Loose Lips

Mayoral Candidates Offer Ministers More Influence and More Parking

The District's mayoral hopefuls took their best shots at playing preacher at last night's Missionary Baptist Ministers Conference Forum at Zion Baptist, offering the gathered reverends a voice in their hypothetical mayoral administrations—oh, and lots and lots of parking.

"This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!" said Ward 2 councilmember Jack Evans, kicking off the debate.

All the candidates promised to include ministers in mayoral decision-making. But with ministers openly worried at the forum about losing parishioners to Maryland, promising parking breaks on Sunday earned candidates the biggest applause lines. Former State Department official Reta Jo Lewis revealed that there's a "war on churches" afoot in the District. "How it started was parking," Lewis said.

Vincent Orange agreed with Lewis that there was a "war on parking," citing his own church's successful effort to get an exemption from the M Street bike lane. "If it was up to me, I would relax parking on Sunday," Orange said.

Tommy Wellssmart growth ways would suggest that he'd be the least likely candidate to go to bat for free parking. But Wells went the farthest of all, promising to create a cabinet-level position in his administration to cover church issues like parking. Muriel Bowser got in on the parking too, saying that there's no reason government shouldn't be able to help churches find spots for their parishioners all seven days of the week.

"It definitely will be my position that the government should get out of the way and let people get to church," Bowser said.

Wells' usual proclamations about not taking corporate contributions for his campaign, which he's gotten more confident about lately, wore on the other candidates. After Wells said every other candidate was taking corporate money, Bowser shot back that mentioning her was a move unbefitting Wells' background as a former Sunday school teacher.  "Where I come from, that’s just plain rude," she said.

But Bowser wasn't above some digs of her own. Later, she said that she certainly could criticize some of her rivals, while pointing her finger at Wells.

The debate's format, which gave candidates who were attacked in another candidate's answer time to defend themselves, left Gray inadvertently responding to the first question he's taken during a forum on his 2010 campaign's malfeasance. Wells, taking a cue from the sacred settings, said it was time for Gray to confess and ask for forgiveness for the corruption that helped get him elected.

But the ministers, who have apparently forgiven Gray for calling Chick-fil-A "hate chicken," weren't having it. "Tommy Wells's been running around town with that for the last several weeks, so I'm not going to waste my time with that," Gray said to applause.

Photo of Reta Jo Lewis by Darrow Montgomery

  • samantha

    It seems that many responding in such a vicious manner have no regard for church or respect for those who stayed and kept some level of support for the true history and culture of DC . It seems as if DC has it's own brand of Tea Party activist who are not only racist but unchurched .This hatred needs to go back to the places from which they have migrated . Evidently they could not express thi in their hometowns or it was the norm .

  • DC Guy

    Samantha,

    Part of the problem is that many of the ministers and their parishioners are no longer DC residents. They in fact, didn't "stay" and keep some level of support for the true history of DC, but rather they fled, and just come back once a week and park illegally, inconveniencing those who live in DC today. Sure that is a general statement, but so was yours.

  • Meanwhile

    News comes out that 1 person from the last three years has left Ross Elementary for their local middle school. 25% of all DCPS students leave after fifth grade.

    Meanwhile the candidates are bending over to placate Ward 9'ers.

    The more and more this happens the more and more Catania becomes a viable candidate.

  • Big Daddy

    Agree Jim Ed. Now pandering Wells is introducing a bill to remove the "have you ever been convicted of a crime" box on job applications. This douch= will never be Mayor. And for all of them to pander to the churches re: parking when most are from MD just rile me to no end. I hope Catania blows all of them away in the real election after they've all made fools of themselves in the primary. Also, please Ron Machen indict Gray and save us from his foolishness.

  • Steve

    My church has an agreement with the hotel across the street. Congregants may park there for free if they get a pass at the church.

  • cminus

    @samantha, I am a churchgoer. But as a Christian I feel obliged to be a good neighbor, and am disappointed at churches that are not.

    A good neighbor church is involved with the lives of people who live near it, rather than filling up for a couple of hours on Sunday with people who have no connection with the neighborhood during the rest of the week. A good neighbor church tries to make life better for the people who live near it, rather than demanding its neighbors make sacrifices just to make it easier for the congregation to drive there.

    Any churchgoer who puts their ease of getting to church over what's good for their neighbors has completely misunderstood the point of going to church.

  • SEis4ME

    Oops,

    For those who expended the energy believing Roscoe's MSP stats...

    http://www.twincities.com/ci_22732650/wilder-research-finds-homelessness-rising-minnesota-especially-among

  • Matt

    I must be missing something.

    Article: "Wells said he'd create a job description in his administration for a point person to deal with churches."

    Comments: "WELLS IS GIVING FREE PARKING TO CHURCHES"

    Looks like a lot of strong typers and weak readers in this comment thread.

  • ceefer

    @Ryan,

    "So the people who live, and work, and pay taxes in DC need to be inconvenienced on a weekly basis to satisfy the needs of a bunch of people who decided to move away but insist on visiting their tax-exempt meeting places in the District?"
    ----

    And you know ALL or even MOST of those church members are people "who decided to move away", because....?

    Yeah. That's what I thought.

    I'll bet you think all Black people LOOK alike too.

    One more example of why they hate carpet-bagging "newcomers".

  • ceefer

    If the people commenting here are representative of the "new DC", I can understand why decent, God-fearing people would want to move away.

  • SEis4ME

    Matt, no you didn't miss anything.

    People reasonably interpreted Wells' decision to grow the gov't (creating a new position) as pandering reasonably concluding that he would find a way to give churches more free parking.

    Wells is doing the same thing Bowser hopes to do..troll the black community for votes by offering DOA and unworkable solutions.

  • Fearing Dysphoria

    Maybe some candidates think the way to heaven is to create "rights" for suburban drivers who choose to worship in DC, even to the detriment of DC voters/taxpayers. That is something the electorate should know about, so I trust the question will be raised in candidate forums.

  • Corky

    You people who are assuming that the "church people" all live in Maryland are clearly missing the point that these candidates know--that the majority of these churches' members are DC residents. The fact that many also come form Maryland is irrelevant. And they should be able to park near their church. Just like the city eliminated hundreds of parking spaces for a few hundered bikers to ride around everyday, closes streeets for hipster festivals on H Street and other festivals and fundraisers for non-city residents to run, walk, or jog through the city, or God forbid, the ridiculous Rolling Thunder event on Memorial Day weekend that gridlocks the entire city, these "church people" deserve some consideration from the City. And most of the hate expressed towards them is clearly racial. See above. If people moving to the city don't want to deal with diversity, traffic and parking, then they need to move the fuck back to Nebraska where they came from.

  • http://www.ronaldrhanna.com SE Author

    Excerpt from D.C. novel, "Afraid of the Darks: The Gentrification of Shaw" ....

    Bill was growing to like Sebastian less and less by the minute. He’d never been particularly close to the Realtor, putting up with his “airs” which Bill considered an overly self-absorption not at all conducive to generating any measure of respect among the people who’d long lived in Shaw. Many of them in his view were looking for any unseemly characteristic in the new people moving into Shaw, and Sebastian seemed to be airing his disregard for the older residents for all to see. Bill had thus far given a smiling acknowledgement, at least, to the remaining blacks in his new neighborhood, while Sebastian, with exorbitant commissions on sales surely a driving force, had even approached the Shaw Advisory Neighborhood Commission to undertake a move to ticket the cars of churchgoers in the region. And since most of the churchgoers once lived in the area but had long since been forced to move to suburban Maryland, his pressuring of the City Council, the Mayor and police chief through the ANC only drove a deeper wedge between the historic residents and the newcomers.
    Even more repulsive to Bill, Sebastian had laughingly exposed his plan to have the historic black churches in Shaw forced out of the community. At present, Sebastian was the recipient of congenial smiles from Bill, but was quickly becoming a person Bill would rather not be around.

  • Roscoe’s Wetsuit

    And records show that Sulaimon is the only "problem" Gray hired and fired w/in two months on the job.

    - Demonstrably false. Lorraine Green's list ran deep. And FYI, people lost their mind weekly on here about Peter Nickels, so to now claim that nobody cared about nepotism prior to Gray is also - you guessed it, demonstrably false.

    The pet project, which you selectively quoted, is Vince's long term interest in reducing shelter capacity in favor of a temporary rent assistance program. Vince has been working on tra's for two decades, and got a bill to Fenty that he signed.

    Regarding homelessness - telling that you posted an article from a YEAR AGO. Do some actual research, particulary into the work Rev. Jim Gertmenian has been doing with Minneapolis's mayor, and look at CURRENT numbers.

    BTW, not sure how DC is similarly situated to Chicago, NY, or San Francisco, as all have populations significantly higher than DC's. Of course, so do the twin cities, so maybe you just need a little learnin'.

  • Roscoe’s Wetsuit

    And with that, I'm out.

  • SEis4ME

    Lorraine Green's list ran deep.

    Well ok. So where's the list? And at what point did Green work for the Mayor and was responsible for hiring. I will admit to being a lil sketchy on some of those details. But I'll concede to whatever "list" you're about to disclose.

    people lost their mind weekly on here about Peter Nickels, so to now claim that nobody cared about nepotism prior to Gray is also

    You're right, people HERE did raise a stink but it stands to reason that the fact he remained on the job the entire time means that people (media, residents) actually DID NOT care about it. If so, he would've been fired like those hired under Gray's watch.

    Vince has been working on tra's for two decades, and got a bill to Fenty that he signed.

    That differs from what I said in what way again? I said Fenty signed a bill Gray had been working on for over 20 years. You repeated the same thing.

    Regarding homelessness - telling that you posted an article from a YEAR AGO. Do some actual research,...and look at CURRENT numbers.

    Well that's an odd response. The article I posted was written in March of last year (barely a year ago) and I assume it, like all studies, provide results from the previous - NOT CURRENT - years. I assume the CURRENT numbers (covering 2013) will be reported at some point soon.

    BTW, not sure how DC is similarly situated to Chicago, NY, or San Francisco, as all have populations significantly higher than DC's.

    Hmm, DC's (as a SINGLE city) population is double that of St. Paul and Minnesota. Yet you seem to believe they were comparable. Or, maybe you just need a little learning.

  • SEis4ME

    And Minneapolis

  • Roscoe’s Wetsuit

    Hmm, DC's (as a SINGLE city) population is double that of St. Paul and Minnesota (Minneapolis). Yet you seem to believe they were comparable

    Hmmm.
    Minneapolis: 392,880 AND
    St. Paul: 290,770

    Total: 683,650

    DC:646,449

    Even considering your dubious disction between Minneapolis and St. Paul (which are the same city for all practical purposes), is 392,880 half of 646,449?

    You lose. Again. I'm done. Hope this isn't a question on your GED exam.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/thisisbossi/ Bossi

    For the first few paragraphs I'd thought this was satire.

  • AWalkerInTheCity

    Over the last several weeks there have been several items on churches with mostly suburban congregations selling their buildings often for residential development. This is a problem that will solve itself.

  • ceefer

    It is interesting to note that those who whine and complain about parking by members of black churches like Metropolitan AME have NOTHING to say about parking at the several white churches nearby in DuPont Circle and Georgetown - or any other white congregation anywhere else in DC.

    So we can conclude:

    1. ALL members of ALL white churches park in a manner that is perfectly acceptable to ALL newcomers - at least those likely to comment here and in GGW.

    2. Newcomers have a "problem" ONLY with parking at black churches.

    3. Those who have a problem only with parking at black churches are racist jerks who are better off moving back to wherever they came from and being ignored in the meantime.

    4. Anyone who points that out is a racist black person.

  • Crickey7

    The idea that we need to relax the parking laws even further for Sunday parking is legitimately offensive. Enforcement of the parking laws around churches is virtually non existent on Sundays. And it's not meaningless laws we're talking about, it's blocking driveways, parking in front of hydrants, double-parking and so on. The problem the churches face isn't parking laws, it's too many cars. And that is a problem they would rather point the finger elsewhere for.

    Frankly, if parking were not virtually free 7 days a week, it would be more plentiful. So, ministers, free parking is not your answer. It's the root of your problem.

  • Corky

    Spot on @ceefer!! These people whining about parking on one day of the week during the time that most of them are hungover anyway seem to have no problem with the PERMANENT removal of parking spaces for them to ride bikes (when the weather is nice!) They are just a bunch of self centered-- dare I say "myopic twits"?

  • ceefer

    "he idea that we need to relax the parking laws even further for Sunday parking is legitimately offensive. Enforcement of the parking laws around churches is virtually non existent on Sundays. And it's not meaningless laws we're talking about, it's blocking driveways, parking in front of hydrants, double-parking and so on. The problem the churches face isn't parking laws, it's too many cars. And that is a problem they would rather point the finger elsewhere for."
    ------

    And based on what we see here and in GGW, the problem - at least the problem for those who comment - is only with black churches.

    I refuse to believe that.

    And the "parking is too cheap/too many cars" nonsense is a red herring.

  • Crickey7

    It's entirely possible that the biggest issues are with largely black churches, I don't know. I wasn't there at the meeting at which candidates promised, at the urging of certain churches, special dispensation from the parking laws for those churches, or for disruption of miles-long infrastructure for one part of one block for part of one day a week for those churches.

  • ceefer

    In other words, you don't know what you're talking about - again.

    Nothing to see here, folks. Keep it moving.

  • ceefer

    Fact is, these black churches are under attack - from the bike lobby and their blogger mouthpieces.

    Davis Alpert and DavidC have consistently attacked Metropolitan AME over their position on the M Street Cycle track issue. Their position - like yours - is how dare those uppity black church (whom they allege don't live in DC) get in the way of "progress", especially when said "progress" is what the bike lobby wants?

    Black churches bear the brunt of venom not only from the bike lobby but from newcomer neighbors who get off on picking on churches. Metropolitan Baptist, for example, was chased out of Shaw because of harassment from newcomer neighbors that included petitions, lawsuits, and damage to members' vehicles. I personally have been harassed WHILE LEGALLY PARKED on a block where I own a house by newcomers who THINK I'm attending the church nearby. One in particular threatened to damage my car. This is inexcusable.

    The newcomers seem to forget that many if not most of those church members are DC residents - and former residents - who also pay DC taxes.

    And I repeat: I have NEVER seen any complaint from you or your blogger friends about parking at white churches. In spite of what you might think, black churches are not the only offenders and it's damn offensive of you and your blogger friends to imply that they are.

  • Crickey7

    Since the issue is too many cars and two few parking spaces for that one day, I can't imagine how it's a red herring. The whole point of Panderfest 2014 was that these candidates could somehow make free, convenient parking in front of these churches magically appear.

    Now, I'm sure these churchgoers liked hearing this, but I'm a born and raised Washingtonian, and I'm pretty sure the people of DC that I'm familiar with knew they were being sold a bill of goods. There are no cheap easy fixes that make everyone happy. At least my suggestion works.

  • Stella

    Did I miss the memo where the separation of church and state was abolished, or is the fact that DC is not a state mean that the churches deserve a special cabinet-level adviser so that churchgoers can park for free on Sundays? Did I wake up in bizarro-land? The government has no role in helping, or hindering folks going to church, and that means getting out of this parking debate altogether.

  • David C

    I don't see what Tommy did as pandering. That's Will Sommers' take, but I'm not sure it makes sense. Here's what Sommers said, without the editorializing

    "Wells [promised] to create a cabinet-level position in his administration to cover church issues like parking."

    Now, that basically is a promise to do something about it. But that's the end of it. TDM planning? Special Sunday parking? Enormous 10,000 city-fundeed parking garages for all? He didn't say. I don't know how "I'm going to put someone on this" is pandering. Would a better answer have been to say "my administration will do nothing?"

    I'm not sure why Sommer thinks this is "going the farthest" except maybe because Wells is the only candidate who goes anywhere at all. The only other statement on future behavior came from Bowser who said that she would get out of the way and let people go to church. Finally, a mayor who will let people go to church!

    So, I don't think it's pandering. It's bad writing by Sommer (which is unusual for him I'll add).

  • SEis4ME

    David you have your own view and Will has his. The post is about the level of pandering surrounding this parking issue. Wells is the most egregious example because hes the only one who suggested the ridiculous proposal.

    He's just as bad as Bowser who pandered to EOTR black voters by proposing to create. DEPUTY Mayor for EOTR.

    It's highly suspect of you to consider Will's interpretation as "bad writing." It's his opinion. ..one u just happen 2 disAgree.

  • Simone

    Is all this anger really about 2 hours out of one day a week? Seriously 2 hours?
    Or Is it about out of town cars parking illegally in another city and not getting ticketed on a Sunday? Is it about black churches having been characterized as homophobic therefore some homophob cleverly stated war btw LBGT and black Christians? Is it about racist white people wanting to call black people racist too?
    Parking on Sunday in every city has always been relaxed.
    We need out of town visitors.
    Btw religious people don't leave and go to another church.
    Even if they move to Costa Rica, that church in DC is where they baptist their children and their great great grandchildren.
    Black people in church have gay relatives and sit in church themselves. Yes a few ministers white black yellow an purple are homophobic but my black minister says we love not judge.
    Just because there a black supremacist in town doesn't mean black people just because they are black concern themselves with them. I mean not all white people are in the KKK right?
    I get it you @ " "want a race.
    Is everyone here really going to let that get started over 2 hours of parking on Sunday?

    Can my grandma please come to church in DC and park with some leniency on Sunday for about2 hours. She's 80 years old and she heads the baby church so the parents can focus on the sermon

  • Alan

    If churches are so concerned only about their elderly parishioners why aren't people picking them up and dropping them at the door or running a valet service.

  • Simone

    @Alan
    Bc they are trying to keep money in their benevolence fund to feed the hungry homeless sick and unemployed. When you run their parishioners out of town and run out their charity resources maybe you'll do the neighborly thing and give up your wallet on the way to the corner bar. That's the bar the church sold its property to when you ran them out of town over a measly 2 hours of parking . That's the new hang out for you and the neighbors you had not met yet.

  • ceefer

    "If churches are so concerned only about their elderly parishioners why aren't people picking them up and dropping them at the door or running a valet service."
    -----

    As a matter of fact, many do.

    But some people like to drive to church so they can visit relatives or go to brunch/dinner and SPEND MONEY in "your city" after church.

    A little thing about one size not fitting all.

    And it's not always about you.

    Hope that clears it up.

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