There’s nobody running against incumbent Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen (D) in the June 21 Primary Election, but the candidate took the opportunity to let voters, as he put it, “kick the tires”.
About 40 people took advantage of that opportunity, though there was less kicking than questioning Monday evening as the Ward 6 Dems, the Southwester and the Hill Rag hosted a question and answer session with Charles Allen (D) on the grounds of the Town Square Towers (700 Seventh St. SW). The event was moderated by Hill Rag Managing Editor Andrew Lightman.
Allen spoke with neighbors about key issues facing Ward 6 including pandemic economic recovery, education, affordable housing and crime. Attendees submitted questions at the event.
The incumbent spoke about his vision for Ward 6 in his next term, saying he sees the election as an “opportunity to ask people to borrow their trust” to continue to build communities in Ward 6. Despite not having an opponent, Allen told the assembled that he is taking “nothing for granted” this election cycle and has been knocking on doors around the neighborhood and listening to voters and their priorities for Ward 6.
Pandemic recovery, Allen said, is key to the future of development and equity in the District, especially post pandemic.
“I think the next four years are going to be extremely pivotal for the District of Columbia,” Allen said. “We have an obligation as politicians to really focus on what our (pandemic) recovery looks like, how we can make it more equitable.”
Strong public transportation options, Allen said, are key to promoting economic growth and an innovative, accessible place to live for current residents of the Ward. Additionally, management of various construction projects across the Ward, Allen said, are important to organize.
Allen said that some of the issues facing the Southwest neighborhood such as construction and traffic are issues that need to be addressed. “Southwest is an incredibly special place, and we are going through a transition which is hard,” Allen said. While noting that a single solution will not fix these issues, Allen said one way to help take appropriate action is by bringing community members and the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) to the table to identify problems and possible solutions.
While economic growth and development are key for Allen’s vision for the future, he emphasized the importance of maintaining diversity in the Ward 6 neighborhoods through accessibility of affordable housing.
“Southwest is incredibly proud of rich diversity: racial diversity, economic diversity, the diversity of perspectives and viewpoints, the diversity of age,” Allen said. “I think that’s one of the things that was very special, and if all we end up with is luxury condos, it impacts how we shape what Ward 6 (looks like) 10 years from now.”
Regarding housing, Allen emphasized the importance of using “the tools in the toolbox” including efficient use of the Housing Production Trust Fund which provides funds for developers to build new developments with affordable units, creating “permeant affordability” for District residents.
Allen said not just creating, but preserving affordable housing are also key to ending homelessness and the affordable housing crisis that DC residents currently face. Additionally, Allen said “we all have to step it up” in terms of creating transit options both across the District and locally within Ward 6 to make the things people need accessible, regardless of where they live.
The District’s uptick in violence and crime is a complex issue. Allen has de-emphasized police as a response to crime and suggested a focus on the laws and also on mitigation through violence interruption. Allen noted that many violent offenders in the city have been victims of violent crime themselves, and emphasized the need to address the root causes of violence.
“We have to focus on the laws that we put in place,” Allen said. “Another space that we have to focus on is identifying is at risk of committing violence.”
Acknowledging the complexity of the problem, Allen advocated for increased accessibility to resources for helping address and reduce crime.
“The totality of what we have to do feels daunting at times,” Allen said. “We’ve got victims and survivors of domestic violence, sexual violence, gun violence, that need more support and more resources.”
The DC primary election will take place on June 21. Ballots were mailed starting May 16 and are able to be returned via postal mail or drop box across the District.
Sarah Payne is a general assignment reporter for Capital Community News. She can be reached at [email protected].