As the primary election date approaches, The District Weekly takes a look at some of the persons and issues in wards that will be nominating and electing City Council members this fall.
Many of Washington's eight wards pride themselves on having a varied mix of people and lifestyles. Among them, however, Ward 1 stands out front. Here, with drug trafficking on 14th Street NW, ethnic parades and celebrations on Columbia Road and cocktail parties along Massachusetts Avenue's Embassy Row, some of the best and worst of Washington are lumped together in dramatic contrast.
The result is a mixture of neighborhoods, each distinct and reflecting images of poverty or affluence, crime or tranquility, urban decay or urban renewal. Adams-Morgan, Mount Pleasant, Kalorama, North Dupont Circle, Woodley Park, Cardozo and parts of Shaw are some of the ward's better known communities.
At first glance, some seem to have little more in common than the 2,000 acres they share in the heart of Washington. Despite the differences that separate these Northwest neighborhoods and income groups, many residents throughout the ward are united by some of the same concerns. Housing, unemployment, real estate speculation, crime and commercial development have been key issues for several years.
Clifton West, a Georgia Avenue businessman, is concerned about boosting business and cutting crime. Harriet Hubbard, 68, a retiree living a few blocks from Dupont Circle, wants to curb business in her neighborhood and preserve its residental quality and architectual history. Community leaders Ann Hargrove and Edna Frazier-Cromwell want urban renewal to bring more housing and retail services without displacing small businesses.
These are some of the issues being raised more frequently by many of the more than 33,000 registered voters in Ward 1 who are considering a field of eight candidates vying to represent them on the D.C. City Council.
D.C. school board member Frank Smith and former city housing department employe Marie Nahikian appear to have the most visible campaign among Democratic Party candidates in the Sept. 14 primary race. David A. Clarke, whose term as the ward's representive soon will expire, is seeking the council chairmanship.
Three other candidates also are seeking the Democratic nomination for the Ward 1 seat. They are attorney Glen Logan Reitze, financial analyst Reuben M. Lewis and U.S. Department of Agriculture employe Calvin O. Wingfield.
In the meantime, three Republicans -- freelance photographer Nancy Shia, former elections board chairman Charles B. Fisher and accountant Jacob Sherrill Jr. -- will try to persuade voters to elect a member of the GOP in the November elections, although 90 percent of the ward's voters are Democrats.
Ward 1 stretches from Rock Creek Park on the west to First and Bryant streets on the east. The ward winds south from Rock Creek Church and Spring roads to Florida Avenue, just a few blocks north of Dupont Circle. Surrounded by wards 2, 3 and 4, Ward 1 is at the center of Washington, the only section of the city that does not rub shoulders with Maryland or Virginia.
Diplomats from throughout the world wine and dine here along Massachusetts Avenue's Embassy Row. College students study in Ward 1 at the University of the District of Columbia's Miner Campus and Howard University, which has its own hospital and hotel.
Tourists flock to Ward 1 to visit the National Zoo and parts of Rock Creek Park. Neighborhood children race to Banneker Recreation Center in the summer and file into 17 public schools in the fall. Morning, noon and night, a mixture of old and young, black and white, idle away the hours at Meridian Hill Park, also called Malcolm X Park, overlooking 16th Street.
About 70 percent of the residents are black and about 23 percent are white, but the ward has the most multiethnic population in the city. Just slightly more than 7 percent of the ward's population is Hispanic. Still, this group, all 6,000 of them counted by the 1980 Census, constitutes 35 percent of the city's Hispanic population, the largest concentration in any ward.
Ward 1 is the city's smallest ward in acreage but the fifth largest in population, with more than 78,000 residents. The ward's character is shaped by those two factors and a preponderance of multifamily structures, such as the huge apartment buildings and condominiums in Adams-Morgan and along portions of Connecticut Avenue. Unlike wide-open spaces that surround homes in other parts of the city, tall buildings and narrow alleys best characterize this part of the inner city. It is so cramped, according to Hargrove, "People here touch heads, shoulders and bodies all the time."
The problems such density creates involve some key ward issues. Residents want to preserve what open areas they have, such as an inner-city park on Girard Street, but also need and could use such space for housing and economic development. Furthermore, they don't want development to displace small businesses that have faithfully remained in the area.
Community leaders say some housing relief could come from refurbishing several run-down and unused apartment buildings in the area. They complain about District zoning regulations that threaten the increase in housing.
Edward Jackson, an Adams-Morgan Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner, is trying to preserve a towering old building at Champlain Street and Kalorama Road NW. If that building is razed, he said, existing zoning regulations would prohibit a new housing structure but would allow commercial construction.
Jackson's efforts to try to save the old building are similar to Harriet Hubbard's efforts to preserve buildings in other parts of the ward. Hubbard, who has lived in the ward off and on for 21 year, sees noise, traffic congestion and pollution as partners with development. She wants zoning regulations to further limit the number of offices, including embassy chanceries, that come into her area off Dupont Circle. She said the traffic alone is a major problem.
So far the major plans for renewal in the ward involve construction of Metro's Green Line and a municipal building. The Green Line has been the center of much debate and isn't expected to be in operation until well into the 1990s, if it is ever built at all. City officials announced earlier this year that a District municipal building will be constructed near 14th and U streets NW.
Area civic and business leaders are concerned about the effect urban renewal efforts may have, especially on small businesses and low-income residents. Real estate speculation already has displaced many low- to moderate-income residents unable to keep up with soaring sales prices and condominium conversions. Recently, however, high interest rates have curbed some of the speculation.
Small-business owners are concerned about being displaced as well, by new and larger companies lured to the area by increased development. Clifton West, co-owner of a medical supply company on Georgia Avenue, said that, unlike Hubbard's neighborhood, his area needs the business that commuters bring.
West, who heads the Lower Georgia Avenue Business and Professional Corporation, a community businessmen's association, predicted the Georgia Avenue area will revitalize itself because it is on a direct route to the new D.C. Convention Center.
"I remember when you could walk up Georgia Avenue and know that you were in a big-time part of town," said West, who grew up in the area.
West said his colleagues want government assistance in ensuring that the small but struggling businesses along the strip aren't displaced.
He said boosting commercial development will increase employment and reduce crime. "When people are employed, that's eight hours that they can't get into something that's detrimental to society," he said.
Crime is a a major ward issue for Edna Cromwell-Fazier, chairwoman of the 14th Street Coalition. Eight years ago when she moved to the area, drugs were exchanged so openly at 14th and T streets she said it "boggled" her mind. But things have improved, she said. The crowds of people that used to loiter and sell drugs along 14th Street have been slowly diminishing, she said. Frazier-Cromwell credited that to the efforts of the Police Department's 3rd District, which she said has worked well with the community in its battle against drug-related crimes.
In applauding the police, Frazier-Cromwell also praised the community. In recent years, she said, community spirit has won residents the political clout to get things done. More and more residents are standing up and challenging government planners and officials and getting involved.
"Its a new wave of feeling," she said. "People are beginning to say they want in -- and are insisting on it."