Tuesday, October 23



THOSE who pay taxes in the city are owed a refund plus an apology. For some time now, we have been told that if we just spend more money on sports stadiums and conventions centers, if we sell valuable public land at a discount to developers and if we talk endlessly about how great we are, we will find ourselves in the midst of an urban renaissance.

It's hard to explain it to as narcissistic a crowd as runs DC these days, but you can't really reach celebrity status without any fans. And judging from a new Travel & Leisure survey of non-DC residents, non-members of the Board of Trade, non-editorialists for the Washington Post and non-members of the Fenty administration, we're not doing all that well.

The survey of public's view of 25 cities found DC ranked:

22nd in life after dark
21st in clubbing
22nd in live music
20th for the singles scene
19th in affordability
21st in peace and quiet
20th in safety
25th in cheap eats
18th in coffee
22nd in farmers' markets
23rd in overall food and dining
22nd in pizza
24th in attractive people
23rd in friendly people
25th in fun people

In nearly all the categories in which DC ranked best, success was achieved without the aid of huge bond programs, eminent domain or other goodies for campaign contributors. Further, these assets were acquired some time ago
without the help of a new gentry who consider themselves the sina qua non of urban revival and just what DC has needed. The city ranked:

7th in notable neighborhoods
8th in public parks and spaces
1st in architecture and notable buildings
6th in classical music
1st in historic sites
1st in museums and galleries
6th in theater
3rd in ease of getting around

In other words: more evidence that the contemporary planning of DC has been - at huge expense - misdirected and a failure. What continues to attract people is the more archaic virtues of open space, notable buildings, historic sites and museums - nearly all of which were here before the city politicians began wildly abusing the public treasury in the name of economic development.


DOROTHY BRIZILL, DC WATCH - In light of the new personnel authority Mayor Fenty is seeking at DCPS, it is interesting to note how the mayor has treated his own loyal employees in the past. For example, last week's District Extra reports that Neil Richardson, Fenty's former Deputy Chief of Staff, was recently demoted from his high position in the mayor's bullpen at the Wilson Building to a senior policy analyst position at 441 4th Street, NW, with Serve DC, where he will recruit volunteers to work in the. The Post attributes Richardson's fall from grace to "growing tension between Richardson and Fenty over the mayor's insular decision-making style." Sources at the Wilson Building also suggest that Richardson was "too much of a thinker" for Fenty, who prefers "doers and followers" to people who are too thoughtful, and consider too much before acting. . . In addition to Richardson, Fenty has also kicked other loyal employees to the curb without notice, prominently including Alec Evans, his campaign strategist and spokesman; Merrit Drucker, his director of Neighborhood Services and Community Affairs; and Dr. Gregory Pane, director of the Department of Health. All four of these people had been working long hours and successfully for Fenty, with no prior indication that Fenty had been displeased with them or their work. DCPS employees who are reclassified as "at-will" employees have every reason to expect the same kind of treatment.


HARRY JAFFE, DC EXAMINER - Picture this: On the opening night of the 2008 Major League Baseball season, our Washington Nationals are featured on the field in their brand new ballpark for a nationally televised game. What a coup for the city and the team! Gleaming stadium on display. Views of the Capitol and monuments galore. The nation's capital would be back in the game. What a disaster if the stands were half empty because fans couldn't get to their seats. . .

Why does it seem so hard for D.C. to figure this out? Why are the Lerners, the family that owns the Nationals, spending more time on bringing in cars than luring great players? Short answer is the city lied about parking in 2003 when it chose to locate the new stadium by South Capital Street Bridge. City planners promised 9,000 spaces. The Nationals have had to build and beg to come up with the current number: 5,000.There are 4,000 more parking places close to the stadium, but various public agencies are dragging their feet in coughing up the spots. . . Being resourceful, the Lerners have come up with a temporary solution: Offer free parking to fans at RFK Stadium lots and bus them in seven minutes on back roads to the new stadium.

ED DELANEY, DC WATCH - The city's latest parking solution features RFK Stadium's parking lot, which is just one of a plethora of reasons the RFK Stadium site should've been chosen and not the current nightmare of a site that can't get the basics right and whose soaring costs resulted in the compromises that yielded the cut-rate, concrete greenhouse look of the ballpark, which seems more in line with the Public Storage building to its north than the jazzier office buildings springing up around the area (let alone looking like the most expensive ballpark in history) along with the massive garages where a retail and entertainment district should've been. . . Developers have failed the city by convincing them to keep the current train-wreck of a site with all of its shortcomings over the RFK Stadium site, which at least had an adequate Metro station, parking, and the road infrastructure needed for a new stadium.


- The proposed buyer of Greater Southeast Community Hospital is not in strong financial shape and the city will be at risk if it awards the company $79 million in grants and loans toward the facility's purchase, the District's chief financial officer said this morning.

In a fiscal impact statement, Natwar M. Gandhi also questioned the five-year operating plan put forth for Greater Southeast by New England-based Specialty Hospitals of America. The plan "does not include sufficient detail to ensure that the hospital will be financially successful. . . . Should the business plan fail, it is likely that additional funds of substantial amounts will be needed to keep the hospital running," Gandhi said. His conclusions could implode the funding package, which in turn would threaten the sale.


DCTRV - Washington DC's Office Of Cable Television And Telecommunications - OCTT - has been officially renamed the DC Office Of Cable Television - OCT. To herald the change of its agency name, OCT says it will engage in an "extensive branding campaign that will include new on-air station graphics, public service announcements, and a revised agency logo."


DC EXAMINER - EcoPlus announced it is in preliminary negotiations with a private developer to open the plants in both Virginia and D.C. EcoPlus has developed a technology to convert brown grease into a granular substance similar to coal, explained Bill Scherffius, chief operating officer for EcoPlus. Though it doesn't have enough power to completely replace coal, the recycled grease can be used effectively in conjunction with coal by companies such as cement manufacturers. A patent on the process is pending approval. Brown grease is produced mainly by restaurants, though it is chemically different from the yellow grease that comes from frying oil and similar products, explained Scherffius. . . Scherffius would not confirm specifically where in Virginia and D.C. the company is looking at to build plants.

JIM MCELHATTON, WASHINGTON TIMES - D.C. Council member Jack Evans voted to give a tax break to CareFirst in 2004 even after his employer filed papers stating that the longtime councilman lobbied Congress for the health care company, federal and city records show. . . The report states that Mr. Evans was among 10 Patton Boggs employees who lobbied for CareFirst during the second half of 2002 on "health insurance regulatory issues." Patton Boggs officials and Mr. Evans responded to questions about Mr. Evans' work for CareFirst by saying the lobbying-disclosure report on file with the Senate is wrong.

FOX NEWS - Dan Snyder is supporting Robert Redford's eloquent anti-war film, "Lions for Lambs." The owner of the Washington Redskins, a heavy Republican donor and business partner of an even bigger one, Snyder sent this column an endorsement on Saturday. Snyder's PR guy, Karl Swanson, forwarded this e-mail to FOXNews.com: "'Lions for Lambs' causes Snyder no 'uneasy moments,'" Snyder wrote . . . Dan Snyder "and a group of friends screened it 10 days ago and he found the film engaging and intelligent and the performances riveting."

THERE ARE REPORTS that fired health director Pane may have gotten in trouble with Fenty for admitting there were staph infections in the schools just as Super Rhee was telling parents there weren't any.

WHILE WE'RE WORRYING ABOUT getting to stadiums, we hope that someone will notice there is no subway service to Poplar Point.

DC EXAMINER - Tenleytown community leaders are opposing a plan under consideration by Mayor Adrian Fenty's administration to incorporate the new Tenley-Friendship Branch Library as part of a mixed-use development on what is now public land. The Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development is pursuing a private-sector partner to lease or buy the 3.6-acre site of Janney Elementary School and the former Tenley-Friendship Library. According to the draft Request for Proposals, the developer would construct a new 20,000-square-foot library and a larger, modernized elementary school in return for the right to develop the site.

$611 million investment in our new baseball stadium was supposed to be a homerun for District residents, producing countless jobs and opportunities for DC workers. Instead, ballpark construction is striking out for District workers. Most of the work is going to out-of-towners. Promised apprenticeships - once touted as an invaluable opportunity for local job training - have failed to materialize. Not a single firm has abided by the construction's Project Labor Agreement.

UNION CITY - Known as SEIU Local 82 before its merger with the New York City-based Local 32BJ, the Capitol District local now represents nearly 9,000 service workers in the metro Washington area, and has doubled its membership in just four years. The local is negotiating contracts that will cover 11,000 members and also has five organizing campaigns going, including a drive to organize area security guards, most of whom work for just four major employers, who have all agreed to recognize the union. The local's militant roots were planted deep in the Justice for Janitors campaign in the late '80s that culminated in the blockading of the 14th Street Bridge.





ANDREW ZONDERMAN - The peak of Maryland’s Know-Nothing gang violence was the election riot of 1857. The riot started on election morning when one of the fire company gangs, the Plug Uglies, took the early morning train from Baltimore to Washington, D.C. The Plug Uglies chose a few polling places to intimidate voters and beat up immigrants especially Irishmen. A few voters stood up against the gang and fought back; some local Know-Nothings joined the gang’s destruction at the polls. The mayor, who was walking a few blocks away, arrived with a group of policemen and tried to calm the mob. President Buchanan was told of the situation. He called for soldiers to quell the disturbance, but was told that there were only around 100 Marines that could be summoned fast enough. The next closest force was an artillery company at Fort McHenry. The Marines assembled and marched to the riot, where they were surprised to find a group of teenagers and men standing around an old cannon loaded with debris aimed at them. The commander of the Marines stood right in front of the cannon and ordered the mob not to fire. The marines then formed three sides of a rectangle and fired on the crowd. The mob pulled back but did not retreat. After the volley the Marines quickly fixed their bayonets and charged the mob. The Plug Uglies ran to the train station where there was a train waiting with the Marines close on their heels. After the Plug Uglies left, the polls were set up again and by early afternoon voting has resumed.

S J ACKERMAN, AMERICAN HISTORY, AUGUST 2001 - The riot occurred on an Election Day, at Mount Vernon Square, when there was extreme tension between the American Party and the immigrated Catholics. The American party was a anti-foreigner and anti-Catholic Party that became popular in the United States after only one year of being formed. The American party (AKA "know nothings) referred to their opposition as "anti-Americans."

At 9:30 in the morning on Election Day, voters spotted an angry mob of people armed with guns, knives, awls, and slingshots. The mob was formed to scare off non-supporters of the American party. Violence broke out after a member of the Plug Uglies, a gang hired by the American party, asked an Irishman if he had any citizenship papers on him, and the man replied "No, but I have a brick in my pocket."

Finally, the party’s candidate for assessor called off the mob because they were beginning to scare their supporters. As the Plug Uglies walked the streets, residents began to come from their homes armed and ready to fight.

Mayor Magruder called in troops to help control the riot. He explained to the voters that he was calling troops in to protect the voters, not to harm them. The plugs threatened the mayor and voters with a cannon they had, and placed nails, rocks and bullets into the cannon. The Plug Uglies became threatened by the marines, and fled Washington. The rest of the day was peaceful, however 5 people died and 15 were wounded.

- Pelted by bricks and sniper fire, the Marines lost discipline when corporal was hit in the jaw with a musket ball, but Tyler managed to stop their retaliatory fire. Then [Marine Commandant] Henderson signaled that it was time take the cannon. Infuriated at the assault on their beloved "Old Man," the Marines charged with bayonets and took the cannon. Tyler formed them into a phalanx to sweep the intersection with gunfire.

Northern Liberties Market was a shambles of sheds on present Mount Vernon Square. At the southeast corner, the Plugs placed the cannon, loaded with shrapnel, trained on the polls across 7th Street. Affecting an old-man act, Henderson maneuvered his way toward the fieldpiece, slipping in front of its barrel just as the Marine column marched into range. There he stayed until his men were out of danger and in position. His belly to the muzzle, armed only with an umbrella, Henderson cautioned the Plugs-with noteworthy understatement-"Now, boys, I would think twice before firing on the Marines." . . . All hell broke loose. Three Plugs fired at him. "I don't know whether to consider it a compliment or not," he later quipped. Another thrust a pistol into his face and pulled the trigger.



A white woman, Myrtilla Miner opens a school to teach black women to be teachers.

Washington gets its first Chinese resident.

Fire at the Library of Congress destroys about two-thirds of its 55,000 volume collection including two thirds of the private collection of Thomas Jefferson.

The B&O opens a railroad station on New Jersey Avenue at C NW


an illustrated history of parlors, palaces, and multiplexes in the metropolitan area, 1894-1997 Robert K. Headley.




At 6:22 PM, Anonymous said...

Re: rankings

It seems like the categories you choose to rate the city on really matters. For example, if the city was ranked on "stadiums per capita", the new administration would certainly be improving the cities rankings.

Realistically, won't you need to wait a somewhat lengthy period of times before you can see the payoff from some improvements? I doubt the payoff of having "notable neighborhoods" happened overnight... rather the city had to wait many years before the notability of the neighborhoods became relevant.


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