Our lucky Takoma, DC cousins are having way more fun than we are! That’s if your idea of fun is a 19 candidate special ward representative election.
It is certainly Your Gilbert’s idea of fun, so we attended a recent District of Columbia Ward 4 candidate’s forum at Takoma Baptist Church.
We kept looking around for those pesky . . . er, persistent folks from The Center for Voting and Democracy who enlisted Takoma Park in their Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) scheme to make elections with three or more candidates fairer. One would think those folks would be all over this election like a cat in heat. But, no luck. Or maybe it was luck – the 17 candidates attending made it a long evening as it was without one of those interminable instruction sessions from the IRV-wonks that plagued Takoma Park’s recent special ward election.
Between the political attacks, rhetoric, slogans, jargon, and rousing speeches it was apparent that many political issues and characters are universal, certainly there are similarities with Takoma Park’s issues and characters.
Every candidate mentioned development, crime and safety, education, and rising property taxes. Each one promised to “fix” the schools, improve government services, find jobs and recreation for youth, develop (but not overdevelop) Georgia Avenue, NW, and provide constituent services. These were issues people are most concerned about, but the issues that pumped up their blood pressure, judging from applause and cheers, were city handouts to sports millionaire Abe Pollen and the baseball stadium, and the closure of DC General Hospital.
The issue that pumped up the candidates’ blood pressure was the front runner, Muriel Bowser I Am A Democrat (as she invariably introduced herself). She came under attack frequently for having Mayor Adrian Fenty’s endorsement, the Washington Post’s endorsement, and $370,000 in campaign contributions (according to the Washington Post).
The 16 other candidates attending took turns decrying “machine politics,” “rubber-stamp politicians,” and “outside developer money.”
Bowser sat through it patiently, concentrating on looking pretty and talking like a politician. In other words, she sounded and looked good, but didn’t really say much.
Your Gilbert would love to list and analyze in depth each and every one of the 16 candidates for you, Dear Readers, but that would get tedious for all of us. Instead, here is a snapshot view in categories.
RUNNING BECAUSE THEY CAN
Lisa Comfort Bradford
Michael T. Green
A colorful group, each with an interesting skill or idea, but, if elected, would be eaten alive by the real politicians. Judi Jones is a sincere community activist and ANC Commissioner, but needs more experience. T. A. Uqdah is one of those entrepreneur-who-will-bring-business-principles-to-government types. Lisa Comfort Bradford is a family values candidate, and Michael T. Green is great with rhymes and slogans.
IN A CATEGORY ALL BY HIMSELF
This is what 1960s Black Power looks like in cranky old age. James Clark alternately inspired embarrassment, annoyance, hilarity, outrage, pathos, and applause. You shoulda been there. He had the pithiest quotes, for instance, attacking the current mayor and council for acting “white, white, white!”
“We need to bring Marvin Gaye back to tell you what’s goin’ on!”
“I’m not interested in no Klingle Road! . . . I’m interested in Georgia Avenue . . . where people tear the bottom of their cars out!”
“Tax Freeze? Freeze the 50 million to Poland! Freeze on the baseball stadium”
“We got a dunce in the White House, and a moron for mayor”
“Vote for me if you’re brave enough!”
Robert G. Childs
Graylan Scott Hagler
Active ministers running for office make Your Gilbert wonder if they would be representing their constituents or their church members? Do they take unfair advantage of their congregations as campaign resource? That may have been the case with the overly-dignified Rev. Childs, who had the biggest cheering/sign-waving section at the forum.
Rev. Hagler, however, gave one of the most crowd-pleasing rants against the closing of DC General, and made one of the sharper attacks against “rubber stamp” candidates.
Your Gilbert feels that electing foxes to govern the chicken coop is like putting lawyers in charge of the government. Or something like that. However, Renee Bowser (not to be confused with front-runner Muriel Bowser I Am A Democrat) is a labor lawyer, and the Statehood/Green Party candidate. She ranted against HTAPBD (Handouts to Abe Polllen, Ballparks, and Developers).
Trial lawyer Tony Towns who wants to freeze property taxes for the poor and elderly, gave up a good rant opportunity to introduce his children and other family members. Gilbert dislikes it when politicians use minor family members as props. [a commentator notes: “Tony Towns wants to freeze property taxes for Long Time Residents of Ward 4. For more correct information visit www.tonytowns.com.”]
LOOKS GOOD IN A SUIT
Lisa P. Bass
Muriel Bowser I Am A Democrat
Marlena D. Edwards
Artee “RT” Milligan
These folks look the part, but their programs mostly consist of sound-good, feel-good platitudes: “all boats rise” (Lisa Bass), “integrated approach” and “wraparound services” (Marlena Edwards), “I have a passion!” (Artee Milligan), “I will fight for the things we need!” (Muriel Bowser I Am A Democrat). Yawn.
LOOKS AND SOUNDS GOOD IN A SUIT
Douglass Ned Sloan
Michael Brown, a lobbyist, is a cypher. His HTAPBD rant was one of the best., and his “Cities DON’T PAY for stadiums anymore!!!” nearly brought the house down. But, his well-delivered populist statements are at odds with his $180,000 campaign treasury, and his insider connections. He bragged that he is on a “first name basis” with people in city government and could “hit the ground running.” Is he a man of the people, or an insider with a glib tongue?
Doug Sloan got a standing ovation for his denouncement of special interests, outside developers, machine-style politicians (you-know-who), saying “you don’t need six figures to run in this race.” He brought folks out of their chairs with his finisher, “Ward 4 is not for sale!”
Inspiring rhetoric and delivery, but Your Gilbert notes Mr. Sloan is a bit of an insider, having served in DC Mayor Tony William’s administration (the one roundly denounced for handouts to millionaires, and for closing DC General Hospital). His statement “We should not allow Mother Nature to dictate what roads are closed” (re: Klingle Road) reveals an archaic view of the environment, one that furrowed Your Gilbert’s brow.
LOOKS AND SOUNDS GOOD IN A SUIT BUT TALKS TOO MUCH
Dwight E. Singleton
More than any of the other candidate, Dwight Singleton consistently talked past his allotted time and had to be reined in for it by the moderator. A bad sign in a politician. Singleton once served Ward 4 on the Board of Education, and would be there yet, since, as he put it “Ward 4 voted for me, but Ward 3 voted me out’ – a sly reference to Ward 4’s redistricting a few years ago.
THE ONE GILBERT WOULD VOTE FOR
Full disclosure: Due to personal acquaintanceship, Your Gilbert went into the forum predisposed toward Carroll Green, President of the Manor Park Citizens Association, whom we know to be honest, untouched by outside or monied interests, a hard worker, and skilled activist and advocate. HIs performance at the forum only confirmed this. “We need to get real!” he said, and his statements revealed a realistic, somewhat jaundiced view (Your Gilbert likes jaundiced views), noting for instance that the city has a history of starting things and never completing them, and questioning “what good is it to develop Georgia Avenue, if you can’t PARK there?”
Here is a link to an excellent website on the Ward 4 election, where political geeks can wallow for hours, or regular voters can spend a few informative minutes.