Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Change Gon' Come?

I've been missing in action for the last week preparing for a big community for my urban planning project at work. We presented new ideas for the future. Some people were so excited. There were a vocal few that have lived in the area their entire lives who were adamant about the area NOT changing.

This is very similar to some of the sentiments in Wards 7 and 8. While I hate to dwell on the issue of re-branding Wards 7 and 8, two things have happened in the last two weeks that cause me to revisit. One, I went to the ribbon-cutting for the Overlook at Oxon Run. Councilmember Gray and Councilmember Barry stated firmly that this is "East of the River" when one of the developers suggested we re-brand and call it River East. Two, there was an article in the Washington Post article that was talking about young D.C. activist (R.E.E.L.) who want to re-brand Wards 7 and 8.


Essentially there is a clear divide between "old school" Washingtonians and "new school" Washingtonians. How do we resolve this "battle of wills" (for lack of a better term)? Who owns the future of Wards 7 and 8? Where there people that were this passionate when the name changed from "Washington East" to "East of the River"?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Consider this your first warning

As of today, I am officially on the board for Fairfax Village IV. Many residents are pushing me to be the President of the board. Regardless, there are going to be some changes around here. One of the big issues that we face as a Village is absentee owners. Many of the owners live in other states and then put their units on the "list" for Section 8.

Let me pause for a moment. As a Christian, I believe it is our duty to be our brothers and sisters keeper. I have no problem with my taxes helping someone who needs help and who is trying to better for themselves and their family. HOWEVER, I'm also a person who believes that you have to help yourself. I do think you need to "pull yourself up by your bootstraps". I'll give you the boots. I'll give you straps. I'll even train you on how to lace your boots, BUT damnit at some point you have to do your part. All that to say that I'm not a Section 8 hater. I'm not in the business of putting people on the street.

Back to my issues in the Village and homeowners renting to Section 8. We have some renters, who happen to be Section 8, that are bringing down the property values, by doing doing and dealing drugs, prostitution, and general lack. This is now the second ghetto boo in my building. The last ghetto boo was a nightmare to say the least. It took us 8 months to run her out of the Village. I would expand on how horrible she was, but I don't even want to relive all that drama.

This ghetto boo had the nerve to knock on my door asking for $2 for gas. I may have been born at night, but it sure wasn't last night. You know good and well you can't even buy a gallon of gas for $2.

I'm going to cut this rant short, because I need to head to my HOA meeting. The Village is a nice place to live, and I refuse to let the riff raff bring the place down. I will give them an opportunity to do better... if not... You need to keep it moving.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

We’ll take a blood sample too.

I haven’t blogged much over the last few days, because I’m trying to nurse two sick dogs back to health. It is times like this that I miss the Southeast Animal Hospital. It used to be the blue building on thee site where the new project The Grays on Penn Ave is going. All of the animal hospitals in DC are located in NW. There is a vet clinic in Capitol Hill, but I’ve heard mixed reviews, so what is a girl to do? Drive to Alexandria.

Needless to say, I was trying to find a photo of the Southeast Animal Hospital and I found myself on the developers website for The Grays on Penn Ave. I was nosing around the website (which didn’t take long given the lack of content) and happen upon the rental applications. The application is FIFTEEN pages. Yesh. I don’t even think I filled out that much paperwork for my mortgage application.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Fun Side of the River

Today the Hillcrest Community Civic Association held their annual Blessing of the Trees at the Senior Wellness Center on Alabama Ave. They had a moon bounce and live music. The seniors were getting it in during the Cha-Cha slide. When the "hands on your knees" part of the song came on, these seniors were dropping it like it's hot. I am NOT mad at them. I hope I can still drop it like it's hot when I get their age.

The funniest thing ever was this one woman, about 85 years old, was talking like Madea. She was walking to the Senior transport van and she says "Hell-er. How ya Durn. Halleluyer" just like Madea. I thought she was being serious, but then she says, "Let me stop playing. I'm about to get on this bus." COMEDY. Old people are hilarious.

Councilmember Yvette Alexander made a cameo appearance. Mayoral candidate, Leo Alexander, also made a guest appearance. It was great to meet him face-to-face. The hardworking 6th district "boys in blue" where there as well. MPD - 6th District has renewed my faith in cops.

Beauty in the East



I had the honor being invited to attend the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Overlook at Oxon Run. I encourage you to check out the site to get the facts. There is so much to say about this event, that I'm going to have to break it up over several posts. Given this project is a long time coming, I'm going to focus on the positives in this post.

Prior to being the Overlook at Oxon Run, the 12-story building was known as Parkside Terrace, which was described by Gerald Joseph, Vice President of Community Preservation and Development Corporation (CPDC), as representing "the worse of public policy." The building had been sitting vacant since 2005. Mayor Fenty called the former building, an "eyesore, dilapidated and depressing".

Board showing the former building


In the words of Michael Kelly, Director of the DC Housing Authority, the new building is a "wonderful symbol of excellence." Boy, is it a beauty. I couldn't wait to get back to the office to show my boss. In all my years as an urban planner, I've never seen an affordable housing project that was intentionally multi-generational. Usually there is an affordable seniors building and a separate building for families. The building is close to half senior housing and the other half family. I think this is a great concept.

One resident, Tantillya Samayoa, and her family recently relocated from the Columbia Heights area. Despite the adjustment to not having amenities in walking distance, Ms. Samayoa likes the fact that the building has a weightroom, a playground across the street, and a washer and dryer in her unit.
The Samayoas

I also spoke to one of the senior residents, Ms. Elsie Judge. She has lived in DC all her life and she worked at DC General for 20 years. She was so proud of her apartment that she offered to give me a personal tour. She even let me take photos.
Ms Judge


Photo in Ms. Judge's apartment

Thursday, September 17, 2009

So he has a vision... tell me more!!!

I know that it is VERY early in the DC Mayoral race. However, as someone who is in the "Anyone-but-Fenty" camp, I am very intrigued to learn more about the newcomer Leo Alexander. I wasn't able to attend his kick-off event on Monday, but he did grant me a short phone conversation yesterday. We had just enought for him to give me the scrolling marquee version of his vision and I had a chance to give the view from 50,000 feet of the issues in River East.

One of the things that we talked about that almost had me ready to join the revolution was his plan for ending "generational poverty". The brother was speaking my language. I feel like I deal with "generational poverty" 24/7. I deal with it at work as an urban planner in Northern Virginia. I deal with it at home with all the ghetto boos living in Fairfax Village on Section 8 vouchers. One of my first blog posts was about generational poverty in public housing. From our short conversation, it seems that we share similar views on solving the issue. Lord know Fenty doesn't care.

Although, it's still a little too early for me to throw my support behind any candidate, I will say Mr. Alexander is the first politician in a looooooooong while that has gotten me excited. Mr. Alexander is not afraid to address the "elephant in the room" type of issues. I appreciated his candidness on the phone.

I'm sure that he's got a full plate as he's got a lot of work to do to become known in DC. In our conversation I told him that Wards 7 and 8 are going to be very important wards in this next mayoral race.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Francis A. Gregory Library Meeting Tonight

If you can attend, tonight there will be a community meeting to give a progress report on the design of the new library. The new library is being designed by the award-winning designerDavid Adjaye (Adjaye & Associates).

Library Design Meeting: A Progress Report for the Community
Tuesday, September 15, 6:30-8 pm
Francis A. Gregory Neighborhood Library
3660 Alabama Avenue, SE

For more information, contact Archie Williams at (202) 727-1437 or archie.williams@dc.gov

I won't be able to attend tonight's community meeting due to a community meeting for my job (being an urban planner is tough sometimes). However, I have seen the conceptual drawings. I can imagine sitting on the balcony with my laptop and coffee.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Who?

I got an email this weekend through my neighborhood listserv announcing that Mr. Leo Alexander is entering the 2010 DC Mayoral Race. Who? I've never heard of him before. I won’t be able to attend Mr. Alexander’s kick-off event tonight, but thanks to Google I was able to get some information on Mr. Alexander.

You can read his bio on Wikipedia at your leisure. Let’s get to the good stuff that I found….

Apparently, Mr. Alexander used to write for the website dcwatch.com. In reading some of his posts, on the website, it looks like he has some fire in his belly. He appears to be a tell it like it is type of person. I can respect that. Here are some excerpts from one of his posts:

On May 6, 2007, Mr. Alexander writes (these are just excerpts):

“I bring race up again in this piece, because on Saturday, May 5, I read for the umpteenth time another editorial in the Post on the tragic murder of David Rosenbaum. Here is how racist policies left unchecked come back to haunt all of us. At one time, there were seven vocational education schools in the District of Columbia. Today, there are none. Does that mean all of our children are now college bound?”

“We are failing our children. You don’t need to be a criminologist to connect the dots between the cuts to recreation and vocational education to the rise in juvenile crime statistics. And it matters not that these kids don’t look like you, or live in your neighborhood.”

In 2007 Mr. Alexander, was quoted in the Washington Post regarding residents of Ward 3 being serviced by Montgomery County emergency services.

"How does the most affluent ward in the District get a sweetheart deal with Montgomery County while the rest of the wards get cut out?" asked Leo Alexander, 42, a real estate investor who lives east of the park outside the squad's service area and is pushing to end the practice.

A little more digging and I found Mr. Alexander's old blog. Though he only has a few entries, it seems that he's not afraid to deal with issues of race head on. It appears that he make no apologies for who he is or how he thinks. I can respect that.

For now, Mr. Alexander has my attention. I hope that he’ll be making some trips to River East to learn about our issues and our bold visions.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Dog Park in the East???

I have two Tibetan Spaniel dogs. They are perfect for living in Fairfax Village, because they are small, they rarely bark and they don't require a lot of physical activity. My dogs usually like to play in the evening, but the problem is there really isn't a place where I can take them close to home where I can let them run off leash. There is a little spot of grass behind my building where I some times let them run off leash, but the problem is it is not fenced in. All it takes is one cat, squirrel or bird and they will take off.

I was talking to one of my neighbors this morning. I told her that I wish we had a fenced in area where the dogs could play. There are a lot of dogs in the Village. Mostly small dogs since our By-laws say we can only have dogs under 30 lbs. However, there are some people with bigger dogs (violation of rules) and a few owners with out of control pitbulls.

Fairfax Village owns tennis courts off Suitland Terrace that are currently overgrown with trees and weeds. My neighbor and I were thinking it would be a PERFECT place for a dog park. It would be enough space to make a section for small dogs and another section for big dogs.

I went online to Department of Parks and Recreation website and was quickly disappointed to learn that they will only design and construct dog parks on city-owned property. So.... either Fairfax Village would need to make our own dog park or we would have to sell the land to the City to make a public dog park.... interesting. I'm going to call DPR on Monday to see if there is a loophole or something.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Splash of Color: Blues + Neon to hit Honfleur Gallery


Piedmont Blues Concert and Neon Public Art Lighting this Friday
Friday September 11th, 7pm


This weekend is set to start off right, with a vibrant intro to the fall arts season. A night of stellar blues music and concurrent art lighting and dedication bring a splash of color to Honfleur Gallery. Tickets for the Wiggins and Friends concert are $10 and available through the gallery. The new neon public art piece by DC light sculptor Craig Kraft is entitled Anacoeti, and was created as a site-specific installation acting as a beacon of light and color for Honfleur. This artwork and the concert are both funded by a grant from the DC Commission for the Arts and Humanities, and will be lit and dedicated during the concert intermission.

Phil Wiggins, a leading exponent of the Piedmont Blues, will kick of the evening with live blues starting at 7pm. Joined by blues musician and activist Rick Franklin, under the name of “Wiggins and Friends”, the duo exemplifies this local blues style-– specifically the Piedmont-style guitar. Piedmont blues features alternating thumb and finger, with the thumb creating a steady, loping bass as the melody is simultaneously picked out on the treble strings. This is a musical event not to be missed- Wiggins is one half of the former group “Cephas and Wiggins,” renowned for their contributions to the Piedmont style. Almost immediately after the two musicians joined forces (in the late 70's), the blues community proclaimed them as the new champions of the East Coast Piedmont style of blues." Phil Wiggins continues performing and spreading his knowledge and love for the blues, despite the passing of his longtime musical partner John Cephas earlier this year.

"When you get down, the Blues will pick you up again. Blues is nourishment for the human spirit,” according to Phil Wiggins. Don't miss the touching, melodic and uplifting performance of some extremely talented musicians performing the blues at Anacostia’s contemporary fine art space.

About the Artists:
PHIL WIGGINS
Born in Washington, D.C. in 1954, Phil Wiggins began his musical career with some of Washington's leading blues artists, including the locally noted slide guitarist and gospel singer Flora Molton. He also apprenticed with Mother Scott (a contemporary of Bessie Smith). He met John Cephas in 1976 and, along with pianist Wilbert "Big Chief" Ellis and bassist James Bellamy, they formed the Barrelhouse Rockers. After Ellis' death in 1977, the duo of Cephas &
Wiggins was born. Besides being a renowned harmonica player, Wiggins is also a gifted songwriter whose material helped define the duo's sound. Often called the Ambassadors of The Blues, Cephas & Wiggins continue to bring Piedmont blues to audiences all over the world. In 2009, John Cephas passed away. Since then Phil has joined up with various blues legends bringing Rick Franklin to play alongside him. Phil is a true master of the acoustic blues harp!

RICK FRANKLIN
Rick's musical style of blues, known as the "Piedmont" style, is identified with such legendary players as Blind Blake, Blind Boy Fuller and William More along with contemporary players like the late Virginians John Cephas and John Jackson and the late Maryland resident, Archie Edwards. Rick has taught guitar to youths and adults both national and international. He is personally committed to the preservation and diffusion of the Blues, especially
amongst the young. Rick has been on the European Blues Association Blues Week faculty, the Port Townsend Blues Week faculty, has been an Executive Board member of the DC Blues Society and helped organize and performed in the first annual DC Blues Festival. Rick also contributed to the DC Blues Society as a music critic for their monthly and quarterly publication.

CRAIG KRAFT Over the past 30 years Craig Kraft has gained national recognition in creating original works of art that advance the techniques he has developed working with neon and the figure and, more recently, rolled aluminum. He is one of only a handful of light artists in the world who bends his own glass and is respected for his ability to precisely manipulate the figure and light to capture his own artistic vision. He achieved his Bachelor's and Master's degrees from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He is presently a faculty member of the Smithsonian Institution Studio Arts Program. His sculptures have been featured in over 110 exhibits throughout the U.S.A. (11 solo) and he has been a leader of the International Sculpture Conference twice. Recently, Kraft has been commissioned to create monumental rolled aluminum light sculptures for both Montgomery County Maryland and P.F.A. for the Downtown Silver Spring Development as well as for The Arlington Arts Center in Arlington, Virginia. He was invited to exhibit at both The Busan Biennale Art Festival 2004 and Hermandades Escultoricas 2005 in Merida Yucatan Mexico. Kraft Resides at 931 R Street NW, Washington, D.C. U.S.A. His work can be seen at his home gallery and studio, a historic firehouse. His pieces are for sale and he is available for commissioned artwork.

Tickets ($10) are available at the gallery; 1241 Good Hope Road SE, by telephone at 202-580-5972, or on the web at http://www.honfleurgallery.com/events. The current exhibit is East of the River, the third annual exhibition hightlighting artists from wards 7 and 8 and will be on view from August 1st to October 15th. For further inquiries, please contact Briony Evans Hynson, Creative Director at 202-536-8994 or http://us.mc534.mail.yahoo.com/mc/compose?to=arts@archdc.org. Be sure to visit the Honfleur website
for details: http://www.honfleurgallery.com/

Thursday, September 3, 2009

VACATION


It's hard being me, but someone has to ... otherwise there would be no me. I'll be on vacation from blogging from today through Tuesday. I'll be back with thoughtful insights on Wednesday. For those of you traveling during the holiday weekend, I wish you safe travels.
Happy Labor Day

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Shout out to the Boys in Blue

Around 6:30 PM, this evening I was walking my dogs around Fairfax Village. I stopped at the southwest corner of Fort Davis St and Pennsylvania Ave SE to talk to this women with three boys. The littlest boy wanted to pet my dogs. One of my dogs likes to jump, so I was kneeling down holding her. All of a sudden there was all this commotion... sirens and tire screeching. I don't even know where the first MPD car came from. It arrived so quickly, it was almost like they just abracadabra'd their way to the scene on the northwest corner.

Then two police cruisers and one unmarked car come to a screeching hault at Fort Davis St and Pennsylvania Ave SE. MPD is jumping out... I don't know maybe 8 officers in all. I looked over at the scene and 2 MPD had this teenager on the ground. Three MPD jump back in the unmarked car and screech off to somewhere. Two jump back into a marked car and disappear. They put the went back to normal like nothing happened.

I swear in the span of 30 seconds, MPD appeared, scooped up the teenager, and disappeared. Thank you MPD 6th District for all that you do!!!