Jonetta Rose Barras: Frumin: More than the money man

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Local,DC,Jonetta Rose Barras,Phil Mendelson,D.C. Council

Since he jumped into the at-large D.C. Council race, hoping to win the April 23 special election, Matthew Frumin has raised lots of money. At last count, he had $98,000 in cash on hand -- much more than his competitors. He has been nicknamed "Money Man."

But the chairman of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3E is more than his accumulated Benjamins: "I have a record of getting things done," Frumin told me during a recent interview about his candidacy. "I'm honest, hard-working, and I listen; that is one of my real strengths.

"I listen and come up with creative solutions that move things forward," he added.

Frumin has been a 30-year resident of the District -- except when he went to Michigan to run his father's congressional campaign, which was unsuccessful. When he returned, Frumin raised gobs of money for Bill Clinton's presidential race and was rewarded in 1998 with a state department job focusing on global affairs -- human rights, democracy and women's issues. By 2000, he was back in Michigan; this time he ran against Republican Joseph Knollenberg.

But all that's so outside the Beltway, who really cares?

As an advisory neighborhood commissioner since 2008, Frumin has been involved in the decisions surrounding renovation of the Chevy Chase Playground. He served on the mayor's task force on underground power lines. He currently volunteers with Washington Interfaith Network, a respected community organization.

"I did a ton of work on the Wilson [High School] modernization," continued Frumin. "I realized I cannot be an advocate for Wilson without being an advocate for schools citywide."

That philosophy and the fact his children attended D.C. Public Schools, tethering his wife and him to the system for 18 years, have driven his education activism. "We need to make a commitment that we're going to have great schools as a matter-of-right in every community of the city."

One of seven candidates -- Elissa Silverman, Perry Redd, Paul Zukerberg, Anita Bonds, Michael Brown, and Patrick Mara -- vying to fill until 2014 the seat left vacant when Phil Mendelson became chairman, Frumin said he's not "running against anyone." Rather he's running "for a vision for the city."

During the campaign, Frumin has argued conditions must be improved for businesses: "Certain taxes and fees burden small business. We need to keep and draw new business." He has said he doesn't favor reducing that 2011 tax rate hike on individuals with annual incomes of $350,000 or more. Like his Democratic opponents, he has said the city's current fiscal position -- a $417 million surplus for 2012 -- signals it's time to start spending: "We need to invest to meet the social needs of citizens."

On government ethics, a major concern for voters since two elected officials pleaded guilty to felonies and others are under federal investigation, Frumin placed responsibility on voters: "We have to improve the [quality] of people we're electing. I think I can contribute to people having more confidence about our city and council."

We'll have to wait until April 23 to learn whether voters agree.

Jonetta Rose Barras can be reached at jonetta@jonettarosebarras.com.

Jonetta Rose Barras' column appears on Tuesday and Friday. She can be reached at jonetta@jonettarosebarras.com.

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