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March 25, 1996

The Electric Backfence Party

Hey Folks:

It's time to put on your party hat. The first Electronic Backfence party takes place tomorrow night at Pizzeria Uno in Cleveland Park (3501 Connecticut Avenue). 7:30 p.m. No cover charge, no formality, no more R.S.V.P.s, S.V.P. Just show up. Meet the aliases that have become famous on this list. Haven't you ever wondered who really is? I have. I hope to see you Tuesday night.

I'm also still soliciting submissions for our April Fool's Day edition. This isn't the Style Invitational but it's still high time we had some fun with these missives. Please send me some clever, untrue postings that just might be true (if we lived in an alternate universe.) I swear we'll come up with a prize for the winner.

Finally, I've received nary a word about the Mayor's Vision Plan. This is a hot property. Hiz Honor is schlepping it around the city for mass approval. The is Marion's gospel for the future. Do you not care? Are you too cynical too care? Or do you need more information to make form a knee-jerk reaction? Your editor wants to know.

I'm looking forward to seeing you tomorrow night.

Jeffrey Itell



I realize the pothole discussion is winding down, but i have yet to see *anyone* acknowledge the practical reality under which DPWs of all sizes and budgets operate: Mother Nature. there is such a thing as a construction season, especially for maintenance and repairs that are likely to be undone by the weather. now that the temperatures are staying consistently warm, i have noted that the dc govt is out there fixing what they can, starting with high-traffic corridors such as 14th street.

i have complained as bitterly as anyone these past few weeks, but i thought it might be helpful to insert a reality check into all this: i think dc has been waiting for spring so it wouldn't have to throw good money after bad.

[DC deserves some sympathy. DPW actually started pothole repair early but was hammered by the warm/cold weather. On the other hand, few of the residential potholes will be touched this year. The budget for pothole repair for 60 percent of the city streets is under $2 million.]

Lisa Wormser (not a reporter or a member of any citizen militia, last time I checked)


UDC Protest

I've been struck by a number of correspondents who refer to their own protest days before bashing the UDC students. The inference is that now the writer is older and wiser. But consider this: after the protests of the 60s, this city demonstrably improved in many, many ways. Now that everyone's so worried about deportment the place is going to hell. Might there not be some connection?

One thing I do know is that there is no correlation between social and political justice on the one hand and smooth traffic flow on the other.

I was stuck in traffic, too, but when I got home and found out why I said, thank god, someone's standing up for this beleaguered town at last. Thanks also to Marion Barry and Chief Soulsby for handling the situation so well.

sam smith (but keep it clean, folks. It's only politics)



The same night the UDC students blocked traffic on Conn. Ave., just a few blocks away on Chesapeake Street, about 100 public schools supporters showed up to hear and question Control Board Vice Chair Steve Harlan at an ANC 3F meeeting. There were parents from nearby Murch, Hearst, Lafayette and Janney elementary schools and from Deal Jr. High. They spoke eloquently and passionately about the need to make public education the city's top priority.

They told of leaky roofs and broken boilers, of window frames nailed into casements, and of flood damaged classrooms. They quoted a DCPS official saying, "If it cost only $2.53 to fix this boiler, we couldn't do it because we don't have $2.53."

They recounted tales of their kids having days without substitute teachers, of lack of supplies, and of outdated textbooks. They spoke of their fear that the schools would fail open on time in September from further furloughs. They spoke of families who've moved to the suburbs for better schools and asked Mr. Harlan whether they should move too.

There were no tv cameras at this meeting. The fears and concerns of these parents on behalf of all the District's children were not reported in the Post. Neither the Mayor nor the Chairman of the City Council joined the parents in their demands for better management of the D. C. schools. But what when on in that room was every bit as important as what was getting the attention over on Connecticut Ave.

How sad that our elected officials rush to show solidarity with the UDC demonstrators but never speak out for the tens of thousands of voiceless public school children throughout the city.

Barbara Somson


Rock Creek

i am responding to kris hoeschler's comment on rock creek flooding. The flooding of Rock Creek Parkway is a multi-faceted problem. Intense development of the Rock Creek watershed has created an incredible amount of impervious surfaces. The rain water washing off roof tops, roads, and parking lots inundates Rock Creek and its tributaries. Faulty or inadequate storm water management plus backed up sewers certainly are culprits in the parkway flooding. Better watershed planning and land development controls could help but we can trace these and a myriad of our other environmental problems back to one factor: overpopulation

Tim Goodfellow


Control Board

On Monday, March 18th, at Shepherd Elementary School about 100 people waited to hear Anthony Williams, DC's Chief Financial Officer and John Hill, the Executive Director of the Control Board. The meeting was supposed to begin at 7 and Charlene Drew Jarvis filled in for 20 minutes until the speakers arrived. The most riveting thought the Councilwoman had was her belief that at some undefined time some or all of our (local, I assume) income taxes would be forgiven. When Mr. Williams got away from the press that had apparently followed him to Shepherd from the UDC sit-in, he described DC's major financial problems: overspending budgets; not collecting money owed the city; the pension problem, a signal illustration of one of a series of bad deals made with the federal government. His first priority is to aim at maintaining financial control -- most people look at the money going in (what is budgeted for whom), but equally or more important is looking at the money going out (how it's spent). There is a massive training effort in effect to bring city workers up to some clear standards of performance. His department is trying to build a new financial system in which timely data is readily available. (One evening at supper after an exhausting day of working on DC's enormous problems, he was asked by his wife to say Grace before the meal. He said he thought of saying "Come Lord Jesus, be our guest and Help us with this financial mess!)

John Hill spoke next and emphasized DC's need of the Financial Authority: The City isn't going to get additional money without the Authority. Although the Control Board and the City Government aren't operating at present at a perfect level of trust, they're working at it. There is definitely less friction than before: information is more forthcoming; there is less talking to each other through the press; meetings take place. Mr. Hill mentioned that the difference between the City's budget of $5,123,000,000 and Congress's offer of $4.994 billion will require hurtful changes. DC can no longer do what it once did. According to the terms of the law, the CFO is legally responsible for making sure spending and hiring caps are observed.

Mr. Williams said that DC operates too many schools. Although there were once 140,000 students, only 70-80,000 are now enrolled and schools will have to be closed. The buildings should be sold and the money realized from the sales should be used for education rather than using those buildings for offices. He also mentioned that little by little his department is getting a handle on overdue payments to vendors. One big problem is that the proper documentation hasn't always been available for goods and services that were ordered.

Barbara Lock Goodman



I'm trying to think of a nonviolent strategy with which to approach the probable perpetrator of tree destruction outside Riggs Bank, near American Diner. The new owner of the Arcade wants to plant a tree in the spot where one was cut down, and its replacement died mysteriously. Have found a few sympathetic folks, and won't let go of the issue (as you can tell).

E. James Lieberman, M.D.



Regarding the correspondent who mentioned the Wiz and Kemp Mill as two convenient local businesses that have recently closed in the Tenley area, I shed no tears over their demise. As a music lover and record collector I was continually bummed out by the shallow selection, and equally shallow knowledge of the clerks, at those stores. (Browsing through the Cleveland Park Wiz while being serenaded by the latest in vapid pop & R&B, one constantly discovers CDs almost comically mis-filed; e.g., bluegrass CDs filed in the blues section. Ugh.) If you care about music and want to support artists and genres beyond the Billboard Top Ten, patronize record stores like Borders, Tower, and Olssons that make some effort to carry a varied and intelligent inventory and that occasionally have people on staff who know about jazz, blues, opera, folk, alternative rock, etc.

Steve Hoffman


Historic Preservation

I'm going to take an unpopular stance: I believe that historic preservation of the Avalon Theatre is misguided. I do admit that the interior as well as the exterior of the building are great examples of historically significant architecture, but let's be realistic. Telling Pedas the owner that he can't change the external facade is one thing, but restricting the use of the interior for only a movie theatre is very unreasonable. How can anyone determine what's the best use for the property given current market conditions. The horse and buggy was a great means of transportation at one time, but we have advanced that technology a bit.

The point I'm making is that Pedas has a right to lease his property to any tenant that fits the current commercial zoning. Maybe there aren't any theatre chains looking in Chevy Chase right now, but certainly there might be apparel stores, supermarkets, schools, or other commercial uses interested in the site. The facade can remain the same for the public's eyes but restricting the property's use is downright unAmerican!

Charlie Adler


People's Republic of New Columbia Poetry Poem 1 Superior Government

Little and little, Near and near, Superior District government Bought and sold. To relatives, Contributors, Friends and other Dear Members of the fold.

Joseph R Poisso <c> 1996 joseph.poisso@


City Finances

This just in from the urban battlefront, as reported by the Washington Post on March 21 (p. A25):

"The in serious trouble. Its tax base is eroding, poverty is increasing, roads are deteriorating and, most important, citizens are leaving." The story goes on to describe how the middle-class are bailing out for the suburbs, while those who stay are "pessimistic and angry. They live in a beautiful city with a rich cultural and social life and a disappearing economy."

Just another piece about D.C., right? Guess again. The city in question is Montreal, easily one of the classiest cities in North America. While the cause(s) behind their problems may be different, the effects are virtually the same -- and should serve to keep things in perspective for those who are short-sighted and deluded enough to believe that a move to the bland, nameless and faceless suburbs is the panacea for what ails them.

Alan Grossberg



I think that retrocession would benefit Maryland. Parts of DC are very wealthy. We have a lot of fantastic merchants and neighborhoods. All of the great things about DC would be Maryland's gain.

Now we all know that we have a lot of problems in DC. Maryland is already dealing with many of our problems: crime, traffic and congestion, and cheap development, not to mention having to absorb all of folks leaving DC for Prince George's and Montgomery county.

Since Maryland is already dealing with the bad, why not annex the good? Plus additional representation in Congress and additional state taxes.


I am looking for cohost for a fundraising party I am organizing for the Sickle Cell Center and Bread for the City on April 28, 7pm - 12pm at Chatters, in the Ramada Bethesda 8300 Wisconsin Ave. Cohosts will have their name on the flyer we will use to advertise the event. Cohosts will also bring at least 5 people to the event. Guests will pay a $5 donation to the Sickle Cell Center, and we are asking people to bring canned food and clothing for Bread for the City. Chatters is donating free use of their space and an all you can eat Tex-Mex buffet. I am also planning other fundraising parties, the next one being May 19. If you are interesting in helping us respond to Bruce McBarnette,, (703) 404-8429


Any HOCKEY or OPERA fans out there? I've jut put deposits on '96-97 season tickets for the Washington Capitals and for the Washington Opera ... and I'm looking for folks who'd be interested in buying some of the tickets from me for either ... They're great seats (that's why I get the full season plans) ... and who knows, a good fight might break out at the Opera. You don't have to buy them now, of course, but if you're interested reply to me on-line (or the old-fashioned way by calling 301-270-8520) and I'll back you later in the year on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Steve "Puttin' the Puck in Puccini" Hoffman


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Jeffrey Itell Publisher: dc.story

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