Welcome Back and Look Back (Briefly)
Welcome back and happy New Year. Surely you’re back in your office-cube by now. Based on yesterday’s heavy site traffic, it appears you are (sorry, couldn’t resist). In case you missed them, please take a quick look back and check out the profiles of some of our top contributors in 2010: 2010: The Borderstan Year in Photos; Business 2010: Tom Hay For the Record; Cecile Oreste: Sharing Artists’ Stories in 2010; Music 2010: The Passion of Danny Shapiro; Food & Drink 2010: Alejandra’s Restaurant Profiles. While you’re at it, check out Tom Hay’s post from yesterday, Local Business: What’s in Store for 2011? Links to Borderstan’s 14 business profiles are the bottom of the post.
If I could ask only one question of Councilmember Phil Mendelson at his community forum on crime in Shaw Monday night, it would be this: “Why is DC’s murder rate 4.56 times higher than that of New York City and what is your plan to keep fewer young people from being killed?” (More on homicide rates below).
No, the Shaw neighborhood is not in Borderstan. However, Council Member Phil Mendelson (D-At Large) has influence over the entire District in his role as chair of the Council Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary. So, it is noteworthy that he is holding a meeting tomorrow evening (December 14) to talk about public safety with Shaw and Mount Vernon Square residents. Time is 7 to 9:30 p.m. at the New Community Church, 614 S Street NW.
I suspect the meeting will be interesting and that Mendelson will get an earful from Shaw residents, particularly regarding past statements. Whatever issues we have in Dupont-Logan-U Street with crime, the folks in Shaw have more serious problems than we do here in the Borderstan area or in many other parts of the city.
“Not a Legislative Problem”
Mendelson has made some statements in the past that I (and others) find puzzling. For example, there is, “Crime in Shaw is not a legislative problem.” And you may like or dislike Harry Jaffe, but you should read this June 1, 2008, piece at Washingtonian.com, “Why DC’s Bad Guys Have So Many Guns.” (Coincidentally, Jaffe had a piece on violent crime in DC in today’s Examiner.)
In addition, Mendelson battled and defeated the mayor’s Omnibus Crime Bill earlier this year and has opposed efforts by Councilmember Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) to enact some much tougher crime measures. Note: For background information and a history of the bills, read Cary Silverman’s posting at his blog, The Other 35 Percent.
I disagree with Mendelson. Crime in Shaw (and the District) is a legislative problem. At the very least, legislation is part of solving the problem, if not the entire answer.
The police and a number of members of the DC Council feel strongly that there are some tougher and more effective laws that could be enacted that would help law enforcement officers do their jobs more effectively. The reality is that DC still has a crime rate much higher than that of other major U.S. cities.
New York and Chicago, for example, have violent crime rates much lower than DC. This fact seems to get lost somewhere. Why don’t we as residents, demand to know why this is the case? What does New York do that we do not do? Why can’t we learn from other major U.S. cities?
DC’s Murder Rate 4.56 Times Higher Than New York City
Let’s take the murder rate. We hear a great deal about DC’s declining murder rate. It is, indeed, very good news. But here is the ugly reality. The murder rate in New York City is 4.99 homicides per 100,000 people (through Nov. 22 this year). In DC, the homicide rate is 22.77 per 100,000 people (through Dec. 10 this year).¹ So, what is the answer? I don’t know, but I do wish that we (residents and elected officials) would start to ask why and try to figure out what we can do to bring down the rate of violent crime in DC. At the very least, shouldn’t we be asking the question?
When we have a murder rate that is 4.56 times higher than New York City, I am not sure we should be bragging about our declining murder rate. (There have been 134 homicides in DC through Dec. 10 compared to 175 for the same period in 2008).
I am going to try to make it to the Monday meeting in Shaw to hear what residents ask and how Mendelson answers. I suggest that you go, too.
Full Disclosure: Cark Ray is running against Mendelson in the Democratic primary next September for the At-Large Council seat. I have known Clark for more than a decade and I am supporting him; yes, you will find my name (Matthew Rhoades) among Clark’s contributors. Those of you who have been reading this blog since we started it in August 2008 know that I have been writing about DC crime long before Clark began his campaign.
About Tonight’s Meeting
In Tuesday’s two hotly contested D.C. primary races, Jack Evans defeated Cary Silverman and Patrick Mara beat Carol Schwartz:
- Incumbent Evans defeated Silverman for the Ward 2 Democratic nomination for the city council. The margin was 64% to 35%. Evans will face Republican Christina Erland Culver in the general election on November 4.
- Patrick Mara defeated incumbent Carol Schwartz for the Republican nomination for an At-Large seat on the city council by a 60% to 40% margin. Mara now faces independent Michael A. Brown in the general election.
Details from Precinct 16 (Borderstan and surrounding area):
- Evans received 258 votes (58%) to 182 for Silverman (41%).
- Mara received 22 votes (59%) to 15 (41%) for Schwartz.
- Complete Precinct 16 results by party are online at the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics.
Today is primary election day in D.C.; polls close at 8 p.m. Borderstanians vote in Precinct 16 at the 15th Street Presbyterian Church at northeast corner of 15th and R Streets NW. Two hot races. On the Democratic side, Ward 2 Council incumbent Jack Evans is being challenged by Cary Silverman. On the Republican side, incumbent Carol Schwartz is being challenged in the primary by Patrick Mara for an At-Large D.C. Council seat. Remember that you must be a registered Democrat to vote in the Democratic Primary, or a registered Republican to vote in the Republican Primary.
Photographs: One Photograph A Day
From Greater Greater Washington today about the Ward 2 race in the September 9 Democratic Primary for council member:
Interviewing Jack Evans and Cary Silverman, the candidates for the Ward 2 DC Council seat, one could think the two are running for completely different offices. Evans seems to be running for reelection as the Council version of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, devoting his energy to financing deals that will stimulate development throughout DC. Meanwhile, Silverman sounds like a candidate for a more powerful, larger Super-ANC, focusing on local neighborhood needs and problems.They’re both right. Every ward Councilmember is some blend of the two, a shaper of citywide policy and simultaneously steward of a ward. In Evans-Silverman, we have candidates who represent each end of that spectrum. But the Council job isn’t just one or the other, and we need a Councilmember who will do both jobs.Evans and Silverman don’t just focus on different problems, they apply their own boxes of tools to the same ones. For example, I asked both whether the O Street Market (which both enthusiastically support) would finally revitalize Ninth Street. Both said it’s a start, as well as the convention center hotel, but we need more. What else? Silverman wants a convention center exit near the neighborhood retail and wayfinding signs directing convention-goers to nearby businesses; Evans discussed the other projects underway in the area that will add more retail space and more residents. We need both types of tools in our toolbox, and our Councilmember should pursue all avenues for revitalizing that avenue.
Evans and Silverman even speak different languages. Coming out of the Shaw Logan Circle ANC and, more recently, the Mount Vernon Square Neighborhood Association, Silverman speaks the language of the neighborhood activist, which explains why he is so popular among ANC and citizens’ association members. That community’s vocabulary centers around keeping the governmental ship sailing smoothly, enforcement of existing laws, quality of life issues, and often a cautious approach to change. Evans’ vocabulary, meanwhile, is one of growth and fulfilling the potential of DC as a major city.
This dichotomy mirrors the debate we have on Greater Greater Washington. DC has many residents who moved here when DC was a small town and like it that way. They are (at the moment) more likely to belong to the local citizens/civic association or sit on the ANC. They are more likely to own cars and drive. On the other hand, we have a growing number of newer residents who are putting down roots here. They (or should I say we) see DC not as it was but as it could be, maintaining the beautiful houses, strong sense of community, and range of ages, races and creeds while also accommodating more people and enjoying more vitality.
Ironically, unlike in the mayoral race where energetic Adrian Fenty out-campaigned the more seasoned Linda Cropp, it’s the younger (though long-time resident) Silverman who represents small-town DC, and Council veteran Evans who champions the cosmopolitan vision. Their policy prescriptions reflect that: Evans would like to make K Street more mixed-use, voted for the hiker-biker Klingle trail and supports boulevardizing the Whitehurst; Silverman would have voted for the road (though he is willing to let throughly-beaten sleeping dogs lie) and would keep the freeway. Yet Silverman bicycles to work, while Evans drives and enjoys the free parking in front of the Wilson Building. Evans cites the many events he has to get to each day, and the 45-minute public transit ride from Georgetown, as obstacles to transit (though not to bicycling).
At the moment, I plan to vote for Evans, if nothing else because of his reliable vote for transit infrastructure but against roadway expansion. His experience with economic development is also an asset to DC, and his power benefits the ward. But it’s good that Silverman is running. We need his energy and dedication to improving the neighborhood. Many problems, like dealing with vacant properties, require the Councilmember to personally push city agencies for a resolution, which Evans doesn’t do but Silverman promises to.
It’s too bad Evans can’t replace Carol Schwartz as Councilmember at-large, letting Cary represent the ward. Barring that, my ideal outcome would be for Evans to narrowly win reelection, preserving his good policy vote and his experience on economic development while also pushing him to devote more time to the ward over the next four years. And if he doesn’t, he ought to lose in 2012, whether to someone new, or to a future version of Cary Silverman with a little more political experience and a policy sophistication to match his constituent-service energy.
Want to hear more from the candidates? There’s a debate on Thursday, August 7th, 7:00-8:30 at the Phillips Collection at 21st and R.