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April 8, 1998

Your Electronic Backfence

dc.story is presented in association with Washington's News Station WTOP-1500 AM *and now* 107.7 FM. . . They're both WTOP!

Today, WTOP-FM moved to the TOP of the FM dial at 107.7--and boosted its power to 50,000 watts--serving our *entire* area more effectively.

WTOP-1500 AM continues to broadcast at the TOP of the AM dial at with 50,000 watts of power.

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


Dear Neighbors:

In deference to Passover, I hope we can now put the bread issue to rest and move on to the usual subjects-police, schools, and pot holes, Oh My!

Within the next day, I will be sending you a nonscheduled email message offering free movie passes and requesting a little bit of information to help plan a retail venture. Stay tuned while I untangle the software.

Jeffrey Itell April 8, 1998


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What's Tougher Than A Pit Bull?
Carl Bergman

They're mean. They're tenacious. Once they're set in place, they're impossible to get out. Public housing's infamous four legged terrors? Nah. They merely need a small squad of housing cops and humane society commandos to move'em out. They're pushovers. For tough, glued to the chair tenacity, there's nothing like a school system bureaucrat. Just ask school personnel chief Graves (I'm not making this name up) how tough it is. Told to RIF 400 administrators last summer, she's confessed to the Post that no one could tell her how to do it. The result: A $15 million hit to the school payroll, plus a good chance of sinking city finances back to red. Maybe when Operation Bark and Bite's done on public housing they can start on the Presidential building. Better yet, how about the Emergency School Trustees? I wonder if they've had all their shots.

Hydrophobia III (Maybe IV) The last time, about ten years ago, a city truck appeared and someone opened our fire hydrant, they took off without closing it. A passing jogger closed it. . . after trotting home for a wrench. Today, the city came and went without jogger assistance. However, it took one fully crewed DCFD hook and ladder along with two gentlemen of the Water and Sewer Authority in their own truck. DCFD opened the hydrant, as the Authority crew watched it run clean. When done, the fire crew spray painted the hydrant's top orange, and they were all off to the next plug, provided there were no pending ambulance runs. **** The Wild, The Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle Lorie Leavy

I was very cheered to read in Thursday's Post that the federal government has offered to foot the bill for widening E Street, even if actual relief is likely three or more years away. But I just about choked when I read the comment of an unnamed highway official that "This is another example of the Clinton administration's good-neighbor commitment to the District of Columbia." To belabor the obvious, would a "good neighbor" have shut down our principal downtown arteries in the first place, with all the resultant and continuing inconvenience to businesses and commuters?


Professor Barry
Stephanie Mencimer, (the usual disclaimers apply)

Oh for God's sake, let Barry run. Hizzhonor is not the root of all evil in the District. This whole notion of trying to buy him a university chair to coax him out of the mayor's job is one of the most shameful things I 've seen in the city in a long time. Here all you people are kvetching about the lack of democracy in the District, while at the same time, you fail to exercise the democratic rights you do have. If the citizens of the District don't want Barry as mayor, they should get rid of him the old-fashioned way: vote him out of office. Organize behind a candidate that can beat him. Barry is not unbeatable. Even his core constituency is tiring of him. But part of this city's many problems is its residents' failure to take responsibility for their own destiny, which starts with electing genuinely competent government officials. Trying to buy Barry a private sector job is just a cop out.


Dewatering meter
Dianne Rhodes, President, Newport Unit Owners Association,

I agree with Nick Jacobs that we need some topics of greater important than bread and chocolate to discuss. I don't have much to add, but I wanted to ask the group about the DC requirement to install a "de-watering meter" at our condominium. Apparently the DC Council passed a law in 1990 that we must install such a meter to measure the amount of rain water we pump into the DC sewer. The inspectors just recently got up the energy to come to our building and inform us of this need. The meters are only available from one vendor locally and there is a 6 week waiting period, but we have been told we have 30 days to install it. I can only guess who the local vendor is related to. The cost of this installation is approximately $3,000. I would imagine it will take 20 or 30 years before we pump that much water back into the sewer system to make this a practical application. So who's bird brained scheme is this? Any body familiar with this?


Fishy Water Bills
Nancy Davidson,

Our most recent bill (covering the fall of 1997) showed an enormous increase in usage over the preceding period (when we had a drought and were watering furiously). This seemed very fishy, so we sent a letter (per the instructions on the bill) to the authority. At a time when we were reading in the Post that they had hundreds of unanswered letters, we nonetheless received a prompt response. They sent someone out to check for leaks and to see if the meter was broken. Having found no problems with either the meter or our plumbing, they gave us a large refund. This still does not explain how the amount we were billed was arrived at, but I am satisfied with their response and the refund.


Childish Little Diatribe
Michael Stempel,

Huh?...Bread is the staff of life, man/women can not live on Barry-Bashing alone.


Subject: Let Us Celebrate (Good) Bread
Anne Drissel,

For some/many of us, the quality of our daily bread is significant. The (loving? attentive?) hand of the baker coupled with quality ingredients produce unique taste, texture and appearance of the bread "make" a meal. In the past when I've lived in towns without a decent bakery, I've had compassionate friends ship me loaves from my favorite bakeries in Berkeley or Santa Fe. In the couple of years since I've moved back to this area, the variety and quality of the breads have improved dramatically. Congratulations and thanks to all our wonderful, dedicated, hard-working bakers. (And welcome to Cleveland Park, Firehook. I've already bought some of your bread and I can't wait til you reopen the old Roma restaurant gardens -- a remembered favorite outdoor dining spot when I was a teenager.)


Bread, Fun, Talk, and Action Too
Mark David Richards,

It's nice to hear people talk about what they REALLY care about, and, thanks to Jeffrey's e-vibe backfence, we know that simple pleasures--like bread--are really high on our list, as they should be. Life is short and we might as well enjoy the journey. On the other hand, I think the expression "Bread and Circus" refers to keeping people fed and entertained to avoid disrupting the status quo...!? Revolutions have a way of following hunger... Maybe the feds should have tried starving us into taking action before setting up that messy control board thing?!...

I'm reading "Megadiversity: Earth's Biologically Wealthiest Nations" by Russell and Christina Mittermeiner and Patricio Robles Gil. Highly recommended--beautiful book. Says that 25% of all mammals (1,096) and 11% of all bird species (1,107) are critically endangered, and over the last 100 years in Brazil alone, a nation with the highest levels of biodiversity, at least 80 HUMAN cultural groups have gone extinct (their tribe and language no longer exists). Think about it. Things aren't as bad as they COULD be here in our own little la la land--there are still 500,000 of us left. Margaret Mead said "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever does." Doesn't mean we can't eat well and have fun along the way!


DC Representation, Politics, & the US Constitution
David Sobelsohn,

Timothy Cooper believes that "3/4th of the nation's state legislatures could . . . be persuaded to pass" a constitutional amendment providing that "The residents of the District of Columbia shall be treated as citizens of a state for all constitutional intents and purposes," which would give DC voting representation in Congress. Cooper fails to mention that 20 years ago Congress sent to the states a constitutional amendment giving DC voting representation in Congress. About 6 states ratified that amendment within the congressionally prescribed time limit. With state governments much more conservative today than in the 1970s, what makes Cooper think that a strategy that failed then would succeed now?

Retrocession makes more sense than either statehood or Timothy Cooper's outdated proposal for one simple reason. For retrocession to work, we need only convince the Maryland legislature to take us back. If Maryland wanted us, Congress would be happy to get rid of us. But to achieve statehood, we need to convince Congress to include us, & Congress will likely always be less supportive of DC voting rights than the Maryland legislature. And of course for the failed Cooper idea we need to convince a supermajority of the states to change their minds--an even harder task than convincing Congress (& one that would also require convincing Congress to propose the amendment again). Convincing the Maryland legislature won't be easy, but it's bound to be easier than convincing Congress, let alone a supermajority of the states.

For DC politicians with dreams of a seat in the US Senate, retrocession has one drawback compared with statehood or the outdated Cooper idea: we don't get our own 2 Senators with retrocession; we have to share Maryland's. If what we really want is democratic representation, let's try the path of least resistance, not cling to impossible dreams and failed visions.


Full Citizenship and Kathy Carroll's Ancestors
Lawrence H. Mirel,

Tim Cooper thinks the residents of the District can have full citizenship rights through an "Equal Rights Amendment" to the Constitution that would say that District residents "shall be treated as citizens of a state for all constitutional intents and purposes." Aside from the difficulty of enacting a Constitutional amendment (we were unsuccessful the last time we tried), that language leaves a lot of unanswered questions. Would the District be "sovereign" like any state, or would Congress still have the power to legislate for us under Article I, section 8? Would we get two Senators in the U.S. Congress? Could we tax non-resident income? The Constitution is more than a declaration of rights; it establishes a system of government for the U.S., namely a federation of sovereign states with a national government of limited and enumerated powers. How can the District be part of that system of government, and how can its residents be "full and equal citizens" with all other Americans, if we are not a state or part of a state? As long as we are subject to Federal legislative authority over matters which are elsewhere the province of state law we are different than other Americans and cannot be "equal." Why go through the contortions of trying to amend the Constitution to make us "just like" the citizens of a state--a task that is bound to fail--when we could be citizens of a state?

Kathy Carroll wants to know who will own the land if the District becomes part of Maryland and in particular whether she might have any rights of reversion by virtue of being a descendant of Daniel Carroll of Rock Creek. I'm afraid she would be out of luck. The land turned over by Maryland to the Federal Government in 1791, except for that portion that the Federal Government itself wanted to use, was divided up and sold to private landholders just as in any development. Those who bought the land owned the fee and could buy and sell just as if it was part of Maryland or any state. In fact the Maryland Act of Cession specifically provides that Daniel Carroll, among others, conveyed his lands to Thomas Beall and John Gantt, the developers, to be sold to raise money for the new capital city. (See D.C. Code, vol. 1, p. 34). Rock Creek Park itself is a national park, just like Yellowstone, and when the District is rejoined to Maryland it will have the same relationship to the Maryland Government that Yellowstone has to the Government of Wyoming. But Kathy, if you think returning D.C. to Maryland is a good idea, please sign up with us. It would be great to have the support of a descendant of one of the original landowners.


WTOP 107.7
Frank Pruss,

What gives with WTOP FM 107.7? For a station reputed to be 50 KW, reception is lousy throughout DC. None of my radios will even stop at 107.7 if I use their station seek feature, and if I hand tune the channel, it is there but very weak. I presume it is _supposed_ to cover DC Metro????

[107.7 transmits on an ancient transmitter...the original WAVA-FM transmitter from the late 1960's. WTOP has received permission to construct a new transmitter (expected mid-June) and a tower extension (in early August). When both are done, 107 will be a very good signal indeed. For now, it does great for Virginia in places 1500 AM could never be heard. Jeffrey]


Larry Bohlen

Despite her promise to bring recycling back in April, City Manager Camille Barnett has postponed the program for months. Its time to write her and ask if she is planning to stick by her announced June start date. It also can be noted that recycling is an essential city service and is a test of her new role as manager. Send letters to 441 4th Street NW, WDC, 20001. You can copy your council members at the same address.


"Regular Lessons" Are Apparently Not What They Used to Be
Larry Seftor,

In Monday's Post, parent activists in DC schools complain that DC schools are "replacing regular lessons with test preparation activities," in preparation for the Stanford Achievement Test 9. It turns out, for example, that at Wilson Senior High school these test preparation activities consist of learning 10 new vocabulary words a week and spending an hour each Tuesday and Thursday practicing math and reading.

Well I guess it has been a long, long time since I was in public school. For you see, in those days learning vocabulary words and practicing math and reading WERE the regular lessons. And perhaps just as strange, I use those arcane skills daily in my job today. Maybe they knew something back then, and maybe the emphasis on preparing for Test 9 is the right thing to do. Actually, I'm only confused about one thing: if vocabulary, math, and reading are not the regular lessons today, what are??


NARPAC, Inc. Changes Focus in April
Len Sullivan,

The National Association to Restore Pride in America's Capital has upgraded its web site for April (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 new sections describing signs of progress in turning the city around in several areas, including personnel and business regulatory reform; economic development and deficit elimination; public works and even the morgue. It summarizes the final GAO report on problems with last summer's school roof repairs, and presents strong editorial recommending reconfiguration of the Control Board instead of just replacing two or three faces. Feel free to visit, comment, and offer to help.


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.



I have a recipe which calls for a Mexican herb (according to the recipe) called epazote. I have called every store in town and no one has ever heard of it. Does anyone know anything about this, especially where I might find it? Sheryl McNeill,


Softball Gloves Wanted.
Sarah Lanning,

Does anybody have any old softball gloves you'd be willing to part with for free or for a small price? Our company softball team is in need of women's softball gloves (the men already own gloves), left and right handed, and brand new ones are just too expensive for our 9-game season. If you have any available, please contact me at or 301-941-0369.


Zoo Lecture: The Handicap Principle: A Missing Piece of Darwin's Puzzle
Margie Gibson -

On the occasion of Israel's 50th anniversary, Amotz Zahavi, a renowned Israeli zoologist and professor at the Institute for Nature Conservation Research in Tel Aviv, presents The Handicap Principle. Before the lecture, he will sign copies of his book, The Handicap Principle: A Missing Piece of Darwin's Puzzle.

Zahavi studied Arabian babblers, a Middle Eastern songbird that lives in flocks. Adult babblers help care for young that are not their own. Zahavi's studies indicate this behavior is a selfish investment in advertising social prestige, a kind of "showing off." Other species, ranging from ants to peacocks, and gazelles to humans, exhibit similar behaviors that impose a cost, or handicap.

15 April 1998. 7 p.m. Book signing. 8 p.m. Screening. 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


Paul McKenzie,

LIBRARY FLOWER & BOOK SALE, Friends of Juanita E. Thornton/Shepherd Park DC Public Library flower and book sale Saturday April 25th 11 AM to 2 PM. Some rare and 1st edition books, special African American book table, flowers, bedding plants, potted plants, Mother's day specials, Ph: 202-576-7114 for information. 7420 Georgia Ave., N.W.


On April 25, at from 9 am to 12 noon there will be a Shaw-wide Cleanup to celebrate Earth Day, followed by a lunch. Volunteers are needed. Meet at Kennedy Playground (7th and P, NW). Tools and equipment will be provided, but bring rakes, shovels, brooms or bags if you have them. For more info see: or call Dan Amundson -- 588-5626, or email me,NB Keenan,


Jobs, Jobs, Jobs
Paul Williams

Calling all technical computer people! My company has announced a rapid expansion of personnel, and wants names of people with technical computer skills of all types for full time consultant employment in the Washington area, mostly placed at telecommunication companies. Please Email me if interested, or send a resume to me at 1800 Vermont Ave, NW 20001


A/C window unit wanted. Please contact Kathy Correll at


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/Nick Chang, (202.237.0130)

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Also, free! Free movie passes, short movie reviews, and movie discussion. Send an email message to to subscribe.


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