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Early this winter, a woman from Southeast called me nearly every week to leave long rambling messages about a rat story I should be writing. I didn’t want to write her particular rat story, because I’d already written a fair amount about rats in another piece published a few weeks before. This city offers a bottomless pit of rat stories—just layers upon layers of rats and the people that despise them, on and on forever. Sometimes, you got to say “No. No more. This week, I’d like to write about graffiti.”
But anyway, I lead with that tale because I’d like to recommend a rat story. The June 2008 issue of Reason features an editorial by Editor-in-Chief Matt Welch called “City of Rats” examining how, to quote Welch directly, “Thinking Big’ at the municipal level means abandoning the basics.” In short: city officials would rather lavish millions on a baseball stadium than fix our eternally backward and broken city agencies.
This is old news to us locals. But, Welch’s piece succinctly illuminates exactly how we continue to suffer as politicians choose flashiness over functional government.
The stadium is now open. So far, we have learned that District residents weren’t working the construction jobs promised to them. And the team’s owners are demanding more money from the city. I have yet to go to the Nats’ stadium, and with every passing day, I have less and less of a desire to attend a game.
Why is this? I don’t like watching baseball. For a week or so there, I got a bit sucked into thinking that maybe I would just enjoy the vibe of being a spectator in a place charged with the energy of its opening season. But, now, I just don’t care. Outlasting my momentary quasi-interest in the stadium is the unrelenting sense of disbelief about the sky-high level of disorganization and incompetence across the city.
Perhaps an anecdote from Welch’s article is fitting here: “In 2000, when I reported being mugged during my first visit to the city, the police told me there was nothing they could do except check the Lost and Found once in a while for my wallet”