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January 17, 1999

Moving the Post Offices

Dear Fellow Toilers:

Tonight's themail touches on many issues, but I'll just comment on Ann Loikow's posting below. She raises two separate issues, both important. First is the nature of economic development in the District. Do we have any hope of producing the kinds of jobs our residents need, or of producing the kinds of workers needed for the jobs we now have in the city? How do we do either of those things? Second is the nature of our major news source, the Washington Post. Moving the printing plants is just further confirmation of the analysis that the Post's management made years ago — the center of the newspaper's circulation, readership, and advertising revenue isn't in the city anymore, but in the suburbs. What does that imply for coverage of our city?

Your thoughts on either of these issues will be gratefully received.

Gary Imhoff


Economic Development
Ann Loikow,

Has any one commented on the recent loss of one the District's last big manufacturing businesses — i.e., the Washington Post's print shop (first to Springfield, VA and now to College Park, MD)? This shifted a lot of well paying union jobs as well as part-time piece work (see Jan. 10, 1999 Washington Post, p. B8 of Metro section about weekend “insert” jobs). Both types of jobs are desperately needed in the city. Twenty years ago, printing was one of the major businesses in the District. Since then, we have lost almost all of it to the suburbs. Looking at its editorial and news coverage, the Post should change its name to the “Suburban Post” or the “National Post.” Where were the city and the control board in working with the Post and urging it (and helping it) keep its printing plant in the city? The Jan. 10 article also notes that the Post shut down its presses in SE Washington (old Washington Star building) last month and is trying to sell it. Does any one know of a paper that would be much more locally oriented that we could entice to buy and operate it?


CamilleGate: A Bargain for D.C.?
Thomas C. Hall,

An editorial in this week's (Jan. 15-22) Washington Business Journal sees Camille Baronet's buyout as a bargain, rather than a rip-off for the District. To wit:

Those who are “shocked, shocked” at Barnett being paid $500,000 a mediocre cameo appearance as chief management officer forget how recently such mistakes were counted in millions, not thousands of dollars. Under the terms of her contract, Barnett is entitled to be paid her full $155,000 annual salary for four more years, whether or not she stays or earns the $620,000 balance remaining. In that light, isn't giving Barnett $275,000 to go quietly a bargain? With the $345,000 saved, the city can hire a real hands-on manager for three years at a salary of $115,000 — the exact amount budgeted for the vacant city administrator's position.

Barnegt's platinum parachute didn't seem unseemly to former Chairman Andrew Brimmer, who has sat on the boards of Gannett, DuPont, BankAmerica and Mercedes-Benz. In the world of Fortune 500 boardrooms, this bloodless coup came cheap. Let's get real. Barnett's buyout is a fraction of the waste that occurred under the city's elected leaders before the control board was created in 1995. Lest we forget, if the District's elected leaders had acted responsibly, there would be no control board, no Barnett and no buyout boondoggle. In truth, horror stories like this one are getting harder to come by, now that someone is actually monitoring the District's finances. The fact that CamilleGate carries such shock value, in fact, is a tribute to how far we've come.


Commanding Presence
Rich Mintz,

Regarding the Mayor's official residence, Randy Wells writes: “Finally, so as to reflect our Mayor's modest grandeur (‘don't demand respect, command it’), we should find a suitable moniker for the new home/office. Perhaps something along the lines of NYC's Gracie Mansion, though really neither Governor's nor Mansion really suits. Perhaps Columbia Cottage?”

If I may respond to a lightly intended comment in a more serious way: it's about time we in the District began insisting on taking ourselves seriously, and living the way we would like to be seen by the world. Self image begins at home. The capital city of the most politically influential nation on earth — a place that is widely viewed as one of the world's most human scaled and livable major cities — has no reason to have an inferiority complex. Our problems are temporary, from a historical perspective. Our city's beauty and stateliness, on the other hand, have endured and will endure, thanks in no small part to the commitment of the people who live here (and, to give credit where credit is due, to ample investment and enlightened stewardship by the General Services Administration, as it continues “Building for the People of the United States of America,” and other agencies). I think it would be wonderful if we, the people of the District, owned a “Mansion” for our Mayor, which we maintained with pride and dignity.


Please Don't Seek Government Intervention on the Cigarette Signs
Jon Katz, Marks & Katz, LLC

This responds to Wendy Green's question about who can be called to complain about a cigarette billboaRd truck parked outside an elementary school. As much as I detest cigarette advertising, I don't want to see the government curbing any advertising on the basis of content, including cigarette advertising; I am a free expression fanatic (and I hate cigarette smoke). Alternatives to complaining to the government include complaining to the distributor that owns the truck; you may find out that the owner is a local distributor, and not the national cigarette company. Complaints to corporations often fall on deaf ears, but
sometimes a positive change can come from well presented complaints, particularly when the company's business is primarily local.


Need Incentives to Encourage Neighborhood Reporting
Mark Richards,

Our trash in Woodley Park wasn't picked up last Thursday, but they took it 8 days later. Fortunately, we didn't get fined for the pileup. The other day when it was snowing I stopped in a local market at 17th and R NW on my walk home from work. The owner told me the street hadn't been plowed all day. I discovered that it hadn't occurred to he nor his wife to call the city to report it. He had probably discussed it with his customers all day, getting annoyed. I thought I would find or develop a simple one page list of where citizens (not customers!) can call when there are issues to be addressed, and give it businesses in my neighborhood and to members of the Stand Up for Democracy Coalition to distribute. If they haven't already, maybe the Williams Administration could do this (with a “last resort number” if all else fails). It could be distributed to all DC businesses and community groups with a letter encouraging them to call — this should increase reporting. Small business owners would be a good target because they tend to be conscientious and aware of neighborhood details. But there are other factors that inhibit reporting — some small business owners avoid calling downtown for anything because they're afraid they will annoy someone and provoke random acts of meanness; they don't want trouble. Small businesses are a backbone that need strengthening — some of the only historic buildings left are ones that have been held by small businesses who refused to sell to developers.

Incidentally, I think the Harvard School of Management teaches that the expense of poor morale created by those who are out to undermine new leadership in an organization will be more costly in the long run than the amount of the payoff package required to avoid lawsuits and encourage troublemakers to move on and pursue new objectives. Nevertheless, the Congress/CB should pick up the $500K tab for their former employee, Dr. Barnett.

[One list of useful DC government telephone numbers is on the DCWatch web site at — if you find any additions or corrections to the list, please E-mail them to — Gary Imhoff]


Pay Phones and the “Public Service” Commission
Andrea Carlson,

The Public Service Commission, set up to oversee public utilities and ensure that they're safe and affordable to consumers, is responsible for reviewing and approving (or, in theory, denying) applications for new pay phones. Here in Shaw, we have an overabundance of these phones. We have evidence that shows a correlation between these phones and an active drug trade. (Dealers “tag” the phones with graffiti, which gives them exclusive rights to use the phone to conduct business.) At one point, we had five pay phones at a single intersection. In July, 1996 we filed a complaint with the PSC to try to get at least four of them removed. One was in clear violation — it wasn't even licensed. Another was voluntarily removed from the building where it was housed — after that building was destroyed by fire. And Bell Atlantic removed another, once it heard neighbor's complaints. There was still one too many. So in March of 1997, we had a formal hearing with the PSC, asking them to remove the phone. They said they'd have a decision in two weeks. Yesterday, twenty-two months and many phone calls and letters later, I got notice that they had finally decided to remove the phone. It's a small victory, but it offers a ray of hope for residents in the battle over pay phones. We have requested a moratorium on the installation of new phones, but the PSC has chosen to ignore our wishes.


Plethora of Public Pay Phones and the PSC
Paul Williams,

My neighbor, Ms. Carlson, and I scored a success to get rid of a problem pay phone at the corner of 11th and S Streets that has been used for drug dealing. But our success should be an incentive for you to not allow more than one at your corner: It took us 2 and a half years to have it removed!! We once had five phones at the intersection, and three more within a block.

Our first informal complaint hearing in front of the Public Service Commission was on July 31, 1996. Our formal hearing was March 26, 1977. Incredibly, it took the PSC 22 months (that's right) to render a decision in the case: and they decided on January 11, 1999 that the phone be removed within 10 days. Your ANC member gets a notice about pay phone applications and is supposed to inform the community when one is pending. Be warned that if the phone goes in and becomes a problem, it can take a long time to have it removed!


Eleanor Holmes Norton
Beth-Ann F. Gentile,

I, too, agree that the District is not benefiting from Eleanor Holmes Norton. Unfortunately, much like many incumbents in the District, she has acquired a sense of entitlement to the office. A good candidate to challenge her in 2000 will force her to realize that she is actually holding an elective office. Norton entered office under the cloud of nonpayment of District of Columbia taxes over a period of years. I always wondered if her domicile when she first ran was New York state. This might explain why she, an intelligent and independent woman, could defend her nonpayment of DC taxes only by feigning ignorance and blaming everything on her husband. She couldn't have a New York domicile and, at the same time, run for DC non-voting delegate. Just a thought.


The Jury Is Out
Ted Gest,

This is a mild complaint compared with many in this forum, but I wondered what our members think of D.C. jury service these days. I spent the better part of three days last week at Superior Court on what might charitably be called a minuscule criminal case that amounted to little in the end (mistrial apparently due to poor lawyering, then a judge's guilty finding to truly minuscule charge.) The one day-one trial concept is fine, but my experience was that there was little sense of urgency or concern about the time of jurors. I recall an article recently reporting that large numbers of summoned D.C. jurors fail to show up, and the court system does nothing about it. If correct, that means that those who do appear risk spending lots of time on minor matters. Maybe this is my imagination, but it seems that with the city's high crime/litigation rate and falling population, the jury pool is under stress.


Cyberspace Slip and Geographic Sensitivity
Mark Richards,

Connie Ridgway is correct about E-mail — one can zip out a little message and bingo! ...back petal time. I've pressed the button more than once when I should have used the committee review method (a sure way to slow things down for a season or two). Some of us just have a knack for opening mouth, inserting foot. On the other hand, it's great to be able to move information rapidly and to connect through — as the Chinese dissidents say — tunnels. Imagine the loss if our “tunnel” networks were suddenly crippled! I think we're all still learning E-mail etiquette. At times, in courtesy I forward items I think will be of interest to people I barely know, but I worry they may be annoyed and consider it SPAM. Frequently, people thank me.

Larry Seftor mentioned cinemas closing — sad fact. (I will not ever shop at the CVS in Georgetown that was once the Biograph. They should be fined dearly for the damage they did to that building — they actually worked to make it look like any old suburban store in Anywhere, USA. Maybe CVS's corporate office could take some lessons from Washington Gas, which seems to have developed some 3rd Party Advocates in this city by being a bit geography sensitive.) A line in Larry Seftor's message could be our unofficial motto: “DC — A good place to live, work, and play.”


New Postal Rate
Frank Pruss,

With regard to Lois Kirkpatrick's complaint about “expensive mailings.” Philatelic sales are “money in the bank” for the US Postal Service, and are a prime component in subsidizing the extraordinarily low postage rates enjoyed by all US citizens. The USPS' Philatelic Service operates its own marketing programs, designed to encourage interest in stamps and stamp collecting, out of a budget that is solidly in the black, returning significant profits for USPS operations. Due to extraordinary economizing efforts and productivity enhancements, the USPS has managed to delay this tiny rate increase to approximately 18 months later than scheduled, while at the same time improving performance against on-time delivery goals. Just remember the old song: “You don't know what you got 'til its gone.” Hopefully it will be a long, long time before the USPS disappears.


Wag the Dog in the Snow
David Wong,

I am responding to the person who wrote to complained that he cannot walk his dog because people did not shovel the side walks. He criticized that people have no personal decency and civil responsibilities to shovel walks in this UPPER class ward. Hey, I shovel the walk so people use it on their way to Metro and other convenience. But I have to do it at my own time. My neighbors are elderly. They cannot do the job. So they have to hire people to do it. I wonder, if every dog walker would go up to the house which has a clean walk and thank them for it. Otherwise, the walks will be icy and next time, you might just have
to wag the dog. It is common decency to say thank you when someone provided you a free service, isn't it? I love this city. But I think we are hearing too many complaints. Let us be encouraging and hopeful, happy and helpful.


North Side, South Side, All Around the Town
Steph “Sidewalks of D.C.” Faul,

Readers who are unhappy with distribution of sidewalk and street clearing after the recent storm need to look higher than their neighbors or the mayor for assistance. Mother Nature bringeth the snow, and Mother Nature taketh most of the snow away. It's astronomical: This time of year the sun shines from the south and casts long shadows. Sidewalks and streets that lie in shadow most of the day will melt much more slowly than those in the sun. This means, for example, that sidewalks on the north side of the street may be clear and dry while the south side is still icy, regardless of whether or not anybody did any shoveling at all.

And for what it's worth: The last time I saw a snowplow was just before the storm hit. It was idling at Reno and Military Road, waiting for action. Also, the ice that caused crashes on Reno Road came from a water main break. That's still a DPW problem, but it's a water maintenance problem, not a snow removal problem.


How Low Will They Go?
Willie Schatz;

Like Carl Bergman, I too was blessed enough to receive the National Student Financial Aid package congratulating my son for being one of the few, the proud and the brave. But there endeth the similarity. The thing obviously was so bogus I didn't even open it. My trash can thanked me profusely for its prodigious snack.


Good Tennis Player Wanted
Paul Penniman,

My tennis partner needs a new partner Tuesday nights at 8:30 at Carter Barron. His old partner, me, has been injured beyond repair and must now do those sissy sports like golf and swimming. Seriously, if you know of a 5.0 male (college caliber or a notch below) who can play indoors till April, please let me know. No charge.


Use for Used Computers?
Stephanie Gerard,

I think I've seen mentions in the Mail about places that need used PCs — charities or non-profits. Can't seem to recall the names of such orgs .... can anyone suggest? grazie.



Chevy Chase Multimedia Group
Phil Shapiro,

The Chevy Chase Multimedia Group is a newly formed group that meets the first Monday of each month, from 7 pm to 9 pm, in the upstairs large meeting room at the Chevy Chase DC library, 5625 Connecticut Avenue, 1/2 block south of Chevy Chase Circle, on the east side of Connecticut Avenue. (Closest cross street is McKinley St.) Chevy Chase DC library is located directly on the L2 bus line which also stops at Dupont Circle, Adams Morgan, and the Woodley Park, Cleveland Park, and Van Ness subway stops. Chevy Chase DC library (also called Chevy Chase Regional library) is located 1/2 block south of the last stop of this bus line, at Chevy Chase Circle.

The meeting room for these meetings is a large, comfortable room and the meetings will have access to a Sony projection system that displays Mac, Windows, and video signals (composite and S-video). Meetings are cross-platform (Mac and Windows) and cover such topics as QuickTime, RealVideo, Flash, Powerpoint, Director, and HyperStudio, as well as video production and editing topics. Depending on interest, the meetings might also cover DV and FireWire topics. The first meeting of this group will take place on Monday, February 1, from 7 pm to 9 pm. All meetings are free and open to the public.


MLK Celebration
John Capozzi,

Barney Circle is hosting its ninth annual anti-crime march on MLK Day, Monday the 18th. Join Mayor Tony Williams, Delegate Eleanor Holmes-Norton, and Chief of Police Ramsey in our fight against crime and to celebrate the 9th anniversary of our Orange Hat patrol. Food and refreshments provided. 7:00 pm, Providence Baptist Church 15th and Kentucky Avenue, SE. We have a few nice row houses for sale in near Barney Circle and the Mayor will be encouraged to consider the neighborhood in his search. After 9 years we have an extremely low crime rate. For more info please call John Capozzi, 202-544-0821.


Correction in Listed Date of Event at Chevy Chase DC Library
Phil Shapiro,

Thanks to a kind DCWatch reader who pointed out a day/date mistake in my previous posting. Griot Craig Anthony Bannister will be coming to Chevy Chase DC Library on Wednesday, Feb. 10th, from 7:30 to 8:30 pm. Further info about the event is available from reference librarian Tammy McKinney, (202) 727-1341.



Scrabble Club Redux
Ted Gest,

When the Chevy Chase Community Center renovation displaced our northwest D.C. Scrabble Club, Fresh Fields on upper Wisconsin came to the rescue. But now Fresh Fields also is under renovation, so we have to scramble again. We may be able to meet in D.C. libraries, but the (welcome) expansion in library hours has caused a shuffling of available times. Any of you who may know a convenient and free or cheap place in upper Northwest where up to 20 folks can play Scrabble from about 6-10 p.m. Tuesdays are encouraged to e-mail me or call 202 966 5215.



Repair Storm Damage
Philip Walker, Jr.,

Let Pete help get your gardens back in shape from the devastating ice storms. Pruning, debris removal, plant removal. Not too late for mulching and winter clean ups. Now is also a great time to begin planning your spring landscape projects. Many satisfied themail readers as clients.


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