I had the good fortune of sitting down with Mr. Tony Towns and one of his sons on December 12th. As with all the candidates so far Mr. Towns was dressed sharply in a suit and was bald. Interesting note: so far all of the candidates have been bald - Larry David would be very happy.
Mr. Towns not only is a life long resident of Ward 4 but Mr. Towns currently lives in our very own Petworth. He attended Shepherd elementary school and graduated from Woodrow Wilson High in 1979. Currently Mr. Towns is a trial lawyer and has been so for the past 15 years. Prior to that Mr. Towns was an attorney for the government (National Drug Control) and he also clerked for Judge Reggie Walter at the DC Superior Court. He attended Morehouse College, received his law degree from Georgetown and an LLM from Temple University. Some impressive bona fides if I do say so myself.
Mr. Towns had volunteered for a councilman while he was in high school and he was adamant that this is the only elected position that he has ever wanted to hold. However, he was an ANC commissioner some years ago. Mr. Towns is married and has three children (James Jr. Jonathan and Joseph). I had the pleasure of meeting James Jr. I must add here that James Jr. was probably the most well behaved 11 year old I've met in a long time. James Jr. was polite, articulate and had a very pleasant demeanor. At the very least Mr. Towns is an exceptional father as was crystal clear upon meeting James Jr.
Mr. Towns' top issue is improving the public school system. He said that he definitely has a vested interest in the issue as his children are all school age. Presently Mr. Towns is very active in the schools and understands some of the problems they are facing. He has spoken with many teachers and he saw the lack of school supplies although the teachers all said that the biggest problem was a lack of parental involvement. Mr. Towns suggested that we come up with programs to give incentive to parents to get involved in their children's schools. He doesn't believe it is realistic to make such involvement mandatory because that is not realistic. But one thing we can do, according to Mr. Towns is give basic parenting classes . Regarding Mayor-elect Fenty's plan on taking over the public schools - Mr. Towns said we can't keep anything off the table but he'd need to see the plan first before further commenting.
When Mr. Towns first moved to Petworth there were drug dealers all over. Yet he remembered as a child being able to bike all over the city and he lamented the fact that his children were unable to do the same. Mr. Towns suggests that we need to increase community policing. "The police need to get out of their cars and get to know the people", said Mr. Towns. If the people get to know the police then when they see a crime and speak to the police it will not seem like "snitching", said Towns. He further suggested bringing back D.A.R.E. and bringing police into the schools to demystify them to the children. Another thing that could help according to Towns was developing work force programs for the kids so that they will have jobs when they graduate. He also suggested bringing back vocational schools and if that would not be possible then at least offering vocational courses in the already established schools.
As for police cameras, Mr. Towns said that they are on tool that can be a deterrent but they are not a panacea.
"I've seen folks with Maryland tags dropping trash out of their cars" according to Towns. We need to enforce stiffer fines to discourage this behavior. He also recognized that there are plenty of culprits who live in town and that they should be forced to pay fines as well. If the young kids are the culprits then the police need to crack down on them as well, if not with fines then with an alternate punishment. But Mr. Towns believes that we need more recreation centers for the kids so that they will be properly occupied.
Old Soldier's Home
Mr. Towns' uncle was a resident there for years so he got to know the home quite well. He even helped set up Thanksgiving for the residents this past November. Mr. Towns recognizes that the Home is one of the last green spaces in NW Washington and therefore much of it should be kept as a park for the community. He suggested that some of these lands could be paid for with grants but I was less than convinced that he had fully thought it out. He did show passion for keeping the land green I'm just not convinced he knows how to make it happen. Admittedly he did say the topic needs to be further studied.
Homeless Shelter on Georgia Avenue
Mr. Towns is empathetic with the plight of the homeless but believes the area has already done much for social causes therefore he would not back the move but would help find an alternative space.
Mr. Towns explained that both of his parents came to DC from elsewhere to attend Howard University but they stayed and became part of the community. So he doesn't believe it is an issues. Rather people simply need to take ownership of their communities. He said there is nothing wrong with change if it is positive change.
Georgia Avenue Development
There is no reason why Georgia Avenue shouldn't look like Connecticut Avenue said Towns. He does believe that the area could use a few more restaurants, in fact one of his clients was bringing one to the area. Mr. Towns explained that he loves living in Ward 4 and he gets offended when he has to go to Maryland for a restaurant. "Anything we need we should be able to get on Georgia Ave." said Towns.
Mr. Towns wanted to let us know that has a strong background in community service starting with his time at Morehouse college. It was there that he was taught to give back to the community. As a result Mr. Towns has been active with Midnite Basketball, hayride food drives, volunteers to coach football, and has worked with the boards of charter schools. Furthermore he has kept his children involved as well "since they have been able to walk."
Mr. Towns is reading "Game of Shadows" about the the Balco scandal.
He is listening to the Ray Charles Duets album.
He last saw the film Idle Wild.
James Jr.'s favorite subject is math and his favorite sport is football.
I have to admit I was a little skeptical of Mr. Towns when we were setting up a time to meet because the he wasn't always the quickest to reply to emails. Well, now I understand why. Mr. Towns is extremely active with his children, with his community service and with his job. For the record if Mr. Towns wins the election he will devote himself full time to the council position. Unfortunately it was clear that he was a novice politician. He lacked a certain finesse but more than made up for it with his passion for Petworth and all of Ward 4. I think if you are looking for an untraditional politician then you may have found your man. However an extremely important question remains - would he be savvy enough to know how to work the system best for Petworth and all of Ward 4?
You can visit Mr. Town's website at www.tonytowns.com