Staff Editorial: Bench dedication breaks through bureaucracy at last

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A plaque honoring Julian Bond's legacy is installed on the Connecticut Avenue NW bench. (photo by Kathleen Bryan)

On Monday, the Chevy Chase community celebrated the installation of a bench and memorial plaque — culminating nearly two years of work to honor the late civil rights activist Julian Bond, who lived nearby and could often be seen sitting or walking along Connecticut Avenue.

The seemingly simple memorial to a beloved local resident hit snag after frustrating snag. The delays were “arduous and absurd,” Ward 3 D.C. Council member Mary Cheh told The Washington Post last month, after the D.C. Department of Transportation once again reversed its approval of the bench installation. Mr. Bond’s widow chimed in that the agency’s actions were “disappointing” and “inexplicable.”

All of those adjectives seem spot-on to us. Transportation Department director Leif Dormsjo offered the weak justification that the agency doesn’t usually take on responsibility for donated benches and was concerned about doing so. It’s particularly unfathomable that Mr. Dormsjo would first direct his staff to allow the bench and then reverse course.

The end solution was the replacement of an existing bench rather than addition of a new one. “I was hoping for more, but at least we can finally recognize Mr. Bond in this small way,” Randy Speck, chair of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3/4G (Chevy Chase), told The Current.

We’re glad this saga has at last reached an acceptable conclusion — despite intense resistance of the sort that gives rise to negative stereotypes about government bureaucracy.