For 15 years I have worked in many capacities with many of you to build a welcoming, dynamic, diverse, safe and fun Ward 3 and District of Columbia. I have made a positive difference on issue after issue and have found engaging in the effort to improve quality of life and fairness for my neighbors deeply gratifying. It is in my DNA. I got involved in politics and community activism as a child, by my mother’s side as she, with her friends, worked for social justice and better schools and built community through Art Fairs and other events. The community I grew up in was a better place because of my mother and I am proud to try to carry on that tradition.
My philosophy is to listen and learn from others and build coalitions to get things done. I hope to represent Ward 3 on the DC Council so that together we can have an even greater impact to:
- Support our Schools and Address Overcrowding
- Ensure Public Safety
- Increasing Housing Options and Affordability
- Promote Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety
- Strengthen our Parks and Recreation
- Support our Small Business
- Improve Quality of Life for Older Adults
- Build Community
- The Environment
Support our Schools and Address Overcrowding
My three children are graduates of Janney, Deal and Wilson. I have been a relentless advocate for schools in Ward 3 and the city:
- Kickstarting the Ward 3 Wilson Education Network W3EdNet that leads advocacy on school budgets and overcrowding in the Ward
- Leading in the creation of a citywide coalition, the Coalition for DC Public Schools and Communities C4DC to build political and funding support for DC Public Schools
- Advocating year-after-year on school budgets
- Working on and pressing for school modernizations and answers on overcrowding
On the Council, I will build on that work and advocate for:
- A school budget process that will ensure adequate and predictable budgets
- Answers to overcrowding issues
- New thinking to assure more responsive and collaborative school governance
- Strong matter-of-right feeder systems from PK through 12th grade throughout the city
Successful schools are a prerequisite to a successful city. We must aspire to be a city in which families feel fully welcomed and fully served. Not just served with adequacy and not simply acted upon, but treated as partners in a process to ensure excellence.
Ensure Public Safety
It is imperative that our residents feel and be safe. The trauma of the last years has resulted in increases in crime including high profile episodes that have led to a lot of fear. We must respond and ensure:
- An adequate police presence
- Consequences for those who commit violent crime
- Necessary resources to solve crimes
- Police are not burdened with tasks that are more naturally done by other professionals
- Every possible step is taken to get guns off our streets
But we also must understand that we will not incarcerate our way to safety. We need to:
- Prevent crime before it happens using violence interruption programs
- Make a concerted effort to address the root causes of crime and show those most susceptible to being caught up in crime that we are trying to do so
Some find the idea of addressing root causes unrealistic. It is, however, the most promising and just path to durable crime reduction. That is why addressing crime and strengthening education, for example, are closely bound together and yet another reason for my deep commitment to education.
For Matt’s full public safety plan developed in coordination with retired 28-year veteran of MPD, Andrew Solberg, see here.
Increasing Housing Options and Affordability
We need more affordable options in Ward 3 and we need to make a conscious effort to address the legacy of segregation that shapes much of our community. (See my April 2021 op-ed on the subject and a recent one done by Washington Interfaith Network Leaders with whom I work closely). Building a diverse, welcoming, dynamic Ward 3 will benefit us all and is the right thing to do. The upcoming planning processes for Wisconsin and Connecticut Avenues offer an opportunity for the community to work together to craft a long-term vision for our corridors. We should use that process to:
- Plan for increased density on our corridors particularly near transit hubs, doing so based on maximum community input and buy in
- Press for increased access to affordable housing for all income levels
- Create attractive and welcoming community gathering spaces
- Develop community design strategies to strengthen our local businesses
I have long been committed to addressing the challenges of housing affordability, advocating for strengthening programs to encourage and enable teachers, firefighters and police to live in the Ward and city. Leading the Lisner Home in pursuit of the first ever Housing Production Trust Fund award in Ward 3 to build 93 units of affordable senior housing on our campus, serving as an active adviser to the Washington Interfaith Network (WIN) Ward 3 Affordable Housing Group. Increasing affordable housing options and building a more inclusive, dynamic and diverse community is going to require determination, creativity and skill at working with communities. I will bring all three qualities, as well as experience, to this important task.
Promote Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety
Too many pedestrians and bicyclists are being injured on our streets. We need to work with communities to craft traffic calming measures and protected passage for bicycles. As part of a community process to develop traffic calming solutions in the Ward, one of the anecdotes we heard was that many seniors living along Connecticut Avenue timed their shopping outings to periods when school crossing guards were in place. Every traffic calming and new proposed bicycle lane proposal evokes strong concerns from neighbors, and sometimes, businesses. And, we must listen to and try to address those concerns, but fundamentally we should have as a shared goal to increase pedestrian safety and strengthen bicycling as a transportation option.
Strengthen our Parks and Recreation
As with schools, a solid, innovative park and recreation system is a key feature of urban life. That is why I have served as part of the Friends of Turtle Park, worked hard to secure improvements to Livingston Park, spent years trying to work with the National Park Service to get them to work with the community to consider things that can be done at Fort Reno and been an advocate for our youth sports programs.
One important need is to ensure adequate field space for our youth and adult sports. It is beautiful to see our children engage in sports, staying fit and pushing themselves to acquire new skills. And, having been one of those parents standing on the sidelines visiting with my neighbors, I have also seen how youth sports build community. In an echo of our school overcrowding issues, there is constant competition for field space in the Ward.
Great parks and programs are critical pieces of the puzzle that make for a strong sense of community, and improve quality of life for all, from small children to older adults. I will work on the Council to constantly strengthen our recreation infrastructure to accommodate the enthusiasm of our community to come together and play.
Support our Small Business
We all have our favorite local small businesses and we worry for those that have served our communities for years (or for new exciting ones that hope to). The environment for the kinds of brick and mortar small businesses that give texture to our communities is difficult in the age of e-commerce and even more so during the pandemic. I am deeply committed to supporting our small businesses. That is why I have been a part of Tenleytown Main Street (TMS), serving three years as its President. TMS, led by a very talented Executive Director, has done extraordinary work over the years in supporting local businesses and collaborating with other Main Streets in the Ward and city. I have been fortunate to have been a part of the team supporting that effort. On the Council, I will make it a mission to support our small businesses and Main Streets.
Improve Quality of Life for Older Adults
Ward 3 is home to one of the largest populations of seniors in the city. It is a great place to age-in-place or make a new home in retirement. But we can do better. Parks and pedestrian safety discussed elsewhere are important elements of a strategy to continually improve quality of life for our seniors. So is fully supporting Iona Senior Services and our Villages. We must also build on the increasingly vibrant programming provided for seniors in the area, including creating a hub for such activities while also ensuring they are distributed throughout the Ward. (Disclosure: My wife Lena runs an excellent program for Iona that delivers such programming now and she has done an amazing job, but more can and should be done). I have worked for years with Iona and through my work on the Board of the Lisner Home to ensure the needs and aspirations of our older adults are fully addressed. On the Council, I will bring energy, creativity and experience to that work.
I love to bring people together to share in things I believe they will enjoy. That led me to organize the live broadcast of the Women’s World Cup Final in the Wilson High School Stadium, create the Turtle Park Jazz Project, support Art All Night and other events led by Tenleytown Main Street and host book talks at our home. My wife Lena is an artist, as is her mother. Her brother is a cartoonist. I love creating opportunities for local musicians and artists to perform. Lena’s artwork is everywhere in our community and a constant reminder of one of her mantras: “Choose Joy!” The arts broaden us, bring us together and cheer us. As your Councilmember, I will see as part of my job to create opportunities for our community to gather, have fun and learn.
As the next Ward 3 Councilmember, I will work to protect Councilmember Cheh’s environmental legacy and build on her accomplishments. During Reconstruction, Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner said that on racial and social justice issues, the District should be “an example for all the land.” Climate change and the environment are existential issues for our time. We must bring a sense of urgency and purpose to our efforts in this area. We should also see this challenge as an opportunity to create jobs and grow our economy, treating the moment as an opportunity for a Green New Deal in the District.
For a full outline of Matt’s environment plan, created in collaboration with local community activists and environmental professionals, see here.