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D.C. must protect tenants, maintain affordable housing

Alleged Congress Heights violations raise alarms

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Supreme Court marriage, gay news, Washington Blade
Supreme Court marriage, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine (Photo courtesy of Racine)

Karl Racine, D.C.’s attorney general, recently filed a lawsuit against the owners of buildings in Congress Heights for violations of housing laws. Racine said, “We believe the owners of these buildings have done a serious disservice to their residents and have violated the District’s housing laws through willful neglect.” He added, “Preserving affordable housing for all of the District’s residents and protecting public safety are two of our highest priorities at the Office of the Attorney General. The owners of these buildings have undermined both of those priorities, and we intend to hold them accountable.”

The lawsuit against landlord Sanford Capital and its subsidiaries over their alleged lack of maintenance of apartment buildings in Congress Heights has been a long time in coming and landlords who abuse tenants by not keeping their buildings up to code should take note. There is no excuse for collecting rent and then not providing heat and hot water or allowing buildings to purposely deteriorate. The Washington Post reported the four buildings involved got 77 new citations for housing code violations in October in addition to three dozen that had previously been issued to the buildings’ landlords.

According to the Post, “The four apartment buildings lie at the center of a planned 285,000-square-foot mixed-use development above the Congress Heights Metro. The project, which Sanford Capital and its co-developer City Partners say will include new offices, more than 200 apartments and ground-floor retail, was approved by the city’s Zoning Commission last year.” Why did the zoning commission approved this application? Are they so separated from the reality of the situation they would approve a new development considering what the developer is allegedly doing to the tenants that currently live in the buildings on the site to be redeveloped? Don’t zoning commissioners or their staff go to the site to be redeveloped? And, if so, do they turn a blind eye to what is currently happening on the site in buildings owned by the applicants for a zoning change?

The Bowser administration deserves kudos for its commitment to affordable housing in the District. It will be important the commitment be accompanied by strong enforcement of housing codes and regulations. If current law doesn’t allow, or isn’t strong enough, for the city to go in and fix code violations the landlord is cited for and doesn’t do anything about, then the mayor and the Council must consider making appropriate legislative changes.

The co-developer of the Congress Heights project is Jeff Griffis, CEO of City Partners. I know Jeff as a decent man with the interests of the District and its people at heart. In the Post column it is reported when Griffis was informed of this situation he said, “change is required.”   But one must ask the question of any developer who gets as far as taking a project to the zoning commission whether they toured the site and saw conditions as egregious as the ones in the buildings in Congress Heights? If this was done in the case of this particular project then Griffis’s comments as reported in the Post story seem to be a little late. He said, “The current condition of several of the properties are not something we support.” The Post went on to report, “Although Griffis and his company do not own or manage any of the properties in question…He said that he did not know how the lawsuit would affect the development plan he had worked on with Sanford but that he hoped it would effect immediate changes for the residents of Congress Heights.”

There will continue to be gentrification of neighborhoods in D.C. as there is in cities across the nation. Prime locations will continue to be Metro stops because we want livable, walkable cities. There is also the continuing trend of people moving back into cities with D.C. seeing nearly 1,000 people a month moving here.

It is clear we need to do more to ensure those living on fixed incomes are not forced out of their homes with nowhere to go by the intentional neglect of greedy developers. There is enough money being made by these developers to take into consideration the lives of the people they are displacing. Maybe we need a tax on development projects directed at meeting the needs of those impacted or other ways of raising the revenue needed so the city can ensure situations like the one in Congress Heights aren’t the norm. We can and must do better.

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

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. lnm3921

    January 14, 2016 at 12:52 am

    We need to bring back more affordable housing to urban areas. Gentrification is driving people out and forcing them out to the middle of nowhere or into being homeless. Rents are rising to obnoxious rates. There should be rent controls in place if not a state and federal effort to build and provide affordable, decent and safe housing to everyone.

    I’d like to see some of these billionaires donate with the goal of ending homelessness, providing homes for everyone including the elderly. We have a housing crisis in that more and more people are being priced out with really no decent alternatives.

    • Brian's Ions

      January 14, 2016 at 7:36 am

      Well said. I agree.

      BTW, Anita Bonds is Council’s Chair for Housing and Community Development. And I’m sure she’d love to hear from other Blade readers their thoughts on the subject…
      http://anitabonds.com/portfolio/senior-advocacy/

      Many readers already know David Meadows, who is now Anita’s Chief of Staff…
      http://anitabonds.com/contact/
      So give David a piece of your mind, too.
      ;)

  2. THEBEARCUB

    January 24, 2016 at 1:00 am

    This is not how Gentrification was suppose to be. But the motive here in DC is obvious because these developers know exactly who they are forcing out of the city and that’s African Americans.

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The future of lesbian bars

Resolve to support our queer spaces in 2022

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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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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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