At-Large Candidates for District Council: Part 1

The Georgetowner is compiling responses from the at-large candidates for the District Council. There are 23, two of whom will be voted in. Here are the first replies; more to come and more to be shown at The candidates were asked to provide brief answers. They appear in order of their submission.

Questions for the candidates:

1. What will trigger the Phase 3 opening in D.C.?

2. What will be the biggest challenge for D.C. in 2021?

3. What are the specific goals of your campaign? Why are you running for the at-large Council seat? 

Vincent Orange:

1 — Mayor Bowser and Dr. Nesbitt will trigger Phase 3 opening that requires D.C.  achieving a positivity rate below 5 percent measured on a rolling 7-day average. Phase 3 will allow up to 250 people to gather, resume in person D.C. Government services, expand childcare center access, and the opening of libraries, bars and nightclubs.

2 — Avoiding a financial collapse and the return of the Federal Control Board to govern D.C. COVID-19 depleted our $2 billion rainy day fund and the unemployment compensation fund of $600 million. The respective balances are $149 million and less than $200 million in those funds.

3 — To articulate that I stand ready, willing and able to rejoin the District Council and to be a part of the D.C. solution to “Come Back Better” in the new normal caused by COVID-19, civil unrest and a severely damaged D.C. economy.

I’m running to provide mature experienced leadership, institutional knowledge and sound judgment to plan and execute the successful come-back of the District for the benefit and general welfare of its citizens; and to define the “new normal” in DC caused by coronavirus, civil unrest and a severely damaged DC economy.

Franklin Garcia:

1 — We should be on Phase 3 NOW. Our daily infections have been kept stable and low, at around 5%, our COVID-19 hospitalization, and bed reserve numbers are better than the region. We have some of the strictest social distancing/quarantine guidelines in the nation.  Both Maryland and Virginia are now in Phase 3. We need to move into Phase 3, and start driving the discourse in that direction.

2 — It depends on the outcome of the General Election in November. When Trump leaves office at beginning of 2021, our challenge is working with the hopefully democratic Senate to get DC the missing 700K money it is owed. Our school systems, will be a challenge, not only because of COVID-19, but because there are some fundamental changes that need to be addressed: Too much spending, and poor results for our students. We need to deal with the public safety challenge we have, with the police-community trust, which is now in shambles. Everyone needs affordable housing in the city, preserving existing affordable housing, while creating more, and ensuring that existing residents of the city are the recipients of these benefits will be a big challenge.

3 — Goals: Preserve affordable housing, and help create more. Put in place tools to incentivize home ownership of oppressed communities. Help improve the school system in DC, by strengthening the DCSBOE. Work with the police and community to strengthen that relationship and create safer communities everywhere in the city.

I am running because for almost 50 years, the DC Council has been operating without the representation of all communities. It is about time our legislative body reflects and truly represents the residents of our city. This diversity lacks a representative voice that advocates for our rights. It is time we have a representative from the diverse communities of the District to take our rightful place at the decision making table and advocate for fair and balance services and resources, focused on minorities which for many decades have been systematically denied. I believe I speak for all of our ethnic communities when I say that we are tired of crumbs.

Marcus Goodwin:

1 — Phase 3 reopening should happen after we have we get an infection rate lower than 1 for a few weeks in a row. Above all, we must listen to the scientists and re-open only once they say it’s safe to do so.

2 — The biggest challenge will be figuring out how to equitably rebuild our economy in a way that creates more opportunities for those who have been historically left behind.

3 — I’m running to keep people safe, build a stronger, more equitable economy, and expand homeownership opportunities for more longtime residents.

Chander Jayaraman:

1 — Per Mayor Bowser’s plan, we must be at “sporadic community transmission.” That will require us to continue to stay home when possible, wear masks when not, and continue to care for each other as, for instance, we’re doing in my home Ward via the Ward 6 Mutual Aid Network.

2 — It will be balancing our need to safely reopen our schools and to support the recovery of local small businesses—and their workers—that make D.C. unique with the inevitable budget pressures that will result from the pandemic-generated recession.

3 — I will focus on three areas: ensuring a safe, effective and equitable reopening of schools; supporting the recovery of our small businesses and their employees, the lifeblood of our communities; and making our neighborhoods safe for our families and children.

Mónica Palacio:

1 — For us to move forward to Phase 3 of opening, first and foremost we need to see a decline in cases across the DMV, which will require a greater coordinated effort across local counties and jurisdictions. Our Mayor and the Office of the State Superintendent of Education need to create safety guidance for all schools in the District and ensure that all schools receive the amount of resources that are needed by students and staff. It is urgent that the City Council passes comprehensive 18 months rental eviction freeze for residents and offers a more robust unemployment package that is greater than the recently approved subsidy of $300. We also need to work alongside WMATA to ensure a safe reopening plan with guidance and protocols on ridership caps, station hours, and sanitation efforts. Lastly, we need to ensure that all our voters can safety go and vote on Nov. 3 to ensure new leadership at the highest level in our District and in our federal government.

2 — COVID-19 has brought forward issues that have gone ignored for far too long. Recovery will have to address the lack of response for emergency medical services and lack of high quality health care across the city. We will see a large increase of evictions and families no longer being able to afford their mortgages or rent. We have already begun to face the disparities and inequities that our children face in their schools and the lack of resources available to students and families to successfully carry out the school year. All of these issues have been large gaps that have only become large in the District due to COVID and I am committed to closing these gaps beyond COVID recovery.

3 — I am running for a seat on the District Council At-Large because I am tired of seeing people being crushed. Crushed by lack of healthcare, police brutality, our education system, unemployment and lack of food access. I am tired of seeing the human rights of entire communities crushed. I am tired of immigrant being an afterthought. During this pandemic, I have grown tired of waiting for our government to do something about it. I have been on the inside; that’s how I know the system fails our communities. I know injustice personally. I am a civil rights attorney, a single mother and an immigrant. I know how to catch it, stop it, fix it and remove it. This makes me wake up every day thinking of how I am going to fix this broken system and fight back. I am determined, I am qualified, and I am committed to fixing our system. This election is an opportunity to bring about the change our city needs – for our business owners, our children, and our frontline workers that were long overdue.

This election is about saving lives and protecting families. My top priorities are:

1. Housing: Funding for residents to pay their rent and mortgage during this economic crisis. 2. Education: Investing in schools and students who need us the most right now and build an equitable education system. 3. Public Safety: Ending police brutality and ensuring all District residents feel safe in the hands of the government.

Those need to be our priorities as a city to save lives and protect families. Together we can really make D.C. home for us all.

Ed Lazere:

1 — Reopening our schools and our economy are extremely important, but we must put health and safety first. In the absence of a vaccine, DC must work assertively to lower virus levels in our community, by enforcing mask requirements, improving testing and contact tracing, and shutting down activities that contribute to spread.

2 — One-third of DC renters are at risk of eviction when our moratorium ends. It would be a moral and policy failure if even one family lost their home because their job disappeared in the pandemic. We must take action to stop a crushing wave of evictions.

3 — D.C.’s prosperity has come at the cost of rising homelessness, wider school inequities and displacement of Black residents. I want to use my 20 years of budget advocacy experience to put racial and economic equity at the heart of D.C.’s agenda and tackle D.C.’s challenges at the scale they demand.

Eric Rogers:

1 — I would like to see Phase-3 reopening when the public health experts feel community spread is at levels conducive to more social interaction or when a vaccine is widely available to those most vulnerable to adverse impacts of COVID-19.

2 — It’ll take the District government at least three years to return to pre-pandemic revenue numbers, so the most significant challenge will prioritizing those government services that help sustain families and maintain our employment base centered in the District’s small businesses.

3 — I’m running to help ensure all District residents can generate multi-generational wealth by investing tax dollars in education, small business development, and workforce development. We need to create a new class of small businesses that can employ a reskilled workforce that builds stable neighborhoods.

Will Merrifield:

1 — Per the Mayor’s ReOpen DC guidelines, Phase 3 can begin when the District is only experiencing sporadic community spread. With DC experiencing less than 100 new cases per day since August 10, Phase 3 can happen relatively soon. Phase 3 as outlined by the Mayor still has many safeguards in place to protect people and businesses, which I believe is absolutely necessary — especially with the distinct possibility that Phase 3 restrictions are not enough and we must go back to Phase 2.

2 — The biggest challenge facing the District in the aftermath of the covid pandemic will be economic recovery. I have specific plans to assist small businesses in re-opening and implementing a jobs program to stem the massive spike in unemployment that will hit after the pandemic.  . The pandemic has exacerbated  many problems that existed before 2020 like housing, employment, and education disparities amongst different communities. I’ve been on the frontlines for 8 years fighting for housing equity as an attorney at the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, and have a track record developing plans and fighting for and alongside people facing displacement through large scale redevelopment projects. Because of my professional experience, I am uniquely qualified to take on the challenges the District will face coming out of the pandemic and into the future beyond.

3 — I am running for DC Council AtLarge because I was  sick seeing how the “solutions” for homelessness and affordable housing were in actuality not solving the problems at all — and in some cases, actually driving up housing costs.. As a housing attorney, I knew there had to be a better way to go about ensuring the basic human right to a safe, stable home. My plan for housing, called social housing, is popular across the globe and provides deeply affordable housing by removing profit motives from developers. In a social housing model the municipality builds housing and that is open to anyone. Tenants would pay 30 percent of their income in rent and those rents (instead of going to a developer) are reinvested back into the building to cover the operating costs of the building. At the end of the month the building has a small surplus (this would have been the developers profit) and that surplus is used to pay down the construction costs of the building. In this way, social housing creates deeply affordable mixed income housing that pays for itself.

I believe a similar template to social housing can be applied to other issues facing the District as well, such as education and healthcare. Making sure schools are anchors of our neighborhoods and all students in DC are treated equally means finally putting resources into neighborhoods that have been segregated and perpetually refused monies they  desperately need to close the education outcome divide across the District.

In terms of healthcare, I believe good health is a human right. While the power to provide free healthcare for all lies at the federal level, there are steps we can take in the District to pave the way for whole-person health through providing basic needs, such as a stable and safe home, abolishing food deserts and expanding low- or no-income meal programs, ensuring clean air and water remain a priority, and making sure green space is created and protected.



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