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May 10, 1996

The Boss Is Back Again

Dear Neighbors:

For those of you wondering when the city's overlords would start kicking some bureaucratic butt, check out the synopsis of Chief Financial Officer's testimony on page 1 of the Washington Post. (Motto: "If you don't get it, you can now read it on the web!") Talking about the city's financial managers, Williams said "...One-third to one-quarter of the people need to find another line of work." Obviously, the mayor isn't the only official concerned with rejuvenation.

I received a good response from folks who want to be on the separate tax list, a once-per-week message containing musings about taxes and if the terms deserve to be so closely linked. To subscribe to that list, send me a message with the word "taxes" and I'll confirm with the secret handshake and the words "ok." William Colby would be proud.

Web browsers! Will you help me write a story? I'm conducting an inventory of "stuff" you can get for free from the internet. I'm especially interested in commercial information services that are replicated for free on the web. But any info and URL addresses would be greatly appreciated and rewarded with, yes, another gold star. This info won't be posted.


Jeffrey Itell



Hear Ye, Hear Ye!

Announcing the creation of a new discussion group, to be called dc-tax-justice. All good citizens, concerned with justice, are hereby invited to join their neighbors, friends, and fellow citizens and netizens, in reading, posting to, and acting upon the knowledge gained from

The purpose of will be to:

1. Provide a focused forum on taxation, justice and the District of Columbia;

2. Build a network for DC residents and non-DC residents alike concerned with issues of taxation, justice and the District of Columbia; and

3. Encourage grass-roots civic activism to address the injustice of, and obtain redress of grievances for, taxation without representation.

The means to achieve the above shall include postings and invitation to postings directly related to Federal taxation of the District of Columbia, and contextual postings on other topics having a direct bearing on the issue of taxation in the District of Columbia. To broaden our reach and appeal, will utilize cross-postings of summaries to and from directly related news and discussion groups (such as dc.story, dc.politics, dc.general), and limited cross-postings to and from similar groups for other states (so as to invite a broader support from and provide knowledge to like-minded citizens everywhere).

Randolf M. Wells



I'd be interested in learning more about someone Dianne Rhodes mentioned in the last D.C. Story. She talked of a Goldwater speechwriter named Karl Hess who used to live in Adams Morgan and had become an anarchist and local character. I write for an Arizona newspaper and it would make an interesting article if I could track him down. Does anyone know where Karl Hess is, where he might have gone, or any other salient info? And thanks, Dianne, I'll pick up his books. Responses please to:

Adrianne Flynn


Washington Mysteries

I seem to remember a story in the Wash. Post some years back describing the graves outside of the Georgetown Cemetery as belonging to African Americans who weren't allowed to be buried inside of the cemetery. At the time someone had asked for permission to move the graves in order to allow a building project to continue and the permission was denied. The graves used to be accessible by walking behind the apartment building at 28th& Q but I haven't been there in 20 years.

Bob Levine



The smoking discussion seems to have devolved into a debate about automobiles and air pollution. It started out as a comment about encouraging smokers not to throw cigarette butts on the ground, and action which, to my amazement, was defended by a "smokers' rights" advocate.

Now let me add another drug-related question. This is my first spring in Dupont Circle. Has anyone else noticed an increase in marijuana smoking? It appears to be very much out the open, even the chess players pass loose joints around.

Oh, well, at least they smoke the whole thing, leaving no butt to dispose of on the ground <grin>.

Michael Tacelosky


Boss Shepherd

Glad to see the revival of interest in Boss Shepherd's statue. His hijacking to Blue Plains was a scoop of the DC Gazette -- complete with photo of the guy lying prone with his head resting on a tire.

But our readers seemed less enthralled with the cause then we were and we eventually dropped the crusade.

The comparisons between Barry and Shepherd are not all that good. For one thing -- contrary to popular impression -- Boss Shepherd was appointed by that political paragon, US Grant and not elected. There was an elected lower house but it is inaccurate to describe the Shepherd era as one of home rule. Further, the board of public works, where the boss did much of his more creative stuff, reported directly to Congress -- sort of like the control board.

In fact, the creation of territorial government involved the surrender of home rule by Georgetown and Washington City (the portion below Florida Ave).

Why were citizens so willing to go along with this? In no small part because five years earlier Congress had approved black suffrage for the city. In a referendum on the issue, 99.1% of the city's voters had opposed the idea and in Georgetown just a single vote was cast in favor. A southern senator would later say that the loss of enfranchisement was a necessary price to pay for getting "rid of this load of negro suffrage that was flooding in."

Following black suffrage, a white mayor -- Sayles Bowen -- was elected in Washington City. He was attacked for being more interested in providing black employment than in improving the city -- including the charge that he used men with pen knives to cut the gress between the cobblestones on Pennsylvania Ave. During his term, the city's debt rose by a third.

Thus, the same combination of purse and prejudice that afflicts DC-federal relations today led to the territorial government. In the name of efficiency, Congress created a beast that was even more costly and corrupt than what it replaced. I suspect there is a clue here for us. Within a few decades -- following the creation of the commissioner form of government --- one observer noted that a DC commissioner ought to be able to clear a million bucks out of the job -- in early 1900 dollars.

There are two other ways in which the Boss differs from Barry. First, he really did something. For all his sins and mistakes, he helped to create modern Washington. Second, he was far more corrupt. After a railroad president complained of Shepherd sending 200 men in the middle of the night to tear up his tracks on the Mall, Shepherd parlayed a meeting with the railroad man into an offer to become vice president of the line. On another occasion, he got a friend to take a judge out in the country after he got wind of a possible injunction against one of his projects. The Cincinnati Enquirer said that Boss Tweed and his gang "were vulgar villains, stupid sneak thieves, by the side of this remarkable man."

It is symbolic of DC's long history of oppression that even our scoundrels have been denigrated. Let's get him back on his feet in some prominent place where we can stand in his shadow and reflect that for one shining hour someone in this city figured out how to beat the bastards.

sam smith the progressive review



Can anyone explain the timing system for the traffic lights in the District? Is there one? Is there some evil genie whose raison d'etre is to ensure that the lights are never in sync and that we must stop for ever single one?

Has anyone noticed how many unnecessary traffic lights and four-way stops have sprouted up in recent years? Who are the gurus that make these decisions?

[Mostly they are the result of citizen initiatives to slow traffic in residential neighborhoods. In Bethesda, Takoma Park, and other places, officials have resorted to installing speed bumps. jeff]

With the much-touted flight of jobs and people from the District, it doesn't seem that there would actually be more cars coming into the city. Is is possible the traffic is worse because of poor signaling and the many impediments to the smooth flow of traffic? Do you ever get the impression that some bureaucrat takes fiendish delight in making commuters suffer?

Does the District intend to do anything about the mess caused by closing Pennsylvania Ave? Talk about a case study on how to obstruct traffic.

Heard in a taxi cab the other day (stuck in traffic on Eye St): Supposedly there are one or two people responsible for timing the lights in the District. These individuals allegedly have timed the lights so that their commutes are nice and smooth and don't give a hoot about the rest of us. Was told that this explains why the lights on 11th St. are timed coming into town in the morning and going out of town in the afternoon.

[I'd say that's an urban legend. The Post ran a story the other day stating, I believe, that the city has seven traffic signal systems. The one for the West End was busted for awhile and snarled traffic. jeff]

Does anyone have any facts?

Suzanne Gallagher



Well, for the third consecutive day in a row, I was unable to get the farecard machine at the Tenleytown station to take a dollar bill from me. Again, I resorted to begging passers-by for change for a dollar.

I have just returned from NYC this weekend, and, I once again miss the simplicity and efficiency of simple subway tokens.

Is un-perfected bill scanning technology really appropriate for rapid/mass transit systems? Especially when there is no token clerk alternative?

Rex Toler


City Operations

I have a good news story to tell about city operations which beats the last one (Leila Afzal, May 8). I faced the onerous task of getting my car inspected AND renewing my driver's license at the same time. After procrastinating while trying to find a full afternoon I could take off, I finally decided to do it. I hit the inspection station on 1/2 St. SW, drove right up to the door of the place and was waved in immediately (!), passed with flying colors and headed off to renew the license.

Found a parking space within one block, the meter was broken, went in, filled out the application, eye-tested, paid, pictured and out again. The woman behind the counter was telling everyone to cheer up and smile. Total time for both tasks: less than one hour! I've been doing this for twenty years now, and have never gotten through inspection so fast. Maybe we are headed in the right direction. I'm not telling day, date or time of this encounter, either.

Andy Clark



Ralph Blessing asks a very valid question. What is the tonnage of recyclables now compared to the tonnage when there was a weekly pickup. My perception is that some people in my neighborhood don't bother to recycle. Those that do are putting out a very overflowing recyclable bin. I hope enterprising students come back this Summer and pick up in NW on those weeks that Desperation City does not. May as well help some enterprising students (even those from AU) get through school.

Ed T. Barron


Could we be seeing the evolution of another petty urban annoyance?

This past Tuesday was the now-biweekly recyclables pickup on quiet Butterworth Street. I have noticed over the past several months that the biweekly schedule has been in effect that even this small household generates enough recyclable newspapers, bottles, and cans to more than fill one recycling bin. The effect is a rather unsightly pile in the basement that awaits the every-other-Tuesday pickup.

As a former economist, I understand the theories of supply and demand. I guess, then, that it should not have been a surprise to me that within hours of the recycling truck's pickup, my and several other recycling bins "walked" out of the neighborhood. Has the less-frequent pickup put a premium on these green plastic boxes?

David Missert



Not only did Caffe Italiano disappear overnight, but U.S. Famous aka Bob's Famous Ice Cream, etc. also disappeared, supposedly for renovation. Can anyone explain who ever went in there, and whether it, as well as Caffe Italiano, actually did any business? I find it hard to believe that any place serving food in Cleveland Park, even mediocre food, would have a hard time succeeding. After all, there are all those tourists wandering through the neighborhood who are often willing to try a place once even after us neighborhood denizens have crossed it off the list.

I'm still looking for a frozen yogurt shop to open -- all you entrepreneurs reading this. I think there is a market for frozen yogurt in this neighborhood and I'd be willing to share other ideas with hose serious about opening up a store.

[Often the merchant's lease has as much to do with the store's success as sales. Perhaps the establishments had difficulty coming to terms with the landlord, Mrs. Mazza. jeff]

Margie Siegel


Coming to the Biograph Theater June 1: The First-Ever Babyhead Festival of Film and Video

A young woman hires an imaginary hit man to dispose of her needy boyfriend. A homeless man finds companionship with a fish. An actor takes his tragic impulses a little too far. David Koresh turns up alive and well in Washington, D.C. And an enigmatic doll named Babyhead may or may not do battle with Godzilla.

Welcome to the 1996 Babyhead Festival--a one-night-only showcase for D.C.-area moviemakers, June 1 at 9:30 p.m. in Georgetown's Biograph Theater. (Admission: $5) The auteurs include a professional film editor, a lawyer, and an architect; the movies range from low-budget to no-budget. No single theme unites this collection of live-action narratives, stop-motion animation, and computer psychedelia, though the intermittent appearance of Babyhead does provide a leitmotif for the show.

Maurice Martin


After 11 years, Fuller and Saunders, Books (our retail store) is going out of business! We must sell everything - books, fixtures, shelves - it all must go! All titles are now 50% off! Beginning Saturday, May 11, all titles are 75% off!

American History. Military History. Art & Architecture. Travel. Baseball. Washingtoniana. Civil War. World History. Fiction, Literature, Poetry, and much more!

Paperbacks in the paperback section: 50 cents each for trade paperbacks and 10 cents each for mass market.

Fuller & Saunders, Books 1531 33rd Street, NW (intersection of 33rd St & Volta Place) Washington, DC 20007 (202) 337-3235 NO HOLDS, PLEASE!


If you've been using TV trays since 1988 because you can't find the table and you hyperventilate when friends hint about visiting....If your file folders are bulging with bills, letters and manuscripts and you can't decide what to keep and what to junk, don't despair. I will bring order to your chaos. No mess too embarrassing! Reasonable fees by the hour or job. Paperwork a specialty.

Call ShipShape at 202-362-0496 for a free telephone consultation. Our service is private and confidential.


For fast, reliable Internet services and cutting edge Websites contact Michael Mann at Interstate Internet Web:


Jeffrey Itell Publisher: dc.story

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