ONE COMMUNITY, ONE VOICE

Key Policy Matters

PUBLIC HEALTH

  • Fight against COVID-19 and support neighbors in need

RACIAL AND SOCIAL JUSTICE

  • Work together to combat racism in our community, city, and nation

What is your position on police reform?

Tragedy should not be a political weapon. In the past year, homicides and domestic violence have increased. Rather than adhering to calls to defund police, I believe it is important to support violence prevention through collaborative community engagement. As Councilmember White has said, there is a need for violence-interrupting programs. We have too many residents affected by, and losing their lives to, violence. Violence is part of a larger system that has inequities of access: access to education, housing, healthcare, and environmental and criminal justice. Police reform is also needed to enable police to keep minority communities safe. We can start with police training to address racial biases and hold police officers accountable in a transparent way. The lack of accountability is reflected in statistics. Police are convicted or incarcerated at about half the rate at which members of the public are. Not defunding the police, however, does not mean there does not exist a real need to secure additional funds for agencies better equipped to focus on community needs like mental health, domestic abuse, addiction or homelessness.

HOUSING

  • Address housing insecurity and welcome new neighbors

To meet the District's housing needs, Mayor Bowser has proposed building 36,000 additional housing units in the District by 2025, 12,000 of which would be affordable to people making 60% or less of the Area Median Income. Do you support this initiative, and if so, what role do you think your ANC could play in addressing Greater Greater Washington ANC Candidate Endorsements – 2020 12 housing affordability challenges? How and where can your neighborhood contribute its fair share of the housing our growing city needs?

As ANC, addressing both housing insecurity and welcoming new neighbors is critical. It is important to focus on programs that both encourage home ownership and provide rental assistance. Balance is needed to help a community grow and develop. As a result, providing affordable housing throughout the District is a shared responsibility and should not be concentrated in any one neighborhood. Using the District’s Office of Planning data to look at affordable housing as a share of total housing within ANC 8A, I found it is 25 percent. Affordable housing as a share of total housing within ANC 2D, 3D and 3C is nearly zero percent. While this data is admittedly dated (it is from 2018), it clearly shows the need to improve how housing insecurity is addressed throughout the District. In my SMD, Maple View Flats (2228 Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue SE) is a 114-unit, five-story affordable property completed in 2019. The units are restricted to households earning up to 60% of AMI. A six-story, 68,000 square-foot multi-use building is planned at 2255 Martin Luther King Jr Avenue SE. As I understand, there will be 71 residential units. Fourteen (14) units are planned to be market-rate, and the remainder are to be for households earning up to 60% of AMI. Finally, as the District works to meet its housing needs, it is also important to hold developers accountable. I remember when the Peebles Corporation tried to negotiate an agreement with the District government to build required affordable units for its planned Fifth and Eye hotel off-site. The development team pitched, unsuccessfully, a plan to build the project’s affordable units in a seven-story building at 2100 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue. Transparency, accountability and shared responsibility are key when addressing our city’s housing needs.

ENVIRONMENT

  • Continue efforts to reduce waste and clean up the Anacostia River

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

  • Redevelop the right way + support entrepreneurs and small businesses

Many retail and restaurant spaces are being threatened by COVID-19. What would you advocate to help support small and medium businesses in your community?

While this virus continues to affect us all, it is not an equal opportunity offender. The CDC recently released new nationwide data showing that 30 percent of COVID-19 patients are African American, even though African Americans make up around 13 percent of the population. It is of critical importance to provide personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies to our local businesses as well as, when available, distribute COVID-19 vaccines free of charge to all residents. There are additional factors, however, that will determine the success of retail and restaurant spaces in Anacostia. With and without COVID-19, one of the fundamental challenges businesses East of the River face is the area’s low aggregate income. To address our community’s low aggregate income, we must advocate for mixed-income residential developments that are designed with a community perspective. Concentrated poverty perpetuates a cycle of neighborhood disinvestment and limited access to amenities and services. Positive outcomes for our small and medium businesses are more likely when income diversity is welcomed. Another key challenge is access to information. Just take a look at the District’s Small Business Microgrants program, launched in response to COVID-19. Ward 8 had the lowest number of recipients as a percentage of total grants issued – only four percent. And yet, of those applications submitted, 95 percent all applications were approved. As ANC, I will work to address the disconnect with our neighborhood’s ability to connect individual and business needs to existing services and opportunities.

How will you continue to support the MLK Gateway development so it serves the community's needs? Do you support the current plan?

The first phase of the MLK Gateway will restore and incorporate the façades of four historic single-story commercial storefronts along Good Hope Road SE. In July, a new application was filed with the Historic Preservation Office for MLK Gateway II. I support a project that as developer Bo Menkiti has said will drive neighborhood impact and “enhance historic Anacostia with neighborhood offerings that support community engagement and economic vitality.” It is exciting to learn that the newest tenant, Capital One Café, will provide free confidential one-on-one Money Coaching sessions and Money Workshops to better enable residents to achieve their financial goals. ANC 8A has also voted to conditionally support the second phase of MLK Gateway, so long as the developer continues to engage ANC, the Historic Anacostia Preservation Society, and our residents. In line with current 8A06 Commissioner Jones, I support a development project that is respectful of our historic district while bringing a much-needed upgrade to the community. While information is shared with the ANC, more information should also be proactively shared with our residents. The MLK Gateway project website, for example, references a blog and Facebook page for project updates; while the blog has not been updated since 2018, the Facebook page does not exist. The construction site is also bare without sufficient images or information about what residents and passersby can expect. There is a community benefits agreement in place and as ANC I will work to ensure information is shared to highlight how the project’s focus is reflective of what our SMD community members want.

COMMUNICATION AND TRANSPARENCY

During the pandemic, ANC meetings have moved online. Do you think that has been a plus or minus for inclusion, accessibility, and transparency? What would you like to see ANCs do moving forward?

COVID-19 has provided an opportunity to rethink online meetings. While online meetings lack many benefits of an in-person ANC meeting (e.g. face-to-face conversations, public interactions leading to questions and new ideas), they also provide an opportunity for greater attendance and information sharing. Without the need to leave home or take off from work early to make it to an in-person meeting, more residents can play an active role on issues and decisions affecting their neighborhoods. While different, virtual meetings still afford great opportunities for collaboration. Chat functions provide for real-time feedback and follow-up emails can prove less intimidating than a face-to-face encounter. That being said, inclusion, accessibility and transparency can be lost when a resident lacks the appropriate technology or know-how to participate in an online meeting. A few solutions to ensure this does not happen is to adopt a “hybrid” approach when safe to do so, which would provide for both in-person and virtual attendance, as well as options to both call in and use video conferencing equipment. Providing residents readouts in the form of emails, web content and paper flyers will also go a long way in promoting community involvement and collaboration.

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION

  • Improve safety for people walking, bicycling, and using public transport

If there were a way to improve bus service or safety for people walking or bicycling in your neighborhood, but it required removing some on-street parking, how would you approach the situation? Give a specific example if possible.

The safety of pedestrians and cyclists is of critical importance to every neighborhood. Reliable, high-quality bus transit across the District is also key. In 8A06, Martin Luther King Jr. Ave SE is a major street for public and private transit. Even amid the pandemic and the decreased numbers of individuals traveling to and from work, it remains a busy street. A number of factors play into this, including high bus ridership as well as the need to travel across the river for such basic services as a grocery store. Some parking lanes along Martin Luther King Jr. Ave SE are now turning into bus-only lanes. While spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is a long overdue move to prioritize public transit east of the river.

Whether you agree with Councilmember White or not on the addition of bike lanes in Ward 8, how would you approach pedestrian and bicyclist safety in Ward 8?

In 2019, half of the traffic fatalities in the District happened in Ward 8. Whether a more or less congested street, high-visibility crosswalk markings, better signage, pedestrian refuge islands, and slower driving can save lives. Pedestrian and bicyclist safety should never be compromised to accommodate unsafe drivers or guaranteed parking. In Ward 8, the latter can be addressed by working with the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) to implement residential permit parking (RPP) programs so that those residents that use a car and need parking can participate. Improving public transit routes, providing reliable transportation alternatives, and increasing access to grocery stores as well as other amenities within our ward would also help decrease the need for more parking. It is disappointing that DDOT removed newly-built, protected bike lanes on Alabama Ave SE rather than work alongside Ward 8 ANCs to make the case for these safety improvements. It is encouraging to learn that the D.C. Council passed unanimous legislation in September to accelerate improvements to bike and pedestrian infrastructure, expand the city’s automated traffic enforcement program, and boost traffic safety education.

STRONGER, TOGETHER

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Kristina "K" Leszczak

- FOR ANC8A06-

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              Elections are November 3rd!