ANC 1B-12 Candidate Dan Wittels on the Issues Facing U Street

by Borderstan.com November 3, 2012 at 10:30 am 1,769 11 Comments

From Rachel Nania. Check out her blog, Sear, Simmer & Stir. Follow Nania on Twitter @rnania, email her at rachel[AT]borderstan.com.

There are 21 Single Member District (SMD) seats up for grabs on the November 6 ballot in three different local ANCs: 2B/Dupont2F/Logan and 1B, which includes most of the U Street corridor. Recently we introduced you to the candidates, including Dan Wittels (see Know the Candidates in Contested ANC Races). He faces John Carlos GreenZahra Jilani and Erling Bailey for the 1B-12 seat.

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Dan Wittels. (Courtesy of Wittels)

Now, it’s Question and Answer Time on the issues.

Borderstan: What will be your first priority/new initiative if you are elected to ANC 1B12 and why?

Wittels: The first thing I’ll do is reach out to my constituents and see what their concerns are and move those to the top of the ANC agenda. After 15 years living on these streets, I’m fairly confident I know what the pressing matters are that face our neighborhood. But I want to continue the conversation I’ve had with residents and families during the ANC campaign. Issues and priorities have evolved, but concerns about crime, traffic, parking, and quality of life are constants.

Borderstan: How will you engage your constituents on issues so that your decisions reflect that of the majority of your Single Member District?

Wittels: On the street, at meetings and via e-mail. But all the websites, listservs and social media in the world will never replace face-to-face time with residents. Technology can only get us so far and access to it isn’t universal in a neighborhood as diverse as ours. We have many senior citizens on my block and those surrounding it. To ask them to follow community developments on Facebook or a listserv isn’t workable. It’s time we got back to good old fashioned one-on-one communication. The backyard fence or doorstep is still an effective way to communicate with people, especially about the issues we all have to deal with.

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Click for a larger map: ANC 1B includes most of the U Street corridor. (ANC 1B website, with boundaries in effect for the 2012 election.)

Borderstan: What value do you think neighborhood associations provide, and how do you plan to interact with them?

Wittels: I think they make valuable contributions to the communities they serve and their voices should be heard at the ANC. But we can’t lose sight of the needs and views of individual residents and families that aren’t able to invest time or resources to be active in those organizations.

Borderstan: Becoming “the next Adams Morgan” is a consistent fear expressed in in the neighborhood. Would you support a liquor license moratorium for the 14th and U corridor? If so, why? If not, why?

Wittels: This is an issue on which I’ll take cues from the larger community. Many have said it will help improve the quality of life to the 14th and U Streets corridor, and could restore some sort of commercial and retail balance. We need a thorough and thoughtful conversation on this – one that hears the views of everyone, not just business interests or activists, but one that is comprehensive and reflects the wider community.

Borderstan: Do you believe the voluntary agreement process for liquor license applicants needs to be changed? If so, how?

Wittels: No, it isn’t prefect but it seems work in some instances. There are a host of loop holes in the VA’s and what’s often lost during the negotiations are the voices of the residents and families. Usually the loudest voices in these discussions are neighborhood associations (who are often mired in their own bureaucracy), and business interests (who can afford the attorneys who know how to work the system). The ANC needs to carefully weigh all the voices.

Borderstan: Logan Circle and the 14th and U corridor area are now destination spots for people throughout the DC Metro area, especially on weekends. Do you believe that the police presence, particularly on the 14th, U Street and 9th Street corridors, is adequate, especially on weekends?

Wittels: I’ll press for more of a police presence where the crimes seem to be concentrated. I’m in favor of establishing a BID that can help get more off-duty law enforcement on the streets and sidewalks, without additional cost to the taxpayers.

Borderstan: The pace of development is rapid in the area, especially along 14th Street NW. Do you think more commercial buildings would be good for the area, as opposed to more residential buildings?

Wittels: Yes we need more of a balance in this area, and I think we’ve lost it in recent years. This would help day time businesses be more viable. We live in the city’s best neighborhood, so let’s keep it that way by not losing sight of what made it great – families who invested their money and lives here. I welcome the development be it residential or business — I just hope we don’t take short sighted steps to damage the long term viability and sustainability we have.

Borderstan: 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?

Wittels: We need more retail of almost every kind. Unfortunately, small retailers are being forced out of the corridors by skyrocketing rents. An electronics store would be great to have, a pet store, a clothing retailer, maybe a bakery. Ideally, we want a neighborhood that’s as vibrant during the day as during the evening hours.

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