Former Student Association President Kris Hart is finishing up his fight for a seat on a local government board, running against the incumbent chair he called one of the “leading advocates against the University.”
Hart is asking Foggy Bottom residents to vote for him on Nov. 2 as a write-in candidate for seat 2A-05 of the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission, a board that makes zoning recommendations to the city government. His election would oust 12-year commissioner Dorothy Miller, who has lived in Washington since World War II.
“I respect Dorothy for her passion in defending the Foggy Bottom residents, but to make things more successful we need new leadership,” he said. “My candidacy has a little more direction.”
Hart blamed Miller for being irrational in her allegations and discouraging proactive cooperation between the ANC and GW by refusing to meet with administrators. At an ANC meeting earlier this semester, she mocked Michael Akin, director of D.C. & Foggy Bottom/West End Affairs, for his youth. She is also known for insulting University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg.
“I saw this irrationality, and it blew me away that in such a professional community, these citizens would be so unfortunate,” Hart said.
“How can people in our community sit down with someone who just rants and raves?” Hart continued. “That doesn’t accomplish anything. I’ve been a leader my entire life and I know you need to work with people.”
Hart said his campaign focused on improving the relationship between community members and the University by responding to situations instead of arguing about them.
“If they came to me with concerns, I’d listen because I have a more rational approach,” Hart said. “For the last two years Foggy Bottom residents have been fighting GW, and if (Miller) makes this her lead issue, I ask, where have the results been?”
Miller dismissed Hart’s candidacy and questioned his seriousness since he failed to meet the deadline to have his name formally placed on the Nov. 2 ballot. She also said Hart’s only allegiance is to fellow students.
“It’s not a matter of beating him,” she said. “I represent the entire community, and he represents the students.”
Write-in candidates “certainly” have a chance to win the election, said Gottlieb Simon, executive director of the ANCs, which are present throughout D.C. But he said they have a more difficult time than a listed ballot candidate.
Also, the ANC election, which runs alongside the presidential and congressional races, is typically marked by low voter turnouts. Only people who are registered to vote in the District can cast a ballot.
“The ANC turnout follows the typical ballot pattern,” Simon said. “The most votes are at the top of the ballot and dropout occurs at a fairly regular rate. If the ANC commissioners are at the bottom of the ballot, they will most likely have the lowest voter turnout.”
Senior Graham Long is currently the only student serving on the commission, but he plans on leaving the post when the new term begins in January. He joined in June 2004 during a special election to fill the vacant seat of Josh Singer, another GW student. Simon said Singer was the last student to run in a regular ANC election.
Miller, more than 60 years Hart’s senior, pointed to her experience with the local government and Hart’s lack of it. She said Hart misconstrues the commission as being a representative for GW students.
“He could have done a lot of things for the students as the student body president, but on the ANC he can do nothing,” she said.
“I just wish he had come to some of the meetings and familiarized himself with how the local government works,” Miller continued. “It’s supposed to represent the local residents, not the out-of-state ones. They have their own representatives back home.”
But Hart said that despite his position as a GW student, he is not running for the ANC seat to advocate University interests. Like any other community member, Hart said he opposes GW’s expansion and refusal to follow guidelines agreed to with the community.
“I think the University sometimes defies the Campus Plan and ANC members need to work with our city leaders to make sure they abide by it,” he said, referring to a plan implemented in 2000 that outlined GW’s growth in Foggy Bottom for the next 10 years.
Hart said he understands his commitment to the residents as an ANC commissioner and is trying to become better acquainted with Foggy Bottom residents by conducting a door-to-door campaign.
“The nice thing about an ANC election is that your constituency is quite little, which gives you the opportunity to reach out and listen to individuals,” he said.
At the Oct. 25 meeting of the Foggy Bottom Association, a community group, Miller accused the University of funding a student candidate with the sole purpose being to remove her from office.
When Hart announced that he would run against Miller at a Board of Trustees meeting in May, most members, including Trachtenberg, cheered. At a board meeting last month, several trustees vowed to donate $25 – the maximum allowed under D.C. finance laws – to Hart’s campaign.
“Everything they do is illegal,” Miller said. “You put everything you can into fighting these nasty people, and then they fund to have someone run against you.”
Hart disputed Miller’s claims as “lies” and “propaganda.”
“It’s a false statement and she has no support of her allegations,” Hart said.
Hart said his campaign has not received any funding from the University and has only gotten donations and individual contributions from residents, family and friends.
He said, “It’s obvious that GW is the most powerful business is Foggy Bottom, and it’s important for a candidate to make sure he is free from such financing.”