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I was most disappointed at the manner in which Jonetta Rose Barras chose to utilize my statements about Sandy Allen in her article (“As Good as It Gets?” 8/25). Barras spins quite a web, juxtaposing misperceived public statements and her interpretations with direct quotes to convey the impression that I am (1) naive and (2) critical of Allen’s performance. Barras implies that I have fallen prey to Allen’s front-porch maneuvers and, despite my advanced education, choose to overlook her (implied) gross incompetence, as my uneducated peers in the ward do. Barras depicts the councilmember as being a master of political fluff, a symbolic leader who produces no concrete benefits for the residents of the ward. I strongly disagree with Barras’ viewand with her portrayal of Allen.
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In fact, I clearly stated to Barras that I would have moved out of the ward by now if not for the improvements (both symbolic and concrete) that have accompanied Allen’s tenure as the Ward 8 councilmember. First of all, I find Allen, as a symbol of what is good and vital in the black community, to be just what the doctor ordered. As a self-disclosed survivor of the welfare system, Allen has life experiences that allow her to represent the ascendant spirit of the community. Ward 8 desperately needs to shed its old image as a monolithic block of the black underclass that is at the beck and call of the former mayor. With her quiet dignity, ever-present humility, and unquestionable commitment, Allen conveys to the broader community that “something is different in Ward 8.”
Although I can’t attest to Allen’s mastery of backroom politics, I am convinced that her integrity would prevent her from engaging in the kind of backroom antics that have led to the downfall of so many local and national leaders. I saw Allen’s “unprompted telephone call” to the home of a casual friend as an indication of her authenticity and sensitivity, two traits that generate my confidence in her ability to do what is most essential to the position she holdsthat is, keep the needs of her constituents elevated above any urges toward self-aggrandizement! Furthermore, I am very confident that Allen has the core skills necessary to lead the reformation in Ward 8. After all, a black female single parent has to have vision, negotiation skills, and social-navigation mastery to raise a family.
Realistically, some of the economic-development issues that Barras raises are so longstanding and complex that Jesus Christ would have to delay the Second Coming to get them resolved. I think that it is most unfair to expect Allen to have resolved them during her term in office.
The D.C. Council appears to be working more effectively than ever, and I think that Allen’s relationship with her peer, David Catania, is a part of the new synergy that exists among the current group of members. In any effective organization, the members are able to complement the strengths and to compensate for the weaknesses of the other members. I also hope that this unlikely pairing signifies a future trend in which Ward 8 becomes a more multicultural community. The middle class is an emerging group in Ward 8, which, as the larger community discovers “the treasures of the far East”that is, the fantastic housing opportunities in Ward 8will grow geometrically. I am sure that as the inevitable population shift takes place, Allen and the rest of the council will focus on some issues besides social-service delivery when discussing the ward. Allen is one of the few local leaders who appear to be comfortable with the ward’s transition, so I am confident that she will invest more energy in meeting the needs of the middle class as it evolves in the ward. If Allen can withstand the pressures from the conspiracy theorists and promote the diversification of the ward, the age-old socioeconomic problems will resolve themselves.
Ward 8 Democrats
Washington Overlook Town Homes Association