One thing we should be happy about the special election for Ward 4 city council is that we don't lack for candidates. It is my pleasure to continue the series with an exclusive interview with Ms. Lisa Bass. We sat down this afternoon at the well known Domku cafe.
Ms. Bass is a native Washingtonian who has lived in Ward 4 for 16 years. She grew up around the corner from Domku and fondly recalled a great burrito shop she used to go to as a child. She attended Powell elementary school, Macfarlane junior high school, and Notre Dame academy in the district before graduating from Northwestern University. After graduating from Northwestern she worked for a few years at a public relations firm where a whole new world of "civil rights culture and black intelligencia" was opened up to her. After this experience she transitioned to radio journalism eventually becoming news director. Currently she runs her own public relations consultancy firm.
Politically, Ms. Bass consulted on the Marie Johns for Mayor campaign as a communications director. After recovering from some health problems she consulted for Vincent Gray's successful campaign for Chariman of DC City Council. Her experience working for Gray's campaign inspired her to run for city council on her own. She explained that she had worked for many unsuccessful candidates and gives much credit to Mr. Gray because his was her first winning campaign. She explained "I knew how to lose, Vincent showed me how to win."
Ward 4 Vision
Ms. Bass explained the four components of her vision for Ward 4. We discussed her cleaner and safer streets agenda. "What I mean is that it takes a much more holistic approach," she continued "For me cleaner streets requires looking at social, economic and cultural forces in all of our communities." She explained that certain communities in Ward 4 need to accomadate the needs of ex offenders coming back into the community. Further explaining the holistic approach she told me that the approach requires greater communication among the community, civic associations, the governement and the police department. She suggests that we build up the communities "block by block." This method would join the strengths of the older residents with the passion of the newer residents to unite as one force. She believes that "we truly need to unify, that is the way to build a community."
"Neighbors tend to know where the criminal activity is", said Ms. Bass. The police need to work in tandem with social services to establish services for young people in order to give them productive activities to focus on instead of stealing. She supports the ideas of recreation centers to be placed throughout the communities so that the young people will have safe diversions to occupy their time. Furthermore, she explained that it is essential to target the needs of the ex offenders so that they will not revert to their criminal ways. Finally for the 22-32 year old generation she advocates the establishment of a community summit to look at the drug trade and consider ways to curb it. This summit would bring together social scientists, judges and other criminal justice practitioners to get at the root causes of the "dilemma".
The problem with our public schools did not develop overnight and will take some time to correct them, according to Ms. Bass. She believes that some level of takeover is needed at this juncture. However, she does believe that the school board should remain the body that interfaces with parents and that the school board should be held accountable with the executive on resolving these issues. She believes that we have a real opportunity now to fix many of these problems because of the resources that now exist in the District. Finally, she believes that a project management approach should be taken so that the issues can be properly analyzed to determine where the weaknesses exist.
Georgia Avenue Development
Ms. Bass believes that local government has a role to play in this development. We should make sure that the developers address the needs of the community. If you are coming into the community then you need to be part of it and some developers do that but the government can ensure that it always happens, she explained.
When pressed what she personally would like to see she replied "I wish that we had more places like Domku across Georgia Avenue."
Old Soldiers Home Development
We need to preserve green spaces, she said. The need to be very careful about the development in that respect was very important to Ms. Bass. She explained that green spaces give Washington its character and that we need to take a careful look at any changes to ensure that green space is preserved.
Proposed homles shelter move to Georgia Avenue
"I think that homeless shelters should not be concentrated in any one community," said Ms. Bass. She returned to the holistic approach idea for this case. For example, she said that many homeless people have mental health issues and therefore it would make sense to have the shelters in close proximity to those facilities for it to make sense holistically. She believes this issue would need to be carefully analzyed before making a final recommendation.
Last great book read: "The Support Economy" by Shoshana Zuboff.
Last great movie seen: "It has been a while...something about an airplane and Jody Foster..."
Favorite music: "I like Jazz and R & B. My taste is pretty eclectic because my father was a musician, but music is one of my favorite things."
Ms. Bass was a very thoughtful candidate. She carefully thought out all of her responses before replying to my questions. I believe she would be an equally thoughtful councilwoman. She consistently advocated analysis before offering a solution to many questions. I liked the fact that she didn't offer any "silver bullet" solutions but I'm also concerned that her knowledge of certain issues was not extensive. Just my personal feeling.
If you would like to learn more you can visit her Website at www.lisabassforward4.com