Street Justice

By Gordon Chaffin

Support DC's Ward 7 & Their Benning Rd Project

#142・
150

issues

Support DC's Ward 7 & Their Benning Rd Project
By Gordon Chaffin • Issue #142 • View online
I’m job searching – bit.ly/GordonChaffinResume – and I could use your help finding a job in DC or SE Michigan. I’m looking for a mid- to senior-level role in an organization that serves the public interest. A role in public policy, media/journalism, or communications/marketing. I’d appreciate any leads/referrals. Please reply to this email!

The DC Streetcar travels westbound on H Street NE - November 2020
The DC Streetcar travels westbound on H Street NE - November 2020
Please Support Mobility Justice for Our Neighbors in DC Ward 7
I’m writing to ask that you speak this Thursday, June 10th at a DC Council hearing supporting the immediate completion of design and beginning of construction on the Benning Road Reconstruction and Streetcar Project. It’s urgent. The proposed DC budget cripples the project – a multifaceted, multimodal, safety, and equity enhancing effort benefitting DC’s higher-% poor and Black Ward 7. The draft budget also sets up a fiscal cliff next year where construction money is likely to be attacked, reduced, and/or redirected. While that happens, Mayor Bowser’s budget accelerates a project in a wealthier business district.
My testimony contains original budget analysis. It’s something I’m extremely proud of because there are real-world stakes. I was finally able to deploy both my MPP training and my journalism skills. This is how injustice happens: you just delay a project a little, you bet on its political opposition, and you do it without giving straight answers to the public. Good projects sit on shelves and money available for them sits in a bank account. I have $200K in grad school debt and no full-time job, but I hope this work I did makes a difference.
You can submit verbal or written testimony as a public witness or representative of a stakeholder organization. I put instructions below to sign-up to testify and submit your thoughts, plus talking points. Feel free to pull language from my prepared testimony attached at the bottom.
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Support the Benning Road Reconstruction and Streetcar Extension
  • Testify In-Person this Thursday, Jun 10: Send an email to Aukima Benjamin by tomorrow, Tuesday evening, June 8.
  • Submit Written Testimony: Send an email to Aukima Benjamin by close of business Thursday, June 24. (Earlier is better.)
  • Submit Voicemail Testimony: Call (202) 350-1344, which will be transcribed and made part of the hearing record. Members of the public leaving voicemail testimony should speak slowly and clearly, state their full name and the organization they represent if any, and note the agency that they are submitting testimony on. Members of the public are asked to not provide an e-mail, phone number, or other personal contact information voicemail testimony.
Talking Points for Testimony:
  1. DDOT Director Everett Lott should give DC Council and residents an exact target month for Benning Project construction starting. In September 2020, DDOT said in the adopted FY21 budget that they would begin construction on June 1, 2021 (two weeks ago). The Benning Project should break ground no later than December 2022.
  2. The Benning Road Reconstruction and Streetcar Extension project must include the full extension to and a connection with the Benning Road Metro Station. The project’s engineering and environmental documents show a shorter extension or alternate route is not feasible. Neither is it possible this far along in planning to strip the Streetcar extension from the co-dependently planned Benning Road improvements. Nor, finally, is it sensible to make this a bus project in the final design phase.
  3. Over the past year, hundreds of Ward 7 residents – especially those living northeast of Benning Road – have organized to show strong support for this project. These residents have a consensus: the Benning Road corridor needs a permanent transit service enhancement, road design improvements with added sidewalks, a better I-295 connection, and improved bridges across the Anacostia.
  4. Ward 7 residents and stakeholders have fought for years – decades – for greater investment in their communities. It is wrong to allow the K Street Transitway to get fast-tracked while the Benning Rd improvements are slow-walked and possibly stall out. This is the opposite of a budget with an equity lens: come out of the pandemic rushing to install transit in the wealthy, white-collar corridor while essential workers in East Ward 7 have to wait many more years for a permanent transit line.
  5. There are significant community benefits for an accelerated design and installation of the full Benning Project. First and most importantly: transit would be closer to more of DC’s least-privileged. 37,000 of Ward 7’s 80,000 residents would be within a reasonable walk of the extended Streetcar. Ridership data from the H Street corridor show that the Streetcar attracts riders who don’t ride the bus – raising the overall transit ridership and reducing car use. Fewer cars running in the neighborhood reduce localized air pollution. Added sidewalks and beginner-friendly bike routes mean safer routes to school. Economic development opportunities dot the corridor – a clean slate for inclusive, community-first investment. But, Ward 7 needs the full Streetcar extension ASAP for connectivity to best-practice projects like Fletcher Johnson.
Community destinations within walking distance of stops on the DC Streetcar extension along Benning Rd NE. Map created by Michael Havlin, using QGIS, Open Street Maps, Open Data DC, and TravelTime API.
Community destinations within walking distance of stops on the DC Streetcar extension along Benning Rd NE. Map created by Michael Havlin, using QGIS, Open Street Maps, Open Data DC, and TravelTime API.
I’m asking you to raise your voice on this issue because it’s another example of DC’s Executive and Council favoring wealthier, whiter business interests while slowing down and critically wounding discussed improvements to the poorer, Blacker areas. This would be another promise broken in a morally disgusting line of condescending corporatism, technocratism, and disfavoring of Black residents. I’m also worked up about the Benning Project with Streetcar extension because I feel almost alone as a neighbor/urbanist supporting it.
This Benning Project has long been a political football containing omnipresent issues on which many have important conversations but rarely seem to make discernable progress: gentrification, housing affordability, the skewed income-level distribution of benefits from neighborhood improvements, and the government’s condescending voice in community change. I’m not unsympathetic to advocacy group strategic decisions and the wise picking political battles. We are now at a stage – and I’ve got receipts – that poor Black people are getting screwed by the machinations of a blameless bureaucracy.
A snippet from my testimony.
A snippet from my testimony.
I care more than anything else about getting a frequent, reliable, permanent surface transit connection to residents in Marshall Heights. I’m asking you to be a neighbor who helps make that reality ASAP by raising your voice this month at DC Council.
I’m a mobility justice advocate and nothing in this project forecloses my being a housing justice advocate, an environmental advocate, an anti-displacement advocate, and a supporter of every other policy change that intersects with social justice. If you’re concerned about gentrification, then I’ll be right there next to you fighting every developer for every additional percentage of affordable housing. I’ll yell at them for not including enough deeply affordable and family-sized homes. I’ll march for every additional square foot of retail space possible to be set aside for DBE/locally-owned businesses. I’ll ask tough-as-nails questions of the DDOT and contractor teams on the Benning Road project. I’ll do my part to make sure Ward 7 gets an implementation better than the H Street NE segment.
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Know of Any Job Opportunities?
I’m job searching – bit.ly/GordonChaffinResume – and I could use your help finding a job in DC or SE Michigan. I’m looking for a mid- to senior-level role in an organization that serves the public interest. A role in public policy, media/journalism, or communications/marketing. I’d appreciate any leads/referrals. Please reply to this email!
Gordon Chaffin's Resume
Gordon Chaffin's Resume
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Civic Participation Tools
  • One Link with Everything - linktr.ee/gordonchaffin
  • Calendar - Civic Events by Gordon Chaffin
  • List - Public Comment Periods and Resident Feedback
  • Watch Later - Upcoming Livestreams of DC-Area Civic Events
  • Watch Now - Past Livestreams of DC-Area Civic Events
  • Chart - DC Beginner-Friendly Bike Facility Pending Project List
  • List - Data and Tools for Civic Participation
  • List - Recommended Reading
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Gordon Chaffin

This is Gordon Chaffin's newsletter. By day, he's a local journalist and current events storyteller living in Washington, DC. The goal: produce writing and multimedia -- civic participation resources -- that include, inform, and equip stakeholders with the least power to improve their community. On evenings and weekends, Gordon is a freelance audio/video producer and photographer. Topics of interest: transportation -- especially non-car transit -- plus housing, environmental justice, social and gender policies like family-medical leave, and education -- especially early childhood. Please send news tips to gordon[AT]streetsensemedia[DOT]org and freelance job inquiries to gordonchaffin[AT]gmail[DOT]com.

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