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Posts about 2012 Special Election


For Ward 5 Council: Kenyan McDuffie

Voters in DC's Ward 5 will vote on May 15th in a special election to select a councilmember after Harry Thomas, Jr. resigned in disgrace earlier this year. They have an opportunity to elect someone who not only sets a higher ethical standard, but has a better vision for Ward 5. That person is Kenyan McDuffie.

Kenyan McDuffie. Photo by mediaslave on Flickr.

We endorsed McDuffie for this seat during the 2010 election, and we are proud to do so again. Since 2010, he has bolstered his resume, is running a stronger campaign, and has emerged as the clear choice for voters looking for someone who they will not only agree with on policy, but who also has a great chance to win.

McDuffie's list of priorities, including economic development, jobs, education, and public safety, reveal a candidate with thoughtful and concrete plans to achieve once in office.

One of McDuffie's simplest promises is to hold community office hours, as Tommy Wells does in neighboring Ward 6. Ward 5 has a large elderly population that may find it difficult to travel downtown to the Wilson Building to discuss concerns, so McDuffie plans to be available to hear those concerns in person in individual neighborhoods.

McDuffie supports Initiative 70, the proposed citizen ballot initiative to ban corporate campaign donations. He's also taken a stand against corporate bundling, while other major Ward 5 campaigns have not.

Former Councilmember Thomas talked about the importance of small business corridors like Bladensburg Road, North Capitol Street, 12th Street, and Rhode Island Avenue, but did not get any funding for Great Streets programs on these corridors. McDuffie will make it a top priority to bring funding to Ward 5's neglected commercial corridors, instead of the recent trend of only focusing on drawing big-box retail to the ward.

McDuffie wants more transportation choices in Ward 5. He is interested in how the Circulator system could be expanded to serve the ward, as it will be many years before a streetcar could come to Michigan and Rhode Island Avenues even under the most optimistic scenarios.

McDuffie has degrees from Howard University and the University of Maryland School of Law. He has worked for Eleanor Holmes Norton, as an assistant state attorney in Prince George's County, a judicial clerk in Maryland's 7th Circuit, a trial attorney for the Civil Rights Division at the DOJ, and, since after the 2010 election, as a policy advisor to the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice. His background in policy will bring much-needed experience to the table, as the budget process will be well underway when the new councilmember takes the seat.

McDuffie had a very strong performance at the March 3 candidates debate. He proved to be adept at answering detailed questions and clearly had a stronger grasp of issues such as ethics, campaign finance, and public safety than the other candidates on the dais that day.

He stood up for his beliefs, supporting a tax on sugary beverages because of their correlation with negative health outcomes, and refused to pander to the audience even when some audibly jeered his position.

Other candidates commonly discussed as major players for the seat bring questions to the table that raise serious doubts about their ability to lead.

Frank Wilds, who previously ran for the seat in 2006, has not provided serious solutions for Ward 5. One of his priorities, for example, is to bring a major federal government office to the Rhode Island Avenue corridor. Common sense shows that there are no parcels of land that could hold what one would assume would be an enormous building, nor is there the infrastructure to make such an undertaking viable.

Delano Hunter ran for the seat in 2010, and has done nothing to show a firm grasp of the issues that are of importance to all Ward 5 residents. His website includes bland pronouncements such as "issu[ing] annual reports" and working for development "that respects the tradition of our ward."

In addition, Hunter continues to support a referendum to repeal marriage equality. This stance is not just troubling, but should be an automatic disqualification for office. Anyone who believes that subjecting the civil rights of a minority group to the whims of the electorate is unacceptable.

Some progressive-voting residents of Ward 5 are excited about Drew Hubbard. Hubbard has legislative experience from working on the staffs of Councilmembers Kwame Brown, Marion Barry, and Michael Brown, but questions have been raised regarding his independence. He also remains a virtual unknown to the vast majority of Ward 5 residents.

Hubbard's presence in this campaign is building needed name recognition that could stand him in good stead for future runs for office, but his supporters should be mindful of the strategic realities of the race. Voting without regard for strategy has created problems in several recent elections. Nonetheless, we believe McDuffie will make the best Ward 5 councilmember and hope all voters, including progressives, will unite behind McDuffie.

Many Ward 5 precincts saw low turnout in last week's primary. The May 15 special election is critical to the future of the ward, and voters need to make their voices heard. Apathy is not an option this time.

Kenyan McDuffie's experience, continued leadership, and clearly articulated vision makes him the only choice for the Ward 5 council seat. We urge Ward 5 voters to select him on Tuesday, May 15th.

This is the official endorsement of Greater Greater Washington, written by one or more contributors. Active contributors and editors voted on endorsements, and any endorsement reflects a strong majority or greater in favor of endorsing the candidate.


Kenyan McDuffie talks education and growth

With a special election for the Ward 5 seat on the DC Council coming up on May 15, the candidates are hot to deliver their messages and woo voters. Kenyan McDuffie, whom Greater Greater Washington endorsed 2 years ago, is starting to articulate ideas for how he might lead Ward 5.

McDuffie speaks to Ward 5 residents. Image from video by Tom Bridge.

With development opportunities at the McMillan Sand Filtration site, near the Brookland Metro, and along Rhode Island and New York Avenues, there is a lot of change coming to Ward 5 that needs stewardship, oversight, and community input.

McDuffie expressed a commitment to "livable, walkable" communities, nodding his cap to Councilmember Tommy Wells, who uses these words a lot. I hope he, and by extension the residents of Ward 5, do more than use the words.

Ward 5 is home to massive big box development with large surface parking lots, fast-moving commuter roads like Rhode Island and New York Avenues, busy intersections, and has perhaps the least amount of bicycle infrastructure and Capital Bikeshare coverage in the city.

Yet it also has three Red Line Metro stops and the Met Branch trail, and room for new transit-oriented development. McDuffie also mentioned a priority of "solving traffic problems" associated with development. I hope that he, and other candidates in Ward 5, understand the benefits of changes which slow down cars but benefit travel by transit, on foot and by bicycle.

Ward 1 and Capitol Hill provide good examples of residential and retail density with bike infrastucture that create desirable destinations and connections between adjacent communities. The tree-lined streets of residential Ward 5 can have the best of both worlds—good urbanism while preserving a sense of suburban tranquility.

McDuffie has made education a key point of his candidacy, creating an education priorities page on his website. He says he will "tackle truancy," "prepare students for higher education," and "increase vocational programs."

At a recent meet-and-greet, someone asked about the disposition of vacant or underutilized DCPS school buildings. McDuffie gave what I consider the "correct" answer without hesitating: make sure that operators who have shown themselves to be effective at educating kids have a fair crack at the buildings, and if that avenue is exhausted, seek a deal that is good for the city in terms of generating the most revenue.

As with most campaign platforms, the lofty pronouncements may be on the right track but don't delve into as much detail. It's easy to promise to address big problems, but harder to specify exactly how, (or how to pay for any changes). The challenge for voters is to read between the lines and guess what the candidates will do if and when they sit on the council.

The education priorities page does not address school modernization, school funding, or the equity and adequacy issues raised in the recent DC Public Education Finance Reform Commission report (and covered in the Washington Post). It also does not address any of the various education proposals that Kwame Brown has floated in the past few weeks. Will McDuffie side with Brown or take a different approach? What about the other Ward 5 hopefuls?

I look forward to hearing more about the specifics of McDuffie's views, and what the other Ward 5 candidates and at-large candidates running in the April primary have to say. I hope they will write position papers on their website, post on this blog, and even engage with voters in comments.


Melissa Bondi for Arlington County Board

Arlington County Democrats will select a nominee this week for an open seat on the county board. 5 Democrats are vying for the slot, vacated by Barbara Favola. Because of her experience, openness to citizen input and dedication to smart urban development, Greater Greater Washington endorses Melissa Bondi in the Democratic primary for county board.

Bondi endorsed by school board member James Lander. Photo from Bondi's campaign website.

Democrats can vote in the "Firehouse Primary" on Thursday, January 19 from 7-9 pm at Washington-Lee High School, or on Saturday, January 21 from 11 am to 7 pm at Kenmore Middle School.

Bondi has extensive credentials in smart growth, environmental policy and affordable housing. She has served on numerous citizens' commissions, which effectively function as the committee system for the Arlington County Board.

She chaired the the Housing Commission, where she helped co-author Arlington's inclusionary zoning law, one of the first in the region. When on the Clarendon Sector Task Force, she worked to bring smart growth and sustainability to the area.

She worked as housing director for the Coalition for Smarter Growth for 3 years, where she pushed to integrate affordable housing into mixed-use development. She has also coordinated federal housing policy for Smart Growth America and led the regional Think Twice Before You Slice campaign for the Nonprofit Roundtable for Greater Washington, where she educated people on the impacts of budget proposals on low-income and vulnerable populations.

Her experience in Arlington includes dozens of site plan projects, zoning issues, and long range plans. Bondi is qualified for the County Board because she has already been working on the County Board's business for years.

Discussing the "Arlington Way," Bondi pointed out a generational shift in how citizen interact with their leaders. Traditionally, people in Arlington have engaged leaders, county staff and fellow citizens at frequent, in-person meetings. But as Bondi noted, people now want to engage with civic affairs though blogs like Greater Greater Washington, social media, and other methods.

Bondi wants the county to put extra effort into involving the public in policy decisions early, and recognizing when citizens want to communicate in ways besides meetings. She'd like the county to participate more in blog discussions, providing important information about issues citizens are discussing.

Community leaders hail her ability to coordinate among varied interests and ability to listen to ideas from stakeholders. Bondi has won the endorsement of former board member and current Clerk of Court Paul Ferguson, current board members Walter Tejada and Chris Zimmerman, school board member James Lander, and Delegate Alfonso Lopez. Bondi has the instincts of a great board member who can listen to input from citizens and other stakeholders and reach compromises that benefit everyone.

Melissa Bondi is the strongest supporter of the Columbia Pike streetcar among the candidates. She understands its role in broadening Arlington's high-quality transit network and the challenges that it can present to existing residents in the area. She understands the streetcar's financial situation, and believes the county must better communicate the reasons for increased cost as well as the benefits to the corridor and the county as a whole.

Other candidates have taken more negative positions on the streetcar, and on urban redesign like in Crystal City. A flyer put out by opponent Libby Garvey stated, "I won't let runaway development take away what we love most about Arlington."

In our opinion, the areas in Arlington that have seen development (Clarendon, Court House, Ballston, Shirlington, Columbia Pike) are prime examples of good transportation-oriented development and urban design. Development has more often than not brought what we love most about Arlington rather than taken it away.

Several tax controversies have emerged around Bondi. One involved an IRS tax lien that was unknown to her until it was published on a local Arlington watchdog blog, and another concerns late payments for personal property (car) tax.

Bondi is acting responsibly by working with the IRS to resolve the tax lien, and has properly paid property tax on the car she owned, including penalties for her tardiness. Since these personal finance issues did not involve any public funds or positions of public trust, we feel that Bondi should receive the nomination based on her qualifications and experience.

We encourage Arlington County Democrats to vote for Melissa Bondi in the primary on Thursday evening or Saturday.


Arlington candidates discuss streetcars and Crystal City

5 Democratic candidates are vying for Barbara Favola's vacated seat on the Arlington County Board. Where do they stand on the issues? 3 of the candidates responded to a Greater Greater Washington questionnaire about the major issues facing Arlington.

Left to right: Melissa Bondi, Libby Garvey, and Kim Klingler. Images from the candidates's websites.

Favola was elected to the Virginia State Senate in November, leaving an open seat on the 5-person board. Arlington Democrats will hold 2 caucuses on January 19th and January 21st to nominate a replacement. No Republicans will challenge the Democratic candidate.

Since the race got underway in November, candidate Melissa Bondi has received notable endorsements from sitting board members Walter Tejada and Chris Zimmerman, while former School Board member Libby Garvey just announced an endorsement from Favola for her own former position.

I distributed a questionnaire to 5 participating candidates, and received responses from Bondi, Garvey, and Kim Klingler. The questionnaire asked about the candidates' positions on the Crystal City Sector Plan, the Columbia Pike streetcar, the need for more affordable housing, and more. The candidates also participated in a January 4th debate at GMU's Founder Hall that featured many similar questions.

While the 3 respondents agreed on many points, key distinctions emerged. Bondi and Klingler offered more pointed, direct suggestions for bolstering Arlington's affordable housing stock, while Garvey's experience serving 15 years on the Arlington County School Board gave her detailed knowledge of the ACPS system's current efforts at mitigating the capacity crisis.

All 3 candidates, when asked about the County Board's October 2011 decision to approve Boeing's new regional headquarters in Crystal City, cited concerns with poor urban planning and citizen involvement throughout the process.

Below are exerpts from the candidates' positions on some of the most significant urban issues in Arlington County right now.

What do you see as the most pressing issue facing Arlington County today?

From the need for more affordable housing to transparent governance, each candidate expressed a different view on Arlington County's greatest challenge. What all three candidates appeared to agree on in their answers, however, is the need for collaborative, systematic planning between the County Board and the County's citizens for Arlington's growth.

Melissa Bondi:

I think the most pressing issue is to mitigate the continued threats to, and losses in, Arlington's affordable housing stock. A significant portion of our diverse Arlington population, from immigrants to seniors to persons with disabilities and young families need access to safe, decent affordable housing.
Kim Klingler:
As Arlingtonians, I believe our most pressing issue is to be able to maintain our identity, diversity, and quality of life as we continue to grow as a community. Therefore, we must pay special attention to:
a. Smart Growth and Transportation.
b. County/Schools Collaborative Planning.
c. Maintaining a Diverse and Caring Community.
Libby Garvey:
I think the most pressing issue is the need for more intentional and transparent systems for planning and improvement to manage growth: an overall strategic plan with clear goals, measurable data points and monitoring systems to see if we are progressing towards our goals and working as efficiently as possible.
What are your thoughts on the practicality and cost of the Columbia Pike streetcar? Is this project a good use of funds?

Arlington plans a $261 million streetcar project along Columbia Pike, which leaders say will drive economic growth and improve mobility far beyond what buses can provide, but critics charge is too expensive to justify the benefits. Bondi is a strong supporter of the project, while Garvey and Klingler expressed some doubts in their answers.


While I can see many benefits from a streetcar, the question for me and many people is, are those benefits worth the cost. Arlington needs a clear cost benefit analysis for the streetcar so we can make an informed decision as a board and a community.
In order to determine whether this $261M investment is justified, we need to take a step back and address the following:
a. What do Arlingtonians want? What is their strategic vision and plan for Arlington?
b. How will the street car project be implemented?
c. Can we afford it?
d. Do we have the resources to appropriately manage the contractors?
With the appropriate planning I think the Columbia Pike streetcar could be a promising investment; however, per my points above, I would need to be convinced that now is the right time.
I am a supporter of the Columbia Pike Streetcar, as an integral piece of Arlington's transportation network that will insure mobility for the residents of Columbia Pike in the near term, and for the region in the long term. Major transportation efforts, like a modern streetcar system, require extensive planning and are subject to rising costs. We need to be able to explain any changes in costs and to provide context that helps to reinforce the overall value Arlington residents will realize through such an important investment.
What is your opinion of the Crystal City Sector Plan and its impact on the economic development of Crystal City?

In response to the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process, which could take up to 18,000 jobs from Crystal City and leave millions of square feet of office space empty, Arlington embarked on a years-long planning process to develop a Sector Plan to shape the neighborhood's future growth.

The plan calls for a modified street grid and a shift in demographics to better balance workers and residents. In their responses, Bondi and Klingler are supportive of the Sector Plan, while Garvey is skeptical that Crystal City residents truly had their voices heard throughout the planning process.


If it can be fully executed, the plan will favorably impact the economic development of Crystal City. [However], the plan will need to be updated to address: offering competitive pricing per square foot, lowering and maintaining emergency response times to Crystal City, planning for additional school and health services, and designing appropriate transitions between denser areas and traditional neighborhoods.
Among the positive achievements I see in the plan are: 1) generally better urban design, more walkable streets, enhanced parks and public spaces; 2) affordable housing targets, perhaps the most ambitious yet included in an Arlington sector plan; 3) a commitment to transportation infrastructure, especially streetcar, which is essential; 4) inclusion of a vehicle for on-going citizen participation and monitoring in implementation, through the "CCCRC," a permanent advisory body led by residents.
Residents of Crystal City value the underground networks for their convenience and protection from the weather. They value the small open spaces that provide relief from many tall buildings. [With the Plan], these amenities will be lost. I've heard from several the sense that excellence in planning, emphasis of transit use and preserving the amenities valued by residence were not included in the plan. Only two residents were on the task force and many residents who tried to participate and work on the plan as citizens, finally quit the process in frustration and anger. This is very unfortunate.
Tomorrow, we'll post Bondi's, Klingler's, and Garvey's responses on the impact of defense spending cuts on the Arlington economy, the capacity crisis in Arlington County Public Schools, and what each candidate would most like to improve about Arlington County.


Ward 5 progressives must unite behind one candidate

In early- to mid-May, DC will hold a special election to fill the seat vacated by Harry Thomas Jr. Many potential candidates have already emerged. The time is right to elect a councilmember focused on ethical and effective representation for the people of Ward 5, but to do so, progressives must unite to support a single candidate.

Photo by FredoAlvarez on Flickr.

If the race is as crowded as current speculation and past experience lead us to believe, any contender that can secure the support of a strong, passionate, and unified constituency will be well positioned to win the seat.

A compelling, good government candidate will be able to fuel a campaign with local activists, progressives from across the city, and voter anger at corrupt and entrenched political interests. However, if progressive energies are split, a candidate still loyal to Thomas, or hand-picked by the political establishment, will easily rise to the top instead.

Current at-large, and former Ward 5, councilmember Vincent Orange has already called a meeting of the "Ward 5 leadership" for 7 pm tonight at Israel Baptist Church. He is likely attempting to anoint an establishment-backed candidate, someone with deep ties to current political leadership in the ward. If a consensus is reached, that candidate will become the immediate frontrunner.

This is not acceptable. Ward 5 has been poorly represented for too long. For every passionate and effective ANC commissioner or civic association officer, there are many more simply interested in lining their pockets, amassing personal power, or advancing a selfish agenda. Now is not the time for the past political reality, it is the time for leadership that stands up, stops the culture of corruption, and makes Ward 5 proud.

Several talented progressive individuals have announced an interest in running for the seat. They include Kenyan McDuffie, who ran against Thomas in the last race, and John Salatti, an ANC commissioner in Bloomingdale. Jaime has pledged her support to McDuffie, Nolan stands squarely behind Salatti, and Matt is undecided. But we all agree that everyone must work together to put forward the single most qualified and electable candidate, for the good of both Ward 5 and the District of Columbia.

Progressives in the ward must now come together to have an open, honest discussion to achieve consensus on a single candidate. Rather than letting personal relationships or friction between individual camps dominate, progressives must focus on what is best for the ward and quickly translate that into a winning campaign.

This campaign cycle is condensed, and may be even more so if the Ward 5 special election is moved up to coincide with the primary on April 3. Either way, there is no time to waste on duplicative efforts in gathering signatures, attending community forums, and get-out-the-vote activities.

A strong, progressive candidate can truly move Ward 5 forward. But a contentious fight will set us back.

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