This week, we toured the District of Columbia’s West End neighborhood, met with City Council members, and saw firsthand the landscape rebuilds the devastation caused by a 2010 earthquake in Haiti.
Here are some notes and highlights from a whirlwind week in the District.
*Fresh off a $100 million donation from the Mel and Mimi Gordon Foundation, councilman Eric T. Adams Jr. (2nd District) ran into several of his supporters this week who offered a private tour of the Ward 8 office he now occupies.
*On a separate trip to Chicago, Adams was joined by Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (2nd District) for a walking tour around the historic Chicago neighborhoods on the South and West sides. Adams was excited to show Mendelson some of his favorite downtown architectural gems. “He’s always looking for new and historic architectural gems to look at,” Adams said with a smile.
*Adams has had one member of his local caucus in the District pass out eviction notices against the president of a local advocacy group that had been collecting the money his office receives from development projects to employ City residents. No names were involved, though, and as a result the notice was lifted.
* City officials and vendors gathered at D’Artagnan Grocery in Adams’ District this week to go over the details of a newly signed sweetened tax break for small business owners. Adams had urged council members to pass an extension of the 10-year term limit on Levy Koppell, the term limited incumbent in his district, and this week unveiled a series of pro-small business measures designed to extend term limits to two more years.
*Although he says he’s spent much of the first half of the year assisting the mayor in his bid for a second term, Adams has remained quietly behind the scenes in the District to help staff members in his district office when he visits home.
“I’m not really a harsh critic of how [Mayor Vincent] Gray and some of the policies are being presented. But I also think we’ve got to be realistic,” he said, adding that the council majority’s move to endorse Ward 3 Councilman Tommy Wells was well timed as they were still rebuilding after losing the Mid-Atlantic region to Republicans in 2010.
*Adams is doing his part in helping rebuild Haiti through an initiative the city has jointly invested in with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. So far, the city has provided $1.5 million to rebuild a community mental health clinic. Adams said he believes that will help increase employment in the local slums, who he says often view mental health problems as a problem that can be laughed off as frivolous when so many people in the nation’s capital suffer from such issues.
“When I visit the Congo or the Congo Basin or the Lesser Capoeira, it’s this huge wall between you and the consequences,” he said, noting his experience in Samoa, where a special focus on mental health and better communication is better organized and understood.
*In the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake, Adams and District government leaders joined civil service employees in spending a spring working on an earthquake recovery plan in Haiti, where thousands of D.C. residents of Haitian descent live. That personal contact changed Adams’ perspective on Haiti’s ability to overcome the powerful effects of natural disasters. “In the past, we were ignoring Haiti,” he said.
“I used to think ‘Oh my gosh, the earthquake and tsunami happened and the relief organizations are not doing anything. We’ll never see it happen again,’ and I think now I’ve finally figured out, no, you can’t, you must be so proud of the progress.”
Adams will return to the States Thursday for a fundraiser and to meet with board members of his foundation, which was created to assist people and communities impacted by earthquakes and other disasters.