Last night, Mayor Gray, Jack Evans, and Michael Brown met with a skeptical audience, mostly residents from wards 6 and 7, about reported plans to put a Redskins practice facility on the Reservation 13/Hill East land.
Readers who attended the meeting report that the officials seemed to genuinely expect that the crowd would just cheer for anything that helped the Redskins, regardless of policy merit or economic justification.
The mayor, and Jack Evans, and Michael Brown kept repeating “we’d like to bring the Redskins back” and waited for the applause. To say it fell flat was is an understatement. I was frankly shocked at how bad these politicians were at politics. It was a chance for them to sell their plan, or at least reassure a nervous and frustrated audience, and they spent the time lecturing us.
Tim is absolutely right, all four of them were absolutely tone deaf last night. They’ve clearly already decided what they want. It’ll be up to those of us in Wards 6 and 7 to fight like hell to stop it. I’m glad there were so many people out there and that we’re, if not in front of this, at least ready to deal with it.
It seems to me the point of the meeting was that the CMs were hoping to get a lot of people agreeing with them and cheering on the general idea of the training facility. Instead they found that there was a pretty solid opposition to the training facility from people at the meeting.
Its clear that all the officials are drooling at anything football related. Even if it means the destruction of city services, residential, city income, affordable housing, and health care services for residents. They did say that the training facility could have a medical facility for the study of concussion-related sports injuries.
Gray and the councilmembers emphasized that there wasn’t a specific plan, but it seemed to depend on how you define “plan.” They seem to have done a lot of thinking about this issue, and have made up their minds, but for political reasons wanted to downplay any talk that this is a done deal.
[Gray] stressed that there are no concrete plans, and nothing to show. But they were willing to talk about its concussion health center, job creation, and its possibility of a catalyst for development. The neighborhood thought there was going to be some specific details, but he didn’t bring anything. If anything, the point of the meeting should, and did try to at times, focus on why the city hasn’t chosen a developer yet for the master plan. Hopefully it did get them to move forward on picking one of the two developers for the smaller parcels of land to be developed.
They were willing to talk specifics when they wanted, but mostly spent trying to distract the audience [by talking about the Eastern Branch Boys & Girls club] or pleading ignorance, like not knowing how the area is zoned. They also made no economic argument whatsoever for doing so. Gray, Evans and Alexander didn’t even try, and Brown vaguely alluded to creating year-round jobs, but there was no discussion of the fact that although a training facility might create a few jobs, it wouldn’t create nearly as many as a mixed-use development!
Redeveloping Reservation 13 is clearly a difficult task. I get that. But the Stadium-Armory Metro station has been open nearly 40 years! And there has been a master plan for the site for nearly a decade. Think of what Arlington would have done with a similar parcel of land by now.
Brian Flahaven was the star of the show. You could tell towards the end that Gray and Evans were frustrated at having been so thoroughly schooled in the game of retail politics by a mere ANC Commissioner. (Brown and Alexander were too clueless to realize they had been schooled.)
As for Alexander: What a joke. I wrote a check for Tom Brown immediately after the meeting.
Residents spent a lot of time and effort building consensus for a master plan for the area. They weren’t happy to hear that Gray is basically stopping it from moving forward in the general hope they can work out something with the Redskins.
In response to questions, the officials refused to give any timeline when they would have more detail, or when they would just let the original plan move forward, or give neighbors any closure at all.
They presented their idea, which is basically to ditch the Reservation 13 plan agreed upon years ago so they can keep pursuing this pie-in-the-sky idea of bringing the Redskins training camp to the area. And it seems like nobody at the meeting wanted the training camp except the councilmembers. They have talked to the team. They have not created a formal plan.
From my understanding in 2008, there were four developers bidding on the master plan project. DC didn’t pick any of them and let it sit. DC then decided to scale down the project to two parcels of land. Two developers are ready to go; DC just needs to pick a developer to start.
Jack Evans clearly doesn’t get it. He kept trying to make the it an issue of Redskins fans versus non-Redskins fans. I like the Redskins as much as the next guy. But that’s not the point Jack! The point is that when your constituents walk to the Metro, they walk through vibrant neighborhoods on streets lined with shops and services. When I walk to the Metro, I walk up a one-way street (19th) that is a freeway for Maryland commuters and past a vast and dilapidated surface parking lot for DC government employees, most of whom are Maryland residents.
Finally, Mike Debonis revealed that this meeting had been rescheduled (from the coming week) because Jack Evans couldn’t make the meeting. Tommy Wells, whose ward borders this site and previously included it, was speaking at his alma mater, the University of Alabama School of Social Work.
Why can’t Mayor Gray, who represents the entire city, attend a meeting to talk about a plan he’s promoting without the help of a councilmember from a different ward?