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Posts about Yvette Alexander

Politics


Vince Gray could win a seat on the DC Council if he decides to run, a poll says

If former mayor Vince Gray decides to make a political comeback, he'd be very likely to unseat either Vincent Orange for an at-large seat on the DC Council or Yvette Alexander in Ward 7, according to a new poll.


Photo by Elvert Barnes on Flickr.

Former Gray campaign manager Chuck Thies raised money for a citywide poll. Public Policy Polling surveyed 1,569 people likely to vote in the June Democratic primary, including 407 in Ward 7, using an automated telephone system where people press buttons in response to questions.

Would Orange challengers split the vote (again)?

For the at-large seat, incumbent Vincent Orange is expected to run for re-election. Two challengers, David Garber and Robert White, have announced candidacies to beat him, and both have good ideas for the future of DC, but there's a significant danger that both could split the vote from similar constituencies.

Orange has often pursued a divisive strategy in his races of playing on fears from some "old DC" voters and communities against newcomers. This has certainly left him vulnerable: only 28% of voters citywide see him favorably.

The City Paper's Will Sommer thinks vote splitting will happen, giving Orange another term, should Gray not run in that race. It's still somewhat unclear what would happen in that situation; the poll only asked about a field that also included Busboys and Poets restaurateur and recent mayoral candidate Andy Shallal.

In that scenario, if the primary were held today, Orange would get 28% of the vote, Shallal 19%, Garber 8%, and White 7%. However, most voters don't know Garber or White, with more than three-quarters having no opinion of either.

If Gray were to run, he leads the pack with 32% of voters, versus 20% for Orange, 10% for Garber, and 6% for White. (It might just be a statistical fluke, but this suggests some Shallal voters would go to Garber.)

The clear question is how this could change over the course of a campaign. Is about a third of the vote a ceiling for Gray, who won about that percentage of the vote in the 2014 mayoral primary? And would that be enough anyway in a split field? Would Garber or White gain Gray voters, or Gray win some Orange voters, or other combinations?

For the Ward 7 seat, Gray polled 48% to Alexander's 32%. Gray had higher name recognition and favorable ratings than Alexander, though Alexander's favorables are much better than Orange's.

You can read all of the citywide and Ward 7 results here.

Were writers and prosecutors unfair to Gray?

The poll also asked if people think federal investigators or the media treated Gray fairly or unfairly. Generally, black voters were much more likely to say that Gray was treated unfairly.

Count me in the minority of white voters who think Gray was treated unfairly by prosecutors. We might still not know for certain everything that happened in the illegal 2010 "shadow campaign," but the US Attorney's office absolutely became a player in the 2014 election by announcing suspicions of Gray weeks before the primary.

I spoke to some voters outside polling places at the primary, and many knew virtually nothing about the race except that they wanted to vote for whoever would beat Gray. Unfortunately, they generally didn't know a thing about Gray's own policy positions and views.

He consistently supported efforts to give residents more transportation choices, including better bus service, a stronger Metro system, bike infrastructure, and safe places to walk. He pushed for new housing to welcome new residents and keep room for long-time ones, even suggesting targeted changes to the federal height limit to create areas like Paris' La Défense near the Anacostia River.

It's hard to say if the media really treated Gray unfairly. Some columnists and editorial writers who were fans of Adrian Fenty never forgave Gray for beating him. On the other hand, nobody could expect the press to ignore a scandal so serious as the shadow campaign. I think most media coverage did concentrate too much on personalities rather than on the issues that really affect life in DC.

Many people saw him as just being the anti-Adrian Fenty and a return to some things they didn't like about Marion Barry, but Gray continued most of Fenty's policies. He did better in some spheres and worse in others. Certainly, the streetcar project was not executed well, and past and future transportation directors like Emeka Moneme, Gabe Klein, and Leif Dormsjo were more effective than Gray's pick of Terry Bellamy.

But Gray was also an exemplary council chair, perhaps the best in some time. I'd like Muriel Bowser to have a chance to demonstrate her vision and governing ability before there's too much talk about the 2018 mayoral race; so far, her cabinet has been very high-quality (with a few exceptions). But if Vincent Gray were to return to the DC Council, residents who want to see DC move forward boldly but inclusively would have a lot to cheer.

Note: The Greater Greater Washington Editorial Board has not yet chosen to endorse any candidates for the 2016 election. This post is David Alpert's personal opinion as Greater Greater Washington's founder.

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.

Education


What Kaya Henderson really said about middle schools, and why it makes sense

Some have criticized DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson for reported remarks that the school system should "outsource" middle schools to charters. Here's what she really said, which happens to be something that's well worth considering.


Photo from DC Council website.

Middle schools have been the subject of much debate, not just in DC and not just in recent weeks. We'll take a close look at this complex subject in future posts, but let's start with the exchange that triggered the recent controversy here.

Henderson made her comments on middle schools in mid-November, when the topic arose at a DC Council hearing on school boundaries and feeder patterns. Several Councilmembers and a number of those who testified identified middle schools as a weak link in the DCPS system, with families often leaving after elementary school.

According to the Washington Post, Henderson "suggested that perhaps the city should figure out how to funnel children to charter schools in the middle grades, arguing that 'they know how to do middle school really well.'" Councilmember David Catania, who was chairing the hearing, retorted that he was "not about to outsource middle schools to charters."

Since then, the exchange, as reported, has become fodder for tweets, sound bites, and mayoral campaign rhetoric. Most recently, candidate Andy Shallal said that, while he didn't want to "demonize" anyone, he did "take exception when the top educators say we cannot do middle school."

Henderson's comments in context

But let's take a look at what Henderson actually said, in context. (You can view her statements on the video below, or watch the entire hearing by clicking here. The relevant discussion occurs at about 4 hours and 17 minutes in.)

The exchange began after Councilmember Yvette Alexander complained that Ward 7's H.D. Woodson High School—which was rebuilt in 2011 with great fanfare as a school focusing on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)—hasn't lived up to expectations. She also bemoaned the fact that many students in Ward 7, which she represents, go to schools outside their assigned boundaries.

Henderson pointed out that charter schools have siphoned off many students from the DCPS system, including more than 50% of those in Ward 7. This exodus was predictable, she said: if you give people choice, and create "a whole new set of schools that [are] better than DCPS, then people will want to go to them."

"Now," Henderson continued, "we have the opportunity to say, these are all of our schools. How do we equalize the resources across the sectors, or how do we have the sectors working together?"

Then she launched into the comments that appear to have landed her in hot water: "One of the things I take my hat off to the charter sector on is that they know how to do middle school really well, right? So if we can't do middle school well and they can do middle school well, then how do we funnel kids through those middle schools and then bring some of those folks to H.D. Woodson, if they have STEM middle schools, or whatnot? We've got to be creative."

Alexander didn't recoil at this suggestion. In fact, she said she agreed. And then Catania reminded Alexander that her time was up and went on to express his outrage at the idea of "outsourcing middle school."

Henderson's words, standing alone, could be interpreted as a statement that DCPS "can't do middle school well." But in context, it's clear that Henderson was focusing on the situation in Ward 7, and possibly Ward 8, where large numbers of students have already left the DCPS system for charter schools. She wasn't advocating abandoning, for example, Deal Middle School in Ward 3.

Still, Henderson's candor about DC's middle school difficulties was surprising, because she has generally been a staunch defender of middle school progress. After the hearing, in a written response to Catania's demand for a "middle school plan," Henderson pointed to improvement at several middle schools and even singled out Kelly Miller, the feeder school for H.D. Woodson, which has seen double-digit growth in its test scores recently. Why she didn't mention those developments at the hearing is a mystery.

But it's also true that Kelly Miller's test scores are still nowhere near those at high-achieving charter middle schools like those operated by KIPP and DC Prep. And let's take a calm, clear-eyed look at what Henderson really was saying, and ask if it was that outrageous.

Cooperation with charters, not just competition

Henderson's basic point was that we should stop putting charters in one box and DCPS schools in another. Instead, we should look at all our public schools—traditional and charter—as part of a common set of possibilities for educating DC children.

Some will disagree with that approach, either because they're opposed to the concept of charters or because they feel Henderson should be able to replicate the results that charters have had. But by this point, it's clear that charters are here to stay. And there are a host of reasons, many of them structural, for DCPS's failure to equal the success of some charters.

If all students in a given neighborhood were "funneled" into charters for middle school, it would at least eliminate one argument raised by some who are skeptical of the results achieved by charters: that they're successful only because they manage, one way or another, to avoid enrolling the students who are the hardest to educate.

And in an area of the District where many students are already enrolled in charter schools, maybe we should consider creating educational pathways for children that could lead through both sectors, if that's what would benefit them most.

Henderson is now working on the middle school plan that Catania called for. Whether she'll continue to advocate for such cross-sector cooperation remains to be seen. The advisory committee that is reviewing school boundaries and feeder patterns has also indicated it intends to look at that possibility.

Given the outcry that greeted Henderson's remarks at the November hearing, she and the advisory committee may both decide to back away from that idea. That would be unfortunate. It's time that we stopped pitting the charter and DCPS sectors against each other and started figuring out how they can work together for the benefit of DC's students.

Government


It's One City, not eight cities

Mayor Gray's "One City" slogan makes an important point beyond just a campaign slogan. DC is a single "city" (actually a unique state-city hybrid district), not 8 separate mini-cities with their own individual mayors.


Berlin Wall (today). Photo by Noud W. on Flickr.

We have enough problems with boundaries in this region. DC, Maryland, and Virginia often act without coordination or even at cross-purposes on issues that affect residents across borders. Individual counties and cities within Maryland or Virginia frequently do the same. DC doesn't need to create even more divisions.

Yet some DC councilmembers time and again act like mayors of their individual wards. They want to unilaterally control policies for their wards, from liquor licenses to parking. Some even try to exclude anyone outside their ward from participating in decisions surrounding development, as with the Florida Avenue Market in 2008 or Reservation 13/Hill East today.

During Zoning Commission hearings over development at the Florida Avenue Market in 2008, then-Councilmember Harry Thomas, Jr. opposed granting ANC 6C "party status," a special privilege for organizations in close proximity. The market is in Ward 5, but railroad tracks, New York Avenue, and Gallaudet University separate it from almost all Ward 5 residents, while many people live just across Florida Avenue to the south. It just happens that those people are in Ward 6.

Ward boundaries are artificial legislative districts. An individual congressperson might want to bring projects to his or her district back home, but he or she doesn't get to veto development projects in the district or it set parking policy. When state legislatures gerrymander their districts, people object because it might dilute or strengthen one group's vote, but rarely do protests happen because one block of residents feels passionately about being in the same congressional district as an adjacent block.

Living on the border of a town or even a state carries some challenges. Recently, Veronica Davis wrote about how a liquor license on the Prince George's County side of Eastern Avenue strongly affects residents in DC, but they have no say over regulatory decisions involving it.

There's no reason to go around creating more of these problems. Yet we do, which makes redistricting fights more forceful than they need to be.

Tommy Wells and Jack Evans had an argument over whether the line between Ward 2 or Ward 6 would be east or west of I-395. That's partly because an air rights development project is slated for the road. But it shouldn't matter, because the councilmember whose ward includes the project shouldn't get some special power to control that project.

Since parking zones also correspond to ward boundaries, with only a few small exceptions, residents in the Palisades vehemently objected to being switched from Ward 2 to Ward 3 during the 2001 redistricting. They didn't want to lose the right to park for free in Foggy Bottom, Shaw and other Ward 2 neighborhoods.

Mount Pleasant asked to redistrict a piece of Rock Creek Park, where nobody lives, from Ward 4 to Ward 1. Park Road passes through this area on its way from Mount Pleasant to Cleveland Park. DC would assign Ward 4 constituent service reps to handle complaints about the spot, even though the affected residents with the complaints would live in wards 1 or 3.

Following ward changes, ANC boundaries also change, and usually to line up with wards. People who felt they were part of the same neighborhood one day find they have to act like separate neighborhoods the next.

Luckily, that's not always the case. When part of Chevy Chase joined Ward 4 in 2001, ANC 3/4G bridged the divide and kept the neighborhood together in one ANC. Yet Yvette Alexander (Ward 7) refused to let Kingman Park be part of the same ANC as adjoining parts of H Street in Ward 6.

MPD has avoided the ward-centric trap: police district boundaries do not line up with wards. That's better for public safety, because MPD can make decisions about police resources around where there is crime rather than arbitrary legislative districts.

The worst and most recent "Eight City" thinking came last week at the community meeting on Reservation 13. Yvette Alexander started out the meeting by lecturing Ward 6 residents about how the land moved to Ward 7 in the latest redistricting, and that therefore Ward 7 "owns" the land.

Her leading challenger, Tom Brown, whom we have endorsed, demonstrated the same fallacy in a campaign speech on the Reservation 13 site (from well before this meeting). Brown talks about how Ward 7 is "getting the title" to the land, and that he will then listen to Ward 7 residents about what they want to do with that land.

Actually, Ward 7 doesn't "own" the land. The District of Columbia does. Decisions about the land get made by the Mayor, who represents all voters, and by the council, which has 8 ward members and 5 at-large members including its chairman.

The Ward 7 member should indeed listen "first and foremost" to residents of Ward 7, but shouldn't have the final say, or even primary say, over what happens on a particular parcel of land. The District should, and all nearby residents, and the entire council, voting together. But if the Ward 7 member is only listening to Ward 7 residents, then the Ward 4 member should only listen to Ward 4 residents, and so on.

With the 395 project, for example, in what would is it logical to say that since the project remained in Ward 6, only Councilmember Wells and residents east of 2nd Street, NW should now have any input into the project, but if the line had put it in Ward 2, those residents ought to have no say whatever and only residents west of 3rd Street NW have the right to weigh in?

The District has a small voice in a big region and no voting representation in Congress. We don't need government processes and legislators who try to deepen divisions and boundaries between neighborhoods. We need people who will work together, prioritizing the needs of their own local residents but trying to unite rather than divide, to better create One City.

Development


Residents unimpressed by non-answers on Redskins "plan"

Last night, Mayor Gray, Jack Evans, and Michael Brown met with a skeptical audience, mostly residents from wards 6 and 7, about reported plans to put a Redskins practice facility on the Reservation 13/Hill East land.


Image by Brian Flahaven on Twitter.

Readers who attended the meeting report that the officials seemed to genuinely expect that the crowd would just cheer for anything that helped the Redskins, regardless of policy merit or economic justification.

Tim Krepp:
The mayor, and Jack Evans, and Michael Brown kept repeating "we'd like to bring the Redskins back" and waited for the applause. To say it fell flat was is an understatement. I was frankly shocked at how bad these politicians were at politics. It was a chance for them to sell their plan, or at least reassure a nervous and frustrated audience, and they spent the time lecturing us.

Joe:

Tim is absolutely right, all four of them were absolutely tone deaf last night. They've clearly already decided what they want. It'll be up to those of us in Wards 6 and 7 to fight like hell to stop it. I'm glad there were so many people out there and that we're, if not in front of this, at least ready to deal with it.
MLD:
It seems to me the point of the meeting was that the CMs were hoping to get a lot of people agreeing with them and cheering on the general idea of the training facility. Instead they found that there was a pretty solid opposition to the training facility from people at the meeting.
ETD:
Its clear that all the officials are drooling at anything football related. Even if it means the destruction of city services, residential, city income, affordable housing, and health care services for residents. They did say that the training facility could have a medical facility for the study of concussion-related sports injuries.
Gray and the councilmembers emphasized that there wasn't a specific plan, but it seemed to depend on how you define "plan." They seem to have done a lot of thinking about this issue, and have made up their minds, but for political reasons wanted to downplay any talk that this is a done deal.

ETD:

[Gray] stressed that there are no concrete plans, and nothing to show. But they were willing to talk about its concussion health center, job creation, and its possibility of a catalyst for development. The neighborhood thought there was going to be some specific details, but he didn't bring anything. If anything, the point of the meeting should, and did try to at times, focus on why the city hasn't chosen a developer yet for the master plan. Hopefully it did get them to move forward on picking one of the two developers for the smaller parcels of land to be developed.
Joe:
They were willing to talk specifics when they wanted, but mostly spent trying to distract the audience [by talking about the Eastern Branch Boys & Girls club] or pleading ignorance, like not knowing how the area is zoned. They also made no economic argument whatsoever for doing so. Gray, Evans and Alexander didn't even try, and Brown vaguely alluded to creating year-round jobs, but there was no discussion of the fact that although a training facility might create a few jobs, it wouldn't create nearly as many as a mixed-use development!
RG:
Redeveloping Reservation 13 is clearly a difficult task. I get that. But the Stadium-Armory Metro station has been open nearly 40 years! And there has been a master plan for the site for nearly a decade. Think of what Arlington would have done with a similar parcel of land by now.

Brian Flahaven was the star of the show. You could tell towards the end that Gray and Evans were frustrated at having been so thoroughly schooled in the game of retail politics by a mere ANC Commissioner. (Brown and Alexander were too clueless to realize they had been schooled.)

As for Alexander: What a joke. I wrote a check for Tom Brown immediately after the meeting.

Residents spent a lot of time and effort building consensus for a master plan for the area. They weren't happy to hear that Gray is basically stopping it from moving forward in the general hope they can work out something with the Redskins.

In response to questions, the officials refused to give any timeline when they would have more detail, or when they would just let the original plan move forward, or give neighbors any closure at all.

MLD:

They presented their idea, which is basically to ditch the Reservation 13 plan agreed upon years ago so they can keep pursuing this pie-in-the-sky idea of bringing the Redskins training camp to the area. And it seems like nobody at the meeting wanted the training camp except the councilmembers. They have talked to the team. They have not created a formal plan.
ETD:
From my understanding in 2008, there were four developers bidding on the master plan project. DC didn't pick any of them and let it sit. DC then decided to scale down the project to two parcels of land. Two developers are ready to go; DC just needs to pick a developer to start.
RG:
Jack Evans clearly doesn't get it. He kept trying to make the it an issue of Redskins fans versus non-Redskins fans. I like the Redskins as much as the next guy. But that's not the point Jack! The point is that when your constituents walk to the Metro, they walk through vibrant neighborhoods on streets lined with shops and services. When I walk to the Metro, I walk up a one-way street (19th) that is a freeway for Maryland commuters and past a vast and dilapidated surface parking lot for DC government employees, most of whom are Maryland residents.
Finally, Mike Debonis revealed that this meeting had been rescheduled (from the coming week) because Jack Evans couldn't make the meeting. Tommy Wells, whose ward borders this site and previously included it, was speaking at his alma mater, the University of Alabama School of Social Work.

Why can't Mayor Gray, who represents the entire city, attend a meeting to talk about a plan he's promoting without the help of a councilmember from a different ward?

Politics


For Ward 7 Council: Tom Brown

Many new projects have improved Ward 7 in recent years, but much remains to be done. Councilmember Yvette Alexander has had little to do with Ward 7's successes and done little about its challenges. Residents of Ward 7 have looked hard for a replacement, and we support Tom Brown in the Democratic primary on April 3.


Image from Tom Brown.

Brown stands on a solid record of accomplish­ments in education and workforce development. He is the founder and current Executive Director of Training Grounds, a workforce development non­profit. Through this, he has developed relation­ships with corporations and linked young people to jobs. A former "National Teacher of the Year," he helped establish and taught at the KIPP KEY Academy in Ward 7.

Ward 7 is one of DC's last frontiers for economic development. Brown is committed to implementing small area plans that the Council has approved but which are currently collecting dust on the shelves.

The incumbent, Yvette Alexander, has few accomplishments during her 5-year term as councilmember. She is touting the ward's new libraries (Anacostia, Dorothy Irene Height/Benning, and Deanwood), the Deanwood Recreation Center, and the new H.D. Woodson High School. However, these projects were already planned and funded prior to Alexander's tenure. Ward 7 residents struggle to identify any ways she specifically aided these projects.

Ward 7 enjoys recent transportation improvements, such as the Great Street projects on Pennsylvania Avenue, Benning Road, and Nannie Helen Boroughs Avenue; the DC Circulator; Capital Bikeshare stations; and a study for Metro's W4 route. Alexander had very little to do with these either. In fact, transportation advocates credit other councilmembers for expediting the Circulator east of the river and ensuring the ward is an integral part of the bike sharing program.

Alexander has also been absent on education, redistricting, and more.

Brown has won endorsements from a wide range of groups that do not always agree, including the DC Chamber of Commerce PAC, the Washington Post, DC for Democracy, Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, Washington Metro Labor, AFL-CIO, and the Washington Examiner. We add our name to this list and encourage Ward 7 voters to chose Tom Brown during early voting or at the polls on April 3.

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.

Bicycling


Ideas rule the roost at the Ward 7 transportation summit

Sometimes it's the little things that need the most attention. At last Saturday's Ward 7 transportation summit, residents offered many productive ideas. One recurring theme was to pay more attention to the low-hanging fruit, small projects that could make a big impact.


Ward 7 discusses bus performance. Photo by Neha Bhatt on Twitter.

The summit, planned and organized by Ward 7 residents Veronica Davis, Neha Bhatt, Kelsi Bracmort, Gregori Stewart, and Sherrie Lawson, focused on ideas from the community to improve transportation.

Attendees left energized and hopeful that more progress is coming regarding pedestrian and bicycle safety, equitable bus service, and better streets.

One of the best-received presentations came from students participating in the mayor's Youth Leadership Institute, who brought up a number of specific, solvable problems. They recommended reintroducing driver education classes in schools, and having WMATA meet with students to help them understand how the Metro budget works.

Crime against SYEP youth: The pay days for students participating in the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) are well-known around the community, which has led to youth being targeted for robbery outside of Metro stations like Deanwood and Minnesota Avenue.

In response to this problem, the students said they would like to see an increased police presence. They also noted that police have a tendency to clump together and talk to each other rather than fully patrol the stations, so the students suggested that police spread out to cover a larger area.

Subsidized fares: SYEP paychecks will be cut by $2 per hour this summer. Therefore, the students recommended having WMATA or the District subsidize transit fares for SYEP participants. At the very least, the presenters asked for subsidized fares during the first two weeks of the program while participants wait for their first paycheck.

Councilmembers Tommy Wells (ward 6) and Muriel Bowser (ward 4, the Council's representative on the WMATA Board) asked DDOT and WMATA about the cost of a subsidy and what its fiscal impact would be, noting that youth who go to summer school already get a similar transit subsidy.

Youth advisory council: After last year's summit, WMATA was interested in establishing a youth advisory council to discuss activity on buses. Unfortunately, there had not been follow-up from the local councilmember, Yvette Alexander, to move this forward. At this year's summit, WMATA reaffirmed their interest in a youth advisory council.

Aging in place: One resident noted that the very young and the very old have unique needs when it comes to transportation, and asked how WMATA can help residents age in place, and how it can better accommodate strollers on buses.

Deaf riders: Other participants said that Ward 7 has an increasing population of the hearing impaired and deaf, and that transit employees should be trained to both recognize deaf customers and help them use the system.

Pedestrian safety: Organizer Neha Bhatt discussed pedestrian safety concerns at Benning Road's intersections with Minnesota Avenue and East Capitol Street. She had organized a recent walking tour with Ward 3 councilmember Mary Cheh, chair of the committee overseeing transportation, to look at problem intersections.

Capital Bikeshare: WABA executive director Shane Farthing raised the idea of subsidizing bike sharing for residents east of the river, and suggested changing Capital Bikeshare rules to allow younger members. Currently, one must be at least 16 years old to use Capital Bikeshare.

There was also an open house where community members could find information from DDOT, WMATA, Capital Bikeshare, and WABA, as well as discuss ideas with representatives from these groups.

The summit's two-hour timeframe turned out to be somewhat too short, so presentations and discussion were rushed at the end. The organizers are hoping to reformat for next year to avoid this issue.

Overall, residents came away with a widespread belief that working to pick the low-hanging fruit is a smart way to move forward and begin to bring positive change to Ward 7.

Politics


Field for Ward 7 council race is set. Who will survive?

Ward 7 is shaping up to be a unique DC Council race this year. Unlike the other ward races, there are candidates other than Democrats in the running. Many believe this could actually make general election competitive, instead of the primary election being the only race that matters.


Photo by DDOTDC on Flickr.

Incumbent Councilmember Yvette Alexander is running for a second full term, after being elected to her first full term in 2008. Alexander bested a field that included 3 other Democratic candidates that year, after having beat 17 other candidates the year before in a special election to secure the seat (with 34% of the vote).

Alexander is currently the chair of the Council's Committee on Public Services and Consumer Affairs, which has oversight responsibility for the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, as well as multiple professional boards and accountability agencies.

Incumbency grants Alexander a leg up for fundraising. She's managed to raise over $82,000 (PDF) as of the last filing date, far ahead of the rest of the field.

Second in money raised, and by many accounts a candidate who could be a strong challenger, Kevin B. Chavous has raised nearly $29,000 so far. He touts the endorsement of the Ward 7 Concerned Citizens Coalition on his website. This organization came together last year to find a candidate to run against Alexander.

With grassroots support and name recognition (Chavous' father was the Ward 7 councilmember for 3 terms from 1992-2004), Chavous appeared to be in good shape until a mid-December arrest on a charge of solicitation of a prostitute. Yesterday, he agreed to a deal that would lead to the charges being dropped, provided he completes community service within the next 4 months.

Some in the ward have said Chavous is too young, and doesn't appeal to older voters. In addition, being a "legacy" candidate could be a hindrance.

Tom Brown, who ran in the special election last year to fill the at-large seat vacated by Kwame Brown (and temporarily filled by Sekou Biddle), is running on a platform that focuses on job creation. Ward 7 residents I have spoken with believe he's a strong candidate, but has not done as good a job convincing voters he's a strong challenger as others. He has a background in job training, which is a key issue in the race. Brown has raised nearly $18,000 so far.

Bill Bennett is a pastor in Ward 7. His website remains a landing site with no information other than his name, currently. Bennett has gathered support from many churches in the ward and has raised $11,000 so far.

Of interest is the person listed as the contact for the Bennett campaign on the BOEE website: Willie Wilson. Wilson has a history as a long-time advocate for the poor in Ward 8, but also has been called out for controversial statements in recent years.

Dorothy Douglas, who also ran in last year's special election to replace Kwame Brown, is running again. Monica Johnson is the remaining Democratic candidate. Neither of the two appear to be gathering large amounts of support in the ward in the early going.

What makes the Ward 7 race interesting is the inclusion of non-Democrats in the race. There are two Republicans running for the seat, Don Folden and Ronald Moten. One of the two will have an additional 7 months to make his case to the people of Ward 7, facing off against whichever Democrat emerges from the 6-way primary scrum.

If media savviness and attention alone would dictate the winner of the Republican race, Ron Moten seems well-placed to win. Moten, one of the founders of Peaceaholics, a non-profit that worked with at-risk youth in the city, has been in the news since the organization came to prominence during the Fenty administration.

Moten's decision to run as a "Civil Rights Republican" appears to some as a way of simply avoiding the Democratic primary to live another day. While that may play into the political calculus, individuals I have spoken to in Ward 7 believe that Moten would have a good chance in the general election against any of the Democrats.

Last week, Ward 7 resident Dawn Matthews challenged Alexander's ballot petitions. Whether this will keep her off the ballot in April remains to be seen, but other incumbents have been able to survive being knocked off the ballot in the past and still win reelection via write-in (see Anthony Williams in 2002).

The main theme of the race seems to be the perception, fair or not, that Alexander has not done much for Ward 7. Economic development, and the related topic of employment, appear to be first on the mind of many voters. A splintered field works in the incumbent's favor, but the addition of a strong Republican challenger will make this a race worth watching, regardless of who emerges from the primary election on April 3.

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