Change We Need--In Shaw
If you live in DC, your presidential vote may not really matter all that much, because we all know who's going to get DC's 3 electoral votes. (BTW, I'm totally in the tank for Obama, in case no one noticed.)
But if you live in Shaw or Penn Quarter, there is one election where your vote can make a huge difference, and that's for ANC commissioner. A couple of my fellow bloggers have already spoken out on this (here and here). In 2006, I never used this blog to express election preferences, but this time around I'm definitely going to add my 2 cents worth as well. (Sorry, this is probably going to be a long post.)
Let's speak plainly: The main--almost the only--issue here is Leroy Thorpe. For those who weren't around before 2006, or who may have forgotten, a brief review:
Thorpe used to run the ANC as his personal fiefdom, using his two puppets, Doris Brooks and Barbara Curtis, to give him a guaranteed majority for whatever he wanted. Long-suffering Alex Padro was the odd man out, silenced and ridiculed by Thorpe--like anyone else who dared disagree or challenge him on anything. The ANC operated as a semi-secret society; agendas weren't distributed in advance, minutes were never published, and God forbid that meetings should be recorded because that would reveal what outrageous travesties of parliamentary procedure they were. Some courageous residents defied the video recording bans, so there's plenty of video evidence out there of how it was.
Then in November 2006, Thorpe lost--very narrowly--to challenger Kevin Chapple for ANC2C02. This would leave the ANC evenly divided between Thorpe's surrogates on one side and Padro and Chapple on the other. Rather than concede gracefully, at the final ANC meeting Thorpe chaired in December, he resigned the chair in favor of Brooks, and then got himself elected as "Parliamentarian" and "executive assistant" to Brooks. This effectively meant that he would continue to run the ANC because Brooks and Curtis never made a move without being told what to do in stage whispers from Thorpe. (Further details here and here.)
So the ANC was split 2-2, but might still have been able to function, except that Brooks (clearly acting on Thorpe's instructions) continued to run the meetings in a spiteful manner, refusing to make even small concessions on minor procedural questions that might have improved the atmosphere. In 2007, she actually canceled meetings to prevent their being videorecorded, but eventually lost that battle. During the current year, there has been a slight atmospheric improvement, but this has not translated into much improved functioning of the ANC. The fact that the meetings are now mostly just sort of boring rather than the grotesque laughingstocks they used to be can be attributed largely to the replacement of Leroy Thorpe by Kevin Chapple.
In my opinion, Kevin has done everything he could possibly do to walk the walk--particularly given the situation he came into. His website, newsletter, and single member district meetings have vastly improved communications with constituents about issues affecting the neighborhood, and he has been open and respectful of other points of view. He emphatically deserves to be re-elected.
I see this choice as a kind of miniature version of the presidential election: Do you want to support a candidate with new ideas who is positive, forward-looking, and inclusive, or one who looks to the past and has been negative, mean-spirited, and divisive. I think that's the choice we have.
But what about the other ANC races? (See district map here.)
Thorpe's cat's paw, Doris Brooks (ANC2C03), has been a fixture on the ANC for decades, but still doesn't know how to run a meeting on her own. She has a strong base of support from her church, but as even Jack Evans has acknowledged--has shown little interest in the other constituents in her single member district (which stretches through Gallery Place and Penn Quarter all the way to the Capitol). The area south of Mass Avenue is full of residents--many of them new--who have never heard of her because she seems not to have heard of them. She is being challenged by Jessica Lanza, who wants to bring representation on the ANC to the forgotten constituents. For more information about her, see her website here. It's time to replace Brooks, so vote for Jessica Lanza.
Theresa Sule is running for the seat held by Barbara Curtis (ANC2C04). Curtis is a nice lady, but she has been non-entity on the ANC except to vote as directed by Leroy Thorpe. Theresa Sule, who is president of the tenants association at 1330 7th Street, has greatly impressed me with her energy, sharp intellect, and no-nonsense approach to issues. She would make a great addition to the ANC, so please vote for her!
Long-time incumbent Alex Padro (ANC2C01) should be re-elected. I don't always agree with him on everything, but he has been a rational voice for progress in Shaw and a tireless activist in promoting much-needed commercial and retail development in the area. He also is probably more knowledgeable than any of the other candidates about zoning and developmental regulation. As much as I like his perennial opponent, Mary Sutherland, on a personal level, I have yet to hear a good reason to support her over Alex, and she has been a Thorpe ally in the past. Sarah Livingston, who publishes her own Seventh Streeter newsletter, has also entered the race, but has declined opportunities to present her ideas for the ANC. Alex deserves another term.
We now have a chance to replace our pathetic dysfunctional ANC with one that could actually do some good for the community. If you wonder what a really functional ANC might look like, you need look no further than our neighbor to the west in the Logan area: ANC2F. Just take a look at their website to get an idea of the extent of their activities. Then look at ours. Oh, that's right--you can't, because we don't have one.