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.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Dan Snyder: Pedestrian Advocate

I wouldn't normally write about the libel lawsuit filed by Daniel Snyder against the City Paper and Dave McKenna because this blog doesn't cover "sports" right?

I have read most issues of the City Paper over the years that I've lived here, and early coverage of urban and transportation issues (e.g., the first time I ever heard of the concept of the Purple Line was in a City Paper cover story maybe in 1990 or 1991) plus Loose Lips, the column on DC politics, has been essential reading in my education as an urban revitalization advocate and planner.

(While I miss Mark Jenkins' Cityscapes column, Lydia DePillis' Housing Complex column and blogging is a worthy continuation of that tradition.)

One example of this alternative viewpoint is Dave McKenna's Cheap Seats column, which is more about the business and politics and place of sports in the the region than it is sports coverage. (Disclosure: Mr. McKenna did at least one column on the landmark nomination/designation of Uline Arena for which I was interviewed and probably quoted.)

Dave McKenna's non-kiss ass coverage of the Washington Redskins and Daniel Snyder in particular is the subject of the lawsuit.

The City Paper is an important information vehicle in the city, where alternative perspectives (now a bit less snarky under the current editor) and viewpoints get a chance to be heard, whereas that is rarely the case vis-a-vis the Washington Post--at least in print, and the local television news programs.

So the Redskins threatened to bring the paper to its financial knees, asking the paper for a retraction and other actions before they filed the lawsuit is a matter of interest to bloggers (no I don't carry libel insurance) writing about local civic affairs and good citizens concerned with freedom of the press.

The TBD website has an authoritative piece on the Snyder lawsuit, "Dan Snyder lawsuit: A complete analysis."

It makes a good point that one of the reason that Dave McKenna probably pisses Dan Snyder off the most is his writing about Snyder's strategem of using pedestrian safety as a cudgel to limit competition from off-site parking lots for the Redskins Stadium and at a Six Flags Amusement Park in Agawam, Massachusetts (Snyder used to own Six Flags; I'm pretty sure that through all of the company's bankruptcies, he doesn't own it anymore, but he probably still has an economic interest of some sort).

From the TBD article:

On Aug. 17, 2007, McKenna wrote a column about Agawam, Mass., (pop. 28,000), the home of Six Flags New England. Six Flags, McKenna wrote, raised the price of parking at the amusement park, a move that created an opportunity for some nearby businesses. They began charging Six Flags customers to park in their lots and walk to the park.

Six Flags didn't like that, and it went to the authorities. Under heavy lobbying from Six Flags' top executives, Agawam imposed a ban on the off-site parking practices. The mayor of Agawam, Richard Cohen, was a proponent of the ban and went along with the Six Flags-sponsored logic that it was all in the interests of pedestrian safety.

McKenna somehow caught wind of the deliberations up in Massachusetts and recognized a parallel. The "pedestrian safety" argument was the same ruse that Snyder had used to keep Redskins fans from choosing off-site parking options in the vicinity of FedExField. (That pretext was refuted by the Prince George's County board of appeals in October 2004 — here's a PDF.) Agawamite Michael Palazzi, one of the business owners affected by the Six Flags ban, told the council what he'd learned from the City Paper columnist.

The Agawam establishment wasn't pleased, and the council revoked the ban the following month. Later, Susan Dawson, who ran on an anti-Six Flags platform, was elected Agawam’s mayor.

That's what newspapers are supposed to do, call attention to misrepresentation, subterfuge, and misuse of power, and give help through that attention, to the people who otherwise get screwed.

The great thing about the Internet age is that the ability to collect information from multiple sources in what were once disparate disconnected places has been significantly enhanced. People like Michael Palazzi (and me) are thus empowered.

Dave McKenna and the City Paper deserve our support in their fight against the lawsuit. Hopefully, when the City Paper wins the lawsuit, they will countersue for legal costs.

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