Letter to the editor, The Washington Times, 12/6/00
Mayor's erratic decisions threaten D.C. business ranking
Washington's two major newspapers reported recently that the region ranks fourth in the nation on Fortune magazine's list of the best cities for business. This ascent for the region in such a business publication is noteworthy. However, before Washington residents genuflect to their mayor and declare him and his staffers the impetus for business development initiatives that will have high-tech companies setting up shop in the District, we need to take a long look at this administration's recent anti-business actions.
Although the city government has embarked on meaningful programs to bring high-technology firms to the District, the case of American Tower and the halting of construction of a communications tower on the spot known as "broadcast hill" in the Tenleytown area could make businesses think twice before moving here. A company that is a source for high technology, American Tower, has filed a lawsuit against Mayor Anthony A. Williams and the city government because the mayor revoked a valid permit the company held to build a transmission tower on broadcast hill. The case evokes memories of times when the District government was the laughingstock of the nation. Although American Tower complied with every law and requirement in obtaining approval for the tower and the District of Columbia agencies responsible for such regulations approved its construction twice, the mayor's politically based obstruction of the project provided a warning sign to any company that seeks a predictable business environment in which to operate.
Can a jurisdiction that has always been behind in the rudiments of information technology compete with other jurisdictions with one hand tied behind its back? District government officials are making a concentrated effort to compete with the Virginia and Maryland suburbs to attract more of the high-technology companies that have transformed the region's economy. D.C. Council member David Catania is leading the effort, saying that high technology will be the foundation of the District's economy in this century. But he and other council members need to look to the mayor and ask him to reverse his anti-business actions or the city will not be prepared to participate on a par with suburban governments in the region's wealth. The city is willing to provide myriad incentives for new high-tech companies to come to Washington, but before residents can get new jobs and higher incomes from the emerging information-technology industry, we have to stop the mayor from making such impulsive and arbitrary decisions.
While city officials and Mayor Williams applaud each other and place advertisements in Forbes and Fortune magazines indicating that they head a city that is a good place to do business, they should keep in mind that astute business leaders may be able to see beyond the fig leaf.
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