Eric Marshall compliments Kathy Sinzinger on the accomplishments of The
Common Denominator. I’d like to encourage more comments from
others who have profited from the sharp reporting and local neighborhood
focus of Kathy’s paper. Please, let’s let her know that we
understand what we have lost with its closing.
There’s more in this issue on mixed-use developments incorporating
schools, libraries, and other public buildings, so I have moved my
remarks further down to reply to the comments by Richard Layman and Paul
Kathy, you should be proud of the hard work you and your colleagues
put in over the years to make The Common Denominator such a
valuable community paper. Nothing can ever replace the money you lost in
this endeavor, but I wanted to let you know how much I appreciated your
work. The Common Denominator truly had a positive impact on the
Common Sense Is in Short Supply
Leo Alexander, Ward 4, firstname.lastname@example.org
On Friday, October 13, the doors finally closed on an institution
whose sole mission was to care for all regardless of their ability to
pay. DC General Hospital’s legacy was reduced to an urgent care center
with outpatient clinical services shortly after Mayor Williams took
office in 2001. Now on his way out, he’s finally accomplished in DC
what he’d done in Boston — closed the sole remaining public
hospital. I don’t know where we are headed as a community, but I am
comforted by the thought that Anthony Williams will no longer be a part
of our future. One would think that with a personal background as a
foster child, he would have a special place in his heart for the less
fortunate, but something’s missing there. How else could a man who
started with so little turn his back on a community who in many cases
share his story?
What angers me most is that last winter, while a group of concerned
citizens met on a weekly basis at the Marshall Heights Community
Development Center, only two ministers bothered to show their support.
What will it take for the District’s clergy members to get it? Except
for Ward 7’s Vincent Gray, who’s been engaged on the issue of the
National Capital Medical Center (NCMC) since the beginning, the majority
of the council has kept silent. The most deafening, and most surprising,
silence comes from the man once-dubbed the people’s mayor, the current
Ward 8 council member, Marion Barry. Wasn’t Barry partly responsible
for brokering the last deal for the District to provide added financial
incentives to Greater Southeast Community Hospital to maintain health
care services at the old DC General site? Where is he now, now that the
plug has been pulled? This is all too confusing to me, and I have to ask
why. It is a fact that communities east of the river account for more
than half of all the trauma cases for the entire city. Where is our
congressional representative on this grim issue of access to health
care? Does Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton only speak when the local
issue affects tourism? (Remember the muggings on the mall?) If that’s
the case, we can count on her to get involved only after a tourist
visiting an historic site east of the river requires immediate trauma
services that mysteriously aren’t there.
I don’t know where we’re headed. We can find hundreds of millions
of dollars (and still counting) for a tourist attraction otherwise known
as a baseball stadium. We can boast about a surplus in our treasury, and
about our A plus bond rating; but what story do we tell about the care
we offer to our citizens most in need? Is it too much to ask for our new
mayor to show some real leadership by championing not only a world-class
public schools system but also a comprehensive health care system,
anchored by a full service hospital with a Level 1 trauma center at the
old DC General site? Elected officials who represent the more prosperous
areas of the District don’t seem to care; our local clergy members don’t
seem to care; and judging by the turnout of the people who had the most
to gain on Freedom Plaza last spring supporting the NCMC, I guess the
short answer is to hell with it — very few really care.
I believe the role of good government is to protect the interests of
the entire community, including those of the most vulnerable. When I was
just a cub news reporter at my first TV station in Mobile, Alabama, I’d
frequently speak with an older gentleman who would respond every time I
asked how he was doing with, “I’ve got my health.” Standing there
all those times talking to him, it never dawned on me just how lucky we
were to live and work in a city where its leaders understood the charity
behind a public hospital. Somehow they knew that funding a public
hospital didn’t have to make sound financial sense, it just had to
make common sense.
The Mixed-Use Conundrum
Richard Layman, email@example.com
[Re: the introductory comments to the last issue of themail, October
11]: First, I agree that public buildings usually are singly dedicated
to public functions (i.e., the Roman Forum) and doing so communicates
the foundation of government within the demos. (See this special section
of Planning Commissioners Journal for the pre-World War II history of
public buildings in the US, entitled “A Proud Heritage,” http://www.plannersweb.com/publicbldgs/PB-Heritage.html.)
But outside of the core of the center city and in smaller cities, it isn’t
uncommon to have shared government facilities in a single building. For
example, a single federal building in other cities may include federal
courts, the post office, and other agency offices.
Second, I think that we need to be much more broad-minded in shaping
our public assets management strategies to serve multiple purposes. A
major problem is that each DC government agency believes it, not the
citizens, owns the property under its control. And there is no thought
to accomplishing multiple objectives with each property. For example,
many neighborhoods do not have parks. Most public schools have
playgrounds. Why can’t the playgrounds (I am thinking of JO Wilson and
Ludlow-Taylor Elementary schools in northeast specifically) be
configured in a manner allowing for neighborhood use outside of school
hours (in a safe and “eyes on the street” fashion)? Why can’t
school libraries be situated with a separate entrance where after school
hours the rooms and the computers can be used by neighborhood residents?
Why can’t school gyms and auditoriums be similarly placed?
In Arlington County, the Thomas Jefferson Middle School is also the
City Community Center. The gym is extra-large, also able to be used as
an “exposition center” for community events such as the Arlington
County Fair. There is a large auditorium used as a theater for community
theater companies. The wellness-weight room is used by residents, as are
art studios. I don’t believe that any of DC’s recreation centers
have comparable facilities. And there is no reason why libraries of
modern vintage (I am not referring to historic buildings such as
Georgetown, Northeast, or Southeast, but the relatively new,
undistinguished buildings) could not be reconfigured to provide
additional public benefits, such as the how the Shirlington Library,
also in Arlington, is getting the addition of the Signature Theater, or
how the Rockville Maryland library will include administrative space for
the library system as well as space for other government offices.
Third, in your comments last week you are absolutely right that I do
not defend anti-civic or antidemocratic practices with regard to public
assets issues generally, and to the DC Public Library system
specifically. Fourth, as I said in a follow-up blog entry on this topic,
after describing the attractive mixed use library in the Hollywood
neighborhood of Portland Oregon (see this article from Metropolis
Magazine, “A Living Library: Putting housing above a public
library, Portland takes another pioneering step toward urban density,”
do I think DC will build a quality facility like this? No, not really.
We don’t seem to be willing to strive for and demand quality all that
much. Anything better than a parking lot seems to suffice for most
people. And for the most part, DC government constructs plebeian
value-engineered buildings that too rarely respect the architectural
tradition of quality that typifies pre-WW II public buildings. Most
agencies refer to buildings as “products,” and it shows.
Unfortunately, we must live with the results for decades. It’s no
wonder that people who care oppose the average DC government proposal to
build new facilities. There isn’t all that much in terms of return on
investment, if your expectations about return are more about a broader
set of objectives than merely getting four walls and a roof.
Finally, it is true that in DC we have plenty of reasons to distrust
our local government in terms of doing this right, but just because the
local government too often fails to respect democracy, we shouldn’t
reject potentially good ideas out of hand. It’s our job as citizens to
demand much more and better from our government, rather than to oppose
any and all agency plans because we expect the agency will screw up.
But don’t get me started on the library planning process. The whole
process has taken contempt of one of the key principles of democracy,
that “the common people, [are] considered as the primary source of
political power,” to new levels. It doesn’t always work to have
government bureaucrats become elected officials, because their
orientation to civic engagement is completely different from people like
Adrian Fenty who do door-knocking (real get-out-the-vote activities)
rather than hiring people to “mail it in.”
Mixed Use Developments
Paul Michael Brown, firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr. Imhoff argued [themail, October 11]: “If public schools and
libraries are important to our government, it will maintain them much
better than the owners of office or residential buildings who put a
library or a school on one floor of their developments.” Clearly, the
sorry state of DCPS structures shows the Board of Education cares not
about the physical plant. The same can be seen in the decrepit
libraries. The problem, it seems to me, is that when a facility is 100
percent public there is no market-based incentive to provide a quality
experience for patrons. If schools and libraries were part of a mixed
use development, the developer would have a financial incentive to keep
the facility in good repair, because to do otherwise would adversely
affect the developer’s commercial interest. Mixed use development is a
[I agree with Richard Layman’s posting nearly completely, but I
must note that what he is describing has to do mostly with opening up
schools, libraries, and other government buildings to expand their role
as community centers. This argues against subordinating those community
centers in private developments, where they will be less accessible to
[I also agree with Paul that government management is almost always
less efficient and more expensive than private management, and that
market incentives usually lead to better maintenance and management. But
that isn’t true in this case, because these projects aren’t really
private market developments, and they’re not seriously affected by
market incentives. Developers get these properties from the government
because of their political connections, not because of the merits of
their companies or their proposals. The maintenance standards of these
mixed-use developments will depend on what the government is willing to
enforce on politically influential developers. The profits on the
projects will come mostly from government subsidies, including the
lower-than-market prices developers will pay to purchase or lease the
land and the higher-than-market rents the government will pay for the
space occupied by schools and libraries. — Gary Imhoff]
I’ve known and used the Martin Luther King, Jr., Library in DC over
many years. I’ve followed the debate about its value and future. Maybe
it’s just me, but the question of what to do to have a topnotch
central library for the city that is clearly a downtown gem seems to
have an obvious answer. While the building is certainly architecturally
distinctive and designed by a renowned architect, it is also ugly and
was badly designed and outfitted from day one. It never fully honored
the legacy of Dr. King, in my opinion. Let’s have a new stellar King
Library to serve citizens well for the next one hundred years. The
present site, or one nearby, is vital. It would take a massive redesign
to overcome the distaste and the dysfunction of the current library. Why
not a library oriented to serving all audiences well, from toddler to
octogenarian, from Nigerian immigrant to sixth generation Washingtonian?
The New York Public Library is itself a major draw. Why not DC? Let’s
have it open seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., loaded with
Internet connections, and comfortable. Let’s make it a compelling
destination. Two sensitive issues: 1) Is there the will to create an
alternate, attractive, downtown day facility providing real services and
a humane setting for the homeless who literally populate the Library
now; 2) is there the will to fund the fullest and best operation of a
reborn King Library?
Candidates’ Annoying Phone Calls and E-mails
Cecilio Morales, email@example.com
Mike Livingston [themail, October 11] makes an excellent point about
the possibility of retail politics. I felt I knew the blunt and
sometimes irascible Dave Clark and his charming wife from a few
encounters in which they gained my admiration. I was annoyed by Walter
Washington’s entourage enough times to despise the last puppet mayor.
Who hasn’t spent a few moments with Marion Barry and laughed along
with his clever act or winced at Carol Schwartz’s annoying snarl? Who
couldn’t guess from the get-go of shaking his limp and sweaty hand
that Nathanson was way out of his depth? In meeting Adrian Fenty, his
aplomb reminded me of my older son’s, and my thought was that I hoped
he was really listening with his evidently keen mind.
I’m sure I am not alone in this sense of personal proximity to
elected officials that I think doesn’t have parallels in New York,
Chicago, or Los Angeles.
Phone calls and E-mails can’t possibly convey the personal warmth
nor the intellectual depth of a candidate’s ideas that a voter can
learn from the plethora of radio, TV, and newspaper discussion forums in
this very political city. Plus, they’re annoying.
Kindly don’t post any more messages from Jonathan Rees, who admits
to being both homophobic and anti-Semitic. You can read about that
yourself at http://www.crackcity.blogspot.com.
There is the most recent blog entry from Jonathan Rees ["Jewish
Gangsters in America," October 14]. He does not deserve to have a
forum on themail.
Fenty Versus Kelly (and Williams)
Sylvia C. Brown, Deanwood, firstname.lastname@example.org
I started to let Mr. Bindner’s comment [themail, October 11] pass
regarding the city “dodging a bullet” by not electing Marie Johns.
However, I could not let this prejudicial and unfair characterization
pass. Too often women are unfairly judged because of the mistakes of
another woman, whereas men are not as likely judged by similar
Mr. Binder’s opinion about a Johns mayoral tenure had nothing to do
with his comments about the “sour grapes division” concerns about a
Fenty mayoral tenure.
CLASSIFIEDS — EVENTS
On Tuesday, October 17, parents, community members, and students will
rally to demand that DC Public Schools end their ongoing neglect of DC
schoolchildren and begin the renovation of H.D. Cooke immediately. Two
and a half years with no work on the school is too long. Tuesday,
October 17, 6:00 p.m., on the front lawn of H.D. Cooke Elementary
School, 2525 17th Street, NW. 6:00 p.m., rally and short statements from
former and current students , teachers, and parents; 6:30 p.m., busses
arrive with students from the aftercare program from Cooke’s “swing
space”; 6:40 p.m., a press conference featuring parent leaders,
student orators, a representative from the DC Public Schools, a
representative from Councilmember Jim Graham’s office, and other
community leaders; 7:15 p.m., statements of support from DC candidates
in November election. Spanish and English translations provided
Since September 2004, the students of H.D. Cooke Elementary School
have been bused from the front of their school to a “swing space,”
an alternative school near Howard University. Cooke was originally
supposed to be renovated, with students returning within three years.
However, two and a half years later, DCPS has not even begun the
renovation. Bussing the students costs $1 million dollars each year, in
addition to nearly an hour a day for each child bused.
DC Public Library Events, October 17-18
India Young, email@example.com
Tuesday, October 17, 10:00 a.m., Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial
Library, 901 G Street, NW, Main Lobby. The Young Adult Services Division
celebrates Teen Read Week with author Patricia Gaines. For more
information, contact 727-5535.
Tuesday, October 17, 7:00 p.m., Lamond-Riggs Neighborhood Library,
5401 South Dakota Avenue, NE. Fall African history/culture lecture
series, presentations about the history of Africans, Afro-Americans,
Hispanics, and other ethnic groups. For more information, call 541-5924.
Wednesday, October 18, 6:00 p.m., Georgetown Neighborhood Library,
3260 R Street, NW. Learn about the benefits of meditation from the
Brahma Kumaris Center of Washington, DC. DC Public Library is not
responsible, nor does it endorse health information given to
participants during the program. For more information, call 282-0213.
National Building Museum Events, October 19,
Lauren Searl, firstname.lastname@example.org
Thursday, October 19, 12:30-1:30 p.m. Since its beginning in 1980,
the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Main Street Program has
built an impressive record of success in working with small towns and
urban neighborhoods to revive commercial districts. These projects have
not only boosted local economies, but have also strengthened community
institutions and restored vibrant local character to communities across
the country. Doug Loescher, director of the Main Street Program, will
show how it can be an important tool for implementing smart growth.
Free. Registration not required.
Saturday, October 21, 2:00-4:00 p.m. Family program: Halloween
Haunted House Workshop. Families are invited to create a spooky haunted
house to place in a window at home for Halloween. Construct a house or
barn with wood and cardboard, and then adorn it with miniature ghosts,
monsters, and jack-o’-lanterns. Tantalizing treats and moody music
provided! $11 per house for Museum members; $16 for nonmembers.
Recommended for children age 5 and up. Prepaid registration required by
October 18 at email@example.com or 272-2448, ext. 3413.
Monday, October 23, 6:30-8:00 p.m. Architect Paolo Soleri’s concept
of “Arcology” — architecture coherent with ecology — is the
basis for his ongoing building project Arcosanti in central Arizona.
Since 1970, this prototype town has demonstrated Soleri’s interests in
minimizing the use of energy, raw materials, and land while allowing for
an interaction with the natural environment. This year, Soleri was
honored at the White House for his ongoing work at Arcosanti and
received a lifetime achievement award from the Smithsonian’s Cooper
Hewitt National Design Museum. In this exclusive public appearance, he
will discuss his continuing experimentation in sustainable urban
planning, architecture, and design. Following the lecture, he will sign
copies of his books. This lecture is held in conjunction with the
exhibition The Green House, which will be open for viewing. $12 Museum
and Smithsonian members; $20 nonmembers; $10 students. Prepaid
registration required. Walk-in registration based on availability.
Spotlight on Design is sponsored by Lafarge, the largest diversified
supplier of construction materials in North America. Additional support
is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts. All events at the
National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square stop, Metro
Red Line. Register for events at http://www.nbm.org.
Howard University Hospital Health Fair,
Clifton Roberson, firstname.lastname@example.org
Howard University and Hospital invite all to our first October
Festival on Saturday, October 21, from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. on the
Howard University Hospital Plaza at 2041 Georgia Avenue, NW. Come to
this family and child friendly event and get a free flu shot, health
care screenings and a pumpkin. We hope to see you there.
DC BPW Luncheon Honors Women Veterans, October
Hazel B. Thomas, email@example.com
The DC State Federation of Business and Professional Women, Inc. (DC/BPW),
will observe BPW’s Annual Business Women’s Week by celebrating women
veterans at its Business Women’s Week Luncheon at the Pier 7
Restaurant, 650 Water Street, SW, at 12:00 p.m. on Saturday, October 21.
This year’s luncheon is part of the BPW Business Women’s Week
celebration, held annually since 1928, and is part of a National
initiative by BPW/USA to demonstrate support and gratitude to women
veterans and to facilitate successful career transitions into the
DC/BPW, the DC State Affiliate of Business and Professional Women/USA
(BPW/USA), will also continue its military membership outreach
initiative program as part of BPW/USA’s national program, Women
Joining Forces: Closing Ranks, Opening Doors, which includes a job board
specifically created to highlight women and veteran-friendly employers.
Join us in celebrating military women. For information about DC/BPW or
Women Joining Forces, contact Hazel Thomas at 491-9245. For luncheon
reservations, call 301-279-5874.
Ward 6 Dems October Events, October 22, 23, 30
Jan Eichhorn, firstname.lastname@example.org
Ward 6 rally for Democratic mayoral candidate DC Councilmember Adrian
Fenty, Sunday, October 22, 1:00 p.m. At the home of Ken Jarboe, 911 East
Capitol Street, SE.
School board candidate forum for the DC Board of Education
Representative District III (Wards 5 and 6), co-hosted by the Ward 5 and
Ward 6 Democrats, Monday, October 23. Ward 5 Dems meeting, 7 p.m.;
forum, 7:45 p.m.-9 p.m. Gallaudet University Auditorium, Kellogg
Conference Center, 8th Street and Florida Avenue, NE. All certified
candidates have been invited to participate: Stephane Baldi, Robert
Brannum, Lisa Raymond, and Marc Borbely are confirmed. Also invited:
Mary Baird-Currie. Forum moderator, WTOP radio reporter Mark Seagraves;
forum facilitators, Jeff Richardson, 1st Vice President of the Ward 6
Dems and Program Coordinator of "Building Futures for Youth"
at Howard University, and Paul Washington, Issues Committee Chair of
Ward 5 Dems and Chair of the Ward 5 Education Council. Free parking on
campus. Metro: call 547-8855 and leave your name to reserve a free seat
on the Gallaudet shuttle which leaves at 7:15 from Union Station Metro
and returns to Union Station at 8:52, 9:22 and 9:52 p.m.
Ward 6 Democrats meeting and forum for candidates for President of
the DC Board of Education, Monday, October 30. Ward 6 Dems meeting, 7
p.m.; forum, 7:45 - 9:15 p.m. Eastern Branch of the Boys and Girls Club
261 17th Street, SE. All certified candidates have been invited to
participate. Confirmations have been received from Robert Bobb, Carolyn
Graham, Timothy Jenkins and Laurent Ross. Also invited: Sunday Abraham.
Building Black and Brown Alliances for a
Better World, November 1
Laurie Blair, email@example.com
A discussion on Deconstructing Divide and Conquer Tactics: How
institutions of power divide communities of color will be held on
Wednesday, November 1, 6:30-9:00 p.m., at The Social Action and
Leadership School for Activists (SALSA), Institute for Public Policy
Studies, 1112 16th Street, NW, Suite 600. Join the first of four
community discussions aimed at Building Black and Brown Alliances in
Washington, DC, and beyond. Deconstructing Divide and Conquer Tactics
will provide a historical context, examining the notion of race,
dispelling misconceptions and how embracing a shared sense of struggle
can generate social and economic power. Free. For more information, call
787-5229; to register, go to http://www.hotsalsa.org.
This discussion series is part of an effort to raise awareness and
involvement for the US Social Forum to be held in Atlanta, Georgia, from
June 27 to July 1 (http://www.ussf2007.org).
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