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April 29, 1998

Your Electronic Backfence

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Dear Neighbors:

I'm curious to know what folks think about the proposed new student disciplinary rules that were approved by the Emergency Board of Trustees and by the Control Board. They're up for public comment. There are many changes, including the elimination of many procedural safeguards for students accused of wrongdoing. But the most dramatic change is that under the proposed rules, a student as young as 13 who is expelled is no longer entitled to alternative education, unless he or she is expelled under the federal Gun-Free School Act. Pursuant to the proposed rules, the parent or guardian of an expelled student will be counseled on their responsibility under the Compulsory School Act and advised of the availability of non-public schooling. The proposed rules also expand the grounds for mandatory to include a second instance of sexual harassment within one calendar year.


School vouchers are a hot issue on the city...and in dc.story. Retrocession is not a front-burner issue for the city, but it is to some dc.story much so that the discussion is crowding out other topics. I think we have now reached the point where we are beginning to repeat arguments. The person who gushes the most words doesn't win the argument. So I propose the following two-part solution. First, I will issue a supplemental dc.story just on retrocession. Some of the writing is first rate and I encourage you to read the issue. Second, ladies and gentlemen, wrap up your arguments for Sunday's issue in no more than four sentences . After Sunday, I declare a month-long retrocession moratorium in these cyberpages--unless events cause us to look at the issue again.

Jeffrey Itell April 29, 1998


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Jan Morton,

Guess being pegged as a lurker struck a nerve. I eagerly read and mostly enjoy the dc.story, it's often helpful, sometimes funny and always of interest. My other "lurking" site is the Diane Rehm show on WAMU where I don't call in my opinions, but am an ardent listener and content to be a silent fan of that program as well as the dc.story.


Flaming Lurkers
Paul Bailey,

I'm not so much a lurker as an intermittent browser. However I would expect folks to be more shy than ever about chiming in here, after reading the vitriolic response that Erik Wemple penned in response to Nick Keenan's observations about the misplaced priorities of the DPW. I actually went back to look at Nick's submission regarding Gingko Stench Control and found it to be pretty fair observation of yet another quirky aspect of how things are (mis)managed in our fair city. I was amused by the comparison to the soviet union of old.

Erik's tongue lashing was consistent with the editorial flavor of his publication, the Washington City Paper - acerbic and contrarian. I guess Erik is just trying to lend some of the shrill, overheated tone that so dominates the pages of his paper to dc.story. I find it very telling to hear the Senior Editor express his respect for the opinions of other citizens in a community forum with a phrases like "asinine" and "verbose". I guess as a 'professional', Erik is far more qualified to judge what is worthy of criticism, and what is not. Apparently it was cool for the hipmeisters of the City Paper to observe the failings of the government until it became passi. Now the City Paper seeks to differentiate themselves by being the defenders of the poor beleaguered bureaucrats in the face of the ungrateful yuppie scum who would toss them out of work.

I would assert that the measured observations of both citizens like Nick Keenan, in whatever forum they choose, and the work of Vernon Loeb at the Post (Erik's competitor for ad dollars) probably accomplish more to improve life in the city than the ranting of this particular free alternative weekly editor. My advise to Erik: Save your fire for the readers who pay (er, stoop down) to read your riffs. We're having an adult conversation here (most of the time).


Why I am a Lurker:
Karen A. Metivier-Carreiro,

A) I (actually "we") do not live in the District...yet B) We are looking for a house in the District, and we want to learn as much as we can prior to a purchase C) We have nothing to say re: DC services, but we can say a great deal about the wonderful people in the Foggy Bottom area (note the "" email address)


Those Fascinating Stink Trees
Steph Faul, steph@

Ginkgo biloba, the "stink trees" under discussion, have outlived the dinosaurs -- they're "living fossils" that remained virtually unchanged for 250 million years or more. Missionaries brought back ginkgos from temple compounds in China; they proved to be good street trees for cities, since they can withstand extremes of temperature and don't mind pollution. Like holly trees and the readers of D.C. Story, individual ginkgo trees are either male or female. Also like holly trees but unlike the readers of D.C. story, ginkgos reproduce by having the males cast their pollen to the wind in hopes it reaches some female ginkgos. The fruit contains, if memory serves, butyric and caproic acid, the same compounds that give rancid butter its smell. (Dr. Bob! Feel free to correct my chemistry!) It really does stink something fierce and gets this gummy yellow stuff all over your shoes. The solution is either to spray a compound that prevents fruit from maturing, plant only male trees, or pray for a heavy rain. I assume the reason females are planted at all is that it's difficult and/or expensive to sex an immature sapling and by the time you know what you've got the tree is too big to move. Chinese groceries sell roasted ginkgo nuts as a snack, for those who want the full ginkgo experience.


Shock Tactics of the Fifth -- DC Schools -- Republic
Carl Bergman,

If nothing else, the leaders of the Fifth School Republic (counting loosely from Pres. Jefferson, first school board chief) are audacious. Having caused financial chaos with a $62 Million overrun -- give or take $20 to $40 million. They announce a plan to boost spending by $121 Million. Quick marching an about face, they then turned on current positions. Anyone who's not in a classroom is cutable. If you're a librarian or counselor, you're fungible and expendable. Even classroom aren't exempt. Also targeted is the city's incredibly popular prek program. It's probably there just to excite and misdirect parental energy. The program is so loved, it's a suspected source of suburban drop ins. There's a simple method to all this. The trustees (so named, apparently, because they aren't likely to break out in public anywhere) have adopted shock tactics as the best approach. Stun'em, keep'em guessing. Change positions before you can be attacked.

Given the city's possible surplus, and an easily constructed agenda for more funds, they may succeed. Their twist and bounce tactics may also sink them. Requests for a major increase in public funds, not coupled to a clearly worked out program, will directly play into the Congressional voucher brigade's hands. Congressional Republicans won't have a hard time squatting by the same troth, and they aren't big on sharing. The odds of a decent program rests with Arlene Ackerman's unproven skills. She has to put together a coherent, logical program. Then she has to sell it to the board, control board, council, hiz honor and even the public. Having done that, if she can, she'll have to keep all the city players in line to go up to the hill. With a changing control board, erratic, eccentric, patrician school trustees,a mayoral election, unknown OMB leadership, and few friends hill friends, she might opt for something less daunting like night sky diving.

---- Did you see this (wed post from the web) Barry Watch: "It's time to move on," says the Rev. Robert Hamilton, who led the 1994 Draft Barry campaign and drummed up support for the disgraced ex-mayor when he was at his nadir. "It's time for a new landscape." Hamilton says Barry "knows it's time. I mean, he's not mentally disturbed. He sees it. His friends see it."

And if he does run, does that means he is?


Standards and Vouchers
Daniel Rabbitt,

In the last DC story, David Reed claims "Daniel Rabbitt disputed my earlier posting on the need for standards along with school choice." I do not oppose standards for school choice. If one reads my previous post, I state "While I agree with his comment that 'we must assure that there are no disastrous choices available,' currently most parents have only one choice: the disaster that is the DC public schools." The point is that abysmal, ideologically-driven yet publicly-funded schools are not just a future possibility, but a current reality. Simply because one supports vouchers and criticizes the state of the DC schools does not mean one supports diverting funds to extremist groups.

I also do not see how one can compare allowing school choice with allowing child abuse. Tragically, there are some parents who abuse their children, but the state does not take all children away from their parents at birth just because there's a chance that abuse could happen in some cases. Similarly, the chance that a few parents would make a poor choice for their children's education hardly justifies taking that critical decision away from the majority of parents who understand and care about their children's needs. Let the parents decide, with some reasonable but not overbearing restrictions from the state, and watch the kids benefit from better private and public schools.


From my Aunt Barbara a 30 year veteran teacher in elementary schools in MA via
Jessica Vallette,

The voucher idea was tried in California. The families of the kids who went to private school were given a voucher (about $4000.) to apply to the tuition. Of course the tuition is usually around $8000.00+ to attend, so the rich kids went and received voucher-reimbursement. This took some very good students out of the public schools. I feel that the public school system is being raped by the proponents of charter schools and of vouchers. As you know, the public schools HAVE to teach everyone. We cannot screen our candidates to pick the best.

I am very much anti-charter; if the brains who concocted this plan would put their efforts into improving public schools, we would be getting somewhere. Reduce class size, provide more ILA's, and give us some updated technology...etc. The whole idea of creating competition for public schools is ludicrous.


School Vouchers
Leila Afzal (whose child attends public school in DC),

School vouchers are a cop-out. It is an experiment where the early results have not been promising. Cleveland, OH has been using a voucher system and the results of standardized testing of the kids using the vouchers have been extremely disappointing. (I admit this may not be the best indicator of success, but it is at least one way to measure the benefits of the voucher system.) I believe Milwaukee's experience with vouchers has been similarly poor. Some societal benefits are not best left to the private sector, i.e. police protection, national defense, and schools. We need to roll up our sleeves and fix our schools, not look for quick and easy answers and hope someone else will do it for us. If Congress feels this is such a great idea, let them experiment at home. In the meantime, we could see immediate improvement here if we reduced class sizes substantially, allowed each school autonomy over its own budget and dramatically reduce the bloated bureaucracy downtown.


School Vouchers
Louis Shapiro,

All this talk about the condition of schools is good. But, I ask you, have you taken these ideas that you so eloquently express to the local school boards? I work as a substitute teacher in Public Schools and I work as a teacher on Saturday mornings teaching religion to public school students who supplement their education by taking advantage of the church program I volunteer for. I am in favor of vouchers because, even though debate is good for making decisions, the final choice is made by actually sending children to a school that teaches what parents want their children to learn. The state must have standards; and these should be debated. But, in the meantime, in a competitive economy; parents should be free to use the resources that are available without paying twice and the competition will raise the standards.


Mike Livingston,

Dorothy Persiflage writes: "High incarceration rates are the primary reason why crime rates are coming down, and why teen/youth crime is going up." Makes sense, but isn't necessarily true. According to a 1997 report by The Sentencing Project, crime (nationwide) increased from 1984-91 despite a 77% increase in incarceration during that time; crime rates have risen twice and fallen twice since 1970 despite steadily increasing incarceration; and "studies by the Rand Corporation have demonstrated that drug treatment, intervention with families of preschoolers, and high school graduation incentives are all more cost-effective than prison expansion in reducing crime." Speaking as a crime victim, I'd sooner pay for those constructive and preventative measures than for the prison industry as we know it.


Taxpayer's Nightmare
Ed T. Barron,

One more time we learn how the taxpayers of Washington are being royally screwed by the District government. The taxpayers are paying a subsidy of 2.8 million dollars to the UDC Law School this year to "educate" about 170 students. That works out to a subsidy of over $16000 per student each year. Close this nightmare drain of our valuable tax dollars.


Alternative Driver's License Numbers
Dante Terrana,

Recently a reader asked if it was possible to have a driver's license issued in DC using a random number in lieu of one's social security number. I am pleased to respond that YES, this is possible and it is NOT difficult!

Room 1157, Window 6 can accommodate such requests. You will need to complete the driver's license application form (again) as well as sign a short form which simply states that you are requesting a randomly issued number as your license number. Drop by the cashier's window and pay $5 ("duplicate license fee"), have your photo re-taken, and voila, you will emerge with a driver's license that does not advertise your SSN. I did this last Friday afternoon and the entire process took me only 30 minutes or so.


Run-Off Elections
Job Dittberner,

I'd like to pick up on the idea noted by Sullivan about a week ago on the need for a run-off after the primaries. It strikes me as somewhat undemocratic that a small fraction of voters (something below 25%) whose candidate wins the primaries should, in effect, be electing the mayor because the field was divided. A run-off would also offer a more serious opportunity to ask candidates the kinds of questions some of the participants in this forum have been framing. Shouldn't we be drumming up a campaign to pressure the Council to change procedures and endorse a run-off? I'd much appreciate hearing more discussion on this topic.


Jumping In
Tony Ross,

Mike Hill, wrote: This is always a sticky question for us urbanites. Do you speak up and risk harm to yourself, or stay quiet and allow dysfunction to go uncorrected? I don't do it often enough myself, so I'm not a role model. What do the rest of you think?

Well, for me it depends on what kind of mood I'm in, sometimes I'm more belligerent than other times. When I am "in the mood," my rule of thumb is, if the offender is on their own, I will speak up. When there is more than one person it depends. I was once walking downtown and came across the scene of two 30-year old woman fighting, with a circle on onlookers and other people just walking by. I was more upset that no one was doing anything than I was by the actual fighting. I stepped in and separated the two, managing to lead one away while the other collapsed crying. It seems they were two friends who got in a dispute about money and a man. In any event, once the fight ended, the crowd dispersed, which made me even angrier. I was told later that what I did was incredibly stupid, and that I could have been stabbed/shot/etc, and I guess that is true.


If We List Them, Maybe They'll Be Fixed
S.L. Mayhew,

With Jeff out staring at azaleas and the other beauties of Washington's spring, it might be a good time to deal with traffic dangers. How about compiling a list of hazardous traffic conditions that can be easily fixed? List things in your neighborhoods like missing signs, broken signals, etc. Maybe one of us can pass the list on to Dr. Barnett or Public Works.

Here's a start for A.U. Park. (1) On Massachusetts Avenue at Westmoreland Circle the " Yield to Traffic in the Circle" sign has disappeared. (2) On Brandywine Street and River Road one of the "Do Not Enter" signs has been missing for two years and cars are always driving down the one way portion of Brandywine. (3) There is no red light at the Chesapeake and River Road signal (heading west). It is broken and drivers just assume that its green. These problems are long standing. Why can't they just be fixed?


Why can't we be more like .. Canada?
Joan Eisenstodt

Know Canada has their problems but .... Just back from a busn. trip to Vancouver and Victoria -- short time there (less than 48 hrs.) but experienced the ferry to and from Vancouver to Victoria. Everything was immaculate -- the fine for dumping on a highway is $2000 (Canadian) and people were polite. The govt.-operated ferry system is a wonderful experience -- cheap for a 1 3/4 hr. ride, convenient, and civilized. No honking, no lane changes, no anger in line. On board, the service is great; the food decent. (The views are of course magnificent but the govt. had little to do w/ those.)

Service in general (airport and 2 hotels) was far superior to what I experience in the States. How can we become more like our northern neighbors? Higher taxes? I'd pay for better service and benefits.


Call For Mentors
Mike Hill,

The EnvironMentors Project seeks environmentalists and environmental professionals to serve as mentors for high school students interested in developing environmentally oriented science and community service projects. The EnvironMentors Project emphasizes the inclusion of students from groups traditionally underrepresented in the environmental professions. There are 60 sophomores/juniors in the District that would benefit from a mentor to work with one-on-one for one hour/week on a community service or science project from September to February. No experience is required. If you want to learn more, there will be a meeting on May 5 and 5/12 or 5/19 to get trained and oriented. For more information contact Patrick Naehu, Project Director, at The EnvironMentors Project, 1511 K Street, N.W., Ste. 1036, Washington, D.C. 20005. Tel. (202) 347-5300 or email


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.



Samaritan Inns
Margie Siegel,

Frank Priss inquired about information on Samaritan Inns, a nonprofit working in Columbia Heights . My suggestion -- just call them and ask them to send you a packet of information about their work, or better yet, go visit their apartment building or other locations on 14th street? Nonprofits in this town are making a real differences, and Samaritan Inns has been quietly and busily renovating houses and apartment buildings on 14th street and side streets in their neighborhood.


Auto Body Repair Shop
Holly Olson,

I am in need of a reliable and reasonably priced auto body shop. I have had extensive damage done to the front end of my car (89 mercury topaz), and don't want to have to rely on a phone book to find a shop. I am specifically looking for a shop in NW DC. If anyone has any recommendations, I would be greatly appreciative.



I heartily recommend one of your advertisers, BodyWise BodyWorks, a group of massage therapists. I started seeing Jenn Weed, the owner, several years ago for long-term sciatica, and she identified and worked on specific areas until the problem disappeared. I have continued to see Jenn because I find her massages healthful and relaxing. Recently I convinced my husband to go because of stress and now he's a convert. Jenn has a lot of knowledge about physiology and also demonstrates stretches and exercises appropriate to the individual. Although I am a massage client, I understand she does shiatsu and foot reflexology, too. Her phone number (in Cleveland Park) is 966-6113 and website is

PS: I'm a lurker because I enjoyed Northwest Side Story when it was in print and like to understand other points of view. Lorraine Swerdloff,


Referral - Home Repairs and Service
Joan L. Eisenstodt

Best service I have ever had has been through Delbe Home Services -- found here on the dc story. They are a one-stop shop for home repairs -- you tell them what you need, they find the work people (all of whom have been MORE than qualified!) and Delbe bills you. It's simple and good and reliable. I recommend them w/o hesitation. Their web site is or email to


Filmfest DC
Ky Nguyen,

The twelfth annual Washington, DC International Film Festival (Filmfest DC) continues to celebrate the best in world cinema in the Nation's Capital through May 3. Filmfest DC 1998 highlights New Cinema from Iran and Germany as well as Global Rhythms, a series featuring major international musical artists. Over 75 films from more than 30 countries are presented as well as special events, including guest directors, CineCafes, a reception at the French Embassy, and a closing night party. Listings are available in The Washington Post and Washington City Paper. For more information, call (202) 628-FILM or surf to


Rummage/Bake Sales

Cleveland Park Congregational Church and John Eaton Elementary Schools will be hosting rummage/bake sales on Saturday, May 2, from 10-3. Location: corner of 34th and Lowells Streets. Bargains and delectables galore.


Jewish Singles Party Sunday May 3, 1998
Michael Goldstein--

The Society of Young Jewish Professionals- sponsors of the Matzo Ball, presents the Lox Trot 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 music, dancing, hors d'oeurves, door prizes, outdoor seating, valet parking, and 100's of Jewish Singles. $10 before 10pm- Get There Early! and $15 after 10pm. Any questions or comments contact us at or call us at 202-452-5541. Please visit our web page at


Free Stuff
Aries Keck,

About 10 - 15 office-style florescent lights (perfect for indoor greenhouse), two wooden desks, both in good condition, pile o'wood, one slightly wobbly office chair. All this stuff is in my garage just off Lamont St. Must get rid of it before May 1st. Interested, either reply or call 202-326-7041 during the day, or 202-265-9551 at night.


Computer Monitor For Sale. Mag Innovision 17" monitor- one year old-little use. Perfect condition. $300. Also, Sharp Fax Machine- barely used- three months old- original packaging $100(firm) Please call 202 244 1911 after 6 or leave message. Rose Kemps,


Amigo Centra electric scooter; rechargeable, 3-wheel platform design. Fully loaded -- upholstered seat, headlight, collapsible wire basket. Very low mileage, excellent condition. Costs $3,500 new; now for sale for only $1,000. Ralston Cox, 202-483-1770,


Washer and Dryer For Sale
Radine Legum,

For Sale: WASHER & DRYER (Whirlpool). Both operate on 110 volts. Like new. $400 (or best price). Price includes service contract thru March '99. Call 202-364-0253. Please leave a message.


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


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