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Please Vote DC Democratic Caucus, May 21st

May 15, 2016

The DC State Democratic Party holds its caucus on Saturday, May 21st from 10am to 2pm at the DC Convention Center to select delegates to the Convention. My name will appear on the ballot to become a pledged delegate for Hillary Rodham Clinton. In 2008 I was elected as a delegate to support of Hillary but by the time we went to Denver all of Clinton’s delegates knew Barack Obama was going to be the nominee. Hillary asked us all to support then Senator Obama’s nomination and we proudly joined with her when she called to make it unanimous. 

Because of that experience I understand some of the frustration of those who have been supporting Bernie Sanders. You work hard but come up short. But contrary to the Republican Party, this year Democrats will unite like we did in 2008 and move forward together to victory.

This year my hope is to cast a vote for Hillary at the convention; it will be a proud moment for me. The May 21, 2016 Caucus is closed so only DC registered Democrats can vote.  Democratic registration may take place on-site, but the new registrant is required to file a Provisional Ballot in order to register and vote on May 21. The Caucus is officially open from 10:00 am - 2:00 pm and again from 9:00 pm - 10:30 pm on May 21, 2016 only.  During both timeframes at the Convention Center a full slate of delegate-candidates will be available to every registered Democratic voter attending the Caucus. The evening hours are for those who work during the day or can’t come during the day for religious reasons. It should only take a few minutes to cast your ballot but it will be appreciated. 

The process for selecting delegates splits the District into what are called two congressional districts. Wards 1, 2, 6 and 8 are District One and Wards 3, 4, 5, and 7 are District Two.  My name will be on the ballot in District One and those Democrats living in Wards 1, 2, 6 and 8 can vote for me. You can just vote for me, Peter D. Rosenstein, but I urge you to vote for the entire slate running with me including Brianne Nadeau, Ward 1 councilmember, Jack Evans, Ward 2 councilmember Sheila White from Ward 6 and Mary Cuthbert from Ward 8.  Together we will represent the diversity of DC and will proudly cast our ballots for Hillary at the Convention. To become delegates the caucus on May 21st is a crucial first step and we need your support. 

The Clinton campaign will be running full-out to win the D.C. primary on June 14th. It is the last primary in the nation and Hillary wants to end the primary season with a big win. She is already the presumptive nominee as she leads by more than 3.2 million actual votes and her delegate lead of about 300 makes it impossible for Senator Sanders to catch her. But Hillary respects his intention to run through June as she did in 2008.

The Hillary for America campaign will be setting up two offices in the District, one in Anacostia and one in Northwest. Adam Parkhomenko, Co-founder of Ready for Hillary, and National Volunteer Coordinator for Hillary for America will be the lead staff person here. We anticipate Hillary will make a campaign appearance in the final week before the primary.  

Hillary supports Statehood for the District and supports full budget and legislative autonomy while we continue to fight for statehood. She knows D.C. having lived here for years and we want her back. She has spent a lifetime fighting for the issues we care about; quality education for all children; civil rights; equal pay for women; and equality for the LGBT community. She has the temperament, experience and record of success to make a great progressive President. 

As a former teacher; community activist;  and someone who identifies as a feminist, supports the ERA and worked for Bella S. Abzug (D-NY) I am excited that along with all her other qualifications Hillary will be the first woman President of the United States. It will be a symbol to the world of who the American people are; a people who elected a great African American President and now will elect a great woman to lead our nation. This is a powerful symbol to people everywhere.  


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Eroding Public Trust in D.C. Government

May 8, 2016

The D.C. Children & Youth Investment Trust Corporation (CYITC) was formed in June 1999 as an independent 501(c)(3) organization to link public and private resources committed to addressing the long-term needs of children, youth and their families in the District of Columbia.  According to its original mission statement, “Its goal was to create alliances fostering strategic and effective investment in children and youth, to ensure high quality programs and services for every child in D.C. and to create mechanisms to evaluate the effectiveness of our efforts.” Unfortunately it went sadly off the tracks. The most egregious example was the money stolen by former City Council member Harry Thomas Jr.


In 2012, according to the Washington Post, “A solemn and weary Harry Thomas Jr. stood before a federal judge Thursday and blamed ‘a sense of entitlement’ for his having used his former position as a D.C. Council member to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars intended for youth programs. U.S. District Judge John D. Bates then imposed a sentence of three years and two months in prison, the most severe criminal sanction ever given a local elected official in the District.”


Recriminations continued and in 2013 the Washington Post quoted Diane Bernstein, the Trust’s founding vice chairman saying, “We were reaching for the stars here, and we were doing it. Only when the policy people stepped in did things start to go downhill.” In 2007, Adrian Fenty (D) took office as mayor and replaced Bernstein and then-Chair John W. Hill Jr. with his own people. Bernstein said, “What was originally intended to be an independent grant-making organization evolved into a means for political appointees to funnel money to pet projects.”


Looking at the Trust over the years Bernstein was right. There was never appropriate oversight and the board didn’t take responsibility for what was happening. As a non-profit CEO for more than 35 years I can only see the problems with the Trust as outrageous, inexcusable and maybe criminal. My hope is there will be an in-depth audit of all the Trust’s programs and funds with staff and the board held responsible and criminally charged if that turns out to be appropriate.


But the problems with the Trust should be a warning to all future mayors and others responsible for oversight of taxpayer funds that close monitoring of organizations entrusted to doling them out is crucial. When the city works with a non-profit to which they have a role in appointing board members they must ensure those people understand non-profits. It isn’t enough to appoint someone with a big name if that person doesn’t have the knowledge, time or willingness to be integrally involved.


There are other organizations in the District that hand out funds to various non-profits and we need to make sure they have reporting requirements in place and a board and staff that understand finances, and can read a budget and expense report.

One example of another such organization in the District is the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities. It distributes District money to many small groups and it is important to look at how it operates to make sure this embarrassing disaster at the Trust isn’t repeated. The boards of these organizations should have a finance and audit committee. Their staff must understand the board is entitled to see and review all budgets, income and disbursements, and not just after the fact.


The city should take a much bigger role in helping non-profit organizations receiving taxpayer funds and insist their board and staff receive training on what their responsibilities are.  Too often these boards are made up of people dedicated to a particular cause and wanting to do a good job but not having the experience to do it. It is not enough to give mayoral appointees to boards and commissions ethics training, which I understand they get, but they need training in the requirements of the job they are being asked to do.


There is a responsibility that anyone entrusted with spending public funds has and that is to do it responsibly and always be able to justify how it is used. People are generous and most taxpayers don’t resent paying their fair share as long as they know it is being used appropriately. The kind of activity that went on at the Trust, be it just inept or criminal, erodes the public trust.


Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBT rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.


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Kudos for Homeless Plan

March 3, 2016

Mayor Bowser’s administration deserves praise for presenting a plan to close the homeless shelter at the old D.C. General Hospital. We have long known it isn’t a fit place to house people, especially families. The plan presented to the public isn’t perfect but then a plan like this never will be. There will always be those complaining about a homeless shelter being located in their community.

The site proposed for Ward 5 appears to be problematic as it is in a largely industrial area, which would create a problem for the people living in the shelter. One of the reasons to disburse homeless people across the city would be to allow them to become part of a community and for those communities to be good neighbors and try to get to know those in the shelter and maybe help find permanent housing and jobs. We need to begin the process by accepting no one wants to live in a shelter.

A recent Washington Post column by Terrance McCoy reported on the community meeting on the shelter proposed for Ward 3, which brought out some supportive residents and some who fit the accepted acronym NIMBY (not in my backyard) for people opposing the shelter or any city service they don’t want moving into their neighborhood. Often these are the same people who say how awful housing is for the homeless and that they want the city to do something about it — just not near them.

The good people, and there are many in Massachusetts Heights where the Ward 3 proposed shelter would go, have a great neighborhood. It is near the Washington Cathedral and a conclave of many million-dollar homes. Upon hearing the plan “one neighbor sent an email to her neighbor saying she was “Betrayed.” The post went on to report the following: “The news has left the neighborhood in ‘utter turmoil,’ said Jane Loeffler, who is trying to sell her $1.4 million home in Ward 3. What will this mean for property values? What about crime? Bad things do happen around shelters — you can’t prevent it,” she wrote. “It goes with the territory.”

Now I don’t know Loeffler but have known many people like her when it comes to dealing with a proposed shelter in their neighborhood. As one-time Coordinator of Local Government for the City of New York, with jurisdiction over the city’s community boards, I have seen this play out time and time again. Otherwise well-meaning people get hysterical over having to live in close proximity to people who may not be as fortunate as they are. Yet according to the Post, “On average, researchers have found supportive housing facilities servicing the homeless and other vulnerable populations rarely lead to higher crime rates or a drop in property values.”  “Ingrid Gould Ellen, an urban planning expert who analyzed how 123 New York City housing facilities affected the surrounding neighborhoods, a few of which were wealthy said, “It is critical that these developments are well-built and well-designed, well-maintained and well-managed.” So it will be critical for the city to make sure this happens and for communities to monitor the city to ensure it’s done right.

It would be a breath of fresh air if Loeffler and the other residents of Ward 3 who may be frightened of what this new shelter will mean for their neighborhood, would instead of fighting it take a positive attitude and make sure more crime and lower property prices don’t happen. The proposed Ward 3 facility would house 38 families. It would be great if such a wealthy community, with many resources at its disposal, would find 38 community organizations, houses of worship or even individuals who would take it upon themselves to adopt one family each. As these families move in they could work with them, get to know them, and help out with integrating them into the community. This would be a great way to make this facility a benefit for the neighborhood and for those living in it. Each side would get to learn something and the community may just come to realize that, “There but for the grace of God go I.”

This article first appeard in The Washington Blade.

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