Commissioners Concerned with Public Safety

Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2B Meeting

It’s difficult to put a price on public safety, but residents of Dupont Circle will have to make changes after a program designed to cut down violence amidst the neighborhood’s popular nightlife had its costs balloon to well over one million dollars.

“Closing down dangerous nightclubs makes a whole hell of a lot more sense than reimbursable police detail,” said Commissioner Jack Jacobson.

Reimbursable police detail was quite a hot topic for the ANC 2B commissioners. Due to the high concentration of nightclubs and bars in and around the Dupont Circle neighborhood residents, patrons, and club owners have come to rely on the reimbursable police detail program that stations officers at such establishments to maintain public safety. A robust police presence does not come at small price, however.  Cuts in the District and the Metropolitan Police Department budgets have severely reduced the funds available to continue this program.

“We are affected more by this than any other part of the city,” said Commissioner Mike Silverstein. “And if we lose the police presence people are going to die.”

Commissioner Silverstein went on to cite an incident where an officer saved a young man’s life after he was stabbed. The officer was able to respond quickly due to the reimbursable police detail program.

Despite the obvious benefits of continuing the program, distribution of funds is a legitimate concern that must be addressed. In 2010, $1 million dollars was allotted for the program in the Dupont Circle area, but by July the entire allotment was exhausted and adjustments cut further into the budget.

“It costs about $500 dollars per night to station an officer at just one bar,” said one wary resident. “We’re talking about Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, 4 nights a week. The money can only go so far.”

DDOT, the District Department of Transportation, were a constant source of headaches for the representatives of ANC 2B.

As a variety of public space applications made their way to the podium to request the commissioner’s support they found that DDOT had failed to forward these applications to the ANC. DDOT is obligated to send these applications to the ANC’s because it is the primary venue for community concerns. When approved applications continued to flood in without notification the commissioners grew increasingly agitated.

“DDOT is the pink elephant in the room operating arbitrarily and without regard for the neighborhood,” said Commissioner Victor Wexler.

Among the public space applications were Local 16 and Ping Pong Dim Sum, two restaurants seeking approval for a sidewalk café permit.

A representative of the Local 16 restaurant presented a detailed plan for the sidewalk café and quelled concerns about green space with a layout that preserved much of the area’s greenery. At least one commissioner thought it would be an improvement on the current scenery.

“It is not an aesthetically pleasing promenade,” said Commissioner Wexler.

They also voiced some concern over the plan offered by Ping Pong Dim Sum.

“I’m concerned about noise reaching the Bristol House,” said Commissioner Bob Meehan.

Nevertheless, they were able to reach an agreement that involved altering seating arrangements and conforming operating hours to meet ANC 2B guidelines.

To open the meeting Nikisha Carpenter, a representative of the Youth Pride Alliance, spoke and received a donation of $300 dollars to use towards the organization’s Youth Pride Day. The Youth Pride Alliance, a small volunteer organization that offers support to lesbian and gay youth in the community, offers performances, games, and prizes at the annual event. The event is to be held Saturday, April, 30th in the U Street Music Hall.