Honorable Linda W. Cropp

Our spotlight for the month of September 2010 is the Honorable Linda W. Cropp, who served on the City Council of the District of Columbia for 16 years (from 1991 – 2007), which culminated in her becoming the 6th Chairman of the DC City Council, a seat which she held for 10 of those 16 years (from 1997 – 2007). We will talk with her about her life’s journey and find out what she is doing at this present time.

Destiny – Pride: Good morning, Dr. Cropp.  We welcome you as Destiny – Pride’s Spotlight of the Month for the month of September.  You, indeed, have had an illustrious career, including having been a licensed counselor, a President of the DC Board of Education, a DC City Council At-Large Member, a Chairman of the DC City Council and having also run as a candidate for the Mayor of the District of Columbia.  But how did your journey begin?  Tell our visitors a little about yourself – your place of birth, your parents and siblings, if any.  Also tell us about your husband and children. 

Honorable Cropp: Well, I was born in Atlanta, Georgia.  Prior to my birth, my parents [Margaret & Alexander Waller] actually lived right here in Washington, DC.  But both were from Atlanta and they went back to Atlanta, where I was born.  However, I grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  I came back to Washington, DC to attend Howard University.  My parents, however, divorced when I was very young, so I was raised by my mother, a single parent, who worked two jobs sometimes to provide me with a wonderful education and great experiences.  She past last year, but she was just an outstanding woman. 

I’m an only child, so while growing up, if chaos was in the house, I created it.  And when I got tired of the chaos, I stopped acting up [laughter].  But, even though I was an only child, I had several cousins with whom I was very close.  I would go to Atlanta every summer with the grandparents – you know how that was in those days.  My mother worked, so I was out of school and I would go with my grandparents.  At that time I would be with my first cousins an awful lot.  So I had the whole summer to have them as somewhat siblings, and we have remained close like that. 

I came to Washington DC to attend Howard University, and then I made it my home.  I got my Masters and Bachelors from Howard University, starting out as a teacher.  I was going to go back to Philadelphia at one point.  I had been hired by the private sector – GE [General Electric], actually, in their management program – but I decided to marry this Washingtonian named Dwight Cropp, and you weren’t going to dynamite him out of the City [laughter]!  So, I ended up not taking the job – well, I took the job, but I had to tell them I was not going to be able to come to their program.  Instead I took a job at Eastern High School, right here in Washington, and that was my first job.

Destiny – Pride: In what year was that?

Honorable Cropp: That was in 1969.  I took a job as a teacher, and I taught Social Studies at Eastern High School; got to become close to an awful lot of the students there – a time period when if my students didn’t come to class, I’d go to the house and knock on the door.

Destiny – Pride: In what year did you leave?

Honorable Cropp: I left there in 1971 to go to Douglas Jr. High School, because in 1969 I started teaching at Eastern; I went back to get my Masters in 1970; and when I finished my Masters in guidance and counseling, I then went to Douglas Jr. High School, which is located in Southeast.  I went there to become a guidance counselor.  I stayed at Douglas from about 1971 to 1979, when I went to Roosevelt Sr. High School.

Destiny – Pride: Back then, Eastern had the group called the Modern Strivers.

Honorable Cropp: They certainly did.  They had the Modern Strivers.  My husband actually worked at Eastern before I did.  In fact, I took over his classes.  Yes, they had the Modern Strivers.

Destiny – Pride: It’s strange that you say that.  Nancy was there when you were a teacher. 

Honorable Cropp: Oh, you are kidding!

Destiny – Pride: She graduated in 1973.

Dr. Cropp

Honorable Cropp: Unbelievable!  I taught seniors, so we probably did not have the interaction.  She may possibly have remembered me, but I was there in ’69.  When I was working on my Masters, though, I still went to Eastern, but I performed mainly as a substitute during that period because I did my Masters in two semesters.  I spent a lot of hard work on that – trying to get that done very quickly.  That’s really something.  I’ll have to talk to Nancy to see if she remembers me.

Destiny – Pride: Yes, and there was another esteemed gentleman in our church [Mount Carmel Baptist Church, Washington, DC], Mr. Jernigan.  He was also one of Nancy’s teachers.  What about your educational accomplishments?

Honorable Cropp: I got my Bachelors and Masters from Howard.  I later got several honorary doctorate degrees from George Washington, Mt. Vernon, Southeastern, Trinity and UDC.

Destiny – Pride: Who would you include on your list of individuals who have played major roles in influencing you to be who you are today? 

Honorable Cropp: I have to start with God.  I did – and do – have a very strong faith in a Supreme Being, and I tend to think that the things that I do in life are based on “do unto others,” and I truly try to follow that belief. 

My mother.  My mother was a tremendous influence.  As I said earlier, I was raised by her, alone.  She and my father divorced when I was three years old.  My mom worked two jobs.  Sometimes she worked three jobs – at the same time – to be able to provide me with all that she thought I needed to function: a good education; playing the piano; dance – things that the average single parent may not have been able to do; but she did it because she wanted me to be exposed.  She made sure that I volunteered – being a member of the Girl Scouts, being a member of other organizations so that you understood that you had to “give back” to somebody.  You had to help someone.  I really believe that my mother played a major, major role in forming those beliefs in my life, as well as my grandmother.

Destiny – Pride: What faith was your mother?

Honorable Cropp: My mother was a Baptist, and I was Catholic.  Now don’t ask me how that happened [laughter].  I think what it was, was that she sent me to a Catholic School, and at that period you become a Catholic.  So I was raised Catholic, but my mother was Baptist; her mother was Baptist.  In fact, my grandmother and my mother grew up in West Hunter Baptist Church, in Atlanta, with Rev. Abernathy.  So the families were very close, and when Rev. Abernathy would come to Philadelphia, frequently he would stay with us.  In that vain, we were somewhat close to Martin Luther King’s movement, from the family side.

Destiny – Pride: Is there anyone else who has been of great influence upon you?

Honorable Cropp: I like history; I’m a history buff, and so I would read about different people – Harriet Tubman, and the things that she had done.  You figure if somebody could surmount all of those trials and tribulations, then certainly the little things that are put in our path, we can.  But also, as an adult, my husband, who I believe is a great man, has influenced me tremendously.  Obviously, there are always teachers who have had an influence on you, but I go back to my mom and my grandmother every time, no matter what happens.  They helped to train me as to what I should be, who I should be:  be kind to others; respect other individuals; try to help people as you move along; learn something new everyday.  No matter what’s going on in your life, it’s never too busy for you to try to find out something new.  And if you did, then that was a good day!

Destiny – Pride: Now describe for us your career path, leading up to and including your City Council experience.

Honorable Cropp: I started out as a teacher, as I said, at Eastern Senior High School.  At Howard, I was a government major, and there was one professor there who believed in getting us to volunteer in the communities.  His name was Robert Martin.  One of the things that he had done for government folks was that we had to volunteer.  I happened to volunteer in the District Government, at the Board of Elections and Ethics.  I got involved in the idea of politics from volunteering at the Board of Elections and Ethics.  That sort of started my interest on that political side.  Once I finished school, my husband and I were married, and DC was, at that point, starting to get more political on the local level.  There was a lot of interest from us for a Board of Education race, so we got involved, actually, with this new candidate named Marion Barry, because we had decided that if you wanted to make your community good, then you have to become involved in your community.  You couldn’t just sit on the sidelines; you had to do something.

Dwight Cropp

So we said, “OK, this is the first ‘real’ election for the City and we were going to become involved.”  We selected our candidate and got involved with Marion Barry at that time, and that somewhat started my political life in the District of Columbia, with involvement there.

After that, when our children were born, I became very active in the PTA and other things in the community.  After a while, a Board of Education seat became available.  Different folks came and said, “Linda, we think you should run for the Board of Education.”  I never thought of myself as a political candidate, actually, and I said, “Oh, no.  That’s not me.  I’ll just help someone else get elected.”  They said, “No.  Put up or shut up” [laughter].  “You always talk this stuff, and you have to be involved in everything.  Well, we think that you would make an excellent Board of Education Member, and we would like for you to run.”  And I did.  There were different people who had come:  Ethel Lee; this guy named Hahns Larson, from Ward 4.  I got involved with the Board of Education, and that’s how it started.  I was a teacher and a counselor, so education was always my love.  My husband and I had decided that we were going to send our children to the public schools.  We wanted it to be a good experience for them as well as for all of the other children in the District of Columbia.

Destiny – Pride: You have mentioned your children several times.  How many do you have and what are their names?

Honorable Cropp: We have two children.  Allison is our oldest – her birthday was yesterday [July 22]; and Christopher.  So we have two children, and one grandchild [Christian Alexander].

Destiny – Pride: That you are tremendously in love with.

Honorable Cropp: That’s right!  In fact he’s here now; he spent the night with us.  He spends every Friday night with us.  He’s a joy in our hearts and a great gift God has given us.

Destiny – Pride: Wasn’t he born around about the time of the campaign?

Honorable Cropp: Well, a little earlier.  One of my campaigns – I’ve been in so many. 

Destiny – Pride: I mean the mayoral campaign.

Honorable Cropp: No.  By that time, he was about five; and he would go out and campaign with me [laughter].

Destiny – Pride: Yes, that’s what I was alluding to.  You were elected as a School Board Member, what did that feel like at that time, especially since you were somewhat reluctant to be the “server”? you always wanted to help others, but now you are the person.

Honorable Cropp: I always entered into my offices with an idea that I needed to help someone – to make someone else’s life better.  I would start each day with a prayer of “lead me; guide me,” so that the decisions that I would make would not be the decisions necessarily that I wanted in isolation, but would this decision really help someone else, and make it better?  I was excited with the possibilities, the potential.  I did know education; I knew children; I had an idea.  So I thought I could be of benefit.  And I think that, in the long run, it was good.  I served well.  I helped to move the system along.  So it was a good time. 

Education for our children, I still believe, is one of the most important things that a city or a community can do.  I think it’s also our biggest challenge.  And it’s our biggest challenge because, in so many instances, education is something that everybody feels they know something about – no matter who they are.  Most people probably went to, at least, the first grade.  So because of that they feel as if they’ve experienced it and they know the answers.  I think the biggest problem we face with education now is that it has not changed an awful lot; and society has changed an awful lot.  Education is almost like it was when most of us were in school.

Destiny – Pride: Would you give us an example of what you mean by that statement?  I think I have an idea, but what do you mean?

Dr. Cropp helps out at Food & Friends, a nonprofit organization that provides groceries and meals to people living with HIV/AIDS and other life-challenging illnesses in the DC/Metropolitan area

Honorable Cropp: Number one, schools were sort of put in isolation.  You have the teachers, the principals and the students.  They’re placed in a building and they’re set apart from everything else.  But there’s too much going on in the outside world now that impacts what’s happening with the children.  At one point in life – years ago – that may have worked. Today, young people are exposed to television, to movies, to other influences that are outside of the schoolhouse, but that sometimes may be a stronger influence than what goes on in the schoolhouse.  So if we truly want our children to succeed, I tend to believe that we’ve got to do an integration of all of these forces, and not just say “Okay, schools, here you are; do your thing.”  It has to be the whole community in raising our young people – to say, “We are going to educate them all together, and not just the schools,” because children are in school for six hours out of the day.  There are 18 other hours that influence who they are, and that educate them!  My math says that “18” is going to overwhelm that “six.”  So I tend to think that until all of us get a handle on that, we are not going to turn our school system around to where we want it to be, until we all understand that it’s not just what’s going on in school, but what’s going on outside of school – whether or not it’s the recreation center; whether or not it’s the movie theater; whether or not it’s the restaurants, the subways, the churches – all of them are impacting our kids.  So I tend to think now that with our elected leadership, part of their job is to bring all of these entities together; not just to leave the schools to do their thing, but to figure out how can we bring all of these other pieces in to work with our children.

Destiny – Pride: Wasn’t that the type of model – although it didn’t take well – that Superintendent Paul Vance talked about with the T9’s, which then became the Neighborhood Places, where he tried to connect them, like what you are talking about?  Where school entailed more than just “reading” and such?

Honorable Cropp: Yes.  It was the idea.  The problem was that it was an “idea,” but was never really totally integrated, because it takes more than just the Superintendant – or the Chancellor, as we now call it.  It takes the other parts of a city – of a community – becoming involved in it.  I would like to see things happen like teachers going outside of the school and doing internships outside of the school sometimes, to see what’s happening.  Maybe for a couple of weeks; not just working as a teacher, but going to and working in the community.  I’d like to see somebody from outside of the community actually going in and sitting in with the school communities for a couple of weeks, because what tends to happen in the schools is that they are so closed in as to who they are, and they don’t deal with anything else on the outside.

Destiny – Pride: So, if I’m understanding you, are you saying that on one side, teachers would really get an opportunity – if they go into the neighborhoods, the community base – to see some of the dynamics that are being dealt with there; and that if the parents, likewise, come into the schools, they would have a better appreciation for what the teachers are trying to do – and what they’re doing.  Is that what you’re saying?

Honorable Cropp: Yes, but not just the parents.  I’m talking about the world of work, too.  Teachers sometimes are some of the most insulated individuals, because the only people they deal with are the students.  It’s like a parent.  If parents are at home with their children, and they never really go outside of the home, they don’t have a larger world of exposure to show to that child.  They only have what they know, but nothing else.  That’s what happens to teachers sometimes.  Their exposure base is so narrow, to be only the book stuff.  But education is more than “book stuff.”

Destiny – Pride: So they really cannot fully “empathize” with what is really going on, or is that too hard?

Honorable Cropp: They can only deal with the book stuff that they learned in school as opposed to a true world outside that’s changing very rapidly.  The world is just changing . . .

Destiny – Pride: Facebook, Twitter . . .

Honorable Cropp: Everything!  But what’s happening in the schoolhouse is still the basic ABC’s, which you need to know – don’t get me wrong, the students need to know that.  But they also need to be able to integrate it with all this other stuff that’s happening on the outside.

Destiny – Pride: Okay.  You’re on the School Board and you’re now getting ready to make another shift.  What happened there – the shift between leaving the School Board and now running for the City Council?

Honorable Cropp: I had served on the School Board for about 11 years.  I don’t believe in “forced” term limits, but I do believe that people need to move on and not stay in positions forever.  I think forced ones are artificial, but elected officials should know when it’s time for them to move.  It was time for me to leave the school system and give someone else an opportunity to come in and serve – and bring fresh and new ideas.  And so it was my time to leave.  Once again, though, I wasn’t certain where I was headed, but different individuals came to me and said, “We think you need to run for the Council [laughter].  I had not planned – I truly had not planned – on running for the Council, but I did.  It was during a period in DC’s history where we were having a hard time in DC: we were seeing the retrenchment of money; the population was decreasing; the revenues coming into the city – decreasing; the infrastructure – falling apart; an awful lot needed to be done with the City.  The City had gone through a period where it was getting a lot of money in, and then all of a sudden, it stopped.  And that was the time period when I came on the Council.  The challenge was how do we build our City back?  How do we increase our revenues?  How do we provide services for our citizens?  We were able to do it!  It wasn’t easy.  When you’re elected, the citizens want you to give them something.  This was the time period when the City was losing money, not gaining money.

Dr. Cropp with DC Council Chairman Vincent Gray

Destiny – Pride: Were you on the Council around the time of the Control Board?

Honorable Cropp: No question about it. 

Destiny – Pride: How did that make you all feel, knowing that they were controlling most of it, even though you might legislate it?  Those had to have been some trying times, weren’t they?

Honorable Cropp: It was.  The idea of the Control Board was something that I was vehemently against.  I believed that the citizens aught to have their right to determine who is going to represent them.  I became Chairman of the Council right around that time when the Control Board was coming in, so I was determined: (1) that we were going to get rid of them as soon as possible; (2) that we were going to do our work as a legislative body, so that they would not be in control.  And you know, actually, when the Council did its work and our budget would go before the Control Board, they barely made any changes because we had done a good job.  The changes that they may have made were basically cosmetic, so that they could . . .

Destiny – Pride: . . .give some relevance to themselves?

Honorable Cropp: Right!  It may have been .25 of the whole budget!  I mean, there was very little changed, and I remember one change that they had made where we said “You don’t want to make this change; this is not a good change.”  They did it, but they then had to come back and do what the Council had said. So our budget, for the most part, was accepted.  We still did our work.  I think the biggest thing that the Control Board did that was very much against where the Council stood, was the closure of DC General Hospital.  That was the biggest thing they did that the Council was in opposition to.  The other thing was an awful lot of money was spent on contracts for consultants to come in and say what was wrong.  I’m not certain if they ever said “this is how you fix it,” too much, but a lot of contracts went out.  The expectation was for DC to be with the Control Board, probably – I don’t remember the exact number of years – but let’s say it was for about – seven years.  We got rid of them way before time!  We had to show three years of a balanced budget.  And we did!

Now I want you to keep in mind, though, when we talk about a Control Board for the District, it wasn’t necessarily because the District did something wrong.  When you look at the history of what was going on in the country as a whole, many cities were having problems.  But the District is a very unique entity.  The District was the “only” city in the whole country that paid 50 percent of Medicaid costs – no other city paid that.  The only other city that paid any Medicaid costs was New York City, and they only paid 25 percent.  So if you took that away from the District of Columbia – the Medicaid costs, like any other city – we wouldn’t have had a financial problem.  The City was the only city in the country that paid for the incarceration of felons. 

Destiny – Pride: Right, that’s a state function.

Honorable Cropp: That’s a state function.  So if you took that away, the City would not have had any financial problems.

Destiny – Pride: The interstate . . .

Honorable Cropp: That’s right.  And then the third, and probably the biggest problem, was that we had what they called an “unfunded pension liability,” and that was put on the District because of the Congress of the United States.  At one point, we had been under the control of Congress, and when we were under Congress, the pension money was paid into the Civil Service Pension.  Well, when the District was given Home Rule, then the money that the District had been paying into the pensions, they did not give us the money back.  All of a sudden, people are ready to retire.  So, those three reasons [(i) Medicaid, (ii) incarceration of felons and (iii) the withholding of pension payments] were the main reasons why the District had financial difficulty.

Destiny – Pride: Was that the pension for the police and . . .

Honorable Cropp: It was not just for police; it was for all of the District government because remember, in 1972 (when we got Home Rule), the District of Columbia was an “agency” of the Federal government.  So anyone who worked for the District of Columbia – not just police, teachers and judges – were under Civil Service.  Well that was 1972.  Now we’re talking about 1995.  These people are now retiring, but their pension money that they had legitimately paid into the pension fund was with the Federal government.  Now the District is responsible for paying their pension, but the money that they paid in . . .

Destiny – Pride: . . . was paid into the Federal government.

Honorable Cropp: That’s right.  So the District was into a terrible situation with these pension dollars.  One of the first things I did as Chairman of the Council was to make some corrections in that unfunded pension liability, where the District would not be “hanging out to dry” with that.  I also made some changes with the incarceration of felons and, as Chair, I was able to make some changes with the Medicaid payments.  So we still make Medicaid payments, unlike most other cities in this country, but it’s not 50/50 anymore.  It was 50/50; now the Federal government pays 80% and we pay 20%, which was a huge savings because if you look at the recent history of Medicaid costs, they have gone up tremendously.  In the federal budget, and most state budgets, that’s some of their highest costs – the paying of Medicaid.  So that helped us.

Honorable Cropp with former Mayor Anthony Williams, Mary Washington (wife of former Mayor Walter Washington), and others

Destiny – Pride: Okay, you have been elected to the City Council; now you are the Chairman of the Council.  What happened there?

Honorable Cropp: Well, unfortunately, the prior Chairman passed – Dave Clarke– while he was in office.  The Council had to elect an individual to take Dave Clark’s place until there was a public election by the people.  My colleagues on the Council elected me to be the Chair of the Council, and then I think 60 or 90 days later there was a public election and the citizens of the District of Columbia validated what the Council had done earlier in electing me.

Destiny – Pride: You have probably one of the most complex jobs as Chairman because you have to deal with all of the personalities and interests of 12 other Council persons.  One of the things you have been credited with during your tenure is bringing civility and balance to the process.  What was it like trying to balance all of the different interests and diversities of the Council members?

Honorable Cropp: I’m going to tell you, being Chairman of the Council is a very, very difficult job.  I don’t think most people understand the challenges that go with that job.  One, because – as you have articulated – there are so many different personalities that you are dealing with.  The Chairman of the Council is one of 13 persons.  The idea – and the challenge – is to bring different people, different views, and different visions, together to make the body flow – to get something done.  If you can imagine all of these different people coming into the room with different ideas on how to “bake a cake.”  Some may want to use flour, and some may want to use something else.  As Chair, you’ve got to get all of these people thinking in a way that you can actually put the ingredients together, get it in the oven, and get a product – that tastes good [laughter].

Destiny – Pride: On some days, you’re the “darling” of them; and on some days, you’re not.

Honorable Cropp: That’s correct, but the challenge that I think that I met that helped to make me a successful Chairman is that on just about every day, I had their respect.  They understood, one, that I did my homework.  I knew what I was talking about.  Whether we were in agreement or not, I did my homework and I knew what I was talking about.  I worked hard and then I did what I felt was best for the City and the people.  I didn’t necessarily do something only because “I” wanted it done, but I did something because it would make the City, the people or the Council better.

Destiny – Pride: You decided to run as a candidate for Mayor of the District of Columbia in the 2006 election.  What inspired you to do that?

Honorable Cropp: We had worked so hard for so many years to turn this City around.  We got a budget that’s balanced.  We were starting to improve our neighborhoods – the neighborhoods had been going down.  We started to turn our neighborhoods around.  We were getting a good rating on Wall Street, which is very important for the City because the City – like people – has debts, and you get a good interest rate if your rate is good.  We started getting businesses to come back into the City.  We got a new Giant to come into Ward 8, where there had not been a supermarket in Ward 8 for a long time.  We got other businesses to come back into the District, whereas before, they were running away.  So, we had changed a lot of things in Washington, DC, and I wanted to see that that type of progress continued.  I didn’t want it to stop or slow down.  I wanted it to continue.  I thought that it would be better if I ran for Mayor so that some of the things that we had done to improve this City would keep being done. 

Destiny – Pride: You entered into the campaign late.  Had you decided that if Mayor Williams was going to run, that you would not run?

Honorable Cropp: I didn’t think he was going to run.  I got in late probably because, once again, I had not probably necessarily intended to be there [laughter].  As I looked at what was going on, I felt that I would make the better candidate for Mayor to keep this City moving forward.  Little did I know that the Washington Post had another candidate that it was going to be the press secretary for [laughter].

Destiny – Pride: What are your thoughts about our City today?

Honorable Cropp: I think some things have moved forward.  I have great concern about the financial stability of the City.  An elected official must look at the financial stability of the City because if the City’s finances go down, it impacts everyone.  Then you cannot provide services that the people most in need should get, because the money’s not there to provide the services.  So it’s very important for elected officials to do things to keep the revenue strong because that’s how you provide the services and fulfill the needs of the citizens. 

I had hoped that education would prove moving forward; I’m not certain now.  Test scores are showing that the students in the elementary school level actually have seen a decline, and those students in the elementary level, they are the students who were here under the “new” regime, somewhat to say.  So, instead of moving forward, they have actually moved backwards, according to the test scores.  That’s very scary, quite frankly.  I think right now, we still have businesses coming into the City.  The problem is the country as a whole is having economic problems, and so the District is feeling the impact of it. 

I think one of my biggest concerns is that I see such a split in this City between the races, and I’m so sorry that was allowed to occur.  We need to have a City where everyone feels as if they are a part of the success – and if there’s a problem, everybody, unfortunately, gets a little bit of the problem, too.  But such a large, huge group of citizens in the District feel as if they are not a part of the City, and that’s a big change; and I think that is a bad thing.

Destiny – Pride: We all have highs and lows in life.  What would you consider to be among your life’s greatest accomplishment, and, on the opposite end, what would you consider to be your major disappointment?

Honorable Cropp: I believe one of my greatest accomplishments is having a family, whom I love – and they love me.  That’s good.  Obviously, the fact that I was an elected representative where I was able to help people.  The fact that I can walk down the street right now, and folks will come up to me and tell me that I made their lives better.  You can’t beat that kind of accomplishment where you have made the lives of other individuals a better thing, and I feel so good about that.

My greatest failure. . .

Destiny – Pride: It doesn’t have to be your personal failure; it could be your greatest disappointment.

Honorable Cropp: For my greatest disappointment, not necessarily my greatest failure – I’m going to go back to education.  I understood too late the importance of the total integration of a community for our students and how the schools could not be isolated.  I really would like to have seen the schools move forward.  I think that’s my greatest disappointment.  And I think that’s the biggest job that’s still left for this City.

Destiny – Pride: So am I hearing that you’re not finished yet in your journey of wanting to reach out and to help?

Honorable Cropp: I’m not finished right now.  I’m on a Board that deals with affordable housing because I feel strongly that we need to make sure that any economic level should be able to live in this City.  So I’m working hard trying to keep affordable housing in the City.

Destiny – Pride: And what Board is that?

Honorable Cropp: It’s CPDC; it’s the Community Preservation and Development Corporation.  They did the redevelopment of Mayfair Mansions, Clifton Terrace; the Overlook, over in Southeast.  We have also some facilities in Maryland and Virginia. It’s nonprofit, and all we do is try to create and redevelop affordable housing for people who may not be at the highest income level. 

Destiny – Pride: Help us to understand that.  Now, affordable housing seems to include those who earn $64,000, $69,000, because of the shift in the scale of what is construed as “affordable housing.”  When you say “affordable housing,” what are you talking about?

Honorable Cropp: I’m going to go higher.  I’m talking about people making up to $80,000.  I’m talking about people who certainly make between $25,000 to $80,000.  People who are on the extremely low end, they have always tended to get some support from the community – it may not be enough support, but there may have been some support from the community in public housing, in Section 8, and other types of help and support.  But when you have people who go out and also work everyday – some may work two jobs – and they can’t afford to live in their community, something is wrong with that!  So you need to then help to create an environment where these individuals who may make $25,000, $30,000, $40,000, $70,000 can work and live in the community.  For example, if you have somebody who is a fireman, a policeman, somebody who works in Public Works – for the City government, and maybe they make $40,000, $50,000.  Why shouldn’t they be able to live in the City where they work?  They should be able to.  And to the extent that you can have your workforce being able to live in the city where they work, it’s going to help make the city a better place!  That’s their home!  They want their home to be good!  So it’s going to help make it a better place!  I don’t want Washington, DC to become like Paris, where you have only the extremely wealthy and the extremely poor living in the city. 

Destiny – Pride: You have been out of the limelight of public life for a while.  Fill us in on some of the things in which you’ve been involved for the last several years.

Honorable Cropp: I have been serving on different Boards that work in the community.  One I just talked about was for affordable housing; the Red Cross Board; the Blue Cross Board.  One of the things I wanted to do with Blue Cross is to help them to become more involved with the citizens of the District of Columbia.

Destiny – Pride: And which Blue Cross is this?

Honorable Cropp: CareFirst Blue Cross/Blue Shield Health.  And with that, we have been able to get them more involved in the DC community at a level that they have never been involved before; with things such as the Anacostia Museum; the Hispanic community; many other health organizations; the Y.  We have contributed more than $100 million straight into the DC community.  That has been one of the changes and the missions of CareFirst Blue Cross since I became a Board Member.

Also dealing with my grandson, whom I just absolutely love and am volunteering with him and doing some things like that.

Destiny – Pride: You light up – you glow – when you mention your grandchild.

Honorable Cropp: No question about it [laughter]!!  No question about it!!

Destiny – Pride: What relaxes you?  Are there any hobbies or things of interest that are endearing to you?

Honorable Cropp: I read an awful lot.  I also love computers – I’m a “techie”; probably out of my generation, but I’m one of those techies with the computers, the iPods, the iPhone.  You name the technology, I have it, and I use it.  I like doing things with my hands.  During my period as Chairman, I didn’t have the time, but I like to sew.  I like to build things.

Destiny – Pride: Build things like what?

Honorable Cropp: Oh, I may build cabinets. . .

Destiny – Pride: Really?

Honorable Cropp: Yes!  At one point I built a grandfather clock!  I like to do things like that.  I can paint.

Destiny – Pride: Really?

Honorable Cropp: Yes!

Destiny – Pride: Pictures, or houses . . .?

Honorable Cropp: Houses, inside.  Not this time, but the time before, because I was really busy, I painted my living room and dining room.  I like doing things like that.  I can do wallpapering.  I do all kind of things such as that.

Destiny – Pride: Are there any last thoughts or insights that you would like to leave with our visitors?

Honorable Cropp: Only that for each and every one of us, the challenge is to stay involved with our community and try to help someone else, including our young people.  I also deal with several organizations where our whole job is to work with young folks and to support them and uplift them.  No matter who we are, or who we think we are, somebody helped us.  And we now have the responsibility to extend our hand and pull someone else along.

Destiny – Pride: Honorable Cropp, we congratulate you for your many accomplishments and are grateful for the impact you have had on us in your involvement in our City over the years.  Destiny – Pride, in particular, is honored that you have allowed us to spend a moment to chat with you about your life’s journey.  We wish you the best as you continue to do those things which bring joy, contentment and happiness to you and your family, and we look forward to hearing about things you are continuing to do to make life a better place for us all in the District of Columbia and beyond.

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