Greater Greater Washington

Posts about Marion Barry


Long-term homeownership does foster civic engagement

Last year, former DC mayor and current Councilmember Marion Barry tried to get the city to forbid construction of any new apartment buildings in his ward. The purpose? To increase homeownership rates, which stood at just under a quarter among Barry's constituency.

Photo by Elvert Barnes on Flickr.

The rationale?

"Renters, by their very nature, don't keep up their neighborhoods like homeowners would," Barry told the Washington City Paper. "Renters will allow drug dealers in their neighborhood. It's a fact. It's a doggone fact."

There's a tendency among local policymakers and activists to cast homeowners as the ideal residents of any neighborhood. The thinking goes that people with firm roots in a community will care enough to invest more time and effort into keeping that community livable. They will attend planning meetings, vote in local elections and lobby politicians.

On the other hand, rentersusually younger, transient and prone to skip out after a few months or yearsare viewed as more apathetic to the plight of their surroundings, since they will likely move on in due time anyhow. And an under-involved population implies a less-than-vibrant civic culture. Barry may have resorted to hyperbole with the drug dealers line, but the perception is there.

Does homeownership really encourage civic engagement? A study in next month's issue of the Urban Affairs Review tackles the question. Looking at data collected from a group low- and mid-income homeowners and renters over four years, researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill find that owning a home can indeed inspire someone to get involved with the communityso long as the ownership is sustained.

The study assumes civic engagement stems from three overarching factors: Financial self-interest, more general self-interests (such as neighborhood amenities and social ties), and rates of mobility. Of these, it appears that mobilityhow often one moves or stays putis the strongest. From the report:

This research also points to the importance of considering mobility when exam­ining causes of civic engage­ment, particularly instrumental civic engage­ment. Our findings indicate that homeowners and renters are affected differently by residential mobility. For homeowners, moving may prompt them to become more involved in neighborhood groups as a way to establish ties with others and integrate in a new community. Renters who move, however, are less likely to turn to civic participation as a way to build new social network ties.

Meanwhile, new homeowners were no more or less inclined to join a neighborhood group than a renter in the time before they bought a house. After purchasing, however, their likelihood to participate increased fourfold. And homeowners who return to renting are "no more or less likely to be involved in neighborhood groups than people who have never been homeowners." This isn't the case if an owner simply moves to a different house, in which case participation rates remained relatively constant.

Policy-wise, the study concludes that measures aimed at increasing homeownership rates in low-income neighborhoods can help precipitate a robust civic life, which in turn may bring about a better overall quality of life. However, beyond simply increasing access to homeownership, these policies would have to ensure it can be sustained.

Cross-posted at Next American City.


Barry holding up streetcar that was his idea 15 years ago

Councilmember Marion Barry is holding up a contract for the H Street streetcar, Mary Cheh's office told the Post's Tim Craig. He doesn't think the line is worthwhile, but that's a change from when he was mayor, when he put out DC's first plan showing a line on H Street.

1997 transportation plan from Mayor Barry. Click for photograph of full version.

Barry has filed a "disapproval resolution" on a design-build contract with a consortium of MC Dean and the Facchina Group to finish the H Street line. Even if Barry doesn't get support from his colleagues, that could delay the contract by 45 days to finish a line whose end date has already slipped several times, thanks to procurement snafus getting more cars and other factors.

Craig writes:

In an interview, Barry said he wants to slow up the project because he's not convinced the streetcar line is needed because the District has an "excellent Metro system" and reliable bus service along the H Street corridor.

"It's about priorities in spending and how much capital money we are spending on streetcars that benefit a small number of people," Barry said. "We are already subsidizing Metro and also subsidizing the Circulator... People already have good bus service."

The bus service wasn't even so good 15 years ago, when the Barry administration proposed a line on H Street in its 1997 transportation plan. That plan also had streetcar lines on Georgia and Maine Avenues and around Buzzard Point.

But today, Barry says, "It doesn't seem like a well-thought-out plan." Unlike 15 years ago?

The last line of Craig's story might suggest another, deeper motivation behind the move: David Catania, who has clashed in recent months with Barry, is a vice president at MC Dean, one of the companies getting the contract.


For Ward 8 Council: Jacque Patterson

It would be challenging to name a more divisive figure in DC politics than Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry. Recently, Barry has said he deserves another term because he's "wiser and more caring." On April 3rd, Ward 8 voters can show Barry they are, in fact, wiser and more caring about their future by voting for Jacque Patterson as their next councilmember.

Patterson's record is impressive. He emphasizes public safety, and he can speak personally: he served as an MPD reserve officer and is the only candidate with experience patrolling the ward. The violence and crime that have long defined the ward have fallen, but this gives little comfort for residents who still fear dangerous streets. To improve relationships between police and citizens, Patterson says he will work to "increase the effectiveness of community policing."

That's just one of the issues pertinent to all Ward 8 residents that his campaign emphasizes, such as education reform, enhanced economic development through the growth of local businesses, and improved public transportation.

A veteran of the U.S. Air Force, Patterson is raising a young family in Ward 8, and his eldest daughter is a graduate of Thurgood Marshall Academy. Education hits home for Patterson. He told us that he will "pay particular attention to middle school-aged children, to ensure that they are well prepared for high school and beyond," adding, "This age group, often deemed the crossroad in development, is faced with the decision of whether it will continue or end its educational pursuits, and where grades begin to suffer greatly."

Another focus is jobs, particularly developing the ward's major business corridors of South Capitol Street, Good Hope Road, Alabama Avenue, and Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue. Patterson plans to bring together ANCs, the Ward 8 Business Council, and various community development corporations to create a comprehensive plan for developing the ward and enhancing its employment options.

With particular focus on development, Patterson said, "One of the biggest issues facing the next councilmember of Ward 8 will be the design and development of Poplar Point. How do we bring it together in ways that incorporates green spaces, affordable housing, recreation, retail/entertainment venues and commercial development?"

Patterson is also focused on improving public transit for the ward. Residents continue to face the challenge of both traveling within Ward 8 and connecting to crosstown neighborhoods on the bus. In response to Metro's proposed reduction of existing routes, Patterson pledges to advocate "for more frequent bus routes and more funding for the mass transit system, [as these are] vital to the growth and stability of the ward."

"I support the trolley coming east of the river and think it will not only help the transportation situation of a transportation dependent ward, but enliven and serve as a catalyst to revitalize downtown Anacostia," Patterson said in an email interview.

Patterson, the immediate past president of the Ward 8 Democrats, arrived in Washington in the mid-1990s while stationed at Andrews Air Force Base. Soon thereafter, his Shipley Terrace neighbors elected him Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner, and he served 4 terms.

Positions in the U.S. military and Mayor Williams' administration, as well as with Federal City Council and the DC Housing Finance Agency, have both informed Patterson's policy stances and prepared him for the challenges of political leadership.

The Washington Post, Washington Examiner, and Washington City Paper have endorsed Patterson. This stands in stark contrast to Barry, who walked away from the Ward 8 Democrats endorsement forum without enough votes for an endorsement.

In his 8 years on the council, Barry has done far more to take personal political advantage of the poverty and other serious issues in Ward 8 than to actually try to solve them. The City Paper's Alan Suderman even reported today that Barry was trying to stoke racial divisions in the Council during the committee reshuffle that punished Council­member Tommy Wells (Ward 6).

While Barry plays defender of the downtrodden, residents of the ward can do far more to improve their neighborhoods and economic opportunities by taking a fresh turn and choosing Jacque Patterson. We urge Ward 8 voters to choose Jacque Patterson in early voting or on April 3.

This is the official endorsement of Greater Greater Washington, written by one or more contributors. Active contributors and editors voted on endorsements, and any endorsement reflects a strong majority or greater in favor of endorsing the candidate.


Help choose DC's delegates to the Democratic convention

On Saturday, registered Democrats in DC have the opportunity to elect 14 delegates to send to Charlotte, North Carolina in September for the Democratic National Convention.

Photo by kellydelay on Flickr.

There are 92 people running for the slots. Residents of Wards 3, 4, 5, and 7 (the wards along DC's northern border) vote for one set of delegates, while residents of the other wards vote for a different set.

People can vote at UDC's building 46E, between 10 am and 2 pm on Saturday. Here's a map of where to go.

Among the recognizable names are Greater Greater Washington editor Jaime Fearer, who lives in Ward 5, and contributor and Ward 7 transportation expert Veronica Davis. We've periodically written about some of the good work of current or former ANC commissioners like Sylvia Brown (Ward 7) and Brianne Nadeau (Ward 1), and former youth mayor Markus Batchelor.

Fearer and Brown are both part of the "51st State for Obama" slate. A number of candidates have formed slates, though slates have no official standing, and anyone is free to vote for whomever they like.

There are a few particularly recognizable names, but ones which voters should be wary of choosing: Councilmembers Marion Barry (Ward 8) and Jack Evans (Ward 2). They made some news yesterday with a controversial plan to bus supporters to the caucus.

There are delegate slots reserved specifically for elected officials, but these 3 councilmembers are also running against the masses, likely hoping to get into the convention without a fight over those other slots. Evans has been a delegate at all but one convention since 1992 and Barry is no stranger to the event.

Chuck Thies points out that sending Barry, in particular, creates a real danger of some sort of scandal distracting press coverage of the convention. That would remind national viewers of a side of DC that most residents would prefer not to emphasize, at a time when DC has so many positive aspects the delegates can highlight.

The national party conventions are a unique event that will surely be a thrill for those selected to attend. They will also provide a rare opportunity to tell DC's story and argue for full representation to engaged activists from around the country.


Councilmembers who rarely walk block shoveling bill

8 DC councilmembers tabled a bill this afternoon to enforce DC's law requiring shoveling sidewalks. This means that, for the umpteenth time, DC is doing nothing about the serious safety problem of unshoveled sidewalks after a snowstorm.

Photo by randomduck on Flickr.

Only bill authors Mary Cheh (ward 3) and Tommy Wells (ward 6), joined by David Catania (at-large) and Chairman Kwame Brown, voted against tabling the bill. Phil Mendelson (at-large) sounded like he favored the bill during the debate, but supported the tabling.

Listening to the debate, it was clear that many councilmembers just don't think there is a problem. Marion Barry (ward 8) said he has gotten few or no complaints about unshoveled sidewalks. Muriel Bowser (ward 4) spoke passionately multiple times about the burden on anyone for getting a ticket but said nothing about her residents' ability to walk to stores and the Metro.

Jim Graham also argued against enforcing this law, even though, as Mike DeBonis noted, he represents the (residentially) densest ward in DC. He introduced an amendment that would have restricted fines to only apply on streets which have already been plowed. One of the bill's supporters called the amendment a "poison pill." That sends the ironic message that if drivers can't get through a street, it's not important that pedestrians be able to either.

Kwame Brown, who did support the bill but also supported Graham's amendment, made the amusing comment that Mayor Gray has done a good job with snow clearance this year. We've had only 1.7" of snow this year, compared to an annual average average through January of 8.4" and the lowest in 124 years.

Graham insisted that he wants to do something about shoveling; he just wants to use incentives rather than fines. But he's never given a practical incentive-based proposal.

Many councilmembers opining on this issue would have more credibility if they actually walked to transit to get to work in a snow, or for that matter any other time.

During the years he chaired the council's transportation committee and sat on the WMATA Board, Graham came under periodic criticism for very rarely riding transit. He stuck up for low bus fares, but never addressed the problem of unsafe sidewalks after storm. Graham even bragged during today's debate about not moving bills like this one during his tenure as chairman.

Large numbers of DC residents have to get to work or school on foot and on transit after snowstorms, and unshoveled areas create serious safety hazards. Sidewalks are often completely impassable for people with disabilities or even just temporary injuries.

DC already has a law that residents and businesses have to clear their sidewalks, but it's not enforceable. The government has clear the sidewalk and then sue individual violators to collect up to $25. This bill simply makes the penalty for violating this law a straightforward ticket and fine, just like in most cities including Arlington, Alexandria and Montgomery County.

Cheh made many changes to the bill during the last few months to cut the fines even further from the original proposal, put in exemptions for poor and elderly residents, and more. Property owners get a warning before having to pay any fine until the end of 2013.

It's not clear if this law does enough to push the egregious violators, like the large parking lot in Mount Vernon Triangle, to actually take any action, but a majority of councilmembers have made clear that they don't really care to do anything about those problems.

The bill wouldn't have even taken effect until next winter. Now, we're likely to have to wait until yet another winter. If we get a real snow this year, will the councilmembers who voted to table this bill today try walking their neighborhoods and getting to work on foot or by transit? If they did, they'd very likely look at this issue very differently.


Gaston: Move Ward 8 forward, together

I'm Commissioner Darrell Gaston, and I'm currently serving my second term as an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner in Ward 8 and Chairperson of ANC 8B. I'm running for the democratic nomination for DC Council in Ward 8, a seat currently held by Councilmember Marion Barry.

Photo from Darrell Gaston.

As a young man who grew up on welfare, I know we can do better creating a pathway that leads to self-sufficiency. Ward 8 is my home. I'm a product of this community and grew up in public housing. I know the value of home ownership and hard work.

My decision to run is not for fame and fortune, but to be a voice for my community. I am sick and tired of seeing residents routinely taken for granted under the current councilmember.

Ward 8 residents have been disserviced for generations. Barry's policies keep the poor content with the status quo and few services that actually improve their lives. Ward 8 residents are tough, strong, and resilient, and they deserve a real choice in this election. I intend to give them one.

When I was elected Commissioner, many people thought that I couldn't produce change. They said I was too young. We proved them all wrong. Over 100 adults transitioned off of welfare and are now working and becoming homeowners.

We held parents accountable for their children's education by focusing on wraparound services and challenging our neighborhood schools to be creative in finding new avenues to get parents involved. Parents also took advantage of GED classes.

We repaved 60% of our streets and replaced 40% of our sidewalks. Zoning changes helped fix vacant properties and converted them to affordable housing. We helped unemployed residents find work and mentored young people.

In the past 7 years under this councilmember, we have moved backward. Unemployment has doubled to over 30%. We added 16,000 new families to TANF, and 26,000 families now received food stamps.

This is not progress or success and our ward deserves better. I believe in helping people get on their feet, but we need to encourage our residents with opportunities to become successful, rather than dependent.

There is no better social program then a good paying job with benefits, and when elected, my top priority will be getting Ward 8 working again. The potential we have in Ward 8 is undeniable. If DC can build baseball stadiums and give millions to Marriott to build hotels, then we can invest in putting our 17,000 unemployed residents to work.

Under my leadership as ANC chair, we led the fight in getting people working again. We were creative by holding neighborhood businesses accountable to hire locally. When Giant food wanted a liquor license, we mandated that they not only hire community residents, but train them continuously so that our residents can build their skills in this ever-changing workforce. Guess what? They did.

Under the Barry leadership, this government has made it too easy for people to get public assistance and harder to get a job. We will change that! We have made a career out of telling people what they want to hear and not what they need to hear. What is missing in Ward 8 is a public servant who will stand on their morals and values and character.

During campaign season you see people you never saw before. It's easy to talk now with the cameras and lights glaring, but where were many of these same people when we had our neighborhood cleanups, rallies, and organized for jobs.

For me, this race is about a better Ward 8. I was born and raised here, and I owe it to my community to give back, to make sure that children and families now have a better shot than when I was coming up.

It's time to create opportunity, by focusing on rebuilding our communities. Join me, because together we can move Ward 8 forward. If you stand or walk in Ward 8, you see the potential of our waterfront destination at Poplar Point. You see a ward where schools are being renovated, potholes are being refilled, police officers are walking the beat keeping our communities safe, and amenities are being brought to Ward 8.

You see that the future of Ward 8 is in front of us. We are the backbone of DC, from historic Anacostia to Congress Heights, from Garfield to Washington Highlands, and from Knox Hill to Bellevue, history lives here. Our best days lie ahead, and that is why when we stand together, the possibilities of what we can achieve are endless. Will you help us?

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Communicate at or 202-656-4043
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Darrell Gaston is a candidate for the DC Council from Ward 8. The views in this article are his and do not necessarily represent those of Greater Greater Washington. We invite all candidates running for the DC Council to share their views with our community, but reserve the right to edit posts to fit our content and format rules. If you are a candidate and would like to submit an article, please contact


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."

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