-At last week’s ANC 2E meeting, Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans, always in every place and with little time to spare, managed to pencil in a few minutes to speak to the neighborhood he calls home. The genial Evans, who lives on Georgetown’s P Street, is known for speaking best at the more casual forums he participates in, and at a weekday evening community meeting, he proved as animated as ever.
As chair of the council’s finance committee, his principal concern is the city’s budget, which he deemed “the most pressing issue today.” Evans was optimistic about the city’s financial prospect in what otherwise are gloomy economic times — going so far as to call it “one of the strongest financial entities in America, state, county or city” — but admitted even D.C. is facing considerable budget shortfalls that will need shoring up if the District is to balance out its finances.
He reported a $17 million budget shortfall in the last quarter of fiscal year 2009.
The councilmember diverged onto a variety of topics both of his own choosing and brought up by audience members. He reaffirmed his mission to overhaul Georgetown’s infrastructure, citing his efforts in the mid-’90s to standardize the neighborhood’s sidewalks, which etched their way through the historical avenues in everything from brick to plain dirt. And despite high-profile projects like the trolley rail rehabilitation and P Street traffic experiments, he said the neighborhood’s infrastructure on the whole needs improvement.
One audience member delved further into the budgetary question, with specific regard to the city’s education system, which is making headlines in recent months over Chancellor Michelle Rhee’s firing of 450 teachers, her subsequent gaffes about the incident and general grumbling of constituents over unpopular school and administration changes (of which Georgetown’s Hardy Middle School was one). Evans, who generally favors the Fenty-Rhee education policy, conceded a slight measure of frustration over the school system’s continual requests for additional funding.
“The school system, even with Michelle Rhee in charge, never fails to ask for more money next year than they did this year,” he said. A quarter of the District budget — $1.5 billion — is currently devoted to the school system. Educational funding was frozen last year at the behest of Evans, an effort to control the city’s expenses.
Evans had also earned the umbrage of neighbors during the February blizzard, who lightly accused him of using his position to secure the priority clearing of his home street. He joked with the audience about the rumors being true to incite a little comic relief, before quickly explaining that P Street is the site of several major bus routes.
Lieutenant John Hedgecock of the Metro Police Department gave his monthly crime update, and despite several recent mugging incidents, was happy to report crime in Georgetown overall was down 29 percent from last year. He called attention to a string of iPhone robberies — 14 in the past three months — where the devices are simply snatched from a victim’s hands while speaking on the phone. Hedgecock advised residents to remain vigilant and guard their valuable items and electronics. He also mentioned a sexual assault occurring the day before on 35th and T Streets, but could offer few details at the time. An investigation is ongoing.
Thanks for asking, DDOT
The ANC and a majority of residents applauded the recent test of four-way stop signs at the intersections of 33rd, 34th and Q Streets, which they deemed a vast aesthetic and functional improvement over the stop lights that once controlled traffic there. Less popular was DDOT’s decision to actually replace these lights with stop signs — without first obtaining the ANC’s approval. One neighbor said he was “appalled” at the agency’s skirting of the commission’s weigh-in. ANC Chairman Ron Lewis, in whose district the intersections reside, expressed similar concerns, but said the decision to replace the lights was still the right one. Lewis had personally monitored rush-hour traffic at the intersections every day for the past four weeks.
The commission unanimously passed a retroactive statement supporting the stoplight switch, with a small provision requesting that DDOT consult the ANC, you know, beforehand.
The Outlaw Philly Pizza
Commissioner Bill Starrels gave a markedly exasperated update on the Philly Pizza saga, which, despite what appeared to be final decision handed down by the Department of Consumer and Regulatory affairs, appears to still be in its death throes. We reported last issue that the pizza parlor, despite receiving an order to cease operation, was continuing to sling its saturated slices to partiers under curtailed hours. Starrels said he expected the city to crack down on the establishment with fines and a restraining order, but a D.C. Superior Court hearing slated for March 8 was postponed after the judge recused himself from the case, citing a personal bias.
“Apparently there’s more money in pizza than we originally thought,” Starrels quipped.