City Paper is not for tourists
Two weeks ago, I wrote about the Nats stadium’s impact on the surrounding neighborhood. No one feels the sting of all that stadium-related development more than the non-profit Positive Nature. The higher property taxes may put them out of business.
It is hard to estimate the impact of a place like Positive Nature. They run an after-school program for some of the most vulnerable kids in the city. These are kids who have gone through countless case workers and foster care moms. These are kids who actually need city government to function properly. For most of them, Positive Nature amounts to a real home. It is hard to write a grant proposal around that.
And no grant can make up for the stadium’s impact. In the last two years, Positive Nature has seen its property taxes skyrocket. Now, those kids are in serious jeopardy of losing that home. The non-profit simply can not afford those taxes.
During the course of my reporting, I asked a number of Positive Nature’s teenagers to explain the impact of the non-profit on their lives. Tyrone, a 17-year-old who had been with Positive Nature for years, didn’t want to talk. Instead, he told me he would write something. Last Friday, I picked up his essay. In honest and direct prose, his short graph gets at what all the kids tried to express to me. Here is what he wrote:
“My name is Tyrone. I came to PNI when I was 10 years old. I was disrespectful in school (Plummer ES), fighting and cursing. Since starting PNI, my behavior has changed. I found respect in others and myself. I started a new school since attending PNI (Leary). My grades have gone up. I have been on [the] honor roll and student of the year several times. I also develop working skills since attending PNI. I started working for PNI when I was 14 years old. I am now 17 years old and in the 11 grade. Without PNI, I don’t know where I would be.”
Last week, Positive Nature co-found Jennifer Murphy gave her own account to a much more rarefied audience. She testified before the D.C. Council’s oversight hearing on the Office of Tax and Revenue. Here is her written testimony:
Good Morning Chairman Evans and other distinguished committee members, I would like to begin by thanking you for the opportunity to share some concerns of a non-profit organization in the District, who has been significantly impacted by the property tax increases that come with exciting times in a neighborhood’s growth, development and revitalization. I come before you today in my capacity as one of the founders and executive directors of Positive Nature, a direct service organization that provides essential programs and services to vulnerable and at-risk children and youth. The children we serve represent a broad array of issues and problems, but each has a remarkable individual story. Some are committed wards, many have learning disabilities, and most struggle with mental and behavioral health issues. We work with orphans, victims of abuse, neglect and other trauma, and siblings of homicide. They are lost, scared, forgotten, angry, abandoned and disconnected in most aspects of their lives. But rather than focus on their deficits and all that they do NOT have, I want you to be sure and hear that today what they DO have, and what DO they count on, and what they DO trust, and where they DO feel safe, is at Positive Nature.
In July, 2003 Positive Nature celebrated a great day when we entered into a ten year lease agreement, thanks largely to the benefits and incentives of an Enterprise Zone in Ward 6. We played a big role in designing 8600 square feet of safe, happy, kid-friendly space, and invested $10,000 in clearing an adjoining lot to create green play space for the children that we serve. In February, 2004, Positive Nature moved fifty children from three basement classrooms at Hart Middle School to a fresh, clean, brand new building that they would come to call home, overnight.
Based on our lease agreement, Positive Nature committed to paying the property taxes on both the building lot and the “playground” for each subsequent year beyond the base year. In 2005 that number was $8,934.02. In 2007, just two years later, the number had grown 936.9 % to $83,699.74.
This coming Saturday, Positive Nature plans to hold a rally in front of its building. They set up a webpage to explain it all. Stay tuned for more info!