A La Carte
Following President Obama’s State of the Union Address Tuesday, The Atlantic and National Journal editors gathered early Wednesday morning at the Newseum for the 12th Annual State of the Union Congressional Debrief.
National Journal Group Publisher John Fox Sullivan introduced Atlantic Media Company’s Senior Editorial Director, Ronald Brownstein, AtlanticLIVE's Editor-in-Chief, Steve Clemons, and The Atlantic’s staff writer, Molly Ball. During the hour-and-a-half session, they were joined by five invited Republican and Democratic members of Congress.
Taking turns with the Atlantic Media panel, members gave their views on the President's address and offered predictions on the country's future. Audience guests were invited to ask questions.
Democratic Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal saw signs of "congressional thawing" on areas of the budget, foreign policy, flood insurance, and immigration reform. Describing the President's tone as aspirational, he emphasized the need to repair the country's aging infrastructure, and reforming health care, especially for returning military.
Deb Fischer, Republican Senator from Nebraska, talked about the current policy of "War on Coal" alluding to the fourth proposal of the Keystone Pipeline awaiting government approval. She affirmed her support for the Farm Bill.
Texas Congressman, Democrat Joaquin Castro spoke about economic justice issues including citizenship and job retraining.
Aaron Schock, Republican from the 18th District of Illinois, and 2nd youngest member of Congress, felt the President had "spent political capital on healthcare." Explaining that half the country is opposed to Obamacare, with the Department of Health and Human Services deciding "what's deemed adequate health insurance," he suggesting allowing for cross-state options. A big fan of "Birth to 5" early childhood programs, Schock touted the program's proven successful in Illinois. Regarding raising minimum wage for government contractors, Shock explained that would have zero impact for any current workers.
Diana DeGette, Democrat from Colorado's First District, in describing her state's "powerhouse of energy" with its natural gas, fracking, solar and wind power, empahasized the need for a comprehensive national energy policy.
John Hoeven, a pro-life Republican sentaor from North Dakota, talked about his state as the country's fastest growing and second biggest producer of oil (after Texas).
The event was sponsored by AtlanticLIVE.
As a standing-room-only crowd of 250 District voters packed into the basement of Dumbarton House, moderator Davis Kennedy of The Current Newspapers introduced six candidates for DC mayor Thursday evening. The event was sponsored by the Citizens Association of Georgetown (CAG) and the Georgetown Business Association (GBA).
Incumbent Mayor Vincent Gray could not make it, explained Davis, “because he had to address an urgent public safety matter.” Councilmembers Muriel Bowser, Jack Evans, Vincent Orange and Tommy Wells, ex State Department Official under former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Reta Jo Lewis and restaurateur Andy Shallal offered their plans for the city and responded to questions posed by Kennedy.
While each candidate cited their qualifications for the position, all agreed that the city needs more affordable housing, better neighborhood schools, a ban on corporate contributions, transit equity, parity across wards especially east of the river, and raising minimum and living wages.
Opinions varied on the merits of Large Retailer Accountability Act (LRAA), which would have required most of the district’s big-box retailers to pay a higher minimum wage. Bowser was clear that she did not support the bill.
Shallal, owner of Busboys and Poets and Eatonville Restaurant, talked about a "tale of two cities" with DC being one the nation's wealthiest but also having the highest rate of childhood poverty.
With a general consensus that there was no need for new taxes, everyone vociferously agreed that sales taxes should not include gym memberships. Orange, Bowser and Wells, who had noticably dropped weight, looked trim and fit for the race.
When it came to Georgetown issues including what should be done with the Whitehurst Freeway, candidates expressed more diversity. Smiling, Bowser noted that “This is when I should say I support Ward 2 Council member. Running for mayor I learned how long it takes to go anywhere. We should be very careful about losing capacity." Evans recalled a visit with former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, “Standing underneath it, it’s very ugly. But driving home it’s beautiful.” Eventually it will come down, he believed.
Evans announced that the Georgetown Department of Motor Vehicles office would be reopening in May and that Wisconsin Avenue would soon be reopening with three lanes.
On building a Georgetown metro stop, “Sounds like a whole lot of construction,” said Shallal, who supports a robust city trolley system. Lewis reiterated her message of equal opportunity across the city, while Orange enthusiastically supported a metro stop and the BID’s 2028 plan.
An hour into the debate, 31-year old Christian Carter, a seventh generation Washingtonian arrived and insisted on taking a seat at the table. Davis Kennedy pointed out that “all major candidates and fringe candidates with reasonable long shots were invited.”
To Davis, Carter said, “Isn’t it hard enough to run for mayor without dealing with you?”
Echoing audience objection to the moderator's characterization of her as a "fringe candidate," Reta Jo Lewis said about Davis, “That was an unacceptable comment. All I’m looking for is a fair shot.”
Carter was then given an opportunity to address all questions.
Next, each candidate was asked “a series of ultra tough questions” tailored to them. To Evans, Davis asked about his initial opposition to Marion Barry’s censure. Evans responded that he ultimately voted to take his chairmanship away but felt his being sanctioned was sufficient.
Wells was asked about his three or four major accomplishments, to which he cited creating Housing First, my stand on juvenile justice, and being champion for minimum wage.
Bowser was asked about her disagreement with Council member Mary Cheh’s sponsored legislation that would have prevented gas distributors from also operating gas stations. She reiterated her disagreement with Cheh on the bill that was particularly aimed at one local distributor.
Lewis, who frequently cited her service in President Obama's administration, was asked about the disparity of her national versus local experience, to which she responded that her 35 years working on issues was local experience.
To Carter, Davis asserted he had trouble answering a number of the questions. Carter responded by inviting everyone in the audience to be part of his team. Turning to the candidates, “I think all of you should vote for me as well.”
All were asked about their views on whether DC should turn over citizenship information to immigration authorities. Shallal, who was born in Iraq, answered that there are already mechanisms in place and applauded IDs for immigrants.
In closing, each candidate asked for residents' votes on April 1.
Call this the year I officially became an adult, having added to my list of essential service providers an accountant, intellectual property attorney, personal trainer and transitional moving specialist. Previous list: dermatologist, hairdresser, floral designer, and dentist.
The suburban house where I grew up, and for four more decades visited weekly, is gone. Poof, not as in conflagration, but emptied of all its stuff, most of which I'd known since I could crawl. European, my parents did not practice consumerism. I learned that on my own.
Now sold, the home's previous nonagenerian owner, who early this year made an abrupt but ultimately remarkable transition to his current state of vulnerability and acceptance, is now thriving in his new assisted living apartment. While my day job as personal assistant and social director takes me there, this year more than ever before, my home is in Georgetown.
For commercial real estate, the times they are a-changin, but the residents here are always fascinating. Those whom I’m lucky enough to call friends make this the most interesting village in which I can imagine living.
In chronological order, from The Georgetown Dish, my list of the year's most Dishiest:
Next year, 'Ubering' will remain my favorite urban sport, and Sicily my new travel destination.
Wishing all those who contribute to, support and read The Georgetown Dish a most joyous holiday season and New Year!