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Graham, ANC delusions on Reeves Center deal

Council ratifies, ANC may opine, but neither dictates development

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Reeves Center, gay news, Washington Blade
Reeves Center, gay news, Washington Blade

The Reeves Center. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

D.C.’s “silly season” has commenced.

Another confirmation that local election campaign nonsense is now fully underway was found in an opinion piece by D.C. Council member Jim Graham in last week’s edition of the Washington Blade. Graham only earlier in the week had announced a much-delayed decision to seek a fifth four-year term.

Graham suggests that the District’s preliminary inking of a deal to swap the Reeves Center government building site, at the corner of 14th and U streets in Northwest Washington, for land needed for a planned soccer stadium opens the door to dictating use-composition of a replacement private sector development project.

It doesn’t. Nor should it.

Also overestimating prerogatives in such matters, the U Street Advisory Neighborhood Commission earlier invited residents to a community meeting this week organized by the D.C. Department of General Services (DGS). ANC-1B solicited participation with the topic identified as “What should the D.C. government do with the Reeves Center?”

That isn’t the question.

In other words, a smokestack full of hot air has been released.

As confirmed with agency personnel, DGS scheduled the public meeting as an initial community outreach allowing city officials to update the status of city presentation of the deal for Council review. It is also a first step in engaging area residents to “analyze potential impacts related to the proposed disposition and redevelopment of the Reeves Center site” in order to later identify “mitigation strategies to minimize these impacts.”

Demolishing the aging Brutalist-style monstrosity most notable for its problem-plagued infrastructure and subsequent construction will pose neighborhood and commerce inconveniences. Hence, this initial public meeting.

Wishing for influence over the fundamentals of a developer’s already-planned project simply isn’t relevant.

This is not a city-issued request for proposals to develop city-owned land in the abstract. It’s a complex negotiated deal granting the government-owned site to a developer in exchange for land being assembled with city assistance for construction by D.C. United of a soccer stadium at Buzzard Point, four blocks from Nationals Stadium. When the land swap was publicly announced the developer presented schematics for the planned residential project with street level retail, all part of the deal.

While the deal has proven widely popular and enthusiastically embraced in a way that the baseball stadium arrangements never were, the D.C. Council must ratify the deal. Any ANC may choose to offer comment during public hearings.

Graham treating it like a building he can personally construct with Legos is outlandish.

Graham behaves as an old-world Soviet apparatchik, insisting on a defined private sector build-out to suit his command economy proclivities. He demands that the project consist of commercial office space instead of residential housing, including non-profit offices. He also specifies a seasonal farmers market on a public plaza not part of the plan – or likely economic feasibility.

Graham seems to think that replicating the current usage will somehow benefit the neighborhood in a way it doesn’t now.

Graham also plays the “gay card” – insisting space be provided to the “Gay Center.” When the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community smartly decided to temporarily utilize below-market rate retail space at the Reeves Center until relocating once demolition begins, a commitment for government-owned rental space was conveyed.

Despite strong public support for the stadium land swap and among his colleagues, Graham declares that he is “willing to consider” supporting the deal if it conforms to his druthers.

The best Graham offers in the realm of economics is that “a major private commercial office building ought to find this space very attractive.” In the real world of business, however, differentials in viability between adding to a glut of D.C. office space and satisfying market-driven housing demand are transparent.

Graham, or an advisory neighborhood group, shouldn’t attempt to queer the deal with the personal preferences of those accustomed to allocating the public dole.

Step aside, Mr. Graham, this is enterprise at work – again benefiting our city.

Mark Lee is a long-time entrepreneur and community business advocate. Follow on Twitter: @MarkLeeDC. Reach him at [email protected].

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6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Eric Scharf

    December 18, 2013 at 7:42 pm

    Why did I know that as soon as I saw the headline that it was another whiny Blade Mark Lee column? Oh, because that is what he always writes. Yes, you correct that this project is not a typical government controlled development, but why should that stop the local community from expressing its desires as to how this property is ultimately reutilized. That is what the political process is for. So give it up, just because you are still smarting over years of loosing to Jim Graham over smoking in bars and liquor licence issues doesn’t mean he doesn’t have the interests of the community in mind.

  2. Colin

    December 19, 2013 at 10:18 am

    Amen. This space should be put to its most productive use as dictated by the market, not what local politicians want.

  3. Joel

    December 19, 2013 at 12:37 pm

    “That is what the political process is for.” For…what, again, exactly? For telling a private property holder, after it trades the property into their hands, what they can and cannot do with it? Or, for having no intention whatsoever of actually compelling the private property holder re: usage, but nonetheless patronizingly indulging that public in some kabuki theater?

    • Allen Rotz

      February 6, 2014 at 3:52 pm

      Well it sounds like you want another city give-a-way to a developer. Have you ever heard of zoning or is that a socialist plot? It is still the responsibility of the City Council to husband city-owned property and enure that it is citizen’s best interest and not developers’ profits that is most important.

  4. tassojunior

    December 23, 2013 at 11:06 am

    The Blade has become so right-wing neo-fascist. It would be as anti-gay as Uganda if it weren’t gay.

  5. Paul Mackie

    December 31, 2013 at 2:53 pm

    Here is another take on the development plans, from Mobility Lab’s Paul Goddin:

    http://mobilitylab.org/2013/12/30/transportation-options-create-a-potential-windfall-for-washington-d-c-property/

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Opinions

The future of lesbian bars

Resolve to support our queer spaces in 2022

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lockdown zone, gay news, Washington Blade

This New Year, I hope you wish for more lesbian bars across the country. The story of lesbian bars in the U.S. has been slightly tragic of late: as of January 2021, there were only 15 clubs or bars dedicated to queer women across the country. 

That’s right—only 15. Across all 50 states. 

In Washington, D.C., my hometown, A League of Her Own stands out as the only lesbian bar in the city, dedicated to queer women. Located in Adams Morgan, A League of Her Own, also known as ALOHO, is a small mecca for queer ladies to pass through, socialize, and flirt. ALOHO is a chic gathering point for all queer folk, with posters of softball players dotting the walls and gender neutral signs lying about. 

Several years ago, another lesbian bar called Phase 1 existed in Southeast, where queer women could slam eight balls in pool games and engage in raunchy yet ever-so-hot jello wrestling competitions. 

Unfortunately, Phase 1 shut its doors in 2016. 

So what explains the closure of so many lesbian bars, while bars for gay men continue to flourish? Perhaps many queer women view gay bars as a space for their own as well, whereas gay men view lesbian bars as less of a place for them to socialize. 

Either way, we need to give support to lesbian bars now more than ever. Tokens of support can take many forms. 

For one, make sure to socialize in spaces dedicated to queer ladies. There are three lesbian bars in New York City: Cubbyhole (281 W. 12th St.), Gingers in Brooklyn (363 5th Ave.), and Henrietta Hudson (438 Hudson St.). Next time you visit the Big Apple, make sure to give these three spots some love. Maybe drag your experimenting bi friend to these locations. Or your pansexual roommate. 

Back in D.C., you can buy unisex shirts in A League of Her Own’s merchandise store, available online. 

Proceeds will go toward funding the bar, and making sure it stays afloat, especially during this COVID economy. 

Most of all, I hope you encourage your queer lady friends to keep on frequenting queer lady destinations. After all, there is only one thing that will keep lesbian bars afloat—and that is attendance. 

I, for one, will be frequenting many lesbian destinations this new year.  

Isaac Amend is a Yale graduate and participated in National Geographic’s ‘Gender Revolution’ documentary. He also is a member of the LGBT Democrats of Virginia, and contributes regularly to the Blade. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @isaacamend.

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Opinions

Breaking barriers as an out trans ‘Jeopardy’ champion

Amy Schneider’s run inspires us all

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Amy Schneider (Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Television)

“When was the last time anybody said ‘wow!’” a friend asked me.

I couldn’t remember the last time anyone I know (including me) had any “Wow!” moments. Until I heard about trans woman and software engineering manager Amy Schneider’s 29-game winning streak on “Jeopardy.”

You wouldn’t think anything could dispel our COVID exhaustion and political divisiveness. Yet, news about a champion on “Jeopardy,” a quiz show that has been on TV since 1964, has broken through our gloom.

In our culture, there are few things that everyone loves. But, “Jeopardy” is beloved by many, from theater geeks to 80-year-old sports nuts. A progressive friend was over the moon when his brother was a “Jeopardy” contestant. A buddy, a hetero (non-Trump) Republican, is a “Jeopardy” fanatic and a gay librarian pal is a “Jeopardy” freak.

Many of us daydream about being on “Jeopardy.” But we know that we wouldn’t have a chance on this legendary quiz show with its deceptively simple format: You give the answer to the (often incredibly hard) clues in the form of a question. You have to have a strategic military commander’s and a world-class athlete’s coordination: so you can press the buzzer to answer the clue.

The game’s categories run the gamut from opera to mountain ranges. Most of us, mere mortals, would be lucky to know even one category in the first round of the game. Let alone in the “Double Jeopardy” round or the “Final Jeopardy” clue. I might jump on clues about Katharine Hepburn movies or M&Ms. But that would be it for me.

It’s exciting to watch a “Jeopardy” contestant become a long-running champion. You marvel at the player’s intelligence, endurance, and nerve. It’s thrilling when the contestant on a winning-streak is part of your community.

Many of us LGBTQ “Jeopardy” fans are thrilled by Schneider’s record-setting winning streak. As I write this, Schneider has won more than $1 million in 29 games of “Jeopardy.” She is the fifth millionaire in “Jeopardy” history, and only the fourth player to reach this milestone in the regular season. She has won more than any other female “Jeopardy” contestant.

Schneider, like so many of us, doesn’t want to be defined by her gender identity or sexuality. Schneider’s life is multi-faceted; she has many interests. Schneider lives with her girlfriend Genevieve. They have a cat named Meep.

Yet, Schneider doesn’t want to hide that she’s trans. On “Jeopardy,” Schneider brilliantly dealt with this dilemma. She didn’t make a big deal about being out. She just wore the trans Pride flag pin.

“It was something that I wanted to get out there and to show my pride in while not making it the focus of what I was doing there,” Schneider told the New York Times. “Because I was just there to answer trivia questions and win money.”

As a cisgender lesbian, I can’t speak to how Schneider’s record-setting “Jeopardy” streak feels to transgender people.

But, as a trans ally, I’m cheering for Schneider. Kudos for her bravery! At a time when many states are passing anti-trans laws, it takes guts to be out on TV and the Internet.

Few things are as mainstream as “Jeopardy.” I bet that many “Jeopardy” viewers who are frightened at the idea of trans people, will become more comfortable with transgender people after watching Schneider on the popular quiz show. Because folks on TV come into our living and bedrooms and we feel as if we know them after watching them for a while.

“Amy looks like everybody else,” my neighbor said when I told her Schneider was trans. “She doesn’t act odd. She’s not strange.”

Transgender people encounter violence and discrimination in everything from housing to health care to employment.

I know Schneider’s “Jeopardy” triumph won’t end transphobia. But her winning streak will go a long way toward jumpstarting a change in hearts and minds.

Kathi Wolfe, a writer and a poet, is a regular contributor to the Blade.

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SCARY: Tucker Carlson now the conscience of GOP

Cruz bows down, kisses ring of Fox host

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Tucker Carlson (Screen capture via Fox on YouTube)

The Republican Party has sunk to a new low, hard to do, when a sleazebag like Tucker Carlson is now their conscience. Seeing Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) groveling before him is laughable, disgusting, and frightening all at the same time. 

As reported in Rolling Stone, Cruz said, “We are approaching a solemn anniversary this week. It is an anniversary of a violent terrorist attack on the Capitol where we saw the men and women of law enforcement demonstrate incredible courage, incredible bravery, risk their lives to defend the men and women who serve in this Capitol.” Then “Cruz was lambasted by Tucker Carlson that night, prompting him to hop on Carlson’s show Thursday and beg for forgiveness. “The way I phrased things yesterday, it was sloppy and it was frankly dumb,” Cruz said before Carlson cut him off and said he didn’t believe him. Cruz took it up a notch, stammering through an absurd bit about how he wasn’t talking about the “patriots across the country supporting President Trump,” only those who assaulted police officers, and that he’s always described anyone who assaults a cop as a terrorist.

Carlson has made a career of being a pompous commentator. Interestingly he worked at CNN, PBS, and MSNBC, before finally landing at Fox in 2009. According to his Wikipedia page he went to Trinity College where he earned a bachelor’s degree and Carlson’s Trinity yearbook describes him as a member of the “Dan White Society,” an apparent reference to the American political assassin who murdered San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk. After college, Carlson tried to join the CIA, but his application was denied, after which he decided to pursue a career in journalism with the encouragement of his father, who advised him that “they’ll take anybody.” Reading this clearly raised my opinion of the CIA and based on what we see in some media today I agree with Carlson’s father on his view of journalism. 

When you have a moment of silence in the House of Representatives to honor those who lost their lives on Jan. 6 and only two Republicans show up, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and her father Dick Cheney, the former vice president, one understands the influence Carlson has on the GOP. The rest were afraid of being criticized on-air by him or lambasted by Trump. 

Dick Cheney remarked on the GOP, “It’s not a leadership that resembles any of the folks I knew when I was here for 10 years.” He spoke to ABC News saying, “I’m deeply disappointed we don’t have better leadership in the Republican Party to restore the Constitution.” 

There is a leadership void in the Republican Party today. Their so-called leaders are afraid to say what they think if it differs in any way from Trumpism or Carlson’s view of the world, which requires total fealty to Trump. He found a home on Fox where he can lie with impunity and have millions believe his lies. 

President Biden said, in what many think was the best speech of his presidency so far, these people are “holding a dagger to the neck of democracy.” He went on to say, “For the first time in our history, a president not just lost an election, he tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power as a violent mob breached the Capitol.” 

Tucker Carlson and his ilk have never bothered to answer a question the president threw at them, which is how they can accept all their down ballot victories, governors, and members of Congress, which occurred on the same ballots, cast by the same people, on the same day, as those for president. Of course, Carlson has no need to make sense, tell the truth, or speak rationally because of his platform on Fox, which doesn’t require that.

My question is whether Carlson is as dumb as he makes himself sound or is he brilliant and this is all a big act? Either way the acolytes that follow Trump don’t seem to care and are bowing down to Carlson’s big audience. It’s as if he can tell any Republican senator or congressperson, or Republican candidate for those jobs, to just ‘bend over and take it’ and they do. All we can do is mourn for the GOP of Lincoln and Eisenhower. Non-Trumpers will have to work hard and speak out if they ever want to resurrect a GOP that can be respected.

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

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