28 December 2005

What Happens in NE Stays in NE

I attempted to post a comment yesterday on DCist, but, for the second time in as many weeks, whatever I wrote was sucked out into the ether of the interwebs. And so we start over here....

Since moving to NE in June, I've noticed many events, well, going unnoticed for the most part. Homicide? Maybe a little bit of play on the evening news. Flipped over cars (three that I know of in my 'hood since August)? Zippity-do-da. Trees crashing into people's houses, transformers blowing left and right like it was the War of the Worlds? Okay, that was on the news - remember that crazy summer storm in Silver Spring? It was here, in Woodridge/Brookland, too. The neighbor's tree was on my shed for a month since I don't happen to keep a chainsaw handy.

What started me on this tangent in the first place was the "Briefly Noted: Media storm over Christmas Day shootings in Fairfax" (bottom of the post). I don't deny that this shooting spree is a terrible tragedy, but I cannot let it overshadow two homicides that occured over the weekend in Ward 5 (thank you, inked, for the very handy link). The first occured on the 24th; Frank Kamara, owner of East Coast Auto, was shot and killed in what police believe was a botched attempted robbery. Kamara was 38 and married with three daughters. The second murder happened just two blocks from my house. Latisha Ethridge was 24; she and the suspect, William Gales, had a child together. This case should be in everyone's face, if only because of the underlying theme of domestic violence. But I digress....

Sure, I was able to find news links for the murders - hell, Kamara even made it to the front of The Washington Post's Metro section on the 26th. But the Fairfax murders have been on the front page for the past three days. Can someone please tell me what is going on here before I cannonball into the valley of conclusions?

UPDATE: The power went out for a few minutes, serving, I believe, as some sort of sign for me to cannonball into bed. Let me stop for now with this: May all the victims rest in peace, and may all the families and friends find solace in the coming year. Let's not be so numbed by the complexity/violence/senselessness of events around us that we forget all of these lives are more than simply statistics. And we can't fight the statistics by pretending nothing is happening.

19 December 2005

Take this RAC and Shove It

Bitter? Perhaps. Disappointed? Absolutely. Yours truly did not make the cut for Metro's Riders' Advisory Council:

Thank you for your interest in the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Riders' Advisory Council (RAC). We received an overwhelming number of applications, and while it was a difficult decision, our Board of Directors has selected the 21 members to serve on this inaugural Council.

We appreciate the time and effort you took to complete the application. The Riders' Advisory Council meetings will be open to the public. We welcome your participation and ideas for improving your Metro system.

Best wishes to you in your future endeavors.

Um, thank you? Though I am giving myself a firm pat on the back for applying - too often I will think about acting on a goal just long enough to watch the deadline creep past - I must admit my heart actually sank a bit (no, really, I felt something move) when I received the rejection slip e-mail.

Hell, I should just go to bed. Sleep it off....Wake up in the morning, put on some thermals, and guess when my bus is coming. This morning it didn't show up on time; 15 minutes later, two pulled up together. Yippee - a choice of how best to get to work late: old, refurbished bus or newer, "running on natural gas" bus. The bright side is that I know now I won't be fielding complaints. Oooh, I think my heart just moved back into place.

04 December 2005

Lord of the Flies

Awesome. One of the kids down the street was flashing a sharp piece of metal as he and couple of his siblings walked past my house and said into the air, "Y'all better watch out." Then he threw it dagger-style at his sister. Then at his brothers. Luckily the kid - perhaps all of seven years old - hasn't perfected his aim. After the gaggle, which we now call 'Lord of the Flies,' crossed over into the next block where they live, my husband walked down the street to see if LOTF had left the weapon. And there it was, a rusty steak knife blade.

We've been in the neighborhood since June (Woodridge/"greater" Brookland), and I still haven't a clue how many children live in the LOTF house. Our neighbor three doors down won't let her daughters play with them, but our immediate neighbor does. The four kids that live next door to us are wonderful - except when they're hanging with LOTF. In the past six months I've seen changes in the oldest girl (9) that don't look promising. Attitude, lying, disrespect, etc. Chalk it up to pre-pubescence if you will, but I've no doubt LOTF continues to have an increasingly bad influence on her.

Discussions with neighbors and friends have all led to the same goal: get in with the kids before they hit their teens. The methods, however, vary: buy their adoration with posicles; don't buy anything - just keep talking to them; get them to do chores and then buy them off with popsicles; put up an electrified fence around your yard, etc. I'm just not a fan of buying off kids with sugar - they'll always want more. As it stands, we haven't given them anything other than Halloween candy and they continue to ask us for money, batteries, jump ropes, cookies, lighters, and the like. Really, the whole situation is a core factor in my philosophy that buying this house was just the start of my investment into my community. I just don't know what direction to go - I'm not about to tell mom how to raise her kids (though I will call CFSA in a second if I see any indication LOTF are abused), but I foresee the situation escalating as each year ticks by. And we didn't take a 5 year ARM; we're in 30 to life.

18 November 2005

Equitable Development

I've been thinking a great deal about how to approach my first post on gentrification. I am looking for a dialogue - both with myself and with members of the community ("community" being a very pliable concept here, i.e. my neighborhood, DC, the blogosphere, etc.). My thoughts on gentrification and it's discontents aren't static (hence the opportunity for a dialogue with myself), but I am wedded to the belief that the term is too frequently used as a general epithet. Trust me, I will post more on the topic, but tonight I just wanted to highlight a recent op-ed in The Boston Globe on New Orleans that is relative to DC on many levels. In "Fairness in new New Orleans", Xavier de Souza Briggs and Margery Austin Turner define the imperative for equitable redevelopment as the city rebuilds:
Planners have to get much more specific about both the ends and the means of rebuilding to ensure the equitable redevelopment of poor communities. Many observers have raised the prospect that a rebuilt New Orleans will resemble a Las Vegas or Disneyland on the Gulf, dominated by the entertainment and tourism industry, favoring luxury housing, and planned by a group that even The Wall Street Journal labeled ''the power elite." Clearly, that is an outcome to be avoided.

An extensive body of social science research concludes that racially segregated and high-poverty communities undermine the life chances of families and children, cutting off access to mainstream social and economic opportunities. We must avoid resegregating New Orleans' poor and minority residents in isolated and distressed neighborhoods. But the alternative cannot be simply displacing them through land grabs that "gild the ghetto," as the most exclusionary urban renewal schemes of the '60s did.

The active involvement of New Orleans residents -- along with business owners and professional planners -- is a prerequisite for equitable redevelopment. Urban planning and other fields offer concrete models for using 21st-century information and communication technologies as tools of inclusion -- tools for organizing a maze of issues into agendas that groups can tackle, demystifying development choices and jargon, simulating a range of development scenarios, projecting results, and supporting citizen deliberation and voting to get the best and most legitimate ideas off the ground. Negotiated ''community benefit agreements" and other tools help ensure equitable outcomes, but a strong process is key to ensure equitable decision-making. Both are crucial, given the deep divisions and mistrust so evident after the storm [. . .].

Does equitable development = gentrification? Does anyone know the outcome of last week's inclusionary zoning meeting? Oh, and even the big minds at the Brookings Institution made the connection between New Orleans' recovery strategy and our policy needs here in DC - a great, quick read.

02 November 2005

Check Out My RAC!

My guess is that Metro didn't think too much before throwing that acronym out to the public. More importantly, I'm not sure just how much strategic planning went into the creation of the Riders' Advisory Council. Of course, once I found out about the RAC - approximately 72 hours before the application deadline - I applied. While I have no doubt the initiative is flawed (Metro really wants to hear what schmucks like me have to say?), I do believe this is a baby-step in the right direction.

- - -

Then yesterday sumpnspicious happened; I received an e-mail simply entitled "Riders' Advisory Council Application":

Thank you for your interest in Metro's Riders' Advisory Council (RAC)! This e-mail is to confirm that we have received your RAC membership application and are in the process of reviewing it. However, in reviewing your application, it was noted that some of your information appears to be truncated/incomplete. Please take time to carefully review your application information (attached) and make any necessary changes to ensure that all of your information is captured.

NOTE: You will be given three (3) business days to re-submit the attached application with changes. If you have not replied within the allotted time, the application will go to the next stage of the screening process as is.

If you deem the application acceptable as is and no changes are necessary, you do not have to do anything. Otherwise, please REPLY to this e-mail or forward any changes to RACComments@wmata.com. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Akua K. John at (202) 962-xxxx. Thank you in advance for your cooperation and your interest in the Riders' Advisory Council.

Akua K. John
Office of Project Communications
Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority
600 Fifth Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001

Pardon? I labored for a least an entire hour on the application - two essays filled with complete sentences, not just phrases and bullet points - and now you want to tell me that my application is somehow "truncated?" After wrestling with the attached PDF for five minutes or so ("Error: The Requested File Does Not Exist"..."Error: The Requested File Does Not Exist" etc.), I realized the problem was with whatever program Metro used to transfer the responses I entered for the online form into a PDF. Not only did it cut off essays mid-paragraph, all of the apostrophes morphed into quotations marks - I'm surprised they even wanted to give an illiterate bastard like myself a chance to make amends.

Whoever is vetting the applications must have found my half-paragraphs intriguing enough to ask for the rest, no? If not, what I fear most is a fare increase due to the manpower and bandwidth expenses incurred if every applicant's answers were amputated.