D.C. mayoral write-in candidate James Butler launched his campaign more than year ago, critical of what he described as the current mayor’s relationship with private developers and claims about affordable housing and crime that don’t reflect some city residents’ reality.
In the weeks leading up the Nov. 6 election, Butler and two write-in candidates for Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) seats have formed the Progressive Blue Wave Slate, which he said places residents first in policy-making decisions.
“The Progressive Blue Wave Slate believes in true progressive values and believes people come before big business and special interests,” Butler, 42, said last week during a meeting at his campaign headquarters near the H Street Corridor in Northeast.
The Butler campaign recently announced its endorsement of Progressive Blue Wave Slate members Kelvin Brown, a military veteran running to represent ANC single-member district 7B06, which includes Hillcrest and Fairfax Village in Southeast, and Clayton Aristotle Rosenberg, a Southwest millennial vying for the ANC commissioner seat in single-member district 6D01, an area encompassing the revamped D.C. Wharf and nearby residences.
The launch of the Progressive Blue Wave Slate follows the release of an Oct. 3 independent poll, conducted by PoliticalHispanic.com, that placed Butler 17 points ahead of D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D).
On the week of the poll’s release, the D.C. Council approved the repeal of Initiative 77, a successful ballot measure that would’ve gradually raised tipped workers’ hourly earnings to that of waged employees. The council’s decision perturbed some voters and, for Butler, reaffirmed the need for political candidates such as Brown and Rosenberg.
“They are phenomenal listeners,” said Butler, an ANC commissioner for single-member district 5D03, an area that includes the Trinidad neighborhood in Northeast. “Every leader has their own ideas but they’re worthless if they don’t cure the problems of the people. These are candidates with vision. They have listened to the people to come to the right solution to their everyday issues.”
Brown and Rosenberg, who said they reached out to Butler upon learning about his grassroots campaign, have connected ANC constituents frustrated by their representatives’ refusal to host community forums and take their concerns about the lack of amenities and rising cost of living to D.C. Council members.
If they win on Nov. 6, both men would serve as conduits between their neighbors and Council members Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) and Vincent C. Gray (D-Ward 7). If he becomes mayor, Butler and the D.C. Council would outline the specifics of a budget totaling more than $14 billion. Key policy issues for He said he would tackle housing affordability, public safety, and education reform.
Residents in Brown and Rosenberg’s campaign areas have expressed concerns about those issues, among others.
In Hillcrest, located in Southeast, Brown has challenged the incumbent ANC commissioner who he said hasn’t intimately engaged constituents beyond hosting monthly meetings. That fragile relationship has laid the groundwork for unpopular neighborhood revitalization projects, Brown said.
For example, impending construction of sidewalks in Hillcrest earlier this year drew the ire of Brown’s neighbors, who petitioned against the prospect of losing at least 10 feet of lawn space.
“Most residents were against the use of tax dollars [for the construction] and wanted it reallocated to integrate sewer, water pipes and LED lighting throughout the community,” said Brown, a Hillcrest homeowner of seven years. “There was a unilateral decision to move forward with the project and the petition was struck down. At the meeting, [officials] said the decision had been made and there was no follow-up. If I’m a taxpayer who moved into the community and I voted for you, our input should be taken in about the things that impact the quality of living.”
If elected, Brown said he would meet with residents regularly and engage elected officials about issues related to increasing proactive community policing, boosting small business ownership and job training, and attracting quality grocery stores and sit-down restaurants.
Last weekend, he hosted a two-day campaign meet and greet at Tinder Box in Waldorf, Maryland, as part of an effort to help bring the jazz and sports lounge to Ward 7. On October 28, Brown will host a voter registration drive in Fairfax Village.
“We don’t really have a communication vehicle within Hillcrest and Fairfax Village to inform voters of legislation passed by the D.C. Council and its impact,” Brown said.
“We have to reengage the community in the political process by helping them understand that there is someone who hears their concerns, understands their vision with community and articulates that with elected officials.”
Rosenberg, 26, a sixth-generation Washingtonian and Eastern High School alumnus, said he launched his campaign to quell ideological disputes between elders and millennials in his community about the direction of its development.
He criticized longtime community leaders, calling them members of an old regime that hasn’t listened wholeheartedly to concerns about the cost of living.
“I came back to D.C. and saw the change,” Rosenberg said. “Diversity and inclusivity haven’t been a part of it.”
As ANC commissioner, Rosenberg said he would use lessons he learned as a student at the Hult International Business School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and a member of a local nonprofit to mend fences between the various constituencies living in his single-member district.
“The elders don’t feel like they are part of the city’s commitment to change,” Rosenberg said. “I’m here to bridge the gap and be a transparent candidate. I live among elders who’ve been around for a long time and I also see millennials moving in. I talk to both about their concerns. The millennials don’t know D.C. and I think about how I can help them learn about our evolution over the last 15 years.”
Rosenberg’s platform centers on public safety, mental health, housing and transparency. He said those issues reflect the varying interests of people burdened by lack of parking and increased traffic density since the Wharf reopened last year.
As a member of the Progressive Blue Wave Slate, Rosenberg said he aspires to boost his constituents’ confidence in local government.
“I believe this slate represents a different kind of government that’s in it for the interests of the people, and not private gain,” Rosenberg said. “The people are our main concern. Progressivism means going above and beyond for the people. It’s a way of life in everything we do. When people say you can’t do something, you show them why you can. This is what this new progressive movement is doing.”