The Eagle’s Q&A with D.C. Council candidates Frumin and Krucoff

As Ward 3 chooses a new councilmember for the first time in 16 years, The Eagle asked the candidates about pandemic preparedness, education, housing and more

 The Eagle’s Q&A with D.C. Council candidates Frumin and Krucoff

As Washingtonians decide who will represent them in the Wilson Building come 2023, The Eagle checked in with D.C. Council candidates in Ward 3 one final time before Election Day.

Democrat Matthew Frumin and Republican David Krucoff are vying to replace retiring Democratic Councilmember Mary Cheh, who has held office since 2007. Adrian Salsgiver, a Libertarian, is also on the ballot but did not respond to multiple requests from The Eagle to participate in this Q&A. 

Responses were sent to The Eagle via email. Some responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity. 

What steps should D.C. take to prepare for future pandemics? How will you ensure the city has the resources it needs for the next public health emergency?

Frumin: I believe the city needs to undertake an after-action review to determine what worked well and what did not in our city’s pandemic response and commence a planning process based on that review. One dimension of that is to recognize and consider ways to address the racial and economic disparities in access and outcomes. In the meantime, the most important way to prepare for the next pandemic is to strengthen our healthcare system now. The District should take a holistic approach to public health that both addresses the everyday health crises facing our neighbors and prepares for potential future pandemics. While mitigating the spread of infectious disease like COVID should remain a top priority, we can’t continue to ignore looming issues throughout the District. During the pandemic, we saw health care workers squeezed like never before. We must support these workers, improve their retention, and invest in training more health care workers. This is both a challenge and a workforce development opportunity. I’m also focused on ensuring that the next Director of the Department of Health is prepared for the challenges that lie ahead as the Council undergoes its confirmation process. Finally, I hope to promote intersectional approaches to public health such as improving access to stable and safe housing and healthy food. 

Krucoff: By utilizing my experience in real estate, I will repurpose vacant buildings and property to serve as vaccination centers and rapid health care clinics in the event of a future pandemic. We will rapidly approve the leasing, zoning, and contracting processes. These could also serve a long-term purpose once these new diseases become endemic. As we learned from COVID-19, I would work with my fellow members of the Council to secure continued funding to ensure that these facilities will remain open and transformed into mental health care and rehabilitation clinics if our hospitals are overwhelmed. Could the Lord and Taylor site become a biotech incubator? Why don’t we compete with Montgomery County, Maryland, for nearby NIH business? Lastly, we must not use the existence of a pandemic as an excuse for perpetual government overspending. Emergency legislation must not become the norm. It should not be renewed unless the emergency continues to exist and the Council has not taken up regular, non-emergency, legislation that would supersede it. Pathogens become less virulent and more common over time. Government must be adaptive but not expansive. As the government expands freedom is jeopardized.

Research has shown widespread failures by D.C. officials to support youth with severe mental health challenges. What steps will you take as a councilmember to ensure young people get the help they need, rather than falling into a “pattern of institutionalization”?

Frumin: Even before the pandemic, more and more youth were facing severe mental health challenges and required support from both the District government and their community. After years of isolation and increased stress, I know how important urgent action to support vulnerable young people is. As Councilmember, I plan to work with my Council colleagues and the Executive to significantly increase mental health support in schools across the District. While increased investments were made during the last budget cycle, more must be done and I’m prepared to advocate for more funding to improve the mental well-being of our students. School-based mental health intervention is a start, but the entire community must come together to support our youth. This includes addressing the increase in violent gun crime through aggressive neighborhood outreach and strengthened restorative justice programs. It also means ensuring our response to mental health crises is centered in compassion, not criminalization. Finally, we need to train more social workers and encourage them to stay in DC when they graduate. Councilmember Robert White’s proposal to establish a free school of social work at UDC is promising, with the potential dual benefit of increased supply of social workers and a revitalized hometown public university.

Krucoff: As a father to a special-needs child, I can empathize with the innumerable challenges presented by developmental difficulties and mental health problems in children. Like ensuring preventative health care for pandemics and streamlining funds for rapid response centers, the D.C. Council must expedite funding for the Children and Adolescent Mobile Psychiatric Service that treated 40% fewer youth during the 2020-21 pandemic period. By smartly investing in units that adapt to our changing times through the understanding that professionals must go to the source of the mental health problems by arriving at the scene of a crisis, we can save lives. These investments are not a replacement for recognizing that society must have a grand reckoning with our current situation. In other words, we must look in the mirror. We must admit that we have a technology addiction, and that these computerized advancements must not replace our sense of community or the presence of strong, two-parent households. If you are feeling depressed, it is always best to reach out to a professional; however, in addition to this logical step, one must get out of their comfort zone, go out with friends, engage in physical activity, and be a steward of their own families and futures.

Ward 3 is the wealthiest ward in D.C., and much of it is zoned for expensive single-family homes. Do you support building more affordable and/or higher-density housing in Ward 3? Explain your answer.

Frumin: Our Ward 3 community will be made even greater by welcoming new neighbors. As the District’s population continues to grow, we need to increase Ward 3’s housing supply with a focus on affordability and livability. I support adding density on our corridors, especially centered around transit hubs. There are many opportunities to do that in the coming decade, beginning with planning processes on the Wisconsin and Connecticut Avenue corridors. I see opportunities for increased housing in many of the neighborhoods AU students already call home, notably Tenleytown, Friendship heights, Van Ness, and more. As Councilmember, I would also focus on using public land as sites for affordable housing construction. One example could be the Department of Homeland Security site around the corner from AU. When DHS leaves the property, the District must work with the University to gain control of the site and use it to promote our shared goals. I do not support elimination of single family zoning.

Krucoff: I support building more affordable and/or higher-density housing in Ward 3. Wherever possible, we must encourage the development of multi-use buildings. Residential, retail, and office space can co-exist in the same high-rise building with underground parking. However, along with this necessary change, we also must reform our housing-voucher program. If we wish to maintain the success of Ward 3, housing voucher overhaul is essential to advance our safety, battle corruption, and increase transparency of programs designed to help and house our most vulnerable residents. By doing so, we will uplift marginalized communities and welcome them to Ward 3, ensure the safety of our high-density housing, and ensure that the Move-to-Work component of District of Columbia Housing Authority becomes stronger so we can allow residents in single-family homes and high-density housing to age in-place.

A significant portion of Ward 3 houses students from American University. What role does this group play in the community, and what pieces of legislation do you hope to push for that will benefit AU students?

Frumin: The area I live in (AU Park/Tenleytown) and the entirety of Ward 3 benefits enormously from the presence of American University and its students. Years ago, I wrote a column in the NW Current about the positive impacts of AU and believe they have only grown since. I know AU students are some of the most politically active in the nation –– that’s why as Councilmember, I’m excited to partner with both AU students and the University administration. It’s important to build strong ties between students and their neighborhoods and look forward to helping them get to know our community. I hope to pursue creating financial supports for District residents to attend AU and other local universities. Helping more DC natives attend AU will enrich the student experience and foster new community connections.

Krucoff: American University students represent the energetic heart of Ward 3. In addition to revitalizing our neighborhoods, students from American University constitute current and future members of the journalism and political community, science and medical realms, business districts, nonprofit and charity sectors, and thought leaders of the next generation. I would sponsor legislation to expand grants for internship and fellowship programs as a transition to fulfilling public and private sector careers. Subsequently, I would turn to American University students and rely on their expertise concerning traffic, environmental, economic, and public policy issues through their master’s level research, capstone projects, and dissertations. This collaboration could serve as a fiscally responsible alternative to privately contracting services.

You are running to replace retiring Councilmember Mary Cheh, who has been a dominant figure in local politics since she took office in 2007. On what issues do you see yourself aligning with her, and where do you differ?

Frumin: Mary has been a fighter for all Ward 3 residents, including AU students, for nearly sixteen years and I look forward to building on her legacy as Councilmember. Mary has led the effort for significant progress on nearly every issue facing our community, including education, the environment, food access, and transportation. I have great respect for her accomplishments, and align quite closely on most issues. To the extent there are differences between us they are more likely to be on emphasis than direction. While I will represent Ward 3 dutifully, I am also committed to taking a systematic, citywide approach to improving our schools. Indeed, in my opinion, one of the most important ways to support Ward 3 schools and reduce overcrowding is to strengthen matter-of-right feeder systems across the city. I also think that is key to the long-term future of the city.  If the city is to grow, it must retain its families which means ensuring them great schools. Another area I might emphasize more than Councilmember Cheh is the art and community events.  She has been excellent on such matters, but they are a personal passion of mine. I will chart my own path on the Council, but in doing so, I will draw on and try to build on the legacy of Councilmember Cheh.  

Krucoff: Councilmember Mary Cheh served our community well for sixteen years as our Councilmember. We have ample respect for her, and we thank her for her service. Councilmember Cheh respects the rule of law as do I. On two separate occasions, she expressed her concern about rising crime in Ward 3 to me. She is concerned that the Council will expand the definition of a juvenile and will acquiesce to Councilmember Allen’s designs and make misdemeanor become jury trials, thereby bogging down the superior court and costing taxpayers more than $50,000,000 per year in new judicial costs. Also, she was the lone vote against the Local Resident Voting Rights Amendment Act; the bill which provides undocumented people the right to vote. She showed that she understands the valuable nature of U.S. citizenship. Still, we differ when it comes to spending and in our reliance upon government to fix problems. D.C. Government has become too large and is now unwieldy. She has been part of the expansion for fifteen years. Now, as we enter a period when federal dollars will be less abundant it behooves us to have someone on the Council that understands the supply side of the economy and the proper role of government to support it.

What one issue will be your first priority when you take office?

Frumin: While my campaign platform outlines many of my priorities in great detail, budget season will begin shortly after Councilmembers take office in January. For this reason, ensuring D.C. schools receive the funding they need will be a crucial priority from day one. I also intend to do outreach to stakeholders on various issues like schools, small business, health care, and the environment to assess their priorities and find common ground. So much work must be done to build a better Ward 3 and District and I’m ready to hit the ground running immediately.

Krucoff: I am running on the notion that different points of view create a foundation for better decision-making. There has never been a non-Democrat elected to the Council from a Ward. Now is the time to change that. My objective is to demonstrate that centrist Republicans exist and that we can grow the Republican party from the passionately pragmatic center as opposed to the recent authoritarian past, led by the former president. Our city and our country need thoughtful, new, leaders who are not beholden to their party’s loud, polarized extremes. If you believe that a healthy body politic can be built in our nation’s capital, then let’s do that. If you desire change, stop by an Early Vote Center, deliver your ballot to a drop-box, or mail-in your ballot! Whichever way you do it, vote for David Krucoff on November 8.

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