“An Open Letter – A Retrospective Look at Living in Columbia Heights”

pain sculpture

“Dear Former Neighbors,

As a favor to the folks who will simply stop reading and disregard whatever is written below based solely on race, let me save you the time and start by saying that my wife and I are black. I say this not to elicit snark or engender sympathy or because it should matter, but just as a basis of fact in a city where you can’t seem to have a conversation without taking race into consideration.

I moved here in late 2003 after college and a tour in the Marine Corps. Like so many other people, I moved to the region for work. I thought I’d be here for a short time but life happened, and I made the District my home.

Oddly enough, all of my positions and jobs were in MD or VA, but I was one of those who enjoyed urban living and made the reverse commute. I endured the embarrassing things our elected officials did and the backwater way our city operated because the urban-ish lifestyle seemed to be one that I should endure these things for.

We aren’t looking for a trophy or a gold star, but my wife (former Navy) and I (atleast on paper) are the kind of residents jurisdictions try to lure. Highly paid DINKS, we pay a lot in taxes but use relatively few public services as we’ve yet to have kids. We actively participated in and tried to improve our community. We both had spent years (5 and 7 respectively) tutoring DC middle and high school students in STEM courses. Kid-less, we still participated in the yearly DCPS summer “all hands on deck” to help clean, paint and landscape local schools before school started, occasionally volunteered at the local hospital, food banks etc.

I met my wife here. We started out buying a condo in Woodley Park, then made the jump and bought a row home in on Kenyon street in Columbia Heights in 2006. At the time, there were fewer people living or socializing in Columbia Heights. You were confronted by the occasional day-drunk and discarded used condoms on the sidewalk, but the neighborhood then was significantly different, and for the first few years we lived there and it was the picture of urban renewal. More than a billion dollars of private development in the neighborhood took form in a matter of a few years, and even more since. DC schools have always been atrocious but at the time we had decided to try to stay in DC regardless and simply “hope” that there would be significant short term educational gains, or resigned ourselves to pay for private school when the time came.

Then a few years ago the positive changes in Columbia Heights seemingly started to reverse. The streets of Columbia Heights filled with unbelievable quantities of trash. It was as though people from all over DC were coming to Columbia Heights specifically to throw trash on the street. The amount of crime skyrocketed. Robbery’s, assaults, burglary became a more frequent issue. Not a week went by in the last couple of years living there where at least one car on the short street I live on hadn’t gotten broken into. I had to get one of those roll down steel doors across the back of my lot because all of a sudden, out of nowhere 4 years after we moved in, people started breaking into homes via the alley. Nearly every house (15 in total over 6 months) on our block got hit, some twice and despite the cops taking prints and finding the criminals already had been in the system, there was seemingly no consequence to their actions. People also started defecating with some regularity in the alley and on the sidewalks. Constant pleas by the entire neighborhood to the ANC, the police the Council member go ignored for months and years. The only time someone from the ANC or Council gets involved is around election time, and the involvement stops immediately after.

At least 2 or 3 times a year I would walk out of my house in the morning to go to work and find some passed out / strung out guy on my lawn or adjacent neighbors lawn, covered in his own urine or vomit or actively hitting the crack pipe in the middle of the day. People started ripping out landscaping plants and bushes we (or my neighbors) had planted, apparently to take home and plant because they simply disappeared. Who does that?

A new and very visible drug trade has appeared in multiple places in the neighborhood. Unbelievably the most visible example is right at the Columbia Heights metro stop where it happens in full view of cops who sit there in their cars on their Facebook, or otherwise couldn’t care less. And I am not talking about weed here, but serious narcotics.

The straw that broke the camels back was when I apparently had the audacity to remind a young twenty something that my lawn wasn’t his trash can as he walked by and threw his discarded chicken wings on my lawn. I was standing less than 10 feet away when he did it and decided to ask him what he was doing.

Like all young thugs I’ve encountered, he “ran hot” which meant he went from zero to full-rage in about a millisecond. After ~20 seconds of screaming every four letter word and negative gentrification invective in the book at me (he and I are the same race but that seemed to elude him), he started towards me, pulled up his shirt to show me his gun and told me he was going to shoot me (I’ve actually cleaned that language up quite a bit, I will let your imagination run with what he really said). I grew up in rural VT, hunted in my childhood, spent time in the Corps and am extremely comfortable around firearms, but I had never had one pulled on me before, or the threat of it. I simply reacted out of fear, grabbed him by the neck with one hand, put my hand on his gun with the other so he couldn’t draw it and slammed his head into the retaining wall in front of my house while trying to disarm him.

As a side note, having grown up in a rural VT community as a minority, I was always one of the few non-white people around, yet in all my travels personally and professionally, the District of Columbia is by far the most racist place I’ve ever been, and the overwhelming bulk of the racism is generated and perpetuated by fellow members of the black community. It is incredibly disappointing.

Anyway, the police came, ran him through the system, discovered he had a couple outstanding warrants (one for assault and another for weapons). He was 24 and had been in the system a number of times already. Police told me this would be the last straw, he would go away for some real time on this.

Less than 72 hours later he was throwing glass bottles at my front door.

Fast forward a year. He came to my house to threaten me and my wife a half a dozen times over the previous 12 months. We got a restraining order but he of course ignored it (or couldn’t read it, who knows). Each time I called the police and a couple times they got there in time to arrest him, but he would be out in a matter of days. We’ve had this guy and a couple of his friends break a number of windows, cause random damage to my house and leave piles of trash in my yard over that period (all caught on camera mind you). All of this in a neighborhood that now unbelievably commands $700K for 900 SF condos and $1M dollars for row houses that need work.

The best part is that he and his family had the temerity to try sue me for 6 figures for “pain and suffering”. Apparently the fractured jaw he got when I slammed his head into my retaining wall while trying to disarm him was sufficient cause in our local DC courts to allow this lawsuit to go much further than it should have, resulting in me spending thousands of dollars to defend myself because some DC taxpayer funded non-profit (i.e, funded in part by me) had decided to try to help this guy make some point “against the man”. The fact that any judge wouldn’t just laugh uproariously and immediately throw such a case out considering the circumstances boggles the mind. I was encouraged to “settle” by the Court and even got admonished by the judge (black woman) about my actions and that I should have just looked the other way as he dumped trash in my yard. Excuse me? This felon with multiple outstanding warrants pulled a gun on me and threatened my life, and you are encouraging me to settle and lecturing me for reacting and protecting myself. “Mind blown”!

I’ve read now (and not in the Onion, sadly) that DC is seriously considering actually paying criminals like this guy upwards of $9,000 a year to “bribe” them not to commit more crimes. You read something like that and you don’t know whether to cry, or get irate. Probably a little of both. I guess crime does pay.

This event is just a small example within the larger microcosm of general governmental dysfunction and crime tolerance in the District. My wife and I don’t have one friend without a number of stories of DC dysfunction. I figured that with the influx of tens of thousands of new residents that the status-quo, the “catering to the lowest common denominator” would phase out. It actually is getting worse, substantially worse, but the effects are largely hidden by virtue of DC having been the benefactor of the Federal “boom-town” effect for the past 16 years.

There isn’t a budget DC can’t seem to raise nearly double digits per year in an effort to spend their way out of poor governance on everything else, but it is embarrassing how low of a bar our elected officials set, and even more embarrassing how much that bar is abused and then lowered again the next year. Even accounting for the additional spending required by new residents and a increasing population, the District has raised its yearly budget at more than twice inflationary levels per capita over the past 13 years.

The latest example I’ve seen is nearly ~$650M in proposed new spending over 30 years to house only 250 homeless families per year in dorm rooms. Total cost per family per year to District taxpayers? $90,000 dollars per year, per family. Or $7,700 a month per family. You can get some pretty swank 3 bedroom apartments for half that per month. Heck, at current rates, that is the monthly mortgage and tax payment on a $1.3M dollar mortgage in DC. This is of course, on top of the already $120M per year the District spends on existing homeless services that does next to nothing for the homeless, but keeps a large number of homeless services non-profits and CBE’s on the gravy train.

At every level, from the Department of Public Works all the way up to the Mayor is complete and utter dysfunction that garners embarrassing national attention. At least a dozen or so times a year my trash inexplicably didn’t get picked up that week. The weather is perfect and it isn’t a City or Federal holiday. It just gets missed and one missed trash pickup means the alley (and adjacent streets) are all of a sudden awash in more trash than they already are. When they do pick up the trash, it seems as though it is some kind of competitive sport as to how much of the trash the collectors can dump in the alley rather than in the truck. Nothing but pure laziness and disregard.

DCPS is enough to make even the most hardened, die hard public school advocate cry. DC tax payers are in the top 2 in terms of the money spent per student nationwide, yet rank in the bottom 2-3 in terms of performance. And now to solve the low graduation rate we apparently think it is a good idea to give high school diplomas for extra curricular activities to those unable to manage to get one by graduating, from what is by all relevant metrics, a low rigor curriculum. The ultimate participation trophy!

DCRA seems to be a joke that someone is purposely playing on District residents. Three and a half months to get a permit to replace an existing one story porch in-kind and keep the same dimensions? 3.5 months, more than 13 phone calls and 7 total hours waiting in line downtown, yet this crack team of construction and permitting guru’s seem unable to stop the illegal construction at the end of the block which had been reported half a dozen times and resulted in tens of thousands in damage to the adjacent property. Sadly, everyone I talk to has had a similar experience with them.

The transportation agency DDOT can spend $200M, more than twice the budgeted amount ($130M more) on a streetcar that was half a decade late to deliver, and doesn’t actually serve any functional transportation purpose, while the actual streets of DC deteriorate to the point of looking like the surface of the moon, or like downtown Baghdad after the invasion.

DC has 2000 lane miles of local streets, streets that aren’t eligible for federal money and have to be paid for entirely by the District, yet DDOT decreased its road repaving budget so much over the past 6 years that it has only set aside $7M dollars a year to repave those streets the past few years of its own money (out of a $160M/yr capital budget). Put another way, DDOT spent 3 times more per year on one project, an ill planned streetcar on a two mile stretch of road, than it spent cumulatively resurfacing streets in the entire rest of the city.

For what the District spends repaying roads, it could have repaved 500 lane miles of DC streets, a full 25% of the entire city total, just with the budget overage of the streetcar. But no, DC instead only has been allocating enough for 50 lane miles of repaving per year. DDOT actually spent more per year the last few years on “street light management” (whatever that is) than it spent repaving local city streets. Hardly a mystery as to why my car was always out of alignment.

The DC tax office, seemingly unsatisfied with the embarrassing dysfunction of having tax employees steal $60 million tax dollars and funnel it to friends and family over a 12 year period, decided to continue that dysfunction (for me anyway) 3 out of 4 years as they tried their damnedest to keep (steal is better word) my tax refund for the year.

It went something like this. File taxes, expect a couple thousand dollars back and yet nothing happens. Months goes by, no notice or call or anything. Then you call them up and you get someone who is clearly unqualified for most jobs, let alone this one on the line who simply says “Yeah, your tax forms were wrong and you owed us so we just kept it”. No explanation as to how much I owed, or what was wrong, just “they were wrong”.

Excuse me? Even assuming for a second that they the tax office was 100% correct and my taxes were done incorrectly, on what planet or in what jurisdiction can you simply decide to keep money supposedly owed to someone else without the benefit of a notice of any kind? Oh, thats right, DC. Even the IRS does a better job communicating these issues when they arise. The IRS!!

Suffice to say the DC tax office was 100% wrong all 3 times, and I eventually got every penny that was originally due to me, but that is of course after having to spend months and dozens of phone calls to an ever changing series of people to get it “fixed”.

The DC summer “jobs” program, if it can be called that is another mistake I made, twice. Asked personally as a business owner to participate by a Council member, I agreed to it and took 3 students one summer. All three were 10th or 11th graders and all were sadly functionally illiterate. I mean seriously illiterate, as in they were reading at probably a 4th or 5th grade level. The real problem was they only ever bothered showing up one or two days a week and when they did they all had unbelievable attitudes. They couldn’t be bothered to do anything and when asked would tell me or my staff off. I actually had to explain to two of them why watching porn (at high volume no less) on a work computer in the reception area was inappropriate. Another time, one of the students boyfriends showed up at the office one day and they had a screaming match about something that only teenagers think is important in our lobby, in full view of some clients who certainly don’t pay us hundreds of dollars an hour to watch that crap. I was absolutely mortified. I said never again.

4 years later, after being asked every year since the first experience, I got pressured into again. “It can’t possibly be worse than the first time” my wife said, “give it another try”.

Suffice to say the second experience was worse, and now apparently DC has again “lowered the bar” by allowing “youths” up to the age of 24 participate in this taxpayer funded “free money bribes to young people to keep them from committing crimes during the summer” program. To add insult to injury to anyone with common sense or dignity, the District actually renamed the program after Marion Barry as a tribute to the man.

Why anyone with a minuscule shred of dignity would try to give even more tribute to a man who embarrassed an entire city for decades boggles the mind. The man was a proud womanizing, crack addict, alcoholic, multi felon, multi-dui, multi-probation drug test failing, two decade long tax cheat who illegally directed city contracts to girlfriends/friends with the stipulation he get paid on the back-end, and who left the District taxpayer (i.e. his employer) hundreds of thousands of dollars in arrears for unpaid income taxes when he died. We should be scrubbing his name from every building it was on out of embarrassment, not trying to “honor” him more. But, considering the waste, dysfunction and general “no-show for pay”, lowest common denominator nature of the “jobs” program, it doesn’t surprise me the city named it after him.

I’ve luckily never needed the services of an ambulance while living in the District, but if I did I am pretty sure the process would be pretty substandard. For some reason, a city that has seen a couple billion dollars in budget surpluses the past dozen years despite the aforementioned eye popping budget increases every year, seemingly can’t figure out how to buy or fix ambulances. I mean, the city owns 98 of them, but only 50 are in operable condition, the rest out of service. So instead of expecting the city to perform one of its 3 basic municipal functions, the city pays an obscene amount of money to hire private ambulance services. Bravo!

A brand new, fully outfitted ambulance is $225K. DC could replace the entire ~100 unit fleet tomorrow for ~$23M. DC’s budget surplus last year alone was $200M. Why is this still a problem?

All the above eventually took its toll, so my wife and I left the District. Life is challenging enough as it is, being constantly treated like the enemy and dealing with the constant level of “fail” of the District is just exhausting. I moved my residence and my business over the border, which one (VA or MD) isn’t germane to the discussion. I could have probably just moved my residence to Woodley or Cleveland Park and solved the trash, crime and strung out addicts defecating on my sidewalk issue. Our income would allow us to live anywhere in the District we wanted, but that doesn’t solve the long list of other problems listed above.

I know, I know, no biggie. “Someone bought your house and moved in, you won’t be missed because DC is awesome” the staunch defenders of the District will say. True, another DINK couple bought our house, and I wish them the best, but there is no way the valuation of my former neighborhood, or the supposed intrinsic value of living in a “vibrant”(the most painfully overused word in the urban handbook by the way) neighborhood is supported by anything in the area other than speculation and insanity, which I am sure they are already getting accustomed. Getting to know the buyers of my house briefly as I did when we sold to them, I bet they are already feeling some level of buyers remorse as they constantly walk over the broken glass, discarded chicken bones and empty cans and liquor bottles thrown on the sidewalk that I made a point of sweeping up daily the entire time my house was on the market until settlement so potential buyers wouldn’t be confronted by it.

My business loss to the District is perhaps slightly more of an noticeable issue to the powers that be but again, not really. Half of my employees happened to be non-DC residents already and it is only a small 15 person firm. The loss of taxable corporate and my personal income is symbolic in the grand scheme of things. I could have left my business in DC and still moved across the border, but it was an important symbolic point for me to make. I just couldn’t justify letting the District continue to benefit from me, my business or my family in any way when the city seemingly did nearly everything it can possibly do for years and years to take folks like me and my wife for granted, and then treat us as second class citizens while going out of their way to cater to and make any excuse on behalf of the lowest common denominator crowd. Well…no more.

Signed,

Former District Resident”

454 Comment

  • You’ve been through a lot more crap than I have in the sixteens years I’ve been a District resident but I am coming to the same conclusion, and intend to leave. No amount of trying is going to change this place, no amount of factual points is going to change the minds of those who won’t hear a cross word about DC, and no one in the end is really going to miss us when we leave. The important thing is to know you did your best to make it work here, and now to be happy where you are and every once in a while check back on how things in DC are going and say, thank god I don’t have to deal with that *%$^ anymore.

    • +1. I’ve been here 12 years and looking formulating an exit strategy. It’s been a good run, but I would very much like to leave in the next 12 months.

      • Me too. Maybe City Hall will take these issues seriously when the tax base starts to shrink.

        • Almost 15 years here, and I’m at the same point – looking at Bethesda and Chevy Chase. I have really loved living here, but the out-of-control “justice” system is what is finally doing me in. We have the same 2,500 criminals who cause 95% of the problems, but we just can’t seem to shut down the revolving door. I would LOVE to see us take control of our own prosecutions and put in something similar to the “three strikes” rule – three convictions, for any offense, within ten years, and you are going away for a minimum of 24 months, with no probation or parole or anything else. The rest of decent society gets a 24 month holiday from your crime spree. But, our Council will never do it because almost all the criminals in our system are black (not because all black people are criminals or anything so stupid as that, but because that’s just the truth here) and they don’t want to seem “racist”, even if it means ignoring actual facts.
          .
          The truly sad part is, almost everyone I know who has spent enough time here to generate a sizable enough income to have options elsewhere is taking them. And taking tax dollars with them. You sound like an awesome neighbor to have had – maybe I’ll end up next to you across the border! If you ever come back, please run for Mayor. I will happily contribute the maximum to your campaign!

        • Same here. I’ve been here 8 years and the last three have resulted in multiple public safety and general government distinction issues. It’s mind boggling that no elected officials seems to care. But maybe that’s why we change mayors every four years?

    • Ditto. I’ve been here for just over nine years, and I’m planning my departure. I own a place in Penn Quarter, and in the past few years things around here have also been deteriorating after a long stretch of getting safer and feeling like a community – albeit mostly an office one. I have a three-block walk to work in Chinatown, and on a near-daily basis I feel physically uncomfortable during that walk now.

    • This was a sad, depressing, and on point article to read. There seem to be no accountability in the Bowser administration. DCRA is one of the worse District Government agencies I’ve encountered. I’ve sent emails to Mayor Bowser regarding public safety concerns and I never received any response from her. Many urban cities plagued with crime have been under Democratic control for 50 years. Baltimore is a good example. D.C. Council Judiciary Chairman is a joke and a weak legislator. D.C. Council Chair Mendelson is a joke like most of the D.C. Councilmembers. Left wing progressive At Large D.C. Councilmember David Grosso once suggested to an audience at Howard University regarding disarming D.C. cops. I’ve lived in D.C. all 61 years of my life and I’ve lost hope in the leadership within the Wilson Building. Recently this year, a former DCRA employee was sentenced and convicted of criminal behavior within the District Government. There’s still corruption within the D.C. Government. Sometimes I feel as thou we’re doomed as a society.

      • The way that DCRA operates, it is almost as though the city actively doesn’t want small businesses to open in this city. The amount of needless foot dragging, endless permitting, and redundant processes is enough to drive a person batty. That entire agency needs to be disbanded and employees should be asked to reapply for their jobs and only qualified people should be rehired. Enough is enough. We need responsible government that is responsible to the taxpayers.

      • Wow. Just wow! Well done. That one harassing dude and his friends and lawsuits would have been enough on it’s own…It’s sad how many people here totally agree with parts (or all) of what you are saying. I’m getting closer to saying F*ck D.C. myself. Does Louisville have Philz Coffee’s yet?

    • My husband spent nearly half his life in DC and I spent the last 5 years there. We left last year for VA and could not be happier. Our commutes are a bit longer, but quality of life is so much better and worth it!

    • Add me to the list – 12 years in DC and finally peacing out this summer. I’m not leaving to take a better job or be closer to family; I’m leaving to live in a city that I don’t find completely enervating.

  • The story of being terrorized by criminals who know where you live is a big, scary deal, and it needs to be told. The rants about other DC agencies read like cut & paste jobs. Stick with what you know–it’s important, and the other crap just makes it easy to ignore everything you say.

    • The thing that makes me laugh is that DC makes the “only bad guys get guns” Gun Control opponents right.

    • “The thing I agree with you about is interesting but please remove the things I disagree with you about.”

  • EPIC

    …this ought to be good

  • dang. what a letter. DC can be a great city, but i agree……there is so much wrong with it.

    it’s a shame

  • sounds like some repeated shit luck right there…

  • The Police Chief, Cathy Lanier, has failed to clamp down on open drug markets due to the Ferguson Effect — and disbanding the police-service-area drug response teams — and has not replaced this gigantic policing void with an actual program which works. We are still waiting on her response to this criticism. Meanwhile, we all suffer with increased exposure to brazen drug markets.

    • I dont get the ferguson effect. one case gone wrong automatically means we just lay back and let shit happen?? huh? we might as well just do away and with law and order.

    • Meh, I’ve lived in Columbia Heights for 5 years and the dysfunction described in this letter, with trash and drug dealing, seems to predate Ferguson.

      • I agree, things are much better and improving still but sorry for this guy’s horrible experience

    • John Hopkins University did a study recently and found that there is no such thing as the Ferguson effect. You can google to find any of the multiple articles on the topic. The data proves it doesn’t exist except on Fox News.

      • Total mischaracterization of that study. It was specifically focused on whether the Ferguson effect led to the riots in Baltimore, and actually does show a sharp decline in arrests coupled with a major spike in crime (Baltimore now has more murders than New York City despite having about 8% of the population). Directly from the researchers’ executive summary:
        .
        “In the three months following the arrest of Freddie Gray, in addition to a spike in Baltimore shootings and homicides already reported by the news media, there were large increases in other types of crime, including street robbery, commercial robbery, carjacking and automobile theft.
        .
        Between April 20 and July 12, after the unrest in Baltimore, arrests continued to decline. Total arrests dropped an additional 30 percent during this time, in particular the minor crime arrests already in decline before the Gray protests.
        .
        It is unclear if the crime spike after April 20 is evidence of a Ferguson effect, the researchers say. More likely, they say, the crime wave can be attributed to a localized “Gray effect.””

        • So basically cops staged a “stop work” action? It happened in NYC too around the same time. A large wave of sick call outs, tickets issued plummeted, etc. From my perspective, it seems like “The Ferguson Effect” is simple another way of cops getting their panties in a twist and refusing to do their jobs.
          Since poverty is closely correlated with crime and Baltimore is a much poorer city than NYC, I don’t think it’s unsurprising that crime spiked much higher in Baltimore than in NYC.

          • crime in new york city used to be as bad as crime in baltimore. it’s not just about poverty in a vacuum. it’s also about pandering politicians.

          • When crime in NYC was bad it was a much poorer city…

          • Yeah, poverty is a contributing factor no doubt. But, DC isn’t any poorer than NYC and we have a much higher crime rate. Our poverty rate is actually lower than theirs.

  • Damn, this letter is long, but when you read it all in one place you can’t deny the dysfunction in DC. Or the crime. There are a lot of great things about DC, but ugh it could be so much better. It’s strange now that I live in a different city and read this stuff too. When I was there it didn’t seem that bad, but from the outside and in comparison to where I live now it feels like a shitshow.

    • It’s not that bad really. The OP missed out on some of the really positive aspects of DC! Here are my top ten:
      1) We have an awesome Chief of Police. DC Twitter Gun Recovery Unit Photos.
      2) If you get arrested for something and have your weed on you, they’ll give it back when they let you out of lockup.
      3) Our traffic cameras rack up millions from those pesky MD and VA commuters who don’t pay taxes.
      4) Maryland folks get free daycare through our DCPS pre-K programs.
      5) If you happen to kill someone, plead guilty to second degree and you’ll be out in 15.
      6) Open air massive fireworks displays on the 4th, like literally in the middle of public streets, on the yellow line, as MPD cruisers pass by. (Tell Trump – America is Great, Again and Again.)
      7) The city leaders take land from private citizens to further enrich rich folks from Maryland.
      8) Trees. Rock Creek. The Mall.
      9) DDOT potholepalooza.
      10) The supreme efficiency of DC Parking Enforcement.

  • Thank you for saying this. I am so frustrated with this city and its inhabitants, and I’m gratified to see it’s not just me and my confirmation bias at play.

  • That is my biggest fear when I see these little kids stealing crap while I’m outside of my home. That they’ll know it was me who reported them and then I’d have to live with threats and vandalism to my property onwards. The system just doesn’t protect us. But I again blame the parents(or lack there of). It’s NO way I will provide housing for my kid if I am or was made aware of any illegal activity.

    • I totally agree. I often see kids and teenagers doing horrible things in my neighborhood, vandalizing things, damaging things, intimidating people, and I have a fear that they will come after me if they know it was me who reported them because this type of behavior seems tolerated on a certain level by parents, members of the community, etc. It’s just sad.

  • I lived on Kenyon St. from 2003 to 2015 and left because Columbia Heights definitely started sliding backwards a few years ago. I totally agree that the crime and trash increased. We didn’t leave the city though. We moved up to Sixteenth Street Heights, which is a whole different world. It’s easy to overlook dysfunctional government when you have bunnies frolicking in your yard and an easy bus ride downtown.

    • I lived on Irving Street from 2004 to 2015, and also agree about the crime and trash. (The fairly recent edition of the Pitbull Crew ™ loitering outside the CVS was a nice tough in recent years.)

  • What’s a DINK? Honest question.

  • Sorry you’ve had such a string of terrible luck. Nobody is going to defend the ineptitude of city management but in my opinion things have only gotten better in most areas of the city over the last ten years (Columbia Heights not being one of them– I pulled up and moved out once the megamall went up). It’s a comprehensive list of grievances but surely there must have been many, many good times over the last 13 years that are obscured by these problems, and in the end it comes off as a grumpy nitpicking tirade by (yes) an aging guy who’s no longer into city living. Cities come with hassles– DC more than most, certainly– and as you become more invested the hassles do increase as you have to rub shoulders with more agencies (again, DC has problems here– but you’d find regulatory issues in a lot of big cities).

    The most harrowing part of your story is by far the youth who continues to revolve in the system and returned to your house to terrorize you and your wife. I always have to wonder, however, when these one-sided accounts are published– first you attempted to disarm him, then later on we read you slammed his head hard enough to break his jaw, then there’s a caricature of ridiculous legal process that just doesn’t sound complete to me. I’m sure this will have you shaking your head but whenever I hear these tales of 1000% terrible time in the District I compare it with my own 12 years here– yes I’ve had some struggles, but I’ve never encountered anything like what you’re describing at the worst of it here.

    • He stated that he “fractured” his jaw which being push against a retaining wall seems easy to do. Hell a decent punch in the right spot can easily do that.

    • HaileUnlikely

      Taking at face value that the OP did engage physically with a guy who pulled a gun on him, I don’t have any problem with OP having fractured the guy’s jaw. Unless the guy who pulled the gun was just going to hand it over peacefully, the universe of plausible outcomes is small and probably involves either the guy with the gun getting hurt or else the OP getting shot.

      • + a million. The story about the lawsuit and the judge’s comments are unfathomable. I would make a formal complaint, assuming this is all true.

        • Can you sue the city and win for them pursuing a frivolous lawsuit? I mean, if you aren’t even arrested for a crime, how can you be sued for it?

          • HaileUnlikely

            You can file a civil suit against anybody for basically anything.

          • It’s not a frivolous lawsuit. He committed a battery against the guy with the gun. He can claim that he did it in self-defense, which may be true. But that doesn’t mean that the guy with the gun can’t sue him and make him go through the hassle and expense of proving the defense in court. Whether that is right or wrong, it is the law.
            The judge’s encouragement to settle the case may have been just a reflection of the reality that the OP might find a moral victory more costly than it is worth.

          • I’m curious about the non profit that funded this suit. Their donors should know about this.

          • @2:31, Thanks for clarifying the law.
            .
            @2:32, I totally agree. I would stop supporting such a non-profit.

          • @2:31, just thought of something. Do civil suits have some kind of pretrial/grand jury-like thing as criminal cases? The OP mentions “sufficient cause in our local DC courts to allow this lawsuit to go much further than it should have.” And it seems like there’s a point where the civil suit can be thrown out due to self-defense, i.e. a lack of sufficient cause. Or is that why stand-your-ground laws are popular, because that’s the only way to avoid this kind of civil suit?

          • Yeah the thing that really sucks about this part of his story is the guy with the gun likely isn’t paying for his lawsuit because he qualifies for pro bono help and is likely lying to the attorneys who took his case but the OP has to pay for his own defense.
            .
            Honestly it sounds a bit like the grand-dad and Stinkmeaner saga from the Boondocks. One guy is such a crazy mess with nothing to lose, the other guy has everything to lose, very risky to get into those confrontations. This is not “victim blaming” just a statement of fact, watch those episodes of the Boondocks and you’ll get it, and a lot of laughs.

          • @2:31 – you’re right that anyone can sue anyone. But that right has nothing to do with the assessment of whether it’s a frivolous lawsuit. In fact, anytime someone, when discussing the merits of litigation, says something like, “Well, you can sue anyone at any time,” there’s a pretty high likelihood that the lawsuit is frivolous.

          • You would waste a lot of money and time to do so.

        • Didn’t you just have Daft Punk playing at your house?

      • If you actually read what the OP wrote, the guy did NOT pull a gun on him. He lifted up his shirt to show it to him as he walked toward the OP. The op reacted instinctively in accordance with his training and moved to disarm him BEFORE he could draw the gun. That’s what he wrote.
        .
        I’m not saying he was wrong to disarm the guy, especially since he also had told him he was going to shoot him. I think the guy with the gun did not expect this reaction from him. I get that the reaction was instinctive, given his training (I might react the same way if I had that training), and it was effective in keeping him from having the gun drawn on him and being shot. I, on the other hand, with no such training would never attempt to disarm someone. So his showing me the gun would have scared me off – hands up, backing up, saying no foul, peace man, just walk on – whatever. Which might have involved him walking off, and might have involved me getting shot. But then, I’m not likely to say anything to someone who leaves chicken bones on my lawn, especially if he looks like he could be a young thug who might respond aggressively.
        .
        I guess what I am trying to say is something most of us women know instinctually is that you don’t pick a fight with someone who is likely to be better armed than you. Which is most men, as they are likely to be stronger. Even if you are stronger, and win the initial encounter (as the OP did here), they can come back and harass you, so it just isn’t worth it. Even when the slight is so much more than chicken bones on your lawn – but rather, assault (as in men grabbing you), or threatening to rape you – which has happened to all the women I know repeatedly. It is such a common occurrence that you don’t even mention it. As the man’s body is the weapon when a rape threat has occurred, a preventative assault on the man would be the corollary to trying to disarm him.
        .
        If women everywhere reacted to assault and threats of bodily harm by dealing some damage to the men and thus disarming them, then there were be open fights (and perhaps continued harassment thereafter as above) all over, all the time. Not just on the street, but in our workplaces, our homes, stores, churches, etc. We know that the best self defense is to let it go and move on, avoiding escalation.
        .
        If this guy had let the chicken bones go, none of the rest would have happened to him.

        • I want to live in Columbia Heights so I can spend the rest of my life cowering in fear of the young thugs who throw their litter all over the property that I spent my hard earned money to purchase.

        • “If this guy had let the chicken bones go, none of the rest would have happened to him.”
          .
          This is true (although it’s a shame that we have to tolerate blatant littering out of fear that if we say something to the litterer, he/she will respond with disproportionate rage and perhaps even violence).
          .
          Does anyone here have good ideas for fighting D.C.’s litter problem? I’m really at a loss. Even if we think there’s no way to get litterers to stop littering, how do we get residents to pick up litter in front of their houses? (People are required to do this, but this requirement is rarely enforced.)
          .
          I spent two years picking up every single piece of litter on my block once a week (sometimes more often). I had to stop because the repeated use of the “grabber” device gave me tendinitis. It still infuriates me to see litter when I walk down the block, but I know if I try to pick it all up the tendinitis will come back. So I pick up litter in front of my own house and one or two houses on either side.

          • Litter is a huge problem that irritates, pollutes the rivers, and encourages criminal behavior, as proven by numerous studies.

            Probably the only way to stop it is by a combination of policing (you have to lobby for police to be hired, though–DC is short-handed but if enough of us make stinks, it might happen) and slow demographic change. It would help to enforce a weekly street and sidewalk clean up by residents. Other cities do that– you get fined if you do not clean up the litter once a week.
            I have never lived in a city where my neighbors treated the streets and sidewalks like their private garbage can before– and I have lived in several. Galling and odd–basically they are self-centered humans who indiscriminately foul their neighborhoods.
            Convenience stores and fast food places are the source of much litter and the DC council should require such businesses to send employees out to pick up–they reap the profits, after all, they should clean up within a 6 block radius all the litter generated by their sales!
            We do have to continue to clean up our streets and sidewalks in the meantime ourselves for the sake of the rivers. DC will be better each decade, doubtless, but I, too, plan to leave. Too hard, too uncivil, too corrupt and inept, too litter-filled, at least outside of the good neighborhoods, And such lousy urban planning, as well as lousy laws protecting criminals not law-abiding types and police. It just ain’t worth it!

          • Any reason you can’t pick it up with your hand instead of a “grabber” device? That’s how I do it and no injuries yet.

          • Or can you alternate hands using the grabber device so you’re not working the same hand all the time? Do you know for sure the tendinitis will come back (i.e. have you tried the grabber again with the same result?) or are you just assuming it will?

    • Sorry, but you’re siding with a guy who pulled a gun on someone for being told not to throw his chicken bones on the ground? The guy with the gun, in your mind, has the moral high ground here? I mean, I consider myself a progressive, but you’re a special kind of stupid.

    • I have zero sympathy for any physical harm that comes to someone who pulls a gun. Zero. If that kid had lived in another state, he very easily could have wound up with two bullets in his chest, fired in legally protected self defense.

      • Yep, and thank god we don’t live in those states. It’s like one guy pulling a gun isn’t enough: EVERYBODY GETS A GUN. All ages, all (magazine) sizes!

  • Why isn’t crime seen as the number 1 election issue for this city? Enough is enough!

  • wow, summed up like a pro!

    i have been in the city for 7 years now (columiba heights) and though initially progressing nicely the city is turning for the worse. for reasons you mentioned.

    i have been thinking the same thing about eventually moving out as the city at a minimum fails to secure the safety of its citizens, amonsts a many other problems.

  • Just take a look at the recent crime reports, shootings at Riggs and 13th. Average real estate is pretty pricey around there. Id hate to take a .45 slug to the back walking my dog at night outside my $1Million “Row House”…

  • I’ve lived in DC, Chicago, New York, and Boston. There’s examples of poor governance and corruption in all of them (hi, Chicago), but DC is overall the most dysfunctional and frustrating city to live in. No other city I know takes as much money, or erects as many bureaucratic obstacles, or acts as overtly hostile towards its small businesses and wealthier residents, while delivering comparatively little in return: mediocre schools, a lax justice system, a hopelessly dysfunctional taxation and regulatory system, broken transit system, etc..

    I’m all for progressive and inclusive societies, but I think most can agree the pendulum has swung too far. WE need a more business-friendly environment and more emphasis on the rule of law. If this goes on for too long, it can threaten the progress the city has made.

  • is it wrong that i sometimes fantasize about disarming and injuring (in a minor way, of course…) one of these young thugs? i had a similar zero to 100 encounter on the 90 bus a few years ago when i politely asked a kid if he couldn’t use headphones to listen to his lil’ wayne at 0730 on the morning commute…punks

    • I think the no-headphones thing is designed to (1) attract attention, and (2) provoke a response. It’s so obnoxious.

      • Assuming that these kids have been largely ignored by likely everyone for the entirety of their lives (starting with their own parents), this kind of behavior starts to make sense.
        .
        (Not excusing anything, simply trying to explain/understand.)

    • This letter very well captures why I don’t say anything when I see someone littering or engaged in other improper behavior. The odds of someone responding with “Oh, I’m sorry, let me pick that up” are exceeded many fold by the possibility of violence.

      • This is exactly right. It’s a sad reality. I made the mistake of asking someone to stop yelling at their acquaintance indoors somewhere and my life was threatened, I was chased out of the establishment, called a “terrorist” (i am brown), and every name in the book.

        This is a tense city. As a CoHi resident, I feel like the neighborhood is a powder keg.

        • That is horrible, I’m so sorry that happened to you. This is definitely a tense city. Just looking at someone can be cause for them to scream at you and it’s nerve-wracking sometimes.

        • +1 on Columbia Heights being a powder keg.
          If DC ever riots again, Columbia Heights will be ground zero for violence and destruction.

      • Girl on a Hill

        +1000.

  • That all sounds about right. 🙁

  • Thanks for taking the time to write this. There are many many fine neighborhoods in VA and MD at a variety of price levels and amenities where you can have a good quality of life without so many daily headaches, and sadly, threats.

  • I have to roll my eyes, because I’m pretty familiar with several suburban jurisdictions and am pretty confidence a) none of them are models of amazing governance, and b) none of them is on any kind of uptrend, given that many of the factors re: growing income and wealth in the District are operating in reverse out there.
    .
    Governance is hard. Handling a population with so many problems is hard. We could conceivably keep on subdividing America’s landmass into poor and rich enclaves for centuries yet, but you aren’t going to solve problems by just moving away from them. If you don’t want to solve problems, then fine, but there shouldn’t be any pride in walking away from them either. I’m having trouble parsing out all the community concern (and the burden of military service) your family has shouldered and juxtaposing it with just walking away from what’s essentially a warzone within our borders as if you simply don’t have to concern yourself with it because you don’t want to.

    • (1) The man owns a small business that puts food on the table for fifteen employees, generates tax income for the city to spend on its poor. He’s done his share.

      (2) If “governance is hard” is an acceptable excuse, then the city could safely escape all criticism.

      (3) Cities don’t have to be “models of amazing governance”; they do, however, owe a basic duty of competence to their residents. Stop making excuses.

      • He’s done his share? By what metric? The metric that 15 employees = one man’s share? Would 14 suffice? What’s the bare minimum share we need to avoid any responsibility for deficiencies of the system that makes it possible for a businessowner to move around, his employees to move around, his customers to move around. To say nothing of how difficult it’d be to have a business if there were no currency or banking system (while that’s owed more to the federal government, the connectivity is all there).
        .
        By your fuzzy metric, anyone can claim to have done their share and nobody necessarily has to fix anything either. QED.

        • HaileUnlikely

          It’s not as if citizens are born owing some debt to DC. He owes DC nothing more than if he had been born in Omaha Nebraksa and stayed there.

          • True, but by moving to the jurisdictions just outside, he continues to benefit from the city. Thanks to the purposeful jurisdictional splintering of the white collar population that began about half a century ago, he actively benefits while acknowledging he’s letting the city burn for the sake of his own convenience.

        • HaileUnlikely

          Hell. I “abandoned” the fingerlakes region of upstate NY. What does that say about me.

          • I honestly don’t know. That’s a decision you’ll have to make for yourself. What you decide and what you acknowledge would be the morally just/pure thing to do don’t have to align either, so long as you aren’t proud and boastful of your decision in that case.

          • Yes, by anon’s logic, I now owe an enormous debt to the good people of rural New Jersey.

      • you’re conflating “making excuses” with acknowledging reality, i’m afraid

    • People with money have options as to where to live. After you come home from a hard day’s work, how much appetite do you have to spend the remainder of your free time dealing with failing city services, a laughable justice system, corrupt/inept civil servants and politicians and failing schools when, for the price of a short move and closing costs, you can move to a jurisdiction where these problems practically don’t exist all while paying less for your home and sacrificing little in terms of “vibrancy” and access to brunch?

      • Those other jurisdictions aren’t nicer because they’re governed better, they’re easier to govern because people there are wealthier on average. People there are wealthier on average because of redlining and various other kinds of injustice in our recent history. The fact that those previously rural jurisdictions became equivalent in most ways to the urban jurisdiction is itself an arbitrary choice made to enrich some while disenfranchising others. So anybody who benefits from those “rich” jurisdictions is directly responsible for the suffering and malpractice experienced in the “poor” ones.
        .
        It’s a free country and it is what it is, so you don’t actually have to bear the burdens of history even while benefiting from it, but there shouldn’t be any pride in walking away and blaming some nebulous “others” for things being the way they are.

        • “So anybody who benefits from those “rich” jurisdictions is directly responsible for the suffering and malpractice experienced in the “poor” ones.”
          .
          Wait – anyone who lives in the suburbs is “directly responsible” for the ills suffered by the inner city poor?
          .
          OK

          • YES! The suburbs were built as a response to civil rights and employed new terms of subjugation of the poor left behind. Saying people in the suburbs are free from burden of those historical actions is like saying a person with a thriving family farm in the 1890s once tilled by their grandparents’ slaves has his hands completely clean of whatever ills those slaves’ descendants then faced.

          • Not OP, but that’s obvious hyperbole and I think OP’s point has merit. City folks largely leave the city to escape many of its problems, rather than try to help them. I certainly can’t blame them. :-/

          • Also, I’ll apologize for saying “directly”; I should have said “indirectly.”

          • It’s people like anon who keep making excuses for bad behavior. Just because people grow up poor or disadvantaged doesn’t mean they have to be horrible human beings. I’m from a very small town, one of the poorest parts of NC, and people don’t act like this. Generally, people there work hard to make a living that in no way makes them wealthy, respect one another no matter skin color, and have pride in their communities.
            .
            Also, I would love to know what anon has done to benefit the community since he is lecturing everyone else about doing their fair share.

          • Hey Anon at 3:39 – apparently it wasn’t hyperbole. See 3:38.

          • Explaining and making excuses, while often conflated are not the same thing.
            .
            They are trying to figure out what made that guy in Orlando go nuts, if someone starts explaining it to you will you cover your ears and get all “I don’t want any excuses!”
            .
            I believe anon is 100% on point. The nuanced bit that everyone ignores because the premise makes them uncomfortable is that no individual should be forced to live their life differently because of it, just like the OP you gotta do what you gotta do.

        • Hear complaining, see no answers. How much more do we need to feel guilty that people are making TERRIBLE life choices? How much more do we need to care that those kids on ATVs don’t deserve to be run over by the Police?

          I volunteer at a local park, I pay my dues tutoring Deaf kids, I work with the those who are TRULY (Deaf and Deaf/Blind) marginalized in society. Those who never communicate outside of their social circle, if lucky.

          What’s everyone else’s excuse? When will you stop making excuses and start acting?

          How much more? How much?

        • Hey, guys! I found the social justice warrior!

    • HaileUnlikely

      It sounds to me as if he concerned himself more with the problems of the city for a few years than most of us ever will in a lifetime, and decided it was enough. I can’t fault him for that. If I endured in 50 years what he describes having endured in 10, I don’t imagine I’d still be here either. If I had a guy pull a gun on me in front of my house, fail to kill me, and then sue me, and keep coming back and threatening me again and again, either he’d be dead or I’d be dead or I’d be living in the pacific northwest by now.

      • Sure. He can take it easy and avoid the problems after all he’s done. But he seems like he’s blaming some unnamed cloud of bureaucrats and writing as if he wants his tale to serve as some kind of punitive admonishment of them for failing, rather than necessarily conceding that his leaving is in itself the kind of act that causes the problem. I didn’t say he has to stay and continue fighting or that he didn’t do enough (in fact, I mentioned that he’d done a lot), but I don’t think he should be proud/smug/whatever about giving up the fight the way he is.

        • I’ll note that this letter, with some tweaks, could have been an amazing declaration of running for mayor or something!

          • that’s what i thought too… i smelled a campaign for a second (until my personal feelings got in the way.. admittedly)

        • HaileUnlikely

          I didn’t think his letter sounded proud or smug. I thought it sounded defeated and resigned.
          .
          Also, I reject the notion that not dedicating every ounce of one’s being to fix problems that predated your birth is tantamount to causing said problems.

          • If I gave up and moved to the suburbs for similar reasons, I wouldn’t write a letter like that, because I’d be gravely ashamed. I don’t think it’s an “every ounce of one’s being” thing. You can give a few or no ounces, and all I’d ask is that you acknowledge you probably should give more ounces at some point if you can.

          • HaileUnlikely

            Mentoring kids and hiring summer jobs program kids to work for the business that you own is a mad lot of ounces, way more than most who leave ever gave, and way more than most who stay ever gave.

          • Right. I hope OP continues doing some of that from the suburbs at least.

          • Anon, kindly let us know your good works and actions. To what should the OP (and many of us) aspire?

          • “I didn’t think his letter sounded proud or smug. I thought it sounded defeated and resigned.”
            .
            Agreed. Also fed up and exasperated.

          • Well, I a) haven’t moved to the suburbs despite being incentivized and easily able to and b) wouldn’t write a long letter about how I’m a pretty great asset and am now moving away if I did.
            .
            I’m not impugning OP as a person. I’m just rubbed the wrong way by the piece I was commenting on (and then subsequently by various responses). It’s okay to respond to the subject at hand and not necessarily make global and specific demands of the world writ large, right?

          • +1 to “Mentoring kids and hiring summer jobs program kids to work for the business that you own is a mad lot of ounces, way more than most who leave ever gave, and way more than most who stay ever gave.”
            .
            This guy tried his damnedest.

          • No, it’s not ok to be a smug jerk and pretend like staying in this city forever is some great contribution by you to society. I don’t owe DC anything. I chose to live here, and if I eventually decide to raise my family in a city that doesn’t tolerate open air drug markets all over town, then good riddance. DC owes me (and all its residents) a hellavu lot more than it gives us in public safety and law and order.

          • “DC owes me (and all its residents) a hellavu lot more than it gives us in public safety and law and order.”
            .
            Sounds like a rough thing to enumerate. You obviously chose to live here for some reason in spite of those issues.

        • clevelanddave

          You must be a philosopher at a university. You don’t get it: people will just move.

          • How’s this for philosophy: moving doesn’t actually eliminate the problems, and the planet isn’t actually big enough to run from them forever.

          • I suppose it depends on the problem. Can you run from the threat of nuclear holocaust or the Zika virus? Probably not. But just 5 miles from my former home in Columbia Heights, I have found a place where there is no street crime, my kid can walk to an excellent public school, I’ve never been accosted on the street for money, and harassed when I don’t give any, I don’t find used condoms, hypodermics, bottles of urine or human feces on my porch – the list goes on. Yes, I’ve “run” from those, and other, problems pretty successfully, and I’m pretty sure they’re not coming to my doorstep in the near future.

          • @anon: You should work for the DC Chamber of Commerce. I can see the slogan now:

            “Move to DC and bear the weight of institutional racism, dysfunctional government and white liberal guilt on your shoulders forever without end! Now with bottomless mimosas and restaurants for cats!”

          • @dcd
            .
            5 miles is an awfully short distance. Surely that’s not magically good governance, right? I assume there’s some kind of boundary or infrastructure nuance in place and policies to keep the riffraff away to your benefit and the impoverished’s deficit? No sidewalks? Low-density zoning?
            .
            Anyway, I don’t know what your point is. And I don’t have a point other than to point out that your good neighborhood isn’t magic or something to be especially proud of. It’s an example of our systemically segregated society. Regardless of which side we raise our kids on, we’re prob gonna have all sorts of trouble explaining to them why it exists that way. Doubly so for those of us who apparently don’t notice or care or think it’s justice.

          • @anon – my point was to rebut your statement that, “moving doesn’t actually eliminate the problems, and the planet isn’t actually big enough to run from them forever.” That’s incorrect. By moving a mere 5 miles, I have eliminated those concerns from my daily live. I still read about them, and care about them, but I don’t have to deal with them. And I didn’t have to move across the country, or around the world – 5 miles did it just fine. And yes, there’s a border involved, but my friends who live in AU park and the surrounding neighborhoods also have eliminated those problems. Are the problems solved? No. Might they come knocking at my door? Possible, but I doubt it. Either way, life is better now.
            .
            You seem to want everyone to devote every ounce of energy they have, in perpetuity, to solving the problems of the District of Columbia. More than that, you feel like people who don’t live up to that ridiculous standard bear some sort of responsibility for those problems. Sorry, no sale.

          • +1 to dcd.

        • You’re an idiot. Would you continue to live somewhere where you continuously feel threatened and know that some wacko kid with nothing to lose may one day hurt you or your family? And knowing if said wacko does, he will get a slap on the wrist and a few days in jail? His previous record and violation of restraining order shows that the system is not working. Instead of blaming this man, why don’t you thank him (and his wife) for his service and for going above and beyond by trying to improve his community.

          • Here’s a lesson for you… A few years ago i was in Israel in an area that routinely sees rocket fire from inside the Gaza strip. One of my colleagues asked the residents of this particular area why they put up with it, and why wouldn’t they just move?

            Their answer was plain and simple… “Because its my home”

            Home doesn’t require you to live somewhere forever, but it does mean a whole lot more than most people around here give credit for. No bad actors should ever be able to force someone from their home, whether it is economically feasible for the person in question or not.

          • HaileUnlikely

            The poor guy who you were talking to probably had literally not experienced a relative absence of extreme physical insecurity within his lifetime, and that was probably his ancestral home. When you have experienced that somewhere else, and then you voluntary move to somewhere, as an adult, that at least initially is not in any meaningful way “home,” and you find that the base level of physical security that you are used to is markedly absent, that’s a very different thing.

          • @Haile
            .
            America hasn’t historically been especially safe for very many people. And still isn’t for many who don’t really know much else. As long as we don’t fully integrate everyone into some of the base-level prosperity we’ve built in many areas post-WWII, we have a problem. So ANON’s point is relevant.

          • @anon – if you’re seriously comparing the physical insecurity of someone who lives in rocket-shooting distance to the Gaza strip to someone who lives in the United States, I’m really not sure that any further discussion would be productive. Good grief.

        • “his leaving is in itself the kind of act that causes the problem”

          @anon, I disagree with your reasoning on the quoted issue. I don’t see in what way OP’s move harms DC. By your logic, OP is somehow obliged to pay his marginal tax rate to DC rather than VA or MD, which I can’t see a justification for. If he leaves DC for VA/MD (and assuming no one else moves into his house) then he’s simply transferring value from one jurisdiction to another. So I think logically your argument is not about doing right or wrong intrinsically, but rather doing right or wrong by the district, which is more of a game theory thing, with you saying you would prefer the district benefits rather than VA/MD.

      • Linc Park SE

        +1

        Also – thanks for the DC economics lesson – it’s even worse seeing it all laid out. Great post- thoughtfully written.

      • I agree with HaileUnlikely — “It sounds to me as if he concerned himself more with the problems of the city for a few years than most of us ever will in a lifetime, and decided it was enough.”

    • When there are glaring deficiencies in almost every core service a government provides, “Governance is hard” is a weak excuse. And how many meetings and community events is sufficient before it’s not simply giving up without a fight?

    • “I have to roll my eyes, because I’m pretty familiar with several suburban jurisdictions and am pretty confidence a) none of them are models of amazing governance, and b) none of them is on any kind of uptrend, given that many of the factors re: growing income and wealth in the District are operating in reverse out there.”

      I dunno. I lived and owned in Dupont from 2000-2014, and then sold and moved to Ballston. The difference between dealing with local government in Arlington and local government in DC is ridiculous. Life is just so much easier in Arlington – trash gets picked up reliably, unfair parking tickets are waived with an apology (no kidding), sidewalks are fixed upon request. Life ain’t perfect or crime free here, but it sure is different. And we’re fighting over whether to build a fancy pool, not over how to handle crazy kids with SUVs running amok.

      It’s sad. I was literally born in DC, and love the city. My heart’s still in it. But Arlington has really grown on me, and is so much easier.

      • Arlington used to be part of DC. Maybe if we merged the jurisdictions, the politicans and government employees south of the river could improve things north of the river.
        .
        OR people could avoid self-sorting such that it was even necessary. Either/or.
        .
        Cultures are hard to change, but abandonment certainly doesn’t help.

        • Does leaving help change the culture? No, you’re right, it doesn’t. But as Haile said, there’s not a responsibility to devote every ounce of your spare energy to solving DC’s ills. At some point, my responsibility to my wife and my kid trumps my responsibility to try to help the downtrodden in DC – especially when those downtrodden perpetrate criminal acts against me. I’m not keeping my kid in what I believe to be a substandard school because her presence may (perhaps) incrementally improve the school. She’s not a social change agent, she’s a kid. I’m not going to stay in an area that seems unsafe just because others don’t have the resources to get out. At some point, I will decide to do what’s best for my family. Selfish? Maybe. But I’m ok with that.

          • My kid is both a kid and a social change agent, by virtue of the fact that she’s eventually going to inherit and have to do something with this world at some point. That said, I don’t blame you for those decisions and totally concede I’ve made several of them myself. While doing so, I acknowledge I’m being selfish and try make my kid understand the complexities involved in such a way that (hopefully) avoids making her an entitled human once fully formed.
            .
            I don’t have all the solutions, but I didn’t see any in OP’s self-congratulatory thinkpiece either.

        • Culture is not hard to change.

          Cultures are resistant to change, and need to be dragged – kicking and screaming across the finish line to change.

          See: New York City, circa 1990-2000.

      • +1000 Moved over to Arlington last year and dealing with the government is night and day compared to DC, so is quality of life!

      • I’ve waited 12 months for a sidewalk installation request in MoCo. Hell, it’s been 9 months since we asked for some crosswalk markings for my kids to get to school to cross what has become a semi-major Wheaton bypass road and while we’ve gotten a “yes by the end of summer” I have no confidence that MoCo will get it done.

        MoCo schools are seriously biased in favor of whites. From the language immersion case to the Native mascots case before the State Board of Ed, it’s clear that MoCo is doing everything it can to discourage immigrant communities from staying.

        MoCo focuses it’s resources on the west side of county. The Redline on the east side clearly needs to be extended to at least the 200 ICC park and ride and the issue is never even mentioned. Leggett promises BRT and I’ve been involved in the Citizens Advisory Council’s on BRT…our opinions and suggestions from our civic association aren’t taken seriously. When the County and the State present proposals and make determinations before or without asking your opinion. what’s the point of a CAC?

  • I hope I’m not the only one who will say this, and I loved this letter and it’s honesty, BUT if you don’t vote, if you don’t engage, if you don’t get active in the city government (maybe run for office??), then you’re going to keep getting the same sh*t over and over. We as concerned residents and taxpayers need to do more than work within the broken system. We’ve got to get into it, and fix it.

    • My thoughts exactly. I think the cronyism of the dc govt continues for so many decades, and especially in the last decade, because young, wealthy people are moving into the district with NO intention of not staying here, so no reason to get involved (or even vote!).

    • Ok, I’m going to get crucified for saying this, but why vote when I’m not a Democrat? I always get conflicted on this issue. You can’t tell people to build up their party, but then ask people to just register as a Democrat to vote in primaries. By the time election day rolls around, the election has already been decided by then. I was excited to vote for Catania last year, but now we have Bowser because DC wants more of the same.

      • Well, you – and others who typically would be Independent or Republican – not voting as Democrats has led to the status quo. The only way to force DC to change to an open primary system is to hijack the reins of the local Democratic party and pull it more toward the center. So yeah, register as a Democrat and encourage others to do so. Just because you’re registered as a Dem doesn’t mean you need to support the party with your time or money. Right now you’re cutting off your nose to spite your face simply because you don’t want to be tagged as a “Dem.” Lame.
        We are a one party town but it doesn’t need to remain that way forever.

      • Your vote still counts in the general election; primaries just whittle down the options within the parties. That the candidates in the general election tend to be Democrat doesn’t mean that you don’t get to weigh in by casting a vote for the candidate you feel is the most qualified.

      • still vote. we have the luxury in this country to make our voice heard. even in a majority democratic city. go ‘head and VOTE!

      • The same ol same ol is correct. I voted for Catania as well

      • Same, but I think I will register Democrat if I see a decent mayoral candidate in the primary. Like a Gulliani-style Democrat who will pave the roads and get serious about crime. I’m even happy to pay high taxes if I can at least get a liveable city out of it.

    • This.

      If you vote for any incumbents come election time, you’re voting for more of the same.

    • I hear this and I believe it 100% but I can also see the point of even though I’m voting, I’m just choosing one garbage candidate instead of another. If all are corrupt, then there’s almost (only almost!) no point and I can see when that deters people. I wish there was a better way to get good people to run for office here so we can start changing the trend.

      • The Hatch Act prevents many of the District’s best, brightest, and most ethical residents from running for office. Hence you get a bunch of lackeys sucking at the teat of the real estate industry.

  • Very detailed and thought-out letter. Thanks for writing and as someone passionate about the District, I can’t disagree with anything you’ve written and I wish it could improve, even slightly, then the heinous way you’ve been treated and abused.

  • Sad to be losing you as a DC voter but completely understand your frustrations!

  • Governance seems to be an issue within the letter but it seems as though the crime and subsequent targetet crimes and legal proeedings seemed to be the driver for the transition out of the city. The OP seems disappointed in how that entire situation was handled and it became his deal breaker so to speak.

  • Bravo, Mr. Letter writer. Your frustration and palpable and justified. I too am getting sick of the ineptitude and lack of competence from our civil servants.
    3 weeks ago i was the only witness to a pretty violent carjacking and hit and run. They caught the guy, but not 1 person has followed up with me from MPD, which could mean nothing or it could mean this guy got a slap on the wrist, despite almost killing an entire family due to reckless driving.
    Also, stopped by the new ANXO the other night and asked when they were opening. the DCRA inspector just didnt show up for their inspection, so obviously that’s delayed. Ugh.

    • Let me guess, he “wasn’t feeling well” … seems like this is very much par for the course as I’ve heard this from several other businesses.

  • This reminded me to call DC OTR to check on my still outstanding refund. I’ve been on hold for 40 minutes now. I have a proposal for the council: allow citizens to charge OTR the same fees and interest for late payment that we’re charged if we file late!

    • +1 I said the same thing last week while still awaiting several thousand dollars I’m owed from the city.

    • Keep up the good fight. I finally received my refund after months of delays and countless hours of waiting on hold to speak with someone by phone. May I suggest copying your council member’s office on any email correspondence? That seemed to get the ball rolling on my refund.

      • OTR is under the OCFO, which is independent from the Mayor. Yes, they need to be improved, but a new Mayor will not be directing or implementing those changes.

    • I’m still confused why we have any employees in the tax department outside of auditors, and then automate literally every single process.

      No people should be working with numbers directly, ever.

      • Because the software is written by terrible contractors and has to be manually overridden all the time?

      • Well, my issue was that their automated system wasn’t pulling in my D30 to match with my D40 so they could release my refund. I had to talk to a person and convince them to look at the D30 (which they can see) and manually verify it against my D40. It took a lot of begging but in the end the human did what the system wasn’t doing and my refund (hopefully) got released!

  • Excellent letter. I hope this goes viral.

  • That’s sad, but not surprising. I wish there were more people who had it sufficiently together to recognize this dysfunction and act on it. Congratulations though on being unwilling to put up with any more crap and willing to do something about it. DC has experienced quite a successful renaissance, but is apparently too short sighted to take the steps necessary to prevent it from collapsing on itself.

  • The criminal with the gun, is it a problem with the DA’s office, DC laws, judges/magistrates, or a combination of all of them?That whole situation (from release within 72 hours to the lawsuit) is terrifying!

  • Hillcrest: DC’s best-kept secret.

    • There’s a lot of graft up in those hills. Who do think has been benefiting from those corrupt city contracts with the alphabet soup of DC agencies?

  • As a Columbia Heights resident I’m really saddened by your decision to leave the city. If you were staying I’d be urging you to run for mayor. Granted, with your common sense attitude I doubt you’d win, but the campaign would be an incredible breath of fresh air. Thanks for taking the time to write this much needed cri de coeur.

  • Man- some real tough luck for this guy. That’s some incredibly frustrating shit he’s had to deal with and it would probably drive me to leave as well.

    I remember when gentrification began in DC maybe 10+ years ago and Columbia Heights was supposed to be at the forefront. The neighborhood made progress and was looking very promising and then about 5 years ago all the progress just mysteriously stopped and took massive steps backwards…. it was almost like everyone just kind of forgot about Columbia Heights and moved on to focus on improving 14th Street, U Street, Shaw, Mt. Vernon/Chinatown, Navy Yard, Capitol Hill, etc… It seemed like the city officials kind of said “welp- it’s better than it was, let’s take care of other areas and then we’ll come back to it”… AWFUL idea. This guy’s story says it all honestly.

    I live in Kalorama (which I really do love) and I get around to basically every neighborhood in the city but I have zero desire to ever hang out in Columbia Heights. The last 2 times I was in the neighborhood I had to deal with multiple crackheads yelling at me and my girlfriend, as well as a few young thugs talking shit for no reason at all other than the fact that I was white. I’m not a sheltered dude- I have had plenty of experiences throughout life that have exposed me to this type of BS but that doesn’t excuse the behavior. Law enforcement really doesn’t do anything about these dumbasses and the author’s experience with the cops and the system are an absolute nightmare. A complete joke in all honesty- mindblowing.

    I remember when Michelle Rhee took over the DC school system in 2007 and tried to institute serious changes. I was thrilled- we live in the nation’s capital and have some of the most educated people in the world living in our city and some of the best schools in the country only a few miles down the road in MoCo and NoVa- I thought it was long overdue to make big changes. What happens? The old guard loses their shit and runs her out of town a few years later. I hate to say it but it was these “community activists” and local “teachers unions” who skated by on these cake tenured jobs who didn’t give 2 shits about how the kids were performing. Rhee tried to institute dramatic changes because the schools were in dire need of it. All these people who cried when they lost their jobs and claimed it was unfair had no one to blame but themselves in my opinion. Of course the DC Council eventually ran Adrien Fenty and Rhee out of town so things could go back to normal- comfortable, unmotivated teachers who could sit back and enjoy cashin them checks to do basically nothing. It’s sad and embarrassing frankly. I’m not saying Rhee was perfect but the school system does need radical change.

    It couldn’t be more obvious that the local officials need to invest in SCHOOLS and LAW ENFORCEMENT. All the progress these neighborhoods have made over the years has everything to do with private investment and development and nothing to do with our elected officials. Bowser is a joke, Vincent Gray was a joke, all their staff is a joke. I do love this city and haven’t had anywhere near the experiences the author has had but he’s absolutely right that the elected officials are an embarrassment. Bowser shaping up to be one of the worst ever as well.

    • I agree that the city seems to have focused on 14th Street and Shaw in recent years. One of the major drawbacks of the Columbia Heights area was how it was developed once the Metro stop came in. Building huge anchor stores and a parking garage took up some of the most prime real estate next to the Metro. This should always have residential, and the city screwed up by not taking a page out of Arlington’s Rosslyn-Ballston corridor.

      I have a hard time imagining residents on 14th Street tolerating the same type of DC gov foot-dragging as Columbia Heights has experienced with the increase in shootings near the Metro stop. Perhaps this is because home ownership rates are different?

      • SilverSpringGal

        Why are the huge anchor stores a bad thing? It’s honestly a lifesaver to have had a Target/Office Depot/Giant right on top of the metro stop for years. They’re always busy and its nice for the community to have easily reachable amenities that you can do a quick run to as opposed to an Uber/Lyft ride.

    • Your point about Rhee is at once salient and depressing. Her story is an exemplar of why things don’t change. People try to effect meaningful change and are chased out of town because they challenge the status quo of people with the government’s ear.

    • +100000000

    • Meanwhile, DC Opportunity Scholarship Program kids are graduating and going to college at a 90%+ rate for 1/3 to 1/2 what the city spends per student on the public schools. DC’s $30k per-pupil is probably close to the tuition at Sidwell Friends, and barely over half of them graduate.

      Want to keep functional, productive citizens in the city? Good schools and low crime. Everything else is an annoyance people will put up with if there are good schools for their kids and they can walk around without being robbed or worse.

  • +1 on the tax refund situation. two years in a row the refund never came. I had to call the tax office to find out the problem, and they tell me something like, we are missing a w2….

    OTR couldn’t call or write to let me know?

  • Do I understand correctly that the young man with the gun repeatedly came to your house and threatened you despite there being a restraining order prohibiting you from doing so and that he suffered no consequences for doing so? If so, this sounds like the city was completely negligent, possibly criminally so. Have you thought about getting a good lawyer and seeing whether it might be possible to bring a case against the responsible public entities?

    • That whole situation is so insane to me. How do we fix that?

    • Uhh, there is probably no better description of DC government and public services than “completely negligent, possibly criminally so.”

    • And this is why I’m even nervous to provide video to the police. I’m all for criminal justice reform and not jailing non-violent offenders while they wait for trial, but I feel like those policies aren’t implemented well enough to also afford witness protection and get violent offenders off the street.

  • northeazy

    If we just keep voting for Democrats, eventually the “good” Liberals will take over. That is a joke of course. And nothing against Democrats actually, but when one party is in power forever, things get corrupt. DC needs a Guilliani moment like NY had. A famously Dem city that had had enough.

    • Having grown up in the South, where city governments tend to be dominated by Republicans, I wholeheartedly disagree that this is an issue with Democrats being consistently elected. My hometown and the towns near where I lived were not managed well, yet people kept voting in the same party again and again.

      I think that this is more of an issue of voters accepting candidates who make vague promises while really supporting the status quo, regardless of their party affiliation. The reason that better Democratic candidates don’t make it is that they are not plugged into the political machinery that has kept supporting the same candidates for decades.

      If you want to consider an interesting parallel to the mismanagement wrought by DC gov in recent years, think of South Africa’s ANC party. They have run the country into the ground, but voters keep them around and the ANC always brings the conversation back to the apartheid struggle. DC has come a long way since the bad times in the 1980s, but at some point voters have to stop allowing politicians from milking that for all it’s worth.

      • I think you’re both right. In any local governance system, an entrenched party can put in place an incredible amount of graft and corruption, which leads to scores of people with a vested interest in keeping the gravy train rolling. In DC (and most major cities), it’s Democrats; in the South and smaller cities/towns, it’s Republicans.

      • What Anonymous said X 1,000.

        I’m a Democrat, but I would like to see the city move to the California model and have a primary system that then allows the top two vote getters run off in November. That way, the race isn’t decided in June with some crook (I’m looking at you, Vince Orange, though a miracle happened this time round) getting 40 percent of the vote and the office. Or else, let everyone vote in the Dem primaries. Personally, I like the California model better. That means we’d have real elections in November, which has the highest turnout.

    • +1. I am someone who has aligned myself with democratic ideologies most of my life, but the stranglehold that the Dems have on this city is ridiculous. The only way politicians rise through the ranks of this one party system is to win favor of the the old guard, hand shakes and back room deals, and with false promises to the statistical majority of the voter base. sadly, and for whatever reason, the DC voters have yet to wake up and continue to vote dem based on party alignment. as another reader said, with no pendulum swing, the ineptitudes of government are magnified without recourse, only fattening the pockets of those they put in power. I will gladly vote Republican or Independent at the first chance on a candidate with even an ounce of promise – on the very ideal that it will shift the course.

  • I’ve lived in in Dc for almost 17 years, and this letter says it all. Beautifully articulated—thank you.

    No good deed goes unpunished. I don’t blame the OP in the slightest for moving. Money talks.

    Godspeed and good luck, OP.

    • as have i, and in the same areas, and it doesn’t describe my experience at all. so, it sucks that this happened to him, but it’s certainly not the full and only truth.

  • We left and our lives got so much better, I must say. I do miss many things about DC. I miss POP too, and still visit sometimes. I don’t feel the hostility, rage and racial tension like in DC when I visit my parents down south, even though that area is mixed black and white and has the negative racial history of the south. It feels like a community where people greet you no matter your color.

    That plus the weather, bugs, 4pm break in and clean out of our row house, cost of living, traffic, and uncertain school path for our kids caused us to leave.

  • I live on the Hill and have been thinking about moving back to Columbia Heights/Petworth because a lot of my friends live there, but the issues and lack of safety in CH have been holding me back. This letter really struck a chord. Not sure what I’ll do.

    • This is one man’s (albeit very unfortunate) experience. There is a lot to love and be desirable about those neighborhoods. Don’t let this deter you

      • I completely disagree. I’ve been asking my friends for years why they continue to live in CoHi. The last time I dogsat there I didn’t feel safe at night walking with a huge, tough looking dog. The same dog almost choked to death on the innumerable chicken bones strewn about the sidewalks. I’ve had 4 friends assaulted there in 2 years. And yet my friends continue to tell me that I live in a “bad” neighborhood and I should move to CoHi. In 2 years I’ve yet to experience crime in my “shady” area. That’s more than worth not having a Target within easy walking distance.

        Cdubs, don’t let them pressure you. You’re making the right choice to stay put. Don’t continue to reward the developers with your hard-earned money for a neighborhood that’s unsafe.

        • Haha, I’m sure if you disclosed your neighborhood several people could drum up stories of problems and safety. Bottom line is Columbia Heights is a fun, central, and vibrant area of the city to live in. Yes it does have problems but so do many other areas of this fine city as shown by commenter on this blog. It is vastly improved thought some regression has been shown citywide last year which is bound to happen after a decade of consistent improvement.

          • Lol, vibrant.

          • Is vibrant the new code word for “getting harassed for walking down the street”, “piles of trash”, and “the risk of being assaulted”? If so, yes, Columbia Heights is vibrant.

    • I’ve lived in Columbia Heights for 15 years and love my neighborhood. I’ve never had any experience close to what this person has had. This is his experience but certainly not mine.

    • Petworth is much better in many ways, mostly because it lacks the massive public housing that Columbia Heights has.

      • Yes and no because Petworth can feel quite far especially at the northern edges. I like being able to hop on my bike and be in Adams Morgan or many places in 10 minutes

      • I agree with “neighbor” and also have a strong sense that the massive amount of public housing in Columbia Heights plays a major role in the crime in the area. Public support for low income housing is not objectionable, from my view, at the federal level we have moved away from programs that cluster people together in the same complex. My progress in life is hindered by socializing with those who are aren’t making progress, and the reverse is true. The way DC manages public housing makes no sense

  • Great op-ed! I’d suggest submitting to the Washington Post and sending it to the DC Council!! Would be great if everyone in the neighborhood could use this piece as a fulcrum to initiate positive community development. DC definitely optimizes the “broken windows” theory!!!

  • anonymouse_dianne

    Looks like my opinion has been “moderated”. So be it. This is a problem with so-called “Columbia Heights” and not the city as a whole. For the tax refund, did you give your DC driver’s license when you filed? I did and my return was deposited automagically. This piece would be better if it proceeded in a logical fashion instead of trying to cover all the bases. IMHO.

    • Your comment is all over the place. It covers no fewer than 4 topics in 7 poorly organized sentences. And no paragraph breaks between topics? Yikes. This comment would be better if you didn’t miss the whole point of the piece. Do better. IMHO.

    • My refund was sent without notice to my previous address on file (not the address on the return) rather than direct deposited as requested. They gave me no reason for doing so nor any way to stop it from happening again. Any remedies for that one?

    • delate your account

  • I’d like to know the name of the nonprofit that represented the armed aggressor. If I’ve donated to them before that needs to change and they’ll know exactly why.

  • I completely understand your frustration though each situation is different as I’ve lived in DC (Columbia Heights for 8+ years) and never had any issues. Love the walkability and amenities in the area. Really sorry for your experience

  • So sorry the OP had to endure all of this and can’t blame him for leaving. I completely feel his frustration and often feel the same as well. While our area of 16th Street Heights is great, the problems in the surrounding areas have been getting increasingly more violent and too close. I take metro every day from CoHi and have remarked more than once how the area seems to be sliding backwards over the past 4 years in spite of all the money pouring into it. The city needs to start taking notice before it loses its tax base. What can be done about the justice system? This keeps coming up over and over again about the justice system being a revolving door for repeat offenders who pay no consequences for their actions!

  • City politics are all about priorities, and priorities are set based on (1) votes and (2) money.
    .
    There is a large cadre of voters whose worldview is defined through a narrative of victimization at the hands of congress and ‘the man’ (ignoring that ‘the man’ in DC has almost entirely consisted of African-American DC natives elected through the popular vote), and a view of city government primarily as a means of extracting tax dollars from rich people and giving them to poor people in the form of social services and patronage jobs. The lens of victimization by ‘the man’ leads to a view of aggressive policing as unfair and racist punishment, and a view of black-on-black crime as being primarily driven by some vague and unspecified lack of investment by ‘the man’ (despite the reality of hundreds of millions of dollars being thrown away, as detailed by the original poster). It feels overwhelming as a relative newcomer (been here for about fifteen years) to identify politicians who won’t pander to this group. Incredibly, Anthony Williams got elected, which quite literally saved the city. Unfortunately we have yet to find his successor, and as noted by another commenter, many new arrivals don’t vote because they either don’t plan to stay, or can’t find candidates who aren’t rushing to out-pander each other to the aforementioned voting bloc.
    .
    There is also a group of developers who have figured out how to (mostly) legally use money to influence the political process, and the tension between these developers and the voting bloc discussed above is basically the entire explanation for everything that happens in the city. Columbia Heights improved very rapidly for several years as developer cash flowed in. Now that it’s largely built out, the priorities of the voting bloc have again taken hold because developer money has moved elsewhere.
    .
    It’s an unbelievably frustrating dynamic and very hard to imagine how it will change without strong leadership from a new generation of politicians. Hopefully someone will step up to the plate.

    • I hope Catania runs again

    • “The lens of victimization by ‘the man’ leads to a view of aggressive policing as unfair and racist punishment”

      Sigh…. Could it be that unfair, racist and aggressive policing leads to a view that policing can be unfair, aggressive and racist? The “narrative” (and talk about overused terms) set forth here is wearisome and frustrating, and frankly scary as it resonates with so many now. All voters vote their perceived self-interest…end of “narrative”.

      • Broken Windows Policing works. Period. Numerous studies have proven this, even in monocultural neighborhoods.

        • Define “works”?

        • Blithe

          Numerous studies also not only dispute the idea that broken windows policing “works”, but point out the considerable social costs of these policies. Very few things are as clear-cut as your assertion would suggest. Although as MarkQ suggests, it’s not even possible to address these issues without some consensus about what is meant by “works”. Um: Period.

      • Yes it could be, to answer your question. But in reality it is probably more of the above argument and less of yours. It is probably a mix of both causes but one is certainly heavier than the other. I speak from the personal experience of having dealt with some of these youths you just seem to think that because of the Injustice done to them or their parents, by the Man/Life/Fate/lucky rich people, that they should somehow get a break from having to follow the law and respect community and property. We seem to think they deserve all this respect when they give none, and that Authority itself does injury to them by merely existing.
        Yes I agree with you that certain beliefs and practices can rarget minorities. However in these neighborhoods when I was growing up they were very much not minorities but the majority.

    • Best post so far. Very well said.

  • I don’t think it’s impossible to recognize both that this City continues to have some serious problems AND that things are a lot better than they used to be. I live in Park View and my neighborhood has become much better than it was when I moved here 11 years ago. DC as a whole is way better than it was when I moved here 16 years ago. But there are still issues. I think it’s unfortunate that so many discussions on this forum are forced to be binary. If someone complains, they are a hater. If someone celebrates, they are naïve. I’ve not had anything close to the negative experiences the OP has had. But I don’t begrudge or challenge those experiences, and I understand the decision he and his wife have made to move on. The City didn’t work for them. That doesn’t mean it has not or cannot work for others.

  • DC loses its shine very quickly. I’ve been here the better part of 10 years and I’m honestly planning a move soon. Dysfunctional government, rampant crime (both violent and quality of life), apathetic police/prosecutors, poorly maintained infrastructure… the list goes on.

  • I agree with others in that this is mostly a Columbia Heights problem. I lived there for three years and knew it was somewhere I would definitely not buy. We ended up buying in Brookland and its a completely different vibe with less tension (on multiple levels). CH is just crazy and everybody knows it! Until the high rise projects are taken down (and replaced with units mixed into market rate developments) Columbia Heights will not turn the corner and will continue to backslide. To be clear, I’m not against public housing, I’m against the failed urban development policies from the 60s/70s of creating isolated low/no income islands.

    • Prince Of Petworth

      Stabbing just after 2pm in Brookland today – from MPD: “Stabbing at 1409 hrs in the 1400 block of Irving Street NE. No Lookout.” https://twitter.com/DCPoliceDept/status/747859315097214976

    • “High rise projects” huh? Shows you really know the area…Brookland is nice in some areas, definitely sketchy on the outskirts and not a huge fan of the lack of amenities. To each their own I guess.

      • To be fair… if I remember correctly, there _is_ a high-rise building that’s subsidized housing a block or two south of the Metro (I think the southwest corner of 14th and Columbia?), as well as the garden-style subsidized housing between 13th and 14th on Columbia.

        • west_egg

          You are correct re: your recollection of the high-rise at the SW corner of 14th & Columbia. There is also one at the SE corner of 14th & Harvard and another on 14th a little south of Irving. Garden-style units exist between 13th and 15th on Girard, Harvard, Columbia, and Irving.

          • HaileUnlikely

            The building at the southeast corner of 14th & Harvard is a very nice home for low-income senior citizens aged 65 years and older. The only problems I’ve ever heard of at that location have involved young thugs breaking in and robbing the residents and staff. I absolutely positively guarantee that the NCBA Estates at 14th & Harvard is not a contributor to any of the problems in the neighborhood other than as a supply of low-resistance victims.

        • High rise is a senior home and I’ve never heard of 1 issue from that place. Most can’t even walk so give me a break if that is in the argument for crime in the area

  • Just really glad the first paragraph goes right to what would be the first counterpoint: He’s not white. Therefore there is actually a shred of a chance people will allow this to be about failed politicians and violent, taught, racism plaguing a city and rotting it from beneath, and not dismiss it as racism (ie, the answer to every non-left word spoken in the DMV).
    This is a democratic rule problem, through and through, plain and clear. In no specific order:
    -Softer on crime, meaning not prosecuting drug sellers, robbers, or vandals. Law enforcement is forced to “take it easy” on these crimes because putting people in jail is racist.
    -Literally building around the homeless, spending endless money on avoiding the actual problem. Even going as far as, in Bowsers case, profiteering on the backs of these people, pretending to help them.
    -Terrible use of the budget, meaning pouring money in to things like homeless shelters and street cars, instead of semi important things like, yaknow: education, law enforcement, transportation
    -Dumb and shortsighted disarming of your law abiding citizens by preventing gun ownership, and even putting hurdles in front of things like owning mace or a taser – don’t worry citizens, you give us all of your rights, and WE will protect you! This creates a place where criminals KNOW you won’t have anything to defend yourself or your property, and makes them more brazen.
    -Vitriolic, self-inflicted racism. And sorry guys, I’m not talking about men in while hoods chasing around the color’ds with horses and torches. No, this is the new kind of racism. The kind taught in black families as the kids come up, teaching them the entire city, the police, and even well-dressed black people are against them. To treat people with unhinged aggression because the “systematic white power” will try to hurt you if you don’t threaten people with guns when they ask you not to throw your trash on their front lawn. Telling kids to act with a total disregard for any kind of manners or dignity, because the “white people are trying to hold them back and force them to be poor and have no opportunity”. So they act entitled, aggressive, and even violent, which then makes people avoid them or fight back rocketing the narrative forward.
    And the left is just there throwing gas on the fire, telling screaming that everyone who disagrees with being softer on crime or spending less on homeless shelters is racist and ‘part of the problem’. Insisting that anyone who claims the city has a problem with crime and aggression is a pearl-clutching bigot who just wants a whiter neighborhood. Its disgusting and a vicious cycle of self inflicted harm. Can’t have one decent debate about this city without people screaming racism, and they will keep doing it as the city enters its full-on nose dive.

    • Personally, I don’t think the OP’s disclaimer that he is Black adds anything to the narrative. I would not have discounted the OP’s experiences if he had announced up front he is not Black. And I am Black for whatever that is worth. This persistent notion that Black people are soft on crime is nonsense. Most of the victims of crime in this city are Black. Not wanting every Black person to be subject to unnecessarily intrusive policing because of the actions of some Black criminals isn’t being “soft on crime.”
      And I don’t believe that these kids are being taught to be disrespectful because “the white man is keeping them down.” I think most of them have never learned to respect anyone, including themselves, in the first place. Spend 5 minutes listening to the things some of these kids say to each other and the way they say it – especially what the young males say to young women. It’s got nothing to do with race.

      • “This persistent notion that Black people are soft on crime is nonsense.”

        Yep this. And I’m Black too. The disconnect on this point is most frustrating. There are larger social issues city governments aren’t equipped to handle.

        • And yet every effort to reform our broken criminal justice system and impose meaningful penalties on criminals (particularly our violent youths) is derailed by a vocal all-Black constituency. You don’t have to move all the way to NY-style broken windows policing in order to actually levy real sanctions on criminals and lock the violent ones who are frequently caught away for long periods of time. But it’s our* community, not a bunch of liberal-guilt-wracked White newcomers, who won’t let us take that step.

          *also black

    • Read _The Future Once Happened Here_ by Siegel and _Code of the Street_ and _Streetwise_ by Elijah Anderson.

      The first was a discussion of the failure of cities, using DC, NYC, LA as examples. From the time the book was published the city improved. Yes there is backsliding. I wrote a piece about the 2004 election (although I was too afraid to write it then, I didn’t until 2005, about what was happening. This has to do with contested spaces and new and old, and street and middle class. There is no question that the last couple elections have been about theoretically balancing this. Each of the last three mayors is a “lifelong Washingtonian.”

      http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2005/07/tom-sherwood-duncan-spencer-anwar-amal.html

      Anderson’s work is great at understanding the dynamic of the street and the city. I joke that had I been able to read those books before I moved into the city in 1987 when I was young and dumb that I likely would have experienced a lot less grief in terms of street and other crime.

  • Look no farther than Bowser. And I voted for her. Her approach to public safety and regulatory enforcement has been astoundingly inept. I blame Nadeua as well, but she apparently struggles like we all do to get results from
    DC agencies (i.e. MPD, DCRA, 911). Is there a disconnect between the mayor and the sentiment of our populace when it comes to crime? People are irate yet she seems tone deaf. It wasn’t great under Gray, but things have gotten pointedly worse under Bowser.

  • I work in Columbia Heights at the Elementary School. I myself just moved out of the city as well for many reasons, cost and crime being primary. I can’t really disagree with anything said here. There is constant crime in Columbia Heights and the police seem to be doing very little. They don’t even notify our school when a serious crime happens at our doorsteps – which is often. My school is doing great work with our kids and families, but the pressure we feel to ‘fix’ all of the problems they are facing is overwhelming by far. I agree this is a mismanaged city that just cannot seem to get it together by properly allocating funds and eliminating corruption.

  • Sir, will you run for office?

  • Incredibly well written letter. Thanks for writing it.

  • The complaints about Columbia Heights would have been right at home on the old OneList (is that still around?) – the WardOne Yahoo listserv, circa 2009. The housing market had slowed to a crawl and folks who had bought expensive (at the time) rowhouses in Columbia Heights were lamenting the fact that the neighborhood was not changing as fast as they assumed it would when they fist bought. But even now, years after the market has roared back to life and Columbia Heights is no longer an area for pioneers, there are still persistent problems amidst the luxury housing. Life for the people near the bottom has either gotten nowhere, or gotten worse. The people who were troubled and struggling in that neighborhood at the beginning of the gentrification curve are just as if not more troubled and struggling now, even though the curve has progressed a lot further.
    Not an excuse, just part of the explanation.

    • CH is not helped by the high density of low/no income housing. Much of the low/no income population further south lived off vouchers in much lower density – rowhouses rented to extended families, small-scale apartment buildings. As demand for housing close to the inner core continued to grow, these landlords were able to evict the low/no income folks to take advantage of the steadily growing prices. Many moved out of the city, but their connection to the city remained. I feel like many come back to CH to hang out, etc.

      • This is exactly the conversation I had with my barber this afternoon in Park View. He said he lives above his shop, and that he sees the people that dump trash and cause problems arrive by bus every morning, drink and do drugs all day and cause problems on the street, then get back on the bus back to wherever they came from at night (when the night shift shows up to do the same thing).

        While I’m definitely not someone who would normally blame gentrification, he and I hypothesised that these were people who were probably priced out but are returning to their normal haunts to do what they’ve always done there.

  • SusanRH

    Thank you to the OP for writing this. I have lived in DC since 2002 and for the first time ever am really thinking about selling my home and moving the the burbs. I just want to be able to walk my dog and not have to be in fear of getting mugged or worse. Another thing that is prompting my move is wanting to have representation in congress. After the events in Sandy Hook, Orlando, etc I want to be able to call my Senator or Congressperson and voice my support or anger. I really hate that we have no say in the legislative branch.

  • SO glad I took the time to read this whole thing. As a 20+ years resident and homeowner for the past 6, I sadly have to agree with every sentiment you wrote. My husband and I long called this place home, but likely not for much longer. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  • Amazing post, spot on now hopefully our local politicans including the Mayor read this and don’t dismiss it as just another person venting. I pray that the recent primary where all but one council member lost (and brandon todd should have lost too) will serve as a wake up call to the rest of the do-nothing officials in DC.

  • Sharing this around in the hopes it goes viral.

  • Could DC take a page out of NYC’s playbook from the 1980s and focus on relatively small, very public demonstrations of law and order? The police could crack down on the the drug dealing, public intoxication, and open container usage outside of the Columbia Heights Metro stop. The city could then pressure wash and clean up the area outside of the Metro stop, which would make the area more inviting and seem more safe. At this point the city has “taken back” an area, and would only have to maintain police vigilance and keep the area clean. Anti-loitering legislation would further help.

    This isn’t that dissimilar to NYC arresting fare jumpers and painting over subway graffiti as soon as it appeared. Enforcing existing rules is likely much cheaper than enacting new ones or creating new programs.

    • ITA about cleaning up by Metro. I’ve asked Nadeau to establish a presence (she gave me a peevish response attesting to a greater “presence”).

      I would strongly suppport anti-loitering legislation.

  • Quite the self-congratulatory rant it seems to me. Imagine living in a part of DC where these “2-3 times a year” incidents are routine. Imagine the hell lower income non-model citizens unlike the OP and his wife have to go through to navigate crime, city bureaucracy and the school system; imagine the deference they have to show to “thugs” prone to running hot.

    • west_egg

      Excellent points! All the more reason to address these issues for all city residents.

    • ‘ imagine the deference they have to show to “thugs” prone to running hot.’

      Why is “thugs” in scare quotes? Are you implying that the unhinged young polluter who threatened to shoot him for nothing wasn’t a thug?

  • There are a lot of accuracies in this letter, but also perhaps, a bit of a foggy memory of what Columbia Heights was like in the early 2000s. I remember walking down the alley behind my house on multiple occasions and seeing officers behind trash cans with guns drawn. I remember the time when 3 people were shot while doing layups on the basket ball court by someone hiding behind vine covered chain link with an AK47. I remember finding a kid’s dead body behind my house with the bike he was shot on still underneath him. There are still lots of things that suck in Columbia Heights, but it was never some cozy neighborhood where everyone got along.

  • cry baby suburbanites!! the whole lot of you! you think this is bad? I was born and raised in DC (DCPS) during the late 80’s early 90’s! HA!

    • HaileUnlikely

      Congratulations(?)

    • Yep – per the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports, we had 2,661.4 violent crimes in ’95, 1,244.4 in 2014 (decrease of 53%) and 9,512.1 vs 5,182.5 property crimes (down 46%). Even taking into account unreported crimes, there is very good evidence that the perception that crime is increasing isn’t close to accurate.

      • HaileUnlikely

        Anybody who is not a complete doofus can conjur up some marginally relevant comparison that appears at first blush to provide indisputable evidence of their desired point. Perceptions about changes in crime are typically rooted in comparisons to the relatively recent past, not the much more distant past. Thank you for the data comparing 2014 to 1995. There is solid evidence that violent crime increased a whole lot in 2015 relative to 2014, and appears to be on par with or exceeding 2015 rates so far this year.

        • It is absolutely true that those of us who were here “during the worst of times” have a hard time dealing with people who conflate one incident into an epidemic. That being said, any crime is one too many. But yes, not knowing any better, when I first moved to DC I lived a few blocks from Rayful Edmond’s primary distribution area. More than 30 people were murdered in that area within 18 months. And for a long time, I could count on at least one person/year being murdered on my block (fortunately the other side of it) when I later moved two blocks over.

          Nevertheless, the problems recounted in the letter are real and were experienced, and are lamented by many of us. Some people have the energy to still try to deal with them, others don’t. E.g., these days my “contribution” is more on the writing end, whether or not the writings are ignored, at least they are out there.

          But there is no question that if a good job comes along (defined as good interview + them deciding in my favor) I would move. Other cities are doing some amazing things, there is a lot of innovation in other places, exciting things happening, whereas I feel like DC has been coasting on the foundations put in place by Mayor Williams ever since.

          My joke about DC is that because we are the world capital (even if declining) on the local end, people define whatever we do as “world class” by definition because we are the capital of the US, when it is absolutely not true. I call it “defining mediocrity up.”

    • you must be new here.

    • +1 they just don’t get it. DC has gotten much better than the hell it used to be, especially Columbia Heights. Is there space for improvement, yes. Has it improved, yes. He should have stayed put and bought a rotweiller for his problem.

  • Wait, people actually believe this was written by a black man raised in rural Vermont (ranting about how the “real racists” are black people, mind you) who got in a physical confrontation, while unarmed, with a man willing to pull a gun because he was asked not to throw garbage on another person’s property, WON said confrontation, and then was admonished for defending himself (by, what a coincidence, a black judge :eyeroll:) in the instance and forced to watch the armed man be let go and sued by him? Despite the fact he apparently had several “outstanding warrants” AND was in possession of a firearm AND brandished said firearm? Then, this person RETURNED to harass him some more and STILL was let go? You guys really buy this?

    Seriously??

    • As a result of living in and knowing the idiots running this shit show of a city, yeah we kinda do buy this…

    • Vermont’s black population was 1.3% in 2013. In 1990, 272 people reported being of Subsaharan African descent in the entire state. In 2000, it was 659; finally able to register percentage wise as 0.1 percent. I can’t believe his claim was posted and accepted at face value.

      • You may be right that the post is BS, but you’re hardly making the case. Just because there aren’t a lot of black people in Vermont doesn’t mean that this guy isn’t black and from Vermont.

        • Setting aside the statistical unlikelihood that, given what his age must be, this man is one of the less than 1000 black people that lived in Vermont during the time he claims, a lot of the language he uses is not how black people commonly refer to themselves. But I guess you have to intimately know other black people to know that.

          It’s a common tactic on the internet to preface, or end, rants about black people (of which this post contains plenty) with “Oh btw, I’M black!” as a way to preemptively protect against criticism for bigotry. It’s so common as to be utterly transparent.

          • You’re funny. If he were non-black and wanted to trick us into thinking he is black, then why would he choose Vermont? And thanks for educating me about the internet–I’ve never used it before.

          • Oh Lord. how do Black ppl refer to themselves? (I’m asking for a friend) In all seriousness.

          • SWChick, not speaking for SWChris, but I do not know many black people that refer to themselves as a minority whether in print or in speaking. That was a bit odd. Generally the AA term is tossed around if at all in favor of calling one’s own self a minority. The fact that the OP emphasized his race multiple times in the article is kind of weird for any race of person to be honest unless you are trying to really drive home a particular point.

          • Thanks for your response stacksp. I get it. As a black person, we usually do use “African American” when we state our race in print. I only asked because in the past (a few months ago), I referred to myself as “black” (I think) on a thread here on Popville when I had a bad experience with a bartender. I then revealed that she herself was “black” as well. But i totally understand your point and it makes sense. I honestly think I used “black’ in that case because it wasn’t a formal arena. I probably, no definitely would have used African American if I wrote a piece to share with Popville. Thanks for helping me understand.

      • He could have changed some facts about his identity without completely fabricating the story. He could me from another rural, gun-loving state than Vermont. I also imagine that his version of the story is much different from the other guys, and altered to make him look unquestionably like the good guy. I don’t believe that he fabricated it out of thin air, though.

      • Where did you learn math? Or internet research? More like 7000 African Americans (who may not have identified themselves as being of Subsaharan African descent).

    • Have you heard of Antwon Pitt?

    • Given his account, I was surprised he was not shot yet to be honest if all those facts were indeed true.

    • Yes. This is 100% consistent with DC’s catch and release excuse for a criminal justice system. You must be new here.

    • Isn’t it racist to assume the letter is false because of the race of the author?

      • Isn’t it racist to assign additional credence to the letter because the author claims that he is Black? What does his or her race – whatever it is – have to do with anything? It doesn’t make me more or less likely to believe or not believe anything he said.

        • No one is assigning additional credence. SWChris is dismissive of the entire account because of his perception that OP is lying about his race. SWChris is the one that brought race into his particular comment… not AdMo Resident.

          • Actually, the OP was the person who injected race into the discussion. In the second sentence he declares that he is Black, “[not] because it should matter, but just as a basis of fact in a city where you can’t seem to have a conversation without taking race into consideration.”
            Right. You can’t have a conversation without taking race into consideration when you inject race into the conversation at the very beginning.

    • My sentiments exactly!! I don’t for a second believe it!

    • Did you miss the part where he was a Marine?

  • This guy should be elected mayor. Not that he would accept it. But isn’t that kind of the point.
    Anyway Bravo!

  • I am so sorry about your experiences. I’m a black DC native, now living in Vermont. I think this is the most racist place I’ve been. I’m working on returning to DC. I wish us both well.

    • By the way, it is not uncommon to hear native and-or long term black Vermonters to refer to black folks as if they themselves aren’t ..ah…..black. It breaks my heart, but it is not thst unusual..

      • Blithe

        Thanks for posting this. I read the OP’s post with some skepticism for a variety of reasons. Your observation gives a bit more credence — in my mind, at least — to the post, and also goes a LONG way to explaining some of the behavior and values of what I grew up thinking of as “the OTHER side of the family” — which includes a grandmother who was raised in Vermont, at a time when the black population in the state must have been close to zero.

      • justinbc

        You either are or you aren’t though, right? Is there a “right” and “wrong” way to be black? I’ve certainly never thought that, and would be critical of anyone who told me I wasn’t being “white enough”.

        • Blithe

          -When I made my comment, I wasn’t conceptualizing it as “right” and “wrong” — as much as “extremely common” and “extremely uncommon”. There are things about the way the OP’s post is worded that, in my experience, are extremely uncommon for even the bougie-est of black folks, but are very common in other groups. That said, the combination of being from Vermont & being in the Marines could simply mean that the OP’s experiences and communication style is on the very far end of a very long and diverse continuum — and my reaction to it obviously reflects my own limits and social circles.
          – Beyond that, I’ll simply say that this country has a long and continuing history of racism. Some of us react to that by internalizing those views and values. Some of us actively choose not to. This second comment is not about the OP, but rather about my somewhat cryptic comment about behavior and values in my extended family.

          • justinbc

            That’s understandable, with respect to the spectrum. I’m sure it’s something he’s not unfamiliar with (hence the need to say “I’m black too, btw!” in his post).

          • Blithe

            As a small example: Writing a post to a blog which almost certainly has a majority white audience : ” Like all young thugs that I’ve encountered….” is odd, and there are many, many things like that that strike me as odd in the post, including the assertion that “The District of Columbia is by far the most racist place I’ve ever been, and the overwhelming bulk of the racism is generated and perpetuated by fellow members of the black community. It is incredibly disappointing.” This could, indeed, be someone’s experience. It is, however, both an odd experience, and an odd way of describing a city that many, if not most, African Americans have viewed as a “Black mecca ” during the past 150 years or so.

          • HaileUnlikely

            Well, in fairness to the OP, his experiences of DC have been in Woodley Park, where the proportion of the population that is African American is very small, and in Columbia Heights, where a sizable majority of African Americans are of a very different socioeconomic status and set of life experiences than himself (no, not all, but I think “sizable majority” is accurate). His experiences of and thus attitudes about the African American population of DC might have been quite different if he had lived in, say, 16th Street Heights, upper Brightwood, Takoma, or Shepherd Park, where lots of solidly middle-class and upper-middle-class African American families have lived for a long time.

          • Blithe

            Haile — that’s part of what I mean by “odd”. Someone African American, with an African American wife moves to the DC area — which has one of the largest, if not the largest population of highly educated, middle class African Americans in the country. I agree with what you’re saying about Woodley Park and Columbia Heights, and it’s certainly his, quite valid choice, to both live in those neighborhoods and to comment on his experiences. What strikes me as extremely odd though, is his willingness to make sweeping generalizations about DC and the black community — especially if, as you point out, his experience of DC and the black community has not included, and possibly actively avoided, most of it.

  • About a week ago during rush hour at the L’Enfant Metro there was a group of about 10 kids who were maybe 16 years old or so, actively preventing one of the 7000 series train car doors from closing by stopping it with their heels or exiting and reentering the car multiple times, doing stupid handshakes with their idiot friends through the doors as it was shutting, etc. This went on for maybe 7 minutes as the crowd on the platform grew bigger and bigger and the doors continued to try to close, and no one said or did anything. Finally an older man told them in a calm but firm voice to knock it off and get on the train. They immediately surrounded him and puffed out their chests and called him every vulgar name in the book. I thought they were going to start beating him until it looked like one of them saw police enter the far end of the station and they all scattered throughout metro cars which then left.

  • you rawk.
    that is all.

  • Facts that are problems for this narrative:

    1. Columbia Heights is cleaner. Use the way back feature on Streetview. It’s not debatable.
    2. Crime hasn’t exploded. At worst, it’s hovered around a similar level after dropping until 2014.
    3. Open drug dealing in front of internet surfing cops isn’t happening at Columbia Heights metro.
    4. DC government simply isn’t a national laughing stock. Seriously…how many people can tell it from Congress?
    5. Your personal anecdotal experience isn’t a universal truth. Not even your block’s.

    Carry on.

    • 1) Probably cleaner
      2) As someone who has called in multiple violent crimes that have not been logged as crimes, I don’t trust any of the DC crime statistics.
      3) Absolutely there is an open drug market at Columbia Heights metro. It’s the building south from the metro and they do it in the alley.
      4) As someone not from DC, DC is absolutely considered as one of the worst managed cities in the U.S., right up there with Chicago and Detroit.
      5) What universal truth? A data point is evidence forms an objective understanding of the environment. There is no universal truth about the condition of a neighborhood.

      • Before I moved to DC, I never heard anyone talk about the local government here. The only local government official most people outside of DC can name is Marion Barry and that’s only from the Hotel Vista incident, not based on any knowledge of any policy decision he ever made as mayor. Detroit and Chicago, on the other hand, have received extensive coverage on their respective local government issues.

    • Have you been to Columbia Heights? you can buy drugs on the 1500 block of Park Road in broad daylight. You can buy drugs on 14th Street at the top of the Metro escalator. You can buy drugs at 13th and Park in front of the park market.And those are just a few places I’ve seen it happen. It’s happening whether or not you believe it is.

  • UGH at the Marion comments. They are typical of someone not from here or not bothering to research and recognize the good he did for this city. As far as drug using and women, well, take a walk to the Hill. It’s EVERYWHERE. But people want to harp on the Mayor of DC whilst the longest running speaker of the house was a pedophile.. I’m sad the city didn’t treat you better. I’m sad you had to go to court over an altercation that started with chicken wings. I hope you’re happier and you and your wife have found peace. I know this city has its problems, but they aren’t chasing me out. DC4LIFE #straightoutofshepherdpark

    • Well, the OP was harping on Barry because a great many of the ills that plague DC to this day can be laid at his feet. Hastert is in no way germane to this discussion, and the notion that people can’t criticize some politicians because there’s other who are worse is just silly.
      .
      There’s no question Barry did a lot of good in his prior life as a civil rights leader. And he even did some good as mayor, though many of the “good” things he did were the seeds of the problems of today. But you can’t deny that he was a convicted felon, and corrupt, and a tax cheat, and a serial womanizer, and a whole host of other unsavory things. No need to sanitize history.

      • In the same way Hastert isn’t germane to the discussion, really neither are all Barry’s problems in regard to the youth programs he started. Those programs might very well be one his his and the cities bigger successes.

        The letter writer’s use of Barry’s personal problem to excoriate programs he was involved with is a false argument. And further blaming a youth program for kids behavioral issues before they even join, is just as problematic.

        The more I look at this letter, the more it looks like flame bait, using small issues that everyone can relate to and verify, to then try to make cases against larger programs, and maybe even the city government in it’s entirely, based mostly by drawing on people’s emotions. And reading through these comment, there are so many “Me Too” s that it appears to have worked quite well.

  • One is either part of the problem or part of the solution. There is no in between. Leaving means you’re part of the problem. If you don’t like things in your community, work to fix them. If your ANC is broken, run for ANC. If your city council is broken, run for that. If you don’t want to, work to find someone who will run and who you can support. I have no doubt the author is accurately reflecting his experience, but to think that society and government and everything else functions great elsewhere is living with blinders on.

    • HaileUnlikely

      If I had a person who previously pulled a gun on me both taking legal action against me and continuing to physically threaten my family, I would leave too. If that makes me “part of the problem,” I am ok with that.

    • It’s not that cut and dry. As Haile pointed out, if someone pulled a gun on me and continued to threaten me I’d leave too. He didn’t just leave because there was a ton of trash on his street. Or the woman in Hill East who was brutally raped? There is no question I would leave if something so god damn awful happened to me.

    • Your first sentence is one of the most trite, cliched pieces of faux-activist BS out there. There are loads of times where one is neither part of the problem nor part of the solution. Besides, by working hard, owning a business, employing people, paying taxes, presumably never committing a crime, etc., OP WAS part of the solution — just not in the way you’d like. Not everyone has time to do the things you suggest, nor does everyone have the mind/stomach for politics, and it’s sad that you don’t think that being a productive citizen is enough.

      • “by working hard, owning a business, employing people, paying taxes, presumably never committing a crime, etc., OP WAS part of the solution” — Not just that, though. The OP and his wife took the time to tutor disadvantaged kids — that’s a pretty damn active way of trying to be part of the solution.

        • True enough — I didn’t give him enough credit. My point is that some people have silly expectations of what constitutes a citizen’s obligations. A citizen owes nothing to DC other than to pay taxes, attend jury duty, vote (in my opinion — others may disagree) and stay out of trouble. Because I have my own preferences, I try to patronize local businesses when I can and my family has been active in my kids’ public school; but neither of those things are required of me and running for the absurdity that is the ANC is out of the question, let alone getting involved in a council race. And to tell someone who’s clearly had enough that he has an obligation to stay in order to serve as cannon fodder is just asinine.

          • Agreed. The OP really went above and beyond with his involvement with at-risk youth. To fault him for not doing more than he already did is unreasonable.

          • –“A citizen owes nothing to DC other than to pay taxes, attend jury duty, vote (in my opinion — others may disagree) and stay out of trouble.”–
            Attitudes like yours are why things don’t change.
            It could certainly be argued that the person who is posting this letter has done his part—but how many people reading and commenting here can say the same? How many people reading and commenting here have attended even one ANC meeting or even one city council meeting, much less considered running for a position or getting involved? How many people reading and commenting here have volunteered to tutor or mentor at-risk youth, or used their talents in other ways to make the community better? How many people reading and commenting here have the capacity to do a hell of a lot more than they’re doing?
            Hell, how many people reading and commenting here know the people who live on their block by name? How many people reading and commenting here know, by name and face, at least ten people who were born and raised in the District of Columbia?
            DC’s problems persist because of those who think they’ve “done enough” by paying their taxes, not breaking the law, and voting every few years. DC’s problems persist because of those who don’t bother to get involved, who live in the neighborhood but who never bother to become part of the community, who just shuttle between home and work with their heads down and don’t ever actually consider themselves personally invested in the life of the community or the neighborhood.
            Everyone reading and commenting here who hasn’t done their part should feel ashamed that this man is leaving, and should use this man’s post as an occasion to resolve to fully live up to their duty as a citizen and as a member of the community.

    • In the spirit of your initial assertion – you are DEFINITELY part of the problem.

  • Where are the sources? A lot of numbers and information and no sources. I respect everything that is said but cannot take this seriously without evidence to back it up. I’m sorry.

    • Good thing this isn’t a dissertation and he’s not being graded! Would you like to see his tax returns?

  • So sorry you’ve had this experience. I moved here in 2006 from Philly and grew up in a nicer area of the, inappropriately maligned, Bronx, NY. I’ve also lived in cities in South America. Frankly, every city, and the local city government will have back water dealings and demagoguery and inefficiency. When I was a child, wearing any form of jewelry on the NYC subway was a guaranteed path to losing it, literally having it pulled off of you. I would walk home from school in the early 90s and would expect with some regularity to be jumped for my backpack. Things have vastly improved since then in NYC, and frankly, my impression, even coming from a much improved NYC is that DC is a pretty amazing place. It is the cleanest city I’ve ever lived in (and yes I’ve been to and frequent Columbia heights, and folks have nothing to complain about in comparison with the garbage strikes of my youth, and any Saturday morning in much of NYC).

    My experiences with the DMV here have been far faster, more polite and professional than anything I ever experienced in NYC, or Philly for that matter. I’ve found the police force and emergency services, in the few dealings I’ve had with them to be sympathetic and professional. I send my kids to the public schools (okay I’m west of the park), but we LOVE LOVE LOVE them, and fully and completely feel our child is getting a world class education, far better than what I got in NYC public schools in the 80s and 90s. Our kid is safe, well cared for, gets free breakfast, snacks and inexpensive well run after school programs, in a clean modern facility with seriously fired up enthusiastic teachers. I also have to say the District is the one city I’ve ever lived, and that includes Brazil, where Diversity not only works but is embraced and people really interact across all sorts of different ethnic backgrounds.

    My chief and sole complaint about the District, and I think we share something on this, is the non profits that do get tons of local and federal money and do nothing for anyone but the idealistic young mostly privileged staff that work for them…but that’s a wider conversation.

    On the DC jobs program: not perfect, but it’s about giving the kids experience, job skills, and frankly it is more than what many other cities do. My kid’s aftercare is partly staffed by kids from the city’s jobs program and they do an excellent job, work hard and have a good time doing so as well. The beautiful city pools I use, also run by young folks from the jobs program. The pools are clean, safe, open on time and pretty luxurious by NYC standards. I have nothing to complain about.

    DCRA, I have no experiences with, so I can’t comment. Hope it gets better for folks, I read this and feel like you’re living in a different city.

    • Compare “okay I’m west of the park” with “I read this and feel like you’re living in a different city.”
      .
      You are.

      • +1. West of the park is a completely different story.

      • Yup, different world over there

      • Yes, but most of the letter writer’s substantial gripes were about city services. If the city if failing in that regard, it should be the case all over the city.

        Columbia Heights is, number one, a very small part of the city, and, number two ,hardly representative of the whole city. I would go so far as to say it is nearly alone in the ridiculous street trash problem based on my travels through all corners of the city..

        • I don’t know — I get the feeling that residents west of the park often receive better city services because there are more squeaky wheels to pressure the councilmembers, agency heads, etc. if they don’t.

          • +1 to this. I go through many neighborhoods and I see city workers picking up trash. And trash cans that get emptied at frequent intervals. Doesn’t happen East of the Park…

          • Wait… city workers picking up trash? You mean like street/sidewalk litter??

          • Of course services are better. I work in Georgetown, and I used to walk through several WotP neighborhoods on my way to work. It’s like night and day – streets are cleaner, roads are better, you name it. Now, I drive through the swankiest neighborhoods in DC on my way home, and again, it’s like night and day. And that’s not even getting into a comparison of the WotP v. all other schools. There’s a reason Bowser was promoting “Deal for All,” you know.

      • Yep – west of the park explains it all. I lived west of the park for 5 years — could rely on police to come and break up AU house parties without fail. I now live in NE and now chuckle at the thought of calling the police to break up the corner meetings, front lawn parties, and a particularly noxious Evangelist who preaches (amplified) outside on Sunday mornings in a residential neighborhood. Not to mention the open prostitution (think DC would let that happen on Connecticut and Nebraska?) and drug dealing.

  • I disliked Brianne Nadeau before it was cool.

  • A lot of this sums up why my wife and I plan on leaving DC this year and moving to MD. My wife is black and comes from a nearly 100% black community, while I am white and come from a nearly 100% white community. We visit each other’s hometowns every year. Sure, we get stared at sometimes, but we have never been called out as a mixed race couple. In DC, it happens regularly. I have never witnessed a place with more racial tension than DC/Columbia Heights.

  • I would consider moving to Old Town Alexandria, but I hear the service at the coffee shops is really bad.

  • I have lived here 8 years and am in a “transitional” are with a lot of diversity in incomes, races, and backgrounds.

    The majority of opinions here about the dysfunction of city government, police, and the general feeling of
    unsafety has literally never happened to me. I couldn’t be happier, I feel safe, and city services have never been a problem accessing.

  • Thank you for writing this. We are leaving before our son hits school age for all of these reasons. I don’t want another cent of my hard earned income to go to this miserable city.

    • Will you leave the area or will you continue to draw upon city services when you return each day for work or play?

  • Considering what you put up with, you should have gone.

    I’ve noticed an uptick in drunk and high bums hanging about Giant.

  • “Like all young thugs I’ve encountered…”

    If this phrase doesn’t set off your alarm bells then maybe it’s not the city. Maybe it’s you.

  • I’ve lived in DC my entire life, except for four years when I went to a university outside of DC. The DMV has improved significantly. The process for requesting run of the mill city things like pothole repairs has improved significantly through the help of technology forward solutions adopted by DC. Three quarters of the city was once out of bounds if you didn’t wear body armor, but now there’s new life being breathed into many of those parts. The DC government is shepherding bike lanes into city life. DC has fostered transportation start ups and new technologies. The DC government paid $40,000 each for me and my brother to cover the difference between in- and out-of-state tuition at a great university through the DCTAG program. The properties that I have owned and my family members have owned in DC have increased in value by a total of $1.1 million on aggregate. DC has become a restaurant and foodie haven that rivals the best in the world. DC has word class museums and monuments, often within walking distance, which DC let’s you access using the roads that they maintain that are paid for by DC taxpayers. DC paid $45,000+ for a new boiler for my condo association so that we use less energy, and also making the building more comfortable. I could go on.

    It’s not perfect. Yes, the permit process is bad. Yes, the city (like many other big cities since 2014) has seen an uptick in crime, which is equally attributable to macro trends as it is local governance. There are more, I’m sure, but I can’t think of them because, with the perspective I have from living here for so long, they are overshadowed by the good things that I’ve experienced.

    Columbia Heights has had challenges. But I would challenge someone to compare crime, per capita, to what it was in previous years. There may be more crime and vagrancy, but is this driven by higher population? Perhaps Columbia Heights isn’t desirable anymore. Other parts of the city certainly are.

    I often hear about how unfriendly Montgomery County is to businesses. I often hear about how there’s a butt-slasher in Northern Virginia shopping malls and how Tysons has I walkable superblocks. I often hear about police chases ending in shooting deaths in Prince George’s County, MD.

    The Original Poster seems like a really solid guy: he defended himself when being threatened with a firearm; he was a small business owner; and he gave a DC program that is supposed to benefit at risk youth a chance. Have his actions been rash and/or unwise? Time will tell.

    He’s entitled to cut his losses and move, but I don’t necessarily see it as wise. He could easily move to another neighborhood in DC, which would solve most of his problems, except for some government inefficiencies (yes, sometimes ineptitudes). His major frustrations, from what I read, came from these incidents in Columbia Heights, and his trust in a faulty DC youth program.

    I would be more impressed with him if he ran for an elected office and worked to change DC. I constantly see people complain about how bad managers and governance is, but are unwilling to try themselves. How do we know whether “governance is difficult” is a valid response? The OP hasn’t run for an elected position. Most, if not all, of us have never run for an elected position in DC.

    I would be more impressed with the OP if, despite this unfortunate run of bad luck, he saw the great things about DC and why suburban Maryland and Virginia will simply never stack up to the authenticity, creativity, and sense of place that DC oozes.

    Complaining is easy. Assuming that the suburbs are better before you’ve lived there is easy. Seeing the city in a spectrum between heaven and hell takes wisdom and can be challenging.

    Feel free to move if you want. Tell me how you like the burbs after 5-10 years. Maybe you’ll discover the inevitable inefficiencies and imperfections there too.

    • You make some good points, but I think your view is rose-tinged overall.
      .
      The OP (and other concerned citizens) shouldn’t have to run for office themselves to make D.C. government agencies do their jobs properly. Also, there’s more to D.C. government than elected positions — there are the politically appointed positions, as well as the career civil servants (who may or may not give a s*** about the public they’re supposed to be serving).
      .
      I don’t blame the OP for being frustrated with the entrenched intransigence here, both culturally (e.g., litter) and governmentally. And I say that as someone who really likes living in D.C.
      .
      And “Tell me how you like the burbs after 5-10 years” — I’d imagine it will be a net win for the OP even if the only difference is that no one pulls a gun on him (in front of his own house, no less) in response to a perceived slight.

      • + what textdoc says

      • Blithe

        I agree that concerned citizens shouldn’t have to run for office themselves to make DC government agencies do their jobs properly — but the lack of involvement on the part of the relatively affluent and powerful has had outcomes that are not startling.

        – This is a thought experiment: Imagine if the most affluent and well educated people in the area remained in DC, supported the public schools, sent their kids to the public schools, and used their influence and clout to improve the public schools — thereby improving public education for the vast majority of students in the city. Imagine, then, if some of these students, who now have benefited from exemplary educational experiences and opportunities then went on to take jobs with the feds, with local governments, with the school systems, with Metro….. My point is that many of the people who complain about DC government agencies, DC schools, Metro employees, etc, would never consider working for any of these entities. If the best and the brightest, or even the solidly competent refuse to be involved and/or employed by specific agencies, then it shouldn’t be surprising when these agencies don’t meet their/our standards for adequacy and competence. I don’t blame the OP for being frustrated or for moving. I do think that those of us who are concerned with “entrenched intransigence” need to give some thought to how the “intransigence” can possibly become less “entrenched” without their/our active involvement. I also think that as the population in DC becomes more and more transient, addressing these problems will become lower and lower on the priority lists of people who will address them for themselves by moving, rather than by attempting to address them as community problems that they/we have a stake in improving.

        • Agree to some extent – but easier said than done. Working for the DC gov isn’t a viable option for me (and probably others as well). I’ve tried.

        • I agree with you, but unfortunately I don’t have the foggiest idea how to get there from here. My in-bounds high school is Coolidge. There hasn’t been a single non-low-income kid or a single white kid through there in years. Any white family, or any non-poor black family for that matter, who sends their kid there, would be the first to do so in probably a decade. If every in-bounds family with high-school-aged kids sent them there, it’d be a different ballgame, but as is, only those with no other options do, and if any single family with other options passed up said options and sent their kid there, they’d be the only one, and you can’t deny that’s a daunting and massively unfair ask. I ask, in all sincerity, how do we get there from here?

          • There was a great article in the NYT Magazine a couple of weeks ago by a black reporter struggling with the decision to send her child to a segregated school (mostly black) school rather than private school. What kind of circumstance are you willing to put your kids in to set an example?
            NYC – the bastion so many DCers like to cite as a shining example – has one of most segregated (racially and economically) school systems in the country.

        • Blithe

          Anonymous 10:36 — Thank you for mentioning the NYT article. I’m definitely looking forward to reading it.

          – Anon4This, I genuinely don’t know how we get there from here — except that doing so will likely take thousands and thousands of small acts of courage, kindness, thoughtfulness and mutual respect, along with a renewed sense of community-mindedness that this city has been losing for a variety of reasons. I’d love to explore your sincere question — which I share — further in PoPville if you’re amenable.

    • Why do you (and other posters) hold “running for office” as a standard for community involvement? There are plenty of other areas where an individual can make a difference (like, tutoring). I have absolutely no interest in being an ANC commissioner, or part of the DC city council.

    • “Complaining is easy. Assuming that the suburbs are better before you’ve lived there is easy. Seeing the city in a spectrum between heaven and hell takes wisdom and can be challenging.”
      .
      The OP described having his life threatened with a firearm in front of his own home and the fallout of that incident has involved a protracted lawsuit against him, in addition to a continued campaign of harassment, threats, and vandalism. Yeah, in his case I’d say complaining is easy and he is more than entitled to do so. It’s a bit insensitive to suggest OP is in need of some perspective considering what he and his wife have experienced.

  • God the story sounds familiar… my wife and I just left Bloomingdale and I swear the crime problem has gotten so much worse. I was also involved in mentoring and tutoring inside the district only to see my efforts completely fail. And yet all we hear is bad things about gentrifiers… Including a lot of horrible racial rhetoric. You know what I’m just finished and so is my wife… we want peace so we are going to Arlington. We will come back to the district when we want to go to good restaurants, see a show, or etc… but we will no longer deal with the insane amount of bullshit every single day; it will take centuries to fix Washington. And I’m not paying for it anymore.

  • +1000. Great post. All this is incredibly disheartening to read, mostly because it is so true. Heres to hoping that the system is not broken, and that eventually the number of honest, rational, and reasonable people will far outnumber the dishonest and selfish to accomplish some actual change. When that happens, the OP will be welcomed back with open arms.

  • Why would you write all that? Just move. I’ve lived in DC for 23 years in three separate quadrants and haven’t experienced anything remotely close to what this guy says he experienced. This almost reads like fiction.

    • Whoa. Somebody else has had different experiences than I had. I can’t believe it. Some guy stepping out of a taxi in front of Right Proper got killed by a stray bullet. That’s never happened to me, and I’ve been here for a long time. That almost reads like fiction. Some black guy from Hawaii ran for president against a white guy and won, twice. That’s never happened to me either. I bet it didn’t happen at all.

    • Just because YOU haven’t experienced this doesn’t correlate to it didn’t happen. Be happy you’ve lived in three quadrants in 23 years and haven’t had to deal with all this. Good for you

      • The logic behind Alan’s statement isn’t that the letter writer’s experiences couldn’t have happened, it’s that one’s own experiences in the same or very similar situations doesn’t support those experiences. In this case there were so many bad experiences in so many different aspects of life that it is difficult to believe….hence one looks for support to determine plausibility. And the letter is not simply documenting single instances, but making claims of broad deterioration in community life and services. Making that claim relies on more than just one person’s account.

    • To be honest, it sounded not unlike my experience living in the H Street NE neighborhood from late 1987 to 2005, with about 3 years outside of H St. in that time. The street activity, being targeted, property crimes, murders and drug sales, the churches buying up and mothballing property which further led to disinvestment and community problems, the filth of the streets (even if now I am more a writer than super-involved, although I still have a few involvements, I pick up a lot of litter/recyclables most every day, in my neighborhood and around the city as I bike), the break up of my marriage because of my partner being raped during a burglary, etc.

      Yes, things are no question a lot better today.

      But I think it’s fair to say that improvements in certain areas are stalling, the trajectory isn’t so upward.

  • sorry for your problems, As a Realtor in DC,MD & VA, we are not at liberty to say what a good vs. bad neighborhood is. But to be honest, The ANC and the city council member are at fault. Most of them think that politics is a career job. We need term limits and new young blood, such as you and your wife to see that things are changed. I can’t even begin to talk about giving them money to stay out of trouble. I wish that you and your wife had not left DC, we need good people like you.

  • I had to pull an identical permit at DCRA and it couldn’t have been a simpler process. I hear horror stories, and the couple of times I’ve interacted with them (about 5 permits total), not only was it an easy experience, the employees I dealt with were pleasant. This makes me question a lot of the OP’s gripes. No one can debate the crime, trash, sh&*tty condition of the streets, and some other fairly objective points made. But the issue with the taxes, for example? Lots of variables and facts the OP does not delve into that could cause this outcome. I’ve been filing my taxes in the district for decades and have never had a problem at all.
    .
    I’m a “rare” DC native, and the city is only getting better. It’s trending up. Development is a good start for improvement to any city, and just take a look at the development dollars pouring into this city. The OP’s patience ran out, and based on the narrative, I don’t blame him. But DC is not a lost cause by any stretch

  • Our ANC leader sent a link to this post via the Mt. Pleasant listserv with a caption that said “A Kenyon Street resident, in Columbia Heights, but not all that distant from here. In my 42 years here in DC, I’ve never seen anything like this. — Jack”

    Can anyone explain to me what that means?

    • A neighbor of ours who has a different experience than he has had so far in his 42 years of living in DC.

  • Yes, this! Thanks for writing this and I am sorry for all you have had to endure. I have witnessed drug deals in my alley, unbelievable amounts of trash (food and empty bottles) on my lawn and in the alley, not to mention gunshots on a regular basis in front of my house where young kids are being raised. And the cops freaking KNOW! they just don’t DO anything. I’ve lived in the area for 10 years and it was never as bad as it has been the past 2 or 3. I confronted them once for harassing my roommate and got threatened by “Smoke, and they don’t call me that for nothing”. The cops regularly come by but rarely get out of the car and the last time, just this weekend, after the cops left the entire group walked away laughing. I love living in the city but I am seriously contemplating moving out.

  • I’m leaving Brookland for the Maryland suburbs for many of the same reasons cited by the author. The crime does seem to be increasing, and I am saddened by how much it is perpetrated by youths. I made the decision to move after the rash of racially-motivated mob attacks on Metro.

    I am also troubled by the nonchalance of petty criminals. My neighborhood has a problem with package thefts, and often the perpetrators are witnessed by neighbors who watch them rip open packages in the broad daylight, steal the contents, and casually saunter away to case the next residence. These thieves know that they are being watched and, when confronted, just walk away with the the items they have stolen. They have NO FEAR of being caught and held accountable.

  • If it will make you feel better, Baltimore is worse. At least tour not paying DC taxes anymore. Save something there. Good luck. Things have to be better.

    Former Brother DC Resident

  • I sadly could relate to OP about his experience in Columbia Heights which is why I’m getting ready to move next month. I only gave it four years and the drugs, drunks, litter, and crime around my street do seem to be getting worse. I do see a lot of positive changes as well, and love a lot about living in DC, but not enough to keep my toddler and dog in this atmosphere. My house has been robbed, I’ve had bikes stolen, had a few mirrors ripped off my car (I understand that is a part of living in the city but people don’t have the decency to write a note). I’ve had homeless and drunks passed out in my yard, people defecating on my sidewalk, and flowers stolen from my flower pots. The litter is out of control. I really appreciate this letter and am not moving far, I work here and really do love a lot of this city, but I am getting out of my neighborhood for my sanity and my children’s sake.

  • My heart goes out to the OP couple, who seems like just the kind of fellow DC citizen I’d like to see stick around.

    As someone who has watched my U Street neighborhood grow and thrive, it’s frustrating to see the decline in Columbia Heights. I used to enjoy riding the bus up there to shop and visit a restaurant, and enjoy the general street seen. It was always a bit edgy but nowadays it feels more hectic, less safe, more bad energy on the sidewalk, more disputes, more yelling. Just a general bad energy vibe. It’s sad.

  • Thank you so much for this letter. We live on Park Road and call the cops at least once a day because of the recent drug dealers who have deemed our neighborhood “their block.” It is terribly upsetting and we feel like we’ve tried everything including our local government, making friends with law enforcement, and working with the DEA. Still, these guys, some who are convicted felons, are still on the street, recruiting, dealing, harassing and threatening.

    It’s really appaling how DC has handled our neighborhood. You are so right when you say that they fixed it up and stopped caring about it. Like, “Oh, we’ve already fixed up CoHi, we have more neighborhoods to fix up now and can’t be bothered.”

    • How do you know they are “convicted felons?” Have you ever met them? Do you know their real names?

  • I honestly think one’s impression of CH has a lot to do with how often one has to traverse the blocks around 14th St from ~ Park to Euclid. I live in a quieter corner of the neighborhood and really like it; I have luckily never experienced crime worse than the occasional package theft or stolen plant. However, if I had to endure the scene around the CH metro on a daily basis, I’d probably be thinking of leaving too.

  • I don’t know why the police allow the drug dealing to take place so openly at the metro in CoHi — I was sitting at the windows in Pete’s with my eight year old kid, and they were selling their wares right in front of us. Women getting high, right in front of us. It was the middle of the afternoon –and it is happening every afternoon.

  • I don’t understand the purpose of these rants from people who leave the District .

    We live in Columbia Heights and I empathize with your complaints. But, we choose to live here because for us, the pros outweigh the cons.

    You are entitled to feel differently and given your particularly awful experiences I may have felt the same. But these are no longer your problems. Why is there a compulsion to convince the rest of us that your decision was “right”?

    • I suspect it’s more of a heads-up to D.C. elected officials and government agencies — “You need to get your act together re. crime and these other things, or more of the people who have swelled the District’s tax rolls are going to leave.”

      • Perhaps, but it is addressed to “Former Neighbors.”

        • That’s a good point. I was sort of assuming that the OP had sent the posting to multiple blogs/forums, listserves, etc. and to elected officials, but perhaps the posting was directed solely to PoPville and only to PoPville.
          .
          I didn’t get the feeling that the OP was trying to persuade the rest of us that he made the right decision — more that he had a lot on his mind and wanted to articulate that frustration.
          .
          It’s certainly provoked a lot of thought and discussion.

  • He brings up plenty of valid criticisms, but he’s just being petty and overly defensive with his line about “speculation and insanity” and insistence that everyone’s experience is similar. I probably wouldn’t stay either if I had the experiences he had, but I have not. I’m sorry for what happened to this couple and I hope they find a place that’s better for them.

  • Well FDR, the problem or concern I see is many of your concerns and those who replied are all immigrants to D.C. If more life long residents of DC were polled you maybe surprised “your views/values” have ruined DC communities. And government genenocide completed what was left. There’s no middle class in DC; you’ve left the indigent “needy & hopeless” intentionally and kept a 1% American housing market by buying out historical family homes…prying on the unknowning. Your statement of cleaning the school before it start, did you think of what and inspiration you would be to young males in a stem program as their teacher? Image…and your first altercation may not have been at verbal & physical altercation on the street. Your race may be Black but your assimilation & indoctrination are not; to foresee living as an adult in urban America straight from an overly discipline environment like the Marine. The latter I dare is also full of racism and sexism too you just chose to omit it to drive your negative points about D.C. You should send a retraction, speaking to points of facts you personally know e.g. is permit process on average 3.5 or is this for DIY vs PROS). I could go on but like you said you probably stopped reading this human race response… honored to be a resident of historical DC

    • Are you saying that the OP has failed to assimilate adequately with the types of people who would be walking down the street carrying a gun and pull it on somebody who confronted them over throwing garbage in his yard?

      • Don’t play ignorant assimilatetion into any urban environment versus controlled military housing or rural VT. The latter was in his youth the other as a military adult. And yes misjudging anyone in any “possible” hostile situation can get anyone kill consider both were already confrontational. Don’t just judge people by the circumstances you think there in; and mislabeling everyone as a young thug. Remember, Ted Bundy wore a three piece suit, and killers use the internet too; everybody has a right to bear arms…and as a veteran those are the only things I want mind being taken for my hands upon passing. When the moral was put a trashcan at the end yard and let it go!

    • Girl on a Hill

      So let me see if I understand correctly, the OP’s “views/values ruin communities”, not the person who pulled a gun on the OP when the OP told him not to throw trash in his yard?

      • Again, not all the facts were known only the alleged victim’s side to which we are having “dialogues.” I not going down a rabbit hole; half cocked

    • I read this about 10 times and I don’t understand a word you wrote. Or rather I understand all the words but their order makes no sense.

      “Government genenocide (sic) completed what was left” WHAT…

      “Kept a 1% housing market by buying out historical family homes…prying (sic) on the unknowing” DOES…

      “Image…and your first altercation may not have been at verbal & physical altercation on the street.” THIS…

      “to foresee living as an adult in urban America straight from an overly discipline environment like the Marine” ALL…

      “The latter I dare is also full of racism and sexism too you just chose to omit it to drive your negative points” MEAN????!???

      • Its not my fault you’re a slow reader or your reading level is below mine professor so skip it find some one else to critize.

    • Come on. Come. On. I assume you meant “preying on the unknowing.” Affordable housing in the District is a problem. But nobody who sold their house for a killing is “unknowing.” And it’s not government sponsored genocide, or genocide at all. But the neighborhoods are being changed not by the government, but by market forces.
      I am a Black newcomer to the district. I resent the insinuation that if I want to live in a safe neighborhood free from crime and litter that I am not “properly Black?” That attitude is poisonous and demeaning. That somehow you or anyone else is the arbiter of what it means to be Black in the district is absurd.
      I personally think this letter is fake as I wrote here. But most of the problems outlined are real. And they were worse before the influx of newcomers. To dismiss the concerns because of the race or birthplace of the person voicing them is counterproductive.
      And to somehow imply that crime and litter and general disrespect for where you live is something inherent to and desired by the Black Community is toxic. It gives the real racist in society ammunition for their hate and most, importantly doesn’t reflect the view of most Black People in this city.

      The rest of your post I couldn’t make sense of so I won’t respond.

    • Loretta, you obviously know nothing of the USMC or the military, judging by your ignorant comments about them.

  • If I am being completely honest, I think this is made up. He has literally hit on all the topics that have come up on Popville for the past two years. It’s just too perfect. He rails on violence, the corrections system, city government, roads, schools, “thugs”, Marion Barry. everything. And everything has literally happened to him. Everything. And I feel like he adds in the part about being a business owner and being black to insulate himself from criticism. He has made himself out to be too perfect. I mean who signs up for the jobs program for a second time after having such a bad experience?
    This guy is just too perfect, which means he likely is made up to make this rant above reproach.
    This is just one of many “I’m leaving the District, you guys are suckers for staying” posts that is gussied up.
    Its long on detail and short on specifics and I find it difficult to believe.

    I apologize if this is true account, but it just seems like too much…

    • “He has literally hit on all the topics that have come up on Popville for the past two years.” Nah — he didn’t mention dogs, children, bicyclists, and pop-ups.
      .
      😉

  • Bravo, sir. I only lived in DC for 3 years, but saw all the problems that you state. Kudos for keeping your cool in terrible situations and speaking your mind in this post.

  • Has anyone (Popville moderator?) been able to find a link to any reference supporting the pain and suffereing lawsuit? It would help provide some credence for this narrative.

    …or Popville moderator can the existence of this letter writer as a real person pleased be confirmed?

    • Why is this story so hard to believe? The District Government have been dysfunctional for years plagued with corruption consisting of lazy or rude employees. 3 former D.C. Councilmembers were convicted of wrong doing within the last 8 years (Kwame Brown, Michael Brown, Harry Thomas, Jr.) The D.C. Auditor Kathy Patterson recently conducted a customer service audit of several large District agencies and the report had mixed reviews. Customer Service haven’t been a priority in Mayor Bowser’s administration. Former Mayor Adrian M. Fenty made sure all D.C. Government employees responded to D.C. residents in a timely manner and he too responded by email to D.C. resident’s concerns. In my opinion, Adrian Fenty was the best Ward 4 Councilmember since Home Rule. Former Ward 4 Councilmembers Charlene Drew-Jarvis, Muriel Bowser, and Brandon Todd constituent services aren’t as good as former Ward 4 Councilmember Fenty. Bowser is aloof from the citizenry and I doubt if she will be re-elected. My hat off to this gentleman for writing and sharing his story because some find it hard to believe that he’s a black man that grew up in Vermont. Many of us D.C. residents regardless of race or ethnicity can relate to this story because many of use have experienced crime, unprofessional D.C. Government employees, and a non response D.C. Council and Mayor.

      • No one part of this story is hard to believe. Its that all these things happened to the same person.

  • I’ve lived in DC for 20 years now but it doesn’t take that kind of first-hand knowledge to recognize the obvious fantasy in this open letter. Seriously, why would you publish this? Now I’m going to be getting it from my Republican relatives in email for years. Is there any single Republican hot button it doesn’t push? Angry black “thugs,” check. Inept, lazy cops, check. Wasting your tax dollars on public schools and programs for the poor, check. Faceless bureaucrats trying to steal your tax money, double check. All because hapless Democrats are in total control. Gee, it’s almost like it’s an election year.

    Honestly, how anyone took any of this seriously past the laughable account of the grizzled marine disarming the hot headed black kid with a gun with his bare hands is beyond me. Lucky he didn’t draw the gun. Double lucky he foolishly charged onto your porch with it still in his waistband. Arrested for commission of a felony and with outstanding warrants to boot and out in 72 hours? Wow, must have had a hell of a lawyer! Maybe Stringer Bell pulled some strings?

    Good luck with your VA (or MD)-based business. I’m guessing it has something to do with direct-mail and Republican campaigns. I’m sure you’ll do well, there’s obviously lots of people who want to hear your fantasy tales.

    • “Honestly, how anyone took any of this seriously past the laughable account of the grizzled marine disarming the hot headed black kid with a gun with his bare hands is beyond me. Lucky he didn’t draw the gun. Double lucky he foolishly charged onto your porch with it still in his waistband. ”

      This part sounded like a scene out of Gran Torino or something. I said above that if this really happened as he said that wouldve been shot.

      The rant about the homeless shelters almost seems like a cut and paste or a synopsis of all the other POPville posts regarding that topic even down to the numbers he posted.

  • so sorry that the pain caused you to make these comments. I agree that the district and the government is a horrible mess and I wish you peace where you are. I’m at a crossroad myself.

  • Wow!!! I’ve lived all over this country in rural and urban environments (and everything in between). I moved to DC from Arlington, VA three years ago and I also attended college in DC in the late 80s through early nineties. I’ve lived here as both a tenant and home owner. I have relatives and friends who are born and raised in DC. I’ve interacted with a variety of agencies in the District. (I also have several African American friends who own property in Vermont…if that means anything).

    The bottom line is that my experience in Washington, DC is radically different from that of this post.

    I’ve interacted with DCRA and have been pleased. I applied for a permit three years ago. The permit was granted in about 6 weeks. What’s more, the new building was impressive and the employees were polite and helpful. This was radically different from my interactions with the equivalent agency in NYC (I applied for a permit in NYC about 10 years ago). Not that this is about comparing the respective city agencies (and admittedly we’re talking about a 10 year difference) but nevertheless, as bureaucracies go, DCRA has worked well for me.

    Every time I call 311 in Washington, DC I’m impressed. I’ve made requests for pickups and was pleased that my requests were executed. I’ve requested information on 311 and typically have had my questions answered expeditiously. One of the requests was to deal with rodents in the alley and that was met with timely effectiveness.

    In three years, I believe my trash may have been missed perhaps twice. I know that there are crimes (as with any city) and I certainly don’t want to downplay crime of any type but I have not had to personally deal with crime.

    I do have complaints. DC is becoming way too expensive, both in terms of real estate and more general cost of living. I think such skyrocketing prices can only lead to problems.

    Whatever the case, I suggest Mr. DFC move as soon as possible. It sounds like he has had a horrible experience. As for me, things have largely worked well in Washington, DC.

  • calling someone out for littering on your property and forcefully disarming and beating a trash talking thug are great fantasies we all have, but in acting on them you do risk your life and others lives.

    I’m sorry it has spun you into a really unfortunate situation, and don’t disagree that the DC has its challenges, but the takeaway seems to be that you should probably move to MD/VA or back to Vermont, and the rest of us who love this city need to be careful and not risk their lives over chicken bones

    • Did you read the letter. He clearly said he moved and left DC, although he didn’t say where he went in either maryland or virginia

  • Everyone who is furiously clutching their pearls and panicking about dc devolving into a 21st century Gotham city realize that there is a significant chance this whole thing is fabricated to just create a firestorm, right? It could be 100% true, but then again it might not be. It’s sort of like those chain emails. Do you always believe those?

  • OP here…

    I checked back into POpville this morning and got somewhat of a laugh at some of the things said. The thing about it all being a lie because black people don’t really live in VT was a gem.

    No, I won’t provide a case number because with that you can get my name, and with my name my business and current address, and if I wanted all that information out there I would have simply signed the letter with my name and address.

    I simply don’t care whether people believe me or not. I am not running for office or forming some sort of organization. Believe me or disbelieve, it’s entirely up to you.

    I will say that considering how often serious crime and Columbia Heights is in the news (how many shootings and weapons seizures have their been in the neighborhood the past couple of weeks, by the looks of it more than a few) it is a little strange that a few seem to continue to believe CH is like living in the land of rainbows and jellybeans.

    The above was a telling of my personal experience. Before I moved out of the neighborhood last year, I had lived in the District for 12 years, CH for 9 of those years. My wife and I gave it the proverbial “college try” and invested more time, love and mental energy into the city and some of her most ignored people and places during that time than most residents seem to do in a lifetime. We have no regrets and certainly no reason to feel like “quitters”.

    I am genuinely happy for you if you live in DC and / or CH and love it and never have problems. But based on the hundreds of responses above, I am clearly not alone in my experiences.

    • Most are familiar with the cons and the ills of living in the District which is not unique to just Columbia Heights hence why a lot of long term residents move to MD/VA at some point either for peace of mind or to raise a family. What was the specific intent behind your letter? Social awareness or just a need to share your experience?

    • Thank you for sharing your story! It has obviously inspired some important dialogue (in spite of the cray).

    • So why did you write the letter? Who is the intended audience? Does it serve the public good to simply try to convince people to leave as you did?

      Aside from the horrible ordeal with the person carrying the gun (especially if someone begins repeatedly threatening you at your home), the grievances are quite typical typical of life many places and most people would see many advantages compared to those costs. Are you now free of any aggravations in your new locations?

      Also, you must understand that there are ample reasons to be suspicious of the story as being one person’s experiences (using many stereotypes and highly generalized criticisms). This response from the “OP” does nothing more to show this isn’t just a ploy to get generate strong reactions from people.

      • I wrote it because I felt like it. There was clearly no language meant to lure people out of DC, or ridiculing them for staying. Your life is your own and if you are happy in DC, then I am happy for you.

        Am I free of aggravations? Let’s put it this way, I’ve lived in my current neighborhood for a little more than a year.

        I have yet to find one (seriously, not one) piece of trash on a sidewalk in my neighborhood. No one has defecated on my sidewalk, none of my trash pickups have been missed ( and I’ve actually watched the trash guys pick trash up off the road when it fell out of the can), my taxes were processed with machine like efficiency and when we do have kids, there is a middle and highschool within a mile that ranks in the top 10% nationally.

        My biggest aggravation in life is the HOA that sends you reminders to mow your lawn if it’s been more than 2 weeks. Oh the “horror”.

  • Did you ever consider running for ANC to actually take action on all your grievances?

    • Like that’s ever accomplished anything of true and lasting effect as it pertains the OP’s issues and grievances.

  • 1981 14th and t st. Same story different year

  • Salute to you for writing this.

  • I’m a DC native (born and lived in HU-Pleasant Plains, then over in NE) also African American, and a resident of Irving St (likely across or an alley or a 5 minute skip to where this guy likely lived). I am as anti-thug/bamma behavior and crime etc etc as they come. That said, based on my experience both personal and professional/academic something smells funny about Part 1 of this story. Yes I could be wrong, but I’m thinking it’s a lot of little narratives, experiences and campfire tales from other people, glued together and finished with a topcoat of embellishment. Like a snowflake, there seems to be a lattice work of stuff built around a piece of dust or pollen at the center, that speck being the “truth” “facts” objective reality. In the alternative, there sounds like something else unstated is going on here swirling beneath the surface.

    Part 2 is a another thing. The survey of DC government –be it the executive branch or the Council–did make some fair, if jaded, points. I would add MPD to that list regard the Chief’s static security guard methodology which was NOT foisted upon her by the so called “Ferguson effect” (which is not real, just convenient). She has long been a proponent.

    As for the comments–many are typically obtuse or silly. I guess if you are Anonymous or have some weird pseudonym that’s easy to do. I say who I am and stand on that.

    • Yes. To all those hotly debating whether the OP and his story are “real” or “fake,” the above comment rightly makes the point that it’s not (necessarily) an either/or proposition. All of the OP’s anecdotes could be true and he could be of another color, or he could very well be black and have embellished or borrowed some of his experiences, or he may have changed certain details to remain anonymous. We just don’t know. If this was an actual news story, we’d probably hang the editor and demand some fact-checking, but it isn’t. Regardless of whether his own stories were accurate, the experiences he described definitely resonated among the readership.

      As to you, ProfChrisChambers: I see from your bio that you make your living (in part) commenting on these types of issues. For those of us who have careers that are not compatible with having one’s views on controversial topics aired to the whole world, we have no other choice. Not that I am defending anonymous stupidity or rudeness.

  • Oh dear. Not something I want to read the day before moving into a recently purchased home in between Columbia Heights/16th St Heights. The comments with similar sentiments are even more distressing. Does anyone like living in Columbia Heights/DC? I’ve been a DC resident for 6 years and enjoyed living in other neighborhoods (Logan Circle/Shaw/Woodley Park). This post and many comments make it sound like total hell. Is it really that bad? What can be done to fix it? Also does anyone have recommendations for organizations to volunteer with to help?

    • The OP’s ire was largely directed to the blocks south of the Columbia Heights Metro (which also happens to be the main commercial hub). Other parts of Columbia Heights are better. 16th St Heights is even nicer for families, if a little less happening.

      As for the OP’s complaints about DCRA and other agencies, well, those are mostly true.

    • Try the Community Alliance for Upper 14th Street, although its focus is more on 16th Street Heights.

  • Yes I’m incredibly fascinated as I read these comments (way longer than I should have probably—my curiosity has led me to read almost every single one so far) by how many people seem very eager and too happy to buy into this narrative, and to bolster it with their own horror stories. Very few voices speaking to the contrary. Probably because they rolled their eyes at the first few comments and chose not to engage. They are probably the wise ones. I haven’t been tempted to comment on anything until now. There are many comments here from people who “used to live” in Columbia Heights. I wonder how long ago? Because I can believe maybe that CH was maybe that bad in the 80s. I wasn’t here then. (I kinda wish I was. The hardcore music scene here was legendary! But I was too busy learning how to walk, chew solid food, identify shapes and colors, not poop in a diaper, etc)

    I don’t know where I fall in terms of saying whether DC is falling apart before our eyes or if things are improving and getting better. I’ve been here for only 5 years, living on Sherman Ave on the east side of Columbia Heights. We still see our fair share of crime. Packages are stolen pretty regularly. About two years ago, somebody was stabbed right in front of my building, and that person’s body was discovered lying in the street early the next morning. My downstairs neighbor’s apartment was broken into. I see smashed car windows from time to time on my street. I imagine that it’s only a matter of time before a serious crime is committed against me directly, but so far I’ve been lucky. Or actually, no, I want the credit, I’ve been street smart too. I haven’t experienced the kind of government dysfunction that the writer describes firsthand, although I’ll hear a few stories about some bad customer service experience. Oh wait, that was Pepco! But seriously, if you can tell me about any municipality that doesn’t mismanage its funds, you’re just lying. DC is a city that has to provide state-level resources, too. Don’t forget that. And thank God that as of 2013 DC can actually spend its local tax revenue without Congressional approval. That’s the true dysfunction. Why don’t you all get fired up about DC budget autonomy instead?

    I read this open letter. And I came away vaguely upset, or maybe disappointed is a better word, that Popville posted this. I am a longtime lurker on this site, and so I’m familiar with the kind of discourse that occurs in the comments section here, and I also understand this blog highlights reader-submitted material as a way to start conversations, usually about finding a good contractor to fix a leaky roof or something like that, but also about more serious issues. And that’s great. But at least in my mind, this open letter, or let’s call it an open Airing of Grievances https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0JR6xt9S02o is problematic. Besides the personal anecdotes about college and the Marines and meeting his love in DC and, “oddly enough,” reverse-commuting to MD and VA (not that hard to believe, dude) and his harrowing encounter with the thug with a gun, none of this is anything that hasn’t been said ad nauseum by other commenters here, except those commenters were usually more succinct. I share this writer’s problem of being similarly verbose. But it has been said by an earlier commenter in this thread, this guy just runs through a litany of every government-bashing cliche you can think of. Is it interesting? Well, no, but I did force myself to read it all when I knew I was going to write something about it. Seriously, giving this guy a platform on this blog amounts to some seriously trolling on Popville’s part! And that’s what this “open letter”/Airing of Grievances amounts to basically. Trolling. Trolling people who don’t agree (he already knows there will be plenty of that, as he is careful to anticipate and defuse their critiques) and giving people who agree a chance to vent too. So come on, Popville. Have some editorial rigor to what you post. Because there also, to my mind, and a tiny minority of readers here, whose comments you kind of have to really dig deep to find, this entire account is suspect. Yes, it starts with my/our suspicion about this man’s agenda, but skepticism is healthy when it comes to the internet, and so is understanding of how anonymity grants many people license to say whatever the hell they want, especially when it can serve a particular viewpoint.

  • pt 2

    I’ll leave it to smarter people to actually try to get to the bottom of this. For now, I’ll just stick with mostly with ridicule and hopefully if people actually read this thing, other people will bolster my argument for me.

    Whenever people talk about “open air” or public drug markets, I think, ok, yes, those do exist. This writer mentioned the problem of drug dealing right next to the Columbia Heights metro while the police ineptly…um…check out Facebook, although let’s be serious, they’re probably swiping right on Tinder, am i rite?…Oh wait, did he actually witness them using Facebook while on duty? Or was that just one of many hyperbolic embellishments he threw in with the ease of someone very, very comfortable embellishing to serve his viewpoint? Anyways, he was probably just being snarky. Okay fair enough, I can be pretty snarky.

    I go by that metro station all the time, as in ery’day, multiple times a day, to take the metro, catch the Circulator, or anytime I go to Target, Five Guys, CVS, Starbucks, etc. I’ve definitely smelled marijuana being smoked in that general vicinity with more frequency lately—damn those kids are bold—but the idea that anything is happening there that isn’t happening in every college dorm or music festival or heck in the break room of your local coffee shop, and that this is some sign of the irreparable decay of the city, is a bit ludicrous. And besides how long do you think police or the surrounding businesses or the general public tolerate drug dealers operating so visibly in that busy commercial corridor? Do you notice the hordes of people walking by that area who never seemed bothered enough by this open air drug market to go on a call the cops or just go vigilante? Do you think maybe a few of them and this very active, military-experienced, volunteer-y and social conscious DINK-y couple had organized a couple of other community activists, they could have raised a real fuss about drug dealing around the metro station if they were really bothered enough by it? Or maybe all those people go home and then angrily post in the comments here in Popville. Or maybe because it’s not really a big deal to them. Or maybe because it’s not really happening except in the imaginations of people who have been watching a little too much Fox News. Am I to believe that this guy witnessed a drug transaction as it occurred near the metro station, was close enough to observe that it wasn’t just weed, that it was “serious narcotics”, and given the context, must have been observed by him multiple times for him to conclude it was an ongoing problem not an isolated incident? And the cops did nothing? Personally if this is all true then I’m inclined to trust the cop’s judgement about whether something criminal was happening. If he thinks it’s all clear and a good time to see what his girl is up to on Facebook, then there probably aren’t people slinging drugs right under his nose. And it should be clear by now that cops generally enjoy beating up perps! Bad joke.

    In his description of the encounter with the litterbug who was packing, we get a lot of information about this thug “screaming every four letter word and negative gentrification invective in the book” (what is that by the way? “carpetbagger” “scalawag”? Sorry, apparently this young thug has a much deeper vocabulary of “negative gentrification invectives” than I do) for “~20 seconds.” But as for describing his own actions, the OP says he reminds/decides to ask. Those are the verbs he chose to use. What sort of language was used to “remind” and “ask” this person to not litter? Well, surely reminding and asking someone would involve words like “if you don’t mind” and “please” and “i hate to bring this up but…” But remember, people are liars. Dr. House knew what he was talking about. So, in my head, I like to imagine how I would probably react in that scenario, not in a calm way, but by exclaiming, “Hey what the f—!” And I’m an extremely timid, confrontation-avoiding person. Not someone with the brash confidence of a former Marine. So I will “use my imagination” not on the young thug, but rather on the storyteller, because he gives us surprisingly few details about what could have set this young man off except that he “ran hot” (a phrase which made me laugh out loud, by the way. Seriously. I think it was the quotes, and the patronizing explanation as though he had some special insight due to his multiple encounters/studies of the young “thug” species.) The writer describes seeing the young man pull his shirt up to show his gun and asks us to imagine the terrible way in which he threatened to shoot him. Does he mean like “I’m going to shoot you?” Or “I’m going to f—ing shoot you?” Or “Motherf—er I’m going to shoot you?” Maybe a few more expletives. That’s what I’m imagining. Sure maybe it was a little more slangy, a little more “urban.” But I don’t know, why doesn’t the writer just say he was directly threatened with a phrase like that? Why make that long aside about leaving it up to our imaginations? And then why is it at this point that he makes the aside about most of the racism he faced coming from other African Americans? It’s because he wants to pre-empt criticism that he behaved wrongly because he was faced with a young black male with a gun. And for an ex-military guy who asserts that he is “extremely comfortable around firearms” he does seem to go into full panic mode here rather quickly. The youth showed his gun and according to the narrator, a direct verbal threat to his life way made, although the gun was never drawn and pointed at him.

  • pt 3

    Now of course that wouldn’t excuse brandishing a handgun. You don’t bring a gun to a litter fight. And it wouldn’t excuse the harassment experienced by the OP and his wife later. But if I was skeptical about the initial encounter, I’m doubly skeptical about this part of the story, but that could be my naivete about the criminal justice system here in DC. Some of it does sound quite unbelievable, that a repeat offender could get out of trouble so quickly after repeatedly committing crimes and continually violating a restraining order. And if it’s all true, then that would really be an outrage. It was nice that it’s at this point we learn that the writer broke this kid’s jaw while restraining him. That’s called burying the lede! Actually I don’t believe any of that court battle stuff. I don’t know. Maybe because I want to believe our justice system is not that terribly dysfunctional. Or maybe because this guy is so good at painting himself as a perpetual victim that I think maybe he needs to write this narrative as a story of not only a simple run-in with a thug but also about how the city and its failed, corrupt institutions are ultimately the root cause and chief enabler of all the evil and crime in the city, to make his plight seem all the more tragic.

    Then there’s the stuff about his participation in the DC summer jobs program. I cannot believe anybody who has had first-hand experience working with these disadvantaged kids, and thereby, you know, getting to know them and seeing what makes them tick, what their issues could be, and sort of empathizing with them, could talk about them in such a dismissive way. They weren’t just functionally illiterate, they were “seriously illiterate. Like, oh my god, you wouldn’t even believe it.” (That’s how I hear it, anyway.) The porn anecdote seems plausible. The characterization of the screaming match “about something that only teenagers think is important…” I mean, wow, of course, those are nothing like our big important adult problems. I’m so sorry his clients had to see that. Those kids absolutely should have known better than to behave like…most teens.

    The point is folks, this story reeks, and to all of you and to the Prince of Petworth himself, please take these kinds of accounts with a grain of salt. I would have said the same thing, obviously, if this were told by a white person. Except then I’d add on the accusation of race-baiting, and other fun things. The thing that makes me saddest is not this anonymously submitted open letter but that so many people in the comments were so eager to pile on with their own horror stories about the city. It speaks to a mindset that focuses and defines their worldview by all the negative things they experience and all the problems they see as either insurmountable or not worth fixing in the first place, better to get out of dodge, rather than imagining a world in which things get better, in which problems get fixed, in which for every bad thing, there are also plenty of good things and good people, in which governments aren’t just busy wasting your tax dollars but are made up of well-intentioned people doing their damnedest every day, in which you can’t paint all people with a broad brush, or a city for that matter.

    • Child aka Fred,

      You’re a joke, you’re a troll – and sure, I’m both. But you have your head up your millennial ass or maybe old person ass. Regardless, you say you’ve lived in DC (or maybe just Columbia Heights) for five year and you’re questioning the OP account.

      Do you really live in Columbia Heights? Doesn’t sound like it.

      So ‘anonymous’ me, I’ve lived in DC for over 30 years. DC now is better than EVER! That said, there is still plenty of grimy shit that happens – case in point Columbia Height (at the Metro and within the blocks south and east of it) (p.s., Petworth).

      I suppose all the shootings and killings are the same stuff that you’d find in any college dorm or at a music festival. Don’t be such a prude, it’s just kids being kids, why stop their fun – schools out after all.

      Back to reality, shootings, stabbings, theft, drug dealing, drug use (and yes, smoking pot is still illegal) all happens at or within blocks of the Columbia Heights Metro station on a frequent basis. The cops know this, that’s why there are a shit ton of them there all the time. Are they doing their best, who knows – but to say it’s the residents job to make a “fuss” about it if they really care exposes you for what you are.

      That is: someone who wants to write a three part ‘look at me’ ill-conceived anonymous post complaining about anonymous posts.

      Whatever, my favorite takeaway from your novel:

      “other people will bolster my argument for me”

      Love It!

    • Thanks for the thoughtful post Fred. The more I think about it as well “this story reeks”. The feeling expressed by ProfChrisChambers seems to capture it- “lattice work of stuff built around a piece of dust or pollen at the center”. It’s like a Michael Moore movie. It’s gets you so involved in feeling something that you shy away from noticing the inconsistencies.

      • “Thanks for the thoughtful post Fred.”
        .
        You and I have different definitions of the term “thoughtful.” Although there was a small degree of self-awareness in part 1: “I share this writer’s problem of being similarly verbose.”

    • I’m guessing you haven’t served on a jury in DC if you don’t think this is plausible.

    • Fred, your three posts are all tl/dr but the fact that you wrote this three part screed says you really should go get your own life

  • This is a lot. I have lived in DC for over 30 years (Brookland) and have never had a single problem. Maybe Im lucky- but then again the city is not for everyone. I knew Columbia Heights WAY before the Target and Giant. I think everything is based on perception. It is sad that you had such a bad experience as the city has so many things to off and continues to grow. Cheers to you and your new start elsewhere though. I hope its all you ever wanted.

  • Goodbye and good luck. Moving Takoma Park and taking my wallet with me.

  • An “open letter” is pretty much always a rant/screed, especially when posted to a blog. Otherwise the person would have written an essay or op ed piece for a more “vetted” publication. But that doesn’t automatically make it a fable. Frustrated ranting can still have legitimate roots. Most of this rage is about a specific incident, but the peripheral issues mentioned, especially the dysfunction of DCRA are legit, though some I think overblown.

    I moved to CH in 1987 – at 14th & Columbia, then to 14th & Irving in 2006. The current issues of youth violence/harassment are fairly new and definitely disturbing, but also a problem throughout the city (Gallery Place Metro, bike trails etc.)

    It is a sad and deep pathology, and I don’t really have a solution to propose, except to break up concentrated poverty housing. Every apartment building in the entire city should be required to have 1% of units for “assisted housing” clients, and another 2% for “workforce” housing. No apt. building anywhere should have more than a total of 5% for below market housing.

    • “Frustrated ranting can still have legitimate roots.”
      .
      This is the critical point, I think. I have no idea if the original letter is 100% accurate, slightly embellished, fiction based loosely on reality or “pants on fire” fantasy. But does it really matter? Whatever its truth rating, it taps into the frustration and unease felt by many residents of Columbia Heights in particular and many parts of DC in general.
      .
      There is a sense that crime is on the uptick, no matter what the crime stats reflect (and we’ve all heard of so many incidents of the MPD refusing to take a report on crime, even violent crime, that it’s foolish to put much stock in those statistics). Despite some people’s incredulity, there are a great many drug deals going on in plain sight around the CH metro, and there seems to be no interest on the part of MPD. The chicken bone and general trash issue is real, and one of the most astonishing things I’ve ever seen. (When there are public trash cans everywhere, why throw things on the street? I don’t get it.) There is a sense that city services and responsiveness, after improving a great deal, are in decline again – DPW and DCRA in particular. Public corruption and/or incompetence is very apparent – the streetcar, the Duke Ellington renovation, and the Mayor’s initial plan to shut down DC General are just a few high-profile examples.
      .
      Columbia Heights, and DC in general, is a wonderful place to live – but there’s no reason to gloss over its problems.

  • Sheesh, all you people who are parsing every nuance of this post and claiming it can’t be real, must be made up, etc.
    And some saying “well, I’ve lived in DC, in Columbia Heights, in worse neighborhoods for x years and this never happened to me” — well, good for you. Can you imagine that it just may have happened to someone else??
    The concerns in this post certainly ring true for the vast majority of people, despite all you trolls who claim the post is a string of stories held together by a web of falsehood.
    .
    Thank you for sharing your experience OP

  • I wish the gentleman who wrote this letter would run for public office.

  • I haven’t read all the comments so who knows if this was referenced already but a city in California has tried the “paying criminals” thing to pretty good results. I was skeptical of the moral hazard as well but what has happened is certainly worth noting…

    http://www.cnn.com/2016/05/19/health/cash-for-criminals-richmond-california/

  • Convenient timing…

    The WaPo just did a story about how DC is unique nationwide in terms of its “catch and release” policy with criminals. 91% of the people arrested during a given day in DC are released without bail, only on the promise that they will show up at their trial.

    And folks wonder how this guy could be repeatedly harassed over the course of a year by the same guy who threatened to shoot him. Well, its because DC has a well abused “catch and release” policy with its criminals.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/when-it-comes-to-pretrial-release-few-other-jurisdictions-do-it-dcs-way/2016/07/04/8eb52134-e7d3-11e5-b0fd-073d5930a7b7_story.html?hpid=hp_local-news_bailreform-1145pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory

  • It also does not help that the Washpo posts all the names for any real estate transaction online. So anyone can simply google a name and find out where they live. Unless they purchase a home under an LLC or live in it before the internet error, all their information is easily available. That is why most, if not all of the prosecutors do not live within the city limits.

  • I remember when the Mount Pleasant riots were kicking off decades ago. A group had gathered in front of the Church’s Chicken and were about to burn it down. Some officers were staged nearby and were witnessing what was about to unfold and were told to stand down. I was told from a reliable source that the order that came from the Mayor’s command post was something like “Let’em go. They’re just blowing off steam.” Needless to say the restaurant was completely burned out after it was looted of all cash registers. Letting’em go has been the mantra for decades. Below is a quote from an article from the Chicago Tribune. I get the impression that Chicago is a larger version of DC.

    ‘The Chicago Tribune reports a staggering finding from the holiday weekend: 32 people were shot over the course of 15 hours in the “Windy City.” According to the Tribune, 60 people in total were shot over the weekend and 28 were wounded between Sunday around noon and 3 a.m. Monday morning. The amount of victims adds to the rising number of gun violence casualties in the last few months. During Memorial Day weekend, 69 people were shot, centralized on the city’s west side.’

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