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Jonetta Rose Barras: Patrick Mara for D.C. Council

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Local,DC,Jonetta Rose Barras

The D.C. Council desperately needs transforming. Its organizing model, style and problem-solving approach are anachronistic, dating to the mid-to-late 20th century. It lacks a range of voices; each member sounds -- and often thinks -- like the other.

Many voters have determined that without change, the institution is imperiled. David Grosso, who won the at-large race last fall, benefited from their insight.

The April 23 special election offers voters yet another opportunity to continue their overhaul of the council, refurbishing its philosophical and political core, enhancing the quality of its character and ethics while diversifying its voice.

Of the six candidates in the race, who can best aid the legislature's revitalization?

Council members Muriel Bowser and Jack Evans have endorsed Anita Bonds, who has temporarily filled the at-large seat since January. But they are engaged in the type of 20th-century gender-race- geopolitics that for years hindered the city's growth. Truth be told, they seem more concerned with positioning themselves for the 2014 mayoral race than resculpting the legislature into a muscular, visionary branch of government.

Bonds definitely is not the right person for the council. Neither Perry Redd nor Paul Zukerberg should receive voters' attention.

Matthew Frumin's breadth of knowledge and dedication have served Ward 3 residents well. Unfortunately, his solutions to citywide problems lack freshness; too often they mimic those of current legislators.

Under different circumstances, Elissa Silverman may have been the right candidate. Her background in journalism and demonstrated skills at drilling down into government agencies would have made her a formidable legislator, particularly during the oversight process. But given her political philosophy, she ultimately would be just another voice in the echo chamber.

Political diversity is critical. It is as important to a society and institution's growth and development as are race, class and culture.

The council has been a political hegemony that, for all intents and purposes, has resulted in a kind of voter suppression. The city has suffered.

As a moderate Republican, Patrick Mara would bring diversity to the council. He offers an expanded vision of the council. He is willing to deploy a varied set of tools to address seemingly intractable problems. Equally important, he would bring a different voice and willingness to instigate conversations about what some have considered taboo topics.

For example, Mara recently told me that residents east of the Anacostia River should be encouraged to become more entrepreneurial. The government cannot provide all the jobs needed, and the American economy has dramatically altered the concept of work as it was known in the 20th century. He has advocated more free enterprise zones, more aggressive use of tax incentives and education reform that includes support of traditional public schools. Further, he is strong on ethics and government transparency.

Mara is the best candidate for the at-large seat on the council. District voters who believe, as I do, that our democracy is made more perfect when diverse political voices with varying ideas are seated should enthusiastically vote for Mara on April 23.

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

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