Obama administration rebuffs D.C.’s efforts to bring back the Redskins

Obama administration rebuffs D.C.’s efforts to bring back the Redskins

By Jonathan O’Connell, Washington Post, July 1 at 11:20 AM

Efforts to lure the Washington Redskins back to the District have come up against a potentially insurmountable challenge: the Obama administration’s objections to the team’s name.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell told D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser this spring that the National Park Service, which owns the land beneath Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, was unlikely to accommodate construction of a new stadium for the Redskins unless the team changes its name.

Jewell oversees both national park land and America’s trust and treaty relationships with Native American tribes.

Her decision not to extend the District’s lease of the RFK land badly hinders Bowser’s bid to return the Redskins to D.C. — and boosts efforts to lure the team across the Potomac to Northern Virginia.

Since joining the Obama administration two years ago, Jewell has repeatedly echoed the president’s concern that the name is offensive to Native Americans. Last fall she called the name a “relic of the past” that should be changed.

“Personally, I think we would never consider naming a team the ‘Blackskins’ or the ‘Brownskins’ or the ‘Whiteskins.’ So, personally, I find it surprising that in this day and age, the name is not different,” Jewell told ABC News.

Jewell reiterated that position with Bowser (D) at an April 27 meeting, telling the mayor that she was unlikely to rework the lease terms for a stadium in part because of the team’s name, according to a Department of the Interior spokeswoman, Jessica Kershaw.

Team owner Daniel Snyder, who insists that the moniker honors Native Americans, has vowed never to change it.

Bowser, jockeying with Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) to land the team’s new stadium, had inquired with Park Service officials about extending the District’s lease for the RFK property to allow for a new stadium. Extending the lease would also require congressional action.

Jewell “did mention in that meeting that she was uncomfortable with the name,” Kershaw said. “The president has said something similar, that he is uncomfortable with the name, and she clearly clarified that position.”

A second factor the secretary raised, Kershaw said, was that with just 18 months remaining in the Obama administration, re-working the lease was not likely to be a top concern before the president leaves office. D.C. owns RFK stadium but leases the 190 acres beneath the stadium as well as surrounding parking lots and land from the park service. The lease expires in 22 years.

“Given the timing, this is not likely to be a priority for this administration,” Kershaw said.

Robert A. Vogel, regional director of the Park Service, responded formally to the mayor’s request for a lease extension in a May 19 letter.

“As I believe the Secretary made clear in our discussion, the NPS will not take a position in support of such an extension at this time,” he wrote in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post. “You are, of course, free to seek such legislation without NPS support.”

The Park Service’s position hampers Bowser’s bid to return the team to the city from FedEx Field, in Prince George’s County, a stadium that is only 18 years old but that the team is trying to vacate before its lease there expires in 2026. Team officials, citing fan complaints about the stadium’s configuration, have removed seats from FedEx three times in five years.

Bowser spokesman Michael Czin declined to comment. Redskins spokesman Tony Wyllie also declined to comment.

RFK will be largely unused by 2018, when D.C. United is expected to move into a new soccer stadium on Buzzard Point in Southwest. Events DC, the sports and convention arm of the District that operates the property, has been studying how best to use the RFK land into the future.

Officials said they expect to release the results of that study later this summer. That’s later than some onlookers expected, but Events DC Chairman Max Brown, a prominent District businessman and lobbyist, said figuring out how to accommodate the interests of many stakeholders “is not just like saying where do you want to put the couch in your living room.”

Not only is the RFK land in a flood plain and adjacent to heavily populated Capitol Hill neighborhoods, but the federal lease also restricts use of the land to stadium purposes, recreation and parking. The future of the D.C. Armory, built in 1941, is also being considered.

“We’ve got a tremendous opportunity here to reuse this site under the constrictions that the NPS mandates for sporting, recreation and other uses,” Brown said. “There is a broad opportunity citywide for people to use that space. You’ve got 18 million tourists who could come use that space. You’ve got the surrounding community who could use that space.”

The restrictions in the Park Service lease could complicate financing of a new NFL stadium because of the way stadium development has evolved in the 55 years since construction began on RFK.

Rarely are stadiums built in urban settings today without shops or hotels nearby, but it isn’t clear how much of that would be permitted on the RFK site, which could make financing major improvements difficult.

“There aren’t single-use facilities anymore that don’t have ancillary uses that support the sports and entertainment,” said Gregory A. O’Dell, president and chief executive of Events DC.

NFL owners still insist on including thousands of parking spaces for new stadiums, however, something D.C. Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) and some residents of Capitol Hill don’t think is the best use of the property.

One group, a nonprofit called Capitol Riverside Youth Sports Park, is advocating for Events DC to build a series of playing fields with a pavilion for farmers markets on a portion of the site, although that may not preclude a stadium.

“We don’t have enough green space in the city,” said the group’s president, Michael Godec. “We have growing populations of kids and less and less places for them to play.”

Although Snyder has openly reminisced about attending the team’s games at RFK as a child, McAuliffe is making a determined bid for a new stadium, an effort that includes a hand-offs approach to the team’s name and stadium sites that don’t require federal approval. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has also pitched the team on remaining in the state.

McAuliffe said 66 percent of the team’s season ticket holders live in the commonwealth, as do almost all the players. The team already has its headquarters and practice facilities there as well.

“I would love to have the Redskins come to the Commonwealth of Virginia,” McAuliffe said in April. “It’s where they belong.”

Robert McCartney and Aaron C. Davis contributed to this report.

Follow Jonathan O’Connell on Twitter: @oconnellpostbiz

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The Vision Zero Initiative

The Vision Zero Initiative

Objective: By the year 2024, Washington, DC will reach zero fatalities and serious injuries to travelers of our transportation system, through more effective use of data, education, enforcement, and engineering.

Vision Zero is a part of Mayor Bowser’s response to the US Department of Transportation’s Mayor’s Challenge for Safer People and Safer Streets, which aims to improve pedestrian and bicycle transportation safety by showcasing effective local actions, empowering local leaders to take action, and promoting partnerships to advance pedestrian and bicycle safety.

Vision Zero requires an all-hands-on-deck approach. More than 20 District government agencies are engaged in the Vision Zero Initiative, including DDOT, Department of Public Works, the Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services, Metropolitan Police Department, DC Taxi Cab Commission, the Department of Motor Vehicles, the DC Office on Aging, DC Public Schools, Fire and Emergency Medical Services, Homeland Security and Management, Office of Unified Communications, Department of Health, the Office of the Attorney General, Office of the Chief Technology Officer, Office of Disability Rights, Office of Planning, Office of the City Administrator, Office of the State Superintendent of Education, the Deputy Mayor for Education, Office of Policy and Legislative Affairs, and the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development.

Contact the Vision Zero team at vision.zero.


Tweet your suggestions using #VZDC

#VZDC Tweets

Engineering and Infrastructure

Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X Avenue, SE

Careful data analysis will identify specific locations that require new interventions and safety strategies. The intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, SE, and Malcolm X Avenue, SE, is one example. DDOT has planned a $5 million investment for safety improvements at the intersection.

Enforcement and Education

Greater enforcement and education will protect our most vulnerable travelers. Infrastructure alone will not reduce fatalities and serious injuries to zero.


Vision Zero strategies will be informed by a systematic data and information-driven process that identifies and prioritizes interventions with the greatest potential to eliminate fatalities and serious injuries.

Planning Timeline

Month Activity Key Outcomes
March​ 3/6/15 Public launch of Vision Zero Initiative

Interagency Meeting Agenda:
• Identify existing plans, processes, actions & deficiencies
• Identify best practices

• Baseline data collection and existing conditions
April Interagency Meeting Agenda:
• Review data analysis and reporting
• Plan for major stakeholder engagement
• Launch interactive engagement tool and plan public workshops
May Interagency Meeting Agenda:
• Review stakeholder engagement and initial action items
• Major public engagement
June Interagency Meeting Agenda:
• Review public/stakeholder engagement
• Draft action list and priorities
• Draft actions and priorities
July Interagency Meeting Agenda:
• Draft Action Plan and agency commitments
• Draft Action Plan
August Interagency Meeting Agenda:
• Final Action Plan and public engagement
• Final Action Plan
• Agency work plans
• Public/stakeholder engagement on Action Plan
September Release of Completed Action Plan

Struck in D.C.: An Interview With No. 249 (Map)

Struck in D.C.: An Interview With No. 249 (Map)

Posted by Olivia Adams, Washington City Paper, on June 29, 2015 at 3:51 pm

At least 255 pedestrians and cyclists have been struck, primarily by motorists, in D.C. so far this year. Fifty-two of the year’s total incidents took place this month, with cyclists comprising about a quarter of those hit.

Bannon Puckett, who has been biking in D.C. for two years, is one of those 52.

On June 22, Puckett says he was side-swiped from the left by a driver who made a right turn on red at the intersection of Oklahoma Avenue and Benning Road NE. “I fell onto the street, and his wheels kept coming at me, so I was scrambling on the pavement to avoid getting run over too,” Puckett says via email of the crash. His bike was totaled, and he suffered bruises and cuts, but no broken bones. The driver remained at the scene, he says, and D.C. police arrived within five minutes after being called by a bystander. Puckett says he filed a report with the Metropolitan Police Department and received treatment at George Washington University Hospital. “I am extremely lucky the injuries were not worse,” he says.

Mayor Muriel Bowser committed D.C. in March to ending traffic fatalities and serious injuries by 2024 through Vision Zero. A website for the initiative was launched today, and a completed action plan is scheduled to be released in September.

Building off the work of Struck in D.C., a project run by Geoffrey Hatchard, Kim Shults, and Stephen Miller, Washington City Paper will compile reports of pedestrian and cyclist incidents this year for a map and interview project. Submit an incident using the form below.