Councilmember Harry Thomas will introduce legislation today to overhaul the way the District privatizes its land - part of the debris left from the big bang of September's botched West End redevelopment plan. The official nyet to the District's sale of three parcels of land to Eastbanc Inc., came from the council during a public hearing in early October; now crusading residents, appetites whetted, are pursuing the issue of public land disposition on the whole. Councilmember Carol Schwartz made an attempt in mid-November to garner public interest in the issue by holding a roundtable to flesh out ideas about changing the land disposition process. Now, bringing action to the rhetoric, Councilmember Thomas will present a protection bill for public property to drive the nail further into the coffin of public-private partnerships.
Councilmember Thomas' bill resulted from a draft created by the People's Property Campaign (PPC), a resident-led division of Empower DC. PPC's vanguard effort to compose legislation materialized with the help of myriad supporters: Tenley ANC 3E Special Committee, Save Our Schools, Dupont Circle Citizens Association, Foggy Bottom Association and Benning Library Dynamo to name a few.
The bill lays out prerequisites for public land disposition; "The People's Property Bill would require, before disposing of any public property, a detailed explanation of why it has no other viable public use," according to the Library Renaissance Project - an active member in the campaign to retain property in public hands. In addition, the bill calls for a comprehensive inventory of public properties, a community development plan and a master facilities plan.
"Public property has found its protector. With an open door, an open mind, and decisive action - [Councilmember] Thomas is setting a new standard for responsiveness," said Robin Diener, Director of the Library Renaissance Project.