[from November 2000 issue]


As we report on page 1 of this issue, big changes in attitude appear to be sweeping in the direction of the Dupont Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC). Lest no one be fooled, the election results are reflective of a strong urge, not just of gays but non-gays also, that the destructively divisive behavior of some so-called community "leaders" be relegated to the trash heap in favor of a process of neighborhood healing. That will take a long time, but the process can commence today if desired.

A strong message has been sent with the election of these new ANC commissioners. Of the ones we have personally met and talked with--Doug Damron, David Jolliffe and Irv Morgan--we can attest that they are exceptionally intelligent and perceptive people who will be dedicated to ensuring balanced deliberations and will be attentive to ensuring that applicants who have matters pending before the commission will be accorded appropriate due process and that their views will be accorded as much consideration as those of the residential constituents and that business owners (many of whom actually reside here) will not be confronted out of the blue with wild and unsubstantiated accusations that get passed on to DC bureaucrats without even the opportunity accorded to those businesses to refute allegations based on rumors started by one or two persons.

Believe it or not, but there have been recorded instances of this sort of thing, and we think it has been outrageous--so much so, that we have seriously questioned whether the ANC system ought to be struck from the home rule charter. But, when we witness the kind of election results as these and the genuine interest of so many voters to think about these contests--not just in Dupont but in other ANCs--we are heartened and are inclined to give the system another two years to reform itself.

But in order for any real good to come out of all this, it will be critical that the leadership of the neighborhood's powerful citizens association graciously accept the fact that its influence over the ANC will now be significantly lessened and that instead of an ANC concentrating on the agenda of a group which represents only about 600 persons, the ANC will now be in a better position to do what the city's charter intended--that is, to represent the views and to deal with the concerns of its more than 14,000 constituents.

As we were setting these thoughts down, we received a copy of an email message written by a former DCCA president to a prominent business owner in which he stated, among other things, "We have a lot of work to do inside DCCA before the healing starts . . . there is still some serious cutting and scraping that has to occur before the organization can move into the world of today and the future and this won't happen from the outside, it can only occur from within. It is clear to many within that change is in order. In short time, a new DCCA will emerge, and I am optimistic that it can better serve the community from the basis of its original tenets, not the current track, which I do believe in many ways is the wrong one."

Too bad that neighbors like this are not in leadership positions these days. In the years prior to the death of our great community resource known to so many, Phyllis Nelson, leadership was positive and fair-minded. In those days there was a genuine sense of community spirit between residents and businesses, none of this "us against them." And, in those days there were never any whispers of homophobia or calls for hiring private detectives to dig up dirt on people who vigorously espoused views that the neighborhood leaders did not share. No, people like Phyllis went out of their way to bridge the gap, to work at dampening misunderstandings, and to always be fair and listen to other viewpoints and to engage in rational dialog. All that has been absent for many years now. We hope that can change and that there be a return to the traditional neighborhood collegiality of years past. And, be assured, we know our neighborhood history; we've been in Dupont Circle since 1967!

But none of this will happen until the neighborhood's so-called leaders cease fomenting divisiveness. They can start by not assuming that just because news reports are not to their liking or a newspaper runs an issues ad by one of their opponents that the editor has a "personal vendetta" against the organization, as was charged by someone at a community meeting recently, claiming that this editor actually said such a thing. In a word, we can categorically state, "Poppycock!" No such thing ever was said and never would be said. But if community leaders wish to carry on making irrational charges against their perceived "enemies" then the opportunity that these ANC election results have accorded us will be hopelessly lost, and that will be a shame indeed.