Ward 7 Education Candidates' Forum
Candidates for the Ward 7 D.C. Council seat participated in a candidates' forum that was held on Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012 at H.D. Woodson Senior High School in Northeast before approximately 90 people. D.C. Councilmember Yvette Alexander (D) debated opponents Kevin B. Chavous, State Board of Education member Dorothy Douglas, Tom Brown, the Rev. Bill Bennett, and Monica Johnson – all Democrats – in addition to Republicans Ron Moten and Don Folden.
Both the Democratic and Republican primaries for the D.C. Council seat will be held on Tuesday, April 3. The forum was moderated by Denise Rolark Barnes, publisher of the Washington Informer Newspaper and was sponsored by the Washington Teachers' Union and the Ward 7 Education Council.
The candidates fielded questions from a panel that was selected by the sponsors who included Nathan Saunders, president of the Washington Teachers' Union and Ward 7 Education Council leader Eboni Rose Thompson. They also answered audience questions from note cards that were given to Rolark Barnes.
In general, the candidates talked about their support of the public school system and most voiced approval of charter schools. Alexander said she would sponsor or support legislation that would allow charter schoolteachers to unionize under the Washington Teachers' Union.
Brown said that bullying could be cut down in schools by providing "a secure environment for students." Bennett said that the "60 percent academic achievement gap between Ward 3 schools and Ward 7 schools was unacceptable."
Alexander said she did not co-sponsor legislation by D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown (D) that would require graduating D.C. students to take the SAT and to apply to one college. She said "there are other options for students such as the military, the workforce, and trade and technical schools."
Johnson participated in the forum but revealed to the media that she had dropped out of the race earlier that day. "I received an ultimatum that I should step down or resign from the D.C. public school system."
Johnson, a teacher, said, "I was told this by the office of the D.C. Attorney General. I was surprised and disappointed by that." Johnson said that she does not know who she will support on April 3.
Saunders said that he was pleased with the forum.
"This was an exciting, well-organized event and we vote to give the voters a chance to hear the council candidates talk about their views on education," he said.
Douglas Smith, an advisory neighborhood commissioner for single member district 4B04, was recalled from his position, 75-59, by his constituents on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012. The results are unofficial and the final count of absentee and special ballots will be counted on March 9.
Smith was a first time commissioner and the treasurer for ANC 4B.
Smith expressed disappointment at his recall.
"When you have a low voter turnout, it shows that the people who do vote make the difference," he said. "People who are tuned into the negative in these types of situations are the ones who tend to vote."
Smith had the support of D.C. Councilmember Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) and Sara Green, chair of ANC 4B.
If these unofficial results hold, the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics will declare the position vacant and decide the date of a special election to replace Smith. Though he was recalled, Smith is eligible to run for the position again according to D.C. law.
"I have not decided whether I will run again but I am definitely interested," Smith said.
Jones Wants To Lead
Ward 4 D.C. Council candidate Judi Jones is running to represent the ward because she feels that the incumbent, D.C. Councilmember Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), does not exhibit leadership skills.
"We need leadership not followership," Jones, a four-term 4B07 advisory neighborhood commissioner, said. "Our councilwoman is a go along to get along and we don't need that now."
Jones is one of four residents challenging Bowser in the Tue., April 3 Democratic Party primary. She said that if she is elected, she will focus on education, improving social programs in the ward and spurring economic development.
"We need to develop Georgia Avenue," Jones said. "We need to make it where people can walk to stores on Georgia Avenue and it will make the lifestyles of residents attractive."
Jones is not a fan of Walmart, which wants to locate two stores in the ward but would like to see the Walter Reed site useful for small businesses and residents. She is also a die-hard supporter of D.C. statehood, saying that "it is a necessity in order to self-determine our social programs."
Jones said dedication is the key to being a successful council member.
"At the center of it all is hard work and community commitment," she said. "I will need your support to regain respectability in Ward 4."
GOP Hosts Ward 7 Black History Program
Republican Ward 7 D.C. Council candidate Ron Moten and Republican National Committeewoman candidate Jill Homan hosted a Black History Month program at the Denny's in Northeast on Tue., Feb. 28. The turnout for the event was approximately 55 people and included new D.C. Republican Committee Executive Director Nick Jeffress.
The Woodlawn Cemetery, located a few blocks south of the Denny's in Southeast, was the topic of the event. Moten pointed out that historical figures such as John Mercer Langston, a congressman who represented Virginia during Reconstruction and the first dean of the Howard University School of Law, and Blanche Bruce, who represented Mississippi in the U.S. Senate during Reconstruction were buried there.
"The Woodlawn Cemetery needs to be promoted as a historical site and it is not," Moten, 41, said. "Our people need to know their history and particularly the young people need to know their history."
Moten is competing with longtime activist Don Folden for the Republican Party nomination on Tue., April 3. Whoever wins the nomination will compete for the D.C. Council seat against the Democratic nominee on Nov. 6, in the general election.
Moten, who says that he is a "civil rights Republican," told the gathering if he were elected, he would be honest with his constituents.
"I won't lie to you and I won't steal from you," he said to applause. "I encourage you, whether you are a Republican or not, study the people you want to vote for."
Rosetta Streeter, who joined the Republican Party during the era of Richard Nixon, said that she was impressed with the event and with Moten but would not disclose who she would vote for.
"I found this program to be very informative and I will support the candidate who has got a plan and is ready to go," Streeter, a resident of Southeast, said. "A lot of promises were made by the people in elected office and they have done some things but not enough."