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If you live in Arlington or DC, your vote matters on Tuesday!

Virginia had its presidential primary long ago and DC's Democratic primary Tuesday won't affect who wins the nomination. But if you're a Democrat in DC or any voter in Arlington, your vote will absolutely matter in local races. Please vote!

Erik Gutshall (Arlington) and Robert White (DC).

Greater Greater Washington has endorsed Erik Gutshall for Arlington County Board and Robert White for DC Council at large, and Vincent Gray in Ward 7.

Why it's important vote in Arlington

Arlington's race may see low turnout because there's no federal or statewide contest at the same time, but the county board race will have a big impact on the future of Arlington. It's an important election.

Decades ago, Arlington was a declining inner-ring suburb where even getting a Home Depot was a faint hope. But a strategy of creating urban villages around the new Metro system has transformed the county into a national model.

The strong tax base from these urban areas (it gets 60% of its tax revenue from 11% of its land) let the county keep taxes low and services high. But when the recession, sequestration, and BRAC took a big bite out of office occupancy in Arlington, it created an opening for ambitious politicians to attack the county's leaders and appeal to voters who'd rather the county do less rather than more.

Libby Garvey was one of them. She has never articulated a strong vision for moving Arlington forward. For Arlington to retreat into mediocrity by slashing its ambitions to build a better place to live risks sending Arlington back to the past.

Erik Gutshall has demonstrated his commitment to a strong future for Arlington as a member of its planning commission. Also, as the owner of a home services business, he knows what it will take to woo businesses (and keep the county from driving them away); how to spend responsibly but also invest as necessary.

Residents of Arlington can speak loudly on Tuesday for a forward-looking—and responsible-spending—county by showing up to the polls and electing Erik Gutshall.

The primary is open to people of any party registration and all county board seats are elected at large, so all eligible voters can participate. Find your polling place here. Polls are open from 6 am to 7 pm.

Why it's important to vote in DC

While everyone on the DC Council is either a Democrat or a lifelong Democrat registered as an independent, that doesn't mean there aren't big differences between members—liberal versus conservative, urbanist versus not, motivated by a desire to improve DC versus personal ambition.

Too much (often all) of the political coverage is about things like who is on the "Green Team" or not, who's angling for another political office or not, and so on. That's mostly garbage. Greater Greater Washington focused on important issues facing the city, and if you agree with what we talk about, it's important to try to figure out which candidates actually would cast good votes on critical legislation.

Vincent Orange rarely does. Often it seems he doesn't even care about the issue, but is interested in angling for some political advantage, like when he agreed to flip a position on a key tax policy vote in exchange for an earmark for a parade at a theater whose board he's on.

I've talked to Robert White many times and he absolutely believes in the basic values our community holds dear. If you don't believe me, believe all of the other urbanist, environmental, and progressive groups and individuals that are supporting him.

David Garber also shares these values, but White has more experience, more political support, and the best chance of winning. From the beginning, I said I hoped people would figure out which of the two has the strongest support and all run to that side, hard as it might be for some.

Vince Gray was a dedicated, solid supporter of good urbanism, of a sustainable DC, of walking, biking, and transit, of adding housing to keep prices affordable, and much more. He's running against Yvette Alexander, one of the councilmembers who's been most consistently and openly contemptuous of the vision for DC we share here at Greater Greater Washington.

While allegations in a long-running investigation are potentially quite serious, that investigation was concluded with no charges, and he was objectively excellent on policy. Quite simply, having Gray on the council will shift a lot of votes in the right direction, and that matters.

Find your polling place here. You must be a registered Democrat in DC to vote in the Democratic primary (and no other party has a contested race).


For DC Council in Ward 7: Vince Gray

In DC's Ward 7, mostly east of the Anacostia River, former mayor Vince Gray is running to take back his old seat on the DC Council from Yvette Alexander. We hope voters will return him to the council.

While ethical issues from his campaign marred his mayoralty and serious questions still remain, on the policy issues, he was very strong. He was the champion of DC's ambitious sustainability plan and the forward-thinking moveDC plan which called for bus lanes, protected bikeways, and much more. Under Gray, the DC government set ambitious goals for the future, ones we can only hope the District comes close to achieving.

Even before his term as mayor, he was an excellent councilmember and an excellent chairman. Having him back in the legislature will be a major win for DC. When he chaired the council, he charted a constructive course toward DC's zoning update and other long-term planning processes.

Gray was never shy about saying, loudly and publicly, that DC should reduce its reliance on private cars. He's also been adamant that DC needs more housing. In response to a question on the issue, he said,

The District's zoning laws are arbitrary and impose a significant burden on further growth, especially for affordable housing. As mayor, I fought to change our height limitations in order to allow for the development of more high rise buildings to support more residents. As councilmember, I will support zoning changes to make building more affordable units easier and more straightforward.
Yvette Alexander, on the other hand, has been a poor councilmember. She has shown little to no leadership in her ward to improve bus service, despite the fact that large numbers of her constituents ride the bus and transit to many neighborhoods is not what it could be. (Compare that to Ward 5's Kenyan McDuffie, who recently fought for and won funding for a new express bus line on Rhode Island Avenue.)

Alexander criticized bicycling at a rally about the bikeway on Pennsylvania Avenue and told Dave Salovesh that she wanted to keep being able to make U-turns across the lane (a very dangerous maneuver).

She responded angrily on Twitter when we reported her opposition, insisting she supported barriers on Pennsylvania Avenue, but refused to specifically state she supported them in front of the John A. Wilson Building, where the councilmembers park.

Having Gray back on the council would likely mean a big boost for good public policy. We hope Ward 7 voters will choose him in the Democratic primary. Early voting begins May 31, and election day is June 14. You can find out more about times and places to vote here.

This is the official endorsement of Greater Greater Washington. To determine endorsements, we invite regular contributors and editors to participate in a survey about their preferences and opinions about upcoming races. The editorial board then decides whether to make an endorsement.


DC's homeless shelter plan just got a makeover

In February, Mayor Bowser put forth a plan to replace DC General with seven smaller family shelters around the District. The DC Council just made some key changes: all of the sites will now be city-owned rather than leased, and a few will be in different locations than first planned.

Photo by Jeffrey on Flickr.

After Mayor Bowser released her plan, many raised concerns about its expensive leasing agreements with private developers and the suitability of some of the proposed sites. Yesterday, the DC Council unanimously approved a revised plan that targets those concerns. The changes are expected to save DC $165 million. Here they are:

The shelter locations in Wards 3, 5, and 6 will change

Three sites, in Wards 3, 5, and 6, will relocate to city-owned land.

Many criticized the original sites: the Ward 5 location, for example, was too close to a bus depot with bad air quality as well as a strip club, and the Ward 6 location was too close to a party venue.

All three locations would have required zoning variances or exceptions to become shelter sites, but that isn't the case with the new sites.

Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh and Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen both expressed support for the new sites. Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie, who previously opposed the shelter plan, now supports a shelter at either of the two proposed sites for Ward 5. Councilmember Yvette Alexander, however, said she is worried that the changes to the locations will delay the closing of DC General.

The District plans to purchase land for sites in Wards 1 and 4

DC will work with property owners to purchase two of the proposed sites, in Wards 1 and 4. If that doesn't work, DC will acquire the properties through eminent domain.

To fund the purchases, the new plan is to use capital funding originally set aside for the renovation of Ward 4's Coolidge Senior High School. Ward 4 Councilmember Brandon Todd said using the school renovation funds places an unfair burden on Ward 4 residents. But Councilmember David Grosso, who is also the Education Committee chair, assured him that the school renovations would still happen on schedule; since the renovations are still in the planning stage, the school wouldn't have been able to use the funding this year anyway.

Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne Nadeau added an amendment to the new plan that ensures the property owners of the Ward 1 site pay any back taxes they may owe to DC before the District purchases the property.

Mayor Bowser and Phil Mendelson aren't on the same page

Ward 8 Councilmember LaRuby May is worried that the new plan could overburden Ward 8 with more shelter units than other wards. She proposed an amendment that clarified the maximum number of units allowed at each site, but it failed after Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said he felt the issue could be worked out among the council before the next vote without an amendment.

While many councilmembers praised Mayor Bowser for her initiative and courage on the original shelter plan, Council Chairman Mendelson accused the mayor's office of "obfuscation and misinformation" and a lack of collaboration with the council during this process. Later in the day, Mayor Bowser made it clear that her office and the council are still very far apart on the plan.

What happens next?

"We should all be getting ready to go to happy hour, because we got it done!," said Councilmember Vincent Orange. Not so fast, though. There are still a few more steps before this bill becomes a law.

The DC Council will hold another reading of the bill on May 31. If the council approves the bill then, it goes to the mayor for approval. If she vetoes it, nine councilmembers must support the bill for it to become law. It's possible that a few of the councilmembers with misgivings, many of whom are facing tough reelections, could be swayed by lobbying by Mayor Bowser or her allies to vote against the bill.


Vince Gray could win a seat on the DC Council if he decides to run, a poll says

If former mayor Vince Gray decides to make a political comeback, he'd be very likely to unseat either Vincent Orange for an at-large seat on the DC Council or Yvette Alexander in Ward 7, according to a new poll.

Photo by Elvert Barnes on Flickr.

Former Gray campaign manager Chuck Thies raised money for a citywide poll. Public Policy Polling surveyed 1,569 people likely to vote in the June Democratic primary, including 407 in Ward 7, using an automated telephone system where people press buttons in response to questions.

Would Orange challengers split the vote (again)?

For the at-large seat, incumbent Vincent Orange is expected to run for re-election. Two challengers, David Garber and Robert White, have announced candidacies to beat him, and both have good ideas for the future of DC, but there's a significant danger that both could split the vote from similar constituencies.

Orange has often pursued a divisive strategy in his races of playing on fears from some "old DC" voters and communities against newcomers. This has certainly left him vulnerable: only 28% of voters citywide see him favorably.

The City Paper's Will Sommer thinks vote splitting will happen, giving Orange another term, should Gray not run in that race. It's still somewhat unclear what would happen in that situation; the poll only asked about a field that also included Busboys and Poets restaurateur and recent mayoral candidate Andy Shallal.

In that scenario, if the primary were held today, Orange would get 28% of the vote, Shallal 19%, Garber 8%, and White 7%. However, most voters don't know Garber or White, with more than three-quarters having no opinion of either.

If Gray were to run, he leads the pack with 32% of voters, versus 20% for Orange, 10% for Garber, and 6% for White. (It might just be a statistical fluke, but this suggests some Shallal voters would go to Garber.)

The clear question is how this could change over the course of a campaign. Is about a third of the vote a ceiling for Gray, who won about that percentage of the vote in the 2014 mayoral primary? And would that be enough anyway in a split field? Would Garber or White gain Gray voters, or Gray win some Orange voters, or other combinations?

For the Ward 7 seat, Gray polled 48% to Alexander's 32%. Gray had higher name recognition and favorable ratings than Alexander, though Alexander's favorables are much better than Orange's.

You can read all of the citywide and Ward 7 results here.

Were writers and prosecutors unfair to Gray?

The poll also asked if people think federal investigators or the media treated Gray fairly or unfairly. Generally, black voters were much more likely to say that Gray was treated unfairly.

Count me in the minority of white voters who think Gray was treated unfairly by prosecutors. We might still not know for certain everything that happened in the illegal 2010 "shadow campaign," but the US Attorney's office absolutely became a player in the 2014 election by announcing suspicions of Gray weeks before the primary.

I spoke to some voters outside polling places at the primary, and many knew virtually nothing about the race except that they wanted to vote for whoever would beat Gray. Unfortunately, they generally didn't know a thing about Gray's own policy positions and views.

He consistently supported efforts to give residents more transportation choices, including better bus service, a stronger Metro system, bike infrastructure, and safe places to walk. He pushed for new housing to welcome new residents and keep room for long-time ones, even suggesting targeted changes to the federal height limit to create areas like Paris' La Défense near the Anacostia River.

It's hard to say if the media really treated Gray unfairly. Some columnists and editorial writers who were fans of Adrian Fenty never forgave Gray for beating him. On the other hand, nobody could expect the press to ignore a scandal so serious as the shadow campaign. I think most media coverage did concentrate too much on personalities rather than on the issues that really affect life in DC.

Many people saw him as just being the anti-Adrian Fenty and a return to some things they didn't like about Marion Barry, but Gray continued most of Fenty's policies. He did better in some spheres and worse in others. Certainly, the streetcar project was not executed well, and past and future transportation directors like Emeka Moneme, Gabe Klein, and Leif Dormsjo were more effective than Gray's pick of Terry Bellamy.

But Gray was also an exemplary council chair, perhaps the best in some time. I'd like Muriel Bowser to have a chance to demonstrate her vision and governing ability before there's too much talk about the 2018 mayoral race; so far, her cabinet has been very high-quality (with a few exceptions). But if Vincent Gray were to return to the DC Council, residents who want to see DC move forward boldly but inclusively would have a lot to cheer.

Note: The Greater Greater Washington Editorial Board has not yet chosen to endorse any candidates for the 2016 election. This post is David Alpert's personal opinion as Greater Greater Washington's founder.


Cheh keeps oversight of transportation, but Jack Evans will sit on the WMATA Board

Mary Cheh will continue to oversee transportation in the DC Council next year, but will continue to not also represent DC on the WMATA Board; instead, Jack Evans will. Anita Bonds will chair a committee on housing, while David Grosso will take the education gavel from David Catania.

Photo by David Maddison on Flickr.

Council chairman Phil Mendelson just released his recommendations for committee assignments for the next two years.

When Kwame Brown took away Tommy Wells' transportation chairmanship in 2011, he gave the committee to Mary Cheh, but Cheh reportedly did not also want the board seat. Instead, it went to Bowser, but this created significant problems, as WMATA and DDOT then ended up in separate committees. This compounded the already poor coordination between WMATA and DDOT.

While Cheh and Bowser talked plenty, Mary Cheh was not even part of Bowser's committee overseeing WMATA while Bowser was not on Cheh's transportation committee. Evans, at least, will be a member of Cheh's committee, along with Charles Allen, Kenyan McDuffie, and either the Ward 4 or 8 member once they are elected. But WMATA oversight will still not be part of that committee; it will be in Evans' Finance and Revenue committee, which Cheh does not sit on.

Evans sat on (and chaired) the board in the past, which could make it easier for him to step into the role. And, actually, funding is one of if not the top issue for WMATA, meaning Evans could help steer new resources to the agency if he chose. Evans lives in Georgetown, which might get a Metro line if WMATA can get the money, and the line stretches through much of Ward 2.

On the other hand, his role could be bad news for bus priority, since Evans has been suspicious of any city move to dedicate road space to users other than private motor vehicles. Evans also is an opponent of the streetcar (along with Mendelson).

There also should be plenty of spirited debate on other bills before Evans' finance committee, which votes on tax breaks and tax policy. Evans generally strongly favors granting tax breaks to businesses, retailers, and developers, but a new member of his committee, Elissa Silverman, has often criticized DC for giving tax breaks out too readily.

The DC Council has an unusually small number of committees (seven) this period because there are so many new members. Current convention gives every member a committee but not in the member's first council period. Brianne Nadeau (Ward 1), Charles Allen (Ward 6), and Elissa Silverman (at large) were just elected this November, and there will be vacant seats in both Ward 4 (where Muriel Bowser is resigning to be mayor) and Ward 8 (where Marion Barry just died) until a special election in March.

Vincent Orange will chair a Committee on Business, Consumer, and Regulatory Affairs, Yvette Alexander will handle Health and Human Services, and Kenyan McDuffie takes over the Judiciary post. McDuffie used to be a federal prosecutor in Prince George's County and a civil rights attorney at the US Department of Justice; he has shown a lot of concern over recent trends about police and prosecutorial overreach in DC and nationally.

That committee will likely again debate the issue of contributory negligence for bicyclists, where David Grosso, the bill's sponsor, will still not be a member, while Mary Cheh, the swing vote this past year, will remain on the committee along with Jack Evans and Anita Bonds. A Ward 4 or 8 member to be elected will join them after the special election.

Bonds' housing committee includes Silverman, a strong advocate for affordable housing policies, Brianne Nadeau, who ran with affordable housing as a strong part of her platform, Vincent Orange, and Bonds herself, who has championed tax relief for elderly homeowners.

Additional information has been added to this post as the information became available. At one point, an errant paragraph about the WMATA Board, written before the news about Evans' appointment was available, was near the bottom of this story. It has been removed.


What Kaya Henderson really said about middle schools, and why it makes sense

Some have criticized DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson for reported remarks that the school system should "outsource" middle schools to charters. Here's what she really said, which happens to be something that's well worth considering.

Photo from DC Council website.

Middle schools have been the subject of much debate, not just in DC and not just in recent weeks. We'll take a close look at this complex subject in future posts, but let's start with the exchange that triggered the recent controversy here.

Henderson made her comments on middle schools in mid-November, when the topic arose at a DC Council hearing on school boundaries and feeder patterns. Several Councilmembers and a number of those who testified identified middle schools as a weak link in the DCPS system, with families often leaving after elementary school.

According to the Washington Post, Henderson "suggested that perhaps the city should figure out how to funnel children to charter schools in the middle grades, arguing that 'they know how to do middle school really well.'" Councilmember David Catania, who was chairing the hearing, retorted that he was "not about to outsource middle schools to charters."

Since then, the exchange, as reported, has become fodder for tweets, sound bites, and mayoral campaign rhetoric. Most recently, candidate Andy Shallal said that, while he didn't want to "demonize" anyone, he did "take exception when the top educators say we cannot do middle school."

Henderson's comments in context

But let's take a look at what Henderson actually said, in context. (You can view her statements on the video below, or watch the entire hearing by clicking here. The relevant discussion occurs at about 4 hours and 17 minutes in.)

The exchange began after Councilmember Yvette Alexander complained that Ward 7's H.D. Woodson High School—which was rebuilt in 2011 with great fanfare as a school focusing on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)—hasn't lived up to expectations. She also bemoaned the fact that many students in Ward 7, which she represents, go to schools outside their assigned boundaries.

Henderson pointed out that charter schools have siphoned off many students from the DCPS system, including more than 50% of those in Ward 7. This exodus was predictable, she said: if you give people choice, and create "a whole new set of schools that [are] better than DCPS, then people will want to go to them."

"Now," Henderson continued, "we have the opportunity to say, these are all of our schools. How do we equalize the resources across the sectors, or how do we have the sectors working together?"

Then she launched into the comments that appear to have landed her in hot water: "One of the things I take my hat off to the charter sector on is that they know how to do middle school really well, right? So if we can't do middle school well and they can do middle school well, then how do we funnel kids through those middle schools and then bring some of those folks to H.D. Woodson, if they have STEM middle schools, or whatnot? We've got to be creative."

Alexander didn't recoil at this suggestion. In fact, she said she agreed. And then Catania reminded Alexander that her time was up and went on to express his outrage at the idea of "outsourcing middle school."

Henderson's words, standing alone, could be interpreted as a statement that DCPS "can't do middle school well." But in context, it's clear that Henderson was focusing on the situation in Ward 7, and possibly Ward 8, where large numbers of students have already left the DCPS system for charter schools. She wasn't advocating abandoning, for example, Deal Middle School in Ward 3.

Still, Henderson's candor about DC's middle school difficulties was surprising, because she has generally been a staunch defender of middle school progress. After the hearing, in a written response to Catania's demand for a "middle school plan," Henderson pointed to improvement at several middle schools and even singled out Kelly Miller, the feeder school for H.D. Woodson, which has seen double-digit growth in its test scores recently. Why she didn't mention those developments at the hearing is a mystery.

But it's also true that Kelly Miller's test scores are still nowhere near those at high-achieving charter middle schools like those operated by KIPP and DC Prep. And let's take a calm, clear-eyed look at what Henderson really was saying, and ask if it was that outrageous.

Cooperation with charters, not just competition

Henderson's basic point was that we should stop putting charters in one box and DCPS schools in another. Instead, we should look at all our public schools—traditional and charter—as part of a common set of possibilities for educating DC children.

Some will disagree with that approach, either because they're opposed to the concept of charters or because they feel Henderson should be able to replicate the results that charters have had. But by this point, it's clear that charters are here to stay. And there are a host of reasons, many of them structural, for DCPS's failure to equal the success of some charters.

If all students in a given neighborhood were "funneled" into charters for middle school, it would at least eliminate one argument raised by some who are skeptical of the results achieved by charters: that they're successful only because they manage, one way or another, to avoid enrolling the students who are the hardest to educate.

And in an area of the District where many students are already enrolled in charter schools, maybe we should consider creating educational pathways for children that could lead through both sectors, if that's what would benefit them most.

Henderson is now working on the middle school plan that Catania called for. Whether she'll continue to advocate for such cross-sector cooperation remains to be seen. The advisory committee that is reviewing school boundaries and feeder patterns has also indicated it intends to look at that possibility.

Given the outcry that greeted Henderson's remarks at the November hearing, she and the advisory committee may both decide to back away from that idea. That would be unfortunate. It's time that we stopped pitting the charter and DCPS sectors against each other and started figuring out how they can work together for the benefit of DC's students.


It's One City, not eight cities

Mayor Gray's "One City" slogan makes an important point beyond just a campaign slogan. DC is a single "city" (actually a unique state-city hybrid district), not 8 separate mini-cities with their own individual mayors.

Berlin Wall (today). Photo by Noud W. on Flickr.

We have enough problems with boundaries in this region. DC, Maryland, and Virginia often act without coordination or even at cross-purposes on issues that affect residents across borders. Individual counties and cities within Maryland or Virginia frequently do the same. DC doesn't need to create even more divisions.

Yet some DC councilmembers time and again act like mayors of their individual wards. They want to unilaterally control policies for their wards, from liquor licenses to parking. Some even try to exclude anyone outside their ward from participating in decisions surrounding development, as with the Florida Avenue Market in 2008 or Reservation 13/Hill East today.

During Zoning Commission hearings over development at the Florida Avenue Market in 2008, then-Councilmember Harry Thomas, Jr. opposed granting ANC 6C "party status," a special privilege for organizations in close proximity. The market is in Ward 5, but railroad tracks, New York Avenue, and Gallaudet University separate it from almost all Ward 5 residents, while many people live just across Florida Avenue to the south. It just happens that those people are in Ward 6.

Ward boundaries are artificial legislative districts. An individual congressperson might want to bring projects to his or her district back home, but he or she doesn't get to veto development projects in the district or it set parking policy. When state legislatures gerrymander their districts, people object because it might dilute or strengthen one group's vote, but rarely do protests happen because one block of residents feels passionately about being in the same congressional district as an adjacent block.

Living on the border of a town or even a state carries some challenges. Recently, Veronica Davis wrote about how a liquor license on the Prince George's County side of Eastern Avenue strongly affects residents in DC, but they have no say over regulatory decisions involving it.

There's no reason to go around creating more of these problems. Yet we do, which makes redistricting fights more forceful than they need to be.

Tommy Wells and Jack Evans had an argument over whether the line between Ward 2 or Ward 6 would be east or west of I-395. That's partly because an air rights development project is slated for the road. But it shouldn't matter, because the councilmember whose ward includes the project shouldn't get some special power to control that project.

Since parking zones also correspond to ward boundaries, with only a few small exceptions, residents in the Palisades vehemently objected to being switched from Ward 2 to Ward 3 during the 2001 redistricting. They didn't want to lose the right to park for free in Foggy Bottom, Shaw and other Ward 2 neighborhoods.

Mount Pleasant asked to redistrict a piece of Rock Creek Park, where nobody lives, from Ward 4 to Ward 1. Park Road passes through this area on its way from Mount Pleasant to Cleveland Park. DC would assign Ward 4 constituent service reps to handle complaints about the spot, even though the affected residents with the complaints would live in wards 1 or 3.

Following ward changes, ANC boundaries also change, and usually to line up with wards. People who felt they were part of the same neighborhood one day find they have to act like separate neighborhoods the next.

Luckily, that's not always the case. When part of Chevy Chase joined Ward 4 in 2001, ANC 3/4G bridged the divide and kept the neighborhood together in one ANC. Yet Yvette Alexander (Ward 7) refused to let Kingman Park be part of the same ANC as adjoining parts of H Street in Ward 6.

MPD has avoided the ward-centric trap: police district boundaries do not line up with wards. That's better for public safety, because MPD can make decisions about police resources around where there is crime rather than arbitrary legislative districts.

The worst and most recent "Eight City" thinking came last week at the community meeting on Reservation 13. Yvette Alexander started out the meeting by lecturing Ward 6 residents about how the land moved to Ward 7 in the latest redistricting, and that therefore Ward 7 "owns" the land.

Her leading challenger, Tom Brown, whom we have endorsed, demonstrated the same fallacy in a campaign speech on the Reservation 13 site (from well before this meeting). Brown talks about how Ward 7 is "getting the title" to the land, and that he will then listen to Ward 7 residents about what they want to do with that land.

Actually, Ward 7 doesn't "own" the land. The District of Columbia does. Decisions about the land get made by the Mayor, who represents all voters, and by the council, which has 8 ward members and 5 at-large members including its chairman.

The Ward 7 member should indeed listen "first and foremost" to residents of Ward 7, but shouldn't have the final say, or even primary say, over what happens on a particular parcel of land. The District should, and all nearby residents, and the entire council, voting together. But if the Ward 7 member is only listening to Ward 7 residents, then the Ward 4 member should only listen to Ward 4 residents, and so on.

With the 395 project, for example, in what would is it logical to say that since the project remained in Ward 6, only Councilmember Wells and residents east of 2nd Street, NW should now have any input into the project, but if the line had put it in Ward 2, those residents ought to have no say whatever and only residents west of 3rd Street NW have the right to weigh in?

The District has a small voice in a big region and no voting representation in Congress. We don't need government processes and legislators who try to deepen divisions and boundaries between neighborhoods. We need people who will work together, prioritizing the needs of their own local residents but trying to unite rather than divide, to better create One City.


Residents unimpressed by non-answers on Redskins "plan"

Last night, Mayor Gray, Jack Evans, and Michael Brown met with a skeptical audience, mostly residents from wards 6 and 7, about reported plans to put a Redskins practice facility on the Reservation 13/Hill East land.

Image by Brian Flahaven on Twitter.

Readers who attended the meeting report that the officials seemed to genuinely expect that the crowd would just cheer for anything that helped the Redskins, regardless of policy merit or economic justification.

Tim Krepp:
The mayor, and Jack Evans, and Michael Brown kept repeating "we'd like to bring the Redskins back" and waited for the applause. To say it fell flat was is an understatement. I was frankly shocked at how bad these politicians were at politics. It was a chance for them to sell their plan, or at least reassure a nervous and frustrated audience, and they spent the time lecturing us.


Tim is absolutely right, all four of them were absolutely tone deaf last night. They've clearly already decided what they want. It'll be up to those of us in Wards 6 and 7 to fight like hell to stop it. I'm glad there were so many people out there and that we're, if not in front of this, at least ready to deal with it.
It seems to me the point of the meeting was that the CMs were hoping to get a lot of people agreeing with them and cheering on the general idea of the training facility. Instead they found that there was a pretty solid opposition to the training facility from people at the meeting.
Its clear that all the officials are drooling at anything football related. Even if it means the destruction of city services, residential, city income, affordable housing, and health care services for residents. They did say that the training facility could have a medical facility for the study of concussion-related sports injuries.
Gray and the councilmembers emphasized that there wasn't a specific plan, but it seemed to depend on how you define "plan." They seem to have done a lot of thinking about this issue, and have made up their minds, but for political reasons wanted to downplay any talk that this is a done deal.


[Gray] stressed that there are no concrete plans, and nothing to show. But they were willing to talk about its concussion health center, job creation, and its possibility of a catalyst for development. The neighborhood thought there was going to be some specific details, but he didn't bring anything. If anything, the point of the meeting should, and did try to at times, focus on why the city hasn't chosen a developer yet for the master plan. Hopefully it did get them to move forward on picking one of the two developers for the smaller parcels of land to be developed.
They were willing to talk specifics when they wanted, but mostly spent trying to distract the audience [by talking about the Eastern Branch Boys & Girls club] or pleading ignorance, like not knowing how the area is zoned. They also made no economic argument whatsoever for doing so. Gray, Evans and Alexander didn't even try, and Brown vaguely alluded to creating year-round jobs, but there was no discussion of the fact that although a training facility might create a few jobs, it wouldn't create nearly as many as a mixed-use development!
Redeveloping Reservation 13 is clearly a difficult task. I get that. But the Stadium-Armory Metro station has been open nearly 40 years! And there has been a master plan for the site for nearly a decade. Think of what Arlington would have done with a similar parcel of land by now.

Brian Flahaven was the star of the show. You could tell towards the end that Gray and Evans were frustrated at having been so thoroughly schooled in the game of retail politics by a mere ANC Commissioner. (Brown and Alexander were too clueless to realize they had been schooled.)

As for Alexander: What a joke. I wrote a check for Tom Brown immediately after the meeting.

Residents spent a lot of time and effort building consensus for a master plan for the area. They weren't happy to hear that Gray is basically stopping it from moving forward in the general hope they can work out something with the Redskins.

In response to questions, the officials refused to give any timeline when they would have more detail, or when they would just let the original plan move forward, or give neighbors any closure at all.


They presented their idea, which is basically to ditch the Reservation 13 plan agreed upon years ago so they can keep pursuing this pie-in-the-sky idea of bringing the Redskins training camp to the area. And it seems like nobody at the meeting wanted the training camp except the councilmembers. They have talked to the team. They have not created a formal plan.
From my understanding in 2008, there were four developers bidding on the master plan project. DC didn't pick any of them and let it sit. DC then decided to scale down the project to two parcels of land. Two developers are ready to go; DC just needs to pick a developer to start.
Jack Evans clearly doesn't get it. He kept trying to make the it an issue of Redskins fans versus non-Redskins fans. I like the Redskins as much as the next guy. But that's not the point Jack! The point is that when your constituents walk to the Metro, they walk through vibrant neighborhoods on streets lined with shops and services. When I walk to the Metro, I walk up a one-way street (19th) that is a freeway for Maryland commuters and past a vast and dilapidated surface parking lot for DC government employees, most of whom are Maryland residents.
Finally, Mike Debonis revealed that this meeting had been rescheduled (from the coming week) because Jack Evans couldn't make the meeting. Tommy Wells, whose ward borders this site and previously included it, was speaking at his alma mater, the University of Alabama School of Social Work.

Why can't Mayor Gray, who represents the entire city, attend a meeting to talk about a plan he's promoting without the help of a councilmember from a different ward?

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