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February 8, 1998

Your Electronic Backfence

dc.story is presented in association with Washington's News Station WTOP-1500 AM and 94.3 FM. Breaking news about the White House Investigation . . .at least twice an hour--only on WTOP. 1500 AM and 94.3 FM ~~~They're both WTOP!


Dear Neighbors:

Today's issue runs a little longer than I would like, so I will dispense with the pleasantries and quickly discuss a couple of housekeeping matters. First, postings are inching back up in size. Please keep your remarks short. Leave room for others to speak their minds. Second, if I send back a posting for editing, or you forget to add a crucial verb, resend the entire posting as it should be printed. Please don't ask me to cut and paste or take out every return caret mark in your posting. Give me a posting I can cut right into the newsletter.

Third, every few months I purge the mailing list of bounced addresses. Believe me, you have to be made of rubber cement before I will take you off the list. If you haven't aren't receiving dc.story twice weekly, there is probably something wrong at your end of the email pipeline. You may also wish to inform me that there's a problem so I won't delete you from the list while the problem is being fixed. dc.story is published every Sunday and Wednesday (much more often than not), so if you don't get it and you want it, it's best to find out why.

Jeffrey Itell February 8, 1998


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Who Subscribes to dc.story?
Cassandra Goodell

I am an African American woman living in Ward 3. Although your profile of subscribers may be true, it is incorrect to justify it with your statement: "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". Granted: it may also be true that the content of dc.story and the African American newspapers is different. But why should our dc.story postings mirror the subject matter chosen by the publishers of the African American press and thereby indicate our race? Why wouldn't our postings address the same issues that concern all dc.story subscribers? Another troubling implication is that you can use the subject choice of those who post to reflect the demographics of ALL subscribers (who are probably mostly lurkers). Your other arguments are fallacious too (e.g. about those who choose to attend the dc.story parties), but not offensive. I'm sure this was not your intent, but please be more cautious before mixing your logic and pre-conceived ideas.

[When asked by the Post reporter to describe dc.story subscribers, I said that I thought most readers were "mostly white, mostly professional." [Not mostly white professional, by the way.] My evidence is inferential, based on the content of postings, party and movie attendees, and the 200 folks or so I know who are subscribers. I didn't say that all subscribers were white or professional. I said most. Can I prove it? No. Do I doubt it? No. Do you believe it? Tell me.

Cassandra, I would ask your first question in a different way. Why does dc.story focus inordinately on the concerns of a portion of District residents rather than the city as a whole. When was the last time we talked about foster care, for instance? I'm quite pleased with the way dc.story has migrated from Ward 3 to Dupont Circle, Shaw, and Capitol Hill. The conversation has become broader and more interesting. But it can become even more so as we garner more subscribers and more diverse subscribers.

By the way, I didn't want to answer the reporters question about the list's demographics. I tried "I don't know" but that's a Bill Clinton type of answer. I didn't want to leave the impression that the list represented a cross-section of the city. How should I have answered the question? Jeffrey Itell]


Convention Center Confusions Continue
Steve Donkin

At the February 4 City Council roundtable to nominate Terence Golden to be chair of the Washington Convention Center Authority (WCCA) Board, Councilmember Ambrose expressed surprise and concern at Mr. Golden's contention in his testimony that the need for a new convention center is driven not so much by size (the justification used by proponents up to now) as by the desire to attract upscale, high-end conventioneers, who require less exhibit space than trade shows. Could it be that the WCCA, seeing that the Mt. Vernon Square site's lack of expandability is a serious source of concern, is now changing tactics by marketing it as a "boutique convention center" (Ambrose's term) rather than a massive trade show center in order to diffuse the opposition's arguments?

And if the strategy is now to attract upscale professional types, what happens to the promises WCCA made to the community to include space in the center for "public services, libraries, health facilities, social service facilities, job counseling and training services, police-community relations office, a teen or senior citizen center, and a day-care center" (from the Final Environmental Impact Statement)? I doubt that surrounding a convention center with service centers for poor folks is seen by WCCA as an effective way to attract upper-class business travelers. Get ready, Shaw, for some more broken promises.


Gildenhorn Innuendo
E. James Lieberman, M.D.

Now that Jeffrey Gildenhorn is pushing himself for mayor, I hope some reporters will ask about 1)the large tree cut down at Morrison and Connecticut about 7 years ago, an unsolved crime for which JG had been heard to express a possible motive: it interfered with the ability of northbound drivers to see his diner; and 2) what is the significance of the billboard (or non-billboard) above the diner, and how did he get permission to put it there?


NARPAC, Inc. Rides Again
Len Sullivan

The National Association to Restore Pride in America's Capital has upgraded its web site for February (See "What's New" at with new headline summaries, additional relevant web sites, and new correspondence to major players in DC's future. It offers a major new section describing DC's Economic Landscape, and summarizes the first annual report of the Emergency School Board of Trustees. It concludes with an open letter to General Becton urging him to "Damn the Snipers, General, Full Speed Ahead", offering four broad strategies for winning -- and mopping up! Feel free to visit the site, comment, and offer to help. Don't be one of the One Thousand Lurkers--it will cost you in the long run.


dc.story in the Post

Bob Levine

I was interested in reading the stories that had a reference to dc.story the Post web site gave me two references and for all the dc.story readers who are interested here they are: and

[Actually, dc.story is being cited much more frequently than Bob indicates. I've worked out attribution protocols with some of the Post reporters who use dc.story material regularly. Washington City Paper also scans dc.story carefully for story leads. Jeffrey]


The Out of Control Board and the Law
Barbara Somson

Mr. Seftor says he's not a lawyer, but even a nonlawyer can appreciate that we are a nation of laws, not of men. District Court Judge Kennedy's decision simply held that the Control Board does not have unlimited powers; it has only those powers expressly granted to it by the US Congress. In the UDC case, the Control Board argued that because Congress had expressly given it the power to approve contracts, it had implicitly given it the right to abrogate contracts. Noting that the US Constitution denies states the right to abrogate contracts, Judge Kennedy quoted from a recent DC Circuit Court case involving the Railway Labor Board: "The Board would have us presume a delegation of power from Congress absent an express withholding of such power. This comes close to saying that the Board has the power to do whatever it pleases merely by virtue of its existence, a suggestion that we view to be incredible." He went on to write, "Moreover, to accept [the Control Board's] postulate is to accord Congress little respect with regard either to its ability to manipulate language adequate to the task of expressing its intention or its sensitivity to a core value of American society, the sanctity of contracts."

I suggest that another core value of American society is that rules are to be followed, and laws obeyed. From my vantage point within the District government, I've concluded that one of the fundamental reasons the District is in such sad shape today is that for too long, too many people within the government have felt that the procedures, the rules, the regulations, and the laws do not apply to them. If the District is to improve, this must change. We should not encourage the Control Board to step outside the law, nor applaud it when it does. That's really all Judge Kennedy was saying.


UDC Firings

Harold Goldstein,

Mr. Seftor doesn't understand how U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy decided that the Control Board cannot fire UDC faculty members without considering their union contract. Perhaps he has never entered into a contractual arrangement but labor contracts are binding on both parties. Congress only has the legal right to abrogate state and local government contracts. They didn't pass this on to the Control Board in the case of the University. If Mr. Seftor feels that it appropriate for an ailing city to ignore its contractual agreements then maybe he believes that any company should be allowed to abrogate its contracts based on financial exigencies.

In fact as the Post article pointed out, and as faculty tried to point out a year ago, there were other options and actually the faculty put forward a detailed plan that would have saved the money without significant faculty layoffs or selling the radio station (which surprisingly created more of a furor here than the potential loss of the University did ... I guess list members value their music ahead of higher education in the city). I am also angered at the comments of Cropp and Norton in view of the fact that when we sought allies to force consideration of the options these people, as did everyone else, were no where to be seen.


Teacher Certification - Not a Good idea
Ed T. Barron

One of the biggest barriers to high quality teaching in our schools is, believe it or not, teacher certification. So-called teacher training is a mindless regimen of useless courses that would numb one's brain. Certification is merely a gimmick to give the teaching profession an aura of professionalism and the teachers' unions more clout in demanding higher salaries. The number of teachers nationwide who have masters degrees has more than doubled over the last twenty years. Most of these advanced degrees are not awarded in real subjects but rather in "Education". The recent revelation of the poor skills level of new and upcoming Virginia teachers in reading and writing further reinforces the idea that Certification is not the answer to putting able teachers in the classrooms.

Teachers learn the intricacies of teaching only by practice under the apprenticeship of a master teacher right in the classroom. Teachers unable to acquire the special talents needed to be a successful classroom teacher will soon find out that they have selected the wrong profession. Teachers must have an educational background (and or considerable experience) in the subjects that they are teaching. By eliminating the certification process it is very likely that the public schools could attract many very capable and enthusiastic teachers who know their subject well enough to teach it. There are plenty of potentially excellent teachers out there who belong in the classrooms but could never get there because of the outmoded concept of certification.


Water Bill Kills
Paul Williams

I just received my water bill today, and with no apologies, late notices, or other such fanfare, and it stated simply the number of days covered was 498. The last reading was on September 12, 1996! Part of the bill even included water at the old rate of $2.868 CU, which hasn't been in effect since April of 1997.....but that's water under the bridge.


Rock Creek Follies Redux
Ted Gest

The traffic control gurus have helpfully erected neon "do not enter" signs at the entrance of the Rock Creek Parkway off of Calvert Street that would fit well in a honky-tonk bar. One problem with the signs that they have been lit during the a.m. rush hour this week, implying that drivers may not enter, when in fact they are supposed to be able to enter (going toward downtown.) This surely confused anyone not familiar with that route. Among other things, this seems to be yet another solution in search of a problem.


DC Transit and O Roy Chalk
Rich Rothblum

Re Carl Bergman's story about O Roy Chalk's ripping off the District: I'm sure that Carl had to leave out a lot of the details, but Chalk not only managed to sell off the assets of the old DC Transit after it had become defunct. He managed to retain the best properties for himself. He kept the "Car Barn" in Georgetown, as well as other assets. Then, shortly after the a quasi-government coalition acquired the transit system, the new (public) owners of the transit system had to pay the city for the cost of tearing up the old trolley car tracks. So, Wolfson ripped off the city by bleeding the transit system, and Chalk finished the job by creaming off the capital assets. Life was not all roses before "home rule."


Fly Reagan
David Hunter

Just want to add my 2 cents about renaming the beautiful new National Airport after President Reagan. I use this airport and it is a gateway for my friends as well as other Americans and foreigners to come into this city. Nations capitol=National. President Reagan already has named after him the brand new, largest federal office building in the world, (besides the Pentagon) International Trade Center, and a US aircraft carrier. If we are going to name this airport after anybody how about Sen. John Glenn who is taking this country on an amazing journey this fall back into space. I'm sure the air traffic controllers who were fired in 1982 by President Reagan probably would feel much better about it also.


Fly Reagan
Damian Buckley

They've renamed Washington National Airport (DCA) for former President Ronald Reagan. What is wrong with National? Reagan already has a very BIG building with his name on it downtown. My concern, though, is what on earth will they rename for Bill Clinton?

[The Washington Monument? Sorry, I couldn't resist. Jeffrey]


More Bikers from Hell
Richard "Agonistes" Rothblum

John Whiteside misinterpreted my plea not to inflict the "death penalty" on rambunctious bicyclists. I wasn't talking about legal penalties. I was speaking of the motorist, who, offended by a real or perceived transgression by a cyclist, attempts to "teach a lesson" using his car.

Did you know that a bicycle has as much right on the road in DC as a car? Cyclists also have a right to ride on the sidewalk, except in "the central business district." The former used to be interpreted as cyclists being entitled to occupy a full traffic lane (along with horses). I have never seen this honored or enforced. I consider myself lucky to be allowed more than a foot by passing cars. Passing a cyclist too closely is extremely dangerous and inconsiderate as well as illegal. A cyclist might have many reasons to suddenly swerve a couple of feet to one side or another. You never know when someone is going to open a car door in your face! To a cyclist, it is taking a big chance to ride through a simple puddle on the road. The point I have been trying to make is that cyclists are more sinned against than sinning. An aggressive cyclist is a hell of a lot less of a public problem than an aggressive motorist. Of all road users, it is the cyclist who is the most likely to suffer.


More From the Bikeways
Tony Ross

The problem is that it doesn't matter which way you ride, you generally won't be treated like another vehicle either way. I used to ride "safe" (i.e not running lights, not riding down one-way streets) and now I ride what I call "aggressively (run a light if I can see clearly, weave among cars if I am moving at their speed, etc.). I've not noticed any variation in how cars treat me. When I ride aggressively I have be a little more alert, but that's on me. If I get hit due to my inattention, that's on me and it's no different that if I hit someone while driving. The reality is that over the last 10 years of riding to work in DC I have been warned by a cop for running a light once, been hit by taxis three times (each time they were committing moving violations and fled the scene), been hit by a private car (ran a light, stopped and checked to see if I was OK), and had doors opened on me seven times (with varying results). So, what's my point? I've had so many friends hurt badly while on their bikes and breaking no road law, that it is difficult to hear the other side a lot of the time.

By the way, I have this pet theory that in DC there are many, many drivers who are not at all familiar with sharing the road with cyclists (e.g.. foreign-born taxi drivers, diplomats, tourists), making the city more dangerous to cyclists than many other cities.

[Why do you think most DC drivers, foreign and domestic, are used to sharing the road with other drivers. :-) Jeff]


Bureaucrats Have Visions Too
Anne Drissel

If anyone has question about the limited vision of federal bureaucrats, I suggest you drop into the National Museum of American Art at 8th and G Streets and look for "The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations Millennium General Assembly".... It will blow you away! Made of recycled materials by a DC resident named James Hampton, the gold, tinfoil, glass and paperboard assemblage is absolutely stunning -- It was created in a garage on N Street by Mr. Hampton, who was a janitor for the General Services Administration. He began renting the garage in 1950 and his incredible artifact was discovered when he died in 1964. (By the way -- plan to spend time in this lesser-known museum -- it's a treat to be reminded that we have some amazing artists here in America too!) Before we so quickly condemn "bureaucrats" as useless and incompetent -- perhaps we should search for the soul and vision that person carries for this city, the nation, and the world!


What the Hechinger?
Kelly Parden

Ahhh, I love a good Hechinger's story. I'll never forget the time that I bought a new toilet seat -- yes, they do wear out after a while]] --for my new apartment. When I opened the box I found that I had purchased a used toilet seat. So, you ask, how do i know that it was used? Well, it had urine and feces stains. When I took it back to Hechinger's (in beautiful upscale Vienna, Virginia) and explained to the pimple faced teenage clerk, all I got was an "oh, ok". I couldn't resist writing a letter to John Hechinger, but of course never heard back. Thank goodness for Home Depot....Now if we can only get them to come into the District.


Win, Win, Win at the Safeway Lottery!!!
Jeffrey "longtime listener; first-time caller" Hops

Re: Safeway's (in)competence in pricing -- The chain's policy is that if the price is wrong (and you catch it), you get the item free. With a little careful policing, their lassitude can be your gain. Over three years of shopping at the 20th & S Townhouse, I've probably received about $100 worth of stuff in this manner. On the average, something was mis-priced at that store one in every four times I shopped there (I recently moved nearer to the 17th St. Safeway, and haven't made any determination about the error rate there). Needless to say, the error is ALWAYS in the store's favor, so I have no discomfort in alleging intentionality (unintentional errors would be randomly distributed between overpriced and underpriced items).

Now for MY question: With all the antitrust lawyers living in DC, how come no-one at the antitrust division of DOJ has taken Safeway and Giant to court for engaging in territorial monopolization in the District? Washington has higher grocery prices than almost any other major city in the country -- including New York City, where several chains plus the proliferation of "Korean markets" keeps prices in control. Any antitrust lawyers in the audience care to explain why no-one has brought a case which is staring them in the face?


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.



Tax Preparer Wanted: I moved from DC to MD this year and am in need of someone local who can prepare my taxes for a reasonable rate. Please email any recommendations directly to me. Holly Eaton


Press conference on U.S. Public Opinion on Governance of Washington, D.C.
Mark David Richards, Senior Associate, Bisconti Research, Inc. (202) 347-8822 (W)

Thursday, Feb. 12, 1998 at 12 noon. Murrow Room of the National Press Club, 14th and F Street NW. Mark Richards, public opinion researcher, will present findings of new public opinion poll of U.S. adults. Timothy Cooper, Executive Director of Democracy First will present proposal for Citizens Legislature. Open to the public. Questions, call Tim Cooper at 202/244-9479.


On SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 14 at 8 p.m., the Washington Storytellers Theatre celebrates Valentine's Day with popular New England storyteller CAROL BIRCH. In "Happily-Ever-After: Love Stories, More or Less," a storytelling program for adults, the nationally acclaimed performer tells of the wonder that love may work unexpectedly beneath a disharmony of surfaces.

"Happily-Ever-After: Love Stories, More or Less" will be performed at the Writer's Center, 4508 Walsh Street, 1/2 block from Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda. The center is a seven-block walk from the Bethesda Metro Station; convenient parking is also available. Tickets are $10; $8 for theatre members, students and senior citizens. For reservations or information, call (301) 891-1129. Robert Revere Jr.


Couples Massage Class. Three hour training on Back, Neck, Arms and Shoulders. February 15th, 2-5pm Everything supplied but YOU! Small class, secure environment. BodyWise BodyWorks 3701 Conn. Ave. Cleveland Park CALL: 202-966-6113 Jenn Weed



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


Affordable Housing.
Charles Dale, Jr. 202-362-5800

Pardoe Real Estate announces a joint effort with LEDC, the Latino Economic Development Corporation, to provide affordable housing in the Washington, D.C. area. A completely renovated four-bedroom home with a new kitchen and carpeting is now on the market. The home is priced under $130,000 and is listed with Charles Dale, Jr.


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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