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It's hard to stay focused on local issues when there's such a feeding frenzy swirling around the White House. Given the predilections of our Commander-in-Chief and Mayor-for-Life, perhaps the District Council should take a few moments to repeal the city's adultery laws. Then Orcon can come in a fumigate the city.
Slipping under the wire this week are a few major local events. Apparently Lt. Jeffrey Stowe has received "The Usual Suspects" treatment. He's cooperating in a wider probe of police corruption that indicates involvement all the way up to former chief Soulsby. Time will tell. I hope our new Attorney General takes her responsibilities to root out corruption more seriously than her predecessor, Eric Holder. Camille Barnette, the city's City Manager but Don't Call Me That, has taken up residence with the rest of the city government at Judiciary Square. I have always agreed that it would be foolish for the Control Board staff to colocate with the executive office, but it would have been equally foolish for Dr. Barnette to be estranged from her troops. I'm glad that course has been corrected.
Finally, it's apparently kickoff week for the mayoral contenders. Jack Evans says he's going for it. It looks like Kevin Chavous is going to toss in his hat. CFO Tony Williams is rumored to be seeking a draft. Carol Schwartz will undoubtedly run again on the Republican side, which means you won't hear from her for awhile. And Harold Brazil will undoubtedly still be deciding whether to jump into the fracas well after the election is over.
A number of city council and board of education seats are up for grabs this year as well. Many of you know these candidates, so I would encourage you to encourage them to participate in dc.story. I understand that some potential candidates may not have mastered the use of email -- though it is available in Council Offices -- but as you know, it's not the hardest skill to learn.
I often recall a line from the play Evita when Eva is pushing Juan Peron to overthrow the Argentinean Junta. "Those generals wouldn't even be recognized by their own mothers." Similarly, we live in a small city but most of us don't know our politicians. dc.story provides politicians direct, unmediated, and free communication to large numbers of constituents. This medium has, I believed, served several politicians well. With your help, I would like to see more of our potential leaders participate.
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The Very Best
Marie Drissel writes: "There are some days that I wish the Mayor had not found the very best white doctor out-of-state." So to merge threads here your wish is that the Mayor had done the politically correct thing and gone to a doctor "educated" in the DC school system?
Control Board Claptrap
Steve Donkin wrote, regarding the use of tax dollars to house the control board in a "private" building, that "The British army and the Atlantic Ocean, you'll recall, provided similar protection to King George from the oppressed American colonists." Isn't this a bit hysterical? It's like the ubiquitous comparisons of every wrong to genocide. I was born in DC, and hence have some right to complain about lack of democracy, unlike those who moved here and are now shocked to learn that DC is and has been under the control of the US Congress. I am grateful to be rescued from the kleptocracy that seemed to have us trapped in an irreversible spiral of decline and decay. Basic human rights, as enumerated in the Bill of Rights, are more important than a sham vote. We still have those rights, for the most part, at least to the degree we ever did. We can and should work to have all the rights that any citizen of this country does, but can't we be a little less shrill about it? So long as the Constitution gives Congress the responsibility for the Federal City, they can't and shouldn't stand by idly while a few self-serving "democrats" allow the Capital of this country to turn into an abandoned weed patch.
When the Commissioners were running the city, we had the best fire department, the best police department, and the best schools in the country. People from the 'burbs paid tuition to go to DC schools. Our fire insurance premiums were the lowest around. Automobile inspections were a model for the country. Crime was insignificant. Even in poor neighborhoods, we never locked our doors. This country is not a "perfect" democracy, by design. There is no evidence that a greater degree of democracy will result in more individual freedom, and some evidence to the contrary. Allowing even a majority of citizens who live in the capital of this country unrestricted control over the city is something that the founders thought unfair and unwise. Imagine the city government not providing the Capitol with fire protection. Unthinkable? It happened.
Public Officials and Public Buildings
It is a bit ridiculous to choose the White House as an example of an inaccessible public building. As with many things involving the President and the Presidency, for better or worse, it is an exception to the rule.
Public officials are accessible in public buildings, unless security overrides accessibility. A few years ago, I needed a signature on a letter of support from Mayor Kelly. It was obviously not high on her list of important things, but it was important to my company and to a proposal that was due. I went to her office and sat in the waiting area. Her Chief of Staff (Karen Tramontano--now a White House Aid--) asked if I was being helped. I explained the situation. She made a call and then got the letter signed. Granted, this is a lot different than bombarding an office building with protestors. However, it is very possible to have access to public officials if you politely go into their public offices and wait, patiently and quietly. If you wish to get information from or to a Congressman or Senator, you probably can't get onto the floor of the House or Senate, but you can get into the waiting room of their office. You may only get to speak to an Aid, but someone will eventually hear you out.
School Reform is Fundamental
My reading of excerpts from NARPAC's report on the failings of DC public schools suggests that school failure begins at HOME. The report identifies key causes of kids failure to learn in DC: "... lack of parental involvement (50% of educators report this as a serious problem vs. 28% nationwide), students unprepared to learn (40% vs. 29%), absenteeism (31% vs. 14%), tardiness (32% to 11%) and undisciplined behavior in many forms." We can make up endless excuses for the problems in the DC schools but if there's ever going to be meaningful improvement, it will only happen when every DC parent says: "Did I do everything I could to help my child succeed at school today and prepare them for tomorrow? And did I do what I could to make my kid's school a place that works for my neighbor's kid too?" -- and takes action to fulfill that commitment. Until that happens, the DC schools will continue to fail -- no matter how much money and political angst is poured into them.
Send Your 4-Year Old to DC Public School
Phil Greene's inquiry into the pros and cons of his daughter's attending kindergarten prior to age 5 brought back memories from my own childhood here. Born in December, I was 4 when I started kindergarten in September 1968. I was probably one of the youngest in my class during those years, but I don't recall it bugging me that much. I was about average in height. I think after settling into a class of my peers, it didn't matter. Later on, however, it was somewhat bothersome to me that some of my 12th grade classmates -- certain members of the Chevy Chase Mafia -- reached their 18th birthday, i.e. beer!, while still in high school. 'Course the age is 21 now, so that's moot. Besides, my fake ID usually worked.
Bottom line for your daughter: if she isn't small for her age and if she appears to have normal aptitude, I would get her started sooner. Another benefit would be that if something unforeseen comes up later in her childhood -- an illness or a move to another area, for example -- that requires her to repeat a grade, then she wouldn't have the opposite problem of being 1-1/2 years older than her classmates. That's my $0.02.
Clinton and Schools
Our President spent the holiday participating in the repair and cleanup of a Washington, D.C. school. A fine photo opportunity and a chance to suggest that if more of up participated in cleanups of this nature, schools would be better places to spread the learning habit. Actually, Mr. Clinton could do much more to further education in Washington, D.C. than participating in a 45 minute staged episode of school home improvement. With his pen, Mr. Clinton could have signed into law a measure desperately sought by parents of poor black children who are forced to attend the sub-standard Washington, D. C. school system. Keep in mind that the average cost per student in the Washington, D. C. system is over $10,000 a year, the highest in the nation. The test scores are among the lowest. Read more of this editorial at http://www.gulf1.com/wcoa/0121.htm/
A Blueprint for Restructuring the D.C. Schools
Since the Generals in the trenches have not yet offered up a comprehensive plan to reinvent the D.C. Public Schools, Ive prepared my own plan for their amazement. This plan is one that emulates successful business practices, and rewards performance & success instead of tolerating failure (as is the case in the D.C. schools). This system, as in successful business, is customer oriented, or in this case, student oriented. Our most important customers are the students in the school system. When that fact is finally realized and the system is rebuilt to accept that premise, then progress will be made. The basis of my plan is to link performance to school funding.
Heres the way my plan works: 1) Make the schools into autonomous, empowered teams. Each schools principal and teaching staff would develop, as a team, their own curriculum to meet the needs of their customers. 2) Students and their parents should have the option to shop for and select whichever school they want to attend. This is certainly a way to get the needed parental involvement in our school system. 3) Schools that attract students will see their financing rise and a proportional increase in their budgets. Those schools that dont attract students will go out of business. 4) Budgets would be linked to performance of each school. For each student that graduates, after meeting the tough requirements to graduate, the school would get a grant which provides more dollars to that school for educational expenses (including teacher bonuses for performance). Some will consider this approach radical. To them I say try it on a pilot program basis with two or three schools. This is a business-like, success oriented, student focused approach that does not accept failure. Cmon out of the trenches
Bikes from Hell
Richard Rothblum complains about a "death penalty" for irresponsible cyclists. Um, Richard? We were talking about modest fines for breaking the law, which is not a death penalty, and could in fact save lives if it encourages cyclists to ride as if they were peddling amidst cars and trucks on crowded streets, risking collisions in which they are very likely to be hurt badly.
I ride a motorcycle. When I do so I accept the fact that I am at a significantly greater risk of injury than someone in a car and ride accordingly. The typical street cyclist, sadly, does not. I have little sympathy for a cyclist who careens through red lights, cuts off cars, and rides against traffic. That person is breaking the law and risking death.
Want to be treated like another vehicle? Follow the laws that apply to vehicles.
Clinton and the Law
So long as Stephanie Faul is determined to protect people from themselves, doesnt she think a law requiring a chastity belt would do Mr Clinton a lot more good than a seat belt?
Good News - Good Folks - Good Eats
DC now has a Himalayan/Tibetan/Indian Grill at 18th & S Streets! I just had a fabulous lunch in their sunny, attractive second-floor dining room. I was served food prepared by a competent chef who clearly loves to cook and the food was brought to the table by gentle, loving people. The price was quite reasonable too! Venture in through the modest street-level entrance and give them a try......these folks deserve to be discovered and treasured.
In response to the comments in last issue about Safeway Coupons - What annoys me about Safeway Coupons isn't a two-tiered pricing system, in fact I hadn't thought about it before. What always annoyed me when I did use them was that I would dutifully collect out my coupons for products I thought I was likely to buy, go to the store, and find out that the Safeway I was at did not carry the item or more likely the size that the coupon was valid for. I always found this aspect of it particularly infuriating. After having this experience at the Watergate Safeway and the 16th &P NW Safeway, I gave up. Now living close by to Eastern Market I'm thankful to have an alternative and only end up going to the Safeway near Capital Hill about once a month. (I'm even more thankful since it is .quite. the hike to the Safeway, even though the store is much nicer than the other ones I've shopped at.)
----- Coupon Books
I gave up on Safeway AND Giant years ago. I not only shop at Fresh Fields, I work there. The Fresh Shopper card gives customers 10% off ALL items in their favorite department after they've reached 600 points. I'm sure I'm prejudiced, but I'd rather get a 10% discount on all the shrimp, salmon and swordfish I could eat than 12 rolls of toilet paper for $1.50. Toilet paper is why I belong to one of those discount clubs.
----- Safeway Coupons
You might as well ask Coca Cola to stop advertising. In fact, some of these items are probably loss-leaders designed to get people in to the store. It's an age old marketing technique. If they simply lowered the prices, the items would sell out quickly and many customers would be annoyed to find no stock of the advertised specials. The coupons limit the number of items a customer can buy.
Personally, I don't mind them - there doesn't happen to be a Giant convenient to me, and often there are some exceptional deals in that Safeway coupon book. In the couple times I've been to Giant stores I haven't noticed that their prices are significantly different than Safeway's, though I haven't taken a survey. But it's all about marketing. If you decide to buy only coupon items at Safeway, then you'll be beating their system - but at the cost of having to wait in two lines every time you go shopping. If it's worth it to you, then more power.
So you're interested in that big advertising spot in the beginning of dc.story? Contact Jan Genzer -- the dc.story marketing maven--at Oltjan@aol.com or call him at 202.364.0383.
Does anybody out there have a recommendation on a motorized exercise bikes? One of my New Year's resolutions is to purchase a top of the line exercise bike. I'm also on the lookout for a good quality snow shovel, the kind that comes without a handle. Phil Shapiro firstname.lastname@example.org
Forest Hills Citizens Association Meeting with UDC President
The University of the District of Columbia's President, Julius Nimmons, will be speaking to the Forest Hills Citizens Association (FHCA) on February 4th, at 7:30 PM in UDC's Building 39's Large Boardroom (at the corner of Van Ness and Connecticut). He will be speaking on the status of UDC and its role in our neighborhood. A question and answer period will follow. The FHCA will also be collecting ideas on how to beautify and attract businesses to the Van Ness neighborhood. The public is invited and refreshments will be served.
Sofa, elegant, 92 inch Rowe, light, neutral stripes. Perfect condition. Factory warranty. $675.00. 202-237-0867 Jerry Lorentz Glorentz@aol.com
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