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Costly blunder
(Published October 9, 2000)

It is sadly laughable that Mayor Anthony A. Williams chose to laud Ward 3 residents "for coming together as a community to support the best interests of their neighborhood" to fight the Tenleytown telecommunications tower’s construction.

After all, it appears in this case that it was a matter of the Williams administration failing miserably to involve the neighborhood in the planning process over the course of more than a year that actually created the neighborhood problem.

So much for the administration’s devotion to its own "Neighborhood Action" initiative, launched last November.

If the administration had followed the proper legal procedures, Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners and the public at large would have been notified of American Tower Systems’ proposal to plunk down a huge 756-foot tower right next to the sidewalk at 41st and Brandywine NW.

City officials now admit they erred and will revoke approval of the project.

But the matter doesn’t end there. American Tower Systems already has invested substantially in the project and says the government will owe them millions of dollars if the tower must be scrapped.

Naturally, we assume that city officials want to mitigate the costs of their mistake.

On the other hand, we are disturbed by public statements that sound like the Williams administration may be trying to sweep this whole matter under the rug — or may simply be too disorganized (still, after nearly two years on the job) to quickly figure out what happened.

Why doesn’t anybody seem to know who’s responsible for the errors? Isn’t that part of the reason officials have to literally sign off — with their initials or signatures — on these projects? Are the city employees who made these costly errors still on the job? Are they continuing to ignore proper procedures? Do they have an explanation for how this could have happened?

The initial public response by city officials has given no indication that steps are being taken to ensure that similar problems do not recur.

Need we remind the mayor that a blundering government is what city voters elected him to replace?

Copyright © 2000 The Common Denominator