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January 31, 1999

Spic and Span

Dear Clean Talkers of America:

We've cleaned up our language, scoured it Spic-and-Span clean, so that absolutely no trace of any word that could be mistaken for a racial slur can be found. So, what next? You can be sure that David Howard will be rehired by Mayor Williams. Not only has Williams taken a drubbing in the press and in public opinion (and the tone of that drubbing has been more ridicule than anger, and Williams does not want to appear foolish), but also David Howard has demonstrated absolute loyalty to Williams — and personal loyalty is the quality that Williams values most in his aides. In the long run, that demand for loyalty may cause Williams more trouble than any of his clumsiness and missteps in this incident. If his aides interpret his need for loyalty as “don't nobody bring me no bad news,” Williams will get more and more out of touch.

But what else will happen? Will Williams fire Marshall Brown for spreading the rumors about Howard? If he does, Williams may ignite a backlash among Barry supporters and racial firebrands who will interpret that firing as racial treason and caving in to whites. If he doesn't fire Brown, Williams' white aides will interpret it as a signal that they had better walk on eggshells for as long as they work in his administration. In other words, there is no good next step.

On to subjects that we can do something about. In this issue, more on schools, good car mechanics, ISPs, and painters. And good clean E-mail formatting. A couple people wrote that the last issue of themail came through badly formatted, which probably means that many more people had trouble with it. I'm not sure what went wrong, but I'll try to keep this cleanly formatted in the future. If you do have any problems with your copy, remember that you can always get the current issue by clicking on “current issue” at

Gary Imhoff


Mired in the Muck
Ralph Blessing,

The railroading of David Howard brings to mind two flashes from the past: 1) Tony Williams' refusal to stand by Howard over such an idiotic charge reminds me of Bill Clinton allowing Lani Guinier to be eaten alive by the media and Congress after the right wing labeled her “the quota queen.” 2) 70's folk rocker Jim Croce wrote a song that contained the line “...and all them other truckers.” Even though his play on words was obviously intentional, no one that I know of ever accused him of using obscene lyrics just because it sounded like MF (for younger readers, this was before recordings could use any language imaginable and still get air time). Tony Williams should can any of the staffers who spread the rumors that led to Howard's resignation and then hire him back in his old position.


The Niggardly-in-Spirit
Stephanie Gerard,

Things have certainly become Orwellian with “sounds like” speech. Just when you thought things couldn't get more stupid in Washington ... under thought control, even the words “black” and “white,” for example, are now suspect — (oh my gosh, I just linked the words “suspect” and “black”) — in a situation described as “not all black,” or how about a “black mark” on someone's record, or the good “guy in the white hat”?

Gosh, this opens all sorts of mischief. Great White Paper Co. would have to change its name (I'll bet they don't even use that brand down at 1 Judiciary Square); no more White Sales; and we should eschew such words as muck and duck because they sound like you-know-what. How about a “chink” in the armor? That could get misconstrued, no doubt, by sensitive Asians; couldn't talk about frogs if any French people were in the room; no references to fairy tales if any gays happened to be in the library, nor could any queer things happen in their presence. And juries couldn't be “out” anymore.

Yikes (oops, sounds like _ _ _ _ _ ), this could get everyone pretty hot under the collar (oh, no, sounds like collards, and you know who eats those!) Help, help, Mr. Mayor, we're “decimated” (as Dale Bumpers said of Clinton's family) by this newfound political correctness issue!


Bad Words
Ralph Martin,

At your suggestion, I have sent the following e-mail to the mayor:

Dear Mayor Williams,
Letting an aide be forced out of office because some ignoramus misunderstood a normal English word with no derogatory meaning is a wonderfully creative act of political power. With a little more work, our language can be cleansed of all words that sound like bad words. I assume that you are of course instructing all city employees that they will be fired if they use the following words: darkling, darkly, kite, bike, nick, Mickie, Day-glo, pollock, speak, honey, bag, queary, howling, honker, and hymen. Perhaps citizens can participate in our city government by finding more words to put on the index.


A Disappointed Citizen
Victor Reinoso,

Dear Mayor Williams:
I am writing to express my dismay at your decision to accept David Howard's resignation.
Having watched you move deftly through DC's political waters as The CFO and then as The Candidate, it shocks me that so soon into your tenure as The Mayor you would willfully sully your reputation for good judgment over an aide's correct use of the English language.
On the campaign trail you boasted of your ability to make the tough decisions (e.g., laying off city workers); I am sorry to see that you are unable to make equally tough decisions about when to keep city workers.
How are we to take seriously your leadership on improving the education of our youth when you refuse to stamp out ignorance in the ranks of your very own staff? Did you honestly feel that you would be demonstrating more leadership by caving in on this issue than by refusing to accept Mr. Howard's resignation? I hope not.


Enough Already With Racial Sensitivities!
Ron Eberhardt,

I guess I am a little behind in the news, however, it has just come to my attention the total nonsense that has been raging since last week when former Mayoral aide David Howard properly used the word “niggardly” and was immediately labeled a racist. How far all of this nonsense goes is anybody's guess. However, for my dime, I am fed up with political correctness and the accompanying racial sensitivities that are worn on the sleeves and shoulders of too many. I am particularly incensed that someone who lacks a basic use of vocabulary declares that a word “sounds” this way or that and that makes it so! Just because
some persons are illiterate should not obstruct the remainder of the population from using proper language and word usage.

More importantly, rather then reacting as a lynch mob, it is time for black persons to shrug their shoulders, learn a new word and move on. For the first time in my twenty years of living in this town I am actually proud of my Mayor. That said, Mayor Williams shrunk from his duty in the Howard affair. He ought to have immediately refused Howard's resignation and scolded those who made much ado about nothing. I certainly hope that the mayor is not bowing to the ridiculous and absurd suggestion that he is “not black enough.” I personally think that suggestion is every bit as offensive a remark and racist-based as the “real”

I also fail to understand the reaction of some blacks on this subject as published in the Post. It's the same tired line over again that racism is one way and can only be afflicted by whites upon blacks. That is pure and simple bull. I can tell you that I am highly offended whenever I hear the racist lyrics of black rappers as they demean women, this country and white persons. Yet, a deafening silence exists among most Black persons to repudiate those who mouth these patently offensive words that are heard as regularly as the weather is broadcast. The Mayor ought to set the record straight on this and quickly. And, he should immediately ask Mr. Howard to rejoin his administration. It would also be excellent for him to chastise Marshall Brown, the chap who started this whole lying mess against Howard. The first stop for Brown might be language usage training, followed by sensitivity training, followed by integrity instruction, followed by… however I don't think he needs to resign! Enough!


The Right Decision for the Wrong Reason
Ed T. Barron,

The Mayor made the right decision in accepting David Howard's resignation after Howard used a word that was clearly beyond the comprehension of his aides and one which was interpreted to have racial overtones. Howard, correctly, since it was clear that he was obviously considered a prig by those who worked for him. By the way, that's pri with a “g.” And for those overly sensitive folks downtown with a very limited vocabulary, you ought to look it up. Howard had on his staff those who were not in his corner and for that reason alone his resignation was correct. The mayor, on the other hand, was correct in accepting the resignation but for the wrong reason. The mayor should have accepted Howard's resignation on the basis that Howard was clearly in a spot that would not have worked, not because he used terminology that was considered offensive. In accepting the resignation the Mayor should have noted that Howard deserves an opportunity to perform on Williams' team and immediately begun an effort to find another, more appropriate, spot for Howard. The Mayor made the right decision but for the wrong reason. It's an ominous sign for the behavior of our new Mayor but one that is in keeping with the over-sensitivity for political correctness that now pervades our culture.


Who Cares?
Philip Murphy,

The David Howard incident is hardly surprising. After all, several executive heads rolled at Texaco because one of them was supposed to have used the N word in the privacy of the board room suite. Of course, he didn't, but that didn't matter because so many people want to believe that that's the way white people talk and think when no one is watching.

So taboo and offensive is that word that I have never heard any educated white person at any level of responsibility use it even in jest. In fact, I can't even remember a conversation I've ever had about race in which only white people were present. That may be disappointing to those looking for a deep-seated racial conspiracy. The fact is that for most whites the predominating feeling they have toward African Americans is not hostility but apathy.


Criticism of Tony Williams
Cheryl Fox,

With all the rumors flying, I'm not sure if this information is correct, however, I believe Mayor Williams' controversial choice of legal counsel was characterized by others in his administration as an “uppity white boy,” making the charge of playing the race card incorrectly placed on Williams.


The Controversy
Tom Sherwood,

Just want to make two points (one self serving): 1. Nice that you noted “articles” about Howard. But it was NBC4 that broke the story (just as it did the week before that Williams had not achieved any of his short-term goals and was going to act as his own city administrator). 2. The mayor did defend David Howard on several occasions — saying specifically that he did not believe David uttered a racial slur — oddly, just that he uttered something that “sounded” like one. Again not to defend the mayor, but he did excessively and profusely praise David and said he would be welcome back in his administration in some
other capacity.


Jobs and Taxes
T. Jr. Hardman,

In a recent edition of themail, Mark Richards comes close to a solution, but falls back into very tired rhetoric regarding the suburbs “mining the city.” Mr. Richards fails to note that the District certainly does not exist in a vacuum, or rather he posits a totally reciprocal relationship when in fact no such relationship exists. He says “DC needs the suburbs and the suburbs need DC.” Nothing could be farther from the truth, as will be seen as circumferential and crosstown transportation solutions are developed in the suburbs. Most of the work is now in the suburbs, and this will tend to increase for the foreseeable future.
Please note that over the last decade, something like 85 percent of all new job creation has been in the outlying jurisdictions, while simultaneously the Federal government increasingly moved their extant facilities to new locations out of town, thus shrinking the District's employment base as well as shrinking the employment base dedicated to servicing the Federal workers. Mr. Richards also falls prey to the fallacy that there is a need for the District to tax residents of other jurisdictions who commute into the District. It should be noted that within five years, it is expected that as many District residents will commute out of the District as presently commute inwards. To further compound the fallacy, and show proper District provincialism, he maintains the posture that the District is somehow special and apart — and in many ways it is — but after all the District does not exist in a vacuum and is in fact part-and-parcel merely the largely decayed geographic center of an expanding and increasingly vital Region.

The clear solution, towards which Mayor Williams has made his first steps with recent conferences with suburban administrators and business leaders, is the creation of a “Regional Cooperation League” which would address transportation issues by pooling District, State and Federal funds for an upgrade of the major arteries in and out of the District. (District Revitalization Act funds are already allocated towards District-only street upgrades.) Of particular concern will be upgrading facilities between the District and Virginia; much as I loathe Virginia, an increasing number of the most-taxable District residents commute to Virginia's high-tech jobs via increasingly clogged bridges and their approaches. It thus behooves DC to make it easy for techno-yuppies to get to their jobs; after all they're paying taxes to the District and if it becomes too hard to get to work, they'll vote with their feet to follow their careers, taking their taxes with them. In summary, it's necessary to abandon the idea of jurisdictional zero-sum squabbling, and to instead invest in regional cooperation. Pooling resources is the best way to solve some of the worst crises of the entire region, to the benefit of all of the smaller parts.


DC Schools
Ralph Blessing,

My two cents worth on the quality of education in DC schools: our son is in 6th grade at Shepherd Elementary, our east-of-the-park neighborhood school where he has been since pre-K. With one exception, he has had good to outstanding teachers every year. They have challenged him and provided a solid learning environment. The leadership at the school is superior, although a few years back that was not the case.

Our daughter is in 8th grade at Deal. Except for 5th grade, she too attended public schools for grades 1-6, the first four at Shepherd and grade six at Eaton. For a variety of reasons, we enrolled her in a parochial school on Mass. Ave. near the National Cathedral for 5th grade. As it turns out, that was probably the least challenging and stimulating year she's had to date. No doubt that a number of factors played into her experience that year, but suffice it to say that the quality of education she has received in each of the other grades, all in DC public schools, has been very high. And with the wonderful learning environment at Deal, she is truly blossoming.


Public School Budgeting to Be Drastically Reorganized, or Maybe Not
Philip Blair, Jr.,

The Emergency Trustees of the D.C. Public Schools have been asked by the DCPS Administration to approve a plan to reorganize the DCPS budgeting system. The proposed system would use a Weighted Student Formula (WSF) to allocate school-based financing to the individual schools in the system; these funds would then be managed by the local principals and their school teams. The WSF assigns individual students additional “weightings” depending on such factors as poverty (proxied by eligibility for the free or reduced price school lunch program); grade level (on the assumption that elementary students require smaller classes and more attention than those in higher grades); special education needs; students whose maternal language is not English; and low achievement as measured on standardized tests. The Administration hopes to implement this plan in the 1999-2000 school year.

There are many claims in favor of this new allocation procedure, and many questions about its suitability. The Trustees are now planning to vote on this plan on February 11, and if they recommend it, approval by the Control Board seems to be a pro forma exercise. The elected Board of Education is reviewing the plan and hosting a public forum on the WSF on Monday, February 1, 1999, at Hines Junior High School, 335 Eighth Street, SE (at the Eastern Market Metro stop). This will be the only real chance for community members at large to participate in the evaluation of the plan before it is decided upon by the Trustees. I hope that many activist parents and community members will participate in this forum, which could be one of the most significant events of the year in determining the future of our schools. It is a fact of life that we will not achieve schools that our children deserve with out vigorous and informed public participation. I can be reached at 526-8821 this weekend, and I would be happy to fax copies of the DCPS administration's 12+4 page handout on the WSF.


Public Schools in DC
Regina & George Arlotto,

Regarding Mr. Jamal's question of good schools in D.C., I wanted to respond that the high schools here are not a lost cause. Before my husband went on sabbatical to finish his doctorate in education, he was the Assistant Principal at Wilson SHS at Tenley Circle. Prior to his 6 years at Wilson, he worked for almost 10 years at a prominent private school in Virginia and therefore saw how the private sector worked to educate students. At Wilson, he was pleasantly surprised and constantly impressed by the caliber of teacher and the quality student that they consistently produced. College recruiters were always anxious to see Wilson students because they represented diversity, as well as the ability to do well in a notoriously difficult system. These recruiters also were happy to see students who were applying from outside the usual Sidwell Friends, St. Alban's mold. Of course Wilson is not perfect and had its share of problems, but these were easily overcome by the dedicated student, as I'm sure your kids are, in concert with the vigilant parent. Regarding lower schools here in DC, do not abandon hope just yet! Our son is just a little over two years old, but we have been happy to see that our local cluster school on Capitol Hill (Peabody to Watkins to Stuart Hobson)is doing quite well. We have been impressed with each child we meet at each grade from all of these schools. Wilson and the Capitol Hill Cluster schools deserve a good look before you make a final decision. Schools are always a concern for any DC parent, especially since a move to another part of DC or the suburbs, seems like a solution. But we're staying on Capitol Hill, we love it here and so does our son. Good luck in your quest and welcome to DC.


DC Cable — Only the Shadow Knows
John Olinger, North Lincoln Park,

When the shadow appears on Channel 4, I know that sooner or later I am going to have much more serious problems with my cable reception. This shadow band down the center of the picture shows up about once a year or so and often heralds a complete blackout within a few months. In my case, the problem seems to be illegal hookups at the spot where the individual cables come off the pole. In one case two years ago, when the DC cable technician came there were eight individual cables running off the main junction. When she left, having removed the illegal ones, there were three. Two people had tapped off my junction (it was just before March Madness — all those Duke fans who don't want to pay for cable I guess). It's probably true that theft is not the cause of all the shadowing problems, but it does lead me to think that the problem is a physical one, having to do with the actual hook-up as Steve Schaffer indicates, and thus remediable by skilled DC cable technicians, rather than atmospheric interference.


Christmas Trees
David Hunter,

Walking home from work up my alley, I have noticed this week that there are 9 Christmas trees (mine included) left out next to supercans to be picked up. I looked for places to drop off/recycle my tree but never saw any. So, I thought I would try the garbage truck route. Looks like that won't work unless I actually stuff it in there. Does anyone know a place to take the trees or if the city is ever actually going to pick all these things up?


Roosevelt Center
Larry Levine,

Does anyone know what has happened/is happening with the Roosevelt Center for Senior Citizens on 16th Street and Florida Avenue, NW? It seems to be shut down (though I can't remember when that might have happened). Are there any plans to reopen or renovate it?

[The Department of Housing and Community Development has sent the Council a draft RFP (request for proposals) for developers to buy the city-owned Roosevelt, which needs extensive renovation. The City Council held a hearing on that RFP on January 20. — Gary Imhoff]


Getting Back at Telemarketers
Austin Kelly, Forest Hills,

To further amplify Mark Eckenwiler's reference to 47 USC 221, the law against junk faxes and robotic telemarketing, you can buy a book from Private Citizen — — called something like “How to Sue a Telemarketer.” Could be a money making investment for you work at home folks. Does anyone know what DC law is concerning taping phone calls? It's a nice piece of evidence to bring to Small Claims Court, but I don't want to be Tripped-up.

Our neighbors are working on legislation to outlaw junk e-mail in the spirit of the junk fax law. In VA it's Senate Bill 881, in MD it's House Bill 56. When will the DC Council jump on the bandwagon? At $500 a SPAM it would be a great economic development tool.


Dick Clark Lawsuit?

Mark Eckenweiler noted that Phil Greene and others have found Dick Clark's recorded telemarketing campaign violated FCC rules. Before we are inundated by every celebrity known to man hawking various wares on our home answering machines, is a class action suit in order? To the lawyers on this list, how does one go about doing this? If we get nothing else but publicity, it might at least make future geniuses think twice before they try the celebrity voicemail scheme.


Honk If You Love Honest Mechanics
Tom Hall, Takoma Park

The work ethic is still alive and well at Takoma Old Town Auto Service Center, Carroll Avenue at Tulip in the People's Republic of T.P.(301) 891-3725. The shop is run by Joy and Chai, two Thai imports who define “customer service.” Their labor rates are lower than anyone's, and they are more interested in your return business than profit. Word-of-mouth referrals have created such demand that Takoma Old Town recently opened a second location on Fenton Street at Philadelphia (East-West Highway/Md. 410) in Silver Spring. Both have Saturday hours and are within walking distance of Metro's Red Line. Joy and Chai have worked on all three of my cars, fixing only what is needed, often not charging at all for minor repairs or follow-ups.

This is a polite oasis, far removed from the world where mechanics take advantage of you. Just don't swamp them and ruin a good thing, OK?


Auto Repair
Bruce Snyder, Adams Morgan and Petworth,

For 14 years I've taken my car to Nery's Car Service on Champlain Street in Adams Morgan (Champlain and Kalorama, next to the church). I've been fortunate to park my car a few blocks uphill from Nery's so that on days the car won't start I can roll it on down. The work's been good, fair, and reasonable. It helps if you don't have an urgent need and can say “take as long as it takes.” I've relied on old cars that run well and Mike and Carlos are the reasons they run. I had six incidents of break-in and vandalism in one year, and I'd drop the car off on the way to work and call the insurance company.


Natalie Hopkins,

I highly recommend D&P Motors on 10th Street in Arlington. The number is 703-524-0114. It is run by brothers who hail from Guatemala. I have found both of them to be honest and reliable and their rates are extremely reasonable.


Internet Service Provider Recommendation
E. James Lieberman,

I love my ISP: Earthlink. Look it up.


Tenleytown Painters
Mary Lou Fahey,

The number for Eric at Tenleytown Painters is 202-244-2325. We've used him several times (both our home and rental property) and found his rates reasonable and the job well done. He won't accept payment until you're satisfied with the job.



Audio and Video on the Web
Phil Shapiro,

“Putting Your Audio and Video Clips on the Web,” is a free two-hour presentation about how and where you can put your own audio and video clips onto the web. The focus of the talk will be on some of the free and low-cost tools available for doing so, as well as showing examples of what can be done. Date: Mon., 2/8/99. Time: 7 pm to 9 pm. Location: Chevy Chase DC Library, 5625 Connecticut Ave. NW. Upstairs large meeting room. (1/2 block south of Chevy Chase Circle, immediately north of Connecticut Ave. and McKinley St.) Presentation given by Phil Shapiro and John Windmueller, from the One World Media Center.  Free, Registration required:



Mozart Opera Ticket
Constance Z. Maravell,

One Idomeneo ticket for performance at Mount Vernon, Saturday, February 6, 1999. Open seating. Ticket is $25.00. Positive review in the Post, Friday, January 29,1999. I have always enjoyed the productions in Hand Chapel. Zinnia 202-362-0745.



Need Help With Your Computer Needs At Home Or In The Office?
Nick Chang, (202.237.0130)

PC hardware/software installation and upgrades; maintenance, troubleshooting and network support; Back-up and archive your files and email on CD-ROM; setup computer network for the small office; build customized database in Access or other programs; web training and web page development; Reasonable rates. Excellent references.


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