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.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Washington Post, for once, gets the right response from DC public officials on tax lien problems

I have opined that the reason that the Washington Post editorial page mostly supports a kind of authoritarianism on the part of the executives of local government, is because over the years they produce some great series on malfeasance in government (series on failures of local community development corporations and in public housing in DC and Prince George's County come to mind), but there is limited public reaction and the governments don't change.  (E.g., see the past blog entry "Municipal contract corruption: the response is fixing the problem not eliminating oversight.")

So they see hope in the potential for enlightened semi-dictators--hence their support for DC K-12 school "reform" which eliminated an elected school board and gave all the power to the Mayor, etc.

Sunday, Monday (e.g., "Mistakes put homes in peril"), and Tuesday, the Post ran a great series about huge problems with the monetization of tax liens in DC--the process by which tax debts are sold to private actors and to collect the debt private actors may foreclose and kick residents out for debts as little as $134.

Shockingly--remember it is election season for the 2014 primary and candidates are jockeying for attention and position--both Mayor Gray and City Councilmember Jack Evans, chair of the Council committee that oversees the Office of Tax and Revenue, responded, calling for changes in the system, and with plans to submit emergency legislation to ban the most egregious practices.  See "DC officials want changes to tax lien practices but ignored earlier calls for reform" from the Post and "Gray Calls For Moratorium on Tax Lien Sales After Reading Post's Story" from DCist.

Now sure, these problems have been around for 10 years or more.  This is nothing new, even if DC's processes function worse compared to other jurisdictions.  (The Post gets kudos for comparing DC's practices to Maryland, usually such articles contain little benchmarking.)

But we should be pleased that the metropolitan newspaper still has some heft and power and influence.

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