Elissa Silverman, who wrote “Critical Condition” (1/4), should have waited a week for the other shoe to drop. The thud came when D.C. Council Chair Linda Cropp, at Mayor Williams’ behest, announced that she’ll introduce legislation to transfer jurisdiction over the D.C. General Hospital site from the federal government to the city. The federal land grant required that the site be used for a health-care facility; the transfer will allow the mayor to guarantee that D.C. General will not be reopened, despite the desperate need for a public hospital in D.C.’s eastern wards, and will allow the city government to lease the land for whatever purpose it chooses. Mayor Williams, who worships at the altar of privatization, already attempted the same stunt with the University of the
District of Columbia, trying to seize land reserved for the higher education of D.C. residents.
Cropp’s announcement proves what protesters against the dismantling of the District’s only full-service public health institution have argued all along, that the mayor and financial control board were motivated less by concern for the health of D.C.’s middle- and low-income residents than by the lure of a land grab.
What will the site be used for? The surrounding neighborhood and probably D.C. General itself, as well as RFK Stadium and the Armory, are slated for sports facilities, accommodations, and other construction in preparation for the D.C.-Baltimore bid for the 2012 Olympics. Even after these playthings get erected, we probably won’t win the bid, thanks to security concerns and the fact that an Olympics hosted by an East Coast U.S. city occurred too recently (Atlanta in 1996).
But it’s the wet dream of developers, real estate barons, and others who stand to make a bundle regardless of the Olympic Committee’s decision. It also means destruction of a residential neighborhood and a massive drain on D.C. taxpayers’ money, just like the new convention center, a multi-hundred-million-dollar gift from D.C. taxpayers to Marriott International and the suburban hospitality industry.
It’s a scheme so vicious it’s beyond cynicism. The sad part is that D.C. voters, loyal to the Democratic machine, continue to choose the same operatives for the Federal City Council each election cycle, flunkies who enter office with the faith that what’s good for major real estate and other corporate campaign contributors is good for the people duped into electing them.