Editor’s note: Joshua Lopez has held a number of positions within D.C. city government, including constituent services specialist, legislative research analyst, Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner, and was a ward-level campaign director for former Mayor, Adrian Fenty. Lopez also spearheaded the write-in campaign to re-elect Fenty last November after Fenty lost the September primary to Vincent Gray.
Lopez is now running for an At-Large Council seat in the April 26 special election. The seat opened up when Kwame Brown was elected Council Chairman; Sekou Biddle was temporarily appointed to the seat and is running for a full term. A number of Borderstan residents live in Ward 1, which is why we featured current candidates (and residents) Patrick Mara and Bryan Weaver. Since Lopez grew up in Ward 1 (Mount Pleasant) and Ward 2 (Shaw), we made an editorial decision to include him in the ‘softer side’ profile series as well even though he now lives in Ward 4.
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Borderstan: How long and where have you lived in D.C.?
Lopez: I am a native Washingtonian. I was born in Providence Hospital and spent my childhood in Mount Pleasant and Shaw. I moved to the Brightwood neighborhood 11 years ago.
Borderstan: Favorite thing about living in the neighborhood (both where you grew up and where you live now)?
Lopez: Mount Pleasant has an amazingly diverse population. I loved Shaw because of its close proximity to downtown. Brightwood has a rich history with outgoing neighbors.
Borderstan: Least favorite?
Lopez: Mount Pleasant has slowly lost its affordable housing threatening the diversity of the neighborhood. Shaw has had an ongoing problem with crime. They could use a better public safety plan. Brightwood should have better public transportation.
Borderstan: Tell us about yourself. What do you do, how’d you end up doing that and why do you love what you do?
Lopez: I started out as a community activist working in my [Single Member District] SMD as an ANC Commissioner. I am the former 1st VP for the Ward 4 Democrats. I have worked in the non-profit community as a project manager for a non-profit community development corporation. I have also been a legislative aide and constituent service liaison working for my then Councilmember Adrian Fenty. I love Washington D.C. and enjoy speaking with residents in all eight wards. My passion is public service and I am committed to helping the city continue to move forward in a positive direction.
Borderstan: You’ve been an outspoken candidate on a number of issues and have been noted by local media for taking shots at some already in office. What motivates these comments?
Lopez: I am passionate about this city and I see the need for change in our Council. We need a new and energetic leader who will go down to the Wilson Building and shake things up! I am not afraid to stand up to the Council or the Mayor on behalf of our residents. There are too many members who are disconnected from the reality of everyday citizens. At what point will we stand up and say enough is enough? Why do we allow corruption to be swept under the rug? District voters will have a voice through me on the Council because I will speak out boldly for them.
Borderstan: As someone that has grown up in the city, do you think that perspective adds to your candidacy? Of the changes you’ve seen, what has been the most positive and what has been the most troubling?
Lopez: Yes, I certainly do. I have been through the system that I am trying to fix. I understand about failing schools because I went to one. I understand about neighborhood services because I have served my community as an [Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner] ANC commissioner. I understand about ward issues because I have served my ward as a constituent services liaison.
Therefore, I feel I’ve been through many of the ranks I seek to acquire. So many positive changes have occurred over the past decade, like economic growth and population growth. Crime is down and I am happy with the direction our education system is going. What has been most troubling is the downward spiral of our Council. It seems as though a culture of corruption exists and Council members are not holding their counterparts accountable. Groups and cliques are forming and residents are left on the outside. Politics have gotten in the way of the people’s needs and that’s why I am running. I want to restore honesty and accountability.
Borderstan: Okay… you’ve grown up here so we’re guessing you have family nearby watching your race. What has your mom said about some of those not so nice comments?
Lopez: My mom is my number one supporter! I owe my success to her. As a single parent, she taught me the importance of civic participation. She encourages me every day to keep pushing for what I believe in. She taught me everyone will not always agree on the issues but that should not stop progress. Ultimately, most of our goals are the same and we can reach a common ground.
Borderstan: The City Council has been very much in the news lately. If you were to give some advice (and also try to gain some) from Mayor Gray, you’re going to take him to lunch (just imagine!). Where do you take him for lunch and what’s your top agenda item? What about President Obama?
Lopez: I would ask Mayor Gray what he has learned from his mistakes. What would he do differently? I would take him to Lauriol Plaza because they have an amazing menu and I am sure that is something we can both agree on. If I were to sit with President Obama I would talk about the unemployment rates that our country is facing and strategize ways we can overcome this hurdle. I would also discuss my support for his 2012 run for office.
Borderstan: If you could sit down with one person of recent D.C. history (Mayor Fenty, Michelle Rhee, Helen Thomas, the Salahis…), who would it be and why?
Lopez: Mitch Snyder. He fought for our most vulnerable residents. He dedicated his life to improving the lives of the city’s homeless citizens.
Borderstan: Enough serious stuff — show us your fun side! You just won the lottery and you are taking friends out to celebrate. Where are you headed?
Lopez: I would take them to H Street Country Club and buy everyone a round… of golf.
Borderstan: You are absolutely required to be a contestant on a reality show, but you are allowed to choose which show. What are we watching you on?
Lopez: The Apprentice. I work hard but I also play hard and this show embodies where hard work can take you.