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January 20, 1999

On the Job Training

Dear Proofreaders:

You see, spell checkers are a wonderful thing, but sometimes your finger slips a little, and you hit “change,” when you should have hit “ignore,” and a perfectly fine and normal personal name get turned into something slightly similar but vaguely insulting, like Camille Barnett turns into a Baronet (at least in the early version of themail), and Lee Perkins writes in making fun of you, and Tom Hall, who submitted the item in question, writes in wondering what crew of monkeys you have typing this thing. Actually those aren't his exact words, and we in themail are proud of always quoting only the exact words used, or at least of using slightly similar words, for which Larry Seftor complained and demanded a correction which Mark Richards graciously makes below. Does that cover everything?

Below, learn two ways to get rid of your old computers, contemplate some very different thoughtful takes on the District's employment problem, be invited to recommend two necessities of life — good public schools and good plumbers — and more. Yes, even more.

Gary Imhoff


DC Public School Choices
Nuhad Jamal,

I have recently moved to DC without my family to take up a job and to scope out an appropriate place to live, so that my family can join me after the end of the school year. An appropriate place to live will, of course, have to include access to decent/good schools. My two kids are presently in the 7th grade (at Boston Latin — a prestigious exam public school), and the 1st grade (at Mission Hill — a pilot public school started by Debrah Meier).

I wonder if anyone can share their wisdom and experience about public school options in the city. I would much rather live in the city in the suburbs. I would also be interested in hearing your thoughts your thoughts about the school situation in Virginia and in Maryland. I've already heard that the 'middle schools' in DC are dreadful, that there are some good elementary school options, and that high schools are a lost cause. Any thoughts would be welcome.


DC Cable Quality in Northwest
Bill Adler,

Has anybody noticed that DC Cable reception of the broadcast channels, 4, 7, and 9, has gotten much worse lately? So bad, in fact, that these channels are sometimes unwatchable. I want to complain. I want to be able to watch channels 4, 7, and 9 without seeing Peter Jennings in triplicate. What is the best agency to complain to about DC Cable's signal? (I've had repair people here before and after massaging some wires they simply recite the mantra, “It's interference from the broadcast towers. Try using your TV antenna for those channels.) If this message seems familiar, it's because I posted a query about DC Cable
some time ago. But now I want to take the issue to the top, to the person or agency that actually might be able to do something, if such an entity exists.


Bob Barr and DC Voting Rights
Ann Loikow,

CPAC (the Conservative Political Action Conference) is having their 26th annual conference this week (Jan. 21-23) at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, VA. For District residents the most interesting event is a presentation on Saturday, Jan. 23, by Rep. Bob Barr — the Congressman who told DC voters they could only have their votes counted if they voted his way on the medical marijuana initiative — on “Defending Our Constitutional Rights.” Makes one wonder what “constitutional rights” someone like Barr could speak on. I'm sure “our” does not include American citizens living in the District of Columbia. The complete conference schedule is in an insert to the Washington Times for Jan. 18, 1999.


Economic Development — Job Training
David S. Reed,

Gary Imhoff invited comments on how D.C. can produce jobs and the workers to fill them. Part of the solution is to make better use of Federal job training money. The U.S. Dept. of Labor gives D.C. $13 million per year for job training. This money has produced scant results.

A 1997 review by U.S. Dept. of Labor showed why. D.C.'s spending per person enrolled was comparable to similar cities, but our spending per person placed in a job was much higher than similar cities; in fact, three times the national average. The problem is that so few of the people our job training programs “served” were actually given the help they needed to obtain employment. Outstanding oversight by Councilmember Patterson's Government Operations Committee has since ended the total squandering of D.C. tax dollars on “training programs” that literally did not train a single person, but we still face the challenge of making effective use of the Federal job training money. The new Control Board-appointed Director of the D.C. Dept. of Employment Services, Gregg Irish, has inspired a lot of confidence, but we can't expect to fix the system just by bringing in one person, no matter how good.

We could get a big improvement if D.C. Dept. of Employment Services only paid service providers for outcomes; that is, for getting a person to the point where he actually gets and holds a job. The Dept. says they already pay service providers based on “performance,” but they define performance so that a service provider can get most or all of its money by just going through the motions of enrolling a participant, conducting classes, etc., even if the participant doesn't wind up getting a job. If providers were paid only for outcomes, then programs that are generally ineffective, or inappropriate for the individuals they admit, would quickly disappear, and programs that actually help people get and keep jobs would flourish. I'm advocating for this approach among anyone who will listen, including my fellow members of the Private Industry Council, which oversees the job training programs. You might want to contact the Mayor and D.C. Councilmembers with your own views on outcome-based procurement for job training.


More Jobs in DC?
E. James Lieberman, M.D.,

As a physician, I apply for DC license renewal. The company handling the license is in Pennsylvania. As a taxpayer, I note that (some) DC tax matters require mailings to Virginia. Is this due to correctable deficiencies in DC government, or are computer and other requirements so sophisticated that specialist enterprises get the contracts (from other jurisdictions, too)?


Jobs for City Residents
Anne Drissel,

Why the hand wringing about the Washington Post moving from Springfield to College Park and calling it a “loss of jobs for DC.” DC residents interested in working for the Post at their new location can drive there, take a bus or Metro/bus combination, join a carpool or any number of other options. (College Park is probably more accessible that Springfield, so that news is potentially “good news” for DC folks!) Who said everybody who lives in DC should be able to work here? I personally drive 26 miles each way to my job in Reston. I figure the commute is the price I pay for living in my hometown of DC while doing work that is interesting and getting paid a decent salary. I know not everyone has a car but the Metro penetrates far into the suburban employment areas now and many of us have carpooled for years to jobs far distant from our homes. It's a fact of American life. I've met folks from West Virginia so desperate for jobs that they join van pools that leave at 5 AM to get to DC. Moaning about “the lack of jobs in DC” only serves to discourage people from noticing and applying for the incredible array of vacant jobs in surrounding areas. Give it up! Let's start celebrating the huge and ever-growing Employment Section in our local papers and encourage our unemployed or under-employed friends and neighbors to “check it out”!


Moving the Post’s Offices
Lee Perkins,

The City and Mayor Williams should have more concern about where the jobs and training for tomorrow's careers are going to be. I recently worked in Herndon, and my drive out there every morning saw many, many D.C. license plates on the road with me. Short outbound commutes are OK, perhaps more than OK because the commuter is going against the flow. But a 70 mile round trip daily? I don't think so. Recently, I attended an event at NOVA Community College in Annandale. I arrived at the parking lot just before the first of the evening classes. Again, I saw many cars with DC plates. If DC taxpayers have to go to VA for school and jobs, the time will come when it just makes more sense to live there. Pretty soon job-holding educated citizens will be even more of a minority in town than they are now.

The Post's local news coverage was never very good because the decision that the city didn't matter was made a LONG time ago. The best local news reporters are with the other papers. Post readers constantly encounter late, poorly researched, stories on local issues where the reporters constantly miss the point, get place names and people names and titles wrong, and do a slipshod job in general.

Camille Baronet's departure: I sometimes wonder if people would be so upset at the amount of her Platinum Parachute had she been male.


Post Moves Printshop
Victor Chudowsky,

I don't have the inside scoop on why the Post moved its print shop to the suburbs, but I'll venture a guess — it's a BUSINESS! Being completely rational, the Post decided to move to the suburbs because it costs less to operate there. Leaving aside real estate, the price of which varies widely within this city, costs for businesses in the district — taxes on wages, workmen's comp, are higher here than just across the line. What is remarkable is Ms. Loikow's suggestions for addressing this problem, namely “urging” and “helping” the Post to stay in the city, or “enticing” some other business blindly loyal to the District to take over. This way of thinking about economic development seems to be well ingrained in this city — businesses (and people) should stay because.....because.....well, because it is the District.

Instead of begging, pleading and enticing specific businesses to come or stay here, why don't we simply make it easier for ALL businesses make money by lowering taxes and other costs — particularly workmen's comp — and bring it into line with the suburbs. And what about addressing other issues — crime, vandalism, over-regulation, etc. Check out City Paper from a couple of weeks ago — they did a great story about a Korean guy trying to open a business mall on NY Avenue. This was the best article about “attracting business” in the District I have ever read. Same with people. If you want to bring people back here, then lower property and income taxes to rates comparable to the suburbs. Until this happens, we'll continue to scratch our heads and wonder why thousands of people and companies leave the District each year. The District COMPETES with the suburbs for business and people, and with the way both are “voting with their feet,” it is obvious we're the losers, despite increasingly hollow pleas and enticements.


Washington Post Printshop
Rich Mintz,

I can't say I agree with those of you who feel that the relocation of the Washington Post's print shop to College Park is an insult to the city, or a statement of priorities. It's a long planned (and openly so) economic decision by an institution that remains heavily invested in our region as a whole, and that is responsible (through the light it sheds on the important activities of our region's residents) for driving all sorts of resources our way from the world at large. It's also an acknowledgment of reality: from Columbia (or even Towson) down as far as Woodbridge, our region is one large, interdependent community (and free trade zone) nowadays, and businesses who act like the world is centered at 16th and K do themselves (and us, regionally speaking) an economic disservice. In no way is the Post “abandoning” Washington; the decision makers, and those who shape its core product (the news content, not the printed article itself) are as entrenched downtown as they ever were. For the record, I'm a downtown DC homeowner and resident.


Williams for Shaw, Shaw for Williams
Nick Keenan, Shaw,

I second the idea that the Mayor's residence should be in Shaw. Not only is it the geographic center of the city, but it is also at the front line of many of the real long-term issues facing the city — land use, economic development, job creation, population flight, education, and public safety, to name a few. My candidate for the new “Columbia Cottage” (or whatever we want to call it): the old Carnegie Library at Mount Vernon Square. It's suitably grand, it's city owned, and no one seems to know what to do with it — currently it's slated to be the construction headquarters for the proposed new convention center. For location it can't be beat — METRO accessible, equidistant between the White House and the Capitol, easy access to the Virginia and Maryland via 395 and New York Avenue, it is the perfect seat for a Mayor who intends to work closely with regional and federal officials.


Jury Duty
Jon Katz,

This responds to Ted Gest's message about jury duty. As an attorney who conducts jury trials in the Superior Court, Maryland, and Virginia, I have seen the substantial time burdens that jurors often face, in terms of time spent at the courthouse and missed opportunities while in court (e.g., for work and school). A person facing a crisis at work or in some other aspect of their lives cannot automatically get excused from a jury; it is the presiding judge who decides; fortunately, for foreseen time crunches, the prospective juror can ask to reschedule the jury duty date. Despite the imposition on jurors, jury trials are essential to the fair administration of justice. Also, more can be at stake for one or more litigants than one might first think. A person going to trial for a misdemeanor still faces exposure to incarceration, and to violating any probation and/or parole if convicted. A person injured in a moderate fender bender could have been seriously injured, and could be out of substantial funds for medical expenses, lost work, and property damage. Most countries have fully or mostly done away with jury trials; I'm happy that the United States still has them. It's a much more desirable alternative to having judges decide cases. No matter how good the judge, I'd rather have the option of several citizens deciding my case as jurors than having just one professional judge perform the task.


Annoying Phone Calls
Joan Eisenstodt,

In the January 25 Business Week is a short piece (page 6) about “The $2,000 Wrong Number” and what states are doing to combat annoying telemarketing calls. Georgia was given as an example: residents can pay $5 for 2 years to be on the “no call list” — and telemarketers can be fined $2,000 for ringing those on the list. GA it seems is not yet being vigilant enough but other states are trying too. I know we're not a state but any move afoot in our Council to do the same? It sure would be nice .. at twice the price!


Donating Used Computers
Lisa Lopez,

In response to Stephanie Gerard's query about used computers: Take your used computers, faxes, printers, etc. to Computer Reclamation in Silver Spring near Georgia Avenue. They give them to charitable organizations and give you a receipt for tax purposes. Address: 912 Thayer Avenue, Suite 2100; 301/495-0280. Call for directions.


Donating Your Other Used Computers
Mike Wilkinson,

The Native American Library and Museum Project (NALMP) collects computers and books and re-distributes them to disadvantaged Native American reservations across the country. Their most recent undertaking involves establishing a computer lab, web site, and traditional library at the Acoma Pueblo in New Mexico, and has gotten some very important corporate support. But individual book and computer donations are still the backbone of the project. I don't have the contact information here at my office, so for more information, e-mail me and I'll be able to send more information once I look through my files at home.


Recommendations Wanted
Michelle Treistman,

Can you recommend a reputable house cleaner? How about a reliable plumber? Both should service the Cleveland Park area, and the cleaning person must be dog friendly. Please send recommendations to . Thanks.


Mark Richards,

Mr. Seftor's words that “we live, work, and play in D.C. today” struck me as having motto potential, though they were in the context of the falling quality of D.C. movie theaters (which I agree with). When I expressed the motto idea, I wrote “A line in Larry Seftor's message could be our unofficial motto: 'DC — A good place to live, work, and play'” — adding the word “good.” I did not mean to put words in Mr. Seftor's mouth, I apologize for any confusion, and I take full credit for the concept as stated. The intent was friendly.



Michael Cottman Book Reading
Dorothy Brizill,

Michael Cottman, a Washington Post reporter who is covering the Mayor and the District government, will read from and sign his latest book, The Wreck of the Henrietta Marie, which is about the sinking of a slave ship off Key West in the 1700's, on Friday, January 22, at 6:00 p.m. at Vertigo Books, 1337 Connecticut Avenue, NW, one block south of Dupont Circle.


Tasting Society International January/February 1999 Calendar of Events
Charlie Adler, cadler@DGS.DGSYS.COM

1) “French Country Wines,” Thur., Jan. 21st, 7-9 p.m., Wyndham Hotel, 1400 M St., NW, $38; 2) “Wine Basics 101,” Wed., Jan. 27th, 7-9 p.m., Wyndham Hotel, $35; 3) “Wines of Spain and Portugal,” Thurs., Feb. 4th, 7-9 p.m., Wyndham Hotel, $38; 4) “California Dream Wines!” Tues., Feb. 9th, 7-9 p.m., Wyndham Hotel, $40; 5) “Wine Basics 101,” Thur., Feb. 11th, 7-9 p.m., Wyndham Hotel, $35, 6) Mardi Gras in Washington, D.C., Jambalaya, Gumbo, Dixie Beer and Zydeco Crayz Band, Feb. 16th (Fat Tuesday), 8-12 a.m., Wyndham Hotel, $55; 7) “Wine 102: Fool the Experts!” Wed., Feb. 17th, 7-9 p.m., Wyndham Hotel, $35. Reservations: RSVP at (202)333-5588 or email:, or the Reservation Form at our Web Page at


Dave Nuttycombe,

From's LOOSE LIPS column, appearing this Friday:
Barnett's Legacy: Camille Cates Barnett made headlines on Jan. 15, 1998, her first day in command of the D.C. bureaucracy.
Area forecasters were predicting the sort of snowstorm that had shut down the city in previous years, turning uncleared District streets into a metaphor for dysfunctional government. Determined to use the impending blizzard to her own symbolic advantage, Barnett rose before dawn and plotted the city's response with her new subordinates. The storm never materialized, but the local media chronicled her every command.
Almost a year later, on Friday, Jan. 8, the weather experts were calling for another whopper. This time, however, the city's management czar took a less aggressive management tack: She stayed home.
“She sat on her butt all day long,” says a control board source. Of course, that's just where Mayor Anthony Williams and the control board wanted her.
Read the entire Loose Lips column this Friday at:

From's CITY LIGHTS page, here are a few early warnings for upcoming events:
Monday, Jan. 25: “Noah's Flood: New Discoveries,” archaeological, linguistic, and genetic evidence that the flood helped create a wealth of human cultures that share only a dim memory of the event that forged them. At 6 p.m. at the Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden's Ring Auditorium, Independence Ave. & 7th St. SW. $13.
Wednesday, Jan. 27: Cartoonist Ben Katchor presents a slide show lecture, “Graven Images in the Popular Yiddish Press and Other Illicit Objects of Worship,” in conjunction with his new book, The Jew of New York. 7 p.m. at Borders, 18th & L Sts. NW. Free.
More details and more critics' picks are available online at


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