Power to the People: Let Residents Ticket

DC has an enforcement problem. Illegal construction. Residency for DC Schools. Traffic. Parking. Just having a law on the books does not solve the problem. Also there are activities that local MPD won’t deal with unless they observe the illegal action with their own eyes. So calling 911 a dozen times won’t result in diddly or squat. It is very frustrating.

Part of the problem is the city has decided that only the city can enforce its laws. Well that would be great if it did.

Van illeagally parkedI have a suggestion. Empower DC residents to ticket. Have DC residents provide the kind of evidence that would be admissible in court, via an app specifically for parking violations that would guide the citizen in what kind of images are needed to prove the parking violation. There are hundreds of cyclists who would love to ticket the various cars and delivery trucks that take up bike lanes. There may be several dozen people who would to ticket… and tow (if they could) the cars that park in their individually assigned handicap parking spots, as well those blocking curb cuts.

Maybe when the city actually enforces the law, with its own people, a contractor charging millions, or Lord forbid its own citizens, maybe people will actually respect and follow the law.

Meaningless Carter G. Woodson Post

So I was rooting around in my electronic files and found this. I’m still pecking away at the Black Home Owners of 1940 in Truxton Circle, but 9th Street NW is more Logan Circle, than our triangular section of Shaw. So, no surprise. Carter G. Woodson, noted African American historian was a home owner, tax payer on Square 365.

That’s all. Visit his house if you’re bored. Make the National Park Service’s investment in the place worth it. They are open Sunday, Thursday and Saturday.

Should Your Property Taxes Go Up 50%+ a Year? Because, Racism

1500 First Street.JPGOnce upon a time in DC parts of the city experienced gentrification. Homeowners who had lived in the city through the crack years, the control board, or got in before the house prices went to crazy town began to experience unpleasant surprises year after year. Say their home that they may have bought for $75K was being assessed at $100K one year, then about $300K the next when the owners did not do any improvements to their home. I remember neighbors who bought their home for something around $200K , later got an assessment of $500K. Of course, people freaked the hell out, because their property taxes kept jumping up and up, near 50%. Some going from several hundred one year to several thousand dollars a few years later. If you’re a lower or low middle income homeowner, this is a very good reason to freak the hell out.

A tool to stop the freaking out and accusations that the city was trying to push out long time homeowners with high property taxes was the 10% cap. A DC homeowner’s taxes cannot go higher than 10% each year, regardless of how much the city thinks their house is worth.

So the DC Policy Center is saying the 10% cap is wrong and possibly racist. It seems to defy logic. They attacked the homestead deduction and failed to show how these things directly related to racism.

There also is some misleading language. In DC there is a homestead deduction, in some other places such a thing is called a homestead exemption, usually it’s a discount off the full tax bill for resident homeowners. Exemption does not mean no taxes are paid, the report seems to hint that it is in not being clear. Another word, “elude” or “eludes”, which according the the dictionary means, “evade or escape from (a danger, enemy, or pursuer), typically in a skillful or cunning way; (of an idea or fact) fail to be grasped or remembered by (someone); (of an achievement, or something desired or pursued) fail to be attained by (someone).”. The claim, “Home ownership and the wealth associated with it eludes communities of color, ” irritated me. I totally acknowledge home ownership is challenging, but DC is frickin’ filled with opportunities for those who are first time home owners that other places don’t have, so much that it is worth another post to go through them.

United States Census – People Lie

One morning on the radio, NPR was doing a story on a question about citizenship to be included on the 2020 census. I understand the worry, as there is the thought that census data was used to help round up Japanese residents and their American born children and put them in internment camps in the desert. My first thought hearing the story is, people could just lie. Digging down into the data for my on-going, long term neighborhood history project I’m noticing this.

People lie about their age. People lie about being married. Some people may be flexible in the racial group they identify with (Lucky C. Young I’m looking at you), which could be interpreted by some as lying about their race.

I’m trying to clean up data for a the Truxton Circle neighborhood history project where I look at the US census for every resident of my neighborhood. In this clean up attempt, I’m encountering lies and things that look like untruths. Take for example my attempt to hunt down Spencer Heywood. According to the 1940 census Spencer Heywood, a 50 year old self employed barber from Georgia who lived at 1649 3rd St in DC with his wife Ethel Heywood, a 37 year old government maid from Arkansas. According to the census he was a home owner. Outside of the 1940 Census, I can’t find any other record of the man. Now Ethel on the other hand….. In 1930 the residents of 1649 3rd St were 41 year old rail road worker Saunders Thomas, and his 30 year old wife Ethel, who owned their home. According to property records, Ethel shows up as the owner in 1924. No mention of a husband. In later records, Ethel and Sanders appear as owners. But in a 1972, when the Redevelopment Land Agency buys her house to (I assume) bulldoze it, the record stated that Ethel Louise Heywood (formerly Ethel Louise Thomas) was the unmarried widow of Saunder Frank Thomas, who died in 1934. Soooooooo, who was that guy at her house in 1940?

Now, I’m just guessing here. She may have been shacked up with some guy named Spencer. Was that the US Federal government business if she did? She was incorrect about her age being 30 years old in 1930 but only 37 in 1940. One of those ages is wrong, but what is it to the government?

This is not a call for people to lie about their citizenship status or any other field on the census. No, please don’t do that. Leaving it blank is a perfectly good answer. Just recognizing that people do and will put in incorrect information in the US Census. And not just the census, other documents I use, like city directories, land records and newspaper articles probably contain misstatements, fictions, and errors. It’s frustrating when you are trying to hunt down someone in the record. I do understand reasons for misstatements for things where the respondent isn’t getting anything of value in return, because some questions are intrusive and probably none of my business, but I really want to know what someone made in 1940 and how much education they had.

I’m reminded of a professor’s whose name I’ve forgotten who wanted me to be more critical of primary documents. Most of the time, 99% of the time, I trust the primary documents. But as I encounter these things with conflicting information, or lies, depending on my mood at the time, my general faith in the documents goes from 99% to 75%. The professor wanted me to take into account the biases of the document creators, and how I shouldn’t just give the benefit of the doubt.

This is an edited reprint of a post published elsewhere.

Ancestry.com’s indexing is not perfect

Anyone want to help me, or maybe yourself, if you are into this sort of history? Here are two problems I’ve discovered with the Ancestry.com indexing, which is what I’ve used and depended on for the Truxton Circle history project I’ve been working on. Two problems are, names and streets. I hope that DC residents with an Ancestry.com account will correct the addresses. You can correct problems  even with a free account.

Bad Indexing- Names

Back in a previous post Black Homeowners of 1940: College Educated Women Part 1, the case of Clementine Plummer highlighted to a bad indexing. Someone, via Ancestry, said her name was Christine Plummer.  Seriously?! My indexers, my cousin and a former colleague Karen, helped index the 1940 census for me, so my records are from the days when the 1940 census first came out. This change to Christine is some later change, because I and the indexers used Ancestry’s earlier index.  See line 59, from page 10B, does that look like a Christine? Maybe? Look closer. It’s Clementine.

Bad Indexing- Addresses

I’ve also discovered bad addresses. I’ve found P Street as D Street, and Frista Street, for First street. Some pages it will be fine, and on other pages it’s just wrong. I’ve gone back and changed the street to the correct one, based on my knowledge of what streets exist in Truxton Circle, and if you live here too you know them too. But I just changed them for the heads of household.

If you use Ancestry.com you may already know how to do these suggested corrections. So please just take a look in Truxton Circle, if you want to know which pages to look at just contact me at mari at inshaw.com

 

Slugg: Fathers are important

So a little bit more from Slugg: A Boy’s Life in the Age of Mass Incarceration

The single most impactful issue plaguing black communities across the country was, relatively speaking, hushed.
Families aren’t supposed to function with one parent. Children need a pair of loving parents…. Given prison, death, and abandonment, in my neighborhood the number of homes without a father was extremely close to a hundred percent.

My parents were in a high conflict marriage. My father was an angry alcoholic, my mom struggled with mental health challenges, and the marriage suffered infidelity from both parties. Taking a selfish look back, my parents staying together while we were minors was the best thing they did for my sister and myself. After becoming a parent, I see what a luxury item my father was, despite himself.

@MrTonyLewisJr tells of what his life was life before with his father and after when his father was shipped off to prison. Before, he lived in a nice house in the suburbs with his mother. His father would drive him to private school. He had new clothes on his back. Hanover Street was a place to visit family. There was stability. Then his father’s life and the Feds caught up with him. They lost the house and his mother slowly lost her mind. Hanover St NW became home. He also lost his 2nd parent to mass incarceration and the safety net his father provided. Thankfully due to kin and family friends he remained in Catholic school, but they could not make up for the fact that he was like so many of his neighborhood friends, fatherless.

In our effort to be merciful towards and supportive of single parents, we dismiss the importance and of the 2nd parent. Since Destruct-O-Baby I’m freaking tired and considering my own and my mother’s mental health history* I NEED the Help, and there is no way in Hell I could do this alone and stay sane. The other parent, the father, can bring a lot of valuable things to the table. Unfortunately too many AfAm children are lacking fathers in their lives, and are poorer for it.

A neighborhood with a high number of female headed households are poorer. The matriarchy has failed to control her sons. Her sons sling dope and shoot at everything with bad aim. Young men surrounded by struggling women become predators as the potential to become hard working respectable men is squandered on the corners. Little boys yearn so much for male attention, any male attention, even from drug dealers, it is so heart breaking. There are hardly any men who look like them in the schools and in their lives that they absorb whatever masculinity they can like a bone dry sponge does any liquid, be it life giving water or deadly antifreeze.

For girls it’s different. Not to dig up more family dirt, I am very thankful that my sister in law’s ex has custody of their beautiful daughter considering my SIL’s poor romantic choices (who she decided to bring into the home), the fact that both her sons are away at college, and her mental health (and housing) challenges. The ex has provided a better safety net than nothing.

*My mom suffered from post-postpartum depression, had several ‘nervous breakdowns’ and was at a low point suicidal. I don’t think I want to detail or summarize my own challenges here.

Radiators- A warm heat

So I’m debating about turning on the heat.
Radiator valve
The thermostat says its 72F in the house. We’re in a well insulated townhouse, the kitchen baseboard (on a separate system) is on low, and I had the oven on. Turning on the heat won’t add to it.

We have radiators and I love them. I love to leave my bathrobe or gloves on the radiator and put on warmth as if straight out of the dryer. I also love that my nose and skin do not dry out with radiator heat. Wet or damp clothes are placed on them and they humidify the room.

Now some people hate them, mainly when they are not working. If you have radiator heat and some rooms with the radiators are fine and others are freezing cold, then there is a problem with the radiator. It probably needs to be bled.  There are plenty of videos on how to bleed a radiator, most of them British.

If you’ve bled them or tried to bleed the radiators and that doesn’t work, you’ll need to call a plumber or an HVAC guy.

I’ve got some pretty old radiators, except for the one that doesn’t seem to have a bleed valve in my son’s room. If I run out of home projects, one thing I might do is update all the 19th century radiators and trade them in for fancy 21st century ones. Except the bench radiator, that thing is warmderful to sit on.

So after 20+ years Shiloh might do something with its vacant properties

My usual path no longer takes me along 9th Street anymore. Trips to Giant stops right at 8th Street. I might wander over to 9th to see if Buttercream has any ho-hos. And so the search for specialty cake products brought me over to the 1500 block of 9th Street NW and I was surprised to see what looked to be work on Shiloh Baptist Church’s long vacant properties.

Shiloh maybe getting their act togetherThis might be old news to some, as I did notice another Shiloh property on the opposite side of the street appeared no longer vacant. And the poster celebrating Victory Village looks, old. When doing a Google search for Victory Village and Shiloh, I came across a 2010 CityPaper article about the project. That doesn’t provide a lot of confidence. What does provide confidence is the scaffolding up along the sidewalk. And the fact that the block is a little less vacant than 10 years ago.

Shiloh maybe getting their act togetherNext to the National Park Service’s Carter G. Woodson House, formerly owned by Shiloh were some 3 story high scaffolding with the banner of a contractor, Thomas Archer on it. That looks a bit more real, and this thing might actually happen. Maybe. Hopefully. Lord willing.

I pray that in 5 years the 1500 block of 9th Street NW is as healthy as the 1500 block of 7th St NW. I hope that Shiloh will no longer be known as the church with all those run down vacant properties. I don’t expect Shiloh to gain the real estate mojo of UHOP, that would be akin to expecting Keneau Reeves to out act Christian Bale.

 

This has been cross posted with the DC Vacant Properties blog.

Can Cops and Teachers live in subsidized housing?

The Advoc8te who runs Congress Heights on the Rise pointed out a problem with income limited or affordable housing in DC. That has continue to bug me, because for years at community meetings when ‘workforce’ housing is trotted out residents are told it would allow government workers such as police and teachers to live in the communities they serve. Then when I see the income limits and then look at the starting salaries for DC police and teachers, I think, I’ve been lied to.
Sign- Join DC MPD I decided to just glance at what DC pays its teachers and police. Almost all government employees’ salaries are public, mine, my spouse’s, my cousin who makes a quarter of a million, it’s no secret, so I can actually see what DC pays. Grade school teachers, not teachers aides, not substitute teachers, nor administrative staff, if they’ve been teaching 3-4 years at least, are in the $60-70K range. There is a school librarian making six figures, as a fellow librarian, I say good for them. I didn’t pay much attention to MPD salaries, but officers are making over $60K. That makes sense if this poster is true and the pay starts at $55,362. If a teacher and cop fall in love, a la rom-com adventure, they’re making six figures as one household if they marry.

Okay, let’s get back to housing and income limits. There are a couple of key things you have to keep in mind, household size and AMI, area median income or MFI, median family income.

2018 income limits for DC Say Anna works for a non-profit and makes $40K, and there is a new affordable housing development with studios and 1 bedrooms that’s at 50% and 60% AMI/MFI. She might be able to get a studio at 60% MFI, but not at 50%. She makes too much at 50%. But if Anna was a single mom, a household of 2, aiming for a 1 bedroom (I don’t remember the rules about this), she would qualify at 50%. Looking at this table, and going on my memory,  the DC government employees who could qualify are school custodians, teacher’s aides, and some DC Public Library staff. The city doesn’t pay our librarians enough.

Slugg: Prayer and Therapy

From Slugg: A Boy’s Life in the Age of Mass Incarceration “Together, prayer and therapy can heal, but there’s not nearly enough of either happening in the hood, and they aren’t being done together.”

Slugg is @MrTonyLewisJr in the Hanover area of Truxton Circle who wrote a book about Hanover Street and his father, Tony Lewis Sr., a notable drug dealer. I highly recommend the book as it is a very good read and Mr. Lewis makes some excellent points, and this is one of them, that people need therapy.

Yes, prayer and therapy, but because of the occasional diversity of my readership, I’m going to set aside prayer in a box marked “Meditation” and let readers ponder that on their own as a DIY project. But therapy, everyone can use therapy and yes, it is missing or not sought fully when it is sorely needed. I’ve heard someone else say there are too many undiagnosed and untreated mental health issues in the Black community. Lewis is very frank about his mother’s struggles with mental health and how it did and still weighs on him and his family.

Children growing up witnessing, involved in and being victims of violence are traumatized and take that trauma with them into adulthood. Lewis mentions how he got help, but a childhood friend of his, who saw and experienced the same things in that little corner of Truxton Circle, did not. Because his friend did not get and hasn’t sought professional help, his friend remains in pain. That pain begets more violence which winds up traumatizing others who also are not likely to seek help, and it’s a horrible cycle.

Lewis mentions we need to change the culture. The problem is cultural. It’s not just in the Black community (but really bad in the Black community) but throughout America. IMHO too many Americans are making their mental health a DIY project, self-medicating and self-diagnosing. Remember that box we set aside? The one marked “Meditation”, that’s DIY.

Part of the problem may be cost, but a lot may be stigma. So to help remove a little bit of the stigma, I’m going to briefly mention my latest adventure in getting counseling and professional help. When the Help had to become his mother’s conservator because his sister squandered their mother’s retirement funds (whole ‘nother blog), it created a big strain on our marriage. So much so we put our adoption plans on hold and slept in separate rooms. We got counseling from a pastor and separately saw psychotherapists. It helped to talk things out with several 3rd parties. We got to a better place, brought the Help’s mom to the DC area, and restarted the adoption. Currently our marriage is better, my mother in law’s ashes are sitting on our bookcase, and we are the parents of Destruct-O-baby. I’ll credit lots of prayer and therapy.

 

Edited- Diagnosed to undiagnosed, and twitter link.