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August 20, 2006

Ballpark Questions

Dear Questioners:

Three days ago, Ilya Somin blogged about the mere $200 million in public subsidies that are being given to build a new stadium for the New York Yankees ( “There is absolutely no justification for this kind of government subsidization of big business. Economic studies by both liberal and conservative/libertarian economists have uniformly shown that stadium construction provides no net economic benefits to the communities where they are built. See, e.g., this study by leading sports economists Roger Noll and Andrew Zimbalist, published by the liberal Brookings Institution []. Professor Zimbalist, by the way, has done work for the Major League Baseball players union, which (like the owners) has an interest in promoting public subsidization of baseball; If even he concludes that stadium subsidies do not create net economic benefits, that is a telling sign.

“One could argue that, even if there is no net benefit to New York City as a whole, public subsidies for the new Yankee Stadium are justified because of the benefit to Yankees fans. I too am a big baseball fan, but I do not believe I have the right to government subsidization of my entertainment preferences. I also love science fiction, for example, but that does not justify government subsidies for science fiction writers or the producers of Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica. In this case, moreover, average Yankees fans are actually likely to be harmed rather than benefited. According to the ESPN report, the new Yankee Stadium will have some 4000 fewer seats than the current one and a higher percentage of luxury boxes. So there will actually be fewer seats affordable to ordinary fans. Middle and lower class Yankees fans are being asked to foot the bill for the public subsidy while at the same time having fewer opportunities to go see games. Definitely a case of adding insult to injury! Basically, the stadium subsidy is a straight wealth transfer from New York taxpayers to multimillionaire Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, his wealthy players, and (to a lesser extent) those few fans who can afford luxury boxes. Of course there may also be some dead-weight losses to society as a whole. To be clear, I am not opposed to George Steinbrenner wanting to build a stadium with more luxury boxes, if he spends his own money on it. But I do oppose government subsidies for this kind of activity.”

On Saturday, The Washington Times took note of the Yankee giveaway, and editorialized about DC’s stadium boondoggle, which is more than three times bigger (“Corporate Welfare in DC,” The Times wrote that “New York’s deal makes Washington’s look even more ridiculous,” and that “New Yorkers have decried the $200 million-plus in public contributions as corporate welfare, which it is. But compared to Washington, which will be bilked for $611 million and possibly more, New York comes off looking nearly wise. All of this makes the ingracious protestations of the Lerners over the city’s moderately inconveniencing parking scheme look all the worse.”

Which suggests a series of questions for mayoral and council candidates who voted for the ballpark giveaway: “Do you regret your vote? Will you vote to raise the phony ‘cap’ on ballpark expenses, or will you make sure its escalating costs are hidden in other parts of the city’s budget? In the future, will you vote for more deals like this? You’ve already shown that you will use your office as a reverse Robin Hood, bilking the city, its residents, and its small businesses to enrich even further a few of the wealthiest special interests who have political pull. Will that continue to be your policy in the future?”

Gary Imhoff


DC Smoking Ban Should Extend to Patios
Deborah Akel, Ward 2,

When the DC council passed the smoking ban, which goes into effect January 2, it left it to the mayor’s people to work out the details. The Department of Health is now lobbying the mayor to include outside areas, such as restaurant patios and sidewalk cafes, in the ban. The restaurant owners’ association is trying to block the proposal. (See

The smoking ban passed by the DC council is a big step in the right direction, but it will be only partially effective unless it prohibits smoking in establishments’ outdoor seating areas. As the Mayor’s staff consider how to write the regulations, I hope they will keep in mind that secondhand smoke while eating outdoors can be just as harmful and offensive as it is indoors, particularly if the wind is blowing the smoke in your direction.


Walk the Walk and Talk the Talk
Nancy J. Masterson,

At a mayoral candidate forum on the restoration of the Anacostia River hosted by The Earth Conservation Corps the last audience question was: “What type of car do you drive and is it an SUV?” Answers: Brown, SUV; Cropp, absent; Fenty, SUV; Johns, Mercedes; Orange, Cadillac. Somebody will remember the makes and models, but at an environmental forum that one question and resultant answers spoke volumes. Also, I noticed the Anacostia Waterfront Corporation choose two finalists for the Southwest Waterfront Development (which is on the Washington Channel, not the Anacostia). Only one of the original five finalists had LEED experience (and in fact received a gold award) but that developer was not chosen. Can anyone say green and not mean money?


Metro: The Tangherlini-Graham Nexus
William Jordan,

Dan Tangherlini is the type of manager that Metro needs in the coming years. A visionary who “eats his own dog food,” so to speak, Mr. Tangherlini seems to fit the bill for the future of our system. As Metro moves from being a top-down focused utility on engineering to being an organization that must deliver a competitive service to end users, a manager that actually uses the system is important. Especially when is has been documented that many board members, like Ward One Councilmember Jim Graham don’t ride the system that they must oversee. Mr. Tangherlini should be seriously considered as a candidate to continue in his job, but Metro must conduct a serious search process.

However, Mr. Tangherlini does come with some serious liabilities. One of those liabilities is his close relationship to Mr. Graham. As director of DDOT, Mr. Tangherlini’s deference to Mr. Graham has made transportation planning and development in the Columbia Heights neighborhood one big mess. Time after time, transportation and public space planning and management in Ward 1 has taken back seat to myopic political expediency. After seven years of planning, there is still no concrete parking and traffic plan for managing the over 500,000 sq. ft. of retail and even more housing coming online in Columbia Heights. Despite the development of a Columbia Height Public Realm plan, virtually no coordination is occurring between developers and DDOT. Just about every public space delivery is requiring a redo. Implementation of traffic management remediation is being prioritized by vote pandering rather than on-the-ground impact and needs. Any objective view of transportation management in Ward 1 outside of the pretty drawings presented at community meetings would be considered sub-par, and this is not golf, where sub-par is good.

Our Metro system can’t afford to repeat the shortsighted mistakes that are occurring in Ward 1. Metro needs a visionary leader like Mr. Tangherlini to oversee its future growth and development. However, if Mr. Tangherlini cannot show the appropriate independents from Mr. Graham, you only need study Columbia Heights in Ward 1 to see the future of our Metro system. We may not be able to afford a Metro with both Mr. Tangherlini and Mr. Graham.


A Call for Effective Public Safety Strategies
Jason Ziedenberg,

Responding to several high-profile violent crimes impacting tourist destinations and affluent neighborhoods, the Chief of Police declared a "crime emergency," and the mayor and DC council enacted a series of new policies that will do little to promote public safety. DC residents deserve to know why the emergency legislation passed by the council was more sound-bite than sound policy. The reality is that the policies proposed by the mayor and endorsed by the council reflect poor public policy choices, and will do little if anything to address the real crime problems that exist in DC neighborhoods.

Curfews do not work. Research from California showed that places that made more strict use of youth curfews actually had a harder time reducing crime than counties that used curfews more sparingly. In the years that DC did not have a curfew in place, juvenile crime fell faster than when an 11 p.m. weekday curfew was brought into place. Cameras displace crime. Closed circuit cameras, much like simply increasing the number of officers, tends to displace crime to other areas of the community. Opening up juvenile records thwarts rehabilitation. Requiring the Family Court to inform MPD of its decision not to detain a juvenile increases the likelihood that innocent youth will be harassed by police, thereby exacerbating the already tense relationship between police officers and our young people. Furthermore, giving MPD broad authority to disclose juvenile court and agency information to schools, housing authorities, and others who may respond negatively reduces a young person’s prospects for a “second chance.”

We support a balanced approach to prevention and policing. For every new dollar the mayor requested from the council for youth prevention and intervention for the crime emergency, he requested $14 for the police. This, just weeks after the mayor’s budget called for an increase for the police of $66 million — more than the city spends on the University of the District of Columbia, the DC Public Libraries, or the Department of Parks and Recreation. We need a true community-policing model in DC and a balanced approach to crime prevention that invests in effective prevention and intervention programs as much as funding for increases in overtime pay for police officers. There are other ways to bring down crime in the city. Every time youth unemployment has risen, so has juvenile crime. A new agenda for the city that focuses on enhancing educational, vocational, and recreational opportunities for young people is a much more effective way to ensure that young people will stay in school, get a job, and stay out of trouble. An effective crime strategy requires a balanced approach, one that carefully combines law enforcement, rehabilitation, and prevention.

Too many elected officials in this town are more interested in playing politics with crime than focusing on effective public safety policies. Rather than pander to people’s fears, we call on the city’s leaders to focus on more thoughtful ways of promoting public safety. [Signed by Elizabeth Alexander, Director, ACLU National Prison Project; Kenneth E. Barnes, Sr., MS ROOT (Reaching Out to Others Together), Inc.; Johnny Barnes, Executive Director, ACLU of the National Capital Area; Philip Fornaci, Executive Director, DC Prisoners’ Legal Services; Jenni Gainsborough, Director, Washington Office, Penal Reform International; Elizabeth Gladden Kehoe, Staff Attorney, National Juvenile Defender Center; Kristin N. Henning, Deputy Director, Juvenile Justice Clinic, Georgetown University Law Center; Wallace Mlyniec, Director, Juvenile Justice Clinic, Georgetown University Law Center; Tyrone Parker, Alliance of Concerned Men; Charlie and Pauline Sullivan, Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants (CURE); Jason Ziedenberg, Executive Director, Justice Policy Institute. Affiliations listed for identification purposes only.]


Money in Ward 3 Politics
Andrew Aurbach, apa67 at

Much has been made recently in the Washington Post and Northwest Current regarding the recent financial filings by the Ward 3 council candidates and their respective correlation to “front runner” status. While I applaud the efforts of the many candidates in the race for their acumen for fundraising, a slightly different analysis of the numbers yields surprising results. The media reported, for example that Bill Rice, Paul Strauss, and Mary Cheh led the money race by values of approximately $144,000, $114,000, and $72,000 respectively. When parsing out monies raised from “loans by the candidates” and from outside the ward, there is a more interesting story.

Mary Cheh has raised the most money from the constituents she hopes to serve, coming in at $34,040. She is followed by Eric Gaull ($20,123) and Cathy Wiss ($18,542). Rice raised $16,920, Sam Brooks collected $14,964, and Strauss showed $13,300. Robert Gordon came in with $11,631, and Eric Goulet raised $805. Jonathan Rees had no filing.

I applaud Cathy Wiss for having the highest percentage of monies from within the Ward, and Mary Cheh for raising the most, by a long shot. This begs the question, where are the other monies coming from, and who will be responsive to the citizens of Ward 3, and who has interests elsewhere?


Bolden Versus Mendelson, A Lesson for the Ward 3 Candidates
Jonathan R. Rees,

The at-large race between Bolden and Mendelson is a lesson for the Ward 3 candidates to learn from. Mendelson only won last time around by one third of the votes, and that is because there were three other candidates running. When Bolden and Bowers entered the at-large race against Mendelson, Bolden went to Bowers and asked him to drop out so Mendelson could be defeated, because he believed that 60 percent of the voters will vote down Mendelson. The polls now show that Bolden will win this race.

In our Ward 3 race, it is presumed that Bill Rice, Paul Strauss, Erik Gaull, Robert Gordon, and Mary Cheh are the more popular candidates. However, as Elissa Silverman put it unofficially, these five may actually drain each other of so many votes because they will be pulling from the same pool of voters that they all might come out with very low numbers. This large field of candidates will probably result in one of the lesser candidates winning, as some in the media have reluctantly dribbled out of the corners of their mouths. I guess pride may come before the fall.


Don’t Call It a Stadium
Ed T. Barron, edtb1@macdotcom

A lengthy and interesting article in the Southwest Airlines in-flight magazine, Spirit, has the title “Don’t Call It a Stadium.” It talks about the new Nationals ball park in DC. The writer is very pleased with the architect for the DC ballpark, Joe Spears, and claims that the place will be a real showcase for Washington. Hi description of the views from the stadium are probably out of date since the Mayor’s proposal to block those views with an ugly condo and parking complex. The writer of the article also seems to think that the projected completion date is very optimistic.

One interesting comment is the writer’s description of the view of the ballpark for those arriving on the Metro and walking to the field. That view is expected to be a very welcoming view. As patrons enter the ballpark they won’t have to climb a series of ramps to get to their seats. The ball park is quite a bit lower than street level, allowing easy access to the upper and lower level seats. Folks using the food vendors will be able to watch the ball game live while they purchase their hot dogs and other foods just behind the seats.

There’s an interesting kink in the outfield wall in right center field. This kink will drive opposing outfielders mad, as the ball will carom in very unexpected directions off that wall. The reason for the kink is a tribute to the refurbished Griffith Stadium in 1911. At that time a small piece of property with a tree could not be purchased so the outfield was kinked to bypass that tree. It’s a nice gesture that pays homage to that quirk. Sounds pretty good. Now let’s keep those vistas free of ugly condos and parking buildings.


Escalating Ballpark Costs at Uunworkable Site
Ed Delaney,

In the August 16 themail, Jack Evans indicates in a response to League of Fans’ Shawn McCarthy on ballpark costs that costs are indeed continuing to escalate at the train wreck of a ballpark site, with “other means” besides direct subsidy being employed to cover them, as occurred with the Miller land giveaway for condos, putting the integrity of a “hard cap” and the $611 million price tag for the ballpark project in serious doubt. The baseball brigade’s “returning to the City Government to increase the amount being spent on the stadium” is preferably to be avoided but is not ruled out! One specific area is being targeted by the DCSEC for “identify[ing] potential funding sources to cover additional costs,” and that’s for “the environmental cleanup at the stadium site,” which of course has yet to have an independent environmental impact statement (EIS) conducted, despite the finding of fifty-three oil tanks underground at the site, among other hazards. (The CFO’s July 6 testimony on the S. Capitol Street legislation further notes that “these tanks are quite old, and several are leaking,” as well as the presence of asbestos in one of the buildings razed at the site. Those discoveries directly adjacent to the Anacostia watershed demand a full EIS for the basic health of welfare of the public yet, incredibly, the local media has buried and left unreported these critical details, lest they slow MLB’s timeline.)

This news is completely unacceptable. The environmental costs were capped in association with the land acquisition and infrastructure improvements at $165 million. The Brigade and CFO‘s office had to juggle numbers and underestimate them to an unbelievable level in order to meet that cap. Of course, the Brigade started removing entire elements from the cap and then chose to disregard it altogether by naming a figure so high — $611 million — that the public could buy the sales job from the Brigade, their helpers in the local media, and the knee-buckling council members who thought that amount would put the issue behind them.

The king‘s ransom of $611 million is already the most outrageous gift of public money for a ballpark, especially one that is going to be a virtually inaccessible and cut-rate “Buick or Ford” greenhouse due to the ever-climbing land, environmental, transportation, and parking costs (the latter of which just added untold millions in overruns) and to the lost revenue from the garage fiasco and Tammany-Hall-style giveaway of land seized for a public purpose to a private developer. The public was promised that the city’s spending on the ballpark project would be capped rock-hard at the $611 million figure, but the “Yuppies and Yugos in the Outfield” schemed up by Herb Miller — which is the sort of supposedly non-city government spending alluded to by Evans — resulted in the giveaway of the city’s best land location to generate significant revenue from the ballpark as well as the sale of a city asset that had a significant value due to area redevelopment at the Navy Yard without the presence of a ballpark. This appears to have opened a Pandora’s box of even more spending, spending that the local media barely reports on, leaving the public in the dark!

Evans lamely offers false hope of cost covering shortfalls via “working with the Nationals’ new owners,” when he knows full well that his machinations with other boosters and knee-bucklers on the council put the cost on the city and the negotiating hammer for payment completely in the hand of a private monopoly and their local franchise owner. If there are “additional costs for the environmental cleanup at the stadium site,” the council and the Brigade cannot be allowed to completely deceive the public on the hard cap promise by shuffling around some shells and making the money for those overruns come out of another pocket, as will occur with the parking overruns if the Miller scheme isn’t stopped by the Lerners or by its own impracticality.

Citizens, businesses, and advocacy groups associated with the nation’s capital must make a stand here when all parties hid under the cover of an outrageously generous spending cap and then are blatantly going to ignore it and cover every cost that is run up at this horrific and unworkable site. In the middle of this campaign season, this issue can serve to show who is willing to stand up for their promises and who is just playing politics and hoping the public doesn’t pay attention to what’s going on. All councilmembers must be pressed to hold to their pledge of a hard cap and must take the appropriate actions if the overruns prompt the shuffling and cap softening that Evans all but guarantees is set to proceed. Construction cannot be permitted at this site until a firm cost number can be produced after a complete analysis of the entire stadium plan and the environmental issues at the site (which can only be achieved with an extensive and independent environmental impact statement on the ballpark land). If the figure exceeds $611 million, the ballpark needs to be moved to the RFK Stadium site despite the work that’s gone on at the environmentally-challenged current site, or the city needs to let Virginia have at this mess since Evans and the mayor have insisted as recently as this spring that Governor Kaine and the general assembly would pick up the slack in a heartbeat and build MLB a publicly-financed palace.

MLB’s monetary penalties for ballpark delays — many of which wouldn’t be realized until 2009 or 2010 — can be adequately covered by the tens of millions of dollars generated by MLB activity in the city since April 2005, which was touted by the CFO and Linda Cropp as “money in the bank” that would be used to support the ballpark project, the readjustment of the stadium site and the project as a whole remains a viable option without threatening the city‘s fiscal well-being. (As we all know, it‘s the Brigade and the knee-bucklers on the council who now threaten the city‘s fiscal well-being with far-fetched schemes to cover cost overruns that end up with giveaways of valuable city assets and potential revenue streams!) No one would even be considering such an option were it within the realm of reality to meet a hard cost cap at the current horrible site, whose selection and insistence on for the ballpark site by select developers is at the root of every issue currently being experienced, cost and otherwise.


DC Races
Pat Bitondo,

Gary, you and Dorothy are disappointing me as a reader in these very important DC primary races. Dorothy has always been the sleuth who ferrets out information about the candidates and puts it out there. Often, I get angry at her, but she does it. We have Vincent Gray, a newcomer campaigning that he introduced over seventy pieces of legislation. No one has reported on how many pieces were actually passed. Then, there is the Skinner factor, with Adrian and his principled attitude about explaining it. Dorothy is known for her report card on council attendance, which probably caused Chavous and Brazil to lose the last election. However, no one has given us Fenty’s report card on that subject. I am very disappointed that we have a candidate for mayor who designates the location and date of a forum and then berates his opponent for not choosing it. He has taken on a rather pompous attitude and he hasn’t won yet. Do we want that behavior from a mayor?

We have all of the candidates in Ward 3 saying what they will do with the schools, when our Home Rule Charter puts the schools primarily in the hands of the Board of Education. Maybe these candidates should be running for that instead. The news people owe it to the readers to tell us what they can and can’t do if elected.

I make no secret of the fact that having come to Washington in 1959 and living through the “Katrina period” and realizing the long road to recovery from it, Linda Cropp is showing the most promise as the candidate who can do it. She was our first formidable chairperson, and has played a part in moving the city in a direction that is positive. Since about one-third of the voters will not have lived in the District more than five years, it is up to our news gatherers to put information out there on the candidates in order that sound choices can be made rather than those based on ideology.

[Full disclosure: Pat’s husband, Ron Bitondo, is co-chair of the Cropp for Mayor campaign — Gary Imhoff]


Fenty’s Public Safety Approach
Ron Linton,

I would recommend that Mr. Aspero [themail, August 16] visit the Fenty web site and review the public safety policy paper summary. If he is really interested, he might call and have the full document sent to him for review. A number of public safety professionals aided in putting that paper together. Let me address a couple of points. In his nearly six years on the city council, Fenty has visited numerous crime scenes in his ward shortly after the crime occurrence. He has met constantly with police and citizens to examine the issues impeding police and has supported police on the street and focused community policing. He recognized and understood the drain on patrol forces, which prompted him, along with Councilman Jim Graham, to introduce a bill in October 2005 to increase the MPD force by five hundred additional officers. I guess since no emergency had been declared the rest of the council wasn’t interested.

Let’s look at the emergency that was declared. A heinous crime occurred on July 9 in Georgetown. The media played it to the hilt and alarmed the citizens in that area. The political outcry compelled the administration to push the Police Department to put more officers on the beat. But the chief can only significantly increase personnel on the street in the short term by declaring a crime emergency that suspends the notification provisions of the police labor policy. With that declaration, citizens were upset all over the city, which prompted the administration to rush out an emergency crime bill. An emergency is when the unexpected happens that temporarily overwhelms resources available to deal with the occurrence. So the chief pulled three officers from each of the other six districts to meet the Georgetown emergency. Now, lets go back to July 7. Early that morning east of the river there were three homicides, one a double. Already overworked detectives in 6D were even more stressed out to cope with those. But this apparently was not considered an emergency. No extra forces were made available to 6D. Perhaps it didn’t meet the definition of emergency because it wasn’t unexpected and there already were insufficient resources to deal with the ordinary. I’ll leave it to you to ponder the discrepancy in definition. Meanwhile, the council passed the crime emergency bill. It provided for cameras. What number? Oh some number, since no advance thought was really put into how many, where they should go, or what was trying to be achieved. But this is an emergency, let’s pass the bill first, then try to figure it out. Oh yes, while we are at it let’s tighten up the curfew on juveniles , no matter that most crimes are committed by adults. then as an after thought let’s increase the force by some number. Of course it takes a couple of years to get one hundred officers recruited, trained, and certified. But this is an emergency, let’s get cracking.

Now Adrian Fenty didn’t ask me if he should vote no. But had he, I would have said absolutely. Maybe it will be a wake up call that this action by the council and the city administration was nothing more than doing something that would really look good, make citizens feel at least something is being done, and take the pressure off without actually achieving much.. But now the council can really ignore doing something serious about the systemic problems that are wrecking the Metropolitan Police department. Let’s get Fenty for telling us the emperor had no clothes on. This is from Ron Linton, retired assistant chief, Metropolitan Police Department, who supports Fenty’s public safety policy approach.


The Down Side of Charter Schools
Wanda Morsell,

[In themail, August 16, Gary Imhoff] asks the rhetorical question, “What’s the down side?” Let me tell you what the down side is. The down side is that there are not many charters that are performing well. I’m a mother of three, and I thought that the charters would be just the ticket for me. Well, they don’t have the services public schools have, many of the teachers are not qualified, and you don’t have the ability become involved like in public education. In other words, if you ask too many questions or are adamant about being involved, it may be off with your head, and certainly you get a one-way ticket back to the public schools. And it’s a shame to waste a year of your child’s valuable and precious time finding this out.

Don’t get me wrong — I am in favor of public education, charter or otherwise. Parents need to have choices; in fact, I’m blessed to have some great ones around me in ward seven. But you don’t need to reproduce another lame, unstructured, unsupervised education authority, especially when it drains money and students because everybody’s pulling from the same purse. There are some charters that are indeed making fabulous inroads, but those are few. And then there’s something that is not well known: children in charters are many times in a revolving door. Charters take them in and get the public money, then, after October, charters put them out and keep the public money (of course, that’s not really their fault -- that’s a systemic process problem that affects DCPS schools as well).

I have now walked with a few principals for several years, and I know the obstacles and problems they face. Indeed, with so many children from District schools going to charters, many charters are now experiencing and beginning to understand the difficulties DCPS schools face in educating children. Many DCPS schools have done a great job, regardless of test scores, given the nonsupport that they receive from central administration. In fact, I’m willing to say that if central administration could get fixed (and it is certainly broken) you’d see the pinnacle of a stellar school system. Charters are the same; if the governing board does not do a better job of creating a consistent system of support and oversight, then you’ll simply have a duplication of the problems that infest DCPS schools. I’ve been blessed to have children in Kimball, Anne Bears, Stuart Hobson, and McKinley, and I would not trade these schools for the world. What I think folks will soon discover, and many parents have already discovered, is that you have to be very careful in choosing a charter (the beauty of choice), or you’ll find yourself going from a boiling pot to a frying pan.


The Common Denominator’s Online DC Voter’s Guide
Kathy Sinzinger,

DC voters can find information about all ten elective offices listed on the September 12 primary ballots by visiting The Common Denominator’s online DC Voters’ Guide. Just click on the straw hat on our main page at (or to access our main Campaign 2006 page. From there, voters may find the candidates’ responses to The Common Denominator’s questionnaire, candidate photos, staff-written candidate profiles, information about the elective offices (such as length of term and salary) and other general election-related information and links.

Candidate forums also may be found among listings in our online Public Affairs Calendar, which is accessible from our main web page or from our main Campaign 2006 page.


Standing Up to Petty Legislation, Mediocre Bureaucrats, and NIMBYism
Len Sullivan,

DC’s overwhelmingly Democrat voters select their new leaders in three weeks. Some voters pick candidates expected to follow the voter’s own agenda. In fact, in our representative democracy, they are elected to do what they judge is best for all their constituents. A clear distinction is also needed between those elected to make the city’s laws and those elected or hired to execute them.

As elsewhere, the DC council often tinkers in the business of the bureaucracy and, equally depressing, city bureaucrats usurp the lawmakers’ policy-making functions. Should the council require DDoT to buy only CNG buses, while DDoT staffers get to decide that trolleys are a good substitute for Metrorail? Should the council forbid literacy classes in DC’s libraries, while the bureaucrats trash its main library? Should the council decide when ambulance sirens are used, while it takes an outside commission to define the city’s hospital needs? Voters need to elect legislators that legislate and a mayor that stresses a competent, effective staff, with equal focus on hiring the best and firing the worst. Lavish DC pay scales leave no excuse for mediocre staffs or performance. However, each branch does need access to reliable, apolitical analytical support for its decisions. The council has none; DC agencies buy theirs from overly obliging consultants.

While legislative and executive focus should differ, their broad objectives should not. There is close agreement on two major goals, but both are quite inappropriate for the nation’s capital city: a) overriding emphasis on neighborhood sanctity; and b) acquiescence to every last special interest, both at the expense of overall citywide development. Conversely, there are big differences in goals for future city growth and how to achieve it. Moreover, neither branch seems to accept DC’s unique role in hosting the nation’s capital and in providing the core city for the metro area. How do your candidates stand on their own roles, the city’s future, and its inescapable obligations? (Last of pre-election series: all available at



DC Public Library Events, August 28
Debra Truhart,

Monday, August 28, 7:00 p.m., Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW, Second Floor West Lobby. All the World’s a Stage Book Club. Different countries, times and lives. Each book is an adventure. A History of the World in 6 Glasses by Tom Standage will be discussed. Next month’s selection: The Pirate Hunter: The True Story of Captain Kidd by Richard Zacks. Young adults - Adults.


Ward 5 Council Candidates Forum on Affordable Housing, August 31
Hazel Thomas,

Premier Community Development Corporation presents a Ward 5 council candidates forum on the issue of affordable housing. What is it? How to retain it? How do we build it? What about property taxes? What about gentrification? Where will teachers and police officers live? Where will my son, an entry level professional, live? Will middle income people be eliminated? What will happen with excess school property? Do we have enough condos? Who benefits most from skyrocketing housing costs?

The forum will be at Greater Mt. Calvary Family Life Center, 605 Rhode Island Avenue, NE, Thursday, August 31, 6:30 p.m. For information, call Hazel Thomas at 491-9245 or Stephanie Rones at 832-3448.


WalkingTown, September 30
Laura Brower,

WalkingTown, DC, fall edition, Saturday, September 30. Enjoy more than twenty-five free neighborhood walking tours and a few bike and boat tours with professional and volunteer guides across the city. Featured neighborhoods include Capitol Hill, Downtown, Dupont Circle, Georgetown, Old Anacostia, and U Street/Shaw. Pick your favorite tours at and just come. Presented by Cultural Tourism DC, a nonprofit strengthening the image and economy of Washington, DC — neighborhood by neighborhood ( or 661-7581).


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