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Donatelli, Jim Graham, Pay-to-Play and ANCs

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  • whj@melanet.com
    Richard, The photos below help to illustrate how Donatelli Development used it s relationship with the Graham s Ward1 take or attempt to take public resources
    Message 1 of 3 , Nov 24, 2012





    The photos below help to illustrate how Donatelli Development used it's relationship with the Graham's Ward1 take or attempt to take public resources to line their own pockets.   The photo below is a shot that looks north from the East CH Metro Plaza enterence.  On the right of the photo is Donatelli's Kenyon Square development.


    After being awarded that public site and gained community support to add 2 1/2 floors to their project view zoning waivers and reductions in commercial parking, Donatelli Development wanted even more.  Ignoring their LDA requirements to build to CH Public Realm specs, they built using their own design.  But that is not the focus, but their, Donatelli Development, claim that the red brick area was private property belonging to Donatelli Development.  And that only the small strip of white sidewalk to the left was public space.  Which would allow them to lease the entire red brick area to businesses for sidewalk cafes pocketing the revenue with out a need for public space permits. The second photo shows a view looking south from about the plaza area, in the lower left shows the wall Donatelli Development built without a permit so where they implemented this strategy in order to lease this space to a restaurant, which turned out to be The Heights, pocketing the revenue.


    Council Member Graham ran interfence with DDOT, OP, ANC and others while Donatelli maneuvered to take public space and quasi-public space and lease it commercially.  Hoping that no one in the community nor their representatives would notice or could be intimitated or bought into silence by the Graham Machine.


    But even this dishonest maneuvering is not the kicker.  At Kenyon Square per the LDA between the city and Donatelli Development, 5% of the revenue from these Kenyon Square commercial leases are to go to CH Fund which Donatelli Development was to setup, but never has.  As well, the city has a 25% stake in this revenue stream, which could help to fund the maintenance, cleanliness and safety of this public space via a BID, NID or even the Columbia Height Clean Team.  After, 6 years of a 10 year agreement,  I can't find where one dime of these revenues have been collected on behalf of the public from Donatelli Development.  And despite these failures to comply with agreements, Donatelli Development continued to be awared city owned property for development.  In fact although Donatelli Development owed back taxes on their Kenyon Sq project, the city continued to award Donatelli Development public property.


    This to me in not only ethically wrong, but is illegally taking money from the city's general fund. This pattern was and is being repeated for Donatelli Development's Highland Park project. 













    -----Original Message-----
    From: whj@...
    Sent: Sunday, November 4, 2012 5:24pm
    To: columbia_heights@yahoogroups.com
    Subject: Re: [columbia_heights] Donatelli, Jim Graham, Pay-to-Play and ANCs




    -----Original Message-----
    From: "Richard Layman" <rlaymandc@...>
    Sent: Sunday, November 4, 2012 11:32am
    To: "columbia_heights@yahoogroups.com" <columbia_heights@yahoogroups.com>
    Subject: Re: [columbia_heights] Donatelli, Jim Graham, Pay-to-Play and ANCs

    of course ANCs are capable of great things, including bringing attention to such issues.  So I don't know how your ANC is set up or some of the others in Ward 1 (I do know about W6 and W4).

    Why don't you get two ANCs to agree to create a task force on this issue and address it through hearings and a report? 

    All we can do is work to change the environment.  For all your bitching about how things should be and how everyone should do things, I do plenty, even if it appears to you to be mostly analytical and through words (symbolic analysis).  Clearly, the way you've been doing it on this list hasn't had much impact, at least the way you'd want it to be, judging by the tenor of your posts.  Were I you, I would consider that worthwhile information and take the time to self-reflect and ponder whether or not what you are recommending-imploring is having effect and what potential alternatives are.

    I have already resigned myself to the fact that people take "critical analysis" as criticism and after awhile, attempt to negate the points I make consistently and repeatedly, over the years.  (E.g., so Councilmembers are big on Greater Greater Washington, and not so much on my blog, because my analysis and recommendations for system-structural improvement are significantly deeper.  They prefer accolades to critical analysis.)

    However, eventually, many types of positions come around to the point of view I espoused 5-10 years ago.  But the big thing I have begun to accept as I move into my mid 50s is that's ok, change takes time.

    Now wrt ANC committees, I've served on a few.  I would claim that while the ANC4B committee that I co-chaired and served as chief author on the Walmart debacle produced a great report/analysis of gaps in city planning and zoning regulations and laid out a course of action that the city could take to better represent citizen interests on that matter, for the most part, the report was ignored as the OP and DDOT staff were ordered by their ultimate bosses (the elected officials) to make Walmart happen.

    So you take that in and ponder next steps.  For me, that's changing the planning and zoning regulations accordingly as they relate to the issue of big box review, or how community benefits agreements are negotiated, etc.

    And I have written a lot about that too.

    And even when I seem to not have much impact here, because I blog (and my other activities) or write articles for trade publications, do class presentations etc., the identification of gaps in practice, at least in other communities, gets addressed.


    From: "whj@..." <whj@...>
    To: "columbia_heights@yahoogroups.com" <columbia_heights@yahoogroups.com>
    Sent: Sunday, November 4, 2012 10:46 AM
    Subject: [columbia_heights] Donatelli, Jim Graham, Pay-to-Play and ANCs [2 Attachments]

    I maintain, that you don't have to be that smart or sophisticated to ensure more equity and fairness in neighborhood/community development. That ANC commissioners and commissions can play a critical role even in the face of the growth machine and pay-to-play politicians.  I've chosen to focus on Donatelli Development because they are a classic case study in how to use pay-to-play to basically defraud a community, yet have persons such as yourself make excuses for them while they gain control over 100s of millions in leveraged public assets.
    I don't know if you've seen the cartoon, "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas", in it there's scene where the Grinch goes to Whoville and begins to steal the trappings of Christmas and even steals the crumbs for the mice and takes the last ornament from Mary Lou Who's tree.  While when it comes to Columbia Heights Donatelli Development is much like the Grinch, taking every inch in public resource that they could, even down to sidewalk pavers and nickels & dimes from the CH Neighborhood Fund.  In the cartoon eventually the people of Whoville found a way to come together just enough to change the dynamics such that the Grinch is forced to change and returns what he stole.  While, I know Donatelli Development will never return what the took, with an active ANC and community, Donatelli Development would have to at slow their rate of taking and fulfill their most basic obligations.
    Below are photos of the private parking and bus service Donatelli operates under contract with the Washington Hospital Center(WHC).  Donatelli is paid to provide parking and the WHC shuttle uses public space to operate the shuttle.  Ironically Donatelli initially lobbied and got WMATA and the city to remove public bus service from in front of Highland Park.  Can't easily sell/rent luxury condos/apartments with "those people" waiting in front to catch the bus.
    Initially, WHC wanted to do the deal with DC USA where the city owns the garage that was costing the city http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-dEITnQulg5Q/UH7BDx75AhI/AAAAAAAAD4w/jnDZSOol5oA/s320/068.JPGMillion per year in losses.  Instead, the city gave the deal to Donatelli to protect Donatelli's bottom line instead of the tax payer. Note the DC USA garage deficit was being made up with NIF funds.  So in essence the value of Donatelli's WHC parking bus service deal represents the amount that Donatelli was collecting in NIF funding, which normally could only go to nonprofits. Now, you would think that given this parking revenue going to Donatelli/Highland Park that a portion would be used to fund the CH Neighborhood Fund or at least to maintain order in cleanliness in the public space that they use.
    So Donatelli Development again, which always proffers its deals as not requiring public financing and speed to market, uses its pay-to-play relationship to access public resources via the back door.  While, I can't provide it, I believe this is why the DC Circular does not connect to WHC, which would made sense. Remember Donatelli Development basically claims they don't have to execute the CH Neighborhood Fund ratified in their LDA because Highland Park does not have the cash flow.  Yet, the city continued to award them new public land for development based on the same, "no need for public financing" premise.
    So, Donatelli Development is using public resources to sell parking spaces(note 25% owned by the public) for private gain, while residents and other businesses in the area are crying for parking relief.  This entire arrangement should have come before the ANC with 30day public notice.  Do you believe the public would have allowed this without conditions which better serve the public?  Commissioners would not have required any special skills to know that this deal takes from the public with no public benefit.
    Like the Grinch taking everything he could from Whoville (I would note that in the movie version with Jim Carrey the Grinch benefited from pay-to-play Whoville politicians), Donatelli has done the same to Columbia Heights.  The theory around the Growth Machine has to be backed by understanding its mechanics.  I wonder if anyone with share with the public the value of the Donatelli/WHC deal, at least 25% of the revenue should be going to the public.
    -----Original Message-----
    From: "Richard Layman" <rlaymandc@...>
    Sent: Saturday, November 3, 2012 12:17pm
    To: "columbia_heights@yahoogroups.com" <columbia_heights@yahoogroups.com>
    Subject: Re: [columbia_heights] REMINDER: Neighborhood Meet and Greet with Commissioner Laina Aquiline

    fwiw, few people in the city write about this issue as much as me.  e.g.


    Wednesday, October 17, 2012

    If you don't know urban political theory, it's likely that you don't understand local land use: St. Louis: DC; etc.

    In academia, there are (at least) two competing theories of local politics. 

    From sociology comes the "Growth Machine," which makes the point that despite seeming intra-elite competition, local political and economic elites are for the most part united on a pro-growth agenda focused on intensification of real estate, since local governments are dependent on property taxes (and sales taxes) for the bulk of their revenues.

    Harvey Molotch's paper, City as a Growth Machine: Toward a Political Economy of Place, published in 1976, and later expanded into the book Urban Fortunes: Towards a Political Economy of Place, serves as the foundation for this theory.

    Political scientists offer the theory of the "Urban Regime," which came to the fore in 1989, with the publication of Regime politics: Governing Atlanta, 1946-1988 by Clarence Stone (until recently he was a professor at the University of Maryland). A good synthesis of the work is in the paper "The Evolution of Urban Regime Theory: The Challenge of Conceptualization by Mossberger and Stoker (2001).

    I don't think these theories are competing so much as different sides of the same coin. "Growth Machine" theory is best for explaining the motivation and focus of "the land-based elite," and "urban regime" theory explains in detail how the land-based elite operates and functions.

    In the paper, "Now What? The continuing evolution of Urban Regime analysis," Stone writes:

    An urban regime can be preliminarily defined as the informal arrangements through which a locality is governed (Stone 1989). Because governance is about sustained efforts, it is important to think in agenda terms rather than about stand-alone issues. By agenda I mean the set of challenges which policy makers accord priority. A concern with agendas takes us away from focusing on short-term controversies and instead directs attention to continuing efforts and the level of weight they carry in the political life of a community. Rather than treating issues as if they are disconnected, a governance perspective calls for considering how any given issue fits into a flow of decisions and actions. This approach enlarges the scope of what is being analyzed, looking at the forest not a particular tree here or there. [emphasis added, in this paragraph and below] ...

    By looking closely at the policy role of business leaders and how their position in the civic structure of a community enabled that role, he identified connections between Atlanta's governing coalition and the resources it brought to bear, and on to the scheme of cooperation that made this informal system work. In his own way, Hunter had identified the key elements in an urban regimegoverning coalition, agenda, resources, and mode of cooperation. These elements could be brought into the next debate about analyzing local politics, a debate about structural determinism.

    On the other hand, Urban Fortunes is particularly good on various elements of the land use intensification agenda, from Downtown revitalization to the construction of sports stadiums, arenas, and conference centers, and in particular, the role of local media--fully dependent of the success of the local region for its own success, being dependent on advertising revenues generated primarily from sales to local businesses--in cementing this agenda.

    If someone has keen observational and interpretative skills and delves into the academic literature, you can see how this works.  Of course, good writing on the local Growth Machine always helps.  In DC, the classic book that illustrates these theories, but was written by journalists likely unfamiliar with either, is Dream City: Race, Power and the Decline of Washington, DC, which covers the first two administrations of former Mayor, Marion Barry, and chapter 4, on land use and development, in particular.

    Not only does the media not report the back story, they're part of it

    One fault of journalism is that it is published every day and isn't focused on explanation of systems so much as it is reporting the facts of the latest events and exploits and ribbon cuttings.

    In any case, the real story is the Growth Machine/Urban Regime and how it operates.

    So articles about local corruption tend to miss the point because they look at is as one-off behavior for the most part (cf. Chicago and Illinois generally, Tammany Hall history, Robert Caro's book The Power Broker on Robert Moses, and the Starz network tv show, "The Boss"). 

    It's all about sustained efforts, operating over multi-decade time frames, and intimate interconnections between political and economic elites.  Although just like regime change in foreign countries (e.g., Libya, Tunisia, China, Egypt, Syria) there are winners and losers (e.g., "D.C. won't renew Chartered Health Plan contract" from the Post) when the leaders change, and a new crew comes in, even though the general "mode of cooperation" functions identically, just some of the positions have been moved around.

    Left: sign up sheet at the Walmart booth at the H Street Festival in September.

    I think that's why Walmart continues to do community organizing with regard to their entry into DC as their biggest supporters have left or are leaving the stage--Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr. is in jail, Council Chairman Kwame Brown has resigned, and Mayor Gray is under a cloud due to campaign finance violations and isn't likely to run again, even if no charges are filed against him--and they want to maintain their presence and visibility, even though for the most part, zoning regulations allow their entry without significant public involvement.

    The blog entry "The Missouri History Museum, Freeman Bosley, Jr. and the Broken Nature of Civic Leadership" from the NextSTL (St. Louis) blog discusses a series of articles in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on overly intimate financial dealings between local nonprofits and business and political leaders in need of various bailouts.  It's got outrage, but misses the deeper point.

    Although maybe 8 years ago or so, the Richmond Times-Dispatch did an amazing profile of Richmond's power structure and power brokers, with a spider map showing the various interconnections.  This was a surprise, because the Bryan family, owners of the paper, are a part of that structure.

    The Washington Post reports on the various corrupt and ethical failings of local politicians (the latest being "Report: Councilman Graham's actions contrary to Metro ethics rules" and the editorials "Jim Graham’s breach of duty" and "Jim Graham investigation to test the D.C. Council’s ethics stance " on Councilman Jim Graham's likely misuse of his dual position as DC City Councilmember and member of the board of the local transit authority and interference in contracts and deals involving parties with business before both) without ever disclosing its role as one of the initial organizers of what Clarence Stone would call the local governing coalition, the Federal City Council.

    But this is hardly new.  In San Diego, the local newspaper is now owned by a real estate developer.  The Los Angeles Times was owned by a key landowning family for decades.  DC's Examiner is owned by the same group that owns Anschutz Entertainment Group, a major player in arenas, concert promotion, and entertainment across the globe.  Gaylord Entertainment (the company that owns National Harbor and Grand Ole Opry, and is being acquired by Marriott) grew out of the Oklahoma City Daily Oklahoman newspaper.

    Although local alternative papers can be good sources of information on Growth Machine politics. The original Washington City Paper Loose Lips columnist (Ken Cummings) and the City Desk news pieces were legendary for providing deep back story on such issues.

    Without knowing the back story, too often you fly blind

    I'm not sure that knowing the theories helps advocates transform the system, but it does allow you to understand what's happening, and how and why, and it gives you some insights into how to shape the system to function better, in part by introducing citizens as a force for civic engagement, action, and ethics, and also by trying to improve the various processes of "the system."

    For example, my writings on community benefits-proffer processes make the point that without clear definition, likely deliberate, the process is designed more to limit the financial impact on developers, and less to monetize some of the economic value created by variances, density bonuses, and other special changes to planning, zoning, and building regulations that would otherwise limit the economic value of projects.  See "What community benefits are supposed to be versus what people think they are about."

    Similarly, many advocates don't understand that government employees aren't usually independent actors, but are very much constrained by their bosses, who ultimately, are the elected officials. 

    So it is essential to have checks and balances built into the system, in this case the right planning regulations in place, to provide residents with more control and ability to shape the built environment in their communities, be it having "big box" ordinances, a parks master plan, a robust transportation vision plan, neighborhood and sector planning processes that produce neighborhood and/or sector plans, planning and/or transportation commissions, robust capital improvement planning, etc.--none of which, by the way, are present in DC--although transportation and parks master plans are in the process of being developed.

    See "Lessons from Walmart's foray into Washington, DC" and "More on DC ethics and corruption: intrinsic vs. extrinsic behavior," among others

    From: "whj@..." <whj@...>
    To: columbia_heights@yahoogroups.com
    Sent: Saturday, November 3, 2012 11:52 AM
    Subject: Re: [columbia_heights] REMINDER: Neighborhood Meet and Greet with Commissioner Laina Aquiline
    Your comment is borderline nonsense, even a little cowardly.  It takes little courage to swat at a knat, while ignoring the elephant.
    -----Original Message-----
    From: "Richard Layman" <rlaymandc@...>
    Sent: Saturday, November 3, 2012 11:41am
    To: "columbia_heights@yahoogroups.com" <columbia_heights@yahoogroups.com>
    Subject: Re: [columbia_heights] REMINDER: Neighborhood Meet and Greet with Commissioner Laina Aquiline

    FWIW, the poster was right to make the point that official government email addresses aren't to be used for campaigning of any type, and that personal calls--chat lines or anything else--aren't to be made on government-owned and paid for phones.

    Bitch all you want about CM Graham, but if you don't treat any and all abuses of the use of government resources, you yourself contribute to the environment that supports corruption.

    The email was probably an innocent mistake.  Still, it needs to be called out, maybe not with the level of disgust evident in the email but whatever.  The phone use, month after month, clearly is an abuse.  Etc.

    Richard Layman


    From: "whj@..." <whj@...>
    To: columbia_heights@yahoogroups.com
    Sent: Saturday, November 3, 2012 9:29 AM
    Subject: Re: [columbia_heights] REMINDER: Neighborhood Meet and Greet with Commissioner Laina Aquiline

    Laina has been a good commissioner and I support her.   Yes, ANC Commissioners can and do raise money usually for signs, flyers and mailings.  Yes, they have to file a report.
    Do you really thing it a coincidence that the Lenwood Johnson story comes out in the post now, just before the election?  While, there is no excuse for that level of personal usage of the ANC phone, politics is politics even at the ANC level.
    I don't know the entire lay of the land this year with all the redistricting, but in our Ward its not unusual for CM Graham to use his staff, campaign funds and office to support one candidate against another.  Use political favors, offers of jobs and earmarks to control and weaken ANCs and commissioners in the Ward.  As controlling the ABC Licensing process and/or permitting an zoning input is key for is pay-to-play machine worth millions.  Actually, the same applies to the relation between the CM andcontrol of neighborhood groups and associations.  In fact, what do you think for example one of the things Donatelli Development is buy when they give CM Graham 10's thousands of dollars?  CM Graham's influence over the ANCs and Neighborhood Associations.
    As long as most of money is coming from constituents fundraising is necessary to ensure an independent commissioner and commission.
    -----Original Message-----
    From: "small axe" <smallaxe36@...>
    Sent: Saturday, November 3, 2012 1:23am
    To: columbia_heights@yahoogroups.com
    Subject: Re: [columbia_heights] REMINDER: Neighborhood Meet and Greet with Commissioner Laina Aquiline

    Is this how it is done? Fund raising on dc.gov email. 25 bucks a head for an anc rep? Representative democracy for a price.
    Anyone read about Lenwood Johnson and his ANC paid for cell phone? Does money raised for an anc race have to be reported?

    --- On Fri, 11/2/12, Aquiline, Laina (ANC 1A05) <1a05@...> wrote:

    From: Aquiline, Laina (ANC 1A05) <1a05@...>
    Subject: [columbia_heights] REMINDER: Neighborhood Meet and Greet with Commissioner Laina Aquiline
    To: "columbia_heights@yahoogroups.com" <columbia_heights@yahoogroups.com>
    Date: Friday, November 2, 2012, 3:17 PM

    A reminder for Sat. evening's neighborhood meet & greet in Columbia Heights, 7-10pm. Please come out!  It's going to be a fun night in a fabulous house.  See the invitation below and RSVP.

    ---------- Forwarded message ----------
    From: Bradley Van Waus <bvanwaus@...>
    Date: Tue, Oct 30, 2012 at 9:20 PM
    Subject: Neighborhood Meet and Greet with Commissioner Laina Aquiline
    To: Bradley Van Waus <bvanwaus@...>

    Please join us for a

    Neighborhood Meet and Greet in support of

    Laina Aquiline's re-election campaign for

    Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner (1A04)
    Sat. Nov 3, 7-10pm
    Hosted by
    Sam Huang & Bradley Van Waus
    3427 Holmead Place NW
    Come enjoy a lovely "post Hurricane Sandy" evening, meet more of your neighbors, and our next commissioner.
    RSVP to Sam <samson.huang@...> or Bradley bvanwaus@... by Friday, November 2.

    Requested contribution of $25 (max.) per person. If you have already made a $25 contribution, there is no need to make another one.
    You do not have to be a constituent of Laina's or even a DC voter.
    You can contribute in advance via PayPal by clicking here, check made payable to:

    Friends of Laina
    1338 Meridian Place NW
    Washington DC 20010
    Or at the door.
    All are welcome!

    See the new ANC 1A map.
    Find your ANC via DC Citizen Atlas.
    "Like" Laina's page on Facebook or visit her website.
    Grade.DC.gov has expanded!
    Now you can grade the DC Public Library, Police, Fire and EMS, the Office of Unified Communications (311/911) and the Office on Aging.
    Check out www.grade.dc.gov today.

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