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Politics


Anita Bonds wants a "moratorium" on bike lanes

At a forum last night, Councilmember Anita Bonds advocated for a "moratorium" on any bike lanes in residential neighborhoods, and also for rules requiring all bicycles to have license plates. According to tweets by Keith Ivey, she opposes the lanes because of the impact on parking.

Bonds' campaign put out a few tweets in response, to say that this was "a plan that was announced to [the] public" as "a safety issue for cyclists." She would just block the lanes on "one-lane" streets until the city has a plan for a network of lanes across the city.

I emailed Bonds spokesperson David Meadows this morning but had not heard back by press time. I will update this article if I hear more. Update: Meadows responded with the following statement:

Councilmember Bonds supports bike lanes throughout the major corridors of the District. She is not in favor of dedicated bike lanes on narrow streets within residential neighborhoods. She believes we need to have an up-to-date compre­hensive bike lane plan that all residents are aware of. She is scheduling and is anxious to talk with Shane Farthing and others to continue the discussion.
The discussion last night came after a question about license plates for cyclists. Bonds also would support requiring license plates, while her main challengers Nate Bennett-Fleming and John Settles would not. According to tweets by Ivey, the question came from a member of the audience who was worried about being hit by cyclists.

It's definitely true that there are a few reckless cyclists who sometimes hit pedestrians, just as there are some reckless drivers, walkers, boaters, and so on. All should stop, and we need enforcement to ensure that roads are safe for everyone. But many people pointed out on Twitter that license plates will probably not do much to solve this problem; bike lanes, actually, do a lot more by giving cyclists a place to ride in the road that's not on the sidewalk.

Update: Bonds' office sent WABA another statement following the significant outcry from people dismayed at this news:

Councilmember Bonds has not called for a city-wide moratorium on the establishment of new bike lanes, she is pro bike and pro dedicated bike lanes. Bonds supports bike lanes throughout the major corridors of the District, however she is not in favor of dedicated bike lanes on narrow streets within residential neighborhoods until an updated comprehensive plan is drafted. Bonds believes the city needs to have an up-to-date comprehensive bike lane plan that all residents are aware of; likewise, she is aware that Move DC is working on a draft bike lane plan an looks forward to reviewing it and meeting with relevant stakeholders to continue this discussion.
See more of the tweets and arguments about this issue in this Storify:

Politics


For DC Mayor: Tommy Wells

Tommy Wells is the best candidate for mayor of the District of Columbia. He has the strongest vision for the future on transit, housing affordability, education, social services, and many other subjects. We urge voters in the Democratic primary to cast their ballots for Tommy Wells. You can vote in person on April 1, or in early voting starting March 17.


Photo from Tommy Wells on Flickr.

As regular readers know, many editors and contributors grappledsometimes publiclywith the question of whom to support. A minority of contributors chose current Mayor Vincent Gray in our endorsement poll, but of those almost all did so for strategic game theory reasons while still believing Wells was best on the issues.

That game theory may well have gone out the window Monday with revelations about the 2010 "shadow campaign" for Mayor Gray. However, even before then, the consensus among contributors for Wells was strong.

Wells' strengths

Wells clearly understands the forces that shape our city more deeply and thoroughly than any other mayoral candidate. On transportation, he does not just rattle off a list of projects he helped fund on the council, or give platitudes about schedules, community support, or process. Rather, he has very good insights into what is working well and poorly.

He wants to see important progress but also has a very critical skepticism of simply letting people inside District agencies run wild in what could well be the wrong direction. On transit, he has strongly pushed for better bus service, something that most politicians (including Mayor Gray) either ignore or just pay lip service to.

Wells also believes in good planning, and in particular planning that ensures less fortunate residents are able to stay in the city through affordable housing, affordable transportation, and much more. He proposes many specific ideas, like his "flex buildings" concept (which is far more than just a "slogan" despite the opinion of the Washington Post editorial board).

On education, he was the only candidate who went beyond banal statements like "all neighborhood schools should be good." He is the only candidate willing to explore more significant ways to close the achievement gap, beyond a small laundry list of minor programs.

Many of our contributors were particularly swayed by their feeling that Wells would appoint smart, capable agency heads who would actively formulate a vision and push to realize it. Here were some of their comments:

"The only candidate I see as selecting good appointees or pressuring DDOT and OP to make the right changes is Tommy Wells."

"Wells' vision for the city is inclusive and progressive. He has a track record of hiring stellar public servants to work with him, and I would like to see that play out on a city-wide level, particularly for appointed departmental heads, which has been part of my frustration with Gray as Mayor."

"Wells is the most progressive candidate in the race. Of those with a public service background, he is the only one without some sort of ethics cloud hanging over him. He is not perfect, but he is the best choice in a flawed field."

"He has been the biggest supporter of ... smart growth, equitable transportation policy, good government, strong education, etc., of all of the candidates there over the long term.

No candidate is perfect. No elected official can be a saint (City Paper nicknames aside). We don't, and won't, agree with everything Tommy Wells stands for or would do as mayor. Some supporters were disappointed by his ready defense of the height limit; others befuddled by his vote on the Large Retailer Accountability Act (the "Walmart bill"). But these are issues about which not everyone in the Greater Greater Washington community agrees.

What about Mayor Gray?

It's clear that Gray has championed many issues we care about at Greater Greater Washington. Residents who predicted he would rip out Fenty-era innovations like cycletracks once in office, despite his public statements that he supported bicycle infrastructure, have now come around. The city is moving in a positive direction. One contributor who voted for Gray in the poll wrote,

Shadow campaign aside, Mayor Gray is advancing all of the initiatives that GGW discusses in advocacy. Sustainable DC, which is fully a brainchild of Gray's administration, is a progressive plan that calls for us to begin to make tough decisions as a city. It has been more than a plan, the city is moving forward with specific plans and actions as a result. I'd prefer to stay the course than to lose 1 to 1½ years of momentum for an administration change.
However, contributors had some significant reservations as well (even before this last round of revelations about the shadow campaign). The biggest among those was the quality of Gray's appointments to agencies. Indeed, the main architect of the Sustainable DC plan was planning director Harriet Tregoning, who was one of those Gray kept in office from the Fenty administration, but who recently stepped down.

Gray's record on new appointments has been more disappointing. For example, it is often hard to tell whether DDOT head Terry Bellamy is providing meaningful leadership at that agency, which seems aimless and uncoordinated. Sometimes DDOT pushes forward on important initiatives, but often simply lapses into inaction or lets inertia continue work on bad projects from a past era.

One contributor (who also voted to endorse Gray) wrote,

I'm pretty okay with the policy direction Gray has taken. I am less thrilled with some of his department heads, most of whom seem to have no vision and are bad at managing. I know the most about DDOT, and Bellamy can't even get his internal folks to talk to each other, much less to get some paint down on a bike lane.
Some were far more strongly negative, citing, for instance, the recent homelessness crisis where the Gray administration crammed people in recreation centers in terrible conditions. His strongest critic among our contributors wrote,
Strategic voting for Gray is being floated by folks who don't appear to mind if DC grows into a playground for the wealthy, a future that neither Bowser nor Gray have a plan to prevent and GGW opposes. Gray cut money from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund the first 2 years of his administration, something that seems quickly forgotten by those thanking him for his $100 million pledge last year.

He was further to the right of the Chamber of Commerce on the minimum wage, opposing indexing it to inflation, which [the Chamber] supported. And he had no plan for winter at DC General even though it was full when winter began, and in response to the crisis asked for power to keep families out of shelter on freezing nights if DHS claimed it found friends willing take them in for a couple nights.

It's worth noting that any mayor will have some issues where they fall shortcertainly Fenty did, and if elected, Wells would too. Still, these are important concerns.

More importantly, even if Gray is the second-best candidate (now perhaps only true if Jeffrey Thompson is lying and Gray really knew nothing of the "shadow campaign"), a strong majority of contributors and editors still felt confident making the endorsement for Tommy Wells.

What about the rest?

Our contributors and editors were not impressed by any other candidate in the field. Jack Evans has made it clear, in his statements and actions, that he stands very firmly against inconveniencing the wealthiest and most powerful Washingtonians, whether in terms of accommodating a wider range of income levels in their neighborhoods, or having to share the road with other modes in a way that causes any appreciable hassle.

Muriel Bowser is trying to rise to the top of DC's political world by being concerned about anything that agitates residents. She has been the quickest of all on the council to introduce resolutions blocking administration action that angered some peoplesometimes rightly, sometimes wrongly.

She is extremely smart and very talented at making statements that sound like she's agreeing with you, such as praising the DC Zoning Update to the rafters with the tiny caveat that she has 4 little quibblesthe only 4 significant policy shifts in the proposal, and the items that some people in the most exclusive neighborhoods of Ward 4 are fighting against the hardest.

Andy Shallal has a lot of good basic values but unfortunately lacks an understanding of the deeper implications of various government actions. It's easy to say that we shouldn't close schools or unfairly give away land to developers, but not as easy to develop a realistic plan for how to get better education and more housing.

Vincent Orange did not follow up to our request for an interview, nor does he have a platform that warrants consideration for mayor. No other candidates appear to have any significant level of support.

Conclusion

Tommy Wells has agreed with the Greater Greater Washington community on many issues during his years in office. But April Fools jokes aside, our endorsement was never a foregone conclusion. We made him jump through the same hoops as anyone else such as the video interviews, asked tough questions, and listened carefully to his responses. Our editorial team vigorously debated the merits of Mayor Gray's candidacy before coming to an endorsement decision.

However, it's clear from looking at the candidates' records, their statements, and recent actions that Tommy Wells is the best mayoral contender. He deserves our support, especially given the latest news about Gray's 2010 campaign but independent of that as well. We hope DC voters in the Democratic primary on April 1, or voting early beginning March 17, will cast their ballots for Tommy Wells.

This is the official endorsement of Greater Greater Washington. To determine endorsements, we invite regular contributors and editors to participate in a survey about their preferences and opinions about upcoming races. The editorial board then decides whether to make an endorsement based on the responses in the survey and whether there is a clear consensus.

For more information on the mayoral contenders and their views, see our video interviews with the candidates on housing supply, affordable housing, bus lanes, streetcars, charter schools, and middle schools.

You can sign up for more information, volunteer, and/or contribute to Tommy Wells' campaign at tommywells.org.

Also see our other endorsements in the April 1 Democratic primary: Brianne Nadeau in Ward 1, Kenyan McDuffie in Ward 5, and Charles Allen in Ward 6.

Politics


DC Council race reviews: At-large and chairman

To choose our endorsements, we polled our active regular contributors and editors to hear their views. Sometimes, as with Ward 1 (Brianne Nadeau), Ward 5 (Kenyan McDuffie), and Ward 6 (Charles Allen), the consensus was clear. For other races, such as DC Council at large and chairman, our contributors were clearly divided or conflicted.


Split pea photo from Shutterstock.

For these races, therefore, we are not making an explicit endorsement. But many of you are not just looking for us to give you a name; you want information to help you make up your minds.

Therefore, here are a selection of comments that various contributors and editors made in the endorsement poll, to illuminate the various reasons to vote for or against various candidates.

At-large Councilmember

Contributors were unified in agreeing that Anita Bonds is not a good councilmember. She has had virtually no accomplishments in her year on the council, continues to pose a significant potential for ethical conflicts of interest as a paid employee of a construction contractor which does work for the DC government. See correction below.

However, they were just about evenly split on the question of who is the best alternative.


John Settles, Nate Bennett-Fleming. Images from the candidate websites.

Contributors largely split into two rough camps. Some have been engaged in progressive organizations and causes, know Nate Bennett-Fleming from them, and supported him. Many of those also participated in the endorsement processes of organizations like DC for Democracy, Jews United for Justice Action Fund, and the DC Sierra Club which have endorsed him.

Others formed their opinions based on public statements specifically around Greater Greater Washington topics at candidate events or on our video interviews; those contributors largely preferred John Settles and said Bennett-Fleming seemed to lack real ideas on topics like housing and transit.

One could interpret this two ways. It could be that Settles is the best candidate, and Bennett-Fleming simply has built up more personal relationships with some contributors. On the other hand, it could also mean that those who know Bennett-Fleming well see beyond simply some weaknesses in talking about issues and know his deeper strengths.

Here is what contributors said for John Settles:

"My impression is that [Settles] has the best ideas on how to help solve the affordable housing issues. I think if that were the sole criteria, he would easily get the nod. I also think he would be aligned with smart growth principles like the zoning rewrite, although his standard response is that he's in favor of anything that will help with getting more affordable housing."

"I have met Settles many times and I like his openness to new ideas. He listens and has a good sense for smart policy."

"I was impressed with him in the last go round (during Let's Choose DC). He also had the most nuanced and complete answer in the video series."

Here are some of the contributor comments in favor of Bennett-Fleming:
"Nate is sometimes green, but he's a strong progressive voice and I believe he would be a quick study on the council."

"Nate has shown follow-through in his role as shadow-rep, and I think he can take it to the next levelnot without some expected hiccupsas an at-large CM."

"Nate is young, smart and energetic and full of good policy ideas. He is a committed progressive focused on making DC a better place to live and work, mainly through proper public investments, and through higher wages, better labor laws, and more job training. He would work to combat poverty from multiple fronts and make living in the city more affordable, and he has good ideas on education such as smaller class sizes and investing in the arts."

What about strategy? Does one have the edge? Unfortunately, nobody seems to yet have polled this race. If one of the two turns out to be well ahead of the other, that could be a good reason to strategically choose that candidate.

For what it's worth (and money is far from everything), the DC campaign filings came out today. Settles raised $20,000 this period for a total of $48,000 in the race. Bennett-Fleming raised $5,800 to bring his total to almost $32,000. And Bonds brought in about $17,000 bringing her total to $61,000.

Pedro Rubio also impressed some contributors with his thoughts on the issues in our video series, but he seems to have garnered far less support (and cash, raising $7,500 for a cumulative total of about $10,000). Still, we hope he will stay involved in citywide local issues besides through electoral politics.

Chairman of the Council


Phil Mendelson. Photo by mar is sea Y on Flickr.
The question here is not really between two candidates. Incumbent chairman Phil Mendelson is the one for whom almost all contributors and editors, at least those who filled out the survey, will be voting. However, many are doing so with some definite reservations.

One wrote, "I'll be voting for Phil, but in general, I find him lackluster and a bit too reserved/conservative." On the other hand, another said, "Mendelson has been a solid chair. He has managed the Council effectively and gotten through some important pieces of legislation. He is a strong voice on environmental issues."

Several voted to make no endorsement (which was one of the options in our poll), with statements like these:

"Phil Mendelson, while being a reliable vote on a lot of progressive social issues, is actually quite conservative on issues related to smart growth."

"I have strong views against Phil for his continued actions in support of NIMBY causes; witness the continued and unnecessary hearings with OP and his appalling actions on opposing changes to the Height Act on the grounds the council and the citizens could not be trusted to make their own decisions. ... His scaling back of the medical marijuana initiative to make it extremely tough for those who need it to get it is shameful."

This is perhaps the most even-handed summary:
"Phil Mendelson has been skeptical of the zoning rewrite, streetcars, and more. But at the end of the day he has helped to push things forward despite a diverse and fractious Council. He takes a patient, measured approach to issues which has been helpful for DC."
Meanwhile, Calvin Gurley has waged numerous campaigns but none seem to have been very serious or built up any significant support.

So why not endorse Mendelson? We feel that any endorsement needs to factor in a balance of how good a candidate is on Greater Greater Washington's issues, how contributors might feel about the candidate based on other issues as well, and the likelihood a vote will ultimately sway the race.

Given that Mendelson is not seriously facing a challenge, it seems unreasonable this year to give him an endorsement simply on the basis of other issues and competence when he has only posed obstacles on the issues we follow most closely. His ability to do so is also greater this year since he gained oversight over planning in 2013.

Correction: The original version of this article said that Anita Bonds was still employed by Ft. Myer Construction, where she was working before being appointed and then elected to a seat on the council. According to Bonds, she stepped down from her position at Ft. Myer after being elected to the council.

Her LinkedIn page still lists Ft. Myer as a current job, but her spokesperson David Meadows says that has not been updated. The DC Board of Ethics and Government Accountability says that all councilmembers are required to file a form listing outside income, but because Bonds was not a public official for 30 days in 2012 (she was appointed as an interim member in early December), she does not have to file that form until May 15, 2014.

Bonds also said that the reason her campaign never responded to our requests to include her in the video interview series was because a lot of messages that went to the contact person listed on their filing with the Board of Elections never reached them. She said that they didn't receive a number of organizations' issue questionnaires for the same reason.

Politics


For DC Council in Ward 5: Kenyan McDuffie

When councilmember Kenyan McDuffie was elected two years ago, DC's Ward 5 swung from having one of the city's most corrupt councilmembers to having a widely-respected one. We encourage voters to renominate McDuffie in the April 1 Democratic primary, or in early voting starting March 17.


Image from the candidate website.

McDuffie won the 2012 special election to replace former Councilmember Harry Thomas, Jr. Thomas resigned and pled guilty to multiple felonies, including diverting public funding for youth baseball to personal expenses such as vacations and an SUV. McDuffie is now seeking his first full 4-year term.

Here's what our contributors wrote about McDuffie:

"Kenyan is easily one of the most progressive-thinking members of the council, in a ward that can often be quite conservative. He has to toe the line between pulling the ward with him and meeting the voters where they currently are sometimes, but he generally threads this needle with aplomb."
"He is a nice guy who has humble beginnings. He can related to young black teens as well as he can developers. He seems to be one of the few councilmembers that wants to do his best to improve DC. He is able to balance the needs of his diverse constituents."

"Kenyan has delivered on his promise in the last electionhe's been a CM with integrity, thoughtfulness, and even in the sort time he's had in office so far, has made a lot of positive moves, both for the ward and for the city."

"Kenyan has done a fine job. He's a champion of ethics and election reform, he has been successful without taking corporate funding, and he's been supportive of redevelopment in Ward 5 that is walkable and transit-accessible and includes affordable housing, including the McMillan Site development."

"I have the utmost respect for McDuffie."

Some contributors expressed concern with some of his stances, like opposing the streetcar maintenance facility at Spingarn High School, as seeming to react to strong sentiment in the ward rather than formulating the best conclusion based on his own analysis and beliefs. On the other hand, on McMillan development, McDuffie has not gone along with the angry hordes.

McDuffie's two challengers have not been consensus-builders in their own communities, and have often been hostile to new residents participating in community dialogue about the future. Steptoe was one of the leading opponents of any development around Brookland Metro, for instance.

We hope voters in Ward 5 (whose neighborhoods include Truxton Circle, Bloomingdale, Stronghold, Edgewood, Eckington, Brentwood, Ivy City, Trinidad, Carver-Langston, Arboretum, Langdon, Gateway, Fort Lincoln, Woodridge, Brookland, Michigan Park, North Michigan Park, and Fort Totten) will renominate Kenyan McDuffie in the Democratic primary on April 1, or in early voting beginning March 17.

This is the official endorsement of Greater Greater Washington. To determine endorsements, we invite regular contributors and editors to participate in a survey about their preferences and opinions about upcoming races. The editorial board then decides whether to make an endorsement based on the responses in the survey and whether there is a clear consensus.

Politics


For DC Council in Ward 1: Brianne Nadeau

After 15 years being represented by Jim Graham on the DC Council and several recent scandals, many Ward 1 voters feel it is time for a new face. This year, they have an excellent choice in Brianne Nadeau, and we encourage Democratic voters to choose her in the primary on April 1 or in early voting beginning March 17.


Photo from the candidate website.

One of our contributors perhaps put it best in our survey to determine the endorsements: "I think Jim Graham has made some very respectable contributions to the city during his time in service but as of late he seems ineffective, out of touch, and inactive on the issues that really matter. I think Brianne Nadeau would be a welcome breath of fresh air."

Nadeau has been working to improve her neighborhood for many years, including a stint on the U Street Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B and then in the Ward 1 Democrats. She has advocated for smart growth and progressive policies such as reforming parking, adding new housing to welcome more neighbors, and providing affordable housing for less affluent residents.

She also has shown the energy that is required to be a successful candidate for political office, knocking on doors all across Ward 1, which includes U Street, Adams Morgan, Kalorama Triangle, Mount Pleasant, Columbia Heights, LeDroit Park, Pleasant Plains, and Park View.

Her success and outreach helped persuade fellow challengers Bryan Weaver and Beverley Wheeler to let her have a head-to-head contest with Graham. Those factors have propelled this race to be one of the most competitive this year, and have Graham seriously fighting for his political survival.

Unfortunately, Graham has responded to this threat by appealing to the most reactionary voters in Ward 1 on growth and development. He started the campaign simply expressing concern about certain "pop-up" additions atop row houses (some, admittedly ugly), then moved to stridently warning about "overdevelopment," and has more recently promised at a candidate forum to "do everything in my power" to halt the DC Zoning Update.

This is particularly sad because the zoning update does nothing to allow any taller buildings or more pop-ups than under current zoning, but it does create a few opportunities to add new, often lower-cost housing in existing structures. In opposing these changes, Graham is actually fighting against the very principles of housing affordability he claims to support.

That's too bad, because Graham has also been a long champion of better transit service, particularly bus service, which often gets forgotten in the public discourse. (Nadeau promises to push even harder for bus improvements, and is promoting efforts to get a 16th Street bus lane.) Graham has also been a voice for many progressive issues on the council during his tenure. Sadly, very troubling ethical scandals over the past few years have clouded Graham's legacy of positive action on many issues.

In this election, voters do not simply have a choice between Graham and not-Graham; they have the opportunity to select a very worthy councilmember for all of Ward 1. We hope voters in the Democratic primary will select Brianne Nadeau on April 1 or in early voting starting March 17.

For more information on Nadeau and Graham, see our video interviews with the candidates on housing, the zoning update, transportation, and education.

This is the official endorsement of Greater Greater Washington. To determine endorsements, we invite regular contributors and editors to participate in a survey about their preferences and opinions about upcoming races. The editorial board then decides whether to make an endorsement based on the responses in the survey and whether there is a clear consensus.

Politics


For DC Council in Ward 6: Charles Allen

DC's Ward 6 has had excellent leadership for the past 7 years, not just from its councilmember, Tommy Wells, but also Charles Allen, Wells' chief of staff, who would make an excellent councilmember for the ward in his own right. We urge DC Democrats to choose Allen in the primary on April 1 and in early voting starting March 17.


Photo by Tommy Wells on Flickr.

Allen worked tirelessly with community groups to build consensus on controversial development projects. He stood up with Hill East residents frus­trated at the slow pace of progress on devel­oping the adjacent city-owned land. He helped H Street businesses adapt to streetscape construction and prepare for the streetcar. He pushed the city to formulate better visions for M Street SE/SW and NoMA and the ballpark district.

In many ways, he already has been doing the job of Ward 6 councilmember.

Anyone who has worked on local issues in the ward has worked with Charles Allen already. In taking the survey of contributors which we use to determine endorsements, one contributor wrote, "Charles is brilliant and will be a worthy successor to Tommy Wells." Another said, "Charles knows Ward 6 inside and out, and has proven himself to be an effective leader, both as Wells' chief-of-staff, and with the Ward 6 [Democrats]."

Another wrote, "Charles has the experience and knowledge required to be a fantastic Councilmember. He's a passionate supporter of smart growth, streetcars, livable streets, and more." Charles Allen is not simply the better of two alternatives; he is a very strong candidate and a good choice for Ward 6, which includes Capitol Hill, Southwest Waterfront, Near Southeast, H Street, NoMA, Mount Vernon Square/Triangle, and since the 2012 redistricting, also Shaw.

Charles' opponent, Darrel Thompson, seems to have a great heart and a likeable personality, but little to no experience with local issues. He has spent recent years doing good work in the Capitol and on the national stage, but as those of us who live and breathe local matters know, there is a huge gulf between Capitol Hill, the federal enclave, and Capitol Hill, the neighborhood. Pushing for national health care and mortgage relief and other issues nationally does not inherently make one qualified in local policy.

A candidate coming in as a blank slate on local issues often lacks a grounding in key issues to navigate the inherent conflicts. If he were in the legislature of a sharply divided partisan state, Democrats would know where Thompson stood on the most divisive issues. But while the DC Council has important and controversial issues, they are not the same ones as in Congress, nor do all Democrats think alike.

Instead, Thompson seems to have picked up a few of the worst complaints from irate citizens, like those who implacably fought development at the Hine school or those who never wanted a streetcar. On other issues, Thompson seems to have simply copied Allen's platform, talking about family affordable housing and middle schools almost identically to Allen. Residents have often seen Allen first talk about an issue, and then Thompson do the same a few weeks later.

DC would be greatly enriched if Darrel Thompson chose to lend his experience and talent to local matters by being involved with an Advisory Neighborhood Commission, neighborhood group, or advocacy on a specific issue. We hope he will get involved for the long run, and maybe he would make a great at-large member, or better yet, delegate to Congress one day in the future, once he has been able to form his own clear views on many topics.

For now, Thompson claims he's running because we need "new leadership." If he lived in one of a number of other wards, that would be an attractive slogan. In Ward 6, it is not. The leadership the ward has is some of the best. We know what Charles Allen believes and will do. He has done it, and has done well for Ward 6.

We shouldn't assume that staffers for elected officials necessarily deserve to step into the top role. Charles Allen does, not because he worked for Tommy Wells, but because of what he has done for Ward 6. We urge Democratic voters in Ward 6 to cast their votes for Charles Allen on April 1 or vote early beginning March 17.

For more information on Allen and Thompson, see our video interviews with the candidates on housing, transportation, and education.

This is the official endorsement of Greater Greater Washington. To determine endorsements, we invite regular contributors and editors to participate in a survey about their preferences and opinions about upcoming races. The editorial board then decides whether to make an endorsement based on the responses in the survey and whether there is a clear consensus.

Transit


Montgomery voters strongly support Bus Rapid Transit

A new poll finds that a large majority of Montgomery County voters support more transit, including a proposed Bus Rapid Transit network. It may seem surprising, but it reflects overall trends favoring better transit.


Montgomery BRT supporters at a hearing. Photo by Aimee Custis.

In January, the Coalition for Smarter Growth commissioned polling firm Mason-Dixon to survey voters' attitudes towards the 81-mile, 10-line Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) proposal, which the county approved last November and is now studying specific corridors. In a historically suburban county that is urbanizing quickly, debates over better transit have been contentious, and we wanted to understand where people really stood.

Out of 400 Montgomery County voters that Mason-Dixon surveyed by phone, 71% support the BRT plan and 22% oppose it after hearing common arguments from naysayers and supporters alike. Support is fairly uniform across age groups and race, though is much higher amongst Democrats (76%) than Republicans (57%), and amongst women (77%).

Voters agree that BRT could reduce traffic, but unsure about taking lanes from cars

While contentious arguments over transit projects often dominate the public debate, the reality is that a solid majority favors it. But they're not always present at public hearings or community meetings, perhaps in part because few people are aware of Mont­gom­ery's BRT plans to begin with: just 31% knew about the plan at the time of the poll.

Poll respondents were read a series of statements that reflect the main arguments for and against building a BRT system. 80% of voters agreed with statements that BRT was the most affordable option compared to other modes of transit. They also strongly agreed that BRT could reduce traffic by moving more commuters through congested corridors (76%), and that BRT supports the right kind of development by supporting walkable communities (78%).

Meanwhile, respondents disagreed with nearly all of the negative arguments about BRT. Just 26% agreed with the statement that BRT will "ruin the character" of existing neighborhoods, as some opponents say. But voters were split over whether repurposing general traffic lanes for buses would make automobile traffic worse, with 50% believing they would.

That may seem intuitive, but dozens of examples from around the country and around the world show that repurposing street space for transit and other modes typically has no impact on traffic as commuters shift modes or alter their routes. It may take a pilot or new local examples like Alexandria's BRT, which will open this summer and include repurposed lanes, for people to see for themselves how BRT can work.

Regional and national trends favor transit

A solid majority of Montgomery residents believe that transit investments, not new highways, are the right way to move forward, with 63% of voters agreeing. Washington Post polling data suggests public opinion in the region has been shifting on this question over the past few decades. In 1998, 51% of respondents to their survey supported investing in transit over roads, but in 2010 and 2013, approximately 60% did.

Those opinions are in line with a national survey of attitudes about transit RCLCO conducted in 2011. It found that 50% of Americans said better transit would improve traffic, and that a majority of people want to live in walkable, transit-served communities.

So are government investments reflecting the public's growing interest in transit? While Montgomery’s latest transportation priority letter represents a major shift in the right direction, there are still many expensive road widenings and interchanges on the books in Montgomery and around the region.

With public opinion shifting, people driving less, and climate change on the rise, the time is now to shift our spending priorities to transit and other sustainable travel options.

Politics


Mayoral challengers criticize the Gray administration's streetcar progress

We interviewed candidates for DC mayor and competitive council races for the April 1 primary, and recorded the conversations on video. We will be posting the videos for each subject area and each race over the course of a few weeks. See all of the interviews here.


Left to right: Muriel Bowser, Tommy Wells, Vincent Gray, Jack Evans, Andy Shallal. Images from the candidate websites.

Love it or hate it, DC is building a streetcar, but there have been a lot of delays in getting it running. We already posted videos of Ward 6 candidates Charles Allen and Darrel Thompson criticizing the slow pace of progress on the first line, which will be in that ward. The mayoral candidates running against Vince Gray had some sharp words as well.

Tommy Wells, the councilmember most closely identified with championing the streetcar, had plenty to say.

I think that it has been managed very poorly by this administration. I know that sounds political, but let's go through why.

It's being run by engineers, and seems to have almost no coordination with the Office of Planning. Ward 5 is told, you're getting a streetcar barn and you're going to like it. Or whether you like it or not, we're putting a streetcar barn in, with very little creativity.

In Seattle, their streetcar barn has affordable housing over it. The most valuable land now is going to be where the streetcar runs. There's no retail plan there showing that we can bring in restaurants or other things facing Benning Road with the streetcar barn behind it. ... I think that the administration has not been creative, has not thought out of the box. There's a way to leverage in amenities along with the streetcar barn.

And then they kept failing at being able to procure streetcars, so finally they had to piggyback on someone else's contract. That's why the streetcars are so late in coming here. And they better not run it without at least 6 streetcars. You need 5 on the tracks and 1 in reserve. Otherwise, it's just a ride at Disneyland that comes by every 30-40 minutes. ...

The other thing was thatmy understanding is that the contract for design-build, for finishing off the line, it sat with the Attorney General's office for almost 8 months. This administration, it's like someone poured molasses over the government. I think they're going to get there, but it's not with a sense of urgency. It's not real smart how they're doing it. We're missing an opportunity to do this really creatively.

But we're going to get a streetcar line. We're going to be able to touch it, ride it, so that our residents can see what the future can be like, but it's not as good as it could have been.

Later in the segment, Wells also talked about how important it is for the streetcar to go east of the river, and how he thinks it should never cost more than $1.

Muriel Bowser also talked about DDOT's procurement follies, and says the administration wasn't honest enough with residents:

I'm just as frustrated as I think most people. Mostly, I want somebody to tell the truth. Every month it seems we have a new opening time.

I have no doubt that it's a complicated project. There is nobody more excited than me to figure out all the lessons learned from went wrong in getting this thing going and how we we can fix it, and next time, Mayor Bowser can go out to the community and say, "Listen, this is going to bedig up your street one time. And we know how we're going to energize it, we know where we're going to turn it around. We know where we're going to store the cars and we know about how long this is going to take."

I think where this mayor and this DDOT director lack credibility is, they won't go out to the community and level with them. And I think people just want to know what gives and what do you need to do to fix it and when can we expect the streetcar to be running.

Andy Shallal was the least enthusiastic about the streetcar, or at least most overtly unenthusiastic. He referred to concerns many H Street business have been voicing that the streetcar will interfere with deliveries.

I think maybe we need to figure it out, use it as an experiment nowit's already builtbefore we continue to build the rest of what's proposed. I would suggest making sure we understand the challenges that a streetcar is going to bring to a community. I know there's issues with parking that are going to get in the way; deliveries with restaurants, how are those going to happenmany of them don't have alleys and have to depend on deliveries from the front; bicycles and how they cross those tracks.

It's a lot of stuff there. I think we need to really be mindful of how we go about completing the tracks and making sure that whatever we put in place on the H Street corridor is something that's workable and manageable and doesn't create more hassles than it tries to solve.

Later, when we were talking about political obstacles to bus lanes, he suggested doing more projects that make it possible to experiment. He said,
Things like bus lanes are a great way to try something out. What's the worst that can happen? you erase them. As opposed to a trolley, where you've spent millions of dollars, hundreds of millions of dollars. You've dug up the street for years, you've caused all this disruption, you've shut down businesses.

Jack Evans was very brief and much less critical. "It's just taking forever. It's on the right track, it's just taking too long to get down the track. ... What we have to do is get the program moving. To be honest with you, with any program it takes forever to get off the ground. And now we have lines built, we have the streetcars, maybe this will be the end but it needs to be moving a little bit faster."

See the full discussions with these candidates:

Wells:

Bowser:

Shallal:

Evans:

Politics


A bus lane for 16th Street? Which mayoral candidates agree?

We interviewed candidates for DC mayor and competitive council races for the April 1 primary, and recorded the conversations on video. We will be posting the videos for each subject area and each race over a few weeks. See all of the interviews here.


Left to right: Muriel Bowser, Tommy Wells, Vincent Gray, Jack Evans, Andy Shallal. Images from the candidate websites.

Bus priority, bus lanes, Bus Rapid Transitpeople have long talked about doing more to make our busy bus routes better. The draft moveDC citywide transportation plan now calls for some bus lanes. Dupont ANC Commissioner Kishan Putta and the Coalition for Smarter Growth are specifically campaigning to get elected leaders to support a lane. Where do our mayoral candidates stand?

Tommy Wells is unequivocally for bus lanes, and made a case that tries to appeal not just to transit riders but to drivers who might not benefit. (He likely focused on this because I specifically asked in my question how to build a bus lane when some drivers will feel they are losing out.)

Of course I would go for the dedicated bus lanes. If we're successful in getting people to walk more and use public transportation, there will be more room for cars. The only hope our local residents have is in creating a multimodal city, so we get more people that have a choice out of their cars.

The amount of parking we have in the city is fixed. For the most part, the amount of lanes and roadways is fixed. So we can't say, let's widen 16th Street, because we have front yards there, sidewalks there.

We are adding jobs at a record rate. If people drive down 16th Street from outside the District, then someone who is car dependent on 16th will never be able to get there. The only way is making it faster if you take public transportation.

Wells also had general criticism for the anemic pace of bus improvements in the city.
We've not been making improvements in public transportation with buses. It's really the last thing they do. They've had money for over 4 years to - signal prioritizationwhich means when a bus comes up to a light, it turns green. It's about as basic a technology as possible. And they're a bunch of Neanderthalsnot to insult Neanderthals. ... It's ridiculous that we can't expedite bus transportation through the city. The money is there, the technology is there.

Mayor Vince Gray briefly talked about how he agrees with the idea of bus lanes (and it's his transportation agency that's put them in the moveDC plan), though he pivoted to talking primarily about bicycles.

I think buses continue to be an important transportation modality. ... Many people use buses as their preferred way of ... getting from one place to the other. I think having, for example, some express lanes that move buses quickly from one place to the other is an important way to go.

I think ultimately, though, having ways in which people can get to where they want to get to because they have amenities and conveniences and work close to where they are instead of having to use vehicular transportation, is a good approach. Getting people more acclimated to using bicycles. Having more bicycle lanes.

We've got to get everybody adapted to the idea that bicycles are an increasingly important way of people getting around in the city. Not everybody has bought into that yet, and that's going to take time as well.

We now have the most robust bicycle program in America. We have well over 20,000 people who are part of our bikeshare program. Others are coming here now to learn about us so they can emulate the bikeshare program. We're increasingly putting residential opportunities in places where they didn't exist heretofore, so that folks can then have a better opportunity to walk to the amenities, to walk to work, and not have the need for vehicular transportation.

Muriel Bowser is generally open to the idea of a bus lane, but would need to see specific proposals. Speaking about the 16th Street concept, which runs through her ward, she said,

I don't know [about the lane], and I've said this before, and I know you had a series on your blog about 16th Street and dedicated bus lanes. There's been really no proposal that's been presented to me about what that would look like for 16th Street.

Let me just say more generally that I think we have to, yes, where it makes sense we should have bus lanes.
Where it doesn't make sense, have priority signalization for buses. Anything that will move buses more efficiently will help.

What I've been very impressed with over the last several years is we got express bus service on 16th Street and on Georgia Avenue. The success of that MetroExtra bus has been tremendous. So give it a special bus, give it limited stops, you make it more comfortable and convenient, and guess what? People will ride the bus.

Now imagine if they can also get there faster. So I think that wherever possible, we need to prioritize bus travel across the city. We know in many ways it's more efficient. We can't put a Metro stop everywhere. We can't put a streetcar everywhere. But we can look at the changes in demand and react pretty quickly with bus service. ... I'm very committed to making sure we have high-quality bus service in DC.

Jack Evans, having recently met with Putta and other proponents, is supportive of a 16th Street lane, provided the right design can be worked out:

What you'd have to do is a comprehensive study of 16th Street. ... I think it's a good idea that we do figure out how to get a dedicated bus lane. Now, you wouldn't do it all the time. You'd have to figure out rush hour how to do it. Maybe eliminate parking, which I think is gone on some parts of the 16th Street. Maybe run the bus lane down the center or on the side. But there's a way of making it all work for everybody. And I think that given the amount of transportation on 16th Street, it's something we absolutely must do. We just have to figure out how to do it.

Finally, Andy Shallal likes the idea of bus lanes, especially as an alternative to streetcars, which he is not very enthusiastic about. (More on that in the next post.) He said, "I think it's a great idea, I do. It certainly is a lot more effective than having to put trolley cars. So yes, absolutely, having dedicated lanes for buses is a great idea."

Also, the Coalition for Smarter Growth will kick off its campaign for the lane with a happy hour on Wednesday, March 12, 6-8 pm at JoJo Restaurant and Bar at 16th and U.

You can watch this whole portion of my interviews with each candidate below.

Wells:

Gray:

Bowser:

Evans:

Shallal:

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