Your Electronic Backfence
As the political structure is upheaved in the city, its clear that its easier to find Waldo than our political leaders. The mayor was of course learning about the Zambezi River and Soweto when the restructuring package was being negotiated.
But where was Carol Schwartz? She chairs the District Council Committee responsible for intergovernmental affairs, which means dealing with Congress. She got that chair in part because shes a Republican and was supposed to help with the Republican Senate and House.
And where in the world is Linda Cropp? Counting the 27 votes that elected her Council Chair on July 22? She has virtually said nothing about the major changes in D.C. government that have just been enacted. Nor has she announced a new agenda or new ways of doing business at the Council. She hasnt announced any legislative initiatives or policy goals. Is she going to be a caretaker as Council Chair or a doer? Hello! Is anyone home? Is she "the dog that wont hunt?"
And where has the School Board of Trustees been on Mary Anigbo, the Marcus Garvey Charter School, and charter schools in general. Despite the convictions of principal Mary Anigbo and the entire gang of four, Garvey apparently will continue to operate as one of the only charter schools in the city. It was not very long ago (before the takeover) spring 1996 that charter schools were hailed as the potential saviour of our school system. So why is it that in D.C. so many bold reform plans, like charter schools, have almost completely gone off everyones radar screen one year later. And by the way, is anyone going to speak out about investigating Marcus Garvey charter school for possible license revocation. On what grounds? The leadership was just convicted of assault. Thats good enough for me.
Speaking of Waldo, where is District Council education chair Kevin Chavous on this issue? Or Bruce MacLaury and the Board of Trustees? Or how about the school board, whose few remaining tasks include responsibility for charter schools?
A small prediction. Should Barry, Jackson, and Farrakhan manage to ignite a protest movement over the latest round of changes, these folks will be jostling each other aside for photo ops. But when it comes to heavy lifting, they are as scarce as Waldo.
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DC Politics: No Action Talk Only
If the last several weeks havent convinced you of it, I dont know what else it will take. DC politics is not only nuts, but has a lemming streak pushing it to rhetorical extremes. Look whats gone on. Eleanor Norton, anxious to get on the right side of the moment has put out so many versions of her conduct shes locked up the lead in the next make of Rashamon. The Post, no less prone to quick turns, drops a reportorial load on the dc bureaucracy, but within a week defends the citys honor against a city manager plan. Jessie Jackson, commuter extraordinaire surfaces demanding that we stand tall for the Office of Mayor, that great symbol of democratic values. The center ground lies vacant. We are leaderless, having neither agenda nor organization. All we have is sporadic, pointless rhetoric.
This isnt new. Its just more acute than usual. DC never seems to get its act together. No matter whos in charge, elected or appointed, they almost always act the same, much talk with little accomplishment. Blame is usually placed on the home rule bill itself. I place more on how we got home rule rather than what we got.
Other cities, either large or southern or both underwent dramatic political changes in the 50s through 70s. Court ordered reapportionment enfranchised city voters. Nothing, however, changed so many cities that had been run by whites alone as the civil rights movement. From Savannah to Richmond black leaders organized, marched, demanded and persevered eventually winning not only access, but an equal political footing. Mayors and councils in those cities come to office with a confident history of self-help. Ours dont.
DC came late to self-government. Neither courts nor Congress focused on DC. Oddly, the Great Societys momentum stopped when LBJs home rule bill died in conference. With the notable exception of Walter Fauntroys grassroots campaign against John McMillian, the racist who chaired the House District Committee, dc voters were by bystanders in their own enfranchisement. We may by all rights deserve self -government, but we never earned it. There has never been a reckoning between the city and congress.
Our officeholders have no spine, because they know they are always in peril. Lacking confidence, a record, or a reliable public organization, leads them to rhetoric, but no more. Each office holder tires to show how more PC they are then the next. Until they learn to set priorities, enforce some discipline and build public backing for their agenda, change will not come. Without a change in how we operate in the city, the best we can hope for is a President or Congress or both wholl just do whats right. It could be a long wait.
Anti Diss Establishment
The Thursday, August 7, Washington Post quotes Mayor Barry: "Some in the community have given [the control board] a new name, the patrol board, because it is acting like a police officer now."
My first reaction was *good* at last someone will enforce some rules and regulations on the apparatus of government, a task both the Mayor and the Council have neglected for years. Then I realized this was another metaphorical mugging by Mayor Marion Barry, wherein he not only disses the control board, but also police officers as a class. I knew a few people in the 60s who thought *all* cops were pigs, but I thought we were all beyond that now. Or is the Mayor just having a post-traumatic stress disorder "flashback" to his street activist days?
Im still willing to give the Control Board a chance, but lets just hope they dont start trying to sell off more valuable assets like they did with WDCU. Thankfully, NPR seems ready to hold the sale up in court. They need to see the community supporting them however. A key part of the case is the educational and cultural value the station brings to its listening audience, something a religious / commercial radio station couldnt replace. Please e-mail NPR President Delano Lewis and show your support. He needs to hear from us. His address: DLewis@npr.org. DC needs Jazz.
In think Jeffs request for comments about the latest in the "management" of the D.C. Government would normally be apt. However, the situation is sufficiently absurd so that further comment is unneeded. The story really speaks for itself. So on to other matters.
1) For those who mourn the state of radio (specifically Jazz) in this area, check out www.dmxmusic.com, and determine whether one of the two Jazz channels carried by D.C. cable is to your liking. I know that you cant listen to cable in your car, but you can easily make rotating tapes to carry with you. And the service has interesting features, like a remote that displays information about the selection that is being played.
2) The last time I flew British Air they had a program of soliciting change in any currency for charity. (The point being that after you leave a country the coins of that country cannot be converted and are essentially useless.) That makes me wonder whether any charitable entity in our area has thought of collecting our useless currency pennies. For example, in my case I probably have $10 worth that I dont want to carry with me, but might be worth the trouble of wrapping and converting at a bank by some charitable organization. For example, Id be glad to drop a bag of pennies at IONA if theyd like them. Any takers?
(Note, Im not suggesting this as a replacement for ones normal contribution to worthy causes by check.)
Boss Shepherds statue
In response to Randy Wells inquiry, Alexander ("Boss") Shepherds statue is supposed to be moved to a location at Judiciary Square in front of one of the courthouses. An organization called "The Oldest Inhabitants" lobbied for legislation and offered to pay some or all of the costs, I dont recall which. The plan seems to have fallen into the black hole of DC government.
Voir Dire Me
Ive noticed that, for every dc.story tale of "woe and despair" regarding the functioning of DC bureaucracy we read, there seems to be at least one account of things running relatively smoothly. Heres mine. I received a jury duty summons last week, and was ordered to show up on Sept. 5. This is more than a little inconvenient, as I am a teacher, and classes start the last week of August. However, my schedule is quite flexible all summer. So, on a lark, I called the clerks office and asked if I could do my civic duty this month, instead of next month. To my surprise, she said that I could, and asked me what day I would like to serve! Even more astonishing, after I gave her my jurors ID number, she proceeded to read my name back to me (without my having given it to her first), implying that she was actually reading from an accurate database on her computer screen! Anyway, I went in yesterday, and they had me in their computer, and everything went smoothly.
You may have read the letter in the Post a few days ago from the guy who was upset at having to serve on a jury three times in seven years, and twice was elected jury foreman for an extended trial. Well, this time, I was actually kind of looking forward to being on a jury, since I had the time to spare. So what do you think happened? I was dismissed at 3:00, and wasnt even called to a panel! Go figure.
Distribution of Services in DC
Ive notice lots of action on the infrastructure front in northwest DC- - road repairs, new curbs, sewer/water pipe replacement, etc. This despite all the moaning and groaning by everyone (esp. Lauch Faircloth) about the horrid condition of DC roads. But I wonder if this is mostly confined to northwest DC, or if this kind of rehabilitation work is happening all across the city? I dont see this going on in Northeast. Does anyone out there know about other areas?
[We seem to cover this issue every few months. Thats fine. We accumulate new readers all the time. The frenzy of infrastructure activity comes from Congress waiving the Districts share of federal highway money. City projects were held up during the financial crises because the government couldnt offer its 20 percent share. The waiver allows the District to buy now and pay later. Why all the NW activity? Its the largest quadrant, it has the most need, and its where most of the big ticket items (read bridges) exist in the city. Corrections and additions welcomed. I havent checked into this issue in some time. Jeff]
Ridiculous DC Parking Tickets
I guess the way parking laws are administered can seem unjust, but it is a fact of life that we cant make a "federal case" out of small infractions. It took me a while to get used to this, but I was cured when federal marshals came to my door to arrest me for a parking violation at the US Naval Academy of which I was totally innocent! After wasting many days and hundreds of dollars fighting this perceived injustice, it finally dawned on me that parking fines and the like are meant to be meted out as summary justice. This is the only way the system can work. Individual guilt or innocence is not a consideration. That DC allows people to contest their tickets by mail is a major concession to those "bitten" by the system.
As it happens, somewhere there is some fine print that tells you to remove the old sticker before applying the new one. If you think about it, how can the parking enforcement people be expected to sift through a bunch of old stickers trying to figure out if one of them is still valid? To say nothing of trying to see through a windshield with six or seven stickers of one kind or another.
Transportation Take Two
Regarding Richard Stone Rothblums comments about Metro: 1) Please explain what you mean by "the operating subsidy contributed by regional taxpayers which accounts for the loss of income for each rider on the subway." There is no such subsidy that I am aware of and transit riders dont lose income, we actually gain income from not having to pay for insurance, gas, and the vehicle itself; 2) What you fail to account for here is the long-term environmental benefits and congestion benefits enjoyed by those who drive. The whole point of a Metro system is to give people, like myself, who dont own cars the MOBILITY to get around. The second and third reasons is to reduce the amount of driving in areas plagued by bad air quality and worse congestion. Washington is number one for the amount of money wasted while sitting in traffic.
Development patterns: you forget that Washington and towns and cities were built because people once needed to be within walking distance of their place of work and their friends. The sprawl we are experiencing now is a result of post-WWII road construction and then invention of subdivisions. Now the excuses for leaving our "cores" is to escape the stresses of city live, bad schools and so on. As I have said before, the suburbs and exurbs WILL NOT SURVIVE without a healthy core. We (including suburbanites) need to work together toward a better DC. That way we wont be privy to another round of land sucking subdevo construction in far-flung places like Frederick or Leesburg.
The much lauded Automated Highway System ("smart cars") will never reduce congestion nor reduce the amount that people drive. The whole point of that science fiction scheme is to cram more cars on less road ("increase capacity") traveling at 90+mph and only 3 feet apart. Many questions remain about it: a) who pays, b) who gets to use it, c) what if theres a crash, and d) what if you fall asleep and miss your exit? Smart highways, defined by roads that provide information to everyone (not just those who can afford an in-vehicle computer terminal) about road conditions, do have a slight benefit. Information is always good.
Finally, construction costs rarely reflect the long-term environmental effects of the system it supports. That is the biggest problem with our current pro-highway building society. We dont like to even consider the long-term effects of short-term solutions, when they can be the most costly solution of all. We need to support Metro precisely because it is a long-term solution, albeit not the most efficient. We cant very well tear it all up and start over. Metro is one reason why so many people can live here without a car its safe, mostly convenient, and clean.
Committed, creative, energetic, and organized individual needed to coordinate the D.C. Jewish Community Centers December 25 Community Service Project. The annual project, now in its 11th year, sends over 1,000 volunteers to more than 60 sites citywide to brighten Christmas day for those in need. The Dec. 25th Project Coordinator will be responsible for planning and publicizing the event, supervising several committees, soliciting donations, coordinating sites, and training volunteer. Prefer supervisory experience and past work with charitable agencies. Must work well w/ different kinds of people, juggle multiple tasks, be flexible and able to meet crises as they come up. Computer exp. including database, necessary. The position is part-time, 20 hr./week, Sept.-Dec. Coordinator receives salary and DCJCC membership benefits, including use of the health & fitness center. Please send resume to Linda Posell, Dir. of Community Services, DCJCC, 1529 16th. St. NW, Wash. DC 20036. Fax 202-518-9420.
Robert Meisnere RMeisnere@TEI.ORG
[This project was one of the first volunteer activities I undertook when I moved back to DC the late 80s. I recommend it highly. Jeff]
14 August 1997. 7 p.m. Book signing and Refreshments. 8 p.m. Slide-illustrated lecture. Education Building at the National Zoo. Enter at Connecticut Ave. Park in Lot A. Free, but please RSVP.
Ruth Church, conservation and education manager for Wolf Haven International in Tenino, Washington, presents "Whats the Big Deal About the Mexican Wolf?" One of the rarest North American mammals, the Mexican wolf is believed to be extinct in the wild. Church will discuss conservation and breeding efforts as well as current plans to reintroduce the species to its historic range. Maureen Greeley, Wolf Havens executive director, will sign copies of her book, "Wolf," a chronicle of the species from its early ancestors to recent reintroductions.
Margie Gibson Office of Public Affairs, National Zoo (202) 673-4866, FAX (202) 673-4607 NZPEM053@SIVM.SI.EDU
The Washington Tasting Society presents "Pottery, Beer & Wine Event." Thursday, August 21st, from 6:30-9P.M. at Made By You, 1826 Wisconsin Ave., NW, Washington, D.C. (across from the "Social" Safeway). Hey, the pottery is already made! First, you go to Made By You and choose one of the following items: 1)mug, 2)salad plate, 3)sugar bowl, or 4)cereal bowl. Second, you choose your paint colors and stencils. Third, you get unlimited Amstel beer, and wine, and you have fun!
Light hors doeuvres will be served. Parking is available in the adjacent lot and on the street. Pottery ready for pickup four days after event. Cost is $26.00. Please R.S.V.P. with your name, phone number, and number of reservations as space is very limited: phone (202)333-5588, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. We now accept advanced payment by Visa, Mastercard, or American Express.
Charlie Adler email@example.com
Does anyone know where I can purchase and have cut a piece of mirror, about 24" x 36" ?In the alternative, if anyone out there wants to sell/give away a used mirror, please let me know. No ceiling jokes, please.
Phil Greene firstname.lastname@example.org
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