District residents at a mayoral candidate forum in upper Northwest Washington last night had one issue on their minds: development and how it will affect their neighborhoods.
The five Democratic candidates for mayor all pledged that they would not support any development without the input of residents.
D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp used her incumbent's status to gain favor with the crowd of about 300. Cropp said she planned to meet today with Ellen McCarthy, the city's interim director of planning, and will emphasize the need to place great weight on the opinions of residents in the planning process.
"Is planning perfect for the District of Columbia?" Cropp asked. "Absolutely not. Should there be citizen involvement? Yes."
Cropp and her opponents in the mayoral race, including two council colleagues, said that the city's comprehensive plan, which is under review, should not just be a document written by bureaucrats.
The comprehensive plan, which guides the city's growth and development, has not been reviewed since 1985.
Revisions are scheduled to be completed in the spring. Public hearings will follow, and the council will review the planning strategy in the summer.
The forum was held in the Tenleytown neighborhood, where residents have been at odds in recent years over development along Wisconsin Avenue NW and over whether construction should be restricted to the three- and four-story height of the buildings that line the avenue.
Candidate Marie C. Johns, a former telecommunications executive, received positive feedback when she said Tenleytown residents "could write the book" on resident involvement in city planning.
Michael A. Brown, a lobbyist, said the mayor is supposed to help "you get want you want. It should start with neighborhoods first. I think we have things backwards."
Council member Adrian M. Fenty (Ward 4) said he started out as an advisory neighborhood commissioner and recognizes the need to listen to community advocates.
"People are worried that we will put together a plan without meaningful input," he said. "We must come out with a planning process from the ground up."
Council member Vincent B. Orange Sr. (Ward 5) said education, employment and economic development must be integrated if the city is to move forward. He said he would "engage as many folks as possible."
"We have a strong foundation to build on," Orange said. "We have to bring the city together."
Some residents said they were pleased that the candidates addressed resident involvement.
"This whole issue of development and growth is the biggest issue in our city," said Elizabeth Elliott, who lives in Foggy Bottom. "They gave a lot of lip service and said, 'Let's get the community involved.' My question is, are they going to translate it into paying attention to the community?"