Why am i running?

Growing up in one of DC's poorest neighborhoods, I watched my mom wade through the challenges of working in early childhood education. I saw the struggles my neighbors faced trying to find a steady job. I watched affordable housing creep further and further out of reach for me and my peers. Those experiences shaped who I am, and they’re why I’m in this race.

Those struggles aren’t unique to my neighborhood— and they haven’t gone away. I’m running for DC Council to help close those gaps for good.
On November 3, we have a choice to make. Let's choose to make a DC that works for all of us.
Together, we're fighting for:
(Click on Tabs Below)

Education

After over a decade of education reform in the District, improvement is too slow for students most at risk, funding remains inequitable, and communities and families are not empowered to shape and influence the education systems that serve them. Educated in DC’s public and public charter schools, I believe every young person has the right to a quality education in a system of true choice, where all families have access to well-supported neighborhood public schools and to the information and supports that make choice possible. We're fighting to:

  • Achieve equitable school funding that meets the unique needs of every school and every student
  • Bolster democratic control of our school system by strengthening school transparency and oversight that makes educators and families meaningful parts of planning and decision-making
  • Get cross-sector collaboration and school planning right
  • Protect the rights of students with special needs
  • Provide affordable and accessible childcare for every family, and fully fund the Birth to Three Act
  • Tackle trauma and fully fund mental health supports
  • Support the bolstering of higher education and workforce training options for adult learners, including bold investment in the University of the District of Columbia.


The Education Candidate

As the twice elected Vice President of the State Board of Education, I've successfully advocated for deeper investments in community schools, spurring the investment of $10 million in Ward 8 schools alone. I've served on DC's Community Schools Advisory Committee and worked with the Washington Teacher's Union on issues like teacher retention, equitable school funding, and increased transparency. I'm proud to be the education candidate in this race and will take the lessons learned to deliver meaningful policy that will move our schools and communities forward.

Affordable Housing

Gentrification has had a devastating impact on our community, leading to the displacement of more than 20,000 African-American residents since 2000. It’s important to know that this was not inevitable, but instead the result of bad policy, unethical political dealing, and greed. My commitment to truly affordable housing is guided by my belief that housing is a fundamental human right.  As the At-Large DC Councilmember, I will fight to:

  • End chronic homelessness once and for all by making adequate investments in Permanent Supportive Housing
  • Invest in deeply affordable, family-inclusive housing that meets the needs of our residents in every neighborhood
  • Expand rent control to include newer units and protect tenants from insidious loopholes like voluntary agreements
  • Localize control of public housing to protect our most vulnerable residents from the federal government’s long-standing divestment 
  • Fund the critical and long-neglected repairs to our public housing stock and rethinking our approach to its redevelopment so that it respects the dignity of current public housing residents
  • Bring greater accountability and transparency to our housing agencies and ensure that funding decisions are solely based on a project’s merits and not political considerations

Public Safety & Justice

We know that public safety is a huge part of thriving neighborhoods. Gun violence, police brutality, hate crimes -- they all threaten the security we feel in our communities. My plans for public safety don't start here, but can be found in my plans for affordable housing, education, transportation, and public. All of these things together will make our communities safer. As the next At-Large DC Councilmember, I will work to:

  • End gun violence by adopting a public health approach that focuses on research, prevention, intervention, and trauma recovery
  • Support returning citizens with access to housing, employment opportunities, entrepreneurship, and other resources to that will help them reintegrate into community
  • Decriminalize poverty
  • Redirect funds from a bloated MPD budget to community-building initiatives that better ensure public safety.
  • Fully fund and expand proven public safety programs like Cure The Streets and Credible Messenger initiative at DYRS
  • Support the decriminalization of sex work and investments to ensure our Black Trans community have fair access to housing, living wage work and healthcare.
  • Make DC a true sanctuary city by ending local cooperation with ICE and providing supports and protections for our undocumented neighbors where the federal government won’t.

Public Health

There’s a 27-year gap in life expectancy for residents living in Northwest DC and Southeast DC. Your ZIP code shouldn’t determine how many days are ahead of you. The COVID-19 pandemic has only further exposed how our health disparities are proving to be disproportionately fatal for people of color. We must be relentless in our efforts to combat these disparities by making the long overdue, yet critical investments in health equity. As the At-Large DC Councilmember, I will be working to:

  • Build a quality healthcare system east of the River that meets the needs of the community and battles some of the highest rates of chronic disease and maternal/infant mortality in the nation.
  • Increase funding for mental health & behavioral health supports that aide with trauma recovery
  • Ensure that people at every part of our city have access to affordable, healthy, and nutritious foods at full-service grocery stores
  • Commission a study on the disproportionate impact COVID-19 has had on black DC residents so we can make targeted investments that are informed by data

Transportation

Transit equity is an issue that has unfortunately become controversial and divisive at times. Regardless of how you get around, we should all be able to rely on a safe and affordable transit network that works for all of us. As the next At-Large DC Councilmember, I'm ready to have those tough conversations about how we make our streets and sidewalks safer for pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers. Together, we will get there by:

  • Creating more protected bike lanes in neighborhoods all across our city
  • Exploring year-round Open Streets in various parts of the city to accommodate pedestrians and cyclists
  • Providing free Metro access for all DC residents
  • Working with WMATA and DDOT to rightsize inadequate and disconnected transit networks that connect residents in every community to work, retail and other essential services
  • Oversee and fix a predatory ticketing system that builds city revenue on the backs of our poorest residents.

Economic Justice

DC has come a long way since we were subjected to the Financial Control Board in 1995. We've consistently delivered a balanced budget, we've built healthy reserves, and we've received a high bond rating. While we should be proud of our progress, the worth of our city can’t just be judged by our AAA bond rating, but by the way we care for our neighbors most left out and left behind. I am proud to be in the fight for a moral economy -- an economy that is guided by principles of fairness and justice. Together, we’ll achieve a  moral economy by:

  • Doubling down on our commitment to Paid Family Leave 
  • Adopting One Fair Wage, ending the unjust sub-minimum wage for tipped workers
  • Reforming our tax system so that our wealthiest residents pay their fair share, as opposed to filling budget shortfalls on the backs of working-class families
  • Closing the gender and race-based wage gap by requiring transparency in pay for government contractors
  • Refining the First Source Employment Program to ensure that more DC residents are the primary beneficiaries of jobs created by government contracts

A Guaranteed Income for our most economically insecure neighbors.

"I am now convinced that the simplest approach will prove to be the most effective — the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income,"
- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., 1967

I am the only candidate in this race to pledge that, if elected, I will introduce legislation to pilot a guaranteed income program for our city's most economically insecure residents. The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the extreme need to bridge deep divides in wealth and income in our city and country and the diversity of challenges families face to make ends meet. It's also shown the tremendous potential we have to do it through direct payments that keep families financially secure and stimulate the local economy.

While the idea of a guaranteed income is not new, cities around the country have recently begun showing the potential of the model to help lift up our neighbors most in need. Pilot programs like those in Stockton, CA and Jackson, MS and COVID-related direct payment programs in cities like St. Paul, Los Angeles and Chicago demonstrate the strength and benefits of the idea. The Mayors of Atlanta, Newark, Columbia, Compton, St. Paul, Jackson, Shreveport, Tacoma, Oakland, and Los Angeles have all pledged support for a guaranteed income program in their cities.

DC has among the largest income gaps of any state or city in the nation. Even with a $15 minimum wage, our lowest wage earners still cannot afford to live here. Studies of pilots in other cities have shown that recipients use payments for essentials like rent, groceries and childcare -- and because needs vary from month to month, the direct payment provides recipients with the financial flexibility to address evolving and sometimes emergent needs. A guaranteed income is only part of the work DC must do to provide financial security and economic justice for residents left furthest behind, but it is a tangible and immediately impactful start, especially as we recover from this health and economic crisis.

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Call the campaign at 202-630-3900 or email info@markusfordc.com

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