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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Meet the Ward 7 Candidates

Ebbon A. Allen
Educator and second-generation Washingtonian Ebbon A. Allen says his vision is for an inclusive Ward 7, including the rising Latino population. Citing a public safety day he held for the Benning Park community to discuss ways to tackle issues, he said the city needs to identify and break cycles to get to the root causes why violent crime happens.

Ebbon Allen

Allen said DC needs to support grassroots organizations helping youth deal with trauma. But he adds that if youth “do the crime they must do the time.” He said he supports pretrial detention since it gives youth time to consider their actions.

As a councilmember, Allen says he would bring a STEAM middle school to Ward 7 to provide opportunity and apprenticeships, working to extend those programs through high school. He also wants to keep recreation centers open to midnight to provide positive activity and safe spaces for youth.

Citing his family’s experience with childbirth, Allen said Ward 7 needs additional maternal health facilities, but he also called for additional support for teenaged pregnancies. As the city’s budget tightens, he would prioritize public safety and education in future District spending, adding that the Benning streetcar extension “is not a priority of mine.”

Kelvin Brown
Growing up with seven brothers, Kelvin Brown says he learned conflict resolution at a young age. A military veteran, Brown has an MBA from Alabama State University but also worked as a teacher for five years.

Brown says housing is a human right, and he would introduce bills to give DC residents first look at tax-sale properties, exempt seniors from property taxes and alleviate taxes for disabled veterans and first responders. He says that as councilmember he would increase funding to early education programming and professionals and also identify and fund promising STEAM training. The Safe Passage program is a funding priority for him in future budgets to ensure all students are safe coming to and going from school.

Kelvin Brown

As a councilmember, he would support additional funding for recreational out-of-school programming.

Brown says he would fully fund the United Communication Center to improve 911 response times, and restore school resource officers in schools. He says we need to support the police and ensure they are in the community, but also support families and kids “because we cannot arrest our way out of this criminal crisis that we are in.”

Wendell Felder
Currently on leave as chair of the Ward 7 Democrats, Wendell Felder says he has been deeply involved in Ward 7 for the last 10 years. He is working toward one goal: to improve the quality of life for Ward 7 families.

Wendell Felder

Felder says one of his first bills would create a fund where the city matches parent donations and distributes funds to schools to ensure enriched educational experiences. He would like to make the Summer Youth Employment Program year-round, with spots reserved for kids with a 2.5 GPA or higher who live in a high-crime or economically disadvantaged neighborhood.

Felder says his biggest priorities are public safety, economic development of amenities, investing and improving neighborhood schools and protecting senior citizens. He proposes augmenting the Metropolitan Police Department force by expanding the cadet program to additional universities, obligating cadets to five years of service in DC once they graduate.

Nathan “Nate” Fleming
Fleming is the former shadow representative for the District of Columbia, a former legislative and committee director in the DC Council and a constitutional lawyer. Fleming has a law degree from the University of California, Berkeley, and a PhD in education from the University of Pennsylvania. He says this is the lived educational, professional experience needed to deliver for Ward 7.

Fleming cites his work on DC Council legislation, including the Ward 7 Dream Grants program and bringing Bard Early College High School to the District. Moving forward, there need to be more magnet programs in District schools, including language and technology programs, Fleming argues. He says as councilmember, one of the first things he will do is create a program at the University of the District of Columbia for people to finish incomplete college degrees.

Nate Fleming

He advocates for more DC residents to join the Metropolitan Police Department and for a push for more community engagement from officers. As councilmember, Fleming plans to build a healthcare network by ensuring that every major development project includes a healthcare benefit, from dental office to care center or senior facility. Central to his platform is a proposal for universal out-of-time programming for youth in Wards 7 and 8 and a guaranteed jobs program for youth under 30 to help build employment and employable skills.

Roscoe Grant Jr.
Roscoe Grant Jr. is a former commissioner for ANC 7B and a 53-year District resident, 41 of those years spent living in Fort Davis. Grant points to financial mismanagement in the District, linking the $515 million pulled from the capital budget to the $500 million cut in the operational budget. He argues that the Home Purchase Assistance Program (HPAP) needs to be increased, and he advocates for an examination and reform of the mechanism by which those funds are disbursed to ensure funds are distributed fairly.

Grant says that improved health needs to start with education in the schools but adds that he wants to talk to the District Attorney General about high medical costs. He says the District needs to meet people where they are, advocating for the city to get mobile clinics to bring healthcare where it is needed.

Roscoe Grant

Grant says he wants to ensure the police have an adequate budget, rejecting ideas about defunding the police. He advocates for a resurgence in neighborhood watch programs. Grant says youth need increased access to employment training, and he promotes programs like “Shoot with a Camera Not a Gun,” which positively channels creative energies.

Grant advocates for the return of vocational education to District schools and better support of teachers by increased mental health support and nurse presence in schools.

Villareal “VJ” Johnson II
Villareal “VJ” Johnson II is the Hillcrest Community Civic Association President and a former ANC 7B commissioner. He started working with youth more than 20 years ago on the 2900 block of Nelson Place, and says that among the candidates he has the longest track record of getting things done in Ward 7.

Johnson says Ward 7 hasn’t gotten its equitable share of the city’s prosperity over the last 10 years. “A lot of projects, no movement,” he says. He worked with Events DC until RFK and says he has the most experience with the opportunities on the campus. But further development is possible in Deanwood, he said, saying as councilmember he would guarantee a Giant store at Capitol Gateway.

Villareal “VJ” Johnson II

Johnson celebrates the new hospital and urgent-care centers but says given that health accounts for 32% of the budget, he would push for a more extensive primary-care network throughout the neighborhoods. A former young offender himself, Johnson says public safety is a balance between preventative measure and holding violent offenders accountable. Families need support and stabilization to ensure their needs are met, but at the same time young people need to face consequences for crimes committed.

“I am the most capable, competent and committed person in this race. If you want an engaging, responsive and accountable councilmember,” Johnson says, “I’m the person.”

Ebony Payne
Current secretary for Friends of Kingman Park and a commissioner on ANC 7D, Ebony Payne is a third-generation Washingtonian and a founder of RFK Futures, a community-based group advocating for community needs at the RFK campus. Opposition to an NFL stadium on the RFK site is a pillar of her campaign.

Payne says as councilmember she would work to ensure the community is put first during the redevelopment of the RFK campus, and that DC taxpayers are not footing the bill for a new football stadium.

Ebony Payne

A herbalist, her second theme is access to healthy food, which Payne says is achievable through a market built around Black producers and by leveraging the federal New Markets Tax Credit to incentivize chains to set up. That, she said, will go a long way toward improving health disparities. Finally, she prioritizes addressing crime, particularly gun violence among youth. Payne has argued that empowered leadership is a central component of a strong school, and advocates for vocational education. She supports an increased push toward community policing and says recruiting from the community, especially Black women, would help officers relate to the community.

“I want voters to think of me as someone who will bring positive change, strong leadership and who is not beholden to anyone other than the voters of Ward 7,” Payne says.

Veda Rasheed
Attorney and ANC 7E Commissioner Veda Rasheed says she is the only candidate who has served in every branch of DC government. A former chair of the Ward 7 Young Democrats, she also worked under former Attorney General Karl Racine.

Rasheed decided to run for office after getting a call about a shooting at her child’s school. “I jumped immediately into action because I know when I’m sending my child to school I want them to be safe.” Streets are safer when police quickly catch violent offenders and hold them accountable, Rasheed says, but she also calls for greater support of youth and families and for neighborhood programs such as Cure the Streets.

Veda Rasheed

Rasheed is one of the only candidates to indicate support for an NFL stadium at the RFK campus, but she argues for a wider focus on whole ward’s economic development, saying investing in youth through vocational training programs is the best way to invest in the economy. She also calls for more and stronger community development corporations in the ward, saying there need to be more community benefits agreements between neighborhoods and developers.

Denise Reed
Serving the District since 1993, when she got her start as a DC Council staffer under David Clark, Reed moved to the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. Reed supports vocational education in high schools, saying kids need a pathway to employment besides college.

Denise Reed

Reed says many residents are unaware of the resources available to them and that agencies need to regularly come into the community to show neighbors what is available to them. Reed says she would eliminate the Fair Elections Program, calling it an unneeded District expense.

She says a key item she would push for is increased collaboration and communication across DC agencies, especially between the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and the Department of Behavioral Health and DC Health, saying that many crimes are being committed because of mental health. She also advocates for an increased MPD budget and additional officers.

Reed says she is in the race to win it. “I think I can do more for Ward 7 than anyone can imagine,” she says.

Eboni-Rose Thompson
A fifth-generation Washingtonian, Ward 7 State Board of Education Representative and former ANC 7F commissioner Eboni-Rose Thompson says she makes her decisions through the lens of their impact on future Washingtonians, focusing on economic development, health and public safety.

Thompson said that oversight of contract approval and agency spending is a key responsibility of a councilmember. She said even now, as SBOE president, she is watching to ensure neighborhood schools are fully funded and is working with the deputy mayor to get quality programming into all Ward 7 schools. Thompson says the District is missing revenue opportunities by not pushing economic development along Ward 7 corridors such as a grocery store at Capitol Gateway, where commuters would shop on the way home to Maryland.

Eboni-Rose Thompson

In terms of public safety, she says that officers need to be on the streets and in schools so District residents see them as part of the community. That would also build relationships with youth, helping officers to better do their work.

Thompson said the city needs to invest in youth, including school programming to keep kids in school and wraparound services to support their mental health and their families. She says she would structure a healthcare network around the new Cedar Hill Hospital, building out school-based health clinics.


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