Tuesday, December 16, 2008

ANC 5C Meeting Tonight

Tonight is my final meeting as an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner. Since this is the December meeting, it will be short and end with a community social event.

The following are some highlights:

Tuesday, December 16, 2008
7:00 – 9:00 p.m.Trinity University, Main Hall
Michigan Ave at Franklin St, NE

Feature Presentation 7:20 – 8:00 pm
DC Department of Transportation: Traffic Planning Related to Various Development Projects in ANC5
CGabriela Vega and Alan Fye, Planning and Policy Office
Gloria Bosse-Kouabo, Traffic Calming Division

Monday, October 6, 2008

Community Update Meeting Concerning St. Martin's Apartments

This evening I attended the community informational meeting hosted by the St. Martin's Steering Committee and ANC Commissioner Mary Lois Farmer-Allen (5C06) at McKinley Technology High School. Construction will begin this month on the St. Martin's Apartments, which will provide 178 units of workforce and low-income housing at 116 T Street NE.

Approximately 25 people were in attendance at the beginning of the meeting. Father Michael Kelley of St. Martin's Catholic Church made some brief comments, thanked the community for its input, and asked for prayers for the safety of the construction workers. Commissioner Farmer-Allen made a few comments, then developer Neal Drobenare introduced some new people who will be involved with the construction.

Drobenare announced that there will be a 2-year construction period from ground-breaking to final completion of 178 units and 176 underground parking spaces.

The heaviest period of truck traffic will occur during the first 6-week period of the project; after that time, traffic will be greatly reduced. Construction will begin every day (5 days per week) at 7 a.m. The truck traffic will be split between those trucks driving north from the construction site towards Rhode Island Avenue and those trucks that will travel south along 2nd Street N.E., then down Eckington Place N.E. R Street residents have expressed numerous concerns about heavy traffic in the past, and with a question I confirmed that no trucks will be traveling down the 100 or unit blocks of R Street N.E.

For two months, one block of Todd Place will be designated a no-parking zone. With this notification, one resident posed some pointed questions about parking. This was surprising because I recognized this resident as being one of the strongest supporters of the project among those who lived close to the site prior to regulatory approval.

Another individual charged that it appeared as though the construction workers were being favored over the residents. A complicating factor over which St. Martin's had no control was the absence of a representative from the D.C. Department of Transportation who was supposed to be present. Drobenare pointed out that although some parking would be temporarily lost, other zones that are currently designated as "no parking" would be freed for use.

At one point, Drobenare said that the plan had been put together with the advice of all the area civic associations. At that moment, a woman stood up and walked briskly from the room, apparently angry. Other residents indicated either during the meeting or afterwards that Drobenare's manner was offensive. Personally, I don't think that Drobenare said anything out of line, but given that I am lawyer (as he is), perhaps I didn't sense what some residents did.

Because the DDOT representive was not available, many uncertainties remain. One thing for sure, however, is that Hyde School will need to find a replacement for the 40 off-street parking spots it will lose during construction.

Drobenare stressed that residents with concerns during construction should come to St. Martin's first before posting a comment on a listserv or the Advisory Neighborhood Commission. The main contact will be Michael Blaylock (superintendent@st-martins-apts.com) and the construction manager will be Jim Brown (301-423-6000). The relevant contact information will also be posted on-site.

One resident asked whether the project was sufficiently capitalized to endure the current economic chaos in the credit markets. Drobenare assured the audience that there would be no problems with funding the project.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Votes Cast at Last Night's ANC Meeting

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.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Big Bear Celebrates Its First Year Anniversary

There was beer, there was roast pig, and eventually there was wild dancing.

It all took place tonight at our very own Big Bear Cafe, celebrating its one-year anniversary of existence in Bloomingdale.

After achieving a zoning change in the near future, the next stop for Stu and Lana: a liquor license.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Agenda for this Tuesday's Advisory Neighborhood Commission 5C Monthly Meeting

Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Catholic University Pryzbyla Center
off McCormick Road, NE (behind the Columbus School of Law)
7:05 – 9:00 p.m.

Part I: Community Concerns and Reports ------ 7:05 p.m.

1) Call to Order …………………………………………….… Commissioner Bonds
2) Roll Call …………………………………………………... Commissioner Daneker
3) Approval of the July 2008 Meeting Minutes ….………… Commissioner Salatti
4) Acknowledgement of Community and Guests ………….. Commissioners Day and Holloway
5) Treasurer’s Report ………………………….….……….… Commissioner DeFoe
6) PSA and MPD5CAC Update …………………..…………… Robert Brannum, 5D-CAC President
7) Community Comments .………….…………. Moderated by Commissioners Grant and Daneker
8) Remarks from the Office of Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas, Jr.
9) Comments by Alice Thompson, Mayor’s Office of Community Relations and Services

Part II: Outstanding Business ------- 7:30 p.m.
Commission Vote on PUD Request for St. Paul’s Housing Development (5C09)

Progress Reports on Outstanding Grants ……………………… Commissioner Day
Project Reports, Vote on WiFi Network Proposal (5c03) and New Proposals for Consideration

Part III: New Business ------- 8:00 p.m.
Emergency Vote Request: KIPP Public Charter School Proposed for Cook School Site (5C02)

Emergency Vote Request: PUD Extension for 4th and Rhode Island NE Project (5C08)

ANC 5C Single-Member District Projects and Meeting Announcements --
Metropolitan Bike Trail Construction (5C03)
Youth Mentoring (5C05 and 5C09)
Operation Crackdown (5C05)
Traffic Studies (5C04 and 5C11)
Residential Property Emergency Identification Project (5C01)

Resolutions: Commemorative, Administrative, Programs and Issues

Part V: Committee of the Whole Executive Session -------- 8:50 p.m.

1) Pay Bills ………………………………………………………….. Commissioners Day and DeFoe
2) Items for October 2008 Meeting Agenda ……………………………………………
Abdo Project CUA South Campus Project (5C10)
Update on Construction of City Charter School at former Armstrong Trades School (5C02)
Update on McMillian Project Planning (5C07)

Meeting Adjourns ……….. 9:00 p.m.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Announcement Concerning Another Term

Dear Neighbors,

I write to inform you that I will not be seeking re-election this November to the position of Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner.

The decision to announce a run for office comes with the implicit promise to the voters that the candidate will strive to complete the full term to which he or she is elected. I could not in good faith make this promise because I am looking to transition to a new job within the year, either as a prosecutor or a counsel at a private firm. The new job, possibly requiring geographical relocation, would likely require a level of time and attention that would be incompatible with ANC duties.

Fortunately, there is a person who I am confident will keep the momentum going in the right direction by serving as your next ANC. That person is Ted McGinn. He understands that our area needs economic development that reflects our neighborhood’s character. He interacts well with people of all backgrounds and incomes. He is a clear communicator who is also incredibly well-informed. Ted’s track record of service to this community is impeccable. I have asked Ted to run for the office of Commissioner, and he has agreed to take on this latest challenge.

It has been an honor to serve as a Commissioner in the District of Columbia.


Kris Hammond
Commissioner, 5c-02

Monday, August 4, 2008

Walk-through with DC Police Department this Thursday

If you aren't on a neighborhood listserv and/or didn't receive one of the 500 flyers dropped this past weekend... I am holding a community walk-through with the D.C. police department this Thursday August 7 at 7 p.m. We'll meet at the corner of P Street N.W. and North Capitol Street N.W.

The purpose will be to raise awareness, promote community spirit, fight crime, and pinpoint problem properties, trash issues, and city maintenance matters. The plan is for half of us to walk north and half to walk south with foot beat police officers and D.C. government representatives.

The walk-through I hosted on May 30th was very successful. However, only one person living south of Florida Avenue showed up, so I want to focus this time on the area south of Florida.

Special thanks to the following individuals who each dropped at least 100 flyers each: Allison Gallaway, Gretchen Franke, and Ted McGinn.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A Visit to a Gun Store

A recent Washington Post article states the current situation with respect to gun ownership in the District of Columbia:

With few exceptions, it is not yet possible for a Washingtonian to legally obtain a handgun because there are no licensed dealers in the city (although officials expect there will be eventually). Federal law bars a dealer in one state from selling a pistol to a resident of another state unless the gun is shipped to a dealer in the buyer's home jurisdiction, where the purchaser can take delivery.
Last night, in anticipation of eventually acquiring a firearm, I ventured with a friend of mine to a gun store in Virginia. The closest one we could find with a good selection was Gilbert Small Arms in Lorton, Virginia. Jack gave an hour of his time to walk us through the mechanics of guns and gun safety.

Constitutionally-speaking, the most troubling portion of the recently-amended D.C. law is the requirement that a resident maintain a gun lock on the gun until the moment that he or she has notice of an "imminent threat." One must hear window glass break or someone coming up the hallway steps before one is permitted to fumble in the dark looking for the gun lock key and bullets to load the gun. Loading bullets in the dark is not easy. The new law does not respect self-defense rights. A recommendation that individuals voluntarily lock their firearms would make more sense.

We discussed with Jack what to do about a household with children in the home. During that discussion, it occurred to me that a revolver (permitted by D.C. Council) does not have a safety latch, one need only load the gun and pull the trigger. Using the semi-automatic (banned by D.C. Council) requires one to pull a "slide" back, not an easy thing for a youngster to do. In addition, semi-automatics have a safety latch.

And... could a gun go off accidentally? Jack explained in great detail why a gun can be thrown across the room, land on the floor, and never go off. It's all about the position of the firing pin.

Can a revolver (permitted by the D.C. Council) shoot bullets just as fast as a semi-automatic pistol (banned by the D.C. Council)? Answer: yes. The only difference is that a semi-automatic operates on a magazine and holds more bullets.

Personally, I prefer a revolver, at least at the outset, because it is easier to operate and requires less maintenance. But, at Gilbert at least, sales of semi-automatics outnumber sales of revolvers at least three-to-one. Clearly many people are comfortable with semi-automatics and prefer to use them.

Finally, there are some federal regulations with which to contend. Buying a firearm out of state requires the out-of-state seller to ship the gun to an in-state dealer overnight, at a cost of $45. Call it a tax or whatever, it certainly raises the price of a gun. While that may be fine with the City Council, are not the poor entitled to exercise their constitutional rights as well?

Attempting to retain as much as the old law as possible is a waste of public money when done in a half-hazard unconstitutional manner that will attract litigation. The Council should carefully consider what laws and regulations will truly respect the citizens and their rights to self defense, while at the same time keeping guns out of the hands of people who should never possess them.

North Capitol Main Street Seeks DC Main Street Status

July 21, 2008

Phyllis R. Love, Assistant Director
Office of Commercial Revitalization
Department of Small and Local Business Development
441-4th Street, NW, Suite 970N
Washington , DC 20001

Dear Ms. Love:

I urge you to act favorably on the application of
North Capitol Main Street, Inc. (NCMS) to be designated as an official DC Main Street in accordance with the DC Main Streets Program. My ANC single member district includes North Capitol Street between New York Avenue and T Street.

I have met with several current and prospective business owners over the past two years. The potential of the area is evident, but, due to years of neglect, North Capitol Street continues to reside in an economic purgatory. However, residents are ready to “buy local” and support small businesses. What is needed is a focused, organizing force to offset the current economic turbulence.

Having had numerous interactions and discussions with NCMS in the past, I am well-positioned to inform you that its leaders are intelligent, forward-thinking, and very capable of advancing the objectives of the DC Main Streets Program. Please feel free to contact me at (202) 302-7343 if you have any questions concerning the views of residents in my district.


Kris Hammond

Monday, July 21, 2008

Eckington Civic Association Summer Clean-up

This past Saturday morning, I again joined fellow neighbors in the Eckington community with the bi-annual Eckington Civic Association trash clean-up (my entry on the previous clean-up can be viewed here).
The event kicked off at 9 a.m. with Krispy Kreme donuts and coffee. The organizer Charlene McCullers told everyone to just put in an hour and then call it a day due to the heat.

I teamed up with R Street resident Justin Darrow to cover North Capitol Street N.E. and parts of Lincoln Road, T Street, and Seaton Place.

Due to North Capitol Main Street's efforts, there are new iron treeboxes on North Capitol Street... but the tree boxes were full of trash and weeds. The tree box pictured here is an example of one we cleaned out. I think that keeping the tree boxes well-maintained will set the tone for the rest of the street. North Capitol Street is particularly hard to keep clean due to all of the transient traffic that passes through every day.

Although some people a ban on single sales of alcohol would decrease trash, I think that benefit has been overstated. During the brief clean up, I picked up one beer can, one vodka bottle, and one brandy bottle. But, as in the past, the little plastic "barrels" that hold children's sugar water took first place, I picked up four of those and countless single-serving potato chip bags.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Community Celebrates New York Avenue Basketball Court

Playing catch-up today with the neighborhood news....

Two weeks ago today, I joined community leaders, Ward Five Councilman Harry "Tommy" Thomas, Jr. and Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy L. Lanier for New York Avenue Basketball Court Ribbon Cutting and the Metro Basketball League's season opener. All who spoke recognized the contribution of Pulte Homes, who funded the construction of the basketball court. Terrence Judge, President of the Metropolitan Basketball League and Joyce Robinson Paul of Hanover Area Civic Association also spoke.

During my two minutes at the mike, I elaborated on the virtues that the game of basketball: it teaches teamwork, it reinforces the benefits of hard work (winning) while at the same time imposing penalties for violating the rules-- which is to say, it teaches some of life's lessons. As you can see from the photo taken by Bloomingdale resident Sara Kaufman, those present listened intently... well, at least Chief Lanier (far right) appeared to do so.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Ban on Single Sales of Alcohol Proposed

A proposed ban on single sales of alcoholic beverages is the latest legislative buzz eminating from the City Council. Are such bans truly effective when combating the underlying problems of littering and public drinking, or should we work harder to enforce existing laws? It sounds like an easy solution, but does it discriminate against the poor?

I've been knocking on doors and asking. Feel free to share your opinions here (if you want your opinions to influence me as a Commissioner, please sign your post with your street block). Does anyone know where banning single sales has worked in some other jurisdiction? A Google search yielded few hits beyond the D.C. proposal.

Please see this message on from Robert V. Brannum:

Ward 5 Roundtable Discussion Announcement

On Tuesday, 27 May 2008, at 7 p.m., DC City Councilman Harry Thomas, Jr. will be holding a roundtable discussion on the sale of single containers of alcoholic beverages in Ward 5. Legislation has been introduced for Wards 4, 7, and 8 to prohibit the sale of an individual container of the package if the capacity of the individual container is 70 ounces or less, as well as prohibit the division of manufacturer’s package of more than one container of beer, malt, liquor, or ale. The meeting will be held at the Isle of Patmos Baptist Church, 12th Street and Rhode Island Avenue, NE. The contact number and e-mail address for Councilman Thomas is 724-8028 and http://us.f634.mail.yahoo.com/ym/Compose?To=hthomas@dccouncil.us.


Robert Vinson Brannum
Chairman, 5th District Citizens' Advisory Council, Inc.
202-328-7611 fax

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Art at the Bear Marks Another NCMS Success

Last Saturday's North Capitol Main Street's (NCMS) 5th Annual Fundraiser dubbed "Art at the Bear," held at Big Bear Cafe was a "rousing success."

A quick note concerning people who were acknowledged at the event . . .

NCMS Business of the Year is Big Bear Café, accepted by Lana Labermeir, proprietor.

NCMS Volunteer of the Year is Sara Kaufman.

Vicky Leonard-Chambers received a Special Appreciation Award for past service to the organization.

By the way, that's Pat Mitchell, NCMS President, bestowing those awards.

Agenda for May 20 ANC 5C Meeting

Advisory Neighborhood Commission 5C
Tuesday, May 20, 2008

All Nations Baptist Church
North Capitol St. and Rhode Island Ave., NE
7:00 – 9:00 p.m.

Part I: Community Concerns and Progress Reports ------ 7:05 p.m.

1) Call to Order ………………… Commissioner Bonds
2) Roll Call …………………………Commissioner Salatti
3) Approval of the April 2008 Meeting Minutes

4) Acknowledgement of Community Leaders and Guests

5) Treasurer’s Report ……………………Commissioner DeFoe
6) MPD Update …………………………… PSA 501 Officers
7) Community Concerns ……………………………………… Moderated by Commissioner Wright
8) Remarks from the Office of Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas, Jr.
9) Comments by Alice Thompson, Mayor’s Office of Community Relations and Services

Part II: Outstanding Business ------- 7:35 p.m.

Update on Grant Applications ……………………………… Commissioner Day
For action: Metropolitan League Grant Application (Summary Presentation)
Progress Report/Updates: Harriet Tubman Memorial, Bloomingdale Community Mediation,
Kick-boxing Tournament
Update on Celebration Honoring Area Youth Athletics …… Commissioners Grant and Salatti

Part III: New Business ------- 8:00 p.m.

· Update on Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA) Activities,
Alice Harper, 5D Community Relations Specialist
· Update on Catholic University Campus Plan ……… Craig Parker, University Counsel
· Progress Report on Community Issues …………….
…Single Member District Meeting Highlights ……… Commissioner Holloway (5C12)
· Proposed Zoning Changes for 1700 First St, NW …. Commissioner Davenport
· Update on Soldier’s Home Development …………… Commissioner DeFoe
Note: Questions and Comments by Commissioners followed by Community Comments

Part IV: Committee of the Whole Executive Session -------- 8:45 p.m.
1) Pay Bills ………………………………………………………….. Commissioners Day and DeFoe
2) Items for June 2008 Meeting Agenda
Meeting Adjourned .……………………………………….. 8:55 p.m.

Monday, May 5, 2008

City Year Corps Serves Emery Elementary School

On Saturday, Ted McGinn once again led the City Year Corps and parent volunteers (86 strong) to rejuvenate Emery Elementary School (1720 First Street NE). Some volunteers (not this one!) started work at 8:30 a.m. I assisted with installing a green watering system in one of the garden beds.

The work done for the community by City Year is greatly appreciated, so I'm taking a moment to highlight an e-mail Ted recently sent me and several other community leaders. He is promoting the idea of making JF Cook Elementary School (now slated to close) available for the use of City Year. The e-mail follows, it is definitely worth careful consideration.

Hi Everyone,

City Year needs to move out of their current location by Nov 08. As some of you may know City Year's first headquarters was in Ward 5 at Q and Eckington Place Ne. At that time they had only 32 Crops members and no Young Heroes program. Since 2000 City Year has grown and was forced to seek a larger space to handle that growth outside of our Ward. So what has City Year done for DC.Since 2000, City Year Washington, DC corps members have:
- Made a difference in the lives of 42,569 children
- Served more than 550,000 hours in the Washington, DC community
- Led 6,689 volunteers in service

Click here to learn more about the history of City Year.Since 2000 City Year has held 12 service days at Emery, 4 that included community wide clean-ups and work on the Harry Thomas Rec. Center. They run the Young Heroes program for 3 years at Emery, working with 6th,7th and 8th grade students.City Year is looking for a new headquarters that has enough room to handle its growth. Next year they will have 85 Crops members and over 100 Young Heroes.

City Year's new Executive Director Jeff Franco is interested in looking at JF Cook Elementary School at 40 P street NW as a possible location. He is looking for a site near Metro bus and rail because that is how City Year moves. City Year is ready to meet with the ANC, Civic Associations, CM Thomas and DCPS to determine if this would be a good move for all the stakeholders. City Year has looked at Gage-Eckington, and because of its dependence Metro that location might not meet their needs as well as Cook. This is only the first round of contact about this possibility, feel free to contact Jeff Franco at JFranco@cityyear.org

we all work together ted mcginn

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Testimony Concerning the Metropolitan Police Department’s Safe Homes Initiative

As noted in a recent post, MPD Police Chief Cathy Lanier had proposed that police officers knock on doors and ask permission at every house in certain target areas-- Eckington being one --to search for illegal guns and drugs. There was a hearing before the City Council on Monday, and I was planning to testify.

However, news reports on April 4 indicated that the police program has been dramatically scaled back, to a "request only" system, no doubt due to the dramatic opposition from residents everywhere. So I submitted my hearing testimony by e-mail and attended the Bates Area Civic Association meeting instead. The topic of crime dominated that meeting, but no one called for police searches of residences... they called for (nearly yelled for, actually) "police presence."

My submitted testimony follows.

Council of the District of Columbia
Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary

Testimony Concerning the Metroplitan Police Department’s Safe Homes Initiative

by Kris Hammond
Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner, 5C-02
ANC 5C Liaison to MPD

Monday, April 7, 2008, at 5:00 p.m.
5th Floor Council Chambers, John A. Wilson Building
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20004

Chairman Mendelson and members of the Committee, my name is Kris Hammond. I am an advisory neighborhood commissioner in the District. Half of my single member district lies within the Eckington neighborhood, which is one of the areas targeted by the program that is the subject of this hearing. I also serve as the ANC 5C liaison to the Metropolitan Police Department. Please note that my views do not necessarily reflect the views of either my employer or all of the residents who reside within my district.

Thank you for holding this public oversight roundtable on the Metropolitan Police Department’s (“MPD”) Safe Homes Initiative. I first found out about this initiative in the newspaper The Examiner, but I should have been informed directly by the police department about a proposed program targeting my neighborhood. Even if I had not frequently attended Public Service Area (PSA) meetings over the past year, as I have, my opinion and my neighbors’ should have been solicited before a major new initiative such as this was announced.

As originally proposed, the program involved police officers knocking on doors and asking permission at every house to search for illegal guns and drugs. And if drugs or illegal guns are found, they will be seized but the household members will not be prosecuted—unless the items seized lead to the development of more serious crimes. The latest version of the program, in which residents call the police and request the searches, will likely be ineffectual, but it is considerably less harmful.

Residents are overwhelming against the program as initially proposed no matter where they stand within the political spectrum. Even though the original program will not be implemented, it has already been destructive to relations between police and citizens. Knocking on doors and talking with people is exactly what the police should be doing. But given the news reports of this program, many citizens will now be on guard. They will not trust the police to be acting in their best interest. A lack of trust between citizens and police severely hampers the ability of the police to fight crime. Information provided by residents to police is key to solving crimes, but people generally only divulge information to people they trust.

The Safe Homes Initiative as originally proposed would have been a waste of scarce police resources. Citizens do not want officers knocking on doors and asking for meaningless consent searches. Citizens want officers on the street walking the beat. They want officers to engage with pedestrians. They want officers to respond promptly to calls for service. They do not want police to show up at their door and treat them as if they are felons in need of absolution.

The Safe Homes Initiative as originally proposed is bad for police morale and debases an important police technique. I suspect that rank-and-file police officers would not have enjoyed implementing the safe home initiative. Consent searches, when used sparingly, are an important police tool. There are times when the police suspect illegal activity but do not have sufficient information to obtain a warrant. If a resident waives his or her Fourth Amendment rights, the search will hold up in court. Used sparingly, consent searches can save lives. But if the request is used in a ham-fisted manner, it will condition people to just say no all the time.

I leave you with these closing thoughts: First, the Safe Homes Initiative seems a bit out of place considering that the District of Columbia may soon be forced to permit private ownership of handguns. Three weeks ago, the United States Supreme Court heard arguments concerning whether, for the past thirty years, the District of Columbia has unconstitutionally deprived its citizens of the right to bear a firearm in defense of one’s self or one’s loved ones.

Given the reasonable probability that the Court will rule against the current law, I encourage the Council to consider now what constitutionally-permitted laws and regulations it might implement to ensure that only law-abiding citizens possess firearms and that these residents receive proper safety training. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, the Council may benefit from consultation with the National Rifle Association, which has been conducting safety programs for citizens for many years.

Second, overall, the police are doing an excellent job and their performance and interaction with citizens has improved over the past year. We need to continue strategizing ways to improve attendance by the public at PSA meetings, or consider alternative methods.

Although we have closed the gap somewhat through better citizen-police interaction on the streets and listservs, much remains to be done. Improving citizen-police communication and interaction will do much more for public safety than crime cameras, consent searches of homes, or vehicle “safety check” stops.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Owner of Big Ben Pledges to Improve Community

On the day of my meeting held for constituents this past Sunday at Colonel Brooks' Tavern, controversy surrounded Big Ben liquor store, located at the corner of North Capitol Street N.W. and New York Avenue. A gentleman who bought a house in 2006 right next to the liquor store and then joined in protesting the establishment's license within months of that purchase was again castigating the business on the Truxton Circle website.

I received an e-mail from Bloomingdale resident Sara Kaufman:
A potential thought for the Big Ben [liquor store] discussion... beautification of an area helps replace some of the ugly (crime and grime). And the care of an area can help the "locals" take responsibility for that area.

I had asked North Capitol Main Street (NCMS) about ordering another of (what used to be) our signature colorful pots with more roses for in front of the store . . .

As I'm sure you've already heard me report: when NCMS put the pots at the "Bus Stop Park" at Florida and North Cap three years ago - it helped some with some of the problems there.. And its a good way to interact with the "locals." . . . My line is "I'm just a volunteer and I'm always looking for other volunteers to help me" when hey ask to help or for money. I always get someone to help and they are happy to do so, and pick up on days/weeks/months that I'm not there. Now they stop to talk to me when I see them . . .

NCMS talked some with Mr. Singh at Big Ben on a NMCS walk about last year. He was very receptive to care of something like that around his store. . . . Maybe the ANC would provide funds for pots and flowers?
The meeting was sparsely attended, but Mr. Singh was there, the second time he has attended one of my meetings. Showing up counts for a lot in my book. Well, Mr. Singh was more than willing to maintain flower pots, he volunteered to provide the funds to purchase the beautification.

He was also interested when I told him that North Capitol Main Street has a design committee that could help him with developing a more attractive interior. We discussed the possibility of adapting his business model to the changing neighborhood. He mentioned that he has made contributions to local community efforts. And we heard about some of the obstacles he faced, such as the time his store was robbed at gun point and he lost $10,000.

People often assume the worst about a business (particularly liquor stores) without engaging the business owner and giving him or her a good-faith opportunity to make a positive contribution to the community. I'm seeking to change that inclination.

(Photo credit: http://pedestriantype.blogspot.com)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

MPD Police Seek to Perform Consent Searches of Residences

News reports yesterday in the Washington Times and The Examiner state that police officers are planning to go door-to-door seeking permission to search homes for weapons and drugs in Southeast, Columbia Heights, and our neighborhood, Eckington. The Washington Post first reported this development on March 13.

I've left messages for our local police to find out what is in store for Eckington, perhaps they are not in the loop either. There are many serious concerns posed by this scheme, but two concerns obviate the issue of gun control.

First, this initative is bad for police-citizen relations. Officers should be knocking on doors, but the reason should be to introduce themselves and offer helpful anti-crime hints. Police have said on numerous occasions that it is critical that they receive information from citizens about crimes, that is how crimes are solved. Knocking on doors and asking citizens to waive their Fourth Amendment rights does not promote a positive relationship leading to the exchange of information.

Second, anyone who is not single-and-living-alone should take a moment to assess his or her personal situation. The general rule under the Fourth Amendment (consult your favorite attorney for how the law specifically applies in the District) is that anyone who has rights to the same living space you do (roommates, spouse/partner, older children, landlords, and girlfriends/boyfriends) can permit police officers to search your home. The general rule is that you would have no right to contest that search later in Court because consent is a waiver of constitutional rights.

Now is the time to sit down with your spouse, roommate or partner and talk about what should happen if the police knock on the door. It would also be a good opportunity to develop a general crisis plan (see the Be Ready D.C. program for more details) if you haven't done so already. And if the police do knock, do take a moment to thank him or her for the efforts made to fight crime in the District.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Luciana Cafe Now Open, Customers Needed

As I reported in a post on January 11, Luciana Cafe is the latest addition to our neighborhood restaurant. The restaurant opened a few days ago, so check it out.

And while you are chatting with Reinaldo and Frank (shown in the photo here), let them know you are hoping for a sit-down restaurant. If enough people indicate interest, they will move in that direction. As it is, the protective glass is not fully up and a face-to-face conversation can be had with the new owners.

Restaurant hours are seven days a week, 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.

Dunbar High School Deserves Maintenance

Caution: This entry contains graphic bathroom photos (no foot-tapping though).

Tonight I briefly spoke to the Dunbar High School Parent Teacher Student Association (Dunbar PTSA). Dunbar is located within the boundaries of my district. I told the audience that we faced walls where we didn't want them (barriers between the community and the school) even as we lacked walls where we needed them (within the school itself).

Most classrooms at Dunbar have no walls separating classes, it is a failed 1970s education experiment. I half-joked that the PTSA should act fast to obtain walls or build a new school building before some historical preservationist group sought to preserve the school as an architectual wonder. A woman spoke up and said they are ready for the preservationists.

The PTSA is currently circulating a petition, which I signed. In addition to the need for walls was a need for renovation of the bathrooms. They are not being picky about this....
I visited the restroom on the way out and found one commode out of service, no toilet paper, no soap, a disabled paper towel dispenser, and graffiti--the triple crown of bathroom disorder (okay, given that I listed five, pick your favorite three).

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Ward Five Economic Development Summit

(Photo of the Basilica at Catholic University by Dan Malouff.)

I attended the Ward Five Economic Development Summit earlier today. It was hosted by Councilman Harry Thomas, Jr. and held at Catholic University . Stop Blog and Roll has the agenda posted here.

I was particularly interested in the panel titled "Stimulating Neighborhood Economic Development." (SNED) It was a lot more important, I think, than the "Mini Workshop on Negotiating Community Benefits Packages." Both were billed at one hour each, but the SNED panel started a half an hour late.

The SNED panel spoke for a half an hour, then came time for questions from the audience. The second question was the last, or rather it became the second-to-last after a small protest from the third questioner. Moderator Deborah Crain demonstrated an uncanny ability to get the schedule on track: just end the session. We should hire her for ANC meetings (we are always running over).

I was interested to hear from panelist Ana Harvey, Greater Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, that her organization has been working with Verizon to provide DSL services to small businesses. Noting that the lease is often a business owner's most onerous cost of doing business, Harvey said that the Hispanic Chamber has also been helping businesses renegotiate their leases.

If I had had an opportunity to ask a question of the SNED panel, it would have related to the severe economic downturn that appears to be coming our way (or is here already). As I discussed with a member of the community this past week, one home sale in Bloomingdale had been listed for $524,000, but it sold for only $399,000. As noted in a news article this week, "The [Federal Reserve] stoked anxieties over US prospects with a prediction that America is set to be blighted this year by a combination of anaemic growth, higher inflation and rising unemployment." So what's the economic plan for Ward Five to combat this challenge?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Another Street Sign Death

Some street signs fade away. Others experience tragic deaths. Our community deserves prompt repair and replacement of damaged, deterioriating, or "totalled" signs.

Well, the D.C. Department of Transportation has sometimes fallen short. Signs have laid on the ground for six months at a time before being picked up.

So here is another opportunity. The sign in the photo above can be found at the corner of 1st Street N.E. and Quince Place [update: it disappeared the morning after this post]. This is another opportunity to see how well the automated on-line service center (dc.gov) works this time.

When I submitted the request, the system told me: "We were unable to verify the location Quincy Place NE AND 1st Street NE, WASHINGTON, DC." The service request number is 1712458.

Are there DDOT sign success stories? Sort of.

This stop sign, which appears to be a temporary sign that replaced a sign that was destroyed, ended up on the ground about a week after police had tied yellow "Do Not Cross" tape to it in support of a local event. The police never took the yellow tape away, and the sign fell down not long afterwards.

I filled out a request online and the followed up with DDOT's Sharelene Reed. She soon informed me that the request had been fulfilled, and that the case number was now closed.

So what was the catch? Whoever fixed the sign didn't bother to remove the police tape. A neighbor burst out laughing when he saw the sight. Ever get the feeling that someone doesn't care to make the neighborhood better, they just want to get the job done and go? Maybe it's more than just a feeling.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

DC Votes for Presidential Nominees

Yesterday morning, Barack Obama supporters waved signs at the intersection of New York Avenue and Florida Avenue. Given the enthusiasm of passing cars, perhaps Obama taking 75% of the vote today was not completely surprising. John McCain secured a solid victory on the other side of the aisle. Congratulations to both gentlemen.

Monday, February 4, 2008

More on the Mandatory Paid Leave Bill and the Government-financed Nationals Stadium

My recent post on the The Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act of 2007 took a spin on the Eckington Yahoo! listserv. Former ANC Commissioner Kathy Henderson (who lives about a mile east of North Capitol Street) responds:

Private employees should have paid annual and sick leave. Arguments against such modest benefits are unfair to our citizens and belong in the same category as arguments against raising the minimum wage. There is no such thing as employees that do not get sick; said employees may not take time off because they cannot afford to miss any time from work. I am with Stacie; I would rather see sick employees stay home and convalesce rather that coming to work and possibly infecting others because they cannot miss a paycheck.
Are you familiar with the legend of the boiling frog? In the 1800s, a science experiment found that if a frog was placed in cold water, and the water temperature was increased in very small increments, that the frog would boil to death before jumping out. The legend reminds us that we ought to beware of incremental changes that creep up on us slowly.

Small and moderate-sized businesses are the frog here. They aren't going to stage a big walk-out to protest mandatory paid leave. The cost in time and lost business to mount an opposition effort isn't in the cards. And after all, they will look heartless, and that's bad for business. And so this new regulation will be passed, and it will be added to the large mountain already present. Small businesses will soldier on.... until they finally decide it's time to leave town.

The District is burnishing its reputation as a jurisdiction hostile to business prosperity. Government by nature is always on the prowl to do something, to solve problems even when they aren't the pressing ones. That's how many politicians get elected: spend more money on this, impose another regulation on that.

As a result, our freedom is incrementally diminished in exchange for promises to solve all the latest issues. It's easy to impose mandates on businesses-- sure, let them figure out how to make the latest government edict work with the financial balance sheets (which lead to yet another consideration: what about time consumed by maintaining paperwork to comply with the law)?

Finally, the timing of this "compassion" is poor: most believe that we are in a recession or about to head into one. This is not the time to create hurdles to job creation. The bottom line: Shouldn't we concentrate on attracting businesses to North Capitol Street? There aren't many area businesses available to impose this regulation on in the first place.

In response to another posting, I cited the publicly-financed Nationals baseball stadium as an example of corporate welfare. Henderson again:

Regarding the baseball stadium, only businesses earning five million dollars or more in annual revenue were assessed the special tax to pay for the stadium. Most of these businesses are K Street law firms, which the majority of DC citizens do not patronize. Yes, DC is paying for the infrastructure improvements, which come from Federal Highway Administration funds and very few if any local dollars. Contrary to what some believe, citizens are not paying for the baseball stadium. Corporate welfare does not seem like a fitting term for the stadium funding since many business eagerly purchased their sky boxes in the first stages of the project. Don't forget the annual revenue the city will receive from the stadium lease agreement.

Finally, some will continue to debate the merits of the stadium project up to and beyond opening day next month and the argument that it cost too much has merit. However, this major development project clearly revitalizes what was a blighted industrial eyesore of an area. The projected tax revenue from the new development, including housing, retail and other leased space will offset project costs over time. We should be focusing our ire on the Office of Tax and Revenue former employees that stole money we will never see again.
I am not an expert on the stadium financing, but I have been reading about studies showing that the purported public benefit gained from stadium-financing deals like this rarely materializes.

I couldn't find any information indicating that Federal Highway Administration funds are being used to finance the stadium-- that would be a porkbarrel project. I imagine that any such funds are being used to support changes to area roads to facilitate traffic in the area of the stadium. Does anyone out there know?

So Kathy has clarified that taxpayer income tax money is not being used for the stadium, but corporate tax money is (and the corporations will pass the costs on some way, the money doesn't come out of thin air). Again, this appears to boil down to another case of robbing Peter (the 1% taxed corporations) to pay Paul (the Nationals). Sure, corporation Peter is getting fleeced this time, but "his" time will come, at the taxpayers' expense. Maybe those corporations purchased the skyboxes in part for the benefits of a fancy venue for throwing parties or fundraisers for federal and local politicians.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Councilman Marion Barry Embraces Mayor Fenty's Education Agenda

A lucid column today from Marc Fisher of the Washington Post on D.C.'s current third rail of politics:

When D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty and schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee proposed shutting down 23 of Washington's most egregiously underenrolled schools, knee-jerk politicians predictably behaved like those unscrupulous drivers who shout about whiplash after somebody glances their fender.

Ward 8 Council member Marion Barry, still the reigning champion of winning time on the TV news, issued one outraged statement after another, showed up at every protest and, as late as Thursday, was on the tube railing against Rhee: "The chancellor's just being bullheaded. Stop it! Stop it! Stop it!"

Less than 24 hours later, a different Barry shook the mayor's hand and stepped before the cameras at a news conference announcing the final list of schools to be closed. "This is a historic day," the Mayor for Life said with a big smile. "Mayor Fenty took the bold action of making education number one." The closings -- the very same closings Barry had spent the previous two months slamming at every turn -- were suddenly an essential, empowering act of excellence.

So there you have it. One day Councilman Barry is leading a crowd in an anti-Mayor Fenty/Chancellor Michelle Rhee chant (as seen in the video above), the next week he is by their side in full support of their school reform plans.

The Examiner's Harry Jaffe lays it on thick:

[Four-term former mayor] Marion Barry bears the ultimate responsibility for the disgraceful state of many D.C. public schools. It has taken decades of neglect to bring a once-proud school system to its knees. Barry is the architect of that neglect.

Parents are rightly concerned about dramatic reform, and they ought to be involved in the process. People ought to apply rigorous scrutiny to the Fenty-Rhee plan. But in the end, rather than make impassioned arguments in a manner that would promoted resolution, it appeared to many that several activists sought to promote division and speculate on Fenty's unseemly hidden motives. The activists seemed to relish the fight, actually changing Rhee's mind was secondary.

Mayor Fenty was elected with a mandate to take control of the public school system. He and the chancellor ought to be given the opportunity to succeed, because ultimately they should be held responsible for the outcome.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Another Regulatory Feather Weighing Down Business in the District

The Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act of 2007, which will be voted upon by the D.C. Council this week, is another case of government being nice to someone at the expense of someone else, and taking all the credit. Proudly following in the steps of San Francisco as the second major city to impose this law, the District is on the cutting edge of creating difficulties for business.

The law would force businesses in the District to pay employees for time off take for medical leave or similar purposes (e.g., if a family member is sick or to attend a school-related activity that their child is involved in). The employee would be able to be paid for up to three-to-seven days of leave per year, depending on the size of the business.

Requiring businesses to pay for this leave (many already do) will make labor more expensive, and the businesses will adjust by creating fewer jobs, cutting other benefits (medical), or raising prices. Of course, a business owner could cut his/her profits, or head across the border to Virginia where it is far safer, the restaurants are permitted to permit smoking if the free market permits it, the property taxes are lower, and the income taxes are far lower.

In addition to the costs, which appears modest to the outsider, there are the logistic issues. As Barbara Lang, President of the D.C. Chamber of Commerce, reads this bill, the law would permit employees to take leave without prior or current notice to the employer. So a cook could fail to show up two days in a row, with no prior notice... and the employer is only permitted to demand "certification" if the employee misses three days. Expect your restaurant meal to more often arrive slower after the passage of this bill!

Knowing human nature, once the paid leave days accrue-- and the employee is only permitted to take a maximum number each year, despite rollover -- we should expect the number of leave days taken to substantially increase. This policy would incentivize the taking of leave, which in turn will create further higher costs and lost productivity. Quite simply, some people will "call in sick" and take their paid vacation.

Finally, the law will be skewed against small business, despite the smaller number of leave days required of them. Small businesses do not have the political connections to draw the corporate welfare that the District government showers upon the select few. Small businesses operate on smaller profit margins and cannot spread costs among a large chain of stores. If you want North Capitol Street to be dominated by the likes of Big Bear Cafe rather than Starbucks, then oppose this bill.

This paid leave law sounds like a good idea. It sounds family-friendly. But it is another regulatory feather that threatens to break the back of small and medium-size business in the District. If the Council believes this is law such a great idea, why shouldn't businesses simply be able to send the D.C. government the bill?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Reflections on the Ward Five Leadership Meeting

I held two meetings with constituents earlier this month, on January 16 and 19. These were two opportunities for people to come and shape the agenda for the coming year-- more on that soon.

But first I am passing on my notes from the meeting held by Councilman Harry Thomas, Jr. this past Saturday morning at Woodridge Library, which was directed at "Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners Presidents and Leaders of Ward 5 Community Organizations."

The meeting had the flavor of brainstorm and community meetup. A more structured meeting is scheduled for Saturday, February 23 at Catholic University. The first 45 minutes after the 10:30 a.m. start time were filled with people announcing who they were and where they lived and worked. Thomas demonstrated his knowledge of people's biography by informing the audience when individuals modestly stated "My name is x and I'm a Ward Five resident."

My notes in abridged form:

11:15 a.m. Harry Thomas (HT) believes his side of the D.C. Public school-closing controversy is not being reported properly. There has been possible retaliation
against school employees who spoke out.

HT: his primary concern is youth violence, killing each other, he's open to ideas. Also, he would like to see the proliferation of "friends of" groups with respect to recreation centers and libraries.

Ms. Snead: spoke about her concerns about shoot-outs, the problems of recreation centers, youth, and crime. There is a former program targeted at young women ages 11-18.

HT: Regarding shootings: we have to change the culture.

Robert Brannum: regarding the issue of youth and gangs, "we have adult gangs." "We use listservs and e-mails to do the same thing [as the youth gangs].... Don't go around casting aspirsions. We can't use listservs to put out hate and denigrate people. We need to stop it." (His comments referred to "anonymous" statements on listservs, but I have not seen any anonymous statements.) Many in the audience applauded in response to these comments.

HT: Exactly right, starts with the family structure. HT referred to the anonymous flyer distributed in Ward Five that made accusations against him. Kids are dying for guidance, they don't know who to turn to, they need mentors.

Commissioner Barrie Danecker: mentioned that Bloomingdale Civic Association had received funding for conflict resolution.

Verna: her comments focused on the Brentwood Road liquor store. People are using the alley as a public toilet. She wants to initiate a petition to stop the single sales of cigarettes and beer.

Gent: "Organized labor is here to help." One of the best ways to stabilize a community is to make sure people have jobs. How much with a possible Redskins stadium cost when we need funding for lifeskills training for youth.

Martha: Department of Justice has outreach programs, will even take kids to church.

HT: talking again about funding for projects.

Ms. Fisher (her husband and young daughter suffered random gun violence at Edgewood Terrace last year but all thankfully survived): doesn't want some people to return to the neighborhood after they have been released from prison.

HT: We need a summit where everyone brings 10 kids. The kids who come to events on their own initative aren't the ones who need the most help.

Representative from the Center for Minority Studies: Ward Five has the highest number of people with HIV.

Commissioner Silas Grant: It would be good to establish the top 10 issues and form committees. Regarding youth: the issues are not solved by creating more and more programs.

HT: He is not interested in creating another series of meetings, he has 37 standing meetings to attend every month. HT noted that when he is CC'd on e-mail, the government employee works faster-- but it shouldn't be that way.

At 12:20 p.m., my time budgeted for the meeting ran out (the meeting had been scheduled until noon).

So what stands out from this meeting of the top community leaders from Ward Five?

- Given that the public schools have control over children for the bulk of the day every weekday during the school year, why haven't they changed the youth culture? Why aren't the schools giving lifeskills training?

- There was virtually no mention of the important rule that churches should play in the community, nor did I notice many if any religious leaders present.

- There was virtually no mention of the need, and what steps should be taken, to attract small businesses to Ward Five, nor any recognition that 2008 could be a very difficult year for the nation, economically. We need to figure out how Ward Five businesses can provide the donuts served at the meeting rather than Shoppers Food Warehouse (which has great donuts, but no stores in D.C.).

- I continue to be skeptical of single-beer-sales bans. Emperically, as one who has participated in several community cleanups, beer cans make up a very small percentage of litter. Single-serving potato chip bags and Coca Cola present a greater threat. If public drinking is the problem, then enforce the public-drinking laws.

- Overall, kudos to Harry Thomas for holding the meeting. It was productive with the generation of ideas and very well-attended (at least 40 attended by my count). It's always the next step that is the hardest, but perhaps that will happen on February 23 at Catholic University.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Luciana Cafe to Open on North Capitol Street. No, really.

Residents will recall that, last March, we were expecting a sit-down restaurant called J. Bell's to open within 30 days at the corner of P Street N.W. and North Capitol Street (1500 North Capitol Street N.W.). The would-be owner made a presentation to more than 20 residents at my single-member-district meeting, and then he followed up with a presentation before the ANC 5C seven days later.

That was the last the community heard of the matter, the property remained untouched... until a few days ago. Alert residents informed the community that "coming soon" signs were on the property. With some trepidation, I investigated. Would the community simply be greeted by another takeout restaurant whose employees bide their time behind protective glass (that's better than a vacant building, but the demand is for something else).

I have spoken with the co-operator of Luciana Cafe, Reinaldo Escuder. He and Ramio Claros are planning to open the restaurant... soon. Reinaldo says that the protective glass will be coming down (although probably not by opening day). He wants it to be a sit-down restaurant. A liquor license is not in the immediate gameplan. Here's a key: Reinaldo has 20+ years of experience operating a restaurant.

The distinct feeling I get after talking with Reinaldo is that he is going to feel out the community and see whether we are ready to support a restaurant. If so, Reinaldo will expand into the phase he calls "a big, big thing."

Across the street, on the south side of P Street N.W. (1430 N. Capitol Street N.W.), is another Douglas Jamal property. I spoke with someone over there who has informed me that Jamal intends to renovate that commercial property soon. The fence surrounds the property due to an incident involving a car.

Still further two doors south, another property is under renovation-- a new story is being developed.

Mirrors Nightclub on the Agenda for Tuesday's ANC 5C Meeting

Advisory Neighborhood Commission 5C will address the application by Mirrors Night Club (22 New York Ave, NE) at the monthly meeting:

Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Catholic University, Pryzbyla Center
7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
Directions: North of METRO stop on Michigan Ave,
make left onto McCormack Rd NE, then left (just pass the Columbia Law School)

Part I: Election of Officers -------------- 7:05 p.m.
1) Call to Order ……………… Commissioner Bonds
2) Roll Call ………………………Commissioner Grant
3) Acknowledgement of Community Leaders and Guests . Commissioners
4) Approval of the December 2007 Meeting Minutes ….… Commissioner Grant
5) Election of 2008 Officers

Part II: Community Concerns and Progress Reports --------- 7:25 p.m.
1) Remarks by Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas, Jr.
2) Community Concerns and Comments
3) Public Safety Update by PSA 501 MPD Officers ………. Commissioner Hammond
4) Comments by Alice Thompson, Mayor’s Office of Community Relations and Services
5) Report on Grant Applications ……………Commissioner Day
6) Report on 2008 Meeting Calendar ………Commissioner Salatti

Part III: Featured Presentation
8:00 p.m.
ABC Expansion Application by Mirrors Night Club, 22 New York Ave, NE

Licensee Barcommand, LLC requests expanded operating hours for sales, service and on-site consumption of alcoholic beverages
Objectors are entitled to be heard by petitioning or requesting to appear before ABC Board by February 25, 2008
Questions and Comments by Commissioners and Community Comments

Update on the Old Firehouse Restaurant Development

The following is a message from Konrad Schlater in the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development concerning the firehouse located at 1626 N. Capitol Street N.W. (see also this background article from July 2005).

From: Schlater, Konrad (EOM)
Sent: Wed 1/9/2008 7:29 PM
Subject: RE: Old Fire Station Update


We had hoped to close on the sale of the fire station to NextGen Development by the end of the 2007. Unfortunately, due to lack of performance by the developer under our sale contract we did not proceed to closing on the sale as planned.

The developer has been spending a lot of time, money, and effort to push this project forward. However, the developer has failed to execute an agreement and lease with a restaurant operator - a necessary pre-condition for our sale of the building. As you may know, the original proposed operator, Mike Benson, moved back to North Carolina and abandoned the project a little over a year ago leaving the developer without a restaurant operator. Over the past two months, NextGen has been in serious negotiations with Twyla Garrett of IME Services, an LSDBE firm headquartered on North Capitol Street, to act as the restaurant operator. Ms. Garrett is just now preparing to open a restaurant with a very similar restaurant concept in Cleveland, Ohio. I have spoken with IME Services and they are very serious about this project.

Due to NextGen's failure to meet their commitments to the District under the sales contract, we have notified them that they are in default of our contract. The developer has 30 days to cure its default under the agreement. If the developer is not prepared to close on the sale, the District will have the option to terminate the agreement, restructure the terms, or find an alternative solution. It is our sincere hope that we can proceed to closing on the sale with the developer shortly. Brian Brown of NextGen Development has already completed designs for the project, obtained permits for the exterior work on the building, and lined up the necessary financing - and we are tantalizingly close to starting construction work on the firehouse. A deal between NextGen Development and IME Services represents the best hope for a prompt and successful development of the firehouse.

I can assure you that the Deputy Mayor's office along with Councilmember Thomas and his staff have been giving this project close attention and we will not take our eye off the ultimate goal, which is removing the blight of the abandoned building and replacing it with high quality neighborhood-serving retail.

I'd be happy to provide ANC5C with an update any time. Please give me a call if you have any questions about this email or the project generally.


Konrad Schlater
Special Assistant
Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Welcome to 2008

Apologies for the "radio silence," but I am back with my first post since November. Welcome to 2008.

2007 featured a lot of meetings (I expect that 2008 will feature many more-- I've already logged four hours this week). I attended the two-to-three-hour monthly meetings of the Commission, multiple monthly crime-related meetings, monthly civic association meetings, and my monthly meetings with constituents. Then there are the miscellaneous activities, including meetings led by government agencies, Mayor Fenty or interest groups. I also met with school officials, business owners, and local social service organizations.

2007 was the year of meetings. I will seek to make 2008 the year of action. 2007 was about obtaining a better understanding of the neighborhood. 2008 will be about accomplishing change in the neighborhood. Let's make it happen, working together.