Change Mt. Pleasant Can Believe In?
(This article has been corrected since it was first published.)
Mt. Pleasant will soon see a stark change in its hyper-local political leadership—half of the members of ANC 1D won’t be running for re-election next month.
In lieu of another term, commissioners Phil Lepanto, Dave Bosserman, and Oliver Tunda said they want to dedicate their time to other pursuits. But there’s an additional factor at play here: as Housing Complex reported in June, conflicting visions for the neighborhood’s future make for an ANC that gets things done at a tantalizingly slow pace, if at all.
And this often leads to collective frustration.
“These four old white guys run through the same old bickering, like old ladies,” Bosserman said about some fellow 1D commissioners, “and I said, ‘you know what? We need to get some new people in here.’”
Lepanto also cited vexation at the ANC as a reason for leaving, explaining in an e-mail how the improvements he hoped to make during his tenure as a commissioner met resistance “in almost every case.”
With three incumbents staying off the ballot, a fresh crop of candidates has stepped up in an effort to change how 1D operates and the way that the rest of D.C. views their community. Mt. Pleasant Main Street President Adam Hoey, running for Tunda’s seat as a write-in, wanted to stress that the area enjoys more unity and consensus than local media tend to report.
He said he’d just like to see some of that neighborliness extend to 1D, conceding that his experience dealing with it has been “like running into a brick wall.”
The ANC has a reputation for competing, not collaborating, with other Mt. Pleasant citizen groups, he said, alleging a preference that Chairman Gregg Edwards gives to his own organization, All-Ways Mt. Pleasant, in awarding perks like micro-grant money.*
Challenging Edwards this year is Phil Greiner, also of MPMS. Greiner mentioned he would push for incremental developments that the ANC frequently blocked under Edwards which 1D stopped propagating when it ran into resistance from another ANC, 1A.*
Commissioner Jack McKay, the only one on 1D not facing a challenger this election cycle, defended Edwards, pointing out in an e-mail how the chairman got 55 resolutions passed since last year and has helped make the neighborhood’s Latino population a more visible presence at ANC meetings.
“Two of us make this a full-time job,” said McKay, mentioning that he and Edwards introduce about 85 percent of all the resolutions that 1D passes. This might make the other commissioners, he said, feel “a little overwhelmed.”
But many residents don’t care for the initiatives that the ANC put forth over the last several years. Hoey said that some commissioners propagate a grandiose, unrealistic vision for Mt. Pleasant at the expense of smaller, more immediate policies that would get tangible results.
John Craig, another write-in candidate challenging Commissioner Angelina Scott, said that the ANC has focused on agendas that don’t apply to Mt. Pleasant’s best interests.
“I think our commission is just not working,” said Craig. “It pretty much uses all of its energy for pie-in-the-sky policy.”
He said he'd rather see it appeal to outside businesses and strike a balance between what he calls the neighborhood’s two polarized camps—those who favor large-scale change, and those who want to keep things the way they are.
Meanwhile, the outgoing Lepanto explained the imperative for ANC 1D to engage the city and regain its trust after proving difficult to work with.
“D.C. agencies are scared to death of 1D,” he said.
* CORRECTION: Due to a reporting error, this post originally reported that ANC 1D had given 14 of 16 local microgrants to All-Ways Mt. Pleasant. In fact, there were 22 microgrants awarded; three went to All-Ways. Due to another reporting error, the post also reported that ANC1D chairman Gregg Edwards had blocked a move to paint Mt. Pleasant's name on signs at the Columbia Heights Metro station. In fact, the Mt. Pleasant ANC endorsed that; the Columbia Heights ANC opposed it. ANC1D does not have the power to alter the signs in that station on its own, regardless.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery