City Paper Widget

Friday, October 17, 2014

Interview with William K. Smith, Candidate for ANC2A district 04

This is a written interview with William K. Smith, who is running for Commissioner of district 04 of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2A/Foggy Bottom.

Smith's opponent is Thomas Martin. An interview with Martin was published yesterday.

District 04 is the district in the lower left corner of the map at right. It includes the Watergate complex and the Kennedy Center, but also some residential streets.

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

– Where can people go to find out who you are and what you stand for?

They can contact me directly at, or they can visit my website: I am happy to available to neighbors and residents. My office is at 600 New Hampshire Ave NW and my campaign phone number is 202-803-1978.

– What is your daytime job? What skills have you acquired at that job that will help you be an effective ANC?

Well, I am a board certified physiatrist, which is to say, I am a rehab doc. Rehabilitation medicine is the only branch of medicine that is not organized around an organ system, e.g. lungs, heart, brain. It is organized around a philosophy of management, the team approach. A physiatrist anchors a team that includes, nurses, therapists, social workers and technicians all of whom work together in helping the patient achieve the highest level of function and independence possible. This is directly applicable to work on the ANC because ANC members really have no independent authority or power. They work by exerting influence and marshaling teamwork.

Currently, I am CEO of MedRed, a medical software company located right here in the ANC District. Last year, when the Veterans Administration (VA) put out a challenge to industry to help solve VA’s medical scheduling challenges, a lot of big companies, like HP, Google, Talend and Medsphere responded, but our small company beat out 40 other entrants to finish first in the contest. I like solving problems.

For many years I also worked in grass roots movements internationally. I founded Physicians Against Land Mines, which was part of the Nobel Prize winning International Campaign to Ban Land Mines. I was a founding steering committee member of the International Disability Caucus, which worked with member states to negotiate the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. In my life and in my work I have always enjoyed working with diverse groups and interests toward a meaningful goal. I hope to carry that forward to my work with the ANC. I believe I can contribute to the Foggy Bottom community.

– For many people who live in your district, routine shopping means walking many blocks heavy-laden with shopping bags. What can the ANC can do to attract more retail in your district?

Shopping patterns in the area have changed. Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods are great additions, but the loss of the Safeway was a real blow to many folks who have limited access to transportation and are shopping on a budget. Initiatives like the supermarket shuttle, which ANC Commissioner Armando Irizarry was instrumental in getting and keeping, are incredibly important in ensure access to affordable shopping for seniors. Also, my wife and I are members of the Foggy Bottom West End Village: It was launched in October, 2013 and its volunteers “join with neighbors to give a ride, grocery shop, take a walk, share a special skill, attend lectures, share stories and have fun! Services are provided through a cadre of volunteers, directed by a full-time Director of Volunteer and Village Services.” It is a great program that we need to support. Initiatives like these can improve accessibility to area amenities, but overall, retail in the area will continue to reflect the health and character of the neighborhood. That is and will continue to be a central concern of the ANC as expressed through zoning, licensing and other initiatives.

– Parking is always a hassle all over DC. How can the city reconcile the desire of residents for no-cost parking on the streets in front of their homes with the fact that it is impossible to provide free on-street parking for everybody who wants it?

I have lived in cities most of my life. New York, Chicago, Washington D.C., I have never seen one where parking was not a source of frustration. Public transportation, bicycles and car sharing services can help, but I do think that zoning some residential parking within neighborhoods and giving residents an advantage improves the quality of life.

– Some of the properties in your district, and many properties in the ANC, are part of one historic district of another. What's your position on the role of Historic Preservation in Foggy Bottom? Is it too much of a hassle for homeowners to modify their own homes?

I live in a Coop, not a house, but I served on the Watergate West Coop board and am very interested in the issue. I will listen carefully to those who are living it. I will say that I believe history is incredibly important and truly one of the great resources of this community. That said, there are plenty of examples in Europe and here in the U. S. where truly historic buildings have been renovated and modified in a ways that preserve the past and enhance the present. My wife is heavily involved in just such a project here in DC, the renovation of the Franklin School on 13th and K. The trick is to make sure that regulation designed to protect historic buildings does not wind up strangling them in the process. The challenge is greatest for small homeowners who can get lost and paralyzed in a maze of regulation. I believe the ANC can be a useful champion for them.

– DC won't be a family-friendly city until the school system gets fixed. There seems to have been some progress on elementary schools, but now people are moving to the suburbs because the middle schools just don't measure up. What's the best way to attack the problem of improving middle schools?

Over the years, I personally have had exposure to the VSA Arts program founded by my mother, Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith. It is now housed at the Kennedy Center and VSA's national and international affiliates work in arts-related special education programs in the District and all the states. The model of institutions like the Kennedy Center affiliating with, and providing assistance to, public schools is one that I think could really be expanded in D.C. If you start to think of the District’s public institutions as educational resources you can see the incredible potential. The Kennedy Center, National Gallery, Smithsonian, Library of Congress, National Archives, even the Department of Education, the list goes on and there is no suburban area in the country can match it. So, we should help break down the walls and expand the partnership. All these institutions have some educational profile. I know leadership at many of them and believe they would welcome a chance to expand it locally. With some encouragement and coordination these institutions could become much more meaningful partners with district schools. Don’t get me wrong, improving the quality of schools is not a simple matter. It will take a combination of educational reform, along with a sustained investment of time, community engagement and resources but the payoff in terms of our tax base, economic vitality, and overall quality of life is something no one disputes. While the ANC may not be the logical epicenter of education reform, simple, well-executed ideas and local partnerships can make a difference. That is what I hope to bring to the ANC.

– Is there anything I should have asked you but didn't?

Why are you running?

I have lived, on and off, in DC for nearly 14 years and have had a home in Watergate West for the past 10, now with my wife and 2 children. My medical software business, MedRed, is also located in the single member district. When I received a note from current ANC Commissioners Armando Irizarry, Florence Harman and Rebecca Coder indicating that Armando was not seeking re-election, I spoke with my wife and we decided that this was an important way that I could serve this community. I spoke with a number of friends on the ANC and in the neighborhood and they urged me to run.

I admire Armando, what he was able to accomplish and the way in which he conducted himself and so I am very honored that he has endorsed my candidacy. I have been involved in volunteer and charitable service for most of my life. After completing my medical residency I spent years working with polytrauma programs in war-affected countries like Angola, Bosnia, El Salvador and many others. I also devoted time to working with disability groups on rights issues in many countries around the globe. During Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom my focus shifted more to working with war wounded programs closer to home, at Walter Reed and the VA. Since moving to Foggy Bottom, I have served on the Coop Board at Watergate West and now would like to continue to provide volunteer service to the community in which I live. A commitment to public service, a wealth of experience and a network of friends are some of the building blocks I plan to use to make a contribution to the ANC and Foggy Bottom.

End of interview

The election will take place on Tuesday, November 4. Early voting will start Saturday, October 25 Monday, October 20. Thanks to all candidates for responding to my questions.

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