- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 29, 2007

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

News out of City Hall is that officials are considering spending $500,000 to build a day-labor site adjacent to the city’s largest home-improvement retailer, Home Depot, in Northeast. The lawmaker at the forefront of the proposal, Harry Thomas Jr., tells us that’s not the case at all. Mr. Thomas, a Democrat, says he wants a labor site to connect “neighborhood residents” to jobs. His intentions are noble on one hand but suspect on the other.

Mr. Thomas says he is “thinking outside the box” when it comes to expanding employment opportunities for the city’s unemployed and hard-to-employ residents. He wants these unskilled residents to be positioned to avail themselves of job opportunities as the city sets its sight on $10 billion to $20 billion worth of construction projects. He also points out that the overwhelming majority of people who work in D.C. don’t live in D.C. and that the city needs to bolster its tax rolls with people who live and work here.

On the facts we concur. But here’s where we part with Mr. Thomas and his plan: When he says, “We don’t have a management system to pick up persons in search of work.”

No, “we” don’t; and “we” shouldn’t. Job placement is not a function of government, and expecting any municipal government to efficiently develop and manage such a system is wishful thinking.

Mr. Thomas is considering a public-private partnership that he thinks will transform what already has become a magnet for illegal aliens and other lawbreakers into a labor center. But he and like-minded legislators need to think again.

Supply-and-demand factors have turned the Rhode Island Plaza shopping center in Brentwood, where Home Depot is a major tenant, into a drive-by employment site — with “do-it-yourselfers” and private contractors alike practicing their own brand of don’t ask, don’t tell. It’s a perfect setting for black-market labor.

It’s also a perfect setting for loitering and trespassing, public urination and drinking, haranguing and other crimes — including violence, like the melee that broke out Sept. 13 among several Hispanics and other loiterers, drawing the ire of nearby homeowners and businesses. (And rightly so.)

For City Hall, this particular dilemma doesn’t call for rocket science. All the city has to do is enforce the laws on the books and fix the schools so that D.C. residents — not illegal and unruly aliens — get the upper hand on jobs.

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