After Harry Thomas resigned from his esteemed Council seat, his office received 350 calls from constituents reached his office with no one to answer questions. Although this is not the first council seat vacancy in recent history, it occurred in light of serious ethics violations and possible prison time for Mr. Thomas. However, Council Chairman Kwame Brown and Ronnie Edwards, chairman of ANC 5C11, did not want to talk politics on Tuesday night. In this special ANC 5C meeting at Community Academy Public Charter School, residents heard straight from the Chairman’s mouth about ‘where we are now and where we are going.’
Ward 5 includes the neighborhoods of Trinidad, Riggs Park, Langdon Park, Brentwood, Brookland and Edgewood, all in Northeast DC. This ward is no stranger to brewing controversy including the Stadium strip club and the installment of medical marijuana dispensaries in the works. Let’s not forget to mention the development of condos that threaten to push longtime residents into Maryland.
Not all is lost though. The construction of a middle school, Dunbar High School, and future infrastructure projects are in Ward 5’s future. The Council will hold an economic development roundtable to include residents and members of the business community in early February. Residents still have a lot to be concerned about. An academic tracking system for DCPS students in the 4th to 9th grade does not go into effect until 2013, leaving many to wonder what is to happen to students going into high school much sooner. Even though there are 30 infrastructure projects in the works, whether that translates into more employment opportunities for Ward 5 residents remains to be seen. As one testimony revealed, applicants from neighborhoods surrounding the Dunbar High School renovation project did not receive calls back. Local business owners could lose commercial space in parts of Rhode Island Ave. and Mt. Rainer to outside contractors.
Chairman Brown was responsive to constituents’ concerns and a number of his answers always came back to strengthening education in the District. He spoke of parity many times, expressing his frustration that not all schools in the public school system were top tier. As of right now, Brown is proposing a bill that would require every DCPS student to take the SAT or ACT and apply to at least one post – secondary institution. He hoped that the future middle school in Ward 5 would include ‘arts and world language focus and a good IB program’ the likes of Alice Deal Middle School, west of Rock Creek Park. Even though a couple residents challenged the notion that college is for all children and questioned the specifics of the legislation, Chairman Brown’s responses garnered applause most of the time.
A special election to fill Thomas’ seat is only 114 days away. Sources say that there are numerous candidates vying for the position. Until then, residents have four at-large council members who are obligated to address their concerns among them former Ward 5 Councilman Vincent Orange. Chairman Brown even pledged to attend as many ANC meetings as possible. This may prove especially important as the Council works on the 2013 budget and decide to do with what is left of Ward 5’s constituent services fund.