120px-Freedom_of_Information_logoWe have been keeping readers up to date throughout the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) court case between Brookland resident Conor Crimmins and ANC 5B, specifically ANC 5B04 Commissioner Carolyn Steptoe. Now the case has finally come to an end. The FOIA request was for the release of the audio recording of the April 2013 SMD 5B04 meeting taken by Commissioner Steptoe. Her refusal to release it until subpoenaed to do so was the basis of this law suit. We learned at the latest hearing that a forensics expert was able to recover the audio file from the recording device, despite the finding that it was intentionally deleted and was made available to the public. We included a link to the audio recording in our last post about this case. On Tuesday April 15  Superior Judge Michael O’Keefe has announced his final ruling in this case. Sorry for the delay in bringing the final results of the case to you. Here is a link to the complete Court Order. To save you some time, here are  a few key excerpts from the Court Order:

  • The Court concludes that more likely than not, Commissioner Steptoe deleted the file subject to the FOIA request in order to frustrate attempts to obtain it.
  • Commissioner Steptoe’s behavior is regrettable and possibly criminal under D.C. Code § 2-537(d). To make matters worse, Commissioner Steptoe testified falsely under oath about this matter. Her testimony was confusing and contradictory.
  • Commissioner Steptoe acknowledged her suspicion that “FOIA requests tend to be pretextual strategies by person/entities seeking a leg up and/or expose.” Her contumacious behavior stems from her refusal to provide D.C. residents with an audio recording of an ANC SMD 5B04 meeting that she held regarding an issue of interest to many people in the neighborhood.
  • Ironically, Commissioner Steptoe stated that she wished the recording could be found because the recording would prove she acted appropriately during the hearing.
  • Upon inspection, Commissioner Steptoe’s recorder was fully functioning, there was no evidence of file corruption, and he was able to determine that the recording of the April 27, 2013, meeting had been manually deleted.
  • The Court will refer the case to the OAG and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for potential prosecution of Commissioner Steptoe’s perjury and destruction of the recording.

This Court Order marks the end of this civil case, but it leaves DC taxpayers with a price to pay, as the Washington City Paper reported that the cost to defend ANC 5B and Commissioner Steptoe will be  around $60,000. We will stay on top of this issue and see what happens if/when the OAG and US Attorney’s Office pick up the matter in criminal court. From what we understand, the penalty for perjury is up to 10 years, though it can be difficult to prove.

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Joe Barrios and CM McDuffie at a 2013 Brookland event where both spoke on the importance of civil rights.

Joe Barrios and Ward 5 Councilmember McDuffie at a 2013 Brookland event where both spoke on the importance of civil rights.

Many of our readers know Jose “Joe” Barrios from when he stepped in to the Brookland’s Finest liquor license dispute and led the brokering of a Settlement Agreement with 149 nearby residents and the restaurant. Here are some other things you may not know about Jose:

  • He works pro bono to legally defend victims of domestic violence and abuse 
  • He is a co-founder, board member, and secretary of the Friends of Noyes Park, Inc.,
  • He is an elected officer of the Brookland Neighborhood Civic Association
  • He worked hard in the background  with community leaders to successfully save the Brookland Green from development
  • He was raised in a working-class Latino family and worked his way through undergrad and law school on his own

We recently learned that Jose is going to run for ANC Commissioner of Single Member District 5B04 on the ballot this fall. Full disclosure – Astrid and I have been close friends of Jose for many years and quite frankly, are thrilled he is running. We asked Jose a few questions about his candidacy and here’s what he had to say:

Why did you decide to run?

I decided to run because I care passionately about this neighborhood and all the people that call it home. The work I’ve done in the neighborhood has allowed me to meet many residents from all walks of life and learn from them. That has motivated me to seek public office for the first time.
Our neighborhood is changing quickly. Some people like that, others have concerns. Now is the time for a strong leader to work with people across the neighborhood to help craft the vision of what we want our neighborhood to be like. I believe that my background, legal and negotiation skills, and passion for local issues make me the best person for the job.
What is your platform? What are you hoping to achieve?
My platform theme is “Bringing Brookland Together,” which reflects the approach I prefer in resolving the neighborhoods problems such as last year’s Brookland’s Finest controversy. To me that means three things:
First, it means forging solutions that bring Brookland neighbors together with respect. Brookland is one of the most diverse and open neighborhoods in DC with a remarkable mix of people from all kinds of ethnicities, religions, professions, and so on.
I’m a Latino from a working class family. I never forget where I come from or the challenges that working class families face, because my family experiences them even today. My elderly parents are both on fixed social security incomes with no retirements, and believe me that hurts. Because of Brookland’s diversity and the hot housing market there are folks here who are better off and some that struggle to make ends meet from day to day. Brookland needs a leader who can relate to the needs of the entire wonderful mosaic of people who live here rather than trying to pit them against one another.
The fact that the incumbent Commissioner Steptoe arbitrarily cancelled all community (Single Member District) meetings with her constituents speaks volumes about what she thinks of many of them, and also speaks to her inability to work with people. I will restore the SMD meetings and use them as a regular public forum where neighbors can come together to air their differences and resolve their problems.
Second, my platform means supporting small businesses in a manner that respects Brookland’s character and quality of life. Brookland and Ward 5 deserve to share in what is happening elsewhere in this city. I strongly support attracting those businesses to Brookland so long as they are willing to respect the neighborhood’s unique character. Attracting small businesses means attracting jobs, it means increasing the services that all residents can enjoy, and it means increasing the city’s tax base so that it can better afford its expenses and social services for the good of everyone.
I don’t want to live in another Columbia Heights. I will ask the tough questions and fight the good fight when I believe something is out of character or is disrespecting our residents. But our commercially-zoned 12th Street corridor does not need the anti-business reputation we have gotten in recent years. Those businesses deserve our support, and so do new ones who wish to come and make great uses out of abandoned or underused buildings that we can all enjoy. Because nobody can convince me that an abandoned rat-infested building is better for residents than a lively restaurant where neighbors can connect with one another!
Third, my platform means returning transparency and ethics to ANC 5B04. Public servants should never forget that the public has a right to know what they are doing. To do otherwise is to misuse the position. It shouldn’t take FOIA lawsuits that waste tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars. I will restore transparency by posting meeting recordings and exhibits on the internet for all to see. I will also make sure residents know of important votes I will be taking well in advance so they have an opportunity to weigh in.
As for ethics, many people know by now that Commissioner Steptoe has been referred by a DC court for possible prosecution on charges of perjury (ten year maximum prison sentence if convicted) and destruction of a public recording she had been ordered to produce. I mean, really? ANC 5B04 deserves better and needless to say I will bring a different standard to the position.
What are your favorite things about living in Brookland?
One of my favorite things about living here is that it’s literally a neighborhood where people can feel comfortable coming by to ask for a garden tool, or to exchange garden plants, or to just sit on the porch and chat. And that is true regardless of who you are, whether you’re new to the neighborhood or not, whether you’re young or older, and so on. People simply care and are willing to accept you as you are. I think that’s great.
People are also really passionate about their vision for the neighborhood. Sometimes that causes sharp differences of opinion, and that’s fine. It means they care enough, which is a good thing. And although a few people prefer to emphasize those differences, I think our neighbors are more united than divided in their vision for the neighborhood. We all care about crime, safe streets, more jobs and local services, better local schools, more parks and open spaces, and the like. I think most of us would enjoy having more of the amenities that other DC residents in other Wards enjoy, even if we disagree about how much, the location, and the density. If you look behind the conflicts you see most people united in common cause for their neighborhood, and that level of passion for the place we call home really means a lot to me.
I also love my Brookland garden. Mark and I spend a lot of time planning it in winter and planting it in spring. I can never keep up with the weeds, less so now with my campaign getting started, but walking through the garden after work is a joy and reprieve from the stresses of the world that I wouldn’t give up for anything.

The boundaries of Single Member District 5B04 are the railroad tracks to the west, Monroe Street NE to the north, 13st Street NE to the east, and Rhode Island Avenue NE to the south. As far as we know, no one else has announced their intention to run for the seat. The current ANC 5B04 Commissioner is Carolyn Steptoe, who should need no introduction to our readers. Here is the contact information for Jose’s campaign:

Website here.
Email: josebarrios2014(at)yahoo(dot)com
Twitter: josebarrios2014
Facebook page here.

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&Pizza Opens Today At Monroe Street Market!

by Shani on April 21, 2014

 

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After much anticipation, the &Pizza location at the Monroe Street Market development opens today. Lucky for us, Alia Khayrullina, &Pizza’s Community Manager, hooked us up with a sneak peek of the restaurant Saturday (see pics above). If you didn’t catch our earlier review of the &Pizza H Street location, you can read it here. As expected the pizza was high quality and delicious. It is so great to have a new fast/casual option for dining in the neighborhood. I love how &Pizza uses creative high quality ingredients, yet remains affordable – I anticipate that this place will be very successful. The restaurant is located on the retail/street level of the Portland Flats building  (664 Monroe Street NE) and has the hip vibe of the other locations, anchored in modern, crisp-looking black and white decor. Here are more details from Monroe Street Market General Manager David Raley:

- 1st Monroe Street Market store to offer patio seating.
- Signature black and white design elements are familiar to all the &pizza locations, but the new style of imagery brings out the diversity and amity the neighborhood prides itself in.
- The new large scale images evoke emotion and help to activate the large walls and high ceiling the space had to offer.
- Bathrooms with mirrored tile and characters from emerging local artist Kelly Towles.
- A large ampersand is found on the exterior of the store, made out of cut steel, exposing the foundational brick seen throughout the newly developed building.

“There’s a sense of neighborhood pride and we wanted to create something that would add to that,” said Michael Lastoria. “The history and character of the neighborhood drew us here and continues to inspire us daily.”

The hours will be 10:00 am – 11:00 pm Sunday – Thursday and 10:00 am – 12:00 am Friday – Saturday. The location at Monroe Street Market will be the 5th location for this small chain; the other stores are on H Street, U Street, Bethesda, and Germantown.

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Town and Gown Chorus, Photo Courtesy of CUA School of Music

Town and Gown Chorus, Photo Courtesy of CUA School of Music

The Town and Gown Singers are Brookland and Catholic U’s community choir. It is open to Brookland residents, CUA students, faculty, staff,  and alumni and basically anyone who wants to sing. The chorus presents two major concerts each year, in addition to performing at various city events.  Their next performance will be on April 25, at 7:30 p.m. The choir will be performing the music of Benjamin Britten at the St. Vincent de Paul Chapel on CUA’s campus. For more information about the group or to find out how to join , please contact the director, Kevin O’Brien at  obrienk(at)cua(dot)edu.

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Brookland Location on 12th Street (photo courtesy of yesorgaicmarket.com)

Brookland Location on 12th Street (photo courtesy of yesorgaicmarket.com)

Yes! Organic Market announced on their Facebook page, that starting immediately customers can place delivery orders online. They partner with Instacart, an online platform that is used by many other well established businesses for their delivery services. Here is their statement:

Yes! Organic Market is pleased to announce that we have selected Instacart as our delivery service partner. Effective today, customers can order from a virtual Yes! store and have it delivered to their door in as little as an hour!
Instacart will help us further realize our ongoing commitment to bringing healthy food to neighborhoods across the Washington, DC area. Delivery service is available in all of DC and some surrounding parts of Maryland and Virginia.
Visit www.instacart.com to try it out!

Just in case you didn’t have the chance to visit our own Brookland location of Yes! Organic, here is the store information:

Yes! Organic Market – Brookland
Store Location
3809 12th St NE
Brookland DC, 20017
202-832-7715
Store Hours
Mon 8am – 10pm
Tue 8am – 10pm
Wed 8am – 10pm
Thu 8am – 10pm
Fri 8am – 10pm
Sat 8am – 10pm
Sun 9am – 9pm

 

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Get Money Back For Planting A Tree

by Astrid on April 16, 2014

Tree-Rebate-Tree-Tag-Revised2-1024x234

Image Courtesy of Casey Trees

Our good friends at Casey Trees remind us about the tree rebate program that is funded by the DC Department of the Environment. You can start by checking out the list of qualifying tree species on the Casey Trees website. You also want to make sure you pick a good tree for the location you identified. The CT website offers a lot of helpful information that guides you through the entire process from selecting, planting and caring for the tree.

Black Gum Tree in our Back Yard

Black Gum Tree in our Back Yard (partially funded by the Tree Rebate Program)

The beautiful Black Gum Tree on the left is just one of multiple trees we submitted a rebate application for.

On their blog CT describes how easy it is to submit an application for a tree rebate:

Participation is simple: purchase a tree from a vendor of your choosing, plant it in D.C., then download our form and submit the rebate with a purchase receipt for each tree. There is no limit to the number of rebates per property.

Many large canopy trees, thanks to their immense environmental benefits, qualify for rebates of up to $100 per tree. Most small and medium canopy trees also qualify, for rebates up to $50 per tree. Invasives, dwarf and ash trees however do not qualify for a rebate of any amount. Refer to our species list for more help.

HAPPY PLANTING !!!!!

 

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Save The Date – June 8th – For The 14th Annual Brookland House and Garden Tour!

April 15, 2014

The Greater Brookland Garden Club House and Garden Tour is one of the major annual events that really brings our community together. Not only that, but it is a terrific showcase for those outside of Brookland to get to know what a fantastic neighborhood we live in. The House and Garden Tour will be Sunday, June 8th. More details […]

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Greater Brookland LGBT April Party – Celebrate In Your Spring Finery!

April 14, 2014

Every month members of the LGBT community in Brookland and surrounding neighborhoods like Eckington, Edgewood, and Woodridge get together to socialize and build community. This month the group will be getting together on Saturday, April 19th, at 7:00 pm at a home in Brookland for a Easter/Spring party. All are welcome. If interested in attending, send us a […]

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Weekend East City Event Round Up: April Super Saturday Edition

April 11, 2014

We are pleased to bring you East City Art‘s Weekend Event Round Up. East City Art is a blog founded by editor Phil Hutinet in January, 2010, which documents the myriad of artistic activities happening in the Northeast and Southeast quadrants of the city. Congrats to East City Art for winning City Paper’s Best Arts Blog of 2014! […]

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ANC 5B04 Recording Recovered In FOIA Ongoing Case – Hear It Here

April 9, 2014

Anyone who follows our blog, or just Brookland civic events, is aware of an ongoing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) court case involving ANC 5B04 Commissioner Steptoe and a private citizen, Conor Crimmins, over her audio recording of the  April 2013 ANC 5B-04 meeting. The result of the FOIA case was this summary judgment, requiring Commissioner Steptoe to release the recording. In our latest […]

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