“In their own words…”
Guest columnist: Andrea Rosen
Topic: McMillan Park & the lack of competitive bidding (sole sourcing the disposition and privatization of McMillan Park to Vision McMillan Partners)
In early July 2015, D.C. Auditor Kathy Patterson sent an inquiry to DMPED’s Brian Kenner asking for information about how Vision McMillan Partners came to be the exclusive recipient of development and property rights at the McMillan Sand Filtration Site and Park, and how the D.C. government came to be VMP’s banker.
Mr. Kenner responded early this month with a chronological narrative and 300 pages of documents.
Yesterday, Ms. Patterson wrote Council Chair Phil Mendelson (with cc’s to Inspector General Daniel Lucas and AG Karl Racine) expressing concern about the noncompetitive process Mr. Kenner outlined, particularly in light of the upcoming Council vote on the Mayor’s resolution (PR 21-307) to extend the city’s agreements with VMP, due to expire in December 2016, to 2021. See the Auditor’s October 2015 letter here.
The text of PR 21-307 is at http://lims.dccouncil.us/Download/34431/PR21-0307-Introduction.pdf
Competition isn’t just an ideal. The D.C. Code, Title 10, Chapter 8 – Sale of Public Lands, requires that “A proposed resolution to provide for the disposition of real property transmitted to the Council . . . shall be accompanied by (1) An analysis prepared by the Mayor of the economic factors that were considered in proposing the disposition of the real property, including: (a) The chosen method of disposition, and how competition was maximized” [boldface added to §10-801(b-1)(1)(A)] http://dccode.org/simple/sections/10-801.html#stq=&stp=0
Those who pay attention to public land disposition in the District know that McMillan is emblematic of our elected and appointed officials’ compulsion to satisfy developers by undervaluing, subsidizing, and divesting assets to them, and to convert land into tax revenue.
Longtime residents and businesses are displaced and dispersed from inexpensive housing and commercial spaces, and newly built structures that are mostly too expensive for those residents and businesses to return to are constructed for the benefit of the supposed endless stream of newcomers.
What is rather unique about McMillan as just another piece of property to churn is its landmark status, recognized by its inclusion on the National Register (as well as the DC Inventory of Historic Sites); its transmission to the D.C. government under a preservation covenant from the Federal government; its renown as a compelling, even beloved place; and its potential for electrifying adaptive reuses instead of banal suburban-inspired speculative development planned for it, which frankly could be built anywhere if the city exploited another of its holdings or its power of eminent domain over a parking lot. What ought to make every resident who cares about this city take notice is our government’s lack of respect for any constraints or considerations — social justice, policy, legal, cultural, historical, community, civic, democratic — other than monetary. As far as the endless stream of condo-buyers: Bad government eventually drives residents, new and old, who can afford to choose, out of the city. And so the endless cycle repeats.
The hearing on PR 21-307 will be held next Monday, October 26, at 9:30 in room 120 of the Wilson Building. Those who wish to testify are asked to telephone the Committee of the Whole at (202) 724-8196, or email Cynthia LeFevre, Legislative Counsel, at firstname.lastname@example.org, and to provide your name, address, telephone number, organizational affiliation and title (if any) by COB Thursday, October 22. If submitted electronically by COB on October 22, the testimony will be distributed to Councilmembers before the hearing.
Witnesses should limit their testimony to 4 minutes; less time will be allowed if there are many witnesses. For those unable to testify at the hearing, written statements are encouraged and will be made a part of the official record. Written statements after the hearing should be submitted to the Committee of the Whole, Council of the District of Columbia, Suite 410 of the John A. Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20004. The record for PR 21-307 will close at 5:00 p.m. on November 2, 2015. (http://www.dcregs.dc.gov/Gateway/NoticeHome.aspx?noticeid=5675196)
~ Andrea Rosen