Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Today's DC election primary: "endorsements"

Despite the ethical cloud that hangs over much of the DC City Council, the primary election is being held too early--it used to be in September but this year its in early April--for non-incumbents to get much traction at either the ward or at-large level.

I wrote about the election earlier this year, in this blog entry, "Ideal Mayoral/City Council candidate campaign agenda: Getting Our City's S*** Together," which I wrote after a nightmare I had about being on City Council.

First, I will say that I still believe we need to change how the city council is structured--we need more representatives, 2 for each ward, and a reduction in pay to true "part-time" status. Although "part timers" really become susceptible to special interest influence for jobs etc.

Second, after this election cycle, the primary date should be changed to something like mid-June.

Third, it would be nice to do some form of ranked choice voting. I've written about some of these issues here, "The highly paid DC City Council and governance and voting systems."


My biggest concern as someone concerned about "good government" has to do with the "Growth Machine," the local coalition of political and economic elites that set the development and business agenda and shape the tenor of local governance, particularly the type of person who gets elected to public office, to ensure that the business agenda is successfully implemented.

So I am not too favorable to incumbents, because they have been slimed so much by their friends in the Growth Machine that they don't even know they are unethical.

There are so many pieces I could link to, ranging from the tight links between business interests like those of Jeffrey Thompson or David Wilmot, and how some people act as lobbyists, lawyers for Councilmembers, and contractors to the city.

Or the embezzlement of monies by Harry Thomas Junior, the enablement of gambling by insertion of some text in a budget law, with no hearings, by Michael Brown, sordid involvement of various taxi interests with various Councilmembers and their staff, including Jim Graham, alleged irregularities with the use of campaign funds by now Council Chair Kwame Brown as well as the campaign of now Mayor Vincent Gray, etc.

Besides Growth Machine theory, I am a big believer in network theory and that the kinds of people you hang with and the ideas, beliefs, and practices they espouse are likely to be your own, so the fact that Kwame Brown wants Sekou Biddle as a Councilmember means that I wouldn't be inclined to support him.

Same goes with Jacque Patterson in Ward 8. The fact that he worked for the Federal City Council, the coordinating organization for DC's Growth coalition means that in normal circumstances I wouldn't support him, except for the fact that his opponent is Marion Barry.

So here goes:

- Ward 4, Renee Bowser (Muriel Bowser is the heir apparent for the Growth Machine in terms especially for control of the Mayoralty. She won't buck the development agenda. It's ironic but almost surprising that Ward 4 in DC will be about the only place in the U.S. with two Walmarts within about 2 miles of each other). Renee Bowser is probably the most progressive candidate in the race.

When she knocked on my door, I asked her why she didn't run as Statehood-Green, DC's third party, because that would give her 6 more months to run, and she said that the average voter doesn't understand the third party thing, looks at you like you have two heads.

- Ward 7, I don't know enough about the candidates. Yvette Alexander was "installed" by Vince Gray after he moved on to Council Chair. Maybe that's enough to say no. Tom Brown has been endorsed by Greater Greater Washington and the City Paper. I'd never recommend voting for Kevin Chavous, son of a previous Councilmember. If the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, Ward 7 would not benefit from the "hiring" of the son.

- Ward 8, Jacque Patterson. Even a "Growth Machine" candidate can't be worse than Marion Barry. See "The Barry in Winter: Marion Barry is running for re-election. Is anyone paying attention?" and "Ward 8 voters told to stay away from Jacque Patterson" from the City Paper.\Anti Jacque Patterson election flyer
Like I said, in normal circumstances, my inclination would not be to support Jacque Patterson. (Image from the City Paper.)

- At-Large. Of course, I don't support incumbent Vincent Orange. He's a bright guy. BUT his worldview is shaped by sprawl and old fashioned ideas about development and he isn't capable of changing his ur beliefs. In terms of judging people by the company they keep, he hangs with some of the worst elements of the pols and lobbyists making up the local Growth coalition.

So GGW and City Paper have endorsed Sekou Biddle. Partly this is because they believe that two progressive candidates--Sekou Biddle and Peter Shapiro--will split the vote and Orange will squeak through. They're probably right, but I still can't vote for Biddle because of his association with Kwame Brown. I don't think that either entity is as attuned to the Growth Machine issue as they should be.

DC City Council is so F*ED up that even if a progressive gets on, it will make little difference, at least in the intermediate run, because of most of the rest of the bunch that's on right now.

So Vote Shapiro.

He has a good track record as a councilmember in Prince George's County, helped lead an arts-related corridor revitalization effort for Rte. 1 (still underway and a long process) and has done a lot of work with capacity and leadership development for the strengthening of civil society.

DC's education policy is F*ED and Sekou Biddle's education credentials are his strongest but it's not clear to me that his approach to education is any different than the F*ED course the city is on currently. (Chancellor Henderson is merely the continuation of Rhee with less incendiary rhetoric. The public school system is being destroyed and sadly most of the political elite seem to be ok with it.)

I'd rather vote for someone (Shapiro) than against someone (for Biddle because maybe he can beat Orange).

Sadly, I think that Orange will win because the primary is too early for nonincumbent opponents to get traction.

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