themail.gif (3487 bytes)

November 25, 1998

We’ll Cross that Bridge in themail

Dear Pilgrims:

In honor of Thanksgiving, I'm not writing anything myself. I'm sure it will be an even shorter themail on Sunday, in honor of the four day weekend. There's one more chance to convince your fellow themailers to choose “Taxed Without Representation” or “DC — The Last Colony” as our motto before voting starts next week. Enjoy your holiday, and don't forget to write home.

Gary Imhoff


New Council Chairs
Beth Solomon, Shaw Coalition,

Of 11 D.C. Councilmembers who faced the voters in 1998, seven were rejected. So here are some suggestions for new committee chairs. The methodology was: (1) take advantage of councilmembers' strengths, and (2) retract authority from those who have abused it. Mendelson jumps the seniority protocol because of his excellent work on regulatory issues. The planning function is moved out of the Committee of the Whole, where it has been dormant, to a reconstituted “Public Works, Planning and Environment.”

Allen - Human Services; Ambrose - Public Works, Planning & Environment; Catania - Judiciary; Chavous - Economic Development; Mendelson - Consumer & Reg.; Orange - Gov't Ops.; Patterson - Finance and Revenue


Sports ’n’ Torts
Charlie Wellander,

The November 22 Washington Post tells us more about that Washington scandal which was revealed by Loose Lips (no, silly, the City Paper one, not the White House one). This concerns Mayor Marion Barry's single-handed exercise of self love in appointing Marion “But where is the snow of yesteryear” Barry to the District Sports and Entertainment Commission, where he would have access to the perks of the position and continued association with the wheelers and the dealers. This might include being invited to skybox seats at our exceptionable new downtown arena (L'etat, c'est MCI). Though the appointment became effective in October due to our Council inaction, Tony Williams now wants Barry's resignation so that Williams can make his own selection (himself).

Also, now we know about another part of the Barry legacy. Inspector General Prettyman has begun personally investigating the DC Office of Cable Television for low crimes and misdemeanors in the funding of the gala celebration of the Barry legacy recently held at (where else) MCI Center. Allegations include shredding of documents to cover up forged signatures. It seems that this office with its somewhat less than two million dollar annual budget is one of the tiny tiny slivers of the pie which was left under the Mayor's control when all else was transferred to the Control Board. I tell you, January 2 cannot come too soon.


The Next Steps
Ed T. Barron,

Arlene Ackerman, Chief School Administrator of the DCPS, has taken the first step to make the DCPS a viable school system. To make that first step work she must take two follow-on steps that will lead to an inflow of capable new teachers to the DCPS classrooms. These steps are: 1- Establish a set of standards for all of the schools for class size, standardized test score results, graduation rate, attendance (and perhaps more). These standards should be phased in over a period of time with interim standards for each year until all the target standards are in full force; 2- Reward those schools with cash bonuses as they achieve, or exceed, the escalating interim goals that have been established. Virginia is already doing this and it is the best way to reward performance. Merit pay for teachers doesn't work because it inspires competition and cronyism as opposed to cooperation when each school views itself as a team. Both of these steps will inspire teachers to come to the DCPS and to teach in the classrooms.

And just what should the new Mayor be doing to help the DCPS? To begin Tony Williams must establish the evolution of the DCPS as one of his two first priorities as Mayor. He can get some help from Congress if he plays his hand correctly. More about that in my allotted two paragraphs in the next issue of this tome.


New Teachers and the Accuracy of the Voting Rolls
Kerry Jo Richards,

I wanted to respond to Ed T. Barron's suggestion that retired military and the like be allowed to teach in the DC (and other) school system. Great Idea! Innovative ideas for teaching our kids need to be implemented. Too many people think that there's only one kind of teacher — an early education/child development major. Yet when you look at the private schools you find that there are many teachers who are teaching history because they majored in history — or math because they majored in math. I have two roommates who teach in a private school. Both graduated from good colleges with high GPAs. Both focused or majored in the subjects they are teaching. Both coach after school sports and sponsor clubs. Both are learning to be great teachers. Yet they could not teach in a public school. Everyone talks about how great private schools are, asking if we should use vouchers so that kids can go to private schools, trying to adopt private school ideas and policies. Wouldn't it make sense to adopt some of the techniques used to recruit their teachers? Another example is Teach for America. Carefully screened and selected volunteers teach in areas desperately short of teachers (inner city urban as well as rural). They are given a summer of intensive teacher training to supplement their college education and their work experience. Then they teach. Most must get their teacher certification on the side after they begin their post (which they commit to for two years). And your college professors? Most have advanced degrees in their field, not in education. I think it's time we expanded our notion of a good teacher's background.

A quick side note on voter registration. Jason Juffras wrote that “The Board contacted all of the potential double registrants and has used the information it received to remove more than 3,000 voters from the D.C. voter list. Non-respondents were referred to the U.S. Attorney's office for investigation and possible prosecution.” As a new DC resident who voted in DC for the first time this election, I hope I'm not one of those double voters! I assumed that they would delete me off the old rolls when I indicated on the registration form that I previously voted in Montgomery County. Was I incorrect? Do I need to do something proactive to make sure I'm not listed in two places? If anyone knows, I'm sure there are others in my situation. Thanks.


Voter Rolls
Barbara Zartman,

Regarding DC's voter rolls, Jason Juffras is right to point out the ways in which Council is enabling the Board of Elections and Ethics to weed out unqualified voters, even if the Council won't support a bill requiring some form of identification when you show up to vote. It's ironic that the Board of Education accepts a voter ID card as valid proof of District residence, but you can get a voter ID on the “honor system” without any proof of residence.

An example of how many “phantom” voters are on the rolls arose in my own single-member district. Nonforwardable first-class mail sent to each voting household produced nearly five hundred returned envelopes because the voters no longer live at those addresses (two hundred came back from dormitory addresses). From one SMD. Extrapolating these numbers out suggests the voter rolls are bloated with nonresidents, which (a) distorts the initiative process, (b) forces candidates to spend more money, and (c) adds significantly to BOEE maintenance costs. (It's also an invitation to fraud.)

As redistricting nears, cleaning out the dead wood seems more and more important. Let's support more of what the Governmental Operations Committee is doing, and let's make sure the interstate compact is fully implemented; that should have prevented the multi-state registrations recently discovered.


Jumpin’ Jack Flash
Lois Kirkpatrick,

In your last issue, Mike Hill wondered: “Would this whole mess have been billed as a 'life or death human drama' if the jumper had not been a young black man, despondent about losing a custody battle with the unmarried mother of his child? Would we have been willing to give up more time if the jumper had been a white middle-class Hill staffer?”

I don't think we even need to play the race card on this one, Mr. Hill. Don't you know we live in the Kevorkian Age of disposable people? Where a poll revealed something like 13% of respondents said they would abort a fetus if they knew the child would be predisposed toward obesity? So, to answer your question, apparently many felt that 3-5 hours was way too long to be “inconvenienced” to save a human life.


Troubled Bridge Over Waters
Lee Perkins,

The bridge incident reminds me of something on the Greaseman show about 15 years ago. Where I worked we listened every morning whether we wanted to or not. It was the boss' radio. A dog got onto the METRO tracks during rush hour bring the system to a halt for a couple of hours. As the congestion built, Grease took a poll on whether the dog lived or died. An overwhelming majority of call-ins voted that the train should have just run the dog down and gone on its way. To the suburbanites I referred to earlier, DC residents are in the same category.


The Bridge and the NIMBYs
Mitchel Auerbach,

I reserve judgment on whether or not the Wilson bridge should have stayed closed the whole time while that crazy guy was threatening to jump. Hindsight is always 20/20. And, besides, what if a few lanes had remained opened and before he jumped, this guy decided to "get even with society." I could see it now — the lawyers would be having a field day!

My thoughts turn to the other Wilson Bridge melodrama. All enlightened minds must agree the current Wilson Bridge needs to be rebuilt — and soon. The recent Washington Post articles (and today's editorial) aptly point out the seriousness of the situation, if something's not done soon. Yet the NIMBYs in old town successfully have fought off a 14 lane bridge, since reduced to 12 lanes, soon to reduced to 10 lanes(?). They threaten to litigate this issue well into the 21st century. O what the heck, instead of reasonable compromise (community spirit), give and take and recognition that we all are in the Washington, DC, region together and should try to cooperate to resolve this area's transportation problems, let's just litigate the bridge issue to death and maybe nothing will be done. Then one day, maybe, the old bridge will just collapse into the Potomac. And viola! No more beltway traffic problem near Old Town!


Suburbanites and DCitizens
Rob Pegoraro, is still speaking only for himself, but y'all knew that, right?

I can only hope that the people Cathy Vidito hears from who don't want to drive across the Key Bridge to the Black Cat are a minority. I know, however, that I've yet to encounter any such clueless individual myself. I also know that the streets around the 9:30 Club are usually full with more than their share of cars sporting Maryland and Virginia plates.

But whatever... what I'm really puzzled by is the whole nonsense over who lives on what side of the Potomac or Western Avenue (hmm, can't say I've heard of so much one-upmanship around Eastern or Southern Avenues). The District is not that big; we're talking about the equivalent of SoHo dwellers getting mad about those commuter parasites in Brooklyn who retreat across the river and the area code boundary after work so they can pay less rent.

So why is it that I keep meeting people who are like “Virginia's just scary to me, I don't go there”? I mean, grow up; the thought that simply staying on one side of the District line means you're somehow keepin' it real is at least as silly as the “must flee from the city, must drive everywhere at all times”   mentality.


Have we learned anything for the next time?
Larry Seftor,

Mike Hill suggests that in the recent Wilson Bridge incident that a life was saved at the cost of inconvenience to drivers. Nice try Mike, but the facts are not quite so simple. In actuality, the police eventually forced the issue by shooting a “beanbag” at the individual, he ended up in the water, and he survived. But there is no evidence to suggest that the same outcome could not have occurred much earlier in the day. In fact, I suggest that by waiting until dark, the police exacerbated the problem, since the water recovery had to be made without the advantage of daylight. Furthermore, as noted in the Post, in San Francisco such problems are routinely handled on the Golden Gate Bridge without similar disruptions.

No one is suggesting that a life should be forfeited to save a little time. But next time, if it is summer and the heat index approaches 100, what should the decision of the police be? Will anything have been learned from this incident?


Mail to the Chief
Jeffrey Itell,

Mike Hill writes: “Regarding Chief Ramsey's closing of the Wilson Bridge, it seems to me that all of this comes down to one major point: how much is a human life worth?”

Exactly right. The daycare center tells me my two-year-old is throwing up, running a fever, and dehydrated. The daycare center closes two hours before The Chief “opens” the Bridge.

I unknowingly sniff a whiff of peanuts, causing encephalitic shock between Springfield Mall and Telegraph Road.

My neighbor calls to tell me that a broken water pipe is turning the second level of my duplex into the next incarnation of Sea World. Waters reach Noah’s Ark-heights when I return two days later. (A Grinch of a pipe caused a similar disaster to my neighbors on Erev Christmas.)

In the Lenny Skutnick (not Sputnik) era, a huge rush-hour snowfall combined with twin, simultaneous disasters — Metro’s first fatal crash and Pan Am 103’s (?) crash into the 14th Street Bridge brought Beltway traffic to a halt. My 20-minute commute turned into a four-hour cruise. I suffered no lasting damage, but I did wish the roadmasters had placed a Jiffy John every mile or so.

Please don’t view the Wilson Bridge closing as an “us versus suburbanites” issue. Chief Ramsey failed to adequately weigh the risks of all parties to the madness.


Motto: Taxed Without Representation
Art Spitzer,

I voted for “Taxed Without Representation” because it conveys a clear and accurate message that most people across the country will be surprised to hear, and to which they will react by exclaiming “that's un-American!” By contrast, “The Last Colony,” while more poetic, is not true (it ignores Puerto Rico, Guam & the Virgin Islands) and most people will have no idea what message it is intended to convey; they'll probably think it's a tourist slogan.


Motto: Taxed Without Representation
Gabriella Modan,

I vote for “taxed without representation” as the DC slogan, since we're not actually the last colony! Maybe we could have another colony slogan, something like, DC: In solidarity with Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, and the US Virgin Islands.


Motto: DC — the Last Colony
Jeff Fletcher, jeff_tara

It's not worth a week's deep reflection. “DC — The Last Colony” is a hands-down winner. For those of us were born, raised, and still live here, the word “colony” most correctly reflects our status. And I've found that the motto has more attention getting, bumper sticker PR value, especially to people outside the Beltway, than the nearest competitor motto, which sounds like a plaintive and somewhat unintelligible tax protest that could apply to almost any special interest group. “Colony” is the right way to go. We can't have our votes counted on the medical benefits of marijuana, we can't name our own streets, and, with the
demise of the federal payment, we're now (even when home rule is restored) permanent financial lackeys of Congressional and federal overseers. That's colonial status.


Motto: DC — the Last Colony
Ralph Blessing,

“DC — The Last Colony” still gets my vote. While the other finalist, “Taxed Without Representation,” might appear indistinguishable from “The Last Colony,” I see the taxation issue as just one (granted, the most egregious) symptom of our colonial status. “The Last Colony” also describes a mentality that exists among the overseers, call it a plantation mentality if you will, that allows them to run roughshod over our rights.


Generous people read the mail
Ted Gest,

This is an unsolicited testimonial: A few weeks ago, I posted a plea for meeting space for the northwest D.C. Scrabble club, which is being displaced by renovation at the Chevy Chase Community Center. I didn't expect much, because we had surveyed many alternate meeting places. But Fresh Fields on upper Wisconsin Avenue came through with an offer of space. So we are now alternating on Tuesday nights between Fresh Fields and the Chevy Chase branch library. Hurrah for Fresh Fields! Anyone out there who wants more information on our club, please e-mail me.



Go Van Gogh Go! Exclusive for the Tasting Society
Charlie Adler,

December events: 1) “Wine Basics 101,” Thurs. Dec. 3rd, 7:00-9:00 pm, National Press Club, 529 14th St. ("F" St.), NW, (13th floor), Washington, D.C., $35; 2) “Michael Franz’s Best of the Best:Top Current Wine Releases of 1998,” Wed. Dec. 9th, 7:00-9:00 pm, National Press Club, $50; 3) “Van Gogh with the Tasting Society,” Thurs. Dec. 10th, 3 pm, National Gallery of Art, on Constitution Ave., NW (between 3rd and 7th St., Metro Judiciary Square on the Red Line, Archives on the Yellow/Green Lines, and Smithsonian on the Blue/Orange Lines) $65, in advance, very limited availability. RSVP at (202)333-5588 or email: , or the Reservation Form at our Web Page at



Seeking Month-to-Month Room or Apartment Rental
Helena Katz,

Looking for month-to-month apartment or house room rental in a nice and safe neighborhood, convenient to metro and parking in D.C., Arlington or Silver Spring. Willing to share space, but need my own room. Please leave a message at (703) 281-4928 Ext. 308 (Helena).



Anyone Know a Good Piano Teacher?
Andrea Carlson,

I'm looking for private piano lessons, either in my home or the instructor's. Can anyone recommend someone?



Car for Sale
Barbara Menard,

1995 Plymouth Neon. Red, roof rack, 4 Door, a/c, manual 51,000 miles. Some minor body damage, runs great. Asking $3,500 or best offer. This is well below the bluebook value of the car (check it out!) — we can't afford two cars and need to sell soon. Please e-mail to the above address or call 202-518-9449 and speak to Heidi.


Dave Nuttycombe,

From's LOOSE LIPS column, appearing this Friday:
WILLIAMS' ROOTS JOURNEY: Anthony Williams' barnstorming across D.C. this year was an opportunity for the candidate to re-connect with his African-American roots. After spending much of his life among whites at Ivy League schools, at the top levels of municipal governments in Boston, New Haven and St. Louis, and as the chief financial officer at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Williams was attempting to convince black voters in the District that he hadn't forgotten his own beginnings.
Read the entire Loose Lips column this Friday at:

From's CITY LIGHTS page, here are a few early warnings for upcoming events:
THURSDAY, DEC. 3: “Philippe Halsman: A Retrospective.” Yvonne Halsman talks about her more than 40 years of working with her husband at noon Thursday, Dec. 3, and the gallery's curator of photographs, Mary Panzer, will lead a tour of the exhibit, which runs through Feb. 7, at noon Thursday, Dec. 10. All at the National Portrait Gallery, 8th & F Sts. NW. Free.
WEDNESDAY, DEC. 2: Afro-Cuban Filmmaker Gloria Rolando introduces screenings of two of her films followed by a reception. At 5 p.m. at Howard University's Armour J. Blackburn Center Auditorium, 2400 6th St. NW. Free.
More details and more critics' picks are available online at


themail@dcwatch is an E-mail discussion forum that is published every Wednesday and Sunday. To subscribe, to change E-mail addresses, or to switch between HTML and plain text versions of themail, use the subscription form at . To unsubscribe, send an E-mail message to with “unsubscribe” in the subject line. Archives of past messages are available at .

All postings should also be submitted to , and should be about life, government, or politics in the District of Columbia in one way or another. All postings must be signed in order to be printed, and messages should be reasonably short — one or two brief paragraphs would be ideal — so that as many messages as possible can be put into each mailing.

Send mail with questions or comments to
Web site copyright ©DCWatch (ISSN 1546-4296)