DC Council Candidates Debate Campus Plan
Published: Friday, February 25, 2011
Updated: Friday, February 25, 2011 05:02
Five candidates for a seat on the D.C. Council butted heads on topics including school reform, taxes and spending at a debate Wednesday. But they all agreed on one thing: opposition to campus plans recently proposed by D.C. universities, including Georgetown.
"The council should oppose the campus plans," candidate Vincent Orange, a former representative of Ward 5, said in response to a question about how the council would deal with the problem of more undergraduate students living off campus.
Upon hearing the question, the room burst into applause.
Orange added that he thought the council should oppose the Georgetown campus plan in particular, the final version of which was submitted in December and is scheduled for review by the D.C. Zoning Commission in April.
"I know what happens when students move into the community," Orange said. "It's parties every single day."
The debate, for an at-large seat which was vacated when Councilmember Kwame Brown was elected chairman of the D.C. Council, was held in a packed room at the Safeway on Wisconsin Avenue. The event was moderated by Beth Solomon of The Georgetown Dish and Davis Kennedy of The Georgetown Current.
A total of 11 candidates have gathered enough signatures to run in the April 26 elections, but only those who had either won previous races or raised a certain amount of funding for their campaigns were invited to participate in the debate.
Many candidates said that they wanted to ensure that all increases in enrollment were matched by increases in on-campus housing, including candidate Bryan Weaver, a community organizer based in Adams Morgan.
"You have to provide 100 percent housing for these students," he said.
Weaver, who called the current American University campus plan "ridiculous," said it was important for the council to help universities work around zoning restrictions, such as limits on building heights, to allow for more on-campus housing.
"There has to be carrot and stick proposals," Weaver said.
Candidate Joshua Lopez, who also said he would oppose current campus plans, said that schools needed to think more creatively. He pointed to the University of Maryland as a model for expanded housing to cope with increased enrollment. At UMD, some campus residences are not located on the main campus, but the university provides shuttle transportation for students. Lopez said he thought a similar model might work for Georgetown.
"Let's look around the city," he said.
While the comments about campus plans elicited some of the more enthusiastic responses from the audience, much of the debate centered on school reform and strategies for dealing with the city's current budget crisis. The first question, referencing recent criticism of Council Chairman Brown's purchase of a high-end SUV using city funds, asked candidates how many cars they own and when the last time they took public transportation was.
Toward the end of the debate, a sixth candidate was added to the discussion. Dorothy Douglas joined Orange, Weaver, Lopez, Jacque Patterson and current at-large Delegate Sekou Biddle. Douglas, a representative to the Board of Education, was late because she had to attend a board meeting.
Another point of agreement among the candidates was that the election will play a pivotal role in deciding many of the issues slated to come before the council in the coming months.
"It could be the deciding vote to determine if we're going to continue on the path we've been on," Weaver said.