This week, Ward 2 voters have the opportunity to turn over a new leaf. They can continue a saga of corruption in Brooke Pinto, or they can choose a D.C. Council member who will fight for their interests. Fueled by passion and informed by experience, Randy Downs fits that bill.
Downs, who serves on the Advisory Neighborhood Commission, has racked up hands-on governmental experience that will allow him to start making progressive change on day one. He played a logistical role in setting up pandemic-era measures, like outdoor dining, in his constituency, and he released plans for scaling up COVID-19 testing and tracing for all D.C. residents. In a city mired by the health crisis, forming a plan to stop the spread of the virus is a good starting point – but that’s hardly his only plan to better the lives of residents in Foggy Bottom, Georgetown and DuPont Circle. His platform is uniquely strong on the issues of education, LGBTQ equality and voting rights.
The commissioner plans to make education a priority if elected, pledging to push for a new middle school for the underserved eastern half of Ward 2. He would also focus on bridging the digital divide – a phenomenon exacerbated by virtual learning – by pushing the Council to fund computers for students who need them. Education is one of the most important factors in ensuring success later in life – and reducing inequities within D.C. schooling will meaningfully improve so many students’ lives.
Downs’ plans for LGBTQ equality is another area that sets him apart from his competitors. D.C. has one of the highest LGBTQ populations in the country – and as a gay man, Downs would bring his lived experience to the table. His plans go beyond lip service and tackle issues that affect LGBTQ people. For example, he has laid out a plan to improve housing with a focus on LGBTQ people, who are impacted in disproportionate numbers by homelessness and substandard housing. This plan would include building more low-income housing, expanding emergency rental aid and revamping the high property taxes imposed on low- and middle-income residents of Ward 2.
He is also interested in improving several aspects of daily life around the District that directly impact students at GW. His goals to improve transportation and make Metro fares free not only aid students in their needs to get off campus for activities like jobs and internships, but they help improve equality in transportation for those all across D.C. Downs would be in the position to execute the Metro policies that students have been pushing for for years. He is also interested in improving and expanding affordable housing in the District, a priority needed in a city where far too many people experience homelessness.
Although Downs is the best choice, it is important to note that Downs and fellow candidate Martín Miguel Fernandez are not very far apart in their ideas, and Downs has something to learn from his opponent.
If Downs were to be elected, he should consider incorporating some of Fernandez’s plans, like his policing and public safety measures. Fernandez’s campaign emphasized racial equity and equality in the District, highlighting a comprehensive 14-point plan that focuses on defunding the police and reallocating the funds to various city-run organizations that will aid residents. Downs could easily incorporate aspects of the plan that result in the reallocation of funds to city organizations that decrease police necessity.
Other candidates running for the seat don’t bring the same history as a D.C. leader to the table. Pinto, the current Council member, has only been in office for several months, and she’s already been the subject of an investigation. Ward 2 residents should not need to raise their eyebrows again at their direct leader – they should trust that they can get the job done without personal interests getting in the way. Peter Bolton, a journalist running as a Green Party candidate, hopes to improve issues of affordable housing and climate change through creating a D.C. version of the Green New Deal, but many of these ideas are represented in Downs’ platform as well.
Locals have a chance to choose someone who will fight for their interests. Former Ward 2 Council member Jack Evans was not that person, and Pinto has already proved she is not either. We need someone who will fight for us wholeheartedly – and Downs is that candidate.
The editorial board is composed of Hatchet staff members and operates separately from the newsroom. This week’s piece was written by opinions editor Hannah Thacker and contributing opinions editor Andrew Sugrue, based on discussions with managing director Kiran Hoeffner-Shah, managing editor Parth Kotak, sports editor Emily Maise, culture editor Anna Boone and design editor Olivia Columbus.