If you live in U Street, Columbia Heights, Adams Morgan, Mount Pleasant, or nearby neighborhoods, you probably live in Ward 1. In November, there are 11 competitive races on the ballot for Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner. We found six candidates we think deserve your vote.
These are our Ward 1 endorsements:
- 1A01 - Layla Bonnot
- 1A02 - Amr Kotb
- 1B - No endorsements
- 1C02 - Bridget Pooley
- 1C06 - Michaela Wright
- 1C07 - Japer Bowles
- 1D05 - Stuart Karaffa
What are ANCs, and why should I care?
Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, or ANCs, are neighborhood councils of unpaid, elected representatives who meet monthly to weigh in with the District government about issues that are important to their community. ANCs play a very important role in housing and transportation decisions.
An ANC’s opposition to new housing, retail, a bike lane, bus improvements, etc. can stymie or significantly delay valuable projects. On the other hand, proactive and forward-thinking ANCs offer the government valuable suggestions for ways to improve the neighborhood and rally resident support.
Each ANC is divided into a number of Single Member Districts (SMDs), averaging about 2,000 voters each. Races often hinge on a small handful of votes. Your vote — every vote — really counts.
Here are our endorsements
In Ward 1 there are four ANCs: 1A, 1B, 1C and 1D. Altogether, those ANCs encompass 37 Single Member Districts (SMDs). This fall, 25 of those SMDs have only one candidate running, so we did not analyze those races. There is also one vacant seat in Ward 1 with no candidates running: 1A12. In the remaining 11 competitive races, GGWash is endorsing six candidates. This year, we received completed questionnaires from 28 Ward 1 candidates (some in contested races, others in uncontested races). You can read everyone’s positions and responses here.
Not sure which SMD you live in? It’s easy to find in our interactive ANC Voter Guide! Simply search your address to find your ANC/SMD, compare your candidates’ responses to our questionnaire side-by-side, and take a look at our ultimate endorsements.
In ANC 1A we endorse Layla Bonnot and Amr Kotb
ANC 1A covers Columbia Heights and Park View north of Harvard Street, give or take a block. Area ANCs recently helped move forward an important redevelopment at the old Hebrew Home, and currently are debating how to handle the redevelopment of the aging Park Morton public housing complex, which has been held up in court by a legal challenge. The neighborhood has also been actively pushing the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) on congestion concerns for 14th Street NW, including early calls for a bus lane along the corridor. Finally, residents are wondering how commissioners can support residents fearing displacement, and how they can address issues of public safety in the neighborhood.
In district 1A01 near 14th and Spring streets, Layla Bonnot and Ernest Johnson are vying for an open seat. We’re endorsing Bonnot, who seems very knowledgeable about the issues within her SMD, and had thorough and thoughtful responses regarding density, affordable housing, and transportation. She says she will listen to engage the community first (“I believe redevelopment should be done with the community and not to the community”), and makes it clear what her priorities are (“Minimizing displacement and prioritizing affordable housing should be key in any redevelopment whether its along Georgia Ave or anywhere in our city.”)
We asked all candidates how they would react to proposals that make bus or bike service better (such as with a bus lane) but require removing some parking. Bonnot was willing to sacrifice parking for benefits to transit when appropriate. She also calls for “more east/west bike lanes and protected bike lanes.”
Her opponent Ernest Johnson did not complete our questionnaire, but had uninspiring answers to our questionnaire in 2016, so we feel confident in Layla as our top choice.
Directly south is 1A02, where Teresa Edmonson and Amr Kotb are competing for an open seat. We’re endorsing Kotb. Kotb has a very balanced approach when considering incoming development, saying it is “good for our city and we need private business for that” but that he would “like to see them take steps to ensure they are serving the community they are entering,” and gives an example of pushing for more jobs for local residents when projects are proposed. He is also not afraid to support higher density, saying “when it comes to new construction of high-rises and condos, this is a different opportunity for my ANC to ensure affordable housing numbers and eliminate displacement.”
He is willing to lose some parking on 14th Street in order to get bus lanes there “because I believe it makes the city more accessible to everyone.” He is hesitant in his support for the Park Morton redevelopment, which is slightly concerning, but his questions about the project don’t raise any red flags for us and he looks like he could ultimately be a supportive ally there. His opponent Edmonson did not return our questionnaire, but we are impressed with Kotb’s responses and encourage you to give him your vote.
In ANC 1B, we aren’t making any endorsements
The U Street area and hill up to Columbia Heights, as well as LeDroit Park, make up ANC 1B. The future of transit on 14th Street is also an issue here, as are concerns about public safety and ensuring the area has inviting public spaces. Given the large amounts of bars and restaurants in the area, candidates here also need to be well-prepared to handle liquor license disputes.
There are a few great candidates running unopposed in 1B, and only two contested races. 1B02 is the stretch of U Street and the surrounding neighborhoods between 8th and 12th Street NW. Here voters will choose between Caleb-Michael Files and Dan Orlaskey; both are new to the ANC and both recently won endorsements by the local Democratic Socialists of America chapter.
There were some things we liked about each candidate, but neither of them broke past the other as a clear winner of our endorsement. Files is clearly passionate about public safety in his neighborhood, and takes a (qualified) stand when it comes to improving bus or bike infrastructure. When asked if he’d be ok removing parking for bike or bus lanes, he said “Personally, I would be all for it. Cars are dangerous… Joking aside - I would host a community forum and seek public comment.” Some of his answers to our questionnaire, and particularly his platform on his campaign website, reveal a focus on larger policy issues that ANCs don’t affect, and we think betrays a lack of experience with the office of ANC and some neighborhood issues. However, he seems like a committed and thoughtful candidate.
Files’ opponent is Dan Orlaskey. We liked Orlaskey’s focus on deeply affordable housing and protecting residents against displacement. We are a little concerned by his tactics for doing that — he says: “If elected, I will ensure any new developments in the corridor be for the direct benefit of those of us that live here and will not cause any further displacement. I will do this by supporting infill development over re-development of residential and/or historic properties.” We also love infill development! But writing off re-developments of existing properties as automatically bad we think is not a viable solution to creating enough homes and affordable homes for the neighborhood. There are ways to protect against displacement during redevelopments too! On transportation, Orlaskey is “in favor of dedicated bus lanes… and dedicated bike lanes,” and cautiously is in favor of sacrificing parking for them. Overall, Orlaskey and Files seem like fine candidates, but our quibbles with some of their statements and their seeming comparability held us back from making a clear endorsement. We encourage voters to pick their own favorite here.
The other competitive race in this area is 1B05, which encompasses Meridian Hill/Malcolm X Park and the surrounding neighborhoods east of 16th Street NW. Again, we liked some of what both candidates (James Cordes and Christopher Ede-Calton) had to say, but neither had consistently strong enough answers to win our endorsement. Cordes is a clear supporter of bus lanes, and adds that “bus lanes are not enough. To truly improve bus transit on 14th Street (and in other parts of the city) we must also utilize tools such as bus signal priority and dual door loading.” However some of his answers are bit… strange, and some are underdeveloped. To one question we asked about handling NIMBYism, he simply wrote: “‘Don’t take any guff from these swine,’ I said as he slammed the phone down.” Without more developed answers, it was hard for us to get a clear picture of him as a candidate.
His opponent Ede-Calton had many quality responses as well, but focused a lot on process and was unwilling to take clear stands on many policy issues. He repeats many times that the “core of my campaign is 'Responsive Representation.'” We agree that ANCs should be responsive, gather input and listen to neighbors. However, the danger in acting only as a mouthpiece for active neighbors is that often the loudest voices in ANC meetings are reactionary neighbors advocating for parochial interests, something that often can shut down ideas that would better serve city-wide needs and priorities. In the end, we don’t have a strong recommendation in this race.
In ANC 1C, we endorse Bridget Pooley, Michaela Wright, and Japer Bowles
1C is Adams Morgan and the surrounding neighborhoods (such as Lanier Heights and Kalorama Triangle). This ANC has become famous for high profile development battles: the downzoning of Lanier Heights in 2016, the ongoing saga over the SunTrust building and its proposed redevelopment, and the four-year battle over a proposed building that would replace a parking lot on 16th Street NW. Unfortunately, for many urbanists these battles have left the ANC with a reputation of saying “no” to most changes that could provide housing for more neighbors, which has contributed to the neighborhood’s transformation into a more exclusive area. What to do to ensure a more inclusive neighborhood is a key issue for races in this ANC this year.
Beyond land use debates, ANC 1C has also been discussing the future of 18th Street NW, including potential plans to convert it into a pedestrian zone.
We are excited to see a number of quality candidates showing up in 1C this year. Our first endorsement is in 1C02, on the western edge of the ANC representing a large part of Kalorama Triangle. We support Bridget Pooley over the incumbent Hector Huezo (who did not return our questionnaire). Her answer on the controversy surrounding the Meridian International Center redevelopment shows a nuanced understanding of the politics of the situation. We don’t like that she supports the ANC’s recent call to downzone the site, but we’re impressed with some of her analysis of the situation. For example, she says: “I believe that neighborhoods are ever-changing and evolving and—while historic preservation is very important to me—I do not support leveraging historic preservation or ‘design fit’ as a cover for outright NIMBYism.”
On the question of preventing displacement, Pooley says this is “the issue about which I feel the most passionate” and is clear on how she will fight for a more inclusive neighborhood: “If we want to preserve the atmosphere of our community that so many deeply value, it must include a clear path for creating and preserving affordable housing.” Pooley supports the idea of a pedestrian mall on 18th, and demonstrates a clear command of how to support Vision Zero goals in her neighborhood. Overall, we think she would be a positive addition to the ANC.
On the opposite side of the ANC along 16th Street NW (just north of the embattled Meridian International Center site), is ANC 1C06, where two newcomers are running for a seat. Both look promising, but ultimately we favor Michaela Wright in this race. She is clearly in favor of bike and bus infrastructure improvements, writing, “We need to adapt our city’s infrastructure to fit with the future of transit, and that future likely includes less and less car ownership.” Wright offers a reasonable stance on the SunTrust controversy, and while she shares some concerns about the Meridian International Center development, she is clearly “in favor of increasing housing on 16th street due to the proximity of public transit options and the height of the surrounding buildings that exist already.” If elected, Wright will be an advocate for more affordable housing in the neighborhood: “It’s not enough just to increase the supply of housing and build apartment buildings—we need to do it thoughtfully and prioritize low-income housing.”
Grubman also looks like a good candidate, but was much less willing to articulate clear stances on our questionnaire and instead was very focused on process, process, process. As example, we asked what the biggest controversy in the neighborhood was, and he responded: “The biggest controversy in any part of the District is the failure to take advantage of opportunities to engage more members of the community on important issues.”
This is not to say Grubman doesn’t have some clear urbanist leanings. He writes that “if Adams Morgan is truly a progressive, forward-looking community, we need to have an honest conversation about how to reduce the number of cars in the neighborhood.” When it’s all said and done, in a race with two decent candidates we support Michaela for her stronger stands on core urbanist issues.
Just west and south of 1C06 is 1C07, which encompases the eastern neighborhoods along Adams Morgan’s main thoroughfare, 18th Street NW. We endorse Japer Bowles here, who is running against incumbent Wilson Reynolds. Bowles encourages the gradual densification of the neighborhood, recognizing that “permitting the conversion of large, single-family homes into multiple units is one of the few specific solutions that helps alleviate displacement concerns for my community.” He is generally supportive of forward motion at SunTrust, and similarly is cautiously supportive of the project at Meridian International Center (he clearly states that he “cannot see how delaying this project any further can benefit the neighborhood or the district as a whole.”)
Reynolds, the incumbent, provided short but telling answers in our questionnaire. On Meridian International Center, one sentence: “Opposed to the project in its current size”. On whether or not he would support additional bike or bus infrastructure: “We [need a] neighborhood wide study.” Recently at an ANC meeting about the Meridian Center development, Reynolds stated that he has long worried about the "Manhattanization of Adams Morgan", and in 2016 said he was in favor of using “[e]very legal tool… to diminish the size and impact” of development “on our citizens.” Here’s to hoping for an urbanist wave in 1C07 in support of Bowles.
The final competitive race in ANC 1C is 1C01, but neither Amir Irani (incumbent) nor challenger Margaret Elizabeth Carlson returned our questionnaire this year (and Carlson recently told a constituent that she is ‘no longer running for ANC’ and will see what she can do to take her name off of the fall ballot).
If you live in Adams Morgan or the nearby neighborhoods, this year could be a pivotal election for the neighborhood. Please go vote.
In ANC 1D, we endorse Stuart Karaffa
ANC 1D is Mt. Pleasant, and there are a number of competitive races there this year. The future of the Mt. Pleasant Street corridor is on many voters’ minds this election, as is the recent (terrible) National Zoo proposal to put up gates and additional fencing at its entrances.
In 2016, we were proud to endorse three fine urbanist challengers who all won their way onto the five seat ANC. This year, we stick by our previous choice Stuart Karaffa (incumbent) in 1D05 (the southern edge of the neighborhood). In his two years in office, Stuart has racked up a number of wins we like. He sponsored a resolution against the National Zoo’s gate proposal, and at a public meeting got the institution to commit to work more closely with the community in the future, including on a potential shuttle to the Columbia Heights Metro Station. Additionally, Karaffa shepherded a resolution in support of the same ten priorities for the Comprehensive Plan Greater Greater Washington and our allies have been advocating for. He held numerous community sessions to discuss the complicated topic, eventually adding “enough nuance and local context to the resolution” to get “substantial buy-in from the community.”
On housing, Karaffa lists a number of ways he would support protecting low-income neighbors and providing additional low-cost homes in the neighborhood. On transit, he is supportive of bus improvements (Karaffa supports the 16th Street bus lanes and helped with the campaign to win the 59 bus on 14th street), and being a frequent bike rider he offers specific ideas for how to improve bike infrastructure in his district. Karaffa is a proven urbanist force in the neighborhood. This year he also won an endorsement from the Metro DC Democratic Socialists of America.
Karaffa faces two challengers this year, and we were really impressed by Chelsea Allinger. Her answers demonstrate a clear command of the issues. When it comes to the neighborhood’s historic district, Allinger is supportive of “preserving the aesthetically pleasing and historically important character of the neighborhood,” but recognizes that “those constraints can drive up costs in ways that affect commercial tenants, residential tenants, and fixed- or modest income homeowners.” We really liked Allinger’s take on NIMBYism. She writes:
NIMBYism is as endemic to cities as potholes and unfortunately there’s no Potholepalooza campaign equivalent. The voices that are able to show up to in-person meetings, the voices that are loudest, are too often the voices of those who have, to be frank, the least to lose—and the greatest ability to bear any losses. It’s an incomplete representation of a community’s needs, and making decisions, however well-intentioned, based on a subset of voices can have dire impacts – on inclusionary housing strategies, on multimodal transportation decisions, on environmental justice, on racial and socioeconomic disparities.
Allinger is clearly a strong urbanist candidate. The third candidate in 1D05 is Greg Boyd, and his responses to our questionnaire didn’t win us over. For example, when asked about his top Vision Zero priorities, he said “bicyclists have to start wearing helmets, take out the ear pods, and adhering to the rules of the road”. Boyd did have a humorous, but a bit extreme, response to Mt. Pleasant’s historic district: “I think people should be able to do what they like with their homes. Making them come before a board to get approval for a door or window is ridiculous. Mt. Pleasant is not Antietam. No great battles were fought here and to force individuals to adhere to a cookie cutter approach to housing renovation is silly.”
In the end, both Allinger and Karaffa are outstanding candidates. Mt. Pleasant is lucky to have them as neighbors. However, we think Karaffa has the best chance to hold the seat and should be given another term to extend on his already solid track record.
There are two other contested seats in ANC 1D, but we aren’t making endorsements in either of them. In 1D03 (the northwestern corner of the neighborhood), 16-year incumbent Jack McKay faces challenger Leila Corcoran. Many urbanists in Mt. Pleasant have been frustrated by McKay over the years, in particular because of his continuous staunch opposition to proposed changes to an undeveloped property… literally next to his backyard. However, this year we were impressed by some of McKay’s answers in our questionnaire. He supports additional bike infrastructure, in particular on Park Road NW. He also indicates he is willing to stand up for city-wide priorities over parochial ones. He offers the 16th bus lanes as example, writing that “our ANC responsibility is plainly to support the bus-only lane, even if it does inconvenience some residents.”
We’re glad to find ourselves agreeing with more of McKay’s stances, but weren’t fully won over yet. His challenger Corcoran, envisions “an ANC that says ‘yes’ more than it says ‘no’, but does not often take clear stances on many issues, in particular when it comes parking. Corcoran also wants “to preserve the character of Mt. Pleasant Street,” and explicitly names “low buildings” when describing that character. Ultimately, we don’t have a clear recommendation here.
The final contested seat in ANC 1D is 1D04, the eastern-most district along 16th Street NW. Incumbent Yasmin Romero-Latin did not return our questionnaire, and Janina Quilacio did not take clear stances on many of the issues we asked about, so didn't win our endorsement.
Want to read the responses of all of the Ward 1 ANC candidates who responded to our questionnaire and judge for yourself? Check out the full PDF for Ward 1. You can also explore our ANC Voter Guide, which allows you to compare candidates in your neighborhood side-by-side. Over the next few weeks, our endorsements for competitive 2018 ANC races will be updated regularly at our ANC Endorsements Page as we continue publish our detailed rationale for each decision in upcoming posts. Stay tuned!