It is easy to see how the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs and local developers, chasing a fast buck, might be interested in the physical condition of Dorothy Brizill and Gary Imhoff’s home on Girard Street NW, but Loose Lips should know better.
On the other hand, LL’s report—”Broken Window Theories” (Loose Lips, 6/14)—was consistent with the Washington City Paper’s continued untethered animus toward local civic leaders and activists. People like Brizill and Imhoff serve as the bedrock of any functioning democratic government; they help maintain the critical third leg: a vibrant civic culture. Does this mean that they themselves should not set an example, or that they cannot be open to criticism? Anyone who knows my own history in the city as a journalist knows my answer to those questions is no. But what purpose is served by the continued attack of civic leaders, who have not been elected to any position, who do not receive any remuneration from the government, and serve at great sacrifice to their own personal wealth and well-being?
If LL is genuinely concerned about helping Brizill and Imhoff finance renovations to their home, I can offer this fair solution: She could donate a portion of her salary to them. Perhaps she can even persuade her counterparts on 15th Street NW to do the same. This sharing of income seems appropriate, since both the City Paper and the Washington Post seem to have made a pastime of regularly ripping off and not crediting reporting done by Brizill which appears in themail, published twice weekly by her and Imhoff. Take for example, the item in which LL reports on the state of Brizill and Imhoff’s home. As a regular reader of themail, LL surely must have seen Brizill’s own report on the subject, which appeared nearly two weeks before LL got around to putting her own spin on the matter. Similarly, on June 14, the Post reported about the firing of the head of the city’s Office of Human Rights—two days after the item was reported by Brizill.
To be fair, LL is not one of those who frequently go to themail to discover what is occurring in the city. Still, if journalists are going to troll for stories in other publications, then the least they should do is demonstrate standard professional ethics and give credit to those publications. And it is imperative to provide the reader with the context. LL quotes several people in her story about Brizill, without offering the back story: For example, Brizill, a onetime D.C. Council candidate, was a key factor in getting Todd Mosley (quoted in LL’s article) eliminated from the ballot when he too ran for the Ward 1 seat on the council. The current Ward 1 D.C. councilmember, Jim Graham (mentioned in the article), has publicly called Brizill his “No. 1 nemesis.” These political subplots seemed to have eluded LL!
Missing a subplot here or there may be forgivable. But LL didn’t come anywhere near the economic issue screaming for attention: gentrification. One of the many ways in which the poor, the working-class, and those on fixed incomes are pushed out of neighborhoods by developers and others is through more aggressive code enforcement. Issuing erroneous citations, as in Brizill’s case, is an example. The government makes the kill, while developers and others morph into vultures and feast on the prey!
The mix of politicians and their wannabes on one hand, and unscrupulous landlords and developers on the other, is a bad one. If LL has a genuine interest in the condition of housing of local residents, I suggest she dig deeper.
(By the way, the checklist on what constitutes a vacant or abandoned property should have included “not inhabited”—a fact that DCRA didn’t bother to check, and a mistake that LL replicated in an illustration. This alone speaks volumes.)