After the applause fest for the new Columbia Heights plaza the other day, I was writing about it outside Sticky Fingers, DC’s scrumptious vegan bakery and saw that Mayor Adrian Fenty was sauntering in my direction! Perfect!
Adrian Fenty was elected in large part because of his accessibility. He knocked on doors in neighborhoods all over the city talking to residents about bringing a new era of accountability and action. Accessibility, accountability, action: who doesn’t want that in an elected official?
So I jumped up and did my own saunter to him and thrust out my hand so he had to shake it. Introducing myself, I said “I’m a resident of Ward 5 and I’ve been trying to get a stop sign in my neighborhood for a year. Can you help me?”
He seemed disturbed by this and told me that he had just had a nice little press conference with Gabe Klein from Transportation. I said I’d attended and he said he needed to introduce me to Mr. Klein so the Department of Transportation could start working on the stop sign.
He introduced me to a couple of his assistants and everyone was surprisingly earnest and helpful. By the time I was introduced to Gabe Klein, there were seven people standing around me listening intently to the description of the Stop Sign Quest. I received cards from the Director of Communications, of Transportation, and Ward 1’s Outreach Coordinator (with cell phone number!).
When describing the location, almost no one could mentally access the corner of 12th and Newton, the main street of Brookland, and I remembered how Northwest-centric this city is. The landmark that made some eyes light up was the former movie theater which is now a horrendous chain pharmacy with a marquee. “Ah… that place.”
They told me that a traffic study and petition were required to move forward and I countered that a traffic study had already been conducted, and that a stop sign was supposed to have been installed as part of the streetscape redesign that was completed earlier this year. So they fell back on the petition.
I asked why no one had mentioned, in any of the previous correspondence in the last year, that a petition was necessary. Blank faces. I have no problems getting people to sign a petition and will do it gladly and quickly, and would have done it last year if anyone had said that one was necessary.
The Outreach Coordinator for Ward 1, Sybongile Cook, thought she might have a copy of the necessary petition in her car but didn’t so she said she would email it to me. I still haven’t received it.
These are some problems I have with this process:
1. If a petition is necessary to obtain a stop sign, why was that simple fact not mentioned after a dozen emails?
2. Why is a petition necessary if the previous traffic study determined that a stop sign was needed at the corner and was supposed to have been installed?
3. Why was the stop sign, that people have been clamoring for for years and that was declared part of the streetscape, simply not put in place?
It seems that it would be easier for the city to install a relatively cheap sign rather than facing the potential lawsuits and the backlash of the community when someone is inevitably run down.
I will continue to follow up with all of my new contacts in the DC Government regarding this issue until it is resolved.