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January 29, 1998

Your Electronic Backfence

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Dear Neighbors:

Recent news events have pointed to a significant flaw in the dc.story and enterprise -- the absence of an intern program. Though dc.corporate has no xerox machines to operate, messages to deliver, or correspondence to reply to, we are certain that we can find challenging and rewarding opportunities for college grads interested in breaking into the world of new media. To quote comedian Bill Maier, the preceding statement was "satirized for your protection."


On a more serious note, the scuttlebutt around town (not the scuttle boat around the city, which is the Titanic) is that Anthony Williams is considering a run as mayor. Money reportedly is not a problem. Political organization may be, since the mayor and councilmember wannabes have deeper roots in the community. The Post reports that Williams is looking for a draft of some sort, though I'm not sure where that would come from unless someone leaves the door open. dc.story can help in the regard, however.

First, why Williams? He's done his job, restoring fiscal discipline to the city and helping to restore the confidence of the money markets. He advocates home rule strongly and has done as much as most to hasten its return. Politically, he's navigated well among the Control Board, the council, the mayor, and Congress. Plus he's smart as hell. A perfect choice? Probably not. But probably the best potential candidate to come down the pike in years. In Tony we trust.

Williams has accomplished most of what he set out to do in the Chief Financial Officer's position. So chances are he will either run for mayor or move on. My feeling is that we should act to retain extraordinary talent wherever we find it, since it is so scarce in the District. Be mindful too that the District's finances (and return to home rule) are in jeopardy. The city may have be running a surplus, but much of that surplus stems from underfunded capital construction projects (did you see the photos of the Beach Drive Bridge), the inability of city agencies to spend allocated funds, and a stronger-than-expected economy. The control years are over only after four consecutive balanced budgets (and a myriad of other factors no one talks about). Miss one year and we are back to square one. Given his track record, Williams would be an excellent steward for returning political rights to DC residents.

Marion Barry, of course, wouldn't. Whether Barry runs or not, it's clear that his strategy is similar to the one he employed four years ago-- divide the Democratic party by encouraging as many candidates to enter as possible. Despite a healthy victory over Carol Schwartz in the citywide race four years ago, Barry only squeaked out a victory over the lackluster John Ray and dead-on-arrival Sharon Pratt Kelly in the Democratic Primary. Evans, Brazil, and Chavous will not beat Barry in a crowded field. Williams could, especially if the smart money and smart volunteers flow in his direction and force the others out.

So here's my proposal. Let's find out how many of you are persuaded by my arguments or your own reasoning that you would like to see Tony Williams run for mayor. Take a moment and send me a message.


If you want Tony Williams to run for mayor, reply to this message, type TONY in the subject line, and DELETE the rest of the message (so it doesn't take me forever to download my messages.) If you are willing to volunteer for Tony, write your name, address, phone number, email address, etc. in the body of the message. I will compile this information and pass it on to Williams.

If you don't want Tony Williams to run for mayor, reply to this message, type MARION in the subject line, and DELETE the rest of the message.


Although I acknowledge being a bit cheeky in the way I'm rigging this poll, I do hope you will take the 10 seconds it takes to respond. I truly believe the future of your city and home rule is at stake and, as a large block of active voters, dc.story members have an inordinate ability to make a difference in the city's future.

Vote early and often,
Jeffrey Itell


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Our Internship Lit Up the Town
Carl Bergman

As has been noted in other quarters, sometimes you never know where your internship will go. I've a friend whose daughter went to Russia as a theater intern in Moscow and ended up two blocks from Yeltsen's attack on parliament. In my case, there were three of us who paid fees to AU Urban Affairs as grad student interns at the old, appointed city council. It was the spring semester, 1968. We got our money's worth: ringside seats to the riots after King's death. I remember watching as gangs came down 14th street, pausing to trash Garfinkles. We watched from the chairman's office as Council Members Stan Anderson and Joe Yeldell took off up the street to try and persuade the mob to stop. They were lucky to get back unhurt. Later, the Council closed all the liquor stores, stopped most gasoline sales and transferred its legislative power to the Mayor Washington, making him a ruler by decree.

We wound up as messengers from the District Building to the White House, complete with escorts through various machine gun nests. (I understand Hillary may bring them back.) In the aftermath, we staffed hearings on the riots, their impact and causes, police use of deadly force, and rebuilding plans. For the city's business and middle class it marked a dramatic turning point. Their exodus began. For us, it became a time to bond, not condemn and run. How about you? What was your internship like? Did it bring you, or keep you here? What were times like? Did it influence your work or life? Was there a Washington or DC connection?


An Almost Freebie
Ed T. Barron

In case you missed the small print announcement in the Post last week, the Transit gang are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Metrobus system on the 25th of February with a twenty-five cent fare all day. For those of you who have never seen the inside of a Metrobus, or enjoyed the sights of the city while traveling to and from downtown, this is your big chance. This is an opportunity to take a complete around the city tour (with transfers) for about a buck and a half. Don't miss this opportunity.


Reason to Pause
Tom Berry

A few days ago a former employee returned to our office to say hello. He's a very likable person, born in DC, raised here, got into a bit of trouble here, learned his lesson in Lorton, and I gave him a break several years ago. Sadly, he didn't work out as an employee. We've stayed in touch and I know that he's had his ups and downs since our parting, mostly downs, but he's hung in there in spite of it all. The other day I could tell he was on the verge of tears as he explained his current situation: unemployed, desperately looking for work, living in a urine-stenched trailer with others in the same situation, taking medication for the seizures that keep him unemployed, and generally in a depressed state. His most telling comment though, was "maybe I'd be better off in jail; then I wouldn't have to worry about anything anymore." One thing I know about the fellow is this: he's not going back to jail. But, how many others are there in this city in his situation?


Anne Drissel

Our city's new Chief Management Officer, Camille Cates Barnett, PhD, can be reached at her office at 441 - 4th Street, NW, Suite 935, DC 20001. Phone: 202-727-3432; fax 202-727-9878. For starters, it would be a positive gesture if we welcomed her and offered her support and some positive suggestions -- and thanked her for taking on the task of restoring America's hometown! (Amazingly -- I checked out her number and she answered herself!!! How's that for responsive!)


Title-less Joyce Ladner on Diane Riehm Show
R.J. Fox (Opinions expressed are my own and not of my employer)

Has anyone else listened to the Diane Riehm Show when she does the book discussions (I think on Fridays)? Joyce Ladner is a recurring guest for this show, and Diane Riehm ALWAYS introduces Joyce Ladner as a fellow of the Brookings Institution. Never has Ladner's role on the Control Board been disclosed...Is Joyce Ladner ashamed to be affiliated with the Control Board, and why does Diane Riehm choose to ignore this role? IMHO, nobody in DC (except for policy wonks) ever heard of Joyce Ladner until she was appointed to the Control Board. Apparently, she does not want the public to be reminded of her Control Board membership, and Diane Riehm is all too happy to comply. Seems odd to me. Comments?


In Defense of Democracy
Mark "don't blame democracy" Richards

Richard "Vote With Your Feet" Rothblum has a point when he advises that we choose our language carefully and practice civility, but I don't think the "love it or leave it" approach is a good one. He said that because he was born in DC, he has more right to complain about lack of democracy than those who move here. But instead, he argues like 18th century aristocrats, that no evidence shows that more democracy results in more personal freedom. In fact, most of the world's experience shows that less democracy results in more corruption, more debt, and eventually collapse. The American democratic ideal is sound and we should not trivialize it in our nation's capital. Maybe District residents are today disenfranchised because for nearly 200 years they have fought amongst themselves over what they want. And many have been silent or willing to trade their vote for the hope of better municipal services from an overlord instead of getting involved and demanding local govt. reform or accountability. I think we should improve our municipal govt. by reforming and EXPANDING local democracy--maybe by increasing the number of elected representatives. Does anyone have thoughts on that?

Constance McLaughlin Green's history books and Alan Lessoff's "The Nation and Its City: Politics, 'Corruption,' and Progress in WDC, 1861-1902" offer a good sketch of the period of "expert" rule, ushered in by a huge debt created by a Presidentially-appointed leader. In trying to understand the past I've written a paper (draft open for critique) on the sociopolitical history of the District--available from me by E-mail. By the way, how do you define a "Washingtonian?"


Car Inspection Policy
Margaret Yoma Ullman

I read today in the Post that they're shutting down one of the two DMV inspection stations for a whole year. Although the city is extending hours at the open one to help, there will still be chaos. At this fluid moment, can we start a campaign to allow inspection at any time during one's designated month rather than holding it to a particular date? For example, my inspection sticker expires on Feb. 9, a Monday. Given possible slips, I need to renew the previous week, which gives me fewer and fewer days in subsequent years, if I keep the same car, as I plan to. In New Jersey, where I used to live, we had the whole month. Any hope of instituting that here?


Do We Really Live On Mars?
Larry Seftor

Anne Drissel feels that the DC schools will only do a better job when the parents "shape up." And Ed Barron suggests that a turnabout requires a "more business-like" approach to the job. One would think that we were living on Mars and that our situation is somehow completely unique. I've got news for Anne and Ed, local schools are educating children in communities large and small throughout the U.S. They don't rely on novel business models, and they don't rely on parental enthusiasm to make up for school system shortcomings. The problems with the D.C. school are well documented and don't need novel solutions. It all boils down to job security for lousy teachers and lousy school administrators, and virtually no education for the kids. Let's just eliminate job security for all school employees, including teachers, and fire those who do a really crappy job. There are some difficult problems to solve, but this is not one of them.


DC School Dilemmas
Len Sullivan

In your increasingly serious dialogue on the tragic condition of the DC Schools, I see four particularly daunting dilemmas. First, compared to our suburbs, the DCPS physical plant is antiquated, almost twice the needed size, and made up of many inefficiently small schools, causing very high fixed operating costs and leaving less to spend on classroom education. The solution requires major capital expenditures for fewer, larger, all-new schools, instead of emergency repairs to outdated schools. Second, both DC and Baltimore school systems stand accused of evolving a management culture based on perpetuating middle class jobs in schools, not on educating kids. This requires very large upper-level staff changes, but such new professionals are certainly not available in DC and probably not from its surrounding suburbs. Too bad DCPS cannot be 'bought out' by our suburban school systems!

Third, expert analysts agree that schools cannot overcome the negative impact of run-down neighborhoods comprised of indifferent or absent parent(s) who don't accept their own role in child education, or who espouse a counter-cultural mind set. Hence, it is self-defeating to divorce the management of public education from that for housing, welfare, and crime control. A long-term, integrated 'systems approach' is essential. Finally, the human consequences of our failed education system continue to demand more scarce public resources, leaving even less for schools. The jobless remain cruelly dependent on welfare handouts, (75% of DC's unemployed have a 'high school education') or become embroiled in the justice system. DCPS should be spending more to provide some sort of 'second chance' adult education to those it failed so badly. Instead, the 'failure agencies' are spending more, and the 'success agency' is spending less.


Not My Rice Bowl
Rich "Not My Rice Bowl" Rothblum

Ed Barron's plan for the DC Public Schools included the following first step: "1) Make the schools into autonomous, empowered teams. " Sorry, Ed. If "autonomous" means free to hire and fire, allocate resources and set standards for employees, this plan won't get past the unions and bureaucrats who shot down the voucher plan, which it resembles. In fact, it has the same drawback of leaving behind the students least able to cope in the rottenest schools. Maybe something could be done to ameliorate this last objection -- for example, when it became obvious that students were fleeing a school, that school could be closed before the students remaining there were too badly affected -- but I guess the unions wouldn't buy that, either.


A Fond Farewell to An Ole Time Barber Shop
Judy Hubbard Saul

The Republican Congress may be micro-managing our city, the POTUS (President of the United States) may be ignoring us for more serious matters, our mayor may be riding around the city in his "Mayorabile," but in down-home, friendly DC neighborhoods like Cleveland Park people are still doing good deeds for each other. Earlier this month, Frances DeValliers, owner of our French bistro Lavandou on Connecticut Avenue hosted a complimentary luncheon for long-time patrons of retiring barber Frank Tropea of Tropea Custom Barber Shop. Frank's father opened the barber shop in 1928, and it remained a barber shop (complete with red, white, and blue barber pole) not a "men's hair salon" until it closed on December 24th. Fifteen guests (including a judge and his son and the wife of a patron who journeyed from her downtown job to represent her out-of-town husband) joined Frank and his wife. Times change, but good neighbors will be always be around.


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 Feb. 2nd.
Larry Bohlen

Please bring your recyclable newspapers, cardboard, mixed paper, bottles and cans to the Campaign to Restore Recycling drop-off site on February 2nd, between 4:30 and 7:30 PM. The event is at 441 4th Street NW (Judiciary Square Metro).

Good news: A bidder has been selected by the Department of Public Works to run the city's curbside recycling program which is planned to restart by April 1 (no kidding). But what about recycling in schools and offices? It's time to take a look at these areas, too. A strategy meeting is planned for February 23rd, 6:30 - 7:30 PM at the offices of Friends of the Earth. Call 202-783-7400 x251 if you are interested.


Spectacular Ballroom Dancing Competition - All skill levels: April 4, Sat. evening, Crystal Gateway Marriott, Crystal City. Presented at Philippine American Bar Assoc's induction ball. Televised on Channel 58. Competitors, attendees and corporate sponsors (you get one week's TV ad time and corporate table). Jon Katz (202) 659-8600


Dr. Bernard Mergen, professor of American civilization at George Washington University, will sign copies of his new book, "Snow in America," an interdisciplinary look at snow encompassing science, literature, film, history, art and public policy. Snow influences climate, water resources, and the lives of creatures from single-celled algae to humans. Mergen's presentation, "The Ecology of the Snow Commons," will explore how snow benefits the environment and us. He will examine nature's deep freeze for the food chain and discuss the interrelationship between plants, animals, humans, and snow.

5 February 1998. National Zoo. 7 p.m. Book signing and Refreshments. 8 p.m. Lecture. Education Building. Enter at Connecticut Ave. Park in Lot A. Free, but please RSVP by calling (202) 673-4801 or sending e-mail to Margie Gibson NZPEM053@SIVM.SI.EDU


Men's Group Forming: Four fun and interesting men are forming a men's group that meets in MD and DC locations every other Wednesday from 8:15 p.m. to 10:00. Looking for a few good men who'd like to join us. Talk about the things that really matter in life. Interested? Reed Dewey (202) 363-8433


Friday Morning Music Club Orchestra. 8 PM Sunday, Feb. 1 Free. Silvia Alimena, conductor; Elizabeth Adkins, violin Beethoven: Violin Concerto Brahms: Serenade in A op. 16. Bradley Hills Presbyterian Church, Bradley Lane near Fernwood. Parking also free. E. James Lieberman, M.D.


Discount Tickets for "A Thousand Clowns," the story of an eccentric television writer who quits his job & tries to raise his nephew his own way while fending off child-welfare workers and his own well-meaning brother. Footlights--the modern drama discussion group--has a few tickets for sale to the matinee performance this Saturday, January 31, at 2:30, at the American Century Theater in Arlington's Gunston Arts Center. The price is $14, which includes a group discount and a post-performance discussion with the cast. Call or e-mail Robin Larkin at (301) 897-9314 & David Sobelsohn


Design/Build/Carpentry: Small design build firm specializing in additions, decks, built-in furniture, and custom-designed furniture available for in-home consultation. No job too small. John Taboada


Also, free! Free movie passes, short movie reviews, and movie discussion. Send an email message to to subscribe.


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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