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March 11, 1998

Your Electronic Backfence

dc.story is presented in association with Washington's News Station WTOP.

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Dear Neighbors:

Let's all give a cordial welcome to our many new subscribers from around the world. TipWorld (, which bills itself as the "Internet's #1 Source for Computer Tips, News, and Gossip" presented dc.story on Wednesday as its "E-Mail Mailing List of the Day." They wrote:

"Most of us think Washington D.C. is the place where the president and the congress, the justice department and the treasury, keep our teetering country just off balance. Others recognize the fact that D.C. contains many museums, monuments, a few cherry trees, a river, waterfalls, some limousines, and maybe a corner store or two. Well, they're all wrong. D.C. is a thriving metropolis, home to its own population with more on their minds than a president 's alleged sexual liaison or what reforms the Republicans or Democrats are pushing that day."

"This weekly newsletter, sponsored by the WTOP--a Washington news radio station that understands the power of the Internet, showcases questions from subscribers and news about civic matters such as bike safety, management issues, city government, schools, weather, income taxes, and occasionally some government gossip thrown in. The city is, after all, crawling with feds."

But you knew that already. <grin>

Jeffrey Itell March 11, 1998

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Three Short Shots
Carl Bergman,

Trouble for Doubles. Thanks to the Board of Elections and Ethics matching DC 's roll against PG's 261 double voters will have to explain their voting habits to the US Attorney. Another 3,000 will have to decide where they really live, DC or PG. Montgomery County's next. This proves Maryland and DC need a formal system to prevent dual registrations.

New Darling. Spotted near Mama Mia's, A new urban artifact, dark green, and squat shaped like Dilbert, but oh, so welcome. It was nothing less than a new DC fire hydrant, an American Darling to be exact, including installation instructions. " . . . Install thrust blocking or mechanical strapping as specified to prevent joint separations . . .." Now, there are only about 400 more to go. Raskin on Rights. AU Law Professor Jamie Raskin actually believes that DC residents have a voting rights leg to stand on. He's written an article tracing the civil and political history of DC voting rights and argues that we do not have to take it anymore. Actually, he makes three cases: one for a national right to vote, one for a DC vote in Congress, and one for local democratic control. Compelling, well researched it is must reading for anyone who cares about this city's fate. For example, he's listed every objection to DC voting rights, and refuted each in turn. Splendid.


Democracy First's Council Proposal
Timothy Cooper, Executive Director of Democracy First -- (202.244.9479)

In an editorial published this week in the Northwest Current regarding Democracy First's proposal for an expanded 120-member citizens' legislature to replace the current 13-member D.C. Council, the editors wrote "the idea of an expanded legislature is a captivating one due further consideration." They stated, among other things, that the "expanded numbers offer a greater likelihood that individuals will know at least one of their representatives and can discuss issues with them personally. Areas such as Ward 1, where in recent years roughly half the precincts have voted for one candidate and the others a second, could elect candidates reflecting their varied views." Moreover, they said, "the added numbers would infuse fresh blood and new ideas into the government."


DC Schools Starting Early?
Ralph Blessing --

As first reported in D.C. story a couple weeks back, General Becton was quoted on last night's (March 9) channel 5 news as saying that DC schools will open "on time" on September 1. If that quote was accurate, then schools would open not on time, but instead a week earlier than normal, as Labor Day, the traditional end of summer break, falls on September 7 this year. Is this a reverse whammy from the general: last year 3 weeks late, this year a week early? Would there be a timely official announcement about such a significant change or would we be treated to a summer surprise like last time?

Many families schedule vacations during the two weeks between the end of summer camps and Labor Day. Will they now find that there is only a one-week window in which to squeeze that trip? Moreover, would a September 1 start mean an earlier summer break in 1999? That, too, would be out of sync with summer camp calendars and would cause significant problems for many parents. Parents need to be heard on this issue, but how to go about it? Who does one contact when dealing with an authoritarian, behind-closed-doors regime?


Living Downtown?
Steph Faul --

Wait a minute -- Barry *wants* to build more housing downtown? The man who, in collaboration with Oliver Carr, has destroyed more urban housing than the London Blitz? That's what the Post *said*, I think -- that Barry wanted to see more people live in the city center. On the other hand, I may have hallucinated it. Next thing they'll report that Madonna plans to become a nun. Speaking of living and dying, the Northwest Current reports that the Canyon Cafe in Friendship Heights closed because it was in a basement ("below grade"). Nice try. The C.C. *really* closed because it tried to bring a half-baked suburban concept to an urban neighborhood with a little sophistication and a lot of competition. (As if they didn't notice the Cheesecake Factory was right upstairs?) I ate there -- once. Apparently a lot of others did the same thing. I'll miss that big, flaming, global-warming memorial torch, though.

Steph "Lives downtown from 9 to 6 every weekday" Faul


Shaw Convention Center
Eugene Kinlow --

A predictable morass. This is what happens when politicians relegate their constituent service functions to special interests!


Convention Center
Norma Zane Chaplain --

The Shaw neighborhood DOES need more retail shops. But the best way to get - and keep - businesses in the neighborhood would be to use the six block Mt. Vernon site for housing - mixed income is my preference - with service and retail firms. And on-site parking. Such businesses would be far more attuned to local needs than businesses serving tourists. And while we are on neighborhood improvement, Shaw is pocked marked with boarded up houses. What has our councilmember done about banning them? Higher real estate taxes have not worked. I know someone who has had a boarded up house in Shaw for about 15 years. She moans that if she sold now, she would lose money. Aw....


Red Coats
Kim Flournoy --

I would like to add my praise of the "Red Coats" in the downtown area. I work for a property management company, and I help manage an office building at 13th & K, NW. As I am a rather small female, it is sometimes difficult for me to carry on some basic duties around the property, namely shooing homeless people who are bothering my tenants. I can't always drag an engineer downstairs to help me in case the situation turns nasty, but every time I've gone out and been able to flag down one of the patrollers in a matter of seconds. They are always courteous and cheerful, and very helpful. I see them cleaning the sidewalks and gutters throughout the area numerous times each day, and the tenants in my building have responded positively, saying that they feel more secure in the neighborhood, even at night when they are walking to the arena or the Metro.

Red Coats are definitely worth the (relatively) small amount that my building pays for this service. However, I've seen too many good ideas fail because they weren't supported beyond the first year. If your office building is in the downtown/arena area, please make sure that your property manager knows about and supports the Business Improvement District program.


Destination Discovery Channel Store DC
William West Hopper --

This past Sunday I made a visit to the new Discovery Channel Store at the MCI Arena. Mostly because of my own curiosity, but also because we had out of town guests in who like to shop. Either it was the mobs or the store, but it makes your head spin. The motto is "Destination DC" truly a place off the mall to go. Or should I say it the beginning of the malling of DC.

Four levels of shopping with things at all different levels, lots of videos and CD's all of which you can easily sample on little headphones with devices that you scan the UPC code of the item you want to see or hear and it plays it for you. The fourth level is the Discovery Theater playing a short film about DC. The film was very good, though it did not show much beyond the downtown core. The opening does have a shot of Cleveland Park and the Uptown at night. With all the focus on DC tourism, they carried almost nothing that was DC related. No guidebooks, postcards or DC videos - odd since they are working with the DC Heritage Tourism Coalition and are going to be a starting point for tours of DC. Merchandize was pricey, much of it branded Discovery Channel Merchandize - like a Tee Shirt for $22 - in a cute little tiny package that looked like a T-shirt. However, lots are similar to what you would find in "The Nature Store" or "The Museum Store." With the National Building Museum just two blocks away, we found that NBM's gift shop was much more affordable.

When taking our guests to the New National Airport (purposely left out the former president's name) we checked out the shops at their "National Hall," which were much cheaper with extremely friendly personnel.


DC Water Woes vs. Boston Water Woes
Michael Cushman --

A recent posting that re-capitulated all the problems of DC mentioned DC's water problems. While I don't mean to discount the problems of two summers ago, I think it is worthwhile to put it in perspective. A friend who works for the EPA on water issues told me that DC wasn't alone in the drinking water problems...Boston almost got reported that summer too.

Drinking water quality is tested locally and the EPA monitors the results. Failure levels above a certain rate for 3 months in a row cause public disclosure of water quality problems. DC failed for 3 months in a row and got a lot of attention as a city that is falling apart.

Boston failed two months in a row, realized that a third month would be very embarrassing and changed the way they monitored drinking water quality for the remainder of the summer. By greatly increasing the number of samples taken (and perhaps by paying attention to the new locations to sample) Boston was able to bring the water quality failure rate below the threshold for reporting.


Petty Crime on the Hill
Joan L. Eisenstodt --

Our car was strangely vandalized at the corner of 5th & Seward Sq., S.E.: the corner of our license plates (front and back) where the stickers reside were clipped off. Perfectly. We reported it to the police who didn't mention others reporting the same crime, one which necessitated a trip to DMV and time off from work plus a fee for new plates. Saturday, at Eastern Market, we saw another car (same neighborhood parking zone) with the same thing on the back plate. Anyone else in other neighborhoods experience this? Any clue what one can do with license plate corners and old stickers? Annoying.


Smoke And Mirrors
Michael Kirshenbaum -

Regarding the recent discussion over tobacco ads on Metro, let's be clear what we are talking about: tobacco products are the leading cause of preventable disease and death in this country (425,000 people each year die from tobacco-caused disease) and 90 percent of adult smokers start by the time they're 18 years old. Tobacco is a legal product and no one -- and I mean no one -- is seriously proposing prohibition as a solution. The prohibition argument is tired straw man that is always dragged out by those who oppose taking responsible steps to reduce tobacco use. Contrary to conventional wisdom, not all slopes are slippery. Society in general, and government in specific, should take concrete action to reduce the lure of this addictive product, especially to children. An important component of a comprehensive effort is restricting tobacco advertising and marketing. Approximately 85 percent of kids smoke the three most heavily advertised brands (Marlboro, Camel and Newport) vs. only about one-third of adults.

The disagreement about Metro tobacco advertising is moot, because Metro is phasing out their acceptance of tobacco ads and by 2000 (maybe 2002??) there will be no more Newport couples or Marlboro Men visible on buses, bus shelters, platforms or in the trains. The D.C. City Council is also considering a bill to restrict outdoor tobacco (and alcohol) advertising near schools and other youth-oriented areas.


Unresponsive Elected Officials
Tom Berry --

Last October Beth Solomon wrote concerning the potential financing of the proposed convention center. She stated that, according to a bill introduced by Charlene Drew Jarvis, "an unlimited surtax" could be put on DC residents and businesses to "pay for this boondoggle...Businesses could pay an extra 2% or 20%--depending on the cost of the project." Being a resident and business owner in DC I felt the need for some simple answers, especially after seeing the "One Time Public Safety Fee" on businesses graduate to the annual "Arena Fee." So, on October 16 I wrote to Ms. Jarvis and my elected councilperson, Ms. Kathy Patterson (to whom I identified myself as a constituent and business owner). Did I ever hear from either one? Hell no. In fact, I e-mailed Ms. Patterson twice last month in a belated attempt to get the facts on this issue.

One doesn't have to read too far into dc.story to understand that Ms. Patterson is highly respected by her constituents. This voter is no longer one of them. I wasn't asking for a thesis. Just a simple response. Three times! Assuming councilpersons have a modest staff, someone could have sent a copy of the questionable bill, if it even existed. If Ms. Solomon's facts were incorrect, a brief clarification would have been nice. It's this type of non-response that keeps that nasty question "Why stay in the District?" lurking in the cobwebs of one's mind.


Residency Requirements
Ed T. Barron --

Residency requirements for District Employees are a bad idea. If we want good talent in our government then we should not restrict the hiring of employees to only those who live in the District. Over the next few years, those who cannot, or will not, demonstrate effectiveness in their jobs and who cannot be relocated into jobs that they can perform effectively, will be forced out or attritted. There will be a demand for a sizeable number of new employees with the requisite skills and attitude required in the new D.C. Government. To restrict hiring of these new employees to those who live in the District will not result in getting better qualified potential employees to move into the District. Educated middle class families will move into the District when Public Safety and Public Education reforms are in place and are successfully being implemented.


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.



Health Care Aide
Linda Wheeler --

Health Care Aide recommendations sought for weekend duty in Cleveland Park. There are many unprofessional folks out there; we have met more than a few of them who have stolen credit cards and cash from my invalid friend. We have a wonderful aide Monday to Friday but need to cover the weekends as well. Please call me at 202.334.7334.


Help Me Save My PowerBook
Evan Roth --

I have an old Apple PowerBook 140 that has been gathering dust because I killed its 80 meg hard drive and I've been unable to find another, reasonably priced drive to replace it. It seems all of the PC swap meets advertised in The Post are just that, for PCs; no Mac users need apply. And a couple of Mac oriented businesses tell me all they have are megabuck gigabyte hard drives that wouldn't work in my old laptop anyway. So, if anyone knows of a business (or person) specializing in old Macintosh hardware or knows of any old Mac hardware gathering dust somewhere, I'd be much obliged if you'd e-mail me.


Capital Oscars

The Washington D.C. Film Society proudly presents Capital Oscars: Hollywood on the Potomac. Monday, March 23, from 8:00 PM to 1:00 AM at Fellini, 1000 M Street, NW (202.785.1177). View the ceremonies live on big screens. Complimentary champagne from 8:00 PM to 9:00 PM. Cash bar. Buffet of Italian foods, raffle prizes, silent auction, and door prizes. Creative Black Tie dress encouraged. $20 donation. Call 202.554.3263 for ticket sales and information. All proceeds support the work of the Film Society and its parent organization, Filmfest DC.


Zoo Lecture: The Elephants of Africa
Margie Gibson -

The National Zoo and the Environmental Film Festival invite you to a screening of "The Elephants of Africa," a film narrated by elephant researcher, Cynthia Moss. A panel discussion follows the film. Explore the many regions of Africa in which elephants live, and learn how they adapt to diverse habitats. A panel discussion follows the film. David Western, director of the Kenya Wildlife Service, and Michael Wright, president of the African Wildlife Foundation, discuss conservation efforts in Africa. Before the lecture, David Western will sign copies of his new book, "In the Dust of Kilimanjaro," an inside look at Kenya's wildlife conservation efforts. The book is available for sale in the Zoo's book store.

2 April 1998, 7 PM book signing. 8 PM lecture. The Education Building at the National Zoo. Enter at Connecticut Ave. and Park in Lot A. Free, but please RSVP by calling (202) 673-4801 or sending e-mail to


Exhausted? Aching Shoulders? Too Busy? Spoil yourself and maintain your health! BodyWise BodyWorks, an oasis in the city. Therapeutic Massage, Shiatsu Acupressure, Foot Reflexology. Cleveland Park. 202-966-6113.

Jenn Weed --


Summer Sublet Available. Beautifully furnished, conveniently located, spacious 1 BR Dupont Circle condo available to sublet from June 1 - August 15. Metro 11/2 blocks; secure building with 24 hour concierge; huge windows; top floor; A/C; DW. Must have references. $1250/month utilities included. Call Alexis Martin @ 202-319-8987 or e-mail


Summer Rental, Chevy Chase
Ed Kane --

Four bedroom, 3 1/2 bath house with two additional sleeping rooms, screened porch, basement garage, landscaped garden, available on quiet street in Chevy Chase, DC, from June 1 until October 1. Rent: $2,500 monthly. Call Ed Prentice, at (202) 364-1539.



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) 1998. All rights reserved.

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