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How to Make D.C. Life Better

A great thing about this country is that there's a contest and a grant program for every possible cause and talent.

For example, who would have thought you could win five large just by suggesting ways to make the District better?

DC Appleseed, a do-gooder group in town, and the Hechinger Family Trusts (now you know where all that money you spent on hardware really went) are sponsoring a contest to see who can come up with the best ideas for making D.C. a better city. They got about 900 responses and a panel of judges has picked 20 finalists. You can vote on who wins the big money.

Some of the finalists are incredibly lame ideas--build a UDC East campus (um, the mayor already tried that move, and got his head handed to him), two litter-related initiatives (if that's the biggest problem folks can think of, we need to call the city perfect and move on)--and some have already been done--mobile health clinics, a beefed-up career education program in the public schools--and some are really quite creative: Lift the height restriction in some parts of town to encourage developers to build affordable housing, require builders to stop closing sidewalks during construction and instead build the scaffolding that keeps walkways open in other cities.

Take a look at the list and render your own opinion--and add your ideas about how to fix chronic problems in the city.

By Marc Fisher |  May 23, 2006; 8:13 AM ET
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Very poor choices, and not just because they did pick my idea as a finalist!

Litter (I know it's a problem, but come on!)? Height restrictions (there's plenty of space left rather than going up)? Blocking sidewalks? Yikes.

Posted by: aka | May 23, 2006 9:52 AM

DC needs a TV show like American Inventor where people pitch their ideas to a panel and the winner gets some implementation cash.

Posted by: ItsNotTooSweet | May 23, 2006 10:11 AM

My insane idea is to expand the D.C. boundaries to the Beltway in every direction. More people, more tax dollars, and greater political, economic, and cultural diversity. The inner suburbs can still keep their names (Arlington, D.C. for example), and they can stop fretting about being neglected in Richmond or Annapolis. We would also have a much deeper pool of candidates for elected office and employees for D.C. public service agencies. Like I said, insane, but worth considering.

Posted by: SSMD | May 23, 2006 10:13 AM

I don't know SSMD. I think you would have all kinds of Arlingtonians and MoCoers up-in-arms over that idea. If you offered to replace the DC Council with a hybrid of the Arlington County Board and the MoCo Board, you might have some takers, but not many (and most of those would be DC residents looking forward to getting some real leaders and administrators running the city). I love living in the city but I do miss VA whenever I have to do business with the DC bureacracy.

Posted by: The Eta | May 23, 2006 10:37 AM

DC doesn't need the suburbs to bring in tax revenue - with the huge rise in property values and all the new construction, DC has something like a billion dollars in the bank. I just hope they do something about the schools - that would be my suggestion!

Posted by: SM | May 23, 2006 10:39 AM

Give DC back to Maryland. DC can still house the Federal Government. DC residents would get voting rights in both houses of Congress with representation. The city would benefit by drawing money from Maryland which has a larger tax base than DC will ever have. DC would still have home rule with a Mayor and City Council akin to Baltimore. It's a win-win situation for all parties involved.

Now I doubt very seriously that Maryland would take back the District and all it's problems but that's a topic for another discussion.

Posted by: Keith | May 23, 2006 11:54 AM

I predict, DC will never be under the MD or VA powers.

I predict the gun laws will be lifted.

I predict, eventually DC will get it's right as a state (statehood), and have a vote in congress. Unfortunately, it won't happen until the city is mostly of a particular nationality (which I care not say).

Sad but so true.

Posted by: Frankey | May 23, 2006 12:07 PM

Level the Capitol and return members of Congree to the position of citizen-legislators, not power-brokers-for-life. There goes the cause of the height restriction and the inflated property values.

Posted by: bigolpoofter | May 23, 2006 12:27 PM

I'm still in mourning that neither of my two ideas were chosen, both of which I believe are practical, doable and would have a significant and positive impact:

Electronic "No Stopping or Parking" Signs to Deter Drivers from Parking Illegally in Curb Lane During Rush Hour


Public Service Advertising Campaign to Call Attention to Blocking the Box, Rubbernecking, and Illegal Rush Hour Parking

Posted by: Dan | May 23, 2006 1:02 PM

Anything to improve the schools. ANYTHING.

Posted by: Kate | May 23, 2006 1:17 PM


Those are pretty good. Blocking the box drives me nuts. An ad campaign would help, but I think MPD really just needs to start cracking heads when it happens, like NYPD does in New York. Maybe raise the penalty for blocking the box? It's worse than running a yellow/just-turned-red light, if you ask me.

I'm still jazzed that my transportation idea for a "ZipBike" bicycle lending program made the list.

Posted by: Eli | May 23, 2006 2:10 PM

The whole hting about giving DC back to Maryland is so ridiculous, I don't want to live in Maryland OR Virginia because of their corruption and lack of services. Look at where the MS-13 gang was allowed to fester for 10 years- the SUBURBS! I do NOT want to go back, I want to move forward.


Posted by: Don | May 23, 2006 2:18 PM

I agree that cleaning up litter is not a fabulously creative idea, but I wouldn't underrate its importance. Signs of physical decay--such as litter and broken windows--are major indicators of what is going on and dramatically affect the willingness of people who have enough resources to pay taxes to live in or even travel through an area.

That said, to the extent that I am familiar w/ DC (as a relative newcomer), it seems to me to be a pretty clean city, so, even though I think it's important, I regard being concerned about such basic services as a necessity rather than a creative approach to building the city of the future.

My vote would be for anything that helps people move around. Are there shuttle buses (that I've missed) that help people move around the Mall, the various elements of the Smithsonian, and other regularly visited sites. Even w/ the Metro, visiting these places can involve a lot of hiking. I'd be more inclined to make regular visits if doing so was a little easier.

Posted by: Newcomer | May 23, 2006 2:40 PM

ZipBikes would be a great idea! Why don't we have something like that yet?

Posted by: kz | May 23, 2006 2:49 PM

DC's health status is abysmal, and having mobile clinics would indeed improve the health of DC residents!

Posted by: 2bHealthyNDC | May 23, 2006 5:15 PM

Welcome to DC, Newcomer! Are you familiar with the Circulator? They're the red buses that go around downtown and Georgetown. Supposedly, they have a Mall route now, unless the Tourmobile folks succeeded in stopping them.

Posted by: fs | May 23, 2006 6:00 PM

"My insane idea is to expand the D.C. boundaries to the Beltway in every direction."

You realize this would mean the University of Maryland would consequently be located in the District of Columbia. Well, perhaps the campus would get better Metrobus service...

Posted by: Vincent | May 23, 2006 11:00 PM

"I predict, eventually DC will get it's right as a state (statehood), and have a vote in congress. Unfortunately, it won't happen until the city is mostly of a particular nationality (which I care not say)."

Uh, I'm pretty sure most residents of DC are Americans.

Posted by: Flunky | May 23, 2006 11:33 PM

Stop pretending you fool, and open your eyes.


(Sad but true)

Posted by: Frankey to Flunky | May 24, 2006 10:41 AM

Lets be honest. The end result of an improved DC is to basically fill the city with as many well off individuals, who are law abiding citizens, as possible. On the other end, an improved DC will have decrease the number of people who have no respect for others or themselves. Decrease the number of people who's lifetime habit is to break the law and terrorize others. How do we get this result, who knows. However, DC won't truly be improved until this happens. I'll say this though. If DC happened to have one of the best public schools system in America (i.e. Fairfax,Montgomery), DC would be an INCREDIBLE city.

Posted by: Navy Yard | May 24, 2006 12:40 PM

Well off? Law abiding citizens? So what are you saying? A rich person is a honest person? Oh please, let's talk Catholic and the many sins cast in this city, starting with a particular circle. I even bet if we investigate you and your past we'll find something.

Give me a break, study your history and I bet you this, investigate financially all these well to do people you speak of, and I guarantee you'll find corruption.

The thing is the small minded criminal doesn't cost much, its the big money criminials that we as tax payers have to cover their (you know what), with our tax dollars.

It's the attitude of those who come here and have no intention of working with or having a more positive environment. For example, if a number weathly people come into a neighborhood buy it up and force the people out (good people) out, you expect those people to like you or respect you (hell now). You reek what you sow.

Law abiding, Please!!!

Posted by: Frankey | May 24, 2006 1:32 PM

Underground the White House to untangle the traffic snarl around it.

Posted by: ItsNotTooSweet | May 24, 2006 4:07 PM

If you wanted to help the tourists, add some foreign language signs. Every sign doesn't have to be in English.

Posted by: ItsNotTooSweet | May 24, 2006 4:10 PM

DC Appleseed should be commended for initiating this contest. What better way to get public input and fresh ideas? I hope voters actually read the ideas and judge them on their merit, as opposed to Fisher's blog, which contains faulty information (e.g. the UDC East idea is completely different from the proposal previously submitted by the Mayor). Get your facts straight!

Posted by: Check your facts | May 29, 2006 11:00 PM

Last week I created a public forum for my daughter's school Hardy Middle School. It rapidly became a place for parents and students to post and tell what going on with their school. In a week's time the boards are soaring and it has really been opening parents eyes to what the students are going through. In their own words!

I have had so many requests from people outside Hardy asking me to create a forum for their kids schools. So I did...

I have created a general forum for DC's Public ... middle schools, junior high schools and senior high schools. The list can be found by going to one of the following links. or Try to direct people to those addresses, if they are not directly involved with Hardy. The forum for Hardy on will give this address and not allow people to post messages there; they will have to go to Hardy's page to post messages. .

Thank you,

Dawn Henderson
Suggestions are always welcome

Remember I am not getting paid for this and it is actually costing me time and money to run. Please keep that in mind when you send suggestions and comments my way.

Posted by: Dawn Henderson | June 2, 2006 4:06 PM

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