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February 18, 1998

Your Electronic Backfence

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Dear Neighbors:

You may have noticed a pattern. Everytime I improve my hardware or software, this transmission becomes degraded. I'm thinking of turning in my lugnuts for a Luddite degree. However, I'm determined to overcome this problem. The situation is this: I have to produce copy that reads well on the least sophisticated email reader. That means plain ASCII text, which means everyone should be receiving copy that wraps correctly and does not contain unusual formatting codes (such as a "92" where an apostrophe should be). I may not be able to fix everyone's problem -- some are inherent on your systems at home -- but I should not be pushing out jumble like the last issue either. Therefore, if this issue contains formatting, wrapping, or spacing problems, please send me a note with just a small sample of what the problem looks like. (Please do not copy the entire message.) Put the word "Yuck" in the subject line so all the messages are forwarded to the same mailbox. Also, if a tech-head out there has a solution for me, please step forward. I am composing in Eudora 4.0 plain text, copying to Word for grammar and spell check, and saving the file as plain text with no line breaks. Until I recently upgraded to Eudora 4.0, I composed and edited exclusively in Eudora. However, since upgrading, I am experiencing weird sentence wrapping and spacing errors that are fixed by my current method.


Sonya Proctor? Does anyone understand this story? The Acting Police Chief certainly has a right to relieve District commanders of their duty, but it does seem like a bone-headed play to oust popular officers without public justification. Because Proctor has a reputation for working very well with the community, this action does not coincide with her reputation. So what is she up to? Clearly, she wants to place her imprimatur on the MPD in the run up to the selection process. Alternatively, perhaps she knows she will not get the D.C. position and is burnishing her reputation for a position elsewhere. (I suppose that's why she is schmoozing in Vegas right now.) Maybe she is right about the leaders she ousted and has good reasons for not offering a rationale to the public. In any event, this event leaves a sour taste.

The sourest reason, of course, is the instantaneous demagoguing of this issue by the politicians, including the mayor, who appears to spend most of his time of the tennis courts these days, and Councilmember Kevin Chavous, who is only recently learning that it is advantageous to run a political campaign from his council office rather than his law office. However, local "activists" in the city, I believe, sometimes are to blame. When people do not get exactly what they want, the rhetoric level makes Saddam sound like Jane Austin. A plea for a modicum of civil discourse, please. Just because each of us is right on all issues all the time (naturally) does not mean that everyone else is a lying, cheating dunderhead.

Jeffrey Itell February 18, 1998


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The Friends of Jack Evans
Carl Bergman

Jack Evans is a lucky guy. He has some good, civic-minded buddies who are willing to ante up for his mayoral campaign. There's good ole 3067 M Street, good for $2,000. Not to be outdone 2130 P Street and the ever-steadfast Georgetown Exxon -- though it only managed $1,000. My favorite is Potomac's geographically confused 1722 Eye Street Associates. The Post noted that many of Evans contributors were from outside DC, about one-third by my count. The Post report also shows a substantial amount of Evans money coming from corporations, again about one-third. The dollar difference between private and corporate donations is startling. On average, an Evans corporate contributor gave almost two dollars for an individual's one. Put another way, about 70 corporate contributors gave an average of $1,300. There were about 160 individual contributions averaging $655.

In fairness to Evans, there's nothing illegal about corporate contributions. It has been done for years in DC. However, if this were a congressional election, corporate contributions would be banned, period. Evans would be in it deep. The reason for a ban is simple. It's impossible to know who is behind a corporate contribution, and there is no end to the number of corporations that can be created. Corporate contributions allow donors to hide behind a corporate shield and to leverage untold dollars into a campaign. DC's system fares poorly even when compared to federal practice - a low standard indeed, but one the city's campaign laws don't meet. If city hall is to be for sale, at least it ought to be to humans and not 4444 M Street, etc.


Outside the Profile, Inside the Community
Kenneth Mason

I do not fit the oversimplified profile that Jeffrey gave to the reporter. However I concur with his assessment; I concur with the method he used to arrive at that assessment; I concur that is it always better to define yourself rather than letting the press do it for you, even if your definition is reluctant; I concur that Jeffrey should not collect demographic or geographic information, nor divulge it; I concur that Jeffrey should not divulge numerical information. I won't even go to the issue of relevant or non- to the African-American community. It seems to be a "no consensus possible" topic. dc.story works well enough for me, and I figure it will get better and broader over time. FYI, I am African-American and low income. (Slightly above the U.S. govt. official poverty line, but trust me, Low Income).


Rent Control
John Whiteside

David Power writes about how rent control is for "all of us" but property owners are apparently not "us." The problem is, rent control is just bad economics, and inherently unfair; asking one property owner to subsidize another individual in the name of affordable housing is not reasonable. A property owner who cannot charge a fair rent is going to get money back in other ways -- such as not maintaining the property. A better solution is to provide funds for subsidized housing for those who need it, and not place the burden on individual property owners. Power's argument amounts to "I like my freebie and I'm gonna fight for it," and it's not very convincing.


Cellular Towers in Rock Creek Park
Rich Mintz

I can't say that I share the strong negative feelings of some recent posters regarding the arrival of cellular telephone antenna towers in Rock Creek Park. Rock Creek Park cuts through the middle of a densely populated urban core, is crossed by eight or ten major automobile thoroughfares, and in fact has one running up its spine. (Like it or not, those are the facts on the ground, aren't they?) The park is very heavily used by a range of recreational users with cellular phones as well as passers-through, and to act as though it were a wilderness, or even to wish it were, is not, it seems to me, realistic. I don't see what compelling public interest would be served by declaring that the Park should be a cellular-free zone (on the contrary, there's very much a public interest associated with ensuring that cellular telephones, which more and more people carry for reasons of security, work particularly well in the most secluded areas of the city). That is: the towers may be an unfortunate byproduct of the convenience of cellular telecommunications, but are they really a disaster?

Although I fully understand that the circumstances are not identical, this reminds me of hearing residents of Boston's Back Bay complain about Newbury Street restaurant noise at a community meeting many years ago. The presiding officials, quite rightly in my view, gently pointed out that Newbury Street had been full of restaurants and bars before those residents arrived and would likely be that way after they were long gone, and that part of the bargain in choosing to live in a densely populated city -- and these were affluent individuals who could afford to live elsewhere -- is to accept a certain level of managed urban disorder. Also, in the interest of full disclosure: I am a cellular telephone owner, and twice can remember having carried on a cellular telephone conversation while driving through Rock Creek Park.


Rock Creek Space Needles
Richard "Cell-Head" Rothblum,

Unfortunately, parkland suffers from a lack of assigned monetary value. That is why it is always easy to put undesirable projects in the park. If the sponsors were forced to consider the costs of demolishing urban property to execute their plans, they would likely find them uneconomic. That is why we now have leaking sanitary (unsanitary?) sewers running the length of Glover Archbold Park and Rock Creek Park, spoiling the enjoyment for users of the park. That is also why we have commuter roads, laughably dubbed "Parkways," through almost every park of any size around here. I would like to see a law that required those who would use parkland for commercial or municipal purposes to have to purchase and demolish other urban developed land adjoining the park. This land would then be dedicated to the park to replace the land despoiled by their project. This would allow a proper monetary value to be placed on the use of parkland for purposes other than as a park. I doubt that many of the proposals for parkland use would survive this requirement. And, if they did, the park would not suffer in the long term. In the case of the towers, there might be a question of how much land would be the equivalent of the land used or spoiled by the tower, but this could be resolved. Properly assigning costs would solve many the problems of development.


Antenna Opposition Battlefield
Kenneth Mason,

I too, oppose cellular antennas, as proposed, in Rock Creek Park. But where is the battlefield? Did the W.Post article give information about a comment period, place to write or call, list of public comment meetings, etc. If anyone knows of these, please advise. The telcos ultimate aim is seamless coverage of the entire N.American continent. So, this issue will impact you or people you know sooner of later. I agree that telephone users can do without coverage all through RCPark. The telcos have, however, won more court and legislative battles than they have lost to date. There is some room for compromise. The antennas do not have to be steel towers and top off at above tree line level to work. That is the best for telcos (cheapest & best coverage). In many places thought, they have been limited to tree level height and forced to mask towers with artificial trees or other means. My position would be NO towers at all, but limited height & sight at worst.


Cheated Teachers
Art Spitzer

Speaking about " teachers at virtually every school who have never gotten raises to which they're entitled after receiving master's degrees due to the same dysfunctional personnel office that has remained dysfunctional throughout the generals' 15-month tenure," Kathy Patterson asks: "what do we do with grown-ups who don't learn?" I don't know what to do about a dysfunctional personnel office, but one thing these teachers can do is sue. If they have a contractual right to a pay raise and the contract hasn't been honored, they'll win. One teacher may not be able to afford a lawyer but a group can share the costs. In union, there is strength. I do not think this would be an ACLU case, but I would be happy to help them find a lawyer.


Teacher Certifications
Harold Goldstein

Mike Hill correctly points out that 'Every profession in this country, including doctors, architects, engineers, and building tradesmen, promotes certification and continuing education' ... It is, however to compare the teaching profession with these professions simply because teachers are not treated as professionals and that goes a long way to explain the problems that exist in the profession. Kathy Patterson gave an example of that but a quick look at the relative pay scales provides another. Until the teaching profession is treated as it should be, there is little incentive for the best and brightest of our kids to consider it as a rewarding field. It is certainly not rewarding financially and, with inner city school systems in disarray, few teachers emotional rewards are not the norm either. I am not in disagreement with the need for certifications (as if our present system insures a better product) and continuing education but merely possessing the paper doesn't translate to quality and until the above issues are dealt with the quality of our teachers will continue to degrade.


Teacher Certification
Joe Davidson

If teacher certification is so important why do people spend over $10,000 a year to a pricey private school for the privilege of having their children taught by uncertified teachers?


Teacher Certification
Dorothy Persiflage

On teacher certification, recent evidence seems to be on Ed's side. "Educators" have had the lowest SAT scores and employment salaries for a long time now, and it shows, and has shown, in the "dumbing down" of our kids. Mike Hill wrote, "every profession in this country...promotes certification and continuing education." I think the problem with this analogy -- invoking John Stuart Mill's rules of analogy, thank you very much -- is that all of those professions listed have generally accepted and relatively objective standards of practice and performance. "Educators" seem to fall into a much more squishy discipline, almost in the ballpark with psychics and astrologers, where standards are tantalizingly ineffable, and where, as a result, all sorts of political, ideological, and just plain crazy ideas are allowed to take root, and run rampant. I'd prefer that the Math teacher knew how to find the circumference of a circle from it's diameter...but I suspect that part of the problem with our current public education is precisely that the highest value seems to be "knowing the current thinking..." In Ken Burns' Civil War series I was very impressed with the erudition in letters by common soldiers, taught, no doubt, by teachers without the powerful benefit of our "current thinking." But alas, Miss Persiflage is hopelessly out of date, not having fully adapted to the post-structuralist, deconstructionist, non-Euclidean intoxication with sexual, racial, Marxist, and other modalities of deeply phenomenological thought, speaking directly to her existential, bone-marrow, angst.


Teacher Certification
Dk black

Ed Barron is absolutely correct about teacher certification. It's a waste of time that only serves to prevent anyone not devoted to government school mediocrity as a career from becoming a teacher for a few years. The empirical evidence is overwhelming. Private schools do not require certification. Private schools provide superior education. Certification does nothing to enhance the quality of the education delivered. Imagine how much better our public high schools would be if English, History and Math teachers could be drawn from the ranks of real scholars doing real research in their fields. But they can't, because no one doing serious academic work has the time or inclination to take the worthless certification courses. However, I have seen the benefit that such teachers have in a private school setting. They are excited by their studies and they communicate that excitement to their high school students. All too often, the "professional" teacher is a bureaucratized, unionized, burnout case.


MLK Day Activities
Kenneth Mason

This is a late response to an MLK Day (mid-January holiday) issue. A dc.story subscriber posted an item slightly critical of Pres. Clinton spending the day painting at a DC school. He incorrectly hinted that the day was about doing service in schools. The central theme that many are trying to get that day to become is that it is not to be a "day off" but rather a "day on" for people to "engage in citizen service." It just so happened that Clinton chose to do his "citizen service" at a school. The point is that MLK Jr was about lots of ideas for a better human society, not just civil rights for African-Americans. Its not too early to think about what you might do on that day next year to celebrate and affirm any of the many ideas MKL was about. In my opinion, dc.story itself is one such ongoing community-building forums the dear Dr. King would like.


More on Bikes
John Whiteside

A clarification after reading Richard Rothblum and Tony Ross's comments on bikes: I am not "the other side!" I always take care to respect cyclists. I just wish more cyclists would follow the law. In addition, no one should "teach someone a lesson" with their vehicle, whether the student is on a bike, motorcycle, in a passenger car, or driving a semi. My point is just that fining cyclists is a reasonable thing. Of course, drivers of other vehicles should be fined a lot more often too....


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Profoundly disabled man in upper northwest (Conn Ave) looking for someone to prepare 97 tax returns for IRS and D C. Federal 1040 Scheds. A & B & D. Standard deduction-no itemization. Can have delivered and picked up but prefer preparer to make house call. Please E-mail or or tele: (202) 362-2355 and quote approx. fee. Dennis W. Moore

As a new mother, I go through many baby food jars. I can't accept throwing all this glass into the garbage without recycling, and I live in the District, so I have no recycling. However, I recall reading in the Washington Post - not too long ago -- about people setting up recycling in their own neighborhoods. Anybody out there been there and done that? I could use some recycling mentoring. Denyse Tannenbaum

Looking for a person, or company, that is good & reasonable for working on hot water radiator heating systems. Any recommendations? R. Frazier

Does anyone know of any ski trips going to Tahoe or Telluride some time during the first three weeks of March? Robbie Pitt


On February 25, Representative Gary Ackerman (D-NY), a member of the International Relations Committee, will provide an insider's perspective on the Middle East. 7:00 PM at the Rayburn House Office Building, Room B-354 (Capital South Metro). This free event will provide free food. Sponsored by the DC/JCC Institute for National Public Leadership and Impact DC. Call Karen David at 202.518.9400, ext. 269 for more information. David Vyorst

Michael K. Wilkinson 202-483-2271

Open House this weekend 3-7 Sat & Sun. Harrison-Norris Gallery, 1517 U Street NW, 518-0208. Painter/Designer Dwayne Whitman and Photographer/Printer Paul Haynes have added to the U Street scene with an unusual art gallery and home design studio. Downstairs is a boutique with old and new home furnishings, oil paintings, photographs, and other design details for the home. Upstairs is an elegant and serene art gallery. Now showing through March 15 is a group exhibition of oil paintings, drawings, sculpture, and fine photography."


Latin Dance Parties to Benefit the Good Knight Child Empowerment Network March 26, April 23, and April 29
Bruce McBarnette (703) 404-8429

7:30pm - until at Fellini's 1800 M Street, NW Washington DC. Salsa and Merengue Classes, dance performance, and music provided by "El Salsero" Ricardo. Food and Silent auction included. Business attire. $6 in advance, $10 at the door. To purchase in advance: write check to Good Knight Child Empowerment Network; mail at least 4 day prior to Bruce McBarnette 248 Willow Terrace, Sterling, VA 20164; include number of tickets you want, date of dance, and your phone number. Tickets will be at door. The Good Knight Child Empowerment Network is a charity that protects children by providing safety awareness training.


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

Need Help With Your Computer Needs At Home or In The Office?
Patty Friedman 202-232-3449

Back-up and archive your files and email on CD-ROM; setup computer network for the small office; build customized database in Access or other programs; web training and web page development; port service for the small office; PC hardware repairs and upgrades; hardware/software installation and upgrades; maintenance, troubleshooting and network support; application/Internet training; data recovery. Reasonable rates. Excellent references.

Car for Sale.
Holly Eaton

1996 Honda Civic DX. Only 16,000 miles. 2-door, A/C, stereo w/cass. $10,500 OBO. Call Kara at 703-553-8251.


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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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