As a Ward 2 resident for more than 35 years, I have had only two people represent me on the D.C. Council. The first, John A. Wilson, had the D.C. government building named after him. The second, Jack Evans, was forced out of office for improprieties. On June 2 in the Democratic primary and June 16 in the special election for Ward 2, voters have the opportunity to choose a third representative. We need to elect someone who will make us proud.
One person stands out among a group of qualified candidates. His relevant experience at the ward and community level, and his living by a set of steadfast progressive and honest principles, make Patrick Kennedy that candidate. He recently said: “In these difficult days I am committed to serving the residents of Ward 2 in an honest and transparent way to meet all their needs. I am committed to helping as we weave our way through tough times with a special focus on the economic and health inequities that have been highlighted due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Together we will not only survive we will thrive. The Council will be my full-time job and the only people I will owe anything to are the residents of Ward 2. As new issues arise you have my commitment to work on each one to the best of my ability and to meet and exceed your expectations.”
Ward 2 is a dynamic part of the District and includes a diverse group of stakeholders, including a large part of the District’s business community. Balancing the needs of business with the needs of individuals is not always easy but must be the goal of the Council member representing the ward. Patrick has community and ward experience, including eight years on the ANC, being chair for five terms. Relevant experience is based on what the job of a Ward Council member is. The job includes oversight of D.C. government agencies; approval of the D.C. budget; and just as important the ability to provide good constituent service to the residents of the ward. Being chair of an ANC gave Patrick a detailed understanding of D.C. government agencies and how they relate to both individuals and the community. A Council member must have knowledge of zoning, local education issues, transportation issues, and know how the programs of D.C. government from DDOT, to DOES, to DCRA, the bane of everyone’s existence, work. It means getting into the weeds on rat (the four legged kind) abatement and knowing how to help a constituent get a street lamp fixed. It is why experience on an ANC is so relevant to the job.
Another reason I am endorsing Kennedy is my belief it is crucial for our city that young people become involved and take leadership roles. When they do, we must support them. Kennedy represents the best of the young generation of the District. For 10 years he has spent countless hours as an ANC volunteer member and chair working for the people of the ward and the city. He sees himself as a bridge-builder, someone who understands the needs and interests of different communities and he has shown he is able to collaborate with a wide range of people with varied interests and forge consensus and come up with solutions to problems. I found he has a nuanced understanding of public policy and has shown empathy and understanding of people from all different backgrounds and perspectives.
Ward 2 has the largest number of people who identify with the LGBTQ+ community in the District and while Patrick is not gay his work for — and vocal support of — the community has attracted many activists to his campaign. He has committed to have the city do a much better job of providing equity-based initiatives, which will impact the LGBTQ community. He supports improving hiring practices for trans people in the D.C. government. He is committed to focusing on improving job training programs ensuring they include trans women of color whose unemployment rate was as high as 40 percent before COVID-19. He will fight for more investment in transitional housing for homeless LGBTQ youth and delivering housing resources specifically geared to the needs of LGBTQ seniors. He said, “It is crucial to not just see housing programs as services LGBTQ seniors can access, but rather to craft the services themselves around the needs of those who live alone and are at risk of social isolation. It is clear not all housing providers are culturally competent or welcoming.”
Kennedy has a history of success. He helped save the Francis-Stevens school, which is now thriving, and he worked on projects with George Washington University and with colleagues and DDOT laying the groundwork for consensus on a protected bike lane between Foggy Bottom and Dupont. His private sector experience includes working for a company helping Fortune 500 companies on their Corporate Social Responsibility budgets. His research had a focus on using SEC filings to evaluate a firm’s financial positions, market opportunities, and risks. In his current position with a small management consulting firm (he is on leave during the campaign) his work includes reviewing budgets and evaluating the competitive bid process including staffing and expense projections, all of which stand him in good stead when he becomes the next Ward 2 Council member.
Kennedy is committed to working with the Council, our delegate to Congress Eleanor Holmes Norton, and the mayor to press the Congress and the administration for D.C.’s full share of federal funding, including Coronavirus relief. He is a strong advocate for public education. Progress in the schools is nowhere more evident than in Ward 2 with an increasing demand for our public schools; not just from families staying and raising their children in the Ward, but from families across the city. He understands the momentum we’ve seen in the early grades hasn’t translated reliably to middle schools. He said, “In Ward 2 we must help families with children at Hyde-Addison stay in the system at Hardy and create a new Shaw Middle School with programming aligned to the thriving elementary schools that would feed it.” Kennedy commits to working to reduce childcare costs and prioritizing funding for Birth-to-3 programs. He understands doing both will make a meaningful difference in reducing the achievement gap in education by providing high-quality early learning opportunities to every child during the most important stage of their cognitive development.
He has committed to focusing on the production of more affordable housing. He said, “I support the mayor’s plan to encourage the production of more residential units across the city, enhance rent control protections for long-term tenants by gradually enrolling buildings built after 1975 into rent stabilization, and reforming our property tax structure to ensure that assessments align more cleanly with people’s ability to pay.”
He is committed to creating new dedicated bus lanes to improve service and ensure stable, fast commute times and investing in more off-peak service. He is a proponent of more dynamic street design, including more dedicated pick-up and drop-off areas on commercial corridors; expanding parking corrals for dockless bikes and scooters to get them off sidewalks; and enhancing the District’s network of protected bike lanes (coupled with enforcement of standards around sidewalk biking) so people have safe places to bike and pedestrians don’t feel unsafe on sidewalks.
In the aftermath of the recent Ward 2 Council member’s scandals we need a Council member who is a known commodity in the community, someone with a strong record of helping and working with every sector of the community. Someone people already know and trust. Someone the Washington Post said is “qualified and has a good agenda” for moving us forward. That person is Patrick Kennedy and I urge you to cast your ballot for him in the June 2 Democratic primary and the June 16 special election.
Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.