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May 31, 1998

Your Electronic Backfence

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Dear Neighbors:

My experiment with producing both a plain text and HTML version of dc.story was a modest success, but I will discontinue the procedure for now. Older email clients can't make the adjustment. Plus, AOL uses a nonstandard and cumbersome email system that is incompatible with most email standards. I envision creating a listserv that will allow you to choose your flavor: plain vanilla, HTML (loaded with colors and graphics), and AOL. I could use a volunteer to set this up for me. I don't have the time.


Our next dc.story party is quickly approaching. Our get together takes place 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, which will cover the cost of organizing the event.

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.


A final thought on a lasting legacy of Barrytime. Many writers have tempered their criticism of Barry with acknowledgments that he's spent money for a panoply of social welfare programs. In other words, at least his heart was in the right place. What these blind rushes to judgment fail to comprehend (and you would think they would by now) is that spending money for public housing is not the same as providing safe, humane public housing. Read carefully and you'll see that "even" Washington Post writers often confuse these concepts -- just read a sample of articles about the latest congressional shenanigans. Hystericalians should judge Barry by what he delivered as mayor, not by what he spent. Anyone can run up a credit card -- it's much harder to spend and invest wisely.


Much is written today about the proposed convention center so I'll keep my remarks brief. To the best of my knowledge, no one has suggested that the convention center will provide a net benefit to the city. Yes, it will stir economic activity. I could stir economic activity for street vendors by running around Pennsylvania without my clothes. But why build the convention center, with all its economic spin-offs accounted for, if it is a net economic loser? Let Northern Virginia suck up the costs. It's not that DC needs a another downtown attraction to put it on the map. It's already a premier tourist destination and will remain so as long as it's the nation's capital. A billion dollars (which we don't have) is by my reckoning a significant sum of money. I can think of any number of enterprises for the Shaw community (and elsewhere) where that money could be spent more wisely and the economic return to the city would be far greater.


dc.story subscribers should be proud of their part in Tony Williams's entry into the mayoral contest. We delivered a petition to Williams in February urging his to run. Though he Shermaned his way out of committing then, the clear show of support had some affect in his calculus. In addition, some of the most active "Run, Tony, Run" activists have participated in dc.story and have been active in the shadow campaign. Whether or not Williams prevails, I'm proud of dc.story's participation in the democratic process.

Jeffrey Itell May 31, 1998


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Here's your "spirited debate"!
Scott McLarty,, (202) 518-5624

In response to your preface for the May 28 DC Story, in which you challenge readers: "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).... What do you want to know about [Democrats] Frank Smith, Jim Graham, and Todd Mosley in Ward 1? Maybe we can get a spirited debate going." It's significant that you omit Ward One's third party candidates, namely, myself (Green Party) and Nick Eames of Umoja. The race, of course, will continue after the September 15 primary whittles the Democrats down to one candidate. So, why consider voting third party, instead of a "shoo-in" Democrat -- a member of the very party that has enabled the ineptitude, cronyism, corruption, and lack of accountability, giving Congress the excuse to try to impose even WORSE Republican policies on DC? (Latest example of the latter: the Financial Control Board's regulatory "reform," Thursday, May 28.)

For one thing, third party candidates run on their platforms, so you know where we stand -- read my tirade against the Convention Center in the last DC Story, for instance. But consider something equally important: Corporations hire lobbyists and lawyers, run TV ads, contribute big money to both major parties and their candidates, get all the seats (appointed by Council) on the Business Regulatory Reform Commission and National Capital Revitalization Corporation board, and threaten jobs in order to influence public policy. Citizens, on the other hand, must take days off work to lobby Council members, spend time and energy and our own money organizing, and wait long hours to testify at public hearings to make our voices heard. That's why corporations get their way, get tax breaks and subsidies, win big contracts and land gifts. (Hence the Shaw Convention Center -- and the impending development of the 14th Street corridor, which despite "public input" will be a developer's dream and an eviction notice for lots of residents). Progressive parties like the Greens take NO corporate money, and run on a shoestring budget. Whether or not you vote Green or Statehood or Umoja or Independent, it's time to put some voices on Council that don't replicate the Democratic/Republican big-money monopoly


More Good Words For the D.C. Government
Steph "Jeffrey, we *used* to be able to put our signatures at the bottom, we're just creatures of habit and can't stop" Faul,

As I reported a few weeks ago, I was sent a real estate tax bill that claimed I was ineligible for the homestead exemption. Since I was about to go out of town I had two business days to settle it, and called the number on the bill. On the second day I spoke with a caseworker who took my social security number and said he'd look into it. So last week I got a nice letter apologizing for the error. An apology! From the D.C. government! I've resolved problems before (such as the time I convinced the DMV that I shouldn't have to register my car twice), but never with an apology for the mistake. This *is* new management


Red Light Running & Egregious Intersections
James Treworgy,

Bill Adler notes the frequent red light running on several Conn. Avenue intersections. Being a frequent user of some of them, and probably an occasional red light runner there as well, I would like to make an excuse and a plea to powers that be to fix at least one of these intersections. A left turn arrow is desperately needed for turning onto Connecticut Avenue from Porter Street on the east side. Much of the time, it is impossible for even a single car to turn left without either cutting off the oncoming traffic or running the light after it turns red, due to heavy traffic coming from the other direction on Porter. Some times of the day it can take as long as 20 minutes to get through this intersection because of backed up traffic. While I'm not condoning the practice of red light running, at this intersection you often don't have much choice.


A (d)River Runs Through It

Accidents at Connecticut and Porter. It seems I'm seeing a monthly accident at this intersection. Last week, I saw a serious one with injured motorists. One of the victims was having trouble breathing, and the paramedics were using an oxygen mask to help her. And those are only the ones I witness. This intersection needs stricter control. This could include allowing turns only with a turn signal; and using cameras to catch red light runners and illegal turners.


D.C. Democratic Party Free Ride?
Andrew Aurbach,

Did anyone else notice the article in The Washington Post (DC Democratic Party Delays Convention, Page B8, 5/30/98)? It appears that the D.C. Democratic Party had to cancel their upcoming convention because "the additional rooms needed for caucuses were not available at One Judiciary Square..." Is anyone allowed to use government office space for meetings. Is there any compensation for such usage? I volunteer for a number of groups which are always looking for meeting space. How can I get a room for my meeting there? Disclaimer: I am a registered Independent. However, it seems a little too close for comfort when a political party uses government office space for its platform development meetings. If this is an acceptable practice, then maybe the RNC should use the atrium of the new Reagan building for its convention, etc.


Convention Center and $$$
Tom Berry,

Leslie Miles recently wrote, "The Center will cost $685 million...This is the final price. It is in the contract with the builder...There is no possibility of a tax on general revenue in case of some unforeseeable cost increase."

Since Ms. Miles seems to know more than I do at this point I'd like to ask a couple of questions. 1) If the final price is set at $685 million, how can there even be any consideration of an "unforeseeable cost?" 2) What contract is there with which builder? It's this kind of a blind approach to a nearly billion dollar expenditure that makes me (and apparently many others) seriously question the political motivation behind such a project, its purported value to the community notwithstanding.


The Convention Center -- A Perspective Client's Viewpoint
Cindy Butler,

As someone who has clients that use convention centers for their meetings, let me explain why the new convention center is problematic. Let's move the discussion away from what it means for DC for a moment, and look at the realities of the convention business.

The new center would compete against existing centers that: 1. House all convention activities in one building (NOT considered the same as using two connecting buildings, even if via an underground walkway) 2. Offer enough hotel rooms within "walking distance" (considered to be 3 blocks or less, but preferably attached to the center) to house all convention participants. 3. DC is already fighting an image as a "dangerous city." Convention planners rarely are willing to fight such an image, as their selection of meeting site involves all kinds of potential liability issues. 4. The center, when completed, will be considerably smaller than competing centers. Some of those centers are planning, or are already involved in, expansions. Since most conventions of the size being discussed as future business are planned a minimum of 5 years out, how competitive can we be?

As a native Washingtonian, I constantly try to educate meeting colleagues about what a great destination DC is. However, I think there is a limit to the size of meeting this city can realistically accommodate, and I am quite confident that the new center will fall short of marketing projections -- just as our existing center has.


Yes the New Columbia Sierra Club Chapter WILL Testify AGAINST!!
Jessica, "Conservation Chair, Representing over 2,400 Voting DC residents & Shaw Homeowner" Vallette,

Leslie Miles, once again, is showing her total lack of research into this issue. There are huge number of issues yet to be resolved around the construction of a convention center in Shaw. Environmental issues, to this day, have NOT been adequately addressed. These include: the additional idle time forced on trucks waiting in the "staging area" in outer NY Ave which WILL create MORE air pollution than a site that can accommodate the truck traffic, additional AIR POLLUTION in a residential neighborhood with many CHILDREN walking to school (I'm writing this on the first CODE RED day of the summer where children and the elderly are urged to stay indoors), hydrological questions, & the list goes on. The alternative site is directly on a major traffic artery (NY Ave.) next to one of the best examples of an urban revitalization married to a major intermodal transportation hub--UNION STATION. By ignoring the environmental implications of this project, the WCCA is failing to look at another factor that will further INCREASE the total COST of building this outsized WHITE ELEPHANT in Shaw.

Furthermore, stating that the Shaw site is superior and is expandable, because its close to the current boondoggle is like saying that you can build a tunnel between the Capital building and the White House. Sure one exists, but its never used because there are HUGE security & maintenance issues. Furthermore, you forget that there is a historic structure standing directly in the way. What are you proposing? Demolish yet another one of our city's historic buildings? Please!!

Finally, I really want to know, as a Ward One Homeowner and friend of independent restaurants, what Leslie means by this: " Inasmuch as the hotel and restaurant associations support the center, I wouldn't worry too much about those restaurants in Ward One."


Convention Center Yearning to Breathe Free
John Whiteside,

I've been following the Mt Vernon Square convention center debate with some interest. Here's a perspective from someone who isn't a neighbor or even a DC resident, but who has had trade show management on his list of job duties for the last ten years.

The idea of "expanding" by using the old center is nonsense. Contiguous exhibit space matters. I would really like to see those supporting the Mt Vernon Square site unveil a good, solid study of the meetings market that tell us exactly which meetings they expect to be able to accommodate for the next ten to fifteen years, in the space on the new site. That's the only way to really determine whether the new center will be adequate, or whether we're just making all the same mistakes a second time (which is what it looks like to me).

The Union Station site is just as bad. Proximity to hotels, restaurants, etc. -- and I mean 5-to-10 minute walking proximity -- IS important. While a center can do well in a relatively remote location (for example, Chicago's McCormick Place) there are some factors unique here that make this questionable. In Chicago, the center is remote, but shuttle buses run everyone from hotels in the Loop to the center, and so downtown Chicago is the best place to stay. In DC, it would be as easy to take a shuttle from Crystal City or Pentagon City as anywhere else. Why build a center that encourages to people to stay in Virginia, asks this Virginian?

About the best thing you can say about Mt. Vernon Square as a location is that the convention center is probably a better thing to have there than, say, a vacant lot.


Convention Center
Robert Meisnere,

I have been a subscriber to dc.story for a long time, and one common issue has been fiscal responsibility. So it really surprises me that there are other long time subscribers that support DC spending significantly more for a convention center that reasonably cannot be expanded at Mt. Vernon Sq. when the alternative location near Union Station will be less expensive, can expand, and will help another part of the city. It is also interesting that when the MCI Center was being proposed that a large number of people were against the project because the space was too small for the arena.

Cities have a hard time attracting large trade shows if the exhibit halls are on two floors in the SAME building. I can't see DC selling the new Convention Center saying the trade show will be on two floors of one building and in a second building one block away. Common sense should prevail, and the new center should be built at the Union Station location which will be cheaper, bigger and easier.


Arena Tax
Margie Siegel,

Can someone please explain to me why I am still being required to pay an arena tax when the arena is up and running and supposedly doing fine? I thought the tax was to cover the construction costs, and wasn't Abe Pollin supposed to pay for that as well? Is this another lifetime opportunity to thank Marion Barry? Another of the joys of running a small business here in DC!

[If I remember correctly, the District Council imposed the arena tax to pay for site development and acquisition. Although started as another euphemism for another cause, the tax is likely to be a permanent tax code fixture. The recent tax code study does not recommend repealing this tax. Jeff]


DC Schools
John Griffiths,

If you've lived in the District for years and suddenly decide that your main priority is figuring out how to get out of sending 'em to your local public school, then it's probably time to move back to Maryland.


Community Content in Public Libraries
Phil Shapiro,

For some ideas on the expanding role of public libraries and their adaptations to community needs, check out Should neighborhood libraries reserve shelf space for creative content from people in the neighborhood? You bet! Imagine what would happen if that took place.


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.






Landscaper Extraordinaire
Elizabeth Wulkan,

Early this year during the warm winter, and courtesy of DC Story, I contacted Phillip He has civilized our neglected front and side yards with suggestions (and implementation) that totally suit our house and makes them both visually and functionally delightful. I couldn't recommend him more highly.


Two Free Concerts
E. James Lieberman,

The Friday Morning Music Club orchestra, Sylvia Alimena, conductor, will perform the complete Midsummer Nights Dream music by Felix Mendelssohn, Tuesday June 9, noon, at the Church of the Epiphany, 1317 G St. NW.

Beethoven's Missa Solemnis will be performed in a free concert by the Friday Morning Music Club Chorale, Webster Rogers, conductor, Sunday evening June 14 at 7 PM, at the First Baptist Church, 16th and O Streets NW.


Red Clay Ramblers - A Musical Tip... feel free to pass it on
Lynne Mersfelder,

The band "The Red Clay Ramblers" (from North Carolina), a kinda folksy, jig-playing jewel of a band (and foot stomping fun!) are playing (for free) in a jam session on Tuesdays at 10PM at Mike Bakers across from Ford Theatre when they get out of their stint in the musical "Kudzu", a Ford Theatre's production based on the comic strip of the same name by Doug Marlette. The Ramblers steal the show (playing through mid June). For those interested in "Kudzu", one of the folks in the band helped write the musical along with Doug Marlette (the cartoonist) and another colleague.

On Tuesdays' the Ramblers (and some of the cast) go across the street to unwind and play at the newest home of the restaurateur Mike Baker. The digs are a lovely restored building (previously the Dixie Grill Cafe) and former abode of the scribe who wrote Lincoln's last words. So ramble over to Ford's Theatre or Mike Baker's for some Red Clay fun...



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,


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