On Friday night, I went to a neighbor’s house for a “meet and greet” with Tommy Wells, who is running for reelection for the Ward 6 Member of the DC Council. I had received an email invitation and was thinking about going. Then on Friday morning, a neighbor who is just around the corner stopped by to give me an invite in case I hadn’t gotten the email. I decided it was important to go to connect with neighbors I already know and like, to meet new neighbors, to clarify my thoughts further about the upcoming primaries (don’t forget to vote!), and to get a chance to talk to my council member.
I walked the two blocks to the party with nothing in my pockets but my keys. Even though I did not know the hosts, I knew or recognized from the neighborhood at least half the people who were there. Given the purpose of the gathering, much if the discussion about what changes we would like to see in the neighborhood and the city to make our lives better (and, of course, I gave information about installing solar panels to a couple more neighbors).
Tommy Wells speaks to my condition, because he takes action in connection with his campaign slogan: “a livable, walkable city.” After we all had time to catch up with each other, Tommy’s campaign manager gave a solid introduction, talking about key accomplishments in the past four years. Tommy then talked about what he wanted to do next and fielded questions, including ones about the disposable bag 5 cent fee, which has cut down pollution in the river significantly) and what is going on with the community gardeners at Virginia Avenue v. the marines.
I, like the others, came with a specific question, but I did not ask it in the group. I was not sure that everyone present would be in agreement with me, and I did not want to cause controversy. I asked about it afterwards, when people went back to connecting and enjoying the food. Tommy recognized me, probably from my three-year stint as a member of the Board of Directors of the Eastern Market Preservation and Development Corporation, which coincided with the time when Tommy was getting noticeably serious about his engagement in politics as a way to make some visions actual.
“I gave up my car for the war,” I started. “That’s great,” replied Tommy, “thank you.” We followed up a little on living without a car in the neighborhood. Then I got to my point.
“Every time I walk to work, it feels like I am taking my life in my hands,” I continued, after thanking the District for having put a four-way stop and zebra crossings at the intersection of Constitution Ave. and 10th St., NE. “I did not want to bring this up in the group, because I was not sure how everyone would feel, but I have a few locations where I think it would be great to have a traffic camera.” I then described the intersections I had in mind. He told me that he has a task force on pedestrian issues, and that if I went to his website, I could contact Ann Phelps, who would be interested in hearing the suggestions for particular intersections. He left me know that the District is getting more cameras and the cameras are mobile, so it would not be hard to try the different intersections suggested.
“Wow, that’s wonderfully more responsive than I’d dreamed,” I thought. I thanked him and left to talk to other friends and to give other people time to ask their own questions.
These are the times when I truly love being part of a neighborhood. It is not just about being able to walk to a party two blocks from your house hosted by someone you have never met and know or recognize at least a few people and find all sorts of connections and commonalities. It is not just about sharing a way of life that holds a similar commitment to the city, even if politics, religion, work, and lifestyle in other ways are diverse. It is also about meeting people who care and have depth and out of a true calling for service truly give of themselves to make things better for all of us.