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Ward 2 Councilmember candidates talk transportation, affordability at first debate

Alexander Welling | Assistant Photo Editor
Devlone Michael, the Executive Director of DC Working Families, moderated the Ward 2 D.C. Council debate at the National Woman’s Democratic Club Thursday.

Six candidates vying for Ward 2’s D.C. Council seat shared their platforms with more than 100 community members at their first debate Thursday.

The candidates, who convened at the Woman’s National Democratic Club, debated problems like income disparities, transportation improvements and affordable housing – points they would address if elected to the Ward 2 Council seat. The six candidates are running to replace current Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans, the subject of multiple ethics investigations who did not attend the meeting and has not announced if he will run for re-election.

Here are the main takeaways from the debate.

Sustainable transportation
Patrick Kennedy, a Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner, said he has used his position on the ANC to push for transportation initiatives in Foggy Bottom and is looking to extend his work to the rest of Ward 2.

Kennedy said he worked with community members, DuPont Circle’s ANC and the District Department of Transportation to determine a path for a protected bike lane connecting the Foggy Bottom and DuPont neighborhoods to the National Mall.

“We’ve taken it upon ourselves at the neighborhood level – I’ve worked with my ANC colleagues and Dupont Circle – to do what we can to advance these initiatives,” he said.

Daniel Hernandez, a Microsoft employee and former Marine, said he would support adding bike lanes and bus-only lanes to District streets to increase Ward 2 residents’ safety.

D.C. Councilmembers introduced emergency legislation to expedite street and bike lane improvements last April after multiple bicyclist and pedestrian deaths involving cars precipitated in the District.

“Where possible, we certainly should see compromises to preserve as much parking as possible,” Hernandez said. “However, with people’s lives on the line, that’s not a time to compromise.”

Kishan Putta, an ANC Commissioner for Georgetown, Burleith and Hillandale, said he worked to construct a dedicated bus lane on 16th Street. His platform for the Ward 2 Council position focuses on maintaining and creating safe transportation options.

“We put up signs at every bus stop from downtown D.C. to Silver Spring, Maryland,” Putta said. “We got people to come together, we pushed and pushed. I testified more than a dozen times.”

Restoring trust to Ward 2
All six candidates said they prominently launched campaigns for the Council seat to unseat Evans, who they said has lost residents’ trust after he fell under multiple ethics investigations.

Jordan Grossman, a former Obama staffer, said he is “not for sale” like Evans, who is under investigation for using his Council position to solicit business for his consulting firm.

“For way too long, for those of us in Ward 2, we’ve had to compete for the time and attention of our Councilmember with the paying clients who can afford his price,” Grossman said. “After nearly three decades of Jack Evans, enough is enough, and it’s time for a change.”

John Fanning, the chair of the Logan Circle ANC, said his office staff will work to remain attentive to problems community members raise to him and strive to efficiently implement solutions to their concerns.

“That is a key function in a city council office, that you have individuals that are working for you that know how to navigate the D.C. government and get things done,” Fanning said.

Yilin Zhang, a health care worker, said she decided to run for Council to bring residents together to find solutions to community issues that satisfy residents throughout Ward 2.

“I am a connector,” Zhang said. “My vision here is for all of us to truly come together to listen to one another and to come up with a plan that is truly representative, inclusive and safe for every single person.”

Increasing affordable housing
Kennedy said Ward 2’s lack of affordable housing is driving people to live in neighborhoods outside of the ward. A District townhouse costs and average of $752,300 per year, Curbed reported in June.

“This is a problem that, again, affects people whether they’ve lived here for 40 or 50 years, whether they’ve lived here for 40 or 50 weeks,” Kennedy said.

Zhang said finding economical childcare options contributes to Ward 2’s affordability.

“We need to have job resources, we need to have affordable childcare for all the parents, particularly the single mothers, and we need to make it truly affordable as a community,” she said. “It’s not just about affordable housing.”

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