One of NARPAC's more probing readers recently drew to our attention that we have not updated our basic plans and priorities for DC in nine years (!). The following is an informal update of our initial goals prepared for 'Ed':
So Just How Would NARPAC Like the District To Change?
You ask challenging questions, Ed. The dismissive answer is that we have written an editorial every month for the past ten years on some issue we have recently analyzed. All can be accessed here and its earlier archives in full or in summary. The shorter answer is: here are our 5 highest priorities to improve DC (and its image) as a "world-class city":
1) DC's excessive poverty must be redressed. Such poverty creates DC's oft-quoted "Third World" stats on health, crime, education, etc. That poverty is rooted in inadequate education (of parents, not just their hapless kids), and in the corrosive impact of concentrated neighborhood blight. "Re-education" and "de-concentration" are key aspects of this "tough-love" approach. The nation's capital is surely not obliged to be the "region's poor house", and certainly not by itself.
2) DC has an inescapable role as the core city of the world's most envied metro area. These metro areas have become the politico/socio/economic entities driving American lifestyles. The federal presence is the crown jewel in our regional setting, not the enemy. Stop treating DC as an isolated island, comprised of 150 totally independent satrapies empowered to resist change. Opportunities for regional burdensharing abound. Stop "dissing" the 'burbs. Make DC unique.
3) DC must continue to grow (at least in local GDP) via transit-oriented/smart growth, etc Gradually shift some land use towards high-density commercial (which way more than pays for itself in real estate and sales taxes while placing few demands on city services). Treat commuters and tourists as a net advantage, not disadvantage. Encourage higher density development outside DC's sacred downtown "topographic bowl", nearer its "edge cities". Stress development "East of the Anacostia". Stiffen up the bland new Comprehensive Plan. Re-cast DC's padded and unimaginative annual budget. Institute an authoritative city program/budget analysis function.
4) Continued growth requires extensive long-term transportation planning, ignored for years under Tangherlini's small-town DDoT. Metrorail needs substantial in-city expansion. Regional arteries need to be differentiated by their primary uses and vehicular demands. High-tech "smart street curbs", "smart tags", and "robotic" off-street parking can become major sources of income and traffic control. Give up the silly fantasy of restoring "boulevards" as entertainment venues. Adopt "3-D" transportation planning (urban decks, underpasses, distinct pedestrian promenades, etc.) Desist from putting trolleys back on clogged major arterials, and stop pandering to a few hundred bikers. DC is our American urban capital, not some resort town like Cape May, NJ.
5) DC's limited space and key role in America's future, require that "preserving the past" be balanced with "leading the way to the future". Cut back on declaring everything "historic" simply to protect the status quo. Expunge the populist "neighborhood uber alis" mantra: stop implying Georgetown, say, can dictate the Whitehurst Freeway's future, or that all communities are sacrosanct
PS. Getting DC a full vote in the House is not among NARPAC's top priorities though we clearly do not oppose it. Trying to become a "state" is ludicrous. We would prefer that 50 of our 100 US senators be converted to representing America's fifty largest metro areas (including DC)!!
NARPAC's INITIAL (unchanged) OBJECTIVES (1998)
The National Association to Restore Pride in America's Capital
has been founded by concerned citizens of the Greater Washington
Metropolitan Area outraged by the declining quality of life in our nation's
capital, now a source of widespread ridicule and embarrassment.
Education, health, safety, infrastructure and finances are all in disarray.
Instead of being a model metropolitan area symbolizing America's future
hopes--as do its suburbs--the District now embodies American fears of
inner city inequities and despair.
NARPAC, Inc. will help catalyze responsible change by documenting and analyzing the evolution and current status of DC's major problems and identifying options for solving them. Constitutionally, DC remains the a ward of a marginally sympathetic Congress: its future depends on raising national interest in effecting substantial and meaningful change.
Several abnormalities in governance distinguish DC from other American "central cities": 1) DC's Congressional delegate cannot vote; 2) its more influential residents are pre-occupied with national or global issues--not local ones; 3) it lacks strong local communities; 4) it is dissociated from its prospering Maryland and Virginia suburbs; and 5) it lacks the moderating effects of a larger population base and a hands-on state government. Creative regional solutions for the Washington area might well lead to beneficial initiatives for other inequitably developing US metropolitan areas.
NARPAC, Inc. plans to remain a small, focussed, volunteer organization serving both as a facilitator and a producer. It will gain exposure via the new "information highway", as well as along more traditional media lines. It will generate, commission, catalogue, and/or reproduce articles, briefings, interviews, letters, competitive essays, etc. deserving attention nationally or from federal decision-makers. The Association plans to collaborate synergistically with like-minded local civic groups and to develop nationwide representation as resources permit. It seeks support from major foundations and individual donors as well as from volunteers willing to address specific elements of the overall program.
The founding members of NARPAC, Inc. are Leonard Sullivan, Jr., of
Maryland, Richard J. Levine, and Nicholas J. Kauffman, longtime concerned
residents of DC. All have long government experience and an abiding
interest in District affairs.
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