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March 29, 1998

Your Electronic Backfence

dc.story is presented in association with Washington's News Station WTOP-1500 AM and . . .this Wednesday, April 1, WTOP-FM moves from 94.3 FM to the TOP of the FM dial at 107.7--and boosts its power to 50,000 watts--serving our *entire* area more effectively.

WTOP-1500 AM will continue to broadcast at the TOP of the AM dial at with 50,000 watts of power, as well.

WTOP-AM and FM *** Washington's News Station!


Dear Neighbors:

So Senator Faircloth wants to federalize the District police force. As bad as our Keystone Kops are (and now we know why they can't shoot straight), I am in favor of doing whatever it takes to stop Faircloth. I will dump tea in the Potomac with Larry Mirel. I will picket Faircloth's office wearing a Barney Fife mask. I will even vote for Marian Barry...well, maybe there are some things I won't do. Nevertheless, here we are on the verge of selecting a new police chief, undoubtedly an outsider, and Faircloth decides its time to pull the plug. If crime was skyrocketing, I might be able to understand his logic. However, Faircloth's act (or threat) is just mean spirited, ignorant, and patronizing-everything we've come to expect in congressional oversight--except, of course, during the Barry heydays, when it was "see-no-evil."

Jeffrey Itell March 28, 1998


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Committee for the Capital City
Lawrence H. Mirel,

I keep reading notes from Carl Bergmann and others wringing their hands about the lack of democratic rights for the people of the District of Columbia. Well, why don't you join with us to do something about it? We have an organization, the Committee for the Capital City, that has as its mission preserving and protecting the unique character and beauty of the nation's capital city while providing full democratic rights to its citizens. We really mean "full and equal rights" like every other American, not some compromise half-way measure. We see only two ways to get there from here: the District could be a state or the District could be part of a state.

We think the former has as much chance as a snowball in hell, so we are pushing the latter, specifically reunion with Maryland of which the District was once part. That would make Washingtonians full citizens of Maryland, represented in Congress by Maryland Senators and Representatives, just as the people who live in what was once the other half of the District--Arlington and Alexandria--have been full citizens of Virginia since that territory was returned in 1846. It would also be a terrific bonanza for Maryland to have all the wealth and prestige of the nation's capital city as part of the state. And it would get Congress out of the business of trying to provide government to an unrepresented people. If you think we are on to something, give us a call on (202)265-0200. We'll send you some literature and invite you to become a member of the Committee. We're serious. We mean it. We're tired of being colonial subjects in the capital of the world' greatest democracy.


Totally Unacceptable DC Police "Service"
R.J. Fox, (disclaimers apply)

Last Friday, I was walking down 17th Street about 6PM, and as I approached the corner of 17th and R, a DC policeman was talking to a homeless person, obviously drunk, swaying and barely staying up. Here's what the DC Police officer did: He served the public by telling the homeless person to get out of here.

The homeless person staggers very slowly out across 17th St., almost drops down right in the middle of the street. The DC Police Officer stands by and watches. At the same time, another DC Police Officer, a female in a patrol car, is approaching the 17th an R intersection. What public service does she perform? She honks her siren a couple of times to get the homeless guy out of her way. She swerves around him, obviously late for some other important public service. Thanks again for all your help, officer.

Is any of this serving the public?? We have a drunk, sick, homeless guy who is staggering, falling, lucky to not be hit by a car, while DC Police stand by and watch, or almost run over the guy themselves. This is an outrage and unacceptable! The Police should have called an ambulance and got him medical treatment and off the street. Way to build that relationship with the community.


Brimmer & Becton Departures
Ron Eberhardt,

The announced departures of D. C control board chairman Andrew F. Brimmer and school's chief General Julius W. Becton, Jr. are not surprising. Becton, summed it up best when he admitted that he was tired in every way. Both men have performed admirably and truly rendered a public service under the most extreme circumstances. All of the usual suspects from the council and elected school board stood at microphones and basically said good riddance and that neither man was right for their respective jobs. Both were accused of being autocratic. I normally would not subscribe to autocratic methods in democratic governance. However, every regard of the District of Columbia has been in very serious disarray and plummeting for over two decades. When Brimmer took over, the city's bond rate was one step above junk and cop cars had no fuel. When Beckton took over, committees of self-serving, incompetent and incapable education bureaucrats ran the schools.

Though much more remains to be done, neither Brimmer nor Becton had the time, in typical political fashion, to ingratiate themselves with the public. Besides, they knew full well the problems and rather had to be about the business of administering emergency measures that would rescue this city from total collapse. Many of us in the District are grateful for both men's selfless service. We agonize greatly about who will succeed them. Lacking the no-nonsense commitment both have shown, their successors and the District will fail again given that the D. C. government is perhaps the least disciplined and capable of any city in America. I salute both men for jobs very well done.


A Real Welcome
Ed T. Barron,

It was nice to come back from a Carribean vacationto find that both Andrew Brimmer and General Julius Becton have decided to end their tenure in guiding the District. These are two fine gents who tried to run a team by treating it like an army unit. Army units are not teams. They are squads, platoons, or armies, trained to obey the dictates of the guy with the most stars or stripes. No one in the army ever asks a private (or even a 2nd Lt.) what do you think we should do in this situation. Both men operate in the dark, not revealing their plans to the "enemy". The District needs real Team Leaders, firsts among equals, not despots. Open communication and the involvement of all the team members in developing consensus plans is what is needed for both the schools and for public safety. Let's find those real team leaders.


Wiring Schools for Internet a Boondoggle?
Harold Goldstein,

Ed T. Barron thinks its a wate of money to wire DV schools for the internet. Well, face it, anything the DC Government does is a waste of money/boondoggle in that it will cost twice as much as it should. But I think it a great and important thing to do. Ed focused on the majority that can't read or write appropriately. While that is true there is nothing you can really do for them besides getting serious about a real system of insuring minimum standards in graduating from grade to grade. Money for books, tutors, better teachers, all is irrelevant and will have NO EFFECT until the above happens.

But for the others, the 25% or so real student population, the ones who work hard and really want to succeed, they are the ones that can really profit from this. These kids are hampered enough by the lack of quality in the system and this at least gives them something to hope for; something that wil at least mean a certain degree of parity in their future endeavors with students from the 'outside world'.


Service Standards
Larry Seftor,

Bill Adler's recent posting about poor DC cable reception has raised an issue that I have been thinking about lately: service standards. After all, the measure of the cable signal is not whether the picture "looks good" or not. The real measure is whether the signal entering Bill's house meets the service standards that one assumes are in DC Cablevision's franchise agreement with the DC Government. I don't watch enough TV to care, but I suggest that Bill, or another reader, ask a DC cable technician at the next visit whether signal level coming into the house (probably measured in dbW or dbm) meets the system's "standard." My guess is that in Bill's case it does not. After all, it is easier for DC cable to blame the local broadcasters which, I'll guarantee, adhere to the FCC "standard" for their signals.

Another standard that is published, but ignored by most customers, is the Metro train schedule. Their Web site lists the arrival time of each train at each station. So the next time you wait 20 minutes on a weekend for a Red line train (and are told by the station manager that the system is running fine) Metro is again failing to meet its own service standard. Standards, service level agreements, and the like are the way that the commercial marketplace judges vendors. Perhaps it is time to apply a little of that to the public sector to see exactly what we are getting for our taxes.


Christian Lilley,

I am disappointed in your comments on the new Firehook Bakery in Cleveland Park. The role of reflexively negative, anti-establishment, anti-business media outlet is already well-covered by the Washington City Paper. I had come to expect more enlightened commentary from your mailing list. Moreover, the internet is a medium of unprecended freedom, which, as they say, is *not* free. For alternative outlets, which don't face the normal barriers to entry of printing and distribution costs, the barriers to credibility and usefulness are even higher. A random and ill-considered bash at a local business is not only damaging to that business because this list reaches so many readers, but it also diminishes the credibility and usefulness of dc.story, while also representing an abrogation of your editorial responsibility to be slightly more thoughtful.

Firehook does not make Wonder-Bread. We've become spoiled on bread for $1.50. Firehook uses more expensive ingredients, expensive bakers for labor (not just factory workers), and makes their bread by hand, fresh every day. The hyperbole about OPEC is not only inaccurate but also foolishly inconsiderate of the differences between running a real bakery and making grocery-store bread. You may not wish to pay such prices for bread when you can have leavened vegetable shortening from Safeway, but your comments suggest that Firehook is over-priced for what they produce, which they are not. Moreover, if you didn't like their bread, I would suggest that you go back and try a different kind, or two, which I am sure they would provide because the service that I receive there is always friendly, helpful, knowledgeable, and pleasant, unlike Safeway or Giant. Your opinion is important and you have EVERY right to provide it. But please make it better considered and please make it more substantive. As much as I will fight to the death for your right to speech I dislike, you'll have to do better, and provide alternative points of view when they're offered, if you wish my respect as well.

[I get my bread in New Jersey whenever I can. It tastes better to me than the local upscale stores and costs at least half as much. I think I said this last time. Jeffrey]


Kirsten Sherk,

I confess to a softspot in my heart for Firehook in Dupont for two reasons: 1) morning glory muffins. It's the only place I know of in the city where you can get 'em, and it looks like I'm going to have to drag out my muffin tins 'cause I work downtown. 2) The Dupont shop is sublime for drinking your latte, eating your muffing and basking in the morning sunlight. These days I live on the Hill and work in the the soulless downtown so I miss it desperately.

However, my German housemate shares your feelings. He's convinced he's losing weight (and he doesn't have much to lose!) because he can't find good cheap bread like one can on practically every street corner in Germany. Any suggestions anyone? He'd probably ride half way cross town if there was anything worth having.


Some Things Are More Important Than Rye Bread
Heidi C. Scanlon,

Please be sure to give Firehook a chance. I haven't visited the new one, and I've never tasted their rye or wryless bread, but I have certainly tasted, nay, gorged myself on, their chocolate cake, the one with raspberries on top, and it is the best in the whole wide world, no question about it.


Bread Boutiques
Alex Johnson,

It's not just Firehook that's proliferating like swamp flies. The wonderful Uptown Bakers in Chevy Chase has also fallen, to yet another inaccurately named Marvelous Market. Two questions:

Why does MM seem to do any business, selling a very limited selection of vastly overpriced, vastly over-soured sourdough masonry bricks?

Is there ANY bread shop left in the city that sells a variety of well-made breads while not catering to the Frisco-hankering If-It's-Not-Sourdough-It's-Not-Snooty-Enough-For-Me crowd? I'd like to find a place that will sell me bread that I buy because I want to eat it, not because its trendiness will impress my neighbors before I throw it away as inedible.


Free Offer for the District
TJ Hardman, TJH Internet SP,

I wish to re-iterate my proposal of Free Software for the DC Government. In fact, since I need to open up a bay in my computer, the Free Software (Linux, a full-blown implimentation) comes pre-installed on a 1.2gig Seagate harddrive - also totally free. No catches, nothing. DC provides the computer, and I put in the harddrive, tweak it and it's done. WWW, FTP, e-mail handlers, C, C++, Perl-5, Tcl, Tk, Fortran, and the Java Developers Kit-1.1.1 are all included plus literally a thousand more applications including security enhancements. It's all GNU Free Software Foundation so it can be freely copied throughout the entire establishment.


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.



ISO Housing
Rich Rothblum <>

I have a friend, a post-doc student at Harvard Law, studying philosophy of law, who'll be in the area from the second week of July till the third week of August. He needs modestly priced digs (a room) for that period, or a house-sitting assignment. Anyone who can help out please contact me or Alec Walen directly, <>. Look forward to great discussions.


Horace Howells,

I am hoping that someone out there knows who to call in DC to get a new Supercan. Mine apparently is not so "super" as it has been slowly beaten into submission and is in such disrepair that it does not get emptied. So now I pile garbage bags on top of and around a can that has been full for the past four weeks, I am sure that my neighbors (all of you) are none too pleased about this state of affairs. Any information would be appreciated, including how I can get someone to take the old one.


Portuguese Water Dog
Margie Siegel,

I am looking to learn more about and maybe visit with a Portuguese Water Dog, and have been unable to reachthe Potomac rep. of the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America, althought I've left several e-mail messages. Does anyone have contacts in the "portie" world? I'm exploring getting a dog, and am trying to do appropriate research before taking the plunge.


The 9th Annual Glover Park Day, a wonderful neighborhood festival, will be held Saturday, June 6 on the grounds of Guy Mason Rec Center at Wisconsin and Calvert NW. The event planning committee is seeking to showcase local musicians/bands. Past years have featured jazz, blue grass, acappella, rock, and other groups. We aim for diversity. If you or your group are interested please email Judie Guy at


Huge House Sale
Richard Green,

After having just moved into a new house, we have decided to sell some of our worldly possesions in a Huge House Sale. We have anything from dressers to shelving, and linens to clothing, and art to kitchen stuff. The sale will begin at 9:00 AM this Sunday the 29th, and close at 3:00 PM. Location is 1915 Biltmore St NW, between Columbia and Calvert. See you there!


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,


Microwave Oven For Sale
Michael Karlan,, 202-363-4997

800 Watt GE Spacemaker II microwave oven for sale. Eight cubic foot oven interior. Top rated by Consumer Reports. Excellent condition. $100.


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