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September 6, 1998

Happy Labor Day Is in themail

Dear Reader:

Today the Washington Post published an article on the candidates for the at-large Councilmember seats, and it was probably the first time that some of the at-large candidates have ever been mentioned in this city’s newspaper of record. I’ve always been critical of the Post for its skimpy coverage of the Councilmember races, but I’m beginning to understand the problem it has. We’re members of this city’s E-mail discussion forum of record (don’t you feel proud?), and we haven’t mentioned most of the at-large candidates either — and we haven’t had any discussion of the candidates in the ward races in Wards 1, 3, 5, and 6.

Can any of these candidates make a difference to your neighborhoods or your lives? In this issue, Jeff Itell asks for your help in describing how you’ll choose among the candidates, and Ed Barron recommends the Northwest Current’s voter guide. If you have any thoughts, send them along for our next issue.

Our city’s other controversies continue in this issue: Louis Lieb questions how rent control works in DC; Steve Donkin and Sharon Cochran disagree over whether the Convention Center issue is settled, done, and over with; Ed Barron contributes further thoughts on the public schools (do you think they’re really on the way back?); and Len Sullivan raises something that our city’s politicians have neglected for years — productive and friendly regional relations. One footnote to these postings: Steve Donkin is a candidate in what may be the only Advisory Neighborhood Commission race that is being contested this year over an issue (the Convention Center, of course), rather than over personalities. Jeff Itell also contributes some news about changes in the commercial corridor in Cleveland Park — are there any changes in your neighborhood that other readers of themail would be interested in knowing about?

Hope you had a good end-of-summer Labor Day weekend. Be sure to send a postcard home.

Gary Imhoff


Who’s At-Large?

Jeffrey Itell,

I need help, but you probably know that. I’m cutting commentaries these days for WTOP radio. Next week I want to talk about the city’s at-large council race. I am not particularly interested about who you favor. Instead, I would like to know how you plan to choose among the 12 (or so) candidates listed on the ballot. I get around a bit, but I only know four candidates.

Please be so kind to send me your comments, witty and wise. (See address above.) I will only use your name if you explicitly give me permission. Many thanks from a lazy journalist.


Council At-Large Candidates

Ed T. Barron,

This week’s issue of the Northwest Current (Sept. 2nd issue) has a comprehensive voter’s guide that should provide District voters with enough information about all the Council and the Mayoral candidates that will allow voters to make the right choices for the right reasons. The guide has a series of questions asked of all the candidates with the candidate’s answers side by side for direct comparison. There is also a summary write up about each of the candidates.

No single candidate will likely be in alignment with any single voter’s full agenda but voters will clearly be able to select the candidate that best matches their needs and hot buttons. I hope the Post will come out with a similar guide for those who can’t find the Voter’s guide that’s available to NW DC residents. Don’t forget that the primary is on the 15th of Sept. with a winner take all result. That means that there is no runoff of the top vote getters for either the Mayoral or the Council elections. If you will not be in town on the 15th hustle on down to 441 4th St. to the Board of Elections and cast your absentee ballot. They have Saturday hours and are open form 8:30 AM to 4:00 PM on weekdays.


On Rent Control

Louis Lieb,

I’ve often puzzled over the exact nature and effects of rent control in DC, since it appears to be significantly different from what I’ve been used to and heard about elsewhere. For several years, I lived in an apartment in Adams Morgan that was nominally subject to rent control, but in actuality was priced below the legal ceiling. I.e., it was basically priced at the "market" level. I found in looking at other apartment buildings that this was far from uncommon. On the other hand, people who had lived there for much longer than I did enjoyed a below-market rental price. I’m not sure what the proportion of "long-timers" was, but I would guess maybe 25% of the total.

Casual empiricism says tells me that there’s a dearth of rental units in the district, except in coop and condo buildings where the owner is leasing out the space, and is not subject to rent control; that the more interesting buildings have long-since been converted to condo or coop. So, what is happening here? Is DC rent control largely ineffective, since it appears that most renters are paying a market level? If so, then what is keeping down the number and quality of rental units in the city? My gripe with rent control was that it also seemed to be keeping down the "quality" of the units. I.e., I might choose to pay a little more for better amenities, but it didn’t seem to pay for the landlords to make that kind of investment in the property. I believe that under rent control the current residents have some ability to prevent improvements from being approved by the rent control board if they don’t want to pay extra for them. So, is there anyone out there who has any answers to these questions, understands the intricacies of rent control in the District, and/or knows of any studies that have been done on these questions?


Yes, Neighborhood Destruction is Inevitable, and No, the "Community" Does Not Support It

Steve Donkin,

In her article, "Convention Center Class Action Unsuited," Leslie Miles states, "...the new convention center will not destroy any neighborhoods, and is of course widely supported here in the actual community..." On the second point first, I and some others have taken the time to personally go door-to-door in Shaw asking our neighbors their views on the convention center (something our ANCs, who unanimously endorsed the project, did not do). Even at this late date, most of those we spoke with knew next-to-nothing about it; most of the rest were either against it or extremely wary of promised "benefits" to the neighborhood. On Ms. Miles’ first point, while it’s true the project will not destroy the Shaw neighborhood outright, it will inevitably displace many residents who will no longer be able to afford their rising housing costs. The process is called "gentrification," and it is the result of all such "urban renewal" projects that give buildings priority over the communities they occupy. Ms. Miles may be sufficiently well-to-do to avoid such an assault on her housing situation; many of her neighbors in Shaw are not.

We all know that the Shaw neighborhood is, in the minds of developers and the hotel owners, seen as prime real estate that unfortunately is home to a lot of poor black folks who keep the property values depressed and scare away tourists. "If we could just get rid of these people," say the wealthy special interests, "we could redevelop the entire neighborhood and bring in some real revenue." With the help of City Council this past session, that wish was brought one step closer to reality. Council passed the National Capital Revitalization Corporation Act, granting the power of eminent domain in so-called "blighted areas" to an unelected corporation stacked with developers. Council also passed the Tax Increment Financing Authority Act, wherein the city promises to front money to private developers so they can build commercial projects on top of our neighborhoods using public dollars. And of course, Council rammed through the convention center financing plan, disregarding the $55 million in taxes it collected from residents and businesses for 23 months, in violation of the language in its own legislation, to finance the bonds. Hence, the lawsuit — which Ms. Miles dismisses as without merit.


Convention Center Unsuited

Sharon Cochran,

I agree with Leslie Miles about the convention center tax suit action taken by a small group of people. I wish the trash transfer stations got nearly the attention that the location of the convention center has gotten. We need to accept the action of our city council on this issue even if we disagree with it. I think that these folks are acting again like spoiled children who did not get their way. Does anyone know where this group is getting their funding ?


Hard Lessons for Ms. Ackerman

Ed T. Barron,

The DCPS Superintendent, Ms. Arlene Ackerman, recently stated that she could count her supporters in the DCPS on the fingers of one hand. That is a very sad commentary and does not bode well for making major changes needed in the schools that will result in quality education for the District’s students. The problems that Ms. Ackerman faces are the same as those faced by Gen. Becton. Both Ms. Ackerman and Gen. Becton are smart, well intended, and experienced administrators. The problem lies in the entrenched bureaucracy that they both inherited. In a well functioning hierarchical bureaucracy the Chief Administrator would be the big wheel, or gear, at the top of the organization and lower levels would be succeedingly smaller and smaller gears in the chain. In an ideal world the top gear spins at about 1 RPM and the lowest gear spins at about fifty RPM. In the real world of the DCPS, however, there is an incredible amount of resistance and slippage in the gears. This results in the Superintendent spinning at 100 RPM and no motion at all in the lowest gears in the chain.

The only way real reform can take place in the DCPS is for the top Administrator to have the support and respect from those in the chain of command who can, and want, to make the right things happen. This support can only be gained by evolving the traditional hierarchical bureaucracy into a very flat organization of autonomous, empowered, process oriented teams. Specific processes (e.g. Curriculum Development, et al) should be assigned to teams of stakeholders who will own that process. By involving, and giving responsibility, to each of the process teams formed and holding them accountable (but letting each team decide how changes should be made), the teams can actually create a viable plan for changes that will work. Then each team will work hard to make their own plan happen. Without this evolution from the dysfunctional hierarchical bureaucracy in the DCPS to a team based and involved work force, real reform will not happen, there will be another stalemate, and we will have another burned out talented administrator.


NARPAC, Inc. Web Site September Edition Focuses on Regionalization

Len Sullivan —

The National Association to Restore Pride in America’s Capital has revised its web site for September (See "What’s New?" at with new headline summaries, three additional relevant web sites, and two new and relevant books. It offers three new report summaries and analyses: 1) NARPAC’s own survey of the future potential of the Metro Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG); 2) the Metro Washington Regional Transportation Act now before the Congress; and 3) crime statistics for the Washington and Baltimore metro areas compared to 205 others in the US.

NARPAC, Inc.’s latest editorial view summarizes its unexpected findings on the potential of the MWCOG to provide much-needed assistance to the District. Survey respondents made it clear that the suburbs are willing to do much more if DC’s representatives will adopt a serious and cooperative presence on COG’s many functional committees. We recommend that the new DC Council — and Control Board — participate fully with the COG; that the COG expand its creativity; and that Congress — and the Federal DC Task Force — take more proactive roles in supporting regional activities in the DC area. NARPAC urges all readers and lurkers to VOTE SENSIBLY for pro-regional candidates of your choice. Primaries count.


Cleveland Park Village

Jeffrey Itell,

Cleveland Park "Village" continues to undergo upscale culinary change, quality and caloric. L’Avendou is doubling its space, a donut store (or as we called them at work, Do-Nots) is being built out in Tropea’s barber shop. Construction is underway at the abandoned Crestar Bank location for Oodles Noodles. The Kohr Bros. custard and pretzel palace is open for business in the Park and Shop. Crown Books finally bowed to reality, leaving bookless the literary Connecticut Ave. side of Cleveland Park. (Janie Hulme runs the fine Cleveland Park Bookshop on Wisconsin Avenue.) The vacuum and lighting fixture stores endure, but Cleveland Park residents still search in vain for a hardware store.


CLASSIFIEDS — Events and Classes

At-large Council Candidates Forum

Kurt Vorndran,

On Thursday, September 10th, 1998, DC voters will have one of their last chances to hear from all of the candidates for the at-large seat on the City Council before the Democratic Primary election. The Ward Three Democratic Committee will be hosting a candidates’ forum starting at 7:00 p.m. at the Maret School, 3000 Cathedral Ave., NW in the Woodley Park section of DC Ample parking is available and the public is invited.

Ten candidates will be competing for the Democratic nomination for an at-large seat on the DC Council. With no Democratic incumbent, the race has so far been spirited but occasionally overshadowed by the Mayoral race. The Ward Three Democratic Committee is sponsoring the forum to help educate Democratic voters as they decide their choice for the September 15th election. No endorsement vote will be taken at the event.

Previously, the Ward Three Democratic Committee issued a rare preprimary endorsement of the following candidates: Kathy Patterson for Ward Three Member of the District Council, Linda Cropp for Chairman of the District Council, and Eleanor Holmes Norton for Delegate to Congress. For more information, call Chair Kurt Vorndran (202-667-0105-h), (202-508-3717-o) or Second Vice-Chair Linda Finkel-Talvadkar (202-363-8827).

Career Workshop

Patty Friedman 202/232-3449;

CREATING THE WORK YOU LOVE: The Anti-Career Workshop with Rick Jarow, Ph.D. Register now: advance registration fee includes Friday’s introduction. Saint Margaret’s Episcopal Church, 1830 Connecticut Ave., NW, Washington, DC. Friday, October 9th 7-9 pm $10.00 introduction/overview; Saturday, October 10th 10 am-5:30 pm $95.00. Some scholarships and financial aid available.


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