Q&A With Kevin Chavous
Good afternoon and welcome to a special edition of "Levey Live." I'm Washington Post columnist Bob Levey, your host.
"Levey Live" normally appears each Tuesday from noon to 1 p.m. Eastern time. Today, we offer a special edition…another in a series of shows devoted to the campaign for mayor of Washington, D.C.
Chavous, 42, has represented Ward Seven (Southeast Washington) for two terms on the D.C. Council. A lawyer by training, he has emphasized education and labor issues.
Your questions and comments for Kevin Chavous are welcome throughout the hour.
You may submit questions now.
washington, DC: I view your vote against the proposed Convention Center at Mt. Vernon Square as a courageous one, putting "neighborhoods before business". How can DC citizens have more direct control on how and if their neighborhoods change.
Kevin Chavous: As Mayor, I would appoint members to the Zoning Board that respect a neighborhood-friendly approach to economic development. Such an approach would lead to citizens having more say in what gets put in their neighborhoods. That's why I voted against the Convention Center, because many Shaw resdients were against the proposal.
Washington DC: You have been chairman of the D.C. Council's Education Committee. As everyone knows the DC Public School system is horrible. Public schools are better run in developing countries (not that DC shouldn't be considered a developing city - it is). What immediate steps would you take to improve the school system? I would assume some house cleaning would be in order.
Kevin Chavous: I've been chair of the committee for the last year and half, and have promoted student achievement as a top priority for the schools. In addition, we need to insititute school-based management, get better principals and teachers, and move toward longer school days and longer school years. The Mayor can play a major role in coordinating social services that touch children outside of the school day. I will work to make that happen.
Bob Levey: From a Kevin Chavous position paper: "I am not in this race to be the Mayor of the Department of Recreation. I'm running to be the chief executive officer and primary policy maker of the District of Columbia." But how can you be if the job of mayor has virtually no power, and won't for at least 18 months?
Kevin Chavous: There is no greater power than the power of the people. Anyone who is elected as the peoples' representative in a city such as ours has an incredible bully pulpit from which policy and city priorities can be articulated. Substantively, the Mayor still prepares the budget and appoints the entire cabinet. That gives the new Mayor enormous leverage in directing future vision of the city. Moreover, we must be prepared for the return of Home Rule within two years.
washington, d.c.: what will you do to remove drug dealers and bootleggers from the corners or areas near liquor stores in the d.c. area. I live in your ward and think that liquor store traffic breeds illegal drug and liquor activities. Neighborhoods in upper northwest that do not have as many liquor stores in their residential neighborhoods don't have the same kind of problems that I have on my street.
Kevin Chavous: As you may know, I had passed a liquor license moratorium, which limited the number of new liquor stores in our city. I also had passed legislation which would allow us to shut down crack houses by having them declared as nuisance properties. The real challenge for Chief Ramsey is to make sure we implement a lot of the laws that will allow us to shut down these drug areas. One additional remedy is to have a more visible police presence. I believe the Chief could place an addtional 1,000 officers on the street today.
Washington DC - Georgetown: The DC Government is a mess and it has been for many years (ever since Mayor Barry has been around). Would you be willing, if elected Mayor, to make the decisions that need to be made to put this city on the right track - ie over-haul the DC Government system and its workers?
Kevin Chavous: Yes. I am more than willing to make the tough decisions necessary for our government to perform at a more efficient level. I am absolutely committed to providing our citizens with a consumer-driven, user-friendly approach to service delivery. In other words, "bad attitude" will not be tolerated. We also must provide our work force with the tools they need to do the job.
Bob Levey: Do you view Anthony Williams as the man to beat?
Kevin Chavous: Frankly, Bob, I view Kevin Chavous as the man to beat. I have been pleased to notice that when undecided voters hear all of the candidates, most of them come our way. So we know our message is resonating. The challenge over the next two weeks is to make sure that our message penetrates as well. If we get our supporters to the polls, I believe we will win.
There is general agreement that the city government is to unresponsive and too large. What would you do as Mayor to fix these large problems? What have you done in your current position on these problems?
Kevin Chavous: As mayor, I would change the city priority focus from downtown to the neighborhood level. That means a renewed emphasis on city services and improving our neighborhood commercial shopping districts. I am equally committed to reducing the size of government where necessary. I do believe, however, that reform is not measured by the numbers of employees on the payroll. Our challenge is to match service delivery to the particular needs of our citizens.
Washington, DC: As a Gay mom of a nine year old daughter, I was wondering what you had planned to offer the Gay community of Washington DC.
Kevin Chavous: One of the beautiful things about Washington is its diverse, multicultural population. That is a strength to be celebrated more than we have in the past. I am committed to offering the same services of good government to gay citizens, as well as other citizens in the District.
Bob Levey: Your notion of economic growth for Washington--growth in the neighborhoods, not just in downtown--is very different from the proposals of your opponents. But how would you accomplish this? Most neighborhood businesses have failed or moved to the suburbs long ago.
Kevin Chavous: I would approach neighborhood commercial development from the perspective of determining what goods and services are lacking in a given community, and then aggressively trying to get those services. This can be accomplished by creative partnerships between private developers and the city. The city can offer tax incentives and provide infrastructure support, as well as working to assemble land necessary for development. This is how we built the MCI Arena. I would just like to see the same approach applied to our neighborhoods.
Laurel, Md: I am a handicapped commuter working here in the city. I have thought about moving into DC but never will due to the following: The city employees who write tickets have tagged my car nearly twenty times since 1996 for "expired meters". You cannot have an expired meter offense when you have a legal handicapped placard on your car. I have spent nearly $150 fighting these tickets. If a ticket writer cannot do their job correctly then no wonder this city is in such bad shape. What will you do if elected mayor to correct employee incompetance and indifference in this city??
Kevin Chavous: I am pleased to tell you that the city will be taking a totally different approach to ticket writing. No longer will our ticket writers be expected to meet a quota. I am also pressing our city administrator to give more latitude to hearing examiners, so that they can dismiss tickets similar to the ones you're referring to.
Half an hour remaining with our guest, D.C. mayoral candidate Kevin Chavous.
Bob Levey: Most of the jobs created by the new convention center will be union jobs. So why did organized labor endorse you if you opposed the convention center?
Kevin Chavous: I believe labor endorsed me because I was honest and straight-forward with them when responding to their questions. They appreciated the fact that I did not agree with them on every issue and was not afraid to tell them that. They also know that I am committed to giving our work force the tools they need to do the job. In return, my expectation is that our workers will treat the citizens with the respect they deserve.
Washington, DC: I currently live in Arlington, just across the river. I'm sincerely interested in moving into the city because I believe in it and think it has so many amenities. Unfortunately, my fiancee is not as convinced. She wants to see a lower income tax and other things before we could do it. Any thoughts?
Kevin Chavous: As a Council member, I have been a long-standing supporter of reducing taxes across the board. I honestly would prefer a pure flat tax approach. As Mayor, I would establish a goal toward tax parity with Maryland and Virginia as much as possible.
Bob Levey: Why do you oppose additional gambling in the District of Columbia? Would you change your stance if Maryland permits slot machines at racetracks (and therefore attracts lots of D.C. bucks to Maryland that might otherwise "stay at home")?
Kevin Chavous: Bob, I am unalterably opposed to gambling in the District of Columbia. While I understand that gambling may be attractive to a lot of states, I have hard time accepting riverboat casinos within plain view of the Capitol.
Capitol Hill: Anthony Williams, as CFO, closed six public health clinics and has tried to close DC General Hospital -- what is your position on the need for the only public hospital in the District and the need for public community clinics? Also, Williams proposed cutting meals on wheels and other health programs for the elderly -- what is your position on the need for these services?
Kevin Chavous: We must keep D.C. General and our public health clinics open for our indigent citizens. It is unfortunate that Anthony Williams has demonstrated a lack of commitment to our seniors, our youth and to indigent health care needs. As Mayor, I would fight to keep these clinics intact.
Bob Levey: "The Kevin Chavous Campaign Look" hasn't exactly taken Gentlemen's Quarterly by storm. Still, you ARE the only candidate to wear a bright red polo shirt and khakis. Why this outfit everywhere you go?
Kevin Chavous: Bob, I know you have connections. If I can't make Gentlemen's Quarterly with my red polo shirt and khakis, could you help me find an appropriate venue to display my sartorial skills?
silver spring, maryland:
If I was a resident of Washington, D.C. you would be my choice as mayor. Question:
Kevin Chavous: Thank you for your support. With respect to those who endorse other candidates, let me just say that one of the problems the District has suffered through is back room dealing and business as usual. That's not a part of my agenda or my approach to governing.
Washington, DC: Mr. Chavous: Why should DC voters support you since DC home rule was repealed while you were serving on the DC council? Doesn't Council deserve some blame for the DC's fiscal problems?
Kevin Chavous: There is enough blame to go around for our fiscal problems. When I was elected five years ago, I aggressively worked to instill fiscal discipline in our budget process. It should also be noted that the Council was the first body to balance the budget two years ago. Many of us fought with the status quo to make the tough decisions. Now the city has turned the corner financially.
Bob Levey: Every candidate says fixing the public schools has to be top priority. But how do you do that when more and more parents are shipping out to charter schools, independent schools, private schools and parochial schools as soon as they can?
Kevin Chavous: Admittedly, we've had a lot of problems with our schools, but I do believe things are getting better. For the first time in years, test scores were up in our schools. We also have replaced nearly a quarter of our principals, and have increased teacher compensation so that we may recruit newer and more energetic teachers. If we can truly develop the neighborhood school concept, which allows schools to be community hubs, then the system will do a better job of educating our children and providing services for our citizens.
NW DC: If you get elected as a mayor what would do to alleviate the nightmarish traffic problem in the District.
Kevin Chavous: First, we need a city-wide and region-wide traffic study. Other cities have had such studies performed. These studies allow us to take into account demographic changes and population shifts in order to better address traffic problems. Second, we need a regional transportation plan which would allow us to promote public transportation, not just from the District's perspective, but also from the perspective of our Maryland and Virginia neighbors.
Washington DC: Why should the people of the District of Columbia trust you to manage the ENTIRE city when the ward you are currently managing is in such disrepair (drug infested, high unemployment, high crime, horrible schools) and has been for so long?
Kevin Chavous: I have worked very hard to improve conditions for residents in my ward. Unfortunately, however, as a legislator, I have not had the opportunity nor the power to manage service delivery in Ward 7. As Mayor, I would be in a stronger position to develop and implement policy that would benefit my neighbors in Ward 7.
Bob Levey: Whoever becomes the city's next mayor, he or she will follow Marion Barry, who has done grave harm to the city's image. Can the next mayor rebuild that image quickly, or will the Barry legacy linger?
Kevin Chavous: The city faces a golden opportunity to move beyond the Barry years and reclaim its role as one of America's truly great cities. Frankly, the next Mayor will play a pivotal role in setting the right tone and providing the right leadership to move the city forward in a positive manner. We are the nation's capital and the Mayor should provide leadership, not just for our citizens, but also should be an example for the world to follow. I believe we can turn our image around relatively quickly, similar to other cities that have changed their images, such as Cleveland, New York, and Philadelphia.
That's it for today. Thanks to Kevin Chavous for appearing. Be sure to join us next Tuesday, Sept. 1, for the regular edition of "Levey Live." Bob will be taking on all questions and all comers from his seaside vacation site in California.