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December 2, 1998

Joberg and Us

Dear Voters:

Don't be discouraged by the negative thoughts below about our little no-prize motto contest. The next motto for the District of Columbia needs your vote. “DC — The Last Colony” and “Taxed Without Representation” are running nearly even, and every vote counts. Please vote by sending a blank E-mail to themail@dcwatch.com with your choice for the motto — either “DC — The Last Colony” or “Taxed Without Representation” — in the subject line. All votes have to be sent before midnight on Saturday.

Gary Imhoff
themail@dcwatch.com

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Shuffling Council Chairs
Len Sullivan, lsnarpac@bellatlantic.net

I am surprised by how little interest themail's readers have shown in the better functioning of their City Council — the heart of local democracy. Let me follow up on what Beth Solomon suggested in 11/25 issue. The Council should at least strip from those who ran for mayor (and lost) their seniority rights, and make new slate assignments based on potential capabilities — and cooperation with Mayor Williams.

To stimulate debate (or at least flick the lights), let me suggest the following assignments, committee first: Consumer and Regulatory Affairs — Mendelson; Economic Development — Jarvis (same); Education — Patterson; Finance & Revenue — Catania; Government Operations — Orange; Human Services — Allen; Judiciary — Brazil; Local/Regional/Federal — Ambrose; Public Works — Evans; and a new committee to give full voice to the neighborhood activists: Neighborhood Voice — Schwartz. Any takers?

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Council Chair Line-up
Paul McKenzie, dropeh2o@worldnet.att.net

I wanted to briefly commend Beth Solomon's “New Council Chairs” posting. The Council really should be rearranged. For example, take one look at Georgia Avenue in Ward 4 and see the urban decay. You'll know why so many people wonder why the Council places its trust in that Ward's Council person Charlene Drew Jarvis. As the past chair of the Economic Development Committee her record is overall quite poor. She really isn't interested, being too occupied with her other outside jobs. Kevin Chavous would do a fabulous job in her place.

Right now there are several potential Ward 4 candidates considering their options. Hope they run.

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D.C. School Realities
Ted Gest, 110751.3712@compuserve.com

I applaud Ed Barron's rhetoric about the D.C. schools — make them “world class,” a ┼model,” etc. But having been a parent of a D.C. student for 14 years now, I'm bothered that we continually seem to be re-inventing the rhetorical wheel — we're always going to get better in the future, maybe.

Getting to current events, before she became superintendent, Ms. Ackerman had the reputation of trying to improve things from the bottom up but not particularly liking advanced placement classes. Superficially, she seems to be pursuing that course — a relentless campaign to improve poor performers' test scores, but not any huge effort to attract top performers — those who otherwise would go, and are going, to private schools. On the latter point, Wilson High School long has tried to attract superior students via an international studies program, but the director's position for that was eliminated this year. I admit my observations are anecdotal; who out there has a better fix on D.C.'s efforts to woo top students in the short term?

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It's the Economy (and Economic Factors)!
Larry Seftor, Larry_Seftor@csi.com

Ed Barron claims that the greatest disincentives for people and businesses to move to the city are crime and public education. I beg to differ! While both are important (and certainly represent Ed's interests, as demonstrated in his writings), they do not outweigh the twin factors of high taxes and low services. Our local tax burden is extremely high, and exceeds that of our neighbors. Long time residents would be well educated by picking up a Virginia tax form in January and calculating the saving that they would see if they lived just over the border. (I used to live and own a house in Virginia, and I know.)

Then consider the level of services we receive. I personally have been trapped in DC by snowfalls while co-workers who live a semi-rural existence in Virginia have been plowed. I know that we are shortchanged because from my snowbound house in DC I have a perfect vantage point to see the Maryland roads across the border which are cleared. Consider also the businesses downtown that have hired, at private expense, workers to patrol the streets, maintaining the business districts that the city neglects. Despite Ed's call for special funds, there is plenty of money in DC (look at the per pupil expenditure in the schools). The problem is malfeasance, incompetence, and waste, pure and simple.

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DC Economic Resurgence
Michael Cushman, m_cushman@hotmail.com

I read the plan for DC economic resurgence. One of the most notable items may be the research done by Steven Fuller. “Dr. Stephen Fuller of George Mason University studied trends in federal procurement for our strategic plan, and his findings were very surprising. He documented that the $22 billion in annual federal procurement has helped fuel the private sector in metropolitan Washington, generating nearly 200,000 jobs in businesses throughout the region, especially northern Virginia. Businesses listing an address in Washington, DC receive about $4 billion of these federal purchasing dollars, but Dr. Fuller, discovered through detailed case study investigation that 88 percent of this money actually pays for work performed in the suburbs. By his calculation, federal procurement only supports 3,000 private jobs in the city, and two thirds of those are held by people living in Maryland or Virginia.”

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Privatize Vehicle Inspections
Alan Abrams, awabrams@erols.com

This sounds to me like a no brainer, but I'll risk proposing it anyway — privatize the motor vehicle inspection process, like MD & VA. Does this not conform to the objectives of the “Economic Resurgence” Plan: “growing business and jobs in the private sector...”; as well as improving the delivery of services in order to “attract and retain residents...”

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Wilson Bridge
Mike “15 min. bike ride to work” Hill, mhill@nbm.org

Jeffrey Itell details a host of truly serious emergencies that could occur in the aftermath of a major traffic snarl, such as closing the Wilson Bridge. All of which are great scenarios, but public safety officers are charged with dealing with emergencies as they arise. If we expect the police to take every possible outcome of their actions into account, they would never move decisively. To me, this issue is not primarily about police preparedness; Chief Ramsey may not have made the best management choices, but he made the jumper the first priority. Hopefully, we will never have enough jumpers on our bridges to become well versed in this sort of crisis management.

Another big issue is what we do about our local commute. Ideally, we would live in an place where commuters would have multiple alternate routes in the event of an emergency. Right now, it seems that using the Beltway may actually decrease your options. There are at least two limiting factors; natural barriers like the Potomac, and (hopefully) a desire to preserve open space. I don't know what the answer is, but I did have an opportunity to participate in the City of Alexandria's recent community summit on the environment and quality of life. A broad cross-section of residents identified existing traffic on Route 1, and possible expansion of the Wilson Bridge, as major threats to the historic character of their town and to open space.

Think about this: at rush hour, the volume of cars moving through the heart of Old Town is probably as great as that on New York Avenue or Connecticut Avenue, but without the DC street grid, and the buffer of miles of enclosing neighborhoods. Most of these cars are people “cutting through” on their way to DC and Northern VA. We all have a stake in preserving places like Old Town, whether we live there or not. If we make all regional transportation choices based on how quickly and easily we can “get there,” eventually there will be very little “there” to get to.

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Get A Grip
John Whiteside, john_whiteside@mindspring.com

Lee Perkins writes, “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.”

Yeah, Lee, that's it, all of us in Virginia want to see DC residents run down and killed. Never mind that most of my neighbors in Arlington work and/or play in the city, spend money there, have friends and family who live in DC, have lived in DC and may live there again, and clearly recognize that DC is a great place and a major reason that other communities within the Beltway are also great places to live and work. Lee's figured it out; deep down we all want DC gone and Washingtonians dead.

I'm following in Ed Barron's tracks; I've read the last few issues of themail from San Francisco, a city that's refreshingly free of DC's victim complex... despite the fact that San Franciscans have to put up with a city that's generally dirtier, more expensive, and more crowded than Washington. I think some readers would be lost in a city that worked well; what would they have to complain about?

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DC May Have a Long Way to Go, But We Should Celebrate Our Progress
Mark David Richards, mark@bisconti.com

I spent the past 3 weeks traveling in South Africa. I interviewed many people from all walks of life, visited cities, farms, townships, and wonders of nature. What a wonderful country and people. 11 official languages! Like DC, SA has a history in which race has left a legacy — a majority black country with multiple cultures in which powerful whites did not trust the black majority to rule until activists pressed the case. Like DC, some leaders in the new SA race bait to increase their constituency, including — to my shock — President Mandela. Like DC, the city of Johannesburg has flight to the safe suburbs. People are
now dividing up by class. Unlike DC, many, especially whites, talk about friends who have fled, and wonder where they can move next where it will be safer or where they will be allowed in to start over. Many can't afford to leave their home. Like DC, they live in a constitutional democracy founded on the rule of law. Unlike DC, they cannot count on police response. Some police fear being murdered for doing their job. Others work with the lawbreakers. Like DC, they have enormous natural and human resources. They are a top biodiversity country. However, there are millions of illiterate, unemployed people living in shacks with tin roofs held down by rocks, so proximate to one another there is one giant sea of poverty that baffles the most optimistic observer. And their perspectives about what is happening seems to be far apart. There is little experience in civics and democracy, and some wonder why they aren't being told. Many are just waiting to see what happens. Things have moved so rapidly, people are stunned.

The liberation of black/colored people in SA nearly 5 years ago without a bloody civil war was nothing less than a miracle. As I stood on Signal Hill looking toward Robben Island where political prisoners were held and many “committed suicide,” I couldn't hold the tears. Today, SA has the most progressive Constitution in the world. The landscape is so beautiful it would be hard for anyone to leave such a home. But violence is taking a toll and I hope they are able to avoid what happened here in the early 1980s — sitting back as the drug and crime lords ravage the city. Already, vigilantes are murdering drug lords, and answer to no one. Immigrants from other countries are creating much tension and anger. The city of Johannesburg is falling apart as its leaders write strategic visions, blame the past, and sit by as businesses flee to the suburbs and to London. Anne Paton, the widow of SA's famous anti-apartheid novelist Alan Paton (he wrote Cry, The Beloved Country), has decided to immigrate to London after being hijacked, mugged, and throttled. Among her friends, 9 people they know have been murdered. She says she is glad her husband is not there to see what has happened. Doctors at the Chris Hani Baragwanatha on the border of Soweto, the largest in the world, are mugged and robbed daily and threaten to move elsewhere. I have never seen so much barbed wire. I saw a bound corpse on the highway which my father swerved to avoid running over. SA can be described as a place of hope and fear. I would expect to see a lot of creativity coming out of SA over the next years, because there are more questions than answers right now. Nobody seems to know what is going on — everyone hopes things will improve, that it won't go the way of some neighboring countries. The floodgates are wide, but the new SA is not yet a story with a fairy tale ending. I don't know what to expect in DC, but after looking from a distance, I feel I can say our problems are manageable. Despite setbacks, we shouldn't forget to celebrate what we have accomplished since our “partial liberation” in 1974. An involved citizenry is so important as we move full throttle ahead.

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Ideas for Mayor's Transition Team on Public Works/Public Safety/Environment
Anne Drissel, drisselab@aol.com

I'm one of several Mt. Pleasant residents on the Anthony Williams' Mayor's Transition Committee. My sister, Marie Drissel, is chairing the Transition Committee for Public Works and Public Safety and the Environment. These departments and functions include everything from Police to Streets, Motor Vehicles, Trash, Roadside Trees, Buses, Anacostia River, air quality, etc., etc., etc., (If you're not sure of the functions in these departments, you might check their listings in the government section of the phone book. It's very interesting reading!) We'd like brief suggestions on “most important” issues and ideas — especially solutions — that would improve these departments. Also suggested priorities for action during Mayor Williams' first months in office. We have VERY LIMITED time to complete our report — final copy due by December 20. Email me or fax to me at 232-6518. I'll bring your comments to the committee meetings. Thanks!

PS I took copious notes when Chief Ramsay was speaking to the Mt. Pleasant Forum and I'll convey these points to the committee.

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Taxation Without Representation
Mark Sibert, trebisk@aol.com

I remember how Ms. Norton has been working to having DC residents not pay federal taxes as long as they didn't get the votes on the Hill. If I remember correctly, wasn't there a couple of Congress people who were willing to go along with that proposal? What has happened with it and what would be the sacrifices to the D.C. government's authority and the resident's needs? Will being able to keep a few dollars be the better option over having a say as to what will happen to your community? One of the best saying about politics is “follow the money.” DC residents will save, on average, about $1300 a person, (a sum of 1300 * 500,000 residents = $650,000,000) Will that be enough to give up political strength? voice? freedom? respect with and participation from other states? Are we to sell-out so easily?

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Taxation Without Representation, The Last Colony: Both Are True
Dianne Rhodes, rhodesd1@westat.com

There are some basic difference between the unincorporated territories, like Puerto Rico, Guam, and the US Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia. Residents of the territories cannot vote for President. However, the price they pay is that they do not pay Federal taxes. Lately, this doesn't seem like such a bad deal. Guam receives large transfer payments from the general revenues of the US Federal treasury; under a provision of a special law of Congress they receive federal income taxes paid by military and civilian federal employees stationed in Guam. Guam residents pay taxes mirroring US federal tax which is returned by the US back to the Guam treasury.

The other big difference is that there are bills before Congress to create a process leading to full self government for Puerto Rico. HR 856 was passed by the House on March 4, 1998 by a vote of 209 to 208. There are also bills before Congress to give further autonomy to Guam and the Virgin Islands, HR 100, HR 2370, and S. 210. Puerto Rico held a plebiscite in 1993; the results were evenly divided. Of nearly 2 million votes, 826,326 voted for commonwealth (48.6%), 788,296 for statehood (46.3%), 75,620 for independence (4.4%), and 1% of the ballots were blank.

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Taxation Without Representation, The Last Colony: Neither Is True
Stan Wellborn, stanw@aecf.org

At the risk of being a curmudgeon and not seeing the fun in anything, I'd like to cast a pox on both the mottos. They just don't ring true, and they aren't that new or clever.

“DC — the Last Colony” is not only not factually incorrect (we're really not a colony in the historical sense) but it also harkens back to a tired old slogan that we heard in the 1960s and 70s before “home rule” became a reality. And it seems to me that other places, like Puerto Rico and American Samoa, for example, have a much better claim to that motto.

“Taxed without Representation.” Well yes — and no. We do have a representative — not that her vote counts — but she does “represent” our interests on Capitol Hill. And while I'm frequently angered at the treatment of DC by the feds, the simple fact is that the U.S. Constitution defines DC's relationship to the nation very specifically — and until an amendment changing our status is passed by Congress and two thirds of the states — that simply ain't going to change.

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No Vote on the Motto
Patrick Shaughness, pshaugness@gfcpa.com

My vote on the motto is that we don't count the votes. Although I'm not happy with Congressional interference on the medical marijuana referendum, this seems to me the best way to handle your motto contest. I understand you're just trying to have some fun but where does all this leave us? Governance of the District is not the model of representative democracy, everybody admits that. I want to focus on what I can change now, not on this sterile, tired, dead end and “feel good” debate on home rule, taxation without representation and so forth; or on some broad brush cynicism on how dysfunctional government is here. If Tony Williams is entitled to a honeymoon, as I think he is, then part of that is to focus on what we can change. The motto contest takes me away from that.

Still trying to figure out what “Celebrate the Experience” means.

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CLASSIFIEDS — EVENTS

Franko Jazz at Chief Ike's
Sven Abow, slomo@doubled.com

Just a reminder that Franko Jazz will play this Thursday, December 3rd at Chief Ike's Mambo Room on Columbia Rd. in Adams Morgan. The crossing street is Ontario. The show starts at 9:30 PM. Also:

This Friday you can go to Lima,
Cause Franko Jazz won't play at Nema,
But December 11 we'll take you to heaven,
We'll play there for coffee and crema.

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CLASSIFIEDS — HOUSING

Looking for somewhere to live? Know of anyone who is?
Heidi Summers, heidisummers@yahoo.com

My friend Katie is looking for a roommate. If you know of anyone, please write me and I'll forward the messages to her. Thanks! Here's her ad: Starting December 1, I am living in a group house in Clarendon with 2 other 23-year old women. We need another roommate! Our house is .5 miles from the Clarendon Metro. The house was just renovated and looks great — new hardwood floors, new carpet, new paint, new dishwasher, etc. The room would probably be on the first floor and would share a bathroom with one other person. The rent is $500/month +1/4 utilities. We are 3 fun, non-smoking women. We would prefer a female house mate, but a nice male would be OK too.

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CLASSIFIEDS — FOR SALE

Estate Sale
Richard Green, RAG4256@aol.com

1516 P Street, NW, Friday to Sunday, 10-4pm, 12/4 -12/6. Eclectic collection: items from around the world — Oriental items, paintings, postmaster desk, Mission chair and bookcase, lithographs (Miro and Dali), mahogany corner cabinet, Victorian cylinder music box, tables and chairs, Oriental rugs, silver, crystal, Emmaljunga baby stroller, Ridgeway Willow china, jewelry, lots of men's clothing (40 reg.), women's clothes (sizes 4-8) — YSL, Ungaro, raccoon and fox coats, Chanel purses, office furniture (including Knoll). Park in rear.

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Bali Bliss Happy Hour and Shopping Extravaganza
Patty Friedman, 202-232-3449, patty@embassy.org

Holiday Shopping Happy Hour, Wednesday, Dec. 9, 5:30–10 pm, at Asian Grill and Noodles, 1160 20th Street, NW between L & M Streets. Half-priced drinks, hors d'oeuvres and Balinese music. Shop for your holiday gifts. Prices reduced on certain items 30-50% !!! Many gifts under $20.00. Stocking stuffers under $10.00. Cash and checks accepted for purchases. Metro Red line: Dupont Circle-South or Farragut North-L Street.

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CLASSIFIEDS — DONATIONS WANTED

Unusual Win-Win Opportunity Available
Len Sullivan, lsnarpac@bellatlantic.net

Help us fix our capital city, and pay less federal tax at the same time. Fully tax deductible contributions will be gratefully accepted during our annual fund drive now underway. Checks should be made out to NARPAC, Inc. and mailed to 2 Wisconsin Circle, Suite 700, Chevy Chase, MD 20815. We will protect the anonymity of lurkers.

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CLASSIFIEDS — SERVICES

Needed: Part-Time Nanny
Andrea Carlson, BintaGay@aol.com

Looking for a nanny for my 19-month-old girl, approximately 25 hours per week (can negotiate schedule). If you know someone who you can recommend without reservation, please let me know!

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Prepare Your Yard for the Holidays
Philip Walker, Jr., gardens@gowebway.com

Let Pete help you get your home in shape for the holidays. Outdoor holiday lighting installation; interior plants/decorations/Christmas trees. Expert garden maintenance; pruning; leaf/debris removal; mulching. Still not too late for bulbs, perennials, shrubs, and trees. Also start planning now for Spring projects. Many satisfied “themail” subscribers as clients.

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CLASSIFIEDS — CITY PAPER PREVIEW
Dave Nuttycombe, webmeister@washcp.com

From washingtoncitypaper.com's Loose Lips column, appearing this Friday:
U.S. Attorney's Local Myopia: When Korean-American liquor store owner Chang Pak knocked an African-American teen unconscious during a robbery of his Georgia Avenue NW store in August, U.S. Attorney Wilma Lewis pursued Pak with all the fervor of Kenneth Starr tracking down witnesses to President Clinton's oral sexploits. U.S. Attorney watchers say that if Pak had been defrauding the District government -- instead of creating headlines in a racially charged incident — he might never have seen the inside of a courtroom.
Read the entire Loose Lips column this Friday at: http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/lips/lips.html

From washingtoncitypaper.com's City Lights page, here are a few early warnings for upcoming events:
Friday, Dec. 4, through Dec.13: “Seven Samurai.” “Widely influential and formally dazzling, as well as simply one of the best action flicks ever made.” At the American Film Institute Theater, Kennedy Center. $6.50.
Monday, Dec. 7: “Deaf Humor in the 19th Century.” Voice and sign language interpreters will be present to provide the full effect of punchlines, such as the one for this Swedish deaf joke: “I switched off the light.” At 7 p.m. at Arlington County Central Library, 1015 N. Quincy St., Arlington. Free.
More details and more critics' picks are available online at http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/pix/pix.html

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