I recently sent an e-mail questionnaire to all the candidates running for office in the new ANC6E. As the answers come in, I’ll post them to the MVSNA blog and send them out on the Shaw and Mount Vernon Square Neighborhood list-serves. Feel free to relink. – Sam Shipley, President, MVSNA
Here are the responses (attached and below) from Kevin Chapple – candidate for ANC 6E02.
ANC CANDIDATE QUESTIONAIRE
ANC COMMISSIONER 6E02
1.Please introduce yourself and describe your background. How long have you lived in DC (or the DC area)? How long have you specifically lived in the new 6E?
I am the current ANC 2C02/6E02 Commissioner. I moved to my current home in October 2000, a few years after I graduated from Howard Law School. When I purchased my home, all of the other homes on my block, on my side of the street, were abandoned. I was advised by several of my friends not to purchase my home because of the neighborhood. They thought it was overpriced and that I could get more home for the money in PG County. In spite of their advice, I decided to purchase my home because I fell in love with the house and saw the wonderful potential that the Shaw neighborhood had and still has. Currently, all of the homes on my side of the street, on my block, have been renovated and are occupied. The neighborhood has truly progressed since I first moved here. And all of my friends now realize that I made the right decision. Prior to purchasing my home, I lived in Bloomingdale, in an English basement apartment in the unit block of Rhode Island Avenue, NW.
2.What led you to want to run for the ANC?
Soon after I resigned my position in a downtown DC law firm and started my own law practice, I had time to pay more attention to my community and neighborhood. I met more of my neighbors and started to attend community meetings, including the ANC meetings. I was stunned by the dysfunctional manner in which the ANC meetings were conducted. It was far from an open and inviting forum where community members could come together, hear information pertinent to the community, and discuss their views with their elected representatives. It was more akin to a third world dictatorship that was controlled by a strongman who ruled his fiefdom with an iron fist. I realize that this description may sound over the top and dramatic, but those of us who were there can attest to the fact that this is an accurate description. At that time, the Chairman of the ANC, Leroy Thorpe, controlled 3 of the 4 votes on the Commission and could do just about anything he liked. Very few dared to challenge or even question the opinions or actions of the Chairman. Those who did would be publicly ridiculed, called names and yelled at. I once watched a young woman, in a respectful manner, openly challenge something the Chairman said. He then yelled at her and ridiculed her until she left the meeting in tears. The treasury of the ANC was depleted every year and dispensed, by way of grants, at the pleasure of the Chairman to his political friends and allies, which offered very little benefit to the community as a whole.
At that time, the community was undergoing a transformation as a result of re-gentrification. It was my belief that the Chairman used xenophobic fears to promote himself. It appeared that developers and proprietors who were forced to appear before our ANC had a negative impression of our community, based on the actions of those who represented the community on the ANC.
Thus, it was my belief that such developers and proprietors would avoid engaging our community, if at all possible, to avoid dealing with our dysfunctional ANC. Additionally, it was my belief that for the community to move forward, the community must be strongly engaged and informed. I believed that the Chairman’s behavior did not motivate nor encourage strong community engagement.
The Chairman had held his ANC seat for 18 years and had been able to electorally defeat all challengers. I decided that it would be best for the community if he was defeated and that I would support whoever challenged him. However, no one was willing to do so. So I decided I would. This was a big challenge for me because I am generally a reserved, quiet and very private individual. In addition, I already had a very full life as a proprietor of my own business.
Moreover, I did not have any desire to use the position as a stepping-stone to higher political office. In spite of these challenges, in 2006, I ran and defeated the 18-year incumbent. I sought and won re-election in 2008 and 2010. I am seeking re-election again for the same reasons I sought the ANC seat in 2006, for the love of this community, for my sincere desire for the community to continue its forward progress into the future. It is my belief that the divisive and antagonistic personalities of my opponents are not conducive to the continued forward progress the Shaw Community has experienced since I have become an ANC Commissioner.
3.Describe how you view the role of an ANC commissioner.
I believe an ANC Commissioner should be an advocate for his constituents and work to ensure that the community gets its fair share of city resources; should be a liaison between his constituents and the bureaucracy of the DC Government; should disseminate pertinent information regarding the community; should facilitate community discussions with Government officials; should motivate and encourage more community involvement; should address issues and problems that are of concern to the community; and should work to move the community forward.
The ANC and the Shaw Community have substantially improved since I first became a Commissioner. The ANC meetings are now a more open, transparent and inviting public forum that is run in a professional manner. Information is freely disseminated to the public. Development has substantially increased and crime has decreased, while police attentiveness and responsiveness to the Community has improved. I have had a hand in all of these improvements.
I have worked with anyone who has sought my assistance. I have met privately with countless constituents who needed my assistance in navigating the DC Government bureaucracy in zoning, regulatory and parking issues. In the same vein, I have worked with the proprietors of Beau Thai, Shaw Tavern, Bistro Bohem and Red Toque restaurants to obtain the permits and licenses which were needed for their businesses to thrive and be successful in the Community. I have strongly supported and worked with the developers of “Progression Place,” “CityMarket at O,” and the “Wonder Bread Factory,” just to name a few, to ensure that these projects were brought to fruition as soon as possible. I have lobbied for and the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development has agreed to expedite the Request for Proposals process for Parcel 42, the large empty lot at the corner of R and 7th Streets, NW so this neighborhood eyesore can be developed as soon as possible. Speaking of empty lots, I have worked closely with Community Three Developers, who will be developing a 21-unit condo building at 435 R Street, NW, which is currently an empty lot and an abandoned dry cleaner and has been in this state for over a decade. Another overgrown, long-time empty lot which will be developed soon is on the corner of 5th and S Streets, NW, whose developer I assisted in his quest for zoning relief in order to build a two- unit flat.
I have done my best to keep my constituents aware of pertinent information that would affect the community. When two organizations submitted applications to the DC Department of Health for licenses to open a medical marijuana dispensary in my Single Member District, I convened a public forum wherein the community could have a dialogue with Government officials and the proprietors of the organizations seeking to open the dispensaries. The proposals were not approved by DOH.
More recently, when several residents on Warner Street, NW were victims of home robberies/invasions, I helped organize a block meeting in the home of a resident on Warner Street, which was attended by Councilmember Wells and representatives of the MPD. At this meeting, we discussed how the DC Government and the MPD would address the crime issues that had been plaguing this block and ideas that the residents could implement to make their block safer.
I worked with and supported the KIPP School in their efforts to build a world-class soccer field and dog exercise area at Bundy Field.
I convened a meeting with officials from DC Department of Transportation and residents who live north of Rhode Island Avenue, NW to discuss traffic calming measures, the process for widening the sidewalks on their blocks, and the planting of more trees.
When residents complained regarding how dangerous the intersection of 5th and R Streets, NW was, I lobbied the DC Department of Transportation and a 2-way stop sign was placed at this intersection. When residents complained regarding the lack of parking, I worked to put in place a Residents-Only Parking restriction, as well as ensuring that each household subjected to the restriction received a Visitor Parking Pass. I worked to secure ANC grant funds for the Marion Street Garden, the community garden at Bread for the City and for the Dog Exercise Area at Bundy Field. These are just a few examples of what I have done to carry out my role as ANC Commissioner.
4.What do you see as the biggest issue in 6E that needs addressing?
Economic Development and Crime.
5.What do you think is 6E’s greatest strength and largest weakness?
I believe Shaw’s greatest strength is the racial and social/economic diversity of its residents.
Another of Shaw’s greatest strengths is its location. Shaw is centrally located, on two Metro lines, with the Convention Center and the Howard Theater in our midst, and the downtown area, Chinatown, Howard University, and the U Street Corridor nearby. These characteristics make Shaw a very desirable place to live, work and play.
I believe one of the greatest weaknesses with respect to ANC 6E is that more residents are not involved with the ANC. Being an ANC Commissioner is sometimes referred to as holding an elected volunteer position. Individual commissioners are unpaid, and other than a meeting note taker, we do not have staff to assist us in carrying out our duties. Our ANC is relatively small compared to other neighboring commissions. There are four individual Commissioners and only three of us do work with respect to the community outside of attending public meetings. Commissioners Padro, Nigro and myself all lead busy lives and hold full time jobs (in my case I am a proprietor of my own business), and we cannot do everything we would like to do move the community forward, but we could do more if we received help from the public. Our ANC has standing committees that allow citizens to become more involved in issues impacting the community. These include Alcoholic Beverage Regulations; Public Safety; Planning Transportation and Zoning; Economic Development and Housing; and Communications. Much to our disappointment, only the Communications committee, which helps us produce our newsletter, has had citizens volunteer to serve. If more citizens were involved, our ANC could do more and would carry more influence with the powers that be at the Wilson Building and with officials throughout the DC Government.
The ANC has received a lot of criticism from a very vocal critic, Martin Moulton, for not filing more Community Impact Statements. However, what Mr. Moulton has not disclosed is that he was personally asked to join our Public Safety Committee to help the Commission do exactly what he claimed he wanted the Commission to do, and to help the Commission to address other issues related to crime. For reason known only to him, he chose not to. You can draw your own conclusions as to why.
Another weakness is that there are personalities in the community who are divisive, polarizing and antagonistic towards anyone who does not fall in line with their personal/political agenda. These individuals seem to relish attacking people as opposed to finding common ground and consensus. Such individuals are not conducive to a diverse community working together for the common good of the community.
6.How do you view the sometimes contentious issue of churches vs. residents?
The contention between the residents and churches usually arises from issues relating to parking and vacant properties. I believe the City should strictly enforce the parking regulations and should never allow parishioners’ cars to block residents’ vehicles. Additionally, I believe the City should do everything within its power to force blighted property owners to repair or sell such properties.
7.How do you feel about the Convention Center in terms of its impacts on the neighborhood? What could / should be done with that space?
I believe the close proximity of the Convention Center to the Shaw community is a benefit and an asset. But parking and traffic issues do pose challenges. I also believe the City should do more to support the economic viability of the businesses at and adjacent to the Convention Center.
8.There are a lot of projects in the pipeline for 6E. What will you be looking for from developers who want to build here?
I believe any developer who is seeking a benefit from the public, such as zoning relief or tax abatement, if at all possible, should confer a benefit to the community, as well. For example, when Roadside Development, the developer of CityMarket at O, was negotiating its PUD, they donated funds to help finance the new soccer field at Bundy Field, among other projects.
Additionally, when I met with the Community Three Developers, who will be building a 21-unit condo building at 435 R Street, NW, and a number of prospective developers of Parcel 42, I insisted that they all would offer at least a portion of their units as affordable housing, and that they would commit to give priority to Shaw residents with respect to hiring for their respective projects. I’d like to make it clear that affordable housing is not the same as subsidized housing.
9.What do you feel the city should be doing to support the neighborhood and its residents? Is it doing enough, too much, too little?
I believe the City government should be responsive and available to address residents’ quality of life issues. As an ANC Commissioner, I have worked to ensure that this happens. Examples of this are: the meeting with Councilmember Wells, the MPD and the residents of Warner Street, NW to address the crime issues which were occurring on Warner Street; the meeting with officials of the DC Department of Transportation and the residents who live north of Rhode Island Avenue to address traffic issues and the aesthetics of their sidewalks; and the public meeting I convened regarding the possible establishment of medical marijuana dispensaries in my Single Member District so the community could get their questions answered.
10.Is there anything else you would like to tell the voters?
Since I became an ANC Commissioner, I have received hundreds of calls and emails from constituents, proprietors, and developers seeking my assistance. The issues I have dealt with have ranged from zoning, traffic, and liquor licenses, to crime and abandoned properties. I have even been asked to mediate a conflict between neighbors. I was not able to solve every issue that has been presented to me, but it was not due to a lack of trying. I truly appreciate the support that my constituents have given me and I do not take it for granted. I humbly ask for your continued support and vote on November 6, to help me Keep Moving Shaw Forward.