Editor’s Note: With input from the BCA Board, the Burleith Bell asked Ed Solomon and Kishan Putta to respond to the same five questions with concise answers. Their responses are unedited. This Q&A also appears in the October issue of the Bell (but corrects a layout error on the last question).
WHY ARE YOU RUNNING FOR THIS POSITION?
SOLOMON: I have represented Burleith as the BCA President, Chair of ANC2E and ANC Commissioner. I have a close working relationship with the City Council, Mayor's Office and City Agencies. Maintaining the quality of life in Burleith is the reason I am seeking re-election for ANC Commissioner. There are some key decisions that will need to be voted on in the coming months and over the next year - DC Fair Skies Coalition (of which I am President), Visitors parking passes, addressing the impact of on-street parking from Duke Ellington School events. Many folks in the community reached out to encourage me to run for another term. We still have a lot of work left to do as far as lobbying on behalf of the community interest and many feel that I am the best positioned with my institutional knowledge and experience to continue to represent the voice of Burleith and Hillandale.
PUTTA: From the day my family moved here (39th & T), we’ve been warmly embraced by this community; this is our chance to give back.
I have over six years of experience serving the residents of DC—working for DC government (DC Health Link) and as an elected ANC Commissioner (in Dupont Circle). I work hard and have gotten a lot done—working with neighbors and government.
The Washington Post wrote about my work in 2014: “Kishan Putta... has racked up some notable accomplishments,” “a major force pushing city officials.” We reduced burglaries, got a park beautifully renovated, improved bus service, opened affordable childcare centers, and much more. See www.KishanPutta.com for more information.
In Burleith-Hillandale I will use my experience to be PROACTIVE about representing YOU and improving our neighborhood for residents of all ages. I know how to get things done in DC and will get results for you.
WHAT IS THE BEST THING ABOUT LIVING IN BURLEITH?
SOLOMON: Many know Burleith as "The Village in the City." This is the neighborhood my wife and I decided to raise our daughter in and with that decision we ended up creating over three decades of memories in this community. Some of our fondest memories: teaching Hope to ride her bike in the ally behind our house, attending the annual Burleith picnic (the dunk tank was always a hit!), taking the neighborhood kids to Jelleff Recreation Center, roller skating night, and creating lasting friendships with our neighbors who have become like family. We are far enough from the hustle bustle of the business community but close enough to enjoy. Neighbors with a great University. We have a great mix of young families and longtime residents. What is best about Burleith...we care about each other.
PUTTA: Our neighbors! We just had our first child in June at Georgetown Hospital—our precious son Om. Recently, we hosted the Burleith Dining Club at our home and they surprised us by bringing him several gifts and a lovely “Welcome To Burleith, Om!” cake (he really wanted to eat it too!). It warmed our hearts and reconfirmed what we love about Burleith.
It’s a great place to raise a family - not just because of the other kids around, but because there are individuals and families of all ages here who are supportive and welcoming and caring.
Burleith’s nickname is “The Village In The City.” And since we agree with the African proverb “it takes a village to raise a child,” we are so fortunate to raise our son among such smart, interesting neighbors.
I’m running to better serve our neighbors and to create more opportunities/resources to bring us together.
WHAT IS THE ONE THING YOU MOST WANT TO CHANGE ABOUT THE NEIGHBORHOOD?
SOLOMON: To be honest, I would not change much. Of course, we have to deal with issues such as crime, rodents, potholes, noise, etc. However, you will find these problems in most communities. I am working hard with the DC Fair Skies Coalition to help alleviate air pollution and noise coming from planes taking off and landing at DCA. Improve traffic congestion exiting Burleith in the AM. With more young children in neighborhood, reduce cut-through traffic and speeding on local streets. However, at the end of the day the most important thing I would change by example would be to look at yourself and ask how you would change yourself so your community can get the benefits, not the other way around.
PUTTA: When I speak with neighbors about our community, many say they wish we had more opportunities to come together and meet up and interact.
That is why I’ve been pushing the city to improve the Jelleff Recreation Center (next to Safeway). It has been owned by the city for about a decade but it is hasn’t been changed much since the 1950s and needs to be upgraded so that it can fill our community’s need for public indoor space for classes, cooking, sports, exercise, socializing, and much more.
We got the city to provide $7 million to improve Jelleff, and I am helping to lead community efforts to collect your input and to get us as good a facility as possible. I’ve done this before—getting $11 million for the great Stead Park project in Dupont Circle—and I will work hard to help do it again for our neighborhood.
WHAT GOALS DO YOU HAVE FOR BURLEITH OVER THE NEXT 10 YEARS? HOW DO YOU FIT INTO THOSE GOALS?
SOLOMON: For the past 20 plus years I have worked to improve the quality of life in this community. As a member of the Steering Committee of the Georgetown Community Partnership, my goal is to maintain the existing policies while implementing new initiatives. We have significantly reduced noise complaints from group house in Burleith. There are still areas that need to be addressed. The renovation of Hyde-Addison is expected to be completed summer of 2019. Unless there are changes in school boundaries, the new school boundary for Burleith will be Hyde-Addison and not Stoddert. If your child attends Stoddert they can continue. During Hyde construction, Meyers School became the swing school. Some opted out because of the long commute and sent their children to other schools. My goal is to work with other local community leaders to increase community enrollment at Hyde.
PUTTA: Over the next decade, most of Burleith will celebrate its centennial! That’s exciting and I would like to help guide our neighborhood into the future, while respecting our history.
I’d like to strengthen our neighborhood’s ties with Duke Ellington School and the Halcyon Arts Lab (in the old Fillmore school) so that we can come together as a community to appreciate the local art and the artists of ages.
I want to help our own local Hardy Middle School become the best middle school in DC. The Chancellor of DC Public Schools chose me to serve on her “Parents Cabinet” and I am pushing for Hardy and all schools to get the resources they need as they grow and improve.
Most of all, I hope we all appreciate each other even as our city changes. I have lots of experience helping to work out differences calmly and respectfully.
GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT IN BURLEITH AFFECT RESIDENTS, INVESTORS, AND DEVELOPERS. WHAT ROLE WILL YOU PLAY AS OUR COMMISSIONER AND WITH ANC 2E REGARDING SPECIAL EXCEPTION AND VARIANCE REQUESTS TO THE BOARD OF ZONING ADJUSTMENT AND OFFICE OF ZONING?
SOLOMON: This is a very sensitive subject. As your ANC Commissioner, I have supported and opposed both special exceptions and variance requests through resolutions. In zoning, there are tests that must be met to receive a special exception and variance. A variance
is more restrictive then a special exception. I have to follow the rules of zoning while representing the community. We have young families moving in with different needs then longtime residents. They want more living space. My role is to foster communication between neighbors to reach consensus. My experience before the Zoning Board is that there is a trend for more density. Burleith is experiencing change with the proliferation of larger homes. How this growth is managed will be an important role for the next ANC Commissioner.
PUTTA: I have heard from some residents that the zoning rules are confusing and should be simplified (even for lawyers!). I will ask the agencies to give plain language explanations of important issues. I have heard from others who know the rules well that there are certain developers who are abusing the rules. I will push policymakers to enforce the rules and to be careful and responsible when granting exceptions.
I want to help our neighbors get their voices heard. I would meet/talk with all parties well in advance of ANC meetings to get each others’ perspectives, address concerns, and revise plans accordingly.
I will hold monthly meetings or calls to discuss any issues. I did this as ANC in Dupont as well. I am reachable many ways including by phone at 202-320-0058. But I always try to meet face to face if possible — we are all nearby neighbors after all!