August 2014

Relationships, Part Two: In A City Where People Don’t Get Along, We Do

DC’s famous for its partisan squabbles, but, as it turns out, 730DC is made up of lovers, not fighters. 50% of respondents were in a relationship, including 4% who’ve tied the knot. That group is remarkably satisfied with their coupling: 48% reported being a “5” on a scale of 1-5, and only 4% responded with either a 1 or 2.

Of course, there’s a ton of selection bias here, as you have to figure readers who are intoxicated on love-produced oxytocin are going to be more likely to open up a poll on love and wax statistically eloquent about their significant others. In other words, all the disgruntled folks probably didn’t take the survey at all; by and large, this may be a portrait of excellence. Can we emulate that excellence by studying the habits of our mostly-in-love sample?

I ran a quick regression to see if the amount of time couples spend together works as an indicator of how happy they are. You would think that happy couples would spend more time together, and/or that couples would be more happy the more time they spend together. However, we’ve all gotten to that point where we love someone, we’re just sick of them. Guess what: didn’t happen here. Neither effect was present in the data; there was no real relationship between time spent together and happiness with the relationship. Maybe there’s a relationship between happiness and how long you’ve been dating? Again, nothing. I think that the sample just wasn’t big or random enough to be meaningful. Only the people with Cupid’s arrow right through their face bothered to take the poll! (Also worth noting: more women than men took the poll, so keep that in mind.)

Okay, well, maybe DC is just a commitment-oriented city: nearly exactly the same percentage of people said they would move to be with a significant other, no job guaranteed, as said they would move but only if there were a job waiting (37% to 39%). Only 24% said they would stay put regardless. Maybe DC is just full of super educated, super cool people who are eminently lovable?

So your relationship is great — or it will be, once you find one of those super educated, super cool people. When can you expect to lock it down? The average response came to 29.6, with a majority (55%) of respondents saying they expected to marry between the ages of 27 and 30. Given that the average age of respondents was about 24, that means you have five years before you’ll have to set a date.

That’s not long — you’d better get to it. Where can you find these attractive folks? I narrowed the sample down to respondents who said they were a 5 in terms of happiness. One tidbit stood out: only one more person found their beau on a dating app than on WMATA.

So, you’re one of the ones still looking? Put the phone away and look up at the beautiful people around you. You just might find somebody to love.

 

 

Meet the Man Who Wants to Be Your Congressperson

He’s so easy to talk to, and so knowledgeable about the ins and outs of the District that you could be forgiven for thinking, at first blush, that Tim Krepp was a political insider, an old-timer, a lifer.

Then again, if you listened for a minute to what he’s saying, you’d hear him say he’s anything but.

 

krepp photo

Credit: Maria Helena Caray

“I’m a tour guide and historian.”

Krepp has the easy presence of someone who’s spent a lot of time around strangers. I met him at Big Bear Café, closer to my neighborhood than to his; he’s a Capitol Hill resident. It’s not the first place he’s lived in DC, by a long shot: like many, he “came to GWU as a wide-eyed freshman, a dreamer but also a cynic.” Like many, he thought he would leave (and did, briefly, as a member of the Navy), but never did. Krepp’s life charts the turbulent waters of a changing Washington, waters he’d like to harness as the next Delegate from the District of Columbia. It’s a lofty goal for a man who, after returning from 6 years, 7 months and 22 days in the Navy, found himself looking at an unsatisfactory consulting job with no idea what to do next.

As he would argue he’s doing now, with his run to Congress, Krepp took a look at his talents and interests—a classical training in history and a love for the sense that “not everything is new here”—and decided to start his own tourism outfit. His passion for history pervades our discussion. Ask him about gentrification, and you’re liable to hear about Ancient Rome. “It’s all part of one human fabric,” he remarks.

Of his background, he says, “It gives you perspective. We look at all these political battles as new, every generation as the first one to do this. Stuff is new, it’s different, but it’s also on a historical continuum that you should understand today in relation to. We’re constantly reapproaching the past in new and different ways.”

Isn’t the city changing, though? Krepp’s own life bears witness to the rising tide of urbanization and a District whose new arrivals are sticking around to raise a family. “When I was 12 I visited my Uncle’s apartment in Jersey City. He was working in New York City, commuting. I thought, ‘I like this.’”

Like me, he considers it a good day if he doesn’t have to get in a car. It’s a far cry from the suburban childhood we shared, but here, “You don’t have to drive to a playdate, as a parent. Why did our folks move out in the 70s and 80s? Safety and schools. It turned out the good schools were not as good as they thought they were.”

Education, it turns out, means little if it happens within the stale confines of your safe suburban home. (Or safe consulting job: “You work at Booz Allen. You wake up, put on your clip-on tie, come home, and you’re sixty-five years old!”) He prefers to educate kids on-site: he found his calling as a tour guide, owning his own business. “What I love about what I do is the chance to interact with people,” he says, beaming. It’s no surprise that the 3,000-signature requirement to be eligible to run is no impediment to Krepp; he’s at home swimming amongst strangers.

He’s also at home anytime D.C. is the focus of the conversation. The walls at Big Bear are adorned with an awesome audio project by From Block to Block about the changing nature of the Stronghold neighborhood, just up North Capitol. I make a remark about Bloomingdale’s past as a middle-class African-American neighborhood, and we’re off on a roller coaster of dates, legislation, neighborhoods, and individuals. “It’s not a new thing, it’s a city thing,” he intones, in his element; “Waves of people coming to the city goes all the way back to the Civil War, not so much soldiers but clerks. It’s always offered opportunities, diversity, the nexus of similar folks and different folks, infrastructure, whether it was railroads or the internet…saw it with the New Deal, saw it with Kennedy, Reagan.”

I bring up Ta-Nehisi Coates’ tour de force The Case for Reparations, and I learn something: that belt of middle-class, traditionally African-American homes, from Kingman Park to Bloomingdale (bordering upper-class, really, in LeDroit Park)? They’re the result of a building boom in the Twenties that left the city overexpanded. The developers couldn’t sell the oversupply of new homes to white families, who could afford to live closer. They’d never planned to sell to African-Americans, but those were the only willing buyers.

Disenfranchisement, it turns out, is a common theme in Krepp’s story of the District. That’s where the conversation pivots to politics.

Tim’s underappreciated DC treasures

1. Grief, the statue of Henry Adams’ wife in Rock Creek Cemetery (castings are at National Portrait Gallery and Lafayette Square)
2. Less-visited graves at Arlington, like those of Medgar Evers, astronauts, or the Tuskegee Airmen
3. Newseum

 

What Schoolhouse Rock never told you about Washington

“We grew up with Schoolhouse Rock as a narrative,” Krepp begins. “How does a bill become a law, and all that. DC doesn’t fit into that. For all the talk of the Founding Fathers, we’re the appendix of the Founding Fathers,”—sort of the unplanned, possibly illegitimate child of our Constitution-writing forebears. With no Congressional vote, we certainly haven’t come into their storied inheritance. (He notes the framers of the Constitution couldn’t have foreseen today’s predicament: in the first census, Pennsylvania was the largest state, and it had about two-thirds as many residents as D.C. does today.)

Things came to a boil in the 1970s, when an organized presence demanded—and was awarded—Home Rule. That change brought the District a single Congressional voice: the Delegate. The Delegate sits on committees, including the one that has governing power over Washington, and can vote in those committees, but it does not have a floor vote (the kind of vote that actually passes federal legislation). It’s a true Federal position—Krepp must register with the Federal Election Commission, not the local folks—but even so, it’s a sort of a half-voice, a pernicious compromise allowing the District to sit at the Federal table if only we’ll tuck our shirts in, use the cutlery from the outside in, and only speak when spoken to.

I would be remiss to go any further without explaining that, since 1991, a single, remarkable woman has served as the Delegate from the District of Columbia: Eleanor Holmes Norton. Her early career accomplishments are astonishing: work with the SCNCC, professorships, helming the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and more. As Delegate, she’s fought for women’s rights, nuclear disarmament, and federal transparency. Her electoral dominance is why Krepp refers to his original decision to run as a lark, and why he speaks only obliquely about Norton’s tenure. Implicit in his platform, however, is what can only be described as a rebuke to complacency on the part of the Delegate, and a hope that the role can go further, do more, and occupy a more visible place in the political life of the District.

“New Blood, New Ideas”—Krepp’s platform, in three points
1. Push for Statehood. “For the first time in 14 years, [Norton] introduced a Statehood bill. She needs to be getting cosponsors on that, but she’s not wrangling them. We all want statehood but we’re not doing much about it. That’s a long term project. If it’s gonna take 30 years to get statehood, we need to start this year.
2. Raise the Profile of the Delegate. “I would challenge D.C. residents on what they think the Delegate is and can do. You expect certain things out of the Mayor. Why don’t you expect anything out of the Delegate? This shouldn’t be a down-ballot race.”
3. Work Closely with Federal Government. “Even if we’re a state tomorrow, we’re going to have to work as neighbors with the Federal Government. Fort Reno was a great example…MacMillan, Walter Reed, St. Elizabeth’s. What happens with these [federal] properties is going to shape the District for the next 100 years.

Krepp says he was sitting around with friends, joking about dysfunction in some corners of Washington politics, when someone tossed out the kind of suggestion that you laugh over, then ask about later, privately: “Why don’t you run for Delegate?” He campaigned on Twitter, “for self-referential laughs,” before getting serious. Krepp asked people he respected to run, and they declined (“family commitments,” he said). The old idea of doxastic commitment crept in: if you hold a principle, you better embody it. And so he decided to run himself, a first-time politician in middle-age with gray beginning to fleck his hair, but brimming with the energy of someone who’s confidently committed to a worthy cause.

If Tim’s background belies any first-person involvement in politics, his passion for the city and knowledge of its issues suggests the opposite. There’s an old joke Tim tells me about the National Park Service: they see humans as the invasive species. The Fort Reno fiasco, in which the NPS tried to shut down a 40-year-old concert series beloved by neighbors, is example number one for Krepp on where the Delegate is failing. “Notice that in that whole thing, no one thought to call the Delegate. They had to go to Chris Van Hollen, who is great, but come on, why is it not our Delegate who’s handling something in our own jurisdiction?”

Moving forward

Krepp faces a battle that, if uphill, is more Himalayan than Appalachian. He’s sure he’ll the signatures he needs to appear on the ballot, but there’s a reason Norton’s never lost. She is respected by the Democratic establishment and revered in the District. Still, he hopes his run will elevate the discourse around the position of Delegate. At best, he spurs Norton on to address the issues laid out in his platform. At worst, he’ll have taught a couple more Washingtonians a history lesson.

To conclude, I engaged with Krepp specifically on the question of what we, as the newest generation to leave its mark on Washington, can do to build a better future for the city.

For starters, he recognizes that many of us have more in common with someone our age in Park Slope than someone older living in our own neighborhoods—but that’s no reason not to fight for statehood. “Fundamentally, it’s just basic fairness.” Beyond that, though, our urban generation should look to use DC statehood to tip the balance of the Senate away from its hyper-rural bias: “Structurally, in this country, we don’t have an advocate for cities. By making DC a state, you would always have two more senators who are urban-focused…that should be a pitch for DC statehood that resonates in San Francisco, New York, Chicago, every city.”

Transportation, urban design, and social justice come together under the tent of “placemaking.” What kind of place do we want to live in? How do we move away from an auto-centric design? Can we put the Height Act in front of DC voters instead of a Congressional committee? He’s outraged, for example, by the city’s inability to remedy the horrific plight of residents at DC General: “We have civic leaders talking about keeping this as a playground for the uber-rich and it’s just ridiculous. Even the Redskins, if we change the racist name tomorrow, moving them back tomorrow is a dumb idea. A stadium they use ten times a year? You have to find a better public use for that land. Literally blocks away we have DC General where we have victims of our housing crisis being eaten by rats. I can’t believe this.”

If you care about those things, Krepp advises you do to as he is doing today: demand change. Register to vote, educate yourselves on the issues, and support a candidate who aligns with you on the issues. “People come here to save the world and forget to vote,” he says, and we laugh, but there’s a worry in that laugh. Of course, the problem implies the solution, and in that simple statement you can find the seeds of 730DC’s mission, and Tim’s, too.

You can see Tim’s platform on his website, krepp2014.com.

Fun facts from a DC tour guide, statehood advocate, and hopeful campaigner
1. We don’t have to change the Constitution to become a state. The Constitution calls the Federal District no more than ten miles square, but doesn’t say how small. Shrink the District down to the clearly defined Federal entities downtown—White House, Capitol, National Mall—and call the rest of it New Columbia.
2. Up until a decade or so ago, the Printing & Engraving Museum was a must-see on tourist trips. Today? An also-ran.
3. The best place to canvass for petitions? On a main thoroughfare—think 14th Street—or, if it’s the morning, on a walking route to a Metro. Not at the Metro, Krepp says—by that time people get into a “morning rush” mindset. Scope out the area just before that, and you’ll net some signatures.