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It’s been a very long time since a letter to the editor or an article in the Washington City Paper has made me so upset as to write in; but it has happened with Thomas Lisse’s letter (The Mail, 2/1). And Lisse may not realize this, but the fact that he’s not a D.C. resident and comes here only for business makes his arguments even more vulnerable. It is so obvious that he knows so little about the city and its problems.
I have been a D.C. resident for six years, and it is one of the best places I have lived. I have lived in several different cities in the United States and visited others. Sure, politics was my major draw to D.C., but there was something else that attracted me to this city and keeps me here. My original political and career aspirations have changed within the six years I’ve lived here, but I have no plans to move anytime soon.
First of all, Lisse seems to forget the obvious: No city is perfect. Certain demographic and population trends to which he attributes D.C.’s poor quality of life can be found in any large city, including San Francisco. Middle-class people with “traditional and decent upbringing” are moving to the suburbs all over the country. This isn’t just a D.C. issue—this has always been the case. People are attracted to the suburbs because of lower cost of living and a slightly slower pace of life. And I’m very sure these same people are flocking to the suburbs of San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, and the like because of these cities’ notoriously high rents and housing costs. And let’s face it: People with so-called decent upbringing may be moving to the suburbs of these major cities for other reasons.
And where does Lisse get off about crime? Did he know that there are other cities in the country that have more crime than D.C.? I have lived in D.C. for six years, and I have never been robbed or harassed by anyone. Yet when I lived in Minneapolis seven years ago, my purse got snatched, and when my family visited Chicago, our car got broken into. From my own personal experience, D.C. is actually a very friendly city. Sure, there’s a lot of hostility on the streets, but there’s never a shortage of strangers willing to say hello or strike up a conversation. And I don’t mean just the beggars and homeless, either (which I’m sure San Francisco has plenty of). Many people from New York that I’ve talked to notice the same thing as well.
And Europeans not coming over to D.C. for a cultural experience—is that a bunch of bull or what? Does Lisse understand that one of D.C.’s major industries is tourism? Americans come here in droves, and foreigners—not just from Europe, but from all over the world—come here as well.
I will be the first to admit that D.C. is conservative. It’s a government town where politicians and the people who work for them are supposed to be on their best behavior at all times. However, if Lisse actually spent some time in D.C., he would see that the culture and sensory stimulation are here. And that many times one doesn’t have to pay an admission fee for them. And many of the foreigners who visit here make D.C. their home. The fact that D.C. is the most politically powerful city on the planet allows it to attract some of the things that Lisse claims that it doesn’t have.
And where does he get the idea that our public transportation system is not being used? Metrorail is expanding—more stops are being added—and Metrobus (despite the city’s love affair with Metrorail) is still heavily utilized. I don’t have a car, and as long as D.C.’s public transportation keeps on going, I won’t need one. Many residents who have cars use them only on the weekends because the public transportation is so good. I have lived in other cities where the public transit systems were so much worse and more difficult to use. And of course, I don’t think Lisse has had the pleasure of using Metro during rush hour or a major event in the city. Underutilized my ass…
And another thing that seems to escape Lisse is that the city is actually improving. Neighborhoods that were once run-down and crime-ridden are now undergoing urban renewal, and more people are actually moving into the city. Sure, a larger number are moving out, but this is happening all over the country. But, of course, Lisse’s business trips don’t allow him to see that.
Lisse’s business trips do not make him an expert on our problems. Sure, every city has its problems, and D.C. has problems that are unique to its circumstances. But I have never regretted making this city my home. There are a lot of things that get on my nerves about D.C., but they’re outweighed by the positives. But then, of course, Lisse wouldn’t be able to see this passing through on business.