Maw on Shaw
I no longer feel alone tilting at windmills. John Rays tilting with me. Check out his editorial today in the Washington PostD.C. Needs Help, But Not a Takeover. Ray argues against the Clinton proposal on the grounds that the District doesnt need a stateit is a state. Readers of my diatribes on this issue will see familiarbut more eloquently statedarguments in Rays op-ed piece.
Except for his enthusiasm for big ticket public works projects like the state-of-the-art MCI arena and the convention center, it was like we had a mind meld. Pretty scary. Ray went so far to say that the District got a fair deal at home rule, could have handled the pension issue, but cant now because of the financial mess. So the feds got to foot that bill. All who agree raise your hands. (By the way, how long does it take for a state-of-the-art facility to become a Houston Astrodome? Six months? Less?)
Id like to add two caveats to the argument that the District doesnt need state help. Ive been told that both Baltimore and Boston residents receive more money from the state than they pay to Caesar. I suspect in both cases the difference isnt substantial. Marylands total budget of $7 billion is only $2 billion more than the Districts .And Im still far from convinced that this is the norm.
Second, as I step off the academic platform, I agree that the District doesnt have the tax base now to support all of its activitiesnot since taxpayers were chased from the city by high crime, bad schools, and poor services. But if the city gives up functions to the feds and then recovers, how does it get those functions back? If the District is going to ship its prisoners to Ohio (which may be necessary but is still obscene), where will the federales ship them? The Rocky Mountain flats?
And speaking of crime, what the hell is going on in Adams-Morgan and why havent we heard from anyone there? The police are holding a public meeting there tonight. Would someone fill us in? And is this crime wave related to the gang initiation posting we read last week? Curious minds want to speculate.
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The Shaw ANC
Nick Keenan asked whether there is any oversight of Advisory Neighborhood Commissions and, if so, by whom. There are actually three places to complain about a misbehaving commissioner.
For financial misbehavior or misspending of ANC funds, go to the DC Auditor. The new DC Auditor is Anthony Cooper; the people responsible for auditing ANCs are Deborah Nichols and Kathy Little; and the telephone number for the Auditors office is 727-3600. However, I would not recommend taking the matter of the offensive flyer to the Auditor. Communicating with constituents is a legitimate expense of ANCs; and I, for one, would not want anyone in government telling ANCs what they could or could not say to their constituents. Regulation of ANC communications might start with the nasty things in Leroy Thorpes flyer, but Im certain that it would soon lead to a rule that ANCs, as one part of city government, could not use their funds to criticize any other part of DC government and if Commissions cant criticize DC government, they may as well be abolished.
The DC Council does have oversight over the general operations and behavior of ANCs. However, as Im sure youre aware, Council oversight over any part of the District government is useless and toothless, when it exists at all. If you want to waste your time, ANCs fall under the Government Operations Committee of the Council, chaired by Kathy Patterson. Her office number is 724-8062.
The third place to complain, which could be the place to start, is the Advisory Neighborhood Commission itself. If a Commissioner used Commission funds without the approval of the other members of the Commission, it is possible that the other Commissioners would be upset and would disapprove of the expenditure. (Its also entirely possible that the other Commissioners wont give a damn if so, start working now to elect new Commissioners in two years.)
On another aspect of the matter, Keenan asked if it were true that Commissioners dont get any money from the city. The answer is that Commissioners are not paid any salary. They can get reimbursed normal expenses for the work they do for the Commission (taking Metro to a meeting, for example). Most Commissioners never ask for or get any reimbursement. If you suspect that a Commissioner is taking unusual expense money, ask to see the Commissions quarterly financial reports. Theyre public documents, and the Commission should provide them to you freely. If the Commission balks for any reason, call the DC Auditor and get copies from him.
On the other hand, a high percentage of Commissioners too high a percentage, in my opinion are DC government employees, and are dependent on the city dole I mean, payroll.
Charlie Adler firstname.lastname@example.org
I just read the letter posted by "Mahdi" Leroy Joseph Thorpe, Jr., ANC-2C-02, ph.(202)387-1596. I called the aforementioned phone number to voice my concerns about the racial overtones of his letter. He hung up on me. I guess he doesnt take criticism well!
The letter Mahdi wrote had extreme racial overtones concerning certain members of the East Central Civic Association of which he is a member of. He used such phrases as "Anti-Black" and "displace African Americans" to create a real firebomb of a letter suggesting that theres some conspiracy of the non-African American association members to displace African Americans in the Shaw neighborhood.
Ill make my point simply: Discrimination or reverse discrimination, it matters little, how are we all supposed to get along in DC if ANC members, our representatives, are creating racial tension? Things are bad enough in DC, I dont believe that problems are going to get solved by blaming anyone, whether theyre White, Black or Green. This is serious stuff. If you feel the same way, call "Mahdi" at (202)387-1596 and say "enough is enough, lets work together to save this city".
Permits for Everyone (just kidding)!
Id like to go on record with a brief spiel in favor of the handicapped parking permit. It seems self-evident, but some of you appear to be confirmed doubters, so Ill tell you: not everyone who has a permit is cheating. I earned mine, fair and square; my wheelchair is not a fashion accessory (although I did get to choose the color). The permit is designed to compensate for some of the pain-in-the, um, neck qualities of getting around the city when youre disabled, just like the half-price Metro farecards.
I am absolutely mystified that the vast majority of people feel pity first for the disabled, but consider things like the parking permit, or getting to ride in an elevator, to be a perk. Youd think that the permit gets you to the head of the line at Disneyworld, for Petes sake. If only that were true - more people would have tried this disabled thing long ago.
That said, my humble observations follow:
One, the District should have begun planning long ago to upgrade its parking meter technology. Somehow, its always not until the situation is dire that they begin planning to fix it.
Two, the permits need to be renewed on an annual basis anyway; why isnt a more thorough review taking place at renewal? I agree that dead people shouldnt park for free - make people come in person with a doctors note once a year, just like when the permit is first issued.
Three, dont designate handicapped spaces for people on city streets; losers who dont need them will park there anyway because its more convenient (theres that "perk" thing again).
Four, while I personally dont care if the "park for free" part of the permit is eliminated, you have to acknowledge that it honestly is difficult for some people with limited mobility to feed the meter every two hours. While some would call this classist, because many people with disabilities are on limited incomes, Id be willing to pay in advance (say $30 to $50/year?) for the privilege of not feeding the meter.
Rob Pegoraro email@example.com
As an update to last weeks query about car insurance, I received no fewer than 20 responses in three daysmost on the same afternoon my question went out on the list. You guys are the best!
To summarize the results:
1) Almost everybody seems to love State Farm, on cost and service grounds. (Do yall get a commission on referrals? :) That was a surprise to meI guess Id figured that the big-name companies would be more likely to be wary of the District.
2) A sizable minority recommended Erie, with the caveat that theyre very picky about whom they accept. Apparently you must wear the right shoes.
3) Two other people recommended Amica, and one person liked Travelers.
4) Most confusingly, two people, both living in the same neighborhoods as me, said they had great, under-$1,000-annually deals with GEICO.
There you have it. Not all of that makes sense, but, well, this is the insurance industry if I may lapse into computing terms, its about as far from an open system as you can get. (I can only imagine how they guard the calculus they use to determine premiums actually, something like the vault under the National Archives comes to mind.)
DC Income Taxes
I was working on my income tax returns today and I noticed something that shocked the hell out of me: my DC income tax withholding was one-half of my federal tax withholding. Does DC provide me with so many services that I should pay so much compared to my federal tax burden? Sure, but then I love potholes, parking tickets and dealing with surly bureaucrats.
(The usual disclaimer about my employer and me.)
District Business Taxes
[If you recall, I bellyached last week about paying around $750 in taxes to the District government this yeareven though by federal standards (and District standards) I had no taxable corporate income. Carol OCleireacain of Brookings was kind enough to respond. jeff]
My revenue study has not ignored the S corporation issue, although I think you have to wait for the book to come out to read that part. ( We couldnt get everything into the Policy Brief.) I agree that the differing tax treatment of S corporations by the District and federal governments is not helpful to the District. Under my proposal, this differing treatment disappears, since we would eliminate the corporate tax altogether and piggy-back the personal income tax on the federal income tax. Thus, S corporation income would be taxed as personal income. Unfortunately, the data were not good enough to enable us to estimate what the net revenue result would be from this change. But, we do know that the extra bookkeeping burden on DC residents who are S corporation owners would disappear.
On CBS national news last night there was a segment about the police crackdown in Moscow on non-Russian drivers. Tickets were being handed out for as little as a dirty or obscured license plate. Of note, however, was the video showing a Moscow cop with a laptop (and a built in cellular phone/modem) checking out the database in the central computer for any additional tickets or violations for the driver and the car that were being ticketed. Moscow is a major city in a very financially distressed country.
On another front it was as fascinating as it was dispiriting to read in the Post about the recruiting element of the Police Department having one incoming phone, one outgoing phone, and no place to hook up their fax machine to do viable background checks on new hire candidates. Something is radically amiss here in this city.
[Kind of makes you wonder if the District government will hire "experts" from the Virgin Islands to revamp the citys personnel system. jeff]
Dear dcstory addicts: I am now trying to compile events from the month of January that affect the quality of life in the District for Washington City Papers monthly feature The Needle. Has anything happened in the past few weeks that affects your quality of life, for example: public officials behaving irresponsibly, good restaurants closing or opening, hateful celebs flooding the streets of D.C., water rates on their way through the roof, etc. Id love to hear about anything that brought you up or down in January.
Erik Wemple Erik_Wemple@washcp.com
Washington International Coffee House
When: February 8, Saturday Time: 7:00 to 9:30 PM Where: Fellowship Hall, St. Lukes United Methodist Church corner of Wisconsin Ave. and Calvert St. NW Cost: Free. Donations accepted What: Celebrate Chinese New Year, Music, Comedy, Magic, Tai-Ji Demonstration, Chinese snacks, Gourmet Tea and Coffee
Dr. David Wong (202) 298-6110 firstname.lastname@example.org
The next pre(Vail)/post(7 Springs) happy hour is on Thursday, February 27, 1997, starting at 6:30 PM. It is at Nantucket Landing, 4723 Elm Street, Bethesda, MD, 301-654-0022. Like last time, its free, and there will be munchies and reduced drink prices. Deposits are still being accepted for Vail, just need them ASAP to guarantee a spot.
Lisa Needleman email@example.com
half-price admission to navigating the information jungle, feb. 25-26, 1997, westpark holiday inn, rosslyn, va. presented by natl capitol chapter of assoc. for information and image mgt. i won the pass in a raffle. my rate: $140 or best offer (not refundable). regular rate: $295 for two days. please respond by phone only.
Jon Katz (202) 362-7433 firstname.lastname@example.org
Home PC Computer Assistance
Ill 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 Story@intr.net
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