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At-Large Councilmember David Catania’s bill setting a 51 percent local hiring target for Mt. Vernon Square convention center contractors reads like a sincere effort to shrink the city’s jobless rate. Mimicking a quota used for the MCI Center, the legislation stipulates that a majority of employees working for the contractors must live in the District. Convention center boosters, however, insist Catania is more interested in scuppering the six-block behemoth than advocating for the unemployed: For starters, they point to the bill’s imposition of a monetary penalty of at least 10 percent of the value of the contract for companies that fail to meet the threshold. “[Convention center contractor] Clark/Smoot would never have signed a half-billion-dollar contract if it thought it would have incurred a $50 million fine,” says one construction executive. The bill’s hostile tone, says hotel lobbyist Emily Vetter, is typical of Catania’s obstructionist approach to the project. “After the D.C. Council approved the project, he went to Congress to kill it,” notes Vetter. Catania responds that local businesses have powerful motives for sabotaging his bill: “The real issue is that there is little intent on part of the contractors to fulfill the 51 percent new hire requirement. At present, they’ve got it made.”
Jail Bait In a meeting with the D.C. Zoning Commission last Monday night, Corrections Corp. of America (CCA) officials presented a grab bag of goodies to go along with their proposed Ward 8 prison: a college, a drug-treatment program, and even courses in truck driving and maintenance. “[We’re] turning lives around,” boasted Joseph F. Johnson, a CCA board member. “[It] could be Malcolm X-like.” For prison proponents, the reason to build it in Ward 8 was simple”Keep them home” read their T-shirts and hand-held signs. But zoning commissioner Herbert M. Franklin noted that there’s no guarantee the Federal Bureau of Prisons will choose to house D.C. inmates on their home turf. Former D.C. Councilmember John Ray, now serving as counsel to CCA, thinks logic alone will keep the 2,200-bed facility filled with local offenders. Ray pointed out that 8,000 D.C. inmates currently fit the criteria for the new CCA facility. “Do you think D.C.’s prison population is going to drop in the next 20 years?” Ray added. “I don’t think so.”
Ready, Set, Van Gogh National Gallery of Art, 1:30 p.m. ticket group: Three youngsters quicken the pace and scamper through Van Gogh’s final paintings like runaways. They land in front of Wheatfield With Crows, one of the artist’s signature works. The kids point to the Wheatfield With Crows reproduction in their exhibit brochures, move their eyes back to the real deal, and scream in unison, “Mission accomplished!” as one of the young art lovers slams his brochure right onto the original canvas for emphasis.
The Meadowlands Logan Circle is about to lose its only wildlife refugeand residents are delighted. Logan Meadow, a community project to convert an abandoned lot into a haven for local butterflies (“Weedy Eden,” 10/25/96), will soon metamorphose into town houses. The meadow’s history has been full of promise: In 1995, dedicated residents tried their green thumbs at the private lot, which had decayed into an eyesore. After brief successfirst as green field, then as garden plotsthe meadow was left to the forces of nature: Tall grass was followed by trash, and, finally, a “Clean It or Lien It” sign. New owner P.F. Hoffman hastily spruced up the lot after buying it Sept. 16, and residents now anxiously await their new neighbors. “It was always known…that if it got sold and got developed, the gardens would go away,” says Logan Circle Community Association President Deborah Martens. “It’s regeneration of the city.”
Mass Delusion “One of the nearest near-downtown development opportunities is in the area north of Massachusetts Avenue, appropriately called ‘NoMa’…It can become Washington D.C.’s answer to New York’s SoHo and San Francisco’s South of Market….”from Citizens Plan for Prosperity in the 21st Century, distributed at the D.C. Economic Summit held last Thursday.
Reporting by Jason Cherkis, Elizabeth Murdock, Chris Peterson, and Erik Wemple.
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