For the first time in 28 years, Ward 2’s next councilmember may not be Jack Evans.
Evans resigned from the D.C. Council earlier this month amid yearslong allegations of corruption, and his only chance for reelection is during a special election for the seat or the primary election, both held in June. Evans has played a pivotal role in many of the University’s major actions, like building a helipad last summer and the push to build another GW Hospital in Southeast D.C., and the next councilmember should too.
Seven candidates are contending for the Ward 2 seat: Foggy Bottom and Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Patrick Kennedy; Logan Circle ANC chair John Fanning; health care worker Yilin Zhang; former Barack Obama adviser Jordan Grossman; Microsoft employee Daniel Hernandez: Kishan Putta, an ANC commissioner for Georgetown, Burleith and Hillandale; and CEO of the Ethical Capitalism Group Katherine Venice. Candidates have advocated for better homelessness policies, affordable housing options, green transportation and carbon neutrality, but students should pay close attention to – and advocate for a candidate who supports – the issues that most directly affect them.
Students should rally behind a candidate who wants easier and cheaper transportation for Ward 2 residents. Putta and Hernandez have prioritized more bike lanes in their campaigns, while Kennedy has already supported resolutions to create bike lanes in the past. Students would benefit from expanded bike lines and free or reduced Circulator costs – both topics the D.C. Council has debated in the past several years. For students, adding more bike lanes would improve safety for pedestrians and bikers alike and ensure we can get around the District without a car.
Students should also back a candidate who wants to mitigate the homeless crisis and provide assistance to those experiencing homelessness in encampments around campus, like the one on E Street across from the Elliott School of International Affairs. The homeless crisis is right in our backyard, but a candidate who truly wants to address the issue in Ward 2 should look to provide more affordable housing options rather than remove encampments, a D.C.-wide rule.
The next councilmember’s stance on University issues will also impact student life. The proposal to build a hospital in Southeast D.C. has been controversial, with supporters arguing the hospital is necessary while others have argued that GW should not run the hospital. The next councilmember’s position on the hospital could be the deciding factor in how soon it is built. The Amplified Noise Amendment Act of 2018 – a bill to make sound systems outside of residential areas illegal that was pulled from the Council’s agenda – is a controversial issue that might reappear in the coming months. Students who are concerned with noise disruptions around campus, particularly outside the Foggy Bottom Metro stop, should pay attention to which candidates support or do not support the amendment. While Evans supported the bill as a member of the Council, it is unclear that any of the candidates running to replace him would intend on reintroducing the legislation.
From the first two debates held for the six candidates vying for the position, it is clear that housing and transportation are at the forefront of the race – the latter being a topic that would most directly impact students. Students should support candidates who have the best plans to reduce the cost of transportation, but they also should not ignore other issues like homelessness and affordable housing, because they also impact the quality of our ward.
Finding the right person to replace Evans will be a difficult task, and students should think about which issues matter to them when choosing a candidate to support and advocate for. While many issues the candidates have discussed might not directly affect students, whoever ends up representing Ward 2 will play a role in shaping our lives around Ward 2.
Kiran Hoeffner-Shah, a junior double majoring in political science and psychology, is The Hatchet’s opinions editor.