Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Reporters, Senator say Columbia Heights is not "underserved," is "toney," doesn't deserve money

Here's something you don't hear everyday. According to CBS reporter reporter Kathy Kristof, Columbia Heights is not "underserved," it's a "toney area" that shouldn't get any government money. Clearly, she has never been there. 


Her source was Senator Tom Coburn from Oklahoma, who recently wrote a list of what he thinks are the biggest examples of government waste. Kristof basically posted his list word for word.


One of Coburn's items was money for IHOP, though he didn't use the the word "toney," that was Kristof. Here's her blurb:
$765,828 for pancakes: Federal funding went to the Anacostia Economic Development Corp to build an International House of Pancake franchise (and train its workers) in an "underserved community." The underserved community, however, turned out to the a toney area of Washington D.C. - Columbia Heights, which is termed "one of Washington's more desirable neighborhoods."
Coburn says in his list that "The new IHOP is not located in an underserved community but a popular Washington D.C. neighborhood." And he has a source listed for "underserved": this Examiner article complaining about the money. The reporter also makes the argument that Columbia Heights is fancy: 

The new IHOP is part of the DCUSA shopping center. Nearby are Target, Bed Bath and Beyond, Best Buy, Giant, Starbucks, Staples, FedEx Kinko's, Five Guys, Potbelly's, Chipotle, and Commonwealth Gastropub, just to name a few.
The nearby Heights restaurant serves a "goat cheese sun-dried tomato burger," but you might have to wait 20 minutes for an outdoor table.A few blocks to the northeast are Meridian Pint, with an impressive selection of foreign beers that go for $7 to $8 a pint, and Room 11, where you can spend a day's pay on microscopic portions of savory jamon Iberico, olives and Rioja wines.
Yes, there are nice places here. But there are also housing projects and murders. And clearly the reporter has never been here, or he'd know that. Plus he has clearly never been to these places. Meridian Pint only serves domestic beer, for example. I bet Coburn has never been here either.


Now I don't want to talk about either party, but this kind of stuff makes me mad, using our neighborhood as some kind of political pawn. You could make the argument that the IHOP (which is a franchise owned by a DC minority family) shouldn't have gotten money. But if you don't think the area is underserved, come live here. Visit the people in Columbia Heights Village and the other subsidized housing in the area. Visit some of the recent immigrants to this country. Ask them if they think they're toney. Ask them if they're "extremely well-served" as the Examiner reporter says.

22 comments:

Kevin said...

Wow, unbelievable. Totally agree with you concluding remarks. Thanks for digging this up for us.

Perhaps they classify neighborhoods based on what they onesie Bones and NCIS.

B-squared said...

The congressman put out some breaking news...that Meridian Pint serves 'foreign beers'. They are an American craft brew pub. There's not a drop of imported beer there. All in all, his observations show that he obviously hasn't spent much time in CH.

jmgorman said...

It's funny how community standards vary across the United States. We shouldn't be too hard on him - it's quite possible that the "toney" areas of Ada and Pawhuska are full of bums shitting on the sidewalk and kids fighting in the alleys.

We shouldn't judge.

Anonymous said...

The reason it makes no sense to Coburn is that we have no vote in Congress. What possible reason could there be for us to receive an earmark of any kind? Must be Obama sneaking into Congress and rewriting bills when nobody's looking.

The rest of his argument is just window dressing.

Coburnsux said...

Also, this may be picking nits, but the current average price of a beer on tap at Meridian Pint is $6.54

Anonymous said...

How much "foreign" beer does Meridian Pint have?

Andrew W said...

None, that's the point. None of these people have ever been anywhere in the neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

AMEN!

Colin said...

I live in Columbia Heights. The neighborhood is certainly not "tony" -- my place was broken into and robbed 3 weeks ago -- but Coburn is on point that federal money shouldn't be going to IHOP. Corporate welfare should be one of those things that most people can agree is ridiculous.

TheCommiss said...

The article is right on target! As for the comment "Visit some of the recent immigrants to this country" are they legal? Enough pissing money down the drain. No needs an Ihop...they need a grocery store...then they can go home and cook. I was poor and we never eat out period! Why...because we couldn't afford to! This whole thing about poor people being undeserved by restaurants is bull...poor people can afford to eat out! Stay home and cook healthy food. I mean really what a freaking liberty!

Anonymous said...

I just love the irony and contradictions of this entire story and the responses to it.

W Jordan

Kyle said...

If by "toney" they mean "going through the process of gentrification" then the congressman might be on to something. Or maybe he's just basing his decision on the community's property values.

Anonymous said...

Can we invite Senator Coburn to lunch at IHOP?

Andrew W said...

TheCommiss, welcome to the neighborhood. There is a grocery store literally a block from the IHOP.

Andrew W said...

Colin, I see your point, but you could make the argument that the money was actually for a small business -- the family who owns the IHOP franchise. It didn't go to IHOP the company.

Fonzy said...

You know why Oklahoma sucks? So Texas doesn't fall into the Gulk of Mexico.

Will Handsfield said...

You all realize that there's no way Coburn wrote this. It's a staffer who penned it, and Coburn approved it. It's probably 50/50 if Coburn even read it, or if it was just his COS. I have no doubt that the staffer has been to the neighborhood (though most R staffers seem to live in Virginia), but what they may not appreciate is how critical city and federal dollars and involvement were to the redevelopment of a very blighted area.

The feds contribution was primarily the metro line, while the city paid for the DCUSA parking garage, some affordable housing, and other bits and pieces.

If Coburn's office wanted to make a point narrowly on public funding going to the IHOP, I'll agree with them on that one. However, their consideration of the area as toney is quite a victory for the concept and practice of public investment in transportation and housing, without which, CH would still be a blighted, burned out neighborhood.

Bottom line, public money was integral to making the area what it is now: a thriving, tax-revenue producing major activity center.

Anonymous said...

Handsfield, that is not correct most of the public money invested in Columbia Heights was Federal. As well, because of the TIF and large tax abatements to bailout failed luxury condo projects there is not tax bonanza.

iHop and DCUSA is one of the few apropriate investments which as fulfill its a good portion of its true purpose.

Tony may be a silly description of Columbia Heights, but it's not far off based with the real estate marketing of Columbia Heights.

W Jordan

Nellie said...

Thanks so much for posting this. It's funny to think what conclusions people can make about a community just by knowing a few facts about the businesses in the area. While it is true that perhaps facets of Columbia Heights are "tony" there are certainly others that are indeed underserved, and what's especially important is that it is often totally separate communities who fall into those categories.

Anonymous said...

So the point of funding IHOP and the rest of federal investment was to raise the cost of living so as to push the neighborhood out into PG County and Langley Park. Thanks Feds for screwing over the poor with federal dollars.

IMGoph said...

Andrew: TheCommiss is Barrie Daneker, a former Bloomingdale ANC commissioner and all-around cranky guy.

Anonymous said...

Did anyone care to question Anacostia Economic Development Corporation (AEDC) a company out of Southeast that is in a lawsuit for shoddy development for homeowners in Southeast. AEDC is currently not getting District dollars because of the lawsuit so the Feds who of course do not live in the District have given AEDC $756,000. Wow, the money would have been better served if given to the owner of the franchise. IJS