While the races for mayor and D.C. City Council chairperson have heated up several degrees in anticipation of the Sept. 14 primary, the contest in Northeast Washington’s Ward 5 has also begun to simmer.
Incumbent Councilman Harry Thomas Jr. is faced with five contenders, three of whom told the AFRO in interviews this week that based on the returns he’s brought to the ward over the past four years, Thomas will need more than name recognition to net him a win.
“Since Harry Thomas has been in office, we’ve lost Safeways, libraries and the only DMV we had in the ward,” said Kathy Henderson, one of his opponents. “Mr. Thomas has not delivered at all. The only one consistent was his father , while he gives the impression that he is the heir apparent to the dynasty.”
Henderson continued, “I’m running because quite frankly, I believe I can do a better job.”
Thomas, 49, did not return the AFRO’s inquiry for comment. However, he has been on the Council since 2006, having won the General Election with 85 percent of the votes. Currently, the ward ranks third for the highest rate of unemployment and HIV/AIDS, and according to Henderson, “has the dirtiest streets and alleys in the city” as well all other kinds of negative indicators – including incidences of breast cancer and asthma.
“I feel we deserve better,” Henderson said. “I don’t understand why he can’t deliver and why he can’t make us a priority.”
According to a spring 2010 profile provided by the Urban Institute and the Washington, D.C., Local Initiatives Support Corporation, teen birth rates are prevalent in Ward 5, and last year more than 6,000 of its households received TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) benefits.
Meanwhile, Thomas has been banking on his earmarks to win favor with voters. Nevertheless, his Council record has also spawned the chagrin of Delano Hunter and Kenyan McDuffie.
“Over the past four years, Harry Thomas has been reactive to issues of concern to the residents of Ward 5, whereas we need someone who’s going to be stronger and more proactive,” said McDuffie. “He’s the chair of the committee on parks, recreation and libraries on the Council, and yet he hasn’t delivered in terms of resources being allocated to Ward 5’s parks, recreation and libraries.” McDuffie added that of the billions allocated in the City Council budget from Fiscal Year 2007 to Fiscal Year 2010 that a mere pittance has been spent on Ward 5. “And that’s ridiculous,” McDuffie said.
Hunter added that lack of vision has caused Thomas’ leadership to falter.
“He has failed to address some of the key issues that are holding Ward 5 back,” Hunter said, noting the area’s high truancy and dropout rates among them. “He has failed to put forth the proactive vision and leadership this community needs, he has been very reactive to the mayor.”