Adora Jenkins Handles Media for U.S. Attorney General

Ta’naysha A. Smith

Dressed in black knee-high, four-inch leather boots, black stockings, black skirt with a conservative back split, black tweed jacket and burgundy blouse, Adora Andy Jenkins is fashionably dressed for success. By many measures, Jenkins is just that in her role as press secretary to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

Jenkins, 32, starts her work day when she awakens at 6 a.m. She reads the morning news clips involving the Justice Department and sends any follow up emails to the appropriate people. Jenkins arrives at her DOJ office by 9 a.m. and meets with colleagues to discuss issues or topics that need to be addressed for the day so that the message from all is the same.

Next Jenkins gets on a White House conference call every morning, which is similar to her 9 a.m. meeting. “By this time I am in need of a coffee break,” she says.

She spends the rest of the day answering emails and calls from reporters, writing news releases, planning press conferences or formulating answers to questions she anticipates the office will be asked.

The job calls for lots of travel. If the Attorney General has a press conference or a speaking event, Jenkins arrives at the site an hour before the event begins to make any last minute logistical or mechanical preparations and to brief the reporters. “Usually the trips are just day trips,” Jenkins says. “Once we flew to Los Angeles at 6 a.m. on a six-hour six flight to LAX then we flew back another six hours that same day.”

Before Jenkins arrived as the chief spokesperson for the top law enforcement official in the United States, she studied broadcast journalism at the University of Missouri in Columbia. She earned a degree in journalism in 2003 from what she calls “one of the best journalism departments in the country.”

College mentee and former Environmental Protection Agency colleague, Alisha Johnson, says that when she met Jenkins in college, she came across as professional and poised. “She was very helpful and went out of her way to ensure that I was informed about classes and career choices,” Johnson says.

Out of college Jenkins, thought that she would be working in the news media. Her younger brother, Gregory Andy, says that even when she was younger “she was pretty sure she wanted to be a journalist, no matter the position. It was clear early on that one of her strongest skills was communication and she knew it.”

 She began her journalism career while in college at KOMU-TV the NBC affiliate in Columbia. She kept the job a short time after graduating. It was there that Jenkins started to think that  producing television news was not for her. She worked as a news producer in Memphis, as well. But that experience sealed the idea for her that she wanted to pursue something else. So in 2005, she stopped working as a journalist and took a job as press secretary for then U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr. (D-Tenn.). From there, she got a taste of law enforcement work as public information officer for the Dekalb County (Georgia) District Attorney.

In 2008, Jenkins worked on the Barack Obama presidential campaign. She moved to the District in 2009 hoping to land a job with the new administration. Jenkins got a job at the EPA under Lisa Jackson, the first black EPA director. She received a call from her mentor referring her to the Department of Justice, asking if she was interested in the press secretary position. She gladly accepted because she wanted to learn a different part of the administration and was also very excited to work for Holder, the first black U.S. Attorney General.

Jenkins has come a long way from her first job working the cash register at a Blockbuster Video store. She is now one half of a Washington power couple. Her husband, Nate Jenkins, works at The White House as liaison to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“My mother always taught [me] to do [my] best no matter the circumstance, no matter how difficult, no matter what,” Jenkins says. “When you consistently do your best, even if you fail, you can be proud of yourself at the end of the day.”

Demand A Plan Campaign, Calls Millions to Action

 

More than 850 mayors from big cities and small towns across the country have joined a coalition-Mayors Against Illegal Guns–aimed at protecting the rights of Americans who own guns, while fighting to keep criminals from possessing guns illegally.

Founded in 2006 by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Boston Mayor Thomas More with only 15 members, this organization has grown and is working to disseminate its message and to organize in efforts to stop gun violence.

“With more than one million grassroots supporters-many of whom joined after the Newtown shooting by signing our Demand A Plan petition, Mayors Against Illegal Guns is now the largest gun violence prevention advocacy organization in the country,” said Mayors Against Illegal Guns Communication Director Erika Soto Lamb.

The Demand A Plan Campaign is a call to action aimed at lowering the startling statistics of gun violence and saving the lives of the 33 people who are killed in the United States daily by guns. The main goals of the campaign are to get Congress to pass legislation requiring every gun buyer to pass a criminal background check, to get military assault weapons and high capacity magazines off of the streets and to make gun trafficking a federal crime.  Research from Mayors Against Illegal Guns Trace Data Center found that about 40 percent of guns acquired in the United States annually come from unlicensed sellers who are not required by federal law to conduct background checks on gun purchasers.

After the shooting in Newton, Conn., President Obama dedicated himself to delivering a set of concrete proposals to address the epidemic of gun violence in the United States. The Demand A Plan campaign believes that requiring a criminal background check for every gun sale should be apart of the plan. However, in order for these background checks to be effective, states must submit millions of missing records to background check databases. These missing records are visible, fatal gaps partially responsible for the estimated 8,000 deaths caused in the United States by firearms, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report. In D.C., the campaign reported, 4,557 reports were missing compared to the 477 that were submitted. If legislation to require universal background checks is passed, the submission of these missing reports into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System could be the difference between a mentally unstable individual being cleared to carry a firearm or not, supporters of the legislation say.

Demand A Plan is determined to do something about the staggering statistics nationwide-the use of about 25 celebrities like Beyonce, Cameron Diaz and Jamie Fox is one technique they’re using to raise awareness.

The use of celebrities, some featured in violent action-packed films in the Demand A Plan video has come under fire, with some criticizing the use of actors who have been more than ‘trigger happy’ in their films.

“Just because an actor or artist has been in a v­­iolent movie doesn’t somehow offset their credibility to talk about gun violence. They’re mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters-proud Americans. We can talk about violence in (our) culture, but ultimately it’s the gun that matters,” Soto Lamb said.

 “If we don’t do a better job of keeping these weapons out of the wrong hands, it won’t matter what sort of movies Hollywood is making. Movies are better regulated than guns are.  Fifteen year olds can’t just buy a ticket for a violent movie yet the NRA opposes laws to prohibit terrorists from buying guns and won’t close loopholes that let criminals and dangerously ill people easily buy assault weapons,” she said.

For 20-somethings, the use of celebrities in the video makes it that much more attention grabbing.

” It is the perfect way to go about advertising keeping guns out of illegal hands. A regular citizen doesn’t have the type of platform and can’t reach the attention of as many people as a celebrity can,” said freelance journalist LaParis Hawkins. “When you see your favorite celebrity advocating for such a big issue you stop and listen.”

The Demand A Plan Campaign allows supporters to donate funds and to sign a petition for Congress. Those who cannot afford to give monetarily are encouraged to call their elected officials to demand that they support “common sense”‘ gun reforms. They can also utilize social networks to increase visibility of the campaign’s message.

“We together can work towards a safer future,” Hawkins said. “America’s obsession with guns has to cease.”

Split This Rock’ Poetry Festival Attracts Visitors

Macy L. Freeman

About 500 people came out for the third annual “Split This Rock” Poetry Festival that took place March 22-25 throughout D.C. Attendees traveled across the nation for the festival featuring a number of sessions about writing and poetry.

“Split This Rock” began in 2008 with a purpose of connecting individuals through the art of poetry. This year’s festival paid tribute to writer June Jordan, who died in 2002. Sara Browning, director of “Split This Rock,” said though she never met Jordan she was inspired by her “fierce honesty” and ability to “go to very difficult places” and be direct in her work. The district has a rich tradition of African-American poets like Langston Hughes and Paul Laurence Dunbar, Browning said.

“Part of our vision at ‘Split This Rock’ is to celebrate that tradition,” Browning said. “Lift it up, make sure people know it, and celebrating June this year is part of that piece of our mission.”

Among the poets featured in this year’s festival were Sonia Sanchez, Douglas Kearney and Kim Johnson, who appeared at Carlos Rosario High School on March 22.

“For so many ‘Split This Rock’ is the place where they meet like-minded folks,” Browning said. “They build common cause and they have their own courage restored, bolstered for the good work they’re doing in their notebooks, on their computers, but also throughout their communities.”

For more information about Split This Rock, visit http://www.splitthisrock.org/. 

Howard Students Team Up for Roast and Toast Gaming Event

Kiera A. Manison

 

A mixture of Howard University computer science and journalism students filled screening room west in Howard’s School of Communications Friday for a new gaming event Roast and Toast 2.

Roast and Toast 2 was an event organized by students enrolled in the Computer Science Game Engine Program and School of Communication news game directed study.  The students kicked off the event by demonstrating the much anticipated Star Wars Kinect game, “The Elder Scroll V: Skyrim.”

Using motion controls students played a few minutes into the game and then gave an on camera critique about what they thought about it.  

“We review games on video that are later posted online to give an African-American perspective on games,” said senior broadcast journalism major, Denise Sawyer.  “We want to show that we are not just consumers but we know enough to critique and analyze the product.”

After the critiques, Sawyer and other students involved in the program showcased the games they created during the semester.

The students in the directed study showcased a game that was created to teach students AP style. The multiple choice game put a fun twist on learning the writing style used by most journalists.

The AP style game was created using a free online game coding platform called Scratch that allows users to create an online game without having to use any coding language.

Although the journalism students used Scratch, the computer science students created the game “Collect 2 Protect”, a Windows PC game to save the world from carbon induced global warming, without the help of a program but used a C sharp coding language.

The event ended in a fun and funky way when the students convinced their professors Todd Shurn Ph.D and Ingrid Sturgis to play the motion controlled dance game “Dance Central 2.”

Shurn and Sturgis battled it out to Kurtis Blow “The Breaks.” After taking an early lead with some creative dance moves, Sturgis lost to Shurn after he came back with a continuous arm move that stole the show.

Roast and Toast 2 was an exciting event that brought students from different concentrations together. But its overall purpose is to get Howard University students prepared to take on the billion dollar gaming industry.

“Interactive media market is growing explosively,” said Shurn. “Students from Stanford, Harvard, USC, and Carnegie Mellon are launching successful media companies after graduation and we want to assist Howard University students to create innovative products enabling to do the same.”

DC Ticket Amnesty Program Doesn’t Save The Day

Aleia Woods

 

Aric Adams stood in the empty spot where he had parked his Ford Fusion an hour and 20 minutes prior.

He held his head low, confused and furious. With five unpaid parking tickets, accumulating to over $800, Adams’s car was now residing in it’s new home, the car impound.

On August 1, 2011, DC’s DMV initiated the Ticket Amnesty Program, allowing customers to pay older and outstanding parking tickets, without paying additional late fees. Within the Ticket Amnesty Program, those in the district who received parking tickets, moving violations, or a photo enforcement ticket before the date of January 1, 2010 was allowed the opportunity to pay outstanding tickets without penal fees.

However, almost six months later on Jan. 27, the program came to a close. So, the ship to wipe the accumulated ticket slate has sailed.

“Over the past two years, I’ve received at least five tickets,” D’Amber Allen, Howard University sophomore, says furiously.

“I live off of a certain amount of money that goes towards my necessities, and by me having to pay parking tickets because Howard does not offer as much parking as they should, I’m not left with much because the tickets double, adding up to ridiculous amounts,” she said.

Howard University students, Allen and Adams alike were outraged that this program was temporarily implemented, but few students were aware. 

According to officials, the Amnesty Program collected $393,647 within the first two weeks of its execution and 7,400 tickets were paid, however how much of this money was from college students?

“When I walk to my car after class, I don’t see silver rims on the cars, I see orange boots.  So many students have unpaid parking tickets, it’s like a common car accessory,” said Adams.

“The Amnesty Program was a great incentive for college students to be allowed the chance to save their money to pay their tickets, but it was brought to no one’s attention,” said Jonathan Raspberry, Howard University senior.

“A program that would be a great compromise for both out-of-state students and DC’s Department of Motor Vehicles would be some sort of payment plan,” he said.

Fredricka Ransome, another Howard University senior had to drive her car back home to Richmond, VA because she received three tickets, within two days. “If a payment plan was allotted to us college students, without incorporating the 30-day price increase of tickets, there would be less tickets!” she said.

“As an out-of-state student, not necessarily accustomed to the city life and living off a budget because of my scholarship, my peers and I need some sort of assistance if the severity of these parking violations continue,” said Allen sternly. 

Just For Kicks

Aleia Woods

The 411 On The Sneaker Craze

While some people were holding their breath for a white Christmas, thousands of others were breathing out white, frigid air-smoke while waiting in line to purchase Michael Jordan’s latest sneaker; his November 1995 re-release, the Air Jordan Retro Concord 11s.

Certainly, no one had any idea that his first black-and-red Air Jordan 1 release 25-years-ago would catapult into a $1 billion dollar a year franchise. Nor did anyone think it would cause mass hysteria in shopping malls.

Recently, however, Jordan’s are not the only cause of long lines, partial hypothermia with frost bitten fingers, or saved lunch money.  This new sneaker fixation has become second nature on every coast.

Maurice Simpkins, a sales associate at DTLR sneaker store remembers the chaos at the crack-of-dawn at Prince’s George Plaza Mall: the south beach Nike Air Foamposites were released.

“Jordan’s don’t really get sold too often at my store, unless they are retro’s. Customers are into buying New Balance and Foamposites,” Simpkins said.  “The line was literally out of the door.”

Simpkins, who considers himself a minor sneaker connoisseur, prefers to buy his kicks at boutiques that specialize in rare sneakers. He recently purchased the Air Jordan Retro Cement 4’s, but his top seed are his white and red Allen Iverson Reebok Question Mid.

“Sneakers are usually most popular when they are rare, when the color way is unique, and when everybody knows the release date in advance,” he said.

Self-proclaimed sneaker head, Alec Williams has a sneaker collection of about 65 strong. Of the 65, 58 pairs are Air Jordan’s, and four pairs of Nike Foamposites.

Williams, a part-time kick collector, and full-time business student at Howard University has spent at least $10,000 dollars on his still growing collection. The majority of his collection, however, was acquired during high school.

He reminisced on the birth of his love for sneakers. “My brother worked at Footaction for three years and he got me my first pair of hot sneakers. The Chi-town Air Force Ones and the box said, “Save for Tim’s little brother.”

Malls across America have all experienced the Saturday morning rush of sneaker fiends, but there lies no exclusivity. A sneaker connoisseur consists of more than Foot Locker monthly releases.

Non-mainstream sneaker wearers search for their rare, hot commodity items at boutiques like Kixclusive in New York City.  Kixclusive, in the SoHo area to be exact, specializes in rare and dead stock [sneakers that are no longer sold in stores and out of production] sneakers.

“Kixclusive specializes in hard to find shoes that cannot be found at the average show retail outlet,” said Lauren Young, Kixclusive representative.  “Yes, we sell general release Jordan’s, Lebrons, Kobe’s and Nike basketball [shoes], but you won’t have to wait in a line for three days. Plus we keep stock in hot releases so you can find them at Kixclusive months and even years later.”

Another trend that has seized the nation is flipping shoes: essentially buying and reselling. Kixclusive is also one of the only shoe stores that buys and sells exclusive shoes.

“If you have a pair of brand new, dead stock shoes, and you need to sell them fast, we are the only store in NYC that pays cash on the spot. By doing this, we are able to expand our inventory and help out our customers at the same time,” said Young.

And although sneakers are being purchased at retail for resell, this doesn’t mean the resell prices are wallet friendly.

“I had the black Foamposites for a week and sold them for $450 dollars. I sold them because I was just in a phase where I was flipping sneakers,” said Williams.

So, when the clock struck midnight on February 24, members of the sneaker cult was either glued to their computer praying the server didn’t crash, or impatiently waiting on line at their nearest House of Hoops sneaker store awaiting the release of the Galaxy Foamposites.

And to think, the majority of the people anticipating this shoe is buying for resell, not to wear. At retail price of $220 dollars, that’s peanuts compared to the standard resell price of about $1000 according to Ebay.com.

The release got so hectic that House of Hoops sneaker store in PG Plaza mall had to delay their release because it was chaos outside of the store on the original date of the sneaker release.

Other retailers sold out in minutes, limiting the purchase to one shoe per person.

Kixclusive representatives, however contests the correlation between a shoe being “hot” with it costing an arm and a leg.

“Shoe collecting isn’t about the cost of the shoe, it’s about the rarity and hype surrounding it,” Young said.

Solar Rebate Program’s Final Go-Around in the District

Derrick Haynes-Moore

Ward 1 and Ward 6 residents were the top 2 rebate recipients.

The national power grid that generates electricity for anything with a plug is overworked. Some consumers, including droves of district residents, have decided to tackle this issue head-on, by becoming their own energy producers and going solar.

Hundreds of D.C. residents interested in having solar photovoltaic panels installed onto their homes have signed up for the local government’s Renewable Energy Incentive Program, also known as REIP, to cut their upfront costs.  The incentive program, administered by the District Department of Environment, was created in 2008 after the D.C. council passed the Clean and Affordable Energy Act. The program restarted for its final fiscal year Oct. 1. 

Emil King, a policy analyst at the city’s Department of Environment, said 40 percent of REIP rebates were distributed to homeowners in Ward 1. The second largest rebate recipients lived in Ward 6, home to the Capitol Hill Energy Cooperative and Michael Barrette.   

For Barrette, the solar project director of the Capitol Hill Energy Cooperative, the REIP rebate shaved off nearly $12,000 from his initial cost of $26,500. The maximum rebate homeowners can receive is capped at $16,500 in the program’s last year.   DDOE has “ratcheted down” its incentive levels for rebate payments to correspond with the decreasing costs of solar panels. In 2010, the average applicant received a rebate similar to Barrette’s. Future REIP applicants should expect to receive less. 

Solar Solution, LLC, a solar energy installation company based in the district, installed a 19-paneled 4.4 kW system on Barrette’s Capitol Hill home in April 2010. Within in the next two or three years, Barrette said he will have a positive return on his investment, in addition to lowered electricity bills. 

I’m producing half of what I need right now, which is why I’m considering putting more panels on,” he said, “I want to get closer to a hundred percent.” 

So, Barrette applied to REIP again last year, but he was placed on a waiting list when funds for the annual $2 million program ran out for the 2011 fiscal year, which had been decreased to $1.8 million. A budgetary gap led the D.C. council to approve tapping an additional $709, 400 of REIP funds in December 2010 to plug the shortfall.   

The waiting list, which was closed in February 2011, totaled 414 residents and families seeking to take advantage of the program.   

The recently launched D.C. Sustainability Energy Utility, D.C. SEU, stepped in to provide a rebate to the top 15 homeowners on the waiting list before REIP was available again. 

Bill Lightfoot, 60, was lucky number fifteen.   

Lightfoot, an attorney and former D.C. council member, said he was motivated to install panels to save money and save the earth. The refund grant and the federal government incentives, which include a 30 percent tax credit program, also spurred him on. 

Lightfoot also said a then-presidential candidate Barack Obama campaigning during the 2008 election was as another source of encouragement.   

President Obama gave speeches about solar energy and how it was important,” Lightfoot said, “He convinced me by listening to his speeches that it was the right thing to do to save the planet and create jobs.”  And a summer report released by the Brookings Institute demonstrated that “green jobs” has inched ahead of their fossil-fuel counterparts, narrowly.   

Sizing the Clean Economy: A Green Jobs Assessment” demonstrated that there were 2.7 million environmental-friendly jobs in 2010 – by comparison fossil-fuel industry jobs totaled 2.4 million. 

While waiting to receive his rebate, Lightfoot went ahead and paid Solar Energy World, LLC to install solar PV system generating 9.5 kW in December 2010. 

I’m saving on my electricity bill,” he said, adding that he probably saved about 40 percent per month with that percentage rate rising during sunnier summer months.   

Lightfoot recently received an email from D.C. SEU saying he would receive his rebate check in early October. 

Much further down on the waiting list, in the mid-200s, Corey Ramsden said he has only received an email from the DDOE confirming that he was still on the list.

Ramsden, an independent IT contractor and Capitol Hill Energy Cooperative member, said he wanted to do something to affect climate change.   

I already spent time trying to weatherize my own house,” Ramsden said, “The next thing I want to do is generate my own electricity.” 

But that goal has been postponed until he receives his REIP rebate.   

The hiccup in financing their PV systems forced many other applicants to ask solar installation companies like Astrum Solar and Solar Solution, LLC to postpone their installations since they would face more out-of-pocket costs without REIP. 

I didn’t make sense to do installations while they were waiting,” said Michelle Waldgeir, Astrum’s marketing vice president.   

Atta Kiarash, vice president of Solar Solution, said approximately half of the 400 plus wait-listed participants are customers waiting for incentive program’s re-launch. 

It’s a double-edged sword,” Kiarash said, referring to REIP, “Not only has it helped us grow and get new customers. It has also kind of slowed us down a bit.” 

With the grants being taken away, it definitely hurt us and it hurt customers who wanted to get the systems installed but now couldn’t,” he added. 

Kiarash said while some customers are extremely concerned about climate change and want to reduce their carbon footprint; most, however, are more concerned about what they pay to Pepco. 

I’m sure in the back of the mind they’re concerned about the environment,” he said.   

The financial benefit of when a homeowner’s PV system generates enough energy to offset their usage can make receiving their electricity bill a happy occasion. 

When Barrette opened his May 2011 electricity bill from Pepco, he saw a surprise worth smiling about: His bill was negative. 

That was my proud shining moment,” he said. “I was very excited when I opened that bill that month. I’m going to keep trying to get that negative month. I want them to owe me money.”  For homeowners without a PV system, their Pepco bills will not inspire smiles if a proposed rate hike is approved in spring 2012. 

On July 8, the utility company submitted a proposal to the city’s Public Service Commission requesting to increase service rate by approximately 10.2 percent.   

A month and a day later, Mayor Vincent Gray signed the Distributed Generation Amendment Act. The bill, originally introduced in January 2011, went into effect Oct. 20. and will increase the level of district’s solar energy mandate.  The law will raise the district’s solar energy requirement to .25 percent, from an original .04 percent – a 21-percentage point increase.   

And some D.C. officials fear that the legislation may also raise energy bills.

In a fiscal impact statement, Dr. Natwar Gandhi, the city’s chief financial officer writes, “The higher costs to comply with this proposed legislation will be passed along to energy consumers in the District, increasing energy bills.” 

The Fiscal Impact Statement speaks for itself so we have no comment beyond what is stated there,” David Umansky, the public affairs officer of the Office of the Chief Financial Officer, wrote in an emailed response.  “However, the legislation excludes contracts, and not companies.”   

Umansky noted that the district’s contract with Washington Gas Energy Services would have to be renegotiated when it expires in 2012 to meet the new solar requirements.   

Concerned about the impact of the distributed generation bill on utility rate-payers without PVs pushed the Public Service Commission’s Chairman Betty Ann Kane and the Interim’s People’s Counsel Brenda Pennington to oppose the measure at a March 2011 hearing, according to a committee report.

While Chairman Kane testified in court, Counsel Pennington and Pepco submitted written testimonies.  Thirty-five other witnesses, including Washington Gas Energy Services, testified in favor of the bill.  The latter said that the measure should be implemented gradually (“grandfathered in”).

Many said that the bill’s restriction on where utility companies can buy Solar Renewable Energy Credits, SRECs, will bolster the solar credit market that had been saturated, thus lowering value of D.C. residents’ solar credits.   

Currently, utility companies are permitted to purchase SRECs outside the city.  SRECs are sellable credits produced by homeowners with PV systems generate 1,000 kWh of electricity. A 1 kW solar system can generate 1,000 or more kWh per year.   

Barrette’s slightly larger 4.4 kW system has generated 9,840 kWh, as of March 8. He said he generates 5 solar credits annually and receives payments through the SREC broker company, Sol Systems.   

Homeowners can sell the credits themselves or hire companies such as Astrum, Solar Solution, or Sol Systems to do so on their behalves. Before dealing with solar credit brokers, they must register their PV system with their state’s SREC certifier.   

In the district, the Public Service Commission certifies SRECs.   

The primary buyers of SRECs are power-utility companies that operate in the district and 31 states that have a Renewable Portfolio Standard, REPS.

A REPS is a mandate that requires power suppliers to increase the amount of renewable energy sources that they use. 

Consumers’ anger at Pepco over its management of outages in the metropolitan area has already driven some residents “off-the-grid” and may further nudge others to follow suit. 

Kiarash said being off-the-grid could be defined in two ways.   

First, a homeowner can be disconnected from the power grid completely, generating all of their electricity from their solar PV system that is stored away in a battery backup system for energy use after sunset.   Or they can still be connected to the grid, but generate enough energy to offset all of their energy use by feeding the power their PV panels produced directly into the grid. 

We’re looking at taking people off-grid,” said Akili West, co-founder of the Ward 8 Renewable Energy Cooperative, “We see situations in Ward 8 where off-grid is better.” 

West, who is also the president of Reclamation Energy, LLC, helped found the Ward 8 REC in July 2010 to raise awareness about the potential for renewable energy and environmental issues in the ward.   The Ward 8 REC is a part of D.C. Solar United Neighborhoods, D.C. SUN, a group of 11 other solar and renewable energy co-ops in the city, including the Capitol Hill cooperative.   

You know how BP is ‘beyond petroleum’?” West asked, “We want to be BP, beyond Pepco. We want to have options as far energy is concerned.”

Takoma Park’s Helping Hand for The Environment

Ashley Williams

Takoma Park, Md., residents are  making  advances to turn their community into a more environmentally friendly area. The September newsletter issued by the city council of Takoma Park encouraged citizens to do their best to preserve the environment and  the world.

After recent rainstorms, Takoma Park set up weekly collection services to pick up storm debris deposited over the area. The debris included grass, leaves, brush and tree branches less than three feet in diameter and four feet in length. These types of items that are destroyed or no longer in their natural use can be beneficial for other re-planting and gardening projects. It is also a beneficial way to fill up compost trash.

The neighborhood will also have a “Car Free Day” on Thursday, Sept. 22. The event is intended to encourage sustainable transportation. Residents are encouraged to go car-free or “car-lite.” People can ride their bicycles, walk, telework, carpool, vanpool or take public transportation to and from their destinations.

New exhibits in the galleries at the Takoma Park community center also encourage the community to stop global warming and protect the environment. Seleshi Feseha is a resident of Takoma Park and has created artwork in which reusable energy is beneficial for the planet. His artwork also provides methods in which people can protect the planet. Feseha also uses a “thread on canvas” approach for his artwork, which serves as an alternative to chemical-laden oil paints.

The city council has two separate committees to provide a better environment for Takoma Park. The Nuclear-Free Takoma Park Committee and the Tree Commission meet once every month to come up with ways in which they can do their part.

The city council has also authorized the contracting of solar panels. Under the contract, Solar Solution, LLC  will, “install, maintain and own the solar panels” in exchange for the city’s purchase of generated electricity.

With aging trees across the Takoma Park area, the city has allowed residents to purchase new trees to plant at a discounted price.

A $100 discount is provided for one tree for each property owner. The total cost for one tree would be reduced to $100.70 including sales tax. If a property owner decides to plant a second tree, the total would be $307.40 including installation and guarantee for one year.

These new adaptations to the community are just ways in which Takoma Park is preparing to defend the environment against global warming. 

Local Universities and Businesses Buy Into a Day Without Cars

Na’Tasha Jones

For some D.C. Metro area residents, taking public transportation is a daily routine. For others, it means a real sacrifice.

Thursday, Sept. 22 is Car Free Day in the Washington, D.C., metro area. Hosted by Commuter Connections, Car Free Day is a part of Try Transit Week, a series of events through Friday to encourage the use of other modes of transportation besides automobiles.

Try Transit Week originated in Richmond, Va., in 2005, and was eventually expanded statewide in 2008 by the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation.

Local universities are creating awareness for Car Free Day by participating in a challenge called the Capital Car Free Campus Competition. American University, George Mason University, Georgetown University, the University of the District of Columbia and the University of Maryland will compete to see which school can get the greatest percentage of their community—faculty, staff, and students—to pledge to spend the day car-tree or “car-lite,” using carpools or vans.

Participants can register online to make a pledge at http://CarFreemetroDC.com.

Also during this week comes the one-year anniversary of Capital Bikeshare, a bike sharing program developed through the District Department of Transportation and Arlington County. The program has about 1,100 bicycles at 110 stations in D.C. and Arlington, Va.

The actual anniversary date was Tuesday, but there will be a  Birthday Bash celebration on Sept. 22 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Yards Park in Southeast D.C.

Activities at the birthday bash include a live ’80s band, The Reflex, various food trucks, craft beer from New Belgium Brewing, moonbounce activities, a hula-hoop garden sponsored by HooperNATURALtm, a Paper Boy race and more.

Capital Bikeshare isn’t the only way to get a bicycle in the D.C. metro area this week, however. Bike & Roll is offering free bicycle rentals on Sept. 22 in honor of Car Free Day. Customers can call to make a reservation requesting the free rental. They can even pick the bike up the night before on Wednesday. The bike would need to be returned by 6 p.m. on Thursday in order for the rental to remain free of charge.

The marketing coordinator, Allsion Kelman, says that they offered the free rentals last year for Car Free Day as well, but  many  did not use the promotion.

“It wasn’t very many at all,” she said. “I would say less than a dozen.” Organizers are hoping for a bigger turnout this year, however. “Most of our customers are tourists, so we didn’t promote as much last year,” Kelman says. “We hope this year that more people will take advantage.”

Bike & Roll has  three locations in the area: Union Station, the Old Post Office Pavilion and in Alexandria, Va. “We have been around for about 15 years and always want to stay a part of the biking community,” Kelman says.

Doing  their part to be car free this week can help not only save the earth from pollution and help improve traffic congestion, but also save  D.C. Metro area residents money.

In April, Gov. Bob McDonnell challenged Virginians to use forms of transportation other than driving once every two weeks. By pledging and accepting the challenge to try an alternative form of transit  during Try Transit Week, Virginia residents will be entered into a drawing for a chance to win one-year free pass to the transit service of their choice as well as two round-trip tickets on Amtrak Virginia.

Even if a person doesn’t win the contest, going Car Free can still save money. The American Public Transportation Association September Transit Savings Report states that “individuals who switch from driving to riding public transportation can save, on average, up to $830 this month, and up to $9,964 annually.”

This does not even include the cost of monthly unreserved parking, which in downtown D.C. is a median of $260, $104.78 more than the national average of $155.22, according to the 2011 Colliers International Parking Rate Survey.

No one can argue the great savings in cost to the commuter, benefits to the environment, and the improvement of traffic conditions by just taking one day to be car free.

For a look at how much money and carbon emissions you personally can save by going Car Free, visit www.publictransportation.org.