Community issues ranging from a street repaving to concerns about whites moving to predominately black neighborhoods are sparking interest in the usually moribund Advisory Neighborhood Commission elections.
District residents will elect their ANC representatives during the Nov. 6 general election.
"The whole reason I'm running is that there are a couple of compelling issues, some rezoning petitions for some commercial development south of Columbia Road that need to be addressed," said Dave Kooy, 27, a newcomer to Adams-Morgan who is seeking to unseat incumbent Ed Jackson, a longtime activist in the area.
Jackson said he is running on his record. "I'm telling them how I've helped the community realize a number of its major goals . . . and how I got new curbs and pavement on the 2400 block of Ontario Street ," he said.
The city's 37 ANCs, which are made up of 323 single-member districts of approximately 2,000 residents each, were created to give city residents a voice in official decisions that affect their communities.
This year's emphasis on issues results from the record number of candidates vying for ANC seats. Half of the races have more than one candidate in the aftermath of redistricting and an information campaign by the city's board of elections to educate residents about the commissions
.Candidates in past years could rely on a few write-in votes to win. But many of this year's hopefuls say that they expect a large turnout and that they turned to neighborhood issues to differentiate themselves from their opponents.
In the LeDroit Park-University Heights ANC in Northwest, candidate J. Tony Jones said the voters are insisting that ANC candidates wrestle with local issues. "I was drafted as a candidate" by an active block organization in the area, he said. "They asked me to speak to them about my concerns, and then they asked me to help them . . . get a police call box that was converted into a pay phone pulled out there at 15th and U Street. . . . They think it just encourages the drug dealers there," he said.
In a three-way race with no incumbent in American University Park, the battle has focused on the increasing number of commercial development projects encircling the quiet Northwest enclave of expensive homes and tree-lined streets.
"I've just begun to fight," said Steve Inkellis, a lawyer who has lived in the area for about five years. "I'm telling the voters that we can help . . . shape what's coming. We can have a say in the height, the facades, the impact on traffic and parking in the area."
Another candidate, Erling Hansen, a 12-year resident of the community, said, "The issue is how to scale down these developments."
The third candidate, Sharon Crowel, a newcomer to the neighborhood, said she is emphasizing that integrating the new developments with the community is more important than fighting them. "There are lots of ways we stand to benefit from all this, but we should be working to change things like parking regulations and Metrobus routes here to protect the neighborhood," she said.
In Southwest, ANC aspirant Lavonnia Johnson said that while she is concerned about a proposal to build a trade center on the waterfront and a plan to move a Metrobus garage to the neighborhood, "The issue right now is the vacant building beside Greenleaf public housing they say they are going to fix up into housing for seniors.
"There's still terrible problems at Greenleaf , folks without heat and there's rats and leaks. . . " she said. If they fix the vacant building at 1200 Delaware Ave. but make no improvements to the surrounding projects, " . . . it's just going to alienate the people in this single-member district ," she said.
Johnson's opponent, Eula Porter, is keeping her campaign similarly neighborhood-centered. "I'm telling people that if elected I will do something about those men who are hanging around Half Street all day," she said.
On Capitol Hill, redistricting has pitted incumbent Leonard Hacker, a white psychologist who moved to the area about seven years ago, against another incumbent, Flossie A. Lee, a popular black activist and longtime resident of the area.
The consolidation of a predominately white district with a predominately black one has led to charges and countercharges of racism from the camps, according to the minutes of a recent ANC meeting.
"This area needs a strong commission," Hacker said. "If I lose because my opponent is a better candidate, that's one thing. But I don't want it to be on a racist issue . . . . A close race serves all the constituents. A racist race does no one any good."
Lee said, "I am not approaching this campaign on the basis of color, not a bit. I'm doing it on my record only."