Category Archives: Issues

Tax Increment Financing, It will TIF you off

Tax Increment Financing (TIF) is a municipal financial scheme whereby DC taxpayers fund and support private development projects throughout the city.

TIFs allow the diversion of taxes that would otherwise be generated by these new projects away from the city’s general budget for social needs (schools, parks, affordability, services, etc.), and instead these taxes are used to pay back private bankers whom authorized the TIF credit and municipal loan.

TIFs act as blank checks from the public to fund and externalize private development costs and is considered a form of corporate welfare.


Governments often use TIF resources to prepare land for development or redevelopment. In addition, governments may use TIF revenues to underwrite certain public structures, such as parking garages. If permissible under state statute, the construction of municipal facilities can be financed using TIF revenues. An Elected Official’s Guide to TAX INCREMENT FINANCING by Nicholas Greifer & The Government Finance Officers Association, July 2007.


The most recent District of Columbia TIF is for Union Market developers.

WARD 5 TIF

THE SOUTHWEST WATERFRONT aka WHARF TIF

The Living Social TIF Gift

TIFs as political hot potatoes, a DC neighborhood-level discussion in Bloomingdale in 2010.


Many of the District’s special deals have been very costly. In 2002, Gallery Place, a mixed-use transit-oriented development, received about $80 million in subsidies. To sell the TIF bonds for just this one project, DC had to pledge that incremental sales tax revenue from a much larger area would be made available if necessary. In 2006, another development in a quickly gentrifying neighborhood, the DC-USA mall project anchored by a Target store, received a $42 million TIF package. The District justified the deal in part by claiming it would enhance sales tax revenue in the surrounding neighborhood (DC has a problem with sales tax “leakage” to Maryland and Virginia), but DC has no method of tracking sales tax by location to determine if that worked. Good Jobs First, “Tracking Subsidies, Promoting Accountability in Economic Development,” Accountable USA – District of Columbia webpage.


ANALYSIS: Before [Baltimore] City Hall loved TIFs, it shunned them as bad policy

Tax Increment Financing: A comparison between Washington, D.C. and Chicago, by Jasson Perez, University of Illinois Chicago, 2015.

Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs

DCRA Threatens DC Property Owners; Lawsuits

Based on the recent Council hearings, it has become clear that the DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) has exposed DC taxpayers and property owners to negligence and serious injury with a lack of accountability from the Mayor and Council.

A review of the October 24, 2017, City Council hearing shows numerous cases of fraud and injury perpetrated by this agency and the director, Melinda Bolling, who was chosen to lead this agency by Mayor Bowser.

This follows on in a series of hearings that the Council acts out before the taxpayers, but does little else to enforce the laws or address accountability.

 

WDC vis-a-vis London

A recent Washington Post article highlights the Grenfell Tower fire, a building poorly constructed with questionable materials that was approved with little accountable municipal permitting review.

The Grenfell fire illustrated in searing fashion the perils of life in Britain’s public housing high-rises, where years of unheeded warnings, slashed costs and deregulation all added up to a tragedy unlike any Britain has seen in at least a century.

But the aftermath has shined a spotlight on a different problem with Britain’s strained-to-the-breaking-point housing system — a severe shortage of affordable options that has left people desperate for a roof over their heads.

The article captures London’s construction boom in a way that closely matches the problems in the District.  DCRA is DC’s permitting office which is under much scrutiny for similar oversight and permitting failures.  And DC has been experiencing an affordable housing crisis for more than a decade.

The article sheds light on DC’s major planning and permitting problems.  It’s a good read, if sad for all those families hurt or killed and displaced.

Police Harassment

Gendarme: Unconstitutional Displacement

DC’s Attorney General recently said, “Obeying the Constitution is Not Optional” after filing complaints against the “President.”

Perhaps Mr. Racine ought to be on the phone with Police Chief Newsham to discuss training on the rights of Americans to peacefully gather in public spaces when organizing against displacement.

On Monday, June 12, 2017, just a mere couple of weeks after the DC Zoning Commission rubberstamped the approval of a project that will destroy #BrooklandManor, the cops are acting as developer agents to harass and finish off the displacement of existing DC families and residents living in Ward 5.

Of course, Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie favors this displacement, as he goes on and on writing letters consistently supporting these projects and the wholesale removal and police harassment of black families from DC.

MLK on War and Poverty

Disperse Poverty! Concentrate Wealth!

DE-CONCENTRATE POVERTY MEANS GETTING RID OF POOR PEOPLE WHILE THEY CONCENTRATE WEALTH IN NEW LUXURY HIGH-RISES

We must de-concentrate poverty.  It’s a refrain we are hearing alot from city officials lately, especially now as East of the River communities are facing the first big swells of the massive gentrification wave heading that way from the westside.

Those screaming for the dispersal of poor communities have usually been the developers, more recently the “smart” growthers, and now City officials are parroting it up on their John A. Wilson dais.

“The time has come for us to civilize ourselves by the total, direct and immediate abolition of poverty” — Dr. King, “Where do we go from Here: Chaos or Community”, 1967.

But, instead of seeking tools and policies like a guaranteed basic income, or robust job training programs, feeding programs, good quality schooling, and social uplift, the de-concentration of poverty advocated for by the DC’s developer-class and the City Council and Mayor is that of dispersal, i.e. getting rid of the poor by way of streetcar, condos, hotels, stadiums.

The New Communities program, following on from the Hope VI programs, in turn from Urban Renewal is referenced across many Housing and Urban Development documents as “dispersal projects” no matter what new euphemism they want to call them.

Due to the self-selection inherent in voluntary dispersal programs, and to the screening that these programs apply to applicants, participants are likely to be more motivated and possess more human capital than the families that do not participate. Program operatives choose the families they think will succeed, based on these families’ being organized enough to pass home inspections and other steps in the application process. Still, mobility programs typically have a low success rate, because fewer than half the applicants who are accepted are able to lease an apartment. The Reality of Deconcentration, By Edward G. Goetz

Simultaneously, while the city disperses the poor to heed the call to de-concentrate poverty, the DC Zoning Commission, Office of Planning, Deputy Mayor’s Office for Planning and Economic Development, alongside Ward level Councilmembers push hard for new projects that have only 8% to 15% “affordable” units in them, and those are usually for singles, not families.

That is, city planners and officials are encouraging, even touting projects that concentrate wealth with 85% of the housing units being built for wealthy single new DC residents.

So, the developer-class wins again with each call from advocate-community and pronouncement by city officials saying we must de-concentrate poverty and rip up generational familial networks with innate powerful neighborhood connections that have grown in some ways to supersede abject poverty through mutual aid and reliance & trust.

The reality is, the development underway in the District is dispersing and displacing poor DC families (the census numbers don’t lie), but consistently concentrating wealthy singles and somehow that is considered good planning in DC.

It’s not, it’s unreasonable and unacceptable.  This purposely poor planning has resulted in DC’s #unRealEstateMarket


Deconcentrating poverty is a smokescreen. It camouflages forced relocation of low-income house-holds. What do we mean when we talk about  deconcentrating poverty? As it has been implemented to date, deconcentration has meant manipulating the spatial arrangement of federally subsidized low-income families to either disperse or dilute poverty. — The Smokescreen of Poverty Deconcentration, by Edward Goetz


 

In their own words . . . opinion by Chris Otten, co-facilitator, DC4RD

 

 

 

 

Office of Planning’s Zoning Rewrong Now Hurting Supporters

ANC 6B, particularly Commissioner Kirsten Oldenburg, has championed everything that the Office of Planning has thrown at them, including the DC Zoning Rewrite.

The 2016 approval of the ZRR allows commercial creep into residential areas of DC and weakens the rules making many zoning issues a “matter of right” meaning they don’t need any community feedback or administrative process for approval from the city (many zoning issues also went from the a stricter variance test to the easier special exception request).

Now the ANC is feeling the effects of their forthright push to support the Zoning Rewrite, that is they are fighting the commercial creep that is just starting under the new rules.  See the article below.

‘Party House’ Hearing Before Board of Zoning Takes Place Wednesday

TwilightZoning: Record RubberStamp!

Amazing!  The DC Zoning Commission has hit a new record in approving a Planned Unit Development in a mere 26 minutes (video)!

A twenty-six minute review of a 11-story behemoth in the middle of the historic Shaw neighborhood, despite the precedent setting victory at the highest Court in the District regarding the landmarked McMillan Park showing that the Commission must consider adverse impacts from any major project they are considering.

A record project approval in the face of the people calling out Zoning Commission attorneys for their disregard of fundamental planning impacts like displacement.

Doesn’t matter! The Zoning Commission goes hard and rubberstamps an 11-story Planned Unit Development in the middle of the historic Shaw neighborhood in record time.

Things may be looking up though — the Office of the Attorney General is seeking to hire a land use attorney!

Fire on the Metro

Burn After Reading: Metro, Office of Planning, #ZRR

The ZRR expects more & more residents riding Metro

Over the past several years, DC planning and zoning officials have been reviewing and changing DC’s real estate development rules, a process referred to as the Zoning Regulations Rewrite (ZRR).

The Office of Planning went hard during the #ZRR to amend the zoning code so that the area known as Downtown DC is tripled in size, and where parking requirements are all-together eliminated.

Downtown DC has some of the tallest buildings with most density, driving significant traffic, killing any remaining parking, even in garages, and abusing daily the city’s aging infrastructure, including the recent troublesome time for Metro, a transit system routinely catching on fire.

Back in 2001, WMATA conducted a Metro transit capacity study which had predicted the future, which is now:

Expanding the capacity of the existing Metro system to accommodate a doubling of ridership, which will just maintain its vital market share in the region during the next 25 years, is a prudent and cogent investment. The existing system cost $9.4 billion to construct over a period of thirty years; the $4.5 billion investment in core capacity improvements represents half of that original cost and 20% of the price–more than $22 billion–that would be required to build it today. This investment is in the context of the $246 billion annual economy of the Washington Metropolitan area. The return on investment is compelling: an enhanced and expanded Metro system fully capable of meeting market demand, fostering economic vitality and an enhanced quality of life, meeting the mobility needs of this vibrant region as it continues to grow and providing requisite transit services during times of emergency.

When do the Corporations kick in their fair share?

Using the Zoning Regulations Rewrite process and tapping connections in DC’s planning offices,  “Smart Growth” associated agents, Cheryl Cort and David Alpert, have vociferously called for a zoning amendments wishlist serving DC’s real estate investment community, i.e. the loosening of standards governing parking in DC.

Less parking requirements, they say means less cars on the streets and more people on public transit.  Perhaps this why Metro has reached capacity in many parts of the system.  Yet despite business being good, WMATA’s Metro system is bleeding money.

Part of the reason for increased transit costs is liability.  In recent years Metro has demonstrated a keen ability to roll the razor edge of danger for riders and residents who have witnessed high-profile Metro incidents and accidents as part of the larger DC municipal systems collapse.

It is clear, the Metro system is aging and maxing out, leading to burn out and death.

DC Metro, Fire and Death

Questions:

  • How many more people need to get hurt on Metro, or even die before the City gets serious about regional urban planning?
  • Shouldn’t District planning officials be seeking no-strings attached funding from the corporate world, especially those businesses “downtown” who benefit significantly from workers getting to their jobs through DC’s municipal systems? That is, what’s the 1%’s share of our collective transit burden?
  • Is it because the smart growth community is funded by developer-interests they won’t advocate that developers be required to contribute to infrastructure and transit upgrade costs serving their new luxury hotel, condo, and office projects?

#ZRR

Chapter: 10-A25 of the DC Municipal Regulations was to guide the ZRR process, but the DC Zoning Commission did not evaluate the efficacy of OP’s zoning review.

The Zoning Regulations Rewrite is scheduled to be implemented this September.

Some residents whose concerns like the tripling of “downtown”, inter-alia, were dismissed by OP and ignored during the zoning review process are organizing  to challenge this unacceptably poor planning here in the Nation’s Capitol in the 21st Century.

www.twilightzoning.org

affordabullshit

Affordable for Who? Inclusionary Zoning Must Be Fixed!

The number one priority of the 20-year DC Comprehensive Plan is to preserve and protect inclusive affordability in the City.

—> Take 5 minutes & SEND A NOTE to City officials <—

The implementation of Inclusionary Zoning (IZ), one of DC’s affordable housing programs, was to help meet the goal of inclusivity as DC’s growth machine charges forward driving up housing costs and expenses.

That is, per the IZ rules, when developers construct any new building (over 10 units) — rental or condo — they are required to build residential space dedicated as “affordable” IZ units.

In concept, the IZ requirement is good, but the results since 2009 have been unspectacular due to disengenuous defintions of “affordability” as found within the IZ rules — rules which we must seek to change.

—> Take 5 minutes & SEND A NOTE to City officials <—

Passed as law in 2006, and implemented starting in 2009, IZ largely produces so-called “affordable” housing units set at 80% of the Area Median Income.  The AMI for the DMV area is now $109,000 a year!

This means, if you currently live in the District of Columbia, are single, and make $60,000 a year you can qualify for an “affordable” studio/one-bedroom thanks to the DC Inclusionary Zoning program.

Also, the IZ requirement comes with a big carrot — Bonus Density!

This means developers get to build bigger buildings to create more “market-rate” luxury units to, as they say, “offset” costs associated with the IZ requirement (To compensate developers, they are allowed to build about 20% more luxury or “market-rate” housing).

—> Take 5 minutes & SEND A NOTE to City officials <—

As an example, lets say a developer wants to build a 5-story rental apartment with 100 units made of stick all of equal size. For the developer to fulfill the current mandatory IZ units in this new building, they are required to market only 8 units as “affordable” out of the 100 units constructed, and then they can market these 8 units to singles making 80% of the AMI (those making $60,000 a year).

By this example, you can see how due to disengenuous definitions of “affordability,” DC’s IZ program has mistakenly backfired and instead has directly challeneged the city’s traditional rent metrics for working families ($500 to $1000 rent per month). It’s a case of good intention that has failed reality.

IZ is not currently helping to alleviate the affordable housing crisis in the District.

—> Take 5 minutes & SEND A NOTE to City officials <—

Further, many people have called the current IZ rules “racist & classist”, in that the current IZ rules exempts affordability requirements for Downtown and parts of Georgetown, and other wealthy parts of the City.

We can eliminate Exclusivity & Redefine “AFFORDABILITY” in the District! PLEASE TAKE 5 MINUTES TO SIGN THE PETITION & SEND A LETTER

Use the easy online at the following link to send in your thoughts about fixing the broken IZ program.

—> Take 5 minutes & SEND A NOTE to City officials <—

 

FALL UP-date: Calendar, Articles & Racism in the District

DC for Reasonable Development FALL UPdate:
Calendar, Articles & Racism in the District

DC for Reasonable Development connects points of information for your mental digest to inspire action in you and your neighbors living and working in the District.

Our updates are seasonal, but our site is full of current resources and information to assist in your desire to not be displaced, ignored, or adversely affected by the influx of developer-corporate capital flowing into the City and drastically changing our collective futures.

The racism we see at the ground-level and on the street is also perpetrated at the highest government levels as well.

Disparate treatment by the cops is mimicked by City zoning officials and the result is the same, racism.

This has got to stop.  Learn more.  Then Act!

Update Topics (with links to data)

Racism in DC (On the streets and in the halls of planning and zoning) http://www.dc4reason.org/updates/215#racism

Affordable Housing (More Housing Needed, Congress Heights, Downtown Exempt from Affordability) http://www.dc4reason.org/updates/215#housing

Food Security (Local DC farm festiva;  Anti-Monsanto) http://www.dc4reason.org/updates/215#food

Municipal Energy Update: Exelon supported by Mayor, Opposed by the People (Keep the pressure on) http://www.dc4reason.org/updates/215#energy

MLK Library Renovation Update (See the plans, meet DCPL’s Director) http://www.dc4reason.org/updates/215#libraries

Transportation Metro
(Bigger DC — Bigger Metro Collapse) http://www.dc4reason.org/updates/215#metro

Social Justice Activities (Save McMillan; Public Banking; Dia De Los Muertos) http://www.dc4reason.org/updates/215#social_justice

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RACISM IN DC
On the Street and in DC’s halls of planning

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This past week we have seen our young black friend Jason get brutalized by cops who responded to a call from a person who “felt uncomfortable” that him and his friends were getting money from the bank >> http://wjla.com/news/local/lawyer-for-udc-student-handcuffed-on-video-looking-into-civil-rights-violations

Then we found out that business leaders are working with the  Metropolitan Police Dept. and other officials to implement an online app used to largely profile black people in and around Georgetown >> http://www.cbsnews.com/news/mobile-app-groupme-used-to-counter-shoplifting-in-georgetown-accused-of-racial-profiling/

The on the ground profiling and racism follows a pattern with District officials in DC’s planning departments too. 

As it regards the controversial Zoning Regulations Rewrite, several residents, including ANC’s have complained that residents in Georgetown were offered special treatment in working alongside the Office of Planning to customize zoning regulations to protect their community >> http://www.dc4reason.org/zrr/anc/pr/

But, when ANC’s in Ward 5, 7, and 8 asked for similar direct assistance as offered to Georgetown, the Office of Planning told them to wait until the ZRR had passed, effectively nullifying any chance at customizing and protecting their ANC districts from the ZRR.  http://www.twilightzoning.org/wrong

Racism in DC is present from the profiling on the ground by cops and business leaders all the way up to the DC’s planning and zoning officials.  And, the mounting demands for justice is real.

#BlackLivesMatterDMV will be hosting a march against racism and police abuse on October 20, 2015, 7:30pm, be there.  FMI >> https://www.facebook.com/events/185243745143911/

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ARTICLES & EVENTS
Housing, Food, Energy, Libraries,
Transportation & Social Justice

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 Housing (Articles & Events)

Even when the DC Government intervenes to help, they pour on the hurt.

In the case of a dilapidated apartment building, DC’s Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) helps people move out of an unsafe situation, but then won’t provide any real temporary living options for those DC residents being moved >> http://wjla.com/news/local/evicted-from-unsafe-building-dc-residents-struggle-to-find-affordable-housing

In Ward 8, the Congress Heights Metro properties face development, but at what costs and who benefits >>  http://tinyurl.com/wapo-oct-14-2015-CH

And, in downtown, where housing affordability is at an all-time low, some of the last affordable units at Museum Square are threatened to be displaced as part of a national trend of hatred of the poor and working families >> http://www.afro.com/voucher-expirations-create-housing-insecurity-in-d-c-across-nation/

To stand up for affordable housing in the District, there are several events to mark your calendar by:

* Empower DC — affordable housing advocates — Annual Meeting, This Saturday, October 17, 11AM to 2PM, Union Temple Baptist Church, 1225 W Street, SE.  http://tinyurl.com/empower-dc-annual-mtg-2015

* The DC Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) is to host two public input events and release an online survey for residents to express affordable housing and community development needs in DC. First one to be held, Wednesday, October 28, 2015 at 6:30 p.m. at the Watha T. Daniel/Shaw Library, 1630 7th Street, NW in the large meeting room, FMI >> http://dhcd.dc.gov/service/dc-draft-fy-2016-2020-consolidated-plan

* The Campaign for Inclusionary Zoning invites the public to learn how we can help make Inclusionary Zoning better serve the people it was intended to help. Be at the meeting to discuss, Thursday, October 22, 2015, 9:30–11:30am at DC Fiscal Policy Institute (DCFPI), 820 First St NE #510, Washington, DC 20002.  There are specific ways to make IZ work >> http://www.dc4reason.org/updates/179

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Food Security Events

Here in the District, while baseball and basketball stadiums steal the show, and steal our city monies, many DC youth still go to bed hungry on any given night.

There are two events coming up to work on Food justice issues this weekend:

* Local District farmers proving lots of healthy food
can be produced relatively inexpensively within the District.  The Three Part Harmony Farm team invite you to their Fall Farm Festival, 10AM to 4PM at 3104 4th St NE, Washington, DC 20017 (close to the Brookland Metro Stop on the Red Line), FMI >> https://www.facebook.com/events/1471814903124592/

* Join the Food Justice Coalition as we go to Washington, DC to fight the DARK Act! Friday will be a day of Senate lobbying followed by a March around DC and Saturday will be the Food Justice Rally at the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol with speakers beginning at noon. FMI >> https://www.facebook.com/events/582976311808973/

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Energy Access & Justice

It would appear the Mayor and other officials, including DC’s first-elected Attorney General, Karl Racine, as well as many business and social leaders are trying to work around the decision by DC’s Public Service Commission to oppose the Exelon-Pepco Merger >> http://dcist.com/2015/10/heres_what_people_are_saying_about.php

It is clear that Exelon is looking to leverage DC’s Pepco assets and financials, those of OUR energy provider, to balance THEIR failing nationwide nuclear-based energy gamble.

If you oppose this bad deal, DC SUN is asking you write a letter to City officials asap >> http://www.powerdc.org/take-action.html

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DC’s Libraries

DC’s central public library, our King Memorial Library is being renovated >> http://dclibrary.org/MLKfuture

Join the MLK Library Friends and come hear about the plans for the future of MLK Library, provide your feedback, and engage with the Director of the Library, Rich Reyes-Gavilan.  This coming Tuesday, October 20, 2015, starting at 6:30pm at the MLK Library, 901 G Street, NW.  FMI >> http://www.mlklibraryfriends.org/

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Metro Transportation

As the DC Zoning Regulations Rewrite (ZRR) looks to triple the area of “Downtown DC,” the transportation capacities of Downtown have not been evaluated by City planners >> http://dczoning.blogspot.com/2014/03/downtown-thats-where-action-is.html

In fact, while DC’s Office of Planning and Zoning officials want to go big with DC, including a bigger downtown, with bigger crowds, bigger offices, bigger cafés, bigger toilets, and bigger transportation demand — simultaneously Metro is struggling to keep up with current levels of action, threatening increased fares and service cuts Downtown and around the City.

See these articles:

It seems the City planners want to ignore Metro’s woes in their attempt to appease the corporate developers who want to squeeze as much profit from every corner of DC, without having to look under the rug, or in this case the street to determine if DC’s ageing infrastructure and transportation modalities can keep up with their incessant greed.

And, then there’s this, Study Says DC Most At Risk of Water Shortage” >> http://washington.cbslocal.com/2013/05/15/study-says-dcs-water-is-at-risk-of-drying-up/

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Social Justice Activities

Rounding out this Fall update are a slew of upcoming events to make sure you are a part of:

* SAVE MCMILLAN PARK — Pack the hearing room on October 26, 2015 if you oppose the privatization and demolition of one of DC’s first integrated-spaces and 25 acres of historic public land.  FMI >> http://dccouncil.us/events/committee-of-the-whole-public-hearing

* PUBLIC BANKING — If you like the idea of the people of the District controlling their future through direct fiscal responsibility and democratic decision-making, then be at the Goethe Institute next Wednesday night >> https://www.facebook.com/events/836405599811113/

* OCT 30 — Quetzal: Día de los Muertos Concert (free!) >> https://www.facebook.com/events/695075803970014/

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OTHER ARTICLES OF IMPORT
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* District officials violating law on language access, lawsuit says –https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/dc-politics/district-officials-violating-law-on-language-access-lawsuit-says/2015/10/06/9e5c578e-6c3f-11e5-aa5b-f78a98956699_story.html

* Never mind the hipsters. It’s the property developers who are ruining our cities — http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/sep/28/hipsters-property-developers-gentrification-cereal-killer-cafe

* 6 imaginative new ways America has found to punish its poor  — http://www.salon.com/2015/08/18/6_inventive_new_strategies_republicans_have_developed_to_punish_the_poor_partner/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=socialflow

* POLL: What Should the RFK Stadium Campus Have in the Future? https://www.hillnow.com/2015/09/29/poll-what-should-the-rfk-stadium-campus-have-in-the-future/

* Taxes Will Fund 90 Percent of Wizards Practice Site — http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/looselips/2015/09/15/taxes-will-fund-90-percent-of-wizards-practice-site/

* The Continuing Legacy of Theresa Howe Joneshttp://husln4.com/2014/11/26/the-legacy-of-theresa-howe-jones/

* California citrus farmers pull up trees, dig reservoirs to survive drought — http://news.yahoo.com/california-citrus-farmers-pull-trees-dig-reservoirs-survive-130944199.html