Vision is more than a list

Recently, Harry Thomas Jr. posted, in response to this blog about vision for redevelopment, all of the things that he has brought to the Ward in the form of development. What that proved was that he failed to see the point of what vision really is.

Bringing something to the Ward is not what people want, well, not the only thing. The residents want to know that their leaders have the foresight to set the stage before something actually comes. A good example is the proposed Wal-Mart on NY Ave. I have stated over and over again that a Wal-Mart is fine for that location but the design and ability to control traffic mitigation was abysmal. Nearly every Council member I spoke with said they “wished they had some leverage over Wal-Mart” to make them pay for improvements on traffic and the impacts to noise, light pollution, local businesses, wages, etc it would cause. In fact, I even sent legislation from a couple of other jurisdictions from around the country that did just that from cities in exactly the same predicament. None of them acted on it. Instead, they threw up their hands and kept saying “there’s nothing we can do”. So now, the Wal-Mart on NY Ave will absolutely destroy the traffic flow of that area and the City (correction, all of us) will have to pay to improve the roads so they can exist.

That is a failure in leadership and vision.

At the recent PCDC meeting, Vincent Orange and Thomas kept pointing to the great achievement of bringing the Home Depot and Giant to the Brentwood Shopping Center. The need for this retail was there, true. But the Council failed the public in thinking about the long term vision of the community. Having these two anchor stores face each other with a sea of parking lot between them is absolutely poor planning, especially next to the Metro (and I won’t even get started on the entry and exit roads from this shopping center).

Again, failure of vision.

What our leaders don’t seem to understand is that leadership and vision is not providing us a list of what is coming to the Ward under his or their watch. That just shows that you know how to put a list together of what private developers are taking advantage of in a market economy (i.e. Rhode Island Row was the result of a very knowledgeable and talented Steve Golden, WMATA director of Real Estate who saw this potential and with whom I have worked with on a similar NJ transit oriented development). True leadership is preparing the area through legislation and proper zoning to ensure that the right kind of development comes that is cohesive for the short and long term plans of the area.

Recently, Harry Thomas has posted on various list serves about a Rhode Island Ave Task Force meeting that occurred this past Tuesday evening. He claimed that he made the announcement at the last PCDC meeting, which I and several other attendees who were there and stayed longer than Thomas did, don’t recall him ever announcing the meeting date or time. In fact, even the Friends of RIA, who represent one of the largest resident groups in the area, was not invited to the Task Force meeting, even after being assured by the Thomas that they would be. Councilmember Thomas refuses to respond to my emails asking about the details of the meeting, I guess, because he assumes he is above responding to his constituents directly.

People in Ward 5 need to stop nodding their heads and passively letting Thomas and other elected officials get away with touting that they helped bring this or that to the Ward and instead start shaking their head in acknowledgement that it is their failure of vision and leadership that is bringing us strip clubs, nearly every pot cultivation and dispensary, badly planned developments, and traffic nightmares, just to name a few.

I hope that Harry Thomas Jr. finally gains the impression of what having true vision and leadership for redevelopment means. I really do. There are great things happening with residents finally recognizing that they need to organize and be their own voice. I have worked across this country on development and redevelopment projects, from California to New England to Florida to Canada, and I have consulted with residents on taking control of their community because of their elected leadership’s failure to be legislatively brave and plan for the kind of community their constituents want.

I am encouraged by the organization of residents and their ideas. Old and new residents are coming together across this Ward to make things better. I look forward to Harry Thomas Jr. joining them in this journey. So far, he is failing.

By the way, in regards to questions on a local list serve about the RIA Task Force meeting that Harry Thomas Jr organized and failed to let any real residents groups know about, Stephanie Rones, Executive Director of PCDC, had a simple answer (which I can hardly argue wasn’t the real intent):

If they wanted you to be there, you would hae been invited.

Yep. That’s what we thought.

6 thoughts on “Vision is more than a list

  1. Yeah, I’m looking forward to seeing any notes from that RIA Task Force meeting.

    There are big and exciting things happening in our area, and not just from an economic standpoint. While I recognize that there are multiple reasons for concern from the long-time residents of the area, there has to be a way to bring to RIA a level of economic prosperity and diversity, while maintaining the “feel” of the good traits of the area. Everybody wants jobs, nobody wants crime – that’s something we can all agree on, I believe. I just hope that EVERYone can work together on this, as opposed to viciously protecting what they perceive as their own personal fiefdoms. Our council members, ANC representatives, and other community leaders should recognize that in this era of the Occupy movement, it is imperative to embrace the collective energy and ideas of the entire community. “Business as usual” is no longer acceptable.

  2. I think most of us have thought that Great Streets, now RIA Small Area Plan is the vision. Everyone participated in it, both new and older residents.

    Yesterday, I just found out that the new Metro garage at Rhode Island Avenue is now open. Why hasn’t any of these groups informed us of this, or even our council member or ANC reps? I have no faith in any of these groups. Usually when they find out anything, it’s too late.

    Looks like Harry Thomas is invoking the cardinal law: “It’s easier to seek forgiveness than to seek permission.” That’s probably why nobody is properly informed of anything, whether it’s development meetings or redistricting? And why hasn’t the RhodeIslandAvenueInsider tackled the redistricting issue?

    1. OMG! I was just saying the other day, “why didn’t anyone announce, send a mailer, anything to let the residents know that the metro garage was now open.”

      Just like the grand opening of TD Bank – who knew about it? No one. It just so happened that I was taking my mom to the store and there was the grand opening celebration yet we knew nothing about it.

      I purchased a condo in this area five years ago and have yet to be invited to a meeting, no one ever welcomed me or anything. Hopefully, the area will turn around for the better but I may not be around to see it.

      I think living in Montgomery County (which by no means is perfect) may have given me a higher expectation about what a community should be. The moment I moved there I felt accepted and included – like a real resident, a real part of the community.

      I didn’t feel that when I moved to ward 5 and it’s only gotten worse. Yes I know a couple of the residents and even chat with a few but I feel no real connection to this place. After five years, I feel more isolated than when I first moved in.

      1. I am writing up a piece on Rhode Island Row concerning where they currently are, etc. I spoke with the developer of the project who is promising to send me constant update moving forward. I hope to have something for all f you in the near future. Like all of you, I get my information from government officials, readers, and seeing things myself. If you have tips, please send them my way!! By the way, Pat, have you joined Friends of RIA? Go to…they have happy hours and love meeting new people!

  3. Pat,

    You’re right! Things have gotten a lot worse. Most of us have stuck it out, through the ebbs and flows. Just hold on! It may get worse, but eventually it gets better, even if just comes back to what it was like before you came.

    If you have any free time today before 2 pm today, there’s a new 7-Eleven that has opened on RIA near Eastern. They are giving away free food samples, and 11 cent coffee/slurpees, etc. Even just these little things, nobody tells us about!

    1. Thanks woodie. As you have in the past, send me tips of things happening. I don’t have a magic ball to see everything going on. I work full time and post only what i see and people send me.

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