DC as a city and "The Vision Thing"
There is an article ("Phil Mendelson beat the odds to run D.C. Will his luck hold in the Trump era?") in the Washington Post on Phil Mendelson, the Chair of the DC City Council. Many of the quotes fault him for being low on vision. For example:
Some still question whether he’s up to the job. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) said Mendelson has not articulated a vision for the city and has been slow to prepare for federal threats, such as the loss of health-care funding, in part because he is unwilling to delegate the nitty-gritty work of building relationships on Capitol Hill.The "vision thing" is probably true, but it hardly makes him an exception amongst the city's elected officials. Chairman Mendelson agrees. From the article:
“That’s okay when you’re 12-to-1 Phil, the nitpicker,” Evans said, referring to a 2006 campaign mailer in which Mendelson proudly stamped a photo of himself with the word “NITPICKER.” “But it’s not okay when you’re the chairman of the council.”
Mendelson said he has encouraged council members to lobby federal officials on their own initiative, even if he has not formally directed them to do so.
Mendelson ... appears to relish his role as a punctilious steward of the people’s business. “I think most politicians don’t take the long view,” he said on a recent afternoon, steering his Ford Focus through downtown D.C. traffic after a visit to a senior center. “Only time will tell whether I do it right. But I think I’m respected for being thoughtful, and for having integrity and for being a moderating influence in government.”Maybe not in terms of progressive legislation on a higher minimum wage or family leave--where the city is on the same plane as other progressive cities like Seattle--but in terms of long term issues in how to invest in the city, maintain the city's place in the metropolitan economy, deal with equity, or expand transit, how many of the city's elected officials are looking long term?
For example, there is an article, "Ward 3 crowding prompts review," in this week's Current community newspaper about how Ward 3 schools face an capacity crisis, as most of the schools are over-enrolled. The article mentions how the school system is "creating a master facilities plan."
Umm, why isn't there a master facilities plan already in place?, especially after spending BILLIONS OF DOLLARS on renovation and new construction with probably as much as ONE BILLION DOLLARS MORE spending in the pipeline.
And Councilmember Cheh is quoted as saying we need more schools but she doesn't want to use any capital monies--even though buildings are capital expenditures--because the city is mostly out of funding for capital spending.
That's because the city has a legislated cap on how much of its funding stream can be dedicated to capital spending. I argue the cap should be raised, because the city is in a period of growth and needs to add public facilities to accommodate and serve this growth in population and need for services.
Seems like these are big questions with long term impact and considerations.
I don't see people asking them.
The issue about the ceiling on capital budgeting came up with how the city has gamed the process for building a set of homeless shelters across the city. There are issues with the program and its design. But I think there are also issues with how an unwillingness to address the capital funding matter shaped how this program was developed, in ways that are seriously sub-optimal.
I don't see those questions really being asked.
Then there's transit, sustainable mobility.