Photo from Darrell Gaston.

I’m Commissioner Darrell Gaston, and I’m currently serving my second term as an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner in Ward 8 and Chairperson of ANC 8B. I’m running for the democratic nomination for DC Council in Ward 8, a seat currently held by Councilmember Marion Barry.

As a young man who grew up on welfare, I know we can do better creating a pathway that leads to self-sufficiency. Ward 8 is my home. I’m a product of this community and grew up in public housing. I know the value of home ownership and hard work.

My decision to run is not for fame and fortune, but to be a voice for my community. I am sick and tired of seeing residents routinely taken for granted under the current councilmember.

Ward 8 residents have been disserviced for generations. Barry’s policies keep the poor content with the status quo and few services that actually improve their lives. Ward 8 residents are tough, strong, and resilient, and they deserve a real choice in this election. I intend to give them one.

When I was elected Commissioner, many people thought that I couldn’t produce change. They said I was too young. We proved them all wrong. Over 100 adults transitioned off of welfare and are now working and becoming homeowners.

We held parents accountable for their children’s education by focusing on wraparound services and challenging our neighborhood schools to be creative in finding new avenues to get parents involved. Parents also took advantage of GED classes.

We repaved 60% of our streets and replaced 40% of our sidewalks. Zoning changes helped fix vacant properties and converted them to affordable housing. We helped unemployed residents find work and mentored young people.

In the past 7 years under this councilmember, we have moved backward. Unemployment has doubled to over 30%. We added 16,000 new families to TANF, and 26,000 families now received food stamps.

This is not progress or success and our ward deserves better. I believe in helping people get on their feet, but we need to encourage our residents with opportunities to become successful, rather than dependent.

There is no better social program then a good paying job with benefits, and when elected, my top priority will be getting Ward 8 working again. The potential we have in Ward 8 is undeniable. If DC can build baseball stadiums and give millions to Marriott to build hotels, then we can invest in putting our 17,000 unemployed residents to work.

Under my leadership as ANC chair, we led the fight in getting people working again. We were creative by holding neighborhood businesses accountable to hire locally. When Giant food wanted a liquor license, we mandated that they not only hire community residents, but train them continuously so that our residents can build their skills in this ever-changing workforce. Guess what? They did.

Under the Barry leadership, this government has made it too easy for people to get public assistance and harder to get a job. We will change that! We have made a career out of telling people what they want to hear and not what they need to hear. What is missing in Ward 8 is a public servant who will stand on their morals and values and character.

During campaign season you see people you never saw before. It’s easy to talk now with the cameras and lights glaring, but where were many of these same people when we had our neighborhood cleanups, rallies, and organized for jobs.

For me, this race is about a better Ward 8. I was born and raised here, and I owe it to my community to give back, to make sure that children and families now have a better shot than when I was coming up.

It’s time to create opportunity, by focusing on rebuilding our communities. Join me, because together we can move Ward 8 forward. If you stand or walk in Ward 8, you see the potential of our waterfront destination at Poplar Point. You see a ward where schools are being renovated, potholes are being refilled, police officers are walking the beat keeping our communities safe, and amenities are being brought to Ward 8.

You see that the future of Ward 8 is in front of us. We are the backbone of DC, from historic Anacostia to Congress Heights, from Garfield to Washington Highlands, and from Knox Hill to Bellevue, history lives here. Our best days lie ahead, and that is why when we stand together, the possibilities of what we can achieve are endless. Will you help us?

Learn more at www.darrellgaston.com
Communicate at darrell@darrellgaston.com or 202-656-4043
Follow me on Twitter @darrellgastondc
Like me on Facebook

Darrell Gaston is a candidate for the DC Council from Ward 8. The views in this article are his and do not necessarily represent those of Greater Greater Washington. We invite all candidates running for the DC Council to share their views with our community, but reserve the right to edit posts to fit our content and format rules. If you are a candidate and would like to submit an article, please contact elections@ggwash.org.