The Georgetowner Hosts Final Mayoral Forum between Fenty and Gray

July 26, 2011


-Friday afternoon, September 10, at Tony and Joe’s Seafood Place on Washington Harbor, The Georgetowner hosted the last of the 2010 Mayoral forums between Adrian Fenty and Vincent Gray. Drawing quite a crowd, the debate dealt with subjects as expansive as the state of small businesses and as focused as the improvement of Georgetown’s parking meters. The end result was a forum that provided greater insight into the positions of the more prominent candidates on the ballot and enough drama to keep the air of excitement billowing until voting day next Tuesday.

Unlikely candidate Leo Alexander opened fire, arguing that small businesses were being taxed out of the District due to costly rent. Gray echoed Alexander’s fears with a plea to voters: “Let’s not run customers out of the District to Virginia or Maryland.” Gray went on to add that his efforts lead to the personal property tax exemption rate being raised, eliminating the tax altogether for small businesses with a net worth under $225,000.

In spite of his opponents’ concerns and criticisms, Mayor Fenty remained optimistic, pointing to the 26-year success of his family’s own small business (he did not specify what type business his family runs). Noting his history of working with the Georgetown Business Improvement District, Fenty asserted “We are revitalizing Georgetown in a fantastic way.”

Another issue on Georgetown voters’ minds was Georgetown University’s student body encroaching into the community, as they have more frequently been taking up residence within the neighborhood. Alexander cited a lack of communication between the university and the neighborhood as the reason for all the worry. Fenty labeled the debate one of “acrimony.” However, it was Gray who offered a definitive plan to smooth over the “strange relationship,” promoting the establishment of a zoning commission that would handle the 10 to 15 year growth plans of city universities. Gray’s hope is to limit college housing expansions to campuses because a large number of students are transient.

The candidates were given the chance to tackle Georgetown’s parking problems as well. Alexander pointed out how expensive it was to have a good time in Georgetown, joking that in order to even park your car for dinner, “You need to have a roll of quarters with you.”

“Two rolls!” shouted an observer, to the amusement of the crowd.

“I stand corrected.”

Fenty’s plan to improve parking would involve more Circulator routes and further expansion of the upcoming trolley lines. Gray hopes to see smarter growth in the future, providing more housing where mass transit is located.

The forum came to a head when Fenty claimed he had recently been endorsed by former mayor, Anthony Williams. “He did not endorse you!” interjected a livid audience member. Fenty, in an attempt to brush off the situation and repeat his allegation, was interrupted again — “He did not endorse you!”

While the moderator eventually quieted the outraged woman, it was Gray who was able to shed light on the situation. The woman was none other than former Mayor Williams’ mother, defending her son’s neutrality throughout the campaign.

With the matter settled, the candidates went on to give their closing statements. Alexander pointed out the political ramifications of Fenty raising $5 million in campaign donations, Gray $2 million, and himself $35 thousand: “Think about the strings attached to that money,” he warned rather ominously.

Gray’s spoke to the state of the economy: “We have got to get people back to work again.”

Fenty challenged Gray’s reluctance to criticize mayoral decisions, until the political season, and defended Chancellor of DC Public Schools, Michelle Rhee, who Gray could replace if elected: “Michelle makes tough decisions that don’t always make the city happy, but for the right reasons. A mayor must make tough decisions, which [Gray] is not prepared to do.”

Sharp words to end a tense debate. Here at The Georgetowner, we consider that a success.

The Player: Father John Adams

July 19, 2011

“Our vision is that we go out of business,” says our July Player, Father John Adams, president of So Others Might Eat (SOME).

Adams is the only D.C. leader Bob Madigan and I have interviewed who speaks hopefully of the demise of his organization. And a glance around – inside the O Street building where we sit that provides medical and psychiatric care and across the street to the dining room that serves about 900 meals each day – illustrate the huge vacuum were even two of the 40 SOME facilities to disappear.

But Father John believes these services shouldn’t be the responsibility of a nonprofit. “Everybody that needs food should have it, everybody that needs a home should have it, everybody that need medical care should have it,” he elaborates.

“We’re probably going to be around a while,” he adds wryly, “especially as the economy is not getting better.”

A two-day electricity outage during our early June interview has closed down the dental clinic and limited medical care, and they’ve had to switch from hot meals to sandwiches but Father John appears unruffled. With an accent that hints of his original hometown of Erie, Pennsylvania, he projects calm as he voices his commitment to D.C.’s poor and homeless.

But actions speak even louder than words or, in the quote he likes to reference by St. Francis of Assisi, “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” And evidence of his three decades of caring and effective leadership abounds. To name just two: he was chosen as a finalist for the 2007 Opus Prize, a top international humanitarian award that brought SOME $100,000, and was selected as an Olympic torch carrier. SOME has been visited by the last three presidents; pictures show the Obama family serving lunch on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day last year.

Support (Not Just for the Celebrities)

Issues of mental health, drug abuse and addiction play out daily in the media. Politicians, journalists and actors check into rehab to cure their addictions, then surface again to promote a new show or movie. Yet for the poor these failures are more costly, often snowballing as they lose jobs, health services, safety and their homes. But our society often demonizes and depersonalizes them, viewing them as a group whose failures justify immense suffering (about 70 percent of women on the streets have been abused, as an example) and the loss of our compassion.

SOME offers deeply personalized stepping stones back to a secure and healthy life. SOME’s tagline – “restoring hope and dignity one person at a time” – and early attempts to improve food and conditions in which it was served under founder Father McKenna 40 years ago show as much.

For many, it begins with dining. The cheerful waiting room features a large screen TV showing a video of services available across the street: dental, medical or psychiatric care; support of a social worker, or help for drug addiction. After one of the two hot meals served daily, people can shower, choose from clothing donations, or remain to hear success stories of formerly homeless (20 percent of SOME staff).

“If you did it, I can do it for sure,’ they think,” says Father John, “because they knew some of these people on the streets.”

A path through SOME may include being placed in a safe house almost immediately or seeing a doctor or getting a psychiatric evaluation or dental work. Or one might join a drug treatment program of a year-and-a-half (completed successfully a high 80 percent of the time) that includes 90 days in a West Virginia facility nicknamed Miracle Mountain by its residents. Care often culminates with job training aimed at earning participants a living wage (defined by Father John as $15 per hour with full benefits).

Help Through Homes

While SOME already plays a critical role a city where one in six people live below the poverty line, their current goal, to tackle what they see as the biggest need in D.C., is even more ambitious. About seven years ago, they decided to expand permanent housing for very low income people by an additional 1000 units. Single adults, families and elderly people earning 30 percent below the median area salary are eligible. The $38 million investment – structured as a sophisticated package of loans, tax credits, tax exempt bonds and their own equity – is well underway.

Providing homes for the poor has been a circular journey for Father John. As one of seven children to an Erie family, he led a secure existence until his father was injured at his steel industry job and laid off. The tyke ended up going to eight different elementary schools as his family scraped by.

“We were the first homeless family in Erie because we lived in tents all summer long. We thought it was great,” he recalls. “My parents were very upset about the whole thing. We struggled and I think what kept us going in a lot of ways was the church, nuns, and priests that very quietly helped out or we probably wouldn’t have had anything to eat.”

He was influenced to choose a faith-based career. After attending the Divine Word Missionary high school seminary, he studied philosophy, theology and social work at Catholic University. He joined Catholic Charities in Northern Virginia and started the Christ House in Alexandria to work with poor before joining SOME as a director 32 years ago. SOME was serving about 60 meals a day, often improvising.

“When I first came we had the building across the street which was an old animal shelter and SOME had just purchased it six months before with 2 or 3 people working part-time,” he recalls. “We were struggling – the place was not in great shape. We had to often times cook on a neighbor’s stove upstairs and bring the food down. There was no hot water running.”

He was determined to get basic services and to build a volunteer presence. However, he took an unusual step, deciding to sell a house in Northeast that had been purchased for drug treatment but was unstaffed in order to buy a stove and get hot water.

Next they added dental care. Georgetown University agreed to provide full time faculty member and to require dental students to volunteer for two weeks and Washington Post columnist Art Buchwald convinced Health, Education and Welfare Secretary Joe Califano to donate dental chairs.

Over three decades they added transitional and permanent housing, state-of-the-art job training and a summer camp for seniors.

The Challenges Ahead

The deinstitutionalization movement and dramatic social cuts under President Ronald Reagan – including drastic cuts to the Department of Housing and Urban Development – expanded the homeless population in the 1970s and 1980s. The recent recession has also grown this impoverished group. Yet again this country is contemplating major cuts to health and social services, imposing sacrifices disproportionately on the poor and middle class rather than the richest Americans who have thrived these past three decades.

And while the Catholic Church has a rich trove of documents on social justice and other religions prescribe helping the poor, America, despite its highly religious population, hasn’t adopted these values as a guiding force in policy making.

Locally, the fight’s had recent success. Father John and other nonprofit leaders reversed the large majority of tens of millions of dollars of proposed D.C. budget cuts that would have affected the poor and homeless, although a huge need still remains.

For a moment, Father John gets passionate and political.

“This is supposedly one of the more powerful cities in the world but we can’t take care of our own people,” he pauses. “That says something.” [gallery ids="100229,106494,106510,106506,106502,106499" nav="thumbs"]

Weekend Roundup

July 11, 2011


-ANC News

On Monday, November 1, ANC2E held its November session. At the meeting, Commissioner Ed Solomon acknowledged a crime spike in Georgetown, which includes nine thefts, two assaults and one assault with a deadly weapon in recent weeks. Furthermore, Solomon stressed caution in granting a liquor license to USA Table Tennis Hall of Famer David Sakai’s planned restaurant/bar, “International House of Pong” (IHOP). Sakai intends for the bar to hold up to 300 people—a cause for concern should the establishment fail to curb noise.

The ANC tabled the renewal of Third Edition’s liquor license for similar reasons, citing numerous neighborhood complaints. Amplified music at its open-air Tiki bar has become a continual disruption because of the establishment’s failure to monitor entrance and exit properly. While the ANC assures it is not trying to put Third Edition out of business, it expects bar management to renew its agreement to ensure peace and quiet.

Additionally, the ANC expressed support for Georgetown hosting the Lawyers Have a Heart 10k race in June 2011, despite it requiring the closures of K Street, the Whitehurst Freeway, and Canal Road. The 10k raised over $500,000 last year. That being said, events of this nature will face greater scrutiny going forward due to resident complaints surrounding last-minute closings.

As for November 2 voting, two new commissioners were elected to Georgetown’s ANC. Jeff Jones and Jake Sticka were the new additions, with GU student Sticka receiving a mere 6 votes (his own included). Sticka plans to promote GU’s Campus Plan and improved student safety measures, mainly in Burleith. Jeff Jones promises a more evenhanded approach, balancing resident and student concerns regarding zoning discrepancies and university expansion.

Heart to Hart Tennis Experience

The Recreation Wish List Committee, in partnership with the DC Department of Parks and Recreation, has invited several local politicians to participate in its 12th Annual Heart to Hart Tennis Experience. Among the politicians in attendance will be former mayors Marion Barry and Anthony Williams, Mayor-Elect Vincent Gray, Ward 5 Councilman Harry Thomas Jr., and Ward 7 Councilwoman Yvette Alexander. On Saturday, November 6, they will join tennis celebrity Zina Garrison, area youth, and their families for a full day of tennis, community and fundraising.

The event will feature a day-long junior-adult doubles tournament, a rematch between defending champion Marion Barry and Anthony Williams, clinics, an awards ceremony, and a silent auction. A portion of the proceeds will be forwarded to a scholarship fund established in memory of Velma Love Nellum, a RWLC founder who recently lost her battle with cancer.

Heart to Hart will run from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., at the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center, at 701 Mississippi Avenue, SE. Adults may register online through Friday, November 5, at a discount ($100) or onsite at 8 a.m. that Saturday ($125). The senior fee is $55 to enter, and general admission is $50.
Nightvisions: Portraits in the Night

From 8 p.m. to 5:30 a.m., on November 6 and 7, FotoWeek DC will be presenting Nightivisions. The all-night photo creation event challenges amateur and professional photographers alike to recruit a subject and produce a digital portrait. Each photographer may submit up to 10 images, in person, to FotoWeek DC’s Satellite Central at 3333 M Street, NW.

Following delivery, a team of renowned photo editors, art directors and gallery curators will select one image from each batch of submissions. This image will be printed and displayed as part of a weeklong slideshow projected on Satellite Central’s walls. Meanwhile, participants can enjoy the snacks and music offered at the all-night photo party for $10.

Synetic Theater’s “King Arthur”

This weekend offers a final chance to see Synetic Theater’s visually stunning production of “King Arthur”. Presented at Synetic’s new home, Crystal City Theater, the play is the latest installment in the company’s repertoire of wordless movement dramas. Add to this the fact that the troupe is performing on a liquid stage, one covered in a few inches of water, and the choreography will seem as fluid as the floor on which the actors splash. Showings will occur at 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. The $30-$50 ticket cost is a small price to pay to see such a physically-charged spectacle.

Ravi and Anoushka Shankar at the Kennedy Center

Legendary sitarist Ravi Shankar will return to the Kennedy Center Concert Hall on Sunday, November 7. As India’s best-known living musician, the virtuoso has attained worldwide notoriety. Now, in celebration of his 90th birthday earlier this year, Ravi will perform alongside his daughter, acclaimed sitarist Anoushka Shankar. The concert will take place at 8 p.m. that evening. Tickets range from $25-$77. [gallery ids="99494,104474,104477" nav="thumbs"]

I Want to Hold Your Hand

June 2, 2011

The year was 1963, and the place was Washington, D.C. It was the year Martin Luther King Jr. inspired the country with his “I have a dream” speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall. A few months later, the unthinkable happened when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas and the nation recoiled in horror and grief. For three days, people sat in front of their television sets, watching the memorial services for the fallen president unfold in front of the White House, the Capitol, through the avenues of the city and finally to the cemetery at Arlington. It’s hard to believe that all of this happened almost 50 years ago.

To illustrate just how long ago this was, take a look at prices. The average American home sold for less than $20,000 and a gallon of gas cost 30 cents. In the pop music world, Elvis was the undisputed King, and teenage girls swooned by the thousands when he came on stage. But popular music fans in this country were barely aware of a new musical group called The Beatles, who were taking Great Britain and Europe by storm.

A Washington teenager named Marsha Albert heard about this group and couldn’t figure out why we weren’t listening to their music here in America. She wrote a letter to DJ Carroll James of WWDC radio and asked him to play their records. When he asked around, the DJ found out that while Capitol Records had the rights to release their music here, the president of the company didn’t think “foreign bands” did very well on this side of the pond. Even worse, when Capitol asked for the scoop on The Beatles, a music critic told him that they were “a bunch of long-haired kids” and to forget about them. And so Capitol Records put the group on the back burner. That is, until the DJ and the teenager took matters into their own hands.

Carroll James found a friend who knew a British stewardess who agreed to bring a Beatles record back to the U.S. with her. And so, at 5:15 p.m. on December 17, 1963, the 15-year-old Marsha Albert announced on WWDC, “Ladies and gentlemen, appearing for the first time in America, the Beatles singing “I Want To Hold Your Hand.” The radio audience response was overwhelming and James said his switchboard lit up like a Christmas tree. He played the recording all week and the listeners loved it.
Capitol heard about the phenomenon and decided to bring the record out on Dec. 26. It went to the top of the charts. In fact, it became the fastest selling single in recording history and eventually went on to occupy all five of the Top Five positions on the Billboard charts, something which hasn’t been duplicated or surpassed since.

In February, the Beatles arrived in New York to be on the Ed Sullivan Show, where an unprecedented viewing audience of 73 million people tuned in to see the group. But their first live concert was here in the District at the Washington Coliseum. They couldn’t fly into National Airport because of a snowstorm, so they had to take the train to the then-dilapidated Union Station, where a screaming group of 2000 teenagers waited in the snow behind police barricades to welcome them. They drew a full house at the Coliseum, where tickets, by the way, started at $3.50 apiece.

The Beatles went on to dominate the popular music scene around the world for an amazing two decades, and Washington gets the credit for giving them their first introduction to what turned out to be a huge American audience, thanks to a determined teenager and an enterprising DJ.

Susquehanna Antique Company

May 23, 2011

“Traditional” is a word David Friedman admits is a good description of both himself, an antiques dealer, and his shop, the Susquehanna Antique Company. But he’s quick to add that in a modern marketplace exactly how tradition is defined is often subject to different interpretations.

One thing that’s clear is that antiques are a tradition in Friedman’s family. His grandfather started the business in Port Deposit, MD, and his father worked as an auctioneer and used furniture salesman. “I was close to my dad, and was brought into the business at a young age. He could buy something for $10 and sell it for $15. Not everyone can do that. I inherited that from him.”

Friedman has been a dealer since the late ’70s, with the Washington incarnation of the family firm established in 1980. He’s seen Georgetown’s prominence as an antiques district wax and wane over the years, but his own O Street shop has become something of a landmark.

To enter Susquehanna Antiques is almost to go back in time, to an era when antiques dealers were neither interior designers nor merchants in home décor. Baronial-sized dining tables and Philadelphia highboys jostle for space with Continental chests and Chinese porcelains. Centuries of portraits and landscapes fill the walls and are stacked in the aisles. Up the narrow stairs is a warren of rooms with more furniture and art, as well as Friedman’s collection of more than 600 period frames. It’s exactly what an old-fashioned antiques shop should look like — a place where discoveries wait in every corner.

But old-fashioned antiques are often a harder sell in an era when a mahogany sideboard and silver tea service aren’t always part of everyone’s lifestyle. “Traditional furniture, Old Masters, and 19th-century paintings are less of a broad-based focus for people,” says Friedman. “The market is more and more diverse.”

He’s weathered that changing market by virtue of business acumen (“You need a commercial sense of things”), high standards, and a having “a knack for buying what your customers want.”

He’s also an educator for customers for whom a familiarity with antiques may not come naturally. Friedman deals in history and passion, not just objects. He emphasizes that “people want to buy something that’s been selected,” vetted not only for its beauty or utility but also for its meaning and significance.

“Standards stay the same. That’s what collecting is about,” he says. And that just may be one definition of tradition on which everyone can agree.

Susquehanna Antique Company
3216 O St.


Christian Zapatka: Reinventing the Georgetown Townhouse
Frank Randolph: Interior Designer Extraordinaire
John Rosselli: Georgetown’s Antique Aficionado
Marston Luce: In Search of Elegance
Scandinavian Antiques & Living: International Accents
Susquehanna Antique Company: Redefining Tradition
Sixteen Fifty Nine: A Mid-Century Renaissance

Kitty Kelley

There’s a temptation on my part, sitting in Kitty Kelley’s sun-drenched Georgetown office, to say “We’ve got to stop meeting like this.”

?About every half decade or so, we sit down to chat in the stormy aftermath of the publication of one of her books in which she has taken on the mighty, the powerful, the awesomely famous, rich, and legendary, and rendered them very human in her inimitable way, which delights hordes of readers and infuriates not only the subject of her books, but any number of apologists and high-minded critics.

?Inevitably, I ask yet again: So, what’s next? Kelley swears and vows, probably with her fingers a little crossed behind her back, that she’ll never write an expose again, or put herself through the eye of what is a self-created storm.

?This time that storm is “Oprah,” the mega-bucks talk show host, friend to presidents, the nation’s literary guide, magazine publisher and, in some mass-communication way, probably the most influential African-American woman in the world. In other words, another unauthorized biography full of controversial, highly inflammatory and often negative information about a woman who’s mostly revered, adored and admired by millions.

?“I don’t know why I keep doing this,” she says again. “This one was especially difficult to do, maybe the most difficult … maybe you noticed: no CNN, no Larry King, no Walters, not much television. There’s a reason. Everybody is very loyal in this business, and with Oprah, also afraid. They pretty much told me as much.”

?Kelley, a small, stylish, blonde woman who can trade barbs, stories and humor easily, has charm that’s undeniably genuine. But while there are lots of cat figures in the living room of the office, and while there have been cat-and-catty jabs at her from some less-than-kind critics, there’s no question that she can defend herself when necessary. Even a suggestion that some material in her books might be off target draws a heated defense of her work. “I’m a biographer,” she says. “I write unauthorized biographies. It’s not a term I entirely like because the reputation of the word makes it sound like it’s merely sensational. And that’s not true. I’ve never been forced to make a retraction about anything in any of my books. I’m a trained researcher, that’s what I did when I worked in newspapers.”

?Inevitably, she shows me the room containing the nearly 3000 files of interviews, references and material that accumulated during the course of putting the book together. Similar volumes of raw material emerged in writing her previous books.

?“It’s like living in somebody else’s life for, what, five years now,” she says. “And Oprah is endlessly fascinating. I admire her, she’s accomplished so much. But, for one thing, she didn’t come from the dire poverty she’s always talked about. And that’s just one thing.”

?There are stories that emerge in the book that, if they’ve existed at all, came from out there in the dimmest reaches of rumor land, including the assertion that the man she’s always claimed as her father isn’t really her father, and that she had a child out of wedlock as a teenager.

?Part of the problem with a subject like Oprah, and for that matter, Jackie Kennedy, Elizabeth Taylor, Nancy Reagan, Frank Sinatra, the royal family and the Bush family, is that so much is out there already. Kelley’s subjects are the supernovas around which a planetary system of scribes, sycophants, biographers, paparazzi, gophers, family members, and history itself rotates. With Oprah, this is also true, only much more so. She is her own supernova. In her daily talk shows, she has talked so much about herself, her problems and triumphs, her family, her struggles and dissatisfactions with her weight and looks, that it seems her life is an open, tearful and triumphant book of its own.

?Who, then, needs a Kitty Kelley book about Oprah? Well, we do.

?“She’s done enormous good in the world, and I think she’s an influence for good,” Kelley says. “But she’s also hidden a lot of her life, she has a darker side. She’s not a saint.”

?“Oprah” is a terrific read, much in the same way that all of Kelley’s other books work. They have a monumental speed to them, they rush and throw accumulations of detail that in the end give you a big picture. The “tell” stories aren’t as important as they appear at the book’s arrival — it’s the overall weight of material, painstakingly accumulated and acquired, that is telling. In this case, they round out the story, like a very big Paul Harvey “rest of the story.”

?In the long run, all her books are about fame, they’re very American in their focus, even the book about the royal family, which of course included a hefty section on Princess Diana. They’re about fame and its flipside, infamy, about the importance of success and celebrity in American life. One of the telling things about all the books, whether they concern royal Brits, American singing legends, political dynasties, movies stars or billionaire talk show hosts, is how they bring out an essential homegrown vulgarity that seems to be as natural a by-product of fame as breathing itself.

?And every book is a pain, a project fraught with dangers and difficulties. In these efforts, she has a dogged, persistent quality that can only be called courage.

?“None of the people I wrote about ever submitted to interviews,” Kelley says. “Not that I wouldn’t have loved to talk to Oprah, but she, like everybody, gave no interviews.”

?“It was hard to get some interviews,” she says. “You’d be surprised how afraid people are. She has a powerful bully pulpit in that show, she knows so many people. But in some ways, she was my best source, from the shows and the magazine.”

?Sinatra apparently was not amused to be made into a Kelley title, a book that for many people made it less fun to listen to a song like “I Did It My Way.” The Bush family closed ranks, and mounted a negative attack campaign prior to its publication, which just happened to be near election time in 2004. Matt Lauer put Kelley through a grinder in two interviews on the Today Show, which she handled deftly.

?She’s one of those people who’s proud of some of the enemies she’s acquired — they’re a kind of validation of the work. No amount of attacks, criticism, charges of sloppiness or inaccuracy deter Kelley or her readers. “We’re debuting number one on the New York Times bestseller list,” she says, indicating that being number one makes for a good Sunday morning.

?She and her husband, Dr. Jonathan Zucker, still live in Georgetown, where she just held a book signing at St. John’s Episcopal Church on O Street, the proceeds of which went to charity.

?“It’s my home,” she says. “I love Peacock Café, I like the gym at GU, the streets, the old homes, the shops, the people. What’s not to love?”

?Listening to her talk about her work, over the years, is to recognize that while she may complain about the mountainous work involved, she’s also driven by keen curiosity, and a pride of profession. She doesn’t much rely on decorative style or literary allusion, just stories, anecdotes, dug-up facts, cross-references. Gossip and rumors, the daily diet bread of our lives, are the spice in that mountain of stuff, not its essence.

?She has no plans for her next book, and says she won’t do another. We’ve heard that one before.

Signed copies of Oprah’s book are available at Proper Topper (Georgetown, 3213 P St., Dupont Circle, 1350 Connecticut Ave. and online at All proceeds will go to the D.C. Public Library for the Peabody Collection — and matching funds from a generous donor. [gallery ids="99126,102655,102649" nav="thumbs"]

Streetcars Nixed, Resurrected

When it comes to talk of the District’s streetcars, you better not blink.

DCist reported at noon today that the city council voted to effectively halt the massive downtown streetcar project by stripping from it $49 million in funding designated in the 2011 budget. However, less than four hours later, WeLoveDC reported the council immediately backpedaled after a deluge of angry phone calls and emails from irate constituents, eventually reinstating the project.

Earlier in the day, Mayor Fenty, who was once an outspoken supporter of the streetcar network, suddenly seemed to desert what seemed like his pet transportation project, saying debate over how to best power the cars had yet to be resolved, along with the question of whether the infrastructure would connect with Union Station. The council’s original vote would have shelved the project until 2014. Several million dollars and over 37 miles of track have already been invested in the system.

The streetcar scheme still isn’t out of the woods, yet, though. After the uproar, the council immediately reinstated only $10 million of the original budget, with a projected $37 million forthcoming.

Still, talk about democracy in action.

The 2011 Patrons Party, Hosted by Leslie Morgan and Perry Steiner

May 4, 2011

The annual Georgetown House Tour has long marked the start of the social season. Begun by St. John’s Episcopal Church as a program to help those in need, the House Tour has since become one of the most anticipated events of spring. Keeping its stamina throughout the years, the Tour continues to be touched by the hands of those who are passionate about Georgetown and desire to give back to their community.

“The House Tour is a great event for tourists or anyone in other parts of DC who love how beautiful Georgetown is in the spring,” said Leslie Morgan Steiner, the hostess of this year’s Patrons Party.

Steiner, who was born at Georgetown Hospital and has lived in the neighborhood for most of her life, is the perfect example of the spirit of the House Tour and the more fortunate giving back. An acclaimed writer and author of two books, Steiner, who’s “crazy busy” life now revolves around her small kids, still takes time to enjoy and be involved in the community, where she can be found helping out at Little Folks preschool, or taking care of herself at Down Dog Yoga. “I really love Georgetown and love living in a place where I have strong roots,” she said.

Steiner, a longtime friend of Frida Burling, was asked by the House Tour matriarch last year if she would open up her home for the Patrons Party, which kicks off the Tour on Thursday April 28. The Patrons Party was established 11 years ago by Burling as a new way to raise more money for the agencies benefitted by the Tour. Patrons Party hosts have included former Washington Post Executive Editor Ben Bradlee and his wife Sally Quinn, author Kitty Kelly and D.C. developer and mega-mall owner Herb Miller and his wife Patrice.

Last year the party was held at the historic home formerly owned by the late Evangeline Bruce, whose current owners are Debbie and Chairman of Georgetown Bank, Curtin Winsor. This year the party takes place on Q Street.

Steiner and husband Perry have lived in their Federal style red brick home for 10 years. The house, built in 1808, is “a little unusual by Georgetown standards,” according to Steiner. The house went under two major renovations after being purchased by the Steiners in 2001. Dale Overmyer is the architect of the Steiner’s two-story house. The interior is wide with four large open rooms on each story. The historic house is unique in that it still extends from Second Street to Orchard Lane. This was the way all old houses around it once appeared before the carriage houses were sold and the master homes subdivided.

Steiner’s home is “very much a kids house,” she says, admitting that most people think they have to leave Georgetown when they start a family. And she has a point. Few houses in the city can accommodate an indoor basketball court, a large grassy backyard with a sports court, swimming pool and pool house. The Steiners even have more parking than you can find in the city, with their garage that can hold six cars. “We have all these benefits, its almost like living in a suburb,” said Steiner.

The Patrons Party will be the Steiners first time hosting a society event, as they put down a soccer ball in exchange for a wine glass, all in the name of charity. The Steiners admire the Ministry of St. John’s and the work they do for DC. Although not members of the church themselves, they are heavily involved in other facets of the community.

Steiner is on the board at Maret, the school her kids attend, and the halls she once roamed herself. She is also a member of the Citizens Association of Georgetown, a group she describes as, “amazing, and something we all benefit from.” Steiner also works with Weave DC, a women and children’s domestic violence charity that provides legal advocacy and shelter. Her husband is an active soccer and basketball coach with the Jelleff Boys and Girls Club.

The couple is evidently heavily involved in the neighborhood, balancing family, community, and now taking their first step in the Georgetown’s infamous society events. We wish them the best of luck.
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Celebrate the Royal Wedding in DC

April 21, 2011

Can’t make it to the royal wedding where Prince William will marry Kate Middleton? There’s an app for that. Westminster Abbey has released a new app ahead of the Royal Wedding, giving users the chance to virtually tour the Abbey. On April 29, Prince William of Wales will marry Middleton, who he met at the University of St. Andrews. Their relationship, widely covered in the media, spans eleven years and includes a Lifetime movie portraying their relationship, William & Kate, which premiered on Monday evening.

A total of 650 people were chosen to celebrate at the Palace: 50 guests received their invite directly from the Queen, 250 were invited by Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall and 100 by the Middleton Family. William and Kate have invited 250 of their friends and family. Only 300 of the guests will stay for the evening reception hosted by Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace. Westminster Abbey, the venue of the Queen and Queen Mothers wedding, will host the Marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton, on Friday 29 April at 6 a.m.

The wedding will take place at 5 a.m. EST, which may be too early for you to hold your own viewing party, so we suggest a few places to go and celebrate.

But if you weren’t one of the handful of invitees, here are a few things to do around town to catch the big day:

Aylesbury Antique Center and Tea Rooms in Loudoun is featuring Royal Wedding Celebration Teas throughout April. The teas ($19.95/person) include a variety of traditional English sandwiches, home-baked scones, sweet treats and Yorkshire tea. For reservations, call 703-868-6935 or go to

The Ritz-Carlton will offer guests the opportunity to watch the “Wedding of the Century” in style at a breakfast and viewing party. Guests who don’t want to make the trek down in the early morning can also stay overnight for $429 (the breakfast is $40), including the price of the breakfast buffet that will include scones with clotted cream and jam, English rasher & bangers and black pudding. The breakfast also includes 18 Carat Sapphire Cupcakes from the hotel’s executive pastry chef Daniel Mangione and a specially commissioned Twinings Royal Wedding Commemorative Blend, sourced from Catherine Middleton’s home county of Berkshire. To book a reservation for The Royal Wedding Breakfast & Viewing Party, please contact Restaurant Reservations at 202 974-5566.?

Over at AGAINN, a Chinatown gastropub, donated teapots to the restaurant during April will get you a free appetizer or dessert. The restaurant plans on displaying and serving tea in all of the donated teapots. Aside from British fare of scones and finger sandwiches, AGAINN will be serving Prince William’s favorite cake (chocolate biscuit cake) and the traditional royal wedding cake (fruit cake). Proceeds from the cakes will go to PeacePlayers International – Northern Ireland, a DC-based charity the royal couple is donating to as well. You can enter to win a tea party for you and your friends if you’re getting married like Ms. Middleton.

Across the river in Old Town Alexandria, Mystique Jewelers is throwing a Princess party on April 28 from 5 to 8 p.m., complete with tiaras, champagne, cupcakes and jewelry fit for a princess. The event is free, but register at

Union Jack’s in Bethesda is opening extra early, at 5 a.m., to ladies in hats and men in trousers. Enjoy a complimentary champagne toast as the couple says “I Do,” in addition to $10 bottomless mimosas and Bloody Marys. All 25 TVs will be set on the event and Baltimore’s WBAL-TV will be here broadcasting with live interviews. They’ll continue the celebration during happy hour starting at 4 p.m. with wedding-themed door prizes and raffles of such items as wedding bouquet and centerpiece from The Flower Basket, lingerie from Bra-La-La, Silpada jewelry, gift card and hair products from Victoria & Albert and Ghost Tour for 13 in Ellicott City.

The British Pantry in Alexandria will be holding special wedding teas the week of Tuesday, April 26 through Saturday, April 30. A raffle will be held daily and each tearoom patron will be entered to win a commemorative royal wedding gift. At $25 per person, you’ll get mini tea sandwiches, scones and cakes at either two times during the day: from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. or 1:30 to 3 p.m.

If you can’t make any of these events, you can always celebrate the royal wedding in style at various tearooms across the city. For $25 at the National Cathedral, you tour it and then follow it with a traditional English tea with sandwiches, scones and a scenic view of Washington. Tour and Tea is offered every Tuesday and Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. Reservations with payment are required in advance.

At the Henley Park Hotel near Mt. Vernon square, you can order a traditional tea in the Wilkes drawing room that comes complete with a fireplace. Trios of finger sandwiches including Scottish smoked salmon, watercress/cucumber and egg salad are among the treats on the tea menu. Call 202 638-5200 for reservations.

The Hillwood Estate and Gardens in Van Ness offers an afternoon tea every Sunday at Hillwood Café, which for $20 includes a glass of sparkling wine, a selection of teas, sun-dried cranberry-walnut chicken salad & roasted pear and Roquefort blue cheese blini finger sandwiches, cheesecake lollipops and éclairs. Call 202 686-5807 for reservations.

DC Lives Green

April 20, 2011

Five years ago, amid the fragrant scents of vegan and vegetarian dishes at Java Green, a few loyal patrons of the restaurant began to talk. Many of them were environmentalists and the topic on their menu was green business. The goal was to make green living accessible for all DC locals.

Steve Ma, a DC resident who has been doing environmental work for the past 21 years, was one of those patrons. “The owner [of Java Green], D.J. Kim, had this vision of a greener world,” Ma said. “He said, we need to have more green businesses, more green people. We need to be living in green places, working in green places, and we should start a group to do that.”

Ma took that vision to heart. From those conversations the idea for DC Live Green, an online organization designed to make green living simple, was born.

Since its launch in 2008, the site’s mailing list has swelled from about 1,000 to 26,000 subscribers, and the organization has partnered with more than 75 green businesses throughout DC, from cleaning services to yoga studios. To capitalize on its rapidly growing success, the organization was awarded the Environmental Excellence Award in 2009 by Mayor Adrien Fenty, along with many of the businesses that Live Green sponsors.

Through its website,, DC Live Green works as a tool for residents to help them find affordable, quality services that are also eco-friendly. For $13 per year, members are given discounts to many of the businesses the organization sponsors. DC Live Green also recently launched its sister site,, a deal site for green products. The system operates similarly to Groupons; each week, Live Green offers subscribers a 40 to 70 percent discount at one of its sponsored green businesses.

“We want people to try green businesses out and know that we screen for not only whether the business is green, but we also make sure the business is high-quality and affordable,” said Ma, whose official title is now Board President and GEO (Green Executive Officer) of DC Live Green. “We want to make sure you realize that being green doesn’t mean you have to lose out on quality or price.”

From their small, wind-powered office building, the DC Live Green team works in a shared space, clustered around desks made from reclaimed doors where they search out, screen, and partner with an ever-expanding list of businesses.

Each candidate is put through a vigorous five-part selection process. This ensures not only that a business’ products are 100 percent green, but that its operations are green, its goods or services are high in quality, their products are competitively priced, and that the business is socially responsible and active in the community.

“We look at all of those things, and when they pass our screening, we know that they are truly on a leading edge. They are what we would identify as triple-bottom-line businesses,” Ma said. “These are businesses that run on the concept that they’re gonna do good for the planet, do good for society, and make money at the same time.”

Yet Ma says DC Live Green is more than just a helpful website. It’s also a place to strengthen and grow Washington’s green community. Aside from its role as a forum for green-minded people, the organization also hosts regular events such as last February’s Single Green Mingle, a chance for eco-friendly singles to meet and exchange ideas and phone numbers. Live Green also helps budding businesses through the greening process, linking them up with other DC businesses that can provide them with environmentally friendly energy and other services.

“We want to build a community,” Ma said. “We want to pull it offline as well; we want people on the online community to interact with each other. I think it can be difficult to think about all of these things and incorporate these things into your life, but when you have a supportive community and know that other people are doing it with you, it makes it a whole lot easier.”

Ma himself works hard to make sure that his personal life is also a good example of green living for the environmentally conscious community. He is a practicing vegan, he walks or bikes most places and, although his neat green button-down and jeans would never betray it, he buys almost all of his clothes from Goodwill and other second-hand stores.

At the age of 17, Ma was introduced to the green community when opportunity literally knocked on his door in his home state of New Jersey. The local Public Interest Research Group was going door-to-door raising awareness about the state’s use of toxic chemicals. Ma seized his chance and joined the campaign, starting his journey from a teenager who ate McDonald’s once a week to a man tackling environmentalism in the nations’ capital.

This year Ma is going even further in his mission to make people aware of the impact they have on the environment by keeping an open record of all his purchases and acquisitions, excluding food, on the Live Green website. He hopes this exercise will not only force him to think twice about the items he buys, but will also inspire others to do the same.

“It’s just a good reminder that one of the things we can do to be green is to reduce the amount of stuff that we buy, and when we do buy things to make sure that they’re either used, or we’re buying the green version of the things that we need,” Ma said. “This is not about telling people that they shouldn’t buy anything ever. I think the point is when we do buy things, just buy them more intentionally.”

But DC Live Green’s objective is not just to help you green your purchases, but your whole life. According to Ma, there are five important aspects to being truly green: transportation, food, energy, stuff and impact. He points to alternatives such as Zipcars, eating less meat and dairy, finding offsets for your home’s energy use, and buying green or used items as simple ways to make your life greener on the whole. Impact refers to the number of people that you encourage to go green with you such as friends, family, or coworkers, from cooking communal vegan dinners or carpooling.

“When you can find those things that are not only easy, but also impactful and very affordable, I feel like that’s where we can spread this movement to millions, to the masses, to all of us. And that’s ultimately our mission,” Ma said. “We want to grow a thriving green economy and transform this struggling, unsustainable economy to one that’s doing very, very well.”
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