themail.gif (3487 bytes)

July 21, 1996


Dear Neighbors:

Our messages are becoming too long--mine included. I'm trying to limit the size of this 'zine so you can read it at the office without getting fired. You can help by keeping your messages short, terse, and to the point. For example, don't use consecutive synonyms. Also, I would like to include more newsy postings and fewer opinion postings. Therefore, newshounds, consider dc.story the place to post something you've learned about the city and not just as a place to post a query.

If you want to send in more than two graphs, ok. If I like it, I'll post it. But I may edit it or send it back for your own edit.

Fair deal?


Email newsletters:

dc.story: Washington, DC life and politics Short movie reviews and movie discussion dc.olympics: A daily discussion list 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.


Jeffrey Itell



If Art Spitzer took his message that under "the new anti-loitering law, it is a crime to stand on the sidewalk and talk peacefully to your neighbor" to any community meeting in Ward One, he might find himself facing some very hard stares from residents.

The reality of life in Ward One is that many residents can no longer walk freely to the store without being harassed by gangs of men and boys blocking the sidewalk. When our grandmothers and children cannot move freely on their own block and police state that they do not get out of their cruisers and move through crowds because there is nothing they can do (in the absence of anti- loitering laws)to move a crowd, well it is time to rethink whose rights we need to protect.

Should police be required to prove justification for a search before they move to disperse a crowd? Does anyone really believe that police don't know the difference between neighbors talking and drug dealers dealing. If you ask residents of high crime areas which they fear more, harassment or what is happening right now on their own block you will get a lesson in what freedom really means on the streets of DC today.

Deborah Dougherty


Art Spitzer asks, "Would we give the police such powers in our own neighborhoods?" At least in my little corner of Ward 2, the (mostly black) neighbors would be the first to request designation.

Moreover, I believe such power already exists, _if_ you can get the police to enforce it. My experience, also as a Shaw resident, is that in "better off" neighborhoods in DC the police do not ignore loitering--and in fact actively discourage it, particularly in the less commercial areas.

So the anti-loitering law may formalize existing practice, and permit we "low-income people who have the misfortune to live in bad neighborhoods" to demand the same level of police protection and safe streets now enjoyed elsewhere in the city.

Art, as an example, I invite you to come observe what is happening every evening, most weekends, and often late at night and all day long, on the corner of 5th and R Streets, N.W. This is not neighbors or even visitors "standing on the sidewalk and talking peacefully."

Randy Wells


Art Spitzer wrote, inter alia:

So the only purpose of the new anti-loitering law is to give the police power to harass or arrest people where they do *not* even observe any suspicious conduct. What is the justification for that? Would we give the police such powers in our own neighborhoods?

I'll take a wild guess here, but when Art refers to "our own neighborhoods," is he referring to the suburbs or some upscale AU Park/Kalorama "white" neighborhoods? I'd be curious about where HE lives? I live in Shaw, and the answer to his question: would I give the police such powers is...sure!

The sad thing about the ACLU is that, on balance, they have had a very negative impact on our society, and they can't even see it. They fancy themselves as true defenders of the Bill of Rights (well, except maybe for those pesky second and tenth amendments), but have helped to create a dysfunctional "criminal justice" system in which real fairness and justice are low priorities, and which has led to the virtual imprisonment of law-abiding citizens out of fear of the predators the "system" regularly recycles. The examples are known to the public at large, and are not limited to high-profile O.J. Simpson cases.



Wow. Does anyone, including Andrea Carlson, really think that loitering laws are going to enforced similarly toward, say, white female adults and black teenagers? It's easy to call this an "inconvenience to the individual" when you're not that individual, isn't it?

I think "inconvenience" is a pretty mild term to describe being told to get off the street at the whim of a police officer, even though you've broken no law and done nothing to suggest that you're going to. Maybe next we can lock the people we don't like into ghettos a la Nazi Germany. Hey, drastic measures are needed, right?

John Whiteside


I agree with Andrea that the anti-loitering law is needed in our current situation. For example, on my block there is a group of people that congregates every day at the nearby bus stop. They urinate on the wall of the metro escalator and drink there all day. They steal all the newspapers from the vending racks, and sometimes I suspect they help keep watch for the local drug dealers. When I complained to the Metro person inside the U Street Station, he said that he was aware of the problem but could do nothing about people like this in public space. What's wrong with this picture?

david hartley


Allow me to respond again to Andrea Carlson and to "dan@ids2."

dan@ids2 is quite correct that "there was a Supreme Court decision in the early 70's that found such a statute 'unconstitutional'" and that the opinion was by Justice Douglas. The case is Papachristou v. Jacksonville, 405 U.S. 156 (1972), and the Court pointed out, among other things that an anti- loitering law "furnishes a convenient tool for 'harsh and discriminatory enforcement by local prosecuting officials, against particular groups deemed to merit their displeasure.'"

On the local scene, the federal court of appeals anticipated the Supreme Court's ruling when it struck down the old DC loitering laws in 1968, noting that "a citizen cannot [constitutionally] be punished merely for being 'a suspicious person.'" That case was called Ricks v. District of Columbia, 414 F.2d 1097 (D.C. Cir. 1968). More recently, the DC Superior Court struck down the "Illegal Drug Zone Emergency Act of 1989," a law quite simlar to the new law, in United States v. Kennedy, 118 D.W.L.R. 873 (1990). Across the river, a recent "narcotic loitering" ordinance was struck down in ACLU v. City of Alexandria, 747 F. Supp. 324 (E.D. Va. 1990). I think the new DC law will meet the same fate.

But dan@ids2 is not entirely correct when he says that the "ACLU ... seems to think that a group of loud, often drunk, disheveled men (or younger) standing on a residential corner at 3:00 AM reflects a 'right of the people peacefully to assemble.'" The ACLU does not have any problem with the proper enforcement of disorderly conduct laws or reasonable noise control laws. But the fact that men standing on a street corner are "disheveled" certainly should not make them more subject to arrest than they would be if they were wearing suits. Yet that is exactly how loitering laws have always been enforced -- against the "disheveled."

I agree with Andrea Carlson's comment that "it's pretty easy to tell the difference between neighbors engaged in a friendly chat and guys running drug markets." That's why the police should arrest the guys running drug markets, and why we don't need a law that allows them to arrest the neighbors engaged in a friendly chat. And I could not agree more with her comment that "Crime prevention is education, early intervention, employment, community involvement, and substance abuse treatment, which are also critical to DC's future." So why is the DC Council passing loitering laws instead of improving our education, early intervention, employment, community involvement, and substance abuse treatment programs? (Hint: it may have to do with the fact that passing a criminal law requires no appropriation of funds.)

Art Spitzer



When we lived in Chicago, several bars and taverns provided package deals that included a meal, tickets to a baseball game, and transportation to and from the ball park. Does anyone know of anything similar in DC for Orioles games?

Alex Morin


Norton Tax Proposal

I can only assume that the opposition to Norton's proposal is motivated by a lot of agendas, particularly the notion that tax relief spells an end to the statehood initiative, and the notion that if tax relief works, the supply-siderers are going to look pretty good and the idea might (gasp!) be applied elsewhere. For years, district residents and pundits have been trying to come up with some way to stem the outflow of wage-earners from the district and to improve city services. So far, nothing has worked. Under these circumstances I find the opposition to the Norton plan mind-boggling.

As far as governmental models go, there is no practical difference at the moment between us and a commonwealth, except that we pay federal taxes; the Norton plan would eliminate that distinction, and in doing so maybe make it worth my while to stay in the District.

Pat Hahn

[What if the plan doesn't work? What if a higher federal payment and a bucking up of the bureaucracy has a probable chance for success? Is it mind-boggling to consider that there are better ways to fix the District than place all of our eggs in a dubious tax relief basket? Jeff]


Why Liberal Democrats pile on Newt I'll never understand -- he is, after all, more like themselves than they realize. Behind the rhetoric Newt is an idealistic child of the sixties. Maybe more of a nerd than a hippie, but Newt is one of the few people who took the whole "Question Authority" thing to heart. He's stayed pretty much true to the Aquarian ideals while the presumptive keepers of the flame (President Bill, Senator Ted, almost anyone who lives in Cleveland Park) have become the defenders of the sort of stagnant establishment the "revolution" was meant to sweep away.

Newt has risked his political reputation (as has Jack Kemp) to propose ideas that would help D.C. crawl out of the miserable hole it has dug for itself with the help of its supposed allies in the Civil Rights community and the poverty professions.

I don't recall Tip O'Neill or Jim Wright ever suggesting a single solution -- much less an imaginative one -- for the problems of the Democratic Party's favorite city that went beyond some boilerplate nod to statehood. They didn't because a) it would not be politically popular with America, and b) who cares about a bunch of Neanderthals who will vote Democatic no matter how far their city sinks back into the Stone Age.

You say the GOP is executing a "cynical" long-range plan to attract swing voters. Do you really think anyone is going to vote Republican because Newt proposes to give MORE money to DC? Do you think Jack Kemp's career has been ENHANCED by his near-obssession with DC? Far from being "fair-weather friends," these guys are DC's only friends.

By the way, who is being cynical here? Could it be that Newt and Kemp actually see an opportunity to improve the lot of long-suffering Washingtonians? Perhaps after decades of failure it is time to consider one or two Republican ideas that truly question authority and have worked elsewhere like Indianapolis, Jersey City, Philadelphia and Los Angeles?

Cynical example #1: Why did Democrats filibiuster the DC budget four times to block a public school scholarship program that would have given disadvantaged students their first opportunity to break free of the DC public education morass without diverting a dime from the public school budget and without spending a penny of DC tax revenues? Is it because the NEA -- the nation's largest labor union and the DNC's staunchest supporters -- opposes any questioning of their authority to monopolise public education? Or would that be too cynical?

As usual in Washington, perception and reality are two very different things. Many DC Republicans -- myself included -- see a chance to make a real difference in our bleeding community. We are thrilled to fight the status quo against an entrenched establishment devoid of ideas and corrupted by generations of complaisency. We are motivated by the hope of a more just system with a government that works not patronage or advantage. My heroes are Newt & Kemp and Norton not Rock Newman and Dave Clarke. Republicans are the starry-eyed idealists in DC. Want proof? Just ask yourself, who is more likely in 1996 to say "I see things as they could be and say, 'Why Not?'" Hilda Mason or Newt Gingrich?

Philip Murphy



I invite you to take a look at our new web site at Exegesis: A Forum Encouraging Moral Excellence

Are you fed up with the distortions of the media? Do you long for a morally renewed America?

If so, we have created a new web site to encourage you, and to provide you with the latest news and commentary on what's really going on in Washington and around the world. The Exegesis News Center is updated hourly. Access is free and of course we hope you'll love it so much that you'll want to subscribe to Exegesis.

Steve Myers, Editor


Get connected with the inside scoop on political personalities and celebrities through Karen Feld's "Capital Connections" at http://www. welcome!

Karen Feld


Home PC Computer Assistance. I'll help you chose and buy the best model for the lowest price, get your computer up and running, teach you the ins and outs of Windows 95 and applications, show you how to maintain your system, build special applications for you, and get you up and running on the internet. $60/hour. 202.244.4163.

Jeffrey Itell


The ACLU seeks a staff attorney to direct litigation on ACLU's public housing suit, education suit and other large cases; work on other ACLU cases (includes supervision of the case intake and screening process, case development, pro-bono attorney recruitment, placement of cases with pro-bono attorneys and supervision of pro-bono attorneys' work); legal program administration (includes filing systems, legal docket, legal panel, law clerk program, grant reports); development of legal program grant proposals; legislative counsel for the ACLU in Annapolis during spring legislative session; and public relations program development.

The candidate must possess a law degree and litigation experience (prefer minimum 5 years). Experience in the fields of public relations or communications preferred. Lobbying experience is a plus. The candidate should have a demonstrated understanding of and commmitment to civil liberties and civil rights. APPLICATIONS TO BE RECEIVED BY: August 2, 1996.

Salary depends on experience; commensurate with that of other public interest organizations. Includes excellent benefits package.

To apply, send letter of interest, a resume and a short writing sample (5 pages maximum) to arrive by August 2,1996 to:

Susan Goering, Exec. Director ACLU of Maryland 2219 St. Paul Baltimore, Maryland 21218

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