BASEBALLProgressive Review




















LEO ALEXANDER, DC WATCH - I remember when I first came to the District to work for WRC-TV4 as a news reporter in 1995. I wanted to know how did this community reelect a man after that famous bust at the Vista Hotel. I knew, because of my experience as a black man in this country and a child of the movement, that when the government is investigating you and the majority of the white community doesn't like you, then you must be doing something right. I couldn't wait to get here to witness it myself -- what is it about this one brother? After attending my first Mayor Barry press conference I knew the deal. Regardless of his personal weaknesses; i.e., drug addiction, women, taxes, etc., to me, his proud legacy will remain that he tried to create a level playing field for his community. In spite of everything, black folks simply know Marion Barry will never sell them out.

LEA ADAMS, DC WATCH - What if Mother Theresa were robbed at gunpoint by an orphan she picked off a Calcutta dung heap? Or Nelson Mandela, by a black South African kid? What if you gave a job to a poor kid who then robbed you at gunpoint? If you spent your entire adult life trying to help downtrodden, underprivileged people you chose to live among, where's the punch line in being hurt, in feeling betrayed? If you can imagine yourself in those shoes, how would you feel?. . .

Barry's flaws speak for themselves and, unlike most of ours, are fair game. But the fact is, his is a record I couldn't match, and I doubt that many of us would dare to try. He stays his course while carrying some very heavy baggage. We could learn from that if we spent less time pointing fingers and more examining our own lives and the common ground we could be cultivating. We all fall down, and some get more help rising than others. Marion Barry gets up every day to face internal and external struggles that would have taken a less courageous man out of the fight. I believe he is motivated by a genuine commitment to help people emerge from miseries he has experienced, and to be a role model for people who in many cases have never had one. . . .

CALVIN H. GURLEY, DC EXAMINER LETTER - Some still don't know (and others will not offer the facts) that the newly elected Mayor Barry inherited from the federal government an out-of-control pension program, a large jail and the D.C. Superior Court system, which were funded entirely by the federal government during Mayor Walter Washington's tenure. Congress refused to do the responsible thing. It had three choices: Finance the state-obligated systems, give D.C. its full federal payment or allow a commuter tax.

Congress did nothing but let Barry take the financial blame. Mayor Tony Williams has not yet won my test for running a city without destroying the middle-class residents, destroying a hospital, closing vocational training schools and cutting funds from the city university. Williams is marauding the residents' pocketbooks instead going toe-to-toe with the U.S. Congress for a full federal payment.

DUNCAN SPENCER, THE HILL - Barry is like a crumbling but spectacular building; rather than tear it down, we should remember and celebrate its part in city history. . . Those who remember Barry on the rise . . . remember the sparkling speaker who genuinely cared for people who were disregarded and pushed around by police and the ruling cadre of older white men, the D.C. commissioners. They remember the dashiki, the marches, the protests, Barry the firebrand of the school board, a man who built his political base on black pride and the demand for jobs.

It was those two, the pride and the belief that a job was almost a right for D.C. citizens, that won allegiance of the thousands. For above all, Barry was concrete, down-to-earth - "in your face," as they used to say. He promised jobs and he gave them, making the public schools, the University of D.C., the Department of Recreation and others into job banks. The model was Barry's famous summer jobs program, a pure giveaway. At the height of his hiring, close to 40,000 were on board, about one-third more than required. . .

By whatever means, Barry achieved one goal. He created a black middle class like that of no other city. And he drew world attention to his creation. In Washington, that class ran things and Barry was a national symbol of black mastery. When the Washingtonian magazine (which has overwhelmingly white readership) ran a cover picture showing two scoops of chocolate ice cream on top of one of vanilla and the line "Chocolate City," it was like homecoming for his grand ideas.

Much good came along with the vast expenditures and the inevitable mini-scandals of a bloated, under-employed bunch of paper shufflers. The jobholders and their sons and daughters became solid middle-class taxpayers. Barry mistook one thing -- he meant to cement his own political base with D.C. jobholder voters, but his lament in his last years was that his people took the money and ran - to the suburbs. Such a mass of city employees left for Prince George's County (Barry's estimate was 70 percent) that it became known as "Ward 9.". . .

Through it all, Barry enriched his cronies, his constituents, everyone but himself, to the lasting shame of the smooth men in good suits who preyed on his goodwill and got themselves rich. For him there was to be no soft landing, no comfortable university tenure, no stocks and bonds. He ran for Ward 8 because he needed the money.

Least careful of men, Barry used only the flimsiest excuses "my redemption," etc. when he was embarrassed by his excesses. He seemed not really to care about his public image; his private life was distressingly public. Yet he was and is able to maintain the goodwill of many voters; even in this time of clear diminishment, he was able to hurl a populist wrench into the plans of the baseball developers, making himself and his unique but outdated brand of politics the center of attention.

Attention came again in an empty hallway in Anacostia, but to an old man with his bag of groceries. Youthful thugs, the indulged wastrels he had always championed, held a gun; he looked like nobody, an easy mark.



DAVID A NAKAMURA, WASH POST BLOG, 2008 - So two games into the home schedule for the Washington Nationals and they draw only 20,487 in the 41,888-seat stadium. Was this a fluke due to the mildly chilly weather or a sign that maybe D.C. never really did want baseball back? And what about all that economic development that was supposed to come to the area because so many fans would be around for each game? At the Post yesterday, an editor was trying to give his tickets away and was having difficulty finding takers.

ANOTHER WAY TO LOOK at it is to note the Nationals had 29 more spectators at this week's game than the DC Uniteds averaged last year at considerably less cost to the DC taxpayer. Here, thanks to Steven Goff at the Post, are recent average attendance for various local sports:

Washington Redskins: 2006 Average: 87,631

Maryland Football: 2006 Average: 49,393

Washington Nationals: 2007 Average: 24,217

D.C. United: 2007 Average: 20,458

Washington Wizards: 2007 Average: 18,372

Maryland Basketball: 2007 Average: 16,822
Georgetown Basketball: 2007 Average: 10,441

Washington Mystics: 2007 Average: 7,788
GW Basketball: 2007 Average: 3,403

Washington Capitals: 2007 Average: 13,929

ATTENDANCE at the Nationals has been dropping ever since they arrived:

2005: 33,651
2006: 26582
2007: 24217



DC EXAMINER - Privacy advocates are alarmed by a D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles initiative to embed SmarTrip computer chips inside every new D.C. driver's license, making it easier than ever to track D.C. residents on their travels through the transit system. The DMV will spend $830,000 a year to install SmarTrip chips in all driver's licenses and identification cards starting in October 2008. . .

SmarTrip does, however, provide Metro and the government with a system to follow users, though Hazel said the agency "has no intention to track [a] person's movements on the Metro system." People who read this also read:

"If you're paying your fare with it, they're going to have the ability to know by name who entered each Metro station at what time and who exited a Metro station at what time," said Paul Stephens, director of policy and advocacy with the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. "That can be used by the government to track your comings and goings. It's an absolutely awful idea."

Metro's policy is to release Smar-Trip information to law enforcement purposes, or at a cardholder's request. . .

Melissa Ngo with the D.C.-based Electronic Privacy Information Center said D.C. is "setting up an infrastructure where the government can track you all the time."




ONE OF THE CURIOSITIES of the collapse of the First American Republic has been why it happened so quietly. Part of this is due to the entropy of liberalism much as occurred in pre-Nazi Germany. After all, when the best the opposition can come up with is Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi you can't be too surprised at the success of the creeping coup. Part of it is due to the unprecedented role of propaganda in our society with major mind-warping by television still hardly a half century old. Part of it is due to the willingness of the young to accept so easily the values foisted upon them by politicians, the media and corporations including a definition of cool and hip that comes straight from advertising agencies rather than from rebellion. Part of it has been due to the extraordinary increase in police state procedures. In any case, there have probably been few times in human history when one was more likely to find a memory of rebellion among the aging than its manifestation among the young. Thus, despite being overwhelmingly opposed to the Iraq war, the latter have been unable to even stage a decent march on Washington.

There are, of course, exceptions, among the most striking being punk rock and the Critical Mass bike movement. It is not unusual that rebellion comes from artistic or off-beat places. A guitar or a bike can serve when words and organization fail.

Another manifestation of rebellion is graffiti. Typically dismissed as just more adolescent misbehavior, graffiti is, almost by definition, a cry for attention by the weak. It usually, however, lacks a clear or even inferred political message. One striking exception involves the saga of Borf in Washington DC, the up-tight, narcissistic epicenter of post-constitutional and corporatic America.

The graffiti assault by Borf has been predictably condemned in a city where a local councilman was almost successful at banning the young from music clubs even if they didn't drink. To use the capital's favorite condemnation, graffiti is 'inappropriate.' And so two years ago, the perp - or one of them - went to jail and peace was restored so the city could return to more important matters like ruining Iraq, finding more ways that campaign contributors can be rewarded for their kindnesses and ignoring the ecological crisis.

But the Borfians have not gone away. They are presently having an art exhibit and last summer issued a manifesto via You Tube.

What does this mean? Perhaps little or nothing, but there are too many echoes of earlier rebellions - including the Paris of the 1960s - to ignore. The following will help bring you up to date.

WIKIPEDIA - John Tsombikos is a graffiti artist responsible for the "Borf" graffiti seen in and around Washington, DC during 2004 and 2005. This four letter word was ubiquitous around the Northwest quadrant of DC, and ranged from simple tagging to complete sentences to two-color stencils to a massive defacement on an overhead exit sign from the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge to Constitution Avenue. Tsombikos was arrested July 13, 2005 after tips from locals led police to his latest tag. His graffiti also appeared elsewhere, and was reported on in such places as in New York City, San Francisco, Rome, Italy, Raleigh, North Carolina and elsewhere in Europe.

The Borf graffiti campaign attracted widespread attention without explaining its motivations. The prevalence of Tsombikos' tag revived the concerns commonly surrounding graffiti. Can graffiti be justified? Do tags have any significance other than the expression of juvenile narcissism? The questions of validity regarding the Borf tag remained unanswered until Tsombikos' arrest when the Washington Post released an article dedicated to Tsombikos.

According to Tsombikos's mother and subsequent Borf communiques, both the nickname "Borf" and the Borf face were references to a close friend of Tsombikos who had committed suicide. . .

Approximately four months after his arrest, Tsombikos appeared before the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, complete with paint-stained attire. . . On December 12, 2005, Tsombikos pleaded guilty to one count of felony destruction of property. He agreed to perform community service, cleaning up graffiti, and to pay $12,000 in restitution. Judge Leibovitz ordered him to stay out of the District except for court appearances and classes at the Corcoran College of Art and Design. On February 9, 2006, Tsombikos was sentenced to 30 days in the D.C. Jail, with an additional 17 months suspended, in addition to his community service and restitution.

At an event in Dupont Circle after Borf's arrest, young people handed out free spray paint and anarchist pamphlets. The following was distributed as a "communiqué" at the event: "Borf is not caught. Borf is many. Borf is none. Borf is waiting for you in your car. Borf is in your pockets. Borf is running through your veins. Borf is naive. Borf is good for your liver. Borf is controlling your thoughts. Borf is everywhere. Borf is the war on boredom. Borf annihilates. Borf hates school. Borf is a four letter word for joy. Borf is quickly losing patience. Borf yells in the library. Borf eats pieces of shit like you for breakfast. Borf is digging a hole to China. Borf is bad at graffiti. Borf is ephemeral. Borf is invincible. Borf. Borf ruins everything. Borf runs near the swimming pool. Borf keeps it real. Borf writes you love letters. Ol' Dirty Bastard is Borf. Borf knows everything. Borf is in the water. Borf doesn't sleep. Borf systematically attacks the infrastructure of the totality. Borf is a foulmouth. Borf eats your homework. Borf brings you home for dinner. Borf is the dirt under your fingernails. Borf is the song that never ends. Borf gets down. Borf gets up. Borf is your baby. Borf is neither. Borf is good for your heart, the more you eat the more you. Borf is. Borf knows. Borf destroys. Borf is immortal. Borf pulls fire alarms. Borf scuffs the gym floor. Borf is looking through your mom's purse. Borf is M. Borf is the size of Alaska. Borf likes pizza. Borf is in general. Borf is X. Borf ain't nothin' to fuck with. Borf runs it. Borf has reflexes like a cat. Borf is immortal. Borf sticks gum under the desk. Borf is omnipotent. Borf is flawed. Borf is winning."


JULY 2006 - Recently, the press has made much hullaballoo on the capture of minor Borfist John Tsombikos. This member is henceforth purged.

On October 22nd, 2003 our friend Borf hung himself from a basement pipe in a suburb of the nation's capital. This was not a solitary act. Over 30,000 people in the US alone fall victim to this conspiratorial violence. It is the 3rd leading killer of young people, ages 15-24, and outnumbers homicides 3 to 2. This epidemic cannot be medicated into remission. It is not a problem confined to our family bloodline. "Trouble at home" is not the only trigger for depression.

People like [D.C.] Mayor Anthony Williams and developer Jim Abdo who maintain the gentri-fucking of our neighborhoods, establish 10 o'clock curfew laws targeting youth, ultimately deciding D.C.'s fate without the consent of its residents; as well as politicians and CEO's around the world - these are the conspirators who would rather see us fight their wars and work in their sweatshops than see us develop and build supportive communities and relationships. They would rather see homeless shelters be turned into condos and would rather profit off of our misery through the funding of programs that stifle our creativity and imagination than spend a dime on programs that empower youth and give us the tools to think independently. Given these offenses, would anyone be surprised that so many young people feel so worthless? The message is clear: Leurs actions systematiquement se rendent a la perpetuatien de notre isolement et notre condition de precarite'.

These feelings of powerlessness and alienation, which are characteristics of living in an abusive culture, can be paralyzing and debilitating, leaving youth with few options. Either we can give up and self-destruct or realize our anger and frustration through property destruction and other anti-social acts. Graffiti for us was merely the expression of our frustration, an act in retaliation for Borf's destruction. We needed to make our discontent visible. We have destroyed countless thousands of dollars worth of property as have our Parisian counterparts and the frustrated youth of the world who are forced to make a decision to either fall or destroy that which is pushing.

Rather than fall into quiet despair, we shall purple the proverbial nurple of the grey matter at hand. As our nurples have endured incessant purplings in untold schools, malls, courtrooms, office buildings and even while we walk home, we will no longer idly abide by bouts of unbearable purple nurpling.

Today begins Operation: Twist & Shout. - WE TWIST, YOU SHOUT -

Twist & Shout will make you uncomfortable. For every rush hour Metro delay, dropped cell phone call, jammed coin return, mysterious odor, Borf will be involved. We will reface every wall, rhyme on every stall and have the gall to have a blast.

Borf is alive and well. How are you?



BOB, OCTOBER 19, 2006 - What the B-Brigade do is actually creative. Consider the number of teenagers who kill their classmates, who kill each other by driving recklessly. Think about teenagers who feel compelled to hide their sexual desires or want of social acceptance because our patronizing society will not accept it from them at their age. Consider the effect that has. How many people do you think have social problems and suffer from depression? So many that it should be considered normal instead of abnormal in our society. . .

In most suburban communities, the reality of a police state is quite apparent as the youth are punished for asserting independence during a transitional period in their lives. The US has taken a completely opposite road as the Europeans have in dealing with adolescence, and it reflects on how poorly we (the US) understand and deal with the developmental psychology of adolescence.

I'd like to outline some policies which Europe has implemented which better allow the youth to come into their independence and responsibilities quicker and why this has made the youth in those countries substantially happier and healthier:

1. Age to drink beer and wine 16, Hard liquor 18. The most likely response from an American audience is that such a policy would lead to alcoholism and delinquency. This is far from the truth. In Europe, you can drink earlier, which also means you can go to bars and clubs at an earlier age. As a teen in America, you do not have the option of being openly independent. Most parents frown upon their teenage children staying out late at night. Rightly so, because since there is nothing to do, most teens find reckless things to do instead, like e.g. racing cars, congregating in parking lots, drinking in someone's garage - which always ends up in someone driving drunk. If you let the youth drink at an early age and go to bars or dance clubs, you let them assert their independence in a controlled environment without being reckless. Additionally, this teaches the youth responsibility with alcohol at an accelerated rate while letting them be social and congregate with others their age.

2. There is a caveat to drinking at an earlier age. In Europe you cannot drive until you are 18. This makes sense of course, because if you are experimenting with alcohol you shouldn't be driving. However, by the time you can drive, one already knows how to be responsible with alcohol. By contrast, our system lets you become a good driver first, and then lets you fuck it up when you are allowed to drink at 21. And even still, I would wager that most youth in America drink before 21 anyways and risk doing it secretly while driving around.

3. The ability to transport yourself makes you independent. In Europe, since you cannot drive until 18, they have one thing we do not have - that we would stand to benefit greatly from for other reasons - they have a massive public transit system. This allows young people to transport themselves freely without the need to drive anywhere in a car. I'd say everyone in society would benefit from such infrastructure, since even adults have problems with getting to and from a bar. But the youth stand to benefit much more, because they don't need to rely on Mom or Dad to take them places. They can feel free to test their independence and make their own choices - what to do, where to go, who to meet. In America, you can drive anywhere you want, but there is nowhere to go. And if there is a place to go, it is most likely not a controlled location. The result is delinquency.

4. The age of sexual consent is staggered. At age 14 one can get with a 14 year old and a 15 year old. At 16 one can get with a 15, 16, or 17 year old. At 16 the range goes from 15 to 18, and at 18 one is good to go. I think many Americans might fear such a thing, thinking the youth would have wild orgies and teenage sex would be widespread. In fact, this isn't the case. In Europe, more sexual freedom allows the youth to understand themselves and their sexuality at an age when they should be able to get to know themselves better. Our society still represses sexuality and refuses to let the youth engage in sexual conduct unless it is out of the public's vision. Think about the shame the youth feel when they do something they are biologically capable and mature to do. Think about what sort of effect this has on teenage pregnancy and the desire to hide one's shame through such acts as abortion. I agree that sex education is the best tool to fight teenage pregnancy. But sex education fails to take into account that teenagers simply aren't allowed to engage in sexual conduct. It is shunned upon. Changing our statutory standard would help free society a bit from its self imposed Freudian prison.

The end result of teenage independence is a well rounded individual with no social anxiety and a way to be independent from parents and the patronizing aspects of society while building trust with them through exercising their newfound independence in a responsible manner. In America, if you try to do something that someone your age is doing in Europe, even if you think you are doing it responsibly, you get the smack down. That is a fact.

No wonder our youth is killing itself.

CLAUDE WILLAN, WASHINGTON POST, 2005 - Borf wasn't an isolated guy; he was a phenomenon. People from L.A. to Europe have assumed his identity and turned it into a group endeavor, subverting popular cultural images in a practice that my twenty-something contemporaries call "culture jamming." This kind of collective identity (which is a kind of anonymity, if you think about it) is my generation's reaction to having been spoon-fed advertising and having had identities marketed to us. We've been led to believe that to be homogenous and fit into certain characteristics is safe and desirable. Even correct. Crudely put, culture jammers represent the way people my age feel about modern society: that its images don't relate to us; that we won't or can't engage with what we've been told we should be; and that all we can do to make ourselves heard is to twist these images back on themselves.

In a sense, I'd got to know Borf before I came to America from Britain three weeks ago. He's the American incarnation of British graffiti artist Banksy, who is notable, among other things, for creating pictures of Winston Churchill with a green mohawk. Banksy has been pulling much the same stunt as Borf, in much the same stencil style, and for longer; and he has maintained his anonymity (although he has an agent and a bank account). Major stores have even released posters of his images, making him rich along the way. It's commonplace now in small British towns to see what could only be described as Banksy knock-offs: graffiti mimicking his style and passed off as originals. Just as Banksy's identity has been co-opted into a collective body, so has Borf's.

Both tap into ideas articulated by the American graphic artist Shepard Fairey, whose bold, stylized pictures of the late professional wrestler Andre the Giant, which are plastered up in public spaces, are juxtaposed with slogans like "Obey" or "Giant." Fairey says that in his project (called "Andre the Giant Has a Posse") the medium is the message. What Fairey produces looks like trendy advertising but is in fact a deliberately empty message. He's therefore engaged in the subversive distribution of a meaningless thing; it's anti-marketing, anti-singularity, anti-message.

Maybe the reason why apparently empty messages like these resonate with my generation is that we don't have any icons of our own. We don't have an Allen Ginsburg, or a Jack Kerouac. We don't even have a Douglas Coupland -- the writer who articulated the idea that the main characteristic of the '90s generation was that it had no characteristic.

We have no Bob Dylan, no Bruce Springsteen. When someone recently asked me why people my age (I'm 21) listen to bands from our parents' generation, I had to explain that, with a few exceptions, we don't have any real musicians any more. Without massive advertising campaigns, a lot of the "music" you can buy today, like Beyonce, wouldn't exist.

We're a voiceless generation. We have nothing we can point to and say: "This is us, this is where we stand." We're lost and silent and we don't know what to do about it. We're sold a parody of culture that we buy because, well, what choice do we have?

Even the generational angst I'm engaging in now is stolen. This is the cry of the generation before mine, the Lost Generation, Generation X, Coupland's kids. People 10 years older than I am cornered the market in existential meanderings and, self-indulgent though it is, at least it's a flag, something to rally round. What have we got? Beyonce and Harry Potter -- both created and sold to us by people our parents' ages. Not that I've anything against Harry Potter; I enjoyed "The Half-Blood Prince" immensely. But it isn't us. It's not who we are.


WIKIPEDIA - A Situationist is a member of the Situationist International, a small group of international political and artistic agitators with roots in Marxism, Lettrism and the early 20th century European artistic and political avant-gardes. Formed in 1957, the SI was active in Europe through the 1960s and aspired to major social and political transformations. In the 1960s it split into a number of different groups, including the Situationist Bauhaus, the Antinational and the Second Situationist International. The first SI disbanded in 1972. . .

Situationist ideas have continued to echo profoundly through many aspects of culture and politics in Europe and the USA. . . The list of cultural practices which claim a debt to the SI is almost limitless, but there are some prominent examples:

- Situationist ideas exerted a strong influence on the design language of the early punk rock phenomenon of the 1970s, for example. . .

- Situationist practices allegedly continue to influence underground street artists such as gHOSTbOY, Banksy, Borf, and Mudwig, whose artistic interventions and subversive practice can be seen on advertising hoardings, street signs and walls throughout Europe and The United States.


- "Live without dead time" - Vivez sans temps mort - Anonymous graffiti, Paris 1968

- "I take my desires for reality because I believe in the reality of my desires" - Anonymous graffiti, Paris 1968

- "Be realistic - demand the impossible!" - Soyez réalistes, demandez l'impossible! - Anonymous graffiti, Paris 1968

- "Beneath the paving stones - the beach!" - Sous les pavés, la plage! - Anonymous graffiti, Paris 1968

- "Down with a world in which the guarantee that we will not die of starvation has been purchased with the guarantee that we will die of boredom." - Anonymous graffiti, Paris 1968

- "People who talk about revolution and class struggle without referring explicitly to everyday life, without understanding what is subversive about love and what is positive in the refusal of constraints, such people have a corpse in their mouth"- Raoul Vaneigem, The Revolution Of Everyday Life




DC FISCAL POLICY INSTITUTE - A detailed review of the District's economy reveals a number of disturbing trends and shows that the city's wide economic disparities are getting wider:

- Despite city-wide job growth, employment among African-American residents and those with no more than a high school diploma has been falling. The employment rate for these groups is at nearly the lowest level in 30 years.

- The gap between high-wage and low-wage workers in the District is at an all-time high. Wages have barely changed in 30 years for DC's lowest-wage workers, after adjusting for inflation, while DC's top earners have seen large earnings gains.

- Income inequality in the District is greater than in nearly every large U.S. city. DC's rich-poor gap has widened over the past two decades. An analysis of 59 large U.S. cities by the Brookings Institution found that income inequality in DC was greater in 2006 than in every city except Atlanta and Tampa.

- 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.

These findings show that the District has two different economies: one represented by construction cranes, new jobs, and growing incomes - and another represented by people who work but earn very little, who are not moving into better jobs or higher wages, and who may not be working at all. The gleaming side of DC's economy could continue to grow and prosper, but there is little evidence to suggest it would lead to any improvements for the thousands of residents who live on the other side.

Other stats:

- 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.

- Real wages have barely changed for low-wage workers over 30 years. Hourly earnings for low-wage working DC residents rose just six percent between 1979 and 2006, after adjusting for inflation, compared with a 40 percent increase for high-wage workers.

- African-American median income is no higher than in 1980. . .



DC EXAMINER - A record 56,047 families from the District of Columbia were on waiting lists for public housing and Section 8 vouchers in November - the latest month for which statistics were available. That's up 7 percent from the same period in 2005, according to the D.C. Housing Authority. . . On any given day, about 300 families are waiting for a spot in D.C. Village, an emergency housing shelter under fire for overcrowding and infestations, among other problems. The shelter, which took in Tucker and Smith, has fewer than 70 beds under normal conditions. Altogether, the city has about 200 family shelter units - not enough to serve families in need. . .

The D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute recently estimated that rising rents alone caused a loss of 7,500 units with rents under $500 a month between 2000 and 2004. From 2003 to 2005, the median price of a Washington home shot up 67 percent, from $290,000 to $485,000. And more than 18,000 condos, many with big price tags, are under construction in the city.

AS OF 2004 the city had a waiting list of 43,000 families which means that despite the supposed renaissance, the list has shot up 30% in three years. The city had 50,000 residents of public and assisted housing with 9230 publicly assisted housing units, down from 11,473 in 1992.

Where did they go? Swallowed for the cause of a happier upscale city. Even the Housing Authority's own reports imply that aiding gentrification is one of its responsibilities:

"DCHA received a $34.9 million grant award for the revitalization of Arthur Capper/Carrollsburg in October 2001. Arthur Capper/Carrollsburg, the Washington Navy Yard and the Southeast Federal Center, combine to form one of the largest urban redevelopment areas in the country, in one of the most outstanding locations. . . Arthur Capper and Carrollsburg Dwellings is a 23-acre 758-unit public housing complex located in Near Southeast. The properties are old and obsolete. The high concentration of low-income units combined with the barracks-style architecture of the developments have deterred any significant investment in the community."



COMMON DENOMINATOR - It's time to change the lexicon for D.C. government-speak and replace the term "economic development" with "public benefit" when assessing the publicly funded projects under consideration by the city's elected leaders. The new terminology might help some members of the D.C. City Council strip away the layers of obfuscation as they consider their votes in this election year. Voters understand the term "public benefit," which means the general public gets something in return for the investment of their public dollars.

"Economic development" has been vague, at best, to describe what the public has received during the past few decades in return for its willingness to trust the promises made by the private development community to wrangle billions of dollars worth of tax breaks, bond financing and other public beneficence from elected officials.

Talk is cheap. Despite the public's investment, the District's high unemployment rate has remained nearly static during the "economic development" boom of the past decade and poverty has deepened. . .

Stadium proponents can't seem to figure out how much it will cost to build the Taj Mahal - with the bottom line, minus financing costs, escalating about $200 million during the past year - and they want to build it on land that the city doesn't yet own or control. . . There's an important question of how D.C. residents will benefit tangibly from building a new stadium.

The Common Denominator asked Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi's office to answer that question in dollars and cents. The answer? There is no anticipated direct financial benefit in new city revenue, which has all been committed to paying off the stadium construction costs. The new city revenue committed to retiring the financing costs, and attributed directly to the stadium's construction, includes estimated annual revenue of $14 million from a ballpark fee and $14 million from a utility tax, collected over 30 years from the business community. . .

A $28 million annual investment by the business community in the public schools, rather than a stadium, would generate real public benefits. The business community as a whole would reap benefits from a well-educated workforce, while a new stadium will benefit relatively few D.C. businesses.


[Compiled by Karen DeWitt of the DC Examiner]

Anacostia: 18 projects* worth $1.09 billion

Columbia Heights/Adams Morgan: 61 projects valued at $920 million

Congress Heights/Douglass/Shipley Terrace: 20 projects valued at $686 million

Downtown/Mount Vernon: 132 projects valued at $9.3 billion

North of Massachusetts Avenue: 51 projects valued at $5.7 billion

Southeast Federal Center: 33 projects valued at $3.5 billion

14th and P/U streets: 49 projects valued at $894 million




From the DC Preservation League

St. Elizabeths Hospital - west campus
The Armed Forces Retirement Home
The McMillan Reservoir
Walter Reed
The Martin Luther King Library
Slater Elementary School
Langston Elementary School
Armstrong High School
The D.C. World War I Memorial





[It is worth noting that this is a bigger scandal than the Washington Teachers Union one or anything that happened during the Marion Barry administration.]

KATHLEEN DAY WASHINGTON POST - Fannie Mae engaged in "extensive financial fraud" over six years by doctoring earnings so executives could collect hundreds of millions of dollars in bonuses, federal officials said yesterday in a report that portrayed a company determined to play by its own rules. . . They portray the District-based mortgage funding giant -- a linchpin of the nation's housing market -- as governed by a weak board of directors, which failed to install basic internal controls and instead let itself be dominated and left uninformed by chief executive Franklin Raines and Chief Financial Officer J. Timothy Howard, who both were later ousted.

The result was a company whose managers engaged in one questionable maneuver after another, including two transactions with investment banking firm Goldman Sachs Group Inc. that improperly pushed $107 million of Fannie Mae earnings into future years. The aim, OFHEO said, was always the same: To shape the company's books, not in response to accepted accounting rules but in a way that made it appear that the company had reached earnings targets, thus triggering the maximum possible payout for executives including Raines, Howard and others.

The settlement closes regulators' civil probe into Fannie Mae's accounting scandal, the result of the company's misstating earnings by about $10.6 billion from 1998 through 2004.

SEC Chairman Christopher Cox and acting OFHEO director James B. Lockhart III said they now will turn their focus to individuals, including Raines and Howard, to determine what role former and current executives played in the accounting fraud and if they should be forced to forfeit millions of dollars in what the regulators called "ill-gotten" compensation. They said the Justice Department is continuing a criminal probe. . .

ALTHOUGH FRANKLIN RAINES was one of those Washington figures who could do no wrong in the media's eyes - especially the Washington Post - he has plenty to account for, and not just about Fannie Mae. The capital colony of DC was a major victim of the dubious activities of Raines and his institution.

RAINES' NAME has long been associated with a local combine that hoped to take over Washington's new baseball team. Raines was to have a five percent share.

HERE'S ANOTHER little known sidelight to Raines:

GREG PIERCE, WASHINGTON TIMES, OCT 23 - Donations from 23 executives of mortgage buyer Fannie Mae helped New York Democratic Sen. Charles E. Schumer raise more campaign funds than any of his colleagues in the past quarter, Bloomberg News reports, citing disclosure forms. Mr. Schumer raised $1.7 million in the three months ending Sept. 30 and has $18 million cash on hand for his 2004 re-election campaign, forms filed with the Federal Election Commission show. As a member of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, Mr. Schumer is helping to write legislation that affects Fannie Mae, the largest U.S. mortgage buyer, and rival Freddie Mac. A bill designed to strengthen the government-chartered companies' regulation by shifting their oversight from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to the Treasury Department is stalled in Congress. Fannie Mae Chief Executive Officer Franklin Raines and Chief Financial Officer J. Timothy Howard, with 21 colleagues, gave a combined $13,750 to Mr. Schumer from July through the past month. Mr. Raines gave $1,000 to Mr. Schumer on July 18, the day after the banking committee held hearings on the company's regulation, FEC records show.

WHAT IS ALSO NOT widely known was Raines' role in stripping DC of much of its limited home rule powers during the heavily hyped financial crisis of the 90s, which in fact was about the same in real dollars as what the city faced when it first got home rule in 1974. Clinton administration official Raines was at the heart of such schemes as cutting off the city's control over its own prisoners and ripping off its pension fund balance to make the federal budget look a few billion dollars better.

PROGRESSIVE REVIEW DC NEWS SERVICE, 1997 - President Clinton is proposing a financing scheme for DC that would replace a formula based on the equities of the city's relations with the federal government with one based on major and permanent dependency. The Clinton plan would remove the possibility that the city could gain true self-government again and certainly not statehood. It proposes that DC ever more be a financial ward of the national government. Demonstrating that no humiliation is too great to bear provided they are not stripped of their salaries and token status, many elected DC officials are lining up behind the scheme. Two of these plans -- the tax haven scheme and the latest White House proposal -- bear the imprint of Franklin Raines, now the president's budget director but formerly head of Fannie Mae. Fannie Mae is the city's biggest deadbeat thanks to an enormous congressional tax exemption. Raines is close to [DC Delegate] Eleanor Holmes Norton who is already cheering the federal takeover plan. Under the current system, the federal government makes an annual payment that theoretically reflects the cost of services provided by the city and revenues lost due to the federal presence. In 1993 the city estimated this cost to be nearly $2 billion dollars a year. The actual federal payment is one-third that amount and a smaller percentage of the city's revenues that at the beginning of home rule.

PROGRESSIVE REVIEW DC NEWS SERVICE, 1998 - Clinton and [Alice] Rivlin's successor, Franklin Raines, ripped off funds contributed to the DC pension fund in order to create the impression that the federal government had taken over responsibility for this fund. In fact, the feds will spend nothing until they have drained existing contributions down to zero. After that the city is at the mercy of a Congress and a White House that once also promised that Social Security would never be touched and that home rule was forever. . .Not surprisingly, the Clinton plan is being pushed by the erstwhile vice chair of the city's biggest tax deadbeat: Fannie Mae, whose congressional exemption from local taxation costs the city several hundred million a year. Clinton's budget director Franklin Raines, while running Fannie Mae, perfected a scheme for stifling protests against his firm by spreading charitable donations around the city with special attention to those organizations that might make formidable opponents of FM's tax exemption. Raines was also the unofficial budget advisor to the fiscally disastrous [Mayor] Sharon Pratt Kelly, whose one term was harder on the city's finances than all the Barry administrations combined.



DC STATEHOOD GREEN PARTY - "We know that the Federal City Council, real estate and big landlord lobbies, and other wealthy interests are pressing Mr. Fenty to enact their agenda," said Statehood Green Party activist John Ely. "We remind Mr. Fenty that he was elected because of his dedication to the needs of the people of the District of Columbia, especially their housing, education, and health care." The Federal City Council is a secretive, elite roundtable of local business leaders. It has consistently promoted policies leading to gentrification, displacement of D.C.'s chiefly African American middle- and low-income working population, and privatization of services and resources. Among the Federal City Council's recent accomplishments have been the closing of D.C. General Hospital, the District's only full-service health care institution, and the enactment of school vouchers and a charter school system; these goals were sought in cooperation with Congress, which holds veto power over District legislation, policies, and budgets. On September 13, the day after the Democratic primary, Mr. Fenty met with Federal City Council chair Terry Golden.

Statehood Greens listed several issues in which the agenda of Federal City Council and other corporate lobbies are in conflict with the interests of D.C. residents:

- Adrian Fenty has named a Federal City Council employee, Victor Reinoso, as Deputy Mayor for Education. Mr. Reinoso advocates a takeover of the D.C. Board of Education, transforming it into an appointed advisory body. Mr. Fenty, after he won the Democratic primary in September, said that he would consider a takeover. Mr. Fenty also chose Neil Albert as his new Deputy Mayor for Economic Development. Mr. Albert was C.E.O. for Ed Build, a private education services and construction firm created by the Federal City Council and the New Schools Venture Fund, an investment group tied to the national charter school movement.

"Bureaucratization of the School Board would be a serious blow to the democratic rights and needs of D.C. residents -- especially our children," said Gail Dixon, Statehood Green and former elected at-large member of the School Board who lost her seat because of Mayor Williams' partial privatization. "It would be an attempt to use the Board to enact Federal City Council policy, especially the expansion of D.C.'s failing charter school program. We opposed Mayor Williams partial bureaucratization a few years ago, and we now oppose the takeover bid just as strongly. We need our public schools to be modernized and provided with up-to-date equipment and textbooks, not privatization schemes and a toothless, unelected School Board."

- Adrian Fenty has acquiesced to current Mayor Anthony Williams' proposal to close the Martin Luther King, Jr. Library in downtown D.C. and build a new central library on the site of the old Convention Center.
Mayor Williams, with the help of Council Chair Linda Cropp and Ward 3 member Kathy Patterson, is seeking emergency legislation to convert the current downtown library site into a lucrative giveaway for real estate and development cronies, say Statehood Greens. Meanwhile, four neighborhood libraries (Benning, Anacostia, Tenleytown, and Shaw) have been closed for two years, with little to no interim services, and other branch libraries are in serious need of repair.


SAVE OUR SCHOOLS COALITION - DC voters supported Adrian Fenty because we thought that he would stand up for longtime residents, rebuild our traditional public schools, and stem the tide of gentrification and displacement. A vote for Adrian Fenty was a vote against rampant development and corporate takeover.

But on September 13, the day after the Democratic primary, Adrian Fenty met with Terry Golden of the Federal City Council, a secretive group of rich business people known for working behind the scenes to pursue an agenda of gentrification, privatization, and displacement, including the closing of DC General Hospital. Over the past ten years, the FCC has worked with local officials, the US Congress, and corporate privatizers to market school "choice"-charter schools and vouchers -- as the answer to a neglected public school system.

Charter schools and vouchers, however, have failed to deliver on their promise to reform public education for the better. Recognizing this, parents, students, teachers, and community activists have successfully demanded the resources to rebuild our decaying school buildings, and a long-term plan to deliver a good education to all our children is on the table.

Now the Mayor-elect is talking about "taking over" the public school system. We didn't hear about this before his primary victory. It all started after that meeting with Terry Golden. Since then, Fenty has appointed a Federal City Council Employee, Victor Reinoso, his Deputy Mayor for Education. He wants to reduce the Board of Education to an "advisory" body. And Neil Albert, Fenty's new Deputy Mayor for Economic Development, was C.E.O. for Ed Build, a private education services and construction firm created by the Federal City Council and the New Schools Venture Fund, an investment group with ties to the national charter school movement.



2006. . .


SOMETIMES even a good cynic like your editor misses the story. At first, I thought the trashing of public housing was just about housing, the closing of DC General just about health, and so forth. But a phrase woke me up: multi-use. It first appeared in talking about what to do with public schools that weren't up to capacity, but then it was used to describe the new look in libraries. Plans are afoot to multiuse Benning, RC Christian, Watha Daniel, not to mention the main library.

Making a library a multi-use building is like turning your home into a multi-unit residence. When's all said and done, you have less of a home.

Here's what is really going on. Land is becoming so valuable in DC that the city government is finding anyway it can to get rid of public buildings by closing them and selling them off - as with public housing and schools - or forcing the current occupants to share their space with developers of one sort or another. Since the targeted public buildings serve people at the lower end of DC's income scale they lack the clout to do much about it. Except to move to Ward Nine, which is what our politicians would like them to do anyway.

To be sure, there can be good design arguments to be made for multi-use buildings, but they fall flat if the designing isn't being done in the interest of those whose buildings are about to be multi-used. The new libraries, for example, are being designed for development not reading. They are being designed to aid politician's campaign contributors, not their constituents. One gets the sense that Williams and the Council would propose multi-use cemeteries if they could get away with it. After all, DC land is far too valuable to just be used for public purposes. And the dead pay no taxes.



THE WASHINGTON TIMES reports that over half the city government's employees live in the suburbs. This is true and sad but not new and it brings to mind one of the best things Barry did when he was a council member: get a law passed that gave DC residents preference for DC government jobs. By 1987, 60% of the city's employees lived in DC. But that year Congress stripped the city of its residency preferences and by 1995, 70% of DC workers lived in the suburbs. According to Edward Meyers in "Public Opinion and the Future of the Nation's Capital," this meant a $420 million annual reduction in the city's overall economy. Says Meyers, "Congress transformed the District with this one policy revision more than it did with all its other post-1975 actions combined."

The situation has gotten far worse, with the economy loss now topping $1 billion a year. And writes the Times: "Ed Lazere, director of the nonprofit D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute, said a 'very crude' estimate shows that the District loses $50 million to $100 million in potential revenue from city government jobs held by nonresidents."

There are also huge non-monetary costs. While certainly not true universally, there is little doubt that more than a few teachers and police officers regard the city where they work as more like a colony than their hometown. And it shows in the results.



School modernization: $150 million

Baseball stadium: $535 million

Mental hospital: $200 million

National Capital Medical Center: $200 million

Convention Center expansion and hotel: $650 million

[Which means by 2009, each of us could owe another $2,253 each]


THE CITY has ended the year with a $370 million surplus, a tribute to the socio-economic cleansing of DC. According to the Center for Budget Priorities and the Economic Policy Institute, the income of a typical citizen in the city's lower economic quintile has grown exactly $382 in real dollars since the 1980s while someone in the top quintile now earns $70,382 more.

So no one should be surprised by the surplus, although some might want to say a prayer for those on whose backs it was accomplished through such things as outsourcing our prisons; eliminating affordable housing; letting schools, libraries and recreation center deteriorate; and doing away with our public hospital.

Further, although there is a lot of talk about what a wonderful money manager Anthony Williams is, history tells a somewhat different story. For example, Marion Barry entered office in 1979 with a deficit equivalent in constant dollars to what the federal control board encountered in the late 1990s. Barry produced a steady stream of budget surpluses until 1987 after which he had two out of three deficit years. In 1991 there was a budget surplus roughly the same as this years. And the less wealthy were not shortchanged as they are today. Finally, contrary to local myth, the budget deficit that led to the federal takeover was largely the doing of Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly.




City Desk 10/25/07

[The media is second only to certain late Argentinean dictatorships in disappearing things it doesn't care about, albeit more discreetly. Thus, in the coverage of the Southeast Hospital story, you'll find barely a mention of its powerful roots in the disastrous closing of DC General Hospital by the Williams administration with the support of the city council. A rare exception is the sainted DC Watch.]

GARY IMHOFF, DC WATCH - Years later, the city is still paying for the costly mistake of closing our only public hospital, DC General, in southeast. After spending tens of millions of dollars propping up the former owners of Greater Southeast Community Hospital -- has anyone ever calculated the total amount of subsidies -- the government is now spending $79 million to underwrite the purchase of Greater Southeast by a new buyer, Specialty Hospitals of America.

This week, Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi warned that the $79 million may be just the down payment that DC taxpayers will be required to pay. Gandhi wrote that he had three concerns: first, that the company buying the hospital, Specialty Hospitals of America, is not financially stable. Its unaudited financial statements show that it is $34 million in debt, which it offsets by claiming an asset of $34 million in good will. He also writes, second, that SHA's five-year business plan for the hospital lacks detail, and does not provide a convincing case that it will be financially successful. Third, he warns that the District's lien on the hospital site, which it is counting on to secure its investment, will have to be at least partially released in order to allow future development on the site.

WASH POST - The D.C. Council unanimously approved a final agreement yesterday to spend $79 million to help a for-profit company purchase the troubled Greater Southeast Community Hospital, despite a warning from the city's chief financial officer that the buyer is financially unstable.

Natwar M. Gandhi released his disapproving four-page report yesterday morning, contending that New England-based Specialty Hospitals of America "is not in strong financial condition" and that its five-year operating plan does not show that the hospital will be viable under the company's ownership.

"Should the business plan fail, it is likely that additional funds of substantial amounts will be needed to keep the hospital running," Gandhi wrote in his financial impact statement.

Although at least half of the council members expressed concern over Gandhi's warning, the prospect of Greater Southeast's imminent demise if the sale collapses prodded the unanimous vote. Greater Southeast is the city's only hospital east of the Anacostia River, an area where residents suffer from high rates of cancer and diabetes and other chronic diseases.

ROBYN MELTON, DISTRICT CHRONICLES, 2001 - They have protested, they have held town meetings, and now advocates of keeping D.C. General Hospital open are taking their case to Congress. . . [Loretta] Owens and several community activists and leaders held an emergency town meeting at the Union Temple Baptist Church in Southeast last Tuesday to vent their anger at city officials for deciding to refer D.C. General patients to Greater Southeast Hospital, once the hospital officially closes.

According to the members at the town meeting, residents who would normally go to D.C. General would be able to get diagnosis and prescriptions by Greater Southeast. More beds will be added and a new system will be enforced; however, the bid made no commitment to build a new hospital. In efforts to accommodate Southeast residents for the loss of D.C. General, Greater Southeast Hospital was selected in an unanimous vote on Friday and Saturday by panels of officials representing the financial control board, Mayor Anthony Williams, the city's chief financial officer; Natwar Gandhi and the city council. . .

During the meeting, Dr. Abdul Alim Muhammad, director of Abundant Life Clinic in Washington, D.C., said he believed that Greater Southeast was a ridiculous choice. "D.C. General should be taking over Greater Southeast," Muhammad said. "Southeast already has 228 acute beds, where are they going to put 187 more people? In the basements, broom closets, parking lots or cafeterias?" Continued...

Muhammad likened the city's decision to a game of musical chairs. "Instead, though, it's musical hospital beds," he said. "And when the music stops if someone doesn't have a bed, they're going to die."

[Said Owens], "If you shut D.C. General down, it's too far for residents in that Ward to travel," she said. "If they have a gunshot wound or serious injury, they're going to die trying to get there."

DC STATEHOOD GREEN PARTY - While D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams proceeds with the privatization of D.C. General Hospital and dismantling of its services, the D.C. Statehood Green Party continues to demand, along with the Health Care Now Coalition, Service Employees International Union, and numerous other local organizations, coalitions, unions, third parties, and churches that D.C. General be maintained as a full service public hospital.

Along with thousands of other D.C. residents, Statehood Greens have grown impatient and angry at Mayor Anthony Williams' duplicity and obfuscation in pushing the privatization plan, which was ordered by the DC Financial Control Board, an unelected body imposed by Congress and the White House. Many D.C. residents are especially angry at the Mayor's vague, evasive, and dismissive responses to their concerns.

Privatization will end inpatient care at D.C. General, and farm the hospital's clientele -- mostly poor and low-income working people, for whom the emergency room serves as a doctor's office -- out to clinics and private hospitals throughout D.C., many of which are ill-prepared to receive them. Neither the Mayor nor D.C. Health Department Director Dr. Ivan Walks has offered a specific plan to ensure that primary care services will be in place.

DC WATCH - The DCHC proposal, which Mayor Williams has refused to make public, contains only vague promises of how DC residents, especially the neediest who have depended on DC General, will be served.

DC WATCH - DC Council Member David Catania has compiled documentation proving DCHC, a for-profit company, is deeply in debt and unprofitable; and DCHC has a reputation for inability to complete deals and for 11th hour demands in negotiations. Furthermore, it's illegal for the DC to do business with a corporation that owes back taxes to the city; DCHC has owed the city back taxes since it bought Greater Southwest Community Hospital.

KATHRYN SINZINGER, COMMON DENOMINATOR, 2002 - A long-secret report prepared for the District's now-dormant financial control board reveals that board members knew Greater Southeast Community Hospital's finances were shaky when they overruled a unanimous D.C. City Council and signed a five-year multimillion-dollar contract with the hospital to administer health-care services for the city's indigent population. . . Greater Southeast - which, along with its parent company, sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy court protection last November - was recently replaced by the D.C. Department of Health as the contract's administrator but remains part of the network. . . A copy of the full Price Waterhouse Coopers report, while provided by the control board to the mayor's office, has never been given to the council or to the public.

DANIEL P. MCLEAN, CEO, GWU HOSPITAL, 2003 - Make no mistake: The health care plan for the District's uninsured residents put in place by D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams with approval from the now-defunct control board is an abject failure.

Two-and-a-half years ago, the mayor decided to close D.C. General Hospital and its clinics and replace them with a privatized system of care. While elements of this decision -- such as linking enrolled residents to primary care physicians for a "medical home" -- made sense, the plan failed to account for the needs of those the new system was intended to serve or of the health care providers who served them.

Numerous mistakes followed the initial faulty decision.

One of the largest was the company chosen to run the D.C. Healthcare Alliance, as the privatized health care safety net was named: Doctors Community Healthcare. This out-of-town firm had no track record in running similar programs, and its financial stability was questionable. It had recently purchased the bankrupt Greater Southeast Community Hospital and was promising to provide most of the needed care there. But its financial problems aside, Greater Southeast did not offer the range of specialized health care services that had been available at D.C. General, meaning that patients displaced by the closure of that public hospital had to turn to the other private hospitals in the District to receive care -- hospitals that had been providing two-thirds of the uncompensated care in the city even when D.C. General was fully operational.

Don't worry, the mayor told the hospitals. The District would make sure that they would not be harmed by the end of D.C. General. They would be paid for their services, he said. Moreover, Greater Southeast would pick up the ball, developing more services, including Level I trauma services, to serve the people covered by the alliance. The mayor said an emergency facility would be kept on the old D.C. General campus to help reduce the need for patients to travel to Greater Southeast.

GARY IMHOFF, DC WATCH - Closing DC General Hospital allowed the mayor to capture a vast tract of valuable public land to divvy up among his favored developers and to redirect public health care dollars to his two largest campaign contributors. But it was a devastating blow to public health care in the District.

MARGARET BARRON, DIRECTOR OF THE PROVIDENCE HOSPITAL EMERGENCY DEPARTMENT - D.C. hospitals do not have a 75 percent occupancy rate.... [F]rom October to March each year, the occupancy rate of available general medical-surgical beds is 100 percent on many days of the week. The same is true for intensive care unit beds in many of our hospitals. . . Greater Southeast Hospital cannot possibly develop, staff and become an accredited trauma center in three months. . . .

WASH POST, 2001 - Although the Mayor's office complained that the Mayor was 'ambushed' by Rev. Willie Wilson's criticism of the Mayor's plans at a public meeting at Union Temple on March 1, the Mayor's Chief of Staff Abdusalam Omer was told in advance that Rev. Wilson opposed closing D.C. General and he would speak against it in the meeting at his church. In a meeting shortly between the Mayor and local ministers shortly after the Union Temple event, "the ministers said the mayor had insulted them by having uniformed officers remain until the pastors insisted they leave. 'To have to be surrounded by armed policemen -- it shows the insensitivity,' said the Rev. Willie F. Wilson, of Union Temple Baptist Church. 'It was despicable.'"

PROGRESSIVE REVIEW, 2001 - Ron Linton, former chair of the Public Benefits Corporation: "Yes, the hospital has run a deficit. Yes, it could have been managed better. It should have been replaced years ago with a modern facility. But that has little to do with the current situation. DC General receives from the city about $40 million a year. It needs $75 to meet its budget. But instead of giving DC General $35 million more, the city apparently at the Control Board's direction, will give Southeast (a profit making institution) $85 million to do less than what is done now at DC General."

PROGRESSIVE REVIEW, 2000 - [Privatization of D.C. General] makes about as much sense as letting the marketplace decide whether there we have a fire or police department


ALTERNET - "The safety of new agents cannot be known with certainty until a drug has been on the market for years," according to a 2002 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. "Serious [adverse drug reactions] commonly emerge after Food and Drug Administration approval." Reacting to outrage over Vioxx and other drug safety debacles, the FDA announced on Jan. 30 that it will eventually require comprehensive safety reviews of new drugs 18 months after their introduction.

For now, assurances of efficacy and safety are only as good as the data on which they are based. While more than 20,000 women between ages 16 and 26 took part in trials, the sample of 9 to 15-year-old girls was small -- only 1,184. And since no participants have been followed for more than five years, long-term effects remain unknown.

"The published data looks great, but at the very least, I would like to see efficacy data among 11- and 12-year-olds, which won't emerge until they are sexually active," says Karen Smith-McCune, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California, San Francisco.

It also takes time to assess whether data are comprehensive and reliable, and mirror real-world conditions. Merck outsourced some of its Gardasil trials to Contract Research Organizations in the developing world, including Jaya Jan Pharmaceutical Research in India. CROs are part of a $14 billion industry that recruits subjects and runs trials for Big Pharma. Conflicts of interest can arise when CROs are paid royalties only after a drug is approved rather than getting a set fee independent of results, or when CROs believe favorable findings will lead to future contracts. Merck spokesperson Amy Rose refused to specify how, or even if, the company oversees CROs.


BBC - A US jury has awarded damages of $20m against drugs giant Merck in a case arising from its withdrawn painkiller Vioxx. The judgement means the jury may now move on to assess punitive damages against Merck. Vioxx was pulled from the market in September 2004 after a study found it could double the risk of heart attacks. The New Jersey jury ruled that Vioxx had contributed to a 61-year old man's heart attack.

The jury awarded $18m to Frederick Humeston, who suffered the heart attack after taking Vioxx for knee pain, and a further $2m to his wife. This was the second case brought by Mr Humeston after an earlier suit failed. . . The jury in the second case found that Merck had failed to provide adequate warnings about the health risks associated with Vioxx.


[From testimony before the Dc City Council]

ASANTEWAA NKRUMAH-TURE - I am not personally advocating against the HPV vaccine; I'm strongly advocating that we all ask questions and demand all of our questions and concerns be addressed to our satisfaction. . . The following questions must be asked:

- Does the vaccine Gardasil prevent all types of cervical cancer? If not, which ones will it prevent? Does the vaccine protect against the most common types of cervical cancer here in the USA? If the leading killer of women in the USA is heart disease and not breast or cervical cancer, why is this vaccine being made "mandatory"?

- New Jersey-based Merck Co. makes this vaccine and its questionable ties to politicians and others has now come to light. For example, Texas Republican Gov. Rick Perry received $6,000 from the drug company's political action committee during his re-election campaign. . . Billions of dollars can be made by the drug company; the three required doses cost $360, and of course, the drug company is aggressively pushing for the vaccine to be "mandatory."

- Who is held liable in the case of mild or severe adverse effects or allergic reactions? . . . How many years of study on possible adverse effects has been done and documented?

- How do you "opt out" and who is responsible for explaining this process? Is it a time consuming process? Are there any penalties for opting out?

- If a young girl's parent [or] guardian is in jail, prison or a mental institution, do such parents [or] guardians give up their right to give consent for this vaccine? Who will advise such parents [or] guardians of their legal rights?

- Has Merck and Co. had any type of contact with any members of our City Council, their staff members, our city's Department of Health, their staff members or any other city officials? Has this drug company had any contact with any of our city's community leaders or other health care professionals?

- Cervical cancer and HIV - AIDS are both caused by a virus. Why are some people trying to make the HPV vaccine "mandatory" and not mandatory testing for HIV - AIDS, especially in a city like Washington, DC with its ever increasing HIV - AIDS rate, especially among women? Since DC General Hospital is now closed, where do you go to get the vaccine? Community clinics? Planned Parenthood? Your private doctor's office?

- The obvious race, class and gender aspects of this issue cannot be overlooked. Why didn't the HPV vaccine proponents do the kind of research of community opinion and carefully plan educational programs to answer any and all questions and concerns parents and the general public may have? . . .

- Why not make high quality public schools, equipment, supplies and infrastructure "mandatory"; comprehensive, science-based human sexuality education; affordable health care; health insurance; living-wage jobs; domestic violence, sexual assault and violence prevention education; high school and post-high school vocational education; substance abuse prevention education, etc. Why must African people, women, people of color and other marginalized groups of people, our bodies, be made guinea pigs for the benefit and advancement of science?


REUTERS - The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it was notifying health-care providers and consumers about reports of some 28 cases of infants suffering a serious bowel condition after receiving Merck & Co's new vaccine against the Rotavirus. The FDA said it was not immediately clear how many of the 28 reported cases were caused by the vaccine. It said the condition, known as intussusception, can occur in the absence of vaccination. Some 3.5 million doses of Merck's Rota Teq have been distributed in the United States since its approval last February, the FDA said.





NATIONAL COALITION FOR THE HOMELESS - According to Ann Marie Staudenmaier, an attorney at the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, surveys conducted by the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless and the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty over the past few months show that various police agencies are unfriendly toward homeless people and frequently target them for harassment. These surveys show "that both the Metro Police Department and U.S. Park Police. . . frequently approach homeless persons who are not violating the law in any way and either demand to see their ID, search their bags, or move them out of the area. " Staudenmaier also notes that camp "sweeps " are prevalent, and that police may be violating city's memorandum of understanding the Washington Legal Clinic helped draft, by not providing sufficient notice and not storing people's belongings when clearing out public spaces.

Faced with an increasing number of people forced to live on the streets, the downtown business community in Washington, D.C., decided to create a day center for homeless people who may not have anywhere to go during the day when shelters are closed. Through the Downtown D.C. Business Improvement District, business owners started and continue to fund a day center that can serve up to 260 people per day, with indoor seating, laundry, showers, and a morning meal. The center also has partnerships with local service providers who come on site once or twice a week to provide medical, psychiatric, legal, and employment services, as well as housing counseling, substance abuse treatment, and case management. Business owners in D.C. finance the day shelter through a 1-cent tax for each square foot of property owned by a business.



KAREN DEWITT of the Examiner has an article on affordable housing, which is one of those phrases like Santa Claus - every one talks about it, you just can't find it.

One reason that you can't find it is that we have been busy doing away with it - such as public housing and Section 8. To see what this looks like, just drive the Southeast Freeway around the 6th Street exit. What you see to the south used to be public housing. Lots of it.

Another reason we can't find it is because the city is afraid to build it, loan money for it, or in other ways compete with the private housing market. Around the world, the places with the most abundant decent, affordable housing are those not afraid to be called socialist. In DC we provide for the welfare fathers - aka developers - and evict the welfare mothers.

The city could, for example, go into partnership with homebuyers, lowering the latter's cost by shared equity. In a town with rising values, such a program would pay for itself since the city would get its share of the property when sold.

The city could loosen zoning rules to encourage accessory apartments, letting people construct units that would help them pay their mortgage and help others find a flat they can afford. LA, for example, has some 40,000 illegal apartments because people really find them useful.

The city could use its own land - such as surplus school buildings - for city owned affordable housing instead of selling it to a developer.

The city could emphasize low rise retail development with apartments on the upper floors, the sort of development you rarely see any more but which helped to house an earlier generation of Americans.

But as long as the planning of the city is driven by the goal of making the biggest developers and businesses the most money, all the rest of its citizens are going to come out the short end - in housing and everything else.




A REQUEST FOR A temporary restraining order and injunction were filed in DC Superior Court to stop the demolition of Benning Library. The motions were filed by C-SOL, Community to Support Our Libraries, a citizen organization that supports the reopening of the Benning branch library. Closed in December, 2004, along with three other branches ­ Anacostia, Watha T. Daniels, and Tenley ­ under the guise of renovation, the Benning Library housed an award-winning chess program, a meeting space for dozens of civic organizations, a voting poll, safe spaces for seniors and youth, internet access for school children and others in a community that substantially lacks computers and corresponding access to the internet. There was at the time of filing no sight of a bookmobile, and the interim library opening scheduled for June 20th had been further delayed due to "connectivity problems."

"This is unfortunately all too typical in our community's experience dealing with the library commission in this matter," said Dorothy Douglas, Chair of ANC Commission 7D. "This [library] commission has already squandered over $3 million dollars without any benefit to our community, and now they can't get their interim box [library] opened." In the Benning Road community, most of the public schools lack libraries.

"First, they wouldn't listen to us when we said their renovation plans would give us a smaller library - when we needed and wanted more space. Then they tried to force a 'mixed-use' proposal down our throats; now they want us to believe they can be trusted to tear down a building designed to have more stories added to it for more space and give us our library back. . . and in a timely fashion. The time for outsiders coming into our community and telling us what is good for us is over" said Rick Tingling-Clemmons, ANC Commissioner.


[From Empower DC]

- Closing MLK with no immediate replacement would leave residents without the central library for an open-ended length of time

- The proposal to lease MLK for 99 years at $1.50 per square foot clearly demonstrates that this action is not being taken to derive the greatest benefit to the taxpayers - as market rate leases in the area of the library command as much as $300 per square foot

- Emergency legislation should be reserved for true emergencies - not for ensuring that an unpopular piece of legislation is passed before the exit of end-of-term Council people and Mayor

- There are 4 closed community libraries which have not been renovated and reopened as promised

It is highly suspicious that, despite ongoing public outcry against the plan to close MLK and the CFO's own report that renovating MLK would be less costly than building a new central library, members of the Council are still pushing to pass the Library Transformation Act. Even more dubious is the fact that some Council people are pushing for an emergency vote which conveniently circumvents public testimony.

DC WATCH - To strengthen their case that MLK Library is too far gone to be renovated, the District government and the library administrators have continued in their policy of demolition by neglect. The building has broken elevators, leaking pipes, security breaches, and overheated reading rooms (the Black Studies Reading Room had to be closed last week when the heat reached 98 degrees). Now head librarian Ginnie Cooper seems determined to discourage use of the library further by reducing services. On December 8, she closed the periodical reading room, without any prior notice to the rank-and-file staff at MLK or to the librarians who head the other reading rooms at MLK, and she reassigned the periodical librarians to other duties. The excuse for getting rid of the periodical reading room is that the space is needed for a computer laboratory, even though MLK already has plenty of empty space in the basement and on the fourth floor, and even though every reading room is already jammed with computers. . . The question remains: why should we trust the administration, the library Board of Trustees, or the top officials of the library system to treat a new central library any better than they treat MLK, or to treat the public any better in a new library than they treat us now at MLK?



SAM SMITH - It may be that the best thing to do about the main DC Library is nothing - at least for a while. Neither side in this controversy seems to have a solution worth cheering about, although clearly the approach of the mayor and some members of the city council is the worst: stuffing it into one of the new multi-storied ice cubes planned for the old convention center site. There to sit like slices of bologna squeezed between a hunk of retail below and a hunk of condos above - looking like every other building that's been put up downtown over the past decade or so - but certainly not like a library. Since when are only people who charge us big bucks for things allowed to build downtown? How far throughout the city will the government's antipathy towards public spaces be extended? After all, you could get a lot of money for condos in Rock Creek Park.

The current MLK Library at least has its own identity and even though you might confuse it for the lobbying headquarters of the pharmaceutical industry, you know it is meant to be something.

Still, I can't recall many kind words about the place until Williams decided to get rid of it. Library workers have constantly complained as have citizens forced to go to meetings in its gloomy basement public spaces where if you turn the wrong knob you may end up with the trash instead of listening to the speakers you came to hear. MLK in a close contest with UDC for the worst designed official city architecture.

Benjamin Forgey thinks it's great but then Benjamin Forgey belongs to the trade that excuses Frank Lloyd Wright for designing a house so poorly that it would cost several million dollars some decades later just to shore it up. Sculpture doesn't have to be useful; architecture does. But don't tell architects and their critics that; it annoys them. Further, architecture is the only form of art with tenure. Paintings you're tired of can be stuffed in the closet, CDs you can throw away, and books you can sell to someone else, but buildings - by bulk and mythology - have a remarkable permanence even if, like the MLK Library, they never did the job they were designed for.

There are lots of wonderful buildings in DC that have been worth saving - from the Hecht's warehouse to the Old Post Office to the Willard to the Sears catalog houses. But just like other mortals, architects actually do make mistakes and the MLK Library was one of them.

Which doesn't mean you have to tear it down. One solution, for example, would be to let the pharmaceutical industry use it for its lobbying headquarters. Another, already on the table, is a renovation designed by Kent Cooper, a fine local architect.

The Cooper plan would improve the looks of the place but how much better would it be as a library? People go to libraries to read and check out books and use the Internet. How does making a glass-topped cathedral out of the place help that?

One thing that has been missing from both sides are the voices of skilled librarians. One reason is that they don't want to get fired. Another is that maybe nobody asked them.

This wouldn't be a bad time to take a deep breath and do the job right. Downgrade the architects, the planners and the politicians and upgrade the librarians and users. And getting a new mayor might not hurt, either.



COMMON DENOMINATOR - D.C. officials have agreed to pay more than $1 million over the next five years to Ginnie Cooper to become executive director of the D.C. Public Library. Cooper, who was awarded the job Thursday in a unanimous vote during a special meeting of the D.C. Board of Library Trustees, has resigned her current position at the helm of the nation's fifth largest library system in Brooklyn, N.Y., to take over the District's much-smaller system this summer. Brooklyn's 60-library system serves a population of 3 million, while the District's 27-library system serves about 570,000 residents.

Cooper was reportedly paid $200,000 per year under a five-year contract with the Brooklyn Public Library, which she is leaving 18 months before her contract expires. She recently came under fire for taking an unauthorized vacation, for which she gave back more than $20,000 in pay, and for closing a library when a librarian received a minor injury, according to published reports in New York.

Cooper's contract as D.C. library director will pay her a basic rate of $179,946 per year, plus a "retention incentive" of $25,054. D.C. personnel regulations define a retention incentive as "an authorized amount or rate of additional compensation paid to an employee who occupies a position determined by the personnel authority to have a significant recruitment and retention problem," according to D.C. Public Library spokeswoman Monica Lewis. . .

KATE TAYLOR, NY SUN - After a series of attacks in the press, the executive director of the Brooklyn Public Library, Ginnie Cooper, stepped down yesterday, 18 months before the end of her five-year term. During her tenure, Ms. Cooper started an early literacy program at the library and conceived a plan to construct a specialized library for the visual and performing arts in downtown Brooklyn, but she also faced much public turmoil. The library said she left to become the executive director of the District of Columbia's public library system.

In late March, after a librarian lost the tip of her pinkie while trying to break up a fight among several girls, Ms. Cooper decided to temporarily close the popular Brownsville library branch. Mayor Bloomberg called the move an overreaction, and Brownsville residents angrily criticized the decision at a town meeting.

Earlier that month, Ms. Cooper clashed with the library's board of trustees when they decided not to allow her to go on a $20,000 publicly funded trip to Hong Kong and Singapore for a library conference.

Late last year, the Daily News reported that Ms. Cooper took six extra weeks of vacation. She was forced to return $27,000 in pay. A spokeswoman for the library said Ms. Cooper was not available for comment yesterday.

NY DAILY NEWS - "I'm sure there won't be a whole lot of tears in Brownsville over her departure," said Councilman Charles Barron (D-East New York).




ROSES TO MIKE PANETTA for reviving an idea your editor unsuccessfully pushed 11 years ago: a DC Olympic Committee. Writes Panetta:

|||| Like many good ideas, this one started over a few beers at the Adams Mill Bar. I was watching the 2004 Olympic opening ceremonies and said to myself, 'That looks cool, I wish I could march in the opening ceremonies.'' Being way past my prime athletically to make any U.S. team, I began to think about what developing countries would be open to me sliding them a few bucks to make me a winter athlete - after all whose job would I be taking?

Then something weird happened. The U.S. Men's Basketball Team lost to the Puerto Rican Olympic team in a stunning upset. Like many Americans, my biggest questions were: 'Why the hell does Puerto Rico have a team? Aren't they part of the United States?' I did a little looking around and found out that not only does Puerto Rico have a team, but so does Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands - all part of the United States.

The wheels started turning in my head. I knew that Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, while parts of the United States, each only have one, non-voting delegate in the U.S. House of Representatives. The District of Columbia also only has one, non-voting delegate in the U.S. House. However, unlike those other American territories DC lacks its own Olympic committee. That is until now. Together with some friends and co-workers who live in the District we've started a movement called the District of Columbia Olympic Committee (DCOC).

If the District is going to be lumped in with the other red-headed stepchildren of American representative democracy, we should at least be able to compete with our own Olympic teams like other territories. The first team we are organizing is curling, but we are looking for athletes for other sports for both the winter and summer games. ||||

WASHINGTON CITY PAPER, 1994: To most spectators of the Lillehammer Olympic opening ceremony, the things that stood out were the skiing fiddlers, unruly reindeer, and kings swathed in Goretex. But as the parade of nations passed the reviewing stand, Sam Smith, die-hard statehood advocate, full-time rabble rouser, and sometime editor of the Progressive Review, noted that something was amiss. Athletes from American Samoa, the US Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico strode proudly behind their territorial flags. While these semi-independent US colonies have their own Olympic teams, Washington does not. Once again, Smith realized, the nonvoting citizens of DC had been denied adequate representation.

"Not only are we not part of the Union, we're not even allowed to play with the colonies. We're even discriminated among the non-self-governing territories of the US," Smith growls. "It's all part of the colonial mentality, of accepting things the way they are." . . . The oversight so enraged Smith that, by Monday morning, he had already founded and designed letterhead for the DC Olympic Organizing Committee (quickly renamed the Committee for a DC Team in the Olympics to avoid sounding too official), and appointed himself the "very interim chair." Armed with the slogan "Give Us Liberty or Give Us the Gold," Smith warmed up his fax and fired off a manifesto to local pols and industry bigwigs. . .

Smith hopes parochial power brokers like [hardware magnate] John Hechinger, Jesse Jackson, and perhaps even [Redskins owner] Jack Kent Cooke will petition the International Olympic Committee to permit DC to compete in the next games. "Tonya Harding's lawyers got the Olympic Committee to roll over -- can you imagine Jesse Jackson and Jack Kent Cooke working in concert? You talk about the morality of Tonya Harding being allowed to compete in the Olympics, how about the immorality of DC not being allowed to compete?" he asks.

EPILOGUE: Jack Kent Cooke never came aboard, but Jesse Jackson did after being button holed by your editor in National Airport -- long enough to write a supporting letter to Dr. Leroy Walker, President of the US Olympic Committee, right in the middle of the games. Dave Clarke, chair of the city council, also endorsed the idea. Unfortunately, Jackson's attention deficit disorder soon took over and nothing more was heard from him. Even more distressing was the failure of DC activists who, rather than rushing to the cause, bombarded your editor with requests to be on the team -- based on unsubstantiated and archaic claims of athletic prowess.




JACK SHAFER, SLATE - The connection between quality and head count would seem intuitive, but a dip into the microfilm archives of the New York Times and Washington Post shows that decent newspapers have been produced with far fewer hands.

In the last three or four decades, newsroom staffs have ballooned almost everywhere. Today's Times employs about 1,200 newsroom staffers and the Post about 800. But 35 years ago, each produced a quality daily with about half that number, according to Leon V. Sigal's 1973 study, Reporters and Officials: The Organization and Politics of Newsmaking. Sigal found that the Times employed 500 "reporters, editors, and copyreaders" and the Post about 400 at the time.

Some of the expansion came in the establishment of distant bureaus. The Times had 15 national bureaus and 28 foreign capital bureaus in 1972. Today it has 11 national bureaus and 26 foreign. The 1972 Post had four national bureaus and 11 overseas. Today there are about a half-dozen domestic and 19 foreign bureaus.

As you unspool summer of 1972 Post microfilm, you're struck by the relative reliance on stories from wire services and other newspapers. To pick a representative issue, I read the July 6, 1972, edition closely. It had two wire stories and one from the Manchester Guardian on Page One. The Post sports page even delegated coverage of the Baltimore Orioles, Washington's nominal big-league team after the departure of the Senators to Texas, to a wire service.

The Post of yore ran about half the number of comics, and its TV listings were limited to a box of five local stations compared to the full page containing almost 100 channels today. Style had not yet morphed into a full daily feature section. A thin feature about Emmylou Harris stops 7 inches after its jump from the front of Style, and a wire story about Jacqueline Onassis winning a lawsuit over a paparazzi also played on the front. . .

The Post gave about the same emphasis to national and foreign coverage in 1972 as it does today. Although the average Post story from 1972 is probably 25 percent shorter than today's, the national and foreign stories I read from the July 6, 1972, edition Post don't skimp on the day's events. . .

By my personal measure, the national and foreign news published in the summer of 1972 by the Times and Post matches the current product, even though it is less "featurey." That both papers did fine work with half the current manpower should encourage serious readers-'even though it may depress journalists.






PAUL SCHWARTZMAN WASHINGTON POST - The number of low-income families obtaining mortgages to buy houses in the District has plummeted the past decade as property values have soared and the city has attracted more affluent residents, according to a new study. Ten years ago, 17 percent of District home buyers were low-income, which the study, by the Urban Institute, defines as a family of four with an income of $45,000 or less in current dollars. In 2005, the most recent year for which data were available, that rate had slipped to just over 4 percent, the study found.

The decline has been especially pronounced in Ward 5, which the report defines as a mid-priced area that includes gentrifying Northeast neighborhoods including Brookland and Eckington. In 1997, about 33 percent of buyers seeking loans for properties in the ward were low-income, a level that fell to slightly more than 3 percent in 2005. At the same time, high-income families, or those earning more than $108,000, accounted for a third of all buyers in Ward 5 in 2005, up from 5 percent in 1997. . .


A WHILE BACK, we warned you that the city's height limit was an approaching target of the developer corporados parading as advocates of smart growth. The Post has confirmed our fears with a major puff job on Christopher Leinberger, a developer parading as a socially conscious scholar at the Brookings Institution. Nothing will better symbolize that capture of Washington by the robber barons and the destruction of its soul than a lifting of height limitations that have helped give the city a global reputation as a special place.

From the story:

"The principal issue is land supply, he said. If additional land can be found, there might be no need to raise the height limit. If not, he said, D.C. leaders should consider lifting the limit around Metro stations that serve commuters from across the region, such as Dupont Circle, Union Station, Metro Center, the Navy Yard and, yes, Friendship Heights.

"Taller buildings, he said, would lower prices and lead more residents and corporations to choose the city over gas-guzzling suburban sprawl. The threat of global warming makes the need to reconsider the height limit even more immediate, he said.

"We have a moral imperative to increase density, to get us out of our cars," said Leinberger. . .

"Civic leaders and preservationists recoil at the thought of lifting the restriction, saying high-rise buildings would spoil a low-lying, Parisian-style city planned more than 200 years ago by Pierre L'Enfant. . . To lift the limit in any one neighborhood, they say, would compromise the entire city. . .

"Nevertheless, the pace of building in the city could make reconsideration of the limit unavoidable."

So unless you share Leinberger's sick view that we have a moral obligation to destroy the city's grace in orde3r to provide developers with more space so they can build more high rises for which we don't have adequate streets or public transportation, you better get ready for a big fight.


[As we have warned, the push for the Rosslynization of DC is underway and activist groups should stop organizing against it before it's too late]

ROGER K LEWIS, WASHINGTON POST - Many years ago, I suggested in this column that there could be certain places in the District where height restrictions might be relaxed, where taller buildings could make aesthetic, functional and economic sense. With rigorous analysis and fine-grain, targeted planning, not broad-brush rezoning, the city could identify sites well suited for more intense use, increased density and higher structures. . .

Washington Post columnist Jonathan Yardley took issue with my suggestion. Shortly after my column appeared, he wrote that any exception to D.C. height limits, no matter why or where, would open a door that should never be opened. He feared that such exceptions soon would become the rule, jeopardizing the city's historically unique scale and promising to make Washington a city of high-rises.

In an article in The Post's Metro section earlier this month, staff writer Paul Schwartzman reported on yet another suggestion for taller buildings in appropriate D.C. locations, this time by Brookings Institution visiting fellow Christopher Leinberger.

Leinberger's argument is essentially economic. Land available for development of commercial and residential space in the District is increasingly in short supply, while rising demand for space is forcing real estate prices up at an accelerating pace. Thus, he says, raising the height limit could increase the supply of developable space and ease pressure on prices. It also could help the District compete with suburbs for businesses and residents. . .

Let's face it: Washingtonians continue to believe strongly not only that height limits are sacrosanct, but also that any attempt to change them is heresy.
Yet do we have to be so dogmatic and dismiss completely even the possibility of prudent height exceptions? Why assume that we are incapable of preserving the dominant low-rise character of Washington while allowing taller buildings in well-chosen places?

[In answer to Lewis' questions, because from SW urban renewal to the sports arena, planners have a record of here of imprudence and in treating the city like it was one big Monopoly game]


CONCERNING THE PLANNED development at 5520 Wisconsin Avenue, a reader writes:

||| 1) How many residential buildings exist on Conn. Ave that are over 5 stories which support the low-rise, neighborhood serving retail?

2) If density is not focused on top of Metro stations, where is the logical place to house human beings in the coming decades? Should we pave more fields in the exurbs? At what point does the City recoup more of its investment in Metro by virtue of more taxes generated by more residents and business?. . .

The NIMBY crowd is simply scaring people with sock-puppet arguments about traffic and parking when most of them have all but admitted they simply want no changes near their homes.

The younger residents in the area are incredulous over this stubborn and myopic position. |||

The letter reflects the success that developers have had in dragging smart growth advocates on board their vessel. It also reflects some basic misunderstandings about urban density.

Leaving aside the fact that such development is making DC a cold, boring, soulless city by attacking one of its core attributes - interesting, attractive and comfortable neighborhoods - there remains the fact that the solution being proposed is not going to have the effects claimed.

It helps to recall that DC currently has a quarter of a million fewer residents than it did in 1950. You want urban density? We had it.

The number of housing units, however, did not substantially decline with the population. There were only 3,000 fewer units in 2000 than in 1970. In other words, we could today house just about all those 250,000 lost residents without building another unit.

Except for one thing. DC residents require far more (and grander) space these days than they did in the 1950s. DC has turned from a family to a singles town and with it the square footage seen as needed for each resident has grown.

There is nothing particularly moral about building a high rise to compensate for these changes when a little downsizing would do the same thing. Further, it is strange, to say the least, to call someone a NIMBY because they don't want to go along with some developer's latest scheme. The term properly applies to those who oppose the proximity of a community asset like a fire station or a school, and not to those who don't care for the Rossylnization of DC.

Another crucial point is that density can be easily achieved without big box apartments. It's been done for centuries in Europe. San Francisco is a closer example. So are parts of Washington.

The tools include attached dwellings, accessory apartments, alley housing and low rise apartments over ground level retail. All these are classic solutions to squeezing more people into less space but you don't hear much about them because the Akridges of the world can't make enough money out of them.

An example can be found here in DC: Capitol Hill, which is the third most densely populated area of all those listed in the new comprehensive plan and over twice as dense as west of the park communities.

The reason has nothing to do with high-rise apartments. Buildings with 50 or more units comprise only 4% of the total units, the lowest percent in the city among the planning areas. But 54% of Capitol Hill's units are attached dwellings, which is to say row houses, more than a few of them with an apartment and some with alley units as well.

West of the park, 42% of the units are in buildings of 50 or more units but only 11% are attached dwellings.

Capitol Hill is so dense, in fact, that you could put every resident of America in an area of similar density and it would only have to take up the space of Massachusetts and Vermont.

To put it in terms that a Ward III resident might appreciate, McLean Gardens (which those of us in Citizens for City Living helped to save twice in the 1970s from big box development) has a density only slightly less than of Capitol Hill. You don't have to give up community, pleasure and pleasant views just to achieve density.

Further, despite its density Capitol Hill is one of the best developed self-sufficient communities in the city or in any large city for that matter. It also has the largest historic preservation area of any city.

So the alleged need for big box apartments is just a myth fostered by the same development folks who are about to try to convince you that we should remove the city's height limit in the name of smart growth.

And it's not the only myth. For example, the reader asks about recouping the cost of Metro. It's a bit late to be thinking about that. This journal was the only one to argue correctly that Metro would add to DC street traffic (by new development bringing more people to town than used its services), hurt the bus system, and entice to the suburbs people, businesses and tourist facilities. Metro, although none dare admit it, was the antithesis of smart growth. Light rail and bus lanes would have served the city better and non-taxpaying suburban commuters less. They would have also helped keep residents and businesses in town.

Further, we were a lonely voice arguing for Metro or the city to hold on to land around the stops and lease it just like a developer. But because we have been taught to accept only lemon socialism - that is to say anything that can't make a profit is okay for government to run - we couldn't even talk about such a sensible plan.

Density could be encouraged in Ward III through such means as making accessory apartments easier, allowing alley units where feasible, putting two levels of apartments over ground level retail and building attached units where sensible. But frankly Ward III doesn't have a lot to contribute unless it destroys its existing virtues.

DC, in fact, is an ever less important factor in the area in such matters, about one tenth of the total population and not even the largest jurisdiction any more. There are many more possibilities for sensible density outside the city.

This doesn't mean that we shouldn't try to do better. It just means that we should stop being conned by developers, make the improvements we can and be certain we don't destroy one of the most beautiful cities in the country in the process.


[Just the major role of the Washington Post and its friends in creating the disaster that we dubbed the Superdumb back in 1998]

DANA HEDGPETH, WASHINGTON POST - Nearly four years ago, city officials opened the $850 million Washington Convention Center with a string of superlatives. The largest publicly financed project ever built in the city, they said, would attract more than a million visitors a year, fill hotels and set off an economic boom. Instead, convention attendance is dropping, the surrounding neighborhood is yet to be transformed by the promised new development, and conventioneers are filling fewer hotel rooms than expected.

The number of hotel rooms booked is especially significant because it is the most accurate measure of performance, and last year hotel convention bookings missed projections by 13 percent. Bookings are likely to fall short of projections by 24 percent this year and 29 percent next year.

To pay for the center, the city raised its tax rate for all hotel rooms and restaurant meals. It is hard to measure how much of the promised $1.4 billion boost to the local economy has occurred, and convention center supporters no longer cite the regional economic impact figure because they admit it is nearly impossible to track. . .

The city's solution is to increase its investment, pressing ahead with plans to build a $550 million hotel next to the convention center, financed in part with a $135 million tax subsidy from the city, which convention center officials expect to be repaid with tax revenue generated by the project. The rest will be privately financed. . .

"The center was promised to bring out-of-towners who stayed in hotels and spent money," said Heywood Sanders of the University of Texas at San Antonio, who studies the performance of convention centers and is a longtime critic of such publicly financed projects. "They routinely over-promise, and they never do what they're supposed to do. The question is how badly they perform. Putting in a hotel is no guarantee that it will improve the center's performance."

Washington's convention center was expected to attract visitors with money to spend, not to make money itself. But the loss is now expected to be wider than originally projected -- $22 million this year, compared with the initial projection of $10 million. . .

Most convention centers lose money or barely break even. In Washington, the center is subsidized by a dedicated tax passed in 1994: 4.5 percent of the city's hotel tax and 1 percent of the restaurant tax goes to paying off the bonds issued to help pay for the center. The center got about $80 million last year from the dedicated tax revenue, which goes to financing its $36 million in annual debt service and other expenses. . .

In 1993, the old convention center reported yearly attendance of 446,825; over its first three full years, the new center averaged 456,400. Center officials say, however, that the latest numbers are audited and that those from the 1990s were not.

PROGRESSIVE REVIEW, 2002 - While corruption and incompetence are always fair journalistic game, it would be nice if the Washington Post had some sense of proportion in such matters. While it is undoubtedly true that a sizable proportion of the $100 million the city has doled out to community development corporations has been wasted or misused, even if not a penny had gone to its rightful purpose it would represent a mere fraction of the money that has been wasted - with loud huzzahs from the Washington Post and big benefits to its best friends - all in the name of "economic revitalization."

The facts are indisputable. If you take every sweetheart deal, big dig, and super project that the Post has backed editorially - and through its political wing, the Federal City Council - you will find they have cost billions in public funds: the freeways, the Metro, urban renewal, Pennsylvania Avenue, two convention centers, the MCI Center and so forth. Yet during the time that all this was going on, residents were deserting the city in droves, jobs for DC residents declined, and sales tax revenue barely kept up with inflation.

Of course, some people did quite well under this generally disastrous approach; you can get an idea of who they are by checking the big ads in the Washington Post. One of the reasons was the willingness city officials to transfer taxpayer dollars directly into the pockets of these big businesses.

But please, let us not refer to this as corruption. When you take care of your friends on a large enough scale, the term of art is "economic revitalization."

It has been, however, infinitely more expensive to each of us than any misspent funds by the community development corporations. . .

STEVEN PEARLSTEIN, WASH POST, 2004 - Hyping the economic benefits of convention centers is accepted practice in the economic development game. Convention centers have become an easy way for politicians to show they are doing something to boost the local economy and revive struggling downtowns. And it is all lent a veneer of economic legitimacy by industry consultants who never met a convention project they didn't think was a winner.

In fact, a recent study by Heywood Sanders, an economist at the University of Texas at San Antonio, found that most of the studies are bunk. One reason is that they continue to assume annual 5 percent increases in convention attendance despite recent experience that shows growth to be flat or declining. And while the consultants make wildly optimistic assumptions about the economic multipliers from added hotel stays and restaurant meals, they invariably ignore the negative impact on non-convention business from the higher taxes used to finance the new centers.

More significantly, the studies never attempt to compare the economic benefits of, say, spending $834 million to build a convention center against those from spending the same amount to build and endow a new, world-class research university. The choice is invariably framed as between building a convention center or watching the business go elsewhere.

As a result of this economic malpractice, a convention center glut has already developed across the country, with a 15 percent increase still in the pipeline. Some cities have responded to the glut by virtually giving away their space and hotel rooms. Others, including Boston, Orlando and Washington, have concluded that the only way to survive it is to aim for bigger conventions by expanding their facilities, in the process adding to the oversupply.

PROGRESSIVE REVIEW, 2005 - THE CITY HAS the highest debt per capita of any city in the country but you have to go to the Washington Business Journal to read about it, since the Post et al and our local politicians aren't going to tell you. This from the recent issue: "D.C.'s chief financial officer is warning the city to be cautious about its spending habits because those big-ticket projects in need of money next year are stretching the city's borrowing capacity. CFO Natwar Gandhi says the District's positive bond ratings could be threatened by additional borrowing. The city must think twice before turning to Wall Street for more money. "We are talking about a substantial amount of borrowing," Gandhi says. "It would be very, very difficult for us to go and borrow money and not expect any impact on our bond ratings." The city, which already has a higher debt-per-capita than any city in the country, is expected to borrow as much as $1 billion to finance construction of a new baseball stadium, a new convention center headquarters hotel and Howard University Hospital. That's on top of more than $690 million in existing obligations.

ROB GOODSPEED UPDATE, 2006 - Three years after the opening of the new Washington Convention Center, only three businesses are open among the building's 11 community retail spaces on 7th, 9th, and N Streets - Abou Master Goldsmith, Capitol Business Center, and Enterprise Car Rental. In addition to the three open business, four more have signed leases but have not yet opened - Euro Market, Divine Cravings Bakery, Old Dominion Brewery, and J. Sumner Salon. Four more retail spaces remain vacant, awaiting prospective tenants. During a visual inspection of each space last Sunday I found little to no evidence of any construction in the rented spaces for the market, bakery, or salon. Finish work seemed to be underway at the Old Dominion Brewery, where chairs and new kitchen equipment stood stacked inside the doorway in original packaging and decals had been applied to the windows. . . The retail spaces - whose only public entrances are to the surrounding streets - were incorporated into the Convention Center in response to public criticism of early designs.

COMMON DENOMINATOR - D.C. politicians have been talking for so long about the great prosperity brought to the nation's capital from economic development that most of them seem to be believing their publicists - or failing to look beyond a small circle of friends. . .

The much-heralded new Washington Convention Center, the most expensive development project in the District's history, stands unfinished, unfilled and without an accompanying flagship hotel. The city's hotels, surtaxed to pay for the convention center, are already so expensive that their rates deter conventioneers from staying downtown - yet city leaders want to tax them even more to pay for a baseball stadium.

Where are the realistic proposals from the city's leaders to help turn the District's unemployed residents into a productive, taxpaying part of the workforce? Instead of using the public schools for educating residents to fill local employers' needs, the city's leaders have purposefully dismantled almost all vocational training programs in recent years.

PROGRESSIVE REVIEW, 2000 - Despite the convention center, MCI center, Metro, Pennsylvania Avenue plan and endless talk of economic development, only 31,000 new non-government jobs were created in the city between 1984 and 1998. Even these helped DC residents not a whit. Employment of local residents has gone down from 321,000 in 1984 to 244,000 in 1998. . . DC has only increased its housing stock by 85 units since 1970. . . The occupancy rate of the convention center was 91% in 1991 but only 69% in 1997

PROGRESSIVE REVIEW, 1998 - Lost in the discussion of convention center costs is the fact that the mayor and city councilmembers who insist the cost estimate is solid are the same ones who managed to blow the city's budget by over $500 million. . . .Marion Barry is bragging about a one-third increase in tourism last year. He did not, however, note that the surge proves you don't need extravagant edifices to change the economics of the city. . . .Convention center opponents are pointing to a 1993 study that found that suburban jurisdictions would earn seven times the revenues as DC as a result of a new center. Among the beneficiaries would be Host Marriott, currently run by anti-union convention center boss Terence Golden.

PROGRESSIVE REVIEW, 1998 - Both supporters and opponents of the DC Superdumb agree that the key issues are location, location, location. But there's another matter that's getting short shrift: no one has done an economic analysis of the center from the point of view of citizens rather than that of the hotels and other big businesses that will benefit from it. We do know that the importance of convention centers is vastly overrated. One reason that cities keep building new ones is because the old ones fail to live up to their claims. For example, the old convention center had almost precisely the same number of visitors (and fewer out of town delegates) in 1995 as it did in 1985.

To understand how convention center accounting works, imagine your teenage son or daughter coming to you and saying, "If you buy me a new sports utility vehicle, I'll pay all the operating costs. Here, I've worked it all out. Just take a look at my figures." You review the paperwork and find that gas, repairs, and insurance are all there. But, as your child is a product of the Jim Gibson-Charlene Jarvis school of accounting, there is just one thing missing: the cost of the vehicle.

The up to one billion dollars to build the convention center is also missing from its paperwork, which allows the Washington Post to describe its projected annual loss as a mere $5 million a year. In fact, the billion dollars does not just appear as an act of immaculate conception, nor do the annual interest payments of, say, $60-70 million a year, but you'd never guess it reading about the Superdumb.

There's plenty of other ways that funny money can be used to build convention centers:

-- Be imaginative in calculating tax benefits. For example, the city creatively estimated in 1995 that an impressive 32% of every dollar an out-of-town visitor spent and exhibitors received at the current center had ended up as tax revenue. But with the convention center coming on hard times, and attendance stagnant, the city solved the problem in 1995 by marking 44% of every dollar spent as a contribution to tax revenues.

-- In calculating tax benefits only count income. Never, never, never calculate costs of city services such as water, roads, police, and fire.

-- Whatever you do, don't calculate the tax benefit of alternative activities on the site. It'll just make your figures look worse.

-- If you have to cut back on your center to get the damn thing built before anyone finds out its true cost, remember you can always sneak many of these items into future city budgets and no one will even notice.

-- Never mention the increase in the per capita debt burden building a convention center entails. For example, a $670 million dollar center would add $1200 to your share of the city's debt, a 40% increase in just five years.

Does any convention center make sense for DC? In fact, nobody knows because no one in power wants to do the honest, citizen-oriented accounting that would let us know the truth.


RICHARD LAYMEN - [The Florida Market development involves] a special kind of agreement, where the proposal has been written by the developers for the developers, and the executive branch of the DC government has deliberately muzzled the Office of Planning from weighing in, has ignored previous OP reports considering the area, and has prevented the OP from being able to evaluate or analyze the project in substantive ways, and in a manner which attempts to protect and extend the public interest.

The reality is even worse because: If this were a contract signed by an agency of the DC government, it would be illegal because of its failure to conduct a competitive bidding process, because it is a sole source contract over $1 million that does not comply with other DC government contracting regulations, and because of many provisions counter to other DC laws and regulations. . . The question is: why isn't it illegal when the DC city council passes the same kind of contract as a law? DC government instrumentalities such as the National Capital Revitalization Corporation and the Anacostia Waterfront Corporation also have detailed and specific contracting guidelines ensuring fairness and openness. The Florida Market Bill, which was inserted as an amendment, to a completely different bill concerning the provision of workforce housing, would violate those provisions if it were it a contract entered into by either of those organizations or by the DC government. . .

IF YOU WERE looking for an end to business as usual under the new administration, look again. The city council unanimously approved a sleazy plan for a development at the Florida Avenue market that threatens an icon and an essential part of the city's food chain. Chief beneficiary is Sang Oh Coi whose lobbyist was the John Ray who's also been trying to bring more legalized gambling to the city. As even the Post admits, "The approval came despite unanswered questions about the mayor and others' obligations and about why Choi, who has no major experience as a developer, is working with the city. Some of Choi's fellow landowners -- including his brother Philip, who owns the D.C. Farmers Market -- oppose the project. 'Some deals were cut, and I'm not sure what they were,' said Sharon Ambrose, the outgoing chairman of the council's Economic Development Committee, who tried unsuccessfully to block the legislation from a first reading this month. Ambrose (D-Ward 6) missed yesterday's session.". . . NO BIDDING, NO REAL DEBATE, and no concern for those currently making a living there. Both Fenty and Gray voted for the proposal which we would call more corrupt than anything Marion Barry might have thought of, except that Barry voted for it, too.

2006. . .


WASHINGTON POST - The D.C. Council gave preliminary approval yesterday to a controversial plan to redevelop Capital City Market, a gritty warehouse district [sic] wedged between New York and Florida avenues NE, into a $1.2 billion project, including condominiums, retail shops and a hotel. The plan, called New Town at Capital City Market, has been aggressively pushed by Sang Oh Choi, the largest individual landowner, who seeks to develop much of the project, and outgoing council member Vincent B. Orange Sr. (D-Ward 5), who represents the area. The 24-acre site plan includes office and condominium buildings, a YMCA and an amphitheater that would be converted into an ice skating rink in the winter. Proponents say the project also might include a hotel developed by billionaire Sheila Johnson, co-founder of Black Entertainment Television and co-owner of the Washington Mystics. Warehouses with three levels of parking above them would be built for wholesalers. . .

Although the New Town legislation labels Capital City Market as blighted and underutilized, the area was bustling with workers pushing dollies loaded with produce and meats and shoppers hunting for bargains yesterday.

"I don't like this New Town. I don't want to lose my business," said Hanna Park, who has owned Ace Wholesale Inc. on Fourth Street NE for 10 years.

Park and her husband, Paul, who sell costume jewelry, handbags and other sundries in their store, met briefly yesterday with Alexander Y. Chi, who has been rallying businesses in opposition to the project.

[Alexander Y. Chi], president of the National Association of Asian American Businesses, circulated letters to business owners asking the council to postpone the vote and encouraged owners to head to the John A. Wilson Building yesterday afternoon. Chi said merchants with smaller businesses, many of whom are first-generation immigrants and do not speak English, have been disenfranchised.

Jae and Nae Choi, the sons of Sang Oh Choi, huddled outside the council chambers with John Ray, a former at-large council member, who is the family's lobbyist for the project. Sang Oh Choi accompanied Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) on his five-day trip to South Korea in June. Williams sent a letter to council members yesterday in support of the development.

The Chois were also contributors to Orange's failed mayoral run. Orange has been a vigorous champion of the project and battled for weeks with colleague Sharon Ambrose (D-Ward 6), who opposed the project, to move it forward.

RICHARD LAYMAN - The Florida Market has more than 100 businesses, almost 70 different property owners, and a large retail component as well. Not to mention that revitalizing public markets, rather than "urban renewal-ing" them is one of the hottest trends in urban revitalization. Over the past few years, new markets have opened in places like San Francisco, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Baltimore, New York City, and Vancouver, Washington. And many other cities, such as Honolulu, are exploring similar plans.

Fortunately, there is still one Council session left in the year, and one more chance for City Council members to do the right thing.

No one says that the Florida Market is perfect. But the people who love the market are a lot better go to people than the people who see the market's value solely in the land and the location and not the use.

Here are some of the things to look for when determining whether or not legislation really smells:

1. No open process for tendering proposals, but a deal that selects specific and connected actors. (Don't ask questions about why one property owner owning 10% of the site has more clout than the other 60+ property owners. And don't ask why other groups of property owners didn't have the ability to tender counter proposals.)

2. Say it promotes affordable housing. (The provisions aren't much different than other projects underway in the city.)

3. When you can't get it out of committee, attach it to another bill, one that's difficult for other council members to vote against.

4. Bus in senior citizens to sit in the hearing room to show community support. (Don't check to see if they were given money and/or food to come. Or where they live or if they shop at the market.)

5. Don't pay much attention to how ex-councilmember/lobbyists have their hands all over the bill.

6. Get it on the Council agenda the day before the second to last Council session before new Council members take office.

RICHARD LAYMAN, COUNCIL TESTIMONY - San Francisco, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Vancouver, Washington, and other communities have constructed new public market and food distribution facilities. Extant markets in Detroit, Philadelphia, Cleveland, even our own Eastern Market in DC, are experiencing a resurgence of interest and success as they reach out to new customer segments, and to people rediscovering the attraction of the center city. There is no reason why Washington's Florida Market can't enjoy the same kind of success.

Since the 1930s, the Florida Market - then called the Union Market, and later renamed the Capital City Market - has served as Washington's primary wholesale food distribution center. Many of the largest food distribution companies in the region - each company doing millions of dollars of business annually and employing hundreds of workers - were once located in the Florida Market (that many of these businesses are no longer based in DC should be a matter of great concern). Fine dining restaurants complemented the various wholesale and retail vendors, bakeries, and purveyors.

Today, while needing a good dose of love, attention, and spiffing up - the Florida Market offers tremendous potential and extant strengths. A great variety of food-related businesses are housed there, ranging from one of the best Italian delis south of Brooklyn, to a major catering company, butchers, Korean, African, Latino, Caribbean, Middle Eastern groceries, pasta and noodle production houses, and more.

Businesses in the Florida Market:

- employ as many as 2,000 people

- serve thousands of small business and institutional customers--corner stores, restaurants, carry-outs; churches; etc.

- serve tens of thousands of individual consumers, especially those of limited means. . .

The New Towns plan [for the area] is gentrification, pure and simple. It proposes to get rid of sometimes gritty businesses and gritty customers, in favor of something new and seemingly more pretty. . . From the standpoint of design, the New Towns proposal is a fundamentally suburban idea, designed by suburban-based architects, oriented to the car, for a space in the heart of the city that is fundamentally urban.

The New Towns group misleads and seeks support by subterfuge, by using the chimera of "affordable housing" to justify destroying hundreds of businesses and thousands of jobs (and at the cost of hundreds of millions of city-provided subsidies which they do not acknowledge when making public presentations).
The New Towns group tells the extant businesses that there is a place for them in the new proposal, without being honest about how the cost of new construction means much, much higher rents, probably 4 to 6 times higher than what they are paying now, price hikes that will likely put them out of business. . .
The Florida Market is a light industrial area. It is not a shopping mall or a quiet residential neighborhood with limited activity. Bringing residents into proximity with such businesses will only create a lobby seeking to shut the businesses down. This is a recipe for failure - if keeping some form of market is truly desired. . .

In the post Kelo v. City of New London era, where property rights advocates across the country are seeking strictures on the ability of municipalities to exercise eminent domain authority, New Towns proponents are already threatening to condemn the properties of merchants who are unwilling to toe the line. Not to mention the hundreds of millions of dollars of city monies the New Towns proponents seek to make this project happen.

We have before us a project designed to enrich a small group of investors at the expense of 600,000 residents of the City of Washington, 2,000 employees suddenly jobless, 200 destroyed businesses, and as many as 100,000 destroyed customer relationships, both small businesses and individuals - forced to seek new places to buy, possibly outside of the District proper, recognizing that some of the small business customers, reliant on the low prices available in the Florida Market, will end up closing as well once the fundamental character of the Market is destroyed by the New Towns proponents. . .

The Florida Market is truly one of the only places in the city (Eastern Market is another) where all kinds of people of widely differing faiths, races, ethnicities, income, and other characteristics, come together. In a city that claims to be "world class" and "international," the Florida Market is one of the only places in the city where the walk truly meets the talk.


CHANNEL FOUR - Waterless urinals and recycled carpet could become common building features in the nation's capital under green construction legislation passed by the District of Columbia Council. The bill, which is expected to be approved by Mayor Anthony A. Williams, would make Washington the first major city to require private developers to adhere to the standards of the U.S. Green Building Council. . . The bill would require all commercial development of 50,000 square feet or more to meet the building council's standards starting in 2012. The requirement applies to both new construction and significant renovations of old buildings.

All city-owned commercial projects funded in 2008 or later would have to attain certification, and District-funded housing projects would be required to follow similar environmental standards. The bill also orders the mayor to adopt separate standards for schools, which the green building council is now developing.


Virginia Avniel Spatz, HILL RAG - For several years, a banner proclaiming a new "Waterfront" development has hung over the Waterside Mall, at 401 M SW. Residents watched as mall stores closed in anticipation of the start of construction, leaving only a Safeway, CVS and a Bank of America branch. While internal demolition is finally underway, it is still unclear what will occupy this valuable piece of land once the development is completed.

Waterfront Associates - a joint venture of Bressler & Reiner, The Kaempfer Company, and Forest City Enterprises - owns the complex's three-story, 45-foot-high mall building and its two 130-foot-high office towers. Its long-term ground lease is held by RLA Revitalization Corporation, a subsidiary of the National Capital Revitalization Corporation. As of this writing, RLARC retains ownership of the land at 401 M St., SW, while Waterfront owns its buildings and holds the development rights.

However, early this year, the DC Council approved transfer of 585,656-square-feet of RLARC's land at 401 M St., SW, to Waterfront Associates, "pursuant to a negotiated agreement." As this issue went to press, the NCRC/RLARC board (the boards are identical by law) had not yet approved the land-transfer agreement.

Simply put, this means that publicly-owned land valued at $126 million will be given outright to Waterside Associates. Waterside plans to build 1.2 million sf of offices, 1.2 million sf of residences, and 75,000 sf of retail

ARTHUR DELANEY, THE HILL - The developers in charge - Waterfront Associates - have sort of let the mall rot in anticipation of turning it into mixed-use high-rises. At an Oct. 11 community meeting at the public school across the street, they made PowerPoint presentations about their latest plans. . . A representative of the developers mentioned plans for possibly relocating the Safeway and the CVS. The community began to grumble. Then it was Jennifer Budoff, development manager from the National Capital Revitalization Corporation, the quasi-public entity that owns the land beneath the buildings. She mentioned what a great deal they'd get in retaining less than two acres of the site and letting the developers take the rest. This would happen after extinguishing the NCRC's decades-old lease, which mandates the land be used for public good but undervalues it significantly.

Budoff says the less-than-two-acres are worth between $22 million and $30 million based on comparative sales near the baseball stadium - my God! What's the rest of it worth? Why are the developers getting all that? Before these doozeys could sink in, Budoff threatened that the developers can do whatever they want and are under no contractual obligation to build anything at all, as if to remind everyone this whole "town meeting" thing was a charade. . . Then it was time for the community to talk. I might paraphrase a large part of the discussion like this: "Who do you think you are and what the hell are you going to do to our goddamn supermarket?" There were a few supporters, but for the most part neighbors gave the developers an earful about traffic, the length of the construction project, the size of the buildings, and the potential loss of amenities. The Safeway is the only grocery store in the quadrant.


STEPHEN SMITH - As a representative of the Committee of 100 on the Federal City, I have served with many preservation colleagues as a consulting party in the review that is required relocating the Department of Homeland Security to St. Elizabeths West Campus. The fact that Congress has refused to appropriate any funds for the DHS move to St. E's West Campus apparently will not deter the General Services Administration from moving ahead with plans for relocation onto the National Historic Landmark.

DHS would sit within a cordon sanitaire that would significantly denude the protected landscape, and the core of the site would be filled with up to 6.3 million square feet of office buildings and parking structures. For context, the Pentagon is about 3.7 million square feet of office space, with 1.75 million square feet of parking spaces. We repeatedly asked that an alternative pegged at something near 2 million square feet be explored. We have never seen an examination of this option. . .

We have consistently indicated that development on the 6.3 million square foot scale would effectively destroy the campus, whose role in the history of treatment of mental illness is seminal, and whose buildings and grounds were exemplars of the progressive environments that could promote cures and improvements in mental disease.


[The city has spent a quarter billion in hidden subsidies to developers. Ed Lazere explains how it works]

ED LAZERE, HILL RAG - So what exactly is "tax increment financing?" Under TIF, subsidies are awarded to commercial developments that probably would not be built without an incentive, but that ultimately would generate substantial new taxes if built. The new, or incremental, taxes are used to cover the cost of the upfront subsidy. By spurring development that otherwise would not occur, TIF is often viewed as a program that pays for itself.

From the perspective of a developer, TIF operates as a grant to cover a portion of their development costs. The subsidy is paid off by the District government with the property and sales taxes the business would have paid anyway. In DC, the developer's only obligation is to fill at least 51 percent of the jobs created with DC residents. Sadly, this requirement is often ignored.

TIF subsidies can be huge. The Gallery Place retail development (Clydes, Benneton, Regal Cinemas, etc) received $74 million in TIF subsidies. The Mandarin Hotel - luxury hotel- got $45 million from DC through TIF, covering nearly one-third of the total development cost. Some more recent TIFs have been smaller, such as $11 million for the Embassy Suites hotel near the new Convention Center. . .

TIF only really makes sense if the subsidy goes to a development project that probably would not be built without an incentive. In that situation, the new tax revenue flowing from the completed project really is new revenue the city would not otherwise have, and it would be ok to base a subsidy on it. In most parts of the country, this means targeting TIF subsidies to blighted areas. Think vacant lot in a poor neighborhood.

DC's TIF program, however, has no blight requirement. Instead, it has been used to build largely in DC's business core. Gallery Place and the Embassy Suites hotel, for example, are on prime real estate that probably would have been developed as office space until the city stepped in to encourage other development. Office buildings would have generated plenty of tax revenue, perhaps more than the retail and hotel projects. This means that the TIF subsidy cannot be justified on the basis that the project will result in new tax revenues the city would not otherwise collect.

It's not necessarily wrong to provide subsidies to encourage retail development instead of another office building. But we should acknowledge that doing so comes at a cost, rather than pretending that TIF subsidies have no costs. Paying Embassy Suites $11 million to encourage them to build a hotel should show up as an $11 million budget item.

$7 International Spy Museum
$46 Mandarin Oriental Hotel
$74 Gallery Place
$74 Embassy Suites Hotel
$26 Skyland Shopping Center


RICHARD LAYMAN, COUNCIL TESTIMONY - San Francisco, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Vancouver, Washington, and other communities have constructed new public market and food distribution facilities. Extant markets in Detroit, Philadelphia, Cleveland, even our own Eastern Market in DC, are experiencing a resurgence of interest and success as they reach out to new customer segments, and to people rediscovering the attraction of the center city. There is no reason why Washington's Florida Market can't enjoy the same kind of success.

Since the 1930s, the Florida Market - then called the Union Market, and later renamed the Capital City Market - has served as Washington's primary wholesale food distribution center. Many of the largest food distribution companies in the region - each company doing millions of dollars of business annually and employing hundreds of workers - were once located in the Florida Market (that many of these businesses are no longer based in DC should be a matter of great concern). Fine dining restaurants complemented the various wholesale and retail vendors, bakeries, and purveyors.

Today, while needing a good dose of love, attention, and spiffing up - the Florida Market offers tremendous potential and extant strengths. A great variety of food-related businesses are housed there, ranging from one of the best Italian delis south of Brooklyn, to a major catering company, butchers, Korean, African, Latino, Caribbean, Middle Eastern groceries, pasta and noodle production houses, and more.

Businesses in the Florida Market:

- employ as many as 2,000 people

- serve thousands of small business and institutional customers--corner stores, restaurants, carry-outs; churches; etc.

- serve tens of thousands of individual consumers, especially those of limited means. . .

The New Towns plan [for the area] is gentrification, pure and simple. It proposes to get rid of sometimes gritty businesses and gritty customers, in favor of something new and seemingly more pretty. . . From the standpoint of design, the New Towns proposal is a fundamentally suburban idea, designed by suburban-based architects, oriented to the car, for a space in the heart of the city that is fundamentally urban.

The New Towns group misleads and seeks support by subterfuge, by using the chimera of "affordable housing" to justify destroying hundreds of businesses and thousands of jobs (and at the cost of hundreds of millions of city-provided subsidies which they do not acknowledge when making public presentations).

The New Towns group tells the extant businesses that there is a place for them in the new proposal, without being honest about how the cost of new construction means much, much higher rents, probably 4 to 6 times higher than what they are paying now, price hikes that will likely put them out of business. . .

The Florida Market is a light industrial area. It is not a shopping mall or a quiet residential neighborhood with limited activity. Bringing residents into proximity with such businesses will only create a lobby seeking to shut the businesses down. This is a recipe for failure - if keeping some form of market is truly desired. . .

In the post Kelo v. City of New London era, where property rights advocates across the country are seeking strictures on the ability of municipalities to exercise eminent domain authority, New Towns proponents are already threatening to condemn the properties of merchants who are unwilling to toe the line. Not to mention the hundreds of millions of dollars of city monies the New Towns proponents seek to make this project happen.

We have before us a project designed to enrich a small group of investors at the expense of 600,000 residents of the City of Washington, 2,000 employees suddenly jobless, 200 destroyed businesses, and as many as 100,000 destroyed customer relationships, both small businesses and individuals - forced to seek new places to buy, possibly outside of the District proper, recognizing that some of the small business customers, reliant on the low prices available in the Florida Market, will end up closing as well once the fundamental character of the Market is destroyed by the New Towns proponents. . .

The Florida Market is truly one of the only places in the city (Eastern Market is another) where all kinds of people of widely differing faiths, races, ethnicities, income, and other characteristics, come together. In a city that claims to be "world class" and "international," the Florida Market is one of the only places in the city where the walk truly meets the talk.


MARC FISHER seems to quite happy with the Rosslynization of Washington. On the Post's chat page he commented, "An easy, dominating win for Mary Cheh. . . That's a powerful endorsement by the silent, pro-development majority against the NIMBYs and suburban wannabes who have fought against transit-oriented development around Metro stations."

This is typical of the self-defeating arrogance of the "smart growth" folks, starting right with what they call themselves. As we have pointed out, real people live in the communities that the SG types want to change and they call these communities home, not sprawl. There are lots of ways of increasing density and reducing reliance on the car, but cottoning to the greed and Soviet-style esthetics of DC developers is not the right one.

Ward Three was designed around two major streetcar lines - Wisconsin and Connecticut Avenue with a residential thoroughfare - Reno Road - in between. This plan produced some pretty good density - check out the old apartment buildings on Connecticut - but still made it an attractive community.

There is nothing attractive in the sort of buildings being dumped into DC and elsewhere in the name of smart growth. They are ugly manifestations of power without grace.

There are other ways of going about adding density. Better design - in the historic European tradition - is one. Letting people add apartments to their existing homes is another. Adding a story or two of apartments over first floor retail is another. Giving these communities more accessible services rather than just more housing is yet another. And we have suggested that UDC's campus be redesigned as an attractive commercial quadrangle with shops on the first floor and classrooms above.

But dumping more tasteless ten-story boxes is about the dumbest sort of growth you can imagine.


FROM THE paper helped convince us to subsidize one of the richest men in America with a baseball stadium comes a proposal from one of their reporters to do away with the city's height limit. It's unclear whether Michael Grunwald was being independently dense or launching a trial balloon, but it fits in nicely with the growing view of the local powerful that how the city looks, feels and works matters not a particle. It's all about bigger and more powerful.

Grunwald writes: "By limiting downtown density, the height restriction also limits downtown vitality. Vibrant urban neighborhoods need enough residents to support street life after business hours; downtown Washington has struggled to maintain a critical mass. . .

"Does the height limit even produce charm? It certainly produces shorter buildings. But by denying developers economies of scale, it forces them to use every cubic inch available, the result being endless blocks of similarly drab and boxy 10-story cubes that make walking around Washington feel like negotiating a rat maze. . . "

In fact, the people who permitted the 10 story cubes were the same sort of planners Grunwald turns to for vision. The city could have, for example, required more ground floor space for things like mini-parks but that, of course, would have been unfair to developer-campaign contributors. Add another ten or 30 stories and you have the same problems only with less sunlight.

The fact is that DC's height limit has contributed mightily to its attractiveness and livability. Would Grunwald do away with the height limit in Georgetown, Brookland, Capitol Hill, Adams-Morgan. . .or just leave that for some Post reporter to recommend ten years from now?

Washington is a city with its own style and character. Prime among the things contributing to this style and character is sunlight and sky, things that skyscraper obliterate.

Besides, to have 20 more stories of non-taxpaying commuters makes no sense at all.

Grunwald is urging a Washington as dark as downtown NYC or Philadelphia, as dull as Rosslyn, and as boring as any number of "revitalized" downtown that have failed to save their cities. The only people who it will please will be his paper's developer friends.

Writes Mark Jenkins in City Paper: "The underlying thesis here is that there are two kinds of cities: sleepy low-rise ones like D.C., and vibrant high-rise ones like New York. In American terms, this might appear to be right. But it doesn't explain why such cities as Rome (no skyscrapers), Paris (only one), and London and Tokyo (which have some high-rises, but are not dominated by them) are so active. Clearly, tall buildings are not essential to produce bustling high-density districts. If they were, then the mostly three-to-four-story D.C. downtown that survived into the '70s would have been deader than the 12-to-15-story one that exists today. In fact, it was much livelier, because it had more shops and more small buildings open to the street, rather than full-block white-collar fortresses that are oriented inwardly. . . If the height limitation is responsible for suburban sprawl, high office rents, lack of affordable housing, and major traffic jams, then the New York region shouldn't have any of those problems. But, of course, it has them all. As for what makes "Washington a second-tier city," there are many issues, most of them, again, political: D.C.'s lack of full home rule and congressional representation, the dearth of regional land-use and transportation planning, longstanding federal policies encouraging suburban development, and the fact that D.C. (unlike every other major American city) has never been allowed to grow by annexing territory."



MAY 2006


METRO SPINNER ZACHARY SCHRAG makes former Metro PR guy Cody Pfanstiel sound like a cynic. In a puff piece in the Post, the Georg Mason professor engages in multiple ejaculations such as "Since the first train pulled out of the station in 1976, the system has transformed places such as downtown Washington, U Street, Ballston and Bethesda, making them vibrant, thriving and walkable. And under the right circumstances, rail could do the same for neighborhoods from Anacostia to Loudoun and from Columbia Pike to Columbia. If the creation and success of Metro have shown anything, it's that however difficult and expensive it may be to build, rail may in fact be the most powerful tool we have to guide growth far into the future and help create an optimum living environment."

Leaving aside the question of just who will get to enjoy the optimum living environment of the new Anacostia, there's another issue that never gets discussed: the system is simply not the friend of the environment that the media suggests. In fact, if Metro had never been built, the area would likely have developed in a far more compact fashion since it was the subway that allowed developers to leap-frog long distances in order to mine cheap land. Dumb growth in short.

Further, Metro, rather than competing with the automobile, spurred new development whose users largely came by car. This is a major reason for the growing automobile congestion in the area.

Metro also destroyed a functioning bus system modeled on the city's highly successful streetcar plan. Finally, it gobbled up funds that might otherwise have been used to provide decent transit for those not fortunate enough to live near a Metro stop.

Now, with gas prices soaring, the false promise of Metro may be finally exposed. The only transportation policy that really makes sense is to find ways to stop people moving around so much. That means a shift away from both the freeway and subway towards communities with easily accessible shopping and services reached by local transit as well as by walking and bicycle.



MIKE RUPERT, DC EXAMINER - Metro officials are again being asked to revisit the transit system's restroom policy after complaints from citizens associations and activists that access to toilets is still denied without justification, officials said. Several groups also suggest the policy - which gives restroom access for "emergencies," for children and the elderly or physically disabled - violates state commercial building codes. . . Robert Brubaker, who heads the public restroom initiative for the American Restroom Association, said there are enough stipulations in the policy "that no one would ever be able to use the restroom regardless of the circumstance and the station manager would be protected by the policy.". . . A survey last fall found a majority of station managers denied access to restrooms without justification.



READERS OF THE WASHINGTON BUSINESS JOURNAL seem to think Marie Johns would do the best for the region's businesses if elected according to an internet poll. Johns has 32% as of today, Cropp 27% and Fenty 23%. Of course, the poll is subject to multiple voting and other imprecisions such as the fact that we voted for Brown just to get the results. . . And a reminder to the Biz Journal and candidates: DC's mayor is not being elected to do the most for the "region's business community" but to serve the city's business community when not serving its ordinary citizens who should come first. One of the reason's DC is so screwed up is because its covert parliaments - the Board of Trade and Federal City Council - represent regional and not local interests.


COLBERT KING, WASHINGTON POST - when baseball team owners decided to enter into negotiations with the District on the relocation of the Montreal Expos to the nation's capital, executives in the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball at 245 Park Ave. in New York looked down on Washington and hired Ray to help communicate their interests and desires to politicians in the District. And, according to Ray's lobbyist activity reports, baseball paid rather handsomely for his services, shelling out $17,929 for lobbying performed between Jan. 1 and June 30, 2005, and $44,143 in connection with lobbying activities in the second half of the year. . .

When Greater Southeast Community Hospital had a matter that needed the city's attention in 2005, it hired Ray. . . So did D.C. Chartered Health Plan Inc. when it had some contract and policy problems with the District. Ray is one of the go-to guys for companies with procurement problems, zoning issues and building interests. Clients from near and far seek him out.

For instance, offshore gambling interests took a shine to the District and had a lusty desire to get into the pocketbooks of area residents. To gain a foothold, they hired Ray to steer them through the steps necessary to construct a gambling palace with 3,500 slot machines on a 14-acre site in Northeast Washington. That venture, however, didn't turn out so well. Despite spending $2 million to bring in the slots, the promoters ended up with a fine of $622,880 levied against them by D.C. elections officials because, the watchdogs said, the petition drive launched to put the gambling scheme on the ballot was riddled with fraud, forgery and other shenanigans. Can't win 'em all.

But a quick look at Ray's lobbyist activity reports will reveal why interests sign up with him. He's got access.

On the subject of baseball alone, Ray or his associate had oral or written communication with Ward 5 D.C. Council member Vincent Orange at least 20 times between July 1 and Dec. 30 last year. Ray and Ward 2 council member Jack Evans, who chaired the committee overseeing the baseball deal, got together 10 times during the same period, according to Ray's report.


2006. . .


The DC Statehood Green Party has introduced its new legislative agenda including adoption of the Fair Budget Coalition's recommendations. Said the Statehood Greens:

"Any budget surplus should go to better meet essential needs of D.C. residents, especially of our youth. . . Because of continuing under-funding of federal assistance to all states and the District of Columbia and chronic under-funding of essential programs, especially since the Control Board regime, the District government must rely on its own tax base to better meet essential needs of its residents. This will require modest tax increases for wealthy residents, elimination of corporate welfare including closure of loopholes, thereby insuring a sustainable revenue stream for the future as well as a fair tax burden. The District does have the tax base to improve the quality of life for all its residents. The District now has the highest income inequality and the lowest life expectancy in the nation."

The party also endorse:

- The education agenda of Save Our Schools

- Free wireless Internet service and a program for digital empowerment for D.C. residents

- Movement towards a plan to guarantee health care for everyone in D.C.

- A 'Congestion Charge' to reduce air pollution and congestion while providing revenue to expand public transportation

- A comprehensive plan for 'greening the District,' by retrofitting photovoltaics, solar heating and cooling, green roofs on existing infrastructure, promoting water harvesting and reducing air and water pollution

- 'Sunshine' laws to increase transparency in D.C.'s budgetary process and real property tax assessment

- A raise in the minimum wage to $8.00 per hour, including tipped wage earners, with a annual adjustment for cost of living

LA TIMES reports that GW Law pop prof Jonathan Turley agrees with us on the fatal flaw in the Davis-Norton representation bill, one that the local media won't tell its readers and viewers about. Turley thinks the Davis-Norton bill is "flagrantly unconstitutional" because the Constitution gives representation to "the people of the several states.". . . "It would take a constitutional amendment to give the district unquestioned congressional and Senate representation, he said. Addressing it legislatively means another Congress could always revoke the voting privilege later. . . The larger issue for Democrats in Congress is whether they want to risk a constitutional challenge to the D.C. representative while Utah's new representative keeps voting. 'The irony here," said Turley, 'is that Utah could get an extra seat in Congress only to have the district seat struck down as unconstitutional.'"


THE REPUBLICANS may screw things up pretty badly when they're in power, but they aren't dumb about getting that power. That's why we strongly suspect that Rep. Tom Davis' plan to give both DC and Utah a new seat in the House is just another electoral con game. Here's how it would work. The bill - ostensibly nobly intended to give DC representation in the House - is passed and the two new representatives prepare to take their seats. But wait. . . a law suit is filed saying that for Congress to give a non-state like DC a seat is unconstitutional. It probably is, especially as the Supreme Court has already indicated as much in a case in which your editor was a plaintiff. Result: Utah's new representative takes the oath but DC's is left waiting for years as the case winds its way through the courts, probably finally to be told that since DC isn't a state it can't have a seat. Meanwhile, the GOP is up one member of the House.


[From the DC Statehood Green Party]

(1) The Norton-Davis bill grants full constitutional rights to a single District resident -- Eleanor Holmes Norton. "Imagine if the outcome of the Montgomery bus boycott were that Dr. Martin Luther King alone was given the right to sit in front of the bus, while all other black citizens of Montgomery still had to sit in the back. In effect, that's what the Norton-Davis bill would enact," said Gail Dixon.

(2) The Norton-Davis bill, which gives D.C. a single voting seat in the House, still leaves D.C. residents with less congressional representation than all other Americans, who get to elect two Senators as well as a Representative. When D.C. wins statehood, it will also gain two Senators and a Representative.

(3) Representation in a national legislature is not democracy. "Throughout history, colonies have enjoyed voting seats in the legislatures of nations that conquered them, even while they suffered exploitation and suppression," said Adam Eidinger, former candidate for D.C.'s unpaid U.S. Representative position. "Our own Founding Fathers and Mothers fought for democracy and independence, not 'voting rights.' Patrick Henry never said 'Give me a seat in Parliament or give me death.'

(4) The voting seat afforded by the Norton Davis bill will not block Congress from imposing its will and veto power on D.C. In 1998, Congress overturned a ballot measure that passed with a 69% majority in D.C. (Initiative 59 for medical marijuana). Congress has also forced D.C. to adopt 'zero tolerance' laws; ordered Mayor Williams (through the appointed Financial Control Board) to dismantle D.C. General Hospital, the District's only full-service public health facility, imposed a charter school system; and outlawed needle exchange to prevent HIV transmission. Members of Congress who represent suburban districts in Virginia and Maryland have exploited D.C. for the benefit of their constituents, prohibiting D.C. from taxing commuters (every other city in the U.S. relies on commuter taxes) and pushing for a new convention center in 1999 to be paid for by a D.C. business surtax for the profit of suburban businesses. Congress members have sought to overturn local gun control laws, enact the death penalty, impose a school voucher program, and prohibit benefits for same-sex couples.

(5) The lack of statehood has made D.C. residents second-class U.S. citizens, denying them rights that all other U.S. citizens enjoy -- contrary to the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which ensures equal protection under the law. "This is why, ever since thousands of African Americans moved to D.C. in the 1950s to take federal jobs but had no control over local laws, one of the nicknames of the District has been 'The Last Plantation,'" said T. E. Smith, Ward 8 delegate to the Statehood Green Party's steering committee and a Vietnam War veteran.

(6) If the Norton-Davis bill passes, Congress will still hold the power to revoke D.C.'s lone voting seat and repeal D.C.'s limited democratic powers. Under statehood, Congress would not have the power to revoke D.C. democracy. Except for the Southern states after they rebelled in the Civil War, Congress has never rescinded any state's right to govern itself.

(7) The Norton-Davis bill will set back the movement for full constitutional rights for District residents for decades, because Congress will consider democracy for D.C. a fait accompli. "When the Democratic Party, at Ms. Norton's encouragement, removed the goal of D.C. statehood from the party's platform in 2004 it left only one major party in D.C. that supports statehood -- the DC Statehood Green Party," said Rick Tingling-Clemmons, Ward 7 representative to the party's Steering Committee.

(8) Since the decisions of D.C. elected officials are all subject to Congressional approval and veto power, and the elected Representative would be the District's sole voting representative in Congress, the bill will give this representative sole and discretionary 'gatekeeper' power over all D.C. laws, policies, and budgets -- contrary to the principle of self-determination, which is the basis of democracy. "Leverage over all D.C. political agenda will be invested in a one individual -- Ms. Norton. This is the exact opposite of democracy," said Jay Marx, DC Statehood Green Party steering committee member and former candidate for City Council Ward 2 seat.

(9) If the bill passes, it's quite possible that the Supreme Court will overturn it, since the U.S. Constitution grants voting representation in Congress solely to states. The Supreme Court will not overturn an Act of Congress that allows D.C. to become a state. "This might well be the Republican strategy -- make a deal with Democrats to add a new Democratic D.C. seat and a new Republican Utah seat. Then, after the passage of the Norton-Davis bill, someone will file a suit to block Ms. Norton from taking her seat in the House, on constitutional grounds. If the Supreme Court acts on its alleged pro-Republican bias, D.C. will lose its seat while the Republicans get to keep their Utah seat. Anyone who believes that Republicans aren't capable of such a plan have forgotten how the Republican Party redistricted Texas, as well as the election irregularities in Florida in 2000 and in Ohio and other states in 2004," said John Gloster, a long-time party member.

(10) If a court overturns the bill and requires a constitutional amendment, then, procedurally, full democracy will be easier to achieve than mere voting rights in Congress, since a vote for statehood would not require the 2/3 majority necessary to pass constitutional amendment. In 1846, an Act of Congress removed Alexandria and parts of Arlington from the District and gave it to the state of Virginia. This precedent proves that Congress, through legislation requiring a simple majority, can change the District's borders and reduce the constitutionally mandated federal enclave to include only the federal properties (White House, Capitol, Mall, etc.), thus freeing the rest of D.C. to choose statehood.



DAVID SCHWARTZMAN, DC STATEHOOD GREEN PARTY (City Council testimony): We stand in solidarity with vendors. This bill would grant dictatorial powers to the Mayor in virtually all aspects of vending regulation. We find in this bill language such as "The Mayor shall designate. . . The Mayor may authorize. . . The Mayor may establish. . . " . We urge instead that such regulation be made by a body with representation from the public and, of course, the vendors themselves.

Further, given the record of our Mayor in regard to favoring corporate interests over the public, implementing the agenda of the Federal City Council, we fear that such an approach would be a step towards the corporatization of control of vending, forcing vendors to become employees instead of operators of independent small businesses.

These vendors have long suffered the impact of onerous fees, arbitrary fines and police harassment. They give the community a valuable service, pay sales taxes and fees for occupancy of public space. These vendors are very hard working, many supporting families. The time to show them respect and give them social and economic relief is long overdue.

To put this legislation in a broader context, we continue to witness an implementation of urban structural adjustment, putting more burdens on the low income and working class majority of the District. The Control Board regime is now being continued under the façade of elected government. The income gap between rich and poor has grown to record levels. DC taxes have become ever more regressive. DC millionaires are now paying a lower tax rate than families living in poverty while 30% of our children are below the poverty line. This is obscene. . .

Even our Home Rule Charter was amended without a referendum last year when our Mayor asked Congress to do it for us. Public property is being given away to private developers. Our neighborhood schools are being closed with brazen contempt shown to parents, students and teachers. Metro fares have been increased, including even student fare cards, instead of regional corporations and wealthy residents paying their fair share to support mass transit. Fenty was elected with broad expectations that the old regime was going to end. But now we see an even more sophisticated offensive on behalf of corporate interests and our wealthiest residents. But the sleeping giant, our working class majority and its allies are now waking up. Grassroots organizations of tenants, parents, workers, and small business people such as vendors are now fighting back. We will not be silent. Another DC is Possible, A DC that truly serves the majority instead of only the most privileged residents and regional corporate interests.

WASH POST - Street vendors pulled their carts off the District's sidewalks yesterday afternoon to attend a public hearing on legislation that they fear could put them out of business. In a room packed with about 200 people at the John A. Wilson Building, vendors testified about possibly losing spots where they have operated for years, facing higher fees and being pushed out of the industry, partly because of the city's efforts to diversify the items offered by food vendors. Brenda Sayles, 60, who peddles souvenirs and other goods, said the city is rewriting rules at a time when vendors are struggling to stay afloat. "This economy is in a sluggish state," said Sayles, who has been vending for 23 years. "I've had other vendors tell me fifty dollars is a great day for them."

Last week, the D.C. Council approved emergency legislation that allows the administration of Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) to craft new regulations, including setting fees, assigning locations and creating zones where new types of vending can be tested. The permanent legislation is pending. . .

"Their motive is to sell our spots at auction to the highest bidder," said Leterbrhan Imam, 51, who operates a hot dog stand in front of the Department of Motor Vehicles on C Street NW. Her testimony drew applause when she said the vendors refused to be "bullied" and forced out of business. Imam assembled about 50 women, mostly immigrants from east African countries, to attend the hearing. They wore white T-shirts with black lettering that said "I am a mother of 1," "I am a mother of 4" or "breadwinner of my family.". . .

Vendors directed much of their anger toward city agencies, particularly the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs and vending coordinator Sam Williams. . . Williams said in an interview that vendors' fees do not cover the costs of regulating the industry and that his office will negotiate a new fee structure with vendors. A standard two-year food vending license is $383, and a nonfood license is $321. The city's 603 street vendors also pay $375 a quarter in lieu of sales taxes, or $1,500 annually. . .

SAM SMITH, GREAT AMERICAN POLITICAL REPAIR MANUAL, 1997 - Often citizens gang up on economic self-sufficiency because they find it isn't neat and orderly enough. Street vendors annoy local businesses; pedestrians complain about bike couriers, residents near universities hate group housing, others don't like gay bars, the local paper editorializes against gypsy cabs, others complain about illegal basement apartments or someone running a business out of their house. In my town, even Christianity was declared disorderly as neighbors and bureaucrats teamed up to block a church that was feeding the poor.

What gets forgotten is that a city is not a private club. A city is a place used by a large numbers of people for enormously disparate purposes. For many, the city is a means of upward mobility and to the extent that it functions in this manner, this helps everyone. On the other hand, once you start defining people or their activities as socially unacceptable, you also start eliminating methods of survival and sources of public revenues.

The taxi industry is an example of how cities often hurt themselves by restrictive policies. A study by the Department of Justice found that 87% of 100 cities with taxi service restricted entry in some way. Chip Mellor of the Institute for Justice has noted that Denver routinely turned down every application for a new taxicab company from 1947 on. Chicago and LA are closed. Boston's permit costs $60,000 and New York's $140,000. Washington DC has been a rare case of free entry. The result: some 7000-8,000 taxis in a city of less than 600,000. DC has one cab for every 75 citizens; NYC has one for every 600.

In 1994 Indianapolis eliminated the cap on taxi licenses, setting only a maximum -- but no minimum fares. In four months, the number of cab companies doubled, fares dropped 7% and cab drivers even started wearing ties. We must recognize that at the heart of a city's material success is the balance of trade and self-sufficiency of that city's economy. Central to this, as Jacobs argues, is the replacement of imports. And central to this is small business.

Small business has not only been the country's major producer of new jobs, but micro businesses -- those with fewer than 20 employees -- provided nearly half the new jobs between 1984 and 1990. Small business is more likely to hold on to its jobs, less often damaging to the environment and less physically harmful to its workers. Instead of helping small business, however, city legislators are prone to write regulatory measures with only big firms in mind, ignoring the effects their actions will have on a mom & pop operation. For example, over the past few years my town has lost thousands of jobs through the simple expedient of over-regulating (or over-enforcement of the laws regarding) street vendors, cabs, artist studios, street performers, interior decorators, and home occupations. . .

In fact, new restrictions on street vending cost my city 3,000 jobs at a time when everyone was talking about the need for new employment.

SAM SMITH, SAVING THE CITY FROM ITSELF, 1994 - The idea of the city as a trading center goes back to least to ancient Greece. It is as applicable to LA or Chicago as it was then. Consider, for example, zip code 20032, one of the poorest in Washington, DC. 20032 has a per-capita income of $9,039. By American standards that's not much, but it's greater than the per-capita gross domestic product of Israel and almost as much as Italy and the United Kingdom. The total household income of this one poor neighborhood is $370 million a year. What happens to that $370 million after it gets to the neighborhood is vital to what happens to the people who earn it. At present, much of the $370 million simply flows through the community as though through a sewer.

One is reason for this is that the same thinking that places excessive reliance on convention centers and similar structural solutions has also fostered dependence upon the importation of workers, jobs and federal funds. Far from replacing imports, the traditional city has encouraged, through rezoning and other techniques, the removal of small businesses employing city residents in favor of space for larger corporations hiring a heavily suburban workforce. Yet it is precisely in these small businesses where new ideas take form and where self-generating economies can begin.

The key to the economic revival of the older city is the development of these self-generating economies. The self-generating economy has a long history in America. Many of the country's early communities were largely self-sufficient. This self-sufficiency, however, disappeared with the concentration of industry and land ownership. In cities, one can easily find self-generating economies although we seldom recognize them as such. The explosion of the legal profession, for example, reflects in no small part the ability of lawyers to create jobs for each other. The yuppie phenomenon can be seen as a self-generating economy: yuppies creating artificial needs for other yuppies and with some selling and others buying items that fulfill these needs.

The importance of such economies tends to be disregarded because they don't have the visible form of a single corporation or factory. Yet the impact can be dramatic.

For example, if all of Washington's taxi drivers worked for a single company, they would form the largest firm in the city. You'd never guess it from public policy, which is far more concerned with the regulation of these activities than with the encouragement of them. They are treated more as a nuisance than an essential part of the economic life of the city. Thus, one of the few industries anyone in the city can enter without the vagaries of "personnel procedures" and without a college education is actively discouraged. . .

Instead of helping small business, however, city legislators are prone to write regulatory measures with only big firms in mind, ignoring the effects their actions will have on a mom & pop company. For example, over the past few years my town has lost thousands of jobs through the simple expedient of over-regulating (or over-enforcement of the laws regarding) street vendors, cabs, artist studios, street performers, interior decorators, and home occupations. It would appear that every time someone thinks of a good way to make money outside of working for a major corporation, a city councilmember comes up with a law to make it as difficult as possible. (One legislator several years ago even proposed the regulation of sperm banks -- although the city has yet to have its first experience with one.) The result of such an approach is a reduction in employment, more 'illegal' activity and a growing tendency towards concentration in the particular industry involved, since only the most powerful are equipped to deal with the regulatory morass. Thus the economic space between being homeless and being a junior partner is slowly emptied. Employment choices are limited; innovation and entrepreneurship are penalized; and work styles are homogenized. That so many choose to ignore the rules and drive their gypsy cabs or run their illegal business from their homes is a tribute to the staying power of American economic initiative, but at some point we should start discussing why this has to be so.

Good urban economics would be the economics of small business, of self-generating economies, of cooperatives and of neighborhood-owned companies. It would be the economics of recycling money within the city, of making things other cities need, and of giving every resident a fair chance to make a buck.

PROGRESSIVE REVIEW - Robert Lederman, the NYC artist activist, is after Mayor Giuliani over his plan to close 400 more blocks to street vendors. Lederman says, "Giuliani weakened the Mafia only to turn the City over to the BIDs, undemocratic, unconstitutional pseudo-governments that rule their territories very much like the Mafia previously did, extracting protection money in the form of an assessed tax that now amounts to more than 70 million dollars per year. While they falsely claim that vendors are congesting streets, the real agenda for the BIDs is a kind of ethnic cleansing of what they consider to be 'their' streets but which are in fact, the public's streets. Once the present population of vendors are forced out of business, the BIDs will install their own vendors.

PROGRESSIVE REVIEW 1994 - Some years back, the city passed regulations that cut the number of street vendors in half. Now that number has been halved again, but that's still not enough for those in charge. This despite the fact that street vending and cab driving are vital entry jobs for immigrants and others coming to the city. . . WASHINGTON POST, 1994 -Under a plan approved by the city this month, the Public Space Planning and Management Corp., the nonprofit group hired by the city, will launch a year-long demonstration across 35 downtown blocks, teaming up architects and street merchants to upgrade existing vending units. . . The plan represents the first major restructuring of the District's vending system in 20 years -- one city leaders and some urban planning experts say is overdue. High-end shops, apartments and restaurants have sprouted up across downtown Washington over the past decade, but the city's street vendors "have not kept pace," according to a recent report from the city. "It's trashy now," said W. Kent Cooper, the architect of the Korean War Veterans Memorial and a consultant on the downtown vending project. "Vending in Washington does not live up to its potential." There are 810 licensed vendors in the District, and an estimated 100 operate downtown. .

DC GAZETTE 1985 DC lost 11,128 jobs between 1977 and 1982 according to a report from the Greater Washington Research Center. Now we can add to that nearly 3000 jobs lost, and bragged about at that, because of the city's new restrictions on street vendors. . . Inasmuch as the vendor business [had earlier] contributed almost as many new jobs as the mayor claims the convention center has, this assault on the vendors has got to win the masochistic legislation award of the year.

DC GAZETTE 1976 - We've never been able to understand why people in this town are so down on street vendors. First they were harras sed and restricted in Georgetown, then the Congress turned their business at the foot of the Capitol over to Marriott and then the DC government took away some more of their space to provide parking for tour buses. (Following protests, they relented and found some new space). It's true they make the sidewalk more crowded but they also add life to the city, provide easy access to a soft drink on a hot day and create an urban ambience not even most attractive buildings can provide on their own. Be- sides, for Georgetowners it's cheaper than flying over to purchase knick- knacks at the Ponte Vecchio.

ROBERT HIARN, AD HOC COMMITTEE OF GEORGETOWN VENDORS, DC GAZETTE 1973 - I have worked in Georgetown for the past four years as a vendor. During that time I have not been unaware that there is a small group of businessmen and store owners who are against street vendors. I use the words "small group" because in Georgetown proper there are 292 businesses fronting on Wisconsin Avenue and M Street and it has only been a small percentage of this number who have had any complaint with vendors. It has been my experience that most business men and store owners have been sympathetic and in some cases even helpful.

Concerning those that do wish to exclude vendors from Georgetown there are undertones to their complaints. Those undertones being that the exclusion of vendors from Georgetown is another way to keep blacks and lower economic classes from that area; and that vendors interfere with their monopolizing of prices and their limiting of consumer buying.

There is a foundation to these points. Many of us are from the lower classes and a large number are black. Street vending collected in one spot can be compared to those romantic bazaars of distant lands, yet I'm sure that no bazaar stalls were manned by princes, princesses or nobles. Are we to be excluded from practicing business in this area because of our economic or ethnic background? Are we to be forced to the welfare rolls because of these reasons? None of us wants that.

As far as regulating prices by selling lower, that, in rare instances is true. But, why should a store merchant be allowed to sell to an unsuspecting tourist a piece of junk jewelry at five or ten times its value because that is what: the market will bear? That certainly is not helping to curb inflation. Yet, still with this being so, business in Georgetown has steadily gone up. We feel that we have helped to produce that, and that everyone has profited by our being there. America has grown on a competitive system of pricing and this area is no exception.

We are not saying that the businessmen and store owners of Georgetown do not have some valid complaints but that some of them have used these complaints for other ends. Their main tool for achieving these ends has been the use of the .police force for harass ment. I will cite from my own experience how this method has been used:

o August, 1969. Arrested for the charge of failing to move when told to do so by a police sergeant (whom I saw and spoke to for the first time at the police station after arrest). One paddy wagon and two squad cars each containing two men were sent to get me. My fine was, I believe, thirty dollars.

o June, 1971. Harassed by two undercover policemen for two hours by being told that I would be arrested if I stopped moving. (Their cover was exposed by witnessing pedestrians and two newspaper reporters who took pictures of them.) They told me they were put up to this harassment by the same sergeant who issued the complaint in 1969. They were finally commanded to stop after two Georgetown businessmen, owners of Britches of Georgetown and four other local stores went to the police station and complained to the officer in charge.

o September, 1971. A police lieutenant for three consecutive nights parked his car near me and told me that I would be arrested if I stopped moving for any reason other than to make a sale. On each of the nights he stayed with me for over an hour until I was forced to leave. He told me that he would be there every night as long as I continued to come back. I was forced to quit vending for the rest of that year. We all understand that the propertied businessmen generally have a greater financial interest in their businesses; but, for our means our investments have been great also. Under the American free enterprise system we have a right to work and conduct our businesses.

President Nixon has asked that all Americans shoulder their share of the work load. We are trying to do just that. Street vendors have had a proven economic benefit to communities as witnessed by Berkeley California and New York City where they are protected by law rather than harassed by it. By their color, charm, and varied items offered they attract tourists and local people alike. I, myself am hired to work at conventions and trade shows because I attract crowds. Georgetown tourism and pedestrian traffic has grown with each of the four years I have been there. Also the number of vendors has grown each year. Could it be that the greater crowds are drawn by the greater number of vendors and street displays and not by the steadily increasing prices of the propertied merchants? If one visits Georgetown on a Saturday night when the shops are closed they will witness packed streets and vendors attracting huge crowds. Jane Jacobs, the noted writer on urban problems, says that city streets become safer when there are more people on them. And, vendors are people.





[Once again the city seems ready to install meters in DC's cabs which will bring to an end a system that has long provided residents with more cabs per capita than any other American city, reasonable rates, and a rare opportunity for upward mobility. This is from 1994 article your editor wrote for City Paper]

The city government appears close to requiring meters for the DC's 8000 cabs, a move that would severely hobble, if not destroy, the taxi industry as a major tool of local upward mobility.

DC now has more cabs per capita than any other city in America. If all of DC's cabs were owned by one company, the firm would be the city's largest private employer. The industry serves as a remarkably efficient example of what is known as para-transit, that is to say a form of moving people about more public than a car, but less so than, say, a bus.

Yet this could change quickly once meters are installed. The reason is that meters would, for the first time, allow the entry of major corporations into the local taxi business. Without meters, only the drivers know for sure how much they are earning. With meters, corporations can easily keep accurate track of revenue. For the first time in our city's history, our cab industry will become attractive to big business.

These corporations, if they follow the pattern, will seek not the free marketplace but rather the collaboration of the government in a massive restraint of trade. In the taxi industry this has been traditionally done through some sort of cap on the number of cabs. For example, a study by the Department of Justice found that 87 percent of some 100 cities with taxi service restricted entry in some way. Chip Mellor of the Institute for Justice has noted that Denver routinely turned down every application for a new taxicab company from 1947 on. Chicago and LA are closed. Boston's permit costs $60,000 and New York's $140,000.

A similar trend could be expected in DC as large -- and perhaps out-of-town -- corporations move to take advantage of taxi-metering. The impact on the industry could be phenomenal. If DC had proportionally as many cabs as Paris or London, our fleet would drop more than 90%. While DC has one cab for every 75 citizens, New York City has only one for every 600.

There is almost an iron law of non-competition in the taxi industry. It dates back at least to 1636, when the owners of Thames water taxis got King Charles I to restrict the number of horse-drawn hacks to 50 in order to cut down on the land-borne competition. And it is as recent at 1962, when Chicago Mayor Richard Daley guaranteed 80% of any new cab permits to one of his buddies.

With meters, not only would the ease with which one can hail a DC cab likely disappear, so would a remarkable tradition of individual entrepreneurship -- particularly for minorities -- that the city has enjoyed almost from its beginning. My wife, local historian Kathryn Schneider Smith, found in studying the estate records of DC free blacks in the early 19th century that typically the most successful trade was that of a hack driver. Among the reasons: ownership of one's means of livelihood, a business relationship with the white community, and relief from some of the black codes -- the city's apartheid-type rules that among other things set a curfew on blacks.

Again, when blacks moved into the city in large numbers in the 1950s, it became common to find cabs providing a first or second job for new arrivals trying to gain a foothold on the economic ladder. The cab in front of a black-owned home then was a symbol of the taxi's importance in giving economic substance to the promise of civil rights.

Today, the story is being repeated, only this time the beneficiaries are more often immigrants speaking an awkward dialect, a group without a movement, without a Martin Luther King Jr., and towards which hostility is increasingly sanctioned. The question of cab service has become inexorably intertwined with attitudes towards immigration and with the ethnic economic triage under which the last to come to town lose.

Although anti-immigrant prejudice is seldom explicit, its offspring crop up constantly in discussion of cab service -- concern over lack of knowledge of the city or cheating or "cleanliness." Since there is no evidence that DC cabs are any dirtier than those elsewhere, the question of cleanliness seems to suggest that something else is really being discussed here. One senses when reading Post complaints on this matter that it presumes if cabs were driven by a better class of employees under the control of proper members of the Board of Trade and Federal City Council, everything would be, for some reason, neater.

Likewise, there is an assumption that with meters, fare cheating would decline. Again the evidence is lacking. In fact, if there is one universal of the global cab industry it is that cabdrivers cheat, reflecting little more than that cabbies tend to be extraordinarily knowledgeable natives who do a lot of business with extraordinary ignorant visitors. A study by US News & World Report this year found, in fact, that DC was no worse than most of the major cities it looked at. While the USN&WR study found overcharges of about 5 bucks on an DC airport run, it also reported that in New York one should ask a taxi dispatcher for the best route to your destination: "A driver who takes the Belt Parkway from JFK to midtown, for example, can add $20 to a $25 to $30 fare." The reporters were overcharged $5 bucks for a similar run in Chicago, cheated by limo drivers in San Francisco, reported occasional $20 overcharges in Boston, and so forth. Even the DC cab commission's own study found that passengers were overcharged only 17% of the time, while being undercharged 10% of the time. This in a city where you need to be conned by a factor of 50% to equal cab rates in many other places.

The metering of cabs would, admittedly, be loyal to at least one local tradition: more than three decades of abysmally poor decisions by local leaders concerning public transit. It began with the destruction of one of the country's finest light-rail systems in the 1960s, which was followed shortly a disastrous web of freeways mercifully truncated by citizen opposition. The area then conned the federal government into helping it build a subway system by telling it would have twice as many riders as was eventually the fact. Whatever advantage DC might have gained from the subway was soon lost as Metro dispersed development once centered downtown and provided easier city access for non-taxpaying suburban day-trippers. . .

While the gutting of the taxi industry would certainly fit this pattern, it is in no way necessary. In fact, DC is bucking an international trend towards taxi deregulation in order to improve service and reduce costs.

One of the most dramatic examples occurred this summer in Indianapolis when the city eliminated the cap on taxi licenses, set only a maximum -- but no minimum fares -- and invited businesses to start jitney service at whatever rates they wished.

In four months, the number of cab companies has doubled, fares have dropped 7% and cab drivers have even started wearing ties. Further, there has not been a single taxi-related complaint. Says mayoral special assistant Tom Rose, who spearheaded the plan, it's been a "really dramatic, dramatic improvement.". . .

There are improvements that could be made easily to the DC taxi system to improve the lot of both the driver and the rider. For the former, splitting Zone 1 into two would mean an immediate leap in income for cabbies, much of it from government workers, journalists and tourists. For the latter, a flat airport-to-downtown fare (used in a number of cities) would eliminate many of the cheating complaints.

But in the politics of DC, such common sense solutions carry little weight. Like a kid with a watch, the temptation for our leaders is just too great. Even if it works, you got to take it apart.




Sam Smith

After coughing up $1200 - my (not to mention your) share of the National's stadium - I also find myself supporting the nation's worst baseball team by having to put coins into those new parking meter machines because City Hall considers Capitol Hill to be within the stadium fiscal rip-off region.

The machines are based on the team's schedule and not normal working hours, so you can be dropping coins later than you've ever fed a parking meter anywhere in the country.

But that's not the real problem. The real problem is:

1. You often have to walk a half a block or more to get to the machine and then back to your car to put the receipt in the window.

2. The coin slot doesn't work well.

3. There is no place to put a dollar bill.

4. The instructions are confusing.

5. The credit card slot may tell you, as it did me, that my bank had refused my one dollar request, even though I proved within minutes by a store transaction that it wasn't true.

6. It is often hard to wiggle the receipt out of its slot. In fact, it's sometimes hard to tell whether it's in the slot.

7. You can't tell whether you need to put coins in or not.

Now that's a lot of problems for an official piece of machinery in a city undergoing a renaissance. I am, in fact, highly reluctant to use a credit card because I suspect the machine will steal it and start running up charges for the Lerner family on it.

I have also heard reports that Michelle Rhee is going to use the machines as substitute teachers. They will ask the students questions and if the answer is right they will give them some loose change.

A similar machine to help the Nationals has yet to be discovered invented



SAM SMITH - In a decision that effectively dismantles the best urban cab system in the country, Mayor Fenty has ordered local cabs to install meters. No other city has so many cabs per resident and at a reasonable cost. In no other city is the cab business such an important factor in upward economic mobility.

The system, which has worked effectively for decades, is now open to a hostile takeover by a few major corporations that will reduce the number of cabs and lobby for higher fares. These corporations had been effectively barred from the local cab industry because, under the zone system there was no way of keeping track of how much the drivers were earning.

This is a tragic day in the history of DC. Going all the way back to the beginning of the 19th century, cabs have been an important way less wealthy residents could get ahead. From free blacks in the 1800s to newly arrived blacks from the south in the 1940s and 1950s to successive waves of immigrants in more recent times, the cab trade has been a way forward.

In his action, the mayor has destroyed not only an industry but an important part of the history and culture of the city.

The arguments by the Washington Post and others that a zone system is fairer, is not supported by the facts. In fact, if there is one universal of the global cab industry it is that cabdrivers cheat, reflecting little more than that cabbies tend to be extraordinarily knowledgeable residents who do a lot of business with extraordinary ignorant visitors. A study by US News & World Report some years back found, in fact, that DC was no worse than most of the major cities it looked at. While the USN&WR study found overcharges of about 5 bucks on an DC airport run, it also reported that in New York one should ask a taxi dispatcher for the best route to your destination: "A driver who takes the Belt Parkway from JFK to midtown, for example, can add $20 to a $25 to $30 fare." The reporters were overcharged $5 bucks for a similar run in Chicago, cheated by limo drivers in San Francisco, reported occasional $20 overcharges in Boston, and so forth. Even the DC cab commission's own study found that passengers were overcharged only 17% of the time, while being undercharged 10% of the time. This in a city where, at the time, you needed to be conned by a factor of 50% to equal cab rates in many other places.

In an article for City Paper in 1994, I wrote of the possibility of a corporate takeover with meters:


For the first time in our city's history, our cab industry will become attractive to big business. These corporations, if they follow the pattern, will seek not the free marketplace but rather the collaboration of the government in a massive restraint of trade. In the taxi industry this has been traditionally done through some sort of cap on the number of cabs. For example, a study by the Department of Justice found that 87 percent of some 100 cities with taxi service restricted entry in some way. Chip Mellor of the Institute for Justice has noted that Denver routinely turned down every application for a new taxicab company from 1947 on. Chicago and LA are closed. Boston's permit costs $60,000 and New York's $140,000.

A similar trend could be expected in DC as large -- and perhaps out-of-town -- corporations move to take advantage of taxi-metering. The impact on the industry could be phenomenal. If DC had proportionally as many cabs as Paris or London, our fleet would drop more than 90%. While DC has one cab for every 75 citizens, New York City has only one for every 600.

The question of cab service has become inexorably intertwined with attitudes towards immigration and with the ethnic economic triage under which the last to come to town lose. Although anti-immigrant prejudice is seldom explicit, its offspring crop up constantly in discussion of cab service -- concern over lack of knowledge of the city or cheating or "cleanliness." Since there is no evidence that DC cabs are any dirtier than those elsewhere, the question of cleanliness seems to suggest that something else is really being discussed here.


JULY 2007


[For several decades this journal has argued for the introduction of jitney [minibus taxi] service in DC]

ROB GOODSPEED - If you are lucky enough to live in Cape Town, you could enjoy such a system daily. That city's minibus taxis are the local version of a type of transportation common throughout the world. According to government data the country has some 126,000 of these vehicles operating mostly in the country's cities.

Like a train system (which Cape Town also has), the buses run along fixed routes named after their final destination. Each bus is a small Toyota van with customized seats designed to maximize the vehicle's occupancy. Most displayed signs advertising a maximum occupancy of roughly 16, but we rode in vans with as many as 21 people. Most buses are staffed by a two man crew. The driver drives as quickly as possible and controls the music, which can range from American disco and rap to Cape Malay music, almost always played loudly. The second person mans the van's sliding door, and carries a sack of change. Most fares are around 4-5 Rand, or roughly $0.75, and generally paid with coins. The door operator also generally leans out the open window continuously whistling or shouting the destination, and otherwise heckling passersby to convince them they really need a lift where he is going. I noticed the city had created minibus-only lanes on the street along busy routes approaching the center city.

The vans will stop to pick up or let off passengers at any point on their route, although bus stops and major landmarks like the supermarket are common points. The routes terminate at government-built transit depots. In a huge structure above the Cape Town train station, thousands of vans converge from throughout the metropolitan area on a depot organized into dozens of lanes, one for each route. . .



COMMON DENOMINATOR - As much as forward-thinking transportation planners would like the majority of Washingtonians to abandon their vehicles in favor of public transit or other more environmentally friendly forms of personal transport, that simply isn't going to happen anytime in the foreseeable future.

It's time for government officials - both locally and in Congress - to start dealing with the here and now at the same time they look to the future. A major part of that "here and now" requires that officials accept the notion that continuing to expand freeways and other major thoroughfares in the region will translate into an increasing number of suburban vehicles being driven daily into the nation's capital, where they will need to be parked.

There's a simple solution to many of the District's parking problems, but it's also one that Congress - in a show of benevolence toward a handful of well-heeled parking industry magnates who offer generous campaign contributions - has effectively banned for almost 50 years: municipal parking lots offering low-cost, all-day parking.

The congressional ban is the reason why the D.C. government cannot directly operate the surface parking lot recently created downtown on the site of the old convention center. Congress does not allow publicly owned competition for those expensive downtown commercial parking lots. Only in recent years has Congress relented to permit the D.C. government to operate parking lots in residential neighborhoods, but the District's elected officials - who also receive sizable campaign handouts from the parking industry - have failed to create such lots.

Municipal parking lots located near neighborhood Metro stations or along congested neighborhood commercial corridors likely would alleviate many of the daily parking headaches residents experience near their homes. Public parking lots along neighborhood commercial corridors also would help small business owners and their employees stop playing "feed the meter" to maintain their livelihoods.

Surface parking lots are relatively cheap for governments to create and maintain. They also can be easily converted to other uses at some future time, when the need for them wanes. Determining their initial locations might be problematic in some neighborhoods, but the District's anticipated consolidation and closing of several dilapidated public schools offers an opportunity that should be considered ahead of labeling those properties as "surplus." Perhaps the D.C. Board of Education could consider operating public parking lots temporarily on some of those sites until it becomes clear that the properties are not needed for future school use.

As consumers continue to push the industry toward creating less-polluting vehicles that burn cleaner fuels, Washingtonians are more likely to trade their old cars for newer models than to abandon them entirely. Parking those vehicles in the nation's capital will continue to be difficult until government officials stop waiting for the problem to go away.




AS ANTHONY WILLIAMS winds up his career as gentrifier in chief of the District of Columbia, we can expect more of the sort of myths found in Dcist - the "new District, a city growing out of an era of financial collapse and bureaucratic inefficiency." In fact, as we have pointed out, it's easy to have financial stability once you kick enough of the poor people out of town and bring in enough of those earning over six figures.

Williams' government has hurt public health services, education, libraries, recreation and affordable housing. There have been repeated scandals involving the police department (which also set new records in protest harassment), DC Jail, accounting and campaign contributions. The suggestion that the city is less bureaucratic than it was prior to Williams is absurd.

The fact that people think this is a reflection of how little they have to rely upon city services. If you don't need to call the police, find cheap housing, go to the public library, attend public school, ride a bus, or go to a public hospital everything's pretty good. If you do need what used to be considered basic city services, you're up the creek.



So for whom did Michael A. Lorusso work? If you guessed Tony Williams you're very smart because the media has been working overtime keeping those two names as far apart as possible. If one of our former mayors had been in office, however, the Lorusso-Jemal affair would have been repeatedly headlined "Barry scandal."

We haven't added up the totals but if you combine this case with the Gwendolyn Hemphill business and throw in the stuff we don't know about the stadium deal you can pretty sure Barry, as a hustler, comes out looking like a piker. So who was Gwendolyn Hemphill? Again, the media has done little to help you remember. She was convicted of 23 counts of conspiracy, embezzlement, mail fraud, wire fraud, false statements, money laundering, and theft. She was also co-chair of the Tony William campaign committee. Hemphill was executive assistant to Barbara Bulloch, head of the Teachers Union, and while they were running things not only did over $5 million disappear from the union treasury, Bullock had a $100,000 chauffeur and a wardrobe, artwork and jewelry that would have impressed Imelda Marcos. According to an FBI affidavit, Bullock had "a $20,000 mink coat, along with other mink coats . . . nearly $500,000 in custom-made clothing . . . more than $9,000 at retailer Bloomingdales; more than $9,000 for clothing and accessories from a Florida vendor known as Body Scentre Limited; more than $11,000 in purchases from a retailer known as Friedman's Shoes in Atlanta, Georgia; more than $5,000 to Galt Brothers Jewelry in Washington, D.C.; more than $5,000 to Graffiti Audio Video for electronic equipment. . . " And on and on. Guess Lorruso and Hemphill are just more examples of how ubiquitous economic development became during the glorious Williams' years.