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 07, 2012

DC and the political Peter Principle

-- Prison Bound, Social Distortion
-- Guilty as Charged, John Reilly as Dewey Cox

The Peter Principle simply stated is that in organizations, people rise to their level of incompetence.  We've reached that point in DC as it relates to Home Rule-local control--local politics.

Some elected officials have pleaded guilty to felonies.  Many elected officials remain under investigation.  Today, Council Chairman Kwame Brown resigned because of a fraud charge relating to a home equity loan.

My long-time joke  about why the schools in the city are so wrecked is because Home Rule control started with the school system, it started there first.

But I remember the joy when people like Harry Thomas Jr. and Kwame Brown were elected to the city because they are "DC born and bred."  Same with Adrian Fenty and Vincent Gray.

There can be limits to hermeticism. People need to get out more...

Many pundits attribute DC's political governance problem to a dominance by one party, in particular, "Democrats" (e.g., writings by Colbert King in the Post and Johnetta Rose Barras in the Examiner).

But I think that is a pretty facile, almost lame analysis. Having some Republicans on Council wouldn't make much difference, could make things even worse, because then capital would have more overt representation in City Hall, instead of the more "behind the scenes" access it has now.

One of the real problems is lack of mobility and movement within the system, which is why I have advocated for changing many aspects of how the political structure of DC Government is set up and how elections work.  See these past blog entries:

It's true lack of political "competition" in a community has some deleterious effects, but in and of itself, competition isn't the solution, because it's the nature of the political system (see the discussion of the Growth Machine and Urban Regime theories in this past blog entry, "A superb lesson in DC Growth Machine politics") that matters most.

The Growth Machine scenario explains the potential for corruption, because those who benefit the most from political decisions, either with regard to land use and real estate development, government contracts (like the problems with Jeffrey Thompson and the provision of local health care services or how David Wilmot and his posse runs group homes for the mentally disabled), or collective bargaining bodies (municipal worker unions), are the most motivated to participate in the system, fund elections, and shape decision making and contracting in ways that favor their interests.

It's the system of corruption that matters most and what needs to be addressed.  Thus far, the city hasn't addressed the system of corruption, just itty bitty pieces of the whole.  See these past blog entries:

-- The Growth Machine and public graft
-- More on DC ethics and corruption: intrinsic vs. extrinsic behavior
-- Local corruption, I want to believe* vs. reality
book cover, Corrupt Cities: A Practical Guide to Cure and Prevention by Robert Klitgaard, H. Lindsey Parris

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At 3:19 PM, Anonymous Charlie said...

Well you're back on form

But avoiding the elephant.

And I don't see polarization changing in the next 10 years, while the real bosses get away with more growth machine.


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