Do you know D.C.?
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Honestly, I had to read the article “Above It All” (4/9) multiple times to really understand the point being made, and my main counterpoint asks why one would simply want to complain about the problems of the District instead of being part of a solution to those problems. The article stirred up a multitude of emotions about what is being done, what has been done, and will be done in this city to make it a better place for both residents and transients—not only because I recognize the multitude of civic problems and issues that Washington, D.C., has, but because I am a District resident who works on a few of those issues on a daily basis. The insinuation made to me was that the effort I and many of my District government co-workers put forth on a daily basis is all for naught.
Let me start by saying that I am one of those people at whom the “city living, dc style!” initiative is targeted for relocation to the District—I’m 29 and single, with no kids, and I try to take advantage of all that D.C. has to offer, not just in “cool” areas such as Adams Morgan, U Street, Barracks Row, and Mount Pleasant (I love these neighborhoods), but in nooks and crannies such as Embassy Row (unique embassies), Upper 16th Street (old money and unique architecture), Anacostia (go see the home of Frederick Douglass and the Smithsonian Museum of African-American History), and Southwest (take a trip to Buzzard Point next time instead of Hains Point). I didn’t move here all of the way from Dallas for the cool factor—it was there in Dallas. I moved to the District because I wanted to live here in spite of all of the problems, and I take time to appreciate the city for its good points and its faults.
Another point about the “city living, dc style!” marketing magnet is that it is not only looking to attract residents who may not have to worry about community improvement, but it is a tool for attracting those same residents who can (1) afford to live in the glut of overpriced condominiums and apartments flooding the city’s real-estate market; (2) subsequently pay additional taxes for city services used not only by the estimated 572,000 city residents, but also by the myriad suburban commuters who help add to the potholes and trash found throughout the city; and (3) spend those fat, long-hour paychecks in the city, supporting businesses and jobs and spurring additional revenue for city services from sales-tax receipts.
In the short year and a half that I’ve lived here, I have quickly learned that Washington, D.C.—like most cities in this country surrounded by suburban sprawl—has civic problems partially as a result of the exodus of residents that took place from most cities in this country during the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s. Many of these residents were active in attempting to make their cities, neighborhoods, and blocks the best they could be (many weren’t, as well), but for whatever reason decided they could get a better deal on life in the suburbs. The difference between the District and many other cities is that D.C. contains its own unique character that can only be seen if one makes the effort to dig deeper into the essence of what the city is all about (see Georgia Avenue, Brookland, Fairlawn, Hillcrest, Marshall Heights, and the U.S. National Arboretum in Northeast D.C.).
So as residents continue to complain about lead-tainted water, public schools (not all of which are that bad, contrary to popular belief), potholes, police, parking enforcement, and so on, please remember that no one is holding a gun to anyone’s head to live within the borders of Western, Eastern, and Southern Avenues. We all choose to live in the District—maybe our family has lived here for four generations and we feel we have a District birthright; maybe we are sucked in by the Sex and the City phenomenon of cool city living; maybe we live in subsidized housing and cannot afford to move elsewhere; or maybe we simply enjoy the vibrancy and uniqueness of the 60-plus-square-mile enclave located within the Potomac River basin known as Washington, D.C., in spite of its imperfections.
Finally, to all of those potential District residents who are coming to the city as a result of the “city living, dc style!” movement, I say come on in, be a part of this great city—but don’t complain about its problems unless you’re prepared to be a part of the solutions to make things better for your ward, neighborhood, or block. Otherwise, keep your mouth shut, stop complaining, and stay in the suburbs.