D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser was wielding a silver-plated sledge hammer on Monday.
She didn’t wave it at reporters (Terrific restraint, Mayor!).
Bowser, instead, was enjoying the ceremonial demolition starting construction of the new $300 million D.C. United soccer stadium in Southwest.
The site is just across South Capitol Street from Nationals Park. It’s due to open in 2018. The city is responsible for purchasing and clearing the land. The team is responsible for the stadium itself. Your Notebook has scowled at the unimaginative design, but we’re told it’s not finished.
Bowser did get into some big machinery. She pulled a few levers to knock down a wall. The mayor says it’s a bit scary to do, but she’s happy to promote the 1,000 construction and permanent jobs the project represents.
The soccer stadium is a centerpiece of what will be a complete makeover of Southwest land that is now dotted with a concrete plant and other industrial uses.
“This is the opportunity to really help to rethink the way Buzzard Point and this end of Southwest are really realized,” said Ward 6 D.C. Council member Charles Allen. More than a billion dollars of investments are expected in the once-ignored area.
Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia local news, events and information
Monday’s ceremony was picketed by activists from Empower DC. The group contends there are serious environmental concerns with clearing the land. Nearby public housing residents say they fear worsening air pollution. They also fear the potential gentrification that will move them out.
Mayor Bowser and Council member Allen say they are mindful of those concerns. “We think any investment in this area is going to enhance the quality of life for everybody,” Bowser told us.
■ Kasich KOs statehood. Presidential candidate John Kasich is the Republican governor of Ohio. But he’s not interested in the District’s bid for statehood. Maybe, he says when asked whether our delegate to Congress should have voting rights, but he hasn’t really thought about it.
Here’s his full quote in a brief, satellite interview on Monday with NBC4’s Chris Gordon:
“I’m not for statehood. I mean the idea that somebody who is a delegate would have the right to vote, I’m not opposed to that. I need to look at all the ramifications, but I’m not for statehood. The reason I’m not for statehood is the founders set it up so D.C. would be a neutral place. I think they were wise in doing that. As for the delegate, I’m open to the suggestion.”
It sounds like he’s been talking to former Virginia Rep. Tom Davis, who tried mightily to get voting rights for D.C.’s delegate. But Davis was thwarted by District politicians who turned down the chance in favor of full voting rights in the House and the Senate someday. That’s the operative word. No one in authority in the District ever heard of the phrase, “a bird in the hand … .”
Maybe activists can point out new statistics from the city’s tax office. District citizens (not just “residents”) paid more than $26 billion in taxes to the federal government in 2014, but got back only $3.5 billion. That figure doesn’t include matching funds that all states receive.
As DCist reported, the District’s federal tax payments are bigger than 22 states and Puerto Rico. Now, that’s taxation without representation.
■ It’s alive! New opposition filings to the $6.8 billion merger of Pepco and Exelon seek to ensure this isn’t a done deal after all. Although the Public Service Commission in March voted 2-1 to (finally) approve the deal, the Office of the People’s Counsel now wants reconsideration. “I strongly believe that the manner in which the decision was reached was legally flawed,” said people’s advocate Sandra Mattavous-Frye in a release late last week.
However, many people believe it’s extremely unlikely the PSC will attempt to rewire this deal.
■ A final word. Former D.C. school board member R. Calvin Lockridge died this weekend. He was 81 and had been in ill health for several years. But in his day, Lockridge was a controversial, combative member of the school board — a key player in its struggles to improve schools and retain superintendents amid many battles.
In 1988, Lockridge was under fire for meddling in staff hiring at Ballou High School and other ward schools. Linda Cropp, then the school board president, threatened to censure his actions.
Responding to The Washington Post at the time, Lockridge was unapologetic, saying high-level jobs weren’t going to Ward 8 residents in an unfair system. “I plead guilty to hustling jobs for the Ward 8 constituents. I have made no bones about the fact that my constituents are generally not qualified for professional jobs. So when opportunities for custodians, food services and other jobs become available, I demand that those positions be made available to my constituents.”
The Post’s Colby King in 1998 wrote a withering article about “buffoonery” in city government, singling out Lockridge for, among other things, his numerous antics and possible wrongdoings. “If the city had an Elected Officials Hall of Shame, Lockridge would be a charter member. A loud, antics-loving political figure, he made D.C. voters look like they had lost their minds.”
Despite all, the Notebook does miss those occasional calls from Lockridge offering up some off-the-record tips or gossip. “I’m talking to you now, just you,” he’d say in hushed tones before passing along information. But Lockridge, despite the flaws, was far from hushed in public life.
Tom Sherwood, a Southwest resident, is a political reporter for News 4.