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December 29, 1996

New Year’s Revelations

Dear Neighbors:

If you can hold out a little longer, the Department of Public Works says they will collect live holiday trees (plastic Hanukkah bushes need not apply) the first two weeks in January as part of the fall/winter leaf collection programs. Residents who receive weekly trash collection from DPW should check their leaf collection schedule to see which of the first two weeks in January holiday trees will be collected from their neighborhoods.

On the Monday of the neighborhood’s collection week, place your trees at the curb with any other bagged or bundled yard waste or leaves. And remember to remove your tree ornaments—from your trees presumably.

Further information call 202.727.4600. And for God’s sake don’t call me to explain this policy. I’m just copying what they put in the fax.


dc.story receives another few characters of notoriety this week in Washington City Paper. Check out the article in the year-end issue: "The Moan Zone" by Tom Stabile. Several of our frequent contributors—Ed Barron, Carl Bergman, Art Spitzer, and Vickie Leonard-Chambers—are interviewed and quoted liberally. So watch what you write. Someone may actually be reading.

And speaking of opining, the Government Accountability web site provides a monthly listing of controversial votes, and/or current debates in Congress, then lets you express your opinion either by US or Electronic Mail. The group will then compile all votes and relay them to the proper representatives and senators. So give’m hell gang.


dc.story never really had an official beginning. It grew out of the net buddies group of about 40 email folks who I’d chat with when I owned and wrote the Northwest Side Story. But with the end of the year approaching, it’s fair to say that we’re about a year old now. So when you sip champagne on New Year’s Eve, have another gulp for us in celebration.

dc.story has achieved a number of goals this year. First, membership has grown from the original 40 to over 1000. At this growth rate, dc.story will have 25,000 subscribers by 1998 and over 6 million by 1999. In other words, I don’t know when we will reach critical mass, but we’re not there yet.

It’s also a unique, niche forum. What does that jargon mean? Beats me but it sounds good. I guess what I’m driveling at is that I’m not aware of any ezines that are this large and are this geographically bounded—that are also interactive. Which means that dc.story is a pioneer of sorts and you’re all participating in an experiment. So don that western gear, load up the Conestoga wagons, and get ready for year deux.

Finally a word of thanks to those who write the newsletter. Yes, I’m sucking up to the readers...and don’t expect me to do it again. But obviously this ezine is yours. Without your knowledge, intelligence, wit—and, above all else, extremely good looks—dc.story would be history. Now it’s moving from the fringe to becoming a vital part of the District community. Democracy thrives only with an active community. And we’ve created some signs of life in an often politically moribund city. Good for us!

Since I am asked this question often, I must confess that I still have no idea why I’m moderating this list. I think it’s important, but I also often think that there are more important things to do with my life—like earn a living. Well, rats. I often get accused of thinking too much. So I’ll just keep going and worry about the "why" another time.

Happy new year to all and thanks for all your contributions to dc.story. I look forward to many more in 1997.


Free movie passes are available for "The Relic" and "Mother"—only for subscribers of Send an email message to to subscribe.

Jeffrey Itell


Hillary Clinton and the District

If Hillary Clinton is going to make the District "a priority" to help us, I may move up plans for abandoning the city! I happen to believe that the things which will help the city are drastically lower taxes, a much smaller and business-friendly bureaucracy, judicial and police reform, a death penalty, a reversal of our absurd "gun control" laws, drastically higher standards in the public schools, school vouchers, elimination of the "Dave Clarke Law School," reduced welfare, and the complete end to this disaster called "home rule." I’m sure I could add a few thousand other things — none of which will ever be supported by people with a world view like Hillary’s.


How never to get home rule again
sam smith

The junta and the White House are floating schemes to make DC’s colonial status permanent in return for taking charge of some of the city’s costs and/or operations. These plans are pernicious alternatives to a fair federal payment, the right to a commuter tax and an end to local tax subsidies to corporations such as Fannie Mae. The federal payment, after all, represents not a subsidy but fair compensation for taxes foregone and services provided. It is a deal that would easily survive the coming of statehood. For the city to accept the fed’s taking over welfare or prison costs, on the other hand, would be a declaration that DC is willing to remain forever a colony of the US.

Not surprisingly, the idea is being pushed by the erstwhile head of the city’s biggest tax deadbeat: Fannie Mae, whose congressional exemption from local taxation costs the city several hundred million a year. Clinton’s budget director Franklin Raines, while running Fannie Mae, perfected a scheme for stifling protests against his firm by spreading charitable donations around the city with special attention to those churches and organizations that might make formidable opponents of FM’s tax exemption. Raines was also the unofficial budget advisor to the fiscally disastrous Sharon Pratt Kelly, whose one term was harder on the city’s finances than all the Barry administrations combined.

Now Raines wants to assume the cost of the city’s pension liability and take over local prisons. Would this be in addition to the current measly federal payment? Of course not — under the Raines plan, the federal payment would be eliminated. Perhaps the most disgusting part of the Raines plan is the takeover of the city’s prisons. Local prisoners would be sent to federal prisons around the country, perhaps thousands of miles from their families and friends.


The WDCU Sale, Redux

As I write this note, I am sitting in my office with jazz ballads playing on my desk radio tuned to WDCU-FM. So let me be up front: I’m a jazz fan, I contribute to WDCU, and I think that Washington’s only real jazz station is probably the best thing that the University of the District of Columbia has to offer to non-students.

Lorie Leavy raises a few good questions about the possible purchase of WDCU by George Washington University or WETA. The story has me a bit worried, because I think there may be some hidden agendas at work — this is Washington, after all.

Some quick history: When WETA FM and WETA television were planning to build new studios to replace the ones they were using in Shirlington, Sharon Percy Rockefeller and other station officials were wooed — and attracted — by George Washington University, which desperately wanted the stations and offered many incentives.

I applauded this connection. I enjoy WETA and thought that the station’s home should be in the District. WAMU’s recent move into new studios in Tenleytown was a wonderful decision on the part of American University. Unfortunately, as often happens in the District, a very few local residents of Foggy Bottom raised objections to the WETA studios over things like antennas and parking, and the station finally decided to build its new home in Virginia.

Now, it looks as if both GWU and WETA are back in the market again, hoping to get a fire- sale price for a 5,000-watt license — in a city where slots on the radio spectrum are both expensive and scarce. Neither putative owner has said what they would do with the station, although speculation centers on (1) yet another all-news, all-talk format, or (2) all student-run programming.

What appears pretty clear is that the jazz format would almost certainly be eliminated. That would be a shame, because Washington — hometown of Duke Ellington, Roberta Flack, and a host of other jazz legends — should have a good jazz station. WDCU’s jazz library is perhaps the best collection outside the Smithsonian, built largely on the estate of the late long-time DC jazz announcer Felix Grant. What would happen to those recordings if a sale was impending is anybody’s guess.

I haven’t mentioned the other programs that WDCU offers — a noontime talk show on local issues, lots of Latino music on the weekends, an all-night jazz format, gospel music on weekend mornings, and great interviews with jazz musicians appearing locally. Sure, the audience is small but it is both diverse and devoted.

So, keep your eye on this one. A little gem is about to be plucked, and the city could be the loser again.


Tom Berry

As a supporter and listener I, too, am saddened by the possibility that WDCU may be sold. And if it is sold so will go its programming. That would be a great community loss; but forget about petitioning the FCC with bags of letters. The chairman of the commission is too focused on auctioning spectrum and "creating competition" in the telecom world to care about little WDCU. If the station sells, and that’s still a big if, one has to wonder how the late Felix Grant would feel about all of this. It’s my understanding that he donated his entire record and cd collection to WDCU several years ago. What would happen to that wealth of music if the station sells and the programming changes?


Local news coverage on radio in Washington
Steven J. Hoffman

The problem with WTOP NewsRadio 1500 is that they still can’t decide whether they’re a serious news station or a "happy talk" station with the news anchors frequently attempting to banter with each other; if their banter was funny, or even mildly amusing, it’d be okay, but it’s generally lame and banal, and just off-putting. Also, too much leading the local news segments with crime and not enough in-depth news analysis.


sam smith

The reason inflation was not taken into account in Peter Farina’s data about DC taxpayers’ US returns is because you can’t extrapolate it from the IRS data.

To get around this problem, I checked DC returns some time ago and when you put them on a chart you find a bulge where a middle class bulge should be — until the late 80s, early 90s when the line from low to high income taxpayers becomes more straight (i.e. suggesting a loss of middle-class).

The point is simply that the flight of the middle-class has been exaggerated. DC’s economic problems are far more related to having to support the costs of an extraordinary number of suburban day trippers (including those who make up over half of the DC government’s work force), and a high end planning strategy that has ignored the needs of ordinary citizens and small businesses for decades — in favor of catering to the downtown welfare fathers of the BOT and Federal City Council. As far as the latter are concerned, the middle class are primarily useful because if you can blame the city’s problems on their disappearance you don’t have to pay attention to what really happened.


Convention Center/MCI Center
Tom Berry

Like our man Jeff, I didn’t have the heart or stamina to read the whole GAO report on the proposed new convention center but, dollar wise, it summarizes like this: the total predevelopment and construction costs are now estimated at about $480 million compared to an earlier $561 million, an $81 million decrease since the last report. Of that $480 million, about $64 million is for predevelopment costs (an increase of $24 million). Estimated construction costs are now at $416 million, a decrease of about $105 million. My abacus wasn’t handy to verify these numbers and I will snidely point out how interesting it is that estimated construction costs have decreased almost 25% long before a shovel has been turned. Anyone recall a taxpayer funded project that ever came in under the estimated cost? Bets on whether estimated costs rise before construction begins?

As a business owner and DC resident, the one thing I was relieved to see missing in this report was a new tax on residents and/or businesses to help finance construction, as happened with the MCI Center. (Bonds appear to be the winner so far for financing.) Two years ago the District imposed a "one time" public safety fee on DC businesses, a fee based on gross receipts with a fee scale that was as crooked as a jigsaw puzzle. Last year it returned as the "Arena Fee" with the same fee and same scale. It’s still with every DC business this year and will be with us at least until the land the DC government didn’t own and had to acquire with the funds raised from this fee has been paid for. Then I predict the name of the fee will change again and it will continue ad infinitum.

Here’s an example of the "fairness" of this fee: In 1995 my business spent over $55,000 in postage, most of which was reimbursed by our clients, and collected over $30,000 in sales tax for DC. That $85,000 was part of our gross receipts and, thus, part of what our fee was based on. Sliding scale? Since our gross receipts increased nearly 20% (if only the net would follow suit) in 1995, our fee increased 800% in 1996! If only I could move the business to the islands, mon.…

I resent having to finance the MCI Center because it’s a privately owned property partly financed with taxpayer dollars and a forced business levy. (Gee, where was the District with its funds ten years ago when I moved my small business three blocks?) I’d rather the money collected from this fee go to the new convention center but fear what would happen if it did.


Joan Eisenstodt

I confess .. I didn’t read the report about the proposed center and thus will not address the concept nor "realities" from the GAO report. My bias is as a planner of meetings/conventions and as someone with friends who bring what are known in our industry as "city-wides" [conventions that use the Center and take up virtually all hotel rooms in the metro area] into DC. (Interestingly, I don’t do many DC meetings — most of our clients meet outside DC but not because of the center size.)

We need the larger center IF we want to be competitive with other cities for major conventions .. which bring in much needed big dollars to the city. DC has had a great deal of difficulty attracting these meetings for a variety of meetings .. and no, a new center will not necessarily ensure the business. The other problems - fear of a city going under, fear of crime, and a CVB (convention and visitors bureau) that lacks oomph - must also be resolved in order to sell the center.

IF the costs to put the center up do not outweigh the benefits, then it’s not a good idea. I still think we need it .. or we will end up w/ a glut of hotel rooms, low occupancy, more layoffs, and an image in the hospitality/meetings community as an even less progressive city than that by which we are seen.

[My argument comes from memory and not from facts in front of my face. But I believe convention centers are money pits for cities because they take up some much space and generate so little revenue per square foot. Actually, they are just like arenas which are empty most of time. Cities thrive on commerce and there’s more transaction dollar going on in a supermarket, retail store, or movie theatre than there is at convention centers, on a per hour per square foot basis on the 24 hour clock.

If i remember correctly, the top ten largest convention centers often contribute to their cities but others become big drains. The problem is staying within the top ten. DC’s convention center was state of the art---for about 15 minutes. jeff]


The great taxicab robbery
sam smith

Unnoted by the media, the most important local business for upward economic mobility — the taxicab industry — could soon be destroyed. By some estimates, new regulations that may go into effect in 1998 to ban cabs that are more than six years old would put 80% of the city’s fleet off the streets. Ever since 19th century free black hack drivers were allowed to ignore some of the city’s Black Codes, the cab business has helped newcomers and natives alike get a leg up the economic ladder. Nothing like the DC cab system exists anywhere in the country and no other city has such convenient access to taxi service.

Key to the system is the zone fare. Without meters, the local taxis can’t be taken over by a small number of corporations. There’s no way for such corporations to monitor their own drivers. But now efforts to put meters in the cab is underway full force and the whole industry may soon tumble to a corporate giveaway. We’re told the key player in this move is none other than the mayor’s old buddy, Ivanhoe Donaldson. According to a story by Jennifer Coderre in the Current, taxi commissioner Charles C. Gaither Sr. says, "Somebody’s out there lobbying to trash the DC taxicab fleet. There’s people who have cabs sitting around waiting, meters sitting around waiting. Everybody’s lined up waiting for there laws to pass so they can come in and pick on these DC cab drivers." Fortunately the matter comes up for another vote before the taxi commission on January 7.


Parking Enforcement

Does anyone know of any neighborhoods which have gotten rid of the street-cleaning requirements to park on only one side of the street for two days a week? We never see any street cleaners, and they don’t do much good when they do come. Because both my wife and I had Monday off from work, it slipped our minds that we had to reposition the car, and sure enough, we got a $20 ticket - Merry Christmas. It just looks like another city rip-off to me.


Elephant Trucks
Stephanie "Can we talk about streetcars for a minute?" Faul

I don’t know why they stopped that practice. I *loved* the big vacuum trucks. There would be huge piles of oak leaves in the gutters on our street, big fragrant billows of leaves, and being kids we would run around in them and wade through them and generally do kid-like things to the piles. Then the vacuum trucks would come around and suck them up, a thrilling sight for any age. This "bag and leave at the curb" system strikes me as being (a) stupidly labor-intensive for just about everyone — the homeowners have to bag the leaves and the truck has to come around anyway; and (b) ecologically unsound; one presumes the leaves are headed for some landfill, whereas the vacuumed leaves could be composted and possibly even sold as mulch. I’m glad to see there’s someone else who remembers the leaf trucks!


Closing Beach Drive
Harold Goldstein

Actually from a traffic point of view this is a no brainer. This is one time when we have a test case as to what would happen if the road was closed.

That is because it was closed, fairly recently, to repair the bridge above it and, lo and behold, despite warnings of terrible events, there were none. The streets absorbed the additional traffic without any additional noticeable delays.

There is no real reason to keep the road open and every reason for us to close it to preserve a rather

remarkable urban ecosystem.


Stephanie Faul

Oh! Now I really *am* traveling back in time! Going through the fords in Rock Creek Park was one of the highlights of my childhood. I’d *insist* that we take the route through the park so we could drive across that lovely corrugated sheet of water, driving ever so slowly to protect the brakes and the distributor cap (as I now know, to my sorrow, but that’s another story). In the days before air conditioning it felt so *cool* hearing the splash of water against the wheels.

Nostalgically yours,


Another Great Joy about driving in Rock Creek Park
Joanna Rom

One of the great pleasures of a DC early March commute is that lovely day when you suddenly notice—as you whiz by— the daffodils starting to bloom on the banks of Rock Creek Parkway as you go through Georgetown! (With some nice loud soothing baroquey music on the radio, of course…) .It may not be the last of winter but spring is getting close…


A listing of a-mail available e-zines/e-journals/e-newsletters.

The list currently contains well over 200 items for you to subscribe to, on a very wide variety of topics, each with description, subscription and other link information.

Todd M. Kuipers New Media Propagandist - Kumo Software Corporation


Damn Yankees Tickets

For sale: 2 tickets for the 8 PM 1/4/97 (Saturday night) performance of Damn Yankees at the Kennedy Center. Tickets are located in the center orchestra, row AA and are $65 each. Greg Jones


Sherri’s Party Helping can make your holiday party easy, helping with cooking, serving and cleanup. New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are still open! Call Sherri at (703) 941-8442 for details.

Claude Seymour


Home PC Computer Assistance

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.


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