Capital Citizen with Clinton Yates (Feb. 3)

Feb 03, 2014

Local columnist Clinton Yates takes your questions about politics, pop culture, people and whatever else you like from D.C.

How's everyone doing this Monday? Glad you could join us. It was quite the weekend, from a pop culture standpoint, but there are also a couple things that happened I'd like to highlight.

For one, I wrote a column about the current race for the Ward 1 Council member seat. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/local/wp/2014/01/31/girl-scout-vs-grizzled-vet-in-ward-1/

Also, the Chinese New Year parade was Sunday, which was fun. 

Let's get started.

As a DC resident, Wal-Mart should be welcomed. I visited the store and people were polite. They have jobs and as many unemployment stories state, getting the next job means having a job now. More importantly, the destructive elements of WalMart basically cannot really exist in DC. Its more of a downward pressure on mid-priced establishments like Harris teeter, Giant and Safeway who will not go anything close to bankrupt if Walmart drops prices. Other places outside of NW are basically food deserts, and some grocery stores are better than 0 grocery stores. Driving out liquor and check cashing stores is not going to be the end of the world.

There's not really a question here, but I'll tackle what I think this person is getting at. The issue isn't quite as simplistic as I think this reader is describing it, but the point is understood: Wal-Mart is not necessarily by definition bad for a city. 

I don't know that such a thing can be so easily asserted for a city like the District, however. There's an argument that in certain places, any access to better food options is a good thing, whether that be Wal-Mart or any other location. 

But to ignore some very real issues that the mega retailer has is not prudent. Some of their labor practices are still questionable in many minds and to say that check cashing spots and liquor stores are the only places affected by price competition doesn't make sense. It's not just about who's already there. There's also the consideration of what may come later and perceived barriers to entry, and so forth.

I wrote about it a while back. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/local/wp/2013/07/12/what-becomes-of-ward-7-without-wal-mart/

Didn't stick around for the postgame, was Sherman badly injured? Did he ruffle any more feathers? Wasn't bothered by his previous postgame comments, but I'm sure whatever he said this time, it probably bothered someone.

Of all the things to talk about from last night's game, this is an interesting subject to choose. He left the game early with an injury actually.

If poor PSH lived in NYC, and was presumably familiar with his local H supply, this self-tragedy would appear to be, at some level, intentional. Anecdotally, it seems most H accidental overdoes occur in hotel rooms, i.e., where the user, e.g., Monteith, might be unfamiliar with the locals and their supplies. Anyway, I could have sworn I say PSH walking around Courthouse several years ago; if that was him, he seemed happy, but he was alone.

I presume this reader is referring to Philip Seymour Hoffman, the actor who died over the weekend, presumably from a drug overdose. I don't know how one can extrapolate that because someone uses drugs in their home that they are trying to die. Beyond that being a bit grim of an outlook, it doesn't particularly matter. He's no longer with us, and that's unfortunate. 

As an aside, you should check out Ann Hornaday's piece about him as an actor. It's fantastic.

My personal favorite role of his was in "Boogie Nights." That character had so much desire, so much fear and so much ambition in an ultimately useless position. It was brilliant.

David Eckstein has two rings, Cal Ripken has one. I guess Eckstein is the better SS?

He's clearly better at getting rings, from the math you showed.

Do you think the stadium deal is dying?

I hate to say this, but part of me honestly does. I was at a candidate forum at Sixth and I recently and when many of the candidates were asked about this, their answers seemed all wrong to me.

Basically, it appears there are certain politicians that are looking at the entire situation as nothing but a money grab via land swaps, and others that actually care about soccer, while some are truly invested in what happens with the buildings on say U Street.

There do not appear to many shared interests, which unfortunately in many cases leads to a circumstance where what wins out is money. And who can make the most of it for the city. Which is a fine goal on some level, but on another, community development is an equally important task.

This really could be a good thing for the city in many respects. But it's hard to imagine a situation in which someone doesn't manage to get the short end of the stick, for the sake of one group's profit margin.

What do you think was the most effective of the Super Bowl Commercials?

I'm not a marketer, so I have no idea how to measure that sort of effectiveness, but I actually took a different route this year regarding the commercials. I basically watched all the ones I wanted to see beforehand on the internet, and ignored them during the game. I wasn't at home, so between all the football, they were welcome breaks.

That said, my favorite commercial was definitely the Cheerios ad. That little girl in them is a flat-out star. Let me go find the video of it now to post. 

Here's that Super Bowl ad with "Gracie." Seriously, hilarious girl. 

So you're going to the game? Is this the night they finally get over the.500 hump? Prediction? Sincerely, Wes U.

Interestingly, the Wizards are one of those teams that play up to competition. And the Blazers are no joke. If you don't watch the NBA with any regularity you might not know that, but they're the truth. 

Unfortunately, I'll be sitting up in the 400s tonight, so I won't be able to see much. But, I will be going with some colleagues, of whom is the glorious Tom Jackman of State of NoVa fame. If you don't read his work, you should. He's funny, smart and clearly knows way more about Northern Virginia than most people out there.

I think it'll be a close game, but I can't see this being the team the Wizards get over .500 against. As an aside, it is absolutely ridiculous that this team has been below sea level for so long. Shameful.

I live in Alexandria, not DC, but I am thoroughly enjoying Andy Shallal's mayoral bid in the District. Any chance he will be able to pull off some kind of outsider, protest victory?

I'm not sure what about any victory of his would involve a protest, but my answer would be no. Andy's a great guy, from my experience with him, but I think the way he went about trying to get involved was fundamentally flawed.

IMO, his best route to victory would have been trying to gain popularity and raise money as a truly independent candidate. I felt he needed to get all the young people who are completely disengaged from D.C. local politics out to the polls - the kind of people that might frequent his restaurants - to have a chance. 

Staying within the old network of Democrats put him in a position where he has to beat out some very well established candidates. The more people you face, the less chance you have to win.

All that said, though. Andy's done an effective job so far in looking like a guy that actually wants to be a city leader and affect change. Not just a business owner with some extra time on his hands. 

McMillan Park Development Process. What are your thoughts on the District's last 25 acres of open green space (and listed on the DC Register of Historic Places) being developed into Crystal City 2.0? The development firm never won an RFP for vertical development and has strong ties to the person overseeing the project for the city - Jeff Miller (DMPED) - via his old company Trammel-Crowe.

This has been a major issue on that side of town for some time, with a LOT of anger surrounding it. For those who don't know McMillan, it's a swath of land in Northwest, "It is bound on the north by Michigan Avenue, on the east by North Capitol Street, on the south by Channing Street and on the west by First Street," as Wikipedia puts it. 

Personally, the notion of removing this green space doesn't inherently bother me. As it stands now, it's effectively useless, as a public space, IMO. If the situation with the reservoir requires it to stay intact as is, then sure, keep it. 

But I also think the movement to prevent this has been kind of disingenuous. That place is not a park. It WAS a park. So to say "Save McMillan Park" implies that something that's already there would be going away with certain developments. "Restore McMillan Park" would make more sense to me.

More on the McMillian issue, I understand full well that the way contracts are issued are and can be problematic. I just don't know if that in itself in this case makes a good reason for not developing that land. 

What do you think of all the new movie theaters coming to the District?

I love it. My colleague Jonathan O'Connell wrote a great story about the boom last year. When I was a kid, there were so many great theaters you could go to. And when my dad was a kid here, there were even more. 

My favorite was The Foundry. I once saw that movie "Batteries Not Included" there on a camp trip. 

The mayor will likely be the Dem nominee, but who is the middle ground candidate. Shallal is to the left of most Dems. continually defends unions teachers at the cost of the parents and kids in charter schools. Also he has made numerous statements that flat out attack our military members who also live in DC (not just the military establishment). This doesn't even touch on his complicated relationship with the Jewish community in DC. Its been hostile at best as old videos with his protest days connect him with some very shady characters. I want to know who are the candidates that are more like Anthony Williams, aka pragmatic.

I actually think that's a bit unfair to Andy. His personal politics for one, do not necessarily mean that he couldn't be an effective leader of the city. 

Secondly, I wouldn't paint everything Anthony Williams did as great. Yes, he was vital in the city getting back on its feet financially, but at what cost? 

I think if you asked any family that used to live in D.C. but was either pushed out or priced out, they might not feel the same way.

What is the primary reason that local government in DC has seen such widespread corruption in its short history? Is it a political culture that mistrusts and resists the Feds? Is it because Home Rule is still young and political officials are underexperienced? Is it just a fluke? Or something else?

People always ask me this question like there's some monster lurking in the hillside or skeleton falling in a closet somewhere with an answer. The answer is in the mirror.

Lazy residents and constituents are exactly the reason why a lot of this has continued for so long, even if not necessarily the root cause. 

Also, to say that the political culture 'mistrusts and resists' the Feds implies that the current state of play is remotely fair. It's not. The city can't even control its own money, so all the backlash and so forth is perfectly warranted, to me. If you put people in a system in which they are inherently disadvantaged, clearly, there will be push back.

But if people want the government to be more accountable and less shady, the simple answer, to me, is to get involved. There are so many ways to be a part of how things are done in this city, but sitting back and saying "they're all corrupt!" even if true, doesn't strike me as an effective catalyst for change.

That's what at least marginally cool about democracy when it works well enough. Theoretically, if you don't like what you see, you can't vote those responsible for it out of office.

Speaking of Shallal, here's a PostTV look inside his househould.

Alright folks, that's all I've got for today. Thanks for dealing with the time change to 1 p.m. Things are just easier in the afternoon from a logistics standpoint. See you next week!

In This Chat
Clinton Yates
Clinton Yates is a D.C. native and an online columnist. He was born at GWU hospital the week before Ronald Reagan ended up there for the wrong reasons. When he's not covering the city, pop culture or listening to music, he watches sports. A lot of them.
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