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A Washington restaurateur says more worshippers should arm themselves. By Benjamin Freed
A vigil at Dupont Circle for victims of the mass shooting in Charleston, South Carolina. Photograph by Flickr user Stephen Melkisethian.

Local restaurateur and gun-rights activist Bryan Crosswhite says that more people of faith throughout the country should arm themselves before heading to the pews in the wake of Wednesday's mass shooting at an African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina. Crosswhite's group, 2AO (as in Second Amendment Organization), says it will offer "comprehensive gun training and safety awarness" to religious groups because, he says, any environment free of guns is a danger zone.

"Anything that is a gun-free zone is a threat to the public, to the United States," he says. "When’s the last time you heard about a shooting at a gun shop?"

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Posted at 12:25 PM/ET, 06/19/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Thanks to a delayed raise for federal employees. By Benjamin Freed
Chart via Center for Regional Analysis.

Workers in the Washington area enjoyed their first wage increases since 2011 last year, says a report by researchers at George Mason University's Center for Regional Analysis. Wages for the average local office-dweller increased 0.5 percent to $69,645, according to data published by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The growth represents the first time in three years that the region's workers have seen their paychecks expand. But even with the slight declines between 2011 and 2013, average wages in Washington have stayed above those in nearly ever other major metropolitan areas.

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Posted at 02:29 PM/ET, 06/18/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
How are they affecting cities? It's too diverse a group to say with precision. By Emma Foehringer Merchant
This photograph is unrepresentative of all millennials. (Via Shutterstock.)

Millennials are often casually described as forever-single, coworking apartment-renters busy gallivanting on their trendy shared bicycles. Even though it's obvious that most twentysomethings don't fit this narrow definition.

"Oftentimes we use the word millennial where we're not really talking about everyone in that age demographic," said Washington Post Wonkblog writer Emily Badger.

On June 16, Badger discussed millennials and their cities with Rolf Pendall, the director of the Urban Institute's Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center, at a panel assembled by the organization. Svetlana Legetic, co-founder of the millennial-centric website Brightest Young Things, introduced the two with an overview of the meteoric rise of the DC millennial.

In a room filled with youthful research assistants, a handful of baby boomers, and a pre-panel cheese plate, the two covered a wide swath of both local and national history that has plopped cities within their current metamorphoses. The Institute's "Millennials and the Remaking of US Cities" tackled now ubiquitous topics like changing neighborhoods, millennials versus baby-boomers, and those crazy preferences millennials seem to have. But the most compelling subject was less expected: Millennials don't always speak for all millennials.

Badger says Millennial, the capital-M term tossed about in media, is more a "code word for a particular kind of millennial." That is, white, college-educated, upwardly-mobile ones. (Washingtonian does not capitalize the word millennial, for what it's worth.)

Pendall and Badger pointed out that discussing millennials the way mainstream news organizations often do ignores disparities within the generation—creating fundamental issues with understanding how millennials hope to and will change cities like DC. Badger offered up the example of her own neighborhood: the at first budding, now booming H Street.

"We have this juxtaposition of millennials who are better off, who have college degrees, who've had the luxury of moving in," she says. "They're coexisting, not entirely harmoniously, with millennials of a different kind who are not going to be able to afford to continue living in the neighborhoods where their parents raised them." Badger herself happens to be one of those college-educated, new-resident millennials.

Displacement doesn't come down to only millennials displacing families and older residents, millennials are also displacing millennials. The Whole Foods-following hordes arriving on H Street and in Shaw may be nudging out longtime locals of the same age. Not all millennials are displacers, and not all have the economic status often associated with the generation's buzzy name.

Today, acccording to Pendall, there are 65 million millennials living in the United States. It's the largest generation the country has ever seen, and the most diverse. But 62 percent of those born between 1980 and 1995 are white. Also according to Pendall, of white non-Hispanic women ages 25 to 29, about 45 percent of them have attended at least four years of college. For black and Latino men this number sinks to between 15 and 20 percent. As in any generation, the opportunities presented to millennials are impacted by sex, race, and class.

"There are many, many cleavages within the millennial generation by which your life chances are either boosted by your family's affluence or really held back by your family's lack of income," Pendall says. "There's those with choices and those with fewer choices."

Both speakers agreed the struggle is making sure those with choices don't cause displacement with their influx of money and desire for choice in new neighborhoods.

"Can we have investment on H Street, or the 14th Street corridor, or U Street in ways that benefit the people who already live there?" Badger says. "This is the problem millennials need to solve as they remake cities." And that means millennials as a whole, not just those tritely described as juice-toting and yoga-going. Though the District may be overrun with ambitious capital-M Millennials, it also has a population of millennials working to increase opportunity in the city. Envisioning a future built by millennials means broadening the definition and ignoring the ways mainstream millennials are often categorized.

Posted at 04:12 PM/ET, 06/17/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
The ride-hailing company's next problem could be much bigger than taxi regulations. By Benjamin Freed
Photograph by MAHATHIR MOHD YASIN/Shutterstock.

A ruling in a labor dispute in California between Uber and one of the ride-hailing company's drivers could be a preview of the firm's roller coaster relationship with regulators in Washington. The California Labor Commission on Wednesday ordered Uber to reimburse a San Francisco driver for $4,000 in expenses because, the commission ruled, she should be counted as an employee instead of an independent contractor.

That judgment could upend Uber's business model of a loosely organized, wide-open network of drivers who are individually responsible for their own physical overhead. While the company has long identified itself as just a "technology company," the California board ruled that Uber is "involved in every aspect of the operation," Reuters reported.

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Posted at 02:47 PM/ET, 06/17/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
A federal review in the wake of a fatal January incident is damning. By Benjamin Freed
Photograph by Flickr user Brad Clinesmith.

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority needs to make dozens of changes to its practices to ensure passenger and employee safety, says an exhaustive report by the Federal Transit Administration published Wednesday. The report was prompted by a January 12 incident at the L'Enfant Plaza in which smoke filled a departing Yellow Line train, killing one passenger and hospitalizing more than 80 others with respiratory problems.

Five months after the incident, which started after a bit of electric arcing—a plasma discharge by an insulator on the electrified third rail—the FTA says that not only does Metro need to undertake systemwide maintenance, it needs much better management at all levels. Beside the lack of a full-time general manager since Richard Sarles retired last year, Metro is in disarray at the ground level, especially its Rail Operations Control Center, the facility that manages train schedules, track and car maintenance, and emergency operations.

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Posted at 12:10 PM/ET, 06/17/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Offline Society social club could be your best bet for finding a relationship in the District. By Ryan Weisser
The Offline Society DC team, from left to right: Chelsea Raab, Jonna Humphries and Rebecca Yarbrough. Photograph courtesy of Rebecca Yarbrough.

DC resident Rebecca Yarbrough and her former roommates, Meghan Benton and Liz Eggleston, wanted to offer twentysomethings looking for a connection something besides Tinder—something a lot more personal than a swipe to the left or right.

“People are fatigued with the online dating process,” Yarbrough said. “We noticed that it’s more efficient for people to meet someone in person.”

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Posted at 07:00 AM/ET, 06/17/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
And now Congress is proposing to take away all its money. By Benjamin Freed
The design for the Eisenhower Memorial, as of September 2014. Photograph courtesy of the Eisenhower Memorial Commission.

The proposed memorial to Dwight D. Eisenhower is closer than ever to not happening at all with a House Appropriations subcommittee producing a bill that would zap the long-troubled project of all federal funding. The Interior Appropriations bill for the 2016 fiscal year recommends not committing any money to the Eisenhower Memorial Commission and also calls for the eventual replacement of the commission's staff.

"The Committee strongly supports the construction of a permanent memorial to Dwight D. Eisenhower," the bill reads. "However, the Commission’s ongoing indifference to the views of the Eisenhower family, and the resulting lack of consensus on the memorial design, remain an area of significant concern. It is inconceivable and unacceptable to the Committee that a memorial to Dwight D. Eisenhower could be designed, approved, and built without the active support of the Eisenhower family."

Members of Eisenhower's family, and other stakeholders, have long been opposed to the design submitted by architect Frank Gehry, who was picked in 2009 after a competition that drew only 43 other entrants. Gehry's proposal stands out from Washington's collection of mostly American Renaissance memorials. Instead of grand columns, the Eisenhower Memorial, as conceived, would feature massive steel tapestries depicting various stages of the 34th President's life. Even watered down—the tapestries were switched from Eisenhower's military exploits to his boyhood in Kansas—Gehry's design still fails to stop the critics.

And while the Eisenhower family gripes about the tapestries and bas-relief sculptures, other elements of Gehry's design have sparked outrage. In May, longtime DC architect Arthur Cotton Moore sent an 11-page missive to the city's historic preservation office—one of many agencies with some jursidiction over the Eisenhower project—claiming that approving Gehry's design would be the "death knell" of the original city plan laid out by Pierre L'Enfant. The proposed memorial, located between the Education Department and the National Air and Space Museum, would turn a one-block stretch of Maryland Ave., Southwest, into a pedestrian mall bisecting the Eisenhower tributes, potentially upset a 224-year-old bit of symmetry.

The Eisenhower Memorial, Moore claimed, could destroy "the most iconic section of the L’Enfant Plan: the matched boulevards of Pennsylvania Avenue and Maryland Avenue, jointly and proudly radiating from our Capitol." That stretch of Maryland Ave., though, gets very little through-traffic and is used mostly for short-term parking.

The Eisenhower Memorial Commission has spent more than $40 million in federal funds since it launched in 1999, $16 million of which has gone to Gehry Partners. Gehry's design would cost an estimated $142 million to build, but the commission's charitiable donations have almost dried up completely, the House subcommittee notes. While the commission has paid a fundraising consultant $1.4 million over the past four years, it has only taken in $450,000, including a single donation of $300,000.

Posted at 12:03 PM/ET, 06/16/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
We worked in a dank, windowless room. We hustled to find stories. And now the papers are going away. By Sarah Scully
A June 10 Gazette front page.

My first assignment at the Gazette was to cover the Navy Yard shooting in DC, which had taken place just the day before. Going door to door, I had to ask relatives and neighbors of the two victims who had lived in Montgomery County what it was like to lose a loved one in a horrific mass shooting. I had no idea what I was doing.

That was my second day at the Gazette, the free community paper that has covered the Maryland suburbs for the last 60 years, and which will publish its last edition this week.

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Posted at 11:07 AM/ET, 06/16/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Watch your mouth or pay a $250 fine. By Benjamin Freed
Photograph via Shutterstock.

Uttering some of the more expressive words in the English language will cost you up to $250 if you say them in Arlington, now that county officials have upped their fines on public uses of profanity. The Arlington County Board just approved a measure increasing penalties for public intoxication and blue language from $100 to $250.

Even if Arlington is sacrificing its reputation as an urbanist's dream community, its leaders have not given up their mission to clean up its residents sometimes-naughty antics. The code change adopted during Saturday's board meeting came after the Arlington Police Department reported making 664 arrests for public inebriation and foul-mouthed talk in 2014.

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Posted at 01:02 PM/ET, 06/15/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Tenth-worst, according to WalletHub. By Benjamin Freed
Overland Park, Kansas, where WalletHub says you should move your family. Photograph via Shutterstock.

The District is the tenth-worst city for families, according to WalletHub, a personal-finance website that churns out rankings of cities according to random aesthetic criteria (i.e., "Best and Worst Cities for Hockey Fans.") WalletHub's staff analyzed education systems, health and safety metrics, housing affordability, income levels, and recreational amenities across the 150 most populous cities in the United States and found that Washington is only marginally better than places like New Orleans, Miami, and Detroit for raising the little ones.

Washington landed in the top half of cities in a couple of categories—playgrounds per 100,000 residents and median family income adjusted for the cost of living—but near the bottom in most others. Some are easily identifiable matters: DC ranked 123rd in housing affordability and 130th for violent crime.

But some of the District's other limitations as a family town, at least according to WalletHub's rules, are demographic. The site ranks DC at 132nd in the percentage of households with children, not much of a shocker considering much of the District's recent growth over the past decade has been fueled by childless singles and seniors "aging in place." The 2010 US Census found that 44 percent of households in the District are occupied by single adults. And couples in DC are less likely to have children than the national average—just 7.9 percent of husband-wife households had kids under 18 living with them, compared to a national rate of 20.2 percent, according to the Census.

If you want a family-friendly city, WalletHub recommends moving to Overland Park, Kansas or Plano, Texas, which nabbed the top two spots. But tenth-worst seems a bit harsh, especially when there are many documented things for families around here.

Posted at 11:28 AM/ET, 06/15/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()