Greater Greater Washington

Politics


Would Biddle have been better off losing in January?

Remember January? Relative unknown Sekou Biddle narrowly beat out the establishment, insider candidate, Vincent Orange in the DC Democratic State Committee voting to become interim councilmember. Last night, Orange won in a crowded field including a poorly performing insider Sekou Biddle.


Image from SekouBiddle.com.

Looking back, was the January victory really a good thing for Biddle's campaign?

In the lead-up to the State Committee vote, a group of people affiliated with progressive organizations in DC had begun mobilizing with the expectation that Orange would get the nod. I was among them. We planned to visibly launch an effort to seek a more progressive alternative to Orange and harness some of the frustration from a very insider process picking a very insider candidate from a decade past who brought nothing but old ideas to the debate.

Instead, that distasteful insider process picked Biddle, and Orange got to claim the outsider's mantle. A lot of the energy dissipated. Then Biddle spent most of the next few months racking up insider endorsements, challenging people's signatures, and not standing for much of anything.

Plus, the scandals around Kwame Brown's Navigators and campaign finances and around Vincent Gray's hiring then made being the insider a real liability. Back in January, those scandals hadn't broken, so it wasn't as clear that his support from Brown and Gray would be so damaging. But even at the time, I wrote that he needed to show some independence, and that never happened.

Neither did he ever find a strong message or make a clear case for his candidacy. When writing the article on the strategic voting quandary, I asked folks from his campaign to explain some ways Biddle differs on policy from Patrick Mara. Since Mara is a member of the Republican party, you'd think there would be some. They couldn't give me any.

I met with Sekou Biddle early on and liked him. I still do. He'd make a good member of the Council, but needs to learn to be a good candidate first. Successful politicians are always running as if they're about to lose their seat (exhibit A: Jim Graham.) Instead, Biddle ran as if he had a huge lead, hesitating to take bold or courageous stances that could have won him strong supporters but also risked losing some shakier voters.

He claimed to be the education candidate, but never really defined how exactly he would improve schools. This left him with a lot of soft support that quickly faded for want of a clearly articulated argument for why he's the best, instead of just okay.

What would have happened if Biddle hadn't won the State Committee? He would have been more of the outsider. On the other hand, Orange might have picked up some Council endorsements and even more unions.

Maybe he would have run the scrappy campaign that he needed to run, and taken some stands to make a group of people more enthusiastic about supporting him. Or maybe his campaign would have been the same.

Biddle needed to explain to the public why he was the best candidate, instead of just a candidate with a good resume. If he had still been the challenger trying to break the control of insider Orange, maybe he would have recognized the need to do that.

On the other hand, maybe an interim Orange would have created even more energy for a candidate other than Biddle, like Bryan Weaver. Or maybe we would have been split anyway and it would all have ended up pretty much the same after all.

Looking ahead, the method of picking interim councilmembers seems to be fairly poor, since the last two times it was employed the candidate lost, and special elections need an instant-runoff or some other method that reduces vote splitting. Might the Council now seriously consider any kind of voting reform?

David Alpert is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Greater Greater Washington and Greater Greater Education. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He loves the area which is, in many ways, greater than those others, and wants to see it become even greater. 

Comments

Add a comment »

..."candidate from a decade past who brought nothing but old ideas to the debate". This is highly amusing coming from the person who gave us "Have Faith in our ideas, vote Gray". Pure comedy, Alpert.

by Rake on Apr 27, 2011 2:01 pm • linkreport

Might the Council now seriously consider any kind of voting reform?
Would the Council want to make such a change on its own? An initiative seems more likely.

by Gavin on Apr 27, 2011 2:13 pm • linkreport

@Gavin,

Alright Alpert, start this thing up. Time for an IRV ballot initiative... Myopic forces of Twitterdom...ATTACK!!!

by oboe on Apr 27, 2011 2:21 pm • linkreport

What would have happened if Biddle hadn't won the State Committee?

He'd still have his seat on the State Board of Education.

by David C on Apr 27, 2011 2:36 pm • linkreport

It's absolutely time for election reform. In all five special elections for Council seats since 1997, the winners have never won a majority, and have often fallen substantially short -- '97 Ambrose (25%); '97 Catania (43%); '07 Alexander (34%); '07 Bowser (40%); '11 Orange (28%).

We need a better system.

by Mark Jordan on Apr 27, 2011 3:50 pm • linkreport

@Mark Jordan: Instant runoff!

by Tsar Bomba on Apr 27, 2011 3:59 pm • linkreport

@Gaving

An initiative would be impossible, I would think, since the process would seek to amend the Home Rule Act which defines how interim elections are handled.

However, the Home Rule Act does not explicitly define the type of voting allowed, so maybe an initiative could be used to institute Instant-runoff voting?

by Adam L on Apr 27, 2011 4:03 pm • linkreport

@Tsar Bomba - Yes, IRV or approval voting. There are alternatives. I think IRVs have more intuitive appeal than approval voting insofar as they satisfy voters' desire to ordinally rank candidates (e.g., I like candidate x *more than* I like candidate y). But, as David has pointed out, one of the paradoxes of pushing voting reform is that advocates of various alternative systems can actually get in the way. In advocating for their specific system of choice, they make the perfect the enemy of the good.

Insofar as a ballot initiative is concerned, I generally think ballot initiatives are a bad way to do the public's bidding (see, for example, the State of California's finances). But if it's a case in which the legislature has a conflict of interest - in this case, many of those in office benefit from the existing system - it may be justified.

by Mark Jordan on Apr 27, 2011 4:10 pm • linkreport

@Mark Jordan
The problem in California is that ballot initiatives can be used to change the state constitution with a simple majority vote. That's why you see all kinds of stupidity that can't be undone. In other states initiatives usually just pass a law, and that law can be modified by the legislature through further legislation.

In DC can the council create laws that strike down ballot initiatives that passed?

by MLD on Apr 27, 2011 4:29 pm • linkreport

Why limit the focus to special elections? Yes most of the primary elections an the general elections (with the exception of the second at large seat) are won with 50 percent. But that doesn't mean all 50 percent were really voting their actual preferences. And besides, IRV doesn't "hurt" someone who would win 50% anyway. We should have it with all elections. And once people get used to it (say 2-3 cycles) we can eliminate the primaries since they're pointless once you have an IRV system.

by TM on Apr 27, 2011 4:39 pm • linkreport

Personally, I think the more complicated you make the voting, the more likely you confuse the voter and ultimately piss them off and delegitimize results even more. Every encounter I've seen with rank voting ends up with gaming, and people realizing after the fact that they inadvertently voted against their own primary choices through the later round results.

Stay simple. Non-partisan primaries with a pre-scheduled 2nd round top 2 runoff set for a short follow up. People can wrap their heads around that, and it minimizes gaming.

by John on Apr 27, 2011 4:43 pm • linkreport

Two simple proposals:

1. Non-partisan elections.

2. Either IRV or a second round of voting between top two vote-getters. Or something that gets us to 50%+1 and doesn't require 5 minutes to explain.

by Matt W on Apr 27, 2011 4:54 pm • linkreport

In the time it took me to type up my two proposals (and feed the cats), John beat me to the punch. And said it better.

by Matt W on Apr 27, 2011 4:56 pm • linkreport

Top 2 runoff is certainly better than no runoff at all, but it still ignores most of the preferences of everybody who didn't vote for either of the top 2, and that can be a lot of voters (near half in this case). An Orange-Mara runoff would've been nearly as bad an outcome as the outright Orange win was.

by Keith Ivey on Apr 27, 2011 5:13 pm • linkreport

A guy who only received 28% of the votes in an election that only included 10% of the electorate (ie. 2.8% of the city's eligible voters) now holds 1/13 of the power on the city council.

Somebody explain to me how this is OK, or a symbol of a functioning democracy?

Forget the political hypothesizing. The process by which we arrived at this outcome is broken beyond belief.

by andrew on Apr 27, 2011 5:24 pm • linkreport

@MLD - I do not believe there is any prohibition on Council amending or rescinding any legislation passed by ballot initiative.

@Matt W - I agree on the non-partisan elections and IRV. One thing to bear in mind is that non-partisan elections would require an amendment to the District's charter. Currently partisan elections are written into the charter. I believe the only two ways to change the charter are (1) unilateral act of Congress; or (2) an act initiated by Council, ratified by a majority of voters, and passively approved by Congress.

I think the problem here is going to be getting Council to act.

by Mark Jordan on Apr 27, 2011 5:26 pm • linkreport

andrew, there are three issues here.

1. The vote was split up among many candidates - That someone gets 50% of the vote in any election is really an illusion. Usually we have primaries that consolidate the race down to two main candidates (or some times one). But the winner is not the first choice of half the people by any stretch. If we had an open race like this for President, how much of the vote would Obama have gotten in 2008?

2. Some voters have trouble voting. Even with all we've done to make it easier, it still isn't easy enough for everyone. It would be great if we could vote by phone or internet, but I'm not sure the security is there. And there is one party (not naming names) that would like to make it harder for the poor, students, immigrants etc... to vote because they don't tend to vote for that party.

3. Voter apathy. The fact is that a lot of people just don't care. Unless you're planning to force people to vote there's nothing you can do about that. And there's probably nothing you should do.

Someone winning while be the #1 preference of a majority of people or even a majority of voters only happens in one place - dictatorships. This is, as they say, what democracy looks like.

by David C on Apr 27, 2011 6:21 pm • linkreport

I'm not sure if I'm reading political immaturity in this dialogue or just youthful arrogance or maybe something much deeper. Orange won because he used a strategy that built upon his political base. Most of the other leading candidates tried to or were forced to use a very narrow strategy in a city-wide race. Worst than that, so narrow that some ran a campaign against large blocks of the city. Mara probably ran the only race he could, but normally voters would reject a candidate who runs for another office having done zero in the current office to which he was just elected with zero track record anywhere in the city. He's lucky race matters. Voting for Mara was actually irresponsible from a civics standpoint.

The platform GGW tends to push, just plain has a very narrow, even out to lunch political base. Probably hurt Weaver more than helped in a citywide election. Weaver is a serious candidate but you guys made him seem light weight.

by W Jordan on Apr 27, 2011 7:15 pm • linkreport

He may have been better off without the interim position, but without it he would have done about as well as Weaver. He certainly wasn't as well known as VO or even Patrick Mara.

I guess you live by the Kwame, you (politically) die by the Kwame.

by DC Voter on Apr 27, 2011 7:53 pm • linkreport

MLD- ""In DC can the council create laws that strike down ballot initiatives that passed?""

Yes and unfortunately they do it routinely. Takes the motivation out of initiatives.

by Tom Coumaris on Apr 27, 2011 9:04 pm • linkreport

Prompted by William Jordan's taunting, I went back to look at the numbers. Nearly half (45%) of Orange's votes came from wards 4 and 5. He won by bigger margins in wards 7 and 8, but turnout east of the river was so light that those wards add up to only 33% of his vote total.

Jordan is right, in a way. We need to face up to the fact that bungalow belt, middle-class black Washington is willing and able to vote as a bloc for one candidate. And also that bungalow belt Washington is signaling with their votes that they won't vote for candidates who appeal much to transit-oriented Washington.

Politics ain't beanbag, as they say. It's about advancing interests, often at the expense of other, competing interests. We urbanists need to face up to the fact that we're up against a voting bloc that opposes our interests.

by Matt W on Apr 27, 2011 10:34 pm • linkreport

W Jordan: This is the 4th or 5th time you've dropped the Mr. Mysterious allusion to some "deeper" or "hidden" something. You like to just go on the record with what you're talking about? The allusions are getting annoying.

by John on Apr 27, 2011 10:46 pm • linkreport

Before discounting an initiative or referendum effort, we need a legal analysis of the germane sections of the Home Rule Act.

My layman's interpretation is that there are a few possible ways to do this.

First, Section 303 allows the Council to amend the Charter, subject to referendum, with a short list of exemptions for various authorities reserved to Congress. I'm confident that with concerted effort, we could find a sponsor for a reasonable set of amendments. Whether it could pass a full Council vote is another question entirely.

Second, Section 496 of the Act states that an initiative or referendum (which, according to Section 496 of the act, can be initiated by citizens) can be used to revise DC law, so long as it: a) does not seek to overturn or impose budget related actions or b) does not seek to abrogate a law passed by the Council using the powers vested them by Section 404 of the Act.

Item A is pretty self-explanatory. Item B not so much. The language specifically states, "No act is subject to referendum if it has become law according to the provisions of section 404 of the Home Rule Act [D.C. Code 1-227]."

Yet, only a few paragraphs preceding this, the Act describes the term "referendum" as: "...the process by which the registered qualified electors of the District of Columbia may suspend acts of the Council of the District of Columbia (except emergency acts, acts levying taxes, or acts appropriating funds for the general operation budget) until such acts have been presented to the registered qualified electors of the District of Columbia for their approval or rejection".

These two provisions seem to contradict one another, and it is not clear if the restrictions apply to specific elements of Section 404, or more broadly to any law passed under the auspices of Section 404. If the latter, that would seem to present a circular logic issue that should not be able to withstand a court challenge.

Most importantly, the roots of DC election regulations can be found in Sections 401 and 421 of the Home Rule Act. Perhaps an argument can be made that using the initiative process to pass a law regarding elections is inherently valid, because the election laws themselves are not solely the product of Council legislation enacted under the auspices of Section 404, rather the laws originate in the Home Rule Charter itself.

Either way, it's worth the effort to try. At a minimum, it would force each Council member to go on the record. A position against constructive reform probably wouldn't sink most of our CMs, but it certainly can't help.

As far as content and strategy, I would suggest three separate initiatives (listed in order from "least controversial" to "most controversial"):

1. Staggered elections for the Council Chair and Mayor
2. Traditional run-off elections (or IRV or other--more discussion on the best approach is warranted).
3. Open primaries

GGW has the clout to generate momentum and $'s for such an effort. I'm sure other civic associations would contribute as well. Personally, I'm confident Ward 6 citizens and politicians would support such an effort.

If anything, this last election cycle forcefully demonstrated that the political and civic infrastructure of the city is equally important, even more important, than the physical infrastructure of the city that we love to debate about so much. We can not have great urban places with out effective municipal politics.

by B Pate on Apr 28, 2011 1:12 am • linkreport

I wonder what the discussion would look like if Weaver or Mara had won on Tuesday? And what in heaven's name do you do about that "pesky" voting bloc? Let's expand the discussion. I just want to call the spade a spade and leave out the innuendo! We can read, and most importantly, we can read between the lines!

by THBrown on Apr 28, 2011 7:25 am • linkreport

And what in heaven's name do you do about that "pesky" voting bloc?

THBrown, just speaking for myself, three answers jump out at me. One is better outreach to the voters of wards 4 and 5 (outer Washington?), and that includes listening very carefully to their concerns. Urbanists aren't out to destroy their neighborhoods. We do want to encourage more/better density, but not uniformly. We do want to encourage more/better mobility, but not at the expense of neighborhood cohesion or safety.

Another answer, and one that's related to the first, is ensuring that development and related improvements actually improve and fit in with the existing surrounding neighborhoods. Once people figure out that, for example, their Brookland is still their Brookland, even after the blocks immediately surrounding the Brookland station have seen new development, anxieties should ease. Most people generally like having access to more amenities. Most property owners generally like rising property values.

The third answer is simply patience. A lot of this is generational as much as or more than it is about race or class. The cohort of people born from the 1930s to the 1950s loves their cars, and wants a built environment that accommodates them. Eventually other, later generations with their own wants and needs will vote in enough numbers to make other, better decisions.

by Matt W on Apr 28, 2011 8:26 am • linkreport

@ Matt W- You hit the nail on the head! Vincent Orange was carried to victory not so much by his traditional base but by an old-line middle class black Washington bloc that is, let's say, less than sympathetic to transit oriented causes. However, considering the ridiculously low turnout, there just isn't any excuse for Mara, Biddle or Weaver. Progressive, urbanist and/or transit oriented candidates must do a better job of motivating their supporters to actually go to the polls instead of trying to scratch out a percentage of the measly 10%-15% of the electorate that traditionally votes in these off year and special elections. I keep hearing, especially on this site, that now is the time for cycling and walking and transit- but while I am not from Missouri, please- SHOW ME!!! Translate this talk into action. Talking the talk on blogs and such just gets you what you got- Vincent Orange back on the council.

by KevinM on Apr 28, 2011 8:35 am • linkreport

@B Pate: I think much, if not all, of those three proposals could be done by ballot initiative. It looks to me like only those proposals that would modify the charter require Council to act first, with a subsequent referendum. I don't believe any of the three proposals in your post would require an amendment to the charter.

Re #1 - The election cycle is not prescribed by the Home Rule Act, but rather by the District of Columbia Election Act:

" The Chairman and four members shall be elected at large in the District, and eight members shall be elected one each from the eight election wards established[,] from time to time, under District of Columbia Election Act [Chapter 11 of Title 1 of the D.C. Official Code]"

So, through a ballot initiative, you could attempt to amend the District of Columbia Election Act to stagger the elections differently.

Re #2 - Again, the charter doesn't speak to how elections are to be conducted (other than requiring certain positions be filled through partisan elections).

Re #3 - This I think requires a little more analysis, but I don't think there is anything in the charter that could be construed to prohibit open primaries. I think that is governed by election law.

If I'm right, then Council could be bypassed entirely.

by Mark Jordan on Apr 28, 2011 10:31 am • linkreport

THBrown, just speaking for myself, three answers jump out at me. One is better outreach to the voters of wards 4 and 5 (outer Washington?), and that includes listening very carefully to their concerns.

I disagree. It comes not just from listening very carefully to their concerns but realizing that their concerns in many ways run opposed to ours and unifying behind transit-oriented candidates who will defeat their candidates at the polls. Politics is in many ways a zero sum game, and you have to accept that: stop trying to convince Orange supporters and start trying to outvote them. Elections are always about getting more votes than the other guy.

by JustMe on Apr 28, 2011 10:55 am • linkreport

Now how many people would be crying for run offs or modifications to elections if Biddle or Mara had won? I doubt this would even be an issue had VO not been elected. The system isnt broken, its up to Politicians to get out the vote and propel themselves to victory. I am a new resident and instantly registered to vote, only Josh Lopez and Vincent Orange even bothered to campaign by knocking on my door and sending campaign material. Biddle lost because Biddle was a bead candidate!

From a financial standpoint, is it fiscally sound to have a runoff? Considering so few people vote in special elections and even less will vote in a runoff (this is almost a basic fast that turnout is lighter with a runoff). Can the city justify spending the money on a city wide election, especially in these economic times. IN the end its up to candidates to win

by Oldmajor on Apr 28, 2011 11:13 am • linkreport

Oldmajor, please. This system, without even any runoffs, is screwed up. If better voting systems are too expensive for you, perhaps a place where no one votes at all would be preferable.

by JustMe on Apr 28, 2011 11:17 am • linkreport

W Jordan: This is the 4th or 5th time you've dropped the Mr. Mysterious allusion to some "deeper" or "hidden" something. You like to just go on the record with what you're talking about? The allusions are getting annoying.

Everything is explained in this video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K2TyF1CbsDs

by oboe on Apr 28, 2011 11:18 am • linkreport

I disagree. It comes not just from listening very carefully to their concerns but realizing that their concerns in many ways run opposed to ours and unifying behind transit-oriented candidates who will defeat their candidates at the polls. Politics is in many ways a zero sum game, and you have to accept that: stop trying to convince Orange supporters and start trying to outvote them. Elections are always about getting more votes than the other guy.

Excellent point. Listen, there were arguably three progressive candidates in the race: Mara, Weaver, and Biddle (yeah, yeah, you can save the "fully loaded" remarks).

Together they absolutely *crushed* the "DC Sprawl Party" candidate. Utterly destroyed him. So the idea that, rather than holding some sort of unofficial "urbanist" primary, or agitating for IRV, we should do the best we can to placate folks who are fundamentally opposed to the urbanist agenda is just foolhardy. We've got more than enough votes. Just the wrong electoral dynamics.

And that electoral advantage is only going to get bigger as folks who want to live in sprawling suburban neighborhoods move to sprawling suburban neighborhoods (which are--and this is shocking I know--mostly in the suburbs), and people who want to live in livable walkable neighborhoods continue to move to livable walkable neighborhoods.

by oboe on Apr 28, 2011 11:24 am • linkreport

Just to sum up the results of the election:

The anti-urbanist candidate garnered 28% of the vote.
The candidates who ran on explicitly urbanist platforms 65% of the vote (Mara/Biddle/Weaver/Lopez).

http://www.dcboee.us/2011_special/results.asp

by oboe on Apr 28, 2011 11:27 am • linkreport

JustMe, listen I walked from my house to the polls because I care about voting and feel it is my responsibility to vote. My issue is that complaining about an outcome is just silly. Honestly, trying to change election rules after a favored candidate doesnt win is just as bad as gerrymandering so that districts favor a specific candidate. In the end the voters that cared voted and VO was elected. Just for kicks, Bill Clinton never received more than 50% of the vote in his presidential elections, does that mean something was wrong with the system?

I actually voted for VO, because he has proven experience with Economic Development in Ward 5, he campaigned for my vote and he has experience on the Council and will not bend over for Kwame Brown. Biddle came to Civic Association meeting and sat in the back until it was his time to speak, didnt say much of anything of substance and then left. In the end I was split between Mara and VO and chose to go with the devil you know.

People blame VO for continually running, but that is exactly what Mara continues to do as well

by Oldmajor on Apr 28, 2011 11:28 am • linkreport


My point is that there are possible harmful results to and sacrifices need to implement so-called transit oriented policies. As well, there are various ways to implement these policies. Also, others may have priorities greater than particular transit oriented goals. Some in the GGW circle are either to young or to arrogant to recognize the harm and sacrifice or are purposely willing to do harm to others while avoiding sacrifice themselves.

As well, many in the GGW circle seem to be afraid or unwilling to engage at the community level on these issues especially outside of their clique. So, they have taken a top down political approach via to implement their desired polices via politicians so they don't have to engage outside of their clique. This approach has its limits, so now some want to change the rules.

Further, their are other aspects to TOD that some in the GGW circle want to gloss over, like the affordable housing issue, needs of families with children, neighborhood networks and longer term issues. Or holding developers accountable for broader community issues.

What I have seen is some folk push growth and etc. but then when they have a kid they split. They claim its about schools but that's a dodge. They push trolley's and bars on folk in the city claim quality of life, but then flee a broader quality of life that is ignored for the city.

Building a 200 unit building with no account for parking is stupid or greenspace is stupid. If all you are going to do is build condos and bars, then I need a car if I'm going to have children. Folk across the city would support many TOD policies, but not implementations they believe are narrow and stupid.

by W Jordan on Apr 28, 2011 11:53 am • linkreport

@W Jordan:

Could be you're right. Still, I would imagine that a 65% to 28% discrepancy in votes might give the pro-sprawl voters pause for thought. I think y'all are in for a big surprise come next election. And if not then, certainly in the one after that.

by oboe on Apr 28, 2011 11:59 am • linkreport

I disagree. It comes not just from listening very carefully to their concerns but realizing that their concerns in many ways run opposed to ours and unifying behind transit-oriented candidates who will defeat their candidates at the polls.

Yeah, I agree with this mostly. I didn't say "listen very carefully to their concerns and then accede to each and every one of them." There are likely some shared concerns that we can tease out and then work together on.

And we should do that just because working together as allies on a few issues can reduce the heat on other issues, the ones we really can't work together on. On those, we just have to defeat them, be decent about winning, and move on.

by Matt W on Apr 28, 2011 12:22 pm • linkreport

If this was a referendum on the recent scandals, then why did only 10% turnout?

by mtp on Apr 28, 2011 12:23 pm • linkreport

Isn't the better question, wouldn't Biddle have been elected if Weaver had not been drafted, and, given that, are the people who voted for Weaver going to be any more pragmatic when Orane is up for election the next time or are we going to have a widely splintered vote that allows him through again?

by wdc on Apr 28, 2011 12:48 pm • linkreport

Oldmajor, if you think an electoral system is functional when people are winning citywide seats with 28% of the vote, then you are crazy. You should be out agitating for a more rational voting system, not tsk-tsking people who are pointing out how silly it is. Plenty of first-world nations have run-off elections and the like. Maybe we could learn from their ways.

by JustMe on Apr 28, 2011 12:52 pm • linkreport

William Jordan's 11:53 post is all over the place, but I just want to point out a couple of things. A top-down approach is absolutely right on. People are inherently conservative about change, especially change in their own neighborhoods, even if the change is demonstrably good and even necessary. Politicians and staffers are almost always smarter than the average joe and have a broader and longer-term vision, and 5 minutes with one of them is a much better way to leverage a scarce resource like attention than 5 hours waiting your turn to testify at a budget hearing.

On the other hand, the ongoing and repetitive fights over stuff like the Big Bear Cafe and the Anacostia streetcar and the Wisconsin Avenue Giant show that urbanists do need to do a better job of showing up at meetings and ensuring that their voices are heard. A lot of what I hear in William Jordan's comments here and elsewhere is that we haven't paid our dues and gotten neck-deep in the process. This is, again, a generational issue. Boomers love meetings, especially if a dais and a gavel are involved, and value showing up and talking for two minutes over, say, shooting an email to your CM or hosting an informal get-together for people in your SMD. I'm torn between thinking that we ought to play by the old folks' rules and go ahead and show up, or thinking that we ought to just blow up the whole tedious mess and start over.

Also, William, parents existed just fine for thousands of years without cars. Even in cities. In my neighborhood (Adams Morgan), parents are still existing just fine without privately-owned cars. Kids aren't allergic to transit or bikes or walking any more than adults are, and car-sharing makes for a handy alternative in those circumstances where you really do actually need a car. In fact, much of what we talk about here is reducing the number and frequency of circumstances in which you really do actually need a car.

by Matt W on Apr 28, 2011 1:02 pm • linkreport

I live in Ward 5. I don't think this election was a referendum on TOD. I know there's a tendency to think that b/c an issue is important to me, it must be important to everyone else. People who voted for VO were probably those most familiar with him or who had someone tell them about him (whether campaign folk or proxies). I didn't vote for VO, but neither did I vote for any of the supposed progressive block. First not sure why Mara is being labeled progressive. Second, Biddle hired Kwame Brown's father to play a key role in his campaign. Nuff said. So to answer the question, he probably would have been better off to the extent that he wouldn't have owed KB any favors. Weaver, never saw him or his people in my neighborhood. At least Lopez used foot soldiers to get out there and knock on doors. Too bad he branded himself as Fenty II, so that instead of getting to know him, you were just reminded of Fenty.

by Delista on Apr 28, 2011 1:02 pm • linkreport

My point is that there are possible harmful results to and sacrifices need to implement so-called transit oriented policies.

That's pretty rich given the stunning amount of harm that has resulted from DC's anti-transit development priorities over the past 40 years. And your criticism of Orange's opponents' campaigns is hilarious given that the guy only won with 28% of the vote from a narrow, limited constituency.

People with transit and development-oriented priorities need to start voting as a block. In retrospect, the enthusiasm for Weaver was heavily misplaced, and things would have been helped if we had been able to coalesce around a single anti-Biddle, anti-Orange candidate.

On the other hand, the ongoing and repetitive fights over stuff like the Big Bear Cafe and the Anacostia streetcar and the Wisconsin Avenue Giant show that urbanists do need to do a better job of showing up at meetings and ensuring that their voices are heard.

Eh. True as far as it goes, but the problem is that doing anything depends on endless meetings and "consensus building." I don't really care to hear about why some ignoramus prefers the run-down Giant on Wisconsin Ave and doesn't want the block to be redeveloped with a modern grocery store. I really don't, and I don't think we need to have a meeting to hear that person's testimony on the matter.

by JustMe on Apr 28, 2011 1:14 pm • linkreport

Weaver, never saw him or his people in my neighborhood. At least Lopez used foot soldiers to get out there and knock on doors.

I'm always a bit chagrined by how much emphasis voters place on "Hey! That guy knocked on my door!" I understand why politicians place such emphasis on it. It's because it just tickles voters pink. But no idea why otherwise rational folks make it such a core part of their voting decision.

It reminds me of Swift's depiction of the politicians of Lilliput, who distinguish themselves to the extent that they can jump over a rope.

by oboe on Apr 28, 2011 1:22 pm • linkreport

I'm always a bit chagrined by how much emphasis voters place on "Hey! That guy knocked on my door!" I understand why politicians place such emphasis on it. It's because it just tickles voters pink. But no idea why otherwise rational folks make it such a core part of their voting decision.</>

Oboe, I think that people like to have some sort of personal attachment to their pols. It likely explains why so many are fervent in defense/support of their fav candidate.

Realistically, how many people will meet a president, governor, mayor or congress rep? Yet, we will defend them as if we actually have a personal relationship w/them in the same way we do w/celebrities. It's just human nature.

I voted for V Orange.

by HogWash on Apr 28, 2011 4:19 pm • linkreport

went italicrazy!

Oboe, I think that people like to have some sort of personal attachment to their pols. It likely explains why so many are fervent in defense/support of their fav candidate.

Realistically, how many people will meet a president, governor, mayor or congress rep? Yet, we will defend them as if we actually have a personal relationship w/them in the same way we do w/celebrities. It's just human nature.

I voted for V Orange.

by HogWash on Apr 28, 2011 4:20 pm • linkreport

@HogWash:

I voted for Biddle, but only because he walks and talks like me. Seriously, he's got a slight limp and has trouble pronouncing his "sh"'s.

:)

by oboe on Apr 28, 2011 4:26 pm • linkreport

Plus he spared me the embarrassment of having to answer the door in my boxer shorts and make small talk with him about "the future of our city together."

by oboe on Apr 28, 2011 4:27 pm • linkreport

lol, Well I don't think there is a mandate for how we choose to exercise our right to vote. If you wanted to vote for someone because he had a slight limp and speech impediment, I say go for it.

This is a reality of american voting patterns so no complaints here. Homosexuals vote for homosexuals...I get it.

by HogWash on Apr 28, 2011 5:10 pm • linkreport

It is a simple fact of life that people are willing to vote for you if you ask them to. If you're a politician and unwilling to ask citizens for your vote, you probably have no business running for office.

But I still wouldn't vote for Vincent Orange, even if he asked.

by JustMe on Apr 28, 2011 5:25 pm • linkreport

"Homosexuals vote for homosexuals."

As if we are so monolithic. Ask Catania how big his gay vote is (was when he had the R after his name). Or how many lesbians vote for Jim Graham.

Shoot, the only time teh ghey had any monolithic response to any DC candidate was for the beloved Carol Schwartz. And that's just cuz she was so awesome. But... that pesky R was still a huge hindrance for many.

we are not the unified block of people you think we are.

by greent on Apr 28, 2011 5:58 pm • linkreport


It's a little unfair because I know the secrete and will talk about it a little. Some who follow GGW are not really serious about TOD and other policies, but use New Urbanist rhetoric as a wedge issue in the culture wars like conservative Republicans uses abortion or the deficit.

As an example, the Big Bear Cafe as almost nothing to do with TOD or good planning. The Giant on Wisconsin is in Ward 3, which voted strongly for Mara and Biddle.

There is really only one neighborhood that has adopted TOD and other urban policies,that's Columbia Heights. And this was done long before anyone thought of GGW or a blog. The fact is some who view themselves at New Urbanist have slowed or hindered good policies in Columbia Heights.

As I have said before, GGW and others traded off good policy in CH to curry favor with CM Graham. Or to gain a leg up in the culture wars. An example of this is the Circulator which is really designed so that some will not have to ride the bus with the other. Yet, trying to use the other to up ridership to justify the Circulator. Where as a well design Circulator and improved general bus service would be braced universally, but that would not be hip and New Urban.

Biddle lost because he failed to leverage his appointment, not because he got it.

by W Jordan on Apr 28, 2011 7:42 pm • linkreport

Me:

I voted for Biddle, but only because he walks and talks like me. Seriously, he's got a slight limp and has trouble pronouncing his "sh"'s.

HogWash:

This is a reality of american voting patterns so no complaints here. Homosexuals vote for homosexuals...I get it.

I think it's endearing that you thought you had to tell us you voted for Vincent Orange.

by oboe on Apr 28, 2011 9:05 pm • linkreport

@Oldmajor Now how many people would be crying for run offs or modifications to elections if Biddle or Mara had won? I doubt this would even be an issue had VO not been elected.

Actaully, GGW has been raising the issue for years and absolutely brought it up before this election. So this is not a sore loser thing.

Bill Clinton never received more than 50% of the vote in his presidential elections, does that mean something was wrong with the system?

Yes. Instant runoff would have been better. This is an odd choice though. The way we elect presidents is pretty much the dumbest way to elect anyone ever. Which is why in 200 years no one has emulated it.

by David C on Apr 29, 2011 10:36 am • linkreport

the Circulator which is really designed so that some will not have to ride the bus with the other.
I hear this cynical comment the most from people who don't actually ride the Circulator. I have specifically observed ridership demographics while on the bus and I find it to be majority "the other" during my observations.

by Eric Fidler on Apr 29, 2011 11:12 am • linkreport

Ah, I looked up William Jordan of Columbia Heights. I get it now. No point in bothering to engage.

by John on Apr 29, 2011 12:17 pm • linkreport


The Woodley/AM Circulator was designed to service the demographic that the 98 late night Ust-AM bus was designed to serve. That bus line failed because of low ridership even at $0.25. Eventually, the non targeted demographic caught on and took advantage of the service. The Woodley/AM was designed to replace the 98, but stop in CH to pickup ridership necessary to make the service viable. However, this was a by-product to the primarily effort, which can be understood by the stop placement. This Circulator could and should have been designed to fully service the broader neighborhood demographic, it was not, why?

It's like the cyclist argument. All demographics use bikes at some level; however, DC's biking policy is skewed to a certain demographic and the investment is greater than its current population numbers. That's the reality is it good policy and fair, don't know but it should be debated.

These are not the days of pre-1954 with more overt forms of discrimination or unfair policies. Looking for the same approach is silly.

Note this article and report below on housing.
ERC Report Finds D.C. Landlords Illegally Discriminating Against 45% of Individuals Using Housing Choice Vouchers
http://www.equalrightscenter.org/site/PageServer?pagename=pr_11_04_28

For those concerned about solid new urban policies this is a MAJOR problem. If we don't want the so-called concentration of poverty then this voucher program needs to work and work fairly. This means lots of pressure needs to be put pusher on the city and landlords to stop discriminatory housing policies. In particular from the New Urbanist community. We will see how the GGW community responds.

by W Jordan on Apr 29, 2011 2:20 pm • linkreport

Mr Jordan,

How is the Woodley Park-Adams Morgan Circulator not designed for the community? The 98 bus only ran in the evenings, the Circulator runs all day, and it runs express.

by Alex B. on Apr 29, 2011 2:36 pm • linkreport


Alex B.

I did not say that the Woodley-AM was not designed for the community. I said basically it was designed significantly to serve certain demographics within the community and without more than others. It could not duplicate the 98 because economically and as a service the 98 failed. As well the 98 cannibalizes existing routes.

by W Jordan on Apr 29, 2011 3:09 pm • linkreport

DC's biking policy is skewed to a certain demographic and the investment is greater than its current population numbers.

You know you hear this a lot, but you never see much support for it...not even a meager attempt at an argument. I guess I'll tell all the middle-aged black dudes I see riding their bikes all over the city that "these bike lanes are not for you!"

At some point, the crypto-racial demagoguery just gets silly.

by oboe on Apr 29, 2011 3:23 pm • linkreport

Under the D.C. Human Rights Act, District landlords and property managers are prohibited from discriminating against an individual because he or she wants to pay rent with various types of funds, including government subsidies such as HCV's

Is this requirement specific to DC? I know that in San Francisco, "landlords have the right to deny tenancy to an HCV renter as long as the decision is not based on the applicant's personal characteristics--including, but not limited to race/ethnicity, sex, martial status or national origin. HUD determines HCV eligibility through its own screening process. From there, it permits landlords to pick and choose whom they wish to rent to."

Are Maryland and Virginia landlords required to rent to folks paying with HCV vouchers?

by oboe on Apr 29, 2011 3:35 pm • linkreport


oboe -

Biking-Demagoguery, in my case on my part, no. But I agree like many issues biking is used in this way in our silly culture wars, on many sides. It's however a part of a series of policy choices and investments which need to be debated and implemented. I believe DC should build a serious biking infrastructure designed to serve it entire population from children through seniors. However, I believe the priority should be the pedestrian infrastructure.

I understand why, but the fear of dealing honestly with issues around race, class and ethnicity is not good for this city.

Yes, DC's human rights laws are pretty progressive. And yes, the city is violating its own laws with its current housing policy.

by W Jordan on Apr 29, 2011 3:55 pm • linkreport

I understand why, but the fear of dealing honestly with issues around race, class and ethnicity is not good for this city.

I'd welcome"dealing honesty with issues around race" in exploring how "DC's biking policy is skewed to a certain demographic".

I believe DC should build a serious biking infrastructure designed to serve its entire population from children through seniors. However, I believe the priority should be the pedestrian infrastructure.

I probably agree with you, though I do tend to think it's not "either-or".

Yes, DC's human rights laws are pretty progressive. And yes, the city is violating its own laws with its current housing policy.

Well, from your link, it sounds as though it's actually private landlords who are violating current housing policy. It's just that DC is doing a poor job of enforcing it. Is such a thing enforceable?

by oboe on Apr 29, 2011 4:15 pm • linkreport

DC's biking policy is skewed to a certain demographic Yeah. The sub-population that benefits most from the increased ratio of bike-to-auto short trips in DC, resulting in decreased auto emissions, is people who breathe (and children with asthma, which is demonstrably exacerbated by auto emissions).

by Tina on Apr 29, 2011 4:24 pm • linkreport

@Oboe'sI guess I'll tell all the middle-aged black dudes I see riding their bikes all over the city that "these bike lanes are not for you!"

I didn't think that Jordan was referring to race when he mentioned "certain demographics w/in the community."

But maybe he/she was...

by HogWash on Apr 29, 2011 4:34 pm • linkreport


I was not referring exclusively to race. I used the term demographic because it's more complicated than race, more in a marketing sense.

Tina, if the goal is to address asthma is creating bike lanes the best way to address the problem in terms of public investment?

Private industry target's demographics all the time, without it necessarily being negative via race, class and etc.. However, public policy investments are a little trickier as there is a requirement often in law to be fair, serve a public good and based on a political process. This gets back to Biddle's challenge and that of the other candidates. They all tended to more or less pander vs. setting an over arching policy and political vision. In fact given the culture wars candidates tended to be punished for seeking balance or an over archiving approach. Remember the mocking of "One City" and the talk of "the past" vs. "the future".

Again, there is urban and community development policies and approaches and the use of these policies and approaches in our culture war.

by W Jordan on Apr 29, 2011 5:05 pm • linkreport

They all tended to more or less pander vs. setting an over arching policy and political vision.

Yes, though I might point out that the candidate who did so the most shamelessly emerged the winner. You may not be interested in culture war, but culture war is interested in you.

I would revise your:

DC's biking policy is skewed to a certain demographic and the investment is greater than its current population numbers.

to read:

There is a perception that DC's biking policy is skewed to a certain demographic and a perception that the investment is greater than its current population numbers [warrants].

That perception is stoked daily by politicians of bad-faith in an attempt to grapple for political leverage.

At the end of the day, though, people of good faith have to ignore the pandering and do what's right.

by oboe on Apr 29, 2011 5:16 pm • linkreport

That's the reality is it good policy and fair, don't know but it should be debated.

Why should it be debated? It's not hurting anyone and it helps lots. It seems like the only reason you'd want to "debate" it is because you were hoping to stoke some resentments in order to gain political advantage through demagoguery.

by JustMe on Apr 29, 2011 5:26 pm • linkreport

Yes, though I might point out that the candidate who did so the most shamelessly emerged the winner. You may not be interested in culture war, but culture war is interested in you.

Please elaborate...

by HogWash on Apr 29, 2011 5:32 pm • linkreport


Demagoguery, no democracy. Although there is probably always a little demagoguery in healthy democratic debate and compromise. I don't want significant and sometimes small changes to my community driven by the government with out a chance for my involvement and that of my neighbors. Even it I generally agree with the change. I actually like to hear others perspectives and I don't tend to fear either them or their perspectives.

The debate is necessary, because there are trade-offs with anything, time and resources are not unlimited. DDOT was supposed to present a plan to Columbia Heights for locating BikeShare via the ANC. This is required to give time for public comment. Instead they just dumped them in a half ass way, I founded out because they mismanaged the grant and had to hurry up. While leaving many other long standing pedestrian safety improvement tasks undone. Many of you thank that's great. Which is why I have an issue with some in the GGW crew, their standards seem to be to low and superficial and I would rather take a little time and have it done right and in a sustainable fashion. I don't oppose BikeShare just half-ass implementation. The same with the trolley lines.

by W Jordan on Apr 30, 2011 10:11 am • linkreport

there's a GGW crew?!? do you guys carry guns and beef wit DCist at metro stops?

Wait, there's a trolley in Col. Heights? Is kermit on it?

by greent on Apr 30, 2011 11:53 am • linkreport


yep

by W Jordan on Apr 30, 2011 12:09 pm • linkreport

@WJordan if the goal is to address asthma is creating bike lanes the best way to address the problem in terms of public investment? Reducing auto emissions in a defined area IS effective in reducing the burden of this disease, as well as others including preventable death/morbidity from CVD. Prevention of disease provides little profit incentive within our current healthcare delivery system. The beneficiaries of primary prevention are those who pay for medicare/caid, local amubulance/emt/paramedics, increased costs of individual healthcare coverage, the local economies burdened by individuals coping with preventable acute and chronic conditions and of course individuals' economic burdens. Is the best way to address the problem in terms of public investment? Yes. It is the only way to address primary prevention where the definable cause is associated with a complex public system. No individual can change this alone.

by Tina on May 2, 2011 11:38 am • linkreport

I have an issue with some in the GGW crew, their standards seem to be to low and superficial and I would rather take a little time and have it done right and in a sustainable fashion.

Just wanted to take the time to thank Mr Jordan for raising the level of debate here, by tackling the various issues in a straight-forward and respectful manner. The "GGW crew" can surely use this as a lesson in how to debate the substance of any given issue.

For example, his constructive criticism of Col Heights CaBi placement--while always being cognizant of the lurking problem with bureaucratic "death by a thousand cuts" was a model of Solomonic thoughtfulness.

Kudos, sir. Kudos.

by oboe on May 2, 2011 12:03 pm • linkreport

@ W Jordan-

Please do not revise your statement:

"DC's biking policy is skewed to a certain demographic and the investment is greater than its current population numbers."

I believe that spending on bicycle infrastructure has gotten ahead of where it should be. I see a ton of capacity out there, lots of it sitting unused. Also, DC is still a car town, much to the chagrin of the new "urbanists" that are trying to make a power grab but have so far been unsuccessful. One term of Fenty and his guy Gabe does not a takeover make.

by KevinM on May 3, 2011 4:16 pm • linkreport

@KevinM:

DC is still a car town, much to the chagrin of the new "urbanists" that are trying to make a power grab but have so far been unsuccessful.

Funny, when I hop on one of those CaBi bikes in Lincoln Park, and get across town in bumper-to-bumper traffic (most of it with MD tags) in less than 20 minutes, DC most decidedly does *not* look like "a car town." Quite the opposite, really.

I think that definitely scares folks a bit (particularly those who don't live in the city, and whose daily commutes are completely car-dependent). But I think a lot of this Fenty/Klein nonsense is just whistling past the graveyard.

For whatever Gray's faults, one thing that's been very clear over the last few months is that Gray is every bit as on board with the urbanist agenda as Fenty ever was.

by oboe on May 3, 2011 4:29 pm • linkreport

@ oboe

I'm a native Washingtonian(and I currently live live in the city), and while I am decidedly an advocate of public transit, there is still nowhere I can't seem to get in DC in that same twenty minutes, in my car, no matter what time it is. Ride uptown- how many CaBi stations are there??? Folks I know- when they want to ride a bike they get on their personal ride, as do I, although much less frequently than I used to. Those stations are a cute idea but again- I believe we have gotten ahead of ourselves with the capacity being built around town.

by KevinM on May 3, 2011 4:54 pm • linkreport

Kevin - do you believe these things out of faith, or is it based on data?

by Alex B. on May 3, 2011 5:10 pm • linkreport

@KevinM:

I'm thinking specifically of the crosstown, Cap Hill to Washington Circle trip during rush hour. Now obviously there are some commutes within the city that are less horrible than that, but there's no way on Earth I can drive my car from here to there, and find a parking space (i.e. door-to-door) in less time that it takes to ride a slow Bikeshare bike, much less my personal bike. And I save myself $15-20 in parking costs.

Obviously the car's not going away anytime soon, but I think the more DC residents are on bikes, the easier it is for DC residents who aren't on bikes to get around. And CaBi and those bike lanes are and incredibly cheap way of achieving that.

Is DC "still a car town". Sure, but I think the writing's on the wall. It certainly won't be obvious when we hit the exact tipping-point where we're suddenly a multi-modal town. But it'll be in hindsight.

by oboe on May 3, 2011 5:11 pm • linkreport

Oh, just for the subjective take: the idea of driving from, say, Georgetown to Capitol Hill during the morning (or afternoon) rush hour scares the bejesus out of me. Just sounds so, so awful. Sounds quite pleasant on a bike though.

I think some people just have developed a tolerance for such super-human feats of car-commuting over the years. To those of us who haven't built up a long-term mental immunity to congestion, it's soul-destroying.

by oboe on May 3, 2011 5:16 pm • linkreport

"there's a GGW crew?!? do you guys carry guns and beef wit DCist at metro stops?"

Sure - rather than Sons of Anarchy, we're the sons of gentrification. We ride Vespas (or CaBi).

by dcd on May 3, 2011 5:19 pm • linkreport

" there is still nowhere I can't seem to get in DC in that same twenty minutes, in my car, no matter what time it is."

Uh - OK. Please try to get from Georgetown to Columbia Heights at rush hour (never mind Oboe's trip to the Hill). Morning or evening, your choice. Unless your car is equipped with a helicopter function, I don't think you're going to make it.

by dcd on May 3, 2011 5:24 pm • linkreport

You might just make Union Station to Ft Totten during rush hour.

:)

by oboe on May 3, 2011 5:27 pm • linkreport

Maybe some folks on here need driving lessons!?! I drive to work in morning rush from RFK to Georgetown in twenty minutes, every week day. No bugs on me, no stress, no rush, no big deal. I drive from Georgetown to Hyattsville immediately after the morning rush three times a week- twenty minutes, no problem.

Sign-up here for driving lessons...

by KevinM on May 3, 2011 5:37 pm • linkreport

OK, I'll bite - how do you make both of those trips?

by dcd on May 3, 2011 5:53 pm • linkreport

My guess: Independence to Ohio Drive, then do the "E Street Shuffle" as my wife used to call it up and around to the Whitehurst Freeway, which takes you to Canal Road. Voila! Twenty minutes!

Of course, unless you abandon your car in the middle of the road at Whitehurst and Canal Road, it takes another twenty minutes during rush hour to reach your final destination and get a parking space. heh.

I would love to see the route from Georgetown to Hyattsville, though. That's got to be etched in a golden plaque somewhere in the Masonic Temple over on 16th Street.

C'mon Kevin! Spill the beans! Help a brother out; I've got to drive out to my parents' house in Rockville next Thursday morning. :)

by oboe on May 3, 2011 6:25 pm • linkreport

@ oboe

Don't know anything about Rockville, but I go east on M Street from Wisc Ave, then turn on H to 16th, north to R.I. Ave, out R.I. to Lincoln Rd., north on Lincoln, blah blah blah...

Twenty minutes from Wisc & M to Eastern Ave and Mi. Ave- Hyattsville. Pretty simple, and I am a cruiser, no speeding for me.

by KevinM on May 3, 2011 8:39 pm • linkreport

Add a Comment

Name: (will be displayed on the comments page)

Email: (must be your real address, but will be kept private)

URL: (optional, will be displayed)

Your comment:

By submitting a comment, you agree to abide by our comment policy.
Notify me of followup comments via email. (You can also subscribe without commenting.)
Save my name and email address on this computer so I don't have to enter it next time, and so I don't have to answer the anti-spam map challenge question in the future.

or

Support Us

How can our region be greater?

DC Maryland Virginia Arlington Alexandria Montgomery Prince George's Fairfax Charles Prince William Loudoun Howard Anne Arundel Frederick Tysons Corner Baltimore Falls Church Fairfax City
CC BY-NC