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July 14, 1996

Cable Guise

Dear Neighbors:

In case you missed the story, the Washington Times reported that Chief Financial Officer (the big Kahoona who signs the checks) has grabbed control of every finance employee in the District, including those at UDC and the school system. Eventually, 6,000 city employees will come under William's control. Says the Mayor formerly known as the Financial Wizard, "I'm glad he will have to worry about it, and I can worry about programming, about education, and public safety...and how my colleagues in Logan Circle are fairing." (I added the last part.)

Meanwhile, the Washington Business Journal broke a major story (*Under the great title of "Cable Guise") about one of our favorite topics--District Cablevision. it appears that Robert Johnson's District Cablevision is actually a almost wholly owned and operated shell of media giant John Malone's TCI, Inc. TCI runs the system and gets most of the profits, skirting or violating the minority ownership provision's that govern local cable.

Of interest to your concerns, District Cablevision is extremely profitable. With 50-60 subscribers per mile considered the "make money" point, District Cablevision (DC) enjoys or exploits 95 subscribers per mile. Twenty-one channels carried by DC are owned by TCI, feeding more money into Malone's coffers. In a case of one hand scratching the back of another, Robert Johnson, owner of Black Entertainment Television (BET), also makes most of his money from TCI, the company that generates most of BET's revenues by channeling its programs nationwide. The story also reports that DC has not lived up to its franchise agreement by failing to provide a 79-channel system and providing cable access to all District residents. Meanwhile, city administrators are asking FCC to review DC's recent 14 percent rate hike.

You can check out the Journal article by clicking through to


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Jeffrey Itell


DC Cablevision Goes Grocery Shopping

Here's a fantasy. The service manager of DC Cablevision has a large family and he is the only family member who can drive a car. Today is Monday. The service manager's sister runs out of eggs. The earliest he can get to the grocery store is Wednesday (his schedule is SO busy -- who's isn't?). A day later (Tues.) his mother runs out of bacon. Let's see, Wednesday he's busy.

Hmm. So, Thursday is the earliest he can grab some bacon at the grocery store. Wed. morning he runs to the grocery store and picks up a dozen eggs for his sister. The next morning his mother-in-law realizes she's on her last loaf of bread. Darn. He needs to schedule another trip to the grocery store. He looks at his Day-Timer. Uh-oh. He's swamped and can't get to the store until Friday night. So on Thurs. he goes to the store and picks up a pound of bacon for his mother. When he arrives home he catches hell from his mother-in-law because he didn't pick up her bread. He explains to her that, yes, it was his mistake, but that's how he processes his orders. Although mother-in-law doesn't understand his ways, she is dependent on him alone to provide her with groceries. She is determined, however, to get her bread. She calls him every half hour to ask him when she'll receive her bread. She finally brings him to a breaking point and he runs to the grocery store within the hour and she gets her bread.

Here's the reality. My cable TV account was cancelled in June (even though I paid at the last minute by credit card). Even thought my next payment cleared the bank on July 1, District Cable cut off my service on July 12. I was told that the earliest they could reconnect was July 17 because they were swamped with service calls. My repeated requests to speak with a supervisor were denied. On my third call this morning, I told the service rep that I would be calling every 30 minutes until I received a call from the supervisor. Within 5 minutes I received a call from a technican informing me that he would be here within the hour. My cable service is back on now. Another chapter in the game of Monopoly.

Liz Hoopes


New Anti-Loitering Law

I read with interest the Post's short piece (7/10) on our new anti-loitering law, which the Council passed but the ACLU threatens to fight. If it were actually enforced, the law could do wonders for the crime problem. In NYC, they attribute a declining crime rate in large part to the strict enforcement of loitering laws. When police confront loiterers, they often discover people wanted on criminal charges, with pockets full of drugs or drug money, or guns. It's a preventive measure. And it works. But apparently, there is a lot of local resistance to the law dating back to the days when an all-white police force used loitering laws as an entree to routinely harass black residents. Anyone have particular insight on the matter? How can residents best indicate their support for the law and keep it intact?

Also, we someone to paint the exterior of our house. Know anyone who is especially good and reasonably priced?

Andrea Carlson


Andrea Carlson suggests that the District's new anti-loitering law is a "preventive measure" that "could do wonders for the crime problem."

There are lots of preventive measures that could do wonders for the crime problem. House-to-house searches for guns and drugs could do wonders. Erecting metal detectors on Pennsylvania Avenue and making pedestrians walk through them could do wonders. The fact that a law may be effective is not a sufficient reason to accept it.

We like to say that we live in a "free country," but what does than mean if it doesn't mean a country where a person can stand on the sidewalk and talk peacefully to his or her neighbor? Yet under the new anti-loitering law, it is a crime to stand on the sidewalk and talk peacefully to your neighbor, if you live in a "designated" neighborhood and a police officer tells you to move along. In our view, such a law is not consistent with living in a free country, or with the Bill of Rights.


Tax Refunds

Regarding Bob Doherty and DC Tax Refund:

Many years ago, after similar aggravations in getting tax refunds, I started crediting the refund to the next year's taxes and adjusting the current withholdings to compensate for what amounted to a prepayment. That way, I could forget about DC Tax people; I had what amounted to a "refund" on hand by paying less in my monthly or quarterly estimates. While this might not work for all who have JOBS, for us HomeAlone types this system works well.

Randi Rubovits-Seitz


Writer Bob Doherty wonders whether the delay he is experiencing in receiving his DC income tax refund check is peculiar to him or is widespread. I filed this year (and last) on or about April 15. About a month ago I received my refund. This was a surprise considering the fact that last year I didn't get my refund until October! He asks, "what to do about it?" Grin and bear it, I guess.

Ken Nellis


This is a rejoinder to the person who asked about their tax refund. I, too, mailed my DC Tax return in on April 15 (as I did my federal return). However, I got a letter *yesterday* dated MAY 18 that they could not process my tax return becuase I had not enclosed my origiinal W-2. (Never mind that the feds were able to process my return and my refund with the computer generated W-2.) So I'm not expecting to see my refund any time soon!

Tracy Greer


Appealing Tax Assessments

First, go to the assessor's office and check the assessments of properties on your street. Second, market value doesn't get you anywhere. They don't seem to care. Third, the most fruitful arguement is equity. Why am I paying more than some one with the same or larger house or land? The equity arguement was what got my assessment reduced. The assessor applied a formula based on plot size and square footage of the house.

Zinnia 104664.3330@CompuServe


Home Rule

As part of my work on Congressional history, I came across a reference that might be of interest to the retrocession crowd. The Senate considered a survey in the 1850s of residents west of Rock Creek to determine if they would favor retrocession to Maryland of the that part of the District. More recent political and racial issues notwithstanding, seems west of the Park has long been thought of separately from the rest of the city. By the way, that great democratic forum (the Senate) read the proposal twice and then tabled it.

Randy Wells


Public Finance

I'm glad to read of Kathy Patterson's proposal to have Anthony Williams take over the financial end of the D.C. Public Schools system. There was a good article on him in last week's City Paper. He seems to be a very bright spot among a city government of lazy dunderheads. What is especially satisfying is that Barry hired him, thinking he would be a line-toeing, push-over yes-man (an "indian" to "Chief" Barry), but he has turned out to be anything but, and best of all Barry cannot fire him!

By the way, was that Cora Masters I saw in the middle of the Riddick Bowe riot in Madison Square Garden last night? I'd already taken my contact lenses out, maybe I imagined it.

Phil Greene



It may come as a surprise to R. Williams that Virginia State Troopers are well trained and very professional. It may also come as a surprise that minorites and women are well represented in their ranks.

Claude Seymour


Barbara Bovbjerg wrote:

"...they [unspecified officials] told me the law [neighborhood parking restriction] exists to prevent people who work in the neighborhood from crowding out residents..."

Ward 3 is a pretty large neighborhood, but a Ward 3 sticker allows one to park anywhere in Ward 3 without restriction. As one who lives a lot closer to a subway stop than many of my Ward 3 "neighbors" I have observed the habit of many subway commuters who drive from other parts of Ward 3, park on my street, and walk to the subway, leaving their cars on my street all day. While this is facilitates mass transit use, which is presumably a good thing, it does make it harder for residents to park in their own neighborhood.

Wasn't there some discussion about dividing the wards into smaller "sub-wards" for parking purposes?



Whitehurst Freeway

Does anyone know what's about to be done to the Whitehurst Freeway? Ominous orange construction signs have recently appeared, including a detour sign at the eastern approach that points in the direction of what's left of Pennsylvania Avenue. Perhaps this is related to the chunk of concrete that squashed somebody's car last year? Any information would be welcome, as the Whitehurst is virtually my sole link to downtown.

Lorie Leavy

[I think the Distrirct is about to complete construction of the middle portion. Congress made federal funds available for that, I think. jeff]


Call Blocking

Sheila Coyle wrote:

"Do you know that there is a code you can dial in, before placing a call, that defeats Caller ID? "

One publication in which the code (*67, or rotary 1167) is available is the phone book, so it's not exactly a covert tool. The antidote is *77 (or 1177) which invokes Anonymous Call Rejection. This is available at no cost to customers with Caller ID or Caller ID Deluxe, and for a fee to others. Check out phone book listing of Optional Services, there are interesting facilities available.

Gabe Goldberg



Dianne Rhodes writes that "Grill Fish is a new restaurant coming to New Hampshire and M. The license says they have other locations in Miami Beach, elsewhere. Is anyone familiar with them?"

There's a Grillfish in Boston. It's very good and reasonably priced -- I wouldn't call it "cheap eats," but it's a good value. If this is the same outfit, it should be good.

John Whiteside ********************************

Two years ago, I spent three months in Miami Beach on business. We frequented Grillfish many times. It's on Collins Avenue, around 14th Street. It was very good, trendy, nice decor, friendly service. Hopefully, it will fit in nicely in DC.

Peter Luger


I had a great meal last year at their Miami Beach restaurant. It features an Italian menu with heavy emphasis on grilled fish. The prices were reasonable. In Miami Beach, they had the benefit of fresh fish from the Atlantic Ocean. I hope the D.C. location will not offer local fare like grilled catfish from the Potomac River.

David Baratz



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B. Gollon


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Jeffrey Itell


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