21 PROGRESSIVE GOALS FOR WARD 3

[Click on each goal to see more details.]

FISCAL RESPONSIBILTY AND TAX RELIEF

  1. Ensure a more fiscally responsible District government.
  2. Cap the growth of property taxes for homeowners to the rate of inflation.
  3. Lower the tax burden for District residents and businesses by establishing tax equality with Maryland and Virginia.

IMPROVING THE DISTRICT’S EDUCATION AND LIBRARY SYSTEM

  1. Advance an educational curriculum that ensures that all public school students will be prepared for college or employment upon graduation.
  2. Give our District youth the modern and safe public schools they deserve.
  3. Provide after-school and summer opportunities for all District of Columbia youth.
  4. Fight for full funding to renovate neighborhood libraries.

WARD 3 QUALITY OF LIFE ISSUES

  1. Represent Ward 3 as an accessible and responsive Councilmember and demand the same from District government agencies.
  2. Ensure that development in Ward 3 progresses in a way that is compatible with the Ward 3 Comprehensive Plan, which supports the city’s goal to stimulate overall economic development and recognizes the unique and strongly residential nature of this Ward.
  3. Protect the environment and preserve public green space.
  4. Work to see that the residents of Spring Valley receive adequate information and protection from environmental hazards.
  5. Preserve the Whitehurst Freeway, until a viable transportation alternative is presented.

ENSURING EQUALITY FOR ALL D.C. RESIDENTS

  1. Fight for equal voting rights in Congress for District residents.
  2. Fight for equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (GLBTQ) District residents.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING AND EMPLOYMENT

  1. Preserve affordable rental housing and provide middle-income residents with the ability to achieve the dream of home ownership.
  2. Establish a living wage for all D.C. workers.
  3. Provide job skills training and employment opportunities for previously incarcerated persons.

PUBLIC SAFETY

  1. Ensure that the Metropolitan Police Department has sufficient, highly-trained and responsive officers patrolling D.C. neighborhoods.
  2. Work with leaders of the Fire Department and representatives from Emergency Medical Services to resolve conflicts surrounding the structure of emergency medical services.

ENSURING QUALITY HEALTH CARE

  1. Improve preventative health care in the District of Columbia.
  2. Expand programs for HIV education, outreach, and treatment.

FISCAL RESPONSIBILTY AND TAX RELIEF

  1. Ensure a more fiscally responsible District government.

The District of Columbia has experienced an economic renaissance over the past decade.  The mid-1990’s, years plagued by budget deficits, a Financial Control Board, and junk budget status now seem like a distant memory.   The District currently has a $1.5 billion cumulative general fund balance, “A” grade bond ratings, and has had nine consecutive balanced budgets.  City leaders, such as Mayor Williams, Council Chairman Cropp, Finance Committee Chairman Evans, and District CFO Dr. Gandhi deserve tremendous credit for this remarkable financial turnaround.

However…

I am very concerned about the recent growth of government spending.  The District’s budget has seen a double-digit average annual growth the past four years.  This growth has been fueled almost exclusively by a surge in real property taxes, brought on by the District’s real estate boom.  The largest percentage of the growth is attributable to commercial property market, which has experienced growth of 15 to 20 percent, and an extremely low office vacancy rate.  While real estate experts differ on whether the real estate bubble will eventually burst, I think everyone can agree that the District’s real estate market will slow down at some point in the not-so-distant future. Also, with substantial commercial space recently opening up in Arlington, the possibility exists of businesses moving into this space to take advantage of lower tax rates in the suburbs.

In order to keep the District of Columbia moving in the right direction, I plan to introduce the Fiscal Responsibility Emergency Act of 2007 if elected to the D.C. Council.  This legislation will require the Mayor to submit a budget to the Council that increases no more than 5% over the previous year’s approved budget.  The reason I selected a 5% growth cap is because the income of D.C. residents has risen, on average between 5% and 6% annually.  I believe the government should spend the money it is given by taxpayers with the same care that our residents manage their own money. 

In addition to curbing spending growth there are some areas that can immediately be cut.  The new Mayor should examine positions within various agencies that are performing duplicative work.  The most obvious example are the Offices of the Deputy Mayors, which I believe to be a superfluous function that actually removes accountability from agencies directors.  Councilmember Catania has often spoken during budget debates about how the budget for our Executive Office of the Mayor is larger than the budget for the Office of the Governor in many large states. 

If District revenues are received in excess of a 5% growth cap, I would propose returning all recurring revenue above 5% to the taxpayers under the Taxpayer Equality Act of 2007. Any revenue that is not forecast over the four-year financial plan would be dedicated to paying off the District’s high debt per capita.   Debt per capita is the amount of money owed by every District resident to repay our government’s capital borrowing.  The District’s debt per capita is approximately $8,000, far exceeding any state.  The District’s Chief Financial Officer has warned that accumulating too much debt could cause a reduction in the City’s bond rating.  Thus, for the future stability of the District economy, paying down City’s debt per capita is a very prudent course.

Passing this legislation before the next budget will send a strong message to District taxpayers that the Council is serious about making spending more efficient, rather than just looking to spend more.

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  1. Cap the growth of property taxes for homeowners to the rate of inflation

The District of Columbia’s real estate boom has left many of its residents feeling “house rich” but “cash poor”.  What I mean by this is that many District residents’ homes have soared in value, yet, since most homeowners do not want to sell their homes, they are forced to struggle with how to pay for the soaring taxes on their property. These high taxes can even force some long-time District residents to sell their homes because they can no longer pay property taxes on them.

During my time serving as the Committee Clerk for Committee on Finance and Revenue, I have been able to work with Council’s champion of property tax reduction, Committee Chairman Jack Evans.  I have been able to work with Mr. Evans in drafting legislation that has:

All of this legislation is now law.

The 10 percent cap that we have in place now provides some very significant protection to homeowners.  However, I believe 10% is still too sharp of an increase for most homeowners when income in the District of Columbia has only been going up between 5% and 6% annually.  For seniors on fixed incomes, a 10% annual increase can quickly become unaffordable. 

In order to allow D.C. residents to continue to be able to afford living in their homes, I am proposing the Property Tax Relief Act of 2007.  This legislation will reduce the growth in an owner-occupied residential property’s taxable assessment to the rate of inflation by tying it to the Consumer Price Index.  This legislation will also lower the residential property calculated rate to 5 percent.  Thus, if the total residential real property in the District of Columbia increases by greater than 5 percent, residents will see an additional reduction to the tax rate.  This legislation will also add an inflationary increase to the Homestead Deduction so that the value of this tax benefit does not erode over time.  Finally, this legislation will allow for the transferability of the property tax cap if a resident wants to move from one house to another in the District of Columbia.

I also plan to introduce another piece of property tax relief legislation that provides the same coverage to condominium owners with parking spaces under the property tax cap as is currently given to residents who have driveways in a single-family home.  Currently, if one owns a single family home in the District of Columbia with a driveway or attached parking garage, one’s parking space is included under the 10% cap.  However, if one is a condominium owner who has purchased a parking space in the same building, the parking space is not provided the benefit of the tax cap.  I plan to correct this disparity as your Ward 3 Councilmember by introducing the Condominium Owner Parking Space Equal Treatment Act of 2007, which will include condominium parking spaces under the 10% cap. 

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  1. Lower the tax burden for District residents and businesses by establishing tax equality with Maryland and Virginia

Perhaps the most important piece of legislation ever passed by the D.C. Council has been the Tax Parity Act of 1999.  This legislation sought to, over a period of years, reduce the tax burden on District residents and businesses to make the city more competitive with the surrounding suburbs.  This legislation is widely credited with making the District of Columbia a more tax-friendly place to live and do business and for keeping the District’s economy growing at a robust pace.  However, despite these tax reform efforts, District of Columbia residents still pay substantially higher taxes than any other jurisdiction in the United States.

If elected to represent Ward 3 as your next Councilmember, I plan to introduce the Taxpayer Equality Act of 2007.  This comprehensive tax reform legislation will gradually, over a period of years, lower the District’s taxes on both residents and businesses until they are equal to the taxes in our neighboring jurisdictions of Maryland and Virginia.  These tax reductions will be funded out of the additional recurring revenue that the City generates above the 5% spending cap set by the Fiscal Responsibility Emergency Act of 2007.  This legislation will provide tax relief in the following areas:

In addition, to the comprehensive tax relief proposed above, I also intend to introduce the Small Business Tax Relief Act of 2007.  The soaring property values in the District of Columbia have forced many small, neighborhood, retail businesses to close their doors because they can no longer afford to pay the soaring property taxes, or, in the case of a small business that is renting space, the rising rents that are caused by the skyrocketing taxes.  This legislation will provide small businesses with a credit that is based on a percent of their property taxes paid or their rent.  This legislation seeks to ensure that the many retail businesses that Ward 3 residents enjoy, remain as important fixtures in our community.

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IMPROVING THE DISTRICT’S EDUCATION AND LIBRARY SYSTEM

  1. Advance an educational curriculum that ensures that all public school students will be prepared for college or employment upon graduation.

I was fortunate to attend a superb public school and received a quality education that laid the foundation for everything I accomplished subsequently.  Both of my parents were public school teachers.  My father taught 7th grade science, and my mother taught 9th grade math.  They instilled in me the importance of receiving a good education at an earlier age.  As a Councilmember for Ward 3, I am going to hold DCPS to a standard of excellence, because that is exactly what every student attending a public school deserves.

 Despite the modest improvements made by Dr. Janey since he took over management of the school system in the fall of 2004, the current performance and management of D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) is still completely unacceptable and the youth of our city deserve much better.  In April, the U.S. Department of Education declared that DCPS is a “high risk” for mismanaging federal funds, a dubious status shared by no other school district in the United States mainland.  In a letter dated April 21, 2006, Raymond Simon, the Deputy Education Secretary said federal dollars are at a high risk of mismanagement due to the lack of internal financial controls and poor record-keeping within DCPS.

 One of my first priorities as your Ward 3 Councilmember will be to ask to be appointed to the Committee on Education, Libraries, and Recreation and I will immediately introduce the District of Columbia Public Schools Management Accountability Act of 2007.

This legislation will get to the heart of the problem that has plagued D.C. Public Schools in the areas of curriculum, school facilities, and special education.  If a Master Facilities Plan has not been provided to the Council, by January 1, 2007, that lays out a plan for how all public schools will be renovated and excess space will be reduced, then I will include in this legislation a provision that transfers the capital budget of DCPS and the School Modernization funding from DCPS, and places these functions under the supervision of an Office of Construction Management under the Mayor. 

While much of the attention recently regarding our public schools has centered around the modernization of school buildings, an even more pressing concern involves creating a District-wide curriculum that will prepare our public school children to compete in the job marketplace of the 21st century.  Despite the District of Columbia spending the most per pupil of any other school system in the country, the student performance levels that DCPS continues to produce are among the lowest in the country.  In a study conducted by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the District finished last among the 11 large cities participating in the study in the areas of both mathematics and reading among fourth and eighth graders.  The dropout rate in some D.C. public schools remains above 50 percent.

I will require that both DCPS and the Office of the Inspector General produce recommendations to the Council and the Board of Education.  The Board of Education will then have until November 1, 2007 to transmit to the Council a plan for a comprehensive District-wide curriculum that will ensure that all public school students will be prepared for college or employment upon graduation and that the District’s special education program will be on the path out of a court mandate.  I am not expecting that DCPS and the Board of Education to turn everything around overnight.  However, we need to have a comprehensive strategy in place to get DCPS moving in the right direction as soon as possible.

When our children go to school they need to step through the door of their school building every day believing that the education they are receiving will translate into future success.  I think one of the most significant problems that is facing students in DCPS is that they do not believe the education they are getting in DCPS will translate into long-term success.  DCPS needs to develop a dynamic curriculum that ensures success for its students.  Honors level DCPS students should be ready to take advanced placement courses and receive scores on AP exams that are transferable for college credit.  Students going on to college should be prepared with a base of essential skills in the areas of science, mathematics, reading, and writing that will guarantee that they are at the top of their class, not struggling to catch up.  

DCPS also needs to completely rebuild its vocational education curriculum, so that students who are looking to enter the workforce immediately after high school will have the skills and background necessary to qualify for good-paying union jobs.

Finally, DCPS needs to develop the capacity to meet the educational needs of special education students in-house.  The District of Columbia’s special education program has been under the court order since 1972.  Some parents are getting children classified as special education students in order to escape a school system that is not meeting the needs of their child.  This has resulted in an overclassification of District youth as special education students, and has cost the District hundreds of millions of dollars to transport and educate special education students at private schools.  In Fiscal Year 2007, transportation costs alone were estimated at $15,000 per student annually.  DCPS needs to get special education spending under control, and then reallocate this money to provide increased after-school and summer opportunities for all District youth.

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  1. Give our District youth the modern and safe public schools they deserve

I believe the condition of school buildings that our DC Public School students attend reflect the priorities of our city leaders.  Our youth know it too.  When our DC Public School children are expected to learn in buildings that are falling apart, hot, and without modern facilities, our youth know that city leaders are not making their education a priority.  If we are making it clear that we don’t care about our children’s’ educations why would they care.  That is why I will make school modernization a top priority.

One of  the most important pieces of legislation I worked on during my years on the Council was the School Modernization Financing Act of 2006.  I was very proud to work with Councilmember Evans to transform a bill that had severe flaws with it, into one of the most important pieces of legislation ever passed by the Council.  When the legislation was first introduced it proposed an unstable revenue source of lottery revenue that supported only $500 million in borrowing, proposed to give the schools all the money at one time, (which didn’t make sense because the school system officials stated that all they could reasonably spend in a year would be $200 million), and didn’t have a funding mechanism to make up the funding gap created in the General Fund.  When the legislation came back to the Committee on Finance and Revenue from the education committee it had been changed in three ways.  First, it was funded.  Secondly, it now utilized a pay-as-you-go system of capital funding, rather than capital borrowing, which made a lot more sense, because it didn’t give DCPS more money than it could spend.  Third, the financing mechanism of the lottery revenue stream had been replaced by tax increases.

Working with Councilmember Evans, I was able to completely redraft the financing section of the School Modernization Financing Act of 2006.  The tax increases were removed and were replaced with surplus revenues from the annual audit and revised revenue projections from the Chief Financial Officer.  This financing structure allowed for a $200 million annual commitment to fully modernize all DC public schools.

Now that the money is in place; the hard work begins.  My hope is that as your next Ward 3 Councilmember that no further legislative action will be necessary.   This will depend on whether or not DCPS and the School Board come up with a Master Facilities Plan to consolidate school space.  The plan will need to reduce the three million square feet by closing schools that are underenrolled and underperforming.  While I will not commit to refusing to close any Ward 3 schools, I believe that no Ward 3 schools will be closed since they are at or near capacity and are the best performing schools in the District.  I won’t be supportive of any plan that proposes closing an equal number of schools in each ward, without regard for school quality.  DCPS and the Board of Education also need to show in the plan how the swing space will be used to accommodate students while the renovations are taking place.

If a Master Facilities Plan is not in place that meets all of these criteria, I will include as part of the District of Columbia Public Schools Management Accountability Act of 2007, a section that removes the authority to manage capital facilities from DCPS and the School Board and places these functions under an Office of School Modernization Management that will be established under the Mayor.  This office will be led by a director with experience in construction management.  Assisting the director will be an architect and the current DCPS capital staff.

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  1. Provide after-school and summer opportunities for all District of Columbia youth

After-school activities are an essential part of a youth’s development.  They allow a young person to pursue interests that lead to pathways of career opportunities, good health, and lifelong passions. These opportunities enable youths to develop leadership skills, learn the value of teamwork, and forge positive lasting relationships.  The District possesses a diverse population and therefore a similarly wide ranging approach to mentoring our youth is essential.  My vision includes expanding after-school activities such as sports, music, dance, acting, and computer skills training which will cater to all youth and engage them in positive and valuable experiences. 

I personally have many fond memories of participating in after-school activities.  Throughout, high school and college I competed in cross country and track & field.  In law school, I joined the boxing club for two years.  My teammates from these activities remain some of my closest friends today.  I want to give all of our youth in the District of Columbia the benefit of the same opportunities I have had, and therefore after-school activities for our youth will be at the top of my list of funding priorities.

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  1. Fight for full funding to renovate neighborhood libraries

Public libraries are important neighborhood centers.  I believe they are places where our children can develop a love of reading and become familiar with using computers.  As your next Ward 3 Councilmember, I will place a priority on getting more funding for our neighborhood libraries.

I disagree with Mayor’s plan to build a new central library on the Old Convention Center site.  I believe the existing Martin Luther King Memorial Library building should be renovated as our central library.  I also think the best use of the Old Convention Center site, the District’s most valuable property asset, is to develop mixed retail and housing that would grow the District’s property tax base.  I also believe that residents (including myself) who want to check out a book or take their children to the library do not want to go downtown.  I believe the vast majority of people want to go to a far more convenient branch library within their neighborhood.

As your next Ward 3 Councilmember, I will finally get the Tenleytown/ Friendship Heights Library fully renovated and reopened.  It is completely unacceptable that it has remained closed for so long.  I will also fight for more funding for the Cleveland Park, Chevy Chase, Palisades neighborhood libraries.

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WARD 3 QUALITY OF LIFE ISSUES

  1. Represent Ward 3 as an accessible and responsive Councilmember and demand the same from District government agencies.

As your Ward 3 Councilmember, I plan to make Ward 3 constituent services my first priority.  The biggest mistake any Councilmember can make is to forget who put him or her in office.  As your next Ward 3 Councilmember, I plan to be a vigorous advocate for the residents I represent by adhering to the following five guiding principles:

Since the tax dollars of our residents and businesses support everything that the District government does, the District government needs to work effectively for the people who are paying the bill.  I will never accept excuses or mediocrity.  A first-rate city like the District of Columbia needs to have an effective contracts and procurement system, efficient city agencies that deliver services quickly to District residents, and contractors that provide a dollars worth of services for every dollar they receive.

The Council also needs to do its part to ensure that residents have faith in the decisions made by the Council.  Giving residents the impression that deals are being made behind closed doors, even if it is not the case, erodes the trust that residents have in the government process.  Closed-door Council meetings also allow Councilmembers who do not want to put the time and effort into thoroughly understanding, discussing, and resolving complex legislative or budget issues to not participate in the hard work, but instead give a quick speech from the dais that makes it sound as if they were involved throughout the process.  As your next Ward 3 Councilmember, I will propose legislation to eliminate any closed-door Council meetings during which official business is discussed.  This is particularly a problem during the budget deliberations, because these discussions could potentially involve the “horse-trading” of millions taxpayer dollars.  I firmly believe that all Council business should be debated on the public record, so residents may see their government in action, either live from the Council chamber or on Cable Channel 13.

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  1. Ensure that development in Ward 3 progresses in a way that is compatible with the Ward 3 Comprehensive Plan, which supports the city’s goal to stimulate overall economic development and recognizes the unique and strongly residential nature of this Ward. 

As a resident living between the Cleveland Park and Van Ness METROs, I greatly enjoy the convenience of having street level retail near METRO stops.  Additionally, having residents living in high-density development near public transportation and retail is good for the environment by reducing traffic congestion and good for the District’s economy by expanding our tax base. 

Currently the Ward 3 element of the Comprehensive Plan is very well drafted and does a good job of recognizing the unique and strongly residentially nature of Ward 3.  The D.C. Comprehensive Plan will soon be transmitted again to the Council.  The Comprehensive Plan is such an important document that it should not be rushed through the Council in the fall.  The newly elected Council should have the ability to take up review of this document in January as one of its first and most important legislative actions.  As your next Ward 3 Councilmember, I will ensure that the interests of Ward 3 are protected in the Comprehensive Plan.

As Councilmember for Ward 3, I will support appropriate growth.  I use the term appropriate growth because the term “smart growth” has been abused to include all sorts of growth that is not smart.  A definition of appropriate growth should include retail and higher density housing around METRO stations and adequate parking so residential parking spaces are not taken away.  While some have called for a freeze on any new development along Connecticut and Wisconsin Avenues, I plan to consider each development plan on a case-by-case basis. 

 In order to determine whether or not each plan is appropriate I will meet with the community and the affected ANC Commissioner, speak with the developer, and examine traffic studies.  If the project is good for Ward 3 and the city, then I will support it; but, if a project does not fall within a reasonable definition of appropriate growth, then I will join the community in opposing it.

One example of a project that does not meet a reasonable definition of appropriate growth is Clark Construction’s planned-unit development proposal on Tilden Street.  I have been working with affected residents to oppose this project.  I presented testimony before the D.C. Zoning Commission at the June 22, 2006 hearing on this project.  The reasons that this project does not meet my criteria for appropriate growth are: (1) it is taller and larger in scale than any of the other adjacent buildings on Tilden Street; (2) it is not located in a “housing opportunity area” and provides a minimal amount of affordable housing; (3) it does not “provide a net gain for the ward environmentally,” and, in fact, will limit the growth of large canopy trees; (4) its design does not match the surrounding buildings; (5) it increases traffic congestion on Tilden Street; (6) it removes scarce residential parking spaces; and (7) it does not provide real community benefits to the affected neighbors.

I remain a strong supporter of retail and higher-density housing growth around METRO stations, but as my opposition to this project indicates, I will oppose growth that is inappropriately located in the residential communities in Ward 3.

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  1. Protect the environment and preserve public green space

One of the reasons I moved to Ward 3 was for its abundance of green space.  Ward 3 has beautiful parks, full growth trees, community gardens, and jogging trails.  I have always loved the beauty of the natural environment and have tried to do my part to preserve it on a personal level by taking public transportation and recycling. 

On the Council, I worked with Councilmember Evans to mark-up important legislation that protects the environment.  Bill 16-569, the “Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Fund Act of 2006” was introduced by our office and moved through the Committee on Finance and Revenue.  This legislation reserved 0.5%, or approximately $50 million annually, of the sales tax as a dedicated funding source for METRO infrastructure maintenance and improvements, pending the approval by the Maryland and Virginia legislatures of an equal or greater amount of funding.  This legislation put the District of Columbia at the forefront of efforts to maintain and expand the regions public transportation system, which is essential for reducing traffic congestion and providing people with convenient public transportation. 

On another piece of environmentally-friendly legislation, I worked with Penny Pagano from Councilmember Patterson’s Office and Gayle Teicher from the Triangle Community Garden to pass Bill 16-647, the “Triangle Community Garden Equitable Real Property Tax Exemption and Relief Act of 2006”.  This legislation preserved this important community garden for the Ward 3 residents who were using it.  Getting this legislation passed quickly was essential to save this garden from being disposed of at tax sale.  I will bring the same zeal for protecting public green space as I have demonstrated as a Council staff member, to Ward 3 as your next Councilmember.

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  1. Work to see that the residents of Spring Valley receive the information and protection they deserve from environmental hazards

No situation can cause people more concern than wondering whether or not the water and soil in the neighborhood in which they live could be causing immediate or future health problems for them or their children.  This situation is what the residents of Spring Valley have had to endure due to arsenic-contaminated soil and buried chemical munitions from World War I.  As the next Councilmember for Ward 3, I will actively work with the community, the D.C. Departments of Health and the Environment, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to provide residents with any new information as soon as it becomes available.  If additional contamination is found, I will work with all parties to ensure that the contamination is cleaned up quickly and safely.

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  1. Preserve the Whitehurst Freeway, until a viable transportation alternative is presented

Anyone who has attempted to drive through the congested streets of Georgetown knows that they can expect a slow ride, and during peak congestion traffic can simply become gridlocked.  For residents of Palisades, Foxhall, and Canal View who want to drive downtown and avoid the M Street gridlock, the Whitehurst Freeway provides a way over the congestion.  As your Ward 3 Councilmember, I would introduce the Whitehurst Freeway Preservation Act of 2007.  This legislation would preserve the Whitehurst Freeway until a viable transportation alternative has been presented to the Council. 

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ENSURING EQUALITY FOR ALL D.C. RESIDENTS

  1. Fight for equal voting rights in Congress for District residents

The single biggest inequality in the United States is that District of Columbia residents are denied the right to a vote in Congress and the right to tax income where it is earned.  This inequality has created a structural imbalance in the District as commuters from Maryland and Virginia use city services, but do not contribute to maintaining the infrastructure of the city in which they earn a living. My ultimate goal, would be of course, for the District of Columbia to get statehood, the ability to impose a commuter tax, and full voting representation in Congress.  While we should always be pushing for this eventual goal there are three intermediate steps we can fight for right now. 

First, I would do everything possible to work with D.C. Vote and push for passage of the Norton-Davis bill.  This legislation, introduced by Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), the District of Columbia’s nonvoting representative and Representative Tom Davis (R-VA), would give the District of Columbia a vote on the House floor and also add a seat for Utah, which traditionally votes Republican.  This represents real progress and opens the door for a vote before the full House and Senate.  Even if this legislation passes we will still have to continue to demand full DC voting representation in both the House and Senate.  However, I can’t emphasize enough how getting a vote in the House would represent a great step forward to achieving our ultimate goal of full representation.

Secondly, I would lobby Congress to give the District of Columbia direct control over its budget and legislative affairs.  This would greatly increase the ability of the District to govern itself without Congressional meddling.  I believe that passing the Fiscal Responsibility Emergency Act of 2007 would be a great help for convincing Congress that the District is on the right course for sustained fiscal solvency, and I would use this legislation, if adopted by the full Council, to make a compelling argument to Congress that the days of a financial control board will never again be necessary in the District of Columbia.

Finally, I would work with the Mayor, other Councilmembers, and DC voting rights advocates to push for the District of Columbia’s 2008 presidential primary to be held first in the nation.  By holding the District’s primary first we would be able to highlight the District’s lack of equal voting rights on the national level and force the presidential candidates to present solutions to remedy the disenfranchisement of DC voters in order to get our support.

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  1. Fight for equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (GLBTQ) District residents

One of my goals as your next Ward 3 Councilmember will be to eliminate discrimination, whether it is discrimination by race, religion, gender, GLBTQ status, or disability.  My strategy for doing this will be twofold.  First, if I become aware that discrimination is taking place, I will deal with it swiftly and severely.  Secondly, I will continue the incremental legislative strategy that I used when working for Councilmember Evans to gradually create equality in every way of life between registered domestic partners and married couples. I was proud to work with Councilmember Evans and the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance (GLAA) to support important legislation that expanded health care coverage for registered domestic partners with Bill 16-129, the "Health Care Benefits Expansion Amendment Act of 2005" and made health care benefits for a domestic partner tax-exempt with Bill 16-405, the "Domestic Partner Health Care Benefits Tax Exemption Act of 2005".

I will also support same-sex marriage, as I believe everyone who is fortunate enough to find a person who they love enough to make a lifetime commitment to should be able to marry.  Although I am eager to pass legislation on same-sex marriage the current make-up of Congress, creates the very real possibility that attempting to do so will trigger a backlash that may undo the progress we have made in the District of Columbia.  Therefore, I will wait until the leaders in the GLBTQ community believe that the time is right to move forward with this same-sex marriage legislation.  When that time comes, I will be glad to help lead the effort to introduce and pass the bill.

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AFFORDABLE HOUSING AND EMPLOYMENT

  1. Preserve affordable rental housing and provide middle-income residents with the ability to achieve the dream of home ownership

Preserving affordable rental housing in the District of Columbia is an issue of great importance to me.  Being a renter myself, I am particularly sensitive to issues affecting renters.  There are three things I would do to keep housing affordable in the District of Columbia. 

First, I would ensure that the rights of renters are protected in the event of a condominium conversion.  I experienced the disruption and strife of a condominium conversion firsthand when I lived in Southwest DC.  The company who sought to convert our building, Monument Realty, made it clear from the beginning that they did not care about the affect of the conversion on the residents of our building.  In responding to a concern voiced by one senior that she would be forced to leave her home of 40 years, Monument spokesman Russell Hines told her, “Those concerns aren’t worth discussing here tonight, because this is a purely economic decision for us.”  Monument refused to work with our tenants association to include a provision to allow existing tenants to remain as renters after the conversion.  Despite the opposition of several members of our tenants association executive board and numerous residents including myself, the conversion vote passed by a narrow 11 votes.  After going through this experience, I can guarantee you that as your next Ward 3 Councilmember I will stand with the residents who are renters in my ward during condominium conversions and when the tenants are trying to exercise their rights to purchase upon sale.

I am very pleased by a couple of actions taken recently by Councilmember Jim Graham’s Committee on Consumer and Regulatory Affairs.  The first was creating an independent Office of the Tenant Advocate and splitting this critical function out of the dysfunctional Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs.  The second was including residents with disabilities under the same condo conversion exemption as seniors.  These actions represent true progress in a continuing effort to provide greater protections for tenants in the District.

For my second initiative, I would increase the standard deduction from $2,500 to $4,000.  Since most renters do not itemize their deductions because they have no mortgage interest to deduct, an increase to the standard deduction provides an immediate way to put more money in the pockets of our renters. 

Finally, as your next Councilmember, I will work to reform the tax code to provide tax incentives to buildings that remain under rent control.  The current tax treatment of rent control buildings taxes them at what is considered highest-and-best-use.  Highest-and-best-use is considered what the building would be worth as condominiums.  Thus, the current tax assessment process creates a disincentive to keep a building as a rental property under rent control.  I would remove this disincentive and create equal tax treatment for rent control properties to lessen the number of condominium conversions.

I also plan to create opportunities for middle-income residents to realize the dream of home ownership.  In order to create housing opportunities for middle income workers, I will introduce the Workforce Housing Act of 2007.  This legislation will provide property tax and first-time homebuyer credits to police officers, teachers, and first responders.  I think it is very important to encourage these public servants to live in the neighborhoods they serve, so they can develop a relationship with the community.  It is also a serious safety problem that many of our first responders live outside of the District of Columbia.  If a disaster were ever to occur, our first responders would have to fight against the flow of traffic to get into the city.

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  1. Establish a living wage for all D.C. workers

With the cost of living soaring in the District of Columbia, wages in the District of Columbia need to keep pace.  The Living Wage Act of 2007 will gradually increase worker wages in the District of Columbia to a minimum, living wage of $12.00.  Increases in wages will occur simultaneously with tax reductions provided to businesses under the Taxpayer Equality Act of 2007.

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  1. Provide job skills training and employment opportunities for previously incarcerated persons

I believe the District of Columbia is missing a tremendous opportunity right now, because it has not developed the type of adult education programs to give adults looking to further their educations and their careers the type of opportunities to pursue their dreams.  This is particularly apparent in our ex-offender population.  Unfortunately, for many previously incarcerated persons, a return to society means a return to the same neighborhood and the same way of life that landed them in trouble with the law in the first place.  As your Councilmember, I would require that the Department of Employment Services expand the programs that are developed for ex-offenders.  With the District’s booming construction industry, we need to focus more on developing a skilled labor workforce that can meet the criteria to get a job working as union labor in the construction industry.  Once a successful training program is established, judges could use completion of the program as a condition of probation.  If we give previously incarcerated persons a chance to earn a living upon their release we reduce the likelihood of recidivism and give them a true second chance.

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PUBLIC SAFETY

  1. Ensure that the Metropolitan Police Department has sufficient, highly-trained and responsive officers patrolling D.C. neighborhoods

My experience working on the D.C. Council has taught me that citizens are powerful watchdogs. Reduction and prevention of crime in our ward requires a cooperative approach towards criminal activities and citizen behavior.  Beyond the basic need for a fully staffed and trained police force, the MPD must be accessible and responsive to our citizens.  To this end, I will work to facilitate and improve direct communications between our residents and the MPD. 

I also think it is extremely important to get more highly-trained officers in our neighborhoods patrolling the streets.  While it will take time to fully achieve the staffing levels we need, I will work collaboratively and insistently with MPD to ensure that we have as many new officers patrolling the streets each year as we can effectively hire and train to do the job well.  As a city whose economy depends on tourism, we cannot allow the District to regain a reputation for violent crime.

I will also work with DC Public Schools to create a program that includes a cluster of coursework to prepare interested students for a career in law enforcement.  In addition, I will introduce the Workforce Housing Act of 2007, which will encourage our police officers to live in the neighborhoods they serve.  I feel there is no stronger motivation to work hard every day than knowing one is making a difference protecting and serving one’s friends and neighbors.

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  1. Work with leaders of the Fire Department and representatives
    from Emergency Medical Services to resolve conflicts surrounding the structure of emergency medical services

After reading the Inspector General’s special report on the emergency response to the assault on David Rosenbaum, I am also concerned that some D.C. government employees are becoming complacent and forgetting that the public pays their salaries.  I was particularly troubled by the following finding included the report:

“Multiple failures during a single evening by District agency and Howard employees to comply with applicable policies, procedures, and protocols suggest an impaired work ethic that must be addressed before it becomes pervasive. Attitudes of apathy, indifference, and complacency—apparent even during some of our interviews with care givers—undermined the effective, efficient, and high quality delivery of emergency services expected from those entrusted with providing care to those who are ill and injured.” 

I believe that Chief Adrian Thompson provided a shoddy review of the Rosenbaum incident to the Mayor and that he does not have a plan for reforming our emergency services.  Chief Thompson needs to be fired as the first step towards making positive change in these agencies. 

Conflict surrounding the structure of emergency medical services is taking needed attention away from the ultimate goal – to establish and maintain a responsive, accurate, and efficient emergency response system.  As former Committee Clerk for the Committee on Finance and Revenue, I was intensely involved with brokering compromises surrounding controversial issues such as D.C. Public Schools and tax relief.  I support a system that works and a system that centers on the professional and effective delivery of services.  I don’t believe that either the current system of cross-trained fire and EMS workers or a system of separate Fire and EMS departments is significantly better.  Other cities have successfully used either system, and I think the animosity and bickering that is occurring needs to be resolved, because we have lost site of the important goal of improving patient care and reducing transport times. 

As Councilmember, I will work with the various stakeholders and hopefully the new leadership at Fire/EMS to implement the recommendations of the Office of the Inspector General and create a plan and management structure for improving patient care and reducing transport times.

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ENSURING QUALITY HEALTH CARE

  1. Improve preventative health care in the District of Columbia

As your new Ward 3 Councilmember, I will focus my health care efforts on preventative health care.  While much of the focus recently, has been on the National Capital Medical Center, I believe the District’s time and money would be better spent on expanding a network of community based-primary care clinics. 

If elected to the Council, I would request membership on the Committee on Health, so I could be a part of the decision-making on how our health care dollars are spent.  I would begin by working with the District of Columbia Primary Care Association by supporting the Medical Homes DC initiative to expand our network of primary care health clinics.  All too often, the first contact that many low-income residents have with the health care delivery system is in the hospital emergency room.  This is both a costly and ineffective way to provide quality health care.  The goal of the District of Columbia should be that all residents have access to a primary care health clinic in their community. 

Chronic diseases in the District of Columbia occur at rates well-above the national average in the areas of cancer, hypertension, and diabetes.  By expanding the role of primary health care clinics we can prevent, screen for, and treat these conditions before they result in a trip to the emergency room.  Most importantly, access to preventative care will allow residents to manage their medical conditions through healthier lifestyle choices that include proper medication, regular exercise, and a healthful diet.  Increased access to primary care clinics is also essential for ensuring that that pregnant women receive the appropriate prenatal care and newborns and children receive regular health screenings and medical care.

Another area of health care in which an expanded community-based health care network will benefit our residents is in the area of substance abuse.  Studies have shown that spending one dollar on effective substance abuse treatment will save seven dollars in the long-run in the areas of health care, unemployment, and criminal justice.  We need to ensure that when a resident has decided that he or she is ready to make the decision to begin treatment, either at a community-based clinic or the detoxification center, the Department of Health’s Addiction Prevention and Recovery Administration is ready to provide the continuum of care needed for a full and permanent recovery.

By focusing on preventative health care, the District will reduce avoidable hospitalization.  The savings can then be reinvested in the health care system to provide increased access to health care.

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  1. Expand programs for HIV education, outreach, and treatment

The HIV/AIDS epidemic has become a health care crisis in the District of Columbia.  Although completely reliable statistics are not yet available, levels of infection in the District are estimated to be as high as 1 in 25 residents that are HIV positive or living with AIDS.  In some areas of the city, the levels of infection rival the infection rates of sub-Saharan Africa.  I am very heartened by the commitment of the Mayor to encourage HIV testing for all residents ages 18 to 84.

The District needs to continue to expand its multi-prong strategy for confronting this crisis.  More needs to be done to reach out into our public schools and low-income communities to provide people with the facts about HIV, the importance of getting tested, and how to protect oneself from infection.  The District also needs to expand its efforts to provide condoms at school health centers and in District nightclubs in order to reduce unprotected sexual activity.  Finally, getting substance abusers into treatment, informing them of the risk of sharing needles, and making HIV testing available at substance abuse treatment sites will help curb the spread of HIV in this at-risk population.

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