themail.gif (3487 bytes)

February 4, 1998

Your Electronic Backfence

dc.story is presented in association with Washington's News Station WTOP-1500 AM and 94.3 FM.

Snow and rain are forecasted. . . and WTOP is your official snow-closing station. Count on us to keep you informed with Traffic and Weather together on the 8s!

WTOP-1500 AM and 94.3 FM.


Dear Neighbors:

Larry_Seftor ( sent me the following comment for posting:

Do YOU fit the profile? Vernon Loeb in Tuesday's Post noted that the readers of DC Story are "more than 1,000 mostly white, mostly professional . . ." Gosh, I must have been sleeping the day that Jeff collected profiles of readers to assemble this information. After all, it cannot be that Loeb, a writer at that bastion of journalistic integrity, made an assumption. On a serious note, I feel that one's standing to take part in the discussion on DC should be based on where one lives, and not the color of one's skin. The story (about Anthony A. Williams mayoral intentions) should have had no racial aspect and Loeb does us all a disservice by injecting one.

Don't blame Vernon or the Post. Blame me if you think the characterization is unfair. Vernon asked me how I would describe the demographics of dc.story readers when he interviewed me for the Post story. It's a fair, though troubling question. As Larry Seftor points out, I don't request demographic data from subscribers. (In fact, I don't even keep your names on the subscriber list.) Having run the list for over two years, it's clear to me that the list is heavily represented in Ward 3 (heavily white) and has broadened its base to a fair amount of the District west of 16th Street and Capitol Hill (again, primarily, though not exclusively, white or upper income areas.) Other indicators. We've thrown four dc.story parties and most of the attendees have not been African-American. fills theatres on regular occasions and the crowds are a majority white. Finally, I think regular readers would be hard pressed to claim that dc.story postings often reflect what's being talked about in DC's African American press.

Some final thoughts. Though I have pushed diversity on this list (in ways that may not be apparent to you), I'm really at the mercy of you -- the subscribers. It's up to you to bring others into the fold. Subscribers come from subscribers. In a city that is both racially polarized and de facto segregated as Washington, it's quite challenging to create a forum where all citizens are willing to participate. And that challenge rests on your shoulders.

Finally, I would rather if Vernon Loeb hadn't chosen to characterize dc.story readers, but it is his job as a reporter to find out, much to the Post's credit, not discredit. As many readers may know, I often err on the side of bluntness rather than obfuscation. Mike McCurry I'll never be. But I don't think we should pretend that discussing the difference between Giant and Safeway is a significant issue to Washingtonians living in Anacostia, where easy access to one of these stores is a luxury.

Jeffrey Itell


Jump-start your career in 1998!

** C Associates - Technical Recruiters ** specialize in web-developers, client server specialists, and relational database (Sybase, Oracle, and Informix) specialists.

If you are looking to enhance your career, please post your resume (strictly confidential) to our web site at <> or contact John Capozzi at (202) 518-8595; Fax. (202) 387-7033.

Skills in demand include C, C++, Java, HTML, CGI, HELPDESK, Year 2000, and more.


The Man Who Took DC For a $40 Million Ride
Carl Bergman

Terry Matchette noted this was the 25 anniversary of Metro. It’s also the 25th of DC Transit’s O. Roy Chalk’s demise. For years, everyone wanted him to go. He’d taken over in the early 50s when Congress revoked Louis Wolfson franchise after a 57-day strike. Chalk bought the company and paid for it out of the company’s own cash. Never put in a penny. For years, service got worse, and he hit riders for increased rates. He sold off unused properties, but spineless regulators kept giving him the benefit, not the fare payer. Finally, an odd coalition brought him down. The Black United Front (another story) sued without much to stand on. They were joined by the City Council.

My old boss Gil Hahn, then Council Chair, considered Chalk a spoiler, and didn’t think much of the city’s legal case against Chalk. He brought in his own legal advisor, the late Dave Schwartz (Carol’s husband) from Arent, Fox. Schwartz dug up an obscure Supreme Court case that said transit company’s owners couldn’t rely on the fare box for all their funds, they had to add equity. First, they persuaded a newer, tougher regulator, then the courts. When the courts agreed, Chalk quit, but he had the last laugh. He convinced Congress they didn’t want to settle his debts, so he sold them the assets. If he’d sold the whole company they might have paid a few million for ‘good will.’ Selling Metro the assets only, he got over $40 million.


Williams for Mayor?
John Cleave

I did not vote. Not because I was concerned that not to vote for Williams might be construed as a vote for Barry, but because I feared that a vote for Williams -- who sounds like a decent, rational and intelligent guy, and therefore just the sort I’d like to see as Mayor -- might in fact have been the road to more years of Barry. That is because -- not withstanding anything that Jack Evans may say to the contrary -- nothing would please Barry more than to have a large field of Democrats contesting the primaries. He still has his hard core of supporters, albeit a diminishing band, and under the current DC rules, with no run-off in the primaries, the more contestants the better for him. Of course he ‘welcomed Williams mayoral campaign’. Especially if Brazil and Chavous (and now Gildenhorn?) also stand. With the help of Ward 9 and 3 opponents, Barry could make it on 30% of the vote.

Although Williams has now taken himself out of contention, the issue still remains. Shouldn’t we be concerned to ensuring that a candidate is nominated with a majority, not just a plurality, of the vote. Apparently (my source is <> the DC Council can change the voting rules. Lets encourage them to fix the process. That seems an intelligent exercise of whatever vestiges of democracy we still have in DC. Then we can help pick the nominees.


Rosencranz, Maybe, But Gildenhorn is not Dead:

Phil Greene

For a split second this morning, while reading the Post's Metro section, I thought Jeff Gildenhorn had died. You see, a story on his mayoral bid was placed in the position usually reserved for obituaries. Perhaps this is the Post's veiled commentary on his chances of success?


Meet Scott Mclarty, Green Party Candidate For The Ward One DC Council Seat
Scott McLarty DC Green Party

Scott McLarty of the Green Party of the District of Columbia has declared his candidacy for the Ward One DC City Council seat in the November 3, 1998 election. At a press conference and reception at the DC Arts Center, 2438 18th Street NW on February 22, Scott will meet the press and public and introduce his campaign. The reception begins at 1 PM; the press conference starts at 2 PM. Refreshments will be served. The event will be hosted by Sam Smith, DC investigative journalist in the I.F. Stone tradition, publisher of The Progressive Review, and author of Sam Smith's Great American Political Repair Manual.

The February 22 event is paid for by Ward One Citizens for McLarty, Philip Barlow, treasurer. A copy of our report is filed with the Director of Campaign Finance of the District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics. For more information, call Debby Hanrahan at (202) 462-2054 or Scott McLarty (202) 518-5624


MacArthur Boulevard Speed Traps
Paul Mamalian

dc.story now saves you money! Those of you that travel MacArthur Boulevard - be careful! MPD is back out with their speed traps. I have seen cops pulling people over everyday for the past few days in the section south of Reservoir Rd., before Foxhall, where the speed limit goes from 30mph down to 25mph. As you pass the people who have been pulled over, tell them to read dc.story!


Big Enchilada
Janet Hess

We may not have home rule, we may not have representation in Congress, we may be powerless in many situations. But when it comes to indicting the big cheeses, DC residents rule! I'm serious, mostly.

Media coverage often refers to "the Whitewater grand jury," at least implying that there is one and only one. In fact, there have been numerous DC Whitewater grand juries that have heard testimony over these last few years, and each of those grand juries has been composed of folks from DC. (There were also grand juries convened in Arkansas to look at some aspects of Whitewater.) Service on a federal grand jury isn't always great good fun, but it's essential. When you consider that a handful of DC residents -- black and white, young and old, gay and straight, male and female -- will ultimately determine whether anyone is indicted in the latest round of scandals, we seem somewhat less powerless, even in the face of a Control Board and a nonvoting delegate to Congress.


Lewinsky: Papparazzi Bait
Lois Kirkpatrick

I have a friend who works for one of the major TV news orgs in town. He was upset this weekend because last week he'd been ordered to do the papparazzi- type thing over Monica Lewinsky. Their camera guy apparently disrupted traffic flow and caused hazardous driving conditions in his efforts to catch the bereted-one on camera. I know we can't expect journalists to remember the Princess Diana hand wringing that happened "so long ago," but the word "hypocrisy" did flit ever-so-briefly cross my mind.


Dear General Becton
Ralph Blessing

This past week my daughter's 7th grade Spanish teacher at Deal Junior High resigned after reportedly having gone the entire school year without a pay check. She was a new hire this year and apparently was not the only one in that category who never got paid. Is this the type of "change" that the generals brag about when they appear before congressional committees--and for which those committees lavish praise upon them? As they say, the more things change, the more they remain the same.


Unions Win; Citizens Lose
Larry Seftor

I am not a lawyer, and proud of it. So I don't understand how, given the governing structure imposed by Congress, U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy decided that the Control Board cannot fire UDC faculty members without considering their union contract, as reported in Wednesday's Post. In normal times and under normal conditions Judge Kennedy's decision is quite rational. However, we live in unusual times in which the rights of District residents for self determination have been swept away. That doesn't seem to bother Judge Kennedy, but the union contract does. Consider that the unions and their contracts have become an enormous problem for DC (just look at the DC school system), and placing them above the Control Board is a terrible precedent. I have always felt that the problems in the District have many sources, and judicial rulings such as this one and those of Judge Christian just show that all branches of our Government take their place in making a mockery of governance in D.C.

To further this carnival, D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp (D) said that "the latest ruling illustrates that the courts are protecting the rights of District residents." Ms. Cropp apparently does not understand that, for the most part, District residents are those who pay taxes and expect services. The fact that some -- but not all -- employees of UDC live in DC does not mean that she should champion their needs, while ignoring the overarching need of the rest of us for fiscal responsibility in Government. UDC would have had a $16.2 M deficit. Some action was needed, and the Control Board acted. Come on, Ms. Cropp, quit being part of the problem and start being part of the solution.


School Plan
Lucy (I had to say it) Mallan

I guess even lurkers have to speak out eventually. I'm a lurking educator, and this long contribution is the result of pent-up comments, building up over years and years.

DC schools are in a hole, but we have to start from where we are. what are the ingredients for school success? Two out of four: principal, teachers, students, parents. Plant? No. How come Hyde, for example, a building held together with toothpicks and string, had zero, that's zilch percent of students testing below basic? How come Bell Multi-Culti has such terrific spirit and results? Principals: Find and reward the good ones. How? Ask the teachers, by secret ballot. They know. but will they tell? I think so. If she gets a high score, say 80 or more of very good-excellent, give her budget authority. Parents: give them incentives and reassurance. Give them points for participating, signing homework, etc., redeemable in sports equipment for the class with the best record. Reassurance? make them know the teachers and administration respect them. Kids: Uniforms, student government, contests, school songs, lots of things to build school spirit and respect. Teachers: Now there's a tough one. Yes, the anti education culture exists, but it is by no means universal. Lots of great teachers throughout the city. Are there acceptable evaluation procedures and incentives for recognizing and rewarding these heroines and heroes? That's a subject for another day. Are vouchers the answer? We already have a vote-with-the-feet possibility within the system. That should be enough. Let's keep the talent we have (and there is plenty) inside the system. And finally, what about the central administration? Too hard to start there. Let's do what's possible, and start on a school by school basis. That's where the action is, anyhow.


DC Schools
Harold Goldstein

Talk as you will about management approaches, about families shaping up, about incompetent employees, about the physical plant ... all important issues but all secondary to removing, as Clinton put it, social promotions. Sure, instituting this policy will not be easy and many students will suffer, either in the work necessary to progress, or in suffering the consequences of being left behind. But as things stand now, the large majority of graduates suffer terribly when they find their high school degree has ill prepared them for the outside world and that they are relegated to being second rate members of the working class.

Until we have a firm approach to insuring that promotions are deserved the DCPS will continue to turn out a mediocre product. I was amazed to hear Clinton put that up front in his speech and feel that if he can make progress on that front then he will have made a major and lasting contribution to the state of education in the US.


Defining a Washingtonian
Mike Hill

I enjoyed reading Marck Richards' posting. It brings home an important point, one overlooked in the discussion of why people are fleeing the District. It may be that, while these folks are considered Washingtonians because of their residency, they may have never have considered themselves Washingtonians. Huge numbers of our residents owe their allegiances to other states or countries; they pay taxes, register cars, etc. elsewhere, and only maintain residence in DC for work reasons. They say people come to DC to further their careers, but inherent in that idea is the presupposition that after you "make it", you will move on. The concentration of power and education here is largely transient, and has no interest in citizen's responsibilities like voting in local elections, fighting for good services, and maintaining school PTA's. Is it reasonable to also infer that most of the education, money, and influence is concentrated in the hands of these visitors also, or is that an urban myth?


Safeway: Check Your Receipt
David Sobelsohn

I second Katie Mann's complaint that Safeway seems always to be out of the coupon items. This is ameliorated somewhat by the possibility of getting a rain check for the discounted item, extending the discount 15 days past the original sales period. Although many Safeways resist providing a rain check for the discounted item unless you're there at the end of the month, I've found that I can get the rain check as long as I insist (I say I'll be out of town the rest of the month, or anyway that I won't have time to return by the end of the month). What bugs me more than the unavailability of coupon items is the repeated pattern, at least at the Southwest Safeway (in the Waterside Mall), of the store's not having entered the coupon price into its computer, so the price rung up at the register isn't the price on the coupon. Indeed, this is part of a larger pattern, at least at this particular Safeway. Every other time I go shopping there, there's a discrepancy between the advertised or posted price & the price charged at the register, or the cashier charges me for something I didn't actually purchase (e.g., gourmet tomatoes @ 2.99/lb. instead of yellow onions @ .59/lb.). So I advise everyone: when you shop at Safeway, check your cash-register receipt before you leave the store. You may save yourself some money.


Safeway v Giant
Holly Eaton

To reply to Ms Harrison's query about Safeway coupon books: I think they're a great idea. First of all, it's not double pricing any more than are the manufacturers' Sunday coupon inserts. Same idea: If you don't remember to cut the coupon and bring it to the store, you don't get the cents off - it's that simple.

Regarding Giant, well, i speak only for myself, but i don't subscribe to a newspaper and consequently never see the Giant sales flyers. I have no idea what they have on sale when or how long the sale goes. With Safeway, i can cut the coupons i know i'm going to use, then keep the book in case a "surprise" purchase comes up. I know exactly how many items i can buy and at what price, and i know when the deal expires. So i, for one, will continue to shop only at Safeway.


Hechinger's, Revisited
Phil Greene

The new Tenley Circle Hechinger's was recently the subject of discussion, but for whatever reason I did not weigh in. Perhaps it's because I've had more disastrous encounters at area Hechinger's than I care to discuss. Let's just say that they have an uncanny knack for not having what I need. I don't know how many hours I've squandered at The World's Most Unusual Lumberyard, or how many times I've stormed out of there feeling like Michael Douglas in "Falling Down." So perhaps I was silent because I do want that location to succeed, and if you have nothing nice to say, why say anything? However, I learned something recently that irked me somewhat. My wife bought several items at the Tenley Hechinger's, a light fixture and some switches. She changed her mind about the light, and it seems that the switches were the wrong type, so I took them back for a refund.

But I didn't go to the Tenley store, I went to the Annandale store. When they scanned the items, the prices were lower at Annandale than what we'd paid at Tenley; the light was $19.99, when we paid $23.14, and the switches were $9.41 instead of $9.77. They explained that the Tenley store "reserved the right to charge higher prices on some items because their overhead is higher." I guess I shouldn't be surprised; you pay extra for convenience, and this practice is likely done by many chains. But still, I was a bit perturbed - after all, Hechinger's brags about matching competitor's prices, yet if you're not careful, they won't even match their own.


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.



Apartment Cleaner Sought. Does anyone know a reliable apartment cleaner or cleaning service? If so please respond to-- David Sobelsohn


Zoo Lecture: Dr. Don E. Wilson, mammalogist and director of biodiversity programs at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, will sign copies of "Bats in Question," his richly illustrated new book. Following the book signing, Dr. Wilson will present a slide-illustrated lecture. Join him for an inside look at the natural history of bats, exploring these elusive mammals' biology, from feeding, migration, and hibernation to repro- duction and echolocation.

19 February 1998. 7 p.m. Book signing and refreshments. 8 p.m. Lecture. Education Building, National Zoo. Enter at Connecticut Ave. Park in Lot A. Free, but please RSVP to me.

Margie Gibson, Office of Public Affairs, National Zoo NZPEM053@SIVM.SI.EDU RSVP LINE (202) 673-4801


If you’ve been using TV trays since 1988 because you can’t find the table and you hyperventilate when friends hint about visiting....If your file folders are bulging with bills, letters and manuscripts and you can’t decide what to keep and what to junk, don’t despair. I will bring order to your chaos. No mess too embarrassing! Reasonable fees by the hour or job. Paperwork a specialty. Call ShipShape at 202-362-0496 for a free telephone consultation. Our service is private and confidential.

Andrea Sexton


Moms With Nannies
Leslie Miles

Are your kids in school all day? Does your nanny have free time? If so, and you'd like to share your beloved nanny, I'd like to pay $7.50-$8.50 per hour, 3 hours a day, all during school hours for someone to watch my ten month old daughter in my home in Logan Circle. She'd also come out with us on occasion. Flexibility and your good reference both essential. Please call Leslie at 202-408-1622 or email me.


For sale: Large, glass aquarium tank, excellent condition. Dimensions -- 48" x 21" x 12 1/2" (50 or 60 gallon). Great for reptiles, small mammals, and fish of course. Gotta' unload -- $30/OBO. Liz Hoopes 202-232-1512


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.

Send mail with questions or comments to
Web site copyright ©DCWatch (ISSN 1546-4296)