Capital Citizen with Clinton Yates (Mar. 24)

Mar 24, 2014

Local columnist Clinton Yates takes your questions about politics, pop culture, people and whatever else you like from D.C.

Howdy folks, thanks for joining me today. We're just over a week away from Primary Day in D.C., so if you feel like you've been super bombarded with political faces locally, you'd be correct. Let's get things started.

What do you think of the poll released last week by WAMU saying that Muriel Bowser and Vincent Gray are tied for support?

To be honest, this wasn't a very surprising poll. Although, for those not necessarily playing close attention, it might have been.

Any indication, be it small or otherwise, that the Mayor is actually pretty beatable in the primary grandly helps his competition. A lot of people won't turn out to the polls if they don't feel they can affect a lot of change, but knowing that it might be close could give Bowser an even bigger push on April 1.


Did you read that op-ed about Gray being unfairly criticized by the media surrounding the Jeffrey Thompson situation? Do you agree?

To be clear, I believe the reader is referring to this piece, in which law professors Monroe H. Freedman and Abbe Smith explain how dangerous and harmful U.S. Attorney Ron Machen's actions have been in the investigation surrounding the 2010 D.C. Mayoral election.

But specifically, I think that entire argument is somewhat bogus. This entire situation about whether or not Gray was part of a grand shadow scheme is tangential to the fact that, you know, this apparently happened. From a basic civic ethics standpoint, nevermind potential guilt, this is a big problem.

Gray's involvement in it is a legal one that most certainly has its ramifications on his life, but it's not like Gray is some random bystander caught in the subterfuge. He is the mayor of the District of Columbia. To voters, I think him defending his innocence makes sense, but doesn't mean it looks good from a PR standpoint.


14% is high for undecideds. Any idea which way they will go?

It is a high number, and I think this last week is going to be a tumultuous one as a result. But unfortunately I don't know if anyone who is actually going to vote is going to have their mind swayed largely in that period.

Nothing has really changed, except for the Uncle Earl debacle, which basically brought the mayor back to the pack. 

Or, to better answer that last question, I don't see a large chunk of that undecided 14% going to one person in particular. The only big swing there would be if someone on the ticket dropped out.

Do you have a sense of whether Catania could beat either Gray or Bowser? In many ways he's been a good and tough legislator, tougher than Bowser, but he has the personality of Chuck Thies.

To equate Catania's personality to that of Chuck Thies is a bit odd to me, but I'll just presume that's a joke. As a side note, Washingtonian's Ben Freed said last week that the Gray campaign has devolved into a "piece of Chuck Thies performance art," which is a great line.

I personally think Catania has a way better chance of beating Gray than Bowser, but it's not out of the question remotely for him to beat either.

That's the other reason why this primary is so interesting. Catania is a legit candidate as an independent. But Gray's base is older, blacker and wealthier than either Catania or Bowser, so that dichotomy makes Gray an easier opponent to defeat, from a numbers standpoint. 

Where can I find more information on candidates for the DC Democratic State Committee? Websites like The Rent is Too Darn High and Democrats Moving Forward don't say much about who they are or their positions beyond a generic platform.

We're getting pretty far down the rabbithole here in local wonky talk, but I'd say when in doubt, use Google. Also, I'd be willing to bet that most of the candidates are relatively normal people (as in, not bombastic politico types) who'd reply if you found them on social media.

What's your favorite way to enjoy the festival?

By leaving town. Just kidding.

I have no problem with tourists, but sometimes the festival can be a battle. Strollers, etc., can create a pretty clogged experience. I don't have kids, so I don't typically enjoy it the same way many families do. 

But, a great way to have fun once the weather gets warmer is the same way to enjoy any public space: get there before sunrise and watch it come up.

What are your thoughts?

The most interesting one, to me, is in Ward 1. That features Brianne Nadeau challenging Jim Graham. I wrote a column about it once.

I must say, in the few exchanges I've seen these two have, Graham, the current councilmember has been beyond condescending to Nadeau's whole effort. It's felt like his basic theme is that since he's been there, he should stay there. 

As for the at-large race, it's hard to believe that anyone other than Anita Bonds is going to win. She's the most visible name and still a very strong base. I did help moderate a panel between the 3 others in that race and Nate Bennett-Fleming is the name that stands out. Pedro Rubio and John Settles are nice guys, but there was something about Nate that makes you feel like he's going to be around for a while.

Are you planning to attend any events at the Kennedy Center's Hip Hop festival. If so, can you suggest any?

I'm old enough to kind of laugh when I hear the terms "Hip Hop festival" and "Kennedy Center" in the same sentence, but why not. I like it. 

I'd suggest the Black Girls Rock! show, but where you'll be able to find me is at the all-day graffiti jam over in Northeast. That'll be fun.

Here's a list of all the events going down at the Kennedy Center. It's a long one, which is a tremendous fact in itself.

Do you agree with the judge's decision regarding homeless families in D.C.?

Absolutely. For those who don't know, from Aaron C. Davis and Keith L. Alexander's story, the lede is as follows. 

"A D.C. Superior Court Judge on Monday issued a rebuke to Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s handling of a prolonged winter surge in family homelessness, ordering his administration to stop housing poor families on cots in gymnasiums on freezing nights."

That situation was deplorable. And quite frankly, extremely embarrassing to a city awash on money, apparently. There's absolutely no reason people should be sleeping in fear with strangers because of some policy decision. Of all the good things that have been done by Mayor Gray, the situation with homeless is one he deserves a lot of scrutiny on.

Who are you voting for?

I'm going to open a can of worms here, but I don't vote. I'm a registered independent in the District, but the reason is ultimately one for work.

Not everyone agrees with this, but I personally don't think that it's possible for me to be impartial if I'm actually voting for people whom I cover. If I'm voting for someone or have voted for someone, I'm always going to know in the back of mind that I did that. In order to be as fair to readers as possible, I try to come at things as an impartial observer, even when giving my specific opinion about the matter.

There's also the argument that if I don't vote then I am contributing to the problem and thus subverting my own agency in discussing issue, but this is where I'm from. It's where my family is from and all my friends, too, for the most part. The agency in me caring about local issues is one of human interest, not just personal preferences. 

I'd be curious to hear others' thoughts on this. That is, journalists and their votes.

No question, just a comment...Today, your chat does not appear on the homepage listing of chats. I can't say for certain about other days, but I usually don't see it listed on the homepage until after it's done. I know that if I want to make sure I don't miss it, I can book mark pages etc. However, I *already* know it exists. I'm betting there are several others who may be interested in the topics you discuss but have no idea that you're here to chat on Mondays at 1.

I could get into the technical nitty gritty of all this, but that's pretty boring, honestly. I'll just post this and say: noted.

Also, thanks for reading and tell your friends!

Have you been to the new one on 14th Street?

Haha, no, I haven't. But I did learn today that people actually call Trader Joe's "TJ's", which is hilarious. In what feels like one of the final pegs in the official "transformation" of 14th street, the grocer opened over the weekend.

If you didn't read it, I'd urge you to check out Maura Judkis' piece about it. Personally, I actually think it's super weird to have a bunch of U Street landmarks on the walls for a store on 14th street, but that's just me. 

There's something that just feels very cheap, from an homage standpoint, about that, when so many people were effectively displaced for that store to become a reality. I do want to check the place out though, because Trader Joe's frequently gets branded as a super upscale grocer, but in my experience is typically a little more normal than that.

This question came from Twitter:

Why can't DC build a #monorailmonday ?

Personally, I don't really know where this would go? But this basically allows me the chance to bring up the idea of gondolas over the Potomac River to Arlington. It's the crazy transpo story that's been gaining a small amount of steam recently, and I love it. I have no real idea how/why it would work/be needed, but I'd certainly want to ride in it. And I imagine a lot of others would to, ha

Happy belated Birthday Mr. Yates!

Thank you! I turned 33 over the weekend and got to do it the way I love: hanging out with my family and playing foosball with the guys I've called friends since we were toddlers. 

I'm happy, I'm healthy and glad to be at this point in my life — that is: alive. 

This seems like a pretty natural place to end things, so I will. Thanks again, and I'll see you next week!

In This Chat
Clinton Yates
Clinton Yates is a D.C. native and an online columnist. He was born at GWU hospital the week before Ronald Reagan ended up there for the wrong reasons. When he's not covering the city, pop culture or listening to music, he watches sports. A lot of them.
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