themail.gif (3487 bytes)

March 23, 2014

Concern and Care

Dear Nonvoters:

You probably haven’t voted yet in the primary election. I know that I haven’t. There is a distinct lack of enthusiasm in all of the races for any of the candidates. The turnout at the early voting centers has been abysmal, leading to predictions of an historically low voting rate for this election.

But the candidates have also shown a distinct lack of enthusiasm for the voters. There has been little energy put into traditional get-out-the-vote efforts. The only voters who are being actively courted by the candidates this year are felons, who have been euphemistically renamed “returned citizens.” All the candidates show much more concern and care for the perpetrators of crime than they do for its victims. Aaron Davis described his effort in his article in the Washington Post, “In DC Mayor’s Race, Vincent Gray Has Secret Weapon: Support of Growing Ex-Prisoner Vote,” Cortney O’Brien, in, comments that, “Gray insists he is not courting former inmates for political gain, yet with the April 1 Democratic primary fast approaching, it’s hard to believe in his, as well as the other candidates’ supposedly noble motives. I hope these DC politicians sleep well at night. Maybe if they were actually concerned with serving the District and not just winning votes, they would focus more of their energy on voters who haven’t spent time behind bars.”

Gary Imhoff


Tommy Wells
Dorothy Brizill,

Over the past two weeks, I wrote profiles for themail of two candidates for mayor, Muriel Bowser ( and Jack Evans ( In this issue, I’ll cover Tommy Wells. From 2001-2006, Wells was a member of the DC school board, serving Wards 5 and 6. As a board member, he was considered a lightweight, with limited knowledge or understanding of education issues. Although he was supposed to represent two wards, his attention and focus was almost exclusively on education issues in Ward 6.

Wells was elected to the council in 2006 to replace Sharon Ambrose, who was retiring for health reasons. He was her hand-picked successor. In Wells’ run for mayor, however, Ambrose has been vocal in expressing her disappointment over his tenure on the council. As a result, she is instead supporting David Catania’s independent run for mayor in the November general election.

On the council, Wells is considered shallow and not very substantial. To date, his major legislative accomplishments in include the nickel bag tax, the decriminalization of marijuana, and advocacy of the DC Circulator bus line and new streetcars on H Street, NW. He has seldom worked on the bread-and-butter issues affecting the daily lives of DC residents. Instead, he has focused on mostly middle-class quality of life issues (dog parks, bicycle lanes, streetcars, and corporate contributions to candidates). His legislative agenda center around issues of “smart growth,” summarized in this motto of “building a livable, walkable DC.” Adding to the high level of distrust most councilmembers have for Wells is the fact that he is quick to issue a press release or hold a press conference to take credit for pressing any issue. In addition, as a result of his social worker background, he tends to have a missionary zeal and an “I know what’s best” superior, sanctimonious attitude about his positions. He is called “Saint Tommy,” both by City Paper columnist Will Sommer and by his colleagues. At the council, he has a reputation of introducing bills that do not stand a chance of passing simply to grandstand and to embarrass the other councilmembers. His only close working relationship on the council appears to be with David Grosso, as both Grosso and Wells identify themselves as “progressives.”

At mayoral candidate forums, Wells takes credit for the revitalization of southwest in and around the baseball stadium, which opened in March 2008. He didn’t play a key role in the redevelopment of the area, since he didn’t join the council until January 2007. With regard to economic development in Ward 6, Wells has largely focused his attention on the southwest and H Street corridors, leaving Shaw and Reservation 13 (the old DC General campus in the Capitol Hill East neighborhood) to await later revitalization.

Many longtime minority business owners on H Street, NW, have been highly critical of Wells for some time. When the streetcar project along the corridor tore up the sidewalks and streets, and made access to their businesses difficult, Wells and his office initially turned a deaf ear. Many believe that Wells has favored the new, white-owned businesses over the longer-standing black-owned businesses in the corridor. This racial criticism of Wells has also come from many black residents throughout Ward 6, who believe that Wells has favored Capitol Hill and new white residents over black neighborhoods and residents.

Wells defines himself as a progressive. On several occasions I have asked him to define his use of the term, especially as it relates to DC politics. He has been largely unable to explain what he means by it. The one progressive issue he has championed in recent years has been a ban on campaign contributions from corporations and limited liability corporations. He was unsuccessful in getting his council colleagues to support such a ban in the rewrite of the District’s campaign finance legislation last year, and his effort to spearhead a citizen-led effort to ban corporate campaign contributions through Initiative 70 failed when he and the initiative’s organizers weren’t able to secure the requisite number of signatures to place the initiative on the ballot.


McMillan Park
P.L. Wolff, Managing Editor,

Just to supplement Daniel Wolkoff’s thorough review this past week [themail, March 19] of the situation re this important historic site, readers might find informative the lead story in last October’s InTowner, “Historic McMillan Park Site in Bloomingdale Set for Big Development; Neighbors Object to Plan, Seek to Retain and Restore Open Space.” It can be found at


themail@dcwatch is an E-mail discussion forum that is published every Wednesday and Sunday. To change the E-mail address for your subscription to themail, use the Update Profile/Email address link below in the E-mail edition. To unsubscribe, use the Safe Unsubscribe link in the E-mail edition. An archive of all past issues is available at

All postings should be submitted to, and should be about life, government, or politics in the District of Columbia in one way or another. All postings must be signed in order to be printed, and messages should be reasonably short — one or two brief paragraphs would be ideal — so that as many messages as possible can be put into each mailing.


Send mail with questions or comments to
Web site copyright ©DCWatch (ISSN 1546-4296)