November 2012 Archives

1622 4th St NW, a lesson in stop work orders

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Part of the paper work of the Stop Work Order
I decided to see if someone could find out on-line if a place has as many stop work orders as 1622 4th St, NW.
Apparently that answer is yes. I looked in DCRA's PIVS which under "Commercial Inspections" which show the record of inspections and the two stop work order. This shows a lot more than DCRA's permit status tracker. The place hasn't been inspected by a city or inspector since their last stop work order. They've already closed up the framing, they're painting, they are putting in tile. You're supposed to have an inspector come by and give you a green sticker before you put on the finishing touches. That's what I remember from my own renovation, we couldn't move forward until we got the okay from the city. Can that now be ignored? Are inspections now optional?
On the PIVS, under "Issued Permits" I see they got a permit for putting on a new roof in mid-late September. However, according to my post about the roof, I see they were doing the work in August. Um, is this a case of asking for forgiveness instead of permission? DCRA must be very forgiving and very unfair to those of us who tried to figure out the confusing system of permits for our own homes and do right by the city. But what's the point if the city lets flippers flout the rules?

UPDATE
- Well things have changed since I had my renovation. Apparently you don't need to post the green inspection approval stickers. You can get inspections done by a third party and not have to publicly announce/report them until, whenever. At this point to me this looks like a dead end going through the city. As neighbors we've done the best we could do on our end. May the Lord be with the poor soul who buys this deathtrap/money pit at 1622 Fourth St NW to live in.

Have you seen me?

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The one good thing to come out of the horrible flooding earlier this year in Bloomingdale is that DC Water is taking care of the catch basins around the hood.

We had one on our street that was clogged. One day I saw 2 guys and a DC Water truck near the non-functioning basin. I don't know if they fixed it. We'll find out the next time I walk by and it is really raining.

New Counts For the 6E races

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From the Shaw Neighborhood listserv

ADVISORY NEIGHBORHOOD COMMISSIONER 6E01
ALEXANDER M. "ALEX" PADRO NON 525 65.37% 
MARY A. SUTHERLAND NON 268 33.37% 
WRITE-IN NON 10 1.245% 
 
ADVISORY NEIGHBORHOOD COMMISSIONER 6E02
KEVIN L CHAPPLE NON 330 34.70% 
LEROY JOSEPH THORPE, JR. NON 310 32.59% 
MARTIN MOULTON NON 156 16.40% 
EUGENE SIMMS NON 148 15.56% 
WRITE-IN NON 7 0.736% 

ADVISORY NEIGHBORHOOD COMMISSIONER 6E03
FRANK S. WIGGINS NON 461 60.81% 
KENNITH JAMES NON 281 37.07% 
WRITE-IN NON 1

Of course I'm more interested in 6E02. Thankfully a certain Mr.Thorpe did not get his old seat back. If he did, ANC meetings would be very interesting and volitile.

Stuff nobody tells you, hidden in behind the walls

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Note this is part of the "What's wrong with 1622 4th St NW series", but then I realized this applied to many houses being sold around here.

1622 4th St NW
New mulch hiding the debris underneath

There are so many parts to a house and the conventional wisdom tells you only a few things that touch upon them, which may give you a sense of false confidence, for something in DC that puts you on the hook for a quarter or half a million dollars. You've thought you've done your research, but it only goes so far. This post, I'll just touch upon your home inspection.

I still have my home inspection from when I bought my home. My inspector did a decent job. He would have done a better job it he had a ladder and got on the roof. If we'd gotten on the roof, I would have been aware of somethings, that in the larger scope of things were minor and correctable in themselves, but those little things add up.

Also your inspector, unless he or she is Super Inspector with x-ray vision, cannot see through walls. And that's why I feel it is necessary to give a heads up to the person who buys this property to live in, or rent out. At 1622 4th St NW the framing style, hidden behind the walls, is unconventional, nobody is going to pick up on that unless the seller bothers to tell you. There isn't a lot of insulation and there is something about the firewall (you will have to email me about that because I'm not going to publish it here), but then again, these houses were originally built before building codes and pink insulation. Don't assume good stuff is behind the walls. Fixing stuff behind the walls in an old house is very unsexy and costly. Unless it is blown in insulation, insulating your home is not riviting dinner party conversation. It's just easier to turn up the heat or air and complain about utility bills.

There are great home inspectors out there. I've heard of inspectors who had discovered termite eaten beams hidden behind brand new drywall. Ones with ladders who climb on to a roof and look closely and can warn you that you may need to deal with X in a few years.

What's wrong with 1622 4th St NW

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Let's start with my concern.
1. The framing or the bones of the house.
Bad framing.jpegPlease excuse the drawings, I am not a good artist. Perspective is just too hard. And it is times like this I really wish I'd taken a picture of what I saw.  Anyway, on the left is what the framing in a house is supposed to look like. I sort of traced that out of a book, just to get the angles somewhat right. On the left is what I saw in the main part (not the addition) of the house. I am 100% sure that the 2nd floor wall framing sat on the 1st floor wall framing. As you can see comparing it with the image on the left, this is a no-no, and this is why I think whoever moves into 1622 4th Street might die a horrible death as the 2nd floor falls into the 1st floor. And this is why I feel compelled to try to do as much as I can to stop the contractor or inform any perspective buyer. I don't need anyone's death on my conscience.
I will admit that I'm about 60-75% sure about how the floor joists are in there. I did not check on this progress of this project on a very regular basis. But seeing the wall on wall framing on the south wall, after they gutted the place, was really shocking. Another thing I'm not sure about, did they ever undo it. My gut tells me no. Also the many, many short cuts the workers took and the incompetence shown throughout the process points to a 'no' as well.
UPDATE (12/8/12)- Someone gave me a plausible reason for the weird framing and it is possible that it was temporary. But I'd still recommend checking it out to make sure it's kosher.
 
Speaking of:

2. Incompetent dumb stuff.
Seriously, what person supervising the work lets your guys do dumbass wall frame on wall frame crap in the first place? Maybe the same mentally messed up person who leaves out around 20 bags of concrete, uncovered, outside on a night when heavy rains are predicted. Other neighbors have observed stupid things too, but really these things scream that these guys have no freaking clue how to do things right.

3.Shortcuts, cheapskates, and cut corners.
Vacant and trashed
Usually, when you gut a house, you rent a trash trailer. The owner/contractor/whomever, did not do that. Much cheaper to leave the trash in the yard, or piled up inside.
Also when you gut a house, you bother to get the permits first. This house has permit issues. I guess they didn't get the permits so they could go cheap, but in the long run it cost them with the 2 Stop Work orders.
(Update/Clarification)- There were permits but it appeared to be not the 'right' permits when looking at DCRA's permit database.
Don't expect that this house has insulation. If they didn't tear off the roof to replace it with a crappy one, I'd say there might be some insulation left in the ceiling crawlspace, but I wouldn't bet on it. Besides, it's not something you can look at during an open house.
Also it should go without saying, cheap Latino workers were used. But then again, what construction project around here doesn't.
Now the thing that confounds and confuses me is, if they were being so cheap, why would they rip out the original floor joists and roof to replace it with something, I think is, inferior?

4. Pissing off the neighbors.
I will also have to acknowledge that there is motive in all these posts. Besides making me fear for the life of the future occupant of 1622 Fourth Street NW, they've also pissed off the neighbors (which includes me) in the process. There was the trash spilling into the alley, the noise, the dust, destruction of street trees that we just put in a few years ago, destruction of neighboring property, and the flooding basement. What this has motivated was a closer look at the work being done. When I was having my own house gutted my contractor advised me to be good to my neighbors and he did the same (I hope), because one way to get a Stop Work Order slapped on your door while doing a big job is by being an asshole. 1622 4th St NW has 2 stop work orders. Why? Bad work and pissed off neighbors calling the city.
However, someone being a jerk is not a reason why one shouldn't buy or rent 1622 4th St NW at some inflated price. No. Items 1 thru 3 are. Number 4 is just the parsley on the side of the plate, the flourish at the end. My hope is that someone buys this and fixes the structural issues and does it right, for their sake and the sake of all the future occupants.

If anyone has anything to add, comment below. I ask that you try to be factual. I have tagged all my 1622 4th Street Northwest house posts with its own special tag.

5D or 3D? Crime along the border

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A neighbor alerted me to the PoP post about some good citizens finding blood, a mask, and a gun along New Jersey Avenue near R St. New Jersey is one of the boundary lines between MPD's Third District and the Fifth District. There is nothing so far on either one of the police districts' yahoo email list groups. Which side of the street determines who is handling this and who has the most information.

There was some confusion earlier this year when there was a sexual assault on the 400 blk of Q Street NW. That was in the Third police district (3D), but folks in 5D, which also has a 400 blk of Q, were very concerned about this crime. When queried by 5D citizens, 5D said they'd have to contact 3D for more information.

Back to the blood and gun found on New Jersey Ave this Sunday, we might never know. Not everyone reports things to the police or any authorities. I know of situations that have occured in my general area where someone and a few someones were hurt in the commission of a crime (there was that car accident with a stolen car several years back) where the parties, ran off, not waiting for or calling EMS. I just pray someone is not left bleeding somewhere on someone's stoop or vestibule.

ANC Nigro has more information, it appears someone shot their hand.

Problem Roosters

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Some of you who know me, are aware of my interest in chickens. However, I so far have not flouted the law and do not have chickens. I'm waiting for the DC laws on chickens to change. Anyway, I couldn't let a Washington Post article on chickens pass without comment.
During one of my chicken obsessed phases I would read the forums at Backyard Chickens. One way to deal with roosters, kill them. As soon as you realize your chickens are male, and you know you can't keep them, 'dispatch' or 'cull' them from the flock. If you don't want to dispatch them, find someone who will.
For some people, chickens, hens particularly, are pets who lay eggs. And they wouldn't imagine eating their pets. However, pets are put down too.
Roosters in this case are given the same treatment thoughtless cat owners give to their pets when they can't, won't take care of them anymore, by just putting them out and hoping for the best. 'The best' has just as much chance happening as winning a lottery. We know what happens to former indoor cats who are tossed out into the world, they get run over, they go hungry, they get beat up by feral cats. Why would a rooster fare better?
Let me end with a story. When I was a preteen, I had chickens. Due to possums, accidents, aggressive fire ants killing poults in their sleep and other mysterious predators, my flock of twelve chicks became just 1 grown hen and 1 grown rooster. These were free range birds who wandered our yard, and our block. One day the rooster came up missing. Due to the large feathers we found, we figured one of the neighborhood dogs got hold of him, an unpleasant end. Animals deserve a painless end. Turning a chicken into someone's dinner seems to be a fair option too.

Post-Thanksgiving Weekend Misc

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Grassroots Gourmet

I believe this Saturday is Small Business Saturday, a day to support the various neighborhood businesses that make where we live so great. Stop in and visit Bloomingdale's newest venture, Grassroots Gourmet at 104 Rhode Island Ave NW.

Another small business that may need support is in Mt. Vernon Sq., The Eagle. Say what you will about the Shaw Neighborhood List, it's cantankerous at times, but sure is more damned informative than some other email listservs where everyone plays nice. Anyway, according to a post, The Eagle is one of the few gay leather bars in the United States and the bar may have a hard time finding new digs because of various societal changes.

Sunday there will be a yard sale- Something about lava lamps and cider.

The on again, off again DC Education Blog is back on and on twitter.

Housing Doula

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Standing outside of Grassroots Gourmet as they were running out of the last of the cookies and maple pumpkin, I chatted with Scott Roberts of the Bloomingdale Blog, about the neighborhood and housing and such. I mentioned there is a post I've been trying to write and this is just another attempt.

I've mentioned before my homebuying experience and I hope that any information I can provide will be helpful any other person who is considering homeownership. Unfortunately I had something, or someone, that most new homebuyers don't have, a housing doula. Well that wasn't her title and yes, I've been hanging out with too many pregnant women. Anyway, like a doula she assisted, gave advice, and emotional support before, during and after buying my house.

She was part of a homebuying program run by some long gone North Capitol Something-something non-profit. Their main thing was to educate, and I thought they did something wonderful in that they focused on keeping a home over getting it. Like a wedding coordinator who pushes the pre-martial counseling along with the catering. Besides the classroom excercises, there was an explaination of what all the ten kazillion sheets of paper you'll sign, and recommendations of Realtors and mortgage brokers. The woman who was helping me, she was the one who got me tuned into the DC Housing Finance Agency's low interest loans and steered me away from the HPAP. I am very thankful for her because that was a sweet loan at about 3% APR for a fixed rate and there were other programs the city offered that she gave information about, with a dose of wisdom.

Is there a DC homebuyer program out there that offers that? If not I would recommend having a friend who has bought in the past 5 years, in the same city, to be part of the homebuying support system in addition to classes about the home buying process.

Wednesday Misc

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Progress @ 7th & S/T- The City Paper Housing Complex blog has an article about the Progress at Progression Place, along with a slideshow. It seems a tenant has already moved in.

Speaking of progress, I've noticed the roof for the old O Street Market building is getting put in.

How soon is soon? When the Help drives me to work we pass by the corner of 9th and P where we see the sign the 'Mandalay is coming soon'. The building is coming along very slowly. They are finally putting up brick and other outer material but soon is coming at a snail's pace.

Jefferson Apartments- We're also noticing the contruction happening there too along 7th St between P and Q. The hole in the ground is getting deeper, I gather for underground parking?

UHOP screws with on-line poll. I wonder what else the church may be fooling with? Also what do the residents need to do to make sure whatever is chosen actually reflects the wishes of those of us who live here?

Trash and Recycle Bin Repair- Check out District Curmudgeon's post about getting the city to help when your bin's top gets destroyed. Yay, DPW.

Happy Thanksgiving and self-editing

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I haven't written much as there is a thought I want to write about but it doesn't seem to want to gel right. Anyway, this Thanksgiving will be the 3rd time we host the local family for Turkey Day. I have made my life easier after 2 other tries that were wasted effort on my part. We are just hosting, we are not cooking any meat, just sides.

The first Thanksgiving I made several cornish game hens for everybody. Hardly anyone ate it and they just ate what they brought. Second time I tried for a turkey. I made some mistakes and the effort of brining and picking a hertiage turkey seemed to be a waste of meat. So this year it's, 'bring what you want to eat because apparently you like what you cook better than whatever I make'. It's a Thanksgiving pot-luck.

I volunteered to host because:

  1. Despite having a small house we can seat everyone.
  2. A small house with an open floorplan allows you to eat AND watch football.
  3. Street parking actually better than vying for the few visitor parking spaces at someone's condo complex.
  4. I don't want the long drive back home.

Before I married the Help previous family gathering conversation would eventually veer towards a list of 'all the wrongs the white man has done to us and our family'. This conversation is very hard to have when the Help (a very white guy) is sitting right there. I'm not sure if national politics will darken the table as the family has a sense of what our leanings are and that we don't enjoy arguing. I honestly hope we avoid rancor and edit the words that exit our mouths for the sake of peace and real enjoyment of each other's company. I really liked the conversations we had last year delving into family history. Instead of arguements of division were family stories and reviving the memory of missed relatives.

I wish y'all a Happy Thanksgiving. Remember to stop the newspaper and the mail while you're away ans ask a neighbor who will be around (not all of us take off) to check in on your place and remove any fliers, because crime doesn't take a vacation.

Groan

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They are still counting ballots for ANC 6E02. Right now Thorpe is ahead.

Misc Friday

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Costco is Coming, Costco is coming. I squeeled when I got the flier announcing the November 29th opening. No more treking out to Beltsville, MD for our toilet paper stockpiling needs. I know a bunch of you other DC Costco card holders venture out to the Pentagon City to get your monthly supplies of diapers, meat trays for office parties, and cases of wine. I don't know if the DC Costco will have wine.

What do we buy at the Costco? Cases of seltzer water, shelf stable orange juice in individual serving bottles, lemon juice, olive oil, white vinegar, baking soda, rice, garbage bags, laundry soap, dishwasher soap, sponges, and the hygiene related paper products. In other words a bunch of shelf stable stuff that we use a lot of. Of course, we only buy the baking soda and vinegar (useful for natural safe house cleaning) once a year and the other stuff quarterly.

Bloomingdale Business- ABC Liquor issues- There will be a Bloomingdale Civic Assoc meeting on the 19th where of many things discussed will be supporting or not the ABRA applications for Red Hen and Aroi Thai.

Last BFM-  I believe this Sunday is the LAST Sunday for the Bloomingdale Farmer's Market. I'm going to stock up on bacon and apple cider.

1622 4th St NW saga- It is nearing the end. According to the guys banging and sawing and making a racket, they hope to be done in December. We neighbors are just thankful that it is looking like the end, but we still wouldn't recommend it to anyone. And the Help stuck his foot in his mouth when the friendly (and horribly chatty) man that he is engaged a group of people who were looking at the construction for what seemed to be a hour. It seemed a young lady in the group was looking into buying a new home. The Help leaned into the woman and said that the construction might be a little questionable. One of the persons in the group, who overheard him, said that he was the contractor. The Help apologized, but what needed to be said, was said. The description of that contractor was of a short white guy. The contractor I complained to early in the process was a black guy, so I don't know what's going on there. Since the house's 2nd Stop Work Order, there has been a slight change in the way things were done. The quality seems a bit better, but the questionable bones remain. 

Parcel 42

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Giraffe CraneThe City Paper's Housing Complex blog has a pretty good run down of the proposals.
The UHOP proposal is not the worst.
The Warrenton Group wins that one.
Also judge on actions not on words. Current action by the Warrenton group is to have a falling apart building on the corner of Q and 7th NW. UHOP already has 3 non church Reatig style buildings on the block with unexciting commercial on the bottom floor of one. The S St Reatig building has nothing in the retail area as of yet.
And the Warrenton mock up is totally missing drunk guys sleeping on those stairs.

Kids harassing an adult

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Recently neighbor was the target of street harassment. He was outside in his front yard when two teenagers came from across the street, lingered a bit a few doors down then came over to where he was. 
Luckily my neighbor was about to head in and there was a closed gate between him and the two male teens. They asked him for money. Neighbor said he didn't have any on him. One of the teens challenged him on that and moved forward towards my neighbor. There were exchanged angry words and then one of them spat on my neighbor.
My neighbor did report the incident on-line to the police. When he related the incident to me it sounded like a half hearted robbery attempt where the teens used intimidation and possibly (my memory is getting a little bad) anti-gay language. I also believe he was targeted because he was white. My neighbor didn't see it as a possible robbery, because as he told the two male teens, he didn't have any money on him. For him it was all about intimidation.
I can't relay any helpful description of the teens. They were about 15 years old, african-american, one was wearing a blue hoodie.

Truxton Circle 1940 and snack cakes

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1930.jpg

Trying to finish up for the DC Humanities Council grant I and the Help drew out the colors for the 1940 map. 1940 looks a lot like 1930, shown here. North Capitol and the Washington Sanitary Improvement houses along Bates and 3rd Streets are the white center to the TC's brown chocolately crust. No so much an Oreo but a Little Debbie snack cake involving chocolate cake and some mystery cream.

So what's the story of the neighborhood? There is no ONE story. There are thousands of stories that melt and crash into one another in the lives of the thousands upon thousands of people who lived here and at some point called it home before moving on to another place to call home.

With the 1940 data, I'd be curious about the 1950 data that won't come out until 2022. In the 30s and 40s the TC gained its character as a black neighborhood (totally ignoring the creamy white filling) as most of the neighborhood real estate is occupied by African American residents or schools. Dunbar had not eaten up the whole block yet. I believe sometime after 1940, maybe in the early 1950s, the WISC breaks up, closes down, something so that the Bates Street area housing is no longer operated by this company that seemed to prefer having more white tenants. That should change the cream filling into chocolate filling, leaving a vanilla swirl on the outside on North Capitol.

FYI: The website TruxtonCircle.org has a glitch. If you go to it you may encounter a website not found error screen. It's there, try it with and without the "www". It's there, waiting for you.

PS- I used to love, love, love Little Debbie's Devil Cakes. Can't eat them any more. The creamy filling grosses me out because as an adult I notice how it leaves a disgusting film on the roof of my mouth.

Spreading the faith of energy efficiency

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We arrived late to the BACA meeting last week, only to arrive while one of the speakers was already into her presentation. The speaker, according to the agenda, was Pamela Nelson of the Office of the People's Counsel speaking about energy efficiency with the intensity of a missionary.
Not loud, but with true faith in how taking a few steps will bring you to energy efficiency salvation. There is a free energy audit she was encouraging those present to check out saying that the turn around time is quicker now than before. Sadly, I don't have a link for who is offering these free audits. Change out your incandescent bulbs for CFLs and LEDs. At that point I leaned over to the Help to note that we are already doing that. Only one of our kitchen lights is not a LED light, and the rest of the floor is a mix of CFLs and LEDs.
The Help has been converted to this new thinking. Before his feelings about energy saving efforts have been tepid or semi-disinterested. Now he has taken Ms. Nelson's tips to heart and has gone out and bought those little foam outlet thingies an other winterizing stuff from Home Depot. We are filling the empty parts of our refrigerator with containers tap water to keep it full so it doesn't have to work as hard. We may find a container to put into the tank of one of the toilets to conserve water, there used to be one in there.
A bunch of the other small steps to being energy efficient I already had in place before the Help arrived. The faucet already aerates. The hot water tank is set on low. I installed a programmable thermostat and put door winterizing stuff along the doors.
The steps are small but it adds up when you are looking at your Pepco bill. Also those CFLs and LEDs don't go out as quick when you have a brownout.

Parcel 42

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Bus stop protest fliers

While waiting for the bus I noticed two fliers taped to the bus shelter and took a picture for you here. Looking at them I'm going to guess they come from One DC, the same folks who brought you the pre-Occupy occupation camp on that very square back in 2010.

They are worried that the invisible black folk who live on Square 42 will be displaced. Yes, I know they don't think that, but they are concerned about "displacement" but something or someone has got to be there to be displaced in the first place. The last people who were there were protesters who after sometime annoyed the mostly black residents and business living in the UHOP owned/ Reatig designed building next door. They weren't paying any rent no how anyways, so the protesters were 'displaced'.

The second flier throws out some numbers. You can see a close up here. It says the white population increased by 31.5% and the African American population decreased by 31%. There are non-sinister reasons, if you consider Logan Circle a part of Shaw... which I do. Since the 2000 census, the 14th Street got a lot of multi-unit condos, which filled with young non-black people. Other parts of Shaw also had a few big new condos and little condos smashed into townhouses. Condos are meant to be sold. One DC's target population aren't buying squat. Black people can buy condos and houses, as we are not all on the public dole, but not so much in Shaw, in large numbers. And those of us who are black homeowners, we can and do get agitated when there is talk about putting in "work force" or "low income" rental housing near us.

Besides, if you haven't noticed... there is still a lot of affordable housing in Shaw. Check out the area along 7th Street, down near M, N, O Streets, also along 5th St. It is not as if we are devoid of low income housing. There is lots of new stuff coming in and I'd rather it be things that make the neighborhood attractive and vibrant and lively in a good way. Shaw has/had been lively in a bad way too long.

Chapple vs Thorpe- Too F'ing close

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Chapple over Thorpe

I'm looking at ye olde DC BOEE website and as I write this of ANC 6E01:

Kevin Chapple 274 votes

Leroy Thorpe 273 votes

Good Lord this is frightening.

Friend and Shaw activitist Martin Moulton, got 124 votes. 

As for everything else local that I give a rat's butt about... We'll still have Alex Padro and Rachelle Nigro in Shaw. Also in ANC 6E, there is Frank Wiggins, Mark Dixon, and Alfreda Judd. 6E05 is too close to be sure. Joyce Robinson Paul is my new ANC for SMD 5E05 and Terri Quinn defeated Hugh Youngblood. Sylvia Pinkney and Tim Clark were some other 5E winners. Thankfully Michael A. Brown is out.

Monday- BACA Meeting

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Just a reminder. There is a Bates Area Civic Association meeting tonight. That's for Truxton Circle, P St and above.

Tuesday- Local Stuff

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Tomorrow, with the exception of the 1 hour of NPR that comes on the clock radio, we're having a media blackout..... We might make another exception for TMZ. Mainly because we're tired of the idea that only two people are running for elected office, and tired of hearing Maryland and VA politics.

Belive it or not, there is other stuff on the ballot in DC. A lot of you will be chosing your ANC, that is very important and impacts you were you live. No, seriously, unless there is no chance of a zoning issue or a liquor license issue or the like ever, ever to touch your SMD (Single Member District). Choose wisely.

There are some council related things and people on the ballot that, if you haven't voted already you should be aware of. Two of the 3 proposed charter amendments relate to the City Council. Charter Amendment V is to allow 5 of 6 council members get rid of another council member for "gross misconduct." This would not apply to Marion Barry because there is a 1st Amendment exception, so he can continue to piss off the Asian American community. Proposed Charter Amendment VI is to disqualify anyone convicted of a felony while being a councilmember from ever serving on the council again. I'm not sure how to interpret this. Would it really disqualify Harry Thomas Jr.? I thought he quit the council before being convicted or am I confusing him with someone else? And also related to the City Council, a bunch of people are running. Please don't vote for idiots. I can think of two.

The good thing about all the hoopla with Maryland poltics is that it might encourage the people of Ward 9 (PG County) to stay out District elections.

Watch your mail

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On our street we've had some mail go missing and the mail thieves have been busy.

They've stolen one neighbor's bank card and I gather kept an eye out for the PIN mailing and stole that too. They also stole another neighbor's absentee ballot, and according to the neighbor, voted in a southwestern state's election. And if I bothered to keep staring at one neighbor's stoop I may have witnessed thieves running off her parcel.

That last one I'm still beating myself up for that. I noticed what looked like a white 'if it fits it ships' packages on a neighbor's stoop. I kept looking out my window at it, thinking, it's right there, anyone could steal it. So I texted my neighbor, not sure if she was home or out (it was also cold, which was another reason I didn't venture out) to tell her she had a box at her door. Thirty minutes later it was gone. I assumed she got the message and grabbed her box. Nope.

It isn't even near the Christmas season yet.

If you are the victim of mail fraud the US Postal Service has a form for that. The USPS seems to think you'll file a police report too.

Otherwise discourage friends and family from sending boxes. Have parcels mailed to friends who have doormen or real porches or live out in some subdivision where mail never gets stolen. For expensive stuff, I mail it to the Help's work. The Bureau of Fight Club destroys all personal incoming mail or holds it indefinately, so I can never have anything sent to my work.