City Paper Widget

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Interview with Robert Sinners, Candidate for ANC2B, district 08

Robert Sinners is a candidate for Commissioner for district 08 of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B/Dupont Circle. Of three candidates, Sinners is the only one who responded to my request for an interview. I normally like to receive replies from both candidates and then publish them, so one candidate doesn't have the advantage of reading the other candidate's answers. In this case, I decided to go ahead and publish the one candidate who responded.

Nicole Mann is a second candidate. On the sidelines of the August 13 ANC2B meeting, I asked her if she would respond to written questions. She agreed. On August 14, I sent the same questions as below. Responding to a follow-up inquiry, Mann promised answers by August 25. I received nothing. Since then, I have sent two additional emails and two private messages on Twitter, asking if she intended to respond. I have received no reply to any them.

A third candidate, Allison Fitzsimmonds, said via email that she has dropped out of the race.

ANC2B district 08 is on the north side of ANC2B. Its borders are (roughly) Florida Avenue and U Street NW on the north, New Hampshire Avenue on the east, Swann Street on the south, and 19th Street on the west -- see top of map at right.

Don't know your ANC district? There are two search tools: one by the DC government, the other by Code for DC.

-- What relevant experience do you bring to the job?

I bring two dynamics to the job; I bring experience in public policy on all levels- both public and private sector and, I bring a blunt, humorous persona that believes that the truth is often ugly but must not be suppressed. Combine these two and you have someone who is both knowledgeable in public policy, yet unwavering in the efforts to ensure the appropriate solution to the policy question is implemented. My public policy experience exposed me to processes both good and bad on local, state, and federal levels. I learned that change is local, and doesn't really happen in the halls of Congress, or necessarily in the Wilson Building, as we so thought. I also learned working with both Republican and Democratic officials that politics and good policy often diverges- sharply. The true vehicle of change is local, civic involvement. I'm attracted to the ANC because it's a unique form of a hyper-local legislature, truly one of a kind. I think the model of government stands at the front lines of community development, and interested and engaged individuals have a duty to be involved.

-- If elected, what single issue to you anticipate will take up most of your time? Why?

ANCs should devote more attention to zoning. When I decided to pursue real estate as a career, I was fortunate enough to position myself in a role that constantly looks at the changes occurring in DC neighborhoods- real estate, demographics, and construction issues mostly. The issue that brought me into this race is the parking garage that will be demolished along Florida/U/17th. While it may be under an adjacent jurisdiction, I followed the issue. It received very little community pushback. I don't think enough attention was raised and still most citizens don't realize the only public parking garage in vicinity to ANC 2B08 is about to be demolished to make way for a 150 unit condoplex- one in which even the residents aren't guaranteed parking. As it stands, parking is a crisis in Ward 2, and one of the strongest resources is about to go way of the Dodo. A larger community discussion needs to be had in these cases, and I think this one slipped right past. This project sits right above the border of Ward 2, in Ward 1, yet many Ward 2 residents rely on it for parking. The public relies on it for parking. And it's as good as gone.

-- What can be done to make parking less of a hassle in the Dupont area?

In addition to the above response, greater communication among neighboring jurisdictions is key. "Policy Diffusion" is a term in political science stating that policy implemented in one jurisdiction will influence or affect neighboring jurisdictions . The statistics are mostly applied on the state level, but I think it applies in practice with the ANCs and how they implement policy. If we want to establish committees in ANC 2B to tackle the issue of parking, and have it as a predominate discussion at meetings, then the demolition of the largest parking garage in the area must be in that discussion- the discussion with neighboring jurisdictions is part of that. The best solution to issues with parking is to look at other ANCs and see what's working and what isn't. I know jurisdictional boundaries aren't necessarily shutting off communication but, a greater part of ANC work and public discussion should center on looking citywide rather than insular, and seeing what has been an effective policy model in other jurisdictions.

-- There are two liquor license moratoriums now in place in ANC2B. What is your opinion of the effectiveness of these moratoriums?

Eigthteenth St/Adams Morgan recently lifted their moratorium. Did those initial regulations that introduced the moratorium have the desired effects? I don't think so. Restricting bars actually increased the amount of people on the streets. In Dupont, we don't have the same issues with violent crime, so it's an entirely different scenario. CT/DT and CN/DN licenses may have reached a reasonable cap in Dupont and I would support continuing that policy- we have a community that isn't a real nightclub or tavern culture. It's a residential area and we should preserve that character in 2B. However, there are issues with restricting restaurants, lunch spots that wish to serve wine and beer, and retail. Anytime you set regulations, it's hard to speed up that process for those who are clear "wins" for the community and induce little controversy. That's why I'm admittedly very torn to the issue of a moratorium- must in moving forth I think it's important to recognize the citizens that want greater nightlife options, the owners who want to stay competitive in the marketplace, and, the citizens who have to worry about noise, property damage, and overall reduced quality of life from literally having it in their backyard. Just ask my friend Larry, who I met while collecting signatures. His backyard backs up to a bar and has become the bathroom trawl for rowdy patrons.

-- Most (perhaps all) of ANC2B is part of one historic district or another. Is the DC government now striking the right balance between the desire for historic preservation and protection of the property rights of homeowners?

Micromanagement is a headache. According to historic preservation guidelines in DC, there are regulations for utility meters and how they can be displayed on historic buildings and in historic districts. Is that where we need to invest our efforts? My senses tell me there might be more important issues in preserving a neighborhood aesthetic than that. However, regulations should be used in order to ensure that homeowners help to maintain that standard in good faith. Some of the guidelines don't make sense to me- they are too involved in the details, rather than in the spirit. Often times when regulations are formed down to the detail, rather than the spirit of the law, it becomes a matter of personal preference and works against those who are regulated. So, in that regard, I think personal property rights will always be in jeopardy.

-- The DC government is considering new regulations to limit conversions of single-family homes into multi-unit dwellings. In your opinion, are these new regulations a good idea?

It depends. Pop-ups are unsightly and often go against the character of neighborhoods. I am especially opposed to pop-ups because of the nature of the investment. Often times the owner isn't even from the neighborhood, thus, doesn't have an appreciation for the character and history of the surroundings. To the savvy investor, the dollar is the almighty achievement- not maximizing the aesthetic appeal of the property. I would totally support reducing the ability of investors in 2B to move forward with condo and apartment conversions with pop-ups as the modus.

However, on the other side of that argument is the reality that "affordable" housing is growing increasingly sparse. Washington Post had an article about it Tuesday, August 19. With all of these 200+ unit buildings being delivered, 3-6 unit spots offer a weathered, and often times, cheaper alternative. So, there's that mindset to consider. Overall though, I would say that I am strongly opposed to pop-ups being the solution. They detract from the character of the neighborhood.

-- How are you different from the other candidate in the race?

I think the most important aspect of community service is maintaining an open mind and being approachable. Often times, folks become involved in local activism thinking that they are out to represent one group or ideal. Outsiders are even sometimes viewed as threats or nuisances. That's the wrong way to go. I bring an independent streak and an energy that doesn't quit until the work is done. I love people, and I truly feel fulfilled when I help others achieve their goals.

I am someone who has worked all his life to build what I am. I have experienced great fortune, and great defeat. Through it, I have grown to understand that if I am to be a servant of the community, then nothing is too trivial to deserve my attention or my care. I will work to find a solution or at least, listen to a concern with my full attention and ambition in order to deliver a solution. I want to be a resource to the public. In fact, email me anytime if you have any questions, and I will respond.

End of interview.

The election will take place on Tuesday, November 4. Thanks to all candidates for responding to my questions.

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