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Photograph via Shutterstock.

While the best light show on Saturday night will be above the Mall, the patriotic pyrotechnics don't have to be the domain of just the crowded masses. District residents can light fireworks of their own this week, with the city's annual permitting of temporary vendors.

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Posted at 04:20 PM/ET, 06/30/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Linton had an accomplished career in improving the city long before he took on one of its most thankless jobs. By Benjamin Freed

Ron Linton in 2014. Photograph by Cade Martin.

Ron Linton, whose nearly four-year term overseeing the District’s taxi industry made him possibly the city’s most unfairly reviled public servant, died Monday at age 86. But Linton, who spent six decades in Washington working on nearly every part of DC’s infrastructure, thrived on tinkering with the way cities work, even if it earned him enmity from both the providers and customers of the industry he tried to improve.

The final, but most visible chapter of Linton’s long career was to oversee a massive, and usually contentious, overhaul of DC’s taxi industry from an analog, cash-only business to something worthy of the early 21st century. And while it wasn’t in the job description when he was tapped, Linton had to balance all that with the arrival of companies like Uber and Lyft, which upended the entire notion of hired vehicles.

Until late 2013, credit-card readers were rare sightings in the backs of DC taxis, years after other major cities—New York, Philadelphia, Boston—rolled them out. Cabs could be painted any color in the spectrum, and were barely visible with their tiny rooftop lamps. Tack on an increasing public desire to hail cabs with smartphone apps instead of thrusting one’s hand in the air on a street corner, and the industry was stuck more than a decade in the past.

“When I came in I found the community was really unhappy with taxi service, and the commission itself had no respect,” Linton said in a 2014 interview. “All that had to be turned around.”

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Posted at 02:34 PM/ET, 06/29/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Photograph by JHK2303/Shutterstock.

WPGC’s name once stood for “We’re Prince George’s County.” But in March the station, whose roots in the county go back to the late ’50s, left Lanham and joined its corporate siblings WJFK, WNEW, and WIAD in moving to Half Street SE, a couple blocks from Nationals Park. “We love it,” says Steve Swenson, the senior vice president and marketing manager of CBS Washington, DC. Not only do the newshounds at WNEW find it easier to cover stories from a center-city location, “We also found that recruiting employees was a little more of a challenge when you’re on the eastern side of the DMV.”

The new digs also reflect the stations’ commitment to local programming, Swenson says, with a street-level performance space and a studio visible from the sidewalk. “Our goal was to create much more street-level activity,” he says.

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Posted at 07:00 AM/ET, 06/29/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
"You need a different type of Republican to win," says Chrysovalantis Kefalas. By Harry Jaffe
Photograph by David Bohrer.

Can a gay Republican with a jawbreaking name win the US Senate seat being vacated by Maryland’s liberal stalwart Barbara Mikulski? What were the odds, answers Chrysovalantis Kefalas, the polysyllabic candidate in question, that a doughy conservative businessman could become governor of the nation’s bluest state?

Larry Hogan showed us the path forward,” Kefalas—who goes by Chrys—tells Washingtonian. “You need a different type of Republican to win in a blue state like Maryland.”

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Posted at 06:00 AM/ET, 06/24/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
South Carolina takes it down, but some in Virginia want to see more of it. By Benjamin Freed
The Virginia Flaggers planted this flag next to Interstate 95 in 2014. Screenshot via WTTG.

A group of Southern-history enthusiasts in Virginia who promote the display of the Confederate battle flag say they aren't giving any interviews to media in the wake of last week's murder of nine members of a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, but that hasn't stopped them from parading through Richmond hoisting the antiquated banner.

In an emailed statement, the Virginia Flaggers say they "join the entire country in mourning" the shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church allegedly carried out by 20-year-old Dylann Roof. But the massacre, allegedly carried out by a young man who wrote openly of subjugating blacks, Jews, and Hispanics and wrapped himself in the Confederate banner, hasn't quenched the Flaggers' committment to their cause. On its Facebook page, the group has posted many photos—taken since last Thursday—of its members toting the flag outside the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. The Flaggers are also responsible for a large Confederate battle flag that flies over Interstate 95 between Quantico and Fredericksburg.

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Posted at 10:35 AM/ET, 06/23/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Photograph by Randy Santos

When Arlington County officials shuttered Artisphere, the five-year-old arts center in Rosslyn, they pointed to the $2.3 million they would save taxpayers next year. “It was a business decision as opposed to a decision about the county’s commitment to the arts,” deputy county manager Carol Mitten says. “We couldn’t wait for Artisphere to support itself.”

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Posted at 10:10 AM/ET, 06/23/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Thanks to a delayed raise for federal employees. By Benjamin Freed
Chart via Center for Regional Analysis.

Workers in the Washington area enjoyed their first wage increases since 2011 last year, says a report by researchers at George Mason University's Center for Regional Analysis. Wages for the average local office-dweller increased 0.5 percent to $69,645, according to data published by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The growth represents the first time in three years that the region's workers have seen their paychecks expand. But even with the slight declines between 2011 and 2013, average wages in Washington have stayed above those in nearly ever other major metropolitan areas.

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Posted at 02:29 PM/ET, 06/18/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
How are they affecting cities? It's too diverse a group to say with precision. By Emma Foehringer Merchant
This photograph is unrepresentative of all millennials. (Via Shutterstock.)

Millennials are often casually described as forever-single, coworking apartment-renters busy gallivanting on their trendy shared bicycles. Even though it's obvious that most twentysomethings don't fit this narrow definition.

"Oftentimes we use the word millennial where we're not really talking about everyone in that age demographic," said Washington Post Wonkblog writer Emily Badger.

On June 16, Badger discussed millennials and their cities with Rolf Pendall, the director of the Urban Institute's Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center, at a panel assembled by the organization. Svetlana Legetic, co-founder of the millennial-centric website Brightest Young Things, introduced the two with an overview of the meteoric rise of the DC millennial.

In a room filled with youthful research assistants, a handful of baby boomers, and a pre-panel cheese plate, the two covered a wide swath of both local and national history that has plopped cities within their current metamorphoses. The Institute's "Millennials and the Remaking of US Cities" tackled now ubiquitous topics like changing neighborhoods, millennials versus baby-boomers, and those crazy preferences millennials seem to have. But the most compelling subject was less expected: Millennials don't always speak for all millennials.

Badger says Millennial, the capital-M term tossed about in media, is more a "code word for a particular kind of millennial." That is, white, college-educated, upwardly-mobile ones. (Washingtonian does not capitalize the word millennial, for what it's worth.)

Pendall and Badger pointed out that discussing millennials the way mainstream news organizations often do ignores disparities within the generation—creating fundamental issues with understanding how millennials hope to and will change cities like DC. Badger offered up the example of her own neighborhood: the at first budding, now booming H Street.

"We have this juxtaposition of millennials who are better off, who have college degrees, who've had the luxury of moving in," she says. "They're coexisting, not entirely harmoniously, with millennials of a different kind who are not going to be able to afford to continue living in the neighborhoods where their parents raised them." Badger herself happens to be one of those college-educated, new-resident millennials.

Displacement doesn't come down to only millennials displacing families and older residents, millennials are also displacing millennials. The Whole Foods-following hordes arriving on H Street and in Shaw may be nudging out longtime locals of the same age. Not all millennials are displacers, and not all have the economic status often associated with the generation's buzzy name.

Today, acccording to Pendall, there are 65 million millennials living in the United States. It's the largest generation the country has ever seen, and the most diverse. But 62 percent of those born between 1980 and 1995 are white. Also according to Pendall, of white non-Hispanic women ages 25 to 29, about 45 percent of them have attended at least four years of college. For black and Latino men this number sinks to between 15 and 20 percent. As in any generation, the opportunities presented to millennials are impacted by sex, race, and class.

"There are many, many cleavages within the millennial generation by which your life chances are either boosted by your family's affluence or really held back by your family's lack of income," Pendall says. "There's those with choices and those with fewer choices."

Both speakers agreed the struggle is making sure those with choices don't cause displacement with their influx of money and desire for choice in new neighborhoods.

"Can we have investment on H Street, or the 14th Street corridor, or U Street in ways that benefit the people who already live there?" Badger says. "This is the problem millennials need to solve as they remake cities." And that means millennials as a whole, not just those tritely described as juice-toting and yoga-going. Though the District may be overrun with ambitious capital-M Millennials, it also has a population of millennials working to increase opportunity in the city. Envisioning a future built by millennials means broadening the definition and ignoring the ways mainstream millennials are often categorized.

Posted at 04:12 PM/ET, 06/17/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
And now Congress is proposing to take away all its money. By Benjamin Freed
The design for the Eisenhower Memorial, as of September 2014. Photograph courtesy of the Eisenhower Memorial Commission.

The proposed memorial to Dwight D. Eisenhower is closer than ever to not happening at all with a House Appropriations subcommittee producing a bill that would zap the long-troubled project of all federal funding. The Interior Appropriations bill for the 2016 fiscal year recommends not committing any money to the Eisenhower Memorial Commission and also calls for the eventual replacement of the commission's staff.

"The Committee strongly supports the construction of a permanent memorial to Dwight D. Eisenhower," the bill reads. "However, the Commission’s ongoing indifference to the views of the Eisenhower family, and the resulting lack of consensus on the memorial design, remain an area of significant concern. It is inconceivable and unacceptable to the Committee that a memorial to Dwight D. Eisenhower could be designed, approved, and built without the active support of the Eisenhower family."

Members of Eisenhower's family, and other stakeholders, have long been opposed to the design submitted by architect Frank Gehry, who was picked in 2009 after a competition that drew only 43 other entrants. Gehry's proposal stands out from Washington's collection of mostly American Renaissance memorials. Instead of grand columns, the Eisenhower Memorial, as conceived, would feature massive steel tapestries depicting various stages of the 34th President's life. Even watered down—the tapestries were switched from Eisenhower's military exploits to his boyhood in Kansas—Gehry's design still fails to stop the critics.

And while the Eisenhower family gripes about the tapestries and bas-relief sculptures, other elements of Gehry's design have sparked outrage. In May, longtime DC architect Arthur Cotton Moore sent an 11-page missive to the city's historic preservation office—one of many agencies with some jursidiction over the Eisenhower project—claiming that approving Gehry's design would be the "death knell" of the original city plan laid out by Pierre L'Enfant. The proposed memorial, located between the Education Department and the National Air and Space Museum, would turn a one-block stretch of Maryland Ave., Southwest, into a pedestrian mall bisecting the Eisenhower tributes, potentially upset a 224-year-old bit of symmetry.

The Eisenhower Memorial, Moore claimed, could destroy "the most iconic section of the L’Enfant Plan: the matched boulevards of Pennsylvania Avenue and Maryland Avenue, jointly and proudly radiating from our Capitol." That stretch of Maryland Ave., though, gets very little through-traffic and is used mostly for short-term parking.

The Eisenhower Memorial Commission has spent more than $40 million in federal funds since it launched in 1999, $16 million of which has gone to Gehry Partners. Gehry's design would cost an estimated $142 million to build, but the commission's charitiable donations have almost dried up completely, the House subcommittee notes. While the commission has paid a fundraising consultant $1.4 million over the past four years, it has only taken in $450,000, including a single donation of $300,000.

Posted at 12:03 PM/ET, 06/16/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Watch your mouth or pay a $250 fine. By Benjamin Freed
Photograph via Shutterstock.

Uttering some of the more expressive words in the English language will cost you up to $250 if you say them in Arlington, now that county officials have upped their fines on public uses of profanity. The Arlington County Board just approved a measure increasing penalties for public intoxication and blue language from $100 to $250.

Even if Arlington is sacrificing its reputation as an urbanist's dream community, its leaders have not given up their mission to clean up its residents sometimes-naughty antics. The code change adopted during Saturday's board meeting came after the Arlington Police Department reported making 664 arrests for public inebriation and foul-mouthed talk in 2014.

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Posted at 01:02 PM/ET, 06/15/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()