Special Election Preview

A look at the six candidates in the D.C. Council special election April 23

April 16, 2013

At-Large DC council candidates, from left, Elissa Silverman, Perry Redd, Patrick Mara, Matthew Fruman, and Anita Bonds wait for a forum to begin. Paul Zukerberg arrived later.

Anita Bonds

Democrat
DC Democratic Party Chairwoman, and Interim Council Member

What is the single biggest problem or issue in the District right now?
The lack of affordable housing. Housing costs are skyrocketing, and families are being pushed into poverty; seniors are forced out of their homes, and families are forced into homelessness. … In 2010, the Delta Associates market research firm said that 42 percent of city households spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing. Tens of thousands of residents wait for public housing or federal rent vouchers. This trend has to be halted and reversed. I want the District to inspect assisted living facilities so that seniors are assured to live in comfortable environments. D.C. could help affordable housing by increasing rent control, continuing to fund the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, creating a permanent D.C. Council oversight committee to work on housing, and reforming housing agencies … Affordable housing is important to me. I cosponsored multiple D.C. Council bills that would help the housing problems.

What is the most promising trend that you see happening in the city?
The city’s rapid growth and surge of new residents. As of July 2012, North Dakota was the only state with a higher population growth rate. This growth shows that D.C. is a desired place to live and/or work. Although growth is occurring, long-term residents should be able to partake in the District’s progress and success.

Why is this election important?
The District needs leaders who can forge political compromises and restore trust in elected leaders. The council members have to conduct themselves appropriately, and processes have to be more transparent.


Matthew Frumin

Democrat
Ward 3 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner, Activist

What is the single biggest problem or issue in the District right now?
The feeling of many communities that they are being left behind in a period of tremendous growth, or even worse, that the growth is coming at their expense. The theme of my campaign is “Let’s Grow Together.” … The growth … is positive, but we have to make sure it benefits all of our communities … and does not divide us. That means ensuring great schools in all our neighborhoods, expanding affordable housing options, creating jobs for D.C. residents and making sure they have the skills to fill them, and fostering development and economic activity in our most underserved communities.

What is the most promising trend that you see happening in the city?
The growing volunteerism and activism of our residents. We have a proud tradition of progressive activism and support of equality, opportunity and diversity. We are now also benefiting from an influx of a new generation. … It is moving, for example, to tour Georgia Avenue and hear great, constructive ideas from longstanding community leaders about how to shape the coming growth to accommodate all residents, new and old. Likewise, I … am continually impressed by the dedication of parents and civic leaders working to create great schools.

Why is this election important?
We face real challenges relating to our approach to education and growth (and an opportunity on budget autonomy). We need to send a message that we are committed to great local schools in every community and … that while we value this period of growth, we want to make sure it benefits all of our communities.


Patrick Mara

Republican
Ward 1 representative to the D.C. State Board of Education

What is the single biggest problem or issue in the District right now?

Education reform and ethics. We can’t fix our schools if District government is broken.

What is the most promising trend that you see happening in the city?

Employment growth. Though there are still too many District residents who are in need of a good job, the trend is moving in the right direction. We have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country.

Why is this election important?

Every election is important. People need to vote. The D.C. Council will make decisions about how billions of dollars are spent and it will write laws that impact every District resident. I hope more people get engaged through voting and also by engaging elected officials. Our Democracy does not function properly when people are not involved in government.


Perry Redd

DC Statehood Green Party
Social justice activist

What is the single biggest problem or issue in the District right now?

Gentrification. Because of its divisive nature and it roots in racism, its tentacles reach into many facets of our social structure: economics, social relationships, value systems. It causes pain and destabilization at one extreme and great pride and conquest on the other — the material that wars are made of. Just like a human body, the whole cannot be healthy and effective if an extremity is injured.

What is the most promising trend that you see happening in the city?

I have many choices, from our vibrant nightlife to our cultural diversity. But for the sake of zeroing in, I would say the city’s slow but sure transition to hybrid-electric vehicles throughout the city. I believe that it is extremely difficult to find any Washingtonian opposed to green alternatives — regardless of ward or political loyalty. Going green affects health, psyche and the economy — all facets that enhance quality of life.

Why is this election important?

Because of the opportunity the city has to divert from old, infectious behaviors that have become normal: skirting the rules, favoritism, cronyism, factionism, nontransparency or outright inequality. Starting with this 13th seat on the council, we can either elect someone who will stand against all that has harmed us or elect a representative who will do as we have done before while expecting a different result. My vision is that we’ll do it different and get it right!


Elissa  Silverman

Democrat
Budget policy analyst

What is the single biggest problem or issue in the District right now?

Not getting the results we want from our investments. That’s true in schools, where we face a tremendous achievement gap and have been faced with the difficult task of having to close schools in neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River, where education should be the greatest source of hope for the future. It’s true in how we spend our dollars in job training, in which residents find there is no work in the end. And it’s true with our budget, which is nearly $10 billion dollars, yet we still have more than 600 homeless children and their moms and dads living in a dilapidated former hospital. …

What is the most promising trend that you see happening in the city?

The growth in both population and retail is promising, but change is hard. The city’s demographics are altering, and longtime residents, particularly African-American residents, are feeling the city is no longer for them. I will work as council member to make sure longtime residents feel D.C. is still their home and to welcome newer residents, as well.

Why is this election important?

Our public trust has been broken by the repeated scandals. … This election is another step toward restoring that trust, which has slowly been strengthened through the elections of Ward 5 council member Kenyan McDuffie and at-large council member David Grosso, who has endorsed me. My campaign is focused on ethics, accountability and making good strategic investments … I do not take corporate contributions, and I believe that is an important step toward ending the pay-to-play culture.


Paul Zukerberg

Democrat
Attorney

What is the single biggest problem or issue in the District right now?

Helping young people succeed in school, find good jobs and success with their careers and families. We are currently arresting twice as many young people for marijuana each year as we are graduating from high school. We are saddling young people with permanent criminal records, which derails their chances to find work or pursue their education. Meanwhile, a large percentage of our kids are assigned to failing schools, which don’t provide them with marketable skills. … Internships have replaced jobs. … Student loans are crippling. … Helping kids is our biggest single issue.

What is the most promising trend that you see happening in the city?

Same answer — our kids. This generation coming up … may be the most amazing generation of Americans ever. Surveys show they are confident, despite the recession and lack of jobs. They are connected in ways their elders never dreamed of. And they are the most open-minded and tolerant Americans who ever lived. … Thanks to young people, Obama is in the White House and marriage equality is the law of the land — changes that we old-timers could never have accomplished without them. … By any objective standard, we are truly blessed.

Why is this election important?

But what are we doing for kids coming up today? … This election is about kids, and what we can do to make their lives better. Decriminalization. Schools that teach marketable skills. Real jobs, with living wages. That’s what I have been fighting for. How long will I be able to keep fighting for kids? You all will let me know on April 23.

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