VOTERS GUIDE An Expanded Online Edition from The Current Newspapers ■ APRIL 26, 2011, SPECIAL ELECTION About the April 26 election
About the Voters Guide
The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, April 26. You may also request an absentee ballot by mail through April 19. Early voting will start April 11 at One Judiciary Square, 441 4th St. NW, and will continue daily through April 25 except Sunday, April 24. Hours are from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., except for April 25, when voting will end at 4:45 p.m., and April 17, when voting will take place from 12:30 to 5:30 p.m. Voters registered as of April 4 are eligible to vote; if you are not registered to vote, you may register at an early voting location or on Election Day and cast a special ballot. More information can be obtained by visiting dcboee.org or calling 202-727-2525.
The Current interviewed the major candidates in races within our coverage area in the April 26 election — the contests for an at-large D.C. Council seat and the State Board of Education seat for Ward 4. The interviews provided the basis for profiles combining biographical information and a discussion of candidates’ priorities, as well as charts offering brief positions on a host of specific issues. A version of this Voters Guide was published in The Current’s April 6 issue. This expanded version, available at issuu.com/currentnewspapers, includes additional questions and answers in chart form, as well as profiles of the Ward 4 board candidates not included in print due to space limitations.
AT-LARGE D.C. COUNCIL SEAT
Sekou Biddle has been an interim at-large D.C. Council member since January. The Democratic State Committee selected him to fill the seat temporarily when Kwame Brown was elected council chairman. A former D.C. Board of Education member, Biddle previously worked as a regional executive director for Jumpstart for Young Children and directed community outreach for KIPP DC (Knowledge Is Power Program), which runs three city charter schools. If elected, he said, he plans to concentrate most on education, employment and the city’s budget. “Our ability to prepare young people for college and the world of work, as well as to support adults trying to get jobs, has to be our highest priority.” He said the city needs to align its education resources — from pre-k through the University of the District of Columbia, as well as libraries and job-training programs, “to support our residents’ success.” To measure the progress of D.C.’s public schools, he said he would look at test scores, how many parents are enrolling their children, and whether teachers are leaving for charter or suburban schools. See Biddle/Page VG5
Joshua Lopez, recently a project manager for a Georgia Avenue community development nonprofit organization, is a former advisory neighborhood commissioner in Brightwood. Lopez, also a former vice president of the Ward 4 Democrats group, worked in various capacities for Adrian Fenty, including serving on the Commission on Latino Community Development. If elected, Lopez said, he would focus most on education reform, public safety and government accountability. “The education reform efforts started under Chancellor [Michelle] Rhee must continue,” Lopez said, and D.C. should continue the IMPACT teacher-evaluation system. “The system measures people on results,” he said. “Some may feel uncomfortable with it. You have people going into classrooms looking at how teachers are educating young people.” But he said such a close look is necessary in a system that was “graduating students who could not read or write.” Parents, fellow teachers and students — even those in elementary grades — should help with evaluations, he said. The District needs to “reach out to parents by See Lopez/Page VG3
Vincent Orange, D.C. Democratic National Commiteeman, served as the Ward 5 D.C. Council member from 1999 to 2007. Most recently, he was vice president of public affairs for Pepco. A lawyer, public accountant and auditor, he was chief financial officer for the National Children’s Center. If elected, Orange said, his highest priorities would be fiscal responsibility, education reform and elimination of fraud and abuse. “We must balance our budgets, keep our bond ratings and manage the cap on our debt service,” he said. Orange said D.C. can produce new revenue without raising tax rates by encouraging tax-generating projects like the convention center hotel and those at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, St. Elizabeths Hospital and the Anacostia and Southwest waterfronts. He doesn’t think major cuts are necessary to close the city’s $320 million deficit. Agencies must be ordered, “pursuant to the law, to spend 50 percent of their budgets with our registered local businesses, as we can then collect profits taxes and employment taxes that we would not otherwise collect.” See Orange/Page VG3
Dorothy Douglas, a native Washingtonian, has represented Ward 7 on the D.C. State Board of Education since 2008. Previously, she served as an advisory neighborhood commissioner in Northeast for 12 years, including four as chair. Before retiring, she worked as a case manager for the D.C. Department of Corrections, and she describes her job as having been “similar to a social worker.” If elected, Douglas said, she would concentrate most on education, housing and employment. She said she would ensure that D.C. has “the bestquality teachers” in its public schools. To judge teacher effectiveness, she said, “there needs to be an evaluation panel — not just the principal, but also parents and other teachers. Many of our teachers are unprepared.” Student-teaching experience is essential for new teachers “so they will know how to service our children,” she said. “It is on-the-job training, so they will be sure it is the kind of job they would like to continue with.” Experienced private school teachers should be See Douglas/Page VG4
Patrick Mara was recently elected the Ward 1 member of the D.C. State Board of Education. Mara heads his own political consulting group, which deals with small businesses and political and nonprofit fundraising. In the past, he worked as a contractor for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, working on clean transportation tools and electricity restructuring. If elected, he said, he would concentrate most on education, fiscal responsibility and congressional relations. Mara said he would “be able to do far more to advance educational reform as a member of the council than I can from the school board.” He said his major education goals are to ensure that IMPACT, a teacher-evaluation tool, “is continued in the way that was envisioned by former Chancellor [Michelle] Rhee”; to continue “building in-house capacity for special education in the District”; and to “emphasize workforce development.” He said the city government needs to “work with the employer community to determine needed skill sets over the next several years,” and then help unemployed adults develop those skills. “Many of the See Mara/Page VG3
Bryan Weaver served on the Adams Morgan advisory neighborhood commission from 2003 to 2010. He runs Hoops Sagrado, a nonprofit he founded in 1996 to take at-risk D.C. youth to Guatemala every summer for basketball clinics, language and cultural exchange and community building. He previously worked as assistant press secretary for the Democratic National Committee. If elected, Weaver said, his top priorities would be open government, youth issues and city solvency. “The District government ... has been secretive for decades,” he said, creating a “feeling of backroom deals.” Weaver said he would target the city’s extensive use of non-bid city contracts and earmarks. “Why are we picking one group over another? Right now, an organization with a connection gets the contracts.” Those connections can include political campaign contributions, said Weaver. Currently, companies with subsidiaries and sister LLCs can contribute to campaigns, making it difficult for citizens to trace ownership, he said. “So in essence, it becomes blind checks from unnamed companies.” When the same companies later win non-bid city contracts, it forms the See Weaver/Page VG5