Contracts, and Grants
There were important developments in three intertwined stories
this week. Colbert King’s column, “DC Councilmembers Playing
Politics with Earmarks,” http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/05/AR2010030503249.html,
covers the DC Auditor’s report on DC council earmarks that I mentioned
last Wednesday, and it gives some examples of earmark abuse that are
contained in that report.
This morning’s headline story in the Washington Post, “Friends
Share in DC Mayor Adrian M. Fenty’s Good Fortune,” by Nikita Stewart
and Paul Schwartzman, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/07/AR2010030701156.html,
never uses the word “corruption,” but makes the case nevertheless.
The Fenty administration operates on the basis of cronyism and
favoritism; it distributes contracts and public funds on the basis of
friendship. And it does it so blatantly that it offends the good
government instincts of Marion Barry; here’s the quotation the authors
elicit from Barry: “Former mayor Barry (D), now the Ward 8 council
member, said Fenty’s friends have turned up in DC-sponsored projects
often enough to raise questions. ‘There’s nobody in this government
more Afro-centric than I am, but you can’t hide behind that,’ said
Barry, a longtime advocate of minority set-asides. ‘The problem I have
is the circle is so small. The same ones over and over again. It’s not
And Peter Tucker, below, stays on Jack Evans’ case, in this
instance on the proposed multimillion dollar giveaway to Northup
Grumman. Politicians are eager to play developer and to move in the
circles of the big boys who can spend millions on their projects. The
problem is that politicians aren’t playing with their own money.
They’re using our money, and they’re wasting our money by giving it
to their friends, their political allies, and to corporations that
don’t need the money in the first place. A government can choose to
encourage business development by having a generally business-friendly
environment, but treating all businesses the same doesn’t buy any
friends for politicians. On the other hand, taxing and putting other
burdens on most businesses in order to give large favors — earmarks,
contracts, grants — to a favored few buys politicians a circle of
contributors and supporters.
Reports circulated Saturday on The Washington Teacher blog
that the Rhee administration laid off more public school employees on
March 5. Insiders report that possibly as many as thirty-nine employees
were separated from DC’s central office, mostly from the Office of
Special Education (OSE) and various other offices, with more layoffs
scheduled to come. Given all the controversy over the first round of
school system layoffs last November, it’s not hard to imagine why
these recent terminations went unreported. An anonymous source who
referred to themselves as DCPS is underhanded wrote, “I was browsing
the web trying to see if the news of the DCPS central office
‘layoffs’ that occurred yesterday (Friday) was on any one’s radar.
To my surprise it wasn’t. I came across your blog and I decided to
send you an E-mail. I currently work for DCPS so I must remain
anonymous. On Friday, March 5, over twenty DCPS central office
employee’s were ‘separated’ from their positions. The head honchos
tried to convince the staff this was part of the ‘budget reduction
plan.’ I have to disagree; this was a blatant office-wide termination
of folks that didn’t get along with their direct supervisors. The
stage for this was set a long time ago. Every one that was let go was
African-American and very out spoken. They were revealing a lot of
under-handed activity that was going on in the central office and the
‘big wigs’ didn’t like this. It makes me sick to my stomach to see
what’s going on in our central office. All of the staff (including me)
are walking on egg shells waiting until our name is put on the layoff
list. A lot of the things going on at DCPS need to be exposed. That mess
that was pulled yesterday (Friday) needs to be investigated . . .
something just wasn’t right about the situation. They also made it
known that this is not the end of the ‘layoffs.’
A second informant vouched for the validity of this story. In
an E-mail, this anonymous source reported “I too have been searching
the Internet for news on March 5th’s central office layoffs, and have
been disappointed. I can’t give a lot of detail because they’d know
who I was if I did; they read these blogs and discuss them derisively. I
can confirm that there were over twenty separations from employment on
Friday. I agree with your first source that there are more to come. I
was given information from two director-level persons. Neither person
could give a reason for this action other than vague ‘recession’
mumblings. Both stated that ‘no one is safe’ during these times, so
I believe that they already have a list of persons that are being laid
off next but didn’t want to do them all at once. I know that not all
of the persons laid off on Friday are African-American, but I believe
that most were outspoken in their concern for DCPS practices.”
Will Rhee’s firing squad strike again? Only time will tell.
Is it Time to Burn the Boats?
Phil Shapiro, firstname.lastname@example.org
Within the next two to three years (or sooner), many major
newspapers in the United State — including the Washington Post
— will likely stop printing. Sadly, many of these companies will not
be doing so on their own terms; they will be forced into that action.
Marc Andreessen, who designed the first widely used web
browser, Netscape, thinks that newspapers ought to face this eventuality
head on and shut down their print operations on their own terms. He
explains this point of view in the phrase, “burn the boats,”
alluding to explorer Cortes’ command to burn the boats when he landed
in Mexico, forcing his sailors to move into the unknown rather than
contemplate returning to the Old World. Maybe there’s some wisdom in
this thinking. When you act on your own terms you have a greater chance
of survival. When you’re betwixt and between, you can’t focus on
moving in any direction. See http://tinyurl.com/yegpua3
Given the vital role of new organizations in the operations of
our democracy, is there not a role for foundations to involve themselves
in making this transition as non-disruptive as possible? Printing plants
will need to be repurposed, distribution chain workers will need to
retrained, etc. This is no small transition, but it must progress
Podcast Interview with DC author Dan
Phil Shapiro, email@example.com
Author of the book A Whole New Mind and the new book
Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. See (and
I find Pink to be an interesting, humble, and thoughtful
thinker. I’d characterize him as a pragmatic theorist. Scroll down
this web page to see Dan Pink speaking at the TED conference in 2009.
Twitter summary of the book Drive: “Carrots & sticks are so
last century. Drive says for 21st century work, we need to
upgrade to autonomy, mastery, and purpose.”
Jack Evans’ “Particularly Loony”
Idea: $25 Million for Northrup Grumman
Peter Tucker, firstname.lastname@example.org
On the same day the DC council declared that unemployment was
at crisis levels, having surpassed 12 percent citywide and 28 percent in
Ward 8, the powerful chair of the Finance and Revenue Committee,
Councilmember Jack Evans, announced his plan to provide Northrup Grumman
with $25 million in tax abatements and grants in an effort to lure the
defense contractor to the District. If $25 million is not enough for the
Fortune 100 company, which posted $1.7 billion in profit in 2009, Mr.
Evans is prepared to go higher: “Whatever someone else puts down
we’re going to match it and we’re going to beat it,” said Evans.
Washington Post business
columnist Steven Pearlstein does not see the wisdom in using tax dollars
to go after Northrup Grumman. In a March 3 article, “A wrongheaded
race for Northrup Grumman’s headquarters,” Mr. Pearlstein writes,
“Virtually every credible study finds that using taxpayer subsidies to
chase after corporate locations rarely pays off. These
testosterone-filled contests are never really about money so much as
pride and ego and political bragging rights. By the time the competition
ends, the benefits from winning have been pretty much bargained away and
everyone comes off looking rather silly” (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/02/AR2010030203544.html).
Unfortunately, very few will have the opportunity to raise
their concerns over the Northrup Grumman giveaway before Mr. Evans’
Finance and Revenue Committee. While Council rules require a hearing to
have 15 days notice, Mr. Evans is holding the Northrup Grumman hearing
on Monday, March 8 at 10:00 a.m., despite having published notice for
the hearing on March 2, just six days prior. Mr. Evans’ fast-and-loose
approach to spending huge sums of precious tax dollars is nothing new.
However, with massive budget cuts looming — likely disproportionately
impacting the city’s most vulnerable — Mr. Evans’ reckless fiscal
management can no longer be tolerated.
Mr. Pearlstein perfectly summed up the effort to lure Northrup
Grumman to DC: “For the District, which is looking at a $200 million
budget shortfall next year, getting into this bidding war is
CLASSIFIEDS — EVENTS
Monday, March 8, 6:30 p.m., Charles Sumner School, 1201 17th
Street, NW (at the corner of 17th and M Streets, NW). Longtime Washington
Post writer and columnist Abigail Trafford opens the Dupont Circle
Village’s spring speakers series, marking the first anniversary of its
membership launch. Trafford, best known for her “My Time” book and
columns in the Post, is a fun speaker, and her topic should
interest everyone. The event is open to all, and particularly those who
are curious about the village.
Monday March 8, 7:30 p.m., St. Thomas Episcopal Church, 1772
Church Street, NW (at the corner of Church and 18th Streets). DCCA March
2010 Membership Meeting. Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans will begin the
evening with a brief update and take questions. Send questions in
advance to email@example.com.
Featured speaker Colleen Hawkinson of the District of Columbia
Department of Transportation (DDOT) will provide an overview of the
agency’s direction as well as information on major current and
upcoming initiatives, including streetcars, K Street CenterWay,
expansion of the bike sharing program, and the Circulator.
Tuesday, March 9, 4:00-7:00 p.m., DC Jewish Community Center,
1529 16th Street, NW. On the Sidewalk at the J Spring Used Book Sale.
Looking for inexpensive books? Browse through terrific reads, classics,
and bestsellers. Used books in good condition at prices as low as $1!
Elbow-deep in spring cleaning? The J is accepting donations of books in
good condition on Sunday, March 7, and Monday, March 8. Donations can be
dropped off in bags or boxes with the front desk or put in the library.
Please mark them clearly as donations.
Environmental Health Group (EHG)
Events, March 9
Allen Hengst, firstname.lastname@example.org
World War I munitions, bottles filled with chemical warfare
agents, and contaminated soil have been found in and around the Spring
Valley neighborhood of northwest DC. The Environmental Health Group (EHG)
seeks to raise awareness of the issues and encourage a thorough
investigation and cleanup. Every Saturday at 1:00 p.m., please join the
Environmental Health Group for an informal discussion about Spring
Valley issues. In the cafe at the Tenleytown Whole Foods Market, 4530
40th Street, NW (one block north of Tenley Circle). For more
information, visit the EHG on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Washington-DC/Environmental-Health-Group/67807900019.
Tuesday, March 9, 7:00 p.m.: Monthly meeting of the Spring
Valley Restoration Advisory Board with the US Army Corps of Engineers.
USACE is in the process of investigating and cleaning up contamination
in Spring Valley resulting from operations during the World War I era.
The Corps will outline its plan to destroy chemical weapons on the
Federal Property (behind Sibley Hospital) within approximately six
weeks. At Saint David’s Church basement, 5150 Macomb Street, NW (one
block north of MacArthur Boulevard), http://www.nab.usace.army.mil/projects/WashingtonDC/springvalley.htm.
National Building Museum Events, March
Johanna Weber, email@example.com
March 11, 12:30 p.m.-1:30 p.m., Building in the 21st Century:
Solar Decathlon Houses Shine Light on Architecture, Energy Efficiency,
and Smart Technologies. Richard King, director of the Solar Decathlon,
reviews the results and lessons learned from the fourth US Department of
Energy Solar Decathalon and shows plans for future events. Free.
Registration required. Walk-in registration based on availability.
March 11, 6:30 p.m.-8:00 p.m., For the Greener Good: Greening
the Supply Chain. How can you tell if a piece of lumber, a CFL light
bulb, or bamboo flooring is really “green”? Learn from a panel of
experts about the greening of the supply chain. $12 members, free
students, $20 nonmembers. Prepaid registration required. Walk-in
registration based on availability.
March 11, 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m., DC Environmental Film Festival.
Moving Midway (USA, 2008, 98 minutes.) In 2004, New York film critic
Godfrey Cheshire returned home to North Carolina to find that his cousin
planned to move Midway Plantation, the family’s ancestral home. Moving
Midway recounts this journey. A discussion with the director/filmmaker
follows the film. Presented as part of the DC Environmental Film
Festival. For more information visit www.dcenvironmentalfilmfest.org.
$10 members, $10 students, $12 nonmembers. Prepaid registration
required. Walk-in registration based on availability. All events at the
National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square Metro
station. Register for events at http://www.nbm.org.
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