Q&A With Harold Brazil
Welcome to "Levey Live." I'm Washington Post columnist Bob Levey,your host.
"Levey Live" appears each Tuesday from noon to 1 p.m. Eastern time. It's your chance to talk directly to major newsmakers and key Washington Post editors and reporters.
Today, we continued our series of special shows on candidates for the office of D.C. mayor.
Brazil, 49, represented Ward Six on the Council from 1991 until 1996. In 1996, he was elected to an at-large seat. He has been especially active in the areas of public safety and budget reform. A lawyer by training, he is married and the father of two children. He lives on Capitol Hill.
1. As Mayor, what will you do with reference to closing Lorton Prison?
Harold Brazil: I will work to ensure the orderly and fair transition of the Lorton employees to the Federal Bureau of Prisons system or other employment.
College Park, Maryland: Mr.Brazil, I am very concerned about the educating the students in the District of Columbia. A report was published in the Post a few weeks ago claiming the number of summer school students was at an unprecedented high. I do not believe the problems of D.C public school situation is that the students are dumb or not talented nor do I believe the teachers are awful. The problem lies with the D.C. School Board which his hideously out of control and whose members are not in sync with each other. What can be done to remedy the problems (unsafe school buildings, student to book ratio) in the school system?
Harold Brazil: Recently, I unveiled the Brazil Parents Bill of Rights, which will protect our children and ensure them a quality education. As mayor, I would institute zero tolerance for guns and drugs in schools, expel disruptive, dangerous students, conduct criminal background checks for all school employees, and reduce class sizes from K-8. I would put computers in every classroom, impose tougher re-certification and evaluation standards on teachers and provide better training for teachers and full funding for after school and enrichment programs.
Bob Levey: During the campaign, you've positioned yourself as a former Congressional staff member who can work closely with Congress. But isn't the immediate challenge to get the city's finances in order so the Control Board goes out of business?
Harold Brazil: We have to balance the budget and spend our money efficiently and wisely. And we must learn how to better manage the government. But the power and the resources flow from Congress. Accordingly, I would immediately begin to work to develop a positive and productive relationship with Congress. I would meet with every member of Congress within the first 200 days of my administration and would meet with the leadership and the members of the Maryland and Northern Virginia delegations to discuss my vision for Washington and to explore areas for mutual cooperatiion.
Harold Brazil: There was no one on the Council or in the elected government that was more vocal in their opposition to the President's take-over plan than me. I opposed the complete take-over of the District's criminal justice system and the court system and the proposed take-over of the $2.5 billion in pension fund assets. As a result, the federal government left $1.2 billion for the future pensioners, which is the responsibility of the local government. I have been the most vocal on the Council in opposition to unbalanced budgets, cronyism, and mismanagement. And I have opposed the Control Board when they have been wrong.
Silver Spring, MD: Let's get down to some specifics. I, like most pedestrians, have almost been run over by the bicycle messengers on many occasions. Any plans for licensing these two wheeled terrors?
Harold Brazil: They should be licensed or perhaps leashed. We need police officers downtown directing traffic and their presence would slow down these two-wheeled scofflaws.
Washington, DC: What is your position concerning a commuter tax on those who live in the suburbs but work in the District?
Harold Brazil: Many cities have commuter taxes and there is no philosophical or other justification to bar them here. However, politically, such a tax is not viable. Nonetheless, the loss of revenue has to be made up in some way. The federal government should assist us in lowering the local business and personal taxes to the tune of $600 million. This is consistent with the analysis of the Brookings Institution in their report entitled "The Orphaned Capital."
Half an hour remaining with our guest, D.C. mayoral candidate Harold Brazil.
Shepherd Park, DC: Why did you change your vote on Children's Island? And, can you see why people are/were so concerned with your vote on this issue?
Harold Brazil: I was the only one to vote against the Children's Island theme park in 1993. At that time, I was the Ward 6 councilman--the island is in that Ward. Also in 1993, there was a proposed new Jack Kent Cook football stadium, the proposed Barney Circle Highway, and potentially a large traffic and parking problem. In 1995, the Congress voted to support the project. In December 1997, I voted in support of the development of Children's Island. At that time, I represented the entire city as Councilman At-Large. The project promised over 2,000 jobs. The proposal for the stadium was dead, the Barney Circle Freeway was dead, and accordingly, the environmental threat to the area had subsided. Further, the vote was for a conditional approval of the project. An environmental impact statement was required, as well as detailed analyses of the financing and viability of the project. And, by the way, two of my opponents in this election changed their vote after having written members of Congress in 1995 urging their approval for the project. Finally, contrary to what the opponents of the project said, Children's Island is a man-made island that had been used for a trash dump for at least two decades. Under the proposal, the hazardous materials would have had to been cleaned up.
Bob Levey: Race is always an issue in D.C., either loudly or softly. How do you see the race issue playing in the current campaign?
Harold Brazil: Washington's white population appears to be more fond of Williams, although I'm not entirely sure why. I would urge all voters to look at the records of the candidates and their character, honesty, and integrity, as well as their vision for education and our future, which is our children. They should try to make an informed but independent decision and not rely on the media or someone else's judgment on who could best lead Washington. By the way, that goes for the rest of the population too. I recently unveiled the Parents Bill of Rights, which is a blueprint for protecting our children and preparing them for the future.
Washington D.C.: Handguns have been outlawed in DC for many years but crimes keep being committed by people with guns. Do you have any ideas of how to get rid of the handguns in the city so they are really gone once and for all?
Harold Brazil: Handguns are too plentiful in our society. We should enforce our gun laws and mete out stiff punishment for their violation. Rather than having dragnets for seatbelt violations, we should use such techniques to look for guns and drugs. We need to beef up our anti-gun task force and request additional assistance from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to go into areas of the city where we know there is drug and weapons activity. We also should use education as a tool against guns and violence. We must start to teach our children at an early age that guns and violence are wrong and will not be tolerated by society.
Bob Levey: Follow-up on the schools question, and your answer: How can the next Mayor affect D.C. schools in any way? The schools are not under the Mayor's control.
Harold Brazil: The budget is a very powerful tool in establishing the priorites of governemnt, including education. As mayor, I would make education my number one priority in the budget. However, I would demand strict accountability for the use of those funds and ensure that they made their way into the classroom, as opposed to a fat central administration. The mayor's power of persuasion and influence in the area of education is also a strong tool. I would work in partnership with school officials, parents and teachers, businesses and others to ensure quality education. I also would seek additional federal assistance. And if this cooperative approach fails, I would seek to gain direct authority over the schools, pursuant to a referendum. Ultimately, I, as mayor, would be accountable to the citizens for the schools.
As a student at a DC univeristy, I constantly saw how difficult it was for universities to work with irrational neighbors be it housing issues at GW, the AU law school building or group housing overlays at Georgetown.
Harold Brazil: I believe the students at our universities are an asset. I would work to make sure that they have what they need to obtain a quality education and enter our work force when they graduate. And I would work with neighbors and students to iron out whatever difficulties arise.
Bob Levey: The Post recently reported that you had changed campaign strategies and had become much more aggressive. "My issues weren't sexy," the Post quoted you as saying. Are your issues sexy now? What are your chief ones?
Harold Brazil: Unfortunately, fixing the government isn't sexy. My reform efforts include pension management reform, procurement reform, business regulatory reform, and the Government Managers Accountability Bill. And although education isn't necessarily sexy either, it is my singular message that our children are our future and their education will be a top priority of the Brazil administration. In addition, I will not be afraid to point out the deficiencies in my opponents' records and rhetoric.
Adams Morgan, DC: The eternal struggle for all residents of DC: Parking. I am wondering if you have any proposals to improve parking for residents in areas trafficked by many tourists/suburbanites.
Harold Brazil: No one on the Council has been a bigger critic of Wahsington's predatory parking practices than I have. I introduced and passed the Nighttime Moratorium on Residential Parking Enforcement--it made it a little easier for residents to park closer to their homes and beat the mugger into the door. However, I was foiled by Mayor Barry, who refused to promulgate implementing regulations. I fought with past Mayor Kelly over parking and forced her to develop a six point parking plan, including being courteous to motorists. And I support the building of municipal parking lots wherever available, including Adams Morgan.
That's it for today. Thanks to our guest, Harold Brazil. Be sure to join us tomorrow for a special edition of "Levey Live" at a special time--1 to 2 p.m. Eastern time. Our guest will be Republican mayoral candidate Carol Schwartz.