The Chair of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) has tossed his hat in the ring.
Chander Jayaraman said that he will file a declaration of candidacy Friday, Oct. 18 for the At-Large DC Council seat currently held by David Grosso. The seat is up for grabs in the Nov. 3, 2020 District election.
Jayaraman is no stranger to electoral politics. He has served three terms as commissioner for ANC 6B08 and two terms as the Chair of the commission. In the early 1990s, he ran for a seat on the Lawrence, Kansas City Commission, winning endorsements from other candidates before ultimately coming up short.
Born in Bangalore, India, he immigrated at 8 years old with his parents and two brothers to the U.S., moving to Prairie Village, Kansas. After graduating from the University of Kansas, he came to the District in 1995. After briefly working on the Hill, Jayaraman joined Youth Build, a program that helped at-risk youth aged 16-24 finish school and find employment. He went on to work for a non-profit that advocated for equal access to education and employment for the differently-abled.
In 2010, Jayaraman started his own company, Strategic Education Consulting, which provides emergency preparedness planning for private companies, District agencies, and schools throughout the region.
Focus on Core Functions
Jayaraman said that he is running for the At-Large seat, one of two set aside for Independents on Council, because he doesn’t believe Council is focused on the promises they made to District residents at what he sees as a critical time for growth in the District.
“I think one of the core shortcomings of the current Council is that they are so focused on other issues that they have let the core functions of government disintegrate,” Jayaraman said.
He said he is focused on four issues: job development, education, public safety and housing.
He said a place where he wants to have the most tangible impact is in government services and operations. “My focus is on making it so that the ordinary citizen can get things done.”
Pointing to a lengthy 2-year residential construction permitting process and the difficulty in access to social services experienced by residents of his neighborhood, Jayaraman said that access to District services is too complicated. “You have so many offices that people have to go to get the box checked, that people are throwing up their hands,” he said.
“I think we really need to look at the organization of our agencies, with a laser-focus on if they are really delivering the services in an efficient way to our people.”
While a pathway to the middle class has been a goal of the Bowser administration, Jayaraman said that the road has not yet been built.
He said that providing District residents with economic independence is key to achieving other community goals, including public safety. While he wants to help the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) reach their sworn authorized strength of 4,000 officers (at the end of 2017, the department had 3,857 sworn personnel), he said that policing is only a part of the work that needs to be done.
“Public safety is connected to economic independence,” he said. “Police can be a deterrent, but when you get to the root of the problem, you have had for the past decade thousands of students that come out with no options –for all the wealth that’s around here. We’ve let them down already at the high school level.”
Jayaraman said that District schools are letting many students down by not providing basic instruction, in part due to high levels of absenteeism. He also criticizes what he sees as an emphasis on a ‘college-or-bust’ track, saying that isn’t the right path for all students. He said there should be alternative options that provide industry-specific vocational training.
Jayaraman suggests that the District create training programs to respond to specific needs. Helping to literally build their city could give youth pride, he said, and a sense of ownership of the community.
A ‘True Independent’
“I take a very pragmatic approach that seeks to find a win-win on any issue, and I think that is possible,” Jayaraman said. “I talk to people. I look at what’s practicable, what’s actionable and what’s doable.”
“I’m going to be a true independent,” he said. “I didn’t change my party affiliation last week or last month to run for city council. I’ve been an independent for a very long time.”
Jayaraman filed on his mother’s birthday, saying that she is the reason his family came to the U.S., providing him with the opportunities he has been given and teaching him to work for others. He is at least the second candidate to declare they will challenge Grosso for the Independent At-Large seat. Ward 8 State Board of Education (SBOE) representative Markus Batchelor declared his candidacy in September.
On the Issues: Yay or Nay
DC Statehood: Yes
Legalizing Prostitution: No
Soda Tax: No
NFL at RFK: No (but doesn’t rule out a return to the District)
Public School Transparency Amendment: Yes
Second Look Act: No, not for repeat violent offenders
Splitting DCRA in two: Yes reorganization is necessary –but not necessarily into two agencies. “The fox is in the henhouse,” he said.