From the Editor: Every year, Petworth News covers the local elections that impact our area. This year is no different, as we have At-Large and Chair positions up for election, with the primary being June 19th. To help voters know as much as possible, Petworth News is offering brief interviews with Democrat candidates Anita Bonds, Marcus Goodwin and Jeremiah Lowery, published in random order. (Other parties will be profiled near the general election.) We are not endorsing any candidate as Petworth News remains neutral in order to provide objective news and information so readers can be informed. Writer Robinson Woodward-Burns spoke with each candidate. Here's the first interview...
Anita Bonds, candidate and incumbent, At-Large DC Council
Robinson Woodward-Burns: Tell me a little bit about your background and why you are running
Anita Bonds: I am an almost lifetime DC resident, a ward 7 native and graduate of public school and the UC Berkeley, and came back to DC to start a family and got involved first with the tenant’s association, and from that I got involved in the political arena. From there I ended up working in local government and left government a few times to do other things. I consider myself a home-grown girl – my roots are here in the District of Columbia – and I care deeply about the community and that is one of the main motivators for seeking office.
In brief, what are your legislative priorities?
I am the Chair of the Housing and Neighborhood Revitalization Committee, so my future on the Council is tied primarily working on affordable housing, public safety, and education. I’m interested in legislative activities to improve quality of life. We’re at an exciting chapter in our growth and development, though ten years ago people could not have imagined the cost of living would be as extreme as it is, and this presents challenges for retirees, and for new, young workers. This is the cycle in any city, and I just want the cycle of growth and development to be sustainable, and for the city to be a home for everyone who is trying to live here.
How do you think the council should address affordable housing needs?
We need to substantially improve the number and quality of housing units that we have, and pass legislation to look out for people of all income levels. When we talk about housing affordability, we have to talk about not only the low income community, but also the workforce community too, including the service industry, bus drivers, teachers, police and firefighters. We can include funds in the local budget to support home purchases for instance. For low income residents, we don't have enough housing to support the low income residents. When you hear tenants groups are concerned, they’re worried that even rent-controlled units are becoming more costly. Naturally affordable housing constructed after 1970s rent control regulation needs to be refurbished, up-to-date, and well-preserved. I am proud to have done some things that are global to DC, for instance making sure landlords cannot charge more than a 5% or $25 late fee.
What is your opinion of "pop-backs"? (Whereby homeowners or developers are extending the rear portion of homes by ten feet or more.)
I live in Bloomingdale and we are going through that, so I am aware that this is an issue. I know there are citizens that are concerned that this changes the character of community, but also as more residents come into the city, we must try to handle this increased need for density. We will likely see more of this, but I hope to retain the character of the community.
How would you define gentrification? Do you believe Ward 4 and in particular, the Petworth, Brightwood and Shepherd Park neighborhoods, are experiencing gentrification? If so, what is the impact of this?
Gentrification is usually treated as a very bad word because it means displacement of long-term residents by newcomers, and so leaves a bad taste in folks’ mouths, but gentrification comes in different doses. In Petworth, a banker can knock on enough doors and build three or four houses and build six to ten new units. But particularly in our older African American communities, individuals are leaving properties to heirs who are doing a quick sale and moving on. I think that in Petworth this is happening, and I know is happening in my neighborhood. When you live in the inner city, these are some of the things that happen.
What are your priorities for transportation issues in DC?
I am very interested in an approach started a few years ago to make neighborhoods walkable and livable, but this means we need amenities. I'm lucky – in my neighborhood we have three or four supermarket options, but my mom in Ward 7 doesn’t have that. I find that as neighborhoods expand and more attention is given to housing and new people move in, we begin to get more options, including transportation options. It's healthy for us to have various modes of transportation, especially in parts of Wards 5, 7, and 8, and even in some of 4. If you're ten to twelve blocks from the subway, it's not serviceable for you. We need to make sure all of our neighborhoods are walkable so people have what they need.
What are your thoughts on dockless bikes and scooters?
I'm a driver, but I've seen a few of the scooters and they come out of nowhere on the sidewalk, so I think that all moving vehicles, including scooters and bikes, ought to have an identifying tag. I've gotten complaints from seniors who have been knocked down, so we need to be considerate of their needs on our small sidewalks. One of my pet peeves is our for-hire vehicle – we have 125,000 of them in the city every day, and they’re taking up road space and backing up rush hour traffic.
What are your priorities for environmental issues in DC?
I’m waiting for the Anacostia to be cleaned. I can remember when I used to be able to stick my foot in the Anacostia, but we cannot do that quite yet. We need to also consider how to contain and collect plastics. One option is a tax on bottles, which can also offer summer employment for our young people.
Any additional thoughts you'd like to share?
In earnest I am interested in working with communities throughout DC, and am proud of DC's neighborhoods. I know it's not easy for new people to move into communities, and not easy for long term residents who feel as if they’re not respected. If we could have a neighborhood or block club, we could be more welcoming and accessible to each other. We've always been a somewhat Southern town and I'd like to keep it that way.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.