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May 28, 1998

Your Electronic Backfence

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Plus, more regular coverage of the District, Congress, the White House and regional issues than any other radio station. 1500 AM or 107.7 FM.....whichever signal works best where you are !


Dear Neighbors:

I'm experimenting with new technology. Please notify me if this message arrives in an unsatisfactory format. If it does, I'll sue Bill Gates...and send you a revised version.


Many of you have signed up our next dc.story party on June 10 at Firehook Bakery (from 7:30 PM until 9:30 PM). We'll meet in Firehook's Garden (the refurbished Roma Garden). Firehook offers coffee, pastries, salads, sandwiches, beer, and wine.

PLEASE RSVP BY SENDING ME AN EMAIL MESSAGE WITH "GARDEN" IN THE SUBJECT LINE. I need a head count and will send out an announcement in the event we have to postpone the event due to rain. Admission to the event is $5.

Firehook Bakery is located in Cleveland Park at 3411 Connecticut Avenue, NW. Neighborhood parking, metered parking, and pay lots are available. The Cleveland Park Metro is only a couple of hundred feet from Firehook.


Folks, how can I beg with dignity? dc.story wants more posters, more voices, more opinions. It's your outlet. Please stop lurking in the shadows and tell us what's on your mind. Your fair-minded editor will protect you from ad homonym attacks.

In recent conversations with list members, I have learned that some of you are confused about how to post messages to the list. I sent out the ground rules---which keeps growing longer and longer---when you subscribed, but let me provide you the Reader's Digest version. dc.story has only one email address, If you want to post a message, subscribe, unsubscribe, or just say hi, send your message to that address. I don't use listserv technology because I want to make sure everyone of you gets the personalized attention you deserve. (Actually, I think listserv creates barriers for Internet novices.)

Posting a note is easy, though I suppose writing them can be challenging. Just email them to I toss them in a folder and pull the best of the lot when I assemble the newsletter.

I would be grateful if you follow a few style points. Line 1 should be a title with initial capital letters. (Please do not put the title in the subject line.) The next line should include your name and email address, separated by a comma. Skip a line and write two short paragraphs. Make your point and save your other comments for another message.

Need to view a sample? Just look at this newsletter. Some of the postings exceed the two-paragraph rule (which means I try to be flexible) but usually I send these messages back to the author for revision (with canned stationery explaining the posting rules in excruciating detail).

In all seriousness, I'm still surprised by the number of postings, even from regular contributors, who don't follow the format. Maybe one in ten conform. Reformatting the postings so dc.story is an easy read is my most time-consuming task (apart from email address changes from folks who can't remember their previous address). All I ask from you is to have mercy on me.


There is a polarity in the 1998 elections: there is strong competition for certain races (Ward 1 Council and At-Large Council) but very little for others (such as Council Chair). There's a wide array of contenders for At-Large Council, including David Catania, Sabrina Sojourner, Phil Mendelson, Mark Thompson, and some others (all of the candidates are listed on the Board of Elections' website: What do you know about the candidates running for the Council at-large seats? What do you want to know about Frank Smith, Jim Graham, and Todd Mosley in Ward 1? Maybe we can get a spirited debate going.


Maudine Cooper's appointment to School Board of Trustees Chair could also stir some debate among readers. She has expressed some comments about schools "West of the Park," sitting pretty with tons of resources. Moreover, she may have been one of the people outraged when Hearst School escaped closure in 1997. On the other hand, maybe she's the person needed to bring strong leadership to a floundering school system. And on the third hand, wasn't the Board of Trustees declared illegal by the Court?

Jeffrey Itell May 28, 1998


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Positive Signs Worth Noting
Ron Eberhardt,

On Tuesday, in the midst of the fire at the Municipal Building - police headquarters - and the partial disruption of police communications, there were two positive items are worth noting:

Wanting to report two drug dealers operating at my corner, I phoned the police non-emergency number to receive a recording that non-emergency calls could not be answered due to the fire related problems. Next I phoned the Third Police District Station where I explained my dilemma. The next voice I heard was that of 3D police commander Joseph Adamany. He took detailed descriptions of the dealers and apologized for my inability to get through to communications. About 20 minutes later I stepped out of my home to see if the drug dealers were still there. Not only were the drug dealers gone, but Commander Adamany and a marked police unit were in the intersection just having personally cleared the sidewalk of the dealers! I confess to being totally shocked and - - pleased. Previously I would have been fortunate to get a single uniform - if that - to react to my call.

The second positive came in response to the closure of the motor vehicles offices at the Municipal Building. Officials moved additional staff to the H Street NE satellite office and though that office normally closes at 7 p.m., insisted that it would remain open until everyone was served! That is extraordinary and unprecedented. I am assuming that had to do with the new management-style of Camille Barnett. None of us know if these positive actions of today are mere aberrations. They were regardless welcome and long overdue. Can anyone though tell me why the motor vehicles satellite office on H Street is good only for renewals and not original titles, licenses, etc? That seems like a wasted opportunity to both create redundancy and reduce the lines at C Street.


Marion: Leaving Office Intestate
Carl Bergman,

The post mortems already written on the Barry years are enough. I don't want to see much more about Marion, in or out of office. Thirty years will do. There is one point, though, that has gone largely unsaid and needs to be said before calling it quits. Marion leaves not just a vacuum, but a political abyss. We've no mayor's in waiting. So tightly and thoroughly did he dominate local politics that not much else has grown around him. It's no surprise that Kevin, Harold or Jack barely polls ahead of None of the Above. Marion kept the city's agenda to himself and on himself. There was no room for a serious supporting cast, much less any opponents. He was the actor, the role and the play.

Marion made many alliances, but he never established any kind of real political organization, much less any visible team. Remember John Ray's abortive mayoral campaign? Ray, an unknown, dropped out at the end, endorsing Barry. In turn, Barry supported him for his old at large seat. The deal went no further. Barry never had a floor leader in the council, never pushed new talent for its own sake. He brought many important new faces to the government, but as often as not he paid them little regard or was quickly hostile, least they build a personal following. You could see this in the Kelly election. There was no Barry stand in, no surrogate or successor. It's the same now. There are plenty who want his constituency, or his nod, but there's no one set to step in. Creating a class of successors, directly or indirectly, would have taken a politician of sensitivity, accountability and compassion for his voters, if not for his city.


With Permission from the Democratic Leadership Council,

This week Marion Barry announced he would not pursue a fifth term as Mayor of Washington. To most Americans, the long tenure of Mayor Barry probably seems like the exotic local quirk of a city never known for its all-American character, full of strange, self-important people who seem to live by different standards of behavior from the rest of us. Why not have a mayor who was videotaped smoking crack?

Ironically, Barry's "lifestyle problems" were near the bottom of the list of complaints by his critics. More important was his conscious engineering of a city government that existed primarily to serve not its citizens but its employees--employees who have steadily migrated to the suburbs, sensibly preferring to live in a jurisdiction free of their own stewardship. Washington is a city with astonishingly high taxes and astonishingly poor basic services. It is the home of America's most aggressive road-building politicians, but also the pothole capital of America. It is the headquarters of many environmental groups, but has suspended recycling services, and must occasionally warn citizens against drinking District water. Its public schools, loaded with administrators, spend more tax dollars per student than all but a few of the systems in the country, but its students perform abysmally on every available test of knowledge or skills.

The centerpiece of the Barry legacy, and its crowning irony, was his success in finally provoking the restoration of Congressional "plantation rule" of the District that he so often used as a hobgoblin to arouse racial feelings and distract attention from his own record.

Whatever it means for the District, the end of the Barry era in Washington looks like the end of an era of racial politics in America's cities. Barry is the last of a small group of civil rights activists who used racial appeals to storm the ramparts of white political power and then relied on racial appeals and aggressive patronage to stay in office. The idea that these tactics are necessary to elect or re-elect black politicians is not terribly credible now that so many major American cities--Bill Campbell's Atlanta, Mike White's Cleveland, Ron Kirk's Dallas, Wellington Webb's Denver, Dennis Archer's Detroit, Lee Brown's Houston, Emanuel Cleaver's Kansas City, Mark Morial's New Orleans, among others--are governed by black mayors who actively seek biracial coalitions and demand results from municipal employees.

Go in peace, Mr. Mayor. And leave us in peace.


Marion Died for our Sins?
John Whiteside,

Rev. Willy Williams gets the award for most overblown Barry tribute, though he's got lots of competition. The Post quotes him of saying, of the mayor, "God is in him, and where God is there can be no imperfection." I thought we were talking about the mayor of Washington, not the second coming of Christ.

All of this outpouring of praise for the mayor that helped create the most bloated and ineffective city government in the nation makes me glad that the current crop of candidates is so lacking in charisma. A frightening number of Washingtonians seem to prefer posturing and grandstanding to good government; if someone Barry-esque was waiting in the wings, I'd be worried.


Strange Creatures in the Night
Steph "Was that a foxy lady or a lady fox?" Faul,

The strange creature spotted at the Cathedral was almost certainly a red fox. They've adapted well to city life and are cat-like in their predatory habits, stalking and pouncing on prey, rambling around at night, etc. They are, as their reputation implies, clever and elusive. I've seen dead ones at the side of the road but have not been privileged to spot a live one. Guess I'll have to start hanging around the Cathedral after dark.


Richard A. Koris,

Last night, I saw a grey fox sneaking down Macomb street. I see them on Rodman St. regularly, but Rodman has a little spur of Rock Creek Park next to it. It seems we have quite an urban fox population!


Red Light Running
Bill Adler,

Has anyone noticed how dangerously frequent red light running has become at Connecticut Avenue and Ordway Street (not to mention Connecticut at Porter and at Macomb)? The red light running at these intersections is brazen -- one, two, sometimes three cars or trucks zipping through the red. It seems especially prevalent around the evening rush hour, though no time of day seems immune.


Vouch This
Kathy Carroll,

In response to Ed Barron who says, "I would welcome the opportunity to send my kids to a non-public school." Um, there are LOTS of non-public schools for your kids to go to...oh, I see.. you don't actually want to PAY for it.... This is the problem with vouchers. How about making your kids' private education a priority? If it's so important, why don't you forgo a few dinners out and do it! I hope I don't sound snide, I don't mean to...but jeez, that's what savings accounts are for!


Curfew Law Struck Down
Andrea Carlson, (who is currently immersed in writing a book on family support initiatives for the National Crime Prevention Council),

This time, I agree with Art Spitzer and the ACLU -- instituting a curfew is no way to reduce juvenile crime. The peak hours for violent juvenile crime are 3:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., beginning at the end of the school day. This is the time when youth are most likely to become involved with crime, either as perpetrators or victims. Once school lets out, many youth are on their own, and therefore at risk. It is estimated that 3.5 million children under age 13 spend some time at home alone each week, and it is hard to know how many other children are periodically left unsupervised, even for short periods of time, according to the 1998 Kids Count Data Book: State Profiles of Child Well-Being, The Annie E. Casey Foundation. If we're interested in preventing juvenile crime (and we should be -- it's a huge problem), we need to examine our community's existing family support mechanisms and determine how they might be strengthened. I'm talking about coordinated efforts to help parents give their children a good start -- prenatal care, access to treatment for substance abuse, parent skills training, job training, affordable, quality day care, and after-school care for older children. It's being done in several places and it's working, keeping kids out of trouble and saving taxpayer dollars.


Court of Appeals Says D.C. Curfew Law Unconstitutional
Dorothy Persiflage,

Ms. Persiflage wanted to convey her joyous and heartiest congratulations to Art Spitzer, his National Capital Area ACLU, and the pivotal judge of the DC Circuit US Court of Appeals for ensuring that, contrary to the will of those petty-minded, contrarian people working through their elected representatives, children age 16 and below can exercise their "constitutional" "rights" in D.C. by staying out in public places and private establishments between 11 P.M. and 6 A.M. on weekdays and between midnight and 6 A.M. on weekends. This is certainly a great legal, moral, and intellectual achievement, not to mention -- let's not mince words -- an exceedingly rare display of common sense of positively Euclidean dimensions on the part of authorities who have, after all, undergone legal training. Ms. P takes particular comfort and delight in knowing that the 16-and-below crowd will have extended hours at night to demonstrate that all that bad press they've been getting as the fastest-growing criminal element in society is just so much balderdash, thank-you-very-much. So once again, Ms. Persiflage's sincerest congratulations and heartfelt thanks to all involved in this monumental achievement. A tout ta!


Testify if you must, but know the facts!
Leslie Miles,

If you read the message urging you to testify against the Convention Center in the last DC Story, please get the facts before you run up to the Council Chamber: * The Center will cost $685 million, $35 million of which is Federally- pledged money for Metro and other improvements. This is the final price. It is in the contract with the builder. It cannot cost more, period.

* There is no possibility of a tax on general revenue in case of some unforeseeable cost increase. The only tax will be on hotels, restaurants and car rentals. Inasmuch as the hotel and restaurant associations support the center, I wouldn't worry too much about those restaurants in Ward One. They know that more tourists means more dollars, not just within a block of the building.

* This building is a good deal for the city, despite the rather weird article on the front page of today's Post, which makes it seem that there is no room to grow on the site at MT Vernon Square, rendering the project a boondoggle before it is built. The existing center is literally one block from the new site. It is already built and mostly paid for. If we just keep that center, we can use it for expansion space. Raising the specter of tearing down historic districts and churches is just a scare tactic. And since I live next to the historic district immediately west of the site(of which I happen to be the officer and agent) if there were a good reason to be scared, I surely would be.


MT. Vernon Square Convention Center YES
Ron Eberhardt,

The Washington Post did a superb job this week bringing to the public's attention certain planning flaws in the proposed new convention center to be built at MT. Vernon Square. The flaws principally had to do with the ability of the center to expand and not outgrow itself only a decade into its use. I frankly rejected as insignificant the per square foot cost when compared to other centers. I did so because in my mind the extra costs to assure that the new center esthetically fits into the adjoining historic neighborhoods is justified and necessary.

The Convention Authority, reacting to the Post's good work on the subject, moved up its already planned announcement to address those very issues regarding expansion. The Authority ought to have already have gone public about these concerns in the interest of credibility and full disclosure. That would have neutralized the nay sayers who are now saying, the result of the Post Story, "I told you so." I believe the concerns have been addressed an allayed. Furthermore, even if more kinks are to be worked out so be it. The fact is the new convention center absolutely ought to be built at MT. Vernon Square. This continues the wonderful revitalization of downtown, keeps continuous the marvelous progress the result of the MCI Arena area and, most importantly, if not the convention center on this land then what? It makes sense and I hope that those in authority vote without further delay to get on with it. Enough talk, enough delay.


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 am an apartment dweller and in search of a good patch of earth for planting some vegetables. I would like some information about community gardens in the Woodley Park or Cleveland Park neighborhoods. Brad Jones,


I would much appreciate any recommendations on finding someone competent to repair damaged concrete front steps. Ed Kane


I'm a DC homeowner who lives on a sadly over-grown double lot. I need to find a lawn service that can kill/clear out bushes and vines (some of which is poison ivy), cut down mulberry trees, prune back good trees and remove dead branches. Landscapers who are looking to pretty-up manicured suburban lawns will not do--it's a forest out there. Any leads to responsible hard yard workers would be most appreciated. Heidi Scanlon,



Re: your request for someone nice and reasonable who could do some hauling -- my old office frequently employed a really great guy, Calvin Coleman. You can reach him at the following numbers: (301)270-3429 (home), (301)998-9076 (pager), or (301)404-9076 (cell phone). Tell him I gave you his name. Clare Feinson,


Zoo Lecture: The Search for the Missing Beetle
Margie Gibson,

Hear firsthand the story of the rediscovery of a species believed extinct! The Seth Forest water scavenger beetle had inhabited a vernal pond on Maryland's Eastern Shore. Scientists feared it had been bulldozed into extinction by a land-use planning snafu in 1982. Warren Steiner, entomologist, National Museum of Natural History; James McCann, zoologist, Maryland Department of Natural Resources; and Bruce Stein, director, conservation science external affairs, The Nature Conservancy, recount their quest to discover whether this tiny arthropod was indeed extinct.

4 June. 7:30 p.m. 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


Zoo Lecture: Tall Blondes: A Book About Giraffes
Margie Gibson,

Lynn Sherr, correspondent for the ABC news magazine, 20/20, and author of Tall Blondes: A Book About Giraffes, will sign copies of her book and present a slide-illustrated lecture. Sherr explores the extraordinary world of the giraffe, from its soulful eyes to its striking coloration. Her book includes a cultural history of the giraffe, beginning with its first appearance in Europe in 46 B.C., and traces the species' life in zoos. Sherr also tells a story of particular local interest about the National Zoo's acquisition of giraffes.

11 June. 7 p.m. Reception & Booksigning 8 p.m. 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


We're Looking For A Marketer
Judith A. Turner,

Turner Consulting Group, a young high-tech company in Washington specializing in Web applications, with a solid business in government contracts (and a growing base of industry and association business) is looking for a marketing expert to handle the many leads that are rolling in continuously as well as those that need to be unearthed and developed. As we are new to professional marketing, you need to sell us on your ability to do the job.

Please send a resume and -- perhaps more important -- a cover letter, to You can find out more about who we are and what we've done,, and We are prepared to fill this position as soon as we find the right person.


For sale. Hanging porch swing. 202-337-4906 or leave message at 202-328-l083. Edna Small


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


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