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Knocked on our heels, it's time to broaden the urbanist tent

The DC Council vote to strip Tommy Wells of his chairmanship of the Transportation Committee and his seat on the WMATA Board of Directors is a reality check for urbanists and smart growth advocates.


Photo by Cliff Nordman on Flickr.

While it's true that council chairman Kwame Brown was exacting revenge for Wells' report on the SUV scandal, simply blaming Brown misses the deeper point.

The sad truth is that smart growth ideas were so dispensable to every other council member that they unanimously supported Brown in removing Wells, by far the most articulate smart growth advocate on the council, from the position in which he could most effectively champion the concept.

Unfortunately, transportation is viewed by every council member except Tommy Wells as either a constituent service or a special interest. It's not viewed as an indispensable part of the solution to any of DC's problems.

Jack Evans summed up the council's view of transportation best in his explanation of support for the appointment of new DDOT Director Terry Bellamy.

"Given our constituent services, it's so important to have someone at the helm of DDOT who is responsive. Bellamy has always answered the phone when I call. That allows us to go work on the really big stuff."
Urbanists in DC have yet to convince their civic leaders that transportation is itself "really big stuff," and that it is a means to solving the city's big problems. Until our leaders make that connection, we will never have the broad-based coalition that could have prevented Wells' removal from key positions.

For transportation to be taken seriously, urbanists in DC must start talking about it in terms of how it provides solutions to joblessness, crime, education and gentrification, which are the real sources of anxiety for most DC residents.

For example, Mayor Gray has made job creation a centerpiece of his agenda, but since only 28% of DC jobs are held by DC residents, it's likely Gray's initiative will have to create 4 jobs for every 1 that benefits a District resident. That's not very efficient.

Instead of spending taxpayer money to lure companies that provide jobs mostly to Virginians and Marylanders, the city could be investing money to improve access to jobs for existing DC residents. Economic integration, enabled by transit, can be a bulwark against underemployment and gentrification.

Urbanists may enjoy the minutiae of transportation infrastructure on its own terms, but if we are to convince others of our ideas then we will need to show how transportation is a means to greater ends. It's time to start talking in terms to which the rest of the city can relate.

Until that happens, urbanists will lack the broad-based consensus that would enable politicians like Tommy Wells to champion our ideas.

Ken Archer is CTO of a software firm in Tysons Corner. He commutes to Tysons by bus from his home in Georgetown, where he lives with his wife and son. Ken completed a Masters degree in Philosophy from The Catholic University of America. 

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I've removed a comment which was attacking previous things Ken has written instead of discussing the points being made in this article. Remember, GGW comments are not places to attack individuals personally but rather to discuss the points they are making and whether you agree or disagree.

by David Alpert on Jul 13, 2011 11:15 am • linkreport

Recall, them ALL.

by Redline SOS on Jul 13, 2011 11:15 am • linkreport

But if you can't quote self-contradiction and hypocricy, you can't have a rational argument.

by John on Jul 13, 2011 11:16 am • linkreport

This is an important post, Ken, and constructive thinking about "takeaways" from this event/experience.

Transportation agencies don't think enough about how their product fits in to employment, health, education, etc. concerns, and transportation advocates in their focus on getting agencies to do things differently can fall into that trap, too.

by jnb on Jul 13, 2011 11:17 am • linkreport

Thats why the streetcar/bus improvements are important because they serve (will serve) a greater proportion of DC residents compared to VA or md ones.

Unfortunately if you're against something its easy to claim the opposite position. Argue that DC streetcars will spur development? Claim you're trying to drive out the poor. Claim that streetcars will help the poor get to places faster? Claim that its a waste of dollars to subsidize peoples transportation. Claim that bike infrastructure helps everybody? Argue that it only helps white people. Start a group that has a focus of african-americans riding bikes? Say that the group is racist because it targets a specific underrepresented demographic.

by Canaan on Jul 13, 2011 11:18 am • linkreport

In effect David, you are stating that everyone should be required to take statements at face value, even when they know what crap they are from previous statements. You also believe Kwame acted for efficiency then I assume, and will post as such..

by John on Jul 13, 2011 11:20 am • linkreport

This sounds good.

And you want to do this by doing _________? Lofty goals are fine, but some action plan would be nice.

by Matt on Jul 13, 2011 11:22 am • linkreport

"Urbanists" will not have a bigger tent until they stop preaching to the choir about the wonders of more bike lanes, making car ownership as difficult as possible, and supporting just about every real estate developer's plans and start reaching out - and listening! - to non-ideologues.

Wells had not a single friend on the Council yesterday. Not a single one said a word in his defense!

Even Mary Cheh - a pretty liberal, oops! I mean "progressive" - totally smacked Wells' "liveable, walkable" slogan as mere words (and she also took a shot at him for not having much of a legislative record). What does it tell you when Wells' ideological ally is so quick to twist the knife and then pour in some salt on the wound?

Wells biggest mistake has been to listen to echo chambers and think that was the view of the public at large. He mistook twitter love from acolytes for actual political power.

Jason Cherkis has been railing on Twitter all morning about Wells' supposed martyrdom. When Wells was head of the Committee on Human Services, exactly what did he do to improve the disasters at DYRS and CFSA? Not much. His welfare reform legislation was derided as inhumane by the NY Times. And his most well known legislation is the bag tax.

Urbanists - and Wells - won't matter much until they stop listening to each other and +1-ing themselves and actually start taking into consideration others' views. Rather than just dismissing any opposition to the fads of bike lanes or the streetcar-to-nowhere as NIMBYs and telling them to move if they don't like it here, they need to sit down, shut up, and actually listen to what others are saying and why they're saying it.

"Urbanists" had a beloved candidate in Weaver in the special election. He got trounced by the combined votes for Orange and Mara. The sainted Tommy Wells got knee-capped by Kwame Brown and there's nothing "urbanists" can do about it, other than complain.

The way you broaden a political coalition is by not pissing off potential allies. Wells learned that the hard way yesterday.

by Fritz on Jul 13, 2011 11:25 am • linkreport

What kind of jobs only provide employment to Maryland or Virginia residents? Are there no lobbyists who live in the District?

by dan reed! on Jul 13, 2011 11:28 am • linkreport

Great post, but how does the bag tax fit into all of this?

"Believe in our ideas." Ouch. Why do I think the first iteration of that idea was stronger?

by charlie on Jul 13, 2011 11:30 am • linkreport

Except that is a problem when you take the one guy who knows the most about transportation, who campaigns on it and is praised for it on the council and have not be able to do anything about it. It took twice as long for the mayor to come up with a new DDOT head than a schools chancellor and WMATA board is in serious shambles. Naturally then lets kick out one of the more stabilizing forces within all of that. Transportation should be boring and non-controversial guided by facts and sensible policy. Those who stir the pot aren't the "urbanists" and its not CM Wells

by Canaan on Jul 13, 2011 11:31 am • linkreport

John: Pointing out where one person's argument doesn't match up with another argument is fine. However, that's not what you are doing.

You have come to an erroneous conclusion that this particular contributor doesn't share the basic values of this site, based on a completely narrow and incorrect reading of one previous post.

Then, anytime there is a post, you make virtually the same identical comment challenging that basic values issue using supposed facts which you have completely misunderstood.

I've responded to your incorrect allegations in the past, and you continue to pop up with the same nasty things each time, making me conclude that you aren't interested in actual discussion.

I don't think people should take statements at face value. However, we're here to discuss the statements, not the author's being entitled to make those statements. In the silly Kwame Brown analogy you raise, Brown said "This isn't retribution," and I indeed think that's false. But Ken is saying, "Urbanists need to broaden their tent," and nothing you posted in your original comment has anything to do with whether or not urbanists ought to broaden their tent.

Also, we have created a place where people are asked to treat members of this community, and others, with respect. Your comments have been nasty and personal, to others, to Ken, and now to me, and it will not be tolerated.

by David Alpert on Jul 13, 2011 11:31 am • linkreport

Yes, the urbanist tent needs to broaden... The biggest challenge we face is including low-income citizens into the fray. We need to not only focus on better transportation, but affordable housing, inclusionary zoning, and other policies that make urban living better for EVERYONE, not just the bike-riding, yuppy, Euro-wannabes we're often painted as (especially by the likes of Brown, Barry and gang).

By expanding our ISSUE advocacy, we can also broaden our tent.

by John M on Jul 13, 2011 11:36 am • linkreport

@David Alpert, 'I've removed a comment which was attacking previous things Ken has written instead of discussing the points being made in this article. Remember, GGW comments are not places to attack individuals personally but rather to discuss the points they are making and whether you agree or disagree.

by Matt Johnson on Jul 12, 2011 2:24 pm:
'What @JustMe did was to suggest based on your argument that you don't want a greater Washington. That may not be true. Personally, I believe that you do want a better Washington. Of course, we disagree on the specifics.
Now, what @JustMe did was address your argument. He may not have understood your meaning or he may have purposefully mischaracterized or oversimplified it, but that's not an ad hominem.

by HogWash on Jul 12, 2011 1:59 pm
@Lance, please don't expect consistency with the censoring here.

by Lance on Jul 13, 2011 11:37 am • linkreport

David,

I am pointing out that "one person's argument" doesn't match the _their own argument_ or _their own actions_. This indeed would cause similar comments if they continue to do the same thing.

If we want to discuss "widening the net" that's fab. Lets discuss actual ideas for doing so...maybe an article outlining them. That would be great.

But simply getting the same repetitive scold lecture with no actual specific ideas, other than ideas the lecturer themselves violate in their own life gets a bit tired. Sorry.

by John on Jul 13, 2011 11:37 am • linkreport

by JustMe on Jul 12, 2011 1:21 pm
'You seem to get pretty agitated when people don't validate your opinion or consider it worth bothering with. You weren't even bothering to state your opinion; you were whining that people might want to recall a dumb, corrupt politician because you've been so numbed to stupidity and outrageous behavior that you consider it normal-- which is one reason why your opinions aren't really worth that much. But leave it to HogWash to consider Kwame Brown just an acceptable sort of thing in DC. Just another sign of how so many people in DC accept mediocrity in their lives and in their city. That's why this blog is called GreaterGreaterWashington... and we're dealing with people like HogWash and Lance who are all about MediocreMediocreWashington.

by Lance on Jul 13, 2011 11:40 am • linkreport

To all condemning Ken b/c you think he didn't make suggestions on HOW to broaden the coalition (1) He did. Read the post again. Pay special attention to paragraphs 8-11. (2) So what are your ideas? You complain that there aren't any and/or you don't like the ideas suggested -what are yours?

by Tina on Jul 13, 2011 11:45 am • linkreport

I would add that being anti-streetcar doesn't equal being anti-urbanist.

Personally, I think the streetcars are a waste of time and money, but at the same time I'd prefer to see more Metrorail and BRT. I also consider myself an ardent urbanist.

by John M on Jul 13, 2011 11:49 am • linkreport

John, that's incorrect. You are pointing out that their argument does not match your distorted perception of their own argument, and your incorrect assumption about their actions.

Ken is making a valuable point which we should discuss. You have still never discussed it, just found different ways to attack him because, it appears to me, you saw the byline and decided to attack. That's not acceptable.

Lance: I'm happy to talk over email about the debate over comment appropriateness in that other thread yesterday. I'd rather not have it dominate here.

I feel it's important for this comment thread to not become one about comment style. Therefore, I am going to delete any further comments in this thread which are about comment style, or about the author of the post, or otherwise not about the urbanists' tent or how the movement that many of us believe in can grow and thrive.

by David Alpert on Jul 13, 2011 11:52 am • linkreport

@John M

The anti-streetcar folks are anti-urbanist, because of their reasons for opposing the streetcar, and fact that their opposition is really more anti-transit, rather than an actual opposition to streetcars themselves.

Opposing streetcars in favor of heavy rail isn't anti-urbanist. (Although opposing streetcars, while using heavy rail as a strawman is anti-urbanist, as we saw that argument over and over again during the construction of the H St streetcar from folks who have a long track record of opposing anything transit-related. Opposing streetcars in an environment where heavy rail will likely never be built is also anti-urbanist in a way, because it ensures that no improvements will be made.)

by andrew on Jul 13, 2011 12:12 pm • linkreport

Again, it's frustrating that many of the posts here are seemingly a-historical. The seeming opposing agendas of urbanism and justice and equity has been going on for a long time and was examined at considerable length in _Between Justice and Beauty: Race, Planning, and the Failure of Urban Policy in Washington, D.C._ by Howard Gillette. But it's also a big part of _Dream City_ by Jaffe and Sherwood.

The points you make about better linking the agenda are good, but it ends up being pretty complicated when everything (e.g., closing DC General, closing schools, Walmart) comes down to the jobs argument.

Anyway, I discussed this 6 years ago in a blog entry that I recently reprinted.

http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2011/07/reprint-tom-sherwood-duncan-spencer.html

It's still fully relevant and will continue to be a problem although the trajectory is changing and probably in ten years the tipping point will be reached.

It's difficult to blame CM Wells for being bad at creating a progressive coalition when most of the other Councilmembers aren't consistently "progressive" through a comprehensive worldview and vision. People are mostly progressive on a couple of their own issues, but that's it.

While I am disappointed in yesterday's vote, I do understand councilmembers not wanting to piss off the chairman...

Two of the sum up paragraphs in Lydia DePillis' City Paper cover story on Walmart are fully apt in this argument as well and until the foundation of the city changes, this kind of behavior will continue to repeat.

http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/articles/41145/the-selling-of-walmart/full/

Looked at one way, Walmart’s cakewalk is an illustration of D.C.’s southern nature: Trusting of big business, grateful for investment, deeply skeptical of unions. Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr., often a big labor backer, has been Walmart’s biggest cheerleader. And in Ward 4, Councilmember Muriel Bowser doesn’t think organized labor should get any special deference. “Dues-paying members are concerned that Walmart will drive down wages, and they won’t be able to negotiate for as much,” she says. “So that’s as self-interested an argument as any.” It may be true. But setting up consumers and workers as two different interests is classic anti-union boilerplate, and not the sort of argument Walmart’s cadres usually hear in northern cities.

Looked at in another way, however, it’s just more evidence of D.C.’s division along the lines of race and class. Tracy Sefl, a Democratic strategist who helped found Walmart Watch, notes that the people most disposed to think about Walmart’s global labor practices are less inclined to get involved at the city level. “The sort of cognoscenti that would have been and is engaged in this Walmart opposition intellectually as liberal activists hasn’t translated here in the same way, because Walmart hasn’t said we’re going to put the stores in Spring Valley,” Sefl says, referring to the rich, leafy Ward 3 neighborhood. “Walmart would say, this was purely economics, and they’re siting their stores where it makes sense to be. It still means they bypass that often white opposition.”

by Richard Layman on Jul 13, 2011 12:24 pm • linkreport

"I feel it's important for this comment thread to not become one about comment style. Therefore, I am going to delete any further comments in this thread which are about comment style, or about the author of the post, or otherwise not about the urbanists' tent or how the movement that many of us believe in can grow and thrive."

As opposed to any other GGW thread that went off topic....

by charlie on Jul 13, 2011 12:24 pm • linkreport

@ andrew

I think that opposing streetcars based on cost and net value added to the city are legitimate concerns that don't necessarily make someone anti-urbanist. To use the example brought up above, are the lack of streetcars keeping people from holding jobs? With the national unemployment level at 9+% I think that issue may be that the jobs simply aren't there.

Would I be inherently anti-urbanist if I felt that job creation was a more worthwhile pursuit than transportation options (that won't be functional for years/decades)?

by DC Driver on Jul 13, 2011 12:25 pm • linkreport

Okay, to play along, I'll address the points as noted above

"For transportation to be taken seriously, urbanists in DC must start talking about it in terms of how it provides solutions to joblessness, crime, education and gentrification, which are the real sources of anxiety for most DC residents."

Joblessness: Very little we (or anyone) can do. Look at the national unemployment numbers, which closely match DC in spread. Unemployment for trained professionals is actually floating down around 5%, aka "normal". The actual issue is a radical _structural_ change in the economy which has less use for unskilled labor, that was masked by the housing bubble and related employment, now gone.

Solution: Very expensive retraining to skilled labor, likely starting with remedial education to be able to do the training. Who want to volunteer for the tax hike to pay for it? Discuss. This also covers education. Solution, massive spending increase. Volunteers? Crime interrelated to the above.

Gentrification: We have X space. We have a heights law. We have Y people who want in. Land values under that set of constraints pgo up. All "solutions" operate under that basic scenario. Also, dark dirty secret...transit makes things more desirable and also increases property values even more.

So...let's increase affordable housing set asides. Downside, creates donut hole of suckers subsidizing the AH, but being priced out. The more AH set asides, the larger the donut hole.

In effect, any "solution" outside of eliminating the heights law constraint is an attempt to counteract an ever increasing market price. Which means an ever increasing amount of public subsidy. And ever increasing taxes (explicit or implicit) to pay for the ever increasing subsidy, and an an increasing middle class donut hole. The amount is defined by how extensive an "anti-gentrification" program you want to run.

Again, any volunteers to pay for this?

by John on Jul 13, 2011 12:28 pm • linkreport

A commitment to transportation = making sure Georgetown University can't expand. How does that make sense?

A primary benefit of streetcars is you could run them outside of WMATA (and union wages/benefits) and more importantly, they need less drivers than buses. How does that equal jobs?

by charlie on Jul 13, 2011 12:32 pm • linkreport

Solution: Very expensive retraining to skilled labor, likely starting with remedial education to be able to do the training.

The sector that created the most jobs in June was leisure and hospitality. Where I live in Georgetown, most leisure and hospitality jobs go to Virginians because it's easier to commute to Georgetown from Alexandria and Seven Corners than from east of the river.

by Ken Archer on Jul 13, 2011 12:40 pm • linkreport

As Jack Evans sagely noted, I paraphrase, "as long as my calls to DDOT are returned and the potholes in my ward get filled, I'm happy." In other words, as long as the agency does screw up badly enough that my constituents complain, I'll leave them alone. That pretty much sums up the attitude of the Council, on a lot of things. A go-along-to-get-along attitude that aids and abets the widespread torpor and incompetence in DC government.

by Paul on Jul 13, 2011 12:43 pm • linkreport

@Ken

From Wisconsin & M to Seven Corners is 5.5 miles as the crow flies. From Wisconsin & M to Braddock Road Metro is 6.325 miles and to King Street Metro is 6.85 miles.

By comparison, from Wisconsin & M to Congress Heights Metro is 5.78 miles and to Benning Road is 6.815 miles.

Given that you have to go through the dense, many-stop downtown and CBD of Washington, DC in order to get from East of the River to Georgetown, which you do not have to do in the case of the NoVa locations, I don't think your comparison is terribly instructive. It makes perfect sense that it would take longer to get from East of the River to Georgetown than from locations of comparable distance in Northern Virginia.

by Dizzy on Jul 13, 2011 1:08 pm • linkreport

If GGW is interested in growing the tent, then you all should wish that yesterday never happened. In the same way "myopic twits" will serve w/in the annals of history, the over the top radical reaction to Wells will just the same.

I think it's presumptious, unfair, and irresponsible to conclude that no one cared about transit issues but Wells or that the votes against him somehow shows that no one else cares. How is it even possible to make that sort of non objective, unsubstantiated claim? It's just not cool.

I will agree that you need to establish a much much better connection between transit improvement and those things most people care about like jobs and crime. But I must also question why has it taken so long to figure this out? Adrian Fenty and his supporters failed to make a connection and they lost. Instead, they substituted that approach by creating an us vs. them (you're with us are against us) scenario. In a city like DC, there is no blueprint which shows that imploring that sort of strategy works.

So how do you streamline the argument to the point that it reaches the desired audience - that group beyond the choir. Since transportation involves so many things, how do you explain to someone (not a member of your natural constituency) that streetcars or bike lanes are integral components to helping their current station in life? I'm employed. I'm not a natural constituent and even I still don't understand the transit economic/personal benefit to me argument. Sure, I get what it could possibly mean to a community but to a person? I don't get it.

How would you present the argument that improvements in transportaion is a solution to gentrification and education? Or better yet, what is that argument? It just seems like a hard sale.

It's highly likely that so many people with sincere interests in transit issues have so many varied ideas on what the city needs that the real answers become muddled? That's not simply a "we need to do a better job explaining it." That approach wrongly assumes that you know best about what the city needs and everyone else just needs to get that.

I'm still shocked that this has turned out as it has.

by HogWash on Jul 13, 2011 1:09 pm • linkreport

@Ken,

Beyond Dizzy's solid point, a one month data point in a cyclical industry which increases employment in the summer doth not counter a well document structural economic trend.

by John on Jul 13, 2011 1:18 pm • linkreport

Advancing an urbanist agenda is a political issue, and a fundamental rule of politics is that you have to vote in order to secure political advantage. Despite the carping in the blogosphere about Kwame, Michael, Vincent, Phil, and Jim, they keep getting elected by substantial majorities.

Given the demographic shifts in DC, I suspect that if all the newcomers to the city actually registered in DC and voted, we would have no trouble overturning at least half the council. But I suspect that they don't. Most young people don't vote anyway, and even fewer participate in the local politics of their "adopted" home. So the old guard will continue to push their agenda.

So my solution is civil-rights style voter registration and "get out the vote" campaigns targeted at the younger new arrivals, who would naturally support an urbanist agenda.

by Jeff on Jul 13, 2011 1:20 pm • linkreport

HogWash: One addendum to your comment: it wasn't just Fenty and his supporters creating an "us v. them" dynamic. Gray's campaign built upon that and played off it (very well, obviously, since he was victorious). While his campaign (and governing) slogan has been "One City," the words are nearly Orwellian, as there was an undertone of pitting groups against each other coming from supporters from the beginning. I guess that's politics. But it takes two to tango.

by Geoffrey Hatchard on Jul 13, 2011 1:30 pm • linkreport

I think it's presumptious, unfair, and irresponsible to conclude that no one cared about transit issues but Wells or that the votes against him somehow shows that no one else cares.

No. The votes against him show that nobody wants to fuck with Kwame, lest they be stripped of their choice positions. I don't think that anybody made the claim that you said they did.

On the other hand, it's pretty easy to claim that Wells cared more about transportation than anybody else on the council. He put it right in his campaign slogan, for chrissakes.

I also don't think that anybody is claiming that any one person knows 100% what's best for the city. Even as a fan of Fenty, I'll readily admit that the "Us v. Them" attitude was bad politics, and that the somewhat cavalier attitude toward project planning resulted in a few projects being less "Great" than they could have been (on the other hand, it also ensured that they didn't get stuck in planning purgatory).

I can easily sell the argument that transit/transportation can help quell gentrification: $4 gas. If you can take transit, and live without a car, it's a HUGE relief for the lower-middle class.

Also, these anti-gentrification arguments often boil down to "If we make the city as undesirable as possible, it won't gentrify." Obviously this argument is very hard to defend, but points at a more deep-rooted problem of controlling the cost of living, while making sure that renters have a stake in their communities.

by andrew on Jul 13, 2011 1:44 pm • linkreport

My new blog (and its admittedly paltry readership) covers an area that has long talked the talk of sustainability but does nothing to follow through save some solar panels on strip-mall roofs, so I'm wrestling with how to answer these personal questions, too. Urbanism is about choice in mobility, about livability (the city is your shopping mall, to be crass), and about efficiency. I've found counterpoints to the suburban model in the same area, but you can also find them in Vermont's small towns, in European villages, and in the cities people aspire to.

by OctaviusIII on Jul 13, 2011 1:52 pm • linkreport

Knocked on our heels, it's time to broaden the urbanist tent

There is no such thing as an urbanist tent.

Stop worrying about the ridiculous leftist hippie tent. Focus on the issues and the policies. Ignore the politicians - except how they work (or do not) on the issues you care about. And stop trying to help everybody. People who do not keep up, get left behind. That's life. It sucks, but the progressives need to help everybody helps no one, especially not the progressives.

You don't see those opposed to you building big tents of happiness. They just call you myopic twits, newcomers and elitists and ridicule your "lack of understanding of the history" and then strawman you into uselessness. They berate you and harangue you and you fall for it everytime. And those that opposed you are not unified into one tent. They do not have to be.

Neither do you.

@Lance, please don't expect consistency with the censoring here. by HogWash on Jul 12, 2011 1:59 pm

That is myopically rich. Myops, twits, myops. Really, tuly rich.

by greent on Jul 13, 2011 1:58 pm • linkreport

Until that happens, urbanists will lack the broad-based consensus that would enable politicians like Tommy Wells to champion our ideas.

Wrong. Wells did champion progessive transportation ideas.

And the rest of the council told him where he can stick it.

by greent on Jul 13, 2011 2:01 pm • linkreport

And one more point:

Fenty did not create the Us v. Them mentality in DC.

It has been here and active for quite a long while.

Barry championed it perfectly well in 1994 with his "Get over it" line (which Alpert mimicked with his "He's not mayor. Deal. photo caption).

by greent on Jul 13, 2011 2:06 pm • linkreport

That mimicking wasn't intentional. Let's not make this into another one of those things that certain commenters bring up at every opportunity.

by David Alpert on Jul 13, 2011 2:09 pm • linkreport

i do realize you weren't mimicking it - you weren't hear in the 90's.

But it was your blogpost and caption Mr. Aplert. You blogged about getting past the divisiveness, and then used a highly divisive caption. You were responding in the thread to comments and you were point blank asked how that caption that you created was not divisive - and you refuse to answer.

When progressives do not get answers to questions, should we let the questions drop? Or should we fight to get an answer from those in the public eye, who purport to have the public's interest at heart?

by greent on Jul 13, 2011 2:18 pm • linkreport

Sorry for mispelling your name. Not intentional.

by greent on Jul 13, 2011 2:19 pm • linkreport

@GH, you're right. It's not fair to say that it was ONLY Fenty's camp who did this. Gray's did as well. But I do feel comfortable suggesting that most of it came from the Fenty side. Remember, Rhee's efforts attracted attention initially in her fight with WTU. It was at this point that her people began to posit the idea that "those people" were more concerned about teachers than poor-performing school. That anti-teacher meme was carried nationally and the ensuing coverage from Fox to MSNBC was that "those people" were preventing change from occuring.

No. The votes against him show that nobody wants to fuck with Kwame, lest they be stripped of their choice positions.

I think it's highly unlikely that an entire council voted "with" a scandal-clad chair because they were afraid of him. That just isn't believable. Not when they had every bit of politics on their side.

I don't think that anybody made the claim that you said they did.

smart growth ideas were so dispensable to every other council member that they unanimously supported Brown in removing Wells...transportation is viewed by every council member except Tommy Wells as either a constituent service or a special interest

Not sure how else to interpret those sort of loaded statements.

You blogged about getting past the divisiveness, and then used a highly divisive caption.

It was only highly divisive to you because you didn't like the outcome. DAl just wrote an entire article pointing out an accepted "fact" that Brown was playing get back. It was divisive. Were you offended?

by HogWash on Jul 13, 2011 2:41 pm • linkreport

greent on Jul 13, 2011 2:18 pm You blogged about getting past the divisiveness, and then used a highly divisive caption.

HogWash on Jul 13, 2011 2:41 pm It was only highly divisive to you because you didn't like the outcome.

No matter how many times I reply to you, it matters not. I did not vote for Fenty or Gray. I cannot vote in primaries as I am not a democrat.

When someone writes:

xxxxxx. Deal [with it].

How is that enlightened comment supposed to bring about a lessening of divisiveness, Mr. Hogwash? Please, explain that, as Mr. Alpert again refuses to.

by greent on Jul 13, 2011 2:57 pm • linkreport

I agree with greent. Urbanists can't try to be everything to everyone.

My hypothesis is that the problem isn't the lack of size of the urbanist tent, it's the urbanist inability to unify. There are already plenty of urbanists and urbanist supporters, based on election results, but their votes are getting split among candidates. For example, if all the people who voted for Weaver and Mara just chose one or the other, we would have one of them on the Council. If all the urbanist leaning people who voted for Gray, voted for Fenty, we wouldn't have Brown as council chair (I'm assuming here that Fenty was the more pro-urbanist candidate which I realize is a matter of debate). Basically, this is like when Nader took votes from Gore, allowing Bush to win even though the majority of the country was left of Bush.

I hate to be the cynic but politics is dirty and if urbanists want to win elections they have to act strategically. Kwame Brown won elections by building a coalition of EOTR disaffecteds and rich people who don't want their taxes raised. He didn't do it by reaching out to urbanists with anything more than lip service. Urbanists can learn something from Kwame by focusing less on affordable housing and EOTR Circulators and more on shoring up support in the six wards west of the river.

by Falls Church on Jul 13, 2011 2:59 pm • linkreport

Falls Church,

It's a problem in left of center politics...the "Splunge" position.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3v0I4OQi7CQ
http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=splunge

We have self-contradictory positions, as I noted above in my response to the non-substantive, but pretending to be substantive 'points" in the original article. But people don't want to accept this, so we get vague feel good assertions without substance, and a response of "you tell us how my vague feel good assertions will work" when you question it.

"Splunge!"

You'll note that when I did as requested and note how things would work in reality, dead silence took over from the peanut gallery.

by John on Jul 13, 2011 3:10 pm • linkreport

You don't see those opposed to you building big tents of happiness. They just call you myopic twits, newcomers and elitists and ridicule your "lack of understanding of the history" and then strawman you into uselessness. They berate you and harangue you and you fall for it everytime. And those that opposed you are not unified into one tent. They do not have to be.

Isn't that what's great about these earnest liberals? You insult them, tell them the fob off, screw them over, and their reaction is, "I feel the problem is that we haven't made enough of an effort to build a bigger tent and we haven't made enough of an effort to have a dialog with all of the stakeholders."

by JustMe on Jul 13, 2011 3:29 pm • linkreport

Wells lost this position by 12-1. Not a single supporter. It doesn't make sense to have a single, powerless advocate in a 12 member legislature...

by mtp on Jul 13, 2011 3:43 pm • linkreport

When did the comment section of this blog become filled with only people who oppose the goals of this blog. Is hating really that much fun?

I'd like to see Wells run against Orange for the at-large seat in 2012.
If he loses, it's not big deal.

But if he wins it gives him experience in a city-wide election and it sets him up to run for Mayor or Chairman without risking his current seat (as they won't be in the same cycle anymore). Plus he could endorse a like-minded protege to fill the Ward 6 seat, giving himself a natural ally.

by David C on Jul 13, 2011 3:56 pm • linkreport

No matter how many times I reply to you, it matters not. I did not vote for Fenty or Gray. I cannot vote in primaries as I am not a democrat.

Sorry, I don't think I've ever read that you're not a dem and didn't vote for them. Not sure I understand why you bring that up here but you do have an opinion about them both.

How is that enlightened comment supposed to bring about a lessening of divisiveness, Mr. Hogwash? Please, explain that, as Mr. Alpert again refuses to.

I'm not sure if I'm the best person to explain DAl's point of view here. However, I am aware that people do react to things differently, usually along ideological lines. It explains why I wasn't offended by the "Deal" caption but many of you were. I don't think it a stretch to conclude that had Fenty won and D wrote the exact same caption, most people wouldn't be offended. Hence, my reference to the accusation and tone of the Wells article that most people here weren't offended by.

Kwame Brown won elections by building a coalition of EOTR disaffecteds and rich people who don't want their taxes raised. He didn't do it by reaching out to urbanists with anything more than lip service.

I would like to point out that what you've essentially said here is that the reason Brown was is because of his EOTR dissafects and rich, anti-tax increase people. If true, that means his "coalition" of anti's allowed him to coast to victory with 55% of the vote. That is, 55% of the total vote came from disaffecteds and rich people. IMO, that's not a believable analysis and characterizing his supporters as dissidents is no more appropriate than referring to Fenty supporters as anti-poor.

@David, When did the comment section of this blog become filled with only people who oppose the goals of this blog. Is hating really that much fun?

If passing off unsubstantiated claims as facts is a goal of GGW, then the criticism is surely warranted.

Well is not a victim here.

by HogWash on Jul 13, 2011 4:03 pm • linkreport

If passing off unsubstantiated claims as facts is a goal of GGW, then the criticism is surely warranted.

Well, that isn't a goal so I guess the criticism isn't warranted.

Well[sic] is not a victim here.

Can you substantiate that claim?

by David C on Jul 13, 2011 4:13 pm • linkreport

I don't believe anybody honestly thinks that Brown's actions weren't political payback. "Sure, Brown's corrupt, but he's not corrupt!" Give me a break.

He clearly has the power to still pull crap like this (since, you know, he did), so it's not unreasonable that other council members would look out for #1.

Honestly, I think that's where our problem lies. Our city is a run by a corrupted government. It's not the size of our tent. Urbanists have always talked about smart growth in terms of the benefits it has to all citizens, not just "isn't that bulb out neat?!"

by Jared on Jul 13, 2011 4:35 pm • linkreport

Wells biggest mistake has been to listen to echo chambers and think that was the view of the public at large.

Is that what Brown said when he removed him? Because I never saw that explanation.

The first question is, did Wells even make a mistake? Wells only made a mistake if you think keeping his Chairmanship of the Transportation committee is his primary goal. If you think the accumulation and retention of power is the aim, then it looks like he made a mistake (for now).

But if his goal is to govern well, I'm not sure he made a mistake. Was investigating Brown's SUV a mistake? Not from a governing standpoint. Was voting down the bond deduction a mistake? It sure seems to match with his policies and campaign promises.

So if failing to be a "politics as usual" kind of guy was a mistake, then I suppose he made one. If being an ethical politician who puts the work first is a liability, then he really screwed up.

by David C on Jul 13, 2011 4:40 pm • linkreport

@hogwash

I don't know all the details of brown's coalition. That's irrelevant to my point that Brown didn't win an election by trying to court the people least likely to vote for him. But, he still assembled a wide ranging coalition that included people who are seemingly on polar opposites of the spectrum -- EOTR and rich people who like low taxes and low parking rates. Urbanists could learn from him by focusing less on the people least likely to vote for them (EOTR) and more on swing voters. Fir Wells, that means less of a focus on EOTR circulators and possibly more of a focus on fixing potholes for rich people in Evans district or getting Klingle trail built for Cheh. No, thats not just but thats politics.

by Falls Church on Jul 13, 2011 4:45 pm • linkreport

@Jared Urbanists have always talked about smart growth in terms of the benefits it has to all citizens... I think so too and the fact that the principals are embraced by more and more planning committees and municipalities speaks to the intelligence of most people to understand the interrelatedness of transportation & land use policies to enhancing local economies and personal economics and quality of life. Compared to 20 years ago we as a city, region and nation have made progress in understanding these concepts.

by Tina on Jul 13, 2011 4:46 pm • linkreport

@Falls Church:

I think you are right with regards to unifying our vote. We actually had three good choices from an urbanist point of view (Weaver, Mara, and Biddle), so we ended up splitting our vote and got Orange. But with regards to the Council Chair, the only other alternative was Orange (who certainly was not a great choice but at this point may have been better than Brown).

@David C:

That's an intriguing idea.

by Steven Yates on Jul 13, 2011 4:57 pm • linkreport

Well, that isn't a goal so I guess the criticism isn't warranted.

Then I'm not sure what unwarranted opposition you're referring to. Regarding this story, it seems as if people opposed it's approach, assumptions and conclusions. I didn't detect much opposition for the sake of opposing something. There is merit to the argument against what happened here.

Well[sic] is not a victim here...Can you substantiate that claim?

He was voted down by every member of the council. If the rumors are true, he then complained/whined about it to GGW who wrote the subsequent breaking news story. Did I mention that EVERY council member voted against him?

Whether that is enough justification for my opinion that he's not a victim, I'm not sure.

Although there was an ethical cloud looming, Marion Barry was not a victim when the council similarly (unanimously) stripped him of his chairmanship.

What has been assumed here is that councilmembers must remain on committees when that's not true. We don't vote on who heads what committee.

It is striking that this community and the usual band of anti's like the Washington Post believe that committee assignments are a matter of birthright.

by HogWash on Jul 13, 2011 4:59 pm • linkreport

@Falls Church, ok, that sounds and reads much much better..even though I don't necessarily agree with it.

The fact that Brown won w/55% during the general tells me that his coalition extended west "across the river" to areas that weren't populated by rich people. During the primary, his smallest margins were in Wards 1, 2, and 3.

Looking at Fenty as a blueprint, he decided to "not" outreach to areas beyond the GGW community and parents of likely private school kids. He lost. So I don't it's prudent to suggest any politician in this city not reach out EOTR.

by HogWash on Jul 13, 2011 5:12 pm • linkreport

[quote]He was voted down by every member of the council. If the rumors are true, he then complained/whined about it to GGW who wrote the subsequent breaking news story. Did I mention that EVERY council member voted against him?[/quote]

The informed opinion is (Seagraves, LL, WaPo eds, etc...) coalescing around the position that everyone else is afraid of being the next neck on the chopping block. Makes sense.

Anyway, as my brother from another mother David C put it,

So if failing to be a "politics as usual" kind of guy was a mistake, then I suppose he made one. If being an ethical politician who puts the work first is a liability, then he really screwed up.

One other interesting observation (from DeBonis) I came across while myopically tweeting last night: "The way things are going in this town, a one-man progressive caucus might be a dangerous thing."

I think we're going to see Tommy Wells go full Tommy Carcetti in the coming months. He's got a solid Ward 6 base, and nothing to lose, really. A Democratic David Catania with a lot of time on his hands, hammering away at ethics issues while delivering the perks to EOTR through Parks & Rec could actually be a force to be reckoned with citywide.

by oboe on Jul 13, 2011 5:46 pm • linkreport

@HogWash:

The fact that Brown won w/55% during the general tells me that his coalition extended west "across the river" to areas that weren't populated by rich people. During the primary, his smallest margins were in Wards 1, 2, and 3.

I can only speak for myself, but Brown was essentially a complete unknown, unofficially endorsed by Wells, running against an oleogenous ex-PEPCO lobbyist. He was the "None of the Above" candidate. He didn't win because he "reached out", but because he was marginally less off-putting than the other guy.

by oboe on Jul 13, 2011 5:51 pm • linkreport

How is that enlightened comment supposed to bring about a lessening of divisiveness, Mr. Hogwash? Please, explain that, as Mr. Alpert again refuses to.

I'm not sure if I'm the best person to explain DAl's point of view here.

Then why the heck did you try to? It was a question asked to a specific person. That specific person was not you. I'll await Mr. Alperts answer, which will come never. Peace out though.

Sorry, I don't think I've ever read that you're not a dem and didn't vote for them. Not sure I understand why you bring that up here but you do have an opinion about them both.

I bring it up because you constantly bring up Fenty as if any criticism of Gray means that person voted for (or approved of) Fenty. You obviously have opinions about both of them too. Any resident should have an opinion on the past and current mayors, wouldn't ya say. Again, peace.

Isn't that what's great about these earnest liberals? You insult them, tell them the fob off, screw them over, and their reaction is, "I feel the problem is that we haven't made enough of an effort to build a bigger tent and we haven't made enough of an effort to have a dialog with all of the stakeholders."

I know right. There is a point where talking serves no point but to waste time. Those that require big tents to get their agendas accomplished never seem to finish talking and get shit done. I call it the 70's hippie-child philosophy. If you just talk to the bully, that bully will stop hittting you and peace will ensue.

Rainbows and sprinkles and Yay Gary!

by greent on Jul 13, 2011 5:51 pm • linkreport

I'm not sure what unwarranted opposition you're referring to.

I didn't say unwarranted opposition. I just noted that many of the commenters on this thread (john, Frtiz, Lance, yourself, etc...) were here to tell all of the urbanists how stupid/self-centered/naive etc... they were.

He was voted down by every member of the council...Although there was an ethical cloud looming, Marion Barry was not a victim when the council similarly (unanimously) stripped him of his chairmanship.

Barry wasn't a victim because he did something unethical (and illegal) and so he deserved to be voted down. Wells did...what exactly? How did he earn a punishment? Being punished for doing your job and doing it well makes you a victim in my opinion.

by David C on Jul 13, 2011 6:16 pm • linkreport

David C,

Uh...no. I'm actually a major supporter of Tommy W, and a huge supporter of the core of urbanist issues. Where I differ is again, the attempt to graft additional issues in, especially in a vague nebulous "feel good" manner. I'm pointing out the "expand the tent" through that grafting doesn't work, or at least requires an understanding of the practical realities to make it work

by John on Jul 13, 2011 6:32 pm • linkreport

Ken, I have an idea for broadening the tent. Let's not claim certain segments of the city's population are detrimental to our neighborhoods and should therefore be excised. College students for example:

http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/8693/gu-takes-student-ghetto-approach-to-housing-undergrads/

And I'm saying this seriously to you, not trying to be snarky. Besides the fact that we should try to be welcoming and considerate of everyone's interests, young people would seem to be a natural ally. Not to mention one with energy, creativity and the time on it's hands to engage with civic issues.

PS: I don't know if this is the same issue that caused the deleting of comments and complaints about attacks on the author above, but for myself, Mr. Archer's article on Georgetown students was the most disconcerting thing I've ever read on this blog (and I've been out of college for 12 years), and the reason I bring it up is that I think of it every time I see his name.

by Peter on Jul 13, 2011 6:56 pm • linkreport

@Oboe The informed opinion is (Seagraves, LL, WaPo eds, etc...) coalescing around the position that everyone else is afraid of being the next neck on the chopping block. Makes sense.

IMO, it makes no sense at all. Next to Thomas, Brown is the most scandal-clad lad on the council. The idea that the entire council would vote against Wells due to fear of big bag Brown just doesn't pass the nitrous oxide test. This particular line of reasoning inevitably gives the impression that Wells (the only ethical member) is a victim. It seems as if this community is unwilling to concede anything otherwise.

...but Brown was essentially a complete unknown, running against an oleogenous ex-PEPCO lobbyist. He was the "None of the Above" candidate.

I don't disagree. In fact, you're more right than not. But as you see, I was responding to FC's belief that Brown won because he have a broad coalition of support EOTR and from rich white people. I voted for Orange. Both times.

5:51pm>Then why the heck did you try to? It was a question asked to a specific person. That specific person was not you.

2:57pmWhen someone writes: Deal [with it]. How is that enlightened comment supposed to bring about a lessening of divisiveness, Mr. Hogwash? Please, explain that, as Mr. Alpert again refuses to.

DAl/Matt, I think someone is impersonating Green. Dudes, please investigate.

by HogWash on Jul 13, 2011 7:12 pm • linkreport

I just noted that many of the commenters on this thread (john, Frtiz, Lance, yourself, etc...) were here to tell all of the urbanists how stupid/self-centered/naive etc... they were.

It's unfortunate that you feel this way. I certainly don't believe that. Considering how we are often on two sides of an issue, I do understand how you could have that impression. It similar to the belief held by those of "us" whom are caricatured as being anti-urbanism, holding antiquated views - a NIMBY. I don't think we are and actually don't think many of you do either. It just seems to make for great hyperbolic fun.

by HogWash on Jul 13, 2011 7:20 pm • linkreport

@andrew:

Therein lies the problem with advocating urbanist policies - we are willing to settle for less-than-perfect solutions that seem wasteful outside of our own circles, but fail to think 50-100 years ahead and insisting on proven solutions. If wanting proven solutions (i.e. More rapid rail) makes me anti-urbanist, I don't want to be an urbanist.

Believe it or not, but our existing Metro system is being strained to the breaking point. If you need proof, look no further than the Red line during rush hour. People are going to use the fastest, most convenient way to get around whether or not they consider themselves urbanists, so why not expand on what has worked in the past? Metrorail has arguably done more to decongest, rejuvenate, and strengthen our region more than anything else in the past 50 years. I realize that this may seem "unrealistic" but the conversation needs to lead to there first.

The fact that we aren't even making huge pushes for more rapid rail is disappointing and displays a disconnect with the needs of the region.

Oh, and can this other side argument in the comments stop already? Clearly some people on GGW are just trolling and not adding anything to an important conversation that needs to happen.

by John M on Jul 13, 2011 8:12 pm • linkreport

"The way you broaden a political coalition is by not pissing off potential allies. Wells learned that the hard way yesterday." Totally agree with Fritz's post.

Also, think that the "Urbanist" movement shouldn't take personal offense to the Committee shuffle. I really believe that the shuffle was all about Wells personally and wasn't an effort to to scale back a smart growth plan. For us to think so is short-sighted. In fact, we can use this change to ensure that smart growth planning remains inclusive and progressive. We will be short-sighted if we don't do so. A move that is not progressive at all.

by Pam on Jul 13, 2011 11:34 pm • linkreport

I think Chairman Brown's move was more a reflection of his ability to use his position to cajole councilmembers into supporting his vindictiveness than it was a reflection of the smart growth/urbanist/sustainability advocates having a small, powerless tent.

However, I still think Ken made a powerful overall point about the political influence of the who coalesce on these issues. We do have a very fundamental challenge: to present our issues in a way -- through language and through substance -- that will be compelling and resonant to people who do not fit the typical demographic profile of ... the "urbanist."

What I find most surprising in this post and in all the comments is what I believe to be a striking example of how we need to redesign, expand and restyle the tent from the ground up: People who don't consider themselves part of the "urbanist" agenda also don't relate to the term itself -- or to "new urbanism!" I suspect this may be puzzling to many, but our language is SO off-putting to those who we say we have to reach out to.

One of the changes in our language that we need to make is to not use the term "urbanist" or "urbanism." You might as well just say, "Hi, I like crunchy granola, I used to drive a Volvo but I gave up driving and now I just hike everywhere, I love my birkenstocks, I listen only to NPR and I gave up my TV, I read the NYT -- after receiving it from my neighbor when she brings me leftover Tofu."

Bring that message to Wards 4, 5, 7 and 8 and see how far you get. Don't get me wrong. I actually love a bunch of the things I just parodied (Tofu only if doused in garlic/soy sauce for days) -- but "we" can't come across that way and still be serious about expanding our tent. And "urbanist/urbanism" -- especially "new urbanism" --- conveys much the same thing that those characteristics I listed above convey.

Stand in front of the Giant or Safeway in Wards 7/8 and ask shoppers if they support the "new urbanism" agenda. Just don't bring your folder from the academic symposium you attended at the National Press Building.

Despite that, Ken did put his finger right on the solution, (except for the word "urbanists"), when he wrote, "For transportation to be taken seriously, urbanists in DC must start talking about it in terms of how it provides solutions to joblessness, crime, education and gentrification, which are the real sources of anxiety for most DC residents."

Admittedly, I don't have a replacement term to suggest -- other than it's about our quality of life.

by Dennis Jaffe on Jul 14, 2011 4:52 am • linkreport

@Dennis. Excellent analysis. Definately food for thought.

by HogWash on Jul 14, 2011 9:44 am • linkreport

@Dennis -I think you're absolutely right. And I think the phrase 'quality of life' captures the goals and motivations (of "urbanism"). I personally don't find it cumbersome. In fact I like it b/c ironically its a unit in quantitative analysis, used to evaluate effectiveness/efficacy of interventions and/or preventions on disease.

QALY -quality adjusted life-year.

Its the use of QALY's in analysis that allows us to conclude that the interventions (i.e. changes in built environment design, land-use and transportation) of "urbanist" policies results in decreased burden of disease and increased self-reporting of satisfaction in population samples. Of course the decrease in disease burden is directly beneficial to both individual and community economic stability and reported levels of "satisfaction".

I think most people can and do understand that a street designed so its safe to walk on is a design that supports individuals in their endeavors to choose a healthy life-style and/or save money by walking.

(I don't read the NYTimes. No funny pages!)

by Tina on Jul 14, 2011 9:50 am • linkreport

Dennis hit the nail on the head. Don't be an egghead. I remember that there was a discussion about the routing for the streetcard down MLK Blvd and someone asserted that the streetcar should be routed on the CSX tracks because he would also prefer to have a bike lane rather than a streetcar line (I'm not referring to the commenter as "someone" as an attack. I don't remember who it was). It can't be about what "we" would project upon a neighborhood. Which will have more use, a bike lane or a streetcar? What does the neighborhood want?

There are studies into how transit has, and can, provide significant increases in both low-income jobs and the likelihood of people taking those jobs. That point should be emphasized. The term "environmental justice" refers to the desire to make sure that the poor don't get the short end of the stick in terms of environmental protection. Poor neighborhoods are likely to be closer to highways, have previously been more likely to be serviced by older and dirtier buses, and have had their infrastructure replaced last. The key to expanding the urbanist tent is to talk about these issues in a way that matters to people. "Sustainability" is a great buzzword, but it doesn't sell for a lot of people. "Jobs," "justice," those are better.

by thesixteenwords on Jul 14, 2011 1:00 pm • linkreport

@hog: You really are a fascinating individual.

For ease of understanding:

I posted to David Alpert a question at 2:18 pm:

greent on Jul 13, 2011 2:18 pm You blogged about getting past the divisiveness, and then used a highly divisive caption.

When progressives do not get answers to questions, should we let the questions drop? Or should we fight to get an answer from those in the public eye, who purport to have the public's interest at heart?

At 2:45 pm, you responded to a question I asked of a person that was not you:

HogWash on Jul 13, 2011 2:41 pm It was only highly divisive to you because you didn't like the outcome.

Then, because you responded at 2:41 as if you were providing an answer to the original question (but really you responded with no point to the original question) I then blatantly asked you to answer the questions:

by greent on Jul 13, 2011 2:57 pm When someone writes: xxxxxx. Deal [with it].

How is that enlightened comment supposed to bring about a lessening of divisiveness, Mr. Hogwash? Please, explain that, as Mr. Alpert again refuses to.

To which you then respond:
I'm not sure if I'm the best person to explain DAl's point of view here. by HogWash on Jul 13, 2011 4:03 pm

Get it now? Peace and bye.

Yay Gary! "DC Council, 20% free of ethical taint."

No longer waiting to hear how a mean-spirited childish caption represents a desire to cease divisiveness of DC politics. It doesn't.

by greent on Jul 14, 2011 1:19 pm • linkreport

The comments from Dennis Jaffe and thesixteenwords offer a way forward. In a lot of ways, the people of wards 7 and 8 (especially 8) seem to me to be natural allies for urbanists. The people in those wards would be the ones best-served by increased transit access and by the quality-of-life improvements that tend to lead to more investment in the community and thus more stability. If I were more conspiratorially-inclined, I might believe that Tommy Wells' work as Transportation Committee chair to improve Metrobus service EOTR contributed mightily to potential mayoral rival Fully Loaded giving him the boot.

To get there, though, we're going to have to confront the issues of race and class and age and how the urbanist agenda has become tied in the popular imagination with (mostly) young, (mostly) white people with (some amount of) money. There's some truth to that, and it's important to keep in mind that there are plenty of people in the city who are some combination of not-young, not-white, and not-moneyed who will oppose us if they think we're advancing our agenda at the expense of theirs.

Jane Jacobs said, "Cities have the capability of providing something for everyone, only because and only when they are created by everybody." Old people are and should be a valued part of this city, and we need to be working where we can to advance their interests. The same with poor people. The same with single moms with kids. The same with middle-class, middle-aged families with kids. The same with immigrants.

A city without them isn't really a city -- it's a Disneyfied mockup of a city. All of those people help make this city what it is, and if we're not incorporating their needs and their interests into our agenda, then we're not being good urbanists. It's not just about measuring sidewalks and traffic flow, although those are important. It's also about working to make the Florida Avenue market a better market for its vendors and customers, and improving access to clean needles and condoms for the people who need them, and finding ways to let people get around town with a kid in tow, and helping WMATA find the best places for its bus barns. All of those needs are intrinsic to a city, a real city, that respects and values everyone.

So where do we go? How about we find out what the people of Ward 8 want in an Anacostia streetcar line. What kind of neighborhood they want around that streetcar line. If they could fix one thing about their neighborhood, what that would be. What the second thing would be. Let's begin from the assumption that they know their neighborhood and its strengths and weaknesses, and that the direction of their neighborhood should be in large part dependent on their input.

All of us can think of emerging voices EOTR who are already working to make their neighborhoods better places to live and work and play. What can we do to stand in solidarity with them and their efforts? How can we best help them?

by Matt W on Jul 14, 2011 3:00 pm • linkreport

@sixteenwords, I'm sure someone else EOTR could have said similar. But I said here that the streetcars should be routed to the CSX tracks and that a bike lane would better serve the area than the streetcar. DAl even engaged me on that and asked what would people say if the tracks were on the CSX line, kept outside the main MLK thoroughfare and then white people occupied the area surrounding the CSX tracks (which has waterfront views).

@Matt W, more excellent commentary.

Especially the part about finding out what the residents want. Here, I would suggest not substituting what you think we think we should want for what we actually want.

One thing I'm leery about is "newer" EOTR residents building a coalition with groups such as GGW at the dispense of the rest of EOTR. It only makes it that much more difficult for them to sell their message to the deaf ear and will likely deepen the divide. Let EOTR residents stand on their own two feet and make the sale. The less involvement from those WOTR, the better.

by HogWash on Jul 14, 2011 4:06 pm • linkreport

"Let EOTR residents stand on their own two feet"

Could not agree more.

by greent on Jul 14, 2011 4:16 pm • linkreport

HogWash, fair enough about getting out of the way of EOTR residents, though I would maintain that EOTR (except maybe Hillcrest) needs all the advocates it can get. We all need allies, and we all can learn from each other.

And while it's fine to maintain a distinction between WOTR or non-DC urbanists and EOTR residents, I would be reluctant to suggest that GGW = WOTR. GGW has some quality contributors (and commenters) from EOTR, and from Virginia and Maryland too.

by Matt W on Jul 14, 2011 7:07 pm • linkreport

Let EOTR residents stand on their own two feet and make the sale. The less involvement from those WOTR, the better.

EOTR wanted big time DHS development because it would bring jobs. But you don't want the infrastructure and want the new residents and employees who would use the infrastructure to sit down and shut up while you and the "rest" of EOTR "takes care" of everything.

You wanna play the game and get the nice government buildings? You gotta accept modern amenities. Might even mean someone opens a restaurant and gets a liquor license, too, buddy.

All of us can think of emerging voices EOTR who are already working to make their neighborhoods better places to live and work and play.

Hogwash wants the "emerging voices" to shut up.

DAl even engaged me on that and asked what would people say if the tracks were on the CSX line, kept outside the main MLK thoroughfare and then white people occupied the area surrounding the CSX tracks (which has waterfront views).

W.T.F.?

by Tyro on Jul 15, 2011 12:30 am • linkreport

Let's raise the level of civility a bit here. We don't really need to be so divisive. Neighborhoods are different -- we can recognize that without erecting walls of "do not cross the border and speak."

1. I do respect that there's a sensitivity when residents "outside" of neighborhoods that typically don't wield huge political clout wish to weigh in on some political issues affecting those neighborhoods. Especially when there are differences of race and socio-economic levels. It may be a bit of walking on egg shells, but look, it really is easily a recipe for resentment.

2. But sensitivity should not translate into "shut up, it's none of your business." Instead, it should translate into being respectful of local community members making their voices heard. We can -- and we *should -- engage and judiciously voice our opinions regardless of whether we live in this neighborhood or that one. But again we gotta be cognizant that there's resentment at-the-ready especially when folks who tend to have less political power and often feel their needs are ignored (I figure less white and less money) perceive folks who tend to have more political power, but who would get lost upon crossing the river, are telling the "locals" what's best for them.

If I were to say that because I'm an American, I have no business speaking out about some human rights violations in X country, I'd be a damn ostrich.

But then there's also a point at which speaking out becomes too much about, or is at least seen as butting in as the world's policeman and not respecting local rule.

Speak up. Listen. Be respectful. Apologize when you make a mistake (I've had practice.) Don't be overbearing (I'm guilty there, too). And also no muzzles.

When we get into "shut up, it's none of your business" and also "I'm gonna speak up here because you need my help," we get into posturing and speaking at each other and not meaningful dialogue that's gonna advance much of anything.

by Dennis Jaffe on Jul 15, 2011 1:32 am • linkreport

Matt, I see how that doesn't read too well.

I should clarify, I was not suggesting that GGW and those WOTR shouldn't advocate for transit improvements. You guys should do that just as you are for the rest of DC. I can only imagine the response if you only advocated for things WOTR. WHEW!

My point was that I am leery of GGW/EOTR coalition that advocates for "political" changes EOTR. It was a continuation of the point I made on another thread when I was discussing how in order to launch an effective campaign against Barry, you must provide concrete examples of where he has failed to represent Ward 8. So articles on sites such as this which may paint Barry in a negative light, but don't offer those examples I mentioned, will have great appeal WOTR but not helpful to a candidate seeking to unseat Barry. It will be heard by deaf ears. In that sense, Ward 8 would have to stand on its own two feet.

If handled wrong, I fear that what Dennis mentions really will happen. A bourguignon stew of resentment. Think of it this way, the only people who can stop Sarah Palin is her base. The message has to get to the base..or..those like me who are amenable to someone else who isn't Marion Barry.

@Tyro, of course EOTR wanted DHS so that it can bring jobs. But who do you think will have those jobs? As Gray said in his Ward 7 meeting a couple of months back, many people EOTR will not be able to pass the background check required to work at DHS.

Infrastructure EOTR will be largely used by those EOTR.

No one is telling visitors EOTR to sit down nor shut up. EOTR is not Pakistan. We do have modern amenities and a couple of restaurants.

by HogWash on Jul 15, 2011 9:59 am • linkreport

Maybe shouldn't have mixed threads

by HogWash on Jul 15, 2011 10:00 am • linkreport

One thing I'm leery about is "newer" EOTR residents building a coalition with groups such as GGW at the dispense of the rest of EOTR.

You should be leery of it. This is the future of Washington. Many of the old school residents are, well, old. As they retire they move out of the city. As they die, they move out of the city. People who are younger and have a generally suburban outlook...move out of the city.

They're being replaced by younger folks, black, white, other some with kids, some without, who value a central location. In other words, even if they don't know it, they value urbanism. We're seeing the last gasp of the old way of doing things in DC. That doesn't mean we shouldn't be respectful of others' ideas, and so on. But in the medium-term, it's just a function of demographics.

That's why I wasn't particularly upset about what happened to Wells. He's a leading indicator.

by oboe on Jul 15, 2011 3:10 pm • linkreport

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