Weekend Reading

The least surprising headline in yesterday's Washington Post was bannered across the top of the front page: "At Nationals Park, District of Dreams ...
by | April 13, 2009 AT 3:00 AM

Nationals Park The least surprising headline in yesterday's Washington Post was bannered across the top of the front page: "At Nationals Park, District of Dreams Hits a Slump." The story was about how the city's new ballpark has failed, as the team begins its second season there, to revitalize the surrounding area.

"People's expectations got out ahead of the reality," said Steve Cohen, vice president of real estate for developer Opus East, which has built two office buildings in the area. "We're in a down cycle. People are going to stay on the sidelines for a while."

I don't know how many times we've written in this magazine that stadiums are oversold as economic development engines. The area around Nationals Park will doubtless look more vibrant five years from now than it did five years ago, but that would be true of any neighborhood where the city ponied up $700 million for a project.

The Post yesterday also ran a story about the dropped charges against former U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens. The article examined whether the prosecutorial bungling in the case, coupled with the recent acquittal of former Puerto Rican Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vilá, was evidence that the Justice Department's Public Integrity section is off the rails:

Former prosecutors, defense lawyers and onetime Justice Department officials also described more chronic liabilities in the department's Public Integrity Section: Once the "A Team" for fighting corruption in state legislatures, judges' chambers and Congress, the unit in recent years lost staffing, strong supervision, some of its varnish and its insulation from politics.

The question of politicization of prosecutions of public officials is always worth mulling and it's clear that Public Integrity has wanted for stable leadership in recent years. But the story is not at all convincing that the section has broader problems than a high-profile case that was bungled due to a compressed timeframe and a late switch in lawyers.

In the wake of the recent congressional expansion of the federal National Service program, The Economist looks at whether voluntarism is on the rise. The story notes that it's not all recent college grads teaching for a couple of years and laid-off lawyers doing pro bono work in lieu of anything else, but the much-anticipated increase in volunteer activity among retiring Boomers.

The British magazine also has a good piece putting March's cop killings in Oakland in context of the city's broader problems with murder, as well as summaries of the week in gay marriage, the difficulty of constructing high-speed rail and reflection on how the murder spree at Virginia Tech led to no change at all.

Alan Greenblatt | Senior Staff Writer | agreenblatt@governing.com