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Friday, February 28, 2014

Democratic Party contradictions - what I learned at the mayoral fora

I've attended three mayoral forums so far, the DC for Democracy and the Board of Trade Democrats only forums as an audience member, and the ACLU forum as a candidate.

One funny thing about the forums is that if the group has money most candidates show up, and if it doesn't only half the candidates do.  Mayor Gray skipped the ACLU, Andy Shallal skipped the ACLU and the Board of Trade (a supporter told me he had a family emergency),  Muriel Bowser skipped the ACLU and DC for Democracy, Jack Evans skipped DC for Democracy, Carlos Allen skipped the Board of Trade, where there was a seat and name card waiting for him, but I think he may not have known he was invited.

Upcoming forums that include me are the March 10 DC Statehood Committee forum at Martin Luther King library and the neighborhood forum for Takoma Park, DC and surrounding neighborhoods.

Here are the five contradictions I've noticed repeated by most of the Democrats:

DC Democratic Party contradiction 1 - Virginia and Maryland suburbanites come to DC and take our good jobs, and we can't tax their incomes - so we are going to use DC taxpayer dollars to subsidize their metro fares so they can get here easier.

DC Democratic Party contradiction 2 (Tommy Wells edition) - we want urban planning where DC is a walkable city and everyone can walk within 5 minutes to school or work, AND we want more tax dollars spent on metro so employers can all relocate to Georgetown while workers are segregated in Anacostia, with the taxpayer footing the transportation bill.

DC Democratic Party contradiction 3 - We want to make DC tax rates on commercial property, business income, etc etc competitive with Virginia to keep jobs here, AND we can't name a single program or agency we would cut or eliminate.

DC Democratic Party contradiction 4 (everybody but Tommy Wells edition) - we want to decriminalize pot, in part to end the huge racial disparity in arrests (8 times as likely for black pot users - weirdly twice the national average disparity of 3.7 times as likely!), but we want to keep it a crime or have a high fine for smoking on the street or in public, as black youth are more likely to do than whites.

DC Democratic Party contradiction 5 - the number of homeless living on the streets in DC is rising rapidly, with hypothermia for the homeless, nuisance and crime for everyone else, and hygiene issues for both, AND our Democratic solution to this is to build more and nicer taxpayer funded housing for homeless people who come to DC, without collaboration with Maryland or Virginia, so we can import all the homeless from Richmond to Baltimore and beyond.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Advance peak at Bruce Majors, Libertarian for Mayor, responses to the WAMU questionnaire

Campaign Questions
How would you create more affordable housing?
I would increase the supply and decrease the price of all housing. Zoning and other regulations increase the cost of producing housing by 30-40%, including for groups that build affordable housing. In D.C. additionally we cannot build tall apartment or condominium buildings, even in neighborhoods where across a river or across a street there are 40 story buildings in Bethesda, Silver Spring, or Arlington. Finally D.C.'s rent control and tenant laws are the last remaining vestige of Nixon's wage and price controls, left over from when D.C. was administered by the federal government. Rent control and other tenancy laws in D.C. have encouraged investors to sell smaller and older multi-unit buildings off for condominium conversion, leaving only newly constructed luxury rentals as additions to the rental market. As a realtor I frequently run into investors and other realtors who deliberately abandon D.C. for Maryland and Virginia. I would abolish these laws and regulations.
Should green card holders who reside in D.C. be allowed to vote in local elections?
A much higher priority is restoring voting rights to felons who were convicted of non-violent, victimless, crimes. DC residents born in DC have been stripped of rights. My strongest feeling about this green card question is to marvel at its prioritization as a question you would ask in a mayoral race in a city with decades old tragedies of dysfunctional government schools that at least half the students still attend and youth and minority unemployment rates approaching 20% - and higher for minority youth.
I can see either side of this argument but I lean "No." I believe people already do vote in D.C. without being U.S. citizens by getting a taxpayer identification number and a driver's license while here on a student or other visa, and then voting, and the system is incompetent to identify them as ineligible. But I do not favor legalizing this activity. I favor free immigration and making it easier to live and work in the U.S., but I believe one should become a citizen to vote.
Do you support campaign finance reform? If so, what reforms would you be in favor of?
Yes. I favor having incumbents signing a contract as a condition of employment stating that they will not accept political action committee contributions in their re-election campaigns, but only contributions from individual donors. I also favor sitting some overall limit for the total contributions an incumbent can accept (say $250,000), again as a condition of employment in their contract.
Other limits of spending or giving by individuals and associations of individuals violates the First Amendment guarantees of freedom or speech and of association. But incumbents, who are the primary beneficiaries of both their positions and financial donations from organized groups, can be limited as a condition of employment.
Additionally I favor barring incumbents, again as part of an employment contract, from being involved in charities, since we have seen them siphon funds from them while using their office to help raise money intended for the charity.
What changes, if any, would you make to the teacher evaluation process?
I favor more parental involvement in teacher evaluation. Ideally this is achieved by expanding charter schools, education voucher programs, and education tax credits so that parents and families have the same freedom of choice they would have when they shop for music lessons or swimming lessons.
For parents whose children remain in traditional government schools it would be good to involve parents in hiring or promoting teachers. One method would be to have parents do end of year teacher assessments, scored and published much as college students evaluate professors at the end of a semester. Teachers who receive low evaluations would not be eligible for promotion, raises, or even contract renewals. They would be invited to seek other employment. I also favor reducing any barriers to parents participating in classrooms; encouraging parents to be on site and involved during the school day would help keep communities informed about how schools and teachers operate.
Where do you stand on the D.C. United stadium proposal?
Against it. I oppose government subsidies or even tax breaks for stadiums, as I do for all businesses. Public policy studies have shown these stadiums do not benefit the local economy. I am opposed to government picking winners and losers, and to the government class being in a position to hand out benefits to cronies and campaign donors. We have corruption in D.C. because we have a $12 billion honey pot that attracts thieves. We must cut the budget, cut spending, and end mayoral or city council discretion or influence over who receives land parcels, grants, subsidies etc.
I favor auctioning off D.C. parcels and closed or abandoned stadiums in open, transparent auctions. I also favor allowing the transfer of some abandoned D.C. properties to non-profits that provide community programs.
If there is a demand for a stadium a consortium of businesses can raise the capital to develop it nearby in an area that will not produce traffic gridlock in D.C.
Where do you stand on the legalization of Marijuana?
For it. We waste money and ruin lives harassing and incarcerating those who use marijuana. I favor decriminalization. I also favor radical reductions in the D.C. regulatory thicket that keeps the local private economy from creating jobs in D.C. for people who do not have law degrees and do not work for federal bureaucracies or lobbying firms. This thicket kept D.C. from having a medical marijuana dispensary until the past few months, over a decade after medical marijuana was legalized. And we still have no producers permitted and licensed to grow plants to supply it.
I also favor a partial "ban the box" where the D.C. government is not allowed to ask prospective employees about their marijuana use or about any past convictions anywhere for any drug crime or other victimless crime (e.g. prostitution).
I would expunge all criminal records of D.C. residents convicted of non-violent victimless crimes, including marijuana sale, possession or use, and pardon the incarcerated.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Pranav Badhwar, Ward 6 Libertarian city council candidate, launches website

Become a Volunteer
"The end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom." - John Locke
I am running for DC Council specifically to reduce the cost of living and expand economic opportunity by curbing the parts of government that reward cronies while abusing citizens.
Instead of simply shifting resources to interest groups, government should offer real solutions to problems. Solutions which protect individual rights, not violate them. Solutions which treat root causes, not waste money on symptoms. Solutions which empower individuals to succeed, not trap them in need.

Because root causes of problems are often unclear, action that would help is considered unrealistic or not good enough. So the poor continue to suffer while special interest groups and politicians haggle over projects that do more harm than good. My platform offers common sense options that would take great strides in allowing the citizens of DC to be entrepreneurs and create jobs in unique ways. At the end of the day, government should free people to creatively contribute to the community in their own way.
  • Eliminate restrictions on renting out one's own home and offering alternative transportation services. Excessive restrictions obstruct start-ups and favor large corporations when it comes to affordable housing and transportation.
  • Focus law enforcement on real crime, and off of non-violent drug offences. Laws severely punish those who use drugs but harm no one else, stunting their ability to work, live, leave behind their addictions, and find meaningful lives. Keeping priorities on point reduces violent crime, homelessness, and joblessness.
  • Empower parents and teachers instead of administrators by being smarter with educational funds. Administrative costs should not grow while wages and jobs stagnate for teachers. Meaningful changes in the lives of students come from innovative teachers, not bureaucrats.
There are many more unheard frustrations in Ward 6 that I hope to be a voice for on the Council. Together, we can uncover more of these fundamental issues and propose solutions that both protect rights and lead to a community of which we can be even more proud.

With Regards, your neighbor,

Pranav Badhwar

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

D.C. Needs The Liberty Preservation Act

Tracking and Action Center | NDAA: Indefinite Detention

The Liberty Preservation Act – and local ordinance – bans participation with or assistance in any way with any federal act which purports to authorize the indefinite detention of a person within the United States.  Passage of the Liberty Preservation Act in your state, county, city and town will create obstacles to implementation that will help thwart the unconstitutional indefinite

Monday, February 10, 2014

League of Women Voters questionnaire - Bruce Majors, Libertarian for Mayor

The Tax Revision Commission recently released their findings. What are your positions on the various tax code changes recommended by the Tax Revision Commission? How would you ensure that the tax code would protect less affluent taxpayers while continuing the revitalization of neighborhoods and overall economic development?

The revitalization of neighborhoods and overall economic development in DC owe almost nothing to the activities of any DC politician or the DC government.

Allowing charter schools and vouchers has made it tolerable for young families who are not destitute who previously routinely left DC for the suburbs to stay.  But the enrichment of DC is due almost entirely to the expansion of the federal government, which has imported tens of thousands of new residents in DC at 6 figure salaries.  Long term DC residents, who attended DC public schools, can almost never qualify for these federal jobs, which typically require law or other advanced degrees.

The economic development DC needs is a growing private sector that can employ people, or better yet allow people to start their own business, who had the disadvantage of having attended the average DC public school.  DC also needs to end its extreme lack of diversification and complete dependence on the federal government - in 2013, with the tiny reductions in the growth of federal spending caused by sequestration, commercial real estate vacancies in DC and surrounding areas increased noticeably.

One part, but only one part, of what DC needs to have a growing, diversified, non-government dependent, private sector is lower and flatter taxes.  I suspect that to achieve that we would need a new study of taxes and spending in DC.  (I very much doubt a commission appointed by the current sometimes 12 term dinosaurs who run the DC government, the same people who "nullified" the term limits initiative passed by 66% of the voters in the mid 90s, could find the tax cuts and tax simplification actually needed.)

The Commission has proposed over 60 changes, including a small commuter tax disguised as a "per employee" fee on large employers, which will simply discourage job growth, something DC badly needs as it has double digit unemployment in its poorer Wards and among long term residents who attended DC public schools.  If and when Maryland and Virginia begin to start looking at their own versions of a commuter tax on well-healed DC residents who work at well paying suburban employers, I will oppose any and all such commuter taxes.

What policies do you support to create more affordable housing?

D.C. has a unique mix of policies and economic realities that have driven up housing prices in DC.  The primary one, which the DC government can do little about, is the huge demand for middle and upper middle class housing caused by the expansion of the federal government and its importation of thousands of highly credentialed and well paid technocrats to work in bureaucracy, law, and lobbying.

But the local DC government itself also restricts the supply of housing with a variety of regulations: 1) zoning is estimated to raise housing prices by as much as 30-40% in some cases (; 2) DC prohibits buildings over 10-12 stories, including in Anacostia and other neighborhoods far from the Mall or Capitol, and even in neighborhoods like Friendship Heights, Foggy Bottom, or Takoma Park DC that are literally across the street or across a river from 30 and 40 story buildings in Arlington, Bethesda, or Silver Spring; 3) DC is the one place where Nixon's wage and price controls were never lifted, in the form of DC rent control, which applies to even very small investors who own 4 or 5 units in DC, discouraging them from investing in or maintaining smaller, older, multi-unit buildings for medium income renters, and instead selling them for condominium conversion or demolition.

I would eliminate all of these laws and regulations that restrict the supply of housing and the agencies that promulgate them.  This would allow a housing market to function normally, where older housing stocks often command form a market of moderate priced rentals, instead of being demolished to build new luxury lofts and commercial buildings.

What changes would you support to improve the election process and increase voter participation?

Implement the term limits referendum passed by the DC voters in 1994 by 66%, illegally nullified by the city government.  Make all current incumbents who have stayed beyond the term limits approved then leave office.

Forbid corporate or union PAC donations to any incumbent as a condition of their accepting continued government employment.

What is the major issue facing our charter schools and the major issue facing our traditional public schools? How would you address these issues?

We need to ensure that school choice is not stymied by anti-reform forces that have profited for too long by denying families choice, making children their wards, and milking them for tax dollars while delivering substandard education.

DC should expand its voucher program, add education tax credits, make both program apply to home schooling, and facilitate the growth of charters.  Abandoned and underused school buildings and other government property should be transferred to charters or other non-profits, or sold off.

Third-Party Candidates Want In On Debates, With Mixed Results

Third-Party Candidates Want In On Debates, With Mixed Results - Loose Lips

Though we qualified for permanent ballot status in November 2012, it was mid-March 2013  when the D.C. government finally printed up new voter registration forms that had the "Libertarian" option. For months after that I was personally receiving calls from people at public libraries and the Department of Motor Vehicles saying they were trying to register to vote, but the only form available was the old one with no Libertarian option.

You could, if you knew where to look, go on line and find a way to change a registration to Libertarian, if you were already registered to vote. But in December 2013 someone trying to do it pointed out something I hadn't noticed - even though the page where you change in registration on the Board of Elections website had a box for Libertarian, the boilerplate text with it had never been changed, and still did not tell you that Libertarian would be a choice. When I pointed this out to the nice folks who work at the BoE they did then change it, 13 months after people were entitled to register Libertarian.

Since the slow moving bureaucracy was prodded to follow its own laws, a case study of why we need more Libertarians in office, 20-30 new people register as Libertarian every month. That is, our registration grows 10-15% a month, a faster growth rate than the other parties, who actually seem, nationally anyway, to be losing voters to the ranks of the Independents.

Now that we have 9 candidates running I suspect that rate will pick up later in the year.

Pranav Badhwar for Ward 6

Pranav Badhwar for Ward 6
Pranav Badhwar for Ward 6

Campaign 2014