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  • D.C. Voters' Guide
  •   Election '98: The Mayoral Debate

    Thursday, June 25, 1998; Page J02

    A coalition of church leaders and community organizations sponsored a mayoral candidates forum at First Baptist Church in the Petworth section of Northwest Washington last week. The Rev. Donald Robinson moderated the event, which initially included four mayoral candidates: D.C. Council members Harold Brazil (D-At Large) and Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), businessman Jeffrey Gildenhorn and former chief financial officer Anthony A. Williams.

    A fifth candidate, D.C. Council member Kevin P. Chavous (D-Ward 7) attended a meeting in his home ward and arrived more than an hour after the First Baptist event began. He missed the moderated portion of the debate, from which the following responses were drawn. Each candidate's answer is unedited and presented in its entirety.

    ROBINSON: At best, we can say that the citizens of the District of Columbia, have an estranged, if not hostile, relationship with the Congress of the United States. I would like the candidates to take one minute and share with us, what is their relationship with the Congress and how would that relationship help us to restore home rule?

    BRAZIL: Thank you very much. I have spent 10 years either in the Congress or working with Congress. I'm former counsel to U.S. Senator John Glenn. I was also his legislative director during that time and I lobbied before the council for about 10 years. My delegation if you will, other than [D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes] Norton and perhaps [D.C. Del. Walter] Fauntroy during part of that time, was the Maryland delegation. I know all of them by first name basis. They know me in the Northern Virginia delegation.

    I have experience in the Congress. In fact, as a Ward 6 representative on the [D.C.] Council, I represented Congress and I think that is a particularly important credential because one of my first jobs, biggest jobs, as the next mayor is to get up on that Hill and repair the relationship between Congress and the best city in the United States. And it is going to take work and it takes experience and it takes know-how in terms how we think and what we do to represent ourselves on the Hill.

    EVANS: The next mayor is going to be a mayor who has to work with Congress in order to make sure that the home rule that was taken away from us is restored in the year 2001. I've had the unique advantage, in the last seven years, of being the regional representative from the D.C. Council. I've served as the chairman of the board of Metro for two of the last four years and the chairman of the board of the Council of Governments.

    And in those roles have had to develop, and do now have, a very close relationship with the regional congressional delegations. [U.S. Rep.] Tom Davis [R-Va.] was president of COG when I was chairman of the board. [U.S. Reps.] Jim Moran [D.-Va.], Connie Morella [R.-Md.], Al Wynn [D.-Md.] have all served in capacities in this regional organization and it is going to be those relationships that are critical not only in our relationship with Congress in restoring home rule but also in developing the regional mentality that has to exist in the future to make sure that Washington, D.C., and the whole region cooperate on the many issues that face our region. It is only through this cooperative effort that this whole region and the city itself can reach the plateaus and goals that we hope to achieve.

    GILDENHORN: I think the most important characteristic that your mayor has to have is respect for the Congress and the Congress has to have respect for the mayor. Respect is the most important. You know, there is an old saying, you can catch bees with honey and you don't catch them with anything else.

    I'm not saying that we should lie down, but I'm saying that we should deal with Congress, we should deal with the [D.C. financial] control board on a respectful note and they in turn should be dealing with us as equals and realizing that we in the future we'll be taking back democracy, which was taken from us. But we have to do it in a respectful manner and we also have to also coincide. The mayor has to work very closely with congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton [D-D.C.].

    WILLIAMS: I think the role of the mayor is really twofold. On one hand the new mayor has got to have, for all the reasons we've stated, good relations with the Congress and I think none of the candidates here offer a better relationship of respect for members of the Congress than Tony Williams.

    That's important, but I think there is also something more important. And that is, the new mayor has to be dedicated to a goal of uniting one city towards building an economy that will raise the consciousness of our nation. And what I mean by that is by managing this government so well, and this economy so well, that Congress will not dare to continue to deny our people their full democratic rights. We will raise the consciousness of the nation similar to what we've seen in South Africa, similar to what we have seen of every other denial of democratic principles around the world. The reason why it has happened here is because they have always had an excuse. The new mayor has to be dedicated to removing that excuse.

    ROBINSON: The D.C. public school system is being restructured and revitalized, according to its leaders. What will your administration do to truly make children first?

    BRAZIL: I think overall the most important thing that we can do for a school system, not being an educator, being a mayor, is to insist upon accountability. We have a school system that is dysfunctional. We have a school system that is not accountable to parents, to the rest of the government, to the citizens, and one of the things that I would demand or that I would change, I would create a, either a Department of Education or a system whereby the school system was, was obligated to report to the general government. Where the mayor could hire and fire the superintendent. To where the students and the teachers and the principals are all held accountable.

    If the students don't get their work done, they go to summer school. If the teachers can't teach, they either get trained or they find another job. If the school isn't working, then the principal needs to find another job. But adequate funding, and I would make schools a community hub for our families, and our children, and our neighborhood.

    EVANS: The problems facing our public school system here in the District of Columbia cannot be addressed in a minute, let alone an hour, and I have prepared a 24-page position that goes into depth [with] the solutions that I propose. But I will share some of them with the limited time that I have.

    I truly believe that the next mayor has to be very involved in the school system, which has not been possible up to this point in time except in the bully pulpit role because of the structure of the system. I have proposed and will continue to propose that a home-rule charter be made that the mayor does have the power to hire and fire the superintendent and also have line-item veto powers in the school system's budget. The elected school board will continue to act as the school board in a counsel type of role to the school system. This brings the major on the front line and brings in the accountability that I believe is necessary. Secondly, school-based performance and budgeting is an absolute, essential component of any reevaluation of how our school system is going to work.

    GILDENHORN: I think the question was why our children's test scores low and I think I want to answer that question. We have a problem. We have a big problem. They have teachers and our teachers and a lot of them are demoralized. Some children unfortunately -- they come from single parent homes, they come from broken homes. Some kids, they disrupt classes of the good kids that want an education. I have heard of situations where teachers have been beat up on. And a principal will come in and the next thing you know the teacher is fired. Not the child be reprimanded, but the teacher being fired.

    Our teachers have got to be respected. Our teachers have got to get pay raises. Our teachers have got to be taught. Our teachers have got to know that we care about them, and we will do everything in the world to make sure that our kids get a good education but we've got to go to bat for our teachers.

    WILLIAMS: The most important thing the next mayor can do to aid our children and to aid their education is to bring all the parties together and there are about 12-13 or 14 that I could name for you -- all the parties together in one place at one time to devote themselves to a strategy to educat[ion] our children.

    I'm talking about Parents United, PTAs, the control board, the board of trustees -- all the different players together in one place, committed to one strategy that is based on school-based management, that is based on all the needs of our children before, during and after school and that is based on real results on a school basis.

    ROBINSON: The next question involves jobs and job training. A significant number of young adults, especially African American males, are seen in our streets languishing in apathy and hopelessness. Many have grown despondent because they see few, if any, opportunities for people such as themselves. [Do you] envision a comprehensive job and job training initiative, which would put these young men and women to work, restore hope in their lives, broaden the city's tax base and create a climate of optimism?

    BRAZIL: I know sooner or later you'll allow me to go at the end, but being first is something I plan to do on Sept. 15. Job training is so very, very important. Number one, we need to gin up our economy. We have got to make sure that we stimulate the economy, that we create jobs, that we bring new opportunities in in technology, in telecommunications, and the convention center which created, or will create 10,000 new jobs, 13 new hotels, 3,000 to 4,000 new jobs. So you do that number one, and then you put resources into training, training that works. You have to have accountability there as well.

    EVANS: And I have to say that one of the keys is going to be to create a business-friendly environment which does not currently exist in the District of Columbia. Keep in mind that 70 percent of America is employed by small business, and today in the District of Columbia it is very difficult to get a small business started or to sustain it for a number of reasons that have to do with tax laws, regulatory environment, safety and other issues.

    And as mayor, as a council member, and as mayor I have attempted to and will address many of those issues. I've had very firsthand experience with this in my ward with the construction of the MCI Center and the proposed convention center. We in the Shaw community have worked diligently with the District government, with the developers to make sure that the people that I represent get job training and get the jobs that are created from these economic development projects. That firsthand experience that I have had, and it has worked successfully, I intend to translate into the District government when I am in charge of it and not working at odds with it.

    GILDENHORN: You may recall my opening statement had to do with jobs and trade schools, so reverend, you and I are on the same page. I want to continue a follow-up on that -- on my opening statement [regarding] jobs and trade schools. I have been east of the river. I have been in Ward 8. In fact, there is a young lady here, Sandra Seagers from Ward 8. We spent a little bit of time over there and the most important thing that people need over there -- they want jobs. They want to get off the street. They don't want to be on the streets and we can do it for them, but you have to create the atmosphere to create the jobs for them.

    First they need the training. Work could be such a beautiful sight, to establish a trade school, to establish affordable housing, to establish a city within a city -- and I'm referring to the property on St. Elizabeths that overlooks Anacostia -- beautiful area to build housing, to build a hospital, to build a job corps, to build trade schools, to build a shopping center. We can do it. All you have to do is just use your imagination and have the will to do it and we can all work together. Thank you.

    WILLIAMS: A couple things. You know, a mayor has to be dedicated toward connecting people on welfare to the world of work. People who have been incarcerated and are now released -- rehabilitating them for the world of work. And from school to work. We have got to do that through a number of different devices in a growing economy. We all know that, but this reminds me of the gonna, gonna, gonna. I'm going to do this. I'm going to do this. I'm going to do this. And I ask you -- look behind the curtain and ask yourself who is, has been at the helm while the District had [left] unspent millions of dollars in training money? Who was at the helm when the District was spending other millions of dollars of training money and was not training its people? Look behind the curtain, look at the record.

    © Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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