Vincent Orange is seeking reelection as the Ward 5 council member. (WI file photo)
Vincent Orange is seeking reelection as the Ward 5 council member. (WI file photo)

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misstated Zachary Parker’s current role within the D.C. State Board of Education. He is a past president of the board.

Ward 5 residents have concerns about the condition of the ward with the D.C. Council primary elections a little over two months away and they want the candidates to talk about issues that concern them the most.

“I am very concerned about gentrification,” said Jeff Dawson, who spoke outside of the Giant Food Store located in the Rhode Island Place shopping mall in Northeast. “People can’t afford to live here and seniors who have been here for years are being driven out because it is too expensive.”

On June 21, Ward 5 residents will have to choose between former D.C. Council member Vincent Orange, advisory neighborhood commissioner Gordon Fletcher, former Bowser administration official Faith Gibson Hubbard, former D.C. State Board of Education President Zachary Parker, former advisory neighborhood commissioner Kathy Henderson and political activists Art Lloyd and Gary Johnson to represent the Democratic party in the Nov. 8 general election to be the next ward council member. Democratic Ward 5 Council member Kenyan McDuffie decided not to run for reelection and to pursue becoming the District’s second elected attorney general.

As the campaign proceeds, Ward 5 residents told the Informer they want the candidates to address certain issues they feel affect the quality of life in their neighborhoods. The race occurs as the ward’s demographic evolution continues to change. In 2010, census figures reported Ward 5 having a 76% Black population but by 2021, DC Health Matters revealed the ward’s African-American percentage had dropped to 55%. 

Additionally, political observers have long considered Ward 5 the area to watch because it has become a micro-version of the city as far as income and racial diversity are concerned and the high level of political engagement that has occurred since Home Rule came into being in 1974. 

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser hails from Ward 5 and in one council period during the previous decade, four of the 13 council members, at large members Vincent Orange, David Grosso and Anita Bonds and ward representative McDuffie, served together constituting the largest bloc in terms of ward residents.

Residents Articulate a Variety of Issues

Dawson, who has lived in Ward 5 for many years, said he has some apprehension about the ward’s direction. He believes the ward has too many fast-food outlets and “no good sit-down restaurants.” Dawson added that the ward doesn’t have enough Black businesses and those that are operating are fledging and not growing fast enough. 

Rhonda Dunkins, who also shops at Rhode Island Place, said she doesn’t know who she will vote for in the primary.

“I haven’t heard their agendas,” Dunkins said. “I think Vincent is a dinosaur. He needs to move on because the old D.C. is not coming back.”

Dunkins said Ward 5 has become overdeveloped.

“You see all of these apartment buildings popping up but who is living in these places?” she asked rhetorically. “People need housing in this city and the candidates really need to talk about that.”

Robert V. Brannum represents single-member district 5E08 as an advisory neighborhood commissioner. He said he would like the candidates to talk more about eliminating homelessness, improving the ward’s schools, fighting crime and controlling traffic.

“Our next council member really needs to focus on solving the homeless problem,” Brannum said. “This is not a Ward 5 issue but a D.C. issue. Public safety has become a problem in the ward. Recently, we have had shootings and carjackings in places like Ivy City/Trinidad and Montana Avenue. We need a police force that is adequately staffed and spread around the city.”

Sydelle Moore serves as an advisory neighborhood commissioner for single-member district 5D05. Moore echoed some of Brannum’s concerns regarding crime.

“My district is close to Benning Road., N.E.,” she said. “The violent crime in this area can get bad sometimes. We need to get a handle on it because people are trying to raise their families here.”

Moore also said the candidates should talk about how they will deal with the Department of Public Works.

“We need trash service on a regular basis,” Moore said. “There is also illegal dumping in my district that needs to stop.”

James Wright Jr. is the D.C. political reporter for the Washington Informer Newspaper. He has worked for the Washington AFRO-American Newspaper as a reporter, city editor and freelance writer and The Washington...

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