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.
This interview is with Evan Yeats Carley, candidate for ANC 4B01 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 Evan Yeats and I’m running for Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner in ANC 4B01. That’s the tip of the spear in Takoma, the northern part of the District.
What is the most important issue facing your Single Member District and how do you intend to address it?
The issue I hear about the most from people in the neighborhood has to do with safety for people who are walking and biking through the neighborhood, especially children. The route to Takoma Education Campus, which is in our Single Member District, from the metro and from the rest of the neighborhood is not safe. The traffic on Piney Branch, on Blair Road, on Georgia, is not only ineffective at moving cars, it’s also dangerous for people trying to use the roads through other means. What I hear the most from people is finding a way to calm down the traffic, run the streets for the people who live in the neighborhood, not for the people that are driving through. Creating a welcoming atmosphere in our neighborhood for the people that live here.
Some of the things that I would like to see done is to finally complete the reconstruction at Fourth, Blair and Cedar that has been worked on for about 20 years. Final design was finished in about 2013, so it’s tremendously overdue. That’s a sore spot in our community. It’s not a welcoming gateway for people who come here to visit. Other things I’d like to do is focus on the school safety coordination. That means advocating for enforcement of the school zone by TEC. So “15 miles an hour” means “15 miles an hour”. The intersection with Piney Branch and Dalia is dangerous for both pedestrians and for cars and needs work. And then ensuring that the bike lanes and the sidewalks are maintained so that people can get where they need to go.
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.
Beyond just those two issues, there’s no doubt that the city is rapidly changing and has been for awhile now. It’s not a new problem and it’s also not the first time for the city through this. We experienced similar expansion in the post-World War 2 era when DC actually hit its peak in population. People think DC’s the biggest and busiest it’s ever been and it actually isn’t. More people lived here then and live here now. But the truth of the matter, is there are people that want to live here and I think we need to have room for people to live here. But the other thing is people are being forced out of their neighborhoods, their homes and their communities. Also is very difficult for young families just starting out to get their feet under them. So any focus on development for me has to have as a priority access to affordable housing, especially workforce housing. People who work here need to be able to live here and then ensuring that there’s housing for families. It’s not enough to have one bedroom, two bedroom apartments. Three bedroom houses, new townhomes, new duplexes, that middle ground between huge high rises and single family homes where we can house families and families can afford to live here are very important to me.
This commission struggles to work together at times. How will you work with the residents and other commissioners when there is a contentious issue?
I think this commission could use a breath of fresh air. A lot of the battle lines are entrenched in the commission. I think people are frustrated by that. To be honest. I can’t speak to how I deal with every problem, but I can tell you as a principle, I’m a mid-western guy originally, and the way I was raised, it’s just to be straight ahead with people. You be honest. You recognize that people are adults and sometimes you’re going to agree and sometimes you’re gonna disagree, but people are able to still be respectful to have disagreements and move forward and not hold grudges, not backstab, not go behind people’s backs. And I think there’s a long way to go if we just start treating each other like adults and treating the voters like adults.
One of my biggest frustrations in DC politics, as someone who has gone to my elected officials, not necessarily the person I’m running against, but saying, “Oh, I feel this way about an issue and I want you to,..”, And they just go ahead and they try to have it both ways. They try to tell you what you want to hear, but then they actually go do something else when they really believe something else. I would be a much happier constituent if someone would just look me in the eyes and say, “Hey, you know what? We don’t agree on this one. This is why we disagree.” And just treat me like an adult. That’s my intention with everybody else. Let’s be mature about this. Let’s be honest, let’s be straightforward and don’t hold any grudges. If people disagree and they come down on different sides of things, that’s totally fine and then we’ll move past it and work together on the next thing.
How do you plan to keep residents informed about issues?
There’s a lot of work to be done in this area. Obviously, there are tremendous resources in terms of the LISTSERV and in terms of the 4B website even though they might be underutilized some. We have to recognize that not everybody’s on the website and not everybody’s on the on the list serves, which means that it’s possible for people to build and maintain their own email lists for people who don’t want to be on listserv but want to keep in touch with me. That’s something that’s already started to happen in this campaign. People who aren’t necessarily on the Takoma listserv who want to keep in touch.
Another thing we can do is as commissioners and as a commission by being a presence at community events so that we’re out there talking to people, making sure they know what’s going on and also we can make sure we do a better job of publicizing the meetings that are upcoming. A lot of citizens associations use yard signs. They put up to advise people about the upcoming meetings. There’s community bullied bulletin boards at the library and in other venues around town.
So we just have to be creative and not give up. Not say, “oh well I’ve just put this on the list serve”. That’s not enough. Like always be thinking of new ways to approach people even if it comes to. I mean I went door to door the other day and a woman said she didn’t even know there was a listserv and so I followed up with her and helped her sign up for it and she was like, how do people get news about the community since they stopped handing out flyers door to door. I’m like, :”this is what you do”. And so by being a presence in the community, you can help people take the next step like that and ensure that they’re looped in and that they know what’s going on in their neighborhood.
Why are you the best person for the job? Why should your neighbors vote for you?
(laughs) I have a hesitancy calling myself the best, but I think I would be a good person for this job. I’m a good communicator. I have experience that way. I work with almost anybody. I treat people with respect. I’m knowledgeable about the neighborhood and about politics in the District. And I’m passionate about the things that I want to see changed in our neighborhood. And I think that’s a lot of the things that my neighbors agree with me on, including a safer, more walkable, bikeable Takoma. Development that’s smart, that’s built to keep people here but also has spaces for new families. And finally supporting a strong local public education option as the commissioner for 4B01, you’re the commissioner for the Tacoma Education Campus. And when that school is strong, the whole neighborhood benefits. So anything we can do to advocate on behalf of that school, everybody benefits from it.
What is your favorite thing to do to relax and enjoy yourself in the city?
In the city? I saw your question originally said Ward 4… So I have three small children, seven, two and six months. We make heavy use of the libraries and the REC centers here. That includes Takoma, Petworth, the pools… Upshur Pool. Those are big assets for my family. As a family person, the fact that they’re free or low cost is a huge difference for me. I, myself, am a big fan of, when I get a night to myself, just to go have a quiet drink. I’m a big fan of the bars at the south end of Petworth: Looking Glass, DC Reynolds, etc. You can sit quietly. No one will bother you. You can have a decent beer and it’s a good night off for me.
My son dances ballet, so when we occasionally scrape two pennies together, we go see a ballet or something, which is a good inspiration for him. But to be honest, as a parent of three, I don’t get much time to relax. So most of my time is spent at track meets or at a ballet recital or at a school pickup or drop off or a daycare event. So not much relaxing, but I do love the neighborhood. And I just love being out and using the facilities that are available to everybody here.