Saturday, September 27, 2008

"Seventh Streeter" Blasts Everybody

Sarah Livingston, who writes and distributes her own neighborhood publication The Seventh Streeter, has just published a new issue in which she denounces all of the current ANC commissioners and announces her own candidacy for the ANC2C01 seat currently held by Alex Padro. I won't attempt to repeat all of her rather complicated argument (here's the link if you want to read it for yourself), but I think it's worth addressing some of the allegations and points she raises.

Her article centers around the recent Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) hearing regarding the property at Rhode Island, 9th, and Q for which the owner, Michael Sendar, is petitioning for a zoning variance to allow commercial use. (It is currently zoned R4 residential.) Links to other discussion of the issue can be found in my post "Rewarding Bad Behavior" earlier this month. She chastizes Padro for supporting the petition as a single member of the ANC rather than bringing it to the whole ANC, but further alleges that he is furthering his own private interests rather than those of the public.

Comment: Personally, I think supporting the Sendar petition is wrong, particularly given his total neglect of the property and utter disregard for the neighborhood. Sendar has also somehow managed to avoid paying the vacant property tax even though the property has been empty and rotting away since 2001. Granting him the variance would be essentially rewarding him for bad behavior, because it enhances the value of the property if he tries to sell it, which he claims to be doing. I believe Alex's argument is that it would be better to have a functioning business in the property than for it to remain empty, which would be reasonable except for the fact that variances are normally granted for specific purposes, while Sendar is apparently seeking a non-specific variance. As I understand it, the immediate neighbors--particularly Ray Milefsky--are not unalterably opposed to any business use, but rather want guarantees that whatever goes in there will be something that contributes to improvement of the neighborhood rather than some obnoxious nuisance enterprise. As for the dark hints of personal gain (I guess that's what she means), I'd like to see something to back them up.

She then goes on to allege that there is a "tiny cabal" of people who "are seeking to make all the decisions about the neighborhood's future and their modus operandi is to take advantage of the ANC's dysfunction to further their aims." As evidence, she claims that Padro and fellow commissioner Kevin Chapple have deliberately failed to overcome the ANC's dysfunction in order to promote their own communications with constituents via Chapple's website and SMD publication and criticizes them for acting independently of the ANC as a whole.

Comment: This stikes me as bizarre. And, who exactly is the "tiny cabal?" No argument here as to the ANC's notorious dysfunction, but to criticize Kevin and Alex for seeking to circumvent Leroy Thorpe's continued throttlehold on the ANC is ludicrous and most unfair. If anyone has taken advantage of the ANC's dysfunction, it's Thorpe, who is its primary cause. When Thorpe was the actual ANC chair (as opposed to its unelected defacto boss, operating through his two puppets, which he is now), the ANC had no communications whatever. It had (and still has) no website, minutes were never published, and the agenda wasn't distributed in advance, anyone who questioned Thorpe's edicts was silenced. Thorpe and his allies have continued to oppose openness--going so far as to shut down meetings rather than allow them to be recorded. The "leadership" of Chair Doris Brooks, who does nothing without Thorpe whispering--literally--in her ear, has been spiteful and obstructionist, rejecting any attempt to bridge the gap. I and, I think, most people regard Kevin's newletter and website as a great resource, and if he needs to sell ads to help pay the costs of the newsletter (remember he is not paid to be on the ANC and the newsletter doesn't get published for free), so what? His website has welcomed opposing--even hostile--viewpoints, and it posts information about all manner of issues and events of interest to the neighborhood residents. Kevin's SMD meetings have been a model of what ANC meetings should be, and the reason he holds them is because the actual ANC meetings--if they're even held--have created a toxic atmosphere that tends to stifle exchange of views and information.

Livingston then claims that "members of the cabal provoked matters in Shaw's traditional civic association as a springboard for splitting from that body and setting up a separate association which Martin Moulton is now the president of and which recently hosted a candidate's forum in Shaw for candidates from all SMDs in the ANC2C area."

Comment: For those who don't know or may have forgotten, the "traditional civic association" is the East Central Civic Association (ECCA). Following his defeat in the 2006 ANC election, Leroy Thorpe seized control of the ECCA in December 2006 in an unscheduled and illegitimate "election" over which he personally presided, ousting then-president Betty Newell, who was clearly stunned and humiliated by his surprise move. He then proceeded to run the ECCA, just as he had run the ANC, as his personal fiefdom rather than the public neighborhood group it had purported to be. He ejected Martin Moulton and another neighborhood resident who had supported Kevin Chapple on the ANC election (and who live on the same block where the ECCA meetings are held) simply for attending and attempting to record the proceedings of a supposedly public meeting. He went so far as to obtain a police ban on their presence in the church where the meetings take place.

In light of these actions and Thorpe's continued obstructionism in the ANC as its "Parliamentarian" and "Executive Assistant" to the titular chair, a number of neighborhood residents--myself included--decided to form a new association--the Convention Center Community Association (CCCA)--which is still in the organizational stage. I believe anyone who has attended the CCCA meetings will attest to the fact that--in contrast to the ECCA--it is a open and democratic organization which is not designed to further the personal ambitions of any individual.

The CCCA did, in fact, host a well-attended candidates forum on September 18, to which all ANC2C candidates--including Sarah Livingston--and Ward 2 council candidates were invited. I'm at a loss to understand why Ms. Livingston thinks this was a bad thing. Jack Evans and his Republican opponent Christina Culver participated, as did ANC incumbents Chapple and Padro and challengers Jessica Lanza and Theresa Sule. Neither Ms. Livingston nor any of the other ANC candidates showed up. If she had wanted to present her ideas about what's wrong with the ANC and what she proposed to do about it, this would have been a perfect opportunity.

As much as I admire Sarah Livingston's civic activism and commitment to improving the neighborhood, I think her current publication does a disservice to several people who are at least equally committed to making Shaw a better place.

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At 9/29/2008 9:05 AM, Blogger IMGoph said...

how true, daddyfiveoh. i could understand her complaints if...if the ANC would be a functioning group if alex and kevin did more to try to make it so.

but, it's been clear, given the recent history of the ANC before the last 2 years, that no matter what alex and kevin try to do to make things better, they cannot do so. i feel like she's saying that they haven't tried to make things better. clearly, they have. at some point, though, you have to stop banging your head against a brick wall, because all you'll accomplish is giving yourself a massive headache!

two things must happen. there must be an end to the 2-2 mess that exists now (and hopefully the upcoming election will fix that), and, after the 2010 redistricting, there must not be an even number of seats in the ANC.

At 9/30/2008 7:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Back in the day there was not a 2-2; it was Alex against Mahdi Thorpe, Doris Brooks and Barbara Curtis and things were much much worse.

The problem is not about numbers. It's about some individuals seeking to promote themselves with some overblown sense of influence to aggrandize themselves and their friends (and gleefully make others miserable. There was laughter in ECCA meetings when some of us were silenced, even with Mayor Fenty's staff present. Mayor Fenty's staff still goes to ECCA meetings, but they haven't accepted my invitations to recent CCCA meetings.) and those who seek to just have a normal neighborhood like so many of those on the borders of our own ANC2C where people can work together and get things done.

It's most important for everyone to vote on Nov 4.

I've been to a lot of other neighborhood meetings. It's that minimal experience that I want to bring to our own area. I'm not a good candidate for the job, but I hope a better leader will step up to be nominated to the post at tonight's CCCA meeting. Elections will be held at the October meeting.

Find tonight's CCCA meeting agenda here.

All are welcome. (Even Sarah Livingston and Mayor Fenty's Community Relations and Services staff.)

Martin Moulton
"Interim" CCCA President


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