A few weeks ago, control board chairman Andrew Brimmer confounded D.C. journalists when he released a so-called “contour map” outlining the board’s plan for reforming the District government. No one could quite figure out what the map (see right) represented. Some thought it was a divining instrument, others a lottery card, or perhaps an answer sheet for the SAT. Local media outlets were awash with speculation on the chart’s true meaning.
Washington City Paper has finally gotten to the bottom of it all. After the chart’s release, we advertised a contest offering $25 and a City Paper T-shirt to the reader who best explained the mysterious map. The winning entry came from Gaithersburg resident Stanley Shapiro, who says Brimmer’s chart is quite clear: It’s a design for a parking lot.
Shapiro wrote, “Note the ‘long term,’ ‘intermediate,’ and ‘short term’ slots. These are indications of the length of stay one has in the lot. Management, of course, gets the best spotthe front corner spaceunless they’re staying long-term, in which case they try to blend in, in the back of the lot. ‘Infotech’ people ride economy cars, and therefore their markers are very short. People involved in all other ‘processes’ ride public transportation, and thus the markers are longer, representing buses. ‘Other’ people (those not on the D.C. job roster) don’t count; this is a holdover from the Barry regime….I hope that this clears up any misunderstandings you may have had. Please feel free to call on me for a complete explanation of other matters pertaining to logic involving the District government.”
To be fair, other entries tried to shed some light on the inner workings of the control board. George Simons LaRoche of Takoma Park, Md., for example, posited that each box represents the control board’s “testosto-zone,” measuring “the amount of pure gall it takes for the control board to make crucial decisions about the lives of the citizens of the District.”
Through it all, control board executive director John Hill has clung to a less plausible interpretation of the chart. “What those blips represent are costs associated with specific projects,” says Hill.
And why is the chart slanted? “It was just meant to be a conceptual diagram looking out into time,” says Hill, just in case the time thrust wasn’t obvious. “It is abstract. It was not meant to be descriptive of specific recommendations.”CP