One recent Thursday afternoon, a young man strides out of the Florida Avenue NE entrance to Gallaudet University. He heads south on 7th Street and hangs a right onto Orleans Place, a narrow one-way street lined with vacant lots and boarded-up houses covered in “R.I.P.” graffiti. On the corner, he engages a man with a quick burst of hand signals. Then he hands over a wad of cash. “As you can see, our dealers have done the market research on their customersthey know sign language,” comments Roland Chavez, a neighbor active in the Near Northeast Citizens Group, as he observes the transaction. The young man proceeds down the block, grabs his merchandise, and then loops back toward Florida. Chavez takes American Sign Language classes at Gallaudet and encourages neighbors and merchants to do the same, but apparently local marijuana peddlers have gotten the hint as well. “College students don’t come into our neighborhood except to buy drugs,” notes Chavez. “We’ve tried to get the university to help us get the message out…’Don’t buy drugs here. You’re killing our neighborhood.’ Excuse the pun, but they’re deaf to our pleas.”
Excused Absences As recent audits have proven, D.C.’s 37 advisory neighborhood commissions (ANCs) are hardly bastions of fiscal propriety. Now, it seems, they have a tiny excuse: They didn’t know any better. When Kathy Sternberg, the new director for the D.C. Council’s Committee on Local and Regional Affairs, was updating the manual sent to D.C.’s 200-plus commissioners, she discovered a few pages missing from her copy. She soon discovered a trend. “They weren’t in any of the copies,” says Sternberg. The missing pages included sections detailing the role of the D.C. Council, the D.C. auditor, and the mayor’s office in advising commissioners on financial reporting and other statutory duties. Sternberg has arranged for a reprinting and will distribute fresh copies at training sessions this month. “I think that we’re really going to see some changes from now on,” Sternberg notes.
Must-Bleed TV George Washington University Hospitalwhich catapulted into the national spotlight following the 1981 assassination attempt on President Ronald Reaganis getting another prime-time role: The Discovery Channel series On the Inside is currently filming a documentary about the hospital’s ER. So far, producer Bruce Cooke notes, the camera has caught everything from a teenage suicide attempter to a man with a gunshot wound to his testicles. “The hospital is given written permission by the patients,” notes Amy Pianalto, the hospital’s media relations coordinator. “If someone refuses, then they are not filmed.” The series airs in April.
Pro Moves Last fall, Hillcrest neighbors noticed a “For Sale” sign on the house of Vincent Spaulding, an original member of last year’s draft-Williams movement. Rumors had spread that Spaulding was headed out of town for good. “I just retired from the federal government,” Spaulding says. “I had for business reasons and family reasons decided to relocate in North Carolina.” But by the end of October, Spaulding had decided to stay put, even though he had already sold his family home. “I feel good about the decision,” Spaulding says. “I have a sense of hope. I feel good about what’s going on here.” Spaulding’s love of the city was rekindled last week when he was named one of two highly touted east-of-the-river mayoral appointees. He will serve as the Williams administration’s “Clean the City Czar.”
Diplomatic Immunity A border dispute has erupted over Equatorial Guinea. Unlike other West African clashes, it doesn’t involve rebel factions per se, but two ANCs skirmishing over Board of Zoning Adjustment approval for the tiny nation’s proposed embassy near 16th and U Streets NW. Eric Letsinger, the ANC 1C commissioner who represents the area where Equatorial Guinea wants to locate, says an embassy is “not consistent with the spirit of the block.” But commissioners in neighboring ANC 1B disagree and have decided to voice their support to the zoning board. “The commission will be vigorously supporting its position on this matter,” says ANC 1B commissioner Lawrence Guyot.
Reporting by Colin Bane, Laura Lang, Nefretiti Makenta, Alexandra Phanor, and Elissa Silverman.
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