Dear Holiday Celebrants:
Season's greetings, now that the snow has proven that this really is the
season. Yes, the Van Gogh exhibit is definitely worth seeing, although if you stand in the
cold for hours in the early morning to get a ticket you may not be in the mood to
appreciate it by the time you see it. Do use one of the tips for getting tickets that
people have been giving in past issues of themail. If you go to the National Gallery, be
sure to drop by the plaster version of the Saint-Gaudens memorial to Robert Gould Shaw and
the black soldiers in his Civil War battalion if the DC memorial to black civil war
soldiers that is now being erected in Shaw were half as impressive it would be a big deal.
And don't miss the Edo exhibit in the East Wing of the National Gallery. I actually
enjoyed it more than the Van Gogh exhibit, and at least on weekdays there are no long
lines to get in and no big crowds in the Edo gallery rooms. (Shopping hint: if you need to
pick up last minute Christmas gifts today, you can't go wrong with the Smithsonian's
catalogue for the Edo exhibit; it's huge and beautifully printed, costs only $35, and
looks like it should cost $75.)
themail will be published on its regular schedule throughout the holidays,
so don't hesitate to write. We'll be here.
Dumping on Shaw, Cont'd.
Beth Solomon, firstname.lastname@example.org
John Olinger correctly reported on the dumping of hazardous waste in Shaw,
but the story gets even worse. A Shaw resident originally witnessed the dumping in
progress in July and called the police and DPW. (The resident wishes to remain anonymous
for fear of retribution.) A DPW inspector arrived on the scene and issued $130,000 in
fines for illegally dumping 26 tons of waste. But top managers wanted to pull
or forgive the fines, according to DPW documents. Enforcing the law would have been
inconvenient for the Washington Convention Center Authority and its new project. Some in
DPW, including ousted director Cell Bernadino, wanted to enforce the law. But the Office
of the Chief Management Officer directed DPW to find a way to forgive the fines. In the
meantime, the soil tested positive for high levels of lead, barium, mercury, arsenic (but
no petrochemicals) and other very serious human health hazards. The neighborhood was never
informed. The site remained open. Children at the neighboring Immaculate Conception School
continued to use the playground adjacent to the waste. Adults and children continued to
walk on the property to get to school or the Metro. Throughout the summer, the exposed
waste joined what has become a significant amount of airborne dust in the Shaw area coming
from the construction site.
According to DPW, the illegal dumpers trucked some of the waste away, and
spread some of it around the site, so it would look like it was removed. Then the
Washington Convention Center Authority ordered a new round of soil tests that tested a
different set of soils. The tests showed contamination by petrochemicals (which are
typical on the site) but not heavy metals. The WCCA issued a press release declaring the
problem solved. But the problem is not solved. Shaw residents were exposed to dangerous
levels of hazardous waste for several months. The extent of the health hazard still is not
known. Inspectors who tried to enforce the law have been called anti business
by top managers and are afraid for their jobs. One official is already gone. Under the
direction of the Chief Management Officer, the D.C. government then chose not to enforce
anti-dumping laws (not to mention hazardous waste laws), but instead to reward another
law-breaker for committing a crime in the District. It's confusing, upsetting and
frustrating to watch this go on and be unable to do anything about it.
Jeffrey Itell, Story@intr.net
Over the past couple of years, public works officials have been building
public work edifices in the Rock Creek Parkway, Roosevelt Bridge, E Street, Spaghetti O's
corridor. During this offensive, a peculiar, seemingly specialize piece of mobile
machinery has remained parked on the District side of the Roosevelt Bridge. I assume its a
Jersey Barrier machine equipment that deposits and withdraws concrete
road dividers. I've never seen it move and the barriers look like they've been untouched
by unhuman hands for years. So I wonder why someone would park a seemingly expensive piece
of equipment on the bridge. (Aesthetic reasons should not be considered.) My guess is that
machine creates an opening for heavy machinery. If so, construction workers must be
planning their activities around my driving habits. I haven't caught them in the act. Any
At Least It's Not as Far as Africa
Jean Lawrence, JKelLaw@aol.com
FYI, all, Anthony Williams fell by Phoenix yesterday to tour one of the
nation's (his words) best-run cities. Among the comments he made:
Frankly, I look at a city like this and they're years ahead of us. Phoenix is
training employees on advanced customer service and use of computers and (in DC) you're
talking about folks with rotary phones and no computers. (How about those
out-houses, get rid of those yet?) And DC is like those movies where the car is
perched on the canyon, and it's about ready to go. We had to winch the car back up to get
it on the road. Don't take it too much to heart we just had a home invasion
in which some morons shot a 2-year-old for crying. But I thought the new mayor might have
been a little more diplomatic about his home town.
Ed T. Barron, email@example.com
If we are to have qualified teachers in the DCPS then we will need an
alternative certification program along with strong teacher standards. This alternative
certification (which will be thwarted at every turn by the Teachers' unions) should allow
qualified and tested persons, who want to teach in the DCPS, to be given that opportunity.
The current certification program would completely disallow someone with a Ph.D. in
Physics from teaching in the schools in favor of a brand new ed school graduate who
doesn't know Kelvin from Celsius. Despite the fact that I'm certified to teach physics in
NY State, and have an MBA with good teaching credentials, I could not teach in D.C.
because I never took those dumb down education courses.
The DCPS must adopt a streamlined certification program if they really
want to put some talented teachers in the classrooms. If we want people with school age
children to stay in the District or to move here from other places we have to provide a
viable school system. The key to a viable school system is good teachers. Good facilities
would help but a good teacher is an absolute must.
Restoring School Facilities
Ed T. Barron, firstname.lastname@example.org
Ms Ackerman's proposal to rebuild and refurbish all the D.C. schools makes
good sense. It is generally far better and more cost effective, over the long haul, to
completely rebuild and refurbish old, old facilities that are structurally sound than it
is to make nickel and dime Band-Aid repairs that only last for a while and are not
integrated with other repairs. One of the problems that the janitorial staff (very
overworked according to the Janitor's union) has is that they are dealing with old
buildings and systems that are falling apart. This is compounded by destructive elements
in the schools who have no respect for other students and routinely trash their own
environment. A program to refurbish the schools must also be accompanied by a program that
will really punish anyone who trashes the school property or facilities.
With regard to the overworked janitorial staff, my own
university, in New York, has all the classrooms and labs in a 100 year old razor blade
factory building that was falling apart on the inside. This 180,000 square foot eight
story building is maintained by a staff of only five janitors and maintenance personnel.
That's more than 35000 square feet per maintenance person compared to the 25000 square
feet for the average D.C. school janitor. Of course the janitorial staff at my university
is a non-union staff. They also have only one supervisor for the entire school which has
two campuses and eight buildings. The interior of the building is in very good shape. The
students, faculty, and administration held a paint-in two years ago and that
really helped. This old relic of a building, a blight on the landscape, will be completely
rebuilt, outside and inside, over the next five years, one floor at a time, with the help
of a $150M Capital Campaign now underway.
Earlier this year in Mt. Pleasant there was a mass ticketing for failure
to turn wheels to the curb. Apparently, we do have such a law. Outraged residents in mt.
Pleasant got a promise for reversal of the tickets after the issue was raised on the Mt.
Pleasant Forum (I wonder how much money the city got from victimized parkers who were not
fortunate enough to be Mt. Pleasant Forum subscribers.)
What amused me about the incident was the first explanation given by the
police. Although the story line quickly was dropped, an unnamed precinct officer said the
tickets were issued in response to an increase in car break ins in the neighborhood. This
led me to wonder whether the police would respond to an increase in burglaries by randomly
pistol whipping people walking down the streets of our neighborhood.
Alan Abrams explains the merits of privatization of vehicle inspection,
including the convenience factor whereby we could take our cars to
neighborhood service stations to have them repaired and re-inspected. Apparently, Mr.
Abrams has never had a car that failed inspection (lucky him!) or else he would know that
we already have that option. I've heard that the vehicle inspection station is supposed to
give you a list of what stations (or maybe only the ones in your neighborhood) perform
re-inspections. I never saw a list, but the inspector told me to call my local station to
see if they did re-inspections. It was just as convenient as Mr. Abrams describes.
And how did I come upon this knowledge? I moved to DC in a car with tinted
windows, which is apparently Driving Threat #1 here (but that's another letter...).
Vehicle Registration, Again
Ralston Cox. email@example.com
To add to the positive notes posted previously, I've never had any
difficulty with registering my vehicle by mail with the city. It could be because I've had
the same car for several years and haven't moved around, but it could also be that we have
a reasonably reliable system not perfect, mind you, but reasonably okeedokee. Given
that it's a pretty mindless process, why do we have to re-register the car every year? Why
not only do so when you sell it or move? I assume that the underlying need for
registration is a public safety one i.e., so we know who owns a car that's involved
in a crime or is abandoned, etc.
rather than a purely mercenary one i.e., another way of getting $$$ out of us.
I agree with earlier postings that there is little incentive to register
my car for two years, particularly as the city has been reasonably reliable about the
renewal process and I get to keep my $$$ for another year. If we can't do away with the
annual renewal, couldn't we be encouraged to register for 2 years by giving us a little
bit of a break on the $$$? Savings in bureaucracy costs could be passed along to the
customer that's us and they have fewer bills to mail and checks to deposit,
and bad checks to track, etc. It sounds like a win-win situation the citizen saves
$$$ and hassle, and the government saves $$$ and hassle which should, ultimately, mean the
citizen could save more $$$. Hmmm. There must be something in this equation I'm
Whose Rights are More Important?
Andrea Carlson, BintaGay@aol.com
There's a problem in our neighborhood that no one wants to discuss. Yet it
affects us all. And I'd be willing to bet that most of us are mad about it. Are we
normally so tolerant? No. Why are we so hesitant to speak out? Because it involves
religion, and to some extent, race relations. There is a mosque in the 1800 block of 11th
St. NW, a residential neighborhood, that blasts a call to prayer five times a day,
beginning at about 5 a.m., every single day. Everyone in my house hears that wake-up call,
including my 19 month-old (once she's awakened, say good-bye to sleep). I resent the
imposition. Isn't there a noise ordinance that might apply? What are zoning regulations
for faith institutions in this city? Where do we take our complaints? What or who is the
higher power here? Do the rest of us non-Muslims have a prayer? Art Spitzer, maybe this is
one for you. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and a Good Ramadan to all.
Notes on National Distractions Sex, Lies,
and Video Bombs
Mark Richards, firstname.lastname@example.org
I was for impeachment when President Clinton signed the Bill renaming
Washington National Airport after President Reagan. If he had used his time wisely early
on, he might have one more friend with a vote, the District of Columbia. But no, he had
other things to do. So now, two of the three Federal Branches are openly feuding while
we're trying to get the Holiday spirit. It's as if the transients are acting out some
bizarre postmodern cowboy tale. Maybe it's a generational transition thing. Each day
William Jefferson Clinton looks from the balcony of the White House directly into the eyes
of our premier philosopher of democracy Thomas Jefferson. An ancestor we admire who
said one thing and, thanks to DNA we now know, did another. The Revolutionary
Republicans, (some with Confederate flag in pocket), captured the HOR, voted right
away to muzzle DC residents (etc.), and finally got around to their goal of impeaching the
populous Southerner residing at 1600 PA Ave. He hath violated the rule of law by deceiving
us about his extramarital sex life. (Is this a family feud? Is this what the south
will rise again means?) Comeback Billy, not to be outdone, let his military team go
out and play with their bombs over Iraq, a job the Republicans had been itching to do for
a long time. Were they ever mad! So they backed the boys in the field and called for more
spending for defense contractors. Clinton volleyed with a 4.4% pay hike for soldiers, the
biggest in 15 years. Meanwhile, a friend living in France since he fled the war in Lebanon
sent me an e-mail greeting: Your country is s**t right now... but, don't take it
The impeachment hearings opened with Delegate Norton introducing HR? (for
DC voting rights on this issue only). Radio commentators couldn't figure out what it was
about: Is this a stalling tactic? one asked. Unable to come up with ideas,
they talked OVER ELH about the good old days when they had to do a roll call vote.
Meanwhile, Hillary led a diplomatic mission over the moat and to the Hill to invite House
Democrats over after the impeachment vote for cookies with the President and Betty Currie
at the White House so beautiful this time of year. Bob Livingston (eye on the
Republican brotherhood looking to him to demonstrate honor by apologizing to his wife for
multiple adulterous episodes and setting an example for how Clinton should make a stage
left) said we are all pawns on the chess board of life. Just after the storm on Capital
Hill ended, both parties ran to stage press events, after which Operation
Monica (as the English-American attack on Iraq is known in Europe) came to an abrupt
halt and our Civilian Commander in Chief thanked our warriors for their outstanding
performance. As blues radio play the song Just leave Bill Clinton alone, everybody's
done somethin' wrong..., Presidents Ford and Carter advocate national
reconciliation. All the while, white supremacists and survivalists, fearful of the coming
Apocalypse, are driving up rural real estate values.
Hello... is something wrong with this script? What does it need? Maybe the
Third Branch should send the Senate binoculars as a reminder to stretch their eyes past
our bandaged monument honoring our city's Founder, into the eyes of Lincoln, and beyond to
the graveyard in General Lee's former front yard. Lincoln did not lose faith that this
nation could remain one multiracial constitutional representative democracy. For national
unity, a meaning embodied in his temple, he paid with his life. These days, the people who
are fueling the increasingly frequent cultural flash points in the fifty states must be
writing the script for the national stage. Should we be alarmed? Calling all statesmen and
diplomats you're ON!!
Cleveland Park Congregational Church at Lowell & 34th Street:
Wednesday, December 23rd, 7:00 PM, Christmas Caroling. Everyone is invited to sign
Christmas carols for the Cleveland Park Church neighborhood and then return to the church
for hot chocolate and Christmas cookies! Thursday, December 24, 5:00 PM, Christmas
Pageant, Children will act out the story of Christmas; 8:00 PM, Fireside Service, Program
of readings and carols.
12th Annual Matzo Ball
Michael Goldstein, email@example.com
The Society of Young Jewish Professionals, Join us once again for the 12th
annual MATZO BALL this Christmas Eve, December 24 at LuLu's New Orleans Café, 22nd &
M streets, NW, Washington DC. Directions (202) 861-LULU. Doors open at 8pm. Last year SOLD
OUT! The MATZO BALL will feature a DJ, dancing, karaoke, hors d'oeuvres, door prizes.
Tickets: $15 in advance or $20 at the door and portion of the proceeds will go to the
National Holocaust Museum. Info: firstname.lastname@example.org or (202) 452-5541. Tickets (888) 633-5326
Ice Skating in Georgetown
Bill Starrels, email@example.com
The Ice Rink is back in Georgetown! Starting with FREE skating on
Christmas Day. The location is just west of Washington Harbor on K Street next to the
waterfront in Georgetown. The rink is bigger and better than last year. It is run by the
Nonprofit Community Development Corporation of Washington DC. Phone 202-861-5839. Hours 5
AM TO midnight! All ages are encouraged to come and skate.
Tasting Society International, End of
December/January Calendar of Events
Charlie Adler, cadler@DGS.DGSYS.COM
December event: Van Gogh with the Tasting Society, Wed. Dec.
30th, 3 pm, National Gallery of Art, $65, in advance, very limited availability. January
events: California vs. Australia/New Zealand Wine Tasting, Thurs., Jan. 14th,
7-9 p.m., Wyndham Hotel, 1400 M St., NW, $45. French Country Wines, Thurs..,
Jan. 21st, 7-9 p.m., Wyndham Hotel, 1400 M St., NW, $38. Wine Basics 101,
Wed., Jan. 27th, 7:00-9:00 pm, Wyndham Hotel, 1400 M St., NW, $35. Mardi Gras in
Washington, D.C. Feb. 16th (Fat Tuesday), more details soon. RSVP at (202)333-5588 or
email: firstname.lastname@example.org , or the Reservation Form at
our Web Page at http://www.tastedc.com/reservations.html
CLASSIFIEDS HELP WANTED
Mike Hill, email@example.com
A Shaw youth group is seeking one or two energetic, organized people who
are proficient in bike maintenance and repair to teach the first session of our
recycle-a-bike program. The ideal person is a trained mechanic or highly skilled amateur;
true bike enthusiast; organized and task-oriented; comfortable working with a diverse
group of teenagers, 12-18 years old; in possession of a complete set of the necessary
tools; familiar with the recycle-a-bike concept; available to teach Saturdays.
Our schedule calls for up to five 3-hour sessions beginning in January
(including one make-up session). Sessions would be held every other weekend, and cover
basic maintenance and repair. Adults from the youth group will assist with each session. A
generous stipend is available to the right person(s). For more information, please contact
Mike Hill, firstname.lastname@example.org , 202-462-2961 [h],
CLASSIFIEDS CITY PAPER PREVIEW
Dave Nuttycombe, email@example.com
From washingtoncitypaper.com's LOOSE LIPS column, appearing this Friday:
Loose Lips presents the 1998 Loose Talk Awards: D.C. residents will awake this Christmas
morning with plenty in their stockings to warrant rejoicing. This city has undergone a
revolution so staggering and pervasive during 1998 that even another Barry spiritual
rejuvenation couldn't knock it off course. Read the entire Loose Lips column this Friday
From washingtoncitypaper.com's CITY LIGHTS page, here are a few early
warnings for upcoming events:
Tuesday, Dec. 29-Thursday, Dec. 31: Pablo Francisco, at the Improv, 1140 Connecticut Ave.
Thursday, Jan. 7: Loudon Wainwright III, 8 p.m. at the Barns of Wolf Trap, 1624 Trap Road,
More details and more critics' picks are available online at http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/pix/pix.html
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