In a moment demarcated by wealth disparity and calls for justice, we need elected officials who understand our struggles and will take action. Martín is ready to provide innovative and substantive ideas for a more equitable DC.
Local Business Aid
The pandemic is worsening an already unfavorable small business environment. Businesses should not be forced to fold or go into massive debt due to pandemic-related closures. It is unethical and impractical to expect businesses to pay rent, property taxes, and other monthly dues while making limited or no revenue. Ward 2 has been heavily affected by this phenomenon as the home of several business districts. We are in danger of losing our favorite homegrown establishments if we don’t take action.
DC must find a way to keep local businesses afloat until it is safe for them to open again in full capacity. I am in support of Councilmember Charles Allen’s proposal to make insurance companies honor Business Interruption claims for local businesses during the pandemic. However, I also believe stronger measures need to be considered, such as rent (and mortgage, for small owners) cancellation for local businesses unable to operate due to the pandemic and sizable no-payback grants for businesses making due with limitations, but still experiencing a revenue shortfall.
Policing and Public Safety
MPD’s approach to policing has disproportionately and negatively affected Black and brown residents, evidenced both in arrest data and unresolved deaths at the hands of the police. These well-documented disparities should be motivating serious systemic changes, not budget increases. The full implementation of the NEAR Act is a starting point, however, deeper transformation and divestment from policing is needed to embrace preventative and community-based approaches to public safety.
MPD’s FY21 budget of $568 million is unwarranted and needs to be greatly reduced, with funds being reallocated to housing programs, employment services, mental health services and community-led violence prevention programs.
I believe housing is a human right. Rent control and supplement programs must be expanded and emboldened to protect our low and middle income residents. An extension of DC’s current rent control law as-is is simply unacceptable.
Additionally, DOPA (District Opportunity to Purchase Act) should be examined where possible as a mechanism for the city to preserve low income housing when the tenant’s right to purchase fails. Income-adjusted housing brackets and other practices by developers and landlords need to be more closely evaluated to prevent housing discrimination and make inclusive units accessible to all who need them. Lastly, with a third of DC renters currently facing eviction, the Emergency Rental Assistance Program must be expanded, and more robust actions like mortgage and rent moratoriums must be explored to keep people safe as we face an unprecedented housing crisis.
Many workers don’t have the luxury of telework during the pandemic. It is crucial that we guarantee protections like PPE, paid sick leave, and the right of refusal to return to work if conditions are not safe so that employees returning to in-person work can stay safe. Additionally, unemployment benefits must be expanded to augment the upcoming $300/week FEMA pandemic compensation. Lastly, the 30,000+ DC residents who are excluded from unemployment benefits and federal stimulus payments need help too; unemployment benefits must be mirrored by cash assistance programs so that undocumented residents, sex workers, domestic workers, returning citizens, street vendors, and all other excluded workers are covered financially.
Internet should be treated as a public utility, and DC is positioned to be a leader in this area with much of the infrastructure in place already. By expanding our municipal broadband infrastructure to the last-mile, we could ensure internet access in the era of social distancing; enabling remote access for teleworkers and students, facilitating online applications for jobs and unemployment insurance, promoting cost-saving telehealth practices, and boosting economic growth through job creation and attracting new business in the long term.
Additionally, LatinX and Black communities are significantly less likely to have access to high-speed internet. Municipal infrastructure would help close the gap by offering a far more affordable, and likely higher speed, option for all. The establishment of a municipal network option must be mirrored by digital literacy training and promotion campaigns to encourage adoption, with non-English speakers given consideration.
Economic Development Through Science and Technology Investments
DC is home to a rising technology-based business community, but the District should further its investment and involvement in this sector. I propose the District follow the model of other states, and establish a science and technology-focused economic development agency, which would offer seed funding and low interest loans and other equity-based financing mechanisms to local startups. By cultivating a strong innovation ecosystem, we could help foster new DC-born businesses, attract new businesses to the District, and create new jobs.
Arts and Culture
DC’s creative community has been neglected. As a creative myself, I have long been dismayed by the lack of support and protection spaces and participants in DC’s creative sector receive. The city must expand its grant offerings and financial incentives for artists and establishments of art and culture–such as galleries, music venues, dance studios, and makerspaces–to keep the District vibrant and keep creatives in the city as the cost of living rises and the conditions of work change with the pandemic.
DC Statehood and Voting Rights
Like the majority of DC residents, I support DC statehood. Considering both the population size and tax contributions of the District, there is no moral justification for DC residents to be denied congressional representation and be subjected to arcane oversight by external officials, and federal law enforcement agencies not beholden to local regulations.
Additionally, I believe DC should solidify itself as a true sanctuary for immigrants and pass the Local Residents Voting Rights Amendment Act and extend the right to vote in DC elections to permanent residents
The pandemic has reshaped the way in which residents get from Point A to Point B. Due to fears of transmission on public transit, many are electing to rely on their own means to get around town. If this trend continues, our city must do our best to support residents who elect to take more sustainable modes of transportation rather than single-occupancy, gas-powered vehicles. I stand by initiatives to create safer biking and pedestrian infrastructure throughout my Ward and the rest of the city. I believe that this pandemic offers us a unique opportunity to re-imagine our streets; one in which we prioritize the needs of people over cars.
Furthermore, with ridership ~90% lower than normal, the need for Metro to be accessible, reliable, and equitable is as important as ever. I support the efforts of Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen to give every DC resident a monthly subsidy of $100 on their SmarTrip card and establish a dedicated fund to invest millions in improved bus services in neighborhoods long neglected from transit planning. At the end of the day, we need to make sure low-income residents have the means to ride Metro because they are the ones that rely on it the most.