The End Is Near

Coming SoonCan I blame the kid on this one?

Indirectly yes, but I saw a sign that our moving would be inevitable. And that sign was our neighbor’s “For Sale” sign. Our beloved neighbors of over a decade are moving a few blocks over for more square footage. It wasn’t a nail in the coffin, but it is one of many things, many signs that point to our eventual move.

When? I’m guessing 2 to 6 years. It really depends on who replaces our neighbors and if my work relocates to the suburban campus.

That last part really annoys me. I remember Eleanor Holmes Norton saying she helped author some rule saying a percentage of federal jobs were supposed to stay in the District. For as long as I’ve been with my agency, most of the opportunities were out in the burbs.  Since having a kid, I’m making more of an effort to go up one more GS level, and that means going out to the burbs.

Another thing, and I may explore this a bit more, I’d like to live a more Black middle class life. It was at my cousin’s wedding reception in upper PG maybe Howard Co., MD, with two beautiful words, “open bar.” Anyway, surrounded by other Black mostly educated professionals and retired professionals, I thought, this is nice. Problem, I really don’t get that living in Shaw. I do like living and being in integrated spaces. But now with my son, I’ve become extra sensitive to what impression the people in the neighborhood present. He sees the old guys on the corner, the homeless guys shuffling through and horseplaying juveniles more often than he sees the black church elders & deacons, and his retired (but very busy/active) relatives.

Shaw is diverse but the diversity is uneven. There just aren’t enough Black middle class families here. So when we talk about black white differences, it’s white rich/ black poor. It might be a different story in other neighborhoods with thicker pockets of the AfAm middle class.

In the meantime, I’m just loving the city. I’m loving the occasional peeks of the Capitol dome and the Washington Monument on my daily commute. I’m loving the fact that there is an awesome restaurant 2 blocks from my house and that most of what I need is within a 15 minute walk. Despite my complaints about 311 and various city services, I’m loving that there are apps and websites and a whole community of people here working towards making city government less sucky. Most of all, I’m loving the universal Pre-K, the one thing keeping me from going, “Let me put in a transfer to Burbsville and put the house on the market this Spring.”

Halloween reminders

Kid in babyshark costumeOkay some quick reminders about Halloween tonight:

  1. If you don’t want people coming to your door, turn off your porch light, draw your curtains/drapes, and lower the lights on the first floor.
  2. Yes, people trick or treat. Ask your neighbors what it was like last year.
  3. Yes, adults and teenagers not in costume will come to your door. That is why I get crappy candy, just for them. The good stuff, the Reese’s, the Snickers, and the like go to the people in costume.
  4. Trick or treating starts around 6:30-7PM and I stop giving out candy around 8:30-9 when the uncostumed to costumed ratio gets to be a bit much.

UPS My Choice Hell

If you are stuck in UPS’ My Choice where they will not deliver your packages to your home because it is set to reroute your packages to an alternative location, just cancel your enrollment.
Here’s my story.UPS Cancel Membership
So many years ago I suspect someone, probably my mother in law (who is currently sitting on my bookshelf), sent a Christmas gift which was stolen by porch thieves. I also had an eBay purchase that I didn’t notice that I didn’t get until weeks later (I was ordering a lot of things, don’t judge me). So I contacted UPS, signed up for their My Choice program to make sure packages were sent to a nearby liquor store. I didn’t have things sent to the house, they usually went to the Help’s work. Fast forward and because of some changes at the Help’s job, he couldn’t accept packages for a period of time.
Fine. So I ordered something off Amazon that I figured would fit in our mailbox. A few days later I get this email from UPS saying there is a problem and the alternative location I picked many eons ago is no longer available. Okay. I contact UPS and after a while on the phone manage to get them to send the package to my house. I go on-line to their My Choice website and try to change things there, but encounter a technical problem. I figured I could fix it later. I was wrong.
I had seen a few package delivery boxes outside of residences and thought I could make or buy one and have inconsequential stuff, like diaper pail inserts, parts, Keto candy, etc delivered to the house, and limit expensive stuff to the Help’s workplace. So I order a box off Amazon. UPS was to deliver it. A few days after ordering, I get an email from UPS saying they can’t deliver it. After over an hour on the phone, I get UPS to agree to send it to my house. Day of the delivery, no package. I look on line, it says it was delivered to my house 15-30 minutes before I arrived home. It was a large unwieldy package and I was doubtful someone swiped it. So I ask my neighbors with cameras if they have a UPS driver on the street at the time. Then a day later I notice on my answering machine a message I was ignoring. I ignored it because people want to buy my house. I don’t want to waste time on their messages. But it wasn’t some buyer. It was a guy one street over with the same house number who had my package. Thank goodness that my land line was listed on the label with my address. So we go over in the car to get the large, unwieldy package.
Then I test it out by ordering cheap things, like paper towels and shower caps. When delivered by USPS, no problem. But an item that was to be delivered by UPS, that stayed in limbo.

UPS Technical Service is a lie

So I kept going back to the website to fix the package redirect. But every time I tried it wouldn’t let me or said there was a technical problem. So I tried the website chat bot, and got a chat human. Who after telling me to go through the same steps I’d been going through with no success said I needed to call their technical service number, but at the time it was after hours, so I waited until the next day. So I call the technical service number, and I get a lovely young lady who tells me to go through the same steps I’d gone through before with the chat human. She tells me I need to call the technical service number and I inform her that I called that number and got her.
At the same time I had emailed UPS and tweeted my frustration. As it would be no surprise, they tell me to go through the same steps as everyone else.
On the phone the young lady pushes me over to “technical service.” Guess what? It’s a guy who tells me to do the same steps but assures me that if there is no alternative location then my package should arrive at my house. Yeah….. I decide not to argue with him, because, what would be the point? So I wait. And the package does not come to me, it is in limbo.
A fellow from UPS reaches out to me and tells me he can provide technical service. Great. Guess what? He tells me to go through the same damned steps I’d gone through with the other customer service people.
At this point I don’t believe UPS has a technical service department. The problem I was having with the UPS site was a technical problem. After about 3 hours combined dealing with UPS, I am convinced they were all reading from the same incorrect script.

So then Amazon notices the package did not arrive. This forces me to contact them. They are also limited. I can’t redirect it and I can’t get another service (USPS) to deliver it. So a refund it was.

In Conclusion

I decided to just cancel my membership and see what happened. Once I cancelled, packages, UPS packages arrived in my package delivery box.

and then you will quietly move away

The message I’m hearing is that if you want a high quality public school education for your children, you should move. Quietly. If not quietly, apologize profusely, publicly state your commitment to traditional and neighborhood public schools, maybe mumble something about needing more space, and move to an overwhelmingly middle or upper class neighborhood. There, the minorities are in the minority, other involved parents are in your demographic, and no one is going to make you feel guilty about being a tax paying, college educated homeowner.

Don’t send your kid to a charter

I love charters. They are the thing that kept many people in the city after they had kids. I had neighbors who stayed longer because of charters and moved because of charters (kid #1,#2 or #3 didn’t get in). It stays with you when a family puts their house up for sale soon after the March/ April lottery results come in. And it’s reinforced when I notice families with 2-3 year olds sell or move in late Spring and early summer.

The anti-charter/ pro-DCPS voices are making parents feel bad about charters. Charters aren’t transparent. Charters funnel money and good students/parents away from neighborhood schools. Charters have a powerful lobby. Charters are connected with current/historical segregation. Simply charters are morally suspect and you’re a horrible person if you support them.

And some of that is true. Charters could stand to be more transparent and publish the same data as DCPS schools. With nearly half of DC students attending charters, yup that money isn’t going to DCPS. Involved and conscious parents are going to choose certain schools for their kids. Compared to other pro-traditional schools organizations with older and deeper ties to DC’s political body, the powerfulness of FOCUS is questionable. And even traditional school districts are getting more segregated.

However, I don’t see the anti-charter school push moving parents towards neighborhood schools. Maybe to DCPS schools WOTP (West of the Park- Rock Creek) as one notable blogger has done. And even when some parents decide to take a chance on their neighborhood school, their presence isn’t necessarily welcomed.

Step back, move away from the school

The Post has an article about PTOs, Parent Teacher Organizations and the problems of inclusion with racially mixed parent groups. What the article leaves out is not every DC public and charter school has a PTO. Dunbar doesn’t seem to have an active PTO, nor does Garrison Elementary. It makes it look like this is a DC, East of the Park problem.

So I guess racial harmony exists over in the burbs and WOTP? Because those areas never seem to pop up in gentrification stories, where most of the Washington Post’s readership lives. If involved parents want to avoid this stigma, they should… I dunno, move to the burbs and WOTP?

Private School Snob?

It’s expensive, so move.

There is someone out there to make you feel bad if you choose private schools.

  But Matthew’s kid is still very young and not all private schools are “fancy”.

…. I should write a blog post about all the private predominately black schools in DC. I digress.

I’ll end with this: Can pro-traditional DC public school advocates draw middle class parents to DCPS without sending the message, move to NoVa or parts of Maryland? Yes, DC Charters are the competition, but so are the surrounding jurisdictions of Arlington, Alexandria, Montgomery, Charles, and Howard Counties. Not so much PG County Schools. I’ve heard no one come out and say directly they’re moving because of schools. But when you notice people with kids start mysteriously disappearing when their eldest hits a certain age (2-3 or middle school), it’s hard not to conclude, they are moving because of schools.

Thought Exercise: Moving out of Shaw

B/W px of a early 20th century moving vanI had a job interview a few weeks ago, it went well, so well I seriously gave thought to what we would do if I was chosen for the position. You see, it is in the same suburban area of Maryland where my spouse, the Help works, and I said if I were to get a job there, we’d move. So for several days I was looking at moving to Maryland and all that would entail.

We already know what neighborhoods we want to live in on the other side of the border. Yes, this is something we think and talk about on a regular basis. But I hadn’t thought about the consequences of leaving Shaw and the city.

What we’d lose
Walkability
Our part of Shaw is a wonderfully compact. Within a 1/3 mile I can walk to the grocery store, a couple of bakeries, a bunch of restaurants and bars, the metro, and Destructo’s daycare. I haven’t owned a car for over twenty years and it’s been a couple of years since I’ve driven. I like being able to walk with Destructo or plop him in a stroller and walk to a park. When I looked at a few houses on-line that I thought was close enough to a metro station, PG Plaza was over a mile away, and a park well over 1/3 mile. Whereas our block has a WalkScore in the 90s the areas I was looking at had scores in the 30s… and no sidewalks.

Lower Property Taxes
When looking at possible homes in our price range, looking at the property taxes made some places just, unaffordable. A lovely little 3 bedroom in the $300-400K range had taxes above $5,000 a year. Our taxes in DC are somewhere just below $3K a year. A couple hundred dollars of our monthly mortgage goes to taxes and insurance, but I was seeing sizable $400-$700 a month going to taxes for PG Co. properties.

Free Pre-K
Dangit, I been paying into this system, I’m going to get my 2 free years. Destructo won’t enter the school system until 2020-21. If we were to move, we’d be paying for  2 more years of daycare since PG County doesn’t have free Pre-3-4K. That’s when I decided I’d rather have a bad commute (I’d worked at this location before) than pay $30,000+ for 2 years of daycare.

Loss of connections
Living here for nearly 20 years, despite people constantly moving, we’ve got some deep strong connections here. After observing others move to other nearby neighborhoods or over into suburbs, I know after a while you stop seeing those people. I wouldn’t expect us to be any different. We have friends and family in PG County and those connections would get stronger, but I would miss what I have built here in Shaw.

Other things I had to consider
Sell/Rent house?
Then there is the question of selling or renting. I’m emotionally attached to this house I live in. It was my first property. I’m not sure I can just hand it over to some renter to make their mark on. However, renting would allow me to return to the TC if I manage to return to my current duty station if an opportunity arose. Also the rules about renting in this city seem to get more complicated, which would mean hiring a property manager. Some of my former neighbors self manage, other use a property manager. Question would be would I want to self manage my baby?

Then we’d have to make the house suitable for renters. When you own your own home, there are things you let slide. Our AC died 3 years ago. We’ve got portable and window units that work well. The bathrooms aren’t painted that well, because I painted the whole house myself and never ever got back to them. There is a whole long list of little repairs that should be done, but since the health of the house does not depend on those repairs getting done anytime this century, they don’t.

If I were to sell, the property tax issue I have such a problem with would be less of an issue, because the equity we have in our home would make some places mortgage free. I wouldn’t have to think about managing a DC property.

Mari InShaw to Mari N. Peagee?
A lot of my on-line identity is based on being in Shaw/Truxton Circle. Would I change it if I moved? I’m still pondering that one.

Recently, I found out I wasn’t chosen. I called one of the interviewers, who I knew professionally, regarding why I wasn’t and now I know what areas I need to improve. So when the next opportunity pops up I know what I will do, and if chosen, I have a plan.

Crime of Opportunity- Just a few seconds

I have a superpower, it is finding money on the ground. I cannot summon money, it would be absolutely awesome if I could. This superpower comes from constantly scanning the ground. I’m looking for poop, so I can avoid stepping in it. And while I’m keeping an eye out for poop, and spit, I’ll see money, or a SmartTrip card with money on it.

I also spot other things.

This weekend I spotted a purse, with a cell phone sticking out sitting on the sidewalk. It was next to an SUV, where a mother was doing something on the opposite side (out of view of her purse) on the 1500 block of 7th St NW. Her husband was about 2 car lengths away for some reason. He showed up when we pointed out to her that her purse was just… sitting there. I spotted the purse ahead as we walked past Compass Coffee. She waved off our concerns. This is why I don’t say things or point things out to people. Y’all obviously don’t care that if I’ve noticed that you left your car keys or house keys in the lock, or your laptop in the backseat (seriously people stop leaving your electronics in your car) or left your bike unlocked (yes, you’re popping in for one second). But if I’ve noticed, someone else who is more willing to walk off with your (keys, laptop, bike) stuff has too.

Yes, you are just leaving it there for a second. But it doesn’t take long for a young pair of legs to run off with it.

The Curse of 1640 4th St NW

1640 4th St NWWhelp, it looks like 1640 4th Street NW has thwarted another owner. The last owner, apparently had contractor problems, as in ran away with money problem. The owner before that, tried her hands at renovating the place and for some reason failed. The owner before that, well, she’s the reason I believe 1640 is cursed.

The 3rd owner back and the neighbor next to 1640 had a toxic relationship. The neighbor claimed the 3rd owner called her the N-word, but even before that, they hated each other. I doubt they ever liked each other. So the neighbor was very antagonistic towards the 3rd owner back…. and the woman who bought it from the 3rd owner…. and the current owner. So whoever buys 1640, know the neighbor will hate your guts and do everything in her power to make things difficult.

The plans the current owner has doesn’t help. In the row of 2 story homes, the plans show a pop up that does not match any of the housing on the row. Now I can already hear Scott Roberts saying, “if you don’t want a pop up you should’ve fought for a historic district.” Yeah, no. I have no problem with the idea of a pop-up, I just have a problem with fugly pop-ups. Non-fugly pop-ups are possible.

This property is a shell. The current owner had the back ripped off (so it’s exposed to the elements) and the owner before that had done some demo. $735K seems to be a lot for a shell in my opinion, however, it isn’t the only shell in Truxton Circle in the $700K range, so what do I know?

So whoever buys 1640, not only do they have to deal with a cantankerous neighbor, they also have a partial shell. This would be for an experienced developer, someone who has developed property in the District. However, at the current price, anyone with more sense than money won’t touch it.

Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics: Various reasons for ‘gentrification’ that you don’t want to hear

This is old, but the data I needed was buried in a file. The Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity- University of Minnesota Law School put out a study that was reported on by the Washington Post and DCist. The 7-page study is general and I have no beef with it, but its is the interactive map that has me questioning it.

Truxton by the numbers
I might not know the US in general but I sure as heck know Truxton Circle. Let’s look at the study’s numbers for the change from 2000 to 2016 by race:
Asian: 110
Black: -1232
Hispanic: 34
White: 926

Let’s look at my numbers for 1970 to 2010

Year Total Black White Latino/Asian/ Etc
1970 5830 5768 21 41
1980 3349 3249 61 39
1990 3623 3347 189 87
2000 2997 2713 103 181
2010 3028 1964 816 248

The trend since 1970 was downward for everyone, mainly African-Americans since they/we were slowly departing the neighborhood. So the -2,519 of the Black population in Truxton Circle from 1970 to 1980, can we also call that displacement? It’s much bigger than the loss of 1,232 from 2000 to 2016. Now I’ll acknowledge a bump in populace from 1980 to 1990 of almost 300 people, but apparently by 1990 they several hundred said ‘screw this’ (or got shot) and left in droves by 2000. The 00s had numbers so low, I think those numbers hadn’t been seen since the 19th Century when vast swaths of land were undeveloped.

The loss of Afro-American residents from 2000 to 2010 was 749. The study map has it from 2000 to 2016 down by 1232, so an extra 483 left between 2010 and 2016. There is a trend, prior to gentrification of fewer and fewer Black residents.

Whaddya want White Flight. Again?
Let’s expand that table, shall we? Apologies for not having the Black population for 1940.

Year Total Black White Everyone Else
1940 8244 ….. 1718 ….
1950 7720 6186 1511 23
1960 6789 6716 58 15
1970 5830 5768 21 41
1980 3349 3249 61 39
1990 3623 3347 189 87
2000 2997 2713 103 181
2010 3028 1964 816 248

In 2016 the white population should have crested above one thousand, but still not at 1940s or 1950s levels. So let’s say trends continue and the white population continues to grow, maybe getting back to 1950s levels. You know what happened to DC whites after 1950? They began to leave the city in droves, as did TC whites. So when in complaining about the growing the white population, is it a request for white flight?

Various reasons for demographic changes
Demographic changes, aka gentrification. The narrative is that it is displacement. So I return to my question about the loss of 2519 blacks in 1980, was that displacement? Maybe. Was it gentrification? Probably not. Was it crack? That would explain a loss between 1980 and 1990, but there wasn’t a decline. Thinking of my own block I can think of various reasons for the demographic change between 2000 and 2016.

Fewer Section 8s- Or Housing Choice Vouchers or whatever you want to call it, but aka Section 8. There were a few suspected Section 8 houses around, two on my block owned by one fellow who seemed to have gotten into financial trouble and had to sell them. The new owners did not keep them as Section 8, but lived in them a short while and rented them out at market rate. Fewer landlords are chasing Section 8 renters, when the area attracts market-rate renters. And there are accidental landlords (former resident homeowners) who are not savvy or interested in the voucher program.

Not a one to one exchange- My next door neighbors, 2 white men, bought their house from a black family of 5 (mom, dad, two kids, and grandpa). Units that had larger families got replaced by singles and childless couples.

Not enough middle-class Black people moving in- Think of the population from year to year as a river of water that is fed by tiny little streams. As low-income African Americans moved out they’d be replaced by other low-income AfAms. However, this flow is blocked by the loss of low-income rentals in favor of mixed-income and luxury rentals and for sale housing. The city government is more likely to increase low-income housing in areas where property is cheap, so not here. But if the goal is racial diversity, then middle-class Black families would need to stream in. However, there aren’t enough middle-class Black households interested in moving into the urban core. Also, programming targeted at AfAms are more interested in having low-income Blacks as clients, as opposed to creating strong, independent middle-class Blacks.

I hate brick sidewalks

Puddle in Brick SidewalkMost days brick sidewalks around here are trip hazards.

In Winter they are a pain to shovel.

In Spring, like today, they present a minefield of puddles to be avoided in the rain. By the time I made it home, my socks were wet. I tried to walk around or jump over the mini-lakes between the 7-11 on Rhode Island and BKK on New Jersey Avenue, but it was no use as the wet crept up and got me. I should have just walked in the bike lanes.

I am thankful that the neighbors of today are not clamoring for brick sidewalks like they did in the aughts. “They look more historic,” I remember being told by one long time resident who liked the look of brick sidewalks. If I’ve remembered exactly who this neighbor was, she didn’t shovel her walk, so she was not experienced with one of the challenges of brick sidewalks. Besides these were the days when no one really took the rules about shoveling snow off the sidewalks seriously.

Thankfully, there are plenty of messed up sidewalks around Shaw to disabuse people of romantic notions of brick sidewalks. After a while a new brick sidewalk’s edges get looser and then all the bricks loosen. The ground shifts and then the walk is uneven with dips and bumps. On the plus side, they become deadly for e-scooter riders.

Voting with their feet- please don’t take citizens for granted

My feetsmLet’s take a break from the church histories and look towards the future and present. When I last pondered people voting with their feet it was in regards to DC parents.

I hope the politicians and the city government, in general, does not take its citizens for granted. It’s hard to put my finger on one thing, but I can’t shake this feeling that the city is taking its tax base for granted, like we don’t have the option of moving a couple of miles across the border to Maryland or Virginia. Yes, there are citizens who are stuck, I’m not talking about them. I speak of the professionals, the comfortably retired, the people with options.

When my spouse and I moved to the DC area in the mid 90s*, DC was just freaking depressing. The Downtown was dead after 5pm. It was kind of dead on the weekends too. These were also the days of the Control Board. The city was dealing with a crazy murder rate craptastic schools, the crack epidemic, and a lousy bond rating. These were the bad old days of bad city services when no one would bother answering the phone. The bad old days can return if we aren’t careful and that’s my concern. Maybe housing advocates will get their wish and DC will become affordable because of a slow exodus of the middle class.

Right now, compared to the 90s, DC is awesome. Let’s not take the awesome for granted because it can be less awesome in the future. There are some things DC has that the surrounding counties don’t. But there isn’t that much, except their own stubborn citizenry, that can keep those counties from doing some of the same great things DC government is doing and luring our neighbors away.

I’ll stop now. I’m rambling.

*We did not meet until the late 1990s.