Another growth machine lesson: the David Wilmot edition
I frequently tout the Growth Machine thesis first discussed by Sociologist Harvey Molotch in a 1976 article in the American Journal of Sociology, "The City as a Growth Machine: Toward a Political Economy of Place." His basic point is that despite seeming intra-elite competition, local political and economic elites are united on a pro-growth, pro-land use intensification agenda.
This is also covered in the long out-of-print tome Dream City: Race, Power, and the Decline of Washington, D.C., 1964-1994 (Washington Monthly review), which in chapter 4, brings these threads together over land use and the provision of pieces of the action to local players.
This argument has played forward ever since, as new administrations have their own favored players from their posses (e.g., Fenty vs. Gray and the Council about the lottery, Fenty's buddies getting parks department and other contracts, etc.)
David Wilmot, featured in a piece in the Washington Times yesterday, "A familiar face in D.C. Wal-Mart deal: Company lobbyist has financial interest in land chosen for store," about self-dealing with regard to a tract of land at New Jersey Avenue and H Street NW where a local group received development rights but left the land fallow for 20+ years, is perhaps the king of the kind of dealing described in Dream City.
There is another Washington Times piece today about the DC Government response to yesterday's reporting, "D.C. officials declare end to ‘land bank’: Developers must build or get out," but the reality is that this purported desire to strengthen procedures will never happen.
The "system" is set up to work the way it does to benefit developers and the well-connected, not to generate better returns for DC Government and the citizens of the city.
If it changes, I'll be incredibly surprised.