Tuesday, September 27, 2011

PBCCA President's Message

Sept 2011

Years ago, when my wife, Marcia, and I started looking to move from our Rosedale neighborhood home, I stumbled on the Penn Branch neighborhood. We were enamored by the shear beauty of the wide, tree-lined, streets; the expansiveness and utility of the parks; the natural security of the cul-de-sac like character of the community; and its location in proximity to the city, Capitol Hill and National Airport. I was born and raised in Oakland, California and for me the similarity between our present home and the home I was raised in California was comforting. So, we bit, and it was a great decision to buy.

So, by extension, the logical next step is to protect the decisions of all of the folks who made similar decisions either 60 years ago or 60 minutes ago regarding investments in this idyllic community. So, what do I mean when I say, protect our investment? For Marcia and I it’s expressed in the context of our home and its upkeep; the maintenance of the roads and other infrastructure that surround our home, including the bucolic parks that dominated our enclave; our response to the potential imposition of policies that due to scarcity, weigh extraordinarily heavy on this community versus other neighborhoods; and the lack of both public and commercial services that require our neighbors to venture to other neighborhoods, wards, cities, and/or states to spend our hard earned dollars. It means that there is a premium charged, a quiet tax that is required each time we want to go to the store to get some eggs.

So, over the next 9 or 10 months at least, and potentially over the next three years, in this column, I will lift up numerous issues of importance to this community through my eyes. Hopefully, my treatment of issues in this space will spur debate that will ultimately form the basis for a range of solutions to many of the problems that this community faces.

By the way, are you aware of who represents Penn Branch on the Advisory Neighborhood Commissions[1] (ANC), our natural duly elected working partners at the neighborhood level? The answer is Robert Richards. The other answer is Phil Hammond. Now, in all due respect to Mr. Hammond, Mr. Richards lives in Penn Branch and that’s important. Mr. Hammond doesn’t. So, the question I pose is, why can’t or why doesn’t the Penn Branch neighborhood have one representative. Many of you know that we’re in the middle of redrawing the boundaries of the ANC’s in the aftermath of the census and decennial realignment (that occurs every ten years). And, as many of you know, the process is full of politics. But, we have an opportunity to address the issue of single representation for our contiguous neighborhood. Again, it only occurs every ten years! So, in an attempt to respond to the aforementioned question, I drafted a proposed ANC district with a Penn Branch focus. I dutifully submitted it to be addressed in advance of the next Ward 7 task force committee meeting that was scheduled for September 22, 2011. The Committee didn’t address it. So, the questions I pose is, why shouldn’t Penn Branch have one representative and what are the interests of those who oppose such a notion? Please let me know your thoughts.

And finally, I have a few thoughts regarding the recently past Penn Branch Citizens Civic Association elections and the need to regroup and move forward. We are all neighbors seeking in our own ways to lift up our beautiful community. We may not agree on how to address the issues that confront us, but we are in agreement that ultimately the people of the community are the last arbiters. They are the ones whose interest we serve. And, yes we volunteer for this punishment! However, those of us in leadership have a fiduciary responsibility to each neighbor, and by extension, each mill, cent, or dollar that we as neighbors invest in the Association activities.

So, the rough and tumble nature of the election is past. I am urging that we come together as a neighborhood, to pool our meager resources for the betterment of our constituents. I am counting on our leadership team, inclusive of the past members and present members, to come together to make the decisions that will promote the Penn Branch neighborhood.

James J. Ferguson

[1] The Advisory Neighborhood Commissions consider a wide range of policies and programs affecting their neighborhoods, including traffic, parking, recreation, street improvements, liquor licenses, zoning, economic development, police protection, sanitation and trash collection, and the District's annual budget.

In each of these areas, the intent of the ANC legislation is to ensure input from an advisory board that is made up of the residents of the neighborhoods that are directly affected by government action. The ANCs are the body of government with the closest official ties to the people in a neighborhood.

The ANCs present their positions and recommendations on issues to various District government agencies, the Executive Branch, and the Council. They also present testimony to independent agencies, boards, and commissions, usually under the rules of procedure specific to those entities. By law, the ANCs may also present their positions to Federal agencies.

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