By the Burleith Citizens Association Board
To cap off a civic-minded week, about 70 Burleith Citizens Association members and guests assembled at Duke Ellington School of the Arts for the 2018 annual meeting on Thursday, November 8. Ellington CEO Tia Powell Harris welcomed the community. She announced the school seeks community participation in a series called “35th and R.” Harris invited everyone to the school’s holiday celebration in December, and for those who can’t attend the festivities, all are welcome to sign up online for a tour. Ellington is truly a gem of the neighborhood, and a Saturday afternoon would be well spent exploring the white-walled, color-filled school dedicated to the arts with a rich history.
BCA President Eric Langenbacher outlined the highlights of a successful year for the BCA. (Click here for a PDF of his PowerPoint presentation.) The BCA hosted many fun events like the summer picnic and kids’ Halloween party, and they also spearheaded community conversations such as the nearly two-year-long dialogue surrounding historic designation. The historic designation discussion ended after over 70 percent of survey respondents said they did not support pursuing the classification. Additionally, members of the BCA participated in the Fair Skies Coalition, a group seeking relief from airplane noise. The board continues to formally monitor the development at MedStar Georgetown Hospital and the green alley initiative affecting many Burleith alleyways. Throughout 2019 the group will further explore changes to traffic patterns throughout the neighborhood, specifically looking at designating parts of S and T Streets as one-way. In part thanks to the heightened interest during the HD debate, BCA membership increased to 203 dues-paying members. The budget is healthy, carrying about $18,000 in reserves. The largest annual expense is the summer picnic.
Langenbacher gave a heartfelt thanks to Christopher Murphy, vice president for government relations and community engagement at Georgetown University; Paul Holder, managing partner of Town Hall and The Salt Line; and Dale Temple with Washington International School’s Primary School Campus. Murphy, Holder, and Temple’s work within and dedication to the community was recognized with community awards from the BCA.
Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans praised the neighborhood, saying it’s a great time to be in Burleith and the city. He acknowledged the District’s bond rating is now AAA. Despite the positive momentum though, Evans noted the empty storefronts along Wisconsin and M Street are a major concern for him and residents in Ward 2.
Repeating the positive theme, Mayor Muriel Bowser reiterated the bond rating Evans mentioned is an important element for the city’s healthy financial future. Because of the improved rating, DC will see huge savings on loans and products. Bowser said the state of the District is “fantastic.” The city is growing in population, which is terrific for its finances. As the city grows, new neighborhoods are being re-activated, expanding, and contributing financially. Private-sector job growth within the District is outpacing that in surrounding communities, said Bowser. Priorities for the future include keeping technology a focus for jobs and training; making further investments in schools, with investments in grades, graduation, and attendance; infrastructure improvements, including sustained capital funding for the Metro from DC and surrounding jurisdictions; improving alleys and streets across DC; taking a look at homeless encampments and how to address them; providing short-term family housing; and looking proactively at possible real estate transactions with the federal government (Franklin Square, Memorial Bridge, RFK Stadium). Bowser concluded by saying that statehood for DC is not a constitutional question, it’s partisan politics. She wants to enlist the business community in the statehood mission.
Audience members thanked the mayor and her administration for items ranging from space for the March for Our Lives protest to small business funding programs, to the airplane noise issue. Bowser faced several questions about area schools. One participant raised the concern about crowding at Wilson High School, particularly given the recent increase in enrollment at its feeder middle schools. The mayor said she wants to create another good option for families in Benjamin Banneker, increasing the number of seats at the school. She raised the possibility of an additional high school in Northwest Washington. She further noted that Ellington is not at capacity and questioned if there might be a way for the school to be dual use, both charter and public. But she cautioned it was important to increase enrollment in arts-focused students.
A few other community leaders shared updates as well. Department of Public Works Director Christopher Shorter touched on many issues which the neighborhood listserv has recently addressed. He said partially open trash cans should not receive any violations. He also said his teams are focused on parking enforcement in the area, recognizing that parking is very tight in Burleith. DPW is currently running its annual leaf collection program and preparing for a successful snow removal program.
ANC Commissioner Ed Solomon and 2nd District Police Commander Melvin Gresham both spoke about a recent uptick in concerns over safety and security given break-ins of vehicles and homes. Solomon thanked Gresham for his speedy responses and proactive engagement with the community. Gresham said programs like the camera rebate program are working and encouraged community members to investigate the program. He also reminded residents that the police will conduct safety assessments of their properties if they request one. Finally, Gresham urged neighbors to report homeless encampments, saying the police will work with various lead agencies on addressing those.
Georgetown University’s Cory Peterson listened thoughtfully to the issues facing Burleith and its many student residents. He invited the community to contact him about hosting a Bridge dinner—an event where a resident opens their home for dinner with students, and in return gets dinner on the University’s dime and a chance to interact with students. Hospital construction continues to eventually provide a much better product to the school and community. Pedestrian flow from the hospital into Burleith should remain steady, but thanks to new timing of traffic lights and pedestrian intervals those on foot should be safer in the future. An updated timeline for the MedStar construction is expected soon.
Finally, some news on Burleith’s smallest—and peskiest—residents. The District has started a pilot rat sterilization program to try to combat the pestilential problem and will continue to use dry ice in its arsenal to combat the rising rat population. Like every issue: If you see something, say something. In the case of rats, say it to your friendly 3-1-1 operators.
2018 BCA Annual Meeting Election Report Summary. Sixty-one people (49 BCA members, 12 non-members) signed in at the meeting and approved all 12 candidates by majority vote.
Officers: President Eric Langenbacher; Vice-President Nan Bell; Co-Recording Secretaries Brian Garback and Robert Russell; Corresponding Secretary Linda Brooks; and Treasurer Linda Dager Hall.
Non-Officer Directors at Large: Alicia Amling, Ann Carper, Edith Cecil, Andrew Dunnaville, Michael J. McDuffie, and Francine Steininger.