There has been recent controversy in Takoma Park, MD (TkPk) about development around our co-op. Somehow, posts on the main TkPk listserv have reached into the past seeking to connect Washington Adventist Hospital’s (WAH) decision to move to White Oak to a supposed danger that the city and community are going to force the Co-op to close or move. There’s zero connection between the issues, but that doesn’t matter to the resident revisionist historians who need scapegoats for the hospital’s move.
Here are some of the recent claims on the listserv, all of which come from people who were not involved in any way in the issues at the time.
From Vanessa Dixon:
I remain concerned that a small group of residents will achieve their goal of no-growth which it’s my understanding occurred re the hospital and now seems to threaten the co-op. I understand that those who live closest to a possible business expansion have reason to be most concerned. However, there has got to be a balance between the needs of the few vs. the needs of the many … the vocal minority of neighbors … played a significant role in motivating the hospital to relocate … Based on eye witness accounts reported on this list and others, it’s clear it is NOT a myth that some contingent of TP residents wanted the hospital to go, acted accordingly and this conceivably (if not probably) played some part in the hospital deciding to leave (among other factors) … despite the effort of other TP residents to negotiate for the hospital to stay.
From Jim DiLuigi:
I believe there are parallels to be drawn relative to the Junction [Co-op] site. The City has create [sic] a convoluted process without consideration for resolving, or better preventing, a loggerhead conflict between the selected developer and the CoOp … What kind of City leadership does that represent?
From Catherine Tunis:
I heard on other lists of individuals who live close to the hospital that they wanted it to go. They said they were annoyed by the traffic, especially from ambulances and helicopters. I did not know who these people personally, but surmised they must have never had a health issue or imagine they might ever have one.
It is important to note that all of these posts rely on hearsay (no source is ever cited). They also come after several posts on the listserv from people who were involved categorically refuting the claims.
Also, when the ahistorical defamers aren’t blaming fellow residents, they are blaming the city, as if TkPk is supposed to blindly support all development, regardless of impact. They purposely ignore the context: the fact that there was no opposition to the hospital per se, but only to a massive expansion plan that would have overwhelmed the surrounding infrastructure. By willfully ignoring context, this cabal makes it look like the city and community willfully kicked the hospital out for convenience. This is an outright lie.
Here’s the truth.
Fact: Not a single person involved in discussions with the hospital or opposition to the hospital’s massive and unsustainable expansion plans wanted the hospital to leave. Not. One. Person.
Here’s a bullet-point history of what happened:
- Prior to 2000, WAH had a long history of ignoring community input and breaking negotiated agreements (e.g., to limit the number of helicopter flights); that is, there was already bad blood when…
- Around 2000, WAH and its commercial development partner Folger-Pratt unveiled a plan for a 7-story commercial building on campus (which would have been the largest building in TkPk) and a 1100-spot parking garage.
- Because a special zoning exception would have been required, the county got involved, and convened “negotiation” sessions between TkPk residents and the hospital. I put “negotiation” in quotes because the hospital and Folger-Pratt refused to budge on anything: F-P was guaranteed an 11% return on investment and every element of their plan was deemed essential and non-negotiable. The entire time (two or three years) F-P and their land-use attorneys treated TkPk representatives with hostility and arrogance.
- An informal group called Sensible Hospital Growth formed to combat not all expansion at the hospital but this particular plan. A major reason was our belief that he two-lane roads that lead to the hospital would be completely overwhelmed by the ensuing traffic. Our data analysis (we did not make this up in our heads) showed that ambulances would not be able to reach the hospital quickly in the traffic and quality of care would decline.
- After having reached a standstill, higher authorities at Adventist Health care stepped in. In the mid-00s, they apologized to the community for having created bad blood, fired the then president of the hospital, and announced their willingness to negotiate in good faith.
- An agreement was reached for a smaller hospital expansion on-site, plus development on other parcels of land in the area.
- Without telling the city or community, WAH went back and did some strategic planning on their own (which they had not done up to this point). They discovered that their future needs could not be met within land available in TkPk and surrounding Silver Spring.
- Meanwhile, a development office of the county had been quietly (secretly?) encouraging WAH to move to White Oak.
- WAH surprised everyone with a sudden announcement that they were ditching the compromise and taking the county’s offer to move.
- County Councilman George Leventhal, who had publicly blamed the city and community for the move (just like Vanessa, Jim, and Catherine are doing) eventually apologized, once he realized that WAH had engaged in very late strategic planning and had been encouraged by the county to move.
I don’t see where any of this has relevance to the Co-op, but more important: even if it did, it is unforgivable for those who don’t know what they are talking about to continue bashing a group of elected officials and community members who put hundreds of hours into finding win-win solutions for the hospital and the city.
©2016 Keith Berner