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Although Necessary, Evans’ Departure from the City Council a Sad Day Indeed

While the Washington Post in its December 5th editorial made clear that the Council’s unanimous vote of Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans’ 12 colleagues for his expulsion was justified, the opening paragraph of its editorial did serve as a reminder to his constituents and all citizens that Evans had made important and lasting contributions beneficial to the District, notwithstanding his current notoriety, with these gracious and true words:

“. . . during his long tenure in public office [Evans] made contributions to the Washington area that helped make it a better place to live and work. He aided the recovery of the city’s fiscal health, the revival of downtown, the reform of Metro, the return of Major League Baseball.”

As long-time readers of our commentaries in this space know, over the years of Evans’ tenure we have consistently endorsed him for re-election, especially for his stewardship of the now –- we think foolishly- – eliminated Committee on Finance and Revenue with its deep institutional knowledge and staff expertise now discarded to the detriment of future fiscal management and Council oversight.

Nevertheless, given the cloud enveloping the council member and the seeming prospects of both local and federal indictments, we think he made the right decision to resign his seat.

Yet, however correct that was, we are left with great sadness, not just for the loss of his expertise that had served us so well on many fronts where issues of conflict of interest had no bearing, but also for sadness about his own personal family situation and how it must be so wrenching for his children also.

It also saddens us that there are aspirants seeking his about-to-be vacated council seat, seemingly doing victory dances over a late in the career downfall when they should focusing on what they effectively will do to help guide policy and outcomes if elected. A happy exception on January 8th was candidate Kishan Putta who did publicly acknowledge the good that Evans did, stating, “Despite his ethical issues, over three decades Jack Evans’ office made significant contributions to our city including vital support for the LGBTQ+ community.”

Expanding on Putta’s comment and what the Post editorial board made a point of stating, there was this from Post columnist Robert McCartney back on November 11th:

“Evans has accomplished a great deal for the District in his 28 years on the council. An expert on finances, he played a key role in shepherding the city through the fiscal crisis of the 1990s. He was a leading advocate for building the baseball stadium that is home to the new World Series champions. Despite abundant criticism for his blunt and impolitic rhetoric as Metro board chairman, Evans helped focus the region’s attention on the need for dedicated funding for the transit system and aggressive steps to catch up on overdue maintenance.”

To this we can add other initiatives that have been of significant benefit to not just Ward 2 but neighborhoods across the city, such as ensuring the funding for the Main Streets initiative (and in Dupont, provide the service of the “Clean Team” to do what DPW doesn’t do). And it’s not just in Dupont that these Main Streets entities are bringing benefits to neighborhoods in Ward 2 and nearby as in Columbia Heights, as well as across the city.

Perhaps Washington Blade opinion writer Mark Lee in his December 5th column best summed up the good in Jack Evans’ legacy:

“First elected in early 1991, Evans handily won re-election eight times as a politically moderate and business supportive legislator who championed LGBT issues long before everyone else did. He is credited with helping pull the city out of its bleak period of bankruptcy and federal control from 1995 through 2001, fostering the economic growth of the city, shepherding most major downtown development projects involving government participation, and taking a dim view of squandered monies and wasteful spending.

“In an era when seeking public office produces fewer credible takers, attracts lesser talents, and often solicits those who’ve done little else, politicians like Evans aren’t likely to frequently appear. Some will cheer that, no doubt, but Washington is better for having had benefit of his service.”