By MARY BROOKS BEATTY
Though social issues like marriage equality still divide the major political parties on the national level, in D.C., both Republicans and Democrats are fortunately united in support of equal rights for gay and lesbian couples.
Another place where we may find common ground between political parties in the nation’s capital is in a belief that the District currently lacks strong and accountable leaders with a bold vision for the future. The city deserves better than a mediocre and ethically challenged status quo. That’s why I’m running for City Council.
Washington is a 21st century city stuck with 20th century leadership. The “pay to play” schemes that used to plague big city governments—where public dollars flow to politicians’ friends rather than qualified bidders—are regrettably still standard practice in the District of Columbia. One-party political rule has left no one in charge of holding the Council accountable and ethical standards have suffered as a result.
Take Council member Michael A. Brown’s stealthy approach to legalizing online gambling (executed while working for a firm that would have benefited from the gambling contract.) Or consider Council Chair Kwame Brown’s resignation earlier this year after he was charged with bank fraud. These are examples (by no means isolated) of elected representatives more interested in helping themselves than helping the people of the District.
I would be a different kind of Council member, and I have a record to prove it. I served for six years as commissioner of an Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) in northeast Capitol Hill, a neighborhood I’ve lived in for nearly 15 years. The ANC I chaired included the H Street corridor, which at the time I took office in 2004 was a “hot spot” for drug dealing and street drinking. I initiated and led an effort to ban the sale of single containers of alcohol along the H Street corridor. This seemingly small change made this historic street pedestrian-friendly again, and opened up the door for explosive retail and restaurant growth.
Listening to the concerns of your peers, and working together with them to solve problems—it’s this attitude, rather than the “what’s in it for me” mentality, that we need more of on the D.C. City Council. Ethics reform of this magnitude might seem like a daunting task, but the 25+ years I spent working in state legislatures has taught me how to identify the root cause of a problem, build consensus among stakeholders, and take positive action.
Washington, D.C., is changing before our eyes: Census data show that many of the city’s neighborhoods are becoming younger and more diverse as young professionals continue to flock here for opportunities. At the same time, the Census Bureau has also reported that more than 100,000 of the city’s residents remain below the poverty line. Both groups need and demand effective government. That means keeping crime low so that people feel safe; providing efficient city services at an equitable tax rate; supporting laws that protect the city’s most vulnerable residents; and continuing the march toward better public schools.
We can’t afford another four years of failed leadership from Council members who act in their own best interests instead of ours. We need real, honest-to-goodness change in the nation’s capital—and that’s exactly what I promise to work for when I take office on Jan. 1, 2013.
Mary Brooks Beatty is the Republican candidate for the At-Large D.C. Council seat. Reach her via marybrooksbeatty.com.