The new West End Library will occupy part of the first two floors of this high-end condo building
By Thomas Hedges – You can find Hedges’s reports at Truthdig. He works at The Center for Responsive Law, founded by Ralph Nader
The non-profit group D.C. Library Renaissance Project (DCLRP) worries that a deal between city officials and developer Eastbanc, which was awarded the rights to develop three plots of land in the West End neighborhood, will not only shortchange taxpayers but set an unsavory precedent for the way D.C. does business with private developers in the future.
Under the West End Parcels deal, the city will give the land to Eastbanc in exchange for building a new replacement library and fire station, which Eastbanc says will total $20 million. According to the DCLRP the costs are inflated but far worse is the land value being given away – $100 million, they say.
The West End’s Advisory Neighborhood Commission and its civic groups, however, dispute that number, and they’re in favor of the deal. In a letter to Ralph Nader, DCLRP’s founder, they wrote, “The community as a whole agrees with our support of the now approved development plan for the library. They believe that the proposed new library, fire station, and affordable housing are extraordinary community benefits needed to replace our outdated facilities.”
This article was published in Dirt Magazine and written by Becca Tucker (Pete’s sister)
Sophia Maravell speaks with Dirt editor Becca Tucker
Fifteen miles from the White House grows a variety of Native American red polenta once extinct in the United States. Farmer Nick Maravell has been propagating heirloom seeds here, smack dab in the middle of suburban Potomac, Maryland, for three decades. His red polenta and other rare plant varieties have escaped contamination by genetically modified pollen thanks to an unlikely ally: a buffer of McMansions separating Maravell’s 20 acres from commercial farms.
But those McMansions have children in them, and those children play soccer. In 2011, the Board of Education revoked Maravell’s lease and instead leased the land to Montgomery County, which in turn plans to lease it to a youth soccer organization that wants to build a soccer complex. The suburbs that have insulated Nick’s Farm may, in the end, swallow it.
The community – whether because of love for the farm or an aversion to the lights and traffic a sports complex would bring – has sued the Board of Education for violating the Open Meetings Act. The lawsuit made headlines. But there is a quieter campaign underway. Sophia Maravell, 24, has moved home to save the farm where she grew up. This story is about Sophia. Continue reading
Inside the station. "Waiting room with snowdrift, Michigan Central Station" by Andrew Moore (click to enlarge)
Michigan Central Station is a carcass of a building, looming over Detroit’s west side. Once an emblem of Detroit’s prosperity, the towering structure is now an emblem of its desperation. Its 18 stories of windows are smashed-in, leaving jagged glass teeth in their panes. Its front façade—towering windows framed by elegant pillared arches—are just as battered, ravaged by the hurricane that never was. The neoclassical flourishes that once suggested elegance now evoke malevolence, like the macabre ornamentation of a supervillain’s lair.
In separate exhibits at the National Building Museum in Chinatown, two photographers tell the story of the station and the story of a city. The ruins of Detroit are the subject of both “Detroit Disassembled” by Andrew Moore and “Detroit is No Dry Bones” by Camilo José Vergara. Far more than just the decline of the Motor City, the images offer a glimpse at the dregs of bygone American industrial might. Continue reading
Photo courtesy of nola.com
Our presidential debates are brought to you by Bud Light. – George Farah, executive director of Open Debates
“If any audience member poses a question or makes a statement that is in any material way different than the question that the audience member earlier submitted to the moderator for review, the moderator will cut-off the questioner… [and] the Commission shall take appropriate steps to cut-off the microphone.”
The above quote comes from a 21-page “Memorandum of Understanding” between the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), which sounds like an official body but isn’t, and the campaigns of President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. The secret agreement, which Time magazine’s Mark Halperin published Monday, lays out in detail what the candidates, moderators and audience members can and cannot do at each of the presidential and vice-presidential debates, including tonight’s “town hall” at Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY.
CNN’s Candy Crowley will moderate tonight’s debate, sort of. Crowley recently laid out her vision for her role as moderator. “Once the table is kind of set by the town-hall questioner, there is then time for me to say, ‘Hey, wait a second, what about X, Y, Z?’” she said. Crowley’s understanding of her role, however, doesn’t square with the agreement between the Commission and the two campaigns. Continue reading
Rev. Vanzant speaking at a recent protest outside Bank of America
Listen to Rev. Vanzant at Bank of America protest
“This is the next phase of the Occupy movement,” said Mike Haack, an activist with Occupy Our Homes, an off-shoot of Occupy DC which works to prevent evictions. With bullhorn in hand, Haack and others stood outside Bank of America in D.C.’s Columbia Heights neighborhood. The bank, which was supposed to be open, was temporarily “foreclosed.” Activists said they simultaneously shut down eleven Bank of America branches Saturday morning in an effort to raise awareness about the possible eviction of a long time District resident from his northeast D.C. home. Continue reading
Uber CEO Travis Kalanick testifying before the D.C. Council
Testifying last week before the D.C. Council, 35-year-old Uber CEO Travis Kalanick routinely interrupted councilmembers and espoused a right-wing ideology. Uber is not so much a luxury sedan service as a phone app that connects passengers with black cars (while taking 20 percent of each fare). “We’re a tech company,” Kalanick said at a talk at the Heritage Foundation in December. “I don’t have any drivers, and I don’t have any cars.”
While the drivers Uber contracts with compete directly with D.C.’s highly regulated taxicabs, Uber is seeking to remain unregulated, a situation Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham called a “fundamental inequity.” “The taxicab industry drivers and Uber drivers are in the same line of business and competing for the same customer base,” said Haimanot Bizuayehu, board member of The Small Business Association of DC Taxicab Drivers (SBA), D.C.’s largest cabbie organization. At the Heritage Foundation, Kalanick offered a similar assessment, saying, “We changed our name from Uber Cab to Uber so we’re no longer marketing ourselves as a cab company.” Continue reading
From r to l: Mayor Vincent Gray, WPFW general manager John Hughes, Pete Tucker
“One of the important and unique things about ‘PFW is that it’s commercial free,” D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray said over the airwaves of Pacifica Radio’s WPFW 89.3 FM during the station’s summer pledge drive in August.
“There’s no appearance of being influenced by someone who may be purchasing ads because no one purchases ads. This is a station that is supported by the public and that’s the best support you can possibly have,” said Gray, who donated $100 and helped the station raise more than $4,000 during his hour of on-air pitching. “I’m proud not only to be a supporter at the verbal level… but I’ve made my own financial commitment,” he said. Continue reading
Photo courtesy of techcrunch.com
Listen to Sept. 22 edition of The Taxi Link on WUST 1120 AM
“Uber is having it both ways: they’re operating as a taxi, they’re operating as a limousine service, and they’re not regulated.” – Tony Norman, co-host of The Taxi Link
The battle over whether and how to regulate luxury sedan services like Uber will take center stage Monday at a public hearing of the D.C. Council’s Committee on the Environment, Public Works and Transportation. Continue reading
A DCTC hack inspector uses his vehicle to block in a cab (a move of questionable legality), and an MPD officer (front) then arrives to assist the inspector.
The Taxi Link airs on WUST 1120 AM. Listen to Sept. 15 show here:
“You have one media person interviewing another media person who shares the same biased opinion.” – Tony Norman, co-host of The Taxi Link
“I think if you had the policymakers in the room right now what they would say is…” Thus began Washington Post reporter Mike DeBonis’ response to a caller last week on WAMU’s The Kojo Nnamdi Show, guest-hosted by Rebecca Roberts. It is unclear what policymakers would have added to DeBonis’ and Roberts’ one-sided discussion of D.C.’s taxi industry. “Hailing a taxi and paying for the ride should get a little easier thanks to the biggest overhaul of the D.C. taxi system in decades,” Roberts said in her introduction. But, alas, the “technological and ecological improvements” have been held up in court, said Roberts.
Judge Monica Parchment of the Contract Appeals Board has indeed suspended the city’s controversial 5-year, $35 million contract with VeriFone to install so-called taxi smart meters in all 6,500 District cabs. Despite cabbies’ pleas and protests, the VeriFone deal was pushed through using emergency legislation. Serious questions about the now-suspended contract remain unasked and unanswered in the media. ”Unfortunately for cab riders, [the Board's decision] means it’s going to be at least a couple months and perhaps a lot longer before we start seeing these devices in most and eventually all D.C. cabs,” said DeBonis. Continue reading