Apr 18 2011

Adams Morgan Pedestrian Mall

Night Train attended a December hearing on whether to grant a $46m tax abatement to Beztak Properties, Brian Friedman of Friedman Capital, Ian Schrager and Marriott for the development of a proposed 10-story hotel in the distinctive 4-story neighborhood of Adams Morgan. At that hearing, the two main reasons given in defense of this gift were that the hotel would bring more day-time foot traffic to Adams Morgan while increasing the area’s economic vitality and tax base.

(A special note: the proponents of the hotel were not talking about just any foot traffic; they wanted us to know that the quality of the clientele they would bring to the area would be higher than those of us who currently patronize businesses along 18th St.)

There was also some discussion of creating local jobs, though neighborhood commissioners raised concerns about how those promises would be enforced. Either way, the discussion of the project’s impact on the wellbeing of the Adams Morgan community was limited to economic arguments.

We have an alternative proposal to increase daytime foot traffic and economic vitality in Adams Morgan:


Make 18th St. from Florida to Columbia a Pedestrian Mall

We have seen how dramatically such efforts have reinvigorated communities and businesses in places as diverse as downtown Charlottesville, VA; Boulder, CO; every major city in Europe; and one of the liveliest neighborhoods in Shanghai, Xin Tian Di.  Times Square in NYC is even creating a car-free zone.

The benefits of these projects have not been just economic, of course; in addition to increasing foot traffic and economic vitality, they have also strengthened the social fabric and very character of their surrounding neighborhoods in many intangible ways.

This particular proposal has been seen before, on the Adams Morgan community listserv in 2009, albeit with some concerns about how to divert bus traffic and emergency vehicles (though, we’re sure that parking, buses, and a range of other concerns could be worked out easily with the eager willingness City Council Member Jim Graham and his colleagues have shown in working with developers to bend zoning laws and height restrictions to make this hotel development possible).

Mr. Graham, in order that we may grant you the premise that you are fighting hard to win tens of millions of dollars in tax abatements for the developers of this hotel because you are deeply interested in hearing the best ideas our collective creativity can garner to benefit the wellbeing of the Adams Morgan community, would it be possible to see a comparison made of the impact on day-time foot traffic and economic vitality of Adams Morgan of the proposed hotel versus an 18th Street pedestrian mall?

If you have the means to do so, we dare you to extend your comparison to include either project’s impact on the wellbeing of Adams Morgan.

Photo Cr.ed.it.s


Apr 11 2011

I dare you to pick up the phone

Humans are not very good at reading emotion between the lines of emails. Even worse, when tones are ambiguous in email, we tend to default to negative interpretations.

My dad has a rule: if you haven’t solved the problem with the first two emails exchanged, pick up the phone and call.

Is IM any different? How many exchanges have you had that look like this:

HappyDwarf32: ok, cool! So meet you for coffee at 2?
SleepyDwarf65: sure, that’s fine
HappyDwarf32: oh, well, is there something else that would be better?
SleepyDwarf65: I just said that’s fine
HappyDwarf32: well we don’t have to if you’re busy…

IM is a convenient tool for quickly resolving all kinds of small questions without fully interrupting the task at hand. It also comes with that brief but oh-so-important delayed response which our generation covets, freeing us from the emotional strain of conversations that require real-time back-and-forth.  It gives us the emotional safety to screen and ruminate over our responses.

But we have to admit that the medium does break down occasionally.  It isn’t ideal for all conversations.

If the limit for resolving something by email is 2 emails, how long do you give an IM conversation before you pick up the phone?


Apr 4 2011

Choose your own tax adventure

Wouldn’t it be great if the process of filling out your taxes felt more like a game, and less like a reason to bang your head against your desk?

While some people do play the “Choose your own tax adventure” game by picking out which deductibles they can embellish upon without getting noticed by the abominable snowman (I’ll give you one guess as to who plays that part), most of us just begrudgingly slog through the exercise in frustration.

I’d like you to consider a less ethically ambiguous version of the “Choose your own tax adventure” game.  Imagine a tax return that allowed you to choose how the federal government was to use your tax money.  For example, my wife*, a teacher constantly frustrated by the amount of money that gets allocated towards education, could choose to allocate a majority of her tax money to education programs.  Another person with sick family or friends could choose to allocate more of his or her taxes to medical research, or to programs like Medicare.  In this way, each of us could articulate our vision for the government’s role in supporting its people.  And really, what better way for a government to identify the democratic sentiment of the people than by letting them speak with their money.

An additional benefit is that, unlike voting, where even the presidential elections only draw in 50% of the adult population, almost 90% of us are forced to at least file taxes each year, whether we have to pay anything or not.  Even if the government did not want to implement this plan in full for fear of important, but unsexy, programs being left unfunded, surely, having each individual household’s tax priority pie chart would serve as an amazing resource for prioritizing state and nationwide program and department funding.

Think about the implications of this, taking into consideration the current breakdown of how your tax dollars are being used by the government, and let us know: could this sort of idea work, and perhaps more importantly, what type of tax adventure would you choose?

* many thanks to her for coming up with this idea