More Than Photo Op or Foil
December 22, 2008 9:36 PM   Subscribe

"The last eight years, in terms of engagement, [Washington] D.C. has just been a photo op for the president, or a foil," says Tommy Wells, a social worker turned D.C. Council member.

Washington was never just the home of corrupt politicians, but home to over a half million American citizens. Can a city so segregated by income (my own previously) flourish with a former community organizer as President? Practice cautious optimism.
On Beacon House, Leiby and Brown write:
Beacon House provides a safety net as well as a shield from the influences of the street ... "Some of them don't have a parent to give them a nutritious breakfast, help them with their homework, make sure they brush their teeth. Some mothers are just hanging on," says Stevens-Kittner, 56, who previously worked as an attorney in the Superior Court's Child Abuse and Neglect Branch. "We are surrogate parents."
posted by l33tpolicywonk (27 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
Hey, that's my Council member!

Oddly enough my neighbor and I were just talking about this subject last night, namely Bush's use of a local church purely as a photo op, the failure of Bush the younger to attend church in town (or otherwise involve himself in the community by, e.g., going out to dinner, unlike Clinton), and the rumors as to which church the Obamas are considering attending.

This place has a strange relationship with its Presidents. At least we have a voice in selecting them now. ahem
posted by exogenous at 9:54 PM on December 22, 2008


Don't count on it. As a former DC resident and an Obama supporter, it'd be great if he actually put some effort into helping out Chocolate City. But you know who else pretty much ignored the local government issues of the District while he was in office, despite major support from the black community? That'd be Bill Clinton.

Obama will probably do a little more going-out-on-the-town than Bush II did, maybe some photo-ops along U Street, and his two kids will be going to school within the city (unlike Jenna and Barbara, who were away in college), but Sidwell Friends ain't the inner city, not by a longshot.

No US president has ever taken a strong interest in DC's politics or its problems. And I think you could argue that maybe that's a good thing -- it's small and its local politics are just plain poisonous to get involved in. There's simply no benefit for a POTUS to get involved beyond saying nice things about the cherry blossoms and the Redskins.
posted by bardic at 9:57 PM on December 22, 2008


Ward 6 represent!
posted by naoko at 10:01 PM on December 22, 2008


Does the president have any executive or budgetary authority in the district?
posted by ryanrs at 10:20 PM on December 22, 2008


And I think you could argue that maybe that's a good thing

Absolutely. How could DC properly govern itself if the President of the United States jumped in local affairs?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:26 PM on December 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Tommy Wells on the Blue? So random.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:55 PM on December 22, 2008


"And I think you could argue that maybe that's a good thing"

Um, yeah. I elected a president of the USA. No offense to the District, but I really would prefer he spend his valuable and limited time focused on the nation as a whole and not piddling around with local politics in some obscure, distant burg's dogcatcher dramas.
posted by majick at 11:15 PM on December 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Sit down 6, don't play. Ward 4, be all CRUSHIN' your fake bama-ass.
Adams Morgan Massive! Red-line for life, son.

(Born, raised, living here right now. Not renting out my place for nothing.)
posted by now i'm piste at 11:23 PM on December 22, 2008


Um, yeah. I elected a president of the USA. No offense to the District, but I really would prefer he spend his valuable and limited time focused on the nation as a whole and not piddling around with local politics in some obscure, distant burg's dogcatcher dramas.

The district is the responsibility of the federal government. Every other city in the US is part of a state, and will have state representatives who represent that city in the state government. For a big city like Chicago or New York, the city will have a huge say in what happens in that state government. And it's that state government will have a huge amount of say about what happens in that state.

On the other hand, with DC it goes straight from the mayors office to congress. There's not state government with state government power. Congress can makeup rules for DC in a way that they can't for other states. And not only that, D.C. has no representatives in congress either.

And frankly, congress has dropped the ball on DC as far as I can tell. If the president were interested in what was going on in DC, then he would have a huge influence on congress.

You realized all that right, It isn't a question of "Obama caring about D.C. because he lives there" it's a question of "Obama caring about D.C. because it is the constitutional responsibility of the federal government to run that city"

Now, it is true that D.C has a city government with a reasonable amount of autonomy, but ultimately congress decides what goes on.

I'm not sure exactly how much authority the actual executive branch has in DC, but obviously as president he would have a lot of influence over congress. And I don't know all the ins and outs of how DC's government structure actually works and how it relates to congress in practice. But according to the constitution, congress is in charge.
posted by delmoi at 12:23 AM on December 23, 2008 [3 favorites]


Absolutely. How could DC properly govern itself if the President of the United States jumped in local affairs?

Again, D.C. only gets to "govern itself" because congress created a local government structure for it. Congress is responsible for the city. There's no state government like you see with all other cities.
posted by delmoi at 12:24 AM on December 23, 2008


How do taxes work in DC? Specifically income and property, especially with respect to federal agencies and employees.
posted by ryanrs at 4:34 AM on December 23, 2008


See here. I live the 703, yo, but I totally support either statehood or retrocession to Maryland. No other country treats its capital city so poorly.
posted by JoanArkham at 5:29 AM on December 23, 2008


They should make redraw the federal district to include just the government section of town where nobody lives, and make the rest of DC its own state: Columbia. It'd be small, sure, but it'd have more people than Wyoming, and nearly as many as Vermont.
posted by EarBucket at 5:31 AM on December 23, 2008


failure of Bush the younger to attend church in town

Bush Jr. attends church nearly every Sunday he is in DC. His Priest told me that he is one of his more regular attendees. Your assumption is incorrect.

How do taxes work in DC? Specifically income and property, especially with respect to federal agencies and employees.

We pay our taxes into the Federal coffers and then it is doled back out to us. Federal agencies do not pay property taxes and make up huge swaths of the city. The DC office of tax and revenue is embroiled in an embezzlement scandal that siphoned off some 30 odd million dollars. So in summation, they don't. Federal employees pay regular taxes where they live just like private sector employees.

I elected a president of the USA. No offense to the District

So did we. Plenaty taken. You also send your shitty, ideologue congresspeople here who meddle in and have oversight over our elected officials, so I have no problem with the President involving himself in the affairs of a vital part of our nation that happens to be more populous than some toothless backwater states (I'm looking at you Wyoming).

Or, what delmoi said.
posted by Pollomacho at 5:43 AM on December 23, 2008


Bush Jr. attends church nearly every Sunday he is in DC. His Priest told me that he is one of his more regular attendees. Your assumption is incorrect.

Apparently my neighbor was wrong. Where does Bush attend?
posted by exogenous at 5:58 AM on December 23, 2008


He goes to St. John's Episcopal.
posted by Pollomacho at 6:23 AM on December 23, 2008


There's even a Snopes page about it.
posted by Pollomacho at 6:24 AM on December 23, 2008


Tommy Wells is a pretty decent power forward also.

Maybe we should invite him and Obama to the meetup in his district and see what he thinks?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:45 AM on December 23, 2008


Fuck Congress and their meddling in DC affairs. If we're gonna be taxed, let us govern ourselves. If Congress is going to stick their nose in all the time, then no federal taxes.
posted by inigo2 at 6:50 AM on December 23, 2008


"D.C. only gets to "govern itself" because congress created a local government structure for it. Congress is responsible for the city. There's no state government like you see with all other cities."

I didn't elect Obama to be a state governor, or ask him to assume the Senate Chair on Columbian Dogcatchers. I elected him president. Sure, go ahead and put in a kind word to the Congress about, you know, maybe making the town habitable, putting together a functional school district, or laying off on the silly squabbling, but seriously: Obama is not now or ever will be intended to replace a state government. You can't go around saying "DC is the problem of the Congress, so, um... STOP! OBAMA TIME!" In fact, wouldn't it be more useful to take your local concerns to Biden, who will take a bigger role in the goings on in Congress?

Maybe Obama will spend some time at PTA meetings for his kids' schools. That would rock. Beyond that I would personally very much prefer the guy spend his time in DC on things like stopping wars, slowing down corporate looting of the American economy, obsoleting silly "culture war" dramas, restoring suspended civil rights to the People and setting an example for reversing the Orwellian Slide in the English-speaking world, rebuilding our crumbling transportation, energy, and communications infrastructures, putting check to the rampaging justice system, turning around our souring diplomatic relationships, restoring sensible policies on domestic security, and yeah, if he can, maybe fit in a PTA meeting or something.

As the guy's boss, I would be pretty disappointed to see him dinking around at town council meetings when there's so much to get done before his employment is up for review.
posted by majick at 7:21 AM on December 23, 2008


If Congress is going to stick their nose in all the time, then no federal taxes.

It's worse than that. The Federal government sucks up all of our resources, yet pays not one dime back. When those hundreds of thousands of people trash our town for the inaguaration, it's us that will have to clean it up. When the Feds are worried about security, it's our streets they close down, sometimes permanently. It's our parks, and Metro, and streets, and public facilities that get destroyed when protesters come to town. It's our roads that are clogged and worn by motorcades and out-of-district federal workers who come in to work and pay their taxes to thier home state. Members of Congress and their staff made sure that even when they come to town for years at a time they don't have to pay more than a pittance to the District! We end up picking up the tab and we get nothing in return. It's about time we stage that sit-in on the 14th street bridge as suggested by our last mayor if you ask me.

I elected him president.

Yes, President of the United States, the entire United States. DC is part of the United States, like it or not. Are you saying that if a state of the United States was fucked up you wouldn't want the President of the United States to try and do something about it? The Presidents have bothered to weigh in on issues as all important as steriods in baseball and strikes in individual coal mines, but a major city spiraling out of control is just not worth his time? Fine, I'll take my tax dollars back from all the times the National Guard or the EPA or the Department of Fixing Stuff was sent in to fix something that was broken somewhere else in the United States because it's just not worth my money or the President's time. Next time you need a school system desegregated or a leavee rebuilt you can just find help elsewhere, the President is too busy worrying about Iranian nukes.
posted by Pollomacho at 7:45 AM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Thanks, pollomacho. I guess I should also take my neighbor's story about the crack whore down the street with a grain of salt, then.

majick, I don't think DC residents are calling for Obama to spend very much of his valuble time on our local issues. And I doubt he will. But it would mean a lot if Obama would provide even a few words showing that he cared about the place where he will be living and working. For example, it looks like Obama will support legislation providing Congressional representation for us. GWB did not, which is one reason that when I wave to his motorcades I sometimes forget to use all of my fingers.
posted by exogenous at 7:46 AM on December 23, 2008


which is one reason that when I wave to his motorcades I sometimes forget to use all of my fingers

Heh, I need to remember to stop doing that on January 20. FWIW, I also support some sort of commuter tax, though I see statehood as being an easier sell.
posted by JoanArkham at 8:13 AM on December 23, 2008


I'm pretty sure the crack whore story is true, exogenous. She offered me a private dancing exhibition once. I declined.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:19 AM on December 23, 2008


FWIW, I also support some sort of commuter tax, though I see statehood as being an easier sell.

Especially if they do it like they've been talking about, giving Utah another vote at the same time (thus "balancing out" the DC vote in some perverse way).

Congress also doesn't pay for their own mail; screws the USPS out of a few million a year, pretty sweet. Another good example of "we won't give you anything, but we'll take take take."
posted by inigo2 at 8:27 AM on December 23, 2008


I don't know if you live anywhere near me, exogenous or MrMonPie, but if you do, I'd say the crack whore story is probably pretty accurate.
posted by Pollomacho at 9:17 AM on December 23, 2008


Sorry Pollomacho, it's a different house. It'll give us something to talk about at the meetup anyway.
posted by exogenous at 3:12 PM on December 23, 2008


« Older The digital collection...  |  Fridtjof Nansen's... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments