Greater Greater Washington

Evans-Silverman: two worlds, two boxes of tools

Interviewing Jack Evans and Cary Silverman, the candidates for the Ward 2 DC Council seat, one could think the two are running for completely different offices. Evans seems to be running for reelection as the Council version of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, devoting his energy to financing deals that will stimulate development throughout DC. Meanwhile, Silverman sounds like a candidate for a more powerful, larger Super-ANC, focusing on local neighborhood needs and problems.

They're both right. Every ward Councilmember is some blend of the two, a shaper of citywide policy and simultaneously steward of a ward. In Evans-Silverman, we have candidates who represent each end of that spectrum. But the Council job isn't just one or the other, and we need a Councilmember who will do both jobs.

Evans and Silverman don't just focus on different problems, they apply their own boxes of tools to the same ones. For example, I asked both whether the O Street Market (which both enthusiastically support) would finally revitalize Ninth Street. Both said it's a start, as well as the convention center hotel, but we need more. What else? Silverman wants a convention center exit near the neighborhood retail and wayfinding signs directing convention-goers to nearby businesses; Evans discussed the other projects underway in the area that will add more retail space and more residents. We need both types of tools in our toolbox, and our Councilmember should pursue all avenues for revitalizing that avenue.

Evans and Silverman even speak different languages. Coming out of the Shaw Logan Circle ANC and, more recently, the Mount Vernon Square Neighborhood Association, Silverman speaks the language of the neighborhood activist, which explains why he is so popular among ANC and citizens' association members. That community's vocabulary centers around keeping the governmental ship sailing smoothly, enforcement of existing laws, quality of life issues, and often a cautious approach to change. Evans' vocabulary, meanwhile, is one of growth and fulfilling the potential of DC as a major city.

This dichotomy mirrors the debate we have on Greater Greater Washington. DC has many residents who moved here when DC was a small town and like it that way. They are (at the moment) more likely to belong to the local citizens/civic association or sit on the ANC. They are more likely to own cars and drive. On the other hand, we have a growing number of newer residents who are putting down roots here. They (or should I say we) see DC not as it was but as it could be, maintaining the beautiful houses, strong sense of community, and range of ages, races and creeds while also accommodating more people and enjoying more vitality.

Ironically, unlike in the mayoral race where energetic Adrian Fenty out-campaigned the more seasoned Linda Cropp, it's the younger (though long-time resident) Silverman who represents small-town DC, and Council veteran Evans who champions the cosmopolitan vision. Their policy prescriptions reflect that: Evans would like to make K Street more mixed-use, voted for the hiker-biker Klingle trail and supports boulevardizing the Whitehurst; Silverman would have voted for the road (though he is willing to let throughly-beaten sleeping dogs lie) and would keep the freeway. Yet Silverman bicycles to work, while Evans drives and enjoys the free parking in front of the Wilson Building. Evans cites the many events he has to get to each day, and the 45-minute public transit ride from Georgetown, as obstacles to transit (though not to bicycling).

At the moment, I plan to vote for Evans, if nothing else because of his reliable vote for transit infrastructure but against roadway expansion. His experience with economic development is also an asset to DC, and his power benefits the ward. But it's good that Silverman is running. We need his energy and dedication to improving the neighborhood. Many problems, like dealing with vacant properties, require the Councilmember to personally push city agencies for a resolution, which Evans doesn't do but Silverman promises to.

It's too bad Evans can't replace Carol Schwartz as Councilmember at-large, letting Cary represent the ward. Barring that, my ideal outcome would be for Evans to narrowly win reelection, preserving his good policy vote and his experience on economic development while also pushing him to devote more time to the ward over the next four years. And if he doesn't, he ought to lose in 2012, whether to someone new, or to a future version of Cary Silverman with a little more political experience and a policy sophistication to match his constituent-service energy.

Want to hear more from the candidates? There's a debate on Thursday, August 7th, 7:00-8:30 at the Phillips Collection at 21st and R.

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David Alpert is the founder and editor-in-chief of Greater Greater Washington. 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 now lives with his wife and daughter in Dupont Circle. 

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Evans cites a 45-minute transit trip--but the Wilson building isn't that far from the Circulator route, is it? A few blocks?. But determination to restore K and Water streets in Georgetown counts for a lot.

A nit-pick on "small town." You have to go back to the 1930s before the population was smaller than it is today and anyone who moved there then saw the population swell with WWII. I understand the mindset you're trying to describe, but I think there are a lot of false histories that cloud discussions of the future of DC vis-a-vis the past. The tendency is for people to think that the way the city is when they arrived here, or when they were 8 years old, is the way it had always been from time immemorial. There's always been turnover and change.

by thm on Jul 29, 2008 2:57 pm • linkreport

Cary Silverman was chair of the Logan Circle ANC, not the Shaw ANC. He was also President, if I am not mistaken, of the Logan Circle Community Association. Otherwise good comparison of the two! But I think that although Cary doesn't focus on the city-wide issues in his campaigning, he realizes that those are part of the job. One of his biggest assets that was not mentioned is that he plans to be a FULL-TIME councilmember unlike Evans that only does it part-time, along with his full-time law position.

by Logan13R on Jul 29, 2008 3:02 pm • linkreport

I think you've got the representation of who is supporting Cary exactly backwards. At least in the Logan Circle and Shaw neighborhoods, it seems that the old-timers, who remember Jack Evans from back-in-the-day when he actually cared about local neighborhood issues, are his most stalwart supporters. It is among the newcomers, who are the ones now taking up the day-to-day mantle of neighborhood ownership and improvement - as the old guard begins to retire to Delaware - that you find Cary's most consistent support.

by Brian Vargas on Jul 29, 2008 3:04 pm • linkreport

David, that's a great analysis about the differences between the candidates and what they have to offer us. One additional thing worth thinking about is that in some ways Evans has been Washington's de facto mayor for a number of years now ... This was especially true when we had a mayor who spent something like 2/3 of each year out of town on District business. I'm not saying this to disparage the former mayor as he did a great job in getting the city out of debt prior to becoming mayor ... But during his time as mayor, while he may have participated in setting policy, it was definitely Evans who led the effort in getting it implemented. With all the talk about development issues of late, I'd be surprised if Evan's role has changed much under the new mayor. So, the question comes to mind "What happens to DC if Evans doesn't get re-elected?" Yes, I would definitely prefer a councilmember who got more involved in the day to day issues of quality of life of the ward (e.g., I'm one of those with a vacant house next door which Evan's office has been totally ineffective in helping out with), but what about the welfare of the city? I agree that longterm this situation has to change.

by Lance on Jul 29, 2008 3:33 pm • linkreport

You might want to take a look at the TIF's that Evans supported and think about the future tax dollars that will be going to pay developers' costs, rather than paying for schools and other public needs.

by J on Jul 29, 2008 3:45 pm • linkreport

J, I don't think it's quite as clear cut as you state it. Without development, we wouldn't have the new residents (or businesses) to pay the taxes that ultimately end up paying for our schools and other public needs. So, the argument that Evans supported development is really an argument in his favor in light of our getting the money to pay for the things we need including the schools. Also, looking at the oodles of dollars (highest per pupil costs in the nation) that have been spent in getting us some of the worst educational results in the nation is hardly an argument for spending more money on the schools. It's not how much money you spend on something that counts but how what is used. And our schools don't have a good history of spending what we've given them wisely.

by Lance on Jul 29, 2008 4:20 pm • linkreport

Many of the projects that received TIF money do not fall into this category. TIFs give the developer cash, and we pays off the loan by giving up future tax revenue, in many instances that is tax revenue which we would have received anyway, had we not not had to use to pay off tbe developer's cost.

Take a look at the Mandarin Hotel, which received $46 million in TIFs, one third of the developer's cost. According the the Deputy Mayor's press release, "This luxury hotel will attract thousands of visitors to Southwest, which is part of my overall vision for a revitalized and vibrant waterfront for the District." You might consider a walk along the waterfront side of the hotel, along a blank multistory facade, and see whether you agree that this was an investment that will revitalize the waterfront. It does not create a pedestrian-friendly area. You might also try to find the pedestrian bridge, which runs alongside the freight railroad tracks, that was meant to connect the hotel with the waterfront.

DC taxpayers paid 1/3 the cost of this hotel. Was this a good investment?

by J on Jul 29, 2008 4:49 pm • linkreport

An even more appropriate comparison race would be the 2000 contest between Adrian Fenty and Charlene Jarvis, another career politician who had been on the council for 17 years when Fenty knocked her off and actually started reviving Georgia Avenue instead of simply talking about it.

The fantasy that Evans' is about "economic development" is just that--a fantasy. We're paying 23+ million dollar per year in debt service on his last big boondoggle--the Covention Center--and despite citywide opposition to a baseball stadium, he led the charge to gift the city with that white elephant.

As "J" noted above, Evans has gifted his developer buddies and cronies with all sorts of TIFs and goodies that will take decades to bear fruit for the residents/taxpayers, if they ever do. And with the amount of debt the city has piled up to produce these deals, it has very little capacity left to take on truly sustainable economic development.

In closing, please don't forget who was head fox of the Finance and Revenue Committee and who has had oversight for all these years of the CFO's henhouse--the one where $50+ million went missing.

Another four years of Jack Evans? Not for this voter.

by LongtimeRez on Jul 29, 2008 4:49 pm • linkreport

Just because Jack Evans SAYS he brought development, doesnt mean its true or so rosy. You've got the biggest target, the horrificly expensive taxpayer subsidized baseball stadium which the Lerners wont even pay the rent for. The Convention Center which is the battleship docked in an enclave that looks like a war zone thanks to the slumbanking developers like Jemal (who pays no vacant property taxes). It took Fenty's office to get the Mega-Marriott deal done, five long years after the Convention Center opened. If you will notice, a lot of deals that have languished on the table have been done - once Fenty took office. We may complain about Fenty, Neil Albert & the way they do things but they are MOVING. What has Jack done? Some late election year cheerleading for the O Street Market that Shaw has loooong waited for and had rare unanimous communtiy support for. He tried to ram a no bid contract thru for the West End library, infuriating the Foggy bottom neighbors. And he recently inexplicably bragged about being responsible for the failed entities AWC & NCRC (Anacostia Waterfront Corporation & National Capitol Revitalization Corporation).

We also have to remember that we are coming out of one of the biggest real estate booms which Jack loves to take credit for. I would argue that the average joe and small businesses have gotten the short end of the stick while the big developers have done rather well. We need a balance, transparency, and we need things to get done.

No more Four Seasons breakfast, thats not where the neighbors hang out. No more exclusive high roller fundraisers with "high quality women." No more Jack Evans stump speech. I've heard it too many times. Cary for Change!

by Si Kailian on Jul 29, 2008 5:45 pm • linkreport

If it is true that Jack has spearheaded development all over the city and acted as a "de facto" mayor while the other mayor was out of town or not working, what business does he have being a Ward councilmember? If his goal is citywide development issues, why doesn't he run as an at-large member of the council? We have real issues in Ward 2 that he isn't addressing including increased crime, vacant housing, small business being run out by high taxes. What has Jack created or spearheaded recently that benefits his constituents in Ward 2? He takes credit for O Street market when it is pretty much done. The convention center sits empty most of the time and the retail in the neighborhood is lacking, the stadium which he supported is in Ward 6. We don't have well-functioning libraries our schools are still a shambles, and he sits back and just expects to get re-elected. We need real leadership in Ward 2 and I think that Jack has worn out his welcome. Maybe he should be the next Deputy Mayor for Economic Development if that is what he is so interested in pursing and leave the constituent services up to a full-time councilmember who can get things done.

by JohnD on Jul 29, 2008 6:04 pm • linkreport

J, If I am understanding TIFs correctly, it sounds like they are a mechanism that allow developers to borrow money at (low) rates that are only available to municipalities (like the District.) I.e., The District borrows the money in its name and levies taxes on the new business being brought in that it otherwise wouldn't levy to pay off the debt. For example, they could have borrowed a $100 million to help finance the Mandarin but then they set the hotel tax higher than at other hotels and use the extra income to pay the interest on that $100 million and eventually to pay it off ... Or something like that. The only risk the District takes on is that that "extra" tax won't happen. As long as it does, we're okay. So even in the case of the stadium, the extra taxes we're getting from the vendors there (and whatever else was designated) we're still getting. And once we actually finish the stadium as we contractually agreed to do months ago, we'll get the back rent from the Lerners. I'm not sure I see where this is a bad thing for us. The end result is that we have a lot more economic development in this city than we otherwise would have had. Now, I'd agree if you wanted to chastise Evans about his constituent services, but not about his role in helping get this city where it's at from an economic development standpoint.

by Lance on Jul 29, 2008 6:05 pm • linkreport

With a TIF, the District borrows the money and gives it to the developer. The District then levies the taxes that would ordinarily be levied, and that tax revenue goes to pay off the loan instead of going into the general fund as it normally would. There is an unstated assumption that the development will result in more tax revenue than the District would otherwise have, and if done correctly, it would. But many of the projects that have received TIF money are projects that would have happened otherwise, so there is no increase in tax revenue. In the stadium case, they did levy an extra tax, but is not the way it has generally been done. And, I think it is clear that with the stadium tax, many of the businesses that are paying the tax are not receiving any benefit from the stadium, just paying additional taxes.

There can be TIF projects that really do spur new development that might not have happened otherwise, and thus produce additional tax revenue at least sufficient to pay off the loan. I doubt that a TIF to pay the owner of Georgetown Park the cost of remodelling to attract an anchor store would generate additional tax revenues. Most retail centers undergo periodic remodelling without a government subsidy, and if Georgetown Park were not given a TIF, would the owner decide not to make the improvements necessary to have a profitable development?

You can think of a TIF as similar to you taking out a loan to put an extension on your house. Instead of making a separate payment on your home improvement loan, you ask the District to send your property taxes to the bank, so your property taxes can be a substitute for your loan payment, rather than paying for the public services we all use. Dedicating all this future tax revenue to pay off the TIFs is likely to start affecting our bond rating.

by J on Jul 29, 2008 6:37 pm • linkreport

Thanks for sending your opinion of the Ward 2 council candidates.

With respect to your comments about longtime residents, I'd like to add that the 'veteran' residents,

whom I've come know, settled here, too, with visions of creating a better city and I haven't seen any indication that their desire to shape and improve conditions has diminished. Their collective work toward preserving and improving the city is evident citywide and I'm continually impressed with their historic knowledge, dedication, generosity, and stamina. Also, in contrast to your characterizations, I've found that neighbors, "old" and "new," welcome positive change and, indeed, get around the city with minimal or no car use.

In the continuum of "new" people" putting down roots in the neighborhood (& becoming civically engaged, even as ANC commissioners) along with "long-standing" residents and business owners, it seems to me, that working to improve conditions and create vitality is a shared aim.

by pk on Jul 29, 2008 6:48 pm • linkreport

wait. When was DC a small town?

by Cassandra on Jul 29, 2008 8:12 pm • linkreport

It is very attractive. I like it and its invironment.

________________

aaron

widecircles

by aaron rao on Jul 30, 2008 12:56 am • linkreport

The misconceptions regarding Jack displayed by the commenters on this page are frightening. If you wonder whether Jack Evans is a full time or part time councilmember, take one look at his schedule. He is daily in attendance at neighborhood meetings and events while attempting to raise 11 year old triplets on his own. He is full time, no doubt about that.

With regards to finances, Jack has brought this city from a state of embarrassment to one where we can actually be proud, if you assess bond ratings and the fact that our taxes are lower than the surrounding counties in Virginia and Maryland. And, even with successes, he is not naive enough to say we've done all we can OR that we are doing a super job. He agrees there is work still to be done.

Evans has made it his biggest priority to focus on improving the school system. He, Fenty, and Rhee have teamed up and will actually bring a positive change to our school system, and they have already started doing so. And if you think Evans has done nothing about crime, then research a little deeper into the goings-on in the Shaw neighborhood, where Evans personally brokered a truce between three neighborhood gangs.

My only suggestion for people on the fence with regards to who to vote for is to attend any event where Jack and Cary are given the opportunity to speak. You will be amazed at how little Cary has to say and too at how informed, dedicated, realistic, and genuine Evans truly is.

by ames on Jul 30, 2008 12:23 pm • linkreport

There are always young people new to the area coming to the city thinking they'll put down roots. Most don't. They get an interesting job offer elsewhere. Or they marry, have kids, and move to the burbs.

And, of course, many of the current long-term residents were once young people new to the area intending to put down roots. They actually did.

From what I've seen, the difference between the two groups isn't so much progressivism vs. nostalgia but naivete vs. experience, and especially experience over the course of the life cycle. The long-term residents have been childless workaholics, they've been parents of school-aged children, they've been disabled as well as fit, they've changed workplaces (or hooked up with someone whose job is in the burbs), they've owned homes as well as rented them, they've craved nightlife and they've craved quiet. They've lived at a variety of income levels and often in more than one neighborhood (or even kind of neighborhood).

I don't think their views are somehow more parochial or "small town." Maybe they've just seen enough fashionable cant in their time not to be sucked in by the latest sloganeering.

by Z on Jul 30, 2008 3:10 pm • linkreport

"He is daily in attendance at neighborhood meetings and events while attempting to raise 11 year old triplets on his own." --ames

Poor Jack. It's so difficult trying to make ends meet when he's only making $95,000 a year for a part-time job in addition to $240,000 a year that his other current employer, Patton Boggs, is paying him.

Get real. Nothing is forcing him to run for a Council seat, except maybe the fact that if he's not re-elected, he might not be worth much to the wheeler-dealers currently in charge at Patton Boggs and elsewhere.

Evans had 15 years to do something about the schools and has done squat--he was too busy doing real estate deals and letting his community activist/avatars run amuck in the neighborhoods. When Fenty was elected (over Jack's support of Cropp), he was slick enough to jump on Fenty's coat-tails.

The really frightening thing, ames, is that there might be a majority of Ward 2 voters who are uninformed or dumb enough to take your promotional message at face value and re-elect him.

by LongtimeRez on Jul 30, 2008 3:17 pm • linkreport

Z - very well put!

by Jazzy on Jul 30, 2008 10:26 pm • linkreport

What is difficult to understand is how much work Evans actually does as Council Member, given a full-time job at a very demanding law firm. I have friends who work at Patton Boggs as attorneys, and the thought of them having another part-time job would be laughable, given their packed schedules.

I understand that Evans goes to after-hours neighborhood meetings, but what more can he really have time for realistically?? I honestly wish someone could explain. And his having triplets has nothing to do with anything relevant to the electorate.

by JT on Jul 30, 2008 11:04 pm • linkreport

The Councilmember positions are supposed to be part time jobs ... Though I don't believe they really end up being so since there's probably as much "politicking" going on as "councilmembering". Patton Boggs attorneys are paid very very well because they are known as top-notch. If Evans were working full time at Patton Boggs, he'd be earning far more than the $240K someone listed above. My guess is two to three times as much. He must really like his work as a councilmember to give up all that extra income.

by Lance on Aug 1, 2008 9:16 am • linkreport

We have no Congressman with a vote to represent us. We have no Senator to represent us. And - even though our Ward brings in more tax revenue than all other wards combined - we have a PART-TIME Councilmember. I don't know about you, but I figure for 93-thousand (if that's what he makes), I'd kinda like somebody to give me his full-time attention. After all, considering our lack of representation at the federal level, it would be nice if we had SOMEBODY who could devote his full attention to our issues.

With Jack, it's like the license plates say, "taxation without representation."

by Pays his salary on Aug 1, 2008 6:50 pm • linkreport

Pays,

Are you saying you think $93,000 is a lot for a councilmember to make? A lawyer with his creditials and experience could easily be making well over $500K to $600K per year. Today, 22 yr olds straight out of college with a decent degree are making $60K to $70K with no experience. I think we've ourselves a bargain getting ANY councilmember for only $93,000 a year.

by Lance on Aug 3, 2008 6:23 pm • linkreport

I think Pays's point is simply to indicate that Evans gets a seemingly substantial salary covered by taxpayers. The relative amount is not as important.

Also, Lance, your salary numbers on college grads are a little high, not to mention the dubiousness of your claim of "no experience". Going to the website of the Carnegie Mellon career center, you can quickly see that the average salary of graduates from many departments is below the range you indicate. And that's from a school whose graduates can command better salaries than the average college student. As for your point on experience, most students these days come into the job market upon graduation having already dipped a toe into the workforce in the form of multiple internships.

by Adam on Aug 3, 2008 6:52 pm • linkreport

But Adam, that is the point. It's not seemingly high for this area. As Pays pointed out, we don't have Senators or others out there. The Councilmember position is preety important. Would you want someone in a Councilmember's seat for whom the $93,000 was more than they could command on the job market? I certainly wouldn't. And the "part time" bit is a real canard. Anyone who has at all been involved with the District know that no Councilmember works part time at being a Councilmember. It's not possible given that every step they take in this city they are approached by someone.

by Lance on Aug 3, 2008 8:13 pm • linkreport

Jack Evans lost me the minute he blocked the noise regulations. That, to me, was so classically old school, nonsensical, DC government pandering. Even the Post called him out for that BS. We need to get rid of the Evans types, who think they can just keep getting reelected regarless of what they do.

by Greeps on Aug 5, 2008 10:10 am • linkreport

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