Sunday, November 26, 2006

Living in the Boneyard

Maybe contemplating a picked-over turkey carcass brought this to mind, but one of Shaw's little mysteries is why the neighborhood is absolutely littered with chicken bones.

If you don't have a dog, you might not have noticed, but if you do, the bones are impossible to ignore because they are everywhere. Our dogs never fail to find at least two or three every time we walk them--sometimes a lot more.

I suppose it's not that hard to figure out where they come from, but I've never actually seen anyone walking around gnawing on a piece of KFC and flinging the bones on the sidewalk. But someone must have decided to feed those hungry rats.

Fenty Town Meeting

Hizzoner-elect Fenty is holding a town meeting for each ward. The meeting for Ward 2 is scheduled for December 7 at 6:30 at the Kennedy Recreation Center, 1401 7th St, NW. Your chance to get your 2 cents in before he takes office.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Latest vote count

This was a year for razor-thin election margins, and our ANC was no exception. Here are the pre-certified election results (including absentee votes) posted on the DCBOEE website:

Alex Padro 261
Mary Sutherland 107
Write-in 6

Kevin Chapple 272
Leroy Thorpe 267
Write-in 2

John Tinpe 131
Doris Brooks 315
Write-in 8

Richard Rogers 118
Barbara Curtis 146
Write-in 6

Here's hoping the new commission can work together productively to bring the neighborhood together for strong and harmonious community.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Historic Preservation, Part Deux

Just got through reading the Historical Preservation Review Board's report on a proposed new construction on two lots on Ridge Street (posted on the MVSNA blog), which awakened my inner libertarian. [Richard, where are you?] It also revived my qualms about the proposed extension of historic district designation to eastern Shaw.

In this case, the developer is proposing to build new dwellings on two vacant lots. He seems to have taken some pains to make the design compatible with the existing houses on the block, which the HPRB report acknowledged, but still asks for changes--having to do with the windows ("fenestration"), set-back, and roof line.

I've gone on a bit on this subject before. I guess my main problem with all this is the seeming vagueness of the standards used by the HPRB for its decisions and its apparent determination to make details such as windows and doors replicate those of some arbitrarily-chosen time in history regardless of considerations such as advances in design, materials, and energy-efficiency.

Also, why should a neighborhood have to conform to some Disneyfied idea of what it looked like at some selected point in time? Styles evolve, just as neighborhoods do, and it doesn't necessarily harm the quality of a neighborhood to have modern styles and structural material interspersed with those of a bygone era. We see this all over Europe and think it's just fine, but here we seem to want Colonial Williamsburg.

My other reservation concerns creating a financial disincentive to building new housing or improving what exists. There's a derelict shell of a house on my block where I'd love to see any kind of “fenestration” besides plywood sheets. (Floors, walls, and plumbing would be nice, too.) I'm not blaming that particular situation on the HPRB, but my point is why put up additional obstacles to fixing up eyesores or making someone's home more comfortable and secure?

I realize there are legitimate arguments to the contrary and maybe I'm doing the preservationists an injustice here, but I've heard enough stories to make me wary about putting too much power in a review board's hands. Let me say that I firmly believe in the desirability of historic preservation, but it eventually comes down to a question of what's reasonable and what's not. And how do you define that?

Monday, November 06, 2006

Election 2006

Sometimes I kinda wish I still lived in Virginia so I could vote one more time against Senator Macacawitz. I always detested George Allen because he seemed the very embodiment of smug white middle-class suburbanite gated-community “values” combined with some kind of weird pseudo-macho cowboy fetish (a kink he shares with W). And there’s also the extraordinarily mean-spirited anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment proposition, which not only bans gay marriage (already illegal, of course), but declares other contractual documents between unmarried partners (such as wills, medical powers of attorney, etc.) that substitute for some of the privileges of marriage to be void as well. Alas, from this side of the Potomac, all you can do is hope there are enough progressive folks in the Old Dominion to send both of these noxious anachronisms to the dustbin of history.

So what do we have to vote for? The mayor’s a done deal (let’s hope Fenty can really deliver what he promised). A couple of at-large council races—not much excitement there. School board—who knows what will help there? And, oh yes, ANC2C.

Basically, the ANC2C election comes down to two informal slates of candidates. One is headed by incumbent commission chairman Leroy Thorpe (2C02), and includes incumbent commissioners Doris Brooks (2C03) and Barbara Curtis (2C04) and challenger Mary Sutherland (2C01). They are opposed, respectively, by Kevin Chapple (2C02), John Tinpe (2C03), Richard Rogers (2C04), and incumbent commissioner Alexander Padro (2C01). (I’ve included links to candidates’ websites that I know about—if there are others that I’m unaware of, I apologize.)

This election has produced some pretty ugly exchanges, but it seems to me that it isn’t really so much about “issues” in the usual sense, because I don’t see all that much disagreement there. To me, it seems to be more about styles of operation and concerns about being included or excluded—respect, if you will. Unfortunately, it has increased tensions between folks who have lived in Shaw for a long time and those who are more recent arrivals. It seems that the long-timers often see themselves as being displaced and disrespected, while newcomers feel that they’re not allowed to have a voice in community affairs. Too often those tensions get expressed in racial terms, even though many newcomers are black and some long-timers are white. To a discouraging degree, this election reflects these divisions.

[Note: For a somewhat different perspective, see the current commentary in the Mount Vernon Square blog.]

Personally, I think it would be good to have some new faces in the ANC, but the biggest challenge for whoever wins will be to work on bridging this divide. The kind of suspicions that have been reflected in flyers and outbursts in community meetings are corrosive and even potentially dangerous to everyone. We need elected community leaders who will work on bringing people together, not exploit divisions to improve their own power base. If the “traditionalist” (for want of a better word) slate wins, they need to quit acting as if newcomers are unwelcome interlopers who have no business being here. If their opponents win, they need to make a special effort to reach out to long-time residents and make sure their concerns are heard and their interests are addressed. Having a divided community will not help us get the services we need and deserve out of the District government and the MPD. Besides, who wants to live in a place like that?

So please go vote, but after the votes are counted, I hope we can all treat each others as neighbors who want the best for our community.