Hi everybody! I’m Caitlin Rogger, and I’m excited to join Greater Greater Washington as Policy Manager.
I moved to Capitol Hill from London in 2014, with a husband, seven-week-old infant, and no furniture. Perfect strangers from all walks of life made us feel welcome and not so far from the support we feared we’d miss, with my family in California and my husband’s even further. I’d lived in and loved many metropolitan areas, but never experienced a comparable sense of community. It’s a significant part of why I feel so invested in this region, and in what we could become.
In the midst of a career in public health at the World Health Organization and other large, international institutions, I started looking for ways to support equitable and sustainable development of our own region. For what I’ve learned so far, I owe thanks to my fellow members of ANC6A’s Public Space and Transportation Committee, fellow volunteers at our local public school, and my neighbors.
One neighbor particularly inspires my commitment to our wider urban community: Mr. William Outlaw. Mr. Outlaw (and his wife, whom I sadly did not know) has devoted much of his life to promoting a community that works for everyone in it. After decades of volunteering in various guises, he’s now in his 90s and receives every package on our street. His goal is to protect his neighbors from package theft, but his impact in doing so is much greater: we see each other at Mr. Outlaw’s in the afternoons and evenings; we talk to each other; we care about him, and that shared connection makes us care about each other.
Your views, your identity, your contribution to life, whether you did anything for him in the last year are totally immaterial when you set foot in his door: he’s doing a service for you because you’re his neighbor. This is the essence of the value that I believe urbanism brings.
Urbanism isn’t about being on the ‘right’ side of every issue. It’s about recognizing the profound value of living closely to many other people, whose backgrounds and ideas can combine, clash, and generate novel or beautiful solutions. Our interdependence as individuals and groups can lead to competition as well as collaboration. Both can be healthy, and both can also be useless. It’s incumbent on each of us to apply some of our resources—and we have access to lots in this region, from skills to knowledge to culture to history to networks to finance—to make something great out of those opportunities.
From just a couple weeks at GGWash, seeing the work of the community of mainly volunteers, I’m enthralled by the open window in front of us. Through our combined power, we can keep making this region better. (And then people will talk and we’ll need even more housing…)
I’d like to see more people in this region who aren’t naturally die-hard urbanists come to actively support our movement for more housing and better transportation, whether because of moral convictions or because it simply makes sense.
I’m married to an economist, so I believe in personal incentives. I don’t ride the bus primarily because I want to support this theoretically efficient and pro-equity means of transportation. I ride it because it makes the most sense for getting my younger child across town to daycare every morning. While I support low-carbon modes of transport, that’s not why I bikeshare home every evening; it’s because it’s fun and nice to be outside, and also comparatively quick.
Is there room for people like me—who see the benefits of urbanism but needed to learn the ropes over time—to contribute? Good, because I have some ideas!
I’m looking forward to working on key transportation priorities for GGWash, like bus service that is reliable, fast and safe; and more and better bike lanes. I’ll be advocating for making our transportation services across the board—from Metro Rail to scooters—more accessible for every demographic and geographic slice of our region.
I can’t wait to meet you and see what we do together.
(As a postscript, I’m very pleased to report our block will soon be ceremonially named in honor of the Outlaw family’s contributions. Come visit Outlaw Way!)
Editor’s note: Do you want to be part of the GGWash team too? We’re hiring for another position, Housing Program Organizer!