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CHairMaN D.C. COuNCil

Calvin Gurley

phil Mendelson

Democratic primary

Calvin Gurley Calvin Gurley, 57, lives in Takoma and has 23 years of experience working in the federal government, primarily as an accountant and an auditor. If elected D.C. Council chairman, he would push policies aimed at creating jobs, expanding affordable housing and improving D.C.’s education system. With regard to jobs, Gurley believes District residents should be prioritized to fill local government positions that become available through retirements and vacancies. He also supports building a Las Vegas-style hotel and casino on Buzzard Point. Finally, Gurley hopes to open more vocational high schools offering apprenticeships in fields such as automobile repair, plumbing and nursing. “They should be located in the areas of most need, where they have high unemployment and high school dropout rates,” he said. Concerning affordable housing, Gurley would encourage developers to build needed units on D.C.-owned property and on the sites of abandoned housing developments such as East Capitol Dwellings in Southeast. “We need to bring some

WarD 1 SEaT D.C. COuNCil

accountability to the Housing Production Trust Fund to finance an agreed-upon number of units per year,” he said. On education, Gurley pledges to return D.C. to an era before mayoral control of the school system. “Mayors generally are not good at education — not unless they come from an educational background,” he said. Specifically, Gurley would revert the District to a school system run by an elected school board. He would push for free meals and tutoring for all students. Asked about his other educational priorities, Gurley said, “There’s a need to do less standardized testing, and our curriculum needs to focus more on math, science, analytical reasoning, music and extracurricular activities.” Gurley, who ran for the same post in 2012, has served as the president of the Fairlawn and Takoma civic associations. A graduate of Eastern High School, Gurley holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Bowie State University. He has also taken graduate business administration courses at the University of the District of Columbia. He is married with two children.

phil Mendelson Phil Mendelson, 61, has chaired the D.C. Council since 2012. The Takoma resident was first elected to the council in 1998, winning an at-large seat. If re-elected, Mendelson will have three priorities: improving the professionalism, transparency and reputation of the D.C. Council; reducing truancy in D.C. Public Schools; and using council oversight to improve the University of the District of Columbia. Regarding improvements to the council, the chairman supports enhancing the quality of legislative reports accompanying bills, which he said “vary enormously.” Some “barely explain legislative intent,” he said. Mendelson backs boosting resources for the council’s budget office and its general counsel. He also pledges to make public documents more accessible to citizens and to continue working to minimize ethical infractions by council members. “I can’t make a council member not take bribes or not commit a criminal act if he or she is so inclined,” he said. “However, the amount of contentiousness and embarrassing episodes has declined in

Jim Graham

the past year and a half that I have chaired the council.” With regard to truancy, Mendelson supports continued investment in grants for community organizations that work with parents to address the root causes of chronic absences. When bullying is the cause, these groups sometimes help children find new schools. On funding, Mendelson believes the city should invest more in middle and high schools, and carefully analyze the data on elementary schools “to see what is working best.” For the University of the District of Columbia, which “spent the last two years contracting and finding its focus,” Mendelson seeks to provide oversight without jeopardizing its independence. “The community college is a tremendous opportunity for workforce development to improve job opportunities for District residents,” he said. A graduate of American University with a bachelor’s in political science, Mendelson worked as a council aide and served as an advisory neighborhood commissioner in McLean Gardens prior to his election to the D.C. Council. He is divorced and has one daughter.

Brianne Nadeau

Democratic primary

Jim Graham Jim Graham, 68, has served as Ward 1’s representative on the D.C. Council since 1998. Should he be re-elected, Graham would focus most on Ward 1 issues, concerns related to his position as chair of the Committee on Human Services, and affordable housing. Graham said he is particularly proud of his constituent service successes because they make a real difference in the quality of life of residents in his ward. Given the ward’s diversity, with large numbers of people from Vietnam, Latin America and Ethiopia, immigration and cultural issues are important, he said. Development is also a hotbutton topic in Ward 1, he said, noting that he was a major contributor to spurring growth in Columbia Heights and in the U Street area. Currently, he is working to attract a full-service grocery store to the proposed Howard Town Center on lower Georgia Avenue. Graham said he is also pleased with his efforts to preserve the First Church of Christ, Scientist, building in Adams Morgan, which will be merged into a new hotel. He secured $41 million in tax relief for the development, conditional upon 50 percent of the employees being Ward 1 residents. “It’s going to be a great project,” he said. The incumbent also touted his efforts

on the Committee on Human Services. “I’m very proud of the work I’ve done in fighting poverty,” he said. “We now have a promising employment program to move people from chronic welfare dependency to self-sufficiency.” When asked about his support for a bill that would have raised the minimum wage at Walmart and some other stores — but which drew threats that the megachain would cancel planned outlets — he stood his ground, even though the new stores have meant hundreds of new jobs for D.C. residents. “We want people to get out of chronic dependency,” he said, adding, “I wasn’t moved by the [Walmart] threat. Whether or not they withdrew was irrelevant to me.” Graham also said the “context” surrounding the Large Retailer Accountability Act was important. New York and Los Angeles also “fiercely opposed” Walmart, he said, noting also that he didn’t know that the council would later approve a hike in the minimum wage for everyone, not just those working at large nonunion companies. Related to poverty issues, of course, is affordable housing. Graham says the city must focus on bringing “an end to chronic homelessness in D.C.,” though “we’ll always have a need for emergency assistance.” When asked if emergency assistance See Graham/Page V5

Brianne Nadeau Brianne Nadeau, 33, has lived in the neighborhood surrounding Meridian Hill Park for 10 years and is a former advisory neighborhood commissioner. If elected, her three top priorities would be strengthening schools, maintaining affordability and focusing on ethics. School reforms, she said, are working, “but the kids ... need wraparound services such as health care and social workers who deal with behavioral issues.” And she said all schools should have solid art programs, music, after-school tutoring and extracurricular activities. She would also like to see more honors and Advanced Placement courses available to top students. “We are learning from successful charter schools. ... E.L. Haynes and DC Prep provide lots of services for their kids and with great results,” Nadeau said. But she said neighborhood schools fill a distinct role and draw different populations, as parents must apply to charters, which can expel students who fail to perform. Neighborhood “schools should be community hubs,” Nadeau said. By working with nonprofits, businesses and area residents, she said, the city can ensure community engagement and arrange for services ranging from food pantries and health care to after-school jobs for older children.

Nadeau is also interested in athletic equality. “We should rotate fields so boys and girls have equal space,” she said. “There should be a needs assessment for additional sports facilities.” Another area of concern is the cost of housing in the city. Nadeau supports tax abatements for low-income residents to maintain housing affordability. She also believes the government should help residents “shift to renewable energy to reduce their costs.” “We need some affordable housing to be family-sized,” she said. “We are not providing enough long-term affordable housing.” One way to improve the situation is putting more money into the city’s Housing Production Trust Fund, which should maintain a minimum designated amount, she said. “Our top priority must be moving people out of poverty,” she said. “We cannot have 1,800 people needing shelter in the wintertime. … We must move more people into homeownership or limited equity co-ops,” in which the owner shares equity with the co-op. “We must produce more affordable rental units through government incentives or when government land is involved.” Nadeau said she’s particularly concerned about ethics because Ward 1’s 15-year council member, Jim Graham “has not held himself to ethical standards See Nadeau/Page V6

/ MARCH 2014 / M-3

DC Primary Democratic Voter's Guide  

The Washington Informer - DC Primary Democratic Voter's Guide

DC Primary Democratic Voter's Guide  

The Washington Informer - DC Primary Democratic Voter's Guide