Bloomingdale, Trinidad, Brookland, Fort Totten — these are a few of the neighborhoods included in Ward 5, which covers much of Northeast DC. There are 16 contested races for the ward's Advisory Neighborhood Commissions this year, some with four different candidates running! Out of these, we found seven who deserve your vote.
These are our Ward 5 endorsements:
- 5A03 - Emily Singer Lucio
- 5A08 - Gordon-Andrew Fletcher
- 5C01 - Henry Coppola
- 5D05 - Sydelle Morre
- 5D06 - Jason Burkett
- 5E04 - Shelley Vinyard
- 5E06 - Karla Lewis
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 (sometimes less than 10). Your vote — every vote — really counts.
Here are our endorsements
In Ward 5 there are five ANCs: 5A, 5B, 5C, 5D and 5E. Altogether, those ANCs encompass 37 Single Member Districts (SMDs). This fall, 19 of those SMDs have only one candidate running, so we did not analyze those races. There are also two vacant seats with no candidate on the ballot: 5A04 and 5E01. In the remaining 16 competitive races, GGWash is endorsing seven candidates. This year, we received completed questionnaires from 26 Ward 5 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 5A, we endorse Emily Singer Lucio and Gordon-Andrew Fletcher
Much of ANC 5A is made up of Michigan Park, Fort Totten, Catholic University and the Old Soldier’s Home. This ANC covers the areas east and west of the Red Line between the Brookland and Fort Totten Metro stations. This area is full of large institutions (such as the St. Joseph's Seminary, Providence Hospital, Howard Divinity School, and the Armed Force Retirement Home), some ideas to redevelopment those big parcels.
Many of these are in the process or are considering redevelopment, so we asked candidates how they approach these situations. Two long term land use battles we asked about as well are the long-delayed development at the Takoma Metro station, which is just north of 5A, and the McMillan Sand Filtration Site, just south of 5A. Finally, crosstown transportation is big issue for this area, as bike and bus transit is not great when trying to cross over towards the center of the city.
We endorse Emily Singer Lucio in 5A03, the district at the northeastern corner of the ANC on the Maryland border.
We liked some of Lucio’s answers, and are a bit concerned about others. She had good answers on bike lanes and Vision Zero priorities, citing multiple specific areas where she hoped to see improvements. Although Lucio is more protective of parking than we'd like, she is not adverse to sacrificing some it for transit or bike improvements. For example, she writes that “from what I have seen, Children's is in desperate need of more parking. So having additional parking would also be helpful,” and later writes that she is “not opposed to removing on-street parking in those areas if it means we can better ensure everyone's safety so long as there are strong alternative options for parking that don't negatively impact the area.”
Lucio writes a lot about green space and community character, which at times can be red flags for urbanists who see these arguments used to fight against any and all development. But Lucio seems just moderately defensive and promises to work with the community and developers. On McMillan, she is supportive of the new development, saying, “This has been a difficult deal to work through. But, I think in the end having something that meets the needs of the community on a variety of different levels will be good for the community and area overall.”
Opponent Cary Clennon did not complete our questionnaire, but readers wrote in with some serious concerns, saying that they are “not impressed with her competitor, Cary Clennon, [who] did not submit responses and had his law license suspended (stayed for a probation period) because of his inattention to one of his cases and his subsequent lies about being inattentive.” Given the circumstances, we think Lucio is a good way to vote this year.
Right on top of the Fort Totten Metro station is 5A08, where incumbent Gordon-Andrew Fletcher will appear unopposed on the ballot in November, but we’ve confirmed that he is facing a serious write-in candidate, Joseph Green. We endorsed Fletcher in 2016, and we are repeating our choice this year.
SInce his election 2016, Fletcher has proven to be an energetic and proven urbanist ally. He worked with GGWash to shepherd through a resolution in his ANC in support of our priorities for the Comprehensive Plan, and has been a regular leader in our Greater Greater ANCs Initiative, which gathers together commissioners from across the city to learn from each other and organize on urbanist issues. He has consistently worked to ensure that as major redevelopents have progressed in his SMD near the Metro station, current residents are heard and protected from displacement. Fletcher summarizes this work well in this statement: “We must understand as elected officials that we represent both long term Washingtonians, but we also represent those Washingtonians that just moved here. However, I was raised to protect tradition and history, so that is something that I tell developers and all stakeholders.” Fletcher has been an enthusiastic force in the neighborhood from the start.
To be honest, we don’t love Fletcher’s answers to our questionnaire this year. Critically, he did not answer our questions about McMillan or the Armed Forces Retirement Home, two of the most important redevelopment sites in the city. Sometimes commissioners opt out of answering questions about situations outside of their immediate district (both of these sites are outside of 5A08), claiming that they don’t want to step on a colleague’s turf. Turf wars and internal politics in ANCs are very real, but for urbanists we absolutely need to hear your opinions on controversies like these, as the entire ANC votes, and your influence as a commissioner extends beyond the borders of your own district, and even beyond your own ANC.
While Fletcher’s responses were certainly a mixed-bag, his opponent’s were not great either. Green does weigh in on McMillan, but his answer is one sentence and it’s not clear what he means by it, though it makes it seem like he’s against development there: “I am against any move to replace this nationally protected site for redevelopment purposes.” There are pieces of McMillan’s current redevelopment plans that preserve parts of the historic site, but others areas will be redeveloped. Green’s answer about the Takoma Metro station controversy is also confusing and doesn’t seem to line up with the current status of the debate. In general, both candidates here had underdeveloped questionnaires, but given Fletcher’s track record we are comfortable re-upping our endorsement for him.
There are two other competitive races in 5A, but we aren’t endorsing in either of them. In 5A01, neither candidate completed our questionnaire. In 5A05, the district that largely encompasses the Armed Forces Retirement Home, we were disappointed in both candidates responses to our questionnaire. Incumbent Ronnie Edwards has been a good partner with GGWash in the past on things like the Comprehensive Plan, but his questionnaire was not fully complete and often was vague. Even though he’s the incumbent, he wrote, “I have not given it any thought” to our question about bike or pedestrian improvements. When asked about Takoma Park Metro station, he said “That area seems a little congested already. Not sure whether the focus should be development or security.”
Unfortunately, competitor Earl McDermott did not have good answers either. He skipped multiple questions, and also had many vague and non-committal answers. McDermott’s McMillan answer was wishy-washy, but he was generally more supportive of bike lanes and at least seemed to not oppose removing some parking for infrastructure improvements. Overall, we encourage voters in the area to read both candidates responses carefully and decide for themselves here.
In ANC 5B, we aren’t making an endorsement
North and east of the Brookland-CUA Metro stop lies Brookland and the rest of ANC 5B. In contrast to many other ANCs in Ward 5, there is only one contested race here, and three of the uncontested seats are staying with the incumbents.
The issue of handling the redevelopment of large institutional sites is also present for neighbors here. A smaller site that has long been controversial in the neighborhood is called by some “the Brookland Green,” a small stretch of grass and trees behind a parking lot and bus depot at the Brookland Metro stop. Central Brookland (12th Street NE) is also experiencing a lot of change and is on the minds of many in these neighborhoods.
As mentioned, the only contested race here is 5B05, the neighborhood directly northeast of the Brookland Metro stop. Incumbent John Feeley did not return our questionnaire, and we didn’t love all of challenger Landon Jones’ answers. Jones is very “concerned with the potential impact construction of new housing/business developments will have on air quality for current residents, as well as the increasing cost of housing in our community.” Worrying about development impacts is common, but if you use that as a lever to oppose housing everywhere in your neighborhood, that’s not ok. For example, we worry that he is highly protective of the Brookland Green, despite how close it is to the Metro station: “The Brookland Green must be preserved. Those trees have been here longer than most of us and deserve to remain there.” Keeping the Brookland Green a park might be fine, but this area needs to strongly consider where to add its fair share of housing. There is a lot of undeveloped land near Brookland Metro. Perhaps some of it should be used as parkland, but all of it cannot be. By saying "no" to this prominent site but not telling us about how or where he'd say "yes," Jones hasn't convinced us that he has a thoughtful vision.
Jones is slightly better when it comes to transit and biking: “For many who call Brookland home, removing street parking would make it difficult for our residents who do not have access to a garage. However, it is important to think about how our transportation infrastructure can maintain the safety of those who walk and bike in our community. As ANC Commissioner I would love to plan events that champion biking and walking in Brookland.” Overall, we didn’t find enough we liked here to merit our endorsement. Urbanist neighbors in Brookland and ANC 5B, think about getting involved in your ANC over the next few years, and then maybe run in 2020. We’re ready for you.
In ANC 5C, we endorse Henry Coppola
Further south, ANC 5C is an area full of neighborhoods coexisting right next to industrial zones, places like Brentwood, Fort Lincoln and Woodridge. It is bordered on the south by the National Arboretum and Mount Olivet Road, and in the north it lies mostly south of Rhode Island Avenue.
One of the biggest controversies over the last two years is the future of Brookland Manor, a large set of affordable homes undergoing redevelopment off of Rhode Island Avenue that GGWash has written extensively about (let’s just say it’s complicated, and important). Another big redevelopment happening at the edge of 5C: Union Market. In general, commissioners here will be at the center of some important discussions about economic development and who gets to share in that development as the city and neighborhood grows.
This is one the more heavily contested ANCs this year in the whole city, with four of the seven races contested, two of those with three candidates running. One three-person race is 5C01, the northern tip of the ANC between South Dakota Avenue NE and the Maryland border. For this race we like two candidates, and ultimately urge voters to show up and vote for Henry Coppola.
Coppola embodies a core urbanist idea with his answer on housing: “We need more housing in DC and across a range of income levels… If we don’t build more housing then people who have higher income levels will spend that money on existing housing and that will drive up rents and property values in ways which create greater displacement for existing residents than if we do build new housing.” Yep, we agree.
He also had strong answers to questions about transit improvements and infrastructure, and had good specific ideas on how to address Vision Zero priorities. He acknowledges some of his lack of experience and promises to learn more about nuanced controversies like Brookland Manor, but his answers also show that he already has done a lot of research and is willing to dig in deep.
We also were impressed with much of what Laurence Telson had to say. It is clear she supports adding bike lanes and improvements along Rhode Island Avenue NE. She is a little protective of parking, but is pretty reasonable about it: “I wholly support adding new bike lanes however, as businesses are increasingly moving into the area, there will be a need to offset the lanes’ reduction by increasing the frequency of the buses connecting Brookland and RIA metro stations to the areas.” Some of Telson’s answers were a little vague, but generally she sounds like a strong candidate.
This is unfortunate, because both Telson and Coppola are running against incumbent Gail Brevard, whom we don’t support. It’s clear Brevard is just not with us on many of our issues. On parking: “I am not in favor of removing on-street parking in my SMD, at all.” Many of Brevard’s answers are vague or underdeveloped, and she had this troubling comment: “Finally, it is my firm belief, based on my experience, those in need of housing need to be vetted to determine where they formerly resided and why they are in DC. My experience dictates they are from anywhere but DC, because of easy access to DC benefits.”
While we appreciate the real feeling (and reality) that long-time residents of DC are often being left behind in the new prosperity of the city, using that as a reason exclude others who also need help is not something we are on board with.
It is hard to unseat an incumbent. We are most excited about Coppola in this race, and hope urbanist voters coalesce around him to give him the best chance to unseat Brevard.
Just south is 5C02, the area directly north of Bladensburg Road NE. Walter Deleon and Lauren Rogers are competing for an open seat here.
Rogers did not complete our questionnaire. Deleon has some solid responses. For example, on Brookland Manor he writes, “Because of DC's housing shortage, I would only continue supporting the project if it could be done without mass displacement and the one-for-one replacement of affordable housing units.” He similarly is good on transit: “Methods of transit that carry more people than a car should always be accommodated more. For example, I would support removing a parking spot if it allowed for the construction of a bus boarding island/platform in its place.”
However, members of the GGWash community wrote in that they have found Deleon hard to work with in the past, which makes us hold back our endorsement. They say he has a history of making large claims that either aren’t true, or are exaggerations of the fact. For example, on our questionnaire he says he will “push DDOT to study an infill MARC commuter rail station at NY Ave & Bladensburg Rd.” However, readers say that up to two years ago Deleon already claimed that he had successfully campaigned for this station in his SMD and that it was about to be installed. This gives us some pause. We wish local voters luck in deciding who best to cast their vote for.
5C06 is another hotly contested district. It lies along Montana Avenue NE, and has three candidates (including the incumbent) in the running. Two candidates responded to our questionnaire.
One had some decent responses to our questionnaire, but he also raised a few red flags for us. Thaddeus James is obviously passionate about Brookland Manor, but we weren’t a fan of how he directed his anger at the “alleged” and “so-called housing activist” groups, ONE DC and the Washington Legal Clinic for Homeless. He says “these groups are twisting facts and using assumptions to radicalize our residents with a layer of racism.” James does support bike lanes in the area and some specific ideas for where they should go, but dodged our question about whether or not he would sacrifice parking for those improvements.
Kirsten WIlliams, the other challenger, also returned our questionnaire. Many of her answers were vague or underdeveloped. She is clear that she is specifically against a tunnel under the train tracks connecting Union Market to the NoMa Metro, saying that Metro should spend its money elsewhere. Without a response from the incumbent LaMonica Jeffery, we don’t feel like we have enough information to make an endorsement in this race.
Finally, the last competitive district in 5C is 5C07, in the center of the ANC around the intersection of Rhode Island Avenue NE and Mills Avenue NE. There are two decent looking candidates running for this open seat, and ultimately neither was quite strong enough to win our endorsement over the other.
Luke Cieslewicz is supportive of transit, saying, “I think we need to improve our transit options to Union Market and Ivy City as both those areas continue to come up and become more appealing to pedestrian traffic. We also need to make sure we have sufficient pedestrian and biking infrastructure to protect and serve those travelers.”
Some of his answers are less specific and underdeveloped, but we like how he thinks about some of these issues. For example, Cieslewicz says that some in the neighborhood keep “wanting more parking with all development and retaining all on street parking. We need to sacrifice some of that in order to provide easier transit, bike, and pedestrian paths. All of which benefit every member of my SMD and DC at large, as well as moving toward Vision Zero.”
Cieslewicz’s opponent, Jeremiah Monteague, on the other hand, is not into the idea of removing parking: “Removing on-street parking is a non-starter during non-rush hours as it discourages using local businesses and pushes the displaced parking onto nearby streets making parking nearly impossible for residents, where a considerable number are older.”
Monteague is similarly a bit defensive when talking about development, but also seems experienced and positive: “I have worked with the ANC, its SMD commissioners, and community to guide our community's development, providing historical reference which newcomers often are unaware of or indifferent toward. My vision is for a vibrant commercial corridor along Rhode Island Avenue, which maintains character and structures as much as possible, but builds a walkable, safe, and lively amenable to visitors and residents alike.” While some of Monteague defensive stance worries us, we appreciate his level of experience that comes through in his more detailed answers, especially when it comes Vision Zero improvements.
In the end, neither candidate really wowed us on their urbanist credentials, but they also seem alright. We suggest local voters read each candidates' responses carefully and decide for themselves.
In ANC 5D, we endorse Sydelle Moore and Jason Burkett
Residents who live in Ivy City, Trinidad, and Carver Langston live and vote in ANC 5D. It’s a narrow ANC bounded on the southern edge by Florida Avenue and Benning Road, and on the north generally by New York Avenue.
At both ends of the ANC are big development plans and debates: Starburst Plaza at the end of the H Street corridor and Union Market on the other side. 5D also got involved in the controversial Kingman Park historic district debate this last year. Though Kingman Park is in Ward 7, some of the proposed boundaries came into 5D, and ANC 5D was the only ANC to pass a resolution in favor of the district (6A voted against, and 7D — where Kingman Park lies — didn’t take a vote).
There is also a fair amount of competition within this ANC this fall. We enthusiastically endorse Sydelle Moore for 5D05, the area north of Benning Road between Maryland Avenue NE and 19th Street NE. Moore clearly knows the issues in her community, had in-depth and educated responses to our questions, and listed a lot of ways she’s already worked to improve her neighborhood, including Vision Zero efforts like pushing for speed bumps and visibility improvements. She also clearly identified areas along Benning Road NE and Maryland Avenue NE where she’d be willing to remove parking in exchange for bike or bus infrastructure improvements.
Moore writes with an overwhelming sense of positivity, which is refreshing given that 5D has unfortunately earned itself a reputation as being toxic and difficult. Moore promises to “raise the bar on transparency, ethics and professional standards,” and we liked how she describes what is needed:
The key issue in my community is not small groups advocating their narrow interest, it is that some people have seen so many broken promises that they no longer see the benefit in advocating for resources they think will never come. The primary thing I’d like to see in my community is people feeling like they have a real reason to speak up about their concerns.
One way Moore plans to back up this new sense of ownership is to ensure that the ANC offers ASL interpretation, given this is Gallaudet University’s ANC, and to establish resident committees for the ANC. Moore’s opponent, Walter Largent, also completed our questionnaire… though as a few readers pointed out, he apparently did so in part by copying responses written elsewhere by other candidates. Otherwise, his answers also often did not answer the question asked, didn’t make a lot of sense, or just didn’t take a side. We’d love to see 5D begin to build a more positive reputation, and for us Moore is clearly the candidate to help do that.
Just northwest along Florida Avenue is 5D06, and here we endorse Jason Burkett, though honestly Romello Goodman also looks like a good candidate. Burkett has very specific proposals for transit improvement around the neighborhood, though he seems unwilling to simply come out in favor of some of them if the require losing some parking. His answers on Kingman Park and Starburst Plaza show a level of experience and thoughtfulness we find promising. He also has balanced views on Union Market, and interesting ideas about making it more accessible to nearby neighbors.
He does seem to have a bit of an axe to grind on Chris Otten, an activist who has fought hard to bring more affordable units to the ongoing development at Union Market, but who has in the process contributed to a wave of delays for projects across the city which have scared a growing number of developers away from pursuing projects with negotiated additional community benefits. Burkett writes: “Oh, and one more concern I have with Union Market, Chris Otten. Our community should do what we can to minimize his, and others like his, destructive campaign against developing a functional, urban center.”
Goodman also looks like a strong candidate. He has a positive and inclusive vision for Union Market, and suggests a number of improvements to make it easier to walk, bike, and scoot there. We liked Goodman’s take on historic districts: “I disagree with the notion that a historical designation is the right tool to fight gentrification. I would much rather see an offensive tactic that involves mixed use housing and alternative forms of home ownership than the preservation of buildings.”
On parking, a bit mixed, but also smart responses: “[T]he streets bordering busy and congested areas should remove street parking to improve the infrastructure for bikes and buses. However, in neighborhood dense areas, I find no need to remove on-street parking to improve bus transit. This would create more problems for car-owning constituents in the area.”
Overall Goodman shows a lot of urbanist stripes, but his answers show a little less experience and specificity. For example, Goodman didn’t mention the need for a culture change at ANC 5D at all, whereas Burkett said that “the biggest controversy and challenge with all the neighborhoods within ANC5D is the lack of a unified, well-functioning commission that collaboratively works together to improve our community.” It’s really great to see such good candidates showing up in 5D, and voters here have two good people to choose from. Ultimately, we think Burkett has a slight edge on Goodman, so he gets our endorsement.
The final contested race in 5D is 5D01, which covers Ivy City. Unfortunately, incumbent Peta Gay Lewis did not return her questionnaire, and challenger Ryan Linehan didn’t quite win our endorsement. Linehan didn’t have detailed answers to our questions, and many of his responses were vague and betrayed a lack of experience with the ANC and the issues affecting all of 5D.
It is clear that he is passionately involved with the discussion around the redevelopment of Crummell School, which is probably the most important issue at hand in his particular SMD. However, while we might agree with his goals and aspirations for Crummell, his answers don’t grapple with the reality of the current plans for the site. Instead, Linehan often discusses what the site should have been (specifically, he seems to be calling for one of the proposals that was ultimately not picked in the process). If there is a slight chance to change the plans for Crummell still, but it’s going to take experienced and nuanced leadership with all parties involved. We’re glad Linehan is taking steps to get involved and hope he stays involved, but without a questionnaire from Lewis to compare with we didn’t feel confident making an endorsement here.
Finally, perhaps what is noticeable this year is who is NOT on the ballot in 5D: long-time commissioner Kathy Henderson (though some say Largent is her hand-picked successor). Henderson has built a fairly infamous reputation over the years, which she added to most recently at a recent press conference on community violence where she was publicly scolded by the Mayor Henderson had elbowed candidate Sydelle Moore roughly out of the way on camera. It will be interesting to see what 5D post-Henderson looks like!
In ANC 5E, we endorse Shelley Vinyard and Karla Lewis
Along both sides of North Capitol Street are neighborhoods like Bloomingdale, Eckington, and Edgewood, to name a few. This area is covered by ANC 5E. The well-fought-over McMillan Sand Filtration Site (what all those “Save McMillan Park” signs are about) is a huge issue for this ANC to tackle in the next few years as it again nears a decision point with city agencies. Another big redevelopment in the neighborhood is just steps west of the Rhode Island Avenue Metro stop, currently home to a large parking lot and suburban style strip mall.
Moreover, neighborhoods across 5E have hosted hotly contested debates recently about growth and neighborhood change. One flashpoint was this last year’s historic designation of Bloomingdale, which saw clear division in the community. There is also a lot of concern about how transportation infrastructure keeps up with influxes of new residents — there are lot of debates about traffic calming and bike and pedestrian safety throughout the area along its main corridors.
Like 5D, this is another hotly contested ANC. There are 14 (!) candidates involved in the five competitive races there this year, partly because of two of those races have four candidates each. The first of those four-person races is 5E04, which covers the western half of Eckington. Here we only received a questionnaire from one candidate, but nonetheless we confidently endorse Shelley Vinyard. Get ready readers, there’s a lot of good quotes here so we are just gonna highlight a bunch of them.
Vineyard is an organizer in her day job and has spent years working within her local civic association, two things that certainly prep you for the ANC. Her answers were thoughtful and thorough. We wish we had more environmentalists in the region like Vinyard — here’s her take:
I believe our ANC needs both more public green space and additional housing stock in order to grow sustainably, and that those two goals are not mutually exclusive. As an longtime environmental advocate and organizer, I know that public green space has numerous benefits to local communities — from reducing heat islands (which are linked to heat-related illnesses and are more prevalent in lower income areas) to fostering healthy lifestyles for those who have easy access to it… At the same time, our ANC is growing just as rapidly as the rest of the city, and we need to have open minds when it comes to how we accommodate the influx of new residents. New development, particularly when close to mass transit, can help ameliorate some of the pressures of growth and improve affordability over the long run.
We raise our non-one-time-use plastic water bottles to you. Vinyard backs up these principles by supporting the redevelopment at the Rhode Island Avenue Shopping Center. She even uses the moment to make a point GGWash has long been making about Planned Unit Developments (PUDs): “I do worry that MRP (the developer moving forward with this particular project)’s decision to drop its planned unit development (PUD) to avoid further community pushback (and legal delays) could become a troubling trend. Dropping the PUD had the net effect of decreasing the total number of affordable housing units offered, and diminished the community’s negotiating power in the process.” Preach, sister.
Vinyard is clear that “as DC grows, it’s imperative we do not do so at the cost of longtime residents being forced out of the city,” and has detailed suggestions for bike and pedestrian improvements. She says she was disappointed by what she saw during Bloomingdale’s historic district designation process, and her explanation why nails it:
Historic designation, when used selectively and carefully, can be a powerful tool to preserve truly historic sites. However, in DC, historic districting has been used by a vocal minority to drastically limit the scope of change in neighborhoods across a broad section of the city. I wholeheartedly agree with those who believe that development in the city must be done thoughtfully and with foresight, but right now, historic designation has become a very poor substitute for any sort of meaningful discussion about what neighbors want their neighborhoods to look like for future generations... The historic designation process circumvents democracy and gives an outsize voice to those who want the least change.
We could go on, but overall it’s clear Vinyard has the urbanist chops and the right experiences to make for a great commissioner. Eckington urbanists, this is your year to get out the vote, as Vinyard is running in a crowded race against an incumbent. Get organized people.
Across North Capitol Street, in between Q Street NW and Randolph Place NW is 5E06, and here we like Karla Lewis. Lewis supports the proposals at McMillan, saying it “strikes a good balance and could be used as a template for balancing future development and green space projects.” She does start to sound off about traffic concerns soon after, but her concerns seem valid and reasonable. We like where her head is at when she discusses making streets safer, though building “more pedestrian overpasses at major intersections similar to the overpasses on the Las Vegas strip” probably isn’t right or realistic for Bloomingdale. She also suggests “one way streets” with “bicycle sharrows or lanes” — that sounds more worth considering.
Lewis dodges the question a bit when ask about trading parking spaces for bus or bike improvements, and some of her answers reveal a slight lack of experience with our issues, but her positive vision for the neighborhood and views on local controversies won us over.
Patricia (Pat) Mitchell also returned our questionnaire. We liked some of her stances as well, but others raised concerns. She does “not think it would benefit the neighborhood to remove on-street parking from residential streets, generally,” and “totally support[s]” the Bloomingdale historic district as it “will help to curb the out-of-control development that has occurred in Bloomingdale.” Some of the reasons Mitchell gives for supporting the district make sense, but it’s worrisome that the above impulse seems to be the overriding reason for supporting the designation. As Vinyard points out above, this shouldn’t be the reason we have historic districts. Overall, we think Lewis is the best candidate in this race.
There are a few other competitive races in 5E, but we aren’t making any endorsements in them. In 5E03, the eastern half of Eckington, Cortney Segmen is running against Eugene Sims (who did not complete our questionnaire). We liked that Segmen is for “sustainable” and “equitable development,” but in her answers she is fairly non-committal on many issues, and she herself admits there are some areas where she needs to “research further to better understand how to best advocate as a commissioner.” Ultimately, without more information about Sims, we didn’t feel confident making an endorsement here, though Segmen looks to be promising and we hope she continues to stay involved and gain more experience on local issues.
We didn’t receive a questionnaire from either candidate in 5E05, and in 5E09, which encompasses the neighborhood of Stronghold and a big section of the McMillan Sand Filtration Site, we only received one response from Sam Bonar in what is another four-person field. Bonar is enthusiastic as he points out specific ways to improve pedestrian and cyclist safety through infrastructure. He also seems to be a staunch advocate on a number of issues, from climate change to democracy!
However, Bonar’s McMillan answer is concerning. He says that he would like the “whole thing as [a] park,” and is frustrated by “zero-sum” politics he feels has been used by both opposing sides during the decades long struggle. In the end, he writes:
If they are going to develop it, we should use creativity and coordinated community action to disarm and get our voices heard and our feet in the door. I'm fighting for 50% park, actually affordable housing (and enough of it to not push out existing community members), a thorough parking and traffic plan that doesn't explode congestion on North Capitol, and affordable retail space that enriches the community through art and recreation, not another over-priced restaurant serving up more gentrifier specials.
This kind of stance is problematic, as it seems to draw a firm line on some issues that are not feasible at this point. For example, asking for 50% of the site to be park space would mean going back to the drawing board yet again on a project that has been stalled for decades due in part to this exact kind of unrealistic bargaining. We do think there should be parks at McMillan. But bigger is not automatically better, and we'd rather see a design that thoughtfully integrates high-quality park spaces with great development (which was the point the "Create McMillan Park" folks have tried to make in the past, as a counter to the "Save McMillan Park" folks).
We agree with Bonar on maximizing deeply affordable housing at this site, but one part of Bonar’s argument feels off. Let’s be clear: the site is a huge empty lot, so pushing out existing community members isn’t what’s going on here. If we want to talk about mitigating indirect displacement in the surrounding neighborhood due to rising property values, that is something there are solutions for! Bonar is less defensive about the redevelopment at the Rhode Island Avenue Metro station because “there seems to be far fewer folks who prefer the current shopping center and the things it offers.”
Our concerns with Bonar’s responses outweighed the things we liked. We note that perennial candidate and long-time “Save McMillan Park” activist Kirby Vining is in the mix for this seat. Despite our misgivings, we expect Bonar would be a better partner on the future of McMillan than Vining given Vining’s decades-long crusade against the development, but we can’t offer an endorsement here. We encourage urbanist residents here to reach out to candidates if they can, and to best evaluate where to cast your vote (or… will you consider running?)
Want to read the responses of all of the Ward 5 ANC candidates who responded to our questionnaire and judge for yourself? Check out the full PDF for Ward 5. 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!
These are official endorsements of Greater Greater Washington. To determine this year’s endorsements, we sent a reader-generated candidate questionnaire to all ANC candidates . We then published candidate responses and collected feedback. Our volunteer elections committee then evaluated all candidate responses and feedback for contested races and with staff came to our final decisions.