From Mathew Harkins. Email him at mharkins[AT]borderstan.com.
The following interview is with Francisco “Paco” Fimbres, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Engagement. A longtime resident of DC, Borderstan recently caught up with Fimbres to discuss why he makes his home here in DC, what changes he has seen occurring in our city and what it’s like working directly for Mayor Vincent Gray.
Borderstan: Are you still living in Foggy Bottom? Do you make it over to the Borderstan area often?
Fimbres: I have been living in the West End-Foggy Bottom area since 2009. It is an excellent neighborhood with a great diversity of people. Our ANC Commissioner Rebecca Coder is fantastic. We are very lucky to have her serve our SMD. Other great neighborhood assets are Gary Griffith and Asher Corson both very passionate about our neighborhood.
We have Trader Joes, Whole Foods, GWU Hospital, GU, Meiwah, RIS, Rasika and so many other great spots. However, I lived from 2007-2009 on 16th Street across from the JCC and miss the neighborhood tremendously. I am amazed and grateful for the transformation of the 17th to 14th Street corridor and the rebirth of Logan and Shaw. Amazing and exciting things are happening citywide.
My wife and I visit Borderstan often. Some of our favorite people and beloved friends live in Borderstan. Also Le Diplomate and Pearl Dive, two of our favorite venues, can be found in Borderstan.
Borderstan: What is it like working for Mayor Gray?
Fimbres: Honestly, it is a true honor and pleasure. I consider it a great responsibility and privilege to serve our city and fellow neighbors, while working for the Mayor of DC.
Vincent Gray is emotionally mature, deliberate and thoughtful in his decision making process; he is also charming, innovative, detailed oriented and has the right temperament for the job. No kidding, he is the first one in and the last one out at the office. On a human and personal level, I could not have asked for a better boss and Mayor; he is a truly decent and kind man. I don’t know if he will run for reelection, but Vince Gray has earned a second term. Just look around our city, we are moving forward in the right direction by leaps and bounds.
I also work daily with Stephen Glaude, the most important and key member of the Mayor’s cabinet in my personal opinion. Steve is the Mayor’s Community Affairs Director and my direct supervisor. Steve has all of the affinity group offices under his responsibility like OLA, African Affairs, Women’s Policy, Clean City, LGBT Affairs, Asian Pacific Islander Affairs and others. Steve has been a great mentor and teacher. I also enjoy working with Daryl Levine, Sedrick Muhammad, Sheila Bunn, Chris Murphy and Pedro Ribeiro all good people and solid professionals. The Mayor has assembled a great team of committed, dedicated and professional individuals. Still my two favorite ladies in the DC Government have to be Chief Lanier and Assistant Chief Groomes. Both are just awesome.
Borderstan: What exactly does your current role as Director of the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Engagement entail? And what is it that those who report to you do?
Fimbres: I direct, manage and coordinate all citywide neighborhood engagement efforts. We serve residents as their link between their Mayor and city government agencies. The Mayor’s Ward Liaisons are under my direct supervision and management, but again we are lucky to work in the same office space as our leaders Mayor Gray and Steve Glaude — they both lead by example. Essentially, we are the Mayor’s go-to folks for concerns, complaints, questions, neighborhood issues and challenges.
No issue is too small or too complex, we are committed to helping residents navigate through our government’s agencies and getting results in a timely, efficient and satisfactory fashion. We are results oriented and accountable to the residents directly, since they contact the Mayor and we act on his behalf to resolve their issues quickly. It is a 24/7 job that is not for the weak of heart, thin-skinned or passive public servant.
Demands and challenges across our city are great, but we pride ourselves on having the experience, background and will to get things done. We especially like to get difficult cases. However, there are times, when we cannot help or our agencies have exhausted their talents and resources to assist our fellow neighbors; this is when we suffer along with the residents. However, we have complete and uncompromising support from Mayor Gray and city agencies.
Ward Liaisons attend nightly, weekly, and monthly meetings/events. They represent the Mayor at graduations, funerals and special events. They attend Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) meetings, canvass neighborhoods, hold office hours, conduct neighborhood walk-throughs with the MPD and the Mayor and they have core team meetings with government agencies. We also serve as first responders during some emergencies. We share information with agencies for their action based on information provided while visiting their respective wards and neighborhood stakeholders.
Borderstan: You’ve been working in/with Ward 2 for some time. How have you seen the neighborhoods changing?
Fimbres: Yes, the changes have all been positive. We need to keep fighting together for a safe, clean, livable and economically vibrant city and ward. Mayor Gray, during his tenure, has been very attentive and engaged with Ward 2 residents and leaders, Councilman Jack Evans and his team have also played a pivotal role in the current conditions of Ward 2. Finally, a special shout out to all of those unsung and unpaid elected officials (ANCs), bloggers and other civic-minded stake holders, who live and work in W2.
Borderstan: What do you think is the biggest issue not being addressed right now in the city?
Fimbres: In my personal opinion, the biggest challenge for our city is that all of us, together and collectively, ensure that we not only reduce but also eliminate poverty, hunger and unemployment across the city’s eight wards. There are efforts past and current that have attempted to reduce/eradicate poverty, hunger, unemployment and homelessness, but have yet to truly accomplish this crucial objective for DC. Also we need to keep working on our education system. New, comfortable and beautiful buildings are important, but excellent teachers and committed/involved parents are essential.
We also need to achieve budget autonomy and full voting rights in Congress. This is important for our self-respect and dignity as a people. Another important matter is that we need to support and care for our children, youth and seniors. Finally more affordable housing needs to become available, so that our first responders, police and fire heroes can afford to live in the city they so passionately defend daily.
How can we be the nation’s capital and continue to see developing country issues in some parts of our city? We need more public-private partnerships. The for-profit sector needs to step it up and support non-profit organizations with more fervor.
Borderstan: You came to DC to attend American University in 1996 but you also left to work and travel overseas. What brought you back here? Why DC?
Fimbres: My family still works and resides between Tijuana, Mexico, and San Diego — but simply put, DC is home. This is where I met my wife and we would like to raise our children here. Therefore my commitment to DC is not only professional, but very personal. I would like to see DC one day be considered like Paris or another of the world’s unique capitals. What makes DC great is not only its rich history, beautiful architecture and current events, but it’s people, the native Washingtonians, and all of those who have moved here to live and work.
I was taught from a very young age, that there is no substitute for hard and intelligent work, but one must also aspire to be the best in their trade. My vocation in life first and foremost is to be an excellent husband and father, but my second is to be a great public servant – a true and sincere servant and leader. My life continues to be a work in progress and I am blessed to serve my fellow residents.
Borderstan: Having traveled and worked overseas, and having worked for a number of presidential campaigns, do you have national or international ambitions beyond DC? What is in the future for a Francisco Fimbres?
Fimbres: I am a firm believer that public service does not begin or end with an election, it starts at home and should transcend into one’s own community. At this time, I am content and honored to work in the City Government. I would like to continue serving Mayor Gray and my fellow residents across the city’s eight wards.
As for the future, time and circumstances will determine next steps. However, my love for DC and its people is great, my passion for public service ever present, and my need to serve well and effectively are all part of my make-up as a human being.
Having worked for two Mayors, I am blessed for these experiences. The great, tireless, passionate and committed people I have met in the city government, my ONE team, supervisors, mentors, neighborhood leaders and beyond inspire me to continue fighting for the residents of Washington, DC every day.
Therefore, I don’t foresee a future where public service is not part of my daily existence.
An earlier interview with another participant in local government, Andrew Huff, can be found here.
The opinions and views expressed in this interview are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the city government.
From John Shannon, who writes about green energy, sustainable development and economics. Email him at john[AT]borderstan.com.
Until now, U.S. government buildings in DC have had 50 percent of their electrical power needs met with wind-turbine powered electricity supplied by Washington Gas Energy Services (WGES) CleanSteps® WindPower. That percentage increased recently to 100 percent as part of the government’s renewable energy target and building efficiency improvement plan.
According to WGES, using 100 percent wind power for electricity means that the DC Government avoids using the equivalent of almost 32.8 million gallons of gasoline — equal to taking 61,000 cars off the road for a year. The world’s fastest-growing energy resource, wind power, displaces conventional power, reduces carbon dioxide and helps cut air pollution.
“Going green helps foster economic growth and creates modern and vibrant communities across the District of Columbia,” said Brian J. Hanlon, director, D.C. Department of General Services. “Our goals are to become more energy efficient and reduce our carbon emissions, and our strategic partnership with WGES is playing a role in helping us achieve these objectives.”
Even before this announcement, DC held the record among U.S. cities for the highest total renewable energy use at more than one billion kilowatt hours per year — or, 11.4 percent of it’s total electricity consumption. (For a complete breakdown of U.S. cities and their renewable energy use in 2012, see the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Green Power Community Challenge Rankings.)
“We have stated our mission for Washington, DC, to be the cleanest, greenest city in the nation, which includes the use of renewable energy for our power sources. We’re proud that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has recognized Washington, DC, as the leading Green Power Community for our commitment to purchase green power,” said Keith Anderson, Director, District Department of the Environment
In his National Geographic NewsWatch piece, Sam Brooks, associate director of the DC Department of General Services and head of its Energy Division, said, “Conservative estimates indicate a long-term purchase of regional wind power could save more than $100 million over 20 years.”
What could be better than breathing clean air while saving $100 million?
Expert Voices: Sam Brooks, Associate Director of the Washington, DC DGS (National Geographic).
DC Government Agencies Switching to 100% Wind Energy (Scientific American).
Green Power Community Challenge Rankings (epa.gov).
Wind Powering America (windpoweringamerica.gov).
Wind Program (energyefficiencyrenewableenergy.gov).
Renewable Energy Hits the Roof (jbsnews.com).
- The U.S. Department of Energy funds R&D to develop wind energy. Learn about the DOE Wind Program, how to use wind energy and get financial incentives, and access wind energy information.
- In the District of Columbia, Maryland and Pennsylvania, businesses, organizations, government entities, institutions and residents can buy their electricity and natural gas supply from retail energy providers. Customers in Virginia may buy natural gas and customers in Delaware may buy electricity from retail energy providers. To learn more about WGES and its CleanSteps® products, visit WGES or call 1-888-884-9437.
Featured image: 15th Street NW at 7:15 am this morning.
Due to winter storm warning in effect until 3 am Thursday — along with the current weather of wet snow, rain and wind — the U.S. Government, D.C. Government, D.C. Public Library and D.C. Public Schools are all closed today. In addition, universities in DC are mostly closed today.
Tonight’s Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2F meeting has been postponed and is rescheduled for next Wednesday, March 13.
- Looking for more information on what is closed, what’s delayed and what events have been cancelled? WTOP Radio’s website is a great source of information on weather closings (DC listings are toward the bottom of the page). You can also get more information at the District Snow Team page.
- From DC Alert on the storm warning: “The National Weather Service reports that the Winter Storm Warning remains in effect until 3AM Thursday morning. NWS anticipates wet snow throughout the day and into tonight. Expect heavy snow at periods throughout Wednesday and tapering off Wednesday night. NWS expects snow accumulations from 5 to 9 inches during the warning period with Northeast winds from 20 to 24 MPH. Expect wind gusts up to 35 MPH Wednesday afternoon and night.”
- From DC Alert on the federal government: “Office of Personnel Management Decision: FEDERAL OFFICES ARE CLOSED for Wednesday, March 6, 2013. Emergency and Telework-Ready Employees required to work must follow their agency’s policies, including written telework agreements.”
- From the D.C. Government website: “The District of Columbia government will be closed on Wednesday, March 6 due to the inclement weather that is expected in the DC Metro area. District of Columbia Public Schools are also closed for students and school staff. View snow.dc.gov for more information.”
From Kathryn Ciano. Follow her on Twitter @katciano. Email her at kathryn[AT]borderstan.com
Since America’s early days, Washington, DC was never meant to be a place of permanent residence. The founding fathers imagined that politicians would come to DC only temporarily to serve their terms, but that the capital city would never be a comfortable or welcoming place for people to settle.
The U.S. Constitution established this “federal town” right in the middle of the Great Dismal Swamp, for goodness sakes — voting rights were meant to be the least of DC residents’ problems.
Fast forward to today. The Congressional members collectively charged with taking care of our federal town do a fine job much of the time, and DC has become a pretty great place to call home. But too often, representation in DC is a classic tragedy of the commons.
In 2005, the city received $5.50 in federal spending for every dollar paid in federal taxes; more than double what any actual state receives. Yet I can’t get the DC post office to stop the mail forward I requested temporarily over a year ago, and District Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton won’t even respond to my phone, email, or website submission pleas to help me address the problem.
Whether or not you believe DC statehood is the answer, it’s worth talking about the fact that DC’s approximately 632,323 residents — more than Vermont or Wyoming — pay the highest federal taxes every year per person, and have lost more servicemen and women in our nation’s wars than many states, yet they lack voting representation in Congress. Read great discussions of the statehood debate here, here, and here.
More urgently, sign the Whitehouse.gov petition by January 18, to encourage President Obama to install DC “Taxation Without Representation” license plates on his inaugural limo, an important step to awareness of District residents’ civil rights the president stubbornly refused to take during his first term.
In November 91 percent of DC voters came out to support President Obama’s reelection, including standing in freezing lines late into the night to cast their votes. The least the President can do is support our right to vote on how our tax dollars are spent, which we currently have no right to do.
In fact, as Social Security and Medicare taxes rise after this month’s fiscal cliff deal, even individuals earning $30-40,000 will see an average tax increase of $445 annually. (Check out what the 2013 bill will do to your taxes at the nonpartisan Tax Foundation’s 2013 tax calculator here.)
DC Vote spokesman James Jones says of this effort to urge the president to bring attention to the city’s longstanding second-class status by installing the plates:
“This is an opportunity for the people of D.C., and for supporters of our fight for full democracy everywhere, to elevate our struggle to a new level. We are very grateful for President Obama’s support for our struggle for equal rights. He has stated publicly that we should have the same voting rights as every other American. Displaying the Taxation Without Representation plate is simply an expression of the truth about D.C.’s political status.”
That’s the thing about taxation. Government isn’t just a name for something we all do together; it’s supposed to be a way to pool our resources to cover “public goods” — people and programs we all agree to help, that individuals or corporations can’t as easily fund themselves. But in the District, politicians’ blatant abuse of tax dollars is so often a scandal that ABC simply turns it into a slideshow — and we can’t even vote for change.
Currently the petition to install “Taxation Without Representation” plates on the inaugural limo has only 3,202 signatures (as of January 10). The White House has promised to formally address this movement only if the petition can get 25,000 votes by January 18. Sign the petition to support this tongue-in-cheek statement in favor of civil liberties and individual rights today!