At his office the next day, he listens to each of his 48 messages. He scribbles down the details he then reports on the District’s non-emergency Web site or in e-mails to bureaucrats, most ending with “Respectfully” or “Respectfully yours” or “Just wanted to bring these to your attention.”
He repeats this ritual several times a week, not because it’s his job, per se, but because he cannot help himself.
Washington is a city of professional nags, many of them migrating from across the country to agitate, lobby, champion and nudge on such high-minded issues as health care and Social Security. Lynch, 52, the head of a coalition of religious organizations, is perfectly capable of opining about the state of District school reform (“Stalled,” he says.) or the spate of scandals laying waste to the city’s elected leaders (“Tragic.”). He can see the proverbial forest through the trees.
But that dead maple at 15th and Irving?
Or those missing crosswalk stripes at 11th and Columbia?
Or the streetlight on New York Avenue that’s on during the day?
“Look at this!” he says with each new discovery, his small frame stiffening as if he hadn’t just seen something very similar moments before.
After one of Lynch’s many notes, his D.C. Council member wrote back and dismissed his reports as “armchair emails.” His wife, far more charitable, rejects the suggestion that she might be married to Washington’s Most Annoying Man. But she acknowledges that she will not join him for a stroll from their Mount Pleasant rowhouse to Dupont Circle because he will stop every 10 feet to record another outbreak of urban blight.
Her husband is undeterred.
“The town should be green, clean and safe,” he says. “First class. Why not?”
Every community seems to have at least one: the citizen activist, the gadfly, someone like Robert Atkins, 67, a retiree who considers it his civic duty to attend every meeting of the Arlington County Board and pronounce its members thoroughly incompetent. Or Montgomery County’s Robin Ficker, a lawyer who for years has given county officials fits in forcing anti-tax and term-limit referendums.
‘Terry is uber’
What distinguishes Lynch is that he doesn’t stick to his block or even his neighborhood. Anywhere he happens to be in the District — the streets around RFK Stadium, Tenleytown, Anacostia — is fair game.
As executive director of the Downtown Cluster of Congregations, Lynch considers it part of his mission to ensure that public streetscapes are well maintained. But his passion for perfectly appointed tree boxes and graffiti-free mailboxes extends well beyond his job. Nights, weekends, holidays — Lynch won’t let it go. He registers his complaints whether he agrees with the policies of the mayor in power (Adrian Fenty) or disagrees with them (Vincent Gray).