Capital Citizen with Clinton Yates (Jan. 13)

Jan 13, 2014

Local columnist Clinton Yates takes your questions about politics, pop culture, people and whatever else you like from D.C.

Happy Monday, folks. Thanks for showing up. Starting today, and continuing every Monday, I'll be doing these chats to answer your questions. I'm not a genius, just a guy that reads alot and writes as much as I can.

So, feel free to ask anything you like, but let's try to keep it local. And have fun. That's what we're here for, after all.

Hello! Have you read "First Class: The Legacy of Dunbar" by Alison Stewart, and if so, what are your thoughts as a DC native and columnist?

I haven't read that book, but you're not the first person to suggest it. I do want to check it out. 

As a native, though, Dunbar is in an extremely tricky position. Its history is one that has made it famous, and at the same time has frustrated a lot of alums since things have gone downhill.

Over the weekend, Emma Brown wrote a fascinating story about what comes next for Dunbar, potential autonomy from DCPS, which IMO, sets an rather dicey precedent for how high schools in this city are regulated going forward.

The media frenzy around Vincent Gray is sucking all the air out of responsible media coverage of other elected offices. Jim Graham needs to be replaced along with Anita Bonds. Those aren't small fry positions. Why not ignore Gray for a bit (@ChuckThies clearly loves the attention helping the profile of his candidate, leaving others in obscurity) and give other campaigns more scrutiny?

Honestly, I think the logic here is a bit specious. The mayor's office in the District is easily the most visible and important office in the city for obvious reasons.

Could there be more coverage of other offices? Absolutely. I'm of the journalistic mind that more coverage of everything is always better. But to say that people/media/anyone should be ignoring the mayor doesn't make much sense to me.

Initial thoughts on the Jay Gruden hire?

Honestly, I think that Snyder and Bruce Allen have put themselves in a situation from a leadership standpoint that could blow up in their faces.

Jay Gruden is going to be leading a staff as a first time NFL head coach, that also features two other former NFL head coaches. For me, that strikes me as a difficult situation to manage. As much as I think continuity in a coaching staff is important, the toxic situation around that team forced them to take only someone who likely couldn't get a job anywhere else. 

Personally, I thought Lovie Smith would have been the best option, but he got hired early. Likely because he's pretty good. How do the new DC gun regulations impact violent criminals more than law abiding citizens? Not against gun regulations, most things in a liberal society are regulated (cars, pedestrians not allowed to walk down a busy street, designated smoking areas…all drugs SHOULD be regulated…), but passing bs laws to purportedly combat gun violence that do nothing of the sort perpetuates gun violence as a distraction to real solutions.

Yes and no. To be clear, I am of the mind that the two things you're suggesting are not mutually exclusive. Meaning, strict gun regulation does not have to come as a replacement to trying to find solutions to the problems that lead to people wanting to kill each other.

More specifically, none of those other things you mentioned are designed to kill things. That's the obvious, but very real difference between firearms and everything else when it comes to regulation. They are tools designed to destroy things. To equate them to anything that isn't designed to do that misses the mark to me, logically.

Every couple of years it looks as if there's light at the end of the tunnel regarding DC statehood only for a deal to fall apart far too easily. I had hope during the Obama administration a deal could be struck with his backing/impetus, but time for that is running out and it seems its not on anyone's priority list with the partisan gridlock currently evident in Congress. Do you see any progress made toward DC statehood in the next 5 years?

That depends on your definition of progress. Personally, and I know that I'm paid to have opinions, but I'm genuinely still not sure if statehood is even the best option for the District. 

As I see it, budget autonomy is a far more important short term goal than statehood. After that, there's a reasonable argument that a voting member of Congress is more sensible solution than statehood, though not necessarily one I completely agree with.

It's a complex issue that involves a lot of constitutional jargon, but I do get a bit peeved when I hear people yelling about 'statehood or else.' I get the sentiment, for sure, but it's not a catch all fix to all of the city's problems. Not remotely.

As a fellow DC native, I feel I need to ask the usual questions: In what neighborhood did you grow up? What high school did you attend? Also, will this chat be a regular thing?

I grew up in Takoma, right across the street from the old Walter Reed Medical Center. Had I gone to public school, I would have gone to Coolidge. I took the Red Line for years across the city to Cleveland Park where I attended Washington International School. That's where my love for street art and graffiti comes from.

And yes, this will be a regular thing, provided you all regularly show up and ask questions!

Reckless cars can kill, pedestrians can be killed walking down the middle or the sides of busy streets, drugs can kill. All need some regulation. The original question was how do the new regulations impact criminals more than law abiding citizens.

That entire construct is just not one I subscribe to. The notion that there are strict delineations between 'criminals' and 'law abiding citizens.' Frankly, I think that's part of the harm in the discussion. It just dismisses the notion that anyone that ever breaks the law might not want to be doing so, but life circumstances, be they fair or not have led them down such a path. Maybe that's not a circumstance you're familiar with, but it's a very real factor in many lives, particularly in this city.

So, to answer your question, I think the new regulations help everybody. Again, I'm of the belief that fewer guns lead to fewer people getting shot overall, from a simple numbers standpoint.

What do you think of increased discussion regarding possible amending of the Height Act? Do you think that in the next decade or two there will be be Crystal City or Rosslyn-type buildings in areas of the city that would not greatly impact the current skyline?

Honestly, I really hope not. I know that it's kind of old-school and pollyannish to think that the capital of the United States of America will live on in perpetuity with short buildings, but there's another part of me that thinks that's exactly why it makes sense.

If there's going to be one place in the country that does it, why not the capital? 

I think in the next ten years you'll see a situation that allows for both. Areas that are already somewhat established will keep their height limits, while as new parts of the city are revitalized (a loaded word) or redeveloped they'll have less regulation. Say, SW waterfront is one area that comes to mind.

Clinton, do you see the DC area embracing GW basketball as their team?

Absolutely not, and for good reason. GWU has to work to become a relevant team in NW Washington, nevermind the whole area.

That said, I'm a fan of GWU athletics. I used to go to games in high school because it was cheap and closer than the old Capital Centre before the Hoyas started playing downtown.

But I think if GWU fans stop becoming so obsessed with being the city's team, it'll do them good. The issue is more so about the school's connectivity to the city more so than anything else. It's just really not a place that many people feel is part of local D.C., aside from it's specific location. And there's really nothing wrong with that.

Btw, I'll be at the game Wednesday.

Until (or unless) there is an indictment there is nothing new to cover about the Gray scandal. Unless you want to cover the good/perfunctory things he's doing. As a reader, I want to see "NEWS" or scrutiny of other candidates, not snews (reporters making news about each other).

Well, for one, nothing everything about the mayor is necessarily scandal. Meaning, covering the mayor does not always  mean covering a scandal. Which was kind of my larger point. If you're covering someone who leads the city and the scandal happens to pervade almost all that happens, such is life.

As for scrutiny on other candidates, again, we're not in disagreement here. Who'd you like to see more news on?

In your opinion, how much did Gray's decision to run for another term as mayor affect the dynamic of the race? Is he automatically considered the frontrunner?

Absolutely. He's the incumbent, which by default, to me, makes him so. 

Let's also not forget that in the minds of many, this guy has done a pretty good job. This might sound ridiculous to say, but if you can convince yourself to put aside how it is he got in office, he hasn't been bad. Then again, for some people, me included, it's impossible to separate those two things.

Hope you mean Tuesday, or else you're gonna feel a little lonely at the Smitty ;-) In all seriousness, loving the Lonergan regime and think it's a fun team to watch. Matchup against VCU is awful, though.

Ha, yes. I did mean Tuesday. My bad.

Trent Franks (R-SC) says, because Congress approved DC's budget, our locally raised revenue is really "Federal money" and therefore they can tell us how to use it, i.e., providing abortions. Is this a new idea or have others tried this justification before?

That stance, from Franks, in a word, is crap. 

Much has been made about the gentrification patterns in certain District neighborhoods. I'm curious as to your (broad) opinion on this, as a lifelong citizen who has seen the changes firsthand. Do you think they're mostly positive, or mostly negative? Do you believe the growth patterns are optimal (i.e. mostly restaurants), or suboptimal (lack of true "neighborhood feel")?

I'm not sure that we'll ever be able to qualify the changes as positive or negative because there are so many competing interests.

But it's hard to say things aren't positive when the basic levels of public safety seem to be higher than they ever were in the 80s and 90s. Has that meant the systematic removal of certain people of the years? Definitely.

The biggest mistake that city officials ever made was lying to people about their interests of keeping 'old, black Washington' around. Everyone who made the deals that allowed for the patterns of gentrification to take place acts like they have no idea why that population seems to be going down, or like there's nothing they can do about it. It's kind of maddening.

Women candidates — all across the board. Women make up most of our population and they are the least represented in public office. Covering women brings to light a lot of other important issues that they champion.

And you think the reason women are least represented in public office is due to the media? I'm not dismissing that, just wondering if that's what you're getting at.

Hearing the season kicks off April 12! You ready?

Haha, quick aside, as part of these chats, I'll tell you guys a few things about my personal life from time to time, as I do in my newsletter, Lunchline.

This question is about the Metropolitan Media Softball League, which I play in for The Washington Post. It's a ton of fun, and a great way to get to know other people in the business.

Last year, in the playoffs, in a game we had to have to advance to the semi-finals, I left 5 runners on base (4 in scoring position) and had 2 errors at third base that cost us the season. 

Not that I'm still upset about it, or anything.

You think there is any merit to the proposal recently to redevelop the RFK site into about a hundred different things?

I believe the reader is referring to this, which is a bit far-reaching.

I think there is merit to some of this, but creating a virtural sports Disneyland at that site is not exactly the smartest use of space, IMO. 

Who do you see as the strongest candidate to unseat Vincent Gray. Muriel Bowser? Jack Evans? Vincent Orange?

The three you named, in that exact order.

I want the media to cover women more.

Word. I want the world to respect women more, overall.

Last year, the annual Nats Fest was held at the Washington Convention Center. This year, I see it's back out in the burbs, National Harbor. DC sank $700M into a stadium for the Nats. Should the team go out of its way to host events like this one within the city limits?

This is something that bothers a lot of people, and I understand why. But it doesn't bother me. For the team to be successful, a regional approach to marketing is vital. To get nitpicky about where every specific function is held seems a bit small-minded.

I know that the whole in-D.C./not in-D.C. thing is a huge deal for a certain subset of fans, but for me, as long as they're playing ball in the city, I'm happy.

1. Why are so many with no hope of winning running? 2. Don't they know this will enable corrupt incumbents like Vince gray to come back? It makes me sad to see my fellow citzens this dumb

1. You can't win if you don't run.

2. This statement seems to contradict your first question. If new people don't run, how will said incumbents ever get unseated?

I wasn't suggesting the 'federal money' idea was great, I was wondering if any other members of Congress had used this idea before. (PS - the Post really should cover these DC oversight hearings more.)

What do you think of Gray's choice to run with education as a major part of his platform? At one level, he has kept a lot of the controversial policies that people did not like about the Fenty administration, alienating parts of his base (e.g., teachers unions). On the other hand, there have been significant improvements in test scores. But those improvements still leave us at the bottom on many rankings (NAEP, EdWeek's Quality Counts released last week). For all of the improvements, there are some real weaknesses that opponents can attack. Should he really make it such a centerpiece of his campaign?

Well, for one, I think it should be a big part of his campaign for the simple fact that it matters. A topic as major as education can't just be ignored because it might provide a potentially weak spot.

But then again, I'm not a campaign strategist. I'm just someone who wants honest discussion from public officials about the present and future of the city.

What do you think the real chances are the Redskins are pressured into a name change in the next 10 years? What do you think it will take for that to happen?

The next ten years? I'd say 100%. 

What will it take for that to happen? Someone extremely important to Snyder, say, his wife for example, convincing him to do so. 

As a fellow native with deep family roots in DC, I'm interested in your statehood position (which seems similar to mine). Probably a lot to answer in this forum, have you ever written a column about it (or would you)?

Retrocession seems like it would easily pass in Congress if DC residents wer ereally interested in getting representation. As a MD resident I welcome our the return of the former MD land and residents. It is a tried and true methodology as VA received the return of its land and residents.

I'm not really buying that, and frankly, that seems unecessarily patronizing from a civic standpoint. The discussion of what land belongs to whom is always an extremely loaded one due to the vicious history of this country, so I'm not sure that falling back on that standard is a path we want to go down.

The constitution is not an unchangeable document. 

Alright, kiddos, we're done for the day. I want to say thanks to everyone who participated. It means a lot to be able to engage with readers in a forum that allows us all to have a voice. As a person, nevermind a journalist, that's important to me. So, thank you.

We'll be doing this every week on Mondays at 10 a.m. Tell your friends. Have a good week!

In This Chat
Clinton Yates
Clinton Yates is a D.C. native and an online columnist. He was born at GWU hospital the week before Ronald Reagan ended up there for the wrong reasons. When he's not covering the city, pop culture or listening to music, he watches sports. A lot of them.
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