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Posted at 1:30 PM ET, 06/ 9/2010

'Streetcars vs. homeless' is a false dilemma

By Dan Malouff

Yesterday in this space, Tom Howarth said that streetcars are a luxury and that the city should focus its spending on social services, especially for the homeless.

Like we did during the Marion Barry administration. Those were glory years for the city's poor, right?

Maybe we should scrap WMATA and spend that money on social services, too.

Howarth doesn't seem to understand that infrastructure investments are economic development tools. Streetcars will lead to more jobs in the District, and more housing.

They will help struggling neighborhoods become healthy. They will increase the city's tax base, which will help secure the long-term financial viability of the social services that are so important. Healthier neighborhoods will mean fewer people need those services, and a larger tax base will mean we have more money to fund them for those who do remain in need.

The District has a better economy today, lower crime and fewer residents in need of social services than it did during the Barry administration precisely because leaders since Barry have invested in the city's economy in a way that helped to solve the long-term problem.

Spending on social services is important, but doing so attacks a symptom of the problem, not its root cause. The root cause is lack of economic opportunities, and the solution is economic development. Streetcars are an economic development machine.

It would be foolish to return to the failed Barry model of short-term thinking. We have to spend money to make money, and streetcars are one of the best ways the District can make money in the long term.

Dan Malouff is an Arlington County transportation planner who blogs independently at The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.

By Dan Malouff  | June 9, 2010; 1:30 PM ET
Categories:  D.C., HotTopic, Local blog network, transportation  
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How a load of bullcrap. The homeless need funding NOW, not several years in the future when streetcars might bring more white yuppies to some blighted neighborhoods, where they'll force the poor out. And the baseball stadium was a complete failure at helping development in that area.

The comparisons to the Barry administration are completely bogus. Nobody who opposes wasting taxpayer money on the yuppies' latest toy wants to return to Barry's corruption and patronage. We just think that streetcars should not be funded on the backs of the poor and homeless. The yuppies will be worse for the District than Marion Barry himself, which is quite the accomplishment.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | June 11, 2010 10:00 AM | Report abuse

Hear, hear, Mr. Malouff.

Investment in infrastructure is a critical need, now. Ths District is weathering the current economic storm better than most, which makes this an ideal time to lay the foundations for long-term economic health.

Former Mayor Barry is practically an entire Greek tragedy all by himself. I do find the analogy appropriate because his model of economic development was to pump more money into the DC government payrolls, which has the added benefit of buying off potential rivals. Investment in infrastructre will pay real dividends far into the future.

Posted by: krickey7 | June 11, 2010 10:39 AM | Report abuse

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