- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 16, 2000

Mother and PTA leader "GG" Goode and other articulate voices about town have two questions for Mayor Williams and the D.C. Council. Both have to do with recreation, and one of the two could probably be addressed to Police Chief Ramsey as well. These "concerned citizens," as the District's elected officials like to call them, want answers at this particular time because the nice weather is drawing more children out of doors and putting more ne'er-do-wells in their direct path.

Mrs. Goode and her like-minded counterparts want to know when the city will turn on outside lights at neighborhood recreation centers and ball fields. They also want to know when the city is going to stop warehousing children at recreational and community centers and start building character vis-a-vis structured programs.

As an example, Mrs. Goode looked to the recreation center with which she is most acquainted, Langdon Park and Recreation Center off Rhode Island Avenue N.E. in Ward 5. "This is a great center and great park," Mrs. Goode told this page one recent evening as she mapped out plans to push the Williams administration and the council. "We've got a little bit of everything," she said, pointing to the play area for youngsters, basketball and tennis courts, swimming pool, picnic areas, soccer and baseball field, and small amphitheater for outdoor concerts. "There are several computers inside and indoor play areas," she said, but "no structured activities."

Indeed, Langdon's facilities are so vast and well-maintained the mayor used them as the backdrop for a press conference last year to announce the appointment of his new recreation chief, Robert Newman. The mayor even took an impromptu dip in Langdon's pool. "Haven't heard from him since," one parent said.

Frankly, Mrs. Goode and other parents are not asking for much. All they said they really and truly want is for Mr. Williams and the council to deliver what their predecessors promised: a rapport with the "citizens" to develop organized activities inside and around-the-clock lighting outside to deter crime. One would think turning on lights would be as simple as flicking a few switches. Or, better still, tying in sensors that would automatically shut lights on and off at dusk and dawn.

Actually, a number of outdoor school facilities have no lights at all, forcing student-athletes to miss classes in the fall and winter so they can play and practice before sunset. Langdon parents and neighbors have been urging the council to turn on the high-intensity lights since three bodies were found lined up in the park after an overnight execution-style slaying several years ago. The problems then, as now, are the druggies, prostitutes and other nightly creatures who conduct their dirty deeds under the cover of darkness. Bald Eagle and Randall recreation centers in Southwest have crime-related problems, too. So do Benning Stoddert and Fort Stanton in Southeast, and Petworth and Kennedy playgrounds in Northwest.

As for the lack of programs, all parents are asking is for city and recreation officials to work with them. You know, to develop a plan and a year-round calendar for arts and drama, sports, education-centered activities and field trips. Day-care centers and schools do as much year in and year out. It helps children know what is expected of them and when. It disciplines them. It adds texture to their lives; it helps them meet certain expectations.

Mr. Newman has said he, too, adheres to that philosophy and visualizes the broader benefit as well. "Kids grow up to become families, and families grow into communities, and communities make a vibrant city," he has said. In fact on more than one occasion he has also said his focus is on parks, properties and programs. Yet, only parents notice that Mr. Newman appears to be stumbling over that last "p."

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