Election engagement in Washington, D.C., is astounding, according to a recent report. The District was ranked number one in the nation in the percentage of the electorate that voted in the 2016 presidential election. And though D.C. has neither congressional representatives nor senators — and therefore very little at stake in midterm elections — the District ranked seventh in the nation in the percentage that voted in the 2014 midterms.
That impressive midterm performance, at 23 percent, was however the lowest turnout the District had experienced in 70 years (it was 37 percent in 2010).
Participation could be even lower next month. The key races in D.C. are for mayor and for the Council seats that come up this year. Georgetown’s Council representative, Jack Evans, the longest serving in history, isn’t up for reelection. And this year’s mayoral race is basically a no-contest to reelect Mayor Muriel Bowser to a second term.
That leaves the only real election contest for Georgetowners in 2018: Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E.
ANC 2E has eight members who represent distinct districts for staggered two-year terms. The two up for reelection this year are Ed Solomon, who represents upper Georgetown and Burleith, and Jim Wilcox, who represents parts of east Georgetown north of M Street. Both have active competitors: Kishan Putta and Gwendolyn Lohse, respectively.
In addition, Commissioner Monica Roaché stepped down this year. Her replacement, Elizabeth Miller, is running unopposed for her seat, representing northeast Georgetown.
ANC 2E is also unusual in that it has two student commissioners, representing Georgetown University. Anna Landre is running unopposed for one seat. There is a write-in candidate for the second: Matias Burdman.
The Georgetowner asked all of the above candidates to briefly describe why they are running for office or for reelection. Below are the replies received at press time, edited for length. The Georgetowner’s endorsements on the competitive races can be found on our editorial page.
JIM WILCOX (2E06 incumbent)
Jim Wilcox lists nine reasons for his reelection. They include that he is an attorney who has lived in east Georgetown since 2002 and was a director of CAG and the Georgetown Business Association’s economic development and small business committee prior to serving on the ANC. Thus, he has an unusually broad mix of experience and an independent perspective. He has been endorsed by ANC 2E Chair Joe Gibbons and prior longtime ANC Chair Ron Lewis.
He prioritizes historic preservation and protecting Georgetown’s streetscapes, blocking the replacement of Georgetown’s brick sidewalks with asphalt (facing off possible arrest in August 2017), supporting gateways into Georgetown without impairing its character as well as lighting the Key Bridge with white lights to accentuate its architectural elements. He was the most outspoken ANC critic of Wawa, and arranged for the property taxes for the vacant property at 2737 O St. to be increased, incentivizing its rehabilitation. In addition he has spearheaded objections to the removal of the magnolia and other trees in front of the former Jackie Kennedy house on N Street. He is also the only one to submit written comments seeking to have small cell technology deployed on rooftops instead of on a proliferation of poles in Georgetown’s public space. Jim testified before the CFA and the Public Space Committee.
Jim is an advocate for public safety, supporting “baiting” cars with visible electronics and staking them out to arrest perpetrators stealing them as an effective method to address car break-ins. He successfully mediated a significant public safety incident relating to the distribution of food at Mt. Zion Church. He actively promotes solutions to Georgetown’s current gas leaks problem and advocates for events and maintenance of Rose Park. In particular he highlights questionable government expenditures and actions — raising concerns about the proposal to build a gondola from Rosslyn to west of Key Bridge as not sufficiently benefiting most of Georgetown. He also successfully objected to the Defense Ministry of Qatar’s attempt unilaterally to take over on-street parking on 28th Street. In his work on the environment, Jim was asked by DC Water to participate in its Clean Rivers/Green Infrastructure project years ago, and he has been a significant point of contact for DC Water and participant regarding those issues since then.
KISHAN PUTTA (running for 2E01)
My wife Divya and I just had our first child over the summer and are thrilled to raise him in this community. I’m running to be a more proactive commissioner who helps residents to get involved easier. I’ve served D.C. residents for over six years as an elected ANC commissioner in Dupont Circle and working for DC Health Link’s community outreach specialist to cover residents and small businesses like Bridge Street Books and Georgetown Piano Bar.
I’m currently leading the community efforts to advocate for modernizing and expanding the Jelleff Community Recreation Center — a long-neglected indoor public space with great potential. We won a $7-million commitment from the Park Service for multigenerational programming spaces and an indoor track, among others things. I’ve done this before, having led efforts to get over $11 million to upgrade and expand Stead Park in nearby Dupont. I also led efforts to reduce crime, provide more affordable childcare, increase rodent abatement, better bus service and safer streets. I currently serve on the DCPS Chancellor’s Parent Cabinet, getting DCPS to commit more tech resources for Hardy Middle School students. I will ensure the Hyde-Addison project results in a great, safe school.
I know how to get things done in D.C. I’ve worked hard to build relationships in the mayor’s office and the D.C. Council and have testified on behalf of my community over 20 times. I don’t give up. I use “polite persistence”: I call, email, text, tweet and show up in person until we get results. As ANC commissioner, I will help connect you to our community and government so that it will serve all of us better. I’m committed to bringing accessible, transparent communication to our ANC using social media, cloud-based Google documents and forms, texting/calling me at 202-320-0058 or just meeting face to face. I will also be more transparent and hold regular monthly public community meetings or conference calls (for those who can’t come in person) with agendas and open time for residents to have their say.
ED SOLOMON (2E01 incumbent)
Maintaining the quality of life in Burleith is the reason I am seeking reelection for ANC commissioner. There are some key decisions that will need to be voted on in the coming months and over the next year such as: DC Fair Skies Coalition, of which I am president, to help alleviate air pollution and noise coming from planes taking off and landing at DCA; reducing cut-through traffic and speeding on local streets with more young children in our neighborhood; and visitor parking passes, addressing the impact of on street parking from Duke Ellington School events. We still have a lot of work left to do as far as lobbying on behalf of the community interest and many feel that I am the best positioned with my institutional knowledge and experience to continue to represent the voice of Burleith and Hillandale.
To be honest, I would not change much. Of course we have to deal with issues such as crime, rodents, potholes, noise, etc. As a member of the steering committee of the Georgetown Community Partnership, my goal is to maintain the existing policies while implementing new initiatives. There are still areas that need to be addressed. Unless there are changes in school boundaries, the new school boundary for Burleith will be Hyde-Addison and not Stoddert; the renovation of Hyde-Addison is expected to be completed summer of 2019. My goal is to work with other local community leaders to increase community enrollment at Hyde.
Special exception and variance requests to the Board of Zoning Adjustment and Office of Zoning is a very sensitive subject. As your ANC commissioner, I have supported and opposed both; in zoning, there are tests that must be met to receive a special exception and variance. A variance is more restrictive then a special exception and I have to follow the rules of zoning while representing the community. Young families are moving in with different needs than longtime residents. They want more living space. My role is to foster communication between neighbors to reach consensus. My experience before the Zoning Board is that there is a trend for more density. Burleith is experiencing change with the proliferation of larger homes. How this growth is managed will be an important role for the next ANC commissioner.
GWENDOLYN LOHSE (running for 2E06)
I am running for commissioner of ANC 2E06 because I love Georgetown and want to bring a fresh voice to key issues important to our unique community. I have lived in the neighborhood for seven years on O Street with my husband, James Assey, and our daughter Eleanor, who frequents our area parks and enjoys playing with her neighborhood friends. This summer I was approached by several of my neighbors about the value I would bring by serving as their commissioner.
As a member of the ANC 2E, I would devote my energy to serving the needs of residents and focusing on safety, historic preservation, transportation/parking and commercial development designed to serve the neighborhood. I will bring a range of professional experience to the ANC including expertise in consensus building, policy development and creating action plans around common goals. In my prior work in the health care industry, I led an effort that resulted in the formation of a multi-stakeholder coalition of 150 organizations whose health IT guidelines were adopted by the federal government.
As your commissioner, I will be committed to representing the residents of my SMD. I will apply my strong work ethic to seek out your ideas, hear your concerns and communicate directly with you while partnering with my fellow 2E commissioners on your behalf. Everyone’s voice is important, and I look forward to representing all our neighbors. I strongly believe we need to be active advocates for preserving Georgetown’s historic character and contributing to its ongoing vitality as the historic heart of Washington.
ANNA LANDRE (uncontested 2E04)
I’m running because, as a student at Georgetown, I believe it’s important for young adults to be involved and invested in their communities. I was first exposed to local politics through interning for the offices of a few local politicians in New Jersey, and I was inspired and amazed at how local politicians can touch the lives of their constituents. I used to be skeptical of politics as a whole, but my faith was restored by the genuine, kindhearted people I got to work with on the local level. Now, I want to be a part of helping those in my community in the same way.
I also think it’s increasingly important for young women and other marginalized groups to find their voices in politics. As a wheelchair user living in Georgetown, where sidewalks and storefronts are seldom accessible to me the way they are to my peers, I hope to provide a new perspective on making our area a welcoming and attractive community for all. I’m running to grow relationships between Georgetown students and the greater community, and to be a voice for the students who call Georgetown home.
ELIZABETH MILLER (uncontested 2E07)
I moved to Georgetown over 20 years ago with my husband, Dan Sallick. We immediately fell in love with the history, architecture and people and I knew I wanted to give back to this vibrant community. I have deep roots in the many facets of Georgetown, supporting our parks, our schools and our neighborhood philanthropy.
As executive director of the Citizens Association of Georgetown, I launched Concerts in the Parks to bring neighbors together to enjoy our parks with live music and picnic dinners. I made our neighborhood elementary school, Hyde-Addison, a personal priority. Dan and I sent our son and daughter there, and I have volunteered in the school and as a fundraiser for the school and its needs, engaging parents and neighbors. I have co-chaired the Georgetown Ministry Center fundraiser and the Georgetown House Tour fundraiser, enabling our residents to raise thousands of dollars to benefit homeless adults and children, the unemployed, senior citizens and young children in D.C. schools.
I am excited at the possibility of getting more involved in our special community as an ANC commissioner. I pledge to address three critical community needs: Safety — Be a vigilant representative of the Georgetown community to the D.C. Police Department to reduce crime and maintain our safe and quiet neighborhood; Transportation — Have a smart and forward-looking plan for traffic, improve congestion, parking options and incorporate 21st-century transportation options, from bike shares and scooters to smart cars and buses; and Balancing Historic Character and Modern Needs — Protect Georgetown’s history, especially our classic streetscapes, while remaining open-minded and flexible about modern needs and enhancements to keep Georgetown prosperous and renewed.