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, April 03, 2014

DC primary elections

1.  I am not surprised that Muriel Bowser won the Democratic nomination for Mayor.  From a candidacy perspective, she was the strongest in terms of the demographics of the electorate and likely voters.

It would take a very special white person to be elected to the position of mayor in this city, given that the population is 50% African-American, and I don't think we've seen such a candidate come to the fore, at least not yet.

2.  There is speculation that Gray supporters, disillusioned, did not come out to vote, which dampened the total number of voters--in the 2012 Democratic primary, there were about 93,000 voters, in a presidential election cycle, while in the 2014 election there were about 80,000 people voting in the mayoral election.

In the two previous mayoral primaries, 2010 and 2006, there were about 133,000 and 106,000 votes in the mayoral race.

But the 2010 and 2006 primaries were held in September, and the 2012 and 2014 primaries in April.

3. For a few years I have criticized the move to April as being too early--a change was required in response to federal election requirements--but the primary election could be held as late as August and still meet the federal requirements.

The move to April cut 5 months of electioneering out of the cycle.  Maybe that's a good thing, but I believe in contributes to what we might call a form of "voter suppression" which would normally support the incumbent, but didn't in the case of either Mayor Gray or Councilmember Jim Graham in Ward 1, both of whom had ethical issues which cancelled out the benefits they might have otherwise had from a shorter primary election cycle.

4.  I might favor CM Grosso's introduction of various improvements to the election process through legislative proposals if he also addressed the hyper-early primary, which he did not.  CM Mendelson introduced legislation to move the primary to June, which if passed would have changed the date of the 2014 primary, but he received little support from other members of Council, which should be an embarrassment to them, but probably they don't see it that way.

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At 9:11 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

Bowser is going to be a disaster. As I said before the election we're getting all of Fenty's political skills and none of his vision.

Gray didn't have much vision, but he at least understod the system. Zero confidence that Bowser is going to learn on the job.

And yes, Cantania is not the great white hope.

The problem with voter supression is it usually doesn't work out the way you plan.

At 10:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

at least Bowser looks nice- not sure what is upstairs , though- or if she has any real ideas

At 5:18 PM, Anonymous Richard Layman said...

Bowser is articulate and intelligent, but got her start working for govt. So she's a bureaucrat at heart. Some have vision. most don't.

At 5:23 PM, Anonymous Richard Layman said...

wrt the Housing Complex piece, my only surprise is that anyone is surprised. Many examples e.g., Walmart; but more importantly the long time support of people like David Wilmot. David Wilmot is the behind the scenes go to guy for odious lobbying.

WRT developers, they aren't necessarily bad people. Some firms I have a great deal of respect for.

But still, many need to be pushed in order to produce better projects. And Muriel has no stomach/interest in doing that.

The only way to have gotten a mixed use project at the "Walmart" on Georgia Ave. would have been to pressure the developer and the underlying family ownership of the property. Muriel didn't push one bit.

At 8:57 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

yes, I am very guilty of calling someone a developer, and leaving it at that. In reality far more granular.

And in terms of exit theory, very little to anchor one person in a city. "Developers" however have a harder time to exit.

Will be very interesting for Georgia Avenue in the next few years.

At 9:36 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

One friend-colleague says "developers are like sharks, they have to keep moving or they will die."

The firms that are regionally based have all the characteristics discussed by Logan/Molotch. Even if they sell various projects, their base is here, it's what they know and where they do business.

It's not like Hines or Forest City or Skanska that develop or own/manage (like Brookfield) in many other places. Or even Federal Realty.

JBG, Akridge, Donatelli, Abdo, EYA, to a large extent Roadside, Jair Lynch, Lerner, etc. do all of their projects in the DC Metro.

I've made a distinction between portfolio investing approaches and construction-sell. If the latter is your approach, the quality of what you do doesn't matter so much, because you're not stuck with the consequences.

The thing is that this is differentiated too. E.g, Foulger Pratt didn't give a damn about some random piece of land it had development rights on in DC, because for the most part all of its investment is in Montgomery County and in fact, a quality project at Georgia and Missouri Aves. NW in DC competes with its considerable investment in Silver Spring.

That's why they needed to be pushed.

I wrote all that stuff in the ANC4B report to give appointed officials "cover" in being able to raise the issues with the elected officials.

My understanding is that Mayor Gray (+ K. Brown and H. Thomas then, likely with the complicity of Muriel Bowser) made it very clear that the only responsibility OP and DDOT had wrt Walmart's entry was to make it happen.

It wasn't an issue that Harriet Tregoning felt was worth pushing against.

If elected officials took more seriously their responsibility for overall quality of life and "the brand experience" of the city, then they'd make some different decisions.

I had a long conversation with someone in the power structure in MoCo about these kinds of issues related to the County context, both internally (urban vs. suburban vs. rural/exurban) and vis a vis the other jurisdictions.

Counties don't look at these issues in a structured way very much either.

At 10:17 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

"If elected officials took more seriously their responsibility for overall quality of life and "the brand experience" of the city, then they'd make some different decisions."

Great sentence. And probably another example of where the Arlington board is leading -- even if they believe their own PR a bit too much.

At 1:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I've made a distinction between portfolio investing approaches and construction-sell."

Can you point me to your writing or source on this?

"If the latter is your approach, the quality of what you do doesn't matter so much, because you're not stuck with the consequences."

One of my favorite thinkers/philosophers is Nassim Taleb (of "The Black Swan" fame). He has very rightly pointed out in his latest tome, "Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder" that at no time in history have there been so many folks in control that have no "skin in the game."

At 4:58 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

well, in the discussion about Foulger Pratt previously. I might have mentioned it in the context of Bethesda Row and Federal Realty.

BR was done in something like 7 phases, and FREIT argues that the only reason they could afford to do a project like that, but let it grow on its own time, was because they were in it for the long haul.

At 5:03 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

JBG, Abdo, and Donatelli are other examples in the residential sphere. They build better than the average, because they expect to own the building for awhile.

And then, with Abdo and Donatelli projects, by having a first or early in company set a high bar in terms of quality, it helps to attract and encourage other developers to do quality work too, instead of crap.

Just imagine the buildings around the core of Columbia Heights done by a firm other than Donatelli, even early Paradigm or old senior housing buildings. It could have been very grim.

Urban renewal architecture set the stage for H Street for 30 years and I think contributed significantly to the delay in improvement there, despite the many locational advantages the area has--close to the Capitol, Capitol Hill, Union Station, and Downtown.

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