Community Palette

Patrick Kennedy for Ward 2 Councilmember

May 7, 2020

As a Ward 2 resident for more than 35 years, I have had only two people represent me on the D.C. Council. The first, John A. Wilson, had the D.C. government building named after him. The second, Jack Evans, was forced out of office for improprieties. On June 2 in the Democratic primary and June 16 in the special election for Ward 2, voters have the opportunity to choose a third representative. We need to elect someone who will make us proud. 

One person stands out among a group of qualified candidates. His relevant experience at the ward and community level, and his living by a set of steadfast progressive and honest principles, make Patrick Kennedy that candidate. He recently said: “In these difficult days I am committed to serving the residents of Ward 2 in an honest and transparent way to meet all their needs. I am committed to helping as we weave our way through tough times with a special focus on the economic and health inequities that have been highlighted due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Together we will not only survive we will thrive. The Council will be my full-time job and the only people I will owe anything to are the residents of Ward 2. As new issues arise you have my commitment to work on each one to the best of my ability and to meet and exceed your expectations.” 

(Photo by: Peter Rosenstein)

Ward 2 is a dynamic part of the District and includes a diverse group of stakeholders, including a large part of the District’s business community. Balancing the needs of business with the needs of individuals is not always easy but must be the goal of the Council member representing the ward. Patrick has community and ward experience, including eight years on the ANC, being chair for five terms. Relevant experience is based on what the job of a Ward Council member is. The job includes oversight of D.C. government agencies; approval of the D.C. budget; and just as important the ability to provide good constituent service to the residents of the ward. Being chair of an ANC gave Patrick a detailed understanding of D.C. government agencies and how they relate to both individuals and the community. A Council member must have knowledge of zoning, local education issues, transportation issues, and know how the programs of D.C. government from DDOT, to DOES, to DCRA, the bane of everyone’s existence, work. It means getting into the weeds on rat (the four legged kind) abatement and knowing how to help a constituent get a street lamp fixed. It is why experience on an ANC is so relevant to the job. 

Another reason I am endorsing Kennedy is my belief it is crucial for our city that young people become involved and take leadership roles. When they do, we must support them. Kennedy represents the best of the young generation of the District. For 10 years he has spent countless hours as an ANC volunteer member and chair working for the people of the ward and the city. He sees himself as a bridge-builder, someone who understands the needs and interests of different communities and he has shown he is able to collaborate with a wide range of people with varied interests and forge consensus and come up with solutions to problems. I found he has a nuanced understanding of public policy and has shown empathy and understanding of people from all different backgrounds and perspectives. 

Ward 2 has the largest number of people who identify with the LGBTQ+ community in the District and while Patrick is not gay his work for — and vocal support of — the community has attracted many activists to his campaign. He has committed to have the city do a much better job of providing equity-based initiatives, which will impact the LGBTQ community. He supports improving hiring practices for trans people in the D.C. government. He is committed to focusing on improving job training programs ensuring they include trans women of color whose unemployment rate was as high as 40 percent before COVID-19. He will fight for more investment in transitional housing for homeless LGBTQ youth and delivering housing resources specifically geared to the needs of LGBTQ seniors. He said, “It is crucial to not just see housing programs as services LGBTQ seniors can access, but rather to craft the services themselves around the needs of those who live alone and are at risk of social isolation. It is clear not all housing providers are culturally competent or welcoming.” 

Kennedy has a history of success. He helped save the Francis-Stevens school, which is now thriving, and he worked on projects with George Washington University and with colleagues and DDOT laying the groundwork for consensus on a protected bike lane between Foggy Bottom and Dupont. His private sector experience includes working for a company helping Fortune 500 companies on their Corporate Social Responsibility budgets. His research had a focus on using SEC filings to evaluate a firm’s financial positions, market opportunities, and risks. In his current position with a small management consulting firm (he is on leave during the campaign) his work includes reviewing budgets and evaluating the competitive bid process including staffing and expense projections, all of which stand him in good stead when he becomes the next Ward 2 Council member. 

Kennedy is committed to working with the Council, our delegate to Congress Eleanor Holmes Norton, and the mayor to press the Congress and the administration for D.C.’s full share of federal funding, including Coronavirus relief. He is a strong advocate for public education. Progress in the schools is nowhere more evident than in Ward 2 with an increasing demand for our public schools; not just from families staying and raising their children in the Ward, but from families across the city. He understands the momentum we’ve seen in the early grades hasn’t translated reliably to middle schools. He said, “In Ward 2 we must help families with children at Hyde-Addison stay in the system at Hardy and create a new Shaw Middle School with programming aligned to the thriving elementary schools that would feed it.” Kennedy commits to working to reduce childcare costs and prioritizing funding for Birth-to-3 programs. He understands doing both will make a meaningful difference in reducing the achievement gap in education by providing high-quality early learning opportunities to every child during the most important stage of their cognitive development. 

He has committed to focusing on the production of more affordable housing. He said, “I support the mayor’s plan to encourage the production of more residential units across the city, enhance rent control protections for long-term tenants by gradually enrolling buildings built after 1975 into rent stabilization, and reforming our property tax structure to ensure that assessments align more cleanly with people’s ability to pay.” He is committed to creating new dedicated bus lanes to improve service and ensure stable, fast commute times and investing in more off-peak service. He is a proponent of more dynamic street design, including more dedicated pick-up and drop-off areas on commercial corridors; expanding parking corrals for dockless bikes and scooters to get them off sidewalks; and enhancing the District’s network of protected bike lanes (coupled with enforcement of standards around sidewalk biking) so people have safe places to bike and pedestrians don’t feel unsafe on sidewalks.”

In the aftermath of the recent Ward 2 Council member’s scandals we need a Council member who is a known commodity in the community, someone with a strong record of helping and working with every sector of the community. Someone people already know and trust. Someone the Washington Post said is “qualified and has a good agenda” for moving us forward. That person is Patrick Kennedy and I urge you to cast your ballot for him in the June 2 Democratic primary and the June 16 special election.

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Continuing to Stay Safe, Healthy and Sane ...

April 29, 2020

It is easy to lose count of how long we have been quarantined as the days just drift into one another especially if you live alone and don’t have a full-time job you are doing from home.  Yesterday one of my morning Java House Zoom companions said, “I woke today and my nine-year-old petulant self was saying, “Open the damn country.”

(Photo by: Peter Rosenstein)

It occurred to me my nine-year-old self has said the same adding, “Dammit I want to go eat out, go play on the beach, walk the boardwalk, see my friends and hug them. Enough of staying at home mostly alone.” But after a couple of moments it sunk in I am no longer a nine-year-old and getting over my little sulk accepted why we are quarantined and why we can’t yet open the county. Then it dawned on me listening to Trump say dumb things like we should consider drinking or injecting Lysol or bleach, we have a President who is not only a moron but in his rush to try to reopen the nation is still acting like a petulant nine-year-old. Now, that is criminal. 

As a senior I know I am more susceptible to this virus. Having had some health issues, though now fine, being careful has been important. It means never going into a store without my mask and wearing one on my afternoon walks. Washing my hands so often they are getting chapped. It means wearing the mask and gloves when going to the basement in my condo to do the wash, something I haven’t done in years since there was someone who came to clean every two weeks and did that. For my safety and hers that won’t happen again till this is over. Since I am fortunate and can afford to, she is still being paid. 

(Photo by: Peter Rosenstein)

Like so many of us during the first few weeks of this quarantine I would immerse myself in the TV news watching the moron in the White House every evening during his press conference/political rally and watching an impressive Andrew Cuomo every afternoon. Would have cable news on much of the day, yelling back at the TV and being inundated with reports of what is happening around the world. I have stopped that now because it was just too depressing. Found myself tearing up regularly every time I heard about another death, about another child not having food, about another family torn apart from a loved one who was sick but they couldn’t be with them. I cried when I heard my good friend and political mentor Arlene Stringer-Cuevas, mother of New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, died from the virus. Teared up every time another FB friend told of a friend or relative who died from the virus. Then found myself tearing up thinking about all those dying of other causes and knowing their families can’t hold funerals. I think of my parent’s funerals and wonder what it would have been like to not be able to honor them and get the closure they brought with family and friends around when each of them passed. 

So I have found each day how important it is to find something to enjoy, something to smile about, and something to be hopeful about in these difficult times. To hear funny stories about my friends' kids, to continue to enjoy the flowers and beauty around me on every afternoon walk which I share daily on FB. Amazing how many things I notice on my walks around the city that never registered before. Plaques on buildings I once just passed. Remembering how great it feels to be able to help someone else. Small things like finding paper towels in the local Safeway for my ninety-two year old neighbor. 

(Photo by: Peter Rosenstein)

There is always a feeling of guilt when avoiding people on the street. When someone walks towards me and I walk into the street to make sure I am keeping six feet of separation. Avoiding a street person who comes toward me without a mask. So to make up for that and in some way assuage my guilt each afternoon I sit at my computer and find a charity to which I can make a small donation. Realizing with each click of the donate button how fortunate I am knowing I will never go without a home or without food. So it makes me feel good to give a donation to Casa Ruby in DC; or to an organization like Martha’s Table.  While I have no particular talent I love the theater, am a theater reviewer, and want to make sure it will return and all those talented artists can continue to provide us with joy. Some doing it now online like Michael Urie who raised over $200,000, including my small donation, for Actors Equity with his brilliant online performance of Buyer & Cellar. Lady Gaga who helped coordinate the One World Together spectacular raising $128 million, including my small donation.  Giving a small donation to the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Phoenix Fund to help keep that brilliant DC Treasure alive when this is all over and life can return to whatever our new normal is. 

Each of us is dealing with this pandemic in our own way. Many of my friends on FB are cooking and baking and sharing pictures of the incredible delicacies they are making. Guess I could have put a picture of last night’s Lean Cuisine dinner online, lol. No matter what you are doing to pass the time and keep yourself safe, healthy and sane remember we are all in this together. Reach out to friends, check on your neighbor, and keep busy. This will eventually pass and hopefully we will all be here to celebrate together. Those of you who are young remember you will be telling stories to your grandkids about, “What I did during the Coronavirus pandemic back in 2020.” Make sure those will be really good stories. 

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Staying Safe, Healthy and Sane and Seeing Beauty in the World

April 9, 2020

As a senior living alone in DC this crisis brings with it some interesting thoughts and feelings. One is how important it is to remain connected to friends, and second to have a schedule to keep my sanity and remain positive. I have found taking walks around DC, keeping safe social distance from others, is wonderful. I take pictures of the incredible array of spring flowers to remind me there is still beauty in the world and life goes on despite this pandemic.

(Photo by: Peter Rosenstein)

Friends know in normal times I am up each day at 6:30 am and start my day at Java House for coffee. Our coffee group has been meeting for over twenty years, rain or shine for whoever is in town, except Thanksgiving and Christmas when Java is closed. There are about twenty-five of us each occasionally bringing friends. Inside in winter the rest of the year on the patio. Bebee, the mainstay of the Java staff, knows what each of us drinks and eats and as soon as she sees us we are served. For me it has become family.

While not a very diverse group, all are liberal Democrats, we do argue politics and everything else. Some are sports fanatics others into the theater. Over the twenty years the group has aged but we try to invite newbies and there are a fair number of youngsters (I consider youngsters anyone from twenty-one to forty-five) to join us. Some in the group work for the State Department, some like me had government and non-profit experience, two former members of Congress, a Dean at American University, some techies and of course some lawyers one a former Solicitor General and another a Cabinet Secretary.  As you can imagine it is a group with a lot of opinions and no one is hesitant to voice theirs. A few years ago someone wrote on YELP “I love Java House in the mornings except for Peter Rosenstein and his bloviating pensioners”. We took offense only at the term pensioners as many in the group were still working full time. We accepted bloviating which at times is appropriate. 

So when Covid-19 arrived in DC and Java House was limited to take-out coffee and bagels, it was tough.  Then one of our group set up a Zoom Kaffeklatch each morning which has been a godsend for me during this stressful time. I can walk to Java at 7:30am, get my coffee to go, and then get on zoom for an hour and chat with everyone. We have had guests join us from as far away as Mexico and Paris. Occasionally inviting an expert on some topic to join us.  It has been the social outlet I need. Some have used zoom for virtual cocktail hours and dinners. Friends did a virtual Passover Seder. I had a zoom appointment with my dermatologist. 

(Photo by: Peter Rosenstein)

For me having a schedule has been important. It has included exercise hours, and regular mealtimes now that meals have become solo events usually in front of the TV. I have tried to keep to a healthy diet but cheated recently with ice cream.  I am always impressed how the cookie section of my local Safeway is always restocked but have stayed away from it thus far. By-the-way can’t say thank-you enough to the great people working at Safeway and all the grocery stored in DC for their work during these difficult times. They are truly on the front lines along with our first responders; healthcare workers, police, EMS, and fire. My friends share pictures on FB of all the things they have baked but since the only kitchen appliance I am familiar with is a microwave I unfortunately have no pictures to share. 

The rest of my day is occupied with reading everything from The Georgetown Dish, New York Times, Washington Post and junk novels. Thanks to Kindle there are an endless supply of those. I spend too much time on FB and have called friends around the world some of whom I haven’t talked with in years. Remember we are all in this together. 

I continue to write my regular columns for the Washington Blade but now do them for free. It’s part of my donation to the Blade which is one of those small but crucial news sources. The Blade serves the LGBTQ+ community across the nation and I believe its survival is crucial.  As a founding board member of the Blade Foundation I urge anyone who can to make a small donation.

(Photo by: Peter Rosenstein)

It is my hope you are all finding a way to stay safe and healthy in both mind and body. Those of you with families, lovers or friends quarantined with you surely have all kinds of other things to do. My good friends are making sure their triplets are keeping up with their school work. 

Wherever you are it is important to check in with your neighbors by phone, email and any other way you can. We will get through this crisis if we stick together (just with that six foot separation and a mask) and just maybe it will bring a lasting understanding of the importance of community. Only together will we survive and thrive and I know we will.  

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