UPDATE: Marc Fisher from the Post interviews the photographer.
Two weeks ago, a few of us in the "Silver Spring Blogging Collective" were asked by the Peterson Companies - who own the Downtown Silver Spring "complex" - to post an ad for their Silver Spring Swings summer concert series, held in Silver Plaza. In February, we'd all gladly put up press releases for the Silver Spring Restaurant Week (also sponsored by Peterson). But after four months of being ignored (not having e-mails replied to, and the like), some of my fellow bloggers wondered if compensation was due.
I called Stacy Horan, Peterson's Marketing Manager, to ask what she could do for us. "I'm sorry, I didn't think we should pay you for posting this on your blog," Horan said. "Does it take a long time to post? I just figured it would be a nice thing to do - sending this out to you - seeing as you're a 'community bulletin board'."
MORE AFTER THE JUMP . . .
While I was disappointed by her indifference to what we as bloggers do, I came to realize it's just reflective of the Peterson Companies' general attitude towards their public, which is: if you're not making us a profit, go away. Sure, that's understandable for a developer of shopping malls, but when those malls are marketed as mini-downtowns - complete with the civic life of a city - you begin to wonder how people could be given such short shrift.
What I'm talking about is the local resident who last week reported being accosted by security on Ellsworth Drive for taking pictures. Ellsworth - or at least the block between Fenton and Georgia - is owned by Peterson, but I think being open to other, public streets, it is a de facto public space. Nonetheless, when Hans Riemer ran for County Council last year, he wasn't allowed to hand out campaign literature. (Or, at least, he wasn't supposed to.)
And, of course, younger patrons aren't welcome in the semi-public realm. Many other so-called "lifestyle centers" throughout the country are requiring anyone under 18 to be chaperoned by a parent or guardian. A lifestyle center outside of Phoenix says its chaperone policy enables them to "provide a safe, comfortable, fun environment for ALL of our guest[s]," nevermind the inconvenienced adults or embarassed teens that may result. I can't help but wonder if Downtown Silver Spring - whose popularity with teenagers is cited as a "drawback" to the area by Washingtonian Magazine - could follow suit.
Ten years ago, Silver Springers came out in full force to make sure we didn't get a mall downtown, and looking at the half-naked kids playing in the fountain in Silver Plaza, it's easy to think we succeeded. But Peterson can only profit by keeping us under control - through nosy rent-a-cops, opportunistic marketers, and whatever else they can scrape together.
This is our Downtown. But how do we tell that to the people who hold the title?