themail.gif (3487 bytes)

January 13, 1998

The Snow Remains the Same

Dear Neighbors:

Over here is Cleveland Park, my part of Ordway Street remains untouched by mechanical plow and we haven't seen a mailman since Kwanza. I don't watch local tv news (unless I'm on) so I don't know how they are reporting the story, except that channels 7 and 9 are permanently encamped at the corner of Ordway and Connecticut Avenue--perhaps amused by the number of trucks that have become stuck in that cesspool of an intersection.

Given that this is the District of (substitute your own adjective as if you were playing the Style invitational), heads will probably not role for this (wo)man-made disaster. But heads ought to role. [Enter Robespierre.] Let's focus on Metro first. The Washington Times (the paper you don't read) reported today something I suspected and confirmed yesterday--that it was Metro management and not the snow that caused those horrendous experiences on the Metro platforms on Thursday. 35 percent of Metro's cars remained buried in snow as of Friday. According to the Times, Metro failed to store its cars in tunnels (as it is supposed to do). Metro didn't run trains on the above-ground tracks as it was supposed to do. It's third rail heater--bought for blizzard duty--didn't operate properly. And in a wonderfully timed move, Metro 20 experienced yard masters--the guys who get the trains moving out of the yards--and replaced them with inexperienced workers who couldn't handle the job, according to Metro employees--all in the past 6 weeks.

We're still waiting for an accounting of the District's performance. We know it's terrible but we don't know why yet. Will the City Council get to bottom of this? Yeah, right. I know it's hard to get excited anymore about the city failing to deliver basic services to its population--I think resigned is the more appropriate word--but the District seems to be all fringe benefits and no salary if you look at where it spends its money. The city's payment for Yon Yung's lease could have paid for this snow storm, and saved the lost taxes and lost productivity.

I guess out motto should be, "We're mad as hell and we're going to keep on taking it." So now do you want to know how I really feel?

Jeffrey Itell

BTW: If you know the answers to any of the following questions posed by correspondents, please send them my way--with the original question. Also, please remember to end your correspondence with your name and email address. Thanks.

Half of my front gutter collapsed yesterday. My heat pump froze. I could spend the rest of the day shoveling out my car, but why? No way I can go west on Albemarle Street toward Wisconsin. And even if I could, I couldn't get to Wisconsin because the District, in its infinite wisdom, constructed a bunker blocking access from Albemarle. Anyone have a tank? Albemarle allegedly is a semi-major street (we do have a subway stop, which I thought automatically qualified us). I'd hate to be on a "side street." Time to move to Main Street?

P.S. The new Fresh Fields is to DIE FOR. Talk about life changes.

Willie Schatz

Is it against the law for my neigbhors and I to hire a private firm to come in and plow our street?

Greg Jones

Fresh Fields may be up and running, but there are still many wrinkles. First of all, I think they have been training new cashiers at the River Road store for the past month or so; a few weeks ago I went there and it was like something from the grocery store version of the Gong Show. They were *out* of milk and eggs (this was weeks before any snow was forecast, on a Friday night), and the cashiers were attempting to outdo each other in incompetence. I stood in line for 10 minutes while one of them tried to change the paper tape in his register; then I moved to the next lane where a cashier cheerfully rang up an onion at grape prices and then had to figure out how to undo the error. OK, fine, so now the new store is here - but on Sunday I took a walk and went up to see if they were around. Nada -- "Closed because of bad weather," the sign said. Yes, the weather was bad, but the Ellicott Street Safeway and the Friendship Heights Giant were both open. (I didn't check Rodman's.) Today, Tuesday, I *called* FF to see if they were open. Someone answered the phone and said they were. By the time I walked up there, however, they had closed -- something about the "weather brought the computers down." They were being very nice about it, handing out coffee and saying things like, "We'll re-open soon; it'll be anywhere from five minutes to half an hour," but I know what *that* means and walked back over to Giant, which was doing, as they say, a land office business. I think I'll keep going to the River Road store, assuming I am ever able to move my car again. Which looks decreasingly likely.

Stephanie Faul

This is a response to Mr. Menczer's item of Jan 9.

Yes, panhandling "at" a metro stop is unlawful under the "aggressive panhandling" law passed by the DC Council in 1993. Portions of that law (including this one) are currently being challenged in the DC Court of Appeals by the ACLU and others. If it's legal to stand at a metro station and ask people to sign petitions to recall Mayor Barry (for example) then, in our view, it can't be illegal to stand in the same place and ask people politely, for a quarter. Speech is speech.

There *is* a Metro system rule that prohibits any sort of leafletting or soliciting within 15 feet of an escalator, for safety reasons. That rule has been upheld in the courts (and the ACLU, agreeing with the safety rationale, refused to challenge it when we were asked to). So if your Cleveland Park panhandler is begging right near the escalator, that's unlawful and the Metro police do frequently enforce that rule. On the other hand, if he's polite and non-threatening and doesn't block your path, why are you so upset? *You* don't have to give him anything?

Arthur Spitzer Legal Director ACLU of the National Capital Area

I, too, have been plagued by the District's demands for my "Arena Tax." The problem: I've lived and worked in California for more than a year. Apparently, the District has extended the borders of S.W. all the way to the Pacific (are small businesspeople in Guam receiving Arena Tax bills, as well?). I've vowed to continue exchanging letters with the D.C. government until their postage expenses total at least $25.

Incidentally, readers back in the old neighborhood may be interested in knowing that the baseball Giants have decided to build a new $300 million stadium in a disused but accessible corner of downtown San Francisco. The catch? There isn't one. The Giants have offered to build the stadium at no expense to the taxpayers. One wonders if there's a subterfuge afoot--perhaps our clever new mayor, Willie Brown, plans to bill residents of the nation's capital? Not for nothing is San Francisco called "The City that Knows How." Robert Shepard

The Robert E. Shepard Agency, San Francisco Wishes You a Happy, Healthy New Year "Beyond the sunset is tomorrow's wisdom; Today is going to be long long ago." --T. H. Ferril, Poet Laureate of Colorado

A Tale of Two Cities, As It Were

My street in Ward 3 is uniquely diverse; it includes people born in a variety of other countries and, more or less across from my own residence, a household that includes an African-American male who is quadriplegic. This street has not been plowed, nor have any of the side streets in the neighborhood. When I got home from work around 4:00 a truck from Med-Atlantic was stuck in the middle of the street, and a group of volunteers was trying to free it. I walked to the grocery store (clearly, my own vehicle is not going anywhere) and when I got back the truck had moved forward a few feet but was stuck again. Around 9:00 I went out and ended up speaking to the driver; a tow truck had been sent but was unable even to get close enough to the truck to tow it. The driver, a perfectly nice man who wanted to be home with his family, said he'd been there since one o'clock that afternoon and he was just going to lock up and leave the truck there and let the company deal with it in the morning. As of 10:30 on Wednesday night it's still there. I can't help wondering: How many other quadriplegics and medically dependent people had to do without assistance because this truck was stranded on an unplowed street? The driver said that Ward and Ward 8 were all nicely plowed, thank you, no problem. I don't know how many stops this truck makes in a day, but it wasn't available for at least half of them today and probably won't be available until late tomorrow either. Who does Barry think he's hurting by leaving Ward 3 unplowed? Looks to me like the real victims were folks who were pretty helpless already.

Stephanie Faul

I got my Washington Post every SINGLE day. I called to congratulate them.

Jean Lawrence

Well, I'm not exactly a neighbor, but I'll contribute my two cents nonetheless:

(1) Tales from Northeast: While the rest of the city--even such main thoroughfares as Pennsylvania Avenue--remained unplowed and barely passable, H Street, NE was clear to the pavement yesterday because of the efforts of residents and businesses. Snow shovels in hand, folks dug out the business corridor of H Street ( a pretty big stretch of road) themselves on Sunday and Monday. Not a bad community effort.

(2) General tales: the blizzard has brought about a notable and refreshing change in how people interact in this town. Since the sidewalks were out of the question in most areas of the city, pedestrians took to the streets if they wanted to get anywhere. I noticed that when cars came up along the roads, they would sort of ease up gently behind pedestrians, waiting to be noticed. When the walkers did notice them and step aside, drivers would give a polite and half-apologetic wave as they passed. Imagine the same scene under non-blizzard conditions: horns blaring and middle fingers waving!

In the same vein, I was at a crowed Safeway last night stocking up for the second storm wave. Although the front of the store was a tangle of carts waiting to pass through the register lines, people were polite and derential in the extreme, almost to the point of "gee, excuse me, would you mind terribly much just moving aside the tiniest bit so I might maneuver my grocery cart down this aisle?" It's a wonder. Short-lived, no doubt, but I'm gonna enjoy it while I can...

Cheryl Donahue

The good news is that Thursday morning a plow FINALLY appeared on the 4400 block of Albemarle Street NW. I can now almost see the pavement. The bad news is that my car is buried much deeper than prior to the plow's arrival. I may be able to move it by August. Hero of the week: The NY Times delivery person, who dumped Monday's and today's editions in the 3-foot pile on my sidewalk. Little does he/she know that I haven't missed the paper since its last appearance last Saturday. The Post and the Wall Street Journal are still no-shows. So which conglomerate really cares about me?

Willie-Bud Schatz.

Some items for your piece on the "up side" of the snow:

1. Kids from my neighborhood shoveled people's walks and sidewalks, without asking. I suspect it was more out of a search for fun than social contract, but it was nice to see, nonetheless.

2. A teenage guy and what appeared to be his younger brother came door-to-door seeking snow-shovelling work, like I used to do as a kid. I gave him $20 to do my side sidewalk (a long one) and they worked busily away, did a nice job, and said thanks when I gave them their money. Nice to see some individual initiative and entrepreneurial spirit.

3. A neighbor's tottery old deaf-as-a-post cocker spaniel wandered away yesterday morning. We went up & down area streets, talking with people and looking everywhere. Neighbors joined in the search, unsolicited. We gave up after two hours of trudging around, fearing the worst. As an afterthought, the owner called Friendship Animal Hospital. It turned out that someone had found Cassidy and had taken him there, exhausted and slightly injured. He's now back in his house, sleeping in front of the fireplace.

Chip Levy

Why was a D.C. snowplow plowing the track at Lafayette school last night when 33rd Street has not been touched? Time to think recall King Marion and the entire council?

Fritz Kramer

All of us who are unable to get off our streets, due to the fabulous plowing here in Cleveland Park, shoud take heart in the fact that Parking Enforcement was out the other afternoon ticketing everyone parked on Connecticut Avenue. Two other snow notes -- I have seen a mailman on Ordway Street this week. However, he was simply emptying the mailbox at 30th and Ordway, and could not give me any estimate of when we would have mail delivered again. And the POst OFfice is way behind on mail -- even for delivery to box holders.

For those in search of bread -- both Uptown Bakers and the Bagel Bakery have been well stocked and happy to provide this week. What a pleasure to live in a neighborhood where the necessitites of life -- movies, bread and coffee are just at the corner.

Margie Siegel

4 pm today (12 Jan. 96) 4500 block of cathedral avenue. Still unplowed. 5th day of street being unplowed. Snow higher than knee-high. The only place to walk is in the middle of the street where four-wheel drive vehicles have left tracks in the snow. Only one lane of tracks, however. Just completed a 3-mile walk with l2-year old daughter from office home. Home stretch. l00 yards left. Big maroon Toyota Land Cruiser, with NY license plate comes barreling around the corner of Foxhall turning down Cathedral at lightning speed. My daughter and I are in the middle of the street 90 yards in front of him. He speeds up. We cant believe our eyes. He is going too fast even if there were not a drop of snow on the ground. He is going faster than even the speeding vehicles that speed down Cathedral regularly. He is coming so fast, that my daughter and I have to jump into a snowdrift to avoid being hit head-on. I scream, "SLOW DOWN", and am able to just pound my fist on his car as he zooms by. He comes to a dead halt. Gets out of the car, like a big 55 year old bully, and screams, "GOT A PROBLEM LADY?" in the nastiest, readiest to fight voice you ever heard.

Here are my daughter and I wrapped up, bundled up, tired, exhausted, have been walking up hill forever. Standing waist high in a snow bank, and this maniac is screaming at US. I say back to him, "Yes, please slow down. There are children on this street". He screams back ferociously, "Then USE THE SIDEWALK!!" could he have been serious. There hasnt been the slightest semblance of a sidewalk since 3 am SUnday. I really truly could have killed this guy. He got back in his Toyota Land Cruiser and sped off.

Ellen Ross Pink

From: (MR GLEN A KOHL) To: Subject: dc.story: Any Good News Out There (10 J Content-Length: 240

hey, how would like this story. we heard about a short non-thorough fare block that was plowed right away. Why, according to the driver. Because a city council member used to live there. Classic D.C. graft, incompetently effectuated. G

len Kohl

Jeffrey Itell Publisher/dc.story Tel: 202.244.4163 P.O. Box 11260 Fax: 202.362.1501 Washington, D.C. 20008-0460 "For People Who Live Inside the Beltway... But Outside the Loop."

Send mail with questions or comments to
Web site copyright ©DCWatch (ISSN 1546-4296)