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January 1, 1998

Your Electronic Backfence

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Dear Neighbors:

Happy New Years. I'm spending the day feverishly writing the number 1998 so I don't screw up one check this year. Usually, I don't make the transition until March. I also learned to my chagrin that the much anticipated in still not a year closer -- at least by my reckoning. The Washington Post informs me that the millennium begins when Fox TV blows up its first car of the new year (did you catch that last night on the tube?) in the year 2001. The year 2000 is just a mere turning of the odometer for the people that rule on these issues. So here it is, 1998, and I still have three years to wait. On the bright side, that gives me another year for the kimchi to ripen.


dc.story continues to be one of Vernon Loeb's favorite sources for his weekly column in the District Weekly. He pulled Councilmember Patterson's quote about the federal government as enablers of District government mis-operations. I wish other District officials were as willing to speak their minds directly to city residents -- at least those who are left, considering the last demographic data. Politicians often complain that the media distorts their message. dc.story provides direct access. I've invited quite a few to join the debate, including several who are on the list -- including one who got the shock of his life in the last city wide election. (I'll take failed political comebacks for $100, Alex.) I no longer believe politicians can argue that email is an infant communication technology. Let the excuses end and the political dialog begin.


From The Daily Scoop:

The mayor of Acteal, Mexico, was arrested in connection with the Chiapas massacre and the outgoing mayor of Darby, PA, was booked under suspicion of bank robbery. "Gee, remember the good old days when mayors just smoked crack?"


Excerpted from Sam Smith's ( DC News Service #32. <>http://emporium.turnpike

I ran into Charlene Jarvis at a party. "How are you doing?" she asked.

"Depressed," I replied.

Charlene looked as though she wanted to flee, but she gulped and asked, "Why's that?"

"Look, you've done SW urban renewal, the freeways, the Metro, downtown urban renewal, the convention center, Streets for the People, the Pennsylvania Avenue Plan, the arena and now another convention center. When are you folks going to find something that works?"

I then suggested that the city just skip the second convention center and go right to the third. We could save hundreds of millions of dollars that way. I could see Charlene trying to figure out what might be in it for her, but unable to think of anything to say, she moved on. . .

Later that evening, I found myself with Jarvis and some other folks. She called me "everybody's favorite devil's advocate." I replied: "I'm not the devil's advocate; I'm the lord's advocate. Your problem is that you can't tell the difference between heaven and hell." Unable to think of anything else to say, I moved on.

In this issue, holiday scams, radio daze, State Farm as Santa Claus, and a prescription for what ails us.

Jeffrey Itell


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Kathy Confessions, Round 4
Len Sullivan

I admire Kathy's continued frankness, but my objections are turning into deeper concerns. Kathy's cases in point re a)zapping local job training funds, and thereby improving local procurement contracting, and b) delving into details of contract language and thereby having an acting DOES director resign, are two perfect examples of legislative micromanagement. They are precisely the actions that the Constitution tried to avoid by putting legislative, executive, and judicial in separate departments. It is the same abuse of the "separation of powers" for which DC officialdom constantly criticizes the Congress. Kathy is hoping to do more of what NARPAC, Inc. agrees "Mayors" Taylor and Faircloth shouldn't do. This type of oversight--really "microsight"--tends to grow til legislators are only doing what the executors are paid to do--and, in DC, what the Control Board has been ordered by Congress to do.

The worse consequence, however, is that the legislative body isn't doing what it is uniquely empowered to do: develop a body of law that will produce a competent (talented, if you prefer) and responsive executive branch and a well-functioning jurisdiction. Why isn't the Council concentrating on: a) making democracy work better in DC; b) making DC's executive branch accountable and responsible; c) finding generic solutions to DC's closely related housing/schooling debacles; d) certifying the continuing needs for federal funds to defray the costs of the federal/international presence; e) finding ways to encourage equal-partner cooperation with the neighboring metro areas; f) finding ways to get Congress out of DC's knickers; and g) developing alternate schemes (besides statehood!) for getting full representation in Congress for DC residents? These long-term needs may be tougher than rewriting contracts, but aren't they what the Council is elected to do?


Door-to-Door Political Solicitation
Ed Kane

Our door bell was rung tonight by an individual citing himself as Wesley Smith, representing something called -- more or less -- the MidAtlantic Coalition. He wanted signatures and contributions to a campaign to defeat Mayor Barry in the forthcoming DC elections. He claimed to have played a role in the senatorial race defeat for Oliver North not so long ago. I am naturally suspicious, and was unsatisfied with his responses to my questions. Has anybody heard of him or of his group?


Holiday Tipping Scam
Rona Mendelsohn

Here's an upscale, downbeat holiday story involving several Northwest neighborhoods where newspaper home delivery is de rigeur. It seems that an enterprising, though shameless, Washington Times delivery person was inserting his holiday card (the usual way of soliciting end-of-year tips) into other newspapers--in my case, the Wall Street Journal. A few days after receiving his card--and duly sending a holiday check--I got another one from the "real" WSJ delivery person: Melody McDuffie. I called the WSJ to confirm that Ms. McDuffie was the correct deliverer, asked Ms. McDuffie to get in touch with me, and then stopped payment on the other check.

Ms. McDuffie is well aware of the scam but is unable to do anything about it. In fact, she knows that several people on her route have been victims of his approach. What she recommends is calling the Washington Times and alerting the circulation department to this new swindle. And check with your newspaper to make sure that the deliverer who inserted a card is authorized by the company. Happy authentic New Year!

[Contact Rona for more information about the scam. Jeff]


Radio Daze
Rob Pegoraro

Steph Faul wrote about interference on police radios in some sections of Ward 3, to the point where the radios are useless. She asked whether anyone else have these problems? Absolutely--the keychain remote for my car alarm is useless anywhere within a few blocks of the big radio transmitters in Tenleytown. I discovered this in the parking lot of Rodman's, and then, like a true twit, rediscovered it several more times until the light bulb went off over my head. So now if I have to park around there (watch this get forwarded to theft), I'll just turn off the alarm a few blocks before I get there.


Job Training in the District
"klaatu" TJH Internet SP, Rockville, MD

I'm in a fairly-unique position. I'm pretty good at assembling computers (I've rebuilt mine probably a dozen times, and several other people's computers as well) and I've a fair amount of expertise in administering UNIX systems (Linux) which are very modern, state-of-the-art server-client systems. I know enough to teach what I know, certainly. I note that the District's Office of Telecommunications and Information Systems has outrageously antiquated systems, a failing throughout the District government. Also, I note that there's a big demand for people who can do computer-technical work.

I have a modest proposal. Perhaps some of the more-apt participants in the jobs-training program might be quickly taught how to take the District government's old computers, and rebuild them. I'll teach them how; it's really not hard. And I can teach them how to install a working UNIX system, with entirely free software. This will save the District lots of money... and by the time the District's older computers have been upgraded to modern standards, there will be a whole new class of job-training students who will know how to build computers, from upgrading, to building from scratch. Whaddaya say?


Independent Films
Leslie Ruskin

The Cineplex Odion West End 5-8 has now closed. There is another theater opening in its place. It will be a Circle. They are supposed to play foreign films as well as rep? movies (you know the kind, not first run).


Subscription to dc.story
Mitch Auerbach

Jeffrey, thanks for including me in your DC story e-mailing. As another representative of the DC Diaspora it's important for me keep abreast of what's happening inside the beltway. Thanks and keep up the good work!


Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus
Jon Desenberg

I recently received this Christmas gift from State Farm, my auto insurance company. "I have good news to share with you and other policyholders in the District of Columbia. A dividend check is attached because claim costs were less than anticipated." Enclosed was a sizable check, equal to a 15 percent rebate on my year's payment. After all the bad publicity auto insurance rates have been getting lately, I was pretty surprised. Thanks to all you safe drivers in DC, keep it up!


Restoring DC Starts With Each of Us
Anne Drissel Native DC family since 1849

I concur with John Cleave's comment last week that "It is not the responsibility only of the residents of this city 'to protect, improve and celebrate [it]': rather it is for the entire nation to take responsibility for its capital." I agree that the sorry condition of Washington, DC is a manifestation of the collective neglect of the American public for our national Capital. Nonetheless, I believe meaningful change in the quality of life in DC must include assertive action by those of us who live here. I suggest a few starting places:

1. During the forthcoming Mayoral election campaign we should remember that Hizzoner Barry's "leadership" enabled endless potholes, rude and lazy city employees, inflated "disability" rolls, corrupt Police units, decrepit and underperforming schools, etc. Our vote against him and his backers who are feeding at the city trough should tell them clearly, once and for all -- "Enough!!" 2. The City Council might work with the "control board" rather than against it for a change. And everyone might get behind our new Chief Management Officer to help her succeed in our behalf. 3. Each city employee could take a personal pledge to put in a full day's work for the salary we pay them and to treat every person with whom they deal each day cheerfully, courteously, enthusiastically, efficiently and competently! 4. People who are stealing from us, their taxpaying neighbors, by faking long term "disability" from city jobs, accepting pay for city jobs they don't hold, falsifying welfare identities, inflating costs on city contracts, delivering substandard materials under city contracts.... (the list goes on...) might consider working honestly for what they earn...

In sum: all of us might look daily at our actions, great and small, to see whether they're contributing to the decay of our beloved city. Each action or inaction erodes "the commons" whether it's trashing our streets or failing to maintain buildings we own, shorting or overpricing a government contract, running red lights or running rotten deals that suck life from the city, failing to properly refill a utility cut or lazying around on the job.... the abuses - big and small - stack up. We can choose to "give up" these small insults to our city and hold others around us accountable to do the same. The job of restoring The Nation's Capitol begins with that "one small step" by each of us -- every day....


So you're interested in that big advertising spot in the beginning of dc.story? Contact Jan Genzer -- the dc.story marketing maven--at or call him at 202.364.0383.


Recycle-In Continues on Jan. 5th
Larry Bohlen

Save all those containers from holiday parties, ‘cause we're gonna have another Recycle-In after New Year's. Please bring your recyclable newspapers, cardboard, mixed paper, bottles and cans to the Campaign to Restore Recycling drop-off site on January 5th, between 4:30 and 7:30 pm. The event is at 441 4th Street NW (Judiciary Square Metro). Delays in DC's curbside recycling program continue, but bids were due on December 22nd. Let's make sure that City officials know they must move swiftly to choose a bidder and bring back recycling.


Executive Assistant/Office Manager Wanted for Busy Political Consulting/Public Relations Firm.
Jennifer Laszlo

Must have skills in the following areas: Computers (We use macs & powerpoint), Databases (Filemaker pro a plus), Simple book keeping, billing/invoicing, Scheduling, Logistics, Meeting tight deadlines, Working well with people, and General knowledge of politics/public affairs. Our firm offers both vacation time and health benefits. We are one block from the Rosslyn metro. Smoking not allowed in the office. Send resume to Jennifer Laszlo, Laszlo & Associates, Inc., 1000 Wilson Blvd., Suite 960, Arlington, VA, 22209.


For Sale: Two sets of mountain bike tires. Off season special--$25 per set or $40 for all four. One set of knobbies for off-road (like the C&O Canal) and one set of slicks for street riding. Price will drop each week until sold. 202-244-3734 Rick Rosenthal


Used Rowing Machine Wanted. Please e-mail me if you have one you'd like to unload. Jon Cohen


Female roommate needed to share spacious 2BR in Cleveland Park, 1/2 block from Metro and shops. Rent is $470, incl. utilities. Available 1/5. 202.966.9291 Mandy Grupe


Massage: Holiday Special! BodyWise BodyWorks has the perfect solution for office, friend, and sweetheart: Gift Certificates for a full hour Spoiler Massage. Buy Two, Get A Third for Half Price! Call Jenn: 202-966-6113. Jenn Weed


Hockey Tickets For Sale. I have one pair of tickets to see the Washington Capitals on Tuesday Jan. 6 (vs. Toronto) and Tuesday Jan. 13 (vs. Ottawa) at the new MCI Center in downtown DC. These are my full-season tickets, lower-level; great location. Best offer gets the tickets. ---- Opera Tickets For Sale. I have one pair of tickets to see the Washington Opera's Wednesday January 28, 1998 performance of Donizetti's "L'Elisir d'Amore" (highly praised by the Washington Post's opera critic). These are not cheap, they are great seats (row M, orchestra). Steve Hoffman 301/270-8520


Computer Assistance for You
Dorothy Persiflage

I just wanted to offer a "satisfied customer" endorsement for Patty Friedman's computer assistance service, which has been advertised in dc.story. In my case, I had stupidly tried to compress my hard disk drive. After a month's work in restoring some functionality, I installed a second hard drive. Needless to say, my system got even more screwed up, displaying awesomely bizarre behavior. I called Patty, who sent a very qualified, persistent, and polite technician to my house. He really knew his stuff, and in about two hours had all my critical applications working properly.


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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 (c) 1997 All rights reserved.

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