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 restauranteurs. 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 underserved retail corridors. There has to be a way to leverage this strength while balancing the concerns of traditional restauranteurs.
5. Would you oppose efforts by some brick and mortar restaurants to create specific vending spots for food trucks, thereby restricting them from roaming?
I oppose restricting food trucks from roaming. Any effort to place food trucks in one location is antithetical to the purpose of food trucks to provide mobile food options to our city's food consumers. I oppose this vehemently.
6. Would you support allowing food trucks to be licensed as businesses, rather than a sole-proprietorship for each individual truck?
I cannot see any reason why food trucks should not be allowed to be licensed as businesses. I would be interested in hearing the counterargument.
7.What specific actions would you take to support the vibrant DC food truck community?
I would be willing to consider promoting a tax credit for food trucks that agree to focus their routes on underserved communities east of the river, in order to foster food truck service in those areas. I think we need a dynamic food truck presence east of the river as well. I would also support a tax credit for food truck companies that train and hire returning citizens, a heavily underemployed group in the city.
I really want to expand the food truck movement east of the river, where retail diversity is desperately needed, especially in the food sector. There is a dearth of sitdown restaurants east of the river and food trucks could provide valuable diversity there. Please keep in touch with me, so that we can work on that specific issue in the future. Thank you.
Advance Consultation and Cooperation on Initiatives Affecting Business
As Councilmember, what is your commitment to the business community regarding consultation and collaboration on major initiatives affecting District businesses before they are launched or prior to the introduction of legislation and, specifically, how will you implement that commitment?
I have a commitment to all citizens in the District who will be affected by legislation I propose, to involve them in the decision-making process. This is my primary commitment as a public servant and business leaders are members of the public whose concerns are valid and need to be considered as we formulate policy. Where decisions will disproportionately affect any one group (e.g. specific neighborhoods or specific business types), I will engage in outreach to solicit input regarding community needs or specific business concerns when formulating legislation or making key budgetary decisions, in coordination with my staff.
I understand that local businesses are a major employer for District residents and provide crucially needed goods and services to our citizens (not to mention providing substantial dollars to our tax base). I want my office to be the most transparent in history and plan to implement a process whereby constituents can sit in on meetings between myself and other stakeholders to discuss how legislation should be shaped, in consideration of the needs of all involved stakeholders, including business leaders.
The Budget Shortfall and Existing or New Business Taxes and Fees
• As the District struggles to close an estimated $320 million budget gap, what is the specific breakdown percentage-wise, in your view, of how much of the deficit must be addressed by reduced spending, and how much by increasing revenues?
I believe there should be an equal balance between reducing spending and increasing revenue to reduce the deficit. I have a plan to raise $173 million in revenue by adding an additional tax bracket of 9.5% for income over $200,000 (a 1% increase on that amount from current levels) – which the DC Fiscal Policy Institute estimates would raise $150 million in revenue in FY 2012 - and to vote to pass enabling legislation (drafted by Chief Financial Officer Gandhi) requiring combined reporting for corporations who file taxes in the District, capturing a projected $23 million in new revenue. I plan on reducing spending in a range of agencies – while protecting critical services such as rental assistance and childcare – to make up the difference.
• What is your view regarding the size and effectiveness of the current District government?
I believe there is waste and duplication of services in the current District government and that we can move comprehensively to consolidate responsibilities that are currently spread across agencies. Consolidating responsibility for specific areas allows the Council to exercise better oversight, saves the taxpayer money, and eliminates intra-agency communication challenges that waste time and money.
• What is your position regarding (1) increases in taxes and/or fees paid primarily by businesses, and (2) the creation of new taxes or fees which would be paid primarily by businesses.
I actually want to investigate whether taxes or fees levied on small businesses can actually be lowered in order to foster small business growth (although cuts in taxes and fees will likely have to be delayed until Fiscal Year 2013, due to our current fiscal climate). The new taxes or fees I would propose would be narrowly tailored to produce a tangible benefit for the businesses which are taxed or levied with fees – for example, I support a targeted small tax on developments along our waterfronts for the cleaning of our rivers, which would benefit businesses in these waterfront areas by increasing the public’s desire to utilize the rivers, patronize businesses near them and purchase residences near them. Landowners would also be able to charge higher leases and sell residential properties at higher rates if our rivers were cleaner. Given our current economic climate, I am wary about endorsing increased taxes or fees on businesses without tying them directly to a tangible benefit for the wider community, including the businesses asked to take on a heavier tax or fee burden.
• What proposals do you believe the new Mayor should consider as he prepares to submit his Fiscal Year 2012 budget to the Council? Include in your response, any cost saving or revenue generating measures that you will support as a Councilmember.
As discussed above, I believe the Mayor should consider creating a new top tax bracket for income above $200,000 and supporting the enactment of the enabling legislation - drafted by Dr. Gandhi - regarding combining reporting for corporations paying taxes in the District. I also believe the Mayor should look across the board at combining functions currently spread across agencies into single agencies: for example, Department of Employment Services currently checks city contractors for first source law compliance, then reports noncompliance to the Office of Contracting for the appropriate penalty to be levied – this responsibility should be centralized in one agency rather than shared by both (thereby creating the possibility that non-compliance may be reported but not acted upon due to miscommunication). Centralizing responsibility means that some agency reductions (and resulting cost savings) may be possible. The Mayor should also consider a results-based compensation system to award District employees who substantially increase recovery of amounts owed to the District, such as federal Medicare reimbursement, fees for noncompliance with first source law and other fees owed. Tying performance bonuses to fee recovery and Medicare reimbursement efforts (along with a concurrent threat of termination for continual underperformance) is the proper way to spur agencies to accelerate efforts to collect monies the District is owed, to keep the city fiscally healthy.
• The District[‘s] unsustainable growth in size and spending was fueled in large part by revenues from commercial real property taxes. The Class 2 real property tax rate, already the highest in the region by far, along with revenues from deed transfer and recordation taxes (also the highest) helped fill the District’s coffers before the market downturn. Given that the District’s commercial real estate market has not yet emerged from that downturn and current tax rates are already the highest in the region, do you think it is responsible for the District to consider any increase to the real property tax rates or deed transfer and recordation taxes at this time?
I have not proposed an increase in real property tax rates or deed transfer and recordation taxes are needed at this time and I do not foresee doing so in this fiscal year. However, it is responsible to take a look at all possible revenue sources when we face a nine-figure budget shortfall. The District has one of the most robust commercial real estate markets in the country when compared with other cities during the recovery and it remains a vibrant place for real estate investment. We want to keep it that way, while paving the way for the construction of more affordable housing and new retail. However, if the choice is between balancing the budget to maintain our bond rating and avoid adverse action from Congress, we should consider all reasonable methods of increasing our revenue stream.
Given the District’s budget shortfall, many are questioning whether the District will be able to continue providing the types of tax incentives and abatements that have fostered economic development across the District.
• How can the District continue to support the revitalization of underserved neighborhoods without the type of economic development assistance that has spurred growth across the city in areas like the Southwest Waterfront and Anacostia?
We operate in a free market system where capital flows towards investment opportunities. The government also occasionally offers market incentives. East of the river, the coming of the Department of Homeland Security headquarters is spurring development throughout Anacostia. We can keep development growing in underserved areas by providing the type of infrastructure that lures new residents and helps us retain longtime residents: better schools, more affordable housing and better transportation options. We can also work with the federal government to encourage them to relocate more agencies within the city. We have the most dynamic post-recession real estate market in urban America because of the role the federal government plays in our city. We will remain attractive to investment even without eight figure tax abatements. Where a project offers substantial community benefit - with appropriate clawback provisions to ensure that promises are kept - I am always willing to consider whether or not a market incentive is justified. However, in our current fiscal climate, I cannot foresee supporting any tax abatement project in FY 2012, absent extraordinary community benefit with clawback provisions in place.
• What is your position on the District utilizing tax abatements and similar types of economic assistance to promote and support continued economic development throughout the city?
My position is that the District is a dynamic city within which real estate investors want to build projects, with or without tax abatements. The concept of tax financed construction is relatively recent and many of the buildings in the city were constructed before this concept was generally accepted and pursued. History shows that construction investment in the District will continue apace without it, especially as credit markets continue to re-open. However, where I am outvoted on the Council regarding a given tax abatement, I will work hard to assure that the city derives alternative revenue benefits or community benefits from any tax incentive-financed project that breaks ground in our city (and that clawbacks are in place to remove any tax-favored status from projects that renege on providing the benefits promised to the community to secure the tax incentive financing or
What is your affordable housing vision for the District of Columbia? In particular, what are your views regarding the District’s privately owned existing rental housing stock and the role it holds in that vision?
Affordable housing is a crucial need in the District. We have to start using tax policy to address the affordable housing crisis. Legislation authorizing tax incentive financing or tax abatements must include clawbacks to remove favorable tax status from any development that fails to provide at least 33% of its residential space for purchasers earning less than 50% of AMI. I propose a tax credit on the local level – and urging Congress to provide a similar federal tax benefit - that gives federal workers incentive to buy homes in the District. A local tax credit should be provided to District employees who want to live in the District as well and a cost-of-living tax credit should be made available to District employees who reside in the city. I think the District should offer tax credits to individual renters and renters cooperatives who seek to exercise their right of first refusal to purchase buildings that are being converted from rental units to units designated for sale. All of these tax policy proposals would increase our tax base by allowing residents to remain in the city as taxpayers and convert renters to property tax-paying owners.
Preservation and Upgrading of Existing Rental Housing
Because the District has an inordinately old rental housing stock, most of which is subject to a strict rent control system, keeping older multifamily buildings in compliance with current codes, or bringing them up to proposed new building codes, is a major issue facing housing providers and policymakers. Modernizing aging and deteriorating heating/cooling, plumbing and electrical systems and elevators, upgrading fire protection systems and responding to growing demands for “green building” efforts, are much more costly to do in older, existing buildings, and frequently will not be able to be done with tenants in place.
As a policy matter, the District can choose to insulate tenants from even those rent increases which are necessary to maintain or upgrade buildings, or it can help preserve its quality rental housing stock; but it cannot do both. With that in mind:
• What is your position on providing for tax credits to enable owners/managers of the city’s oldest housing stock to bring their buildings into compliance with current and proposed building codes?
In the city’s current fiscal position, we are not in a place to offer tax credits that would not result in a likely expansion of our tax base (such as the ones listed above). Further, the federal government offers tax deductions for making renovations to rental property. Many rental property owners in the city successfully maintain their properties in accordance with local building ordinances and we want to encourage that practice. If an owner cannot afford to maintain their rental property in accordance with local building codes, even with the federal tax benefit inherent in doing so, they should consider selling their property to renters cooperatives controlled by their tenants or to another entity that is capable of being competitive within the current rental market, regulations included. As a policy matter, these multi-unit dwellings that owners cannot maintain ideally should be sold to cooperatives comprised of current occupants, who would then have a vested interest in assuring the property is kept up to code. My mother is a landlord. She maintains several rental properties and they are all up to code. I understand being a housing provider is difficult, but I would expect all of our housing providers to live up to the standard set by all the landlords who keep their properties up to code.
• Right now, when a housing provider wants to make capital improvements to his or her property (e.g. new roof, boiler, windows, etc) and needs to pay for them by raising rents, he or she has to go through a long and costly rent control process at the Dept. of Housing and Community Development (DCHD). Would you support streamlining the rent control process to exempt expenditures for building improvements, when such expenditures are certified as clearly meeting the IRS definition of “capital expenditure,” since their purpose is to maintain and improve the condition of our city’s rental housing stock?
The main purpose of the rent control process is to assure that rental housing in our city remains affordable; unchecked increases in rent would dramatically shrink the available rental housing stock for large segments of the District population. If the rent control process is unnecessarily long and costly, I am willing to investigate how DCHD can make quicker determinations that remain fair to all parties involved. The IRS definition of “capital expenditure” exists to enable housing providers to claim a deduction on amounts expended for that purpose, not as an analysis of whether rent should be increased a set amount to pay for that expenditure. I think in order to keep our housing stock available for the majority of renters in this city, there should be a fair due process hearing on whether a rent increase tied to such an expenditure is justified. Absent that, there exists the possibility that a landlord could engage in a range of capital expenditures the IRS would recognize in order to price a poorer set of residents out of a development in pursuit of wealthier tenants. Such a strategy would not serve our goal of keeping our rental stock vibrant and widely available.
The District of Columbia is one of only five U.S. jurisdictions that have rent control programs within their borders. The constitutions or codes of thirty four states, in fact, expressly prohibit adoption of rent control programs; the other twelve states which have no laws or constitutional provisions addressing the subject also have no localities which have adopted rent control programs.
• Do you think changes are needed to the D.C. rent control law, or do you think it should be left alone?
Two-thirds of the District’s residents are renters, so I think that the rent control law appears to serve our rental market just fine. As a former renter, I was very satisfied with our rent control laws.
• If you think it should be changed, do you have specific ideas on how it should be changed?
I don’t think it should be changed.
• The District’s rent control program is not means-tested, i.e. there is no determination of need whatsoever – thus, the benefits accrue to any tenant who rents in a rent-controlled building, regardless of their income. What is your position on this aspect of the District’s rent control program?
I would have to see an alternative proposal to judge its viability. The problem with lifting rent control based on tenant income is getting the genie back into the bottle; once a unit is rented at a certain amount, a housing provider will have no incentive to offer that unit at a lower rent to the next lower earning tenant, thereby potentially depriving the city of scores of affordable rental units. Further, would housing providers citywide be willing to follow a means-tested rent design system whereby lower earning renters would be charged a lower rent than higher earning renters, as a logical extension of this means-tested argument?
• What is your position on “vacancy decontrol,” in which rent control would be lifted from an apartment unit once the current tenant vacates, but rent control stays in effect on it so long as that tenant has not moved?
Vacancy decontrol, as you describe it, seems likely to result in the same problem illustrated above: a loss of affordable housing, unit by unit, as tenant turnover occurs. The end result would be a city where the amount of rental housing affordable to persons earning 50% or less of current AMI would be next to zero within ten years.
• Are the answers provided to these questions substantively consistent, in your view, with the positions you have advocated (or will) before tenant groups in the course of this campaign?
Consistency is the sign of good character. I don’t change my positions based on my audience.
Energy Conservation and “Green” Building Proposals
AOBA members fully support efforts to maximize energy conservation; they are singularly responsible for the District of Columbia having the highest square footage of LEED-certified commercial and institutional “green” building per capital in the nation - an achievement attained totally through the voluntary efforts of building owners, rather than regulatory mandates.
Increasingly, however, “green” proponents are arguing for inclusion of mandatory requirements in building codes and other regulatory measures as being necessary to force adoption of “green” initiatives. These mandatory proposals are often advanced with little analysis of the actual market conditions in the jurisdiction where they are being advocated, e.g. what the market is already doing, the costs to implement such initiatives for both the public and private sector that must pay for them, and practical impediments to implementation, such as zoning/land use, historic preservation, rent control, tenant disruption, etc.
• What is your environmental vision for the District of Columbia? In particular, what are your views on the roles of 1) public initiatives aimed at educating and incentivizing building owners to implement various environmental initiatives, and 2) legislative and regulatory mandates to do so? What will you do to ensure that careful analysis is given to the impact of such initiatives on the businesses and citizens who will ultimately pay for them?
My environmental vision for the District of Columbia is that we should be the leader of the free world in promoting green construction. The reason why there are so many LEED projects in the District of Columbia is because this city is full of engaged citizens who are concerned about environmental policy and are willing to pay a premium to rent, buy or lease space in green buildings. The District Department of the Environment should work with building developers to explain the long-term monetary benefit to building green – lower energy costs into the future, increased rental/lease rates and sale prices paid by future users of space in green spaces and the long term universal benefit of shrinking our carbon footprint so this coastal city is not swallowed by water rising due to climate change within fifty years. I think the market provides enough incentive to build green, as current development rates of LEED projects in the District demonstrate.
However, I think we will need to offer some incentives to both builders and current owners of individual property units to spur green improvements such as the installation of solar panels or rain barrels on roofs. I support the SREC (solar renewable energy credit) and I think that other green credits should be offered where green improvements are performed by District licensed businesses that can certify that at least 50% of their workforce is comprised of District residents.
I note that the providers of this survey have provided no “careful analysis” of the impact of any current or proposed initiatives on District businesses. However, peer reviewed scientific studies have shown again and again that all of us will pay if we do not begin enacting green building standards to reduce our carbon footprint.
Scores of energy conservation studies have documented that, when consumers are aware of and sensitive to price signals, the prudence of their energy consumption increases significantly. Until fairly recently, most commercial buildings and multi family residential buildings were constructed with “master-metered” energy utilities. In such buildings, there is no separate metering of tenant spaces: the building owner pays the utility bill and the costs are included in the rent. Thus, tenants have little actual awareness about their energy consumption; consequently, instead of only paying for their actual energy consumption, more energy efficient tenants are subsidizing their less efficient neighbors, and the environmental benefits of reduced demand for energy are unrealized.
Installation of utility “submeters” is a recognized and efficient method of reducing energy consumption in such buildings. Yet, until recently, the District of Columbia’s laws did not authorize the use of submeters – unlike the “best practices” seen elsewhere, including our surrounding jurisdictions which have had submetering laws for more than twenty-five years. Two years ago, the Council adopted legislation that authorized use of submeters in commercial buildings, but that bill did not extend to residential settings.
• The proven energy conservation benefits of submetering are the same in multifamily buildings as they are in commercial buildings. Will you introduce and/or support legislation to authorize submetering in multifamily buildings, thereby allowing tenants and housing providers to reduce energy consumption in their buildings? (Note that, in any building subject to rent control, the housing provider would still be required to first obtain approval from the District government to install submeters, and would be ordered to reduce the rents charged thereafter, since the utility cost factor in current rents would be removed).
Your hypothetical does not seem to address that your proposal will likely lead to landlords charging tenants for utilities in buildings where they do not currently pay utilities. In the middle of an economic downturn where a sizable number of residents are spending up to half of their monthly income on rent, supporting a change which would force them to pay for utilities as well would again return us to the same problem of shrinking the affordable housing pool, unless rents were tied to monthly energy usage (so that tenants who agreed to pay a set rent in the past based on the benefit of not having to pay utilities would pay less per month concurrently with that benefit being removed). Housing providers cannot expect to charge the same rent they charged tenants who moved in under the expectation that their utilities would be paid while not actually paying for the utilities. There would have to be some sort of compensation to renters immediately upon implementation of this plan - although in the abstract, it is an appealing environmental argument.
Certain union protesters have often been documented outside a variety of buildings in DC using drums, paint cans, whistles, tambourines and other noise-making devices to protest the use of a non-union contractor in a building. The express purpose of this strategy is not to merely get the attention of the firm that is utilizing the non-union services, but to also bring pressure on that firm by severely disrupting the ability of all other tenants in the building to conduct their business (and often nearby residents), even though they have nothing whatsoever to do with the work or the contractor in question.
“Commercial speech” is, of course, a constitutionally protected activity; non-speech noise, however, is not. Will you introduce, or support, legislation proposed meaningful and enforceable restrictions on the noise levels allowed to be made in commercial areas, in order to ensure a balance between the rights of protestors and the equally valid rights of nearby businesses and residents?
As an attorney, I am aware of the constitutional challenges in drafting any noise legislation. Further, I am aware of how laws have unintended consequences; for example, could a District resident utilize this same “restriction on noise levels” law to prevent landlords from engaging in construction to improve their own property? After all, could such construction be accomplished at a noise level lower than the playing of a drum? There is almost no way that such a law could be narrowly tailored to address the concern in your hypothetical, in any way that would not also criminalize a range of activities that must take place in order to operate a modern city. I should also note that I support the use of union labor on building projects.
In the District of Columbia, evictions can only occur when ordered by a D.C. Superior Court judge after a hearing. Tenants, however, have an absolute “right to cure” any violations of their lease, even after a court order has issued, and thereby avoid eviction; there is no penalty or disincentive whatsoever for “repeat offenders.” Thus, tenants who continually disturb or endangers [sic] other tenants by using the apartment for illegal activities, overcrowding the apartment, making excessive noise, creating hazardous conditions by hoarding or other activities, or getting months behind in their rent (a tremendous problem for the small housing provider who can’t carry the delinquency) can simply “cure” their violation, literally up to the moment the marshal arrives to carry out the court order, and thereby stop eviction—only to subsequently resume the same kinds of behavior.
• Would you support legislation to create something like a “three strikes and you’re out” rule, which would ensure that such problem tenants can be evicted if a judge finds that they have repeatedly violated their lease terms and their continued presence is disturbing or endangering other tenants in a building?
Your initial hypothetical is mixing several issues – specifically mixing public health and safety issues with economic concerns of the landlord. If a tenant is engaging in illegal activity on the premises, the police can be called (repeatedly, if necessary), to have the occupant arrested. If that tenant is threatening another tenant, a protective order can be sought. As regards the health argument, if the occupant is engaged in activity that is endangering the health of other occupants, I would support a law that removes the right to cure where the Department of Health makes three consecutive findings of extremely unsanitary conditions (parallel to the type of findings DOH would have to make to permanently shut down an eating establishment; duly noting that some health issues are also partially the responsibility of the landlord, such as abating rodents, and the tenant should lose her/his right to cure only where the three instances involve matters fully in her/his control). As regards the failure to pay rent, this is a contractual issue between the tenant and the landlord; housing providers who choose to do business in the District of Columbia are well aware of our regulatory environment - that is why so many landlords thoroughly screen their tenants before entering leases with them.
• What is your position on allocating appropriated dollars in the city’s budget for a tenant assistance programs which can offer financial help to those tenants facing eviction solely because of a temporary housing crisis? Right now, a housing provider even has to go through the entire court process for eviction when a tenant has already “skipped” the apartment, i.e. the tenant has clearly abandoned the apartment but did not “officially” give notice to vacate. The court costs and delays in re-renting the apartment are unnecessary hardships on housing providers. Would you support legislation to streamline the process, for example, by allowing the housing provider to forego the court process if it certifies that the tenant has not been seen in a specified period of time and is believed to have vacated the unit – as long as there are severe penalties for a false certification by a housing provider?
I support allocating city dollars to assist tenants. As for streamlining the process for eviction proceedings where tenants have allegedly abandoned the unit, I would propose legislation allowing the process to be streamlined if landlords can provide a sworn statement from the tenant’s new landlord that the tenant now lives at a different property, as long as the former housing provider alleging “skipping” can enter the tenant’s new lease into the trial record. Penalties for falsifying such testimony should naturally be harsh, equivalent to a year’s rent at the re-rented rate, awarded to the tenant, as well as awarding lawyers fees and court costs to the tenant.
Crime in Residential Neighborhoods
• What specific actions would you recommend to address the problem of crime in neighborhoods?
We desperately need more foot and bike patrols. We need officers out of their cruisers and in the community actively interacting with residents as much as possible. We also need tax credits to encourage officers to buy homes in the District. I would also propose a residency bonus for officers who buy homes or rent homes in their PSA (where such homes are their sole residence), so that officers have a direct financial incentive to live in the community within which they patrol. When police officers are neighbors in their community, they will have constant access to community members who can provide them with tips and even give officers the chance to prevent crimes their neighbors (or officers themselves) spot in progress before harm can be done to citizens.
• Because of the crime problem in some areas, many housing providers must now spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to hire armed, off-duty MPD officers to patrol their buildings because the on-duty police are overwhelmed. Would you support a full or partial DC tax credit for housing providers who must undertake such extraordinary measures to protect their tenants?
I think that the hiring of off-duty officers to perform services their on-duty fellow officers should be performing is not the best usage of our police resources; this is a de facto backdoor second shift for officers and leads to them being overworked. I would rather use those tax dollars to hire more officers to provide on-duty services than have a legion of officers working for private entities and overworking them with secondary employment, possibly making them more tired and less alert when they have to return on-duty due to “moonlighting” side jobs that deprive them of the opportunity to rest. I am also generally wary of scenarios that lead to public servants working for private actors instead of the general public good.
Mobile Roadway Vending
The District has recently seen a significantly increased presence of mobile vending trucks, most of which are selling food products that are of greater variety and higher quality than those offered by small sidewalk cart vendors. While this new vending modality and variety are generally welcome and desirable, they are such a new phenomenon that the District’s law and regulations governing vending activity did not anticipate the challenges they present. Their intense proliferation has exposed serious shortcomings in the city’s vending regulatory framework that is intended to protect the public. Valid questions also arise regarding the revenues to be appropriately collected from such vendors, who presently do not pay the District’s restaurant tax or any other sales tax, property taxes, public space fees, etc.
• Many other major U.S. cities (San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York) have recently adopted legislation to specifically address mobile roadway vending, using techniques such as advance filing of routes and schedules, assigned locations, etc. Would you introduce and/or support legislation to do so in the District, and to adopt a moratorium on issuance of additional mobile vending licenses – short-term and for a time certain – to allow a more specific regulatory approach to be put in place?
Food trucks have offered a dynamic food alternative to District residents who enjoy the culinary variety they offer. There are already restrictions placed on food trucks that require them to only stop where patrons are waiting and to leave once lines have come to end. Due to the small profit margin in mobile food vending, these businesses may be unduly harmed and possibly put out of business by the application of additional taxes and fees. I don’t think assigned locations and routes would satisfy consumer demand for flexible mobile vending locations based on demand (generally pushed by social networking sites such as Twitter). I would be willing to hold a hearing with mobile food vendors to discuss whether the current regulatory approach is adequate and to what extent additional fees or the imposition of some tax on their sales might be feasible.
Bill 19-38, the “Equal Access to Employment for All Act of 2011”
What is your opinion on pending legislation that [sic] Bill 19-38 will prohibit District employers from using the information in a consumer credit report when reviewing a job application? Many business organizations and their members, including AOBA, are concerned that Bill 19-38 will unreasonably restrict the ability of employers to appropriately consider such information in making hiring determinations. What is your position on Bill 19-38; and specifically, what is your response to business community concerns about this bill?
First, consumer credit reports are often erroneous and have outdated information that consumers sometimes fight for months to have removed. I do not think it would be fair to hinge an employment decision on potentially erroneous information. Further, I do not see the utility of relying on consumer credit information to determine whether or not an applicant can perform in an open position for which she/he seeks employment. Employers should focus their scrutiny on past job performance, not personal credit history, when determining the viability of an applicant to fill a position with their organization or business. Finally, for some reason, certain racial groups have disproportionately lower credit scores than other racial groups. Since often disproportionate underemployment is often present among racial groups that have disproportionately low credit scores, relying upon consumer credit reports may further undermine our efforts to fully employ District residents, regardless of race, based on their ability to perform, not external factors.
Bill 19-17, the “Human Rights for Ex-Offenders Amendment Act of 2011”
The Council is again considering legislation, Bill 19-17, the “Human Rights for Ex-Offenders Amendment Act of 2011,) which proposes to add ex-offenders (defined as those with an arrest or conviction record), as a protected class under the District’s Human Rights law. Many business organizations and their members, including AOBA, have concerns that this legislation will severely and inappropriately restrict the ability to make valid inquiries into an applicant’s background (in our case, a prospect rental or job applicant). What is your position on Bill 19-17; and specifically, what is your response to business community concerns about this bill?
I think that persons with an arrest or conviction record face discrimination when seeking employment or housing. An arrest can occur without any establishment that the arrestee actually committed a criminal act, thus it is particularly troublesome when an applicant’s arrest record is used to discriminate against a District resident seeking employment or housing (since their guilt in the matter in question was never established and since arrest records exist even when the party in question is exonerated in a court of law). Even as regards the area of conviction records, discrimination is unwarranted because many returning citizens have served their time and returned to the community ready to work, after paying their debt to society. Finally, there is a disproportionate pattern of arresting citizens in the poorest and blackest wards of the city – Wards 7 and 8 reportedly represent half the drug arrests in the city, even though drug use (and the sale of drugs) occurs in all eight wards (and those two wards definitely do not represent half the drug usage in the city). Underemployment in these wards is chronic and with the persistent need the District faces to increase the size of our tax base, we cannot afford to maintain a permanent underclass of returned citizens who cannot secure employment or rent housing in many areas of our city. I support Bill 19-17. The business community will have to find more viable means of screening applicants, such as prior rental history and prior job history and performance. Both of those methods are more reliable indicators of future performance than prior arrest or conviction records.
ULTRA TEEN CHOICE CANDIDATE QUESTIONNAIRE
Candidate Name: Alan Page
Candidate Website: http://alanpagedc.com
Candidate Email: email@example.com
Candidate Phone: 202-285-8365
1. Washington DC provides no funding for HIV/AIDS prevention that primarily emphasizes sexual abstinence rather than condom use. Recent studies (see http://www.ultrateenchoice.org/Jermott_study.html) show that this type of health education is effective. Would you support funding for abstinence-centered programs such as the one described in this study? If so, how much funding would you propose allocating on a yearly basis?
The study cited above deals specifically with the finding that teaching 12 year olds about the value of delaying sex led to only 33% of the students being taught to delay sex actually doing so, while a class teaching about same sex resulted in roughly 50% of the class delaying sexual activity. I have not been able to read the entire study to determine if other variables were at play, but assuming that all variables were controlled, this means that a class teaching 12 year olds to delay having sex based on health concerns (prevention of contraction of STDs) was successful, absent a moralizing tone or insisting that everyone should abstain until marriage. I think that these results indicate that an abstinence centered program might work as regards convincing younger middle schoolers to delay the onset of sex, but there is no evidence that this type of program would work with older District residents who comprise the vast majority of HIV/AIDS cases.
Since these classes essentially only convinced a third of the attendees to delay sex until the age of 14, I don’t believe this strategy would be very effective in combating the spread of HIV/AIDS in the District, which generally afflicts residents far older than 14. There would likely be a benefit in reducing teen pregnancy, but that is not the thrust of your question above. In our current fiscal climate, I would have to look at how widespread pregnancy rates in middle school are in the District before I allocate precious educational funds to such a measure.
2. In Wards 7 and 8, 82% of all births are outside of marriage. Out of wedlock birth has been associated with a host of negative economic, social and health issues for children and parents that experience it. What would you do to encourage more youth and adults to wait until marriage to have children?
As noted by the link in the question above, studies undertaken during the Bush administration indicated that “abstinence until marriage” programs are ineffective. The program discussed above does appear to note the success of programs that merely encourage young people to delay having sex until some unspecified point in the future (not until marriage, but just to delay sex generally). If we can get two thirds of the 12 year olds in the city to significantly delay the onset of sex until their late teens by scaling the program noted above across the public schools, we may be able to slow teenage pregnancy across the city. All empirical data, however, appears to indicate that “abstain until marriage” programs fail and I do not support investing public funds into programs that are proven not to work. We would also have to look into the empirical data regarding negative economic, social and health issues related to teen pregnancy in the District to determine how much we should spend combating teen pregnancy.
3. Teens and adults that become pregnant can tap into a number of government resources provided by the District, such as assistance on health care, housing, child care and more. What will you do to make sure that marriage is encouraged by DC laws and is not discouraged by requirements for assistance programs?
I cannot think of one public policy reason that would indicate how the city benefits from public assistance recipients being unmarried, so I would remove any requirements that recipients be unmarried, if any remain, and focus instead on household income. I would also ask the CFO to explore the potential financial impact to the city treasury of creating a tax benefit for parties filing jointly after marking “married” on their tax forms. If we can determine a potential tax value to instituting this measure (such as luring married couples from other localities to move into the District), it might make sense to enact this. Unfortunately, due to our current fiscal situation, we cannot afford to forego tax dollars by offering such incentives unless they could conceivably increase our tax base in the near future.
4. Do you support defining marriage as one man and one woman only?
I support allowing people who love one another to marry one another. It is not the role of the state to determine what form of love should be recognized between consenting adults.
5. Do you support full voting rights for DC residents, including the right to vote on the definition of marriage?
The Human Rights Act prohibits the inclusion of discriminatory measures on the ballot in Washington DC. I support statehood for DC and the voting rights for District residents in Congress that would come with it, but I do not support the right of the majority to vote for discriminating against the minority and deciding what form of love should be recognized by the state. I have gay people in my family. It would be hypocritical for me to stand on the position that I can be married to the woman of my choice, while the gay members of my family must hide in the shadows.
6. Recent news stories have indicated a continuing pattern of abuse of public funds by the District’s HIV/AIDS administration. Reports indicate that millions of dollars were paid to ex convicts who never provided the services paid for, or used the funds to fund procurement of property for a strip club. Yet relatively little is spent on HIV prevention, and absolutely nothing on programs that support youth who want to remain abstinent or return to abstinence.
A. Do you think that the District’s HIV prevention approach is adequate, and if not, how would you change it?
The HIV prevention strategy in the District is not adequate. Middle aged Black and Latina women are the largest growing demographic of HIV infection and the District is not targeting awareness-raising efforts towards those two groups. Needleworks is a nonprofit that reportedly provided 40% of the needle exchange services in the city and it recently closed. The District needs to support needle exchange programs with grants sufficient for them to survive. As a Councilmember, I would use my oversight authority to regularly communicate with the Department of Health regarding their efforts to adopt best practices used in cities around the world to reduce the spread of HIV.
B. What would you do to provide adequate and equal funding for prevention programs that promote sexual abstinence?
I believe in adopting best practices and relying on empirical data. If empirical studies indicate that there is an abstinence program that would reduce the spread of HIV among the District’s most affected populations, I would direct our resources there. Currently, no empirical study indicates this, however, so I would continue to support funding on programs that empirical data supports.
7. Do you agree that 6th and 8th grade youth should be taught the following (Current DC public school health standards:
6th grade (6.1.6) Explain that people, regardless of biological sex, gender, ability, sexual orientation, gender identity and culture, have sexual feeling and the need for love, affection and physical intimacy
8th grade (8.1.5.) Define sexual orientation, using correct terminology, and explain that as people grow and develop, they may begin to feel romantically and[/]or sexually attracted to people of a different gender and/or to people of the same gender
Given the median test scores in public schools and public charter schools across the District, I am not certain that the above quoted standards, if accurate, represent our most pressing educational concerns. I support the teaching of biology generally, but I would need someone to indicate to me the academic value or prioritizing the above standards among the many key items that teachers in the District’s public education system must teach to our students. Speaking as a parent myself, I think the standards above are age-appropriate for an urban middle school audience (“the need for love, affection, and physical intimacy” is particularly innocuous as a concept), however I am not certain about whether these topics hold nearly as much academic value as assuring that reading comprehension is on grade level and that students understand abstract mathematical concepts, among other areas. I also don’t think that teaching about sexual attraction in detail is needed to teach the basic biological concept of reproduction. Saying that sexual attraction leads to reproduction and perhaps detailing some animal mating rituals seems more than sufficient. Teaching romance as a concept seems outside the province of public schooling as well, as many adults don’t even agree on what that concept entails (otherwise, I’m sure our divorce rate would be lower).
8. A. Do you support abortion for minors without parental consent (the District’s current law)?
There are many complicated issues inherent in the need to allow abortion without parental consent: (1) In abuse situations, sometimes the parent himself is the father or minors no longer live with and fear being located by their abusive parent(s) (2) Some minors in the District are not raised by their parent(s) and have no idea where their parent(s) are located. (3) If a minor’s relationship with her parent is so damaged that they do not feel like they can approach their parent for consent, I do not believe the state should compel them to seek consent. In short, I support this law. Minors who are in loving households will seek consent, in my mind, and minors who are not in loving households should not be compelled to seek such consent.
B. Do you support public funding for such abortions (also the District’s current policy)
Absent public funding, abortion would only be available for residents of a certain income demographic. Abortion is a medical procedure and women have the right to have access to medical care regardless of income.
League of Women Voters candidate questionnaire
1) Please provide the following biographical information:
Age: 36 (as of March 23rd)
Education: J.D. from Howard Law, B.A. in English (minor in political science), Howard University
Qualifications for the office you seek: I worked with the Wylie Street Homeowners Association (and my local PSA) to turn my street from an open air drug market that was a dumping ground for stolen cars and litter (including glass strewn sidewalks) to a livable community in less than five years. I also worked with H Street Main Street to contribute to the effort to turn H Street from a corridor filled with vacant buildings to the rapidly improving, now buzzing commercial corridor it is today. We worked to coordinate efforts to get new signage for existing businesses, publish and distribute a business directory to raise public awareness about businesses on the street early in its re-development, assisted in the design of the H Street Overlay which laid out the projected plan for re-development and revamped the H Street Festival, which is now attended by thousands with participation from numerous local businesses and vendors. Additionally, I sit on the board of directors of two nonprofits, One Common Unity (OCU) and Emergence Community Arts Collective, both of which focus on using the arts to revitalize communities (OCU, for example, will be bringing 30 at-risk youth to a wilderness retreat in West Virginia to teach them about peaceful resolution of conflict and artistic expression). I hope to bring my experience organizing citizens around a transformative vision to the Council.
2) Decreased tax revenues will make developing the DC Budget for Fiscal Year
2012 a considerable challenge. If it becomes necessary to raise additional revenue, which tax or taxes should be increased to raise an additional $150 million—personal and/or corporate income taxes, residential and/or commercial property taxes, sales taxes, other taxes. Be sure to explain why you selected the tax or taxes that you would raise, and indicate how much you would raise from each tax.
Raising revenue is crucial to eliminating the budget shortfall. Luckily, the Chief Financial Officer recently announced that $105 million in revenue the District did not expect to receive is projected to arrive in FY 2012. This will reduce our projected shortfall, but there are still some changes to the tax structure that are warranted, based on best practices in taxation, specifically progressive taxation (the use of brackets, where percentage of income paid by taxpayers increases gradually by income bracket). Currently in the District, our top tax bracket starts at income above $40,001, taxed at the 8.5% rate and we have three total tax brackets (wherein the first $10,000 in income is taxed at 4%, the next $10,001-$40,000 is taxed at 6% and income at $40,001 and above is taxed at 8.5%).
Tax brackets generally extend up the income scale in a locality, but the District has a sizable number of earners in the top bracket. We could create a new top tax rate of 9.5% for income above $250,000 and bring in $150 million in new revenue, according to the DC Fiscal Policy Institute. Working closely with the CFO, I also plan to propose a study on the possible effects of adjusting the tax structure across the board, to determine how much tax relief we can offer to middle income earners in the District.
I also would propose raising the vacant property tax rate on commercial and residential properties and placing a time limit on how long advertising a property for sale, rent or lease can exempt a property owner from paying the vacant property tax rate, to spur development of these properties (by speeding the sale of these properties at market rates by owners seeking to avoid continual payment of the higher vacant tax rate). The amount of revenue this change would raise is variable, due to the constantly shifting number of properties that are vacant in the market.
3) With an anticipated budget gap of approximately $500 million, the DC government will probably have to spend less money in FY 2012 than it is spending in FY 2011. Do you favor an across the board reduction in spending or would you reduce spending in specific areas to protect critical services? If your choice would be to focus spending reductions in specific areas, explain how you would achieve spending reductions of $350 million. Note: In preparing your answer, you may want to consult DC’s FY 2011 Budget. It is available on line on the Chief Financial Officer’s web site, www.cfo.dc.gov.
My primary policy preference is to find ways to creatively raise revenue while using Council oversight to fight waste (and to cut the budgets of agencies that consistently fail to cut waste and continually fail to provide proper service to District residents). As a caveat, I am aware that Congress might intercede to block any of the revenue proposals I suggest. Nonetheless, I believe we should explore radical proposals such as erecting tolls on the District side of all bridges through which the city can be accessed to charge residents who enter the city a nominal fee of $1/car and $2/larger vehicle (including SUVs, buses and trucks) to enter or exit the city via bridge. This could have the doubly advantageous effect of raising revenue and decreasing car usage (while increasing public transportation usage). We should also explore a congestion charge similar to what is being used in central London to discourage car usage (and reduce congestion). This revenue-generating method also has environmental benefits, such as reducing air pollution and reducing overall consumption of fossil fuels (not to mention creating an incentive to use public transportation, generating revenue there as well).
Despite the above, I do have ideas about how we can reduce spending in specific areas, to protect critical services from across the board cuts.
I would cut $10 million from the Office of the Chief Financial Officer through cutting salaries and requesting a joint CFO-OTR study on which areas of waste and duplication can be eliminated by having the CFO combine efforts with the OTR in certain areas (the study would determine to what extent the two office can share office space and to what extent certain middle management officials in each office can merge responsibilities to eliminate certain positions).
I would cut $10 million from WMATA by eliminating the bottom five percentile of bus lines by ridership in every part of the city, except bus lines whose ridership has an annual median income below $30,000. The pain of these cuts may be able to be minimized by generating revenue through issuing a RFP soliciting developers to pay for the right to build above DC-based transit properties such as the 14th St bus barn (this could add density to our neighborhoods and create a mixed use for city owned properties, two beneficial goals).
I would cut $10 million from the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR), through closing the recreational centers with the lowest resident usage and giving charter schools the right of first refusal for these building spaces, so they still can have a public use. Hopefully through aggressive Council oversight over ongoing DPR expenditures this cut will not have to lead to recreational center closings, if through oversight the Council can compel DPR to assure the proper allocation of current DPR funding and the cutting of waste (for example, by preventing DPR workers from idling vehicles or using them for personal reasons, making sure monies are collected from citizens using DPR facilities like weight rooms, etc).
I would zero out funding for new streetcar projects in FY2012. New projects would have to have their start times delayed until FY2013, although existing projects will continue apace (as stopping them now would leave streetscapes in disarray and possibly risk the loss of federal funds or breach contractual agreements). Hopefully this delay will not cause the loss of federal funds for these projects (I imagine in our current fiscal climate that Congress would not be opposed to delaying the spending of federal funds for projects that have not yet started by a year).
I would cut $1 million from Homeland Security and Emergency Management because the District has federal emergency plans in place to protect the city in the case of emergency.
I would cut $1 million from the Council budget by cutting the salaries of Council members and staffers by 10% across the board and by 15% for the Council Chair, eliminating automobile perks and cutting security expenditures by 10%.
I would cut $1 million from the Office of Unified Communications. After a $12 million increase last fiscal year with no clear improvement on service to residents, a cut sends the message that District residents expect dramatic service improvements if a 30% budget increase (from FY 2010 to FY 2011) is put in place.
I would cut $2 million from the baseball dedicated tax transfer.
I would cut $400,000 from the Deputy Mayor of Education Office because there is no evidence that the 229% year-on-year increase from FY 2010 to FY 2011 led to dramatically improved administration of the schools by this office, therefore a cut sends the message that District residents expect extraordinary service improvements if a 229% budget increase (from FY 2010 to FY 2011) is put in place.
I would cut $100,000 from the DC National Guard budget. Many of these troops are being sent to Iraq and Afghanistan and are providing no service to District residents.
I would eliminate the ability of students to use public school issued fare cards on weekends and after 8pm in order to cut the school transit subsidy by $100,000.
I would bring the Taxicab Commission under the authority of the Department of Transportation and cut $200,000 from its budget by eliminating upper management positions that would be duplicative in the newly merged agency.
I project that the revenue-raising methods I detail at the beginning of my answer to this question would offset enough of the projected budget shortfall to a level where a reduction in projected increases - instead of a cut in prior FY2011 spending levels - will be all that is required to close the remainder of the shortfall. In the event that this is not the case, I would explore reducing budget increases by 1% in other areas that do not comprise critical safety net services such as rental assistance and childcare. In no event would I support any cut to critical social services.
One more key point where we could look for savings: In FY2011, the District expended $90 million on overtime funds paid to District employees; I believe we need to carefully survey our labor needs and determine whether we need District employees working that much overtime in order to serve the city. If I am elected, I would use my oversight authority as a councilmember to regularly investigate whether supervisors are actively discouraged by their agency heads from asking all but the most essential employees to work overtime in FY2012 (and only in serious cases where the city urgently requires overtime services to be rendered).
4) If you are elected, will your Council salary be your only employment income during your term of office?
Yes, my Council salary will be my only income during my term of office.
Washington DC Association of Realtors [WDCAR] Candidate Interview Questionnaire
1. Why are you running for elected office?
I am running for elected office because I believe that in this crucial fiscal juncture, as we face a nine figure projected budget shortfall, we must make the correct choices when we cut expenditures or we risk losing a decade of consistent progress and growth for the District. My daughter is a DCPS student and I am a District homeowner. I have a vested interest in the continued growth of this city. This is the wrong time to make short-term program cuts to critical services that may irreparably harm the city for years to come.
2. What new perspective will you provide to the process?
This is my first time running for political office, so I will come to the table without preconceived notions or old agendas guiding how I will legislate. Instead, I will look to best practices being undertaken in urban localities around the world to find the best way forward for the District. As an attorney, I have a key understanding regarding how the law can guide public policy towards the greater good. As a Howard law alum, I was trained in the tradition of using the law to attain social justice and progress for all.
3. How do your previous positions provide the background skills to serve on the Council?
My previous experience as an attorney practicing education law for special education clients and contract law for business clients provided me with a diverse view on how the law affects different segments of the District’s population, from impoverished children to small business owners. Due to my legal training, I am also aware of constitutional concerns and how to draft legislation concisely to avoid confusion in actual application (which can and often does lead to expensive litigation).
4. What are your top priorities if elected?
My top priority is eliminating our budget shortfall and bringing in new revenue, so the District can continue on its upward path. Our home values have steadily increased, retail has continued to expand, and the commercial real estate market has continued to grow healthily, despite national economic conditions. The District needs to steadily bring in revenue to continue funding dynamic programs that make the city an even better place to live and an even better place to operate a business.
5. As someone who would enter office not in the course of a regular election cycle, how would you adjust to your new position with a Council of elected incumbents?
As a lawyer, I learned that you sometimes enter a situation where the adverse party is better funded and outnumbers you. I have always approached such situations with poise and confidence. On the Council, I will work to build relationships quickly with committee chairs, so I can hit the ground running and rapidly adjust to my new position. I am already gathering a team of experts on a range of pressing issues facing the District who will help me with selecting appropriate staff that can help me to make a swift transition from campaign mode to legislative mode, should I be elected by the people of the District.
6. How and what would you change about how the current Council operates?
First, I would implore my fellow Council members to accept a pay cut to demonstrate that we are willing to spread the sacrifice evenly as we reduce expenditures in the inevitable round of FY2012 program cuts. Secondly, I would work with the Council to arrange for a study of all Council perks to eliminate those that are not absolutely essential to the operation of the Council and security. Lastly, we also need to review staff salaries and perks for potential savings we can generate for the taxpayers. If we ask the highest earners to pay more, we have to secure value for their dollar by securing the most efficient expenditure of taxpayer funds. I would also propose legislation to ban outside employment by Councilpersons, which creates the impression of impropriety and influence by outside employers on Council decisions.
7. What challenges do you see arising in Council Period 19?
Balancing the budget while protecting critical services and assuring our continued growth as a city remains the key challenge the Council faces in Council Period 19. Some congressional members in the House of Representatives also have threatened to cut the city’s federal funding, so the city may possibly face additional revenue-generating challenges if such a cut passes both houses of Congress.
8. What Committee(s) would you be interested in serving in the future and why?
I am interested in serving on the Committee on Economic Development because the city is at a crossroads in terms of its financial growth. We have been largely shielded from the effects of the economic slowdown that is being seen in other cities, but the shortfall we face now shows that we are not immune to macroeconomic forces. We have to make smart choices to keep the city growing for everyone. I am interested in serving on the Committee on Public Works and Transportation because I use both my bicycle and public transportation to get around town (in addition to my trusty fuel efficient car), so I have a personal passion for public transit and biking infrastructure in the city (and for the continued improvement of both). Portland has made some radical improvements in the area of bicycle transit and I hope to get the District to follow their lead in future fiscal years (possibly as soon as FY 2014, if I am elected by the people of the District).
Tax and Fiscal Issues
1. Moving forward, would you look to program reductions or increasing revenue sources, or both? If you would cut programs, please identify likely program targets;
if you would increase revenue sources, please identify which one(s).
I would look to both program reductions and increasing revenue sources. I would increase revenue by proposing legislation to create a new top tax bracket of 9.5% for income above $200,000. Additional corporate tax revenue could be collected by closing a tax loophole allowing national and multinational corporations to shift profits earned in the District to subsidiaries based outside of the District, an amount of tax avoidance valued at $22 million according to a recent D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute study.
2. Do you believe there are certain taxes and fees that are too high? Which taxes and fees are too high? About right? Too low and could be raised if future budgets are necessary?
If elected, I would fight hard to ensure that the Council performs an extensive review of fees levied on small business operators, to determine if there is some way to design a fair tiered fee system that parallels the tax bracket structure. Under this tiered fee system, small businesses with first year payroll projections under 20 employees or less would not pay the same fees to open up their businesses as larger companies with payroll projections above that number. If we can make it cheaper to open small businesses, we will be able to get more of the scores of small vacant storefronts filled with new businesses, which will generate more property and income tax revenue for the city and lead to the reduction of vacant eyesores in communities. Effective corporate tax rates are low in the city, according to the DC Fiscal Policy Institute, and may be raised in future budgets as the city’s needs require.
1. What are your views and positions regarding commercial and residential property taxes? Would you look to increasing either for more revenue?
I would not look at increasing commercial or residential property tax rates at this time, with the exception of vacant property tax rates.
2. Do you have any comments on the current or future state of the commercial and residential real estate market in the District?
I think we have too many vacant commercial properties in certain areas of the city. We need to institute a restructuring of the vacant tax collection system to encourage leasing of this space before it slows the growth of property values for commercial properties across downtown. I describe this process in detail in my answer below. This same problem – vacant properties - is beginning to affect the multi-unit dwelling market as well. The only way to discourage real estate speculation – adding to the housing stock haphazardly without realistic business projections and at costs above the realistic ability of most of our residents to pay – is to levy some type of vacant tax penalty on properties that sit unoccupied for months (sometimes years) on end. This will encourage developers to build projects that can realistically be occupied based on solid market analysis, at rates the average District homebuyer can afford.
3. How do you feel about vacant properties in the District? Do you believe the Class 3 Vacant Property Tax Rate effectively addresses the issue?
I feel that vacant properties bring down property values of properties around them and therefore reduce overall property tax collection for the District. Communities are also affected by the blight associated with long-vacant properties. I do not feel the current Class 3 Vacant Property Tax Rate adequately addresses this problem.
I would propose a 200% increase in the vacant property rate for residential properties and a 300% increase in the vacant property tax rate for commercial properties, both to raise revenue and to encourage owners of vacant properties to sell them, rent them, or lease them at reasonable rates that the market will bear. Additionally, I would cap at 18 months the amount of time that vacant properties could remain on the market before the vacant tax rate kicks in, to discourage property owners from “sitting on” vacant properties in hopes of attaining unlikely future windfalls, which hampers the progress of developing areas and lowers property values (and property tax collection) across the District. I might consider increasing the homestead deduction for District residents who earn less than the annual median income (AMI), as such income is determined by the Chief Financial Officer (CFO).
Recordation of Property Taxes
4. What are your views and suggestions on closing costs, specifically the high cost of recordation and transfer taxes?
I support the creation of a program to help first time District homebuyers earning less than 50% of AMI pay closing costs, but in our current economic climate, it is dubious that we would be able to pay for that program and protect critical services. A targeted tax on housing developers citywide could be used to create a designated fund for this purpose, but I think implementation of such a tax should wait until momentum in the housing market increases, closer to 2008 levels.
4(a). Would you sponsor legislation to decrease recordation and transfer tax rates?
Due to the shortfall we are facing, I do not believe we could afford to decrease recordation and transfer tax rates at this time. We have one of the most robust urban real estate markets in the country, even at our current rates, and we desperately need the revenue that current rates generate to close the projected shortfall. As the city’s fiscal position improves, I am willing to look at all proposals that are backed by empirical data indicating that a specific tax cut will serve a specific goal of providing demonstrable economic stimulus that is unlikely to be achieved by other free market means.
Providing Housing Opportunities
1. What policies would you propose or support to make the cost of housing more affordable for citizens of low and moderate means?
I would propose legislation including clawbacks in every future tax incentive financing (TIF) agreement with residential developers. This legislation would require that 15% of units in such properties must be kept at a price affordable to District residents earning the annual median income (AMI) and require an additional 10% of units for District residents earning 50% of AMI.
2. Would you limit affordable housing options to District citizens who are at or below a certain AMI percentage?
I would not limit affordable housing availability to parties earning a certain percentage of AMI (as noted above) because (1) there are a large number of home purchasers earning AMI who are priced out of the market for their home needs and (2) market forces make it exceedingly difficult for a builder to construct homes that can be sold to parties earning only a set percentage of AMI, thus possibly hampering needed residential development by placing too stringent of a requirement on builders.
3. How will you ensure that the District enables the development of housing sufficient to meet demand, and provides sufficient buildable land to meet growth projections?
Workforce housing works hand in hand with keeping income tax revenue inside the District. It would be unfair to push for enforcement of measures that require District employees to live in the District when so much housing in the District is priced above their means, at current salary levels. In the long-term, I support working together with area credit unions to form public-private partnerships that can enable District workers to acquire loans to purchase workforce housing at favorable terms. I also support requiring residential builders who acquire tax incentive financing (TIF) for their projects to reserve 5% of their units for persons who work for the District or federal government; these units would be set-aside for parties who can prove the District or federal government employs them and prove that their income level is below AMI.
Building Better Communities
1. How will you make public transportation and infrastructure a funding priority?
I would work with Tommy Wells, chair of the Committee on Public Works and Transportation, to assure that public transportation remains fully funded going into FY2012. Necessary repairs and completion of ongoing public transportation projects on schedule is essential to assuring the continued smart growth of our city as a livable, walkable urban area.
2. Are there any particular transit projects or initiatives that should be a priority?
I believe the ongoing streetcar/streetscape projects in Anacostia and the H Street corridor have to be a priority. I also think the Express bus routes along 7th, 16th and H are great ways to get rush hour commuters quickly from home to work and back while reducing our traffic congestion.
3. What is your position on the streetcar project in the District?
I support completing the currently underway streetcar projects in Anacostia and the H Street/Benning corridor, but I believe our current fiscal condition may force us to delay the start of construction on additional streetcar lines for another two years, while we get our finances back on track. In the long run, fixed rail boosts property values along their routes, because real estate investors know those routes cannot be changed (as opposed to bus routes), leading to lasting increased property tax collection for the District into perpetuity along these lines as long as they run. Additionally, streetcars are more environmentally friendly than buses and the current streetcar design holds more passengers than a Metrobus. In the long run, the streetcars should expand. The trolleys should never have been removed.
Ensuring Economic Vitality
1. What measures would you propose or support to improve the District’s economic vitality?
I support the plan to centralize small business licensing into a one-stop center. We must reduce the amount of time it takes for business owners to acquire needed licenses, where all necessary paperwork has been presented.
2. How will you structure or restructure regulations to encourage businesses to come into the District?
I think starting the one-stop shop for business licensing in the new DCRA headquarters was a great first step towards creating a friendlier business climate in the District. I would want the Council to hold hearings where all interested stakeholders could discuss ways that we can restructure current regulations to make it easier to own and operate a business in the District, then move forward on recommendations that are seen to be the consensus.
3. What, if any, tax incentives would propose to keep struggling businesses alive and spur new ones to open?
I support restoring funding for the SREC tax credit that was supposed to help homeowners underwrite the cost of installing solar panels on their homes - this program will lead to the local creation of green jobs, is good for our environment, and will help us transition to the renewable energy economy of the future. I support tax relief for street level retail affected by streetscape projects that the District is currently working on. The Council may have to look at specific tax relief proposals for industries being affected the most by the economic downturn, but the city cannot currently afford to reduce its tax collections very much, even if the aim is to help businesses deal with free market challenges in our current economy (nor do I think it is a wise long-term strategy for competitive businesses to rely upon tax relief as a business strategy). Regardless, I am definitely open to holding Council hearings on additional tax incentives that the District can afford to implement to spur new business development, if they are narrowly tailored to create an incentive that will generate future tax revenue for the District and bring needed goods and services to the city.
4. Are there specific areas where economic development should or should not take place around the District?
Economic development should continue full speed ahead east of the river around the future location of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), especially as regards building affordable housing and retail, while working with current residents to offer credit repair and financial planning consultation to prepare current renters for homeownership (a small tax on developments in that area can be set aside for a New Anacostia Fund which would help first time homebuyers in the area surrounding DHS to buy homes in new developments built around DHS). We can radically transform this area just by allowing families who are renting to acquire wealth and stability through homeownership.
I also support a joint local-federal program to offer a tax credit to federal workers who buy their first home in the District, to encourage federal employees to live where they work.
I oppose development of forested areas in the District, since there are so many vacant properties and undeveloped vacant lots upon which developers can build.
5. What is your position on bringing in large retailers such as Target and Walmart into the District?
Large retailers (“big box stores”) entering the District, along with large businesses as a class, should be regulated by a big box law, requiring the payment of a living wage ($10/hr, minimum) to employees of businesses occupying a certain square footage (similar to the 90,000 square feet ceiling found in Chicago’s proposed “big box law”) and earning a certain amount according to public documents. Target has a much better corporate reputation than Wal-Mart, but both companies and any big box stores entering the District should pay their employees a living wage.
Wal-Mart is more problematic than most big box stores, due to persistent allegations of sex discrimination, racial discrimination, unethical tactics being used to prevent workers from unionizing, forcing workers to perform labor above 40 hours a week without paying overtime and other allegations against Walmart. I am personally opposed to Wal-Mart due to these allegations, repeated often enough to ring true for me, but I am uncertain whether they can be banned from entering the District by law.
Therefore, I would urge the Council to use its oversight authority over DCRA to consistently push to insure that Wal-Mart locations in the District are not engaging in any violation of District law centered around the aforementioned allegations when they operate here. I would also press the Office of Attorney General to sue Wal-Mart to enjoin them from continuing to engage in any behavior the company might commit in its locations here that violates District or federal law.
Due to our huge small business demographic, I worry about how the influx of too many big box stores in the District may affect our dynamic mix of small and large retailers. As such, I would encourage incoming big box businesses to enter into long term partnerships with area small businesses by joining BIDs (business improvement districts) and agreeing to have locally produced goods comprise a modest percentage of their overall stock, if such stores request tax abatements or TIFs from the District. For example, there are numerous locally owned clothing companies that could greatly increase sales if they were sold on the racks at area big box stores.
6. How do you feel about tax abatements and other tax incentives for economic development projects?
I feel that tax abatements and tax incentive financing should be tied to demonstrable future tax benefits to the District (as established by reports from the CFO) to offset potential loss of future tax revenue. Additionally, I feel that clawbacks should be added to such arrangements to allow the District to retract favorable tax arrangements if parties who receive them fail to reach previously agreed-upon benchmarks such as hiring a certain number of District residents at a living wage and other similar agreements, as determined to be necessary by community input and testimony before the Council about impending projects seeking favorable tax treatment.
1. How should the District government use its surplus land and properties?
The District holds public property in trust for the citizens, so there should be robust public discussion in the form of community forums and ANC meeting presentations, regarding how any surplus property should be used. Should communities agree to sell public property to private developers, I encourage the District to issue RFPs with competition from both nonprofit and for-profit organizations internationally so that District residents have the widest possible number of choices for the best use of surplus land. The process should be competitive, not no-bid. There should be a transparent process that can be followed by District residents both online and in files stored at a District government location.
2. How should the DC Public Schools use its surplus land and properties?
Several DC Public Charter Schools have facilities needs and they should be given the right of first refusal to bid on DCPS surplus land and property.
Protecting Property Owners
1. Do you support the property owner’s right to own, use, buy and sell property?
The right to own, use, buy and sell property is the cornerstone of capitalist economic theory and until we adopt a different economic system, this right is expected by all. While I strongly believe that we should reserve some property in our city for public use and community enjoyment (parks, museums, etc) and that certain uses should be curbed where they prevent the enjoyment by others of their property (noise control, etc), there are mechanisms built into the current law to provide for all of this.
2. Should property owners be compensated when government actions reduce the value of their property? If so, how will you ensure compensation is provided?
If government actions reduce the value of someone’s property through overt action that only has harmful effect (pollution emitted, noise, etc), that certainly calls for compensation. Some governmental action - such as the construction of halfway houses - has the effect of reducing value of surrounding property, but is an overt action that also has a positive effect (rehabilitation, etc) and that type of governmental action should not lead to compensation.
I would ensure that compensation is provided through the budget oversight power given to me as a Councilperson. Agencies that fail to appropriately compensate affected property owners will see their agency heads called before the Council to explain why and may face elimination of funding for the positions of individuals who fail to provide such compensation.
3. What are your views of the use of eminent domain?
Eminent domain has been misused in some cases by large developers who pressure lawmakers to approve taking individual small property lots for large-scale development projects. This is unjust. Where there is a true public pressing need and overwhelming public support for a governmental taking, there may be extremely limited circumstances where eminent domain may be appropriate. As a general practice, however, I see very few practical scenarios where it is the only available option and I think it should be used sparingly.
1. What steps will you take to further the improvement of Washington DC schools?
The first thing I will do as Councilperson in the area of education is to urge the Council to use its oversight authority to fight to ensure that dollars allocated for the classroom actually reach the pupils, whether they are in DC Public Schools (DCPS) or DC Public Charter Schools (DCPCS). I will also work hard to move the District towards funding parity between DCPCS and DCPS, using the Council’s budget and oversight authority. I will propose legislation that will require District agencies to provide the same services to DCPCS that they provide to DCPS, so that DC Public Charter Schools won’t have to dip into the budget for money that should used to pay for education of their pupils to pay for services that the District provides to DCPS schools for free.
Another thing we have to do on the Council is assure that the property tax collection we rely upon to finance our public school system is operating at maximum efficiency. The Council needs to use its oversight authority to assure that residential and commercial property tax collection by the Office of Tax and Revenue is performed to the best of that agency’s ability and that assessments are being properly done across the board.
Finally, the Council needs to use its oversight power to uncover the best practices in education reform that can be found. I would urge the Council to hold hearings where we can bring together the best minds in the city to discuss best practices we can adopt to improve our schools - on the record - and pass that information on to the Chancellor. The Council also needs to hold closed hearings where personnel from OSSE, DCPS and DCPCS can speak frankly about how improvements can be made, even if that means offering critical assessments of their own agencies, supervisory personnel or individual schools. Finally, we need to maintain a close oversight relationship with the Chancellor to assure that best practices are being incorporated into education reform in the District.
2. How will you ensure that education remains a priority in DC government?
This is another area where Council oversight is needed. We have to assure that every government agency works in tandem to offer every service that the public schools need to be an ideal learning environment. DPW workers need to keep school maintenance as one of their top priorities. MPD needs to assure that school properties remain safe places to learn and work with social agencies to tackle the truancy problem in a coordinated holistic way. The Office of Tax and Revenue has to be consistent in its assessments and collection so everyone in the city views tax collection as a fair practice and so we can maximize the funding we need to run our schools. The Council can use its oversight authority to challenge the heads of District agencies to make sure their agencies are doing everything possible to assist us in making the District a leader in education.
3. What is your opinion on the Charter School system in the District? Would you support expanding it, reshaping it or steering away from it?
I support expanding the most successful charter schools and attracting the best charter schools in the nation to try to bring their successes to scale here in the District. Expansion of DCPCS involves individuals taking the initiative to begin the challenging process of opening a charter school, so we have to do what we can to help parties who have the best track record of educating students in the District maintain and hopefully expand their programs. I would vigorously use Council oversight to assure that the law mandating funding parity and right of first refusal for charter schools to purchase surplus DCPS schools is followed by the mayoral administration. I would be willing to consider offering targeted tax breaks to lure extraordinary charter schools into the District, but due to our current fiscal condition, this program may have to wait until FY2013. I would like to take a look at charter schools that are failing to educate their children and investigate how we can either support them to improve their results or look at more serious responses to extremely deficient charter schools.
4. Would you like to see the District continue on its current education reform track or take a different direction?
I would like to see the District continue to support all successful public schools, traditional or charter, but we need to take a serious look at how to support failing schools in DCPS and DCPCS. We have to look at best practices in cities around the world that have succeeded in turning around failing schools. I am all for supporting the Kaya Henderson-popularized model of creating case competitions between top graduate schools to encourage “idea competition” where great schools work together to tackle education challenges in the District, on issues ranging from dramatically reducing truancy to eradicating the racial gap in test scores. We definitely need to continue to focus on empirical data and proven methods of ensuring educational success as we move forward. The Council should continue to exercise oversight to assure that our public education officials are using empirically proven models to plan our children’s educational future.
Preserving Our Environment
1. What are the two or three most important, unresolved environment and land use issues that confront District residents and the business community?
First, we must embrace clean renewable energy and strategize on how to reduce carbon emissions citywide. We need to fully fund Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) for parties who pay District-based businesses to install solar panels on their homes – this will lead to green jobs created in our local economy, cleaner air (since fewer homes will rely on coal-generated electricity), and will raise the amount of property tax revenue the District collects (since the installation of solar panels boosts property value for the homes where they are installed). Additionally, the Council should use its oversight powers and procurement authority to assure that government cars are the most fuel efficient vehicles we can reasonably afford and that every new vehicle purchase is exponentially more fuel efficient than the vehicle it replaces (preferably using some electric fueling component in addition to or instead of the gasoline fueling model).
Second, we must clean our rivers. The “plastic bag tax” was supposed to create a designated fund that could finance the cleaning of our rivers. Council budgetary planning and oversight should assure that these funds are used for that specific purpose. Not only do we rely upon our rivers for drinking water, but keeping our rivers clean also fosters development along their banks, which brings in additional property tax revenue we can use to keep rivers cleaner and to invest in clean renewable energy that will reduce future pollution.
2. How will you balance our community’s needs to accommodate growth, provide housing opportunities, ensure economic vitality, and protect property owners, while preserving the environment?
We should offer a local tax credit for LEED development projects that hire District residents to meet LEED standards. [LEED is a set of standards that assures that a construction project creates the least possible environmental harm and contains features that allow rainwater collection to serve as a building water source and other methods to assure the project is as environmentally harmonious as possible.] This could lead to an explosion of relocation of trained workers who specialize in building projects to LEED standards, increasing our income tax collection and sales tax collection as these highly trained, well paid workers move to our city to take advantage of the inevitable boost in local investment in LEED development that this tax credit will foster. DOES can also work with UDC and local construction unions to provide training opportunities and course offerings that District residents could pursue to acquire the skills necessary to work on these LEED projects.
We should also preserve designated green areas so that we continue to have clean air and spaces where the public can enjoy nature. You can’t find deer in the heart of every big city, but thanks to the preservation of spaces like Rock Creek Park, you can see deer in the heart of the District. We must preserve this type of natural beauty, both for our ecosphere and our peace of mind.
1. Why do you feel it is important to have the support of REALTORS? And, if so – will you accept a PAC contribution?
I believe in the principle of government deriving its power from the consent of the governed, so it is important to me to have the support of citizens from all walks of life in our city, including realtors and WDCAR. DC Statehood Green Party members do not accept corporate donations and I would prefer donations from individual realtors, but I would be open to accepting your Political Action Committee contribution, as long as you realize that my primary responsibility is to serve the greater public good, not the smaller private good of individual groups.
2. If elected, would you allow for open communication and collaboration between your office and REALTORS?
I would allow for open communication and collaboration with any citizen in the District, including WDCAR.
3. Is there any other information you would like REALTORS to know about you that was not covered in any of our questions?
I support full community control by people on the neighborhood level; to the fullest extent possible the power must remain in the hands of the people to dictate the future of their communities. Where we face challenges that affect the whole city, sometimes a few of us may have to sacrifice for the greater good, but generally speaking I support the concept that if people are empowered locally and are informed, they will make the best decisions for themselves and their community.
I also support the concept that homeownership leads to more stable communities. I want people to be able to own part of their neighborhood. The District is two-thirds renters, but I believe many of the people who are renting in our city would also love to own an affordable home. It’s our job as policymakers to help make that possible.
Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance [GLAA] Candidate Questionnaire
MARRIAGE AND FAMILY
1. In the event of congressional action leading to a ballot initiative in the District that would take away the civil marriage rights now enjoyed by same-sex couples, will you oppose the initiative and publicly campaign for the preservation of civil marriage equality?
Yes, I will oppose any ballot initiative that discriminates by sexual orientation, because the state should not be in the business of determining what type of love between consenting adults is appropriate for state recognition. The Supreme Court in Loving v. Virginia determined that marriage was a right to which 14th Amendment protection extends. The District government, voters in the District (via ballot initiative) and the Congress have no power under the 14th Amendment to discriminate regarding which consenting adults have the right to marry in our city. Further, the Human Rights Act prevents the Board of Elections and Ethics from placing a discriminatory ballot initiative on the ballot and any attempt by Congress to override the power of this act might also run afoul of international human rights treaties (such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966) as well as the 14th Amendment. Not only would I vigorously campaign in public on this issue, I would urge the Office of the Attorney General to sue in federal court to enjoin the Board of Elections and Ethics from placing such a discriminatory measure on the ballot*. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere". I would not allow a discriminatory ballot initiative aimed at preventing state recognition of love between my LGBT comrades in the international struggle for equality to be placed on a ballot in the District, as long as any non-violent means could prevent it (including non-violent direct action, in the King tradition). Not only would I publicly campaign against such a measure, I would be willing to face imprisonment with my LGBT comrades to prevent its presence on the ballot, fighting every step of the way with non-violent direct action and organized protest.
2. Will you support legislation giving the directors of the Office of GLBT Affairs and the Office of African Affairs the authority to issue competitive grants as other minority constituent offices have, that will be open to organizations serving the populations within the offices' purview?
Yes, I am a strong proponent of equality. All outreach offices should have access to the same tools to serve their constituencies.
3. Describe steps you will support to improve performance at the HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, STD, and TB Administration (HAHSTA), including in HIV prevention, HIV/AIDS surveillance, and mental health services.
This is a challenging issue since so many District residents have contracted STDs and many live with HIV. I would work closely with Health Committee Chair David Cantania to find ways to more efficiently coordinate District agency efforts and local nonprofit efforts at condom distribution. Continued rigorous oversight of HAHSTA is also key to assure that resources budgeted for HIV prevention are most efficiently expended. Making HIV testing a standard part of the battery of tests offered at DC run health facilities when patients go in for urgent or emergency care is also a good way to raise awareness of HIV status for District residents, which will hopefully slow the spread of infection (naturally, this should appear on consent forms and patients should have the right to decline, although testing should be encouraged). Voluntary testing should be standard procedure for intake and pre-release procedures at DC Jail so that inmates know their status as they enter and exit their sentences in DC Jail, to hopefully change behavior and reduce transmission both within and outside of the Jail (free condom distribution should also be provided to inmates to prevent MSM transmission within the facility). On a more radical long-term level, I would propose legislation decriminalizing prostitution so that sex workers could unionize themselves, avoid abusive relations with employers (pimps), and engage in their trade in a more healthy, regulated environment that could sharply reduce the spread of STDs. Current Council support for such a measure is dubious, but decriminalization should be part of the public debate, as should decriminalization of drugs and the creation of a citywide needle exchange program. While decriminalization of heroin is politically unlikely in our current climate and even needle exchange is frowned upon generally in Congress [particularly the now right-leaning House], these measures should be openly debated.
PUBLIC SAFETY AND THE JUDICIARY
4. Will you support a budget for the Office of Police Complaints large enough to avoid developing a backlog of cases?
Yes. The Office of Police Complaints is essential to assuring respect for the law across the city, because it demonstrates that no one is above the law, including its enforcers. Therefore, all efforts must be made to assure that the OPC budget is at a level where a backlog of cases can be avoided. One unanswered police complaint leads us down the dangerous path of individual officers believing they are above the law and individual citizens believing that there is no justice for them. On a more radical note, my stance is that the Office of Police Complaints is a step in the right direction, but that the District needs to have even more local civilian control of our police forces. I personally advocate a system whereby ANC commissioners can vote for the discharge of an officer accused of serious dereliction of duty in his or her PSA, similar to how the ANC can vote to protest the liquor license of a venue where a serious crime or breach of the peace has occurred. Police unions would fight such proposed legislation, but I believe if the police department is to truly live up to its goal to "serve and protect", the public must have actual and direct input regarding whether officers who seriously disregard their duties to protect certain segments of the population should remain employed by the city. The police department is here to protect us all, regardless of sexual orientation, race or gender [in the broadest sense, i.e. gender identity/transgender/biological gender/chosen or expressed gender]. In the near term, the GLUU should also contain an Internal Affairs liaison office dedicated expressly to investigating claims of police misconduct committed in relation to LGBT citizens.
5. Will you support efforts to rein in police officials who respond to legitimate crime concerns with unsustainable, media-centric quick fixes that infringe constitutionally protected civil liberties? And will you do so without waiting for courts to overturn them, as the U.S. Court of Appeals did to the Neighborhood Safety Zone initiative in 2009?
Yes. I would immediately hold hearings regarding any attempt to repeat any police action similar to the unconstitutional Trinidad roadblocks. I am a lawyer by profession and a lover of the Constitution by upbringing (especially as a child of two lawyers). I will not stand for arbitrary police action which detains citizens without probable cause, whether it is roadblocks, checkpoints or other arbitrary "large net" styled actions. I advocate stringent Council oversight over MPD to not only rein in abuses after they occur, but to assure that the city's position on keeping police actions constitutional is an ongoing policy that must be followed by MPD zealously.
6. Will you press for increased oversight of the Metropolitan Police Department's gathering and analysis of crime statistics to ensure greater comprehensiveness and objectivity, including transgender hate crime data?
Yes. I have a strong personal interest in proper collection of hate crime data, as a student of history and a black male. A society where crimes of hate are overlooked or unrecorded sends the message to hate-filled individuals that society does not deplore their acts. I actually have spent some time researching the heroic activities of Ida B. Wells, who collected data on lynchings throughout the country at the turn of the 20th Century. Lynching was ignored then by the mainstream press and flourished. Sunlight is the antiseptic for such heinous acts. I would urge MPD to keep accurate hate crime statistics for all identifiable groups, including LGBT residents. I would also be willing to participate in public forums and press conferences to raise public awareness about particularly heinous hate crimes, to illustrate the problem we face as a city in this area. Attacking individuals because of their identity is unacceptable in any form.
7. Will you support a budget for the Office of Human Rights large enough to allow it to keep the backlog at below 70 aged cases; keep below 210 days the average time it takes to issue a probable cause finding; and expand education, prevention and language access efforts?
Yes, I support a budget for the Office of Human Rights large enough to allow it to keep its backlog at below 70 aged cases and keep below 210 days the average time it takes to issue a probable cause finding. I also support expanding education, prevention and language access efforts.
8. Are you committed to including a transgender representative on the DC Commission on Human Rights?
Yes, I am committed to including a transgender representative on the DC Commission on Human Rights.
9. Do you agree the Director of the Office on Human Rights should have professional training and experience in civil rights law enforcement?
Yes, I agree the Director of the Office on Human Rights should have professional training and experience in civil rights law enforcement. We need someone with the right background to address the crucial task of protecting civil rights for all in the District.
10. Will you oppose both federal and local voucher programs that fund students in religious schools that are beyond the protections of the D.C. Human Rights Act?
Yes. I oppose vouchers for a number of reasons, before your report gave me an additional reason (discrimination against LGBT students and teachers [and presumptively, harassment or expulsion post-admission of students and firing of teachers if LGBT status is not discovered pre-admission or pre-hiring]). I oppose vouchers (1) because District residents overwhelmingly do not want public monies expended there (2) because public funds for education should not go to private institutions that lack public oversight (3) because I believe there are Establishment Clause issues with public monies financing education that contains a religious component in its curriculum. For all of these reasons, I oppose vouchers and OSP as an inappropriate use of federal or local funds for education.
11. Will you oppose the use of either federal or District taxpayer funds to promote "abstinence only until marriage" sex education that undermines safer-sex programs by excluding more comprehension information?
Yes. I think teens should be provided with a range of options in sex education, from abstinence to usage of condoms to the proper usage of birth control devices and drugs, not any one option to the exclusion of others. Where abstinence is concerned, it is scientifically viable as a means to prevent one major way of transmitting HIV: intercourse, even if the option is only selected by a segment of the teen population in the District. Therefore, I do value the presence of abstinence as an option taught to teens as an HIV prevention method. I would appreciate your organization citing studies that show that abstinence programs have zero effect on deterring teen sex. Until I have such information, I will support every program that might play a role in slowing the spread of HIV infection, including teaching teens that they should abstain from sex until marriage [as part of a comprehensive program offering a range of options, including proper and consistent condom usage]. Even a 5% reduction in intercourse among teens in the District could diametrically [editor's note: should have read "dramatically"] slow HIV transmission in this population group. Every life we save and every instance of HIV transmission we can prevent is priceless.
12. Do you support the right of adults in the District to choose adult-oriented entertainment for themselves, and the right of appropriately licensed and zoned businesses to provide it?
Yes. I support the right of adults in the District to choose adult oriented entertainment and the right for businesses providing such entertainment to exist so long as business owners providing such entertainment properly follow all license and zoning requirements related to operating such businesses.
13. Will you support legislation to curb abuses by NIMBYs who are now allowed to file an endless series of baseless complaints to harass or extort bars and restaurants?
Yes. I oppose any form of targeted discrimination against businesses based upon the status of clientele served therein or (otherwise legal) entertainment provided therein and would be willing to craft legislation that addresses such malicious targeting. I do support your narrowly tailored law allowing agencies to internally note the name of complainants and to flag future complaints if a pattern and practice of unfounded complaints arises, especially those that only target businesses with a specific demographic of clientele such as the LGBT community. Naturally, this law must be narrowly tailored because there is a danger in imposing a broader law limiting the number of complaints that can be filed against bars and restaurants generally, since some establishments genuinely do present a repeat and continuous threat to health and safety in the communities in which they do business; for example, if the LGBT community encountered a business whose pattern and practice was to discriminate against LGBT customers or otherwise created a dangerous environment to the LGBT community and [ed. note: "/or"] others, a law limiting how many complaints could be lodged against such a business might allow it to continue to operate longer than it might have if there were no such limit.
14. What are your thoughts regarding GLAA's proposal, explained in Agenda: 2010, to mitigate the problems associated with prostitution by legalizing and regulating it? What will you do to provide alternatives to survival sex for at-risk populations like homeless youth and transgenders?
As I stated above, I support decriminalization of prostitution. To quote my above-stated position: "On a more radical long-term level, I would propose legislation decriminalizing prostitution so that sex workers could unionize themselves, avoid abusive relations with employers (pimps), and engage in their trade in a more healthy, regulated environment that could sharply reduce the spread of STDs. Current Council support for such a measure is dubious, but decriminalization should be part of the public debate." Vocational programs targeted at homeless youth and transgenders can create safe spaces for both groups to learn the skills they need to enter the workforce (and create a space where employers can fulfill diversity mandates by hiring from a well-trained pool of transgender applicants). Additionally, entrepreneurial training can help homeless youth and transgenders start businesses that can hire their comrades and serve their communities, as well as other communities.
Your record is part of your rating. Please list any actions that you have taken that may help illustrate your record on behalf of gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgenders.
This is my first time running for political office, so I have no prior record of addressing these issues in the District. I have worked at the Civil Rights Forum on Communications Policy, which was aimed at increasing minority ownership of broadcast properties, but that has little bearing on the issues raised in your agenda (other than perhaps the possibility that LGBT-owned media properties may do a better job than non-LGBT-owned media properties of covering LGBT issues and concerns). As the Managing Editor of the Howard Law Journal, On a personal level, I have family members who are LGBT and I believe in the rights of members of the LGBT community to live and love freely. Additionally, my daughter's grandmother works extensively in HIV prevention in the District, along with several of my close friends, so I am well acquainted with how that disease has devastated both the LGBT and non-LGBT community in the District.
Thank you for allowing me to complete this questionnaire. I am committed to the civil and human rights of all District residents. I wanted you to have my answers as soon as possible. If it becomes necessary to correct any minor typographical errors I may notice on a subsequent editing of this document, I will send you a revised copy. I will also submit the printed copy with signatures on each page per your instructions (although I think this is somewhat of an environmental waste and generally try to conserve paper).
/s/ Alan Page