in some places they may need more resources, because children may need access to healthy foods, mental health resources, and access to the internet and computers. 

And I think that takes working across public and private partnerships, working with different organizations to see how we can get children the basic necessities to continuing their education, and also involving the parents more.

Should the mayor maintain control of DCPS?

That’s a very complex question. Sometimes you can’t just move the power around. That doesn’t necessarily address the root cause of the issues.

CRIME

Mayor Muriel Bowser supported federal prosecutors’ shift to charging some gun crimes in federal court, rather than in D.C. Superior Court, as a tactic to combat gun violence. Attorney General Karl Racine recently argued the practice perpetuates racial disparities and suggested there is no evidence that it reduces crime. Do you support the practice? Explain your answer. Explain how you would address gun violence.

I’m always operating with the mentality that we are a state and we should be able to adjudicate our cases fully. So I would disagree that this should be passed to the federal level.

Explain how you would address gun violence.

With the NEAR Act, I agree we need to take a public health approach to addressing gun violence, to addressing crime across the city.

Inequality is really rooted in income inequality across the city. Ward 2 has an incredibly high average income level annually, and then you look at Wards 7 and 8, so there’s this great disparity. I think we need to address the root causes, which is making sure that everyone has access to basic necessities, quality health care, quality grocery stores, that we have increased walkability across all neighborhoods, and that people have access to job opportunities, and that we diversify our economy so people can enter into different employment that will offer upward trajectory.

Some believe greater police presence will lead to less crime. Others fear more officers will lead to more harassment of black and brown people. Should D.C. increase or decrease the size of its police force? Explain your answer.

I don’t agree with increasing the police force. I think we need to invest more in peace keepers and people who are mediators and people who are building trust in communities. So no, I don’t agree with more resources into enforcement. We need more social workers and case managers.

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION 

Oslo, Norway, eliminated pedestrian and cyclist deaths in 2019 with the help of Vision Zero initiatives. Those include replacing on-street parking with bike lanes, congestion pricing fees in the city center, and lowering the speed limit. Do you support any of these initiatives? Describe your vision for eliminating pedestrian and cyclist deaths.

In D.C., yes, we need to build more resilient infrastructure, so there are bike lanes where residents can really benefit. We’re starting to see more things introduced in D.C., such as scooters, so we need to have infrastructure that’s ready to have them.

With replacing parking, that’s a case-by-case basis. Some roads in D.C. you simply can’t do that. Decongestion pricing in our city center: I’m looking at the equality impacts. If there’s individuals who [need to get to] the city center for their job, but don’t have access to efficient and convenient public transportation in their neighborhood, then we’re inconveniencing them with another charge. I think we need to do a study on it first and understand what is the traffic flow.

I’m in support of lowering speed limits if it’s going to change the behavior and make it safer for pedestrians. I think we first need to look at all the issues, and I think one of them is making sure that the signage is clear to people and that the lanes are marked clearly so people can see it.

HOUSING

Do you support eliminating single-family zoning, as other cities have done in order to increase housing density? 

I don’t agree with completely doing away with single-family zoning. I know some of my counterparts have said they do agree with that. But when you look at Ward 2, we have a lot of unique neighborhoods, and yes, we need increased density in some areas to support everyone who is looking for housing … but I also think we need to maintain our historic buildings, and maintain our unique characteristics. I know some say, “If you don’t do away with it, we’re never going to have enough affordable housing.” I don’t know if that’s necessarily true. 

The Council is considering a bill to extend the District’s rent control law to 2030. There is a push to also expand the law to include more units. Do you support the bill? Do you support the expansion? Explain. How would you craft an ideal rent control scheme?

I agree with continuing rent control. I agree with taking a look at it and expanding rent control. I’ve also said in the past that I support expanding rent control to newer buildings and looking at the possibilities of the newest building.

The Reclaim Rent Control platform makes a lot of good points about filling some of the gaps. I think the only thing that I would want to look at is for the landlords who own the smaller buildings with under four units. And we’re making sure our small business landlords are appropriately resourced and the policy is not going to put them at a great disadvantage.

POLITICS/GOOD GOVERNMENT

Do you support ranked choice voting in D.C.?

Yes, absolutely. It’s critical to ensure we eliminate vote splitting and getting someone who is representative of the voters’ choice.

Jack Evans’ ethics violations stem largely from his private employment. Do you support a ban on outside employment for councilmembers? Explain. Should there be any exceptions? Should the ban come with a raise?

I think a councilmember should be dedicating their full focus on the job. And I know that some of the councilmembers have introduced a bill where it’s gonna say councilmembers cannot work in an outside job with exception of if you work in academia. But if we’re going to make exceptions, then we need to have a metric in how we’re excluding certain professions. So if you include academia, what about individuals who are healthcare providers? I think I would rather have a blanket ban.

Should the ban come with a pay raise? I would agree if there is a pay raise. It’s a position where you’re someone who is leading and serving approximately 80,000 residents. So I would say yes, I would agree with a pay raise.

Constituent services funds are one way councilmembers are able to receive money from people and interests with business before the city. Should we change the rules around how the funds can be used? Eliminate them altogether? Explain.

Right now constituent funds are supposed to be used to support our residents and to help pay emergency bills, electric bills. So I would want to take a look at what is useful to our constituents. Buying tickets to games, I think once in a while that’s fine if that really benefits residents. But if it’s not benefiting the greater good, then it’s not something I would want to use.

CLIMATE

Do you support a Green New Deal for D.C.? If so, what would you include in it. 

I support the Clean Energy Omnibus Act. With the Green New Deal, I want to understand it more cohesively, but in general I agree with making D.C. a greener place, but that also requires more time and investment in educating our public, working with our vendors and suppliers so they know how they can move to a greener business approach.

In Ward 2, I’m a big proponent of making sure we have more parks. I think we need to have greener spaces, what are basically called third spaces that allow people to join the outdoors.

SMALL BUSINESS

How will you protect existing small businesses and support future ones that may hope to open?

With COVID-19, it’s highlighted that we need a resilient infrastructure to support small business owners and the staff that they have. The small businesses that I’ve spoken to, they’re very concerned day by day. It’s important that we address it holistically for small business owners and for their staff. So making sure that small businesses have access to not just loans but also grants.

On top of that looking at not just rent, but the real property tax for commercial businesses. I spoke to one business that saw a 75 percent spike in their property tax, and they’re spending a month and a half to two months just to pay their property tax. 

ECONOMY

How would you balance the D.C. budget (including program cuts) in light of the shortfall caused by the pandemic?

I do agree with the mayor having a freeze on hiring and traveling. Also I think we need to look across the board and evaluate whether there’s duplication of programming and whether there’s inefficiencies that could be addressed with technological innovation.

And on top of that looking at where there might be unused funds or a slush fund somewhere that could be redirected to more emergency areas such as providing stable housing for our residents experiencing homelessness.

John Fanning

Age: 57

Neighborhood of residence: Logan Circle

Hometown: Washington Heights, New York City

What’s your new quarantine hobby?

Virtual conferencing! A lot more reading. The New York Times, which I read frequently. I’ve been on social media more than ever. I’m not on Instagram, but Facebook and Twitter.

EDUCATION

What will you do to combat education inequality across the District, particularly given the setbacks students experienced this year?

We have to make sure we close the digital divide, which I’m learning there was a challenge with students having access to the internet. I think that’s very important moving forward. So I’m willing to work with [the Office of the Chief Technology Officer] and our service providers to make sure we connect them to the digital divide, right?

We’re gonna have to figure out how we’re going to open our libraries during this whole COVID pandemic and during the summer in particular.

Should the mayor maintain control of DCPS?

Yes.

CRIME

Mayor Muriel Bowser supported federal prosecutors’ shift to charging some gun crimes in federal court, rather than in D.C. Superior Court, as a tactic to combat gun violence. Attorney General Karl Racine recently argued the practice perpetuates racial disparities and suggested there is no evidence that it reduces crime. Do you support the practice? Explain your answer. 

I don’t [support it]. We won’t be able to implement reform policies until we take over the management of our courts and federal prosecution system. So if I’m in line with turning over prosecutions of gun offenses into the federal system, it doesn’t fall in line with what I would like to see happen with us moving reforms forward in the city.

Explain how you would address gun violence.

This is a challenge. There must be an underground market for it. Somehow guns are getting into the city from other jurisdictions, and I think we should be working with the [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives] to come up with a comprehensive strategy to monitor these gun purchases.

Some believe greater police presence will lead to less crime. Others fear more officers will lead to more harassment of black and brown people. Should D.C. increase or decrease the size of its police force? Explain your answer.

We should increase it. And I say that because the population growth of the city, especially with the addition of entertainment districts, like Southwest and H Street NE, there is a demand on our department.

I think we can work on biased policing and stop and frisk. There needs to be more extensive training within the department, so a lot of these issues don’t keep recurring, but I think we need to expand the department.

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION 

Oslo, Norway, eliminated pedestrian and cyclist deaths in 2019 with the help of Vision Zero initiatives. Those include replacing on-street parking with bike lanes, congestion pricing fees in the city center, and lowering the speed limit.

Do you support any of these initiatives? Describe your vision for eliminating pedestrian and cyclist deaths.

Yes. I’m for lowering the speed limit and I’m for increasing protected bike lanes in corridors where the engineering and design is possible. So if we want to decrease fatalities and improve our mobility in the city, it has to be a priority. I also would support banning right-hand turns on red at all intersections with traffic lights.

What about congestion pricing? 

How do we have a long term vision to keep folks from driving into the city? One way is to work with regional partners in the business community. A lot of them offer parking, and maybe we should subsidize transit. Another idea I had is expanding the Metrorail systems. I would support regional funding to expand the Orange line out to Crofton, Maryland.

We’re not going to get rid of the vehicle. I don’t think we’re ready for that. But we can decrease congestion by expanding the Metro and subsidizing employees to get on the transit system.

HOUSING

Do you support eliminating single-family zoning, as other cities have done in order to increase housing density? 

I would like to do more research on that and work with the Office of Planning where we possibly can do that in parts of the ward. I would support it, and then in others there might be a lot of opposition to doing that.

Ward 2 is uniquely different. We have a lot of historic neighborhoods. Like residents in Georgetown, they don’t want to see the character of their neighborhood [change], sort of like that house on 11th Street, or 10th and V Street where it went up three, four stories and it looked ridiculous. You can have special exceptions or variances, but what is it going to look like and what impact is it going to have on the block?

The Council is considering a bill to extend the District’s rent control law to 2030. There is a push to also expand the law to include more units. Do you support the bill? Do you support the expansion? Explain. How would you craft an ideal rent control scheme?

This is like a negotiation. If you look at all the rental housing we lost in the last 20 years, it’s like over 150,000 units. My position is to negotiate and do it in 10 year increments. So I would propose making amendments to the rent control legislation to include properties up to 1995, and in 10 years we add another 10 to it, which would increase the stock of rent control units significantly.

GOOD GOVERNMENT

Do you support ranked choice voting in D.C.?

I do. But there needs to be a lot of education around ranked choice voting because it’s a little complicated. I like that or the runoff with the top two vote getters if they don’t reach the 50 percent threshold. 

Jack Evans’ ethics violations stem largely from his private employment. Do you support a ban on outside employment for councilmembers? Explain. Should there be any exceptions? Should the ban come with a raise?

I support the ban. And I would support a pay increase because then the title will be amended to a full-time position.

Constituent services funds are one way councilmembers are able to receive money from people and interests with business before the city. Should we change the rules around how the funds can be used? Eliminate them altogether? Explain.

I think we should have a general constituent service fund and possibly prohibit folks doing business with the city from contributing to it.

They’re for emergencies, not baseball tickets. [Councilmembers] get tickets anyway. I never understood that. But it is what it is.

CLIMATE

Do you support a Green New Deal for D.C.? If so, what would you include in it. 

I think we need to fight back against the Trump administration. Our wetlands are so critical to our entire environment simply because of our wildlife, and I would support the legislation to protect our wetlands.

We’ve made significant progress on cleaning up the Anacostia River and when I worked for the Williams admin they installed the catch basins to catch shopping carts and milk cartons. So I would like to see an investment in that. All our buses should be electric. Oh, and charging stations. We should start installing them at all the gas stations in the District, at any car wash, and we should work with car sharing companies to help us do that.

SMALL BUSINESS

How will you protect existing small businesses and support future ones that may hope to open?

We may defer taxes, which I think we’re gonna have to do. We need to increase the retail grant opportunities that we currently offer, and I didn’t see any of that proposed in the budget. I was hoping that we would open up curbside space so that some of these restaurants could start opening.

Really it’s the rents, right? So there’s also the commercial vacant property loophole in commercial property taxes. We need to amend that. Because they could keep the place closed for two years. So put us in a situation where the commercial property owner would be in a position where he would have to lease it.

We have small businesses, when they file taxes, we give them a 5,000 rebate, I would like to increase that to 15,000, and it could be a temporary amendment to the tax code.

ECONOMY

How would you balance the D.C. budget (including program cuts) in light of the shortfall caused by the pandemic?

Reading the mayor’s budget, I think she tried to strike a balance. The challenges moving forward and what we don’t want to see happen is massive displacement from evictions. So we need to make sure the [Emergency Rental Assistance] program is funded.

Events DC allocated $5 million for undocumented workers, who aren’t eligible for unemployment, and I would like to see what kind of legislation we can work on so they can somehow qualify. We might have to get a federal law or guideline through Congress, so I’d work with Eleanor Holmes Norton’s office.

And the streetcar, the $113 million for the streetcar, I don’t know why they couldn’t postpone that. 

We should look at all our fee structures, in the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, for example, we didn’t change the fee structure for public space. A couple people said they thought the city could charge more for public space, and then they have the new deal where they want public space to be free.

The pools are free, too but would residents be willing to pay $25 for a family to go swimming all season?

WARD 4

Brandon Todd

Age: 37 

Neighborhood of residence: Petworth

Hometown: Washington, D.C.

What’s your new quarantine hobby? Or what are you binge watching during quarantine?

I have started to cook, which is something that I’ve never done before. Usually in my refrigerator I have yogurt, bananas, almond milk, and Raisin Bran. But in quarantine, I’ve made pot roast. I’ve made fried pork chops. I’ve made roasted brussels sprouts. I’ve made salmon. So it’s been a learning experience for me.

EDUCATION

What will you do to combat education inequality across the District, particularly given the setbacks students experienced this year?

We know with distance learning over the last two and a half months or so that our students will need extra help. We know that with the possibility of a modified school schedule in the fall that DCPS is going to have to work doubly hard to make sure that our students are not falling so far behind. So, you know, I will continue to make sure that our [per] pupil funding rates are at appropriate levels. But also make sure we have the technology that is going to be needed to make sure that no child is left behind during COVID-19.

Should the mayor maintain control of DCPS?

Yes, without a doubt, I think it’s very important to have mayoral control of schools.

CRIME

Mayor Muriel Bowser supported federal prosecutors’ shift to charging some gun crimes in federal court, rather than in D.C. Superior Court, as a tactic to combat gun violence. Attorney General Karl Racine recently argued the practice perpetuates racial disparities and suggested there is no evidence that it reduces crime. Do you support the practice? Explain your answer. 

Yes, I do. I think that we can leverage some of the resources that the federal government has for some of those gun crimes.

Explain how you would address gun violence.

I think that obviously public safety is a government-wide approach. I have convened a government-wide task force to help look at public safety challenges in my ward that’s comprised of the Metropolitan Police Department, the Office of Neighborhood and Safety Engagement, the Department of Employment Services, to Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, to the Department of Youth and Rehabilitative Affairs. It’s about 40 offices and agencies across the government. 

I also have a Ward Four Advisory Committee on Public Safety that advises me on policies and community initiatives around public safety. 

Some believe greater police presence will lead to less crime. Others fear more officers will lead to more harassment of black and brown people. Should D.C. increase or decrease the size of its police force? Explain your answer.

I think that we should increase the number of police that we have in the District of Columbia. You know, our city is growing by leaps and bounds every month and every year. And I think it’s important that we have a police force that is equipped to deal with the growing cities like ours. No matter what neighborhood I’m in, I hear neighbors say they want to see the police. I think we have one of the best police departments in the country. We have a police department that has been very focused on a community policing model, and we have amazing community and police relations.

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION 

Oslo, Norway, eliminated pedestrian and cyclist deaths in 2019 with the help of Vision Zero initiatives. Those include replacing on-street parking with bike lanes, congestion pricing fees in the city center, and lowering the speed limit. Do you support any of these initiatives? Describe your vision for eliminating pedestrian and cyclist deaths.

I support lowering the speed limit, I support protected bike lane infrastructure for a protected bike lane network—a citywide network that can take an individual from one part of the District to the next. And we have to have robust public transportation in bus and rail.

Last year, the District restricted right turns on red at about 150 intersections throughout the city. I believe that we need to eliminate right turns on red at every intersection in the District. I want to see the data around if intersections have improved, if there have been less accidents, there’ve been less pedestrian accidents or less bicycle accidents or vehicular accidents. But I think we should move to no right turns on red, period, all acrossthe District.

HOUSING

Do you support eliminating single-family zoning, as other cities have done in order to increase housing density?

No, I do not. I think that we have to be creative, and we have to use areas that are appropriate for multi-family housing and that are appropriate for lots of density.

We have huge housing needs. We have to build 36,000 units in the next five years. And I think that we’ll be able to do it by upzoning on corridors like Georgia Avenue NW and Kennedy Street NW and Riggs Road NE and South Dakota Avenue NE where there’s a tremendous opportunity to bring a number of units and increase density.

The Council is considering a bill to extend the District’s rent control law to 2030. There is a push to also expand the law to include more units. Do you support the bill? Do you support the expansion? Explain. 

Absolutely, I support extending rent control. The course that I believe we should take is to pull together stakeholders and figure out what exactly an expansion looks like. I know that that is, you know, being under consideration from the Committee on Housing and Revitalization. But I do support the extension of rent control.

How would you craft an ideal rent control scheme?

I want to hear from a number of stakeholders. I think we have to hear from renters, we have to hear from advocates, we have to hear from housing providers, affordable housing providers, market rate housing providers, we have to hear from experts, you have to hear from a government official to figure out what is best for the District of Columbia.

GOOD GOVERNMENT

Do you support ranked choice voting in D.C.?

I have not decided whether I support it or not.

Jack Evans’ ethics violations stem largely from his private employment. Do you support a ban on outside employment for councilmembers? Explain. Should there be any exceptions? Should the ban come with a raise?

I do support an outside ban on employment for councilmembers. I’m a ward councilmember, I don’t have time to have another job.

You know, I do think that there could be some exceptions. But I think that maybe people in the clergy, perhaps medical doctors, or professors, but I think that it couldn’t be one or the other. I think in jobs like those, you know, physician, I think, professors…you know what? I do say all employment should be banned. It lessens the conflict for all.

Constituent services funds are one way councilmembers are able to receive money from people and interests with business before the city. Should we change the rules around how the funds can be used? Eliminate them altogether? Explain.

Well, I think that how the constituent funds are used is pretty explicit. I don’t support eliminating constituent services funds. I use my constituent services fund to build community. My office hosts annual Family Fun Day where people from all 20 neighborhoods of the ward come. We host an annual holiday party where we collect over 800 brand new coats for students in need. We use it to support school fairs where they raise money to buy books and buy supplies and support their school. We use it to rent a moon bounce for a block party when people want to bring their neighbors together. And so I think that constituent services funds should be used for community building. But they should also be used to help people when they’re in need. 

CLIMATE

Do you support a Green New Deal for D.C.? If so, what would you include in it. 

I think that we’ve passed one of the most robust clean energy bills in 2018. I mean we’re a leader in the region. I’ve had the privilege of serving at the Council of Governments on the Metropolitan Washington Air Quality Committee. And actually, I’m the chairman of that committee this year, and we really focused on making sure that the D.C. region is meeting our air quality goal. And so, we’ll continue to be focused on that.

SMALL BUSINESS

How will you protect existing small businesses and support future ones that may hope to open?

Absolutely, small businesses are the lifeblood of our ward and of our city. Since I’ve been in office we have funded and created three Main Streets in Ward 4, which have been tremendously helpful to support current businesses that are there, but also tremendously helpful in attracting new small businesses to our corridors. I also think that it’s very important that we have a predictable government because, you know, small businesses rely on predictability when they’re thinking about opening or not.

ECONOMY

How would you balance the D.C. budget (including program cuts) in light of the shortfall caused by the pandemic?

I think that this is a tough time for our city, having about a nearly $750 million gap to close in the 2020 budget, the 2021 budget. I believe that agency efficiencies are the best way to figure out where we can trim the fat within agencies, and figure out cost savings along long standing vacancies. Now the last thing we want to do is furlough employees. And I’m really pleased that in the mayor’s budget, there were no cuts to staff for government employees, because I think it’s hugely important.

Janeese Lewis George

Age: 32

Neighborhood of residence: Manor Park

Hometown: Washington, D.C.  

What’s your new quarantine hobby? Or what are you binge watching during quarantine?

I’ve been watching this show on Hulu called Siren. Very weird, I know, it’s about mermaids. It’s terrible. I’m embarrassed.

Other hobbies: just, like, finding multiple ways to use bananas. So there’s been banana bread, banana pudding.

EDUCATION

What will you do to combat education inequality across the District, particularly given the setbacks students experienced this year?

One, change the way schools are allocated funding to not just include enrollment, but to include the sociological makeup of the school and consider those factors as well as enrollment. Closing the digital divide, providing laptops to every individual student. Finally, changing the evaluation system for educators to be one that’s negotiated by our educators. So ending the impact of evaluation, and then continuing to amplify our parent voices.

Should the mayor maintain control of DCPS?

No. I served on the school board actually pre-mayoral rule as a student representative. I think it’s so critical to have the checks and balances in our education system. And right now, we don’t have checks and balances, and it’s led to the parents’ voices, teachers’ voices and educators’ voices [suffering] as a result of it, as we just saw with the closing of Washington Metropolitan High School.

CRIME

Mayor Muriel Bowser supported federal prosecutors’ shift to charging some gun crimes in federal court, rather than in D.C. Superior Court, as a tactic to combat gun violence. Attorney General Karl Racine recently argued the practice perpetuates racial disparities and suggested there is no evidence that it reduces crime. Do you support the practice? Explain your answer. 

No, I stay with Attorney General Karl Racine. Having worked in criminal justice my entire career, there’s literally no evidence that it results in reducing crime. 

And so, we want to take evidence-based approaches that work to solve crime … The attorney general is the one who’s elected by the people of D.C. And so that’s the person who should be able to lead on what we do in criminal justice here in our city. And I do think [federal prosecution] will actually lead to continued inequity and mass incarceration that we’ve seen across our country.

Explain how you would address gun violence?

I have done a lot of studies actually on Chicago, who’s done a great improvement in reducing gun violence. They targeted communities that were ridden with gun violence, and they put investments in those communities. They put violence interrupters in those communities to interrupt crime before it happens.

They created a crime lab, a University of Chicago Crime Lab. I want to see us do a university crime lab here in our city that is able to trace and make decisions based on the data of how we’re able to trace gun violence and also have a database of guns and be able to trace the trafficking.

Some believe greater police presence will lead to less crime. Others fear more officers will lead to more harassment of black and brown people. Should D.C. increase or decrease the size of its police force? Explain your answer.

It’s not the amount of police that makes a difference. It’s the police investment in the community that makes the difference. I’m not for decreasing or increasing the police force. I’m for utilizing our police department in a way that is going to be beneficial to our community. 

There’s a difference between community policing, where you have officers who are walking the same beat every day, who are out of their cars, interacting with the community. Back in the day, you knew who your officer was, like, “Oh, hey, Officer Smith. Hey, how you doing?”

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION 

Oslo, Norway, eliminated pedestrian and cyclist deaths in 2019 with the help of Vision Zero initiatives. Those include replacing on-street parking with bike lanes, congestion pricing fees in the city center, and lowering the speed limit. Do you support any of these initiatives? Describe your vision for eliminating pedestrian and cyclist deaths.

Yeah, absolutely. One of the things I think is important is that we look at a congestion tax. I also think we have to be putting those who are most vulnerable first, and who’s most vulnerable in our community when it comes to the way we use our roads: our pedestrians and bike riders. 

I think when we talk about the speed limit, it’s really about creating the infrastructure so that people aren’t driving fast. We can lower it down to 20, but it’s about creating the infrastructure so that people aren’t speeding on the roads and really changing the attitude.

HOUSING

Do you support eliminating single-family zoning, as other cities have done in order to increase housing density? 

In our city, we have so many different neighbors and are so complex. So, in certain areas of the city, yes. But I would say citywide, no.

The Council is considering a bill to extend the District’s rent control law to 2030. There is a push to also expand the law to include more units. Do you support the bill? Do you support the expansion? Explain. How would you craft an ideal rent control scheme?

Yes, I am in support of expanding it up to buildings built before 2005 and expanding into four-unit buildings. That would add an extensive amount of rent controlled apartments.

I think one of the other issues we see with rent control is it has loopholes. So, I think the eligibility date and closing existing loopholes is important. Capping the annual rent increase at level of inflation and eliminating the extra 2 percent allowed under the current law. The current law cap increases at inflation plus 2 percent. So that means rent increases are still outpacing wage increases in the District, so that leaves residents who have fixed incomes in danger of displacement. 

POLITICS/GOOD GOVERNMENT

Do you support ranked choice voting in D.C.?

Absolutely. 

Jack Evans’ ethics violations stem largely from his private employment. Do you support a ban on outside employment for councilmembers? Explain. Should there be any exceptions? Should the ban come with a raise?

Yes. I think councilmembers get paid well. I know people have said, what about educational exceptions, and I’d be open to looking at what exceptions would be there, but when you start creating exceptions then you start creating a slippery slope.

I know Councilmember Cheh is a professor and education is absolutely something that’s important, so that’s something I’m willing to consider, but for right now I’m in support of just a complete, full ban. 

Constituent services funds are one way councilmembers are able to receive money from people and interests with business before the city. Should we change the rules around how the funds can be used? Eliminate them altogether? Explain.

I think as part of receiving your councilmember budget, you should have a budget for constituent services. I think we need to change the way those are funded. It shouldn’t be by campaign donors and funders. I [also] think we need to change how those funds are used. I’m for both of those reforms happening before we see constituent services funds continue.

CLIMATE

Do you support a Green New Deal for D.C.? If so, what would you include in it. 

I’m a huge supporter of a Green New Deal for D.C. We have to meet our goal of net zero emissions. We have to create the congestion fee for downtown, we have to expand our transit, biking and walking lanes. We have to replace all of our buses with zero emission buses. We have to invest in a high speed rail. We need to increase subsidies for zero-emission vehicles and charging stations and eliminate subsidies for alternative greenhouse gas-emitting vehicles.

We have to do further investments in our composting, recycling, and our waste to energy conversion, which I think is important.

The Green New Deal is all about creating good jobs, like good paying jobs, and investing in infrastructure to make sure that families are good. And it’s about promoting justice and equity.

SMALL BUSINESS

How will you protect existing small businesses and support future ones that may hope to open?

For me, it’s about stabilizing the rent costs for our small businesses, finding ways to either subsidize some of the high costs or create some type of rent stabilization controls for small businesses. It’s really the overhead charges and the rent hikes that have really pushed a lot of our businesses out.

What I’ve heard is stabilization of rent hikes, and stabilization of overhead charges and simplifying the way businesses have to deal with the city and come to find ways that they are able to succeed in that way and continue to work. 

We have a Main Street program here in our ward. We can create opportunities for our businesses and encourage the community to actually support our local businesses, like doing some Open Streets to be able to get people out of cars and on the street to be able to walk to their businesses. 

ECONOMY

How would you balance the D.C. budget (including program cuts) in light of the shortfall caused by the pandemic?

The way you budget is a reflection of your city, your budget is a reflection of your priorities. And we need to make sure that we are prioritizing in a way that the budget, when we reopen the city, isn’t going to be one that falls on the backs of working people and working families. We have the opportunity here to take a hard look at our procurement process, where we’re spending, duplicative funding, where funding is most critically needed. And so that would look like the investments in our education, investments in our housing program, investments in funding Birth to Three for all. For me, balancing the budget is really finding a way to make sure that as a city, we are prioritizing our most vulnerable and continuing to expand and grow as a city while doing so.

Marlena Edwards

Age: 53

Neighborhood of residence: Shepherd Park

Hometown: Washington, D.C.

What’s your new quarantine hobby? Or what are you binge watching during quarantine?

Just continuing on with the campaign with alternative strategies to door knocking. No new hobbies at this time. 

EDUCATION

What will you do to combat education inequality across the District, particularly given the setbacks students experienced this year?

I am a master’s level social worker, so I have worked extensively with all groups and populations across the city. To deal specifically with inequity, I worked on a project with Department of Health Care Finance, in combination with DC Public Schools and the Office of the State Superintendent, where we were able to find funding through Medicaid in order to provide services that are so needed [for] our children here in Washington, D.C. The District used to pay a per diem for these services, but instead of paying the per diem, the program that we put together was so that these agencies, DCPS could bill Medicaid, which is coming from the federal dollar. 

So what I would do is look at the comprehensive money modeling plan for each school in Ward 4, or look across the District of Columbia, when we get to that point, and look at whether or not all of these schools have the full complement of staff that they need to make sure that you have all of the services in place. That will make sure that you have all the proper staffing in place at each of the schools that are needed to give each child a full educational experience, and so that they can meet age-appropriate educational benchmarks.

Should the mayor maintain control of DCPS?

No, I do not believe that the mayor should continue to have control of DCPS. I believe that you need to strengthen the role of the Office of the State Superintendent.

CRIME

Mayor Muriel Bowser supported federal prosecutors’ shift to charging some gun crimes in federal court, rather than in D.C. Superior Court, as a tactic to combat gun violence. Attorney General Karl Racine recently argued the practice perpetuates racial disparities and suggested there is no evidence that it reduces crime. Do you support the practice? Explain your answer. 

The District does need more powers in terms of charging for gun crimes, and part of it has to do with when you need to expedite crime and appropriately charge someone.

Now, I am in favor of reform in the criminal justice system. And I have attended a function where it was a new unit in Fulton County, Georgia, with Paul Howard, the DA there. And with that specific program is the conviction integrity unit program. It’s like the Innocence Project where you go back, you look at a crime, you see if there’s a racial bias that may have been involved with someone who was over sentenced, if they were in jail too long inordinately, and if they should be released. So, yes, along with that I believe in overall criminal justice reform in the District to make sure that there’s no bias in terms of gun crimes and any other crime.

Explain how you would address gun violence.

One time they had a program where people could come and turn in guns if they had it illegally and not be charged. That was many, many years ago. But at this point, when you’re dealing with gun violence, there’s a lot of issues tied into it—often maybe social economic issues tied into it. So I would look at lowering gun violence by working first with the different groups, which will be the Metropolitan Police Department. I would have monthly meetings in each ward with the Metropolitan Police Department, the ANC, any residents, any business owners, and any stakeholders in that specific ward. And they come together and develop a matrix so that we have an opportunity to discuss, “Where are the trouble spots?” so that we can be proactive with policing versus reactive.

And then reintroduction of community policing, where we have more bicycle and foot patrols in the neighborhood, officers on Segways, so that they get an opportunity to meet with residents. Residents then get an opportunity to meet with them and to build trust amongst the two groups.

Also reinstituting the officer-friendly program where you have police officers go into the schools early to meet with the children and explain policing to them. 

Some believe greater police presence will lead to less crime. Others fear more officers will lead to more harassment of black and brown people. Should D.C. increase or decrease the size of its police force? Explain your answer.

Oh, they need to increase the size of their police force. One issue we’re dealing with is safety in the schools. We don’t want any shooting in schools because there have been recommendations or suggestions that you should not have police officers acting as security detail at schools or maybe after hours. I don’t feel that it singles out black and brown people or any other person in this city. You need police protection and you need safe passage because there are children who are afraid of gang violence on the way home. You have teachers who need protection. We need their presence in order to feel safe. 

And then there is continual training for officers. As a MSW, I’ve had a colleague who would go to the Metropolitan Police Department and provide training on how to de-escalate situations. If someone is schizophrenic or exhibiting signs that may appear to be violent, they can learn that the person may not physically hurt them, the person is more danger to themselves, and they understand how to de-escalate the situation without using violence. 

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION 

Oslo, Norway, eliminated pedestrian and cyclist deaths in 2019 with the help of Vision Zero initiatives. Those include replacing on-street parking with bike lanes, congestion pricing fees in the city center, and lowering the speed limit. Do you support any of these initiatives? Describe your vision for eliminating pedestrian and cyclist deaths.

My vision for the Vision Zero initiative in the District of Columbia would be working with DDOT to expedite any infrastructure improvements, to identify areas where there is possible danger to pedestrians, and expediting environmental impact studies, in terms of where bicycle lanes should go. Yes, I’m for the Vision Zero initiative. The lowering the speed limit? Yes. 20-to-25 miles per hour—25 miles per hour for more busy streets. Yes, adding bike lanes as appropriate. About 80 percent of the individuals who work in Washington, D.C., come in from Maryland and Virginia, so I believe that they should be charged a small commuter tax that could be used to build out our infrastructure to improve roadways, to add bike paths, to add the staffing that’s needed to implement the Vision Zero plan.

And another part would be improving public transportation. And that’s how you would lower the dependence on cars, because if we get with our regional partners and make sure that the Metrorail is intact, bus service is intact, not eliminating any bus lines, that’s how we could move towards the initiative—not being so dependent on cars and being able to implement pedestrian travel and bike safety in our neighborhoods.

HOUSING

Do you support eliminating single-family zoning, as other cities have done in order to increase housing density?

It depends. In terms of single-family zoning, no, I would keep it the same, but just making sure we have a different mix of housing in each of the neighborhoods, whether it’s single-family, whether it’s duplex, whether it’s apartment.

The Council is considering a bill to extend the District’s rent control law to 2030. There is a push to also expand the law to include more units. Do you support the bill? Do you support the expansion? Explain. How would you craft an ideal rent control scheme?

Yes, definitely. I would agree that the law should be expanded to homes that are built up to 2006, that there needs to be an extension of making sure that landlords are not charging tenants any fees for a capital improvement. Making sure that the hundred million dollars that, they say, per year goes towards low- and middle-income housing and putting on an additional hundred million. So the first hundred million dollars must be dedicated to low- and middle-income transitional housing, and then the next hundred can deal with regular development in order to make sure that we’re meeting our affordable housing goals and rent control.

How would you craft an ideal rent control scheme?

Well, if you put the matrix together, then you can tell what is the maximum amount that you should raise the rent each year, so that you say that you’re not outside of inflation and overcharging individuals. I believe that’s the best way to gauge rent control. We all know that there have been instances where individuals may be living in an apartment and, in order to get rid of the tenants, rent is raised exorbitantly to push them out, so that you can convert to condos or other practices that may be unfair.

GOOD GOVERNMENT

Do you support ranked choice voting in D.C.?

Yes, I do support ranked choice voting as opposed to doing a run off.

Jack Evans’ ethics violations stem largely from his private employment. Do you support a ban on outside employment for councilmembers? Explain. Should there be any exceptions? Should the ban come with a raise?

No, I don’t support a ban for outside private employment for councilmembers … It has to do with the cost of living in the city. If you have a family, if you’re purchasing a home, educating your children, it’s very, very expensive in this city. So as long as you do not have outside employment that is a conflict of interest or that ruins your ability to deliver constituents services or to participate in your day job as councilmember then no, there should not be a ban because you need to be able to address possible cost-of-living issues for housing in the District.

Constituent services funds are one way councilmembers are able to receive money from people and interests with business before the city. Should we change the rules around how the funds can be used? Eliminate them altogether? Explain.

Yes. I would have to sit down and look at all of the different needs that you have in the community—maybe for utilities to be paid, if someone experiences a natural disaster, they may need assistance. You may need burial assistance. You may want to help with other initiatives or small projects in the community.

So if it’s something that can be truly deemed educational, if it’s dealing with housing, clothing, food, utility, or an educational purpose, then look at a couple other purposes, then yes, we can change it so that it does not appear to be a slush fund. 

Would you ever support eliminating the fund altogether?

No, not at all. 

CLIMATE

Do you support a Green New Deal for D.C.? If so, what would you include in it. 

I would support a Green New Deal for the District of Columbia that we line up with other countries. We need to look at solar paneling and look at incentives to have solar paneling for regular residents and so that businesses can begin to go to solar paneling, looking at lowering the use of cars in the District, and making sure we have better public transportation so that we’re not having issues with toxic emissions. Looking at healthy food sources and trying to introduce healthy sources and signing on to healthy sources with food to make sure that we are having a sustainable economy.

SMALL BUSINESS

How will you protect existing small businesses and support future ones that may hope to open?

We’re dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and we need to first solve the issue with small businesses that are suffering and need help to right size themselves to come out of this. So we need to be proactive with making sure that our small businesses have proper access to resources, whether it’s micro loans from the city, whether it’s getting money from the government to cover payroll protection, working to strengthen dealing with, let’s say, mortgage companies so that there’s a deferral with having to pay your mortgage let’s say up to three months with residential mortgages, as a way to strengthen the small businesses.

ECONOMY

How would you balance the D.C. budget (including program cuts) in light of the shortfall caused by the pandemic?

How I would deal with that in light of the shortfall because of the COVID-19 pandemic, would be first, looking at all of the contractual services that the District of Columbia has to see if there’s any duplication. With contracts going into the next fiscal year, we need to look at whether or not the services being rendered, if it’s even working, if it’s something that needs to be brought back in house. 

And then we need to look at making sure that we have all safety net services in place—that there are no cuts whatsoever in any of the safety net services. And that’s how I would address the budget going forward.

WARD 7

Kelvin Brown

Age: 38

Neighborhood of residence: Hillcrest

Hometown:  Mobile, Ala. 

What’s your new quarantine hobby? Or what are you binge watching during quarantine?

I’ve been watching Outlander, and the second one I caught up on was Game of Thrones, and I watched the Hillary Clinton documentary. 

EDUCATION

What will you do to combat education inequality across the District, particularly given the setbacks students experienced this year?

One of the things prior to COVID-19, there were many inequities in education, from a lack of resources to the student-teacher ratio. As a councilmember, one of the things I would look to do is make sure we fully fund our schools. To make sure our students have opportunities for vocational training.

The second thing is that we invest in after school, out-of-school programming, so as our kids transition from their normal day, they have opportunities to further build on what they learned during the day, and give them opportunities for them to build additional skills, hobbies, trades. The next thing is, I want to work with our parents and work with our nonprofits and churches within our communities to develop solutions to close the digital divide.

Should the mayor maintain control of DCPS?

I truly believe that DCPS should be independent of mayoral control. However, I do believe the mayor has a role to play in education to make sure our kids are receiving quality education that’s equitable and is standardized across all wards. 

CRIME

Mayor Muriel Bowser supported federal prosecutors’ shift to charging some gun crimes in federal court, rather than in D.C. Superior Court, as a tactic to combat gun violence. Attorney General Karl Racine recently argued the practice perpetuates racial disparities and suggested there is no evidence that it reduces crime. Do you support the practice? Explain your answer. 

I am aligned with Karl Racine’s viewpoint that there are racial inequities in the criminal justice system that we know currently exist. We should retain that control and not cede it to the federal government. 

Explain how you would address gun violence.

As it relates to crime and public safety, I totally believe that we should take a health-based approach. Gun violence, from the statistics I’ve seen now, most of it occurs from 16 to 25 years old, the offenders and victims as well. We have to take a holistic approach to solving gun violence in our community, which means we need to strengthen our family structure all across Ward 7 and across the District. We need to make sure we have adequate resources available to our community leaders and our mentors, by way of violence interrupters to secure the streets. If we invest in our youth and we provide them access to the required resources, such as jobs, vocational training, after-school programs where their minds are occupied, that will lessen the proliferation of gun violence. 

Some believe greater police presence will lead to less crime. Others fear more officers will lead to more harassment of black and brown people. Should D.C. increase or decrease the size of its police force? Explain your answer.

This is a very complex issue. And I don’t think it’s an answer to whether we increase or decrease. We can’t police ourselves out of the current situation we find ourselves in. I would be of the mindset to actually do further research and follow a behavioral approach to solving crime. That includes working with community leaders, working with the street programs I mentioned, working with our church and philanthropic groups, so we can get into our communities.

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION 

Oslo, Norway, eliminated pedestrian and cyclist deaths in 2019 with the help of Vision Zero initiatives. Those include replacing on-street parking with bike lanes, closing major streets to cars, congestion pricing fees in the city center, and lowering the speed limit. Do you support any of these initiatives? Describe your vision for eliminating pedestrian and cyclist deaths.

I do agree with the tenets of the Vision Zero plan. And I do think it’s a very aggressive and bold plan that we need to fully fund and incorporate across the District. And also, I think that we need to make sure that we assess the needs of each one of our communities to make sure we have a multimodal transportation system that is equitably distributed across Ward 7… that connects our residents to grocery stores, to job opportunities, to pharmacies, to recreation, etc. I truly believe that if we build a city that’s more equitable and representative of our neighbors and our residents, we will begin to see a downward trend in the number of deaths, pedestrian deaths, and car accidents. 

HOUSING

Do you support eliminating single-family zoning, as other cities have done in order to increase housing density?

Where appropriate, we should eliminate single-family zoning, but to do it with a broad brush across the entire city or the entire ward, I think would be the wrong thing to do. But we do need to make sure, from a housing equity standpoint, that we are approaching each community or each ward with the same lens.

The Council is considering a bill to extend the District’s rent control law to 2030. There is a push to also expand the law to include more units. Do you support the bill? Do you support the expansion? Explain. How would you craft an ideal rent control scheme?

This is very easy for me. Absolutely we should expand rent control and make newer buildings accessible to rent control. From a supply and demand standpoint, we need to look at innovative strategies around community land trusts, look at public-private partnerships, and look at our nontraditional players in the housing market to build supplemental funding streams.

GOOD GOVERNMENT

Do you support ranked choice voting in D.C.?

I do. I think it absolutely is something we should try out. 

Jack Evans’ ethics violations stem largely from his private employment. Do you support a ban on outside employment for councilmembers? Explain. Should there be any exceptions? Should the ban come with a raise?

Councilmembers should not have outside employment. We have an opportunity to restore the moral fabric of our community and build trust and transparency in government for all our neighbors who feel as though they have been disenfranchised by career politicians. I would even go as far as saying, I believe there should be a term limit. I think our councilmembers receive a very healthy salary compared to city council members across the country. So I don’t think that [raises] should be the top priority right now, especially when we have so many other areas of need across the city that we should focus on. 

Constituent services funds are one way councilmembers are able to receive money from people and interests with business before the city. Should we change the rules around how the funds can be used? Eliminate them altogether? Explain.

I think this is a double edged sword. We can responsibly use constitutional service funds to benefit our constituents across the ward. However, I think we need to have tighter oversight and transparency in its overall use. 

CLIMATE

Do you support a Green New Deal for D.C.? If so, what would you include in it? 

We have to pay more attention to it. And we have to be very intentional in our decision making process as it relates to transportation, housing, as it relates to consumer packaged goods, etc. I would also look at environmental factors on a holistic scale and make sure that we are being environmentally friendly in every law that we pass, every building that we build, every road that we pave or repave. Being environmentally friendly to me is a lifestyle.

SMALL BUSINESS

How will you protect existing small businesses and support future ones that may hope to open?

I would identify all the small businesses within Ward 7 and do a needs analysis to understand where they are from a financial standpoint, from a longevity standpoint and from a sustainability standpoint. And on a case by case basis, work with those small business owners to make sure they have the necessary resources to thrive. If you’re a new business looking to operate in Ward 7, then the taxes on your lease, the lease payment or your property taxes for your parcel, are offset for the first 3 to 5 years while you establish a business. 

ECONOMY

How would you balance the D.C. budget (including program cuts) in light of the shortfall caused by the pandemic?

I want to make sure that everyone who calls D.C. home, that sends their kids to school in D.C., that votes in D.C., that we are all paying our fair share of taxes. I would look at the tax structure to make sure that we are not over taxing the most vulnerable populations in our society. And make sure that we are taxing at the appropriate rate millionaires and billionaires that live in the District of Columbia that are not paying their fair share of taxes. So this is an opportunity for us to look at the tax code to actually close our funding shortfalls due to this pandemic.

Anthony Lorenzo Green

Age: 34

Neighborhood of residence: Deanwood 

Hometown: Washington, D.C.

What’s your new quarantine hobby? Or what are you binge watching during quarantine?

Trying to make sure I catch up on some of my shows. Campaign life has definitely taken up a lot of the time, even under quarantine. I also have to be mindful—I have asthma—so trying to make sure I’m good as well. But, a lot of binge watching.

EDUCATION

What will you do to combat education inequality across the District, particularly given the setbacks students experienced this year?

We have to provide more support for our families that have stepped up to try to create an education environment for their kids at home. And that hasn’t been an easy transition process for a lot. We still have a big, huge digital divide, and that means we have to be committed in making the right investments into ensuring that every kid has a laptop and a tablet, and I do feel the roll out of that was a little behind the eight ball. And we know that our teachers have been on the front line of that to make sure that they have all the tools necessary to educate our kids. While we’re dealing with a crisis like this, we have to make sure that we’re doing everything possible to bridge that digital divide, including moving a little faster, propping up more WiFi areas across the city. We still have some communities over in Ward 7, just for example Mayfair, where connectivity is a major issue.

Should the mayor maintain control of DCPS?

No. I am one of those folks that believe that we should not hesitate to give everyday people the power to make the decisions on how our children should be educated, the curriculum that they are educated with, and how facilities should be maintained, and who we hire to lead the educational effort in this city. 

CRIME

Mayor Muriel Bowser supported federal prosecutors’ shift to charging some gun crimes in federal court, rather than in D.C. Superior Court, as a tactic to combat gun violence. Attorney General Karl Racine recently argued the practice perpetuates racial disparities and suggested there is no evidence that it reduces crime. Do you support the practice? Explain your answer. 

I agree with the attorney general on this. It’s just not the attorney general saying this. We’re hearing this come from the grassroots across Wards 7 and 8, where they are saying that handing more of our criminal justice system to the feds is not going to reduce crime. And especially when we’ve seen people who are non-black being able to walk freely through this system with less accountability than the rest of us who are black and brown. I believe that we need to have more control over our criminal justice system, having a local elected district attorney or maybe have the attorney general having more flexibility to prosecute crimes that are committed by adults.

Explain how you would address gun violence.

We truly have to be committed and invested in attacking the root causes of violence, peeling back those layers and ensuring that we’re making those equitable investments in people in our community, so they don’t have to make decisions about survival, or make decisions because they have no clue of what conflict resolution looks like for them.

Some believe greater police presence will lead to less crime. Others fear more officers will lead to more harassment of black and brown people. Should D.C. increase or decrease the size of its police force? Explain your answer.

I believe our police force is at a level where we are putting so much investment and hope and expectations on police officers to perform the duties of social workers. So, putting more money into police and expanding the force, or even at the level it’s at right now, is not going to reduce the rate of violence. It hasn’t. We saw what happens when we over police communities. D.C. is no stranger to the mass incarceration era. We still have family members who are coming home who are falsely convicted of crimes they didn’t commit. We have officers who have no relationship with our community outside of having ice cream socials with seniors. They have no relationship with the community that would connect them to who actually is committing violent crime in our neighborhoods. So, you have this epidemic of black folks walking down the street being stopped because they fit a broad description of white shirt, black shirt, blue jeans. And that affects everyone. It’s made our neighborhoods more dangerous because now we have police officers who feel they are not accountable to law and unfortunately have taken lives from our community that [we] still haven’t found a resolution to.

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION 

Oslo, Norway, eliminated pedestrian and cyclist deaths in 2019 with the help of Vision Zero initiatives. Those include replacing on-street parking with bike lanes, closing major streets to cars, congestion pricing fees in the city center, and lowering the speed limit. Do you support any of these initiatives? Describe your vision for eliminating pedestrian and cyclist deaths.

I do support those positions. I feel that we have to have a broad set of tools available to make sure we can say we have zero fatalities in our communities. And we definitely see a high number of traffic incidents east of the river. I do believe in expanding opportunities for folks to ride bicycles in our communities, which include protected bike lanes, ensuring that a lot of our intersections are safe for pedestrians to cross. We’re not going to solve this problem through speeding cameras. That’s been the main focus from this administration and previous administrations. We saw a billion dollars was collected in tickets from speeding cameras, but we’re still seeing a high number of traffic deaths.

HOUSING

Do you support eliminating single-family zoning, as other cities have done in order to increase housing density?

I do. I definitely want to see more effort being made to expand housing opportunities for all in areas where it has been a struggle to give affordable housing development. And that’s places west of the Anacostia River that have not been carrying the same burden as those of us in Wards 7 and 8. And, for many of us in Wards 7 or 8, we know that an affordable housing label is being slapped on a lot of projects, but it’s not affordable for a lot of working families. 

The Council is considering a bill to extend the District’s rent control law to 2030. There is a push to also expand the law to include more units. Do you support the bill? Do you support the expansion? Explain. How would you craft an ideal rent control scheme?

I do support that bill, and I support the[Reclaim] Rent Control platform in its entirety. The moment is now to expand and strengthen rent control laws, not just reauthorizing the status quo for another 10 years. We have to make clear that housing is a human right by fighting for affordable rent-controlled housing, expand the laws to protect more tenants, and close loopholes, like eliminating predatory voluntary agreements. As someone that has faced eviction and homelessness early in my life, I fully understand the struggles that everyday working families have trying to survive in D.C.

GOOD GOVERNMENT

Do you support ranked choice voting in D.C.?

I do. 

Jack Evans’ ethics violations stem largely from his private employment. Do you support a ban on outside employment for councilmembers? Explain. Should there be any exceptions? Should the ban come with a raise?

I do believe that there should be a ban on outside employment. I’m just not sure I agree that should be coupled with a raise. We have councilmembers who are technically considered part-time, but you ask any everyday person on the street they are getting full time salaries. People want to make sure that their representative is there for them to represent the taxpayer. I’m not sure if there should be any exceptions. I’m still trying to think that part over because I do want to make sure that teachers still have a possibility to serve in this city. 

Constituent services funds are one way councilmembers are able to receive money from people and interests with business before the city. Should we change the rules around how the funds can be used? Eliminate them altogether? Explain.

I support abolishing constituent service funds because the reason they exist is to help support any needs that your constituents may have, whether it’s trying to pay for funeral costs or there’s an issue with rent. But councilmembers abuse that privilege. I believe that as long as we are actually making true, equitable investments in our budget and in the areas where people need the most support, we can make sure [residents] get access to support on a consistent basis through official channels.

CLIMATE

Do you support a Green New Deal for D.C.? If so, what would you include in it. 

I do support a Green New Deal in D.C., and for many of us that live east of the river, particularly Ward 7, I’m one of those young black boys that grew up down the street from a power plant. And because of that, I suffer from asthma. My story is no different from many other young black boys and girls that grew up on this side of town. We have to do everything possible to ensure that we are on a path to maintaining a lot of our green spaces, making sure we are establishing and creating an insurance fund for homes that are likely to experience flooding, particularly in areas around Kingman Park, River Terrace and Parkside.

SMALL BUSINESS

How will you protect existing small businesses and support future ones that may hope to open?

We have noticed, prior to COVID-19, a number of small businesses, a lot of legacy businesses, collapsing under this economy that had been so great for so many. Just in my own neighborhood, we had the barbershop which was around for a quarter of a century and a day care who were pushed out due to a project with a neighborhood development company. They wanted to bring more housing to Deanwood, but the way they chose to go about that was to get rid of the strip of commercial properties that we already had established there. 

ECONOMY

How would you balance the D.C. budget (including program cuts) in light of the shortfall caused by the pandemic?

I’m one of those people that believe that we do not have a fair tax structure. We have a lot more work to do to be a fair, progressive tax structure that ensures that millionaires in this city, who do not have to stand in the unemployment line or do not have to go to the food bays, are actually paying their fair share. 

The budget that’s been presented by the mayor and discussed by the Council has really put the burden on workers of this city. That means we cannot move forward when we are trying to make cuts in wage increases. I feel that is the wrong thing to do. I am not in agreement with this mayor about not raising taxes. I don’t want taxes raised on working folks, of course, but I do want taxes raised on the 1 percent.

Rebecca J. Morris

Age: 31

Neighborhood of residence: Benning Road 

Hometown: Washington, D.C.

What’s your new quarantine hobby? Or what are you binge watching during quarantine?

I’ve been volunteering by helping to provide hot meals to the community. I’ve actually been going inside certain stores and helping to provide [personal protective equipment] to cashiers and workers. And I’ve been watching a lot of World War II documentaries.  

EDUCATION

What will you do to combat education inequality across the District, particularly given the setbacks students experienced this year?

First thing I would do, I’d make sure we are properly resourced. Ward 7 lacks proper resources. And I’d make sure we are funded equally across the city and make sure that the families have everything we need to make sure that they can be properly educated. And also provide the extra help in our schools so that students can become well-rounded.

Should the mayor maintain control of DCPS?

The Department of Education should have control versus the mayor. The schools that black children tend to populate have always been lacking the resources. That’s been an issue since segregation. There should be some sort of middle ground. Right now, the schools in the area where I live haven’t improved under the mayor.  

CRIME

Mayor Muriel Bowser supported federal prosecutors’ shift to charging some gun crimes in federal court, rather than in D.C. Superior Court, as a tactic to combat gun violence. Attorney General Karl Racine recently argued the practice perpetuates racial disparities and suggested there is no evidence that it reduces crime. Do you support the practice? Explain your answer. 

I don’t support it going to federal court. I do believe we need more mental health empowerment programs and hubs in each neighborhood. Crime starts early. A lot of times people don’t have the resources or know how to combat situations in a healthy manner. 

Explain how you would address gun violence.

As it relates to violence, we could have hubs in each neighborhood where people can do group counseling, have other resources that they can have, or access for mental health. I believe crime would lower because the community would now have the resources to teach each other how to possibly solve issues in a healthy manner.

Some believe greater police presence will lead to less crime. Others fear more officers will lead to more harassment of black and brown people. Should D.C. increase or decrease the size of its police force? Explain your answer.

I don’t think there should necessarily be an increase, especially in the areas in which I live. I grew up in Ward 7. One of the neighborhoods I lived in was heavily populated with jump out [squads] in the morning. Along with proper education and providing pools of jobs in our area, and having mental health, I think that would lower our crime. We don’t need the police unless it’s necessary that they be called. If we provide the resources where it’s necessary, crime would go down.

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION 

Oslo, Norway, eliminated pedestrian and cyclist deaths in 2019 with the help of Vision Zero initiatives. Those include replacing on-street parking with bike lanes, closing major streets to cars, congestion pricing fees in the city center, and lowering the speed limit. Do you support any of these initiatives? Describe your vision for eliminating pedestrian and cyclist deaths.

I think we could add bike lanes where it’s necessary. Possibly having the “no right turn” is something we could think about as a policy throughout the city. I think if we have some sort of middle ground, it can possibly work. As far as parking, in certain areas we can eliminate parking. We can come up with a middle ground.

HOUSING

Do you support eliminating single-family zoning, as other cities have done in order to increase housing density? 

I don’t think we should abandon that law. That’s only because, in theory, it will create an issue of developers, people coming in and purchasing homes just to tear them down or add apartments. It would be an unfair advantage to the everyday person who would just like to purchase a home. I think it will create issues, companies creating just more expensive [properties]. It just doesn’t sound good. 

The Council is considering a bill to extend the District’s rent control law to 2030. There is a push to also expand the law to include more units. Do you support the bill? Do you support the expansion? Explain. How would you craft an ideal rent control scheme?

I would support it … Something that I would want to happen, is to make sure that any building, no matter what year it was built, falls under rent control. Anything that’s rented out in the city should fall under rent control.

GOOD GOVERNMENT

Do you support ranked choice voting in D.C.?

I think we should keep the system the same. 

Jack Evans’ ethics violations stem largely from his private employment. Do you support a ban on outside employment for councilmembers? Explain. Should there be any exceptions? Should the ban come with a raise?

I think they should just focus strictly on their councilmember jobs. It is a big job in itself. Your job is to serve the city, your job is to provide services in the city, and I don’t think you really should have a raise.

Constituent services funds are one way councilmembers are able to receive money from people and interests with business before the city. Should we change the rules around how the funds can be used? Eliminate them altogether? Explain.

In theory it works. But, again, when it comes down to morality, what people actually do is different. I think we probably just need to keep it. There’s already the office of finances to make sure it’s going to where it’s supposed to go. You really can’t change what people do with their morality. We have the choice to fire them in the next election. 

CLIMATE

Do you support a Green New Deal for D.C.? If so, what would you include in it. 

We should have our buses become more green. I do believe in solar panels, having some sort of solar panel program in D.C. to create a deal with homeowners, even have some of our street lights solar paneled. Even try to work out a deal with our cab drivers, Uber drivers … to make sure that they have electric cars. That would help us tremendously.

SMALL BUSINESS

How will you protect existing small businesses and support future ones that may hope to open?

I honestly think we should go into DCRA [Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs] and have a look at it a little bit more. Only because, as a person who has opened a business in D.C., sometimes it’s hard to contact certain people who are supposed to be in charge. Sometimes they are never in the office, never get a phone call from them. I think we should organize our DCRA a little bit more, have more business hubs in each part of the city. [We] could have online programs on how to start businesses in D.C. [to]create a support system before [business owners] step into DCRA. Having more communal support, especially low-income areas, would help businesses in the future.

ECONOMY

How would you balance the D.C. budget (including program cuts) in light of the shortfall caused by the pandemic?

I would see that we don’t necessarily lose too much. A lot of times in these situations, schools and mental illness programs tend to get lost in the sauce. But I would make sure those are kept stable. I would see what type of programs that aren’t being used, and possibly put a suspension, or hold on it or think about eliminating it.

Veda Rasheed

Age: 35

Neighborhood of residence: Benning Ridge

Hometown: Washington, D.C.

What’s your new quarantine hobby? Or what are you binge watching during quarantine?

I guess my quarantine hobby is trying to relax, just walking and getting fresh air. I haven’t really been watching much television.

EDUCATION

What will you do to combat education inequality across the District, particularly given the setbacks students experienced this year?  

As one of the only candidates currently raising two young boys, one in elementary school, one in high school, one of the things I do think that we should continue is digital learning and distance learning. Make sure every child has access to the internet, and also ensuring individuals have technology access to computers and tablets.

Should the mayor maintain control of DCPS?

I would look into restoring some power to the school board and still allow the mayor to appoint the chancellor.

CRIME

Mayor Muriel Bowser supported federal prosecutors’ shift to charging some gun crimes in federal court, rather than in D.C. Superior Court, as a tactic to combat gun violence. Attorney General Karl Racine recently argued the practice perpetuates racial disparities and suggested there is no evidence that it reduces crime. Do you support the practice? Explain your answer. Explain how you would address gun violence.

I was a clerk at D.C. Superior Court in the criminal division for nearly a decade. I also worked with Attorney General Karl Racine as a staffer, and I currently serve as an ANC commissioner. So public safety is a big issue in Ward 7. As far as it goes with fighting crime in our community, I believe in a hands-on approach. The federal government prosecutes our local crimes here, and our misdemeanors are prosecuted by the Office of the Attorney General. So we have unique jurisdiction because we don’t have prosecutorial authority over the local crimes that happen here. I believe I would need a little bit more context in what it is. 

Some believe greater police presence will lead to less crime. Others fear more officers will lead to more harassment of black and brown people. Should D.C. increase or decrease the size of its police force? Explain your answer.

I think that depends. I support community policing where police officers get to know the members of their community … and it doesn’t feel like they are patrolling or controlling the community. So it just depends on the nature and circumstances. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach. We have different, unique communities.

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION 

Oslo, Norway, eliminated pedestrian and cyclist deaths in 2019 with the help of Vision Zero initiatives. Those include replacing on-street parking with bike lanes, congestion pricing fees in the city center, and lowering the speed limit. Do you support any of these initiatives? Describe your vision for eliminating pedestrian and cyclist deaths.

I do support Vision Zero. I do support bike lanes. I do support traffic calming in different quadrants of the ward. The thing the [ANC] looked at was hazardous intersections … some of those are federal evacuation routes, so we couldn’t put up speed bumps. The only thing we could do is reach out to MPD to put up speed cameras … The city is growing rapidly. I do think we need to look at other modes of transportation.

HOUSING

Do you support eliminating single-family zoning, as other cities have done in order to increase housing density?

It’s something I would have to look more into before I take a position. 

The Council is considering a bill to extend the District’s rent control law to 2030. There is a push to also expand the law to include more units. Do you support the bill? Do you support the expansion? Explain. How would you craft an ideal rent control scheme?

I do think we need to extend the rent control law to 2030.  Yes, we need to expand the law as well.

GOOD GOVERNMENT

Do you support ranked choice voting in D.C.?

Ranked choice voting is a policy I’m open to learning more about. I do worry about our low voter participation.

Jack Evans’ ethics violations stem largely from his private employment. Do you support a ban on outside employment for councilmembers? Explain. Should there be any exceptions? Should the ban come with a raise?

I think people should have outside employment. I don’t think there should be a full ban, so I think there should be some exceptions. I think that they should consider a [Council raise.]

Constituent services funds are one way councilmembers are able to receive money from people and interests with business before the city. Should we change the rules around how the funds can be used? Eliminate them altogether? Explain.

I do not believe that we should eliminate constituent fund services altogether, because they do go to great use to individuals in the community. I do think that we should reassess some of the rules regarding constituent services funds.

CLIMATE

Do you support a Green New Deal for D.C.? If so, what would you include in it. 

I do support a Green New Deal. 

SMALL BUSINESS 

How will you protect existing small businesses and support future ones that may hope to open?

With COVID-19, we need to ensure that businesses get the same type of relief that some of the renters are getting, deferring their loans for six months to a year, putting [the payments] on the back end. Ensuring that the city steps up. I know with covid that we need to be fiscally responsible. The mayor just released a budget…so I am still looking at that.

ECONOMY

How would you balance the D.C. budget (including program cuts) in light of the shortfall caused by the pandemic?

We have to be fiscally responsible. We don’t want to go back to the way things were when we were under the control board. We would definitely look to revenue raisers. I think we need to look at our procurement process [to] see where we are double spending and try to eliminate some of that. As far as things I believe we should put money into, education, public safety and housing. 

Vincent C. Gray

Age: 77

Neighborhood of residence: Hillcrest

Hometown: Washington, D.C.

What’s your new quarantine hobby? Or what are you binge watching during quarantine?

I have spent so much time, frankly, working at home to keep the train moving. I wouldn’t say I’ve had a hobby by any stretch of the imagination. As far as TV is concerned, I’ve paid lots of attention to CNN, especially around COVID-19 issues, and I’ve watched our own Channel 16 here in D.C. to keep up with what the mayor is doing with COVID-19.

EDUCATION

What will you do to combat education inequality across the District, particularly given the setbacks students experienced this year?

I have been a strong proponent of education, and have worked very hard as council chair and then as mayor to continue the focus on improving educational outcomes for our children. And I have no intent of deviating from that. I’ve made it very clear that education reform is one of the most important things for me. And also, I have focused on early childhood education. Those over time ultimately pay off so much for our kids and families.

Should the mayor maintain control of DCPS?

The answer is yes.

CRIME

Mayor Muriel Bowser supported federal prosecutors’ shift to charging some gun crimes in federal court, rather than in D.C. Superior Court, as a tactic to combat gun violence. Attorney General Karl Racine recently argued the practice perpetuates racial disparities and suggested there is no evidence that it reduces crime. Do you support the practice? Explain your answer. Explain how you would address gun violence.

What I support is that we have more control over our District of Columbia law enforcement system. That’s what I support. I don’t believe that we should be involved in supporting something that has the federal structure increasingly running our city. We have the capacity, we have the intellect, and we have the experience to run our own city, and that would include running our own law enforcement operations as well.

Some believe greater police presence will lead to less crime. Others fear more officers will lead to more harassment of black and brown people. Should D.C. increase or decrease the size of its police force? Explain your answer.

You have to have a balance between the police presence and working to make sure those who are part of our police force understand and internalize what it really means to have community policing. At the same time, it’s hugely important to continue building on our early intervention efforts, where you have crime interrupters, violence interrupters who have those kinds of relationships in the community that people will respect. There’s got to be a balance. It can’t be one approach versus the other. When I was the mayor, we had 4,000 police officers. I certainly support trying to find a balance. I have legislation pending before the Council that would create incentives for police officers to live in the city. Sixteen to 17 percent of our police officers live in the District. My incentive plan would be to have police officers who live in the city would not have to pay local income taxes anymore.

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION 

Oslo, Norway, eliminated pedestrian and cyclist deaths in 2019 with the help of Vision Zero initiatives. Those include replacing on-street parking with bike lanes, congestion pricing fees in the city center, and lowering the speed limit. Do you support any of these initiatives? Describe your vision for eliminating pedestrian and cyclist deaths.

I support bicycles. I support protected bike lanes. The religious community on 9th Street NW has been very vocal about this issue. What I have urged is that the bicycle advocates … and churches should work together to try to find a way.

HOUSING

Do you support eliminating single-family zoning, as other cities have done in order to increase housing density?

 I do not support eliminating that. It would require changing zoning rules and regulations, and it would probably change the structure of housing in some of our neighborhoods. I like the idea of single-family housing, and I’ve supported that.

The Council is considering a bill to extend the District’s rent control law to 2030. There is a push to also expand the law to include more units. Do you support the bill? Do you support the expansion? Explain. How would you craft an ideal rent control scheme?

I support the bill to retain rent control. I think that’s an important tool in keeping people in the District of Columbia. It makes housing more affordable. I don’t necessarily support adding … I think we should continue to invest in affordable housing.

GOOD GOVERNMENT

Do you support ranked choice voting in D.C.?

No, I don’t. 

Jack Evans’ ethics violations stem largely from his private employment. Do you support a ban on outside employment for councilmembers? Explain. Should there be any exceptions? Should the ban come with a raise?

First of all, I believe the councilmembers should focus on the job at hand. When you compare these Council jobs to other positions, they’re not underpaid. The people who run for these jobs need to be devoted to the job itself. They should be full time. I do think there is one exception I would make and that is [Ward 3 Council member] Mary Cheh, who is a professor at George Washington University’s law school. She’s an outstanding professor from everything I understand. I believe hers should be the one that is exempted until somebody else runs for the position and then it should become a full-time position.

Constituent services funds are one way councilmembers are able to receive money from people and interests with business before the city. Should we change the rules around how the funds can be used? Eliminate them altogether? Explain.

I think we should allow constituent services funds to be available to councilmembers. I use them. People contribute to our … fund. All one needs to do is go back and look at how the funds have been used in my office. They typically are used for situations like utilities that need to be paid, or other family-related, home-related issues. I don’t think they should be used for buying tickets to games or anything like that. I do think they should be regulated and if it means changing the regulations, I’m more than happy to do that because I do think they serve a useful purpose.

CLIMATE

Do you support a Green New Deal for D.C.? If so, what would you include in it. 

We have to continue to focus on the status of our climate in the District of Columbia. I am very oriented toward environmental issues, and that includes focusing on opportunities to make the city green, and more green.

SMALL BUSINESS

How will you protect existing small businesses and support future ones that may hope to open?

This is an interesting discussion right now because we have so many small businesses that are going down because of the COVID-19 situation. I support small business. I think it is the life blood in so many areas of the District of Columbia. I would love to see it progress more when we get that opportunity.

ECONOMY

How would you balance the D.C. budget (including program cuts) in light of the shortfall caused by the pandemic?

There is not an easy answer. We are going through this exercise now with the budget. I’m looking forward to being able to get to the answers. I think we have to have a set of principles that we follow. First of all, we’ve got to continue to invest in education, public education. And we also have got to support areas like health care. When you look at the COVID-19 situation, there are so many health disparities that have continued to be pointed to, people who are black and brown in the District of Columbia particularly, as well as people around the country. The reality that health disparity is very evident in their everyday existence. From a political perspective, that can be very difficult, we know. But we can’t support everything. I think focusing on education and health care are hugely important commitments to make.

James Leroy Jennings

Age: 64

Neighborhood of residence: Deanwood

Hometown: McCormick, S.C.

What’s your new quarantine hobby? Or what are you binge watching during quarantine?

I have been listening to the news broadcasts. I have been watching a lot of television and talking to a lot of community people on Zoom and other ways.

EDUCATION

What will you do to combat education inequality across the District, particularly given the setbacks students experienced this year?

I’d like to meet with the charter schools as well as the public schools. Until this [virus] situation has resolved itself, I think virtual learning and distance learning probably would be one of the top agendas. 

Should the mayor maintain control of DCPS?

I think not. I feel that the schools should have full autonomy.  The city council should be the only one to govern that body and try to get the public schools and charter schools to come to some consistency on working together. 

CRIME

Mayor Muriel Bowser supported federal prosecutors’ shift to charging some gun crimes in federal court, rather than in D.C. Superior Court, as a tactic to combat gun violence. Attorney General Karl Racine recently argued the practice perpetuates racial disparities and suggested there is no evidence that it reduces crime. Do you support the practice? Explain your answer. Explain how you would address gun violence.

I do not support the mayor’s plan on that to have the federal intercede in prosecuting those cases. It should be done on a lower level, the District level. There are some disparities in the justice system with these crimes in D.C.

As far as responding to gun crimes, a program that I want to propose is the deputy marshal program for the residents in Ward 7, so they can have some basic control of the situation. I would propose through the city council to appoint and deputize the citizens in Ward 7 as deputy marshals to assist police and monitor and control this issue.

Some believe greater police presence will lead to less crime. Others fear more officers will lead to more harassment of black and brown people. Should D.C. increase or decrease the size of its police force? Explain your answer.

I feel that the police force should be increased. But at the same note, I would like to have a deputy marshal program of residents appointed by the federal court with D.C. legislation creating that partnership with federal as well as local governments, so [the residents] can assist the police with these crimes and crime prevention and working with the neighborhood social programs such as Boys and Girls Clubs … to show the younger folks pathways to positive mentorships.

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION

Oslo, Norway, eliminated pedestrian and cyclist deaths in 2019 with the help of Vision Zero initiatives. Those include replacing on-street parking with bike lanes, closing major streets to cars, congestion pricing fees in the city center, and lowering the speed limit. Do you support any of these initiatives? Describe your vision for eliminating pedestrian and cyclist deaths.

I would like to present that to the community. But in my eyesight, that sounds like a good program, because we have to kind of reduce the number of accidents, fatalities with bicyclists and pedestrians. So closing streets and so forth, designated for pedestrians and bicyclists, I think that’s a great idea. I would support it, but I would like to bring it to the community for their input and their recommendation.

HOUSING

Do you support eliminating single-family zoning, as other cities have done in order to increase housing density? 

I do not support that. There’s too many of those [apartments] coming up around the city now. I feel that takes away from the neighborhood as far as gentrification is concerned, moving those persons from neighborhoods [with] these new sites going up. And people have to relocate, they can’t relocate to other wards because of the sensitivity of members going to other wards, just like the Section 8 program. Oftentimes, they can’t use those vouchers throughout the city because certain wards’ landlord practices are discriminating. Just the stigma of coming from certain areas, there’s some discrimination. 

The Council is considering a bill to extend the District’s rent control law to 2030. There is a push to also expand the law to include more units. Do you support the bill? Do you support the expansion? Explain. How would you craft an ideal rent control scheme?

I support any laws that cap off rent because right now it’s out of control. You know, landlords have the upper hand on what they charge. For some of the units, there should be a status quo of what units should cost in the city of Washington, not designated by the landlords. If the government really wants to contribute to something, they should set what the guidelines are, what the rents should be for people in one bedroom, two bedrooms, and so forth.

GOOD GOVERNMENT

Do you support ranked choice voting in D.C.?

No. I don’t. I’d like to keep it as it is.  

Jack Evans’ ethics violations stem largely from his private employment. Do you support a ban on outside employment for councilmembers? Explain. Should there be any exceptions? Should the ban come with a raise?

I do not support raises for the city council members. If elected, I would donate 75 percent of my councilmember salary back toward the social programs in my ward. I challenge all those who are running to do the same thing to make a real difference in their ward and city.  I do not support councilmembers having other jobs. They should dedicate themselves for only who they serve. That’s the people of the city of Washington.

Constituent services funds are one way councilmembers are able to receive money from people and interests with business before the city. Should we change the rules around how the funds can be used? Eliminate them altogether? Explain.

I feel if those rules can’t be changed as far as the engagement of how those funds are used, they should be eliminated. So, if it’s not working for the constituents, they shouldn’t be there.

CLIMATE

Do you support a Green New Deal for D.C.? If so, what would you include in it. 

They were doing something with the rooftops during green developments with vegetation. I would support it because that does indirectly affect climate change, a greener D.C.. Pepco is not really working right now. Pepco is raising the rates, but the service is still not adequate. And they should be held accountable with other vendors having the opportunity to get in there and compete with Pepco instead of making them the only one-source energy in D.C. 

SMALL BUSINESS

How will you protect existing small businesses and support future ones that may hope to open?

We have to have the city come up with a feasible plan, not tax credits or these things. There should be a lottery system of grants offered, just like back there in the ’80s they had the “dollar houses.” It should be a lottery system because all the businesses can’t come in, but it would be a fair opportunity for some other businesses competing with the big dollars.

ECONOMY

How would you balance the D.C. budget (including program cuts) in light of the shortfall caused by the pandemic?

The 1 percent has a very important factor in contributing. We should have equity given from the 1 percent of the earners here. Those who can afford, raise taxes on them so we can have a balanced budget for all services in D.C., instead of relying on Congress to be the answer for it all. We’ve got to start with ourselves first. As President Kennedy stated, “Don’t ask what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”

WARD 8

Stuart Anderson

Age: 60

Neighborhood of residence: Anacostia

Hometown: Washington, D.C.

What’s your new quarantine hobby? Or what are you binge watching during quarantine?

I’m getting some rest. The corona has done some stuff, changed the way I’ve done stuff and drastically impacted my campaign, and I’m feeding people more than I usually do, but that’s nothing new to me.

EDUCATION

What will you do to combat education inequality across the District, particularly given the setbacks students experienced this year?

One of my suggestions is to figure out how to do a rotating opening of the library ASAP to help families that have internet and computer access challenges. We have a lot of students who are not getting their material and who aren’t able to do the online stuff, so we have to combat that in another way.

There’s also a behavioral problem. For no fault of their own, children are coming to school with trauma. Some of that stuff needs to be taken care of in the home. Too often these great instructors that we have spend hours out of the day separating those children. That affects all students. Nobody can learn in the classroom if the instructor is tied up separating children.

We have so much trauma inflicted upon the lives of our children. We need to be addressing that in a more direct and intentional manner. I’m not sure how many social service workers they have per school, but I can tell you it’s not enough.

Should the mayor maintain control of DCPS?

Unequivocally, no.

CRIME

Mayor Muriel Bowser supported federal prosecutors’ shift to charging some gun crimes in federal court, rather than in D.C. Superior Court, as a tactic to combat gun violence. Attorney General Karl Racine recently argued the practice perpetuates racial disparities and suggested there is no evidence that it reduces crime. Do you support the practice? Explain your answer. 

I don’t necessarily support or not support the effort. The bottom line is D.C. needs to govern its own citizens. We gotta get the federal government out of our business. I know that’s not a direct answer, but the bigger problem is, we’ve already tried to have tougher laws, so in that sense I would be opposed to it.

Explain how you would address gun violence.

We not only have to go after the individuals who have guns in their hands, but we have to tighten up our laws around gun auctions and other venues where people get guns.

Some believe greater police presence will lead to less crime. Others fear more officers will lead to more harassment of black and brown people. Should D.C. increase or decrease the size of its police force? Explain your answer.

When you see an increase in militarization of communities, you create a heightened sense of the populus. We need to be treating some of the trauma in this community, and then we won’t have a need for so much police presence.

I think that what we have is adequate. We don’t need to increase it. I don’t believe we need to decrease it. We need to shift our focus away from policing and more toward treatment.

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION 

Oslo, Norway, eliminated pedestrian and cyclist deaths in 2019 with the help of Vision Zero initiatives. Those include replacing on-street parking with bike lanes, closing major streets to cars, congestion pricing fees in the city center, and lowering the speed limit. Do you support any of these initiatives? Describe your vision for eliminating pedestrian and cyclist deaths.

I do support some of the Vision Zero initiatives. There are clearly areas that I feel we need to do [away] with on-street parking. Another thing is relocation of the bus stops and creation of bike lanes. I believe with that we have to do some extensive studying before we just continue to put them in.

I’m for the idea of encouraging other modes of transportation that help us fight our gas and carbon output, but we also have to be more strategically thinking. We have to be mindful of where we’re installing [Capital Bikeshare] racks.

Eventually, we’ll get to the point in Ward 8 where we’ll get more of that. But I support it in general, but we have to look at some of the applications for its introduction and maintenance, and then we have to also make sure we’re doing good, solid, promotion of the idea, so people are aware. Oftentimes people in the community are not part of the process, so they don’t know it’s even being discussed, and that creates animosity.

HOUSING

Do you support eliminating single-family zoning, as other cities have done in order to increase housing density? 

That is a question that bothers me. I understand the idea of providing more housing, increasing density, but I really want to have that conversation with the Council to talk about protection of people who have invested all of their lives in the house they now have, and I want to do that while protecting the rights of those people who own their homes. [I’d like] some kind of a grandfather clause that it couldn’t touch certain areas until the ownership was transferred.

The Council is considering a bill to extend the District’s rent control law to 2030. There is a push to also expand the law to include more units. Do you support the bill? Do you support the expansion? Explain. How would you craft an ideal rent control scheme?

Categorically, yes. I would even look at some of the loopholes. I would also support removing the 2 percent increase over the inflation rate, and I would support bringing those new properties in after a period of time.

And we could create a period of time where they have a level of exemption from the rent control law, but then we also have a definitive period in time when they come under rent control.

GOOD GOVERNMENT

Do you support ranked choice voting in D.C.?

I don’t like the ranked choice voting at this time, specifically as a candidate running for Ward 8.  We have to educate people about these new ideas before we decide to implement them. It puts people at a disadvantage.

Jack Evans’ ethics violations stem largely from his private employment. Do you support a ban on outside employment for councilmembers? Explain. Should there be any exceptions? Should the ban come with a raise?

If in fact we’re going to ban external employment for councilmembers, then there should be no exception. I’m a hard-and-fast kind of guy. Either it’s open or it’s closed. If I had a preference, I would say it’s closed.

The pay is something that needs to be revisited, but on the surface I would say yes [to a pay raise], because we’ve operated under this part-time employment balloon that once we burst this balloon, how do we compensate for the job?

Constituent services funds are one way councilmembers are able to receive money from people and interests with business before the city. Should we change the rules around how the funds can be used? Eliminate them altogether? Explain.

Yes. I would move toward appropriated funds without a doubt. If nobody else introduces it, I would introduce it as the next councilmember of Ward 8.

CLIMATE

Do you support a Green New Deal for D.C.? If so, what would you include in it. 

I definitely do. One of the things I would be supportive of is stipulating that new construction, wherever we did construction, a percentage of the parking be equipped to provide electric charging. We already got electric buses, and we’re going to be moving more and more toward electric automobiles.

I’ve learned that carbon emissions are a large percentage of what is destroying our natural environment and [we] have to do all that we can, as fast as we can to protect the environment for future generations.

Something else I like: Not too long ago [Ward 6 Councilmember] Charles Allen put on the table reducing fares for public transportation. If we give all the residents fare cards with $100 a month it would help us greatly in terms of less spending on clearing up the environment.

SMALL BUSINESS

How will you protect existing small businesses and support future ones that may hope to open?

We have to protect small businesses, and how do we sustain this period of downturn, and how do we help them moving forward and restabilize? I think we do it with some general legislation, but it has to be a case by case piece.

I think that it’ll be industry wide. How much aid we need to give a business, we have to look at that with an economist. How much to give a shoe store, versus a beauty parlor. So there won’t be a one-size-fits-all solution. Each industry will dictate how much aid we need to be focused on to help a business survive.

ECONOMY

How would you balance the D.C. budget (including program cuts) in light of the shortfall caused by the pandemic?

I start with people. I penned a letter going out to about 3,000 Ward 8 voters, and I started that letter off by saying that I believe that a healthy, vibrant economy starts with healthy and vibrant individuals. We gotta make people whole. 

The budget we need moving forward will focus on supporting families, supporting people. So we’ll be shifting things in the budget in order to strengthen the economy. And the shift is a way to strengthen some stuff toward things we need to value more.

There are three things clear for me that this virus shows not just for world, the country, but specifically D.C., the need for a very very strong health care system, and no other ward in this city needs that more than Ward 8.

Would you make any cuts? Yeah, we got a lot of training programs that do not necessarily end at an entry point to a job. Programs that don’t necessarily end with a link to employment, those are some of the things I’d be looking to cut back on. Why are we funding something that doesn’t work?

We’re gonna be making some changes in transportation that’s going to allow us to reduce transit. There’s going to be areas in law enforcement that will allow us to be able to rethink our budget because we know what the outcome of treatment will be when done in a wraparound fashion.

Also, I want to put $200 million in the Housing Production Trust Fund. If $100 million was ideal in 2015, how is $100 million still adequate in 2020 when we haven’t seen the type of change we thought we’d see in the housing arena? 

Yaida Ford

Age: 39 

Neighborhood of residence: Anacostia 

Hometown: Vancouver, Wash.

What’s your new quarantine hobby? Or what are you binge watching during quarantine?

I’m a trial lawyer, so our job doesn’t stop. We’re not doing trials, but motions are still flying. I do civil rights work, so I’m in police brutality cases. I’m in discrimination cases, and we have deadlines. I’m still working in between our campaigning … I haven’t turned my TV on since April. I just called the cable company, and I was like, “Just cut it.”

EDUCATION

What will you do to combat education inequality across the District, particularly given the setbacks students experienced this year?

I think a holistic approach is needed. We know that funding is not equitably allocated, but there’s reasons for that—the higher per pupil funding. 

We know that per pupil funding isn’t as high as it should be, according to the 2013 adequacy study. So I think advocating for us to get there.

We have to have an approach that addresses trauma inside of the school, and the trauma that our kids take into school with them from home. Without that, we’re still going to see gaps. Our kids are just as bright. They’re just as scholarly. They’re just as innovative. They’re just as curious. But they are not given the opportunity to succeed. We need to incorporate [a trauma informed approach to learning] into our curriculum, into our educational environment, and it needs to be culturally competent. 

Should the mayor maintain control of DCPS?

We’ve had five different chancellors in what, five years? I don’t agree with that approach.

CRIME

Mayor Muriel Bowser supported federal prosecutors’ shift to charging some gun crimes in federal court, rather than in D.C. Superior Court, as a tactic to combat gun violence. Attorney General Karl Racine recently argued the practice perpetuates racial disparities and suggested there is no evidence that it reduces crime. Do you support the practice? Explain your answer. 

I think if the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the ones who prosecute these cases don’t come from the communities that they’re serving, if they’ve never visited the D.C. Jail, they don’t know the conditions that inmates are living in, it just creates an environment where you have the prosecutorial authority that’s disconnected from the community, and that’s why I think the attorney general has a point. 

I used to work for D.C. Superior Court as a law clerk. I worked on the criminal docket for Judge Harold Cushenberry Jr., who is now retired, and we saw that the U.S. Attorney’s Office was prosecuting serious felonies, and there was no connection. The judge was concerned that the prosecutors were just being too harsh, particularly with those who were 16 years of age and charging them as adults. There was no sense that these kids can be rehabilitated. 

Karl’s got a restorative justice bent. He’s one of the most progressive attorney generals in the U.S., if not the most progressive, and we are seeing some results from that. I would like to see the District of Columbia assume local control over prosecutions.

Explain how you would address gun violence.

I would take a holistic approach. Local control over prosecution, and I would like to take a look at Chicago’s model. In Cook County, they are using cognitive behavioral therapy inside of the jail with inmates who have been brought in or convicted with gun charges or convicted of violent crime. That looks at the impulsive reaction that men and women use when they’re engaged in violence, and it teaches them how to use a rationalized thinking process. 

Some believe greater police presence will lead to less crime. Others fear more officers will lead to more harassment of black and brown people. Should D.C. increase or decrease the size of its police force? Explain your answer.

I think that’s the wrong question. I don’t think it’s a matter of decreasing or increasing. I think, unless you have a collaborative approach and a community based model, you can increase the number, decrease the number, and it’s not going to change crime, and it’s not going to change the interactions that we have with police. 

I think that the community based model basically integrates the police into the community and introduces them to us in a way that’s non-threatening, and it lets them know that we want them here. 

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION 

Oslo, Norway, eliminated pedestrian and cyclist deaths in 2019 with the help of Vision Zero initiatives. Those include replacing on-street parking with bike lanes, closing major streets to cars, congestion pricing fees in the city center, and lowering the speed limit. Do you support any of these initiatives? Describe your vision for eliminating pedestrian and cyclist deaths.

In Ward 7 and Ward 8, we have a horrific number of pedestrian vehicle-related incidents that don’t always lead to deaths, but we have a high number of collisions. I’m definitely in favor of lowering the speed limit … As it relates to putting bike lanes and replacing parking with that, I wouldn’t do that, but I would like to survey where that needs to be done. I wouldn’t just lap up bike lanes because it’s the trendy thing to do. 

HOUSING

Do you support eliminating single-family zoning, as other cities have done in order to increase housing density?

I wouldn’t. I don’t think we can eliminate that in D.C. altogether. I think we need to make informed decisions. And so I don’t necessarily agree with wholeheartedly just eliminating single-family zoning altogether. I think we look at what we need to do and creative ways to create and expand multi-family housing.

The Council is considering a bill to extend the District’s rent control law to 2030. There is a push to also expand the law to include more units. Do you support the bill? Do you support the expansion? Explain. 

The reauthorization? I think we definitely need to extend it. But I would like to see some movement on making voluntary agreements illegal. I think that’s a loophole in that law that allows landlords basically to get away from rent control. That loophole needs to be closed.

Do you support the push to expand the law to include more units?

You mean to change the applicability of the rent control? It’s time to change it and make it so that newer housing is included under rent control. I absolutely agree with that, 100 percent.

How would you craft an ideal rent control scheme?

That’s hard to answer briefly. I would look at voluntary agreements. I will look at making it so that more students were included under the rent control regime. I would look again at inclusionary zoning. I would just look at capping rent increases at the rate of inflation. I would look at hardship petitions and eligibility, because certainly all landlords are not huge and institutional …  I wouldn’t agree to get rid of hardship petitions, but I would establish some type of means test perhaps, for landlords who are applying for that.  

GOOD GOVERNMENT

Do you support ranked choice voting in D.C.?

I would need to do more research on that.

Jack Evans’ ethics violations stem largely from his private employment. Do you support a ban on outside employment for councilmembers? Explain. Should there be any exceptions? Should the ban come with a raise?

I don’t support that. I have outside employment—well, I’m not a councilmember, but I’m employed as well, and I think what will happen when you do that is I think it could create an issue where it drives people to being more prone to corruption. In public office you don’t get paid a lot, that’s not why you’re in it. You’re in it to serve. 

David Catania (who is no longer a councilmember) works, lots of them, [Ward 3 Councilmember] Mary Cheh works. I think they should be able to contribute to the economy and into society and engage in their public service and their duties as a public servant as long as they can discharge them with integrity. 

Constituent services funds are one way councilmembers are able to receive money from people and interests with business before the city. Should we change the rules around how the funds can be used? Eliminate them altogether? Explain.

I think the reason why we want to change the rules is because people come in with no morals. I think we need to make sure that we’re electing people that have integrity so that we don’t have to keep changing the rules to make it so restrictive that we can’t serve people. 

Constituent services funds when I worked for Jim Graham, families will come in from Ward 1 who hadn’t eaten in three days. And so there was something there.

CLIMATE

Do you support a Green New Deal for D.C.? If so, what would you include in it.

I’m all about green jobs and creating green jobs. I think that I would want to make sure that whatever green new deal we had created jobs … entry level jobs for our residents, and jobs that kind of break people out of poverty. I also would want a green new deal to address our returning citizens and creating green jobs for them.

SMALL BUSINESS

How will you protect existing small businesses and support future ones that may hope to open?

Well, access to capital is a big thing. I own a small business. I have about five employees. But one of the things that is a struggle for us is the capital to continue operating briefly now with COVID-19.

I think that what we need to do is make sure that our small businesses either take advantage of the certified business enterprise program in the District, so that they can get and compete effectively for contracts. But I also think that we need to prepare our small business owners to thrive. We need to have just basics, the importance of finance, the importance of bookkeeping, because I think what tanks a lot of small businesses is that they’re just not able to keep up with books, they’re overworked. And so I think the District just needs to provide more support locally, the hubs within the community. We have an Anacostia Business Center in Ward 8, but I think we can expand that. 

ECONOMY

How would you balance the D.C. budget (including program cuts) in light of the shortfall caused by the pandemic?

That’s a difficult question. You’ve got between a $722 million to a $1 billion shortfall. I think the mayor’s done a really good job in her plan of kind of relying on some reserves, and just looking at different ways to not cut. Obviously no [cost of living raises], that’s the first thing but also looking at areas that we can cut, seeing where is the fat? I would look at first what are the absolutely must keeps and then start shaving from there.

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