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, June 23, 2011

When you cost so little to begin with, raising issues of ethics is almost beside the point

DC has a couple of ethics bills pending but to my thinking, they don't address the main problems because the legislation fails to address in substance those categories of government that tend to trigger ethics problems:

- government contracts generally
- legislation that favors particular actors (such as the proposed taxi medallion legislation)
- personal service contracts within offices
- earmarks for organizations
- land use deals (although this is more an issue in Prince George's County in some respects) and financial support for campaigns
- tax abatement requests
- appointments to commissions.

In regards to my line that the great thing about DC for developers is that we sell ourselves for so little (sometimes I call it "green love"), today's Post reports how great Walmart is because they are giving $25 million to support youth programs across the U.S., with $665,000 to programs in DC. See "Wal-Mart to help fund D.C. youth programs ."

All the more reason to roll over on the building permit applications for their proposed stores in DC...

I have to add a new keyword to the set of index terms I use, co-optation, which is a term from political science (via Wikipedia):

co-opting or less frequently co-optation most commonly refers to action performed in a number of fields whereby an opponent is nullified or neutralized by absorption but there are other distinct senses as well.

It's an old concept, but still has a lot of staying power in DC. The social justice/equity vs. quality of place divide within the city (see Between Justice and Beauty by Gillette) makes elected officials and civic organizations susceptible to being bought off.

I've witnessed this ever since I came to the city in 1987, such as with the proposed deposit law on beverage containers. The beverage industry "bought off" the black churches and it was all over for that initiative... See "Bottle Feud Taps Churches;Bill Opponents Said to Buy Off Congregations" from 1987 and this op-ed, "The Ethics Of Recycling; "We need to grow up with the idea." by Rev. Ernest Gibson, then the executive director of the Council of Churches of Greater Washington, from the Washington Post.

Only the special interests change, the process remains the same.

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