Michael Neibauer, The Examiner
Aug 24, 2006 5:00 AM (6 hrs ago)
Current rank: # 150 of 6,220 articles
WASHINGTON - Among the District’s eight wards, Ward 3 is the steady ship.
During the last dozen years, as the city navigated the Control Board, gentrification, high unemployment and waves of violence, Ward 3 remained predictable and sound, with high household income, quality schools, low crime and a well-educated citizenry.
The occasional appalling murder is a reminder that the area west of Rock Creek Park is not protected by a force field. Ward 3 is also not immune to the periodic failings of emergency medical services or an ineffective education system. But for the most part, residents say, life is good.
“They care about issues that extend beyond Ward 3 boundaries,” Sam Brooks said of the voters. “I’ve been struck by that, by the questions I get about poverty and affordable housing, problems which don’t affect that many people in Ward 3.”
At 26, Brooks is the youngest of nine Democrats vying for the Ward 3 D.C. Council seat.
For the first time since 1994, the ward’s council seat is in play, as three-term Council Member Kathy Patterson vies for the council chairmanship. The next representative will not only be asked to tackle common Ward 3 issues — maintaining streets and parks, taxes and development — but also the citywide matters that impact everyone.
“We cannot isolate Ward 3 from the rest of the city,” said candidate Robert Gordon, an expert in international development and a longtime Chevy Chase advisory neighborhood commissioner. “The problems of the rest of the city intrude on Ward 3. I believe we’re morally obligated to provide good services to everybody.”
Most candidates say education is No. 1 on the minds of voters prior to the Sept. 12 primary.
“We’d be stupid and unwise to lose track of the fact that public safety is a vital issue,” said Erik Gaull, former director of Operational Improvements under Mayor Anthony Williams. “They’re basically tied. We’ve become myopically focused on the education crisis.”
Council aspirants have offered wide-ranging promises when it comes to the schools.
Paul Strauss, the city’s Shadow Senator, vows no school closings in Ward 3 and more council oversight of school spending. Bill Rice, the former spokesman for the Department of Transportation, also pledges no school closures, and claims in his literature to be the only candidate who can “make sure our schools get fixed the right way.”
Gordon would form a corporation to oversee school modernization and ramp up vocational opportunities. Brooks wants to create a BRAC-style school closing commission.
Eric Goulet, the former clerk to the council’s finance committee, said it appears his opponents are “running for the school board.”
“I think my message that we need to spend our money more responsibly is really catching on,” said Goulet, who won the endorsement of the D.C. Chamber of Commerce and Greater Washington Board of Trade.
Political observers say the ultimate Ward 3 winner likely will have two things going for him or her as he or she nears election day — endorsements and a strong get-out-the-vote machine.
Gaull has won the support of the Fraternal Order of Police and D.C. Paramedics Union. Mary Cheh, a George Washington University law professor and former special counsel to the D.C. Council’s judiciary committee, picked up the support of firefighters and the Washington Post.
“They want a strong representative, a strong voice on the council who has stature and they’re proud of,” Cheh said of the voters.
Rounding out the candidates are Cathy Wiss, a Tenleytown advisory neighborhood commissioner and president of the Tenleytown Neighbors Association, and Jonathan Rees, known for his aggressive online campaign tactics.