In life, many opportunities present themselves for one to be in control. On a recent trip with a friend, I gave up my control when we took a road trip. Although, it was just two of us, we debated about small things that, if I were driving, would have been in my control. My friend and I scrutinized each other’s driving patterns, but agreed that whomever was driving was in total control.
This same scenario applies to economic development in the District. Many times, DC residents give up their voice, by not attending various planning meetings, but then complain once plans have been drawn and decisions have been made. However, DC residents give total control to the planners when they fail to participate in the process of review.
City economics will bring about change across the city. Residents can either be involved, or sit on the sidelines and watch the change occur without their input. However, this does not have to be the case. In order to have a seat at the table you have to get involved. And involvement includes civic participation.
Attending neighborhood advisory meetings, zoning and planning meetings are all great first steps. When there, voice your opinion. Promote homeownership and start to take care of your community and you will be more likely to be seen as an ally for positive change and development. We need to begin to have these conversations as a Ward 8 community and not just as individuals. We need to organize our own community summit and have an honest conversation to see if we are truly prepared for change.
Second, we need to do a better job of encouraging Ward 8 young adults and teenagers to be a part of the conversations. This can be accomplished through town hals and even block parties. Meeting people where they are is a key to developing a strong community. This is important because the day we decide we no longer want to organize community meetings and such; there is someone else who we have given driving lessons to and is willing to take the wheel of the community to the next destination.
You have to be blind not to notice that economic development is coming East of the River via the St. Elizabeth’s campus and other initiatives the city is considering. This change will have a huge impact on the feel of our communities. The last thing we want to do is react to the change and become the annoying back seat driver. It is important that we be proactive and drive the change we want to see.
Charles Wilson is a neighborhood activist in Historic Anacostia located in Ward 8. He is also the Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner in Single Member District 8A04. Be sure to check out his blog, The ART of WARd8 at http://artofward8.blogspot.com/. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at CharlesWilsonDC.