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.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Let's go to the Mall...

After festivals and celebrations in early July, the National Mall is worn from wear, as seen from the top of the Washington Monument facing the Capitol in Washington, on Tuesday, July 14, 2009. Crumbling sidewalks near the Jefferson Memorial are sinking into the Tidal Basin. Reflecting pools are filled with green, smelly water. And millions of visitors have trampled the soil into virtual concrete where grass can't grow. The National Mall is in danger of becoming a national disgrace.(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

The City Desk blog/Loose Lips at the City Paper calls our attention to an AP story on the state of the National Mall, "Neglected National Mall languishes." From the article:

An Associated Press analysis of congressional spending since 2005 found the mall has been at a disadvantage in competing for extra funds doled out by lawmakers, compared with sites that are represented by powerful members of Congress. The mall is in Washington, D.C., which has no vote in the House or Senate.

Last year, when dozens of ducks and ducklings died of avian botulism because the water in a mall pool near the Capitol was so fetid, and as urgent repairs were needed to stop the Jefferson Memorial's sea wall from sinking into the mud, the Senate killed a $3.5 million earmark for the mall.

Instead, funding went to projects back home. All told, Congress sent home more than $181 million in earmarks through the park service budget last year — an election year — according to data compiled by the group Taxpayers for Common Sense and analyzed by the AP. Nearly half that money was driven by lawmakers who were on the House and Senate appropriations committees.. ...

Government watchdogs say earmarks corrupt the budget process. "We're making spending decisions on the basis of political muscle, rather than project merit," said Stephen Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense. "Because the mall is owned by nobody, even though it is this gem for many Americans, it gets short shrift," he said.

The mall didn't just lose out on earmarks. In January, Congress deleted $200 million in stimulus funding for the mall. And last year, a bill that would have appropriated $100 million for mall repairs failed.

Republican Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas said mall funding wasn't an emergency. "It's entirely appropriate for Congress to fund repairs for the National Mall in the traditional process, but the American people are smart enough to know that it will do very little or absolutely nothing to provide economic stimulus," he said.

House Republican whip Eric Cantor of Virginia similarly derided efforts to "help upkeep the grass on the lawns of Washington."

This is the problem with the federal institutions and civic assets located within DC. As long as we are reliant on Congresspeople to fund the maintenance and improvement of these assets, which for better or worse, are constituent civic assets both for the nation and for our city, we are screwed.

Most of them spend all their time running against and railing against "Washington." So why should they consider investing in Washington, or Washington's role as the center of government, and its place at the center of interpreting the narrative of the nation, National Myth and Culture, etc.

On the other hand, as "Washingtonians" our hands are plenty full trying to get the municipal government to function and we don't have enough time to serve as adequate stewards of the "local" civic assets that carry both national and local meaning.

See "Running Against Washington" from a 1976 issue of Time Magazine and this blog entry from 2006, "Running against Washington means you're predisposed not to help it." We need another Mr. Smith...

Labels: , , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home