A little more about DC's location within the metropolitan economy
This is a snippet from an email exchange, where I wrote in response to the suggestion that maybe since many city employees don't live in the city they don't really care about it. My response:
They have to live in the city to have those jobs, including those that get elected. But I don't feel that they have a strong and deep understanding of what "urban economic development" is in actuality and specifically, what are DC's competitive advantages.
Columbia Heights Civic Plaza. Photo by William Jordan.
[Compared to suburban jurisdictions] DC's "unique selling proposition" is livability and quality of place, based on walkability, bikeability, transit and the ability to get around without a car.
For 13 years I've been saying DC has five competitive advantages:
1. historic architecture
2. an urban design dating from the walking and transit city eras of urban development, therefore supporting walkability, transit, and biking
3. historicity and identity (the nexus of people, historic architecture, and urban design)
4. a transit-centric mobility infrastructure that frees people from dependence on the automobile
5. the steady employment engine of the federal government
But #5 is declining and the suburbs are getting their s*** together on quality of place attributes (Reston, Tysons, White Flint redevelopment efforts, Arlington, etc. + developments like Bethesda Row and the Mosaic District), making those locations much more competitive, and for people afraid of African-Americans, more attractive.
DC cannot afford to sit on its hand,s as to stay the same is to fall behind because the best of our competition continues to move forward.
I know you'll say, DC doesn't have competitors, blah blah blah, but the reality is that at the micro scale for investment activity, residents, business location, etc., DC does compete with other places in the metropolitan area.
As you remember, for many years, we didn't hold our own in that competition. Now we do. But our beneficial position isn't static, it's dynamic, and we have to continue to strive to improve or just to run in place and stay the same.
I didn't say this in the email, but have written it in planning documents I've produced and thereby reprinted it in blog entries.
... I wrote in the COMMERCIAL DISTRICT REVITALIZATION FRAMEWORK PLAN FOR DOWNTOWN CAMBRIDGE, MARYLAND that elected officials need to take their responsibilities as stewards and managers of a community's image very seriously:
Just as the study team believes that “we are all destination managers now,” elected and appointed officials in particular and in association with other community stakeholders serve as a community’s “brand managers”—whether or not they choose to think of their roles in this manner.
That means that decision-making on land use and zoning, business issues, infrastructure development (roads, sewers, water, utilities, transit), technology (broadband Internet, etc.) and quality of place factors (arts, culture, historic preservation and heritage, education, public schools and libraries, urban design, etc.) must be consistent and focused on making the right decisions, the decisions that collectively achieve and support the realization of the community’s desired vision and positioning.
Something else I read termed this as making "brand deposits" or "brand withdrawals," how the decisions and actions concerning a brand either make positive contributions and build the brand or the actions are negative and diminish the value of the brand, its reputation, aspirational qualities, etc.