Interviewing Jack Evans and Cary Silverman, the candidates for the Ward 2 DC Council seat, one could think the two are running for completely different offices. Evans seems to be running for reelection as the Council version of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, devoting his energy to financing deals that will stimulate development throughout DC. Meanwhile, Silverman sounds like a candidate for a more powerful, larger Super-ANC, focusing on local neighborhood needs and problems.
They’re both right. Every ward Councilmember is some blend of the two, a shaper of citywide policy and simultaneously steward of a ward. In Evans-Silverman, we have candidates who represent each end of that spectrum. But the Council job isn’t just one or the other, and we need a Councilmember who will do both jobs.
Evans and Silverman don’t just focus on different problems, they apply their own boxes of tools to the same ones. For example, I asked both whether the O Street Market (which both enthusiastically support) would finally revitalize Ninth Street. Both said it’s a start, as well as the convention center hotel, but we need more. What else? Silverman wants a convention center exit near the neighborhood retail and wayfinding signs directing convention-goers to nearby businesses; Evans discussed the other projects underway in the area that will add more retail space and more residents. We need both types of tools in our toolbox, and our Councilmember should pursue all avenues for revitalizing that avenue.
Evans and Silverman even speak different languages. Coming out of the
Shaw Logan Circle ANC and, more recently, the Mount Vernon Square Neighborhood Association, Silverman speaks the language of the neighborhood activist, which explains why he is so popular among ANC and citizens’ association members. That community’s vocabulary centers around keeping the governmental ship sailing smoothly, enforcement of existing laws, quality of life issues, and often a cautious approach to change. Evans’ vocabulary, meanwhile, is one of growth and fulfilling the potential of DC as a major city.
This dichotomy mirrors the debate we have on Greater Greater Washington. DC has many residents who moved here when DC was a small town and like it that way. They are (at the moment) more likely to belong to the local citizens/civic association or sit on the ANC. They are more likely to own cars and drive. On the other hand, we have a growing number of newer residents who are putting down roots here. They (or should I say we) see DC not as it was but as it could be, maintaining the beautiful houses, strong sense of community, and range of ages, races and creeds while also accommodating more people and enjoying more vitality.
Ironically, unlike in the mayoral race where energetic Adrian Fenty out-campaigned the more seasoned Linda Cropp, it’s the younger (though long-time resident) Silverman who represents small-town DC, and Council veteran Evans who champions the cosmopolitan vision. Their policy prescriptions reflect that: Evans would like to make K Street more mixed-use, voted for the hiker-biker Klingle trail and supports boulevardizing the Whitehurst; Silverman would have voted for the road (though he is willing to let throughly-beaten sleeping dogs lie) and would keep the freeway. Yet Silverman bicycles to work, while Evans drives and enjoys the free parking in front of the Wilson Building. Evans cites the many events he has to get to each day, and the 45-minute public transit ride from Georgetown, as obstacles to transit (though not to bicycling).
At the moment, I plan to vote for Evans, if nothing else because of his reliable vote for transit infrastructure but against roadway expansion. His experience with economic development is also an asset to DC, and his power benefits the ward. But it’s good that Silverman is running. We need his energy and dedication to improving the neighborhood. Many problems, like dealing with vacant properties, require the Councilmember to personally push city agencies for a resolution, which Evans doesn’t do but Silverman promises to.
It’s too bad Evans can’t replace Carol Schwartz as Councilmember at-large, letting Cary represent the ward. Barring that, my ideal outcome would be for Evans to narrowly win reelection, preserving his good policy vote and his experience on economic development while also pushing him to devote more time to the ward over the next four years. And if he doesn’t, he ought to lose in 2012, whether to someone new, or to a future version of Cary Silverman with a little more political experience and a policy sophistication to match his constituent-service energy.
Want to hear more from the candidates? There’s a debate on Thursday, August 7th, 7:00-8:30 at the Phillips Collection at 21st and R.