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October 18, 1998

themail Is Tooting Its Own Horn

Stephanie Faul calls our attention to Geneva Overholser's reprinting of some of our DC mottos in today's Washington Post (the article, for those who missed it, as I did, is “A Case of Mistaken Identity,” on the “Close to Home” page of the “Outlook” section, page C8). Our exchanges on rats were also cited this week in a Washington Times editorial (“Time to Clean Up, Mrs. Barnett,” Wednesday, October 14, page A18).

Maybe someday these little papers will be big enough, important enough, and informative enough to be quoted and cited in themail.

In the meantime, we'll keep telling each other what's going on it this town. This issue of themail continues several ongoing conversations: who should and shouldn't be the next mayor, driving on city streets, the Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, UDC, rats and their relatives, recycling, the convention center, and, yes, MOTTOS!

Gary Imhoff


Not Tony Williams for Mayor
Bill Starrels,

I would like to comment on Tony Williams and his supporters. I am a twenty year resident of DC. I live in Georgetown with my wife and eight year old son. My son goes to the local DC Public school. I am PTA President, and I stay active in local events. We all know Mr. Williams is a great accountant. Being Mayor of this city, you need more. You need leadership qualities. You need to know the neighborhoods. You need to know the “good guys” and the ones who have been milking the city for years... You have to have a thick skin to stand up to the same people who want to milk the city for another four years under a new Mayor. Ask anyone who has met Mr. Williams. He is nice. He has no charisma. He has no leadership qualities. If we want a City Manager which works under the present Control Board set up, he will be OK. If we want a full fledged Mayor under full home rule, he is not the right person.

Do Williams supporters know that Mr. Williams has lived in DC just long enough to qualify to become a tour guide? Shouldn't residency requirements be a little tougher for candidates for Mayor? Shouldn't a candidate for Mayor know how to drive around DC without a driver. If Williams becomes Mayor, we should hire a back up driver, in case his driver gets a cold.

How can we promote a man who was forced to move into DC, who has voted in only one of his last six elections and who has a campaign staff which is a who's who of old time Barry supporters? Does Williams have enough back bone to stand up to Barry, Mr. Newman and the rest of the old guard when they try to cash in their chips, if Williams wins in November? Williams says he can. Lets hope so.


Strategic Planning
Ed T. Barron,

In response to J.L. Dittberner's posting that someone should get to Tony Williams on the subject of Strategic Planning, I agree with Williams on the “mumbo jumbo” of so-called Strategic Plans. Strategic Plans are "top down" plans and just don't work. They don't work because they don't engender any buy-in by the folks that have to make things happen. The real way to make things happen in the District is to start with a top level Mission Statement for the District and supporting measurable, time oriented goals. Then all the organizational elements and sub-elements (Depts., etc.) establish their own mission and goals. In this manner everyone gets a say in what will be done, who will do it and how it will get done.

In this process everyone knows how they fit into the big picture and, because they have had some say in what they will be doing, they fully support the goals and the processes that will enable those goals to be met. This process involves participation and buy-in and it beats the heck out of Strategic Plans which do nothing more than hold down loose papers and collect dust.


Traffic Nanny
Jeffrey Itell,

If I had my druthers, I'd be Matt Drudge. No, I would drive the highways without speed limits as I used to in Germany. Traffic safety in usually not my foremost thought. Nevertheless, I witnessed a common driving faux pas that continues to scare me. A car, a driver, and a child in the back seat on the right. The driver prepares to turn left on Ordway Street from the north side of Connecticut Avenue. A tough intersection -- one Cleveland Park Villagers call Widowmaker Xing — that requires every advantage. The driver turns her wheel to the left. Imagine an impatient driver (OK, imagine me) failing to stop. If her wheels are straight, a slight bump pushes her through the intersection. If crooked, her car becomes a Sudan pharmaceutical plant hit by cruise missiles. The back seat child takes the brunt of the collision.

John Irving's latest novel, A Widow for a Year, turns on this very believable premise. So for “you know whose” sake, stop the madness!


Spread it thin!
Scott McLarty,

Rob Fleming's recommendation for increasing the power of ANCs reminds me of a quote from Ralph Nader during his 1996 presidential campaign, that the remedy for democracy's deficiencies is more democracy. I've been proposing the same general idea during the Ward One race (I'm the Green Party candidate for Ward One Member of Council), that we can ensure improvement of services from the Department of Public Works by making it accountable at the neighborhood level, i.e., through the ANCs. I've also recommended that we restore to ANCs the power to sue the District over poor services and broken promises (e.g., should the Washington Convention Center Authority not adhere to assurances made to Shaw residents as construction disrupts and displaces the neighborhood), the power of a supermajority of ANCs to put an initiative on the ballot, and involvement in community sentencing of nonviolent offenders. All of the foregoing can be found in the platform summary on my website, at . I've mentioned them at several candidates' forums.

Congress wants to cancel funding for the ANCs, claiming they're overwhelmingly corrupt, inept, meddling, and wasteful of tax dollars. What better gesture for DC democracy and for neighborhood empowerment than for the Council to cede such power down to the ANC level? As weary ANC veterans can confirm, Congress's accusations are true of certain ANCs and commissioners. It means we'd also need to expand “sunshine” laws against the kind of secret deals and cronyism that seem to infect District government at many levels. But Congress and the Council, which gutted the last few initiatives passed by DC voters (especially Initiative 51, a very powerful and necessary sunshine law passed overwhelmingly in 1994), act with suspicion and hostility towards notions of grassroots democracy. I recommend Benjamin Barber's essay “More Democracy! More Revolution” in the latest (October 26) issue of The Nation, which, without mentioning DC, bears relevance to the situation here.

(If this communique seems self-serving, I write out of frustration that the mainstream media has ignored Green candidates, as well as those from the Statehood Party and many independents. E.g., the Post refuses to list us on its post-primary election web site at   . If that bugs you, please call the person in charge of the web site at 703-469-2500.)

PS: Re Ms Persiflage's mottos... If we must trope the classics for a motto for DC, I suggest that we incorporate a recognition of the recent setback to the movement for autonomy, thanks to the Revitalization Act: “Columbia Nova deleta est”


Wildlife in the City
Ms. Persiflage,

Lorie Leavy, wrote: “To Ed Barron and his rat patrol, a word of caution. Rats aren't the only wildlife that frequent AU Park yards.”

Ms. Persiflage can certainly verify that — and it's not just in those very proper AU neighborhoods. Ms. P happens to live near 14th and U Streets, N.W., in the “New U.” After those nasty young men (mo-fo punks, to be more precise!) who trained their pit bull status symbols by having them attack stray cats nearly decimated the local cat population, Ms. P has recently been pleased to feed a number of neighborhood alley cats (there seems to be fewer pit bulls around, allowing for more cats). For the record, and the PETA (People Eating Tasty Animals) crowd, she hastens to add that she has taken them, one by one, to Friendship Animal Hospital to be “fixed,” and has prepared winter shelter for these strays. Cats, after all, do not routinely butcher the language of Shakespeare and Milton, and so deserve some care, attention, and respect.

One potentially unfortunate and unintended consequence of this practice, however, has been that other very strange critters often appear under the harsh lights of Ms. P's security system. At first it looked as if Ms. P was being regularly visited by a really, really, REALLY big rat — a neighbor even declared that it must be a "nuclear" rat (shades of “Godzilla,” “Rodan,” and “Attack of the Crab Monsters!”) Its body is about 12 inches long, with an extra ten inches of tail. It's light grey, with a rat-like snout, pink nose, and dark, beady eyes. And it is only a baby! Ms. Persiflage, who as you all know is something of a stickler for precision, if not, on rare occasions such as this one, humble personal modesty, thought that the nuclear rat was a raccoon, and affectionately named it “Cooney.” Ms. P has since correctly identified Cooney as a possum — right here in the inner city! A huge boa constrictor also recently fell from a local roof onto the sidewalk. Gracious! What next?

A tout ta'


UDC and College Options
Harold Goldstein,

It was written: “ONE higher education option that is affordable, that is UDC. In any other state there is a land grant university...”

For your information UDC is a land grant institution and the “proposal” to have the feds pay dc kids to go elsewhere essentially assumes that it is a piece of crap that has no redeeming value that needs to be eliminated ... maybe you should learn about the University and the options it provides and maybe, just maybe, it is not beyond redemption. UDC is in a bad way which will get worse as long as people like you choose to ignore its potential and its importance for the future of education in this city. Taking federal money to pay kids to leave when that same money might be beneficially spent here is not productive. Ideas like that have floated for many years by people wanting to do away with UDC. If that is the rationale then say it up front.


Recycling Question
Nancy Davidson,

Is is true that recycling will begin in the District on October 19? That is four days from now, and I have seen no official announcement in the papers, nor — more to the point — have we received any information at home about procedures to follow. What's going on?


Recycling by Kafka
Steph “With Enforcement by Orwell” Faul,

For whose benefit was the new recycling system designed? Certainly not the people who are contributing their refuse. In fact, it's hard to imagine any less intuitive an approach:

1. Why can't things be picked up from alleys? Washington was built with alleys so people wouldn't have to stack trash in front of their houses. Trash gets picked up from alleys just fine. Yet the new recycling system makes people stack trash in front of their houses. Why do alleys work for trash and not for recycling?

2. Why do we have to bag newspapers? The bins are rectangular. Newspapers are rectangular. An obvious relationship? Not to the D.C. recycling team. Newspapers must be put into brown paper bags — which must either be specially requested at the supermarket or purchased from somewhere by those of us who read more than we eat.

3. Why can't we bag bottles and cans? Bottles break. A bottle that breaks while encased in a plastic bag won't leave glass everywhere, unlike a bottle that falls naked onto the sidewalk. But no, bottles and cans must be left loose in the rectangular bins, free to roll out and smash.

4. Why is recycling day the same as trash day? Could it be they're using the same trucks? Putting the pickups in the same ultimate landfill?

None of this makes any practical sense. Indeed, the only part of the system I do understand is the need for new bins: My old ones say “Sharon Pratt Kelly, Mayor” on them.

[Has anyone received any official information about the new recycling program, or received one of the new recycling bins? Is recycling really starting tomorrow? Help.]


Proposed Convention Center
Thomas Smith,

The fight against the convention center should not be abandoned and will not be over until it is stopped or we are dead. I hope to make each and every D.C. elected official that voted for this abomination pay, and pay dearly for the rest of their miserable, worthless lives.


Working Together
Kevin M. McCarron,

I agree with Randy Wells; we must pull together and stop tearing one another apart if we hope to accomplish anything. Let's all work to rebuild our schools. The funding could easily come from the money we would have spent on the convention center in the heart of Shaw.


Building Inspection Services
David Yassky,

I seem to remember that a couple of years ago the District suspended building inspection services for a period of time. Did that really happen, and does anyone know anything about it? If so, have inspections resumed?


Geneva Overholser, Technical Correspondent
Steph “Anonymous Source” Faul,

Whoops. Geneva Overholser has just disqualified herself for that big Internet reporting job. I mean, if thermal is a “web site,” how come it arrives in the, you know, mail? She's also very coy about her sources. Since there is a web site involved, how hard would it have been to include the character sequence “ ” in the piece and give credit where credit is due? She's also coy about giving the full text of some of the mottos; this makes it seem as if the "just lies there" joke about the “Mend A City” motto was considered too subtle for Post readers. But I shouldn't be harsh. She was probably waiting for the plumber when she wrote it.

P.S. to Ms. Overholser: Our fireworks are NOT the best. Philadelphia's are the best. Check it out next July 4, but go up on July 3 because they have fireworks then, too.


More Motto Mania
Carl Bergman,

With apologies to those who have had similar thoughts,

1. Tread on Me
2. Cleaning Up After Congress for Over 200 Years
3. Congress 535, DC Zip
4. Justicia Omnibus*, You've Got to be Kidding Us. *Justicia, etc., DC's current motto
5. Panda City: Black and White, Millions Visit, Kept in a Cage (Ripped off from Sam Smith)

and for real:

6. We Shall Overcome



Library Book Sale
Jill Bogard,

The Friends of Cleveland Park Library will hold their annual fall book sale at the Cleveland Park Library on Saturday and Sunday, October 24-25, from noon to 4:00 pm. There's something for everyone at this sale of over 20,000 titles in categories from accounting to zoology — with everything in-between. Kids books, too! All books have been donated by your friends and neighbors — many are review copies in perfect condition. The Cleveland Park Library is at Connecticut Avenue & Macomb Street, NW — one block south of the Cleveland Park metro on the red line. All proceeds benefit the library.



Office Space to Share
Edna Small,

Psychotherapy suite at 3000 Conn., across from zoo. Office available up to 25 hours a week. Suitable for therapist or other wanting a room of her (his) own. Reasonable rent. Call 328-1083 for further info.



Volunteer and Paid Positions
Maureen Dunn,

Volunteers: The Pan American Symphony Orchestra, a non-profit, community orchestra that promotes classical music from Latin America and Spain, is seeking administrative help 10-15 hours a week. Tasks involve filing, answering correspondence, answering phone messages, assisting with timely mailing of press releases, updating mailing lists, preparing mailings among other tasks as needed. In return, the orchestra will provide the volunteer with season tickets for 2 persons. The orchestra offices are located at Trinity College, 125 Michigan Ave NE, Washington, DC 20017 but concerts are also performed at Lisner Auditorium, Organization of American States, and other DC venues.

Paid Position: The Pan American Symphony Orchestra is seeking an excellent writer and self starter to prepare publicity materials (flyers, posters, etc.), write press releases and keep calendar of press deadlines, to research information about composers and their works in order to write program notes for each concert, and prepare concert programs. These duties can be performed at home or at the orchestra's office and will take approximately 10 hours per week during orchestra season (Sept. –June). Good PC skills are necessary. Must adhere to strict deadlines and work with little or no supervision. $7 per hour plus free season tickets. If interested, for more information or to send a resume, call Maureen Dunn at (202) 884-9008 or (301) 649-4209. For information on the Pan American Symphony Orchestra, visit our web page



Marine Corps Marathon
Eliza Leighton,

If you are no longer running the marathon but are registered, I'd like to buy your entry number. Please contact me at Thanks very much



Yard Sale — Cheap, Great Stuff for a Good Cause
Andrea Carlson,

Amazing Life Games, a nonprofit, cooperative preschool in Adams Morgan, holds its annual yard sale Saturday, October 17 from 10 – 2 at 1844 Mintwood Place, NW. Baby and kid stuff galore, plus this and that for grownups.



Computer Donation Sought by D.C. LEARNs
Phil Shapiro,

D.C. LEARNs, the rapidly growing new coalition of literacy organizations in the DC metro area, is seeking the donation of a relatively recent computer to give as a grand prize for the third annual Women's History Month writing contest for adult literacy learners. Last year a multimedia Macintosh was given as a grand prize. This year D.C. LEARNs hopes to give a choice of a relatively recent Macintosh or Windows computer. Further info about D.C. LEARNs, including a QuickTime movie of the grand prize winner reading her award winning essay, can be found at (The QuickTime movie is 5 megabytes in size, but is well worth the download.) Persons who wish to help D.C. LEARNs can contact Marcia Harrington, president, at: (202) 727-1616,


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