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June 25, 1998

Your Electronic Backfence

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Dear Neighbors: I feel like that character out of the Andy Capp cartoon strip -- a rain cloud always hovers over my head. Or am I Truman Burbank, with Christof directing rain on my head. Either way, the third try at the Garden Party was as soggy as the other two attempts. However, this time we damned the umbrellas and went full speed ahead. About 40 souls braved the rain to mix, mangle, and meet their fellow email aliases. The next party? Indoors...which ought to ensure a lovely outdoor evening.

Dial M for Murder The headlines read: One-Third of 911 Calls in Washington D.C. Hit Snags. It could have read, Police Department complicit in deaths of hundreds. The statistics are literally mortifying. Of the nearly 250,000 calls placed to 911 in the nation's capital since January, almost 50,000, or 20%, were not answered for at least 16 seconds, the report said. Worse yet, 13% of all calls were not answered at all because callers gave up and hung up the phone, added the report, which pointed to abuse of sick leave by telephone operators as a major culprit. In Baltimore, only 2 percent of emergency calls were mangled. Eight years ago, a friend who worked in a Baltimore hospital emergency room explained why their homicide rate was half of DCs -- quicker trips to the emergency room saves lives. A shooting isn't a homicide unless the patient dies. And if no one is home to answer the 911 phone, DC can't prevent deaths that other cities can. George Clooney can't work his magic if the patient doesn't get to the front door in time. Cheers, Jeffrey Itell June 25, 1998

Please join DC Council At-large Candidate *Bill Rice* for his campaign kick- off this Saturday, June 27, 11 AM to 12 Noon, at Ben's Chili Bowl, 13th and U, NW. . . Lunch will be provided. Having served his community for twenty years, reporting for the Northwest Current, CityPaper, and Washington Post, Bill is now translating his experience into action with fresh ideas on: making sure our tax dollars are well-spent, delivering city services efficiently, protecting our neighborhoods, helping the needy, and bringing excellence to our schools. Bill Rice for DC Council -- At-large.

Signs and Wonders on Your Telephone Pole
Carl Bergman,

I once sat in on several, intensive campaign poster design sessions for a friend running for city council. We wanted just the right touch. You'd have thought it was the Manhattan Project the way measured, tested, chose colors, paper weight, and copy. So lets see how some of today's candidates have done to market themselves. Jeff Gildenhorn's famous for his 50s nostalgia eatery. He's signs are from the 50s too. Hard to read, too much type, and color. Only his elfin likeness imparts anything special. Jeff, toss the Lawrence Welk and go for Little Richard. Jack Evans has two almost identical white on red signs. Evans is a white on red, while Mayor is red on white. In both, the words seem too big for the size. They are serviceable, but not particularly inspiring. If you liked Jack's you'll love Kevin's. Same size, same colors, same shape. Kevin's is a little more glitzed up with a flag. Change it Kevin or be lost in the crowd. Harold Brazil's is not like any of the others. He's gone with an eye chart popping BRAZIL you can read from 10,000 feet. I'll try to describe the colors. It's a somewhere off the scale blue on a semi-something kinda green. Gorgeous it's not - memorable it is. Tony Williams' signs defy classification because, so far, they're all home made. We'll see what his folks come up with. Anything hanging around your poles worth comment?

Unreal Real Property Tax
Willie Schatz,

Wanna talk about being hopelessly lost in the Great D.C. Bureaucratic Swamp? Try this. My second half 98 real estate tax bill--the one due 31 March--arrived with a "P&I"--that's "penalty and interest" for us innocents abroad--of $164 and change because I'd allegedly paid my first half--the one due 15 September 97--late. Hmmm, I said, I don't think so. Checking my records--a rather rare event, since I don't keep that many and often can't find those I retain--I discovered that I'd dated and mailed my check on that very 15 September. But the DC government hadn't bothered to cash it until 11 days later. So who's sorry now? The DC government, which has my money? Or me, who's paid it? Dutifully following the instructions on the tax bill, I mail my protest letter--keeping copies, of course, 'cause I've been there and done this--to the appropriate authority on 6 April. I wait about two months, generously--and foolishly--giving the DC revenuers time to respond. My reward? Nothing. I then begin playing telephone tag. The result? SOS. So I put the pedal to the metal, and whadda we got? A continuing failure to communicate. My latest information? "We have to take your name, your number, your square and lot numbers and refer your request downstairs to the person in charge of this. The reason you haven't heard anything is because we respond on a first-come, first-serve basis." So just how long is this line? "I don't know. We've only got one person doing this. All right?" Of course not, but I'm gonna do something? Like what? Blow up the building? Start navigating the paper trail? The Okeefenokee should be so deep.

One Other Note About Cell-Phone Towers
Rob Pegoraro,

Ralph Blessing, in the letter he quoted in last week's "issue," cites a photo an existing cell tower by the Beltway as an example of "the view we could expect if Bell Atlantic gets its way." That's not necessarily true--cell towers can and often are camouflaged as trees, incorporated into existing structures or otherwise concealed. (I'm not aware of how the proposed Rock Creek towers might be disguised, but then again I haven't done any reporting on this particular issue.) The one thing you can't change is the height of any cell antenna--at least 70 feet, but possibly over 150 feet, from what I'm told.

Gildenhorn Signs
E. James Lieberman,

You see pleonastic iterations of the Gildenhorn poster clogging the arterioles of our fair city. I'm informed that using tape to mount them violates campaign rules. Mr. G. told me that his billboard at Conn. & Morrison Sts. NW is lawful, but I forgot to ask which department of the city-he-wants-to-lead issued the permit. Now I wonder if citizens may act directly against illegal adhesives or is an official ruling needed first?

What Should We Expect From Our Elected Officials?
Nick Keenan,

Many people in DC politics don't realize that there is a difference between talking about problems and doing something about them. Is Jack Evans a good Councilmember? If you think talking about problems is important, then yes. If you think doing something about them is, then no. Some councilmembers -- Patterson for better, Thomas for worse -- consider it their mission to get services to their constituents. Jack Evans is not one of those. Evans resigned from the Public Works Committee, where he might have been able to do some good for Ward 2, to join the Judiciary Committee, where his leading accomplishment was extending the career of Chief Soulsby. Leslie Miles writes about how "heroic" Evans is, but a week earlier she railed about the 90 derelict properties in her ANC. Is that the fruit of seven years of attention to the problem? About the Class Five tax issue: as recently as this spring I heard Evans citing Class Five as an example of positive action by the Council. So either Evans does not know that the law is not being enforced, or he does know and is being disingenuous with us. So which is it -- is he duplicitous, or merely clueless? Miles say "he [Evans] does not direct anyone at DPW." I say: "There's nothing he can do." Aren't we both saying the same thing? Doesn't it boil down to the old optimist/pessimist viewpoint question: Is the stuffed shirt half full or half empty?

Make a Difference
Ed T. Barron,

The mayoral election should be pretty interesting this Fall. But to ensure that your Democratic candidate gets to the finals you should vote in the crowded primary election. Many of the voters in NW D.C. are registered as Independents or (more rarely) Republicans. It is a very simple process to change your registration through the Board of Elections by mail. Just give them a call. Changing to register as a Democrat will allow you to vote in the Primary but does not commit you to voting for any candidate. The Board of Elections will also send you a mail ballot if you will be out of town for either the primary or the mayoral elections.

Fresh Fields
Allison Garland,

Does anyone know where I can find more information about the plans to bring Fresh Fields and Barnes & Noble to the Logan Circle area? ---- Allison, I'm the community affairs rep. for the Georgetown store and used to be the "CAR" for Betheda/Tenley/Georgetown. I wish I could tell you more about Fresh Fields' plans for DC, but as far as I know, negotiations are still going on for an additional store in your neighborhood. Perhaps it will happen in FY 99 which starts in October of '98 -- assuming all goes well. In the meantime, Georgetown has free parking, free health and cooking classes, and lots of samples! Come to a free cooking class on Monday, June 29 by Thyme Square Chef Todd Clark. Kathy Carroll,

Washington Post Aids Ride #3 Coverage
Paul Williams,

Or shall I say lack thereof. Once again, the Post editors made the decision the 1,400 residents of all ages, race, physical shape, and sex that arrived into DC on Sunday in a highly emotional and well orchestrated ceremony after raising a minimum of $1,800 each and peddling 350 miles in 3.5 days as part of the Aidsride 3 was to be covered by four photos with captions on page 4 of the Metro section. What was deemed more important and put on the front page with 5 columns of text, and continuation inside? Complete coverage of a community pool/minor water park in Fairfax that had opened up the previous Thursday (!) for the season. The ride benefited two of the largest aids beneficiaries in the metro area (and the nation for that mater), Witman-Walker (the largest employer in Ward One) and Food & Friends; the Post didn't even get the later name down, just calling it a "food service organization." Its director and contender for Ward One Councilmember , Jim Graham, was part of the crew for the ride. As a rider myself, I was insulted as anyone who witnessed the ceremony knows each one of us and the 500 crew members had a personal story as to why we were doing the ride. The post proved itself once again that its not in tune with the city; I wish the editors could hear what my reply is everytime a circulation representative calls to ask if I'd be interested in a subscription.

No Response from DC Cable
Barbara Goodman,

For the last three days at different times of the day I have tried to call DC Cable to ask about a new service I heard on their tape when I tried to call them earlier in the week. No one ever answers the phone. One hears the tape with choices to consider and then taped messages. Is there another way to get in touch with DC Cable other than by phone? Does anyone have their E-mail address or FAX number?

No Respect
Ed T. Barron,

A recent posting blasted a plea for a teacher's dress code. A properly dressed teacher: shirt, tie and sports jacket for men; suit, or skirt and blouse for the women, commands a great deal of respect. Dressing like the students engenders the same amount of respect that many students show for their academic institution, and for each other - NONE. As for shop teachers, they need only to put on a smock or a pair of coveralls over their shirt and tie. Many times I have lauded the private schools for their success in teaching students. Drop in sometime at St Albans or Holy Child and take a look at how the teachers are dressed. They look profesional and are treated like professionals. Teachers in the public schools should dress like professionals not like unionized dock workers if they want to be respected as teachers.

Corrected URL for local Year 2000 Web Site
Gabe Goldberg,

Sorry, I don't know how URL got bollixed. When looking at NOVA Y2K website, include tilde ~ before NOVAY2K in URL:

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.


Taken to the Dry Cleaners -- and Back Again
Anne Drissel,

Once upon a time there was an overworked Anthony Williams for Mayor campaign worker who worked during the day and attended meetings half the night. But she needed to get her summer wardrobe cleaned. She found a bright yellow message pinned to the bulletin board in her apartment announcing that "Sunshine Dry Cleaners" offered "free pickup and delivery" with a "24-hour voice mail" and "hours Monday thru Saturday 8 AM to 6 PM"... So she called them that Saturday morning at 10:30 -- and at 11:45 a man named Ricky knocked at her door and carried away three bags of her clothes. When she came home late Tuesday night (after more meetings) she found three messages on her answering machine from Ricky saying he was trying to deliver her clothes. She knew it was late but she called to thank him for his heroic efforts to reach her -- and discovered to her amazement that Ricky was willing to deliver her clothes that very night. He arrived at 11:15 PM lugging her entire summer wardrobe with him. THANKS RICKY ZANGUI OF SUNSHINE DRY CLEANERS -- YOU ARE A PRIZE-WINNER IN MY BOOK! (You too can benefit from this amazing service - Sunshine's number is 703-524-6262)

Renovation Realities
steph "My refrigerator and stove are in my dining room and my sink is in the back yard and I'm tempted just to move into Home Depot" Faul,

Speaking as one who is at this precise moment renovating a kitchen, which is (as all such things do) taking longer and costing more than I could ever have possibly imagined, I'd say buy the house and fix it up just so you'll know what of the circles of hell is like. Besides, misery loves company so I'm urging you on. (For maximum torture, live in the property while it's being renovated.) Judging from my experience -- in the past six years I've had the kitchen, porch, bath, and basement fully renovated, plus electric work -- I would think there is no way anyone can give you a realistic estimate in an hour. Any older house has hidden problems that will require expensive solutions once they're unveiled, which are not covered by the estimates. On top of that the estimates may vary from each other by more than 100 percent. That said, I enjoy living in my house (most of the time) and the neighborhood is great. My advice: Pay someone a hundred bucks on the understanding that they'll get the job if you decide to go through with it. Or talk to a large renovation firm on the same arrangement; some of them have professional estimators. Two independent contractors I've worked with are Geoffrey Charlton, 301/213-3393 and Peter Bristol, 202/863-9449.

Anthony Williams Campaign Kickoff!
Marie Drissel,

Join Anthony Williams, Democratic Candidate for Mayor of Washington, DC at his campaign kickoff! The festivities take place on Saturday, June 27, at 10:30 AM. Join us at Petworth Library (corner of Georgia Ave. and Kansas Ave, NW), rain or shine. Refreshments will be served. Activities for kids. Call campaign headquarters at 202.588.0363 for more information. Activity paid for by Williams for Mayor, Marie Drissel,Treasurer.

Community Volunteers Are Needed in Adams Morgan
Lynne "do-gooder" Mersfelder, ANC 1-C Commissioner,

Calling all landscapers, gardeners, or want-to-be-green thumbs - and bicycle mechanics --- Would you or someone you know like to help kids learn to garden, landscape and repair bikes this summer? For more information or to volunteer to teach kids how to repair bikes and landscape contact Katie Davis at 202/332-0774. The Urban Rangers Youth Group and City Bikes announce, "Recycle a Bicycle Summer Clinic" a clinic which will open June 29 in Adams Morgan. It is open to both kids and adults as a learning opportunity for adult volunteers. It is funded by a grant from the DC Sports Commission. Sign-up is required and space is limited. Request for a Donation: * red wagon, garden cart, trolley or similar transportation to be used for a landscaping/gardening project on Columbia Road by a volunteer youth group called the Urban Rangers - if you can help contact Katie Davis at 202/332-0774.

Modern 2BR, 2BA apartment for rent in Dupont Circle. D/W, W/D, CAC, wood floors, fireplace, trash compactor, wired for cable, secure bldg. 2 blocks to Dupont Metro. Shops, restaurants, groceries steps away. Professional non-smoker preferred. $1,450/month + utils. Available 8/16. 202-686-9504 (h). Brian Reeves,

A family friend is returning to Poland and would like to sell his. It is a Buick Skyhawk, 1988. High mileage but many new parts. A/C, auto transmission, cruise control, power steering. Great condition. $1500 or best offer. Call 703-521-3693. Leila Afzal,

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Kibitzing by Jeffrey Itell. Copyright (c) 1998. All rights reserved.

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