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As someone who writes a take-no-prisoner column, I do not wear thin skin. Therefore, I am mostly amused by Loose Lips’ swat at me in his recent column (1/21). I am concerned, however, that someone of his professional caliber is apparently comfortable with failing to contextualize a comment ripped from a previously published report—especially when, during two separate face-to-face discussions, I attempted to elaborate on my position. I do not begrudge Lawrence Parks’ right to enter the Columbia Heights fray. But I also do not countenance his bogus claim of residency as the authority for his engagement and for setting himself a notch above other points of view.
Now, on the issue of east, west, or 10 paces, I would only suggest that Lips immediately engage a community guide. At the very least, he may want to purchase a compass.
That said, what bothers and saddens me more about Lips’ item “Neighborism” is that he seems to proffer the notion that citizens’ ownership, pride in, and defense of their neighborhoods are maladies, budding plagues, to be avoided or stamped out at all cost. Further, following his line of reasoning, one would conclude that he believes someone who lives in Congress Heights should have equal sway and authority over issues that affect, say, Palisades—which, even for a Washington City Paper columnist, is illogical and far-fetched. If Lips isn’t careful, he may become a nominee for one of his own Loosie Awards.
We all live in the District and should care deeply about what happens to it, regardless of our geography. But, in cases like development in Columbia Heights, the domestic interests—those of residents who live or work in the affected community—must be given significant weight in any decision-making process, which cannot be achieved without what Lips calls “neighborism.”
Attempts by residents who live or work in a particular neighborhood to preserve what they believe are critical features should be encouraged—not discouraged. While I don’t share the economic development vision the two Lawrences—Guyot and Parks—have for Columbia Heights, and understand some people’s consternation with Dorothy Brizill’s determination and steadfast defense of her position, I applaud their activism. The debate that has ensued in Columbia Heights, despite its all too frequent vitriolic and racial tone, will, in the long run, make it a better community.
Finally, I’d like to remind Lips that defined neighborhoods—with individual personalities, psychologies, and cultural orientations—enrich cities, making them exciting and irresistible places to live. If the rough, tumble, and exhilarating mien of the District is too much for him, he may find the bland sameness of suburbia more to his liking. But then, I know Lips—he probably would attack people there who are battling sprawl as they attempt to retain the bucolic communities they claim as their own.