MPD Police CarsHill Now periodically publishes opinion pieces from our readers. Have something you want to share with the Capitol Hill community? Email us at [email protected].

by Richard Lukas

Sirens pulsed. Several squad cars flanked the streets, two blocks away from the spot of an armed robbery that occurred in broad daylight just hours before – and steps from the site of a public safety meeting that gathered officials from across the District and over 300 residents the night before.

Some neighbors thought that the police presence was in response to that day’s act of violence or the related surge in crimes that Washington has experienced these past several months. But hopes quickly dissipated. In fact, the protection was for those that make Capitol Hill their occupation, not their home. Watkins Recreational Field in Southeast DC was hosting the biennial Congressional Football Game, matching Members of Congress – and a few professional players – against those sworn to protect them, the U.S. Capitol Police.

Two weeks since I made my pronouncement that DC is gripped in a reign of terror, the District recorded its 130th homicide early this morning. Despite some laudable and key arrests by the Metropolitan Police Department, daily acts of violence have continued apace often in the same hot spots that previous acts occurred.

Fear is a democratizing factor. The terrors being committed affect rich and poor alike.

And while our leadership assures us that every step is being taken to protect us, many of us remain skeptical that things will improve in the short term.
I believe that our Mayor and Councilmembers are committed to making our streets safe.

Yet, I continue to also believe that things will not improve until more aggressive policy measures are enacted or tactical changes are employed by the police.

Unfortunately it is fear that also slows such required actions.

As a society, we have determined that the legislative process be one of slow deliberation. We believe that thoughtful discussion and analysis, debated over months or years, will produce good long-term policy results. We are afraid of impulsive or speedy decisions that could have unintended results.

At its best, our democratic system works well to benefit the next generation; but at its worst, it also paralyses us in times of crisis. Admirable public safety legislation is now before the Council. However, what moves forward, what is passed and enacted, and what outcomes can be identified will take more than a year – or years – to be realized.

While some will debate whether they feel that a true reign of terror is plaguing our residents (and my admitted apologies to Mr. Robespierre for coopting the term), people continue to believe that our leadership does not have the power to end this surge in crime and change the growing perception that our streets are unsafe.

Absent of emergency legislation or a heavier MPD presence, fear will persist.

Somewhat ironically, the “Guards” beat our elected representatives, curiously dubbed “The Mean Machine,” in Wednesday night’s football match-up. The players have retired from the field. The squad cars have left. But those of us who remain behind are still looking up at the score board – and sadly it seems like we are losing.

Lukas lives in Hill East and has worked in community development for more than ten years.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Hill Now.


Crime tape (Photo via Flickr/nullvalue)

Hill Now periodically publishes opinion pieces from our readers. Have something you want to share with the Capitol Hill community? Email us at [email protected].

by Richard Lukas

Since this past spring, there has been much talk about what can now be considered a skyrocketing surge of crime in the District, especially on Capitol Hill.

The majority of D.C. residents are good, hard-working, law-abiding citizens. However, we are being terrorized by a small percentage of “irrational actors.” (Perhaps faced with such economic and social challenges, in their minds, these unlawful actions are quite rational.)

What can we do or expect to stem the tide of violence and criminal activity in the near term?


I say this because I have no faith whatsoever that an adequate response can come from our elected officials or the police. I believe that those at the top are thoughtful and well-intentioned. However, our D.C. leaders lack the forthrightness needed to select the immediate policies that are required to combat this reign of terror.

Mainly, our elected officials are loathe to address publicly, what we all know privately:

  1. There is a very active segment of marauding at-risk youths who find satisfaction from terrorizing people on a daily basis. (I can’t believe that all these crimes are connected to synthetic marijuana.)
  2. “Hot spots” of criminal locations do indeed exist, whether part of our public housing complexes or notorious transit connections. (No, we do not get rid of providing housing and public transportation to D.C. residents. But sentinel stations could be a solution.)
  3. In light of legitimate national concerns around police brutality, D.C. could be criticized for being heavy-handed if there were stronger police measures enacted. (There must be more aggressive approaches that are humane and within the law that could be considered.)

Consequently, my longtime friends and neighbors have given up on leaving their homes at night — and some even walking alone or with their children during the day. The now exorbitant rents and home prices that we pay — and their respectively high property taxes — only afford safety behind our closed front doors.

Where are the daily, weekly or routine updates from our officials on what is being done to recognize and address this new normal? At the very least, there should be one-stop web pages on and our councilmember sites providing updates and proactive approaches being taken. But to recognize the problem in such a transparent and systematic fashion might only be perceived as a sign of defeat by our leadership.

Having lived on the Hill for more than 15 years, I have never seen such comprehensive fear from the neighborhood, and it is very sad.

So what can we really expect in the months to come?

Things will get worse.

I say this because as the days get shorter, the window for the criminal activity that is occurring under darkness grows wider. And, yes, I recognize that statistically crime goes down in colder months. However, this reign of terror changes everything.

Hopefully, our elected officials will eventually act. But I am not holding my breath.

Instead, I will follow the practice of my neighbors and just try not to be a walking target. Our streets are not safe. In the long term, I do think that things will get better due to the slow churn of progressive policy reforms being made in our education system and social services, but also due to the increased density through city development. (Even though people like me could never afford that $500,000 one-bedroom condo!)

Some will disagree with my assessment; some will agree. But I fully believe that we should be candid about what is happening by our irrational and rational actors alike.

Lukas lives in Hill East and has worked in community development for more than ten years.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Hill Now.

Photo via Flickr/nullvalue


RFK Stadium (Photo via Wikimedia/Ben Schumin)

Hill Now periodically publishes opinion pieces from our readers. Have something you want to share with the Capitol Hill community? Email us at [email protected].

by Chan Han

Here is a question I do not think anyone has asked as of yet, especially Events DC: What is the current NFL design standards for a stadium today and can the city handle it?

Let me start off by saying that I used to work at a architecture firm that designed football stadiums for several teams, such as the Dallas Cowboys, Indianapolis Colts and the Minnesota Vikings. I can assure you, a standard does exist.

For example, new stadiums must be able to seat between 60,000 and 100,000 people. A minimum of 80 to 100 acres of undisturbed land must be dedicated solely to the stadium itself. No eminent domain, no easements and no wetlands issues must be present. To accommodate the traditional tailgaters, it is preferred to have at least an additional 100 to 120 acres for dedicated parking.

So now you are talking 180 to 220 acres of land for a current, up to date, modern stadium. The RFK site only has 190 acres total, which is on the low end of what the NFL standards for new stadiums demand. The fact that it is mostly wetlands only diminishes the usable amount of land for a stadium.

Now comes the question, do we just renovate RFK? The problem is RFK can only hold 49,000. FedExField can hold 79,000. That’s 30,000 possible season ticket holders unaccounted for, a huge loss in revenue.

The other issue is the age of RFK Stadium. To upgrade the stadium itself will be astronomical. The stadium and all of its utilities will have to be upgraded to meet today’s building codes. Honestly, it will be cheaper to build a new stadium from scratch. The average price for a new stadium today with amenities can range from $700 million to $1.5 billion.

Another question: Has anyone even asked Dan Snyder if he will seriously consider moving back into D.C.? If the owner of the Redskins is not even considering moving back into the city, why are we wasting our time and resources planning for it?

And my last question: Has anyone read the development report made by the National Capital Planning Commission on the RFK Stadium grounds? Most of its findings are very logical and thorough, not to mention, along the lines of what the Kingman Park neighborhood is looking for.

Given all of this info, RFK realistically can no longer be used as a stadium. We should put our efforts into developing a plan which would benefit the neighborhood and the city.

Han is an architect and a contractor, who lives in Kingman Park.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Hill Now.

Photo via Wikimedia/Ben Schumin


H Street Streetcar

The head of the District Department of Transportation made jaws drop Friday when he said he would kill the H Street streetcar project if additional reviews reveal “fatal flaws.”

Leif Dormsjo said he prefers to keep the project on track, but won’t “ask for money from the citizens of this jurisdiction, nor from this council, for something I can’t manage.”

Here’s how some Facebook users reacted to the news on Hill Now’s page:

Jeff Davenport: There are test cars running up and down that line successfully all the time. This project is at the brink of success. Abandoning it now sounds like people with a hidden agenda want to kill it. We need a comprehensive public transport system in the city that gets you everywhere and works for everyone. Streetcars have to be a part of that system.

Diane Kohn: I want my money back.

Daniel Herman: This project needs to continue. We need to make progress not keep progress from happening.

Mona Evans Butterfield:Waste of money. It is so annoying to see those empty cars driving up and down wasting time.

What do you want the city to do? You can weigh in through the poll and in the comments.


Snow day, March 5, 2015

The storm is over, but the cleanup continues.

Ward 6 got an estimated 5 inches of snow yesterday, and many roads and sidewalks are still an icy mess. Hundreds of Capitol Hill, Hill East, Navy Yard and Near Northeast residents called 311 to request that snowplows clear their block, according to the District’s Snow Map.

How well-cleared are the streets and sidewalks near you? Here’s what some locals said:

You can weigh in through the poll and in the comments.


D Street SE Hill Now reported yesterday on a recently formed community group for locals without kids, and we got a huge response.

Like the large and oft-discussed Moms on the Hill (MOTH) group, Childfree Living on the Hill (CLOTH) is meant to bring together neighbors who might not connect otherwise, resident Lori Ward said. She started a Facebook page for the group and is coordinating a real-life get-together soon.

Commenters on our Facebook page told us these groups are an “only in D.C.” phenomenon and that they want a Dog Owners on the Hill (DOOTH) group.

Does the Hill need more community groups? Which ones? And what’s living on the Hill all about anyway?


Capitol Hill Historic District signThe Capitol Hill Restoration Society has spent this month telling locals about a study they commissioned on expanding historic preservation zones in Ward 6.

Research by the architectural history firm EHT Traceries, Inc. supports the northern expansion of the Capitol Hill Historic District, plus the creation of the Capitol Hill East Historic District.

Many locals said at a community meeting Monday night that additional historic designations would cost them time and money. Supporters of the designation said it would give locals an additional tool to fight ugly pop-ups and inappropriate development.

What do you think? Take the poll and tell more in the comments. If you live in the Capitol Hill Historic District, how do you think it has helped and hurt the neighborhood?


Charles Allen and family (Photo courtesy of Charles Allen)We asked candidates for the Ward 6 City Council seat to tell in 750 words or less why Hill residents should vote for them tomorrow (Tuesday).

Here is Democratic candidate Charles Allen’s unedited response:

Having served my Ward 6 neighbors in a variety of roles over the last decade, I am ready and excited to take on the challenge of representing your interests as the next Ward 6 member of the DC Council.

People choose to call Ward 6 home because our neighborhoods are an extension of our living rooms – with great schools we can walk to, parks to gather in, and local businesses that know us by name. These serve as anchors for our community and we must ensure that all residents see this vision realized.

But Ward 6 is more than a sum of its great places. The true spirit of Ward 6 lies with its people. Each person adds to the strength and diversity of our neighborhoods and I want to make sure that Ward 6 is a place we can always call home. For those like myself with young families, this means bringing great schools to all corners of the Ward. We’ve seen a transformation in our neighborhood elementary schools and I will bring the same energy and urgency to improve our middle and high school choices. For others, this means fighting for affordable family-based housing, and ensuring that we can successfully age in our homes. For everyone, this means a safe neighborhood with small businesses that support our lives. These will be my priorities.

Ward 6 has a great story to tell, but we also have new challenges to face. I’m a problem solver and reformer by nature, and I’m excited to take on this next role. I know I can bring people together to find common sense solutions because I’ve done it before – whether as Chief of Staff for our Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells, as policy director for the DC Primary Care Association, or simply as your neighbor. I look forward to continuing to be a voice for progressive priorities and seeking solutions to the social justice issues facing our city.

I hope I can count on your support and I ask for your vote as we work together for a better Ward 6 and a better city.

Photo courtesy of Charles Allen


Pranav Badhwar and family (Photo courtesy of Pranav Badhwar)We asked candidates for the Ward 6 City Council seat to tell in 750 words or less why Hill residents should vote for them tomorrow (Tuesday).

Here is Libertarian candidate Pranav Badhwar’s unedited response:

After speaking extensively to residents of Ward 6, I’ve based my platform on the positions that matter most to our citizens. My solutions include helping improve our public schools, spurring entrepreneurship and creating more jobs, reducing crime, easing transportation costs, and expanding affordable housing –all while reducing the DC Council’s spending.

You should vote for me because my …

Qualifications and Experience Extend Beyond Politics:

  • I have over 20 years of professional experience in strategy, technology, and operations. I know how to listen to people, build consensus and make good investments. Anyone can spend other people’s money, but making sure investments payoff is hard work, and the skills required are not only political, but professional skills I have honed in effectively developing, coordinating, and operating large-scale services.
  • I also have experience with what is being called “Smart Cities.” Experts say that the next 10 years will bring more technological change than the last 100. At least one D.C. Councilmember should understand how to harness technologies to improve services and reduce costs, and to make sure that people do not get left behind.

Solutions Are Win-Win:

  • Traditional D.C. policies exclude our citizens from opportunity through failing schools, excessive job licensing requirements, and a counter-productive drug war. These policies treat symptoms, but maintain barriers to opportunity, causing persistent poverty, homelessness, and crime. DC then raises taxes to pay for failed programs, leading to higher prices for rent and basic goods and services, making city life unaffordable for many, including seniors on fixed incomes and the poor.
  • One hundred percent of my solutions remove barriers at the root of the problem AND reduce spending. As the only candidate with two children in DC public traditional and charter schools, I know both systems well and my uniquely transformative schools solution is a win-win for teachers, students, and society. The only candidate with the courage to call for a total end to the drug war, which criminalizes non-violent behavior and severely restricts employment, I offer better alternatives to spending vast police and judicial resources only to destroy human potential. My affordable housing policies offer many choices, more realistically conforming to human need and emphasizing urban revival over government-sponsored gentrification. Please see for details.

Accountability Rules Build Better Government:

The District of Columbia government paid a settlement earlier this year for abusing civil asset forfeiture rules, which allows police to seize people’s personal property on mere suspicion of wrong-doing, without even filing charges against them. But no public officials were liable, so city taxpayers ultimately paid the cost. The public pays the penalty for being abused by public officials. This is plain wrong.  Read More


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