Hyattsville's newest candidate for City Council, Ward 4 resident Edouard Haba, said he hopes to bring new perspectives and a diversity of opinions to the council dais if elected. It would be a perspective shaped by a childhood in the West African nation of Guinea, a young adulthood in Rome, and now, as a young father of a family living in Hyattsville.
"Living in different countries has left me with an understanding of how to deal with diverse people," said Haba, who speaks with a light French accent, in an interview. "This is a very diverse city, and it would be nice to see that reflected in the city council, to give a voice to this diversity.
Haba said he decided to run over the last two weeks as he watched and waited for another Ward 4 candidate to materialize. With less than two weeks to go, and no Ward 4 candidate registered, Haba decided to run.
"In my ward, there were no candidates," said Haba. "It's just not fair to the residents of this community. This is a very vibrant ward, and I hope I can bring what I can to the city.
Haba outlined broad policy goals which he would like to work on if elected to the city council.
"My first objective is to bring more safety to the community," said Haba, referencing this past weekend's drive-by shooting at a Hyattsville Shell gas station near his house. "We need a safer community."
Haba also said he wants to the city to work harder to maintain and rebuild the city's tree canopy.
"We are a Tree City USA," said Haba. "It's a nice thing to keep that title as we move forward."
Haba also said he wants the city to add bicycle tracks to city streets. City leaders have already approved the first phase of a planned bicycle infrastructure network which has seen yellow bicycle racks installed throughout Hyattsville and includes plans for bicycle tracks to be installed on a number of city streets. Additional proposed phases would expand the city's network of bicycle lanes.
"We are trying to be, also, bicycle friendly, and I don't see bicycle tracks on the city streets," said Haba. "People would be more encouraged to ride their bikes in the city without worrying about riding in the middle of the street."
Haba, 31, is married to wife Katherine Kappel Haba. The two have a nine-month-old boy named Eddie. Together, the small family lives in their home at 5813 31st Place, where they have lived since 2009.
Haba was born to a Catholic family and raised in Conakry, the capitol city of Guinea, a predominantly Muslim French speaking nation sandwiched between Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea-Bissau, Senegal and Mali.
Haba was a toddler when Guinea's Marxist dictator, Ahmed Sékou Touré, who had ruled the country with an iron fist for 26 years between 1958 and 1984, died suddenly. Touré's rule was soon replaced in a coup-d'etat by the slightly less authoritarian rule of former President Lasana Conté, who would go on to rule the country until 2008, years after Haba had left to study in Europe.
Political strife and war in the nations surrounding Guinea during Haba's childhood, particularly the 11 year civil war in Seirra Leone which raged between 1991 and 2002, also had an impact on Haba's outlook.
"We had the instability of course, with political issues, people not being accountable, not caring for the community," said Haba. "I have all of those images in mind. There was a civil war raging in neighboring countries and I saw a lot of refugees."
"Inside the family, inside the home, life was okay," continued Haba. "But around the community, around the country, things were not so nice."
In 2000, Haba travelled to Rome, Italy, where he earned a bachelor's degree in theology and philosophy from the Pontifical Urbaniana University in the Vatican in 2006. He could have continued to study to become a Catholic priest, but he decided not to pursue the vocation. While in Rome, Haba became involved with Community Sant'Egidio, a lay Catholic organization which focuses on social justice issues, like the repeal of the death penalty and ministering to the poor and other outcast groups. He remains active in the organization here in Washington, though his status as a new father has reduced his activites with the organization.
In 2007, Haba moved to Washington to continue his education, eventually earning a masters degree in conflict analysis and resolution from George Mason in 2010
Haba currently works as an alternative conflict resolution specialist and a court approved mediator with the Circuit Court of Prince George's County. His work focuses mainly on child custody and visitation disputes.
Haba said that his experience studying and resolving conflicts could be useful on a city council which is sometimes noted for its contentious debates.
"I would be able to bring people together, people who man not usually get involved, to talk about the issues going on the city to come up with better solutions," said Haba. "We need to be able to talk about the issues that relate to us."
Hyattsville's biennial city council elections are . More than half the Hyattsville city council seats will be up for election, with one from each of the city's five wards, plus an additional vacancy created by the resignation of former Ward 5 Councilor Nicole Hinds Mofor. Here's a list of all the candidates who have registered so far. Local political hopefuls have less than 9 days to file to run in the elections.