The Washington, DC region is great >> and it can be greater.


Frumin, Silverman again top Let's Choose on zoning

The results are now up on Let's Choose DC for the 9th question, on the zoning update. For the 7th question in a row on Let's Choose DC, Matthew Frumin and Elissa Silverman shared the number one and two spots.

The question was about the zoning update, an issue we've discussed here perhaps more than any other. Both Frumin and Silverman expressed support for at least many elements of the proposals, but also insisted that they want to be sure to protect established residents' interests in some ways as well.

There's nothing wrong with striking a balance, but the question ultimately boils down to who will stand up strongly for a growing and inclusive city when the really tough votes arise on the Council.

It's clear Michael Brown won't. He wrote in his response, "I have frequently taken the side of the surrounding neighborhoods and stood with the residents to oppose certain aspects of the growth plans." And he said at a Ward 8 forum, "And my beliefs are trying to make sure, as a third generation Washingtonian, making sure this city stays the way I remember it."

We don't really know about Mara or Bonds. Neither has replied to requests to take a stand, and Mara gave a very vague answer on the issue when I asked him about the issue at a meeting.

What can we conclude?

On a Greater Greater Washington note and not a Let's Choose note, for urbanists trying to pick a candidate to vote for on April 23, it seems you have fairly clearly spoken that the choice lies between these two.

When I envisioned Let's Choose DC, my hope (but not necessarily that of Martin at DCist and Dan at PoPville) was that a completely neutral, non-endorsing process might help people coalesce around one candidate on their own. As it's turned out, that coalescing did happen, but thus far around two candidates rather than one.

Patrick Mara (who I endorsed 4 years ago) stopped participating several weeks back, and missed several previous questions as well. Plus, when he did participate, his ratings in the voting were never very strong (placing 8th on question 2 and 4th and 3rd on the others where he responded).

Paul Zukerberg and Perry Redd have reliably kept participating, and while they racked up lower totals, they took advantage of an opportunity to help more residents understand their views. Anita Bonds only sent in a response once time, and scored low. Michael Brown has participated a few times, but to almost universally low marks.

Is our community split down the middle between Frumin and Silverman, or do most of us simply like both of them? Who If you're undecided between Frumin and Silverman, what would help you make up your mind?

Update: The original version of this post mixed some of my own commentary with Let's Choose information in a way that could have been confusing or mislead people about the political intent of the site. I've rearranged it to split the two.

David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. 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 two children in Dupont Circle. 


Add a comment »

I dunno if this is overreaching the bounds of the exercise but it would be awesome if the candidates would do a Q&A. As far as I know there is nothing in the way of a formal debate or anything.

by Alan B. on Mar 20, 2013 3:38 pm • linkreport

"For urbanists trying to pick a candidate to vote for on April 23, it seems you have fairly clearly spoken that the choice lies between these two."

That is, if "urbanism" is the singular issue you vote on. And, if you exclude Mara, who stopped participating in this for some reason.

by Petworthian on Mar 20, 2013 3:38 pm • linkreport

I like both of them, but in the end side with Frumin.

It seems he has more experience making deals with different groups. This probably comes from his experience serving in his local ANC and the Clinton administration.

It seems that Silverman has good ideas as well, but in some of her answers falls back on "I'll ask the hard questions" of the elected leaders with whom she disagrees. She did that when she was a reporter, now she will cast a vote and do the same thing?

Reading their views over the last few months, they will likely vote similarly on most legislation. However, I would rather have someone who can get deals done than someone who simply calls out others who take the opposite position.

If Silverman loses this time around, I would love to see her build on this experience and run again in the next election.

by Jer on Mar 20, 2013 3:43 pm • linkreport

I tend to agree with Jer. I read so many responses from Silverman that were based on her journalism experience of asking questions. Of this group of candidates, Frumin is the one who brings real world experience from the ANC and a professional to the Council. I wish Mara had participated more in this, but since he didn't, what we have is what we have to go on.

I will also add that while it may technically in the right, I was not happy that Silverman bumped Settles from the race and tried to do the same with Zukerberg. If you are confident in your message, then you should take on all comers and see where the chips fall. Finally, the Chuck Theis piece from yesterday regarding the hypocrisy around accepting Sinclair Skinner's money while making a fuss over Mara's money personified a personality that I think is not needed on the Council at this time.

My first choice was Settles but since he is out, based on this question, I would support Frumin. Mara may still be in the picture, depending on how things go between now and Election Day.

by William on Mar 20, 2013 3:50 pm • linkreport

I'm not sure if we all meet the "urbanist" threshold but I did learn a bit about the candidate's positions. Since I didn't see any EOTR campaigns, GGW became the only place I could learn anything about the candidates.

Personally, I'm not undecided. Even though Silverman's answers usually amounted to, "I'm not Pepsi, I'm not Coke..I'm a Budget Gal and Want Your Vote" I could see how people might be influenced to vote for her. But not HogWash. I'll be supporting Frumin.

The choice for me was whether I wanted someone who can build bridges or burn them. Silverman strikes me as the latter...

by HogWash on Mar 20, 2013 3:51 pm • linkreport

As a disclaimer, we at DCist did not enter into the project with the idea that we'd help urbanists pick a candidate. We wanted the candidates to answer policy-based questions on a weekly basis so that voters had more information to work with on Election Day. We don't endorse any candidates.

by Martin Austermuhle on Mar 20, 2013 3:51 pm • linkreport

I will be voting directly on the urbanist issues. I have seen Matt in action supporting smart growth principles, and helping to forge compromises with both those who would oppose them as ANC commissioner in both the AU law school and Babes circumstances. This was no mean feat as both projects had different groups stridently opposed to these projects. To me, the ability to help forge compromise on difficult issues is what I am looking for in a legislator, as that is how things get done.

I would love to hear more from Elissa on exactly what her position is on the zoning rewrite. I have no doubt that ultimately, if she had a chance to vote on the issues, she'd choose correctly. But I am a bit miffed by her responses in the Ward 3 meetings she's attended by using phrases like "comprehensive" and "holistic," as it relates to parking minimums and pending changes DDOT changes to parking regulations.

Tying the two together certainly makes sense logically, but my concern is that doing gives an out to the Zoning Commission to wait for new DDOT rules. And making statements like this, or to in any way delay the zoning rewrite, is red meat to the NIMBYs whose mantra is to delay, delay, delay. I certainly don't want the zoning rewrite to be coupled to what will be the huge s---storm that will surround new parking rules.

In sum, I need to hear more unequivocal support from Elissa on this issue.

by Steve Seelig on Mar 20, 2013 3:56 pm • linkreport

I have to say, I'm a huge fan of Elissa, mostly because she's so good on these issues. She cares about doing local transportation right (she moved to the H St area partly because of the street car!), and she's very data driven. She takes the time to listen to people and research the issues, not take knee-jerk positions on things. Wouldn't it be great if everyone on the council was like that? Maybe then we could move beyond the stupid car vs bike frame we always fall into.

by Budget Wonk on Mar 20, 2013 4:02 pm • linkreport

Agree w/both Jer and William. I just read the Chuck Theis piece and can't say I'm surprised by Silverman.

For me, the "approach" is just as important as the "substance." That's why I'm usually turned off by people who pledge to go in and fight w/the very people who will end up being their colleagues. Like long-time politicians who fight to change Washington. I understand why it can be seen as an attractive thing for others though.

by HogWash on Mar 20, 2013 4:06 pm • linkreport

Chuck Thies has been trying to attack Elissa from the start. I don't know why, but personally it seems really unseemly.

by David Alpert on Mar 20, 2013 4:07 pm • linkreport

I find it interesting that one of the criteria is electability...if a candidate meets the threshold of being worth voting for. Since Frumin has no chance of generating any significant vote outside of Ward 3, it seems fascinating that you would waste a vote on him. He seems like a great person with no chance of winning.
Why not? Because nothing he has done, prior to entering the race, speaks to the rest of the city.
Having run city-wide several times I can tell you that people need to:
a) know you and
b) know you know something about where they live and their concerns.
Silverman has done that for several years and people know her for her great work at the Fiscal Policy Institute and as Loose Lips with the City Paper. She did this work not to become wealthy, but because she cares about the future of DC residents.
She can win; represent us as an honest and effective at-large Councilmember.
Not a Ward 3 ANC person who has limited reach and grasp of the issues of the city that face a diverse population that is DC.

by John Capozzi on Mar 20, 2013 4:07 pm • linkreport

@John Capozzi

I disagree with the assessment that 1) people citywide know who Silverman is and 2) Frumin's reach is limited to Ward 3. Frumin has been a DCPS parent for 20 years and was a leader in the Wilson High school community. Look at the Wilson boundaries to understand where Frumin's base resides. Does he have work to do in Wards 5, 6, 7 and 8? Yes, but to suggest that he only has support in Ward 3 is to underestimate his chances.

I think the bigger concern is that Mara and Frumin and Frumin and Silverman will tend to draw on many of the same voter bases and all split votes allowing someone like Bonds or Brown to win.

Just one person's opinion.

by William on Mar 20, 2013 4:18 pm • linkreport

I've supported Elissa from the get-go, after seeing her leadership on the DC Public Trust campaign to clean up politics by banning corporate cash. This was reiterated for me when she won Jews United for Justice's award last year. Ethics and justice are key issues for me, and so I was immediately drawn to Elissa. Not to bang the budget drum more, but it is our money and our statement of priorities as a District -- she gets that more than anyone, and I think would do more than anyone to make it fairer and more effective.

I believe she gets the urbanism issues, too -- she won't be David Alpert on the council, but she shares the same vision for livability and smart growth.

by A Different Wonk on Mar 20, 2013 4:24 pm • linkreport

HogWash, I understand that you can't get things done if you're always fighting with your colleagues, but I think there's still a little too much coziness on the council when it comes to holding each other accountable for ethical violations. That's one reason I'm supporting Elissa.

by Keith Ivey on Mar 20, 2013 4:26 pm • linkreport

I realize Alpert thinks Chuck Thies is attacking Silverman and she certainly pissed him (and a lot of people) off with her petition challenge. But Thies is right on the Sinclair Skinner point. You cannot tout yourself as the "good government" candidate and then take money from someone like Skinner whose ties to District contracts are questionable at best.

by DC Voter on Mar 20, 2013 4:34 pm • linkreport

John, I've lived in the city for almost 14 years...12 in W8. I had never heard of Silverman until reading the WCP profile on her late last year. So you're wrong to suggest that "more people know her.

I haven't seen anything from her which suggests she has better concern than any other candidate. Her work as lobbyist/advocate doesn't translate to having the concern for all residents in mind. Being a beat reporter also doesn't mean she's a good candidate for city leadership.

As noted by the polling, ethics is a huge issue for most DC residents. But I'm not so convinced banning corporate cash ranks anywhere near banning some of the council's worst offending practices. I similarly don't see how her role as a budget person benefits the city. I imagine it (budget) too doesn't rank high on the list of things most residents care about.

, but I think there's still a little too much coziness on the council when it comes to holding each other accountable for ethical violations.

For me, it's about implementing policies that eliminate the need for CM's to hold each other accountable. Allow the law to hold them accountable.

by HogWash on Mar 20, 2013 4:35 pm • linkreport

BTW, this is the first story I've seen Theis write about Silverman. Not that he hasn't...I just didn't read it. W/that in mind, I didn't find anything particular "attacking" about his piece. He pointed out that accepted money from "questionable" sources while at the same time outing another contender for doing the same thing. Isn't that more reporting based on fact than personal animus?

by HogWash on Mar 20, 2013 4:38 pm • linkreport

Thies played up a number of non-scandals on Twitter and such from the start. He seemed to be taking a very negative stance toward her even before any of the petition challenges.

by David Alpert on Mar 20, 2013 4:39 pm • linkreport

Agee with DC Voter. That she is guilty of accepting questionable campaign donations while attacking Patrick Mara for not even doing the same thing (remember he returned the donations from the Tea Party group before he was even asked about it)is something I cannot get over.

by JDC on Mar 20, 2013 4:45 pm • linkreport

Oh. Thanks! I'm not on twitter and unfamiliar w/anything you mentioned. But I can't say I'm surprised that someone in the city has taken a negative stance against a candidate. It happens all the time. That's still a bit separate from the apparently true things he wrote about her recent shenanigans. He might not like her (for whatever reasons) but he was right to point out the hypocrisy.

BTW, I wouldn't vote for Mara but also wouldn't ask him to return money to a Tea Party group. I don't like that kind of take and give.

by HogWash on Mar 20, 2013 4:58 pm • linkreport

I fully agree about implementing policies that eliminate the need for CMs to hold each other accountable and letting the law do it. The coziness is one of the things preventing good laws from being passed and good policies from being implemented.

by Keith Ivey on Mar 20, 2013 4:59 pm • linkreport

I follow your overall point. I don't have a problem w/colleagues being cozy w/one another. I prefer that than a council full of adversarial relationships because it ends up being our own version of republicans vs. democrats.

I actually want them to get along.

by HogWash on Mar 20, 2013 5:29 pm • linkreport

It's a bit odd that Chuck Thies writes about Sinclair Skinner and neglects to mention that he was the director of field operations for (as well as a personal friend of) Adrien Fenty. Perhaps "former Fenty operations director gave a donation to Elissa Silverman" doesn't quite pack the same punch.

by Chatham on Mar 20, 2013 6:08 pm • linkreport

I'm with Jer, William et al -- and someone else complained to me about her stock line of "asking questions". I commented that there's a kind of blockheadedness of elected officials about "asking questions" but not the right questions, which seem obvious at least to me, but no asks -- better to have your own knowledge set.

Actually, now that I think of it, journalists often evince the same kind of blockheadedness or obliviousness to key elements of issues that seem very obvious to me.

So I am likely in favor Frumin myself.

by Richard Layman on Mar 20, 2013 8:09 pm • linkreport

What deals did Frumin -- as opposed to his colleagues who went around him -- cut? Babe's? Coalition of three commissioners not including Frumin got that done? AU? Same thing.

by Frank on Mar 20, 2013 8:57 pm • linkreport

I'm for Elissa.

There's a very good reason she and Frumin have run neck and neck in Let's Choose: they've given very similar answers. Both candidates gave qualified support for the zoning update, both support expanding bike and transit infrastructure, both support new growth while stressing the needs of longtime residents. They're both good urbanists. If elected to the Council, they'd both have an urbanist voting record to be proud of.

The problem is that voting the right way isn't enough. Programs need to be implemented properly, and for that, they need oversight. How many great urbanist plans have been successfully voted into being, then foundered due to poor implementation? Let's start with three: inclusionary zoning, the H Street streetcar, and the Silver Spring Transit Center. Elissa's a policy analyst and reporter; she's much better prepared to make sure our priorities actually get done and done right.

And lest we forget, ethics and campaign finance reform are urbanist issues too. CM Graham's dealings with local developers ought to be ample reminder of that. Elissa had the better answer and has the better record on those issues.

(Full disclosure: I know Elissa from the Initiative 70 push and have volunteered for her campaign. Accountability!)

by JewdishoowarySquare on Mar 20, 2013 9:39 pm • linkreport

Programs need to be implemented properly, and for that, they need oversight. How many great urbanist plans have been successfully voted into being, then foundered due to poor implementation?

Initiative 70 would be the example that comes to mind first for me as something that "foundered due to poor implementation." All those people collected all those signatures, then the leadership (including specifically Elissa) failed to properly check the signatures prior to submitting them, and all that effort was wasted.

by Initiative 70 Critic on Mar 21, 2013 7:23 am • linkreport

To me, the most important issue comes down to electibility. Where is my vote (and my wife's) going to go that is going to keep Brown and Bonds off the Council? I certainly favor Frumin, but would take Silverman (or even Mara, gag) over bobo and dodo.

by Kyle-W on Mar 21, 2013 9:10 am • linkreport

People who favor progressives like Silverman and Frumin AND consider Mara a choice perplex me. Mara's policy positions are shallow compared to Silverman and Frumin, who offer a great deal of detail. Mara, to me, has always seemed like someone who will be intentionally vague just get elected. I don't get the sense that he shares any core convictions with me...or any other progressive, personally. Wish people would explain how they consider Silverman/Frumin AND him. To me, it's like saying you support Al Franken *and* Olympia Snowe for President. Sure, there's some overlap, but they're galaxies apart when you drill down to policy positions.

My choices now are Silverman, with Frumin running a close second. I personally liked Settles as well, but he's gone.

by Washingtonian on Mar 26, 2013 12:38 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)

You can use some HTML, like <blockquote>quoting another comment</blockquote>, <i>italics</i>, and <a href="http://url_here">hyperlinks</a>. More here.

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.


Support Us