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May 3, 1998

Your Electronic Backfence

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Dear Neighbors:

On this day in 1802, Washington, D.C., was incorporated as a city. On this day in 1936, singer Engelbert Humperdinck was born.

Coincidence.? I hope so.


One reason I want to refocus our discussion from retrocession is that we are not discussing many important subjects in dc.story. City leaders just reached consensus on a budget to present to Congress, though some of the details are still being worked out. In New York, citizens have the opportunity to see where their tax dollars are spent. (See section below.) In DC, we are so caught up in how we should be governed, we neglect to discuss how we are being governed. I would like us to come back to that issue. Are we spending enough for pubic works? Do we really need more police and police raises? What about adding so much more money to the school budget? After running for superintendents General Becton and Franklin Smith out of town, do we now look silly for short-changing their budget requests?

Not only would I like you to engage these issues, but it would be swell if the mayoral and council candidates engaged these issues as well. The campaign is on folks, and although Congress is busy Barry-proofing the city, these positions retain some power and great influence. Do you know who is running for mayor and what they stand for? Do you know who's running for council in your ward or citywide and what they stand for? (I would be obliged if someone would clue me in on the citywide candidates.)

I find it ironic that we often spend more time talking about how to improve participatory democracy than actually exercising our democratic rights.


NYC Independent Budget Office Cyber Town Hall Meeting (From @NY)^7891@.ee6b962

The New York City Independent Budget Office--a quasi-governmental agency created during the city charter revision early in the decade to provide an unbiased analysis of city budgets--is among the most cybersaavy groups in town. On its own site the IBO publishes an applet that allows surfers to discover how much of their tax dollars go to what agencies and programs. Now the IBO has paired with CitySearch to co-host a six week long online Town Hall Meeting on the city budget during the budget negotiations between Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and the City Council.

Jeffrey Itell May 3, 1998


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More on City Paper
Paul Williams,

Paul Bailey stated in the last issue that "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." I disagree! As a citizen in Shaw that was the victim of a serial (no, not cereal) burglar (10 attempts, three successful in 14 months) in the Shaw neighborhood awhile back, I turned to the media as a last resort to help pressure the incompetent police force; I knew where my burglar lived, his full name, and even his telephone and social security numbers! I didn't want to do it because this type of exposure for the neighborhood is counter to the hard work I had accomplished to improve my neighborhood.

Only when Erik and the Citipaper began investigating my story did the police become concerned. Was it a coincidence that the perp was arrested the week the story was due? When the federal prosecutor wanted to drop the case did it help to mention that the Citipaper would do a follow up? You bet. Loeb and The Post was not interested (could have been the week animal feeding at the zoo ran on the metro front page), nor any other paper in town. Happily, due to Citipaper exposure, I was able to sit through a two day trial this past January, two years after the break-ins, the result of which sent my burglar to jail until he is eligible for parole in 2012. And, with the one-man-burglar spree, the neighborhood break-ins have virtually vanished.


D.C. School Budget/Personnel Cuts
Ed T. Barron,

Kathy Patterson is right on the money with her stance on the personnel cuts and the increased budget. The school system is approaching a potential melt down with the decision to hold back all students who fail the standardized tests in certain grades this Spring. The schools are trying to fix a major problem in too short a time. This process of bringing students up to grade level, albeit well intended, cannot be accomplished in a single year. it must be done with a great deal more planning than has been done to date. The Summer schools will never be able to handle all those requiring mediation before the Fall.

Cutting any portion of the budget that will result in increased class sizes is just the opposite of what is needed. If we are to bring our students up to snuff in all grade levels the class sizes must decrease dramatically and some very fine teachers added to the staff. If there are personnel cuts to be made they should come from a very top heavy school bureaucracy, not for the teaching staff (which includes librarians, by the way).


Flower Man
Barbara Menard,

Although this pales in importance compared to the scintillating conversation you all have been having about retrocession for DC... Does anyone know what happened to the man who used to sell flowers out of his van at the corner of Ordway and Connecticut (outside what is now WrapWorks)? He has not been there for a couple of weeks and I miss being able to buy fresh flowers on the way home from work. Can we bring him back?


Medical Marijuana
Scott McLarty,

DO IT FOR FRIENDS... DO IT FOR FAMILY... DO IT FOR LOVERS... DO IT FOR STEVE.... Please help us collect signatures for DC's MEASURE 59 BALLOT PETITION to protect physicians and patients who use medical marijuana. We need 17,000-plus signatures by May 15. ACT UP Washington's Steve Michael, who has fought for people with AIDS and democracy in DC (recently exposing AIDS funding misappropriation in DC government), has entered the hospital with very serious AIDS complications. ACT UP's latest project is Measure 59, which will put MEDICAL MARIJUANA on the ballot in DC. Let's cheer up Steve and save the lives of people with HIV, cancer, and other serious diseases by gathering signatures! Join us 10 a.m. Saturday morning, May 2 for a MEASURE 59 BLITZ. Meet us at the corner of Columbia Road and 18 Street NW in Adams Morgan. (If you show up late, we'll still have someone on the corner with ballot petitions and information.) We'll spread out over DC and collect thousands of names. It's easy and fun -- and if you're involved with an organization or political campaign, it's an excellent pretext for starting conversations with people on the street, so bring your own brochures. Call Scott (DC Greens) at 202-518-5624 for more information.... ACT UP! FIGHT BACK! FIGHT AIDS!


Favorite Traffic Hazards
Mike Wilkinson,

S.L. Mayhew ( suggested on 29 April that dc.story readers submit their favorite traffic hazards for consolidation and to be passed on the appropriate officials. Great idea. I'd like to suggest that the left turn from P Street eastbound onto 23rd Street northbound, near Dupont, needs a left turn arrow. It's consistently a gridlocked intersection during rush hours. By the way, I really think drivers ought to refrain from entering an intersection on green if they cannot clear it. When the light changes and they're still in the middle of the intersection, road rage often happens.


Kathy Carroll,

I really like the idea of a runoff when a candidate receives less than, say 40% of the vote. However, the problem is turnout. We already have elections by less than a majority when we have two elections (primary and general), what would happen when we have three elections? And in DC, there's the "whoever wins the Democratic primary wins the general" issue....


Not in Favor of Runoff Elections
Ed T. Barron,

My rationale for opposing a runoff election in the District this year is very specific. The Democratic primary, if Barry does not run, will be a battle of the empty suits with one of those winning with a small percentage of the vote. That person will run against the Republican challenger, Carol Schwartz. With a fractious primary election even Carol might just beat the Democratic Primary winner. If there is a Democratic Primary run off it might consolidate more votes for the Democratic candidate and get more Democratic voters to vote in the real election in November. This would hurt Carol's chances of winning.


Retrocession Bonanza
Larry Mirel,

Many thanks for the "Retrocession Bonanza" issue. I'm delighted that there is so much interest in the subject. We're doing just what we aim to do--get the debate away from whether or not the District should be a state and instead have a debate on how best to get full democratic rights for District citizens. In our view, this latter is much more productive. We know that retrocession is controversial and stirs passions, but that's what makes it interesting and worthwhile. We also don't for a minute think its the only answer--only the best one we've seen so far. Some of the comments from your readers are trenchant and thoughtful. We can all learn from each other.


Class Action Lawsuit, Anyone?
David De Seve,

I have been a resident of the District for almost two years and am shocked at the state of just about everything. What worries me the most however, is the fact that its' residents are taxed without any accountable representation. I am interested in finding out whether or not anyone has ever filed a class action law suit on behalf of the residents of the District of Columbia (the class) vs. The United States of America (the defendant) challenging the constitutionality of this. If not, why not? If so, what happened?


Bruce Sunderland,

In keeping with our lurker ethic, maybe some of us don't bemoan the current home government situation. A more authoritarian, ruled by Congress city government might just get the trains on time as the expression goes. If you want full citizen rights, move from the federal city.


DC as a Territory
Tom Berry,

Lordy, if one accepts the supposed lack of enthusiasm for retrocession by the public and public officials, especially Gov. Glendenning, and Statehood for DC is an apparent albatross, (all as reported in the last dc.story), then why not try to move us up one notch in the scheme of rights to a Territory? Not only is it a move in a forward direction, it also beats the status quo. And methinks it would be an easier sell to elected officials and the public around the country.


Four Sentences for DC's Future Voting Representation
Len Sullivan,

Equitable voting rights for DC are unlikely to be achieved permanently until well into the 21st Century, and, by then, many other American inner cities will feel outvoiced by their far better off suburban and rural counterparts. The primary issue will become the relative political power of metro areas (the new national socioeconomic jurisdiction of necessity, if not choice), compared to that of the increasingly outdated city/county/state structures. From my peculiar vantage point, DC's first priority should be to work closely with Maryland and Virginia to become the vital, fully connected core of what could be America's most forward-looking--and unique--capital metro area. With that cooperative posture in hand, fresh alternatives should emerge, assuring that a new and level political playing field will evolve more naturally here and elsewhere.


Retrocession or Statehood: Practical Politics
David Sobelsohn

Even someone favoring retrocession in principle must admit that, when Democrats again control Congress, pushing for statehood could bring us representation and self-government more quickly than trying for retrocession. After all, with an enfranchised DC likely to send 3 Democrats to Congress, each congressional Democrat will have a personal political incentive to admit DC as a state. By contrast, no Maryland politician has much of an incentive to push for retrocession: Maryland Republicans will not want more Democratic voters; Democrats (like the current governor) will resist a move that confers second-city status on Baltimore. So it's incumbent on our leading pro-retrocession group to get a retrocession bill introduced in Maryland and get cosponsors, which makes me ask: how about it, Larry Mirel & Committee for the Capital City?


Retrocession a Bad Idea
Ronald G. Eberhardt (

Retrocession is yet another bad idea whose time has not come and which like so many others is represented as a remedy to correct the ills of DC while ignoring the root problem. With 69-square miles, the built-in economies of the government and tourism and all that is related, DC ought to be the most manageable and idyllic place in the U.S. to call home. It is not for one very simple reason. Totally incompetent and too often corrupt officials including past and present mayors, council members and senior managers have run this home rule experiment amuck from day one.

When responsible and competent leadership that comprises the control board and school system rises to take responsibility and reign-in an out-of-control, bankrupt and dysfunctional government the same nay sayers raise their ugly heads in favor of the status quo. When the citizens of this city take the civic responsibility that is theirs and demand integrity, competency and leadership instead of settling for divisive pettiness and self-promotion and make those expressions at the ballot box, then and only then, will Home Rule work. Then, all of the other well intended yet idiotic ideas such as this one will fall by the wayside and the District of Columbia may prevail throughout the next Millennium.


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
Stephanie Mencimer,

In reference to the questions about Samaritan Inns: I volunteer in a transitional shelter for homeless women, most of whom are recovering addicts. Several of our residents who completed the program moved into the Samaritan Inns' Lazarus House, where they can live up to five years as long as they stay clean and sober. The women swear by it and say that Lazarus House made all the difference in their long-term recovery.


Yoga & Furniture Repair
Valerie Kenyon Gaffney,

In need of referrals for someone to repair a dresser drawer damaged in the process of moving. Also looking for recommendations for a yoga instructor. The article in Tuesday's Washington Post Health section inspires me to try slowing down the process of aging, or at least increase my flexibility while I am.


Looking for DC Attorney
Joan L. Eisenstodt

Seeking recommendations for a local attorney for wills, other personal issues. Have a good professional one but need other. Referrals greatly appreciated.



Auto Repair
Sven Abow,

I've had very good experiences getting my car fixed several times at Lee's Auto Service, 3315 8th St., NE, Washington DC 20017, 202-526-4443, 202-529-6659 (Fax). They're just two blocks away from Catholic U., right up the street from Dance Place. Mr. Tony Lee is the manager. I know that they don't work on automatic transmissions, I'm not sure if they do body work or not. Give Tony a call.


"Want to learn more about the retrocession option? Here's your chance. Come to a reception on Capitol Hill for supporters of democratic rights for the people of the District of Columbia. Congressman Ralph Regula of Ohio, the sponsor of a bill that would reunite the District with the State of Maryland (H.R. 831), will speak to the group. Other Members of Congress, including Maryland and Virginia Representatives and our own Eleanor Holmes Norton, have been invited. The date is May 13 (a Wednesday), at 5:30 p.m. in room B-308 of the Rayburn House Office Building. The event is free but space is limited. Reserve a place by calling the Committee for the Capital City on (202)265-0200." Larry Mirel,


American-Israel Cultural Foundation Event
Mark Nadel,

Jazz performance, discussion, and wine+appetizer reception sponsored by the American-Israel Cultural Foundation (AICF) Young Patrons. Wed. 5/6, 7pm, $10 members/12 guests. Charles Sumner School, 1201 17th St. NW DC (just above M St.; Farragut North metro), For more information contact Jean Milbauer at or 202-857-9641.


The Convention Center: Environmental and Community Concerns
Lisa Pelstring,

The DC Environmental Liaison List invites all Metro DC based environmentalists and interested citizens to a Brown Bag Luncheon featuring a discussion of "The Convention Center: Environmental and Community Concerns" with Tersh Boasberg, Chair, Committee of 100, and Beth Solomon, Shaw Coalition. The program is set for Thursday, May 7, 1998, Noon to 1:30 PM , at Friends of the Earth 1025 Vermont Ave. NW, Floor 3 (McPherson Sq. Metro). Invite your friends and colleagues. Questions: Call Larry Bohlen, D.C. Issues Coordinator, Friends of the Earth 202/783-7400 x251


Help Wanted
Cynthia Vinson,

I am a single mother in search of a person that loves kids, to come into my house twice a week. Duties would include sitting with them and homework completion. I live in a house in N.W. DC near Tacoma Park. I am taking on a second job, and I could use the help. I have two children Boy(7) and Girl(5). Please call Cynthia Vinson (day) 703/506-6410 (eve) 202/882-9039.


Motorola Cellular StarTAC for Sale
Bill Adler,

I'm selling my Motorola StarTAC phone, plus numerous accessories for $300. The StarTAC is the smallest cellular phone available. It has a vibration/silent ring mode, 99 phone memories, speed dial, auto redial, and numerous other amazing features. The $300 package includes: Motorola StarTAC (retailed for $775), manual, belt clip, leather case, slim lithium battery, two auxiliary lithium batteries (they cost $150 each), desk charger, hands-free headset (great for driving), and more. With the auxiliary lithiums you can be on the road for days. If you are interested, give me a call at 202-686-9132, or send me an email message.


Furnished Summer Rental - Chevy Chase, D.C.
Ed Kane,

Four bedroom, 2 1/2 bath, with two extra sleeping rooms, screened porch, basement, garage, landscaped garden available from 1 June until 1 October. Rent: $2,500 monthly. Call Ed Prentice, at (202) 364-1539, after May 4th.


More stuff to donate
Joan L. Eisenstodt

Have more household stuff to donate to anyone holding a yard sale for a charitable org. Prefer if you pick up (on the Hill) but we can perhaps arrange a drop off.



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,


1994 Honda Civic LX for sale with only 23,300 miles. A hardly used 1994 Honda Civic LX with a 6 CD player, a/c, Anti-Lock Braking System, cruise control, power locks, power windows, and with only 23,300 miles. This car was driven by only one woman (not a little old lady yet!). It has been lovingly kept in a garage and gets new oil and filter every three months (not 3,000 mile--with the mileage this car gets, that would only happen once a year!). It just had its 30,000 mile service from a Honda dealership (since it would be practically 6 years old by the time it hit 30,000 miles). I'm asking $8,750--it's really worth it! Renee Schwager,


Office Available To Share--Downtown D.C.--Good Location
Agate Tilmanis,

Private consultant working in international development desires to share office with another consultant who doesn't need an office full time due to travel, work at home, etc. Below market rate rental in prime office suite on Franklin Square. Office comes with full services including reception, VM, Mailroom, meeting rooms (and health club usage at no charge). Call Tamara at (202) 364-3281 after 8 p.m. evenings.


I have a 90 inch, green slipcovered couch in reasonably good condition (a few sewable tears) to give away to anyone who is willing to transport it. Call in evening 202 966-0174. Sheila Weiss,


Need Help With Your Computer Needs At Home Or In The Office?
Nick Chang - (202.237.0130)

PC hardware repairs and upgrades; hardware/software installation and upgrades; maintenance, troubleshooting and network support; Back-up and archive your files and email on CD-ROM; setup computer network for the small office; build customized database in Access or other programs; web training and web page development; application/Internet training; data recovery. Reasonable rates. Excellent references.


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


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