The Washington Times - December 3, 2008, 07:57AM

SEE RELATED:


 

 

Transcript


Question:


 

  • As mayor of the Interconnections community on www.WashingtonTimes.com, I am pleased to welcome for a live chat D.C. Council member Harry “Tommy” Thomas Jr., who represents Ward 5. Good morning, Mr. Thomas. Thank you for being with us today. by Jay Speights
    Answer: Good morning and thanks for hosting this session and helping me keep one of my important campaign pledges to reach my residents. by Harry_Thomas

    Question:

  • Mr. Thomas, please tell us about Ward 5 and your committee assignments on the council. by Jay Speights
    Answer: I chair the D.C. City Council’s Committee on Libraries, Parks and Recreation. And sit on two standing committees: Health and Workforce Development and Government Operations. by Harry_Thomas

    Question:

  • Why did you decide to run for the council, and what helped to shape your political and social views? by Jay Speights
    Answer: My sense of community and activism helped shape my platform and desire to serve Ward 5 and the citizens of the District of Columbia, with the basic premise that citizens’ input is the most important aspect of government service delivery. by Harry_Thomas

    Question:

  • Mr Thomas, as chairman of the Committee on Parks, Libraries and Recreation, what are some of your goals? by Jay Speights
    Answer: To have access and wrap-around services that meet the community’s diverse needs and a wholistic and comprehensive way. by Harry_Thomas

    Question:

  • Do you think the recreation centers in the District of Columbia can be effective in combating crime and helping at-risk youth channel their energies in more positive ways? by Jay Speights
    Answer: Yes, I think recreation centers are access places that can serve as locations for assisting at-risk youth, seniors, families, and all those in the community. In keeping with this, I developed a 10-point action plan with community leaders that uses recreation centers as a vital resource for community services. The 10-point action plan is available on my Web site — www.harrythomas5.com. by Harry_Thomas

    Question:

  • What additional programs would you like to see offered in recreation centers around the city? by Jay Speights
    Answer: More partnership programs that utilize community resources and develop local-based “Friends Of” recreation center programs. by Harry_Thomas

    Question:

  • Is there an effort to forge partnerships with the business community to adopt and support public libraries and recreation centers in the District? by Jay Speights
    Answer: Yes, and these efforts are key to developing community-based partnerships in our recreation centers that bring additional resources and utilize the assets of our communities. by Harry_Thomas

    Question:

  • Mr. Thomas, let’s talk about libraries. What is the general condition of the public library system in the District? And what are some of the major challenges for our libraries? by Jay Speights
    Answer: We are currently in a major redevelopment cycle which will bring on new libraries in 2010 in a number of communities throughout D.C. We also have developed an aggressive maintenance and community outreach programs to ensure that we have a healthy library system. Some of the major issues facing libraries are revenue-related and budget deficit-related. by Harry_Thomas

    Question:

  • What are you doing to prevent recreation centers and libraries from being closed? by Jay Speights
    Answer: Through vigorous oversight, emergency legislation, and permanent legislation, I am working to ensure libraries and rec centers remain open in our neighborhoods with continuous community input. by Harry_Thomas

    Question:

  • There is a proposal to close five minilibraries around the city. How will these closures impact the communities where these libraries are located? by Jay Speights
    Answer: We had an oversight hearing yesterday on this subject, which is of great concern in the affected communities. I have directed the Board to develop an action plan that will ensure these and other neighborhoods are served. I am also prepared to introduce legislation that will ensure viable library options exist in these and other neighborhoods. by Harry_Thomas

    Question:

  • Do you have a philosophy about what a public library should be, and how is it reflected in your committee agenda? by Jay Speights
    Answer: Public libraries are the most vital information resource centers in our society. They should be available regardless of anyone’s social or economic status. This is reflected in the open access initiatives and public participation efforts that drive the committee’s agenda. by Harry_Thomas

    Question:

  • Please tell us about some of your other council activities? by Jay Speights
    Answer: Some of the key pieces of legislation that I have recently sponsored are listed below.

    Acts

    Utility Line Emergency Act of 2008 (A17-0568)—Requires, on an emergency basis, the Mayor to bury all utility lines along 12th Street, N.E., between Rhode Island Avenue and Michigan Avenue in Ward 5, and for the District to pay to connect the utility lines to private properties out of existing funds budgeted for the 12th Street streetscape project.

    AED Installation for Safe Recreation Act of 2008 (A17-0392)— Requires the Mayor to establish a program to install and maintain automated external defibrillators (or AEDs) in Department of Parks and Recreation facilities, and mandate training in conjunction with the Department’s existing health training for personnel to operate the AEDs to ensure the health, safety and welfare of the department’s patrons. Also requires the Mayor to prepare a study for possible future AED placement in all public buildings.

    School Proximity Traffic Calming Emergency Amendment Act of 2007 (A17-0169)—Amends, on an emergency basis, the School Proximity Traffic Calming Act of 2000 to require the Mayor to investigate appropriate traffic calming measures and institute increased speeding penalties for motorists around school zones, recreation centers, libraries, and public parks, and to require the Mayor to submit, within 60 days, a report to the Council reporting the findings of the investigation and the type of traffic control devices that should be installed.

    Bills

    NOMA Residential Development Tax Abatement Act of 2008 (B17-1008)—Provides for a residential tax abatement program to encourage new multi-family residential development in the NoMA area of Wards 5 and 6.

    District Land Disposition Amendment Act of 2008 (B17-0908)—Amends an Act authorizing the sale of certain real estate property in the District no longer required for a public purpose, to require a detailed financial analysis and where applicable: a MOU, executed term sheet, land disposition agreement, executed communities benefits package, and executed certified business enterprise agreement.

    Sunday Service Parking Act of 2008 (B17-0932)—Requires the Mayor to issue procedures, for Council approval, allowing religious institutions the ability to apply for diagonal parking on Sundays with the approval of neighboring residents.

    Recreation Center and Public Library Closing Notification Act of 2008 (B17-0930)—Requires the Mayor to notify the public 45 days prior to closing a recreation center or public library.
    by Harry_Thomas

    Question:

  • Now let’s talk about Ward 5. What is your vision and legislative agenda for Ward 5? by Jay Speights
    Answer: My vision for the Ward are reflected in my legislative initiatives mentioned earlier. In general, legislation should reflect positive outcomes for the constituents that I serve. by Harry_Thomas

    Question:

  • As you know, a lot of people have been moving into the city, including into your ward. Have these new residents presented some challenges for you as their representative and for the longtime residents? by jay Speights
    Answer: In Ward 5, we have a strong civic and community driven residential base that serves to harness new and longtime residents’ concerns that in general develops a consensus around issues. I rely on ANCs and civic associations, as well as other grass-roots groups, to serve as a vehicle for ensuring all residents have equal access and input. by Harry_Thomas

    Question:

  • Mr. Thomas, what is the status of the MLK Library downtown? Will the current building be remodeled, or will a new library be constructed on the old convention center site? If the library moves to new facilities, what will be the fate of MLK’s Mies van der Rohe-designed building? by 20037
    Answer: In general, my thrust and focus has been on developing the neighborhood libraries and ensuring that all neighborhoods have access to library services. I view the central library as a key component and hub to the neighborhood libraries, and will be seeking community input on the appropriate direction of the development of MLK. by Harry_Thomas

    Question:

  • I heard something a while ago about constructing an office building on the site of the West End Library, with space included for the library branch. Is that in the works? by 20002
    Answer: There has been a great deal of constructive input about the West End Library, and I will continue to work with stakeholders to ensure that the community’s interest is represented through the process. by Harry_Thomas

    Question:

  • What is the status of the emergency legislation regarding HPAP, the city’s home purchase assistance program? Is the Department of Housing and Community Development moving forward with HPAP applicants who have made down payments and are waiting for closing? And is there a clear idea yet of the number of people that are affected by this legislation? by Michael Drost
    Answer: This legislation is pending, waiting on an audit that is being performed at the direction of the Council to ensure that all existing HPAP applicants are funded. If the audit shows any shortfalls, the emergency bill will be introduced at the Dec. 16 legislative session. Currently, we have been assured by DHCD that all pending applicants will receive funding. by Harry_Thomas

    Question:

  • Has there been any thought of reworking the hours of public pools and recreation centers so people who work a normal day can use their facilities? Right now, many pools open at noon or 1 p .m. Letting pools open say from 6 a.m- 9 a.m and or 6 p.m-10 p.m would let people who don’t have time in the afternoon to get a workout and use the facilities that they want. by 20002
    Answer: Yes, there has been thought on this. Several recreation centers like Turkey Thicket have conformed to community requests to hours that meet the diverse needs of residents. Also, I have expanded positions as well as tour of duty hours through legislative oversight, where possible. I will continue to work with Parks and Rec and neighborhoods to meet the community’s needs. by Harry_Thomas

    Question:

  • How did your late father’s public service and your mother’s commitment to education affect your desire to serve the public? by 20037
    Answer: It was this civic tradition that taught me that community input is vital to be an effective public servant. The many hours and community service activities that were part of my family’s daily routine keep me grounded and focused on a grass-roots-based legislative agenda. by Harry_Thomas

    Question:

  • Mr. Thomas, thank you for taking time to be with us today. We wish you well in your work. Do you have any last words for the readers of The Times? by Jay Speights
    Answer: Thank you for having me. As stated in my opening, this blog is helping me to keep the pledge I made to utilize every available resource to communicate with the constituents whom I serve. I feel that a weekly forum with you is a vital and central tool to inform our residents. Thanks again, and keep up the good work. Harry by Harry_Thomas

  •  

    - - -

    You can learn more about me at http:/.blog.jayspeights.com/ .  And be sure to buy my book, “Harmonious Day.”