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February 10, 1999

Unilateral Truce Declared

Dear Etymologists:

It's over. No more comments on “niggardly.” We've said anything that needs to be said on any side of the issue, haven't we? For the past few weeks, we haven't had much neighborhood news, of the kind that doesn't show up in the city newspapers or on television news. What's going on in your block, or around the corner? How is your PSA performing? What do you think of the Appleseed or State Conference of State Legislatures reports on the City Council? (I apologize — they're not up on the DCWatch site yet; give me a couple days and check back on the default page — .)

Gary Imhoff


No Surprises Here
Ed T. Barron,

A local think tank, studying the operations of the City Council has concluded that the Council is a “disorganized, poorly managed panel...” The only real surprise here is that they chose the word “disorganized” implying that one time the Council was organized. Well, not in the twelve years that I have lived here has the Council been anything close to “organized.” And that is too bad, because the Council could well have been the governing body instead of the Control Board established by Congress when Barry was being stripped of his powers. The recent couple of years with almost all of the Council members running for Mayor is clearly indicative that they are all individuals and not working together as a team.

Where is the Mission Statement for the Council? What are their viable, time oriented, measurable goals? These are the things that differentiate the rabble from a working team. The Council could be a dynamite effective steering and oversight team for this city if it was reinvented to work together as a team to accomplish a set of goals that they created. But you can bet your boots that there are some on the Council right now laying plans for the mayoral election in the year 2002 after they have dragged their own boots for another four years.


Danger: Competence in D.C. Government
Kathy Patterson,

Please let me disabuse readers of the notion that Ken Kimbrough is a “Barry holdover” as Ed Barron writes. This is the Office of Property Management director whacked (in the face not the arm, but what would the MPD know?) Thursday night at 441 Fourth Street by Williams aide Norman Dong. Kimbrough was recruited by Camille Barnett in October, with the concurrence of the Control Board and me as relevant Council committee chair; was confirmed by the Council, and has logged something like 90 days on the job. In that time he's gotten us to the place where we pay rent on time and is providing other agency directors with professional property management services. He's a well respected professional, the likes of which we have a hard time recruiting here in the D.C. government. He's very much part of solutions and has been urged by me to stay on the job despite the recent abuse he has taken.


Regional Cooperation?
Tom Berry,

The recent move of the Washington Post's print shop created a lot of hubbub in themail over regional cooperation re: job market, luring businesses, etc. All this talk reminded me of a scenario in the place of my youth, the Pacific Northwest. Several years ago the container shipper, Sea-Land, chose to move its PNW operations from the port of Seattle to Tacoma, 30 miles to the south. Wouldn't you know that the folks at the port of Seattle began to clamor for the folks at the port of Tacoma to fight for business “together” on a “regional” basis. The Seattle folks were obviously miffed at little Tacoma, with one of the world's deepest natural harbors, for snagging Sea-Land and hundreds of jobs. Never mind that Tacoma would provide faster access to railroads for Sea-Land's containers. It was a smart business move for Sea-Land and Tacoma got a break, one that was long coming, for Seattle, for generations, had always taken the plums and left hapless Tacoma with the dregs.

Which brings me to our “region” of DC, NVA and MD. Last night I found myself listening to a commercial on the car radio for the National Capital Boat Show. No, not the one at the Convention Center. This is the upstart in Chantilly. The commercial took some vague potshots at the show in DC, but the ultimate low blow was the reference to “our safe suburban location” (in Chantilly). What a way to attract patrons, eh? And they will. The moral to these two tales is this: there is no such thing as regional cooperation. Area politicians will cater to those who can vote for and agin' 'em. Businesses will locate to the area that offers the best incentives, and that usually involves dollars. And so it went with The Washington Post which, it should be noted, is not and never has been The Washington Region Post, despite its regional coverage.


Police Left Flat
Steph “Watch those lug nuts” Faul,

The issue of ill-equipped police was brought home to my quiet neighborhood a few days ago: An elderly woman across the street reported a burglary (probably imaginary — she apparently said that lace doilies and some china were stolen, and there was no sign of forced entry). A very nice policewoman showed up to handle the situation but as she was leaving noticed her tire was flat. Her car had a spare, but no jack or lug wrench. I offered her my car's jack (and an umbrella — it was raining), but she said no thanks and called another car. Which came, but which also did not have a jack so they had to call a third car. I left the house before it came and don't know what happened after that. This is, in a word, pathetic. Every car, especially one that must answer in an emergency, should be equipped to replace a tire. The incident gave me a clue as to just how bad things have gotten, and just how far we have to go.


“Multi-Syllabic Locutions Seldom Elucidate”
Michelle Treistman,

I find it interesting that in nearly every response to the David Howard incident, the commentary is that an educated person would have understood the word. In fact, the companion attitude is often obnoxious and elitist — and a short step away from an us and them scenario. (WE know what niggardly means, and shouldn't be blamed for using a word that may sound like a racial epithet because THEY don't know what it means.) Come on, niggardly is not exactly a quotidian word.

The blame for the fiasco that resulted — for DC reestablishing itself as something of a joke — should not be placed on those who don't understand, nor should it be assigned to people with extensive vocabularies. The blame fits squarely on the shoulders of people who aren't willing to correct a misunderstanding when it occurs. People who would rather fan flames then douse them. People who, unfortunately, can be found on both sides of most disagreements. I believe Mr. Howard apologized immediately when he realized there had been a misunderstanding. Not only should that have been enough, that should have been the end of it. I will not say that anyone needs to become less sensitive. Nor do I agree that people should monitor their language for certain words. What I am saying, is that some people — commentators and Administration staff alike — need to grow up.


White Folks Don't Get It
Steve Donkin,

As ridiculous as the whole “niggardly” fiasco has been, the contortions some white folks seem willing to go through in their analysis of it — dredging up old arguments that racialist bigotry is a figment of the black imagination and such — seem at least as ridiculous. Yes, it was stupid and ignorant of Mr. Brown to react the way he did to Mr. Howard's remark. It was equally stupid and insensitive of Mr. Howard to use that word in such a setting in the first place, however much we can justify the technical correctness of his vocabulary. And Mr. Williams' handling of the situation was pretty stupid too.

That said, let us indeed put this whole stupid incident behind us! But in doing so, please spare us the platitudes about how black people need to be a little less touchy concerning issues of color and connotations involving color. I'm tired of hearing the white contention that if black folks would stop harping on color, we could achieve that mythical “color-blind” society we all desire, and everything would be fine. That illusion, if it can ever be attained (and I doubt it can), is still a long way off, as a simple comparison of comments and issues raised by the contributors to these pages and comments and issues raised by call-in listeners to, say, WOL radio will show. White privilege is a reality, as is the corresponding disenfranchisment of blacks. Most black folks know this; most white folks seem oblivious to it. This gulf between whites and blacks will thus continue to exist until white — NOT black — people acknowledge the enhanced status offered by their skin color in our society, and take the initiative to remedy the situation. A good start would be not acting so damn snide (is it really so funny when others are affronted by our actions and we can't understand why?); a good second step would be to turn off the computer and get out in the community a little more.


In Response to Vance Garnett
Minna Morse,

First of all, it's Julian BOND, not Bonds. Second — though I agree with your general position on the use of the word niggardly, I am offended by your suggestion that only someone of “less intelligence” might misconstrue the term niggardly as being derived from the term nigger. (Third — before you start making assumptions: I'm white.)

Niggardly is not an often used word; it doesn't mean that someone is of lesser intelligence just because they have not come in contact with it. Anyone who is ignorant of that word might have had the same response. That doesn't mean we should bend to the fears of folks who are ignorant of that word. But it doesn't mean we should unduly malign them either. David Howard was certainly not making a racial slur when he used the word “niggardly,” but his colleagues weren't absolutely cracked (or feeble-minded) to think that he'd chosen a word related to “nigger.” Whatever rumors came out of that exchange certainly got out of hand (and whoever elaborated upon the story was certainly wrong to do so), but as a result, Howard probably did the noble thing in resigning. It was up to WILLIAMS to reject the resignation and explain that niggardly is a proper English word that bears no relationship to the term nigger.

I honestly believe that it was Williams' fearful response — his inability to put the matter in perspective, and not bend to the PC Police in this instance — that has raised such ire (even on the part of Mr. Bond), NOT the simple fact that someone unfamiliar with the word niggardly (though not necessarily “less intelligent” because of it) misunderstood Mr. Howard's intent.


Used Computers
Bernard Arons,

I cannot remember who might have asked about this, but the following group seems to want used computer, video, and other equipment: Multinational Monitor, Box 19405, Washington, D.C. 20036; 202-387-8030; FAX: 202-234-5176; e-mail:  Or at least it said so in the latest issue of “Fellowship” magazine.



Hyde Elementary School Auction
Bill Starrels,

The Hyde Elementary School is a small public school located in Georgetown. Hyde is holding its annual auction on Saturday March 20th from 6 to 9 PM at St. John's Church located on “O” street, between Wisconsin Ave. and 32nd Street. If you have any items or services you would like to donate to the auction please call Liz Starrels at 202-338-1547 or e-mail her at . All donations are tax deductible. 100% of the proceeds go directly to the PTA.



Video Production
Phil Shapiro,

Do you have a story you'd like to tell via the video form? Independent DC video producer can bring your video dreams to life at reasonable rates. Has produced videos for several DC nonprofit organizations including For Love of Children, United Methodist Church, and the Latin American Youth Center. Free initial consultation. Contact Mustapha Amego: (202) 290-0008 (voice mail pager) for a speedy reply.



Room Wanted
Mark Bloom,

Looking for a room to rent 2 nights a week (usually Monday and Tuesday). I will be in at 9:00 pm or later and out by 7:00 am.



ISO a CGA Monitor: Make an Old PC Happy
Carl Bergman,

I have an old but loved Leading Edge Model M (first LE made) that runs at a blazing 4.6 MHz. It’s so steady and reliable, my kids named it Cal. It’s my business answering machine. Recently, its third or, maybe, fourth monitor gave up. If anyone has an old CGA, monitor gathering dust, I’d be interested in picking it up, or whatever. 202-291-8212 — to leave a message or say hi to the old timer.


Dave Nuttycombe,

From's LOOSE LIPS column, appearing this Friday:
Off Schedule, On Message: When Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority General Manager Richard White and aide Herb Leonard showed up at the 11th floor of One Judiciary Square on Jan. 25, they were prepared for a scheduled meeting with Mayor Anthony A. Williams. The two Metro execs had come to strategize on a plan to upgrade subway service along New York Avenue, one of the prime axes in the mayor's “gateway” enhancement initiative.
Ever courteous, the mayoral staff gave White and Leonard plenty of time to hone their pitch to Williams. While the mayor conducted his business, the Metro guys sat on ice outside his office, in a reprise of the daily scene in the court of Mayor-for-Life Marion S. Barry Jr.
Read the entire Loose Lips column this Friday at:

From's CITY LIGHTS page, here are a few early warnings for upcoming events:
Tuesday, Feb. 16: Donald E. Westlake, at the National Museum of American History's Carmichael Auditorium, 14th & Constitution Ave. NW. $13.
Thursday, Feb. 18: Suzanne Vega reads, or sings, from “The Passionate Eye: The Collected Writings of Suzanne Vega,” at 7 p.m. at Olsson's, 1200 F St. NW. Free.
More details and more critics' picks are available online at


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