Stuff We Spend Our City Money On

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This picture, taken today, November 20, 2015, is of the north sidewalk on the 500 block of A St. NE, on Capitol Hill. The concrete sidewalk shown here will soon be jackhammered and replaced with bricks.

Passed in 1985, DC municipal regulation 24-1200 says that whenever a repair is deemed necessary for a portion of a sidewalk in a designated historic area, the entire sidewalk must be replaced with brick, if it is not already so. (Never mind that historically, all sidewalks on Capitol Hill were concrete–or that DDOT personnel admitted to me years ago that brick sidewalks do not last as long, present tripping and slipping hazards, and cost more to install and maintain.)

In 2004, I wrote to the city council asking that this rule not be enforced. I cited the fact that children at Capitol Hill’s DCPS elementary Tyler were in classrooms with boarded-over windows because the school system lacked money to replace windows lost after a hurricane.

I also cited the fact that another Capitol Hill school, Stuart-Hobson, had sustained damage from water leaking into its auditorium (which, ironically, continues to this day).

In 2004, I asked the city council:

“We have money to rip up otherwise functional sidewalks, but no money to buy school windows?”

Two years later, in 2006, my son’s teacher at DCPS’s Peabody school experienced a roof leak in her classroom, causing the plaster to come crashing down. Apparently, that leak was caused by poor roof drainage.

Four years later, in 2010, I passed along this note to the city council, from the same teacher at Peabody, in the same classroom:

“I have had two leaks in my classroom since January 2010. I arrived at work at 7:15AM today with the intention of working on a newsletter to my classroom parents. Instead, I had to spend half an hour mopping up water, finding buckets, and covering classroom materials with plastic as a result of water leaking in two separate places in my classroom. During the day I had to take time away from my teaching duties to cover other areas of the classroom so that the plaster falling from the leaking areas would not be falling on the materials my students need to use during the day.

“I was told a few months ago that these needed repairs are not a priority. My job is to provide high quality education for the students I serve. I cannot effectively do my job if the physical conditions of my classroom require time and attention that should be directed to preparing and planning for my students.”

That same year, 2010, I wrote to the council about the city putting in new tree boxes near Peabody when the trees inside were sick and dying and completely untouched.

Apparently, it was a thing about–wait for it–brick sidewalks.

This is stuff we spend our city money on.

Just like the $200 million our city spent for an 1100-room Marriott hotel downtown, amounting to $180,000 per room. Or the tens of millions for a new training facility for the Wizards. Or the $150 million for a DC United stadium. Or the almost half billion dollars for Nationals stadium.

That’s a lot of school roof repair. A lot of school windows. And a lot of school bathroom upgrades and library books.

It kind of puts the $180 million+ fortune being spent on the Ellington high school renovation into perspective–even while that expenditure dwarfs that for any other DC public school.

Unlike the stuff people outside DC want to foist on DC public education, this is all on us.

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