Charles Allen on one solution to close achievement gap in Our Town~
” ‘Books From Birth,’ . . . delivers a book to every kid in the city, five and under, once a month for free. For a lot of . . .kids in the city, you don’t see any books. There’s not a book in the home. . . and what was important to us though, is as we figure out which books these are, we’ve put more than 400,000 books into homes across the District in the last two years.”
Andy Ockershausen: This is Andy Ockershausen, and this is Our Town, and I have a great guest to talk to today. A man I met for the first time. I really didn’t meet him in person, but he made a presentation at a Southwest BID, a breakfast, a luncheon at Arena Stage, and I was so impressed with his presentation and what he is. He is chairman of the Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety. He’s made so much for our city and Our Town, and his commitment has been great. He has overseen the building of Washington in so many ways, and we’re delighted to have Councilman Charles Allen on Our Town. Charles, welcome.
Charles Allen: Thanks, Andy. Thanks for having me. Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.
Andy Ockershausen: Our podcast is heard around the world, I hope you know that. Seriously, we have people that listen to us all over the country that used to live here and they moved, and they shouldn’t have. But Charles, what you have overseen, incidentally, in reading your resume, you live at 15th and D.
Charles Allen: I do.
Andy Ockershausen: I grew up at 13th and D.
Charles Allen: Did you really?
Andy Ockershausen: My neighbor, I’m a Northeast guy from way, way back, Eastern High School, Elliot, the whole thing. That Kingsman School, and what’s happened in your, that’s your ward now, correct?
Charles Allen: That is. That is, absolutely. You should come by and visit the old ‘hood.
Andy Ockershausen: There used to be a Car Barn there, you know, and-
Charles Allen: Still there.
Andy Ockershausen: Is it still?
Charles Allen: It’s now housing.
Andy Ockershausen: Street cars, and it was such-
Charles Allen: Now it’s all-
Andy Ockershausen: … a wonderful . . .
Charles Allen: … apartments and condos, but yeah.
Speaker 4: Yeah. Huh.
Andy Ockershausen: Walking to school to Elliott and Easton and … I’m glad to see 15th and D is still on a map. You and Olive, the dog.
Charles Allen: That’s right, and then, of course, Jordi, my wife, and our two kids, Cora Neal and Everett. And our sweet Olive.
Andy Ockershausen: But you’re not a Washingtonian, but you’re a Washingtonian by choice. I think Janice and I are Washingtonians by choice too, because we’ve both moved out and did other things, but we came back to Our Town, and you went to the university in Alabama.
From Birmingham, Alabama to Virginia’s Washington and Lee University to Our Town, Affordable Healthcare Issues and Ward 6
Charles Allen: I grew up in, I was born in Birmingham, Alabama.
Andy Ockershausen: Oh, Birmingham, right.
Charles Allen: That’s right. And went up to school, went to college in Virginia, went back to Alabama for a-
… Master’s degree. Yes. Went, got a Master’s degree in Public Health and then, luckily, got a post grad fellowship up here in DC. I knew this is where I wanted to be. Started working for the federal government, for HHS, for a little bit. Quickly realized I did not like the federal government, but had fallen in love with DC. And I knew that’s where, that was going to be home, and so I switched up, started working for a local nonprofit doing healthcare work. Actually, this was a time when DC General was closing. We were kind of converting to The Alliance, trying to help figure out how to take care of our uninsured and low-income residents. So I-
Andy Ockershausen: DC General was in your ward?
Charles Allen: At the time, DC General was. DC General is now in Ward Seven.
Andy Ockershausen: Yes, they did some movement.
Charles Allen: Ward 6 is-
Andy Ockershausen: Where the Car Barn was and all that on East Capitol Street, then moved.
Charles Allen: That’s still Ward 6, but DC General itself is just about 100 yards away from the border.
Andy Ockershausen: I know that. It’s right there. Great neighborhood. You got a great cemetery too-
Charles Allen: We do have Congressional Cemetery-
Andy Ockershausen: Congressional.
Charles Allen: A great space.
Andy Ockershausen: And I hate to say this, but it’s my neighborhood, I knew the cemetery well, I knew … back and forth to your ward and everything about it. But I’m so glad you decided to stay, because you’ve been a great, great asset, and this is from afar, Charles. I’m watching you. I’m watching the city grow, and what you have done has just been tremendous. You’ve brought so much enthusiasm, and the council needed a shot.
Ward 6 – Largest Ward in Our Town
Charles Allen: Well, I appreciate that. I appreciate that. It’s a lot of fun. It’s also, it’s a huge challenge. Like you said, Ward 6, it’s the biggest ward in the city. It’s the only ward-
Andy Ockershausen: Geographically, correct.
Charles Allen: And population.
Andy Ockershausen: Oh is it?
Charles Allen: It is. Absolutely. Ward 6 is the fastest .
Andy Ockershausen: Growing every day, incidentally.
Charles Allen: So the neighborhoods I represent are, Shaw, Mount Vernon Triangle, NOMA, Capitol Hill, obviously, H-Street, Hill East, the Capitol River Front, the Navy Yard, where the baseball stadium is, Buzzard Point and Southwest, where The Wharf is, where the soccer stadium’s going in. All those neighborhoods are where our city is growing the fastest, and so Ward 6 is booming. There’s a lot of opportunity. A lot of great things happening, and it’s a whole lot of fun to be a part of it, and try to help guide that.
Andy Ockershausen: I had no idea you were up in Shaw. I thought Shaw was in another Ward. But that is huge. That’s a lot of responsibility. And you replaced Tommy Wells. You worked for Tommy at one time, right?
Charles Allen – Former Ward 6 Councilman Tommy Wells’ Chief of Staff
Charles Allen: I did. I was his chief of staff for about seven years.
Andy Ockershausen: Seven years? And he finally decided he wanted to run for mayor, but those were difficult times, because everything was going through the change. The city was really changing rapidly. So, your great experience you got with Tommy, he was a great guy.
Charles Allen: Absolutely, and still a good friend, but it was great experience, and it also helped me when I came to the Council. I wasn’t your typical freshman. I was able to come in, and I feel like-
Andy Ockershausen: You knew where the bodies were buried.
Hit the Ground Running
Charles Allen: -I was immediately, immediately start making a difference and making a mark.
Andy Ockershausen: Well you can work together, and particularly since you knew them so well. And everybody liked Tommy very much. I know that for a fact. A lot of people were sorry he didn’t get to be Mayor, I can tell you that, but that’s another subject.
But now, tell me, the things that you’re advocating, one of the things that is, is everybody’s lips, is affordable housing. That then becomes a trick word, because affordable is a … who do you want it to afford? That’s what it means, and to me, I would prefer subsidized housing to affordable housing, but that’s personal. Now you’re out front on affordable housing.
Push for Affordable Housing for Families in Our Town
Charles Allen: Yes, I think that for our city to be the place that we want it to be … I want to be in a city where everybody can make their neighborhood their own. Everybody can call it their home, and to do that, you need housing at different levels. So sometimes we have the subsidized housing. Ward 6, people don’t often realize, has actually more public housing units than any other ward in the city. And I view that as a positive. It speaks to who we are, our values, that we want to make sure we’re protecting public housing.
Then we’re also trying to build in more and more of the affordable housing, and workforce housing, but your point’s exactly right; affordable for whom? Are we talking about the young person who’s starting their first job? Are we talking about affordability for a working mom and two kids? Are we talking about a young professional who’s trying to get their career started? Are we talking about a police officer or a teacher? None of those fit in one little box. You got to be able to build for all of them, and that’s where I’ve made a push.
But what I’ve really tried to push on as well, I think a lot of our affordable housing policies, basically we end up with a whole bunch of one bedrooms and studios. And what I’ve tried to put a big emphasis on, is how you build out the two and the three bedrooms. I want families to be able to see their future here in the district, so-
Andy Ockershausen: Absolutely. You don’t want them all moving out, because that’s our future.
Charles Allen: There may be a time in my life when a studio makes sense. There’s going to be a time in my life when it doesn’t. My wife and I have two kids and a dog. We are not fitting in a studio.
So, we’ve tried to build family housing. On H-Street, for example, just worked really hard, it’s under construction right now, I’m really excited. At 13th and H, there was an old little library kiosk that had been closed for a long, long time, and we worked to essentially convert that now into a project where it’s going to deliver all two and three bedroom, affordable housing, right on H where a Whole Foods just opened, and the market … market rate housing is rapidly getting out of reach for a lot of folks.
All the more reason to make sure we’re being intentional about having affordable housing, workforce housing on these booming corridors where … I’m excited about the new businesses being created, the new jobs being created. It’s just an exciting time along H-Street, but you also got to make sure you’re taking care of everybody, and how do you build a housing that’s going to support-
Andy Ockershausen: Ideal if our city would look like Sesame Street, now, that’s an abstract, but I think Sesame Street showed that people got along in various levels. And maybe that was great for kids, and I’m sure it’s still as popular. Maybe not as it was, but I think one of the secrets of Sesame Street is kids could see themselves in some character in that show. I loved it.
Charles Allen: I think, I’m going to pivot a good bit, but I love what you just said there, which is you want people to be able to see themselves. One of the first things I did when I got elected to the council, was I created a program called, “Books From Birth,” and what it does, is it delivers a book to every kid in the city, five and under, once a month for free. We have some households where, like my daughter, she’s got 100 books on the bookshelf right now. For a lot of other kids in the city, you don’t see any books. There’s not a book in the home.
What happens is, my daughter ends up reading books and hearing a lot of words, and other kids don’t, and that’s the achievement gap that you see that shows up later in the classroom. So we created a program, actually partnered with Dolly Parton, who helps … she’s a huge early literacy booster and promoter-
Andy Ockershausen: An advocate, yes.
Charles Allen: Yes, she’s fantastic. So we did this, and what was important to us though, is as we figure out which books these are, we’ve put more than 400,000 books into homes across the District in the last two years.
Andy Ockershausen: Wow! That needs some light on it.
Charles Allen: I think so-
Andy Ockershausen: The TV stations, I guarantee you.
Charles Allen: But what I want, I want every kid, just like you said, I want every kid to be able to see themselves in the books. So they work really hard to make sure that the stories being told show kids of every shape, of every color, of every background, because you want every child to see themselves reflected in those pages, and I’m really proud of the work that’s gone into that.
Andy Ockershausen: Well you’ve done so much for Our Town, and you still … very recent, actually, compared to, a lot of these politicians have been around for a long time. We know that. I’ve lived with them for 65 years, and I know that … too long, but Charles, I’m so excited about what you say, what you’re doing with the books.
You know, one of the things that always struck me in dealing with education, and crime, and everything, that we don’t have a problem with our children, we have a problem with our parents, or the mothers and fathers of the kids. The same thing with crime. I don’t think crime can be stopped by the police, it’s got to be stopped by society, and the kids, for education, you got to make sure that these kids are educated at home, and that’s what you’re doing with the books.
Public Safety Issues – Identifying the Red Flags
Charles Allen: Well, yes, I don’t believe that a child is born with a capacity to hate. I don’t believe a child is born with a capacity to want to do harm, and we have a lot of work to do. Obviously we, very much I work with Chief Newsham, and work with our police, and all the work they do. But I’ve often said, when you talk about public safety, you can’t put it all on the shoulders of a police officer. We have to have the type of programs, the interventions, the supports to go help figure out why is, especially a young person, why are we, how do we see the red flags before that crime gets committed? Because somebody didn’t just wake up and decide they’re going to go commit a violent crime. There are a lot of warning signs along the way. How can we do a better job to recognize those warning signs, to intervene to help wrap around and help support that young person to prevent them of every getting to that point of committing a crime?
We spend a lot of time with interventions once the crime has been committed. How do we get there on the front end? Because I’d rather wait until there’s-
Public Transportation – Getting Around Our Town
Andy Ockershausen: You’re bringing some spotlight on the thing. But I noticed some of your pet projects, in addition to you doing with the schools and education, you had somewhat of a controversy with the street cars. Is that still a controversial subject, or what are we doing with our street cars? Street cars, to me, was a way of life in Our Town. That’s the way we got around, was on a street car.
Charles Allen: I was on the street car this morning. My daughter goes to school, and we drop our son off at daycare, and then I dropped him off, jumped on the street car, rode to Union Station, got on the Metro to the office. That’s my morning commute. That’s how I got in. And the street car this morning, was packed, packed full of folks.
Andy Ockershausen: I’m so glad to hear that.
Charles Allen: Packed full of folks in the way that we want our street car to work. I saw-
Andy Ockershausen: Coming all the way out of Benning Road. It must have started out there by that Pepco plant, that’s the end of the . . ., right?
Charles Allen: Exactly. It’s a free ride. It connects a lot of different bus routes. It connected to Union Station. And I saw, just on my ride this morning, I saw both young and old, black and white, it is a picture of our city sitting in one street car. And that’s what you want.
Andy Ockershausen: That is a great, great thing. I advocated so many years ago, I almost got manhandled or shot, that public transportation should be free. We shouldn’t be charging for people to go back and forth to work or to their job, because eventually everything subsidized anyway, so why, not subsidize it all the way, instead of collecting? But people thought I was nuts.
Public Transit is Economic Development Investment
Charles Allen: No, you know, I’ve argued that the street car should remain the way it is, which is free, but if anybody’s trying to look to make money off public transportation, that is a failing effort. We’re not going to make money off public transit, nor should we. It is an investment in helping our city get around. It is an economic development investment. Businesses want to be able to get employees back and forth. If we were to pout everybody in a car, if you think congestion’s bad now, it would be horrible.
So that, you got to invest in transit. I fought when Metro increased the bus fares this past year. You know, they increased bus fares by 25 cents, and as a bus rider myself, I take the D-6 to get home, that’s usually maybe, I was more sensitive to it than others. We lost that fight, unfortunately, and they raised the rail 10 cents, and raised the bus 25 cents. That’s not equitable either. I think people can understand that you got to pay to make sure we’re maintaining a system; we want a Metro system that works. When you charge people twice as much to ride the bus, and the bus serves DC residents. The bus connect our neighborhoods. The bus connects DC neighborhoods. The Metro rail system moves a lot of commuters. There’s a lot of Virginia and Maryland in and out of our city. And I-
Andy Ockershausen: And it is underground. They don’t see Our Town like the bus riders do.
Charles Allen: Exactly, and so I think it was unfair, and I think it was the wrong move. I lost that fight, but I’ll keep fighting it.
Andy Ockershausen: You can always say, “I told you so.”
Well this has been an interesting conversation with Charles Allen, and this is Our Town, and I’m talking to one of Washington’s bright new lights. This is Andy Ockershausen, we’ll be right back.
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Rosedale Playground and H Street
Andy Ockershausen: This is Andy Ockershausen. This is Our Town, and during the break I was talking to Charles about the pool that I grew up using at Rosedale Playground, which was part of my life. I’ll never forget it, six in the morning, every morning that we went to the pool, we stopped by the bakery over in Eckington Place, I don’t even know if it’s still there, and we swam in the morning before it got crowded.
Charles Allen: Yes, we got a new pool there now, so you should come back and visit it. Yes, my next-door neighbor used to tell me about how everybody head there in the mornings, but they called it the bathtub, so it was maybe a little different experience than you get today, because now they got the slides and the kiddie pools, and everything else.
Andy Ockershausen: I’ve got to go look at Rosedale, I haven’t been over there recently.
Charles Allen: Yes, it is a fantastic space, absolutely.
Andy Ockershausen: But I do love H-Street. I see what’s hap … H-Street has now become the main thoroughfare. At one time it was a main thoroughfare for people in that part of town, because the street car ran down the middle, and it went up H-Street. And now it’s made a huge comeback, H-Street.
Charles Allen: It sure has.
Andy Ockershausen: The old Atlas Theater is now big a venue of some kind, isn’t it?
Atlas Performing Arts Center
Charles Allen: It is. It’s a fantastic space. The Atlas Performing Arts Center is a huge community hub, not just for arts and for theater, but we hold community meetings there. There’s-
Andy Ockershausen: It’s a community asset.
Charles Allen: -hundreds of parents are bringing their kids there for dance lessons in the morning. It is a hub of activity. It’s fantastic.
Andy Ockershausen: I’m so glad for H-Street, because knowing H-Street, there was a great radio station, WOL was headquartered on … Kathy Hughes started there at Fourth and H in a trailer park, actually. But Charles-
WOL Historic Marker
Charles Allen: And just for Kathy, just so you know, we actually just put up to commemorate all that history that was there at WOL, they actually now have a historic marker to help folks, and tell that story, tell that history. So as H-Street is booming-
Andy Ockershausen: 1450.
Charles Allen: -we’re also starting to make sure we tell the story. Tell the history.
Andy Ockershausen: What happened, she was promoting that way, way back, and that’s been important. Now one of the things that I noticed that you were involved with and talking to the Metro, and talking to the Chief of Police, and so forth, is speed cameras. That you took a stand that cameras shouldn’t be used as a revenue source for the city, it should be used as law enforcement or enforcement-
Speed Cameras – Not Just a Cash Cow
Charles Allen: For safety.
Andy Ockershausen: I noticed that in your notes, and what you have done, and you’re still going to pursue that, because now it’s a cash cow.
Charles Allen: Well, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a speed camera. I think that it can be a force multiplier and, you know, parking a cruiser on a street and having a police officer trying to catch somebody is not necessarily the best use of their time and money. But we have spots in our city where the speed limits, the streets, it just doesn’t make sense, and so it ends up being more about raising revenue than it does about slowing cars down in speed. Because I had argued, if you’ve got a speed camera that is just routinely bringing in lots and lots of money, then you need to recognize that’s something’s wrong. Maybe the street’s engineered the wrong way. Maybe it’s too wide, and too wide open, and so that’s what people are speeding.
Data Review May Reveal Reason for Street Redesign to Slow Speeding Cars
So rather than just continue to collect the revenue, how about we redesign the street to slow it down? Make it safer. Create a better intersection for our pedestrians and our cyclists. I think that’s the approach we should be taking rather than just saying, “It sure is procuring a lot of revenue.”
Which is a good thing for us, as a city. Again, if a speed camera continues to raise just a huge amount of money, we should be looking at what’s wrong at that spot, because that means that people are speeding, and I don’t want them speeding. I want them to get a ticket if they’re speeding, but if you have that routine of speeding, something is wrong with that street, and we need to look at how we redesign it to make it a safer space.
Andy Ockershausen: And I am certain, now I don’t know this for a fact, but I would assume in the lesser affluent areas they’re getting more speeding tickets, and they got to address that too. Why?
Charles Allen: I don’t know if that’s the case or not. I certainly hear from plenty of people, kind of across the board, who feel frustrated with a speeding ticket, and-
Andy Ockershausen: Look, I’ve had mine, Janice has had hers-
Charles Allen: I’ve had one too.
Andy Ockershausen: We don’t speed, but it gets away from you occasionally, and the city does . . . And when you’re one mile over, and that’s easy to do in today’s world, right, is just get a, speed, it happens-
Charles Allen: It does, but I think the question we should always ask ourselves is, if we’ve got a corridor where there’s a lot of speeding taking place, where, as you say, maybe that foot gets a little heavy, or maybe if people are traveling a little too fast, then we should probably take a look at that street. There are things we can do from a design perspective to make a safer street-
Andy Ockershausen: Make the venue-
Charles Allen: How do we slow it down? I want you to drive slow. I do. If you’re coming through the city, I want you to drive slow, but how do I design and build streets in a way that also make sure that if I’m walking on the sidewalk, I have a safe space. If I’m on a bicycle, I have a safe space. That to me, is important, and that’s how I view the conversation around- how do we get that safe space.
Andy Ockershausen: Well with two young children, you got to be concerned about that. It’s a major concern is people speeding.
Charles Allen: Absolutely.
Andy Ockershausen: And not following stoplights and signs. But I’m so glad that you’re into that deeply, and stick in there, because that’s going to be the future is we got to do something about it, or you’re going to hear about it.
Now what are your plan now for the city other than all the things that we’ve talked about? What can you tell us, what other projects are you involved in?
Addressing Chronic Violent Chrime as a Public Health Issue
Charles Allen: Well, as the chair of Public Safety and Judiciary, part of what I’m working on, is certainly how do we make sure we are a safe city, but how are we a just city? On the safety side, we are working hard. You know, one crime is one too many. I can give you all the stats in the world, and it does not matter. If you’re a victim of a crime, a family member’s a victim of a crime, somebody you know is a victim of a crime, well, crime just went up to you. So I try not to get too bogged down in stats, although there is a good story to be told with a pretty steep reduction in violent crime of the last few years.
With that said, it’s still too much. So how do we help support our police officers as well as things like the interventions we’re making right now? I’m not sure if you’re familiar with the NEAR Act, but it was a legislative effort of how do we go after chronic, violent crime in a way that we started addressing it not just as law enforcement, how do we look at it as a public health issue? What is going on either in that family, in that community, in that neighborhood, and get at that root cause to try to help protect people, because at the end of the day if you can figure that out, it’s better for the community, certainly, but it is better for each and every individual, because I do not want a young person to commit a crime, and end up in jail, and locked up. Because their life is –
Andy Ockershausen: Doesn’t help anybody, Charles.
Record Sealing and Expungement – 8,000 DC Residents Never Tried or Convicted Have Criminal Record
Charles Allen: Exactly. And then, the other piece that we’re looking at, though, on the back end of it … we’re trying to figure out, for example, how to look at record sealing and expungement. We have, I believe the number is around 8,000 DC residents that currently have a criminal record, because they were charged with a crime, and then they were never tried, and they were never convicted.
Wrap our heads around that. They were never even tried in court, never convicted, and yet 8,000 people carry a criminal record around. That impacts their ability for a job, for housing, for education, and these are, in many cases, these are minor arrests. They got arrested. But if you believe in a judicial system that says, “You are innocent until proven guilty,” 8,000 people are walking around with a criminal record that follows them for the rest of their life.
Andy Ockershausen: But they were never charged.
Charles Allen: They were never officially charged, and they were certainly never convicted.
So how do we get at that? How do we think about removing that criminal record, which is preventing them from being able to get access to a quality job, a quality career. It doesn’t just impact them. It impacts now, their kids, their entire family.
Andy Ockershausen: Like you said, it’s with them for life.
Charles Allen: Exactly.
Andy Ockershausen: It’s a cloud over their head.
Well I’m going to tell you story about public safety, and we’re going to take a break right now. This is Andy Ockershausen. I’m talking to Charles Allen, and we’ll be right back.
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Too Many Guns – Public Health Issue
Andy Ockershausen: This is Andy Ockershausen, talking to Charles Allen, our esteemed council member from Ward 6. We have a niece that graduated, a Master’s degree from John’s Hopkins in Public Safety. She went to work for the city, and the county, and the federal government about fire arms control, which is a public safety issue. I mean, it brought up a whole new world of young people that are into that. In her late 20s, she is taking that on as an objective to do something about this problem with guns.
Charles Allen: Well good for her, because we certainly have a-
Andy Ockershausen: She didn’t do it for money, I can tell you that.
Charles Allen: Well, and she doesn’t have an ally right now in the White House or in Congress, unfortunately. But we have too many guns on our streets, period. We have too many guns in our country, period.
Andy Ockershausen: It’s a public health issue.
Charles Allen: It is, absolutely.
Andy Ockershausen: That’s the way she addresses it.
Pistol on Hip – Fashion Statement
Charles Allen: I hear way too often from folks that a pistol in the belt on hip, is part of the fashion. It is part of what you have to wear, and when you know someone else has one, then you got to carry one, and it just leads to too many guns In our community, absolutely. And what you see is people who … all too eager to be able to pull the trigger. Now these guns today, these are high capacity magazines. It’s not just a single revolver with one shot. We’re talking about 20, 30, 40 bullets flying, and thankfully we haven’t had as many people struck … is the innocent bystanders.
But when you pull the trigger, there are many victims that are all of a sudden taking place. Whether or not that bullet actually finds somebody or not, there are a lot of victims created by that. It’s whether you want to talk about mass school shootings that we see all too often, whether you want to talk about just crime on a street right here in our own neighborhood in DC, we have to see that. But we’ve got to have also national leadership, and unfortunately it is completely absent right now.
Andy Ockershausen: Well, the thing that gets me, and I never really focused on it until she made it a part our life, it is a public health … the time and effort that goes into people using guns, it’s a drain on our society. It’s money being spent to educate, I mean, to take care of wounds, and take care of funerals. That’s money being spent. That’s a public safety issue. Money.
Charles Allen: Absolutely.
Andy Ockershausen: It’s not bottomless, right Charles?
The Need for Better Gun Laws in Virginia
Charles Allen: That’s right. And you know, thinking of Our Town in DC, we’re certainly going to be unique in this, in that we are surrounded by Virginia and Maryland, and while Maryland actually has some sensible laws on the books, they could do more, but they’re pretty sensible, we don’t find that in Virginia. So when you want to think about where many of the guns that wind up on our streets and in the hands of people that look to do harm in DC, you just look across the border in Virginia.
And that’s a place where I hope that with the new governor and some new leadership in Virginia, I’d love it if they’re able to help tackle this a little bit.
Andy Ockershausen: Maybe some of your Washington and Lee graduates are now in a position of power in the state, because they used to graduate a lot of important people in Washington and Lee. You’re one, obviously, but the school was a high, high, high level achieving school, I know that, Washington and Lee.
Charles Allen: And I think it still is. I think actually, one of the sitting Senators from Virginia is a WL graduate. But it’s something that, that we got to look at this from a regional perspective too, because it’s too easy to carry a gun right across the border.
Andy Ockershausen: I’d say it’s open. It’s not a closed border. The river is not closed.
Well Charles, you’ve had such a wonderful impact on our city, and I think about The Wharf, and I think about the Yard, and I think about now they’re redoing the Waterfront where Marion Barry used to keep his boat-
Charles Allen: That’s right.
Andy Ockershausen: -in that Marina. That’s all being changed, and it’s dramatic, isn’t it. It’s going to be wonderful for Our Town to have all that.
A City on Two Rivers
Charles Allen: Well it is, and I think you’ll remember this, and probably many of your listeners, a lot of folks forgot that we’re a city on two rivers. A lot of folks forgot that we are a river town, and I think projects like The Wharf, in addition to the housing that’s created, the new jobs created, new businesses created, it is also completely transformed the way in which we interact with our water. And what I’m excited about as we enter this 2018, and as we get into the Spring and the Summer, is that we’re going to have folks who realize, or remember, that we are a city on the water. The piers, the public spaces, the docks-
Andy Ockershausen: Water taxis-
Charles Allen: They’re running right now. We have water taxis run back and forth between Old Town Alexandria and then up to Georgetown waterfront. It’s, people are going to get on the water. Now, what I also think though, is a whole bunch of people don’t know what they’re supposed to do when they’re on the water, so I’ve actually introduced legislation to try to create almost like a waterways management, because we’re doing amazing things on the Anacostia River. 2018 is the year of Anacostia. It’s great things happening. The Washington Channel, which is where The Wharf is, great body of water. It’s also a very narrow body of water.
So now you start thinking about the power boats, and the paddle boats, and the canoes, and the kayaks, and the sailboats all mixed up together, and that’s where I think it is time for us to also be thinking about how we manage our waterways so that everyone can have a safe experience.
Andy Ockershausen: You are so wise to do that, because that’s in our future, and the future is now. It’s not down the road. Like you say, the taxis are running in the water, and Charles, growing up here and knowing it, and having been … I used to swim in the river, the Anacostia. That was way back, my mother and father used to swim in the Tidal Basin, because that’s the way it was. All that’s going to back, maybe, for Our Town.
You’re doing such a great job, Charles. You’re not doing it alone. I hope the council follows you along and what’s important, and the lifestyle in Ward 6 is fabulous.
Charles Allen: Well I appreciate that.
Andy Ockershausen: It’s incredible.
Charles Allen: Thank you. Well I’ve got some good partners on the Council too, which helps.
Andy Ockershausen: Oh I know that.
Charles Allen: Absolutely.
Andy Ockershausen: They’re the good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s a Council. But God bless you for what you do, and being 15th and D, you got to be a good guy, right?
Charles Allen: I hope so. I hope so. No, we love it, and it’s an honor to get to represent Ward 6. It’s a beautiful space, with beautiful neighborhoods . . . Each one unique.
Andy Ockershausen: H-Street be reinvented in itself. As I said, that was a main street of when I grew up. I worked down in a print shop, and they were printing the Kiplinger Report, and I’m reading at 14 years old, reading the Kiplinger Report. Now I have realized it was way over my head, but I was reading it. And that was H-Street.
Well Charles, thank you for your time-
Charles Allen: Well Andy, thank you so much.
Andy Ockershausen: -and thank you for what you’ve done. And I hope you’ll remember WMAL, and how important we are, because this is us. We have reinvented ourselves with Our Town.
Charles Allen: Well I really enjoy you having me on. This has been great, enjoyed catching up with you, and hopefully we can do it again sometime.
Andy Ockershausen: I’m a local, remember that. I’m with you all the way. Thank you Charles Allen, our councilman from the Sixth Ward. This has been Our Town, Andy Ockershausen.
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