Street Politics

Goodwill and good cheer infused an early March meet-and-greet in Northwest, where three potential contenders for next year’s mayoral race presented themselves to voters and to the local political press. 

Scott Bolden, Michael Brown, and Jack Evans shared optimistic visions for D.C. 

Washington’s most disadvantaged people are also waiting to share in the goodwill and good cheer. 

Street Politics caught up a few days later with Scott Bolden, who said “we need to end the warehousing of our homeless people in emergency shelters.” He suggested using some of the city’s current tremendous budget surplus to impleme3nt the full “continuum of care,” which is now seen as the ideal response to homelessness. “We should use it to end human suffering in our city,” he said. 

Meanwhile, the Williams administration and the City Council pursue and publicize their own efforts on human needs. Those efforts have generated some heat in recent hearings before the City Council’s Human Services Committee, whose chair, Adrian Fenty, may himself run for mayor. But, says one close longtime observer of city politics, the “grassroots connections” and the support of voters in Wards 6,7, and 8 are still up for grabs. 

So there is time for candidates to make their cases on human needs and citywide economic development. 

These issues have played a role in past District elections. Former mayor and current City Council member Marion Barry, who is not expected to run again for citywide office, knows this well. He still enjoys loyalty that goes all the way back to the days of Pride, Inc., in the 1960’s, and many residents still talk about the youth summer jobs programs he implemented as mayor. Tis, plus his ability to attract support for vigorous downtown renewal, helped him run strongly citywide. 

In a recent conversation, the former mayor stressed that job opportunities are as important as ever to Washingtonians-and that office holders and candidates should keep this in mind. 

Poor and homeless people say the same, consistently naming housing and jobs as their top priorities. They and other observers say they are waiting to see candidates convince them that they can be trusted with these concerns. 

Many Washingtonians need help in these areas, and many more, all across the city, want to see candidates address those needs. 

The logic of political campaigning says that the margin of victory might be found anywhere and that it should be pursued everywhere. There is a base of support in the District for energetic and creative responses to urgent human needs, and for valuing and using our human capital. 

Who will win that support? 

The Ideal Candidate 

Street Sense vendor and Vendor Liaison Donald Brooks describes his ideal candidate for mayor: “I’d like to see Patricia Harris’ brain, Marion Barry’s heart, soul and dedication, Tony Williams’ ideas for booming economic development, the steadfastness of the old civil rights leaders, Dr. King’s ability to turn the other cheek, Malcolm X’s inner soul, for which he’s revered even today, Mitch Snyder’s dedication to a cause, and last but not least, I would want the universal appeal of Muhammad Ali.” 

Got that?  

-David S. Hammond 

Region |Washington DC

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