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January 12, 1998

Your Electronic Backfence

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Dear Neighbors:

Many people weighed in on the MVC issue this issue. However, no one pounded the table writing, "By gum, I want my pornography and I want it where I can slip on my raincoat and walk to get it." Obviously, there is only one exceedingly licentious "gentleman" in ZIP 20016 who is buying enough pornography to keep dozens of emerging artists in Southern California in liquor and drugs. Still, I found it interesting that a writer in last week's New Yorker, paying homage to staff writer Brendan Gil, made note of his seminal essay on behalf of pornography, including his admission about how much he enjoyed it. You didn't hear Cher say that about Sonny over the weekend. It's interesting (not ironic, Alanis Morrisette) that pornography has remained a taboo while so many other vices have fallen by the wayside. Frankly, I'm rooting for a few more taboos to return, but I'm not sure why porn remains behind the Green Door when there are only (eight?) ways to use a word, and David Mamet can use a certain word nine ways. Go figure.

Jeffrey Itell


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NIMBY Discussion & Late Nite Video
Phil Mendelson

The Post-Style Section report on the Tenleytown controversy over MVC Late night video angered a lot of Tenleytown residents who are quite upset over this proposed store. MVC got where they are by out-and-out lieing on their permit application -- checking off the box "NOT SEXUALLY ORIENTED."

Whatever one thinks about adult videos and sex magazines, when MVC tried to open right before Thanksgiving they planned three floors and 9,000 square feet of the stuff -- what you'd expect to find on the old 14th Street, not Tenleytown. Subsequently they announced on their web site that the store was reinvented. The December 23 Northwest Current article by Jennifer Coderre (at least as good as Marc Fisher's Post article) interviewed MVC manager "Bo" Kenny, who described Tenley MVC as an upscale store "where adults can buy a range of products that interest them: videos, computer software, cigars, bath products, candles, gourmet coffee. He said the store's marketing surveys indicate these are the types of products consumers of adult videos enjoy. 'It's an interesting blend,' Bo said. 'It's not a concept that's out there anywhere else.'"

That's for sure. The problem with MVC in Tenleytown is twofold. First, MVC is challenging the city's regulations, seeking to open the door. Every neighborhood of the city is potentially affected. Second, MVC has proven that it cannot be believed.


Porno Shops And Tall Towers....
Anne Drissel

Is there any connection between the proliferation of radio towers in the Tenleytown area and the neighborhood's reportedly high interest in "adult videos?" Perhaps all those towers thrusting magnificently into the sky with their accompanying static livens things up in that part of town...


Zoning restrictions and dirty movies
Steph "Support your *local* newspaper" Faul

As writer and strong First Amendment supporter, I have no objection in principle and practice to MVC opening a store in this neighborhood. However, purely for customer relations purposes the store in question might want to modify its physical plant. It has a nice big open front window that allows passersby to see who's shopping for what, which strikes me as a potential disincentive to customers.

However, I fail to understand Jeffrey's problem with the liquor license issue. Drinking makes people rowdy and careless. Most people (there *are* exceptions) don't want to live in a neighborhood where rowdy drunks congregate. Such citizens should be allowed to close down local nuisances, which is what the statute in question allows them to do.

Something shouldn't have to appear in the Post before it's noticed by DC Story. The Northwest Current does a good job of reporting neighborhood concerns, and it has been on top of the MVC story for weeks. The current is also the only source I know of for reports on ANC meetings, store openings and closings, and other news that's small-scale but potentially important to my actual life.

[The statute also allows residents to prohibit establishments from opening without reasonable cause. That's the part of the law to which I object. Jeff]


Liquor License
Andrew Aurbach

Indeed, the way the rule reads, if a group is applying for a new license, or is transferring a license from beyond 500 feet of the new establishment, then those within five hundred feet of the FRONT DOOR of the establishment may file a petition to oppose the license. After the ABC Board certifies that those filing a petition are indeed registered voters living in the prescribed areas, they then circulate a letter of notification to registered D.C. voters living within 500 feet OF THE PROPOSED ESTABLISHMENT. The petitioners then have something like 60 days to collect 50% plus one of the registered voters signatures, and if successful, the ABC license application is denied. Having just completed the process in Georgetown, it rather mazes me how few registered D.C. voters there are in any given neighborhood. I think out of 22 streets (different parts of ten blocks) there were about 50 registered voters.

On the neighbors opposition form, terms such as "effects on parking","adverse impact on neighborhood","impact on trash", are used to justify the opposition. These petitions not only impact liquor stores, but any establishment (re: restaurant) which requires a liquor license.

Also of note, Edie Wittington of Ward 8/DC Council fame is one of the ABC Board members, so despite her recent court activity, she has been collecting a healthy paycheck from the D.C. government since she left office (didn't see that in the Post, did you?).


Rick "I'm not pro-porn, just pro-informed-decision-making" Rosenthal The usual disclaimers.

Hey Tenleytown, why don't you spend a few moments getting the facts about MVC instead of going off all half-cocked (badump-bum). It's your neighborhood--be responsible and conscientious citizens and get the Truth. A woman in the Post referred to MVC as a "three-story porn shop." Give me a break! Chances are, MVC will be like all the other small video stores in DC (which keep their small amounts of adult material way in the back behind a separate door [so I hear]). And don't fool yourselves--they all got some. Any more, and I agree--they deserve to be shut down. But you'll never find out unless you stop posturing and start listening. And a new video store would be nice because the Blockbuster in Cleveland Park never has "Life of Brian" in stock.


Reeves and Coincidence
Phil Truit

The only coincidence that I associate with Mr. Reeves is his headlong and ill advised foray into the morass of D.C. government; after winning the school board slot for ward 3, and subsequently its presidency, Mr. Reeves proved to be a difficult and unpopular commodity to both the board of education, the (hated) Trustee Board, and a fair amount of ward 3 residents. Mr.Reeves now declares that he can better serve the residents of ward 3 as a council member- I would like to see any signs of service period.


Bonus Outrage?
Ted Gest

Did everyone pick up on the Washington Times report that Gen. Charles Williams, the genius behind the D.C. roof repair fiasco, may be up for a $36,000 bonus, bringing his annual pay to $156,000, highest in the school system? What is going on here? If anything, Williams should take a $36,000 salary cut! The only person quoted by the Times as doubting this great bonus idea is our friend Kathy Patterson. Well, I'll join in. If this is the kind of performance that deserves a bonus, we do live in a city that would make George Orwell and his doublespeak proud. Your tax dollars at work, indeed.


D.C. Council Betrays Citizens -- Yet Again!
Larry Seftor

The Post reports that the D.C. Council just finished a two day retreat in which they plan to lower D.C. sales tax and corporate taxes for firms in the city. Apparently the individuals who live in and contribute to the ongoing life of the city are expected to quietly continued our 9.5% income tax burden -- pleased to subsidize the business community. It is quite clear who has the ear of the Council, and who the Council serves. Just remember several years ago when, in the blizzard, the neighborhoods were the only areas of the city that failed to see a single pass of a snow plow.

Spare me any replies about the need to have a strong business presence in D.C. A city's life is its residents. And the publication of recent population figures show that our city continues to die, as residents get smart and leave -- reducing the tax base as each middle class family leaves.


So Many Targets, So Little Time...
NB Keenan

Sometimes I get discouraged in my one-man crusade to document municipal incompetence -- after all, I'm just one person, and there is so much material...A neighbor reports that he has been trying to get an abandoned car towed away from in front of his house for over two months. It has temporary tags that expired in the second week of October. After repeated phone calls, today he got the answer that the city impound lot is full, so no cars are being towed city-wide. I hear there's some space at the proposed convention center site. It used to work to spray paint "Barry's DC" on abandoned cars -- they would be gone but quick. I wonder if now we should paint "Brimmer's DC" -- or "Faircloth's DC" or even "Clinton's DC."


Convention Center Continued
Steve Donkin 1708 New Jersey Ave., NW

In her article "Convention Center Continued," Leslie Miles exceeds only in continuing to propagate the unsubstantiated claims, myths, and outright lies of the Washington Convention Center Authority (WCCA) regarding the proposed convention center project in Shaw. First of all, those opposed to this monstrous project include more than just three whining residents. They include myself and dozens of my neighbors. The DC Statehood Party, DC Green Party, and New Columbia Chapter of the Sierra Club are on record opposing it. Many civic organizations in Shaw and throughout the District, as well as some ANCs, have come out against it. And we are constantly working to educate more residents of Shaw and DC about this project, so that the conclusions they make about the project are based on facts, not simply the recycled propaganda put out by the WCCA, upon which the arguments of Ms. Miles and other proponents rely so heavily.

At a "wide community update reception" on January 6 at the Carnegie Library, the WCCA shamelessly continued its practice of deception and diversion. The WCCA authorities chose to run the event, not with a format by which resdients could ask the tough questions in view of everyone else, but rather as a social event with no formal structure. I was forced to circulate around the room and try my luck at collaring various officials to ask my questions, and was struck by the diversity of answers I received from different people to the same question! Many said they didn't know the answer, or the question was outside of their sphere of responsibility. An ANC commissioner who saw me aggressively asking questions of one official angrily asked me if I was a resident of Shaw (which I am), implying that I had no right to demand answers if I wasn't. Needless to say, I left the event with unanswered questions, shock at the belligerency with which my questions were received, and concern that our community was being railroaded into something without being sufficiently consulted as equal partners.

Among the questions which Ms. Miles and other proponents of the convention center might ask of WCCA are: --Who will ultimately pick up the tab? DC Council Bill 12-379, currently under consideration, would authorize an uncapped increase of six dedicated surtaxes, including ones on the income tax on unincorporated and incorporated businesses, to account for any shortfalls in financing for the project. We all pay for that! --What happened to the job training and apprenticeship programs promised? As of January 7, the Washington Post reported "The trade school is still up in the air." We need signed commitments, not empty promises! --Why were we never allowed to vote on this? --How many jobs are being promised and what will they pay? Benefits? Rights to collective bargaining? --What about the unaddressed parking problem? Traffic congestion? --Why can't the Shaw residents have neighborhood stabilization, not displacement and gentrification? Why not a park, low- and moderate-income housing, a recreation center, health clinic, Shaw history museum - anythng but a monolithic convention center to serve wealthy out-of-towners and line the pockets of developers! --What about all the allegations of graft, kickbacks, and conflict of interest among so many convention center promoters?

Until these and other questions are addressed and substantiated by facts and figures, I and many other residents of Shaw and DC will continue to oppose this ill-conceived and unjust boondoggle.


Proposed Convention Center
Thomas Smith

As a long time resident of Shaw and a native Washingtonian i find it strange that any one here thinks that (1) this proposed center is anything other than a play ground for those with wealth or those spending other peoples wealth. Already with the MCI center two things have happened the small business people have been priced out of business or shoved out of business by the police,note the venders plight. (2) the union station site is much larger. well connected by metro taxi, bus and train and would not cost nearly as much to build since it is all on one level.

Now about the things that happen late at night , yes they do occur but they should be seen as an indicator of the desperation of the people involved. So instead of borrowing money to build something that Washington neither needs nor wants lets use that money to provide housing education and jobs for those poor desperate souls that some people find so repulsive. Because i will tell you that when my first neighborhood in old SW was torn down for urban renewal the people did not just roll over and die they did and will do what is needed to survive. Those of us with middle class incomes and esthetics may not understand this but the rest of us do!!!!


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Is there anywhere in the area where I can find sassafras tea? I understand that the FDA banned the sale of sassafras tea per se, but I'm also aware that there is a safrole-free sassafras extract that could conceivably be used to make a reasonable facsimile of real sassafras tea. What I don't know is if anyone makes a safrole-free sassafras tea, or if anyone does where to find it. Any hints? John Heaton

[If someone can help John, would you be kind enough to post a message to dc.story about this issue as well. I wasn't aware that sassafras was an issue with FDA and would like to learn more. Jeff]


Swimming Lessons: I'm looking for swimming lessons for my 2 and 4 year old daughters. I live in Chevy Chase DC. I'll likely end up at the YMCA, but any other suggestions are appreciated. Phil Greene


Explore coral reefs in the Red Sea, Florida Keys, Jamaica, Micronesia, and Sri Lanka with the premier of Coral Reefs: The Fragile Ring of Life. The program, co-sponsored along with the Smithsonian, Oceanwatch, and Earthwatch, recognizes the United Nation's designation of 1998 as the International Year of the Ocean. Following the screening, a panel discussion features Ariel Cuschnir, an Israeli marine biologist; Cliff McCreedy, pres- ident of Oceanwatch; William Kiene, reef scientist at the National Museum of Natural History; and Susan Gartner, field representative for Earthwatch. The Smithsonian's Dr. David Challinor, senior scientist emeritus will moderate the discussion.

22 January 1998 7:00 p.m. Refreshments 7:45 p.m. Film and Panel Education Building National Zoo. Enter at Connecticut Ave. Park in Lot A. Free, but please RSVP by calling (202) 673-4801 or e-mailing to Margie Gibson NZPEM053@SIVM.SI.EDU Office of Public Affairs, National Zoo


Washington Tasting Society presents: "French Wines of Burgundy", Fellini's Restaurant, 1800 M St., NW (the courtyard entrance), Washington, D.C., Thursday, January 15th , from 6:30-9:00PM Burgundy is probably the most complex and confusing wine region in the world, but it also produces truly distinctive wines from the pinot noir and chardonnay grapes. Join Michael Franz, wine columnist for the Washington Post, as we taste and explore over 8 of these luscious wines. RSVP at (202)333-5588 or email:, Cost: $39.00. Charlie Adler ph.(202)333-8992


Executive Director, Committee of 100 on the Federal City. Founded in 1923, the Committee works to safeguard and advance the fundamental planning, environmental, and aesthetic values which give Washington its historic distinction, natural beauty and overall livability. The Committee serves as both a forum for community leaders and an active participant in hearings before the City Council and local/federal boards and commissions. The ED will be the top staff person for the Committee. Candidates should demonstrate strong interest in the welfare of the District of Columbia, especially regarding planning, the environment, historic preservation, conservation, and quality of life issues. Strong organizational skills are essential. Part-time (20 hours or more) will be considered. Salary range: full time - $25,000; part-time - up to $20,000. Great flexibility in hours athome/office. Please fax resume/cover letter to Tersh Boasberg, Chairman at (202) 223-8604. Gladys L. Brooks


House (rental) Wanted on Capitol Hill. Prefer location on House side of the Capitol (SE). Karen Metivier-Carreiro


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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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