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January 7, 1998

Your Electronic Backfence

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Dear Neighbors:

Yesterday, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia (a unanimous 3-judge panel) reversed a ruling by District Court Judge Kessler (in part) and held that the Control Board overstepped its authority in creating the Emergency Transitional Education Board of Trustees (ETEBT for difficulty) and in delegating the Board of Ed's powers to the Trustees. The decision is clear and well reasoned. It is critical of Congress for poorly drafting the statute and providing a lousy legislative history. It pokes fun at the Control Board for overreaching its authority. However, the ruling also makes it clear that the Control Board has the authority, under Section 207(d) of the 1996 amendments, to "step into the shoes" of the Board of Education. (Admittedly, these are not big shoes to fill.)

Although the Post pitched the article as a loss to the Control Board, really the plaintiffs came up short in most of their arguments. They wanted their power restored because they were elected officials. The Court of Appeals rejected that argument out of hand, arguing that Congress could do whatever it wanted to do to the District. (Not a good precedent, BTW.) The court also spent a fair amount of time chiding the committee for drafting lousy law and legislative history.

What's the upshot? It looks like the Trustees are out and the Control Board will have a tenth agency to run. The court did allow that the Trustees could be reconstituted as an advisory board. Therefore, it looks like General Becton will now report to the Control Board with the Trustees as the Kitchen Cabinet.

The Court also did two unusual things - it validated the Trustees actions to date so as not to cause "further chaos." The court also issued a stay of its order (on its own initiative) to allow the sides to appeal. Both sides will certainly ask for a rehearing en banc, which I believe occurs when all justices on the Court of Appeals simultaneously withdraw money from their cash machines.

There was one curious side note to this whole affair. On the day Don Reeves was elected to the Board of Education, the Control Board announced they were disbanding the Board of Education in favor of the Trustees. Now, on the day after Reeves is replaced as President of the BOE, the court decides the Trusteeship was invalid. Mere coincidence?


It's time for another NIMBY discussion. Marc Fisher reports in today's Style section about the Tenleytown controversy over MVC Latenight, an adult entertainment emporium. According to Fisher's account, the Manassas company does a good business in adult videos, photographs, and sex toys in Northern Virginia. When the owners were looking to expand, "Their computer run told them that the epicenter of their Washington customer base was in 20016 -- Tenleytown and American University Park, the quiet, affluent corner of Washington hard by the Maryland border." Add bastion of liberalism (perhaps of the pointy headed type) to the equation and the card-carrying ACLU-niks find themselves in a dilemma. (BTW: I don't mean to disparage the ACLU. I don't carry my card but I've treasured several.)

So here is where the rubbers meet the road. The local ANC and residents are fighting to keep the porn shops out (even though, by the way, every Metro stop in Northwest DC has a "nudge, nudge, wink, wink" massage parlor within dashing distance). The beleaguered Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs now has to suss the issue out, deciding whether MVC meets the requirements of its certificate of occupancy. The Tenleytown residents, according to Fisher, claim the exclusion right based on zoning laws. Of course, zoning laws have longed been used for class and race discrimination so the issue becomes rather, shall we say, murky. (Another little known fact. A person wants to open a liquor store in your neighborhood. You live within 500 feet -- don't hold me accountable to the exact distance -- and you get 50 percent plus one of the residents to oppose the licence. The person is out of luck. No permit. You don't even have to give a reason. You can discriminate on the basis of sex, race, religious preference, or vintage selection.)

So what do you think about this issue? Every time I throw an issue at you, you ignore me and discuss something else. But that doesn't stop me from going to the well again, does it? Here's another desperate try? We have quite a few readers who live overseas who generally don't post. What do you think?

Jeffrey Itell


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Some Defense Of Interim Police Chief Sonya Proctor
Greg Melcher

I can't dispute, that even with the drop, the current murder rate is still unacceptably high, but I feel a need to come to Sonya Proctor's defense. As Commander of the 3rd District her efforts made a major impact on crime reduction in our community (Roughly Logan Circle/Shaw). This was primarily through the formation of what we called the "Shaw Task Force." The Task Force really attacked long term crime problems, such as the 1400 Block of 11th Street NW, and a variety of other locations in our neighborhood. Her leadership, in establishing and supporting the operations of the Task Force, really did have an impact on that murder rate reduction. So I believe she does have the right to take some credit. Of the current senior officers in 3D, Chief Proctor would be my first choice as permanent Chief and I believe she should be fairly considered for that position.

That aside, I do feel strongly that the next Chief must be ready to rebuild MPD from the ground up. An outsider would likely be best in that role. So while Chief Proctor may well be capable of leading the Department perhaps its time for new blood without any ties to the current Department.


We Are Marching to Pretoria
Richard A. Koris

Why don't we have Marion's famous security detail replaced with U.S. Secret Service escort? The Secret Service has the best performance in protecting elected officials of anyone in existence. And the federal agents wouldn't perform the praetorian guard functions of the security detail. So everyone would be happy with this change!


Council Oversight
Randy Wells

Given the track-record, speaking about the DC Council and "oversight" seems redundant. Perhaps this is why there is so much cynicism now about any attempts to develop a strong legislative mission. Nonetheless, please keep up the effort!

However, council members making specific requests to fill potholes or replace street lights may defeat the purpose. DC agencies seem to traditionally respond to such requests, and never get around to systematically dealing with the underlying problems. I don't mind that it may take a week or two (or even longer given budget constraints) to get a light fixed or a pothole filled. What bugs me is that I have to call half a dozen offices or more, get hung-up on repeatedly, and finally call a council member or two to get things done. Why can't agencies (or better yet, a single number) receive citizen request/complaints in a systematic way, prioritize them, and carry out the work without Council intervention. Council can then ask for reports on numbers and types of requests being made, response time and type, and so forth.

Finally, the best type of oversight should be on money. How is it that the capital budget, once approved, can be altered by executive agencies without Council knowledge (much less approval)? Re-programming seems to still be common within agency operating budgets as well.


Oversight Or Micromanagement?
Harold Goldstein

Kathy Patterson thinks her aggressive oversight role is due to executive incompetence and is not really micromanagment and, if it is, it is necessary. We haven't been privy to the details of the results of the oversight ... are specific contracts repaired or potholes filled or whatever and is that the end product of the oversight? Cause if that is the case then whether its micromanagment or oversight it is relatively a waste of time because, as we all know, the people, the mind set and the process remain as sick as they were before.

But if her oversight not only fixes the contract but makes sure that the reason it was broken has been fixed and it won't happen again then by all means this is an important and useful function that will have real benefit and the semantic arguments are moot.


A Voice of Experience
Kathy Carroll

Wooooo Kathy Patterson really stung 'ya with her reply about getting operational things done around the city even though she's a legislator. Excellent point! And having spent some time on a congressman's staff as a caseworker, I can tell you that that's exactly what people want from their elected officials, be they lawmakers, county executives, mayors or school board officials. They want action. And when they find someone who is willing to work for them, they usually appreciate it.


Convention Center Continued
Leslie Miles ANC 2F05

Eric Gravley, my neighbor, and the house mate of professional convention center opponent Beth Solomon, says that the new center will drive people out of Shaw. Perhaps he will be driven out by the building, but other than Beth, Leroy Thorpe and now Eric, virtually all of us who actually live here, next to the massive drug dealer and prostitute attraction that is this empty site, are poised to leave if the Center is NOT built. We've been waiting too long for something positive to happen here, and if the Center doesn't happen, nothing will. Allow me to address his comments--

The reality of the financing is simple-- the hotel and restaurant folks have self-taxed to pay for it. The rest of us are NOT paying taxes for it. This argument has been dismissed so many times but remains alive, suggesting that the WCCA has not done a good job of getting this message across. And expansion is a red herring. The explosion in the size of trade shows peaked in the 1980s, but we're not part of that in any event; we'll not be hosting the Consumer Electronics Show or the Farm Equipment Show, we're gunning for the American Dental Association and other groups that will be more than happy with our new center, which incidentally will boast the largest ballroom on the East Coast, and which will be the only Center in the US with an on-site Metro stop.

The alternative site is no alternative. DC doesn't even own it, and there's a big historic building on the site, the Woodies Warehouse. It's not on the Metro, it is not walking distance to the hotels and restaurants that have been created to support a Center. and it's not supported by those industries that are paying for it. If we support the other site, as DC spends years assembling and raising money to buy the land. the Center will be built all right-- in Virginia.


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Moving to Taiwan sale! Red 1988 Toyota Celica ST coupe, 89K miles, mechanical stuff and body in great condition, new clutch, tires, and brakes, sunroof, cass. stereo, asking $3,500. Must sell by Jan. 23th!

Leslie Ruskin w) 301-640-2344, h) 202-588-5851


Graphics Volunteer Wanted
Bruce McBarnette, Esq. (703) 404-8429

Help design simple flyers promoting special events for the a homeless breakfast program in DC and the Good Knight Child Empowerment Network, a not-for-profit corporation that protects children. Work at your own pace on a project by project basis.


For rent - bright sunny studio apartment in Dupont Circle with hardwood floors, large walk-in closet. $625 per month includes all utilities except electric. (Heat and oven are gas.) Available mid February. LeAnna Marr (202) 265-2664


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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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