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Ward 2 D.C. Council candidates talk affordable housing, transportation at second debate

Jennifer Cuyuch | Photographer
Candidates running for Ward 2 seats gathered in Gelman Library Thursday for their second debate.

Updated: Dec. 7, 2019 at 3:02 p.m.

Four of the six candidates vying for Ward 2’s D.C. Council seat talked transportation, infrastructure and housing issues during their second debate in Gelman Library Thursday.

The forum – hosted by Greater Greater Washington, a publication covering issues like transportation and housing in D.C. – was moderated by Brookings Institute fellow Jenny Schuetz. The candidates said they want to focus on sustainable transportation, like expanding protected bike lane routes in D.C., and allocate more funding for affordable housing.

Daniel Hernandez, a Microsoft employee, and John Fanning, the chair of the Logan Circle advisory neighborhood commission were absent from the forum.

The debate was held just days after the D.C. Council voted to recommend Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans’ expulsion from his position for using his council seat to solicit business deals for his personal consulting firm.

In case you missed it, here are the highlights:

Patrick Kennedy, the vice chair of the Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission, said he plans to prioritize increasing protected bike lanes throughout Ward 2, referencing Mayor Muriel Bowser’s goal to reach 20 miles of protected bike lanes by 2022.

District Department of Transportation officials greenlighted a protected bike lane running through 20th and 21st streets on campus in September after months of back-and-forth with community members.

“I tend to be on the more aggressive side of that and I think there’s a lot of low-hanging fruit that makes it possible,” he said.

Kishan Putta, an ANC Commissioner for Georgetown, Burleith and Hillendale, said he’s supported creating safer transportation in D.C. by testifying at Council hearings to voice support for safe transportation legislation.

“We have to do more,” he said. “There are so many different solutions, but what it’s going to take is a dogged, tireless advocate.”

Yilin Zhang, a health care worker, said she would explore coordinating safe driving efforts with the governments of Maryland and Virginia – states that are home to many commuters to D.C.

“You could work with other states, Maryland, Virginia on driver education, and make sure that as soon as our drivers are getting their licenses that they know the rules around neighboring states and cities,” Zhang said.

Affordable housing
Former Barack Obama staffer Jordan Grossman said he supports allocating more money in the budget for creating and maintaining affordable housing units. He added that the District should invest more in improving outreach to people experiencing homelessness and expanding day centers.

“I think we also need to make affordable housing, reducing displacement and right of return priorities, high priorities, in the comprehensive plan,” he said, referring to D.C.’s urban development plan for the next 20 years.

Putta said he supports investing money in the Housing Production Trust Fund – a sum of money the Department of Housing and Community Development allocates to build housing in the District – but added that D.C. officials have not spent the funds efficiently.

“Of course we should spend more but we should spend it much more wisely as well,” Putta said. “We’re wasting money in the Housing Production Trust Fund.”

This post was updated to correct the following:
A previously version of this article stated that Patrick Kennedy is the ANC chair. He is the vice chair. We regret this error.

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