Western High School, Parking Top Georgetown Issues at Candidate Forum
Four at-large candidates for D.C. Council sound off Thursday at Georgetown Business Association forum.
Four candidates for the at-large seat on D.C. Council offered answers that were at times hardly distinguishable and in others worlds apart during the Georgetown Business Association's At-Large Candidates' forum Thursday.
In attendance were incumbents Michael A. Brown (Independent) and Vincent Orange (Democrat) and challengers Mary Brooks Beatty (Republican) and David Grosso (Independent).
Should Western High School become a neighborhood school again? Should guest parking permits arrive in the mail? These and other questions were among those candidates answered during the two-hour forum.
In perhaps the most specific and relevant comment for Georgetowners, Grosso said he would support returning the Western Senior High School building, now Ellington School for the Arts, to local use.
"Why can't you renovate Western and make it a high school over here and then put Duke Ellington in another spot, since it's really a feeder art school with a high quality campus?" he asked.
Ellington is an arts magnet school. Non-arts public school students in Ward 2 attend Wilson High School in Tenleytown.
"This is what I call a golden opportunity," Grosso said.
He went on to say that until D.C. solves problems with overcrowding in Wards 2 and 3, the challenge of providing high quality schools in other areas won't be solved, either.
Beatty, Brown and Orange all emphasized the need to bring quality schools like Georgetown's to other areas, which would also help reduce the out-of-boundary demand for Ward 2 and 3 schools.
Tax Increment Financing for Georgetown
Tax Increment Financing (TIF) has been used downtown to lure in businesses to areas like Penn Quarter. At a public meeting last November, Georgetown developer Herb Miller said the best way to revitalize Wisconsin Avenue would be to secure funding from the city similar to that seen downtown. Patch submitted a question to candidates, asking if they would support financing to lure businesses specifically to Georgetown.
No one directly answered whether Georgetown should get a TIF; instead they focused on over-regulation and struggling small businesses.
"We need to make it easy for small businesses to open," Beatty said.
Michael Brown said when giving TIFs, D.C. needed to do a better job of ensuring that existing businesses are not negatively impacted by development.
Orange said TIF's are too long-term in focus and that small businesses need access to capital "now." He argued that D.C. needs to have better accounting for budget surpluses and allocate those extra dollars to helping small businesses.
Grosso said he would support lowering the sales tax rate to match that of surrounding jurisdictions, to help D.C. businesses compete. He, like others, said the District needs to do more to support both existing and new small businesses.
Georgetown, Grosso said, has been a driving force for the business community and its small businesses need to be "nurtured" just as much as others.
While all four candidates said they were in favor of residents receiving guest parking passes in the mail throughout the city, citing fairness, they were not entirely uniform in their take on reforming residential parking zones.
Grosso said the parking areas are too big and spread out and he would be open to creating smaller, more focused permit areas.
Beatty said the current rates to buy a parking permit as a resident as well as parking fees at meters were "almost like a war on cars." Having formerly served as a Capitol Hill Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner near H Street NE, she worried about the impact current parking rates have on local businesses. She said high meter rates "penalizing" people who come from out the area or the suburbs to enjoy restaurants and nightlife.
Brown said the solution was a "real, solid municipal parking system" that could compete with the likes of nearby Silver Spring, which offers free garages for restaurant and shopping crowds.
Orange said he would defer to residents to call the shots on where the boundaries should be drawn for new residential parking zones.