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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Responses to the Post Article

Thanks so much to Klav for posting his response to the Paul Schwartzman article in the Post. I really wanted to mention this (Klav had mentioned his interaction w/Schwartzman to me), but I didn't want to reference a private communication. I too have spoken with Mr. Schwartzman (but not on this present article) & I feel (after having read this article) that he probably wanted to write a story about H Street that would play up the race angle regardless of whether the facts really justified such a view point. While the topics of race & class certainly hover over H Street & the surrounding neighborhoods, I can't possibly believe that anything is really as simple as Mr. Schwartzman's article makes out. We have lots of things going on within the H Street Corridor. We have issues like:
-trash (includes not only litter, but also illegal dumping)
-inappropriate conduct (public urination, public drunkenness)
-noise (amplified speech at 8th & H Street)
-public safety (muggings, harrassment)
-how to support the businesses we have
-how to attract new businesses.
I think that most residents are interested in attracting & retaining a variety of businesses for the corridor. As I've stated before, I do not believe that it is at all impossible to have in the same corridor a variety of businesses that primarily cater to different socio-economic groups.
I don't believe that the ANC is motivated by racism or classism on the fast food issue. I think this is about DCRA & enforcement of zoning regs (making & enforcing zoning rules on things like locations of fast food restaurant are within the government's historical role & are partly based on considerations like those I've listed above). Each of us may, or may not agree with the proposed changes in the zoning definitions, but obscuring the issue by pretending the divisions fall strictly along racial lines (as I feel this article largely does) is not useful. ANC 6A holds committee meetings that are open to the public & where anyone can speak up and voice opinions about the issues listed above (including zoning issues).
Mr. Schwartzman could have written a lot of other things about H Street that would not have supported his thesis here, but he chose not to do so. He chose to give us an article that barely skims the surface (because to go any deeper would expose Mr. Schwartzman's cherry-picking of the facts & quotes he uses), and relies mostly on vague quotes from an African American business owner saying he sees racial motives behind the ANC's moves (Clifton Humphries has stated that he was misquoted, or his words were taken out of context), & from a white business owner saying he likes Georgetown. Mr. Schwartzman's article is simplistic & sensationalistic. I don't think it captures what's going on here very well at all. I'm not personally offended by this piece. I just think it expresses an overly simplistic view of the situation (a stereotypical knee-jerk reaction). I would expect better work from a journalist trying to really capture the feel of what's going on on H Street.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Please send that comment and others like it as a letter to the editor to the Post.

The e-mail is: letters@washpost.com

and the policy on letter is below:
Letters Policy

Letters must be exclusive to The Washington Post, and must include the writer's home address and home and business telephone numbers. Because of space limitations, those published are subject to abridgment. Although we are unable to acknowledge those letters we cannot publish, we appreciate the interest and value the views of those who take the time to send us their comments.

tory said...

I agree that the reporter had already decided on the story before writing (and possibly before investigating) it. However, there is another dichotomy played up subtly in the article that I have seen before in journalism about D.C. It is an entirely false dichotomy but plays into the 'them vs. us' sensationalism these reporters seem to like.

I'm talking about the reference to the Cluck-U franchisee's grandparents. Gibson, he writes wanted to open a place "in the H St. neighborhood where his grandparents have lived for decades". The implication is that somehow this makes his desires more legitimate than that of the residents. (Note, however, there is no mention made of where Gibson himself lives -- I suspect it doesn't play well in the reporter's scenario.)

You see this over and over in the Post -- people are often labeled 'native Washingtonians' as though this gave them moral superiority over people who have lived here for only five, ten, twenty or thirty years. Guess what, if you live here, whether as renter or owner, long-time resident or short-timer, you are for the time being a Washingtonian. Your views are not trumped by someone simply bc. they have never lived elsewhere. Let's stop dividing people up using false dichotomies.

Marc L. said...

I want to side-step this coversation for a moment to thank the owner of Frozen Tropics for providing such a valuable discussion space for the community. The article raised contentious issues and we certainly don't all have to agree on everything, but it's encouraging to see people in the neighborhood engaging in useful and civil discussions. Changes to H St. are inevitable, and a forum such as this can make sure that all of the community's needs and expectations are being met.

Thanks!!!

Anonymous said...

I sent an email to the journalist at the Post, as soon as I finished reading the article online yesterday (they are not getting my money to buy a paper). Here is what it said, "As a resident of ANC6a, I'm completely furious with this very biased article. You have attempted to start a race war to sell some newspapers, shame on you!"

I encourage anyone who has a comment on this article to send it to the editor at the post also.

inked said...

Thanks Marc,
I'm just happy to see people really thinking about H Street, Trinidad, & the other surrounding neighborhoods. I'm not personally offended by Mr. Schwartman's article. I just think it expresses an overly simplistic view of the situation (a stereotypical knee-jerk reaction). I would expect better work from a journalist trying to really capture the feel of what's going on on H Street.

Anonymous said...

A Washington Post reporter already deciding what his story would say before he even investigated it...Sounds like the Post I know

Anonymous said...

besides letters to the editor, it might be worth contacting the ombudsman at the Post. ombudsman@washpost.com
She's supposed to mediate between the news staff and readers.

Anonymous said...

I read the article, and have patronized both Cluck U Chicken and Martini Lounge as well as other businesses on the corridor. I must say that many H Street businesses have a warm and welcome atmosphere and treat customers like friends. Not all, but most. That includes Martini Lounge and Cluck U Chicken. I for one am happy that both are on the corridor and that there are nice places to go during the day, and the evening. My friends love it too. I appreciate Mr. Humphries' care to set the record straight. It's not uncommon that reporters do put things together to make their story more sensational. I personally have experienced that over the years, and have come to just be skeptical, hope for the best and prepare for the worst. However, for any who have met the owners, you probably could surmise they are really nice and decent hard working guys that have both positively contributed to our community and want H Street to prosper just like anyone else. For me, I still love Stoney Ellis and the Cosmos, as well as the fish and greens. Can't beat 'em.

Perhaps those who care about a creating and nurturing a diverse and unified community could have a more postive experience (than the most recent dialogue) over some martinis, wings and jazz????

First round my treat. I'll consider it my donation to our commUNITY. Anyone down? How about next Tuesday or Wednesday? Peace.

Klav said...

My wife and I walked to the H Street Martini Lounge last night for a drink, wings, and the groovin' sounds of the Perry Conticchio Quartet. The band plays every Wednesday--no cover.

Kara and I spoke with Mr. Lamont, the manager, about the Post story. I've met him before during previous visits.

It was apparent to us that he and Mr. Humphries--like the rest of the community--were upset by the week's events. I believe they are sincere in their efforts to understand and be understood.

The Post story was a snapshot in time. What was printed was printed. Things change. Peoples' perspectives can change. The important point is that we--at least the wired community--all are talking.

That said, the Post story leaves readers with an impression about our community. I believe it deserves a prompt, unified response from our community leaders--ANC and HSMS among them--about the vision for H Street.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone ever considered asking, why some of the most vocal critics/ so-called gurus of reatil variety and revitalization on H Street themselves haven't taken advantage of the opportunity to open a business that may better suit the needs espoused? It seems to me that a personal financial invesment would go a long way in demonstrating, to the business communty along H St., the benefits of variety. Spaces are available for rent and purchase. Put your money where your mouth is.

Perhaps, once faced with the challenge of trying to survive on the corridor, the perspective of many of the long-time business owners will become clearer. When one's profit margins don't meet expectations, then maybe the business model must be scaled down in order to survive. Or at least until more people in the commuinty decide to actually venture down onto the corridor and spend a little money. Just ask Phish Tea. This owner came and gave criticts what they were asking for and still faced an enourmous amount of criticism, albeit some of it justified. Doing business on H St. is not a "field of dreams", build it and they will come. In an environment like H St. the reality is build what you can afford, then build out as things progress.

Much of this energy needs to be focused on addressing why Ward 6 leadership has allowed this negligence continue for so long, under both black and white Council members. Ironically,at the same time, the model commercial district in the city (Barracks Row) and a new waterfront are slated on the other side of Ward 6. The neglect here is almost criminal.

Inked.. thank for providng a forum that isn't laced with the elitist overtures as that other listserv. The author of the pst article may have not gotten everything right, but he got most of it. Just ask anyone trying to make a living and feed a family on H St.

inked said...

I know that there are a number of people who have wanted/tried to open a business on H Street, but have encountered problems. I don't believe that you forfeit your right to speak out on the issue just because you don't own/run a business on the corridor.
I think another issue that we face is a lack of understanding between merchants & residents. I think this problem exists for a number of reasons & is pretty complicated. As to the Phish Tea thing, I don't have a problem with their food & the staff is always polite, but almost every time I've been there, they have had some kind of major service issue (I've been 5 times spaced pretty far apart). So, I don't think it's just an issue of the community being unreasonable.
I do think that we sometimes take such an interest in the way that certain businesses are run that we really tend strongly towards micromanagement/backseat driving, which I'm sure can be a tad annoying at times. And we should all be better about going down to support the businesses on H Street.
My objection to the article is that I believe the author mischaracterized the divide over the fast food issue & greatly exaggerated the extent to which this particular issue is about race, or perceived by those involved (ANC members, business owners, local residents) as being about race.

Anonymous said...

Inked.... in response to my previous comment...well said!