Thursday, July 30, 2009

Going back to the basics

I was all prepared to write about a new idea that I'm working on with some of my neighbors, but that positivity will have to take a backseat to the tomfoolery of the City Council. I really don't even know how to begin dissecting this issue. Okay... here I go.

Budgeting 101
Plain and simple a budget is considered balanced when what goes out (expenses) equals what comes in (revenues). I think I learned the economic input-output model when I was fourth grade. As if we haven't heard it a hundred times, there is a budget shortfall of over $600 million in the City, i.e. our expenses exceed our revenues by over $600 million. In order to balance the budget one can reduce expenses (output) or increase revenues (input).

Mayor Fenty is proposing a budget that reflects reducing expenses. According to the Washington Examiner, some of the City Councilmembers want to increase revenue via taxes. Moving on to the next lesson.

Economics 101
On the very first day of Economics 101, everyone draws a supply and demand curve. Focusing on the demand curve, the fundamental principle is as the price per unit decreases, the demand increases. The reverse is also true, as the price per unit increases, the demand decreases. All clear on that? Council is proposing the following: "The council’s collective decision to jack up the sales tax from 5.75 to 6 percent, the cigarette tax from $2 to $2.50 a pack and the gas tax from 20 cents to 23.5 cents a gallon would generate an estimated $34 million combined, according to the finance office." (Directly quoted from the Washington Examiner).

Pop quiz: If the price per unit increases, the demand will? If you guessed decrease, you are correct!!! You win higher taxes. YEAH!!!

The other flaws in this whole little scheme are:

  • DC is already leaking $1 billion in sales to neighboring jurisdictions
  • The cigarette tax in VA and MD are $1.50 and $1.00 per pack, respectively. Um... won't people just drive across the border?
  • The sales tax in VA and MD are 5% and 6%, respectively. Maryland isn't the issues, since no one shops in MD. But Virginia... that's a big deal. Did I mention that we are already losing sales to neighboring jurisdictions?

The gas tax thing is a little messier and I don't have time to calculate, but based on general observation gas is cheaper in Arlington than in my neighborhood. I'm only buying gas in my neighborhood now because of my Buy Wards 7 and 8 Challenge.

Common Sense 101
Now, what I'm about to show you will shock and amaze you. These are quotes from members of the City Council. Some of it will be completely logical... and some of it... not so much.

At-Large Councilmember David Catania: “We tax the things we want to discourage.”

Sigh... cigarettes I get. Even gas I get. Let's apply this sentence to sales tax. All of a sudden this sentence loses something. I sincerely hope that we aren't trying to discourage sales. Careful there Mr. Cantania. Aren't you up for reelection in 2010? (Raises brow)

At-Large Councilmember Michael Brown: “We’re breaking the backs of the poor, so let’s level the playing field.”

(Side-eye) Just to put this statement in context the paragraph before was referring to all the social programs that assist the poor that have been impacted by budget cuts. However, poor people smoke (I think they may be the biggest smokers), poor people buy gas, and guess what poor people buy things. It's a good thing we aren't going to raises taxes so the poor people won't have to pay more... oops.

Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans: "Tax increases are “like cocaine” — if the government allows expenses to continue rise it will be back for more." (not exactly a direct quote)

PREACH, brother, preach. What a logical statement. If you don't fix the government waste, which by the way Fenty admitted to this morning on Fenty on FOX... if you don't address the inefficiencies... if we don't rethink expenses.... we will be revisiting this issue the same time next year.

Ms V's Advanced Class in Logic 301
I don't mind paying taxes. Even Jesus said, "Give to Cesar what is Cesar's" [Luke 20:25]. Here are my real issues:

  • Don't insult my intelligence, Mr. Brown and Mr. Cantania. Kindly do not give faulty logic to justify the increase. Just say you are going to increase taxes and leave it at that.
  • Address government waste. How much money have we wasted investigating Councilmembers and Fenty's appointees? How much money have we wasted on ineffective ANCs? How much money have we wasted on that baseball stadium? (Yes I went there with the baseball stadium).
  • Address government inefficiencies. I'm a big proponent of consolidating some of the City Departments. There is way too much overlap between the mission of agencies and departments.
  • Let's not try to stop the hemorrhaging with a band-aid. Let's sit down, think strategically, and stop the bleeding with a long term, forward thinking sustainable solution.

What about your friends

Rather than bash our Beloved Mayor, I decided that I'm going to help him. I'm going to go on facebook, linked-in, craigslist, myspace, friendster (does anyone use friendster anymore?), and any other social media site. Why you ask? I'm on the quest to find Mayor Fenty new friends.

First, there was the sponsored trip to Dubai and to China. As far as I know, it was never fully explained who sponsored the trip and why. Thinking out loud, I'm wondering if Fenty can get them to loan us some money to address the budget shortfall. I digress... Then, let's not forget about the friend that borrow the City-owned Lincoln Navigator. I can't leave out the fact that this friend also had $11 million in City contracts.

This morning, I'm reading the Washington Examiner and low and behold... yet another "friend" of Fenty is causing a fuss. Granted the articles in the Examiner and the Washington Post lack detail to discern what's really going on, the whole incident reeks of "oud de wrong". The scrolling marquee version of the story is Fenty's friend promises to donate used DC emergency vehicles to Sousa, a poor little third world City in the Dominican Republic with the understanding that Sousa has to pay to transport the vehicles from DC to DR. Sousa pays Fenty's peeps $11,000 to transport the vehicles, but watch the birdy.... the vehicles never arrive. The Examiner alleges that Fenty called the deal off, but wait for it... wait for it... Sousa never got their money back. Now everyone is scrambling to "investigate"... yadda, yadda, yadda

Side bar: I wonder how much this City pays to investigate elected and appointed officials. I feel like every other week some DC official is being investigated for what they did, who they paid, who they received payment from or who they slept with. What happened to standards? Yesh.

Regardless of the outcome of this little debacle, I think it's in our best interest to get the Mayor some new friends immediately. I'm going to start an organization called Finding Friends For Fenty (I'm being facetious). The mission of FFFF will be to find upright, ethical, and honest people to enter the Mayor's inner circle of trusts. I'm just trying to be positive here.
Buy Wards 7 & 8 Challenge
  • $38 at Best Nail in Penn-Branch Shopping Center for pedicure and nails
  • $12 in Alexandria for lunch... I was craving sushi.

Total $505 in Wards 7/8. $624 total (81% in Wards 7/8)

Monday, July 27, 2009

DC Budget Shortfall

I know I'm late to the blogging party regarding Mayor Fenty's plan to address the budget shortfall. Part of my delay is due to me actually sitting down to read the Proposed FY 2010 budget. Don't let the 173 page Executive Summary scare you. I'll try to digest the information for you. I will admit upfront that this is my biased opinion.

Let me start by saying the first part of the budget is wasted pages of stuff at the beginning of the Executive Summary. I'm just saying. It's 20 pages of charts and lists, such as an organization chart of DC, a list of the Mayor and his cabinet, a list of the Councilmembers, a list of the people in OMB, etc. I mean if we cut out the pomp and circumstance would could probably save money off the bat. But I digress...

As reported in the news, there is a proposed cut of 1,300 or 1900 (yeah the numbers don't quite add up... I'm sure there is an explanation, but it wasn't clear to me) plus jobs from DC government. I took a closer look at where Mr. Mayor was cutting the fat. My comments in parenthesis.
  • Attorney Generals Office is getting 39 new FTEs over FY 2009. (Interesting. Now maybe they can keep the repeat offenders in my neighborhood off the streets.)
  • Disappointed to see DCRA losing 48 employees. (Based on my interactions with DC gov't, they are the most responsive and efficient.)
  • Public Education was interesting. There is only 1 net loss of employees. HOWEVER, when you look closer... closer... even closer... they are losing 238 from DC Public Schools due to "downsizing due to fewer students" (their words, not mind) and yet they are increasing special education transportation by 424 due to "corrected count to staff new buses". (I don't have the statistics, but I refuse to believe that there are that many special education students in DC... but... I could be wrong... who knows.)
  • Child and Family Services is losing 48 people. Some of those positions are noted as vacant and other are going to be employees transferring to other departments. (Um... isn't this the same agency that oversaw the case with the mother who killed her four girls.)
  • Parks and Recreation is taking a nasty little hit. 232 jobs mostly in child care which will be outsourced to other providers. (I have very strong opinions of DPR.... and they aren't positive. I'll just leave it at that)
  • University of DC is gaining 17 FTEs... (kudos to them)
  • Office of the Mayor experienced no job cuts (I guess cutting the Mayor's FTE is out of the question... LOL)

There are clearly cuts from other Departments, but those are the ones that caught my little eye. Unless I missed something, in which case shame on the DC government for making a budget that the public can't understand.

  • City is projecting a decrease in sales tax revenues from FY 2008, but a slight increase from FY 2009 (maybe if we were leaking retail sales to other jurisdictions we could get this number up. I know we are in a recession and all, but I know a lot of people who haven't changed their spending habits)
  • They project an increase of almost $200 million in sales between FY 2010 and FY 2011.
General Commentary
  • The budget needs a 5-10 page fact sheet. It was a lot of "stuff" to wade through. I'm all for a transparent government, but can I get a cheat sheet. As a resident I want to know, what are you proposing, what does it mean for government operations and how does it affect me as a resident.
  • DC has too many agencies. I was reading through the individual agency changes and it appears to me there is a lot of overlap between the missions of some agencies. I think some of them can be consolidated. It sure makes getting work done a lot easier when you have less departments to coordinate.
  • ANCs operating budget is $1 million. I'm sure there are very active ANCs, but as far as what I've seen in my neck of the woods it's a waste of money. I haven't heard anything from my ANC. I have to keep looking up their name, because I keep forgetting who they are.

Buy Wards 7 & 8 Challenge

  • $35 at Exxon on Penn and Branch Ave (I need a hybrid...yesh)
  • $21 in Alexandria for lunch

Total $467 in Wards 7/8. $574 total (81% in Wards 7/8)

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Fairfax Village Security Meeting Recap

Photo of Lt. Netter and Office LaFrance
I really don't know where to start with this one. The meeting had its highs and lows. Before I recap the meeting, I need to add a disclaimer that I have a short attention span, I can only handle talking about problems for but so long, and I don't like talking about problems without talking about solutions. On with the recap...

The meeting started with an introduction by Dr. Scott who is the Community Association President. The first officer to speak is Officer LaFrance. He's the beat officer for Fairfax Village. He gave us the low down on things happening in the neighborhood and he provided his contact information. Lt. Netter spoke as well. Since most of us didn't know Officer LaFrance, Netter plead that over the next 60 days, Office LaFrance was going to introduce himself to every resident in the village.

We also met the two plain clothes officers for our neighborhood. I didn't want to post their names or photos, because I don't want to hinder their jobs. The two plain clothes officer said that they make about 3-5 busts a week for narcotics in Fairfax Village. However, the problem is they are usually back out on the street within hours. They even said they busted the same people multiple times. Sgt. Jones, who is the night officer, also spoke briefly.

The identified "hot spots" are Southern Ave @Suitland Terr, 2000 block of 38th St and 3900 block of Penn Ave. The Village Nine President said they are taking action to rid the 2000 block of 38th Street of the troublemakers.

It seems like the problem is the Court System. Who do I need to call to get that fixed? The police are doing their job, now the Courts need to do their job and keep the riff-raff off the streets. As a note, Ward 7 Councilmember Yvette Alexander was a no-show. I'll give her the benefit of the doubt.


On to the good stuff... Solutions. Here are some recommendations that came out of the meeting.
  • The Community Association needs to write to the mayor as a community to have a Crime Control Camera installed at the hot spots. Each individual board needs to pass a resolution.
  • Residents need to be more vigilant and call 3-1-1 if you see any suspicious activity. It was recommended to give as much information as possible. Such as, did you notice the person put something in the garbage or in a bush.
  • Reactivate the neighborhood watch program
  • Be more vigilant about ticketing cars parked illegally. Office LaFrance said he would talk to James Welch on Monday about getting his permission.
  • Put speed bumps on 38th Street. We need 65 residents signature on a petition and then that needs to be send to DDOT
  • Get to know our neighbors and build a community
  • Be aware of your surrounds
  • Have a meeting with the Mayor... (as a side note: two of my neighbors and I started laughing when this was suggested. I hope my other neighbors realize, Fenty is not coming over here. Maybe when it's time for re-election, but even that is doubtful. He doesn't care about us)
  • Have a meeting with our Councilmember... (um... wasn't she supposed to be at this meeting?

Contact Information
Officer Lafrance #2579
Phone: 202-698-2088

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE... contact Officer Lafrance or call 3-1-1. We need to be vigilant and protect our neighborhood.

Buy Wards 7 and 8 Challenge

  • Spent $75 at Giant on Wednesday

Total $432 in Wards 7/8. $518 total (83% in Wards 7/8)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

What's Happening in the Neighborhood

Fairfax Village Community Association Security Meeting with Ward 7 Councilmember Yvette Alexander and Lt. Ronald Netter

Saturday July 25, 2009
10:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Francis A. Gregory Library
3660 Alabama Ave, SE
Washington, DC
Congresswoman Barbara Lee is coming to witness all the exciting programs at RAP and will sign and discuss her book, Renegade for Peace and Justice.
Please join us that day:

Saturday July 25, 2009
11 am – 1 pm
1949 4th Street, NE
Washington, DC
Hip Hop Soul Fest
Saturday July 25, 2009
Support local musical artists and businesses
Marvin Gaye Park.
Get a “Green Job”
Wednesday August 5th
6:30 PM – 8:00 PM
The ARC Center DC
1901 Mississippi Ave SE
Washington, DC, 20020
Saturday, August 8, 2009
1115 O Street, SE, next to the Washington Navy Yard
Fun, Free Event for Kids and Adults --- Come Learn to Row and Paddle on the Anacostia!

Monday, July 20, 2009

New Business by a River East Resident

Status is here! A socially responsible boutique concierge service, Status offers customized leisure packages for clients ranging from the corporate veep looking to close a deal over dinner to the sophisticated gent looking to show his lady an elegant, stylish night on the town. Much more than simply providing a list of choices, Status explores its clients’ intentions and sensibilities and develops a menu of entertainment options that mesh seamlessly with these inclinations.
Check out the website
Buy Wards 7 and 8 Challenge
  • $60 at CVS for facial system

Total $356.75 in Wards 7/8. $443.91 total (80% in Ward 7/8)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Poplar Point... What could it be in the future?

I attended the Poplar Point informational meeting this morning. The Project Team was presenting three alternatives for the site, in addition, they showed a plan for changes to Anacostia Park.

First of all, I am hopeful that the changes for Anacosta Park will be implemented in the very near term. Most of the changes seem like "low-hanging fruit" such as making a clearer distinction between the recreational fields, adding more tree cover, and relocating the road away from the waterfront, such that there can be more activity along the waterfront. There maybe some longer term items such as the construction of the US Park Police Headquarters and heliport.

Looking at the three alternatives for Poplar Point there were things that I liked about each alternative and there were somethings that I didn't like. The comments that I left with the project team are:
  • Consider accessibility between the proposed development and the existing neighborhoods to the east
  • Please ensure the architecture is iconic but still harmonious with the existing architecture found in neighborhoods in East Washington
  • Ensure there are building stepbacks such that there is a pedestrian scale to the buildings
  • No residential too close to the waterfront, such that it feels private. The waterfront is a public asset.
  • Pedestrian connection to the neighborhoods on the westside of the River.
  • The street network should be a grid pattern with pedestrian scale blocks.
  • There should be considerable access to the Metro Station

I had to leave early, but as my luck would have it, the Consultants on the project are the same Consultants on a project that I manage for the jurisdiction I work in. I definitely plan to get the scope. All-in-all, I think this is a great economic opportunity for the City, but I'm not holding my breath for anything to happen in the near term.

Buy Wards 7 and 8 Challenge

  • $50 spent in the U Street area of DC

Total $296.75 in Wards 7/8. $383.91 total (77% in Ward 7/8)

Friday, July 17, 2009

So what are you saying???

Does anyone remember the Fox News story about residents that had a spike in the electricity bills from PEPCO? Well I was one of those customers. My January 2008 bill was around $82. My January 2009 bill was $197. Yes that is an increase of 240%. Mind you, between Winter 2008 and Winter 2009, if nothing else, I became more energy conscious. Not to mention that I sleep well in a cold room, so I keep the temperature around 62 degrees.

I called PEPCO and this woman tried to tell me that it has been an unusually cold winter. I told her that explanation defies logic. Had my bill increase by 20-30%, I might buy that explanation. Then she tried to say maybe it was my refrigerator. If we were face-to-face she would have gotten the side eye. Realizing that she is programmed to only give certain answers, it was a waste of my time to continue the conversation.

I contacted the DC Office of the People's Counsel regarding their investigation of PEPCO. I gave them all my PEPCO billing information for the past year. At the beginning of this week, they issued a report of their findings: Formal Case No. 1071 In the Matter of the Investigation of the High Energy Bills of the Potomac Electric Power Company - OPC Report on Unusually High Bill Investigation.

Here are the major findings:
  • There is no direct correlation between high PEPCO bills and the 2008-2009 rate increases, arrearages, or weather related increases in consumption
  • There is no discernable pattern in the high meter readings regarding ward demographics
  • Random faulty meters may account for the high bill readings for more than 43%
  • Middle and low-income consumers alike faced financial difficulty in paying their high winter bills
  • More than 50% of the customers live in homes with no one home during the daytime.
  • The type of residential unit or prior arrearages did not play a major role in creating or accelerating high electric bills
  • The temperature during winter 2008-2009 was somewhat colder than 2007-2008 winter, but (wait for it...wait for it) the maximum increase in electricity consumption due to temperature in the 2008-2009 winter compared with the 2007-2008 winter is about 15%.

That last one really hits home with me, because PEPCO tried to say that my consumption increased by 200%. Despite the fact that I'm never home, despite the fact that I have energy efficient lighting, and despite the fact I took the time to winterize my condo, they are trying to say I used more than twice the amount of energy because it was a few degrees colder. Right. Magically once Office of the People's Counsel announced their investigation, my March and April bills dropped to around $15... Things that make you go hmmmmmmmmm.

So Office of the People's Counsel said it indirectly with their fancy words, but let me break it down. PEPCO tried to pull the "okie-doke" and tried to lie about it. Plain and simple

Buy Wards 7 and 8 Challenge

  • $39 for gas from the Exxon on Penn Ave and Branch Ave
  • $5 for dinner at Pollo Rico in Arlington... Yeah I know, but it was calling me. Ward 7 needs a Pollo Rico. It's chicken and everyone likes chicken. It's only $5 for 1/4 chicken with french fries and cole slaw.

Total $296.75 in Wards 7/8. $333.91 total (89% in Ward 7/8)

Monday, July 13, 2009

If you want change... MAKE NOISE

Back in June, I snitched on the property owners of 3802 Suitland Road SE. A comment on that post from a fellow neighbor reminded me that I needed to followed up with the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA). I called today and the gentlemen I spoke to said they deemed the property to be vacant on June 11, 2009. They sent the property owner a letter informing them they have 30 days to register the property and comply with DC Code 42-3131.12, which is the Vacant Property Standards. The gentlemen from DCRA said that the owner's 30 days are almost up. The next step will be DCRA will send then a notice of infraction and applicable penalties.

According to DCRA's website: "DCRA has the authority to abate the violation and recover the funds by placing a lien on the property. The Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) or DC Superior Court can administer fines up to $2000 and possible incarceration of up to 90 days for properties that are not registered and maintained."

The lesson of the day is if you have a problem in your neighborhood call 3-1-1 and report it. I'm very impressed that DCRA inspected the property within 7 days of my initial complaint. I set a reminder on my blackberry to follow up with DCRA in another 30 days.
Buy Wards 7 and 8 Challenge
  • $54.13 at Giant for groceries
  • $6.00 at Subway for a 6 inch sub. (I got double meat)

Total in Wards 7/8 $257.75. Total for the month $289.91 (89% in Wards 7/8)

Sunday, July 12, 2009

I'm Leaving and I'm NOT coming Back

Customer service is extremely important to me. I'm willing to pay more money for better customer service. Yesterday I had to say goodbye to yet another business.

The one thing we have plenty of in Ward 7 and 8 are nail salons. A few weeks ago, I started going to TNN Nails located at 3847 Pennsylvania Ave SE (Fairfax Village Shopping Center) to get my pedicures and fill-ins. It is a hop, skip and a jump from Fairfax Village, so I could walk. However, Saturday I had to give them the boot.

TNN Nails is supposed to open at 9:00 AM on Saturdays, according to their window sign. I started calling around 9:30 AM, because I wanted to know when Larry (my nail guy) would be available, because I hate to wait. No one was answering the phone. Around 10:20 AM, I decided to walk up there. I get there and they were three women standing outside waiting to get their nails done, while the owners and employees were just opening the shop. I understand things happen and you open late, so I'm not giving them the boot because of that.

I'm giving them the boot because the employees opened the salon without so much as an apology. One of the women asked them why they weren't open on time. The man totally ignored her. Then, one of the other ladies asked them what time were they supposed to open. The women employees just walked in and didn't acknowledge the woman's question. Now had the employees walked up and immediately apologized for opening late, I would still be going there. However to not acknowledge us, is unacceptable. One of the ladies and I left, because we felt that we didn't need to spend our money on people who are going to treat us like we don't exist.

Needless to say, I went to Best Nail Salon located at 3224 Pennsylvania Ave SE (Penn-Branch Shopping Center). The pedicure chairs are nicer at TNN Nails, but overall Best Nail Salon is cleaner and better organized. The prices are about the same. Kevin, the guy that did my nails, did a great job and he's much friendlier than Larry.

Goodbye Larry... Hello Kevin.
Buy Wards 7 and 8 Challenge
  • I spent $46 at Best Nail Salon for a pedicure, fill-in and french manicure
  • I also spent $17.16 in DC outside of Ward 7 and 8 and $15 in Baltimore. It was more circumstance than a decision. I was out and was hungry

Total spent in Ward 7/8 $197.62. Total spent $229.78 (86% in Wards 7/8)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Ward 8 Spolight: Park Village Cleaners

The Buy Wards 7 and 8 Challenge has become a little bit of a scavenger hunt. I've had to reach out to neighbors and fellow River East bloggers to find businesses in Wards 7 and 8. Southeast Socialite recommended Park Village Cleaners in Ward 8. Here is my review (0 is bad and 5 is Excellent)

Park Village Cleaners
1563 Alabama Ave (by Giant)

Customer Service - 5
Spencer, one of the owners, is extremely friendly. Although it's been a week since I dropped off my clothes he remembered me. Huge plus. Customer Service is very important to me. I'm willing to pay a higher price for excellent service, hence why I was driving all the way to Arlington before.

Accuracy - 3
I dropped off 4 pairs of pants. Two pairs were to be cleaned and the other two were to be cleaned and tailored. They forgot to tailor one pair of pants, but Spencer told me he would have it by tomorrow.

Workmanship - 5
The tailoring job on the other pair was FANTASTIC. The lining had completely ripped and they somehow make a completely new lining out of the old lining. I'm super impressed.

Cleanliness - 5
One of my rules is that I refuse to patronize any business where I have to order through bullet proof glass or bars. I'm not an animal and don't need to be caged. I understand why they do it, but they won't be getting any of my money. This cleaners is probably one of the nicest I've ever seen. It looks very upscale, which we deserve.

Price - 4.5
The price wasn't too bad. It's a little cheaper than the cleaners I was going to in Arlington. Spencer told me that if you bring four or more articles of clothing, you get 20% off. SWEET.

Overall - 4.5
My order was messed up, which really wasn't an issue for me. I appreciate Spencer for immediately trying to retify the situation. THAT is more important to me. Sorry for my cleaners in Arlington, because Park Village Cleaners is my new cleaners. I HIGHLY recommend them.
Buy Wards 7 and 8 Challenge
I spent $27.41 at Park Village Cleaners.
Total to date: $151.62

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Wanna be Startin' Somethin'

Pennsylvania Ave Bridge looking East circa 1910 (from website)

“Wanna be Startin' Somethin'” is one of my favorite Michael Jackson songs. “Too high to get over. Too low to get under. You’re stuck in the middle.” Those are some deep words. What does this have to do with anything? Well I’m about to stir the pot a little… okay a lot. I may make a few people mad and I could say that I cared that people will be mad, but I don’t care. No one is required to agree with my opinion. My inability to sensor my thoughts just so I don’t ruffle feathers would make me a horrible politician, hence why I don’t have any intentions of running for a political office. Despite my lack of caring that I may make someone mad, I do have the ability to respect someone else's opinion. Enough digressing and let me get to stirring.

A few days ago, I gave the scrolling marquee version of the verbal lashing I got for referring to “East of the River” as “River East”. Let me reiterate that I’m not married to “River East” and I think using the historical name “Washington East” is a good idea. Regardless whether we call it “River East”, “Washington East”, “East Washington”, or some other East, “East of the River” has to go. ASAP. Yes I'm a little riled up today.

This morning, I was reading the comments to a Washington Post article online about Fenty. One person wrote (and this is a direct quote), “Fenty is doing his best for the voters. Let's be real. D.C. residents historically have been Federal government workers and slaves. Hence, you have East of the River and West of the Park. Nothing has changed with the exception of a slave leading other slaves. Notice that Fenty's actions do not affect those West of the Park. He is a smart slave and knows his place.”

Yes, I know I should not take the comments of an anonymous user to heart, but as Oscar Wilde said, “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.” This one commenter does represent how some people feel about our neighborhoods. Believe me, this was mild compared to other comments that I have seen on other articles (which is why I try not to read people’s comments… It gets me riled up... sigh).

We can market all the amenities of our area until we are blue in the face, but at the end of the day “East of the River” has a negative connotation and the play on words is indicative of being something different. I am not saying that we want to be like the rest of DC, because I recognize that we have our own identity. However, if we are to be a part of the City, we need a name that represents that as opposed to "those people over there... you know on the other side of the river." As long as people have a negative view of what’s East of the Anacostia River, they will not bring their kids to ice skate or hike at Fort Dupont Park. They will not bring their families to picnic and roller skate at Anacostia Park. It just it what it is.

You can have all the pride you want, but if people aren’t investing in the amenities that we have, we will never get the other amenities that we want. This issue is "Too high to get over. Too low to get under. You're stuck in the middle" of the box. I’m sure that I have managed to tick a few people off and I welcome your comments. I just encourage you to think of the possible marketing opportunities to let people know how great it is to live here.

For example, “Washington East: Celebrating our Past and Building our Future”. (That's what I could come up with for now.)

Buy Wards 7 and 8 Challenge
I didn't buy anything today, but I'm on the hunt for a licensed plumber. My tub is completely stopped up. Being a grown-up and a homeowner, is so overrated. Yesh.

Total to date... $124.21

Sunday, July 5, 2009

No Place Like Home

Chicago was fun, but I'm glad to be back home. I'll be back to my regularly scheduled blogging tomorrow.


Buy Wards 7 and 8 Challenge
Bought groceries today at Giant for $38.09, which includes a $0.10 discount for brining my own bagss. YEAH.

Total to date... $124.21

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Mystery Solved

The mystery of missing trees has been solved. I finally got around to calling DDOT Urban Forestry Administration about the missing trees in front of my building. I spoke with a very nice woman who said that we are on “The List” for getting little saplings during planting season (October '09 - April '10). While the area looks bland without our two big trees, I am looking forward to our new trees. It is like the circle of life or metaphor for change or something deep like that.

I will be out of town for the holiday, so I wish all of my neighbors a safe, happy, and blessed Independence Day.

Buy Wards 7 and 8 Challenge
I had to deposit a check (who uses these anymore…yesh) and get cash, so I headed to the Bank of America at 2100 Martin Luther King Ave SE (Ward 8). Granted I didn’t technically spend money, I still patronized a business in my neighborhood. I never knew this branch of BoA was here. I was able to find a spot right out front of the bank. The security guard was friendly. The only thing I didn't like is that the door is RIGHT at the ATM, so people are right behind you while you are taking care of your transactions.

In addition, I dropped my clothes off at Park Village Cleaners at 1563 Alabama Ave SE (Ward 8) recommended by Southeast Socialite. I'm getting two pair of pants cleaned and two pair of pants cleaned and tailored. The owner, Spencer, was super friendly. He told me that if you bring 4 pieces of clothes or more you get 20% off your drycleaning. I’ll let you know what I think about their drycleaning and sewing skills when I pick my clothes up.

Please keep spending your hard-earned dollars in Wards 7 and 8 while I am gone.

Being Thankful

Instead of complaining about what I don't have (at least for today), I want to take this opportunity to give thanks for what I do have. I drive over the Southeast-Southwest Freeway at least once a day. Some days it can be as many as five times (poor planning... I know). In the past, I've nearly lost a tire or worse my whole car in the gigantic potholes. The SE-SW Freeway has brand spanking asphalt, thanks to the Obama Administration and Congress for passing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. I would be remissed if I didn't give thanks to District Department of Transportation for making this happen. That ride is so smooth I swear my tires sing. I thought about this today on my way home from the gym, so I wanted to share.
Buy Wards 7 and 8 Challenge
I was a little frustrated because I REALLY wanted to eat at Pollo Rico in Arlington before going to my second job (I swear that is the best chicken ever). I even had my $5 ready to go. BUT... I just kept it moving. **sigh***
  • $37.97 at CVS. I ran to the CVS at Penn-Branch Shopping Center to get last minute items for my trip. I found this cute little toiletry bag while I was there. YEAH.

Total to date: $86.12

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Does a rose by any other name smell as sweet?

I invited my neighbors in Hillcrest to join my little Buy Ward 7 and 8 Campaign on our listserv. Boy was I shocked by the reaction. It’s not so much what was said, but then intensity behind it. Granted written communication can sometime be misconstrued, I felt like the unwelcomed new kid at middle school lunch.

Without going into a full play-by-play of the email exchange, the general gist of all the emails to me was around the fact that I referred to Ward 7 and 8 as “River East” and “Ward 15”. Some highlights:

  • It’s “East of the River” or the historical reference of “Washington East” or “East Washington”
  • “River East” is a place in Chicago and not DC
  • We shouldn't allow folks to change the name
  • Communities “East of the River” do not need to be "rebranded." They need to be marketed.
  • Changing the name is confusing

Although all these responses were over the listserv, several people sent emails directly to me. One person said, “We demand to stay in the box!” (they were being facetious) which made me laugh. Another person said it is great to see young people bringing new ideas to the neighborhood. They thanked me for bringing a new energy.

Back to the issue of names… “River East” was born out of the creative minds of young professionals that moved into the neighborhood. I had an opportunity to meet some of the founders of River East Emerging Leaders (R.E.E.L), who explained the concept behind “River East”. Their intention was never to change the identity of the communities, but to change the perception of this area to people who live outside of the area.

For right or for wrong, “East of the River” has a negative connotation to people that live outside of the area. To some people it has the same sound as "other side of the tracks" or "those people over there". As the City continues to gentrify, the Anacostia River (as it was prior to the building and rebuilding of the Penn Ave Bridge back in the day) is rapidly becoming the new barrier between the “us” and “them”. If the "them" have the wrong impression of the"us" then the them won't invest in our community. Perhaps the potential of gentrification is why some of the email writers were so impassioned to maintain their identity.

What is the solution? Maybe “River East” is not the right solution... maybe it is, but can we attract the needed investment with the name “East of the River”? I am personally not opposed to making history new again by using the historical name of “Washington East”. It has a certain regalness to it.

Buy Ward 7 and 8 Challenge

Despite the initial lambasting, some of my neighbors are going to join in. One of the ANC commissioners had a great idea of seeing which neighborhood spends the most. I spent a total of $48.15 today.

  • $8.14 at the Safeway on Alabama Ave. In the afternoons, I like to buy chai from the vending machine at my job. Ran to Safeway to stock up.
  • $40.01 at the gas station at the intersection of Good Hope, Naylor and Alabama. (When did gas prices go up??? Yesh)