Monday, March 29, 2010

Speak up or walk

Photobucket
Wards 7 and 8, it's time to speak up and be heard. WMATA is seeking public comments and proposals on how to close the $189 million dollar shortfall. The bus lines proposed for service changes or elimination East of the River are:
  • Elimination of entire route - A9, A31, A32, A33, M2, P2, S35, V5, X3
  • Restructure of service - 96, A4, P6, U4, U5, U8, V8, W2, W3, W6, W8
WMATA held a hearing on March 24th at St. Francis Xavier Church in Ward 7. My sources say that no Ward 8 people attended. There is one more hearing for public input. I highly recommend attending.

Thursday, April 1
Hearing No. 552
All Souls Unitarian Church, Pierce Hall
1500 Harvard Street, NW
Washington, DC
Hearing scheduled to begin at 7 p.m., with an open house at 6:30 p.m.

The complete public hearing docket with detailed information about proposals to balance the budget can be found at http://www.wmata.com/community_outreach/B10-2_landing/B10-2_landing.cfm

In addition to the hearings, Metro has created an online questionnaire to get public input about the budget options at www.wmata.com/survey.cfm. Written statements and exhibits may be sent to the Office of the Secretary, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, 600 Fifth Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001, or e-mailed to public-hearing- testimony@wmata.com. Please reference the hearing number. Submissions must be received by 5 p.m. Tuesday, April 6.

Ms V's Secret
The proposed fare increases and changes in bus service are going to adversely impact those of us that live East of the River. One little known tool to ensure low-income and minorities are not adversely affected by service changes is the Service Equity Analysis (FTA Circular 4702.1A). Recipients of FTA funding "shall evaluate significant system-wide service and fare changes and proposed improvements at the planning and program stages to determine where those changes have a discriminatory impact" on low income and minority populations. WMATA is "required to" prepare one before their final decision.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Don't believe the hype

Sometimes I think I was born in the wrong era. When I look at my parent's cohort, they fought for what they believed. Even being "Negros" in the deep south, they with their communities were able to exert their power through protests, sit-ins, and voting. My activist parents taught me to fight for what is right and for what I believe. The 2008 elections have renewed my faith that the people, specifically OUR people, are not apathetic.

Congress Heights on the Rise has a great blog post about Slick Willy Fenty. Apparently while she was shopping at the Congress Height's Giant, someone asked her to sign a petition to recall Mayor Fenty. There is a buzz around town that Slick Willy Fenty doesn't care about us East of the River. I've also heard that he doesn't have to care because: 1) we don't vote and 2) he doesn't need our votes**raises brow**. A very power tool to "control" people is to tell a lie, tell it often, and the people will eventually believe it.

Miss V questions everything. I looked at the voter turn out for the 2002, 2004, 2006, and 2008 elections available on the DC Board of Elections and Ethics website... Here are some truths:
  • In 2004 and 2008 primary election Ward 7 and Ward 8 had the 2nd and 3rd highest voter turn-out, respectively. (Note: the link for the 2006 primaries is not working).
  • In the 2004 and 2008 primaries, Wards 7 and 8 comprised 31% and 28% of the total votes, respectively. (Note: the link for the 2006 primaries is not working).
  • In the general elections from 2002-2006, Ward 7 had the 5th for highest voter turn-out.
  • In the 2008 general elections, Ward 7 had the 4th highest voter turn-out.
  • Ward 7 has the 3rd highest number of registered voters (as of November 2009)
  • Wards 7 and 8, make up 24% of the registered voters (as of November 2009).
As we all know this is a very Democratic city (partly why Congress is hating on our Statehood), so the winner of the primaries will win the general election. Wards 7 and 8, we are not as powerless as they would have us believe. As the data show, we have some of the highest voter turn-out in the primary elections.

We have a little less than 6 months to send a message to Slick Willy. In my little DCtopia, Wards 7 and 8 would have a record high voter turn out and unanimously not vote for Fenty. Even if Fenty is re-elected, think about how powerful of a message that would send. We can continue to accept the okie doke from this administration, or we can hold them accountable and fight for what we believe.

Owl in the Hood

One of my neighbors snapped this from her backyard. Where else can you live in an urban area and still have wildlife?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

What defines a community?

The Woolly Mammoth Theater Company invited some DC neighborhood bloggers to the play Clybourne Park. I attended the show on Friday night and bumped into And Now, Anacostia. All I knew about the play was it centered around the issues of gentrification (yes the "g" word). The first Act is set in a 1950's white community in the city. A black family moves in the neighborhood and the white community becomes concerned. In the second act, it's now present day. It is a black community and a white couple is moving in. Obviously, there is more to the play than that, but I don't want to spoil it for people intending on seeing it.

Probably contrary to other parts of the City, the change from a white community to a black community happened relatively quickly in Fairfax Village. This community was built in the 1940s as apartments for working class residents, who happened to be white. This area was largely unaffected by the 1968 riots. In the 1970s, a developer converted Fairfax Village from apartments to condos. Most of the people that bought after the conversion were black. There are several neighbors who have lived here since Fairfax Village became condos.

The play reveals the complexities that exist in communities today related to how communities change over times. The ending raises more questions than it answers. The big question that I walked away asking myself was "What defines a community?" People move in and out of communities all the time. Is community defined by race? economic status? family composition? Do we have to be like or look like our neighbors in order to considered a community?

Maybe I have some Pollyanna tendencies, but I'd like to think that despite where we come from, what we do, or what we look like, we are a community. People make a community. Just people.

Readers of Life in the Village can see any performance of Clybourne Park for only $15. Use this numeric code 789 when arranging tickets. Reservations can be made online (woollymammoth.net), over the phone (202-393-3939), or in person (641 D Street NW, Washington, DC). Clybourne Park runs March 15 – April 11, 2010. Performances are Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8pm and Sundays at 2pm and 7pm. Questions? Visit woollymammoth-dot-net or email Rachel Grossman, Connectivity Director, Rachel-at-Woollymammoth.net

Friday, March 19, 2010

That time of the year again

Due to all the snow this winter, crime was down. It gets a little nice and things become off the chain. Since I've been living here, March and April are the worse for crime. We had a carjacking in Fairfax Village earlier this month. I went to the PSA 606 meeting and learned that we've had some vehicle break-ins and stolen autos in the month of February and March. Then, in the wee hours of this morning, there was a shooting on Pennsylvania Ave. According to the article, police believe the man was shot on the Maryland side of Pennsylvania Ave, although he was found on the 3900 Block of Pennsylvania Ave in DC.

At the PSA meeting, Lt. Hodges stated that the community needs to be vigilant and help be the eyes and ears for MPD. If the bad elements see that the community cares, they'll go elsewhere. If you notice anything or anyone that is suspicious, trust your gut instinct and call 9-1-1. If you don't feel that it rises to the level of an emergency there are other options, listed below:
  • Call 3-1-1
  • Text 50411 from your cell phone
  • Call the anonymous tip line (888) 919-CRIME
To stay informed about crime in the neighborhood
  • Join the MPD-6D listserv: groups.yahoo.com/groups/MPD-6D
  • Attend a PSA 606 meeting, 3rd Wed of every month, 6:00 PM at the Lutheran Church on Alabama and Branch
  • Sign up for Alert DC

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Photos never lie

My neighbor sent this out. She captured this photo while sitting in traffic on Pennsylvania right by the new development, The Grays. Maybe we need to have a spellcheck feature on the variable message signs. LOL.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Plan ahead

The National Marathon will be on Saturday March 20th. According to the website Pennsylvania Ave from Fairlawn Ave to Minnesota Ave will be closed from 8:55 AM to 1:10 PM. Based on my experience the last few years, the traffic on Pennsylvania Ave can back up all the way to Southern Ave. It's not pretty.

My advice is:
  • Avoid any non-essential travel
  • Find an alternative route (i.e. Suitland Parkway, I-495)
  • Avoid Pennsylvania Ave or add 1 hour to your trip if you don't and make sure you have plenty of gas to idle
  • Use Metrorail
  • If you use the Bus, make sure the line is running. Some bus lines are suspended during the race.
Below is the map of the marathon route.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Houston... we have a problem...

I just had an OMG moment. I'm walking my dogs and talking to my neighbors. Instead of saying "hi, neighbor" like normal, I said "don't forget to fill out your Census". I am SHOCKED at the number of my neighbors who are skeptical of the Census. One woman told me that the Census was a government conspiracy. **raises brow**. I talked with her for about 20 minutes and by the end of the conversation she said... "This is important."

Another neighbor quizzed me as to why he should fill it out. I told him I could give him a million reasons in dollars. He gave me a look of surprise. He had no idea of the funding decisions that are based on population.

People... people... people.... PLEASE encourage your neighbors to fill out the Census.

I'm accounted for

Whoop Whoop. My Census form came in the mail today. I already filled it out and mailed it back. Miss V is present and accounted for. I've already blogged about the importance of the Census, so no need to repeat myself.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Working Together: Improving Education

I posed several questions on how we move forward as a community. Commissioner Ellis (ANC - 8C01) commented on that post and so eloquently pointed out that we can't get sidetracked by things of lesser importance. He suggested that we focus on School, Jobs, and Crime.

There are enough of us living East of the River who are college-educated with professional careers. We need to do our part in the community by helping the next generation. Last year I was shocked to learned that so many of our young people feel hopeless in the Council report "A Blueprint for Action". Imagine the impact we could have if each of us just gave one kid hope for the future.

I've previously mentioned two great organizations that serve our children in Wards 7 and 8: College and Career Connections and DC College Success Foundation. DC College Success Foundation is looking for close to 200 college-graduates to mentor high school Seniors through the college application process. The commitment is 1 hour a month. College and Career Connections is looking for monetary donations as their funding is dwindling. In addition, they are looking for professionals to talk to the kids about careers and/or take the kids on a tour of their job.

We are all busy people, but we have time to spare. The time and energy we expend complaining about the kids can be re-focused into time and energy helping the kids. Just so you know Miss V isn't all talk. I've been a Big Sister for 3.5 years to a girl who lives in Congress Heights. Staring this Spring, I'll be a Hometown Mentor for the DC College Success Foundation. Now that I know about College and Career Connection, I'm signing up to be volunteer to tell the kids about being an urban planner and a civil engineer.

Here is a great video they showed at the College and Career Connections fundraiser that I attended:

Thursday, March 11, 2010

How do we move forward?

I didn't give the Washington City Paper article "East of the River or River East? much credence. As a matter of fact, I yawned. In the days since, there has been so much dialog on all sides of the debate. On Tuesday, R.E.E.L. issued a response statement. On Wednesday, the listservs that I'm on were all a buzz.

Everyone has put their cards on the table. I've heard valid points on all sides of the debate. I've heard eloquent speeches and monologues. I've also heard hot air, jibberish, and accusations. It's all very touching. But in all the soliloquies, statements, and responses I've heard no one offer a solution on how to move forward.

Regardless if we've been here 50 years or 50 seconds, we are all a part of this community. Regardless if we've been to college or just clean toilets at a college, we are all a part of this community. Regardless if we live in a single family home in Hillcrest, public house in Barry Farm, or a condo in Deanwood, we are all a part of this community. How do we move forward? How do we come together and stand for what we believe in? How do we all put our bruised egos aside and develop a strategy to make positive changes? How do we use the power of our voice and our votes? I'm not even going to pretend that I know the answers to these questions.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Any day now

I remember when I was 12, I had a penpal who lived in Israel. I would run home from school and race to the mailbox. At the tender age of 12, I thought the anticipation might kill me. When the letter arrived, true to a teenager's mindset, I would put the mail back in the mailbox and run inside with my letter. That's how I feel about the Census.

The commercials and handouts all said that Census would be mailed out early March. Everyday, since the 1st, I make a mad dash to my mailbox. I was actually starting to get concerned that they didn't want to count me. I was all prepared to write a blog post about the conspiracy to not count people East of the River. Then today I get a letter in the mail from the US Census Bureau telling me not to fret and my Census form will be here shortly. **phew... wipes brow**

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I have relied on Census data at every job I've worked. I used Census data to dole out MILLIONS of dollars in funding, analyze issues related to civil rights and environmental justice, projected development potential of a neighborhood and estimated infrastructure needs in the future.

Be on the lookout for your Census form. FILL IT OUT and MAIL IT BACK. **yes I'm yelling**

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Beware of the company you keep

Oh Slick Willy Fenty.... I want to offer my apologies. I did give my word that I was going to find you new friends. However, I failed to fulfill that promise. Now even the Washington Post, who I thought loved you unconditionally, is questioning your affiliations. In a four page article, the Washington Post provides a detailed analysis of the mayor's friends and how they profited from the City.

Is it so wrong to help your friends dig themselves out of financial troubles and build successful businesses? On the surface it doesn't seem like such a bad thing. However, when you dig deeper, one must raise their brow. The article suggests that there was some "strong-arming" involved, i.e. use my people or else. Several developers who spoke on anonymously for fear of backlash from the Fenty Administration detail conversations they had with Fenty's people. In a nutshell, developers would have a hard time winning government contracts without using Fenty's people.

Well, I really don't know what else to say, but this is a good opportunity to use come overused cliches:
  • Those who sleep with dogs will rise with fleas
  • What you do in the dark will come to light
  • Power corrupts; Absolute power corrupts absolutely
  • You reap what you sow

Our brothers' and sisters' keeper

This past Friday around 3 PM there was a carjacking in main parking lot (Village IV) in Fairfax Village. From the information that I have, two men approached a Fairfax Village resident and demanded the keys to her car and purse at gunpoint. One man fled in her car and the other fled on foot. This happened in broad daylight.

In addition, this past Tuesday a man drove a cab of a semi truck into our parking lot and started idling. He was there for about an hour before police made him move. Apparently, he was using our community as a truck stop.

Since I've been living here, I've noticed an influx in crime around this time of year when the weather starts getting warm. While we have a Full Stride Officer dedicated to Fairfax Village, he is only one person. We ALL need to be his eyes and ears on the street. If you notice anything or anyone that is suspicious, trust your gut instinct and call 9-1-1. If you don't feel that it rises to the level of an emergency there are other options, listed below:
  • Call 3-1-1
  • Text 50411 from your cell phone
  • Call the anonymous tip line (888) 919-CRIME
To stay informed about crime in the neighborhood
  • Join the MPD-6D listserv: groups.yahoo.com/groups/MPD-6D
  • Attend a PSA 606 meeting, 3rd Wed of every month, 6:00 PM at the Lutheran Church on Alabama and Branch
  • Sign up for Alert DC

Friday, March 5, 2010

Don't talk about it, be about it - Part 2


Last night I attended the College and Career Connection Valentine's Day Fundraiser. I will admit that I wasn't in the mood to attend. I'm not a huge fan of fundraisers, because often times the money really isn't going to anything that will positively impact the community. In addition, I've observed that some organizations throw fundraisers so they can fund programs that do not even relate to the mission of the organization.

I am glad that I got over my apprehension. The College and Career Connections organization is really doing some positive things in Ward 7. I love that they have identified the problem, established metrics to measure their effectiveness and they have a clear mission with programs that directly support that mission. Apparently their grant funding is slowly evaporating and they are looking for monetary so they can continue to serve the children of Ward 7.

In November, I issued a challenge for people to step up and be mentors to college-bound high school seniors living in Wards 7 and 8. To my knowledge only ONE of my readers signed up (BTW it's not too late to sign up). College and Career Connections is also looking for people to talk to the kids about their careers, host site visits to their job, and serve on their Board of Directors. I issue a second "Don't talk about it, be about it" challenge. We all have one hour out of our lives that we can spare to talk to the kids. This is OUR community and we all need to do our part to help raise OUR kids.

Please visit their website at http://collegeandcareerconnections.org/ to learn more about how to get involved.

FREE Community Events

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Yawn....

The Washington City Paper has a cover story titled "East of the River or River East?" There is so much going on in this article I'm struggling to collect all of my thoughts. I had gotten wind last night that the article shed an unfavorable light on some of the Ward 8 bloggers and R.E.E.L. I was so anxious to read the final version.

I have two big issues with the article. One issue is the author only interviewed residents and bloggers of Ward 8. With all due respect to them, Ward 8 is NOT Ward 7. While the view from 50,000 feet may look similar, we have different leadership, physical layout and underlying issues. The author is well within his right to write what he wants, but don't lump all of Ward 7 and Ward 8 together and then only interview people in Ward 8.

The other issue is that the article is divisive. We are over here trying to build a community both physically and the emotional connection. The last thing we need is an outsider driving a wedge between us. This article is a reminder that no one can tell our story like we can.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Can I finally exhale??

There isn't a lot of commercial development potential where I live due to the abundance of single- and multi-family homes. As it stands right now the two "major" opportunities within walking distance of Fairfax Village are Penn Branch Shopping Center and Skyland Development. When I talked to the real estate agent for Penn Branch last year, he assured me that the renovations would be complete by December 2010. I was starting to lose hope. I'm still holding my breathe for Skyland.

Washington Business Journal announced yesterday that the DC Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) agreed to a 10-year lease renewal, which will provide the necessary revenue for the rehab project to finally begin. They also noted that the developer is not receiving any tax breaks. Hopefully, the rehab project will bring us new retail and eating establishments that aren't carry-outs or fast food.

While I'm not a huge fan of the District government leasing space while selling off District-owned property, I'm very excited about this project. Call me selfish if you want, but I like having DMV within walking distance and that building is in dire need of a facelift. This combined with the Pennsylvania Ave Main Streets Project is going to bring new life to the neighborhood. Now if only the property owner of the blue and yellow laundromat next door would consider improving that property.

Monday, March 1, 2010

One way to close the budget gap

I don't know what happened in the staff meeting at DC Department of Public Works (DPW) within the last two weeks, but parking enforcement has been overly aggressive in Fairfax Village. We don't even have a parking problem, so I can only image how bad it is downtown. Parking enforcement has always been consistent in my neighborhood in the morning. As surely as the sun rises, I can depend on the little white parking enforcement vehicle cruising down my street between 7:00 and 7:15 AM during the weekdays. I can also depend on my neighbors running out in their PJs trying to move their car from the illegal spots before she shows up.

The last two Saturday mornings, the hardworking people at DPW have taken parking enforcement to a whole other level. Last Saturday when I was walking my dogs around 8 AM, I see the parking enforcement van creeping through my neighborhood. I went in the house to feed the dogs. When I came back out at 9 AM, a good 6 or 7 cars on my block had the bright orange boots. This past Saturday the same thing happen with the exception of they were booting and towing people.

I can't be mad at DPW employees for doing their job. I was jokingly giving one of the guys a hard time for booting people on a Saturday knowing that people have errands to run all day. He just gave me the Kanye shrug and went back to booting.

If you have any outstanding parking tickets within the legal boundaries of DC, I strongly suggest that you get that handled or don't park your car on a public street. This is not a game, people. Once you are booted, you have to pay all outstanding tickets plus an additional $75 to have the boot removed.