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February 3, 1999

Real Ritzy

Dear Upscalers:

Look over the classifieds in this month's issue. We have a wine tasting calendar, an artist's house in Provence up for rent, someone wanting to rent a summer house in Maine, and the for sale listing is for a personal organizer. Come on, people, what is this, Town and Country? Special for the next issue: absolutely free listings for anyone looking for a rat catcher, getting rid of a house trailer, or selling Beanie Babies. Of course, since the classifieds in themail are free anyway, what does it matter to you?

For the Mayor's press release today on the David Howard issue, see

Gary Imhoff


City vs. Suburbs: A reply to T. Jr. Hardman
Danilo Pelletiere,

While it is clear that we must accept that the District is just one of many residential and employment centers in the region, to say that the suburbs don't need the city is to miss the point entirely. Also to believe the hype about how techno-yuppies are a) plentiful and b) here to stay would be a grave mistake and a horrible foundation for any economic development plan. While it is true that 85% of new jobs are created outside the District (though in recent months this number has been declining due to a growth in employment in the District despite District government and federal reductions), after 30 years and more of decline the District still makes up 25% of the regional economy and only 12% of the population. Jobs are growing slower than population in the suburbs. And at current rates it will be a long time until the flow of commuters out of the city each morning equals that coming in.

At the same time many of the problems that beset the city are now afflicting older (and even newer) suburbs. As more roads are built and more connections are made the suburbs become more urban, more densely settled and more congested. Many of the Virginia Supervisors I speak to complain about growing crime, prostitution, and being forgotten as attention is shifted to the newer more affluent areas out west. The age where we thought we could have our cake and eat it too by moving to the suburbs is quickly coming to an end. This is bringing people to reassess the city and regional cooperation. So I agree that what we need to do is make tough decisions on a regional level. But in saying this I do not for a moment believe our only salvation is to open up traffic conduits for techno-yuppies. The District is no longer the center of the regional economy, but its still central and will remain so for the foreseeable future. The better our policies and government operations, the more central it will become. The fundamentals are important, not trying to cater to the Board of Trade P.R. and the Business Week fad of the month.


Jobs, Taxes, and Regionalism — Follow-up
Mark Richards,

Agreed — DC does not exist in a vacuum and moving away from jurisdictional zero-sum squabbling toward regional cooperation and pooled resources is a smart goal. The towns and counties clustered around the District are not one jurisdiction (I think there are about 130), so turf battles are an issue. And, within each state, authority is divided into at least three levels — town, county, and state governments. A “Regional Cooperation League” in which to coordinate issues handled by town and county governments sounds like a good idea (if it isn't smarter to work through the COG), but would it safe for DC neighborhoods to transfer authority to such a group? Mayor Williams should probably be talking with the governors of MD and VA to identify state-level areas for cooperation.

That we do not have equal representation in the federal govt. or control of our own local budget means neighboring jurisdictions can go “over our heads,” and there are plenty of examples which have eroded DC trust. My trust level would increase dramatically if VA and MD state and Congressional reps negotiated some form of fair taxing agreement with DC and by working with us to achieve equal citizenship rights under the law while respecting our desire to keep our 120+ neighborhoods together as one jurisdiction. Since DC handles all state, county, and city functions in one govt., maybe it has been harder to compartmentalize the issues.


D.C. Schools — Rewarding failure with more money
Ed T. Barron,

It's amazing how failure attracts more money than success. That's just what School Superintendent Ackerman's school funding plan will do, it will reward those schools that are failing. In D.C. we have one of the highest per pupil expenditures in the country, and yet our students are failing miserably. In reality they are being failed by the system miserably. Throwing money on top of a problem situation never helps. The real root of the problem is one that has been with us since the teachers' unions took control of the educational process in the schools, producing and encouraging ill equipped teachers. If you look at schools that have succeeded in the past (Dunbar right here in Washington, D.C., was a great school until 1950) with minority students from very low income families, you will find a few common threads. None of these schools had an Afrocentric curriculum. Successful schools for minority students have strong principals and very qualified teachers (most also had large classes). In P.S. 91, in Brooklyn, where I spent all of my educational years in the public schools, the facility is dilapidated, the surrounding neighborhood is bad. Yet, the students in this school routinely score above the national norms on standardized tests. P.S. 91 has an exceptional principal. The children in this school speak in full sentences of grammatical English.

The idea of giving control of the budget to the school principals is a good idea, especially when the parents of students and the teachers are involved in determining how the money will be spent. But the answer to improving education in the District's schools does not lie in rewarding failure with more money. The answer lies in getting the strongest persons we can find in the leadership role as principals in all the schools and in putting qualified teachers in the classrooms.


Suburban Telephone Books
David Sobelsohn,

Does anyone besides me have trouble getting suburban telephone books from Bell Atlantic? Every year for 5 years I've contacted someone at Bell Atlantic. Usually I've tried to speak to a supervisor. It hasn't mattered. Every year — I mean every single year — it's taken at least 2 or 3 months, sometimes longer, for me to receive a complete set of the suburban books: northern VA yellow & white, Montgomery & PG yellow & white. This last round has been almost comical: I've had several shipments so far, each including one book I requested & 3 I didn't. So I've made a few trips to the recycling center & continued to use last year's books. Does anyone know a way around this problem? Thanks!


The Good News
Ed T. Barron,

There's some good news in that morass raised by the misinterpreted comment by David Howard. The good news is that the Mayor may now realize just what he is facing in much of the city government. The biggest obstacles to positive change in the D.C. Government will be the Barry loyalists in the ranks of middle management. They will passively and actively resist any positive change that would threaten their positions. The answer to this problem is simply to eliminate these recalcitrants. There is really no need for middle management in the D.C. Government if Mayor Williams is willing to evolve the way the city is “managed” to a team based organization with real leaders leading empowered and autonomous teams. This puts the power of making things happen right where it should be — in the hands of those who are doing the work.

Such an evolution will take time but it will result in an efficient and effective work force. It should be tried on a pilot basis with one or more of those organizations that are not serving the public well. Then, as success is demonstrated, additional departments should be evolved to teams to develop processes that work. The Mayor has made one mistake this week. He will likely make many more in the weeks to come. But these are the mistakes of a player not a watcher. The Mayor is out on the playing field trying to field everything hit his way. He will undoubtedly make some errors but he's not sitting on the sidelines picking his toes. He's out with his team trying hard to make things work in the District. Stay on the field, Tony.


Not Niggardly with the Details in AZ
Jean Lawrence,

Yes, the story — not a blurb, a full-blowner from the NYT — made it out here to the desert. Following on the exhaustive coverage (that does not mean tiring) of the mayor's comments that Phoenix was vastly superior to DC, Williams is entering laughing stock country now — unfortunate in a state that had to be bludgeoned into even declaring Martin Luther King Day. Not that most people in DC care what the rest of us plebes think. As for other offensive sound-alikes, may I offer “congenital mastication.— Big no-no.


Bad Words?
Kim Stark,

I'm pretty disgusted with all this “niggardly” flap. (Yes, I've known the term for years.) If I were a Spanish-speaking Latino in Washington, DC, I would use the English word “black” instead of its Spanish counterpart, which is “negro.” As one who took Spanish courses in the past, I can attest that the word “negro” is used quite frequently. Examples include “gato negro” (black cat), “automovil negro” (black car), “perro negro” (black dog), “raton negro” (black mouse). Never mind the fact that in Spanish, negro is pronounced “nay-grow” instead of “nee-grow” like in the U.S., it's just that — according to certain DC
politicos — an “n” word in any language that sounds like the nasty “N” word should never be used.

I would tell all those hypersensitive people who see racism under every innocuous rock to go fly a kite. On second thought, I'd better not use the word “kite,” since it sounds too much like a certain anti-Semitic slur.


Surfing Press Waves
Mark David Richards,

The full press rarely covers New Columbian issues. Last week, while conducting focus groups in the “Tarheel” state, I watched the D.C. “niggardly” story emerge in papers in Raleigh, Charlotte, and Winston-Salem. The amount of press coverage was the amount one dreams of if one is riding press waves. Well, the first wave crested and it looks like we didn't ride it. My take on this is that the “niggardly” story wasn't/isn't just about D.C. — we became a player in the 300+ year dialogue on “race,” identity. It isn't just how the dictionary defines “niggardly.” Ask a teen what “fat” means now, and compare that to your dictionary. And, just as “fat” doesn't just mean “obese,” “black” and “white” don't just describe color or race. These terms have always been culturally defined. Whatever the facts about the intent, the reason this story arose nationwide is that many “whites” think we solved the race problem and need to move on. They're tired of “walking on ice” when they speak. They think they should be given the benefit of the doubt. In addition, many worry about the latest influx of immigrants, and think this diversity thing has gone far enough.

We in U.S. seem to project identity and class issues onto everything in the social context, but resist speaking about them one-on-one. This discussion started when Europeans “found” the Americas and, for starters, forced the “Indians” (speaking of ignorance) off the land and “privatized” it. The Rule of Law brought them Civilization and Christianity, and now they live amongst us, nearly invisible to most. The English colonies became a powerful group, and might made right, with privileges attached. In the “new” America, if you weren't as pale and Protestant as the English, you suffered indignities at best, slavery and murder at worst. But the world has never forgotten the promise, or the myth, of this experiment some call “America.” There can be no doubt, U.S. has come a long way over the years. But many involuntary sacrifices were made along the way. Today, younger generations talk more honestly about our ancestral past. It alarms groups like the CCC, whose growing membership fear for the “white” race. And even as “Americans” continue to call each other names, or THINK they're being called names, their identities are so woven into one tapestry they can hardly distinguish their contributions. So when DO the full national press cover D.C. issues? Not when things go well, and when we have a story we need to tell. Americans don't even know we are still the only capital city of all democratic countries denied basic voting rights in our legislature. Maybe we need to become pro-active about what our message is to the world and learn to ride the waves when they appear. Our Mayor has the attention of the nation. Besides tidying up the Executive and teaching his workers conflict resolution and communications skills, he should think of this as a press opportunity and take control of this story to our advantage.


Quickbooks Training
Margaret Siegel,

Am looking for someone to help me with Quickbooks 99 — just upgraded from old version and can't figure out new and “improved” program — probably need an hour or two of help — am willing to pay reasonable sum for technical assistance — thanks.



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

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



To Rent — in Provence
Moyra Byrne,

American artist's house in historic village 1/2 hour from Aix-en-Provence, 1 hour from Mediterranean. Convenient to biking, hiking, golf, tennis, swimming. Two bedrooms with baths, plus skylight studio with single bed; kitchen/dining room and adjoining deck. Available June-October, $2,250 per month, one month minimum. Call owner in France: 011-33-49073-01-85.


House in Maine
Linda Bumbalo,

Does anyone have information on renting a large house in the Bar Harbor or Mt. Desert Island area of Maine for a week in the month of August? Does anyone know a private owner who might be interested or know of a realtor who does this? Are there suggestions for other areas of coastal Maine? I am not interested in anything south of Camden. If you can help me, thank you in advance.



Electronic Personal Organizer
Michon Bechamps,

Sharp YO-530 with 256 KB memory. Contains address book, to do list, calendar, anniversary list, calculator, expense form functions. Possible to link to computer for back up and data entry. Very easy to use, light and compact, instruction manual and original packaging available. Cost $101 18 months ago, make an offer. Contact:


Dave Nuttycombe,

From's LOOSE LIPS column, appearing this Friday:
The Council's Refuseniks: Residents of Ward 6's Near Northeast neighborhood have been complaining for over five years about the USA Waste trash-transfer station at 1140 Third St. NE. The trucks from the facility make a racket, they say, and the garbage they leave behind stinks. Residents of Ward 5's Brentwood neighborhood have voiced the same gripes about the Browning-Ferris Industries facility at 1220 W St. NE. And so have neighbors near the Waste Management Inc. station at 2160 Queens Chapel Rd. NE.
The authority to act on those complaints has sparked war between Ward 6 Councilmember Sharon Ambrose and D.C. Council Chairman Linda Cropp.
Read the entire Loose Lips column this Friday at:

From's CITY LIGHTS page, here are a few early warnings for upcoming events:
Friday, Feb. 5: David Foster Wallace participates in the PEN/Faulkner readings, along with Christina Garcia, at 8 p.m. at the Folger Shakespeare Library, 201 East Capitol St. SE. $13.
Saturday, Feb. 6: First Annual Mother-Daughter Double Dutch Day, 3 p.m. at Central High School, 200 Cabin Branch Road, Capitol Heights. $12.50 for participants (Dads can jump, too), $2 for spectators (proceeds benefit the Maryland Million Woman March Chapter).
More details and more critics' picks are available online at


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