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As a proud D.C. citizen and Ward 8 resident, I’d like to thank you for the coverage of Ward 8 in several of your recent issues. Ward 8 is not an island. It is a productive part of a thriving city, and your cover articles have at least provided a sense of inclusion in the goings-on of the city.
What I do wish, particularly with the most recent piece by Jason Cherkis (“Table for None,” 3/31) is that someone on your staff would address the untold story of how Ward 8 came to inherit much of D.C.’s poverty problem. Lest the other yuppies who read your paper think we Ward 8 residents are all dying for lack of sit-down restaurants, I’d like to add some balance to Cherkis’ story by helping your readers understand how our government’s racist urban-renewal policies created the circumstances Ward 8 is just now beginning to shed.
There aren’t many sit-down restaurants in Ward 8—but the smartest of us are not dying over it, we’re cashing in! Did you know you can buy a three-bedroom house in Ward 8 for $300,000? Let’s see, studio condo and drinks on a veranda—or substantial roof over my head? Years ago, in my early 20s, I chose the house. You can always drive to Zaytinya. But I digress.
Ward 8’s negatives are what they are because in the 1950s and 1960s, the federal government decided to make the District of Columbia a model of urban-renewal policies. It ordered 60,000 units of government-assisted housing (more than was needed at the time) to be built and funded, with half of the housing in just two wards—7 and 8. The other 30,000 units were spread throughout the rest of the city. The city’s poor moved from alley dwellings in Capitol Hill (those were outlawed) and other parts of the city and were rerouted to the new poverty communities built especially for them—away from sufficient workplace transportation and other amenities. The subway system didn’t come to Anacostia until the 1990s. For decades the overburdened wards deteriorated as all of the characteristics of poverty manifested themselves.
With all of the obstacles Ward 8 has faced, it’s a miracle that it continues to survive, never mind the lack of sit-down restaurants—and they are coming. If the City Paper wants to speed Ward 8’s economic recovery, it can help convince this city to take back its poverty problem, or rather spread the poverty. Throw out some of that “affordable housing” lingo in Georgetown and other neighborhoods where sit-down restaurants are plentiful. Put a cap on new federal spending on Section 8 housing in Ward 8—and instead put government-assisted housing next to a $600,000 condo building on 14th Street NW—watch those property values plummet!
Use your journalism to stimulate change, not just provide entertainment for people who don’t know any better. But then there’s nothing like a good “ghetto” story to make us all feel better about ourselves, now, is there?