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March 24, 2013

Creative Class

Dear Creators:

In the Daily Beast, Joel Kotkin writes that "Richard Florida Concedes the Limits of the Creative Class," "Among the most pervasive, and arguably pernicious, notions of the past decade has been that the ‘creative class’ of the skilled, educated, and hip would remake and revive American cities. The idea, packaged and peddled by consultant Richard Florida, had been that unlike spending public money to court Wall Street fat cats, corporate executives or other traditional elites, paying to appeal to the creative would truly trickle down, generating a widespread urban revival. Urbanists, journalists, and academics — not to mention big-city developers — were easily persuaded that shelling out to court ‘the hip and cool’ would benefit everyone else, too. . . . Well, oops."

The benefits of attracting young, rich, hip, urbanistas to urban centers were supposed to accrue to the whole city, but Kotkin writes that they haven’t materialized. I’m not sure that the benefits haven’t materialized for big-city politicians. A big population of young, wealthy, childless people generates more income taxes and makes fewer demands on expensive city services like education and health care. The "creative class" that Florida promotes can be easily bought off with relatively less expensive toys like streetcars, bike lanes, and longer drinking hours for bars.

But aside from the economic gains to tax-hungry politicians, a "creative class" strategy doesn’t benefit a city’s economy — or its society — as a whole. "These limitations of the ‘hip cool’ strategy to drive broad-based economic growth have been evident for years. Conservative critics, such as the Manhattan Institute’s Steve Malanga have pointed out that many creative-class havens often underperform economically compared to their less hip counterparts. More liberal academic analysts have denounced the idea as ‘exacerbating inequality and exclusion.’ One particularly sharp critic, the University of British Columbia’s Jamie Peck, sees it as little more than a neo-liberal recipe of ‘biscotti and circuses.’ Urban thinker Aaron Renn puts it in political terms: ‘the creative class doesn’t have much in the way of coattails.’"

DC is betting the farm, and the industrial and retail bases, of the city on attracting the creative class. It’s a high-stakes bet, and not a good one.


If the link to the rest of Tom Grahame’s message on parking in the last issue of themail didn’t work for you, here it is again:

Gary Imhoff


Why I Will Never Vote for Michael A. Brown
Trish Chittams,

Today I had the most awful encounter with a representative of the Michael Brown Campaign. This individual called me on my personal cell phone and started off with a canned spiel about how Michael Brown was the best incumbent, and best person for the upcoming election. When I pointed out that he was not an incumbent, and then asked how she obtained my telephone number, she became abusive and informed me that Michael Brown was soliciting my support as an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner. Now, I understand that this person is not representative of the entire Brown Campaign, but if the campaign cannot take the time to properly train their personnel, then . . . there it is. . . . After I said I would complain about the call, this abusive representative of the candidate hung up on me. Not fifteen seconds later, I received a call from someone who claimed that she was an ANC commissioner with the telephone number 202.486.0082. This individual said her name so fast, I didn’t get it, but she (yes, it was another woman) then began to "school" me on what I could and could not do. Then she hung up on me, too. Needless to say, I was hot.

I did not become an ANC for this mess, nor does anyone deserve to be treated horribly by "beasties" just because they think they have some kind of title, or because I may or may not support their candidate. But you can rest assured, after these two encounters, I will never vote for Michael A. Brown, not even for bagman.


DC Juvenile Justice System — a Response
Ted Gest,

This is on behalf of the DC Attorney General’s office in response to last week’s post by Trish Chittams regarding a case handled by that office involving her two daughters. Andrew Fois, the Deputy Attorney General in charge of the office’s Public Safety Division, says that, "While frustration with the system is understandable, it is critically important for the community that many of the inaccuracies and incorrect assumptions in Ms. Chittams’ posting be corrected. We commend the Chittams’ daughters for their courageous actions that led to the arrest and prosecution of the respondent (the juvenile term for defendant), including their heroic assistance at the scene and for their cooperation in the case. We completely understand that the event the daughters witnessed was a traumatizing and troubling experience for them and for the young male victim himself. That is why we diligently prosecuted the juvenile who was arrested and investigated the case further.

"As to interviewing the witnesses, this would have been necessary only if the case were going to trial, which this one did not. Despite suggestions to the contrary, we were in close and regular contact with the victim and his mother since the case’s beginning. The Chittams are disappointed that we allowed the respondent to plead guilty. The fact is that plea offers are made in virtually every case in every prosecutor’s office, including in the most serious and violent cases. We made the determination that a guilty plea to serious charges was the best way to proceed. We make plea decisions with the best interests of the victims and witnesses clearly in mind. Juvenile justice law on sentencing differs from the law on adults. There are not specific sentences or ranges for specific charges in the juvenile system. Whether the respondent in this case pled guilty or went to trial, the sentencing options available to the judge would have been the same. Because our office offered a plea to this offender does not mean he will necessarily derive any benefit in terms of sentencing. A guilty plea was entered and, thanks to the prosecutor’s work, the victim and his mother were in court to provide the judge with victim impact statements on how this crime affected them. We are not permitted to discuss the sentence the judge imposed. As to the other person discussed in the post, he was not arrested at the scene. Further investigation by the police and my office failed to develop any evidence to bring any additional charges. We are deeply sorry that the two families have had to endure being victimized by, and witnesses to, a crime and in addition are dissatisfied with the results. A crime was committed, an arrest made, further investigation conducted, and an offender was prosecuted, adjudicated, and sentenced. We are grateful to the young victim and witnesses, and their families, for their essential and courageous roles in achieving these results."


When Will UMC Be Treated with Common Sense
Samuel Jordan,

Orders to the United Medical Center (UMC) Board of Trustees have begun appearing in their fully contradictory intent. As I reported in themail on March 10, a majority of DC Council members voted on February 19 to downsize UMC from a full-service, acute-care hospital, while insisting that they intended to maintain it as a full-service, acute care facility serving residents of Washington’s Wards 7 and 8 and nearby Prince George’s County, Maryland. The votes were cast in approval of a $12.7 million UMC "turnaround" contract awarded to Huron Consulting Services, LLC. Under the explicit terms of the contract, Huron would implement Option #2 recommended by the McGladrey Group — to downsize the hospital, preparing it for sale to the private sector within the next two years.

There is some comfort in the lack of unanimity among the councilmembers on the fate of the hospital. Councilmembers Orange, Bowser, and Graham, exercising commendable diligence, actually read the contract documents and acknowledged the plain meaning of the agreement’s language: downsize and sell. Among the eight councilmembers who voted to approve the contract are at least five lawyers including several "legal scholars" who dismissed repeated pleas to read the contract.

Much is made about the UMC’s being a fiscal "basket case." Yet little is reported on the fact that the majority of the District’s full-service, acute-care hospitals have not reported profits in the last several fiscal years. The $2.5 million net revenue documented at UMC at the end of fiscal year 2011 by KPMG, a nationally prominent accounting firm, put UMC among the leaders in the hospital business in Washington, DC. Who ordered that the purportedly "mistaken formulation" of UMC’s Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) reimbursements had to clear UMC’s books in one fiscal year — particularly when the numbers upon which that determination was made have not themselves been audited? Repayment could be made over two or more accounting cycles — the hospital isn’t going anywhere. We know where to find it. Nevertheless, the result of this arbitrary decision was instant bankruptcy for the hospital.

Fingers are beginning to point now that the mainstream press has reported that there is disagreement among the city’s leaders about the direction of the hospital and just what Huron is supposed to be doing. Who will break ranks and declare with a nod toward common sense that the principal reason UMC has difficulties is that the District, as I’ve reported in themail and testified before DC Council, does not invest in the services that residents in the hospital’s service area need. Simply put, if every study on health disparities indicates that African Americans have, for many cancers, higher rates of incidence and mortality, why does the only hospital east of the river in Washington, DC serving low/modest income African American communities, not have an oncology department — or departments of neurology, urology, interventional cardiology, and otolaryngology?

When a very sick person goes to a hospital west of the river for cancer treatment or angioplasty and gets a satisfactory result, that person becomes a loyal customer. They return for all of their health care needs and tell everyone in their family and friendship circles to do the same. There is no mystery here. UMC must first determine what the people need and bring it. Is there a more fundamental principle of a business enterprise?


Follow the Money, Citizens Federation Assembly on DC’s FY 2014 Budget, March 26
Susie Cambria,

I respect Jennifer Budoff, director of the DC Council’s budget office. But what I don’t understand is how she can talk about the FT 2014 budget on March 26, when Mayor Gray does not put forth his proposed budget until March 28. Seems like the Federation should reschedule its event so that all the issues outlined can be discussed in an informed manner.


Testimony to the Historic Preservation Review Board on McMillan Park, Hearing March 28
Daniel Goldon Wolcoff,

We must stop wasting a fortune in treasure, and preserve historic McMillan Park for so many excellent reasons — for its historic significance, its airy tree-lined landscaped beauty, breezy open sense of Great Place, value to the environment, for our economy, for our families, our community, our nation and the world. I ask the HPRB to reject the VMP development plan and block the destructive DC Water plan for storm water runoff storage at McMillan. Your own Nomination to the National Register of Historic Places ( describes such a magnificent, fascinating, and elegant historic and civic engineering accomplishment, it is difficult to understand how you will not completely protect and keep intact the McMillan site.

We must recognize the value of the whole site, and all its historic structures, ready for restoration and continued benefit as a park, with carefully selected adaptive re-use of facilities consistent with its history and the public’s need for open, parkland and "great places." The proposal to excessively develop this park for revenue to the DC government is an insult to the DC community. The DC government closed and completely wasted this special historic site for over twenty-seven years, and has deprived residents of all the benefits of such an elegant and beautifully planned park. Who would reward this miserable performance? The next insult to our city is the disgusting idea to turn parts of this park into a sewer.

The Mayor’s Flooding Task Force blamed poor sewer construction from the early 1800’s for the serious flooding problems we have in Bloomingdale. How could they not blame the DC WASA for over one hundred fifty years of negligence, and miserable costly poor planning? WASA allowed this problem to persist to the year 2013. WASA did not correct it when local people were flooded ten, twenty, or forty years ago, but suddenly they are concerned as newer residents in a higher economic bracket are horrified to have their basement apartment investments threatened by sewage and storm water runoff, coming the wrong way out of the toilets and drains. DCWASA has recently discovered inspecting and cleaning out the storm drains, which was their responsibility all this time. Storm drains all over DC are clogged with litter and debris all the time; the storm drain at my corner was growing a bush! The storm drains are continually full of garbage, and we all wonder what DC Water (a useless, wasteful name change) is doing. This agency likewise does not deserve to bail itself out by turning sections of McMillan Park into a smelly sewer of storm water runoff full of gasoline, oil, antifreeze, and animal feces.

The Flooding task-force and common sense tell us to use natural storm water mitigation like tree planting, community gardens, ground cover, rain barrels, permeable surfaces, re-charging curbs, removing the excessive paving that the DC government has destructively contracted all over the city. The forty-two million dollars for a huge tank at McMillan should be spent on trees and taking up pavement. Green spaces like Crispus Attucks Park, an entire alley that was converted to green space at 1st and T, shows us how to reclaim impermeable areas and create gardens and green space with trees and bushes, with numerous benefits to cooling the city blocks and reducing storm water runoff. We need places to build our community, and the DC government needs to start facilitating our quality of life, not just "mixed-use" super–urbanization, like this VMP plan.

If WASA were so concerned with the impact of storm water runoff, they certainly never demanded responsible zoning. Our Board of Zoning approves unrestrained development to pave over our city and virtually deforest the struggling tree cover. This project for storm water retention is specifically to continue an irresponsible super-urbanization of this section of DC. It is to continue the environmental damage to our city with thousands of new housing and commercial units, worsening the flooding and eliminating the last open spaces, green space and even historic McMillan Park. A moratorium on new construction is the only responsible thing to do. While a massive green plan to naturally reduce the storm water runoff is the best use of the $42 million. We have a glut of commercial property already going to waste and new residents can renovate derelict and unused industrial properties, and we all can enjoy the remaining green space which is simply sensible, and conserving our resources for a healthier quality of life.

DC Water has increased our water bills over 900 percent, paying for a three billion dollar storm water retention plan to reduce the dumping of raw sewage into our rivers, mostly the Anacostia. God knows how much environmental harm this has caused, and it still doesn’t address the impermeable surface issue, but charges us more for having a driveway and patio than for water and sewer services. Less than twenty years ago three people paid thirty dollars for water and sewer service, and today one person pays over one hundred twenty-five dollars for the same service. It’s another expensive and destructive indication of the miserable planning we get from our DC agencies like DC Office of Planning. Would McMillan Park have been fenced off for twenty-eight years had it been located in the upper northwest section of DC? What else could the DC government do to insult our section of the city, make it into a sewer! Where does the smelly air vent as the pristine sand beds are polluted with dirty storm water runoff?

It is really the whole region and nation, and the international visitors that would come to such an interesting and gracious park as destination and "Great Place," that is deprived by the massive waste of McMillan. These gracious healthy planned parks in the "Emerald Necklace" need to be restored, expanded, and interconnected, just as planned in 1901. Why waste these precious resources? The appointed development team VMP, nine of the top design and planning corporations in the United States, has planned to section up the park, 50 percent for this, 20 percent for that, and they claim to be honoring the legacy of those civic minded talents in the Cities Beautiful Movement. How arrogant. This is not how DC was planned by the greatest architects and planners. The visions of Pierre L’Enfant and the Senate Parks McMillan Commission are certainly being erased, corrupted, and paved over. This is a tragic waste of another needed community park, once landscaped by Frederick Law Olmsted, and now turned over to consumerism and materialism, and even made into a sewer.

It is the DC government’s attempt to do way too much that will make the fascinating history into a row of ruins between massive building complexes, and the project will fail from its own sheer excess. My vision is for a healthy art, performance, and educational park, restored by our youth, training for hands on trade careers, with views and tree lined promenades, urban agriculture and a healing garden, sustainable energy demonstrations and resident artists, concerts, and festivals is exactly what the city has been deprived of for way too long. Why exactly do the residents of Potomac and West Bethesda deserve the benefits of Glen Echo Park, while we in the center of DC don’t deserve the benefits of McMillan Park?

The site design presented by Professor Gusevich and her team from CUA absolutely addresses the HPRB’s concerns vastly better than the VMP plan. Only certain things, mostly adaptive re-use will enhance the park, its services, and revenue production. Professor Gusevich’s concept for a large City Market and Bazaar in under surface galleries is "World Class," imaginative, and consistent with preserving the surface area and restoration. We can pick and choose carefully, exactly which things will fit, and coordinate with the restoration of this Olmsted Park. A Park Conservancy and McMillan Consortium, of objective experts and community members, can work with Howard University, the National Park Service, and DC agencies, just like Glen Echo, for a spectacular, open breezy, shady, gracious park restoration, water works, sun-lighted stream, which will provide revenue for the city, increase property values, and connect to other parks, trails, and green space, with natural storm water mitigation, cooler shady neighborhoods, and a healthier quality of life.



moveDc Transportation Plan Advisory Committee Meeting, April 9
Monica Hernandez,

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) will host the second moveDC Transportation Plan Advisory Committee (TPAC) on Tuesday, April 9, 6:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m., at the National Capital Planning Commission (Commission Chambers), 401 9th Street, NW, Suite 500 (North Lobby). The TPAC is made up of District residents from each Ward who are active in transportation-related issues and other civic endeavors. It is charged with acting in an advisory role to the moveDC project team throughout the plan development process. moveDC is a collaborative planning effort, led by DDOT’s Policy, Planning and Sustainability Administration (PPSA), to develop a Multimodal Long Range Transportation Plan for the District of Columbia.

All TPAC meetings are open to the public. Members of the public are encouraged to attend and participate in the meetings. Each meeting’s agenda will be structured to offer time for presentation and sharing of information, discussion by the TPAC, and questions and discussion with the public.

Please note all meeting attendees will be required to show state-issued identification to pass through security at the meeting venue. More information on the time and location of each meeting is available in the calendar section of the moveDC web site (


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