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July 18, 1996

The Readers Strike Back

Dear Neighbors:

Point your web browser to and look for bill HR 3244 if you want to follow the (in)action on the Norton flat earth tax proposal. I fear the Library's data base is running a little behind.

If you would like to join out temporary olympic discussion group, send me a message with the words olympics, torch, Nike, or NBC in the subject line. The group will end when and if the olympics do.


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Jeffrey Itell


Flat Tax

I'm still recovering from the five hundred million pot shots fired by our illustrious host...So now its time for some comic relief. What? Is the Declaration of Independence bad public policy? Here in the very city which hosts that cherished document? Federal income tax relief is not bad public policy in a city that chips in $1.5 trillion annually, but receives no voting representation. Period.

No other mayor can make that claim, because every other city (and suburb) is fully represented--and it shows. What other city is expected to chip in on Medicaid, Medicare, road construction, police protection for pols and diplomats,...and the five hundred pound gorilla: $5 billion in pensions and interest handed off to us as a present upon receiving "home rule".

As for the issue of "windfall" for rich Washingtonians, the big beneficiaries of the income tax cut would be low and moderate income Washingtonians: the first $15,000 for individuals, $25,000 for single parents, and $30,000 for couples would be totally exempt from federal income tax. As for capital gains, perhaps it would be better to apply the lower 15% rate on DC investments--this is a legitimate point of discussion, but without a hearing who will ever know?

Norton's legislation ensures that funds stay in the pockets of citizens that earned them, and will provide further impetus to demands for a more accountable city government. Trading a tax cut for a $50 million buy out as Jeff suggests is just more of the same old unaccountable funds thrown to the city bureaucracy.

Randy Wells


Jeff, I think your sarcasm re: the DC Tax Proposal brought forth by Norton is for lack of better words, sad. We should all encourage her and support her efforts to seek relief. After all, the U.S. Government is constitutionally required to take care of the Federal City. Does it really make much difference if the US Treasury has to guarantee billions in loans from the treasury to a broken city that might (and most likely will) default on its loans? come up with 5 billion ultimately in unfunded pension liability?

This tax relief bill is an excellent piece of the whole puzzle - fix the mechanics of our broken bureaucracy and provide the necessary financial incentives to encourage the growth of our tax base. By repairing the governmental infrastructure while simultaneously achieving the growth and rebirth of our middle and upper-middle class, we will increase our revenue for schools, infrastructure (water? pot hole repairs?) and the like while reducing expenses. This, of course, would and could ultimately lead to a reduction in our deficit within the city and make this the jewel on the Potomac we should be.

The tax relief bill is not foolish but again an effective tool as part of the whole. As long as I remain a taxed citizen with no voting representation in Congress, I might as well have some benefits. For those who feel this is a bill for the rich, let me say that one important provision, the elimination of capital gains taxes, will encourage home sales and purchases within the DIstrict; it also will encourage investment in District owned businesses. However, it will not eliminate taxation of profits or gains outside of the District. The bill places emphasis where it belongs - in the city. This city's success will have a dramatic, positive effect on all of its surrounding neighbors. Not a negative one. Get on the bandwagon!

Ian Gordon


I find myself chuckling at the irony of the comments by members of Congress and others about this .. my favorite being that it gives DC residents "preferential treatment"! Can't quite figure out how positive preferential treatment is a bad thing when we get so much negative preferential treatment. It will be interesting to see this play out.

Joan Eisenstodt


Jeffrey-- Even better than the DC Cablevision story is the Post front page item today (got it late) in right hand column describing support from Gingrich and Lott for big tax reduction for DC residents.

Bet you can get some fabulous comments from DC Story subscribers if you run the quote from the middle of that front page column in your next issue (even if it IS Gingrich):

"This city has had a hemorrhage for 15 years of people who work for a living. They've moved out to the suburbs, and the result is the city is imploding. To have your national capital implode is a disaster."


But, Hello? Newt? Where have you been? Excuse me, Newt, weren't you in Congress when you passed the pension plan underfunding buck to DC to the tune of over $4 billion? [Answer: yes. I know because I reviewed the actuarial pension calculations when I worked for AFSCME briefly in 1990, and Congress screwed the City, as Eleanor Holmes Norton and many others, including most recently the Post editorial page, have been saying for years.] But anyway, if Trent Lott and other right wing members of Congress want to try a tax-cutting experiment, regardless of what they think it will prove, shouldn't all residents say "go ahead"?

David F. Power


There's been lots of dialogue about the rich getting richer in D.C. as a result of a flat tax. I think that's a myth. Those persons in the highest income brackets in the city now pay far less than 17% of their Adjusted Gross Income in Fedewral taxes. Why? Because they have access to, and knowledge of, deductions that are not available to the average working stiffs. If you take out their deductions for Mortgage interest and contributions you will find that they are still paying less than 17% of that number today. So, in fact, a flat tax of 17% on all income after Mortgage and contribution deductions will actually be a tax increase to this high bracket group.

Those likely to benefit the most from a flat tax are those in the middle income brackets since they are actually paying more than 17% of their taxable income today.

Ed T. Barron


"Had Eleanor sold her soul to the devil?" -From Editor Itell's posting in the July 16 <dc.story>, describing DC residents' reaction to Delegate Norton's endorsement of "Republican tax cut orthodoxy."

"One wintry day a farmer found a half-frozen viper lying in a field. Out of compassion, the farmer placed the viper inside his coat and shirt, so it could warm itself from his body as he continued walking. As soon as the viper recovered, it bit the farmer mortally. 'Alas,' cried the dying farmer, 'it is foolish to expect gratitude from the wicked.'" -Aesop's Fables.

Tom Matthes


I just want to express my gratitude to dc story and Mr. Itell. Because there was so much talk here about property tax problems, I decided to make sure all was well with ours. Until recently, I hadn't given much thought to our taxes -- the bills were paid through an escrow account with our mortgage company and we never received any correspondence on the matter. So I called to get our assessment and learned that no transfer of ownership had ever been recorded and worse, we had never received the homestead deduction we applied for three and a half years ago. The District has been over-billing us the entire time we've owned the house. Stanley Jackson assures us he'll make an adjustment.

Just wanted to let you know what a valuable service you provide to the community.

Andrea Carlson


["dc.story saves you money." I guess we'll just have to change our slogan. I don't normally post the nice things you write to me--I send them to my mother instead--but after being jumped over for my innocent remarks, I figure my personhood could use some fortituding.

Let me just make a couple of points in rebuttal about the flat tax and then yield. First, I spent relatively little time in the last edition arguing the plan's merits. I argued instead that Gingrich's announcement was just a cynical election ploy--a news mcnugget for the Sunday morning talk show fans. I was trying to keep people from raising false hopes. I failed on that count. Now, if I really wanted to argue the merits of the proposal, I would have really kicked into high gear. Plain and simple, Norton's bill is social engineering at its worst. Only the Bolsheviks would be happy with it. The federal government always fails whenever it tries to influence behavior through the tax code. Take the Reagan tax cuts. If we cut taxes, we'll stimulate savings. Right? It didn't work out that way. I won't even begin to pick on Democrat programs, but name a categorical grant program that accomplished its mission. Norton's proposal, if implemented, would abound with consequences that we can't forsee. If we want to rebuild this city, we need two things: 1) a level playing field so that the federal government isn't paying people for the privilege of leaving town (e.g., higher gas taxes, reduced home mortgage deductions, etc.) and 2) better city services. Repeat after me. It's about schools and public safety. jeff]


Aqua Poisonale

Given the mess the water system is currently, and the lack of money to rebuild an infrastructure woefully in disrepair, there are two solutions- either privatize or federalize. We already have private gas and electricity(Washington Gas and Pepco) which are regulated in a reasonable manner. Why not the water system out to private competitive bidding for a long term contract, with a commitment by the successful bidder to invest in modernizing the system. Another alternative, is let the federal government take it over. I would rather argue for a bigger budget for the Army Corps of Engineers than pay higher rates to be poured into the current cesspool of the DC system.

Martin R. Ganzglass


DC Cable

My apologies if this has been asked and answered already. However, does anyone have any sense of when DC Cablevision will be subject to competition? And by "competition", I am not referring to the outfit(s) that provide small satellite dishes. I refer, instead, to head-to-head cable competition (e.g., provided by Bell Atlantic). I may well be mistaken, but I thought that one of the tradeoffs in the recent telecomm. legislation was to deregulate pricing while encouraging robust competition. Well, we've got the first piece, all right. Now what about the second?

Greg Jones


DC Cable has been advertising that if they are late they will take $20 off your bill. Has anyone had actual experience with this or is it just marketing BS ?

One more question to all DC homeowners, as we all know this is the year everyone has to re-establish their "owner-occupied" status. Can we do this by mail or do we have to go in to Judiciary Square?



I agree with that Norton's proposed flat tax is probably on a fast road to nowhere. But she and Newt are kidding themselves if they think this will lure middle class taxpayers into the city without also improving important services like public education. Unless you're a multi-millionaire, you're not going to save enough in taxes to send your kids to private school (assuming you'd want to) and to provide private police and snow removal services when needed!

We have a Superintendent of Schools and an elected Board of Education whose idea of a budget deficit solution is to keep the kids out of school!! Although they claim that they had "no idea" they were going to have a deficit of $7 million, this is, I believe, the third consecutive year it has happened. One of the examples of a charge they "couldn't have known about" is $1.4 million in utilities costs! Puh-lease!

D.C. teachers have the lowest starting pay and the lowest top pay in the metropolitan area. If they are furloughed at the end of this summer, it will be the third such furlough in less than four years. Needless to say, teacher morale could hardly get much lower and I know of good teachers who left the system rather than suffer the frustration and anxiety of the furloughs. Many, many families are leaving for the same reason.

Hats off to Kathy Patterson and Bill Lightfoot who introduced emergency legislation to block DCPS's proposal to furlough teachers or delay the opening of school in September. The bill passed today (7/17) with only Hilda Mason voting against it for reasons only a psychiatrist could possibly explain. Assuming neither the Mayor nor the Control Board "veto" this legislation, the schools's administrators will have to make up their deficit by furloughing themselves for a couple of weeks....a nice touch, if you ask me!

Barbara Somson


The White House

Concerning Ralph Blessing's report of attempting to use a tripod at the White House:

I ran into the same kind of problem while trying to take photos of the National Christmas Tree on the Capitol grounds. I had to descend deep inside the bowels of the Capitol Building to a security office where I waited while a guard disappeared for 5 minutes with my driver's license. Once they determined I was harmless, they issued me a tripod permit, but told me that I can't set up the tripod on any *paved* surface (including sidewalks) and that I can only take pictures from the Senate side of the lawn. They did say that dead center would be OK (this time).

Who makes these stupid rules? [The Office of Silly Policies does. jeff]

Rob Lucchesi



Over 200 (floppy & CD-ROM) pieces of new, special, & classic for kids educational & edutainment software (Ages 3 >>Adult, Preschool >>), recently relocated with me to metro DC. All programs are available at incredibly- discounted prices for DOS, Windows 3.1, Win '95 & Macintosh computers. Many packages were reviewed in KidTECH News (c). A separate, complete list of titles is available. Local orders are appreciated and may be delivered in person or you may pick up in NW area, w/o shipping or transportation charges. Please... E-mail for complete list. Let's chat about prices!

Barbara Gollon


Yoga, Qi Gong, or Health Walk Classes in Cleveland Park

Reading Friday's article in the Post about the need to exercise, made me think that it might be a good idea to offer exercise classes in my home for 2 - 4 people. I am a certified Alexander Technique Teacher which means that I teach people how to organize for movement. The Technique has no exercises associated with it so I like to teach people yoga (Vini style) or Wang Tzu Ping's 20 Qi Gong Gestures or Dr. T K Shi's Health Walk. Qi Gong exercises and the Health Walk wake up your chi, improve your immune system, and help you relax. I'm teaching Yoga at Glen Echo on Sunday evenings and Qi Gong in Silver Spring on Monday evenings starting in the Fall. If you are interested in starting a class contact me. Be sure to tell me when you would like to attend. If there are enough people interested, I will run a class or two.

Zinnia 104664.3330@CompuServe


I am a 27 year old professional male looking for a place to rent in DC. I would like to find a one bedroom or basement apartment renting around $600 - $800 a month, preferably close to Georgetown. I would prefer not to live in an apartment building (though I would not rule it out) but would rather have some feeling of actually living in a house. I am responsible, pleasant and would even be willing to chip in with yard work or other chores around the house. I am available during the days at (202)298-3052 or otherwise at (703)855-4061.


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