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June 26, 1996


Dear Neighbors:

I don't know that much about gambling, but I know my grandfather had a great system for playing the New York lottery. He'd spend a few dollars every now and then on the instant lottery. Sometimes he'd win $1, rarely $5. When he won, he gave me the proceeds. And when he lost, I didn't know about it. Over the years, I must have earned $30 this way. Given how much money I had at risk, however, this was a very large return on my investment. Heads I win, tails he loses. It's sort of like a government-sponsored enterprise (Fannie Mae fans).

Which brings me to Keno. What is it? Why do people play it? If Virginia has it, shouldn't we? Or will we end up with widows pushing their veterans' benefit checks into mechanical slots? There are forces in this city (evil forces) trying to bring all manner of gambling into town. Riverboat gambling. Casino gambling in the current convention center after the new one is built. And so forth. Perhaps I'll be the last person to visit Las Vegas, but I still don't get the gambling attraction and why people fall for this blarney. On the other hand, if lots of other states are fleecing its citizens (and tourists), why shouldn't we?

Ok, I just don't get it. Can someone explain what Kino (Kenu, Keno, Keanu) is and why I should convince my grandfather to bet his money on this game for me.


Jeffrey Itell


Tax Assessment

As an A.U. Park resident, I'm one of the victims of Carolyn Monk, the tax assessor who was the subject of Saturday's Washington Post article. The assessment for my two-bedroom, essentially unimproved house jumped $47,000, or approximately 22%. In going over neighborhood numbers to support the appeal I filed, I noticed the same phenomena that the math stats in Cleveland Park and Forest Hills cited--i.e., that small houses were being assessed at much higher per-square-foot rates than larger houses, and that assessments seemed to have little or no bearing on general condition, improvements, amenities, and (least of all) recent sales transactions.

Had the 157 of us who filed appeals organized as quickly as did our neighbors to the east, we might have gotten all of Monk's assessments tossed out. But it may not be too late to at least share our findings in an attempt to strengthen our individual cases. If anyone on this list has some insights, opinions, or numbers to share, please send them to Jeff so he can post them for all to see.

Lorie Leavy



During last night's storm, no doubt some Northwest residents sat trapped at work, growing hungry and, if not blessed with the foresight necessary to read the weather forecast, like myself, quite worried about open windows. Many also expected that the routine power outage that follows such storms would be repeated.

However, when I arrived home, I found my block lit-up and working as normal. The same was true after the rather severe storms of last week, particularly Friday. Compared with the storms of three years ago, when power was lost for two days in some parts of NW, I think that at least one facet of living in DC has been made better. . . . Of course, power generation isn't under the control of the DC government or the Control Board--not the type of power that keeps the lights on, anyway.

Doug Goudie


School Budgeting

This is in response to Carl Bergman's comment on my e-mail noting that the Financial Authority had accepted a Council recommendation for "line item" spending on schools -- including $4.5 million for kindergarten aides. He makes a very good point, generally, about what happens to legislation the Council enacts and whether anyone anywhere is ever held accountable. In fact, I do know how the budget works and the first step in holding the school system accountable for spending funds as the Council directs is to get the Authority to go along -- and, now, to get the Congress to go along. The "line items" are actually part of the "budget request act" text that becomes, on the hill, the D.C. appropriations bill. Carl is right that the Congress appropriates gross amounts -- $600 million, roughly, to the D.C. Public Schools for FY 96 for example. Then, within that amount the school system spends as it likes. This time around, however, the appropriations text, as sent to Congress, states the total figure, within the "Public Education System" appropriations title, allocated to D.C.P.S., then adds language that specifically states "Provided, further, that not less than $4,500,000 shall be available to support kindergarten aides in a restricted line item." Same language for school repairs, substitutes, etc. [Sticklers who want to see the text can call my office and we will fax it -- phone number there is 724-8062; just ask for DCPS appropriations text].

Carl is right, again, in that it's crucial for the Council to see that the school system spends accordingly when the numbers are translated into object classes, control centers, etc. But there is no holding accountable unless and until this first step is taken -- that is, having the Authority and, then, the Congress buying into the line items. The school system has reprogramming authority such that once they have approved a spending item within their budget, they can change it with approval of the board. But, in this instance, they cannot reprogram the Authority and Congressionally-enacted line items. Not legally anyway. This is why the school system has continued to lobby the Financial Authority in recent days, asking them to reverse their recommendation on the line items -- they apparently agree that this action might be made to stick.

On the general issue of Council oversight -- there are many examples of action the Council has taken in the past that no one, then, has paid the slightest bit of attention to. One that I talked about in my campaign was the Fiscal Accountability and Management Act (I think that was the name -- the acronym is FAMA, I'm certain, but you get the idea). Drafted by John Wilson, and approved after his death, that act was patterned on New York City control board mandates and required the executive to report on a regular basis on spending against budget, and to propose "gap closing" whenever spending was ahead of budget. Simple, right? Neither Kelly nor Barry ever followed the terms of the legislation. No one on the Council apparently made a fuss about it prior to my arrival that I am aware of -- and now the chief financial officer has taken up the slack. That is the other difference on holding the school system accountable -- not just the Financial Authority but the CFO have been/will be looking closely at spending as contrasted with budget. And the Council, as an institution, can be learning as we go how to do a much better job of spending oversight. Another piece of legislation sent off into the ether -- welfare reform. The Council approved legislation last summer, including some policies that supposedly would save money. Much of the policy requires drafting and submitting a federal waiver (to waive sections of the Social Security Act) t HHS (like the Wisconsin proposal that has gotten attention in recent weeks). The D.C. waiver hasn't been submitted yet but last time I checked they were working on a draft.

Kathy Patterson



What is going in at Old Politics and Prose Site (the one across from where P & P is now located)?

I didn't have time to stop as I drove by but noticed that the old site -- on the west side of Connecticut -- appears to be under construction. Anyone know what's going in there?

Also, appropos the Van Ness discussion, how is the Schlotzky's deli down there? I assume this is an outlet of the ones I frequented in Austin, Texas, when I was a law student there...

Greg Jones


The University of the District of Columbia

Speaking of UDC...I don't understand what is going on. I am new to the DC area, from Florida, and although Florida has a terrible education system for pre-college youths, it does offer an excellent public University system. UDC is DC's only Public University and I was warned to stay away from it due to budget cuts, lack of funding, etc... My boyfriend was considering going there but instead he will have to commute 45 minutes to U of M, what a drag. What is the real deal with UDC? Is there any hope and who does the responsibility lie with?

Alexis Martin

[Someone please answer Alexis before I launch into a diatribe about UDC. jeff]



I've just returned from my honeymoon and find that my e-mail to you about homeless people in Cleveland Park sparked quite a few responses in my absense. Well, I'm not responding to any of them, especially the long one from Klaatu (barada nickto to you, too, Klaatu), which I didn't read because frankly I don't read e-mail longer than 50 lines (that's a new policy I've just set because my e-mail habit is getting in the way of my work). No, I'm still mourning my return from France, and will be unable to make further comments about life in Our Nation's Capital until I have regained my senses or someone offers me a job in Paris.

Evan Roth



I just wanted to add that at one point the excellent indoor swimming pool was open to the community at UDC. Perhaps something about liability created a problem, even for a Master's supervised workout location. Just one more example of a probably under-utilized community asset.

E. James Lieberman, M.D.


Abandoned Car

We had this abandoned car parked on a vacant lot that we had tried unsucessfully to have towed for three months. The windows were all broken, the hood was up, the tires were missing, and it was rusting. We called the city, we called the mayors office, and we called Frank Smith's office to no avail. So one day one of our neighbors painted on the side and back of the car in very large red letters "Barry's D.C.". The car was towed within three business days. Apparently the symbology was too much for the mayor and his cronies.

I wonder what would happen if at similar locations and pot holes the same large message would proclaim "Hizzoners" greatness. What could it hurt!!!

Ralph Allen


District CableVision

I heartily agree with those who want Comedy Central and am distressed over the latest offering - more talk shows (repeats I think).

As I understand Satellite dishes from my favorite TV vendor, Graffitti, you need a separate dish for each TV unless you are going to watch the same program on each TV. Any comments?

E Mahar

[District Cablevision one these millenia will begin carrying the Sci-Fi channel, so I thought you'd be interested in the following clip from the Washington Post. jeff]

>The Sci-Fi Channel announced yesterday that it is bringing back the >award-winning series, "Mystery Science Theater 3000" with 13 original >episodes, beginning in February. The show completed its seventh >season on Comedy Central in May. Returning to your television screen >will be Mike Nelson and his robot buddies, Tom Servo and Crow T. >Robot, all of whom are marooned on the spaceship Satellite of Love >where they are forced to watch some of the worst science >fiction/fantasy films ever made. (Washington Post)


The Mayor

Mayor Barry was at the Olympic Torch visit to DC on Thursday, coming out of a RV painted on the side "Mayor Barry's Mobile City Hall". When did DC, excuse me, Mayor Barry, get a mobile city hall? What happened to the non-mobile city hall? Who gets to use this mobile city hall? Does the city council or control board get to ride in it? How expensive is it to run a mobile city hall compared to a normal car and driver? Does he have an office in it?

Larry Kaplan



After making the daily transfer from the Red line to the Vienna/Orange line for some time now, I've concluded that the omission of a Farragut Nort/West pedestrian tunnel is the least of Metro's sins (Georgetown, National Airport, central Arlington, etc.). It takes all of about 4 minutes to get from Farragut N to Farragut W (not including waiting time at Metro center, for even if the tunnel existed you'd still have to wait for the line you're transferring to). Surely a hot and stuffy pee-stained tunnel, jam packed with grouchy commuters and bewildered tourists during rush hour wouldn't be much better.

R. Williams



At the intersection of Rock Creek Dr. and Normanstone Dr. the DC DPW was asked to make the curb higher to prevent erosion. The work was not done, so take a look at the storm damage-- the creek bank is gone leaving a gaping hole, the road barrier is hanging over the hole, the parking signs fell in, the storm and sanitary sewers are no longer underground. A major construction project is needed because the curb was not made a bit higher. Also take a look at the pothole on the bridge at Normanstone Dr. at 30th St-- you can look down and almost see the stream.

Larry Aurbach laurbach

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