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by Borderstan Contributor August 18, 2016 at 3:00 pm 47 Comments

SunTrust bank

Borderstan periodically publishes opinion pieces from our readers. Have something you want to share with Borderstan’s readers? Email us at [email protected].

by JonMarc Buffa

The proposed SunTrust plaza redevelopment by PN Hoffman is one of the most significant and consequential developments in Adams Morgan. However, the project clearly violates the law — both zoning regulations and historic preservation guidelines — and so must be significantly redesigned.

The project will forever transform the prominent corner of 18th Street and Columbia Road NW — the gateway to Adams Morgan. The project has rightly garnered significant media coverage and has energized neighbors unlike any project in memory. Many commentators have been very vocal when debating the merits of the SunTrust plaza’s public space. Undoubtedly, the SunTrust plaza is an important space and deserves protection. Yet, the debate over the future of the plaza has overshadowed the other important legal issues at stake here.

As one of the members of the Advisory Neighborhood Commission representing Adams Morgan (ANC 1C), I strongly support thriving development and economic growth in Adams Morgan. I am committed to ensuring that any development project is undertaken in a thoughtful manner that respects the special character of our community, which the citizens of Adams Morgan have strived so hard to build.

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by Borderstan Contributor July 28, 2016 at 1:45 pm 4 Comments

Workers at Garrison Elementary School

Borderstan periodically publishes opinion pieces from our readers. Have something you want to share with Borderstan’s readers? Email us at [email protected].

by Elizabeth Nicoletti

In January of 2015, a last-minute parent fundraising campaign spearheaded by a resourceful singe-mother raised $2,000 in just 3 weeks from Garrison Elementary families. Donations brought in Capital Movement, a DC-based, women-owned dance studio that understood our financial limitations. Students had two hip-hop classes a week, and in June, parents attended their yearend recital.

For many watching, it was heartwarming and hilarious as rambunctious preschoolers tried hard to follow the dance steps. For me as a parent, the recital provided a sense of peace. Peace in the fact I worked and, while I did, that my son was learning and being exposed to experiences that I alone could never provide.

As a working mom, I know I am not alone. Caring for children after the 3:15 pm school day is a source of psychological and financial stress for many. With 48 percent of the school population living in shelters or classified as “at risk” by DCPS, there are parents dealing with a far more worrying reality than I know. Parents who work or study often grapple with the costs and benefits of their life decisions on their children’s well-being.

Garrison has a chance to solve this. The video above may not show it, but getting to this well-choreographed routine was no easy path.

After losing a grant for aftercare funding in October of 2015 with little notice, Garrison students were left with low coverage ratios and zero programming. The principal and the Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO) worked to patch a program together to finish the year. For the 2016-2017 school year, the PTO led an effort with the school administration to find a private aftercare provider that ensured better ratios, safety and enrichment. We look forward to welcoming Apollo After School in August.

To ensure equitable access to high-quality aftercare, we have launched a community crowdfunding campaign. Our PTO website will recognize local businesses and community members that participate as champions for education.

Funding will go to programming like dance classes and to scholarships for working, low-income families. Families qualifying for Medicaid will be able to access the program without paying the monthly fee, however many families are caught in the middle. They earn too much to qualify for a DCPS subsidy but not enough to pay programs costs.

An enriching aftercare program will further transform Garrison. Aftercare is part of the virtuous cycle that keeps school enrollment rates up, enhances school day programming and can even lead to higher test scores — Garrison’s core challenges.

Additional money raised will provide enrichment for older grades, such as field trips to Philadelphia for 4th graders or tablets to help kids with autism learn in our special education classes. Garrison has one of the highest percentage of special needs students in DCPS. 

If you pass by Garrison elementary on S Street, you will notice bulldozers, cement piled high and men in hard hats sweating in the summer heat. The ground is literally breaking at Garrison. And for good reason. After a lengthy political process, our modernization dollars arrived and are hard at work.

But the challenge of improving this school does not end with a modern facility. We are reaching out to the community to break new ground. It seems only fair to strengthen the elementary school at the epicenter of so much social and economic change. The ripple effects of doing so will benefit far more than just the students. The more schools thrive, the more the communities that support them thrive too.

I invite you to be a part of this virtuous cycle. Please join us in our campaign to bring equitable, high-quality education to your neighborhood.

Tax-deductible donations can also be made by Venmo to [email protected] or check to Garrison PTO, Garrison Elementary School, 1200 S St. NW.

Nicoletti is a Garrison Elementary School parent.

Photo via Facebook/GarrisonES

by Borderstan Contributor July 6, 2016 at 2:00 pm 4 Comments

Columbia Heights July 6

Borderstan periodically publishes opinion pieces from our readers. Have something you want to share with Borderstan’s readers? Email us at [email protected].

Last week, a PoPville reader and former Columbia Heights resident wrote an “open letter” to the neighborhood. In his letter, the resident said the neighborhood was plagued by crime, garbage and drugs, among other problems.

The following is a response from ANC 1A chair Kent Boese, whose commission represents Columbia Heights:

On June 28, popular blog PoPville published an open letter submitted by a former Columbia Heights resident who gave up on living in the District of Columbia after 12 years. While there is much in the author’s letter that may be familiar to those who read it, it is difficult to agree with his indictment that Columbia Heights and the District of Columbia, as a whole, are worse today than they were a decade ago.

The transformation of 11th Street, as noted by the New York Times in 2011, where small locally owned restaurants thrive and continue to open is a success story that many other District neighborhoods would gladly welcome; although I lament the loss of businesses, such as Arthur’s and Columbia Heights Coffee, that served the neighborhood prior to 11th Street becoming a hip destination spot.

Violent crime, homelessness, drug addiction and chronic alcoholism, and mental illness are but just a few of the challenges that still can be found in our community. Yet residents who have lived in Columbia Heights for a decade or longer will not only recognize that we’ve made significant progress with the aforementioned issues, but have also witnessed a neighborhood that is increasingly vibrant and thriving with fewer vacant houses and businesses, improved parks, and improving schools.

Crime and MPD

The author’s story detailing his encounter with a young man with a gun, the subsequent lawsuit and the apparent harassment after a felony gun arrest are serious statements which do not match the experiences many have had with our very capable and dedicated police officers in Columbia Heights. In the interest of public safety, I call upon Mr. Silverman to assist the community by providing the relevant case numbers so that we can review the facts and demand justice where it hasn’t been served.

Just over a year ago, Chief Lanier’s eliminated District-based vice units citing disappearing open-air drug markets and new ways narcotics are being sold. I agree with Lanier that crime is changing in the District and our police methods must adapt and change to remain effective. I disagree, however, with the notion that open-air drug markets, or worse, no longer exist in our community, which simply isn’t true. 

It is true that Columbia Heights is safer today than it was a decade ago, yet I believe it could be safer still. My concerns with the District’s police force falls into two main areas 1) the decision a year ago by Chief Lanier to eliminate police district based plainclothes units with little forewarning or community input, and 2) our ability to train and maintain new recruits at a time when we have a significant number of police officers leaving or retiring

The elimination of plainclothes officers stationed in our communities was a misstep that likely has more to do with MPD’s attrition rate than it does with the changing nature of crime. It was equally disheartening that our Councilmember’s response to concerned residents seeking a return of dedicated plainclothes officers was that of equating plainclothes policing with jump out squads. In conversations with beat officers, DC Police Union members, and the Office of the Attorney General, have all said that addressing the most problematic criminal behavior in our community has become more difficult since the elimination of the vice squads. This is particularly true with nuisance properties – places that can and do harbor drug dealers, illegal firearms, and prostitution.

MPD’s decreasing number of experienced officers is also concerning. The impact this has on day to day policing is significant. According to a post from November 2015 on the D.C. Police Union blog, MPD’s attrition rate through retirement and resignations for police officers in DC is approaching 14 percent.

Time and again, those who have invested themselves in getting to know the police assigned to the greater Columbia Heights community have developed beneficial and helpful relationships that result in a safer community. Each new retirement or resignation, however, ultimately leads to reassignments where these relationships must begin anew. This is both frustrating and counterproductive, and perhaps a factor in low community participation in Police Service Area meetings.

Neighborhood Cleanliness

A simple use of Google Street View shows that Columbia Heights is not drowning in more trash than it was a decade ago. What it does not show, however, is that the nature of trash in the community has evolved from needles, drug bags, and condom wrappers to Z-Burger and Chick-fil-A wrappers. The community’s persistent rat problem makes the problem worse as our public litter cans help feed the rats.

In 2004 the D.C. Council identified Columbia Heights as one of 12 target neighborhoods to get a Neighborhood Investment Fund (NIF). Up to $10 Million from personal property taxes went into the NIF, where the office of the deputy mayor for planning and economic development (DMPED) was to gather community input before deciding how to use the fund. However, without any real process for gathering community input or getting the money into the community, the D.C. Council decided in 2009 to redistribute the funds in the NIF among several agencies to fund other economic development projects across the city. In doing this, the Council failed Columbia Heights. ANC 1A advocated for the re-establishment of the Columbia Heights NIF and will continue to do so.

While there is no apparent progress in restoring the NIF, Councilmember Nadeau is actively working to establish Clean Teams for 14th Street and Georgia Avenue, as well as establish Main Street organizations for these corridors. These efforts, along with a newly established Park Partners group specifically focused on maintaining the Columbia Heights Civic Plaza, will all help address the cleanliness issues of our community, especially along 14th Street between Columbia Road and Monroe Street, and particularly around the Metro station, DC USA, and the Columbia Heights Civic Plaza which currently is poorly maintained, gum encrusted, and dirty. It will not, however, solve related issues of homelessness, public drunkenness, or the public safety concerns that weigh on minds of many residents.

DCRA and Development

Columbia Heights has become a desirable place to live over the past decade, and along with it has come a demand for more housing. Today, that demand is met in part by rowhouse conversions which can occur at incredible speeds. While many developers follow the permitting rules, others do not. In either case, such construction can and has negatively impacted those who live next door to them. Many in the community have engaged both the Office of Planning and DCRA in recent years to find a more balanced approach to new construction in a century old neighborhood.

Without a doubt, there is still room for improvement with DCRA, its permitting functions, and its ability to quickly address unpermitted construction. Still, the agency has become more responsive to residents. It is also doing a better job when it comes to reviewing permit applications for pop-up construction to ensure it does not negatively impact neighboring homes.

Conclusion

The future remains promising with continued investment and improvement of our schools, expansion of transportation infrastructure, sidewalk improvements, efforts to increase and maintain our tree canopy, or any of the other efforts that continue to move our neighborhood forward. Yes, we still have a long way to go to solve all of the challenges that our community faces, but Columbia Heights and the District will continue to move forward precisely because of those who live here – residents, old and new, that are engaged, proud of their community, and who organize and mobilize when it truly matters.

Like the author of the open letter, I moved to Ward 1 in 2007 settling in the Park View neighborhood just east of Columbia Heights (he moved to Columbia Heights in 2006). I, too, became active in my community – including being president of my neighborhood civic group in 2010 and serving on the Advisory Neighborhood Commission serving Columbia Heights and Park View since 2011. I have been the Chair of ANC 1A since 2013.

I have had my share of frustrations and disappointments while working to improve our community – but I have also had many, many successes too – both personally and in collaboration with others. Along the way I have learned that the most valuable Ward 1 resource is its people… and together we have and will continue to make a stronger, safer community that all can call home. But unlike the author of the letter, the positives of living in Columbia Heights far outweighed the negatives; and as I have come to love my neighborhood and community, I know in my heart that I will never give up on Columbia Heights or leave Washington D.C.

Boese is a Park View resident and has served as chair of ANC 1A since 2013.

by Borderstan Contributor July 1, 2016 at 11:30 am 1 Comment

Meridian Hill Park

Borderstan periodically publishes opinion pieces from our readers. Have something you want to share with Borderstan’s readers? Email us at [email protected].

The following is a letter from Ward 4 resident Ben Harris to Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton:

Dear Del. Holmes Norton,

I am writing to raise an issue that has a noticeable impact on every D.C. resident as well as on many of the visitors to our city: the deplorable conditions within much of the parkland in D.C. controlled by the National Park Service. This issue has come up from time to time before, but recent visits to several NPS parks within the city have served as a reminder that this is an issue that demands urgent attention and action.

I want to make clear that what I am referring to here are not the national parks that symbolize D.C. and that many visitors associate with the city: the National Mall, Rock Creek Park, and so forth. Although those parks are certainly rife with issues and problems, they aren’t my focus for purposes of this message. Rather, I am expressing serious concern over the condition of the many “neighborhood parks” which NPS controls but which function more as community parks.

Last evening, I strolled through Malcolm X/Meridian Hill Park. This is a park that should be a crown jewel of the city, however its current conditions are disgraceful. The fountains and cascading waterfall, which are hallmarks of the park, are dry and have not functioned all year. Instead, there are basins filled with beer cans, liquor bottles and other trash, and pools of stagnant water which no doubt serve as fertile breeding ground for mosquitos. There are no signs or any indication of when, if ever, the fountains and water features might be operational. On the upper tier of the park, what little grass that exists is overgrown; meanwhile, what should be a grassy surface is often little more than dust and rocks, the field and sod long in need of rehabilitation. The overall feel of the park is of neglect and disinvestment.

Farther south in Dupont Circle, the fountain there too has been dry for weeks, with no indication of a timeframe for repair. Instead, the fountain’s basin is full of foul, stagnant water that, again, is an ideal mosquito breeding ground. The bushes surrounding the benches around the fountain are often overgrown, and many are dead. Meanwhile, weeds grow through cracks in the pavement while overflowing trash cans contribute to garbage and litter.

My wife and I live in Ward 4, a couple of blocks from Fort Slocum Park. That park is rarely mowed, leading to overgrown grass and knee-high weeds that make it difficult to walk through, much less spend time in. There is frequently garbage and litter around the park, including drug paraphernalia, empty containers of alcohol and condom wrappers. Making the park even more unsuitable for use, two full sides of it lack any sidewalk, forcing park users to walk through the un-mowed, tick-laden grass and weeds. Fort Slocum is surrounded on three sides by houses, many containing families with children, while a school borders it on the north. Nearby residents are being deprived of what could be a wonderful amenity via the ongoing neglect of the park.

There are, I am sure, countless other examples that people elsewhere in the city could point to. The overall point is that NPS is abjectly failing in its responsibilities at maintaining the parkland scattered across our city. I moved to the D.C. area in 2004, and I can say beyond any doubt that the conditions of the city’s NPS-controlled parks are the worst they have ever been since I came here. Compounding this problem is the NPS bureaucracy. It is unclear which individual(s) at NPS District residents should contact about upkeep and maintenance issues in District parks. NPS’s structure is opaque, and the agency does not typically engage via social media channels. As a District resident, I feel powerless to raise issues and concerns with NPS as I do not know whom to contact, and the agency does not engage in community outreach.

I raise all of these issues in the hopes that you will raise these concerns with the appropriate people at NPS and elsewhere, with the hope that an increased degree of focus and attention will result in noticeable and desirable improvements in NPS-controlled parkland in D.C. The citizens of this city should have access to parks that are attractive, inviting and accommodating. Currently, far too many of our parks do not meet these criteria, a tremendous disservice to the city’s residents and a shameful commentary on our inability to maintain our public spaces. We all deserve better service than what NPS is providing.

Thank you in advance for your time and attention to this matter.

Cordially yours,

Benjamin Harris

Harris is a Ward 4 resident who, along with his wife, formerly ran the blog 14th & You.

by Borderstan Contributor May 17, 2016 at 10:20 am 4 Comments

garrison2

Borderstan periodically publishes opinion pieces from our readers. Have something you want to share with Borderstan’s readers? Email us at [email protected].

by Nathaniel Beers, Chief Operating Officer at D.C. Public Schools

Thank you to Elizabeth Nicoletti for the recent letter about the modernization of Garrison Elementary School.

Ms. Nicoletti shares what so many families love about Garrison: great teaching, great curriculum and a diverse student body, among other facets of the school. Mayor Bowser agrees that Garrison is in need of modernization, and we look forward to making critical enhancements over the next two summers.

With an investment of nearly $28 million for building modernizations and improvements to the fields and playgrounds, we are confident that Garrison will serve all families that attend the school. This summer, we expect to improve the school entrance, walkways and guardrails, as well as stabilize the field, among other improvements. When students come back to school for School Year 2017-2018, they will be greeted with modernized classrooms, a new entrance and welcome area, a modernized library and media center, new elevators, playgrounds, fields, and more.

Our mission is to open our doors to every student from every corner of the city. Mayor Bowser heard loud and clear that families were tired of the politics that outlined the order of modernizing our schools. Providing equity to that process is another way we will serve all our kids with beautiful buildings where children can thrive.

Garrison Elementary School surely deserves to be modernized, and this summer we will begin to make the critical changes that will build on the wonderful things already happening at Garrison.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Borderstan.

Photo via Facebook/GarrisonES

by Borderstan Contributor May 9, 2016 at 2:25 pm 1 Comment

Garrison Elementary School (Photo via Facebook/GarrisonES)

Borderstan periodically publishes opinion pieces from our readers. Have something you want to share with Borderstan’s readers? Email us at [email protected].

by Elizabeth Nicoletti

The green text bubble lit up on my iPhone, and I could see the words from across my kitchen counter, “Exciting news! We bought a new house!” The text came from close friends who live on our block. Our kids are similar ages, we all go to the local park regularly and twice a year we co-organize neighborhood events. However, their oldest is entering Pre-K, and they cannot commit to the local school.

The local school is Garrison Elementary School (1200 S St. NW). I decided to send my son to Garrison for numerous reasons — its high-quality teachers, curriculum, vicinity and diversity. Watching my son thrive in Garrison’s rich cultural bastion confirms my decision. At three years old, he is writing, reading and dancing ballet and hip-hop alongside his bright and eager classmates. However, I am constantly confronting shortcomings with the school’s structure. A reoccurring mouse infestation, a faulty heating and cooling system and acres of unusable athletic fields are distracting students and teachers from reaching their full potential. And they continue to weigh on parents’ conscience about whether this is the best setting for long-term success.

In 2010, D.C. Public Schools’ central office called for a Garrison modernization for 2014. When that never happened, Mayor Muriel Bowser, as Mayor Vincent Gray had done before her, reprogrammed Garrison’s modernization money and promised it would make Garrison whole in the 2016 budget cycle, which she did with $40 million. In May 2015, an amendment eliminated $20 million from that modernization. The school was left with only $20 million, which the Department of General Services has advised was insufficient. And now after two meetings at city hall, I still find the process for ensuring that remaining funds are efficiently and effectively deployed unclear and opaque.

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by Borderstan Contributor April 29, 2016 at 10:15 am 11 Comments

1800 Columbia Road NW revised rendering (Image via ANC 1C/PN Hoffman)

Borderstan periodically publishes opinion pieces from our readers. Have something you want to share with Borderstan’s readers? Email us at [email protected].

Dear Neighbor,

PN Hoffman is excited to create a mixed-use development and thoughtfully enhance the plaza area to activate the corner at 18th Street and Columbia Road NW. I’d like to share with you the key aspects of this development, explain our collaborative approach and invite you to provide us with your feedback and support.

The community benefits offered by the redevelopment plan for 1800 Columbia are numerous, and a few are highlighted below:

  • The project will include a new 58-unit condominium building with a portion of the units set aside as affordable housing; this enables homeownership in an established community where new housing supply is limited;
  • Neighborhood-serving ground floor retail; creates a dynamic and enlivened streetscape that will engage pedestrians while reconnecting the retail on both Columbia Road and 18th Street;
  • A re-envisioned plaza that will activate and reinvigorate this important corner with landscaping and seating providing opportunities for a variety of community gatherings and an aesthetically pleasing entrance to the Adams Morgan neighborhood;
  • The project will be sustainable, bringing new local jobs to the neighborhood, seeking LEED Silver level certification, and providing green roofs and rain gardens.

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by Borderstan Contributor March 9, 2016 at 11:30 am 17 Comments

SunTrust plaza (Photo via Wikimedia/AgnosticPreachersKid)

Borderstan periodically publishes opinion pieces from our readers. Have something you want to share with Borderstan’s readers? Email us at [email protected].

by Billy Simpson

I was quite disappointed by the way that you have framed your poll on Borderstan concerning the proposed development at the SunTrust site in Adams Morgan. It perpetuates the false dichotomy that a community must either accept exactly what a developer proposes, or get nothing. For those who would take the time to familiarize themselves with the details of the site, it’s clear that there are several potential avenues for PN Hoffman to further its goals, while still preserving meaningful portions of the plaza for community use. And obviously, no one (to my knowledge) is arguing for preserving the plaza in its current condition. It would be renovated and beautified as part of any development.

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by Borderstan Contributor December 23, 2015 at 12:30 pm 0

Oberting Dave Hi Res Head ShotDave Oberting is a candidate for an at-large seat on the D.C. council in the November 2016 election.

The views and opinions expressed in this op-ed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Borderstan.

I was born into a middle-class Midwestern family. Both my parents were teachers. They stayed married to each other for 37 years until my father passed away about a decade ago.

The neighborhoods I grew up in were safe and secure — the kind of neighborhoods where you could leave your door unlocked at night. Crime never entered my mind because there wasn’t any.

I spent twelve years in Catholic schools. They weren’t great schools, but they were safe. Aside from the occasional fist fight, there was no violence. There were no metal detectors. We learned the basics.

There was never any doubt that I would go to college — both my parents had master’s degrees. There was also never any doubt that my parents would pay for it so that I graduated debt-free.

And most importantly, there was never any doubt that there would be a good white-collar job waiting for me when I graduated with a clear pathway to a successful career. And here’s the key to my story — I took it all for granted. It was an entitlement. It was the definition of the American dream and it was mine by right.

We probably all define white privilege in different ways. For some, it’s a myth. For me, it was the right to pursue the American dream without obstacles or roadblocks.

Many African-Americans in the District of Columbia, and around the country for that matter, have been systematically denied the kinds of educational, economic and job opportunities that the typical Borderstan reader takes for granted.

Look at a typical African-American child born in the District today: that child has a 72 percent chance of being born to a single mother. That child has a 47 percent chance of being born to a single mother who lives in poverty. That child will live in a District where poverty has grown steadily since 1989.

That child has a 40 percent chance of never graduating from high school, and as an adult, he or she will have a 20 percent chance of being unemployed, and a 39 percent chance of living in poverty themselves.

If that child is a boy, he will be eight times more likely to spend time in prison than a white D.C. resident.

The median income for white District residents in 2014 was $113,631. The median income for African-Americans was $41,394. That child will also grow up in a District that has become steadily less equal for the past 40 years.

Most critically, the median white household in the U.S. in 2011 had a net worth of $111,146, while the median net worth of an African-American household was $7,113. There are many elements of racial justice, but when I think about District residents, what comes to mind first is finding some justice of the economic kind, which is primarily about the availability of and preparedness for good jobs.

Every District resident, regardless of skin color, is entitled to the privilege of taking a good education, good job training, and a good job for granted. Right now, they’re not getting it.

Sometimes we forget the full name of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s pilgrimage to the nation’s capital in 1963 was the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.” It was no typo that “jobs” came before “freedom” in the title. Dr. King knew the right to a decent full-time job is the most fundamental entitlement there is and the cornerstone of human freedom.

Here is what I believe: there is no justice without economic justice and there is no economic justice without economic growth.

The District government owes every African-American D.C. resident (and every other resident) an economy that grows fast enough to create a sufficient number of good jobs.

Since 2007, D.C.’s economy has grown at an average rate of 1.28 percent. That’s just not fast enough to get it done. The U6 unemployment rate (a broader measure of unemployment) is 11.6 percent.

For District residents who don’t hold a four-year college degree, the unemployment rate is 22 percent. The unemployment rate for white D.C. residents is 4.1 percent, for African-Americans it’s 20 percent.

If you agree the District’s economy isn’t growing fast enough, then it needs to be stimulated. Since there can be no deficit spending, what’s left are serious reforms to our tax and regulatory systems. Making the District a better, easier and less expensive place to do business is a prerequisite for the faster growth that creates more good jobs.

Secondly, too many District residents have not had the opportunity to acquire the skills that permit them to succeed in the middle-class jobs that do exist, and the ones that will exist in the first half of the 21st century. This is a failure, over two generations, of our education and workforce development systems.

Anyone who is pleased with the progress of either hasn’t been paying attention. We spend $125 million per year on job training that is largely obsolete and ineffective, and we do little to actually connect the graduates of that training to meaningful employment.

We are eight years and over $16 billion into “school reform,” but our results continue to lag. Yes, there has been some educational progress, but it hasn’t come nearly far enough, fast enough.

They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. We’ve been executing on the same economic and education policies for two generations. Thousands of District residents have paid the price.

It’s time for a little anger and it’s time for a change.

Follow Dave Oberting on Twitter or email him at [email protected].

by Borderstan Contributor October 19, 2015 at 10:30 am 4 Comments

Cosby mural at Ben's

Borderstan periodically publishes opinion pieces from the people in our community. Have something you want to share with your neighbors? Email us at [email protected].

by Kevin Rooney from U Street Buzz

After everything we have heard, it is virtually certain that Bill Cosby is the monster his accusers say he is, or at least that is the judgement of the court of public opinion. And I concur. Given this, it strikes many as incomprehensible that his likeness is still on the Ben’s Chili Bowl mural by renowned D.C. artist Aniekan Udofia (the mural also features President Obama, Chuck Brown and Donnie Simpson).

This bewilderment, or even anger, is certainly understandable, but the decision on whether and when to remove Cosby should be made solely by Ben’s Chili Bowl proprietors Virginia Ali and her family.

Devin Boyle, the author of this opinion piece in the Washington Post, shows no awareness of why Cosby was honored there in the first place, nor any empathy for the exceedingly difficult position that the Ali family are now in.

It is not defending Cosby, minimizing his crimes, nor insensitive to his victims to point out that while we now know he was a serial sexual predator, he also helped Ben and Virginia Ali a great deal during during some very difficult years for Ben’s Chili Bowl on U Street. He contributed his time and the power of his considerable celebrity and, to my knowledge, never asked for anything in return.

That doesn’t make Cosby a saint, obviously, and it doesn’t come close to making up for the unimaginable pain he has caused his many victims. A special place in Hell has a “reserved” sign with his name on it.

I recount the backstory only to provide some context on the tough spot in which the 81-year-old Virginia Ali and her children now find themselves. At what point do you turn your back on a friend who was there for you and your family during difficult times, but who has since turned out to have been a truly awful human being to others? I don’t know the answer, but I do believe that Virginia Ali (and Ben too, if he were still alive) and the family have earned the right to make that decision themselves by virtue of their many, many contributions to this neighborhood and city.

I think that Cosby’s likeness will be removed from the mural someday, and probably someday soon, but the timing won’t and shouldn’t be decided by Devin Boyle or any other self-righteous activist.

And I doubt they’ll need her help painting it over.

Kevin Rooney runs neighborhood news hub U Street Buzz. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

by Borderstan Contributor September 11, 2015 at 3:30 pm 0

Mike Silverstein, photo via ANC 2BMike Silverstein is an ANC 2B commissioner, an Alcoholic Beverage Control board member and a former journalist.

Last week, he wrote to us and shared a touching story about a series of events that occurred exactly ten years ago today. We thought the story, a tale about the rescue of a dog during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, was best told in the commissioner’s own words.

I found these items among my souvenirs — keepsakes of a story that happened ten years ago this week. It’s a story how three people from DC somehow joined together to save the life of a dog in New Orleans.

Hurricane Katrina had destroyed parts of the Gulf Coast more than a week earlier, and much of New Orleans was still under water.

I was at work at ABC News on DeSales Street when I got a call from my good friend Emmett Woolfrey, who had moved from D.C. to New Orleans several years earlier. Emmett had safely evacuated to Baton Rouge. He called to ask if there was any way to help his friend, a fellow hospital technician names James Coates. James had been forced to leave his dog Chanelle behind, with a maybe a week’s worth of food and some bowls full of water. James was terrified that the water was running out, and Chanelle would die of dehydration.

I had seen a story about animal rescues (this was twelve days after the storm hit), and tried to contact the group that was coordinating those efforts. I was unable to reach the woman in charge by phone, so I sent her an e-mail. It was, in retrospect, a bit melodramatic, but I wanted to get her attention.

Mike SIlverstein e-mail on Sept. 11 2005

I never did hear from Ellen, but the results were even better. The next day, I got a phone call from a neighbor. It was Scotlund Haisley, from Georgetown, whom I knew both from Montrose Park and from the Washington Animal Rescue League. He said he was calling from New Orleans, from a boat, headed down a flooded street, and on his way to try to find Chanelle. He was asking for specific instructions on how to find James’ apartment. Fortunately, I had met James at Mardi Gras 2002, and had stopped by his apartment before one of the parades, so I could describe the house and the path back to James’ apartment. The directions were all that Scotlund needed. He said he’d get back to me after he found Chanelle.

An hour later, he called back, and said he had found her and she was in bad shape. She was near death from dehydration, and was unconscious and barely breathing. He said he was taking her to a hospital unit to get an IV into her. Later, he had her taken up to LSU in Baton Rouge, where veterinary doctors stabilized her, and put her on the road to recovery. Scotlund, meanwhile, went back to searching abandoned and ruined homes for animals to be rescued.

Scotlund-Haisley-Katrina-Rescue

Scotlund called me about a week later, and told me Chanelle was well enough to be reunited with James. Eventually, James and Chanelle returned to New Orleans, and he sent me this picture, which speaks for itself.

The rescued dog and its happy owner

Chanelle lived to be 14 years old, and was James’ best friend and faithful companion. Her tongue was always too big for her mouth, and it always stuck out, especially when she was happy. Sadly, James died last year. Emmett now lives in Florida. And Scotund, who left the Animal Rescue League to work with the Humane Society, now works with the Animal Rescue Corps, a group that rescues animals after natural disasters and from abusive situations.

Very few good things came out of Katrina, but one was a change in the way animals are treated in disaster evacuations. We are no longer forced to choose either to stay behind with our pets or to evacuate and leave our animal companions behind. Our dogs and cats are members of our families. They can come with us, and their love and loyalty can help see us through whatever storms we must endure.

It’s a lesson I learned ten years ago this week, a lesson with a happy ending.

Photos courtesy of Mike Silverstein and ANC 2B

by Kishan Putta September 4, 2015 at 3:45 pm 0

Stead Park

Kishan Putta is a former ANC Commissioner and current Vice President of Friends of Stead Park. He can be reached at [email protected] and @kishanputta on Twitter.

If you haven’t been to Stead Park yet, this fall will be great time to visit.

Until last fall, Stead was mostly known for its nice, but crowded playground at 1625 P Street NW. But the playing field was little-known and little-used by the local community; partly because it was hidden by buildings on P Street, 17th Street and 16th Street NW; the tall, prison-like fence and gate that was not reliably unlocked by citywide park rangers; and partly because the field itself was noteworthy only for its bumpy, patchy and barren condition.

All that changed last year when Friends of Stead Park (FOSP) and residents successfully advocated for a field revitalization that includes a jogging track, a spray park, a performance stage, soft turf with water-retention, trees and flowers and entrances from 17th street and 16th Street for the first time ever.

But many still walk by without having ventured in to see this new community treasure. FOSP hopes that will change this fall with a great lineup of events for all ages.

Their first fall event is a musical movie night on Saturday Sept. 19 at 7:00pm.

“Grease” will be screened and will feature singalongs and prizes for the best 1950s outfits.

A second, likely animated film is planned for Saturday, Oct. 3.

World’s Cutest Parade

On Oct. 24, FOSP is cosponsoring the world’s cutest parade: – The 5th Annual Little Goblins Parade along P Street NW, an annual pre-Halloween tradition.

For the first time, FOSP will be hosting the parade’s after party at Stead Park on the new playing field with a concert, dance performance, games, and of course sweetstuff!

The fun will start at Logan Circle. Cheering on the long parade of cute costumes is popular with all ages. Many businesses and restaurants along P street get into it, so, even if you don’t have children, you can get a spot or a restaurant seat early and cheer the kids on as they strut by. It’s also fun to volunteer for a bit. It’s a blast for everyone.

According to the parade organizers, Joelle Myers and Evelyn Boyd Simmons, the parade has evolved with the neighborhood and entertainment will be fun for all, but targets kids up to 12 years old.

Following the parade, the last event before the cold sets in will be a fall festival on November 14.

Revitalizing the Small/Old Recreation Center

Once it’s cold outside, Friends of Stead Park will be partnering with businesses and organizations such as Whole Foods on P Street and the Foundry United Methodist Church to hold events for children at their venues rather than at Stead’s old brick recreation center building. Currently, the park cannot meet the demand for FOSPs popular indoor programs, but a recreation center is actually one of FOSP’s top priorities for the future of the park.

Last year, we asked the city to open a cooperative daycare program at Stead. But they determined that the rec center was not safe enough for toddlers to use for this purpose.

Clearly the recreation center needs to be modernized. But, with so many families moving to the area — and staying here — this is a good opportunity to expand the public indoor space available to the community. If you would like to help us work toward this goal, please contact us.

Learn more about Friends of Stead Park and follow us on our website, our Facebook page and at @SteadParkDC.

To volunteer for the Little Goblins Parade, please email [email protected]

Photo via Friends of Stead Park

by khelan June 5, 2015 at 4:15 pm 0

Capital Pride Parade, Photo via Facebook.com/CapitalPrideDC

DC Pride is right around the corner. I thought it would make sense to provide a pride guide, if you will, on all the wonderful activities around town over the next week.

Here’s a smattering of events in our area, some of which I’m DJing, to attend during Pride Week.

*Denotes an event at which I’m DJing

Friday, June 5

6:00 p.m.

Out/Spoken* at 9:30 Club, $25

Who doesn’t love a good story? SpeakeasyDC, the District’s true story-telling group presents stories from the LGBT perspective that will be sure to challenge, provoke, inspire, and ignite.

9:00 PM

BreakfastClub presents Rainbow-Brite* at 18th & U Duplex Diner, Free

This event celebrates all the colors of the rainbow. Expect your favorite ’80s tracks.

Wednesday, June 10

7:00 p.m.

Hillary for DC, Pride Edition at Howard Theatre, $20.16

This dance party/fundraiser benefits Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Thursday, June 11

7:00 p.m.

Stonewall Sports Flashback: the First Five Years* at Town Danceboutique, suggested donation of $10 online, $15 at the door

Stonewall Sports is celebrating its first five years of fitness and camaraderie by throwing a bash of epic proportions. While the party winds down at 11 p.m., the after-party will keep going at the 18th and U Duplex Diner.

8:00 p.m.

Uncivil Union: Comedy for Equality at Howard Theatre, $24.50 to $98

Uncivil Union, a special benefit concert for The Ally Coalition, will bring together artists and comedians to end discrimination against the LGBTQ community.  This event is headlined by W. Kamau Bell, Bridget Everett, Rachel Dratch, Chelsea Shorte and a host of special guests.

Friday, June 12

8:30 p.m.

BYT & Cap Pride Present: Flashback Opening Party at Arena Stage, $20 online, $25 at the door

DC Pride’s kickoff party will feature a litany of talented DJs that include Shea Van Horn, Matt Bailer, Lil E, Ca$$idy and Pearl from RuPaul’s Drag Race.

9:00 p.m.

Otter Crossing’s Special Pride Edition at The Green Lantern, $10

The oh-so adorable and cuddly otters are joining forces with CTRL, DC’s electro-mayhem dance party, to bring you disco beats and anthems all night. Be sure to leave your pants at the door, but not your dancing shoes.

Saturday, June 13

4:30 p.m.

The Pride Parade (duh) at Dupont and Logan circles, Free

The parade begins on the corner of 22nd and P NW and culminates on the 14th street corridor. Find your favorite location to watch the festivities. And don’t forget to hydrate.

10 p.m.

Paradise Mirage at U Street Music Hall, Free for ages 21+ before 11 p.m.

Paradise Mirage is a tribute to one of America’s most influential LGBT nightclubs, Paradise Garage. U Street Music Hall “will be aesthetically transformed to represent a Paradise Garage-like atmosphere,” says the event page.

11 p.m.

Mixtape Pride Party at 9:30 Club, $15 online or at the door

Join DJs Shea Van Horn and Matt Bailer as they bring their monthly dance party to the 9:30 Club.

Sunday, June 14th

3 a.m.

Pride Afterhours at Flash, $10

Fill up your Pride weekend schedule and stay up late with San Francisco’s Honey Soundsystem.

11:30 AM

DC Pride Liquid Brunch at SAX, $65

Bottomless champagne, mimosas, bloody marys, and vodka drinks. This event features DJ Matt Bailer and live entertainment by the SAX dancers.

During the day, Khelan Bhatia is a campaign manager. But by night, he’s a DJ at the Duplex Diner and other locales, and has performed at ’80s dance party, BreakfastClub, regularly for the last three years.

Photo via Facebook.com/CapitalPrideDC

by Laetitia Brock June 1, 2015 at 1:10 pm 0

U Street is paying homage to american actor, singer and civil rights activist Paul Robeson with “Living Timeline,” a new mural currently in the works on the 1300 blocks of U Street NW.

ART B.L.O.C is an art collective founded by Cory Stowers. As reported by the Washington Post, the collective received a $50,000 city grant from the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities to paint the tribute on the side of the Hung Tao Choy Mei Leadership Institute at 1351 U Street NW. The work looks almost complete.

Currently, two large portraits of Robeson occupy the two opposite ends of the dark grey wall. Between them, a series of seven round vignettes depicting Robeson at various stages of his life are scattered throughout the wall.

Above the vignettes, passers-by can read a quote widely attributed to Robeson:  “I make no distinction between my work as an artist and my life as a human being.” According to drawings and plans for the mural, the vignettes still need to be linked by a timeline, with important dates in the life of Robeson.

An interactive component of the mural will allow Washingtonians to scan a photo of the mural into an app on their phone to gain access to stories of the different stages of Robeson’s life included in the timeline.

My favorite is the last one, which depicts him in front of the Eiffel Tower, a reference to the trip he took to France to attend the Soviet Union-sponsored Paris Peace Conference.

This will be the second tribute to Paul Robeson in the city. “(Here I Stand) In the Spirit of Paul Robeson,” a public artwork by artist Allen Uzikee Nelson, can currently be seen at the intersection of Kansas Avenue and Georgia Avenue NW, in Petworth.

Laetitia Brock grew up in Paris and landed in D.C. to get her masters at George Washington University. During the day, she works for a trade association near Thomas Circle, but in the evening and on the weekends, she loves discovering new street art around town and exploring the district’s bustling restaurant scene. In addition to contributing to Borderstan, she writes about her favorite DC spots for the travel website Spotted by Locals, and on her own blog, FrenchTwistDC.

Follow her on twitter at @laetitiabrock.

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