Leadership changes within our local sports teams and visits from wildlife have City Paper’s staff and contributors feeling pretty optimistic about the people (and animals) we encountered in 2023. On the places side, we’ve finally found spots where we can reclaim our weekends and pee in peace. Don’t mistake our cheery takes on certain places for overall satisfaction, though: Driving in the District remains an agonizing extreme sport.

To see what readers selected in People & Places categories, click here.

Mayor Muriel Bowser speaks at a public meeting in 2023
Mayor Muriel Bowser Credit: Darrow Montgomery

Best Display of Third-Term Energy

Muriel Bowser

The start of Muriel Bowser’s third term as mayor hasn’t been quite as disastrous as that of the only politician to surpass her electoral success, Marion Barry. After all, back in 1987, the mayor-for-life was consumed by his addictions to drugs and alcohol as the crack cocaine crisis tore apart the District. But the beginning of Bowser’s ninth year in the big chair has been undeniably grim. The first few months of 2023 were defined by a crisis largely of her own making, as Republicans swooped in for one of the most severe cases of congressional meddling in the history of the Home Rule era by overturning revisions to the city’s revised criminal code. She failed to beat back some of the changes to the code that she opposed, and earned herself months’ worth of scrutiny up on Capitol Hill in the process. Then the massive John Falcicchio scandal erupted in March, forcing her to confront accusations of sexual harassment against her closest adviser. Bowser’s been on the back foot ever since, getting caught trying to sweep the damaging results of an initial investigation into Falcicchio’s behavior under the rug and convincing the Council to coalesce behind ordering a new, independent investigation in the process. Even some of Bowser’s allies have started wondering how she’ll manage to get things back on track after a decidedly rocky few months, particularly without Falcicchio around to play his usual role managing the optics. The news that some of her Republican antagonists in Congress might help hand over the RFK site is one of the first things she’s had to smile about in some time, considering she’s long hoped to bring football back to D.C. The next few months will determine whether the prospect of a shiny new stadium is enough to distract residents from the dumpster fires burning elsewhere. —Alex Koma

Best Bear

Franklin, aka the Brookland Bear

Bears are having a bit of a cultural moment: Everyone is talking about the cult hit TV show The Bear, the pandas at the National Zoo recently had a big birthday, and most crucially, the D.C. area has seen an uptick in black bear sightings this summer. I awoke on the morning of June 9 to a text from a friend that read, “there’s a black bear on the loose in Brookland.” I immediately got on Twitter to try to pinpoint the cub’s coordinates. To my astonishment, I learned that the bear found his way from the Maryland woods to Hyattsville, only to end up on the very street I live on. I could not resist the opportunity to encounter such wildlife in this urban jungle. Apparently, neither could my neighbors, many of whom also showed up to the taped-off area to try and catch a glimpse of the bear. As the bear scampered down from the tree and into a neighboring yard, the gathered crowd ignored police officers’ calls to clear the area, and instead began sharing information about the bear’s movements and circling the section to find better vantage points. Before he was captured by wildlife authorities and returned to the woods, this new folk hero was christened Franklin, after the street on which he was apprehended. He was even honored with a T-shirt, the proceeds of which benefit the Humane Rescue Alliance. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and Franklin was copied by another cub that was apprehended on Theodore Roosevelt Island a couple weeks later. That bear couldn’t capture D.C.’s heart the way the original did. —Stephanie Rudig

Ward 2 Councilmember Brooke Pinto at a public meeting in 2023
Ward 2 Councilmember Brooke Pinto Credit: Darrow Montgomery

Best People Pleaser

Brooke Pinto

As chair of the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety in a time of rising anxieties about crime, Ward 2 Councilmember Brooke Pinto has one of the toughest jobs in D.C. Yet few lawmakers can claim to be as well-liked. It’s a paradox that has some politicos scratching their heads, puzzled how Pinto, derided by some as a Connecticut carpetbagger in her 2020 campaign, has just about cleared the field of potential challengers as 2024 draws near. Ward 2 activists say she has deftly won over many of the same moderate, business friendly (and, let’s be honest, older) residents that kept Jack Evans in office for decades. And she’s offered her fair share of concessions to the progressive left, too, to fend off her sharpest critics. She’s pleased Mayor Muriel Bowser with her cooperation on a crime bill, but Pinto still stripped out some of Bowser’s most regressive proposals, enough that the Council passed the legislation 12-1. Pinto may not deliver the most fiery speeches from the dais or the juiciest quotes to reporters, but she seems to have a knack for compromise, at the very least. And as D.C.’s youngest councilmember, she can keep doing this for a long time, if that’s what she wants. —Alex Koma

Best Safe Space 

The new SAFE Space Crisis Shelter 

You hope it’s a space you’ll never have to use, but DC SAFE has been meeting the local need for dignified crisis housing, available to survivors of domestic violence and their family members, since 2011. The only organization to do so within the District, DC SAFE offers immediate placement—24 hours a day, seven days a week—within an hour of a domestic violence incident. It’s a tall order that’s filling a great need (DC SAFE says they’re serving approximately 11,500 survivors a year), which is why it’s so wonderful to celebrate their new SAFE Space Crisis Shelter. Located in Northeast, near grocery stores and a Metro station, the shelter officially opens this fall with 30 clean, comfortable rooms, a rooftop terrace, a play yard for children, and on-site resources. The units are a mix of studio spaces with stove tops and refrigerators and larger units that can be arranged to make one or multiple bedrooms. All units have private bathrooms. DC SAFE expects that the new crisis shelter will triple its capacity, allowing them to house an estimated 750 survivors and families yearly. dcsafe.org. —Sarah Marloff

Best D.C. Job

VSC and Emmanuel Bailey

How’d you like to earn $1.6 million from a client without doing much of the work you’ve promised them? Intralot, the Greek company running D.C.’s sports betting operation, claims one of its contractors is enjoying just such an arrangement at the moment. The firm has been engaged in a war of words about all this with its top local subcontractor, Emmanuel Bailey’s Veterans Services Corporation, which came spilling out into the open this year and has big implications for the future of sports betting in the District. City officials have been telling Intralot for months that it’s violating the terms of its sweet, sole source deal with D.C., which gave the company the ability to earn millions running the city’s sports betting app so long as it gave some of the work to local businesses. But Intralot says Bailey (a longtime political insider) and his company are at fault, failing to fulfill their own contractual obligations and forcing Intralot to pick up the slack. The city’s sports betting operation has long been derided as the worst in the region (if not the country) and all the bickering could be enough to force lawmakers to finally take action and strip the contract away from Intralot when its term ends next year. But even that outcome wouldn’t be all bad news for Bailey and his firm: It’s still set to earn millions more through the end of 2024. —Alex Koma

The pastry case at Tatte Bakery
The pastry case at Tatte Credit: Darrow Montgomery

Best Public Restrooms in Northwest (and parts of Maryland and Virginia) 


Until Ward 2 Councilmember Brooke Pinto’s “Expanding Access to Public Restrooms Act of 2023” progresses, D.C.’s public restroom scarcity persists. City Paper has broached the topic before, as has DCist, but these lists need an update to reflect recent shifts in the District. Enter the city’s new bathroom hero and pastry aficionado: Tatte! In recent years, it seems the city has sold its soul to the Boston-based coffee corporation. These shops have taken over the DMV with 10 now operating in the D.C. metro area. Lauded for their creative lattes and array of well-made Israeli pastries, one of Tatte’s best, often forgotten, assets are their bathrooms. While other coffee chains play bathroom gatekeeper, Tatte’s stalls are made for the masses. In the middle of D.C. summer, when you find yourself stranded somewhere in Northwest, bottle of water empty yet somehow still dehydrated in the afternoon sun, there’s probably a Tatte just around the corner. There, you may find a crowd of undergrads, or a group of consultants on their lunch break, and an overwhelmed staff unlikely to notice one more body entering the establishment. Head to the stalls and be prepared for a line. Maybe fill up your water at one of the free jugs while you wait. At the location on New Hampshire Avenue NW, the doors are locked but the code is on a label stuck to the door. Enjoy a fairly decent bathroom experience and a very aesthetic black and white tile floor to stare at while you do your thing. Afterward, you can stroll out of there empty-handed and guilt free. But if the halva chocolate chip cookie catches your eye, no one would blame you. Multiple locations, tattebakery.com. —Camila Bailey

The Fields at RFK
The Fields at RFK Credit: Darrow Montgomery

Best Way to Avoid the Sunday Scaries

Join a Rec Sports League

Every Sunday, as far back into my adult life as I can remember, I have sat down at a computer and started to work. Such is life for an alt-weekly reporter facing a Monday deadline. But in the fall of 2020, I decided I would reclaim my full two-day break and signed up to play slow-pitch softball. Three years (and one surgically repaired ACL) later, Sunday is now the day of the week that I most look forward to. For those who also suffer from the inevitable sense of dread and despair that settles in around 4 p.m. on Sundays, consider this an endorsement of slow-pitch softball, but also of any regular Sunday activity surrounded by good friends, (mostly) friendly competition, and a cold beverage or two. That, I have found, is the best way to keep the Sunday Scaries at bay. —Mitch Ryals

Best Way to Further Distract Bad Drivers

Text Them

Don’t text or talk on your cellphone while driving. It’s dangerous. We all know that. Many of us do it anyway. But this summer, the D.C. Department of Transportation began a yearlong pilot program that sends polite, customized safety letters and, yes, text messages to about 100,000 drivers with serious records of speeding and red-light running. “Your loved ones, neighbors, and others in the D.C. community do not want you to get hurt or hurt others,” reads part of the message. But is texting bad drivers such a good idea? What if they read the message while driving? —Tom Sherwood

Best Under-the-Radar Feud

Charles Allen v. Kenyan McDuffie

With Elissa Silverman’s loss last year, Wilson Building watchers who enjoyed gawking at her heated rivalry with Council Chair Phil Mendelson had to be at least a little disappointed to lose out on some high-quality interpersonal drama. Luckily, D.C. politics remains petty enough to have quickly provided another budding feud instead. Things have been getting increasingly testy between Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen and At-Large Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie over these past few months, so much so that Council staffers have routinely started whispering about their jousting matches. It all started when McDuffie single-handedly stood in the way of Allen’s ceremonial resolution honoring outgoing Attorney General Karl Racine in January. That jab was probably aimed more at Racine than Allen, considering the ex-AG’s conflicts with McDuffie in last year’s elections, but things have only snowballed since then. Allen and McDuffie introduced competing pieces of legislation this spring aimed at helping restaurants deal with the end of the tipped minimum wage, setting up a messy breakfast meeting in May as they bickered about the differences. (McDuffie, chair of the relevant committee, promptly advanced his bill with the restaurant industry’s blessing while leaving Allen’s on ice.) And then there was the budget battle over funding for improvements to the Wharf fish market, which McDuffie raided to pay for a fund to lure restaurants and grocers to underserved areas over objections from Allen, who represents the area. The pair have aligned on many issues in the past, but it’s hard not to enjoy the emergence of a good grudge match now that things have broken down. —Alex Koma

Washington City Paper street boxes on the roof of The Atlantis, a music venue in Washington D.C.
Washington City Paper street boxes on the roof of The Atlantis Credit: Darrow Montgomery

Best Appropriation of City Paper Memorabilia 

The Atlantis

Like thousands of local music fans, I entered the ticket lottery for the inaugural shows at I.M.P.’s new venue, the Atlantis. And like thousands of fans, I was crushed to learn that I wasn’t among the lucky 4 percent who actually got tickets. (The folks at the Atlantis said they received more than 520,000 requests for fewer than 20,000 tickets.) So you will forgive my mixed feelings at seeing photos of the rooftop bar from the venue’s soft opening. Sitting there against a brick wall with manufactured graffiti are a pair of Washington City Paper boxes—once the primary distribution points for this publication. (The graffiti was done by the same artists who did the tagging in the ’80s and ’90s.) WCP stopped printing last year, so we have no more practical use for these boxes, and I’m glad they’re being put to good use. But the one-two punch of losing out on the lottery and seeing the rooftop photos sorta feels like not getting invited to your own party. 2047 9th St. NW, theatlantis.com. —Mitch Ryals

A parking ticket stuck under a windshield wiper in Washington D.C.
Credit: Darrow Montgomery

Best Parking Ticket Strategy

Don’t Pay ’Em

The chances of your car getting booted or impounded for unpaid parking or traffic tickets is pretty low in the District. So why even pay them? The Washington Post reported in May that D.C. has more than six million unpaid traffic tickets outstanding, worth about $1.3 billion in fines. Despite D.C.’s international reputation for ticketing traffic violators, enforcing collection is not so great. Many people just don’t pay up. One reason: D.C. has pitifully few booting crews for the hundreds of thousands of vehicles on our streets. Similar to Seinfeld’s Newman, D.C. has turned too many of the bad drivers in this town into White Whales. —Tom Sherwood

Melinda Bolling, interim director of the Department of For Hire Vehicles in Washington, D.C.
Melinda Bolling, interim director of the Department of For Hire Vehicles Credit: Darrow Montgomery

Best Comeback

Melinda Bolling

Where else but Mayor Muriel Bowser’s administration can an agency director openly flout public records law, retaliate against the employees who call her out on it (costing taxpayers $200,000 in a settlement agreement), fail in her charge of reforming the agency, and still receive another nomination as an agency head? That is the trajectory of Melinda Bolling, the current acting director of the Department of For Hire Vehicles and former leader of the now dismantled Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. Bowser has not specifically explained why she believes Bolling is the best person to lead DFHV, despite her unflattering record. But Bowser has called Bolling a “great public executive” and said she does not agree with the six-figure settlement awarded to the DCRA whistleblower whom Bolling illegally fired. Bolling is still awaiting confirmation from the D.C. Council. —Mitch Ryals

The underside of the Whitehurst Freeway in Washington, D.C.
The underside of the Whitehurst Freeway Credit: Darrow Montgomery

Best Place to Test Your Road Rage

Whitehurst Freeway

Running along the Georgetown portion of the Potomac River, the elevated Whitehurst Freeway is a notorious visual and physical scar on the waterfront. Opened in 1949, today it is a relic of a once-planned network of freeways slicing through the District. Although heavily used during morning and evening rush hours, it’s largely unused the rest of the day. It’s named for H.C. Whitehurst, the D.C. Highway Department director who conceived the “K Street Skyway” in the 1940s. Various proposals have been made over the years to tear it down in favor of a limited access parkway or even a tunnel under the K Street waterfront. Those plans have gone nowhere, and unfortunately neither has the Whitehurst. —Tom Sherwood

Josh Cavallero, who documents his deliveries by bicycle on Instagram @bikingdc
Josh Cavallero Credit: Darrow Montgomery

Best Instagram Follow


This account has it all: hungry office workers, skeptical security guards, white-knuckled bicycle rides through the treacherous streets of downtown D.C., good vibes, and extremely muscled thighs. For the past year or so, Josh Cavallero has posted videos of his bicycle delivery trips that he films with a camera fastened to his head. They’re mesmerizing, bingeable little slices of life in the day of your friendly neighborhood bike courier. The guy weaves in and out of traffic, and rarely has his hands on the handlebars, as he’s often balancing a customer’s drink in one hand. Cavallero says he has only dropped a drink one time (but it wasn’t his fault). A driver ran a red light and turned right in front of him. He T-boned the car, and the smoothie he was carrying went flying. The former bodybuilder acknowledges that his videos might look a bit risky, but he assures me that he’s always in control. “I don’t even think about the cup, to be honest,” he says. “If I do think about something, it’s trying to keep the frame straight.” Cavallero has amassed a large enough following (373,000 followers on Instagram) that he often encounters fans who wave and say hello. But sometimes he encounters cranky customers or security guards. In those instances, Cavallero says, he kills them with kindness—another endearing feature in his content. “If I feel somebody being rude, they’re not rude for long,” he says. instagram.com/bikingdc/ Mitch Ryals

Best Loser

Dan Snyder

Dan Snyder may have walked away with $6 billion and change for the sale of his tortured NFL team, but all the money in the world could not soothe his sorry reputation. Over the years, we’ve learned that Snyder is a vindictive, spiteful, petty, and foolish bully who harbored sexual harassers within his organization and sexually harassed a team employee himself, according to an investigation by attorney Mary Jo White. For that misbehavior, and for intentionally withholding at least $11 million in revenue that should have been shared with the other team owners, the NFL fined Snyder $60 million—a measly 1 percent of the Commanders’ sale price. But that’s just the off-field stuff. Snyder’s tenure was a miserable failure on the field as well. He is regarded by some as the worst owner in league history—others say the worst in all of sports. For certain, after two decades worth of losing teams, he’s retired the trophy for the biggest loser in the NFL. —Tom Sherwood

Best Sign That the Wizards Might Have Really Turned It Around This Time

Will Dawkins

The news that the Washington Wizards, perennial disappointment of the National Basketball Association, hired Will Dawkins, a 37-year-old who’s spent 15 years working in the front office of the Oklahoma City Thunder, generated relatively little excitement in D.C. He’s untested, yes, but he also now belongs to a special lineage of NBA executives who came through the basketball program of a small Division III school in Boston. Emerson College is better known for its film program, but in the past two decades, it’s also developed a few keen basketball minds, starting with Sam Presti, now the Thunder’s executive president and general manager. Dawkins teamed up with Presti and Rob Hennigan, another Emerson alum, in Oklahoma, and hopefully picked up a thing or two over the years. Presti, for example, is widely known to have convinced the San Antonio Spurs to draft a then little-known French player named Tony Parker when he worked for the team as a scout. In his first move as Wiz GM, Dawkins drafted a little-known French player named Bilal Coulibaly with the seventh overall pick. It’s far too soon to know whether or not Coulibaly will carry the Wizards to four NBA championships, but he represents something the Wizards and their fans desperately need: hope. More importantly, Dawkins has firmly ended the Ernie Grunfeld/Tommy Sheppard era in Washington. Thank goodness. —Caroline Jones

Former Metropolitan Police Department Chief Robert Contee
Former Metropolitan Police Department Chief Robert Contee Credit: Darrow Montgomery

Best Get While the Gettin’ Is Good 

Robert Contee

Hardly has there been a more difficult time to be a police officer in D.C., at least according to many of the sworn members of the Metropolitan Police Department. Nearly every type of crime is higher compared to this time last year (homicides are up by 25 percent as of publication), the department is bleeding officers (and, like many cities, is having trouble recruiting new officers), and the D.C. Council recently passed legislation that the police union insists is hampering officers’ ability to catch criminals. In the midst of all of that, the department’s leader, Chief Robert Contee, retired. Contee started with the Metropolitan Police Department as a recruit at age 17 (he spent only the previous two and a half years as chief) and has given more than enough of his time to serving residents of his hometown. But it’s not as if the former chief is kicking back in retirement. He left to take a more low-key position as an assistant director with the FBI. No more late night press conferences from the scene of a fatal shooting. No more talking to the parents of young victims of gun violence. No more protesters outside his home. Who can blame the guy for looking out for his family’s safety? And though Contee’s departure was welcome news to some, it also left a gaping leadership hole in yet another crucial public safety agency. —Mitch Ryals

DC Public Schools Chancellor Lewis Ferebee
DC Public Schools Chancellor Lewis Ferebee Credit: Darrow Montgomery

Best Consequence Avoidance

Chancellor Lewis Ferebee

After nearly four years on the job, D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Lewis Ferebee so far is surviving a stunning scandal. The school system he oversees made payments on 36 contracts worth approximately $270 million without first getting D.C. Council approval, as is legally required. Four lower level school system employees were dismissed after the contracting issues came to light. Ferebee, a picture of bureaucratic speak, didn’t acknowledge any personnel actions except to say those employees “may not have followed protocol, and we have taken corrective action.” Some Bowser administration insiders, concerned about Ferebee’s overall performance, have quietly talked about how the District should begin looking for a new school chancellor. —Tom Sherwood

Best Line of Questioning

Lauren Boebert

I typically don’t take pleasure in the embarrassment of others. But I will admit that Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert’s bumbling line of questioning about public urination during a House committee hearing had me in stitches. District officials were called to testify in front of the House Oversight Committee in March about long overdue revisions to the local criminal code, which passed the D.C. Council but were blocked by Congress. During the hearing, Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen faced questions from Boebert regarding the criminalization of public urination. The conspiracypedaling, Trump-supporting representative delivered her line of questioning with such confidence, but the entire premise of her inquiry was completely wrong. Not only was Boebert incorrect in asserting that the Council had decriminalized peeing in public, but she apparently forgot that just a month prior, she had voted to reject all revisions to the criminal code. What a clown. —Mitch Ryals

Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.
Nationals Park Credit: Darrow Montgomery

Best at Being Bad 

Washington Nationals

The Washington Nationals are a long way from their 2019 World Series season. They began this year winning only seven of their first 21 games, and winning only one of those at home. The team went into the All Star break in mid July with 36 wins and 54 losses, bad enough for last place in the National League East. As of Aug. 11, the team was still in last place despite a brief winning streak. With a record of 50-66, the Nats still were 23.5 games behind the powerful Atlanta Braves, who lead the division. The best hope this year may be to overtake the pitiful New York Mets, who, despite beginning the year with the highest payroll in MLB history, are only marginally better than the Nats. Here’s to leaning in to the roil of playoff spoilers and hoping to end the season not in last place. 1500 South Capitol St. SE, nationals.com. Tom Sherwood

Best Reason To Do Something About Climate Change Now

Canadian Wildfire Smoke

Like a scene out of a zombie movie, the D.C. area was engulfed in smoke from Canadian wildfires for several days this summer. Along with the reddish haze came the first ever Code Purple air quality advisory from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments that indicates “very unhealthy levels” of fine particle pollution. During the advisory period, no one should be outside for very long. Canada is in the midst of one of the worst wildfire seasons on record, which is in part fueled by drought conditions worsened by climate change. The fires are expected to continue burning throughout the summer and possibly into the fall. If the increasing global temperature and its impacts on our daily lives haven’t been obvious enough yet, consider Canada’s smoke a wake-up call. —Mitch Ryals