Washington, DC got the sad news yesterday that Abe Polling, owner of the Washington Wizards and the Verizon Center and one of the city’s major civic figures passed away.
As the nation’s capital, the most important people in DC tend to be the people who are important in national politics. But part of American political culture is a strong bias against “Washington” which creates a weird situation in which the bulk of the city’s elite sees it as contrary to their interests to be seen as involved in the affairs of the city where they live.
Pollin, a businessman who made the bulk of his fortune in real estate development, was an exception to that, deeply involved in philanthropic activities in the city. He also mixed business, pleasure, and civic engagement — buying the Baltimore Bullets and bringing them to the DC area and founding the (eventually sold) Washington Capitals expansion team in the NHL. The Bullets/Wizards haven’t been enormously successful since coming to DC, but they did win one championship, which is more than the majority of franchises can say about their performance during this period. In 1997, Pollin brought the Capitals and the Wizards into the district with the construction of the Verizon (née MCI) Center in Chinatown, providing the lynchpin of a major urban redevelopment success story.
At any rate, you can read all about him in today’s Post.