Carol Schwartz on the issues


It’s been more than five years since Carol Schwartz graced the council dais. So where is she on today’s hot-button issues? (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

She’s back, honey!

Carol Schwartz ended her five-and-a-half years in the political wilds Monday with the surprise announcement of her fifth mayoral run. A decade ago, the Schwartz brand was one of the city’s most indelible, melding social progressivism, fiscal rectitude and brassy folksiness with lots of chunky costume jewelry. (For more on Schwartz’s record, see the sprawling statement she launched her campaign with.)

It has been a while, however, since Schwartz has weighed in on the issues of the day, so after her phone stopped ringing off the hook Monday afternoon, I queried her on a few of the hot-button issues defining this mayoral race. While she shared few hard-and-fast positions, then again, neither have the other leading candidates in the race.

D.C. United stadium: Schwartz said she’s a “supporter of the soccer team” and sponsored ceremonial resolutions back when United was in the habit of winning league titles year in and year out. She said she was “not against” the $300 million stadium deal but wants to take a closer look at the deal: “I haven’t read this deal, so I don’t know all the nuances of it. My major concern is about the Reeves Center. We seem to be playing top dollar for the land and not getting top dollar — in fact, totally the opposite — for our land.”

School boundary review: Schwartz demonstrated only a passing familiarity with the boundary and feeder-pattern overhaul now being conducted by Mayor Vincent C. Gray. In any case, Schwartz said, the process should be halted until a new mayor is in place: “With the change of administration, I think this is not the right time,” she said. “That doesn’t mean there’s not any merit in why the study was started. Schwartz said she’d be opposed to any system that ends the guarantee of a neighborhood school: “I don’t think we have a perfect system now, but I don’t think that means we upend our system. … The most important thing is to ensure that every school in every neighborhood is good.”

Firefighter shifts: Schwartz did not take a position on whether or not firefighter shifts should be kept as is, in a 24-hours-on/72-hours-off configuration, or shifted to 12-hour shifts, as Gray has proposed. “I’m very open to discussion about those things,” she said, noting her past support from the firefighters’ union. “Maybe there’s something in between that could work. … I don’t feel comfortable talking a position on it right now.”

Affordable housing and homelessness: Schwartz said she’d do more to implement inclusionary zoning, a program she supported when she was on the council that allows developers to “buy” additional density by providing affordable housing units. “Here we are now, a decade later, and there’s only a few [units],” she said. On homelessness, she said she would be reticent to close the troubled D.C. General family shelter: “I think we have to have alternatives. … There’s no easy solutions. Everybody says, ‘Yes, we need more homeless shelters, but not in my neighborhood.'”

Tax reform: Schwartz said she was “very pleased” to see the D.C. Council pass a broad tax relief package as part of the fiscal 2015 budget. “We need to be competitive to attract residents,” she said. “We are not an island unto ourselves.” But she said she would have worked to remove the sales tax expansion to health clubs and other services — the so-called “yoga tax” or “gym tax” — before it went to final vote. “In that size budget, you could find a savings somewhere,” she said.

Mike DeBonis covers Congress and national politics for The Washington Post. He previously covered D.C. politics and government from 2007 to 2015.

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Mike DeBonis · June 9, 2014