Foggy Bottom deserves better than Councilmember Jack Evans

Updated: Feb. 4, 2019 at 5:03 a.m.

If asked about their thoughts on the recent scandals surrounding Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans, many students would likely respond they have no idea who Jack Evans is or even what Ward 2 – the D.C. electoral district containing the Foggy Bottom Campus – means.

While knowledge surrounding national politics may have increased following the election of President Donald Trump and the massive voter registration push ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, ignorance toward local politics remains high. This issue can especially be seen on college campuses, where students – who typically live far beyond the borders of their institution’s town or city – have virtually no motivation to involve themselves in local politics due to the incorrect belief that local policies have less bearing on their lives than national ones.

But this notion is just as threatening to our democratic institutions as apathy toward national politics, especially as corrupt leaders continue to make policies and spew rhetoric that affects the individuals they represent.

Students and the Foggy Bottom community deserve a better representative than Councilmember Evans, but positive change will never be achieved if students remain uninterested and uninvolved in local politics. At GW, students must take an acute interest in D.C. politics and involve themselves in legislative issues that will affect them as D.C. residents and students.

Evans was first elected into the councilmember position 28 years ago, and it is way past time to examine his actions. In the past few years, Evans has made several suspicious political and financial maneuverings. In 2011, Evans spent $135,000 on tickets to sports games in the District. While this ordinarily would not be a concern, the money spent was provided by private donors who presumed the money was for constituent services, and Evans also worked to increase the number of constituent funds that could be raised by $20,000.

It was recently revealed that Evans received 200,000 shares of sign company Digi Outdoor Media in December. He then went on to promote a legislative measure that would have allowed Digi Outdoor Media to install its signs throughout the District.

If this blatant conflict of interest wasn’t bad enough, Evans also regularly abuses the parking pass that allows him to ignore parking meters and time restrictions and was banned from Wikipedia for continuously editing his own page.

The latter two complaints may seem like small qualms, but Evans has shown contempt for the people of D.C. and a disregard for the laws that govern them. He also remained employed by large D.C. law firms until this year, almost three decades into his tenure as a Council member, leading to concerns from residents regarding potential conflicts of interest.

Thankfully, much of this scandal has not gone unnoticed. Evans was reviewed by the D.C. Council in June regarding the Digi Media scandal. Despite this, the student body has been relatively silent regarding this issue. James Harnett, a junior and a commissioner for the Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission, has called for Evans to step down, but beyond that, the silence on campus has been deafening.

In addition to his numerous ethical misdeeds, Evans has supported many policies that students would likely find unappealing. Evans supported the Washington Redskins’ return to the District in 2014 and has defended the racially-insensitive name on numerous occasions.

The Council member has worked diligently to undermine the will of the voters by dismantling term limits for D.C. Council members and attempting to delay the direct election of the D.C. attorney general – a measure that was voted into law by a majority of D.C. residents.

Evans’ personal actions, as well as his policy positions, demonstrate a deep disregard for D.C. and its residents. Evans has shown time and time again that his own personal wealth and power take precedence over the best interests and needs of his constituents.

Hypothetical misdeeds may seem too distant for students to care, but when a Council member repeatedly ignores the democratic will of the people, we should be outraged.

We are not just students who live here for nine months out of the year, we are D.C. residents who live, work, eat and study under the jurisdiction of D.C. local laws. Students must remove themselves from the notion that we are mere visitors of the city, here to observe but never to participate.

This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
A previous version of this editorial stated that Evans purchased shares of a company. He received the shares. We regret this error.

Jack Murphy, a freshman majoring in philosophy, is a Hatchet columnist.

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