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December 13, 1998

Interesting Times

Dear Correspondents:

This is another one of those possible turning points in the history of the District of Columbia when we are lured by the promise that things must get better, and fooled by our surety that things can't get any worse. Well, it's just possible that we're right this time. In any case, for the next few weeks we're in a holding pattern, waiting for the developments that will occur soon after the first of the year. What will Tony Williams be like as Mayor? Who will really shape the next cabinet, and name the Department and agency heads — Williams, Camille Barnett, or the Control Board? What will the next City Council committee line-up be, and which factions of the Council will the new Councilmembers vote with? What will Congress do about DC under Robert Livingston's leadership and under the new Congressional committee chairs?

Most importantly, will DC residents continue to vote with their feet, and leave their problems behind? I've often said to Dorothy that if things keep going as they have been, in a few decades the only people left in the District will be those who are too poor or too crazy to leave, and that by that time we'll qualify for residency on both counts. Oh well, at least they will be interesting times — in the sense of the old Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times.” Happy holidays.

Gary Imhoff


Why Not Get Rid of the Dregs?
Len Sullivan,

I am surprised none of themail's readers reacted with righteous indignation to Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott's candid remarks that service on DC subcommittees is the dregs. But NARPAC agrees with the Washington Post that it should be the dregs. Who thinks they got elected to Congress to micromanage an inner city with a quarter-million non-voting residents, unless they can exercise some special interest to the benefit of their own voting constituents?

We agree with the Post that this is a good opportunity to consider abolishing all four of those surplus subcommittees, but we would replace them with a more prestigious single Joint (House/Senate) Committee on the National City. It should be charged with four major functions: a) getting DC residents proper Congressional representation; b) stimulating regional solutions to DC's metro area wide problems; c) removing the many remaining DC non-municipal functions; and d) authorizing a new permanent, structurally balanced system of mature home rule. Our nation's capital city really does not need to be micromanaged by any more ideologues. Let professional municipal mechanics handle DC's nuts and bolts. Let the Congress focus on improving democracy, metro area evolution, and national pride.


Stay and Fight or Get the Hell Out? Don't Throw the Towel in Yet
Mark Richards,

As Mayor-elect Williams is having mayoral peer meetings nationwide and his transition team develops their strategic elements for THE strategic plan, I was impressed to have the feeling that many of the Williams teams are being inclusive. I want them to succeed. Our local observers reveled in Sen. Trent Lott's faux-pas in handing us what we knew all along — evidence of where our little haven fits into their big picture — the dregs. Hey, nobody here was surprised that he said the committee headed by Launch Faircloth was poop — we just liked that we heard it. He spoke his truth. Kathryn Sinzinger of The Common Denominator (I highly recommend subscribing if you haven't already) writes that she is somewhat concerned that Williams may be getting set up to be the next “fall guy” as Mayor Barry exits the stage. She calls for truth, trust, straight talk — and democracy.

I just read Mr. Eefreitas Sr., ED.D. op-ed in the Washington Afro-American (12-12-1998) urging African-Americans to leave the District of Columbia if they want control of their future. He wrote: “D.C.'s Black residents have no power, and will never have power. Whatever they give Tony Williams they will be able to take from Tony Williams. He can be told what he must do. His moves have to be sanctioned by the White power structure that runs the city. This is not true with Black state politicians who are elected by Black voters. Like White politicians, they only have to please their constituents, not outsiders, or media people. It too the blacks of North Carolina to get rid of D.C.'s nemeses, Launch Faircloth. He treated D.C. residents like dirt and they lacked the power to fight back. Black folk in North Carolina got rid of this D.C. problem. Putting Mr. Faircloth out of the senate is another example of Southern Black power.... That is the difference of having a real vote from having a symbolic vote. To have a real vote, the residents of D.C. will have to vote with their feet by moving to Maryland or Virginia. If they don't they can sit at home and watch other Blacks moving around the country, exerting their political power.... Unfortunately, a vote in Washington, D.C. means very little. It is time for those in D.C., who want real voting power, to move across the street into Maryland or move across the river to Virginia.”

I am happy to be back from South Africa, in my several-block radius where I enjoy personal community life in the District. I can't walk the sidewalks without feeling a warmness in our locals. I have hope for the future because I feel good about the present. I don't think it's time to throw in the towel. It's time to pull together and speak more loudly. We're at the edge of our bicentennial. The stakes are high for the people who will live here in the future. Let's give Mr. Williams a nice long honeymoon, but also let's have a very inclusive dialogue and remind everyone that their involvement (which most want but fear is not valued!) will be their legacy. And if the Republicans continue to infuriate the rest of the country where people can vote, maybe they'll put control of both the Congress and the Executive in Democratic hands, and we had better be ready to claim our franchise. That would be a rare window of opportunity.


D.C. Prison
Ed T. Barron,

Prisons are not suitable in any urban environment. Prisons are for long term incarceration of criminals who are doing hard time. The last place I would put a prison is in Anacostia. Here is a place that requires new development (certainly even more banks and supermarkets) but never a prison. To make a prison secure it must be somewhat remote to allow for the installation of those new technological devices that will prevent anyone from breaking out (or breaking in to get someone out). To consider putting a prison in Anacostia is an absurd proposal that does not deserve evaluation by the Council or Economic Development Agency.

In New York there is a City Prison (Rikers Island) and it has been a major headache to the city since it was built. This prison is located on an island that requires a pretty good swim to escape from (that has been done on occasion by those who swam away from the island when the heavily polluted East River was not on fire). But even on this island I am certain that the good fathers of New York would never build a new prison in the city. Let's find something positive to build in Anacostia like a really good World War II Museum like the one they have in London.


DPW — A Promise of Spring?
Frank J. Pruss, Jr.,

For the first time in 18 years of living in DC, I have received a notice that my license tags require renewal and a form that will let me re-new by mail. Shock! Horror! Drama! It is even timely, as I am not due for renewal until the end of January! This raises the obvious poser: Do I dare try and re-new by mail, or should I just go down and do it in person? Experiences?


DPW and Parking Tickets
Lorraine Swerdloff,

My friend received a parking ticket outside her NW apartment building for not having her wheels turned toward the curb. Has anyone heard of such a thing? Just one more reason we love to live in DC!


DPW and Unnecessary Street Work
M.W. Sibert,

A note from a person observing the waste of DPW on MacArthur Blvd. made me think how many times DPW had wasted tax dollars. Sherman Circle has been changed 3 times in 15 years — from the simple tasks of cutting down a thriving 30 something pine tree (almost fit enough to place in front the White House) and surrounding shrubs, to the four-month major job of removing the sidewalk that had less cracks in it than Richard Gere's face. Streets in upper NE to the side of Hawaii Ave. that had as much traffic as a cul-de-sac was repaved. Solid granite curbs uprooted just to replace it with porous, easy-to-wear concrete ones. The list could go on.


Kathy Smith,

Thank you and James Whitelaw for mentioning Communit-E, my e-mail newsletter. One of your subscribers, Joan Oehser, was kind enough to send me a copy of themail. She, and a number of your other readers, also asked to be put on the mailing list to get Communit-E. I was very happy to oblige.

You might be interested in the following note I sent James Whitelaw: "Dear Jim, thank you for the boost. Several years ago I did an extensive study of the Post weekly crime listings, and spoke at length to the editor of the District Weekly. The Post lists only homicides, sexual assaults, robberies and burglaries. They told me it would be too costly to include assaults, car thefts, thefts, thefts from autos, shoplifting, arson, drug crimes, destruction of property, i.e. the additional things I list on the Communit-E reports. In addition, the Post reports are two to three weeks behind. If you want to see reports for areas besides PSA 202, 2D places reports for all the 2D PSA areas in our library each month. These are in a notebook at the reference section. These are the kind of reports from which I get my weekly information.


Volunteering on Christmas Day
Margaret A. Siegel,

The DC-JCC for several years has organized a massive volunteer effort for Christmas Day, including work at shelters, feeding programs, hospitals etc. You certainly don't have to be Jewish to participate. Call the Community Services Dept. at 518-9400.


Where Can I Donate Usable Old Electronics Gear?
Lynne Mersfelder,

A friend has a broken stereo receiver that she recently replaced with a new one. She doesn't want to repair the broken one, but does not want to just throw it away. Do you know of any organization that accepts broken electrical items (stereo equipment, etc.) in order to repair them and then resell them? Or perhaps a school that would use them to teach students how to repair electronic equipment?


Is the Air Thinner Up on That High Horse?
Peter Luger,

Ms. Persiflage, on the motto issue, says "and both choices were, in Ms. P's opinion, whiny little politically correct nose droppings hardly worthy of attention by serious adults. "

As we have learned over the years from your wiser and more respected mentor, Miss Manners, insults really have no place in polite, public discourse. (Oops, I guess I just violated that rule, too. My sincerest apologies.) It seems to me that “taxation without representation” was good enough for our friends in Boston some 220+ years ago. Considering our founding fathers had a tendency toward verboseness (or maybe that's verbosity) and bandying about Latin phrases, I believe it is significant that they chose something so simple and to the point. And, if my recollection of my sixth grade social studies class is correct, that little phrase had some minor impact on the future of the country that now treats its capitol dwellers as second class citizens.

I don't believe anyone disagrees that the District is somewhat responsible for the mess it has found itself in. However, that does not mean I, as an individual with no personal responsibility for potholes, poor service and corruption, do not have the same rights as my brother in Portland or my cousin in San Diego. My one dream as a resident of D.C. is to be able to write my congressman or senator and tell him or her my opinion on some important issue and then see how he or she votes. What a concept.


A Tout’ Ta to You, Ms. Persiflage
M.W. Sibert,

Take her historic motets and post-dated texture for composition and give it the regard of museum memoranda. However, that as it may be, I do agree that it's a waste to lobby, even to the minor powers that are of, the DC Council on the slogan. The statement is true and accurate. She must have been a King George lover in her past life during the revolution if she thought it's a pathetic statement. She could move back to England or the 15th century.



Steppin’ Out
Francesca Dixon,

The UDC School of Architecture is holding the 5th Annual Beaux Arts Ball, a black tie event featuring jazz entertainment on Saturday, December 19, in the Grand Foyer of the Carnegie Library. Tickets are available through the Architecture Department, 274-6808 or 274-6803.


Join the “Ballyhoo”!
David Sobelsohn,

Footlights, DC's only modern drama discussion group, meets monthly to discuss plays from the modern theater. Membership is free; we pass the hat to make expenses. At our next meeting, we will discuss “The Last Night of Ballyhoo” (1997), the Tony Award-winning play by Alfred Uhry, winner of the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for “Driving Miss Daisy.” “Achingly beautiful” (LA Times), “dazzling and touching” (Clive Barnes), “Ballyhoo” takes place in December 1939, in the Atlanta home of assimilated German-American Jews. The Holocaust is underway, and the Levy-Freitag family is worried . . . about finding dates for their
daughters. Our discussion takes place Monday, December 21, 7:30-9:30 p.m. (dinner at 6:30) at Luna Books, 1633 P St., NW, 3 blocks E of Dupont Circle. For reservations e-mail or call (202) 638-0444. We will complement our discussion with a trip to see “Ballyhoo” at 2 p.m., Saturday, January 23, at the Studio Theatre, 1333 P St., NW. Tickets are $14. For tickets e-mail or call (301) 897-9314. You can attend either the discussion or the performance or both. For general information about Footlights see our web site at or call David Sobelsohn at (202) 484-8303.



Ward Eight Committeeman Election
Linda Finkel-Talvadkar,

The Ward Eight Democrats will be caucusing to elect a Ward Member of the District of Columbia Democratic State Committee (DCDSC) on Tuesday, January 19, 1999 beginning at 6:00 p.m. to fill the unexpired term of the late Newton Smith. The caucus will be held at the Washington Highlands Library, 115 Atlantic St., S.W. Under the Democratic Party's equal division rule, the vacancy is a male seat (the Ward elects four members of the State Committee, two men and two women).

Registration and voting will begin at 6:00 p.m., 7:40 p.m. candidates will speak, 8:00 p.m. registration will close and 8:30 p.m. voting will close, ballots counted and the results announced. The individual receiving the highest vote count will be seated at the February 4, 1999, meeting of the DCDSC and serve until June 2000. Any registered ward eight Democrat may vote in the caucus. Absentee and proxy voting will not be permitted. For more information, interested ward eight Democrats are encouraged to call the D.C. Democratic State Committee office at 202-554-8790.



Van Gogh Ticket
Jon Katz,

Van Gogh Exhibit ticket available. Wednesday, December 23, 1998, enter 12:00–12:30 p.m., National Gallery of Art. $100 or best offer.



House History for Christmas!
Paul Williams,

Can't find that gift for the person that has everything? Do they live in an old house in the District? Try a house history gift certificate: we research the builder, architect, owner, and residents over time that are associated with your house or building, and throw that together with a comprehensive block and neighborhood history all presented in a tidy and classy chronological report. Many happy themail customers! For more info, check out , email above address, or call 202-462-6251.


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