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The InTowner
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This past month we were struck by mayoral behavior that, at best, was quixotic, and at worst, deplorable. We refer to the bizarre and almost childish business of his having refused to hand over to the head of that other co-equal branch of government — to City Council Chairman Gray — the allocated tickets for the Council’s baseball stadium skybox and instead keeping them for his use even though he has exclusive use of the other city-owned skybox!

What in the heck is going on at the highest levels of DC government that elevates this stupidity to major controversy? With all the problems we face, why in the world did the Mayor decide to make this craziness his priority of the month? And, for that matter, why doesn’t the City Council just say to hell with it and get rid of not only its skybox but the Mayor’s as well?

Four members of the Council voted to do just that but they didn’t have the votes to make it happen. A shame, actually. The estimated re-sale value to some fat cats is, according to what we have heard, quite high. Money raised from such a sale could be specifically earmarked to improve existing and develop new neighborhood baseball fields that everybody could use and benefit from. The Attorney General, however, came out with some strange opinion that because these were “gifts” from the team owners, the Lerners, they can’t be sold. Where does that strange concept come from? When one receives a gift it is theirs to do as they wish. (By the way, these may have technically been “gifts” but let’s not forget we taxpayers paid for the complete stadium — which, as it turned out, we don’t own.)

We are told that having these boxes is a great benefit for the city’s kids because some get invited during baseball season to watch a Nationals game from one of the boxes. We think that is pure bunk. The kids will benefit more if they have well-designed and maintained ball fields to play on. It should be the city’s priority to ensure top-notch athletic and recreation facilities throughout the District so as to encourage physical excercise and healthy athletics. That way, instead of a handful of lucky kids getting a seat in a skybox for one game, all kids might have a better crack at having a fun summer with health benefits a happy by-product.

Note to the City Council: Re-visit that bill and sell those skyboxes and use the money as we suggest.

While on the subject of athletics and healthy outdoor activity, we are thinking of the terrible mess the Mayor has created for the Department of Parks and Recreation by his having summarily fired one of his absolutely most top-notch department heads, Clark Ray. To this day there has been no cogent explanation of why the Mayor booted the first person in our memory (as a 46-year DC resident) who was actually making the department work effectively.

During his short tenure, Clark Ray introduced so many reforms and initiatives, got so much moving, and already had succeeded in implementing effective management and operational reforms that the evidence has been obvious to everyone all over the city – except, apparently, the Mayor. For the first time ever, thing were working effectively — facilities being rebuilt, re-opened and properly managed, new programs, and even a new sense of purpose and enthusiasm within the department itself.

Now, the person with unique academic and operational background in sports administration and policy is out and has been replaced by a very nice and well-meaning former elementary school principal (at Ross she was terrific). We fear that this former principal is sure to be victimized by the workings of the “Peter Principle” — The theory propounded by Laurence Johnston Peter (1919-1990) that employees within an organization will advance to their highest level of competence and then be promoted to and remain at a level at which they are incompetent. What a shame for the new director and for the city’s residents.