Empowerhouses Ready for Residents

New homeowner Lakiya Culley and members of the Empowerhouse Collaborative dedicate DC's first two "net-zero" dwellings.

New homeowner Lakiya Culley and members of the Empowerhouse Collaborative dedicate DC’s first two “net-zero” dwellings.

New homeowner Lakiya Culley and members of the Empowerhouse Collaborative dedicate DC’s first two “net-zero” dwellings.[/caption]
With the Empowerhouse dedication and ribbon cutting on Dec. 4, Ward 7 officially became home to Washington, DC’s first passive solar homes. The Empowerhouse project began as an entry in the 2011 Solar Decathlon, expanding to provide two low-cost, energy-efficient homes for DC residents. The Empowerhouse Collaborative includes The New School in New York, the DC Department of Housing and Community Development, Habitat for Humanity, Groundwork Anacostia River DC, and a host of other agencies, nonprofits and private enterprises.

“I’m excited,” neighbor Celestine Grant said after the dedication. “This was a vacant lot for 40 years, and it’s wonderful to see it used now for a great purpose. We should find more areas like this, to put houses that people can afford.”

Lakiya Culley, pictured with family and Collaborative representatives, was certified as the first of two homeowners to occupy the special dwellings. The Culleys are slated to take residence in January.

Gallery added 12/22/12. More on this story in January’s East of the River.

Camari watches visitors stream through the passive solar home he will soon occupy with his mother and two older brothers.

Camari watches visitors stream through the passive solar home he will soon occupy with his mother and two older brothers.

December 7, 2012 at 10:29 pm Leave a comment

Revisiting DCPS Reform Plans of 2007

Mayoral control of the DC Public School system is five years old and still awaiting its annual reviews as well as its five-year evaluation. Meanwhile, for those helping Ward 7 consider what works and what doesn’t in planning for new schools and programs — and for those preparing testimony for July 13’s Public Roundtable at the DC Council — below is some background which might prove useful:
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July 9, 2012 at 12:16 pm 1 comment

Where is Donatelli’s Minnesota-Benning Phase 2?

Where is Donatelli Development and the promised “Phase 2” project at Minnesota and Benning NE? Will the project, sometimes called “Park 7,” break ground as scheduled this summer? Is the developer planning to respond to neighborhood queries about the project?
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July 4, 2012 at 5:22 am Leave a comment

DC Education “Conversations” Update

Look for a brief story on the Deputy Mayor for Education’s Community Conversations — occurring in Wards 7 and 8 in August and in Wards 1, 4 and 5 during July — in July’s East of the River (on-line in about ten days). DME says information will be posted to their website next week (that would be week of July 2).

Meanwhile, ANC7A.com is currently in “account suspended” status, so here are the documents about the Community Conversations that were formerly posted there.

What Are Community Conversations?

DC Quality Schools initiative 2012

Finally, here is a report previously referenced on Ward 7 Connections by a stakeholder who attended a recent Community Conversations planning meeting.

June 26, 2012 at 11:19 pm Leave a comment

Lessons from Milwaukee: IFF background guest blog

Liz Pecot (ANC 7D05) provides the following notes and links for those interested in learning more about the Illinois Facilities Fund — self-described “nonprofit lender and real estate consultant dedicated to strengthening nonprofits and the communities they serve” — who authored the report suggesting closure/charterizing of dozens of DC public schools and

These notes explore IFF’s history with the Milwaukee Public Schools. This information and some additional background on the Walton Family Fund and its education agenda may prove helpful to those interested in what is proposed for DC schools and/or participating in the Deputy Mayor’s exercise in engagement.
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June 23, 2012 at 1:36 am Leave a comment

IFF Background: Report, Reaction, and Next Steps

UPDATE, 8/10/12 — “Community Conversations” Set

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The DCPS academic year ended on June 14 and, with it, the most straightforward means of communicating with the system’s 45,000 students and their families. It is this moment that the District’s Deputy Mayor for Education (DME) chose, however, for launching its Engagement Initiative to discuss possible school closings.

The closings — 15 east of the river — were recommended five months ago in “Quality Schools: Every Child, Every School, Every Neighborhood,” AKA “The Illinois Facilities Fund Needs Assessment Report” or IFF report.

The DME — and DCPS — has steadfastly refused to discuss the closings before, however. As late as the Ward 8 Education Town Hall held in May, DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson was still telling constituents that the IFF was “just a report, not a plan” and promising plenty of engagement on any possible closings. Even now, information sent to stakeholders by ANC 7A, as part of this initiative, does not mention that “right-sizing” the school system is a key goal.

The IFF study, calling for the closing or charter-izing of dozens of DC public schools, was released on Jan 26. Response was sharply critical, with the exception of funders, the Walton Family Foundation. (If anyone knows of positive expert response to the report, please advise.)

Deputy Mayor De’Shawn Wright said at the time: “This is just the first step in the process. No final decisions will be made until my office, DCPS, PCSB and other school representatives have had a thorough conversation with the community and conducted a comprehensive review of the solutions available to us.”

A few weeks later, Wright reiterated:

To be clear, we have not made any decisions regarding closure, turnaround or school management changes as a result of this study, and we will not make any decisions until we have had a thorough conversation with the public to discuss the best alternatives for improving the quality of education in each of the highest-need communities….

Based on a rigorous, civil and thorough dialogue, we as one city can make thoughtful decisions that continue to build upon the successes of both traditional public schools and charter schools while providing fresh opportunities to those neighborhoods with the greatest need.

For months, stakeholders unsuccessfully petitioned for engagement on the methods and conclusions of the study. Now, with school vacation underway, ANC 7A, one of the organizations charged with arranging “community conversations” for the DME, announced: “In order to give the Ward 7 Community Stakeholders time to get involved and participate, an August meeting was decided on.”
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June 22, 2012 at 5:55 pm 8 comments

The Money Behind DCPS Community Engagement

DCPS hired Public Agenda to organize planning meetings in advance of mid-August “community engagement” to consider the future of DC public schools.

At last night’s planning meeting for Ward 7, Elizabeth Pecot (ANC 7D05) learned that City Bridge Foundation is funding the engagement exercise. She provided some background, following the meeting, to the Ward 7 listserve. Here, following up on her initial research, are City Bridge’s current partners:

City Bridge’s Thought Partners, as Ms. Pecot pointed out in her message to Ward 7 last night, include the Walton Family Foundation, which also funded the Illinois Facilities Fund report, released in January 2012, that recommends closing 37 DCPS schools or turning them over to a charter school.

June 22, 2012 at 6:59 am 2 comments

DC Solar Flare

Solar United Neighborhoods and the Ward 7 Solar Cooperative present the DC Solar Flare on Saturday, June 16.

Scheduled for 9 AM until 4:30PM, at H. D. Woodson Senior High School’s new campus, 540 55th Street NE.

DC SUN comprises 11 Solar Coops in DC’s eight wards. Since 2006, they’ve helped develop and lobby for legislative, regulatory and financial platforms to make solar accessible, and affordable, to all DC residents.

For more information, visit DC Solar Flare. Look for more on DC solar coops in July’s East of the River.

Saturday’s event

Exhibitors: talk to green business, agency, and organization exhibitors, booksellers.

Workshops and speakers explain your energy choices, cleaner living options and business and job opportunities in DC’s green economy: where are they, and how to find them.

Fun science activities and displays for kids.

Demonstrations: solar photovoltaic, solar thermal and solar cooking, solar tracking systems.

Solar Homes Tour: visit state-of-the-art, passive and active solar Empowerhouses on Gault Place, NE designed and built by Parsons School of Design and Habitat, DC for the 2011 Solar Decathlon.

EV Demonstrations: the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf, and the Electric Vehicle Association of Greater Washington, plus an EV charging station.

Solar powered WiFi network built by DC SUN and Woodson STEM classes on the Woodson High School campus.

June 15, 2012 at 1:24 am Leave a comment

Considering Tax Abatements for Minnesota-Benning

The District offered to sell Donatelli Development, for the price of $10 (ten dollars), land worth over $13 million for the “Phase 2” (aka “Park 7”) project at Minnesota and Benning, NE. The deadline to close the 2009 deal is Oct. 6, 2012. Additional legislation, still under consideration, would offer Donatelli annual tax abatements that amount to more than $36 million over the next 30 years as well as nearly $100,000 in fees and one-time taxes.


The mixed-use Park 7 project, a key element in Ward 7’s “new downtown,” was originally scheduled for completion in 2011. It has not yet broken ground. (Properties — see right — obtained by the District to make way for the long-delayed project were razed in 2010.)

Read the update, and more about the currently proposed tax abatement, in February’s East of the River.

For comparison, it is instructive to review discussions of a $13.6 million Tax-Increment-Financing proposal which was rejected by the District for this same project in 2009 (No TIF for City East).

Here is the Abatement, now in the DC Council’s Finance and Revenue Committee, which offers Donatelli tens of millions of dollars over the course of the next 30 years.

February 8, 2012 at 9:20 pm 1 comment

Benning Station Post Office Update

This season is rampant with predictions like, “As goes Florida [or Maine or whichever], so goes the nation.” The District’s primary election doesn’t draw this kind of attention, of course. For those interested in the fate of the US Postal Service, however, should consider: “As goes Benning Station, so goes USPS.”

Plans to close the post office at 3937-1/2 Benning, NE, in East River Park, reflect many concerns raised nationwide: errors in USPS planning documents, failure to consider economic development, fears closings won’t save money in the long run, and disparate impact on low-income neighborhoods. Those interested in the fate of our local post offices as well as USPS nationally will want to consider the recent report of the Postal Regulatory Commission.

See “USPS Optimization Not Optimal: Regulatory Report Echoes Local Concerns” in this month’s East of the River for the full story.

February 8, 2012 at 9:01 pm Leave a comment

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