There are 21 Single Member District (SMD) seats up for grabs on the November 6 ballot in three different local ANCs: 2B/Dupont, 2F/Logan and 1B, which includes most of the U Street corridor. Recently we introduced you to the candidates, including Kishan Putta (see Know the Candidates in Contested ANC Races). Putta will face Martin Espinoza and Stephanie Sheridan on election day.
Now, it’s Question and Answer Time on the issues.
Bordestan: What will be your first priority/new initiative if you are elected to ANC 2B and why?
Putta: Priorities: I have been working as your public safety liaison through the ANC and the experience has reminded me of the importance of soliciting community input and being accessible. If elected, I will immediately work to meet again with neighborhood representatives and leaders – ideally together with residents in a casual setting (i.e. I’d like to host a post-holidays neighborhood potluck luncheon to be followed by a discussion of neighborhood issues, concerns, and ideas).
This introduction and relationship would be fostered further by monthly meetings and online discussions (please see Question #2 below for more on this). You can always contact me anytime about neighborhood issues by phone or by email and I will respond within 24 hours. Last, but not least, I can often be found walking the neighborhood and at community events and am always happy to stop to talk, and will follow-up with you.
- Crime: As your safety liaison, I already have established good relationships with police leaders and will work with them and with you to keep you aware of incidents/issues, to prevent crimes, and to be your advocate to get your concerns addressed by the police and the District.
- Road Safety: I will continue my current work to make our streets and sidewalks safer for walkers, drivers, and bikers. Recently, I was honored to co-host a successful Dupont-Logan public meeting on bicycle safety issues where we heard from many residents about how valuable the 15th Street protected bike lane has become to bike-commuters who previously were wary about biking to work. I am already working with my colleague Noah Smith to get the District to repave and smoothen this important transportation artery running through our neighborhood. It’s good that more people are biking, but they need to know and follow the rules and therefore, I will work toward more/improved signage and education as well.
- Rat Abatement: Dense urban neighboods like ours often have issues with rats and some of our alleys are particularly problematic for many of our neighbors’ homes and sometimes for pedestrians as well. Other neighborhoods have addressed this issue and I want to learn what they did and see what can be done to address this here.
Bordestan: How will you engage your constituents on issues so that your decisions reflect that of the majority of your Single Member District?
Putta: I have asked this question of the residents whose doors I have knocked on and whom I’ve met around the neighborhood. They all say they would want to make sure there is more community input in decision-making and that the decision-making processes be as transparent as possible, and a combination of in-person meetings and email/web updates/discussions.
If elected, I would like to host an informal monthly potluck/pizza discussions so that residents know they can come and be heard without waiting through a formal meeting agenda. I promise to be responsive to emails and phone calls about any neighborhood issue within 24 hours and will work to get you connected to the right officials/resources and to get you answers and work for solutions. I will post salient information/updates on my website and also work to establish a yahoo-groups style bulletin board for our immediate neighborhood. I will be accessible and, as I mentioned above, can often be found walking the neighborhood and am always happy to stop and talk.
Lastly, I will propose that ANC meetings and jargon be made a little more understandable to the public. After a year of attending ANC meetings, I have come to the conclusion that they would be a lot more helpful for public observers if there was a glossary available at each meeting – and if commissioners were a little more conscientious about laymen attendees who would get a lot more out of the meetings with some simple accommodations (even, just short 30 second pauses to explain something quickly and promise to follow-up later if needed). I am a former community journalist and am very conscious about making complex issues understandable to a lay constituency.
Bordestan: How will you work to help bring process and transparency to decisions that impact the DuPont neighborhood, such as the renovations for Stead Park, so that the diversity of the community as a whole is reflected?
Putta: I’m glad you referenced the diversity of the community. The best communities work to ensure all residents can enjoy its resources. Community leaders have the responsibility to reach out to all sides and stakeholders and to work together as much as possible. I am a former community journalist with years of experience covering community issues, soliciting input from all sides, and treating all stakeholders fairly in my coverage (if I did not, I would hear it from the stakeholders, the readers, and my very strict editors!). If elected, I would draw on that experience and make sure to reach out to all sides on each important issue and listen and work together with them to find solutions.
In the case of Stead Park, the board of the park has worked hard for many months to try to make the park more useful and enjoyable to more members of our community (athletes, parents, children, and seniors) and recently held a public meeting with more meetings to come. But some in our community formed opinions without all the facts. This caused unnecessary tension and confusion that could have been avoided by better outreach and communication by all sides.
I have spoken to the Friends of Stead Park board and they admit that they could have been more transparent and are trying to improve in that regard. They are happy to work with all sides to ensure everyone has the correct and full information and to reach mutually acceptable solutions. I hope that, going forward, this is the approach we adopt on all similar issues. That is how I plan to serve you if you grant me the honor of representing you.
Bordestan: What value do you think neighborhood associations provide, and how do you plan to interact with them?
Putta: Neighborhood associations have a long history of positive impact on our city. Often, they have deep institutional knowledge of neighborhoods that is very valuable. As your public safety liaison through the ANC, I’ve already been working with both the Dupont Circle Citizens Association and the Urban Neighborhood Alliance. I have very good working relationships with both groups because I have attended many of their meetings – and, not least, because leaders of both organizations just happen to live in my building. If elected, I fully intend to maintain those strong relationships as we work together on community issues.
Bordestan: The East Dupont Liquor License Moratorium, which affects 17th Street NW, comes up for renewal in 2013, and ANC 2B will have an opportunity to weigh in by offering an advisory opinion to the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board on its renewal. Do you support renewing the moratorium? If so, why? If not, why?
Putta: This is a very important issue. I have consulted many residents and stakeholders about this and I have read the 2009 report and recommendations from the Ad Hoc ANC Committee on the liquor moratorium, ably chaired by Jack Jacobson – the current commissioner who is retiring from the seat I am running for. If elected, I will bring to this issue the same level of thoughtfulness that Jacobson and his colleagues applied in 2009.
I will request to chair or co-chair a committee to study what has changed since 2009 and come up with new recommendations – with extensive input from residents, associations, and stakeholders. I know this will take possibly hundreds of hours of work, but I am committed to doing this right. My approach would be: a) actively solicit as much input from the community as possible; b) operate in a transparent manner and be accessible to residents; c) strike a balance that allows flexibility.
I am a pretty social person who likes a drink with my meal and enjoys the occasional happy hour or bar-night with friends, and I am very sensitive to how difficult it can be to maintain a business in this difficult economy. But I also enjoy the generally moderate noise level and safety on 17th Street, such that strolling with my wife even on a weekend evening is generally peaceful and pleasant. Until an extensive updated study is conducted (which I will ask to spearhead), I cannot say for sure how I will vote. The current moratorium wisely has some flexibility built into it. Whatever solution is proposed should have flexibility as well, and I promise to solicit your input and to listen well and to work hard to represent you well.
Bordestan: Do you believe the voluntary agreement process for liquor license applicants needs to be changed? If so, how?
Putta: I have read up on the history of this process and have consulted with several residents and stakeholders. Yes, I believe the voluntary agreement (VA) process should be revisited and revised. A business that respects our community is one that will not allow for excessive noise and will work with the community to address significant issues. If a business operates respectfully and responsibly, the VA process should not cause long, costly delays, as it unfortunately did for Hank’s Oyster Bar recently. Currently, VAs can be proposed by the ANC, a group of five-plus residents (only three-plus residents in moratorium zones like 17th Street!), or a recognized neighborhood association.
I, and most residents I spoke with, believe that we democratically elect ANC commissioners to represent our community. Therefore, of the available alternatives, our neighbors’ voices are most likely to be represented accurately by the ANC commissioners if they operate transparently and with ample opportunities for community input. If ANC commissioners do not represent residents appropriately, residents have the power to replace them.
Therefore, I believe that, if an ANC decides to propose its own VA, it should be deemed to have more weight than VAs proposed by other groups that are not democratically elected. That said, if I am elected, I will never forget that I work for you and on your behalf. I promise to seek your input and be accessible and responsive. I would be honored if you would entrust me with this responsibility.
Bordestan: Do you believe that the police presence, particularly on the 17th Street, 18th Street and Connecticut Avenue corridors, is adequate, especially on weekends?
Putta: As your public safety liaison through the ANC, I have already have good working relationships with the police department including the Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit and the organization Gays & Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV-DC). I know who to call about different safety issues in different parts of the community. I believe that the side streets and alleyways off of these corridors need more patrolling (by car, bike, or foot), but I also believe that the police force usually serves us well within the limits of their budget. I and my colleague Noah Smith have been working to get more community input on sentencing for those convicted of harming our residents, but I am mindful that we have a wonderful and welcoming community and we want it to stay welcoming to all who agree to respect each other and the law.
Bordestan: Are there types of business in the neighborhood that stand out as something we need more of in the area? If so, can you name three?
Putta: We have it pretty good, but I do have some wish-list items, and I’ve heard many from other residents as well! I think 17th Street could use a place to pick up quick but healthy bites and meals for under $10 on your way home from work or while walking your dog, etc. (I’m a huge fan of both Julia’s baked empanadas, for example); we could also use a salad place, I think. A great example of a community-oriented business is Redwood Realty. They have opened their walls to local artists and opened their doors to the community to come enjoy the local artists’ works. I also want to take my hat off to the Dupont Circle Business Incubator at 17th and R. It is a wonderful community resource of thoughtful, conscientious entrepreneurs seeking sustainable business ideas to benefit the city and the world – kudos.