DC Metro bureaucrats ordered flowers planted at the Dupont Circle station by the "Phantom Planter" ripped out because the performance artist didn't have permission to plant them.
The story has some other permutations as well. Metro officials promised to consult neighborhood associations about what to do about the flowers but never followed through. And they threatened the nature lover who planted the flowers with jail if he tried to care for them.
The transit system regularly pleads poverty, yet employees devoted supposedly valuable time to remove more than 1,000 morning glories, cardinal flowers and cypress vines that Docter donated to the city -- albeit without permission. The plants would have bloomed from August to October in a patriotic display of red, white and blue.
Instead of greenery today and colors to come, the 176 flower boxes along the top stretch of the escalators at the station's north entrance now feature dirt, a few straggling stems and the occasional discarded soda can.
"It never occurred to me that Metro would think it was more efficient to rip out the plants than to let someone water them," Docter said.
Metro tore out the foliage without waiting to solicit the neighborhood's opinion, as it said it had planned to do.
"We want to meet with the community and see what the community would like. We will move forward with their wishes, as long as they are reasonable, sustainable and safe," Michael McBride, manager of Metro's Art in Transit Program, said June 21.
No meetings have taken place since then. Local leaders were aghast that Metro ignored their wishes for a compromise to keep the flowers in place.
"They paid people to tear out plants that everyone loves? Well, this is cause for insurrection. Talk about fixing something that's not broken," said Robin Diener, a member of the Dupont Circle Citizens Association board of directors.
"The guy was trying to be a really good guy, and Metro got really uptight," said Dail Doucette, president of the Historic Dupont Circle Main Streets board of directors. "They [at Metro] don't want to be involved. They don't care about our neighborhood."
Metro officials have created a reason why they yanked the flowers:
According to the official explanation Friday, Metro removed the flowers because it needs to repair the paver blocks on the embankment.
Spokeswoman Caroline Lukas said that work had been "scheduled prior to the unauthorized planting of flowers." When it's complete, she said, Metro will plan "a low-maintenance ground cover."
The term "soulless bureaucrat" is, perhaps, a bit overused but in this case if the shoe fits...