BNCA Meeting Notes
June 16 2020
Officers present: Dan Schramm, Kathy Jacquart, Terence Hardy, Fred Jackson, Renè McCray, Elise Scott, Helen LaCroix
Dan: Welcome everyone, I see 25 or 26 people here, it’s great to see. I’m Dan Schramm, president of BNCA, Rene, Terence, Fred, Helen, Elise, and Kathy are here. I recognize many members, it’s wonderful to have you here. We voted a few months ago to conduct business by Zoom. I ask people to be respectful in using functionality. You should be able to unmute yourself if you have a question. Mute yourself unless speaking. You can also use the chat function, make comments, or post links.We’ll have a little broader discussion than usual on some topics today, I’ll moderate as best I can. I do think it’s important to have conversations on these topics.
The Board discussed the agenda and felt it was important that BNCA discuss both the Comprehensive Plan and Black Lives Matter. We felt it was important to look to the community to get input on what role BNCA should be playing in these discussions.
But before that, let’s have the Treasurer’s Report. I’ll turn it over to Terence.
Terence: Thanks. Here’s the treasurer’s report for June, reflecting activity in May. We had a starting balance of $4,086.74. We had some income, a renewal check for $10 and multiple deposits via PayPal. We had no expenses and an ending cash balance of $4,397.62. That’s 5 new members and 20 renewing members, for a total of 227 members. That’s my report for May, and the ending balance matches our TD Bank statement.
Member: I move to submit this report to membership for approval. Seconded. No questions or opposition.
Dan: The report is accepted. Thank you Terance.
Dan: First, old business. In the last meeting we passed two resolutions, one to urge Congress to fully fund DC as though it were a state in COVID relief legislation. That went to Congressional leaders and the White House. We passed a resolution urging the DC Council to fully fund early childhood education efforts. It was brought by Zachary Parker who is the Ward 5 representative on the DC School Board. We were happy to pass it. I emphasized that we feel that funding these programs is an important priority, and that investing in children and communities, and the future of the city through people, even in times of budget and health crisis, is a priority for BNCA.
On May 27 we had a successful event with Brookland Middle School. We have been working with them for a year on oral history of the neighborhood through eyes of longer term residents, inspired by Anacostia Museum Right to the City exhibit which featured Brookland activism on the highway. We engaged these Middle School students and 10 long-term residents. Plans for larger public event were dashed because of the pandemic. We did a Zoom event, which was very successful. Half of narrators joined and shared experiences and stories about the neighborhood. Students shared stories too. I recorded the event and need to figure out what to do about it and with the recordings of the interviews.
We completed a fundraiser for Pathways to Housing DC. We used gofundme and we sent the money on to Pathways to Housing. They expressed a great deal of gratitude. We encourage support for them because they are in Brookland
Any additions or corrections to this report of old business?
Ra: DC History Center might be interested in your recording of the oral history event. I can help with that.
Helen: Thank you for your work.
Dan: It was a group effort,with help from Caroline, Fred, Takari. But thanks.
I see Councilmember McDuffie has joined. Welcome CM McDuffie. I thought this would be a great opportunity to check in and to better understand his vision and priorities.
Note: the following reflects our recording secretary’s efforts to capture the main points of the Council Member’s remarks. There may be errors in the following and it should not be assumed that the following accurately reflects precisely what was said. Please contact BNCA or the CM’s office if you have any questions or would like follow-up.
CM: Thank you for the invitation. I do want to acknowledge Clyde Blassengale. I intended to do this earlier this year [when he stepped down as BNCA treasurer]. I want to publicly acknowledge him and his wife. He’s been so reliable for BNCA, and an asset to the community and also a fellow Bison.
We are in Phase I of reopening and there’s a dashboard for reopening Phase 2. As of yesterday 9k cases, 555 deaths, 74% are Black residents. Pandemic is clearly having a disproportionate impact on Black residents. I encourage everyone to get tested, there’s free testing Monday-Friday. You can find details at coronavirus.dc.gov
Council passed a comprehensive police reform bill last Tuesday, built on efforts from the Judiciary Committee. As you know with the NEAR Act, body camera bills passed. But obviously with recent killings people are demanding additional reforms to prevent the unnecessary loss of life.
The new bill prohibits the use of neck restraint, and requires review of body cam footage by officers before reports are made. We got that back in bill after it was taken out from earlier legislation and I’m glad about that. It strengthens DC’s use of force standards. It expressly enumerates conditions required for use of force. It requires the mayor to release recordings of officers involved in use of force cases within 72 hours of the incident. There has only been one released since body cams were instituted. By July 1 all recordings will be released.
We’re also adopting a budget for next fiscal year. Mayor has enhancements for MPD in her budget. There’s an 11% decrease for NEAR and funding for Cure the Streets — one time funding was not renewed. We’re scheduled to pass the final budget in July.
I also sponsored the REACH Act – Racial Equity to Achieve Results. We need to address systemic racism in all institutions. I want to get that funded through a budget process and am trying to schedule mark-up on that. Council’s business for the most part has been COVID or budget oversight. We had a hearing though and we’re looking forward to getting that one through. Establishes Office of Race Equity and requires a race equity assessment of government actions, requires training and RE performance measures.
I’ve talked a lot and will answer questions.
Dan: There’s a debate forming around the question of whether mere police reform is the right way to go about the issue of police brutality. Others are saying that the problems are intrinsic to policing in America and that racism is systemic and talking about reforms is inadequate. I’m curious to hear more about your views about where the city should be going.
CM: I’m a former prosecutor in PG County and a trial attorney. I investigated cases involving use of force and worked with experts. There have been calls to defund the police, it’s not my phrase. When I hear that phrase I know there are those who say get rid of the department and do something else. That’s not what I think. I think about communities that have been overpoliced, and models of policing without proper accountability measures to see how well things are going. Fundamentally there is tension between police and communities of color. Let’s look at ways we can reform MPD in a way that adds to public safety in communities and overpolicing. People want transparency, community, policing, accountability. NEAR Act wasn’t implemented with fidelity with regard to community policing. There’s support for that–people want cops to be part of the community. It’s different from showing up adversarial, antagonistic. Many residents who are new to an urban neighborhood can be too quick to call 911. They don’t understand norms of the community they moved into. There may be noise, people hanging out, music, but those things are not illegal. Important to look at what it means to be safe in different communities and what causes crime. Some of the dialog is not constructive. I don’t want to pit agencies against each other. We can address this issue in a way that is constructive. We should identify resources that can be invested to get to root causes. Mayor’s budget could use more resources in other types of programs as well.
Dan: ONSE cuts are a step backward in terms of what you’ve been advocating for that. Do you have specific thoughts?
CM: I have said and continue to say I want full funding for ONSE. I support finding cuts in budget if needed to do that. Don’t want to pit agencies against one another. But we should look at MPD because it’s huge. $6.5 million for ONSE vs. half a billion for MPD. I want people to recognize there have to be improvements in how we do violence prevention. We’re seeing some successes, particularly pathways program, interventions at HS level. NEAR incorporated interruption models from Gary Slutkin in Chicago and Richmond CA. OAG is implementing Cure the Streets with separate funding. They’re two different programs, and we need to bring them together so there aren’t gaps, and the programming is more seamless and integrated. Should be consolidated into one office. If the interrupter with Cure the Streets makes progress in preventing violence, where do I direct that person go next? One agency has a pathways program and one does not. Public health approach needs to be expanded and integrated.
Renè: Some responsibilities that cops have don’t fit into the purview of violent crimes and intervention. Should there be a way to look at the role of a police officer? Some things that escalate don’t fit into the category of violent crime. We see conflict between citizens and cops in things that aren’t violent crimes.
CM: we have cops respond to scenarios where they aren’t prepared to- e.g. a mental health scenario. Is it best for MPD to respond in those circumstances? NEAR act embedded mental health professionals with MPD in a pilot program. It’s a legitimate question as to whether police should respond under those circumstances. Your point is precisely the type of things we’re talking about. Goes beyond MPD, requires conversation in the community about not responding. Question is when do we need police, what happens if we don’t call them.
Renè: There are opportunities to look at exactly what happens when you call 911. It’s a difference between safety and security issues and we’re failing to note the difference. May not require highly trained cops to come in and deal with someone disturbing the peace. I have cop friends and they say they get called for things they don’t need to be called in.
CM: DC is a segregated city. Segregation in housing contributes to overpolicing. City is divided along racial lines and culture where people call the police. Look, I’ve called the police. In some places people call the police for everything. Loud music for example. My buddy had a son’s graduation party and it was loud. In our community it’s a celebration. If you’re new to our community you may not be used to it and if you have small kids you might be annoyed. We had a situation a few weeks ago with a candlelight vigil. Do we need the police to respond? We don’t.
Renè: We do the police a disservice in expecting them to respond to every single incident. It’s not their purview. Opportunity to look at how we want to use police, how we can deal with these situations, not always having to call an armed law enforcement person.
Member: As a new member to the Brookland neighborhood I can say that it is quite unsettling the number of people walking around with mental health issues. While there hasn’t been a violent issue perhaps but the constant yelling and agitation is problematic. What is Ward 5 doing for these individuals because calling the police is not an option but clearly this is a public safety concern. Perhaps there shouldn’t be a dependency on the police but what is Ward 5 doing or able to do?
Dan: There is the Department of Behavioral Health, it’s different from ONSE but trying to play more of a role, trying to respond. I have personal contact with Travis Hughes, he’s an excellent government employee, he goes into the street, talks to anyone who needs help. You can email or call DBH when you have those situations. They have a phone number (202) 442-4202. Or email me and I can make a connection with Mr. Hughes.
CM: Not enough people are aware of what DBH does. We did a community walk in Bloomingdale and Truxton Circle, we invited MPD, and the officer was clear on mental health and substance abuse needs. At Florida and North Capitol there are issues with substance abuse. DMH and DBH and MPD, we know it’s inappropriate for them to respond. It’s ideal for them to respond in tandem as a unit, they do it occasionally but not enough. At Benning, H, and New York Avenue men’s shelter similar supports are required. That kind of expertise is better. They don’t have as many responders in those departments as we do cops. We’re accustomed to a system of policing where people call 911 and get an armed officer.
Mara: CM, you mentioned a pilot program where people went in tandem and what was the result? Is the Council considering any changes to the police union contract? Contract allows cops with a history of negative interaction with the public to stay on the force when they should be fired.
CM: I would need to get back to you on results from the crime prevention team. We do have provisions on how discipline happens and the role of the police review board. NEAR Act gave more authority to review boards to do investigations. A lot of leverage lies in the CBAs, I do agree. We’re not out for anyone’s job, but it is appropriate to review and assess how well things are working. Our hands shouldn’t be tied when we’re trying to make things better.
Kate Wulff: there’s a lot of research showing that investing in housing is a better choice for people dealing with substance abuse. Is the district looking into housing? And the incident on Swann st with peaceful protestors. I don’t understand how that happened and what the repercussions will be. Peaceful protestors’ rights were violated.
CM: you raise a good point about investments in housing. I don’t think we have to have either/or. It can be both/and. We have made significant investments in DC and it doesn’t seem obvious with high cost of housing, there’s been a lot of work, working on expanding Housing Production Trust Fund. Supportive housing are great investments and we have analysis showing they are helpful. Stable housing provides environment to support people
On Swann St–CM Allen [Chair of Judiciary Committee] is looking at that specifically. I raised concerns myself. I was at a protest against DJT’s appearance in Ward 5. I was quoted as saying I saw a difference in how MPD and Federal officers handled peaceful protestors . I didn’t know about what happened on Swann St when I made that remark, the investigation is ongoing. I saw one report of a protestor trying to enter someone else’s home. I heard more about people running for their safety and trying to get shelter.
KW: I hope the district will pursue it because the fact that people were held on that street is a concern, military tactics were used in a civilian environment.
CM: Thanks. There were a couple videos of incidents in Trinidad and Ivy City. Police were involved in actual fights, brawls with residents. We want MPD to look at that. Didn’t get as much attention. Raises issues about certain types of tactics. Crime Suppression team looking for someone who had a warrant. It’s out of control when an officer interacted with a young man smoking pot. It’s illegal, but how do you handle it? They have training in de-escalation. Shouldn’t end up in a brawl. I don’t have all the facts but when I see things like that it undermines constructive police community relations.
Dan: On the Comprehensive Plan. Work on CP on hold for the time being, that’s been the thought. Do you agree with that sentiment?
CM: We took up the framework last year in council, I worked hard to make sure Racial Equity was included in CP framework. To make sure DC is more just and fair. Not as much work has been done since pandemic. I doubt there will be much done before fall. I haven’t spoken to the Chair about it while we’re knee deep in budget We might do hearings and other business that’s been on hold and if it comes up we might look at it. ANCs and civics and others wanted more time to make comments on things. Time for others to look at it before we take it up.
Dan: I want to note 2 discrete things we want fixed in the CP. One is Brookland Green. Draft that went to Council did not identify green as park space. We haven’t heard much about what’s going on there. The silence is concerning. We want to see some movement or guarantee that trees, greenspace will be balanced. Balance mixed use infill development with concern for green and park space. I think everyone agrees it should be preserved. This should be designated in the Future Land Use map, Office of Planning’s map markings effectively bulldozed the whole area with a high density mixed use designation. This isn’t hard, just mark a little green square to show it should be park space, this is within the power of the Council.
CM: I will consider that. I’m aware of the deep and rich history on this issue. I told WMATA that even before they issued RFP.
Dan: On another topic. Developers have already reached out to us regarding the area on Reed St, not the matter of right ongoing construction, but north of that, where the trolleys park, former Manna housing, up to Franklin. All owned by a single owner, they have very big plans. We have begun the process with neighbors to figure out our views as a community. The area got marked for high density residential/PDR in the Mayor’s draft– this isup to and abutting existing two story low density housing stock. What we’re hearing from representatives of the property owners is maybe something we can get to yes on, but allowing high density all the way through the property is a great concern. It would allow highest density usage all the way up to where people are. That would be a 9 story building right next to single family homes. This is an acute spot where it would be good for you and the Council to look at targeted adjustments in the map. This is not about rejecting development but we want appropriately scaled development, higher density closer to the metro station, scaling down to lower density by the houses. We also want the CP to reflect that this development should be done as a PUD. Developers are open to that. We agree with them that this should be memorialized in the Plan.
CM: did BNCA suggest amendments to CP for that area?
Dan: we suggested moderate density mixed use. We’re in agreement with developers that industrial land doesn’t make sense from an urban planning perspective. But as developers, we can expect they’ll push for the highest density they can get and we think traffic and urban planning principles suggest we should be thinking about mixed use integrated and scaled appropriately into the neighborhood. The representatives have said some positive things that sound responsive to these concerns. But the City needs to be involved. We think it would be appropriate in this instance to get very tailored with the map.
CM: I’m familiar with that area, Brookland Press and other side of Evart Street, houses already there, and a huge monstrosity in the middle of the block.
Dan: we have the opportunity to do cool things there, we’re open to that. The concern is that we could get railroaded if the CP is too loose.
Fred: A question about 14th and RIA. There’s supposed to be a street through Brookland Manor, $160k targeted for triangle park. More plans associated with the fire house and the lot developed at 13th and RIA. Do you have any information of these plans?
CM: I don’t have any information on that. I put that in the budget that 2 years ago and the intent was the community would work with DDOT to do something to invite prosocial usage of that park. Then a recent homicide in that area, which was tragic. I engaged the victim directly as CM. He was a paid staffer. We have to circle back, and need to see that money is still in budget.
Nolan: there’s something on the capital plan[??] for the firehouse and I’ll share it with Dan.
Dan: DGS manages it but it’s DPR land. DPR did have plans to present to community and then radio silence for a year. Then they were ready to share what they wanted to do and then pandemic hit.
CM: we’ll look into it and get back to you.
Teresa Perkins: There are drones flying ahead. Also since we’re not a state do we have rights to prevent the US military from coming into DC?
CM: As a federal district, we do not have rights, we don’t have authority that a state would have. Usually there is closely coordination between Homeland Security and the city. Not sure about drone activity you saw, we can try to make an inquiry. We can look into it.
Michele May: I work with people deaf and hard of hearing. What relationships do you have with deaf community?
CM: I interact with Gallaudet University and I’ve hosted events there, and have talked to them about development and making sure development is accessible. There’s certainly room for improvement so if you have a suggestion I want to hear it. Website is not as accessible as we thought it was. As a civil rights attorney I take that seriously.
Hi Clyde! Shout out for Clyde.
Dan: Thank you CM, we’ll let you go for the night. We may go over time. Don’t want to rush important conversations. Board is looking for ideas or suggestions on what BNCA should be doing. We’ve supported ONSE but haven’t taken a vote on that, should we? Also curious to hear what people think about these topics?
Clyde: I like restructuring or reform rather than defund. I like the term community safety — more of a role for the community being responsible for its own public safety. I agree with the Mayor when she said the Council was too hasty– PD and the union didn’t have an opportunity to weigh in on the bill. And no public hearings. We need a different mentality than force mentality. Police have a role but force is not the answer in 90% of the cases. Needs to get weaved in to policy and practice.
Renè: +1 to Clyde. Lots of things police respond to that don’t require the level of training that police often get. Other areas of specialty. Deaf and hard of hearing, mental illness. Police respond to stuff that’s not really typically a policing role. What is it that we want officers to do? Safety, social, security component. We think a single cop can do all the components and they just can’t. As BNCA is supporting the neighborhood, how do we narrow our focus for the police force?
Terence: a lot of situations where just the idea of someone arriving with a gun on a holster escalates the situation further than it should go.
Ra: all agree that police are tasked to do things they shouldn’t do. But are they willing to release funds so that other services can be funded?
Renè: As we think about and envision what police role is we could talk about whose role it is.
Ra: we know the answer, but they don’t have funds or human power.
Renè: The job is totally vital, we’re giving them responsibility
Ra: we’re giving them more money?
Renè: look at how other entities are spending their money? Look at it comprehensively.
Michele: Cross communication between government agencies doesn’t always work. Half force gets crisis intervention training. But doesn’t mean that additional resources are brought to bear.
Renè: nobody was in charge of 9/11. Hard to connect to all dots.
Michael: Thank you Ra for orienting the conversation to dollars and cents. I’m a public defender in PG County. I have never had so little faith in long term viability of police. Many clients are juveniles in DC. I wasn’t always an abolitionist. I see what America is waking up to in every discovery on my desk and my clients’ experience. We have questions about who we are empowering to solve questions. Police have outsized positions of power politically and position within our discourse. I wanted to hear more expansive reimagining from the CM. It’s not ideal for the police and mental health professionals to respond in tandem, presence of someone with a gun can make things worse, not just in situations involving mental health but also stressful situations, when anyone shows up with a gun. I want us to consider that a stronger message has to be sent to police and — they’re not inevitable, we shouldn’t let them be inevitable. Dollars are finite and that’s the only power we have,
Clyde: Police dept has to be able to get rid of bad cops. It was reported that CM Mendelson said that if the same thing happened in DC that happened to Floyd that MPD would not have been able to fire Chauvin. That is a very significant problem. Whatever reform it has to include the ability for police to terminate people who have shown they can’t cut it.
Renè: Also business people–what does that look like? Entities involved in that? What about RIA by the liquor store, how is that policed–is that appropriate action?
Penelope: I want us to look at, why are we calling the police? We have our own reasoning, why do we need to call the police? I’ve been here since the early 80s, we knew each other, if someone had a party they would tell people. We feel we can’t go to a neighbor. Some kind of programming where police get involved in community projects and we can handle it ourselves we can handle issues without calling police. What are ways we can be involved with each other so the police aren’t having to come in to fix something for us, they’re part of our solution that we came up. We know who we need to call. For newer residents people think so and so is an issue but we know that person. Community has to sit together.
Fred: police need to feel comfortable that residents support them. Especially between Brentwood and Brookland – you have gang members controlling territory. Complex relationships between all players. We don’t all know our neighbors. Police officers need to feel comfortable that their interactions are appropriate, they’re dealing with hard core characters. We have so many teenagers, if they feel that they’re not being protected from bullies, they will take on characteristics of a bully. You can move too fast if you don’t understand the complexities of the environment. We have a lot of work to do.
Renè: we need to figure out what are the issues that BNCA and that may mean we need to reach out.
Dan: Fred raises a good point about legitimate concerns for safety in an area where there have been numerous shootings. It seems we are talking about a few different things, and How do we articulate these things together? For one, there’s work for the community to do on not calling 911. Figuring out how to knock on a neighbor’s door. And then there is the need to work on root causes and address cycles of crime and violence, such as CM McDuffie has called for with the NEAR Act and ONSE, rather than just putting more money into the police. How do we address issues so people don’t end up in drugs and guns rather than just send police with guns? And then third, What does a city need when you want a forceful response? It seems like there is a narrow but appropriate role for police intervention.
Renè: advocacy in BNCA is about crime and safety, but it should be a broader discussion. Look at the BNCA website and look at advocacy role and see if definition meets what we think our role should be. We should give some thought to how we should be defining our role. It focuses on the violent side but doesn’t look at smaller issues not involving violence.
Dan: This has been an excellent discussion. We’ll gather as a board, think about this more, and come back to membership with ideas. For now, need to shift gears, and welcome Nicole Clement who is a neighbor and BNCA member who will speak about the Reed St. development.
Nicole: We’re looking at 9 different parcels on Reed Street, it’s really a large parcel. The neighbors backing up this property have 2 story row houses that have been around for 100 years. We are generally supportive of transit oriented infill in this area, but it needs to respect and compatible with our properties and the neighborhood. We agree that higher density makes sense in this immediate area. We’re likely going to see this be a PUD process–what we’re working on now is how do we develop changes to CP and Future Land Use Map. Currently the whole area is designated PDR (production distribution repair – ie, industrial). The proposal the Mayor sent to the Council for the Comp Plan now has it marked as mixed use high density residential/PDR. That’s too dense and allows for 9 story buildings right up to our backyards. We want to push a step down that broader CP talks about, encouraging integration with existing communities, trying to increase housing for families. We would suggest looking at parcels in 3 different chunks–the part abutting row homes would be lower density, then medium than higher as you approach the RI Ave station and away from the existing housing. Cautiously optimistic that we can have good discussion. Sharing tonight not because any official vote, just to keep you all apprised.
Reed St connected directly to Franklin, lots of concerns about traffic patterns, parking, etc. Focus on FLUM but that will also be a concern. Stepping down in 3 part fashion, NE area would be lowest density, SW higher, moderate in the middle. Lowest would be 40 feet.
Dan: This is consistent with BNCA advocacy on Comp Plan, particularly for this area, where we generally have advocated moderate density mixed use residential/commercial. We’re not ready to take a formal vote on this tonight though. This may be prelude to a vote in July.
Fred: I like the idea of the scaling.
Ms. Kellogg: please save Evarts St. Leave my street alone please. Put it on the agenda. I’ll get my membership active.
Ra: June 24th ANC 5B meeting, 6:30, go anc5b.org you can get webex link, guest is DMV to talk about backlog, and someone from the tax office, why small businesses can no longer survive.