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January 24, 1999

Improving Reception

Dear Receivers:

Cable television continues to be a hot topic in themail. There are two reasons to hope that DC Cablevision will improve in the long run, if not soon. First, it is finally going to get competition from Starpower, the Pepco/RCN company that now provides local and long-distance telephone service and Internet service (it owns Erols). Starpower is laying optical cable, and will provide cable TV, telephone service, and cable Internet through that optical cable. I understand that Starpower TV cable may be available now in a few apartment buildings on an experimental basis; has any themail reader had any experience with it? Second, AT & T is buying TCI, the corporation that owns District Cablevision, and AT & T, whatever can be said about it, understands the importance of customer service. Has any themail reader had any luck in getting problems with DC Cablevision resolved through a complaint to the DC Office of Cable Television, which regulates it?

Still pending are requests for recommendations for good public schools in DC and for a plumber, and new to this issue are requests for recommendations for a painter and automobile mechanic. If you have had good experiences in any of these areas, let us all know.

Gary Imhoff


A Residence for Mr. Peepers?
Ralston Cox, Strivers' Section Historic District,

I'd vote against Shaw as a location for a couple of reasons: (1) I don't think Shaw is the geographic center of DC. While 8th Street was certainly an important axis in the L'Enfant plan for the Federal DC (being equidistant between the Capitol and the White House) one should note that the non-Federal DC is much larger than L'Enfant planned for; any geographers wanna' take a stab at this? and (2) I think the Mayor should live somewhere NOT in northwest DC. It's where I live and I like it, mind you, but I think the City would be better served if he were somewhere east of the Capitol and maybe east of the River?

As to the Mt. Vernon Library idea, the Museum of the History of DC is going there, if sufficient $$$s are raised by the DC Historical Society. Now that's a great idea, even though it was thrust upon the City by Congress. My vote is for the former Naval Hospital on Pennsylvania Avenue SE (at 10th?). It occupies the entire block, I think (which makes security concerns much easier to address and much less intrusive for the neighbors) and it's got great possibilities. The city has been neglecting it/abusing it for years now — and it's a really great building. Maybe if the Mayor lives over there, something will be done to finally resolve the Eastern Market problems? Or maybe we could put him up at St. E's?


College Tuition Relief for D.C. Residents?
Phil Greene,

Thursday's Washington Post front page had an interesting story about a proposal, being led by Cong. Tom Davis (R.-VA) under which DC high school graduates would be able to avail themselves of the same tuition breaks that state residents receive at their own state schools. For example, while Virginia residents can receive an in-state discount at fine state schools such as the University of Virginia, William and Mary, James Madison, etc., DC residents are left with few such options (UDC, anyone?). The tuition "discounts" would be funded by the Federal Government.

It sounds like a great idea, and with three small kids, I'm very enthusiastic. However, there's one potential problem (aside from the fact that it hasn't been enacted yet). Davis said that it was still not clear as to whether the benefits would be available to private school graduates, or just to public school grads. If the Congress is serious about stemming the flight of the middle class from DC, they will be wise to include all students. After all, similar state programs aren't restricted to public high school students, why should D.C.'s? I know, I know, how naive of me to assume that we might get the same benefits as do “real” states. Anyway, I am planning on contacting Tom Davis' office to voice my support for the plan in general, and especially to support the inclusion of private school students, as well. If you wish to send him an e-mail, send it to


It’s Really Time Now
Ed T. Barron,

With the impending bill to allow DC students to attend local universities and pay “In-state” tuition fees (I first proposed this a year and a half ago), it is finally time change the current UDC mission. UDC should be, at best, a Community College. More rightly, it should be a remedial school to bring high school graduates up to a level where they could function in a real four year college. UDC could also be a school supported by industry to train and educate their customers to develop specific skills that would enable them to acquire, and perform well in, a good paying job. If there was ever a time to dump UDC as it is today, it's really time now.


Bribing Americans to Live and/or Work in Their Nation's Capital
Len Sullivan,

Three cheers for Anne Drissel, Victor Chudowsky, and Rich Mintz. NARPAC agrees that it is antithetical to the American Way — to say nothing of simply embarrassing — to suggest that Americans should be bribed to live or work in their nation's capital as a means of raising revenues. Why should we be subsidizing seats at the 50-yard line to get people into the stadium or out from behind the goal posts?

DC has ignored many ways to raise its revenue base by increasing the total taxable base of its own properties. These include such rational steps as: a) removing rent controls; b) upgrading neighborhoods to suburban living standards; c) encouraging higher density residential areas; d) revamping DC's property tax assessment methods; e) relaxing building height restrictions towards DC's boundaries with its high-rise neighbors; f) encouraging business growth near its metro stations instead of using them as rural bus stops; g) ceasing to attract the poor with excessive welfare payments; h) streamlining business regulations — or adopting regional standards; h) levying taxes (gross receipts, whatever) on such DC core businesses as lobbying and consulting; i) developing new concepts of what 21st Century central cities should aspire to, instead of denying valid suburban preferences and market economics; and j) working to get rid of Congressional oversight subcommittees (including members and staff) with clear suburban conflicts of interest who oppose leveling the metro area playing field.

Furthermore, there are very valid arguments for soliciting tax assistance from: a) the Federal Government through some sort of payment in lieu of (property) taxes; b) Maryland and Virginia through some sort of state payments in lieu of (commuter) taxes; and c) from American citizens countrywide, perhaps through some voluntary check-off box (for, say, $5) on the federal income tax forms. This is, after all, our nation's capital city and metro area. Let's hear it for pursuing some bold new initiatives instead of subverting the American Way.


Joyce Chiang Missing
Lisa Castagnozzi,

My friend's friend Joyce Chiang, INS attorney and former staff member for Congressman Howard Berman of California, has been missing since January 9 from the DuPont area. If you live in the area, ask your friends and neighbors if they were in the vicinity during the night in question. If they or you yourself have information, call the numbers below. Your call will remain confidential. In the coming days, there will be an organized canvassing campaign to distribute leaflets with Joyce's photo and reward information in and around the Dupont Circle area. Please be on the lookout for announcements.

Joyce Chiang, Chinese American female, age 28, 5'3" tall, 105 pounds, brown eyes, long black hair extending past her shoulders. Wearing hooded thigh length green suede jacket, light blue jeans, black turtleneck, red paisley scarf around neck, and black scarf on her head. Last seen in Dupont Circle at R Street and Connecticut Avenue, near La Tomate restaurant on January 9, 1999 (Saturday), around 8:30 pm, heading westbound across Connecticut Avenue toward Starbucks.

Joyce went to work that day at INS headquarters around 2 pm, then went with two female friends to see a movie. The two friends decided to go to dinner, but dropped Joyce off near Connecticut and R Streets in Dupont Circle because she had a telephone call to make. She lives about 2 blocks from the drop-off point with her brother Roger, who does advance work for Andrew Cuomo at HUD. Joyce crossed the street to Starbucks, and has not been seen since. Her ID was found in Anacostia Park late last week. Joyce's mother flew in from California over to weekend to be with Roger. Since Joyce is a federal employee, the FBI is involved, along with Park Police and Metropolitan DC Police. Call 202/278-2382 (FBI) or 202/616-5000 (INS) if you have any information. All information will be kept confidential.


Public School Choices
Lee Perkins,

The prospect is not good when coming from Boston, as someone who grew up in Massachusetts, where my nieces and nephews are now being educated. All three jurisdictions are equally horrible compared with your kids' current schools. Private education is unbelievably expensive here. There are only a couple of private schools that are any good, and they have waiting lists that are really really long. Then again, this is a highly transient area, and you may luck out. In D.C., the only good ones are: Sidwell Friends and Georgetown Day. The public schools in Alexandria are probably the best of the public schools. I have done a program at Minnie Howard Middle School in Alexandria, and would have no problem sending my kids there.

Fairfax schools are vastly overrated. My sister made major financial sacrifices to send my nephew to an elementary school in McLean. When they returned home after a year of an overburdened teacher, traumatized kids (one little girl who was an Afghan refugee, hit the floor every time a truck backfired outside — which happened a lot since the school was next to a construction site) homework assignments that were an insult to even moderate intelligence; he had to repeat sixth grade. Everyone has opinions about the schools. The real estate agents will tell you what you want to hear just to make the sale. Best is to visit the school and see if you'd want your kid to spend all day there.


Jobs for City Residents
Richard Stone Rothblum,

I second Anne Drissel's comments on The Post moving to College Park from Springfield. College Park is much more accessible to DC residents than Springfield. College Park is served by Metro, and has all day parking at the Metro stop for $1 per day. Plus, there are bike paths galore, and bus and shuttle service. College Park is a lot closer to Anacostia — I think that in fact, it borders the Anacostia River. A branch of the river runs right through the University of Maryland. In principle, at least, you could commute by canoe to College Park from Anacostia — for real by bike.


Business in DC
Kurt Vorndran,

Just two brief comments. The Washington Post (like PEPCO and Washington Gas) should be concerned about the core urban area because that is where their customer base is. If the city declines, they lose subscribers (I know many satisfied suburbanites who subscribe to the NY Times or USA Today and get the Journal papers for local news, as well as Howard Co. residents who get the Baltimore Sun). The Post knows this, hence their concern for downtown development, but would like to have it both ways as much as possible.

The Workers' Comp issue is something the business lobbyists have pushed with no justification. Much of the increased costs of Workers Comp in DC is not because the benefit formula is better, but because salaries are higher (workers' comp replaces lost wages). Secondly, having DC residents who have been injured on the job receive substandard benefits only causes them to be more dependent on public assistance and have less income to meet their basic needs (income that would likely be spent in DC). The real issue is that DC businesses have pathetic workplace safety programs. The best way to cut workers' comp costs is to run a safe workplace.


Paper Printing and Hand Wringing
Randy Wells,

Is it just my imagination, but isn't that “other” DC paper printed right here in DC? Every time I drive out New York Avenue in NE, I see a prominent building identified as the “Washington Times,” and just across the street the “World & I” — both buildings appear suitably cavernous to hold a printing press or two.

I often buy a copy of the Times just to get ahold of the daily Metropolitan Times insert, which I find often has better DC coverage than the Post's weak DC Weekly. By the way, I am all for sensible employment generation in DC, and there are numerous ways to boost productive commercial and non-commercial employment here. However, I would also note that the ratio of employees to residents in DC is among the highest anywhere in the country. And I strongly second the besides there is no reason for political boundaries to limit our residents' job searches. Remember, DC residents working in Silver Spring or Alexandria pay all their income taxes to good ol' DC!


Jobs and Taxes
Mark Richards,

Anne Drissel makes a good point about our regional job supply. We're not living in a feudal fortress, and can seek employment anywhere. And not everyone is as fortunate as I to be able to walk or bike to work. But, there is a larger issue that must be addressed in this situation. Thanks to Congress and the MD and VA leadership in that body who oversee our city and who have a vote (conflict of interest?), D.C. has a revenue problem that won't be solved with top-notch management alone. (That is, unless we send all the aging, poor, and disabled people to the suburbs, or keep high taxes...) It will only be solved through structural changes in our regional relationships. Our friends who live in MD and VA and who work in D.C. are mining the city without practicing stewardship. Except for sales tax (if they don't carry their lunch to work) they are a net drain on our resources (road maintenance, etc.). In fact, most of the current D.C. suburbs are there because of proximity to D.C. These outposts are money makers for the states of MD and VA, bringing in approximately $1 billion per year in tax revenue — which gets redistributed to Annapolis, Baltimore, Richmond, etc. As long as the feds paid a fair price for services rendered (“federal payment”) to DC (and in a sense subsidized MD and VA), DC didn't get too excited about this inequity. But those days are past. DC can't carry this burden alone. We all have friends and family living in the burbs, and they shouldn't have to pay higher taxes because they live there and work here. But, surely they would be willing to share five percent of their blessing with the District. Or, it would more beneficial to dC if income were taxed in the jurisdiction where it is earned. We need the suburbs, and the suburbs need us. Time for the leadership in Congress to fix this inequity.

On another subject — medical malpractice caps. Any thoughts? Advantages, disadvantages, possible compromises?


Re the Post Moving to the Burbs
Suzanne Gallagher,

Those who are shocked, shocked to hear that the Post is moving to the burbs need only look at where they are sending their subscription checks to know that part of the Post's business has been outside the City for years. And how about that nice guy who delivers your paper in the morning — chances are he's not from the City either. Moving out may keep the price of that venerable rag down, so consider it a favor to the City as a whole.


Dick Clark Calling
Lois Kirkpatrick,

A friend of mine forwarded a voice mail from Dick Clark she received on her answering machine, urging her to watch the American Music Awards which he produced. Some of you may have read the article about this in Monday's Washington Post. Apparently this is just the latest entry into the field of celebrity telemarketers; residents have also received voice mails from Elizabeth Dole and Bill Clinton, among others. I find this frighteningly intrusive and even more insensitive than usual on the part of marketers, and I myself am a marketer! Has anyone else received calls like these, and even if not, what can be done to reverse this trend?


Getting Back at Telemarketers
Phil Greene,

In the January 21 edition of The Mail, Joan Eisenstodt wrote about “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.” She then expressed her hope that DC would pass similar legislation.

Joan and others should be aware that a Federal law and regulation are are already on the books. Section 227 of Title 47 of the U.S. Code (regulations found at 47 CFR Part 64.1200) amended the Telecommunications Act to offer relief to consumers beleaguered by telemarketers, and although it involves a bit more work than simply paying to get on a list, it doesn't cost anything. Under the law, if a person receives a call from a telemarketer, he may ask to be placed on that company's “Do Not Call List.” He should also record the caller's name, company name, address and phone number. That company then must honor the “Do Not Call” request for 10 years(!). If the company calls back within 10 years, the consumer is entitled to $500 in damages. This law also calls for penalties for junk faxes and pre-recorded sales calls. Several months ago, the Washington Post ran a story about a woman who has accumulated several thousand dollars using the law. Not bad.


Do Not Call List
Jessica Vallette,

Why build a new agency that would have to handle enforcement of the do not call list? Shouldn't our government spend money on something more worthwhile, like schools and tree planting/watering? A $2,000 fine probably wouldn't prevent evil-doers from calling. Really all you have to do is ASK the caller to put you on the list. By federal law the company is REQUIRED to not call you and to at the very least check a box on the callers list. I've been using this method very successfully for years. In fact, I probably get only one or two unsolicited calls a year! You can SUE the company for calling you if the calls are that


DC Cable Quality in Northwest
Peter Wolff,

Bill Adler asks if “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, for one, have been noticing this ever since I became a subscriber to DC Cable, which means since they began service in my neighborhood of Dupont Circle. And the cable people have always blamed this terrible reception on the local TV stations and claim there's nothing that can be done. Well, I don't buy it. I remember back when cable came to NYC it was in response to the building of the World Trade Center towers which were going to effectively block broadcast reception in much of Manhattan. To this very day, the quality of local broadcast reception via cable in NYC is as good as the cable channels. Why not here also?

I don't know about other people in DC, but my primary motivation for signing up for cable in the first place was because the old “rabbit ears” off the air reception of local broadcast was grisly in my neighborhood — in fact, I understand, I shared a problem with thousands of households below (south of) the escarpment (Adams Morgan to Columbia Heights). In those days I had no appreciation for the joys of CNN or C-SPAN; I only cared about the CBS Nightly News and the PBS channels. But it's not just broadcast channels that come in poorly. I have been plagued for years by seriously inferior — almost unwatchable — reception on the Weather Channel. And, while the Weather Channel has improved in the last few months (after on and off complaining over a 4-year period), I continue to be appalled by the frequent odd waverings, double imaging and other mysterious shadows that come and go, even on the exclusively cable channels.

Why is this all so amateurish? Part of the answer no doubt can be found in the jerry-rigging on the poles. I have discovered that connections from individual home lines to the main line running down the alleys are casually exposed to the elements and are subject to corroding that gets progressively worse and clearly interferes with the signal's transmission. Also, the connections can get loose due to the effect of wind. Unlike Bell Atlantic, these cable company lines on the poles are not properly protected from the elements. By the way, did you know that when the cable people go up a pole to fix your line they have no way of knowing which of the several lines coming off the pole is actually yours (or mine)? That's because, incredibly, they don't tag the lines as does the phone company.


DC Cable
David Hunter,

I'm on Upton Street right below channel 9. My channel 4 has, unbelievably, come in great the past 10 days, although I noticed it was actually ghosting again last night. This is much better than the past 3 months where my digital cable wouldn't even tune in the picture, it was so scrambled. They were blaming the bad channel 4 (as 9 and 7 were fine) on Ch 4's switching over to a split signal HDTV/analog. That was in September, though, and I assume it is complete. Anything you do I would love to add my name to if it helps. Picture quality for the regular channels is terrible. Has been since I moved in 5 1/2 years ago.


DC Cable Quality in Northwest
Matt Brosius,

I strongly concur with Bill Adler's comments on DC Cable quality. Channel 4 has been unwatchable for years (to look at NBC, I must switch to channel 11 in Baltimore), and Channel 7 and Channel 9 have also recently become difficult to watch. This issue has been raised in the past in DC Story/themail but clearly folks from Channel 4, 7, and 9, the cable authority, and District Cablevision itself are not being very responsive. I hope someone can come up with a way to reach them.


Bad Reception on Cable
Stew Reuter,

Have the same problem, but do not believe that it's the cable company's fault. Most TV sets have a problem discriminating the strong local signal from the cable signal. Hence ghosting, as the two identical signals arrive at slightly different times and strengths. In my case, a local tower puts a strong signal in the air. I've been somewhat successful in switching the A-B switch from cable to “local” — sometimes disconnecting the cable wire altogether.


Jury Duty
Catherine Buckler,

I've served jury duty several times in DC during this decade, and also in Maryland in the previous one. Personally, I love it. I am always impressed by the seriousness with which all (ok, 99%) who end up on an actual jury take their responsibility. I have been in deliberation several times and found the discussion almost always to be very thoughtful and respectful of the importance of the process and the people in it. And it's been an unparalleled opportunity learn about other people and activities in the city about which I normally would not know. The jurors I've met have been truly representative of the city's population. I've hear civil and criminal trials on issues I would never have thought about. It's always a valuable glimpse at things outside of my insular world. The judges, clerks, and court staff has always treated me with the utmost respect. Many of my friends and colleagues have also served and found it a satisfying, if inconvenient, experience.

However, I do sympathize with many of the complaints that one hears about jury duty, particularly in DC. I'm sure others on this list will be happy to elaborate on those, but I just wanted to make sure that I added a positive two cents for this long-standing duty (and, I think, privilege) of our American system.


Local Industry?
Gabe Goldberg,

Post comic strip The Piranha Club (which I don't much like) on January 15, featured someone selling locks of his hair, saying: “Just send $100 (plus $9.99 s&h) to: PO Box 66, Oakton VA 22124. Please enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope.” So is that where cartoonist Bud Grace gets his mail? Or some inside joke? (There's no Bud Grace in NoVA phone book.)


Street Light Complaint
L. Burford,

Can anyone tell me who to complain to in the city government about a blown street light?

[Street lights are maintained by PEPCO under contract to the city. The telephone number for street light repair is 939-7100. There is a list of useful government telephone numbers at . If you can't find what you need there, try asking your Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner for help — the list of ANCs is at .]


Bob Barr Equals Hitler
Dennis A. Dinkel,

If David S. Reed thinks it's bad having Congressman Bob “White Supremacy” Barr speaking on “Defending Our Constitutional Rights” he should be aware of the fact that a professional organization of which I'm a member, the National Court Reporters Association, has invited Congressman Barr to speak at their spring symposium in San Francisco, California (of all places for the sponsor of the virulently homophobic congressman to set foot) on “Ethics in the Year 2000.”

Despite the fact that I and quite a few other NCRA members protested vehemently the inclusion of Barr on our program, we were told by the worthy elders of the association that Barr will only speak to the issue for which he was asked to address the group and that in no way are they endorsing his political views. I feel that having Congressman Barr speak on ethics issues (this is the man who supports marriage so strongly he can't quite seem to stop getting married, over and over again and who vehemently opposes abortion yet has paid for one of his many wives to have one) is somewhat akin to asking Adolf Hitler, were he alive, to address a commemoration of the Holocaust.



Sierra Club Meeting
Danilo Pelletiere,

The Sierra Club's Restore the Core campaign, D.C.'s piece of the national sprawl campaign, is holding its February meeting on February 11, 1999. We will be introducing our 1999 campaign and signing up volunteers to help us Restore the Core and stop sprawl. This year will be concentrating our efforts on development along the Anacostia and on preparing a sustainable development tool kit for activists and politicians. Also Brent Coleman, the District's Brownfields Coordinator, will give a presentation on brownfields programs and challenges in the District (to be confirmed). The meeting will take place at Friends of the Earth, 1025 Vermont Ave NW Suite 300 from 7-9 pm. Contact Danilo Pelletiere at for more information.


Ward Three Democrats
Linda Finkel-Talvadkar,

Mayor Anthony Williams will speak to the members of the Ward Three Democratic Committee on Tuesday, January 26th at its regularly scheduled meeting beginning at 7:30 p.m. at St. Luke's Methodist Church at Wisconsin Ave., N. W. in Fellowship Hall — Lower Level. “The Ward Three Democrats are very pleased to meet with our new Mayor, to listen and share our views and concerns about the critical issues facing the District,” remarked Thorn Pozen, Chair of the Ward Democratic Organization. “Dialogue such as this is an essential part of our democratic system and will help create the kind of vision for this city which all citizens of the District can work towards making a reality.” Free parking is available. The meeting is open to the public. For further information, call Thorn Pozen, Chair (942-6196) or Linda Finklel-Talvadkar (363-8827).


ANC 3C and League of Women Voters Meetings
John and Ann Loikow,

ANC 3C (Cleveland Park and Woodley Park) is meeting at 8 p.m. on Monday, January 25, 1999, at the Second District Police Station community room. The major item on the agenda is the National Cathedral School's proposed new athletic facilities. The ANC will be making recommendations to the DC Historic Preservation Review Board which considers the application on Thursday, January 28.

The League of Women Voters February General Meeting will have D.C. Council Chair, Linda Cropp (D) speaking on “Recent Amendments to the Comprehensive Plan.” The meeting will be on Wednesday, February 17, 1999 at 6:30 p.m. at 441 Fourth Street NW, Conference Room 700. The League invites all to come and learn how informed citizens can help to improve the quality of life in our city. Adequate public participation in planning is a position the League supports. Light refreshments will be served.



Macintosh House Calls
Phil Shapiro,

Friendly Macintosh help available. Can help set up America Online accounts, Internet accounts, web page building, general orientations to the Mac and installing of extra RAM. Reasonable rates. References available. Phil Shapiro, (202) 686-5465 (home/office).


A Good Painter?
Sid Booth,

Paint and the interior walls and ceilings of our Mt. Pleasant row house rarely stay together for more than a year or two before the flaking and cracking begin. Perhaps we haven't hired quality craftsmen in the past or there's a technical problem that no one has diagnosed properly. In any event, my wife and I agree that it's time to paint once more. We would be grateful if readers of themail who are satisfied customers of qualified individual craftsmen or painting contractors would recommend them to us. Thank you.


Reputable, Reliable and REASONABLE Mechanic/Garage Wanted
R.A. Bird Anderson,

New to area. Have a Toyota that needs to be serviced and searching for a good mechanic/garage. Any suggestions? Would be MOST appreciated.


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