The voters of the District of Columbia should make a statement with their vote Nov. 6 and tell lobbyists they won’t accept them trying to control the votes of our City Council. There has never been a Council member with whom I agree all the time and Elissa Silverman is no exception; she is independent and stands unabashedly for workers and their families. She understands the District has become a place where the average worker finds it hard to afford living and is willing to do everything she can to make it easier for them to support themselves and their families here.
According to the Washington Post, Anthony Williams, former mayor and highly paid executive director of the Federal City Council and David Catania, former Council member, losing mayoral candidate and now lobbyist are “teaming up in an effort to unseat Silverman in November.” They don’t like the bill providing family leave to workers Silverman co-introduced with David Grosso. The final bill with support from Council Chair Mendelson won overwhelming support on the Council. According to the Post it is “among the nation’s most generous and imposes a new tax on business.” Now Catania and Williams don’t like the bill or the tax it creates and figure Silverman is the easiest target to go after; she is standing strong. They aren’t going after the chair or any of the other Council members who voted for it thinking they could be convinced/bullied to make changes before it goes into effect. I recently wondered why Catania wrote an opinion piece in the Blade supporting Anita Bonds and from the Post got my answer; he opened a new lobbying firm in the District.
This kind of heavy handed political action is not what the people of the District should lend their support to. Elissa is the most liberal member of the D.C. Council. She can be counted on to support workers and economic fairness which is why she is supported by unions like SEIU and the D.C. Nurses Association, and other groups like Democracy for America, the D.C. Chapter of NOW, TENAC, Jews United for Justice Campaign Fund, and is also supported by D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine.
There are others aside from Williams and Catania’s candidate who announced they were running for the independent seat Silverman holds. When Catania and Williams stepped in to push a businesswoman there was already another businesswoman in the race and she happens to be a lesbian and someone I admire. My assumption is she wasn’t willing to commit as much to those two lobbyists. Their candidate is now having problems with her petition signatures. Maybe karma, but one would think that was something Williams, who had problems with his petitions and got tossed from the ballot, could have helped her avoid.
Before the Post column I was not sure who I would endorse in this race. But after this self-styled dynamic duo got involved friends who read the column called asking what I thought. They told me how infuriated they were after reading it. These were lawyers and business people who were aghast at what Williams and Catania were doing.
They were people who have lived in the District for years and were strong Williams supporters in both his campaigns as was I. They tend to follow more national politics than local and this just caught their eye and made them mad and they didn’t even know Elissa.
So I sought a meeting with Elissa to talk about the campaign. She told me in the next four years she will continue to fight for workers. She intends to introduce a bill to mandate national chains like CVS and Safeway give their employees their work schedules at least two weeks in advance so they can realistically arrange everything from childcare to doctor’s appointments. Low-salaried employees in those stores don’t always get that now. She wants to work with the city to ensure the city’s Infrastructure Academy that trains D.C. residents for D.C. jobs is actually doing the job and training potential employees for the jobs that are coming to the District. If we build the new proposed hospital east of the river she wants to ensure local residents will be prepared to work there. For that to happen some may need training not only in the actual job responsibilities/skills, but may need training in what are often called the soft skills — including how to answer a phone, write a resume and handle an interview. She has also pledged to continue to fight for a minimum of at least $100 million each year for affordable housing.
The voters in the District of Columbia are some of the most progressive in the nation. They believe in fairness for all and it is important we have some people like Elissa, un-pledged to any particular lobbyists, on the Council to stand up for fairness and the little guy. There are more than enough Council members already responsive to the business community and at times too responsive to lobbyists like Catania and Williams. That is why I urge voters to cast their ballot on Nov. 6 for Elissa Silverman for Council-at-large.
Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBT rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.