Sierra Club Questionnaire
Thank you for the opportunity to complete the Sierra Club questionnaire. I wanted to note at the outset that I am participating in DC’s Fair Elections program, and I am the first and only candidate for DC Council Chair to participate in and qualify for the program. I did so within one week of launching this campaign.
By forgoing corporate and political action committee donations, I am dedicated to being engaged with and accountable to our neighbors like your membership, not corporations and their lobbyists. Matching funds made it possible for me — a mom without ties to business interests — to enter this race and be competitive against a longtime incumbent. My opponent is the only Council candidate running for reelection to opt out of the program.
I supported and advocated for passage of the Fair Elections program so that DC residents could make their voices heard. Being accountable to DC residents is especially important for climate interests, where fossil fuel corporations, construction companies, and other business interests have long held sway over our elected officials in setting climate policy. I care about the health of our planet and city, righting the wrongs of chronic disinvestment in our neighbors East of the Anacostia River — who have borne and will bear the brunt of climate change, and building a brighter future for our kids.
Clean Energy for New Buildings
According to the Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE), 23% of DC’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions come from fracked gas that is burned in homes and other buildings. DC’s official energy policy as outlined in the Clean Energy DC plan states: “phasing fossil fuels out of the District’s energy supply will be essential to achieving the city’s climate commitments.” In transitioning buildings off fossil fuel, new buildings are the most cost-effective place to start. Building homes with clean electric appliances is less expensive than building with fossil fuel systems, saving an average of $9,000 in foregone fossil fuel infrastructure per home, according to the Rocky Mountain Institute. Transitioning from dirty to clean energy would save the average DC household $378 a year, according to the group Electrifying America.
Question: Do you support legislation requiring that newly constructed buildings do not burn fossil fuels and instead provide heating through clean and highly efficient heat pumps?
I strongly support legislation requiring that newly constructed buildings provide heat through electric heat pumps. Our current structure of constructing new buildings that rely on fossil fuels bakes in long-term dependence on fossil fuels when we need to dramatically shift course on carbon emissions.
Tying this requirement to new construction is smart and effective. It is significantly more efficient to require these changes for new construction than to go back later and mandate these changes. Phasing in electric energy by starting with new construction will allow time for increased electricity production, particularly renewable energy production. Electric heating and cooling is more cost-effective for residents, as well, particularly with projections showing the price of natural gas increasing over the next decade.
Clean Energy Funding
In addition to producing about a quarter of DC’s GHG emissions, burning fracked gas inside buildings is a major health threat. When burned, fracked gas emits some of the same toxins as car exhaust, such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter, and even formaldehyde. Research has shown children growing up in homes with gas-burning appliances are 42% more likely to develop asthma. Other studies show children in homes with gas stoves have the same negative health impacts as children growing up in a home with a cigarette smoker. DC has an asthma epidemic, with 14% of DC children suffering from the disease, which disproportionately affects poor and minority children, especially in Wards 7 and 8, according to the City Paper. To address this public health crisis, DC needs to upgrade homes of low and moderate income residents to eliminate fossil fuel combustion. AltaGas, which owns DC’s gas utility, wants to instead double down on fossil fuels by charging DC residents up to $5 billion in coming decades to replace existing fossil fuel pipelines, in direct contradiction with DC’s climate and energy commitments. One way to avoid the massive cost of maintaining DC’s fossil fuel infrastructure and instead fund clean energy homes is a modest tax on real estate transactions over $2 million. In 2021, more than 300 homes were sold for more than $2 million.
Question: Do you support a 1% tax on real estate transactions over $2 million to fund voluntary upgrades to eliminate fossil fuel combustion and address air quality problems in homes of low and moderate income DC residents?
I strongly support a 1% tax on real estate transactions over $2 million to fund voluntary upgrades to eliminate fossil fuel combustion and address air quality problems in homes of low- and moderate-income DC residents. It is essential to invest in correcting for longstanding disparities that have resulted in concentrated pollution and health impacts in Ward 5, Ward 7, and Ward 8.
As shown by my support for the recent tax increase on the very wealthy in DC to fund, in part, housing vouchers for 2,400 homeless residents and compensation for early childhood education workers, I believe in progressive taxes that fulfill basic needs and protect our most vulnerable communities. When DC was considering putting a price on carbon, the Chair (and another Councilmember) worked to strip a portion of the legislation that would provide fee rebates to low-income residents, a key equity component built into the proposal. I strongly supported the rebate.
My DC Council Accountability Plan calls for a number of institutionalized, nonpartisan resources and better use of existing entities that provide additional research and expertise to assist the Council in making laws and conducting oversight, which would assist the Council in devising meaningful, progressive tax policy. These resources include:
- expanding dedicated, nonpartisan Committee support staff to ensure continuity, retention of institutional knowledge, and additional capacity to legislate and conduct oversight;
- re-instituting a comprehensive, nonpartisan, and objective research service to assist the Council in crafting legislative solutions to DC’s challenges, including robust consideration of best practices across jurisdictions; encourage holistic knowledge building across Council offices; help the Council better target public funds toward evidence-based programs; and supplement the research work of the Council’s Office of the Budget Director;
- enhancing and increasing the use of the DC Auditor’s Office, including through additional hearings on important audit findings and enhanced Committee consideration and use of recommendations, as a tool to ensure robust, consistent oversight to improve agency performance; and
- expanding the work of the Council Office of Racial Equity to include review of the DC budget and Council operations, as well as requiring the Council to respond to racial equity impact assessments, including providing its rationale for supporting or opposing legislation that maintains or worsens racial inequity.
My DC Council Accountability Plan also calls for improving the process of forming and assigning membership to Council Committees to assure neutrality, expertise, and consistency and to avoid the appearance of impropriety. Specifically, I’ve proposed placing tax responsibilities — which previously fell within the duties of the now-disbanded Finance and Revenue Committee — in the Committee of the Whole or creating a stand-alone Committee to better allow Councilmembers to identify revenue to fund Council priorities and enable additional deliberation, including a hearing on revenue policy early in the budget process; and instituting a neutral Committee membership and chair appointment process, such as seniority bidding, a process used by many legislative bodies across the country that adds stability, expertise, and neutrality. This assured neutrality will ensure a stronger Council Committee process both as to the subject matter and leadership of Committees and better avoid the Council Chair acting unilaterally to decide what matters are worthy of consideration and by whom.
In addition, I believe every government action needs to be viewed through a climate lens, and I plan to institute a Council Office on Environmental Sustainability and Justice — similar to the Council Office on Racial Equity — that reviews DC government actions for their impacts on environmental sustainability and justice.
Utility Regulation & DC Climate Commitments
The Clean Energy DC Omnibus Act of 2018 changed the mandate of the DC Public Service Commission (PSC) to require that it uphold DC’s climate commitments. Outlined in the Clean Energy DC plan, DC’s climate commitments include carbon neutrality by 2050 and phasing out the use of fossil fuels. The PSC has in recent years approved plans for AltaGas, which owns DC’s gas utility, to charge DC residents hundreds of millions of dollars to spend on the utility’s fossil fuel infrastructure. To achieve DC’s climate commitments, the District must invest in safe and affordable clean energy, not raise costs on DC families and businesses to support costly fossil fuel infrastructure. But some of DC’s PSC members have stated they lack the authority to phase out the combustion of fossil fuels by the gas utility.
Question: Do you support legislation directing the DC Public Service Commission to open a regulatory proceeding to determine how DC’s gas utility will achieve carbon neutrality with a new business model that ends the sale of fossil fuels and instead relies on highly-efficient electric heat pumps to provide heating in DC?
I strongly support a DC Public Service Commission dedicated to upholding DC’s climate commitments. That also includes meaningful action and oversight on Commission appointments. I support Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen’s Public Service Commission Member Qualifications Emergency Amendment Act of 2021, requiring that the Commission is composed of subject matter experts with a diversity of relevant experience. I believe the Council can do more proactive oversight regarding members of the Commission and its mandate.
Transportation accounts for 24% of DC’s GHG emissions, according to DOEE figures. Cars, trucks and buses are responsible for nearly half of the District’s air pollution, including Particulate Matter (PM), Nitrogen Dioxide (NOx), Sulfur Dioxide (SOx), and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), among many other dangerous pollutants. The Clean Energy DC Omnibus Act of 2018 established targets for emissions reductions and transportation electrification. The law requires that certain vehicle fleets be 50 percent zero-emission by 2030 and 100 percent zero-emission by 2045. The law also requires that all newly purchased public buses, including school buses, be powered by electricity and not fossil fuels by calendar year 2021. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) is the nation’s sixth largest bus fleet, with more than 1,500 buses. WMATA has been slow to commit to electrification, and under recently approved plans, less than 20 percent of its fleet will be electric by 2030.
Question: Do you support full funding to meet the transportation electrification targets in the 2018 clean energy law, including supporting legislation ensuring that all newly purchased school buses are electric and that at least half of the Metrobus fleet operating in the District is electric by 2030, as required by the Clean Energy DC Omnibus Act of 2018?
I am supportive of fully funding transportation electrification targets, particularly considering the concentration of bus storage in communities overburdened by pollution, like Brentwood in Ward 5.
I am also aware of supply chain issues that affect electric bus acquisition and the realities of managing a fleet the size of Metro. The truth is that bus usage is far better for the environment, regardless of fuel source, than single occupancy vehicles. My priorities include making our buses faster, more reliable, and ubiquitous to end the use of personal vehicles. So I’ll continue to support the expansion of the bus fleet as fast as possible, while also supporting transitioning to electric as soon as possible.
I’ll also add with regard to renewable energy that I strongly support expanding and improving solar in DC in every way possible. One of the first things I worked on as an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner was challenging the strict regulation on visible solar panels on residences in the local historic district. And we won! It is now much simpler and easier for residents to put solar panels on the front of their homes in my neighborhood. At a larger level, DC government can do more to install solar on government owned properties and to require solar installations on new developments. I strongly support dramatically expanding DC’s Solar for All program. Cooperative solar arrangements, where residents can pool resources and benefits of solar installations are even better.
Funding for Zero Waste Programs
The Zero Waste Omnibus Act of 2002 was passed to assist the District in meeting its goal of diverting 80 percent of its waste from landfills and incinerators by 2032. Currently, our waste diversion rate is around 25 percent — below the national average of 34 percent and far lower than neighboring Montgomery County’s 60 percent rate. Implementation of the Zero Waste Omnibus Act requires funding for measures including public space recycling, source-separation of back-of-house commercial food waste, glass source-separation, a battery extended producer responsibility program, reusable food service ware grants, and enforcement of “upon request” provisions so that restaurants and food ordering apps provide utensils and other disposable food service ware only if a takeout customer requests them. In addition to implementing the zero waste law, DC needs a curbside collection program for organic waste to meet its waste diversion goals.
Question: Do you support funding over the next four years to fully implement the Zero Waste Omnibus Act of 2002 and to create a curbside collection program for organic waste?
I fully support funding the Zero Waste Omnibus Act of 2002, and I’m very aware that there’s a lot more work to be done to meet our goals. As an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner, I’ve worked with my Commission for more accountability from the District Department of Public Works regarding their public trash and recycling programs, improving our zero waste efforts, and supporting businesses in transitioning to reusable food containers (with Takoma Park as a relevant example). In fact, Maryland is a strong example on a number of these efforts and the measures detailed in my DC Council Accountability Plan would allow for additional data and best practices to help get DC on a stronger path to Zero Waste.
I will be dorky for a moment and shout to those reading this questionnaire that I love composting! I’ve participated in paid compost pickup services, dropped scraps at the city’s farmer’s market composting program, learned more and volunteered with community composting programs, and now have a home composting system. There is so much room for improvement, from education to expanded farmer’s market composting to more subsidies to encourage home composting.
Expanding Reusable Food Service Ware
The Zero Waste Omnibus Act of 2020 was originally introduced by Council in 2019 — prior to the coronavirus pandemic — and was set to require restaurants to serve exclusively on reusable food service ware for on-site dining. It offered grant funding to help restaurants meet this requirement. The pandemic hit before the law was adopted, and the Council decided to instead merely incentivize, rather than mandate, restaurants’ move to reusables, adding incentives for reusable takeout containers. This pivot made sense in light of the impact of the pandemic on the restaurant industry. Now, as many restaurants have begun to recover and are expected to continue to strengthen, the time is right to bolster our reuse requirements. Measures include requiring food service entities to use reusable food service ware for onsite consumption, including in sports, entertainment and convention facilities, coupled with supporting grants; increasing grants to incentivize reusables for takeout and, allowing customers to bring their own reusable containers for takeout. Other jurisdictions are re-introducing their pre-pandemic reuse measures. Doing so would propel DC into a vibrant restaurant reuse economy in which we stop waste before it’s produced and create green jobs.
Question: Do you support updating the DC Zero Waste Omnibus Act to bolster reusable food service ware both for onsite and takeout consumption?
I strongly support reusable food serviceware as a measure to reduce plastic waste. The restaurant industry has been through a lot of transitions over the Covid-19 pandemic, including with regard to serveware, and it will be important to work closely with restaurants and other businesses to support them in making the transition. Main Streets are a great resource for this type of support!
Please see the Advisory Neighborhood Commission 4B Resolution referenced above for more details regarding my support.
Protecting Anacostia Riverbanks
The RFK stadium site and Poplar Point together have the potential to be 300 acres of riparian habitat adjacent to the Anacostia River. They are eyed for development, but they could also provide important environmental benefits such as stormwater and flood management and wildlife habitat, as well as recreation. There are competing visions for these sites. Some types of development are more compatible with good environmental river quality than others. Large scale development on these sites, such as a new sports stadium, would degrade the environmental and recreational benefits provided by these sites. In developing plans for the site, it will be vital to ensure that input from the surrounding community as well as environmental data are incorporated into the design process, including public access to the water, fields, and playing grounds.
Question: Will you oppose large-scale development on the RFK stadium site and Poplar Point and work to ensure that the sites provide stormwater management, wildlife habitat, and recreational areas?
There are many good reasons to oppose a stadium on the RFK site — not the least among them the environmental impacts. I know that housing can coexist with stormwater management in a way that’s mutually beneficial, and I’ve done it in my Single Member District. Together with neighbors, I led the first cooperative neighborhood-wide stormwater management effort through the District Department of Energy and Environment’s Community Stormwater Solutions Grant. Rather than mitigation on an individual level, cooperative efforts like the one on Aspen Street, NW, in Takoma prove that neighborhood-wide efforts are possible. At root, public land is an asset, and we must take every effort to use public land well and in service of our city, particular as to affordable housing and green space.
Lead Drinking Water Pipe Replacement
Tens of millions of dollars have been authorized for drinking water lead service line replacement in the District. Several agencies have staff and programs assigned to the effort, but coordination between the programs appears haphazard and inefficient. NAACP has reported that different parts of the District government have different estimates for how many lead service lines need to be replaced.
Question: Will you support holding a joint oversight hearing for the relevant agencies and receive community testimony on this issue and will you support appropriate oversight and potential legislation to ensure a comprehensive, coordinated and efficient lead service line replacement in the District?
Lead contamination is serious, damaging, and destructive. I am deeply concerned about lead remediation in our communities. In addition to efforts to fix service lines, I have been at the forefront to remove lead from our playground surfaces. I also know we’ve faced ongoing issues with lead contamination in schools and in our public housing. In fact, due to chronic mismanagement and failure to spend federal grant dollars, we lost federal grant funding for lead paint removal. According to the DC Auditor, the DC Housing Authority failed to remediate lead in public housing units in a timely fashion.
I have been banging the drum about better and more coordinated DC Council oversight, which is essential on the issue of lead. My DC Council Accountability Plan calls for a number of institutionalized, nonpartisan resources and better use of existing entities that provide additional research and expertise to assist the Council in making laws and conducting oversight. Use of nonpartisan committee support staff and a comprehensive, nonpartisan, and objective research service, for example, would better allow the Council to conduct research on best practices across jurisdictions, hold government agencies accountable for their delivery of services, and legislate mitigation strategies. Such staff would have a stronger ability to work across and coordinate among Council Committees.
In addition, my Safe Housing Action Plan lays out the ways I intend to reform the District Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs and hold the agency accountable, with a racial equity and public health lens. This includes requiring cross- training, certification, and licensing for Department housing inspectors to include assessments for lead, mold, and asbestos to ensure prompt issuance of notices of violation and enforcement for these public health risks that disproportionately impact vulnerable communities.
The District’s failure to treat ongoing lead contamination as the moral and public health crisis that it is is reprehensible. I’m ready to lead on day one to ensure that we do not waste another minute in aggressively pursuing and eliminating lead contamination in our communities.
TRANSPORTATION & SMART GROWTH
The District’s streets have limited right-of-way, most of which is used to move and store single-occupant automobiles. This causes almost a quarter of DC’s greenhouse gas emissions, wastes energy and valuable space, and the resulting traffic congestion slows travel for everyone — particularly bus riders, who have a median income of just $30,000 per year. In 2010, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s “Priority Corridor Network” plan identified nine corridors in DC for the DC Department of Transportation (DDOT) to create bus-priority spaces that cut bus travel times in half, while adding redundant transit capacity beyond Metrorail. To date, though, only one of those corridors (16th St NW) has seen any permanent improvements. Building out DDOT’s 70-mile Bus Priority corridor plan will require construction disruptions, remove parking spaces and travel lanes, and slow auto traffic — but would put frequent, reliable transit within three blocks of 60% of District residents.
Question: Do you support eliminating auto lanes or parking lanes in favor of bus-only lanes along DDOT’s 70-mile Bus Priority corridor system, including Wisconsin Ave NW, Rhode Island Ave NE, Georgia Avenue NW and Pennsylvania Avenue SE?
Yes __X___ No _____
Yes, and as a frequent bus rider (and non-driver), I know our bus-only lanes have to be better. Waiting in the cold, often without a place to sit, for twenty minutes is uncomfortable and makes it incredibly challenging to get to work and school, pick up groceries, go to doctor’s appointments, or any other daily tasks.
The research is clear that paint is not sufficient to make our transit networks world class. Center-running, physically separated bus lanes with off-board fare payment increase street safety and speed buses, and I’ve continued to support and advocate for improved bus infrastructure, including supporting an Advisory Neighborhood Commission 4B Resolution calling for bus-only lanes on Georgia Avenue, NW. It is clear that we have a long way to go from paint-only lanes that are currently the preferred method for the District Department of Transportation. Oversight will be essential, and I’ve got a plan for that.
MoveDC, the District’s strategic transportation plan, calls for a vast expansion of bike trails and protected bike lanes, which are proven to reduce automobile speeding, decrease crashes and conflicts, cut air pollution, and make bicycling, walking, and scooting easier for residents of all ages and abilities. The MoveDC plan proposes bicycle lanes on streets across DC, such as East Capitol Street, Naylor Road SE, Massachusetts Avenue NW/NE/SE, New Hampshire Avenue NE, and on 6th Street NW. But progress has been slow. The Eastern Downtown bike lane (on 9th Street NW) has been in planning since 2015. This slow progress means that despite the Mayor’s pledge to eliminate all traffic deaths on DC streets, fatalities from car crashes have reached a new ten-year high in 2021.
Question: Will you support implementing a Low Stress Bikeway Network across all wards, with 20 miles of new or improved bikeways within one year — including the bike lane currently under consideration in Shaw and Eastern Downtown — even if some of your constituents complain about losing auto lanes and parking?
Yes __X___ No _____
I’ve witnessed this effort first-hand in Advisory Neighborhood Commission 4B, where we have built protected bike lanes on both Piney Branch Road, NW, and 4th Street, NW, during my time as Commissioner. While we can work to adapt to make sure design works for communities, the truth is that everyone benefits from a safer built environment — and that has to drive our decisionmaking. I not only can answer yes to this question, but I am someone who has heard the complaints, built coalitions in support, and seen new bike infrastructure constructed in our community — unlike our current Council Chair who has no experience considering, leading, or delivering on these priorities.
MoveDC suggests that an effective policy to reduce traffic delays, air pollution, carbon emissions and deadly road crashes would be a decongestion charge, whereby drivers would pay for the privilege to drive into the most congested parts of downtown DC. Similar systems already exist in London, Singapore, and Stockholm; New York City has committed to the concept as well, and Virginia uses highway tolls to fund transit service. Studies have consistently shown such systems can be designed with positive equity benefits, particularly if funds are used to expand transit services.
Question: Will you support raising funds for vastly expanding transit operations funding by instituting a decongestion charge on single-occupant vehicles driving into central DC?
Yes __X___ No _____
Like many things, the devil is in the details on decongestion charges. I am supportive in principle of decongestion charges, but we cannot blindly implement them without being conscious of the inequities that persist in DC. A plan has to be carefully crafted to ensure that it keeps equity at its heart to be successful.
I am concerned that eventually both Maryland and Virginia will receive revenue by funneling out-of-state drivers onto the District’s streets while the District receives none — and therefore has a harder time mitigating the negative externalities caused by our neighbors’ decisions. Much like photo-enforcement tickets only requiring payment from District drivers, this is fundamentally unfair.
A strong first step that the Council Chair could take immediately is to push for the release of the Council-mandated congestion pricing study that is more than a year overdue for release. The results of that study could determine practical next steps for exploring this idea further.
I’ll add that I’m a big supporter of public transportation, particularly as a non driver. I know and experience how it is essential, and I love it for the way it brings people together and in its best form is inclusive and accessible. I’ve hosted lots of events with other Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners and community leaders to promote public transportation, encourage people to get out of their comfort zone, and learn more about what works and doesn’t work. Check out #TranspoBINGO and #SidewalkPalooza to learn more.
The Streetcar on H Street NE is one of the highest-ridership light rail lines in the country. Expanding it across the Anacostia River via dedicated transit lanes would dramatically improve Ward 7 residents’ access to job opportunities across the city and create a high-capacity, emissions-free east-west transit link for Northeast DC. In the future, the K Street Transitway would offer a dedicated route through downtown as well, relieving Metrorail’s at-capacity subways.
Question: Will you support expanding the Streetcar east to Minnesota Avenue in the next few years, and creating a K Street Transitway that guarantees future westward streetcar expansion?
Yes __X___ No _____
I’m a strong supporter of high-quality transit in all DC neighborhoods. I support expanding the DC Streetcar along Benning Road, but I believe the service provided must be frequent, reliable, fast, and cheap. And we know there have been historic challenges with the DC Streetcar.
The DC Streetcar’s main failure has been one of political will and commitment. Because of an inability to dedicate a right-of-way to the operation of the streetcar, it is essentially a failed project. What was once the opening leg of a citywide network of dedicated, fast, modern transit is now an orphaned novelty. It’s a true loss. The K Street Transitway, if executed as planned, is an opportunity to remedy many of the problems with the current streetcar. If it delivers as planned — with dedicated physically-separated lanes — it could be a world-class project. We should move forward rapidly.
I will also note past DC budget debates that have pitted funding for the DC Streetcar against funding for public housing. We are a city rich in resources, with yearly surpluses of hundreds of millions of dollars. I resent a framing that pits basic needs against each other. We can and must meet both housing needs and public transportation needs.