Loose Lips

Change Mt. Pleasant Can Believe In?

(This article has been corrected since it was first published.)

Mt. Pleasant will soon see a stark change in its hyper-local political leadership—half of the members of ANC 1D won’t be running for re-election next month.

In lieu of another term, commissioners Phil Lepanto, Dave Bosserman, and Oliver Tunda said they want to dedicate their time to other pursuits. But there’s an additional factor at play here: as Housing Complex reported in June, conflicting visions for the neighborhood’s future make for an ANC that gets things done at a tantalizingly slow pace, if at all.

And this often leads to collective frustration.

“These four old white guys run through the same old bickering, like old ladies,” Bosserman said about some fellow 1D commissioners, “and I said, ‘you know what? We need to get some new people in here.’”

Lepanto also cited vexation at the ANC as a reason for leaving, explaining in an e-mail how the improvements he hoped to make during his tenure as a commissioner met resistance “in almost every case.”

With three incumbents staying off the ballot, a fresh crop of candidates has stepped up in an effort to change how 1D operates and the way that the rest of D.C. views their community. Mt. Pleasant Main Street President Adam Hoey, running for Tunda’s seat as a write-in, wanted to stress that the area enjoys more unity and consensus than local media tend to report.

He said he’d just like to see some of that neighborliness extend to 1D, conceding that his experience dealing with it has been “like running into a brick wall.”

The ANC has a reputation for competing, not collaborating, with other Mt. Pleasant citizen groups, he said, alleging a preference that Chairman Gregg Edwards gives to his own organization, All-Ways Mt. Pleasant, in awarding perks like micro-grant money.*

Challenging Edwards this year is Phil Greiner, also of MPMS. Greiner mentioned he would push for incremental developments that the ANC frequently blocked under Edwards which 1D stopped propagating when it ran into resistance from another ANC, 1A.*

Commissioner Jack McKay, the only one on 1D not facing a challenger this election cycle, defended Edwards, pointing out in an e-mail how the chairman got 55 resolutions passed since last year and has helped make the neighborhood’s Latino population a more visible presence at ANC meetings.

“Two of us make this a full-time job,” said McKay, mentioning that he and Edwards introduce about 85 percent of all the resolutions that 1D passes. This might make the other commissioners, he said, feel “a little overwhelmed.”

But many residents don’t care for the initiatives that the ANC put forth over the last several years. Hoey said that some commissioners propagate a grandiose, unrealistic vision for Mt. Pleasant at the expense of smaller, more immediate policies that would get tangible results.

John Craig, another write-in candidate challenging Commissioner Angelina Scott, said that the ANC has focused on agendas that don’t apply to Mt. Pleasant’s best interests.

“I think our commission is just not working,” said Craig. “It pretty much uses all of its energy for pie-in-the-sky policy.”

He said he'd rather see it appeal to outside businesses and strike a balance between what he calls the neighborhood’s two polarized camps—those who favor large-scale change, and those who want to keep things the way they are.

Meanwhile, the outgoing Lepanto explained the imperative for ANC 1D to engage the city and regain its trust after proving difficult to work with.

“D.C. agencies are scared to death of 1D,” he said.

* CORRECTION: Due to a reporting error, this post originally reported that ANC 1D had given 14 of 16 local microgrants to All-Ways Mt. Pleasant. In fact, there were 22 microgrants awarded; three went to All-Ways. Due to another reporting error, the post also reported that ANC1D chairman Gregg Edwards had blocked a move to paint Mt. Pleasant's name on signs at the Columbia Heights Metro station. In fact, the Mt. Pleasant ANC endorsed that; the Columbia Heights ANC opposed it. ANC1D does not have the power to alter the signs in that station on its own, regardless.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

  • http://dcjack.org Jack

    "(Of the 16 grants that the city let 1D to doll out earlier this year, 14 went to All-Ways Mt. Pleasant, much to the ire of other local nonprofits)." Sorry, that's utterly wrong. Who made this nonsensical claim?

    In actual fact, the ANC has given out no grants in recent years. There was a grants program, which has worked out extremely badly, reinforcing my longstanding position in opposition to grants. Of the 22 grants awarded (but no funds doled out), just 3 went to All-Ways Mount Pleasant. Two went to an organization associated with another commissioner. Personally, I think no grants should ever go to organizations with close connections to any commissioner. Even better, ANCs shouldn't do grants. They're nothing but trouble.

    -- Jack McKay
    ANC 1D03

  • http://dcjack.org Jack

    Oh dear, another gross misstatement that I've got to correct. "small improvements, like painting Mt. Pleasant’s name on Columbia Heights Metro signs—that the ANC frequently blocked under Edwards." No, no such effort was "blocked" by anybody on this ANC. As for adding "Mount Pleasant" to the Columbia Heights Metro, this ANC has been on record in support of that for years, but the Columbia Heights ANC will not hear of it. Can't blame that on Gregg Edwards, nor this ANC. We did what we could.

    Where does this nonsense come from?

    -- Jack McKay
    ANC 1D03

  • Bruce DePuyt

    When I moved back to Mt. Pleasant in 2004, I popped into an ANC meeting to get a feel for community's issues. I was shocked. These people didn't act like any "old ladies" I know. More like venomous snakes. The board was completely dysfunctional and the meeting was quite unpleasant. I left disgusted and have never returned. I hope the newcomers treat the public and one another with more respect.

  • Old Timer

    Bruce is right on target. There are over 12,000 residents in Mt. Pleasant and less than one percent vote for ANC Commissioners. Meetings are poorly attended because the
    Commissioners are completely out of step with the community and show no respect for the residents and property owners. This has been going on for over 45 years that I have lived in Mt. Pleasant.
    They need term limits and to stop running meetings like the KGB

  • Gregg

    Dear Neighbors,

    Doesn't this article seem strange, and perhaps unfair, when it reports the views of just one slate of candidates just before the election. Especially, when there was no effort to check defamatory statements with the other side, which is left looking like baddies?

    Let me bring out some examples of misleading statements and defamatory interpretation. Sorry that a few word slur needs some sentences to make sense.

    On the local Metro signs:

    The article suggests I led the blocking of Metro signage that would help direct visitors to Mt Pleasant. While only incremental, but after twenty years of others trying and failing, I introduced a ANC resolution to install way-faring signs at the Columbia Heights metro station. It took several steps and months of prep: In a meeting with a Metro rep and Delegate Norton and at my suggestion, Metro agreed to give Great Weight to ANC resolutions.
    I followed up with an ANC 1D resolution then with emails and calls. A few weeks later, Metro installed a large directional sign to Mt Pleasant. Main Street and its allies, after years of lobbying, had achieved nothing. Except, as I've heard it, turning off potential allies who resented being pushed rather than reasoned with. The article could mislead you the reader to judge me as the baddie here, not truth that I'm the first to get progress where my opponents failed.

    Disappointed activists

    Careful lobbying that does its homework and appeals to better ideas usually makes more progress than personal pressure. By law, ANCs' mere opinions can be ignored, and mostly are. Great Weight requires researching and providing the preponderance of evidence-based arguments. It should be no news that many newbies are disappointed when strong opinions fail to win results; they mistake the purely advisory ANC system for a town council. The article, rather than just reporting disappointment, could have found out why.

    On incrementalism vs innovation:

    Metro signage is just one of scores of "incremental" improvements I've lobbied for, and got accomplished: Repaving streets and alleys, widening sidewalks that were too narrow for wheelchairs, upgrading lighting on dangerous blocks, managed the ANC's crucial role in opening restaurants to live music and dancing (including introducing better practices in handling hospitality zones, and getting the DC Court of Appeals to overrule a DC agency), keeping the interim library down the street rather than the original plan in Petworth, a mile away.
    These are just a few examples of substantial improvements that daily serve thousands of people. This is not bickering gridlock, but steady and quite visible change. The article suggests that nothing tangible is getting done, or that ANC 1D now is a dysfunctional family careening on dreams. Instead, 7/8ths of its resolutions deal with pothole and permit level issues, and mostly by close to unanimity.

    The "pie-in-the-sky" ideas I've introduced for ANC discussion are not mine nor ungrounded. They are proven innovations that for many years and at relatively low cost are making big gains in other cities. Learning from successes elsewhere can make meaningful increments - ones that solve underlying problems and help many more people. Ungrounded "good ideas" often waste resources and go nowhere.

    What substantial steps have Hoey and Greiner offered - of the four MPMS officers, the two that live in Mt Pleasant? Painting light poles, stringing two festoons of lights, and other increments so small that they might barely be noticed. (Their grant application falsely misled reviewers that they had ANC support. Indeed, they withheld a written copy of their application for almost a year from the ANC and potential collaborators.)

    What do the MainStreeters have to show for the almost $2 Million they and their allies have gotten from DC? Almost unnoticeable increments that rarely address the core problems of the commercial corridor.

    On the grant program:

    The grant program winners were chosen from a larger field after careful evaluation by a completely independent panel of reviewers; there was no way for commissioners to influence that panel's evaluation. MainStreet's proposals were ranked at the bottom - is their false report sour grapes? The article falsely imputes manipulation without proof or even a mechanism for plausibility.

    Aside: Way before the grant program, I resigned from the Board of All-Ways Mt Pleasant (AMP). I still do attend meetings of AMP assembly and participate in programs that deliver tangible benefits to meet basic needs for many hundreds, sometimes a thousand of people every month. (By contrast, with immensely more money, Main Street offers occasional movies.)

    On neighborhood collaboration:

    In fact, I have worked collaboratively with most of the civics in Mt Pleasant, introducing many resolutions worked out with the other groups. It is true, that after years of collaboration with Main Street under their previous officers, when Hoey and Greiner took over, cooperation with ANC1D (and several other local groups) ceased. Balanced reporting might have brought out why.


    This article was not fact-checked or balanced with its targets' side. It appears to be a falsehood-filled campaign advertisement for one slate of candidates. How does such one-sided and often misleading writing help bridge gaps and foster neighborly relations?

    Gregg Edwards

  • Ilana

    I agree with Bruce. I moved to MtPleasant in 2002. Attended one ANC meeting and never went back. Same reasons than the ones given by Bruce.
    The commissioners act as if they're elected dictators. The smaller the sandbox, the bigger the ego...

  • http://dcjack.org Jack

    Well, it turns out that the "reporter" of this piece is merely an intern, and is evidently short on knowledge of Mount Pleasant and ANC operations. He wrote this to me:

    "As I understood it, the city awarded a number of micro grants to Mt. Pleasant. The ANC then determined which orgs got which grants. This is what I was told. If I'm wrong, please explain how exactly the ANC is involved with the micro grant program."

    Uh, no, that's totally wrong. ANCs may, if they choose, create grants programs out of their annual stipends. Or they may not. There are no grant funds "awarded" to Mount Pleasant by the city, and controlled by the ANC. The "micro grant" approach was invented by this ANC, in an effort to make grants more effective.

    Such an innocent young fellow. Short on knowledge, and way too quick to believe what he's told, evidently by people equally innocent of any knowledge of ANC grants. I do wish he had come to me to get the facts. Unfortunately, getting independent confirmation of what he's been told by a source before going to print seems to be missing from this intern's practices.

  • Sally

    Hopefully the DC Inspector General and DC Auditor are looking into how ANCs account for the taxpayer money they are given.

    No doubt the ANC lackeys on the City Council are pushing hard for this sort of transparency and accountability...

  • OurPointExactly

    Mr. Edwards just proved the point of this article and the Mt. Pleasant ANC election. Try sitting through, getting a word in, or actually accomplishing anything at a meeting when one person takes up all of the time and oxygen with long-winded speeches.
    In addition,the Latino Association of Mt Pleasant should be credited for helping increase Latino neighbor participation.

  • MtP

    Mr. Edwards, who is the current president of All-Ways Mt. Pleasant? Steve Mudd, correct? And he lives with you, right (perhaps rent-free)?

    Don't try to get people to think you no longer have significant control of that organization.

  • MtP

    Oh, yeah, one more thing: +1 for Bruce. Dead on, man.

  • http://dcjack.org Jack

    A couple of the gross falsehoods in this report have been lined out. It's still quite the hatchet job, perpetrated largely by a rival candidate for the ANC. Well, that comes with the territory.

    Concerning the grants, it's important to note that these are really small amounts of money, twenty $200 grants, two $500 grants. And not a dollar has in fact been disbursed, not to All-Ways Mount Pleasant, or any other organization. Four of our last five quarterly reports to the auditor have been reviewed with perfect scores, zero disallowed expenditures. As Treasurer, I intend to keep it that way.

    -- Jack
    ANC 1D03


    I think, the Home Rule Charter need to be changed to do away with ANC Commissioners. Most citizens don't vote for ANC Commissioners. Some Commssioners think they are politicians and are powerful. I have gotten more done in my neighborhood without the help from an ANC. I go directly to the Councilmember and mayor. These are the people I elected, not ANC Commissioners. What's the purpose of having an elected Councilmember who happens to make $124,000 yearly part-time, with the exception of the Council Chair position which is full time at $190,000?

    What other U.S. cities have ANC Commissioners?

    Native Washingtonian
    Ward 4 Resident

  • Cory

    There is no need to implicate any of the ANC challengers in the alleged misstatements in this article. There is no proof that they offered or supported the information reported other than the quotes made. Also, misstatements aside, this article cannot come as a surprise to Mr. Edwards. Gregg has become a polarizing figure in this community. From conversations with neighbors at ANC meetings, the farmers market, out on the street, and in local blogs, I have learned that there is a nearly singular perspective that Gregg is not an effective leader for the community. Picking apart specific allegations does not change the overall sentiment that he has stood in the way of progress in this neighborhood for too long.

    The challengers have stepped up to offer their talents and volunteer their time to contribute to an ANC that works more cooperatively with residents and businesses. As members of Main Street, they have proven their dedication to this community. I believe their enthusiasm for community development and their proven leadership skills would be tremendous assets to the ANC.

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  • DissidentResident

    Gregg Edwards is nothing more than an asshole. He doesn't serve anyone but himself and as you can see from his post, he's infatuated with being the center of attention. I attended a few meetings and like Bruce, always leave in disgust.

    Lepanto seems to be a stoner. Mckay seems to be senile. Edwards is the worst. He comes in dressed as if he's in for a job interview and then, regardless of whatever issue is in front of him, gives a 10 minute speech on his credentials completely ignoring the issue or trying to make the issue about him.

    Dysfunctional. Power-tripping assholes who like people to bow down before them.

  • Old Timer

    Read the posting made on the Mt. Pleasant Forum 10/11/2010 by Kelly.

    One thing about McKay and Edwards--they cover for each other--will do and say anything if it is in their best interest.