Dear Forward Thinkers:
So in the last issue I put out the call for roundups of 2004, year in
review articles. And nobody sent any. Not one. So I guess you’re just
like me, and don’t want to think about it, don’t want to remember
it, don’t want to look back on it at all. Let’s pretend that’s a
good thing, that instead of our avoiding the unpleasantness of the
recent past we’re simply looking ahead, and our entire attention is on
Are you with me on that? Good. Self-delusion is a useful trait for
successful DC living.
The 2006 Campaigns Have Begun
Dorothy Brizill, email@example.com
It’s nearly midnight as I write this, and it has been an extremely
long day. I attended the swearing-in ceremonies for the six elected
councilmembers, three of them new, and the Advisory Neighborhood
Commissioners, and went to a series of receptions that followed the
ceremonies. There can be no doubt that today marked the official kickoff
of the 2006 political campaigns. In their remarks, Jack Evans, Adrian
Fenty, Marion Barry, and Kwame Brown laid out political platforms and
plans that went far beyond the usual brief thanks given at a
Evans promised that he would be an advocate on a host of issues that
he has not been identified with in his past fourteen years on the
council, including health care, public schools, and after-school
recreation. Adrian Fenty repeated a phrase that seemed to resonate with
the audience, that there was an opportunity for DC to become “a city
which serves all the people,” with stress on the word “all.” Other
potential candidates in 2006 staked their claims by sponsoring
receptions for ANC commissioners and their guests. Michael Brown held a
reception at the City Museum, while A. Scott Bolden helped underwrite
the reception that Mayor Williams held at the Convention Center. Marion
Barry held his own inaugural celebration, which he entitled the “Dawn
of a New Day,” at Ballou Senior High School, and the gymnasium of the
school was packed with his guests. An indication of Barry’s continuing
political strength is that a number of potential mayoral candidates
attended his reception and worked the room and the crowd — Adrian
Fenty, Vincent Orange, Michael Brown, Kwame Brown (yes, he’s
considering it already), and A. Scott Bolden.
Passing the Buck
Ed Dixon, Georgetown Reservoir, firstname.lastname@example.org
Fannie Mae’s findings in their 2003 Housing in the Nation’s
Capitol Report (http://www.fanniemaefoundation.org/publications/reports/hnc/2003/hnc2003.shtml)
reveal how poverty has concentrated in the District. Using census tract
data, Fannie Mae reported that 43 census tracts became more densely
populated with people living in poverty than they were ten years
previously. Their 2004 report paints an even gloomier picture for those
of moderate means trying to pay for housing in metropolitan DC (http://www.fanniemaefoundation.org/publications/reports/hnc/2004/hnc2004.shtml).
According to the 2000 Census, there are 43 census tracts in the
District in which 25 percent or more of the families live in poverty.
There are 188 census tracts in DC, so over 1 in 5 of the tracts are
experiencing relatively high poverty rates. The highest percentage was
63.8 percent of the families living in poverty. These family rates do
not include individuals living in poverty.
DCPS has at least one school in 27 of those 43 high-poverty census
tracts. DCPS has 32 elementary schools, 3 middle schools, 4 junior
highs, and 5 high schools — or a total of 44 schools — in those
census tracts. DCPS has approximately 147 schools, so one third of DCPS’s
schools sit in highly impoverished communities. One third of the
children in every classroom are struggling outside of the classroom to
manage with the basic necessities of life: food, health care, and
housing. These students are not responsible for their lot in life. But
Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman elected to Congress and an
outspoken advocate for women and minorities during seven terms in the
House, died Saturday at the ripe old age of 80. Chisholm, was elected to
the U.S. House in 1968, and went to Congress the same year Richard Nixon
was elected to the White House.
She ran for the Democratic nomination for the presidency in 1972.
Shirley Chisholm had guts and that’s how she wanted to be remembered.
From one Brooklyn girl to another, Ms. Chisholm, rest in peace.
American University Flouting the Rules
Ed T. Barron, edtb@aoldotcom
AU has purchased the house next door, and claims it will be a
single-family residence for visiting professors and their familles.
Extensive modifications are underway, with the external footprint of the
building being expanded by some four hundred square feet via a first
floor expansion at the front of the house. Curiously, no permits for
these modifications have been displayed. Calls to AU regarding the lack
of permits have been unanswered. My last message was that the permits
should be displayed and that no work should continue until the permits
are shown. Failure to show those permits, if work continues on the
outside, will result in my seeking a stop work order from the DC zoning
It’s likely that AU will not be paying taxes on this $999 thousand
dollar purchase, which will likely be worth some $1.2 million when they
get finished. The loss of property tax revenue is bad enough, but if AU
is not even paying for the construction permits, then I am really angry.
Perhaps I’ll open up my own university, next door, and get some real
tax exemptions. I’ll call it the University of What’s Happening Now.
Very low tuition and very interesting courses.
Are They Gone Yet?
Ed T. Barron, edtb@aoldotcom
Now that the throng of holiday tourists is gone, it’s time to take
a look at some of the delightful holiday displays in some of the local
venues before they are packed away. One of the very best displays is at
the US Botanic Garden (right between the Capitol Building and the
American Indian Museum) [http://www.usbg.gov].
They have a display there of children’s toys from the mid to late
1940s. I saw some of mine there. And you don’t have to be a child to
enjoy the incredible garden railway exhibit in the west wing of the
building. It is, by far, the most extensive train and trolley layout
that I have ever seen. Bring your camera.
Happy New Year everyone. The additional 1 percent in restaurant meal
tax (which is regularly 9 percent) goes to paying off the bonds on the
new convention center. So DC was always getting the 9 percent going to
the general fund. Also, I think the hotel tax had something like an
additional 2-3 percent tacked on top of the regular rate for this
purpose as well, making it 13-14 percent. I don’t have a code book in
front of me, but it’s something like that.
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