Mayoral candidate Sterling Tucker goes virtually undetected in the suburban-like 'community in which he lives.
Being occupied with the job, we see him less than we see the other neighbors because he's not out watering or working in the yard," said Louis Hansborough, Tucker's next door neighbor in the 6500 block of 16th Street NW.
"Many politicians make a mistake of thinking of the public as being away from them - out there - and they don't think we, the neighbors, are a part of that public," Hansborough added.
Louise Jones, former president of the neighborhood block club, lives around the corner from Tucker. She charges that he had taken little interest in his community.
I had to go through the normal channels" of government, she said, to solve community problems. "I never had a chance to talk with him about what to do to better our neighborhood" because despite repeated invitations neither Tucker, nor his wife, attended a block club meeting in the last four years, Mrs. Jones said.
"I never got any support from him . . . He lives in this neighborhood and just a letter would give the citizens some support," she said.
Jones said that she never wrote or called Tucker directly. She said she felt it would be useless because they were both in their back yards or when they passed each other in the alley in their cars.
"Mrs. Jones is correct," Tucker, who is the City Council chairman, said through a spokesman. "I've not been to a block club meeting in some time and I'm very sorry that I've missed them because I know how important they are to my neighborhood."
An increasingly crowded schedule, which has taken him throughout the city, prevented him from devoting more time to his own neighborhood, he said.
Tucker lives with his family at 6505 16th St. NW, on a block of five homes in the midst of community of older black professionals. Many of them are retired doctors, lawyers, school teachers, principals and Howard University professors.
Most of the long-time residents, including Tucker, bought their homes when blacks were first allowed to buy in the neighborhood in the mid-1950s.
They are fiercely proud home owners. Morning and afternoon they can be found mowing their lawns and picking up stray pieces of trash from a lawn or sidewalk.
"The blacks who moved in had a great deal of concern about the lawns and the property and more interest in the way the neighborhood looked" than their white predecessors, Tucker said.
A few white families still live in the neighborhood and on Tucker's block. They are reminders that this was one of the last city communities to become predominately black.
The cars are tucked away in garages at the end of spacious backyards that are as manicured as their counterparts in the front.
The houses in the neighborhood, which sell for more than $100,000, vary in style and size. Tucker and his neighbors live in detached medium-size, two-story brick colonials.
Across the street there is a large rambler painted pink and a Tudor-style house. On the side streets are semidetached two-story homes. Several embassies are nearby.
"People are considerate here," said Esther Terrell, of Van Buren Street. "It's just a nice place of retirement. People sit back on their porches and relax and talk to their neighbors."
"We look out for each other," said Charles R. Cook, who lives on the corner of Tucker's block. "If anyone is sick, I take them to the grocery store and anywhere else they need to go.
"We don't have trouble with Saturday night parties. And you can sit on the porch at night with no fear," he added, for there is no crime problem in the neighborhood.
"Education was No. 1 in the search for a home. We wanted a school community where our youngsters could get the kind of education we wanted for them," Tucker said, explaining whey he settled in his home 21 years ago.
The promise of good schools attracted many of his neighbors. When the city schools no longer met their high educational standards, many, like Tucker, transferred their children to private schools, then sent them on to college.
"It's a comfortable neighborhood . . . People care about it, about its services and facilities and it is friendly," Tucker said of his street. "They are not in and out of everybody's house, but they are friendly."
Tucker's neighbor Cook believes that Tucker has not paid enough attention to those services for his community.
"There are a lot of things he could see with the natural eye," Cook said," that he could see in the neighborhood that he hasn't done anything about."
The list, Cook said, includes the lack of street cleaning in the winter, a sidewalk on the side of his home, broken for one and one half years, before the city finally fixed it and uncollected trash.
"Sterling works so hard you hardly see him," said Lillith Clark, who lives across 16th Street from Tucker.
"I see him more outside the neighborhood than I do in the neighborhood" at fund-raising parties and embassy receptions.
Mrs. Clark said she has never crossed the street to see him at home because "he's so busy I never really know when he's there and I believe in the sanctity of his home. Even though he is a public servant he has a right to a private life when he gets home - that's time for his family."
Mrs. Terrell agreed. "By being a politician when you do come home you just want to have some peace. At the end of the day they are just pooped. They just want to escape."