- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Vibrant expression of free speech is a precious constitutional right, but sometimes our elected leadership looks the other way when politicians take it too far.

Such is the case with candidates who ran in the 2010 and 2011 D.C. elections and still have their campaign posters plastered on utility poles in clear violation of D.C. law, which states that signage related to specific events “shall be removed no later than thirty (30) days following the event to which it is related.”

The apparent offenders include Anthony Muhammad, who ran in the April school board special election, and Mark Jones, Kenyan McDuffie and Clark Ray, who knew before they put head to pillow on their respective election nights whether they had won or lost.

It’s high time the Gray administration began tallying fines and leveling violations against violators.

Speaking of looking around: The H Street corridor in Northeast is rising from the pall of 1968 riots — again.

Mayor Vincent C. Gray embraces the resurrection as another sign of post-racial Americanism, which put Barack Obama in the White House and continues to lead efforts to lure newcomers to urban America.

The changes also send a stark signal that the capital is “Chocolate City” no more and will, for many stakeholders, determine whether the mayor’s dream of “One City” becomes a reality, as H Street has long been the corridor that, along with Benning Road, bridged east of the city to the west.

The changes occurring on H Street are substantial, reversing demographic misfortunes that began in the 1960s.

“We abandoned our cities, and those have been the sources of power for African-Americans,” the mayor said in a recent interview.

U.S. Census data show that not only is a new generation of whites moving into the city, but that young newcomers are becoming homeowners and have the disposable income to sustain neighborhood watering holes and eateries.

Yet even as the capital emerges from the ashes of its former self, the mayor and his young administration are trying to beat back a latter-day back-of-the-bus syndrome that stems from hardened socioeconomic realities that rolled off the mayor’s tongue — “crack … dissipation of the family structure … the level of parental guidance … incarceration … unemployment.”

Racial wounds ran deep along H Street and the corridors that were destroyed during the riots, and Mr. Gray is but one of five different mayors who have attempted to revitalize H Street.

Current plans will change it from a mere east-west artery of commuters into a livable and walkable community after residential and commercial projects are completed and new streetcars begin cruising up and down the corridor, which sits on the northern edge of Capitol Hill proper.

This initiative follows the failed renaissance of the 1980s, which included a mishmash of greasy-spoon joints and failed ventures, including a Hechinger home-improvement store, Mega Foods supermarket and French’s Fine Cuisine.

Today, the scars of the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s are being replaced by a diverse group of new marquee names such as TruOrleans, SOVA Espresso and Wine, and Star and Shamrock, and storefronts that market Cricket, Boost Mobile and T-Mobile.

The rebuilding of a 21st-century H Street has been ongoing for three years, and earlier this summer the mayor asked, “Doesn’t H Street look great?” during a press conference announcing the end of major construction.
But new storefronts and streetscape hardly spell job well done, as the construction of overhead streetcar lines and other construction are planned through 2013.

That’s about the time stakeholders will be able to look at H Street and tell whether the mayor has truly disparate sections into “One City.”
• Deborah Simmons can be reached at dsimmons[AT]washingtontimes.com.

• Deborah Simmons can be reached at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.

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