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September 20, 1998

Overheard in the Confessional

Dear Readers:

I confess, I let MarthaNS2 get away with an unsigned message in this issue, because she's just asking for book donations for the Tenleytown library book sale. Kids, don't try this yourselves. Signed messages only, please. (And MarthaNS2, that goes for you, too, next time.)

A lot of other people should be confessing their sins this week. What is the most poisonous thing about politics in DC? It isn’t governmental inefficiency. It isn’t waste. It isn’t even fraud and corruption. It’s the ever present exploitation of race and racial division in order to preserve a government of waste, fraud, inefficiency, and corruption.

The preeminent practitioner of racist politics in DC, His Honor the Mayor, Marion S. Barry, Jr., was at it again this week, creating mischief by saying that he wouldn’t support two Democratic Party candidates who were elected in the primaries because they were white. “It’s my own view that the council ought to reflect the diversity of the city,” Barry said.

The Mayor isn't the person who should be making amends this week, however. He's beyond shame on this issue, as on so many others. The people who should be apologizing to Washingtonians are all the other politicians in DC, whose weak-kneed, timid, and frightened response to the Mayor’s provocation was embarrassing.

On Friday, Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and Democratic Mayoral nominee Tony Williams appeared at a unity press conference with the Democratic Council primary winners — Linda Cropp, Sharon Ambrose, Kathy Patterson, Phil Mendelson, Vincent Orange, and Jim Graham. They issued this weasally statement, in its entirety: “We run together as Democrats committed to uniting our city. The voters have rejected race as an issue in this campaign and so do we. We reaffirm the Democratic Party’s commitment to racial harmony.”

All the candidates mouthed platitudes about how race isn’t an issue in this election, but not one of them had the courage and integrity to mutter a single word of criticism of Barry and his bigotry. To escape taking a principled stand against racism, poor Phil even had to pretend that he didn’t understand what Barry had said: “[W]hat I thought he was saying is that he wants to be sure of all the candidates’ views, and I think that's fair,” Phil said.

Barry must be laughing at all of them, and at all of us. The man is — temporarily — out of politics, and will be out of office by January. But even in his weakened position, not one of the wannabe movers and shakers in DC politics has shown that he or she has the guts to confront him directly — even when he is at his most outrageous and unforgivable.

If this crowd is all Marion Barry has to worry about, then we can be sure that he hasn’t retired. He’s just taking a vacation. When four years have expired, and the technocrats have cleaned up the mess he has made, balanced the books, and brought both reliable money and self-rule back to the government of the District of Columbia, the benefits will be reaped by the Mayor-for-Life, who can step back into the 2002 election to reclaim the office he will still own. Why should anybody stand up to him then, when they’re afraid to now?

Oh, well, if they don’t care, why should we? Anybody know any good new (or neglected old) neighborhood restaurants or bars? Been to the Van Gogh exhibit yet? How is it? And what about this weather? Isn’t it lovely, but don't we need some rain?

Gary Imhoff


The Fat Lady Hasn’t Sung
Ed T. Barron,

The battle has been won for Tony Williams but the war is not over. In past years winning the Dem Primary was tantamount to being elected in November. These are strange times and one should look at the numbers. Tony got more than 60 percent of his votes from only three wards (1, 2, and 3). With everyone breathing a sigh of relief there could well be a let down and apathy toward the November elections. For sure there will likely be fewer voters in the November election since many who did not vote for Williams may not vote at all. Others, sensing that there is no real competition, may not vote again for Tony. Carol Schwartz has been here in the District for a very long time (no she was not a waitress at the Last Supper) and very active in local politics for a large part of that time. Carol has both exposure and name recognition in the traditional Barry wards and has garnered substantial votes from those heavily Democratic wards.

The message is clear. If you supported Tony Williams in the Primary, do it again in November. There should be no long relaxation in the Williams' camp since they have much work to do to assure that the voters come out again in November. Tony should be working the other five wards hard and then put on a final surge in Wards 1,2, and 3 to assure a final victory with support from all the wards. All the candidates who ran deserve a hearty round of applause. Campaigning is very hard (second only to fund raising).


Sore Losers
John Whiteside,

Was anyone else appalled by Kevin Chavous and his campaign manager after the primary results were in? Listening to his campaign manager rant about the unfairness of a newcomer winning, and Chavous himself trying to play kingmaker as if his endorsement was going to make a huge difference in November’s outcome, it confirmed my feeling that my neighbors across the Potomac made a good choice on Tuesday... and that Chavous is just what he appears to be, a big noise with nothing behind it. For a city that needs good government, not more empty rhetoric, Chavous’ loss is good news indeed.


A Candidate's Concession
Greg Rhett,

Thanks to the many friends and supporters of my first “official” endeavor into DC Politics. This was a tremendous experience and I look forward to continuing to be of service to our great city. After a bit of “R&R,” I'll be seeing many of you as we continue the fight to improve the quality of living in our great city.

I particularly want to thank Mike Powell for his show of integrity and understanding. And Deborah Simmons for her prayers and encouragement along the way.

Go Phil!! I'm with you all the way! I strongly encourage all good Democrats to give your support to this fine nominee.


Laughing with the Elections
Dan Parker,

While I hate to see all the dollars wasted on the primaries, I did note that the finalists were: Williams, Chavous, Evans and Brazil. And where was blowhard Gildenhorn. Not 5th, but sixth, at least in the WP tally I saw. Someone beat him by a vote (248 v 247).


Summer Youth Programs
Mike Hill,

As Carl Bergman states, there are many programs in DC government that need to be cut. Summer Youth Works is definitely not one of them. It seems that many readers of Themail advocate a “scorched earth” policy with all programs and initiatives from the Barry era. Some of these programs actually contain good ideas, and simply need a change of management or focus.Summer Youth Works employs lots of kids in their first meaningful job experience. Some job sites focus on basic job skills and maintenance, while others are office clerical. It's important to remember that, despite anyone’s lofty aspirations, those entry level, low skill jobs are how young people get introduced to the working world. In addition, Summer Youth Works has the support of many law firms and other local businesses who provide training, job sites, management of summer interns, etc. because they believe in this program. Finally, Youth Employment Services has at least two sites that offer innovative training; a performing arts job site at Carter-Barron Amphitheater, and a project with Manna CDC and the National Building Museum focusing on training in design, community development, and sustainability. Many people would say, “why are we paying kids to learn?” Most of those same people get paid leave or comp time for professional development, or they automatically qualify for pay raises.

Another point is that it’s hard to prove a negative. Will we ever know how many kids didn't get pregnant, do drugs, or commit a crime because of some training or experience they got in summer Youth Works? Not likely, although studies show that keeping young people occupied during off-time (after school, summer) reduces the crime rate somewhat. Perhaps Mr. Bergman should try keeping just one kid out of trouble, gainfully employed, and paid for a summer before he suggests that a program like this is futile.


Pulling a Fast One on Fast Food
Paul Williams,

A newly formed committee of the Cardozo-Shaw Neighborhood Association is investigating what efforts can be implemented to stop the myriad fast food outlets from locating along the historic U Street Corridor. Our newest threat is Papa Johns; I know Georgetown and Arlington successfully fought to keep them out; anyone out there with practical knowledge on the subject? The committee is concerned that these types of ‘restaurants’ do not offer unique or quality attraction for the emerging corridor, and in fact may detract potential visitors from patronizing many of the cool, sleek and urban nightspots and restaurants already in place. We are gathering ammunition on every aspect (zoning, historic preservation review, hearings, etc.) and would welcome any thoughts; or involvement! Next meeting Wed, Sept. 30 at 7 pm at ERICO at 1334 U Street (upstairs). Call Emeka at 265-2499 for more information.


The Pied Piper — Where Are You?
Ed T. Barron,

Washington, like most cities has rats. You may rationalize that they are bald squirrels with no tails, but they are, indeed, rats. This year there seems to be an over abundance of them in and around the Spring Valley Shopping Center area. I have seen them as far away from there crossing the street in Broad daylight on 45th and Alton Place. Curious to find out why these critters seem so abundant of late (including bold evening forays into my roomies garden to eat the tomatoes) I walked over to the alley behind Super Fresh and CVS. It was not too startling to see the abundance of overflowing edible garbage from the overfilled and wide open dumpsters.

I have registered complaints with both CVS and Super Fresh in an effort to get them to make the edible trash secure from these pests. I hope they will undertake a rat control program before things get worse in the ’hood.


Road Construction
Ralph Blessing (

I noticed this morning that Park Rd. between Mt. Pleasant St. and Klingle Rd. is in the midst of a total overhaul. One lane has been completely excavated with the other lane being used for one-way traffic. While the sight of any public works activity in DC is the cause for celebration, this one puzzles me since the pavement on the still-open lane does not appear to be in such bad shape. There are other roads (e.g. Porter St.) in much worse condition. The cynical side of me (some would say the only side) wonders if Park Rd. moved to the top of the list when Camille Barnett bought a house there. If so, I know of a few streets in my neck of the woods where residents would gladly welcome her as a neighbor.


UDC Law School
Lynn Dorman,

I deleted the latest issue of themail so I do not know who wrote the piece about the UDC School of Law but I wish to comment on his/her reporting. I tried to find the article cited, but was unable to easily do so. (To set the record straight, I was in the first DCSL class (1991) and I passed the DC bar exam on my first try.)

The first time bar pass rate at DCSL was low for a while but I am not sure it was ever at 10%. Also, most graduates don't take the DC bar, they take other bar exams and waive into DC. Did the article writer look only at the DC Bar or Bar passage in general? Next, the DC bar has an historically low pass rate for first time takers. Last, but probably most important, there is no measure I know of which relates good lawyering with passing the bar exam the first time! A lot of bad lawyers pass it on first try and a lot of good ones don't .That's why most jurisdictions allow you to keep on taking the exam.....

The UDC Law School provides a solid legal education for it's students and those who graduate come out knowing how to practice law since they are required to take clinical courses. The school, through these clinics, provides many needed legal services to traditionally underserved and never served DC populations.

I know it costs money to keep educational institutions open but I'd rather see a University flourish than a convention center built which will be outdated and too small before it even opens and which will do nothing for the same people who are being served by the DC School of Law. (I may be mixing apples and oranges a bit as I no longer live in DC and don't follow the money trails anymore...but I think you get my point.)


A Moat Away From Impeachment
Mark David Richards,

Speaking of impeachment, it seems that during the Jeffersonian era the executive branch kept their distance from the legislative to avoid such matters. According to James Sterling Young, author of “The Washington Community 1800-1820,” the executive and legislative ruling establishment separated themselves and stayed apart in two separate village communities that were bisected by a natural moat, the River Tiber. It was a 11/2 mile, three hour round trip through a wilderness full of “viny thickets and virtually uninhabited moors.” Neither community was much interested in bridging the two, thus “Pennsylvania Avenue remained a desolate country road, where ‘every turn of your wagon wheel... is attended with danger.’ Flash floods and spring tides made the avenue impassable altogether...” Georgetown was a satellite village of the executive community, mostly for consumer goods and services. Each ruling community had their own village religious services, with vanity and corruption of power as favored themes. The President never appeared in the legislative community except for inauguration and on the day of adjournment. Young writes that “The unwritten rule against executive trespassing on the Hill was mutually advantageous, a legislator explained to a bemused Englishman: No one unless he were of cast-iron, could possibly stand the badgering to which an official man would be exposed... [and] if our men in office were called upon, like your ministers, to answer, viva voce, questions put by members... the issue in every case would probably be an impeachment, or such a torrent of invectives as no man could bear up against...” Young calls it “patterned avoidance.” Maybe the federal community should rethink that moat idea... Is anyone aware of recent studies showing the residential living patterns of the federal community — where do the transients live/cluster now?


Cigar Poetry
Steph “Nonsmoker” Faul,

Your correspondent Charlie Wellander should consider Richard Armour’s amplification of Rudyard Kipling’s comment on cigars. Given the nature of several current events, it seems particularly appropriate:

“A woman is only a woman, but a good cigar is a smoke
Though a woman’s not made of tobacco, she’s often the butt of the joke.”



Tenleytown Book Sale

The Friends of the Tenleytown Library will hold a book sale on Saturday and Sunday, October 4-5, from 11-4 pm at the Tenleytown library (Wisconsin Avenue and Albemarle Street, NW) Book donations are being accepted at the library daily.



Need Help With Your Computer Needs At Home Or In The Office?
Nick Chang, (202.237.0130)

PC hardware/software installation and upgrades; maintenance, troubleshooting and network support; Back-up and archive your files and email on CD-ROM; setup computer network for the small office; build customized database in Access or other programs; web training and web page development; Reasonable rates. Excellent references.


Prepare for Fall
Philip A. Walker, Jr.

Fall is the best time for planting trees, shrubs, perennials and bulbs and to repair the damage from summer's drought. Let Storybook Farms create beautiful outdoor spaces for your home, with rock gardens, ponds, waterfalls, hardscapes, outdoor lighting, watering systems, patios, and fences. Quality designs, installations, maintenance of garden spaces. Now offering power washing sidewalk, driveway, concrete wall and wood deck cleaning. Many satisfied The Mail readers as clients. DC area: contact Piedmont Virginia area contact Both locations call 1-800-821-6160.



Ticket giveaway update
John Heaton,

Just a reminder that it’s not too late to try to win a free pair of passes to the 1998 Washington Home Design and Garden Show, being held at the Washington Convention Center September 25-27. I’ve chosen a number between 1 and 1000 and submitted that number to Herr Diskussionsleiter for safekeeping; all you need to do is guess that number! Send your guess to . Entries will be accepted through Tuesday, September 22; the name of the winner will be published in the September 23 edition of themail@dcwatch. Good luck!



Carved Oak Confessional
Tony Ross,

Unique item for the home that has everything! Hand carved oak confessional (yes, one of those things in churches where you confess your sins to a priest) c. 1880, measuring approx. 6 x 5 x 10. Rescued from the Church of St. Charles in Algiers, Algeria. $2000/OBO. Call Tony @ 202-363-2470 or email


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