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February 25, 1998

Your Electronic Backfence

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Dear Neighbors:

Many kudos to Marie Drissel and Carl Rowan, Jr. for honoring MPD's finest on Monday night. Buddy Jan Genzer reports that the honored officers - who received no honors from their own police farce - were deeply moved by the ceremony and large turnout. Many dc.story subscribers apparently braved the El Nino weather to celebrate the golden core of the rotten apple.

Jeffrey Itell February 25, 1998


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Carl Bergman @

Ever noticed a lot of hydrants are painted funny. There's one in front of John Eaton Elementary, for example. It and its brothers are left overs from the bicentennial celebration in 76. Haven't been painted in 22 years. Now, thanks to WRC, Channel 4, it appears there are a lot of hydrants that are neglected on the inside too. According to WRC, several hundred of the city's hydrants don't work. Haven't worked for years. This is not small inconvenience, it's literally playing with fire. No municipal service is older or more essential to the city's well being. It's possible to do without many services - and we have. It's also possible to sub or fake others - such as fire trucks for ambulances. There's no way to do without water to fight a fire.

There's an immediate problem, the city needs to identify the broken hydrants and fix them ASAP. If that's not possible, they'd better identify what's working and how they'll cover for those that aren't. If one of mine were out, I'd make four calls, first to my council member to find out what plan the city has. Next to my insurance agent to see what happens to my rates. Then to my lawyer, sounds like municipal nonfeasance to me. Finally, I'd call the Water and Sewer Authority with this question. Months ago, during the safe water scare, you said you'd flushed out all 9,500 hydrants. How did you flush dead hydrants?


Keep Marion in Israel
Tom Berry @

So, Marion wants to go to Israel. There are many justifiable reasons why he shouldn't and we'll probably read more than a few here. But I can't resist another suggestion: let's encourage him to make the trip and beg Israel to refuse to extradite him!

[Or as one reader asked, "What the odds we could swap Marion for Sheinbaum, or would it be obvious that we'd be getting the bargain?"]


Reinstalling Parking Meters in Downtown
Dennis Moore at

"They (meters) add money to the treasury to provide, services, lower taxes, and make the world safe". Which one are you on Zolof, Ritalin, Geeesh! Provide money to the treasury alright, but for you know who to take various junkets to real cities a la Jerusalem, Anywhere, et al.


School Follies, Part 5,428
Ted Gest @

Remember last fall, when the D.C. schools started three weeks late? It seems that our unaccountable officials are going to try remedying the situation by starting the week BEFORE Labor Day this year, something never done in my 13 years with a child in the schools. Have they announced this plan? No, it took several phone calls to find out that one of the many boards has proposed this to another, with no public announcement that I know of. Who cares, you might ask? Well, some people do plan summer jobs, vacations, etc., well in advance, and assume some regularity of schedules. But that may not be the case. And yes, I know that this problem pales next to the truly serious problems of poor student test scores, teachers' leaving, etc., but it's another sad indication of why people become annoyed at the new crew of officials who have come in to save us...


Attorney General
Stephanie Mencimer @ (the usual disclaimers)

While the idea of an elected attorney general in the District may seem like a good fix to the city's many problems, creating such a post would likely be an incredibly complicated act, and one that Congress is unlikely to agree to. The District already has something akin to a district attorney, although an unelected one, in the office of the corporation counsel. The corp counsel has the authority to prosecute a host of different crimes categorized as "District" offenses. None rises above the level of a misdemeanor. Instead, the corp counsel has authority to prosecute people for things like urinating in public, drunk driving, juvenile delinquency, D.C. tax offenses, as well as building code violations--stuff the Eric Holders of the world would rather not be bothered with. The U.S. Attorney in the District is not only charged with prosecuting federal crimes, but also crimes that in other jurisdictions would be state crimes handled by an attorney general. Where an AG would fit in to the city's current legal system is unclear, and it would probably require reworking a host of different laws to give an AG the power to prosecute felonies that is now held by the US Attorney. Congress already thinks District residents are hopelessly incompetent voters. The chance that it will authorize city residents to vote for another elected official is slim to none.

The current corp counsel, John Ferren, is a well respected former appellate judge who is just the kind of person one would hope would be elected as attorney general. The problem is that his job is severely limited by the District's justice system, as well as by an office that is badly organized and underfunded. However, creative members of his office have found ways to use what power they have to address quality of life crimes in the District. For instance, a couple of years ago, Robert Rigsby, now Ferren's principal deputy, prosecuted Kingsley Anyanwutaku, the city's most notorious slumlord, for numerous violations of the city's building code and tax laws. By piling up every conceivable D.C. misdemeanor offense that could be leveled at Anyawutaku, Rigsby and attorneys David Rosenthal and Nan Reiner managed to put the slumlord away for an unheard of six years in prison. As for David Catania's notion that an elected AG would be more aggressive prosecuting corrupt government officials, I'm skeptical. The elected council has the ability to investigate corruption through the D.C. Auditor's office. The council can subpoena people for hearings, and can use its bully pulpit to pressure the U.S. Attorney to prosecute corrupt officials. They rarely do, though. Maybe Catania will take up the job himself.


Special D.C. Prosecutor Bad Idea
Paul Michael Brown @

I don't think it would be a good idea to create an elected "special prosecutor" to "clean up" the District government. Granted, the image of some of the worst offenders doing time at the Crossbar Hilton is appealing. But the fallacy here is that the misfeasance, malfeasance and nonfeasance that infests the District bureaucracy rises to the level of criminal conduct. Most of it, while reprehensible, doesn't. The criminal process is a very blunt instrument: you're either guilty or you're not. It is a poor tool for imposing management reform. This task properly belongs in the political branch of government, not in the judicial branch.


The Courage of One's Convictions
Ed T. Barron @

You have to admire Sonya Proctor for standing up for those things that she believes are right and in the interest of the District. I can think of only two others in the District Government with this admirable trait: Kathy Patterson and Tony Williams. Some other well publicized wusses, Chavous and Evans, for example, are like weather vanes who swing to the side of the hot air coming from local vocal fans when a controversial subject comes up. And where is Carol Schwartz hiding? Has she made any constructive contributions to the management of the city since her election to the Council? Or is she lying low waiting for a run against Barry (her luncheon companion of late) in November?


Parking Meters
Stephanie Mencimer @ (the usual disclaimers)

One more note: I'm thrilled that Camille Barnett has decided to make fixing the parking meters a priority. That seems to me a perfectly reasonable place to start. The results will be an immediately visible sign that perhaps the city is recovering--and Lord knows the District could use the revenue that comes from the meters. The control board would have been a lot better off if it had tackled beheaded parking meters rather than embroiling itself in messy public policy decisions over rent control and other issues better settled by the city's elected officials. The city's parking meter security crew, headed up by a stellar public servant named Ron Jackson, has long had the ability to fix the meters itself if only the control board had approved a small amount of money to buy repair parts two years ago. Instead, the board refused to allocate money for repairs because it was pushing an effort to privatize the whole parking meter operation. Now we have a completely demoralized public work force and still no functioning parking meters. (As an aside, Jackson is in charge of tracking down the meter beheaders and helping prosecute them. His results show that the beheadings are the work mostly of homeless people and drug addicts looking for loose change, not trying to make a statement.)


Rent Control
Richard "Been There" Rothblum @

David F. Power says that "John Whiteside voices a common misconception about rent control. Rent control is not a "subsidy" from the landlord to the tenant. Rent control is guaranteed profit to the landlord, with regulated limits." The DC Rent Control Act allows the landlord to raise rents in order to make a certain return on capital, defined in a very restricted way. This is the way it works:

You save your hard-earned money by deferring the purchase of things you want. Then, you borrow a lot more, using as collateral your house, salary and all your possessions. You decide to invest in the future of DC by buying an apartment building in one of the cheaper neighborhoods of the city, because that is all you can afford, and it seems like a better idea than stocks. Yes, there is the problem of rent control, but this is a kind of benign system which helps everyone. Repairs and maintenance on the building are a lot more than you ever expected. Vacancy rates are high. You are working hard to keep everything together. There is no cash flow, even though according to the District's rent control formula, you are making a fair profit. You still have to pay the mortgage. Then, the District Government raises the price of water. This is one of your biggest expenses, and the increase will put you in a seriously negative cash flow position you can't sustain. You're not quite making that "fair profit," according to DC. You apply for a hardship increase in rent, even though simply making out the application is going to cost still more cash.

Eventually, you are allowed to raise your rent. You raise the rent, and as predicted by proponents of rent control, your tenants leave, and you have less money coming in than before. You'd like to just abandon everything, board up your buildings, take your licks, and walk away. Think again. The only place you're going to walk is to jail, and you needn't bother picking up your possessions, because they're gone as well.

Right now, you can buy apartment buildings in DC for less than $10,000 per unit. Less than the cost of a cheap automobile, and way less than what it would cost to replace these same structures. Why don't all you rent control advocates rush out and buy a few? You're guaranteed a profit! Better yet, why not build some new apartments, or rehab some boarded up ones? Sound like a good idea? God bless you.


Cell Towers
Kelly Parden @

The whole idea that the cellular antenna towers in Rock Creek Park are necessary for public safety is a bogus and ludicrous argument. If you are so concerned about safety, then get a CB radio. That way you can tote the antenna around with you and your carbon monoxide producing automobile and maintain constant communication with the authorities in the event of a life threatening emergency. Realistically, RC Park Creek is heavily traveled by the public and also actively patrolled by the MPD and the Park Police. The threat of being lost in the forests of Rock Creek Park for days without food and water is absurd.


Rock Creek Park Antennas
Charlie Adler @

Concerning the visual "monstrosity" of cellular antenna's and their towers being placed in Rock Creek Park, most people don't even notice the antenna, unless they are placed on full fledged towers. Most likely we're talking monopoles which can be painted any color and look like, believe it or not, street lights. I haven't heard anyone complain about street lights effecting the "essential elements of the ecosystem in this area". If I'm wrong, and they are considering building full fledged towers, drive up Wisconsin Ave., to the Tenleytown area sometime and you will see one of the biggest towers I've ever seen in the middle of our bucolic neighborhood. Two points: 1)you'd be amazed at the "monstrosities" you can get comfortable with over time (not everyone thinks the National Cathedral is that beautiful), 2)Cell towers and monopoles are pretty benign. You all should focus your fears on the "pornographic" video store in Tenleytown, then you'll forget about the cell antennas.


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.



DC Driver's Licences Without Social Security Numbers
Bill Adler @

Does anybody know how to renew a DC driver's license and get a new license number -- so you don't have to use your social security number? I understand that it can be done, but the idea of trying to accomplish this without any preparation is a little frightening.


Bike Query
Mike Hill at

A while ago (18 months?) the Transportation Dept. published a plan for alternative transportation modes in DC. It included light rail, walking trails, and extensive bike trails. I think the Capital Cresent Trail is a part of this proposal, but many of the trails were urban throughways with separate, protected bike lanes. Does anyone know what's happening?


Jewish Singles Party
Michael S. Goldstein @

Sunday 3/1 The Society of Young Jewish Professionals- sponsors of the Matzo Ball, presents the Hamen's Hoedown at Tel-Aviv Cafe, located at 4867 Cordell Ave, Bethesda, MD. Doors open at 8pm. For directions call 301-718-9068. The party will feature a DJ, Dancing, & Hors D'oeuvres, $15 at the door and it's Ladies Night- Ladies $10 all night! Any questions or comments contact us at or call us at 202-452-5541. Please visit our web page at


Zoo Lecture

Last call for Hawaiian Bird Lecture, 5 March @ 7:30 PM. Dr. Sheila Conant, zoology professor at the University of Hawaii, will present Remote Oceania: The Biology, Archaeology, and History of Hawaii's Leeward Islands. In a slide-illustrated lecture, Dr. Conant will talk about the incredible variety of bird species that evolved on the islands. She will also consider effects that the arrival of humans had upon the avian population, and will draw upon archaeology and history to better understand the current threats to Hawaiian bird life.

Free but please RSVP to me by telephone or email. All events at the National Zoo Education Building. Enter at Connecticut Avenue. Park in Lot A.

Margie Gibson RSVP Line (202) 673-480


Executive Assistant/Office Manager wanted for Political Consulting/PR Firm
Jennifer Laszlo @

Are you detail driven, able to handle many tasks at the same time, and skilled in computers? Do you have good writing, communications, scheduling and bookkeeping skills? Send resume and cover letter to: Attn. Personnel, Laszlo & Associates, Inc. 1000 Wilson Blvd, Suite 960, Arlington, VA 22209. 20-28K plus healthcare and vacation, depending on experience.


Free Ping Pong Table
Phil Greene @

To quote Neil Young, it's old but it's good. Complete with net, paddles and even a ball that my dog didn't eat. Come and get it before Bulk Trash does.


Aries Akeck at (202.326.7041)

I'm looking to fill a spot in a fantastic two-story apartment in a Victorian Mount Pleasant townhouse. (1704 Lamont St.) VERY close to the bus lines. One nice-sized bedroom with closets and its own bathroom. Washer/Dryer. A private entrance. You're sharing the place with a couple who's been living together happily for a year. (Our old roommate has been transferred to Chicago.) And a small, very good-natured cocker spaniel. The shared space is a living room, a dining room, a back porch, a backyard, and an incredibly modern kitchen with dishwasher, convection oven/microwave, ice maker, etc. etc. etc. There's also a garage for storing a bicycle, kayak and other assorted extra stuff. Interested? Rent is $500 a month - No utilities except phone and cable. Available at the end of March - call Aries at or, better yet, reply to this message.


John Taboada @

Small design build firm specializing in additions, decks, built-in furniture, and custom-designed furniture available for in-home consultation. No job too small.


Need Help With Your Computer Needs At Home Or In The Office?
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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) 1998. All rights reserved.

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