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.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

DC Congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton

has started having confabs with DC bloggers. There was one yesterday, at Big Bear Cafe in Bloomingdale. She gave us about 2.5 hours.

I suppose others have written about this already and while I think there are a couple of particularly important ideas that came out of this:

1. That we can work with Delegate Norton's office, the Adminstration and the National Park Service to try to set up a system that works better for managing neighborhood and Downtown parks. (That she doesn't think that the Downtown DC BID, which was pursuing this idea a few years ago, ever contacted her office--of course, then, under the Bush Adminstration, not much movement forward would likely have happened anyway);

2. The other is that while I don't think we are ready to get a separated blue line subway on the table and funded soon, I do think, because of the success of federal involvement (paying for 1/3 the cost) of the creation of the New York Avenue infill subway station on the red line, that we could move forward the idea first proposed (I think) by the National Coalition to Save the National Mall to construct an infill station on the yellow line to serve the Jefferson Memorial area, as a DC/federal partnership to build a station there. (Of course, being underground probably a Jefferson Memorial yellow line subway station would cost a lot more than NY Ave. station, which cost about $120 million.)

3. Now, Delegate Norton evinced strong distaste about allowing overhead wires for streetcars in the L'Enfant City. So I don't think we can expect help from her office on that issue. This means either that we hope that the Bombardier undergrounding technology works, or that by demonstrating a successful line with wires, i.e., my proposed University Line (the Crosstown route proposed in the DC Alternatives Analysis), people will be willing to change their minds, once they see a successful streetcar in action.

But what really struck me, in a side conversation with Delegate Norton and in another comment, is what she implied about how Congress works, that yes, Congressional Republicans are deeply ideological, and not too clued into how DC is not just a local city but the capital city of the nation, that people who come here because Washington is the national capital deserve fair treatment and consideration as well.

I.e., how Republicans have referred to the proposed dedicated funding of $150 million/year/10 years as "the largest federal earmark in history," despite the reality that hundreds of thosands of federal workers use the subway and bus system every day, and that millions of visitors to the city use the WMATA system each year.

No, to them, a proposal for funding is an opportunity to score political points.

And in response to my "complaint," that the federal tuition assistance program for DC high school graduates only covers undergraduate education, that DC residents lack robust opportunities for graduate education provided by a "state" institution of higher education, she said [THIS IS PARAPHRASED AND NOT A DIRECT QUOTE] "you don't know how hard it was to get the program that we have passed. We couldn't have done it if Donald Graham (president of the Washington Post Company) hadn't buttonholed a number of Republican Congressman to vote yes. See, the Congressmen were still afraid of the Post [that the paper might editorialize against some of their own initiatives...]."

I don't think I really understood how hard it is to get the right thing done at the Congressional level. Especially when you are the minority party...

Another thing that she said that made me have enormous respect for her is she discussed how the U.S. is at the point where as a nation we need to make some hard choices, that we have been spendthrifts with the great wealth that the country produced from WWII era through the 1960s, and that likely, even with the Obama Adminstration in office, there probably isn't the will within Congress to led the nation forward, helping us to make those hard choices that we need to make (energy, foreign policy, etc.) to adapt to fundamentally different conditions that we face today concerning Peak Oil and Climate Change Concerns.

The conversation was free of platitudes and empty phrases and I was truly appreciative of the time she provided to us.


Post a Comment

<< Home