Tuesday, May 6, 2008

"Lots" of problems in the city

As most people are aware, the city of Washington has been drowning in red ink and recently had to impose a major property tax increase just to avoid fiscal collapse. Now comes the news that the Crossroads parking garage on Franklin Street, next to the LandAmerica building, is sorely underused, and unless that changes in a hurry, the city will be on the hook for a $218,000 bond payment next year. One would assume that a prior city council and mayor signed off on this sweet deal before the garage was built. Nice job, there. This is the same city government that totally botched the sale of the garage on Chestnut Street and recently decided not to accept $100,000 from Washington & Jefferson College for a piece of alley that's shorter than my driveway. But never fear. It's Councilwoman Virginia Ullom to the rescue, at least when it comes to the white elephant parking garage. In addition to the possibility of discounts or a month of free parking for new customers, she suggested at a meeting this week that the parking authority take the creative steps of throwing a party on the garage roof or giving tours of the facility. Hmmmm. How might that tour go? "OK, over there, you'll see a bunch of empty parking spaces. Any questions?" The bottom line here is that a lot of people are choosing to park for free at a nearby shopping complex and walk an extra block to their jobs. I don't think a soiree on the garage roof, even with fireworks or bobbleheads, is going to make them say, "The heck with that free parking. I think I'll throw away $40 a month." But never let it be said that I just complain without offering an idea to help out. My suggestion is this: Anyone who parks at the Crossroads garage gets a free cookie. Surely no one could resist that. And you could even throw in the tour for free.



Blogger PRIguy said...

In Richmond, toll roads abound. In a form of prophetic wisdom, the civil engineers planned for the toll roads to be built such that driving around them to avoid said tolls will actually result in spending more in gas and time. Frankly, I hate the tolls, but because I'm smart enough not to burn five dollars' worth of gas to avoid a fifty-cent toll, I grudgingly fork over the change.

Several years ago, the city and state combined forces to design and create the Pocahontas Parkway, an ambitious road and bridge project that to this day remains the single largest and most expensive construction project in the state's history at $850,000,000.

It's a beautiful project with soaring ramps and bridges that offer a spectacular view of the city and the river that passes directly through it. The project promised to cut almost forty minutes of drive time off of some commuters who lived south of the river and worked north and east of the river. The cost of the time savings was a controversial $2.50 toll. After a few years, a study was done and it was discovered that the projected number of drivers needed to cover the ridiculous cost of this behemoth was decidedly low, some forty to fifty percent fewer drivers than was anticipated, let alone needed to fund it.

Quickly a commission was assembled, more studies done, and a decision was reached in short order. In order to increase the number of drivers on a road with an inflated toll, the solution of the committee was simple: raise the toll to $3.00 and sit back and rake in the profits. Guess what? Traffic decreased. Can't imagine why. I mean, a committee came up with the solution.

The only people who regularly use the Pocahontas Parkway are ghost watchers. You see, the bridge and toll booth are built directly over an Indian burial ground. They haunt the bridge (the watchers, not the souls of the dead), and are always chased away. Their parked cars block the toll booths. We can't have them prohibiting the flow of money into the tills, you know. I'll never understand city bureaucracy.

May 6, 2008 at 7:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For your information not all of the elected officials botched up the sale of the parking garage That sale did not go through because of the legality of the transaction and the W & J sale of Strawberry died because of 3 rather dumb decisions. I think your filter needs to be changed. Folks like you and other employees who thrive to write anything negative about the city do not have one clue at to what is going on and who just sit at their desks and never pick up a phone to ask questions before they print their ridiculous opinions and call themselves journalists. You get your information from your own newspaper who just skims over happenings at city hall. There is not enough room to print what really goes on at city hall. Do you ever pick up a phone to verify information or do you just pick up your own newspaper and form your opinions from there. How many council meetings have you ever attended?

The next time you choose to blog on City of Washington affairs pick up the phone and ask questions and exercise the right to know law.

May 9, 2008 at 11:40 AM  
Blogger Brant said...

Question 1: What is the "legality" that prevented the sale of the Chestnut garage, and could it have been overcome?
Question 2: What are the three dumb decisions that prevented the Strawberry Alley sale?
Question 3: Do you have any specific insights to offer about what "really goes on" at City Hall?
I'm always willing to learn.

May 10, 2008 at 1:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can go to your own archives and research the Parking Garage Saga. Your newspaper covered this story from beginning to end. No, it couldn't be resolved under the circumstances of how a simple transaction became so complicated and in the end the city would have been on the losing end.

Three members of council made a dumb decision

Attend Agenda meetings and council meetings and you will understand how city government works and then you will have a clear insight of how city government works.

May 10, 2008 at 11:34 AM  
Blogger Brant said...

You're the one making the assertions about what really went wrong with these deals, yet you can't, or won't, provide any detailed support for what you say, so it's hard to take you seriously.

May 10, 2008 at 12:39 PM  
Blogger PRIguy said...

Methinks that Anonymous works in city government. Or had a hand in the parking lot debacle.

May 11, 2008 at 8:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You were the one who assumed that the deal was botched by council members. I will not do your homework for you. As I said your newspaper covered this story for months. Before you did your blog you should have had your ducks lined up. Any serious journalist would have done that so I really cannot take you serious either. When you finally get the whole story you will not queston my sincerity. Just toodle over to whoever covers city council and request copies of all stories regarding the parking garage sale.
Again, I'm not going to do your homework for you. Let me know when you have it done and then we will sit down and talk face to face.

May 11, 2008 at 12:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The original sale of the Chestnut Street garage was the garage and adjacent lot for $400,000. As time went on, the sale included the garage and all the parcels connected to the garage. In other words all the parking area connected to the garage. Using previous appraisals for the garage plus a couple of the parcels that were appraised, this public owned property was worth around $4,000,000 and thus the surcharges against the Mayor and two councilman that voted yes on the sale. The O-R reported on several of the legal issues that were being contested, so you should take some time and read these articles.

May 11, 2008 at 6:21 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

Perhaps I should make myself very, very clear. I am well aware of the long, twisted story of the Chestnut Street garage debacle. I never said the sale was a good deal that should have been consummated and that failure to do so was a mistake. I said the deal was botched. It was an absolute mess, and I don't think anyone could argue with that. It was clearly a sweetheart deal at $400,000, if you assume that someday, SOMEDAY, downtown Washington will be a place anyone would want to come to other than to work or get a hot dog at Shortie's. My bottom-line argument is that over and over, we see people in charge of city government making idiotic decisions that cost the taxpayers money.

May 11, 2008 at 7:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If Shorty hot dogs get any smaller or oranger (i think that is a word - they are orange, OK?), we may not need any parking on Chestnut Street between Franklin and Main. No offense to Boggie or Milan Taleff, or Steve the barber, but what else is there. A bunch of run down buildings, some with signs asking you not to stand nearby. Mark Miller has done his best to drag this town down to the likes of Brownsville. He somehow went the whole last winter without clearing his sidewalks, let alone the shabby condition of his storefronts. The same "antiques" have been in the front windows for five years or more.

Anyhoo, back to Shorty's. Hey, start putting two hotdogs on a bun, and maybe they would be worth $1.55 a piece. Plus, it's probably the only place around where somebody can put their cigarrette down, and go straight to making your sandwich.

May 13, 2008 at 3:29 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

I would never speak ill of Shorty's hot dogs, at any price. If I were a condemned man, that just might be my last meal (with fries and gravy, of course). As for the cigarette smoking, I think that's part of the ambience. My mother said that when she was a girl, there was a cat that lived there and often slept in the front window, right next to the grill. Oh well, don't they allow so much animal hair and other such stuff in the manufacture of hot dogs?

May 13, 2008 at 3:46 PM  

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