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January 21, 1996

New York, It’s Not

Dear Neighbors:

If New York is The City That Never Sleeps, has Washington become The City That Never Works?

Snow Stuff

The snow may be gone, but the bellyaching continues. At least that's the theme of some of the following messages. It would be a wonderful world (alas!) if District residents turned the snow disaster into a political renaissance, holding the administration and the council responsible for not preparing for snow, not managing the snow, and lying about the snow. But we've come to expect the worst and, thus, probably deserve it. The sad fact about District snow removal is that the city was not prepared to conquer a small snow fall. The statistics? 50-60 trucks, 1100 miles of roads. It doesn't take a genius to predict that the beleaguered Department of Public Works won't be able to fill the potholes, pick up the trash, exterminate the rates, and fix the roads with its meager resources.

Unfortunately, politicians are, in part, attributing the city's pathetic efforts to its budget problems. Even the Control Board this week expressed a desire to review a commuter tax to add to city's supposedly depleted coffers. But the politicians forget that throwing money at the problem won't solve it. DPW maintenance (or lack thereof) is a management problem. You don't need to raise taxes from Montgomery County to buy spare parts for idle trucks. You just shift the money around from less necessary causes...such as DC Law School, or extended, overpriced leases (a private study concluded that the city pays more than $4 million more than it should), or a myriad of other city practices and policies that will scream cut me, cut me once some talented person turns over the rock.

All of which means that the city is even closer to receivership than it was. The mayor has demonstrated ineptitude in managing city services and now even the White House privately takes this line (not that it would lend political support to receivership). Republican Jim Walsh's appropriations subcommittee is seeking to micromanage the city. Walsh was beaten back at the last minute by Newt. With January's follies, look for a resurgent attempt at micromanagement, with receivership as a compromise solution (with a nudge, nudge, wink, wink from the White House). Kelly and Barry have made the hand-over of self rule an art form. One more performance and there won't be anything left to hand over.

Crime Alert

The actions of some local scam artists have taken a mortal turn. An elderly woman living on Macomb Street, NW, and Reno Road, NW, was severely beaten by thugs in her home several days ago. The woman is reportedly in critical condition with irreversible brain damage. She's on life support.

The assailants--described as Gipsy-looking women--used a rouse (?) to enter her home, where they assaulted and robbed her. I'm not familiar with all the particulars--I'm expecting a detailed message from a neighbor--but I reported on this type of activity about a year ago in the Northwest Side Story. According to the police, the female assailants use various excuses to enter peoples' homes--usually the elderly. Sometimes they pretend to be in distress, sometimes it's a sales pitch. Sometimes their gig is to get you out of the house (look at a flat tire?) so an accomplice can enter your home and clear you out.

Please pass on any additional word on this unfortunate incident. And, sadly, be careful of strangers at your door. For further information, call the police at 202.282.0050.

The Homeless

The homeless debate is shaping up in these pages. Since I did some research on the subject, I'll take just a few bytes to put the issue in perspective (or more likely confusion). Are panhandlers dangerous? Many (if not most) homeless people in Northwest are dually diagnosed, which means that they have a combination of mental health and drug/alcohol problems. Also, the police report that many of the panhandlers they've picked up have criminal records and often are remanded to jail for crimes unrelated to solicitation.

That said, except for a particularly aggressive group of homeless people in the Tenley area, Northwest Washington's homeless are not a major threat to your safety and security. People with serious problems are going to have an occasional run-in with the law, just like city politicians. Though treatment would be ideal for many of the homeless, DC is ill-equipped to handle the homeless. It's laws are great but the city (shockingly!!) doesn't follow its laws. Jailing the homeless hardly helps anyone and the city that couldn't plow straight can't provide needed institutional care.

So, yes, the guy at Woodley Park Metro doesn't belong there. And, yes, the city should do more for him because he can't take care of himself. But is he a threat? I'd put the threat somewhere between being hit by a comet and falling on unplowed snow-cum-ice. Welcome to the big city.

Lurkers Lurkers, delurk.

Our list now has 325 members. Let's hear from a few new voices. Jeffrey Itell

Meg Murray commented in the last issue of dc.story that panhandling makes the city feels unsafe and should be discouraged.

Panhandling? Yeah, sure. Armed muggers on Ordway makes us feel unsafe. Psychos at ATM machines make us feel unsafe. Panhandlers might threaten your property values, but they shouldn't make you feel unsafe if you use an ounce of sense.

I've lived here two years, and I know the faces of the folks who ask me for money. For better or for worse, this is their home as well, and everyone knows that you shouldn't do what the bear does in the woods where you eat. The guy who's been in front of the 7-11 for the last six months knows that he'll be permanently rousted if he threatens anyone... that makes him safe in my book.

Or is their presence just breaking through your image of NW D.C. as urban Disneyland? Want us to erect a gate on the Taft bridge and only allow people in with proof of income? Sorry, we live in this city and we have to take the good with the bad. Don't blow up what's already a massive problem of starvation and human indignity by getting your feathers ruffled by the harmless guys who have the temerity to be hungry in your presence.

Jeff Porten

Here is a copy of letter I sent today to The City Paper.

Dear Editor:

D.C.'s great frosty fiscal fiasco of 1996 reveals that Mayor Marion Barry runs this city with the mentality of an ex-junkie. He blames everyone and everything but himself for his snow removal lethargy. A lot of snow could be removed if Barry would attach a shovel to his mouth every time he explains that the "situation is under control." Instead of not dumping snow that has not and will not be dumped, Barry should be dumped. It would be nice if we could all get the same grand perks the mayor gets, such as weekly garbage pickup and seasonal snow removal. Our mayor's 17 years of self-serving service have led to this moment of snow snafu.

Elizabeth B. Warner

You suggested in an earlier edition that our motto should be "We're mad as hell, but we're going to keep on taking it". While that may suit the masochists among us, others may wish to join one or more of 3 organizations dedicated to making substantial changes in the structure of the district government, primarily through regionalization of city functions or retrocession to Maryland - Free Ward 3, National Association to Restore Pride to America's Capital (NARPAC), or Committee for a Capital City

Free Ward 3 is a group of over 100 persons from Ward 3 who are interested in the retrocession of Ward 3 only to Maryland.

The purpose of the National Association to Restore Pride in America's Capital (NARPAC) is to sponsor publications and public forums to present a panoply of solutions to various problems in the nation's capital. It has been interested in retrocession, regionalization of city functions, or the possibility of decentralization of city functions with the creation of townships within the present boundaries of the district. NARPAC is interested in solutions involving the entire district. Most of us would like to see the district retroceded to Maryland with the part east of the B&O railroad given to Prince Georges County and the western portion to Montgomery - but no option has been rejected. In these scenarios the feds would retain a small national capital district - basically the mall and some land bordering the river to provide space for future construction needs (the 'shiny" part of the district). We would also favor abandoning the height restriction on district buildings not in the immediate vicinity of the mall.

I know less about the Committee for a Capital City, but I am in touch with them and will learn more very soon. These folks seem to be interested in retrocession of the entire district en bloc to Maryland, not in partitioning the district. Of course, this solution comes with Mayor Barry and the twelve dwarfs; but it would allow for federal representation and provide some oversight and support from the state of Maryland.

Richard Levine RL44W@NIH.GOV

It's pm, neither McKinley east of Connecticut, Nevada or Chevy Chase Pkwy have been plowed. These are major streets guys. Now the problem is that parked cars are willy nilly all over the place, blocking plowing, and each street is a one way adventure,depending upon how many cars there are behind you going in your direction, or coming at you.

Wasn't there a promise by the Mayor that each street would be plowed by 5 pm today? Maybe he believes in the power of the moon to melt the stuff as well. The height of mismanagement was the priority of loading the snow off Pennsylvania Avenue downtown at the beginning of a 3 day weekend when few would be using that street, and residents all over the city needed to get out and shop, not to mention the use of streets by emergency vehicles. Who is planning where to plow first, the Mad Hatter?

I like the idea of letters to compel the City Council to hold hearings. I would also suggest we Remember in November, and start now with bumper stickers and signs for lawns- "We'll Remember in November."

Martin Ganzglass

Hi Jeffrey. BTW, my iguana, Zeke, has no comment regarding the Blizzard of '96, the Big Dig-Out or the Ultimate Thaw-Out. He's got a climate-controlled environment which the city government -- thankfully -- is unable to infiltrate. (He wrote that. He's a wiz on the keyboard ... imagine. My turn ...)

Down to business. Although I am just as irate as the next person, I believe that the DC Gov't isn't 100% to blame for the inadequate snow removal and the barrage of finger-pointing. "Don't shoot me!" I drive to work everyday, and I see blatant "residential" non-conformists. For instance, on 15th Street between NY Ave. and U Street, there are cars parked in the TRAVEL lanes. Not the parking lanes, the actual road. Sure, they can't park in the snow on the shoulder (some manage to, however), but come on! Even Adams Morgan is a travesty. Southbound 18th Street is two-lanes. The pile of snow effects one lane. What do people do? They park in the ONLY lane that's plowed. Talk about double-parking! Where's the meter-maids (for lack of a better word, or police enforcement) when ya' need 'em? Try it one day -- not just during rush hour. You'll find that the Northbound lanes yield to one lane to allow them to cross the yellow line. Now that's effective.

If DC residents and businesses would take SOME RESPONSIBILITY for their neighborhoods (and themselves) and the ensuing problems, we would all benefit. Ever hear of a snow shovel? How do we expect the snow plows to clear the roadways with cars parked from here to Boston? I'm tired of hearing how inadequate the snow removal process is but hey in Vermont and the Yukon everybody pitches in. Where do our civic duties come into play? Let's blame everyone but ourselves. Ya know, we can take our sleds and our cross-country skis and our 4-wheel drive cars and our water-resistant boots and our kids out to play, but somebody better do the rest. We're suffering here!

Traffic is a bear because cars block the intersections and no one gives it a second thought. It's the District's fault and the snow. Sure, the roads are inadequate, but let's blame everybody because we are "victims". I'm tired of this crap. Especially when I hear that the children have to walk in the streets because the sidewalks aren't shoveled. Who's not shoveling the sidewalks? Us!!!

Even though this discombulated message is terribly unformatted and has no form, I had to write. Thanks for reading it. I've got it off my chest and am ready for the next snow storm. Wine is a verb for most DC residents, I prefer White (snow) Zinfadel. Cheers.

Liz Hoopes

With all the complaining going on, I thought it might be nice to highlight a pleasant surprise from one of those agency we're usually complaining about -- the Post Office. I was shocked Monday (the MLK holiday) to have mail delivered to the house. I guess they were trying to catch up on the mail deliveries missed the preceding week? There's still hope! [although I could have done without the delivery of junk mail...]

Brian Nielsen

I've lived in Cleveland Park for seven years, right on Connecticut Avenue, and have loved almost every minute of it. But in recent days, I've just about come to the conclusion that NOTHING in this city works anymore.

It's not just the lack of plowed streets (my car's on Rodman, which STILL isn't plowed). Nor the garbage that's been piling up at the receptacle at Connecticut and Ordway. Nor the cars driving on the sidewalk in front of Brookville Supermarket because the frontage street there hasn't been plowed yet people STILL insist on parking there.

What drove me 'round the bend the other day was the Cleveland Park Post Office. Our illustrious Postal Service, in its infinite wisdom decided to renovate the post office during the busiest time of the year, Christmas. Patrons have had to use a trailer parked in front of the post office on Connecticut Ave. The waiting room is large enough for perhaps a half-dozen people, maybe a dozen in a pinch. The counter is large enough for only two postal workers.

The other day, about 4:15 p.m., there was a line out the door. I joined the line because I had a large envelope to send and I didn't know how much postage it would require. I waited long enough to get to the top of the steps and looked in the peep hole of the door. There were a half-dozen people waiting for ONE postal worker.

I gave up the wait (I had to get to work), cursing the Postal Service and fully understanding why a disgruntled postal service worker would go berserk and whack his colleagues.

My romantic notions about Cleveland Park and Washington, DC, my home off and on for 30 years, have been utterly dashed. I may find myself a suburban exile in the coming months. My fear is that it's no better beyond the District line.

Evan Roth

Dear A. Sanford,

I am also on the DC Story list and saw your note in response to people's reaction to the snow.

Thank you so much for your intelligent, witty and wonderful response. I concur with your remarks and you gave me a tremendous laugh out loud with the grape vs onion controversy. I still have have tears rolling down my checks!

I am from Miami and even though I have lived here for 8 years, I still find every snow to be awesome. The beauty of the falling snow and the drifts that are on the ground make me truly happy to be alive. Also, this year I made the very first snowman I have ever made in my life ;-)

Catherine Lancaster

Just for Fun

Everyone knows palindromes, things that are the same spelled forwards and backwards. A well known example, "Madam, I'm Adam!" Also, relatively well known is, "A man, a plan, a canal - Panama!"

Saw this today in a sig on an Internet newsgroup:

"A man, a plan, a canoe, pasta, heros, rajahs, a coloratura, maps, snipe, percale, macaroni, a gag, a banana bag, a tan, a tag, a banana bag again (or a camel), a crepe, pins, Spam, a rut, a Rolo, cash, a jar, sore hats, a peon, a canal--Panama!"

Restores one's faith in mankind, does it not? (BTW: The Style Invitational is running a palidrome contest this week.)

Jan Genzer

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."

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