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December 30, 1998

Skating on Thin Ice

Dear New Years Celebrants:

I want to thank all of you for collaborating on themail throughout the past few months. I hope that you continue to find it interesting and useful, and that you will continue to make it that way with your contributions. Jeff Itell, who founded this forum as DCStory, has sent in a suggestion for us to start the new year. Please send in your predictions of what will happen in our city in the coming year. Make your predictions as specific as possible, including the exact day (or at least month) in 1999 that they will occur. You can make your predictions serious or humorous, or you can make a serious prediction and, when it turns out to be completely wrong, pretend later that it was meant to be humorous. But take a shot at being a prognosticator, and put it on record in the next issue of themail.

See you right here again next year. Cheers.

Gary Imhoff


Declaring Victory and Moving On
Larry Seftor,

Like Ed Barron I was incensed at the lack of treatment of ice on the roads in my neighborhood after the recent storm. Even four days after the initial precipitation, the intersection near my house was extremely dangerous. I'm not asking for plowing, but just a quick spread of sand/salt mixture over our streets. This is something that we would see regularly 10 years ago when I moved into my house, and something that we have not seen in the years since.

What increased my anger was the statement by a DC Government representative that DC had done a good job during this past storm. Once again we are faced with the increasingly prevalent tactic of declaring victory and moving on. There is a very Orwellian flavor to this tactic: it doesn't matter really what the Government does — it only matters what the Government says that it has done.


Re: Free Ice Skating
Elliott Negin,

Ed T. Barron pointed out that DC did not put salt down on the roads to get rid of ice. I agree that the city needs to do something, but does anyone know if salting roads has any negative effects on the environment? That salt just washes into the water via storm drains. Is there a better, more environmentally benign way to deal with ice? My condo puts dirt on top of the ice in our parking lot to help create traction, and it seems to work.


Free Ice Skating
Rich Rothblum,

Ed Barron wrote about the problems of getting citizens to obey the law and clear the sidewalks in front of their property of ice and snow. As a life-long DC resident, I recall when we took the task of clearing our sidewalks very seriously. You would definitely get a ticket for failing to shovel. Unfortunately, enforcement of this law went the way of many citizen obligations that are considered too onerous to heap upon the poor, victimized citizens of the District. Who knows? A property owner or resident might be disabled, or impoverished, lacking his or her RDA of vitamins, maybe ate too much red meat. Such problems are too mundane for our high and mighty to be bothered with, concerned as they are with righting historical injustices and tilting with other windmills (see Del. Norton's valiant too-little-too-late fight to get the impeachment vote for DC). Now, even the sidewalks around the police station are not cleared. I wouldn't be surprised to find that other government offices likewise ignore the law.

A suggestion: clear your own walk, and those of a couple of neighbors, and see if it catches on. Give the people who drag their feet, and the “seniors” a helping hand. As a last resort, complain to the cops. They will admonish the laggards, and ticket them if they don't come around. So far as clearing little neighborhood side streets is concerned, this is not a good idea unless there are some unusual circumstances. The investment in capital equipment to make this feasible is not a prudent thing to do with limited DC money. So little snow falls and sticks in the District that the best thing for side streets is to tough it out. We don't really need all that salt and sand in the drain system and the Potomac River just for a few days of mild inconvenience. So, suck it up, people.


Eleanor Holmes Norton
Ed T. Barron,

To read the latest promotional four page flyer (Winter '98) sent by Congresswoman Norton, one would get the impression that the 105th Congress has done one bang up job. Apparently they may have banged up a lot of things but this was not a very productive Congress. It was also not a particularly helpful Congress to the District of Columbia, in spite of the lead article, which notes that Ms. Norton was in the top 4% in authoring bills.

I find it hard to believe that Ms. Norton, who is not a voting member in Congress, has much impact on what is really happening in Congress. She is primarily a lobbyist and a “palace spy.” That is not to say that we don't need these things, but we really don't have a real Congresssperson. We have a shadow Congressperson. We should either get a real voting representative in Congress or we should bring back Lamont Cranston.


A New Beginning for Our City
Alberta Paul,

As a lifelong resident of the District of Columbia, I am pleased to see that the new administration is taking a bold new approach to a city worn tied from lack of true commitment . . . risk taking and total inclusion of the citizens that the city is to serve. A quarterly update in the major service area that citizens expect would be a welcome way for all to understand the progress our city is making. Is it possible to do via local papers as well as here (please remember all citizens do not have access to the Internet). Question #2 — How will recruitment of new talent be conducted? I am hopeful that those who were able to secure  professional positions in our city will be able to compete for new and emerging jobs? Question #3 — DCPS teachers have not had a raise since 1990. No new contract appears to be on the horizon? To continue forward movement in this system, salaries must be competitive, human resources must be re-built to manage proper recruitment of qualified staff and serve the needs of existing staff. How will the new administration tackle this? Question #4 — DC Water and Sewer Authority is operating as an Independent Agency. It is staffed with individuals, due to no fault of their own, with 19th century skills. Water main breakages and sewers are on the upswing, costs of repairs are rising, there appears to be no systematic plan for re-building this old and decayed system. What will this administration do to move this agency into the 21st century?


Something Good About DC: Local Theater
David Sobelsohn,

Per capita, DC may be America's best theater city. We sell nearly two million theater tickets per year, about as many as Los Angeles and Chicago, but with a much smaller population base. We have 54 professional theaters, and 220 professional productions each year. Variety ranks us second in the country in touring company gross receipts. With so much theater, people on a budget have multiple ways to see quality theater. See “DC Theater is For Everyone,” at under “Theater Links.” And that's not counting movie theaters and all the other things we can do at night in this town. “What are we going to do tonight?” is never the question in DC. It's “What are we going to have to miss?”


Through a Glass, Darkly
Steph “Let the sunshine in” Faul,

Someone mentioned having problems with their car inspection because of glass tinting; not surprisingly, glass tinting regulations vary remarkably from state to state. In some states troopers even carry glass tint measuring devices that slip over the edge of a window and measure the light transmittance. For those who are thinking of spiffing up their new Beemers with some fancy aftermarket sun shading, here are the local ordinances, according to the AAA Digest of Motor Laws:

D.C.: Application of after-market vehicle glass-darkening material is restricted to rear and side windows only. Federal DOT standards apply. MD: Application of after-market vehicle glass-darkening material is permitted. Must meet state and federal standards for light transmission of 35% or higher as determined by visual testing and electronic metering. VA: No sun-shading or tinting films may be applied to front side windows that reduce light trasmittance to less than 50%, or rear and rear side windows to less than 35%. Vehicle must be equipped with two outside mirrors. This law applies to all vehicles operated on the highways of the Commonwealth.

Unfortunately the book doesn't spell out what the DOT standards are. In any case, I've paged through the Digest and every state is different. For example, Pennsylvania requires 70% light transmittance, Oklahoma 75%, Oregon 35%, and Rhode Island doesn't allow after-market tinting at all.


Independence Avenue Construction
William J. Jones,

Do any readers know the nature of the construction currently going on on either side of Independence Avenue between the Lincoln Memorial and the Tidal Basin? A number of “telephone poles” and accompanying wires are being strung, but their purpose is a mystery.


Jury Duty
Elliott Negin,

Rick Rosenthal asked about jury duty. I had grand jury duty in January 1998. You don't have to go in every day. If you're not picked the first day, you have to call in the night before every night for the following weeks and a message will tell you if you have to come in the following day — you are essentially "on call." (I never had to go in after the first day.) If you are picked for a jury the first day — or on a subsequent day — then you have to come in for the duration of the trial. Then you could be tied up for awhile. Good luck!

[I served on a grand jury last year — actually I volunteered for it, since I had been called for regular jury duty on a day when a grand jury panel came up short. I found serving on a grand jury a fascinating and worthwhile experience, but then I work writer's hours, so didn't miss work days. You can postpone jury service if you have a good excuse (illness, mandatory work duties, nonrefundable vacation plans, and so on), but you can't escape it completely without an even better excuse, like previous felony convictions. — Gary Imhoff]


Hotel Recommendations
Sarah Woodhead,

I am looking for a relatively affordable hotel to recommend to out-of-town visitors who are coming to D.C. in April. The hotel should be in DC, near a Metro station, clean, in a fairly safe area, and (the hardest part) affordable. I'm not sure what affordable means to the visitors in question, but perhaps less than $150 per night? Any recommendations?


Query/Research Question: Marion Barry's Early Career
Matthew Gilmore,

I have a researcher working on Marion Barry's early career — up to 1980. He's just starting, so he's looking at the secondary sources and hasn't jumped into the Star clippings yet. We know the Free DC stuff is in the SNCC materials on microfilm at the Library of Congress (originals at the King Center). Any suggestions for resources which aren't really obvious?


Chartering a Bus
Joshua Kranzberg,

I need to charter a bus for an upcoming event. The bus will take my guests from a hotel in Silver Spring to downtown D.C. on a weekend evening in January. The bus companies I've contacted all charge the same amount for a standard (47 passenger) bus, with the same or very similar terms (e.g. 4 hours minimum). I'm at a loss as to how to choose among them. Has anyone out there had any recent experience chartering a bus? Any recommendations and/or warnings would be greatly appreciated.



Book Sale on January 30
Matthew Gilmore,

The Friends of the Washingtoniana Division and the Historical Society of Washington have scheduled a book sale — January 30, 1999, 10 am - 4 pm (9-10 members of HSW & Friends preview). While each collection appreciates (and cherishes) gift material donated to it, sometimes you just get enough copies of some titles. What will be in the book sale are such which each collection has in sufficient quantities. We will accept items for sale as well. If you have books you would like to donate, please email either me ( ) or Gail Redmann ( ). Any questions please let us know.



Palm III Organizer for Sale
Julie Makinen,

I bought my husband a palm pilot for Xmas, but as things turn out he can't use it with the special interface of his computer at work (this is a very rare problem). It's brand new, works wonderfully, and I have all the packaging, instructions and invoice. Instead of mailing it back to the company I ordered it from (and paying a 15% restocking fee plus postage), I'm willing to part with it for $250. This is lower than you will find it anywhere. You can even get a free travel case with it, with a mail-in offer. If you're interested, please call me at 202-334-6453 or email me.


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