MORE CIRCUSES IN THE GUISE
OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT?
[from March 1999 issue]
Here we go again! This time it's going to be baseball.
Whoopdie-doo! Advice to Mayor Williams and Ward 2 Councilmember
Evans: Take care that you don't become another Frank Smith, Jr.
baseball clone. Remember, our former Ward 1 councilmember saw the
Great American Past-time as the be all and end all for all our
Now don't get us wrong. Baseball is good, but in its place. And
its place is not on prime downtown land bordering on the historic
low-density residential area of one of the Shaw neighborhoods. Its
place is at RFK Stadium, where there is already lots of space, not
to say anything of a stadium that could be retrofitted, convenient
to Metro and parking and the existing freeway system.
Furthermore, we taxpayers already own the land out there at RFK.
Why should we give up valuable downtown land that can be put to
better use and bring in substantial tax dollars (including real
estate taxes). What would be better use? How about trying to
market that area east of Mt. Vernon Square, between Massachusetts
and New York Avenues, for high tech industry, interspersed with
other moderate-density commercial, retail, and residential uses?
Instead of having our leading politicians a few weeks ago sporting
baseball caps and singing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" while
hyping another massive, space-eating stadium that would only be
used part of the year, we would have been more impressed if they
had been putting on a dog and pony show to brag how they were
wooing the Marriott Corporation to build its new headquarters on
Massachusetts Avenue instead of letting the possibility slip away
to Virginia or some other Maryland locale.
What a coup if we could have gotten Marriott. But we suspect that
nobody in DC government circles ever thought about trying to
develop an incentive package like the Virginia and Maryland
economic development officials have been doing. Given the right
deal, who's to say Marriott might not be interested in being
headquartered within sight of the Capitol dome? Is anyone trying
to woo high tech or anything remotely productive?
What we don't need is another speculative sports arena that can't
be used in the winter, won't be used most days, and will only sit
upon acres of land dark and lonely most the time with residents
fearful of even walking that way to and from work because nothing
will be going on except at game time. And then, come game time,
the adjacent residential streets will be overwhelmed and nobody
will be happy even if there are lots of people out and about
making the streets safe for a few hours.
And, as for justifying all this as part of some "intermodal
transportation facility," that's not a good place either; that
ought to be situated in direct relation to Union Station where
much transportation already converges.
No, baseball ought to be knocked out of that east of Mt. Vernon
Square park. We need to develop a vibrant, mixed-use downtown. We
need more of the sort of development that Doug Jemal will give us
with his imaginative plan for converting the historic Woodies
building into residences, stores, and restaurants. That's the kind
of thing we would like to see happen in downtown's east end rather
than speculating (and probably squandering) taxpayer dollars for
minimal job and tax benefits. Of course, maybe our new city
leadership knows something we don't about the long-term economic
value of creating more opportunities for hot dog and hamburger
EDITOR'S NOTE: Our Contributing Editor Michael Romanello's March
"op-ed" commentary addresses an issue that we at The InTowner
believe to be of concern to large numbers of our readers.
IS GAY AMERICA UP TO THE CHALLENGE OF THE 2000 ELECTIONS?
By Michael Romanello
I am going to begin this column by stating that what I write here
is directed to my gay and lesbian readers. While I expect and
regret that some readers, gay and non-gay, may be offended by my
opinions, I do not apologize for that. This is meant to be a call
to arms of sorts, and there is no way to do that nicely.
The American gay community, if there is such a thing any longer,
has been under relentless, concerted attack by the Republican
Party, religious fundamentalist organizations that comprise the
so-called Religious Right and Social Conservative movements, and
the Roman Catholic Church for nearly a decade. During this time
American gays have achieved precious little in the way of real,
lasting protection from discrimination or codified acknowledgment
of our equality as citizens. In recent years and months, from
Arlington to Wyoming, previously enacted protections have been
repealed or nullified. Even such humane measures as the enactment
of protection from hate-motivated crimes legislation that includes
gay men and lesbians has been defeated.
To make matters worse, some perceived gay community leaders and
national gay and lesbian political organizations cite the
appointment of openly gay individuals--usually individuals who
were Democratic Party functionaries or large donors, or who
previously held board or high level staff jobs within these very
organizations--to White House positions or to top slots in second
and third tier federal agencies as an indication of our political
successes. When a president who appealed for and received the gay
vote by promising to end the prohibition against gays in the
military immediately upon taking office goes back on his word (I
can hardly believe I wrote that as if his word meant something),
when men and women are being fired by companies like Cracker
Barrel for looking or acting gay, and when gay men and lesbians
are being beaten and killed in the streets with increasing
regularity, to mention just a few examples, such claims are beyond
laughable; they are perverse and obscene.
But our leaders and organizations are not the real problem. They
are only a reflection of us.
Last spring, in response to a series of newspaper advertisements
which urged gays to "change" placed by Religious Right-affiliated
organizations, the Human Rights Campaign ran ads that tried to
position gay men and lesbians as being "just like" everyone else.
Unfortunately too many of us buy into this ridiculous belief.
Certain gay members of civic associations and the several ANCs
that operate in the areas served by this newspaper are perfect
examples of people who in their desire to seem just like everyone
else have convinced themselves that they are.
Well, we're not just like everyone else. Nearly everything about
us except our physiology is different. We are, for the most part,
either single, or childless, two-income couples. As a result, our
standard of living is to a very great extent higher than our
non-gay peers. We view our neighborhoods differently. Because so
many of us are single and childless, we spend a greater amount of
our leisure time out of the home, often in restaurants and bars.
In many localities we pay a greater percent of our income in
taxes, particularly in sales and personal property taxes. We are
not protected as related heirs by inheritance laws and therefore
pay a greater amount of our wealth in inheritance taxes. We can't
claim our dependent partners on our income taxes. We often have to
maintain multiple property insurance and auto insurance policies.
No, we are not just like everyone else. In many important ways we
are very different. And, the sooner we accept that reality and are
guided by it, the better off we're going to be.
Which brings me to the only local aspect of this column. That the
Dupont and Logan Circle gay communities are tolerating for even
one minute this absurd, on-going effort by some to limit the
number of gay bars in these neighborhoods is shameful. There was a
time when we would all be out in the streets in front of the homes
of the people behind this effort making their lives as miserable
as possible. We would shun the gays involved and make them
socially unacceptable. We would pack Alcoholic Beverage Control
Board and City Council meetings and demand an end to liquor
license moratoriums and a reigning-in of ANC authority. But we
won't do any of these things, because that wouldn't be nice.
Even our bars and newspapers, once in the forefront of sounding
alarms and hubs of political organizing, have become complacent.
After all, things aren't so bad yet that the music should stop for
a night or advertisers be offended. That will come later--maybe.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that I think it's time for us
all to put business as usual on hold for a time, step back from
our own personal realities and analyze our situation as a people.
The Religious Right and Social Conservatives have made it clear
that the 2000 elections are going to be in every possible sense
the last great battle for gay and lesbian equality of the 20th
century. I think it is time we ask ourselves if we are ready to
fight and win that battle regardless of the financial cost or the
personal price some of us will have to pay.
Among the things we must each decide is whether spending our time
and money organizing a Millennium March for next spring is really
the best use of resources by the HRC, our largest and richest
political organization in an election year? Does it make much
sense to devote time and effort to pushing for same-sex marriage
when we can't even get hate crimes bills passed? Are we willing to
massively shift our funding priorities from anti-AIDS efforts to
political organizing for a year? Are our businesses ready to
assume an out-front position as venues for educating our community
members about the necessity for political involvement and as
political organizing and fund-raising sites?
Until we know the answers to these and other important questions,
we cannot even begin to plan a strategy to defeat the Right in