Editorial: I Was Embarrassed….

Capitol Hill Corner asked for a photo opportunity with the residents who showed up for tonight's PSA meeting with MPD District 1 Lt. Eddie Fowler

Capitol Hill Corner asked for a photo opportunity with the residents who showed up for tonight’s PSA meeting with MPD District 1 Lt. Eddie Fowler

Editorial:  I Was Embarrassed…

by Larry Janezich

I was embarrassed for the Capitol Hill community tonight at the turn out for the PSA 107 meeting.  Today this blog posted on a significant jump in violent crime in PSA 107 during the last 30 days and re-posted the notice of tonight’s PSA 107 meeting.  The resident turnout at tonight’s PSA meeting is seen in the photo above.  Two residents – both regulars – showed up for the PSA meeting with MPD District 1 Lt. Eddie Fowler at 7:00pm in Southeast Library.  This after Councilmember Charles Allen and MPD District 1 officials urged residents to get involved in addressing Capitol Hill crime issues by working though the PSAs and the ANCs.

Where were the representatives of ANC6B and its Constituent Outreach and Community Services Task Force?  (Most were at ANC6B’s Alcohol Beverage Control Committee scheduled at the same conflicting time.)  Where was the much-in-evidence-on-newhilleast-listserve “Citizens for a Safe Capitol Hill”?  Where were Hillnow.com, The Hill is Home, The Hill Rag, Barracks Row Mainstreet, EMCAC, MOTH, the PTA’s, the churches, Capitol Hill BID, Community Connections, Barracks Row business stakeholders and residents?  Where were the outraged listserv posters and the op ed writers? Hell, where were the Capitol Hill Restoration Society and the Capitol Hill Garden Club?  Don’t tell me they don’t have a stake in the community.

Community Policing is the most effective way to address crime in our community.  It’s not a situation where you show up at a meeting every couple of months and say, “I’ve done my part.”  This requires a sustained and committed effort.  Police Service Areas (PSAs) are the basis of Community Policing.  Community Policing doesn’t work unless residents and stakeholders show up at PSA meetings.  And if they show up, PSA meetings don’t work unless residents have lots of questions.  Questions demand answers and accountability.  If the answers are not satisfactory, residents have the power to change the MPD official in charge of the PSA.

As Joseph de Maistre said (often misattributed to Alexis de Tocqueville), “Every nation gets the government it deserves.”


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21 responses to “Editorial: I Was Embarrassed….

  1. Brian C

    If the Federal Government controls justice in the District of Columbia and its lazy prosecutors refuse to charge, prosecute and punish young persons engaged in violence against us and our fellow citizens, then what is the point of wasting a Thursday evening listening to endless talk?

    • Kathleen

      I’m sympathetic to this remark, but the truth is that DC controls plenty of levers when it comes to criminal justice policy: MPD, criminal law, not to mention all different kinds of outreach and school policies. In fact, as one of the regulars pictured above, it was via PSA meetings that I first learned that the US Attorney’s office had some answering to do.
      I’ve wondered whether this “Citizens for a Safe Capitol Hill” organization is a platform for some kind of political project. An unusual number of voices in it are Republicans, and I kind of suspect that they are moving to support at an at-large candidate; possibly someone who is currently on ANC 6B. Given their disinterest in this meeting, as well as some evident indifference to issues of race and diversity (it was only because I interjected at the conclusion at its organizing meeting that a WOC was recognized to speak…and she wound up making the most valuable comments of all), it does seem more and more that this is a political and not a neighborhood group. Hope I’m wrong…because, as Larry points out, we will only get somewhere if we are diligent, collaborative, and engaged.

      • Bill

        Kathleen –

        I also attended the meeting held by Citizens for a Safe Capitol Hill. Your retelling of the events are inaccurate. The organizers were quick to point out from the outset of the meeting that any actions taken by the group needed to be respectful to all members of the community and that all members of the community needed to be engaged. When the issue of diversity was raised, the group’s leader emphatically agreed that the group should be diverse and agreed that communications about the next meeting should be varied to increase diversity in attendance. The meeting was a great discussion of concerned citizens about an important issue that affects us all, and I for one am happy that they organized it.

      • Kate

        Good job. Your absurd, and frankly hilarious, suspicions that the group of Capitol Hill residents, led by a progressive Dem, are secretly some GOP group sent to infiltrate and with nefarious plans to support a GOP candidate (oh noes!) has scared the only people doing a thing off of organizing. People like you have successfully scared Sarah off of doing anything.

        The WOC, whose name you don’t even know, is Jasmine, and she’s lovely, and she had been encouraged to stay involved and work with the group. Oh wait, there’s no group anymore. So thanks to people like you, we’ll keep having kids violently mugging and raping neighbors, we’ll keep having to be paranoid when we walk down the street, and no one will think we care, because any attempt at vocalizing concern or yes, even anger, about the situation will be squashed.

        Unless, of course, you’re perfect enough to organize a perfect group who can stand up against this crime wave? If so, I’m all ears. I certainly won’t be filling the void left by CSCH. I don’t have the stomach to be raged at and lied about.

        (PS–this is not Sarah, this is just a very ticked off neighbor. So please don’t go spreading nonsense rumours about her like you did the group she tried to organize.)

      • Kathleen

        This comment from Kate is indicative of why the leaders of this group encountered difficulties.
        As to Bill, I liked a lot of the things that were said as well, and I definitely hope some form of the group moves on.

  2. Notbuyinit

    7:00pm in Southeast Library–could have something to do with low turnout!

  3. judyleaver

    Wow… so sorry for the dismal turnout on such an important issue, if the reports of increased crime are to be believed… (my excuse is that I’m house sitting in Silver Spring, so am not on the Hill)

  4. anon_1

    this is on the heels of another public safety meeting which had large turnout. Do you have young children at home Larry? 7pm on a Wed. night is a terrible burden for working families. Then again, we’re not the primary targets of street crime because we’re home bonding with our kids in the limited time we’re not stuck working.

    • Caroline

      It’s not just a bad time with people for kids. It’s a bad time for just about anyone who has a job.

  5. IHM

    I appreciate the work this blog does to report on crime.

    However, I think the reality is the anti-development/anti-Hine slant of this blog has resulted in a mass exodus of readership (I’ve heard this thought from many neighbors) which has left a small group of like-minded readership that is no longer representative of our community as a whole. Unfortunately, that means these important messages this blog puts forth on crime don’t reach the wide audience they should.

    Such is the long-term consequence of one-sided reporting, I guess.

    • Tom

      IHM, is there any chance that you are taking good reportage — which means reporting criticisms of a project such as Hine — and seeing that as a view that the project should not be built?

      I’m personally happy that the project is being built, it is a much better use of land adjacent to Metro, to have business and residential activities concentrated where people don’t have to use cars. But that certainly doesn’t mean that the developers weren’t a little slippery, and it doesn’t mean that I view the scale/height as optimum.

      Reporting criticisms is part of good reportage, and doesn’t mean that the reporter necessarily hates the project — it just means that the reporter is doing his job.

      • IHM


        I’m saying the lack of reporting both sides of the story led those who didn’t agree with the Hine coalition (the majority of the neighborhood, however silent they may have been throughout) to go elsewhere for their news. I’m not the first to post something along those lines (someone compared the blog to Fox News a few months back) and it’s something I’ve heard personally from several neighbors.

        It’s unfortunate because there’s a lot of great information on this blog, and I think those who have turned elsewhere for their news could still find value here. Editorializing is fine, but it needs to be presented as such, and distinguished from the informational neighborhood news and updates that are put forth.

  6. Tom

    This is mostly a question, not a comment, from someone who has lived on the Hill almost 4 decades. Residents from my time frame didn’t have nearly the money of newer residents (homes cost 1/3 to 1/5 of what Hill homes sell for today), and there was more crime. We kind of understood what we were getting into, and what we needed to do to make our neighborhood safer. We wanted to live in the city, not the burbs, and we knew the risks that entailed.

    So, I wonder if newer residents, those who spend $900 K for a splendidly remodeled house, have different expectations of city agencies, as in, we just spent this kind of $ on a house, we EXPECT not to be crime victims, we EXPECT the city to take care of problems like this? That is just a question, I haven’t asked any of our new, young, and wealthy neighbors about their expectations. So I could be quite wrong here. And what I’ve said here isn’t a backhanded slap at their wealth, either: our new neighbors, and there are many, are almost uniformly lovely people, and we are happy to have them.

    anon_1 is certainly right about the difficulty of continual 7 PM meetings for parents with young children. Brian C is right as well that if prosecutors won’t prosecute, it certainly looks like a waste of energy to come out to yet ANOTHER meeting, there was indeed quite a large turnout at a very recent meeting. Why is it that there has to be a large turnout at every meeting?

    Maybe what Hill residents want, older ones as well as newer ones, is for the politicians to do what they are supposed to do. Maybe their view is, “Why should we keep taking time out of our busy lives, again and again, when the city already knows there is a big problem?” Maybe they think, “Do we have to wait for another new resident to be murdered, or be permanently brain damaged (Abby Maslin’s husband), to finally get the city to take actions?” Maybe they simply expect Mayor Bowser and Council member Allen to make something happen — that is their job, isn’t it?

    • IHM

      These are fair questions. As a young member of the neighborhood who bought several years ago, I have some thoughts.

      First, I don’t think anyone expects the neighborhood to be great. Believe it or not, most of us land here after realizing we can’t afford in Dupont/Logan Circle/wherever else, and understand that one of the sacrifices is relative safety. I know it’s far better than it was 20 years ago, but the relative dynamic still exists, and the price differential still reflects it, albeit on a much different scale as you’ve noted. 900k buys a lot more out here than it does in Northwest, and buyers are aware of the reasons.

      Speaking as someone who has been a resident of DC for about 6 years, I wonder if the lack of community engagement is at least in part because DC seems uniquely imperialistic compared to other jurisdictions. I’ve never lived anywhere where my elections, at all levels, were so predetermined, and it’s not only frustrating as a voter but also as a constituent. When we can’t expect a viable challenger in an upcoming election, we lose a very important lever of power, and our elected leadership (or lack thereof) often seems to reflect that.

      A last thought – we’re all in agreement that midweek 7pm meetings are logisically impractical, but to take it a step further, in an age of increased technology, households without stay-at-home parents, and at a time where there’s an influx of younger residents, are town hall style meetings really the best way for our government to be engaging with the masses?

      • Tom

        IHM, I have the same thought, that in our busy, digital world, most under-40s, maybe most people on the Hill, are more used to being connected on their devices, than in meetings. It takes a lot less time to be involved on your device.

        Perhaps the powers that be still might think that the # of people who turn out at multiple meetings are the indicator of how important the issue is to people? If they think that, that is so 1995.

        It seems to me — if this already hasn’t been done — someone should do an online petition, to Mayor Bowser and CM Allen, saying that they need to figure out how to deal with the issue better than they have so far. I wouldn’t be surprised if such a petition could get 500 or more Capitol Hill signatures. Maybe then they will understand?

        Of course, I’m not among those with the skill set to do that…

  7. Marian Connolly

    For the most part, Larry’s editorial has promoted healthy reaction and discussion. Thank you Larry. As for the reader who says you’ve been abandoned by those who think you are primarily an anti-Hine Project sokesperson, I’d say that’s “laying it on pretty thick” and without any evidence. As for meetings with MPD and the various comments on time etc., I appreciated the suggestion that perhaps a more digital way of engaging would get more attention. For those who cannot leave home or work to attend 7 p.m. meetings, participating live digitally would be a great step forward if people actually “tuned in,” but community is not built merely by looking at digital devices. Community requires personal, face-to-face engagement as well and yes, it sometimes requires going back out at night after we’ve had dinner with our partners and families. I look forward to seeing if we can find a way to utilize various forms of engagement to build a stronger, safer community.

  8. I really wanted to go but I was committed to giving a talk in Dun Loring. As an actor/speaker I’m often committed in the evenings. So here’s one voice for not showing up doesn’t always mean not caring. Thanks for your reporting!

  9. John Hirschmann

    There was an absolutely huge meeting on Oct 27 at Chamberlain (now charter school) that police chief, ID Commander, US Atty, DC Atty. Cong Norton, CM Allen, etc attended.. The school’s primary meeting room was filled to overflowing — several hundred people there. That meeting was publicized. This meeting was apparently not well publicized. It did not appear on the LPDC list server which covers a large part of PSA 107. What was this meeting designed to accomplish that Oct 27 did not. it came only about a week later. That might help explain the low turnout.

  10. Anonymouse

    Knock it of with the guilt trip. My boyfriend was out of town and since it was held at night, I didn’t safe leaving my house, let alone walking to a community meeting, in the dark.

  11. Fair enough. I was at a school event that evening and have been catching up on a variety of things after a busy week, including my reading of news.

    I wanted to note that this blog is invaluable to me as a long-time Capitol Hill resident. I have no idea where else I would get this information if not for Larry, no matter what his views are (or what they are perceived to be).

    Similarly, I would hope that any other great source of local news would be widely read and publicized so that everyone can benefit from it. As a (former) professional editor and writer, I can attest to the fact that all the reporting on this blog entails a lot of work, and I really doubt Larry is getting a dime for any of it.

    I was also rather intrigued by the remark above, that people have stopped reading this blog because of a perceived “slant”–and that the readership consequently is “unrepresentative.” Does a news source have to have a certain readership in order to be accurate and timely?

  12. muskellunge

    The implication that residents “don’t care” enough to attend one the hundreds of meetings held in DC is an inappropriate an inadvisable attempt to blame the victims of this recent crime wave.

    I am not obliged to recount how I spend my time, and there is no need to justify where I am on any given night to blog.

    BTW, many of the remarks are on point. People are busy with other things, that are personally more important. There have been lots of meetings on this subject, and one wonders if there would be anything new worth the effort to come out for.