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Expanding the People’s Property Campaign

Empower DC emerged in 2007 as a city-wide force capable of leading a grassroots coalition to stop the mayor and council from denying residents a voice in several high profile development deals. Before the Foundation’s relationship with Empower DC began, they had established and affirmed their grassroots credibility through contributing to the ongoing effort to preserve the historic, yet vacant and crumbling Alexander Crummell School (near Galluadet University).

More recently, they leveraged this credibility by assisting other District residents fighting similar small battles and expanding the People’s Property Campaign which demands transparency and accountability in the management practices governing ALL properties owned by the District government. In a relatively short amount of time, the campaign struck a nerve with thousands of District residents who refused to accept continued disproportionate investment and development strategies which emphasized attracting new residents earning over $100,000 per year, e.g., luxury condominiums, baseball stadium, soccer stadium, etc., as opposed to better serving residents earning less than $35,000 per year by facilitating the return of basic neighborhood amenities, e.g., grocery stores, health care centers, recreation facilities, rodent extermination, building code enforcement, etc.

Examples of campaign victories include the following:

  • stopping the sale of the West End Branch Library (near George Washington University) to a private developer after a process which did not involve community input whatsoever and drafting legislation which specified policies and practices for selling public properties which prioritized the continued public uses of such properties;
  • drafting legislation which was introduced by Council member Harry Thomas and mobilized residents in each ward in preparation for testifying in support of the legislation (HSF staff submitted testimony sharing our experience supporting groups working on public good issues) and
  • incorporating greater arts and culture into organizing activities, including the creation of a campaign video which highlights the numerous efforts by low-income residents throughout the District to have a voice in how the city reinvents itself.

By: HSF Staff
Source: HSF Staff
Date: October 2008