Monday, December 31, 2007

Better and Brighter

Here are the top five Better and Brighter wishes for DC's 2008:

5. Michelle Rhee and Mayor Fenty's plan for DC schools turns out to be the right one. Their style is unique and a little grating for some. Rhee and Fenty make the big decisions behind closed doors, then announce the ideas/changes and that's that. If there is fallout, they are more than able to deal with any backlash until the next issue takes center stage. That strategy can work for a while, but eventually the citizenry tire if results aren't achieved. I think most parents and other citizens are in a wait-and-see mode as Rhee's "giving and receiving schools" plan works itself out. Many parents of the "giving" (i.e. closing) schools are a little more anxious to see how the plan will come together. I wish the administration the best of luck and stand behind the changes. For now...

4. Metro's member communities get on the bus and create a dedicated, sustainable and realistic revenue stream for the embattled agency. Metro deserves this at the very least. The feds should kick in some money, too. While the system has some major structural flaws (no express track, "spoke" configuration) its still one of the best systems in the country, moving over one million passengers per day (including MetroBus). I've previously raked General Manager John Catoe over the coals, but I realize that he's handcuffed by budget issues. Surely, the system's human resources can be improved and invested in a little more, but WMATA really needs sustainable funding. The counties of Fairfax, Montgomery, Prince Georges, Arlington, Loudon, and the cities of Alexandria, and Falls Church should work with their state governments and really invest in the system. With the apparent end of sprawl, especially in the Washington region, transporting residents from suburb to suburb and place to place within each municipality will become increasingly important. Making sure Metro doesn't have to turn to fare increases and service reductions is key to keeping the system at its best.

3. DC housing market defies the Manhattan effect. To play in Manhattan is doable. To live there is becoming almost impossible. Many regular folks have been plain priced out of the city. and have been replaced by the rich and super rich. It makes for a nice place for tourists, art gallery and museum buffs, shoppers and paparazzi, but as for everyday New Yorkers, they're most likely to live in one of the other Burroughs. Do all of your New York friends live in Brooklyn? There's a reason for that. Sadly, "the market" will determine a lot of this story, but the District should remain an economically diverse living space. No more $1500 basement studios in Columbia Heights, or $1.1 million condos on 18th St in Adams Morgan. When practically any neighborhood can be deemed up and coming or the next big thing, those designations lose their value. How can Columbia Heights, Petworth, Near Southeast, Anacostia, NoMa, and all of Northeast be considered DC's new "it" neighborhood? They can't all be. The working class (most of us!) have to be able to afford and own a home somewhere, and with all due respect, that shouldn't mean Howard or Stafford Counties.

2. Mayors Williams and Fenty's development plans pay off for DC. Mayors Anthony Williams and Adrian Fenty will have overseen, literally, billions of dollars of residential, office, sports, retail and public works development by the end of Fenty's tenure. Some of the major projects that came on line, or were completed, or are being started during this time are: new Nationals stadium, the rest of Near Southeast, Verizon Center and 7th Street, Poplar Point, McMillan Reservoir, Old Convention Center project, New Walter E. Washington Convention Center, DC USA, and many others. All the promises of workforce/affordable housing, jobs for DC residents, and tax benefits for the city HAVE to be realized. The Tax Increment Financing, and swaps and other concessions given to business need to be backed up with a substantial payoff from these projects. New stadiums and shopping choices are great for resident morale and visitor impression, but they need to make sense for the city's financial health, too.

1. Amid the changing city, some things should remain just as they are. I challenge you to find better neighborhoods than those along the 42 bus line. Mt. Pleasant, Adams Morgan, Reed-Cooke, Kalorama, Dupont, Farragut, Downtown, Chinatown and Penn Quarter offer so much to be so close in proximity to each other. Is there another bus that can take you from the New England village-like community of Mt. Pleasant, to the fun and friends of Adams Morgan, to shopping in Dupont, an afternoon stroll at the White House and dinner and a movie or world class sports in Penn Quater? No other city can boast of such amenities for its residents. For all we demand and desire for our little slice of the pie here, be thankful for how great we have it already. Happy New Year.