Mark Long. Photo from the candidate’s Web site.

When I set out to interview At-Large candidates, I was most hopeful about Mark Long. At least at the start of the campaign, his platform spoke of “getting people out of cars” (though I can’t find that on his site any more). Maybe Mark Long would be the Smart Growth candidate?

Long is a fourth generation Washingtonian. He worked for Xerox, as a money manager and investment banker for Smith Barney, and currently as an education consultant. Naturally, he has some ideas for education reform. In addition to supporting the Fenty-Rhee efforts, he thinks we can serve special education children better, and cheaper, than we do today.

Long does support mixed-use, walkable development in downtown corridors, like Downtown Ward 7 or on upper Georgia Avenue, where his campaign made its headquarters (though only by accident). When I asked about resident concerns about growth in areas like Ward 7, Long said he understood specific neighborhood concerns, but felt that “we have to operate less out of fear and more out of faith.”

Like Mara, Long agrees with the need to grow DC’s population and tax base. He’s for streetcars, probably, calling them “another shot in the arm for our developing businesses” and saying of existing streetcar proposals, “What I have seen I like.” He feels strongly about environmental initiatives like commercial and residential recycling, drives a hybrid, and would like to see tax credits for green building.

More broadly, however, Long wasn’t able to effectively articulate his ideas. He kept talking about “changing the culture,” but how exactly wasn’t so clear. Long spoke extensively about “smoother coordination” with the federal government, reducing “costs in the workflow process” in the DC government, and other business-terminology generalities.

On tougher transportation issues, Long fell back to hedging his answers. He wouldn’t take a stand on Klingle, wasn’t sure about the idea of narrowing RPP zones to neighborhoods instead of wards, and feels church parking “needs to be at the discretion of officers on a case by case basis”.

I spoke to Long weeks ago, and in the interim, he has probably sharpened his rhetorical technique. It was enough to make Dupont ANC Commissioner Jack Jacobson, whom I greatly respect, endorse Long, and at least on specific on policy issues, Mark Long would probably be an improvement over Carol Schwartz. But his less sure understanding of detailed policy issues, coupled with his political inexperience, pose too great an obstacle to winning him a seat on the DC Council.

David Alpert is Founder and President of Greater Greater Washington and Executive Director of DC Surface Transit. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. Unless otherwise noted, opinions here are his and not the official views of GGWash or DCST.