Ward 2 Councilmember hopefuls contest transportation, homelessness at fourth debate

Media Credit: Dean Whitelaw | Staff Photographer

Updated: March 6, 2020 at 9:20 p.m.

All nine candidates in the running for Ward 2 Councilmember attended the fourth debate about issues the ward faces Thursday night.

The candidates discussed how they would address issues like transportation, homelessness and housing costs if elected the next Ward 2 Councilmember during the hour-and-a-half debate the Logan Circle Community and Dupont Circle Citizens associations held. Former Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans leveraged his 29 years of Council experience as proof of his ability to lead the ward for another term, but the other eight candidates running to replace him attacked Evans’ track record of using his Council seat for personal gain.

Evans, who resigned from the Council days before Councilmembers planned to expel him for violating the Council’s ethics codes, quietly joined the race for his old seat at the end of January.

Here are the highlights from the debate.

Evans’ remarks
Evans, who did not attend the previous three debates, used his opening statement to apologize for his unethical business dealings. The hundreds of audience members met Evans’ remarks with boos.

“I have disappointed many people, and I am enormously apologetic for it,” he said. “I am here tonight to ask you for your forgiveness and for a second chance to represent you.”

Debate moderators Tom Sherwood, a WAMU political analyst, and Kojo Nnamdi, the host of WAMU’s Kojo Nnamdi show, asked the candidates to raise a hand if they support a bill that would prohibit councilmembers from holding jobs outside of their Council seat. Evans raised both hands.

Funding public transportation
Patrick Kennedy, the chair of the Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission, said he supports Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen’s proposal to give residents a $100 monthly transportation credit, but city officials should find more concrete funding for public transportation, like a congestion charge.

Allen’s transportation credit initiative could cost the city between $54 million and $151 million, The Washington Post reported.

“We need to find a source of funding for this on an ongoing basis because I don’t think our budget surpluses are durable,” Kennedy said.

John Fanning, the chair of Logan Circle’s ANC, said he supports a transportation credit, but the amount of credit a resident receives should be based on the resident’s income.

“I think the $100 for Metro should be income-based because we can’t keep giving away store, especially now with our revenue projections and we don’t know whether or not we can fully fund the subsidy,” Fanning said.

Homelessness in Ward 2
Jordan Grossman, a former staffer for President Barack Obama’s administration, said he does not support clearing homeless encampments without first finding permanent housing for displaced individuals.

“We need to treat our neighbors experiencing homelessness as just that: our neighbors,” he said. “They’re not a nuisance.”

Yilin Zhang, who works in business development in the health care industry, said housing units should be offered at a price point that is truly affordable for residents who are trying to secure housing. She said people experiencing homelessness should be provided with mental health and drug abuse resources.

“Homeless individuals that I’ve spoken to, they do not want to go to the shelter,” Zhang said. “They do not feel safe.”

This article has been updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that Patrick Kennedy did not support Charles Allen’s transportation credit proposal. Kennedy does support the proposal but wants city officials to find alternative manners to fund the credit. We regret this error.

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