Potomac Chronicle

Washington, D.C.’s Monumental Decay

You don’t need to convince the citizens of the nation’s capital  that we are in an infrastructure crisis. They see it all around them and experience it in their daily lives.

The biggest single reminder is the U.S. Capitol, which can be seen throughout the district. It’s shrouded in scaffolding as construction is underway to repair more than 1,000 cracks and deficiencies in the cast-iron dome, originally built more than 150 years ago. It’s the first time in 56 years the structure has been redone, and the job will cost a projected $60 million. READ MORE

College Debt and the People Presidential Candidates Have to Win Over Most

Stan Greenberg, the veteran Democratic pollster, believes he’s found a wedge. Capturing three key groups, he argues, could help Democrats win the White House and regain the Senate. They need, he says, white unmarried women, white women without college degrees and millennials. To win the support of all three, Greenberg recommends Democrats focus on making college more affordable and helping families get rid of college debt. 

Bernie Sanders campaigned hard on these themes in the early stages of his presidential bid, and they paid off handsomely for him. In Iowa, his promise of free college education helped him win 84 percent of the millennial vote, compared with 14 percent for Hillary Clinton. The gambit was especially important because many of the millennials who helped put Barack Obama into the White House had been drifting toward the Republicans. Not to be left on the sidelines, Clinton announced her own higher education plan. Both are working hard to capture this big middle-class issue. READ MORE

Confronting Climate Change’s Biggest Deniers

Almost 25 years ago, when our son was 12, he played soccer for a travel sports team whose games took the players and their families all over the D.C. metropolitan area. It was a big commitment of time, with games every weekend and endless hours in a minivan. But it was fun to watch the Falcons progress, and it was a bonding experience for many of the families. Friendships were formed and idiosyncrasies revealed.

One of the Falcon dads was Lamar Smith, a young congressman from Texas in his third term. Smith and his wife attended games regularly. They were well known and popular. So when, out of the blue, we learned that she had suddenly died -- at a young age -- we were stunned. As more information emerged, however, some of the parents became angry. READ MORE

Private-Market Misfires and Misconceptions

It’s no secret that Americans like private markets better than they like government. In a 2014 Pew Research Center poll, 70 percent of Americans said they believed they were better off in a free market system. Only in South Korea and Germany do citizens like markets more.

From environmental policy to health care, this basic finding has framed the critical decisions of government in recent years. If we want to take on a new policy challenge, citizens and policy experts seem to agree, it’s better to trust the states than Washington. And the states should do as much as possible through private markets.   READ MORE

Detroit and New Orleans Have More in Common Than Most Think

It came as a surprise to me, but Detroit and New Orleans are similar in some interesting ways. Both were founded by French settlers in the early 18th century. On the site of modern-day Detroit, explorer Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac in 1701 established Fort Ponchartrain, named for the secretary of the French navy; a decade later, Cadillac decamped south to become governor of Louisiana, where the large lake on New Orleans’ north side was also named for Ponchartrain.

Both are port cities, though the combined ports of New Orleans and South Louisiana form one of the largest port systems in the world, dwarfing Detroit’s. They both identify strongly with their musical history -- jazz and blues in one case, and Motown in the other. And both have experienced catastrophic disasters -- one natural, the other economic. Now they have something else in common: Their prospects for survival can teach us about the resiliency of cities elsewhere. READ MORE