Monday, March 31, 2008

Great Loss for DC

Local activist, Mike Shor, died on Saturday of a massive stroke while vacationing in New Mexico. Not only was he a fighter for progressive causes through DC for Democracy, the Ward 3 Democrats, and DC for Obama, but for most of my life he was my very dear friend and mentor. It was just a few weeks ago that Mike stood with me in the freezing cold at the Tenleytown Metro Station doing morning visibility for my DC Council campaign. He held a meet-and-greet for me a few months ago and was also going to be my Ward 3 campaign coordinator.

Mike Shore Picture

Mike’s impact, however, reached beyond any political cause. He was one of the most giving, honest and caring people I have ever known. I come from a small family, and so did he. When I was young our families were so close that they essentially merged. For as far back as I can remember, we have spent nearly every Christmas Eve and Thanksgiving together. During those holidays, Mike and I always separated from our small group of friends and family for one on-on-one conversation in which we attempted to solve the world's problems. In those conversations, Mike's passion for service became part of who I am, as it also became a part of the countless numbers of people with whom Mike worked side by side in his activism. That will be his great, ongoing contribution to our community. Each of us will continue to do his work because of the passion he gave us.

Mike dedicated his life to making life better for those who were less fortunate. It was his commitment that gave many of us hope that we will some day cure DC of poverty, illiteracy, class divisions and other pressing social problems.

Mike leaves behind his partner, Irmgard Hunt, as well as his daughter Sarah, grandson Gus, and sister Rachel.

If you would like to show your appreciation to celebrate Mike’s life, please send contributions to DC for Democracy with a note in remembrance of Mike Shor to the following address:

DC for Democracy PAC
P.O. Box 65691
Washington, DC 20035-5691

If you would like to send a card or gift to Mike's family, please mail to the following address:

Mike Shor c/o Susan Clampitt
13 9th Street, SE
Washington, DC 20003

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Open Primaries for DC

Democracy in the District should not be a question. Sadly, it still is. Though DC has been denied full and appropriate representation in the federal government for 218 years, the District has enjoyed increasing degrees of local democracy for thirty-five years. Yet, remnants of a broken system remain denying 17% of District residents the right to vote in primary elections. This is because DC law forbids independents from participating in primary elections and forbids parties from determining who can vote in their primary elections. This unconstitutional measure must be overturned and that is why I applaud the efforts of Councilmember Catania (At Large) for his introduction of the Open Primary Act of 2008.

Without question, it is the prerogative of the parties to determine how their District residents will select their respective nominees, but DC government must not make this choice for them. I believe open primaries provide the best method for allowing all District residents to select the competing candidates for the general election. Regardless of one’s political affiliation, we can all agree that this year’s presidential candidates are among the most impressive in years, and many analysts agree that independents have been a key factor in producing such an excellent selection.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Reform Will Add 10,000 Additional Police Hours

Fighting crime and creating a safe environment for residents is a top priority for any DC official. So where was the outrage when DC’s murder rate went way up in 2007?

Over the past year, I spent countless hours speaking with the police, community leaders and members of DC government lobbying solutions to help make DC’s streets safer. This includes reforming our arrest booking system, otherwise known as “papering.”

What most people don’t know is that anytime an MPD officer makes an arrest, s/he must spend hours filling out paperwork and then appear in federal court first thing the next morning to present it to a magistrate. This is because DC has no court system of its own or an independently elected Attorney General and cannot have these arrests processed as quickly as other states. The result is that too many criminals are released since the police do not have the time to uphold this costly bureaucracy. This system costs DC government $5 million annually in overtime and puts the public at risk. With such a system is it any wonder that crime is going up?

The best way to fight and deter crime is to get more officers out from behind their desks and onto the streets. That is why I lobbied for the solutions that I did and as a result of those efforts and the efforts of Councilmember Tommy Wells, we now have a task force that is working to reverse this faulty system. I can only hope that soon we will have a government that lets cops do what they are supposed to do – patrol the streets to keep us safe.

Republican Carol Schwartz has been in office since 1974, and she should know better than anyone that when crime goes up, the entire District suffers. But instead of working overtime to lobby and find new ways to support our police officers, she has been content to let a broken system continue.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Reward and Retain High-Performing DC Teachers

School Chancellor Michelle Rhee and Mayor Adrian Fenty are on the right track in improving school maintenance and construction, reducing bureaucratic bloat, and helping students raise their academic achievement. But our schools remain in crisis, in part because longtime opponents of reform continue to block innovative ideas and bold thinking.

Republican Councilmember Carol Schwartz is one such stubborn obstacle to change. I commend Mrs. Schwartz for her 34 years on the school board and DC Council, but her record shows she has contributed little beyond an unwavering opposition to innovation and new ideas. She is either too conservative or too complacent to fight for the changes we need to improve our schools.

Great schools are impossible without great teachers, and one of DC's challenges is retaining high-performing educators in our classrooms. The District has the highest teacher turnover rate in the region, losing talented teachers to Maryland and Virginia every year. Our Teacher Brain Drain deprives DC's kids of the best and brightest, the mentors they need to thrive.

That is why I will work with Chancellor Rhee to create a $2 million High Performing Teacher Fund to reward our best educators with annual bonuses for extraordinary accomplishments and dedication. We can keep these great teachers working for DC children by rewarding excellence and providing incentives for professional growth -- just as the most successful companies do in the private sector. We demand that educators be professionals, and we should reward them as such.

It's time to end the Teacher Brain Drain. With innovative ideas and strong leadership, we can overcome the challenges that face us and make Washington the world class city it can be.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Schwartz’s Do-Nothing Conservatism No Longer Works for DC

This election year offers voters a chance to choose between the same stale options and constructive, innovative change. Just as the historic candidacies of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are showing a new direction for our nation, the District also needs new leadership with new ideas and a commitment to change.

Mayor Adrian Fenty, Councilmembers Tommy Wells and Mary Cheh, and School Chancellor Michelle Rhee have started that process. But many of their most inventive ideas face a wall of resistance from entrenched forces that oppose all change. Republican Councilmember Carol Schwartz has made her career out of stubbornly defending failed policies for more than 34 years.

I commend Ms. Schwartz for her long service in DC government, but over three decades in public office she has become too either complacent or too stuck in the politics of the past to fight for the changes we need. Her do-nothing ideology led her to oppose our smoke-free restaurant law, oppose Mayor Fenty's education reforms, and oppose equal marriage rights for same sex couples. The only thing she seems to be for is more of the same.

DC deserves better. We can end the Teacher Brain Drain by setting aside $2 million to reward and retain top-performing educators in DC schools, and by creating a fund to support teachers who want to live and work in our city. We can fight crime by implementing my 10,000 Hour Plan, a simple bureaucratic fix that will free up 10,000 additional police hours each year at little or no cost. We need an elected attorney general to aggressively prosecute crimes that occur, and be answerable to the public. A $1 million fund will keep police officers living and working in the city they serve and protect. And we can defend our middle class by creating a public-private partnership to help any resident at risk of losing his or her home because of a job loss or other life-changing event.

Our environment demands aggressive protection. We should emulate world capitals like London and create a downtown congestion zone. This innovation would reduce the number of cars and SUVs from the suburbs that foul our air, relieve gridlock, and provide more funding for mass transit, bike lines, and trails. We should offer financial incentives to encourage residents and taxi fleets to switch to hybrid vehicles, and to convert the city's entire non-emergency fleet to low-emission vehicles within five years.

Instead of sitting idly by while millions of dollars are stolen by corrupt city employees, we need a council member who will ask the tough questions and hold bureaucrats responsible for honest, competent, and courteous service to the public. With proper oversight, we can ensure that every office of the DC government works for the people.

Simply put, DC residents deserve better.

For the next three weeks, I will be away from Washington, DC fulfilling my annual commitment as an officer in the US Naval Reserves. As my responsibilities allow, I will stay connected by elaborating through entries to this blog on my proposals for change.

I'll be back on the campaign trail later this month, and I look forward to a spirited debate about how we can work together to build on our successes and overcome our daunting challenges. Together, we will make Washington the world class city it can be.