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July 27, 1997

Two Tales of One City

Dear Neighbors:

Congress may not be able to pass our budget, but there’s no deterring authors from writing about our fair city. Our first entree is Carol O’Cleireacain’s "The Orphaned Capital: Adopting the Right Revenues for the District of Columbia." Carol is a a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution and a Control Board consultant. Previously, she served as New York City’s Finance Commissioner and Budget Director and as an adjunct professor at Columbia University and the New School for Social Research.

O’Cleireacain will be talking about her book on Monday the 28th at Toast & Strawberries, 1608 Connecticut Ave., NW (Q Street at Dupont Circle) at 7 PM. She will be signing books from 5:30pm to 8:30pm. Here’s a blurb from the promotions department to tell you something about Carol’s efforts.

The survival of the nation*s capital is a matter of national concern. The Control Board and the chief financial officer have outlined the path to balancing the budget by 1999. Once the District government can deliver services efficiently, the issue of how they should be financed will need to be addressed. That is the focus of this book. Carol O’Cleireacain provides background for understanding the present situation, focusing on the revenue components and offering a realistic menu of revenue options for long-term, ongoing budget balance. O’Cleireacain concludes that the District’s fiscal crisis is the result, in part, of economic and demographic trends reflecting the dilemmas of central cities and their suburbs nationwide; in part, the historically flawed relationship > between Congress and the local government. But at the heart of the District*s fiscal crisis is its special status as the nation*s capital. All other American cities benefit from state aid for welfare, Medicaid, prisons, higher education, juvenile justice, and a wide range of highway, infrastructure, and other capital investments. The District does not; it has to tax its residents in order to provide state-type services. Ongoing budget balance in D.C. will require a realignment of spending and revenue responsibilities by the federal government acting as the state parent to the nation*s orphaned capital.


For a sharp political take on the District, New York, and Los Angeles, check out Fred Siegel’s book, "The Future Once Happened Here: New York, D.C., L.A. and the Fate of America’s Big Cities." Fred’s book will be released in September, but it’s already receiving rave reviews from within the publishing world. I quote from Publishers Weekly (July 14, 1997).

As a resident of Brooklyn, Siegel knows his city, as an author (Urban Society) and urban policy analyst, a professor of History at Cooper Union and a key figure in the 1993 election campaign of Rudolph Giuliani, he knows his cities—and the fruit of his knowledge, personal and professional is on display in this perceptive and lively consideration of where our cities have gone, how they got there and where they might go. Considering New York, Washington and Los Angeles as prime shapers of the "national agenda," Siegel situates the recent (i.e., past quarter century) decline in urban life squarely on the shoulders of "sixties liberalism." According to Siegel, it was the liberal response to the urban riots of the early to mid-1960s, particularly to the Watts riot of 1965, that set each city on its downward course, as the violence created a "riot ideology" that found moral and practical justification in the mayhem and in effect, rewarded it with massive government grants, a form of "riot insurance." Siegel’s discussion of what happened in New York focuses on the wild expansion of welfare and the attempt to decentralize schools during the period; for Washington, he concentrates on the effects of black nationalism in power, with Marion Barry at the helm; in L.A., he sees a city spinning apart from multicultural pressures.. Siegel makes his points in trim prose, rooting them not in ideology but in the acts of the matter, enlivening them with telling anecdotes. This is urban analysis undertaken with a sharp experienced eye, and with optimism as well, as Siegel finds signs of hope, particularly in Giuliani’s reinvigoration of New York, that the American city has a future not only worth predicting, but worth waiting for.

Fred and I met when he started this project and have talked at least weekly since. I’ve also read the DC part of the book. Even if you think you know DC, Fred’s take will surprise and challenge you.


Also free! Free movie passes, short movie reviews, and movie discussion. Send an email message to to subscribe.

Jeffrey Itell


dc.story Talks
Carl Bergman

You didn’t have to put your ear to the ground to hear some of dc.story’s move voluble filers lately. Jeff took out a piece of Mike Tyson’s psyche on the Canadian Broadcast Corporation’s "As It Happens," following up his Slate article on the boxer. (<>

NPR’s Morning Edition heard about the dangers of aggressive driving from Steph "get out of my way you bozo!" Faul. Being banned from Radio Free Ward Three (WAMU 88.5), specifically Derrick McGinty’s show, figured prominently in Sam Smith’s Book schmooze at Politics and Prose. Attendee Mark Plotkin confirmed that Sam’s been shunned for being ‘too ironic.’ Among Sam’s best lines of the night: "Having an literary agent is like having a therapist who works on commission."


Let a Thousand Consultants Flower
Carl Bergman

Congressional Republicans (not necessarily a collective noun) caved rather easily to Eleanor Norton’s objections to a city manger government. Marion IV, the Post and most the council were aghast at Congress daring to shift city powers around. Norton’s got Faircloth (R-NC) among others in tow for her approach cloning the MPD’s government by consultant to the rest of the government.

This is a more home rule approach? Following the MPD model, contractors and consultants will flood the city bureaucracy with auditors and experts who’ll draw up a reform blueprint. They’ll negotiate among themselves and with the big players. When they’re done, you might get a peek at the city’s future.

This is a more home rule approach? Sure, a congressionally imposed form change isn’t exactly a great move for self-determination, but those who objected to a manager on autonomy grounds confused process with substance. Our process isn’t democratic. Congress can do what it wants in DC. This isn’t right, but it is what is.

Automatically objecting to congressional changes — regardless of content — not only makes no sense, it’s hypocritical and stupid. Hypocritical because everyone in this town with an ax to grind tries to get the hill to go their way. Often it’s to stop them, but for every letter, column or editorial denouncing congressional interference I can show you as many that begin with Congress ought to … in DC. Stupid because Congress has what the city government lacks: money and power.

Confusing process with substance has lead us to the absurdity that a closed, secretive mechanism is being sold as a more autonomous solution than one that would have been public, open and accountable. Remember the manager plan would remove none of the city’s power. The manager would be selected by Marion IV, but as with Tony Williams could not be fired by him.

Importantly, the Council as well as the Control Board would have to give their OK. The Manager would have been a public figure who’d have to justify public policies publicly. Calling this less democratic than letting a thousand consultants flower is nuts. The kicker: all that’s happened is that one form of congressional intervention has been substituted for another.


Children’s Hospital Site
Leslie Miles

I’m a new reader and first-time writer. My first edition contained a tidbit about the proposed use for the Children’s Hospital site on 14th Street. I have heard only that Fresh Fields is rumored to be considering the site (a rumor they will neither confirm or deny). Is there a more concrete proposal that I’ve missed hearing about? As a resident of the area and ANC commissioner I’d sure like to know.


Dumbing Down
Dawson Truitt

I find many failings in Mr. Wilson’s last posting, the two most glaring examples being- how does one equivocate Mr. Reeves’ current position in the School Board with Mr. Barry’s "dumbing down" policies, since these two distinct governmental groups have shared an ocean of disparity since the inception of home rule; I find no convincing correlation to this argument. Furthermore, openness and privation on "public issues" warrant a vast range of response, particularly from those in the know, that require a mature handling of matters. Democracy, which Mr. Wilson continues to allure to, is and will always be vague(at best) issue, dealt best with integrity and straight-forwardness. Let’s stop second guessing the control board, the emergency trustee board for schools, and all of the other measures that the citizens of the District have been looking and waiting for, yet demanding. And lastly - what do Ghandi and Mr. Reeves have in common?


No To Recycling
Richard Stone Rothblum

I am probably going to freak everyone out by wondering why in the world we need to pay for recycling. If it doesn’t make economic sense, it probably doesn’t make sense from any other standpoint. Take recycling bottles, for example. Bottles are made from sand, one of the most abundant minerals on the earth. As individual consumers, we must go to a lot of trouble to collect and sort bottles for recycling. If we were paid for our time and effort, it would be even more unfeasible to recycle bottles than it already is.

But, forget for the moment about the time spent by consumers. Maybe they would do it for sheer enjoyment anyway. The bottles are then picked up by paid employees, driving obnoxious vehicles which pollute the atmosphere and deplete seriously non-renewable resources (like oil and molybdenum and helium), and spread seriously poisonous toxins like lead. These bottles are then sorted from other trash, and collected again and maybe stored, again at a cost. Then they are shipped to some distant point, at a further cost in energy, resources and pollution. There, the bottles are crushed, more cost, to return them to a state somewhat like sand. After that, the ersatz sand is melted to produce an inferior product, using as much or more energy than it would have taken to produce high quality glass from fresh clean sand.

The alternative is to throw the bottles away, in a landfill with other trash. The bottles are chemically inert and non-polluting. They are returned to the ground whence they came. If this alternative is cheaper, it is probably also less polluting and more conservative of resources. A similar argument can be made for not recycling newsprint. In this case, there is the added advantage that carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere by the growing of trees for the purpose of producing newsprint. Recycling is justifiable to the extent that it is economically rational.

Often the true costs of producing a product are not borne by the producer or the consumer, but by third parties who have no choice in the matter. For example, neither the car manufacturer nor the gasoline producer nor the consumer of these products pays for the adverse health effects of air pollution, the time wasted by traffic gridlock, or urban sprawl. Therefore, the solution to the recycling problem is not to pass laws to force people to participate in uneconomical recycling. Rather, it is to assign the true costs to the producers and consumers of the products in question, via pollution taxes for example. Also, if individual residents were asked to pay for trash pickup based on the actual volume of trash set out for the collectors, they would have a monetary incentive to reduce the trash volume by any means, which would include recycling.


Removal Of Dead Trees And Their Parts
Joan Eisenstodt

A large branch of the tree in front of a neighbor’s house (on Capitol Hill) broke off and fell into our yard — it did not damage — but did shatter into large chunks. The trash folks will not remove it — we’ve tried for a week. I’ve called the City .. and received no help — and lots of buck passing.

Two concerns: What DO we do w/ this wood (nope, no fireplace!) and more, since we are told the area where the tree grows belongs to the City, who is responsible for the tree, and how do we find out if the whole thing might topple .. and if so, who is responsible for it’s removal??


Settling For Crumbs
Larry Seftor

I guess when you are starving, a few crumbs seem like a feast. And that is one of the real tragedies in D.C. today. All of us, well to do and in need, have given up our expectations of what should be.

Steph Faul felt quite good when she got her sidewalk fixed — even though the repair was performed with asphalt instead of concrete as it should have been. Unfortunately, if someone is shot and killed on that repaired sidewalk the chances are pretty good (50-50) that the shooter will never be caught. And if one of the houses facing that sidewalk is robbed the chances are 12 to 1 that the burglar will never be caught. As Jim Moran noted, D.C. is presenting itself as a target for criminals.

For those who believe that shootings only happen in Southeast, that is incorrect. People are being shot in my neighborhood, Friendship Heights, which is pretty far from Southeast. I know of a lawyer who worked late one night (as lawyers often do) and was shot near his car, within half a mile from my house. The last I heard that shooter was in the lucky 50% that got away.

My sixth grade teacher made us read and understand a little statement that used to be on the editorial page of the Washington Post: "There is no hope for the satisfied man." I wonder what she would think of citizens of D.C. who continue to tolerate, and sometimes praise, what is arguably the worst local government in the U.S.


Report on Nam Viet (Pho 69)
Steph "Will eat anything with rice or noodles in it" Faul

Saturday night I ate at Nam Viet, the newly opened Vietnamese place on Connecticut Avenue in Cleveland Park. (It used to be in Clarendon for those who remember its "Little Vietnam" days.) The new restaurant still has some kinks to iron out: One entree was incorrect, service was slow and erratic, and they were out of green papaya, a dish I particularly craved. But overall I think it has promise. One thing Story readers may want to examine carefully is the addition: our $6.95 and $8.95 entrees had mysteriously become two $10.95 entrees when the check arrived. We pointed out the error and they were very polite about repairing it, but still.

[After receiving Stephanie’s message, I checked out the restaurant with two names. Both exceeded expectations and our waiter could add. The food was solid—as solid as soup gets—and the prices reasonable. It’s still eerie walking into the Roma entrance without seeing animal heads hanging on the wall. But then the restaurant was always eerie with the heads as well. Jeff.]


Shemali’s Middle Eastern Carryout
Jon Katz

One of the area’s best Middle Eastern carryout is Shemali’s, which is tucked to the rear of the Cactus Cantina/G.C. Murphy shopping center on Wisconsin Avenue. Because of Shemali’s wonderful and reasonably-priced fresh-made humus, falafel, dinners, baba ganoush, baklava, packaged foods, and other delights, I told the very nice owners that I would recommend them on this website. Shemali’s is at the rear of 3306 Wisconsin Ave., NW, (202) 686-7070. The store is open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. through 8:00 p.m.

[A strong concurrence from your moderator. Try the pita zatar. Jeff]



Internship Sought

I am completing my studies in public relations and media communication at the Technical University in Berlin. Does anyone know of (or can offer) an internship in the DC area starting in October? My experience also includes onstage and backstage work with theaters and orchestras in Berlin.

Christin Zacher


Carrie Staff Asks About TV Repairs

Go to Bethesda TV; I’ve found them to be reliable, efficient, prompt, helpful, and reasonably priced.

Alex Morin


Washington Tasting Society’s Mixology Event

"Mixology 101: How to Mix Drinks and Entertain at Home." Thursday, August 7th, from 6:30-8:30PM at Fellini’s Restaurant, Washington’s Hottest New Italian Restaurant and Club, 1800 M St., NW, Washington, D.C. Washington’s Best Bartender will show you how to mix martinis, margaritas, and other popular drinks, and you get to sample them too! You will learn about proper equipment for a home bar, quality differences between various spirits, and you will also get tips on home entertaining. Light hors d’ oeuvres will be served. $25.00. Please R.S.V.P. with your name, phone number, and number of reservations as space is limited, phone (202)333-5588, or email at

Charlie Adler


Orioles Tickets For Sale

See if the O’s can beat the Rangers at home --- four seats on the third base line in section 354 (upper deck, lower section) full of season ticket holders and devoted O’s fans for sale for Wednesday July 30, 3:05. p.m. this game usually is full of people playing hooky from their offices and is great fun! Tickets $16 apiece. 202/244-4636. Offers accepted for two of the four, as well as all four.

Margie Siegel


Apartment Wanted

Two young museum professionals seek two-bedroom apartment to rent for one year. Looking for a sunny and large 2BR apartment/condo preferably in Adams Morgan/Dupont Circle area. Hoping to move in September 1 but we are flexible if the right place comes along. If you are an owner and have an apartment to rent or if you have any suggestions for us please email or

Maury Sullivan


Dining Room For Sale

Duncan Phyfe, includes china cabinet, buffet/server, drop-leaf rectangular table with ball and claw legs, and four chairs upholstered in cream brocade. Extra material available. ?700 or best offer. Please call (202) 623-1365 (o) or (202) 363-8571 (h).

Carla White



Buying one shouldn’t be so scary. Setting one up shouldn’t be so scary. Getting on the Internet shouldn’t be so scary.

Jeffrey Itell 202.244.4163


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