IMG_0309
Photo by PoPville flickr user jacquesofalltrades

Justin lives in the H Street, NE neighborhood. PoP-Ed. posts may be written about anything related to the District and submitted via email to princeofpetworth(at)gmail please include PoP-Ed. in the subject line.

“Recent events have made it perfectly clear that the United States Congress shouldn’t play any role in the day-to-day operations of the District of Columbia. For years, D.C. has been an unfortunate pawn in the partisan warfare that consumes the United States Congress, and it’s wrong.

Just last week, Congressman Andrew Harris, MD (R-MD) decided to turn D.C. into his own cheap prop during an appropriations meeting by filing and ultimately passing an amendment to kill the “The Simple Possession of Small Quantities of Marijuana Decriminalization Amendment Act of 2013”.

This decriminalization act was passed by the democratically elected D.C. Council with overwhelming support. It was signed into law by the District’s elected executive, Mayor Vincent Gray. I don’t know why Congressman Harris believes that his role as a representative of Maryland – where decriminalization is the law, by the way – entitles him to overrule the democratically-enacted statutes of our city.

Small amounts of recreational marijuana in the hands of non-violent offenders shouldn’t ruin lives. As D.C. struggles to increase high school graduation rates and decrease violent crime, we should focus on removing barriers to education and employment by encouraging treatment and rehabilitation in lieu of imprisonment. Decriminalization makes good fiscal sense as well: we should not be paying to house non-violent marijuana users in a Department of Corrections facility.

But unfortunately the merits of the policy have been overwhelmed by the crusading ego of Congressman Harris. This is simply unacceptable.

While we may not have direct representation in Congress, we need to band together and rally for a united and fully independent Washington, D.C.

Sincerely,
Justin M. Rosen”

Celebracion

Catalina Talero is a career educator and Fulbright Scholar residing in Washington, D.C. PoP-Ed. posts may be submitted via email to princeofpetworth(at)gmail please include PoP-Ed. in the subject line.

If you passed through Connecticut Avenue, particularly around K St., at any time during the day or night of June 28th it is likely that you were overcome by waves or, at times, a small sea of yellow . Colombia will play Brazil over the July 4th weekend and when that happens that #seaofyellowjersies promises to swell into a giant, golden ocean of fans rooting for Colombia.

Last Sunday (the day after Colombia vs. Uruguay: 2-0), a highly regarded friend energetically expressed her happiness that Colombia seemed to have left its World Cup brutality in the past. She brought up the fact that Colombia used to assassinate its own team members if they missed crucial goals, especially penalty shots, giving new meaning to the term “sudden death overtime”. The authenticity of her congratulation was clarion. What could I say? She was right.

And it could also be said of Colombia’s 2014 World Cup run that, regardless of outcome, thus far it is ineffably swathed in beauty. One might even venture to suggest that this is so precisely because our collective past is marked by national tragedy.

Some of the most creative human rights abuses in recorded history have indeed taken place on Colombian soil. Colombian-Americans, however, are ambassadors of so very much more than war and its spoils. Our ability, education, resilience and Nobel-prize winning contributions to literature far exceed even the fecundity of our exquisite biological diversity, our sublime flora and fauna.

Copa do Mondo Brasil marks our first participation in the event with formal peace negotiations underway in Colombia. Irrespective of how an individual Colombian-American may identify politically we are focused –as a group- on peace, prosperity and sustainability. Ask any DC Colombiano: he or she will gladly testify. One of our favorite chants as soccer fans is ¡Amen!

Another thing we do seem to be enjoying, at present, is making euphoric World Cup goals. Our nation’s capital has not only tolerated our raucous revelry, it has received it remarkably generously. I close with my Facebook status, posted after the game on June 28th:

Please understand: this is historic. We lived through the War on Drugs. I remember times when people in Bogotá would ask: “has there been a bomb yet today”? Mañana is now. And today the police in Washington, D.C. beeped in time to the rhythm of our Colombian drums and kindly shut down a portion of Connecticut Avenue as we danced and cheered together. Colombianos: we all know the cost. We all paid our own version of the price. Every time we win, what we express is our joy and gratitude at the opportunity to be here, alive and safe, joyful with you.  #gracias

SPN:
Cierro con mi estatus de Facebook, posteado después del partido el 28 de junio
Favor entender que esto es histórico. Nosotros sobrevivimos la guerra contra las drogas. Recuerdo días en que la gente en Bogotá preguntaba si hoy día había explotado bomba. “Tomorrow” es ahora. Y hoy la policía en Washington, D.C. pitaba al ritmo de nuestros tambores colombianos, muy amablemente cerrando una porción de Connecticut Avenue mientras bailábamos y aclamábamos juntos. Colombianos: todos sabemos el verdadero costo. Todos pagamos nuestras propias versiones del precio. Cada vez que ganamos, lo que expresamos es nuestra alegría y gratitud por la oportunidad de estar aquí, vivos y seguros, jubilosos con ustedes. #thankyou

cleveland_park_service_lane

Ed. Note: We previously discussed whether or not the service lane should be converted into a pedestrian boulevard back in 2011.

PoP-Ed. posts may be submitted via email to princeofpetworth(at)gmail please include PoP-Ed. in the subject line.

DDOT proposes to PAVE OVER the safety Service Lane in Cleveland Park:

Honestly, folks, this issue has been abundantly addressed and firmly rejected in the past by the neighbors, merchants, visitors and everyone who values safety from high-speed Conn Ave.

The proponents know well that elderly, disabled, infants, toddlers, and general citizens, be they CP residents or visitors, are safer, at less risk, with less anxiety and fear, and overall more conveniently served by this virtually essential Service Lane.

Safer: because we don’t have to exit a car adjacent to fast moving Connecticut Ave traffic, and likewise at less risk both on foot or in a car because while in the service lane we are protected by the mini-island, small as it is, but so advantageous. Has anyone tried to unload a wheelchair bound passenger from a car at the outside curb lane on Connecticut Ave, with traffic going by? And what about the driver’s safety just opening the door?

More conveniently served: because with nearly 30 parking spaces turning over regularly during the day and evening, and especially as the only source of parking during Rush Hours, what are the proponents of TOTAL PAVE OVER proposing we do if we choose to patronize the merchants during those hours? (more…)

dc_circulator_complaint
Photo by PoPville flickr user fromcaliw/love

Jenn lives in SE DC in the Capitol Riverfront area. PoP-Ed. posts may be submitted via email to princeofpetworth(at)gmail please include PoP-Ed. in the subject line.

If you’ve lived in or traveled to Washington DC at some point since 2005, you have most likely seen or hopped a ride on a bright red DC Circulator bus.

Having lived on and off in DC circa 1991, I quickly became a Circulator Super Fan when I returned to the District in 2008…the Georgetown and Columbia Heights/14th Street routes becoming my de facto daily transit. When I moved to the still-in-progress Capitol Riverfront/Navy Yard area in 2009, I was ecstatic that the Circulator had made its way here as well.

Fast forward to today and the honeymoon is definitely over, a separation in place, and a potential divorce on the horizon. What went wrong, you ask?

For starters, the friendly and very customer service-oriented drivers on the Navy Yard route are being replaced by rude, entitled, belligerent bullies in uniform. Over the last few months month I’ve personally experienced the following DC Circulator Drivers Behaving Badly scenarios.

In June a DC Circulator bus driver pulled our bus over at the Navy Yard Metro station stop (northside of M Street SE) and walked off the bus with riders still on it so she could chat up her two friends who happened to be walking by. (more…)

joe_mills

Joe Mills is a 12 Year Petworth Resident.

Joe is also a neighbor of mine. PoP-Ed. posts may be submitted via email to princeofpetworth(at)gmail please include PoP-Ed. in the subject line.

I moved into Washington DC onto Capitol Hill in ‘88. Moved into Petworth in ‘01 after living in DuPont, Adams Morgan, Mt Plesant and Columbia Heights over the years.

Needless to say I’ve witnessed one or two changes in the city in general and in these neighborhoods in particular.

Closing of Pennsylvania Ave in front of the White House. Opening of G St NW in front of Martin Luther King Jr. library. Barricades and fortifications for the creation of a military base type of enclosure around Capitol Hill. Construction cranes touching the sky all over town. Reaching up out of gigantic deep holes in the ground that spanned the entire city block. Target and TGI Fridays following the lead of Starbucks, and now Wal-Mart finally pushing into the city. Attempting to unleash a massive blow to independent business. I saw these changes but didn’t understand them. At least not until I saw young white girls pushing baby strollers down 14th St where street escorts used make themselves available for Johnny day and night. In this moment I knew why my rent went unchanged for 10 years, then suddenly quadrupled.

What I did not see or predict is what happened to me on April 15, 2013.

Continues after the jump. (more…)

meridian_pint

John Andrade is owner of Meridian Pint.

Ed. Note: Meridian Pint is a PoPville advertiser. PoP-Ed. posts may be submitted via email to princeofpetworth(at)gmail please include PoP-Ed. in the subject line.

Clarification, Accountability and a New Direction

Over the past 10 days the topic of Paid Sick Leave for Employees has become a hot button issue in DC politics. Last week, when called by a reporter from DCist, I was asked about my position on paid sick leave for tipped employees. I made the unfortunate mistake of speaking on this topic without being fully aware of this law and most importantly, how my staff truly felt on this topic. I was quoted as saying:

“I do my very best as the principal owner to take care of my staff above and beyond what I would argue is 99 percent of the restaurants in the industry, and I do very well at that. But when it comes to the government mandating that I take care of paying my employees in their absence, whether it be from being sick or emergencies or other issues that may arise, I’m not in favor of the government mandating it.”

I would like to apologize for those that I may have offended, most importantly my staff, but the fact is that I love my community and I love my staff even more. While I am not perfect, I would never expect anyone to work when they are sick or otherwise not able to work. I have always worked with our staff in these situations. I would prefer that staff members take the necessary time to get well. However, despite all my good intentions and great track record with the community, local charities and environmental sustainability, I have fallen short on the most important part of Meridian Pint, my staff. I am sorry to you all.

After reading the quote from another restaurant owner who said “paid sick leave is an expense that he and his counterparts can afford” I realized that he is right. While I believe that many restaurants in DC can barely afford to stay open, much less pay for sick leave, Meridian Pint is a great example of a restaurant that can and should afford to go above and beyond this law. Therefore, as of this week Meridian Pint will now offer paid sick leave to all of its employees including tipped employees.

The truth is, that the ‘Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act of 2008’ is one of the most important laws that restaurants must abide by yet most of us in the industry are not aware of it and often overlook it. The attention that has been brought to my doorstep this past week has opened my eyes to the seriousness and magnitude of this oversight. I have become the poster child for so many of us in the restaurant industry who overlook the most basic needs and rights of our staff members. Our staff members are the life of our restaurants and without their good health and commitment we would not exist.

I hope that all of my poor decisions up to and including this past week serve as a
wake up call to all my fellow restaurant owners. We cannot drive our businesses forward without taking care of the most important part of our business, our staff.

I would again like to apologize to my staff for overlooking your most important
needs, your health and your income. Moving forward I will promise to always put
you all first above all other concerns. I would also like to apologize to my
community for not following through on my pledge to be the best gathering place in Columbia Heights. I have let you down and for that I am sorry.

cheesecake_truck_dc_food_truck_regulations

The following PoP-Ed. was written by Craig Barsi. Craig is Co-Owner of Sweetz Cheesecake and That Cheesecake Truck.

PoP-Ed. posts may be submitted via email to princeofpetworth(at)gmail please include PoP-Ed. in the subject line.

Why My Brick-and-Mortar Bakery Opened a Food Truck

It was 1988, and I was working as an accountant in the District and knew there had to be something more fulfilling than what I was doing. My love has always been food – especially sweets – so I knew this was the direction to go. My wife and I raided our savings accounts, and with the generosity of family, the Sweetz Cheesecake bakery was born.

Those first few years we spent peddling our cakes to Washington area restaurants and hotels. Our business grew, and in 1992 we opened our retail shop in Gaithersburg, Maryland. In 2000 we added a fundraising component to our business and have been steadily helping schools and nonprofits since.

When I started to look to expand or possibly move our bakery to the District, the high-priced rent, steep fees and bureaucracy gave me pause. Taking risks is part of any business, but I had to wonder if in this case it was worth it given that we were happily operating where we were.

However, the idea of a food truck captured my attention. Imagine being able to roam around a city and develop a clientele neighborhood by neighborhood. It wasn’t until 2011 when I brought my son-in-law on as a partner that I had the trusted manpower and energy that I needed! That Cheesecake Truck was born. Today “Big Blue” serves hundreds of cheesecakes across the District every week. That Cheesecake Truck also gives 10 percent of sales to charities we believe in. This is a sacrifice for us, as it would be for any food establishment, but we do it because this city has given me the ability to raise a family and build a business that one day I will pass along to them.

For my business, our food truck provided a way to test the market and build a brand and customer base, and it has convinced me that we could open a successful brick-and-mortar store in the District.

I’m one of a growing number of Food Truck Association of Metropolitan Washington members who started as brick-and-mortar businesses then opened a food truck. Like my colleagues who started as food trucks then grew into brick-and-mortar restaurants, I believe that regulations that stifle entrepreneurship and put at risk hundreds of jobs are not just bad for food trucks, they’re bad for all small businesses.

If Mayor Vincent Gray’s proposed regulations for food trucks are adopted, they would force us into a limited number of lottery-assigned spaces in the most popular areas, ban food trucks from operating within 500 feet of those spaces and prohibit downtown vending where there is less than 10 feet of unobstructed sidewalk.

 Continues after the jump. (more…)


1350 Upshur Street, NW

The following PoP-Ed. was written by Jonathan O’Connell, a Petworth dad.

PoP-Ed. posts may be submitted via email to princeofpetworth(at)gmail please include PoP-Ed. in the subject line.

Since it’s time for D.C. parents to make their school lottery and charter choices I wanted to point out that one of the most underrated DCPS elementary schools, particularly for preschoolers, is in Petworth — Powell Elementary.

Obviously I am biased because my three-year-old goes there, but having toured 10-15 DCPS, charter and private schools (and having used nanny shares and private day cares) I seriously believe believe Powell is one of the best preschool options around. The principal, Janeece Docal, is an absolute force of nature. The preschool and pre-K teaching team has been together a few years and was one of the earliest in the city to adopt the Tools of the Mind curriculum (sort of Montessori light) that is now spreading all over the place. They are incredibly responsive, thoughtful and thorough. I would be happy having my kids literally in any of the classrooms.

Here’s what preschool and pre-K students at Powell get: Instruction from two teachers, in English and Spanish. Recess every day. Separate art, music, library and gym classes. And field trips: In five months at the school my daughter’s class has made pizza at Pete’s Apizza, visited the Botanical Gardens and talked food and shopping at Yes Organic Market. They bring in a yoga instructor some days.

I think a lot of middle class parents are turned off by Powell for two reasons: 1) data and 2) the look of the building. I love data so have been through it and the test scores are bad compared to a lot of suburban schools. I understand. But Docal is a turnaround agent and the students that have had her the entire time aren’t even out of first grade yet. There’s a reason the private foundation Fight for Children made Powell its only DCPS awardee last year.

The building needs upgrades but is on the list for school modernization and expansion for which there is now a petition. Powell already has one of the most important things I wanted, which was a bathroom for each PS/PK room with its own toddler-sized toilet so the kids don’t have to go in the hallways with the big kids. It’s not dated open classroom format. Plus, it’s across the street from Upshur Park — tons of green space.

Why I am writing this? First, I just can’t believe the disconnect between what I’ve experienced at Powell and what people say about schools east of the park (and what is in the School Chooser). Annoying. Am I certain my kids will go all the way through Powell? No. There is a lot of improvement to be made in the upper grades. And Principal Docal could leave, which would be the worst. But I really couldn’t ask much more from my neighborhood preschool program.

The following PoP-Ed. was written by Charles A. Birnbaum and Nord R. Wennerstrom. PoP-Ed. posts may be submitted via email to princeofpetworth(at)gmail please include PoP-Ed. in the subject line.

At DC’s Department of General Services – why use microsurgery when there’s amputation?

This is a classic “right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing” – and the result disfigured a neighborhood. Mayor Gray, with the assistance of Casey Trees, is committed to increasing DC’s overall tree canopy to 40% by 2035. That’s a shared goal with a shared effort and requires adherence by city officials and DC residents alike. The DC Department of Transportation’s Urban Forestry Administration is the municipal agency in charge of this effort everywhere except on public school property – that’s the domain of the Department of General Services. Unfortunately, based on what recently occurred on the Ross Elementary School’s grounds at 1730 R Street, NW, DGS doesn’t care whether they needlessly eradicate large canopy trees.

Here’s what happened: early on New Year’s Eve day (note the timing), and without any prior public notice, several employees from the Andersen Tree Expert Co., contractors hired by DGS, began cutting down virtually every tree in front of Ross. Before the clear cutting could be temporarily halted, three of four large oaks – among the largest trees on the block – and a crabapple were cut down. One of the oaks was heaving out of the ground and had to go (it’s arterial roots likely severed during the school’s renovation this past summer – something we want an objective, third-party arborist to determine), but the remaining trees were perfectly healthy.

Continues after the jump. (more…)


Photo by PoPville flickr user Eric Spiegel

The following PoP-Ed. was written by Josh Freed, Jennifer Leonard, Cindy Balmuth, and Dina Dajani, parents of students at of Hearst Elementary School. PoP-Ed. posts may be submitted via email to princeofpetworth(at)gmail please include PoP-Ed. in the subject line.

Why the Wait to Modernize DC’s Aging Schools?

By Josh Freed, Jennifer Leonard, Cindy Balmuth, and Dina Dajani

Last week, the parents of Hearst Elementary, a public school in Ward 3 that serves children from across every ward in the city, invited Mayor Gray to visit our school on Friday, December 21st. We hope to show the Mayor, first-hand, how insufficient funding for our long-overdue renovation and expansion is sentencing our students to facilities that fail to meet basic educational standards. This has been a problem the City has identified in its own internal planning documents dating back to 2008.

Hearst was built in 1930 and essentially remains a Depression-era schoolhouse today. It is the educational home to 280 kids, ages 4 to 10. Half of these students are housed in trailers, most without running water or bathrooms. Hearst has no cafeteria, gym or central meeting space. Students as young as six must carry trays of food up stairs to their classroom and have no choice but sit on the floor to eat their lunch. And despite having an excellent autism program, there is no space to provide therapies for students in need.

According to the DC government, it will require only $22 million to bring Hearst up to minimum 21st century standards. Yet, the city has only allocated $9 million.

Without an additional $13 million, our students will remain spread out across an antiquated main building and several sets of trailers, continue to eat at their desks and on hallway floors, and receive therapies in hallways. They’ll miss out on the critical benefits that common instructional and physical spaces provide and modern educational specifications demand. It also means that children and cars will continue to co-exist in a dangerous driveway; and that access will remain difficult to manage.

This is not about geography – Hearst represents families from every City ward. It is not about an underperforming or under-enrolled school — Hearst is a high achiever and 100% over capacity. This cannot be about priorities – Mayor Gray has championed special needs and early education throughout his career. It should not be about poor planning – the City developed Master Plans in 2008 and 2010 and updated Education Specifications in December 2011, when District officials launched their consultative planning process with the community.

Nevertheless, Hearst students are poised to be victims of City bureaucracy twice. First, due to a defective budget and planning system that failed to accurately account for dramatic increases in student population and classes. Then, and despite administration assurances and a paper trail, due to a funding roadblock that risks more delay.

We hope Mayor Gray comes to see for himself the dichotomy between the quality of students and the compromising circumstances imposed upon them by the District. And we hope that other residents of the District, who want to see their children or their friends and neighbors’ children succeed and the City remain a vibrant place for residents of all ages, will urge the Mayor to fund modernization so that all schools are built for the 21st century.