Bob: It will be 12 years in March, the entire time I've lived in the Washington area.
Cara: Three years in February.
SWTLQTC: Why did you decide to run for office?
Bob: I felt at the time that the District, and Southwest in particular, was entering an exciting period of continual improvement and growth that I wanted to be a part of, and try to influence in a positive way.
Cara: Commissioner Sobelsohn asked me to consider it. I’d been on the ABC Committee as his representative, so he knew I was willing to contribute. But more than that, I love this neighborhood. We lived in Arlington when I was a little girl, and we used to come to the Flagship restaurant for brunch on Sundays. I remember telling my mother when I was about 10 that I wanted to live here. I’ve been lucky enough to do it.
SWTLQTC: What neighborhood issues would you like to tackle during your first term?
Bob: Residents of SMD 6D01, the so-called Near Southwest, are in a Bermuda Triangle of development defined by Fourth Street, L'Enfant Promenade/10th Street, and the Southwest waterfront. Our only boundary not under development, in fact, is an 8-lane freeway. Trying to represent the needs of residents in this rapidly-changing environment are critical, whether it's traffic, parking, or a host of other issues. The rumors and media reports about moving Southwest into Ward 8 need to be addressed head-on, and residents' viewpoints considered. There are chronic problems facing Jefferson and Amidon-Bowen Schools that I'm not certain can be turned around -but I will do my best to be an active part of the process that is at least trying. We have a rare grouping of mid-century religious architecture that I also feel is endangered, and Town Center West Park, the duck pond as many people know it, is literally crumbling in front of our eyes. In the longer term, I'm also concerned with the threat of overhead streetcar wires appearing on Seventh Street one of these days, and have yet to be convinced on the economics of a streetcar system.
Cara: My SMD has many elderly people and many people with disabilities. I’d really like to see our sidewalks made safer. So much of the street lighting concentrates just on the areas where the cars are driving. We need better lighting, and I’d prefer something tightly focused on the sidewalks so that it doesn’t become an issue for the homeowners, more even sidewalks so that people on canes or in wheelchairs feel safe, and I’d love to see some beat or bicycle cops patrol in the evenings.
Bob: We should try to be the reasoned voice of the majority of residents, and not just a mouthpiece for our most strident neighbors. I also want to strike a balance between homeowners and renters, who can often have very different views on a subject.
Cara: We’re supposed to fight for the residents – all the residents – we currently have. I don’t want to see my neighbors priced out because the area is suddenly chic. A neighborhood without businesses won’t thrive either. It’s a balancing act. We also need to be able to get things done, like the traffic study the current commissioners have spent years pushing for. They’ve finally, just this past meeting, gotten DDOT to promise one. Traffic patterns at all times of day and all the various layers – pedestrian, bicycle, car, public transportation, major streets, neighborhood streets, major events – need to be understood. Businesses can’t succeed without easy access, but we also can’t have accidents like the ones at 4th Street, SW and M Street, SW become part of the fabric of the neighborhood.
Bob: Overall, I think we have a home run with some of the most talented developers in the country involved. I'm not certain it's the right place to put public housing - the lack of a walkable supermarket, drug store, or Metro station seemed to make it uniquely ill-suited for a lower-income resident.
Cara: If Bing Thom really is going to be the main architect, I think it’s terrific. His work for Arena Stage was striking, and I like the idea of continuity of design throughout the neighborhood. There’s a clinic in my SMD, right next to Randall School. I want it to stay, if not there, then nearby. That clinic has been a godsend for so many of my constituents – including me. Beyond that, I really need to see all the plans and ideas from the new owners. I think the public art aspect is wonderful, and I respect Commissioner Sobelsohn for getting it.
Bob: I appreciate that question, as many people are surprised to learn that for those of us along Seventh Street, L'Enfant Promenade is just as convenient as Fourth Street. Or could be. Yet we are virtually blockaded from the Metro and the Promenade with pedestrian-hostile architecture that has included the closing of the southern walkway around the HUD building and the enclosure of what is now called Constitution Square in just the past two years. We have the incredible Mandarin Oriental hotel right beside us but "you can't get there from here" due to the tangle of streets and walkways. The only thing I can see in the short term to make it better would be some sort of wind-breaking enclosure along the freeway overpass, it can be a miserable walk in bad weather. It would be fantastic if a redeveloped L'Enfant Promenade could include a greenhouse-style entrance way out onto Seventh Street to entice and welcome shoppers into that complex, but I don't see the Feds ever allowing such an amenity.
Cara: There’s a foot tunnel commuters use to get to Federal Center SW and its environs which is junky and scary; it and the pathway leading to it need to be cleaned up and made more appealing – widened would be nice, policed would be even better. The sandwich shops and other businesses should be encouraged to stay open later, many of them close mid-afternoon, for the residents to pick up something on their way home from the office or just to have a place to go in the evening occasionally. We need some of the smaller amenities. I already use the dry cleaner near NASA because they do great work and are open on Saturdays. So many of the little shops aren’t open on the weekend at all – even the Starbucks at the Federal Center SW metro stop isn’t open on Sundays.
Bob: I think the proposal is little more than quaint as long as we have pedestrians being killed at Fourth and M Streets and the MPD unwilling to ticket speeders and red light-runners blatantly running through our streets and intersections. The intersection of G and Seventh Street is another bad one, with G Street changing from one-way eastbound to two-way "just because" and so many Maryland commuters using it as an I-395 bypass. I just don't have the confidence in DDOT or MPD's moving violations enforcement to feel the Complete Streets concept will work for us.
Cara: Local ones. I love the idea of both the Randall School development and the renovation of the Southwest Waterfront. But if all we end up with is a bunch of national chain stores or hotels, I think we lose something crucial. I was on the bus in Ward 8 a week or two ago and saw a restaurant that had “Black owned and Family run” on its sign. I want businesses like that in my neighborhood, ones with ties to DC. If there’s going to be an ice cream parlor (I bring this up because the PN Hoffman representative kept using “getting an ice cream cone” as his example of someone coming to the Southwest Waterfront), I want to see Gifford’s rather than Baskin Robbins. We don’t need another Starbucks – there are five within half a mile of me - but bringing in Sidamo Coffee and Tea, for instance, would be something unique and local.
Bob: David Catania. Anyone who can be white, gay, and a closet Republican in a city that is majority African-American, straight, and Democratic and win at-large elections has earned my respect.
Cara: Sharon Pratt Kelly. She saw problems with the city and ran for Mayor to combat them. I also think Tommy Wells does a good job of listening to the people he serves.