A disconnect exists between the public and our public servants. I think it’s a serious one. Briefly, our public servants are not asking what we want; they’re telling us what we're getting. The result: It’s not our city; it’s theirs. But there is a way to take it back. First, some examples:
- Seminary Road. Consider the city’s imperious decision to shrink a major thoroughfare serving large neighborhoods. The city – not the many residents served by the street -- decided less automobile capacity on Seminary Road was necessary.
Mind you, this is the same city that approved infill housing in neighborhoods served by this street. In other words, the city decided to add more cars to neighborhoods while simultaneously seeking to diminish the capacity of this major street to accommodate them.
- Stadium Lights. There has been in effect for a generation a no-stadium-night-lights agreement between the city and certain residents. The agreement enabled the city to displace these residents, all African Americans, to build the stadium. Now, years later, to install stadium night lights, our public servants decided no agreement ever existed.
At a minimum, you would think the city would recognize, for a school struggling to fulfill its education mission, that money enabling an extracurricular activity at night would offend taxpayers and nearby residents alike. You would be wrong. Our rubber stamping City Council now loves night lights, and now the matter is being litigated, and at your expense too.
- Potomac Yard Metro has to be the most colossal example of public servant spitting in the eye of citizens it ostensibly serves. Over vigorous objection by citizens, our public servants — whose cheerleader is our current mayor — decided to construct a Metro station atop a federally protected wetlands.
Our public servants never seriously assessed whether more frequent bus service, perhaps by smaller buses, would address the Potomac Yard transportation need. Nor did they seriously consider moving the Metro a few hundred feet so it wouldn’t impact fragile wetlands, or an easement belonging to the American people. Had they did so 10 years ago, the Metro would exist, and the easement belonging to all Americans would be intact.
Justice Black Property. This issue makes clear it’s pointless to seek redress from our City Council. Ask any of the many who recently sought to preserve unaltered the Justice Black property. They’ll tell you it’s a waste of time to appeal to our councilors — the very same individuals who recently sought our vote by professing to be good representatives of the public’s interest. What they’ve turned out to be are good rubber stamps for public servants.
Karig. And don’t think about using the judicial system to obtain relief from public servants’ decisions. Our public servants will vigorously defend their decisions and, to add insult to injury, will use your money to do so. The Karig matter is a perfect illustration. The city, not the citizens, decided this wooded area did not deserve protection from mega-mansions.
The list could go on to include overbuilding the waterfront; goofy parking schemes in Old Town; scooters on sidewalks; removing zoning restrictions on building heights; killing sources of tax revenue by operating tax subsidized businesses with which no taxpaying private sector company can compete.
None of these were sought by a majority of residents, especially destroying protected wetlands and an easement not belonging to the city
If you want to make our public servants responsive to us, the public, then clamor for a new city manager followed by electing council members from wards. At a minimum, the latter step will make those we elect accountable to their communities rather than to a political party caucus.