Ward 7, HOW YOU DOING????
How many times have we heard folk say, "If you don't know, ask somebody?" Howbeit, there are times when there's noone to ask, you can't google the answer, text your buddy, or even call your Mama - you just have to know for yourself. The Ward 7 Democrats candidates' forum held on Saturday proved to be one of those times. Moderated by NBC4's Tracy Wilkins and with noted journalists, Washington Times columnist Deborah Simmons, News 8 Bruce DePuyt, and veteran ABC 7's Sam Ford peppering the hopefuls and incumbent with questions, the event revealed far more than any one of us could have expected. Not only did the guest panelists throw out some zingers, members of the audience pitched a couple of fastballs too. IT'S GAME TIME IN WARD 7!
One thing is certain about Ward 7 Council candidate, Republican Don Folden (who wasn't invited), he has no inhibitions about saying he doesn't know something. He doesn't try to concoct an answer, talk around it, change the subject, or distract from the issue. He will hurriedly admit he just doesn't know and hand the mike over to the next person to answer the question he was unable to. Not so with a couple of his contenders. They have invented responses to queries more creative than anything George Washington Carver ever did with a peanut. The problem is, they are operating under the misguided assumption 'we' don't know any better. They assume wrong. It's like trying to convince a fire marshal a blaze was accidental when a trail of gasoline doused throughout the house smells and yells arson.
Case in point, at Friday's forum at Contee AME, Monica Johnson optimistically, yet very uninformedly stated, she would create a program to help seniors make repairs to their homes. Apparently, she doesn't know about DHCD's Single Family Residential Rehabilitation Program (SFRRP) which provides loans and grants with a possible maximum usage of up to $75,000 for home repairs. Households where the head of household is 62 years or older may have the first $10,000 of their loan, provided as a permanently deferred loan. She should have asked somebody!
Perhaps the most exposing and challenging question of all was asked by ANC 7B Commissioner Holly Muhammad who wanted to know from the candidates their ANC, SMD, as well as the last time they worked with CM Alexander. Tongues got tied, nerves were plucked, and brows did sweat. The great orator, Rev. Bill Bennett, who has never been at a loss for words couldn't part his lips or the Red Sea if his SMD lay at the bottom of it. Finally, he found the answer - 7C Whatever!!!! After a couple of more stutters and sputters, I began to wonder, like a few others in the audience, if Tom Brown knew his ANC business. Without a hiccup, he answered correctly and cemented my support. You all know I don't give anyone a pass and to be honest, I almost texted him the answer but I decided against it because I hold him to the same standard I hold everyone else and had he not answered right, an angry bee would have stirred in her hive and he would have gotten stung too. If you don't know, you'd better ask somebody! Just in case somebody does asks somebody - I live in ANC 7B07 and Bob Richards is my commissioner.
When a resident required each of them to give the exact number of Ward 7 neighborhoods (which is 29) and name a neighborhood in the Northeast and Southeast sections of Ward 7, everyone but the incumbent, Yvette Alexander and the newcomer, Monica Johnson, passed muster. Alexander remarked, "Hillcrest, Penn Branch, and Fairlawn." While I can verily overlook this one indiscretion by the councilmember, (I knows she knows at least one neighborhood in NE) her alliance to our Southeast neighbors stuck out like a bunion on an old's man foot. Reminds me of Kenny Rogers' song, "You Were Always On My Mind!" Hey, It's election season! But, when Monica Johnson so confidently replied, "HILLCREST HEIGHTS!," I wanted the Sandman to come out with his cane and chase her off the stage. Even the audience tried to help her out and still she repeated, "HILLCREST HEIGHTS!" Are you serious??! GET OUT - NOW!!!! Ms. Johnson, since you don't know and obviously didn't ask anybody, let me educate you, Hillcrest Heights is in MARYLAND. Hillcrest Heights is also in FLORIDA but for darn sure, it's never been in DC!
A little known fact.....According to Paulette Tilghman, Ward 3 residents have exemptions regarding the construction of new homes and buildings relative to height and distance. Who knew? Our councilmember didn't. Lately, there's been a few things to escape Alexander. Recently, a resident testified at the Economic Development roundtable, she did not know the marijuana cultivation center was slated for Minnesota Avenue NE. Last year, she had no idea Benning Library was being eyed for on-line gambling. And during her May 30 Redistricting meeting, she didn't know a significant number of students attending Eastern High in Ward 6 came from Ward 7. But one thing Alexander does know for certain is Mayor Vincent C. Gray has not done much for Ward 7. Citing the high unemployment rates and the dismal lack of economic development, Alexander also said there were many times she didn't go along to get along with Gray. She's no rubber stamp 'cause she has her own mind! That's right and she said it all by herself! Gray hasn't done much for Ward 7. Go, Yvette, go! No, really, GO!
Deborah Simmons tossed the molotov cocktail at the candidates that ignited two inflammatory questions. Rev. Bennett and Kevin B. Chavous were asked their opinion of Yvette Alexander as the current council rep while Tom Brown and Monica Johnson were assigned to give a critique of school board rep, Dorothy Douglas. Both incumbents were allowed to rebut. This was the moment I've long been waiting for. I frantically searched my purse for money to place a bet on who would raise a knot on whose head. While Douglas was spared any incendiary remarks by her much kinder and gentler opponents, Alexander could not find shelter under a rock from Chavous' and Bennett's acid rain showering accusations of failure to communicate and total lack of leadership. I thought Alexander would snatch that scarf from her neck and hang them both from the church's rafters. She managed a feeble rebuttal but the double hit was so hard, it tore a ligament in her already weak knees.
One thing the Ward 7 Democrats' forum proved, the incumbent and the newcomer have a lot in common. Alexander doesn't know how disheartened her base in Ward 7 has become and Johnson, well, it's disheartening how much she doesn't know much about Ward 7.
What you don't know will hurt you - politically!