Who will you pick for DC Council at-large on April 23?

Patrick Mara

Patrick Mara is the Ward 1 representative to the DC State Board of Education. The 37-year-old Marist College graduate makes his living as a political consultant, though to observers of DC politics, he his perhaps best known for his successful 2008 primary challenge against then-Councilmember Carol Schwartz. Mara, who lives in Columbia Heights, also placed second in a 2011 special election for an at-large council seat.

Question 9

We asked the candidates:

DC is moving towards implementing a number of changes to its zoning code. To that end, where do you stand on eliminating parking minimums near transit; allowing residents to rent out basements, garages, etc. in low-density areas; and allowing more neighborhood-serving retail in residential neighborhoods?

Unfortunately, Patrick Mara did not respond to this question.

Question 8

We asked the candidates:

Last year DC Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson said that DC schools are suffering from a "truancy crisis." The DC Council is now debating a bill that would increase penalties on parents for kids who chronically miss school. Should parents be held to account for when their kids miss school? How can DC ensure that students attend school consistently?

Unfortunately, Patrick Mara did not respond to this question.

Question 7

We asked the candidates:

Below are a set of proposals for ethics reform which some have advocated in recent years. For each, would you vote for or against? Further, you can explain any position in more detail if you wish and offer any additional ethics measures you would advocate for.

  • Ban or limit outside employment
  • Eliminate or constrain constituent service funds
  • Ban corporate contributions to campaigns
  • Ban "bundling" from multiple entities controlled by same person
  • Ban contributions by contractors and/or lobbyists who do business with DC
  • Forbid free or discounted legal services, travel gifts, sports tickets for councilmembers

Patrick Mara responded:

Ban or limit outside employment

I will be a full-time Councilmember. I support a ban on all outside employment, with exceptions for adjunct professorships and other temporary, part-time, limited-pay positions that benefit the local community.

Eliminate or constrain constituent service funds

Constituent service funds are unchecked slush funds. I support their elimination.

Ban corporate contributions to campaigns [and]

Ban "bundling" from multiple entities controlled by same person

I support public financing of campaigns for D.C. Council, Mayor and Attorney General.

This question ignores the reality of the Supreme Court decision known as Citizens United. The simple fact is that corporations can spend on campaigns via PACs and through other direct or indirect means. In light of Citizens United, no local or state system can completely eliminate the influence of corporate money. A discussion that does not include that reality is naive.

The best way to change the system is by electing individuals with integrity. Furthermore, if elected, I will introduce legislation based on models such as the one in New York City that encourages candidates to participate in a publicly funded campaign finance program. The NYC model arose after years of corruption.

Ban contributions by contractors and/or lobbyists who do business with DC

Under the First Amendment, it is not lawful to restrict individual lobbyists from making a personal contribution to a campaign.

The best way to change the system is by electing individuals with integrity. Furthermore, if elected, I will introduce legislation based on models such as the one in New York City that encourages candidates to participate in a publicly funded campaign finance program. The NYC model arose after years of corruption.

Forbid free or discounted legal services, travel gifts, sports tickets for Councilmembers

I opposed free or discounted legal services for Council members. I also support a ban on travel gifts, sports tickets and meals to Council members. If there are exceptions — such as a free meal at a charity banquet — there must be full disclosure.

Here is how you rated the candidates' responses:

Question 6

We asked the candidates:

Residents who walk and bicycle often feel our streets are not sufficiently safe for them. Others feel that projects to accommodate bicycles and pedestrians have impeded quality of life for those who must drive. Is there a way forward that can bring peace among all road users? What would you say to each of these groups?

Unfortunately, Patrick Mara did not respond to this question.

Question 5

We asked the candidates:

What do you think the District should do with its $417 million surplus?

Patrick Mara responded:

The announcement that the District has a $417 million budget surplus is sure to inspire many of my fellow candidates and our elected officials to jump on the "Let's Spend It" bandwagon.

I have a different plan. Let's save the money and at the same time begin a serious conversation about lowering taxes and reducing fees.

Spend, spend, spend seems to be the mantra to solving the District's problems. But read the headlines: "Millions Missing," "Politically Connected Contractor Under Investigation," and of course, "Fully Loaded SUV."

We need to start being better stewards of taxpayers' money.

$417 million is a huge surplus. It is time for the District to start budgeting more realistically. When we unnecessarily take money out of taxpayers' pockets, we are unnecessarily burdening the budgets of our residents.

Do we have unmet needs — like libraries and librarians in every public school — yes. Can we do more to lower the cost of housing for our neediest residents? Yes.

But if every time we have a surplus our response is spend, spend, spend, we will never be able to reliably address these and other pressing needs.

The District has ample revenue. The best way to spend any of the $417 million is to pay for a truly independent audit and analysis of government agencies. I'm certain we can find the millions need to fund libraries and affordable housing initiatives, while at the same time discovering that it is possible to lower taxes and fees and other burdens on District residents and business owners.

Here is how you rated the candidates' responses:

Question 4

We asked the candidates:

Mayor Gray has set a goal of growing by 250,000 residents in 20 years. Previous mayors had similar goals. GMU studies suggest we need over 122,000 new housing units (each of which might hold multiple people) by 2030. How can and should the District accommodate this growth?

Unfortunately, Patrick Mara did not respond to this question.

Question 3

We asked the candidates:

DC's education system has improved in recent years for many kids, but many schools remain inadequate to our children's needs. If you could design a better school system for DC, what would it look like? Would we have more teacher evaluations or fewer? More charter schools, fewer, or different ones? More or fewer kids going to local schools? How else would your school system differ from the one we have today?

Patrick Mara responded:

Chancellor Henderson recently announced the closure of 15 under-enrolled public schools. The decision to do so was not easy, but it was critical toward the rebuilding of our school system. We need to make sure that all dollars are spent wisely and fairly. And we must always remember that our goal is to develop a world-class education system in which students from every neighborhood thrive.

Former Chancellor Michelle Rhee created a model for how to make tough decisions. It was based primarily on data. Chancellor Henderson is building on Rhee's model: analyze the data, listen to all stakeholders, and at the same time do not yield to political pressure or emotional outcry. That is what leaders do, and that is what Henderson did.

One thing our education officials need is support, and at times criticism, from leadership at every level of government and from stakeholders in the community. On the day that Chancellor Henderson announced the final list of school closures, not one other candidate in this race issued a statement.

It has been very troubling to me that education reform has seemingly fallen off the radar screen of many who seek to serve in government. Scandals, ethical lapses and the ongoing investigation into our local politics must not distract us from the single most important issue of our time: education.

In the weeks ahead Chancellor Henderson will turn her attention to the challenging task of redrawing school boundaries. I am already hearing concerns from parents. I have no doubt that the task ahead will be as contentious, if not more so, than the school closing process we've just been through.

Ask yourself this when you consider candidates running for At-Large Council: who in this race has remained focused on schools and education reform while others chased headlines and pointed fingers?

My plan for rebuilding our schools cannot be summed up in 500 words or a campaign talking point. I wish fixing our schools was that easy. I also wish that the premise of the question asked in this survey, which can be boiled down to .charters vs. public schools,. wasn't a politically loaded ruse.

The real question is: are we committed to education reform and willing to tackle the toughest issues? My answer is yes.

Here is how you rated the candidates' responses:

Question 2

We asked the candidates:

Chief Lanier and Mayor Gray have made a lot of the drop in homicides, but other crimes — assaults, robberies — remain stubbornly high. How should DC police deal with those challenges, and do you have an opinion on how many officers MPD needs?

Patrick Mara responded:

"How many police officers should patrol our streets" can best be answered with a question: "how much do you want to spend"? The answer to "how many murders, assaults, robberies and rapes are acceptable" is "none."

Reality, however, does not allow for such easy answers.

The Metropolitan Police Department should never be asked to act alone in promoting public safety. Fighting crime begins with education. Show me a city with a first-rate school system, and I'll show you a city with a low crime rate. That city will also have low unemployment.

Unfortunately, our schools were left to crumble for more than a generation and economic development in the District has not been a rising tide that lifts all boats.

Chief Lanier should be commended for focusing on gang violence and recidivists. This is one reason why murders are down.

Councilmember Catania recently announced his intention to curb chronic truancy. He said we need to do a better job with enforcement and, possibly, should prosecute the parents of students who are consistently truant.

As a Board of Education member I am well versed in the devastating effects that truancy has on young people as well as the community. Catania's plan must be given serious consideration.

Over time, education will ease the burden on law enforcement. In the interim, MPD and related programs must have the resources needed to lock up hardened criminals and steer youth away from crime, drugs and violence. A blank check? No. But we should not shortchange our youth or residents who live in neighborhoods plagued by crime.

Here is how you rated the candidates' responses:

Question 1

We asked the candidates:

The District has changed a lot since 1993, and will likely change much more by 2033. What are 2-3 changes you hope to see by 2033, and how will electing you to the DC Council help bring them about?

Patrick Mara responded:

Our education system in the District of Columbia — cradle to college and career — must be the best in the country. Long before we turn the calendar to 2033 the District should be a city where every resident has the same opportunities. We can ensure this by providing students with the knowledge and skills needed to achieve their dreams.

Education reform is the key to accomplishing this goal. We must continue to take bold steps and sometimes challenging leaps in the right direction.

Too often our elected officials find themselves distracted by scandal, squabbling over petty disagreements or chasing pie-in-the-sky fantasies, when instead they should be focused on our schools.

As a State Board of Education Member, I've stood firm in support of the education reform policies that Mayor Fenty and Michelle Rhee brought to the District. It has not concerned me that some of their ideas are politically unpopular or have been the subject of criticism. What is important to me is that we improve on the Fenty/Rhee legacy and stand up to any interest groups or political opportunists who seek to take us backward.

That is what District residents will get when they elect me to the Council. A proven, independent voice with the backbone to stand up for students, families and teachers. If the District cannot provide a first rate education for its children, there is no policy or project that will make 2033 look much different or any better than 2013.

Here is how you rated the candidates' responses:

Whats next

We will be asking the candidates more questions, and will post their responses to one question each week on Tuesday. In addition, after voting ends, we will analyze the results and post a summary of your reactions.

Enter your email address in the sidebar to get a notice when we have a new question or new results!