Thursday, April 26, 2007

Save the Queen

The hearing before the Alcohol Beverage Regulation Administration to rule on the liquor license for the Queen of Sheba Restaurant is May 2. The rules permit only those opposing the license to testify, but written expressions of support from neighborhood residents are likely to help. It may be too late to mail it in, but you can fax your supporting letter to:

Charles A. Burger, Chairman
Alcohol Beverage Regulation Administration
941 N. Capitol Street, NE, Suite 7200
Washington, DC 20002
FAX: 202-727-4052

[UPDATE: Here's an alternative FAX number, in case you couldn't get through: 202-442-9563. Thanks, Erich.]

I mailed and faxed mine today. Slum Historique has posted a good template containing the key points, which you can use as a start and has also written up some of the background here.

Queen of Sheba (1503 9th Street, NW) is a great asset to the neighborhood and deserves our vocal support, particularly since the opposition to its liquor license appears to be a one-woman campaign waged by Mary Sutherland for no discernible good reason. This is an attractive sit-down restaurant serving excellent Ethiopian food, not some dive whose patrons would staggering out into the streets and dumping their litter on the sidewalk. I just heard that the restaurant owner reported that Ms. Sutherland had been by to harass him. Outrageous.

So let's help these good people out. A liquor license can be the difference between success and failure for a new restaurant, and the neighborhood needs more quality business ventures like Queen of Sheba.

And if you haven't been there to try the food, this weekend would be a great time to treat yourself. You can't get a beer yet, but they have some terrific mango smoothies.

And fax in your support on Friday!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

WJLA on a Roll

Well, hats off to Steven Tschida of Channel 7 for the Shiloh story (clip here). Shining a spotlight on this problem is long overdue. Good job Alex and Drew! At least someone's articulate on camera.

My Five Seconds on Channel 7

Just saw the clip (here) after I got home from work. One of those cringe-inducing moments when you see what you actually look like.

Here's what really happened:

WJLA reporter Steve Tschida picks up on the DCist post about Shaw being the 2nd most blogginest neighborhood in the country, and sets out with his cameraman cruising our lovely streets looking for one of those hip, young bloggers. He waylays my neighbor, who outs me as a blogger, and they knock on my door. I happen to be home, having just dropped my mother off at National Airport, and answer the door while putting on my tie to go to work. I'm probably not exactly what they're looking for, being neither young nor hip, but they're on a deadline, so they'll take what they can get.

I agree to talk on camera, but am flustered because I'm late and totally unprepared with anything to say. He asks me the most obvious possible question ("Why so many blogs in Shaw?"), and I answer--basically--"Duh." Soon it's obvious that they're really just after the crime angle, so I gather my wits a little and point out that despite that extraordinary stolen bicycle footage, local bloggers aren't really a bunch of vigilantes taking pictures out their windows of crime in the street. I add that the blogs have really increased residents' awareness of what's happening in the neighborhood, not just crime, but lots of other issues--in my mind the biggest contribution they have made.

Then they want some action shots at the computer. I'm not sure what to do--posting some zingy comment isn't too exciting on screen, so I start scrolling through most of the Shaw blogs. Looks like they picked up shots of "In Shaw" and "Off Seventh". Then that was that.

Tschida hung around a little more, and I made a couple of suggestions about stories that they might cover that would be a lot more indicative of what's going on in Shaw. He might actually be interested because he lives just a few blocks away near Logan. Maybe, maybe not.

I have learned from sad experience that reporters almost never pick the parts of the interview you wish they would, so you just hope they won't pick the parts that make you look the dumbest. In this case, I think it's a shame that they made Shaw sound so much worse, crime-wise, than it actually is. That, by the way, was their spin--they didn't get it from me. And I wish they would have picked up on some of the other, more positive, aspects about life here that appear in the blogs.

Still, I guess it's always a bit of a thrill to be on TV--otherwise why would all those squealing throngs stand out in the cold and rain for the Today Show? Actually, this was the second time I've been on WJLA. I won a little money on Jeopardy back in the 90s, and it was amazing--people would actually recognize and stop me on the street. But alas, fame is fleeting, and soon no one was offering sexual favors for an autograph any more. ;-) Not expecting that kind of response from this. Sic transit gloria mundi.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

ANC2C02 Meeting

Don't forget the meeting ANC Commissioner Kevin Chapple has scheduled for 7:00 tonight at the Kennedy Recreation Center for his single member district. He has a very interesting agenda planned (for full info go here). Particularly if you have issues regarding nuisance properties, a representative from DCRA will be there to field questions.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Nothing Doing for Fire Victims

Today I stopped by the business office of the Washington Apartments to ask if there was any fund or location where donations to help the victims of this week's fire could go. The answer I got was a "no". The woman I spoke to even seemed a bit surprised by my question.

I also asked what happened to the people who had had to leave because of the fire, and she just told me that they had been accommodated elsewhere. No further information.

So, I guess if the Red Cross isn't doing anything for these folks, as MVSNA has reported, then we seem to have reached a dead end, as far as neighborly support is concerned.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Crime Fighters Notebook

A friend and neighbor sent the following suggestion:

Regarding the neighbors in the 400 block of N Street NW who watched two perps stealing their bicycle ... and the failure of DC 911 to respond appropriately ... I offer the following:
Patrick here -- your neighbor cross the alley, 5 doors to the West with the bamboo.
I'm very sorry to hear this -- both the loss of your property and the continuing disappointment with DC services.
You are not alone. 911's ignorance caused me great pain years ago -- but that's another story.
SUGGESTIONS for DISCUSSION: I strongly recommend we all have bright back yard lights -- mine are motion-sensitive.
Claxon / Airhorn / Marine horn. I recommend we all arm ourselves with something much more effective than firearms. Cheap, Loud, Persistent airhorns. Widely available. Marine supplies sell the strongest, loudest.
It's midnight. You see the perps entering your yard. Your lights come on. Partner dials 911 [Always say, regardless of the truth, "He's got a gun and I heard one shot" Give the cross streets and hang up.], you run to the window: BLLLLAAAAAAAATTTTT!!!!!
Sure, It will annoy the rest of us. But I'll join you at my window: BLLLLLAAATTT!!! And then the next one ... and the next one. The perp is challenged, the police informed, the venue identified by sound and light, and perhaps the property saved.
OK, folks ... tell me why this won't work!
Patrick on Ridge Street.

Well, guys...what do you think? Doesn't sound like a bad idea to me.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Another shooting?

A neighbor called about 10:20 tonight saying that he'd heard maybe 20 gunshots (somewhere in the vicinity of 6th and P). I looked outside and the streets were full of police cars. A little later I saw an ambulance heading west on O Street. Still lots of sirens half an hour later. Anyone have any definite information about what happened?

UPDATE: This information from Insp. Burke of MPD 3rd Dist.:

At approximately 10 p.m., three black males wearing dark “hoodies” and armed with handguns, approached the complainant and fired at him – striking him in the leg. The complainant was admitted to [the hospital] in Stable condition. The CCTV did capture the incident and footage has been downloaded for review by our detectives’ office. The complainant, who lives on McCullough Ct. did not provide a motive for the shooting. There were numerous shell cases located on the scene – which corroborates the many accounts of gunshots. We’ll provide more details as they become available; Thanks for your patience.

This is from Cpt. McCoy: On Monday night at 10:20 PM a 22 year old male was shot in the leg in front of 1301 7th St., N.W. An MPD off duty was just inside the building and immediately requested assistance. Another MPD officer was conducting a building check across the street at 1330 7th St. and immediately responded to assist. As reported, there were numerous other officers assigned to the area and joined in a canvass for 3 black male subjects that were scene leaving the area. The injury sustained to the victim was non-life threatening. Anyone with information is asked to call 202-727-9099. Refer to Report Number CCN 048-668.

I know we all appreciate the information, and of course the quick police response. What I find pretty amazing is that the shooters would have the brass to try this with police presence virtually on the scene. (Of course, we don't know if this was plainly evident or not at the time.)

Friday, April 13, 2007

Fire Last Night

Several apartments in the Washington Apartments in the 1300 block of 6th Street were destroyed in a major fire last night about 1:00 a.m. According to news reports, about 40 residents have been displaced. The picture is the scene this morning after the fire. (See Life in Mt. Vernon Square for more pictures.)

I was wondering if anyone Knows if there is any neighborhood effort to help out the folks who have lost their homes and possessions and/or have had to move out temporarily?

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Open Letter to Jack Evans, David Catania, and Phil Mendelson

I sent the following letter to Council members Evans, Catania, and Mendelson:

Dear Councilmember:

I am writing to you because ANC2C has completely broken down and clearly requires some outside intervention if it is to become even minimally functional. What we are seeing is a pattern of petty vindictiveness and indifference to the interests of the community that has left citizens frustrated and angry and brought the business of the ANC to a standstill.

As you may know, the April 4 ANC meeting was abruptly cancelled by Chairperson Doris Brooks after several residents refused to accept her unilateral prohibition of videotaping the meeting. Ms. Brooks asserted that the United House of Prayer did not permit camera or video recording even though permission to record there had been obtained in advance of the meeting. In the end, a representative of the church (of which Ms. Brooks is a prominent member) deferred to her demand. Ms. Brooks had changed the venue of the meeting from its normal location at Africare (specifically voted upon at the January ANC meeting). No reason for the change was provided, but it may well have been because Africare would not prohibit recording of the meetings there.

Neither Ms. Brooks nor her executive assistant and parliamentarian, Leroy Thorpe, has provided any reason for prohibiting video or audio recording of the meetings, which is clearly permissible in what should be an open, public meeting. Their repeated efforts to prohibit recording are a carry-over from Mr. Thorpe’s tenure as Chairman, when he would confront anyone who attempted to do so. Since last year’s election, several residents (I am not one of them) have decided to exercise this right despite such attempts at intimidation. There is an evident public interest in disseminating the recordings via the internet, since only a small percentage of residents are able to attend the meetings, and the ANC itself makes virtually no effort to make any record of its proceedings available to the public. Similarly, Ms. Brooks has refused to permit the creation of a website for the ANC (even at no cost), but has given no reason for her opposition.

The April cancellation followed on the heels of Ms. Brooks’ sudden cancellation of the March meeting. She has yet to give any public explanation for that, refusing to respond to inquiries as to the reason. I have heard unofficially that the reason was ostensibly because Commissioner Barbara Curtis was unable to attend because of a family emergency. Even if that were the case, this was not an adequate reason for cancelling the meeting since the other three members were apparently available and would have constituted a quorum.

Ms. Brooks has reportedly failed to file required ANC Security Fund forms and pay the participation fee, even though this had been authorized by a rare unanimous vote at the January meeting. Perhaps the problem is that before Mr. Thorpe left office, she was named both Chairperson and Treasurer, and the checks require two signatures. (Ms. Curtis was named to the other two statutory offices: Vice-Chairperson and Secretary.)

This, in turn, is part of a largely successful effort by Mr. Thorpe to subvert the results of the 2006 election and continue to run the ANC with Ms. Brooks as a figurehead. During the meetings, Ms. Brooks continually defers to Mr. Thorpe’s instructions, consults with him in whispers inaudible to others in the room, and frequently allows him to run the meetings and decide who is recognized to speak. She has made Mr. Thorpe’s personal telephone number the official number for the ANC. She treats commissioners Padro and Chapple in an abusive manner and consistently thwarts any initiative they make. If Ms. Curtis shows any sign of voting with them, Mr. Thorpe or Ms. Brooks directs her to change her vote. The conduct of the meetings makes a mockery of any accepted rules of order. But don’t take my word for it—watch the videos.

In an effort to try to overcome this impasse, Gottlieb Simon suggested an informal meeting among the four commissioners to discuss disagreements and grievances on March 28. Mr. Padro had another commitment, but the other three commissioners agreed to the meeting. Mr. Chapple and Ms. Curtis arrived for the meeting as scheduled, but Ms. Brooks never showed up. Unfortunately, this seems to be indicative of her lack of interest in making the ANC actually work.

There may be other ANCs in the city worse than this one, but I don’t know of any. I want to emphasize that the great preponderance of responsibility for this situation rests squarely with Mr. Thorpe and Ms. Brooks. Mr. Chapple, in particular, has made efforts to cooperate and find ways to resolve disputes, but his overtures have been repeatedly spurned. Without some willingness to compromise on the part of the Chairperson and her executive assistant, nothing will get accomplished. There is no intrinsic reason why power and responsibilities within this ANC couldn’t be shared, but their evident intention is to make sure that does not happen. So we remain at a hostile stalemate.

As I’m sure you know, Shaw is a neighborhood with serious problems and tensions. I am convinced that the vast majority of residents of this ANC want nothing more than to live in harmony with their neighbors and to work with each other and with District authorities to remedy the crime and neglect that continue to plague this area. But we need leaders who will work to overcome suspicions and tensions within the community, rather than exploit them for their own purposes. This is a seriously dysfunctional ANC that desperately needs an intervention from someone who will use his moral authority, influence, and oversight capabilities to talk some sense into its officers. I hope that you can step up and assume that role.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

ANC2C Meeting Cancellation

I got to the meeting about 15 or 20 minutes late only to discover it had been canceled. I was told the reason was Chairperson Brooks had posted signs prohibiting videotaping and some residents had refused to accept that edict. So she called off the whole meeting. A video of this is now available here.

I don't know if it's possible anymore, but I sure wish we could de-escalate this dispute. I have no doubt that the people who want to record a public ANC meeting are within their rights, and I simply don't understand why Ms. Brooks is willing to go to such lengths to prohibit that. But this is going nowhere. Is there no one who could mediate this mess?

On an even more disturbing note, Ray Milefsky sent out the following e-mail (it's already up on Off Seventh, so I'm not betraying any privacy here):

I just had a very long, no-holds-barred conversation on a wide variety
of topics with Mr Thorpe and Ms Sutherland after the cancelled ANC
meeting. I have known them for twenty years. We may not be busom
buddies or see eye-to-eye on a whole lot but we respect one another as neighbors, have endured much together, and know the lay of the land a
heck of a lot better than many newcomers.

I was very, very upset to hear their repeated reference to some
dog-owning neighbor saying last Saturday that his/her dog(s) is/are
cleaner than most Black kids. They implied the resulting response
verged on a riot.

What is the story? Who would be so stupid to say something like this?
Did it ever occur or is this neighborhood folk legend? This is more
than crude and vile disrepect. Why have the blogs, which chitchat
about everything, leave out this matter that will destroy what little
good will that exists among the diverse interests in this

Is anyone willing to comment?

This is indeed very upsetting, and I literally felt ill after reading it. If someone actually said this, it is inexcusable and despicable. If this story is made up, then it's just as bad, because it means someone is willing to put out an incendiary falsehood to inflame racial animosity for some reason. Unfortunately, once a story like this gets out there, it's virtually impossible to set right.

I should say that I also had a fairly extended and friendly conversation with Ms. Sutherland after the meeting and she did not mention this to me. What she did say, more than once, is that "the bridge is broken and it doesn't look like it's going to be fixed ." Sadly, I'm afraid she may be right about that. I guess I'm still hoping that someone will decide to take the high road here and put the interests of the community first.