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

Posts about Elissa Silverman

Bicycling


A unanimous vote to end DC's unjust insurance law for people walking and biking

On Tuesday, the DC Council unanimously approved a bill to end the extremely unjust "contributory negligence" rule which frequently forbids people who are hit when walking or biking from collecting medical costs from a driver's insurance.


Photo by Manfred Caruso on Flickr.

The bill still has to pass a second reading in the fall, but the fact that it sailed through without debate bodes very well. Two weeks ago, the council delayed action because Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie (ward 5) wanted to introduce an amendment, but McDuffie ultimately decided not to. Mayor Muriel Bowser also praised the bill.

The council showed strong leadership to making the road fair to everyone and ensuring that people injured due to another's actions have a fair chance to get medical bills paid. The action came despite fierce lobbying from the insurance industry and AAA.

This is also thanks to many of you, who sent over 1,300 emails to councilmembers using our action tool. Many others contacted elected officials from action alerts from the Washington Area Bicyclist Association or others. Your emails made a difference—Councilmember Elissa Silverman (at large) mentioned getting "over a thousand" emails in a recent constituent newsletter. She was already a strong supporter, but other less confident ones got many emails too.

I emailed all 13 councilmembers for comments about the vote, and several replied in time.

Councilmember Charles Allen (ward 6), one of the bill's co-introducers, said, "Like many others, my family is a one-car household. Some days we bike, some days we drive, some days we Metro, and some days we simply walk. Like you, I want a city where I'm treated fairly no matter how I choose to—or need to—get around.

Silverman added, "I was excited to vote in favor of a bill that will make our insurance system more just for our most vulnerable road users. I thank Councilmember [Kenyan] McDuffie [Ward 5] and Councilmember [Mary] Cheh [Ward 3] for their leadership efforts on this common sense measure."

"I believe our contributory negligence standard most hurts our poor and low-income residents who cannot afford large medical bills or lost time at work following serious accidents," Silverman said. "For this reason, I'm particularly glad to see the Council move towards a more equitable approach that works in the interest of all District residents."

Brianne Nadeau, councilmember from Ward 1, wrote, "Ultimately, Tuesday's vote is about making the District safer for pedestrians and bicyclists. We must also continue expanding our network of bike lanes, protected when possible, so residents have safer transportation options."

Finally, David Grosso (at-large) said, "In 2014, I introduced [the predecessor of this bill] after learning that 483 cyclists had been injured in 2013 alone. ... After years of advocating for change, I am glad we're finally modernizing the District's approach. Fairness, equity and safety are the guiding principles behind this legislation and with the Council's unanimous vote and the Mayor's signal of approval, it seems we are one step closer to fully realizing these goals."

Government


DC will have even fewer vacant properties if a new law makes these changes

There are major problems with how DC counts and taxes its vacant buildings, and on Thursday, the DC Council will hold a hearing on two bills aimed at fixing them. The new laws will hold vacant building owners more accountable, but there are still ways to further the laws' reach.


This house at 5112 9th Street NW has been vacant for three years. It regularly falls "off" the vacant building list, so it isn't taxed at the higher level consistently.

Today, DC can charge higher tax rates on buildings that the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs says are vacant, at a rate of five percent of assessed value if vacant and 10 percent if the property is found to be blighted. The problem is that there are a lot of loopholes that allow negligent owners to keep their properties from going on the list.

Vacant buildings aren't just eyesores. They contribute to rodent and other infestations, and according to the Office of the Attorney General's former Assistant Attorney General Michael Aniton, they are proven to have a high association with criminal activity because illegal activity thrives out of view and on private property.

Here's what the new bills are set to do:

Authored by at-large councilmember Elissa Silverman, bills B21-527 and B21-598 appear to have wide support among the council (one of the two companion bills was co-introduced by a majority of councilmembers). The legislation aims to help solve DC's vacant building problem by:

  • Cutting how long vacant properties can be exempt from higher taxes
  • Making homeowners prove buildings aren't vacant rather than making the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs prove they are
  • Raising fines for not registering vacant properties
  • Giving tax rebates owners who fill vacant properties
Here's how they could be even better:

Still, the underlying issue is that some buildings and owners fall through the cracks because the penalties for keeping properties vacant either aren't enforced or aren't incentive enough to change. The following ideas would help the proposed legislation go even further in pushing vacant property owners to turn their buildings into something useful:

1. Take no nonsense when it comes to identifying building owners

Currently, some developers use dozens of LLCs to own properties, making it impossible to know who it is that routinely buys and holds vacant buildings without actually improving them. If all property sales in the District required a name, address, phone and next of kin information for every property, and if this information were publicly available, it'd be much easier to identify the vacant building code's serial violators.

This would have the added benefit of expediting communications should a property owner pass away. It would also help the city to ensure that when a property passes from an older family member to a younger one, it doesn't keep charging the reduced tax rates it does for senior.

2. Make it more expensive to leave a property vacant

Currently DCRA sends out teams to board up doors and windows of vacant properties, and DPW mows the lawn. The bill is tacked on to the owner's tax bill. Doubling the fees for these services would incentivize vacant property owners to manage these issues on their own or to return the property to active use.

3. Penalize banks who back vacant owners

Banks found to be lending to LLCs that own vacant properties should pay the District an additional tax to cover the costs of fire and rescue that may be needed on these properties—and to make them want owners to move properties into use.

4. Reinstate a tax on vacant lots

In 1990, the District established a tax of $3.29 for every $100 of assessed value on vacant lots without structures, also known as Class 5 properties. The tax was increased in 1994 to $5.00. At the time the tax was raised, then-Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly stressed the importance of the tax in providing incentives for owners to eliminate blight and increase the supply of affordable housing.

In 1999, however, officials did away with this property tax classification. The DC Building Industry Association (DCBIA) argued that taxing vacant parcels was counterproductive "at a time when the market is down." The market is no longer down, yet vacant parcels still blight our communities without any penalties being assessed to the owners. It is time to reintroduce the Class 5 tax rate.

5. Require complete transparency at DCRA:

This is the most important issue not addressed by the legislation. DCRA's Online Building Permit Database has been "offline" for over 130 days now. The public has a right to see what fines are being issued to vacant and blighted properties, dates of inspections, and findings of inspectors.

Further, DCRA removes every vacant and blighted building report after six months, so that the public can't see the history of vacant buildings. We propose that these records be maintained online, publicly available, for five years so that the public can be confident that vacant property owners are paying their fair share for the burden they have put on the community.

The DC Council will hear testimony on Thursday

We look forward to testifying at the DC Council Committee on Business, Consumer, and Regulatory Affairs's public hearing on bills B21-527 and B21-598 this Thursday at 10 am at the Wilson Building. Please join if these issues interest you. If you wish to testify, contact Faye Caldwell, at fcaldwell@dccouncil.us.

Politics


Silverman, White, Gray, and White can form a paint caucus on the next DC Council

Tuesday night, three incumbents lost their primaries for re-election to the DC Council: Robert White beat Vincent Orange at large, Vincent Gray unseated Yvette Alexander in Ward 7, and Trayon White took out LaRuby May in Ward 8. Many observers noticed that there's something similar about all of their last names: They're (achromatic) hues.

We supported Robert White and Gray, and from a policy standpoint, this election means a big step up for the quality of the DC Council. White and Gray will likely cast many better votes than Orange or Alexander would, and write better quality, better thought through legislation as well.

But putting all of the serious stuff aside for a moment, after each election recently I've made a graph of the number of elected officials whose names are also on the Photoshop palette.

While Orange, the most colorful sitting member (literally) lost, the three new ones bring the total up to four, the all-time high last achieved in 2011. That's the three victorious challengers plus Elissa Silverman, who came onto the council two years ago.

(Note that these folks haven't technically won election; they all are on the ballot in November. But in overwhelmingly Democratic DC, a Democrat is virtually assured of winning the general election.)

This chart excludes Carol Schwartz, whose name derives from the German word "schwarz," meaning black. She was on the council from 1985-1989 and again from 1997 to 2009, when Michael Brown defeated her for a non-Democratic at-large seat.

Are there any more Quentin Tarantino characters waiting in the wings for 2018? There's often speculation about a comeback for Kwame Brown or Michael Brown (which, let me say, would be a terrible idea). Orange also could seek another seat in the future; it wouldn't be the first time he left the council and then returned.

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.

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