Former D.C. Council member Vincent Orange spoke to The Informer about his candidacy for an at-large council seat. Orange talks about his candidacy and why he wants to rejoin the council:
Washington Informer: Why are you running for the council in November as an independent candidate?
Vincent Orange: There is an open seat on the D.C. Council created by the departure of D.C. Council member David Grosso. I feel there needs to be a balance on the council and I still have a lot to offer. Our city is facing some tough challenges such as COVID-19 and a city that is undergoing some unrest. I have the experience to get the city back on track. We have to find a way to jump-start our economy. There should be a new normal for everyday people and our city should be for the benefit of everyone.
WI: You are not running as a Democrat, even though you have been in elected office with that party and have represented the District as a member of the Democratic National Committee. Why have you abandoned the Democratic Party for this council seat?
VO: Let me make it clear that I am not abandoning the Democratic Party. There are two at-large Democrats on the council now and I see myself as a complement to them. However, the Democrats on the council need to have a check so their policies reflect the interests of D.C. residents. For example, the Paid Leave Act passed by the council a few years ago. That Paid Leave Act, the way it is written, excludes 94,000 D.C. residents, but non-residents have the benefits. I believe that all D.C. residents should have paid leave on their jobs and have access to benefits like those. I think it is the job of D.C. Council members to take care of D.C. residents first.
WI: When some people heard of your candidacy, they say you represent “Old Washington.” What do you make of that assessment and what do you say in your defense?
VO: We need the right leadership right now, no matter what age a person is. We need seasoned people on the council who can deal with the city’s problems and now you have a lot of newcomers who don’t understand how the system works. On the council, you have the blind leading the blind. You have got to have the right mix of experience and perspective on the council for it to be effective. For example, Council member [Charles] Allen has a bill that would give D.C. residents a Metro card with money on it and the program would cost $150 million. I think a better way to spend $150 million would be to give all D.C. students laptops to bridge the digital divide. The council also needs to give more money for rental assistance programs, create business interruption grants and assist our returning citizens. There needs to be a council member who is working for the everyday person and that will be me.
WI: How will your experience as the president and CEO of the District of Columbia Chamber of Commerce enhance your service as a council member?
My four years as the president and CEO of the DC Chamber will serve me well as an at-large council member in balancing the needs of business, community and government. A balance of thought and integration of policies are needed to revive the D.C. economy, get our residents back to work in safe environments and getting the dollars to circulate again through our neighborhoods for the general welfare of the citizens of the District of Columbia.
WI: You have served on the council as a Ward 5 representative and an at-large member. Is there anything different you would like to do if you win another four-year term?
VO: I would like to serve on the Committee on Finance and Revenue. I am a certified public accountant and I believe that I could make a difference serving on that committee.
WI: Why would you like to serve on that committee and what will you bring to it that will benefit District residents?
VO: The members of the Committee on Finance and Revenue will play a significant role in overseeing the finances of the District, the replenishment of our rainy day fund, which has been reduced from nearly $2 billion to a contingency cash fund of approximately $150 million, maintenance of our unemployment compensation fund, which is being depleted due to numerous unemployment compensation claims, maintaining the debt service cap of 12 percent and maintaining the District’s triple-A bond status on Wall Street. Moreover, this committee must ensure the city’s budget is balanced in five-year intervals to prevent the return of the “federal control board” overseeing the District of Columbia while providing recovery measures for the District. My experience in assisting the District climbing out of a $518 million deficit, getting rid of junk-bond status and getting rid of the “federal financial control board” by balancing the District’s budget for four consecutive fiscal years is the type of knowledge, know-how and leadership that is required for the Finance and Revenue Committee. My experience as a certified public accountant, tax lawyer, chief financial officer, president and CEO, ward and at-large council member, private and public sector work experience and knowing the needs of “everyday people” will serve me well as chair of the committee and/or member thereof. I am uniquely qualified for the assignment to the committee.