Monday, November 06, 2006

Election 2006

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.


At 11/07/2006 7:47 AM, Anonymous Ruth W. said...

FYI here is the text of a flyer that I've been distributing in ANC SMD 2C02:

Leroy Thorpe vs. Kevin Chapple for ANC 2C Commissioner
Do you know them? Who will represent you best?

Dear Neighbor,

I want to share some facts (to the best of my knowledge) about the candidates in this race, and my opinion about which one will work better for our ANC. I am writing as one citizen to another. I am not part of either candidate’s campaign, nor do I represent any organization.

Our ANC has a yearly budget of about $10,000 of our taxes to spend on public benefits to the ANC area. Leroy Thorpe says that the budget cannot afford to produce flyers for all residents on ANC activities, which is ridiculous. He pays for the flyers himself, and claims that this justifies his refusal to deliver flyers to certain people. The 2003-2005 audit shows that the ANC did not establish priorities for annual spending. It also shows that over 50% of the budget was spent on iron tree boxes. Are tree boxes ANC 2C’s greatest need? As ANC Chairman and Secretary, Mr. Thorpe should have made a budget, and prioritized telling us about ANC activities.

Many people feel that Leroy Thorpe is responsible for reducing violence and drug dealing in this ANC single member district (2C02). His “red hat patrol” (COPE), confronts drug dealers and patrols streets in 2C02 every week. Whether re-elected or not, Mr. Thorpe can continue to serve ANC 2C02 as the head of COPE.

Mr. Thorpe’s aggressive communication style, while effective at intimidating drug dealers, is not suitable for conducting ANC business. He has insulted residents, elected officials, and city workers, including police officers. He is divisive to the black community when he labels individuals “Uncle Toms” and “House Negroes.” He has publicly expressed hostility to newcomers, Jews, whites, and gay people. Even if you agree with Mr. Thorpe 100%, recognize that the ANC has to work with all kinds of people. Why would people want to cooperate with our ANC when they have been offended by its Chairman?

Kevin Chapple has shown good communication skills in his campaign, both in person and via his website. He has said ''I am open to everyone....I have an ear to listening to their problems no matter who they are. Whether they support me or not, I will be there for them.'' I believe these are signs that he would communicate well between the city and ANC 2C02 residents.

Mr. Chapple has not specified his priorities for the ANC budget. His main campaign position is that he will pay attention to all constituents’ concerns. His previous community involvement has been as a volunteer, but not an organizational leader. This indicates to me that he would be the kind of public servant who focuses on serving his whole constituency, not a particular agenda.

I see serious problems with Leroy Thorpe’s performance as ANC Commissioner; Kevin Chapple is relatively unknown, but seems likely to do better. Since Mr. Thorpe’s ability to fight crime does not depend on his holding elected office, why not give Mr. Chapple a try?

Ruth Wielgosz (Marion St.)

Sources: “Incoming Fire,” Washington City Paper 8/27/06; “Ward 2 News” DC North 11/06; “From the Bottom Up” Metro Weekly 11/2/06;;

At 11/07/2006 8:35 AM, Anonymous Charles W said...

Good for you, Ruth.

At 11/09/2006 12:03 PM, Blogger retracsemaj said...

For interested parties . . . today's Loose Lips in the Washington City Paper mentions the ANC 2C race with a few quotes:

At 11/17/2006 2:39 PM, Anonymous VIVIAN GRAHAM said...



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