Friday Question of the Day

This question relates to something that got a lot of press this week. The issue is DC’s quest for voting rights in the US Congress. Frankly at the moment, I could not care less about this issue. Every Thursday I read the Post’s coverage of local crime by quadrant. When I look at NW Washington, I am horrified by the street names. Webster, Varnum, Georgia, Allison, etc. and I get filled with rage, despair and sadness. Every single week I see the streets of Petworth in the crime report. Unacceptable. How on earth are DC Voting rights going to change that? How are DC Voting rights going to address the graffiti issue? How are DC Voting rights going to address the issue of drug dealing in our neighborhoods? How are DC Voting rights going to address the problem of vacant homes and prostitution? Ok forget all that, I’ll be even bolder, I would way rather have a nice independent book store in Columbia Heights/Petworth than have one voting Congressional Representative. I would trade two DC senators if every Thursday I could open up the Post and not read about crimes being committed on Varnum St., Georgia Ave., and Allison St.? So my question is: What do you think are the most pressing issues for the residents of DC? Voting rights or quality of life issues?

31 Comment

  • Geez..that is a greate question. Quality of life, for sure.

  • Hear Hear, PoP! You tell it. I’d love to vote for a Congressperson, but it’s mostly a way of distracting DC residents from making city govt work and making our own society work so that we have a livable city. It’s a way of evading responsibilty for cleaning up our own blocks, and the tough work of making our (MANY LAYERS!) of city government take responsibilty for deliverable results.

  • it’s a terrible question, PoP, and i’m going to hold you to a higher standard. it doesn’t have to be either/or. you’re falling into the logical trap that keeps getting set for us by people who have low expectations. the fact of the matter is that we should have (and DESERVE) both. a safe city and the right to be represented in our national government like every other taxpaying citizen. doesn’t that sound fair to you?

    i get angry when i read the crime reports for bloomingdale too, but we shouldn’t give up the fight for one thing to focus exclusively on another.

  • its not that tough for me. im not soft peddling crime- which, i might add, is a pox for dc, and other u.s.cities WITH voting rights-but ( and maybe this has to do with the fact that i have been here since 1959)we have no self detirmination. we are a friggin doormat for some pols, and face it, we are a combination playground and workplace for our suburban “friends.”
    i want both. a functioning “local” government, and voting rights.
    or “they” should just be real and make us an official colony.

  • I think the debate over DC voting rights, as currently set, is a distraction. Not for the reasons in the PoP’s question, but because the current debate is flawed. How is getting a representative in the House, “voting rights”. “Voting rights” in its entirety, if I remember my 5th grade civics class, includes 2 senators as well. Where is that debate? Won’t happen because who wants to disturb the wonderfully round number of 100 senators? Maybe it’s a step in the right direction to get a congressperson, for now. Or is it just appeasement so DC will shut up about getting “voting rights”?

    However, just as with voting in general, the issue of crime is a community issue. If you can’t get people to go to the polls to do something “safe” like vote, then how are you going to get them to stand up for their neighborhoods? More police only gets you so far, because a cop at ever corner isn’t going to happen. But community involvement in police strategies and planning will help. Police “know” neighborhoods, but they don’t “know” neighborhoods like the residents. And if the residents keep vital information to themselves, the police will only be able to do so much.

  • Quality of life issues 100%. It’s going to be years before DC voting rights people realize that there’s no easy shortcut and that they’re going to have to amend the constitution. Until then, they should focus on making DC less of a basketcase so that the other 50 states will have less of an excuse to vote against an eventual amendment.

  • Disenfranchisement is a disease and that disease has symptoms. Trash everywhere because people just don’t give a crap and don’t feel invested enough in the system to give a crap. Crime based in part on alienation and based in even bigger part on poverty, which is a complex problem with lots of causes and effects, but certainly not being paid attention to because you have no political capital or use is a part of it.

    All of this stuff is connected. And until people here are taken seriously, with the vote and in a million other ways, these problems you talk about won’t go away.

    It’s all connected.

  • voting rights, PoP. we need political power in order to actually DO anything about the problems which government exists to solve. don’t underestimate what it means to be disenfranchised. don’t get me wrong. i know voting rights aren’t going to clean up Georgia Avenue the day we have a congressional rep. but we have one hell of a better shot at addressing some basic problems if we were full citizens and treated as such by the rest of the country.

  • I totally second what Daniel and what dcdirewolf have to say. One vote in Congress will not make a difference – we need full enfranchisement. However, the idea that it doesn’t have an impact on crime, trash, graffiti, etc. that we have no one on the Hill advocating for funding and other resources for our city is just wrong.

  • Thanks for the post PoP. I think this is a good discussion topic.

    I agree with IMGOPH this doesn’t have to be an either/or question, but in terms of how much time we should be working to bring about change, I’d like to endorse the idea of spending time working to better our local community. Many of the problems we want gov’t to fix could be ‘nipped in the bud’ before they became problems by us being proactively involved in the community.

    It is the sluggard’s way out to complain and do nothing more. It requires more effort and more ingenuity to do something proactive to help solve the problem–but in the long run it is the more noble way.

    MY CHARGE: if you aren’t involved in community building activities– tutoring, mentoring, neighborhood cleanup, attending ANC meetings, participating in clubs and organizations, having friends and neighbors over for dinner–try it.

    If you already are involved, continue to stay involved. Your work is important. Even some seemingly simple acts you’ve done in the past can have profound, positive results now and continuing on in the future.

    I’m coming on a year now in the community and am growing to like it more and more. Let’s keep it up!

  • We need voting rights in the House because it sets precedent for us to someday get two Senators as well, and that means 3 more Democrats in Congress.

    The main reason Republicans are opposed to this whole thing is that they see where this will lead in the Senate.

    As for safety — I want both. I want Dems in Congress and I want crime off the streets. Neither is asking too much.

  • I have to agree with imgoph on this issue.

    The way the question is phrased is misleading–it ISN’T an either/or proposition. When states were being admitted into the union, there wasn’t a pre-req that they clean up their graffiti or put an end to all oftheir street crime. They’re separate issues. I support DC voting rights AND a safer DC. Why is that an unimaginable position to hold?

  • I also really don’t give a damn about “voting rights”. First. We have the right to vote, the constitution just doesn’t give the District representation in the Congress. Secondly, much like PoP I wish the time and energy would be directed toward more pressing concerns, like oh crime and the craptastic state of the school system. Fix those issues and then work on the others. Having a “vote” in congress isn’t going to change a damn thing.

  • PoP, I think this is a terrible question you have proposed. As others have said, residents shouldn’t have to choose between congressional representation or quality of life AND the two are interconnected (ownership of our actions, empowerment, etc). I’d like to add that, as a DC transplant, I have been asked why I haven’t gotten a DC drivers liscence or started voting in DC… probably because I see no point if I can’t have any congressional representation. I understand local politics are important, but I also know that back in the state I call home, I have a congressman who will respond to my letters, who sends out emails about his position on the Iraq war, who will shake my hand at the state fair. That is important to me.

  • There are different types of “wants.” Wanting the vote and wanting a safe community are different and not exclusive. In the United States of America in 2007, the longing for an active role in constructing a free and fair, self-governing society is virtually extinct. We have many protected rights unknown to people in other countries, and most of us can move to another state and vote there; we are not ultimately or permanently disenfranchised. As humans, we do have “wants” that are much more immediate: food, shelter, companionship. And through our society, we also learn to “want” ready-made food, driving fast cars, drinking beer, and shopping sprees. Therefore, I agree with imgoph that wanting to vote and wanting a better neighborhood can and should coexist. But the “want” is different and the immediacy of a reward is very different: if I eat a cookie right now, I will be very happy, perhaps even happier than with an elected Congressman. But I definitely value both.

  • This is a really interesting and surprising discussion. It saddens me to hear many of the respondents agreeing with the ridiculously myopic view of PoP, and I wonder how long many of you have lived in this city, or any major metropolitan area for that matter. Crime, graffiti, and ineffective government these issues are not unique to DC alone. What is however, is that someone elected in Iowa or Kentucky has more power over our local affairs than any official we elect. Maybe you don’t know that 16th street very nearly became Ronald Reagan Way. I can guarantee that it wasn’t a DC citizen or a locally elected representative who came up with that idea. Try that in any other part of the country and you’d have a riot on your hands. I am disappointed in you PoP. In this day and age when the Bush administration has eroded civil liberties under the guise of making us more secure, you echo the idea that we should leave our rights writhing in the dirt for some false sense of security. This fight for voting rights in DC is decades old not something that came about when more white folk started moving into the city. I find it appalling that anyone who is a new resident; if you moved into town after ’95 you are new; would think they know which city fights are worthwhile and which are not without knowing DC history. If you have no perspective on where we’ve come from, you can’t have a proper one on where we are going. Disenfranchisement and safety are two issues that deserve not only the attention of our local government, but also the attention of every citizen in our great city here. There can be no either or here. It is all about the quality of our lives here in DC. Would you ask us to choose between good schools for our kids vs. being able to walk home from the bar without being mugged? Of-course not. Then again maybe you would since you have no kids. Get your collective heads out of the sand here and try to see the whole picture. It is all about quality of life. I’m sorry to see that so many would rather leave the control of our quality of life in the hands of others out of fear, rather than fight for self determination.

  • Wow, I haven’t had this many people dissapointed in me since I got arrested for drunken canoeing in ’95. Speaking of ’95, JAM III, that seems to be a terribly arbitrary year. So why pretell does ’95 designate a long term resident? Why not ’92 or 96′ maybe it should be on the election cycle…

  • I haven’t gotten through all the comments yet, but I can’t beleive how DC-centric the question and the answers I’ve read up to now are. Having a Congressperson (and hopefully someday a Senator) would give DC voters a voice in national (and international) politics equal to other Americans, which we don’t have now – a representative just doesn’t cut it. Getting a Congressperson and improving quality of life in DC aren’t mutually exclusive.

    On top of being DC-centric, I think it’s also a bit shortsighted to suggest quality of life should be worked on before or instead of trying to get equal representation in our nation’s gov’t.

    I’m usually with you POP, but I can’t be there with you on this.

  • oops, I meant 2 Senators (of course!)

  • jam iii – Nae offence, pal, but 16th Street NW was NEVER going to be renamed Ronald Reagan BLVD.

    The measure was introduced by Texas Rep Bonilla.

    Govt. Reform Chair Tom Davis shot it down immediately and told Bonilla if he wanted to honor Pres. Reagan he should look for somewhere in his own district.

    I appreciate some of your sentiment, but wanted to clarify that the “RRB” was simply a political stunt and a non-starter.

  • PoP, I have to disagree that’s its an either/or question as well.

    Lots of local problems would be MADE EASIER to solve if we had true representation. Its Congress that can veto acts of our council, fiddle with the education system and demand that the mayor act on certain issues. They also approve our budget and reserve the right to act as much or as little as they please as stewards of the District. Under those circumstances, we should demand representation.

    I have to argue precisely the opposite of what’s being argued here; that the graffiti, development, restaurants, and crime are distracting District residents form a much larger, more basic issue, self rule through representation.

  • Starting with imgoph and followed by others, the “It absolutely shouldn’t be either/or view” has been well expressed. It’s equal to asking if I’d rather improve our schools or our health care system, because I can’t do both. Bottom line for me is that without voting rights, I am told that I am not as equal as the rest of the citizens of this country. The rest of those citizens not only have voting rights, but they are also seeking ways to improve their quality of life in their individual cities. Why as a DC resident should I only get one of those rights? Am I less deserving than the rest of Americans?

  • hey prince of petworth

    You should change you name to prince of Columbia Heights. Most of your recent blogs are about that area. You definitely ignore the north portion of Petworth completely. Please, if you want to be called prince of Petworth, please talk more about our neighborhood. I just moved to

  • Alright, my last comment on this question. Of course, I realize the two are not mutually exclusive. What I failed to articulate was the fact that there seemed to be greater outrage over the failed Congressional vote than there was for the crimes I read about every single week. It is simply my frustration and the desire to prompt a discussion about these issues. Of course, I want a representative, of course I want peace in the Middle East of course I want universal health care. God bless, the people working to secure us a vote. I wish them the best. I just hope we can have equal success or if not success outrage over the quality of life issues.

  • okay–folks–it is not congress’ job to clean up a city’s crime. It’s not congress’ job to make people clean up their trash. The reason this IS an either/or issue is precisely because everything gets blamed on not having the vote–but that vote is not going to solve any of the actual problems we have in DC. It’s a scapegoat, a way of channelling anger and frustration and avoiding the real problems.

    Look, I’d like a congressman/woman. But we’ve got a Mayor. A city council. ANC chairs. That’s three layers of local government to vote for, all of whom are supposed to keep our streets clean, our kids educated, our crime rate down, and build our communities. It’s their job to do these things, not Congress’. By focusing on Congress, you just let these three layers of local govt–the only layers close enough to the problem to deal with it day to day–to rechannel our energy in a direction that won’t get us change.

  • The only reason it may seem like folks are interested in voting rights “more” than quality of life issues is because voting rights is in the news at the moment. The vast majority of the time, like, all the time on this blog, we’re talking about “quality of life” issues.

    I accept that you may not have meant to frame it as an either/or question, PoP, but you made it sound as if one can’t be interested in both of these things.

    And, I’m not so stupid that I’m blaming every ill in the city on the lack of voting rights. Congress doesn’t pick up my trash. Who ever claimed Congress would help fight crime on Georgia Avenue? I know exactly what voting rights really mean, and they’re not immaterial.

    Just today I heard that a Senator from Oklahoma is trying to change the way D.C.’s college scholarship program works — D.C. students can pay in-state tuition to any college in the nation, but he wants to limit it to families earning under a million. Which would be fine, except, no other state’s college tuition policy could be tampered with like this, and he’s from FRIGGIN’ OKLAHOMA. What does he know about *my* city and *my* home? I don’t go to Oklahoma and tell them how to do things there…maybe if we had voting representation in Congress stupid shit like that would be less likely to happen. Your ability to pay for your kids to college, by the way, counts as a “quality of life” issue, I think.

    I have plenty enough energy and outrage to deal with local issues *and* issues of representation. It’s not like a person with a kid doesn’t have enough energy to love the next one when its born. Congress plays a direct role in DC affairs. For years DC residents have approved a needle exchange program for drug addicts. Congress has said no, you can’t use DC money for that. I’m not arguing for or against needle exchange programs, but the point is, DC residents said they wanted it, and a bunch of overseers said you can’t have it. That’s not right. (Preventing or treating the spread of AIDS — also a “quality of life” issue)

  • What IMGoph said – it’s not one or the other. We are US citizens, living in the US, paying taxes to the federal government, and subject to the draft. We are even MORE under the control of the federal government than any of the states are, but we have no voice.

    Perhaps it seems like a new issue to you, but it’s one that I have given time and money to for more than 20 years.

    I also spend time and money attempting to improve quality of life in our city and specifically in our neighborhood.

    Both issues matter.


  • I completely agree with Christina. She said what I couldn’t say because I was so red while I was writing my brain kept locking up. PoP ’95 is the mark because before then it was pretty hard to find a white person living east of 16th NW, and if you don’t know DC before then, you don’t have history in this town.

  • Why is Sunshine complaining that your question is too DC-centric?? This is a blog about a specific neighborhood in DC. Get used to it.

  • I think you’re misunderstanding Sunshine’s point.

  • I don’t care if DC doesn’t get a congressperson or senators as long as unimportant places like Wyoming, Kentucky, and New York get stripped of their senators as well.

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