East Capitol Dwellings, where grandmother Helen Foster-El was shot in the back while shielding neighborhood kids from gunfire, is the city's largest public housing project. It is also the nation's capital's own little Kosovo.
The children of Kosovo have lived through a nightmare. But the past year hasn't been exactly a barrel of laughs for East Capitol Dwellings' more than 900 children, either. Not only have they seen a courageous woman tragically gunned down while trying to do the right thing. Three other people have been killed within a block of where Mrs. Foster-El died.
Kosovo's kids know violence. So do the children of East Capitol Dwellings. In addition to the four homicides on one block, seven other murders have taken place within the housing complex. And during the period of last year's homicides, East Capitol Dwellings also recorded 41 assaults.
As with the kids of Kosovo, youngsters in East Capitol Dwellings have been pushed around by terrorists -- except in this case, the marauders are home-grown. Sixth District Cmdr. Rodney Monroe asserts that there is "a constant police presence" in East Capitol Dwellings. Yeah, right. The Post reports that gun-toting drug dealers hijacked the playground built for the kids in April and have held it since. How long would that have lasted in Chevy Chase?
One desperate parent, interviewed after Mrs. Foster-El's shooting, pleaded, "We need security. We really need a playground. We just need all the help we can get."
Well, help is on the way, courtesy of the D.C. Council Republicrats. I don't know how much the late Helen Foster-El's friends and neighbors will appreciate it, since they want more police to clean up their neighborhood. But the Republicrats know best. After weighing all wants and wishes, the council decided that what the huddled masses of Washington, D.C., need first and foremost to safeguard fundamental liberties and defeat all enemies of happiness is -- ta da -- a massive tax cut!
Were you thinking perhaps massive police protection? Maybe a couple of uniforms to help East Capitol Dwellings families take back their playground? How about a blue presence to quell the fears of owners and patrons of that Cleveland Park shopping strip on Connecticut Avenue housing the Uptown Theatre? Maybe a few more cops on the block to reassure people that sitting outside this summer won't get their heads blown off or their pockets emptied? Forget about it! This is the D.C. Council, where the fulfillment and enhancement of the political self is revered uber alles.
To our legislators, it matters not that the money to be diverted to individual income tax cuts could have purchased a whole lot of law enforcement, making it possible for frightened citizens to enjoy their city once again. Millions of dollars in revenues would have been available this fiscal year to be spent bringing back the rule of law to communities where the lawless are wreaking havoc.
Yesterday D.C. Executive Assistant Police Chief Terrance Gainer dreamed aloud about what he and Chief Charles Ramsey would do if they got their hands on the $21 million first-year personal income tax cut.
"Our potential is as limited as our vision," Gainer said. "We'd invest more in our Police Boys and Girls Clubs," he said, "so that five or six years down the line, we won't have kids turning into punks."
People of this city want more foot and bike patrols, said Gainer. So they would immediately buy more bicycles and pay overtime so more officers could spend more field time patrolling the streets. Squad cars would be completely equipped with mobile data terminals and video cameras to catch police action, including criminals on tape, he said. "You'd be surprised at how quickly they confess when they know they're caught on camera," Gainer said.
The training academy, now overloaded with poor facilities, would be upgraded, and the city's forensic lab would be made first-class. And to hack away at the traffic gridlock problem throughout the city, Gainer would hire school crossing guards during the summer months to work the city's streets. All they need is some of that tax-cut money.
The mayor weighed in yesterday too. His fantasy list included $1 million for mentoring programs and case management support for 1,000 kids, $1.4 million for opening 10 schools daily and year 'round for youth programs, two new recreation centers for $15 million, a $3 million police and fire cadet program for 100 high school students as a feeder system into the two departments. His wish list covered two pages.
Ah, but those revenues instead will be channeled to pay for individual income tax cuts. And guess what: In the years ahead, millions in anticipated tax dollars also will be funneled into private pockets.
Our council Republicrats couldn't have pulled off their tax cut without the support and encouragement of their Republican friends on Capitol Hill. That's why I think the Senate Appropriations Committee's vote to scale back the size of D.C. Council pay raises -- while a perversion of home rule -- is poetic justice. Who better than council Republicrats to lose the benefits of future tax cuts that they so lovingly bestowed on themselves?
To Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who pushed through the council pay cut, I say, as a home rule advocate, "Shame on you." In the dead of night, however, when no one is listening, I shall whisper, "You go, girl . . . er, senator."
Because something tells me that when our council members rhapsodize about the wondrous effects of tax cuts on the D.C. citizenry, they have in mind residents whom they consider worthy of attention and deference because of their jobs, earnings and campaign contributions. Sadly, it takes a bullet in a grandmother's back to draw attention to the misery in East Capitol Dwellings.
Kosovar Albanians went through the same thing.
The writer is a member of the editorial page staff.