The Eastern Market Community Advisory Committee (EMCAC) met virtually at 7 p.m. June 29. The meeting began with a pledge by acting Chair Chuck Burger to give consideration to a return of in-person meetings with the September meeting.
EMCAC will not meet in July or August.
Security as an issue was discussed extensively. EMCAC member Anita Jefferson who represents the outside vendors had attended a District-sponsored training session for active shooters as well as vehicle-as-weapon incidents.
Jefferson said she believed the session went well but said that it was focused too much on the indoor market. “You wonder what could you do when you are outside? Where do you go and hide?” she asked. “You are pretty much a sitting duck.”
Jefferson said from her standpoint there are concerns about being trampled by a crowd in the mayhem after the realize there is a shooter.
Market Manager Barry Margeson was blunt. “What do you do? And frankly there is not much to do. You run or you hide.”
Burger responded gravely. “We could be one event away from something.”
Due to COVID-related budget cutbacks, the Market no longer has any permanently assigned security other than the police as they include the Market as part of their daily patrolling.
EMCAC member Susan Oursler asked for an update on an issue that had been previously addressed and agreed upon as necessary for market security in such a situation. Eastern Market currently lacks a public address system. She said that while DGS can train the vendors, another concern is the shopper; a public address system would allow management to offer information and instruction to outdoor crowds.
Margeson said he would consult with DGS and update EMCAC on the status of such as system. “What is clear is the notion that there are few choices in what would be a very difficult situation,” Margeson said.
Margeson pointed out that an emergency response plan (ERP) was being put together with a “very experienced” trainer, Michael Lightfoot. Margeson said Lightfoot has created over one hundred ERPs and works closely with the DGS risk management team. Lightfoot recently departed the DC Parks and Recreation Department, Margesons said, and has done all of the DC DPR plans.
Margeson said he will reach out to Lightfoot to stimulate discussion. “It is clear there is not much of a focus on what is done from a communication standpoint,” he added.
Burger said he would call EMCAC together shortly and discuss security plans thoroughly. “The issue is can we execute it. Not that we cannot put a plan together. We need to have a deeper conversation and understanding for what is the plan.”
Margeson agreed to send Burger and EMCAC the current ERP for an update and for comment and to allow time for feedback by the next meeting.
Burger turned the meeting over to Margeson who reported projected year-to-date (YTD) annual market revenue of $733,539. That seems to be an indication that the Market is slowly rebounding from the economic impact of the pandemic. Market revenue was approaching one million dollars annually when COVID upended the world, together with Eastern Market.
North Hall revenue, the strongest indicator of a return to normal, as it relies on revenue for in-person bookings, is projected to be $59,000 in the fourth quarter. Revenue bottomed during the nadir of the pandemic at $600 per month.
Peter J. Waldron is a long time Hill resident and former Chair of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6B. He has been reporting on Eastern Market for fourteen years. Waldron can be reached at [email protected]