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December 3, 1996

General Opinions About General Becton

Dear Neighbors:

Eleanor Holmes Norton and her tax cut plan will not be happy. The District now ranks numero uno for per-capita state income. That’s right, last in job growth but first in income. The average per-capita income in the city is $33,452, according to the study reported in the Washington Business Journal. Maryland ranks 6th in the nation at $26,333 and Virginia 14th at $23,208. The national average per-capita income is $23,208 and Mississippi came in at the bottom of the income ladder at $16,683. These findings are not going to generate much tax cutting fever on the hill.


I reported in the last issue that the School Board’s lawsuit against the Control Board was joined by the ACLU, NAACP and the Appleseed Foundation. Karen Shook announced this information to school board members at a recent school board meeting.

Well, according to the ACLU’s Art Spitzer, "The ACLU has not joined the plaintiffs in any way, shape or form." The ACLU will be discussing the Control Board issue Wednesday evening (December 4, 1996). All of which calls into doubt whether Appleseed and the NAACP have joined as well.


Congratulations to Lynne Mersfelder, who won two tickets to "Three Nights in Tehren." With Lynne’s help, we blew through both the 900 and 1,000 member barrier on the subscription list. That might not mean much to you—except for a chance to hear from some new voices—but it helps the ezine’s commercial prospects greatly.

Welcome to all the new readers. I’m certain you will pick up on the discussion threads in just a few issues. By way of background, Ed Barron (who appears in this issue) had a "thing" with the city, out-of-town parkers, and his driveway. In short, Ed is more than a frequent poster. He is also a beloved character in our thrice weekly soap opera.


Also free! Short movie reviews and movie discussion. Send an email message to to subscribe.

Jeffrey Itell


City Manager
Carl Bergman

This city manager form of government was, in great measure, created by a DC Commissioner — Louis Brownlowe (sp?) was a newspaper reporter who supported Woodrow Wilson. In return, Wilson appointed him to the DC Board of Commissioners, serving most of the time as head. He resigned to become city manager of Petersburg, VA, where he served for something like 50 years. His salary in Petersburg - a city of 30,000 — was $5,000 a year, double his DC salary. He also headed up federal commissions on government efficiency and economy.


City Manager

Various people have advocated a city manager form of government, with the manager reporting to the city council. They believe this would be a reform. I hate to break it to people, but IMO, it would be the largest disaster that could befall DC. Right now, DC has only two branches of government, a mayor and a court system. The city council has proved itself for 20 years to be irrelevant to the political and leadership needs of this city. Were it not for the courts taking over various agencies, there would only be one arm of government.

There is no way i could imagine, Dave Clarke being able to exert anything like professional policy development that a city manager could implement, nor does anyone else on the council approach a modicum of sense or responsibility. DC would not be in the straits it is in, were the council to act in a responsible fashion, and congress has had to convene a control board to replace the mannequins called the council.


City Manager Panacea Plummets

From Reuters: After Miami’s former city manager and former finance director resigned in the fall to face criminal corruption charges, an interim manager discovered the city had a $68 million deficit for the fiscal year that began Oct 1. Florida Gov. Lawton Chiles said Tuesday he would not take over financial control of Miami but would appoint an emergency board of advisers to help the city solve its problems. The board will review city books, make recommendations and keep in direct contact with Chiles.



General Becton
Ian Gordon

I don’t work for the Washington Post, nor any other media organization - happen to know General Becton through relatives - he is an incredible, upstanding, professional who doesn’t have any need to do what he has been asked to do except for his (and I might add his family’s) desire to give back to their community for all that the community has given them. This is a man of superior skills, great intelligence, and fine discipline. He’s doing this job for the right reasons - because he cares about these kids - not for the money and certainly he doesn’t need the glory. He had that in World War II serving this nation with great pride and dignity.


General Becton

The Post says One thing, Sam Smith another, etc,, I decided to use one of my famous simplifying methods. I went to an original source. Stupid, I know, But What can i say. One of my neighbors spent 20 years working at FEMA and the last several in the executive policy group and had several years close experience working for Gen. becton. His opinion is that Becton is aquite capable and fair minded guy, who will most likely step into a thornbush of political interests and get stuck. If he were given carte-blanche, he would likely dramatically improve the schools, but given the nature of the DC system, he will achieve some marginal results before political pressures drive him from office. Based upon this opinion, I have no reservations on Gen Becton.


L’affaire Becton
Philip Murphy

I’ve enjoyed the postings of our progressive brother Sam Smith for some time but his observations on Gen. Becton, I think, require some explanation. The phrase "rightwing" has been thrown about and I just hate to see it misused. Progressive types use it quite a bit, especially "rightwing general" — has a nice ring to it. But consider that with the notable exception of progressive generals like Raul Castro or Kim Il Sung, every general is rightwing, at least in the eyes of persons of progress.

The damning charge of vouching for Justice Thomas’ integrity is another anti-Bectonism I have to struggle to understand. The Clarence Thomas experience is an interesting one in that it reveals hidden sympathy for affirmative action on the conservative side and thinly veiled racist bile on the liberal side. Nothing, it seems, infuriates a progress person quite like a black man who refuses to regurgitate the party line. Perhaps this explains some of brother Smith’s visceral reaction to General Becton.


General Becton

Apparently unlike Sam Smith and several others who have attempted to smear General Becton as a "right-winger," who (horrors!) supported the nomination of Clarence Thomas, my knowledge of him is personal, although not close (mainly as U.S. Army III Corps commander, and as Director of FEMA). He is an extremely honest and honorable man who always focuses on the moral dimensions of leadership. Sounds to me like we could use a little of that view among so-called DC "leaders." He is also a man who served his country honorably, way before affirmative action quotas were fashionable, and who, if I remember correctly, came out of the Korean War with a Bronze Star (also back before they began handing them out to anyone who showed up, e.g., in the Gulf War).

I agree with Kent Jeffreys that his views on affirmative action and Clarence Thomas are factors (although minor, in my opinion) some may want to consider in sizing him up. His views - and demeanor - are reflected in his testimony in support of the Thomas nomination. I happen to agree with him, as do the majority of Americans (viz Prop 209 in California, and polls), and I think that Clarence Thomas has been a great Supreme Court Justice, and will continue to be. To even suggest that the success of these two black men is the result of affirmative action, as Mr. Jeffreys does (at least for Justice Thomas), is inaccurate and shows the underlying contempt some (including Mr. Jeffreys) have for the affirmative action process itself, i.e., blacks such as Justice Thomas could only have "made it" due to set-asides and quotas. It’s an insult, frankly, neither deserve.

I have never met Justice Thomas, although I would feel honored to do so, but I have met General Becton, and he does not in any way deserve the sort of attacks being made on him. The District’s public schools are a complete basket case, if you haven’t noticed, like the city itself (excepting, of course, parking enforcement). The fact that someone of General Becton’s stature would even take on such a mess is a cause for optimism; he needs strong support from all of us. This will be especially so when he throws out some of the semi-literates who have been running, and teaching, in the system, and when the unions really kick in.

[Well, since we are sharing personal General Becton stories, I have one too. I worked with General Becton for one day in 1992 on overhauling FEMA. He was one of ten consultants working with us. I formed no opinion of him, but noted that our other C-Span celebrities treated him with great deference. I wondered, though, why if he had fixed FEMA during his earlier tenure, we were meeting to fix it again. I mean this as no slight—just a warning to those of you who thinking fixing the District’s school system is going to be a cakewalk for the General. Jeff]


Teacher Evaluations
Carl Bergman

Let me see Ed’s suggestion of teachers evaluating teachers and raise him. If anyone should have a chance to evaluate teachers its parents and kids. I especially think that older children - Jr. High and above - should be able to fill in a questionnaire on a teacher’s knowledge, approach, ability to engage, etc. In DC’s system kids have little opportunity for any meaningful role in determining the quality of their education.


Ralph Blessing

The Post stories the last few days about Miami’s budget woes mention that their annual budget is in the neighborhood of $200 million. Here in DC, with a population of roughly 50% more than Miami’s, our annual budget is more than $5 billion! Can such an overwhelming difference be totally ascribed to costs associated with state (e.g., prisons, welfare, UDC!) and federal functions? Even assuming that services provided to the feds are worth a billion, that still leaves $4b more in our budget—that our taxes provide—than a comparably-sized city. Do the state functions really cost that much, even when inflated by mismanagement and other assorted factors? Are we getting snookered worse than we thought or is Miami actually more of a basket case than DC?


District Cablevision
Bob Doherty

For those of you who, like me, get District Cablevision and who have enjoyed watching N.Y. Mets games on WOR, you should be aware that District Cablevision no longer plans to carry WOR. Over the past weekend, I received a notice that mentioned, in very fine print, that District Cablevision is dropping WOR effective 12/31 to make room for the Cartoon channel, among other additions. I plan to let them know how I feel about this—getting the Mets games on WOR is the only reason I subscribe. I encourage those of you who feel the same as I do to let District Cablevision know—by phone and in writing—that you strongly object to this decision. Cubs fans in Northern Virginia (Fairfax County, I think) faced a similar situation several years ago over cancellation of WGN, and succeeded in persuading the cable company to restore the channel. If enough of us complain, we may succeed as well. You should write to the Customer Service Department for District Cablevision at 900 Michigan Avenue N.E., Washington, D.C. 20017. Don’t bother calling them—if you get through, they’re only going to tell you to write to them with your complaint. Please copy me (by e-mail) on your correspondence, and I’d welcome any suggestions from any of you who would like to organize a campaign to reverse this decision.

By the way, you can let them know that there is an alternative should they not reverse their decision. DirectTV satellite provides regional Sportschannel coverage (including NY, which carries most of the Mets games) as part of their package deal ($39 per month), which is very competitive with District Cablevision’s $35 fee for expanded basic coverage. Or you can get the regional sports coverage as a $12 per month add-on to DirectTV’s very basic coverage, which I think is around $15 per month. The problem is that one has to purchase the dish plus installation, which can run into $400-500 (after rebates), or a minimum of $200 if one installs it yourself. Still, District Cablevision needs to know that there is a possibility of our taking our business elsewhere.

P.S. I was a co-founder of the now defunct Eddie Kranepool Society, Washington D.C.’s NY Mets fan club. Our esteemed editor Jeff was also an original founding member of the Club. In our heyday in the mid-1980s, and before District Cablevision, we were able to pack local D.C. bars with Mets fans who wanted to watch the games on satellite. So I know that there must still be a constituency in D.C. who feels the way that I do!

[Bob gave me my start as a writer. It’s his fault. Jeff]


Neil Gregory

Rodman’s, on Wisconsin Avenue, receives deliveries from numerous heavy trucks. They use the back streets of Garrison, Harrison and Fessenden, and 44th Street to get to and from the store. Some even try to turn their 18 wheelers around at the junction of 44th and Garrison. All this creates noise and disturbance for area residents, and serious damage to the roads, which were surely not designed for such heavy use. Take a look at the broken curbs and asphalt at the junction of Garrison and 44th to see the destruction they cause. I enjoy shopping at Rodman’s, but for the sake of the neighborhood, could they keep the trucks on Wisconsin Ave, where they belong?


Congratulations (You Didn’t Think We Noticed)
Adrianne Flynn

Our own Stephanie Faul won the National Press Club’s fourth annual Short Story Writing Contest for her submission titled ‘ ‘The Dart Trick'’ .Congratulations! This award carries a cash prize. How about a party in Ed’s driveway?


That Darn Sinkhole
Judith Axler Turner

Does anyone know the cause of that fabulous sinkhole at the intersection of 34th and Porter Streets N.W.? It has been filled at least three times, and every time it sinks again within a couple of weeks. I’d love to know more about it.

FWIW, I find that drivers coming south are understanding if I drive a little in their lane as I seek to avoid losing tires, fenders, even my entire car in that black hole of a pothole. Drivers heading north with me are less likely to be gracious.


Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. will be the honored guest at John Capozzi’s Debt Retirement Party on Wednesday, December 4, 1996 at the Hyatt Regency Washington Hotel at 400 New Jersey Ave NE. The benefit to help retire Mr. Capozzi’s debt from his city council at-large campaign. For more information, call Renee McPhatter at 202/518-8595.

John Capozzi


Saturday’s Project

This Saturday, December 7th, we will be working on the Olmsted Island Bridges at Great Falls Park once again. Having accomplished our goal of getting the bridge footings poured before winter sets in, we now have a new goal - to get the bridge sections in place before Christmas. This week and next we have a special need for carpenters. If you are skilled with a hammer and saw, or even an enthusiastic novice, please come help us. We promise this will be much more fun than going to the mall!

As usual, we will start at 9:00 AM. Depending on what we are able to accomplish, we will run until 1:00 PM or, after lunch, until around 4 PM. As you can see, we have ambitious goals. If you can help with any of these projects, please contact us at or 703 242 2455.

John Shores


Multi use Space Now Available

St. Stephen and the Incarnation (16th & Newton St. N.W.) has 2,000 sq. feet of air conditioned office space w/ handicap access. Space can be configured to your needs. ADT system installed. Also party/reception facility available with complete commercial kitchen (table and chairs for 200). Call Frank @ (202) 232-0900 8am-noon weekdays.

Deborah Dougherty


Strayer College’s DC campus at 15th and L Streets, NW is looking for part-time faculty members to teach business administration and computer courses. Master’s degree required. If you are interested, call Dean’s Assistant Eleanor Robertson, (202) 408-2448.

Susan Bahcall


Apt. for Rent

I will be renting my 1 bedroom condo on Ordway Street in Cleveland Park, around Jan. 1st or 15th. The apartment is sunny, cheerful, ½ block from the Cleveland Park metro, parquet floors, separate dining area, a/c, cable, parking space, washer/dryer. Rent (including parking) is $995. If interested call me at (202) 619-3409, days or (202) 547-7779, evenings.

Alan Levine


Please support my 300-Mile Journey: AIDS Ride 1997

On June 19, 1997 I will begin a 4 day bicycle ride of 300 miles from NC to DC with over 1,700 other riders in the "Washington, DC AIDS Ride Presented by Tanqueray." Tax-deductible donations go to Food & Friends and Whitman-Walker to help care for individuals with HIV/AIDS and promote HIV prevention education programs in DC. Must raise $1,700; my personal goal is $3,000. I am trying to raise the money by the end of the year so I can devote my time to training. Your pledge will sponsor Rider No. #347; Marian L. Rowan. Pledges are made directly to the DC Pledge Office. I can send you a pledge form and more information about the ride and the benefiting agencies. Please send E-mail inquiries.

Marian Rowan


Housing to Share Large, furnished room in 2 bedroom apartment. Own phone, cable. One block to restaurants, groceries, cafes. 10 minutes to trains. NS, women only. Upper Conn. Ave. $450. mo. + ½ elec. Call 202-966-4970.

Jenn Weed


Jewish centric Dinner Discussion lecture series. If you would like to assist in the development and presentation of a monthly program please contact me.

Sandy Barsky Yael123@AOL.COM YAEL 123@AOL.COM (yes that is a space between the "l" and the "1")."


Small office in Cleveland Park, avail Jan 1st. Calm, health oriented suite, one block to Metro. Waiting room, bathroom. Join your healing practice to our health and well being professionals. $250. month plus own phone. Call Jenn @ 202-966-6113.

Jenn Weed


Sherri’s Party Helping can make your holiday party easy, helping with cooking, serving and cleanup. Call Sherri at (703) 941-8442 for details.

Claude Seymour


Home PC Computer Assistance and Small Business Applications

I’ll help you choose 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


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