Bread and Circuses
Dear Mayor Williams, City Administrator Bobb, and Councilmembers:
Joel Kotkin has written an important short article on The New
Republic online, “Urban Legends: Cities Aren’t Doing As Well as
You Think” (http://www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?i=w050523&s=kotkin052305),
that puts Washington’s population decline problem in the context of
the similar problems of many major American core cities. “Urban
politics has become self-satisfied and triumphalist, content to see
cities promote the appearance of thriving while failing to serve
the very people — families, immigrants, often minorities -- who most
need cities to be decent, livable places.” Kotkin’s article attacks
what he believes are the dangerous myths of urban success, that
“cities are again gaining people”; “cities are where the
successful people are”, and “cool cities attract the best jobs;
uncool cities don’t”; and he attacks the failure of the “bread and
circuses” approach to solving the problem. “Many mayors and
governors,” he writes, “seem to be relying on a ‘bread and
circuses’ strategy for revitalizing their cities. According to this
logic, if cities can only put on a better show — in terms of arts,
sports, conventions, and other amusements — they will become
irresistible not only to tourists but also to educated workers and the
companies that employ them.”
Kotkin’s prescription for really revitalizing cities is
commonsense: “But two major things need to happen in order for cities
to be saved. First, they must undertake a CAT scan of sorts, which would
reveal, underneath the glossy exterior of arts centers and arenas and
hip downtowns, the reality of lost jobs, dysfunctional schools, and
crumbling infrastructure. Second, they need to acquire the political
will to attack these issues head-on despite the inevitable roadblocks.
What is needed is for cities to craft their own New Deal. Given their
shrinking political power, they will not be able to extract resources
from Washington or most state capitals. They will have to get smart
about how they are run and focus their resources on basic issues, like
schools, infrastructure, boosting small business, and creating jobs —
rather than promoting bread, circuses, and tattoo parlors.”
Success for Washington won’t come from the city government’s
current development strategy of building more costly, monumental but
frivolous projects like the new convention center and baseball stadium;
it won’t come from its population strategy of driving out middle class
families in favor of attracting a smaller number of richer singles and
young couples with less attachment to the city; and it won’t come from
its economic strategy of displacing local small businesses and
family-run restaurants in favor of more franchises of national chains.
Success, if it happens, will come from moving the government’s
attention back to where it belongs, its current residents, and from
providing the very best services to them.
Ed T. Barron, edtb@aoldotcom
The latest homeland security paranoia will affect all those who have
watched the Fourth of July fireworks spectacular from their boats on the
Potomac River. The Coast Guard plans to declare the whole Potomac River
from Georgetown to the Lincoln Memorial a “security zone” and ban
all boats from that zone. Seems that Homeland Security is worried that
terrorists, like those in Tom Clancy’s Patriot Games, will
storm ashore in landing craft and wipe out tourists. Sounds more than a
bit farfetched to me. But, as usual here in Dodge City, paranoia reigns.
Coping with DMV Inspection at Half Street, SW
Edward Cowan, EdCowan1114@yahoo.com
As the Department of Motor Vehicles web site says, seniors get
priority access when they bring their cars to be inspected. (Don’t ask
me to justify this.) If a DMV employee is directing traffic entering the
yard, say “senior citizen” and he will send you to the far-right
lane, which is usually empty, and tell you to drive right up to the
front. This will get you to an inspection lane several cars sooner than
if you wait in one of the other lanes in the yard. If no one is
directing traffic in the yard, as was the case last Friday when I
arrived, what to do? I waited about seven minutes in a regular lane,
behind four other cars, until I spotted a DMV employee. He directed me
to the far-right lane. Next time, if no one is directing traffic in the
yard, I would drive directly into that far-right lane.
Couple of other DMV notes: inside the building adjacent to the
inspection lanes I found a flier that listed about fifteen minor
infractions for which a car will not be failed, for example the middle
brake light — in the rear window — doesn’t work. The motorist is
required to correct the infractions, but, the flier says, the car will
emerge with an inspection sticker. The flier was dated 2003. News to me.
Finally, speak up. When I took our other car to Half Street in April,
it languished a long time in the middle of the lane. Finally, an
inspector told me it had failed because it needed front-end alignment.
(I had reason to doubt that.) Which way is it pulling? I asked. The
young man dutifully went back to check, returned, said he couldn’t
find the inspector who had handled my car, and took the car back to
re-test it. He and the car emerged a few minutes later. “It passed,”
he said. Footnote: My impression is that the inspectors now are more
communicative (and younger, or I’m older) than the laconic grunters I
think I remember from twenty or thirty years ago.
It’s Time for a Change
Ed T. Barron, edtb@aoldotcom
Currently the default number used on your DC driver’s license is
the Social Security number. That’s a major risk these days in the era
of identity theft. I’ve had a drivers license in three other states to
date, and none used the SS number as the number on the license. How many
times do you have to show your driver’s license in any week to prove
your identity? Each time you do you are at some risk of a bad person
taking note of that SS number and using it for his own.
You can request a different number on your license at the DMV any
time you renew your license. But the DMV should change this practice and
give out different numbers on every license as a matter of practice.
Ordinarily I would not dignify comments like Wayne Turner’s [themail,
May 22] with a reply. However his slanderous distortion of facts must
not go unanswered. In simple fact, when I left the Clinic in 1998 after
fifteen years as its executive director and three years before that as
its President, I offered to purchase the office furniture. The Board
officers declined my offer. Several months later, without any suggestion
from me, the Clinic presented me with a Mapplethorpe photograph at an
event held in my honor. Years ago all of this was clarified by the
Clinic and myself. I am once again working hard to help on the financial
challenges that Whitman Walker today faces.
Ann Loikow wrote in the last issue [themail, May 22]: “If you truly
care about affordable housing — and are not just giving it lip service
— condoning this shift of our tax base onto the property tax . . .
only ultimately decreases affordable housing." In the very next
line she writes "These escalating property taxes either force
people to sell their homes and leave the city or encourages them to turn
their homes into rooming houses by getting renters to help share the tax
burden, which leads to destabilizing our neighborhoods.”
What evidence does Loikow have that renters sharing a house with an
owner destabilize a neighborhood? Is “affordable housing” just a
concept for homeowners? She has led me to believe that perhaps the
escalating property tax is a good thing if it leads to people who are
living in far more space than they need to share it. Now, if only they
would share it at a reasonable rent rather than asking us renters to
cover all of their increases and a good portion of their mortgage while
getting none of their equity or tax breaks. I have improved both the
property and the neighborhood of every place I have ever rented — far
more than most homeowners.
Bryce Suderow, meet Jack Requa, Chief of Operations for Metrobuses.
Jack Requa, meet Bryce Suderow, local citizen. When messages such as Mr.
Suderow’s May 22nd post [in themail], the third by Mr. Suderow in
recent weeks, are published in themail, I take them seriously enough.
When I contacted the Metro agency recently, I was assured that Mr.
Suderow’s posts were inaccurate. While I encouraged Metro to respond
in themail if that were the case, I have read nothing yet.
With as many subscribers as themail has, if the posts by Mr. Suderow
are inaccurate, then it is incumbent upon Metro to respond to them by
providing assurance to the engaged citizens of the area who read themail.
If Mr. Suderow’s posts are accurate, then it would seem that Metro has
some serious, corrective actions to take. I do not have enough knowledge
about Metro to even guess whether two of Mr. Suderow’s recent posts
preceding the May 22nd edition of themail were accurate. They certainly
caused me concern. Today’s post on May 22nd causes me concern again.
I do discern the language in one sentence to be questionable:
“Thus, a lot of people apply for the bus driver job, work a few
months, and then transfer to, let’s say, driving trains.” On what
basis is Mr. Suderow using the words “a lot?” Perhaps Metro doesn’t
subscribe to themail, as I have previously recommended they do, complete
with a link to http://www.DCWatch.com.
Not every message posted on the Internet about Metro merits a response.
These do. How about it?
Bikes on Buses, Seats on Subway Cars
Richard Layman, firstname.lastname@example.org
Donald Lief, in his recounting of Portland, Oregon, and transit [themail,
May 22], makes the point that people are often too parochially “DC”
when discussing issues in themail. He’s right. We’re also not always
practical. Ed, just turn the bike around on the front-mounted rack, and
the baby seat won’t be in the driver side of the windshield.
Front-mounted bike racks on buses appear to be the standard “best
practice” in every jurisdiction where bike racks are installed on
buses, although a Federal Highway Administration report on best
practices to encourage cycling and walking mentions rear-mounted bicycle
racks as well.
This takes me to seating on subway cars, which has been discussed
before. Again, I wish WMATA would have included in their reports
examples from other cities such as New York, which has side mounted
chairs, and fits more people into subway cars. People in far locations
on the WMATA lines (i.e., Shady Grove, Vienna, etc.) do advocate for
more seats because they make longer trips. Most trips on the NYC lines
are shorter, although not always, trips from distant points in Queens
can be long.
CLASSIFIEDS — EVENTS
Potter’s House Community Harvest Party, June
Ingrid Drake, email@example.com
Come out to the Potter’s House for good music, good food, and good
cause — sustainable agriculture in metro DC and healthy fresh produce
for all people, regardless of income. 7 p.m., homemade dinner and
desserts for sale; 8 p.m., concert with Eric Keller, folk guitarist and
songwriter. Learn more about the activities of Community Harvest, meet
our new staff, have a relaxing Friday night with your friends and
Friday, June 3, at the Potter’s House (1658 Columbia Road, NW). Off
street parking, and short walk from the Columbia Heights Metro stop.
Donations start at $10. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
or 577-3437 (Ingrid’s cell), or check out http://www.communityharvestdc.org.
Economic Incentives for Historic Preservation,
Bruce Yarnall, email@example.com
The District of Columbia Office of Planning/Historic Preservation
Office in cooperation with the DC Board of Real Estate, the DC Board of
Appraisers and The L’Enfant Trust will sponsor a half-day forum for
the preservation, development, and real estate communities titled
“Economic Incentives for Historic Preservation.” The event is slated
for the Washington Convention Center, Wednesday, June 15, 12 noon to 5
p.m. Keynote speaker for the forum is Joe Cronyn of Lippman Frizzell
& Mitchell LLC who will discuss “Housing Issues in DC’s Historic
Districts and Main Streets.” Cronyn’s firm produced a Historic
Housing Rehabilitation Strategy for the historic preservation office in
A panel of experts on preservation, real estate, finance and law will
explore the benefits and responsibilities associated with conservation
easements and cover historic tax credits and other incentive programs
available to historic property owners. Panelists include Carol Goldman,
president of The L’Enfant Trust; Paul Edmondson, vice-president and
general counsel of The National Trust for Historic Preservation; Patrick
Lally, director of congressional affairs for The National Trust for
Historic Preservation; Bart Lanman, CPA, CFP, partner of the firm Farren
Lanman & Associates; Carol Mitten, director of the DC Office of
Property Management; and Edna Johnston, principal of the firm History
Matters, LLC. Roundtable discussions will discuss in further detail the
history and character of individual DC historic districts as well as
cover subjects as diverse as “additions and new construction” and
“researching a house’s history,” to “marketing properties in DC
Cost for the five-hour forum including lunch is $60. To register for
the forum, please contact the DC Historic Preservation Office at
442.8801 or send an E-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
CLASSIFIEDS — SITUATION WANTED
If you need a house sitter to secure and monitor your house, condo,
apartment, or estate while you're out of town, I am a licensed DC
Special Police Officer available to housesit from one day to one year.
Reasonable rates. Services include mail forwarding, bill paying, twice
weekly cleaning, and daily patrol and monitoring your property. For
information, E-mail or call 256-1651.References available.
CLASSIFIEDS — RECOMMENDATIONS
Body Shop and Video Company
Phil Greene, email@example.com
If anyone knows of a good and inexpensive body shop, please let me
know. We live in Chevy Chase, DC. I also need some recommendations for a
company or individual that can take video tape and put it into MPEG and
similar formats, do video editing and transfer, etc.
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