Greater Greater Washington

Breakfast links: Cuts have an impact


Photo by anitasarkeesian on Flickr.
911 drops calls during furlough: The DC government furlough over Presidents' Day led to 200 calls to 911 being ignored; the police union, which represents the call-takers, said it warned Mayor Gray but no action was taken. (Examiner)

High school closures a possiblity: As DC looks to close a budget gap, interim Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson says the city may close some high schools, since small high schools require more subsidies. (WAMU) ... Valerie Strauss says our propensity to cut school spending first is pure hypocrisy. (Post)

VA pols fight WMATA cut: Northern Virginia leaders are still fighting Congress' proposed elimination of Metro's annual $150 million federal payment. The governor remains silent, though his press secretary says McDonnell believes cutting WMATA's funds "was the wrong choice." (Kingstowne Patch)

DC cuts solar energy help: The DC Council reallocated $700,000 from a program to reimburse partial costs of installing solar panels. 51 homeowners will have to forgo the money that was promised them for at least another year. (Post)

Are neighbors an obstacle to great higher ed?: Many great US universities took over parts of surrounding neighborhoods at one time or another. Are the Georgetown ANC's demands that Georgetown University shrink its enrollment the kind of thing that's holding American higher education back? (Georgetown Metropolitan, Yglesias)

WABA plans Ward 8 outreach: WABA wants to reach out more to Ward 8, running bike classes, group rides, and giving away some bikes and CaBi memberships. You can help by donating to this effort.

Why don't grocery stores have congestion pricing?: Tim Lee thinks congestion pricing advocates are misunderstanding human nature, given that private supermarkets don't provide express lanes for a fee. Ryan Avent argues it's a mistaken analogy.

Reducing zoning increases parking rules: New York downzoned an area of the Bronx to create a "neighborhood preservation area," but as a side effect, it imposed a much stricter parking minimum requirement, forcing a HUD-funded project to build less affordable housing than it previously could have. (Streetsblog)

And...: Turning the Key Bridge gas station into condos may be only the first of many such conversions. (Housing Complex) ... A police officer was struck on the Key Bridge while directing traffic around another crash. (TBD) ... How can you easily compare city blocks within a city or even from city to city? String up each block in a row. (Big Think)

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Erik Weber has been living car-free in the District since 2009. Hailing from the home of the nation's first Urban Growth Boundary, Erik has been interested in transit since spending summers in Germany as a kid where he rode as many buses, trains and streetcars as he could find. Views expressed here are Erik's alone. 

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The congestion pricing piece is brilliant. Ryan Avent's reply is less than brilliant.

And let's be clear about HOT lanes. They ARE being built with public money. Transurban is getting $300 million in VDOT money and $500 million in federal loans to tear up the Beltway. The other $500 in bonds isn't taxable -- private activity bond.

And I would not be surprised if the i95 HOT lanes are built with a loan from the proposed Virginia Infrastucure bank.

And given the hybrid nature of the beltway lanes -- which are needed to maintain federal funding -- the business case for congestion pricing is even weaker.

by charlie on Feb 28, 2011 9:04 am • linkreport

There are plenty of things that get me hot about DC government, but promising a subsidy and then taking it away after people made the qualifying purchase/investment? That's the lowest of the low. Lower even than closing a school.

by ah on Feb 28, 2011 9:13 am • linkreport

the "reallocated of $700,000" is complete bullshit. It is downright stealing. That $700K was not a from the tax budget. It was from a special REIP tax on Pepco bills...for the only use of renewable energies in the District. I want that money back.

by whoa_now on Feb 28, 2011 9:20 am • linkreport

The solar panels allocation is appallingly bad behavior. DC owes them the money; I'm sure they will entangle the government in more than $700,000 of litigation.

Additionally, can any homeowner trust the government for this kind of subsidy again?

by Neil Flanagan on Feb 28, 2011 10:58 am • linkreport

the police union, which represents the call-takers, said it warned Mayor Gray but no action was taken.

Wow. Glad the mayor has his priorities right. Is this legal? Is it not mandatory to answer 911?

51 homeowners will have to forgo the money that was promised them for at least another year.

And people wonder why the public distrusts the government.

Are the Georgetown ANC's demands that Georgetown University shrink its enrollment the kind of thing that's holding American higher education back? (Georgetown Metropolitan, Yglesias)

DC has the second worst public education in the nation. Clearly its citizens do not care about education. This is reflected in ANC and city council attitudes towards universities.

Meanwhile, China is building a spanking new university in every city with more than a million residents. That's 100 brand new universities that will compete with Georgetown, GW, AU, UMD, GMU, HU and CUA for Chinese grad students. If you realize how much of America's research and education depends on immigrants, you should be worried about this. China is about to pass the US in scientific output.

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/evanosnos/2010/01/china-science.html

Democrats can grumble in general that it's republicans that are the anti-science and education people, but DC democrats are not proving to be any better. Because in that case, DC would be proud of its universities,like other major world capitals. Meanwhile, the city council pretty much ignores the universities, while the neighboring ANCs actively harass them.

A police officer was struck on the Key Bridge while directing traffic around another crash. (TBD)

So... in line with their neglect for other pedestrians incidents, I assume that MPD will not investigate this, and assume that the officer was unsafely moving in the roadway. There are side-walks for pedestrians!

by Jasper on Feb 28, 2011 11:33 am • linkreport

Holding American higher education back from what? Most experts agree that US higher ed is the best in the world.

by Marian Berry on Feb 28, 2011 11:43 am • linkreport

Jasper, I think you make a good point about the need for US universities to remain competitive. But in this case, GU is proposing growth primarily in the School of Continuing Studies, which is basically a school for full time workers to get a first or second degree. This is a great program, but it's hardly the type of program that you're alluding to when you talk about research and technology. There are arguments in favor of GU's plans, but keeping competitive with China is not really one of them.

by TM on Feb 28, 2011 11:50 am • linkreport

TM - While most of the planned growth would indeed be in the School of Continuing Studies, some would be in graduate programs in the hard sciences, taking advantage of the currently under-construction Science Center (slated to open Fall 2012). Current graduate offerings in these fields range from tiny (1 MS student, 13 PhD students in Physics) to non-existent (no Master's Degree exists in Chemistry or Biology). Ramping up these programs is very much in line with what Jasper was describing.

by Dizzy on Feb 28, 2011 12:10 pm • linkreport

If the District can't pay homeowners what it is obligated to pay, then it should offer tax credits at least equal to that amount. Let them pay zero on their real estate taxes until things get squared away.

Not sure that'll happen in graytergrayterwashington, though.

by Told ya so... on Feb 28, 2011 12:29 pm • linkreport

Some further info on the Virginia response to the WMATA cut: State Delegate Scott Surovell posted a letter on his blog, signed by 24 Northern Virginia legislators (including 2 Republicans), basically asking Senator Warner to ensure that the $150 million in WMATA funding is restored.

by Froggie on Feb 28, 2011 1:01 pm • linkreport

as someone who attended GU back in the 70s and 80s and who lived through most of my undergraduate career in a townhouse in Georgetown with 8 other students I have very little sympathy for the position of the University. It was official GU policy back in the day not to build anymore student housing of any sort - the rationale was the students didn't want it - and so we were all dumped onto the community and in rental market where we had to do things like live 9 students to a townhouse in order to meet the rent - which only drove up the rent for others and the rest of community while imposing terrible externalities on everyone around us. I remember when I arrived to DC in 1973 the talk then - and this was 38 years ago! - was that the surrounding Georgetown streets were (and still are) unsuitable to handle the kind of vehicular traffic that a commerical destination the size of GU attracts - and with an official policy of crowding people off campus, it only exacerbated the traffic problem - not everyone wanted to live 9 to a townhouse close in and could only afford places where they had to *commute*. There was talk back then of making the River Road entrance the main vehicle entrance to campus. It's been in every GU master plan since then - yet here 38 years later it is still being discussed and a bone of contention.
The fact is that Georgetown throughout its modern history has a history of being a bad neighbor to the surrounding community - the fact that they're still go round on basic bones of contention that were supposed to have been addressed and solved over a generation ago says a lot to me about bad faith on the part of the University - hey, it's Catholic afterall - and Catholicism at a minimum always defends its institutional perogatives to the hilt. For better or worse the number of students enrolled at GU has a huge effect on the surrounding community. It's too bad that GU as an institution can't seem to be bothered to realistically acknowledge that.

by andy on Feb 28, 2011 1:11 pm • linkreport

@TM: But in this case, GU is proposing growth primarily in the School of Continuing Studies

So, what are you saying here? That US universities should stay competitive but not expect help from the communities they're in? What you're doing is raising an issue with a detail while ignoring the larger picture.

@ Marrian Barry: Most experts agree that US higher ed is the best in the world.

And they're loosing ground fast. As I said in my previous post, China is about to pass the US in scientific output. The US has already lost its advantage in a lot of technological fields, including green energy and fast trains. We found out earlier here on GGW that it takes more time now to ride a train from NYC to Chicago then 100 years ago. Meanwhile, France, China and Japan keep breaking fast train speed records.

@ TM (again): Secondly, DC is an enormous market for continuing studies. Other universities are jumping in this market and local employers (including the feds) are screaming for these programs. There are whole market segments where employers in this region can not find qualified employees. For instance, DHS has massive problems finding people with the correct IT and biodefense background. Should Georgetown not help the local market with this? GW is expanding its college for professional studies. GMU is the largest state school in VA for that specific reason. Why would DC let all that education be in VA? There is good money to be made in continuing education.

@ Dizzy: Ramping up these programs is very much in line with what Jasper was describing.

Yep. But also other programs. I am pretty sure that if all of the area universities were not so space-restricted, they could grow significantly, bringing many high-end well-paying jobs to the area.

by Jasper on Feb 28, 2011 1:26 pm • linkreport

So, uh...David? 'Bout that endorsement. ;)

"graytergrayterwashington" Classic

by John on Feb 28, 2011 2:05 pm • linkreport

I think the congestion pricing argument is valid, but you can take it too far. The whole problem with congestion pricing is that it feels unfair, because people are paying with dollars, yet they have very different marginal utility for those dollars (e.g., my marginal utility for dollars in a context like this is essentially zero). I think it's good to live in a society where both the rich and poor have to wait in the same lines sometimes.

That said, there are a few ways to deal with this, both economically and psychologically. E.g., give every driver a few congestion tokens, just for being a member of society, to use when they really feel stressed or in a hurry, and it starts to feel a lot fairer, even though you're reducing congestion in exactly the same way. Or have a sliding scale of payments tied to income, or a proxy for income. There are things that can be done in this direction---which are of course exactly the opposite of what the money-obsessed typical libertarian would want.

by David desJardins on Feb 28, 2011 2:39 pm • linkreport

@ DaviddesJardins: E.g., give every driver a few congestion tokens, just for being a member of society, to use when they really feel stressed or in a hurry,

How 'bout we give everyone a few bucks on a smartrip card? And about those stressed and hurried people. Don't you know everybody here is stressed and in a hurry because they're important?

by Jasper on Feb 28, 2011 2:57 pm • linkreport

If we're going to talk about postsecondary education, can we at least mention that DC has no good public options for graduate school, and no equivalent to DCTAG at the postgraduate level?

Realistically, if I want to attend (and pay for) graduate school, I'm going to need to leave DC and establish residency elsewhere.

by andrew on Feb 28, 2011 2:58 pm • linkreport

If the US was allowed to use its pool of inmates as cheap labour, we'd catch up to China quickly. Democracy is a pain sometimes...

by Jason on Feb 28, 2011 3:54 pm • linkreport

I'm putting my money where my mouth is and donating $75 to the WABA to sponsor a Capital Bikeshare membership for a Ward 8 resident.

by Jon Renaut on Feb 28, 2011 6:20 pm • linkreport

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