PoP Exclusive: An Interview With Council Member Muriel Bowser

IMG_4468, originally uploaded by Prince of Petworth.

Council Member Muriel Bowser was kind enough to speak with me about some of the issues she has been working on since taking office. I have to say when I left the meeting I was feeling extremely optimistic and I was reassured that Petworth has a genuine advocate looking out for us. One of the most exciting things I learned was that Bowser is working with the people from Safeway in order to make sure they renovate their property on Georgia Ave. Additionally, I was encouraged to learn that Bowser has been in close contact with the Metropolitan Police Department’s Fourth District Commander to ensure that the recent spate of muggings near the metro are properly addressed. And finally I was glad to learn that the proposed homeless shelter move to Georgia Ave. is far from a done deal and a zoning meeting is set to address this very issue. Below you can find a summary of the entire discussion.

PoP: How have your first few months in office been, any surprises?

Bowser: In a lot of ways it is exactly what I anticipated except the volume has been incredible. I am grateful for the generosity of people, everyone has been really supportive and welcoming. I think I underestimated the significance of the timing in which I came into office. Coming in at the end of a session and and the beginning of a new administration there have been a number of conference hearings and confirmations. One day you are on the campaign trail and the next day you are talking about the strategic direction of the schools, you literally have to jump right in.

PoP: Can you address some of the concerns about the recent muggings near the Petworth metro?

Bowser: We recognize the incident as very serious. We take every incident, when an individual is attacked, very seriously. However, I don’t see it as a crime wave. But the residents are naturally very attentive and put a spotlight on it with the hopes of action being taken. Now, we can’t put an MPD patrolman on every single corner but we can increase patrols and this what we have done. We have to let the criminal know that this is not a place where crime can happen and you’ll get away with it. At this point, criminals are getting away with it. This is a citywide issue and we have to make sure not only that MPD is patrolling but that they are also apprehending the criminals so that they can be prosecuted.

Increased patrols are done and that is happening right now. We’ve noticed two areas in Ward 4 that need increased patrols and we’ve done that. The first thing I do after an incident like this is call the (MPD) commander and ask if anyone was arrested. If not, I ask why not? Then I ask if there are any suspects, have the cameras been looked at. The ultimate goal is getting the criminals off the streets not simply adding more patrols.

PoP; What is being done with regards to the proposed homeless shelter moving to Georgia Ave.?

Bowser: Ward 4 is already the home to many social service institutions. Jim (Graham) and I have talked and I really feel like this is adding more than our neighborhoods can absorb. I am working with Jim on a proposed overlay to Georgia Ave that will involve some zoning changes. I will continue to work with Jim on this issue. In general Jim and I are in agreement on this issue.

PoP: What would you like to accomplish before the next election?

Bowser: We want to get movement on Georgia Avenue and the commercial corridors. We’d like to pursue critical oversight to DCPS (Public Schools). We want to be out in every community community to know about their concerns in Ward 4. Almost every night we attend a community meeting, we are answering emails, addressing listservs because we want to be on top of the issues and concerns of the community.

PoP: Can you tell me more about movement on Georgia Ave?

Bowser: I’m going to do an economic development plan and tour for people interested in investing as well as for residents in the community. We have to get from drawing a plan to bricks and mortar. This is a great opportunity for the community to deliver their input to the investors and realize plans into action. In Nov. I will do a big tour and forum.

There is a big opportunity in Petworth. With Park Place being completed in a year and a half the surrounding area will attract continued investment.

I’ve heard from people in the neighborhood that the Safeway is not good. So we brought in the Safeway people to talk to them about how they can become a good neighbor. I’ve spoken with them to encourage them to redevelop their current location. We have a lot of people traveling out of their neighborhoods to go grocery shopping and that is unacceptable.

We all know it takes a lot of planning but we have got plans in place so now is the time to secure resources before other neighborhoods in the city suck up all the resources. I am laser focused on securing the necessary resources.

23 Comment

  • Thanks PoP for this informative post. Her sentiments reiterates the frustrations some of us on Spring Rd (borders Wards 1 & 4) feel about the shelters/group/rehab homes that have proliferated our Wards. Too bad CM Bowser nor CM Graham have not responded to my question (posted on various community blogs) about a new shelter moving to 1131 Spring Rd! The community has a right to know. Thx.

  • Amel, try emailing Graham directly. He has so far responded every time I’ve emailed him.

    PoP, while it is nice to hear about her iniatives, we should be careful to not be too easily impressed. She sounds like a very sleep politician, careful not to say much in concrete terms.. 🙂 E.g. talking to Safeway to “encourage them” sounds niec, but may not amount to much.. 🙂

  • I have to strongly disagree The Bowser. Increased patrols ARE much more important because that increased presence discourages not only the violent and cowardly thug packs that were responsible for the metro area attacks, but drug traffic and other more minor crime issues. If people know that MPD might just be right around the corner they are going to move on somewhere else — hopefully all the way to Maryland. I still have yet to see a single MPD patrol anywhere between Grant Circle and the Old Soldiers home north of Upshur. The only time I have seen them is long after something has gone down. This a continuing problem and while it’s sure nice when they catch criminals after they’ve beat people, it’d be MUCH nicer if they simply PATROLLED THE F’ING CITY in the first place.

  • Hey, what is so wrong with the safeway? I live very close to it.

  • I’m glad she is working on community issues, but I disagree with her statement that she doesn’t see recent incidents around the metro as a “crime wave”. I suppose it all depends on how you define that term, but between the 8 on 1 mugging; the kid 2 weeks ago who threw some woman down, stole her purse, and then evaded about 10 people chasing him down NH near the Metro; and the 7th and Quincy robbery w/ gun that was in the police report this weekend (not to mention other anectodal stuff from the listserves), I think we are seeing a spike in violent criminal activity around the Metro. Some police presence, even if it would be the token gesture of having one or two cops sitting in a cruiser on NH, would go a long way toward making that area more safe.

  • Have you been to the Safeway? If no, spend the next two years doing 90% of your grocery shopping there and then I”m sure you’ll be able to answer that one.

    Although I must say that I think the staff at the GA Ave Safeway are waaaay better than almost anywhere else I’ve shopped in the city, especially the vaunted Giant on Park Rd.

  • i’ve only lived here a few weeks, but i’ve been to safeway a bunch of times and always had a good experience…it’s convenient and always has what i want.
    i tend to be oblivious, sometimes, though, so if someone could enlighten me as to what the problems are, i’d appreciate it.

  • I love the people who work in the Safeway, but the general store selection is not great. They don’t have much by way of organic/vegetarian food, and the produce is often sketchy and lacking. I’ve inadvertently bought juice that was expired, and at least two or three times in the year I’ve been here, the entire refrigerated/frozen sections were shut down/cleared out because of power outages (not their fault, considering how often power goes out over there).

    It’s fine to go to if you need cereal or soda or chips, but if you even want to get some cheese that isn’t processed/bagged/Cracker Barrel, you have to go elsewhere. And even finding some basic fresh vegetables is not always a given (I have been in there and there has been no broccoli or cauliflower).

    That said, almost everyone who works there has been more than nice to me and they are definitely the nicest staff I’ve encountered in any grocery store out here.

  • Go to the Giant on Park Rd. or the Safeway up at Georgia and Piney Branch and then compare it to the Safeway in Petworth. The differences are HUGE.

  • I guess it depends on when you do your shopping. I’ve always found it to be crowded and with little in stock for the things which I need. We make it point to avoid the “Soviet Safeway” unless the need is great.

  • The Piney Branch Safeway is a whole different universe compared to the one on Georgia Ave. And while I hate the Tivoli Giant it is still a ton better selection-wise (and that is an understatement). You can get, say, blue or feta cheese! It’s crazy!

    (I thought the Soviet Safeway was the one on 17th near Fox and Hounds.)

  • The main issue I have with the Safeway is the odor that hits as soon as you walk through the door. It’s not the aroma of rotting garbage or dirty diapers (thank God) but it still isn’t quite right.
    The veggie section has gone down hill in the past few years….I’ve given up on the fresh produce (except for bananas). And as Pinky said, the frozen foods are also problematic. One time they had some of the doors to one of the coolers roped off but not all the doors….so you’re telling me that the peas and carrots went bad but the corn and green beans magically stayed frozen even though they’re all in the SAME cooler? This is not good.
    And I would certainly shop at another store if it was in walking distance but who the hell wants to lug 15-20 lbs. of grocreies (or take the bus) 20-30 blocks when you live with in 3 blocks of another store?

  • Ha, yeah, I’ve always heard the DuPont Safeway refered to as the Soviet branch. A former roommate always called the Petworth Safeway the “Unsafeway.”

  • The Safeway doesn’t sell any booze. Lil’ Gal has to have her tipple or I get beatings.

  • That Safeway smells funny. It’s across the street from where I live and I don’t go there. Nice staff, though.

    Ward 4 council members since Charlene Drew Jarvis and probably before her, have wanted to “encourage” Safeway to improve that property. I don’t think it’s going to happen. I think the company would prefer to close it and invest their resources is building more “lifestyle” Safeways like the one up on Piney Branch. But we’ll see.

  • saf

    What’s wrong with the Safeway?

    Let’s start with the food – poor variety, expired mixed with new, not well stored… It’s just gross.

    Then the staff – some of them are GREAT. (Those ones generally live around here.) Others, well, not so great. And the not so great ones are REALLY bad.

    Over the years, they have been invited to neighborhood meetings, and every time they come, they are rude to the community. I remember one meeting where the area manager said, “Why should we upgrade this store? It gets robbed too often. We’re going to close it. People in this neighborhood won’t support a nice store.” (Funny how that song changed when the metro opened.)

    I’ve written to them about issues with the store and gotten little back.

    The fact is, they don’t respect this neighborhood, and they don’t respect their customers. They are generally polite to me, but not helpful. And I’ve seen how they treat my neighbors, and I don’t like it at all. The darker your skin, the ruder they are.

    Safeway doesn’t get my money. Used to be that I would take the bus to the Giant at 8th and O. They were local and they were good. They WANTED to be in the city. Now they’re not local any more, but they are still better than Safeway.

    These days, I go to farm markets and Eastern Market for everything that I can, and Giant for the rest. Safeway has shown that they have no respect for the city. They can’t have my city money.

  • saf

    Shoot, I wasn’t trying to be anon. PoP, I have login issues! It says it knows me, but then it forgets me.

  • Let’s picket ’em. That will draw some attention for sure.

  • piney branch safeway – AWESOME!
    park rd giant – there’s always some drama…..too stressful
    petworth safeway – haven’t been…looks crappy
    soviet safeway – i thought that was the one on wisconsin in glover park, blocks away from the russian embassy…..?

  • the safeway on wisconsin is called the Social Safeway for as long as i can remember (15 years).

    soviet one is down by dupont.

  • Back to Muriel — She asked a critical question of the police regarding follow-up: Have you arrested anyone and why not? Our vehicle was smashed up under one of the celebrated crime-viewing cameras. It apparently saw nothing. Humans in police uniforms doing nothing are not ‘law enforcement.’ Police officers who notice on the look-out for one type of bad behavior while ignoring others are not helping us.

  • Lisa: The goal is apparently to give lip service to “community policing” without doing anything that could possibly be considered such. The MPD and city fathers and mothers still live in the past where the best they could hope for was to clean up the bloodstains and bat about .250 in finding the perp. The very idea of PATROLLING is seen as some sort of weird or ridiculous idea that makes no sense (to them). Just look at The Bowser’s response to PoP’s questioning. “Increased patrols” are seen as a temporary stopgap measure, not as a solution.

    The real solution, apparently, is to wait until you get bopped on the head then send out a team to take pictures and file a report. Thanks a lot MPD. This is not policing. Patrolling the area on a regular, predictable basis makes the area safer because most of the crimes we are concerned with as citizens (robbery, sex assault, burglary) are crimes of opportunity. Criminals are going to take the path of least resistence. Not only will a police presense send some to other environs, it’ll detur the casual criminal. Just waiting around till something happens makes no damn sense at all.

    Sure, the crime rate in PW are lower than parts of the city (or Baghdad), but that isn’t impressive when you end up being accosted by 8 year old school girls gone “wilding” (sorry to bring up painful memories of your vicious taunting at the hands of the Strawberry Patch Gang, PoP). 😉

  • In reference to the DCPD…I personally feel that they will have to do to the police department what is being done to the school system, CLEAN HOUSE AND START OVER.

    P.S. You guys are funny…”soviet safeway”! Someone please tell me which one it is. I’d like to visit for myself.

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