Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Buses, and Bills, and Bait.... OH MY

Oh what a day what a day. Today I attended and testified at the DC Council Committee hearing on on Bill 18-592 District Facilities Plan Amendment Act of 2009. Before I go into my summary of the hearing, let me start by saying that WMATA is HORRIBLE!!! The M6 used to be the most reliable bus that services Fairfax Village. This morning the 8:53 am bus showed up at 9:15 am. This afternoon going home the 2:40 and 3:00 pm buses never showed up. I guess their new bus schedule is "we'll pick you up when we feel like it."... On to the hearing.

Very interesting hearing the morning. There were about 14 witnesses that spoke on behalf of organizations or as individuals. The general consensus was there is a need for transparency and inclusion in the process, there needs to be a clear definition of the role of the Facilities Planning Advisory Committee, and the needs of the community need to be in balance with each other and future development. All good stuff.

The highlight of the hearing was three speakers who just threw down the gauntlet and went no holds barred. The first one was a public witness who started off describing how he's lived all over the world. I wasn't sure where he was going... and then... he.... went there... He basically said the District is the worst managed government he's ever seen. It's full of corruption and cronyism. The District government gives a false sense of participation and then deals are made behind close doors. The part that had me almost falling off my chair is when he ended with "Do you manage your life like this? Do you manage your money like this? Just give it away? Then why do you do this with public money."

Another was this woman who had just came from playing Sharks and Minnows with fifth graders. She drew the analogy that the Sharks are the developers and the public are the minnows. The poor little minnows are left to fend for themselves, while the sharks do what they want.

The one that had me gasping for air and Councilmember Cheh ready to blow a gasket, was Parisa Norouzi from Empower DC. She asked CM Cheh very pointed questions. The long and short is she asked who was in bed with the Council (metaphorically speaking). She made a great observation that no developers were in the room then asked CM Cheh was she having private meetings with them. Then she brought up the revolving door of District employees going to developers and developers becoming District employees and the conflict of interest related to deals involving those people. CM Cheh responded with she's not going to rise to the bait.

The hearing ended with the Director of Real Estate Services giving her testimony. I was unimpressed. Now I just need to gear up and get ready for the next round.

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