Wednesday, April 07, 2010

1607 NJ Tagged by DCRA

1607 NJ DCRA
Originally uploaded by In Shaw
Well I'd like to thank Emil for spotting this on the rear of 1607 NJ Ave, NW, the house that may come crumbling down at any moment.
I'm a bit torn about this. I sort of feel badly because the family members have to deal with the death of a father and now this. But on the other hand, that alley isn't that wide and even if this thing winds up crashing in the middle of the night it probably will take out the neighboring house, crush the fence across the alley and maybe send brick through the window of houses across the alley. Worse case scenario is that parts may come down on a kid running by.
What got me was the senior tax deduction for real estate, and normally I kind of like to wait several years after the person has died before complaining about it, but this house is a danger.
The best thing for everyone is for the family to get this through probate and sell it to some developer, who hopefully might fix this mess before it hurts someone.

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Friday, February 12, 2010


With the temps hovering around a wee above and below freezing.... mainly below, the ugly nasty multicolored snow is going to be with us for a while. Some blocks are awesome and well shoveled. Fourth St, parts of Q, parts of 8th, the sidewalks are passable, it's just bad when you go from well shoveled to a few deep footsteps leading to the slushy road. Hey DC gov, I'll not walk in the street if you actually cite people for not shoveling. When there is some sort of pathway, I'll stick to the sidewalk, so the advisement's to not walk in the street is pointless when your law (is it a law or just an impotent regulation?) has no teeth.
You make people change sides of the street during street cleaning or move their cars for rush hour. And regardless of health, vacation or what have you, people find a way to comply. Why? Because when you enforce it with ticketing, it gets done. Back when DC didn't bother ticketing anything on my street, cars would sit for weeks without moving. There were signs saying move, but they were ignored. Then the city started seriously ticketing, and now neighbors will move your car (if you ask nicely & give gifts) if you can't because of vacation or weird job schedules or the fact that you're in a 1/2 body cast. So until the city actually backs up the admonitions of not walking in the street and pleas to owners to shovel their sidewalks with real money fines and liens, there is only shaming. Here are a few blog posts of shame in Mt Vernon, Georgetown, and on Georgia Avenue.
I'm pretty shoveled out but I see a few bus stops I may want to use in the coming days (as this crap will still be around) that need shoveling, as I have no intention of walking the .25 mile to the station in yellow snow lined icy paths.

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Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Waltha Daniels Shaw Library

Waltha Daniels Shaw Library
Originally uploaded by In Shaw

Slowly it is coming together.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

How I know things are better: cars

One morning I observed a city owned tow truck moving a car on New Jersey Avenue and I was reminded of a question. The question was asked in relation to gentrification and changes in the neighborhood, and it was "what is better?" Because I say that things are getting better and one way I know the neighborhood has gotten better is with parking enforcement.
There was a time when cars would get dumped on our street and they would sit. For days and weeks. While they sat, they attracted trash that would collect under the tires. We STRONGLY suspected that our friendly neighborhood drug dealers used the cars to stash drugs. Then there were the cars that were stolen, some with broken windows.
Well as good citizens we'd call up the city and ask for the cars to go away and early on it seemed like we were ignored. Because I remember there was a car parked near or under the poo-poo tree and I reported it, several times. And it did not go away for over a month. I'd report it, wait a few days or a week and report it again. I pondered paying a tow truck to make it go away and ditch it in Maryland. But it eventually went away, but it wasn't the only car that was left unmoved.
Now, the city actually enforces the law. They ticket, a new thing that they started a few years ago. Also in the last few years they boot cars. I credit this to the demographic changes in the neighborhood with more active voters who try to hold the city accountable and demand decent city services. It is not that there weren't any politically or civicly active people here before, it's just that there are now more of them, which helps with burn out.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Mayor's Youth Conservation group does good

Well they can do good as reported by the BACA blog.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Community Buy In

If you want residential parking for the block, you have to go around and encounter your neighbors. I don't remember what the percentage, probably 50%, have to sign on to it. Literally sign your petition, with their addresses, to show the city that the community actually wants it. Same thing with speed humps. Walk around, talk to the neighbors, and get the signatures of about half of them. Just a vocal few can't demand it, like some other things, it requires the consent of some of the other neighbors that don't go to the civic or ANC, PSA, or district meetings.
I've remember going around to neighbors to get petitions sign for things I was against, like a zoning variance. A developer can gather the signatures of whomever happen to be around, and in our neighborhood that can include our loitering masses. Fighting it, meant knocking on doors, introducing yourself and talking with neighbors and convincing them that your cause is right and you really could use their support.
There are just some things that you need the community's support and buy in for political cover (particularly for contentious topics where there is a sizable/loud contingent against the idea), and permissions (zoning, ABC licensing).

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Monday, August 10, 2009

More on the Bundy Parking thing

Well good news, it appears that the Safe Shores folks won't need the whole lot, read from the Friends of Bundy:
Dear Friends and Neighbors:

The District Department of Real Estate Services (formerly the Office of Property Management) has reviewed the parking requirements for the District’s Child Advocacy Center coordinated by Safe Shores at the Bundy School.*

With approximately 17 spaces available on the school lot, the site will require an additional 42 spaces in the back lot. This should leave approximately 8,800 square feet of space available for other use. [emphasis added]

As a reminder, the back lot is owned by the Federal government. The District cannot proceed with any plans (parking or otherwise) until after the land transfer is complete and funding is identified.

*The Safe Shores project is part of the District’s continuing effort to become a model jurisdiction by expanding the service capacity for children who are victims of physical and sexual abuse. Construction will be complete in November 2009. Subsequently, staff from the US Attorney’s Office, Office of the Attorney General, Metropolitan Police Department, Child and Family Services and the non-profit Safe Shores will move in and begin operations.

Robin-Eve Jasper, Director
DC Department of Real Estate Services
2000 14th Street, NW, Suite 800, Washington, DC 20009

Dear Friends,

This August 7, 2009 announcement from the DC Department of Real Estate Services (DRES), formerly the Office of Property Management (OPM), suggests that there will be ample space left on the vacant lot at Bundy for use as a dog park (see url above).

According to DC’s Dog Park Regulations (Section 733.1 under Dog Parks: Site Guidelines and Specification), “a dog park shall be no less than five thousand square feet (5,000 sq ft) in area where feasible.” Hence, the remaining space on the vacant lot at Bundy — not used by parking for future Bundy School tenants — would still meet the minimum requirements for establishing a dog park.

We will continue our efforts to reach out to neighbors and dog owners in Wards 2, 5 and 6 so that we will be able to demonstrate the impressive support we have for a dog park when DPR begins to process our formal application.

Thank you for your support. Hope to see you on Aug. 21 for Jazz on the Green at Bundy Park with the DC Choro Ensemble.

Payam Bakhaje

Friends of Bundy Park

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Friday, July 10, 2009

From the Pile: Bundy School & Park

The pile knows all, and the pile is very, very disorganized and headed for the recycle bin. I find stuff of interest and it goes into the pile.
Here's something from the pile, a 1968 report on public facilities. The most interesting stuff is about DC medical clinics in Shaw that are no more. Not counted are non-DC government clinic such as Children's Hospital (still over in northern Shaw). Anyway amongst that stuff is a listing of DC government land and US Government land in Shaw.
I'm going to cut to the chase, in 1968 Bundy Elementary School and Bundy Playground were understood to be two separate things. When I heard the Director at the meeting mention the post Home Rule land confusion something didn't sound right. It's an understandable error, and so I don't fault the Director on this, and you can say it is all up to interpretation or it doesn't matter. And even the report I'm looking at seems a little confused at times about the Bundy Playground, which on the map includes the lot were the soccer players play and the vacant lot proposed as the 1968 playground. On several pages it says the 2.40 acre Bundy Playground is owned by the US government and operated by the Recreation Department, but on one page says it is owned by the Recreation Department. A paragraph about Bundy Playground reads, "This property contains 104,595 sq. ft. owned by the U.S. Government, but under the control of the D.C. Recreation Department. The playground contains a multi-purpose playing field, 2 basketball courts and elementary apparatus for small children."
Of course, this is just a snap shot from 1968. Heavens only knows what understandings, change of responsibilities, etc occurred with Home Rule in 1973 (just 5 years later) or disorganized administrations.

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When the Mayor Does His Walkthrough Will He See This?

Originally uploaded by In Shaw
My failing in this is that I can't seem to find the confirmation number of my submitted illeagal dumping complaint, which I filed a week or two ago.
Here is the sad history of these dumped mattresses.
June 13th I led a Flower Power tour. Amongst the people I led was a DPW mucky-muck. When we walked past these mattresses, and he saw that he and his assistant did some furious Blackberrying. So I figured that was that and the offending trash would be gone in no time. He also spotted one of my neighbor's big truck (for hauling crap) parked on the street and said that would get ticketed. As far as I know, it didn't figuring on L. eventually moving said truck.
So a week or two passes and the mattresses are still there. I do an on-line request to have them removed. As of yesterday evening, they are still there.
Mayor Fenty is scheduled to walk through my neighborhood today. I've informed my SMD ANC commissioner of the matter. I've also let it be so you can get the mapped coordinates of where this picture was taken, so that hopefully the mattresses can go bye-bye.
But on the bright side, the illeagal dumping in my alley has improved over the years. Before, whole rooms would get dumped in people's backyards. Couches, beds, dressers, construction debris, and so on. Since people have fenced off their yards the trash is limited to what can be lined up on the fence.

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Thursday, July 09, 2009

Bundy Lot Meeting

By golly I hate meetings, but you wouldn't know that because I keep attending them.
These are my quick points to keep from rambling. The rambling will be in another post:

* Office of Property Management (OPM) won't be handling how the land will be used. It will be Park and Rec's problem.

*There is approximately 37,000 sq ft in the building.

*OPM will have a clearer assessment of the building's parking needs in 30 days.

*OPM Director stated that she was, "not trying to over park anything."

*The land transfer from the Federal to the District government is expected to go through sometime this fall.

*After several promises of other locations, the DC government settled on the Bundy School as a location for the multidisciplinary team response to child abuse in 2004.

*Prior to Home Rule in 1973, DC school land was owned by a mix of the municipal body and the federal government, so the assumption that the lot belonged to the DC government was a natural error.

*(not from the meeting) Up until recently the DC government had no clue as to what land it owned, best illustrated in the case of vacant residential properties.

*Si, from MVSQ neighborhood association stated that we welcome Safe Shores and (okay memory fuzzy) as a neighbor? hoping they will be a good neighbor? Regardless, we welcome Safe Shores, and her comment got a good round of applause from the pro-parking and pro-green space folks.

*Martin of the CCCA neighborhood association mentioned there are plans in the works for playgrounds/parks (didn't write this down) at Scott-Montgomery and NJ and O.**

*The proposal for a dog park was pushed forward by a group, not the ANC.

*When the land transfer occurs then Parks & Rec can evaluate the dog park application.

Now if there is anything factually wrong with my notes, please inform me with comments. No anonymous comments, those are deleted at whim.

**It will be interesting to see how the proposed people parks/ playgrounds get used. There was play equipment in the park near the other Northwest Co-Op here in the TC. However, no parent in their right mind would let their kids play on it because of the bad adult behavior in and around that equipment. That's changing, but still more adults, hang out in that area than kids.

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Monday, June 29, 2009

Before the ANCs

Everyso often I see on other blogs commentary about the ANC system here in the District. Suggestions on how to improve them varies, but I wanted to share something, which may or may not add to the discussion. The ANC system came about after Home Rule in the 70s and are in line with the Ward system. Before Home Rule there were the civic (black) and the citizen (white) neighborhood associations that would advocate for city services.
I noticed, when poking around in early 20th century DC history, some associations' borders kept changing or had proposed changes due to population changes or other reasons. In 1925 the North Washington merged with the North Capitol and Eckington Citizens Asssociations to become the North Capitol Society. The reason was the two groups tended to overlap and replicate each others work.
Even after the ANC system, there were changes in size and number. The system that was put in place in 1974-1976 does not look the same as the one we have today. So changes can be made, because they have been made.

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

How not to run a green campaign

I walked home from work, and found DDOE's Green.DC trash strewn all on my street's sidewalk. Little door hangers like you see pictured, weren't even on the fence. They were on the ground in front of the gate like someone didn't even try. Later, walking around the neighborhood, I saw more of these things on other fences, on doorsteps, on security door gates, but not on any actual doors, as the items are designed to go on. More than often I saw them on the sidewalk, in the gutter, in treeboxes and in the streets.
And to date this witnessing, I had a continuous soundtrack of Micheal Jackson music playing from various houses along my route, as the King of Pop had just died a few hours ago. I swear yesterday/this morning someone (can't remember who, PoP?) blogged about the "Green" trash littering the neighborhoods and someone from the DC government saying that was a mistake and they'd clean it up.
Maybe I could suggest to DC Green to just stop. You stop now, and don't distribute anymore at this moment, you've cut down on trash by prevention. Then I suggest oh, an hour or two in training distributors on the finer points of the door notice. Note that it is supposed to go on a door. Not a fence. Not a gate. But a door. More specifically, a door handle. A door handle is the thing people use to open a door. I recommend the guy who distributes the Chinese carryout, which managed to make it to my mailbox. Though not correct, better than the sidewalk in front of my house.
Maybe the city can lead by example by not trashing my hood like a bunch of thuggy teenagers with a finished bag of Rap Snacks.


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Tuesday, June 23, 2009


There is a fair amount of unhappiness on the Shaw Neighborhood Listserv. Part of me is a little detached as it's over in Ward 2, Jack Evans Land, and I am over in Ward 5 (dang Ward system separating us from the rest of Shaw), so as a voter I don't have Jack, I just got jack. But, Bundy is on the edge, close to the TC. I've not nothing useful to add but links.
DC Gov Responds on Bundy Parking Lot- from the BACA blog
One unhappy email on the Shaw Listserv, and a response from Jack Evans.

No surprise this happened as BACA had been surprised about the future use of the Cook School.

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Thursday, June 04, 2009

Dead cat

found in the rain, on the sidewalk at the corner of NJ and Q St on the Ward 2 side of the street, so don't walk your dogs over there.

Yes, I called the city's 311 number.
No, nobody answered because I found the tuxedo kitty after 4:30pm, when phone calls go straight to a machine.
Yes, I called animal control. They don't do dead. I was told I should call DPW.
At this point, I gave up. I'll file a report which someone will get to it when they get to it.

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Friday, May 01, 2009

MAR Location Fun

The DC Goverment has given us a lovely toy, weeeee! The District of Columbia Master Adress Repository has a cool feature... pictures. I plugged in 424 Q Street NW, which is up for sale but has no picture. So in addition to the location information, there is a tiny thumbnail photo of the house in question. Click on the tumbnail and there is a larger pix. The one for 424 Q St NW has a guy hanging out in the front.... nice.
Hat tip to Imgoph of Bloomingdale (for now).


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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Board for the Condemnation of Insanitary Buildings (BCIB)

Broken Windows
Originally uploaded by In Shaw
I was about to blog about horrendous vacancy rate taxation on houses that are not vacant. But one of the example houses was recategorized to normal.... now all the owners have to do is get their homestead exemption. But while poking around for info I came across the Board for the Condemnation of Insanitary Buildings.
I didn't know there was such a board until I found a letter from a similar sounding agency in the personal papers of a landlady. In the 1930s & 40s the landlady had owned my house as well as several other properties in DC, and one townhouse on the 1700 block of 4th Street was in danger of being condemned by the city.
Since I hadn't really heard of anything about the city condemnation agency, I just assumed it was one of those defunct city agencies, like dairy inspectors. But no. There is the BCIB, and they are under DCRA.


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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

City Websites Compare and Contrast

I was asked for input on something DC related and to attempt to be fair in my expectations I looked at other cities' and towns' websites addressing similar issues. Looking at different cities sites on other urban topics of interests there are different things that pop out. Whether a city is good at communicating or addressing one or another thing through their web presence could be related to a whole host of things. Regardless, lets take a look.

I use DC.GOV for a lot of things, mainly looking up tax assessments. I tend to ignore most of the top and scroll down to "Popular Online Services" and "Online Services". Why these aren't closer to the top beats me. It seems the most popular things relate to cars, as in finding the DMV, paying parking tickets and locating a towed car. Those are the things the people want. The only thing near the top that I have any mild interest in is a reminder that the Mayor's call center number is 311 and the location of free Wi-Fi hotspots.
What is at the top that is useful when I'm not looking at assessments are the tabs "DC Guide", "Residents", "Visitors" and such. This s where I go to take the long way to the DC Council, MPD, and other agencies I don't visit often. There are sections under the umbrella of DC.GOV that I really like, others that have lots of room for improvement, and others that seem pointless. Instead of getting into those I want to move on to other city's sites.

I have to admire the entrepreneurial spirit of the right hand frame of this site, labeled "Make a Payment". This is a city that knows it can make money providing its citizens services. You can pay and view police reports and deeds. You can pay your water bill, gas bill, parking tickets, and pay your taxes by clicking a link on their homepage.
Also on the home page on the left hand side is "Help Me" which looks like "Help Us Help You." Its links let you report a pothole, illegal activity, fraud, etc.

I had high expectations but this site has a whole lot of room for improvement, starting with the URL. What it lacks in sophistication it makes up for in simplicity.
Moving on.

Who knew the S.I. Ferry Schedule was in such demand? But it is, along with getting birth certificates, and paying your property taxes. Though not at the top, the most popular items don't require scrolling to get to. Because I've been looking at individual NYC departments' and agencies' sites, the home page for the city government doesn't even hint at how great those sites are. Like Chicago, the home page is a little bit of a let down.

Boston CityofBoston.Gov
Here students get their own friggin tab. The Student tab links you to city information you need to know if you're a student moving to Boston. You can find out about housing, pets, what to do with your car, etc. In some ways the Boston site is simple and requires a good amount of scrolling, but the feeling I get from the site is, "Hi, I'm Bahstan and I'm here to help."

Taxes don't seem to be popular as I can't find on the home page anything about tax assessments or property taxes. But you know what's popular? The Live 911 Dispatch.

Lastly or this will be too long
Los Angeles
Hate it. Slow loading, and once it did load the characters were too small and the home page was too busy. Oh and look at that URL.

So far my favorite is Philly. Something about "Block Party Permit" on the home site that makes me think the city can be fun, and encourages the citizenry to organize a good time.


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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Day in the TC part 4

We just... Just had a fender bender on the corner.
I called 911. Busy signal.
So. We have all these National Guardsmen all over the place, and they did make themselves useful. Upon not reaching 911, I run out of the house and ask them to make the call. When I headed back to the house, about 4-5 of them took control of the situation.
An hour or so before our block had a visit from the EMS. Seems a young visitor from one of the neighbors' house needed to be taken to the hospital. So I guess they were able to get through earlier.
Just too much going on.

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

City Sponsored Murals

Ken's Carryout Mural
Originally uploaded by In Shaw
Shiloh Baptist has one on it's child care center buildings, and there are a few more I've spotted around the hood. This is one on the corner of 4th and Florida Ave. It replaces faded mural that advertised Coca-Cola. Off on the side is a statement one can read whilst relieving oneself in the alley, about how it was a city sponsored project.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

DC Archives Holdings, pt 2

See Part 1, and I take no responsibility for the accuracy of this catalog.
Mayor's Office (and predecessor, the Board of Commissioners)
Minutes, Including orders, of the Commissioners. 1953-67
Records relating to executive session meetings of the Board of Commissioners("Confidential Memorandum"), 1957-1966. (6 cu ft)
Photographic prints and negatives, slides, and other visual records from the Office of Communications and its successors, ca. 1946-1990. (22 cu ft)
General Correspondence of Mayor Walter E. Washington, 1967-1969. (18 cu ft)
Speeches of Mayor Marion Barry, 1979-1990. (12 cu ft)
Office files of Mayor Marion Barry, ca 1985-1990 (bulk) (2.74 cu ft)
Subject files of the Mayor's Press Secretary, ca 1989-90. (4 cu ft)
Records of he 1978 & 1982 Mayoral Transition Committees; records of cabinet meetings, 1979-82; and "Pre-Policy" meetings, 1984-85; and Policy Discussion Group meetings, 1982. (9 cu ft)
Subject files of Mayor Walter Washington,, 1967-69 (ulk), 1961-70 (inclusive) (18 cu ft)
Subject files of Deputy Mayor Thomas Fletcher, 1967-69 (bulk), 1961-70. (inclusive). (17 cu ft)
"Chron files" Reading Files. Mayor's Correspondence Unit, 1979-85. (8 cu ft)
Letters Received, Board of Commissioners, ca. 1908-28. 18 cu ft. [Estrays from the Letters Received in RG 351 in the National Archives]

Planning Office
Project files, re. to building the Convention Center, 1965-84; and correspondence and other records, 1985-87. (ca 13 cu ft)

Police Department
"May Day Report, 1971. (1.5 cu ft)

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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

DC Archives Holdings, pt 1

Why this isn't on the DC Archives website, I don't know. This is 15 years out of date, so I don't vouch for the accuracy.

District of Columbia Archives
Holdings - Mar. 1993 [ca. 4719 cu. ft]

Auditor's Office
DC Auditor. Printed Reports, 1980-, (3 cu. ft)

Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, Dept of
Articles of Incorporation, 1870-1954 (40 cu ft) and related indexes (7 vols.)

Elections and Ethics, Board of
Board of Elections, "Voter Information Master" file. (1 reel of computer tape).

Emergency Preparedness Office (Civil Defense)
Records re. Demonstrations, Civil Disturbances adn Special Events, 1965; 1968-78. (25 cu ft)

Housing and Community Development, Dept of
Dept of Housing and Community Development. Redevelopment Land Agency Records, ca. 1965-1976. (11 cu ft)
Dept of Housing and Community Development. Redevelopment Land Agency. Shaw and H St. NE; 14th St.; Downtown; building survey forms, 1968-1972 (27 cu ft)
Dept of Housing and Community Development. Redevelopment Land Agency. Slides showing condition of houses in NE. (0.5 cu ft)
Dept. of Housing and Community Development. National Capital Housing Authority. Legal Division. Reading Files, 1943-54; 1964-71. Copies of NCHA minutes, 1954-68. Miscellaneous records. (6 cu ft)
Dept. of Housing and Community Development. Redevelopment Land Agency. Audiovisual materials re. to Washington, including films. slides, audio tapes, video tapes, ca 1976 (ca 12 cu ft)

Human Services
Dept of Human Services. Minutes of the Board of Health, 1822-78. (3 vols.)and Health Officer's Scrapbook, 1920-25 (1 vol)
Dept of Human Services. Minutes and Other Records of the Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect, 1978-79. (2 in)
Dept of Human Services. Records of he Mayor's Blue Ribbon Panel on Teenage Pregnancy Prevention, 1984-1985 (.33 cu ft)
Dept Human Service. Public Health Commissioner. Disinterment Permits (Applications), 1937-48 (3 cu ft)

Law Revision Commission
Minutes, correspondence, recommendations, annual reports, adn other records, 1975-1991. (10 cu ft)

Parts 2 and 3 and whatever to follow when I feel like typing them up

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Friday, July 25, 2008

Things I'm so disliking

Archives-Navy Memorial Metro Station. The escalator to get on the platform is out. This wouldn't be so bad if there were low carbon emitting stairs. But there aren't. No stairs, so with one escalator out, the rush hour crowd gets to walk down one skinny escalator. Woe to you if you're going against traffic. Your best bet sometimes is the elevator.

DC Public Library
- I rarely check out books from the DC Public Library. I buy most of my reads, used books mainly. I wasn't always like this. I loved libraries. I studied to become a librarian. But the lack of finding the books I want just encourages me to head for the internet or my own agency library. For example, I wanted Sudhir Venkatesh's Gang Leader for a Day. DC Library did not have it, and does not have it. My old library, the Arlington Public Library has it. So does Alexandria's Public Library. And Montgomery County. Heck, even PG County has it. When I was living in Arlington, I'd give the library a chance and see if they had the book I wanted. Here I don't even bother most of the time. Well, at least the Washingtonia collection is good. Can't check out anything from there though. But for books, to check out, no.
Because of that (and some thoughts I have about government in general) I am in no rush to get the DC One Card. I've already got a Smartcard, and there is another one in the house somewhere. I rarely use the rec facilities, and I just told you about my relationship with the library. I'm not school aged so I won't be need it for DCPS. And I've only walked into an unemployment office once in my life, in Florida, and it was a most unhelpful experience.


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Friday, May 30, 2008

In praise of business

Richard Layman's Blog Rebuilding Place as well as DCist both posted the email sent out by Politics and Prose regarding a bench outside the independent bookstore targeted by ANC Frank Winstead. The first part of the email struck me as oh so true:
Every once in a while we get an abrupt reminder that we live in a jurisdiction where small business is not respected or encouraged. When we first opened across the street, there was no government agency that could advise us on what we needed to do. Then, after we made the applications we needed to, we could not get an occupancy permit, no matter how many times we called or went down to the office responsible for that. The process simply stopped somewhere in the Office of Regulatory and Consumer Affairs. We were fined and we started over again, but the certificate was never issued at our first location.

I've heard the grumbling of another small business owner, who is in the TC, about how they'd love to add more servies and amenities, but taking time off to get the run around from DCRA isn't worth the trouble. Apparently change for the better (and in some cases, the worse) requires a permit. It would be helpful if things given by local businesses and enjoyed by the community were supported by the city and our political leaders.
Also another strain of thought that has occurred in this blog's comments and some local listservs regarding small business. Some of you out there have a disdain and just plain hatred of business, regardless of the size. Businesses are no more evil than your regular Jo on the street. Many of them provide a service that is wanted and needed in the community. Small local business can be great neighbors, providing benches, free used coffee grounds, a place to meet and gather, and sponsorship for community, artist and non-profit ventures and events.
When someone asks what's around here, in that what's so great about this place kind of way, I point to the businesses. I mention the quickie mart, the dry cleaners, the coffee shop, the organic bodega, the liquor stores (the good and the mediocre ones, not the scary ones) and the bakery. The only non-business things I point out are the metro stations and the bus stops. I'm not sure what category to put the farmer's market in, as I gather the farmers do drive in to make some profit, but the organization of putting on the farmer's market is something else. I should mention there was one non-profit I use to point to, Chain Reaction, a wonderful bike sales and repair shop. It went "out of business".
I am grateful for those business that have opened up in the past few years, and appreciative to those older businesses that have become more customer friendly (taking down the Plexiglas, unblocking/cleaning the windows). Also I welcome any new business that may want to take up residence on North Capitol or at the corner of R and New Jersey.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A bit more helpful than nothing, permits

I once complained that DC wasn't particulary helpful when it came to making permits public. I compared them to the county office in Florida that linked permits to properties, so the public could see what permits were approved for a house and what was supposidly done. The information would be helpful in helping the citizens help the city monitor whats going on, and help home buyers know a bit more history on their house.
Well, I stumbled upon the DC permit database, while googling a contractor that will be doing work near me. And well, it is a good start. I plugged in an address of a problem property and saw permits going back to 2005, and saw that the owner of said problem house has applied for permits this year as well. I threw in my own address and saw my permits. Now, there is no detail to the permits, only the tracking number what kind of permit, the applicant's name, and their approval status. I gather I might get more info if I had the projected cost and date. But this is helpful in answering the question if a house has permits or not.


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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

I called animal control

Wasn't the first time.
Around about 5 something in the morning, around about the time I wake up before the radio alarm comes on, I heard the low sorrowful howl of the dog across the alley. The howling didn't wake me up. He'd been howling long since before I went to bed. So I opened up the window and spoke to him, which quieted him for about 2 minutes, and went back to bed. When I opened the window I realized it was raining.
It isn't unusual for the people of the house across the alley to just leave their dog, a beige and chocolate husky of some sort, out side for the whole weekend, or several days on end. He sits on the deck, howling every time a siren wails. Howling at night. Howling in the rain. That rain we had a week or two ago, he was out in that. I don't know how his fur works but he never seems drenched. He could be going under the deck periodically, but most of the time he just paces on the deck staring at the kitchen door.
Regardless, I called the city 311 number, who then transferred me over to the 24 hour animal control number. Apparently, I wasn't the only one. I was told, I was the second person to call this morning about the dog.
Back during the flood watch, I called animal control and they did send someone out to check on the dog. By the time they showed up, it stopped raining and the dog was just sitting on the deck, all calm like. Nothing happened. I don't know what to expect when several neighbors call because his howling is so loud and so sad. He doesn't bark, but rather belts out a low deep 'arrooogh'.
Animal Control called me back and said there was a call 2 weeks ago about the dog. They checked it out, contacted the owners, and told them they needed a dog house for the dog. Today, there is a dog house under the deck, and so animal control seems to be satisfied with the situation. Unfortunately, the dog doesn't spend any time near or in his house.

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Monday, April 07, 2008

Screw the children

I dedicate this posting to B. who gleefully gave me this title.

B. and I just stepped out of this month's BACA meeting. He was happily recounting part of the meeting where a woman claimed that there really weren't that many children in the community. Recounting this, as we watched about 3 kids from our street horsing around on the other side of the street.
A couple of things were brought up in the meeting that I'm going to touch on, community, and community services.
Community. Who are we talking about? I live here am I part of the community? When we, city employees, politicians talk about the community, are they talking about the community as a whole, certain parts, what? This is important because the city wants to (trys to) serve the community.
Which brings me to city services. It may have been the same woman who said there weren't any children around needing services, who pointed out that no one in the room at the meeting needed drug councilling, or job training, or shelter, or housing services, mental health services, or any of the 'community services' that the young mayor's rep was mentioning. The problem is the city will never offer me any direct services I will ever use in my neighborhood. Of the neighbors I associate most with, neither will they. They probably won't put their kids in city aftercare, or send their kids to existing rec centers, and they sure as heck don't go to the regular public schools. The only housing help I'll take from the city (that I haven't gotten already with the 1st time homebuyer prgs) is the homestead exemption.
Indirectly, the services are to benefit me by supposedly taking care of problem people , and if the people with problems are served then crime would go down, which serves me. The problem is that the people who use those services aren't represented at the meetings. Most who attend meetings have little firsthand knowledge of the programs, which then makes me wonder about adequate feedback for the city. Also since there is no direct participation, I wonder how hard would those of us in the community who are more politically involved (the letter writers, meeting attenders, etc) will fight for these community programs/ dollars, as compared to areas of the city.
Lastly, I want to write about what I'm not saying in this. I'm not saying there aren't any city services that can't help me and others in my neighborhood. Good functional libraries with active reading/ storybook programs, popular books available, comfortable reading areas, and available internet terminals would be nice. I know I ain't gonna get it, but it would be nice. And there are things the city and some local politicians do beyond regular services and problem targeting, that positivity impact my quality of life, such as business promotion, providing mulch, and co-sponsoring events.
I'd guess I'd be more gung ho for programs for children if I actually believed the kids on my street and the other neighborhood kids I know would actually use them.

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Thursday, April 03, 2008

Thursday-Friday Grab Bag

Warning for some of you car owners, traffic enforncement is now in tow. I've been seeing cars get moved by the city on a regular basis. Today I saw a truck taking away a car on New Jersey Avenue. The day before it was moving a car on R St. You've asked for city services, and well you got one.

With the housing problem we are surprised why? Remember oh, back to 2004, 2005, and 2006 when I said real estate agents were on crack and the houses were overpriced? So, what happened? We discovered the houses were overpriced. The bubble deflated. I can't say burst because it's not like the houses are worthless, just worth less. We knew people were taking out loans too large for them to handle. We knew this day would come. We knew a few years back that there would be a lot of foreclosures, and guess what? 2008, there are a lot of foreclosures. Who knew? Yes, there are people who are losing their homes, but where I am, so are a lot of developers and flippers and speculators who came into Shaw, looking for a quick buck. Some of them got out in time. A good number didn't and so we are stuck, until the next housing uptick, with vacant, 1/2 done, or crapily done houses, and cut-up townhomes created into funny looking condos.

Central Union Mission is going downtown. And there was great rejoicing in Pentworth and some other NW neighborhoods. For lo, they moveth the men's shelter to 65 Mass Ave NW, where they are not far from other homeless services. And someone remind me, wasn't the Gales School (65 Mass Ave) used as a shelter before?

I'd support more harpsichord players. Because they are artists, performing artists. And tearooms? Since I don't drink coffee, I'm stuck with loving Teaism, so if the landed gentry come in and put in tearooms, I'm all for it. Besides I spent most of my undergrad years studying the rise and fall of the British aristocracy, I'd be pleased to observe them up close.

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Friday, February 22, 2008

Info Government May Provide

During one of the usual weekend calls I have with my mother, my mom was complaining once again about her property tax. Without getting too detailed, my parents divorced but Dad's name is still on the land, and thus, Mom says her homestead exemption is not as great as it could be. So the other day I wandered over to her Florida county tax assessor's website, which is embarrassingly amateur looking, to see exactly how Mom's getting taxed.
I wasn't expecting much, maybe just an assessment pulled out of thin air. What I got blew me away. I got the usual, the assessor's idea of property worth, the homestead exemption, the tax, and a general description of the property. In addition, there were links to vital records like my parent's divorce judgement. Clicking around, for other properties, there were links to PDF copies of death certificates (with SS#s blacked out), quit claims, certified titles, maps, tax deeds, and building permits issued if the documents were produced in the last 10 or so years. The public information about things relating to property was linked right on the assessor's page.
This made me wonder, could larger cities have the same sort of traditionally public information (deaths, divorces, permits, quit claims) available on line? Links to permits would be exceedingly useful. Not even the copy of a building permit, but just even the building permit number, date issued, would be very helpful. Right now I can only find permits issued in the last few months.
But I realize this is only a dream because it would mean different agencies actually working together to serve the citizenry.
Additional: I just dug deeper with the example permit, it shows the inspection. I would kill for this depth of detail with permits issued in the city. No more trying to read tiny writing on a stair of a rickty house.

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

3 years for a tree

About 2-3 years ago the tree in front of my house died. The first year, I wasn't sure it died but put a request in to have it 'taken care of' by the city. The leaves had fallen before all the other trees, and all the leaves kind of dropped at once. Well the city did nothing that first year. The second year, it was dead. It didn't come back. No leaves. Nothing. I updated the request I had with the city from last year, saying it was most definitely dead. Nothing. Then I started complaining to then ANC Jim Berry, and making some commentary at the BACA meetings about it.
As Winter came the bark from the tree began to fall off in huge chunks and revealed big cracks in the tree, about 1/4 of an inch wide. The way the cracks formed and the way the tree was shaped, I could see a huge limb falling on one of the parked cars or worse the tree falling on my house.
Well yesterday, strolling by the house I discovered the tree is now gone. Yay! Took the City nearly three years to get it gone, but now it is gone. No one is in danger of having it fall on them. Also another dead tree on the block is gone too. Yay.

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Friday, October 08, 2004

Anyone need a trash can?

Anyone need an extra big green city trash can?
They cost $60 to replace.
Really we have an extra one.
It is currently sitting on the corner of 4th and Q. It has an address written on it, but if you go by the address you will see a much nicer can in the yard.
I called the city 2x about picking it up. It has been on the block, unclaimed for 3 weeks. So if you think you may need it, feel free to grab it. It may have trash in it considering it is a trash can on a corner. But trash day was yesterday so it shouldn't have too much trash.
If you do grab it, spray paint your house numbers on it, so it won't wander back here.


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Wednesday, September 29, 2004

G2 bus & 3rd Street.

According to rumours, which may or may not be true, the contractor doing 3rd Street between P & Q Streets, dropped the job and has left the street screwed up. This street has been under construction for months and months. Currently you can only go south on 3rd, not north as well. For the longest there was no travel on this portion of 3rd at all.
Along a patch of 3rd street the G2 (Georgetown U/ Howard U) bus travels. The G2 hits 3rd at R st, Q St and P St. Due to the contruction, the Georgetown bound bus had turned on R, continued on New Jersey and then turned on P. But now that the southbound lane is open confusion has occurred. Some drivers go back to the old route of going down third. Some drivers turn on R and go down NJ. Sucks to be you if you waited at P. Guess where I was waiting? Lucky I run fast and there wasn't any traffic on New Jersey.
Anyway, in honor of this rant I am adding to my sidebar, two metro related links. First, is the Washington Metro Riders Union a yahoo group. Second, is DC Metrorider, a Live Journal community. Post, bitch, rave, observe.

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