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Dear Neighbors: I'd like to add more email addresses to the dc.story mailing list. I know many of us are suffering for email overload, but tell your friends that dc.story arrives only twice weekly and is edited and moderated. The signal-to-noise ratio is higher than many email missives. Besides, where else do you find reporting by the people, for the people? So instead of forwarding dc.story to your friends, please ask them to send me a request to be added to the mailing list. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and I answer to "Hey, you." Jeffrey Itell July 18, 1998
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Tax & Spend
This past Saturday the DC Democratic State Committee held its Issues Convention to adopt a "DC Democratic Platform." I introduced an amendment calling for a "full and fair hearing" on the recommendations of the Tax Revision Commission. My amendment also stated that DC Democrats could support, as "goals," three specific Commission recommendations: (1) reducing the property tax rate for rental housing and having one rate for residential use (to stay at 96¢); (2) eliminating four business taxes, including the personal property tax, and creating one new, very low, business tax which reaches a broader tax base; and (3) simplifying the income tax return required of DC residents. There is a lot of substance here, and I certainly don't believe these recommendations should be forced on taxpayers without much more public awareness and support. But the amendment was voted down without discussion. Privately a number of Democrats criticized the amendment as "pro-business" and argued that the District should keep its high tax rates unchanged for businesses. As a former budget office staffer for the D.C. Council I helped create the Tax Revision Commission because it was clear that our tax system has numerous disincentives for both businesses and residents. Reducing the tax burden -- especially those tax rates which are the highest in the region -- is one way to attract and retain both jobs and residents. I am proud to be a Democrat, and I think the local party should re-think this one.
Council at Large Race
I strongly take issue with the idea that Phil Mendelson is ahead in the at- large race. In the past few weeks I've read at least 4 articles about Bill Rice, received one phone call on his behalf, and seen posters everywhere I go. Who is Phil Mendelson?
Pat Bahn's Ill-Informed Kvetching
It is rare to see a short statement in which as many wrong assumptions are compressed as in Pat Bahn's complaint about the traffic congestion on Massachusetts Avenue during the MPD's anti-prostitution enforcement action. Perhaps Jack Evans would like to have the police at his beck and call, but the fact is that Chief Ramsey is outraged by the prevalence of prostitution on Washington's streets and is determined to drive the hookers out of town (from whence a majority came in the first place). The First and Third Districts of MPD, under orders from the Chief, and with the assistance of the National Guard, have been engaged in enhanced enforcement efforts in our neighborhood for the last two weeks. Many arrests have been made--more of johns than of hookers--and some cars used for solicitation by suburban johns have been impounded. It may come as a surprise to Pat Bahn that police work on shifts, and have rotating night shift assignments without overtime being paid. Too bad about the inconvenience of being delayed getting home, but we who live in this neighborhood have this inconvenience all the time, without police involvement, because of the (primarily suburban) johns cruising for prostitutes. We also suffer from the nighttime noise and litter resulting from this activity.
I am surprised that anyone thinks the cops are responsible for traffic backups in Logan Circle, rather than the hookers and the cars circling for johns. Come on out to my street at night when the police aren't out and you'll see a far worse traffic jam. As for election year posturing by Jack Evans, that is exactly wrong. He has been working hard on this issue for over three years. I have been participating in a Task Force he has convened about once a month since1995 on this issue. We have written legislation on Failure to Obey laws, which passed last year, to give police a better tool against prostitution. We have coordinated the activities of the First, Second and Third Police Districts with the US Attorney, the people who work with prostitutes to get them off the street, with residents and businesses, with the courts, and with the political powers in DC (even Mayor Barry came to one meeting). We have tried to raise the awareness of Councilmembers on this issue to no avail. Finally, with the backing of Chief Ramsey, we were able to get some new legislation passed on an emergency basis last week. Even that bill,which would do nothing more than give DC the same laws every other city has (our law requires money to change hands for an arrest to be made, requiring each arrest to be the result of undercover work, which is expensive and time-consuming, thus, rare) was gutted by the weak-willed folks on the Council who don't take this problem seriously. No, it's not murder, though two hookers were murdered, or at least dumped, half a block from my house in the last eight months. But it is the kind of disgusting, noisy, insufferable awfulness that actually drives people out of the city. I will be glad to share the repulsive details with anyone who wants to learn more about this "victimless" crime, and even have a nice eleven minute video, which appeared on Channel 13 during the Council's hearing two weeks ago. Give Jack credit. Don't assume everyone is a pandering fool just because that is what we've grown accustomed to. And don't assume that this is some little problem we in downtown should just learn to live with. It is more than enough to drive lots of folks straight to the suburbs.
DC Police Heading Biochemical Readiness?
A poster in your last issue mentioned an anthrax drill to be practiced on the 2nd day of Rosh Hashana. This reminded me of a fascinating yet frightening article in this month's "George" magazine, that reported that fire, rescue & police in the 120 largest U.S. cities are being trained to respond to bio- chemical terrorism by the military, which expects an attack within the next five years. The police in the 120 main cities are expected to in turn train police in their surrounding jurisdictions. Does this mean Fairfax County police have to depend on DCPD for this critical training, or was it included in the primary go-round?
This might be a dead issue on dc.story by now, but with reference to the very high number of calls to 911 versus the much lower number of patients transported by emergency services, I can cite a possible contributing factor to the higher number of calls. One early morning, a woman was assaulted at the bus stop outside my apartment building. Her screams woke me and many of my neighbors. I called 911 and got put into the all-to-common holding pattern. The police showed up while I was still on hold. Talking with neighbors the next day, several had called 911 at the same time, so, while not defending the people who call 911 to find out where to get their car inspected, there are some legitimate reasons for the higher number of calls.
Where I live, close to the Friendship Heights metro, people are continually parking outside of the zoned parking signs, making the intersection quite hazardous for vehicles and pedestrians alike. Parking enforcement comes by periodically but not often enough in my opinion. I have a win, win suggestion for Kathy and Camille and any other elected official that may read this e-zine. How about a "hot tip" telephone number for Parking Enforcement and a 10% finder's fee for the snitch. The $ity would get to write many more ticket$ than it already does, and I could make enough extra $ to go to the Cheesecake Factory once a week!
What's in a Name?
OK people, give it a rest! Down here in San Antonio, Texas everyone can have their name on somethin' and ya' don't even have to be dead! Ya' only have to have money or political connections! Some examples: the Henry B. Gonzalez convention center (as a long-time Congressman, Henry B. has actually spent more time in DC than in San Antonio), the Lyla Cockrell auditorium (named after a former mayor), the Nelson Wolf baseball stadium where the San Antonio Missions won the championship in their double A division (also named after a former mayor) , the McDermott freeway (that part of I-10 that passes through San Antonio) named after local general (and businessman) Robert McDermott. And on and on. What's more, all of these people are alive and kicking to enjoy seeing their name on public resources! In nearby Houston, you have Houston Intercontinental Airport (in Texas, international isn't enough-we think really big) that recently has been renamed the George Bush Intercontinental Airport, following in the footsteps of our illustrious Congress which recently renamed National Airport to R/R airport. Alas, San Antonio's International Airport still remains unnamed...any donations to repave its runways? You'll get your name at the front door of the main terminal. Now what are ya'll going to name after your current mayor, MB?
Street Names and Empowerment
As a native southerner (born in Ruston, Louisiana; raised in Asheville, North Carolina; and attended college and graduate school in Greensboro, North Carolina). I have been reading with bemusement the debate over renaming street names. With all the troublesome meddling by outside influences (i.e. Lauch Fairlcloth and the District and John McCain and the airport), I say it's very refreshing to be reminded that we have some remnants of local control and customs. Now let's try for some payback and and try to establish "Marion Barry Boulevards" in Raleigh, N.C. and Phoenix, AZ.
Good Ol' Boys Like Me
To paraphrase Eric Burdon of the Animals, "I'm just a (good ol') boy whose intentions are good: Oh Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood." That's a recurring problem for Southerners, especially on this (D.C.) side of the Potomac. As someone raised in the Deep(er) South, my observation is that Southerners have a rebellious streak that I personally find rather charming, namely: We don't like y'all telling us what to do. Culturally, that explains the Civil War as much as the knee-jerk historic clich_, that the South was simply clinging to slavery. As Marion Barry might say, "Get over it."
DC Public Libraries Web Page
Library supporters might want to note that the new DC Public Libraries web page is now up at http://dclibrary.org The web page contains a calendar of all events and classes held at MLK library and the 25 branch libraries. The page also includes up-to-date info about installation of the Libraries Online computers being donated by Microsoft. By next year, every DC branch library will have web surfing computers for free public use. A computer training room for free "Intro to Computers" and "Intro to the Internet" classes has also been set up in room 315 of MLK library. MLK library is reachable from the Gallery Place and Metro Center subway stops.
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Kibitzing by Jeffrey Itell. Copyright (c) 1998. All rights reserved.
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