Jack Evans may be looking for a second chance. We ought to think twice before giving him one.
The Ward 2 councilman announced his Washington, D.C. mayoral campaign yesterday at the French restaurant Le Diplomate in Logan Circle. As an official who has represented Georgetown for over two decades in the D.C. Council, Evans has compiled a long record that deserves scrutiny from every member of the Georgetown community. Simply put, Evans has positioned himself as a long-time opponent of the university and does not deserve the support of its students, faculty or administrators.
During the debate over the 2010 Campus Plan, at the time when Georgetown needed a councilmember most, Jack Evans was not just absent — he was on the other side of the fence. As the negotiations commenced over the university’s once-in-a-decade proposal for managing growth, Evans immediately came down on the side of the neighbors. He actively lobbied against our interests at ANC meetings and Burleith Citizens Association meetings, where he was photographed flanked by signs that read “Our Homes, Not GU’s Dorms.” He dismissed well-behaved students who lived off campus as “too much of a strain on residents” in a 2011 op-ed in The Georgetowner, essentially designating all of us as second-class citizens in the District. He went a step further in claiming that ideally 100 percent of Georgetown students would be housed on campus. Whether you follow District politics or not, it is obvious that this position is extreme and impractical.
But it doesn’t stop there. During the process of ANC redistricting, which took effect in 2012, the university had an opportunity to pick up several seats that could be represented by student commissioners. Evans, tasked with beginning the redistricting process, created a working group with few students and no members of GUSA. The result was a proposal with widely disparate districts that varied from the prescribed size by 40 percent in order to gerrymander students into fewer districts.
Then, in 2011, Fiona Greig became one of the first Ward 2 candidates to actively seek student input and add our voices to the discussion. Soon after launching her campaign, however, she felt forced to drop out after she claimed Evans was running an intimidation campaign against her. For someone who yesterday declared a “no tolerance policy” for unethical behavior if he were to be elected mayor, this and reports that he used one-third of constituent money for sporting events creates a questionable record for someone looking to lead a government fraught with corruption.
Recently, however, there have been signs that Evans is looking to mend his relationship with the university and its students. After I waged an unsuccessful campaign to bring him to Georgetown as a speaker, I was finally relieved to see Evans respond to one of our requests. Speaking to a joint crowd of D.C. Students Speak and College Democrat audience members, Evans expressed regret for the nastiness that was the battle over the 2010 Campus Plan, dismay over the revival of the blog drunkengeorgetownstudents.com and assurances that his office was available for any students dealing with unfair landlord practices. While this recent student outreach is appreciated, it was noticeably absent when the stakes were highest and his support mattered most.
You can be sure that none of the above will be major issues during the upcoming mayoral election. Evans’ supporters will honestly attest to how the Ward 2 councilman increased public safety with the addition of MPD officers, revitalized local parks and strongly supported marriage equality in the District. They will promote a platform that includes affordable healthcare, “school-to-work” programs and sustainable growth. But in an election for an office that has never been held by a Republican, it is a surefire bet that the other top candidates, Democratic councilmembers Tommy Wells and Muriel Bowser, will be advocating for similar progressive reforms. What it then comes down to is an issue of trust. And in a city with a critical trust deficit in its politicians, Evans is not a candidate who can effectively argue that he has won ours.
Trevor Tezel (SFS ’15) is the president of Georgetown College Democrats.