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November 25, 2012

One Size Fits All

Dear Urbanites:

We donít like suburbanites; we donít want them coming into the city; we donít want them to patronize our shops or work in our businesses. If they must come here, they should leave their cars at home and take the subway or buses or, better yet, bicycle or walk. Thatís healthier and more environmentally correct, anyway. Those are the messages sent by the Washingtonians in the more than four hundred comments to Sundayís Washington Post article by Tim Craig, "DC Implementing Parking Rules to Limit Visitor Spots, Discourage Driving," Here are the first four sentences of the article: "District officials are reserving thousands of on-street parking spaces for residents on weekdays in the cityís most crowded neighborhoods, part of an aggressive effort to limit spots for visitors. The restrictions are a slice of a city strategy to promote bicycling and mass transit while increasing the odds that residents can find parking. The changes, which could affect as many as 10,000 spaces, come as the city eliminates some on-street parking to make room for bicycle lanes and prepares to set aside hundreds of meters for the disabled. ĎThat is the sign of the future, that discourages car ownership,í said DC Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1)." Angelo Rao, manager of the Districtís parking and streetlight program, "said the new revisions, which will affect as many as twenty parking spaces per city block, are driven both by residentsí concerns about a lack of on-street parking and a broader city policy to encourage less vehicle traffic."

Suburbanites who comment on the article respond mostly that they experience the city as a hostile, unfriendly place, anyway, and donít see any need to come into town except for a rare visit to the monuments and the museums. Is this the way to market DC to new residents or potential new businesses? Is this even thinking about Washington constructively as what political leaders claim to believe is "one city"? Divide the city into eight wards, and deliberately make it difficult for people who live in any of the wards to have guests, visitors, or workers who come from any of the other wards? If you shop for something bigger than you can carry in your arms as you walk, or bigger than you can fit in your bikeís basket, you should drive to Maryland or Virginia so you can shop in a store where you can park?

If youíre young and healthy, or if youíre alone in life, youíre welcome in the city. As long as youíre grocery shopping for yourself alone, and can fit what you buy into your bicycle basket, youíre welcome to live here. If you do a weekly grocery shopping for a family of four, move out of town. We donít want you and your and your cancer-producing automobile here. Earlier this month, Zoning Commission Chairman Anthony Hood made the commonsense observation that, "Some of us who are riding bikes now will not be riding bikes later. And then also, we need to make sure we balance the development we do in this city for all, ícause I havenít seen too many people go to the grocery store and come back with their groceries on a bicycle," He was mocked by people who said that, of course, they carried their groceries on their bicycles. These are people who see their lifestyle, their current lifestyle, as the normal, natural way that everyone should live, and are scornful of anyone who would actually buy provisions for an entire family.

If youíre running a business that requires patronage from more than the fifteen thousand people or so who live in your immediate neighborhood, take your business to the suburbs. If your employees want to drive to their work instead of spending hours a day on public transportation, take your business to the suburbs. This cityís planners have decided that it should be only for young, wealthy, single hipsters. Families and old people and people who have friends in distant neighborhoods arenít welcome. They may as well be suburbanites.

Gary Imhoff


The Passing of Lawrence Guyot
Timothy Cooper,

Fridayís passing of Lawrence Guyot, one of DCís most determined warriors for civil and political rights, is a historical loss, not only for DC, but also for the country. In light of his service to Americaís victorious civil rights movement, during which he served time at Parchman Farm in Mississippi, endured beatings at the hands of racist policemen, headed the 1964 Freedom Summer Project, and stood shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Fannie Lou Hammer at the National Democratic Convention demanding the desegregation of the all-white delegation, Lawrence was at the forefront of social change in his time. As a country, as a city, weíre all indebted to him. Indebted to him for his mighty contributions.

Lawrence lived his life well. He understood his own priorities and the countryís as well. And he pursued them zealously. Incessantly. No wall of oppression stood too high before him for him not to try to climb. No authority, legitimate or otherwise, intimidated him. And he was always willing to accept the consequences of his actions, come what may. Iíll always remember the thunder of Lawrenceís voice when he rose to speak about injustice. Any injustice, large or small. When he pounded the table in the name of equal rights and made the room tremble. When he gripped the megaphone on the steps of any number of institutions and demanded righteous change in a voice that would be heard.

Lawrence had authority. Gravitas. Standing. He was an activistís activist. The real thing. He was his own special brand of thunder and lightning. And with that combustible mixture, of both sound and fury, he made history. Good for him.


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