high Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space: Words need to be followed by action: DC statehood edition

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, June 21, 2017

Words need to be followed by action: DC statehood edition

The Washington Post reports ("Can a change of titles make DC seem more stately? Ask Gov. Bowser.") on legislation put forth by DC Councilmember David Grosso on changing the names of the Mayor -- to Governor -- the City Council -- to the Legislative Assembly -- and Councilmembers -- to Representatives -- to have in place a better nomenclature to help make the argument that DC should be a state.

I've argued for a long long long time that "if you want to be a state, start acting like it, by being exemplary in all that you do in terms of governance and legislating."

We can call a Councilmember a Representative, but the city still mixes up capital budgeting in the annual appropriations process and Councilmembers take pride in cutting capital projects to fund current projects.

We waste hundreds of millions of dollars on constructing new buildings that aren't necessary or make poor use of existing facilities.

Or in not creating more innovative buildings and programs to serve the public better.

We claim we want to be "the most sustainable city in the US," but I find it hard to identify any programs (except one, by a semi-independent agency, see "How DC Water Is Using Recycled Sewage " Fortune Magazine) that function at the level of national best practice, let alone best practice on a global scale.

Instead we take great pride in slowly adopting programs that have been in place elsewhere for decades or more.

Among others, we still have serious issues with contracting ("D.C. Council report: Bowser administration favored top donor in contracting," Washington Post; and "How an Underperforming Company Won a Lucrative Energy Contract," Washington City Paper), electioneering ethics ("Council member Todd gets minor fine for many campaign finance violations," Post) and misuse of position ("Behind the DC school lottery scandal: A 'crisis in confidence '," Post).

Just because Illinois is being run into the ground ("Illinois' budget mess shackling growth," Bloomington Pantagraph) doesn't make DC a great candidate for statehood.

Statehood is both a right within the context of the United States and a privilege.  Territories had to meet conditions to become states, and that included sound governance.


A couple past entries on reforming local governance:

-- "Ideal Mayoral/City Council candidate campaign agenda: Getting Our City's S*** Together, 2012
-- "Incremental piecemeal fixes to DC politics and governance mostly don't help, 2013
-- "Outline for a proposed Ward-focused (DC) Councilmember campaign platform and agenda, 2015

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At 11:06 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

Post has a big article on Bowser's popularity.

"housing" is identified as the top issue. Everyone assume that is "affordable housing" but there are a lot of concerns baked into that.

"Statehood" is listed by 5% as a concern. Housing is at 19.

People are pretty happy here.

Turns out Racine is partners in the Cork Wine Market, which is partly owned by the idiots who sued (and then closed) Trump for the Trump hotel disrupting their business.

I think it is more about scale. DC is a small place. I've run into most council members and the mayor just walking around. * Small places tend not be well governed.

* technically Linda Cropp tried to run me over. As did Brianne, now that you mention it.

The "tennessee plan" is pretty much dead with PR trying the same stunt.

At 12:05 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Have two pieces I need to write wrt Carmel, Indiana. It's grown from 20K to 80+K. It's north of Indianapolis.

It's small. It's definitely well governed from a planning perspective. Like Charleston under Mayor Riley.

... but it's Republican and there is still resistance to new urban concepts espoused by a Republican mayor.

But yes, we are a set of villages -- Tenley village, Dupont Village, Capitol Hill village, Georgetown village, etc.

Overlaid with race issues, class issues, etc.

And so you're right, we have a smaller than normal pool of talent to draw from.

And yes, we can "contact" interact with our representatives. From time to time I send emails in response to various initiatives to CMs Cheh, Evans, Gray, Allen, etc. And I get reasoned responses.

But we can still do better.

WRT the Tennessee plan (1) thanks for educating me. (2) it can happen when you have a good case and an amenable Congress. Both PR and DC have issues wrt a good case and there is clearly not an amenable Congress in place to give a fir hearing to such an "initiative."

PR is another good example of running your polity well or not as a way to make the case for statehood.

In some of my writings, I make the case that Baltimore County has the wrong reference groups. They basically only evaluate how they are doing vis a vis Baltimore City and on that basis, they will always be ahead. Instead they should be comparing themselves to Oakland County Michigan, Fairfax and Arlington, Montgomery County, some Californian counties (they are so large, but a better reference group, e.g., Orange County or San Diego County) etc.

Anyway, DC ought not to be beating its chest that we're doing way better on governance compared to PR.

At 12:31 PM, Anonymous charlie said...


Wasn't suggesting we compare, just that the "Tennessee plan" which was DOA anyway is even more DOA now that PR wants to do it and wasting any ink on it stupid.

RE: national

very good read:


At 12:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

statehood doesn't have much of a chance at all. Instead, territorial status should be pursued- DC was once a federal territory with a governor-until 1870. The argument could be made that it was already done and could be done again. This would be a step up from where DC is now. The main reason the big wig politicians here want "statehood" is so that they can get a leg up in possible runs for national office- I doubt they really care about congressional representation- and none of these politicians care at all for the people who live here either no matter what they say. If we became a territory we'd be exempt from federal taxes-this to me is a better deal than this non starter statehood baloney.

At 12:01 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

wrt the Atlantic article, while I believe that the "progressive agenda" if articulated and marketed properly, resonates along the continuum of the political spectrum with the exception of those who venerate the rich only, the real conundrum is the simultaneous belief by many white people that people of color "get all the support from programs" and are "undeserving."

I don't see how that contradiction can be resolved.

I got into an argument with my brother, who used a pejorative word he knew would piss me off.

He started arguing about "political correctness" being a bane, etc., and he's smart, he knows better.

But how did it become politically correct and wrong to say that racism is bad, or that blacks are stopped and/or killed disproportionately by police somehow denigrates everyone else ("all lives matter", "blue lives matter" etc.).

It's reasonable to see these stops and killings as "indicators" clear indicators of a "systemic/structural" problem that should be addressed by a so called democratic society, rather than to be celebrated or ignored.


At 12:03 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

I'm embarrassed that I didn't know about the writings of Jacob Hacker til recently.

Clearly, with globalization and neoliberal agenda, risk has been shifted to the individual, without the provision of "platforms" (like basic health insurance coverage) that provides some basic level of protection in the face of economic dislocation. Shifting to contract workers, etc. only furthers this.

At 7:12 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

From that great article:

The party has been crushed—not just in the recent presidential election, but in countless down-ballot elections—by its failure to develop a message that can resonate with people beyond the core members of the Obama coalition, and by its unwillingness to blare its hostility to crony capitalism.

This is pretty rich. True about crony capitalism, but ironic in that Trump said one thing and in office, has been completely in bed with capitalists, from appointments to the cabinet (Ross, Tillerson) and just about the only things they've done is cut back on environmental and consumer regulations in the guise that it "hurts business," when the reality is that these decisions screw "the public."

Anyway, I get the argument about big corporations and how oligopoly has reshaped the economy (along with what we should consider "global" labor markets and how production shifts to lower cost markets, pulling down US wages), but that's where the proper response should be to have universal health care -- "your health being at the whim of the market isn't 'fair," having a basic health care protection, access to education, regulation of big companies, etc., provides you with the stability and confidence and equilibrium so you can compete."

I don't get how the bait seems to be so completely disconnected from the reality of the switch.

At 7:18 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

wrt people being pretty happy, yes, why shouldn't they be. The city is functioning reasonably well.

... I still can't get over, almost daily, how different it was from the 1987-2005 period. I see white people walking dogs near Howard University. Totally unimaginable.

My "railings" are about how to do way better, and to position our economy to be more resilient and our government to be more democratic.

theoretical stuff compared to having the garbage picked up.

To the average person, happy that the city has implemented compost drop off at some farmers markets, they don't care that people like me have been pushing the idea for many many years, and that it takes so long to move change forward, or that the city in reality, lags other cities that as a rule are more innovative.

As long as they can send their kid to a charter school they feel good about, DCPS doesn't matter to them, especially as the Post whitewashes the reality that the ed. reform philosophy in DC hasn't accomplished very much at all.

As long as they don't come up against crime (the people moving into the changing neighborhoods deal with it the most but that is changing as the people with the greatest inclination to commit crimes leave the city) why should they be concerned about the structural problems East of the River, etc., except out of a social justice concern.



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