I’ve demoted my main comment to the bottom of themail. But I have a
brief observation for up top. On Thursday, the District government sent
a notice of eviction to the Recreation Wish List Committee, run by Cora
Masters Barry, the estranged wife of Marion Barry, from the Southeast
Tennis and Learning Center, where it had been running tennis programs
for youths since it was founded in 2001. Attorney General Peter Nickles
claimed that the eviction came about because the organization’s
corporate registration had been revoked three years ago, and that the
revocation had just been discovered in a random check of nonprofits that
had been doing business with the city. Masters-Barry insists that her
organization’s status was in order, and that the city had never
contacted her to inform her that there was any problem with it.
When he was told about the eviction notice by the press on Thursday,
Mayor Fenty seemed to be genuinely surprised, and claimed he didn’t
know anything about it. He said that he was sure the problem was purely
technical, and that it could be worked out. But Fenty was contradicted
by a higher authority: “Legally, you can’t give them a break. This
is not the fault of the city. They should have known better. They were
trying to do business with the city when they knew their status as a
registered DC corporation had been revoked by the government,” said
Attorney General Nickles.
Here are my questions. Does anyone, anyone at all, believe that the
problem with the corporate registration was really discovered in a
random check of nonprofits? Does anyone believe that the problem, if it
is one of a lapsed corporate registration, could not have been worked
out by contacting the organization and having it update its papers? What
is the purpose of the eviction? Does Nickles want another contractor to
run the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center that badly? If not, why is
Nickles deliberately picking a fight with Barry or Masters-Barry? How
does he think Fenty benefits? Does he think, if Masters-Barry is
evicted, that Fenty will carry a single precinct in Ward 8 in the next
election? If Nickles started this without first clearing it with Mayor
Fenty, why did he think he could cause a problem that could become this
big without Fenty’s clearance?
Produce the Note
Ed T. Barron, edtb1@macdotcom
For any readers of themail facing foreclosure, there is a way to buy
a lot of time to get straightened out or to get a better negotiating
position with the foreclosing lending institution. The way is to send,
via certified mail and notarized, a letter to the lending institution
requesting them to “Produce the Note.” The note, of course
establishes that the homeowner is indebted to the bank for the mortgage.
It is interesting to note that almost half of the banks who have been
contacted by potential foreclosees cannot produce the note. This can
result in delays of foreclosure of up to nine months while the lending
institution scrambles to find that silly one-page document. With banks
selling mortgages to other banks, it is very likely that your note
cannot be produced. It also gives the homeowners some negotiating
leverage with the foreclosing lending institution.
Mischaracterization of “How Many Parks Do
Richard Layman, email@example.com
Since I don’t read Matthew Yglesias, I was prepared to believe your
characterization (themail, August 9) of his recent blog entry “How
Many Parks Do You Need?” [http://yglesias.thinkprogress.org/archives/2009/08/how-many-parks-do-you-need.php].
Good thing I went and read what he wrote, since I was prepared to screed
in response in my own blog (http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com).
You said he argued that the city doesn’t need pocket parks, that such
spaces should be redeveloped. Actually, he made the point that every
space being re-made or “de-accessioned” from a public use such as a
school doesn’t need to become a park.
Frankly, I have some sympathy with Yglesias’ position, given how
many poorly managed and decrepit parks currently exist in the city —
most under the purview of the DC Department of Recreation. Yglesias’
post addressed public participation in planning efforts around reuse of
the buildings/sites, and his observation that most participants advocate
for more green space and parks and open space, without recognizing how
much such space currently exists, the lack of management and support of
many of these facilities, and the failure to coordinate planning and
management of these spaces. I tend to agree with his observations.
For example, within 1.5 blocks of the former Hine School, there are
six public spaces (Eastern Market Metro Plaza, related park space north
of Pennsylvania and east of 8th Street SE, Seward Square between 5th and
6th Streets, the North Plaza adjacent to Eastern Market, Turtle Park
north of North Carolina Avenue and across the street, and the large
sidewalk space adjacent to Port City Java on the east side of 7th Street
at North Carolina Avenue). For the most part, these spaces are poorly
designed and/or managed. And the Hine School redevelopment Request for
Proposals, in response to community priorities, requires delivery and
maintenance of a 15,000 to 20,000 square foot public/open space on the
site. This makes no sense. Instead, put efforts into making the extant
sites better and successful.
The response by Thomas Hardman in themail on August 12 extends the
mischaracterization to “blogs” and the state of best practice in “urban
planning” when he writes, “they are all making and repeating
standardized arguments that are all aimed at removing all urban spaces
that are not owned by private interests.” While it is true that
planners often justify “public-private partnerships,” mostly out of
a recognition of inadequate municipal funding as well as the inability
of most municipal agencies, including parks and recreation agencies, to
be able to deliver extranormal levels of service and programming
(18/7/365), I can’t think of any respected urban planning tome (e.g.,
Whyte’s Social Life of Small Urban Spaces to Paumier’s Creating
a Vibrant City Center) or parks best practices web resources
(citations available on request) advocating systematic privatization of
We have plenty of problems with the management and maintenance of
civic assets, plenty of problems concerning deaccessioning of public
property (starting with the failure to have multifaceted neighborhood
plans that include proactive planning for the use of neighborhood and
civic assets) and plenty of problems with achieving a more deliberative
and participatory public life and democracy within the city. But we can’t
deal with any of those vital problems if we can’t even accurately
characterize the problems. Maybe that’s the real problem.
No Mischaracterization at All
Gary Imhoff, firstname.lastname@example.org
Richard Layman, above, takes issue with my reading of Matthew
Yglesias’ blog post on city parks (http://yglesias.thinkprogress.org/archives/2009/08/how-many-parks-do-you-need.php),
but I think that I’m reading Yglesias fairly — and the way that the
great majority of Yglesias’ commentators read him — while Richard is
reading into him what he hopes Yglesias would have said. Yglesias just
doesn’t value city parks much. The center of Yglesias’ argument
against pocket parks is, “here in the Northeast how much use do we
really get out of parks? People don’t go to the park at night, or
during the winter, or when it’s raining. Compare that to, say, an
apartment building with some retail on the ground floor. People go to
stores all the time. Obviously, that’s not to say that an ideal city
would have zero parkland — parks are nice. But it’s not clear to me
that we’re suffering from a park shortage. And in environmental terms,
it’s much better for the planet to construct additional housing units
in already urbanized areas than to pack a bit more green space in the
city and have more people living in sprawling exurbs.” His argument is
a standard “smart growth” one — a preference for highly
concentrated populations in cities (what critics of cities would call
“congestion”), absorbing the people who would otherwise live in
suburbs (and eliminating tracts of single-family houses with yards,
which critics of suburbs would call “sprawl”).
Richard writes that Yglesias is really concerned about “the lack of
management and support of many of these facilities, and the failure to
coordinate planning and management of these spaces.” That’s wrong.
Richard and I share these concerns about DC’s pocket parks, but
Yglesias doesn’t mention them at all. The closest Yglesias writes is,
“It does seem to me that DC and other cities suffer from more a
problem of quality in our public spaces — too much basically
empty, unprogrammable land — rather than a lack of quantity.” But
Yglesias isn’t saying here that our pocket parks lack quality of
design, maintenance, or management; Yglesias doesn’t know enough about
the city’s government to make those arguments. Instead, he is saying
that simply by being “empty, unprogrammable land” parks are of lower
quality — less desirable — than land developed into apartment or
I also think that Richard is shortchanging Thomas Hardman’s point.
Obviously people who plan urban parks professionally are unlikely to
undervalue urban parks. But there are plenty of urban planners in the
smart growth school who fervently believe in increasing urban
concentration at the expense of urban green space. The case of the “planning
process,” if one wants to be generous in describing it, for renovating
Tenley Library and Janey School is a good example of how this kind of
“smart growth” thinking is used to justify government officials’
partnerships with developers hungry for cut-rate public land, and how it
works to undervalue park land and green spaces. Officials believe they
simply know better than the uninformed citizens whom they rule; after
all, officials have been taught the smart growth theory that is the
latest planning fad.
Let’s say you have a chance to build your dream house, so you
engage an architect. You tell the architect that your family doesn’t
use the family room much, and that you spend most of your time in the
bedrooms, so you want more of the new house’s space and luxury touches
to be spent on the bedrooms. But your architect replies that the latest
theory taught in the colleges holds that families ought to spend most of
their time together in the same common room, and that bedrooms should be
used only for sleeping, with no distractions. So the house he’s going
to build for you will have a big family room and small, Spartan
bedrooms. You can fire that architect if he insists on substituting his
judgment for yours. You can’t fire the government’s urban planners
who want to design a city to fit their theories rather than to fit the
way that people actually live and want to live. That’s the problem.
Urban planners are convinced that they know better than citizens what
city dwellers should want, and how they should live. We city people
should all want to live in small apartments in large high rises, to get
around by public transportation and bicycles, to live in walkable
neighborhoods where all of our basic needs are met within a few blocks.
And we can’t fire them if we really want something else.
CLASSIFIEDS — EVENTS
Department of Parks and Recreation Events,
John Stokes, email@example.com
August 19, 1:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m., Marie Reed Recreation Center, 2200
Champlain Street, NW, Fun Camp for ages six through thirteen. Come out
and enjoy a fun day in the sun with eating popcorn, snow cones and
goodie bags. For more information, call Ms. Ludie Baker, Acting Site
Manager, at 673-7768.
August 20, 2:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m., Petworth Recreation Center, 801
Taylor Street, NW. Fun Day for ages six through thirteen. Youth will
enjoy a day of fun outdoor activities. For more information, call Howard
Marshall at 576-6850.
August 20, 12:30 p.m.-2:30 p.m., Kalorama Recreation Center, 1875
Columbia Road, NW, End of Summer Pizza Party for ages six through
thirteen. Participants will enjoy pizza, music, and water games. For
more information, call John Borges, Site Manager, at 673-7606.
August 20, 1:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m., Rosedale Recreation Center, 1701
Gales Street, NE. Third Annual Back to School Event for all ages.
Participants will engage in outdoor games, activities and a cookout, as
well as receive book bags and school supplies. For more information,
call Brian Williams, Site Manager, at 724-5405.
August 20, 1:30 p.m.-4:00 p.m., Petworth Recreation Center, 801
Taylor Street, NW. Petworth Fun Day for ages six through thirteen.
Participants will enjoy a day of games, relay races, food, and of course
lots and lots of fun. For more information, call Howard Marshall at
Presentations That Make You and Your Message
Memorable, August 22
Barbara Conn, firstname.lastname@example.org
In today’s world, leaders have to be powerful speakers. They know
how to grab attention, keep attention, and influence those around them.
They have a vision and passion, and know how to inspire others to
action. In this fun, engaging, interactive session, you will learn how
to apply creativity and passion to your presentations to become a more
effective communicator. You will overcome fear of presenting and public
speaking, have renewed confidence in your communication skills, learn
tools and techniques for creating a memorable message, deliver your
message with passion, and feel energized about who you are and what you
Gather your colleagues and neighbors, and your questions, and bring
them to this Saturday, August 22, 1:00 p.m., gathering of the Capital PC
User Group (CPCUG) Entrepreneurs and Consultants Special Interest Group
(E&C SIG). These monthly events are free and open to all. This month’s
event is at the Cleveland Park Branch Library (first floor large meeting
room) at 3310 Connecticut Avenue, NW (between Macomb and Newark
Streets), just over a block south of the Cleveland Park Metrorail
Station on the Red Line. For more information about the seminar, the
speaker, and CPCUG (a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization),
To RSVP, send an E-mail to email@example.com.
themail@dcwatch is an E-mail discussion forum that is published every
Wednesday and Sunday. To change the E-mail address for your subscription
to themail, use the Update Profile/Email address link below in the
E-mail edition. To unsubscribe, use the Safe Unsubscribe link in the
E-mail edition. An archive of all past issues is available at http://www.dcwatch.com/themail.
All postings should be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org,
and should be about life, government, or politics in the District of
Columbia in one way or another. All postings must be signed in order to
be printed, and messages should be reasonably short — one or two brief
paragraphs would be ideal — so that as many messages as possible can
be put into each mailing.