themail.gif (3487 bytes)

July 5, 1996

Water Warnings

Dear Neighbors:

According to today's Washington Post headline, it is now safe again to drink the water. Do you ever feel that you are living in a lesser developed economy? Or something less than that? Geez, I spent 3 weeks in Burundi 13 years ago and drank tap water. (OK, so I became violently ill in Nairobi for a day, but at least I didn't have to brush my teeth with Primus beer.)

I've got this nagging feeling that the water may or may not be safe. (As in a n email message I received that said that Yelstin may or may not be dead.) Are the politicians dishing up science or political spin? I lived in Frankfurt in 1986 when the Chernobyl fallout hit town. On alternate days, the pro-nuclear federal government of Helmut Kohl (still going after all these schnitzels) would assure us that it was ok for out kids to play in sandboxes while the anti-nuclear socialists who controlled the state government warned us to tape out windows and not leave the house. This back-and-forth nonsense went on for over a week and left both parties sounding like (yuk!) politicians.

So is our water safe to drink? I don't know, but to be safe, I'm showering in Evian.


Slate magazine, the new Michael Kinsley/Microsoft venture, published a satirical article I wrote about The Choice, Bob Woodward's new book. You can find Slate at or go directly to the article at

The irony of Bill Gates paying me money instead of the other way around has not escaped me.

Happy Holidays,

Jeffrey Itell


Email newsletters: dc.story: Washington, DC life and politics Short movie reviews and movie discussion dc.olympics: A daily discussion list only for the duration of the Olympics

To subscribe, send an email message to and note the name of the newsletter in the subject line or body of the text.


Property Taxes

Some good news for Phil Greene, a bill is being introduced to extend the time in which residents can protest their 1997 property tax assessments. The proposed extension is September 30, 1996. Source: CFO Anthony Williams speaking on problems with the Finance and Revenue Dept. at ANC-1E.

Councilmember Frank Smith is sponsoring a public roundtable on Taxation and Tax Policy (reform of current laws) on July 10. Call Deborah Scott (202-724-8179) if you want more information or want to testify.

Deborah Dougherty


Dave Clarke

Dave Clarke was at the U Street/Cardozo Metro station on Tuesday morning, 2 July, soliciting signatures for his at-large petition. I was walking on my usual early morning auto-pilot, and so at first just thought he was your garden-variety signature solicitor for some cause banning nuclear weapons testing in Togo or wherever. As I began to recognize him, he had his hand out, and I politely shook it. In fairness, he was reasonable, asking me first if I was a resident of the city, and a registered voter. My day ended up being ruined by the lost opportunity to say "what I SHOULD have said." I did manage to tell him that he was a jerk, and that he, Marion, and the other incompetents have run this city into the ground, and then rush down the escalator (hey - it was working!) to earn the money to pay the taxes to support his stupid law school, and pay all those millions in medicaid to non-resident ineligibles. In hindsight, I could have done much better. I apologize to you all. What would you have said?

By the way, I'm not really awake until I have a diet coke in the AM, and Dave got me before I had my fix.

[Dan: What was Clarke's response when you called him a jerk? jeff]


Cable TV

>Does anyone know who the cable provider is for Dupont Circle? Do I have a choice or am I stuck with the holder of the monopoly in my area?

>Alexis >

As you've probably been told by many others, we are stuck with District Cablevision for cable hookup. As in other places, we can buy/rent a home satellite dish from any of several companies; for a monthly fee, you can potentially get many more channels and a broader selection than cable television offers. While I haven't subscribed myself, I'm tempted.

The channel District Cablevision most sorely lacks is Turner Classic Movies (TCM). TCM is carried by the cable operators in suburban Maryland and Virginia, but inexplicably not by District Cablevison. TCM has exclusive access to many of the choice classic Hollywood movies of the 20's, 30's, and 40's, most of which are not available on video. In contrast, American Movie Classics (AMC), carried by District Cablevision, is extremely repetitive and broadcasts many dull 2nd-rate flicks. If you end up using District Cablevision, tell them you want TCM.

Judson Feder


Has anyone else heard the rumor that Borders Books may open up in the old Tenleytown Hechingers?

Sarah Eilers sarah@dchome

[I heard that rumor over a year ago. The latest rumor I heard was that Barnes & Noble was eyeing the location. To add to the mix, there's also lots of speculation about the Pedas Brothers, who own a chuck of property across from the Sears Hechinger, planned to build up to the Tenleytown Metro for a major retailer. I haven't heard much about that in some time. Has anyone? jeff]


Fawlty Towers

The Norman-style stone tower on Fort Reno hill is a water tower, completed in 1929 to serve the reservoir there. (The hill is, I believe, the highest location in the District; Mount St. Alban is #2.) When I was a student at Alice Deal we told each other that it was a Civil War shot tower; like many urban legends, the story is intriguing and romantic but has the distinct disadvantage of being untrue. The flat-topped brick tower on Fort Reno may also be a water tower but it also contains communications equipment, or did.

stephanie faul


The castle at Ft. Reno Park is part of the Ft. Reno pumping station, which helps provide the wonderful drinking water we all enjoy. I believe it's operated by the Army Corps of Engineers. It also occupies the highest ground in the District of Columbia.

Herschel Browne


The castle-like building in Fort Reno Park was built in the late 1920s as a water tower, both structures are part of the reservoir that served all of Tenleytown. The little house was for the reservoir's engineer and his family. An amazing structure.

Currently, right next to it is a marvelous giant mulch pile, built from the yard waste the city used to pick up. Just after Christmas it was loaded with Xmas trees and smelled wonderful. Also, at the foot of the tower is a K-9 kennel for the police dogs, occasionally you can see them training. A few years ago someone used to go there to practice his bagpipes!!! We used to live in one of the row houses behind Alice Deal on Nebraska, all of Fort Reno was our back yard and it was wonderful.

On a separate subject, I'm in need of a good, trustworthy, (bonded) petsitter who can come to my home to care for a dog and cat. I can't kennel the dog, so I'm really desparate.

A. Sanford


Ma Bell

Funny thing all this talk about Bell Atlantic. I received a promo in the mail (which I've since misplaced) offering a discount on a second line in my apartment. I called BA about it and they said that I don't have to have BA do the work. I can have a private contractor do it; BA would just give me the phone number and dial tone.

So the question is: does anyone know a contractor out there who will do the work for less, and with less hassle, than Bell Atlantic?

Evan Roth

I don't speak for my employer and my employer doesn't speak for me. And if you don't get it, you don't get it.


Everyone has a Ma Bell Atlantic tale. I'll keep mine short.

Asked for a second line. Got a second line. Picked it up one day and two people were chatting away. (They were quite startled to have me jump in.) One was a guy in New York, the other was in my apartment building two floors up. Service expert comes and goes. I pick up the phone, chat some more with the guys on my line. Service comes and goes again. Eight days and eight various (mostly very nice) B.A. folks later, it worked. Then Sprint sent me a bill for several calls to New York...

John Keefe


The story about Bell-Atlantic refusing access to a supervisor reminds me of an experience I had yesterday calling the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). (Federal workers . . . don't get upset . . .this is not a diatribe against the federal workforce. I know how hard most of you work. Some of my best friends work for federal agencies). But the incident is symptomatic of the unresponsive of so many public and private sector bureaucracies that is behind the growing cynicism in our society.

Here's the short version. I need to review the tax returns (form 990) for a non-profit organization, which are by law available for public inspection. After going to the IRS Web site (which is actually nicely done), I downloaded the form that I need to get permission to review the 990 for this organization. It gave me a couple of options--to send it to the IRS national public reading room for inspection on Constitution Avenue, or to send it to the regional office (Philadelphia) to request an inspection or photo copy. Not knowing which would bring the quickest results, I called the IRS taxpayer service line. The women whom I spoke to--Mrs. Knight--instructed me to send to the regional office and request a public inspection. I told her I couldn't travel to Philadelphia, and asked if it would be better to request a photocopy or inspection at the Constitution Avenue office. She responded "You can't request a photocopy . . . you have to inspect it in person at the regional office." I then read to her the instructions on the form, which said one could request a photocopy. Her response "What I just told you is what I've been instructed to say . . . you have no right to a photocopy." I then asked how long it would take to get a response to my request . . . days, a week, months?

Her response "I can't tell you that." I asked her if someone else in the IRS could tell me how long it would take, and whether or not I'd be better requesting a photocopy or public inspection. Her answer "No one else will tell you anything different than what I told you." I then asked to speak to a supervisor. Her answer "I can send you a form you can fill out to request a supervisor, who will then call you back in several days."

Finally, I asked her what she would do if I was a reporter asking for this information. She then lost it--she screamed at me "that you're not allowed to talk to me . . .you have to call public affairs if you're the press." When I responded that as a citizen I can speak to anyone I want to in the agency, she said "If you're the press, that's just not allowed" and then hung up on me. (I wish of course right now that I was Bob Woodward. Does a story in D.C. Story count?)

>From this experience, I've concluded that the IRS has a long way to go to fulfille Al Gore's Re-inventing government promises. As a progressive who supports the view that government can positively contribute to the public good, I am troubled by unresponsive, even hostile, responses from agencies that undermine the trust and confidence we have in government.

At least Bell-Atlantic didn't say you had to fill out a form to talk to a supervisor!

Bob Doherty



In the subject issue of dc.story, Randy Lilleston <>, while giving generally sound advice regarding gambling, said, "The longer you play, the more the house odds kick in and the less likely you'll get "lucky." This works both ways, though: If you can play through a cold streak, you're likely to get a hot streak."

Randy seems to be saying that your chances of getting a "hot streak" increase the longer you endure a "cold streak". This is mathematically incorrect. After each shuffle, your deal is random and is not influenced by past deals. Thus, a past cold streak cannot increase the odds of a future hot streak. Every deal has the same odds, period.

Ken Nellis


HI! I am looking for an internet service provider that charges $20 or less per month with unlimited access and a local DC access number? Some advice on how you all feel about your providers would be great.



Woodrow Wilson Senior High School's rowing program seeks a part-time head coach and a part-time assistant coach for the 1996-97 school year. Both positions are paid a modest stipend. Wilson Crew is a well-established, 11-year-old program with eight boats and 70-80 student rowers.

Candidates for the head coaching position should have previous coaching experience and the ability to manage a large rowing program, supervise other coaches, and work cooperatively with parents who finance and set policy for the program.

Candidates for assistant coach should be experienced and knowledgeable rowers, preferably with some coaching background. Coaches must have a love of the sport, enthusiasm for working with dedicated young people, and the ability to comunicate and motivate with patience and humor.

Interested parties should contact Jack Wells at 202/467-0577.

Stan Wellborn swellborn@BROOK.EDU

Send mail with questions or comments to
Web site copyright ©DCWatch (ISSN 1546-4296)