The WMATA Matter

Dear Readers,

Break out the chains and your copies of “We Shall Overcome”! It is time to affix yourself to the nearest Metro bus.

That was the consensus of the March 19th community meeting held to share information about the proposed development of the Metro “common” and discuss what the city’s next step should be in opposing it.

A large number of people attended, many of them activists who have been working on the issue for the last ten years. Not least of them were the city councilmembers, mayor, and staff (and former mayor Cathy Porter who also attended) who over the last decade have passed six resolutions, buttonholed every politician with an ounce of influence over WMATA, testified at numerous meetings, written stacks of letters, and otherwise put many hours of effort into opposing the development.

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And what do they (and we) have to show for it? Not much. The resolutions, testimony, and influence have gone largely ignored by the WMATA board. It is clear that the board has one outcome in mind and considers the review process window-dressing.

There are still three outside agencies through which the development must pass review: The FTA (Federal Transit Administration), the DC Zoning Board, and DC Historic Preservation. However, as one of the meeting participants, a

DC advisory neighborhood commissioner, noted, DC’s mayor Adrian Fenty, who favors the EYA development, has been appointing his own zoning board members.

So, these reviews offer thin hope.

Another tactic the city can use is The Lawsuit. Understandably, city officials did not want to get specific about this as they do not want to publicly reveal their legal strategy. They did mention the potential high cost.

The tactic that our elected representatives would like to see as well, and one they don’t feel they should spearhead – is “direct action” from citizens. You know, what THAT means, Dear Readers! Linking arms! Singing “We Shall Overcome!” PIcketing! Chanting! Blocking busses! Chaining ourselves to turnstiles!

The audience was solidly behind this idea. Rumor has it that even former mayor Porter was fired up and ready to get in The Man’s face. Politely, of course.

Some in the audience accused the city council of exhibiting a lack of passion for the issue. The Mayor assured them that this was not the case, the council and he were at the meeting to listen and gauge the community’s passion. They were also looking for direction. The last thing they want to do is start tilting at windmills only to have the citizenry object to wasted effort and money. It has happened before.

The council council tactic has been to focus on making sure the Metro transit facility, including: handicapped access to the subway, adequate room for buses, facilities for bikers, and so forth, is not compromised by the development. This, they feel is where they have the strongest case.

Some citizens, particularly those who had gone through the original struggle over the Metro station configuration with WMATA 32 years ago, spoke about returning to the original outrage – the despoiling of the green space which WMATA once promised to keep a permanent feature. They asked why the city was not insisting on holding them to that promise.

The reason, the council replied sadly, is that no written evidence of that promise has been found.

So, Dear Readers, it is up to us now. Are we willing make pests of ourselves to WMATA, to irritate them until their little beady eyes widen with frustration and annoyance, until they are driven to make peace, negotiate, surrender, anything to make it STOP?

Ooo, sounds like fun!


About the Author

Gilbert is the pseudonym of a hard-bitten, hard-drinking, long-time Takoma Park resident who maintains the granolapark blog. Gilbert and William L. Brown — Granola Park's mild-mannered chief of staff, researcher, and drink pourer — have never been seen in the same place at the same time.