The D.C. Blogosphere’s Biggest Curmudgeons Are Leaving Town
It was the ultimate she blogs/he blogs D.C. love story. Jaime Fearer was writing her local blog Stop, Blog, and Roll, and wide-eyed prospective blogger Geoff Hatchard, one year her junior, wanted to start one of his own. So he emailed her for advice in 2006. They were both in other relationships at the time, but they finally met in person more than a year later at a DCist holiday party, where they talked for no more than a few seconds.
They kept up their digital contact, commenting on each other's blogs, and in 2008, Fearer asked Hatchard on their first date (via Facebook), which turned out to be a three-part H-Street NE extravaganza that included a show, dinner at The Argonaut, and drinks.
And the rest, as they say, is in the blog archives. They're now married, co-write a blog of their own, The District Curmudgeon, contribute to Greater Greater Washington, and attend three or four community meetings each week. During the day, Fearer, 36, is a community planner for the city of Greenbelt, and Hatchard, 35, works as a cartographer for the U.S. Census Bureau. Their blog isn't all that active these days, but as @IMGoph and @bogrosemary—the Twitter handles by which they're best known—they've become emblematic of D.C.'s demimonde of urbanist-minded citizen haranguers, who use Twitter to complain about lackluster public services (buses that don't respect bikers!), interact with local journalists, and share any and every thought they have about local government.
Last week on Twitter, the two announced that Hatchard got a job as a cartographer with Apple Maps, and that they'd be leaving the District next month for the San Francisco Bay area. As D.C.'s Twitterati mourned, City Desk approached the couple about sitting for an exit interview.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Washington City Paper: How would you rate your time in D.C.?
Jaime Fearer: 11.
Geoff Hatchard: As high as possible—crank it up to 11.
WCP: Would you say you are now more or less of a curmudgeon than when you first moved to D.C. about 10 years ago?
JF: I’ve turned into a bigger curmudgeon... For me, at least, the curmudgeony part is a response to learning more and being part of the community and wanting to work and make it better. I think it just comes out as grumpy.
GH: I was an early 20-something when I got here, and now I’m an older, grumpier mid-30s man... As we said in the startup of the blog, we didn’t just want to complain about stuff, we wanted to say here’s what’s wrong, but here’s what can be done to make it better.
WCP: What's your favorite D.C. neighborhood?
GH: I have to start with Trinidad, because that’s where I live.
JF: I second that.
GH: I’ve always felt there’s something to like in every neighborhood. It’s the fun thing about a city of neighborhoods, that you can find something neat in Cleveland Park and something interesting in Woodridge and something interesting in Deanwood...
WCP: What would you say is the most inefficient D.C. government agency?
JF: Department of General Services...I preface this with that there are wonderful, highly dedicated people there, but overall we continue to build new facilities and then we don’t maintain them...We are building disposable buildings that we are going to go back and look at ten years down the road and say, "Well, God, that’s falling apart, I guess we should go and start planning to build another one.” Some of the recreation centers, for example. I’m worried that some of these big gorgeous new libraries and schools we’re building are going to suffer the same fate.
GH: I have my own issues with DGS, their social media drives me insane...They got this whole "we love to hashtag ElevateDC." Like, what does that mean?
JF: There’s hashtag abuse.
GH: It’s drives me nuts. It doesn’t mean anything, that’s the point. I was excited when the city first started picking up Twitter. I thought it was going to be kind of like DDOT's pothole-palooza: You see a problem, you let us know about it, we’ll mark that down, and we’ll fix it and let you know that we got it done. That’s great, that’s what it should be for; a way to make it easier for people to access their government and easy for government to talk with their constituents and customers, instead of being just a way for PR and “look at us we’re great.” Of course they’re going to say they’re great.
WCP: What is the most efficient agency?
GH: I’ve often been critical of the Department of Public Works, but they have a really sprawling mandate, which is basically do everything, and when it comes down to it, they really do a good job.
JF: If everything was run like parking enforcement, this city would be smooth as sail.
GH: It blows my mind that literally in the parking enforcement section of DPW they learned that here’s something that if we do it hyper-efficiently, it makes money for the city. We sit there and wait by your meter, and you’re two seconds late, then bam. That [parking enforcement] person you are paying, I don’t know, $60,000 a year, they’re making the city twice that.
WCP: I know you are moving, but who would you have voted for in the upcoming mayoral election?
GH: Right now, Tommy Wells has my support. I’ve known Tommy for a long time. I think he’d be very good at hiring people who would try and run these agencies well... I have not seen a single staff person that he’s hired that I can ever say anything negative about, so I think he knows how to hire the right people.
JF: I think he listens, and that’s huge.
WCP: If you could take any D.C. official with you to California, who would you take?
GH: Helder Gil [formerly of the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, who now works with the Metropolitan Police Department].
JF: I knew you'd take Helder.
GH: Would his encyclopedic of D.C. politics and D.C. agencies help that much in a new place? We’d both be equally like, "What the hell is going on?" In all the time I interacted with him at DCRA...he always knew where to send everything, whether in DCRA or any other agency.
JF: I don't want to say Harriet Tregoning, I'll just sound like a fan girl and she has more work to do here. Who would I take? I would take Anne Phelps [director of the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety], she’s an amazing brilliant and dedicated public servant. To me she is kind of the gold standard of leadership and D.C. would suffer if they lost her, so I apologize for taking Anne.
WCP: And who would you take for pure entertainment value?
GH: I don’t know, Jim Graham…I had a fantasitc photo of Jim Graham sitting on Santa’s lap giving him a hug and kiss.
WCP: Do you still have it?
GH: I was living in a house right off Logan Circle and we got broken into and someone stole all of our electronics...I wish I had that photo.
WCP: Who would you recommend to be named as your gadfly/blogging/local activist successors?
GH: I hope that as a collective Greater Greater Washington can continue to push for things. From the beginning with GGW, there's been a focus on serious talk on how to make things better. And now, watching Greater Greater Education and hoping to see that grow.
JF: For me it would be [statehood activists] Josh Burch, and Joan Shipps, and Anne Anderson. I would like to see them taken seriously. I think there is a core group of people that take them seriously. They are tirelessly dedicated to this fight.
WCP: Anything else you'd like to add?
JF: If it weren’t for this wonderful job opportunity that we were not looking, that kind of bit us in the ass, we would not be considering moving. We would continue to live here and complain and volunteer. It’s so amazing for me to meet someone who is equally as nerdy and passionate about this city...There are so many people in this city who love this city and live in this city because they love it.
Photo by Frank Sheehan