Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Probably not the last word on the Florida Market

I have never been a fan of heavy metal or AC/DC but these lyrics are apt:

Dirty deeds done dirt cheap
Dirty deeds done dirt cheap
Dirty deeds done dirt cheap
Dirty deeds and they're done dirt cheap, oohh
Dirty deeds and they're done dirt cheap
Whoa yeah
Egg and cheese man at the Florida Market buildingEgg and cheese man at the Florida Market building. He is the only true farmer in the complex. He's been associated with the Union Terminal Market since he was a child in the 1930s, helping his uncle sell produce from an outside stall.

In the latest issue of themail, Kathy Henderson, a Ward 5 ANC Commissioner (and member of the Historic Preservation Review Board, so it's not in my best interest to anger her...) disagrees with my statement about the Florida Market, writing "Your comments about the New Town Development and unsophisticated Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners are offensive." (See the issue online for her full text, under the title "Dirty Deals.")

My response:

While I think that Kathy Henderson is the greatest (had I lived in Ward 5 I likely would have voted for her), I respectfully disagree with her interpretation of my statement (which Gary Imhoff reprinted) about the relative lack of sophistication of ANCs in the matters that come before them, especially with regard to the Florida Market issue. (My written testimony on the Florida Market. )

First, despite my various writings, I am not necessarily against the exercise of eminent domain authority, or even city-provided funding and incentives. However, I do think that the exercise or provision of such should always be performed with great care, and not to the benefit of particularly well connected people at the expense of the less well connected.

Second, I find it appalling that the equivalent of private bills favoring a particular group can be entered as proposed legislation before City Council without requiring (1) a public tendered request for proposals that is open and transparent, with stated criteria for evaluation; (2) independent analysis of alternatives; (3) independent economic analysis of the claims made within such a bill.

There is something seriously wrong with how the DC Government conducts business given the frequency of how often this occurs. The lack of sophistication goes far beyond ANCs, although at the higher levels, I believe the failure to create regularized and transparent processes and procedures is deliberate--it allows for the creation of a habitat (a/k/a "cesspool") where it is far easier to make deals and satisfy special interests.

Third, in my testimony I quote from a Boston Globe op-ed about ways to provide open evaluation of eminent domain proposals. The provisions offerred are extendable to the evaluation of proposed private-public partnerships such as that laid out in the New Towns proposal. The authors suggest:

-- Requiring, as Justice Anthony M. Kennedy suggested in his Kelo concurrence, that any exercise of eminent domain for economic development have a primarily public purpose rather than a merely incidental one.
-- Requiring the government to demonstrate the public benefit through a full-scale financial analysis that could be challenged in court.
-- Requiring that eminent domain not be used for a solely fiscal purpose and that it instead must be part of a comprehensive land use plan.
-- Requiring that the affected neighborhood have adequate participation in the planning process, a right that would be backed up by state-provided technical assistance upon the neighborhood's request.
On the market tour, produce room, Kang Farms (now MS 3000 Food Service)On the market tour, produce room, Kang Farms (now MS 3000 Food Service), Saturday October 14th.

Finally, concern about the New Towns proposal should not be geographically bounded. For one, the area abuts Ward 6, and Ward 6 residents live closer to the Market compared to neighborhoods located in Ward 5. Probably more of Ward 6 is closer and more Ward 6 residents live closer to the market than the average resident of Ward 5--especially compared to all the people bused to the hearing from Fort Lincoln. Yet the two abutting Ward 6 ANCs (one has a boundary one block away), have not been consulted about this matter.

Of course, it is troubling that the Ward 5 ANCs heard and acted on only the one side that was presented to them, by the New Towns proponents. The ANCs did not seek out, hear, and consider alternative perspectives. Likely the ANCs did not evaluate the claims that were proffered. Plus, the ANCs seem to be relatively unconcerned about the sidetracking of the original revitalization strategy suggested by the Office of Planning (which has been told to shut up by higher ups in the Executive Branch). This is the source of my statement that ANCs can be relatively unsophisticated when considering such matters.

In any case, the Florida Market should matter to us because we live in the District of Columbia, not because of the particular Ward we live in. Furthermore, exercise of eminent domain authority and the provision of government subsidies should be a matter of interest to all District residents, regardless of where we live or the location of the particular site where government power is being exercised and/or subsidies provided.

What I call the too often "tyranny of neighborhood parochialism" has got to stop. It serves the city--and neighborhoods--poorly. And it starts with ANCs.
Cutting meat at Caribbean SupremeCutting meat at Caribbean Supreme. Many of the vendors have butchery operations (Obeng International Market and All-Africa Market do), plus there are meat only operations, as well as many butcher counters in the Farmers Market building.

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