Late Monday afternoon, the DC Board of Elections handed down their decision on my challenge to the nominating petition of Darrell Gaston, Chair of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 8B. The board found Mr. Gaston had not only provided forged signatures on his petitions, but found my challenge was sufficient to remove his name from the ballot this November. For a person like myself, this decision was inevitable. Many acts of selfishness and political grandstanding for the betterment of his own image over the progress of our Ward 8 communities eventually revealed itself for what it is.
I first met Darrell Gaston 10 years ago at a get-together at my bestfriend's house on Bowen Road SE. The most I remembered about that time was he had a very arrogant attitude that rubbed me the wrong way. Because of that, I urged my buddy to cease having relations with him. I've always stayed clear of individuals who walk around with the attitude that they're better than everyone around them. Since Darrell is a black gay man, just like myself, many in the black gay community shared this same view of him as they still do today. He was never someone I wanted in my circle of close-knit friends.
Fast forward to 2011, I began to take a vested interest in the way our government is run and wanted to learn more about ANCs and those who claim to represent us on them. I soon discovered that the young man I met years ago was very involved in Ward 8 politics and was the Chair of ANC 8B. I found that to be refreshing at first, seeing a young black man taking on a leadership position in the grassroots level of our government, but I had concerns as well. In the fall of 2011, I chose to dive deep into the finances of ANC 8B and did not like what I saw. In the Fiscal Year 2010 Annual Report on Advisory Neighborhood Commissions
, it was discovered to everyone's dismay
that ANC 8B spent almost $20,000 on telephone bills....for themselves. I found that to be quite appalling when I noticed the number of grants issued to the community that year was $0
. This, my friends, is failed leadership. And the fact that my opponent in my race for ANC, JB Shoatz, is the treasurer only displays how far reaching the incompetence has spread throughout the commission.
When I found out Mr. Gaston was running for the Ward 8 City Council seat, I felt this was an opportunity to not only work in an upstart political campaign but to also help out a fellow young black brother like myself. He had huge shortcomings that needed to be addressed but I felt I could help him in moving pass those issues and working on them to better himself. So, I signed up to be a Volunteer Coordinator for his campaign, an unpaid position. I was responsible for rounding up people from Ward 8 to knock on doors, pass out literature, do early morning sign waves and participate in various events throughout the ward. While in this position, I soon learned everything wasn't what I thought. I came to realize it was a phantom campaign. What do I mean by that? It's only purpose was to build a brand ward-wide and a tool to collect campaign donations. The funny part about it, even though he raised over $20,000, those who worked on the campaign never got to see what the money was spent on. He only had a few yard signs, one large banner and a box worth of literature. The campaign manager wasn't getting paid, so he left which left the responsibilities to me. I wasn't interested in being some type of de-facto campaign manager, especially after witnessing erratic behavior by him. He did not like to be critiqued, his clothes were always filthy, he carried a fake designer bag that always caught voters' eyes when he would walk up to their door, in the middle of conversations he would immediately zone out, and he had a very serious stutter issue that he refused to address...even though many residents tuned him out as soon as he would get through the first sentence. Mr. Gaston was holding campaign meetings in the ANC office on Savannah Street.
I told him I didn't feel it was appropriate to use a government office for political purposes. He stated it was fine since he was the Chair and not all of the commissioners had a key to the office. One thing that could not be ignored was the strong stench of musk in the air, like someone had been living there and did not bother to keep it tidy. Not to mention the bathroom was downright disgusting.
But one incident that really hit a nerve with the volunteers was a very cold night in February this year when Darrell allegedly had a scheduled radio interview with WEACTRADIO. I met up with a fellow Ward 8 resident Brooke Garner with another volunteer on the way to assist in preparing for the interview. When we arrived, he wasn't there and did not answer any of our calls. Since it was a Friday night, the radio crew had already popped open the Sutter Homes Wine and we happily made our way in to join the gathering. We found out there was no interview scheduled and they did not know who Darrell Gaston was. Due to our calls being unanswered, we decided to go over to where he was staying on V Street SE...not the Hartford Street address that he claimed to stay at. When we arrived, he pretended to be sleep, even though we could hear footsteps on the other side of the door. He finally opened the door only to give some terrible story about being in the hospital and then losing his three (3) phones in a cab. I found that hard to believe since I was texting him the entire day about campaign related issues. At that moment, I decided to walk off the campaign and all the volunteers who were not even being paid for their time walked off as well. This is not the change I support. After that incident, Brooke called Darrell and made it clear her time was being wasted and she wanted no part of him or his campaign. The next day, her headlights were busted out. Fearing her life was in danger, she immediately filed for a restraining order against him.
I made a robust decision to be different than what I experienced first hand. I did not want this young black man to be a representation of what many would believe young politicians to be. We all are not arrogant. We all are not self-absorbed. There are a number of young black brothers like myself who are looking to make a change in the way ANCs conduct themselves in public forums, like Wendell Felder (7E07) and Sentamu Kiremerwa (1A04). This is OUR grassroots level of government and it should reflect the way we feel government should serve us. Every single ANC 8B meeting this year, the treasurer JB Shoatz has been extremely late, only showing up in the last 30 minutes of each meeting. Due to this, he has not been able to give his monthly financial report in the meetings, simply kicking the can down the road to the next meeting, and the next meeting, then the next meeting. This is failed leadership and none of us should be satisfied with it.
I am in this race to be a different voice for my neighbors in Fort Stanton and parts of Hillsdale. If one feels the need to break the law for personal gain, they should no longer represent us. This is what we all have been seeing throughout the year on our city council, ANC Commissioners are not exempt from following the law. The fact that Chairman Gaston feels the need to lie not only about forging signatures on his nominating petition, but about his life story only tells me this individual is very fraudulent and should not be in a position where he is able to dictate how our tax dollars are spent. He has lied about being married, having a 9 year old son, having a college degree, he has been reprimanded by the Eastern Director of Phi Beta Sigma for claiming to be a member of their fraternity when he never made such a pledge, and has recently visited Moten Elementary telling all the parents and staff about how he used to be a teacher and has taught former DC Council Chairman Kwame Brown's kids which is clearly a blatant lie.
Character matters. As the next ANC Commissioner for 8B04, my neighbors can rest assure I will not be a water carrier for flawed individuals. On November 6th, that message will be made very clear to JB Shoatz.