08 May 2007

Marc Fisher Blinks (Ain't It Grand?)

This is post number one-thousand according to the little Google toolbar at the DCenters. Rather than engage in a self-congratulatory post like I would typically want to indulge in, I would like to think that through some form of literary alchemy I could consolidate all those words that have come before and focus them on the intended objective: The Case Against Marc Fisher. It's won't happen. Arguments and language do not boil away in a crucible of editorial economy leaving only the quintessence of truth. But it is a nice dream.

To recap, we have been advancing the argument that Marc Fisher was premature in his opposition to the Poplar Point stadium deal. Last week we noted a disturbing trend in Fisher's writing, simply put that Marc Fisher had embraced narrative over reality. It is fortunate that he held a chat with readers the same day.

I draw your attention to Mr. Fisher's May 3rd chat at WaPo.com, because I think our suspicions were at least somewhat bolstered. Specifically, I draw your attention to this exchange:

The Nest: Marc, interesting article this morning. One question: If Poplar Point is turned into a parkland, how do you think the economic prospects of Ward 8 residents would be improved?

washingtonpost.com: To See the Truth at Poplar Point, Don't Just Follow the Money ( Post, May 3)

Marc Fisher: Poplar Point is already part of a national park. You could build a stadium in it and use receipts from the stadium to rehab the park, but there's really no need to use the parkland for anything but a park: There's plenty of undeveloped land just outside the park that's perfect for a soccer stadium and for the attendant economic development--residential, retail and office--that any publicly-supported stadium should spin off to be worth the investment.

Is there anything that strikes you as interesting about that answer? I'll tell you what struck me: He never answered the question. He couldn't answer the question. The fact is, Poplar Point as parkland does little to help the residents of Ward 8 with jobs and opportunity. So rather than directly accept that fact and answer a simple question, he diverts the answer into "there's other places a stadium could go." I don't think that was even being argued, but stating such a fact would harm his self-perception. He must be the champion of the little guy against the Powers That Be, and the idea that he could actually be harming those he purports to advocate for can not be entertained. Better to avoid the argument entirely.

Now, just for the record, I don't believe in some strange perverted concept of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs in which people don't get parks until they get jobs. We all need places to work, and we all need places to play, and we all need placed to relax. But it's the dogmatic insistence of Fisher that Poplar Point should not be stadium that I find upsetting. His mind is closed, and can not conceive of reasonable arguments that he could be wrong.

I also call to your attention this article from San Francisco. One of the consistent points in stadium plans has always been the development of youth soccer fields in coordination with mixed residential and retail development. I find this section particularly intriguing:

'There's just not a shred of evidence that professional sports do anything for the local economy, while ironically, things like youth soccer and softball do generate benefits,' said Brad Humphreys, a University of Illinois professor who is an expert on the economics of sports.
The DC United stadium deal seems like an excellent way to combine the best of both worlds, facilitating youth sports and a professional team. The case can certainly be made. But, of course, we need details beyond the PDFs we have seen. What is agreed to be built? What will the city pay for? What will McFarlane and his partners pay for? Still, the case can be made, and made on factual and reasonable grounds.

Mr. Fisher, who candidly admits in the chat that he "has no use for soccer" says he is open to other development ideas. It's just that his mind has closed like a prison door to the idea of Poplar Point. Mr. Fisher says, "I think a soccer stadium can be a good economic development tool--if it's paid for by the team owner and if it's located in a place where it is likely to spin off other development." Isn't that precisely what is being proposed? But for whatever reason, this flavor of the soccer stadium is not palatable. The stadium may be paid for by the owner (we'd like to see the details on that), and by twinning this development to the Nats stadium, there is hope for considerable spin off of other development in addition to the retail/housing development planned simply as part of Poplar Point. But Mr. Fisher has found a reason to oppose what he says he would support, and I am sure that he could find reasons in other locales as well.

What worries me, and has always worried me, is that someday I could find myself on his side of the argument. When the details of the Poplar Point Stadium and Development plans emerge, I could see a coherent argument being made that an alternative should be sought if the plan is a simple political sweetheart deal. I might find myself shoulder-to-shoulder with Mr. Fisher someday. Even then I'd be uncomfortable, because I know that at least someone whose stated point of view was simply a demagogue and not a reasoning entity.

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At 08 May, 2007 15:00, Blogger Matt W said...

Fisher is talking out of his ass. The only way to get a footprint big enough for a soccer stadium and support stuff in an already-developed area would be through eminent domain. I mean, you can't build around holdouts, and you would always have holdouts with small parcel holders. I'm gonna guess using eminent domain would be even less popular in the community and among demagogues like Fisher.

So the options are pretty few here. Either build outside of town (a la Frisco, Commerce City, Carson), build on some big empty retired industrial/commercial area (a la Harrison and that town where the Far play) or use public land somehow (a la the plans for Poplar Point).

Another point Fisher doesn't want to address is that a park and stadium and assorted goodies aren't necessarily incompatible. The devil is always in the details, but if I were a Ward 8 activist, I would want to ensure that along with the stadium and hotel and office and retail space and youth soccer fields and affordable housing that's already planned, that there also be some room for teeter-totters and swings (and not just for the Barra tailgaters), and that the retail is largely community-oriented rather than just soccer fan-oriented (though I do hope to see a dedicated DCU retail store for all my scarf-buying needs).

Okay, this is getting long-winded. I think the opposition to the stadium, what there is of it anyway, largely comes from either antipathy to the game of soccer or to anti-gentrification sentiment. And that's probably worth a closer look at. We see development east-of-the-river as a positive. There are likely some community people (like the DCBCI) who hear the word "development" and think of Shaw or Trinidad: people of one class and/or color moving in, and people of another class and/or color moving out.

At 09 May, 2007 11:17, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fisher's article was strewn with mistakes and twisting's of the facts. Take Tim Kissler whom was quoted in the piece as a former DC United owner and now and potential developer of Poplar Point unassociated with the team. He was quoted as having been for the stadium when the owner of DC and now seeing the light and wants supermarkets (reality check... HE NEVER REALLY OWNED THE CLUB! so that being said his stance on the matter is void, yet Marc Fisher doesn't ever recognize that of course, because he's got to get his point across and have backing for his position on the matter. It's hilarious actually... let's just simplify this: Kissler had a financial interest in a stadium being built on Poplar Point. He was obviously for the stadium. Now he no longer has a financial interest in the stadium, so now he no longer wants a stadium built on the Point. It's as simple as THAT. IT'S ALL ABOUT MONEY! Now how can Marc Fisher in good concience spin Tim Kissler's quotes in this piece as being enviromentally related. It's just in my opinion: bad taste.


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