Sometimes I kinda wish I still lived in Virginia so I could vote one more time against Senator Macacawitz. I always detested George Allen because he seemed the very embodiment of smug white middle-class suburbanite gated-community “values” combined with some kind of weird pseudo-macho cowboy fetish (a kink he shares with W). And there’s also the extraordinarily mean-spirited anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment proposition, which not only bans gay marriage (already illegal, of course), but declares other contractual documents between unmarried partners (such as wills, medical powers of attorney, etc.) that substitute for some of the privileges of marriage to be void as well. Alas, from this side of the Potomac, all you can do is hope there are enough progressive folks in the Old Dominion to send both of these noxious anachronisms to the dustbin of history.
So what do we have to vote for? The mayor’s a done deal (let’s hope Fenty can really deliver what he promised). A couple of at-large council races—not much excitement there. School board—who knows what will help there? And, oh yes, ANC2C.
Basically, the ANC2C election comes down to two informal slates of candidates. One is headed by incumbent commission chairman Leroy Thorpe (2C02), and includes incumbent commissioners Doris Brooks (2C03) and Barbara Curtis (2C04) and challenger Mary Sutherland (2C01). They are opposed, respectively, by Kevin Chapple (2C02), John Tinpe (2C03), Richard Rogers (2C04), and incumbent commissioner Alexander Padro (2C01). (I’ve included links to candidates’ websites that I know about—if there are others that I’m unaware of, I apologize.)
This election has produced some pretty ugly exchanges, but it seems to me that it isn’t really so much about “issues” in the usual sense, because I don’t see all that much disagreement there. To me, it seems to be more about styles of operation and concerns about being included or excluded—respect, if you will. Unfortunately, it has increased tensions between folks who have lived in Shaw for a long time and those who are more recent arrivals. It seems that the long-timers often see themselves as being displaced and disrespected, while newcomers feel that they’re not allowed to have a voice in community affairs. Too often those tensions get expressed in racial terms, even though many newcomers are black and some long-timers are white. To a discouraging degree, this election reflects these divisions.
[Note: For a somewhat different perspective, see the current commentary in the Mount Vernon Square blog.]
Personally, I think it would be good to have some new faces in the ANC, but the biggest challenge for whoever wins will be to work on bridging this divide. The kind of suspicions that have been reflected in flyers and outbursts in community meetings are corrosive and even potentially dangerous to everyone. We need elected community leaders who will work on bringing people together, not exploit divisions to improve their own power base. If the “traditionalist” (for want of a better word) slate wins, they need to quit acting as if newcomers are unwelcome interlopers who have no business being here. If their opponents win, they need to make a special effort to reach out to long-time residents and make sure their concerns are heard and their interests are addressed. Having a divided community will not help us get the services we need and deserve out of the District government and the MPD. Besides, who wants to live in a place like that?
So please go vote, but after the votes are counted, I hope we can all treat each others as neighbors who want the best for our community.