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When I picked up this latest edition of the Washington City Paper and read its headline, I assumed that “The Big Whiff” (10/22) would consist of nothing more than the rant I have come to find typical of this publication: “journalistic” rubbish created solely to appease the self-indulgence of the nouveau-bohemian segment of the District’s populace. I was quite surprised to find within the article’s opening paragraphs a hint of seemingly sincere social consciousness, concern (that I then shared) for Alton Majette and other residents whose homes would be bulldozed to make way for the new ballpark (“No ’Doze”).
But then I turned the page. In an instant, the truth was revealed: The personal anecdotes and talk of “homes” and “neighborhoods” was but a thin veil engineered to soften the actual reason for David Morton and his self-interested readership’s opposition to the construction of the ballpark: its impact on the gay entertainment district of the O Street SE “strip.” It would seem that the concern for Majette and his neighbors was simply a secondary (artificial) construction.
Now that this deceptive ploy has been disarmed, and the root of Morton’s opposition revealed, I must ask the simple question: Why should one care? Why should one of the District’s nearly 600,000 residents care if the O Street strip is bulldozed? Why should one of its neighbors across the Frederick Douglass Bridge or a half-mile away care if it is sacrificed to make way for a magnet of revitalization such as the proposed ballpark? I mean, what does the strip have to offer? That is, besides a bastion of unseemly activity for the enjoyment of its patrons—patrons who would not want such businesses in their own back yards but do not mind it in the back yards of others.
Do not think that I am against the existence of such entertainment in the District. I am not. But I would ask the patrons and owners of the O Street strip to look toward themselves when distributing blame for its fate. I would imagine that the sentiment expressed in this article by Bob Siegel—sentiment that I can only assume is shared by many along the strip; Morton refers to Siegel as the “mayor”—would serve only to alienate members of the surrounding communities. Remember, it was Siegel who articulated the strip’s desire to remain “exclusively gay,” not to turn into another Dupont Circle (read: not have it become diverse or obtain a level of community consciousness). Perhaps if O Street entrepreneurs such as Siegel had worked to revitalize the neighborhoods beyond the strip, to establish community partnership and service programs, or made the effort to better community relations at any level, their current situation would not be what it is. Instead of being seen as seedy, and therefore disposable, they might have come to be seen as integral to the community and its development. But this is not the case.
I do not see any reason that these businesses and these 12 residents cannot be offered a relocation package (something that Morton fails to mention) and the construction of the ballpark be allowed to begin. In fact, I would imagine that Majette would not even mind the move, just so long as his new neighborhood allowed him the same opportunity for community involvement as before.
I write in the spirit of civic consciousness.