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August 5, 1998

Your Electronic Beach Umbrella

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Dear Neighbors: I ran into a friend from my New York graduate school days, who was grumbling about the District government. He has lived in Dupont Circle for 11 years. "So what's happening with this year's election? I've read and heard nothing about it." "What do you mean?" I replied. "The Washington Post is providing daily coverage. "So are the other newspapers and television and radio stations. "Oh" he replied. "I don't follow them. I still read only The New York Times." He could tell me more than I wanted to know about Ruth Messinger, but he knew virtually nothing about his own city--and he's a partner in a leading DC law firm. (Or is that because he is a partner in a leading DC law firm.) Moral of story: The deadline to register for the September 15 primary is August 15, ten days from now.

Earlier in the week, the Post ran a story that was typical of sloppy journalistic practices--a story in search of facts. The Post reported that residents of Wards 7 and 8 (and presumably 9--that is, PG and Montgomery County) were being neglected and disenfranchised by this year's candidates. The illogic of the story astounded me. Read it for yourself. But the most egregious "thesis" was that politicians have always ignored the needs of residents of Wards 7 & 8. (Isn't--at least wasn't--DC the most attentive city to the needs of the poor under the Barry administration?) The article argued that no candidate was "enfranchising" the voters like Barry and the Fighting 54th did in the last election spin cycle. Were the East of Anacostia voters any more "enfranchised" because they voted for Barry in 1992? If so, then how did they become disenfranchised? Moreover, doesn't enfranchisement mean something equivalent to "one person, one vote"? So what's the point of the article? Candidates are not hanging enough posters on street lamps. The rest of the city should be so lucky. BTW: The article failed to mention that East of the River activists led both the failed Barry recall drive and the "Draft Tony Williams" campaign. Jeffrey Itell August 5, 1998

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Someone Has To Be In Charge
Carl Bergman,

If you want to stir up a ruckus at the next candidate's forum, there's a simple question that you can ask any of the Mayoral candidates and then sit back and watch them squirm. Ask'em, how? Just how do you plan to implement your plans. How would you change the city bureaucracy to do this? Where does it need shoring up, and where is policy being implemented well. In short, enough with promises. This is a government town. We know this stuff. We know OMB from FERC and NHTSA. We'll sit right here and you tell us all about your planned reorganizations and how they'll make things better. Here's the point, anybody can put out position papers saying what's wanted, and outlining a program strategy. Fine as far as they go, but these papers assume it's all brains and fingers. There's rarely a word about what goes in between. For example, how will they take control of the city's notoriously independent bureaucracy, and make it carry out their Mayoral priorities? Will they create a central city policy and planning office, for example, to sort out such standard items as where the library and fire stations should go, or will they leave these issues up to the individual agencies? Let's hope they've given this gut management stuff a lot of thought, and aren't waiting until the day after inauguration to figure it out. Ballot Update: Now There Are Ten. It's official, the Board of Elections,, has reduced the Democratic At Large field from 12 to 10. Among the dropped, former Council Chair, Arrington Dixon. Apparently, Dixon didn't submit enough good signatures.

A Billion Dollars
Mary Filardo,

I cringe when I read about the $1 billion for the convention center. This is the amount that the 21st Century School Fund has estimated is needed over the next ten years to support a comprehensive capital improvement program to modernize our public schools--not just the roofs and boilers on schools without science labs, technology infrastructure, community access or other school facility improvements. It is a sad testimony to our priorities that the Council can find the money for arenas and convention centers, but not public school buildings. Mary Filardo

NARPAC, Inc. Web Site August Edition Offers New Data on DC
Len Sullivan,

The National Association to Restore Pride in America's Capital has revised its web site for August (See "What's New?" at with new headline summaries, three additional relevant web sites, and new correspondence to major players in DC's future. It offers four new report summaries and analyses: 1) the May, 1998, update on the extensive contributions of the Federal DC Task Force member agencies to rebuilding DC; 2) the little-publicized 1997 Control Board-sponsored survey of resident (dis)satisfaction with city services which CMO Barnett appears to use as her "baseline" 3) the DC IG's report on the failure of the MPD's 911 response system--and NARPAC's view of its overuse; and 4) the latest "Small Business Survival Index" placing DC dead last as place to start a business! August's editorial challenges House Speaker Newt Gingrich to pass legislation to replace the four current Congressional subcommittees with a single Joint (House/Senate) Committee for the National Capital City dedicated to assuring DC's long-range future, rather than second-guessing its local legislative prerogatives. Jump in anytime for a cool experience. Bring a lurker along.

[Len publishes the most comprehensive web site about the District government--and provides an astonishing large list of links to other DC web resources. His site is worth a visit, a bookmark, and a subscription. Jeffrey Itell]

Re: Total Disrespect for the Concept of "Local" Government
Ms. Dorothy Persiflage,

Ms. Barbara A. Menard has let loose what might charitably be described as an electronic "cry in the night" about the tired, poor, huddled masses of D.C. -- dc.story readers to be more precise -- who she imagines do not care, and even more shockingly, are not alarmed about the imposition of outside Congressional values to "...ban such things as the District using its own funds to provide needle exchange programs or abortion services..." or -- gasp! -- "...imposing a ban on adoption by same-sex couples." She appears to be genuinely appalled: " no one alarmed to see these rights being stripped away by a body in which we have no representation..." through the time-honored but standard/ubiquitous legislative technique of tacking extraneous provisions onto myriad bills? The reason for Ms. Persiflage's attention, and reaction, to Ms. Menard is what Ms. P takes as her unfair characterization and condescending explanation for our sheep-like non-response to these Congressional horrors: "Still, dc.story readers seem to be so beaten down by Congressional usurpation of local authority that we do not even respond." Excuse me, Ms. Menard, but Ms. Persiflage has never been beaten down by anyone or anything, and has no intention whatsoever of becoming so, although she must confess to occasional bouts of mild depression caused by the incredible corruption, arrogance, incompetence, greed, and stupidity of "local authorities" during the many years she has suffered as a law-abiding taxpayer. Ms. Persiflage wants to be very clear about this, so please pay attention. Ms. P understands that "home rule," (and yes, she understands the so-called built-in flaws) was an unmitigated disaster for the city. She is a bona-fide fairly long-term taxpaying D.C. resident who is absolutely ecstatic that those down home Oakie hicks in Congress have finally decided to assert their Constitutional responsibilities and authorities to end the almost-but-not-quite-risible nonsense, insanity, and shame into which the locals have driven the Nation's Capital.

Snack Tax . . . Snail Mail
Paul Penniman,

Regarding the "snack tax" referred to by Mr. Menczer, I believe that all convenience stores for some time have been charging 10% on all kinds of "readily consumable" items, like juice, cookies, not just hot-food items. A few years ago I mentioned my concerns to one of the mainstays at the VanNess Texaco, who tried to explain it to me. In any event I don't think we should single out Rodman's for attention, nor should we necessarily think the stores are reaping a windfall. If given a choice, I'm sure they would rather not charge the tax. About the mail service which you may recall sometimes does not exist at our house: there is a woman who has responded to our phone calls and has actually sent someone to our house to talk to us about our concerns. Nevertheless in the last month we are missing a replacement credit card; a letter from my uncle; and a check from a client. To make things more difficult, the postal service has seemingly eliminated all the 5pm mail boxes from street corners. To mail a letter in the afternoon, we must trek a mile in either direction to one of the postal stations. I have just found out there is a new ombudsman who has replaced the helpful Jackie Miles. Her name is Elizabeth Pittman, and her phone number is 635-5305. I'll let you know if she can give me a good explanation about the mailboxes. I know she won't be able to explain our missing mail.

City Council Given Environmental Report Card
Larry Bohlen,

Friends of the Earth Action and the Sierra Club recently graded City Council for actions taken on the environment over the last four years. The goal of the report card is to assist D.C. residents in determining how their elected representatives are voting on environmental issues so they may make more informed choices in the upcoming election. Councilmembers earned the following grades: Chairman Linda Cropp F Harold Brazil F David Catania A Carol Schwartz B Hilda Mason B Frank Smith F Jack Evans B Kathleen Patterson A Charlene Drew Jarvis F Harry Thomas D Sharon Ambrose A Kevin Chavous A Sandra Allen D Votes were selected to reflect a broad range of environmental concerns that are linked to the health and prosperity of City residents. We were looking for issues that promote a livable city, provide clean air and clean water, and demonstrate good development practices to protect the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers and retain open space. The 4-page report card, with detailed explanation of the issues, is available by mail. Just send your address to

Best Overheard Tourist Remark Contest
Steph "They're a harmless summer phenomenon, like fruit flies" Faul,

In the spirit of complaining about tourists on Metro escalators, I propose a contest. No prizes, just some yuks at the expense of people who don't live here and look it. What is *your* favorite overheard tourist comment? My choicest bit of eavesdropping, this year at least, was the girl asking her friend, "What's that tall pointy thing?" (Yes, it was the Monument.) I recently also heard someone in Lafayette Square trying to impress his out-of-town friends by saying "Washington doesn't really have much of a winter." The best literary comment is from P.J. O'Rourke, who described tourists at the Supreme court as having "porky desk-job thighs sticking out of tiny iridescent gym shorts and wearing fanny packs like phylacteries for the worship of fat." [Two points: It's not only tourists who congregate at the end of Metro escalator rides, forcing deposited pedestrians to behave like fullbacks trying to break a goal line plane. Those "pasty-white thigh" folks also buy goods and services and pay taxes that a) keep our taxes lower than they otherwise would be, or b) pay for an obsolete convention center. Jeffrey Itell]

Confusion Schmooshun
Dorothy Persiflage,

With respect to the thoroughly engaging legal discourse between Mr. Spitzer and Ms. Miles under the heading Prostitution Law -- ("Put up or shut up..."), hinging apparently on the pecuniary dimensions of the particular sexual solicitation, and including Mr. Spitzer's mock surprise that the police department is confused by the law, Ms. Persiflage felt the devilish urge to share an odd note from a 1952 issue of the Journal of English and Germanic Philology written by, coincidentally, a Mr. Leo Spitzer (Vol. LI, Apr. 1952, pp.226-33) -- a relation perhaps? -- and referred to by none other than the inestimable H. L. Mencken in The American Language. The good Mr. Spitzer (Leo), in describing the tendency to borrow from Yiddish with a deprecatory rhyming slang with the schm- substituted in the second element, often with an explanatory clause following, as in "Oedipus-schmoedipus, so long as he loves his mother," offered an explanation for the police ambiguity: Confusion Schmooshun!" "Put up or shut up!" Indeed. Ms. Persiflage must ask: whatever became of politeness schmiteness? And lawyers schmoyers, what's the controlling legal authority here?

Legal Illegal Parking???
Brian Kemler,

When my car wouldn't start on Upton Street the week before last, I was glad I could walk five blocks to my apartment in Cleveland Park. I was also fortunate, or so I thought, that it had broken down within my parking zone. I figured I'd wait until the following week when it was convenient to have it towed. Exactly a week later, I arrived with a tow truck. I found a tiny white sticker on my front wheel stating, "this vehicle has been checked... and will be in violation of commissioners order 57-760 if not moved". It had the time and date the sticker was affixed and the name of the issuing officer. The sticker had been placed on the car only two or three days after I left it there. So who is the commissioner, what is order "57-760" and what could I possibly be violating by parking a legally registered car with an up-to-date Zone 3 sticker within Zone 3? I called the police department. They tell me there is a law on the books stating that any car must be moved around every 72 hours. Apparently, the car could have been towed for this violation. If it had, I would have instantly figured it was stolen, having no notion that I was doing anything illegal. I have never heard of this in eleven years as a District resident. I suspect some of the neighbors got uppity at the sight of an unfamiliar car on "their" street. So they called the police. What I find ridiculous, is that the police, presumably in cahoots with the concerned citizens of Upton St. NW, would have nothing better to do than harass a legally registered and legally parked car-regardless of "commissioners order 57-760".

Chill Pills and Dollops of Trollops
Charlie Wellander,

OK, I've taken my chill pill, Poster #1, but as a part-time editor, I just have to look at what you've actually written in *your* statements about D.C.'s law on prostitution. 7/18/98: "...our law requires money to change hands..." 7/26/98: "The element of "prostitution" requires a financial transaction.... It also has to be witnessed...." 8/1/98: "...what I said was that money has to be involved. The police prefer to have money offered (shown) to bust a john." "I repeat-- money is an element of the offense of prostitution." Despite the protestations "what I said" and "I repeat," I see a major shift in the content of what Poster #1 is *now* saying after reading the concise and clear *quotations* from the D.C. law as supplied by Poster #2. Some would say such shiftiness is proof of lawyerly inclinations, but I must disagree, having found it no more prevalent than in the general population. (In fact, I believe that Poster #2 is also a lawyer, and has stuck to just one position in this debate.) [Art Spitzer is on vacation for the next three weeks. I'm sure he'll respond once he clears out his inbox. Jeffrey Itell]

DC Cablevision Channel Preference Survey
Matt Brosius

There is a very good reason for keeping Baltimore's Channel 11: Those of us who live near the Channel 4 broadcast tower get such terrible shadows on the tv image we receive through the cable that they are practically unviewable. We therefore access NBC through Channel 11. Some of the suggestions previously made on this listserv to help with the problem I have found didn't work for me. It seems that some other cable systems locate local channels on different numbers on the cable system to eliminate this shadow problem, but District Cablevision has seen fit not to do that. I would much prefer to watch NBC using Channel 4, but under present conditions, it's just not possible.

Channel 13/DCC3k
Kathy Carroll (

Phil's suggestion that DC City Council invite a merger with MST3k is wonderful! But let's not stop there...don't we have C-SPAN too?

If you want your food delivered, just call Therese, the catering coordinator at Fresh Fields in Georgetown. She'll ask you for a shopping list (Fresh Fields-type food please, no Coke or Pepsi), etc. They'll deliver in 24 hours. They do charge a delivery fee.

Edifice Rex
Ed T. Barron,

The cosmetic facade program for improving the AU Law School "bunker" Building is proceeding apace. With almost 80% of the columns and concrete embellishments in place it is clearly not Roman, nor Greek, nor D.W. Griffiths in style. We will have to name this configuration "Edifice Rex" after the architect responsible for the design. It does make the building, a World War II German bunker look alike, a little better. If they will now add some round planters in the front with surrounding benches the place will be quite presentable (though, never in character with the rest of the 'hood).

The Washington Dolls' House & Toy Museum
James H. Whitelaw

Saturday my wife and I had the pleasure of taking my 11 year old niece to visit the Washington Dolls' House & Toy Museum in Friendship Heights. I am not a doll aficionado but was floored by this place which I had never heard of. Collected over a lifetime by the museums director and author Flora Gill Jacobs, this collection of antique dolls, dolls houses, games and toys needs to be seen to be believed. Every nook and cranny contains some treasure of childhood's past. The collection is owned by Mrs. Jacobs and the Museum is a struggling for-profit venture that may have seen a profit one year since it opened in 1975. Sadly this treasure may not outlive it's director (who is usually present and seems in excellent health) so a visit soon should be a priority for every child at heart . A wonderful shop inhabits the second floor where everything from inexpensive mass produced to consigned antique doll accouterment can be had. There is also a room available to rent for children's birthday parties which has got to be an improvement over Chucky Cheese. Open Tuesday through Saturday the museum is located at 5236 44th Street NW just a block off Wisconsin Ave. Admission is $4.00 for adults, $2.00 for children and worth every penny.

Passports for Pets
Debbie Buckley,

For those animal lovers that want to travel to the United Kingdom with their pets, but can't because of the current quarantine regulations: There is an organization called Passport for Pets - the Alternative to Quarantine - based in the UK - that states that the British Ministry of Agriculture, which is in charge of the UK Quarantine regulations, has publicly acknowledged the fact that scientifically and medically there is a safe alternative. For more information visit their website at or email them for more information at

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.


Aug 15th Housing Wanted! Rachel Bird Anderson, Female dual-degree grad student at Johns Hopkins studying internatinal public health and intl. development seeks housing in DC. I just completed my first of three years - this one in Baltimore and am looking to move to DC next month (August 15th) and begin my academic program late month. Am interested in trying to find a furnished/semi-furnished apt., share an apt./group house or even bedroom to rent/housesit for the upcoming academic year.

I am looking for a good late afternoon/evening or weekend class in basic drawing and sketching for my 11 year old daughter. We live in the Chevy Chase D.C. area off Western Avenue and would prefer something that is fairly close by. Does anyone know of anything that is convenient? Nick Cobbs,

Thursday, 20 August 1998 7:30 p.m. Lecture National Zoo Education Building. Enter at Connecticut Ave. Park in Lot A. Free, but RSVP by calling (202) 673-4801 or e-mailing to David Steward, a veterinarian who has worked at the Dingo Sanctuary in Bargo, Australia for sixteen years, presents Dingo Days: Working with Australia's Wild Dogs. While aboriginal peoples in Australia have opened their hearts to this wild canine that roamed the continent "down under" for at least six millennia, Australian sheep farmers have viewed it as an enemy that destroys their livelihood. In his slide-illustrated presentation, Steward explores the history, ecology, biology, and behavior of dingoes. He also talks about his work to educate the public and to provide care for the Dingo Sanctuary's residents. Margie Gibson Office of Public Affairs, National Zoo Washington, D.C. 20008 (202) 673-0206, FAX (202) 673-4836 RSVP LINE (202) 673-4801

Design/Build/Carpentry: 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,

Futon for sale. Good condition, with wooden frame. $75. Upper northwest DC. Phil Shapiro,

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

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

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