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March 2, 1996

The Party Invite

Dear Neighbors:

Some of the postings in this issue are lengthy but exceptionally good. Even if you skim your email as I do, I'd encourage to pay close attention to this edition. There's a mixture of community news, good suggestions, and analysis that's first rate. In other words, I didn't write it.

Also, Pat Hahn poses the question: Have you ever wondered what your electronic neighbors look like? She also asks if you've ever wonder what I look like (as in, does he scare small children)?

Anyway, Pat's throwing a part, called Electronic Backfence Night, at Pizzeria Uno (3501 Connecticut Avenue N.W. - Connecticut & Ordway). Uno will provide drink deals, half-priced appetizers, and free pizza. Set the date for March 26 at 7:30 p.m. Pat asks that you RSVP to her by e-mail at c.zero@ix.netcom.com.

Party on, dudes.

Jeffrey Itell

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District of Columbia

Wow! After reading the last couple of dc.story digests, I'm surprised that anyone still lives in the city; everything was so incredibly negative. Yes there are potholes, yes there is crime and yes there are taxes but put it in to perspective.

We have the best museums in the world, the music in this city is all inspiring and the restaurants are fabulous. With all the snow we have had this year, the Spring should be glorious! The architecture of a lot of buildings in this city are breath taking and the neighborhoods are beautiful. I love DC and even with all of its draw backs, I never want to leave.

Catherine Lancaster 0004830458@mcimail.com

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District Government

Another example of DC gone down the drain -- took my son this morning for his license driving test. The staff were pleasant and helpful, but the technology was not. After one half hour of trying to get the printer to print out the info for my son's new driver's license, the clerk gave up and started typing all the licenses by hand -- evidently, the printers in the license office on Brentwood Road break down regularly, and they had been working this week, so the staff assumed they would be down this morning,. and they were.

Margie Siegel MASiegel@aol.com

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Mayor

I suggest that John Capozzi or anyone else affiliated with the DC Statehood Party be firmly rejected at the ballot box. Statehood would just give this mafioso clique more ammunition to raid the federal treasury. The best option would be to dissolve the city and merge it piecemeal into the surrounding jurisdictions. Failing that, retrocession intact to Maryland would seem the only viable option for incremental change. Anyone interested to work for retrocession to Maryland, please contact me with your address and day and night telephone numbers.

Richard Levine LevineR@hd01.nichd.nih.gov

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Crime

In reference to the comment on crime being on the rise in the Northwest DC area, I'm always puzzled by the concept that crime in Montgomery County (or Arlington, Alexandria, etc.) is so significantly lower than crime in NW DC that it's worth the move there. I can understand wanting to move to one of our surrounding states for the change in taxes, school systems, or property values, but can we really assume that criminals don't cross the District border and crime is that much less on the other side? Seems to me that the crime rate is high in ALL of the metropolitan area more in comparison to rural areas (although perhaps per capita, the gap is not as large as we think). Crimes don't happen because of the victim--that is, where you are, what you're wearing, what you own--the reasons are complex but I don't believe it's right to blame the victim for their lifestyle choice. While I completely understand the wish to run somewhere safe when it hits us too close, I'm not sure anywhere that allows us the convenience of city living is better than being right in the city itself. We'd have to move to mid-America to really escape, and if we are to believe the cries and moans of the American voters, it's no better out there than it is here. Therefore, we've got to look out for each other, more than ever, particularly those of us who enjoy living well in a major metro area.

A. Sanford scdi@his.com

[A quick observation. Regarding one category of crime--murder--Northwest Washington (West of the park, of course) fares extremely well compared to even the suburbs. I don't believe there have been more than 2 murder victims in any year since at least 1988. jeff]

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Parking

My 15 foot pole which says DRIVEWAY has been quite successful in deterring vision impaired drivers from parking at the end of my driveway. Until yesterday, that is. As I prepared to leave to go to my travel agent to pick up Amtrak tickets for my weekly trip to NY, I found the driveway blocked by a Colorado plated car with an AU sticker on the windshield. I placed my traditionally futile call to the non-emergency D.C. police line and was told that someone would come by. My wife, in the meantime, walked over to the AU Law School to alert the Chief of Security about the offender. He was well aware of my infamous driveway and the fifteen foot sign and asked my wife to give him the AU sticker number. She made another round trip to the offender car and provided the info to AU Security. This was a fortuitous round trip because, on the final return to our house, my wife spotted a D.C. patrol car parked at the Spring Valley shopping center.

Now, to find a uniformed patrol person in the Spring Valley area in broad daylight is about as likely as finding a unicorn. Nonetheless, here were four, count 'em, uniformed police officers inside the car engaged in a lively debate (no doubt about the crime situation in Ward 3, since my wife heard the names Ripken and Alomar - obviously members of a criminal element in NW D.C. - mentioned). The driver said he could not ticket the car unless a report had been called in. My wife said we had made the call and the driver verified that over the radio ( the dispatcher had the wrong address, of course). A police person then, very reluctantly, walked back to the offender car and wrote out a ticket.

Now this is a real milestone. Prior to yesterday the police had written only one ticket in 30 blocked driveway offenses at my place. Today we now have two tickets written in 31 offenses. At this rate the D.C. police will attain Hall-of-Fame statistics by the year 2008.

I'm headed for the Mayor's office at noon today for a meeting about restructuring the D.C. Government. I'll submit my report tomorrow unless I find my, sometimes, outspoken self imprisoned in a D.C. facility for bad manners. If the latter is the case I'll make my one allotted call to NW Side Story.

Ed Barron EdTB@aol.com

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Traffic

If the story about adding parking enforcement is true, it is only another example of the District doing the right thing in the wrong area. There is substantial evidence that *traffic* enforcement can not only raise revenues, but also cut crime. As a D.C. pedestrian and driver, I see several moving violations (mostly red light running) every time I am on the road. I don't know what the fine is for running a red light in the District at the moment, and I'd bet nobody else does, either, because I've never even heard of anyone getting a ticket for it. Unmarked traffic patrols would more than pay for themselves. And, as I mentioned, experience in Texas and North Carolina, among other places, shows that routine traffic stops often net criminals. One highly publicized example: A car that tried to evade a North Carolina drunk driving checkpoint was pulled over. The driver was on Florida's "most wanted" list. Criminals transact their business by car, and are not any more law-abiding when behind the wheel than at any other time.

For example, according to the Wall Street Journal of May 27, 1995: "Texas traffic officers in 1992 began an aggressive program of looking for criminal activity during traffic stops. In 1992 and 1993, the effort produced more than 11,000 felony and 27,000 misdemeanor arrests, as well as more than 280 kilograms of cocaine, 68,000 pounds of marijuana, and almost $11.4 million in currency seized as potential drug profits.

"Police in Kansas City, MO and Phoenix made temporary escalations of traffic enforcement part of crackdowns on gun crime 'hot spots.' In the six-month Kansas City effort through early 1993, seizures of illegal guns rose65 percent and gun-related crimes plunged 49 percent, the U.S. Justice department said. It called traffic enforcement "the most productive method of finding guns" in the program, with an average of one illegal gun found for every 28 stops.

"In Oklahoma, just eight days after the McVeigh arrest, an Oklahoma trooper stopped a car with aloud exhaust and wound up finding a bag of cocaine stashed in a rear-seat panel. "Traffic police make more drug arrests than drug police," says Lt. Col. B.H. Shaw, of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

>From a public health standpoint, traffic kills more people than crime.; (D.C. is an exception in this.)

I believe (but have no documentation for other than my memory of a presentation at last year's "Lifesavers" traffic safety conference, that the Grand Prairie, Texas program was conducted entirely by police officers working overtime, which was more than covered by the value of the tickets they issued.

You can get further details from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which publishes a booklet on the subject.

Excerpts from the NHTSA booklet:

In East Palo Alto between 1992 and 1993, enhanced traffic enforcement lowered homicides from 42 to 6. Robbery with firearms went from 162 to 86, and auto theft went from 406 to 341.

Aggravated assaults and larceny went up slightly, and burglary rose from 285 to 362, or 27 percent. All other categories went down, for a drop in total crime of 8 percent.

I don't see why it wouldn't work here. I'd *sure* like to see red light runners brought into some kind of compliance, at least, because they're a daily threat.

Stephanie Faul steph@clark.net

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Lisa Wormser asked about nightclubs at Avignon Freres on Columbia Road - another name was Clockwork Orange, back in 91/92. And the Fifth Column was indeed The Bank before, but never The Vault, The Vault was right next-door (and had less of a "beautiful people" atmosphere.)

Sheila Coyle xaime@ari.net

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Merchants

On a separate note, Iona House is in the process of tearing down the old Police Station in Tenleytown today. In the face of all this construction, can anyone say what's going in to the empty Wiz on the corner, the former Hudson Outfitters, the former Flotation Spa (a most excellent mystery place that I'm sorry to see go), and what, once and for all, is REALLY going into the old Hechingers?

A. Sanford scdi@his.com

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Taxes

In all fairness, I want to follow up on my erroneous tax lien (from last issue). My collections officer did indeed follow up, go find the lien, remove it and tell me she had put the paperwork in the mail -- all in one day! She even said "if the lien doesn't come off" (neat), I can have people call her. Now, of course, I must wait, request my credit reports from all 3 bureaus, check to be sure it's off, etc. This is particularly urgent in light of my upcoming move and need for a house or apartment in three months.

I asked the collections officer why my payments had not been posted to my "account." Her reply? "This isn't really like a bank. Sometimes it takes months." Isn't really like a bank in what sense -- in the sense that when people pay thousands of dollars, someone writes it down? Old computers or no, I believe those payments should have been credited. The checks have been cashed and the money doubtless spent by now. Come on, folks. I feel like I've stepped thru the looking glass. Only my sense of the absurd is keeping me going. My sense of humor went long ago.

Jean Lawrence JKELLAW@ AOL.COM

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Recycling

Further on the subject of mixed recyclables -- it does make sense, and I've seen it with my own eyes. I went on a field trip with my daughter's class to the Montgomery County recycling center in Gaithersburg a year or so ago, and as I recall mixed recyclables was the way it's done. They have a wonderful Rube Goldberg machine that separates plastic from metal from glass (aluminum bounces cutely up off the conveyor belt thanks to some sort of electric current passed through the mess), and then directs the flow to people who do the final sorting as it passes by them on conveyor belts. The only presort, I think, is that newspaper comes in separately, but even that might be wrong. I can't say DC runs this way. In fact, my jaundiced view of DC government prompts me to agree with Stan Wellborn and others who suspect DC just dumps it all in a landfill and makes the pretense of recycling to appear to comply with the court order. But the fact that we don't sort at curbside doesn't prove it.

Jonathan Abram jlabram@aol.com

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Sheraton Hotel

Jeffrey, many of your readers probably read the Northwest Current's editorial regarding the Sheraton Hotel. Below is my response to that editorial which may be published in their March 6th issue:

I am responding to your editorial regarding the Sheraton Hotel application before the Board of Zoning. To begin with, your assertions that the Sheraton Hotel is going to face bankruptcy if it doesn't receive this variance is way off base. The Sheraton Hotel is a profitable business--a fact proven by documents it has provided the Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners and Woodley Park Community Association personnel working with the hotel on this application. Although they wish to infer that without the approval of the application their future profit potential will continually be eroded to the point where the possibility would exist that they would not be a profitable entity, their own documents and studies have shown that the expansion of the hotel is not even necessary to improve their bottom line. Rather, there is a profound need to improve the management of the operations of the hotel. I think it important that your reading public understand that there is really no gloom and doom regarding the Sheraton Hotel's fate as a thriving corporate entity.

As for your suggestion that the community should support entering into an agreement with the hotel and supporting this application contingent upon this agreement, I wholeheartedly agree. The Sheraton Hotel has been an historically bad neighbor within the community. I can personally attest to the fact that the impact of traffic, parking problems, bus traffic and taxi congestion within Woodley Park has grown worse over the past 13 years. The management of the hotel has not, until this application process began in June 1995, paid much attention to the concerns or wishes of the neighborhood (except with the IMF/World Bank Conference) and in my opinion they have been completely unchecked in their adverse relations with the community.

The agreement that was close to being presented to the Woodley Park Community just 10 days prior to the scheduled BZA hearing was a good one. All along those who worked with the hotel to strike an agreement with the hotel owners felt that an agreement in hand would be invaluable for the community in the event the hotel managed to get through all of the hoops necessary to win a permit to begin construction. The hoops include a resolution of support by Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3-C, a favorable BZA opinion and in that event, a favorable decision by the Court of Appeals (assuming that a favorable BZA opinion would be appealed by an individual within the community).

This is a very important point. Many die-hard anti-Sheraton residents within Woodley Park don't seem to "get it." The hammering out of this agreement, the participation in making the plans more neighborhood friendly and user friendly, and the hundreds of hours spent in the development of operational and transportation management plans - all were done under the understanding that even though the neighborhood negotiators believed the hotel will not meet the necessary criteria to warrant a variance, that should that variance be granted and an appeal won by the Sheraton, then, and only then, would the community at least have an enforceable document that might legislate neighborliness. We recognized that our support would have to come in exchange for this agreement and that this might influence the BZA into a positive position granting the variance, however, there were no guarantees that our support would have automatically translated into a BZA approval; after all, the regulations are the regulations.

The hotel made many surprising and excellent concessions to the community---from erecting a new parking structure which would have provided a net additional car park of some 300 cars, to restricting bus and truck traffic during certain hours each evening, complete enclosure of loading dock facilities to eliminate night time noise, to the inclusion of an operations and transportation management plan. In addition, there was a clause to protect what we neighbors call "the green space" in front of the hotel for the term of the agreement. These are just a few of the several changes made to the design of the project. The planting of trees and other beautification and buffer efforts were also provided to the community.

The term of the agreement itself was a major concession won by neighbors, one which would have been an encumbrance on the deed and lasted for twenty years! The Sheraton agreed to restrict itself from ever seeking another variance again for public assembly space expansion for the duration of the agreement.

Nothing in life is perfect, as we know, and this agreement wasn't perfect either. However, now that this agreement is not in hand, primarily because of the overzealous nit-picking of a few people who felt they needed to tell the hotel how to operate its business, should the Sheraton ultimately win their right to build this new space, then the losers will be those stubborn, inflexible anti-Sheraton Woodley Park Community residents who will have lost a golden opportunity to legislate a very enforceable neighborliness on the part of the Sheraton. Sadly, those neighbors closest to the Sheraton will be the biggest losers of all.

Ian Gordon ANC Commissioner 3-C02 IanG250848@aol.com

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Pat Buchanan

Mr. Blessing, in your Leap Day edition, favorably cites Dorothy Gilliam's column when she complains that Minister Farrakhan may face congressional investigations, while Pat Buchanan is considered just a "crusty old curmudgeon."

This is one more example of the moral bankruptcy of latter-day liberals. It's like comparing Ayatollah Khomeini to Oliver Stone. The latter is a liar and a nut, but no one is accusing him of terrorism, just contempt for truth. Likewise, while Buchanan's xenophobia, statements that sound racist, and choice of company are troublesome, he is not in the same league with Farrakhan. The minister can hardly open his mouth without making blatantly anti-semitic remarks, openly associates with the terrorist leaders of Libya and Iraq, and ignores reports of black slavery while hob-nobbing with the Sudanese leaders accused of that crime of crimes. The State Department is also talking about taking action against Farrakhan, as he is apparently an unregistered agent of a foreign government, so this reaction is not a conservative's alone.

One last point. Ms. Gilliam should read the edition of "The Nation" magazine which notes the hypocrisy of liberals who are ignoring the obstruction of justice and abuse of power by the Clintons. Republicans like Howard Baker and William Cohen did their duty during Watergate. When are the Democrats going to reciprocate? Or is "So What?" their new platform? And Dorothy has nothing better to fret about than Buchanan?!

T. Matthes tmatthes@vais.net

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dc.market

BROCHURE DU JOUR. You can't be in business without a brochure. It simply isn't done, my dears. I can write it, get it designed, printed, mailed. Apple Computer, IBM, Digital, and USA Today trust me. Why shouldn't you? Call Jean Lawrence, (202) 362-8585, (202) 537-2980 (fax) or email JKELLAW@ AOL.COM.

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dc.volunteers

The Runnymede Singers is a mixed group with about 15 people that performs for fun, charity, and neighborhood events. We rehearse every Tuesday night in the Dupont Circle area. If you love to sing, but miss it because you haven't been in a chorus or singing group since high school/college; we're the group for you! Or if you just love to sing, come join us. We sing everything from classic (requiems) to modern (Billy Joel). We perform for free at the Kennedy Center in the Grand Foyer at Christmas time.

Give me a call (before 9:30 p.m.) at 202-232-8886 or preferably by email at renee508@ix.netcom.com.

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The End

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Jeffrey Itell Publisher: dc.story

Tel: 202.244.4163 P.O. Box 11260 Fax: 202.362.1501 Washington, D.C. 20008-0460

Your Electronic Backfence Story@intr.net

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