Quarter Pentagon debate: Engaged civic blogging in action, with detailed questions for pols

Update: Jim Moran has since told me there was no quid pro quo, that the Indiana real estate developer's contributions were part of an arrangement by which the developer contributed to many people at once, apparently with an unrelated issue in mind. I appreciated the Moran response and will let readers judge for themselves.

image I’m rooting for the TBD hyperlocal site to succeed here in the D.C. area. But can blogs can fill as big a gap in civic coverage as the site’s boosters believe? I’m still skeptical despite TBD’s efforts in this regard. Local sports news and reviews of restaurants can’t substitute for genuine public affairs reporting and commentary. If, however, TBD wants to see engaged civic bloggers in action, here’s a great example—the Lincolnia Hills & Heywood Glen blog serving the Alexandria-Fairfax County area that will suffer from traffic jams and other collateral damage to civilians from the Quarter Pentagon, AKA BRAC-133. For those following the Quarter Pentagon debate, an item of special interest is Alexandrians Continue to Question Elected Officials on BRAC-133, where, directly and through links, the blog serves up correspondence between LH/HG resident Diane Costello and (1)  Virginia Sen. Jim Warner and (2) Eighth District Representative Jim Moran. The same blog item also links to my Quarter Pentagon post. Ms. Costello among other things raises questions about a legislative change which expanded the area where the Quarter Pentagon or equivalents might go. Example of Ms. Costello’s questions quoted in the LH/HG blog: “Why didn’t Congress restrict the language of option #3 by defining 'vicinity’ from Fort Belvoir and most importantly, insisting that the property be 'within one mile of a Metro,' consistent with the original solicitation of the Army itself?" She also wants to know why the Army’s September 2011 deadline for a move of people is “written in stone” but “the location is obviously not”—no miniscule detail, when you consider that the military rejected a warehouse site near the Metro because it wouldn’t be ready in time. For this we have to pay for decades of traffic congestion? Just as I pointed Jim Moran’s office to my Quarter Pentagon post to give him the opportunity of a detailed reply, I’ll also alert the office about the current one, and ideally Rep. Moran’s response can address the latest questions that Ms. Costello is asking. Also of interest: BRAC-133 resources from the Web site of the Seminary Hills Assocation, which, like LH/HG, worries about BRAC-133’s traffic horrors. Presenting different sides of the debate, the site includes a Word file of a letter from Dave Dexter, chairman of the BRAC-133 advisory group, where he defends Jim Moran’s plan to limit parking at the BRAC-133 site to reduce the flow of traffic. Also present is a letter from Jim Moran complaining harshly of Duke Realty’s proposed traffic remedies. Whatever the truth is here—I don’t know—I’d still love to find out why Duke Realty’s Indiana-based CEO Dennis D. ("Denny") Oklak gave $2,300 to Moran's campaign. To try to soften him up (very unsuccessfully, if you go by Moran’s public statements)? Or are there other explanations? No matter what happened, it’s high time for a toughening of laws regulating contributions by federal contractors like Duke and its competitors. We urgently need strong legislation to cover corporate employees, not just independent business people. Update, 11:40 p.m.: I should have mentioned the persistent efforts of a West Side Alexandria activist named Don Buch. An LH/HG interview with him suggests that serious questions exist not only about the appropriateness of the Quarter Pentagon's location, but also about other matters such as the actions of Alexandria officials. If more alert, could they have kept the Quarter Pentagon out of the congested, subwayless Mark Center area? On another matter, I find it interesting that in a recent lawsuit, many of the documents related to site selection were sealed by a judge at the Army’s request. Might that make it harder to determine if the military was improperly swayed by outside forces—either corporate or from Capitol Hill?

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David Rothman

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