Wednesday, April 02, 2008

HeraldTrib Today, April 2, 2008

A funny thing happened on the way to the forum…

I don’t know who it was—I’m going to blame housing activist Carrie Johnson because it might have been her—but somebody at the Community Forum last night brought up the need for a stop sign at the intersection of N. Pershing Drive and N. Thomas Street, and that just got me started. I couldn’t help myself. As I do when a stop sign at that intersection is mentioned, I gave the poor group of people who were convened there an earful, vented my proverbial spleen.

I know when I go off about the need for a stop sign on Pershing at Thomas that I am being very self-interested. The vast majority of Buckingham lives north of that sign, and there are other intersections that need signs, too (for starters, we could hit all the intersections along Thomas). But when given the opportunity to talk about that particular intersection, I don’t care about anyone else, I just think how nice it would be to walk safely to El Paso Cafè.

Other people in the group—again, I’m not really sure who it was as I was in my single-minded rant, and I wasn’t about to cede the floor, even to supporters—were nice enough to jump onto the cause, and I want to thank them, even if not by name.

And God Bless her, but an Arlington County transportation planner by the name of Jennifer Fioretti jumped for the bait. The poor woman. I lay into her as though I was a mini-van on its way to St. Thomas More School, and she was crossing against the light.

Even after I told her that she is the third county official I have spoken to about this (and may have even chuckled at her naïveté—things are a little hazy), she still said she would work on it.

Even after I told her what other transportation planners have said, she still wanted to take it on. She was not to be deterred.

Crazy heroics like that need some sort of honor. So, if she gets us a four-way stop at the Pershing/Thomas intersection, including zebra-striping in the crosswalks on Pershing Drive, I say we name our little park after her.

That’s right, the little park on N. Henderson Road at N. George Mason Drive should be named the “Jennifer Fioretti ‘Queen of Pedestrians’ Park.” (Its current name, if you were wondering, is “Buckingham Plaza.”)

But be prepared, Ms. Fioretti, other planners will not jump onto your wagon, you’ll have to prod them.

When they tell you that the traffic patterns indicate that vehicles will not stop for each other, tell them we in Buckingham don’t care—we want the vehicles to stop for pedestrians, and a stop sign will help that.

When they tell you that our pedestrian traffic is not that high during rush hour, you remind them to come by after hours, and at lunch time. Swing by when the kids are getting off the buses to see if we need traffic calming. Have dinner in Buckingham and see what sort of foot traffic the neighborhood (and that intersection) get.

At that corner we do not have the sort of “commuter” foot traffic, but a “we live here” foot traffic, and a stop sign will help that.

What will happen to the men on the corner…

The 2000 pound gorilla in the room really is asking this question: what will happen with the men who stand at the corner of Glebe and Pershing once the Glebe Market and CVS are torn down and the new buildings are built?

A gentleman named Julio, speaking Spanish, asked that very question last night at the forum. He feared for the men and seriously wondered what would happen to them, if they would be allowed to look for jobs, or if they would be arrested. The full story is below, and already someone has written a comment that reads in part: "This is a really positive step that the county is serious about getting rid of the blight that is all those men standing on the corners."

The county, actually, has done little regarding this question, but it is time they got on it, seriously, and started helping the neighborhood find answers. As well, last night's forum was not intended to be a step addressing that, but really just a chance for residents to tell county staffers what was on their minds.

God only knows what the county might do with that information. There was no guarantee that the county will take any steps to deal with the men who frequent the corner of Glebe at Pershing.

I think it is safe to say that the men will be much less welcome when the property changes management should the proposed project for the Buckingham Center go through. As well, the parking lots will be gone, so there will be less room to stand around.

Obviously, the guys who stand on the corner will not just disappear. The ones who are truly looking for work will have to go some place to find it. The ones who are up to no good will be no good someplace else.

As you might be able to tell from the tone of the two people in the previous paragraph, the two halves of our split community are nowhere near one another. I do not mean to say that Julio or the anonymous commenter have the last word or speak for their respective communities, but they give an illustrative summary of the basic positions.

We are going to need the county's help in getting the two halves of this community closer together. Forcing out all the men is no better answer than allowing public drunkeness and defecation (reasonable heads on all sides of this issue have agreed with me on this before). There's a lot of room in between those two extremes, and the English speaking and Spanish speaking communities will need help finding some common ground.

We are going to need help from the county to find a way for men to look for work and for women (I hear this most from women) to feel safe walking to the shops on the corner. It would be better to begin this process sooner, rather than later.

The Week’s Headlines…
As always, you can scroll down to see all the recent stories, or simply click the links below (if the link doesn't work, scroll down to find the story, and email to tell me what's busted: --Steve Thurston).

Today's Headlines:

  • Community Hits Hot Topics Civilly at Forum (This one already has a comment.)
  • Police Notes for Buckingham (We’re now all caught up)

  • Headlines from Earlier in the Week:

  • Police Notes for Buckingham (Covering the two weeks since the March 12 Police Notes.)
  • Labels: ,

    Steve -- Yes, I was egging you on about the stop sign. The county should be pushed at every opportunity to tame traffic on Pershing Dr. as well as Glebe Road. Buckinghamsters (love that word!) actually do what Arlington keeps promoting -- they walk a lot, ride bicycles and take the bus. The county should support these healthy habits by making Pershing, in particular, much more pedestrian-friendly.
    I was going to say be nice to Jennifer Fioretti, she's great ... but then again, she's tougher than you, so maybe I should be emailing her to say, "Be nice to Steve" :)

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