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topic index Correspondence
(1999 Correspondence edited for conciseness; Listed Most Recent First)


Since NARPAC, Inc.'s inception, we have communicated with individuals in the Washington area who have the authority to make the District a better place. Each letter or fax has contained some suggestions consistent with the overall objectives of the organization.

The key ones from 1999 are listed below, starting with the most recent. 1998 correspondence is also available online:

1999

  • 54. PG County Executive re long-range planning
  • 53. Director, DC Dept of Health re regional laboratory
  • 52. Chairman/CEO of Fannie Mae re auto insurance for poor
  • 51. themail re DC School Board Election Process
  • 50. themail re 1999 DC School Scores
  • 49. Councilmember Jack Evans re SWTF Planning
  • 48. DCR/P Director re Cooperation with DCPS
  • 47. OMB Director Lew re DC Budget Act Veto
  • 46. The President re Clinton Legacy for DC
  • 45. Councilperson Kevin Chavous re DCPS oversight
  • 44. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton re Economic Development
  • 43. "Themail" at DCWatch re governance decision levels
  • 42. "Themail" at DCWatch re NARPAC address
  • 41. Metropolitan Police Dept Chief Ramsey
  • 40. DCPS Superintendent Arlene Ackerman
  • 39. "Themail" at DCWatch re Raising DC Revenues
  • 38. The Governors of Maryland and Virginia
  • 37. Council Members Mendelson and Catania
  • 36. The Automobile Assn of America, Potomac


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page 54. Letter to PG County Executive Wayne Curry re long-range planning for "Southeast Quadrant", December 15, 1999

NARPAC, Inc. believes that solving DC's woes, many of which now encroach on Prince George's County, involves sharing regionally the area's wealth--and poverty. This will require a concerted long-range economic development plan for the "Southeast Quadrant" stretching east from the Washington Monument to the Chesapeake at Annapolis, and south to the banks of the Potomac. As you well understand, the redevelopment of DC "East of the Anacostia River" is intimately tied to the development first of PG County (South), and then beyond into Anne Arundel, Calvert, and Charles Counties.

It is not clear to NARPAC that DC's planners--or DC's residents east of the river-- are ready to address that larger Southeast quadrant as an entity. The initial formulation of a more sweeping vision of the needed focal points and transportation infrastructure for this relatively empty quadrant could well be better led by yourself, thereby stimulating a major contribution to the future of the national capital metro area.

NARPAC cannot presume to provide that vision for you. However, we do have some ideas which might be worth your perusal, based mainly on comparing the many develop-ments northwest and southwest of DC to the few in the SE Quadrant. Our preliminary notions are summarized on the attached page. We would appreciate your comments.

P R E L I M I N A R Y S T R A W M A N

STRUCTURING A VISION FOR THE SOUTHEAST QUADRANT (SEQ)
(including DC 'East of the River', Prince George's County and Beyond)

Select Focal Points for New, Expanded Uses, to draw development to SEQ, such as:

  • Inside Beltway: Ft. DuPont Park; St. Elizabeth's; Bolling AFB; Naval Sta.; NRL; etc.
  • Outside Beltway: Annapolis; New Carrollton; Upper Marlboro; Waldorf; National Harbor, Indian Head?
  • Special Focus: Major effort at Andrews AFB to provide (government/private?) high-tech center: spaceport; commoport; e-commerce distribution site; gov't research labs; military/air interactive museums; and regional civic center: prison, hospitals, retirement homes, etc.
Select Major Road Upgrades, such as:

  • Inner Transverse: frm Balto/Wash Pway, Kennilworth Ave, Anacostia Fway, to Wilson Brdg;
  • Middle Ring: Beltway;
  • Outer Transverse: Rte 3/301 from Baltimore to Richmond;
  • Upgraded radials (from DC): East Capitol St; Pennsylvania. Ave; Suitland Pway; Branch Ave; Indian Head Hway; ML King Ave; (with major re-zoning--below).

Select Major Metro Extensions, such as:

  • Extend Blue Line to Largo, beyond; link Navy Yard (Green) to Potomac Ave (Orange);
  • Extend Green Line to Andrews AFB, Upper Marlboro; more SE stations (StE's, etc.);
  • New Riverside Line from Eisenhower Ave, Alexandria (Yellow) across to Nat'l Harbor, via Anacostia (Green) to Minnesota Ave (Orange) with stops at NRL, Bolling AFB, Naval Sta, Parkside,etc;
  • New Ring Line frm Eisenhower Ave, Alexandria over to Nat'l Harbor, Andrews AFB (new-Green), Largo (new-Blue), New Carrollton (Orange), Greenbelt (Green) , Wheaton, (Red) White Flint (Red).
  • High speed link from New Carrollton (Orange) to Annapolis.

Identify Major River Crossings, such as:

  • Replace S. Capitol Street (Douglass) Bridge, possibly with tunnel?;
  • New Wilson Bridge with two Metrorail tracks;
  • Enlarged lower crossing, Rte 301 at Dahlgren (?).

Special limited high-density, high-rise corridors, such as:

  • East Capitol Street SE; Pennsylvania Ave, SE; ML King Ave SE; Andrews AFB.

Consider Major Public Land-Swaps, such as:

  • Trade decreased Federal, Park Service lands inside DC in SW and East of River, such as: Buzzards Pt, Ft. DuPont Park, St. Elizabeth's, Bolling AFB, Naval Sta., NRL, etc., for additional federal, parklands in Prince George's County.

The following very encouraging response was received from Mr. Curry in a letter dated February 8th:

....Thank you for your letter of December 15th, encouraging a long-range economic development plan for what you call the Southeast Quadrant, which includes parts of Prince George's County.

I am pleased to say that early this year Joseph J. James, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Prince George's County Economic Development Corporation (EDC) will be initiating the creation of a South County Economic Development Plan. This plan will seek to maximize the economic benefits of some of the existing assets in the southern portion of our County, such as Andrews Air Force Base (AAFB).

Mr. James has already begun to investigate some of the issues you raised in your letter, including working with AAFB as they go through an A-76 process to determine whether or not to privatize various operations on the Base. A Space and Flight Center, which would expand educational and tourism opportunities associated with the presence of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and AAFB is also being pursued.

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page 53. Letterto Director Ivan Walks, DC Dept of Health re regional public health laboratory, December 15, 1999

One of NARPAC's basic tenets is that DC cannot become a nationally outstanding central city without very close cooperation throughout its metro area-- something that to date has not existed. While there are bound to be areas of competition-- such as economic growth--surely the region should not be split by stark differences in basic health services.

We note in a recent Washington Post article that you have temporarily closed your crippled Public Health Lab, and congratulate you for doing so. However, before you build a new state-of-the-art facility for DC alone, we urge you to at least explore the possibility of a major new regional public health laboratory in conjunction with our very healthy--and wealthy--suburban jurisdictions (or at the very least, with Prince George's County).

The mayor often talks about increasing regional cooperation, but we have yet to see concrete examples of it. What better place to start than in the crucial health arena? If the idea caught on, it could help DC solve its serious hospital problems, and others as well.

We would welcome your comments, and if you agree, publish them on our website.

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page 52. Letter to Chairman and CEO Franklin Raines of Fannie Mae re low cost auto insurance for the poor, December 9, 1999

NARPAC commends you for all your efforts on behalf of the District of Columbia over many years. In our small way, we too are trying to help restore national pride in our capital city and metro area. Resolving the persistent problems of poverty--and "poverty sharing" across the metro area--is perhaps the primary issue.

One aspect we are exploring is the matter of "poverty traps"--situations in which the poor find themselves paying more the poorer they become. An important case in point seems to be buying, insuring, and operating automobiles so they can get from their urban public/subsidized housing to better paying jobs scattered around the suburbs. The attached summary of a 1997 GAO report was prepared for our website (www.narpac.org), and offers some of the numbers, particularly involving the cost of inner city car insurance.

It seems to us there is a close parallel between Fannie Mae's efforts in making housing affordable, and the efforts needed to make reliable personal transportation affordable: some combination of affordable loans for modest (probably used) cars, affordable maintenance (like food stamps?), and affordable "no fault, no pain" auto insurance, perhaps commercially sold, but federally underwritten.

We have no means to follow up on such half-formed ideas but wondered if you might become interested and find some realistic way to pursue it--perhaps through some spin-off from Fannie Mae. In any event, we would be interested in hearing your reactions, and any advice on where else we might turn to stimulate interest.

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page 51. Commentary to 'themail' re School Board Election Process, November 28, l999

The Odds of Fixing the DCPS School Board the Chavous Way

Salvaging DC's public school system requires long-term efforts from fully- experienced, tough-minded, hard-driving leaders cooperating across the School Board, the Superintendent's office, and individual schools--with help from outside experts. The DC Council is proposing relatively small changes in the current representational election process, plus better definition of the board's duties. NARPAC believes that an appointed Board (approved by elected officials) can bring to bear more professional expertise from a broader government and regional base. We doubt the requisite professional talent can be elected.

For the Chavous scheme to attract the needed talent, all the following conditions would have to be met: a) the pool of DC residents include all the requisite skills; b) those skills be evenly divided among the eight wards; c) each ward's well-qualified be willing to run for elective office; d) all those who run carry the proper political attributes to win; e) the few who vote for school board members recognize those qualities; f) those elected serve effectively under a separately elected chair; and g) the board so elected not need guidance from other DC or regional agencies.

The odds against success are daunting. To improve those odds, NARPAC suggests that at the very least the new School Board Election Bill encourage respected present/retired school principals to run for, and be paid to serve on, the Board without forfeiting current position, salary, or pension. They could run from any ward they chose, regardless of residence or school location within the metro area, but their school test scores would have to be in the top quartile.

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page 50. Commentary to 'themail' re 1999 DC Public School Test Scores, Letter to OMB Director Lew re DC Budget Act Veto, September 21, l999

Glimmers of Hope in '99 DCPS Test Score Trends?

NARPAC has looked at the latest DCPS Test Scores to see if there are discernible trends. Percentages seem somewhat sterile, so we converted selected data for high and junior/middle schools into approximate numbers of individuall students shifting from one category to another (using scaled-down '95 per-school enrollment data). One can be appalled by the lousy baseline, or encouraged by these first two years' improvements:

About 11,000 kids attend DCPS middle/junior schools: some 2800 of them read "below basic" level, and over 6400 test "below basic" in math. However, almost 900 kids have climbed out of this bottom category in reading, and 1100 in math since '97. Further up the scale, nearly 2300 kids test "proficient" in reading but only about 1000 in math. But these include 340 newly proficient readers, and 220 new good math students.

Progress is slower for the 12,000 or so high school students: over 6650 test "below basic" in reading, about 9750, in math. These are fewer (better) than two years prior by some 200 in reading, and almost 1600 in math. At the "proficient" level, there are roughly 1000 good readers and 550 good math students--an insignificant change in good readers from '97, but almost 400 more kids good at math.

Unfortunately, DC's (many) poorer schools are improving more slowly than the (fewer) better schools. Altogether, over half of DC's school kids are being left behind--many for reasons beyond their control. But a finite number--as many as 1000--already have a significantly better chance to find jobs, and several hundred more might try for college. The trend is right and the progress seems real--albeit frustratingly slow.

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page 49. Letter to Councilmember Jack Evans re broader notions for the Southwest Task Force, November 8, 1999

NARPAC tries to look at how DC is viewed by all Americans as a national capital city and metro area--it is, after all, their city as well as yours. As such, we tend to look to the broader issues, master plans, etc., and press for 'systems solutions' (in Pentagon parlance) rather than neghborhood preferences. As we say in our November web site editorial, this city must be a great deal more than the sum of its neighborhoods.

Attached is a one-page summary of broader items I would urge your task force to look at for the longer haul. The city esssentially has no up-to-date master plan for the entire area "south of the freeway", and it surely cannot wait for the NCPC 100-year vision for the federal city to materialize. Some aspects of "Extending the Legacy" seem well beyond reality, while others fall well short of minimum expectations.

NARPAC notes that the Task Force focus--and attendance--does not seem to reach to the borders of its 'jurisdiction', or to its immediate neighbors. Dick Westbrook's marvellous aerial photos tend to capture SW as an island unto itself. They need to be matched by a broader perspective that reaches much further--well beyond the Beltway. Southwest is not, after all, a cul de sac, but rather a springboard to the least developed quadrant of the entire metro area--south of the capitol and east of the Potomac.

BROADER NOTIONS FOR THE SOUTHWEST TASK FORCE
(All assertions are intended to stimulate thought, discussion, revision)

A Neighborhood Image
Southwest is destined to become part of the high density upscale downtown area catering to a diverse set of professional businesses, entertainment, arts and residences with exceptional riverfront access. Few young families will live here. This area must generate substantially more revenues for the nation's capital city than it consumes in services.

Upgrading the Metrorail System
Metrorail will provide the centers for economic growth. New accesses to existing stations; a new rail link from Waterfront to Potomac Avenue with at least one new M Street station, plus a possible new Anacostia River crossing to serve Pennsylvania Ave, SE should all be encouraged and sought early (due to construction leadtimes).

Absorbing the SE/SW Freeway/Railway
The NCPC plan to remove the SE/SW Freeway and railroad tracks is a pointless waste of huge sums of money. Rail and road bridge design improvements, better north/south pedestrian crossings, air rights structure/park over the Rt 395/freeway exchange, can help subsume these arteries into the city's downtown character.

The M Street South Corridor vs Capital Street South
M Street South should be a seamless corridor for economic development--not unlike the Jefferson Davis corridor of Arlington/Alexandria. Redesign (lowering?) of South Capitol Street to give preference to M Street is an early imperative.

Embracing and Benefitting from Federal Properties
Navy Yard and Ft. McNair are permanent, valuable assets that can be made more revenue productive to the area: both could well be considered for expansion. Buzzards Point should be totally redeveloped, perhaps within an expanded Ft. McNair campus for federal colleges.

Using the Rivers: Water's Edge Esplanades
The National Park Service should be urged to develop a water's edge esplanade from the Tidal Basin to the Arboretum--and a matching one from Blue Plains to the Aquatic Gardens. Water-based activities along and between the shores should be encouraged. Both sides of the Anacostia should be developed to closely complement each other.

Affordable Living
A portion of this area should be maintained for affordable housing and related facilities for lower income people working and learning their way out of poverty into mainstream urban life: helping with this process should be a welcomed community obligation for this area.

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page 48. Letter to Director of DC Parks and Recreation Newman re Cooperation with DCPS, November 8, l999

My organization is devoted to helping make DC a capital city--and metro area--that the whole country can be proud of. We are anxious to see the city adopt more forward-looking plans and avoid overreacting to local activists. We are also interested in seeing the city government agencies work in closer cooperation with each other. In particular, we are concerned that the DC Public School system is isolated from other organizations that heavily influence to our kids' development (public housing, health, police, etc.).

In this regard, I wonder to what extent your department works with DCPS and whether closer cooperation could benefit both. Could good school kids and their parents adopt and help clean up some of your playgrounds? Could bad kids and their parents do "community service" in your parks? Could older kids and younger teachers become your "roving leaders"? Could your maintenance staff and DCPS's complement each other seasonally? Could facilities be shared? Could technical staffs and/or procurement be shared? Could your facilities be used as adult education centers? And so on. In short, I wonder if there is anything to be gained by trying to increase such interagency cooperation. In DC, both you and the school system need all the help you can get!

The Director's excellent response is included in NARPAC's section on DC's Dept of Recreation and Parks.

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page 47. Letter to OMB Director Lew re DC Budget Act Veto, September 21, l999

This organization encourages you to recommend that the President veto the DC Budget Act for FY2000 -- because of the several riders attached to it -- with some accompanying statement to the effect that:

"It is high time for the Congress of the United States to begin the process of devising a new means for carrying out its Constitutional obligations regarding the District of Columbia which is less intrusive and demeaning to the citizens of our national capital city."

This would be consistent with our recent, broader recommendations (see below) to the President that he develop a legacy that would assure permanent national pride in our capital city.

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page 46. Letter to The President re a Clinton Legacy for DC, September 1, 1999

You and your administration will be well remembered for starting a major revitalization effort for our nation's capital city. All signs indicate a very significant turnaround in the next few years -- if the momentum continues. Several problem areas need additional Presidential emphasis, however, before DC can emerge as a truly outstanding example of the American dream:

Locally, DC still performs vital but uncompensated services for federal agencies while being denied normal municipal revenue sources by Congress. It also struggles under some non-municipal "state-like" functions that still burden city management.

Regionally, like many sprawling US metro areas, DC's suburbs ignore their inner city's special needs, resulting in a very uneven "socioeconomic playing field". And there are many (mostly federal) tax-exempt lands and properties within the region that could be put to far more productive use. A truly comprehensive long- range regional resource-use plan is needed to promote balanced metro area prosperity and growth.

Federally, Congressional oversight of DC remains an affront to local residents, particularly when they are denied equal representation in Congress. It is time to treat the hosts of America's capital city like other American citizens.

Attached is an outline for six policy initiatives to finish the revitalization program you started. It needs to be fleshed out by government officials, but annual costs would be roughly one billion dollars. Far more important as a Presidential legacy however, is the opportunity to set in place the underlying policies that can assure permanent national pride in our nation capital city -- and metro area.

We sincerely hope you will give serious consideration to these policy objectives,

POLICY ELEMENTS OF A (BILLION-DOLLAR*) CLINTON LEGACY -- FOR OUR NATION'S CAPITAL CITY

The White House should propose follow-on federal initiatives in the FY2001 budget to continue the momentum of revitalizing our nation's capital city:

1. Relieve DC of--or compensate DC for--continuing burdens of performing non-municipal functions and obeying federally-imposed revenue constraints (~$600M);

(viz., state functions = ~$200M, ban on commuter taxes, etc. = ~$400M)

2. Reimburse DC (through federal agencies) for more of the direct costs of supporting the Federal Government and its many 'camp followers' (~$300M);

(half of DC Government's $600M estimate of costs of federal presence)

3. Provide incentives for developing regional (metro area) agencies to solve clearly regional problems--and "level the metro playing field" (~$75M):

(re-allocate a portion of federal grants for transport, health, welfare, housing, etc. from states to newly established regional authorities)

4. Generate plans within the Executive Branch for turning major regional and local tax-exempt land/properties into productive socioeconomic revenue sources and sponsor a single comprehensive federal/metro area/DC plan (~$25M);

(Bolling & Andrews AFB, Navy Research Lab, St. Elizabeth's, Ft. DuPont Park, non-profits, etc.)

5. Encourage Congress to change the tenor of their DC oversight by eliminating, consolidating, or restructuring current oversight subcommittees ($0M);

(recommend a single Joint Committee of the Congress for DC, metro areas?)

6. Support the development of constitutionally acceptable means to assure realistic DC representation in the Congress (not statehood) ($0M);

(propose DC as a federal installation in Maryland with in-state voting rights?)

* = cost estimates are approximate(~)--at best

The President's response of December 23rd reads as follows:

"Thank you for your letter and for sharing your proposals about the District of Columbia. I appreciate your kind words about my Administration's efforts to revitalize our nation's capital, and I have passed along your proposals to my staff in the Office of Management and Budget for review.

"My administration is committed to providing the people of the District of Columbia with the tools they need to make the most of their lives. In addition to our efforts to restore financial stability to the city, we have worked to foster opportunity for District residents to achieve their full potential. That is why I was so pleased to sign into law this month the "District of Columbia College Access Act of 1999." By enabling thousands of DC residents to attend a variety of public colleges and universities at a reasonable cost, this legislation will help them acquire the high-quality education they deserve.

"I appreciate your leadership, and I'm glad you took the time to send me your suggestions. Best wishes.

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page 45. Letter to Councilperson Kevin Chavous, Chair, Education Committee, re Revised Oversight for DCPS, August 18, 1999
(a very abbreviated version of this letter appeared in the Washngton Post on October 14, 1999)

Congratulations on your decision to explore basic changes in DCPS oversight. NARPAC feels major systemic changes in public education are fundamental to restoring pride in America's capital. Our reasons are summarized below and expanded on the attachment:

a) Future urban schools (at all levels) should be very different than those of the '60s, and serve a variety of community functions beyond basic education;

b) DCPS management should be coupled with other municipal functions; impediments to educating DC's kids--and drop-outs--go well beyond the school system's purview:

c) DCPS should avail itself of cooperative technical assistance from some of America's finest, fastest growing, and most efficient systems--right in our own metro area;

d) Really tough choices are seldom made by local voters: DCPS needs the equivalent of a top-notch court-appointed receiver (viz., DCHA) and of a state school board;

Hence, NARPAC recommends a small (3-4 person), nonpolitical, very autocratic, executive committee, appointed from a larger, composite 17-member advisory school board with 8 elected ward members, and 9 Council-approved appointees, including:

  • 1 committee/board chair (picked by courts, Control Bd or mayor);
  • 1 federal (DoED?) and 2 regional educators (from Va, Md, CoG?);
  • 1 college-level educator (from Consortium of U's?); and
  • 4 DC gov't reps: (from DepMayorED; H,HS; HCD/HA; MPD?).

We would be delighted to discuss this with you, or testify before your committee.

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page 44. Letter to Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton re Economic Development in DC, July 29, 1999

This responds to your invitation for ideas concerning continued economic develop- ment in DC at your July 26th Town Meeting. I enjoyed listening to you and your three outstanding panelists, and congratulate all of you on your help for our nation's capital city. Our organization and web site (www.narpac.org) have the same objectives.

Raising the "productivity" of all DC properties, regardless of ownership, is key to DC's future. So is the vision of gradually reaching out over the SE Freeway to the banks of the Anacostia, and then across the river to DC's boundary and, I submit, beyond that.

We may differ, however, on the best route to get there. Progress may well come only one step, one property, or one agency at a time, but the city can ill afford to grow incrementally without some overarching plan and the underlying infrastructure to go with it (viz, Arlington County 20 yrs ago). Ad hoc expansion from "downtown" will almost surely lead to mediocre, disorganized development, and fall way short of making DC the worldclass center of a worldclass metro area. DC's problems are exacerbated by the many different players and stakeholders, and they, in turn, increase the need for an agreed outline of where our capital city is headed.

On the attached pages I raise (very informally) a series of issues to illustrate the need for a thorough, unified, regional plan for this quadrant of the city (loosely merging SE and SW) and beyond. Given the maze of overlapping authorities, the development of such a plan (and the participants) should be mandated--if not funded--by the federal government.



STIMULATING ECONOMIC GROWTH TO DC's SOUTHEAST QUADRANT

1. Cities tend to grow outward towards something--not away from something. DC has no clear "target" beyond its SE quadrant (SEQ)--like Richmond, Dulles, Gaithersburg, or Baltimore. Maryland's Andrews AFB (AAFB) could become that target if given futuristic "missions"--like spaceport, capitol missile defense center, global commo center, etc.

2. White collar jobs tend to cluster around metro stations (viz., Alexandria, Ballston, Bethesda, Silver Spring. et al). The metro layout for the SEQ is totally inadequate on both sides of the Anacostia River (The River). Should there be new radials out to AAFB, or down to National Harbor? Should a "ring metro" be started from, say, Alexandria around to AAFB? (Are there plans to add rail lines to the new Wilson Bridge--or the old one?) Should Metro serve National Park Service (NPS) and other federal land? Should there be a riverside line along the SE shore of The River to enhance those properties?

3. Residential and commercial properties grow along major routes (like Jefferson- Davis Corridor, Arlington Blvd, Dulles Corridor, or Rte 270N). Which will be SEQ's major roads: Pennsylvania or Massachusetts Aves, Suitland Parkway, Martin Luther King Ave? Doesn't that depend on where they lead beyond DC?

4. What is the future for South Capitol Street which now divides the North Bank of The River into two competing zones with an eyesore worse than the Freeway? Why not either elevate or depress it to unify the "M-street corridor"? Is the (federal) National Capital Planning Commission vision of a new "monumental axis" along S Capitol St to be honored or ignored by the City? That should influence what might be done now with S Capitol St (probably put it underground--if the metro permits)

5. The city should decide what category of resident taxpayers it prefers and tailor new developments to attract them. Young--and retired--professionals as well as well-off "empty- nesters" can all be drawn to DC's stimulating urban environment, while greatly reducing demands on public schools, hospitals, and police (like Arlington County).

6. What is the future of DC's concentrated public/subsidized housing which has spawned extensive blight on both sides of The River--but has no equivalent in the suburbs. DCHA is under the direction of an outstanding receiver: is he involved in economic development plans? (see below) The city must also decide whether to continue devoting high-value hilltop properties with clear views of the capitol to such housing projects.

7. High crime rates, particularly near blighted areas, seriously deter DC residency. Are new economic developments laid out to enhance public safety (police substations, gated inner court access, public space surveillance, call boxes, etc.)? (see below)

8. DC's struggling old school systemis another deterrent to city living. Do develop- ment plans include the school infrastructure--both for kids and adult re-education? Why not oblige developers to contribute to school, police, and public housing needs (above)?

9. The city's antiquated public hospital system is a shambles: do new economic developments include new (smaller) hospital sites--as well as new uses for old sites?

10. Where are the inducements to generate new DC small businesses? Where is the Small Business Administration. input? Where are the small, subsidized, light-work indus-trial parks? Even the defunct Lorton Prison had GSA contracts to repair office furniture!

11. Federal properties and offices can be swapped, relocated, etc. Currently planned uses for, say, Buzzard's Point (BP), Waterfront Mall, and SEBC can be juggled. Why should federal properties co-opt The River's shore, rather than say residential uses, new hospitals, or a new academic campus for various DC- subsidized colleges (viz., UDC)? Why not move the Coast Guard either to SEBC or to the Waterfront Mall and free up BP for better use?

12. There are large non-productive, near-empty public properties throughout Anacostia. Why not make Kennilworth Aquatic Gardens (!) into a giant new sports complex? Why not turn the near-empty St. Elizabeth's hospital into a hi- tech medical/genetics center--and give it a metro station? Why not move the Pentagon to Bolling AFB so that Arlington National Cemetery can expand (perhaps with a huge columbary for cremated remains)? Why not ask the military to build hi-tech interactive museums where the Naval Research Lab is?

13. One highly represented but relatively non-productive group are the tax- free foreign properties (and staffs) along Massachusetts Ave, NW). Why not encourage them to generate permanent, productive (world's fair-like) pavilions, education centers, and transient visitors' quarters on a new International Mall at Fort Dupont Park along Mass. Ave, SE. It could become as big an attraction as the National Mall downtown.

14. The non-profits/foundations form another over-represented, under- producing sector. Why not establish some sort of a campus on tax-free federal, NPS, or city land, so that their valuable current properties can become revenue producers? At least require them to put productive enterprises on their properties, or seek air rights. Shouldn't Brookings have a movie house, a saloon called the 'Think Tank', or sit over a parking garage?

15. The River's banks are a special asset. How can one preserve the continuity of the banks and still develop diverse uses for adjacent properties? elevate the bike/jogger paths? Put agencies with special security needs together? Pull them back from The River's edge?

16. What about The River itself? Beyond the EPA clean-up, it could become a water park with special-effects fountains, fireworks, floating music pavilions, submarine rides, sporting events, or even mock-military D-Day invasions from the Navy Yard to DIA!

17. There are no building height limits outside DC's borders--even right across the Potomac--and the suburbs develop taller (more productive) ones than DC. Why not get Congress to relax DC's limits across The River to encourage "urban corridors" to match Rosslyn, Bethesda, Silver Spring or Alexandra? Height could be graduated with distance from the capitol dome and encourage clusters of high-density growth surrounded by low-density, high-value residential growth? Why not have a few peripheral skylines--matching smaller cities like Albany, New Haven, Providence, or Newark?

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page 43. Letter to "Themail" re governance decision levels, May 31, 1999

From Day 1, NARPAC has tried to define, and urge all levels of governance to address, their unfulfilled obligations in helping restore pride in America's capital. Here again are some of our views. Nationally, Congress and the Feds should be assuring our country's capital symbols are hosted by a model American core city within a model American metro area. They should be assuring DC's citizens are fully represented politically, and fully protected from political exploitation by other jurisdictions. And across the US, federal authorities should be guiding the evolution from outdated state authorities to emerging metro authorities, and confronting America's most persistent and toxic problem: seeping urban blight. They flunk all five courses.

Regionally, all GWMSA jurisdictions should be developing a unified, nationally- (and globally-) competitive, forward-looking metro area with: a) a level socio-economic playing field (e.g., comparable welfare rates, jobs, housing); b) effective, efficient delivery of common gov't services (e.g., procurement, eqpt. maintenance) and specialty services (e.g., in health, education); and c) sensible division of preferences for land use (e.g., soccer fields, opera houses), businesses (e.g., finance, car sales), and public resources (e.g., parks, tax revenues). No passing grades here.

Municipally, DC needs to: consciously decide what kind of a modern core city it wants to become; develop bold, long-range public and private land-use plans to do so; re-balance and integrate its citywide and neighborhood responsibilities; streamline its election practices and tax structure; provide above-the-norm public services at below-the-norm costs; shed its remaining non-municipal functions; and belly up to the causes of and solutions to its self-inflicted blight--and the resulting imbalance between taxpayers and tax-consumers. Neither thje Mayor nor the DC Council has yet begun to address these systemic issues. We've all got a long way to go if we want to lift Washington, DC above mediocrity.

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page 42. Letter to "Themail" re NARPAC's address and critical approach, May 15, 1999

We are a national, all-volunteer, non-profit, tax-exempt, 501(c)(3) Maryland corporation. Our five major participants have logged 105 years of DC residency: four still pay DC income and property taxes. Our postal address is Chevy Chase, MD--but our main address is global at http://www.narpac.org. Almost half our resolved addressors are dotcom, another quarter, dotnet. Referrals have come from 200 other sites, and our readers have come from 50 different countries, scores of US colleges nationwide, and dozens of US gov't agencies. We have donors from several states.

NARPAC's objective is to interest Americans everywhere in helping solve DC's major problems, many of which did not originate in DC's neighborhoods, most of which have parallels in other American inner cities, and some of which require creative federal or regional solutions. Some part of DC belongs to all Americans--it is their capital city, and they should help make it a source of national pride. Most of the site's 'critical' materials are excerpted from official studies and current news. Based on those and our own data analyses, we offer hundreds of constructive long- range policy-level suggestions throughout the site. Many would help DC neighborhoods--albeit indirectly. We welcome constructive inputs.

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page 41. Letter to Police Chief Ramsey re Regional Police Academy, March 5, 1999

Like you, we at NARPAC are dedicated to making DC a place all Americans can be proud of. We focus on long-range structural improvements at all levels of government -- federal, regional, and local. We wish to offer a suggestion related to your recently stated aim to re-open the Police Academy.

NARPAC feels strongly that DC cannot become a model US core city unless it fosters cooperation with the suburbs to achieve a level socioeconomic playing field. Police training offers a marvelous opportunity in this direction. Promoting a regional training center to consolidate the best of what the entire metro area needs in law enforcement skills and expertise, would have many advantages for DC including important opportunities to:

  • develop a more economical solution for first-rate training;
  • share the latest teaching approaches including simulators and ranges;
  • share the latest technological innovations in police work;
  • develop personnel acquaintances among regional counterparts;
  • develop interoperability in equipment, doctrine, and data bases;
  • work towards shared specialty operations;
  • gain departmental pride in regional equality; and
  • work towards regional procurements, stockpiles, and equipment maintenance.

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page 40. Letter to Superintendent Arlene Ackerman re Weighted Student Formula, February 24, 1999

I thought you might like to see an advance copy of NARPAC's commentary on your Weighted Student Formula proposal. We were skeptical of your approach at first, but our analysis leads us to your conclusion. Some shift of resources from the more successful smaller schools to the less successful larger schools is in order, even accounting for "econ-omy of scale" factors. It will be far better to err--if at all--on the side of the neediest.

The public school system, together with enlightened public housing and community development authorities, are the primary institutions for the cure of what might be called the Lifelong Educational Deficiency Syndrome (LEDS), a serious and persistent educational deficiency endemic to seriously blighted neighborhoods. Some neighboring school systems may enjoy the luxury of favoring gifted students, but DCPS has no choice but to focus on those who, by circumstance, are virtually giftless. These are our most vulnerable citizens and for them no alternative education choices exist.

NARPAC would like to suggest several complementary steps to help insure against formula manipulation by unscrupulous managers, of which DCPS no doubt still has its share:

1. Steepen the management performance incentives (both plus and minus) for those schools with the highest per-student funding;

2. Strengthen your Inspector General's office to monitor WSF compliance--and results;

3. Coordinate your plans to improve the educational environment with DCHA/DHCD efforts to improve blighted neighborhood environments;

4. Engage the skills and resources of the entire metro area to help DCPS with both the relatively giftless (of all ages), and the relatively gifted; and

5. Provide additional incentives to merge and modernize schools by offering to share savings in central DCPS costs from reduced overhead, operations, and maintenance costs.

I hope we do not seem presumptuous in offering these suggestions. Our objective in this and all our analysis and writing is to help make our capital metro area a place of unique national pride for all Americans, a task in which you play a leading role.

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page 39. Commentary to "TheMail" at DCWatch re Bribing Americans to Live and/or Work in Their Nation's Capital City, January 25, 1999

NARPAC agrees that it is antithetical to the American dream -- to say nothing of simply embarrassing -- to suggest that Americans should be bribed to live or work in their nation's capital as a means of raising revenues. Why should we be subsidizing seats at the 50 yd line to get people out from behind the goal posts?

DC has ignored many ways to raises its own revenue base by increasing the taxable value of its properties. These include such rational steps as: a) removing rent controls; b) upgrading neighborhoods to suburban standards; c) encouraging higher density residential areas; d) revamping DC's property tax assessment methods; e) relaxing building height restrictions towards DC's boundaries; f) encouraging business growth near metro stations instead of using them as rural bus stops; g) ceasing to attract the poor with excessive welfare payments; h) streamlining business regulations--or accepting regional standards; h) levying taxes (gross receipts, whatever) on such DC core businesses as lobbying and consulting; i) developing new concepts of what central cities should uniquely aspire to, instead of denying valid suburban preferences and market economics; and j) working to get rid of Congressional oversight subcommittees (incl. members and staffers) with clear suburban conflicts of interest who oppose leveling the metro area playing field

. Furthermore, there are very valid arguments for soliciting tax assistance from: a) the Feds through some form of federal payment in lieu of (property) taxes; b) Maryland and Virginia through some form of state payments in lieu of (commuter) taxes; and from c) American citizens countrywide, perhaps through some voluntary check-off box (say, $5) on their federal income taxes. This is, after all, our nation's capital city and metro area. Let's hear it for pursuing some bold initiatives instead of subverting the American Way.

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page 38. Letters to the Governors of Maryland and Virginia, January 21, 1999

I am writing this open letter on behalf of NARPAC, Inc. We are a small, but growing, national non-profit organization devoted to focussing attention on the needs of America's capital. We believe all Americans should become involved, and we maintain a major web site at www.narpac.org to inform the public on DC's problems, progress, and potential solutions.

One major NARPAC theme stresses the seminal importance of enhancing regional cooperation within the metro area. Inner cities cannot survive, let alone /flourish, without strong ties to their suburbs, and those suburbs cannot prosper without a vibrant core city.

Now that you are addressing the options in allocating revenue surpluses--and DC is finally revamping its government, we believe both Maryland and Virginia should accept an appropriate role in helping level the playing field between our capital city and its suburbs. As you know, over $1 billion of your combined tax revenues derive from wages earned in DC. We see this as a propitious time to consider phasing in some annual transfer payment to DC.

If the usual commuter tax is still political anathema to you, we suggest a Payment in Lieu of (Commuter) Taxes to reflect proportionate funding of four common government functions that should not skew personal decisions as to where to live or work. These include (using NARPAC's estimate of the regional imbalance): public health care ($180M); public safety ($150M); welfare administration ($35M); and public higher education ($35M).

This $400M payment would cost Maryland and Virginia taxpayers about $75 per return, while saving overburdened DC taxpayers about $1500 per return. About $160M would come from Virginia, $240M from Maryland. Such payments might well be contingent on DC continuing to tighten its bureaucratic belt, since DC still employs too many people and at too high wages relative to your states. We would sincerely appreciate the opportunity to discuss this further with you or your staff--before this landmark opportunity is lost.

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page 37. Fax to Council Members Phil Mendelson and David Catania, January 20, 1999

Congratulations on your important Council assignments. NARPAC is a small, but growing, national non-profit organization devoted to focussing attention on the needs of America's capital. We believe all Americans should become involved, and we maintain a major web site devoted to informing the public on the city's problems, progress, and potential solutions. Please visit us at www.narpac.org.

One major NARPAC theme is to emphasize the seminal importance of enhancing regional cooperation within the metro region. No US inner city can survive, let alone flourish, without strong ties to its suburbs and a "level playing field" in common areas of development.

You now hold a key position for increasing the District's focus on regional solutions, and we encourage you to do so. Attached are two recent NARPAC suggestions indicating the broad variety of potential regional applications:

a) a letter to the local American Automobile Association urging support for a regional emergency traffic control body to avoid protracted tie-ups (as on the Wilson Bridge);

b) a draft commentary for our web site on the Williams' Transition Team report on regionalization, which we felt fell short by ignoring enhancement of local governance;

Within our limits, we would like to assist you, meet with you, or appear before your committee. Our chapter on regionalism (and COG) is at www.narpac.org/REG.HTM.

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page 36. Lon Anderson, AAA Potomac, January 6, 1999

This follows up on my conversation with your office earlier today. I had seen you on television, suggesting the Wilson Bridge "Jumper" should be penalized for the major traffic disruption he caused. In my view it was Chief Ramsey that deserved the penalty.

I find Chief Ramsey's actions to close the Eastern seaboard's major north-south artery for half a working day a clear example of unacceptable amateurism in the conduct of regional governance. DC has no credible responsibility for major regional routes that divert traffic around the inner city. Its interest in this federal bridge connecting two states is primarily to provide a DC job for the bridge operator. Its jurisdiction does not reach to either shore.

But the question is not whether Ramsey's initial humanitarian reaction was laudable, but whether there was incompetence in the subsequent failure to quickly improvise solutions in conjunction with neighboring jurisdictions. There must be scores of ways to isolate the jumper from the thoroughfare, or at least obscure his aim at passing traffic (I can think of several). Surely officials long accustomed to dealing with large, high density traffic flows should be consulted to minimize regional disruption.

If the DC metro area is to be a national model, we must find practical regional solutions to clearly regional problems, and avoid the waste and embarrassment when one local jurisdiction ignores the greater metro area interests and expertise. I urge the AAA to press the Metro Washington Council of Governments to establish a Regional Traffic Control Response Group with joint authority to resolve such freak problems. With ad hoc members from area law enforcement and emergency agencies, FEMA, and the military (or Guard), virtually any traffic contingency could be handled swiftly, professionally--and proudly.

Earlier correspondence is also available online

This page was updated on Mar 5, 2000


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