Tuesday, October 13, 2009

an open letter to Pat Mitchell of north capital main street

editor's note: i've been meaning to post this for months, literally, but life intervened and kept me from doing so. my apologies to be dredging up something so old, but i still feel it's necessary to set the record straight...

on tuesday, july 21st, i posted a quick blurb about the planters in front of the dc mini market. in that post, i made an observation about the state of some of the planters in the sidewalk space there on first street, and i made a brief, not-well-elaborated recommendation for how i thought the space could be more welcoming for all the people who use it on a daily basis.

the blog post was picked up and mentioned in scott roberts' daily bloomingdale email, where it was noted that i had "squawk[ed]" about the planter. scott received the following feedback from neighborhood resident Rene Albacete:

To the person that complained about the planters in front of the mini-mart. Instead of complaining about it why don't you role up your sleeves and take it on as a community project and maintain the planters yourself? It's a small enough task for one person to handle or coordinate. I've personally taken on many such projects.
then, a couple days later, north capitol main street board president pat mitchell posted the following longer reply to scott's email listserv:
In answer to the Bloomingdale Squawker’s comments:

North Capitol Main Street, is working to revitalize the commercial corridors within the neighborhoods that surround its district. Currently, our Storefront Improvement Pilot Program requirements specify that the funding goes to actual fa├žade improvement projects – glass, paint, security grates, signage and lighting. We have been working to convince and assist the business owners to take advantage of this free program. Many of the businesses have not been able to comply so far with the requirements of providing a “Clean Hands” and “Certificate of Good Standing” from the DCRA – a reasonable requirement if you’re going to receive grant funds, right? However, we have been successful, thus far, in signing up five businesses to receive the improvement grant. Our intent it so show significant physical improvements during this trial period with the goal of applying for larger, more substantial Storefront Improvement grants in the future.

TMI, you say? Well, maybe . . . but we take the Bloomingdale Squawker’s squawking as an opportunity to inform and invite you to, as long-time resident and community activist Rene Albacete so succinctly put it, “roll up your sleeves and get involved”. NCMS is a volunteer-driven organization that can only work for the good of the community if people are involved. Many small businesses need a lot of support and services in order to have them meet the expectations and better serve emerging neighborhoods like Bloomingdale, Eckington and Truxton Circle/Bates.

But here’s the good news: We have applied for and received a Clean Team Grant, specific funding to address clean, safe and beautification issues. Beginning next month you will begin to see Clean and Safe Ambassadors within your neighborhoods doing the work that is so difficult to get volunteers to commit to doing on a consistent basis, like picking up trash, sweeping the sidewalks, maintaining tree-boxes, watering plants, etc. We don’t know how long this program will be funded – we have a budget and funding for one year – but we certainly are going to take full advantage of it and encourage your support for the continuance of the program. The Clean team grant ensures that the business corridor remains clean and walk-able, and that all beautification projects such as tree boxes, flower pots and planters are maintained on a weekly basis. The service provider we have chosen for the Clean Team Program is Ready, Willing and Working, headed by Patty Brosmer of the Capitol Hill BID, a fantastic organization.

And to the Bloomingdale Squawker’s point of broken planters in front of the Mini Mart, as an example of good faith and how eager, Ready & Willing to Work the new Clean Team is, they have already removed the broken planters and mulched and pruned 5 yucca plants on the 1st Street NW corridor. (This is without pay – we’re waiting on the funds from DCRA to get them fully on board.)

We invite you to take a look and, more importantly, come out and support the businesses and your community this weekend for the First on 1st Art + Music Walk – Noon to 4:00 p.m.

For more details on the NCMS efforts, please contact Garry Clark @ 202-905-6039 or glark @ ncmsinc.org .
since my post was replied to in a public forum, i believe that another public forum, (like this blog) would be an appropriate place to reply to her comments.

first of all, allow me to address the name i've been given by Ms. Mitchell, i.e. "the Bloomingdale Squawker." i have posted to this blog, and other online media, using my screen name, "imgoph" (pronounced eye-em-gof, rhymes with "loaf") for years. my real name isn't something that i've used while writing this blog, and i believe that my selection of a nom de plume shouldn't be taken as an opportunity to call me names. it's a time-honored tradition in the united states, dating back to the writers of the federalist papers, for some writers to use a pen-name when publishing information or opinions that they would prefer are not easy to connect to one person. her repeated reference to me as "the Bloomingdale Squwaker" was clearly meant to be derogatory, and did the opposite of what she claimed to be trying to do, which is get members of the community excited to help her group make the north capitol street corridor the best it can be. shame on her for the unnecessary name calling.

now, to get to the heart of the matter, i believe that Rene Albacete and Pat Mitchell grossly misinterpreted the meaning and nature of my initial post on this topic, reading into it conclusions that i did not intend to be there. that is their right, but i intend to set the record straight now.

the point of my post was that the area on 1st street in front of the liquor store could be a vibrant "downtown" for the bloomingdale neighborhood, as i had taken to nicknaming the area. instead, one is often confronted with the local drunks who spend the day in this space panhandling, urinating on the sidewalk and on nearby homes, and harassing passers-by. these gentlemen are not hardened criminals, to the best of my knowledge, but they certainly lend an air of "don't bother investing here, the locals use it as an outdoor toilet" to the strip.

i lived on the corner of 1st and seaton for 3 years, and nearly every day i walked up and down that short stretch of "downtown bloomingdale," picking up garbage and other detritus that had accumulated in the gutters and on the adjacent sidewalks. i didn't ask for recognition—i was simply doing what i thought a good neighbor should do, and what i was capable of doing with my limited time and influence. since i have been able to use this blog as a platform to inform people about neighborhood goings-on, i thought it would be a good opportunity to start a conversation about how we can make that stretch better for the people who spend much of their time there. maybe if they saw that the area was being made better in a way that would both help them (by giving them a place to sit other than on the treeboxes) and everyone else (by helping businesses see that our neighborhood is worth investing in), it could be a win-win situation. i guess my comment didn't come across that way to Ms. Mitchell. for that, i apologize to her and also to my readership, because nothing demonstrates the failure of a writer more than the failure to communicate.

(with all that off my chest, i'll have more news about the direction of this blog very soon...)


l said...

I hate to post this as a comment to your post, but I was unable to find another means of contacting you.

My name is Devin Kittrell, and I live in Bloomingdale, on First Street. I am also a Senior political science major at Susquehanna University.

My senior research topic is gentrification, specifically how its impacts are felt by different individuals and groups. As part of my research, I am conducting interviews with folks in gentrifying neighborhoods, and asking them about both their observations and personal feelings. I plan to interview both one newer resident and one longtime resident, as well as one newer business owner and one longtime business owner.

I came across your blog at the beginning of the year (I believe), and thought that you may be able to provide me with either a long-time or newer resident interview, depending on how long you have lived in the neighborhood. Would you be able and willing to provide me with an interview for this project?

If so, do you have availabilities this coming Saturday, Sunday or Monday? I am returning home for fall break, and could conduct an in-person interview then. If not, an e-mail or telephone interview would work as well.

Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns. I can be e-mailed at: kittrell@susqu.edu. Thanks so much for your attention. I hope to hear from you soon.


Devin Kittrell

Victorious said...

Hi Goph. Thank you for your insight on this topic. I live just two doors down from the market on First St. My roommates and I moved in just in August, and were a little embarrassed to see our treebox on your blog, but it unfortunately had been that way since we moved in. The previous residents were not that concerned with the appearance of the house, but we are slowly improving it. But I do want to thank you for bringing attention to the Market and its sidewalk inhabitants. When we first moved in, my roommates and I didn't really notice it, but the past month or so, we have realized that the contstant litter in our treebox and our own front garden is probably a result of the market. There isn't a day that goes by that we do not have trash in our front yard/treebox. Thanks again for bringing attention to this issue. Please keep us updated!

IMGoph said...

victorious: i think all you can really do is pick up every day, and when you actually see someone littering out front, ask them kindly (but firmly) to pick up what they've dropped and take it to the nearest trash can.

if they don't respect the neighborhood enough to keep from treating it as their own personal dump, they don't deserve to hang out in the neighborhood, i say. that's not a color, age, or economic thing. it takes no effort at all to keep from being an asocial slob. :)

Deanwoodenizen said...

Another way to cut down on the litter is protest the store's liquor license and work towards a voluntary agreement. Check out Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration, http://abra.dc.gov/abra/cwp/view,a,1272,q,565505,abraNav,%7C32255%7C.asp.