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June 27, 1996

Trophy Hunting

Dear Neighbors:

I attended yesterday's House hearing on the Fiscal Year 1997 appropriation. What a stupefying experience! Isn't there a constitutional requirement for a member of Congress to have a minimum I.Q.? Of everyone who testified and interrogated, Barry acquitted himself best. But, of course, he's been at it the longest.

City Council Chair Dave Clarke is now batting 5 for 5 at congressional hearings I've attended. Five times he has testified and five times the congressional chair has told him to stop rambling and summarize. Yesterday was worse than ever. Clarke had a speech impediment caused by three prescription medications for a bad back that made him incomprehensible (more than usual). Still, Clarke went on for over 15 minutes (in his five minutes of allotted time) citing the names, birthdates, affiliations, affectations, etc. of everyone being appointed to a Tax Reform Commission. During the first break after Clarke's verbal perambulation, NBC's Tom Sherwood lectured Clarke on the difference between giving effective testimony and grandstanding. Someone had too. Yet Clarke seemed to understand little. He had that far away look in his eyes.

What about D.C.'s appropriation? Chairman Walsh thinks the budget is too high and that the Control Board didn't look hard enough to kill programs. He was hunting for U.D.C. and D.C. General trophies. He'd like to put a slimmer Medicaid program near his Barcolounger as well. Will he prevail? It took about a year for Congress to finish last year's budget, so let's just call this the opening skirmish.


Marion Barry is now going to have to hate the L.A. and N.Y. Times, along with the Washington Post. According to Steve Higgens (, "the Los Angeles Times of 26 June features a great, long article about the state of the District. It is, as expected, a catalogue of woes capped with some glimpses of hope, but it is also a great summary of how our town got where it is. Check it out at

And the New York Times is just about ready to print it's multipart opus on the District. I'm going on a Ward 3 photo shoot tomorrow. I'll proffer a web site for that citation when it's posted.

Well, enough from the Schadenfreude Department. (Look it up. It's a real word.)


Jeffrey Itell



It's Maryland that has Keno and not Virginia. It's essentially an instant lottery---people can watch a monitor where numbers are being picked and placed on a board. (like Bingo in that respect). You have the choice of betting on matching any number of numbers. For example you pick 4, 11, 12, 78. If those numbers are drawn and placed on the board, you win. Games can be played every 10 to 15 minutes, and your bets can be small or large. I don't know the stats, but I'll bet you have a better chance of winning at Keno than at Powerball. It's ubiquitous in Las Vegas -- even played at restaurants.Personally, I like it.

Susan Yancy


Keno is bingo you play on television. "Games" like the lottery and keno are basically regressive taxes; as far as I'm concerned the city should go for it, since it's voluntary and I don't have to play. This makes it unlike any of the other taxes. Perhaps they can earmark the proceeds for the arena.

stephanie faul


Keno is a mindless game viewed on a TV/CRT screen. You pick which numbers you think will be displayed, turn in your card, and watch the screen to see what happens. I have never played, but have viewed the process at Shakey's Pizza on East-West Highway in Bethesda. I have never seen anyone win and a new game seems to start every 5-6 minutes.

Gambling has done nothing for Atlantic City and I cannnot imagine it helping DC either.

E Mahar


I think the attraction is like video poker, instant gratification. Then play again. Over and over. There have been a number of TV magazine stories about the human waste these games cause. However, the question in my mind is who is to profit. When I was a kid (pre-lottery), we had a housekeeper who "played the numbers." She spent many hours on the phone, reading "dream books" to try to determine her lucky numbers, and no doubt countless dollars on this. So her "bookie" profited, instead of the DC government. (And surely there is some overlap these days.) A good friend of mine had to get a second mortgage on his house because his wife had racked up enormous debt playing poker, and not through any legit channel that profited the population at large. Some states have argued that some of the profits should go into Gamblers Anonymous and other reform projects. My point is that compulsive gamblers, like junkies and alcoholics, will find a way to gamble no matter if its legal.

Diane Rhodes>


Tax Assessments

My parents appealed the appraisal on their house, which was 20% over last year. Turns out it was done by Monk, and they won the appeal. They have a small frame house on Fessenden St. She had based the appraisal on a brick house on Warren St. of the same square footage.

Now I'm curious about all the people who don't appeal. My condo went down 20%, so of course thats OK by me. Is that any more or less correct?

Dianne Rhodes


As the old saw goes there are only two things wrong with the property tax: it's wrong in theory, and doesn't work in practice.

1. Iniative. There is a petition drive to change the assessment review system being circulated. Does anyone know details?

2. BER. The District's Board of Equalization and Review is neither. Not once has the board examined the assessors work product. Nor has the board ever brought any group of properties into proper relationship. You can win a case showing your neighborhood was wrongly treated, and they will fix yours and only yours.

3. Who Serves? The Mayor (surprise) appoints heavily from commercial real estate types, and retired DFR employees keep showing up as well.

4. Ask me no.... Neither DFR nor the Board tells property owners critical information, for example, the period of time used to draw up the assessment. That is, to make an assessment for cal 97, the assessor works in cal 96 with sale figures from cal 95. If you don't know the sales figure period, you can't know what they base their work on.

You would not be the first homeowner who appeals and is given three comparables -- all from last month, but your assessment couldn't be based on current material.

5. Easy Work. The BER doesn't make findings of fact or conclusions of law. They don't create a record. They're exempt from such triva.

The city's Administrative Procedure Act, among other things, sets out strict standards for making bureaucratic determinations when an individual's rights are at stake.

The BER is the ONLY city agency exempt from the act. The rationale for this is that you can go to court and try the whole thing, facts and law, before a judge.

This also assumes that the average citizen has noting better to do than spend futile time before the board and then engage in a prolonged tax case. Oh yes, you have to file a separate case for each year's assessment.

For the legally inclined, I strongly suggest reading Green v DC DC Court of Appeals, 1973. Then Superior Court (now federal) Judge Joyce Hens Green describes the assessment system in detail.

After declaring one of the city's shoddier assessment practices unconstitutional, she ends with a quote from Mr. Justice Holmes that "if the government expects the citizen to cut square corners with it, it too must observe a similar degree of rectangular rectitude."

Carl Bergman


By the way, the woman whose small house was assessed at a much greater value--the same thing's happening in Idaho. I was told by the assessor that it's because the "starter" homes are the ones that people want. Of course, I also invited her over for a barbecue to show her that I have absolutely no backyard. She decided to lower my assessment a bit instead. Must have heard about my cooking.



Open Windows

In Doug Goudie's "Utilities" I was amazed at the idea of people in the Northwest area of DC worrying about whether the looming storm will rain through their residence windows while they are stuck at work. Here on Capitol Hill, open windows are an open invitation to burglars. Rain or no rain. Is it that different in Northwest DC? Do people still leave their doors unlocked, as well?

Kirsten Oldenburg

[Doug lives on the second floor and protects his palace with an attack cat named Pushkin. jeff]


Merchant News

Who can deny that the new Cleveland Park Post Office looks great? It seems to be as modern as they get, with automatic stamp dispensers and a digital postal scale. Worth waiting for. But why is there a metal detector at the door? A metal detector is going to catch a lot of people with strollers, clanging keys, pockets filled with coins (for the stamp machine), cellular phones, and other forms of legal metal. I don't think the metal detector is on yet, but when it's operating, my guess is that every other person is going to set it off. Are we the first in the country to have a Post Office with a metal detector?

Bill Adler, Jr. Adler & Robin Books Literary Agency

[They should also have a metal detector in the back where employees enter. jeff]


My contribution to the "Merchants" section of DC.Story... (From GLIB, the Gay and Lesbian Information Board)

If you haven't been on "The Block" lately (actually a couple blocks along 17th Street around JR's and Annies), several new places have opened or will open soon you might want to check out.

Of course, first of all, there's Cobalt, open for a couple months now, and loaded with "Pretty People", above the La Fonda restaurant. Look for the >lighted blue rectangle above a stairway to the second floor on the side street. Two floors of great music, carpeting, a few upholstered seating areas and tables to chat. Nice, classy place, but absolutely mobbed on weekends. The doorman was controlling a line outside waiting to get in last week. As with every new bar that has ever opened in DC, this one is attracting the gym boys, muscle crowd, and those who admire them.

Next, just opened this weekend is "Windows", above La Frontera restaurant. They're calling it "A Room With a View". Nice bar. Totally brand-new decor, comfortable seating in a quietly elegant atmosphere, and indeed, a good view out onto 17th Street. (Isn't it nice to =finally= find gay >bars =not= hidden away in a basement someplace?) Looks like a show area or restaurant will open in the other half soon (not yet open this weekend). Check it out. Good looking male crowd there too.

Third, there's Cuisano's "Meet Rack". This isn't open just yet, but the neon sign says "Books, magazines, refreshments, and a place to meet a friend". Sort of a gay-ish Kramerbooks, I guess. Looks like it should be interesting.

Finally, there's Randy's, rumored to be a gay bar opening soon next door to JR's. No info on that yet, just a sign in the window.

Looks like this area of town is shaping up very nicely into a first-class gay business district, easily within walking distance of the other gay places on Connecticut Avenue and P Street. 'Bout time, eh?

Louise Gant


Abandoned Van

After reading the example of a successful attempt to rid a neighborhood of an abandoned car, I wonder if anyone out there has advice on how to rid my neighborhood of a semi-abandoned van. The van has been parked for 5 years (!) in a driveway in back of the house and is now being used as an outdoor storage area for old newspapers, shelving, etc. The van is a wreck, has no license plate, and is an eyesore. Since the house next to the decrepit van has been boarded up for a year and is semi-abandoned, too, (this in a neighborhood where houses go for $400,000 and up), the van only adds to the atmosphere of decay. Help is welcome!

Rona Mendelsohn


Suck Up

Many thanks for the kinds words in recent issues. To continue this suck up thread just a bit longer, Editor Jeff deserves no little praise for having lured Carl Bergman back to the world of literature. Carl had a promising career in writing and/or public affairs ahead of him, but he chucked it all to become one of America's first cyber-punks, joining that world in which any undigitalized matter -- such as thought, politics and religion -- is dismissively lumped as "text" or "data." Editor Jeff now appears to have deprogrammed Carl and brought him back to the fellowship of paragraph and adjective and the world is a happier place for it.

sam smith the progressive review



Kathy Patterson's response hits many good points. She is correct that first you need an appropriation before you can monitor implementation.

I don't disagree with her, but emphasize that the problem does not end with the appropriation act. It is after appropriation that the problem becomes acute.

DC's Budget implementation process is chaotic. Financial practice varies from agency to agency and within agencies. The Council and public have no assurance that what was voted was implemented.

To return to the kindergarten program. There is no publicly available record of what was budgeted or spent last year. Someone may have a head count -- with all their vagueness-- from payroll counts, but can't tell you specific costs.

Adding $4.1 million to this or any program in the school system is an act of faith, not legislation.

This situation did not happen randomly. City agencies fearful of Council or Congressional budget cuts aggregate their funds. In response, Council and Congress cut across the board. The result is no one knows what's what.

Carl Bergman


Master's Swimming Program

Since we talking about swimming pools, I wonder if there is anyone out there who is involved with the Master's swimming program. I saw an article on this several years ago, but have only become interested recently and have long lost the article. Is there a program in DC? And if so, where can I get details? If not in DC, is there one somewhere close to Georgetown? (Chevy Chase, Bethesda, etc.)? Can you describe what the program is like?

Debbie Stine


The Tenley-Friendship Branch and Friends of the Tenley Library will show documentaries of Washington, D.C. history, produced by the Humanities Council of Washington, D.C., in July, at the Tenley-Friendship Branch. On Tuesdays, the videos will be shown at 3 and 7 p.m.; on Wednesdays, the videos will be shown at 12:30 p.m.

July 2 and 3 -- White House Workers (1994) 32 min. Doormen, butlers, cooks, and other workers describe their experiences.

July 9 and 10--Black Georgetown Remembered (1989) 28 min. Residents recall the past.

July 16 and 17--Asylum (1988) 60 min. The history of St. Elizabeths Hospital is traced.

July 23 and 24--Music in a Grand Space (1992) 30 min. The history of the Washington Cathedral Choral Society is told.

July 30 and 31--The Stone Carvers (1984) 30 min. This story of the Italian stone carvers, who worked on the National Cathedral, won an Academy Award.

This series is free to the public. The Tenley-Friendship Branch is located at Wisconsin Avenue and Albemarle Street, N.W. Take the Red Line Metro to the Tenleytown Station.

'''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''' Single prof. female with small dog looking for apartment (preferably in a house) in Cleveland/Van Ness/Woodley Park area near Connecticut or Wisconsin Ave. Efficency or one bedroom. Need by 8/1/96. Please call (202)237-1273.

Thomas L Oates

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