As you might have noticed, there haven't been updates this week. I briefly mentioned yesterday that I am out of town. This is correct. I hopped in a rental car and drove down to lovely North Carolina. I'd never been anywhere in NC that wasn't along I-95, so spending a few days poking around the Chapel Hill area seemed like a good idea. I had heard good things and so far, I'm having a good time.
Being away from blogging for a couple days was also a much needed break. Things move so fast in the world of the Internet, and stepping back for a second reminds you that life can go a bit slower. That's a thing I hate about DC, and to a certain extent, the 'blogopshere' in general. No one takes any time to read, or really even think. I'm guilty of this as well, how I opted to do "news bullets" rather than say 2-3 longer pieces each week. To a point this is more successful, people love being able to read a site's content in 15-20 seconds. Who has time to read the longer stuff? Who reads a 2,000 word piece on Metro?
Things in DC move so fast, and everyone races to cover the same story and get their own $0.02. This results in that same echo chamber we see often, where two or three stories dominate the blogs and everything else falls through the cracks. I hate this. I've had a lot of people tell me that they wish there was a site that in a (short) glance, gave them a picture of what's going on in DC. Not lifestyle stuff, but news. A site that touches on the big stories, but also keeps people in the loop about ongoing topics. A site that smashes the whole idea of 'news cycles' into bits and starts over.
That's the direction I'm going to take the other site, and I'm working on some fancy mission statements and all. However, I've noticed that in DC people get bogged down in planning. There's been a few projects I've tried to be involved in, but I got sick of the entire process of having two or three orientation meetings, followed up informal gatherings, where nothing gets done and people just talk about themselves.
I'm writing about this here, because I'm guessing there are a few of you who feel the same way. I'm looking for a few people to help over at District Daily, to turn it into something that serves everyone in the city, not just bloggers or policy wonks. A site that distills the big topics in our city and presents them in any easy to read, easy to understand format. It'll follow up on stories, and also provide a human touch. If you're interested in helping out, you need have no qualifications other than interest. We won't have a bunch of B.S. meetings, and you can likely start building this without even meeting me in person. It's about doing, not talking. Reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Back to WIHDC. A common thread I've noticed is when I visit other cities, I always wish I could stay there. Of course there are problems everywhere, but DC presents a lot of unique annoyances and downright dealbreakers. Housing prices are ridiculous, and honestly I can understand why many people don't want to purchase a $300,000 or more small rowhome in a neighborhood still suffering from gang problems. If I took my monthly rent payment and went to Philadelphia, Chicago, Seattle, Boston, or down here in Raleigh/Durham, I could get more. I could get more in likely a nicer neighborhood.
I know some people who have purchased homes in DC, and I commend them. They are taking a risk, with the possibility of a hefty payoff in the future. The purchases will leave them struggling for the near future, it's hard for people 3-4 years into their careers to afford a home in the District. For me, I've lived in both Logan Circle and Columbia Heights. I'm paying through the nose for a nice(ish) apartment, within walking distance of grocery stores and the Metro. But I still hear gunshots outside my window. I know the odds of myself being shot are fairly low, but when thinking of the future and the eventual hopes of owning a home and raising kids, you start to rethink things.
And now we've come full circle to the whole problem of people fleeing the city once they decide to have kids. I see this changing a bit, baby strollers are everywhere these days. Mount Pleasant, Bloomingdale, etc. have contingents of young parents raising kids. Will they flee when the kids reach school age? Unless both parents are pulling down over $100K I'm going to guess that yes they will.
How can the city make itself more family friendly? Rhee or whoever eventually replaces her can try to improve the schools, but it's going to be rough. Some cities have solved some problems by merging their school district with surrounding suburbs, which is possible if they are all within the same state. DC enjoys no such possibility. DC can't even tap into the larger resources of a state, the way other cities may be able to. Talk about DC statehood often overlooks the problem that if DC was a state, it's entire tax base lives within a very small area. People in Northern Virginia often complain they subsidize the rest of the state, but that subsidization helps the rest of the state weather economic downturns.
I'm rambling here, to be sure, but that's a luxury I don't normally have. I'm going to take advantage of it. I've got a few days to live a bit slower, with no obligations and no deadlines. Taking a breather from DC often reminds me why I ever started reading Why I Hate DC and hits home why despite my occasional optimism, I still get disgusted and disappointed more often than not.