Our 1st Anniversary

Darius It’s been nearly a year since the inception of this blog. So I thought we’d take a look back at what we have shared with our readers and what our readers have shared with us.

Since our first blog post on March 16, 2015, we’ve discussed topics ranging from solar energy and homelessness to the widening of Richmond Highway and the regulatory policies of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Although the posts in this space are what some might call a “group” blog, where I share writing responsibilities with the president of Shiver Management Group, Jube Shiver, Jr., it has, on occasion, been a very personal experience for me.

Take my post on homelessness.

The personal struggle my family and I had with homelessness when we first moved to Alexandria, Virginia 20 years ago was the first time I had talked about the experience on social media. The blog post drew the highest number of comments from our readers. Many of the comments were heartwarming, with one poster saying, “this story is appreciated and (is) truly an inspiration.”

Over the past year, the “literally homeless” population has decreased in the Washington, D.C. area, according to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. Nevertheless, I think we, as a community, must continue to raise awareness to combat homelessness.

Another public policy issue that we addressed was Jube Shiver’s post about vehicle traffic and pedestrian safety along Richmond Highway or Route 1.

The post drew a comment from Virginia State Sen. Scott A. Surovell, who said that “the 44th District averages double the pedestrian fatalities” than the rest of Virginia, on average. He added that if “U.S. 1 is going to be a thriving, safe and vibrant community,” policy makers and citizens need to keep the pressure on to make improvements to the highway as well as address alternative means of transportation.

According to Embark Richmond Highway, widening of the Route 1 will consist of six lanes and a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) service, which is currently in the planning stage. Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) expects the $180 million, 3.68 mile segment of Richmond Highway from Telegraph Road to Mount Vernon Highway to be completed by 2020 and the BRT to be completed by 2026, which would be significant progress.

On the other hand, some of our blog posts triggered little response, despite raising what we believed were significant public policy concerns.

For instance, Julián Castro, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, told Jube Shiver in a March 2015 meeting that his staff would review what Shiver called an “unconscionable” HUD rule that barred college students younger than 24 from subsidized housing unless they had dependent children or were military veterans.

We never heard back from HUD and the college student ban remains.

Similarly, our blog post on solar energy was one of only two columns that drew no comments.

However, Sen. Surovell continues to work hard on solar.

Last month, he joined with several members of the Virginia House and introduced a bill that would require the State Corporation Commission to encourage so-called “community solar gardens,” where businesses or home owners share a solar array with grid-connected subscribers and receive financial credits, at discounted rates, on utility bills from the energy generated by the shared solar facilities. The measure supported by Surovell would additionally provide low income homeowners the opportunity to participate in these shared solar arrays.

Finally, we want to express our thanks to Verizon Communications, which responded quickly to last month’s blog accusing the company of dragging its feet for nearly a decade on installing cable TV and high speed Internet service at Spring Garden Apartments. After the blog appeared, Verizon crews worked nearly around the clock to install the service. As a result, Verizon’s cable TV and high speed Internet service, known as FIOS, is now available to all 207 families at Spring Garden Apartments and company officials are scheduled to talk to residents about the service in a tenant meeting later this month.

With a new blog being created in the world every second, according to Andrew Keen, author of the book “The Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet Is Killing Our Culture,” I was skeptical about what impact we might have from our small soapbox on the Internet. But that sentiment has faded over this past year in the wake of the positive and thought-provoking feedback we have receive from you, our readers.

Over the coming year, we look to increase and improve communications with our tenants, vendors and homeowner communities. Thank you for your support and stay tune for future postings!

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