Courtland Milloy: “Get Off My Lawn”

by September 17, 2010 at 11:26 am 3,783 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.


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