Congratulations to Anita Bonds on her win for Council member at-large. Congratulations also to Elissa Silverman for running a good campaign and I hope she will stay involved in politics and get more involved in community affairs. As for Patrick Mara, this marks his third loss and I hope that he will be successful in his career as he moves on with his life, his new wife and expected child. Pat is a nice guy but his politics were shown to be just wrong for D.C. voters.
Like many, I was disappointed in the small turnout. Maybe those voters who stayed home are happy with everything. In many ways the District under the leadership of Mayor Gray is doing better than it ever has before. We are fiscally solvent and envied by cities and states across the nation. The economy is booming with 55 cranes up across the District in every ward building both commercial space and new rental apartments and condos. The mayor has submitted a balanced budget to the Council with pay increases for city workers for the first time in years; $100 million for affordable housing; $15 million for competitive grants for small non-profits; funding for libraries to remain open 7 days a week; a capital budget that addresses the renovation of the MLK library, additional new and renovated schools, rebuilding and renovating of parks and recreation centers and all without any increase in taxes or fees. In fact there are certain tax reductions such as getting rid of the tax on other than D.C. municipal bonds and the elimination of the double tax on those who own cooperative apartments in the District.
There is much that still needs to be done and it is important for residents to give voice to their ideas on how to move forward. There are complaints about not enough police; the need for more ambulances; and a host of issues from what to do about the homeless population to how to improve our schools.
This was a special election to fill the seat vacated by Phil Mendelson who won as Council chair last November. It is possible people felt the winner was only being elected for 1.5 years and would have to run again next year so they didn’t bother to come out. Or they were unhappy with all the candidates and therefore stayed home. Or the media didn’t pay enough attention to the candidates, or the candidates were boring or some other reason.
What some forgot was that there was another important issue on the ballot and that was whether the District should have budget autonomy. That means Congress could not interfere with the part of the D.C. budget passed by the Council and signed by the mayor that dealt with the money coming from our own tax collections. That ballot measure, which won with 84 percent of the vote, could be a major step forward for District independence. It could mean we won’t be totally beholden to Congress every time they have a budget stalemate like the one we have now.
Beginning today and moving forward the people of the District need to make their voices heard. Bonds will now have a vote on a host of issues including the mayor’s budget; issues related to the new healthcare exchange mandated by the Affordable Care Act; determining how or if to vote on new ethics reform; whether to make surrogacy contracts in the District legal; regulatory reform; and so many other issues that no one ever really asked her about during the election.
Voters and the media appeared to accept the contest being run on the platitudes given to us by most of the candidates. I do have faith that Bonds will work hard but her seat, along with that of many other council members, is up again next year so vigilance and oversight on what all our Council members do remains an important role for all of us.