Here’s what Council Chairman Vincent Gray wrote in his introduction
to the first of a series of council hearings on DCPS last week: “Today,
I’m also excited to announce that the Committee of the Whole will
expand beyond our traditional cadre of weekday budget hearings, and
convene two Saturday hearings specifically designed to illicit views
from our young people and their families on the proposed FY 2011
education budget.” Actually, the views of the young people and their
families at the first hearing were sensible, well informed, and quite
licit. Too bad the school and city administrations are contemptuous of
them and dismiss them.
Jack McKay, below, argues that the District of Columbia should not
enforce immigration laws, that breaking immigration laws is not a crime,
and that the Metropolitan Police Department should not inquire into the
immigration status even of those who are arrested for serious crimes —
because that would hinder law enforcement. What sayest thou?
A Case of Not So Benign Neglect
Frank Zampatori, firstname.lastname@example.org
Welcome to the Hilleast Waterfront, or Reservation 13, as it is also
known, and its 67 acres located in eastern Ward 6 bordering the
Anacostia River and home to a number of empty, decaying city-owned
buildings, various clinics, and the closed DC General Hospital.
In 2002 the city council approved a master plan for development of
the 67 acres into a mix of residences, office buildings, health
facilities, retail space, and a number of parks and green space. From
2002 through 2006 not much happened on the Hilleast Waterfront with the
exception of a failed attempt by Howard University to construct at
mostly taxpayer expense a $500 million dollar National Capitol Medical
Center. In other parts of the city there was major construction and
development, but the Hilleast Waterfront remained forgotten with the
exception of the completion of the St. Coletta School for special needs
students. But hope springs eternal and by the end of 2006, the voters
elected a new mayor, Ward 6 elected a new councilmember, and Congress
approved the transfer of the 67 acres comprising the Hilleast Waterfront
to District control provided that the city first locate a twelve-acre
site somewhere on DC land for a mail sorting facility approved for use
by the Architect of the Capitol. It is now four years later. Mayor Fenty
is nearing the end of his first term, as is Ward Six council member
Tommy Wells. So where do we stand with the Hilleast Waterfront?
First, the land has yet to be transferred to District control. It
appears that neither the Fenty Administration nor the Ward Six
councilmember has given the issue much priority. We are told it will
happen soon, or they are working on it, or the councilmember has made a
phone call and written a letter or two on the subject, but nothing has
been done. Some neighbors actually still go to a meeting or two and
listen to these false promises from elected or appointed officials. (A
few brave souls in the Mayor’s Office have said that it is of such low
priority that nothing has been done on the transfer issue.) In the
interim, the neighborhood has been assured that a master developer will
be selected for the site, first in early 2007; then late 2007; then
early, mid, or late 2008; then sometime in 2009; then early 2010, and
now midsummer 2010. Of course the District is nearly bankrupt, so there
really is no money to do anything.
Second, there have actually been some additions to the Hilleast
Waterfront, but not the changes that were in the master plan. The city
has moved employees from DCRA to empty buildings; MPD seems to have
created a training center of some sort next to the ambulatory care
center; the DC Department of Corrections has expanded its offices into
office space by the old emergency room; Georgetown University has opened
a clinic on the fourth floor of the old DC General Hospital to care for
the homeless; and a new emergency psychiatric care clinic has opened.
The Fenty Administration has also opened several homeless shelters. Some
neighbors believe that Tommy Wells, who chairs the Committee on Human
Services which includes oversight of the homeless shelters, facilitated
their creation. There is a hundred-bed permanent women’s shelter in
building 9 and, thanks to the reporting of the City Paper, we now
are aware of a new and expanded shelter for homeless families in the old
DC General Hospital. As of March 10, it had 851 residents, making it the
largest homeless shelter in the city. The shelter is at best a health
hazard with rodents, mold, peeling paint and plaster, and disease. This
facility is of a permanent nature and has little to do with hypothermia
issues, according to the City Paper articles.
Finally, several empty lots on the Hilleast Waterfront that are
uphill from the Anacostia River became dumping sites for hundreds of
truck loads of snow and debris during this past February. As some of
this snow has melted, we are left with are huge piles of dirt, sand,
garbage, trash cans, chunks of asphalt and concrete, salt, and whatever
else was picked up from District streets and deposited here. From what I
have read, this stuff will eventually make its way into the Anacostia
River and eventually the Potomac unless the city cleans it up
beforehand. It appears the city views the Hilleast Waterfront area as a
giant landfill and a nickel bag tax will not do much to clean the
As a resident of the Hilleast neighborhood and a neighbor of the
Hilleast Waterfront, I should look forward to the city’s finally
implementing the approved master plan. However, from what I have seen
over the last four to eight years, I doubt the city is capable of
creating and sustaining a vision for the Hilleast Waterfront.
I received several informative responses to my piece (“Will the DC
Council Ever Hear the People’s Voice”) in the last issue. The
responses did not disappoint — they understood what I wanted to convey
and provided different perspectives on our shared viewpoint. I’m now
heading down a path of more research and analysis to determine the
foundation for realistic options leading to a local system of government
that is more accountable to taxpayers.
Imagine another system with twenty-five or forty councilmembers
instead of thirteen (assuming that a bicameral system was not possible).
Imagine a council where the average member does not possess budgetary
control over more than $460 million (like the present) but over just a
half or a third of that amount once it expands. Picture how each council
member would be accountable and have to think critically if wards were
reapportioned to allow for new elected officials of local government,
much like states have county governments or municipalities — even
states with populations sizes similar to DC. If those numerous
additional voices were heard in the discussion of how to spend the
taxpayer money, perhaps Evans could not get so cozy with special
interests like big developers or continue giving away tax revenues.
Additionally, Rhee could not get a free pass to be so dismissive with
community groups, parents, teachers, principals, and the council in the
name of reform without providing supportive data for her reformative
This themail exchange has helped to encourage me to work more
directly to improve our system while elevating the voice of the
taxpayer. I welcome input from those of you who have come across papers,
testimony, organizations, books, or people who are on, or well along on,
a similar path.
The Metropolitan Police and Immigration
Jack McKay, email@example.com
Beware of any program with a “motherhood” name, such as the
Patriot Act, and now the so-called Secure Communities program. Who’s
opposed to a “secure community”? Well, maybe the security of our
community isn’t what this Federal program, quietly signed up to by the
District last November (Washington Post, November 13 2009, “DC
to Help US Identify Illegal Immigrants in Jail”), is really about.
Here’s the deal. Anyone arrested for a serious offense in the District
is fingerprinted and the prints sent to the FBI, to find out if the
person arrested is on the lam for some other charges. No one’s arguing
with that. What “Secure Communities” does is allow the FBI to
forward those prints to ICE, the Federal Immigration and Customs
Enforcement agency (previously known as the INS, renamed upon being
absorbed into Homeland Security). This is done even if the FBI files
turn up nothing negative about the arrestee. The purpose, plainly, is to
permit the Feds to identify and deport illegal immigrants.
The MPD won’t admit that. “It’s going to facilitate the removal
of dangerous felons from our communities,” claims an MPD spokesman.
But wait — why is the FBI check not sufficient to accomplish that? If
the FBI check comes up clean, what’s the purpose of the ICE
investigation? Whatever smoke the MPD blows, the purpose of this process
is clearly to identify undocumented immigrants here in DC, including
people innocent of any crimes. (Being in the country without
authorization is a civil offense, not criminal.)
Some may ask, what’s wrong with that? Well, up to this time the MPD
has been very careful to distance itself from immigration law
enforcement, fearing that any such association would cripple police work
in immigrant communities. Never mind what you see on TV, crimes are
solved by residents coming forward with information, not by
sophisticated forensics, and the police need the trust and cooperation
of the public for crime solving. What happens if immigrant residents are
afraid to come forward, fearing exposure of themselves, or fearing being
ostracized by their own immigrant communities because contact with the
police is considered tantamount to collaboration with ICE? More crimes
will go unsolved, more criminals will remain free.
Why this sharp break with preceding MPD policy to avoid any
connection with Federal immigration authorities? This degrades the
effectiveness of the police in dealing with real crime, robberies and
burglaries and assaults, while serving only “la migra” in its search
for immigrants lacking documents, however innocent those immigrants may
be of actual crimes.
Eric Woods asked in the March 14 edition of themail, “Will the DC
Council Ever Hear the People’s Voice?” He ended by saying that,
although he heeded the cry for DC statehood and voting representation in
Congress, he would like to see the District move beyond a one-house
legislature of thirteen members to a more true participatory political
system. Becoming a state would allow us to precisely do that. As a
state, the citizens of the State of New Columbia would be able to
organize our state legislature however we wished without any
interference from Congress. The 1982 Constitution approved by DC voters
called for a single house legislature (House of Delegates) of forty
members. The council approved an amended constitution in 1987 that
provided for a single house legislature of twenty-five members. The
bottom line, though, is that as a state we could decide how our
legislature would be organized and so provide in our state constitution.
DPR Releases Online Survey
John A. Stokes, firstname.lastname@example.org
The DC Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) is undertaking the
process of updating the DPR web site. DPR has released an online survey
to ensure that the new web site will meet the needs of District of
Columbia residents and DPR customers. The survey will be available until
Monday, March 29, at http://www.dpr.dc.gov/survey.
Additionally, DPR will host focus groups April 5-10 to gather more
in-depth information on what people want to see on the web site. Those
interested in participating in focus groups can share contact
information at the end of the online survey or can contact Stuart Allan
by E-mail at email@example.com.
The update of the web site is expected to be complete in late spring.
Can Joyce Little Get an Amen?
Jonathan Zurer, firstname.lastname@example.org
No. [Referring to themail, March 14]
CLASSIFIEDS — EVENTS
National Building Museum Events, March 22, 25
Johanna Weber, email@example.com
March 22, 6:30-8:00 p.m., DC Environmental Film Festival: A Necessary
Ruin: The Story of Buckminster Fuller and the Union Tank Car Dome (USA,
2009, 30 minutes.) When it was completed in October 1958, the Union Tank
Car Dome, ostensibly designed by the visionary Buckminster Fuller, was
the largest clear-span structure in the world. A Necessary Ruin relates
the compelling narrative of the dome’s history. A discussion with
Fuller expert Jonathan Marvel and filmmaker/landscape architect Evan
Mather, ASLA, follows the film. Presented as part of the DC
Environmental Film Festival. For more information visit www.dcenvironmentalfilmfest.org.
$10 members, $10 students, $12 nonmembers. Prepaid registration
required. Walk-in registration based on availability.
March 25, 6:30-8:30 p.m., DC Environmental Film Festival: Megamall
(USA, 2009, 81 minutes.) Twelve years in the making, Megamall documents
the origins of the massive Palisades Center Mall and its impact on the
community of West Nyack, New York. The film gives a rare look at the
process and rationales behind mall building. A discussion with the
filmmakers follows the film. Presented as part of the DC Environmental
Film Festival. For more information visit www.dcenvironmentalfilmfest.org.
$10 members, $10 students, $12 nonmembers. Prepaid registration
required. Walk-in registration based on availability. Both events at the
National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square Metro
station. Register for events at http://www.nbm.org.
Community Forum on Franklin School, March 23
Joseph L. Browne, firstname.lastname@example.org
A discussion of the possible future uses of Franklin School will take
place at the Goethe-Institut, 812 Seventh Street, NW (Metro: Gallery
Place/Chinatown), on Tuesday, March 23, at 6:30 p.m. The “Community
Forum” will feature presentations of ideas for education programs that
could be located at the 140-year-old historic school building, located
at 13th and K streets, NW. Audience ideas and questions will also be
included. The Coalition for Franklin School has worked with the Goethe-Institut
to organize the event.
Since it closed as an adult education center in 1989, Franklin School
has been the subject of regular controversy. Though its exterior was
restored in 1990-92, the building was vacant for a decade, then
illegally leased to a boutique hotel developer. Then it was pressed into
service as a homeless shelter, which Mayor Adrian Fenty closed in 2008.
In September 2009, the Deputy Mayor for Economic Development issued a
Request for Proposals calling for private for-profit, commercial
proposals for developing the building. The city received three proposals
in January, one for a charter school, one for a hotel/restaurant, and
one suggesting a variety of possible educational uses.
Franklin School is the work of Adolf Cluss, the District’s
signature nineteenth-century architect, whose Eastern Market and Sumner
School are among the District’s most cherished public buildings.
Opened in 1869, Franklin pioneered new programs for District schools,
including a teacher education school (housed at Franklin for forty
years), Washington’s first public high school classes, and successful
adult education programs. For more information about this event, see http://www.goethe.de/ins/us/was/ver/en5687365v.htm.
For more information about the Coalition for Franklin School, see http://www.FranklinSchoolDC.org.
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