Phil Lepanto, Connections Media Partner & Chief Technology Officer, became an elected member of the Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) for Mt. Pleasant DC. The Washington City Paper recently wrote a story detailing the challenges his neighborhood faces as it tries to achieve consensus on how to improve the neighborhood.
Mount Pleasant has had a hard time coming into its own. Neighboring Columbia Heights has bloomed with new investment. But in Mount Pleasant, long the more upscale of the two neighborhoods, empty storefronts dot the commercial strip. Still scarred by the Deauville apartment fire of 2008, Mount Pleasant Street NW can look downright dingy.
Cash, in this case, isn’t the problem. Quite the contrary: Until earlier this week, local Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners were trying to fight off money to spruce the place up. A $242,000 taxpayer grant to Mount Pleasant Main Street would pay for things like refurbished lampposts, new benches and tables, and decorative lights. After delaying its implementation for weeks, two members of the six-person ANC threatened a resolution forcing the city to take back the funds altogether. ANC chair Gregg Edwards, who previously spoke out against the grant, told Housing Complex on Tuesday that he would let it proceed.
Even co-commissioners are sick of warring with other neighborhood groups. “From my point of view, the civics are just trying to get things done, and the ANC jumps in at the last minute and tries to control them,” Commissioner Phil Lepanto says, referring to the grant debate. “If the civics disagree, then the ANC labels them as illegitimate.”
The acrimony over the $242,000 might be just the jolt Mount Pleasant needs. It prompted five-year resident John Craig to run against Commissioner Angelia Scott, who joined Edwards and McKay in initially voting against the grant. “I’d always been thinking about it, but that was kind of the last straw,” said Craig, who outlined a pro-business platform. “If the ANC’s got to the point where they’re dealing with academic arguments and philosophical arguments, I think we need to let other parts of Mount Pleasant step in and say, ‘Let’s just start simple and work on the things that we can fix.’”