Photo by afagen on Flickr.
While the Democratic primary most often determines office-holders in the District of Columbia, there is a serious race on the November ballot for a seat on the DC Council, alongside a number of other races.
In the District, we endorse David Grosso for Council at-large, Phil Mendelson for chairman, Nate Bennett-Fleming for shadow representative, and yes votes on the 3 charter amendments.
Greater Greater Washington makes endorsements through a poll of contributors, and we only weigh in when there is a clear consensus for one candidate or position as well as a clear feeling that making an endorsement is worthwhile. The contributors decided not to endorse in ward races, State Board of Education, or shadow senator this year.
Voters will also have the opportunity to choose ANC commissioners, a position which often carries significant influence over neighborhood affairs. There are many great candidates across the city, including Greater Greater Washington editor Jaime Fearer in Trinidad’s district 5D07.
DC Council at-large: We recommend voting for David Grosso.
Congress’ grant of home rule to the District included a provision that limited how many candidates can be members of the same party, which in practice means that one at-large seat every 2 years goes to one individual who is not formally affiliated with the Democratic Party. We hope voters choose David Grosso over incumbent Michael A. Brown.
More than anything, the DC Council needs stable, ethical leadership at this time. Mr. Grosso has embraced openness and transparency by disclosing any corporate interests that have donated to his campaign. By contrast, whether any laws were broken or not, Mr. Brown’s record is marred by a series of personal missteps and questionably ethical political actions.
Michael Brown has been a staunch supporter of many important policies for affordable housing, workforce development and other poverty-related issues. However, when it comes to building healthy and walkable urban places, Mr. Brown simply does not seem to understand the issues beyond a narrow and out-of-date suburban mindset. He pushed for a Redskins training facility on Reservation 13, sent a letter echoing many alarmist and often false fears about the zoning update, wants to spend public money on municipal parking, and more.
Mary Brooks Beatty, the Republican candidate, has proven even worse, voicing the tired “war on cars” theme during a recent debate. After nominating an avowedly pro-urban candidate 4 years ago, it’s too bad the DC GOP’s standard-bearer is so out of touch with the changing District.
Mr. Grosso, meanwhile, supports better bicycle infrastructure, removing minimum parking requirements, and also wants to shore up funding for affordable housing. Tommy Wells, the DC Council’s most ardent voice for smart growth, has thrown his weight behind Grosso, as has the DC chapter of the Sierra Club.
District voters have the opportunity to cast 2 votes. For Mr. Grosso to win, he will have to place in the top 2; most expect that Vincent Orange, the Democratic nominee, will gain the most votes, and that the 2nd will come down to Mr. Grosso or Mr. Brown.
There are also a number of other candidates running, several of whom have promise, such as AJ Cooper, our 2nd highest vote-getter in our contributor poll, but none received a clear consensus required for a formal endorsement. However, voters can certainly use a 2nd vote for one of these other candidates without fear of upsetting their top choice’s chances to win.
DC Council chairman: We recommend voting for Phil Mendelson.
Mr. Mendelson is well suited to bring order and credibility to a damaged DC Council. His record of ethics is impeccable, and he is well-positioned to get the council working together collaboratively instead of fracturing into warring factions as it did under former Chairman Kwame Brown.
Some council staffers say that Mr. Mendelson will need to work on shifting his attention to the big picture issues rather than the narrow, often nitpicking hyper-attention to detail he has become known for. He also continues to lean toward sympathy with those who don’t want to see the District change or grow much at all. Zoning is not the council’s purview, and since becoming chairman he has stayed away from taking a position on such issues that won’t come before that body. However, voters need to keep careful watch on this issue.
Shadow representative: We recommend voting for Nate Bennett-Fleming.
The shadow representative is an unpaid position whose purpose is to lobby for District voting rights. Current shadow representative Mike Panetta is not seeking reelection, and we hope District voters will choose Nate Bennett-Fleming.
Mr. Bennett-Fleming brings a youthful energy to District politics. He is able to work and talk with people from all over the city — rich and poor, young and old, black and white, advantaged and disadvantaged. The shadow representative is a relatively thankless position, but it needs someone with the vigor to stir things up and push for equal representation. Mr. Bennett-Fleming’s political science background and law degree will also help him know what can work and what can’t, instead of pushing for absolutely unworkable ideas.
Ballot questions: We recommend voting FOR all 3 charter amendments.
The proposed charter amendments will officially empower the DC Council to expel a member for gross misconduct, and disqualify any candidates with a felony conviction while in office from serving as councilmember or mayor.
Each of these takes a small step toward improving the laws around ethics in DC. They leave many ethics issues unresolved, and most DC leaders have been reluctant to take the stronger steps necessary to bring more substantial ethical reform to city politics, but these are a step in the right direction.
Update: The original version of the endorsement said that 2 charter amendments disqualify any candidate with a felony conviction from holding office. In fact, they only disqualify candidates who have gotten that felony conviction while in office, which makes the amendments even less meaningful as ethics reforms, but still worth voting for.
These are the official endorsements of Greater Greater Washington, written by one or more contributors. Active contributors and editors discussed endorsements, and any endorsement reflects a strong consensus in favor of endorsing for or against each issue or candidate.