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February 24, 1999

Animals, Animals

Dear Scorecard Keepers:

I have a project for you. If it works, you help your neighborhoods at very little effort. If it doesn't work, you expose another phony promise from the government. The Mayor has promised that the Department of Public Works will fill every pothole within 48 hours after it is reported to it, and the Department has said that it is now meeting that goal. Do you believe it? Let's find out.

I propose that each of us calls in one or two potholes in our own neighborhoods, and keeps track of how long it takes for the Department to fill them. Then please report back to themail about how well the program worked. How long does it take for your potholes to be filled — if they get filled. The telephone number to report potholes is 202-645-7055.

Gary Imhoff


Nightlife for DC Government Wonks
Nick Keenan,

If your idea of fun is pulling back the curtain on the deep dark secrets of DC Government agencies, you really should try to catch Sharon Ambrose and Jim Graham's hearing on nuisance properties on DC Cablevision. It's long — over 8 hours — but if you're interested in the issue it's riveting. The first six hours or so is citizen testimony, a tidal wave of resident after resident, telling the same story with multitudinous variations: there is a nuisance property near me. It has been a problem for years. I've made phone calls, written letters, taken photographs, done everything I could, and nothing ever happens. Ever. The sheer number and variety of people with the same story is astonishing and compelling.

However, the highlight comes near the end. The top four officials of DCRA are being questioned. Jim Graham wants to know who would be responsible for inspecting a particular nuisance property in his ward. The DCRA officials try to dodge the question, but Ambrose and Graham are skilled questioners, and they methodically tighten the noose. After about 20 minutes of rhetoric about “moving forward” and misdirection, the folks from DCRA are forced to answer a direct question, and the admission is finally made: there is no one. In the entire department, there is nobody whose regular job includes inspecting and ticketing nuisance properties. Graham and Ambrose look at each other in shock for a moment, and Graham offers, “Well, if nothing else comes of this hearing, this discovery has made the whole day worthwhile.” It's must-see TV!


For Fun
Joan Eisenstodt,

Much to do for fun in DC!
— Smithsonian Res. Associate programs: Radio Theater, upcoming Kite Festival.
— Wandering Eastern Market on Sat. and Sun.
— Eating at Market Lunch at EM — always a treat — for who you see, food, and vibrance of the Market.
— Theater — Arena ("The Women" and "Thunder Knocking" were great) and Shakespeare.


Where to Go for Fun
Annie McCormick,

As far as where to go for fun. I am a member of a Dart League called Tournament Darts International (TDI). There is also another league in Washington called Washington Area Darts Association (WADA).   Both are local, even tough the I from TDI stands for International.

These are leagues of players at different levels of performance. There are teams, mixed doubles, etc. TDI gets together on Wednesday nights at places around DC (Mr. Eagan's, Angles, 4 Provinces, Bedrock Billiards, Atomic Billiards, Nanny O'Brians, Stetsens, Giogios, and others), and WADA players shoot on Tuesdays and Thursdays — with some of the places in Virginia. This is a great group of people, fun is had by all. They are always looking for more shooters. If interested, call Ginny at Mr. Eagan's (she is known as the “Den Mother”). 202/331-9768. Cost is $15 a season to be given to your captain. Season is going on now, but they are always looking for substitutes for teams whose members can't show up on a certain night. Just thought I'd pass it along, if anyone would be interested.


Wild Life in NW D.C.
Ed T. Barron,

For two legged wild life the AU/Spring Valley area is not the place to be (except, possibly, Emilios). They roll up the sidewalks in this area after about 7 PM. If there is any AU ild life it is down south on the campus. The grad schoolers from the AU Law School are not to be seen or heard after dark. For those seeking more lively quarters I recommend Wisconsin Avenue just south of Western Avenue on a Friday evening. All the restaurants seem to be booming (save for That's Amore, which went belly up this year) and there are throngs of folks on the sidewalks. Parking is a real bummer so we take the Metrobus from the cemetery-like non-activity of AU Park and Spring Valley to Friendship Heights. When they get the Mazza Plaza finished with all the curbside entry stores this will be a very lively and interesting place to stroll. As it is now with Borders, the bakery restaurant, TGI Friday's and the like, it is booming up there.


Wild Life in Shaw
Nick Keenan,

I realize that themail's readers are probably tired of the residents of Shaw constantly pointing out how much better their neighborhood is than the rest of the city, but here goes one more time: Wildlife. On my block, in the heart of Shaw, we have had a red fox living in the alley for about two years. He is most active in the evening and early morning, and will eat cocktail sausages if left for him.


Wildlife in and out of the Woods
Mike Hill,

With the frequency of raccoon and possum sittings, should we really consider them 'wildlife' anymore? I see them more often than dogs in my 'hood.

As for the truly unusual, any Mt. Pleasant / Connecticut Ave. resident can thrill to the otherworldly sound of the National Zoo's gibbons hooting early in the morning, as well as many other animals. For wildlife of a different kind, check out the Raven Grille on Mt. Pleasant Street, or Ben's Chili Bowl and the Islander on U Street; all great neighborhood hangouts, where you might see the (locally) famous face now and again.


Big City Jungle
steph “Lives with two mighty felines” faul,

Over the years I've seen foxes, raccoons, deer, a pileated woodpecker, and all other sorts of wildlife -- all in D.C. When I lived in Cleveland Park a flock of pine siskins regularly visited my window feeder, to the astonishment of a bird watcher friend. But the most memorable animal excitement happened two years ago, on a warm summer night when I'd opened the door to the back porch so my cats could come and go. I was lying on the living room sofa reading when I realized the cats had come back inside and were prowling around in an unusually attentive way. I looked up: They were following an opossum, which had presumably wandered into the house in search of food. (FYI: Possums love cat food.) What to do? I began chasing the critter. It proved its kinship to armadillos by running right past two open doors and taking refuge under the kitchen radiator, where it glowered at me with little beady eyes and displayed an impressive array of large needley teeth. Grabbing a gardening glove and a bath towel, I padded my hand thoroughly and bravely reached for its tail. It made no protest. I pulled it out. It still made no protest. In fact, it swayed limply from my hand with no sign of life. In an instant I knew: IT WAS PLAYING POSSUM. So I took it outside, laid it gently on the ground, and when I looked out about 20 minutes later it was gone.


Fawn and Fowl
Tom Berry,

Okay, so lotsa folks have seen 'coons and possums and rats. Come with friend Kaufmann and me on a Tuesday or Thursday morning (6:05 am) and we might show you not one, but three does foraging the vegetation in the yards on Oregon Ave. between Chestnut and Western. We've seen this trio twice now in recent weeks, and this doesn't include the other deer we've seen during the same time. We do a little stare-down for a few seconds about 50' apart before Mr. K and I move on.

As exciting as the above always is, it will still never compare to the sight in our backyard a few years ago. The neighbor behind me called early one morning to congratulate me on our new pet. Knowing I was confused, he directed me to the back of my house where I looked out to see a great blue heron standing behind the pond. The heron and I stood motionless for about a minute. Then it began to cautiously amble through the garden dividing our yard with the next door neighbor's. I called that neighbor and directed him to the back of his house. We watched together for a moment until the heron was spooked by another neighbor's roaming dog. The heron spread it's wings a good 6', flapped them like hell, and gradually took off for safer territory.


Baseball Frenzy
Randy Wells,

Should we bring baseball back to Washington, DC? That discussion has become absolutely frenzied, especially since the Mayor entered the fray. His support for the idea adds credibility — ginning up the hopes of the pro-baseball crowd, but also the fears of those who oppose a new stadium. Do themail readers put themselves into the hopeful or the fearful crowd? Or both? Regardless, please consider this: there are at least three viable sites for a new (or revamped) stadium: Mt. Vernon Square East, Union Station North, or RFK Stadium.

Each potential stadium site has its advantages, each has its drawbacks. Any of the three could anchor a new mixed-use development (office, retail, entertainment & transportation). All three could increase Metro ridership, and bring new tax revenue to the city. But either would require a substantial private and public investment, the payoff for which would depend on the quality of design and implementation. So lets take a serious look at all three, and get solid community input from residents most directly affected by each site.


DC Schools
Victor Chudowsky,

This week's Education Week refers to yet another study indicating DC schools are — surprise — terrible. Based on test scores and other criteria — DC was at the very bottom: #50 out of all the states and territories. American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative think tank serving state legislators conducted the study, but the results dovetail perfectly with every other ranking of the nation's schools published in Ed. Week, including their own national survey published last fall.

What makes the ALEC study interesting and relevant to our situation today, with Ms. Ackerman and others raising teacher's salaries in the District and sending more money to poorer performing schools is that, at the macro level, “There is no correlation between spending and educational performance.” In other words, just because you spend more does not mean you get more. The District spends $9,123 per student, 2nd highest amount in the country, and what are we getting? The ALEC study also finds that “there is no statistically evident correlation between educational performance and teacher salaries.” But here in the District we want to give our teachers a 5% raise. For what? To keep them from going to MD or VA? Let'em go I say — and let us open more charter schools to take their place. Too bad ALEC did not do more math to look at spending on administration vs. classrooms. 2nd highest in per pupil spending, yet our teacher salaries are low. Where is that money going? Perhaps someone on this list can explain.


DC in Black and White on French TV1
Mark Richards,

In December, French TV1 aired a comprehensive story on D.C. I had heard they were doing it earlier in the year and sent the producer a letter and papers on DC's sociopolitical history, but never heard anything. I'd forgotten about it until a friend from Paris came to visit — video in hand: “Mark! It's incredible! It was on French TV — I recorded it! You know, at least 40% of French watch that show — it's very popular.” I hadn't mentioned it, but by coincidence, she had seen a preview and taped it. It's safe to bet that that French people are now more informed about D.C. than fellow Americans.

The report, titled “Washington in Black and White,” starts with a murder in Anacostia and walks through disenfranchisement, Congressional intervention, no commuter tax, poor city services, poverty among blacks (reporter: “they say 'African-Americans' in the U.S.”), mismanagement and the Control Board, etc. They contrast the churches with the crime, hope and despair. The vacant storefronts in Anacostia look dreadful, but the restaurant and people they show are wonderful! They interviewed people moving to the burbs and other hopefuls moving in. And citizens who adore the city. They featured local “notables” (as the French say) — Barry (“The problem is the Republicans in Congress... here for a few years, don't know what's going on... we are going to resist them!” And, “The city is on the upswing — we're making improvements, ...” — standard pitch of positive indicators); Norton (“The deep hypocrisy is that we don't put democracy into practice here in the seat of the capital of democracy.”); and then-CFO Williams (“People have high expectations and those who run the city make all kinds of promises, like full employment, yet they can't even maintain basic services and there's little money... there are about 30,000 city employees, maybe only half to two-thirds work on a good day.”). The video shows black students taking a long bus ride across town to white Georgetown to Duke Ellington school where a music class is featured. The student says that in his neighborhood, people are friendly, say hello if he says hello — not so West of the Park. One white transient international resident talks about the black/white divide, says she feels the city is missing a heart. The narrator concludes that the heart of the city lives outside of the monumental core among the city's people in their day to day local victories in which, little by little, things improve.

I was not surprised that President Chirac invited our mayor to visit with him. He, after all, was the first mayor of Paris after that city gained real self-government for the first time in a century — in 1975, changing forever the nature of that job. I found VERY interesting parallels between Paris and D.C. while doing research there last year. Paris has democracy, with 517 elected officials, and the city works quite well. For the city's official website, go to  They make it accessible even to “Anglophones”!


Cherry Blossoms
Gemma Park,

Does anyone know when cherry blossoms generally hit the area?


Smoking in Metro Facilities
David Sobelsohn,

I applaud and fully agree with Randy Wells's posting about smoking by bus drivers on DC public-school buses. This does more than send a terrible message to our schoolchildren; it also endangers their health directly, from second-hand smoke.

Metro is another local government institution with a casual and inconsistent approach to tobacco use. The official metro policy is: no smoking on any metro facilities by anyone, period. Metro facilities include all property owned by metro in or around metro stations — including escalators, elevators, and space around station-manager booths and ticketing machines. In other words, it is illegal to smoke on the escalators, elevators, and around the ticketing machines and station-manager booths. Yet metro has placed ashtrays at the bottom, rather than the top, of its escalators, encouraging riders to continue smoking on this particular metro facility as they ride to the bottom, and encouraging them to light up as soon as they mount the escalators for their rise up from the station. I have also seen station managers smoking near the ticketing machines. I have repeatedly written to metro about these incidents of staff on-site smoking. We have a right to expect metro staff to obey the rules that are part of their jobs to enforce, especially when those rules are designed to protect the health of metro customers. In each of my letters I identified the station and staffperson, and gave the exact date and time of the incident. Metro has never replied to any of my letters, and metro staff continues to smoke in metro facilities. When will the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority instruct its employees to obey metro's own governing law?


Phone Repair Inquiry
Paul Penniman,

Our friends at Bell Atlantic now charge $74 for the first rewiring of a jack and $30-something for each subsequent rewiring. Does anyone know a better alternative? Any freelance phone guys lurking?


Where to Donate Your Books
Beth-Ann F. Gentile,

Last time I visited the Bell Multicultural High School in Columbia Heights, D.C., I was shocked by how few books they had in their library. Unless things have improved remarkably over the last few years, I think that your books would be a great help.



Robert Revere,

Sunday, February 28, 1999: “Onkel Theodor.” Stories from the life of an Austrian diplomat. In this sotorytelling performance for adults, Peter Hornbostel, a Washington attorney, dons the persona -- including the dead-on accent — of his charming Austrian uncle, a diplomat who recounts his harrowing days in a Nazi prison camp and the quirks of fate that saved his life. Cost: $5, 3 pm, District of Columbia Arts Center, 2438 18th St. NW Washington DC. For more information contact: Robert Revere 301.891.1129,



Ann McCulloch,

Three dresses, sizes 6-8, in navy, pale yellow, and pale green. Dessy, Ann Taylor, Nordstrom. All sleeveless and simply designed, ankle length. Taking up room in my closet, but may interest someone. $25 each or all three for $70.



Book Donations
Martha Saccocio,

The Friends of the Tenley-Friendship branch of the DC Public Library is hosting its semi-annual book sale on Saturday, April 10 from noon to 4:00 pm. Book donations are most appreciated and can be dropped off at the library any day except Sunday (the library is open late two nights a week). simply place donated books in the bins to the right of the exit gate. Parking is available behind the library.


Dave Nuttycombe,

From's LOOSE LIPS column, appearing this Friday:
THE COUNCIL'S STEALTH PAY HIKE: On March 3 of last year, D.C. councilmembers decided that their annual salary of $80,600 was plenty for a part-time job. They voted to impose a salary freeze effective until amended by subsequent legislation.
Then came the unseasonably mild winter of 1998-99. By the time the 13th council session opened on Jan. 4, the freeze had melted into a tidy $12,000 raise available to the seven councilmembers elected to office in November 1998: Sharon Ambrose, Kathy Patterson, Phil Mendelson, Vincent Orange, Linda Cropp, Graham, and David Catania.
An unusual pact between councilmembers and Chairman Cropp accounts for the two-month official silence on the raises.
Read the entire Loose Lips column this Friday at:

From's CITY LIGHTS page, here are a few early warnings for upcoming events:
SATURDAY, Feb. 27: Harambee Carnival 1999, at 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 17, at Gallaudet University, Kellogg Conference Center, 800 Florida Ave. NE. $25 (proceeds benefit Adventures in Health, Education, and Agricultural Development Inc).
SUNDAY, Feb. 28: The Hillbilly Funk Allstars, featuring Vassar Clements, Kenny Gradney, Richie Hayward, T. Lavitz and Catfish Hodge. At 7:30 p.m., at the Birchmere, 3701 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria. $17.50.
More details and more critics' picks are available online at


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