During the final Ward 6 Democrats/Hill Rag pre-primary non-partisan debate among the candidates for the Ward 6 council seat (which took place Tuesday, June 5), we ran out of time before we ran out of questions. The candidates graciously agreed to respond in writing to those we didn't have time to ask in person. Below are Democrat Charles Allen's answers:
Q: Do you support the recent TOPA changes for single family homes that reduced notifications and eliminated the ability to assign tenant's right to purchase to a third party?
A: I voted to make it easier for owners of single-family homes, including long-time residents, to use their homes. Single-family home owners feared the old TOPA rules so much that they took homes off the long-term market and converted to short-term rentals like AirBnB, hurting affordability and access to stable housing for renters. The bill doesn’t affect tenants in multi-unit buildings, and requires additional notice to tenants of single-family homes when owners intend to sell.
Q: Do you support legislatively exempting the affordable 595 units of housing owned by the United House of Prayer from residential property tax?
A: As Ward 6 Councilmember, I am proud to have helped lead the District in the creation of new affordable housing. Since I was elected, Ward 6 has created 1,500 new affordable homes and has another 2,100 on the way. Many of these are multi-bedroom and reserved for deep affordability. I’ve demonstrated I can lead and deliver on affordable housing for all our neighbors, and will always consider appropriate tools to do even more.
Q: How can we help advise Build First residents that may not financially qualify for available units?
A: Build First is a concept I have championed for how the DC Housing Authority should approach any renovation of public housing. Rather than displacing neighbors and entire communities, Build First means new housing construction is phased and residents remain in their community during construction. I’ve brought the Council, Mayor, and communities into alignment with this better approach and will work with neighbors on transparency, income qualifications, unit sizes, and a public planning process.
Q: How can neighborhoods be protected from "pop up" construction, which threatens neighbors with lax DCRA code enforcement during construction?
A: I co-introduced legislation to reform DCRA and improve Code enforcement. For any project not allowed by current zoning regulations, the ANC, BZA, and DCRA can weigh in. I work closely with ANCs to ensure projects are reviewed properly and regulations are enforced. While the Council cannot directly amend zoning regulations, but residents and the Council will soon have an opportunity to make important and needed changes through the Comprehensive Plan, which greatly impacts zoning regulations.
Q: How can we make Early Childcare more affordable for low income and working families?
A: I strongly believe that high quality early childcare can be a key component of closing the academic achievement gap we see in our schools, and is a necessity for working families. I am a co-sponsor and voted for the Birth-To-Three For All Act, now under consideration by the Council, to expand and improve access to quality, affordable childcare in the District by increasing the reimbursement rate for childcare providers and raising salaries for childcare workers.
Q: What will you do to address residency enrollment fraud in schools?
A: I believe residency fraud has been a longstanding problem at many Ward 6 schools and we need a better approach to verifying residency at the time of enrollment. When fraud is reported, we need to ensure the District has the resources needed to investigate and pursue these cases. I have recommended reforms at OSSE and as Chair of the Judiciary Committee, I added a new attorney for residency fraud investigation at the Attorney General’s office.
Q: Does DCPS need further legislative reform?
A: Yes, more work is needed to ensure every child in DC has a great neighborhood school, and that includes both legislation and strong oversight by the Council. I co-introduced the Education Research Advisory Board and Collaborative Establishment Amendment Act to create a research collaborative to audit school data and conduct long-term education research. The Board will provide Council with much-needed independent analysis of DC’s educational achievements and spending to help guide further legislative reforms.
Q: What steps should DCPS take to address the achievement gap between African American and white students?
A: I have been a strong advocate for increased funding for at-risk students and resources for schools to improve the supports available to students in need. Efforts like my Books From Birth program work to prevent the achievement gap by closing the word gap early on with a focus on family literacy. A well-rounded curriculum helps level the playing field for at-risk students and high-quality out-of-school time programming is another important way to support student achievement.
Q: Should DC be a sanctuary city?
A: Yes. I strongly support Mayor Muriel Bowser’s reaffirmation of the District as a Sanctuary City, ensuring DC remains a place where all are welcome and can live their lives without fear of deportation. I’ve also led the Council’s action to provide undocumented neighbors the important pro-bono legal representation they may need.
Q: What are the three most effective reforms that DC can make to its juvenile justice system?
- Expand court diversion programming like ACE at DHS and restorative justice mediation at the Office of the Attorney General, which I stood up last year.
- Full funding and implementation of the Youth Rehabilitation Amendment Act that I led through the Council, the most significant juvenile justice reforms since 1985.
- Develop a strategic plan for serving girls in the system, a growing percentage of involved juveniles who are more likely to be involved for non-violent offenses.
Q: How will you ensure that the NEAR Act is fully implemented?
A: The NEAR Act represents a public health-based approach to violence. When I became Chair of the Judiciary Committee, I ensured that every element was fully funded and is now in the process of being implemented. True implementation will require long-term and consistent oversight to ensure this approach is fully adopted. I have used my oversight role to expose when the Executive has not implemented and followed the law, and then forced them to take action.
Q: Is there anything that can be done legislatively to provide more services for homeless victims of domestic violence?
A: Yes. I work very closely with the Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and am a leader at the Council in providing more resources and supports to these survivors. I have also proposed, and the Council adopted, new funding of $2 million each year to create new housing for domestic violence survivors and their families. I have also increased funding for legal services for victims of crime, including domestic violence victims.
Q: Do you support the recent tax increases to fund Metro?
A: I am a strong supporter of Metro and of dedicated funding. Metro, and Metrobus in particular, is the backbone of our transportation infrastructure. I am working closely with my Council colleagues to ensure that the taxes used to fund Metro allow DC to continue to have the most progressive tax code in the country.
Q: Do you support protected bike lanes on Sixth Street, NW, in Shaw and on Second Street in SW? Please address concerns or implications for nearby churches and parking?
A: Yes. I have supported and will continue to support the expansion of protected bike lanes - even if that requires removing or moving on-street parking in some cases. As a regular bike commuter, I not only know that these investments can improve transit choices, I live it, too. As we look to meet the needs in the District for safe and convenient bike infrastructure, protected bike lanes are necessary to create strong cross-city connections.
Q: What improvements should be made to current campaign finance laws?
A: As the first candidate in DC to win an election by refusing corporate contributions, I have been an effective and progressive leader on campaign finance reform. In addition to leading the Fair Elections reforms through Council, I am also authoring the District’s most comprehensive campaign finance reform package that stops government contractor pay-to-play; coordination between campaigns, PACs, and independent expenditures; and constituent services funds, among other topics. Strong, proactive campaign finance enforcement is also essential.
Q: Do you support open primaries?
A: No. In our party-based electoral system, the point of a primary election is for each party to nominate a candidate. Parties are open to all who wish to join them, and it’s fair that only party members have a say in choosing who will represent them in the general election.
Q: What do you think of the Mayor's plan to close DC General?
A: I strongly support the Homeward DC plan to close DC General and replace it with dignified, short-term family housing (STFH) sites across the District where families in crisis can receive wraparound services, be connected to permanent housing programs, and get back on their feet. I am proud to have helped lead the Ward 6 STFH site selection process, resulting in broad community support and the inclusion of a modernized health clinic for the Southwest community.
Q: Do you support a sales tax exemption for women's hygiene products and diapers?
A: Yes. I co-introduced the Feminine Hygiene and Diapers Sales Tax Exemption Amendment Act and was proud to support the funding of the feminine hygiene tax exemption in the just-passed Fiscal Year 2019 budget. I will continue working with my Council colleagues to fund the diaper tax exemption in the next budget cycle.
Q: Do you support DC legalizing sports gambling?
A: No. I don’t think sports betting is necessary in the District.
Q: What steps have you taken or need to be taken to make statehood a reality?
A: I organized the Hands Off DC town hall to protest congressional interference in local law and organized the DC rally before the March for Our Lives to highlight the impact of federal gun legislation on District residents. I joined DC Vote Hill lobby days and have testified supporting statehood. I will continue to defend DC’s laws from congressional interference, lobby Congress to pass statehood legislation, and work toward full local control of our justice system.
Q: What can be done to decrease minority unemployment?
A: Many District residents encounter barriers to employment from their criminal records. Some studies have placed the number of District residents with arrest records at 1 in 8. I support aggressive enforcement of and education relating to our ban the box laws, and I have introduced legislation to reform how we consider criminal histories in occupational licensing. I also host twice-year career fairs that have connected hundreds of residents, including returning citizens, seeking jobs to employment.
Q: How would you create opportunities for our returning citizens?
A: This requires investments in many areas, but recently within the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, I have waived fees for birth certificates and driver’s licenses, increased funding for grants for reentry organizations, created a new board to review clemency applications, approved funding for a Portal of Entry at the Department of Corrections, and advocated for the Bureau of Prisons to send inmates back to the District’s custody earlier to facilitate successful reentry.
Q: How do we ensure there is equal pay for equal work for women and minorities in the District?
A: An important way to ensure equal pay for women and minorities is to ban the use of past wage history during the hiring process. I co-introduced the Fair Wage Amendment Act, under review at the Council now, to do just this. Leaving a job due to unjust pay shouldn’t create a cycle of diminished opportunity. This bill will help women and minorities fight persistent pay inequities and get a fair shot at a fair wage.
Visit Charles Allen's website for more information.
Read Democrat Lisa Hunter's answers to these questions.
Read Republican Michael Bekesha's answers to these questions.