[Cleaning out the link backlog from the past couple months. Here are a couple interesting links brought to you by our overlords in Washington, DC.]
BANANA REPUBLIC: IT’S NOT JUST A STORE, IT’S A WAY OF LIFE: The longer I live in DC, the more I realize it is just like Detroit, except we have the ability to force everybody else in the country to buy our exports which makes the entire DC area richer than holy hell. In the ongoing Walmart saga, DC’s own Kwame Kilpatrick, Mayor Vincent Gray, is gettin all bribe-y on us:
D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray delivered an ultimatum in a face-to-face meeting with Wal-Mart officials at a real estate convention here Monday: If the chain wants to enter the District at all, it had better commit to opening at Skyland Shopping Center, the long-delayed redevelopment project in Gray’s home ward that he considers the most important development project in the city…
“They’re interested in developing four stores,” the mayor said in an interview after the meeting. “All of us said, ‘What about a fifth store?’ They hemmed and hawed, and it ultimately came down to — you have a choice. You can do five stores or you can do no stores.”
Half of me wants Walmart just to publicly say “screw it, we’re going somewhere else.” But the District could use this type of retailer. Instead, this happened:
Wal-Mart and its charitable foundation are giving $25 million to support summer programs for youths across the country, including $665,000 in grants for school nutrition, jobs and learning programs in the District.
Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) is expected to announce the local funding Thursday morning in a news conference at a Columbia Heights recreation center.
Which…good for Walmart. And the District. Really. But the manner in which this is going down has to make you a little uneasy. I’m sure Grey won’t be having a news conference to announce all the jobs and money that don’t materialize in DC because various businesses say, “screw it, it’s not worth our time or effort.”
The other hot item was a request from Chipotle for a special exemption to open a location on the 400 block of 8th Street SE. There is currently a ban on new fast food restaurants in the area, although exemptions have been granted in other areas. The big issue raised was that fast food restaurants are a large contributor to the abundance of trash on that block of Barracks Row. In addition, the existing national chains have rarely contributed to neighborhood events, joined neighborhood business associations, and have been fairly unresponsive to requests to help improve trash and loitering issues on the block. The ANC asked that Chipotle would work with neighborhood groups such as Barracks Row Main Street, and asked how they would address recent criticism about their hiring processes. Deliveries and trash pickup, which need to come through the front of the restaurant, was another concern, which representatives from the chain promised to work with the neighborhood to ensure that the hours would be best in line to address neighborhood concerns.
The commission determined that there was not enough time to thoroughly discuss the concerns with Chipotle, so the decision will be held until July. In the meantime, the ANC and neighbors will meet with representatives from the restaurant to see what agreements can be reached and to allow the restaurant to work on bringing a case for why they should be granted an exemption.
I have so many questions here. How does a fast food restaurant “contribute to the abundance of trash”? Do you mean the restaurant dumps trash in the street? Do the employees throw garbage on the sidewalk? Or do you mean that some of the patrons of fast food restaurants are slobs, and therefore, we’re going to take it out on Chipolte? And what on earth does “fairly unresponsive to requests to help improve trash and loitering issues on the block” mean? Do you want them to engage in community trash pickups? Should the guys filling burritos at Chipolte be obligated to go outside and clean up the street for one hour a day? And how would you like Chipolte to help out with “loitering’ issues. Yell at people standing outside the store? What does this even mean?
Of course, I know exactly what this means, and you might as well. Grosse Pointe has a ban on fast food restaurants as well, and I suspect both bans are in place for similar reasons.
Anyway, the last sentence is just perfect. You want to sell burritos to people who want to eat burritos? You better be prepared to "bring a case.” Ahhh, freedom!
TAKE IT EASY, RAY. WHY DON’T YOU STOP TALKING FOR A WHILE: On a list of my least favorite government figures – a very, very long list – Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood comes in near the very top. This guy just does not shut the hell up about anything. And apparently, he and one of his minions are “challenging” everybody:
The government's top safety regulator warned that he will challenge unsafe infotainment technologies that try to convert automobiles into smartphones on wheels.
"I'm just putting everyone on notice. A car is not a mobile device," David Strickland, administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, told about 200 people at the Telematics Detroit 2011 conference in Novi. "I'm not in the business of helping people tweet better. I'm not in the business of helping people post on Facebook better."
Strickland and his boss, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, have challenged automakers, suppliers, wireless providers and software developers that minimizing driver distraction must be a priority as drivers are offered more information services in their vehicles.
This article is one of those regulator-meets-crappy-journalist to produce some half-assed case for why we need to be protected. The next paragraph notes that “33,000 people died in traffic accidents in the U.S. And 995 of those fatal accidents involved someone using a cell phone while driving.”
For starters, nobody in the damn article even mentions “cell phones.” The concern is apparently over “unsafe infotainment technologies,” although the author fails to actually define that phrase anywhere in the piece.
But more importantly, simply Googling the NHTSA’s own crash statistics reveals that this fatality number is the lowest it has been in seventeen years. So as our cars have become more like smartphones, and more cars have popped up on our roads, the fatality rate in auto accidents has been falling. Fatalities per 100 million miles traveled have dropped from 1.73 in 1994 to 1.13 in 2009. Fatalities per 100,000 population have dropped from 15.64 to 11.01.
I’m sure there’s a fantastic reason why this Freep reporter seemingly failed to Google anything of relevance in this article. But I’m not holding my breath to find out.
DON’T BITE THE HIPSTER HANDS THAT FEED YOU: These regulators better be careful. You can beat up on Exxonmobil and Boeing and Walmart, because those companies suck. But once you start messing with PBR, you’re going to have some angry hipsters on your hands:
Two advertising executives on Wednesday reached a settlement with securities regulators over a Web site that purported to raise $300 million via ”crowdsourcing” on Facebook and Twitter to buy Pabst Brewing Co., the maker of Pabst Blue Ribbon, Lone Star, Colt 45 and other beers.
The Securities and Exchange Commission said Michael Migliozzi II and Brian William Flatow agreed to a cease-and-desist order after they allegedly failed to register their offering before seeking to sell shares to the public. They did so without admitting or denying wrongdoing.
Another fun fact: According to DC Law, PBR is the only non-craft brew allowed to be sold on H St. NE. I have no idea if that’s true, but it might as well be.