Georgetown Current

2nd District sees command change

January 12, 2011

Cmdr. Matthew Klein of the Metropolitan Police Department’s 2nd District announced this weekend that he is stepping down from the post he has held for a little over two years. In an open letter to the community, he said the transfer would allow him to spend “much needed time” with his family.

Klein will be replaced by Inspector Michael Reese, formerly of the Capitol Hill substation in the 1st District.

Fraternal Order of Police head Kris Baumann openly doubted Klein’s time-with-family claim -- a workhorse for outgoing officials of all professions.

In a Washington City Paper report, Baumann alleged that the move is a result of Klein’s role in exposing the open-book cheating scandal that had Assistant Police Chief Diane Groomes investigated and then exonerated. Baumann cited “widespread information” within the department that Klein was involved as a whistleblower, but neither Klein nor department officials have discussed the lead-up to Groomes’ suspension.

Those reports are “very troubling” if true, Ward 3 Council member Mary Cheh said in an interview. She added that she is “sorry to see [Klein] go” and described him as a commander who was responsive to the community.

In an interview, Klein said that he was not forced to step down. “I’ll just say I asked Chief Lanier for a move,” he said. Klein will retain the rank of commander in his new post as court liaison, within the department’s Internal Affairs Bureau.

Klein, who oversaw a 10 percent drop in crime in the past year in his district, said that he will miss the men and women who “work tirelessly” to protect the community. He also noted another focus during his tenure: “We have worked to improve our responsiveness to the community,” he said.

“We’re sorry to see him go,” said Ed Solomon, an advisory neighborhood commissioner for Georgetown and Burleith. “We had a superb working relationship with Cmdr. Klein -- he was attentive to community needs, he responded to requests and directed resources where they were needed.” But, he added, “we understand there will always be changes within the command structure.”

In recent months, problem areas in Klein’s district included spikes in burglaries in Ward 3 and thefts from autos across the 2nd District. The former led Police Chief Cathy Lanier to issue a letter to the community saying that she had ordered Klein to redeploy units to the area and update her daily on progress.

Alma Gates, a community coordinator for Police Service Area 205 in the Palisades, said Klein’s “greatest strength was his ability to listen and assess and respond.” He followed the community listserv and addressed issues before they had a chance to escalate, Gates added.

Both Gates and Solomon said they are optimistic about the chances for continuing the outgoing commander’s community-oriented policing. The newly promoted Reese had reached out to each of them in recent days to introduce himself, they said.

“Ongoing and consistent communication with the community” is key to good police work, Reese said in an interview yesterday.

“That’s what they’ll get with me,” added Reese, a Bloomingdale resident who spent years in investigative units before returning to patrol divisions, including school security, under Chief Lanier.

“He wants to get off to a fast start to learning about neighborhood issues,” Solomon said. “So reaching out to community leaders was a positive step.”

That said, each change in leadership is a challenge for the community, said Gates, who also welcomed Reese’s overtures. “There’s an adjustment period felt … through the entire staff. Everyone is on new ground.”

Council member Cheh agreed. “Of course we welcome Cmdr. Reese,” she said. “But there is a benefit to the continuity of command.”


Current Staff Writer



This article appears in the Jan. 12 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.



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Georgetown Park angels seek to enliven mall

January 11, 2011

Current Staff Writer

If Hallmark made retail-themed holiday specials, the plot might look something like this: An oft-derided shopping mall, doing poorly despite its fabulous location, doesn’t have much in the way of holiday spirit -- no Santa to bring in the kids, and little besides poinsettias for decoration. The darkness of shuttered shops cancels the twinkle of the surviving merchants, and locals shun the once-popular spot.

Enter a trio of female entrepreneurs -- let’s call them angels -- eager to spread a little holiday magic and boost everyone’s bottom line in the process.

But this is no soft-focus television movie; it’s a story unfolding right now at the Shops at Georgetown Park. Business owners (and friends) Kassie Rempel of Simply Soles, Heidi Kallett of The Dandelion Patch and Stephanie Fornash Kennedy of Fornash have joined forces to breathe new life into the 1980s structure.

And the trio has chosen not harp-plucking heavenly hosts as their inspiration, but cultural icons from the era when the mall was new: Charlie’s Angels, meet Georgetown’s Angels.

The year has been a busy one for the Shops at Georgetown Park, which went to auction this summer. One advantage of the sale to a New York-based firm (which brought in Virginia-based Vornado to manage the mall) was the curtain call on a years-long legal battle between mall developer Herb Miller and Georgetown-based competitor Anthony Lanier.

That wrangling had left merchants uncertain and redevelopment plans on the sidelines. But as new owners Angelo, Gordon & Co. get their bearings, the status quo has largely held for shop owners, say the entrepreneurs.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Kennedy, who runs a wholesale business as well as a women’s clothing-and-accessories retail operation out of her Georgetown Park storefront. A Georgetown resident who has been in the mall since 2002, Kennedy has seen it decline as her own business has grown -- most visibly last year when Oprah Winfrey selected a Fornash scarf as one of her “favorite things.”

“I personally got to experience the Oprah effect,” Kennedy said with a laugh.

Kennedy may be accustomed to the mall’s lacking foot traffic, but Rempel and Kallett are experiencing their first holiday season at Georgetown Park -- and it’s an eye-opener, said Kallett.

“I’m right where I projected I would be,” she said. Unfortunately, that means her Georgetown store has performed only 20 percent as well as her other locations did in their first quarters.

But Kallett, who got a recent nod in the Washington Business Journal as a “Woman Who Means Business,” said she’s still glad she made the decision to locate one of her four area gift-and-bridal shops in the mall. When she goes to D.C. bridal shows in the new year, it’ll be a huge advantage to have a local address to offer brides, said Kallett, who estimates that her other locations have captured 10 percent of the Northern Virginia market for wedding invitations.

It was over a celebratory meal for Kallett’s new storefront that the “angels” were born. Venting about the mall’s issues wasn’t enough for the entrepreneurs. “We can’t just sit here and complain,” Kallett recalled thinking.

Each is kept busy by her own business, but the trio has managed already to alert their merchant neighbors, mall management and the Georgetown Business Improvement District to their new initiative -- which comes complete with a Charlie’s Angels-inspired poster and logo.

And they’ve taken one step toward their ultimate goal: bringing the Georgetown-resident shopper back to the mall. A mailer went out in November to neighbors of the mall, and there’s been some traffic thanks to that, say the business owners.

But look out for more angel activity in the new year, said Simply Soles’ Rempel, who offers her shoe designs -- including one featured in InStyle magazine this month -- out of two storefronts and has a significant online presence as well. “We’ll work with the owners to have a spring event to draw traffic,” she said. So far, she said, mall management has been supportive -- but has not offered financial assistance to the angels’ marketing effort.

Rempel said she hopes the year will also bring information from the mall’s new ownership about what redevelopment scheme it will pursue. But a year is a long time in retail, she noted. “That’s why we want to find ways to improve the mall now.”

But just as the original angels were always left guessing by the cryptic Charlie, this trio has to wonder what the future holds for the mall and their storefronts. “I really hope [the owners] come back with a plan that’s strategic and thoughtful,” said Kallett. “I just hope it’s not three years from now.”

This article originally appeared in the Dec. 15 print edition of The Georgetown Current newspaper.

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