City Desk

Chatter: Park Attack

dplanWith the federal government in disarray, the D.C. Council has enjoyed a nice moment in the sun as the more functional legislative body in town—we’re even picking up trash in parks controlled by National Park Service while NPS is furloughed. So why, asked Aaron Wiener in his Housing Complex column last week, doesn’t the District just keep them?

Wiener argued that with a congressional champion for D.C. autonomy in Rep. Darrell Issa, an increasing willingness from the Park Service to negotiate on rehabbing spaces like Franklin Square, and now the shutdown shining a spotlight on District residents’ lack of control of their own green spaces, this is the moment for D.C. to push the limits—first by reclaiming parks, and then by tackling the Height Act.

Not everyone was persuaded. “It’s a tragedy that the federal government has handed over properties to the District,” wrote commenter Unregenerate Idealist, “because all our local government has done is run them into the ground. Take for example St. Elizabeths, which was a model psychiatric hospital and research facility for about a century until D.C. took responsibility for it.” Darrell piled on: “Yeah, we know that many (certainly not all) parks are (competently) managed by NPS. Another thing: Not everyone agrees with you about the height limit.”

Reader Eric rebutted critics in the comments section: “First of all, the NPS does a horrible job at managing parks within D.C., and I think most D.C. residents would be glad to take them back...This is all about AUTONOMY; the ABILITY to build taller if WE want to, not if CONGRESS wants to.”

And on Twitter, Wiener’s column even inspired a bit of poetry. National Journal reporter Alex Seitz-Wald penned the following ditty: “Read @aaronwiener, put your fist in the air, and go build a skyscraper in Farragut Square!”

Credit History

Readers responded with uniform disgust to Will Sommer’s Loose Lips column about credit card malfeasance at the top of the D.C. Housing Finance Agency. Sommer detailed the tendency of the agency’s executive director, Harry Sewell, to charge personal expenses on his agency-issued card, which amounted to more than $136,000 from 2006 to 2013. Unsurprisingly, readers weren’t happy with Sewell’s purchases, which ranged from large ($2,275 on Wizards tickets), to mundane ($89.50 at a Takoma wine store), to somehow extravagant and miserly at the same time (a $50 tip—on a nearly $1,000 tab at a Chicago restaurant).

“One has to wonder what world Mr. Sewell lived in where he thought no one would find out about his actions, or perhaps he even deluded himself into thinking that somehow the rules didn’t apply to him,” commented Ben Paul. “Whatever he thought, I hope the Board does the right thing and shows him the door.”

But according to commenter James, “Showing him the door is not enough! JAIL HIM and any other(s) that allowed this.” Reader Typical DC BS concurred, asking, “Why isn’t this POS Sowell having criminal charges filed against him? And if someone tries to tell me he’s reimbursed ANY of the expenses detailed here, I’ve got some slightly wet land in Florida to sell at a very good price.”

By George!

Mark Athitakisreview of George Pelecanos’ most recent novel, The Double, made a minor splash on Twitter, though not so much for its thoughtful critique as for the photo accompanying it. A rather fit, tank-topped Pelecanos appeared with the review and inspired Politics & Prose to declare “George Pelecanos has the best author photo EVER."

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