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January 30, 1998

The Bad Art Edition

Dear Neighbors:

Our readers have provided us with some provocative questions in this issue...and, as you will see, some very bad poetry. Intentionally bad, that is. I encourage you to respond to a question or two--when the boss isn't looking, that is. It's always good to get a few more lurkers contributing to the discourse.

As always, I ask you to pass this issue on to others and ask them to subscribe. The more subscribers we get, the better the newsletter and the more likely that I can keep up this service. I really do need your support to sustain this operation. Just hit the forward button and send this message on to a friend. Thanks. Now on with the show. Jeffrey Itell

Ed Barron might be interested to know that New York City doesn't just charge a toll to enter the city, it taxes the income of anyone who works there. That means that folks from NJ or CN who work in Manhattan have to pay NYC taxes. Of course, such taxes are reciprocal: those folks receive a tax credit in their home jurisdictions for any taxes paid elsewhere, which is the premise behind the so-called commuter tax. Residents of VA or MD who work in DC wouldn't be taxed twice, they'd simply be taxed in the location where they work--as would any DC resident who works outside the District. This system is in place in many, if not most, multi-jurisdictional metropolitan areas in the country. The only reason it is such a hot potato here is because VA and MD politicians have made careers out of running against DC--and we know what that means. This issue should be evaluated on its own merits, not on the management skills or honesty of incumbent DC officeholders. It may make perfect sense for VA or MD politicians to oppose it if it means a net loss of income for their states, but that has never been the tone of their argument. Anyway, a job-based income tax would seem to make as much sense as a purchase-based sales tax. Unless, of course, the next time I buy a car in MD, I can indicate that the sales tax should go to my home jurisdiction.

Ralph Blessing

Interesting article about trying to collect on bad debt. Wouldn't there be a cannier way to publish who the deadbeats are without having to actually come out and say they won't pay up? Couldn't you name specifics using another cover, thus eluding a lawsuit, but still putting pressure on them (and a measure of revenge for yourself)?

As a sole proprietor myself, I've found that brutal relentlessness pays off in the long run. However, I've never had to collect on advertising debt, particularly relatively small amounts, although I know that small amounts can really add up to large amounts quickly. I'm sorry you had to go through all that. It does seem it would be only fair that you should be able to publicly say that these people owe you money and won't pay--and to alert the rest of us to dishonest business owners.

A Sanford

Hello Jeffrey. I enjoyed your story "Dunning for Dollars." I wondered why you are being so considerate of the deadbeats who own you money? Why not publish their names and at least have the satisfaction of embarrassing them, since you may not get any other satisfaction. Or do you then open yourself up to a lawsuit for defamation of character? [Something like that. jeff] I'm still after you to do an in-depth story on The Brothers Pedas. Who are they, exactly? What all do they own? Are they still involved with Circle Theaters? Why are extremely popular movies, like Sense and Sensibility, only running at one neighborhood theater that's no bigger than my living room? Why did they put the Fresh Fields down at the other end of the parking garage instead of right by the Metro exit--in order to enter the store, one has to walk down a creepy, dirty, dark alley. Do they think everybody arrives by car? What are they going to do with the rest of the block? How can neighborhood residents have some influence on this?

Carolyn Long MAH0CO7@SIVM.SI.EDU

You've mentioned, I believe, and several of your correspondents have mentioned, the sporadic repairs of DC sidewalks.

I think there may be a clearer pattern -- and a larger story -- here. Take a look: DC sidewalks are in terrific shape! For at least the past 10 years, the sidewalks on a great many city streets (at least in NW) have been systematically repaired, sometimes in conjunction with street repairs, but often just the sidewalks themselves.

Why? Who makes these decisions? Talk about a misallocation of priorities! If the money is coming from street-repair funds, why not use it to repair more streets -- rather than sidewalks that in many cases are in decent shape to begin with?

My block -- 34th Place, NW, between Newark and Ordway, has had its sidewalks repaired TWICE in the 10 years I've lived on it. The first time just the sidewalks were done. The second time, the sidewalks were torn up and relaid, tree roots were trimmed, and a MAJOR paving job was done on the street itself -- all for a one-block long street that was in decent shape to begin with. (Most of the residents would have preferred to keep the slightly bumpy pavement that kept down speeds and discouraged rush-hour interlopers. And the sidewalks didn't need work at all.)

Enough of us have had to endure such disruptions, and have wondered about the folly of repairing sidewalks, that it might make a decent, non-snow piece. Lord knows the streets need help. Have you tried to drive over the block of Woodley Road just east of 34th Street. A nightmare. And I see the sidewalks on Connecticut just south of the Lion bridge are getting attention now ...

Ted Weidlein

[And the next day, Ted added...] As a former reporter myself (and I don't believe reporters are ever "former"), I do think there's something interesting going on here -- SOMEONE deciding to improve the quality of city life with significant dollars, when many other things need help much more desperately. (Another example: Quebec Street, NW, was torn up between 35th and 36th Streets, both sidewalks and street, about five years ago. The project even rated one of those federal/local highway funds signs. I lived on that block before my current block, and it ABSOLUTELY did not need work, even if it had been a major route, which it is not.) -- Ted Weidlein

I am interested in knowing what the experience of D.C. residents has been with Virginia state police.

I was recently ticketed in Northern Virginia after being in an accident where I believed I was clearly not at fault.. The story is rather incredible and to repeat it would make it too easy for someone to conclude that I wrote this E-mail, but I felt deeply that the police were biased against me.

One thing I noticed in reviewing the law is that Virginia apparently has kept the old rules regarding car accidents. That is, they are not a strict liability state. They are also, not a state that believes in comparative negligence. That means, you have to prove that one party is completely at fault and the other one innocent in order to collect any money. If you are partly at fault, you will not be able to collect from the more who is more at fault. That also means that if Virginia wants to see its residents compensated, the police may more vigorously weigh in on the side of the local resident in order to make him/her appear not at all negligent and be able to collect. Thus, I think there is a tendency to zealously ticket out of staters, particularly if an accident is involved.

I mentioned this to a claims adjuster who had similar experience, where he was singled out for speeding in Virginia, because he had a Maryland tag. No accident, just singled out. Others have also said that when driving along the GW, the state police seem to look especially for the out of state drivers.

Have other people had similar experiences in neighboring jurisdictions? Or in Virginia with accidents? Has anyone actually looked at the number of tickets issued in Virginia against out of state drivers compared to in-state drivers and see how they compare to national or local averages? I am curious to know. It wouldn't change my approach to my ticket or accident, but it would at least confirm the Kafka-esque sensations I am experiencing.

A reader

In the 27 January issue of dc.story, E. Small ( wrote of the inability of the DC Government to notify people about their drivers license renewal. I'd like to echo that warning for registration and residential parking renewal. I received my renewal notice in the mail today (29 January). The notice made much about the convenience of renewing by mail. But it also stated that 15 working days were needed for processing. So what is the problem? Well, the notice also says my registration expires on 6 February, which is only six working days away, so I have to renew in person. And here I thought that the Bureau of Motor Vehicles was on the road to improvement!

David Missert

Do you think there really will be a downtown opera house on the site of the old Woodies? I'll support that! Over these three weeks (last week, this week, and next) there are operas almost every night at the Kennedy Center. Just think of the life that would breathe into downtown for several months a year and the opportunities to have big stage events when the opera was off.... ah, what a dream...

Andrea Berman

Does anyone know why Porter Street was closed Saturday night about midnight, and why there were numerous police cars blocking Porter Street, as well as hanging out on the corner of Newark and Conn? Ordway Street was quiet as could be -- I hope we're getting some peace to even things out after our spate of muggings. We were coming home, and saw all this activity, but have not been able to learn what was going on.

Margie Siegel MASiegel

Do you know what was going on this weekend on Porter street? I came home late on Saturday night to discover that the intersection of 34th Street/Reno Road and Porter street was blocked off with flares, iron barricades, and "police line" tapes. There were multiple police cars and a fire truck but no sign of fire.&127;&127;&127; Any ideas? Maybe a gas/water line burst? In any case, the incident left the intersection very icy until the city arrived and saturated the area with rock salt. (Where was all that salt during the storm?)

Elizabeth Clarke

Do you know anything about the swastikas and SS symbols spray-painted on traffic light boxes (you know, the tall gray boxes next to some traffic lights) around the intersection of Calvert and Connecticut and down to the end of Calvert and up Cleveland? Some nice person seems to have blacked most of them out with spray paint of their own, but I never saw a word about it anywhere, and it's very unusual in our neighborhood...

Daniel A. Turner

I have two after-snow thoughts. One of the few delights of the snow debacle was discovering the video store on connecticut avenue -just past bread and chocolate - having walked to blockbusters(in friendship height) several times i had a memory of this store and on one of the many walks found it - much more courteous service and a much better selection of movies for the discriminating video viewer- we get lazy with big marketing and tend to forget that good things still come in small packages- -re: garbage pick-up- i called the collection people on the first monday when the snow was gone and it seemed reasonable to expect trash pick-up - a very nice sounding exasperated employee said that in order for our trash to be picked up they needed ten trucks and had only three in working condition - he sounded genuinely distressed at the situation and said they would try their best - when asked if there is anything that the citizens can do he suggested calling Kathy Patterson - so perhaps this will be addressed in the ward 3 meeting- question.

A real estate person wondered whether their is still a hard copy of the NORTHWESTSIDE STORY being distributed - and/or if there is any advertising in this e-mail version.

[The Northwest Side Story is alive and well. Sam Le Blanc bought the paper from me and John Briley is ably filing my shoes. And, yes, as you can see from the end of the issues, dc.story is accepting advertising--for free, as a matter of fact. My only request is that you follow our format and keep your ads, event listings, and web page advertisements short. jeff]

judy schreiber 102754,

[Well, it's been a few weeks since the blizzard of 96, and, at this point, we can all look back and laugh at our wacky city government and its handling of the weather crisis. Ok. Maybe not. But here's one thing we can do: write bad (extremely bad; very, very bad) poetry about it! From one of our neighbors on Capitol Hill comes the following loosely poetical submission. She would like me to stress the fact that this piece was written originally for a bad performance art contest (in which, by the way, it won a major award), and that I, too, got into the act by simultaneously translating the bad reading of this bad poem into bad french. Now that your minds are reeling with that image, let me present "Ode to a Snowflake," by Cheryl Donahue. jeff]

Snowflake, snowflake, white and pure
"What's in thy heart"? I do adjure.
Beauty--still, unique and cold.
How coms't thou to this voyage bold?

Drifting, drifting, whilst to flounder,
coming down as fine white powder.
What hast thou seen on thy journey down?
Ending up there on the ground.

Dost thou have thoughts, as pure and fine
as thine appearance, winter-shine?
Dost thou wonder, ground approaching,
if, perhaps, thy death's encroaching?

Or dost thou see, instead, a view
of other snowflakes, down there too.
Forming thence, in silent vow,
a downy drift, that none shall plow.

Stalwart, heavy, bold and true,
snowflakes died but born anew.
Mounded thus to block our way,
leaving us with nerves afray.

Snowflake, snowflake, white and pure
"What's in thy heart"? I do adjure.
A quiet peace for all to see,
Or sad and sick perversity?

[Now that you're in the spirit, I challenge the neighborhood to figure out how we can turn those dirt-encrusted mounds of snow still remaining at various neighborhood corners into objets d'art. It's just a question of attitude, n'est ce pas? jeff]

BAD DIGITAL ART CONTEST [Everybody loves a contest, right. And what could be more appropriate following an (intentionally) bad poem than a bad email art contest. Below is a lovely rendering of Sony's CM-RX100 (never mind what that is), which I ripped off from the Washington Post's Fast Forward email. And below that is the work of a Jewish bond trader with far too much time on his hands. Lots of these drawings float around the net and we want to see them. Please send them my way-with a brief description--and I will compile them for an electronic art show. Then you'll all get to vote for the best, the worst, etc. Prizes to be determined at a later date. (Perhaps deletion from the email list?) jeff]

Female looking for a room in a group house, a room for rent, or small basement apartment in the Cleveland Park or surrounding area. For immediate occupancy. (202) 364-2950. David Burka.

Write & Speak Like the News: The New Business Communication. Fresh journalism skills (plus traditional business writing and speaking skills) that advance your career. Seminars and consulting.race, NW, Washington, DC 20008. (202) 966-7866. hank Wallace.

Office space available part-time at 3000 Connecticut Ave. (directly across from the zoo). A large consulting room with small playroom attached. Ideal for psychotherapists , among others. Available on a regular basis for small or large blocks of time. Both day and evening times possible. Call 202-337-4906.

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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