METRO WEEKLY: How important do you think providing oversight is to performing your job as Councilmember, and what will your philosophy be when holding government agencies accountable for policy or spending decisions?
Michael D. Brown (I, At-Large): One of the primary responsibilities of the City Council is oversight. Government agencies must be held accountable for implementing the legislative intent of the Council. Regular oversight hearings must be held, and agency Directors must be held accountable for complying with budget and achievement goals set by the City Council. Agencies need to regularly monitor their own progress in reaching set goals and file periodic reports to establish their compliance. Non-compliant agencies should face administrative action as specified in guidelines laid out by the council. We cannot tolerate agencies which have consistently low performance ratings and do not regularly meet budget guidelines.
MW: The Council is often seen as fluctuating between two extremes: having an overly cozy or overly antagonistic relationship with the mayor. How can you assure voters that you will be an independent voice on the Council, and not beholden to either the mayor, other councilmembers or your political party?
Brown: I am running as an independent, and therefore, I am not beholding to any political party. Secondly I have no big endorsements from other councilmembers, organizations or special interests like organized labor. I have received no corporate monies or large business contributions for my campaign. I have served the city in many different offices and been totally independent in each of them. I ran my own business in this city for 25 years, and have established myself as an independent voice for equal rights for the citizens of the District in my service as the city’s United States Senator for the past eight years. I am beholden to only one group: the voters. That’s the way it has always been with me and that’s the way it should be.
MW: Please share your views on how best to address LGBT homelessness, not only for youth, but for adults, families, and senior citizens. What are your proposals for ensuring District shelters are adhering to the nondiscrimination protections in the D.C. Human Rights Act?
Brown: Youth homelessness in the LGBT community is a serious problem. Since many of these people have been rejected by their own families we need to create places that are specifically designed to nurture and protect them. Housing them in shelters with the general population or in family shelters is not the best way to deal with this growing problem. We need shelters and group houses that deal specifically with the problems that face youth in the LBGT community. We also need to partner with community organizations to design programs to help homeless youth find permanent housing solutions, get counseling for specific problems associated with homelessness, and finish school. It is estimated that 4,000 DCPS students are homeless and we need to find specific solutions to help these children. We also need real rent control, which eliminates the 2 percent annual add-on and closes loopholes in landlord “hardship petitions”. A new group of family shelters need to be built to replace DC general as the city’s main family shelter. We must also pass legislation that allows seniors to age “in place,” subsidizing rents and allowing landlords tax incentives to keep resident in their homes, extending current provisions in the existing laws. DCRA must step up enforcement of provisions of the DC Human Right Act. We should require shelters to provide annual reports on compliance with the law and provide a review board to hear complaints.
MW: What specific recommendations do you have to decrease unemployment among the District’s transgender community and enforce existing laws relating to employment discrimination, both by D.C. government and private businesses?
Brown: While unemployment in the District is falling, for certain segments of the population it remains a major problem. For the transgender community this is particularly true. We need the new office of the Attorney General to increase enforcement of existing laws and prosecute violations. Since this is a newly created elected office, it offers an opportunity for us to put political pressure on the new AG and set a precedence for aggressively pursuing cases of discrimination against transgender individuals. In addition, the DC government must step up to the plate and hire more people from the transgender community. Once we can integrate these individuals into DC government we can remove some of the stigma associated with this group. Prejudice is always based on ignorance, so we should put pressure on those inside the Wilson Building to put transgender people in high profile positions.
MW: Why should the LGBT community vote for you?
Brown: I have stood for equal rights for the District for the past eight years. I have worked to take our battle for statehood from almost non-existent when I first started. Until we become a state we will never have control over the District. Laws that deal with marriage equality, needle exchange, decriminalization of marijuana and every other priority of the LBGT community will always be subject to change by the will of Congress until we become a state. It’s time to put someone on the City Council that will stand for statehood and stand for your rights as equal American citizens. I am that person and I have the record to prove it.
For more information on Michael D. Brown’s campaign, visit michaeldbrownforcouncil.nationbuilder.com.
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