Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, the president of George Washington University (which Nick Provenzo and I both attended), is the new chairman of the District of Columbia Chamber of Commerce. It’s interesting that the head of a nonprofit organization would be elected to this position, but in fact GW is the city’s largest non-government employer, quite a feat in the nation’s capital. Not surprisingly, GW and Trachtenberg are constantly vilified by malcontents in the community. I still live in GW’s neighborhood, and for years a small group of activists have managed to control local government advisory panels that carry inordinate political influence with D.C.’s zoning officials. Consequently, GW faces roadblocks and obstacles whenever it attempts any new construction project. Yet despite this, GW has managed to grow and prosper under Trachtenberg. The physical campus has improved 100% from when I first came to D.C. in 1996. Prior to Trachtenberg’s arrival in 1986, GW was little more than an urban commuter campus. Now it’s a bona fide national university. (You also have to admire GW’s ability to be nationally competitive without sinking millions into a Division I football program.)
That’s not to say I agree with everything Trachtenberg’s done. Far from it. But it does seem appropriate he’s assuming the leadership of the chamber of commerce. Few individuals have shown as much persistence in the face of constant political opposition to private property rights as old SJT. Now let’s see if he can stop the D.C. Council from banning smoking in restaurants and bars.