I'd like to offer a rationale for some of my votes at last night's 3.5 hour ANC 5C meeting (it was an exceedingly long meeting, but constituent Ted McGinn was present the entire time). My colleagues didn't seem to understand and were amused that I was often the only "no" or "abstain" vote.
A quick aside: Terrance Judge of the Metropolitian Basketball League gave ANC 5C an appreciation plaque as a thank you for the Commission's grant that assisted the MBL with its basketball tournament. I don't ever recall an appreciative gesture to the ANC like that before, thanks Terrance.
The first Commission vote was on the Planned Unit Development (PUD) Request for St. Paul’s Housing Development. Commissioner Silas Grant urged that the Commission voted down approval for the project because he and several community members had concerns with the amenities package proposed by St. Paul's, in part because it was supposedly inadequate. I have a problem with the amenities package concept (also known as legal bribery or extortion in some circles).
Normally I would vote with deference to the Commissioner with a particular interest in a project, and likewise I would vote begrudingly in favor of an amenities package where the developer and residents agreed. Here they disagreed and the entitlement mentality reared its head.
The developer offered 25 affordable housing units in an environment in which we are facing a housing crisis with ever-dropping housing prices, and shelled out hundreds of thousands of dollars for various community projects and benefits. Detractors wanted millions.
The project construction will bring jobs earmarked for D.C. residents to our area. The people who move in will expand our tax base. We're fortunate that the developer is still moving forward with the project given the economic crisis currently gripping the country. Lehman Brothers went bankrupt this week.
I was the only Commissioner to vote against Silas's proposal.
Then Ted McGinn sought a vote on his WiFi Network Proposal (ANC single member district 5c03) and several commissioners thought it would be a conflict of interest to proceed at this time because Ted is running for my seat on the Commission. So the Commission voted to defer a vote until... Ted is actually a commissioner and might actually have a conflict of interest. All they did was deprive SMD 5C-02 of a vote on the project. I voted to abstain because I have endorsed Ted for the office.
And what is the project Ted is chairing? Its predominant purpose is to bring the internet to the poor and connect them to the wider community. Ted gains no economic benefit, only bragging rights. And he's not a commissioner... yet.
The evening didn't slow down. Next came an emergency vote request by KIPP Public Charter School concerning its proposal for Cook Elementary School. This matter has been around for a couple of months, but this item went on the agenda only days ago. I tried to get Paul Ruppert on the agenda out of fairness, because he has a competing proposal.
The presentation didn't go very well for KIPP, I think they had technical difficulties. Commissioners properly zoned in on the fact that the community had not had a chance to weigh in on the proposed use (I for one had little notice that ANC 5C would become involved in the matter). The Commission voted sensibly to defer a vote until residents have had a chance to hear the proposals of all. I found this to be the best possible resolution, because both of the leading proposals are high-quality and informed residents should make this judgment call.
At this time, I went over to talk to Alex of KIPP and Paul to let them know that I valued both of their projects, and that we should work out a time for presentations to residents. By the time I made my way back to my seat, another vote was already being taken on the PUD Extension for the 4th and Rhode Island NE Project. Having heard virtually none of the brief presentation, I voted to abstain and my colleagues were amused. But how could I cast a completely uninformed vote?
Some of the most contentious moments were left for last. Chairwoman Bonds was moving towards closing the meeting when a resident asked to address a community concern. Bonds noted that the community concerns portion of the meeting had been at the beginning but gave this T Street N.W. resident the opportunity to speak. And she then spoke perhaps more eloquently than anyone else that evening.
The resident was very concerned about an upstart business's application for a tavern license. Parking, noise, trash, extended operation hours, and higher crime were the stated concerns. Fair enough, but the residents would-be brief comments turned into a resolution for ANC 5C to back a challenge to the liquor license. The resolution obviously had not been on the agenda and the tavern owner had been given no notice of the impromptu resolution affecting his rights. I voted no on the challenge due to due process concerns.
Residents can and will challenge this liquor license and seek concessions. We ought to respect our businesses (there are too few) enough to give their owners the opportunity to present the other side. The resolution passed, but I believe that other commissioners were on board with me on this one.
Finally, our treasurer gave the latest estimated figures on ANC 5C's net worth: $15,572 in checking and $147,416 in savings. I hope we can trust Industrial Bank to stay afloat.