Greater Greater Washington

Posts about Elissa Silverman

Development


At a hearing on DC General, opposition runs the gamut from rational to prejudicial

DC Mayor Muriel Bowser has a plan to close DC General and put smaller homeless shelters in all eight wards of the city. There's a lot of opposition, ranging from concerns about shelters going up in dangerous places to positions that seem more about keeping poor minorities out of certain parts of the city.


Photo by Kai Hendry on Flickr.

Everyone agrees that the decrepit DC General Family Shelter needs to go; it's notorious for being a place where families and children share space with mold, mice, raccoons, and bats, along with geysering water mains and collapsing, leaky ceilings.

Bowser's plan is to distribute the 250 beds at DC General across sites across the city, each holding a maximum of 50 people. Over 150 citizens, non-profit leaders, and activists packed the Wilson Building for the DC Council's Thursday, March 17th hearing on the shelter plan. There were over 90 public testimonies over 13 hours, a level of engagement that underscores how much emotion and outrage there is on the matter.

At this point, there are two clear camps: Those who have enough concerns about Bowser's plan that they don't think it should move forward, and those who acknowledge it to be imperfect but who think it should.

The plan doesn't have to be perfect, say supporters

Among the supporters was a group organized by the Washington Interfaith Network, including pastors, citizens from across many wards, and former residents of DC General themselves.

"If everyone nitpicks this proposal," said a former DC General resident, "I am concerned that this plan will fall apart, and DC General Family Shelter will still be standing with families living in horrible conditions."

Councilmember Jack Evans shared the same sentiment in his opening remarks, saying "What I don't want to leave here with, what I don't want to happen today, is that we end up doing nothing. And that is a real possibility."

Opponents present factual and "veiled" arguments

Some people, however, aren't sold on the plan. A number of attendees followed a formula that's familiar for development projects of all kinds, raising concerns about mismanaged taxpayer money, a lack of transparency in the process, and worries about the buildings' designs.

One key argument against it comes from Ward 5, where the current proposal location is in an industrial area, surrounded by a bus depot, strip clubs, and no easy-to-access public transit. Residents, advocacy groups, and Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie all seriously questioned placing 50 some families in such a place.

Other arguments also have some legitimacy. Some of the units are surprisingly expensive, and many of the developers getting contracts are largely known Bowser backers.

But at the hearing, some of these concerns seemed closer to having roots in excluding "other" people from living in certain neighborhoods. Many people started statements with something like, "I am not against homeless people moving into my neighborhood, but...," which Councilmember Elissa Silverman referred to as "veiled challenges."

Other opponents left less up for interpretation: "The same problems that are at DC General are going to be moved across the street [from us]," said one witness.


Inside DC General. Photo from Homeless Children's Playtime Project.

In April, the DC Council will vote on how to move forward.

The issue of how to replace DC General has brought about themes and arguments that commonly surface any time a new development with new housing becomes a possibility for a DC neighborhood. Sifting through moral cover and deflections, as well as veiled attempts to keep "those" people out, is all too familiar territory. Those of us working to reshape a city that historically has warehoused people in overcrowded shelters and on blighted, ignored blocks should take note, and prepare for future hearings.

Meta


Thank you for a great 8th birthday party!

Thanks to all of you—our readers, friends, and donors—who celebrated our 8th birthday last week!


Our 8th birthday bash crowd interacting with founder David Alpert and managing director Sarah Guidi as they say "thanks" to everyone at the party. All photos by Aimee Custis unless otherwise noted.

More than 100 of us gathered last Tuesday evening at Vendetta Bocce Bar and Tavern on H Street NE for cake, drinks, trivia and mingling.


Randall Keith Benjamin and Aimee Custis.

We were so excited that the streetcar opened in time for our party! Many of our guests arrived in streetcar style.


The only possible way to roll to a @ggwash meetup on H Street: @DCStreetcar, preceded by @bikeshare.—<wbr>Rob Pegoraro (@robpegoraro)

Thanks to all the local elected officials, agency heads, and planners who came out to support Greater Greater Washington, including DC councilmembers Elissa Silverman, Brianne Nadeau, and Charles Allen, DDOT director Leif Dormsjo, and WMATA General Manager Paul Wiedefeld!


Lynn Bowersox, David Alpert, Paul Wiedefeld, and Dan Stessel.


Shaun Courtney, Jess Zimbabwe, and Karina Ricks.

While the party was on H Street in DC, we had representatives from across the region, like some of our Montgomery County friends including Planning Board chairman Casey Anderson.


Pete Tomao, Casey Anderson, and Joe Fox.

About 20 people participated in trivia. Winners went home with Capital Bikeshare memberships, smart growth books, as well as transit-themed books and mugs. Thank you to all of our sponsors who donated these prizes and made contributions to help keep Greater Greater Washington going strong this year.


Trivia winners went home with awesome prizes generously provided by goDCgo and Capital Bikeshare, Island Press, and Transit Oriented.

If you weren't able to join us for this year's party, we hope you can join us at an upcoming Greater Greater happy hour. In the meantime, thank you for being a part of our eight years (and counting)!

Poverty


I'm an employer, and I support DC's family leave bill

Employees who work in DC could soon be entitled to 16 weeks of paid time off for the birth of a child, to care for a sick family member, or recover from illness, under a bill introduced this week.

As someone who runs a small nonprofit that will soon employ three people, I think this is a great idea. As someone who writes about the forces that affect where people live, I also think it's a great idea.


This isn't easy. Working mom with infant photo from Shutterstock.

I want to give employees family and medical leave

Greater Greater Washington started out as an all-volunteer project, but as we've grown, we've developed into a nonprofit organization with full-time staff. We have one employee now, our staff editor, and thanks to a grant we received this summer, we're working to hire two more employees.

If one of them were to have a baby or get very sick, I'd want them to be able to take time off. Unfortunately, we just couldn't realistically afford to do that right now. Our grant just barely lets us hire all three of them, and we need to raise more money on our own as well. (If you want to help, you can contribute here!)

To lose our editor for up to four months but be able to pay someone else during that time would put massive strain on our ability to run the blog; to lose one of the two people we're hiring and not have the money to use for alternatives would make it very hard to achieve the goals we've set in our grant. It would be difficult to do without them no matter what, for sure, but much harder if it also cost us money.


This is not how it should have to be. New mom working photo from Shutterstock.

People should spend time with their children

But being able to have time off for the birth of a child shouldn't be just a luxury (and certainly isn't luxurious). When our daughter was born, I took about two months off, and my wife, who works for the federal government, was able to use her vacation and sick leave and then take a small amount of unpaid leave to have four months to spend with her.

We're fortunate that her agency is flexible and that we could afford the short time without pay, because caring for our daughter was all-consuming. As any parent can tell you, it was exhausting and massively frustrating while also being enormously joyful.

Contrary to some portrayals, a new parent is not lounging around while the baby sleeps all the time. Many babies might sleep during the daytime, but they're up every few hours all night.

The chance to bond with a new life in this world isn't a life experience parents should skip, and the work of caring for this helpless person is not something they can easily delegate. Besides nobody else being able to handle nighttime feeding, it's not that easy to get into a daycare within a few months of birth in many parts of DC.

Sure, many people do without parental leave today, but people should not have to choose between covering basic living expenses and being there for a new child. Nor should they have to neglect an ailing family member.


This should happen. Fathers walking photo from Shutterstock.

How this bill works

The bill, written by at-large councilmembers Elissa Silverman and David Grosso and cosponsored by Brianne Nadeau (Ward 1), Mary Cheh (Ward 3), Kenyan McDuffie (Ward 5), Charles Allen (Ward 6), and LaRuby May (Ward 8), would set up a fund where employers pay on a sliding scale up to 1% of an employee's salary.

When the employee needs to take leave, the fund would cover the first $1,000 a week of salary and half of the next $4,000. Basically, an employee making $52,000 a year would get 100% reimbursement while an employee making $156,000 would get 2/3 of his or her salary covered.

It would apply to non-federal DC employers and their employees, regardless of whether those employees live in the District. DC residents who work for the federal government or employers outside DC would be required to pay into the fund and be covered.

For Greater Greater Washington, this reduces a lot of our risk. Sure, having the employee out would be difficult, but at least we would not be using up as much as 1/6 of our grant money for it at the same time. If one of our staff were out for four months, it wouldn't be easy and maybe impossible to find a replacement, but it's a better alternative than either of the current choices: Offer leave and maybe lose a lot of grant money, or be a crummy boss.

Yes, it will cost us and we don't have a lot of budget to spare, but for that hypothetical $52,000-a-year employee (sorry, we're a nonprofit; again, you can help grow our budget), this "insurance" costs about $400-500 a year. That's doable.

I don't know what it's like to run a restaurant, or a dentist's office, or one of a thousand other kinds of small businesses. People who run those will surely speak up in the time to come. But for myself, I don't want to have to put our employees in the position of having to miss a child's infancy or care for a sick parent if they want to keep working here.

Without this bill, though, to be perfectly honest, I'd have little choice right now given our small organization and tight budget. That's why I hope it passes as soon as possible.


In real life, people juggling work and kids don't look this relaxed (or have professional makeup). Working mom photo from Shutterstock.

This bill is good for strengthening urban communities

From a broader urbanist standpoint, this bill is also smart policy. Proponents argue that there are other cases where the value will sway an employer's choice as well. They suggest that working for DC companies will be more appealing for workers who have many choices, making it easier to attract talent to the District.

However, this is just one of many factors that could attract or repel employers. I just don't think many employers choose to locate in DC because of the level of taxes. If just looking at pure costs, a suburban sprawl office park is going to beat out a walkable urban place almost every time, as it did for Northrop Grumman. Those office parks are cheaper, but less pleasant for employees, and they push a lot of costs onto the publicly-funded transportation network (and on employees directly).

Many employers are seeing things differently. They want to be in DC, or Arlington or Bethesda or Silver Spring, to attract workers who want to live in urban places and don't want a long slog in the car every day. They want employees to have appealing choices for lunch. They want to be in a place with some energy. Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson wants to move the company's headquarters to a Metro station area for that reason, not to the cheapest office space he can find.

The same applies for costs beyond real estate. DC is not going to compete with other jurisdictions to be the lowest cost, but rather, the highest value. Meanwhile, a lot of low-wage work that doesn't need to be in DC already isn't; a telemarketing call center already isn't in DC, and isn't even in Virginia or Maryland, probably. A store or restaurant has to be where it is for the customers.

Certainly there are employers on the margins where this will make a difference. But we also just can't allow every issue to be a race to the bottom. Everyone deserves to be able to take some time for their health and for their families. A bill that reduces the cost to an employer when this happens is a good idea.

I have one request: Please, DC government, make the paperwork as easy as possible. Maybe it can be combined with the existing unemployment insurance forms or some other filing, so that we don't have to fill out any new forms? Thanks. And pass the bill.

Corrections/updates: The initial version of this post had an error in the way it described what happens to DC residents who work for the federal government or non-DC employers; they would have to pay into the program and would be covered. Also, the wording of a paragraph about the impact on Greater Greater Washington of losing staff has been edited for clarity.

Government


Cheh keeps oversight of transportation, but Jack Evans will sit on the WMATA Board

Mary Cheh will continue to oversee transportation in the DC Council next year, but will continue to not also represent DC on the WMATA Board; instead, Jack Evans will. Anita Bonds will chair a committee on housing, while David Grosso will take the education gavel from David Catania.


Photo by David Maddison on Flickr.

Council chairman Phil Mendelson just released his recommendations for committee assignments for the next two years.

When Kwame Brown took away Tommy Wells' transportation chairmanship in 2011, he gave the committee to Mary Cheh, but Cheh reportedly did not also want the board seat. Instead, it went to Bowser, but this created significant problems, as WMATA and DDOT then ended up in separate committees. This compounded the already poor coordination between WMATA and DDOT.

While Cheh and Bowser talked plenty, Mary Cheh was not even part of Bowser's committee overseeing WMATA while Bowser was not on Cheh's transportation committee. Evans, at least, will be a member of Cheh's committee, along with Charles Allen, Kenyan McDuffie, and either the Ward 4 or 8 member once they are elected. But WMATA oversight will still not be part of that committee; it will be in Evans' Finance and Revenue committee, which Cheh does not sit on.

Evans sat on (and chaired) the board in the past, which could make it easier for him to step into the role. And, actually, funding is one of if not the top issue for WMATA, meaning Evans could help steer new resources to the agency if he chose. Evans lives in Georgetown, which might get a Metro line if WMATA can get the money, and the line stretches through much of Ward 2.

On the other hand, his role could be bad news for bus priority, since Evans has been suspicious of any city move to dedicate road space to users other than private motor vehicles. Evans also is an opponent of the streetcar (along with Mendelson).

There also should be plenty of spirited debate on other bills before Evans' finance committee, which votes on tax breaks and tax policy. Evans generally strongly favors granting tax breaks to businesses, retailers, and developers, but a new member of his committee, Elissa Silverman, has often criticized DC for giving tax breaks out too readily.

The DC Council has an unusually small number of committees (seven) this period because there are so many new members. Current convention gives every member a committee but not in the member's first council period. Brianne Nadeau (Ward 1), Charles Allen (Ward 6), and Elissa Silverman (at large) were just elected this November, and there will be vacant seats in both Ward 4 (where Muriel Bowser is resigning to be mayor) and Ward 8 (where Marion Barry just died) until a special election in March.

Vincent Orange will chair a Committee on Business, Consumer, and Regulatory Affairs, Yvette Alexander will handle Health and Human Services, and Kenyan McDuffie takes over the Judiciary post. McDuffie used to be a federal prosecutor in Prince George's County and a civil rights attorney at the US Department of Justice; he has shown a lot of concern over recent trends about police and prosecutorial overreach in DC and nationally.

That committee will likely again debate the issue of contributory negligence for bicyclists, where David Grosso, the bill's sponsor, will still not be a member, while Mary Cheh, the swing vote this past year, will remain on the committee along with Jack Evans and Anita Bonds. A Ward 4 or 8 member to be elected will join them after the special election.

Bonds' housing committee includes Silverman, a strong advocate for affordable housing policies, Brianne Nadeau, who ran with affordable housing as a strong part of her platform, Vincent Orange, and Bonds herself, who has championed tax relief for elderly homeowners.

Additional information has been added to this post as the information became available. At one point, an errant paragraph about the WMATA Board, written before the news about Evans' appointment was available, was near the bottom of this story. It has been removed.

Politics


The DC council will stay somewhat colorful... literally

Views, backgrounds, and many other factors are important qualities for candidates for office. One that doesn't matter at all: Whether their names are also colors of the rainbow. But it's fun nonetheless to chart how many of DC's elected officials share surnames with parts of the palette.

Orange was the first hue to join the council, as the Ward 5 member in 1999. He left to run for mayor (and lost), but when returned to the council after winning a special election for an at-large seat in 2011. Then, the District reached an all-time high of four chromatic elected officials: Vincent Gray, mayor; Kwame Brown, chairman; and Michael Brown and Orange, at-large councilmembers.

As I noted in a similarly-frivolous post on this topic in 2011, the tally does not count foreign-language names; Carol Schwartz (who was an at-large member from 1985 to 2008) has a name that derives from "schwarz," the German word for black.

Now, with both Browns off the council (both having pled guilty to lawbreaking) and Gray having lost his seat as mayor (in large part because of a federal investigation), Orange would have been again the only official with an RGB formula... except he will have a partner: Elissa Silverman, who won the race to succeed David Catania.

There will also be a special election in 2015 for the Ward 4 member. A few people (whose last names are not colors) are already running, but most say it's far too early to speculate.

One who isn't yet running but might is Robert White, who just gained 7% of the vote in the race Silverman won. If you count first names, there's also Graylan Hagler.

The real vote should depend more on the candidates' views, and in reality will depend even more on whom Muriel Bowser endorses. But a White or Graylan victory would, as an unimportant side effect, again boost the council's chromaticity.

Politics


Your vote matters beyond just who wins

In DC's race for council at large, voters can cast ballots for two candidates. As often happens in elections of this type, that's sparking the question of whether to "bullet vote" (where you just cast one vote and leave another blank) or use both votes.


Photo by Cassidy Curtis on Flickr.

The vote total certainly decides who wins, but it also matters in other ways. It affects how easily a candidate can build support to run for future office, or how influential that candidate might be in other ways after the election.

Voters will elect two candidates, and since she has the Democratic endorsement, Anita Bonds is widely expected to get one of the two slots. Elissa Silverman and Robert White have led in newspaper, blog, and elected official endorsements for the other slot, making it a fair guess they could end up one and two.

In the council race, we don't have any independent polls because, apparently, the large 15-candidate field was too big for news organizations to easily poll. A September internal poll from Elissa Silverman's campaign put Bonds on top, followed by Silverman, White, and Eugene Puryear. (The poll excluded some candidates, including Kishan Putta.) Still, this is an internal campaign poll, and it came before most newspaper endorsements, before many voters really focused on the race, and before candidates started blanketing the city in mailers.

Greater Greater Washington endorsed both Silverman and White, and some commenters argued that voting for both is tantamount to voting for neither since only one can win.

That's true only if Bonds is a lock and nobody else has a shot at number two. It's a fairly likely scenario, but not the only one. Courtney Snowden also got the Post's endorsement as well as White; Snowden and Khalid Pitts raised more money over the summer.

Certainly, if your sole priority is helping one candidate get elected, you should vote for that candidate and no other who could compete. Or, perhaps, pick that candidate and one considered a longer shot.

Your second vote matters even for someone who won't win

A strong showing that still isn't enough to win can be very valuable.

Silverman is a great example. She placed second (again, after Bonds) in the 2013 special election. Before the election, people didn't know whether she, Patrick Mara, or Matt Frumin would get more votes. Polls were tied between Silverman and Mara, and Frumin was close. In the end, Silverman overperformed expectations.

As a result, she went into this race as a front-runner. Even right after her previous loss, many political insiders reached out to talk about supporting her in the future. And it showed that someone clearly on the liberal side of DC's political spectrum could perform well.

Robert White might win tomorrow—again, one internal campaign poll by a rival before White got the Post, Current, and Greater Greater Washington endorsements doesn't mean that much. However, if he doesn't win but Muriel Bowser does, there will be a special election coming up in Ward 4, where White lives. Should White choose to run, he'll be in a much stronger position if he gained a lot of votes, particularly in Ward 4.

Kishan Putta didn't place on top in our contributor poll, but a number of contributors like him as well. Even if he doesn't win, it will matter if his strongly pro-transit platform helps him overperform expectations. We said in our endorsement that we hope this isn't the last we see of Putta, and how many votes he gets could affect that.

Tommy Wells didn't win the Democratic mayoral nomination, but he made a clear statement with his 12.8% of the vote: even in a race that was, by the end, clearly between Vincent Gray and Muriel Bowser, a pretty big chunk of DC voters liked him so much more than the other two that they would vote for him. Jack Evans, Vincent Orange, and others couldn't claim the same. That did not go unnoticed.

So if you're a DC voter who hasn't early voted, cast two votes tomorrow. If you want to maximize the (perhaps unlikely, but you never know) chance that two people besides Anita Bonds get the two seats, pick Silverman and White. If you don't like Silverman because you are more conservative than she, vote for White and Putta, perhaps. If you want to push the council more to the left, you might select Silverman and Puryear.

You have the power to help decide who is in office with your vote. But you also have the power to decide who gains some more stature in DC's political realm as well. The election decides who wins, but it's also the most accurate poll of all, not just for this race, but for others in the future as well.

Politics


For DC Council: Elissa Silverman and Robert White

With 15 people on the ballot for two DC Council at-large seats on Tuesday, many voters have little information on this race, which has gotten light press coverage and no independent polling. But an at-large council seat is a very important post. Voters will be able to pick two candidates, and we recommend Elissa Silverman and Robert White.


White and Silverman. Images from the candidates' websites.

In addition, while they stand virtually no chance of losing, we hope voters will happily cast ballots for Brianne Nadeau for the council seat in Ward 1, Mary Cheh in Ward 3, Kenyan McDuffie in Ward 5, and Charles Allen in Ward 6. Cheh and McDuffie have been exemplary councilmembers, and Nadeau and Allen are sure to be as well.

There was no consensus to make an endorsement for DC mayor, attorney general, chairman of the council, or delegate and shadow races. Greater Greater Washington contributors do strongly support voting Yes on Initiative 71, marijuana legalization. Our endorsements come from a survey of contributors, with the editorial board making a determination of whether there is strong enough consensus to warrant an endorsement.

Robert White has made it clear that he supports smart growth and progressive transportation measures. His transportation issue page focuses on about improving transit and walkability and recognizes such solutions will help decrease congestion. He also has an intriguing plan to convert underused office and retail space into housing. White supports streetcars and bus lanes, completing the Metropolitan Branch Trail, and much more. He will be an effective councilmember, already gaining the support of GGW allies David Grosso and Kenyan McDuffie as well as Yvette Alexander and multiple newspapers.

We previously endorsed Elissa Silverman in the 2013 special election. She is a supporter of transit and a crusader for affordable housing as well as other programs to help less fortunate residents. While she had softer positions on some elements of the zoning update and has called herself "a moderate" on streetcars, there is more to legislating in DC than just parking minimums, and she is on the right side of most issues. With support from DC's progressive organizations and Marion Barry, hopefully Silverman can help bring the city together to move forward in a way that benefits all.

Kishan Putta, a sitting Dupont Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commission member and first-time candidate for higher office, also deserves special mention. He has made the 16th Street bus lane a centerpiece of his work both on the ANC and in this campaign. This has helped elevate it to a top city priority and gotten other candidates on the record in favor as well. While he is unlikely to win a seat next Tuesday, his candidacy has been positive and we hope to see him continue to be involved in transit and other issues in the years to come.

The mayoral race between Muriel Bowser, David Catania, and Carol Schwartz has gotten the lion's share of press and voter attention. However, our own process reached no clear enough consensus for an endorsement. We encourage our readers to read our chats with Bowser and Catania and make up their own minds.

On Initiative 71, no contributor voted to oppose the measure. Marijuana has been shown to be less harmful than alcohol, tobacco, and many legal drugs, and most of all, enforcement against it has overwhelmingly harmed communities of color. It's clear that the negative effects of keeping marijuana illegal have far outweighed any benefits, and voters should take the next step with Initiative 71.

We will have posts about Maryland and Virginia as well as some Advisory Neighborhood Commission races over the coming days. Regardless of your views, if you are an eligible voter in DC, please be sure to vote on Tuesday, November 4 or in early voting until Saturday, November 1.

Politics


Wells will not run for DC Council at-large seat; Elissa Silverman declares her candidacy

DC Councilmember Tommy Wells (Ward 6) will put to rest a long period of speculation today and announce he will not run for an at-large seat on the DC Council, GGW has learned. In addition, Elissa Silverman is filing papers this afternoon to run for the seat.


Photo by Tommy Wells on Flickr.

Silverman previously ran in the 2013 special election which was won by Anita Bonds. Silverman placed second in a field which split votes among multiple self-described "progressive" challengers to Bonds, who had been appointed as interim councilmember when Phil Mendelson moved up to chairman.

Wells ran for mayor in the April 1 primary. While he was one of four councilmembers running for mayor, he was the only one up for reelection in the same year, and thus had to give up his seat to seek higher office. Meanwhile, Independent David Catania will also not seek reelection in November to run for mayor against Democratic nominee Muriel Bowser. Wells had considered running for Catania's seat to remain on the council.

Wells confirmed via phone that he has decided not to run. In a statement, he said,

The Council needs an infusion of fresh leadership, and I need to apply my Council experience to new challenges. While it takes time for newly elected council members to learn the ropes, once they do, they bring fresh energy and perspective that more than compensates for time spent on the learning curve. They are eager to get to work on fulfilling their promises, testing new ideas, and addressing the very issues that inspired them to run for office—and won them the votes of their constituents.

I am proud of what I have accomplished during my two terms as the Ward 6 Councilmember. My service has brought action, advocacy, and innovation to our city. I passed a bag fee that has dramatically reduced pollution and funded the cleanup of the Anacostia River; championed and secured funding for expanded Circulator bus lines and a streetcar system that will connect underserved DC neighborhoods to jobs and city amenities; advanced social justice reforms including the decriminalization of marijuana possession and a minimum wage increase; and worked with Ward 6 residents to make our elementary schools the envy of our city.

Wells said he is not publicly endorsing anyone at this time. However, the timing of his announcement on the same day as Silverman's move certainly raises questions about whether the timing is more than coincidental.

Mindful of the vote-splitting from past elections and given that Wells and Silverman share many ideological views (and likely voter bases), it is likely that Silverman did not want to file if Wells were running, and also likely that she discussed the possibility with Wells before making a decision.

Many other people have voiced some level of interest in running for the seat, including current Ward 7 member Yvette Alexander. Eugene Puryear won a contested primary for the Statehood Green nomination for the seat.

This post has been updated with additional information.

Politics


Silverman-Frumin talks should come as no surprise

A lot of people are shocked—shocked—that Ken Archer, volunteer campaign treasurer for Elissa Silverman, met with Matt Frumin and tried to persuade him to drop out of the race.


Photo by rauchdickson on Flickr.

You know who else had a secret meeting with a candidate about dropping out? Whichever Anita Bonds supporters and backers Whoever persuaded Michael Brown to drop out of the race. You know what didn't happen? Michael Brown's disappointed supporters did not talk about it to the press. Surrogates for his and other campaigns did not profess outrage on Twitter at "backroom deals" and "hypocrisy."

After the poll came out showing Silverman far ahead of Frumin, I heard a lot of people say that "someone" should try to push him to drop out. When Silverman first ran, some people volunteering for her told me that if it turned out near the end that her campaign stood little or no chance, they would push her to drop out to avoid vote-splitting.

Heck, I thought about asking Frumin to drop out, too. I wondered whether I could offer to help Frumin in some way in the future as an incentive. I would like to see both Frumin and Silverman on the council; I told him that I really wished there were 2 seats open.

I certainly wouldn't have offered to support him against Mary Cheh, because Mary Cheh has done a good job, but it certainly sprung to my mind as an obvious possible bargaining chip if Frumin's plan were to run in Ward 3 later on, as many people I talked to at the start of the campaign suspected.

(And before the comment thread gets hijacked to be about Ken Archer and the GGW endorsement: He did not vote in our contributor poll. Our endorsements derive from a poll of regular contributors. In this case, that poll came out decisively for Silverman.)

Look at substance, not campaign operations

Clearly, there's also a lot of cynical politicking in some of the protestations of outrage on Twitter and comments. Some of that is coming from the most back-room, non-transparent political operatives who just see this as an opportunity to take an opponent down a peg and distract potential voters.

Don't be distracted. You can disagree with Elissa Silverman on substance. I agree with her on a lot of things and disagree on others. The same goes for most other candidates. Martin Austermuhle, Dan Silverman, and I tried to elucidate the candidates' views using Let's Choose DC. Disappointingly, the information we gleaned about candidate positions didn't get much attention in the press.

No candidate will be perfect on every policy. If there's a candidate you agree with 100% of the time, chances are you're just about the only one and the candidate is polling in the low single digits. The most successful politicians just manage to avoid taking a stance on anything, so every voter can come to believe they're in agreement with the candidate, especially if they aren't paying a lot of attention.

If anything, one of ways Elissa Silverman shows her lack of candidate experience is by being honest about what she thinks. She's been more forthright in many forums about views that might be unpopular. When I have called her to ask about a policy statement, she has told me straight out what she's thinking right then about that policy. Sometimes, I don't agree. We've argued about it. She could simply listen and try to emphasize points of agreement and hide her disagreement, but she doesn't. It can make me frustrated, but I also respect it a lot.

Do you want the slickest candidates?

Papering over disagreements is something that comes with long experience in electoral politics. People gain that experience by repeatedly running for office or make politics a career, working for elected officials and getting positions in the party machine.

Some of those are great people who do excellent work, but there are a lot in it for personal gain and ambition above all. Many don't really hold such strong values on their vision for the city; they just think it would be better if they ran things.

A lot of people want candidates who are "outsiders" and who are running because they believe in change rather than just want to be in charge. Most of the so-called "outsiders" who successfully run for federal offices nationwide are actually insiders who pretend to be outsiders to fool low-information voters.

If you want genuine outsiders, you're not going to get slick political operations. There are ways outsiders can do more to make their operations more professional, like hiring actual professionals, but that's a lot easier for candidates with a lot of money—which usually comes from shady sources.

How can vote-splitting stop?

People running as "reformers" and "progressives" have split the vote in the last 2 at-large elections and probably will tomorrow as well. There are 3 ways to stop this from happening:

  1. Let some people with a lot of money and/or political muscle push people out of the race. Then people have to not be shocked and dismayed when someone tries to do that. (Example: Michael Brown; counterexample: Matt Frumin)
  2. Devise some primary-like system that's more open and participatory, but which comes to a single conclusion, and other candidates agree that they're not going to keep running if they don't win, and almost certainly support the winner. (Example: Hillary Clinton; counterexample: Joe Lieberman)
  3. Reform the election laws to some system where the top 2 candidates go to a runoff, or there's some kind of multiple-voting system. (Examples: runoff election in New York City, instant-runoff voting in San Francisco)

Do you want candidates who are good at pushing people out of a race without their fingerprints on it? People who can successfully win while taking few or no positions at all? People with large staffs of highly-paid expert campaign operatives funded with piles of lobbyist money?

If so, by all means be outraged that Ken talked to Matt Frumin about dropping out. Otherwise, make up your mind tomorrow based on actual positions and the available polls, not on this.

Update: Anita Bonds' campaign says in a statement that they had nothing to do with Michael Brown dropping out. I did not say that Bonds' campaign pressured Brown to drop out, as many people are backing her who don't coordinate with the campaign. It seems extremely likely that some people with influence over Brown recognized the likely vote splitting and pushed Brown to get out. However, this is indeed conjecture, so I've reworded the intro to not sound like it is claiming any knowledge or facts that don't exist.

Support Us
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