Saturday, May 10

BOXING UP WASHINGTON AND CALLING IT PROGRESS

SAM SMITH - Despite the rampant nonsense and insults to the city's history, culture and people, puff pieces like Paul Schwartzman's article in the Post, "Looking Past the Capital City," are important to read for what they reveal about the intentions of the city's business leaders and their official enablers. For example, Deputy Mayor Neal Albert talks about trashing the city's historic height limit and turning Deanwood, Anacostia and Congress Heights into yet more places to store people - presumably mostly white - in boring big boxes built by developer buddies. Expect Fenty to move fast; he is clearly the biggest poodle of the development crowd this city has yet seen.

Schwartzman, whether from his own distorted imagination or because he has been sold a bill of goods, engages in a number of untrue and unfair characterizations of the city. He says DC was a symbol of dysfunction with neighborhoods long-forlorn. But now planners envision "a collection of vibrant neighborhoods knitted together by mass transit." Apparently they are going to revive such forlorn neighborhoods as Capitol Hill, Brookland, Hillcrest Heights, Dupont Circle and Cleveland Park by knitting them together with… well, how about a subway?

Among the goals are "vibrant neighborhoods, scenic riverfronts, pedestrian-jammed sidewalks, art museums, shopping and fine cuisine" which apparently the planners haven't noticed already exist.

What's going on here is the traditional hubris of colonizers: nothing ever happened until we got here. This, of course, is nonsense. We have had two and quarter centuries of interesting and important history. Visitors to this town have long been fascinated by the strength and variety of our neighborhoods. And the height limit has given the city a tranquil beauty and canopy of the sky that is hard to find anymore in an urban setting. The fact that the Post chooses not to report this doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

And what has the new crowd brought with its wonderful plans and heavily subsidized economic development?

Well, for one thing, 10,000 fewer jobs for DC residents than there were in 1984,nearly 25 years ago. In other words, for DC residents all those hundreds of millions of dollars spent on sports arenas, convention centers and stadiums have been largely wasted.

According to the DC Fiscal Policy Institute, wages have barely changed in 30 years for DC's lowest-wage workers. DC's rich-poor gap has widened over the past two decades. Poverty in the District is at the highest level in nearly a decade. Since with the late 1990s, some 27,000 more DC residents have fallen into poverty. African-American residents are five times more likely than white residents to be unemployed. This gap was greater in 2006 than in any year since 1985.

Employment among African-American adults has been falling since the late 1980s. The employment rate among black adults has even fallen during the city's recent economic boom. Some 51 percent African-American adults worked in 2006, compared with 62 percent in 1988. Employment among residents with a high school diploma is at the lowest level in nearly 30 years. Just 51 percent of DC residents at this education level are working. In the late 1980s, by contrast, nearly two-thirds of residents with a high school diploma were employed.

Further, from the Census we learn that this booming town has the second-highest poverty rate in the country.

As for the alleged influx of cultural creatives, we have yet to see anyone challenge the status, say, of Sam Gilliam, Charlie Byrd or George Pellicanos. The only thing really creative about the new DC crowd is what it imagines it contributes to the place.

Neil Albert is comes across as stunningly ignorant, calling DC "a long ways away from the mature cities like New York and Chicago. . . "We would not say the city has arrived." Perhaps if he would stop having lunch with developers, he might have time to read about DC's history and learn what it has to offer right now.

Mayor Williams' sidekick, Eric Price, is just as bad. He say, "When you go to London, you don't just go there because it's the seat of power, you go to walk on the Thames or take the Underground or go shopping" . . .

He said the same expectation should exist for Washington. "It's a place, a world-class city that you go to for all it offers," he said. "You go for the parks, the ballgames, the waterfronts." Has the guy ever actually looked around DC?

It's sad what this crowd is up to, but at least you have been warned.

1 Comments:

At 4:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Any idiot can get a job in this city... I did when I was 15, and I washed dishes for $5.25 per hr. It's just a matter of wanting to... and unfortunately (and you know it's true!) many simply don't want to. It's easier to receive handouts. So let's stop pretending unemployment is due to lack of opportunities. Now if you argue that there isn't true equality of opportunity, then I'd absolutely agree...

 

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