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.


Anonymous said...

Its nice to see that Robert Brannum still knows how to play the race and class card at inappropriate moments when it advances his agenda. For the record I don't think either he or our councilman provide real leadership for Ward 5.

Anonymous said...

An anonymous post stating something "for the record" is a bit ridiculous, don't you think? At least use a pen name.