Stop Selling the Store

Stop Selling the Store

Judging by their web site, Empower DC seems a bit disorganized, but the group raises a valid, pressing issue: sale of public real estate by the District of Columbia government. You may recall the attempted sale of the West End Library after it had been refurbished. Now about half the city’s schools are going to be closed and the temptation to sell them off is great, especially for officials who will be looking to developers for campaign contributions or their next jobs.

The goal of improving schools is one we all share; our city’s children deserve better. An often-stated result of school improvement is an increase in population as people with school-age children remain in DC rather than flee to the suburbs, and families with children move to town. It seems plain stupid to sell off school properties now only to have to buy them back later at higher prices.

Solutions are clear: rent out usable vacant public buildings and lease the land under schools that need to be demolished. Modern buildings only have a couple of decades of life anyway; new construction built now will need demolition in twenty years and the land will be available for new schools if needed and new leases if they are not.

You may hear blather about DC “land-banking” too much property, as if banks don’t pay interest. These folks are more interested in flipping property than using it and would be perfectly content to but public property and sit on the undeveloped land until a good re-sale deal comes along. We’ve seen too much of that in this town.

Empower DC is holding a forum on proposed DC legislation on the sale of public property on Saturday, January 19, 2008 from 11AM to 2PM at the Reeves Center, 14th and U Streets NW, 2nd Floor (bring photo ID for security check). There will be light refreshments (pot luck welcome) and a subsequent march, if you like that sort of thing. For details call 202-234-9119 or email parisa@empowerdc.org .

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