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This Week On Metro Connection: Energy

MR. JONATHAN WILSON

Welcome to "Metro Connection." I'm Jonathan Wilson. I'm in this week for Rebecca Sheir and our theme for this addition of the show is Energy. We'll delve into the District's plan to become the healthiest, greenest city, not just in the nation, but in the world.

MS. NICOLE STEELE

I think that's what will distinguish us between other cities who kind of talk the talk. We want to walk the walk now.

WILSON

And we'll visit a D.C. neighborhood in the midst of a demographic change, to find out how newcomers can alter a community's energy.

MS. MIRAM OCHOA

They don't talk to me, so I do feel uncomfortable.

WILSON

Plus, we'll talk with members of the city's One Hundred Club, residents who've reached a triple-digit birthday, to find out how much energy is needed to live a long, happy life.

MS. ALYCE DIXON

I don't hold back anything. I tell it like it is. Sometimes that's good, sometimes it isn't.

WILSON

First though, we're going to delve into some of the recent energy-related debates swirling around our region, debates about hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in Maryland and uranium mining in Virginia. We'll begin here.

MR. BILLY BISHOFF

This is pretty typical from typical from Garrett County.

WILSON

The blanket of snow underfoot amplifies the feeling of rural serenity as I trudge to the top of a hill with Billy Bishoff and his mother Joyce, and take in a panoramic view of their 300-acre dairy farm. There are some people who worry this pristine environment in Garrett, Maryland's westernmost county, is in grave danger of being ruined by the energy industry. That perspective irks the Bishoffs. Billy turns in a circle, pointing out that even here, in the beautiful rolling hills of western Maryland, if you look closely, you can see that industry is already everywhere.

BISHOFF

People say that we're going to spoil our neighborhood by having a gas well. But there's our farm, there is a sand plant, just over here is an asphalt plant, our dairy farm is over there, so it's not as if there is no impact here at all. We have to come to some sort of equilibrium on this issue.

WILSON

The Bishoffs are among the most outspoken landowners in the county, arguing that the shale gas recovery technique of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, should be allowed to move forward. In 2008, the family was preparing to join a group of landowners who bargained to lease 30,000 acres to gas companies looking to drill into the portion of Marcellus Shale that sits underneath Garrett County soil. It was a deal that would have netted landowners $30 million.

WILSON

But the deal fell through as the nation's financial collapse kicked into high gear. Joyce Bishoff says it was also around that time that environmental concerns triggered a backlash against fracking, one that she feels quickly became hysterical.

MS. JOYCE BISHOFF

As things developed and this became a political situation, I feel that it really became unbalanced. I feel that if we're going to look at any subject we have to look at all aspects of it, and I don't think that's been done on a state level.

WILSON

That's starting to change, from Joyce's point of view. She applauds the work of the Governor's Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission, which includes environmental experts, state and local officials, and industry leaders. But Billy Bishoff says there's still one aspect of the discussion that's often lost on Marylanders in other parts of the state, one that has to do with local economic history. And it's the fact that the oil and gas industry has already been a part of the Garrett County economy for decades.

BISHOFF

There are 250 gas wells in this county, and that eventually developed into a natural gas storage field, which for many years was the largest property taxpayer in the county, and has provided stable jobs for 30-some years now. And there are two transmission lines and a compressor station in the county. We do have a history of working with gas in this county, and we know a little bit about it.

WILSON

The fact remains, however, that right now, it is natural beauty that drives much of the local business here. Garrett County is home to Deep Creek Lake, the site of hundreds of vacation homes, and Wisp, a mountain resort that brings skiers in the winter, and golfers in the summer. It means tourism accounts for close to 60 percent of the local economy.

WILSON

Joyce Bishoff says it also means there's a distinct divide on fracking between property owners who live off the land, and those who've moved here to simply enjoy it and don't want to see the land touched.

BISHOFF

And that concerns me a lot because I see that whole situation getting a little tense, and I think we all need to sit down at the table and come up with some solutions here.

WILSON

Drive a few towns further south in the county and you'll find Eric Robison. He says some of the worst tension exists between the local families who've been here for generations, and those still seen as outsiders.

MR. ERIC ROBISON

I've been here for 15 years, and I'm definitely classified as being very new here. We have people that have been here for 35 years, raised their children and they're still not a part of that system.

WILSON

Robison, a construction company owner, is unafraid to stir the pot, and was among the first residents to ask public questions about the lack of regulatory oversight on fracking in Maryland. Citizen Shale, a coalition of property owners that he leads, voiced concerns that helped lead to the existing temporary suspension of fracking in Maryland, and the formation of the Governor's Marcellus Shale advisory commission.

ROBISON

When I hear a property owner talking about this is my right, to develop my resource, we're not wanting to exclude their right. We're just wanting to make sure that everybody's rights are taken into consideration with their right.

WILSON

Robison says he isn't opposed to fracking altogether, but proponents need to remember that if something goes wrong, the problem isn't likely to affect just one property owner or company. During the fracking process, chemicals and grit are pumped into the shale thousands of feet below the ground, cracking the rock open, and releasing natural gas back up through the well. Environmentalists say if the drill piping isn't properly installed or cracks for other reasons, all the chemicals used in the process can seep into the water supply. There's plenty of debate over exactly how often that has happened, but Robison says the risks are real.

ROBISON

We privatize the profits, and we socialize the problems. When we get into this type of industry, you know, if there's an event where there's a spill, a spill does not respect property lines, doesn't respect state borders, doesn't respect what we value, and we have to make sure that we have the proper regulatory oversight and conditions in place for that type of development.

WILSON

Robison says he's a realist and believes banning shale gas drilling forever isn't truly an option.

ROBISON

It is a resource. We will develop it, you know. Whether we develop it in the next 3 years or the next 30 years, we will develop it.

WILSON

Robison says he's okay with that, as long as the state makes sure things are done safely. And believe it or not, Joyce Bishoff says she's not in a terrible rush for shale drilling to begin anyway.

BISHOFF

We don't care if it takes some time, but we want it done objectively. And a moratorium is just the wrong thing. A legal moratorium that then you have to legally undo is just the wrong way to go about things.

WILSON

Governor O'Malley's Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission is scheduled to deliver its final report on the environmental and economic impacts of allowing fracking in Maryland in August of next year. Both Robison and the Bishoffs say they're anxiously awaiting the commission's findings, just don't expect them to wait quietly. Eric and Billy both make regular trips to Annapolis to share their views with state legislators.

WILSON

In just a bit, we'll turn to a different energy debate happening in Virginia, one having to do with uranium mining.

WILSON

We're going to press the fast-forward button now and head to the D.C. of 2032. That may sound dizzyingly far off in the future, but District Mayor Vincent Gray is planning ahead. By that year, he says, D.C. will be...

MAYOR VINCENT GRAY

The healthiest, the greenest, the most livable city in the world. Not just the United States, but in the world.

WILSON

That was Mayor Gray speaking last month, when he released a 120-page document laying out a plan 17 months in the making called, Sustainable D.C. Jacob Fenston takes a look at those ambitions and what they may mean for our energy future here in the nation's capital.

MR. MIKE BARRETTE

All right. Here we go.

MR. JACOB FENSTON

Mike Barrette is opening up the stairs through his attic to the roof of his Capitol Hill row house.

MR. JACOB FENSTON

Can I come up?

BARRETTE

Yes, come on up.

FENSTON

Up here it's covered with solar panels.

FENSTON

If you want me to grab anything, let me know.

FENSTON

Barrette installed 19 panels back in 2010.

BARRETTE

That was about half of my home's electricity powered from those.

FENSTON

But two years later he decided that wasn't enough. He wanted to get as close to 100 percent solar as possible.

BARRETTE

I put on another 13 panels in the back of the roof. That's probably got me up around 80 percent, maybe close to 90 percent.

FENSTON

From Barrette's roof, if you look out across the neighborhood, you can see other solar panels, poking up above historic row house facades.

BARRETTE

My neighbor two doors down from me put in a system. My neighbor across the street put in a system. And in this Capitol Hill neighborhood, I think we've got at least 70 of these up now.

FENSTON

As neighbors learned about Barrette's solar panels, they started asking for tours of the roof and then installing their own systems. Part of the reason, it can be a very good investment. Barrette says possibly better than the stock market. Back downstairs, Barrette shows me on the computer how he can track is energy production in real time.

BARRETTE

Starting in March, I'll have a negative bill.

FENSTON

In the hottest months of summer and the coldest months of winter, he might actually owe something on his electric bill.

BARRETTE

But the rest of the year I pretty much don't have an energy bill.

FENSTON

Mayor Gray's Sustainable D.C. plan calls for adding 1000 renewable energy projects, like solar panels, to District houses, apartments and commercial buildings. It would also increase the proportion of clean and renewable energy used in the District to half of the city's total energy pie by 2032. That could mean many more than 1000 solar installations says Bill Updike with the District Department of the Environment.

MR. BILL UPDIKE

Yeah, I mean I think the goals in the plan are visionary goals, you know, they're not easy goals and they shouldn't be.

FENSTON

Currently, he says, solar panels in the District produce just five to ten megawatts of energy. To reach the goal of 50 percent renewable power could require hundreds of megawatts of solar. That's a lot of panels.

UPDIKE

Why aim low, right?

FENSTON

The Sustainable D.C. plan came together through months of meetings with hundreds of volunteers from the community and government officials. Updike, who chaired the Energy Working Group, says D.C. is already a national trend-setter in some areas. We have the most LEED-certified green buildings for example.

UPDIKE

We blow all the other cities away.

FENSTON

But the goals present a number of challenges. One is that renewable energy is still expensive upfront. Even with D.C. government rebates and federal tax credits, an average solar panel system can cost $5,000 out of pocket. That's something the D.C. Sustainable Energy Utility is working to change. The group, created by the District Council in 2008, offers rebates on efficient light bulbs and washing machines. They also work to make solar more accessible.

FENSTON

Ted Trabue, managing director of the Sustainable Energy Utility, says solar technology isn't evenly distributed in the city. In most wards...

MR. TED TRABUE

Ward 1, Ward 2, Ward 4, Ward 3, Ward 6.

FENSTON

...there are between 150 and 200 homes with solar panels. By contrast...

TRABUE

In Wards 7 and 8 combined, only 11 homes had solar panels.

FENSTON

Now, many more do. DCSEU installed panels on 87 homes last year east of the Anacostia River. The other side of the energy equation, besides producing cleaner energy, is, of course, using less of it. But that doesn't always generate as much excitement.

MS. ELIZABETH LINDSEY

We've definitely seen that in our work.

FENSTON

Elizabeth Lindsey, with the organization Groundswell.

LINDSEY

We do work with homeowners and renters and help them to make their homes more energy efficient. And that is not as sexy as doing solar. People want to immediately put solar panels on their homes, but if their homes aren't efficient, where is that energy going? It's still being wasted.

FENSTON

On the efficiency side, Sustainable D.C. calls for cutting energy use in half in the next 20 years. Lindsey says it's a great goal, but many residents need more help to afford to energy efficiency upgrades.

LINDSEY

In D.C. there's not a lot of financing, like low-cost financing or subsidies available for people, so it's actually quite expensive.

FENSTON

The District's goal to cut energy use in half in the next 20 years lines up with President Obama's goal for the nation, set out in his recent State of the Union address. And a lot of other cities have plans too, according to Nicole Steele with the Alliance to Save Energy.

STEELE

New York City, San Francisco, Austin, Chicago, all the big cities have big plans.

FENSTON

The Alliance has its own plan as well. It was released in January and seeks to double energy productivity by 2030.

STEELE

It can mean the same thing, but it's about rebranding energy efficiency.

FENSTON

She says all these plans and targets and goals can be good motivators.

STEELE

If you don't set a goal, you're not going to meet it.

FENSTON

But, plans can also be just plans. Documents that collect dust. Elizabeth Lindsey with Groundswell says now it's time for the next step, putting the plan in action.

LINDSEY

I think that's what will distinguish us between other cities who kind of talk the talk. We want to walk the walk now.

FENSTON

I'm Jacob Fenston.

WILSON

Want to learn more about energy efficiency or how to get started with your very own solar installation? Check out our website, metroconnection.org. Time for a break, but when we get back we'll head to Virginia's Pittsylvania County, where the political debate over uranium mining can be deeply personal.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN

People who are against it don't know what the hell they're talking about.

FENSTON

That and more in a minute on "Metro Connection," here on WAMU 88.5.

ANNOUNCER

WAMU news coverage of labor and employment issues is made possible by your contributions and by Matthew Watson, in memory of Marjorie Watson. And support for WAMU 88.5's coverage of the environment comes from the Wallace Genetic Foundation, dedicated to the promotion of farmland preservation, the reduction of environmental toxins and the conservation of natural resources.

WILSON

I'm Jonathan Wilson in today for Rebecca Sheir, and welcome back to "Metro Connection," where our focus this hour is on energy. We've already spent some time in Maryland and the District. Now, we're going to head to Virginia, which his embroiled in a heated debate about how, if at all, it should take advantage of a potentially lucrative underground resource. But unlike the debate sweeping across Maryland, it's not shale gas that's at issue, it's uranium, the radioactive element that can fuel nuclear power plants.

WILSON

Virginia's uranium deposit isn't exactly a new discovery. Mining industry geologists confirmed its existence three decades ago. But Virginia's legislators still haven't given those who want to mine it, the all clear to start digging it up, and many environmental advocates say that's the way it should stay.

WILSON

Patrick Wales, for one, does not agree with those environmental advocates. He's walking down a gravel road in Chatham, Va., about 20 miles from the North Carolina border. That buzzing you hear isn't coming from a bug or an insect, its coming from a device called a scintillometer, which measures very small changes in radioactivity.

MR. PATRICK WALES

This is making a lot of noise, and the numbers are gonna be going up significantly.

WILSON

Wales works for Virginia Uranium. The company was founded by the Coles family, which has owned and lived on this piece of land, known as the Coles Hill property, since before the War of 1812. He walks a few more yards and lowers the scintillometer near some rocks by the side of the road.

WALES

Put that down there. And we're standing on a deposit right now that has over 22 times more energy than all of the oil and gas that's estimated to be off Virginia's coast. Located all on 100 acres, that's pretty remarkable.

WILSON

Wales is a local himself, and he bristles a little at those who suggest Virginia Uranium and uranium mining proponents aren't worried about maintaining the natural beauty of rural, Southside Virginia. He says it's that natural beauty that brought him back home after getting his geology degree out of state.

WALES

I was one of those, like a lot of folks, who went off to college thinking that would be the last time I ever saw Danville or the Southside of Virginia, because there are not a lot of opportunities for folks to make a living around here, and that's unfortunate.

WILSON

Wales says the Coles Hill deposit could change that in a big way, if the state lifts the moratorium on uranium mining, a moratorium that has been in place basically since the deposit was first discovered. Some estimates put the value of the uranium at Coles Hill at $7 billion, and that's value that proponents say translates into high-paying local jobs.

WALES

There are not a lot of opportunities that have the chance to bring 1,000 jobs to this area, and these are good-paying jobs. These are jobs that will pay $65,000 a year. You compare that to our median household income in this county, and it's less than $30,000-- household income, not individual.

WILSON

Among local residents, it can be tough to get people to talk about the Uranium mining issue. But not because there's any shortage of passion on either side, in fact, it's just the opposite.

WILSON

Inside Pat's place, a popular local lunch spot in the middle of Chatham, an elderly man sharing a meal with his wife blurts out his feelings on the uranium controversy.

MAN

People who are against it don't know what the hell they're talking about.

WILSON

He won't give me his name, but he does give a reason.

MAN

The people who are against it are so against it, if they knew my name they'd probably burn my house down.

WILSON

And you're not joking?

MAN

No.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN

No.

WILSON

Drive through Chatham and you'll see dozens of green and yellow pro-mining yard signs. One slogan reads, "I dig uranium. It's about jobs." But you'll see just as many black and white signs urging passersby to say "No to Uranium Mining." Gena Mays works as a waitress in the pizza shop across the street from Pat's place. She says she'd like to see Coles Hill remain untouched.

MS. GENA MAYS

I think everybody should just leave it like it is. It's been just fine for years and years, and now everybody wants to change stuff.

WILSON

Cale Jaffe is the director of the Southern Environmental Law Center's Charlottesville office. He says the main problem with the Coles Hill site is its location within the watershed of the Roanoke River, which provides drinking water to 1.1 million people. Jaffe points out that the vast majority of material that would be brought out of the ground at the project would end up as waste product that would have to be stored on-site.

MR. CALE JAFFE

According to The National Academy of Sciences, the waste from that project retains 85 percent of its original radioactivity. And you've gotta store that radioactive waste, in the Roanoke River watershed, in perpetuity.

WILSON

Patrick Wales, of Virginia Uranium, points out that a study by Virginia Tech shows that a properly placed waste containment facility built on-site poses no risk to the water supply, even in the event of 38 inches of rain in 24 hours, a scenario not even approached during super storm Sandy. Wales says the Coles family and Virginia Uranium are in favor of even more research and independent study of the site before any mining begins.

WILSON

Jaffe says uranium mining is already one of the most closely examined environmental issues in recent Virginia history, and the results, he says, are in.

WILSON

We've spent millions of dollars and years in Virginia studying this issue, and the studies validate our core concerns. And that's why this year the general assembly rejected an effort to lift the ban.

WILSON

But proponents still insist that momentum is building for their cause. Patrick Wales says it's important to remember that Virginians are no strangers to the benefits of nuclear energy. The state is home to two nuclear power plants and the nation's nuclear-powered naval fleet.

WALES

It's really important to point out that nuclear power is one of the safest, most reliable, affordable means of generating electricity. And if we are going to get, as a country, very serious about things like climate change, nuclear may not necessarily be the answer, but there is no answer without nuclear.

WILSON

Now Virginia Uranium and its opponents are waiting to see whether Gov. Bob McDonnell will attempt to address the Uranium mining moratorium by going around the legislature. Even if McDonnell holds off on taking up the issue, it will likely continue to be a bone of contention in this November's gubernatorial election.

WILSON

To see what the Coles Hill property looks like and to find out more about the uranium that it holds, visit our website, metroconnection.org.

WILSON

We're going to swing back into the District for our next story, which is about the energy of an entire neighborhood. The neighborhood in question is Mount Pleasant, and for decades it's been an enclave for Latino residents and businesses. But Mount Pleasant is changing. The most recent Census date for this part of the city shows that Latino residents have gradually begun moving out to the suburbs because of rising housing costs, and more affluent white residents are moving in. And as Kate Sheehy reports, these changing demographics mean the culture of Mount Pleasant is changing as well.

MS. KATE SHEEHY

Miram Ochoa and Rafael Rodriguez barely have time for a break during their 12-hour workday. They're the owners of D And S Accounting and Tax Services, on the corner of Irving and Mount Pleasant Streets, in northwest D.C. The business has been in Mount Pleasant since 1994, and they have lots of loyal customers.

MR. RAFAEL RODRIGUEZ

Most of my clients are Hispanic. I have a few non-speaking Spanish clients, which is about 20 percent, but back then was only less than 5 percent.

SHEEHY

Rodriguez is from the Dominican Republic and has lived in this community for 31 years. He says there used to be only African-Americans, Latinos and a few Asian people here, but now there's a little bit of everything, as he puts it. Rodriguez likes that Mount Pleasant is becoming more diverse, but he also worries that Latinos and whites are living side by side without understanding one another's cultures.

RODRIGUEZ

They will come in and they will not care. Like when they put their business, they just want to make money. They don't care whether you move out or move in. They don't care about the other people, which is something that bothers me. Yes, it bothers me when it comes to that. I like all of us to enjoy the growth of the Mount Pleasant community.

SHEEHY

His partner, Miram Ochoa, came to D.C. from El Salvador in 1980, when she was 15. Like many Central Americans in Mount Pleasant, she feels at home here. But she knows that demographic changes have made some feel unwelcome.

OCHOA

And like I hear comments here in my office, they are increasing the rent so high in Mount Pleasant because they want to kick us out of here.

SHEEHY

Ochoa says she likes trying new things and appreciates much of the progress made in her community. However, she fights back tears as she admits she has never felt accepted by her white neighbors.

OCHOA

And like when there's a lot of snow, many times, trying to make friendship, I clean the entire parking lot to see if, you know, if they will come out and try to join me, and they don't talk to me. So I do feel uncomfortable. I do feel that they don't want me here, and I have been here since '94.

SHEEHY

Further up the street, next to the Latin Grocery store Progresso, is one example of how Mount Pleasant is changing. A new restaurant, Beau Thai, opened here just a few weeks ago, and it has been busy. Co-owner Ralph Brabham says the neighborhood just felt right for his business.

MR. RALPH BRABHAM

We loved walking down the street and seeing people selling flowers or people selling bananas. It just has a unique feel to it that is incomparable throughout the rest of D.C.

SHEEHY

Brabham says he hasn't seen many Latinos come to the restaurant so far. He plans to post a menu in Spanish in hopes of bringing in more Latino customers. Whether that will be enough to lure them in, is still an open question.

SHEEHY

A few buildings down from Beau Thai, people get off the 42 bus in front of a 7-Eleven. It's a hang out spot for many Latino men when they get off work. They drink coffee and talk.

RICARDO

(Speaks foreign language)

SHEEHY

Ricardo is from Nicaragua and has lived in Mount Pleasant for 16 years. He says he won't eat at the Thai restaurant.

RICARDO

(Through translator) No. It's very expensive. My wife sent me to buy food there, but it was too expensive. It's not for us. It's for people who have money.

SHEEHY

But his friend José, from El Salvador, says he's curious and wants to try the food. Both men agree that the neighborhood has become safer as it's become more affluent. But life in Mount Pleasant is more difficult for them than it used to be. Not only the cost of living, but they say the police harass them for congregating outside the 7-Eleven.

RICARDO

(Through translator) This is how we are. Here nobody is selling drugs or drinking, after work we meet here.

SHEEHY

Another neighborhood meeting spot is Haydee's Salvadoran Restaurant, across the street from Miram Ochoa and Rafael Rodriguez's accounting firm. Haydee's has long been popular with Latinos, but many white residents also come here.

SHEEHY

Judy Byron is one of them. She's lived here since the early 1970s, and witnessed the wave of Central Americans who arrived here in the 1980s. Byron says one of the things she loves most about living in Mount Pleasant is the Latin flavor, but she's not sure Latinos feel the same way about the growing white influence.

MS. JUDY BYRON

I don't think the Latin American population puts their feet in the waters of sort of basically white middle class run places in the same way the white middle class that's moved in, enjoys the texture of places like Progresso or Haydee's.

SHEEHY

Haydee Vanegas opened this restaurant in 1990, and at the time, she says, most of her customers were Latino. Now her clientele is 80 percent white, but that doesn't bother her.

MS. HAYDEE VANEGAS

I want to have a customer, it don't matter what. It could be Latino, White, African, Asian, I love everyone. And like I say, my Latinos, they remember me and they come back on the special days, and I appreciate that.

SHEEHY

Perhaps it's been easier for Vanegas to adapt to the loss of Latino customers because, well, she's still busy. This is exactly what her neighbors across the street, Miriam Ochoa and Rafael Rodriguez, worry about. The community will accept change and move on, with or without Latinos. I'm Kate Sheehy.

WILSON

Time now for D.C. Dives.

MAN

What is a Dive Bar?

WOMAN

It's a glorious dump.

MAN

It's got to have an interesting staff and an interesting crowd.

WOMAN

It's got to be dark. It's got to be old. Typically, it's got to be cheap.

WILSON

This time Jared Walker takes us to Vienna, Va., for a visit to what may be the most kid-friendly dive bar around.

MR. JERAD WALKER

It's a Friday night and I'm at the Vienna Inn in Vienna, Va. The place is packed with customers, it's standing room only, but manager Katie Herron somehow pulls herself away from the bar just long enough to give me a quick history lesson.

MS. KATIE HERRON

Mike and Mollie Abraham opened the restaurant in 1960. And it changed hands in May 2000, but the tradition stayed the same.

WALKER

And what is the tradition?

HERRON

The tradition is casual, laid-back, it's all-inclusive. So you can be old, young, new to the area, lived here for 20, 30 years and you're always welcome.

WALKER

And the building itself?

HERRON

It's wooden, it's small, it's compact. Not a lot has changed since 1960.

WALKER

Like most folks in this bar and restaurant, known for its chilidogs, cheap beer, and long communal tables, Casey Samson is a regular. A real estate agent and local youth football coach, Samson's been visiting this beloved neighborhood tavern for 45 years.

MR. CASEY SAMSON

It used to be, back in the '60s and '70s, that only the coaches would come in and adults would come in, and kids weren't really allowed in here. The coaches didn't want the kids to see them drinking.

WALKER

Was it more of a beer bar?

SAMSON

It was a beer bar, and it was a little rougher group.

WALKER

But Samson says that began to change when Mike and Mollie's son Philip began working at the Inn in the 1970s. Philip Abraham introduced an expanded menu and created a family-friendly environment that still exists today under current owner Marty Volk.

MR. MARTY VOLK

And now everybody comes. It's a part of our identity. This is Vienna's clubhouse.

WALKER

And he means everybody. Tonight kids of all ages are running around the Vienna Inn, many still wearing their youth baseball uniforms. Manager Katie Herron says there is a surprising equilibrium to the whole thing.

HERRON

I think the parents can relax and the kids can be distracted for a while, at least five or ten minutes. I don't think that they have to really tell their kids, you know, keep your napkin in your lap, keep your hands folded and please try and be quiet. Kids can really participate in the restaurant and they really like to do that.

WALKER

Tonight I'm sharing a table with patron Richard Peterson-Cremer, who describes the unique contribution kids have made to the Inn's aesthetic.

MR. RICHARD PETERSON-CREMER

The walls are covered in local teams' sports trophies from, you know, little league baseball to probably some bowling leagues and everything in between. There's also placemats that kids have drawn on, drawn various pictures about how much they love Vienna Inn. And those get posted weekly, or daily I guess, all over the place.

WALKER

Other than that, the presence of the kids doesn't really seem to change much of anything. The room is still dimly lit, every table creaks and wobbles, and the Inn has an eclectic and boisterous crowd. This could be any dive bar in the country, except, says Casey Samson, for one key difference, you don't curse in the Vienna Inn even if you're Washington Redskins Hall of Fame running back John Riggins.

SAMSON

John Riggins was here one night and John Riggins threw the f-bomb out, and the whole place went quiet because Mollie wouldn't put up with that. So she came walking over and he turned into an 8-year-old kid. He had to stand up. He had to apologize to the crowd--true story--apologize to the crowd for cursing, and she goes, "All right, you can stay."

WALKER

Mind your manners and you can stay all night at Vienna's unofficial clubhouse. I'm Jared Walker.

WILSON

You can check out photos of the Vienna Inn at metroconnection.org. And if you've got a favorite dive bar you think we should visit for this series, we'd love to hear from you. Our email address is metro@wamu.org or you can find us in Twitter. Our handle is @wamumetro.

WILSON

Up next, just how much energy does it take to hit your 100th birthday?

MR. GEORGE BOGGESS

One of the reasons I think we live so long now is because we walked everywhere, walked, walked, walked. We walked to school. We walked to church. We walked to the stores.

WILSON

That and more is coming your way on "Metro Connection," on WAMU 88.5.

WILSON

Welcome back to "Metro Connection." I'm Jonathan Wilson filling in today for Rebecca Sheir. Our show is all about energy. We've already talked about local debates over how to derive the energy that powers our homes and offices, but what about the energy that powers us? Jill Colgan has the story of two people who have a whole lot of that type of energy, even after passing their 100th birthdays.

MS. JILL COLGAN

On this sunny Sunday afternoon, George Boggess sits by his huge living room window, newspaper in hand, listening to his favorite music and enjoying his birthday, just the way he wants it.

MS. JILL COLGAN

Congratulations.

BOGGESS

Thank you. I'm now 101 years old.

COLGAN

His wife of 71 years, Dorothy, says her husband won't be quiet for long.

MS. DOROTHY BOGGESS

He just loves company. And he celebrates his birthday about three or four times a year.

COLGAN

Born in Waco Texas in 1912, Mr. Boggess won a scholarship to Howard University and made Washington his home.

BOGGESS

One of the reasons, I think, we live so long now is because we walked everywhere, walked, walked, walked. We walked to school, we walked to church, we walked to the stores.

COLGAN

The World War II veteran is still mobile, troubled mostly by the ache in his right knee, a reminder of the Battle of the Bulge in 1944.

BOGGESS

Wounded, a shot in the right knee by a German bullet while up front sending back coordinates for our big guns.

COLGAN

That knee, didn't stop him marching three times alongside civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1965.

BOGGESS

The most momentous one was the march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala. It was on that march that we almost were killed by mobs who followed us, who taunted us and who threatened us. Frankly, I felt more threatened, I felt in more danger of being killed, than I did while in the armed services.

COLGAN

He spent decades as a social worker, retiring in 1972, but not slowing down. Hiking, travel, music and parties have been his passion, along with his wife, Dorothy.

BOGGESS

Of course we've had ups and downs, but we made it on through.

BOGGESS

Each of us is willing to give the other some say so. In other words, neither of us tries to rule the house.

COLGAN

During the week George Boggess lives here at the Veterans Affairs Community Living Center in northwest D.C., home to other centenarian.

DIXON

I can talk pretty good, and I tell jokes, too.

COLGAN

Alyce Dixon is quite the celebrity. At 105 years old she has the energy levels of a woman decades younger. Her nails are fire engine red, her hair perfectly coiffed and her jokes are ribald.

DIXON

They said, you got a bad one? I said, when you get 21, I'll tell you.

COLGAN

One of the first African American women to join the Women's Army Corp in World War II, Mrs. Dixon served in a Postal Directory battalion in Birmingham, England. She was feisty then and still is.

DIXON

I don't hold back anything. I tell it like it is. Sometimes that's good, sometimes it isn't.

COLGAN

On her return, she worked at the Pentagon in purchasing, buying everything from pencils to planes, and finding a lifelong passion for shopping, along with casinos, bingo, and church.

COLGAN

What's your secret to your longevity?

DIXON

Being sharing and caring.

COLGAN

Her physical therapist, Ann Marie Wilson (sp?), says Mrs. Dixon hasn't slowed down one bit, even after losing a leg to infection.

MS. ANN MARIE WILSON

Boundless, endless, she's like the Energizer bunny, she just keeps going and going and going. And when she's sedentary, she's not happy.

COLGAN

The issue of race and color is closest to her heart.

WILSON

This thing about color is terrible because God made us all. We all eat, we sleep and bathe and do everything alike, and it's a silly thing.

COLGAN

She should know. A condition called Vitiligo has paled her dark skin. Mrs. Dixon now looks white.

DIXON

That's something that God planned. Yeah, nothing we can do about it.

COLGAN

Two World Wars, the Great Depression, the aviation age, telecommunications and the digital era and everything in between, these centenarians have witnessed a tumultuous changing world.

WILSON

They are our living treasures, absolutely. I don't think people have enough opportunities to hear first hand from people who have lived through so much.

COLGAN

Is it nice to be thought of as a living treasure?

DIXON

Yes. I just feel like an old gal trying to help the young ones.

BOGGESS

Well, I think one of the things that my generation might be able to teach others is just to have patience. You can't have everything at one time.

COLGAN

More than 300 residents have now made it to D.C.'s Centenarians Club. I'm Jill Colgan.

WILSON

So here's a question. What happens when you put lots of energy into your work, and still end up losing your job? From 2010 to 2012, Tanishia Williams Minor was the principal of Washington Metropolitan High School, or D.C. Met, an alternative high school in the District. And she is the subject of a new documentary called "180 Days: A Year Inside an American High School." It follows Minor's efforts to raise academic performance and reduce truancy at the school, which has some of the lowest standardized test scores in the city.

MS. TANISHIA WILLIAMS MINOR

There's no time to kick it and spend 15 minutes on a warm-up question, how was your summer? That ain't what it looks like in these parts, because we know that the kids are walking in with these deficits, and we know that every single second counts.

WILSON

Last year, DCPS informed Minor that her contract was not being renewed. She now works for now works for the New York City Public Schools, and Minor recently sat down with special correspondent Kavitha Cardoza to talk about her time in D.C.

MS. KAVITHA CARDOZA

There are scenes of you teaching cheerleaders a chant, encouraging educators, looking at data scores. You're such a compelling character in the documentary. Were you a good principal?

MINOR

I think I was a great principal. I think that I was able to rally folks together to do good work. We really had students who were successful, who overcame obstacles, and that, to me, is what makes a good principal.

CARDOZA

Ten percent of students were reading at grade level, and eight percent were for math. So how can you say that the students were successful?

MINOR

A success in and of itself was the fact that all of the students showed up to take the test, and all of the students participated in outside preparation classes. The truth of the matter is, no, we weren't able to move students from a third grade level to 10th grade proficiency. Or even in some cases, from an eighth grade level to a 10th grade proficiency. But what we were able to do was ensure that every single student got better, and that to me is a success.

CARDOZA

Towards the end of the documentary, your contract was not renewed. Basically, you were fired by DCPS. Why?

MINOR

I was never given a formal reason. I don't like to use the work fired, I prefer to use the term, or I prefer to say that my contract was not renewed, but to this date, I have not had actually a conversation with someone surrounding the termination of my contract.

CARDOZA

DCPS school officials told me they couldn’t comment on personnel issues. According to the Principals Union, there have been almost 150 principal changes between 2008 and 2012 in DCPS. More than a third of D.C. public schools had a change of principal, the majority were fired.

MINOR

Part of the job of the principal is to rally the troops behind a common cause, so when all of a sudden the main cheerleader for that common cause is removed, as a professional, I'm going to question, wow, does that mean what I've been doing all year has been wrong? As a student, you question, does that mean that I shouldn't have listened to this adult all year long, because you don't think that she was the right adult? So folks start to get disengaged, and they start to get desensitized, because they feel like, oh, well you might not be here at the end of the year, or, oh, it doesn't really matter, I just need to wait you out.

CARDOZA

What do you hope people take away from this documentary?

MINOR

You know, it was tough, when my contract was not renewed, and I had to have the conversation with my close circle, when I had to have the conversation with my mother, when I had to have the conversation even with the film crew, right? There was a point when I was like, I'm sorry, you chose a horrible principal, because clearly, I'm bad, I couldn't even make it to the end of the year.

MINOR

Now that I'm getting past all of those things, I think that I really want people to take away that it's okay, to know that you're doing the right thing, in spite of folks telling you that you need to do it a certain way. And it'll end up being okay because you'll have 100 percent of your seniors graduate, you'll have 100 percent of your seniors go to college. It doesn't matter that you think you said the wrong thing, or you look too fat, or everyone in the world now knows that you got fired, because the work that you did speaks for itself.

WILSON

That was Tanishia Williams Minor, the subject of a new documentary called "180 Days," speaking with WAMU's Kavitha Cardoza.

WILSON

We close today's show with Bookend, our monthly plunge into the region's literary scene.

WILSON

In this edition, I sat down with Anne Harding Woodworth at her home in the District's Woodley Park neighborhood. Woodworth isn't a D.C. native, but she's been here for 20 years. And you'd be hard pressed to find someone more enthusiastic about what the city has to offer, especially to poets.

WILSON

So, how early were you writing poetry and thinking about maybe even becoming a poet?

MS. ANNE HARDING WOODWORTH

Well, you know, I think everybody, every child dabbles in poetry. And I loved listening to poetry, but I wasn't in a family that -- it wasn't a poetry culture in my family. They read, but poetry wasn't a big thing in my childhood. So in school, I listened to a lot of that wonderful rhyming poetry that kids get. And then I started writing my own. But I never say that I started writing poetry when I was a child, because I think most children do that. I started seriously when I was about 30, in my 30s.

MS. ANNE HARDING WOODWORTH

And we were living in Greece. And I was an expat in Athens, married to a Greek. And I missed the United States at times. I'd get to the United States and I'd miss Greece. So the first book that came out was called "Guide to Greece and Back." And it sort of investigated that whole feeling of not belonging any place and wanting to be in the other place.

WILSON

In terms of trying to get published, what was your first experience there?

WOODWORTH

Well, that was that first book that I wrote in Athens, it was published by the publishing company that I was working for, so that was handy. It was called (word?) Lycabettus, which was an English language publisher in Athens, and they published my first book. Then there was a hiatus. We came back to the United States, and back to Detroit, and I found that I wanted to go to work, and there as a job at Chrysler Corporation, so I put away the poetry for about 15 years, and I worked for Chrysler.

WILSON

Was it well and truly away? Did you really kind of put it to the side?

WOODWORTH

Yes. You don't write press releases about sleek engines or sleek cars and then go home and write poetry, at least I didn't. It was impossible.

WILSON

So what allowed you to come back?

WOODWORTH

So then, my last job at Chrysler was in Germany, and while I was there, or while I was home on one of my visits back to Detroit, I met -- I was divorced by then -- and I met my husband. And my husband is one of these people who grew up with poetry around him all the time. His mother read to him constantly, and he memorized poem after poem. He's a walking poem. And so that was very helpful to me.

WOODWORTH

When we moved to D.C. and I had left Chrysler by then, I just went back to writing poetry full time, and I had the support of a man that loves poetry.

WILSON

What is it like to be a working poet in a town that's known for news and the government and the White House?

WOODWORTH

Well, first of all, I feel Washington is probably the best city to be in for poetry. There is the Folger Shakespeare Library, there's the Library of Congress, there's the Writers Center in Bethesda. There's Busboys and Poets, there's the Iota Club, Word Works. There is so much poetry going on here that I can't imagine being in a better place.

WOODWORTH

There are just people all over who are lovers of poetry, or who write poetry, all over this city. And I think it's a wonderful contrast to what's going on in people's lives here. The constant news that we get, and our interest in the government, we need some relief from that, and poetry gives that to us.

WILSON

That was poet Anne Harding Woodworth, speaking with me at her home in Woodley Park. And if you'd like to hear audio of Woodworth reading her poem, "Wireless in Italy," visit our website, metroconnection.org.

WILSON

And that's "Metro Connection" for this week. We heard from WAMU's Jacob Fenston, Kavitha Cardoza, and Jerad Walker, along with reporters Jill Colgan and Kate Sheehy. WAMU's managing editor of news is Memo Lyons. Metro Connection's managing producer is Tara Boyle. Lauren Landau is our editorial assistant. Our intern is Robbie Feinberg. Thanks, as always, to the WAMU engineering and digital media teams for their help with production and the "Metro Connection" website.

WILSON

Our theme song, "Every Little Bit Hurts" is from the album Title Tracks by John Davis, and is used with permission of the Ernest Jennings Record Company. All the music we use is listed on our website, metroconnection.org. Just click on a story and you'll find information about its accompanying song. Also on metroconnection.org you can read free transcripts of stories. And if you missed part of today's show, you can hear the whole thing online anytime. You can also find us on iTunes and Stitcher.

WILSON

We hope you can join us next week, when Rebecca Sheir will be back in the host chair, bringing you a show on Faith. We'll hear about a Muslim community's plans to move to a rural part of Maryland, and why that plan is ruffling some feathers. We'll also meet a pastor whose church recently burned to the ground, and find out how that incident is testing his congregation's faith. And we'll visit a farm that's giving retired thoroughbred horses, and the inmates who care for them, a new lease on life.

MAN

I would either be dead, or be locked up for an extremely long amount of time, if it wasn't for this program.

WILSON

I'm Jonathan Wilson, and thanks for listening to "Metro Connection," a production of WAMU 88.5 News.
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