- The Washington Times - Monday, October 4, 2004

As the Nina’s Dandy cruised past the updated homes of Bolling Air Force Base, the Matthew Henson Center, the sand stacks under the Frederick Douglass Bridge and the suddenly lucrative industrial site of the proposed baseball stadium, D.C. native and historian Carl Cole said “a lot has happened in the last 10 days” along the banks of the Anacostia River.

But Mr. Cole, a human resources development consultant who promotes arts and sailing activities east of the river, encouraged people “not to look back but to be futurist” and get involved in the planning and implementation of the Southwest and Southeast waterfront developments to transform this once-barren and forgotten land.

Mr. Cole made his optimistic get-on-board advisory comments during the 21st anniversary luncheon cruise hosted by the Anacostia Coordinating Council (ACC) on Saturday afternoon.

“Let’s be futuristic, because we are on the cusp of a great historic change,” he said.

The ACC is an umbrella group that exists primarily to bring together nonprofit organizations, nongovernmental agencies and developers to share information and resources, and to support community outreach projects that are designed to improve the quality of life east of the river.

Through the association, for example, Mr. Cole was able to work with the National Maritime Heritage Foundation to start a sailing program for D.C. youth. Their efforts also fostered the local weekly newspaper, East of the Anacostia.

Unlike the ACC cruises in past years — when individuals, agency representatives or government officials held “open mike” sessions to take turns discussing their concerns or projects — this year’s three-hour boat ride from Alexandria to Georgetown and back was more like “a family reunion,” Mr. Cole said. About 200 people partied and feasted on a preview Thanksgiving turkey-ham-yams-and-stuffing dinner.

“I never get a chance to talk to Frieda Murray [of the Anacostia Garden Club] or Arrington Dixon [chairman of the ACC] much, but this time we got a chance to just enjoy the day,” the erudite Mr. Cole said.

On the other hand, Robert Siegel, a businessman and landowner in the industrial Southwest area slated to be gobbled up by the city for a new baseball stadium, was not as pleased with the social atmosphere. Although he had fun and said it was “exciting” to talk to people such as D.C. Council member David A. Catania, Mr. Siegel had been expecting to question D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams, who did not attend owing to an illness.

Several Williams administra-tion staffers, such as Lafayette Barnes, passed out literature that listed the benefits of a baseball stadium, but he was not welcomed by many, including those at Mr. Siegel’s table.

No matter, Virginia “First Mother” Williams sang “God Bless America.” The overcast skies didn’t dampen spirits as D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, dressed in an artsy pants ensemble; former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, sporting a bearded “Hollywood look”; and Daniel Hudson, the new principal of Ballou High School, wearing a blue business suit, joined in the “Booty Call,” and “Electric Slide” dance lines.

Not to be outdone, lively Phillip Pannell, who should be dubbed “Mr. Ward 8,” treated everyone to a display of his sassy salsa steps and Gina Smith, president of Ballou’s Parent-Teacher Association, made a pitch to guests, too: “If you see a child on the streets after nine o’clock [in the morning] would you please call somebody so we can go check it out.”

The children present, many of whom are involved in the growing YMCA programs in Anacostia, handed out “free passes” to local facilities. Guests gabbed about issues ranging from education to politics to, what else, baseball.

Mr. Dixon said they are generally supportive of the stadium and waterfront development, but they want to ensure members, such as Mr. Siegel, get a fair deal.

“Where are they going to put that stadium?” Mr. Barry asked. When I gave him the Southwest waterfront boundaries, he said, “That’s not enough space. Where are they going to put the parking?” Good question, I said, before taking a cheese-grinning picture with him.

Say what you want, but all those folks who died to get baseball back in the District can thank Mr. Barry. He literally scared the caps off Major League Baseball and city leaders who had been trying for years to pull off this dastardly deal. Now they are rushing to get it signed, sealed and delivered before Mr. Barry and two other newcomers take their seats on the D.C. Council in January.

Kwame Brown and Vincent C. Gray, who also won their Democratic primary races in September, table-hopped to thank well-wishers and potential constituents.

During a poignant pause, Mr. Gray deferred to allow two young women, who were helped through his directorship of Covenant House, tell their inspirational stories of overcoming bad situations to obtain high school diplomas and jobs.

Mr. Catania, also a member of the Metro Board, brought good news about the light-rail service and his proposals to improve job-training programs in Anacostia. The public-services committee, which he leads, approved a raise in the minimum wage, an increase in unemployment benefits and an expansion of apprenticeship programs that do city business.

Jobs are critical for Anacostia residents, and Toni Thomas, of the Community Empowerment Training Academy, and Alexis Roberson, who is with a job-training program, stood on the Dandy’s deck comparing notes about expanding their job-training and placement services. One hopeful prospect involves Toyota, which will establish a mechanical training program, Mr. Dixon said.

“We are trying to get things to happen,” Mr. Dixon said, “and that’s what we’re doing.”

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