Monday, November 26, 2007
A Visit to the New Neighborhood Wine Bar
Vinoteca (1940 11st St. N.W., near U Street) opened earlier this month. I was alerted to its existence this past Saturday by an unhappy customer who posted comments on the U Street listserv. I wasted no time to experience the restaurant for myself, and the visit was wholly positive.
Upon entering, I was quickly greeted by the server Katrina and her smile. Vinoteca's wine-by-the-glass list is more extensive than most of the other wine bars in the city. Although the prices are a bit above average in terms of comparable value, several wines can be found for $6-$9 a glass. A "taste" (a 2.5 ounce pour) is also an available option, the key sign that you have found a true wine bar.
I've found that I haven't been a big fan of French wines lately, so my first venture fell short. However, the Syrah la Voilette, Jean Luc Colombo (2005; $3.50 taste/$7 glass) is an economical option for the less demanding customer.
Vine Vale Shiraz, Tempus Two (Australia, 2005; $6 taste/$12 glass) is worth trying, with a nice bouquet, although it seemed a little heavy on the alcohol content.
The Old Vine Cuvee Zinfandel, Four Vines (California 2005; $4 taste/$8 glass) featured aggressive forward fruit with good structure, and it was absolutely delicious.
My final wine turned out to be the winner. Try the Barnard Griffin Merlot (Washington State 2004; $6.5 taste/$13 glass/$52 bottle) while you still can. Wine Spectator rated it 89 for good reason, and Vinoteca is probably one of the last places you can find this wine because the vintage has sold out at Wine.com. Speaking of which, the restaurant had run out of two of the wines I requested, so I missed those opportunities.
What else is there to say about Vinoteca? Great atmosphere and decor, good background music, and (for me at least) very good service. I only wish it was located on NCap.
Friday, November 23, 2007
What I Am Most Thankful For
I am thankful for that core group of neighbors, the one percent of residents who attend most of the meetings and neighborhood cleanups time and time again. People like Charlene McCullers, Stacie Birenbach, Joyce Robinson Paul, Joel Dubenitz, and Ted McGinn.
Ted McGinn is in his own class, an incredible leader, volunteer, and knowledge database.
Scott Roberts continues to tirelessly provide important news about the neighborhood from professional journals to neighborhood eyewitness accounts.
Darren Snell has run a tight ship with Eckington Civic Association.
People probably don't know that Beth Toland did petitioning to get speed humps on Quincy Place N.E. Please thank neighbor Hoyt King, if you ever meet him, for his leadership in the fight against crime.
Steven Rynecki has an eye for planning for the long-term future of Eckington. Agree with him on historical preservation designation or not, his emphasis on forward-thinking is important.
Pat Mitchell and North Capitol Main Street have worked diligently to bring us a commercially-viable business district.
Tom Usselman rarely has been recognized for his work with the police over the past year to advance the safety of citizens.
I'm thankful for my fellow ANC 5C commissioners, who have worked hard behind the scenes.
Chair Anita Bonds took on a thankless job, and it is quite an effort to assemble the agenda every month.
Commissioner Stu Davenport and his wife Lana have given the community a shot of adrenaline with Big Bear Cafe and the Bloomingdale Farmers' Market.
Commissioner John Salatti has done more things on behalf of the neighborhood this year than I can count.
The residents of the unit block of Hanover Place N.W. have really stepped up this year.
Althought not neighbors, I would also like to recognize the hard work of Councilman Harry Thomas Jr. (together with Bloomingdale resident Vicky Leonard-Chambers), Alice Thompson, and the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department.
There are many more neighbors in 5C-02 and nearby who should be recognized... these are the people I have had the most contact with over the past year. Help me out by posting comments.
Search Continues for Second Resident Opposing Bloomingdale Farmers' Market
The exceedingly strong support of the market in response to this resident's complaint underscores the importance of the market to this community's revitalization, both economically and psychologically. Many residents have pointed out that either (a) there isn't a parking problem or (b) any parking issues are far outweighed by the benefit to the community.
But Scott Roberts (who provided the message from the original complaintant) has offered an interesting comment from a resident on the unit block of R Street N.W., who argues for benefits to the disaffected resident:
I am not a social economist, but it seems to me (call it convention wisdom subject to being disproved) that the weekly inconvenience of closing off a very small block in the neighborhood adds to the value of the neighborhood, and actually helps maintain the presence of the Big Bear Cafe at your corner. Consider the alternative that existed before the Big Bear Cafe -- a corner liquor store/convenience store with a caged cashier. I used to find beer cans and Wild Turkey bottles in my tree box or gutter from time to time; I have not seen a single one at all this year.We could use more economic analysis of social issues in our neighborhood. This anonymous comment is a good start.
I have no problem with your leading the search for alternate locations; but I think you are benefiting a substantial amount from having the Big Bear Cafe and the Farmer's Market at your doorstep. Please reconsider biting the hand that may very well be feeding your property value. An authentic economic analysis might help us to understand the impact of the market on the neighborhood, including the 100 block of R St NW.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
November 5C-02 Meeting Advances O Street-Hanover Place Partnership
The meeting began with a presentation by representatives from Meridian North Capitol, which seeks to build a 29-unit high-end condo complex at the corner of Hanover Place N.W. and North Capitol Street (investor Howard University Professor Charles Murphy also attended). The developer need community support for the closure of an alley off Hanover (the alley is currently not wide enough to accommodate cars).
No residents expressed concern about the alley closure. Instead, although the project calls for the building of an underground parking garage, several residents voiced strong concerns about what impact the development would have on congestion and parking. Residents already find it difficult to find parking on Hanover. I asked the representatives to what degree they could accommodate these concerns, and they stressed that planning was in the early stages. ANC 5C will vote on the alley closure at its regularly scheduled meeting on November 20.
At 7:40 p.m., the PSA 501 portion of the meeting began. By this point, the meeting had grown to 18 people, plus police officers. The new PSA 501 captain, Capt. Edward Delgado began, and Lt. White and Lt. Wright made presentations. Residents were extremely involved in a discussion.
It is particularly important that the crime situation on O Street N.W. (given a recent homicide one evening right in front of SOME) and the continuing youth issues on Hanover Place be addressed, so at one point I steered the discussion in that direction. Mayor Adrian Fenty's representative, Clinton LeSueur, took the floor and proposed a strategy similar to the one that had been proposed elsewhere in the neighborhood: take action to raise the bar by identifying all nuisance properties, name the troublemakers, fix broken streetlights, and board up abandoned properties. Residents will be responding to Clinton's survey within the week, and I anticipate the these issues will be handled quickly.
I also spoke with MPD's Fayette Vaughn-Lee about reviving the District's Neighborhood Watch program, which seems to have languished despite its grand re-opening a year ago.
(Today's blogging location: Big Bear Cafe. 14 patrons were present at the time Big Bear closed around 6 p.m. tonight.)
Sunday, November 4, 2007
Art Gallery Reportedly Coming to Seaton Place
Today's blogging location: Big Bear Cafe.
Saturday, November 3, 2007
Eckington Civic Association Fall Cleanup
Because cleanup organizer and cookout chef Charlene McCullers (pictured here with her son Ashton) did not receive any requests from the community that particular areas be cleaned, cleanup selection essentially depended on where the residents lived. I cleaned up on Lincoln Road, North Capitol Street N.E., the unit blocks of S Street N.E. and Seaton Place N.E., and two blocks of T Street N.E. The unit block of T residents should be proud, because hardly any trash could be found on their block. On the other hand, the 100 block of T bears the burden of the local schools.
I then joined Ed Hodge with his efforts to clean streets in east Eckington (he is pictured here with Merrit Drucker). Ed spoke out at a recent ANC meeting in order to hold ANC 5C to a higher standard (ANC 5C has been having issues with its website). But Ed is more than just talk, he is putting his words into action by running to fill the vacant ANC 5C-05 seat (the special election is set for December).
I have only known Ed Hodge for a short while, but he has impressed me with his vision for the community and his integrity. So I was disappointed to learn that someone who lives outside our neighborhood challenged Ed's petition signatures in an effort to knock him off the ballot. It turns out that the challenger is Lenwood Johnson, an advisory neighborhood commissioner from Ward One (1A-10).
Lenwood Johnson is... well, for one thing he has close ties to the notorious Sinclair Skinner. He also, according to Richard Layman's blog, has written that Councilman Jim Graham is "a world-class mother******" (but without the asterisks). Was Johnson acting on his own when he challenged the petitions? I'd like to give Ed's opponent the benefit of the doubt.
Regardless of any connection, the community almost missed the opportunity to have a real choice in the election. (The district lost at least two candidates when all of the candidates were knocked off the first time around due to a election technicality).
Today's blogging location: Big Bear Cafe.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
North Capitol Main Street Wine Tasting
Tom Usselman conducted the beer tasting (you can see him sneaking a taste in the background of one of these photos)-- that selection was delicious.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Is This Running a Red Light or Revenue Raising?
Sunday, October 21, 2007
Recap of the Past Week
On Thursday, I attended the 2007 Fifth District Citizens' Advisory Council Awards Dinner at the The Washington Navy Yard, which recognized police officers and citizens who have served our community with distinction. Some notable honorees who have served Eckington/Truxton Circle include Officer Brian Glover as PSA Officer of the Year, Supervisor of the Year Sgt. Charles Woodard, special award receipients (outgoing) Commander Jennifer Greene and Commander Melvin Scott. James Berry received the Frank E. Braxton, Sr. Award.
Finally, on Saturday three community leaders joined me in meeting with Melissa of the Borf Brigade at Big Bear Cafe. More to report on that soon.
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
North Capitol Street Business Cooridor Advancing
I also spoke with Brian Brown, the force behind EC-12, the projected renovation of the retired DC firehouse into a restaurant on North Capitol Street N.W. Brian told me that the exterior permits have been secured and that residents may begin to notice exterior improvements as early as January, depending on the weather. This news is most encouraging.
Sebring Sans Wheel
This evening I called 311 to file the police report and Officer Black showed up at my door within the half hour. Fortunately, the officer told me that this is the first stolen wheel that he has recorded, so residents need not fear a wheel theft epidemic (albeit I plan to obtain wheel locks).
Thursday, October 4, 2007
Area Residents Fighting Back Against Criminals
On September 7, Bloomingdale residents responded to a double-shooting of two woman who were shot while walking a dog (the dog was killed in the incident) by holding a meeting. I wish I could share with you the name of the individual who organized this meeting, but given that the meeting was confidential, I won't. It wasn't a commissioner or politician, it was a long-time resident. Bloomingdale residents didn't approach the meeting with questions of the police or politicians, but rather with very specific demands. The deadlines for meeting these demands were very short and the phrasing of the demands was (understandably) terse, but then-Commander Jennifer Greene responded very well. Meeting the demands was a matter of when, not whether.
On September 11, the experiment of a joint PSA 501-civic association meeting proceeded for the first time. I believe it was a success-- instead of virtually no citizen attendance (other than myself, Tom Usselman, and the police), 17 people attended the meeting hosted by Eckington Civic Association. Lt. White reported the rash of shootings, adding that there were 41 burglaries in PSA 501 in July. The police arrested four burglars, two of whom were out of jail pending sentencing. The police and residents discussed community strategy as well as the reasons behind the reoccuring crime (many of the criminals are back on the street three days after their arrest).
On September 22 (10 a.m. on a Saturday), seven residents attended my monthly constituent meeting at Sursum Corda Library. That meeting, which was attended by Sgt. Woodard and two other officers, focused almost entirely on crime issues faced by residents on Hanover Place N.W. Sgt. Woodard made the interesting comment that there are hardly any armed robberies of citzens, which stood in marked contrast to the tensions expressed over the Eckington listserv about safety in the New York Avenue area.
Finally, on September 25, the Bloomingdale residents held a follow-up meeting with police and government officials to verify progress. At least 40 people attended this meeting, including Mayor Adrian Fenty, Councilman Harry Thomas, Chief of Police Cathy Lanier, Capt. Scott, Lt. Wright, Lt. White, other officers, and four Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners. Again, the meeting details are secret, but problem property owners providing havens for drug activity should expect contact with police and community leaders in the near future about what they must do about tenants. The only demand that gave me pause was a proposal to place speed humps on R Street N.W. It seemed that the speed hump demand would be implemented without wider community input (beyond petitions on the immediate block), even though R Street acts as a signficant rush hour artery.
Clearly, if the current level of citizen vigilance is maintained, the criminals will move on. The question is how to sustain the intensity.
Sunday, September 23, 2007
Meetings with Local Principals Produce Results
Dunbar principal Dr. Harriet Kargbo and I reached a concensus: the school and the community must work together for the mutual benefit of both. The quality of local schools impacts housing values and kids who aren't in school during classroom hours are not only truant but often end up getting into trouble, such as vandalism.
On the other hand, tutors from the community are needed (please contact me if you are interested in volunteering). Dunbar is being judged solely on the performance of its 10th graders, the only ones taking standardized tests designed to measure achievement by the entire school. SAT scores are lagging behind the national average, which affects college prospects and scholarship opportunities, regardless of what students have actually learned.
A 5c-02 resident is concerned that the recreational facility at Dunbar was closed to the community years ago, leaving the area without an outlet for children. Dr. Kargbo informed me that the facility exclusion was necessary in order to host the school's mandatory JROTC program (children may opt out at the behest of parents). She told me that JROTC is not necessarily about the military, but more about character and leadership.
I told Dr. Kargbo that JROTC was a great program, which probably very few people in the community were aware of, which led me to my next point-- Dunbar needs a website so that both the community and parents can be properly informed. Dr. Kargbo agreed, and a website is in the works. Currently, if one visits http://www.sportscombine.com/ and types in Dunbar, sports information is available but that's it.
Dunbar's most pressing need is something that many of us take for granted in our work life: walls. Dunbar High School is the only high school in D.C. that still has a building with the 1977 experiment of no classroom walls, only partitions. Imagine trying to listen to your teacher lecture on history while another teacher queries students on the other side of a partition about math problems. Dr. Kargbo led on a tour of the facility-- it is a nightmare for students with attention deficit disorder (who incidentally do have the opportunity to transfer to another school, but there is red tape). Dunbar is slated to get walls in 2009.
I also met with Emery Elementary School principal Ronald Taylor within the context of the "audit" of D.C. public schools currently being implemented by the D.C. organization D.C. Voice. The details of the meeting are confidential, but the gist is that Emery's needs are largely being met. Much of Emery's current favorable conditions are a result of Taylor's persistence and Emery's proximity to the DCPS central office.
Sunday, September 9, 2007
Haitian Invasion at Bloomingdale Farmers' Market
Monday, September 3, 2007
Deputy Mayor Affirms NCMS Beautification Grant for North Capitol Street
The grant provides $15,000 for tree box beautification and maintenance from the 1300 to 1700 blocks of North Capitol Street. My letter of support, which explains the benefits of this grant, appears here. The 30-day comment period runs from August 22.
Congratulations to NCMS, Vicky Leonard-Chambers, Pat Mitchell, and everyone involved with securing this grant.
Dunbar High School Needs Community Support
At Dunbar High, according to the article, "[j]ust 29 percent scored as proficient or better in reading; in math, the figure was 27 percent." According to this site, Dunbar's ACT scores averaged 14.2 in 2005. That score does not compare favorably with the average nationwide score of 20 (on a scale of 36) (source here).
Meanwhile, at least two weeks ago, I called Dunbar High School and no one answered, so I left a message. I stated my name, and reminded the listener that I was an ANC commissioner and that the Dunbar was located within my district. I requested a call back on the question of whether Dunbar had a chess club. If not, I was interested in starting one, I said.
I received no call back, which was unfortunately not surprising. Dunbar seems to operate within its own orbit, the community in another. Meanwhile, I am wondering how I even have time to launch a chess club. It's merely an idea that I hope will be given a try, the rationale being that not everyone can (or desires to) be a football star. I believe that young people tend to experience improved overall health (and higher grades) when they participate in organized after-school activities.
No doubt Dunbar has may extracurricular activities, but there is no school website, so it's all speculation about whether there is an unserved niche. I wonder how can a parent make an informed decision between Dunbar and a charter school, when there is no website informing parents of Dunbar's well-regarded pre-engineering program. I suppose it all begins with returning phone calls.
Monday, August 20, 2007
Hanover Place Residents Take Charge
Perhaps the most interesting and productive community meeting yet during my tenure as Commissioner took place last Saturday morning at Big Bear Cafe.
The residents of the unit block of Hanover Place N.W. (map), under the leadership of Fisseha Mekonnen, organized this meeting due to concerns about out-of-control children and crime generally. An amazing number of residents (12) from a single block attended the meeting, with great diversity in background. (Typically, my single-member-district meetings, which are open to the entire district, generally only a few people.)
The issues concerning children range from property damage to creating noise disturbances after midnight. The group consensus was that both the "carrot" and "stick" approaches to the issue of unruly children should be used.
First, the carrot. One problem is that the children causing issues in the neighborhood have nothing to do and no where to go. Local churches will be recruited to provide activities to children between the hours of 10 p.m and midnight on the weekends. And one resident, Kamina, pointed out that developing a friendly foundation (begin by saying "hi") will help pave the way to a more constructive response when concerns are raised.
On the other hand, no resident should have to endure a noise disturbance at 4 a.m. A collaborative effort will be employed to bring these issues to the attention of the police. The addresses of "problem" properties were listed. Much of the problem rests with parent(s) who are unwilling or unable to control their children. I informed the residents that although a mechanism exists within D.C. law whereby parents can be held responsible for the continued lawbreaking committed by their children, that law is not being enforced.
Thursday, August 9, 2007
New Meeting Structure Proposed for Community Police Department Meetings
Those present developed a plan that I believe will greatly increase the effectiveness of PSA meetings and more efficiently utilize the officers' time.
The plan is as follows: PSA 501 will hold its monthly meetings in conjunction with one (and only one) civic association meeting each month, on a rotating basis. One month, the meeting will be held at Bates Civic Association, the next month at Eckington Civic Association, and the next month at Bloomingdale Civic Association. (If Hanover Civic Association begins holding regular meetings, it too should be included in the rotation.)
Individuals seeking to address crime issues should attend whichever civic association is "at bat," and leaders from each civic association are encouraged to attend every meeting. Naturally, the MPD portion of the civic association meeting should probably begin the meeting. MPD is ready to start this schedule right away, beginning with the month of September.
Not only will this more efficiently use MPD time and resources, but I imagine that increased interaction between community leaders will result from this arrangement.
Finally, at the meeting, we also discussed the possibility of MPD conducting self defense classes for residents. Lt. White said that he would look into the D.C.'s registration procedures for pepper spray.
(Photo credit here.)
Wednesday, August 8, 2007
MPD National Night Out
I had a great conversation with Sgt. Nicole Webster (picture above, click to enlarge), from the Internal Affairs Division. It is often rumored that officers are regularly pulled off the street due to frivolous police abuse claims filed by criminals, but Sgt. Webster said that police officers are given desk duty only in cases where there is reasonable cause to believe that abuse might have occurred.
Although the officers were great, event planning is always a challenge: Councilman Thomas made an appearance, but no other familiar 5c-02 residents attended the event, aside from Citizen Advisory Council member Tom Usselman, Michael Henderson, and new resident Crystal Chavez (pictured here with Officer Wytch (left) and Officer Miles). Overall, it was a productive event that could have been even more productive with the advance involvement of community leaders.
Thursday, August 2, 2007
New Chancellor Aims to Change Culture of DC Public School System
Rhee should be held to a very high standard, for at least the reason that her $275,000 salary (article) must be justified. After hearing Rhee's speech and her responses to questions, I am cautiously optimistic that finally some progress will be made. Her theme: "We need a wholesale culture shift in this District." Amen.
Rhee vowed to instill a system of accountability, beginning with the DCPS Central Office, and is convinced that the answers can be found at some location other than 825 North Capitol Street N.E. Rhee said that what she has found so far at the Central Office is "beyond disturbing." She walked around the building asking employees "What do you do," and several could not describe what duties their jobs entailed. Calls from students and parents are being "treated as a nuisance" when in fact "these are our customers." The Central Office culture has resulted in principals calling 14 times for toilets to be fixed, rather than having time to serve the students and teachers.
When 5C-02 resident Ted McGinn, who served as a panelist, asked a question about the per-pupil funding mechanism and whether Rhee would work to increase funding, her response exhibited strong fiscal responsibility instincts. She spoke of a "need to streamline the Central Office so we can push more money down" to the schools. She added that "before I ask the Council for any money, I need to make sure that every single tax dollar is well utilized." That analysis is being done by consultants. In the meantime, there is a restriction on the hiring of any Central Office employees.
Why did it take so long for the District of Columbia to take this approach? It is long overdue. As a Commissioner with many schools packed in his single member district (more than the other 11 ANC 5C districts put together), I am encouraged that Rhee appears determined to change the course of DCPS. Time will tell whether rhetoric translates into results.
Prior to the forum, Mayor Adrian Fenty, Councilman Thomas, and scores of residents gathered to acknowledge the development of the new sports field at McKinley Tech. I had the opportunity to meet the new principal, David Pinder, and later chatted with the former principal Dan Gohl, who has been a true asset to the community. Commissioners John Salatti and Alison Defoe attended, and the ever-resourceful Michael Henderson recorded the scene (click photo to enlarge).
(Rhee photo credit: Preston Keres/Washington Post; Commissioners photo credit: Michael Henderson / Edgewood Civic Association).
CityPaper Article Highlights Need for Extension of North Capitol Pedestrian Fence
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Folk and Punk Rock Compliment Art at Bobby Fisher Building in Bloomingdale-Eckington
According to John, painting this exhibit shown here, there will be an art exhibit this Wednesday from 8 p.m. to midnight, plus several bands will be performing. If last night's pre-event is any indication, stopping by Wednesday will be worthwhile.
As I walked in, Matty Pop Chart was finishing up his last two songs, which gave off Paul Simon vibes, although I am told his music is primarily classified as indie pop.
Around 10:15 p.m., the Max Levine Ensemble (website here and Wikipedia entry here) took the stage (okay, so there wasn't really a stage and in fact lead vocalist David C. asked everyone to come forward as close as they felt comfortable).
This pop punk group rocked with incredible energy, their website recordings do not reflect what occurred last night given that the band will be releasing a new album in October. The crowd was alive with movement, and it was clear that several people in the audience knew the lyrics to the band's songs. The Ensemble plans to return to the Bobby Fisher building in September.
Sunday, July 29, 2007
Some North Capitol Pedestrians Believe Convenience Outweighs Risk of Death
Yesterday, I saw a man preparing to walk between the railing and around the wrought iron fence in the median along North Capitol Street just feet away from where Gatling was killed (click on photo for larger view). I called out for him to wait, and ran up to him. "Are you aware that two weeks ago, a man was killed doing just what you are about to do?" I asked him. "Yes, I know," he replied. He then vaulted over the railing and proceeded across the street.
As is too often the case, it takes a death in order for everyone to focus on safety issues, but as this incident yesterday indicates, some people won't necessarily change their routines.
I think that installation of the iron fence was an excellent idea from the D.C. Department of Transportation, for both safety and appearance reasons. The fence must be extended two blocks further north, because then it will be too inconvenient for neighborhood daredevils to cross.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
NCMS Applying for Grant to Improve Appearance of North Capitol Business Cooridor
I urge you to act favorably on the grant application of North Capitol Main Street, Inc. (NCMS). The grant is designed to implement physical improvements to our neighborhood business district through the installation of fencing around treeboxes and the planting of trees. My ANC single member district includes
Approval of the NCMS grant application could transform our area from one that has long “had potential” to a vibrant economic community that has arrived. Please feel free to contact me at (202) 302-7343 if you have any questions concerning the views of residents in my district.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Chung Fundraiser a Success
The presence of the security guard (to protect the famous pants) added a bit of circus to the atmosphere, but, on the other hand, one can't be too careful these days.
The judge's order dismissing the plaintiff's lawsuit can be found on the superior court's website. It's a document that every member of the D.C. Council should read. The spirit of the law has been twisted to the point where one too-clever lawyer can bankrupt a business over a pair of pants. The situation demands a legislative response.
The most striking moment from last night came when Chung attorney Christopher Manning said he'd like to give the Chungs an opportunity to say a few words. After each member of the family was introduced, each person had only one thing to say as he or she slightly bowed her or her head: "Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you . . ." There were no eloquent victory speeches, but simple words of heartfelt gratitude-- such a rare display in this city of lawyers and politicians.
(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Sunday, July 22, 2007
Fundraiser to be Held this Tuesday for Ward Five Dry Cleaning Business Hit by $54 Million Pants Lawsuit
This Tuesday, July 24th, from 6:00 until 7:30 p.m., the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform and the American Tort Reform Association will host a fundraiser for the Chungs to help pay their $82,000 in legal fees. The event (you can register here) will beld at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 1615 H Street N.W. I encourage all supports of Ward Five businesses to attend this event if they can afford to do so.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
District Appeals Second Amendment Case to Supreme Court
I find this issue particularly interesting because my senior thesis in college concerned the constitutionality of gun control. At the time, it was clear that any Second Amendment case would be dead on arrival in federal court because so many courts of appeal had ruled that way (after a very short analysis). But since that time, abundant scholarship laid the groundwork for recognizing that a right to bear a firearm is an individual right separate from an organized militia. Then, in 2001, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals released a long scholarly opinion finding that an individual right exists.
Although Mayor Fenty has the impression that District residents uniformly support the ban on handguns in the home, the anecdotal information I have is that some residents do support an individual's right to a handgun. After asking for any crime issues that residents wished to raise, I asked an open-ended question concerning the gun ban to every resident at the door I reached in 3 hours (13 people). Five people supported the right, while eight support the District's ban. The supporters of gun rights were three black males, one white male, and one black woman, and supporters of the gun ban were just as diverse. However, supporters of the gun ban tended to be more passionate about their viewpoint.
Monday, July 16, 2007
Councilman Phil Mendelson to Speak at Tomorrow's ANC Meeting
Please note that ANC 5C does not meet in August. Here is the time and location of tomorrow's meeting:
7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
Edgewood Senior Building
Crawford Hall, 9th floor
635 Edgewood Terrace, NE
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
DC Economic Refugees Welcome on North Capitol Street
Joe is an economic refugee, a symptom of an overbearing and compassionless District of Columbia government. Everywhere Joe looks-- the Mayor's office, Councilman Jim Graham, Ward One advisory neighborhood commissioners, and assorted community leaders --they all pat themselves on the back for having forced Joe to "voluntarily" close his restaurant.
Councilman Graham in particular exerted extreme pressure upon Joe’s Steak & Egg Restaurant due to a June 28 fatal shooting on the premises. You can read an in-depth articles here and here. Graham called for the DCRA to revoke Joe's business license and asked the D.C. attorney general to investigate the business.
Councilman Graham and others in the community seem to believe that businesses exist at the pleasure of government and that no evidence of wrongdoing is needed to close a restaurant on account of violent crimes committed against its customers. Rather than meeting with the business owner and trying to find solutions, Graham decided to slander the business as a "crime magnet" and demand that every regulatory tool of government be used to wipe this small business off the face of the earth.
Joe hired security to cover his store over the weekends, but he couldn't afford full time security. When I asked Councilman Graham what he expected Joe to have done, he wrote that the owner should have hired fulltime security, but at the same time Graham acknowledged that it was unaffordable. Sounds like a version of "If you can't afford to take the heat, get out of the kitchen."
The North Capitol Street corridor between New York Avenue and Rhode Island Avenue welcomes business owners with an entrepreneurial spirit. While starting a new business in Eckington-Bloomingdale is not an easy task, residents will welcome responsible business owners with open arms—and will open a dialogue if concerns arise. North Capitol Main Street, Inc. provides businesses with assistance on a wide range of matters ranging from developing capital to improving the business interior and facade.
I want business owners everywhere to know that neighbors here are committed to working with businesses to make them better, rather than grinding them under a regulatory heel. Simple respect and decency require nothing less.
Sunday, July 8, 2007
Some Modest Anti-Crime Proposals
► ANC 5C Chair Anita Bonds held a special anti-crime meeting on June 5th that brought together various leaders who operate within the criminal justice system. My hat is off to her for having the vision and energy to bring all of these individuals together.
► The June 12th Eckington Civic Association meeting featured a strong police presence and discussion. I got to know Sgt. Tyshena Wallace better as she took questions and requests from residents, and she went the extra mile by writing down the names of numerous officers serving Eckington.
► I attended the June 14th Le Droit Park safety committee meeting, which was held in conjunction with numerous PSA 501 personnel and dozens of residents.
► Finally, Officer Black attended my single-member district meeting on June 18th. Only a handful of residents showed up, but they had many requests for Officer Black to write down.
The Le Droit Park meeting in particular was well-attended in part due to the latest brazen robbery on Windows Cafe (located at 1st and Rhode Island Avenue N.W.) and the serial muggings of Le Droit residents within the past month. The police interaction at these meetings has been exceptional, as has their protection of Windows, which is a symbol of progress in this neighborhood. The repeated robberies of Windows owner Hunegnaw Abeje and his wife are severe blows to the neighborhood's morale and economic vitality.
Nevertheless, I didn't get a clear sense at any of these meetings about effective ways for residents and business owners to fight back. I suggest that we consider the following three ideas that do not require any change in District law, but may provide an effective deterrent in many circumstances:
1. Pepper Spray-- Residents have the right to carry pepper spray provided that it is properly registered. If a mugger does not have a gun (and many do not), this method is extremely effective. The attacker could be incapacitated for a sufficient amount of time for the police to respond to a 911 call. Pepper spray would have been effective in the Le Droit Park muggings, where the assailants reportedly did not possess weapons.
2. Community-sponsored Self-Defense Classes-- I am looking for a sponsor to offer reduced-cost or free self-defense classes to residents. I took classes myself soon after moving into the neighborhood, and successfully employed verbal defense technique on one occasion. Classes can range from verbal self defense to defense against knives and guns (when you don't have a weapon).
3. Shotgun Possession by Business Owners -- District law generally prohibits the possession of all handguns and any functional shotguns and rifles. However, the nonfunctionality requirement does not apply to firearms kept at one's place of business. Yet many business owners are not exercising their rights to operate a shotgun or rifle. Criminals often believe, correctly, that they can rob a business with impunity because there will be no armed resistance.
This is a matter best left to the discretion and comfort level of the business owner, but general knowledge that a particular business owner has firepower behind the counter gives the criminal a strong incentive to avoid robbing that business. Whether customers will feel uncomfortable with the knowledge that a gun is on the premises is again a business call.
If a store owner does believe a shotgun fits with his/her business plan, the firearm must be registered with the police department. I strongly encourage such individuals to be fully acquainted with gun safety principles and to discuss use-of-force guidelines with D.C. police.
These proposals are only a beginning (I often hear concerns about loitering... more on that later). But more than proposals, we need people actively doing positive, proactive things in the community. Earlier today, I received an e-mail from Ted McGinn, who writes:
I will be speaking to a group of 50 gang members from all over the city this week at Emery on race and class issues within their communities that have resulted in them committing crimes. I will be talking to them about how they can learn more about the past heritage of their family through a DNA mapping project at Howard University that has a database of DNA from all over Africa and can test them to find out where they came from. Part of the problem is a lack of grounding of our young men, a sense of pride in their roots as a foundation to build on. . . . This group is part of the City funded summer jobs program.Self-defense techniques are tools of protection, but they only treat the symptoms. The activities by devoted people like Ted are needed for crime prevention and cure.
Wednesday, July 4, 2007
District of Columbia Cracking Down on Illegal Fireworks
Once again, the neighborhood listservs are lit up with the annual discussions of the pros and cons of firework activity this time of year. Some residents are upset with the noise disturbances while others call the neighborhood fireworks "the best in the city, far better than the display on the mall." I am fairly tolerant of fireworks given all of the other matters competing for attention, but I did feel compelled to call 911 yesterday when two cannon-like explosions erupted with a force loud enough to set off car alarms.
Today's Washington Post reports that a task force has successfully shut down an illegal fireworks distributor, netting 55 boxes of fireworks worth more than $50,000. Ten people were arrested.
What fireworks are legal? According to Fire Chief Dennis L. Rubin, sparklers less than 20 inches long, fountains and cones are okay. But "anything that explodes, cracks, moves, shoots projectiles or sprays sparks higher than one foot is illegal." That summary sounds like 95% of fireworks that will be set off tonight. Rubin suggested that the District might want to ban all fireworks.
For whatever reason, the laws simply have not been an effective deterrent on July 4th. I recall driving up North Capitol Street two years ago and seeing illegal firework activity on every block. Providing security on the Mall, directing traffic, and maintaining order likely compete for police resources.
Two days ago, I was walking on S Street N.W. when I was approached by a girl, approximately 14 years old. "Do you believe in fireworks" she asked. "I believe they exist," I replied. "Do you want to buy some?" she asked, referring to types banned in D.C. We should figure out how to guide that entrepreneurial spirit in our young people towards positive ends.
For what it is worth, the following is information from the article stating how residents can report firework activity:
The task force will continue working in the District today and will have 30 police recruits patrolling neighborhoods. The group encourages people to report illegal fireworks activity by calling the fire department's tip line at 202-321-2653. Callers are guaranteed anonymity.
DCRA Pledges to Inspect and Catalog All Vacant Buildings by Ocober 31
Vacant properties are never good for a neighborhood. Often, they are not properly maintained, are a visual blight, and provide a venue for drugs and other illicit activity. In order to deter property vacancies, D.C. law requires that such property owners register their properties, which are subject to a far higher tax rate.
However, as D.C. residents have discovered in recent weeks, the District has not effectively enforced the registration of properties and the higher tax rate. Some properties even receive the homestead deduction, which is available only to owners who live on site.
An article in today's Washington Times reports that one advisory neighborhood commissioner in Ward 6 discovered that only 15 percent of vacant houses in his neighborhood are paying the higher tax rate.
According to the article, Linda K. Argo, the acting director of the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA), has pledged that DCRA officials "will inspect all vacant buildings in the District by Oct. 31 to create a comprehensive and transparent database." I welcome any residents in our neighborhood who wish to join me in gathering a list of vacant properties to assist the DCRA with its cataloging efforts.
Tuesday, July 3, 2007
Bloomingdale Civic Association Leadership Summit Missing Leaders
For reference, here is the announcement again: You are cordially invited to join your neighbors and others at a Community and Leadership Summit on June 30th at the Harry Thomas, Sr. Recreation Center. The purpose of this session will be to find out how to strengthen and maintain a sense of community in transitioning neighborhoods. We will be advised by experts in the field and then break into small group sessions where individuals will have an opportunity to put forth their vision of the future of our neighborhood.
First of all, hats off to the leaders of BCA for putting together this novel and interesting program. However, the program needs to be tweaked in order to be a complete success.
I looked around and did not recognize anyone other than Commissioner John Salatti, Edgewood Civic Assocation's Rashidi Christian, and three of BCA's leaders (Commissioner Defoe did drop by later). I assume that Commissioner Davenport was working hard at Big Bear Cafe. I did not see anyone from Eckington Civic Association, Hanover/Truxton Circle, or North Capitol Main Street Inc. Love 'em or not, the leaders of those organizations are critical to any discussion about how to improve our neighborhood. Based on the Evite, some of these leaders were in fact invited, but some were not.
Participants at this forum likewise brought up race relations. Overall, most residents relate with each other reasonably well, although there is always room for more open minds and hearts. However, Commissioner Salatti and I were the only white people in the room, so any discussion of race would be truncated.
I recommend that Bloomingdale Civic Association reach out to Eckington Civic Association and Hanover Civic Association about a co-sponsorship of all future events. Dual billing will stimulate interest and bridge the gaps in our neighborhood.
A quick recap-- Mary Morris Hyde, PhD, noted some factors that indicate a sense of community of community building:
- Do people believe that they can leave a flower pot out on the front porch without it be stolen?
- What is the quality of street level interactions between residents?
- When a neighbor witnesses a code violation, does he/she call 311 or bring up the issue with the neighbor first?
- The identifiable leadership aspect: what percentage of people agree on who the leaders in the neighborhood are?
- The number of social events and activities that focus mainly on socializing, and the percentage of residents participating in those events.
- Institutional breadth and compentency in the neighborhood
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Will Warehouse Be Next Door?
The curtain over the Warehouse Arts Complex that we've watched being pulled down by enormous tax hikes and aggressive developers around the new Convention Center is, sadly, finally scheduled to fall, at least in part. City Desk reports today that the Warehouse Next Door, site of off-the-wall, sometimes experimental music events, as well as the Bar & Cafe will close for good on July 30.This is unfortunate news, but there may be a silver lining for our neighborhood. I'm pleased to report that I met with Warehouse owner Paul Ruppert this past Saturday, in conjunction with key residents, another commissioner, and representatives from North Capitol Main Street, Inc. The purpose of the meeting was to brief him on the available building stock in Bloomingdale and Eckington, and obtain a sense of his business needs.
Paul and his partner (his mother) are a very creative duo. I'll hold off on specifics, but one interesting thing that Paul said is that he would fit the business or project to the space. Some projects would be for-profit, while others would seek the lease of a building for a nominal amount for non-profit art exhibits. Paul envisions opening up opportunities throughout the city, and we hope he will find at least one place to land in Eckington or Bloomingdale.
Monday, June 25, 2007
Reflections on the June ANC 5C Meeting
► Someone informed ANC 5C that now-former Commissioner Aaron Knights (5C-02) has resigned, this time for good. His district is located directly east of mine. Aaron is an attorney, and I can relate to the time pressures faced by those in our profession. You might see me disappear from time to time as well, but I don't quite have the time demands faced by attorneys in private practice.
►Dunbar High School hosted the meeting, and I requested that Principal Harriet Kargbo be placed on the agenda.
Through five minutes of questions and thoughtful responses from Principal Kargbo, the following information was revealed:
1. Residents have been asking about recreational opportunities at Dunbar, such as why the track is not open to the public. Kargbo: the swimming pool is open to the community, in fact it is run by the Park department. Hours of operation are from 4 - 8 p.m. Monday through Friday. The school broke new ground on a playing field set to be completed in August. The track has been condemned and the school hopes to fix it. However, even when the track is fixed, there is a desire to keep the gates locked due to concern about homeless people on the property.
2. The rumor that Dunbar will build a new building has no basis, at least as far as Principal Kargbo is aware.
► This meeting, like many other ANC meetings (one might say like all community meetings) went too long. There was no matter on the agenda that required our vote (except for the proposed budget, which we tabled for good reason), but the meeting still lasted for two hours and forty-five minutes. Ted McGinn and maybe one other individual from the community was actually present at our adjournment.
Our meetings have operated as a sounding board for the community, and there is a role for that at the monthly meeting. But ANC meetings should primarily be an opportunity to transact business. I love free speech, but I think there are more efficient methods. I propose the following rule: the meeting shall end at 9 p.m.
► Commissioner Phillips proposed that the Commission send a letter expressing disfavor of Pepco's proposed rate increases. I abstained, on the basis that (a) my constituents had not expressed an opinion either way, indicating that this was not a critical issue for them, and (b) we had not given a Pepco representative the opportunity to present Pepco's side. I believe that ANC 5C should strive to be a deliberative body and seek out all sides of an issue. If we do that, our opinions will be treated with greater respect.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Big Bear and the Bloomingdale Farmers Market
I also added to the flyer this graphic announcing the Bloomingdale Farmers' Market, which begins this Sunday (I cribbed the graphic file from Sean Hennessey's blog).
I'm hoping that the flyers will help spread the word about these two great additions to the neighborhood beyond the Internet-connected-class of folks. Change is in the air.
Community Meetings Next Week
Here's the forecast for next week:
Commissioner Kris Hammond will be available for community concerns on Monday, June 18 at
Advisory Neighborhood Commission 5C Monthly Meeting
at a NEW LOCATION this month only:
Dr. Harriet Kargbo, Principal of
Office of Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas, Jr.
D.C. Metropolitan Police Department
For full agenda: www.anc5c.org
D.C. Metro Police Dept., PSA 501 N.E.
Contact: Michael Henderson 202-529-0571
North Capitol Main Street, Inc. is hosting a community business forum on June 21 at at
Friday, June 1, 2007
Nationally-recognized Author to Speak at June 21 North Capitol Street Business Forum
The tentative theme for the meeting is "Be Vocal, Buy Local." NCMS will announce the results from its survey of both local businesses and residents. The goal is for local businesses to better understand what residents want the businesses to provide. Councilmember Harry Thomas, Jr. is scheduled to moderate the meeting.
Michael Shuman, an attorney and economist, and author of the book The Small-Mart Revolution: How Local Businesses Are Beating the Global Competition will be the featured speaker. He has written for the New York Times, Washington Post, Nation, Weekly Standard, Foreign Policy, and Parade. Shuman has also appeared on numerous television and radio shows, including the Lehrer News Hour and NPR's "Talk of the Nation."
Official description of his most recent book is as follows:
Defenders of globalization, free markets, and free trade insist there's no alternative to mega-stores like Wal-Mart -- Michael Shuman begs to differ. In "The Small-Mart Revolution, Shuman makes a compelling case for his alternative business model, one in which communities reap the benefits of "going local" in four key spending categories: goods, services, energy, and finance. He argues that despite the endless media coverage of multinational conglomerates, local businesses give more to charity, adapt more easily to rising labor and environmental standards, and produce more wealth for a community. They also spend more locally, thereby increasing community income and creating wealth and jobs. "The Small-Mart Revolution presents a visionary yet practical roadmap for everyone concerned with mitigating the worst of globalization.This has all the makings of an unforgettable event, and I hope to see everyone there who cares about the economic vitality of the community.
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Shots Fired on Seaton Place NW
If there is a silver lining here, it is that I met some neighbors tonight who were also observing the scene across the street.
You may recall this account of gunfire on that very block the morning of October 7, 2006.
I suppose that this is as good a time as any to reveal that the Sursum Corda Library, where my latest single member district meeting took place, received a bullet the evening before, on May 18th. The police came by during the meeting to take the library attendant's report.