3 Great things about Bradley A. Thomas, who happens to be running for the Ward 5 seat

Bradley A Thomas on roof

So my ANC Bradley A. Thomas is running for Kenyon McDuffie’s Ward 5 seat. I have mixed feelings, mainly because I don’t want to lose a good ANC. But if you don’t know anything about Bradley Thomas, here are three things that I think makes him a great guy.

1. He’s competent. That might not seem like a great thing, but when you’ve had or observed ANCs who weren’t, especially when you were trying to work on something that required a semi-functional ANC, it is a big deal. This is why I don’t want to lose him to the rest of the ward. At the last BACA meeting I did ask him what was meant by ‘affordable housing’ and he knew the government definition along with a general idea of what incomes fell into the target categories.

2. He’s honest or he doesn’t sell you B.S.- Yes, he will tell really bad dad jokes, but I noticed he won’t always tell you what you want to hear but what you need to hear in order to achieve the best possible goal. A great example of this was with the store at 3rd and P that wanted a liquor license and the neighbors up in arms against it. The store operators had a advisor/attorney so familiar with the ABRA license process, that a license was almost a given. The neighbors, included a faction that believed their mere opposition was enough to deny a license. Bradley, could have told those neighbors what they wanted to hear but he didn’t. He reminded resident’s how the system worked and aimed for the best case scenario given what residents (who weren’t going to hire their own lawyer & Bradley is a lawyer) were up against.

3. He has worked to make the neighborhood better for all residents. Really early on he was one of many people who helped make the reconstruction of the Florida Avenue Park reality. Before it was a park for homeless and drug dealers, not for children, regardless of the playground equipment. Now old-timers hold court in one section, basketball players are on the courts, parents and their children get the playground area, and the residents of the co-op don’t have to live with a criminal element under their windows. He has kept an eye out for opportunities, where the neighborhood could take advantage.

I probably should mention, Bradley nor anyone from his campaign didn’t pay me to write this. I’m just home with the flu and figured I should post something.

Bradley A. Thomas
Website- https://www.bradleythomas4dc.com/
Facebook- https://www.facebook.com/bradleythomas4dc/
Twitter- https://twitter.com/bradleythomasdc/

Oh #4-His name is not a color.

Subsidized daycare

No this this not going to turn into a mommy blog, but parenting stuff is on my mind, a lot.Eyeglass binky DC bike map

Recently my daycare had an information session and though not said directly, I’m not paying full price for my son’s daycare. The DC government is requiring that child development staff have a 2 year AA degree. I don’t know how the DC government reimburses those who have to take on that burden. What I do know is that our day care provider takes local and federal monies to operate the place. Those of us paying “full price” aren’t really covering the full price necessary to run an accredited daycare center. As one who would prefer a smaller government footprint in her life, this was a little hard to accept. But then my daycare provider had a bunch of qualities I wanted at a price that worked better for me than other places, so I accept it like the ‘terms and conditions’ thing for a program I need.

One of the things mentioned in the info session was how much money the center got per kid for a feeding program. There was a form the center bugged us about inquiring about our income that I avoided and ignored because I knew we, a dual income family, made too much to qualify for subsidized food. After a phone call asking us please, please, please fill out the form, I did. Apparently they needed everyone’s income for a government program and the center gets so much for lower income kids and so much for those who aren’t low income. The difference is big enough that it seems that it would be bad if my daycare was not economically diverse.

The Childcare voucher program

Another thing that came out of the information session was questioning if we made too much for a voucher. The voucher covers a portion (maybe all, I didn’t catch that part) of the cost that the parent pays. There are bunch of things one needs to do to maintain their voucher status, but it was touted as a very good program. An example was provided of someone making what I would consider a good salary who qualified. They were very encouraging of the voucher program. So I checked out OSSE’s site and according to a report we qualified as we needed daycare for certain things. Regarding income: 200.7



In order to be eligible for subsidized care, the child shall reside with a family whose:

(1)Annual gross family income does not exceed two hundred and fifty percent (250%) of the federal poverty guideline (FPL) or eighty five percent (85%) of the DC median income (SMI) [sic] for a family of the same size, whichever is lower, as provided in Appendix 6: Maximum Income Guidelines for Subsidized Child Care; 

and (2)Family assets do not exceed $1,000,000
Well, our family assets are less than $1 million, but we’re above 400% of the 2017 FPL for a family our size, only because both my spouse and I are working. If one of us were to quit or die, we’d totally qualify.
Hey, we now have a safety school
In efforts to support the daycare and leaving no funding rock unturned, the daycare will be expanding into the Pre-K program. They will be starting a program in 2018 where they will be part of the DC pre-K program…. that’s why they need college educated staff/teachers. There is funding, they are going after the funding, and hopefully they will get enough participants lord willing.
What does this mean for me? For the babyman (formerly known as Helpless)? It means we have a safety school when he heads for the school lottery in 2-3 years. Oh hells yes we have been thinking about schools. There are two elementary charters with pre-K programs that I am thinking about for our son. My plan B (I also have Plans C-E) was to have Center City Charter as a safety school. Just like college, you have the school(s) you really want to go to and the safety school you apply to just in case the ones you really wanted don’t pan out. Now his daycare can be a safety school if the PK3 is still around (and we’re still in DC) when he hits the eligible age.
Ours isn’t the only daycare getting into the PK3-4 system. Associates for Renewal in Education, Inc. the center taking up space in the deteriorating Slater school, next to the crumbling Langston school on the unit block of P St is one. Maybe they, like our daycare have also been able to find monies under government and other rocks in order to hang on to that space with an iron grip….. Maybe that’s what we need for the crumbly schools on P Street, a developer to partner with a child development program, to create ‘family housing’ with daycare on the bottom floor.

319 R Street NW- a sign

319 R St NW, 20001So what’s new? A sign.

I attended the Bates Area Civic Association (BACA) meeting on Monday and a neighbor from that block said she spoke with the owner/developer. That person informed her that they would be keeping the place a single family home. Even though they purchased the property back in June 2015 for $750K, they could break even, or profit, by giving it a super interior renovation and exterior restoration.

For those of you just joining us in this story, here’s the quick summary. Back in the 00s a Korean church bought the property to do inner city mission work. Then they sold it to a developer, who then proposed to knock off the turret and build a 3rd story in order to make a 2 unit condo. They hinted that if they were not allowed to do so they would demolish the whole building, as a matter of right. They played chicken, and lost. A hundred years prior, developer Harry Wardman built almost all the buildings on the block 319 R sat on, and this was the reasoning that was used to make the whole square a National Historic Landmark. The landmark status prevented the developers from making any exterior changes. This probably could have been prevented if the turret was respected or if the architects who drew the second proposed drawing incorporated the turret, instead of plopping on a dunce hat on the proposed 3rd floor. It had been done before around the corner on 4th St where a 3rd floor was added and the problem didn’t go past BZA.

Considering Harry Wardman built all those townhouses as 2 story flats, I don’t see why it cannot become a 2 unit building. The building has a tad over 2,000 square feet, so dividing it into half wouldn’t create two too tiny units. But there are costs to dividing up a single unit structure (character preservation vs affordable housing, ‘nother topic for another day) and it appears a nicely (not impressive but nice) renovated corner house like 319 R St NW would sell for 1.something million dollars. One point four if I were a betting woman. The house across the street for $1.25 mil is under contract, and 319 conceivably has 1 parking pad and those are worth gold!

So we’ll see what happens and keep an eye on it.

Daycare- what I’m looking for is not what the government provides

Eyeglass binky DC bike mapThe Washington Post has an article that mentions a DC government website to help parents locate daycare/childcare. The Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) has a website called My Child Care and it isn’t half bad. It is useful if you want to know where the daycare is, ranging from individuals caring in their home to full out child care centers. The Post article goes on to mention other resources, some paid, geared towards parents looking for child care.

What I can get out of the OSSE website is location, general age range, are vouchers taken, if is food provided and a few other things that are not too high on my list. The search function for hours is useless and you’d have to look at an individual provider’s operating hours, as there is a field where almost all the providers I searched were 12:00AM to 12:00AM, which is incorrect.

No what I was looking for beyond where were places were things no so well addressed by My Child Care. I wanted to know 1)do they take babies, 2) how much, and 3) is there a wait list and how bad is it? On the first point, My Child Care is so-so. There is an search field for infants 0-12 months, but 6 weeks seems to be the youngest for many places that take infants. On the second and third points there is no information. I found a website, Care Lulu that seems to allow for searching by price, and the 0-3 month age range but I did not see the price for individual day cares. Care Lulu did mention if places took 6 week old babies and I spotted one spot that took infants as young as 1 week, but that place has no openings.

Do I care about accreditations? My little guy hasn’t figured out crawling, or his name (he might just be ignoring me), so right now, no. It just has to be licensed, and better than the child care my mother provided when I and my sister were kids*.

But there are things the DC government cares about. I’m sure there is federal funding and grants behind those cares. As a entity that grants vouchers, they’d care who would take those vouchers. Yet, for the government to include the things I care about, including latest pick up time for infants before they start charging extra, and the other things I mentioned, they would need someone to be proactive in updating the list.

Better than nothing….


*I swear my mom just grabbed random women outside the county mental health clinic and asked if they’d watch us. We had some crazy babysitters. She laughs it off when I bring it up.

Affordable Housing

NorthWest Coop at 3rd and R NW“Affordable Housing” gets thrown around a lot in DC, as in there isn’t too much of it. HUD (Housing & Urban Development) defines affordable housing as, “In general, housing for which the occupant(s) is/are paying no more than 30 percent of his or her income for gross housing costs, including utilities. Please note that some jurisdictions may define affordable housing based on other, locally determined criteria, and that this definition is intended solely as an approximate guideline or general rule of thumb.” Unfortunately for me, DHCD (Dept of Housing and Community Development) doesn’t have such a nice glossary, or at least one that I could find, and as HUD hinted, the locality may have other criteria.

What DHCD does somewhat define are Affordable Dwelling Units (ADU). According to the website, “Affordable Dwelling Unit (ADU) is an umbrella term applied to for-sale and for-rent homes that are locally restricted for occupancy by households whose income falls within a certain range. ADUs are generally offered at a below-market rate. The DC Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) monitors and enforces compliance with ADU requirements in the District of Columbia.” The income ranges depend on size of household, not makeup (ex. a 2 person household could be 2 adults, or 1 adult and child).

The 2017 income limits and ranges and all that can be seen in a PDF at this link. If affordable housing or a proposal for affordable housing is the subject of an upcoming community meeting in your neighborhood, print out the latest on affordable housing income limits and bring it to the meeting. Typically when I bother to ask the developer or whomever the representative is for some proposed project about income, they are unsure what the limits are. They do know that they are supposed to have X number of units out of Y number of units at 50% or 30%. Sometimes they mention how many bedrooms per unit and let’s say no one is building units for large families.

I feel I need to also define ‘public housing’ as I tend to see comments on DC related blogs and sites referring to a housing complex taking vouchers (sometimes called Section 8) as public housing. The Northwest Cooperatives for the 10 zillionth time are not public housing. Why do I have a picture of the NW Co-op? It is affordable housing as they do take section 8 vouchers and the housing was built with the help of HUD subsidies. The DC Housing Authority has 56 public housing properties it maintains and you can see that list here. If it isn’t on that list, it’s not public housing.

I’m Seeing a Klansman in the Metro

I’ve tweeted it twice, but my brain is seeing a klansman when I’m standing at the platform at the Shaw Howard University metro station in the morning.It looks like a klansman

I know that it is just minerals seeping from the ground through the concrete. I also know it is a sign that WMATA needs to clean up these mineral deposits… WMATA needs to do a lot, maintenance is just one thing on a long list of things to get to ‘good’.

I have no idea if this is still under the sign to go to the HBCU (historically Black college and universities) Howard University (or the elevator), because I’m stuck at home watching a sick baby get better*. I did not get the opportunity to stand on the platform and stare at this mineral deposit and see what my brain, especially with the two dark spots making eyes, thinks of as a representation of a klansman. Someone else could see something else.

I find it interesting, more so about how my brain is working. I don’t think nature or concrete or the metro system is racist. As some point WMATA will clean this up, or the minerals will form some other shape, maybe the Stay Puff marshmallow man from the original Ghost Busters.

*Okay I’m not watching him right now because I went through the checklist (want a bottle? no? need a diaper change? no? running a fever? no, not at this moment, thank goodness. need to be cuddled? no? need a back massage? no? you’re still crying? f it I give up, you’re going to bed…) so he’s napping.

Senior Citizen Deduction on Real Property

I just need to post something and people keep forgetting about this very generous deduction for senior citizens who own their homes. The DC government does take into account low income homeowners as well as low income senior citizens, but I’ll talk about low income in another post. This post is about old people. The thing is they need to apply, it is not automatic. You don’t get a deduction on you 65th birthday. DC government is not tracking you, it is not that organized.

So you’re old (65+) and you own your home but the property taxes keep going up and up, what are you to do? One, are you getting a homestead exemption? If not, why not? Are you not living in a residential property? If you live above your liquor store that you run, sorry no deduction for you. That’s a commercial property, probably. This is for a house, a townhome, a duplex, a triplex (and anything 5 units or less) or a condo. But most importantly this residential property must be your primary residence. The homestead deduction should take off $73,350 from the assessed value.

Okay so you have the homestead deduction. Great. Are you 65 or older? Here is what the Office of Tax and Revenue says,” When a property owner turns 65 years of age or older, or when he or she is disabled, he or she may file an application immediately for disabled or senior citizen property tax relief. This benefit reduces a qualified property owner’s property tax by 50 percent.” 50%!! Half off from regular priced taxes. Old timers whose house is worth over a million dollars will be taxed like their house is over HALF a million dollars. But what if it is a couple living in the house and one is 65 and the other is say 35? There are things I could say but they’re judgey and not polite. As long as the 65 year old owns 50% of the house or condo or whatever it’s still good.

But wait you say, “I’m 65 years old and on a low fixed income, half off does not cut it.” Well guess what, you can have your taxes deferred. I understand the 0% deferral, not so much the 6% deferral. I am familiar with ‘deferring’ things like student loans, it just means you don’t have to pay now, but it’s gonna get paid. With seniors I figure it just means those taxes have to get paid when grandma goes to the great beyond. Maybe that’s why this particular program needs your lender’s okay. Anyway, low income means a household Federal Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) of $50,000 or less. You get the 0% deferral if you are 75 years or older, have lived in your home 25+ years and make no more than $12,500 from dividends and interest. But you get nothing if you don’t fill out and send in the application (Word .doc file).

So if there is an old timer complaining that all these young white whippersnappers are moving in and raising their taxes, ask them if they have taken advantage of the real property programs for seniors and offer to help them fill out the application. Also remind them that nursing homes are friggin’ expensive and Medicare doesn’t cover everything, so having an ever increasing in value asset is a good thing…. provided their pot head daughter doesn’t blow all the proceeds from the sale of the house once she gets power of attorney…. Yes, apparently I’m still pissed off with my sister in law.

Dangit old Engine 12- Spark Restaurant Review

Dammit. I really had hoped this would be better. Maybe they’ll change things up or find their audience or something, because I was mildly disappointed with the new Spark restaurant that took the place of the old Engine 12 Firehouse restaurant.

I had high, maybe too high, hopes for the new restaurant in the old space, when I saw bone marrow on the menu. The last time I had bone marrow was at Eat the Rich (RIP) paired with some jam. It was soooo good. I had those same expectations when coming to Spark.

Bone marrow at Spark 12


Okay, let me start off with what I liked. It was bone marrow. There was nice crusty bread. There was a little of a pickle side to cut the fat of the marrow. There was a nice funky tool which to use to scoop out the marrow. There was salt at the table so I could season bland tasting marrow. Yeah, that’s my one complaint, it was bland tasting. Maybe it was because the marrow was ‘smoked’ and not braised or whatever the heck Eat the Rich did. It lacked a richness, and just tasted like fat. I’m fine with paying $16 for a plate of bones and bread, if it is yummy bones and bread.

My main reason for getting a sitter and making Spark 12 our date night outing were the bones. Ignoring the bone marrow, everything else was meh, ‘alright’. The people at the next table were loud and even after they left, we still had to speak with a raised voice to hear each other. The service seemed a little slow, but since they’d only been open about a week, that was forgivable. The Old Fashioned I ordered was fair tastewise but packed one hell of a boozy punch. The Help ordered a chocolate atomic fireball non-alcoholic drink. It was like a chocolate manhattan with the cinnamon spice candy along the rim and at the bottom of the drink. I thought the chocolate tasted watery and the strong cinnamon was a little overwhelming. If I hadn’t had a big lunch I might have been hungry for more, and if I were, we would have left to check out Big Bear or ANXO.

The experience left us a little sad. We really want the space to succeed. The previous restaurant had mediocre food. This, although they just opened and there is a ton of room for improvement, is also mediocre. This would be a great restaurant if they could just get the food right and in this neighborhood we expect more out of a sit down restaurant. A friend pointed out that if they wanted Caribbean, (Spark has some island dishes) they would go to Jam Doung down the block. This neighborhood also hosts Red Hen, Bacio, and DCity Smokehouse, places known for their great tasting food.

Maybe the problem is that I just got a super mediocre meal. The Help, my date, seemed content with his beef patties, but he’s easy to please. I haven’t written Spark off, I’ll try them again and hope for better. But next time we’re bringing the kid and skipping the sitter.

Some federal job advice

I don’t post as much here at InShaw, for various reasons. One, but not a major one, is that I tend to post a lot of material to an internal work network. However, at this hour I am technically unemployed, as I enjoy my 5th Federal shutdown, and so figure I could share one of my internal posts. Maybe someone might find it useful. I’ve edited it a bit.

Our section had a regular meeting about general stuff but [cool supervisor guy who is not my supervisor] encouraged staff to apply for positions, as there are highly qualified staff in lower positions. I just wanted to credit him for those words of inspiration to not let anyone other than OPM to tell you if you are or are not qualified for a position. Apply and find out for yourself. Another thing mentioned was sometimes extra vacancies become available for an announcement for that same location and same job title, in the same department.

So apply.

For one it is good practice. Also you’ll never know how easy or hard each job is and maybe the ones with a dozen ‘describe in 500 words/characters’ essay questions will help when you apply for your dream job, which might have 1 or 2 essay questions. The education/experience question stumps me every time, but each application and how far I get into the process tells me that maybe C- the mix of education and experience might be the right answer…. but I’m not 100% sure. Recently I applied for a position at NASA or Air & Space, I forgot, and I don’t know ‘nothin about no space or no aeroplanes, but applied anyway. OMG that was the easiest application ever. It was just answer a few multiple choice questions about my grade and current job that could have been lifted from an SF-50 and submit my resume. That’s all they wanted. It took 5 minutes to apply. I’ve also applied to positions at the Library of Congress that took days, no about a week, to get my page long essay questions for half a dozen of such questions. That work went into a black hole of nothingness…., but good practice and those answers are somewhere on my home computer should I ever need to write a novella on how I can [do a particular task].

So apply.

Just because you applied doesn’t contractually obligate you to take the job. You can withdraw if it gets to an interview. You can withdraw after the interview. You can decline the job offer. For the love of whatever you hold holy don’t accept if you don’t want the job.

So apply.

As [cool supervisor dude] mentioned, there are lots of highly qualified staff here in entry level positions. Maybe you are where you are because that was what was available when you were looking. Great. Your foot is in the door, but nobody is going to drag your body up the ladder. You see an agency only job, and you’re that agency’s employee, guess what, you can apply! You’re a GS-4/5 and it’s a GS-13 but open to the public and you happen to have experience in the private sector that is equivalent to a year at that level, apply, if you want. So what if it is also open to veterans? That’s no excuse not to apply. You might be more qualified, let OPM or the computer algorithm decide who is qualified enough to make it to the next round.

So get training.

I know, I screwed up my theme and rhythm. Our organization offers training. I keep meaning to sign up for the [technical]  training thing. There are detail opportunities, sometimes cross training. Outside of the organization Lynda.com is available through many public libraries for free. Community college is cheap (compared to universities) and cater to working adults with lives. Volunteering isn’t just for feeling good and doing good, you can also gain experience. Being a church deacon got my retired truck-driver uncle to really spiff up his computer skills. My spouse, who loves old time radio, sat on a museum board for a radio museum, and he can cite the experience of trying to bring the museum from a cabinet of curiosities to a real learning center. Life experience might help, as I have snuck in my activism, neighborhood historian activities, landlording and house renovating (5 projects, 3 properties, 2 different general contractors, 2 architects, a 1/2 dozen subs, with a total budget over $200K) in some of my answers if they don’t specifically ask if was a part of my federal/paid/ regular work experience. So improve yourself.

Looking at the neighborhood with different eyes

So at forty *mumble* years old, I’ve become a mommy through the miracle of adoption. Seven years prior I became a spouse, after living in Shaw as a single lady for about ten years*. I, and the Shaw neighborhood, have changed and with those changes I’ve experienced the neighborhood differently.

After only being a parent for a few months, my view of the neighborhood and the city I’ve lived in for over a decade has drastically changed.Eyeglass binky DC bike mapI’ve observed this in parents, typically people who moved to the neighborhood as single people or newlyweds, and in time had kids, and moved. On an intellectual level I understood the desire to protect their children from the hazards and unpleasantness of some aspects of urban life. As a member of the middle class, you know you have an out, you could, by moving to a solidly middle class neighborhood west of Rock Creek Park or out to certain suburbs or exurbs, you nor your children have to tolerate higher crime, smaller houses, chance of the draw schooling, and off street parking. Now as a mom, I have a better understanding and have the desire to protect my Helpless baby.

But no, we’re not moving anytime soon.

Not to go into my personal career goals, but there is one scenario that would send us to PG County and I’ve already mapped out where we’d relocate. I’ve also been applying to positions in DC and those have much fuzzier scenarios of possibly, probably not, moving to the H StreetCapitol HillStadium Armory area. The job search had more to do with getting married, and I’m more dedicated to a great commute than any neighborhood.

The arrival of the Helpless baby has got me thinking more about parenting things I had thoughts about, prior to his arrival, and parenting things I want to research the heck out of. I have thoughts, slightly unchanged, about schools, child care, general safety, and use of transit. I already know what charter schools we will aim for, what charter will be our safety school, and which religious schools we’ll consider if the charters don’t pan out. Recently I have been thinking about how I could replicate my aunts’ and uncles’ success of raising high earning middle class black men, and I wonder how our neighborhood might work for and against that goal. Then there is the minefield of explaining things that he will observe as we walk around. He’s still non-verbal so I have time.

As I walk around, going to and fro the metro or neighborhood businesses, I see the neighborhood differently. I pay attention to other parents or nannies as they push, carry or walk their charges. I observe their strollers, what their kids wear, and where it looks like they’re heading. I take note what places have parents with kids and how welcoming those places are so I know where we might be able to go. The parents I see going about their day help me feel good about being a parent raising my baby in my hood.


*If you’re counting I’ve been in Shaw for a little over 17 years.