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January 10, 1999

Low Standards

Dear Standard Setters:

Below, Connie Ridgway asks whether themail should have some standards for publication. Oh, I do, but nothing I've received from you so far has been lower than my standards. (Dorothy nods knowingly in the background.) Now, I don't mean that as a challenge to you, but as a compliment. If you belong to other E-mail discussion groups or listservs, you'll recognize that our conversation is much more polite than you'll encounter on the average list, and the language we use about our elected officials certainly doesn't begin to approach what they deserve.

Gary Imhoff


Declaring Victory and Moving On (Part II)
Larry Seftor,

In the December 30 issue of “themail” I wrote about the tactic of “Declaring Victory and Moving On.” Little did I expect it to rear its ugly head so soon again, but in Camille Barnett's leaving we are seeing a primo example. Apparently she accomplished all of her five year goals in one year! Not being born yesterday, I understand that she is leaving due to the renewed ascendancy of the mayor's office. However, I don't understand why she received over $500,000 of total compensation for one year's work. Despite all the face-saving comments about internal improvements in the DC government, everyone knew that Ms. Barnett was brought in to provide a clear improvement in services to residents. That has not happened. And Ms. Barnett does not deserve $500,000 of the taxpayers money, particularly not the $95,000 characterized as a bonus!


Congresswoman Norton
Stephanie Gerard,

I so agree with Mr. Goldstein that there is no known benefit to the District from Congresswoman Norton, and I suspect people are afraid to say she's incompetent for fear of being politically incorrect. She seems to have won the seat as a reward for boohooing about her financial irregularities: the little lady was left in a mess by her big bad husband and of course didn't know anything about it, being the helpless female. (Somebody send that fool the Barbie doll that whines “Math is hard.”) I'd rather have no Congressional rep in Congress than support someone who is so disdained by the rest of the body — and still costing us a bundle. Her office doesn't even have e-mail. (I tried to contact them about the impeachment situation.)


Miscellaneous Meanderings
Mark Richards,

While I know some are less than enamored with Delegate Norton's performance over the past few years, I think we should recognize that she didn't have a lot to work with as long as Barry was at the helm. Think about what it must have been like talking with that Congressional crowd with little real power, daily articles in the Post showing what a dump we live in, and everyone else on your tail. I appreciate the newsletter because it gives me an idea of what she is doing and it is professional — if she didn't do that, people would complain that she didn't communicate. She could beef up her web site, however, and work
harder to get real public input through statistically representative polling, etc., and make it public. In any case, I think she is an asset for our city and I appreciate her work. But we need more representatives — 2 Senators and a Representative based on population — with real votes (to ask for less is stupid). While getting her symbolic vote back might make us all feel warm and fuzzy, I hope she, the new Mayor, and our citizens will really push for voting rights at this critical time in our history. As Ed Barron mentioned, they should be laying the groundwork for our future. I would like to see more attention given to our shadow Senators Pendleton and Strauss and the work they are doing. They were not even on the stage of the Mayor's swearing-in ceremony.

Jonetta Rose Barras suggested D.C. citizens call Tom Davis's office (202/225-1492 or 255-6751) before the Jan. 22 House Subcommittee public hearing to encourage him to support giving Mayor Williams the full power of mayor back so he can really do his job. I say let's ring the phone off the hook — this is a clear democracy issue and that would be a move in the right direction. This city has a history of splitting responsibility up so that nobody is accountable — time to change that. Let's help him get the resources he needs to do the work. The Post reported that Williams would like public input into where he should purchase his new residence. I think he should pick a location that could eventually become the site of a Governor's Mansion. Maybe it should be on a grand vista in line with the District Building — any ideas about how we could do that? Think Big, and we'll get 1/3 of the way.

Hotel: convenient and reasonable, just off Dupont Circle — the Hampshire Hotel at 1310 New Hampshire Avenue, NW, Tel 296-7600.


Congresswoman Norton
Mary Lou Fahey,

I strongly disagree with Mr. Goldstein's assessment of Congresswoman Norton. Although a Democrat, she worked very effectively with the Republicans in fashioning several tax breaks for D.C. residents. The effect of the $5000 tax credit for first time homebuyers should not be underestimated. We were recently able to buy a rental property in Bethesda at a very good price because our agent said first time buyers were all heading for DC. In addition, she managed to gain Republican support for a flat tax for DC residents. It was ultimately killed by the Dems, but she got farther with it than anyone had the right to expect. She did it because she has gained a great deal of respect on the Hill.


DC Land Deals — The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same
Dorothy Brizill,

Over the past months, there have been a few postings in themail about the Children's Hospital site, an entire city block bounded by 13th, W, 12th, and V Streets, one block from the U Street Metro station. The District purchased this and other land tracts in 1985 from developer Jeffrey Cohen for $12.6 million. Eight years ago, before the U Street Metro stop was finished and before the city cleared the site of the asbestos laden Children's Hospital building, the city was demanding $15 million for the property. However, when the Department of Housing and Community Development sold the block to developer Donatelli and Klein on December 4th, it claimed that the appraised value of the land had fallen to approximately $2.25 million. Then it reduced the appraised value to an asking price of $1.6 million by giving credits to the developer for the anticipated tax revenues that would be generated by the market priced housing to be constructed on the tract (individual units are expected to cost about $160,000 each). And Donatelli and Klein has been required to pay only $200,000 down, with the remaining $1.4 million to be paid in two equal payments, if and when the first and second phases of the development are finished. The land sale was completed on December 4, but the title and down payment are still being held in escrow because the title insurance company has refused to issue title insurance because of defects in the title. If the deal does eventually go through, we can only hope that it will be the last in the District's long series of sweetheart land deals.


Snow Non-Removal
Ralph Blessing,

Let's hope that the DC government's response to today's (Friday) snowfall is not what we can expect under our new mayor. On my way to work, between 8:15 and 9:00 a.m., I drove on a number of primary and secondary commuter routes — Wisconsin, Nebraska, Military, Alaska, 16th — and saw no evidence of snow removal or salt/sand. Only heavy traffic on the more heavily traveled streets (e.g., Wisconsin) appeared to be keeping them clean. During my 45 minutes on the road, I saw not one snow plow or salt/sand truck. A couple hours later, Connecticut near Van Ness still appeared totally untreated and, with additional snowfall, in worse condition, with traffic passing at a crawl. Is anyone in charge at DPW? Was there a sick-out to protest anticipated personnel moves by Mayor Williams? At least, we can be grateful that it wasn't a major snowfall.


Trash Pickup a Day Late
Connie Ridgway,

I've lived here 20 years, and my recollection is that the DC government always picks up the trash a day late after a holiday. So, I'm not sure Ms. Barnett can take the credit on the gentleman's trash pickup. However, I continue to be disturbed that: 1) the system is so unclear, in that not everyone knows about the schedule of pickups; 2) the phone numbers to call have been disconnected; and 3) the employees one reaches are inhospitable. Let's hope this gets changed soon (dare we have high expectations of Mr. Williams et al?)

Also, I am disturbed at the language used to denigrate Congresswoman Norton. It's fair to talk about whether she does a good job or not, but can we stay away from uncivil and ad hominem attacks? It seems that it's too easy to press the “send” button on an e-mail missive, and thus a lot of things get sent which we may think in our heads but then should certainly revise for public consumption after a good night's sleeping on it. I find that this is the down side of e-mail communication. The newspaper has some standards for publication — should themail?


Trash or Two
Anne Drissel,

Friday is trash day for my part of Mt Pleasant. Two holidays in a row. Our trash was picked up promptly on Saturday morning — the day after each of the holidays. Thanks DPW. Perhaps the question has to do with differential motivation for some workers compared to others. Maybe the good ones should get praised and a higher esteem in their own department and among the folks who know them. The others should be told to shape up or ship out. And meanwhile they should feel a slight “chill” as people let them know that bad attitudes and slipshod performance no longer get high esteem ratings in this town!


The Chickens Have Come Home to Roost
Ed T. Barron,

Some of you may remember my inputs to the D.C. Story about a year and a half ago recommending that UDC be converted to another form of educational institution because it was failing miserably in its intended mission. At that time I recommended notifying all the teaching staff that they would be terminated. This notification was required since the union contract stipulated that teachers were entitled to a one year notification prior to their termination. Nobody was notified and, when the new university president came aboard, he let many of the teachers go with the approval of the Control Board. Guess what?? The teachers who were let go are now suing the city and they will most certainly win their suit for back pay. The chickens have come home to roost.


And They're Supposed to Be on OUR Side!
Lorie Leavy,

After reading People for the American Way's full page Post ad decrying the impeachment process, I visited their new web site ( ) hoping to find an easy way to e-mouth off to the Senate leadership. And, yes, the site does offer an opportunity to write comments for delivery to senators. But when I entered my D.C. ZIP code, I was rebuffed with the message, “Skip this step [i.e., the writing of comments]. There are no senators at your locale.”

How demoralizing that PFAW, tireless and well-funded defender of our civil liberties, seems just as willing as the Republican Party to deny D.C. residents a voice. In the end, my indignation completely redirected, PFAW got the piece of my mind that I was unable to give the Senate. You may wish to offer them some constructive criticism as well.


Natural Gas Free Market
Gabe Goldberg,

Marcus Rosenbaum asked: “Is there any reason I should stick with Washington Gas rather than pick a cheaper supplier?”

Here's a better reason to stick with them than WGL's longevity: For more than five years, WGL has made available meeting rooms for community groups such as CPCUG (Capital PC User Group) Internet SIG (special interest group). WGL people are friendly and helpful, and meeting facilities are excellent. I'm not sure an out-of-town conglomerate or a local startup company would be quite so community minded. For me, if the price difference is small, I might vote to spend the pennies in the community.

[The Public Service Commission of DC has what it describes as “a consumer education program to augment Washington Gas and the natural gas supplier's information about the pilot program.” To have a representative of the Public Service Commission make a presentation at a meeting of your ANC or civic organization, call 626-5120. — Gary Imhoff]


A Milestone for the Quality of Life
Larry Seftor,

One of the problems in evaluating the quality of life in DC is that because of the slow pace of change, one becomes acclimated to the status quo, and loses sight of what has been. My wife and I took a few minutes the other night to list the movie theaters that existed in DC only a few years ago, but are now gone. Our list is: the Paris, the Jennifer, the MacArthur, the Key, the Biograph, the Fine Arts, the Cerebrus, the Embassy, and the West End. The list came quickly to mind because these were institutions that were a regular part of our routine. From time to time we hear about grand plans for new movie palaces in DC, but the fact is that we live and work and play in DC today. And today, at least in this one respect, DC is less than it used to be.


Information on Mrs. Simpson's
Nefretiti Makenta,

Does anyone know any former employees of Mrs. Simpson's Restaurant? I am working on a story about the restaurant's closing. If you have any information, please contact Nefretiti Makenta at the Washington City Paper, 202-332-2100 ext. 458. Thank you.


Postal Rates Go Up
Ed T. Barron,

I don't ever remember them going down, but on Sunday, 10 January, first class postage rates go up a penny to 33 cents for the first ounce. Subsequent ounce rates stay at 22 cents. Soooo, it's time to load up on those one cent stamps until you use up those nice 32 cent stick-on stamps.


January Edition of NARPAC Web Site Looks to Long-term Solutions
Len Sullivan,

The National Association to Restore Pride in America's Capital has revised its web site for January (See “What's New?” at ) with new headline summaries, new correspondence, reference to Chicago's moves towards regionalization, and quotes from the Washington Post's editorial supporting abolition of the DC subcommittees of the Congress. NARPAC's latest editorial view urges the new Mayor not to neglect the long-term systemic changes needed to invalidate criticisms that DC still: wants to bribe people to live here; seeks federal subsidies to support its oversized local government; subsidizes federal lobbyists at the expense of small businesses; erects barriers to gentrification of run-down neighborhoods; and is distrusted by the Congress.

The site also provides preliminary tabulations of the major long-term changes required to make DC a truly exceptional American city in each of eight functional areas (e.g., education, economic development) and estimates the progress (if any) so far. We encourage comments and suggestions for improving this early straw man and developing it into a score sheet for progress towards a permanently first-rate capital metro area. Many of the suggestions involve efficient regional solutions to common regional problems. Take a look.



Sandy Carroll,

Interested in a Good Hike? The Wanderbirds Hiking Club meets every Sunday at 8:00 a.m. at two locations in the area; one is 17th and K Streets, NW. We take a bus to the trail, hike a few miles, return to the bus for beer and munchies, and then back to 17th and K. Two challenging hikes are scheduled every week (rain, shine, or weather) which include a moderate hike and a long hike, and beginners are welcome. You can check out the hiking schedule on the Wanderbirds Web site at . If you are interested in signing up for a hike, call one of the hike leaders listed on the schedule. They will be happy to give you detailed information.


Non-Profit Career Fair
Gary Alvino,

ACCESS: Networking in the Public Interest will be producing “Non-Profit Career Fair & Expo '99” at the Washington Convention Center on Thursday, April 8. It will serve as a forum for DC-area nonprofits to recruit employees, interns, volunteers, and program applicants. Exhibitors will be drawn from all areas of the nonprofit sector as well as socially responsible businesses and selected government agencies. Admission at the door is $5 to students w/ valid ID and $15 for non-students. For more information, contact ACCESS: Networking in the Public Interest, 1001 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 838, Washington, DC 20036, (202) 785-4212,


Microenterprise Program Orientation Session
Rachel Bird Anderson,

FINCA USA is a private non-profit organization whose mission is to promote economic development through self-employment. FINCA USA may be able to help you with group and individual loans (potential for $5,000 in 10 months, starting with a $500 loan), small business training (enroll in a class on financing, bookkeeping, and marketing), peer support (join a “self-employment business association” and benefit from networking). Come to our next orientation session to find out more about our microenterprise program: Monday, January 18, 6:30–8:30 pm, FINCA USA Offices, 1101 14th Street, NW, 11th floor. Please call Elizabeth Crittendon at 202-682-1510, ext. 241, to reserve a place and let us know you are coming.



Adams Morgan Apt. Rental
Lynne Mersfelder,

Thoroughly charming rental in Adams Morgan available. It is a one bedroom condo unit. Available immediately. Washer-dryer, dish washer, central air, balcony overlooking a private garden, plenty of light, new paint, good storage space. Rent approximately $915/month. Call Gary at (703) 658-9105.


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