Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Buy Ward 7 and 8 Campaign

Over the weekend, I was thinking of all the money that I spend in other jurisdictions. I decided as a challenge, to "put my money where my mouth is". LOL. I will only spend money in Ward 7 and 8 for the entire month of July (well I'm starting tomorrow... no time like the present), with the exception of when I am on vacation (of course). If we want to see change in Ward 15, we need to invest our money in Ward 15. While I am only one person and its only one month and a day (for now), that is still money that is staying in River East.

I will document my experiences both positive and negative. I will highlight the amenities we have and the ones we lack. I will also keep a running tab on the total amount I spend.

ANYONE WANT TO JOIN ME???

Sunday, June 28, 2009

That just proves my point...

I ranted yesterday about the importance of the proper use of the English language and how as a community we need to do better. Well around 3am this morning, three (though it sounded like ten) young ladies (I use that term loosely) parked underneath by bedroom window were having a conversation (I really use this term loosely). I have no idea what they were talking about. All I heard was "motherf... this" and "motherf that" and "this n----a". I heard more F-bombs and N-words than a Cat Williams comedy act.

One of them was talking about her babydaddy was mother[insert F-bomb] trifling, but she was still [insert F-bomb] for whatever reason. Now don't get me wrong. I'm not a holier than thou kind of person. I won't sit here and act like I don't curse [Note: in my 30 years of life, I have never cursed in front of my parents], however, I'm confused as to how a person can have a "conversation" where 30% of the sentence is a curse word. There has to be over half a million words in the English language, can we find any other words to express ourselves?

Two of them used the N-word as a complete replacement for all pronouns. It is 2009... Can we PLEASE for the love of Martin, Malcolm, and Obama, STOP using that word???? PLEASE. Unless I'm driving home a point related to social conscientiousness or quoting something, I have never used that word. There is nothing endearing about it. People have fought and died so they wouldn't be called one.

Can't ignorance be illegal? I can see the headlines "MPD puts 95% of River East in prison for lack of being able to formulate a complete sentence and overuse of the N-word." [I crack myself up]. The Triad of Ignorance finally left after 20 minutes and all I could do was shame my head. [sigh]

We MUST do better.

Friday, June 26, 2009

We MUST do better - Part I



Today's post is inspired by the events of the week and oh what a week. First, a Metro train crashes into another one. Then, we lose three people in entertainment of which the death of Michael Jackson had shocked the world. The media loves to interview people to get their account on the events. I really try to not watch local media. Maybe it's just me, but it seems like the local media never fail to find the most unrefined black person possible.

Earlier this week I had tried to listen to witness accounts of the Metro crash. Not a single person interviewed could put together a coherent sentence. Then Mr. Mayor tried to explain the situation, but his speech pattern makes it hard to me to listen to him. I quickly switched to CNN, so I could get the skinny.

To cap off this week, Washingtonpost.com has a 4 minute video on reactions to Michael Jackson's death from a barbershop in DC. Not a single one of these brothers, as my dad would say, "could speak the king's English". One man said (and I kid you not), "he done had so many operations."... I only made it half way through the clip. My ears couldn't take anymore.

Who's at fault? We could blame the media to seeking out these representatives of blacks in our City. However, we should also examine ourselves. I take this moment to thank my dad for stressing the importance of "speaking the king's English". Thanks dad....

Back to my point. I think the schools should not allow students to speak improper English in any class. Jesse Jackson put it best "You can't rise to low expectations." I think as adults, we need to be mindful of our language, especially around young people. Perhaps that's why I'm so hard on Mr. Mayor and how he speaks. Prior to the arrival of President Obama, for many young black kids in DC he was THE black male figure that they were exposed to on a regular basis. Not a day goes by where we don't see our "beloved" Mayor on the local news.

As a culture we need to stop associating speaking proper English with "acting white." Saying things like "He be like..." and "She done did..." makes us sound ignorant. In 2009, ignorance is not acceptable. We have come too far and people have made too many sacrifices for us to think it is okay to split and slice verbs. Like many other young, black professionals, I have mastered the art of articulating and annunciation without losing my own identity.

In addition, we need to correct them when they make mistakes. My Little Sister from the Big Brother/Big Sister program sometimes has to repeat a sentence five times because I make her say it correctly. Here is the real kicker... she knows what the proper sentence should be without me telling her, she just speaks like everyone around her. (ARGH=sound of my frustration). She also has language arts activity workbook that she has to do while we are in the car.

Maybe it's a Utopian dream (after all I am an urban planner), but imagine if the media could only find black people who could articulate a thought in a coherent sentence.... I can dream, can't I?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

I believe the children are our future

Barry Farm (Re)mixed blogged last week about how it takes a village to keep our youth out of jail. It has taken me longer than I expected, but I finally finished reading "A Blueprint for Action", which I blogged about last week. This is a report of findings, best practices, and recommendations to address gang violence in the District. I have to tell you, some of the information shocked me. This is something that I think ALL residents need to read and internalize; especially those of us that live in River East.

While I encourage you to read it for yourself, some of the findings that I found interesting:
  • Among 10-24 yr olds, homicide is the leading cause of death for black males and the second cause for Hispanic males
  • The absolute and relative number of juvenile arrests have increased in recent years, while those for adults have decreased
  • Most of the juvenile violent crime in PSA 606 (where the Village is located) are long the border at Penn Ave SE and the border with PSA 701 and 702, which is around Naylor Road
  • No homicides were committed by juveniles in PSA 606, but District 7 has more than their fairshare.
  • There are as many as 130 crews and gangs in the City
  • 14% of DC high school students have seriously considered suicide
  • 12% of District youth attempted suicide as compared to 6.9% nationally
  • DC graduation rate is only 43%
  • 30% of middle school student experience bullying weekly
  • More than 25% of middle school students are threatened with injury weekly
  • Highest rates of poverty, single parent headed households, child abuse and neglect, teen pregnancy, unemployment and illiteracy are concentrated in certain neighborhood in DC, especially Ward 7 and 8

I was surprised at the high suicide rates among our youth. I read that section several times just to be sure I read it correctly. Our kids are feeling hopeless and if they are our future then our future looks hopeless. I joined the Big Brother Big Sister of Washington, DC three years ago. My little sister, who will be matched with me 3 years in September, lives in Congress Heights. She is up against every risk factor imaginable. Imagine if ALL the young professionals in Ward 7 and 8 was a mentor to at least one child in Ward 7 or 8, then maybe we can save some of our children. Show them that we love them.

I would be remissed if I didn't share what the report had to say about the Fenty Administration. Despite that the best practices state that funding for programs to prevent gang violence should be comprehensive and have sustain funding, it appears our beloved mayor knows "best". To give the mayor some (though little) benefit of the doubt, it doesn't go into full detail of why some programs ended.
  • Hot-spots initiative... it was active between 2004 and 2006. It called for the coordination of law enforcement resources and city services to 14 high crime areas
  • The Gang Intervention Partnership (GIP) was an intensive and extension police and community partnership. An evaluation of the program showed that violence and homicides were significantly decreased. In 2007, Chief Lanier [Fenty Appointee] disbanded this unit.
  • Violence Intervention Partnership operated in Wards 7 and 8 between 2005 and 2008. It focused on systematic issues related to crews, gangs, truancy, and other issues by coordinating enforcement and programs such as conflict resolution. Funding ceased in 2008.
  • Second responder was a program targeting youth in Ward 7 and 8 which included family therapy, parent coaching and family meetings. [It's unclear if this program is still going on, but based on the past tense I assume it isn't.]
  • Focused Improvement Area Initiative was launched by the Fenty administration in 2007. Funding was cut in 2008 because of City deficit.

There are some programs that still exist that are mention in the report and to be fair to the Fenty Administration there are some new programs in the pipeline. Oh Mr Mayor sir.. and let me spread the accountability to the Council (specifically the 3 Ward 7 members)... if you want to be re-elected you must do better by Ward 7 and 8. WHY would you cease funding a program that has experienced measurable success to replace it with a new program that may or may not work? It seems "re-eventing the wheel" is a waste of time, energy, and money. Can't we build on what has been done?

The report lays out some recommendations. I hope that our elected officials ensure that some of these things come of fruition. I understand that times are hard, but can't we do right by our youth, our future?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Ramblings

It ain't easy being green...

I come home yesterday to find that two big trees in front of my building have been chopped down. The one thing I love about the Village is that we have mature trees that provide ambiance and shade. Now we just have two stumps with dead gress. I didn't get a chance to call DDOT, Urban Forestry Administration today, but I definitely intend to find out when they are going to replace the trees they removed.

************************************************************************************
Oh Adrian....

Mayor Fenty has a tough job. He has to deal with DC residents, businesses, ambassadors from other countries, the federal government, and tourists. It's probably the most thankless job, because if you make one group happy, you probably get hate mail from someone else. I don't agree with all of Mayor Fenty's decisions. Personal opinions of the Mayor aside, I do have a HUGE gripe.


My gripe with our "beloved" Mayor is his speech pattern. I don't have a degree or expertise in speech pathology, but my ears can tell you there is something wrong with his speech. It's like he doesn't fully annunciate or articulate or something. He speech pattern is very cluttered. I can't put my finger on it, but I have to mute my TV when he's on. I don't know if he's has a medical condition or if that is just the way he talks. Regardless, if I'm going to have to listen to our fearless leader for however long he is office, I advocate the man getting some speech therapy.


I guess this is bothering me today, because he's all over the news about the Metro accident.

********************************************************************************
Metro Accident
My deepest sympathies to the families of the victims of yesterday's crash.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Leaking or Gushing???


On Thursday, I attended the R.E.E.L. organizational meeting. It was great to meet other young professionals that live in Ward 15 (Ward 7 and 8). If you watched the evening news you wouldn't even think we exist. I'm here to tell you, we are not mythical creatures like unicorns. We exist. We are college educated, working professionals and we are PROUD residents of River East.

I joined the economic development committee. It seemed the common sentiment is that Ward 7 and 8 are GROTESQUELY (my word) under-served by retail that we need and over-served by retail that we don't need (i.e. liquor stores, beauty supply stores, and nail salons). I did some research on the DC Office of Planning website and I found that there was a Retail Action Strategy in progress. Some interesting findings of that study... my commentary in parenthesis...
  • Currently DC residents spend more than $1 billion outside of the District (SAY WHAT???)
  • Many parts of the City are under-served in basic services, retail, and dining (no duh)
  • There is a mismatch of retail in some areas -- too much of one kind and not enough of others (I wonder what the ratio is of liquor stores to grocery stores... things that make you go hmmmmmmmmmm)
  • The District is not reaching its potential in capturing resident, daily worker, and visitor expenditures

In thinking of my own expenditures from the calendar year 2008 (estimates of course)...

  • Groceries: $3000, which 95% was spent in Alexandria, 5% in Ward 7
  • Target: $1000, which 100% was spent in Alexandria
  • Movies: $500, which was spent in Alexandria and Chinatown
  • Cleaners: $200, which 100% was spent in Arlington
  • Dining: $500, NOT A SINGLE PENNY WAS SPENT IN WARD 7 or 8 (ARGH!!!!)
  • Gym Membership: $1000, has anyone realize we have no real membership gyms in River East

That comes up to $6,200 of which only $150 stayed in River East. SHAME SHAME SHAME. Now... what does all this mean? If the District is leaking residential expenditures, then Ward 7 and 8 must be gushing dollars out of this area. Oh the humanity... I think R.E.E.L has a an opportunity to be vocal and at the forefront in getting some much needed retail in River East.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Sunny Side of Rain

If it rains anymore in the DC area, I’m selling my car and purchasing an ark. I’m taking two of every animal… except snakes, because I’m terrified of snakes. With all this unseasonal rain, I don’t know how anyone cannot concede that the climate is changing. Despite standing water on major streets… despite I have to carry an umbrella everyday… and despite the fact that it is near impossible to get out of bed on a dreary, rainy day, some good has come of all this rain.

Based strictly on observation, the rain has kept the riffraff to a minimum in my neighborhood. Usually in April- June when the weather is nice (hot, but not the stifling hot as July and August) it brings the riffraff. Groups of people (maybe 8-12) will congregate all hours of the night on the various street corners. In the wee hours of the morning, they usually walk through the parking lot near my bedroom window talking at the top of their lungs, spewing every cuss word imaginable. While police chases complete with police choppers are rare, they also usually happen during these months.

However, the constant rain has kept the riffraff inside. I get home at all hours of the night because I work two jobs. I feel much comfortable coming home and not having to walk past a group of men just standing outside without a purpose.

Getting Ready for a Fight - Round 1

While my issue is not directly related to "Life in the Village"... It is related to my life and I live in the village. My blog is about speaking up for the change that I want in my community. In this case my community is the entire country.

Over the past three weeks, I have been receiving calls from people asking if someone just called them. When I got the first call, I thought maybe my cellphone dialed the number by accident while in my purse. But then I got a second and third call. All from different people and different parts of the country. I met one woman who said that in addition my number on her called id "Loan Modification" appears.

At first I thought someone had hacked my cellphone or was cloning my number. After extensive review with Verizon Wireless fraud and technology departments, we determined my number hadn't been hacked or cloned. I did an internet search (how did we ever survive before the internet and wikipedia???) and I learned about "Caller ID Spoofing". My cellnumber is an extremely easy number, so it's not inconceivable that my number could be used by a spoofer.

Verizon Wireless offered to change my cell number. I'm still mulling over the offer. Part of my issue is that this has been my number for 12 years and it's really my lifeline. I use this number for everything. It would take me months to get the word out that I changed my number. If I changed it the calls would stop, but I'm only getting one call a day, plus I'm meeting some very interesting people.

However, there is a bigger issue. The issue is that anyone's number can be spoofed. I spoke to the FBI who were of no help. After some more internet research, I learned this falls under the jurisdiction of the Federal Communication Commission (FCC), but not really. The FCC is trying to do what they can, but it takes and act of Congress for the FCC to really go after people who spoof. Congress is stalling on passing legislation (Senate Bill 111-30 Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009). I decided to fight. I know that this isn't an easy battle... especially since DC has not Senate representation (which is a topic for another day).

First, I need an advocate with deep pockets. I sent an email to Verizon Wireless asking for their assistance. I know I'm going to have to be persistent. I also plan to work my way through the FCC ranks in addition to communicating with Congresswoman Nortons' office.

We'll see how it goes.... wish me luck.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Blueprint....

Hot off the press... I just got this email from Councilmember Jim Graham, regarding the blueprint to address gang activity in DC. Just printed my copy to read tonight. I'll be back with my thoughts, in the meantime, here's the email from the Councilmember.

Dear Friends:

On Friday Council Chairman Vincent Gray and Councilmembers Mendelson andEvans joined me to release a blueprint for action on gang violence.

Last year the Council approved funding for the Healthy Families Thriving Communities Collaborative Council to develop a framework that the Council and Mayor can use to develop a citywide, community based strategy to end gang and crew violence.

The blueprint proposes a series of recommendations to be implemented over a120 day period upon passage by the Council. Within the first 90 days, the blueprint recommends --

- The Mayor establish a working group to develop a coordinated response to high profile youth violence cases

- Aligning existing resources to respond to gang and crew related critical incidents

- Identifying the most at risk gang and crew involved youth and connect them to services immediately

- Implementing protocols for street mediation, truces and rumor control,and engaging family members of both perpetrators and victims involved in gang and crew related violence

There is no substitute for police presence and action, but we cannot exclusively arrest our way out of gang violence. These young people need targeted services that address all of their needs. We as a government and as residents need to cooperate. We are tired of seeing these young people being killed in the street. Families are tired of feeling unsafe in their own homes and neighborhoods. I will be working closely with Mayor Fenty and the Council on the next steps to move forward with actions from the blueprint.

The blueprint is available online by clicking this linkhttp://www.grahamwo ne.com/docs/ blueprint. pdf or by copying and pasting it into your Internet browser.

Bests,

Councilmember Jim Graham

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

River East Emerging Leaders


The River East Emerging Leaders (r.e.e.l.) is looking for a few good men and women to help form several important community committees of the organization. This will ensure r.e.e.l. continues to build its core leadership base and help the organization grow and prosper. We are looking for individuals who have an interest or expertise in a particular committee area, but everyone is encouraged to join. And best of all, you can join one or all five.

The committees are:
Activities
Fundraising
Community Service
Economic Development
Marketing

Additionally, we will be accepting donations to help r.e.e.l. secure its 501 (c)(3) tax exemption status. So come out and learn more about the committees and how signing up will benefit you and the community.


DATE: Thursday, June 18, 2009
TIME: 6:30 pm: Mix & Mingle 7-9 pm: Open House and Committee Presentations
WHERE: Anacostia UPO Center @ 1649 Good Road SE (17th and Good Hope)

For more information, e-mail the organization at RiverEastEmergingLeaders@gmail.com or call 202.834-0600.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Race for the Cure...



I ran in the Race for the Cure this morning in honor of my paternal grandmother (still living) and maternal great-grandmother (deceased), who are breast cancer survivors. With breast cancer on both sides of my family, I pray that I'll never have to run for myself. It was a great event. There were thousands of people there. BUT....

The one thing that was disappointing was the lack of Black people running. In my best guess we made up about 2% of the runners. The Black people that were there to walk all looked a french fry a way from a heart attack. I think we need more health education in our community. I'm working on a plan... Stay tuned.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Bag Tax... Good Idea or Bad Idea?


On June 2, 2009 the D.C. Council voted to add a 5 cent tax to plastic bags. This whole thing has me conflicted. Part of my problem is, I wear too many hats.

The Environmentalist (aka the idealist) in me thinks this is a great idea. It's a small step towards a better environmental future. I personally do not use plastic bags. I have about seven or eight reusable bags that use for everything. I keep one in my desk at work. Two in the car, just in case I make a quick stop that wasn't planned. The rest I keep at home. Even when I go to stores like CVS I always say I don't need a bag. Plastic bags just aren't environmentally-friendly.

The Civil Engineer (aka the realist) in me thinks this is a waste of time, effort, and money. To really and truly clean the Anacostia would probably be on the order of hundreds of billions of dollars in my best estimate. Most of that would be to fund infrastructure costs (such as the separation of the storm and sewer lines), environmental remediation (God only knows what deadly chemicals are in the silts at the bottom of the river), and environmental restoration. The estimated $9.5 million expected to be raised, isn't even enough money to plant a tree (I'm being facetious).

The Urban Planner (aka the activist) in me thinks this is a burden to the poor. Let's think about this. Rich people probably won't even notice and/or they have reusable bags. When I shop at the grocery stores in the wealthier parts our town, I would say for ever person that uses plastic bags there are four that bring reusable bags. However, when I shop at the Safeway or Giant on Alabama Ave SE, the clerk always gives me a look of confusion when I hand over my reusable bags.

While I think in general the bag tax is a noble effort, the one thing that I struggle with is the idea that the money will go to community outreach and awareness. Help me understand this... we are going to tax the poor... so we can get funding... to provide the poor with reusable bags... and educate them on the importance of the Anacostia. Riiiiiiiiiight. This is like some warped Robin Hood of some sorts.

Needless to say, this is pretty much a done deal. The Council votes on it again at the end of this month. I sincerely hope that there will be an outreach campaign in Ward 7 and 8 before this tax goes into effect.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Schoolhouse Snitching

I'm not one for snitching.... but as an urban planner in a neighboring jurisdiction the one thing I learned is if you want to see change you have to make some noise. I called Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) this afternoon with hopes that they can help me with a situation.

I took the photo above this past Saturday. What you are looking at is a vacant property owned by IDS DC Inc (according to tax records). During the housing boom they had sights on developing the property. They built four houses that were/are overpriced and not harmonious with the neighborhood. Then came the housing bust. I believe they just recently sold one house. The others still have for sale signs up. And this property is the graveyard for the foundation for the fifth house that was never built.
According to the information I found on the DCRA website, excessive overgrown vegetation is a direct violation of the "Nuisance Properties Abatement Reform and Real Property Classification Amendment Act of 2008". The area is prime for rodent infestation. Hopefully DCRA can track down the owner and get them to address the situation.