Getting to Know the DC Council Vol 7: Kenyan McDuffie and the Business Development Committee

Shamelessly using a picture of Brookland even though the piece is about all of Ward 5…

Greetings Runners,

I only have one long-form topic for you this week, which is a local-to-DC topic. For those of you who are non-DC readers and who look forward to my more nationally-focused stuff, I’ll try to resume next week. Life gets in the way sometimes. Right at the top, I’d like to present a couple of political stories or memes about political stories that are making me laugh this week, because laughter is important damnit. So here you go:

Based on a report originally in the New York Times from a friend of James Comey’s that

Mr. Comey ― who is 6 feet 8 inches tall and was wearing a dark blue suit that day ― told Mr. Wittes that he tried to blend in with the blue curtains in the back of the room, in the hopes that Mr. Trump would not spot him and call him out.

Guess Comey wasn’t a Milford Man…The Trump Orb Picture, which is amazing all by itself:

Has inspired some truly great jokes and memes, but my favorite pic was this one:

And finally, and granted this one isn’t strictly speaking funny because someone got injured, etc, but one thing I am finding extremely amusing is the unfolding story of GOP candidate for the US House of Representatives from Montana Greg Gianforte body-slamming Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs the night before the election:

Since then, Gianforte has been charged with misdemeanor assault by the sheriff, and the Montana Billing-Gazette has, in truly scathing fashion, withdrawn its endorsement of Gianforte (props to my friend Felecia though for pointing out that, as usual, there were plenty of reasons not to endorse this candidate in the first place, such as a history of racist remarks). But what I love most about this unfolding story at the moment is this tweet from the ever-snarky Merriam-Webster dictionary twitter account:

Yup. 136,900%. Damn.

Small Immediate Acts of Resistance

​That are never calling your Senator or Representative

  • Make your LAST weekly calls for Paid Family Leave and the DC Budget. Last week (and the week before that and the week before that…but this is the very last one!) I asked you guys to sign up to make calls alongside Jews United for Justice every Friday in May for Paid Family Leave, and every Thursday in May for other budget priorities like fair housing. Don’t forget to make your calls this week! May is drawing to a close and so is budget season, so this will be your last opportunity to call. They only take a minute and if you look at those JUFJ pages, they provide the script for you. This week we are calling Councilmember Robert White (At-Large) about the estate tax again. As I mentioned before, the threshold for the estate tax is set to be raised from $3 million to $5 million under the FY18 budget. This means that people inheriting $4 million estates will not have to pay any taxes on them…those poor multimillionaires. Call Councilmember White and ask him to make sure priorities like the NEAR Act, Paid Family Leave, Education, and Fair Housing are funded before considering a change to the estate tax. Numbers and scripts are in the Thursday link above.
  • Ask Sean Hannity’s advertisers to pull their support for his show. Bill O’Reilly’s show was cancelled, let’s face it, more due to advertisers pulling their ads than to anything to do with his history of sexual assault. Sean Hannity is also…a pretty gross person. Media Matters has released a list of all of Hannity’s advertisers since May 1, that you can use to write, email, call, and tweet in order to voice your disapproval. Sample tweets: “Hey @[company], your advertising support of conspiracy theorist Sean Hannity is not a good look. Pull your ads!” ; @[company], not impressed to see your ads on the show of a sexist like Sean Hannity. Don’t support hate!”. Tweet or write and tell these companies we don’t want their dollars — and by extension our own — supporting people like Sean Hannity.
  • Resist the Trump budget. Trump’s proposed budget is appalling. Is it likely that most of his proposals will pass? No. Is it likely that some of them will? Yes. So we need to resist all of them, and hard. Use and the hashtag #handsoff to let the administration know how these budget cuts will affect YOU and/or your loved ones. Hands Off is collecting personal stories to share so give them yours. You can also watch the below video on how the federal budget process works, so that you can be an educated resistance fighter. (This action is mostly copied from Solidarity Sundays,

Resistance Events this Week

​Local to DC unless otherwise noted

May 25: Reception with Mayor Muriel Bowser, hosted by the Women’s National Democratic Club, costs $, ticket required
May 25: Push Back Against the Trump/DeVos Education Budget Rally, hosted by Higher Ed, Not Debt
May 28 (Sterling, VA): Trump PGA Protest, hosted by various Virginia Groups
May 30: Fundraiser for Democrats Running in Flippable Virginia Districts, hosted by Ward 3 Democrats, donations requested (you can also just donate at the link; you do not have to attend the event)
May 30: No Justice No Pride Mass Meeting + First Action Spokes, hosted by Resist This and Get Equal
May 30: Race in America Today Panel, hosted by Politics and Prose bookstore

​Topic 1: Kenyan McDuffie, Ward 5, and the Committee on Business Development

Kenyan McDuffie is the Councilmember for Ward 5, which is where I live. Councilmember McDuffie has been on the Council since a 2012 special election for the Ward 5 seat. McDuffie had lost in the 2010 general election for the seat to Democrat Harry Thomas, Jr. But Thomas resigned two years later and plead guilty to two federal crimes — theft and filing false tax returns — and McDuffie was able to win the seat after his departure. Councilmember McDuffie ran in 2010 on expanding employment opportunities, combating HIV, and lack of affordable housing and senior services in Ward 5. He has become known in the activist community in recent years for being the author of the NEAR Act (the Neighborhood Engagement Achieves Results Act), which I had Michael write a guest post about a few weeks back. Prior to 2017, McDuffie served as Chair of the Judiciary Committee (now chaired by Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen) and as such tends to be known around Ward 5 as a mostly criminal justice reform guy. While chairing that committee, Councilmember McDuffie oversaw the creation of the DC body camera program for police and pushed for “ban the box” legislation which prohibits using criminal background checks on people during the housing application process.

At the moment, Councilmember McDuffie chairs the Committee on Business and Economic Development. The other members of this committee are Councilmember Evans of Ward 2; Councilmember Allen of Ward 6; Councilmember Bonds, at-Large; and Councilmember Gray of Ward 7. This committee is responsible for, most importantly:

“…matters concerning small and local business development policy; [and] matters related to economic, industrial, and commercials development…”

I think one of the most relevant things to consider for us DC residents here is how we want to see our communities grow and develop. In my neighborhood, along Rhode Island Avenue NE there are shuttered businesses and empty buildings almost everywhere. Basically the entire length of the street from the Rhode Island Ave metro stop until the Maryland border has a lot of empty space. There is a Rhode Island Avenue Main Street business association that has been working to change that, and in the four years I’ve lived here, several businesses have opened near me, including a local grocery store, a Zeke’s coffee shop, and a Mediterranean restaurant called Nido. Now we can and should have a whole separate conversation about gentrification, that should always be included in any thoughts on “developing” a neighborhood. But if your area has a similarly desolate stretch and you want it to have a coffee shop, you’re going to have to know a bit about this committee, and Councilmember McDuffie is the man in charge.

Given his background in working to improve law enforcement in DC, I feel that a couple of different Star Trek characters come to mind for Councilmember McDuffie. I ultimately went with Tuvok from Star Trek: Voyager.

I was a little torn about this one because 1.) Tuvok seems a lot more self-serious than McDuffie, and 2.) my go-to Tuvok comparison in real life is Barack Obama. But ultimately I thought it was the best fit. Got any better suggestions? Let me know!

Now let’s get on to Ward 5.

Ward 5 runs along the Northeast border of DC. It includes neighborhoods like Brookland, Ivy City (where most of DC’s distilleries currently are), Fort Totten, Michigan Park, and Langdon. It also contains the National Arboretum and three of DC’s largest hospitals.

According to the 2010 Census data, Ward 5 at the time was only 16.5% White and 76% Black, compared with an overall DC population in 2010 that was 38.5% White and 50.7% Black. In 2010, the median household income in Ward 5 was $45,627 a year, compared to $85,000 a year in DC generally in the same year. Almost 12.5% of Ward 5 households made below $10,000 a year in 2010. I would guess this has altered significantly since then given the development around Brookland in particular. A house in Brookland recently sold for over $1.4 million, just to give you a picture.

I asked Councilmember McDuffic to answer some questions on resistance in DC, but as of the time of this writing I had not received a response.

That’s all for this week folks. Thanks for sticking with me and looking forward to covering the rest of the DC Councilmembers with you!

In solidarity, 


You can reply to this newsletter or email me at with your thoughts, criticisms, or ideas. Check out my Medium page if you’d prefer a blogged version of this newsletter or would like to read any of my previous issues. Last week’s letter was on At-Large Councilmember David Grosso and the insane news week.

Follow me on Twitter at @speaknojessica. And get your friends to subscribe to The ForeRunner at because where else will you get someone randomly assigning the personalities of Star Trek characters to DC’s elected officials? Who will your Councilmember be? The suspense is killing you I’m sure. ​

Jessica, the writer, has written for Gender Avenger and been a speaker for Trybe, an organization dedicated to building community. She is the DC state captain for the national activist group Solidarity Sundays (, look for the NE DC/Brookland group) which meets once a month to take progressive political action. She developed this newsletter in response to the 2016 election.