Chander Jayaraman Announces Bid for City Council Seat
By Larry Janezich
ANC6B Chair Chander Jayaraman is running as an independent for a Member-at-Large-seat on the DC City Council. He filed papers today, and says that he’s running to offer a new vision of leadership across the District. Elements of that vision are apparent in his work on the ANC which he says is a microcosm of the issues facing the District.
Jayaraman says, “Government has gotten away from its core responsibilities to the tax payer.” He doesn’t think Jack Evans should be on the city council. He wants to make government more responsive, and cites the frustration of residents and the ANC in dealing with city agencies on sidewalks, street repairs, trash, and rodents; “Agencies are out of touch and have forgotten who they work for. Their attitude is, ‘We know better’.”
One of the initiatives he took as Chair of the ANC was the use of liquor licenses to require restaurants to provide for in-door trash storage to address Capitol Hill’s rodent problem. Another was appointing a Barracks Row Working Group of stakeholders, co-chaired by an ANC Commissioner, to address quality of life issues on Barracks Row. A third was asserting ANC6B’s oversight role in the redevelopment of the Eastern Market Metro Plaza. He helped block an flawed DDOT plan to have the Circulator Bus turn-around by driving clockwise around the Metro Plaza, starting a 8th and D Streets, SE. This week, he was out front in ANC6B’s unanimous vote to oppose the Department of General Services Public Space Permit for the Eastern Market Plaza redevelopment because of the lack of an opportunity for public review of the associated Transportation Plan and other issues.
Jayaraman says his list of major concerns include:
Crime. He calls MPD’s Fall Crime Prevention Initiative to increase police presence and supportive services in hot areas “…reactionary, responding to pressure because of a spike in crime. Black Lives Matter is right; this is not just about providing more police. It’s a band aid – like a spotlight MPD puts up to deter crime – it doesn’t address the root problem which is lack of economic opportunity.”
Education. Rather than just continuing to debate the merits of public vs. charter schools, he says, education needs to be reoriented to train youths for jobs. His solution is fostering a partnership between and industry and the school system, following models established by non-profits like SOME CET (Center for Employment Training). He supports leveraging the expertise of industry and bringing it into the schools to provide a path for developing job skills for those who don’t go to college.
Affordable housing. In response to Mayor Bowser’s plan to increase low-cost housing in some of DC’s more affluent neighborhoods – including 1400 affordable units on Capitol Hill – he says we don’t know the specifics about how housing would be made available, but he thinks people on Capitol Hill care and would welcome a variety of residents. He supports giving DC residents preference for affordable housing required by city statute in new developments over residents of Maryland and Virginia.
Homelessness. He says the city must meet the homeless where they are and find out why they are living on the street and refuse to go to shelters; “ It’s not just a matter of housing – there are mental health and substance abuse issues where we have to go to them to address the problems.” He admits that it’s not clear how to house those who prefer to live on the street and refuse to go to shelters, but providing shelters which respect the homeless as individuals will go a long way.
Since he is running as an independent he will skip the primary and go directly to the general election in November. It takes 3,000 signatures to get on the ballot. The two top vote getters for the at-large seats win. At-Large members of the council include the Chair and four council members. Of those, no more than three can be from the majority party. The At-Large seats held by Dave Grosso, Independent, and Robert White, Democrat, are up this election cycle.
A former Republican, Jayaraman switched parties four years ago: “This is not about party. I voted twice for Obama and once for Hillary Clinton. As an independent I don’t have to be concerned about toeing the party line. I can do what is right which is what I tried to do on the ANC.”
He says that experience is an important qualification for a council member, but too often it leads to professional politicians. He cites his own history as evidence that he understands the concerns of small businesses Nine years ago he started his own business, Strategic Educational Consulting, which creates customized emergency plans and provide scenario-based disaster training. He has 16 years of experience in emergency planning, training, and consulting, working with emergency planners, risk managers, school directors, and agency officials in the D.C. and the National Capital Region.
Jayaraman was born in India and came to the US when he was in fourth grade. His mother was a teacher in a Catholic School – though not a Catholic. It was she who drove the family’s move to the US for better opportunities for the children – Chander and his two brothers. His father worked in telecommunications. The family was sponsored by his father’s brother who lived in Kansas City; Jayaraman grew up there and attended the University of Kansas, graduating with a degree in economics. He got into politics via his godfather who was working on a political campaign in Missouri, which lead to Washington, and a temp job in a law firm. He serves on the Board of Directors of the JOBS Coalition, and is a former Board president and alumni representative at The Hill Preschool. He is actively involved in Capitol Hill Little League Baseball and tutors middle and high school students in algebra.
He says, “The three attorneys I worked for at my first law firm temp job are still connected to me today. Doors opened – I found when I took those doors it leads you to what you’re supposed to do. I feel the same sense with this endeavor; this is what I’m supposed to do.”