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Courtland Milloy: “Get Off My Lawn”

by Borderstan.com September 17, 2010 at 11:26 am 1,545 12 Comments

Logan Circle P Street NW Luis Gomez Photos

Logan Circle neighborhood, 1400 block of P Street NW. (Luis Gomez Photos)

Courtland Milloy just screamed, “Get off my lawn!” to tens of thousands of DC’s newest residents in Thursday’s column, “D.C. election didn’t just unseat abrasive Mayor Fenty. It was a populist revolt.

Unlike Clint Eastwood (as character Walt Kowalski) who uttered “Get off my lawn” with a gun in Gran Torino, Milloy was giving a written scream to the new residents–often young and well educated–who are moving into a number of DC neighborhoods including U Street, Logan Circle, LeDroit Park, Petworth, Columbia Heights and Shaw.

Ironically, Milloy doesn’t even live in DC. He left for the suburbs several years ago. So, whose lawn is it?

Writing about the meaning of Tuesday’s mayoral election results, Milloy wrote in his Thursday column about Fenty supporters:

Watch them at the chic new eateries, Fenty’s hip newly arrived “creative class” firing up their “social media” networks whenever he’s under attack: Why should the mayor have to stop his work just to meet with some old biddies, they tweet. Who cares if the mayor is arrogant as long as he gets the job done?

Myopic little twits.

And lordy don’t complain about Rhee.

Yes, I guess Milloy was referring to this area of the city, to Logan Circle and U Street and the 14th Street corridor. We are, I suppose, the stereotype, of all things suspicious to Milloy. We have dog parks (two of them) and we have bike lanes (lots of them). “Chic eateries” and users of “social networks” abound.

However, Milloy’s obviously sarcastic reference to the “creative class” was a bit puzzling. Studies show that cities with large populations of young creative people are a good thing–for everyone. Cities go out of their way to attract them. (Google a guy named Richard Florida.) Fenty understood this, and that is why many people here in Logan Circle supported him. (Wikipedia has a pretty good definition of creative class.)

On Tuesday, we collectively did as Milloy suspects: Voters in precincts here gave Fenty 70 to 80% of the vote. But, while we supported him here, I don’t think you’d find many locals who would disagree that Fenty was the cause of many of his own problems. Moreover, I don’t think I can recall a nasty comment by anyone I know about Vincent Gray. The general take on him seemed to be, “He’s not a bad Council chairman… I’d love him for a neighbor… but not sure about him as mayor.”

None of this is meant to downplay the serious problems facing Washingtonians in other parts of the city, too many of them in dire economic circumstances. But wishing these newcomers would go away will do nothing to solve the horribly high rates of unemployment in DC.

I would also suggest–strongly–that many of my new neighbors make an effort to understand DC’s history. Only by doing so can you understand Milloy’s column and the frustrations he expressed.

So, I invite Milloy to pay us a visit in Logan Circle. I contend that, overall, we are not a malevolent lot in this neighborhood. Increasingly white? Yes, I guess so, but many of the young hipsters moving here are non-white, too. The area is still diverse in terms of race, ethnicity, origin and sexual orientation. Mixed-race couples, both same sex and opposite sex, don’t turn heads here.

One last point I would make to Milloy: All these young hipsters you see in the neighborhood? The vast majority are liberal–very liberal. They support the social safety net, and they willingly and uncomplainingly pay DC’s high taxes, which fund schools, social services, and youth and senior programs.

Whether you like these kids or not, we need them. I’m middle aged myself and we need young, well educated people who can help support this city.

Come on up to Logan Circle. Check out these newcomers before you dismiss them out of hand. After all, even Eastwood’s Walt Kowalski learned to like his new neighbors.

  • LoganBoy
  • FormerHillGuy

    Is’nt this old hack past his sell by date? He’s been spouting this nonsense for too many years.

  • Taboo

    When I first read Milloy’s column, I thought it was a parody of “Shit My Dad Says.” Then I realized he was serious. Isn’t the comparison of the Fenty government to a plantation system stretching it a bit? Just a bit?

  • One of the Twits, I guess

    Wow, “myopic twits”? Really? What about all those fantastic predecessors in DC gov’t who did such a bang-up job with the schools FOR DECADES that they ranked worst in the nation while having the highest funding available/per student, that money never making it into the classrooms? I suppose it’s all in how one defines “good government”, eh, Milloy? Did he stop short, or did he mean to invoke the good ol’ days of Marion Barry in his column, too? Oh, wait, maybe that’s when Milloy moved outta town… so he could get the bigger picture.

  • I am always amused when “outsiders” bash or promote negative commentary about neighborhoods and populations they do not even know. As you state, Matt, the diversity of our community is extensive, with same sex, opposite sex, mixed race, families with and without children all celebrating our revitalized neighborhood.

    Milloy needs to take a stroll and see what we are all about.

  • Craig

    Let Milloy come to the ‘hood and take us to a chic eatery for dinner. Then we stick him with the check.

  • Chen

    I also don’t understand why it’s such a bad thing for the city to be attracting the “creative class”? Other jurisdictions around us – Montgomery County, N. Virginia – are all doing their darnest to attract the same by building denser, more walkable, livable communities.
    In terms of the mayoral race, much of what I think caused Fenty to lose seemed to be self-inflicted wounds that are more in terms of style than substance. Some – but not nearly all – city services improved, with still a long ways to go, and now, a big budget deficit looming.
    I hope Grey will be able to:
    – improve relationship with citizens;
    – not march backwords in terms of the progress the city has made over the last 12 years in the process;
    – be able to deliver at least the same amount of services while dealing with the budget deficit.

  • Ward 2 voter

    Milloy’s piece was just bitter and backwards-looking… exactly what the city does not need if it wants to continue the progress made in the last years.

  • Keri

    Milloy doesn’t even live in the city?! Wow, does he have gall! “”Myopic twits.” He doesn’t live here; he doesn’t vote here; and he certainly is lost in the past. Enough!

    We need quality leaders with intelligence, integrity and an ability to continue to build successes for all ages of people in the city. Plus – we need full voting rights with two Senators and one Representative to ensure accountability and quality candidates who truly represent the needs of the citizens of the District of Columbia.

    Until then …. the theater of the absurd continues with non-citizens of the District imposing their views on us.

  • Uncle Ernie

    Milloy is a black version of Pat Buchanan who has been peddling this “voice of the black man” crap for way too long. He longs for a return to the 70s, when preachers had political clout, the Man was no longer in charge, and the city was chocolate. It’s time for WaPo to pull the plug on this dinosaur.

  • deeceevoice

    Like many long-time District residents, I cheered when I read Milloy’s column. He was dead-on.

  • Dr Pangloss

    I would also suggest—strongly—that many of my new neighbors make an effort to understand DC’s history. Only by doing so can you understand Milloy’s column and the frustrations he expressed.

    You know, the ironic thing here is that we understand DC’s history only too well. It’s a history of incredible dysfunction for lack of any middle-class to act as a counter-weight to the electoral power of the extremely poor and uneducated.

    In another 4-8 years, the demographic shift will have returned to balance, and we can get on with the business of repairing the city.


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