Friday, December 29, 2006
Sunday, December 24, 2006
On a totally unrelated note - I saw Thievery Corporation at the 9:30 club and I am still left with jaw hanging and feet tired. That was the most badass show I've seen in years.
Merry Christmas to all.
Thursday, December 21, 2006
As for the cops, God bless them. They were out in full force. I'm telling you. There were no less than 4 cars, 1 horse-I'm not kidding here, a horse, a real horse- I guess in case a riot broke out when the folks realized that the Prince of Petworth was involved in a stupid car accident, 1 firetruck and 1 ambulance for essentially a fender bender. Both cars in the accident were able to drive off and no airbags deployed so had bad could it be? Anyhow I genuinely do hope she is ok. Thank God no one was seriously injured. As for Geico damn, they grilled me, but I guess I deserved it. As for the cops- man if we could get a few less cars to respond to minor accidents and a few more to patrol our streets... One officer did regale me with the accident he got into last week- I guess he was trying to make sure I didn't feel too bad.
I did get Mano Negra's greatest hits today so all is not lost. Except for that damn deductible...
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Mr. Towns not only is a life long resident of Ward 4 but Mr. Towns currently lives in our very own Petworth. He attended Shepherd elementary school and graduated from Woodrow Wilson High in 1979. Currently Mr. Towns is a trial lawyer and has been so for the past 15 years. Prior to that Mr. Towns was an attorney for the government (National Drug Control) and he also clerked for Judge Reggie Walter at the DC Superior Court. He attended Morehouse College, received his law degree from Georgetown and an LLM from Temple University. Some impressive bona fides if I do say so myself.
Mr. Towns had volunteered for a councilman while he was in high school and he was adamant that this is the only elected position that he has ever wanted to hold. However, he was an ANC commissioner some years ago. Mr. Towns is married and has three children (James Jr. Jonathan and Joseph). I had the pleasure of meeting James Jr. I must add here that James Jr. was probably the most well behaved 11 year old I've met in a long time. James Jr. was polite, articulate and had a very pleasant demeanor. At the very least Mr. Towns is an exceptional father as was crystal clear upon meeting James Jr.
Mr. Towns' top issue is improving the public school system. He said that he definitely has a vested interest in the issue as his children are all school age. Presently Mr. Towns is very active in the schools and understands some of the problems they are facing. He has spoken with many teachers and he saw the lack of school supplies although the teachers all said that the biggest problem was a lack of parental involvement. Mr. Towns suggested that we come up with programs to give incentive to parents to get involved in their children's schools. He doesn't believe it is realistic to make such involvement mandatory because that is not realistic. But one thing we can do, according to Mr. Towns is give basic parenting classes . Regarding Mayor-elect Fenty's plan on taking over the public schools - Mr. Towns said we can't keep anything off the table but he'd need to see the plan first before further commenting.
When Mr. Towns first moved to Petworth there were drug dealers all over. Yet he remembered as a child being able to bike all over the city and he lamented the fact that his children were unable to do the same. Mr. Towns suggests that we need to increase community policing. "The police need to get out of their cars and get to know the people", said Mr. Towns. If the people get to know the police then when they see a crime and speak to the police it will not seem like "snitching", said Towns. He further suggested bringing back D.A.R.E. and bringing police into the schools to demystify them to the children. Another thing that could help according to Towns was developing work force programs for the kids so that they will have jobs when they graduate. He also suggested bringing back vocational schools and if that would not be possible then at least offering vocational courses in the already established schools.
As for police cameras, Mr. Towns said that they are on tool that can be a deterrent but they are not a panacea.
"I've seen folks with Maryland tags dropping trash out of their cars" according to Towns. We need to enforce stiffer fines to discourage this behavior. He also recognized that there are plenty of culprits who live in town and that they should be forced to pay fines as well. If the young kids are the culprits then the police need to crack down on them as well, if not with fines then with an alternate punishment. But Mr. Towns believes that we need more recreation centers for the kids so that they will be properly occupied.
Old Soldier's Home
Mr. Towns' uncle was a resident there for years so he got to know the home quite well. He even helped set up Thanksgiving for the residents this past November. Mr. Towns recognizes that the Home is one of the last green spaces in NW Washington and therefore much of it should be kept as a park for the community. He suggested that some of these lands could be paid for with grants but I was less than convinced that he had fully thought it out. He did show passion for keeping the land green I'm just not convinced he knows how to make it happen. Admittedly he did say the topic needs to be further studied.
Homeless Shelter on Georgia Avenue
Mr. Towns is empathetic with the plight of the homeless but believes the area has already done much for social causes therefore he would not back the move but would help find an alternative space.
Mr. Towns explained that both of his parents came to DC from elsewhere to attend Howard University but they stayed and became part of the community. So he doesn't believe it is an issues. Rather people simply need to take ownership of their communities. He said there is nothing wrong with change if it is positive change.
Georgia Avenue Development
There is no reason why Georgia Avenue shouldn't look like Connecticut Avenue said Towns. He does believe that the area could use a few more restaurants, in fact one of his clients was bringing one to the area. Mr. Towns explained that he loves living in Ward 4 and he gets offended when he has to go to Maryland for a restaurant. "Anything we need we should be able to get on Georgia Ave." said Towns.
Mr. Towns wanted to let us know that has a strong background in community service starting with his time at Morehouse college. It was there that he was taught to give back to the community. As a result Mr. Towns has been active with Midnite Basketball, hayride food drives, volunteers to coach football, and has worked with the boards of charter schools. Furthermore he has kept his children involved as well "since they have been able to walk."
Mr. Towns is reading "Game of Shadows" about the the Balco scandal.
He is listening to the Ray Charles Duets album.
He last saw the film Idle Wild.
James Jr.'s favorite subject is math and his favorite sport is football.
I have to admit I was a little skeptical of Mr. Towns when we were setting up a time to meet because the he wasn't always the quickest to reply to emails. Well, now I understand why. Mr. Towns is extremely active with his children, with his community service and with his job. For the record if Mr. Towns wins the election he will devote himself full time to the council position. Unfortunately it was clear that he was a novice politician. He lacked a certain finesse but more than made up for it with his passion for Petworth and all of Ward 4. I think if you are looking for an untraditional politician then you may have found your man. However an extremely important question remains - would he be savvy enough to know how to work the system best for Petworth and all of Ward 4?
You can visit Mr. Town's website at www.tonytowns.com
Monday, December 18, 2006
"An organization seeking to build a homeless shelter in Northwest Washington is planning to substantially reduce the beds at the proposed facility to try to assuage neighbors opposed to the project. David Treadwell, director of Central Union Mission, would not specify the size of the decrease, but he said the number of beds could fall from 170 to as low as 100." www.washingtonpost.com
Sunday, December 17, 2006
In related news, the Kojo Nmandi show on WAMU had an interview last Friday with the head of the Central Mission Shelter that is supposed to be moving to Georgia Avenue in 2009. You can go to WAMU's website and listen. Frankly I didn't find it too interesting but he did mention that it's current location of 14th and R used to be horrible before it arrived so maybe it won't be such a catastrophe.
Stay tuned for Ward 4 Candidate interview Tony Towns coming out tomorrow evening.
Friday, December 15, 2006
Adrian Fenty: Thanks for the support and I intend to be as engaged and service-delivery oriented as Mayor in Ward 4 and the other 7 Wards as I have been as Councilmember. Right after the election, I had a conversation with ANC Commissioner Muriel Bowser where I encouraged her to run for the position when it becomes vacant on January 2nd. I think Commissioner Bowser brings the same tenacity for constituent services and community-focused leadership that can keep the great momentum we have in Ward 4 going. Commissioner Bowser's intelligence and aptitude will be a great asset to the City Council as they shape policy and budgets for District residents.
I'm really rocking out now doing my best to sing along in French with Amadou and Mariam (a really good African duo influenced by Manu Chao) when a guy jumps out from nowhere while my keys are literally in the door. So I turn around and, and... I froze. I was so stunned and oblivious, just totally taken by surprise. I mean it was ridiculous. I always thought I'd have a Robert DeNiro moment and say "are you talking to me?". Suffice it to say I reacted in just about the exact opposite way - I just stood there with my mouth hanging open, thinking Oh God this is it.
So, he actually says to me "don't worry I'm not going to rob you." Whew well that is a relief. I don't know you tell me, when I guy jumps out of the bushes right in front of your house, how do you react? I fucking froze. Sorry, I repeat myself. So the guy who is clearly homeless pulls the whole "hey I don't have enough money to get on the metro scam." I must have a certain look because this has been used on me at least a dozen times. Ok, I'm sure at some point people really don't have enough money to get on the metro but I live like a half a mile from the Metro! Incidentally, what brutal increase WMATA is contemplating.
Anyway, so there I am keys hanging out of the door, ipod blaring, and this homeless guy asking for money. Ready for the anticlimactic moment? Well, I gave him the change in my pocket and he left. But it is bullshit. Because I wasn't prepared, because I was taken by surprise, I simply didn't react at all and as a result I felt intimidated and powerless. What if I had said no? I guess I really do just read the Metro section to often. What I would have liked to have said was, "what the mother fuck are you jumping out of the bushes at 7 o'clock at night, you bastard!?" Now, listen I was raised properly I give money to charities and to the homeless for that matter but at that moment I felt like I had no choice.
Now, what if I told him to fuck off? He knows where I live etc. etc. So I gave him the change in my pocket but he took a lot more than the change in my pocket. So where does the real tragedy lie? I no longer listen to my ipod on my walks home. I mean I am one alert mother fucking panther when I walk home now. Which sucks, because I loved rocking out to my tunes on the walk home. This is the price we pay for being cautious and living in the City I suppose. So my warning to all, this could have been a lot worse, it was a reality check wake up call for me - be alert on your walks home. Don't be oblivious listening to your ipod or talking on the phone or you'll get surprised and I can assure you it is not a pleasant feeling.
Monday, December 11, 2006
Taking a look around his office you could tell we were not dealing with an amateur. There were maps all over the place with Ward 4 outlined in pencil with stick it notes all over it. I admit I don't know a lot about campaign maps but since there was more than one I was impressed. Secondly, there was a white board and I glanced at number four since it was prominently displayed on the wall. Number four: call Oprah. Now I wonder if it is that Oprah or another Oprah. The beauty of a blog is the ability to speculate. The office was quite impressive if cluttered with campaign materials and papers, maps, and signs covering almost every inch of the working space. Later in the morning I saw his campaign staff crouching around laptop computers. Finally, you could tell Mr. Brown was a true Washingtonian as he compulsively checked his blackberry handheld device. Maybe something he picked up from the successful Ward 4 representative he is looking to replace. At any rate with the pleasantries out of the way we were able to talk turkey.
Mr. Brown is a third generation Washingtonian who grew up in Shepherd Park, attending Shepherd Elementary School. But he has also had an interesting background outside of DC. He attended college in Massachusetts where he said he played basketball. As we spoke of his college experience you could find a mischievous smile on his face, I think of this smile as a smile of privilege. It was a contagious smile though, not a pompous one. At any rate Mr. Brown has also worked for the campaign of Gov. Dukakis when he was the Democratic nominee for President. Additionally, Mr. Brown has spent time in many parts of Africa including South Africa, Ghana, Benin and Nigeria working as a lobbyist. Mr. Brown is married with twin children who attend school in Ward 4.
As Mr. Brown spent a lot of time in Africa he noted that in Nairobi, the schools are often run down lacking many supplies but the children "read, write, and count better than all of us" because education is a priority to them. We need to make education a priority for our children. He does not believe that education is a priority to our youth. He suggests that our young people be exposed to culture: our museums, plays, and to accomplish this through mandatory class trips. We see folks coming in from all over the country looking at our museums, our children should have the same benefit according to Mr. Brown.
Mr. Brown also sees the need for careers and to jobs to be available to our youth upon graduation. As such he also advocates for the (re)establishment of vocational and technical schools. These are not for everyone but they should be an option and any stigma that is attached to them should be removed. Mr. Brown believes that this transition could be identified in Middle School when the young folks can be given a road map identifying all of their options. Mr. Brown explained the link between lack of education and crime and the remedy - Hope. Mr. Brown was adamant that we needed to show our youth hope to break the cycle of despair and crime.
Mr. Brown was proud to note he has been credited with spending time with young people in troubled neighborhoods. "We need to engage these youth" said Mr. Brown. We should set up apprentice programs, entrepreneurial programs and programs addressing the unemployed, said Mr. Brown. Mr. Brown often linked many of the issues facing Ward 4. We can not properly address public safety without addressing public education without addressing affordable housing without addressing public safety etc. "People need hope and opportunity to stop crime." This resonated with me, as a student of the Middle East Peace Process, hope was often linked with stopping that cycle of violence as well.
However, community policing is important as well. The surveillance cameras alone will not solve the problem rather smart police deployments. Here Mr. Brown linked affordable housing with police deployment. The city should provide better affordable housing to our City's police officers and firefighters so that they will live in the communities they serve and therefore have a greater stake.
Hope, hope, and more hope
This message was repeated over and over. When addressing pride in the community and gentrification Mr. Brown explained that the residents shouldn't feel displaced. They need to feel hope for the future and everything else will follow.
Old Soldier's Home
We should consider a dog park according to Mr. Brown. This goes to the issue of density and public space is extremely important. I'm not sure how strongly Mr. Brown feels about this issue as I really had to push for an answer on this, it was not the first thing that came to his mind when addressing Old Soldier's home development. But the fact that he eventually said it does seem to be a good sign.
We should eliminate property tax permanently for seniors said Mr. Brown. Mr. Brown explained that as residents are pushed out due to high property taxes we also lose out on the local economy because these are the people who are shopping at our stores. This will hopefully help us retain our residents. Also Mr. Brown supports capping property tax for the rest of us for 38-52 months to figure out a responsible rate.
Homeless Shelter in Ward 1 on Georgia Avenue
Mr. Brown is publicly opposed to moving the current homeless shelter on 14th and R to Ward 1 on Georgia Avenue. Every Ward should have to deal with special needs and Ward 4 currently has many group homes so the Shelter should not be moved especially without significant community input.
Mr. Brown is reading $40 million slaves by William Rhoden.
Mr. Brown listens to an ipod and is not sure of the last songs his kids downloaded for him but he likes anything from hip hop to Frank Sinatra.
Mr. Brown last saw Casino Royale (he is more of a Roger Moore fan.)
I would not be surprised to see Mr. Brown representing Ward 4 in April. He has an established staff, many volunteers, and an unsinkable positive spirit. I may worry that he is only using this position as a springboard to future politics but I guess everyone does that. So in the short term, as evidenced by positioning his headquarters in Petworth, I believe as Councilman for Ward 4, Mr. Brown will keep Petworth at the front of his thoughts.
You can visit Mr. Brown's website at www.brown2007exploratory.com
Thursday, December 07, 2006
take refuge in the Georgia Avenue corridor in recent years are being
followed up Park Road by construction equipment..." according to yesterday's Washington Express.
Mmm, yeah I think I saw a hipster at the Hitching Post drinking a Pabst beer just the other night.
Are there hipsters (present company excluded) in Petworth?
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
So I'm waiting on line to order the meal I would probably order as my last meal if I were on death row and I'm getting giddy with anticipation. Unfortunately, the cashier did not share my joy. Instead she is yelling at whom I can only assume must be the manager. She is adamant that she is not going to plunge the toilet. And I have to admit I sympathized with her. I can only imagine how horrid the toilet in Taco Bell on 14th Street must be.
So the manager leaves and the cashier and I have a heart to heart, we discuss all the reasons why she is not going to plunge the toilet. I admit that this is less than ideal banter before ordering dinner but I do believe the manager was being a jerk, so I fully supported her decision.
I finally ordered my dinner and I was already imagining that first bite when things seemed to have hit a snag. My comrade, the cashier, took my money, ordered my food and then promptly went on break. Unfortunately nobody was there to give me the order.
I saw the food sitting on the table just taunting me. But no, the woman who makes the food, very nicely by the by, does not give it to the customer. The cashier must also give the food to the customer. Well, it felt like a curb your enthusiasm episode. I'm standing there, staring at my food on the counter, listening to the cashier in the back talking about not plunging the toilet... So I'm thinking to myself - do I hop the counter and grab my food? I mean I already paid for it. No, I just sit and brew. And five minutes later I got my food and ran from the border.
Saturday, December 02, 2006
Last Wednesday evening I had the pleasure of sitting down with Mr. Uqdah and his wife and campaign manager Pamela Ferrell to discuss Mr. Uqdah's run for Ward 4 City Council. My neighbor and Domku bartender Joe was making fun of me for pretending to be a journalist when Mr. Uqdah and his wife arrived. Mr. Uqdah had a presence about him that allowed me to recognize him immediately even though we had never met. Mr. Uqdah, dressed impeccably in a tan suit, is a tall man with a magnetic personality that makes you feel like you are in the presence of a TV star, a professional athlete or a, well a politician.
Although, as I was to learn, Mr. Uqdah did not come across as a traditional politician littering our conversation with campaign rhetoric, rather Mr. Uqdah comes across as the exact opposite, frankly he is a passionate person with an engaging personality and with some bold and somewhat controversial new ideas, if not the most politically sophisticated ones. Clearly there is no Greenberg and associates feeding him polling data behind the scenes here. Nevertheless, Mr. Uqdah seems to be brimming with confidence and charm. The fact that Ms. Ferrell was able to join us was an added bonus. Ms. Ferrell was about half the size of Mr. Uqdah with very serious eyes that exuded intelligence. So we sat down for a half an hour interview that ended up lasting one and a half hours. Mr. Uqdah had the mussels and a black coffee while Ms. Ferrell had a specialty tea and apple pie.
Mr. Uqdah is a lifelong DC resident who attended public school in DC and now lives in the Brightwood Park or 16th Street Heights neighborhood of Ward 4. He is 54 years old and the father of two young children. He has lived in Ward 4 for the past 26 years and he previously ran for city council, unsuccessfully, in 1992. Currently he is a businessman, he and his wife own and run Cornrows & Co. hair salon on 14th Street. In addition to a businessman, Mr. Uqdah, is a community activist, volunteer and lobbyist for a variety of causes. Although he seemed most proud of his efforts working with community youth as well as working on efforts to beautify neighborhoods in Ward 4. When asked why he was running now he replied "the opportunity presented itself."
DC Public Schools
Mr. Uqdah supports in principle Mayor-elect Fenty's plan on taking over the school board, however, he will first need to see the plan in full before he will make a final judgment. Mr. Uqdah presented some unique ideas as we discussed the DC public school system. DC should consider establishing more vocational schools to teach our youth practical skills that can help address the City's future needs. He offered the teaching of elevator and escalator repair as an example. Secondly, and a bit more controversially, Mr. Uqdah stressed the need for more parental involvement vis a vis their children's education. He suggested an admittedly radical solution to make the parental role a mandatory one. When I inquired further as to what exactly he meant by mandatory he alluded to the fining and/or incarceration of parents if they failed to fulfill their roles. Now what exactly their roles are to be aside from attending PTA meetings was not completely flushed out. Nevertheless it was refreshing to hear a point of view that included the importance of parents in the successful education of their children.
Mr. Uqdah's children are currently home-schooled.
Garbage on the streets
"Consider legislation that would make an additional tax for carry out restaurant orders" Mr. Uqdah boldly suggested. This additional tax could then be used to fund additional cleanup crews. But to get at the root of the problem Mr. Uqdah believes that this issue must be addressed in DC public schools. "The kid need a civics lesson," he said. Couple that with more garbage cans on the street and you can make a dent in the problem. Mr. Uqdah hopes that if the children are educated to take pride in their community they can then transfer this pride to their parents and guardians.
Cameras will not solve the problem according to Mr. Uqdah. Rather we need a revised community police effort. This effort will allow Ward 4 residents to get to know their neighborhood police officers just like many residents know their mailmen/women. When I asked Mr. Uqdah who his mailman was he answered without hesitating. He also told me where his postman lived and when his birthday was. It was very impressive. Mr. Uqdah said he can train people to do what he has done successfully: cleaning up neighborhoods, working with troubled youth, even getting a dysfunctional mental health home removed from his neighborhood.
In Mr. Uqdah I saw a man who practices what he preaches. But my concern is that many of his answers worked on a small scale but I question whether they can work on a larger Ward wide scale. It was not clear he had fully thought out the obstacles to translating his personal experiences to a Ward of over 50,000 residents.
Not an issue according to Mr. Uqdah. The best way to get people to integrate into their neighborhoods is simply to get out with your kids or your pets and meet and talk with your neighbors.
Georgia Avenue Revitalization
We need more restaurants, bookstores, flower shops, bistros, watering holes, we need all of those things according to Mr. Uqdah. This was music to my ears. Although Mr. Uqdah does not believe that the government should dictate what type of stores must go in certain locales. Let's let the market take care of that, said Mr. Uqdah.
Proposed Homeless Shelter in Ward 1 on Georgia Ave
We need to create a program to transition the homeless not simply to shelter them temporarily said Mr. Uqdah. The people running the homeless shelter must give real assurances that they will have ultimate accountability for the shelter he said. When pressed if he supported the specific shelter in Ward 1 off Georgia Ave, he said he would not support its move from the U Street area.
Old Soldiers' and Airman's Home
"In a perfect world I'd like to see really affordable housing" said Mr. Uqdah. He tweaked Mayor William's wish that DC attract 100,000 new residents, rather Mr. Uqdah would like to see DC attract 100,000 new families. The key to that success, according to Mr. Uqdah is affordable housing. Mr. Uqdah did not mention anything about the need for public green spaces.
Books, Music and Movies
Mr. Uqdah is currently reading a book on Martin Luther King's leadership style by Donald T. Philips.
Mr. Uqdah is listening to a CD by John Legend.
As for movies, Mr. Uqdah reminded me that he had two little children and mentioned something about the wheels on the bus going round and round.
Mr. Uqdah is someone with a real passion for the City and for Ward 4 in particular. He has adopted the successful green colors (his campaign literature does feature a photograph of Mr. Uqdah in an unfortunate combination of light green turtle neck sweater and green felt hat but this is not a fashion critique) from the Fenty campaign, and most importantly he is not afraid to speak his mind. I have no doubt he would be a passionate advocate for Petworth.
You can visit Mr. Uqdah's website at www.UQDAH44.com