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July 28, 1998

Your Electronic Backfence

dc.story is presented in association with Washington's News Station The *New* WTOP! Top News, Non-Stop ! WTOP is the radio station that doesn't make you wait. Traffic and Weather together every ten minutes on the eights. Sports every half hour at 15 and 45. Money News every half hour at 25 and 55. CBS News at the top of every hour. 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: We are not alone: Census Report: More Americans are staying put. "Out of the 42 million people who moved, almost 28 million remained in the same county, 8 million moved to a different county, and 6 million are still at the DMV." (Kenny Noble Cortes) Jeffrey Itell July 28, 1998

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Gag Rule, or Local Discipline
Carl Bergman,

Chainsaw Charlie Taylor, may be the house member we love to hate, but he scored a direct hit on DC pols who appeal their lost causes to the Hill. "The same people," Taylor told the Post's Michael Powell, who beat you over the head not to trample on home rule are the same ones who ask you to help them on the inside," It's and old, but almost never mentioned dynamic to DC's political life. Sometimes it can get bloody, but it's almost always kept behind closed doors. Not so lately. When Beth Solomon and other avid Convention Center foes asked to testify before Rep Tom Davis' (Va. Rep) DC oversight committee, they were told to clear it with Eleanor Norton (DC Dem.). Norton aid, Donna Brazil made it clear, with home rule you get no second act. "We've never allowed District residents to come testify after the bill passed the council." Slipping up to the hill isn't exactly a new idea. Testimony may be one thing, but I wonder how many lobbyists Norton's thrown out for wanting to talk about adopted city policy? Conversely, what good does it do the city to adopt policy, if all the aggrieved can do an end run. Some discipline is needed, especially inside the city government, but what of those who're outside it? If you believe in self-determination does mean you're honor bound to live with the result, win or lose? Crap Shoot Coming in At Large Race? From Saturday's Post. "In a citywide race, Democrats need 2,000 signatures to get on the ballot. (Election Head ) Miller said. (Arrington) Dixon -- the former chairman of the D.C. Council -- turned in 2,569 petition signatures. Miller said that 911 were challenged, and 731 appear to be invalid, leaving Dixon with only 1,838 signatures.

Entry for the Barry Memorial Competition--Label for the Sickness Doktor
Len Sullivan,

Barribarri: A degenerative disease of ingrown public bureaucracies marked by steady weakening in the performance of rudimentary job-related tasks and accompanied by a general loss of civility. Often caused by protracted diet of patronage and cultural paranoia, coupled with persistent deficiencies in skills, responsibility, and accountability. Can be gradually cured by protracted exposure to regional and national professional leadership.

Mr. Cromwell
Bill Starrels,

A few months ago I went to a talk Ms. Barnett gave to a citizens orig. in Georgetown. She is a good speaker. I think she would be an excellent choice for a future speaker. I also have had recent dealings with Mr. Cromwell. He is working all kind of hours for Ms. Barnett and all of us. He is a "can do" type of guy. Obviously it is not right for him or anyone else to block some one's drive way. But life goes on. On all my dealings with him, he has been absolutely professional and pleasant. He also gets things done. I appreciate having him on Ms. Barnett's team.

Prostitution Law
Art Spitzer,

Leslie Miles writes: "I am quite familiar with the DC law and am in fact a lawyer. The element of "prostitution" requires a financial transaction. It is NOT satisfied by mere solicitation. You can walk down the street and ask anyone you meet to have sex with you and that is not a crime under DC law (until the new emergency law). Money has to be involved." Ms. Miles may be a lawyer but she is still wrong. I quoted the relevant section of the DC Code in my prior post. She doesn't say I misquoted it. She doesn't explain why it doesn't mean what it says. She doesn't cite a court decision supporting her position. I guess she just wants us to take her word for what the law is. I prefer to rely on the lawbooks. Let me try again: "Prostitution" is defined in the law as "engaging, *argeeing to engage or offering to engage* in sexual acts or contacts with another person in return for a fee." DC Code sec. 22-2701.1(1). Please note the second through eighth quoted words, between the stars. The crime prohibited by DC Code sec. 22-2701 is called "Inviting for purposes of prostitution," and the crime is defined as follows: "It shall not be lawful for any person to invite, entice, persuade, or address for the purpose of inviting, enticing, or persuading, any person or persons in the District of Columbia for the purpose of prostitution." That is the law. Money must be discussed, but it need not change hands. Perhaps Ms. Miles ought to get her law from the DC Code and the decisions of the Court of Appeals, rather from the Police Department. Ask me if I'm surprised to hear that the Police Department is confused about the law. If Ms. Miles can provide the citation to a statute or a DC Court of Appeals decision saying that money must change hands, I will treat all comers to their first drink at the next dc.story social gathering. Put up or shut up, Ms. Miles. P.S.- Ms. Miles is also incorrect to say "You can walk down the street and ask anyone you meet to have sex with you and that is not a crime under DC law (until the new emergency law)." That is, the first part of her sentence is correct but the last part is not. The new emergency law does not change the definition of prostitution. It is still not considered prostitution, thank goodness, to have sex with someone for free, or to discuss that possibility. Presumably Jack Evans occasionally asks his wife to have sex with him in the District of Columbia, for free. Does Ms. Miles think Mr. Evans is now a prostitute, under the new emergency law drafted by Mr. Evans?

Throwing Democracy in the Trash
R L Widmann, Capitol Hill resident

I am writing in response to the 25 July comments by Mike Livingston, who was complaining about destruction of "lawfully posted signs expressing a registered political organization's position on the convention center" at 2nd and C SE. He notes that the men taking down the signs called them "litter." These signs, also posted along East Capitol between 4th and 6th Streets, were attached to *every *single tree and city sign, providing *lots of visual litter. I was relieved when the signs disappeared after a few days, for I thought that their presence created a very ugly approach to the center of our city from the east. Though it is deplorable that some people saw fit to take down legally posted signs, I also think that it is deplorable that supporters of a point of view lacked restraint and common sense when they posted so many signs per block.

Convention Center Signs
Glenn Melcher,

As the anti-convention center signs have been determined by DPW to be political speech, the question remains: what is there expiration date??? Political campaign signs must, by law, be taken down within ten days after election day. If they are not, the candidate's political campaign is subject to fines (admittedly, a rarely enforced law, but the law nonetheless). Since Congress is likely to give final approval to the Convention Center next week, doesn't that mean that all the anti-convention center signs must be taken down within ten days of the congressional vote. If not, we face a blight of "political speech signs" about every issue which will never come down. The anti-convention center folks need to realize that once Congress votes, its all over, the convention center will be built -- and their signs need to come down or they need to be fined.

Dennis Dinkel,

I certainly agree with your position that there is nothing illegal about posting political signs on posts -- however, I do greatly object to the use of that extremely wide tape that the posters seem to use -- and that was very much used on those "white elephant" signs for the convention center. I am totally opposed to the currently envisioned construction of the convention center, thinking it is one of the greater D.C. boondoggles of recent times. However, here on Capitol Hill at least, the people who put up the white elephant signs must have had a surplus of that tape, because they totally wrapped the signs around the posts with the stuff. I became so irritated at the way the signs were posted, that I took one of those box cutters to several lamp posts in Marion Park, and removed the signs. Also, in Marion Park, since it is a federal park, there should be absolutely no posting of signs. I always remove any signs that get put up inside the park -- political, yard sale, etc. We used to have a nice bulletin board in Marion Park, but the Park Service, in its infinite ignorance, removed that many summers ago. I would recommend to sign posters, please, please, please use staples. At least try to keep the city looking a bit less trashy.

Anti-Convention Center Signs
Sharon Cochran, Secochran@Aol.Com

Mike Livington describes that removing anti-convention center signs as "throwing democracy in the trash". In the Eastern Market and Lincoln Park areas, these signs were on everything that did not move and they were wrapped with tape. There were many of them in each block. This was simply vandalism. Since this was after the hearings on the hill, I assume it was a fit of pique against Congresswoman Norton for not supporting the Shaw coalition's bid to run to big daddy to stop the convention center.

The Rules of the Game
Mike Livingston, Green Party candidate for Shadow U.S. Representative

Since I brought it up and since I've been asked about it, here is a summary of D.C. Municipal Regulations Title 24, Section 108, governing the posting of political signage: It is illegal to use tape to post signs in public space. It is illegal to nail a sign to a tree. It is illegal to post more than 3 identical signs on one side of a block (and lots of candidates are in violation of this provision). Signs must be removed within 30 days after the general election. Signs must be marked with the date on which they are posted, and be posted securely "to avoid being torn or disengaged by normal weather conditions." And signs, and the candidates they promote, must be in compliance with campaign finance regulations -- essentially, they must bear an authority line saying "Paid for by...." Every candidate's committee is given with a copy of these rules when the candidate registers with the Office of Campaign Finance as required by law.

What Jack Evans Actually Said to the DC Chamber of Commerce
Nick Keenan,

"And, in reply to a question about the city's Tax Review Commission, he said he favors a proposal to consolidate the three commercial property taxes." -- Washington Post, July 21, 1992. Given that the current tax classes are 1) owner occupied residential, 2) non-owner-occupied residential, 3) hotel/motel, 4) non-hotel-motel commercial, 5) vacant, the conclusion is that the three tax rates he wants to consolidate are classes 3, 4 and 5 -- i.e., eliminate the vacant property tax. He's just being a little guarded about saying it in so many words publicly.

Revising the Tax Structure
Jessica "New Columbia Sierra Club Chapter Conservation Chair" Vallette

I won't profess to be a tax expert--far from it. However, I wanted to clarify this issue. We have been looking into supporting what's called a "split rate" tax. This is basically where occupied properties are taxed at a lower rate than vacant properties. The whole point of this tax is to discourage anyone, whether commercial or private, from purchasing a property and letting it just sit for years to become another source of urban blight, until the property value has risen enough to warrant re-selling it. Therefore, supporting a single tax rate for commercial properties is NOT consistent with a split rate tax scenario. Here's why. If a developer, say the Smith Company, purchases a vacant property on speculation, decides *not* to renovate it, and waits for the market to change, under a split tax system Smith Co. would be penalized for not bringing a tenant into the property. Under the a flat rate for all commercial properties, Smith Co. would not have an incentive to get a tenant. Again the point of a split rate tax system is to prevent properties from sitting vacant and deteriorating, not to "eliminate distortions in investment" or make DC more competitive with the suburbs. However, the latter comment leads to an interesting question. If we were to revamp the tax system so that occupied commercial properties were taxed at a lower rate than similar properties in MD & VA (while we taxed vacant properties at a rate higher than those found in MD & VA), wouldn't that present an inherent incentive for developers to return to DC?

Parking Enforcement
Randy Wells,

I propose angle parking on Sundays and during non-rush hours on weekdays and Saturdays. This could apply to the major 4-lane corridors with heavy church traffic, but also benefit the businesses in these corridors (or encourage new ones where nearly none now exist)...perhaps 6th, 7th, 11th and U Streets, for instance. This is done some places downtown on Sundays (11th and K Streets, NW for instance).

How Much For The Baby?
Michelle Treistman,

As all DC residents and commuters know, it is always tourist season in the District. But, summer is definitely the best time to view this particular species in its adopted, temporary habitat downtown. I often find myself wondering, as I am forced to alter my lifestyle to accomodate these paying guests, what the rules are like where they come from. Take, for example, the woman I encountered as she was crossing Constitution to get to the Mall. The traffic light turned green, but the pedestrian signal stayed in the form of the red hand. So, I made my right turn and ended up nose to side with her baby carraige. Which she was safely behind, close to the curb. I made the appropriate "can't you see the red hand" gesture, and she gestured to the light and the carraige, saying, basically, "I have a baby therefore I am exempt." This exemption also seemed to include the other 20 people on that corner, only the very last few crossing legally with the signal. I only wish I had had the wherewithall to roll down my window and ask her what the red hand meant in her native land, as I would have to read up on traffic laws if I ever visited. As it is, I spent part of the remainder of my drive speculating on how much it would cost to buy a baby the next time I wanted to have my way in a distant cityp; and, remembering my early driving days, how many "points" one receives for hitting that particular target.

Candy Selling Scam
Richard Koris,

Recently I contacted the office Councilwoman Kathy Paterson about the kids selling candy, under the false pretence that they are raising funds for charity. I explained that the kids had become more than a nuisance, and were invading business premises such as ATM vestibules, Starbucks, and others. My request to Paterson was that the police crack down on this fraud, and ticket violators. Since this time, the candy scam kids have vanished. I don't know the cause, but it seems like good work by Kathy Paterson's office!

Strange Happenings In Georgetown
Bob Levine,

All right I just saw this. I went out for a little Sunday morning breakfast, coffee, bagel and a chance to read the paper. I was sitting at the ice cream parlor at Wisc. and P St. when I noticed a classic yellow Mercedes convertible with out of state plates pull up to the next corner. A man jumped out and started to scrape the junction boxes at that location. He cleaned all of the first one of pasted paper advertisements and then started in on the second. He cleaned that one also and jumped back into his Mercedes and sped off, ignoring me when I yelled to ask him a question. I don't understand it but I heartily approve of such guerrilla civic action.

District Cablevision Channel Preference Survey
Paul Michael Brown,

Yeah, I know that the upcoming elections for mayor and other municipal posts are pretty important. But I'd like to take a moment to urge all District Cablevision subscribers to participate in a referendum that's almost as vital, namely the "channel preference survey" enclosed in your latest bill. In the finest tradition of political attack advertising, I will immediately go negative and make the following nasty comments about some of the channels in the running. Ch. 11 (WBAL. Duplicates Ch. 4 except for Baltimore news, about which who cares?) Chs. 13, 16 & 28 (Vanity channels for self-aggrandizing District politicians and bureaucrats whose ceaseless bloviating is endlessly replayed.) Ch. 19 (Despite being allocated to UDC, this channel is almost totally devoted to a feed of the so-called "Arts" channel, featuring black and white footage of orchestral classical music and performances by long-dead divas singing in a foreign tongue.) Chs. 23, 25, & 26 (Despite the occasional bit of public access programming, mostly all-text feeds featuring "community announcements" and D.C. govt. propaganda often laden with misspelled words and fractured syntax. The District's "Rules for Customer Service" are particularly amusing.) That's *eight* channels of totally wasted bandwidth. It's every citizen's duty to participate in the process. So fill out your survey and waste a stamp. TCI's going to choose a lineup that maximizes profits anyway.

Evelyn Wrin []

I spoke with Mr. Easley at DPW's recycling office this morning. He had a call in to Todd Mosley with Thumbs Up Youth Enterprises, the group that has been doing the recycling at Bancroft, Eaton and 18th & T NW to see if it's still going on. He said he had at least one call that someone took things for recycling to one of the locations and nobody was there to take it. Easley later faxed me a list that includes the three Thumbs Up locations. His fax said that Thumbs Up is still in existence, so presumably is operating its three recycling locations: John Eaton Elementary School at 34th and Lowell NW, Bancroft Elementary School at 18th & Newton, and Adams Morgan/Dupont Circle area at 18th & T NW. The list shows that each center operates on Saturday from 10:00 am - 12:00 pm. and that they take newspaper, aluminum cans, junk mail, plastic, glass, bi-metal, office paper, computer paper, telephone books, magazines. [A $3 to $5 donation is requested. Proceeds benefit Thumbs Up Youth Enterprises, a nonprofit organization helping youths earn after-school money.] Easley's telephone no. at DPW if anyone wants to call about D.C. recycling is 645.0747 or 645.7048.

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.


Got An Old Cart Or Wagon You Can Spare?
Lynne "do-gooder" Mersfelder

The Urban Rangers Youth Group,a local volunteer youth organization in Adams Morgan is looking for a donation of a red wagon, garden cart, trolley or similar transportation. The cart will be used for a landscaping/gardening project on Columbia Road by this all volunteer youth group the Urban Rangers. If you can help, send me an email or call Katie Davis at 202/332-0774.

If anyone knows of a yoga teacher to teach an early morning yoga class outdoors in Kalorama Park one to three times per week please send me an email message. I am also looking for people to fill the class. If you are interested in taking an early morning yoga class and if you live in the Kalorama area of Adams Morgan, please also e-mail me. I will contact everyone who responds to give them full details. Virginia Johnson,

D.C. Democracy Forum

The Stand Up for Democracy Coalition will host a D.C. Democracy Forum for mayoral candidates on Wednesday, August 12th from 6:30 pm to 9:00 pm. The event will take place at One Judiciary Square in Room 1030. News 4 reporter Tom Sherwood will moderate the program. For further information, please contact Tim Cooper at (202) 244-9479. Timothy Cooper:, 244-9479

Compagnons de la Parole Francaise Aysegul Acar, "Les Compagnons De La Parole Francaise" is a diverse, social, fun, international group that has been meeting for a happy-hour in French every Thursday from 5:30 until 7pm in Washington DC since 1967.. After the happy hour we usually go to dinner. We also organize parties, picnics, hiking, camping trips etc. The happy hour is held near the GWU campus. For directions and more information etc. please contact Aysegul at Only French is allowed at the meetings We also have an e-mail list for our activities, announcements, etc.

This fall, (mid-September to mid-December) an intern from Latvia will be working in the Office of Public Affairs at the National Zoo. She would like to live with a family, if possible, and a location in Cleveland Park or Woodley Park would be perfect. If you have a room available, please call (202) 673-4866, x4, or e-mail Margie Gibson at

Temporary Rental. Glover Park. 3 bedroom hose to rent or share. 8/15 -9/5 only. 337-4906; 328-1083. For rent: Basement efficiency apartment in Glover Park. Available 8/15. $550 month. 337-4906; 328-1083. Contact Edna Small,

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

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