Community Palette

Muriel Bowser Shines As Mayor

July 5, 2020

It is often said a crisis can bring out the best or the worst in people. We are confronting two crises at the same time in the United States; the coronavirus pandemic and the murder of George Floyd and the ensuing Black Lives Matter protests. The protests forced us as individuals and as a nation to face the rampant overuse of force by some members of police departments against Black and Brown members of the community. At the same time the pandemic forced us to recognize the healthcare discrepancies faced by Black and Brown communities and the economic inequality which exists often bringing them about. 

Polling makes it clear the nation sees that in Trump, who has been floundering worse than ever, these crises have brought out the worst. Washington, D.C. is fortunate they have brought out the best in the Mayor. Muriel Bowser has stepped up to the plate and made residents proud. She has shown herself a leader and handled both crises with a steady hand. She has had the help of some of the best people in her administration, and we must recognize they are people she chose, who have also stepped up. They include among many others the Director of the Department of Health Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt; acting Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development John Falcicchio (also doing double duty as the Mayor’s Chief of Staff); Chief of Police Peter Newsham; and Jeff Marootian Director of the Department of Transportation. 

Because the District of Columbia is not a state the Mayor walks a fine line. DC is in many ways under the control of the federal government. Often that means Trump.  Our budgets and legislation need Congressional approval and the President controls our national guard and in an emergency could take over the police.  So when the Mayor chastised the President she had to be careful not to harm discussions she was having simultaneously with parts of the administration and Congress. She has walked that line brilliantly; including when she had BLACK LIVES MATTER painted in huge yellow letters on 16th street NW leading to the White House. It was like giving Trump our middle finger. Then she named the area in front of Lafayette Park and the White House ‘Black Lives Matter Plaza’. According to John Falcicchio as reported in the Washington Post she did this because “There was a dispute this week about whose street it is, and Mayor Bowser wanted to make it abundantly clear whose street it is and honor the peaceful demonstrators.” Bowser also spoke out forcefully about keeping federal troops out of D.C. insisting the National Guard the President brought in from other states be removed. 

At the same time the Mayor dealt daily with the coronavirus pandemic; facing a nearly complete shutdown of the economy and having to submit a totally revised budget to the Council. Her daily press conferences reporting to the residents gave comprehensive updates on the pandemic’s impact on each neighborhood and also explaining there would be a $750 million budget shortfall this year and an $800 million one next year. She has committed to try to address some of the inequalities rampant in DC between East and West. Because the Mayor has been leading the city well there was an over $300 million surplus from the previous year so the impact of the cuts won’t be as drastic as they are in many other cities. While not everyone agrees with her response to the cry to ‘defund police’ she is being rational and standing strong for what she believes is best for the District. Many agree with her and many don’t. Hopefully the Council will rise to the occasion and work with the Mayor to come to an agreement on this without individual members of the Council trying to grandstand for headlines. This discussion needs to be held in an open and systematic way taking into consideration the views and needs of all the people of the District. 

In recent weeks Mayor Bowser has appeared on numerous national television shows including Meet the Press, the Today show, and ABC World News Tonight. She has acquitted herself well and her ability to speak knowledgably and in a way people can understand has brought new and very positive attention to the District of Columbia. Contrary to the opinion of some Republicans like out of touch Senator Tom Cotton (R-AK) who spoke out against the winning vote for Statehood for the District in the House of Representatives by attacking the Mayor, many like me are proud she is our Mayor and would be proud to call her Governor. 


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Saying ‘All Lives Matter’ is Wrong

June 14, 2020

There are still some who find it necessary to say ‘All Lives Matter’ when others chant ‘Black Lives Matter’. The problem is when talking about ‘all lives’ people are missing the point of what is and has been going on in our country from its founding.

(Photo by: Peter Rosenstein)

It took a compromise to have our Constitution ratified and it is called the Three-Fifths Compromise which is found in Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3 and reads;  “Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.”

So from day one we looked at African Americans as less. In every action since, including the Civil War, while clearly progress has been made, we still have a system of systemic racism and economic inequality rampant in our nation. We need only look at statistics to see that today “The White-Black economic divide is as wide as it was in 1968”. Yes we are making progress and just recently we saw “Ella Jones, a Ferguson City Council member, become the first black woman to be elected Mayor in the city where the police shooting of unarmed black teenager Mike Brown sparked protests in 2014 and catapulted the Black Lives Matter movement to a national stage.” We are seeing many more Black anchors and reporters on TV reporting today’s protests. Yet one of the scary parts of these protests is it appears police are targeting some of the reporters on the scene. While there is no way to be sure it seems Trump’s attacks on the press are having an impact on these actions by police. 

Now, while my life matters, the simple fact is I was born with ‘white privilege” and in every aspect my life am safer than someone who is born Black or Brown. My white privilege is not something I earned, rather it is something society bestowed on me. Society looks at me differently than it does my Black and Brown sisters and brothers and therefore I am treated differently. The fight we face in our country and around the world is to have people first accept and then act to insist Black and Brown lives must matter as much as mine does. Today unfortunately we still live in a society which makes it abundantly clear to those who are Black and Brown their lives don’t matter as much. 

(Photo by: Peter Rosenstein)

Every person of white privilege must regularly look in the mirror and judge themselves. Ask themselves if they really understand this and then ask themselves what they will do about it. Over the years there have been many times I have made myself look in a mirror and study myself; ask myself; am I racist? Do I always act in the way I say people should”?  If I am totally honest the truth is not always and while it may not have been intentional never-the-less I sometimes failed. The first time I took that look in the mirror I was sixteen years old and just had the honor of presenting my high school’s citizenship award to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It was an incredible honor to meet him and get the chance to talk with him. This was in New York, February 1963, six months before Dr. King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, DC. It was a seminal moment in my life. 

One of the most quoted lines from that speech is "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." Through the years that line has often been interpreted by many to mean we should live in a ‘color blind’ world. That has never made sense to me. Dr. King was a realist and I don’t think he ever  meant we should not see each other as we are and that would include the color of our skin be it White, Black or Brown. He didn’t mean we need to pretend we don’t see color but rather the goal to strive for must be to see each other, color and all, and still be able to not judge each other by that. When that goal is reached we will know our society is truly moving forward.  

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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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