For the last eight years, Will Merrifield has fought on the front lines of D.C.’s gentrification wars. As an attorney at the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, he represented the tenant associations at two large, affordable complexes in Congress Heights and Brentwood, both slated for redevelopment into denser, mixed-use projects on valuable land. Fed up with feeling like an expendable part of their landlords’ redevelopment plans, the tenants, with help from Merrifield, organized to stay put. They resolved to prevent their feared displacement from their homes, taking their demands to their landlords, District officials, and, ultimately, court.
Merrifield, 41, is running as an independent and has left the Legal Clinic to focus on his first-ever campaign. He joins a dozen declared candidates in the at-large race, and, like most of them so far, intends to use D.C.’s new public financing program, which provides start-up and matching funds to those who meet certain thresholds for small-dollar donations. Having advocated for his clients at multiple Council hearings and in lawmakers’ offices, he’s also a known quantity at the Wilson Building.
But unique to Merrifield is the experience of going toe-to-toe with powerful real estate developers and their lawyers—one that leads him to promote a vision for economic development in D.C. other than what he says is the “socialism for the very rich, stark austerity for the middle class, and victim-blaming [for] the people working two jobs who can’t keep a roof over their heads” that defines the current system.
We the natives of Washington, D.C., who still reside here want inclusion and a council that speaks up for us.
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