DCNorthstar has been covering uptown meetings and events for nearly two years. During that time, we’ve learned a lot about how our local elected officials work. We’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly. Being an effective representative requires an array of skills and talents. Citizens are charged with electing a neighbor to be their interface with the vast city government. Yet, there’s never been an effective mechanism to learn about the candidates for these local elections before we step into the voting booth. Until now.
We invited all the candidates for Advisory Neighborhood Commissions 4A and 4B and for the special election for the Ward 4 seat on the State Board of Education to meet us for an interview to share their plans and ideas with the community. Twelve of them graciously agreed.
The interviews took place on October 13th at the Shepherd Park Library. The candidates were thoughtful and passionate about serving their community. The interviews were conducted by Jennell Alexander and filmed and edited by Christopher Alexander. Talent management was performed by our children Savannah and Xavier and their friend.
The first interview is with Erin Palmer, candidate for ANC 4B02 commissioner. We hope that you enjoy this series.
Here is the transcription of the interview. Jennell’s questions are in bold and the candidate’s responses make up the paragraph text.
Election Day is coming. Do you know who is running to be your Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner? My name is Jennell Alexander from DCNorthstar and we interviewed several candidates and they’re going to tell you a little bit about what their platforms are. Take a look.
- Jennell Alexander
Hi, I’m Erin Palmer and I’m running for ANC 4B02.
- Erin Palmer
What is the most important issue facing your Single Member District and how do you intend to address it?
Thank you for that important question. I think one of the most important issues in the neighborhood is the safety and walkability of the streets, which includes everything from walking to the rec center to take a class to walking your kids to school, taking the bus, driving to commuting to work the metro. And more specifically, when I think about that issue, the Fourth Street & Cedar Blair intersection comes to mind, which is the intersection by the Metro. That has been very problematic for some time and the subject of planning and meetings and consideration for almost 15 years now without action.
So one of the things that I’ve been thinking about is how to coordinate with the adjoining single member districts, which would be 4B01 and 4B07 to be very firm In contacting the DC government agencies and demanding a timeline, better communication regarding the planning and also once the changes are implemented, analysis of whether they’re working and how they might be further improved upon.
What are your thoughts on the pace of the city’s development? You can answer this in regards to Walter Reed development or the city’s comprehensive plan.
Sure. Thank you. The pace of the city’s development is a complicated question. We as a city are welcoming lots of new residents and that’s a good thing. Families and people coming for school or for work, but we’re also losing residents as they are struggling to stay in their homes and in the city overall.
So I think, the pace of development is fine, but it should be very thoughtful in terms of how to respect the people who are long-time residents and support them as they try to stay in their homes and apartments while also making some space for new folks coming in. And I think that there have been some very notable successes with the Walter Reed Development, including the HELP development, which is for homeless veterans and then the Abrams Hall housing for Seniors.
There seems to be a good focus on making space for people who need affordability and need housing within Walter Reed, which is great because it’s a currently unused space. So it really is an opportunity to both welcome new people and create affordable housing. Thank you.
This commission struggles to work together at times. How will you work with the residents and other commissioners when there is a contentious issue?
Sure. I think that’s a very important question and one that ANC4B, as well as several other commissions struggle with when there’s interpersonal conflicts. And even differences of opinion based on different constituencies. I think communication and education with constituents is really, really important because it allows you to get a broader swath of feedback and make sure that you’re hearing not just the loudest voices in the room.
There’ve been all kinds of studies lately about the demographics of people who are most vocal and most influential in local meetings and there needs to be a conscious effort to include more voices and people will then feel more invested in the process and that will hopefully smooth over some contentious issues.
In terms of fellow commissioners, I think it’s important to understand where people are coming from and to always be respectful even though you might not agree. I think that goes a long way. And I work for the judiciary, which is at least in theory, is an apolitical branch of government and I have seen my mentors and judges I work with in action in terms of how they communicate in a way that’s both persuasive and respectful. So I would try to model that.
Why are you the best person for the job? Why should your neighbors vote for you?
Thank you. Well, it feels a little bit self-indulgent to talk about why I think I’m the best person for the job, but I do firmly believe that. I think some of that is my temperament and my judgment. I am both respectful and constructive and I think that I am very capable of finding common ground and actually moving an issue forward on the spaces where people can reach agreement. I also come from an enforcement background.. an Ethics enforcement background. So I think I have the right skill set to encourage and foster accountability, whether that’s DC government agencies or within the ANC itself.
And I also have a demonstrated commitment to community building, which I think is really important and often overlooked in the ANC context because community building can both help you build relationships with constituents so that they then can approach you and talk to you about issues, but also helps the community come together and figure out what its priorities are as a collective.