Councilmember Janeese Lewis George represents Ward 4 on the D.C. Council and is running for re-election. (WI File Photo/Shedrick Pelt)

An upcoming candidate forum at on Georgia Avenue in Northwest will provide Ward 4 voters who are registered as Democrats the opportunity to learn about those who are running in the Democratic primary for the Ward 4 D.C. council seat.

The April 16 event counts among the 鈥 latest efforts to educate voters about the political process. told The Informer that, above all else, voters should learn about the inner workings of District government, including which entities they can turn to in order to address specific problems. 

鈥淪ometimes, you have to go back to the basics and remind folks that, in a town like this, you have an international D.C., a national or federal D.C. and a local D.C.,鈥 Nelson said. 鈥淚t seems like sometimes [they are] not all connected. Additionally, you have to remind people about Government 101.鈥 

Candace Tiana Nelson, Ward 4 Democrats chairwoman (Courtesy Photo)

Nelson designated public safety and senior affairs among Ward 4鈥檚 most pressing issues. She said that public safety not only included violent crime, but what she described as the slow emergency response and disjointed government communication in the aftermath of house fires that have broken out throughout Ward 4 in recent months. 

While Nelson mentioned that voters, party affiliation notwithstanding, desire more immediate responses to violent crime, she said that she often hears concerns about how the D.C. government could better address its underlying causes. 

鈥淚t鈥檚 about the community support that could help be the medicine, if not the cure, for public safety,鈥 Nelson said. 鈥淭hat could be the answer to concerns about parents and children,鈥 she continued. 鈥淰oters should be looking for the candidate that鈥檚 focused on establishing community support in their role as a legislator.鈥 

Council Member Janeese Lewis George Runs for Reelection聽

On June 4, Democratic voters in Ward 4 will decide whether to .听

Lewis George, a millennial and who chairs , is currently in her first term as the Ward 4 D.C. council member. 

As of March 25, she has secured from the, , , , , ,  , , and . 

Last November, Lewis George launched her reelection campaign at The VIP Room in Northwest. Guests included D.C. Council members Robert White (D-At large), Brianne Nadeau (D-Ward 1), and Zachary Parker (D-Ward 5). Those who spoke on her behalf included Nelson and Aaron Jenkins.听聽

Council member Janeese Lewis George at a community event in October 2023. (WI File Photo/Roy Lewis)

Nelson, who鈥檚 also chairperson of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 4A, told The Informer that she wasn鈥檛 speaking in her capacity as a commissioner or Ward 4 Democrat, but as a replacement for a teacher who canceled at the last minute. 

In her remarks before hundreds of supporters last fall, Lewis George focused on housing affordability, economic justice, strong schools, community safety, and senior affairs — all as matters of crime prevention. For several minutes, she spoke about her work in these areas since coming into office, oftentimes to applause from audience members. 

Despite her appeal among legacy 老澳门开奖网ians, transients and grassroots activists, Lewis George has challengers in and , a Ward 4 D.C. Democratic Party committeeman. 

Gore and Johnson, both of whom worked with Lewis George in their capacity as advisory neighborhood commissioners, are calling into question the degree to which the incumbent has represented Ward 4 residents鈥 interests on the D.C. Council. 

Lewis George later told The Informer that the experience of native 老澳门开奖网ians of the millennial generation inspired her campaign focus. 

鈥淲e love the progress of our city, but we just want to be part of it,鈥 Lewis George said. 鈥淥ur Black homeownership numbers are down. People who are doing well can鈥檛 afford the rent. The dream we were sold is crumbling,鈥 she continued. 鈥淲e want to raise our families. It鈥檚 such a beautiful community. We just want to be a part of it. Policies impact our ability to do that.鈥  

Lisa Gore Says Council Member Lewis George is Distracted by National Agenda聽

Gore, a one-time at-large D.C. Council candidate, said she jumped into the Ward 4 D.C. Council race at the behest of residents who expressed concern about Lewis George鈥檚 engagement over the last two years.听

She also recounted discussing this issue with Lewis George, who she said didn鈥檛 present a plan to rectify it. 

 Advisory Neighborhood Commission Chair Lisa Gore (ANC 3/4G) is running for the Ward 4 D.C. Council seat. (Courtesy Photo/Lisa Gore, Facebook)

As Gore explained to The Informer, her qualm with Lewis George involves what she describes as the Ward 4 council member鈥檚 focus on a national political agenda rather than local issues. For instance, she cited Lewis George鈥檚 introduction of a bill last October that provides local news organizations with government-funded vouchers. 

鈥淚鈥檓 not saying that the legislation is necessarily bad. I鈥檓 saying I don鈥檛 believe that [should be] the focus of Ward 4,鈥 Gore said. 鈥淲e have people living and sleeping in their cars, and people who are terrified about crime. When you put out legislation like that, you鈥檙e signaling to the ward your priorities.鈥 

If elected, Gore wants to increase Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) staffing, expand senior housing, and push for the reinstatement of the D.C. Council鈥檚 Committee on Education. Other areas of focus include assessing and tailoring early interventions to District students鈥 needs, helping parents better navigate D.C. ‘s labyrinthic education and social service programs, and ensuring the equitable distribution of safety improvements and infrastructure investments. 

Gore, a former juvenile probation officer and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development special agent, also said she wants to better include MPD in conversations about crime prevention. Those overtures, she said, would also extend to council colleagues and the mayor. 

During the latter part of last year, Gore hosted a public safety meeting with officers from MPD鈥檚 Second District Station. That meeting, she said, followed other gatherings she hosted at her home and other places throughout her advisory neighborhood commission where her constituents in Chevy Chase weighed in on violent crime and property crime.   

Although Chevy Chase is located west of Rock Creek Park, a relatively more affluent portion of Ward 4, Gore, the mother of a D.C. Public Schools alumnus, maintains that she鈥檚 qualified to speak on issues that affect all Ward 4 residents. 

鈥淲hat I鈥檓 hearing in my area is what I鈥檓 hearing from the guy living in 16th Street Heights,鈥 Gore said. 

Crime is a major concern, she emphasized.

鈥淧eople are concerned about crime 鈥 shootings, break-ins, auto thefts,鈥 she continued.听 鈥淲e hear the shooting coming from that side of the ward. You have to look at it聽 from a ward-level perspective and what people are facing.鈥澛

Paul Johnson Prioritizes ‘Pragmatism, Not Ideology

Johnson too said that he wants to ensure that Ward 4 residents feel connected to the Ward 4 council office. If elected, he wants to better engage residents and foster productive working relationships with other D.C. council members and the mayor.

His goal, he said, involves working toward solutions based on pragmatism, not ideology. 

Paul Johnson, a Ward 4 D.C. Democratic Party committeeman is running to represent Ward 4 on the D.C. Council. (Courtesy Photo/Paul Johnson)

鈥淩esidents are troubled by the trends and direction of public safety in the ward,鈥 Johnson said. 鈥淭hey鈥檙e concerned with the distress that our small businesses are in, in terms of their ability to stay open and sustain themselves鈥 They鈥檙e longing for representation on the council that鈥檚 going to show up for them, and work for their concerns in a way that demonstrates leadership.鈥 

In years past, Johnson has engaged Ward 4 residents in matters of opioid use, transportation, the local creative economy, tenant organizing, recreation, and equitable zoning and land use. He said that, as a council member, he wants to conduct listening sessions that include all residents and ward-wide organizations, including those whose ideologies differ from his. 

He told The Informer that, through his work, formerly as chair of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 4C, and currently Ward 4 Democratic Party committeeman and Fourth District MPD Citizens Advisory Council executive committee member, he鈥檚 established that type of rapport. 

Stakeholders, he said, include seniors, faith-based institutions, small business owners, social service agencies, and law enforcement.  

One of Johnson鈥檚 campaign focus areas is workforce development, specifically the coordination between , Universal Pre-K,  the K-12 education system, and the . He told The Informer that he wants to strengthen pathways of employment for various learners, particularly those who want to pursue vocational education. 

Johnson said that, if elected, he would eventually vie for a business and economic development committee assignment. He said he wants to support Ward 4 business owners who are advocating for the tools needed to succeed in the post-Covid environment. 

To that point, he expressed a desire to acquire a Main Streets designation for Georgia Avenue and Upshur Street as a means of attracting more revenue for businesses along those corridors. 

All of the aforementioned issues, Johnson said, connect to public safety because it addresses the underlying causes of violent crime in Ward 4. He explained that he wants his public safety approaches to focus on all Ward 4 residents, not just who he calls a vocal few. 

鈥淲e need to make sure our constituents have a stake and buy-in for what happens in Ward 4,鈥 Johnson said. 鈥淚f you鈥檙e not talking to the broad, diverse community and attuned to its needs, then you become out of step and there鈥檚 no equity.鈥 

Council Member Lewis George Defends Her Record

Lewis George, who has introduced more than 200 bills centered on housing, conflict resolution, equity, and workforce development, told The Informer that neither Gore nor Johnson have expressed any concerns to her in the past about constituent services or community engagement. 

She went on to indict the , an employer and small business lobbying group said to have ties to the , as an engineer of her opposition. 

Opportunity DC Executive Director Malcom Fox, responding to an Informer inquiry about opposition to Lewis George, said that Opportunity DC is currently focused on 鈥渇inishing out the legislative session, ensuring Secure DC is fully funded, and helping the Council pass a sensible budget.鈥 

In speaking about her community engagement, Lewis George touted weekly newsletters that her office circulates digitally, in person, and with translations in Spanish and Amharic. Her campaign also notes that her office has responded to more than 7,000 requests for service, including those dealing with trash collection. 

For two consecutive years, Lewis George and members of her team have set up shop in Ward 4, neighborhood by neighborhood, as part of what鈥檚 called Ward 4 CARE (Community Access Resource and Engagement) Days. Between May and September, the council member directly connects residents with resources and services. Ward 4 CARE also includes door-to-door outreach where constituents speak about crime and housing, among other issues. 

As it relates to the proliferation of trash in portions of the ward, Lewis George told The Informer that D.C. Department of Public Works (DPW) personnel accompanied her at CARE Days in 2022 and 2023. 

As Ward 4 continues to reel from violence, Lewis George noted that she shows up to crime scenes and engages families of victims within 48 hours after an incident. Her strategy, she said, also includes connecting victims with agencies that can help with funeral arrangements and other issues. 

鈥淚鈥檓 just a warrior for Ward 4. All of my constituents know I will go to bat for them, no matter what part of the ward you live in,鈥 she said.  鈥淚 will work with you to get your issues resolved. People know they got a council member who will fight no matter their socioeconomic background.鈥 

Lewis George went on to say that her prosecutorial experience has shown her that a balanced approach goes much further than shepherding laws that harm marginalized 老澳门开奖网ians. 

Addressing local crime, she told The Informer, requires tackling D.C.鈥檚 crime response in its totality, including crime lab accreditation, the 911 call center, and what she described as District police officers鈥 excessive use of force that compromises prosecution. 

In October, she co-sponsored the with At-Large Council member White as part of an effort to improve aspects of the public safety infrastructure. That legislation came after she advocated for the infusion of violence interrupters in Petworth and Brightwood Park, partnered with the for the launch of a job training and transitional employment program, and secured six new closed-circuit security cameras throughout Ward 4.听

Much of Lewis George鈥檚 focus has also been on the Kennedy Street corridor, an epicenter of violence. Last summer, a long-term investigation culminated in a federal indictment of who law enforcement officials allege to be members of the Kennedy Street Crew. 

Lewis George鈥檚 intervention on Kennedy Street includes collaboration with the and . 

She also facilitated the passage of legislation to bring a D.C. public library to the corridor. Months later, she continues to inquire about implementation of the library project to council colleagues who oversaw the confirmation of , deputy mayor of planning and economic development.

In early March, Lewis George successfully introduced amendments to the Secure DC Omnibus Amendment Act that raised the threshold for felony first-degree theft from $500 to $1,000 and specified the definition of a mask in the anti-masking provision. 

She also stood alongside D.C. Council member Kenyan McDuffie (I-At large) in his opposition to pre-trial DNA collection.听

鈥淵ou have to consider your constituency, your expertise and what you bring to the table. I wouldn鈥檛 do something that I know to be harmful,鈥 Lewis George said. 鈥淢y colleagues respect my perspective. Sometimes, it鈥檚 lonely to stand in my shoes and be value driven but it humanizes me. I鈥檓 willing to stand on my values. That鈥檚 my promise.鈥 

Ward 4 Residents Weigh In 

Abigail Seiler, a Brightwood resident and mother of one, said she plans to vote for Lewis George in June with traffic safety and under-resourced schools at the forefront of her mind. 

Seiler, wife of , recalled first meeting the council member during her electoral run in 2020. She told The Informer that she has come to respect Lewis George鈥檚 fight for statehood and advocacy for District-wide issues. 

Abigail Seiler, a Brightwood resident and mother of one, said she plans to vote for Lewis George on June 4. (Courtesy Photo/LinkedIn)

More importantly, Seiler said, Lewis George has established a physical presence throughout the community and garnered a reputation as someone who produces results. 

鈥淐ouncil member Lewis George is smart about fixing small things that can make a big difference,鈥 Seiler said. 鈥淚t鈥檚 about the hard work that the government should be doing to make it function for everyone who lives here.鈥澛

A Northwest resident who requested anonymity told The Informer that she鈥檚 supporting Lewis George due to what she described as the council member鈥檚 penchant for standing against policies that disadvantage District residents. 

Lewis George鈥檚 record, the resident said, stands in contrast to that of Gore, a public official she said ignores constituents. The resident said she has seen Gore鈥檚 exclusion of others鈥 viewpoints firsthand as a ANC 3/4G constituent and member of Gore鈥檚 campaign team during her 2022 At-large D.C. Council run. 

While Gore鈥檚 insistence on blazing her own path in the passage of commission resolutions initially attracted the Northwest resident to Gore鈥檚 At-large campaign, the resident said Gore鈥檚 outlook immediately became a hindrance in the 2022 election as she continued to disregard the resident鈥檚 suggestions. 

One of those suggestions came in the form of a list of organizers and community members that the Northwest resident compiled for Gore. They told The Informer that, as the weeks passed, many of the nearly two dozen people on the list reported never hearing from Gore. 

The resident said that moment, along with Gore鈥檚 insistence that campaign staffers draw up a policy paper on housing issues, despite her decades of experience in the Department of Housing and Urban Development, compelled the resident to leave Gore鈥檚 campaign. They said that Gore鈥檚 ambition often drove her to isolate herself among a small group of advisors and take on roles that she might not suited for, despite what her resume suggests. 

However, one suggestion that Gore followed, according to the resident, concerned reaching out to Lewis George for her support. As the resident recounted, Gore and Lewis George, who at the time of Gore鈥檚 At-large council run, had similar political leanings, eventually developed a kinship.

That鈥檚 why, for the resident, Gore鈥檚 decision to challenge Lewis George has proven to be perplexing.  If anything, the resident said, it speaks to Gore鈥檚 ambition for political power. 

鈥淚t just hit me like a bucket of water,鈥 the resident said of Gore鈥檚 announcement. 鈥淛aneese is one of the few elected officials with beliefs not contaminated by private development, so it boggles my mind that Lisa would choose to knock Janeese off the council.鈥 

Gore, responding to an Informer inquiry about her political leanings, maintains that her platform, as it relates to public safety, education policy, constituent services, and transportation, has remained consistent since running for the At-large council seat in 2022. 

While she acknowledges initially keeping housing at the forefront of her 2022 campaign, Gore told The Informer that her emphasis on public safety happened amid the spike in violence that embroiled the District during that election cycle. 

She also said that she鈥檚 focused on Ward 4 residents, not progressives who are critical of her Ward 4 council run.  

鈥淭he situation has escalated out of control,鈥 Gore said. 鈥淢y tenor would be different if this was not a crisis. If the council looked at this as a crisis two years ago, we would鈥檝e had interventions dealing with violent crime sooner. These are things that people in Ward 4 are talking about regardless of race, age, or community.鈥 

East of Rock Creek Park in 16th Street Heights, Peggy Pacy has fully thrown her support behind Gore. 

Peggy Pacy, a member of the 16th Street Heights Civic Association, is supporting Lisa Gore’s counciil run. (Courtesy Photo/Peggy Pacy)

Pacy, a member of the , hosted a meet-and-greet for Gore at her home in early February. More than 30 neighbors attended that event, Pacy told The Informer. 

Pacy, a Northwest resident, expressed her respect for the manner in which Lewis George tied the SNAP increase to the budget surplus. She also spoke about her reverence for Johnson鈥檚 skills in constituent engagement, saying that he never fails to pick up her phone calls. 

However, her decision to back Gore, she said, stems from what she calls Gore鈥檚 passion for addressing crime and executing a vision that would produce immediate results. 

鈥淚 believe that鈥檚 what we鈥檒l get from Lisa Gore,鈥 Pacy said. 鈥淪he agrees there are things that have to happen to keep children engaged. She agrees with me that we have to do something about crime now.鈥 

A qualm that Pacy expressed about Lewis George concerned the development of . 

In 2022, developers endeavored to double Dance Loft鈥檚 size and include, in its final design, theaters, dance space, and 101 apartments, a sizable portion of which were affordable, family-sized units. Lacy counted among those who endeavored to negotiate a compromise with the developers where green space and parking would be created. 

Efforts to engage Lewis George in meaningful dialogue were unsuccessful, Pacy told The Informer. 

Lewis George, responding to an Informer inquiry, mentioned making her case to constituents in a and meeting a total of 20 times with residents, developers, small business owners, and ANC 4C03 via Zoom and in person. She recounted specifically speaking with Pacy on the phone on March 16, 2022. 

Meanwhile, Pacy told The Informer that the one meeting she attended with Lewis George, she happened to stumble upon on the corner of 14th and Crittendon streets in Northwest.  That meeting, she said, had less than a dozen people.

Pacy said that situation speaks to what she calls an overarching issue of Lewis George prioritizing certain segments of Ward 4. 

鈥淚 believe with Lisa Gore, developers will be held accountable. They will have to hear us,鈥 Pacy said. 

Walter Sadler, a Ward 4 resident of more than two decades, has thrown his support behind Johnson, telling The Informer that Johnson has a record of engaging longtime, middle-class Black D.C. residents and aggressively addressing their concerns. 

During the Williams and Fenty administrations, Sadler served as a member of the Ward 4 service coordinator team. He also ran an outreach ministry with the support of then-Council member Adrian Fenty.听

Sadler said he wanted to use such experience in service of Lewis George when she entered office. However, he said he called the council member鈥檚 office four times throughout 2022 about a bevy of issues, particularly cars illegally parked along Madison Street. 

While he acknowledged speaking with a staffer on at least one occasion, Sadler said Lewis George鈥檚 office didn’t follow through on his concerns. 

Lewis George, responding to an inquiry about this matter, said that she doesn鈥檛 know Sadler nor does his name show up in iConstituent, the automated system that records constituents鈥 inquiries. 

In regard to the issue of abandoned cars and excessive trash around Emery Heights Recreation Center in Northwest, Lewis George mentioned her attempt to rectify the issue through . That bill, currently making its way through the council, addresses the lack of adequate trash storage and trash collection near apartments. 

Lewis George also cited to streamline the removal of abandoned and dangerous cars and her work with DPW to coordinate the removal of abandoned cars and secure additional impound lot space. 

Sadler, however, remains resolute in his assessment of Lewis George, saying that he hasn鈥檛 seen her directly engage longtime members of his community. He said that spoke to what he described as white transients鈥 domination of the Ward 4 political ecosystem. 

Sadler recounted seeing racial dynamics in Ward 4 at play when it came to transportation, specifically the installment of bus lanes and parking restrictions near legacy Black churches. In regard to public works, Sadler said he often sees portions of Northwest, including near his grandson鈥檚 school Lafayette Elementary School, where streets are clean and government agencies respond in a timely fashion to residents鈥 issues. 

Property crime, open-air drug markets, and the proliferation of trash currently count among Sadler鈥檚 most pressing issues. He told The Informer that he continues to seek information from the council member about how she would approach these problems.听

鈥淲hen Council member Lewis George first got into office, I thought we had someone new, young and energetic who might get involved,鈥 Sadler said. 鈥淚 know she doesn’t have all the answers but come to the residents. Meet with us. We鈥檝e been in the city as long as she’s been alive. We can give her some direction.鈥澛

Sam P.K. Collins has nearly 20 years of journalism experience, a significant portion of which he gained at The 老澳门开奖网 Informer. On any given day, he can be found piecing together a story, conducting...

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2 Comments

  1. Paul Johnson has not done anything of substance in Ward 4 or the neighborhoods encompassed by the Advisory Neighborhood Commission 4C. In fact, he was kicked out of his Chair position early due to his inability to do the job and his inability to gain even the most basic consensus on the ANC or with residents. That’s just one of the reasons he lost reelection to the ANC. He tries to talk a good game, but he can’t walk the walk. He’s not qualified to be an ANC commissioner, let alone a DC Council Member.

  2. I am disappointed, and astonished at the untruths I read here regarding statements by Janeese Lewis George.

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