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The article “Dream City” (4/16) was thorough and thought-provoking. Public housing officials and housing advocates have thousands who need help and only limited resources to use. How to allocate those resources is the debate, and the move to mixed-use housing is understandable, especially if you consider sustainability important. It is easier to sustain mixed-use housing because you build in community advocates who will keep the project in good shape and in place. For example, communities of low-income people are often poorly treated when using government services and don’t expect the government to fulfill its core functions—like keeping the trash cleaned up. If some of the residents are in a less stressful relationship with the government, there is a higher chance that some of the residents will have the energy to engage in the struggle. The trade-off is that you help fewer people in the short term.

I don’t know what the long-term prospect is, but if the housing is sustainable, it is an improvement over our public housing history. Remember the homeless shelter on New York Avenue? How about Clifton Terrace? In my neighborhood, we have public housing. The Kelly Miller Apartments are brick garden-style apartments, and they are sadly neglected. The yards are hard dirt, and doors hang on only one hinge. There is a space that would make a lovely community garden, by the way.

As the District rebuilds its government services for our low-income friends and neighbors, we will develop and implement policies and programs to carry out our work. We are going to face innumerable difficult choices along the way. And we are going to choose wrong sometimes. But at least we are going to be making choices and working on something constructive, not just sadly shaking our heads in despair over the shockingly bad conditions. I appreciated the depth of the story and the presentation of all sides with equal conviction. Keep pointing out the prices we are paying. We need to think carefully and re-examine often.

I am a health-care advocate, and the health-care community is considering how to comprehend the mayor’s vision of providing health insurance to 97 percent of District residents. It is a stunning proposal. The District of Columbia would become a model for the country, and perhaps for the world, in how an urban community can provide health care to its amazingly diverse residents. Currently, our system is fragmented and oddly financed. Now we officials and advocates must turn a vision into policy, and policy into nurses, medicine, counseling, operations, nutrition classes, and all the things that health care is. It is a tremendous challenge, and, like the housing community, we are going to face tough choices. The health-care system for the Medicaid, uninsured, and underinsured residents of the District serves more than 200,000 people and uses more than $1 billion dollars a year. I hope the Washington City Paper will take a look at health care and the choices we are and will be making for our community. You would be doing us a great service.


via the Internet