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July 24, 2013

Watch the Skies

Dear Sky Watchers:

As far back as October 2012, the Raytheon Company issued a press release that got almost no attention announcing its Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor (JLENS) System, On February 1, Reuters published an article that said that JLENS would get a test in Washington: "A pair of big, blimp-like craft, moored to the ground and flying as high as 10,000 feet (3,000 meters), are to be added to a high-tech shield designed to protect the Washington, DC, area from air attack, at least for a while. . . . Operating as high as 10,000 feet for up to 30 days at a time, JLENS is meant to give the military more time to detect and react to threats, including cruise missiles and manned and unmanned aircraft, compared with ground-based radar. The system is also designed to defend against tactical ballistic missiles, large caliber rockets and moving vehicles that could be used for attacks, including boats, cars and trucks," However, even this article didn’t get much pickup until yesterday, when a brief article in Gizmodo, "A Fleet of Blimps Will Soon Serve as a Missile Shield Over Washington,", started a flurry of articles in the tech press.

What hasn’t been emphasized in the articles, however, is that the JLENS system has just as great a potential for policing and spying on Washingtonians on the ground as for protecting Washingtonians from air attacks. Be forewarned; starting in October, when the JLENS test is scheduled to begin, there’s no more topless sunbathing in your backyard or apartment roof garden. There’s no more privacy.


Real-world lessons that Washington politicians don’t feel they have to learn from include the warnings they should be getting from the misgovernment of Detroit and its resultant bankruptcy. ABC’s John Stossel writes about Detroit in Reason: "Detroit has been a ‘model city’ for big-government! All Detroit’s mayors since 1962 were Democrats who were eager to micromanage. And spend. . . . Politicians think they know best, but they can’t alter the laws of economics. They can’t make mismanaged industries, constant government meddling, welfare, and bureaucratic labor union rules (Detroit has 47 unions) into a formula for success. . . . On my TV show, I confronted the council’s second in command about his refusal to let Detroit sell land. He says he voted against it ‘because the developer wants to grow trees. ‘We don’t need any more new trees in our city.’ The politicians micromanaged themselves into bankruptcy, and they want to keep digging. . . . As usual, the politicians want to try more of the same. They constantly come up with plans, but the plans are always big, simple-minded ones that run roughshod over the thousands of little plans made by ordinary citizens. Politicians want new stadiums, new transportation schemes, housing projects. Andrew Rodney, a documentary filmmaker from Detroit, says many bad, big-government ideas that have plagued the US were tried out first in Detroit. ‘It’s the first city to experience a lot of the planning that went into a lot of cities.’ Home loan subsidies, public housing, stadium subsidies, a $350 million project called ‘Renaissance Center’ (the city ended up selling it for just $50 million), an automated People Mover system that not many people feel moved to use (it moves people in only one direction), endless favors to unions — if a government idea has failed anywhere in America, there’s a good chance it failed in Detroit first."

Gary Imhoff


A New Soccer Stadium in DC?
Dorothy Brizill,

On Thursday morning, July 25, Mayor Gray will hold a press conference to announce the framework of a complicated deal that will result in a three hundred million dollar soccer stadium’s being constructed for DC United at Buzzard Point in southwest Washington near the Washington Nationals baseball stadium, Because of a cap on borrowing by the District, it appears that the cost of the project will be split between the city and the team, with the District government assuming responsibility for preparing the site and assembling the land parcels (currently owned by Pepco, developer John "Chip" Akridge, and Washington Kastles owner Mark Ein). DC United would then bear the cost and responsibility for constructing a new 20,000 to 25,000-seat stadium along the waterfront.

While on the surface the development deal seems masterful, it is extremely complicated, with a lot of moving pieces that would need to fall into place and fit together. Because the District cannot put any money in the project, it plans to entice the current landowners to relinquish their property at Buzzard Point by exchanging or swapping them for other land or buildings currently owned by the District government — for example, the Reeves Building on 14th Street, One Judiciary Square, and the Daly Building at 300 Indiana Avenue, NW. However, all these buildings are currently occupied, and new offices would either have to be built or leased at government expense. For example, MPD offices that currently occupy the Daly Building would have to relocated to a new, unbuilt "public safety campus" in the District. According to the plan, District agencies that are currently in the Reeves Center would be relocated to a new office building to be constructed at the Anacostia Gateway Project on Martin Luther King, Jr., Avenue.

Perhaps the most troubling issue is the sheer cost of the project and the question of whether the best use of government assets and resources would be a new soccer stadium. In the 2013 playing season, DC United will play only eighteen games in the District at RFK Stadium, and each game will attract an average of only 13,645 fans from the metropolitan region. Will a stadium that is used only eighteen days a year for 13,645 fans generate any additional economic development? Will any stores or restaurants open because of the prospect of such skimpy attendance? Is it worth a three hundred million dollar investment? Moreover, public discussion of a new stadium will reawaken the bitter public debate over the construction of the Nationals ballpark and the phony, exaggerated promised that were made about its economic advantages. The "guaranteed maximum price" of the stadium was supposed to be $320 million and ended up being $700 million, and it didn’t fulfill any of its promised benefits.

Perhaps the biggest stumbling block the soccer stadium proposal will face is sheer politics, both the normal politics of the District government and the special politics of the 2014 election. Because the stadium will be built in Ward 6, mayoral candidate Tommy Wells will surely weigh in to try to use it to his political advantage, and will want to have a say in what replaces the Daly Center and One Judiciary Square in Ward 6. Because it is an economic development project, it will be reviewed and considered in mayoral candidate Muriel Bowser’s Economic Development Committee. Other councilmembers will also be key players in the debate and council discussion: Jim Graham, because of the loss of the Reeves Building in Ward One; Jack Evans, who chairs the Finance and Revenue Committee and has championed every sports and entertainment capital project in DC, including the Verizon Center and Nationals Stadium; Vincent Orange, who will express concern about the CBE participation in the deal; Kenyan McDuffie, chairman of the Government Operations Committee, which oversees the DC Department of General Services, will have to approve the construction and/or leasing of new government offices; and Marion Barry, who had strenuously lobbied for the construction of the soccer stadium at Poplar Point, will surely be disappointed. The wild card will be Council Chairman Phil Mendelson.


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