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

Paul Zukerberg

Paul Zukerberg, an attorney, lives with his wife and two children in Adams Morgan. He has practiced law in Adams Morgan for 27 years. He and his wife are founding parents at the EL Haynes Public Charter School. He was a volunteer coordinator for Safe Routes to School, helping to found one of the city's first urban bike trains for students.

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?

Paul Zukerberg responded:

I support updating of the zoning code to meet our changing needs, but oppose many of the speci.c current proposals. The guiding principles of our zoning policy should be: (1) A green, walkable, bikeable city, (2) Respect for neighborhood needs and input, and (3) Affordable housing.

I've been a volunteer coordinator for Safe Routes to School, a group which promotes safe and healthy biking and walking to school. Zoning changes which encourage walking, biking and Metro are super.

I favor the expanded use of English basement apartment and garages, where there is neighborhood support. It's a great way to increase the availability of affordable housing and help homeowners stay in their homes against a sea of rising costs.

I am against the total elimination of parking minimums for new development, like what happened in Babe's development at 4614 Wisconsin Avenue. Here the developer sought and obtained a complete waiver of the parking requirements, shepherded through the ANC by one of my opponents. Instead of the required 87 parking spaces for a project of this size, the Zoning Commission approved a plan that calls for one parking space for disabled persons.

If you tell me that some new residents won't have cars, and want to reduce the number of spaces for developments near a Metro station, I can agree with that. When you tell me that not a single resident in a 48,000-square-foot development is going to have a car, I say to you: "Don't call me Babe." Babe-bilizing our city through zoning changes, or worse, special exemptions, places an intolerable burden on neighbors and communities, so I'm against it.

I favor easing of height restrictions in certain neighborhoods, with community support, in exchange for an affordable housing component, either in the project itself, or as a contribution to the affordable housing trust fund.

Here is how you rated the candidates' responses:

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?

Paul Zukerberg responded:

What's the DC Council's answer to school truancy? Put mom in jail.

David Catania's first proposed bill as chairman of the DC Council's new Education Committee calls for parents to be arrested and criminally prosecuted if their kid has 20 or more unexcused absences per year. Catania's bill is misguided and heartless.

How does arresting mom — probably in front of her own kids — help those children to succeed in school? Imagine how terrible it would be for a kid to see mom handcuffed and hauled away from the family home.

And what happens when a custodial parent is arrested? Her kids are placed in Child Protective Services, or given over to foster care. Breaking up families, and placing kids with strangers, is not going to improve academic performance. What if mom has other children, who are going to school just fine? Should she be criminally charged because one (probably her teenaged son) is cutting classes?

Let's face it, you can be Supermom, but there can be that one child who will try you. Jonetta Rose Barris, the columnist, wrote a piece recently describing how her own mother would have to wake up every morning to go work while her children were still asleep. Her mom packed lunches and give strict instructions to her children. Jonetta went to school and made a success of herself. Sadly, her brother often skipped school and did not. Same mom, same house rules, very different results. But I can assure you that arresting and prosecuting this mom would not have helped - and more likely have led to two kids not making it instead of one.

Based on current truancy stats, Catania's bill means arresting and criminally charging between 3,000 and 7,000 parents every year. At high truancy schools like Ballou and Anacostia High Schools, it means that 45% of parents would quality for arrest and prosecution.

And who is going to investigate and prosecute all these new truancy cases? Our juvenile courts and social service agencies are already maxed out handling cases of serious child abuse and neglect. This week we again read in the papers the tragic story of a mother who sought help from Child Protective Services, but could't get it. Do we want to add hundreds or thousands of truancy cases to an already over-burdened juvenile case docket?

And what about mom, often the heart and soul of the family, and primary bread winner? How is giving a mom, or dad, a permanent criminal record going to help their kids? Mom may be doing everything she can already to get her teen to school.

Truancy is a complex issue. Criminalizing it doesn't help.

A kid may be absent because of illness, injury or serious problems at home. Arresting mom won't solve these problems. Maybe the kid is not going to school because of bullying, or concerns about personal safety. Maybe a kid just doesn't see the purpose of attending a failing DC public school, where no real learning happens.

The solution to truancy is not turning parents into criminals. Instead, school officials and social workers need to address truancy on a child-by-child basis. We need to work with kids, families, schools and social services to identify why a child is not attending, then bring work to bring the numbers down one child at a time. We need to help moms, not put them in jail.

Here is how you rated the candidates' responses:

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

Paul Zukerberg responded:

Ban or limit outside employment

Yes. Maybe at one time the job of councilmember was a part-time position. But now it clearly is a full-time job. The specter of councilmembers employed simultaneously as lobbyists for companies which transact business with the District disqualifies them from public office, in my opinion.

Paul Zukerberg is the only candidate running on a platform which is actually contrary to his own personal financial interests. Paul is a criminal defense attorney, who for 27 years has represented people charged with possession of marijuana. If his plan to decriminalize possession becomes law, his marijuana defense practice will disappear. s not in this race for the money. He's in it to do what's right.

Eliminate or constrain constituent service funds

Yes. Nothing but slush funds.

Ban corporate contributions to campaigns

Yes. Corporate contributions distort the political process. Paul has not accepted a single corporate contribution. However, in the spirit of full disclosure, no corporation has offered to contribute to his campaign either.

It is interesting that the candidates who most vocally tout their stand against corporate contributions are the ones least likely to receive them.

Paul is also against giving public money to finance private political campaigns, in contrast to every other candidate has supported. Can you imagine the public having to match the private campaign contributions of Michael ("I lost my $113,000") Brown, or Kwame ("my campaign is a slush fund") Brown. Does Matt ("Mitt") Frumin really need another $84,000 of public money to get his message out?

Ban "bundling" from multiple entities controlled by same person

Of course. LLCs and other entities are just fancy ways to get around the campaign contribution limits.

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

Duh. Sounds like bribery to me.

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

Paul does not accept discounted legal services (full disclosure — he's a lawyer himself) He makes his own travel plans, and pays his own way.

He hates skyboxes (full disclosure — you can't see the game). He thinks that the Council's skyboxes at Nationals Park and Verizon Center should be rented or sold. Full disclosure — the best place to see a baseball game is in the outfield cheap seats. Best people. Best view. Enjoy.

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, Paul Zukerberg 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?

Paul Zukerberg responded:

  1. Affordable housing
  2. Help for the neediest
  3. Tax relief for workers and families
  4. Rainy-day reserve fund

It is great to have a surplus. But the same improving economy that created that surplus is causing an affordable housing crisis in DC.

Skyrocketing housing costs take their toll on long-time residents, seniors, young people and growing families. PEPCO, Comcast, and other monopolies price gouge us for essential services. Paul's plan for public-private cooperation will jump-start affordable housing. He will fight to hold the line on utility rate hikes.

With the return of economic growth, we must never forget our neediest — the homeless, returning vets, the children living in poverty. Paul supports a data-driven, evidence-based review to identify and support our most effective social service programs. Find out what is working, then scale it up to meet our responsibilities.

It is an open secret that our tax revenue estimates have been too low. Outgoing CFO Natwar Gandhi has said that our tax surplus is the highest it has been in seven years - and rising. Targeted tax cuts for working men and women, low wage earners, and parents with dependent children will bring revenue back in line with expenditures.

And let's not forget — yes — Wall Street. Standard and Poor's credit rating service grades DC's general obligation bonds A+. It may be the only A+ we've ever earned, so we don't want to jeopardize it. A good credit score means that we pay some of the lowest interest rates on our debt, and our bond offerings are always oversubscribed. That is why we need to put a large chunk of the surplus into our rainy-day fund.

DC Statehood depends on a strong credit rating from Wall Street, so we need to show Congress and the country that we are fiscally responsible. At the same time, we need to work every day to assure that the neediest among are not forgotten.

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?

Paul Zukerberg responded:

My growth plan has 3 parts:

  • a green, bikeable, walkable city
  • a big push on affordable housing
  • safe and affordable Metro

Washington is a beautiful city. We need to keep it that way as we grow. Walking and biking are the healthiest ways of getting around, both for the individual and our environment. Paul actively supports Safe Routes to School, WABA, and pedestrian- friendly DDOT streetscape projects.

We will not see any growth if people cannot afford to live here. DC has an affordable housing crisis. Longtime residents are being forced out by high rents.

Other prices are way up too. Gas and electric, water, telephone — forget about cable or internet. Metro fares rose in 2012, and payroll withholding taxes went up again on January 1. Working people, students, and those on fixed income are being squeezed hard.

We need to move forward on affordable housing in a big way this year. Developers want to ease height restrictions, and we should consider allowing limited increases, in exchange for an affordable housing component in every project.

We also need to fight PEPCO rate increases and higher property taxes. One way is to keep lobbyists off of the Council.

Our greatest transportation resource — our wonderful Metro bus and rail system — is in decline. The past five years have seen safety lapses, poor service, high crime and fare increases. The 60 cent Metro fare is now $2.10. Add distance charges, and a single trip can cost $5.75. No wonder Metro ridership is down. Safe and affordable Metro is the key to future growth.

Here is how you rated the candidates' responses:

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?

Paul Zukerberg responded:

We have made great progress in school reform. But much more work needs to be done. We are blessed with many wonderful teachers, who truly care about our kids' education. They deserve our thanks and support.

I have complete confidence in school Chancellor Kaya Henderson. While I don't agree with all of her decisions, especially on closing neighborhood schools, she has my full support.

The Council's role is to set the goals, provide the resources, and let professionals, like Chancellor Henderson, achieve the results. Council meddling is too often counter- productive.

Take, for example, the truancy law proposed by David Catania's new Education Committee. The Council thinks that the answer to school truancy is to put mom in jail. The bill calls for parents to be arrested and criminally prosecuted if their kid has 20 or more unexcused absences per year. Catania's bill is misguided and heartless.

Arresting mom — probably in front of her own kids — is a terrible idea. And what happens to the children of the parents who are jailed? They are taken into child protective custody. Think of the trauma to the child who hears a knock at the door, sees mom handcuffed and taken away, and is then removed from the family home by strangers.

At high truancy schools like Ballou and Anacostia, the new law means that 45% of parents would qualify for arrest and prosecution. The Council wants to fix our schools by locking up half of the parents.

Truancy can only be addressed on a child-by-child basis. School officials and social workers need to work with parents to identify the problem, and together try to find compassionate solutions.

A kid may be missing school because of illness or serious problems at home. Maybe a child isn't going because of bullying or concerns about personal safety. How would putting mom in jail solve these problems?

Perhaps a kid just doesn't see the point of going to a failing school, where no real learning happens. To get kids to school consistently we have to create nurturing school environments where kids come because they want to belong.

If I am elected, no mom is going to go jail for truancy. Or if they do, the Council better set aside two jail cells, because you're going to have to take me along too.

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?

Paul Zukerberg responded:

It's not the number of police officers. It's how they're deployed that matters.

Serious crime in DC has steadily declined, since peaking in the early 90's. But last year, violent crime rose, and crimes against women skyrocketed. Violent sexual assaults were up 51% (Source: MPD Website)

To combat street crime we need cops on the beat. Where are those cops? Too often, they are back at the police station, or sitting around the courthouse, busying themselves with small marijuana cases.

MPD arrests more people each year for simple possession of marijuana than all violent crimes combined. What a waste of trained police officers.

The city councils of most major cities — including New York, Philly, Boston, Detroit and Chicago — have decriminalized the possession of marijuana. That's smart policy, and smart policing.

Young people don't wind up with permanent criminal records. Cops stay out on patrol, where they are needed most.

Where is the DC City Council on decriminalization? Council Chairman Phil Mendelson told the Post that we can't even discuss decriminalization here, because Congress might get mad.

I can deal with an angry Congress. But I am sick to think that our best police officers are wasting their time on small marijuana cases, while women in DC are increasingly victims of sex crimes and violence.

Let's use the police we already have more sensibly. Let's decriminalize pot and focus on fighting real 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?

Paul Zukerberg responded:

2033? I can't predict that. But I do know that this is the year to reform our marijuana laws. Reform means more police fighting violent crime.

15 states, and most major cities, including New York, Philly, Chicago and Boston have already decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Each state law is slightly different, but they all reduce possession of marijuana from a criminal misdemeanor to a civil infraction. Instead of arrest and prosecution, adults pay a fine. For juveniles, it's parental notification, plus an educational class.

Why this change? An arrest — plus all the paperwork — takes cops off the street. Chicago's police chief calculated that an arrest takes an average patrol officer 4 hours to complete. Writing a civil citation takes only 30 minutes. In DC, we arrest 4,000 people a year for pot. What a waste of trained police officers.

For us, reducing the penalty for possession of marijuana would mean an extra 14,000 police man-hours to fight real crime. The strains on our courts, prosecutors and probation officers would also ease. Violent crime is up. In 2012, felony assault was up 8%. Theft — up 15%. Rape — up 36%. We need every available cop on the street. More police on patrol means safer streets and a safer Metro.

2033? I just hope I'm around to see it. I'm going to be retired by then. But on April 23, 2013, with your help, I'm going to put our police back on patrol and focused on arresting violent criminals.

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.

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