City Paper Widget

Thursday, March 20, 2014

At-large Candidates on Bicycling, Marijuana Legalization, and LiquorLicenses

Nate Bennett-Fleming, Pedro Rubio, and John Settles, three candidates for the At-Large City Council seat in the April 1 Democratic primary, met at a candidates' forum on Tuesday, March 18, at the Black Cat nightclub (1811 14th Street NW).

One doesn't know how to ride a bicycle.

Another is a skateboarder.

One has never smoked marijuana.

One wants to extend operating hours for liquor licensees.

The conversation ranged over a wide variety of topics. Here is a selection of comments about issues of particular local interest.


A question about bicycle policy also asked the candidates about their person bike use. Bennett-Fleming admitted he did not know how to ride a bicycle.

"I learned how to read at three, but I never learned how to ride a bike," he said.

Bennett-Fleming proposed (as one of many "small solutions") making drivers answer some questions about pedestrian and bicycle safety when renewing their driver's licenses online.

Rubio said he was in favor of more bicycle lanes, increased traffic police visibility, and more street cameras. Rubio said he was a skateboarder and wanted to make streets safer for skateboards.

Settles produced his bicycle helmet from under the table to demonstrate his creditibility.

"This speaks to the difference between me and people running on the council. I ride every day," he said.

Settles went on to say "some of my fellow cyclers" are part of the problem, running red lights or failing to observe the law. But he also said police could be more aggressive against drivers who fail to pay heed to bicyclists.

See a video of the candidates' answers to this question below. If the video below will not play, see it on Youtube here.


Will Sommer of Washington City Paper asked the candidates for their views on marijuana legalization in light of the March 11 decision by the District of Columbia Board of Election and Ethics (DCBOEE) to allow a possible referendum on legalization to go ahead if supporters can gather enough signatures.

John Settles said he never smoked marijuana, but was glad to support decriminalization. He said he would support any decision made by the voters. "I won't disrespect the votes like the attorney general vote," Settles said, referring to the recent court decision that effectively overruled a D.C. referendum in favor of an elected attorney general.

Rubio, after recalling a childhood neighborhood riddled with drug dealers, said he was not in favor of legalization now "but will be down the line". Rubio said he had smoked marijuana.

Bennett-Fleming also said he had smoked marijuana when he was a student at University of California at Berkeley. He called the present D.C. law "restrictive" and said he would "uphold legalization".  

Liquor license related issues 

Near the end of the evening, one question brought some general opinions about D.C. liquor licensing practices together with specific comments on the recent proposal by D.C. Councilmember Jim Graham (D-Ward One) to license party promoters.

Bennett-Fleming was against Graham's proposal. He said D.C. had to have "solid nightlife options", so he was in favor of longer open hours for liquor licensees.

"I would look into extending operating hours, particularly on the weekends," he said.

Bennett-Fleming went on to say that small groups of residents shouldn't be allowed to obstruct liquor licenses.

"We can't let small groups, you know, two or three ad hoc groups, stop liquor licenses, stop development, stop nightlife," he said. Bennett-Fleming said he would look into changing D.C. regulations on this matter.

Rubio and Settles also said they were against Graham's proposal for licensing promoters. Settles recalled working as a D.C. party and concert promoter "in college and after college".

Anita Bonds, the incumbent and a candidate for re-election, did not attend the forum.

In addition to Will Sommer, Sarah Anne Hughes of the DCist and Clinton Yates of the Washington Post questioned the candidates. The event was sponsored by the Washington City Paper, which has an audio recording of the entire event available here.


  1. hmmm Mr. Flemming - "Bennett-Fleming went on to say that small groups of residents shouldn't be allowed to obstruct liquor licenses."
    But small groups of liquor merchants can freely create a liquor amusement park and have no account for the drunk people sent into the neighborhood at closing time? Just lost my vote Mr. Flemming. This blog has more info on the Black Cat event than any other article I have found

  2. "Bennett-Fleming went on to say that small groups of residents shouldn't be allowed to obstruct liquor licenses."

    I support this 100% and will vote for Bennett-Fleming...canceling you out.