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Rally questions Barry's leadership in Ward 8

Local activists questioned Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry's commitment and leadership when he failed to appear at a Thursday rally in opposition to a women's services shelter in Anacostia.


Rally in Historic Anacostia. Photo from CHOTR.

Amplified with a bullhorn, ANC Commissioner Greta Fuller's voice cut the early morning cold, echoing down the 1200 block of Good Hope Road SE.

"We have been fed lies over and over again that are our community will be revitalized," Fuller said to more than 50 people who gathered. "Marion Barry, you are not in touch with our community. You don't know what we want, you don't know what we need."

Organized by former Barry spokesperson Natalie Williams, now challenging Barry for Ward 8's 2012 DC Council Democratic nomination, the rally attracted community leaders and residents that have sought information on Calvary Women's Services' plan to open a 50-bed shelter on Good Hope Road for the past 6 months without success.

A self-identified "old foot soldier," known widely as the grande dame of Anacostia for her tireless work with children and the homeless, Hannah Hawkins expressed her disappointment in Barry.

"Marion Barry, I love him," said Hawkins, the matriarch at Children of Mine Youth Center on Mount View Place SE. "But he has backed off a lot of these social services issues."

Many in the assemblage questioned Barry's nonattendance. In a recent press release criticizing Williams' candidacy, Barry addressed the women's shelter asserting "This is an issue I investigated and have been working with the Community [sic] on for over three months. Her Johnny-come-lately efforts are just that." No one in the crowd could account for Barry's claims, while some even questioned if there are ulterior motivations for his reluctance to respond to his constituent's concerns.

In reaction to Barry's statement, DC Council Chairman Kwame Brown reprimanded the former mayor for a "potential violation of the Council's Code of Official Conduct" in addition to existing city and federal law that bar electioneering with public resources. The DC GOP questioned Barry's ethics in attacking an opponent on government time.

Many speakers at Thursday's rally were direct in marking the distinction of their opposition. "We are not against women's shelter, we are not against homelessness," Fuller said. "What we are against is the oversaturation of these services in a condensed area."

John Muller is an associate librarian, journalist and historian. He has written two books, Frederick Douglass in Washington, DC, Mark Twain in Washington, DC, and also writes at Death and Life of Old Anacostia

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Many in the assemblage questioned Barry's nonattendance...

Can't imagine why he wouldn't have shown up.

:)

by oboe on Dec 30, 2011 4:50 pm • linkreport

If Barry isn't onboard with the community, why is the community expecting him to participate? Community activism does NOT need the Ward rep.

I had no idea Williams is running for the CM seat. But if she is, it would nice to see her somewhere. I've seen Jaques patterson a million x's already soliciting support from the community.

What is the extent of her involvement in Ward 8?. How long has she lived here? I will give her credit for having the cajones to run againt her former boss but it sounds like the worst of fools errand-a community disaster waiting to happen.

by HogWash on Dec 30, 2011 5:55 pm • linkreport

Barry was probably busy trying to regain possession of his Jag.

by Rich on Dec 30, 2011 11:38 pm • linkreport

Natalie Williams recently moved to Ward 8. She has not been active. She's only known for working as a spokesman for Barry during his recent money-stealing scandal with former girlfriend, Donna Watts-Brighthaupt. She also ran for President of the Ward 8 Dems, got endorsed by Barry, and lost.

I was at this rally. There were a lot of grandstanding by her and others running for council. She spent most of her speech talking about the "attacks" on her by Barry. It was all about her and not the community issue itself.

Thank god for ANC Commissioner Greta Fuller, she told it like it is and kept her comments strictly to the issue affecting her community, not the squabble between Barry and Natalie.

by Anthony Lorenzo on Dec 31, 2011 9:36 am • linkreport

Interesting stat:
Ward 8 homicides are down from 49 at this time last last year (by far, by at least a factor of 2 the highest of the wards) to only 22 this year (fewer than either Wards 5 or 7)

by Kolohe on Dec 31, 2011 9:49 am • linkreport

So Fuller is "not against homelessness", interesting...

by Doug on Dec 31, 2011 10:12 am • linkreport

Thanks for the firsthand account, Anthony Lorenzo. Reading this post, I wasn't entirely sure if it was a rally against Barry or a rally against the shelter. Would it be fair to say the event was hijacked by them for political publicity and kicking off a campaign?

by selxic on Dec 31, 2011 10:18 am • linkreport

Video of the entire rally can be found at www.congressheightsontherise.com

by The Advoc8te on Dec 31, 2011 10:20 am • linkreport

by The Advoc8te on Dec 31, 2011 10:24 am • linkreport

I don't agree with Barry on much, but he's correct in saying that this is a of-right development. Calvary owns the building and is doing something completely legal with it. Even if they wanted to throw in the towel and sell the place to locate somewhere else, who is looking to buy on that street, and where could Calvary go with the amount they got? Any other affordable location is likely just as saturated.

If the protestors really want this to go away, they're going to need to find a buyer willing to take on the property at a very good price. Perhaps they should start a company, or ask existing businesses they like if they'd locate there. One great option would be for the place to have ground-floor commercial space with a job-training component (akin to ARC's copy and print center in NE, but it could be a restaurant, beauty shop, day care, garden center, etc.) and shelter space above.

by sb on Dec 31, 2011 10:25 am • linkreport

by The Advoc8te on Dec 31, 2011 10:29 am • linkreport

by The Advoc8te on Dec 31, 2011 10:35 am • linkreport

@sb said, "...who is looking to buy on that street..."

Can you expand on that comment?

by The Advoc8te on Dec 31, 2011 10:51 am • linkreport

I think a homeless shelter for woman should be based in Arlington, McClean, Bethesda or maybe Oakton.

by Peter on Dec 31, 2011 11:34 am • linkreport

@Doug...I read that same quote and thought Greta needs to work on her speech because she sounds silly, just like most of the folks out there. I agree with other comments about Natalie Williams....she's a carpetbagger and has no chance of winning. A also think SB is right about the protesters offering a solution to Calvery to illicit a sale or maybe reserving the lower level for retail and offer limited services upstairs. Protesting for the hell of protesting is just a complete waste of energy, especially since they own it outright....

by Ward8's Bitch on Dec 31, 2011 1:36 pm • linkreport

How many people showed up or care about the issue of the issue of the shelter? Do the majority of the communities residents care either way or show up to the rallies if no why should the council member show up when only a few vocal people show up and the majority do not.

by kk on Dec 31, 2011 2:52 pm • linkreport

Well, if there can be popular frustration and pushback against bad governance by out-of-touch, corrupt kleptocrats in Egypt, Syria, Libya and Russia, why not Ward ??!!

by Bob on Dec 31, 2011 2:58 pm • linkreport

advoc8te--sure. I visit that stretch of Good Hope Road fairly often (about 5 times a month) and there are a LOT of vacant buildings and empty plots of land. Many have for sale or for rent signs on them but I don't know of any that are currently being developed for market-rate commercial or residential uses. I guess the Subway is fairly new. MLK ave seems to have more--the equipment rental store, the dentist, Fireside and Uniontown, etc. But even there, there are a lot of vacancies.

My point was simply that Calvary is unlikely to go somewhere else because they'd have trouble selling or renting the building they currently own for a price that would enable them to do a by-right development of the kind they're trying to do in an area that has less social services. And I don't think they want to wait for prices to go up on Good Hope Road--they want a shelter now, and they'd have the same problem of affording a different location.

by sb on Dec 31, 2011 3:30 pm • linkreport

"How many people showed up or care about the issue of the issue of the shelter? Do the majority of the communities residents care either way or show up to the rallies if no why should the council member show up when only a few vocal people show up and the majority do not."

I am reminded why I don't post here anymore. *sigh*

by The Advoc8te on Dec 31, 2011 3:44 pm • linkreport

@sb

I work in Anacostia and a good portion of what I do involves economic development. Yes, there are vacant buildings on the corridor but they aren't exactly available for purchase.

This building (1219 and 1217 Good Hope) was in bankruptcy for a while. I know two developers who made inquiries to purchase for retail. Either the bank was unreachable or the property was not available yet for purchase, etc. The person who tried to buy the building was just as suprised as the rest of us when the press release came out in August indicating it had been sold to CWS.

The two large vacant buildings to the right of the "shelter" have been vacant for years -- because the IRS has a $3 million dollar lien against the prior owners. Until that is resolved that building is stuck in limbo, it can't be sold. Efforts are being made to see if the IRS will let the building be sold so it can be developed.

Other vacant properties are unfortunetly being landbanked. I suppose their owners are waiting for more development to occur so they can make a big payday. In the meantime they sit vacant not available to small businesses to occupy.

The reality is that I have had to turn away more businesses (on average about 3 a week) because of the lack of available commercial and office space in Anacostia. Our small business incubator, The HIVE has been at capacity since shortly after we opened. If it could expand (it would need funds/grants to do so) we could easily increase the number of businesses in Anacostia.

So the short answer is that yes there are vacant buildings but they aren't really available --- unless you have some really deep pockets and a few connections to boot.

Good news is that a fashion incubator is coming to that block to the former ARCH Training Center. That will help some but again we need more economic development, something that will bring jobs to the community to try and combat what is almost a 30% unemployment rate. Increasing the concentration of joblessness and poverty is not going to be helpful to anyone.

As someone on here already said, it makes more sense to relocate a shelter to a community with some type of job opportunities, not a community with nearly none.

On that note I have no illusions of anyone who does not live in Anacostia (or Ward 8 for that matter) really understanding why this is such a big issue. I didn't understand myself until I moved here and saw it first hand.

by The Advoc8te on Dec 31, 2011 3:59 pm • linkreport

One last thing. At the rally someone had compiled a map of just the Anacostia neighborhood and had marked off the known social service facilities in the community. Even without including the half-way houses and group homes (which are abundant) it was pretty clear (and frankly a little unnerving) to see such a concentration in such a small community. The social service industry is hands down the #1 tenant in Anacostia and on the business corridor. That didn't happen overnight and that didn't happen by accident.

A picture of the map can be found here.

http://www.congressheightsontherise.com/2011/12/in-pictures-ward-8-braves-cold-darkness.html

Not sure if there is a way I can upload the map directly to the comments section.

@John Muller - We (the folks of Anacostia and Ward 8) appreciate you sharing this story on GGW. Even if folks don't understand the struggle (or agree with it) I am glad the story is being told.

I still don't understand how folks expect Anacostia to have all the answers for this and to solve this issue for Calvary when Calvary still hasn't met with the community to discuss anything. Not sure when or how all of these "solutions" and offers to purchase the building ourselves (hilarious) were supposed to be made when they haven't even been willing to sit down and talk.

A meeting is finally on the books for Jan 5th and fingers crossed it will happen.

by The Advoc8te on Dec 31, 2011 4:08 pm • linkreport

I have little love for Marion Barry, but I have even less love for this rally. It was against a SHELTER that a church within Ward 8 wants to build. Not Marion Barry. Not even a shelter that the city is bring to place in the Ward. But a shelter that a local church wants to build.

All of this "oversaturation of services in the area" language strikes me as an attempt to wrap a bow on NIMBYism and concern for property values. I'll be interested to see what comes out of this January 5th meeting--I'd love to be proven wrong.

by Mister Goat on Jan 2, 2012 11:21 am • linkreport

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