Seriously, that the Committee of 100 has influence on DC politics is frightening. They wield power over old-school DC politicians in a way that drags the District and its citizens down by the balls, advocating governmental moves that would hurt the city and its potential for future growth and livability.
Here’s how they describe themselves:
“The Committee of 100 advocates responsible planning and land use in Washington, D.C. Our work is guided by the values inherited from the L’Enfant Plan and McMillan Commission, which give Washington its historic distinction and natural beauty, while responding to the special challenges of 21st century development. We pursue these goals through public education, research and civic action, and we celebrate the city’s unique role as both the home of the District’s citizens and the capital of our nation.”
The thing is, both the L’Enfant Plan and McMillan Commission failed to predict how DC would develop in the post-WWII era – in other words, they’re still married to the “car is king, damn the cyclists and pedestrians” and “big box stores and strip malls are the best thing for retail” schools of thought.
And just yesterday, they asked Vince Gray, the Mayor-Elect of DC, to fire Gabe Klein and Harriet Tregoning, two of the best assets from the outgoing administration of Adrian Fenty. They argue that moves made by Klein and Tregoning were made unilaterally, without community input and without a vision for sustainability.
While I appreciate their right to express an opinion on these matters, they are wrong and what they suggest would not benefit the District or its citizens.
In particular, they single out Klein’s multi-modal approach toward running the District Department of Transportation (DDOT). Klein is the first DDOT head to think beyond the single-occupant car, and he has made the District a safer place for those who use mass transit, bicycles and their feet to get around their neighborhoods and the city. In a world where petroleum prices continue to rise (and one where the supply of crude oil is declining at an ever increasing rate), Klein’s philosophy is somewhat self-sustaining: safe and reliable mass transit, protected bike lanes and safe parking for bicycles, and well-paved and properly-lit sidewalks and multi-use paths allow the citizens of the District to minimize their use of private automobiles for day-to-day transportation. Sure, there are parts of the city where the idea hasn’t quite caught on, but cultural change takes time.
But the Committee of 100 thinks that such change is irrelevant, even dangerous. They seem to move forward by looking squarely in a rear-view mirror. And what else would you expect from an organization whose membership is comprised entirely of old-time DC political cronies who relish having one of their own taking over as Mayor? Give a little bit of relevance, a little bit of power, and watch DC’s government become increasingly out-of-touch with reality.
So, in trying to be honest about their goals, their mission should read:
“The Committee of 100 advocates reactionary and irrelevant land misuse in Washington, D.C. Our work is guided by outdated values inherited from the L’Enfant Plan, McMillan Commission and the 1980s, and seeks to keep Washington mired in 20th century design philosophies, while responding to outcries from citizens who still think that Marion Barry was the best Mayor the District has ever had. We pursue these goals through public misinformation, rhetoric and public shouting matches, and we celebrate the city’s unique ability to be both the dysfunctional home of the District’s citizens and the crumbling capital of our nation.”
Frankly, the best place for the Committee of 100 is on a barge, floating somewhere in the Atlantic where they can’t insert spanners in the gears of progress.
And if you’re reading this, Mr. Gray, I hope that you have a fair enough mind to ignore the Committee of 100′s suggestions about Klein and Tregoning. If we lose their intelligence and vision, the future of DC, both short-term and long, is far, far less bright.