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From the Publisher's Desk...

When Voting Consider Which Candidates Listen

In addition to Chairman Mendelson, all five of the members of the City Council up for re-election on this month’s primary ballot –- Nadeau (Ward 1), McDuffie (Ward 5), Allen (Ward 6), Bond (At-Large), White, Rob’t. (At-Large) –- have unequivocally stated their opposition to Initiative 77, the tipped wages issue also on the ballot.

To us, it appears that the reasons given pretty much track what we had to say in our own commentary in this space back in April. These members deserve to be continued on the Council if, for no other reason than they have demonstrated that they actually listen to their constituents.

Actual listening is a very important attribute for elected officials, something not always done with conviction. Others do, like At-Large Councilmember Anita Bonds clearly has publicly stated, “I’m listening to the workers.”

Voters need to take a hard look at the politicians, either current Council members like Mary Cheh in Ward 3 or those running for office like Ed Lazere who is challenging Mendelson for the chairmanship, when they take positions based on what they think is good for the “little people” and have decided that they can substitute their judgment and say they know better even when they have not the same shared experiences or like service workers, hardships and worry about making it through to the next paycheck.

As we wrote in our April commentary mentioned above, “Why should we who don’t work in those jobs decide that we know better what’s good for them and their families? To do so would be the height of Trump-like arrogance –- and based on a complete lack of understanding the facts.”

We were encouraged by At-Large Councilmember Robert White, Jr. (who is not up for re-election) when, in response to our query as to where he stands on the Initiative 77 issue, told us, “I have not yet determined how I will vote . . . at the ballot box. It isn’t fair to make a decision about other people’s careers without understanding their position. [Italics ours.]  I am still talking to tipped workers to get their take on the issue and will vote based on what I hear from them.”

Clearly, he is out there listening.

About this imperative that elected officials actually listen, in its May 16th report headlined “Ballot Measure to End ‘Tipped Wage’ in D.C. Opposed by Mayor, Majority of Council,” the Washington Post included a telling observation made by the spokesperson for the DC affiliate of the New York-based group pushing this measure:

“Ballot initiatives are precisely to go around elected officials who aren’t listening to the majority of their constituents,” said Diana Ramirez, director of Restaurant Opportunities Center D.C. “D.C. voters know that’s the right thing to do, to give tipped workers in the District better wages and better tips. . . . We hope that the council respects the will of the voters.”

Focus on her words about why she believes recourse to this ballot initiative is necessary: that it is “precisely to go around elected officials who aren’t listening. . . .” She might be absolutely correct except for the very fact that here in DC most of our elected officials have been listening to the very constituents who are most directly affected! Seems to us that the whole premise of her out-of-state group’s arguement has, almost by her own unwitting admission, collapsed of its own weight.

While on the subject of the need for actual listening to the concerns of residents, it’s not just the elected officials who have an obligation, but it is also the unelected officials and low-level bureaucrats who must do so. And when they do not listen and blindly go off on a tear then it is necessary for the Mayor to reign them in. And if the Mayor won’t do it, then Council members must step in, as did at-large member White a little over a year ago when undertaking a review of the work of the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA).

His review, about which we wrote at the time, was in response to myriad complaints from constituents how DCRA’s rulemaking and enforcement practices too often fail to take into account what the individuals and businesses affected by its actions have to say about potential impacts as a result of not even trying to listen to what may well be the consequences –- unintended or not –- that those on the receiving end understand.

So, when voting, as stated iat the top, consider which candidates listen, but also consider which candidates are proactive in holding agency and departmental officials to account for failures within their bureaucracies to properly listen and take into account what those on the receiving end of their actions have to say based on their real-life experiences from their own trenches.