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 Lisa Hunter'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: No. If there were tenants who were misusing their TOPA rights, there was a narrower solution available that would have addressed that misuse without stripping an entire subset of tenants in DC of their rights. Unfortunately, it was voted down. In the middle of a housing crisis, we should be doing everything we can to protect renters. The pay-for-play policymaking we’ve seen by the Council to appease real estate donors stops with me.
Q: Do you support legislatively exempting the affordable 595 units of housing owned by the United House of Prayer from residential property tax?
A: If a church, or any non-profit organization, is providing low-income housing that the city itself refuses to provide, that service is not only in the public interest but also helps alleviate an affordable housing crisis that the city itself has refused to tackle. Tax relief should absolutely be considered in this circumstance, particularly when one considers how many hundreds of millions of dollars wealthy developers have been given to build condos that nobody can afford.
Q: How can we help advise Build First residents that may not financially qualify for available units?
A: In order for Build First to be anything other than a talking point, residents cannot find themselves in a position where they do not financially qualify for available units. The entire premise of Build First is to not displace residents, so until such time as it’s not displacing residents, it is a failing program. In order to be successful, the financial qualifications and requirements need to be tailored so they work for every low-income neighbor.
Q: How can neighborhoods be protected from "pop up" construction, which threatens neighbors with lax DCRAcode enforcement during construction?
A: There are too many examples of laws on the books in DC that are not enforced, and for too long we have let our DC Council throw their hands up in frustration as though they are merely concerned residents just like the rest of us. DC Council members are paid government employees. They have oversight and budgetary authority over departments such as DCRA. They should be conducting rigorous oversight and demanding performance on our behalf.
Q: How can we make Early Childcare more affordable for low income and working families?
A: Families in spend upwards of $32,000/year on childcare. Childcare providers earn $29,000/year. My philosophy onchildcare is premised on ensuring childcare isn’t bankrupting families, or resigning providers to poverty.
The Council passed a one-time $1,000 childcare tax credit for families. It not only doesn’t make a dent in this problem, it also shows they don’t get it. Instead, we should reverse tax cuts given to businesses and wealth residents, and subsidize childcare for low-income residents
Q: What will you do to address residency enrollment fraud in schools?
A: This is another example of the DC Council being asleep at the wheel. We should not need to learn about government scandals that impact DC children and families from reporters, the Council should be conducting regular oversight so these problems are identified before they become crises. To prevent this moving forward, we need additional dedicated funding and staff to proactively conduct audits and identify issues before they shut DC children out of schools, not after.
Q: Does DCPS need further legislative reform?
A: Yes. I’m the only person in this race with classroom experience and substantive policy and oversight credentials. DCPS currently lacks the dedicated resources to conduct proper internal audits and oversight, and there is a lack of transparency that makes it difficult for us to identify problems before they become crises. Legislation to provide additional transparency and oversight is needed. I believe we should consider whether Mayoral control is adequately serving the needs of our students.
Q: What steps should DCPS take to address the achievement gap between African American and white students?
A: Ward 6 has the widest racial achievement gap in the city. As a former teacher and current parent, it’s shameful.
Instead of modernizing Capitol Hill schools at the expense of others, we must close this gap by supporting students inside AND outside the classroom with adequate funding for special needs students; by prioritizing language immersion programs; and by scaling up the community school model linking families to health and social support services.
Q: Should DC be a sanctuary city?
A: Yes. I am the product of a Jewish father and a Mexican- American mother. One side of my family was forced to flee Europe, and the other faces regular persecution in southern Arizona to this day. Perhaps the most disappointing moment of this campaign was when Charles Allen chose not to attend the only immigration forum held in 2018. Ward 6 progressives should be demanding better than the literal disregard he has shown our immigrant communities.
Q: What are the three most effective reforms that DC can maketo its juvenile justice system?
- Full implementation of the NEAR Act, which could occurif we demand that the Chair of the Judiciary and Public Safety Committee holds MPD accountable for meeting deadlines and releasing
- Holding MPD accountable for aggressive policing that disproportionately impacts persons of color and transgender youth by holding hearings to publiclyidentify problems and demand
- Fully investing in housing, education, healthcare andjob training programs that provide vulnerable residents with economic opportunity and stability.
Q: How will you ensure that the NEAR Act is fully implemented?
A: I am encouraged that the NEAR Act has finally received full funding, but am incredibly disappointed that implementation is not complete, and that MPD has not met deadlines to release data. I believe Charles Allen deserves much of the blame, because he alone has held oversight authority. As the Chair of the Judiciary and Public Safety Committee, he has refused to hold MPD or the Mayor accountable when they’ve fallen short. That needs to change.
Q: Is there anything that can be done legislatively to provide more services for homeless victims of domestic violence?
A: Yes. We start by repealing policies that Charles Allen voted for, which require “proof of homelessness” to enter shelters, and eliminate the potential for private bathrooms for victims of domestic violence. Imagine a family fleeing from violence and needing to bring “proof” in order to enter a shelter, then being told to share a bathroom with strangers. These policies reflect a disgusting lack of empathy and concern for victims, and must be fixed immediately.
Q: Do you support the recent tax increases to fund Metro?
A: I understand the need to raise revenue to fund Metro, but I do not fully support the way it was done. I support increasing the sales tax for hotel rooms and rental cars. I do not support raising the general sales tax across the board; it’s regressive tax policy that disproportionately impacts low-income residents. I would prefer to fully reverse the corporate and estate tax cuts that Charles Allen voted for last summer.
Q: Do you support protected bike lanes on Sixth Street, NW, in Shaw and on Second Street in SW? Please address concerns of implications for nearby churches and parking?
A: I support protected bike lanes and believe they serve our city’s interest. However, there are unique concerns specifically as it relates to local churches. Our housing policies have displaced thousands of residents who used to walk to church, and now are forced to drive. Additional bike lanes eliminate parking and will keep some residents from their places of worship. I believe that is the type of consideration that should matter to us, as a community.
Q: What improvements should be made to current campaign finance laws?
A: I’ve proposed mandatory disclosure of all donors who are owners or executives of companies that lobby the DC Council or receive public benefits. Charles Allen opposes this reform. Current law caps business and individual contributions at $500, so candidates can take more from executives than from the business, while saying they don’t take business money. It’s like refusing money from the Trump Organization but taking checks from Ivanka, Eric, Jared and Don Jr as individuals.
Q: Do you support open primaries?
A: Yes. Closed primaries and arbitrary party registration deadlines are a form of voter suppression.
Q: What do you think of the Mayor's plan to close DC General?
A: I support closing DC General but am incredibly disappointed by the way it is being done. I have spent a lot of time at DC General during this campaign, and it’s clear our neighbors who live there have no idea where they will be asked to go next, or when. It’s wrong, and inhumane. Charles Allen is exacerbating this problem by refusing to tell voters whether he supports Amazon HQ2 being built on that land.
Q: Do you support a sales tax exemption for women's hygiene products and diapers?
A: Yes. DC lags behind comparable cities when it comes to this progressive policy. The tampon tax is an unfair burden on low-income women and families throughout DC, who pay an estimated $3 million per year in tax on essential hygiene products. DC is choosing to profit from products that are considered medically essential to keep women and children healthy, by instituting a regressive tax that does not apply to any other necessary preventive healthcare service.
Q: Do you support DC legalizing sports gambling?
A: Yes. Following the Supreme Court decision, Delaware has already implemented Vegas-style sports betting, and New Jersey is not far behind. Moreover, analysts expect sports betting to be legalized in Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and other surrounding states within the next five years. The reality is that DC has a choice between legalizing sports betting and capturing some of the revenue as a percentage-based tax on revenue and winnings, or ceding this revenue to neighboring states.
Q: What steps have you taken or need to be taken to make statehood a reality?
A: I admire the work Delegate Norton has done to advocate for and increase support of statehood in Congress. As the only person in this race who has worked in our federal government, including in Congress, I understand the challenges that keep this from becoming a reality. I believe we need to commit to electing leaders who reflect competent local governance free from scandal, deception, or criminal behavior, and who understand how to work with Congress.
Q: What can be done to decrease minority unemployment?
A: Local job training and skills development programs are lacking, and are woefully underfunded. Moreover, the Council must conduct oversight when it comes to enforcement of local hiring laws for construction and new development, regardless of whether executives are political donors. I’m also an advocate for providing DC residents with District government jobs. DC government should be staffed primarily by DC residents; this wouldnot only increase local tax revenue, but it would improve city services.
Q: How would you create opportunities for our returning citizens?
A: For returning citizens, we must provide new mandatory dedicated funding to MORCA so additional case managers and key staff can be hired to provide services for everyone in need; build on the current structured program available to those who require it within 180 days of release; and expand programs to link returning citizens to existing housing, health, counseling and jobs programs throughout the city. Long-term, we must also establish greater control of our prison system.
Q: How do we ensure there is equal pay for equal work for women and minorities in the District?
A: We start by rejecting DC insiders who are beholden to special interests, and electing progressive women and people of color to office. DC lags behind most progressive cities when it comes to enforcement and oversight of equal pay laws, and I’ve come to learn that Charles Allen doesn’t understand many of these issues because he’s never had to face them. We need to elect leaders who understand and have empathy for everyone in our community.
Visit Lisa Hunter's website for more information.
Read Democrat Charles Allen's answers to these questions.
Read Republican Michael Bekesha's answers to these questions.