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August 23, 1998

Big heaping serving of themail

Big Heaping Serving of themail, August 23, 1998

Dear Neighbors:

Thanks for contributing. Don't stop now. The inaugural issue of themail, continuing the DCStory tradition, is full of news and opinion from our subscribers. In fact, Ed Barron and Nick Keenan helped out by sending three messages each; but I only used two from each of them, to show them they couldn't put anything over on me. Here are the highlights: Camille Barnett gets more attention from you than any of the candidates in the elections, and the candidates in the election for at-large councilmembers are really unknown to many of you. (Here's the first plug: for the best coverage of the at-large candidates' campaigns, go to the DCWatch site — — and follow the links to see campaign materials.) For the next issue of themail, help the undecided: send in a warm recommendation for your favorite at-large candidate, or a freezing blast at your least favorite one.

Two postings on UDC remind us that the University, which has been a contentious issue in the past, is a non-issue in this year's mayoral forums. Every candidate is advocating more money and expansion for UDC, not more responsibility or accountability. Only Andrew Brimmer, who isn't running for anything including another term on the Control Board, doesn't want to just throw money at the University. (Here's the second plug: Brimmer's controversial speech at UDC is also available at

We have a few postings about local neighborhood issues, which are what themail is all about; and a few postings about President Clinton's gradual, grudging, and ungracious surrender to partial truthfulness, which is not usually what themail is about — but which people are talking about, if only to say that they don't want to talk about it.

Finally, several posters conspire to inflate Jeffrey Itell's ego, just because he founded and maintained DCStory for three years. Jeez, saying nice things about somebody? What depths won't we sink to?

Gary Imhoff

P.S. A subscriber asked where that DC recyling site was: Steve Donkin, had written that the "Bancroft School site (18th and Newton, NW) ... does indeed continue to operate, thanks to volunteers from the Green Party of DC. Newspaper, cardboard, aluminum cans, bi-metal cans, plastic, glass, and scrap paper (NO magazines or telephone books please!) are accepted from 9 am to noon every Saturday. Donations are accepted to cover the costs of renting the truck only. We usually just break even, with the Green Party committed to cover any shortfall in the cost."


Who is going to save us from our saviors??
Larry Seftor,

One gets used to things living in DC. But I must admit I was appalled to learn that Camille Barnett, who was brought in to relieve us of cronyism by the master, Marion Barry, is herself quite accomplished. She hired her friend Cheryl Dotson via a sole-source contract for $893,000. This contract is apparently illegal, as all contracts above $500,000 must be approved by the control board. It is also apparent that Ms. Dotson is acting as a District employee, as Barnett's "interim deputy management officer." As those of us in the consulting sector know, consultants to the Government are not supposed to act as Government employees, they are supposed to provide expertise. This contract, and the $150,000 in previous purchase orders paid to Ms. Dotson's firm, amount to a ruse to allow Ms. Dotson to work as a DC employee, but at a much higher salary. The final insult is in the comments made to the Washington Post by Ms. Dotson. She says that she now understands why DC has trouble recruiting people, "because of the way people are treated." Frankly, if Ms. Dotson has so little regard for the law, and indeed for ethics, she has no place in DC Government. As bad as Marion Barry was, at least he was elected by the people. By imposing Ms. Barnett and her brand of cronyism on DC, the Control Board has shown that it can indeed get worse. (If you would like to express your position to Ms. Barnett's office, the number is 202-727-3432.)


The At-Large Race
M.A. Siegel,

Question: is anyone going to do any coverage of where the 155 (only slight exaggeration) candidates for at-large City Council stand on issues? I know lots of names and have met several, but still have no sense of their position on issues like home rule, DC Public School reform, traffic, expansion of metro, taxes, how to stem the population loss etc. Maybe you could host an online candidate forum — that would be really helpful.

Stumped about At-Large Candidates
Joan Eisenstodt,

I'm voting absentee, and am stumped about the at-large race. No matter what I've read, none of the candidates appeal. Any more thoughts by you-who-are- more-informed?

Yes, Government Employees CAN Work for a Candidate
Phil Mendelson,

This summer, a DC government employee was reprimanded for circulating a petition for me (I am running for DC Council At-Large) in a public restaurant during the lunch hour. They were told they were violating the Hatch Act (which prohibits government employees from engaging in certain kinds of campaign activities).

I contacted Camille Barnett, calling her on this snafu, because the city was putting out the wrong information. Dr. Barnett wrote me an apology, admitting that they had been distributing erroneous information to employees.

So, if you're a government employee, please know that doing certain campaign activities on your own time outside of the office is acceptable. You CAN: assist in voter registration drives, express opinions about candidates and views, contribute money to campaigns, attend political fundraising events, sign nominating petitions and be an active member of a political organization. You may campaign for or against candidates, make campaign speeches and distribute literature. You CAN'T: use your official authority to influence or interfere with an election, or engage in political activity while on duty or in a government office or vehicle. You can't solicit or receive campaign contributions except in certain instances. The operative phrase is: on your own time and not in a government office.


Why I Love Election Season
Nick Keenan,

Why do I love election season? It's not that I think nude lampposts are ugly, or need more reading material in my mailbox or on my car, or that I like to chant along with prerecorded tapes blasting from bullhorns. No, the reason I like this season is that for three months every two years, everyone in the city government goes on their best behavior to try to do whatever they can to impress the voters.

I'm a simple man, with simple needs, and simple things excite me. Like garbage cans. Used to be that you could walk for over a mile in three directions from my home without passing a public garbage can. For years we have been begging the city to put some out, with varying responses but always the same result — inaction. But on Tuesday that all ended — DPW was putting out garbage cans with a vengeance. One block on 7th street got five cans — one on each corner and one at the bus stop. And not cheap plastic numbers either — metal-caged monsters, with locks, and patent protection. Should probably last at least until the next election.


August Musings
Ralph Blessing,

Upon returning from a recent overseas trip, I found some interesting developments in our fair city:

Tony Williams has been endorsed by Willie Wilson, DC's leading race-baiter (next to Marion, of course). That's like getting the nod from Al Sharpton or David Duke. How do we Williams supporters reconcile our concern for clean, efficient government with the venomous politics of Wilson and his crowd. Tony says he welcomes support from everyone, but I, for one, would have been happier had he said, "Thanks, but no thanks."

Many, if not most, of the newly planted trees along Connecticut Avenue in Cleveland Park and Forest Hills have already died, presumably for lack of water. Why they insist on planting in the summer months is beyond me. Anyway, under the old system, the Tree Division claimed that new trees were under warranty, though of course no one ever monitored the situation and most of the saplings were left to decompose. Will we have better luck this time?

Finally, I found it somewhat ironic that the "slug" issue was on the front burner at the same time as DC residents were being told that they could not take their complaints to the Hill (i.e., to Delegate Norton) on matters already decided by City Council. The juxtaposition of these events highlighted, once again, that suburbanites, such as the commuter slugs offended by Chief Ramsey's plan to move their pick-up spots, are able to go to their congressmen to complain about the DC government, while we in the District have no such recourse, whether related to DC or to one of the surrounding jurisdictions.


1962 - A year of Infamy
Ed T. Barron,

There's a monopoly in the public Schools which began to take form in 1962 when teachers were allowed to unionize. It was then that teachers went from professionals to nonprofessionals and the union's first priority went from quality education to financial and political power. The public school system is now one that is designed and operated to serve the teachers and administrators, not the students. The most notable symbol of the Teachers Unions, Albert Shanker, once said that he would begin to care about the quality of education when the students started paying union dues.

That's why the charter schools and vouchers for private schools are so very important to the District and the District's students. The Charter and Private schools are unencumbered by unions and are truly interested in providing a quality education to their customers.

Change UDC's Mission
Ed T. Barron,

It is timely to stop pouring money into cost ineffective efforts at UDC. The UDC mission is not working. If the mission is changed then not only will our tax dollars be better spent, but the results could be a major step in reducing unemployment and underemployment of the District's work force.

Here's what needs to be done: 1. Change the mission from a post high school institution to a school which will provide basic educational courses in math, reading and communicating to raise the level of unemployed persons' skills to the equivalent level of a graduate from a good high school . 2. Provide courses for those who gain a H.S. equivalency that will result in ample computer skills and/or training in other subjects. This will make our residents employable in the District and outlying communities where there are decent paying jobs. 3. Enlist the support for such a program from employers in and around the District to help improve workers' skills. This could also include providing instructors and computer equipment for training. This will solve two problems for the District — eliminating the waste at UDC and lowering the unacceptable unemployment figures for District residents. A tertiary benefit will be the additional tax revenues that the District will receive from higher paid residents.

Rude Awakening to UDC
Lee Perkins,

At 5:30 this morning I turned on the TV (cable). What did I see, but a big splashy, professionally-done ad for UDC. Since they've killed the good programs, fired the faculty, and the students are staying away in droves, who do they think will sign up? And do they really think that viewers of Alexandria cable will go to UDC with NOVA CC right in our back yard? Someone sold them a bill of goods.


Does Anyone Know About a Washington Gas Light Program?
Robert Myers,

I wonder if there are readers who know about and understand the Washington Gas Light Co. proposal called, "Residential Firm Delivery Service Pilot Program" which is some sort of program whereby residential users of gas can group themselves together and buy gas more cheaply in bulk. I got a letter from the Public Service Commission, as an ANC Commissioner, requesting that I comment on an aspect of the program. However, I was unaware that it existed. Who knows about it?

Missing Benches . . . And Timetables
David Sobelsohn,

It started happening a few months ago, around the time when the north benches on the green/yellow line Gallery Place metro platform disappeared. Before that happened, I could practically set my watch to the metro. But over the months since then, the published schedule has become increasingly inaccurate or irrelevant, & I have had to leave several trains that were unexpectedly taken out of service. Is Metro stinting on maintenance? What's going on? And what happened to those Gallery Place benches?

Be on the Lookout
Phil Greene,

I just wanted to report something that happened over the weekend in hopes of warning others who might be victimized. We live in Chevy Chase, NW, and while doing yard work on Sunday, we had our garage door open. I know it's risky; you're always hearing about bikes, lawn mowers, etc., being stolen in broad daylight, but we were in and out of the front yard so much that I took a chance. Anyway, when I walked out of our front door the sound of the door alerted two teenage kids who were in the process of either burglarizing our garage or trying to steal our car (the latter theory posited by the police). They ran away, but then a few moments later a U-Haul truck rumbled down our street, and after they passed I watched them proceed to the corner, where the two aforementioned kids ran up to the truck, hopped in and the truck sped off (I didn't get the tag). Obviously, this was a team effort, and the police advised us that they often work this way. So, keep your garages shut and be watchful for U-Hauls in upper Northwest. One bright spot, the cops sent two squad cars and even dispatched a helicopter to look for the U-Haul. Unfortunately, by the time they arrived (over 20 minutes) the truck was long gone.


A Clintonian Relationship to the Truth
Dana Chambers,

Just wondering what people think. All the polls say people are still with him, etc. Where do they get these people? Just about everyone I know is for impeachment! What kind of an example is he setting? He can lie and get away with it? What's to say he won't do it again and again and again! He wasn't going to admit the truth until he knew they had something on him. The one I feel sorry for is Chelsea. How do you all feel?

Monica and Bill
Mike Hill,

I am sick of hearing about Monica and Bill. One reason why is the serious overlap between "national" and "local" news coverage in our market. Over the last seven months, we have had the dubious pleasure of hearing both parts of our news casts rehash the same story from infinite angles. If anything, I would think that the local/national overlap would allow the local stations to focus on in-depth coverage of issues that are crucial to DC residents, but of little importance to outsiders. Instead, we seem to have reached a point where Morris Jones feels he simply must add his take on a story that Dan Rather and Tim Russert have already covered ad nauseum. Is there anyone else out there who would like a truly local news focus, one that treats issues that really affect our lives with the same weight as the national burlesque show?

Eleanor and Bill
E. James Lieberman, M.D.,

I note that E. Holmes Norton took no position on the Clinton affair after his (non)apology. I think the Pres. is so damaged by his folly that the causes he supports will be weakened, that he is a liability to his party, etc. Loyalty is a two-way street, so I wonder if a few of his stalwart defenders will defect now. I'll be disappointed if no one does, i.e. his defenders are made to feel like rats if they jump ship. Yet we're in a situation where David Broder and George Will seem to agree: the decent thing for Clinton to do now is resign. (I voted for him and had high hopes...). He accepts responsibility for wrongdoing as long as he can
dictate the consequences. Can the president pardon himself?

Watergate and Naughtygate
Charlie Wellander,

Richard Milhous Nixon had his Watergate; William Jefferson Clinton now has his Naughtygate scandal. What are some of the similarities and the differences of the two events, separated as they are by twenty-five years?

Watergate was partly about the President's "Plumbers," while Naughtygate concerns the President's plumbing.

The film version about Watergate was called "All the President's Men." Will the film about Naughtygate be called "All the President's Women"?

Watergate had the Saturday Night Massacre; Naughtygate has the Saturday Night Monica.

"Deep Throat" was a cute sobriquet for a Watergate confidential source; Naughtygate has The Real McCoy.

John Dean cautioned Nixon: "There's a cancer growing on the presidency." Several women warned Clinton: "There's a chancre growing on the President!" See?


Putting It on the Wire
Jon Desenberg,

Without DC Story, what will City Paper and the Post's District Section do for stories? They've increasingly relied on postings, including one of my own, to save on paying real reporters. Any chance the new DC Watch will charge for its local wire service?

Two quick comments: Why am I receiving Montgomery County Council campaign flyers in my mailbox? Anyone else on these mailing lists? Maybe they're just anticipating retrocession. Finally, a loud trash truck at 8:30 on a Friday night alerted me to the fact that DC Trash collection was still out well after happy hour had already begun. Wow, good job Ms. New City Manager.

Say It Ain't So Jeff
Ron Eberhardt,

I looked at my calendar to see if I was confused about the date and it was really April Fools Day! It Was not. Then I said, this is another of Jeff's ideas to get the contributors and readers fired up, but then I realized many if not most of us — Save Bill Clinton — have left town for August vacations! It must be so. I can only say, HATS OFF to our editor for a job superbly well done, notwithstanding nearly causing the resumption of the Civil War! I have been a member for only a year. Not long enough. dc.story is an excellent vehicle for District residents to learn information, share ideas and keep our sanity by venting here rather then in the streets!! Our Editor and host has been fair, if not necessarily rigid in the rules. It must be that way, and yes, I've been chastised more then once for going on too long, which I'm probably doing right now! So, suffice it to say, we owe you, Jeff, our gratitude and our thanks for your tireless work. It has been highly enjoyable and greatly worthwhile. At least we moviegoers will continue to have We can only hope that your successor will keep the dialog going!

The Death of DC Story
Suzanne Gallagher,

Say it ain't so. Jeffrey has been a delightful moderator of DC Story, and it's a pity that he's moving on to bigger and better things. I want to thank him for the time and effort he put into making DC Story fun, even out here in the hinterland of Texas. It has kept me plugged into the City I love, warts and all. Jeffrey's wit and even hand kept the mailings lively and entertaining. My best wishes for "themail."

DCStory Pulls the Plug
Nick Keenan,

I just got back from vacation and was saddened to read that you have decided to step down from the helm of dc.story. It's funny, but while I was away I found myself thinking about dc.story and how much work it must be, and wondering if you were going to keep it up forever. I figured you had to either cut back on the number of issues, or go to some sort of "guest editorship." Apparently you chose the latter.

You should be very proud of the work that you did. Dc.story has consistently been a great read. For some reason the readership and contributors seem to be several notches above the norm for discussions of DC politics and current events in terms of analysis and knowledge. I particularly like the way you let hot-heads like me dig our own graves. I just wanted to take this time to thank you for all the work that you have put in over the past three years. I think I speak for a lot of people when I say that you have added something to my life, and to the quality of discourse in our city.

PS. Did you see about David Watts' severance package? The man should be thankful he's not in jail, not being paid off. I'm so mad....

First Let's Give a Little/Big Thanks....
Anne Drissel,

Wait a minute! Before we head off into a not-so-"new" newsletter, let's give a round of applause for Jeffrey Itell and DCStory! Please let me grouse a little to you, Jeffrey: How can you just leave us ??!! Never mind how laudable a cause making money is! With only a few weeks left in Phase I of The Campaign of All Times in DC, just as the political scene is getting heated up, you're abandoning us to seek out other outlets for our vanities and (almost) profanities? Will we ever get over it???? You can't get off that easily. At least you have to let us sound off a bit about how much we appreciate the forum you've provided us so we could hunt down stray foxes — whether they be in the hen house or on hallowed hills. In DC Story I learned all kinds of useless and useful information about our city and the wonderful collection of not-quite-friends and neighbors with whom I shared lurking and occasional public diatribes. I'll even forgive you for occasionally returning to me perfectly incredible pieces of journalistic brilliance. Ah, but thankfully you haven't left us speechless! And, Jeff, be sure to keep your lurking to a minimum and your online insights (and incites) to a maximum. I'll/We'll miss ya.... be looking for your byline.


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