New ANC6B Chair Brian Ready Talks About Barracks Row, Homelessness & a Living Wage
By Larry Janezich
Brian Ready, newly elected chair of ANC6B, knows what he’s good at. He says, “It’s having vision and solving problems. When a challenge comes to me, I figure out a good way of solving the problem – balancing things out between two individuals, working impartially, taking both points of view into account to achieve an outcome which can be explained to both parties so they understand how the decision was reached.”
Ready, still in his first term as Commissioner, was elected Chair by acclamation last month after Chander Jayaraman decided to run for city council instead of seeking a second term as chair of 6B. Jayaraman says, “Brian is the right person at the right time and has what we need – business acumen, creativity, and composure – to lead in 2020.” Those qualities will be called upon as ANC6B addresses a host of issues during the coming year.
One of those issues is the economic viability of Barracks Row, the west side of which lies in Ready’s single member district. As former chair – and current member – of ANC6B’s Barracks Row Working Group, Ready says we have to recognize that the challenges on Barracks Row are the same as the challenges in Adams Morgan, Georgetown, and multiple other locations in the city, and stem from increased competition like The Wharf and the Navy Yard. He believes in a holistic approach to the quality of life problems on 8th Street, and a substantial advertising campaign to increase business.
Regarding those quality of life issues, Ready says we have to figure out how to establish a balance to assure patrons of Barracks Row that it’s a safe area where they won’t get accosted or impeded while addressing needs of panhandlers and our homeless residents.
Asked his thoughts on Community Connections’ role in the community, Ready said “Community Connections serves to help people who are homeless and if we say we don’t want to do that, it amounts to taking the problem and moving it somewhere else.” He doesn’t think the ANC has the power to do fix homelessness. The root of the problem, he says, lies in an economic system that has inequality built into it, and we have to accept that if we accept the system. He says, “We just have to understand that this is how the system works – if we recognize what it is, we can better fix the things we don’t like about it. “My friends think I’m the eternal optimist because I’m saying, ‘No, we can fix this – it’s not broken.’”
Ready grew up in the Chicago suburbs and left for one of the country’s top hospitality programs at the University of Las Vegas. He has a degree in hospitality and a degree in law. His first job out of college was with Deloitte – the multinational professional services network. Then he worked in hospitality at MGM resorts – “I was responsible for booking all the entertainment at Primm Valley Resort’s 6000 seat arena and their 500 seat showroom and three entertainment lounges.” It was in that role that he met show business legends Aretha Franklin, Donna Summer, Reba McIntyre, Brooks & Dunn, and Trace Adkins.
While at MGM he traveled a lot and found Washington “one of the nicest cities I’d ever been to,” and five years ago took an opportunity to transfer here to a new job with MGM. He said Capitol Hill was his first choice for a place to live and that his attraction to the neighborhood was the defining reason he wanted to move here.
Ready is not new to community service. He served on the Board of Directors of the Down Syndrome Organization of Southern Nevada and was a volunteer at the Children’s Museum in Las Vegas. Professionally, he belongs to the National Bar Association. One of his heroes is Barack Obama, who he credits with inspiring him to run for office, get involved in the community, and help to make it better in any way possible. He praises DC Council Chair Phil Mendelsohn’s calm and collected demeanor in presiding over the council as well as Charles Allen, for whom he went door-to-door in the last campaign. Ready says, “In a community I really love, I wanted to contribute and help make it be all it could be by becoming an ANC Commissioner. It’s the most rewarding job I’ve ever had, even if we don’t get paid.”
One of the things he’s passionate about is advocating for a living wage. He says, “The District has a high minimum wage, which is great, but there are still low wages in this area where the cost of living is high. I ask, ‘Where do they live – hospitality is the number two job creator in our area, so where do they [hospitality workers] live? They can’t even afford to live in our scariest neighborhoods. I’m saying that if you can’t provide a wage where a minimum of 50% of your staff can rent or buy in the city, you should not operate.”
He has other passions, including kites. “I love the Kite Festival coming up. In Vegas we actually had a park where kite enthusiasts come every week to do sport kiting and tricks. I look forward to going to the National Mall in March and flying a kite.” Working out is another passion and he works out at Sport & Health 4 or 5 days a week. Ready is also a musician – he plays violin and percussion – another of his heroes is a high school music teacher who recruited him for the school’s marching band.
Ready says he’s working on a list of goals for his term of office, but for now wants to focus on “absorbing the information coming at me and getting it down and keeping everything together.” He says that as Chair, he’ll continue the commitment he made when he ran for the ANC – to check his ANC email account every day and respond to every email within 24 hours.