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Marc Fisher Dresses Down Frank Winstead


starfish
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I fell so much safer now that the menacing ping pong table is gone. Those ping pong balls are so deadly. Let's hear it for the DC government protecting our kids from a ping pong ball.

This is Washington DC - You will not smile without that permit and permit fee!

The DC government had little or nothing to do with this. In fact, the city first told Alefantis he didn't need a permit. It was the local ANC that took action here.

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Honestly, as pathetic as the subject of this "neighborhood dispute" may seem, where *would* the moral outrage lie after a child was hit by a car chasing a ping pong ball into the street? Lawyers, what say ye?

Even more pathetic, and revealing, is that THIS is what inspires Mr. Fischer's opprobrium:

"Washingtonians can rest easy because Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Frank Winstead is on patrol, protecting the people from evils such as random table tennis games in public space or UPS trucks left unattended or -- my personal favorite from the Winstead Collection on YouTube -- his video of a Budweiser delivery truck double-parked on Wisconsin Avenue, complete with conclusive proof that the delivery guy was, and I quote from the commissioner's own caption, "eating chips.""

And:

"But then Winstead, whose devotion to public service includes the online posting of photos of illegally parked scooters and unsecured construction sites, made his video, suggesting that the Ping-Pong table might be a traffic hazard and distraction. Winstead, who did not respond to repeated phone calls, often raises alarms about small-scale neighborhood infractions, according to his colleagues on the commission."

What a waste of a column. Is this what any of us would waste our time with if we had a column?

Perhaps Mr. Winstead should have limit his surveillance and public "outings" to "foreign-looking" possibly undocumented workers looking for work, like those fine folks in Haymarket and Culpeper? Then he could be championed as a "real" American.

But one begins to understand why it is so important to take this bold journalistic stand to protect the right to life unfettered by documentation, permits and legal requirements:

"It was a beautiful, European-style gathering place, a charming little piece of street culture," Alefantis says. "People loved it."

So, to recap from the dispatches from the world of M. Fischer:

Illegal ping pong tables without permits--Good, good for Europeans

People against illegal ping pong tables--Bad, not "real Americans," probably sissies

"Illegal" workers without permits--Bad, bad for "real Americans"

People against "illegal" workers--Good, "real Americans," Sons of the Confederacy

Picnic table outside Bubba's in Culpeper (legal status undetermined)--Good, home for "real Americans"

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So, to recap from the dispatches from the world of M. Fischer:

Illegal ping pong tables without permits--Good, good for Europeans

People against illegal ping pong tables--Bad, not "real Americans, probably sissies

"Illegal" workers without permits--Bad, bad for "real Americans"

People against "illegal" workers--Good, "real Americans," Sons of the Confederacy

Picnic table outside Bubba's in Culpeper (legal status undetermined)--Good, home for "real Americans"

That's a logical contortion worthy of a circus act. Just becasue Fischer disapproves of Winstead's meddling in one context doesn't mean he would approve of it another.

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[i'll let this stand as long as the conversation remains centered on the columns themselves, and does not devolve into personal attack. Remember, however, that many of Marc's columns are outside the scope of this website, and that general political discussion has no place here. Carry on...]

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In addition to the ping pong table, this issue has been extended to include the seating outside of Marvelous Market and the bench in front of Politics & Prose.

From the P&P weekly update:

The latest irrationality occurred when an inspector visited us last week and told us we had to remove the bench in front of our store or pay for a permit. The bench, which is used by our employees eating lunch, or by people accompanied by strollers or dogs, or occasionally by the homeless, seems harmless. But the inspector told us it had to be gone the next day or….

Apparently this latest problem is occasioned by a member of the Advisory Neighborhood Council who went to war to get rid of all the outside chairs and tables on our block. As many of you know, the sidewalk is very wide in front of our buildings so there is no problem walking there even with sidewalk fixtures. And we think lots of activity on the sidewalk—sitting, eating, and playing—make our block more lively and fun. But Mr. Frank Winstead doesn’t, and he has made it his personal mission to eliminate everything.

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Winstead didn't drop the dime on Politics & Prose. And Alefantis told the ANC that the ping-pong table would be going anyway if he got the sidewalk cafe permit. This hasn't been a personal campaign of some local Savonarola, as Fisher and P&P portray it, but a chain reaction unintentionally set in motion by Comet's application for the new cafe. These cycles of a lengthy period of non-enforcement followed by a period of zealous over-enforcement are typical of DC government.

It's just not unreasonable to require permits for the use of public space. And while many discussions about the use of public space in neighborhoods start in the ANCs, the ANC has no power -- it's up to agencies to decide when/whether permits get issued. The inspector who issued the ultimatum to P&P worked for DDOT -- not the ANC.

Look, what's involved at P&P is a one-page application and a one-time $19 fee for a permit that lasts for the life of the bench. If it's a bureaucratic nightmare to acquire such a thing (and I'm willing to believe -- hell, it can be a bureaucratic nightmare to pay taxes in DC), again, blame DDOT not the ANC. I agree that DC government creates a really small-business-unfriendly environment, but focus on the Council and the Mayor if you want to see that change. Scapegoating an ANC Commissioner's not going to get you anywhere.

At this point I should probably add the disclaimer that I am not, have never been, and will never be an ANC Commissioner, LOL!!

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Winstead didn't drop the dime on Politics & Prose. And Alefantis told the ANC that the ping-pong table would be going anyway if he got the sidewalk cafe permit. This hasn't been a personal campaign of some local Savonarola, as Fisher and P&P portray it, but a chain reaction unintentionally set in motion by Comet's application for the new cafe. These cycles of a lengthy period of non-enforcement followed by a period of zealous over-enforcement are typical of DC government.

It's just not unreasonable to require permits for the use of public space. And while many discussions about the use of public space in neighborhoods start in the ANCs, the ANC has no power -- it's up to agencies to decide when/whether permits get issued. The inspector who issued the ultimatum to P&P worked for DDOT -- not the ANC.

Look, what's involved at P&P is a one-page application and a one-time $19 fee for a permit that lasts for the life of the bench. If it's a bureaucratic nightmare to acquire such a thing (and I'm willing to believe -- hell, it can be a bureaucratic nightmare to pay taxes in DC), again, blame DDOT not the ANC. I agree that DC government creates a really small-business-unfriendly environment, but focus on the Council and the Mayor if you want to see that change. Scapegoating an ANC Commissioner's not going to get you anywhere.

At this point I should probably add the disclaimer that I am not, have never been, and will never be an ANC Commissioner, LOL!!

Welcome to dr.com and thanks for the well reasoned post! Maybe you should be an ANC Commissioner...
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Look, what's involved at P&P is a one-page application and a one-time $19 fee for a permit that lasts for the life of the bench. If it's a bureaucratic nightmare to acquire such a thing (and I'm willing to believe -- hell, it can be a bureaucratic nightmare to pay taxes in DC), again, blame DDOT not the ANC. I agree that DC government creates a really small-business-unfriendly environment, but focus on the Council and the Mayor if you want to see that change. Scapegoating an ANC Commissioner's not going to get you anywhere.

Here's the full text from the P&P weekly update:

Every once in a while we get an abrupt reminder that we live in a jurisdiction where small business is not respected or encouraged. When we first opened across the street, there was no government agency that could advise us on what we needed to do. Then, after we made the applications we needed to, we could not get an occupancy permit, no matter how many times we called or went down to the office responsible for that. The process simply stopped somewhere in the Office of Regulatory and Consumer Affairs. We were fined and we started over again, but the certificate was never issued at our first location.

A few years ago we were infuriated when, as a D.C. business, we had to pay a surtax for the new stadium. The rationale: the stadium would help businesses in the District of Columbia. We fail to see how the baseball stadium helps Politics and Prose, but perhaps we are just missing something.

The latest irrationality occurred when an inspector visited us last week and told us we had to remove the bench in front of our store or pay for a permit. The bench, which is used by our employees eating lunch, or by people accompanied by strollers or dogs, or occasionally by the homeless, seems harmless. But the inspector told us it had to be gone the next day or….

Apparently this latest problem is occasioned by a member of the Advisory Neighborhood Council who went to war to get rid of all the outside chairs and tables on our block. As many of you know, the sidewalk is very wide in front of our buildings so there is no problem walking there even with sidewalk fixtures. And we think lots of activity on the sidewalk—sitting, eating, and playing—make our block more lively and fun. But Mr. Frank Winstead doesn’t, and he has made it his personal mission to eliminate everything. You can write to Mr. Frank Winstead and express your opinion of his mission: fwwinstead@hotmail.com.

And, as to scapegoating Winstead, two points: (1) I believe he has a louder voice because he is an ANC commissioner; (2) I further believe he is representing his views, rather than those of his constituency. Sure, he's merely seeking to enforce the laws and regulations of DC, but it seems to me that he has a thorn in his paw, or even a personal vendetta, and is using his ANC position to draw attention to it and himself. In all the reports, I haven't heard word one on how Winstead is working with these businesses, given the bureaucratic nightmare that is the DC government, to come into compliance. I would be a bit less riled if there were reports on his frustrations navigating the DC government offices, on behalf of the small businesses, to better serve the people he represents. And, unfortunately, I haven't heard his response to the issues raised.

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Yeah, I got the P&P update. If you read carefully, you'll see that the application they're describing was made years ago, with a different agency, for a different thing (certificate of occupancy vs. public space permit), and involved a different location. It's not what they've done or would have to do to get a permit for the bench.

As for Winstead's louder voice, I think that's an artifact of the scapegoating (fueled, perhaps, by his penchant for youtubing). Another commissioner (Karen Perry) made the same argument about the ping-pong table, but Fisher didn't take her on in the same way, so P&P doesn't blame her, and her name isn't splattered around cyberspace. He's an easy target but not a real threat.

RE helping local business -- the ANC voted not to oppose Comet's application for a sidewalk cafe. The sidewalk cafe dooms the ping-pong table anyway. The ANC doesn't seem to find any of the other existing uses objectionable -- so apply for the permits, already. They'll be granted. I don't think anyone's on a vendetta against streetlife in upper Northwest.

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