Community Activist Jose “Joe” Barrios To Run For ANC 5B04 Seat

Joe Barrios and CM McDuffie at a 2013 Brookland event where both spoke on the importance of civil rights.
Joe Barrios and Ward 5 Councilmember McDuffie at a 2013 Brookland event where both spoke on the importance of civil rights.

Many of our readers know Jose “Joe” Barrios from when he stepped in to the Brookland’s Finest liquor license dispute and led the brokering of a Settlement Agreement with 149 nearby residents and the restaurant. Here are some other things you may not know about Jose:

  • He works pro bono to legally defend victims of domestic violence and abuse 
  • He is a co-founder, board member, and secretary of the Friends of Noyes Park, Inc.,
  • He is an elected officer of the Brookland Neighborhood Civic Association
  • He worked hard in the background  with community leaders to successfully save the Brookland Green from development
  • He was raised in a working-class Latino family and worked his way through undergrad and law school on his own

We recently learned that Jose is going to run for ANC Commissioner of Single Member District 5B04 on the ballot this fall. Full disclosure – Astrid and I have been close friends of Jose for many years and quite frankly, are thrilled he is running. We asked Jose a few questions about his candidacy and here’s what he had to say:

Why did you decide to run?

I decided to run because I care passionately about this neighborhood and all the people that call it home. The work I’ve done in the neighborhood has allowed me to meet many residents from all walks of life and learn from them. That has motivated me to seek public office for the first time.
Our neighborhood is changing quickly. Some people like that, others have concerns. Now is the time for a strong leader to work with people across the neighborhood to help craft the vision of what we want our neighborhood to be like. I believe that my background, legal and negotiation skills, and passion for local issues make me the best person for the job.
What is your platform? What are you hoping to achieve?
My platform theme is “Bringing Brookland Together,” which reflects the approach I prefer in resolving the neighborhoods problems such as last year’s Brookland’s Finest controversy. To me that means three things:
First, it means forging solutions that bring Brookland neighbors together with respect. Brookland is one of the most diverse and open neighborhoods in DC with a remarkable mix of people from all kinds of ethnicities, religions, professions, and so on.
I’m a Latino from a working class family. I never forget where I come from or the challenges that working class families face, because my family experiences them even today. My elderly parents are both on fixed social security incomes with no retirements, and believe me that hurts. Because of Brookland’s diversity and the hot housing market there are folks here who are better off and some that struggle to make ends meet from day to day. Brookland needs a leader who can relate to the needs of the entire wonderful mosaic of people who live here rather than trying to pit them against one another.
The fact that the incumbent Commissioner Steptoe arbitrarily cancelled all community (Single Member District) meetings with her constituents speaks volumes about what she thinks of many of them, and also speaks to her inability to work with people. I will restore the SMD meetings and use them as a regular public forum where neighbors can come together to air their differences and resolve their problems.
Second, my platform means supporting small businesses in a manner that respects Brookland’s character and quality of life. Brookland and Ward 5 deserve to share in what is happening elsewhere in this city. I strongly support attracting those businesses to Brookland so long as they are willing to respect the neighborhood’s unique character. Attracting small businesses means attracting jobs, it means increasing the services that all residents can enjoy, and it means increasing the city’s tax base so that it can better afford its expenses and social services for the good of everyone.
I don’t want to live in another Columbia Heights. I will ask the tough questions and fight the good fight when I believe something is out of character or is disrespecting our residents. But our commercially-zoned 12th Street corridor does not need the anti-business reputation we have gotten in recent years. Those businesses deserve our support, and so do new ones who wish to come and make great uses out of abandoned or underused buildings that we can all enjoy. Because nobody can convince me that an abandoned rat-infested building is better for residents than a lively restaurant where neighbors can connect with one another!
Third, my platform means returning transparency and ethics to ANC 5B04. Public servants should never forget that the public has a right to know what they are doing. To do otherwise is to misuse the position. It shouldn’t take FOIA lawsuits that waste tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars. I will restore transparency by posting meeting recordings and exhibits on the internet for all to see. I will also make sure residents know of important votes I will be taking well in advance so they have an opportunity to weigh in.
As for ethics, many people know by now that Commissioner Steptoe has been referred by a DC court for possible prosecution on charges of perjury (ten year maximum prison sentence if convicted) and destruction of a public recording she had been ordered to produce. I mean, really? ANC 5B04 deserves better and needless to say I will bring a different standard to the position.
What are your favorite things about living in Brookland?
One of my favorite things about living here is that it’s literally a neighborhood where people can feel comfortable coming by to ask for a garden tool, or to exchange garden plants, or to just sit on the porch and chat. And that is true regardless of who you are, whether you’re new to the neighborhood or not, whether you’re young or older, and so on. People simply care and are willing to accept you as you are. I think that’s great.
People are also really passionate about their vision for the neighborhood. Sometimes that causes sharp differences of opinion, and that’s fine. It means they care enough, which is a good thing. And although a few people prefer to emphasize those differences, I think our neighbors are more united than divided in their vision for the neighborhood. We all care about crime, safe streets, more jobs and local services, better local schools, more parks and open spaces, and the like. I think most of us would enjoy having more of the amenities that other DC residents in other Wards enjoy, even if we disagree about how much, the location, and the density. If you look behind the conflicts you see most people united in common cause for their neighborhood, and that level of passion for the place we call home really means a lot to me.
I also love my Brookland garden. Mark and I spend a lot of time planning it in winter and planting it in spring. I can never keep up with the weeds, less so now with my campaign getting started, but walking through the garden after work is a joy and reprieve from the stresses of the world that I wouldn’t give up for anything.

The boundaries of Single Member District 5B04 are the railroad tracks to the west, Monroe Street NE to the north, 13st Street NE to the east, and Rhode Island Avenue NE to the south. As far as we know, no one else has announced their intention to run for the seat. The current ANC 5B04 Commissioner is Carolyn Steptoe, who should need no introduction to our readers. Here is the contact information for Jose’s campaign:

Website here.
Email: josebarrios2014(at)yahoo(dot)com
Twitter: josebarrios2014
Facebook page here.

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