Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Come for the wars, and maybe learn a little along the way!

One of my favorite local/DC sites is the Columbia Heights News Forum. It was started some years ago (Before my time in DC) because the Columbia Heights Yahoo Forum had degenerated into threats and name calling. Who ever started the site had good intentions, but most of the site has not been updated for about a year now, and the site has fallen into disrepair. However, the News Forum is still goin' strong!

The Forum is characterized by a ongoing debate/war/eternal-mutual-headbanging-against-wall-session between (generalizing here) two points of view:

1. First are people who are newer additions to the Columbia Heights neighborhood, and support general business development and gentrification.

2. Second are people who have lived in Columbia Heights neighborhood since pre-gentrification times and their supporters, who support business development along lines that support the improvement of the pre-gentrification community, and condemn the class-divisions that gentrification can bring to a community.

I say that I am generalizing, because you have to understand several points about the site. First, there is a lot of overlap between the views of people on the two sides, even though they don't always like to admit it, and second, the latter point of view is supported by two posters, who have their own agendas and do not always do a great job of supporting themselves. Of course, the "defenders" of the former point of view have their own faults- they generally make decent arguments, but spend too much time repetetively insulting the defenders of the "anti-gentrification" view. If you look at the different discussion threads on the site, the threads always seem to start with a nice post about developments within the community, and then degenerate into the same old arguments over and over again, ad nauseum, ad infinitum!

Now you might say- "Wait this sounds boring, WTF do you want me to sit through these repetitive arguments?" I would agree that many people would be put off by sites that have these constant wars, but personally I think I thrive on conflict! And additionally, I think it is interesting to get a window into the minds of people in a gentrifying neighborhood like Columbia Heights- there are many ways to develop a community, and finding the right way or ways is a great cause for debate. Sometimes, I just wish that the "anti-gentrification" crowd had better defenders, who expressed their views cogently and did not constantly lead threads off target! My personal views fall somewhere in-between the two camps, but it does not look like either side is really searching for a "gray" area!

So please check out the site- if you live in CH or the NW of DC, it might be actually be helpful for you. And you can even try to post yourself- though good luck on getting approved by the ghost moderator!

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