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March 20, 1996

Van Ness Mess II

Dear Neighbors:

A quick 2 cents about the Van Ness protest before we get to your comments. I find it disheartening that some of our political leaders who participated in the protest (Barry (his and her), Thomas, Clarke, and Chavous) haven't moved beyond the civil rights era to assume the responsibilities of governing. As a couple of astute posters write, they can't even do the civil disobedience thing correctly.

Jeffrey Itell


Van Ness Protest

I was at the demonstration yesterday. I am a Photo Journalist for a regional television station and covered part of the event. In my opinion, the students were well behaved, polite and certainly believed in what they were doing. It was the first event of this kind that I have responded to and was most impressed with the way the students handled themselves. One interesting point did occur, when Mayor Barry's wife walked through the crowd the media went crazy. ( Myself included ). Of course we all went to cover her walk and I also was able to record some remarks made by her. At this point the students did get upset and accused the media of not listening to them and only caring about the celebrity status of Mrs. Barry. I thought this was interesting. (It also was untrue). Being part of the electronic media yesterday, I know that I covered the event from a visual point of view and recorded numerous interviews with students participating in the demonstration.

Avery Russell


UDC is not being subject to a ten percent CUT, but the Control Board is withholding 10 percent (in reserve) from all agencies since the city doesn't have an appropriation from Congress yet and we have a history of overspending. Apparently, there have been exceptions, as to the Board of Elections, because they have never overspent their budget, unlike UDC.

Barbara Somson


As a veteran of several disruptive student movements myself, as well as an unsuspecting resident who spent half an hour moving his car a block to get home yesterday, I have to say that the UDC students are WAY off the mark. The purpose of a good demonstration should be to bring the impact home to the powers-that-be. Anyone who believes that the power structure in this city is in any way sensitive to traffic along Connecticut Avenue very obviously missed January's blizzard.

Bruce Abramson


Here we are back in Dodge City with the mayor actively encouraging and promoting civil disobedience and civil disrespect. If my neighbors and I were to block Mass. Ave in protest of the District raising our assessment by 10% in a declining real estate market we would be quickly swept up into waiting vans, trucked down to the pokey and fined $250 for creating a disturbance. The mayor has just opened the door and encouraged a form of terrorism that will be adopted by every single group of employees and/or residents who feel that their ox has been, or will be, gored. Just wait til they try to close six elementary schools. They'll be blocking Pennsylvania Ave. and every other main thoroughfare that drivers use to flee the city. Perhaps the Metro personnel will block the streets to get more people to take the Metro. This is clearly out of hand. I feel sorry for the District police who were handcuffed from exercising their duty in protecting the residents of the city from civil disobedience.

Ed Barron


Aside from the student sponsored sit-in, there were over one hundred DC police (and their vehicles parked in the middle of Conn. Ave.), some clad in riot gear, sauntering about Connecticut enjoying their Taco Bell (I guess you have to improvise when there are no donut places). A few were standing directly over the students, but the majority were just hanging out enjoying the spectacle and the respite from their usually stressful duties. While I was only there for a few minutes, little effort, if any, was made to forcible remove the students from the street. Instead, by leaving them there, they had a public platform for their views (exactly what they wanted). Traffic was in disarray until late last night.

I can't help but think, as cynically as this sounds, that this was tacitly sanctioned by our elected officials and it was in their political interest. Now they can try to extort more money from the Congress for fear that such protests might re-occur and/or escalate. Meanwhile thousands of commuters and residents were utterly inconvenienced. Who knows what the public safety threat would have been if there had been a fire or other emergency and rescue workers were unable to get through or were delayed in a time-critical crisis? I think Washington, DC and the students of UDC need a major dose of reality in order to understand that;

1. Budget cuts are necessary and have to affect us all in order to be fair, 2. Before we ask for more money, we need, as a city, to be accountable for the money we have. 3. Obstructing major thoroughfares for narrow political interests inconveniences thousands of residents and commuters, is a disservice to 'the cause' and, most significantly, threatens public safety.

Public officials need to recognize the valid concerns of UDC students (but inappropriate means to air these concerns). I would recommend that public hearings would be the appropriate venue for discussion of pubic funding levels for education. The unlawful obstruction public roads should not be tolerated and is particularly loathsome when condoned by elected officials.

Brian Kemler


What this situation highlights, among others, is the lack of higher education options for all but the well-to-do DC residents. UDC may do an adequate job for those students who couldn't be accepted elsewhere, but I can't imagine it being the first choice of any academically gifted high school senior anywhere in the District. What Congress needs to fund (instead of vouchers for private schools) is a program that allows DC residents to pay in-state tuition at state schools in Maryland and Virginia. U. of Maryland, in particular, makes sense given its proximity and ease of access because of Metro. Of course, given that members of Congress from all 50 states have their noses in DC affairs, why not allow DC residents to qualify for in-state rates anywhere in the country? That makes as much sense as the logic they use to justify their intrusion in District business.

Ralph Blessing


As a peace activist from way back and a student of Gandhian nonviolence, I was distressed by the street demonstration and the apparent ready support by Mayor Barry and Dave Clarke. The protest attacks the opponents rather than embracing them as (misguided) fellows in the conflict. It also seems to be a form of collective punishment, i.e. innocent travelers on the street are harrassed. Advance warning was not given (Ghandi and King always did that, and negotiated first, leaving civil disobedience for last), while petulance and chaos, if not encouraged by the leaders, are accepted as the "price" for being noticed. I think the short-run splash will stain the "movement", but maybe I'm wrong, because publicity is worth so much these days and the price of Gandhian integrity is too high.

E. James Lieberman, M.D.


While I was not at the Connecticut Avenue-Van Ness protest, the news accounts from Channel 4 sound very much like the c.f.o. allowed the students to declare victory so they could go to bed and commuters can go to work. The bottom line is UDC is overspending its budget, the control board is displeased and the c.f.o. is obliged to withhold the equivalent of the money overspent. The students said any cut from the current budget will close the school and demanded a letter from the c.f.o. promising no budget cuts. Since from his viewpoint he isn't cutting the budget, just holding UDC to what it was originally appropriated, he sent the letter. Meanwhile, the real power is still with the control board, which sent no letter. If this makes sense, or no sense at all, don't tell me. Like a latter-day Will Rogers, I only know what the media tells me. Funny how DC budget is like the US budget; everyone agrees there's too much spending and no one wants to cut anything when crunch time comes.

T. Matthes


The newspaper says that UDC is one of many city government organizations that habitually overspend their budget. That is why such organizations are being held to 90% of their budgets. Presumably the last 10 percent will be released in a controlled fashion to make it impossible for them to overspend once again. It is not a 10 percent cut. It is a reward for past UDC behavior. Let's disband UDC and give all students a tuition credit at schools in the Maryland system. They will get a better education, and the taxpayers will save money.



Talking with some students, I wondered about the irony of deploying this overwhelming police presence in the midst of a budget crisis. While the students have no legal right to close a busy commuter road, what sense does it make to pay hundreds of police officers to stand by and watch all day?

I am also perplexed by elected officials promoting illegal behavior. Period. Shouldn't these officials promote demonstrations/protests on the sidewalk?

David Glass


I stopped by the demonstration last night at about 8:00 p.m., on my way home. I spoke with many UDC students who feared that the only university that they could afford or that would accept them was about to close. (One student has attempted to transfer to the U.MD. but was told that her UDC credits would not transfer.) Most of the students interpreted the cut in funding as the first step toward the abolition of UDC as we now know it. I can't say I blame them. In the last 18 months, UDC's funding has been cut by 35%, and its accreditation with the Middle States Association of Colleges and Universities is at risk.

I know many professors there, and I have always been impressed by their commitment and dedication to their students. It is hard to imagine how-- in the nation's capitol, the supposed capital of the "free world"-- creating educational opportunities for ALL has fallen so low on our priority list. I'd gladly live with hundreds of pot holes (and the damage they do to my car) and delivering my recyclables to a central drop-off point if it meant that UDC would receive funding sufficient to achieve its mission--making higher education available to all, even those who apparently were failed by the District's primary and secondary schools. How will the District government ever cease to be the employer of last resort if we don't encourage our residents to pursue education that will (should) lead to a broader array of employment options?

Karen Hardwick KMH@DC3.HHLAW.COM


Does anyone know what the status of Washington's best radio station, WDCU 90.1 FM, will be when UDC's budget is cut? The station is affiliated with UDC, but I don't know what percentage of their budget is supplied by the University.


It is important to support the students in their -- one hopes -- defense of their education! -- food, cheers, etc.

It is important, however, at the same time to support the 10% or larger cut in the bloated UDC budget. The budget is not bloated because of the vast amount of education that is going on but because of the bloated, multi-layered, do-little administrative structure at the university.


The students are correct. The mayor is his usual opportunistic self. The control board is correct and should be supported. Why not just switch $$ from the really do-nothing Council, truly truly bloated salaries to education-only expenditures at the University?

Linda Posell



There was a little excitement at our condo building in Woodley Park late Saturday night (3/16). I awoke at 12:30 am to the piercing sound of a woman screaming HELP! I called 911 and the police showed up in less than 5 minutes (kudos to the 2nd District response!!). According to the girl's boyfriend who lives in our building, it seems as though she entered our security building, waited for the elevator, and when the doors opened she saw a man whom she had seen outside only minutes earlier -- he was sitting on a front-loader parked in front of the building next door which is under construction. I can't be sure if this is the notorious Steak Knife Mugger, but it was quite scary to say the least.


Merchant News

I was wondering if you or anyone knew how the "seafood" restaurant at the southeast corner of Connecticut and Ordway survives. While there seem to be bodies occupying the bar, no one seems to eat there?

Does anyone have an idea/opinion on this? For those who wish to comment, and suspect something nefarious, there is always the witness protection program.



I'd be curious to hear your views (and the views of others) on the apparent unattractiveness of the Tenleytown area for small, consumer-oriented businesses that had, to my mind, been beneficial to the neighborhood.

My personal guess is something that always makes it difficult to shop in DC--parking. I'm sorry to hear that Egghead Software is leaving, but in general, the staff was never very friendly & it is easier for me to order the same software at the same price (if not lower) from a catalog. I try to frequent local stores, but the reality is that parking along Wisconsin when I want to shop (after work & on weekends) is difficult and very limited in that area. So ever since I moved to DC (about 8 years ago), I tend to do all my shopping via catalog.

Debbie Stine


With regard to the concern about the Tenleytown area.It is likely that the opening of Hechinger's (soon to be Sears version of Home Depot IMHO) (and ironic) will attract more people and customers to this conveniently located small business complex. The area does need some cosmetic sprucing up and wouldn't it be nice if some bright young architect would do a rendering of what could be there in place of what is there now.

Ed Barron



Joseph Poisso posed an interesting question about whether I compared the Districts government to that of Castro's Cuba. His most telling analogy is the comparison of D.C. residents who chose to leave the city "fleeing a tyranny of poor government." His comments are illustrative of where we need to move the city so it can prosper. Democracy is the issue, and good government can result from that. Cubans who are asked why they leave Cuba are not seeking a better managed tyrannical form of government--they seek a democratic one. The citizens of Washington deserve no less.

John Capozzi


Public Works

Among the many things that need attention in D.C. are the signs: Fore and aft on the islands on 16th Street there are signs warning motorists that the barriers are there. Many of them are gone or are lying (and have been lying for years) on the ground; others are twisted or are aiming at an awkward angle. There are also street signs that are missing and other signs indicating parking regulations that are bent out of shape or are so old or were so poorly made that no one can be expected to read the now all-white signs. When people enter the District from Silver Spring onto 16th Street, the general impression is one of untidiness and neglect. I will not mention the problem that the trash on the islands and on the walkways that are D.C.'s responsibility alongside Rock Creek Park creates, nor the lack of attention to the bushes and other plants to the right of the northbound lanes of 16th Street as well as on the islands. Neatness does count.

Barbara L. Goodman


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