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August 17, 1997

Your Electronic Backfence

Dear Neighbors:

Ragging on the home town newspaper is such a reflex it’s sometimes easy to overlook when the the local "rag" goes beyond the call of "public" duty. None of us would have known very much about Mr. Curry and his dump truck from hell if the Post had not assigned half of its Metro reporters to dig up information in the District, Virginia, and Maryland. The Post’s gambit could have hit a dry hole—there might have been no there there—and there would have been another delicatessen story on Metro’s page one. One could argue that the Post is big enough to afford massive research, but you can’t argue that it had to spend that amount of money. Congratulations to our Fourth Estate for a job above and beyond the call of duty.

Are you a home rule advocate? Here’s a piece of democracy to chew on. How about advocating more democratic elections in the District of Columbia, i.e., requiring councilmembers and the mayor to earn a majority of votes in this one party town? Take Ward One, for example. In 1994, Frank Smith was challenged by Dorothy Brizill. Smith brought in one or two folks to dilute the vote. He won handily but without the ward’s majority support. Barry got in with a plurality, not a majority of the vote. And how do you think Hilda Mason keeps getting reelected when she’s less alert than Lacy Davenport? If we want three votes in Congress, maybe we ought to begin practicing democracy in our own government.

If there was no roof snafu and schools were scheduled to open in time, would the school system still be plagued by the usual lack of textbooks? I have no idea, but given the past track record, it’s legitimate to determine the what shape the schools would be in if there wasn’t a three-week delay. Personel moves, as we’ve noted, are behind schedule. What about text books and supplies? Note to Post Metro editor: Is there anyone you can spare at the Metro desk?

The New Republic story on DC I talked about last issue was not placed on the web. You’ll have visit a newsstand or see your doctor to read Fred Siegel’s "FROM THE RAMPARTS: The end of home rule in D.C. means the end of one of the worst of all ideas—protest politics as government." I worked with Fred on the story.


In this issue of dc.story, Yahoos to the rescue, urgings to let the Marcus Garvey evaluation take its course, three votes for shorter prose, and Stephanie Faul changes Internet service providers.

Jeffrey Itell


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Death Penalty in D.C.
Steph "Trying the driver for murder and suing the contractor who hired him would be a good start" Faul

The District of Columbia has endorsed the penalty, but as might be expected applies it only to the innocent. For all practical purposes the young man who died in a truck crash on Tuesday was murdered by the Bureau of Traffic Adjudication. I don’t know what else you’d call it when a flagrantly dangerous driver is permitted to resume operating a hazardous vehicle. The judge who restored the driver’s license would probably hire convicted child molesters to teach kindergarten. Meanwhile, the lives of everyone in the victim’s family are ruined because of that decision.


Rock Creek Park
Stephanie Mencimer

I’m going to have to weigh in on this Rock Creek discussion after having restrained myself for weeks. Rock Creek may very well be "multi-use," but cars clearly have the advantage. I ride my bike through the park in the mornings before work, mostly skipping the commuter routes by riding the hills up to the nature center and down towards military road. But I can’t really avoid Beach Drive at some point on my return home to Woodley Park. The bike ride is a harrowing one, because despite posted speed limits of 25, cars zoom by me at 40 and 50 miles an hour. Without a shoulder on the road, I can feel the cars inches from my body, and impatient drivers frequently risk accidents with other cars by trying to pass me on blind curves. (Even when I’m doing 25 on my bike.) Not long ago, I saw a biker get hit by a car in the crosswalk just below Calvert Street near the Taft Bridge.

I understand the need to drive kids to school, day care, etc., for those who’ve complained about the idea of closing Beach Drive to traffic all week. But in order for Rock Creek to really be multi-use, drivers have to slow down. If the Park Service isn’t going to close Beach Drive to cars, they could at least enforce the speed limit. On Tuesday, I rode past a Park Police officer in his car parked along Beach, and he did nothing as aggressive drivers nearly ran me off the road at top speeds. I doubt very much that commuters would be as enthusiastic about cutting through the upper part of Rock Creek on the way to downtown if they had to drive slower, and speeding tickets could be a nice revenue generator for the cash-strapped Park Service. And I’m positive that more bikers would use the park if they didn’t have to risk their lives to do so. I see a few other brave souls out there in the morning with me, and I know there must be other like them.


Yahoos To The Rescue?
Marcos Wilson

As I listened to the Derek Mcginty radio show a couple Fridays ago, I found myself joining Mark Plotkin’s mourning for democracy in DC. Sharing Plotkin’s pain, I too wallowed in DC pity until a caller to the program shook me back to my senses. There he was on the air, Kevin i-am-not-sure-if-he-has-a-pulse Chavous, actually breaking a sweat while ranting his outrage at Congress’ actions. Voice trembling with anger, Kevin "the ghost" Chavous pledged a new sense of mission and energy. He was now, says he, more motivated than ever to run for Mayor. However, the direction of the run apparently south for now, as Sir Chavous was beaming his complaints from a car phone on I-95 heading south out of town.

Chavous’ ridiculous display reminded me that opportune silence and calculated outrage are the true enemies of democracy. Scoundrels will wrap themselves in the protection of "homerule-ism" .We can get home rule back and more, but not with the yahoos we have posing as leaders. A general recall movement is not such a crazy idea. It is time for the empty suits to go.


Is It Just Me?
Leila Afzal

Am I missing something? Why is Parents United angry with Judge Christian? As a parent of a public school student, I applaud her. I am at a loss to understand why parents are willing to subject their children to a construction site. It is dangerous and foolhardy to send a child to a school that is under major repair. Better to have child care problems than an injured (or worse) child. The problem lays at the feet of General Becton. He has known since last November the schools were in need of repairs. Why were the contracts not in place to begin the day after schools closed for the summer? He had seven months to accomplish this. Why is he blackmailing parents by threatening to keep all students out of school until the repairs are completed? Why can’t he use the schools that he closed as swing spaces until the children can be returned to their newly repaired school? Mr. Becton this job is beyond you, you should resign.


Festina lente…Simeon Garvey

David Yassky and Jeff saw fit to criticize the School Board (the elected one) alleging the Board’s non performance so far in the Anigbo case. The July 16 Washington Post article regarding Anigbo should correct this misconception. There is a process in place. Let’s keep our powder dry guys. The full article may be read at the following web address:


Marcus Garvey
Marcos Wilson

I, like David Yassky, was also curious as to what the Elected Board is doing about the Anigbo’s case. After some poking around, this is what I understand. Soon after the Anigbo incident, Gen. Becton had a Personnel, Financial, and Curriculum audit conducted on the Marcus Garvey school. Becton and his folks gave the school a clean bill of health.

Regarding the Elected Board, there is a pre-established procedure to certify/decertify a charter school—one which includes the school’s own Board of Directors. The Elected Board has been in touch with the MG Board. The Elected Board does not meet until mid- to late September, at which time they will be examining the actions taken by the Marcus Garvey Board of Directors in light of the convictions. The School Board will then decide the fate of the school’s certification. Apparently MG is moving to a new site and another independent audit is scheduled for the fall. It would serve the Elected Board well to clarify this procedure and "refresh" the public’s memory lest they be accused of inaction.


Crime Wave
Steph "And keep everything locked up, but you know that" Faul

There have been two armed robberies and a purse snatching near the Friendship Heights Metro recently. I spoke with an officer who was in the neighborhood talking to the latest victims. He said, "You’d be amazed at how much crime there is up here." I allowed as how actually, no I wouldn’t .I know there’s a fair amount — for example, my neighbors had their car stolen a month ago. Some of the things we can all do to help prevent crime in the first place: 1. Sit out on the front porch. Witnesses discourage crime. 2. Walk around a lot. Take a dog or a cell phone, whatever you have handy. 3. Report anything weird. "Nine times out of ten it’s nothing," the cop said. "But we like to know about it." 4. Challenge odd-behaving strangers, in a polite kind of way of course. For example, if you see someone standing on a street corner, park your car for a few minutes and make it obvious you’re observing them. Chances are good they’ll leave. If you see someone walking down the street looking into every car, they’re probably not researching upholstery colors. Say "Hello!" and "Are you looking for someone?" From a distance, of course.


Police Response in Chicago
David Sobelsohn

Phil Walker’s tragic tale of the DC police’s tardy response to his neighbor’s report of the break-in of his pick-up truck brought back memories for me of my first night after moving to Chicago in 1979. We were sleeping in a converted hotel, where we planned to stay for the summer. We had just arrived that evening. A knock on our door awoke us. It was the Chicago police. A neighbor had seen a would-be thief break into my car to steal my tape deck. Not only had the police responded immediately, they had arrived quickly enough to catch the perpetrator & rescue the tape deck, & somehow were also able to find me (I never learned exactly how).

So it can be done.


Shorter Postings
Peter Wolff

Your plea [from shorter postings] is read with gratitude & high hopes. Thank you. I only wish you had been a bit tougher, like threatening Draconian editing for those needing it. The effectiveness of this enterprise is squandered if it becomes too much of a burden to wade through the chaff looking for the wheat.


Shorter Prose
Rachel Posell

As a chronic "lurker" I applaud your pleas to the chronic writers in favor of brevity. I had become less and less apt to read this on-line newsletter as the tirades get longer and longer.

Also, I think I recently read in Dr. Gridlock’s column (in the post) that there is a fundraising campaign afoot to get those lions back on to the Taft bridge.. But of course I can’t remember the details. Maybe one of your other readers can.


Tightening Up Those Prepositions
Phyllis Hughes PHughes@FLKS.COM

This is my first response to messages I’ve enjoyed getting. Just thought I’d have a little fun with concise writing for practice. Please keep the messages coming. You’re correct in diplomatically stating that most people must learn to write with clarity. Thank you for letting me have some fun.


VH-1, Why It Was There All Along (!)
Larry Seftor

I believe the issue of VH-1 was covered a while back on DC Story. If you call District Cable they will tell you that they still carry it. And sometimes, in strange places, they do.

It turns out if you have an addressable convertor you can pick it up on one of the lower channels, where it shares time with something else. If you don’t have such a convertor, and if you have a cable ready TV or VCR, you can find it on channel 95 during part of the day. They don’t carry it at night because while channel 99 is still free, the lower channel used by addressable convertors is not. Got that?

This is part of the DC experiment — letting the clowns run things. Are you having fun yet?


Ed Barron’s Crystal Ball
Ed T. Barron

The newly enacted tax and budget accord will have a very positive affect on the District. The allowance of $500,000 in profits for a couple from the sale of a principle residence every two years will allow many of those holding onto single family homes (initially in NW D.C., and later in other neighborhoods) by folks who need less living space and requiring less care (and lower taxes) to sell those homes. There will be a steadily upward trend in the numbers of sales of older homes in NW D.C. and likely at prices higher than we have seen in the last few years. As the quality, effectiveness and efficiency of the District Government improves then other areas in the District will have a similar revival as people and families move into (or maybe even back to) the District. Look for a reversal in the population numbers for the District in the next three years.


Personal Web Page
Phil Shapiro

dc.story readers who are thinking about setting up a personal web page might enjoy reading an article I recently wrote on the subject: "Why Do People Set Up Personal Web Pages?" The article shares some insights into the whole personal web page phenom.



CVS prescription errors

Someone wrote in recently about a series of miss filled prescriptions he received from CVS. I’d like to compare notes, and to be sure that he writes to the DC Board of Pharmacy about his experiences. Can we track him down?

Cindy Butler


Does Your Yard Have A.C.?

If not, imagine what your plants have felt like. Let Pete put in an automatic watering system that will assure your plants come through the heat wave with ease (and save you from taking the time to water). Other services include: deck cleaning/treatments; outdoor lighting systems; expert maintenance perennial, shrub and tree installation; yard design/rejuvenation consultations; decorative gravel patios, and more!

Philip Walker Jr.


Monkee Tickets

I bought 4 tickets to the Monkees concert at the 9:30 Club on Saturday 23 August, which I cannot now attend. They cost $27.50 each, but I’ll sell them for $20 each.

Howard Griffin


dc.story is a discussion group. The opinions stated are the sole responsibility of the authors. dc.story does not verify information provided by readers. Kibitzing by Jeffrey Itell. Copyright © 1997. All rights reserved.

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