Thursday, December 16, 2004

Linda W. Cropp, the newly fashioned woman of the people, is drawing kudos from certain corners of the city, which is understandable.

The fat cats of Major League Baseball are convenient targets.

Yet if we are to accept the word of Cropp and her merry band of populists, we are left to wonder about their lack of regard for the little people who work in the Skyland Shopping Center along Alabama Avenue and Good Hope and Naylor roads in Southeast.

These are the small business owners who have been engaged in a long-running battle with the visionaries of the D.C. Council. The fight is a simple one. The city wants to raze the 60-year-old shopping center by exercising a legally contentious definition of eminent domain, turn the land over to a developer for chump change and then secure a big-box retailer, such as Target, with a “sweetheart package.”

Does any of this maneuvering sound familiar?

For all the embracing of the little people during the baseball fiasco, Cropp and her merry band of populists have been endeavoring to crush the hopes and dreams of the little people who labor on a 161/2-acre asphalt tract east of the Anacostia River. Jim Graham’s is the only voice on the D.C. Council to question the appropriateness of taking people’s private property at below-market prices, shuttering viable businesses and handing the site over to another private entity.

Odder still with Skyland, no national retailer has been clamoring to plop down a big box on the site, despite the pleading of city officials who make the pilgrimage to the big-box convention in Las Vegas each spring.

So here we have Cropp and her merry band of populists standing up to baseball after the city has been awarded a franchise, and here we have Cropp and her merry band of populists attempting to put tax-paying proprietors out of business in the hope that one day a national retailer will succumb to their appeal after being awarded considerable tax and rent concessions.

These mutually incompatible positions are not hard to grasp.

The issue of Skyland is hardly as sexy as going against the baseball owners. You won’t find yourself on the front page of the newspapers because of it. You won’t find yourself being the lead item on local broadcasts. Not one person in the local media is apt to sing your praises.

With Skyland, it is merely about doing what is right, about following the Fifth Amendment, about meeting the role of public servant and not expecting any headlines or celebrations at the end of the workday. It is about doing right for right’s sakes.

All we are saying to Cropp and her merry band of populists, is be consistent.

Skyland’s multi-hued merchants are being squeezed by a tax-and-spend political hierarchy that claims to have a sudden soft spot in its heart for the little people of the city.

If so, the little people on both sides of the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge need the legislative help of Cropp and her merry band of populists.

Even with baseball being the lead item on the D.C. Council docket until Dec.31, it should not be too arduous to draft a measure that requires the un-American National Capital Revitalization Corporation to butt out of a fully leased private enterprise.

Otherwise, the whiff of self-serving hypocrisy is overpowering.

Cropp and her merry band of populists have a obligation to fulfill with the little people of Skyland, many of whom face economic ruin if their businesses are taken from them. They have an obligation to listen to their concerns, address their needs and not allow them to twist in the wind any longer.

They should see the two-facedness of telling baseball to take it or leave it under the guise of the little people but, while no one is looking, steamrolling the little people of Skyland in order to provide financial enhancers to a national retailer.

That is not the work of a populist. That is just another politician motivated by self-interests.

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