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November 4, 1998

We’re All Scofflaws at themail

Dear Readers:

Read on to find out why we're all scofflaws. Even though it hasn't been submitted as a motto for DC, I'll include “We're all scofflaws” in the list of suggestions; it just sounds right to me. Be sure to get your final motto submissions in for Sunday's issue. Next week, I'll send out a special mailing recapping all the submissions, and you can vote for a winner if you want to. (If the Oxford English Dictionary says that it's now good grammar to split an infinitive, which is just barbaric, I'm sure that it's all right to end a sentence with a preposition.) A new addition to themail in this issue is a preview from the City Paper's Loose Lips column and the CP's suggestions of top events. Let me know what you think about it.

Gary Imhoff


Get a Life, Lauch
Brian Reeves,

Ok, Ok. I admit it. I'm a political junkie and stayed up 'til 1 am watching the election results on CNN last night. I was kind of tickled to see Lauch Faircloth go. And amazed at how ridiculous he made himself look when (literally) the first words out of his mouth in his concession speech were “At least Marion Barry left DC before I did.” To which the crowd erupted in applause. What a loser. It was even more pathetic to see our mayor (yes, he's still mayor) say “Go back to the pigs Lauch!” (also to much applause) at Tony Williams' victory speech. I thought those two were buddies. ;-)

PS- Does anyone know who started the name calling last night? Lauch or Marion? Just curious.


Democracy Works. Let’s All Work to Bring It Home.
Mark Richards,

Throughout the electoral process our candidates and citizens participated as though we really live in a democracy. Citizens participated, became more informed, met one another, and challenged newcomer Anthony Williams at every turn. And the campaign process was in itself an education (by fire!) on the issues we care about. Now, citizens have given Mr. Williams the great honor and tough job of leading our city. We should all offer our support and contribute whatever we can to make this city a well managed democracy, and to articulate nationwide why we need equal citizenship rights.

As one who backed and had the opportunity to learn about Carol Schwartz firsthand, I thank her for putting it on the line and giving voice to many many thousands of citizens. There can be no doubt that she is loyal, courageous, and honorable. And she commands the respect of large numbers of people in every Ward. It is my hope that she will continue to use her voice to hold our elected officials accountable, to speak for those who are not heard, and to work to bring real democracy to this great, though sometimes harsh, city. If we work together, we will succeed.


Adding Things Up at the Post (Part 2)
Ralph Blessing,

The Post's last minute effort to inject racial politics into the elections provided another sterling example of their inability to tally numbers. The article in question, a November 2 piece on the increasing clout of white voters, stated that DC's population had dropped to about 520,000, but the totals in the accompanying breakdown by ethnic group added up to around 560,000. Maybe the Post should lure some USA Today pie chart gurus to explain how charts are supposed to work, or at least invest a few bucks in a pocket computer.

The Post, by the way, was not the only rag to bend over backwards in an apparent attempt to assuage the proponents of a majority black city council. The Northwest Current also endorsed Beverly Wilbourn as one of three candidates, along with Catania and Mendelson, worthy of consideration. Interestingly, though, they had nothing favorable to say about her, instead lamenting that she had not run in the primary as the Democrat, which apparently is her party affiliation. Of course, had she done that, they would not have been able to endorse both her and Mendelson in the general election, as one of the two would have
been out of the picture after the primary. And by the way, why is it that those so concerned about a proportionalized city council have totally ignored our fairly sizable (and growing) Hispanic population? Just a rhetorical question; I think I know the answer.


A Law Is a Law Is a Law
Larry Seftor,

No matter how old I get, there will always be things that I don't understand. After all, our society is filled with processes and procedures that affect us all, but are known to only a few. On the other hand, the manner by which our laws are applied is something that we all should really know. I am struck recently by the manner in which two “laws” have been applied. In the first case, the law mandating recycling in the District was effectively ignored for a long time. I believe that a lawsuit may have been filed to compel the city to comply with this, its own law, but nothing happened quickly.

On the other hand, Congress passed an illegal law that forbade us, as citizens of DC, to vote for Initiative 59. That law was only passed a week or so ago. And the provision regarding Initiative 59 was part of an extremely large piece of legislation. However, somehow, the DC election commission immediately responded to this intrusion by Congress. How does that happen? How does the abuse of Congress so quickly get translated into action by the officials that are supposed to serve the citizens of DC? Do our election officials read every piece of legislation passed by Congress to find elements that might affect the DC voting process? Why did reporting the results, which had no associated costs, get squashed when Congress apparently only banned the expenditure of funds on this initiative? Who pays the salaries of DC election officials, the DC voters or Congress?

As an aside, I am reminded of my time in the service many years ago. In basic training young servicemen must learn the necessity of following orders. After all, that is the basis of the way that the military works. On the other hand, one only must follow a legal order. And it is indeed incumbent on each member of the service to understand what that means. In the case of the election commission, I assume that each is sworn to uphold the Constitution. In the face of an illegal law passed by Congress, what happened to the responsibility of election officials to uphold the Constitution?


But I Provide and Pay for the Cake!
Larry Seftor,

A bleeding heart liberal (BHL) wrote in a recent “themail” to castigate a “let them eat cake” attitude towards UDC that he assigns to residents of Northwest DC. He conveniently forgets that those same residents both provide and pay for the cake. Let's remember that the demographics in DC are very skewed. The result is that a small number of people willingly pay a disproportionately large share of the burden and receive a disproportionately small share of the benefits. I and others, for the large part, don't complain because it is generally a good thing to help those with less, even if indirectly through our progressive tax system. What is incredibly galling is to have a BHL criticize us for our attitudes.

On the other hand, he wouldn't have to look far to find plenty to criticize at UDC, including the school's bureaucracy, administration, staff, and students. UDC appears to be a full-blown example of what the acceptance of mediocrity produces. I was particularly stunned by Constance Z. Maravell when she expressed admiration of the fact that out of a class of 40, 10-15 were good and serious students. Well, I have to tell you, Constance, that is abysmal. I've attended a number of Universities, including state schools, and after the first “wash-out” year, every student is serious. A distinguishing feature of each of those schools, however, was the fact that if you didn't produce, you were out. And maybe Mr. BHL that is also a lesson. Quality education means setting standards. And standards will never pass the DC test for being politically correct, since that means that some people just will not make it as college students.


Deregulated Gas
John Olinger, North Lincoln Park,

Welcome to the wonderful world of deregulation. I've received a mailing from Washington Gas Energy Services (apparently a subsidiary of Washington Gas) offering me an opportunity to save on gas by signing up with them for a pilot program (no pun intended I am sure, these are gas salesmen) with a guaranteed price of $0.33 a therm. I am still trying to figure out whether this will bring me a lower gas bill. Reading your gas bill won't help much because the price per therm you find there (on mine, $0.7174 includes lots of other charges which are not broken down and which you may or may not have to pay under the new system). A couple of recommendations. Call the Public Service Commission. They can walk you through the charges on your current gas bill from Washington Gas and break them down. Also, don't rush in. The PSC says two other companies will also be offering gas and their mailings are due out in a week or two.

I am still trying to figure this out and hope that some of you have some information to help guide the rest of us through this process.


Why Recycle?
Janet Dodd,

Somebody wrote recently that recycling in general, and especially glass, is foolish because glass is abundant and lasts forever, and it costs more to recycle. I think he has missed an important point about recycling. I think the reason for recycling has nothing to do with the abundance of the glass, plastics, or metals, but the fact that we are running out of space for landfills to put them as waste items, especially because they last forever. Even if it costs more, we have to recycle, or we will be buried in our own garbage. Isn't it obvious that we cannot keep creating mountains of garbage that never biodegrade?

I agree with the writer that we should not ignore the fact that the entire infrastructure of the District has been allowed to crumble almost to the point of no return. But this is another, separate problem from that of waste and landfills. We should not ignore either of these situations.


Museum of the City of Washington
Roxanna Deane,

I appreciate Paul Williams' kind words but take no credit for obtaining the Carnegie building for a City Museum. This was completely the work of the Historical Society of Washington.


Sacrificial Kitties and The Art of Telling the Story
Mark Richards,

Wow. Talk about dissonance. The imagery of Constance Z. Maravell's outrage over UDC's lack of cats to dissect in anatomy/physiology class to examine their muscle structures really left me feeling flat. I've heard that at least one fourth of the cat population live short meager lives on the street, but never though much about dissecting them as a requirement for getting into med. school. I don't oppose the use of certain animals in needed medical research, but... I've had a cat as a friend for a long time. Perhaps Maravell should call Americans for Medical Progress in Old Town — they advocate using animals in needed medical research. Maybe there's an alternative.

About the DC History Museum — finally!! Thank you Ms. Dean and Ms. Franco. Tourists should be our number one informational target as we seek full citizenship rights — large majorities of Americans agree that we should have equal voting rights, but they probably know little about our issue or how they can help. However, the way we are getting this museum is a bit less impressive... locally inspired Congressional intervention in our budget. In any case, keep your eyes open, because writing history can be very controversial... if there isn't widespread review and consensus building, we can expect to hear that those in charge have white-washed or strayed from the facts, exaggerated, or avoided issues. And, let's not forget that the feds are especially prone to “tidying history up a bit.” Just count the number of exhibits over the past few years that have been challenged and modified or cut altogether because someone with power disagreed with the interpretation.


Smoking Something Funny
Ralston Cox,

In the 11/2 issue of themail, Paul Kelsey suggests that using the Carnegie Library for a construction office while the convention center is under construction is “smart” as it will “leverage [a] tremendous amount of restoration funds that would have otherwise gone to renting nasty construction trailers.” You been smoking them funny cigarettes, Paul? The budget for the project is mighty tight, we hear, and I suspect one place they're saving money is by using the library instead of trailers — not so you can “leverage” money out of 'em for restoration costs, but so the contractors can avoid spending money they don't have to spend! We'll be lucky if they sweep out the place when they leave — much less spend $$$ on restoration.

Construction trailers are dirty, scuffed-up, barely functional spaces — which is as it should be given what they're used for. You've got contractors, employees working on the site, salesmen, and so forth trooping through with dirt and tools day and night. My experience on other sites tells me they'll park on the grass, on the sidewalks or anywhere else they can ON Mt. Vernon Square and as close to the front door as they can manage. But fear not — the public does have an important role it can play. We're apparently getting a new convention center and a museum, so.....

I trust that the fine folks at the Washington Historical Society will work with the Convention Center Authority to ensure that the building the Society inherits (??!!?) will be in good shape and that mature landscape elements are protected during the construction of the convention center. The Section 106 MOA for the project commits the Convention Center Authority to spend up to $1 million on landscape improvements to Mt. Vernon Square and the surrounding “Federal reservations” and up to $1 million on external cleaning and roof repair to the building itself.

My suspicion is it will be $$$ well spent — but it will only get spent if the public and neighborhood residents hold the Convention Center Authority's feet to the fire to be sure the $$$ will be spent as promised. MOAs are great, at least conceptually (it's my job to write 'em!) but the public has to ensure the terms are fulfilled. Without public involvement many items included in the MOA for this project wouldn't have been included, and without public involvement and oversight there is no guarantee that the terms will be fulfilled. You're the only enforcement mechanism available....


Children's Hospital Site
Randy Wells,

Now that ANC 1B (reluctantly) approved the an all-residential development at the former Children's Hospital site (13th and V Streets, NW), is there any discussion about how best to knit it into the surrounding community?

A permanent-looking cast-iron fence has been built along the north boundary of the site (W Street, NW) — does this indicate that the development will not have buildings and entrances facing the townhouses along W Street? This seems to be a rather unfriendly way to develop residential on this site.

Also, I proposed several months ago that the city consider adding a new station house for MPD's 3D to the site — in part to address the security concerns at the site, but also because the current 3D building is so atrocious. The current location of 3D could be much better developed as residential along V Street and vibrant new retail/commercial/mixed use along U Street. Any thoughts by others on this proposal?


We're All Scofflaws
Bill Adler,

Renewing a driver's license gives citizens a good chance to review District of Columbia driving regulations, since you spend a lot of time waiting. So I picked up the “Driver's and Motorcycle Operator's Study Guide” and discovered that it is illegal to park closer than three feet from the car in front or behind you.

That's not a misprint — no closer than three feet. Wow. If this were a law that was enforced (it's not, otherwise people would scream), you could actually cause somebody else to get a ticket by parking too close.


Realtor Sought
by David Sobelsohn,

A friend of mine needs to sell a house in Bowie sometime in the next 6 months. If anyone knows of a good realtor who handles property out that way, please send contact information to Marly Davidson, Thanks!


Integration of McKinley High School
Roxanna Deane,

A Tufts University student is researching the integration of McKinley High School in 1954. He needs to talk to students, community activists or school staff. His father was part of that class but doesn't remember very much. If anyone has any memories of these events or a year book he could search for leads please call me at 727-1213.


Firewood Recommendation
Dan Melman,

Firewood is not a subject to get excited about unless you build a lot of fires — and then it is as important as the Redskins (even more so this year). I recommend highly Kenneth (Kenny) Soutter [tel: 540-825-4257]. First and foremost, Kenny is polite, courteous and professional. He does too good a job to stop on the street and knock on doors. He schedules his jobs and comes on time. His firewood is well seasoned and clean. He does a careful job of bringing it up my three story walk-up and then cleans up afterwards.

His prices are higher than the roving trucks-o-wood, but given that I spend maybe $200 a year on firewood, I would rather spend more and know I am supporting a decent person and getting a good product than trust whomever knocks at my door. Call early — he books his trips in advance.



Judaism, Justice and the Courts — Featuring the Solicitor General of the United States!
David Vyorst,

On Monday November 9th, at 8:00 pm, the District of Columbia Jewish Community Center's National Institute for Jewish Leadership will launch its greatly anticipated 3 part series on Judaism and American Justice with “Judaism, Justice and the Courts.” This event will examine the relationship between American justice, the legal system and Jewish values. Featured speakers will include: The Honorable Seth Waxman, Solicitor General of the United States, and Nat Lewin, Esq., Former Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the United States. The evening will be moderated by Herman Schwartz, of American University. Future events will include: “Jewish Law and Social Policy” and “Judaism and Media Ethics.” Dessert Reception to Follow.

Monday, November 9th, 8:00 p.m. DCJCC. (Corner of 16th & Q St., NW). To RSVP, Please Call 202-518-9400, ext. 362. Cost: Members $8 / Non-members $12


Local Production Makes Good
Evelyn & Bob Wrin,

We hope that dcwatch has space for something that's being done very well. The Chevy Chase Community Players' presentation of “Driving Miss Daisy” at the Chevy Chase Community Center, at the corner of Connecticut Ave. and McKinley St., is extraordinary. Even if you have seen the Oscar-winning film, you may be mesmerized by this live version. The last two performances are Friday & Saturday, November 6 & 7 at 8 p.m. Don't miss it!



Blueberry Hill
Lynn Weinstein,

Blueberry Hill CoHousing in Vienna, VA will have 19 homes on the hillside of an organic vegetable farm. CoHousing is a Scandinavian concept from the 1960s, and refers to communities planned and developed by the future residents that emphasize a physical arrangement that encourages interaction among residents. Ground breaking is scheduled for Spring 1999. General Business meetings are held every other Sunday followed with a potluck, and regular open house/site walks are provided. To learn more about Blueberry Hill, visit our web site at or contact Clair Holladay at (703) 598-1330 or e-mail



Wanted, Nice Sofa
Seth Morris,

I will be buying a new sofa soon but will consider a good used sofa. By the way, if you are selling a filthy rickety sofa with worn fabric please do not list it in themail. (Not that I have any personal experiences with the aforementioned scenario.) Call Seth at 202-723-6279.



Emergency Call for Help
Council of Latino Agencies,

Help the victims of Hurricane Mitch; join the many who are helping Central America in its greatest hour of need. Concert and Dance to Benefit the Victims of Hurricane Mitch, Sunday, November 8,1998, Casa del Pueblo, 1459 Columbia Rd., NW, Washington, DC. Donation $10. People in Central America need donations of canned food, baby formula, bottled water, clothes, blankets, and money.

I f you can't give monetary help and would like to help out in other ways, you can donate your time by helping to organize the concert, or anything that you want to do. For more information, please call (202)328-9451. You can begin to deliver your donations to Council of Latino Agencies, 2309 18th St., NW., #2, Washington, DC. 20009, (202)328-9451 or to Spanish Catholic Center, 1618 Monroe St., NW, Washington, DC. 20009, (202) 939-2437.


Dave Nuttycombe, webmeister,,

From's LOOSE LIPS column, appearing this Friday:
WAMU'S PERSONALITY CULT: When Mayor-in-Waiting Anthony Williams faced the D.C. press corps last month after inking a public accountability pact, the city's glib political newcomer allowed WAMU radio political commentator Mark Plotkin to begin the cross-examination.

“What's it gonna be, Mark, an update on the District Building?” Williams chided the abrasive, die-hard Democratic pol-turned-radio-personality. Too wrapped up in his own agenda to react to the put-down, Plotkin snapped back like an understudy eager to respond on cue.

The “D.C. Politics Hour” ... lacks the freshness, spontaneity, and variety that made the show such a welcome staple early in this decade.

Read the entire Loose Lips column this Friday at:

From's City Lights page, here are two early warnings for upcoming events:
NOVEMBER 12 & 13: The 92 Minutes of Mr. Baum, 8 p.m. Thursday at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden's Ring Auditorium, 7th & Independence Ave. SW. Free.
TO DECEMBER 31: Touched by the Muses: The Artistic World of Geoffrey Holder, at the Mexican Cultural Institute, 2829 16th St. NW. Free.

More details and more critics' picks are available online at


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