MENU
topic index What's New?

Great cities and great metro areas are far more than the sum of their neighborhoods.

WHAT'S NEW links take you directly to relevant subsections of long documents--if you have a slow internet connection, you may experience a slight delay as the age loads if the targeted section is located near the bottom of a page. We appreciate your patience!

WHAT'S NEW: AUGUST, 2008

A new book of "digital watercolors" by Narpac member John Cleave has been added to the Washington Artists section of the web site. The book will be available from major booksellers and via Amazon.com in October. Here's a sneak preview of ISTANBUL: City of Two Continents.

WHAT'S NEW: JANUARY, 2008

NARPAC has made the difficult decision to scale back at least temporarily its analytical efforts in support of transforming the District of Columbia as it now exists into a truly outstanding national capital city of which all Americans can be proud. It became clear during the latter years of the prior Williams/Cropp administration that the city government had the moxie needed to substantially increase DC's economic development. The new office buildings, condos, and housing developments now abuilding downtown and all around the city will continue to improve the visual images of our capital city. But these improvements have done little if anything to eliminate the deep-seated urban blight that generates nationally-embarrassing, almost Third World, statistics on health, crime, poverty, and illiteracy that perpetuate the wasted lives of a stubborn underclass. To make matters worse, the rising costs of supporting the large number of ingrained disadvantaged kids, adults, and seniors, has made it impossible to address the growing needs for physical infrastructure renewal.

The first year of the new Fenty/Gray administration indicates that it can probably do just as well in continuing economic development, and be equally if not less effective in dealing with both the city's human infrastructure and its physical infrastructure. NARPAC reluctantly concludes that unless the next federal administration and Congress can oblige the various separate jurisdictions of the Washington Metro Area, including the inner city as well, to cooperate in developing their unique and symbolic "core city", and provide needed federal infrastructure funding, DC will never experience its American potential. :

o This is the subject of NARPAC's latest editorial view, (below) which is entitled A DISCOURAGING PROGNOSIS FOR OUR NATIONAL CAPITAL CITY: The Curse of Low Expectations . Based on the eight years of effort by the Williams/Cropp administration, and the undistinguished beginnings of the new Fenty/Gray administration, NARPAC reluctantly concludes that local leadership is not capable of transfiguring the District of Columbia into a world-class "inner city"without major regional cooperation stimulated by the Federal Government. Unless next year's new Administration and new Congress agree to provide guidelines, legislation, and funding, there is no hope for a truly exemplary national capital metro area and/or even a first-class core city to evolve solely from local initiatives.

o And the subject of our latest snapshots is the new Navy Yard/Ball Park area of Southeast, where an extraordinarily exciting economic development is accompanied by an incredibly inadequate expansion of the transportation infrastructure needed to support it into the future. Three photos are added to NARPAC's popular PHOTO ALBUM showing the progress and limitations of this highly symbolic site.

o Our search engine makes it relatively easy for you--and NARPAC's editors--to find your way around this increasingly complex site;

---------------

o All the relevant headlines from the Washington Post concerning DC from 1997 through 2007, but not beyond, are tabulated in reverse chronological order under seven different headings. They provide a fascinating record of ten years of successful economic development, and unsuccessful human advancement.

city management ;
safety and justice;
public education ;
health and human services ;
public works ;
finance and contracting ; and
demographic/economic trends.

o December's editorial view entitled NEW DC DILEMMA: TAKING BOLD ACTIONS vs LOSING THE PUBLIC TRUST has been added to NARPAC's Compendium of Monthly Editorials. It points out that many of the early moves by the new mayor and his team run the risk of alienating the city's residents through ignorance, arrogance, or extravagance. Loss of the public trust could result in virtually no meaningful improvements in DC's major socioeconomic problems during this administration.

o NARPAC's past monthly editorials files have been indexed and summarized for:

2005-2007;
2003-2004;
2001-2002;
1999-2000; and
1997-1998.

Together, they reflect NARPAC's evolving positions on most major issues concerning DC;

o NARPAC, Inc.'s SITE OUTLINE and up-to-date detailed indexes for Recent Analyses, Major Issues, and Current Status list all the sub-topics as well as the most recent updates on all web site pages;

We would very much like to know whether you are finding this web site of interest, and receive any comments you may have for its improvement. Please click here to Send Us Your Feedback, and read what others have said.


NARPAC, Inc. EDITORIAL

A DISCOURAGING PROGNOSIS FOR OUR NATIONAL CAPITAL CITY
The Curse of Low Expectations

Public reviews of the Fenty/Gray Administration's first year in office have been oddly upbeat and supportive, which is very disappointing to NARPAC. A new team may deserve some time to find its footing, but its longer range objectives and its modus operandi for achieving them should be evident by now, and reflected in their second-year plans and beyond. We cannot discern any balanced set of long-range goals for our national capital city, any meaningful set of programs to achieve them, or any semblance of a management style or team by which to accomplish them.

NARPAC has spent ten years defining and analyzing the basic problems that statistically brand our nation's capital as somewhere between a below-average American urban mess and a barely competitive Third World urban disaster. Despite some truly exciting areas of mixed economic development, the city's underlying ills persist. Local issues are overshadowed by the distractions of the glittering Federal Presence and its globally-oriented 'camp followers'. Local city officials operate without benefit of the broader perspective (or resources) of a state government. And the core city is outshone by the burgeoning success and self-confidence of its exemplary suburbs.

The District, the 'inner city' of our national capital metro area, still simmers with poor health; high crime rates; rampant poverty and homelessness, failed public education and gross functional illiteracy; incomplete families; low-skilled workers and high unemployment; a largely-missing middle-class and declining public ethics; clogged arteries, streets and mass transit; over-aged water and sewer systems; and obsolete development constraints. Municipal politics are tainted by: racially-based resentment; an electorate overly dependent on public largesse; local priorities focused on sustaining DC as the region's poorhouse, not the nation's showcase; and dismissal of Congress's Constitutional authorities over DC as degrading relics of a bygone plantation era.

Opportunistic city officials perpetuate the myth that the tide of higher-skilled suburbanites who commute to DC's ever-expanding downtown office space are free-loading on city taxpayers, or robbing lower-skilled residents of their "rightful' employment. In fact, property and sales taxes paid by commuters' upscale employers far outweigh the routine city services they consume. City luminaries decry the 'vibrancy' lost by the declining ranks of public-school-aged kids, although older, empty-nest adults bring significantly higher "net revenues" and badly-needed middle-class values as well. Still others seem driven by keeping DC's demographics majority-Black, even though DC's more upwardly mobile Blacks often choose to escape their blighted neighborhoods and spawn in suburbia as soon as they become taxpayers. City leaders "diss" the Congress as alien interlopers, not facilitators, and treat suburbia as an overpowering, unfriendly competitor rather than the essential supporting "setting" in which to display our national capital "jewel".

DC struggles to keep fiscal independence despite a per-taxpayer poverty tax burden ten times that of the overall metro area. Revenue surpluses from three wards barely compensate for the poverty- induced shortfalls of the other five. Neither DC's municipal resources, nor the oversized, overpaid bureaucracy that administers them, can be stretched to focus on DC's growing long- term infrastructure needs, human, physical, or regional. There is very little regional cooperation, no visible regional outreach by DC leaders, and no apparent efforts to elicit constructive Federal incentives to insure that Washington evolves the premiere US metro area. The many influential initiatives of retiring Congressman Tom Davis (R, Va) to help DC stature will be sorely missed..

To wit, there are no coherent plans to expand the region's public transportation networks or to de-congest downtown bottlenecks, as both city and suburban economic development continues. Small-time DC "transportation" officials toy with "streetscapes" and local, low-density, on- street, "trolleys" (useless to commuters), while the suburbs press for high-density, off-street extensions of the area's world-class, but over-stressed, subway system toward lower-density destinations. Next year's incoming Federal Government will be faced with starting to overcome years of stark neglect of our national infrastructure. We see no DC plans (or competence) to spearhead a drive for vastly increased transportation funding for our capital metro area.

The new city administration is trying to resolve its nationally-embarrassing health, crime, and poverty problems without regional cooperation. It hopes to increase its inventory of affordable housing for often-incomplete households that cannot pay their own way. It is preoccupied with re-constituting its oversized public school system for underprivileged kids, but without upgrading their under-achieving, often missing, parents. Instead of creating an undeniably unique urban core of a fully-integrated national capital metro area, DC seems determined to replicate the lifestyle of American suburbs despite its starkly different socio-economic mix. To NARPAC this is pure folly. DC should not aspire to becoming a separate state-level political entity. Should its residents have some vote in Congress and better control of its own budget? Of course. Should its amateurish, confrontational, myopic local leaders seek more state-level autonomy? No way.

NARPAC reluctantly concludes that local leadership is not capable of transfiguring the District of Columbia into a world-class "inner city"without major regional cooperation stimulated by the Federal Government. Unless next year's new Administration and new Congress agree to provide guidelines, legislation, and funding, there is no hope for a truly exemplary national capital metro area and/or even a first-class core city to evolve solely from local initiatives.


art

MONTHLY HIGHLIGHTS FROM PRIOR YEARS

December, 2007

o A "major" project of the Pew Family Trust, carried out by Brookings Institution, explores whether the "American Dream" of making more money than one's parents is alive and well. NARPAC questions that narrow definition of the American Dream, and questions even more seriously whether this study uses appropriate methodologies to reach clear and credible conclusions. Surely the media has ended up misinterpreting the results, as explained in NARPAC's analysis of the Economic Mobility Project";

o NARPAC listened to an informal talk by the new head of facilities modernization for the DC Public School System, and provides a critical summary of this high official's lack of awareness of both the problems at hand, and the proper demeanor for public servants addressing crucial capital city issues. It helps elevate our concerns that this new Fenty Administration, regardless of its good intentions, may accomplish little as a result of losing the public trust. o There was no web site update in November, 2007

o October's update was limited to two new commentaries to "themail", its latest editorial, and a a new relevant photo

o September's update was limited to two new commentaries to "themail", its latest editorial, and a a new relevant photo

August, 2007

NARPAC limits August's update to a description of the planned and eminently sensible redevelopment of two blocks of West End, which involves trading away old DC government facilities for brand new ones plus a significant increase in the value of DC's property tax base. This "win- win" situation has been jeopardized by clumsy handling in the Fenty bullpen, and by the hyper- sensitivity of DC's usual activists to being left out of the decision-making process.

July, 2007

o NARPAC followed the crowd in July, and devotes its monthly update to issues surrounding the "takeover" of the DC Public Schools. We fully support this change in management style, but remain concerned that the new "team" may not be looking at the city's primary problem from "outside the (schools) box". We have been writing about the bigger issue of DC's deplorable adult education gap for years. This month, we have tried to consolidate those earlier analyses and editorials into a single "primer" on the overall subject:

o the first section of this new report provides a listing of the "articles of faith" that have grown up around NARPAC's understanding of this serious American urban problem;

o we then go on to answer ten of our own questions dealing with DC's education problem, ranging from why kids' test scores are so low, to why a new Deputy Mayor's Office for Education could be useful in approaching the root problems. We also ask whether the Mayor's pick for "school chancellor" is likely to be successful (no), and whether the effort is off in the right direction (no);

o we then provide our own requisite specific recommendations for near-term actions, and conclude by offering a listing of most of the various chapters and editorials on this web site that have dealt with different aspects of these problems since before 2000. The apparent absence of any organized effort by DCPS to comparatively analyze its own problems is, in itself, one of the basic issues that needs addressing.

June, 2007

o None

May, 2007

o NARPAC devoted its entire May update to analyzing the new "State of Adult Literary" report from UDC's "State Education Agency". It starts with an introduction and a summary of our distress; goes on to explain the background and origins of the federal programs from which this work is derived; provides answers to a series of our own questions comprising NARPAC's commentary; and ends up summarizing the SEA report by simply reproducing its major titles and subtitles verbatim. We conclude it would be difficult to find a better definition of a national disgrace.

April, 2007

o NARPAC takes a close look at where the real priorities are for DC's new administration by parsing Mayor Fenty's "State of the District Address", delivered in late March at a senior wellness center in Ward 8. We are disappointed to conclude that Hizzoner surely ain't reading our stuff!

March, 2007

o NARPAC picks up on recent newspaper (The EXAMINER) articles regarding the roles of DC's somewhat notorious and certainly autocratic Chief Financial Officer. We look at segments of the past five years of DC operating budgets and finds the lack of program content increasingly complete. Despite spinning the beans and using specious arguments to press for more federal or regional beans, there is virtually no useful quantitative analytical content by which to assess the efficacy of any of the city's major programs to meet any of the city's blatantly obvious needs ranging from population trends and land use to endemic poverty and real infrastructure needs.

o We conclude yet again that DC sorely needs a totally independent and fully objective Program Analysis Office to assess whether DC's current bean consumption is effectively related to the underlying issues which keep our nation's capital from becoming a world class city.

o February's new analysis of the significance of "Family Potential" has been modestly updated to show that the much-touted No Child Left Behind legislation does not include any consideration of the impact of kids' home environment on their performance in school;

o NARPAC's lengthy analysis of the the future of the Whitehurst Freeway has been updated to include recent (written) testimony to the incoming chairman of the DC Council's Committee on Public Works and the Environment lamenting the absence of a credible long-range DC plan for transportation growth.

. February, 2007

o NARPAC returns to the city's most prominent current issue: what to do about DC's crumbling public schools, and depressingly low test scores from its mostly minority student body. DC's new administration is about to leap into action, possibly before it looks at the root problems in educating its disadvantaged kids:

o Based on a new comparison of urban schools prepared by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), NARPAC has collected the equivalent demographic data from the Census Bureau's American Community Survey for 2005, and developed a new "family potential" indicator based on the key parameters associated with kids' home environment. The background of this study, the intentions of the city's new government, and relevant past NARPAC studies are rehearsed in this new chapter's introduction and summary. That is followed by some comparisons of the physical characteristics of these school systems which show DCPS to be way out of line with other (better performing) districts;

o The new study goes on to show the relevance of various racial parameters that largely define preferred ethnic lifestyles which influence the kids' environment outside of school; and ends up developing a "family potential" indicator that shows a very close quantitative correlation with the test scores being reported. It strongly suggests that DC kids' are performing roughly on track with the conditions they bring with them to the classroom.

January, 2007

o NARPAC highlights the arrival of DC's newly-elected mayor and Council chairman, and acknowledges the contributions of their predecessors in both correspondence and editorial, and provides highlights of Mayor Fenty's and Chairman Gray's inaugural addresses , and compares them (very favorably) with NARPAC's own agenda to "make DC a truly world-class capital city", while warning against over-optimism in improving the educational scores of kids, mostly from disadvantaged families.

December, 2006

o NARPAC picks up the cudgel suggested by the incoming Fenty administration's attraction to the sound government management principal of bureaucratic "accountability". It uses the recent "Whitehurst Deconstruction Feasibility Study" as an example of a bureaucracy spinning its wheels without the exercise of accountability at any level of the DC government. In a newly separated "chapter", it consolidates earlier NARPAC expressions of concern for this ill-advised, poorly monitored effort, with its latest critique of both DDoT's shoddy work, and the Council's apparent disinterest in challenging it. It is divided into four sections

o The first describes the background and current status, including the recent Council hearing, and the existence of another privately-generated critique which largely supports NARPAC's own analyses;
o followed by a lengthy analysis of the inadequacies of the "evaluation model" purported to identify the most "acceptable" alternatives, but only to the local neighborhoods that don't use the freeway or feel obliged to consider the cost of replacement;
o and a separate analysis of the inadequate scope of the study either in terms of area impacted, or long-term (50-year?) impact of a more aesthetically acceptable, neighborhood-friendly, regional by-pass arterial; and finally
o NARPAC's testimony before a relatively disinterested, poorly attended, technically-challenged DC Council Public Works Committee, seemingly unwilling to seek accountability from anyone other than the Council member pushing the study and its continuation, with special neighborhood interests.

November, 2006

o NARPAC was invited to offer comments on a few aspects of Mayor-elect Fenty"s "Vision for DC", and we took the opportunity to summarize the highlights of several of our most important recommendations over the years. These are summarized in nine sections of a new chapter under the category "City Management":


October, 2006

o DDoT is continuing with its plans to rebuild South Capitol Street and its bridge across the Anacostia. They remain unchanged despite the decision to build DC's new baseball stadium right alongside this busy service artery. NARPAC provided its very negative comments to DDoT earlier this year

o DDoT also held a public comment forum on its plans to tear down the Whitehurst Freeway, despite the fact that virtually all the properties abutting it are now developed, now including the new Swiss Embassy and its complementary officce building. NARPAC also provided its very negative comments on this misguided project to DDoT earlier this year

o In response to recent reactions to a summer 'spike' in DC homicides, NARPAC has updated DC's crime statistics thru 2005, indicating that crime levels are now just about "normal" for large American cities. What isn't normal is the extraordinary number of law enforcement employees compared to those other cities. What do they do?

September, 2006

o NARPAC summarizes its substantial objections to the "mayor's" (final) draft of DC's new Comprehensive Plan, now ready for approval by the DC City Council. Particularly in view of the major changes now assured in DC's leadership, NARPAC urges the Council to delay approval of this bland document until at least ten major questions can be reviewed by those signing up to support it.

o NARPAC will also testify briefly before the DC Zoning Commission concerning proposed upgrades to the zoning of George Washington University's downtown campus. This controversy has been raging for more than two years now, and NARPAC will deplore DC's reluctance to get on with essential urban development, particularly around its key Metrorail stations. Our pitch is "up the zoning, fix our city!".

August, 2006

o In advance of this Fall's election of new municipal officials to the DC Council and mayor's office,. NARPAC offers for voter consideration six different long-range issues that will determine the continued growth in our capital city's national and global stature. None of them involve focusing primarily on DC's local neighborhoods and back yards;

o In a much lighter vein, NARPAC suggests several possible ways to make the newly planned wastewater treatment facilities at Blue Plains into a truly original southern "gateway" into DC. Compared to the twenty-seven (27!) vehicular gateways planned by DC's DDoT all around the city's periphery, this nautical approach up the Potomac starts with an array of eight 100-foot tall "digester" vats filled with you-know-what. How would you turn them into a warm welcome to our capital city?

July, 2006

o NARPAC devoted the July update to three separate development programs in the planning- and-comment phase: first, authorities shaping the redevelopment of the 270-acre Armed Forces Retirement Home, one of DC's largest relic properties, seem more interested in saving Abe Lincoln's summer view of the city than in maximizing productive land use for the city;

o second, public transit planners are adding "rapid" buses on Georgia Ave which, by leap-frogging slower existing ones, may save nine minutes on a 58 minute trip. But there is little quantitative analysis of the efficacy of the current 54-stop route, and little concern for how these "express" buses will interact with the thousands of other rush-hour vehicles that share the constrained rights of way;

o third, a master plan is underway to redevelop the "old convention center' site across Mt. Vernon Square from the new convention center. It is based on a litany of the usual, but dubious, design activist-inspired constraints. And it ignores the needs to solve the growing traffic problems around the Square itself, and to generate truly fresh landmarks for the city's next 100 years;

. June, 2006

o NARPAC's Written Testimony for the Mayor's Public Hearing on this key document is included in its entirety. We found the overall focus very disappointing;

o The plan focuses more on protecting the past than guiding its future. It also virtually ignores the global, national, and regional roles of our capital city. Our testimony includes a list of some 30 'Guiding Principles' where NARPAC differs significantly from the draft;

o We also provide the rationale for methodically expanding DC's major roadways and world-class Metrorail system throughout the 20 year period. rather than freezing both at current capacity as recommended by the CompPlan.

May, 2006

o NARPAC finds frequent references and strictures applied to DC's thousands of row houses in the new Comprehensive Plan draft, and explores the ways in which these units could be better utilized to house the city's planned population increase. We start out by reviewing the broad variety of available row house types available, and singling out the more pedestrian units for possible re-development;

o We explore the changing urban demographics and lifestyles that are leaving many of the more common units out of step with the times, and ;

o Offer some analysis and visualization of the changes in typical "row house blocks" that could produce significant increases in residential population, and larger increases in numbers of (smaller) households. Along the way, we discover a fascinating example already in being: Bryan Square near Lincoln Park which involves the redevelopment of a long-surplus DCPS school. It creates a 21st Century row house block that meets (possibly excessive?) neighborhood, and Comprehensive Plan, insistence on "preserving the character" of the locale;

o NARPAC submitted seven ideas to DC Appleseed for solving some of DC's major problems . They range from poverty reduction and transportation improvements, to a new "International Mall" for DC and a new emerging "industry" that could be spawned at Walter Reed and the Armed Forces Retirement Home.

April, 2006

o DCPS Superintendent Janey has recently published his very extensive Master Education Plan (MEP) containing 36 separate "strategies" for improving the future prospects of our public school system. Two thrusts appear to NARPAC to be particularly germane: the first stresses the need to include what amounts to the nurturing of parents as well as their disadvantaged kids; the second deals with several interesting approaches to 'downsizing' DC's vastly oversized, over-aged facility infrastructure.

o NARPAC expands its prior analysis of both the necessity for, and difficulties of, 'downsizing' the DCPS school inventory. It goes back over means to project future (declining) DCPS enrollment, and the consequences of waiting so long to act. It concludes that half of DC's present school inventory will be 'surplus' within a few years. It uses the suggestions in Janey's MEP (above) to visualize the steps required to accomplish the changes. It concludes that DCPS will be lucky to pull it off, and that extraordinary measures may well be needed. That becomes the subject of NARPAC's April editorial

March, 2006

o NARPAC addresses the dubious efforts by city officials to justify a new National Capital Medical Center. The analysis starts out by dissecting a new methodology offered by the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) as a means of assessing the comparative resources devoted by the 50 US states and DC on the provision of emergency medicine. It then offers extensive negative comments on this first version, but then makes a few positive suggestions for making future versions better, and more transparent. In summary, NARPAC concludes that this "report card" should not be used by either proponents or opponents of the proposed new National Capital Medical Center (NCMC): it is simply not adequate for that purpose.

February, 2006

o NARPAC explores the new "Comprehensive Housing Strategy Task Force Report", prepared separately for the DC Council, which is being lifted almost intact into DC's new 20-year Comprehensive Plan. This report is summarized in the first of seven separate chapters. NARPAC expresses concerns for trying to transplant an advocacy report on Affordable Housing into an objective 20-year plan for developing DC's "residential mix", and for avoiding "fact-based planning" as an alternative to wishful thinking

o To begin with, there are several idealistic words and phrases which essentially defy conversion into quantitative goals, such as "diversity", "inclusiveness", "balance", "vibrance", "mixed-income", "mixed-race" and so forth

o There are numerical discrepancies and/or estimates that cannot be readily confirmed by the latest available statistical information from the Census Bureau;

o And the 20-year plan, as now drafted, would not only perpetuate current poverty levels, but increase them, by maintaining the current affordable housing inventorys and adding 19,000 more

o No related plans are laid for alleviating poverty by placing greater emphasis on providing adult education and better jobs, as opposed to "dumbing down" the present job market to fit missing skills;

o There is also no analysis of the need to change housing characteristics to fit changing demographics, or toestimate the number of additional private vehicles likely to be brought into the city with 55,000 new households;

o and finally, there is no estimate of the budgetary impact of 55,000 new households (and 138,000 new jobs!). NARPAC tries to provide a "what if" model that estimates changes in revenues and expenditures based on various different hypothetical changes in good old median household income.

January, 2006

o No new entries December, 2005

o NARPAC looks at the prospects for two hospitals in DC: one that is on the way out (Walter Reed see ahead); and the other, the so-called National Capital Medical Center (NCMC) that should not be on the way in. Our major effort concerns the NCMC from several different aspects: o several important background issues in some detail;

o the sense of the community which rejects NCMC as an inappropriate use of major city funds;

o the mistaken emphasis on location, location, location and the much greater importance of DC's most pressing health problems;

o the importance of avoiding negative consequences of surplus beds;

o issues concerning city finances, poor use of Reservation 13, and violating established decision-making process;

o the need for more rigorous analysis of existing statistics, and for acknowledging two major risks , including financial overruns, and the possible collapse of other hospitals

o NARPAC takes a preliminary look at redeveloping the Walter Reed Hospital site to maximize its tax "productivity" for DC, and concludes it could generate at least $270M in annual revenues, but that this would probably require relaxing DC's outmoded building height limitations, at least at gthe fringes of the city more than 3 miles outside the city limits of the original L'Enfant Plan;

November, 2005

o A short summary and a longer background section tries to summarize the current rising acrimony between George Washington University (GWU) and the neighboring historic district resident who fear total obliteration under the weight of student body expansion in which both sides seem to have lost their civility;

o Four major considerations contribute to the issues: the adjunct GWU hospital, recently 'spun off', has contributed to both the current tensions, and the future opportunities that frighten the neighborhood; the area's only Metro station is within the campus boundaries; there are six other significant universities scattered around the city; and the current zoning restrictions within and around the campus seem starkly incompatible;

o NARPAC develops a simplified technique for estimating city tax revenues that might be gleaned (or foregone) from any property in the area, based on its assessed residential or commercial property value;

o GWU has evolved two plans: one would result in expanding the campus upward (higher density) within its boundaries rather than sprawling further outward; the second would commercially develop its prime, now empty, property on Washington Circle ("Square 54"), on which it would pay taxes, and from which it would generate revenues for its other development needs;

o NARPAC then outlines the demographic characteristics of the disaffected neighbors, indicating that they are a mixed bag, only a portion of whom have a real stake in this confrontation;

o NARPAC then goes on to raise eleven questions which need to be resolved along the way to reaching a sensible resolution of this basic issue of non-profit institutions smack in the middle of an expanding "downtown DC";

o and concludes by parsing a neighborhood-produced "Economics Primer which pretends to explain the basic drive of all universities to expand endlessly until stopped by higher governmental authorities (or neighborhood activists). It is a classic pseudo-intellectual diatribe that has no place in any realistic consideration of the current issues.

October, 2005

o NARPAC loses its cool again over the short-sighted plans of DC's transportation department to neglect Metrorail, while offering a 25-year plan to further crowd DC's streets and arteries with trolleys and dedicated bus lanes:

o In late 2005, the Director of DC's DDoT gave a talk which quite clearly outlines their current mindset , which NARPAC finds starkly inadequate for the nation's capital city:

o A new DC Transit Alternatives "Analysis" is out for final comment, which essentially dictates that Metrorail will be allowed to atrophy while additional bus and trolley service is added to DC's already crowded streets;

o A separate "Great Streets Initiative" has also been decreed in late 2005. It will take revenues raised from advertising in renovated bus stop shelters to upgrade the "streetscapes" at various yet-to-be-determined segments of major arteries. The stated objective is to encourage local economic development in relatively disadvantaged areas. NARPAC doubts such an effort will be successful, and may well have deleterious effects on essential traffic;

o Finally, NARPAC's formal comments for the public record . are reproduced here to record the extent of our disagreement with both the content of, and the methodology for pursuing, these quite possibly counterproductive uses of limited transportation funds.

o the final results of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closings Commission are reported. NARPAC did not get all we were hoping for, but did much better than nothing (with the closing of Walter Reed Hospital) and the removal of naval functions from the "Potomac Annex". We hope DC leadership will play a more positive and progressive role in the "post-Iraq BRAC Round" expected in a few years, as well as in deciding what to do with Walter Reed;

o The rapidly rising costs of living for DC regional households are explored, based on a valuable report commissioned by WOW; (i.e., Wider Opportunities for Women) and notes that the heart of the challenge involves the higher education levels required to get new area jobs;

September, 2005

o NARPAC looks into digital computer simulations of future regional traffic problems. The model is operated by the Transportation Planning Board of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Government and is touted by analysts to be the best available:NARPAC has tried to probe the details of this model and finds multiple concerns: individual jurisdictional inputs are not challenged; trucks are only superficially considered; parking availability is ignored; metro limitations are not factored in; emergency evacuation is not tested; the model takes eight to twelve hours per run; can't be "run backwards"; and can't readily be used for to assess local "what if?"infrastructure changes. Most unexpected, the model apparently re-allocates (automatically and invisibly) which residents work where in order to balance out route traffic loads across the region.

o Although the model essentially predicts "severe stop-and-go congestion throughout the area, not just isolated areas", the COG's "(Budget) Constrained Long-Range Transportation Plan" glosses over regional gridlock and focuses on "achievements" and "challenges" and uncertainties about "how people will react to these (gridlock) conditions".

o Meanwhile, a separate COG/TPB report entitled "Time to Act" asserts that "a looming gridlock crisis seriously threatens the region's mobility, safety, and economic viability" unless infrastructure funds are doubled for the next five years! Which COG report do you read?

August, 2005

o DC has a new baseball team, and is planning to build them a new (and controversial) stadium near the Anacostia waterfront. A leading stadium architect has been hired to design a "signature" structure different than any of his prior works, for a city with which he is not familiar. NARPAC seizes the opportunity to offer up 20 different motifs which could be used to symbolize DC from six different vantage points: DC's image of itself; outsiders' image of DC; the constitutional perspective; a regional viewpoint; a national point of view; or an international point of view.

NARPAC trusts its readers will not be offended by its offhand review of many of the topics previously treated in detail on this web site.

July, 2005

o NARPAC reviews the draft study plan for upgrading New York Avene over the next 30 to 50 years. The very foundations for the planning appear to be at odds with three essential functions of New York Avenue: commuters from the east side of the city; regional traffic using the avenue as the "virtual extension" of the never-finished I-395; and commercial/industrial trucking which keeps the city going;

o the resulting draft plans divide the heavily trafficked five mile stretch into six different zones for which differing upgrades are recommended, all of which are heavy on beautification, and light on capacity expansion;

o NARPAC proposes some alternative modifications which focus more on the functional requirements for what amounts to the avenue's prima facie role as the city's major "service entrance". We see nothing to be gained by trying to convert it into another "front entrance";

o NARPAC notes the failure to project relevant future transportation technologies, and demonstrates how the emerging EZ-Pass devices could turn New York Avenue into a fully-automated 'toll road' that could easily pay for its own development and maintenance.

June, 2005

o NARPAC focused in June almost entirely on the highly touted new DC Public School "Strategic Plan". Arguably the major source of all of DC's embarassingly poor socio-economic image, NARPAC expected a better plan than it found. Following brief background material and a tabular summary of the major content of the new plan we go on to present:

o a tabular summary of NARPAC's own comments, expressing considerable disappointment over both a dearth of "first-order" elements, and a wealth of extraneous elements certain to boggle an administratively-challenged management structure;

o an analysis of the plan's few quantitative goals, which appear to be overly optimistic compared to American norms, either in nearby school districts, or across large cities;

o graphic quantitative comparisons of relevant parameters, using 22 nearby school districts and 10 major US cities, and concluding that DC schools aren't doing that badly considering equivalent demographic components, varying teacher proficiency, graduation rates, and school sizes; and

o comparative school district costs and the relative burdens they present, which, along with the DCPS facilities mess, are deflected in the plan. In short, the Strategic Plan apparently hopes to solve DC's perceived public educational shortfalls with a welter of "inside-the-schools" action items, but with no meaningful programs to rectify , or at least bring a halt to, the self-perpetuating "outside-the-school" problems for which past DCPS failures are largely responsible.

May, 2005

o NARPAC provides a critique of NCPC's latest "visions" for South Capitol Street which proposes redesigns intended to raise "urban vibrancy" at the certain expense of far more highly conflicted traffic along this major arterial route connecting "downtown" with the late blooming (but now budding) Southeast quadrant of the city and metro area;

o NAPAC provides another critique of an ongoing mis-directed DDoT study on the practicality of "deconstructing" the Whitehurst Freeway (which provides the only by-pass to congested Georgetown), without considering its impact on the future demands on this major arterial route connecting "downtown" with the uniquely prosperous Northwest quadrant of the city and metro area.

April, 2005

o NARPAC reviews and analyzes a recent book entitled The Unintended Consequences (of over-concentrating the poorest of the poor") and concludes the authors underestimate the magnitude and cost of the solutions, suggesting that the whole region must get involved, not just a handful of DC community-minded residents. In these first two sections, we discuss the issues of clustering and isolation of the poor and the need to distinguish between the needs of those with low income or no income.

o Then we move on to issues involved in "deconcentrating" the poor, the problems of sensing deterioriation", and wonder about the need to return to some modern kind of settlement and/or poor houses

o And this is followed by NARPAC's favorite issues: the need to quantify the problem before suggesting solutions, and the fundamental companion problem of determining how to pay for poverty.

o Finally, NARPAC picks a few promises from the Mayor's 2005 State of the District Address and doubts that crime and poverty will be so much reduced as just shuffled around.

March, 2005

NARPAC returned in March to one of its favorite themes over the past several years: why on earth are there federal statutes requiring the recall of defective household and automotive products that risk harm to American human beings, but no statutes requiring the recall and "repair" of the thousands of high-school dropouts that present far greater, longer term risks to themselves, their neighborhoods, and their kids? NARPAC expands on three aspects of this issue:

o Perhaps concerned citizens, local, regional, and nationwide should generate a major class action suit against the DC government and its Congressional "overseers", to require suitable federal statutes to be enacted. NARPAC offers an imaginary draft, along with some supporting data;

o Mandatory "defect reports" must be submitted to the Federal Highway Transportation Safety Administration to recall sometimes huge numbers of popular cars. NARPAC has no trouble drafting an equivalent "educational deficit report" to an imaginary agency in the US Department of Education describing the consequences of years of inaction to this major threat to Americans' safety;

o NARPAC believes major school-related residential facilities should be established to "recycle" teen moms, their kids, as well as other adult and homeless poverty victims. A notional group home is developed, along with possible sources of capital and operating funding. It is intended to offer no more than a preliminary proposal for solving DC's most intractable and embarrassing problem.

o two major updates are made to to DC's oft-ignored "Art Gallery", the first expanding on Raymond Kaskey's sculptural contributions to the WWII Memorial, and the second adding some works of a major DC photographer: Stephen R. Brown's remarkable photographs of that WWII Memorial, shortly to be published in book form.

February, 2005

o NARPAC zeroes in on the DC Council for a change. DC legislators seem to place very little emphasis on their relations with either the federal government or their neighboring jurisdictions. NARPAC believes the city would be better off if it acknowledged its inescapable connections with both, rather than focusing on autonomy and competition.

o Two of DC's most fundamental long-term problems involve the evolution of better land use of its limited acres and working with federal and regional authorities to expand its overall transportation capacity so that it can share in the economic development of the national capital city metro area.

o And in order to remain competitive with its metro area partners, it must find solutions to its endemic poverty as well as its marked education deficit, both of which put it at serious disadvantage with its suburban neighbors, and tarnish its image as America's national capital city.

o The Mayor provided a press release summarizing the highlights of his administration over the past year (2004). And NARPAC has summarized it to compare the nitty-gritty of the real world, and the "major issues" that we prefer.

o Ward 6's Community Coordinator, Tawanna Shuford summarized the composition and functions of the DC Council for the 2005-2006 period , and NARPAC presents an abbreviated form of that.

January, 2005

o NARPAC reviews the results of two recent mayoral task forces: one on improving DC's parking problems, the other on managing downtown traffic congestion. After laying out the context of these new commission reports, NARPAC looks at the commission recommendations and concludes they are a very mixed bag. The need to develop a sensible economic growth metric is highlighted, as well as the need to come to grips with the American reality of vehicle ownership.

o The need to pin down the real villains of congestion and their growth rates is discussed with emphasis on the role of commercial vehicles, as well as the need to focus more on pedestrian traffic. NARPAC notes that these commissions have focused on the trees but ignored the forest , and ignored whether current traffic-related costs exceed traffic- related revenues. Our own pleasantly surprising estimates are developed based on DC's FY05 operating budget.

o NARPAC believes that evolving technology can help in traffic management and revenue production more than the commission indicates, and that radio frequency identification devices (RFIDs) may play an important role and profitable role in traffic management. The analysis concludes with NARPAC's reality concerns about the failures to put these partial solutions into the context of the larger and more discouraging picture of DC's longer range economy-limiting transportation projections.


Click Here for Highlights from 2004 Monthly Updates Back to 1997


This page was updated on August 15, 2008


homeissuesstatusanalyses email
| HOME PAGE | MAJOR ISSUES | CURRENT STATUS | RECENT ANALYSES | EMAIL |


SEARCH


© copyright 2008 NARPAC, Inc. All rights reserved