Meet the candidates for DC mayor: Rodney ‘Red’ Grant

Rodney “Red” Grant is a D.C.-born comedian and executive turned politician, and he has his eye set on Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office. Grant is running as an independent and won’t be on the June 21 primary ballot.

Grant spoke with WTOP’s Mike Murillo about the issues in this year’s race.

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for clarity.



Who is Rodney ‘Red’ Grant?

Rodney “Red” Grant, born and raised in Washington, D.C., in D.C. General Hospital. Graduated from Sousa Junior High School and went to Dunbar Senior High School, graduate football player, went on to go to Savannah State University where I played football with Shannon Sharpe. Came back home and attended UDC, and I started working for the Department of Parks and Recreation, where I coached kids and I implemented programming for the youth. At 19, I started doing comedy entertainment. And you can Google it. It’s very popular on Google.

So you can Google my whole career, but that was only 10% of my life. The other 90%: I’m a humanitarian, philanthropist and entrepreneur. I worked behind the camera for Viacom, and they entrusted me to employ thousands of people, work with millions of dollars in budgets and produce over 25 shows for the Viacom network. So I’m the only executive in this race, the only one, truly, that understands how to allocate funds and run a true business.

Grant’s plans to combat crime

Well, being the husband of a retired police officer, as we speak, I know firsthand what it’s like to see distress in the eyes of someone who has dealt with crime on a daily basis. Being born and raised in Southeast, attending DCPS schools and growing up and maturing as a resident of the District of Columbia, I know firsthand what crime is like in this city. Murder rates are up; carjacking is up; burglary is up. We’re 25% less safe than we were 10 years ago. That’s ridiculous.

And most of these crimes are being done by young people. I don’t know if you follow me, for those who don’t follow me, my programs like Don’t Shoot Guns, Shoot Cameras and Beyond Your Block are giving kids a way out of these situations, giving them something to do. Because idle time, as you know — you can get in so much trouble and find yourself in so many difficult situations as a young person. We teach kids filmmaking from beginning to end, from thought to theater. They write the films; they shoot the films; they direct the films, and you have to see their faces just to see how creative they become and how excited they become when they see their own project on film. So we have to put more energy into our youth programming here in our city.

We have over 80 violence prevention programs in our city, and only about five to 10 get funded by government. These violence prevention programs are directly affecting our youth on a daily basis. So we cannot look at these programs as something that we don’t need to fund. We have to fund them immediately. Because they work firsthand with our youth in our city. I feel like our system has failed our kids, and our kids feel like they’ve been failed, so we really have to put these initiatives in place immediately.

I also think we have to look at crime differently. We have to put social workers with our officers, people who really understand; we have to have crime intervention officers in place right now, so when things escalate from a mental health side, they’re able to deal with it. Because all crime is not violent. Some of these individuals are dealing with mental health issues. So we have to put a lot of energy and finances into that right now.

Would he make changes to the DC police department?

Definitely. Like I said, we have to have officers on the street, but me and my wife talk all the time about how social workers being with officers is super important. They can get a situation to its minimum if we do it properly. We have to train more crisis intervention officers immediately.

Efforts to reduce traffic fatalities

We have dangerous intersections. Even at St. Elizabeths — someone called me the other day and was like, ‘Red, my daughter got hit by a car in that cut-through at St. Elizabeths’ because there’s no traffic calming mechanism. There’s a lot of blind turns. And it’s very important for us to put energy into that, because our city deserves to have safe streets. We deserve to be safe. We have more bikes on the road; we have more people walking; it’s very important that we put the things in place that’s going to stop traffic and calm the traffic down right now.

And also, we’ve got to deal with our ticket situation. I’m a bike rider myself; I ride my bike around the city and I think people want to be in a different vehicle. I think we have to make sure that we build our Metro system back up, more people riding on our Metro, and if you think about traffic in this city, it’s sometimes quicker to walk where you’re going. So we have to put a lot of attention on that.

Our uninsured motorist problem is super huge. A lot of people are getting vehicles registered in Virginia and they don’t even have proof of insurance. This is a serious problem. We have tickets being given, but it’s a lot of punishment for the residents here in the D.C. area. So we have to revamp that whole system. It’s a serious problem.

Where Grant stands on speed cameras

I think we need speed cameras; I just think that the tickets should be less for D.C. residents, more for individuals that are not from Washington, D.C., because what’s happening is these tickets are doubling and tripling and a lot of people are losing their license and not able to get to work.

I think it’s a punishment that should happen, but I think it should be less severe when it comes to ticketing because D.C. is a place where, when I grew up, there weren’t any speed cameras in effect. Now we have maybe 40 speed cameras in one ward. That’s a lot. That’s a bit much.

We have to really think about the residents of Washington, D.C., and how it affects them. And it’s affecting them big time. The other day, I paid a $250 ticket, and I know I was going the speed limit, I swear. I think they should check those tickets.

Economic recovery from the pandemic

The pandemic affected us horribly. It really affected small businesses the most. Our downtown area was lost during the pandemic. It’s time to put up the funds necessary to bring back our small businesses in Washington, D.C. that were affected by COVID-19 and the pandemic.

We also need to streamline the CBE (certified business enterprise) process so people who are from Washington, D.C. will have an opportunity to deal with the contracts that are here in the city, and if we do that, we’ll have more residents that are working in the city.

The pandemic itself affected us not only through slowing the city down, but a lot of mental health issues started happening during the pandemic. We have to get back to helping our residents here in Washington, D.C.

If you look at the organizational chart of Washington, D.C. at the top it says residents, then it says mayor, deputy mayor, city council and all the other agencies under, but at the top, it says residents. And I think all so often, we forget about the residents of this great city, and we need to put more energy on our residents.

Affordable housing in DC

We have to check the MFI (median family income) formula that’s used in Washington, D.C. The median family income is based on Loudoun County, Montgomery County, Fairfax County, Prince George’s County, and we have to have a realistic system that shows the people that live in Washington, D.C. — how much they make, what’s the median family income for the city. It varies from street to street, and sometimes neighborhood to neighborhood.

It has to be a realistic situation for them. We have to put pressure, or really lobby hard, housing and urban development to make it fair for our residents here in Washington, D.C. If we do that, we can get things together.

Also, we have to have checks and balances on our Housing Production Trust Fund. Last year, $82 million was lost that was supposed to go directly to affordable housing. That should never happen in a city like Washington, D.C. So we have to really put checks and balances on the people who are running these housing production trust funds.

We also have to put pressure on the banks that financed a lot of these developers in the city and force them to do the right thing for our residents in Washington, D.C., because we have to have an affordable city. And we have to have it now.

Working with the council

When you have the mayor not getting along with the council and the council not getting along with the mayor and the mayor not getting along with the attorney general and the attorney general not getting along with the mayor — and the ANC is being forgotten about in our city — you have a city that’s just at its worst.

If you if you know who Red Grant is, I’m a person that people can work with. I can reach across all the aisles. That’s why I’m running as an independent, so I won’t have to deal with party politics. I think that’s first and foremost because the residents of our great city are watching our leaders. And they’re watching us very carefully.

We have to build great relationships with one another, maybe everybody needs to take a big picnic or something and go out together, because we can just disagree on things, but, most of the time we agree on most of the things. We have to put emphasis on the things that we agree on and stop focusing on the disagreements. And if we do that, we’ll have a wonderful city.

We’ve also got to bring back togetherness in our city. A lot of times, because of gentrification, we’re not speaking to one another. We have to start speaking to one another; we have to start bringing this separate city back together again. I think I’m the right person to do that. Because of my background, because I’m able to reach across those lines, I’m able to get along with so many people.

Priorities for federal infrastructure funding

I want to make D.C. a green city. I don’t know if you ride around the city; it’s like riding on the Rebel Yell at Kings Dominion — you’re gonna shake up a little bit. We have to start cleaning up our rivers, and make D.C. one of the cleanest cities in America.

We have a rat problem in our city that we need to address immediately. We have to hire some of the top experts on extermination in the world. We have to find them because this is getting out of hand. You can’t go outside without seeing six, seven rats.

And we’ve got to make D.C. a major tech hub. We’ve got to make that happen. We’ve got to become like the new Silicon Valley, and use the downtown area, (where) buildings are not being used, and bring more revenue into our city so we can get our downtown together.

We also have to bring back the film and music industry. Because if you think about Atlanta, Atlanta is making about $9.5 billion in the film industry. And we’re in the millions. We have to make Hollywood want to come here also, and spend that money, so we can go from an $18.5 billion budget to somewhere around $36.5 billion. So it’s very important that we attract things to come to our city. Super important.

Commanders in DC

I am a Washington Commanders season ticket holder. Shout out to the Commanders. I was born at D.C. General with a (Washington football) blanket on my back. I feel like we have to get our team back to Washington, D.C. by any means necessary. I think D.C. deserves a football team in Washington, D.C.

I know a lot of people are going to say, “Well, we gotta spend to get them here.” I think we can work a deal with whoever owns the Commanders, or whoever becomes the owner, to bring the Commanders back to Washington, D.C. The city deserves it. We’re not the Virginia Commanders. And we’re not the Maryland Commanders. We’re the Washington Commanders. And I believe in bringing the Washington Commanders back to Washington, D.C.

What sets Grant apart from other candidates?

I think my background as an executive sets me apart from them. I think they’re all politicians, career politicians. I’m an executive. I’m the only one that truly understands how to run a company, a corporation; and D.C. is the biggest corporation in the world. I think the city deserves a leader that understands how to run a corporation and build beautiful morale among the people.

I think that sets me apart from all the other candidates — my belief and love, care and respect, and just how I run my life and how I’ve been running my corporations. And like I said, D.C. is a big corporation, and we need someone who understands how to run a corporation.

I’m that someone. I’m the only independent candidate in the race. And I think D.C. is truly ready for an independent mayor, and someone who understands how to reach across all aisles, and just breakdown the separatism of our city.

Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Editor and reporter for WTOP.com. He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

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