Monday, August 23, 2010

Validating Old Town's Parking Crisis

Validating Old Town’s Parking Crisis
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
August 23, 2010

In her August 12 column, “Parking problems have us in a tight spot,” Alexandria Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tina Leone mentioned that we the people are creatures of habit for seeking out free or cheap parking locales when heading to Old Town. She is right.

Why would anyone in their right mind willingly pay more money to park their car for the “privilege” of dining or shopping in Old Town when they can do so for free in so many other places. Sure, Old Town is a greater draw than many other places, but when meter parking rates rose from $1 to $1.75 per hour with a two-hour maximum, so too did people’s blood pressure rise.

As is typical of government – the City of Alexandria was extremely short-sighted with the continued gouging of consumers willing to spend money in the city that already adds a city tax to restaurant bills. This is no longer nickel and diming people when a meter fee is $3.50 for two hours, particularly when people spend more than two hours at a time in Old Town.

If the increased meter rates are designed to move traffic in and out of Old Town businesses faster, be careful what you wish for City of Alexandria. Business and restaurant owners can attest to the fact that foot traffic in their establishments has waned, and not just due to the economy, but the inconvenience of having to schlep more quarters around than Rich Uncle Pennybags in the Monopoly® game.

Of the myriad complaints and discussions that have appeared in this paper, one that hasn’t been explored is that of validating parking. Ms. Leone wrote about the parking garages remaining nearly empty while people scavenge the city streets in search of free or cheap parking. Again, she is right; so let’s take it one step further, Ms. Leone.

Offer the incentive of free garage parking, sponsored by the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce and its participating Old Town members. When someone parks in an Old Town garage and returns with a receipt, for, let’s say a minimum of $5, from an Old Town restaurant or store, stamped by that business, the parking should be free.

This is a win-win proposition. More vehicles will find their way into garages – which, by the way, will keep the vehicle cooler during the stifling summer months, and more short term parkers will use the street spaces, feed the meters and get out of Dodge in a reasonable amount of time. Additionally, more businesses will be patronized by shoppers who realize they don’t have to rush back to their cars to feed the meter and simply decide to leave Old Town.

One doesn’t need to pay thousands of dollars for a study to see the wisdom behind this idea. After all, Ms. Leone, you asked the question, “What will persuade visitors to use garage parking instead of street parking or – worse yet – resident parking?” Your words, my solution.

Nordstrom in The Fashion Centre at Pentagon City validates parking for anyone with a Nordstrom credit card or a receipt from that store. Up the street from that mall, the Costco and other shops on
South Fern Street
in Arlington offers a time sensitive validation for parking. There is no doubt I am not the only consumer who would shop elsewhere were parking not validated.

If restaurants and shops want our business, we the people should not have to pay for the “privilege.” What say you, Ms. Leone?

Sanford D. Horn is a writer and political consultant living in Alexandria, VA.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

College Griders Already Paid

College Griders Already Paid
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
August 22, 2010

After reading Donald H. Yee’s “Show Them the Money,” in Sunday’s The Washington Post (B-1, 4) in which he supports paying college football players and laying out a 10 step plan, it is painfully obvious he is in dire need of a 12 step program of his own.

Yee, a lawyer and partner in a Los Angeles sports-management firm, rightfully indicates that there is a corrupt system in place mingling agents with collegiate coaches and so-called student athletes. However, instead of suggesting ways to clean up the system and end the culture of corruption that has infested not just college football, but other high-ticket college sports such as basketball, Yee calls for a further perversion of college athletics by turning over the football programs to outside institutions and corporations and paying the so-called student athletes.

Such a transition would forever damage the concept of college athletics as well as the psyche of the so-called student athletes who are already treated as demi-gods on numerous campuses across the nation.

The worst of Yee’s 10 points, and the most offensive to the concept of the student athlete is to remove the word student from the mix altogether.
                        “Academically gifted players could take regular university courses, if they could have gained admission on their own merit. Others may be more interested          in vocational training or other specialty classes. Either way, average students            would no longer lose a chance at admission because the university made an   exception for an academically less qualified athlete. And athletes would have a            broader array of course offerings. Some may even choose not to attend classes   and simply focus on honing their football skills.”

This is a disgusting and disgraceful notion. As it stands today, the NCAA is already a de-facto minor league for the NFL and the NBA. Yee couldn’t be more wrong about this particular point as to allow what would then be a non-student-athlete to roam a college campus without being a registered, class-attending student on some supposed degree track would be even more detrimental to the current status of the so-called student athlete. They would be strutting around campuses with bigger britches than they have on now with their over-inflated sense of entitlement.

College athletes, most notably football and basketball players, as they represent the big revenue generating sports, already get paid. Their pay is the scholarship that covers their tuition, books, tutors, room and board that often leads to players leaving school early for the NFL (or NBA) or not earning a degree prior to their eligibility expiring. There is no policy in place to demand players not staying in school four years to repay the scholarship in full.

Make no mistake, this is not a case of sour grapes, as I play and pay into this system as a season ticket holder to University of Maryland football, my alma mater, as well as being a member of the Terrapin Club, “the scholarship fund for Maryland athletics that helps offset scholarship costs of over $10.2 million in annual scholarship support for many of the 700+ student athletes who compete on 27 varsity teams representing the University of Maryland. …we receive no state financial support for our scholarship programs.” (

Yee calls for the elimination of university involvement with the football programs and turning them over to corporate entities to run. This would only further corrupt the system by removing the university, the organization responsible for bringing such student athletes to the campus in the first place.

Additionally, Yee suggests eliminating football programs that are perennial money-losers. Such black holes are no good for the university, Yee suggests. This defeats the lessons team sports teaches and would take away the vehicle for which genuine student athletes have for continuing to play football at the collegiate level even if they never enjoy a winning season or a trip to one of the myriad bowl games that only requires a six-win season (another issue for another column).

Team sports participants tend to make strong leaders in the corporate world as well as in government and politics, just as the Boy and Girl Scouts.

Yet, the bona fide suggestion of eliminating the unqualified so-called student athlete from the university system in the first place is never addressed by Yee. His answer, as stated earlier, is to allow the lesser qualified “students” to play football without attending any classes whatsoever. That is detrimental to both the university that would condone such a perpetual underclass and more so to the athletes who will never see the inside of an NFL (or NBA, since ultimately this would be the next sport to be drawn into such a myopic system) locker room.

Under Yee’s system, the non-student athlete would play football for four or five years then leave the university with nothing to show for the efforts, except perhaps a paycheck, most of which would have already been squandered by the 18-22 year old who had no skills in money management. Couple that with a less than two percent chance of playing in the NFL or even the CFL, what does Yee expect that former college athlete to do with no marketable skills?

Yee refers to the “coveted” high school athlete as being allowed to enjoy the “fruits of American capitalism.” Those fruits are offered in the form of scholarships, and are also one of the reasons student athletes are given more than four years to complete a degree program. With all the time allotted for practice and travel during the football season, as well as spring practice, football players should be afforded a lighter academic load during the fall semester, but conversely make up the load during the spring and summer sessions.

Those so-called student athletes unable to qualify for admission on their academic merits should be denied admission. If these athletes are so coveted, there should be a minor league system for them to hone their skills paid for by the various NFL or CFL teams interested in developing these players into professional athletes. For those who would argue that such a system would dilute the NCAA football programs across the country’s campuses, it would no doubt be felt on a relatively equal scale. This way universities would no longer have to turn an already blind eye to the academically unqualified under the guise of calling them “student athletes,” who will merely take the place of an academically qualified student who may major in engineering or political science while bringing no revenue to the school.

Yes, I recognize the student athlete generates revenue that he or she does not pocket in the form of a paycheck. But these same athletes are demonstrating their wares and skills on the gridiron or hardwood floor in the hopes they will be drafted by the NFL, CFL or NBA.

There is already a corrupt system of coaches in cahoots with boosters and agents on the sly with a knowing wink and a nod providing players with the various unspoken perks of being a coveted student athlete. This is done all in the quest of winning national championships, conference titles and bowl games.

Make no mistake, those of us who support our alma maters or local universities enjoy the winning seasons and post season play and are equally disappointed when the former does not occur on a regular basis. But we also know the importance of seeing those same student athletes who march down the field in victory, march across the stage in a cap and gown in the victory of earning a degree.

Clearly Mr. Yee’s column does not support the notion of educating our student athletes and that will only have long term deleterious effects on them for which we as a society will ultimately pay.

Sanford D. Horn is a writer and political consultant living in Alexandria, VA. He is a Maryland football season ticket holder and member of the Terrapin Club.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Ground Zero Mosque: Legal: Yes; Moral: Never

Ground Zero Mosque: Legal: Yes; Moral: Never
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
August 16, 2010

The Jewish synagogue, the Christian/Catholic church, the Shinto and Confucian shrines, the Buddhist and Hindu temples, and yes, even the Islamic mosque are all houses of worship to be respected, revered and prayed in by people of faith seeking answers, guidance, truth, atonement and presumably a path to goodness, peace, righteousness and betterment.

Yet, as anyone with a pulse knows, more wars have been waged in the name of all that is holy, from Crusades, Inquisitions, pogroms, holocausts and in more recent history terrorist attacks.

Catholic priests are not calling for the destruction of any peoples for not accepting Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Jewish rabbis are not condemning non-Jews for eating a ham and cheese sandwich, yet Muslim imams around the globe are demanding that all other faiths bow to Sharia law. There are also regular calls for the slaughter of “infidels,” even among Muslims themselves, not to mention the shouts from the mountaintops for the destruction of Israel, the United States, Western Civilization, Jews, Christians and other non-Muslims.

The United States of America is presumably the most religiously tolerant nation in the world – starting with the Puritans who sought religious freedom in the 1600s before there was even a United States. Catholics found a religious haven in the Maryland Colony, Jewish refugees found homes in the United States and assimilated, some would say far too deeply for our own good.

It is the irony of this deep-rooted tolerance that will one day befall the grandeur and religious freedoms of the United States. Nine years after the devastating terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the failed assaults on the White House or Capitol Building in Washington, DC, 3,000 people of numerous faiths lay murdered by Muslim extremists in New York City, Arlington, VA and a field in Shanksville, PA – scores of whom were never identified or found.

Nine years after Muslim extremists issued a clarion call to the global community that they will not play by the rules of civilized society, and adding insult to injury, literally so, there is a mosque planned for construction in the shadows of the September 11, 2001 attacks and murders.

We, as Americans, are being told by one of the most intolerant faiths, to be the tolerant nation we have been to other faiths. Political figures with absolutely no spines have weighed in on this issue is a most cowardly fashion. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has called for “mutual respect and tolerance,” in his support of this mosque at this location. Just how many synagogues and churches are being built in Saudi Arabia or any other Muslim country? We can expect groundbreaking ceremonies about the time bacon is declared kosher.

There is tolerance and then there is myopic stupidity. This nation bends over backwards to be tolerant – even in the face of all the wrongs committed in the United States. No nation is perfect and the US is certainly no exception with a history of slavery and internments, but this is not an issue of payback or overcompensation. This is an issue of common sense. Ultimately, we are killing ourselves from within by giving in to people who want us dead. There is no gray area here.

In addition to the weak-kneed Bloomberg, there are the politically correct New York Congressmen Jerrold Nadler and Anthony Weiner as well as New York Senator Chuck Schumer, who in their abject liberalism have given their blessing to this insidious project. All four are embarrassments as Jews. Where is the backbone of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani when he is needed?

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the chairman of the Cordoba Institute, the sponsoring organization of the Ground Zero mosque, said 19 days following the 9-11 attacks and murders that the United States was an accessory in those attacks, that Osama bin Laden was “made in the US,” and demands that the United States become more Sharia compliant. There is certainly nothing tolerant coming from Imam Rauf.

Imam Rauf still has yet to condemn Hezbollah or Hamas as terror organizations and has called for jihad against Jews, Christians, the United States, Israel and other Westerners. Rauf calls the United States repressive as a political statement, yet in his demands of a more Sharia compliant America, is calling for the deaths of homosexuals, the stoning of women who might be adulterous, and is categorically anti-Jewish and anti-Christian. Where is the tolerance, Imam Rauf?

Then there is the insipid weasel-ness of the White House. Let’s start with that deer in the headlights White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, who little more than a week ago said, “We’re not at war with a religion, but an idea.”

How naïve. Just where did this idea originate?

What next? A mosque planned at the Pentagon and in the field at Shanksville?

Then of course, Barack Obama feels compelled to weigh in with his obtuse two cents after declaring this a “local issue.” Although it most certainly is not a local issue, he would have been better off leaving it at that then demonstrating his tacit short sightedness.

“Let me be clear: as a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country,” said Obama, Friday, August 13 while hosting an iftar, the daily breaking of the fast during the month-long observance of Ramadan.

“That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in Lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable,” said Obama in supporting the Ground Zero mosque and showing his true colors.

Is the erection of such a structure legal? Yes, it is legal, but it most certainly is not moral. Obama had a golden opportunity to do the right thing, but instead, as usual, bowed to political correctness by taking the easy way out. The right thing would be to defend the right of people to worship and defend people’s religious freedoms, but then to strongly encourage that Imam Rauf relocate the mosque from the shadow of the site of the greatest and most horrific attack perpetrated on American soil.

And although this mosque is slated for construction on private property, where is the funding, to the tune of $100 million, coming from? There should be absolute transparency as to the origins of every last nickel going into such a structure, assuming a construction crew in New York City can even be found to work on such a project.

Such transparency has been called for by New York Congressman Peter King and GOP gubernatorial candidate Rick Lazio, both of whom oppose the building of the Ground Zero mosque, while Lazio’s opponent, New York attorney general Andrew Cuomo supports the mosque. (Hopefully the voters in New York will remember that on November 2.)

Most Americans agree that the building of this mosque is legal. At the same time they also believe it to be a slap in the face of those who died there as well as their families who will have to see that structure in perpetuity while remembering their loved ones died at the hands of Muslim extremists – a term the Obama administration refuses to utter, again in the interest of political correctness.

Opposition is so strong that 68 percent of those asked, oppose the mosque being built at Ground Zero – and this was a CNN poll – certainly no right wing media outlet. And those who approve because the cultural center has board inclusive of people of Christian, Muslim and Jewish faiths, don’t forget, the Nazis had Jews laboring as kapos during the Holocaust. Even the left of center Anti-Defamation League called for the mosque to be relocated, calling it “insensitive,” said ADL Chairman Abraham Foxman.

Mr. Obama need be reminded that slavery was, at one time, also legal, but it too was never moral or right.

Sanford D. Horn is a writer and political consultant living in Alexandria, VA.