Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Thank You For Everyone Who Voted And Who Supported The Campaign

It's been a tough four months, but I would like to take time out to thank everyone who voted on Tuesday and who has supported the campaign this year.

Special thanks to everyone who braved the cold to help get me on the ballot and who donated their hard earned money to support the campaign. I met a lot of people who were unfamiliar with the DC Statehood Green Party during this campaign and I hope some of them are swayed to join our party, thanks to all of your fine efforts.

Find solace in the fact that the re-election season for this position takes place next year and the DC Statehood Green Party can continue to provide an essential progressive alternative to District voters in the 2012 election. Thank you all!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Today's the Big Day! Vote for Alan Page

If you haven't made it to the polls yet, make sure you vote for Alan Page---#1 on the ballot, #1 fighter for the people.

Need a few good reasons to vote for Alan? Go here.

Want to read more about Alan before heading to the polls? Go here for press coverage.

Remember, the polls stay open till 8pm tonight; however if you are in line, you will still be allowed to vote. Go to the DCBOEE website to find out where your polling station is located.
If you requested an absentee ballot, make sure you get it postmarked by 8pm tonight so it will be counted.

Thank you for your support and remember to vote!

Monday, April 25, 2011

From DCIst: Alan Page is "Committed to a More Just City"

Some words of praise from DCist's Martin Austermuhle:

Alan Page, the Statehood Green Party candidate, has a tendency to say what you want to hear when none of his competitors want to say it. He's thoughtful and committed to a more just city...
Remember, we're just one day away from Election Day! Go here to learn what you can do to help get out the vote before the big day---4/26!

(Photo by Danielle Scruggs)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Four Big Reasons to Vote for Alan Page

Support a once in a lifetime opportunity to elect an independent progressive voice on the DC City Council this Tuesday when you vote Alan Page for At-Large City Council! He's # 1 on the ballot and the # 1 fighter for the people!

Need four reasons why victory is possible on Tuesday with your help? Here they go!

1. With a crowded field of Democratic candidates to divide voters who are loyal to the Democratic Party, a Statehood Green candidate has a much greater chance of winning the election.

2. The recent scandals involving Mayor Gray and other Democratic politicians might result in many disgusted voters not bothering to go to the polls --- which means our own votes will have a lot more clout, if we all vote for Alan.

3. Many DC residents were dismayed when Republicans in Congress announced that they would use their power to force laws and policies on DC that we don't want: especially school vouchers and a prohibition on the use of federal or local funds for abortion.  This situation has ignited more interest in statehood, which might translate into more votes for a Statehood Green on the ballot.

 4. Alan Page is an outstanding candidate who deserves your votes! Take a look at where he stands on critical issues facing DC now and visit the archives for his stances on police brutality, statehood, and innovative ways to create jobs.

In other words, we have the chance to elect a Statehood Green candidate to Council, if everyone reading this goes to the polls and votes for Alan Page on Tuesday, April 26th, and also urges friends and neighbors to vote for Alan.

(Photo by Danielle Scruggs)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Just 5 Days Left to #GetOutTheVote

"The D.C Statehood Green Party does have a victory going into the special election for the At-Large City Council Seat...Victory is ours on the 26th!"
-Kenneth Prater, DC Statehood Green and newly elected District 3 Representative to the Southwest Neighborhood Assembly

We are a mere 5 days away from securing another victory: the At-Large City Council election. In a race that is still largely undecided, every vote matters. And at a time when the District is facing a fiscal crisis, we need someone on the Council who won't balance the budget on the backs of the poor and will serve as a true independent voice in the Wilson building.

So, how can you help? Follow the jump:

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Expanding the Food Truck Movement

Response to the DC Food Truck Association Candidate Questionnaire:

1. Would you co-sponsor comprehensive legislation to create a competitive business climate that would not be hostile to food trucks?
Yes, I am very supportive of food trucks as a cutting edge small business and I want to sit down with all stakeholders in the food truck debate to create comprehensive legislation that is fair to all parties.

2. Would you oppose raising taxes solely on DC food trucks and not on other street vendors?
I would oppose any selective tax that is aimed at only one growing small business segment, such as food truck vendors. That is not the path we need to take to support the next generation of small businesses in the District.

3. Would you support the creation of a "Food Truck Rule" that would replace the “Ice Cream Truck Rule” for food trucks?
I understand that food trucks are expected to not stop unless customers are waiting to purchase their goods (the ice cream truck rule). The presence of this rule has forced food truck owners to improvise by using social media to promote their routes. Changing which trucks are beholden to this rule might be unfair to other trucks that are still forced to follow the old rule. As a Councilmember, I would revisit whether special rules for trucks selling food products are even necessary, rather than carve out an exemption for some trucks selling food, but not others, so that both our new food trucks and our longtime ice cream truck companies all have an equal chance to compete against brick and mortar food service companies. We don't want a situation where some trucks selling food are at a disadvantage because of what type of food they sell - it would be better to revamp laws related to trucks selling food entirely rather than partially.

I may have misunderstood your question here, but it seemed like you were seeking to exempt new food trucks from a rule that ice cream trucks would thereafter still have to follow.

4. Would you oppose anti-competitive restrictions on parking, including distance from restaurants?

I would like any parking restrictions to be decided in a fully democratic fashion, so all stakeholders have an equal voice - specifically consumers, food truck operators and restaurateurs. There should be a fair way to resolve the current food truck debate, so that consumers can get the food choice they want and all of our food providers can coexist together profitably. I believe that food trucks increase foot traffic and lead to greater patronage of under-served retail corridors. There has to be a way to leverage this strength while balancing the concerns of traditional restaurateurs...

To read the rest of my answers, go to my Candidate Questionnaire section. And feel free to post your response below! 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Combining Smart Transit With Job Training

Canvassing and talking with voters helps me brainstorm visionary policy ideas.

While canvassing the neighborhoods of the city, I have met a number of residents who never learned how to drive, both young and old. Although we encourage the use of public transportation, we have to deal with the reality that many of today's employment opportunities are in the suburbs surrounding Washington and are often hard to access via public transportation as currently designed. To deal with the need for our residents to reach these jobs, we have to think outside the box. We should start a job training programs that trains unemployed licensed drivers to be driving instructors, then in turn pair those instructors with residents who seek to learn how to drive and provide them with driving instruction utilizing the SmartCar fleet (then incentivize these often low-income residents to join SmartCar after they acquire their license by providing a discount to program participants who join).

This program would have multiple benefits: (1) residents would learn two valuable job skills - how to be a driving instructor (for licensed residents) and how to drive (for unlicensed residents) (2) it would vastly expose the SmartCar brand to our low income residents and boost participation in the program east of the river greatly. Giving unemployed residents access to driving instruction is a simple way to increase the mobility of our workforce and increase the chances that they will find employment (and thereby increase our tax base while reducing local need for our social service programs, saving us money and raising revenue for the city).

It's not often that a politician winds up thinking about how many residents lack mobility while walking, but I'm not your typical politician. Ha.

Program participants should also probably receive a discount on SmartCar membership, to further give them incentive to join.

(Photo from SmartUSA)

"In His Own Words": Alan Page on The Fight Back

Go here to listen to Alan's answers on everything from Mayor Gray's budget to councilmember salaries to the fight for statehood on The Fight Back, an independent media project based in DC.

(Photo by Danielle Scruggs)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Green Party Minute features Alan Page!

Alan Page (along with his daughter Amina) explains his platform briefly following the DC Emancipation Day Candidates Forum at his alma mater, Howard University. 

Don't forget, there's another chance to see Alan in action at the Ward 6 Candidate Forum on Tuesday, April 19. Go to the events page for more details!

Special thanks to Carey Campbell for filming this segment.

Alan Page featured in The Washington Post!

Mayor Gray’s proposed budget was one step forward toward a progressive, more sensible tax system in the District and one step backward toward increased inequality, because he is proposing to balance the budget on the backs of the poor.

During tough times, everyone must share the load, from residents to corporations operating in our city.

To read the rest of Alan's response to Mayor Gray's 2012 budget proposal, check out the Local Opinions section of the Washington Post.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Alan Page on The Kojo Nnamdi Show!

 Just in case you missed it earlier today, click here to listen to Alan discuss the At-Large City Council race on "The Politics Hour" on The Kojo Nnamdi Show!

Monday, April 11, 2011

WHW: Alan Page Represents A "Refreshing" Perspective

Alan Page is running for At-Large City Council in Washington D.C, representing the D.C Statehood Green Party.  Green Party candidates represent a somewhat radical change from the norm, refusing corporate donations and essentially bucking the trend of a two party system.  In a country where Republicans and Democrats continue to push their ideological views, Mr.  Page represents those who are thinking independently, which is refreshing.

Read the rest of the feature on the DC lifestyle blog What's Hot Washington, written by Chris McDonald, here.

New features on DC LEARNs and!

Everyone knows that investing in education in the city is the best way to get the brightest future we can have. I think I can get everyone on board with that; I think it’s a combination of looking at best practices and using the resources we already have.

DC LEARNs, which is dedicated to improving literacy rates in DC, featured a recent interview with me on their website. Read the rest of my answers here.

I was also featured on the local politics blog, Your DC Politics. You can read Robert Maxwell's feature here.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Three More Things We Can Do To Secure Local Employment

Yesterday evening, I was asked by a gentleman what I would do to ensure that District residents - particularly Ward 8 residents - were hired to work on the Department of Homeland Security redevelopment of St. Elizabeth's campus. Most of my answer focused on training, because I noted that this redevelopment was a federal project (and thus outside the reach of the Council to legislate), but this answer was not radical or visionary enough, in retrospect.

There are several more radical approaches we can take to assure that District residents are hired to work on this redevelopment.

First, the Council should pass legislation mandating to construction companies that if they build in the District, they must train and hire District workers or they will find it almost impossible to win future city contracts. Such a bill would amend our contracting procedures in a way that would explicitly reduce the viability of any future bid for city contracts submitted by any contractor who performs construction in the District, but who fails to employ District residents in half of the new positions created to complete that project. This economic incentive will force construction companies around the world who want to compete for our city contract dollars to train and hire District residents for all of the projects they undertake within the District.

Second, I would write a letter to the Office of Attorney General and our local U.S. Attorney requesting an investigation into whether the contractors who are leading the DHS redevelopment project are following all applicable federal laws regarding subcontracting with local small and disadvantaged businesses and encourage the EEOC to vigorously investigate any claims that the project as a whole is engaging in any form of job discrimination when considering applicants. Further, I would urge the Office of the Attorney General to research every legal avenue at the District's disposal to ensure that our local businesses and residents are not shut out of this project when they have the ability to perform.

Third, and most radical, if the above two steps fail to secure any significant hiring of District residents, I would urge local community organizations to consider nonviolent direct action to force the redevelopment contractors to deal with this issue. Nonviolent direct action ended Jim Crow and a series of other abuses in this country and - if all else fails - it will secure District residents employment on this and other large projects in this city.

A vote for me on April 26th is a vote for visionary solutions to seemingly intractable problems like local unemployment. So, four weeks from now, vote Alan Page, number 1 on the ballot and the number one fighter for the ordinary folks in the city struggling to improve their lives, the voice for the voiceless and a servant for the people.

(Photo by Antonia Coles)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Speaking Truth To Power On First Source Law

I got to speak on policies that can spark an increase in District employment at a candidate forum in Takoma recently. The audio for the entire forum can be found here.

To expand on my answer (and for those who don't have time to listen to the entire forum at this moment), let me also address my points on one policy area that can generate increased employment in DC immediately: proper enforcement of first source law.

First source law mandates that any company working on a city contract or through a beneficial tax arrangement (tax incentive financing or a tax abatement) must hire District residents for 51% of the new positions created by the contract or tax-incentivized project. We have a great first source law on the books and an update to strengthen it has been proposed this Council session. If we could stringently enforce this law and have businesses agree to train and hire District workers as they should, to comply with the spirit and letter of this law, District unemployment would drop precipitously.

It's up to the Council to exercise oversight over the Department of Unemployment Services and the Office of Contracting to insure that first source law is vigorously enforced in the District.

As a Councilmember, I would additionally propose new legislation to create a carrot-and-stick approach to first source law. The carrot - or incentive to follow the spirit and letter of first source law - would be comprised of assigning a plus to any bid from a company whose prior city-financed or tax-incentivized projects led to the hiring of a workforce 51% comprised of District residents and that (in addition) had maintained that ratio of District resident employees from the start of their last first source project to the time when that company puts in a new bid for a subsequent city contract. Likewise, companies that honored first source law in prior first source-required projects should be given priority by the Council when seeking tax incentive financing or tax abatements. The stick - the penalty for failing to comply with first source law - would be a ban from contracting with the city for a year on a first citation for violating first source law, for five years on any second violation, for the life of a company (as well as any company on which executives employed by the three-time offending company are employed in the future). Additionally, civil fines should be levied against companies on their third offense, with funds set aside a designated fund for workforce development. This type of stringent three strikes approach - combined with an incentive - will encourage compliance citywide.

We have to speak truth to power to companies that contract with the District or seek favorable tax arrangements: follow the law and employ District residents or find somewhere else to do business.

(Photo by El-Shamesh Photography)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

New feature on!

I will be an independent voice on the City Council because I am outside the two-party system. I do not accept corporation donations. My campaign is grassroots-driven and will be responsible only to the people. I am an urban dad myself, with a daughter in DCPS. I am beholden to the children of this city, to safeguard their future, and to the people in this city, to fight for them now.

Check out the rest of the feature here.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Need For Solar Power

Yesterday, I testified before the City Council (specifically the Committee on Public Services & Consumer Affairs) at their public hearing on the Distributed Generation Amended Act of 2011. The Act would impose a requirement on local power companies that they purchase SRECs (Solar Renewable Energy Credits) from local solar providers in the city, for up to 2.5% of the power they provide to District residents by 2020. This Act would not cost a single tax dollar, but would spur innovation and create green jobs by creating a definable market for solar entrepreneurs in the District, not to mention spurring use of solar as a source of energy in the District (this will lead to the local creation of green jobs, environmental benefits associated with lowered burning of fossil fuels in the five major power plants within the city limits and will eventually make solar panels cheaper to install due to economies of scale and increased competition). This is a fine example of legislative policy creating a socially and economically beneficial market incentive. My testimony to the Committee is below:

Solar Power Testimony
Before the DC City Council
March 2, 2011

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Alan Page and I am the DC Statehood Green Party candidate for the At-Large City Council seat up for election on April 26th. Thank you for allowing me to testify.

The Distributed Generation Act is a key step forward in bringing the District closer to the green power revolution we must undertake to keep Earth livable for us all. Relying on fossil fuels primarily for our power in the District is destructive to the environment we depend upon to live. As a coastal city that contains two rivers in its borders, changes in water levels projected to occur as a result of global climate change could devastate the District if we do not do our part now to reduce carbon emissions and cut fossil fuel usage.

I advocate even more radical change than the Distributed Generation Act takes, but this is a key first step that must be supported. The Act seeks to have the District increase its reliance on solar energy to 2.5% of the energy consumed in our borders. This amount should be as high as 10%, but this is a positive step towards a stronger commitment to using renewable energy in the District.

There are several key reasons why we must reduce our reliance on carbon and increase our usage of renewable, natural energy sources like solar. One, our initial investment of $200 million to create an expanded solar grid will generate energy projected savings of $70 million a year starting in 2020 and every year afterwards. Why? Because solar energy does not have to be purchased. Unlike fossil fuels, it is provided for free by nature and requires no money to “extract” from the earth or transport. Two, increasing requirements regarding how much District energy must have a solar source will lead to the creation of up to 2,000 green jobs in the District created by solar firms laying the necessary panels to collect the newly mandated solar energy. We should also ensure that solar firms that enter into city contracts with the District commit to train and hire District residents to fill 50% of the employment slots created in conjunction with city-contracted projects. We commit to solar energy and solar firms should commit to our workers.

We can radically change the future of the District today, create much needed new jobs in fields that are projected to grow economically for decades, and improve the environment for our children. Make the right choice today. Vote yes on the Distributed Generation Act. The children are watching. And so are we.

Thank you.

(Photo by Martin Junius. Used under Creative Commons license)

Rethinking Education

Last night, I attended "Your Role in Education Innovation", sponsored by Young Education Professionals DC and Young Nonprofit Network Professionals Network*. I had a great experience at the event listening to educational professionals (including interim Chancellor Kaya Henderson) discuss the future of education in the District. Henderson concisely summarized the argument that compensation should be results-driven instead of seniority-driven (a concept that Washington Teachers Union initially resisted, but agreed to incorporate in recent teacher contracts). She also spoke about how public school education in the District went from having no oversight, to a military-style oversight and "needs to return to the middle". I definitely think there were some disaffected stakeholders in the early stages of reforming education in the District and we need to move forward together; with Henderson, I think we're on a good path towards moving forward on one accord.

According to a recently released report, enrollment is projected to go up 3.5% in the 2011-2012 for DCPS and DCPCS combined. This is a great vote of confidence in the education reform that has taken place to date. Henderson expressed interest in being willing to try any educational model with proven results that shows similar results here in the District; if it works elsewhere and works here, our children will be able to benefit from it. This best practices-driven willingness to try new models, evaluate them carefully, and decide to abandon or proceed them with them based on actual educational results on the ground is key. Ben Riley of New Ventures School Fund emphasized that testing alone was not sufficient and suggested regular unannounced classroom visits and other methods to augment evaluation (the current model, I believe, calls for five classroom visits). Newer tech-based methods were also discussed as ways to improve instructor performance, such as allowing mentors to give real-time teaching advice to struggling teachers via Bluetooth device cordlessly attached to their ear as they taught their classes.

We definitely have to push for the best education models to take public education to the next level, both at traditional public schools and our charters. Continued evaluation of these models should enable us to find out what works and hopefully scale successful models to help more children succeed. We're all in it together.

The event hashtag on Twitter was "eduvation". Education + innovation = eduvation. Let's keep moving onwards and upwards.

* Search for the hashtag #eduvation for live tweets made during the course of the event.

Addendum: Special shoutout to DC Statehood Green Party visionary David Schwartzman for pointing out to me this brilliant article proposing one hour of real-world application of math and physical sciences concepts within the school day, by Marion Brady.

(Photo by George Ellenberg. Used under Creative Commons license)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Teachers' Unions Are Not The Enemy

There has been a lot of discussion positioning teachers' unions as the obstacle to effective education reform. Teaching is an inordinately difficult job and immensely complicated to quantify. Granted, we all expect teachers to apply maximum effort and expect maximum results from their students. We should also recognize that teachers in certain environments instruct students who face far greater personal challenges than students in other environments. While we are not in the business of making excuses, the statistics show the difficulty of maintaining gains in certain student populations from grade to grade, let alone expecting a "corporate style" improvement from year to year at a set percentage of test scores (analogous to stockholders expecting a set increase in earnings from a corporation in which they own stock, quarter after quarter). Sometimes, there is an academic, life-changing miracle in just getting a student on grade level and helping them stay on grade level to graduation. Then, there are the abstract concepts, like teaching students self-confidence and inspiring them about the future, traits that cannot be measured by standardized testing, but which we often (consciously or unconsciously) expect teachers to perform for their students as well. Who is the better teacher: a teacher who fosters intellectual curiosity that lasts a lifetime in her or his class in areas beyond what is covered by a standardized test or a teacher who teaches by rote to the test and produces a class full of students who can regurgitate facts and figures dispassionately, but have no desire to traverse new intellectual terrain or think critically about information they receive?

I have worked with public school students and I have heard the horror stories. One fourth grade student told me about a third grade teacher who once let her entire class spend the year coloring and doing crossword puzzles in lieu of more challenging work; how this veteran teacher escaped some punishment for this post-NCLB is confusing to me to this day. Some would say the process for terminating a teacher is too difficult. I understand the dismay. My daughter attends public Montessori school, where students can "vote with their feet" and move to other classrooms they find more challenging or enriching at will. Perhaps this could be a model for DCPS at large, eventually. We should be encouraging experimentation of this type on a broader level, but we should be working with teachers' unions to accomplish these types of radical transformations, not seeing them as implacable foes.

The current situations in Wisconsin and Indiana (where teachers face the loss of collective bargaining rights) is not the solution to our fiscal or educational challenges. The right to organize predates our fiscal and educational challenges by decades, respectively. Educational progress in this country did not dovetail immediately after teachers gained the right to organize, nor did our economy tank as a result. Where there is an overlap between teachers' union positions and fiscal waste or educational inefficiency, I am willing to challenge the unions to work with me to address these concerns, but I do not believe the elimination of the right to organize will eliminate the fiscal and educational challenges we face, in the District or the nation.

Teachers' unions are not the enemy. Let's work together to deal with the fiscal and academic challenges we face as a city.

addendum: This post was inspired by a question I was asked by the DC Association of Chartered Public Schools about my position on funding parity between charter schools and DCPS. They asked me to limit my reply to fifty words and I responded: "I support funding parity between DC Charter Schools and DCPS, as a position of fairness and justice, so long as parents have the same options to address any failure to create successful learning environments for children and teachers have a right to organize, in all public schools in the city". I want all schools to be responsible to parents and the community regarding the education that they provide (or fail to provide) to our children. I am also concerned that certain ideologues view charter schools as an opportunity to eviscerate the right to organize amongst teachers (although there are scores of well-meaning charter school proponents who do not share this view). I believe in academic experimentation, but I do not think the right to organize and radical transformation of the educational system in the District are diametrically opposed concepts. I welcome your feedback in the comment section below.

(Photo: Ben Russell, used under Creative Commons license)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Paperless DC

We need to shift DC to being paperless to the maximum extent possible. Citizens should have the option of having notices and other correspondence sent to them via email instead of via traditional mail ("snail mail"). Besides being the better environmental choice, this will save the District the postage and printing costs associated with sending physical documents through the mail. The District has to work harder to be both more green and more fiscally responsible with the tax dollars we collect from our citizens, spending as wisely as possible and saving wherever we can.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Look Over My Shoulder: Total Transparency Is My Goal

If the people elect me to be the next At-Large City Councilperson, I plan to utilize technology and an open door policy to make my office the most transparent office in Council history. I plan to set up a live Ustream weblink from my computer when I work in my office, so constituents can virtually sit in on every meeting where participants agree to be web-streamed. If a citizen wishes to meet anonymously, I will consider the privacy concerns of their personal matter in determining whether to proceed with that meeting without web-streaming, but I plan to webstream meetings with anyone who meets me in my office for a business purpose related to the expenditure of public funds.

For citizens without technological access to due to the digital divide or who are unfamiliar with webstreaming, I also plan to offer constituents the opportunity to be a "fly on the wall" for an hour, by pre-registering in advance a time that they would like to come in and observe me at work. Again, I will evaluate where this policy may conflict with privacy concerns of fellow constituents who may be in the office to meet me on official business, but generally constituents will be welcome to sit in for any meeting where parties arrive for a business purpose to discuss the expenditure of public funds.

This is a continuation of the DC Statehood Green Party platform position of keeping the power with the people. I look forward to serving the city in the most open manner possible, in balance with privacy concerns for individual constituents seeking to discuss personal matters. I hope I have your vote on April 26th.

(Photo: Mazi Mutafa, Words Beats & Life)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Leveraging The International Status of Our City For Jobs

The EB5 visa program is designed to provide foreign investors with a visa if they invest in a business that employs at least ten full-time employees, located in a targeted area. What is a targeted area? "A rural area or an area with 150% the national unemployment rate". With unemployment at 25% in Ward 8 (and at 40% when counting those who have given up looking), that area of the city qualifies as a targeted area and this option for job creation should be explored. If the people choose me to be the next At-Large City Councilperson, I plan to aggressively work with embassies throughout the city to encourage foreign investors to seek EB5 visas by investing in businesses in our most challenged neighborhoods. I think it's time we used the international status of our city and the heavy international presence in our region to our advantage. Let's help the poorest neighborhoods in the District join the global economy.

(Flickr photo from afagen)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Join Me at Ras Uptown this Friday!

I would like you all to come out to a fundraiser/volunteer recruitment event I am having this Friday at Ras Restaurant & Lounge (4809 Georgia Ave NW, near Georgia and Decatur), 8:30pm-until. No cover, but part of the proceeds from the food and drink sales will be donated to my campaign.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Providing Opportunities to High Level Learners in DCPS

The Post recently ran an article on a program that would allow students at School Without Walls and Wilson High School to take college courses during their junior and senior year, then attain a bachelors' degree in two years at the University of the District of Columbia. A similar program allows School Without Walls students to earn college credit in their final two years of high school, in order to complete an associates degree at George Washington University concurrently with their high school graduation. These two programs are great options to allow our city's brightest students to acquire college degrees in an accelerated format. The GWU program allows students to earn their associates degree without paying tuition, an exceptional benefit for students from financially challenged backgrounds. The programs both admit only a small pool of elite students (roughly 30, total), but hopefully these programs will be expanded to all DCPS high schools. It might also be advisable to include some component of service to the programs, whereby participating students must work in the community for some period of time with the skills that they have acquired in these programs. Tying service with education through these programs could lay the groundwork for a lifelong love of service to the community among our most academically gifted students (and hopefully will allow them to be role models for others with whom they interact during their period of service).

As we face an increasing budget crunch, it is imperative that DC government partner with local stakeholders such as area universities to pioneer programs such as these.

An additional idea might be allowing for accelerated completion of high school for advanced students. We cannot afford to stick to traditional models as we confront our massive budget shortfall. If students have the desire to complete high school on an accelerated basis, we are not currently in a fiscal position to compel them to remain for a senior year when they can complete the credits for that final year in an accelerated program. Again, this is a time for us to think creatively, as well as the time to present new options to our best and brightest students.

(Photo of Washington Math Science Technical High School Class of 2009 by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Monday, January 17, 2011

In Dr. King's memory, Let's Unite And Save This City

I had the honor and the pleasure of marching with DC Jobs With Justice, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 400, and hundreds of our fair citizens in Dr. King's memory up the street that bears his name: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE. I was inspired by the experience to complete the press release below, that outlines my positions for media figures (and fellow citizens) who may be interested in my views, positions and background. Please take a look:

Alan Page brings Three Core Principles to the race to fill the At-Large seat vacated by Kwame Brown:

- We are a Diverse City
- Our Public Schools Are Our Treasure; and
- We Cannot Balance The Budget on the Backs of the Poor

WASHINGTON, DC -- In light of a budget shortfall, longtime Washington DC resident, DCPS parent and attorney Alan Page has decided to jump into the race to fill the seat vacated by Kwame Brown when he moved on to Council Chair.

"I have operated on the periphery of local politics for seven years now, since I became a homeowner and a father, knowing at that point I was then invested more than ever in the city I have called home for almost 20 years, because I need the schools in this city to succeed for my daughter to excel and I need this city to thrive for my home to be a part of a vibrant community," said Mr. Page.

Buying a home on then-blighted Wylie Street NE, Mr. Page worked hard with his neighbors in the Wylie Street Homeowners Association to improve conditions and access to city services for the one-block street. Overcoming an open-air drug market culture, trash, illegal parking (including stolen cars), seven years later the conditions on Wylie Street have changed 180 degrees from its prior state. Through this process, Mr. Page learned first hand that the city and the members of a community can radically improve even the most challenged area if they work together. Mr. Page continued to work with H Street Main Street to help foster the environment that new businesses needed to thrive in the area. As a result, many new businesses have opened on the once-thriving commercial corridor, helping it move closer to its former glory.

Now, as the District faces a crushing budget shortfall, it is time for the whole city to work together to get us past this crisis, without balancing the budget on the backs of the poor, by attempting to solve our crisis with disproportionate cuts to social services. Since we currently have one tax rate for income above $40,000 a year, creating a scenario where a schoolteacher and Bill Gates could share the same tax bracket if they were neighbors in our city, I believe it is also time to create a new tax bracket so our earners in the top 5% bracket can contribute just 1% more of their income above the $200,000 threshold, to help our city stay on the path towards prosperity. Understanding that our most successful citizens will expect more efficiency in government if they are asked to give more to help us all, Mr. Page also advocates a citywide appraisal of where cuts can be made to eliminate waste and duplication of services.

Mr. Page is also concerned about the future of the city, beyond our present budget challenge. In light of that, Mr. Page is a strong supporter of the Promise Neighborhood planned for Ward 7, which will coordinate educational and social services to maximize the chances for academic success for students in the Kenilworth neighborhood, by addressing their challenges in holistic fashion, from the classroom to the home. This program is supported by President Obama and is based on the successful Harlem Children's Zone analyzed in the book "Whatever It Takes". The key success in the Harlem Children's Zone is the elimination of the racial gap in mathematics performance on standardized tests for students who were part of the Zone, by the time they reached middle school. If we can support this effort and bring Promise Neighborhoods to other neighborhoods where students face a range of challenges that hamper their academic performance, we can secure the future of this city. Our public schools are our treasure and it's time to invest in maximizing their success.

Join Alan Page in his quest to turn this budget crisis around and take us over the water to a brighter tomorrow.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Our Public Schools Are Our Treasure

MLK I Have a Dream celebration from jill cashen on Vimeo.

Not long after recent reports that DCPS enrollment has seen a year on year increase for the first time in 39 years, fourth grade students from Watkins Elementary and Peabody Elementary demonstrated today at the Lincoln Memorial why public schools are our treasure, by passionately reciting Dr. King's "I Have A Dream" speech in the video above. They close the recital with a stirring rendition of "We Shall Overcome". It's powerful to watch and indicative of some of the beautiful things going on in our city's public schools. This is just one of many reasons why I am proud to be a parent of a DCPS student.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Case Against Wal-Mart (and the case from its proponents)

The Korean-American Grocers Association of Greater Washington has comprised a list of reasons why District residents should oppose plans to bring Wal-Mart to our city.

1. Walmart may bring 1200 new jobs to DC however, a recent study shows that for every 1 Walmart job, there will be a loss of 1 1/2 jobs from small businesses and their distributors.

2. 50% of the revenue generated by local small businesses, stays in the community but for Walmart only 14% stay in the community and mostly in form of payroll. The rest of the money goes out of the community and to their headquarter (sic) in Arkansas.

3. Roughly 84% of the sales generated by Walmart are taken from existing businesses, therefore many small businesses will be forced to go out of businesses or suffer greatly by loss of sales.

4. In all urban areas where Walmart or big-box stores open, the surrounding areas are left scarred by boarded-up storefronts, thereby lowering the neighborhood moral (sic) and the sense of community is lost.

These reasons do not include accusations made by laborers that Wal-Mart has been sued repeatedly for failing to pay workers the overtime pay they are owed, numerous sex discrimination suits (including the largest sex discrimination suit in american history), and long-running accusations that Wal-Mart systematically prevents many of its workers from unionizing.

Obviously, there is also support for Walmart among District consumers which also has to be discussed. Walmart representatives claimed in the December 2010 edition of the ANC 4C newsletter to have conducted surveys indicating 70% support among Ward 4 residents for the opening of a Walmart there (at the intersection of Georgia and Missouri Ave).

Walmart claims, as mentioned above, that the four stores they plan to open in the District will bring 1200 jobs. In a city with a persistently bleak employment picture for residents who lack a college degree, these type of retail jobs have appeal in our current economic climate that cannot be ignored. Still, there are other big box retailers with a better reputation for worker conditions that we should consider supporting as a city. Walmart is not the only employment option available for District residents.


A mostly positive blog entry illustrating potential benefits and drawbacks of the four proposed Wal-Mart locations is available on the Urban Turf (UT) blog here. No empirical data directly supports or contradicts claims by two quoted sources regarding the proposed New Jersey Ave NW location's lack of "negative [e]ffect" on small retail in the H St NE corridor a few blocks to its east (which starts in earnest around 4th St NE after the mostly vacant 300 block ends). The Korean-American Grocers Association of Greater Washington (KAGAGW), quoted above, clearly disagrees. The blog entry does not include any discussion of potential traffic impact on the three block stretch of H St NW between North Capitol and the entry ramp to 395, which will be on the southern border of this proposed location and is already noticeably congested during rush hour.

As regards the proposed New York Avenue location, Urban Turf makes the rarely-challenged argument will likely bring sorely needed jobs to Ward 5, which UT cites as having a 16% unemployment rate. While KAGAGW argues that such jobs will be offset by job losses in surrounding small businesses, it is not clear whether job losses at businesses in the Bladensberg corridor will offset the potential 300 jobs created at that specific location. The proposed East Capitol & 58th St location discussed by Urban Turf appears to have similar unemployment dynamics in the surrounding neighborhood and UT quotes several sources that seem to look forward to potential new jobs created by the site (a 19% area unemployment rate is cited by UT).

The comments section to the Urban Turf blog posting is decidedly less enthusiastic than the blog author regarding the benefits of Wal-Mart to the District. I hope to see the debate continue in the comments section below this entry.

(Photo by Douglas C. Pizac/AP)

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Issue of Police Brutality

The civil suit surrounding the alleged beating of a black family (including a woman pregnant with triplets and a five year old) has been dismissed, but the family is appealing the dismissal. I'm working with them to raise awareness about their particular case, but I have long been worried about the endemic nature of police brutality. Every few months or so, a case appears somewhere in the country where police officers are videotaped (or otherwise accused of) beating (and sometimes killing) an unarmed civilian. These cases vary in terms of egregiousness, but sometimes have involved up to forty-one shots fired at an unarmed citizen. This state of affairs is intolerable and I sincerely believe if there was greater community control over the investigation of police brutality incidents, the number of fatal incidents would decrease to zero. The presence of the Internal Affairs Department (here and in other cities) is clearly not a deterrent to these incidents recurring continually, nor is the presence of the Office of Police Complaints, which offers mediation as an option but not the option of termination of the officer's employment if he is determined to be guilty of offenses. I believe a citizen board with the authority to fire police officers found guilty of misconduct is the necessary tool to sharply curtail police brutality in urban communities (or the creation of an internal affairs department completely separate from the police department, so political pressure within the department is neither assumed by the public to exist or present in reality). The unresolved nature of cases like these and the perception by large segments of our population that the police act above and beyond the law hampers the harmonious police-community relations necessary for crime prevention to be most successful. I salute the hardworking officers of the Metropolitan Police Department for their efforts to reduce crime (particularly violent crime) across the board in the District over the past decade, but it is time to work towards a revolutionary solution to the problem of police brutality.

(Photo from 10-42Adam on Flickr)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Statehood: A Moral Imperative

Statehood for DC isn't just a central tenet in the DC Statehood Green Party platform, it's a moral imperative in a society that proclaims democratic values. Our efforts to spread democracy abroad cannot be complete while over half a million people are disenfranchised at home. The pursuit of equal congressional representation for District residents has been pursued in various ways, including a recent effort to secure a single House seat for the District in exchange for an additional House seat in Utah. The District ranked 31st amongst states in terms of how much federal income tax revenue was paid by our residents in 2007, just under South Carolina (a state with 9 times our population). It is unconscionable that District residents pay $20 billion in federal taxes and receive no vote in Congress. If I am chosen to serve as At-Large City Councilperson for the District of Columbia, I will work tirelessly to raise awareness of this injustice and work to remedy it.

addendum: You might ask, how does the lack of statehood affect DC residents? Let's take one practical example: the services available to our veterans. As noted above, South Carolina and the District of Columbia pay roughly the same amount in federal taxes. Yet, South Carolina has an office of veteran affairs for every county in its state, while the District of Columbia only has an Office of Veteran Affairs in one suite in a single office building downtown. This is true despite the fact that the District of Columbia has one-ninth the population of South Carolina and a comparable number of veterans per capita, including almost 60,000 District veterans who served in wars in Korea, Vietnam and Gulf War I alone (roughly one tenth our total population), not even including District veterans who served in Afghanistan and the current war in Iraq (or served in peacetime or non-combat areas). By contrast, Charleston County (the county comprising South Carolina's largest city) has a 18+ plus population that is 13% veterans, but when you include the number of persons under 18 (23% of that county's population, roughly 81,000 people) into the equation, you see that the percentage of veterans in their total population is roughly equal to the percentage of District residents who are veterans of the three major conflicts prior to the current wars in which we are currently engaged. If the District of Columbia was a state, I have no doubt that we would see offices to serve veterans in every ward in our city comparable to the veterans offices in each county in South Carolina. Every American deserves services comparable to the taxes paid by their locality. Statehood, in my opinion, would provide this for the District.

My Platform, Briefly, And Why I'm Running

There are two main questions the average person might ask when someone says they are running for public office: (1) What is your platform and (2) Why are you running?


I would like you to read my five main ideas first, then take a little time to review my summation for why I am running below.

First, bullet points, followed by more expansive discussion below each point :

- Assure that our current budget challenge does not lead to a disproportionate cutting of services to our poorest residents

With a budget shortfall projected at $175 million, the Council is going to have make severe budget cuts across the board this session. Monied interests receiving tax benefits and developers seeking tax breaks have an army of lobbyists ready to protect their interests, but who will protect the interests of our poorest residents in this upcoming round of budget cuts? I want to be the voice for the working poor and the middle class in our city as these budget cuts move forward. We're all going to have to share the pain of the cuts, from the business community to the folks that punch a clock every day. I am determined to assure, if elected, that these cuts are fair and equitable and don't disproportionately affect those of us that are too poor to hire a lobbyist.

- We need to adopt "best practices" from other successful educational reform efforts in other cities

For one specific area where we can adopt best practices used in similar urban areas, we need to work with the private sector, Congress and tap District funds to properly fund the Promise Neighborhood planned for Ward 7, which was inspired by the Harlem Children's Zone (HCZ).

What is the Harlem Children's Zone (HCZ)?

The Harlem Children's Zone (HCZ) is a 97 block area in Harlem, New York, where children from some of the most financially challenged neighborhood in New York City receive the benefit of coordinated social and educational services from the womb to college, in order to optimize their educational achievement. To quote the Brookings Institute, "The entire rationale and appeal of the HCZ is its holistic, neighborhood-based approach to the educational achievement of low-income students" (researchers concluded after studying gains made by students in the Zone that “the effects in middle school [attendance in Zone schools] are enough to reverse the black-white achievement gap in mathematics.” The Department of Education has agreed to create a Promise Neighborhood (PN) (an area similar to HCZ) in the Parkside-Kenilworth neighborhood in Ward 7, but even before this announcement, there were concerns that Congress has not allocated the requested funds and may allocate less than the amount authorized (source: Brookings). Besides an intense effort to determine how much the District can spend on this effort, we have to work with the House Oversight Committee to see if we can drum up support for more federal funds for this PN in Ward 7. I think it would also be smart to seek private sector funding sources to aid this project, from the wide range of funders who support education reform projects throughout the country. This could be a chance to radically change education in Ward 7 and hopefully inspire educational excellence throughout the city. From a long term perspective, success here may enable us to acquire (or raise) funding for another Promise Neighborhood in Anacostia and other neighborhoods facing educational challenges in the city.

- Work with Congress to create more job internship opportunities for District youth

My main position is, the District needs to improve education and youth services if it's going to continue its growth. We need to find a way to partner up with Congress (our partners in overseeing the District) and the federal government right here so we can create internship and apprenticeship opportunities train our local youth for the federal jobs of the future. Existing internship programs could be amended to include a built-in "local District youth" preference in the application process, similar to the veteran's preference included in the federal job application process, to avoid having to create a (potentially expensive) new program to foster District youth inclusion. Ideally, the federal government would shoulder the expenses of creating marketing materials (posters, flyers, etc) advertising this program on WMATA buses and in high school career offices throughout the city (if not, we might have to split the expense of creating these materials). We may be able to get regional support for this program by including the greater metro area (Southern Maryland and Northern Virginia)

- Coordinate District service and eliminate duplication of effort and waste

In our current budget crunch, we're going to need an across the board review DC agencies to determine which agencies have overlapping authority, in order to eliminate duplication of services (for example, DDOT runs Circulator while WMATA runs Metrobus; one of those agencies should be running both bus lines, we can't afford to operate parallel bus lines in our current economic state).

- Progressive income tax

We live in a great city. Many of our citizens are able to make a great living due to our proximity to the seat of our federal government; this is why our city is not suffering the same type of job losses that other urban cities must now face.

Washington, D.C., collects income taxes from District residents utilizing three tax brackets:

- 4% on the first $10,000 of taxable income
- 6% on taxable income between $10,001 and $40,000
- 8.5% on taxable income of $40,001 and above.

There is something inherently unsound in a tax rate system where the tax rate for a family earning $40,001 a year is the same as the tax rate paid by a family who earns $400,000 a year or even $4 million a year.

If we added one additional tax bracket (9.5% for residents earning over $200,000), we could bring in the dollars necessary to close our revenue gap; this could be accomplished with only a 1% increase on the tax rate of our top earners, implicitly acknowledging the reality that there is a difference between the tax burden that can be carried by someone earning $40,001/year and someone earning $400,000/year.

To whom much is given, much is required. From whom much is earned, much is expected. Our city faces a looming budget crisis and those of us with the most to give should be called to step forward and play their part in saving our city. It is time, I believe, for a progressive income tax in the District.


I am running because I am familiar with the platforms of the other major candidates in the race and, without personally attacking any of them, I believe their vision for the future of the city is limited at best. We are going to need to take a serious look at best practices in cities internationally in order to truly keep this city on the right track. Unfortunately, we're also going to have to make some tough budget choices in the near future that will challenge established constituencies in the city, especially within our own local bureaucracy. Although I will take their concerns into consideration, I'm not allied with any particular set of interest groups and I am beholden to nothing other than finding the best way to move the city forward. I hope you join me.

Addendum: The other major reason is pictured below: my daughter, Amina, who attends DC public schools and whose future I cherish, alongside the futures of all the children in our city.