Thursday, November 1



ED LAZER, HILL RAG - Using tax incentives to attract new businesses is a popular game in DC. . . But the biggest beneficiaries of the new tax cuts? Companies that are already in the District! So much for an incentive.

This is but one of a string of questionable business subsidy ideas that have surfaced recently, including a possible $20 million city subsidy to lure Nordstrom to Georgetown. Yet no one ever really analyzes whether these tax breaks really make a difference. This is important, since there's lots of research suggesting that businesses actually don't make location decisions based on tax incentives. And every dollar in ineffective tax subsidies is a dollar that cannot be used to fix up schools or parks or roads. . .

A bill introduced this year - the "New E-Conomy Transformation Act" - would increase those tax breaks to 10 years. Did anyone evaluate whether the current law is working well? No. Is there any analysis to show that extending the breaks to 10 years will attract more businesses? Again, no.

Most outrageous is the fact that the bill would give the expanded tax benefits to high-tech businesses that moved here as long ago as 2000. . .

There's a big project underway near the New York Avenue Metro station called Constitution Square. It will bring offices, housing, a grocery store and other retail development to the up-and-coming NoMa area. A bill before the DC Council would give them about $10 million in tax breaks. Why? The argument is that the grocery store needs underground parking, which the developer wouldn't have to build if they were in the suburbs. But they wouldn't have access to DC shoppers in the suburbs, either. . .

The District is in the process of luring Radio One back to a new development near Howard University with an offer of more than $20 million in subsidies. The company says it needs an incentive because it doesn't want to pay any more rent in DC than it does currently in Lanham, in Prince George's County. Well, who would? The District would go bankrupt if it tried to subsidize every company that could get a cheaper lease in the suburbs. Beyond the nostalgic value, what does bringing Radio One back do for the city's economy? It can't be worth $20 million, especially when another business would probably move in to the space without any subsidy.


NATIONAL TRUST FOR HISTORICAL PRESERVATION - St. Elizabeths Hospital - one of the country's most significant historic places, and one of only 2,500 surviving National Historic Landmarks, is threatened with large scale demolition. As planned, the $3.5 billion headquarters would require 6.4 million square feet of office space and parking structures. Between one third and one half of the historic buildings and landscape features at St. Elizabeths would be razed for the over-sized project.

Preservationists agree that the Homeland Security headquarters would destroy the 175-acre historic site, which was listed as one of the National Trust's 11 Most Endangered Places in 2002. Local residents also are concerned that a high-security citadel with double perimeter fences would fail to bring needed economic and social benefits to neighboring communities.



WASH POST - Washington Post Co. Chairman Donald E. Graham gave 94,300 shares of his company stock to his wife, Mary, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission yesterday. Using yesterday's closing value of Post Co. stock, the gift is worth more than $77 million. . . The shares given to Mary Graham will be placed in a trust to be administered by her and will help establish a foundation. The foundation's mission is being finalized.


EIGHT SWASTIKAS have been found on George Washington University campus.



- 6 p.m. MICHAEL J. KLARMAN UNFINISHED BUSINESS (Oxford Univ., $19.95) Klarman, whose previous book From Jim Crow to Civil Rights won the 2005 Bancroft Prize, teaches both history and law at the University of Virginia. Here, he traces the course of racial equality in America, concluding that there is still much to be done to ensure that African Americans achieve full rights. 5015 Conn Ave.


POLITICS & PROSE - 7 p.m. JANET MALCOLM TWO LIVES (Yale Univ., $25) Gertrude Stein, an exemplar of literary modernism, is perhaps best known for the salon that she ran with her partner Alice B. Toklas. New Yorker writer Malcolm focuses on their relationship, particularly during the World War II years, when they decided to stay in France despite the danger to them as American Jews. 5015 Conn Ave NW

NOV 9-11

CLAIM DEMOCRACY 2007: Tired of elections you can't trust and campaigns without real choices? Ready to do something about money in politics and fair access to the polls? Do you want real democracy for Washington, D.C.? Do you want to help confront the challenges of the 2008 elections and seize new reform opportunities in 2009?

Countless others are with you. It's a perfect time to get informed, get connected and get active. Dozens of the nation's leading electoral reform, media reform and voting rights organizations have joined together for the Claim Democracy conference on November 9th to 11th, located on the Metro at the University of the District of Columbia. This will be largest such gathering in years and a unique opportunity to interact with activists and experts from across the nation. Claim Democracy will feature high-profile speakers, dozens of innovative breakouts, hands-on training sessions, and chances to engage one-on-one with leading reformers. Be sure to indicate whether you need to waive your registration fee when you sign up.

Finally, the conference's lead organizer Fair Vote is holding its 15th-year anniversary dinner on November 10th.


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