Housing Complex

The Park Service Wants “National Mall” on Your Metro Station, WMATA Says No Way

A massive Metro map overhaul has lots of groups arguing over who needs to have travelers pointed their way—Park View, NoMa, the baseball stadium, and Gallaudet University are just a few of those that have made their case this time around. Now, the National Park Service has gotten into the game along with the Trust for the National Mall, arguing that the "Smithsonian" station should share top billing with the park itself, and promising to pay the $120,000 needed to make the change.

The Washington Area Metropolitan Transit Authority board will consider proposed changes today. Yesterday, the non-profit organization charged with raising money to repair the Mall sent out an email blast exhorting its 10,200-person list to write to one Barbara Richardson, with the WMATA's Customer Service and Operations committee. WMATA spokesman Dan Stessel says they've seen some response, but couldn't quantify it, and adds that Metro staff oppose adding "National Mall" to the name.

"From an operational perspective, designating a single station as the official point of access to the National Mall could have unintended consequences," he wrote last night. "For example, during major events (4th of July, MLK dedication, Jon Stewart rally, to name a few), we go out of our way to encourage customers to access the Mall from stations *other than* Smithsonian, because of capacity constraints. There are no fewer than 6 stations that provide access to the Mall."

Guess it's possible to be too big and too important to merit inclusion on any one station.

As an aside, I was struck by the Trust's strident action on this one; it's usually careful to stick to its fundraising role, and an email blast on a specific legislative proposal does qualify as "lobbying," which is a 501(c)(3) no-no. But Trust president Caroline Cunningham says this is their first such piece of advocacy this year, and she's right that lobbying must compose a "substantial part" of an organization's activities. Hope it was worth it.

Comments

  1. #1

    The National Park Service folks make careers out of pissing on local residents and making it difficult to impossible to use our own parks. Screw them and their request. No waivers. No favors.

  2. #2

    Have to agree with Jes.

    NPS does a TERRIBLE job with local parks. They got no problem with bums shooting up and sleeping in the park all night, but they seem to delight in ticketing for dogs off leash.

    The fun part? NPS tickets MUST be paid in person, at a remote office near Hains Point. Often that office is unmanned.

    One neighbor had to make the trek down there three separate times to pay her ticket.

    And they will ARREST you if you don't pay the ticket.

    Really, NPS. How hard could it be to make a by-mail option available?

  3. Native American JD
    #3

    Have to agree with NPS. As the only station directly on the Mall, it should say so for the tourists sake.

  4. #4

    And I have to agree with the WMATA spokesman. Pretty much every major event on the Mall comes with disclaimers that people should use stations OTHER than the Smithsonian stop. Heck, during the Obama inauguration the station was closed completely. Renaming it just seems unnecessary.

    And does NPS actually have evidence that people are having difficulty finding the Mall? Hint: It's that giant blob of green space in the middle of the Metro map. And yes, one entrance of the Smithsonian stop is actually on the Mall, but it's not as if people really have to hoof it to get to the Mall from L'Enfant Plaza, Archives or Federal Triangle.

  5. #5

    it should be National Mall and drop smithsonian altogether.
    keep it simple.

    not all the smithsonians are on the mall, but all of the mall is.

  6. #6

    you need to be more knowledgeable about permitted lobbying activities for (c)3s. My interpretation is that this is permitted. The only absolute restrictions are on campaign activities in favor of particular candidates running for political office.

    http://www.asaecenter.org/Resources/whitepaperdetail.cfm?itemnumber=12212

  7. #7

    @Richard Layman

    From the IRS:

    In general, no organization may qualify for section 501(c)(3) status if a substantial part of its activities is attempting to influence legislation (commonly known as lobbying). A 501(c)(3) organization may engage in some lobbying, but too much lobbying activity risks loss of tax-exempt status.

    Legislation includes action by Congress, any state legislature, any local council, or similar governing body, with respect to acts, bills, resolutions, or similar items (such as legislative confirmation of appointive office), or by the public in referendum, ballot initiative, constitutional amendment, or similar procedure. It does not include actions by executive, judicial, or administrative bodies.

    An organization will be regarded as attempting to influence legislation if it contacts, or urges the public to contact, members or employees of a legislative body for the purpose of proposing, supporting, or opposing legislation, or if the organization advocates the adoption or rejection of legislation.

  8. #8

    substantial is defined in practice as more than 20% of an org's activities. This would hardly qualify. And the WMATA decision isn't legislation, at least not according to the definition, even if it is the act of an org.'s board of directors. Probably the regs. need to be written to address govt. instrumentalities and the decision making process, if people believe that influencing an organizational decision, _as opposed to lobbying for legislation_ is deserving of restrictions. (You could ask for an IRS ruling...)

    The interpretation of the law has to do with legislation and candidates specifically, which is the whole point of difference between c3s and c4s and whether or not there is justification for tax exemption and tax deductibility for contributions.

    Both c3s and c4s are tax exempt. But donations to lobbying organizations (c4s) are not eligible for a tax deduction as a charitable contribution. c4s can't accept money from foundations either. Typically, fwiw, c6s, business promotion organizations, can't accept foundation monies either.

    The idea is that the govt. shouldn't subsidize organizations trying to influence it.

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