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Mayoral Forum Wednesday excludes Libertarians

1 Oct

Apparently DC Votes opposes same day voter registration!

You may have seen this flyer for a mayoral forum tomorrow around town listing me as a participant. I am actually excluded from the forum.

Someone showed it to me Monday night — yesterday —  and I started searching my email for an invitation to a forum for Wednesday October 1 and couldn’t find one.

It turns out the invite was buried in an email with a candidate questionnaire.  I’ve been answering candidate questionnaires all month — from the League of Women Voters, from the DC Youth Alliance, etc. — and I’d glanced at this one and put it off because it was longer and more involved than the others.  The subject line of the September 12 email is “Strengthening Our Local Democracy Candidate Questionnaire” — no mention of an event.  You have to open the email and see the mention of an event in the prologue text, not in the attached questionnaire (which is what I immediately went to).

I sent DC Votes my answers on the morning of September 30th, along with a statement that I regretted the misunderstanding.  I pointed out to them that they were unique in combining a questionnaire and an event invitation in the same email — and not mentioning the event invite in the subject line. They maintain it would be “unfair” to allow anyone in who didn’t reply by September 26th.  After closely questioning a slightly evasive Kimberly Perry on the phone, who first insisted everyone else understood it was an event invitation (and that I was uniquely oblivious), it looks like Muriel Bowser may have replied and is at any rate skipping their event, and Green Party candidate Faith Crannich never replied, so she too may not have realized there was an event.

The two essential questions for this forum are:

1) Does DC Vote oppose same week voter registration?

2) Will the coffee be strong enough if only Schwartz and Catania are there, and don’t contrast their approaches to statehood but devolve into a personal squabble?

I am not sure I am going to find out.  I suppose they won’t actually have tons of security, as American University does, to keep out the uninvited candidates.  But I don’t know if it is worth it to go sit in a room with the same two dozen activists/local political junkies, who show up at every event.

Below are my answers.  Ms. Perry opined that it would be unfair to provide my answers to the public since I would have had a chance to read Schwartz’s or Catania’s answers posted sometime this week on the DC Vote website (I actually went on their website last night to find out about the date and time of the mystery event my supporters were telling me about, and didn’t see any such answers from other candidates.  It’s amusing that she thinks a Libertarian answer would resemble theirs.) She thinks it is more democratic to exclude a candidate and their answers to her questions from her website and her forum because she didn’t get them 5 days ahead of her event than it is to include a candidate when she gets the answers a day ahead of time.

If you are donating to this group perhaps you should find an alternative.  This approach may be why we don’t have Statehood.  Maybe Congress people aren’t opening their emails because they don’t mention the real subject in the subject line.

If only I had corporate PAC money so I could have staff to schedule events and read my sea of email, including those with uninformative subject lines.  My apologies if you attend the event expecting to see me.

Hey Muriel — wanna have coffee tomorrow morning at Corner Bakery?  My treat!  I guess we will be forgoing the 30 DC activists who go to almost every campaign event.


  1. How might you coordinate with DC’s Delegate to Congress and together maximize the city’s productive relationships with the Washington regional congressional delegation to advance the agenda for greater autonomy and representation?

I think in general you need to bypass politicians and appeal directly to their voters and their interests.  In the case of Washington area representatives we would need to present a case that greater DC autonomy would allow DC to be a greater contributor of economic growth for the entire region, making the pie grow as opposed to competing for a slice of a pie not growing.  Somewhere in that project I’d like to commission a study of how allowing DC to get rid of the height limit on buildings would bring more jobs to the area, by allowing more units, both residential and commercial, to be built in the District.

  1. What strategies would you employ to stop riders from being placed on DC appropriation bills?

I think riders are placed on all bills in Congress so it is a much more general problem.  If DC had Senators and Representatives its political class would simply be participating in riders, earmarks etc. that affect it and other states.  Until DC is a state it has little power.  There are strategies it does not seem to have used much, including boycotting purchases from Congressional Districts whose representatives have attached such riders or in other ways been inimical to DC.

  1. If elected mayor and invited to the White House, what would be the top three issues you would raise? Related to this, what plans do you have to reach out to the White House after taking office?

This would depend in part on who is in the White House.  The three issues I would focus on with all federal officials are: (1) how DC needs Statehood, and before that more autonomy, to deal with its own criminal justice issues, so that it could wind down the war on drugs, something I think most DC residents favor; (2) allowing DC residents in federal prisons to be relocated to prisons closer to DC so that their family members could visit them, including potentially having a federal prison in DC; and (3) allowing DC more control of its own economic life, with an end to the height limit, and the transfer of unused federal property to the private economy.

  1. How might you amend DC’s Home Rule charter, within the legal guidelines outlined by Congress, to gain any greater autonomy for our local government?

In general I favor weening DC from the federal payment and instead allowing it to borrow money as freely as any other state.  DC has an influx of highly paid residents who ultimately derive their incomes from federal government employment and related activities like lobbying.  It can instead tax them if it needs money, and they can vote out DC politicians if they think the taxes and spending are unwise.

  1. What types of executive actions could the DC government take to assert greater autonomy without changing the law or asking for approval from Congress?  

DC’s political class is not highly regarded by DC residents and even less so by residents of neighboring states and other states whose Congressional representatives vote about DC matters. Rather than have our political class perpetually bleat about Statehood, which may be widely viewed as a self-interested cause, where they would like new monies and powers in their new roles as Governors or Senators of a new state, I favor a perpetual referendum (or initiative) in every election where the actual opinion of DC voters is measured about whether they would like Statehood, the status quo, or some other arrangement (including exemption from federal taxation as in Puerto Rico).

  1. While organizations like ours are fostering local, national and international partnerships all the time to advance democracy, from your perspective, who are our most strategic allies in the fight for autonomy and representation that we haven’t reached out to yet?

I think rather than doing the same things over and over one should identify new and maverick political factions and find a way of engaging them on the issues.  For example, Senators Rand Paul and Cory Booker have started cooperating on interesting criminal justice reforms (that would incidentally be great for District residents impacted by the criminal justice system).  We should formulate agendas they could be enticed to support.
  1. What specific things would residents of DC see coming out of your mayor’s office that would make it clear that advancing democracy for DC is a high priority?

First do no harm.  The DC government seems to have happily overturned term limits initiatives passed by the voters, and kept campaign finance reform initiatives with thousands of signatures off the ballot, in year past.  This makes it look like Statehood would not be about democracy for DC voters, but making a state for the DC political class where “home rule” would not be greater autonomy, but the political class ruling your home.

  1. The District government ended up divided over the local Budget Autonomy Act. This law was unanimously supported by the council, signed by the Mayor and overwhelmingly approved by voters.  As Mayor, what would you do to make sure DC presents a unified front on initiatives designed to give greater autonomy to the people of the District?

I don’t know that DC voters are or need to be unified on issues or that a mayor should spin to make it look like they are.  All states of course are heavily regulated by the federal government, which witholds federal funds unless they go along with federal policies.  DC simply has this worse than anyone else.

DC could forgoe the federal payment, since he who pays the piper calls the tune.  If that is not feasible DC could seek out state governments suing the federal government on a variety of issues to preserve state and local autonomy, and join them as a plaintiff; and then ask for cooperation on our autonomy in return.  Perhaps this could be part of the mission of the new Attorney General’s office.

  1. In 2001, Congress mandated through the Appropriations Act that the District establish two reserves that could be described as “rainy day” funds.  Although these reserves are funded with local dollars, Congress set very strict rules on when funds could be used and how they would have to be repaid.  What would you do, if anything, to seek greater or full local autonomy over these reserves?

In general I don’t think politicians can be trusted with money, and any such fund will be tapped to buy votes and reward donors.  I would suggest that we alter the city charter to take away control of such funds from Congress, by instead substituting that they can only be spent on projects identified by voters by initiative (and not including by the city council through referendums).

  1. Recently, a federal district judge from New York held that the city’s ban on the carrying of firearms outside the home is unconstitutional. How do you think the city should respond to this ruling?

I think the DC political class should resist its temptation to spend DC taxpayers money in court fighting to see how far they can go in minimizing the Bill of Rights.  Giving the DC political class “autonomy” from the Constitution and Bill of Rights does nothing for the autonomy of DC residents.  Every neighborhood list serve I read talks about intruders in yards, cars, back porches.  Some categories of crime, including rape, have risen in recent years, even if homicide rates have dropped.  Law abiding citizens should be allowed to have a gun at home in DC just as they are in many states.  Even the White House seems to be having a problem with intruders this year, and the police are not always there in time to prevent it.

  1. DC’s charter school board recently sued the city challenging the authority of the Council to alter the student funding formula established by Congress. What would you do as mayor to contest Congressional interference in matters like schools that that are clearly state and local functions?

I favor autonomy for DC residents, not the DC political class.  So I favor equal funding for charter schools,  In part this might allow enough charter schools to be started that the 22,000 students waiting for a space in one could enroll.  It would also save DC taxpayers money being wasted in court by the DC government defunding its unequal and discriminatory funding of students based on where they choose to learn.  Since cahrter schools and traditional public schools have different racial demographics — charter schools are more African American, with Ward 3 having no charter schools – this inequity has a racial inflection.

Congress and the federal Department of Education interfere in local schools in all states and I do in general oppose that.

League of Women Voters questionnaire – Bruce Majors, Libertarian for Mayor

10 Feb
The Tax Revision Commission recently released their findings. What are your positions on the various tax code changes recommended by the Tax Revision Commission? How would you ensure that the tax code would protect less affluent taxpayers while continuing the revitalization of neighborhoods and overall economic development?
The revitalization of neighborhoods and overall economic development in DC owe almost nothing to the activities of any DC politician or the DC government.
Allowing charter schools and vouchers has made it tolerable for young families who are not destitute who previously routinely left DC for the suburbs to stay.  But the enrichment of DC is due almost entirely to the expansion of the federal government, which has imported tens of thousands of new residents in DC at 6 figure salaries.  Long term DC residents, who attended DC public schools, can almost never qualify for these federal jobs, which typically require law or other advanced degrees.
The economic development DC needs is a growing private sector that can employ people, or better yet allow people to start their own business, who had the disadvantage of having attended the average DC public school.  DC also needs to end its extreme lack of diversification and complete dependence on the federal government – in 2013, with the tiny reductions in the growth of federal spending caused by sequestration, commercial real estate vacancies in DC and surrounding areas increased noticeably.
One part, but only one part, of what DC needs to have a growing, diversified, non-government dependent, private sector is lower and flatter taxes.  I suspect that to achieve that we would need a new study of taxes and spending in DC.  (I very much doubt a commission appointed by the current sometimes 12 term dinosaurs who run the DC government, the same people who “nullified” the term limits initiative passed by 66% of the voters in the mid 90s, could find the tax cuts and tax simplification actually needed.)
The Commission has proposed over 60 changes, including a small commuter tax disguised as a “per employee” fee on large employers, which will simply discourage job growth, something DC badly needs as it has double digit unemployment in its poorer Wards and among long term residents who attended DC public schools.  If and when Maryland and Virginia begin to start looking at their own versions of a commuter tax on well-healed DC residents who work at well paying suburban employers, I will oppose any and all such commuter taxes.
What policies do you support to create more affordable housing?
D.C. has a unique mix of policies and economic realities that have driven up housing prices in DC.  The primary one, which the DC government can do little about, is the huge demand for middle and upper middle class housing caused by the expansion of the federal government and its importation of thousands of highly credentialed and well paid technocrats to work in bureaucracy, law, and lobbying.
But the local DC government itself also restricts the supply of housing with a variety of regulations: 1) zoning is estimated to raise housing prices by as much as 30-40% in some cases (; 2) DC prohibits buildings over 10-12 stories, including in Anacostia and other neighborhoods far from the Mall or Capitol, and even in neighborhoods like Friendship Heights, Foggy Bottom, or Takoma Park DC that are literally across the street or across a river from 30 and 40 story buildings in Arlington, Bethesda, or Silver Spring; 3) DC is the one place where Nixon’s wage and price controls were never lifted, in the form of DC rent control, which applies to even very small investors who own 4 or 5 units in DC, discouraging them from investing in or maintaining smaller, older, multi-unit buildings for medium income renters, and instead selling them for condominium conversion or demolition.
I would eliminate all of these laws and regulations that restrict the supply of housing and the agencies that promulgate them.  This would allow a housing market to function normally, where older housing stocks often command form a market of moderate priced rentals, instead of being demolished to build new luxury lofts and commercial buildings.
What changes would you support to improve the election process and increase voter participation?

Implement the term limits referendum passed by the DC voters in 1994 by 66%, illegally nullified by the city government.  Make all current incumbents who have stayed beyond the term limits approved then leave office.

Forbid corporate or union PAC donations to any incumbent as a condition of their accepting continued government employment.
What is the major issue facing our charter schools and the major issue facing our traditional public schools? How would you address these issues?

We need to ensure that school choice is not stymied by anti-reform forces that have profited for too long by denying families choice, making children their wards, and milking them for tax dollars while delivering substandard education.

DC should expand its voucher program, add education tax credits, make both program apply to home schooling, and facilitate the growth of charters.  Abandoned and underused school buildings and other government property should be transferred to charters or other non-profits, or sold off.

The Mayor’s Office on the Mayor’s Race

9 Feb
Juan Camilo Barragan, a tall, dark and handsome young employee of Mayor Gray, who attends various political and community meetings around town, like those of the group DC for Democracy, frequently posts press releases for his office in various community list serves like neighborhood yahoo groups, usually with the signature:

Juan Camilo Barragan
Executive Office of the Mayor
(202) 538-0313
Twitter: Juan_Ward1
Description: Description: ONE LOGO FOR EMAIL
Description: Description: stars-bars-text on right (6)

This weekend he is kind of promoting his boss’s 2014 campaign, but without the official government signature.  Interestingly his earlier post this week was on public financing of campaigns.  Is his Internet outreach supposed to be an example of how that works?

[MountPleasantDC] Thies: Tea Leaves Say Gray Runs in 2014Inbox
49 minutes ago
Show details
Juan Camilo Barragan
Plow Forward!

On Tuesday night, I attended Mayor Vince Gray’s 
State of the District address.
To date, Gray has been mum about a reelection bid.
In his speech, he sounded an awful lot like a mayor
preparing to run.
Crime: At an all time low.
Jobs: We are creating them and have a plan to create
 a lot more.
Education: Test scores are on the rise, but we still have
 work to do.
Economic Development: 55 construction cranes dot
 the District skyline.
But wait, there’s more.
Are you a D.C. government employee? Gray wants to 
give all of you a raise.
Are you struggling to make ends meet in a city where 
the cost of housing is among the highest in the nation? How about a plan to invest $100 million in 10,000 new affordable housing units.
Gray’s base — the voters who propelled him to an upset victory over Adrian Fenty in 2010 — is middle- and low-income residents. The waiting list for people in D.C. seeking affordable housing is at 70,000 names and growing.
The message to his supporters is clear: I hear you.
The message to would-be opponents is unmistakable: Top that.
The day before Gray’s speech, Council member Tommy Wells formed a mayoral exploratory committee.
Gray’s $100 million housing proposal addresses the number one issue voiced by residents at a 2012 summit held by the mayor.
Wells, on the other hand, is talking about “livable, walkable” neighborhoods.
If you can’t afford to live in the District, I doubt you care about how walkable it is.
If Gray seeks reelection, Wells will not be his only opponent.
Council member Muriel Bowser, who hails from vote-rich Ward 4 and enjoys the support of many key players from the Fenty machine, is a likely candidate. Bowser could be formidable and isn’t yielding an inch to Gray.
In response to his housing proposal, Bowser noted that funds intended for developing affordable housing were instead used to assist low-income families with rent payments.
A weak attack, but still, Bowser fired a shot.
Council member Jack Evans, a prolific fundraiser, also intends to run. In the past, Evans has not fared well in citywide races. In 1998, he garnered just 10 percent in his first mayoral bid. In 2005, Evans shut down a fledgling mayoral campaign after a disappointing poll.
But the city has changed and Evans believes he can now win. He has unabashedly staked out unique turf in District politics: Save money, while others say spend; lower taxes, while others say take more.
Other candidates may emerge. Some may bow out.
The next Democratic Primary is in April 2014. A lot can happen between now and then.
The U.S. Attorney has not finished investigating a myriad of scandals: Shadow campaigns, straw donors, lottery contracts and who knows what else.
If Gray runs, we will look back on his 2013 State of the District address as the soft launch. All the trappings of a campaign can be found in the speech: Accomplishments, vision and a boatload of money for the base.
Game on?

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