If there was a way to make the solar decathletes booted off the National Mall even more angry than they already were, the National Park Service might have done it, by issuing permits to the National Book Festival to expand from one day to two—on the first weekend that the Solar Decathlon was supposed to have taken place. The Library of Congress announced yesterday that its literary shindig would go off on September 24th and 25th, making it even more difficult for the competition to be restored to the Mall on the previously planned dates.
You know who doesn’t care? The Washington Post, which opined last Friday that the Solar Decathlon should suck it up and go elsewhere, for the sake of the Mall’s long term health. “This is a simple matter of whether the Mall—long revered as the country’s “front yard”—will be restored to its former glory and maintained for future generations,” the editorial reads. “Years of neglect and overuse have caused the Mall to become a national disgrace, and finally there’s recognition of the need to fix conditions.”
To which one might respond: It’s a lawn, for crying out loud. Lawns can be repaired—if the Decathlon does damage, then make contestants pay for its repair. I’d wager that Americans would rather have a “front yard” continually programmed with activities rather than covered with perfectly manicured grass. While I think using Anacostia Park would be a great opportunity, I also think that the sustainability argument for booting the Decathlon off the Mall is a little wrongheaded.
That’s also the conclusion of a clutch of House Democrats, who signed a letter supporting the Decathlon’s return to the Mall. Signatories include a few well-placed influencers, like Committee on Natural Resources ranking member Ed Markey (who oversees the Department of the Interior) and research and science subcommittee chairman Daniel Lipinski. But this year, they’re not exactly calling the shots anymore—if the Decathletes have any hope at all, they’ll probably need to bring on GOP committee chairs as well.