Councilwoman Brianne Nadeau

WASHINGTON – It has been 17 years since residents in Ward 1 and the communities of LeDroit, Shaw, U. Street, Pleasant Plain and Columbia Heights have had a councilmember other than 69-year-old Jim Graham. Brianne Nadeau, an 11-year-resident of Ward 1 who had served an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner before running for office, is that new councilmember.

In one of her first sit-down interviews with the media since being sworn in, Nadeau spoke about her plans during her tenure and how she expects to make her short- and long-term goals happen.

Nadeau said her number one priority remains the one broadcasted repeatedly in her campaign ads: increasing affordable housing. “When I talk about affordable housing, the first thing we need to do is quantify how many units we need, and the Urban Institute is working with us on that right now,” Nadeau, 34, said.

In the income bracket of $35-40k per year, the Urban Institute is estimating that roughly 22,000 units will need to be built in the ward. Nadeau said a possible destination for placing affordable housing units is on Columbia Road where Bruce Monroe Elementary School once stood. “From my perspective it’s quantifying the issue, monetizing it, so if we need that many units, how much is it going to cost?” she said, “then devising a plan for building it.”

Nadeau is also seeking tax relief for seniors who own property and are being squeezed by increasing property taxes. Nadeau said she is seeking ways to make property taxes lower and more reflective of seniors’ income. “A lot of times people own their own property, but the taxes start going up and up and up and up,” she said. “That’s when it ends up pushing people out.”

Nadeau wants to create ‘Senior Villages,’ “where seniors in a certain geographic area come together and pool resources so they can have certain services, like maintenance around the home.”

“My vision for the way they would develop in Ward 1 is that they would also have a youth engagement piece,” she said. “The young people would help out with things around the house, while seniors provide mentoring.

“I was out talking to neighbors and friends and was hearing from young families that were having trouble making ends meet because of the cost of housing, and schools just not being up to par,” Nadeau said. “Long-time residents were dealing with some of the same issues of trying to make ends meet, and everyone in between, I really started thinking about new leadership on the council.”

In 2011, Nadeau decided to run, eventually defeating Graham in last year’s election by a wide margin. After knocking on doors for months and seeing what issues residents in the community were facing, Nadeau now has the chance to make the necessary adjustments to satisfy the people that appointed her, while managing to bring innovative ideas and improvements to the area.

Nadeau wants to help manage financial resources in Ward 1 responsibly, while planning measures to assess a quality education by implementing better work force training, specifically in the public school system. With the highest concentration of charter schools in the District, Ward 1 residents continue to press her about education when she hosts her Coffee Talks and Community Conversations, Nadeau said. “We need people to feel like we own these schools,” she said. “This is our neighborhood school. We want to be proud of it. We want to support it and we want to be engaged with it.”

The councilwoman wants to alleviate traffic on 16th Street by creating a designated bus lane, and is also considering a proposal that would bring a streetcar to Georgia Avenue. She is also working on an effort to help small businesses in the face of escalating gentrification.

“An idea that I have is creating a fund for down payment assistance for small business owners to help them buy their buildings . . . because part of the reason people are getting pushed out is because of rising rents,” she said. “Same thing for residents. Rents go up. People who can’t afford it have to move further and further out until they’re no longer in the District.”

Nadeau said she is clear that she needs to prove herself during her first four-year term. So, she said, she feels a need to create results. “I’ll really be pushing for an outcome driven government, not just output driven, meaning it’s not just how many people you serve in a homeless shelter, how many people you actually help move into more stable situations,” she said.