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January 26, 2014

The Future Is in the Cards

Dear Washingtonians:

Reid Wilson, in the Post, uses various sources to try to quantify “The Most Corrupt State[s] in America,” In the chart that shows the number of convicted public officials between 1998 and 2007, DC comes in only ninth of the top ten localities, but when the chart is reordered to show the number of convicted public officials per million residents per year, DC tops the list, and has a hefty lead, 66.9 compared to 46.9 for the next highest region, the Virgin Islands. That 66.9 figure is almost 5.65 times larger than the 8.3 figure for the most corrupt actual state — North Dakota.

The American Interest engages in a bit of futuristic speculation when it theorizes that “Robo-Chauffeurs Could Kill Public Transit as We Know It,” The key sentence: “A recent study by IHS Automotive predicted that nearly every car on the road in 2050 will be self-driving; in that kind of world, in which our nation’s highways are populated by hordes of self-driving vehicles packed tightly together at higher speeds and with greater fuel efficiency, massive investments in rail infrastructure or new bus networks won’t make much sense.” In thirty-six years, then, “public transportation” in major cities will be obsolete or a minor, secondary choice compared to self-driving private or shared cars. But then, if we believed futurists’ predications in 1950, we would all have private flying cars in our garages by now.

Matt Cohen, in, asks, “Why Do DC Residents Pay the Highest Internet Costs in the County?” http://tiny.url/k6m9ear. Cohen doesn’t come to a firm conclusion, but he suggests our high cost may partially be due to our high connection speeds and partially due to a lack of competition, with RCN and Fios covering only limited areas of the city and not giving Comcast any serious rivalry.

Randall O’Toole and Damien Schiff wrote an article that I missed when it was published in the Washington Times, but it has now been reprinted on the Cato Institute web site, “A plan to squeeze most residents of the San Francisco Bay Area into multifamily housing offers a test case of whether land-use bureaucracies nationwide, encouraged by the Obama administration, should be allowed to transform American lifestyles under the pretext of combating climate change. Currently, 56 percent of households in the nine-county Bay Area live in single-family homes. That number would drop to 48 percent by 2030, under a high-density development blueprint called Plan Bay Area, recently enacted by the Association of Bay Area Governments and the region’s Metropolitan Transportation Commission.” Reducing the number of single-family homes in the city sounds like a plan the DC Office of Planning will advocate in the future, as contemptuous as it is of the actual preferences of DC residents.

Gary Imhoff


Gray’s Future Written in Plea Agreements
Dorothy Brizill,

Early voting in the April primary election begins in the District on March 17. Given his late entry into the mayoral race and his second-place showing the ward 8 Democrats straw vote on January 18, Mayor Gray needs to act quickly in the coming weeks to raise campaign funds, organize a campaign staff, establish a field organization and a get-out-the-vote strategy, and open a campaign headquarters (at least to serve as a workplace and gathering point for his campaign workers). At the same time, Gray and his supporters will be closely following developments in the US Attorney’s investigation of Gray’s 2010 campaign. Two individuals who pled guilty to playing an integral role in organizing Gray’s 2010 “shadow” campaign, Eugenia “Jean” Harris and Vernon Hawkins, are both in their seventies and in poor health, and are seeking to avoid lengthy prison sentences for their roles in the fraudulent campaign scheme.

Harris, for example, is facing a sentence of thirty to thirty-seven months of incarceration and a fine of up to six thousand dollars. She signed a plea agreement on July 9, 2012, that requires her to “cooperate completely, candidly, an truthfully in any criminal investigation or prosecution conducted” by the US Attorney’s Office. The plea agreement stipulates that at the time of her sentencing the US Attorney’s Office “will advise the sentencing judge and the United States Probation Office in the District of Columbia of the full nature, extent, and value of the cooperation” she provides to the government. Hawkins’ plea agreement, signed August 13, 2013, contains a similar provision, requiring him to “cooperate with the Office of the United States Attorney,” and notes that the government “will bring to the Court’s attention at the time of sentencing the nature and extent” of his cooperation or lack of cooperation. Hawkins is currently scheduled to appear in US District Court before Judge Kollar-Kotelly for a status conference on February 14, and Harris will appear before her on March 19. At those hearings, it may be possible to get some indication of the extent to which Harris and Hawkins have assisted the US Attorney’s Office in completing its investigation of businessman Jeffrey Thompson, who funded Gray’s 2010 shadow campaign.


Comment on WAMU MetroConnection McMillan Report
Daniel Wolkoff,

How much history should be preserved at McMillan? Is our history measured in amounts, by the yard, pound, square foot, percent, like Vision McMillan Partners (VMP) tells us? We have a case here at McMillan of successive DC administrations who placed no value on our history, no value on the residents of an entire section of their city. Since 1986, the DC government has fenced this land off, blocking peoples’ access to their needed outdoor recreation, with absolutely no concern for community health. WAMU, would this park have been fenced off had it been located in Friendship Heights or Georgetown?

To understand the historic importance please read the excellent nomination to the National Register of Historic Places by our Office of Historic Preservation’s Kim William, You will quickly understand that McMillan is an amazing resource of national significance that is in surprisingly good condition, and that its preservation, ironically, is by law a charge of the DC government. McMillan is a Registered DC and National Park Service Registered Historic Place, not an office park or condo row. We have an unacceptable disparity in this city based on institutional racism and economic class discrimination, with five times the park land provided to the priviledged upper NW sections of DC than to this densely urbanized section around McMillan Park. Would the DC government have waited thirty years to mitigate the flooding in Bloomingdale, had raw sewage been flooding into the basements of Kalorama? In upper northwest, parks are geologic, cultural, historic civil war fortifications, stream valleys, glens.

So what percent of McMillan should be preserved as a park? All of it, and we have to get the reservoir and all one hundred thirteen acres of this Historic District included. Just like NY’s Central Park, we need places to walk, hike, jog around the Reservoir, watch the sunset and the July 4th Fireworks. Obesity is epidemic, so stop fencing our nicest area to jog, our area to grow urban gardens, healing gardens for Children’s National Medical Center, our Glen Echo of art/performance/music/festivals, and millions of recreational use. VMP has concocted the most ridiculous warnings of why we can’t use the McMillan Park, our park, for our needs. And it is offensive that the media trumpets the “ridiculous” instead of real investigation of this issue. We have been blocked out as if we don’t have any value to our own government. In recent years even Advisory Neighborhood Commission tours of the twenty acres of mystical underground vaulted galleries were blocked by Jeff Miller of the Deputy Mayor’s office, as hundreds of people began to see the value of real preservation and potential creative adaptive-re-use.

The twenty acres of under-surface galleries are perfect for “indoor urban agriculture” that can produce five times the fresh vegetables of regular farms, and provide for our food needs without trucking vegetables from California and Mexico. Should we let this opportunity disappear for VMP’s big profits, for Mayor Gray, and for his deputy mayor? Every benefit this community needs can be accomplished while saving all of McMillan as the whole it was designed to be, and creating a sustainable eco-campus. It is VMP and Gray that cuts off the potential and builds over the site for fifteen years. This link below is for a Youtube video of a TED talk from the Netherlands that shows the critical urban agriculture opportunity the DC government is now destroying in its determination to build a suburban office/condo mall, on our land, our park. Using our licensed vertical indoor growing technology we could convert the McMillan/Olmsted Park caverns to a fully functional, local food production facility and only utilize a relatively small part of the space, making it a totally sustainable site. Please look at this:

The district government’s failure of stewardship of McMillan has been continuous malfeasance, racist discrimination, and a massive waste of the peoples’ money and resources. Three city council members who dealt with the VMP plan are convicted felons who took bribes, committed fraud and embezzlement. Where is the investigation of the whole under-the-table development process and Gray’s fraudulent election? Now Mayor Gray, who funnels DC resources to contractors and developers, in this case in complete disregard for common sense and community health, is giving away this 25 acres of precious land to VMP. The “surplus” of McMillan must be stopped and, as WAMU Patrick Madden made clear, the “symbiotic relationship” between the DC officials and the big developers (ten in VMP) is corrupting the very L’Enfant/McMillan plan for a gracious, open, airy, tree-covered DC. McMillan is part of the plan for the Mall. It should never have been ceded to a DC government that is so destructive , irresponsible, wasteful, and misguided, rushing like mad now, to overbuild the city and block sustainable creative re-purposing that saves our heritage and our open space, “great places” and our McMillan/Olmsted Park. We must block the “surplussing” of McMillan, our land given away to corporate profit, with $319 million in taxpayer subsidies that no developer should need. This is atrocious. So come on, WAMU, how about reporting on all of this, and serving the community with some real journalism?


Simple Present Tense
Edward Cowan,

What has happened to the simple present tense? Why has it been driven out by the unnecessary use of the present participle? On a local listserv today, I noticed this construction in a post about frozen pipes: “I am wondering about the age of the homes in which the pipes are getting frozen . . . I am also wondering about the age of the pipes. . . .“ How about, “I wonder about. . .?”

This unnecessary use of the present participle has been proliferating. I encounter it on radio and in print daily. Watch for it. Is it a rhetorical tic, like starting sentences with “so?” When did it begin? Why is it proliferating? Is bad usage, like base currency, driving out good?

Does anyone have any thoughts?


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