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.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Things have changed over 20 years and the DC Republican Party has a long way to go

I have voted for Republicans in DC. For Carole Schwartz for City Council and when she ran against Marion Barry for Mayor, and for Maurice Turner (maybe not the brightest guy in the world) when he ran against Marion Barry for Mayor, because I couldn't in good faith vote for him (ever).

While it is a good thing to have a more competitive democracy, and in the two party system (more are better but that's another issue) that means two parties, it doesn't work very well when one party is completely obstructive, which is the case nationally.

At the local level, we don't have an active Republican Party, and it shows in the quality of the candidates they have running for Council offices in DC, at least for Ward 6. Yes, I would vote for Tommy Wells if I still lived in Ward 6 and I have donated money to his campaign (even if I try not to make direct endorsements for candidates generally in the blog). So you can take this entry with a grain of salt if you like.

In the October Hill Rag, there is an article on the Republican Candidate for Ward 6 Councilmember, Jim DeMartino, and he says some really uninformed things. See "Republican Hopes: Jim DeMartino."

First, I have lived in the city for 23 years (well, a little less, because for a brief period I lived in PG County) and anyone who has lived in the city over the same period of time knows that it has changed, significantly, for the better--that's with the caveat that we need to do more for the impoverished, and that we still have a long way to go in terms of improving municipal government and the quality of the services provided by local government.

Jim DeMartino didn't live north of H Street NE when 30 people were murdered over an 18 month period in the late 1980s. I did. He probably didn't experience many assaults, burglaries, declining commercial districts, continued outmigration of population, and dysfunctional municipal government. I did.

So for him to say:

Asked about Wells’ incumbency, DeMartino replied: “There is so much opportunity that is not being maximized. The leadership is lacking. I do not see any accomplishment. We are in the same situation as twenty years ago. Homelessness has increased. Juvenile crime has increased. Maybe it’s time for another perspective.”

is completely ludicrous.

I'm the first to say that we have so far to strive, but to say something like this makes this candidate completely uncredible.

Then he says that the city has spent $1.5 billion on streetcars and has nothing to show for it.

Um, it won't cost that much, and we haven't spent much money at all, so far, on streetcars. Again, I have significant issues with the quality of the planning for the streetcar system as I have written about quite a bit, but instead of focusing on the real issues, he spouts a typical Republican-like anti-transit statement that is without accuracy.

And he denigrates the "walkability" agenda of Councilmember Wells, because DeMartino lives in the "Capitol Riverfront" district--a created from the ground up tall building community around the Nationals baseball stadium that will take many many more years to come to fruition--and the constructed from the ground up urban renewal like project in Southeast DC doesn't have the amenities he wants -- right now -- even though it is a 20+ year process to build the right kind of environment there.

From the article:

Addressing “livable, walkable,” DeMartino says: “It’s a nice mantra, but there is no substance to it. There is nowhere in my neighborhood where you can walk. I go to CVS for bread and milk. The amenities are not there in every neighborhood. Where I live there are only four new businesses, all restaurants. Bicycles are great but seniors can’t use them nor the disabled.” The Riverfront does lack the promised amenities principally due to the recession and slowdown in development.

Again, he is right that bicycle planning often underserves seniors and the disabled. But it doesn't have to. Instead, he ought to be focusing on how to realize walkability and livability everywhere, for people of all demographic segments, why there are in fact many gaps in our planning regime and approach, and focus on how to make the city better.

Clearly, the Republican Party has a long way to go in DC before it can be considered in any way competitive.

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