Posts about Barack Obama
Before last week's historic and unprecedented election, DC was preparing for a more autonomous and possible independent future. With Donald Trump as president, it may be in for just the opposite.
With several significant moves in the past few years backed by—
This growing independence will likely be curbed by the incoming administration and Republicans, who are more powerful than ever given that they retained control of the Senate and the House. The GOP, which has been outspoken on the District's growing autonomy, is likely to retake control of the District.
Greater Greater Washington contributor Stephen Hudson recently raised a few points on key issues ranging from infrastructure to immigration to criminal justice reforms that could be impacted under the new administration:
What do you think the future might hold for DC?
Trump has emphasized law and order. This sounds eerily like Nixon's 1968 platform, and he has evoked images of inner cities having out-of-control crime. Even more unsettling, Rudy Giuliani's possible involvement in the future administration is very concerning, since he really embodied the "zero tolerance on crime" attitude of the 90s and embraced the criminalization of homelessness. I see some negative consequences for DC, where we have defied the feds on marijuana and needle sharing and 10% of the population is ex-cons, and we have a higher violent crime rate.
The GOP loves meddling in District affairs, and it never seems to work out for our benefit.
Trump's demand for a $1 trillion infrastructure package could be positive for us. God knows we need the money, but again, the devil is in the details (of which there are few):
Trump talks a lot about public-private partnerships, which is fine, but it's unlikely that he can levy that much money in private funds.
Failing private funds, where will the money come from? Trump wants a budget-neutral infrastructure package (in theory), so that would involve raising more government revenue, or cutting some other program. The House GOP has regularly opposed increasing the gas tax, Passenger Facility Charge, etc., so I think he's going to have an uphill battle convincing them.
If the GOP ends up going Trump's way, we could actually get something favorable out of this deal. He has talked about trains and horrible airport infrastructure. On the other hand, if he surrounds himself with traditional party advisors, I'm less optimistic about federal spending in our region and infrastructure.
Trump is not exactly a budget-hawk. This could theoretically be good for government hiring over the medium term, but the hiring freeze and likely gutting of some agencies also gives us mixed information on his intentions.
The Trump/Ryan tax plan would not be good at all for our region's poorest residents.
If we do see decreased immigration, this could be catastrophic for our and other regions, and Trump's xenophobic rhetoric threatens our multiculturalism. Even though I would like to think our region is relatively tolerant, we are not immune to hate. I even expect some unforeseen consequences to the local economy, such as fewer tourists visiting the US, which was a problem during the Bush years.
In short, if DC had warm feelings towards Mr. Trump, he would have received more than 4% of the vote.
The Obama administration wants to talk zoning. According to a paper it put out this morning, laws that restrict new development and require new buildings to come with new parking, along with slow permitting processes and arbitrary preservation regulations, create barriers to opportunity for working families.
The White House's Housing Development Tookit starts with the belief that strict land use regulations are hurting the United States economy:
"Over the past three decades, local barriers to housing development have intensified… The accumulation of such barriers - including zoning, other land use regulations, and lengthy development approval processes - has reduced the ability of many housing markets to respond to growing demand. The growing severity of undersupplied housing markets is jeopardizing housing affordability for working families, increasing income inequality by reducing less-skilled workers' access to high-wage labor markets, and stifling GDP [editor's note: Pete Rodrigue wrote about this for us last week] growth by driving labor migration away from the most productive regions."The report goes on to say that while preventing new housing development can be environmentally beneficial, it can also amount to "laws plainly designed to exclude multifamily or affordable housing."
It also draws a direct link between zoning laws and both inequality and inequity in the US:
"When new housing development is limited region-wide, and particularly precluded in neighborhoods with political capital to implement even stricter local barriers, the new housing that does get built tends to be disproportionately concentrated in low-income communities of color, causing displacement and concerns of gentrification in those neighborhoods."Here's what we can do about the problem
The report urges places to modernize their zoning laws, and suggests ten tools to do so. They include:
1. Eliminating off-street parking requirements: All over the country, there are rules that require new buildings to come with a certain amount of parking. Building that parking means not building housing on the land, which developers would often prefer to do. It also means encouraging more people to drive.
Reducing parking minimum requirements can increase the housing supply as well as demand for frequent, reliable bus or rail service, which can make it easier for people to get to jobs.
Cutting parking requirements for developments located near a transit stop can increase the supply of housing units and lower costs. The availability of transit reduces the need for a vehicle and offers more space for development.
2. Allowing accessory dwelling units: New housing doesn't have to only be brand new buildings. A lot of people would rent out their basements, attics, or small cottages in their back yards into accessory dwelling units (ADUs) if their zoning simply allowed it. Often, the people renting these units have limited incomes, like someone starting their career or an older adult.
Thanks to its recent zoning code change, it's now easier to rent out ADUs in the District.
3. Using inclusionary zoning:Inclusionary zoning requires a specific amount of new housing units to be "affordable," where the rent or the selling price is lower than the market rate and the units are only available to people whose incomes fall below a certain level. In exchange, developers get something called a density bonus, which allows them to build more market rate units than they otherwise would be.
The White House's toolkit cites DC and Montgomery County as examples of places that have pushed for housing affordability via inclusionary zoning. It also cites inclusionary zoning as a reason for better educational outcomes for low-income children.
This matters in our region. A lot.
No single action will solve the housing affordability issues many cities face, but reducing barriers to development can increase opportunities for working families. As too often happens:
"The long commutes that result from workers seeking out affordable housing far from job centers place a drain on their families, their physical and mental well-being, and negatively impact the environment through increased gas emissions."The White House's report relates to our region because we are one of the handful of regions in the nation where restrictive zoning has become a significant bottleneck. Detroit and Baltimore have the opposite problem; their vacant housing isn't getting used.
This problem is impacting metro areas to different extents. It's worst in the Bay Area, but New York, Seattle, Boston, and others all have similar problems… and so do we.
Seven teams are bidding to design Barack Obama's presidential library. They're all well-regarded modern architects, and a few have projects in the DC area.
Like all US presidents, a library will be dedicated to Barack Obama. Photo by IIP Photo Archive on Flickr.
Only one of the teams, John Ronan Architects, comes from Chicago, where the library and museum of the 44th president will eventually rise. Most work out of New York, but teams have roots in London, Genoa, Paris, and Oslo as well. Like a lot of high-profile architecture nowadays, all have projects flung across the globe.
Their work is different from the previous generation of designers, who tended to create object-like buildings that feel aloof from street life. The potential architects of the Obama library all have projects that sit carefully in their context and play nice with existing streets, even if they don't disappear into the neighborhood stylistically.
That's a big deal because both of the proposed sites in Chicago are landmark parks in socially diverse neighborhoods. And that means a monumental building floating in a parking lot, like the elder Bush and Clinton's libraries, isn't going to happen.
Will it be good? The real test is seeing these architects' buildings in person. Luckily, you might be able to do that at lunch.
Three of the candidates them have projects in DC
Out on New York Avenue NW, John Ronan Architects created the Yale Steam Laundry Condominiums by converting a landmarked commercial laundry facility. The architects highlighted the irregularities of the original building with minimalist alterations in industrial materials like wood and steel.
A different architect designed the larger new building to the east, but Ronan designed both building's rugged amenity spaces in the wing set back from the street.
Tucked into the base of a glass office building on 10th Street NW, the First Congregational United Church of Christ could easily be mistaken for another storefront, just set in black, textured brick and a raw bronze column. Really though, what you're seeing is the church's foyer, designed by Tod Williams Billie Tsien. Through the lobby's massive doors is a softly lit sanctuary that blocks out the noise of downtown.
Design writers often pick London-based architect David Adjaye of Adjaye Associates
as the likely choice to do the Obama library. His influence is unusually strong in DC: Only London has as more buildings by his office. So far, the most notable Adjaye building in DC is the National Museum of African American History and Culture near the Washington Monument.
Farther afield are two libraries Adjaye designed a few years ago east of the Anacostia River. Both use transparency and reflections to create atmosphere. His firm divided up the Bellevue Library into a series of rooms that overlook Atlantic Street in Southwest while still offering seclusion though panes of colored glass.
The Gregory Library is a more extroverted design, with a façade that alternates transparent or mirrored panels. The effect is that a pedestrian on the street sees the neighborhood overlaid on the interior. At oblique angles, the library disappears into the woods of Fort Davis. The wood-lined interior is more conventional, except for a staircase the plunges into the airy popular collection room.
If plans to go through, Adjaye will also design a high-end residential building at Georgetown's West Heating Plant. With the plant needing to go through at least five design review stages, though, the Obama Library might get built first.
Two candidates almost have a presence in DC
In addition to that heating plant project, two of the other firms have designed unbuilt projects for DC.
New York-based designers SHoP are designing the new Fannie Mae headquarters on L Street. The U-shaped glass office building at the former Washington Post headquarters will have a slightly unusual facade, with the angle of the glass changing gradually from end to end and top to bottom. This is similar to a lot of their work: boxy forms fitted out in shifting steel and glass facades.
In DC, Diller Scofidio + Renfro are best known for their "bubble:" an inflatable temporary structure that was going to sit inside the Hirshhorn courtyard. That scheme deflated for cost and feasibility reasons under the last director. They also submitted a design for the NMAAHC.
Rendering of the Hirshhorn bubble, courtesy of DS+R.
A couple don't have anything to show
The Norwegian firm Snøhetta has no buildings in DC. They did, however, renovate Times Square, so it's not hard to find their work. Rather than try to tame the iconic space, they covered the ground in rugged concrete pavers embedded with steel disks that echo the billboards that crossroads is famous for.
The last firm, run by Renzo Piano, is the most established choice. His company's recent designs using glass and natural materials have been expertly detailed, austere, and conservative. That sounds like Washington's reputation, so it's sort of odd that he's never had anything even considered in Washington.
As DC's downtown shows, it's tough to make a monumental building that also fits into an urban site nicely. Too often notable architects produce unfriendly places that photograph well. But perhaps this time, the Obama Library Foundation will pick a design that's not a monument, and connects with the public space around it.
Take a look at these buildings. Do you think that could happen?
On Tuesday, during the one-hour debate period over the House proposal to extend transportation funding through May 31, lawmaker after lawmaker stood up to condemn the bill. America needs a long-term transportation bill, they said. A short-term stopgap only creates more uncertainty.
And then they voted for it.
More Democrats than Republicans voted for it, in fact, despite standing up and declaring that "a short term solution is not enough" or that it's "just another kick-the-can-down-the-road approach" or that it's just "a little shuffling around of money so we can pretend… we're not creating more debt." But in the end, the Highway and Transportation Funding Act passed easily, with only 10 Democrats and 45 Republicans voting against it.
Peter Welch of Vermont was one of those no-voting Democrats. During the floor debate, he called the bill an "abdication of our responsibility."
"Some folks are saying we need time to put together a long term bill," he said. "We've had time. What we need is a decision."
Earl Blumenauer is in favor of an extension, but only through the lame duck period after the election. He voted no as well, criticizing Republicans for failing to have a "deliberate, thoughtful process."
"We have not had a single hearing on transportation finance in the Ways and Means Committee all year," he said. "We didn't have one the year before that. We haven't had a hearing in the 43 months that the Republicans have been in charge."
How long will the extension be?
The Senate Finance Committee has passed a largely similar bill, with the same amount of money coming out of slightly different funding sources.
Wyden's bill also failed to include an expiration date. Senator Barbara Boxer is expected to introduce an amendment putting a December 31 date on it— Even President Obama has given the green light to the House bill, though he also insisted that "Congress shouldn't pat itself on the back for averting disaster for a few months, kicking the can down the road for a few months, careening from crisis to crisis." Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he plans to schedule three floor votes before the August recess: the House bill, the Senate Finance Committee bill, and Boxer's December 31 plan. Boxer, of course, doesn't refer to her own hold on the committee when lobbying for a shorter extension. She Besides, now that presidential election seasons last for two years (at least), punting until May could easily bleed into much longer delays. After all, if it's too hard to pass a major spending bill in the run-up to a mid-term election, imagine the resistance to passing one during a presidential race. A bill under a Republican Senate could be much worse
If the Republicans really do take control of the Senate in January, that means that the bill sent to President Obama's desk will be one crafted and approved by Republicans in both houses.
Control of the Environment and Public Works Committee would shift to Louisiana Republican David Vitter, who has a track record of rejecting any revenue increase, railing against merit-based transportation financing, and working to cut environmental reviews for road projects. The current House Transportation Committee chair, Bill Shuster, has a better track record of consulting with Democrats than his predecessor, John Mica, but with a Republican Senate, even Shuster might be less invested in bipartisanship.
A Congress with both chambers controlled by Republicans could revive old, rejected ideas like devolving transportation funding to states, closing the Highway Trust Fund's transit account, or eliminating bike/ped funding. That is the scenario set up by yesterday's extension vote with its May 31 sunset. Oh, and if you're impressed that Congress is addressing this issue well before the September 30 expiration of the current MAP-21 bill, don't be. That bill's funding fixes— A version of this post originally appeared on Streetsblog. Since it ran yesterday, Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) announced plans to slow the bill unless he can get a vote on two amendments (to devolve funding to states and repeal the Davis-Bacon rules on contractor pay) that do not have bipartisan support.
Even President Obama has given the green light to the House bill, though he also insisted that "Congress shouldn't pat itself on the back for averting disaster for a few months, kicking the can down the road for a few months, careening from crisis to crisis."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he plans to schedule three floor votes before the August recess: the House bill, the Senate Finance Committee bill, and Boxer's December 31 plan.
Boxer, of course, doesn't refer to her own hold on the committee when lobbying for a shorter extension. She
Besides, now that presidential election seasons last for two years (at least), punting until May could easily bleed into much longer delays. After all, if it's too hard to pass a major spending bill in the run-up to a mid-term election, imagine the resistance to passing one during a presidential race.
A bill under a Republican Senate could be much worse
If the Republicans really do take control of the Senate in January, that means that the bill sent to President Obama's desk will be one crafted and approved by Republicans in both houses.
Control of the Environment and Public Works Committee would shift to Louisiana Republican David Vitter, who has a track record of rejecting any revenue increase, railing against merit-based transportation financing, and working to cut environmental reviews for road projects.
The current House Transportation Committee chair, Bill Shuster, has a better track record of consulting with Democrats than his predecessor, John Mica, but with a Republican Senate, even Shuster might be less invested in bipartisanship.
A Congress with both chambers controlled by Republicans could revive old, rejected ideas like devolving transportation funding to states, closing the Highway Trust Fund's transit account, or eliminating bike/ped funding. That is the scenario set up by yesterday's extension vote with its May 31 sunset.
Oh, and if you're impressed that Congress is addressing this issue well before the September 30 expiration of the current MAP-21 bill, don't be. That bill's funding fixes—
A version of this post originally appeared on Streetsblog. Since it ran yesterday, Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) announced plans to slow the bill unless he can get a vote on two amendments (to devolve funding to states and repeal the Davis-Bacon rules on contractor pay) that do not have bipartisan support.
Yesterday, the Purple Line took a big step forward when the federal government recommended giving it a $100 million grant for next year and providing additional funding in the coming years. Now, all it needs is approval from Congress.
President Obama included the $2.2 billion, 16-mile light rail line between Bethesda and New Carrollton in his 2015 budget. It's one of 7 transit projects the Federal Transit Administration recommended for a "New Starts" grant, including the Baltimore Red Line, an extension of LA's Purple Line, Boston's Green Line extension, the Columbia River Crossing in Portland, and commuter rail in Orlando and Fort Worth.
The agency also recommended Congress give the Purple Line a "full funding grant agreement" committing it to help pay for construction. Maryland hopes the federal government will provide $900 million, though it's unclear what the final amount will be.
The state has already agreed to put in up to $900 million for the project. Montgomery and Prince George's counties will give $220 million total, while the state is looking for a private partner to build and operate the line and pitch in additional funds.
The Purple Line has been discussed in some form since 1986. If everything goes right, it could start construction in 2015 and open in 2020. But getting here hasn't been easy.
From the beginning, it faced vehement opposition from the exclusive Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase, because the line would follow the Capital Crescent Trail, a former freight rail line that bisected its golf course. Meanwhile, the University of Maryland didn't want it passing through the heart of campus, and even hired former Montgomery County executive Doug Duncan (now running for a fourth term) to oppose it.
Maryland was able to find a workable solution for both parties, and the Purple Line now enjoys the support of both county executives, elected officials in both counties, and hundreds of civic, environmental, business, and advocacy groups.
But there are still a few challenges remaining. One is that Congress actually has to approve President Obama's budget and decide how much the "full funding grant agreement" for the Purple Line would be. The other is the Town of Chevy Chase, which continues to oppose the project because of its impacts on the trail. The town recently hired a lobbyist who happens to be the brother of the House transportation committee chair to make the case against the line.
Meanwhile, other residents may sue the government because they feel not enough research has been done about the Purple Line's impacts on a small, shrimp-like creature that's listed as an endangered species but is found several miles away. These things may add additional delay to the Purple Line, but it's unclear whether they're enough to actually halt the project.
In any case, yesterday was a great day for the Purple Line. When I attended my first Purple Line meeting in 2003, as a junior in high school, I assumed that I'd be riding it by now. Hopefully, 28 years after the project was first announced, we won't have to wait much longer.
- Are public spaces really public when not everybody can use them?
- What happens when people without cars move to places built for driving?
- Cell service in tunnels, junking old rail cars, getting finances in order. Here's what's in Metro's Back2Good plan.
- Metro now has an official plan for getting better in 2017. It's called Back2Good.
- WMATA recommended express bus service along 14th Street NW four years ago. Is it time to make it happen?
- More on why buying your first home in the DC region is so hard
- The DC reps on the WMATA board might veto late-night closures