Dear PoP – Mayor Fenty’s Youth Job Corps Strikes Again!

Summer Youth program damage, originally uploaded by dckaleidoscope.


“Dear PoP,

The morning of Wed. August 5th, I left my Parkview/Petworth house for only a half hour and came home to find the five year old crepe myrtle –which I had planted in memory of my grandmother the week after she passed away – cut clean about five inches above the base and just laying there. The look on my face prompted a neighbor walk up and tell me “those Mayor’s kids in the blue shirts just did that a few minutes ago”. Sure enough – the band of blue shirts was walking aimlessly down the block with branch cutters. Confronting them was to no avail – and so now I have a dead tribute tree that I bought and planted to show for all the great work Fenty’s kids are doing in this city this summer being paid for in part with MY tax dollars!

In the press release ( that announced the program’s kick-off back in June Mayor Fenty proudly proclaimed, “My Green Summer Job Corps will lead to a cleaner, greener nation’s capital. All summer, the young people in this program will also do meaningful work and learn skills they can use for the rest of their lives.” Um yeah Mayor Fenty — vandalizing neighborhoods – yup – that’s about the only skills most DC kids need to learn to live in this city for the rest of there lives!”

While a different program than the one we discussed last week, it certainly seems that more supervision for both these programs is required. Let me just add, that when I was a youth I was no saint. I did, however, have part time jobs since I was 13 years old (stock boy, lawn mowing, ass’t town handyman) and for all those jobs I was closely supervised to make sure I did the work I was being paid for. I’m not saying I would’ve vandalized shrubs but I may have taken a nap or two without supervision. So I’m not blaming the kids. It seems the program itself needs to be reexamined. I do think the program is a worthy and necessary one. But why can’t we demand closer supervision. It seems like an easy fix. Am I missing something?

Ed. Note: At 11am Monday morning, I will post a response from:
Alan Heymann
Director, Public Information
District Department of the Environment

61 Comment

  • Call the TV stations and tell them what happened.

    Call the mayor’s office.

    We own this city, those kids do not. Kick them to the suburbs where they belong. End of story.

  • Yeah, that’s pretty twisted. We should stop wasting money on programs that are counterproductive, such as hte Green Summer Job Corps cutting down trees and littering the streets with flyeth. It’s like they hate trees! I hope the city replaces this resident’s tree, and fires/punishes the responsible parties.

  • This is sad and wrong. I agree, get the word out about this as much as possible.

    I hope Mr. Heymann has not only a reasonable explanation for this but also a just resolution. At the very least, a replacement Crepe Myrtle should be planted.

  • An unfortunate consequence of kids with loppers without adult guidance…No one told them we should be planting more trees, not cutting down the ones we have?

    Although not recommended, Crepe Myrtles can take a hard pruning so your tree may survive.

  • Fire? Punish? This city won’t even fire the person who approved the Mayors 38,000 frat party that tax payers almost got suckered with! I mean, after all – if the mayor had no idea then someone was trying to make him look bad, right?

  • I once asked my neighbor why Marion Barry kept getting re-elected, and she said “Why? He had a jobs program. Parent love when the city gives their kids free money”.

  • I saw these kids a month ago in Walter Pierce Park in Adams Morgan. They were putting flyers on cars highlighting the ‘green’ program. But it seemed to me that most of the flyers were all over the ground in the park. Very green indeed. It wasn’t that folks threw them of their cars. The kids were just hanging out on the wall while the flyers were strewn about the park. I agree, these kids need much more supervision. I don’t recall seeing an adult or representative among them. It seems to be a waste of city resources. Kids are pretty good at forming packs and wandering aimlessly through the streets causing chaos on there own. Usually they do that for free.

  • why is the summmer jobs program always a disaster no matter who runs it no matter how they try to fix it? im sorry you lost your tree. i believe the city should replace it. i hope no other trees got lopped. i am curious, where was their supervisor? i was going to say maybe the kids should do the replanting, but now im thinking the supervisor could do that job.

  • Awful. Where are these kids’ supervisors? I’m with ND — if this is just an excuse for kids to form packs and cause mayhem, let them do that for free.

  • Five years is a long time to plant and cultivate a flowering street tree to see it cut down so indiscriminately. A very sad loss indeed.

    We really need to ask if these activities really prepare our youth for real world private sector jobs? -Result oriented productive jobs where there is an expectation of purposeful activity, comportment, and reward instead of this “aimlessly” wandering activity through neighborhoods.

    The writer’s own personal experience mowing lawns, as a stock boy and handyman when a young teenager sound like real world private sector jobs that may well have helped prepare a future adult citizen and contributing D.C. property owner.

    Current excessive reliance and expectations on elected officials and the public sector has become far too much, illusionary and self destructive with a collective and increasingly false sense of entitlement.

  • I saw a similar scenario on Corcoran between 16th and 17th St a few days ago. The homeowner came running out before the kids started “trimming.”

    What training has been provided in what is to be trimmed and what isn’t? Is training provided by a horticulturist in how to trim? Willy-nilly trimming can damage a tree or make it top heavy later and subject to falling.

  • “Kick them to the suburbs?” I’d bet they are no less District residents than you or I. Would you rather have them stealing cars or getting pregnant? Idle hands, my friends, idle hands.

    This program definitely needs more supervision, but the concept is a worthy one.

  • “So I don’t blame the kids…”

    Blame the kids. Unless they were 5 year olds, something like this is not an “accident” or lack of knowledge about proper pruning technique, nor due to a “lack of supervision.” It’s a deliberate act of vandalism, for which they need to be personally held accountable. Failing to make them accountable is just another lesson on the road to them becoming an irresponsible adult.

  • I’ll say this with as much sensitivity as possible, because obviously this plant had sentimental value to you…

    Without any sort of marker, or flower box, or whatever, it looks like an overgrown weed. there was nothing to distinguish it as a plant that someone tended to regularly. Seriously, I’m sorry this happened, but perhaps these kids would have shown it more respect had it been situated in a more attractive planting situation?

  • What anon 8:12 said. These kids may very well have been doing what they were instructed to do.

  • The house where the Creep Myrtle was cut down is a corner house. There were a total of 4 if you count the 2 on Princeton Place. One was cut down a week before the second one got cut down. If you think they look like weeds look at the side on Princeton Place. The trees are well groomed and cared for. They really look great, its too bad the city doesn’t line all of Park Place with Creep Myrtles.

  • Hell yeah, Anon806.

  • If that crepe myrtle looks like an overgrown weed to Anonymous 8:12, i pray s/he never takes up gardening.

  • On several occasions I’ve seen these kids – usually in packs of 10 or 15 – walking around doing nothing. Usually they’re horsing around with no adult supervision. You can’t just turn a bunch of teenagers loose on the streets without any guidance. I can’t believe we pay for this and I’m sorry to see a tribute tree has been cut down. Oh, and there’s no way a myrtle tree looks like a weed.

  • Small claims court. The ‘kids’ personally and the city for negligent supervision.

  • First, didn’t we learn our lesson from the Five Guys shoot out? Who thought it was a good idea to give these kids things that are sharp, pointy and can with little effort maim or kill someone AND then provide ZERO supervision. I feel awful for the OP (I remember how angry I was when a neighborhood kid danced all over my tulips, and they had no sentimental value whatsoever), but we’re lucky their not cutting the legs off of feral cats or going after one another. How and why do we continue to underestimate the abject depravity of the youth in this City?

    Second, why would we expect these kids to respect these jobs? They did nothing whatsoever to get them and are required to do absolutely nothing in order to keep them. Moreover, they know they are “entitled” to them. With rare exception, all this program does is further the training of more deadbeat dads and welfare moms. This program teaches kids that the only way they’ll get a job and the only way they’ll amount to anything is if the government gives it to them. It is no surprise that this is a Marion Barry program, who has won election after election by giving away, legitimately and illegitimately, this City’s resources. The politicians have a stranglehold over the citizenry because they’ve convinced them they they can’t exist without the government’s aid.

  • In my neighborhood I see them wandering around, smoking cigarettes, yelling profanities, getting hot and heavy on the sidewalk… Basically, not doing what they are supposed to be doing. If more supervision is not feasible then end the program. Please.

  • Stubs – I’m with you. However, I’m all for the city heling kids find paying summer jobs where there is a boss and a supervisor and repercussions for not doing one’s job. Like working retail or construction. It just seems ridiculous to give a kid a job as opposed to helping him or her to find one. It’s even more rediculous to then put them in roving packs of 10-15 and let them loose on the city wihtout any supervision.

  • Thanks, Jim. If you’re a kid with little to no exposure to plant life in the classroom or elsewhere, and you are instructed to go cut down weeds, and you see this plant sitting in the middle of grass with nothing around it whatsoever to distinguish it in anyway, I wouldn’t blame you for thinking it was a weed or something that wasn’t supposed to be there. There’s not RIP Grandma plaque or anything. I’m just sayin, it’s terrible, but IMO, understandable. Next time, make an effort to show that it is something that is cared for. I’m sure a myrtle doesn’t look like a weed to the PoP commentariat, but think about it from the perspective of a myopic inner city 15 year old girl.

  • Sorry but you should never have people who don’t know what they’re doing going around pruning things. The city is just paying them to vandalize. I’m really sorry this happened and I’d also be furious if I saw these kids anywhere near my garden.

  • EPF-

    Sounds like a great idea. There should however be some risk of not getting a job, that is to say, if you don’t show up to an interview or don’t present yourself well, it shouldn’t be a guarantee. And the kids should have to take the initiative, identify jobs they are interested in, submit a formal application and go through an interview of some sort, just like the rest of us do. Think of all the lessons we can teach. I cleaned bathrooms to help put myself through college and I interviewed for that job. It wasn’t the hardest interview, or the hardest job, but it taught me that I had a job because, and only because, my boss said so. It sure made me work harder.

  • What a waste of tax payers’ money. How can this program be justified?

  • A program exactly like this has been around for 20 years – the DC Summer jobs Program. The city helps kids find paying summer jobs. Kids have to apply just like anyone else looking for a job and they can be fired or reprimanded for poor performance…just like any other job. For me, the great part about it is the fact that (1) an entity other than the city is paying the wages, (2) it gets kids off the street from 9-5. However, I seem to recall that in the past couple oif years the city has been partially subsidizing the wages of those kids that have been hired. This could just be rumor though.

  • @Stubs: YES. But then, none of these kids would qualify.

  • If I may, do we know for certain that these were members of the Jobs Corps? T-shirts tend to float around.

  • It sucks that the tree was cut down, espcially considering the history.

    But….was the tree in public space? If so, did the city give permission to plant it there?

  • Wow–sorry about your tree. That’s terrible.

  • Most of these kids will be hanging out on the corners when they get too old for the Summer Jobs program. I bet none of the council members have their kids working in this Summer Jobs Program. This program serves as a babysitter to the babymakers that do not or will not take care of their kids. I have a neighbor with three kids on the program. One doesn’t go. The best kid has another job while drawing a Summer Jobs check, and the other spends more time beating his pregnant teen girlfriend than working. No accountability. No job skills being learned.

  • The best thing you can do is support whoever challenges Mayor Fenty in the 2010 election as much as you possibly can. This ignorant, corrupt man needs to be driven out of office on a rail.

  • Fortunately, crepe myrtle’s like to be pruned back big time, so this one will likely grow back better than before given some TLC.

    Kids need to make mistakes in a safe environment, hopefully they will learn something from this, and the community will forgive and learn to nurture them as much as the plants in their yards.

  • EPF- I wish you were right, but I know many kids in the program and it doesn’t work as you describe. They sign up, are assigned to a job, and then do nothing. With the exception of the Five Guys shooter, I’ve never heard of a kid being fired.

    Oh, and the program costs $50 million, so I think the city is picking up most, if not all of the wages.

  • why dont we all invest in our own cheap cameras and take pics when we see something wrong going down? one of the biggest reason i bought my digital camera was so that i could snap shots of the whack shit i see every other day.

  • saf

    EPF – do you have ANY direct experience with the program? I do, and it never worked the way you are describing.

  • Really sorry about the tree. As someone who spent three years nursing bushes in our front yard through droughts and winters only to see them unnecessarily ripped out and then half “replanted” broken and dead by DC WASA contractors, I feel your pain.

  • So I guess that their job of cutting weeds down includes leaving them lying on the sidewalk?

    This is crap. Even if it was an honest mistake, then the program is crap for letting them loose with a pruner without proper guidance.

  • Some of the summer jobs participants have been involved with weatherizing homes for seniors for greater energy efficiency and lower utility costs. I’d like to hear more stories about this kind of work — is it successful? are the jobs being performed to an acceptable service standard? are the recipients pleased with the program? how are the success factors measured? If successful, can it be expanded?

    Every day I pass 2 summer jobs kids doing crosswalk detail on the same caddy cornered non-busy intersection. They mostly just mumble hello to passers by and stand there while people cross the street on their own. Not sure what they learn from this job except to loathe work as nothing more than a mind and soul sucking experience.

  • Me, I’d blame the kids.

    No program can provide supervision in every single instant of an entire summer, and adolescents do act like idiots and vandalize stuff. I know I did. That’s the deal, though: Screw up, get punished, learn your lesson, and grow into an adult. I think in D.C. we need to make sure that the second step is not skipped over, either by the program itself, or better yet, of course, the family.

    It’s the cycle of life, and I’m sure in a way your grandmother taught it your parent, and passed it on to you.

    Anyway, you can always plant a new myrtle– or perhaps they can plant it for you.

  • Good lord. The District always seems to miss at least half the equation. The jobs programs is — or should be — about a lot of things: keeping kids off the streets while school is out, putting a little money into the constituents’ homes, doing something good for the city, and imparting some basic job skills to participants. The Marion Berry-ization of our thinking, however, begins and ends at the bread & circus, and once the check clears, everyone’s interests end. Lather, rinse, repeat, year after year. What a joke that we can spend public resources and political capital on these programs but can’t even get the participants any supervision to teach accountability, responsibility, and other basic work habits — something that may actually produce a return long after the checks are cashed and the money gone.

  • You get the tar, I’ll bring the feathers. Seriously tho, bummer bout the tree.

  • Nate,

    It seem like for every situation we talk about here you have a related, personal experience/story. So finally i’m gonna call B.S. on your posting.

  • So sorry about your tree. It sounds like what these kids need is summer camp or year round school, it doesn’t seem right to me that they should be paid for unproductive work.

  • Not me, Thor. I value Nate’s input, because it’s pretty clear he experiences a side of the city that I know little about. What’s so fishy about his having a neighbor whose kids are in the program?

  • The program is a worthy idea that has been poorly executed…a common theme when it comes to the DC government. Everything falls apart on the follow through…

  • Nate,

    Please do all of us a favor…if you really want to help the situation you described above, then please contact Alan Heymann (202-535-2600) or email [email protected]. Let them know there are three kids that need to take and an active role with the program. It sounds like the City is wasting its time and money.

    If the kids don’t want to work, then get them off of the DC payroll else let them do something positive for the city. Thanks for bring this story to our attention.

  • Gilmore- I agree with you, for sure, but isn’t someone getting paid to do just what you suggest? There must be a supervisor our there who isn’t supervising and if so, then there must be a director out there who isn’t directing. Frankly, the system is broken.

    Oh and complaining about city programs or workers is flat out useless. I have called the city a dozen times for issues of reckless driving, abusive police behavior, etc and have received zero satisfaction. The complaint gets dropped into an endless pit with no accountability, no transparency and no feedback. In short, nothing happens!

  • Prince Of Petworth

    @Stubs Next time something happens please email me directly with a photo if possible.

  • OMG!!!!! Someone ripped apart two young trees on my block, 1300 Meridian Pl NW. They practically killed the trees by tearing down the main trunk half way.
    I wonder if they were over here???

  • I agree that the kids should not be given tools to prune trees. It’s an invitation for mischief. You need someone trained to properly do it so that trees will grow in a strong branch pattern.

  • I’m so sorry this happened. Seriously….contact the local news.

  • # Thor Says:
    August 10th, 2009 at 10:51 am


    It seem like for every situation we talk about here you have a related, personal experience/story. So finally i’m gonna call B.S. on your posting.
    Hey I happen to interact with my neighbors. Not the BS greetings as I go in and out my house. In fact, for this one household, I actually have taken a liking to one of her boys. He is my “mentee” of sorts. This is why I laugh at the people that call for more rec centers or some sort of intervention. It shows me that you have so little interaction with your neighbors that you think these problems are easily solved.

    I saw one of these young men savagely beat two girls weekend before last. I know he had a summer jobs program. I can’t say if he is still working or getting paid. He is on probation in DC. He was recently arrested in MD for assault on a police officer (he bit the officer). Giving summer jobs to young men like this serve no benefit.

    The city knows it is wasting its time and money. If this program was worth something, you’d see Thomas’ kids working summer jobs. This summer jobs programs keeps the black councilmembers elected. It isn’t worth it for the white members to fight over as their constituents don’t need the program.

  • with no accountability, what exactly does the Summer Jobs Program accomplish in terms of education or preparation for real life? If the city can’t get the management of this program under control, they need to end it. I’m not interested in funding a teen welfare program with my tax dollars. And paying teens to aimlessly wander the streets seems like free money if you ask me.

  • Just got home from work to find my own little tree cut down. It, too, is laying on its side next to the little stump. So far I haven’t had any neighbor tell me s/he saw who did it, but then everyone’s in out of the heat right now. Having read this post about the tree and the follow-up earlier today, I immediately thought of the wandering band of youths as the culprit, but who knows? It still sucks to have our *currently and actively flowering* tree cut down so early in its life. And it sucks more to know that somebody did it just . . . because. WTF?! Why cut down a flippin’ tree?!

  • did I miss the “official” response from Alan Heyman?

  • did I miss the “official” response from Alan Heyman? so sorry about the trees. and about the kids.

  • Well, it is the best government that we can buy!

    The final figures for the 2009 summer jobs program was posted. Drum roll please…nearly $28 million dollars.

    Man, that’s a lot of bread and a few less trees in the city. Can not wait until next summer. Hide your trees!

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