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Who says the D.C. Council never has any good ideas? Buried under an avalanche of criticism for the city’s preposterously inadequate snow removal, council Chairman Dave Clarke has introduced the District of Columbia Snow Removal Act of 1996. The bill would enable the mayor to pay city residentsespecially the homeless, the unemployed, teenagers, and halfway-house residentsto shovel out public spaces after the next blizzard.
In advanced nationsplaces where labor is relatively expensive and capital is relatively cheapit’s more efficient to buy a fleet of snowplows and pay drivers $25 per hour to operate them than it is to hire a brigade of residents to shovel streets by hand. But Clarke, visionary that he is, has finally recognized that D.C.’s is no longer a First World economy.
The Republicans favor devolving federal power to the states. Clarke favors devolving, period. Clarkeconomics will pave the way for transforming the District into a strictly labor economy. In the spirit of Clarke’s snow proposal, here are 10 more ways the District can create jobs for the unemployed and save capital expenditures.
1.) The EPA has warned that Blue Plains can’t filter all of D.C.’s water and clean all of its sewage. No problem. Anyone can sink a well and dig a backyard privy.
2.) Forget about the city’s hit-or-miss trash pickup. Pass a law forcing residents to start their own compost piles. Then, every spring, the city can dump the compost on the Mall and farm vegetables for school lunches. And today’s lousy recycling program can soon be just a bad memory. Just toss your garbage on the sidewalk, and an army of city ragpickers will scavenge it for newspaper, glass, and four kinds of plastic.
3.) Sell the expensive cars that ferry the mayor and his top aides around town. We can replace the car fleet with festively decorated litters. Bearersthe toughest guys in the mayor’s security detailcan chauffeur our elected officials from meeting to meeting in pollution-free comfort, happy in the knowledge that they’re improving air quality with every step.
4.) Experts estimate that District public schools need $5 billion in capital repairs. Forget it. Let the kids study under oak trees. It worked for Socrates, and there will be no more pesky fire code violations. Instead of summer vacation, the students can take a winter break. That way they’ll earn pocket money scraping ice off Pennsylvania Avenue sidewalks.
5.) Speaking of education, the city can resolve the textbook shortage immediately. Get rid of books entirely. Oral history was good enough for our ancestors; it should be good enough for our children.
6.) Each neighborhood will be responsible for repairing its streets. Washingtonians can patch potholes using their own home-brewed tar and asphalt.
7.) The District can’t afford gas and tires for police cruisers, so trade in squad cars for bicycles or, better yet, Rollerblades. Then take the cash savings and hire more cops. Heck, with all that extra exercise, cops will burn off those Bavarian beer bellies in no time.
8.) The Wilson Building’s out of toilet paper? Supply rosewater instead. It’s cheap, and any council staffer can make it at home.
9.) Many city Xerox machines are busted or out of paper. Forget about ’em. Hire a few hundred scribes. (Cora must have some distant cousins who are looking for work.)
10.) The District is too broke to pay its share of Metro, so the city can make an in-kind contribution. Impress our legions of unemployed and make them dig the Green Line by hand. CP