News & Politics

Giving Thanks for Washington

Seven reasons to be glad we live in and around the nation’s capital

Washington can be a city of grumblers and grim prognosticators. Disaster lurks in every election cycle. It’s all too easy to compare ourselves unfavorably with rival cities such as New York and Los Angeles when it comes to fashion and food. But Thanksgiving’s a great moment to remember why it’s wonderful to be a Washingtonian. Here are some regional reasons to be grateful this holiday season.

1. In the less-news-is-good-news category, CQ Press announced this week that Washington has moved down on the FBI’s list of high-crime cities, from 16th place in 2009 to 22nd in 2010. Improving public safety is hard and unglamorous, but the nation’s capital needs to look and feel good for residents and visitors alike. There was positive news for residents of the Baltimore-Towson area in the same survey: The region fell three places in the rankings of high-crime metropolitan areas.

2. This month brought a new president, former University of Iowa provost Wallace Loh, to the University of Maryland. Loh hasn’t been in office long, but he’s pledged to work with College Park and other Prince George’s County residents on housing, safety, and economic-development issues; to play a productive goal in the debate over the future of Metro’s Purple Line; and to avoid more furloughs at the university. We wish him luck, and we’re thankful for a successful transition process.

3. In Travel & Leisure’s survey of America’s Favorite Cities, Washington jumped from 14th place in 2009 to eighth for big-name restaurants and from 12th to 10th for ethnic food. If the magazine considered restaurants such as Uncle Liu’s Hot Pot in Falls Church or Hollywood East Cafe in Wheaton—two of The Washingtonian’s 25 Best New Restaurants—we bet that ranking would have been even higher. GQ declared that Derek Brown’s Columbia Room, in DC’s Mount Vernon Square, serves the best martini in America. We’ll toast to those improvements, and to the continued success of the less flashy but no less important Ray’s the Steaks at East River, in the city’s Benning/Deanwood neighborhood.

4. Michelle Rhee’s decision to step down as DC schools chancellor before the end of mayor Adrian Fenty’s term in office—and before the end of the school year—disappointed some supporters. But Fenty and his successor, Vincent Gray, worked together to appoint Rhee’s deputy, Kaya Henderson, as interim chancellor, putting the politics of a tough campaign aside in favor of policy and stability.

5. No matter what your tastes, it’s been a great year for the arts in Washington. After 12 years of fundraising and construction, Arena Stage opened the Mead Center for American Theater, the biggest new theater complex in Washington since the Kennedy Center. And Artisphere opened across the river in Rosslyn, providing a huge venue for theater, dance, movies, and music—as well as a home for the Washington Shakespeare Company. These new venues aren’t just arts ventures, either. The Mead Center’s location on DC’s Southeast waterfront could spur future development, and the Rosslyn Business Improvement District has committed $7.3 million to Artisphere over the next three years in the hopes it’ll drive new job creation in Arlington.

6. The country is still stuck in an economic morass, but Virginia unemployment rates fell to 6.8 percent in October, the lowest in the region and tenth-lowest overall in the nation—Maryland trails at 7.4 percent unemployment, DC at 9.7 percent. Virginia governor Bob McDonnell has been pushing job creation hard, announcing last week that 156 new consulting and analyst positions were coming to Fairfax, and this week Virginia will compete for new Interior Department-approved offshore wind-energy projects.

7. In September, the District and Arlington County debuted the biggest bike-sharing program in America, providing 1,100 bicycles at 110 stations around the region. And DC transportation director Gabe Klein has said he wants to double the number of available bikes in 2011. It’s a great step toward making Washington greener and more active—and with the holiday season upon us, a good way to test ride a potential New Year’s resolution.

What makes you thankful to be a Washingtonian this year?

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