Consulting with themail
In the past few months, did you get a call from the Mayor asking for your
advice and counsel about his baseball stadium proposal, about his proposal to move the
University of the District of Columbia, about his proposal to eliminate City Council
oversight of expenditures over $1,000,000, about his budget, or about anything? I didn't
think so. Nobody else did, either.
In today's Washington Post, Tony Williams defends his governing
style, and essentially insists that he'll continue to make decisions unilaterally, without
public input or consultation. Even if he makes good decisions which this style of
decision making makes less likely it's impossible in a democracy to impose
decisions when you haven't built any consensus on or public agreement to them. And it's
impossible to build consensus when decisions are made without any public participation.
When Tony Williams was the Chief Financial Officer, he was unparalleled in his openness.
He initiated what he called the citizens budget review process, in which he invited in
both disinterested and interested members of the public to critique the budget proposals
for the government as a whole and for particular departments and agencies. He got a wide
range of opinions and suggestions; he said that the whole consultation process was
tremendously useful and productive; and he expressed amazement that the Council and the
Mayor had never done anything like that before. Now that he is Mayor, he has retreated to
making the most important decisions in back room secrecy. I, for one, am hoping for a
turn-around soon, and hoping that the Mayor returns to being the advocate for openness and
consultation who ran to be the Mayor.
Playing with a Full Deck (or, How to Navigate
Mark Eckenwiler, firstname.lastname@example.org
Lunatic that I am, I've decided to buy a house on Capitol Hill. The one in
question has a garage, and accordingly almost no rear yard. In the long run, I'd like to
build a deck on top of the garage, as exists at more than half of the other houses on the
same block. Assuming I'm sufficiently foolhardy to want to do this by the book, how should
I go about it? Is there an office/phone number at DCRA from which I can get details about
the process? A web site, perhaps? And since this is a historic district, what other hoops
must one jump through? Leaving aside actual construction, what costs, deadlines, or
waiting periods ought one to anticipate?
Pointers to useful information, or even hair-raising tales of what
mistakes NOT to make (and/or which offices/officials to avoid), would be greatly
Mayor Williams's proposal to relocate UDC to Anacostia is probably dead on
arrival, due largely to the way it came across as government by fiat. Had he at least
broached the subject with UDC's president and its board (if enough of its members could
ever be gathered together), then he would have had the upper hand by being able to state
that negotiations were attempted, even if they had gone nowhere. As it is now, everyone
has staked out a position, each of which has a degree of legitimacy. Student fears about
the university being ghettoized and UDC officials' concerns about being
bypassed in such an important matter are certainly understandable; the mayor is probably
correct, though, in suggesting that the current campus is greatly underutilized and that
the land/property could benefit the city much more if used for different purposes. What
might make the most sense at this juncture is a compromise of sorts: why not consolidate
certain departments and campus activities in a reduced portion of the existing Van Ness
campus (thereby freeing up large chunks of prime real estate for development) while at the
same time building a second campus in Anacostia that could focus more on the needs of
students in that part of town? After years of complaints about how the city's development
plans always ignore wards across the river, one would hope that the construction of an
educational institution there would be better received than what we've heard so far.
Lara Kozak, email@example.com
As a former and future resident of the District I wanted to throw in my
two cents regarding economic development. Economic development is not the glue that holds
the city together and makes communities good places to live. Thousands of people did not
leave the District because they were concerned about how businesses were being treated or
if the government laid out the red carpet for big business. They left because numerous
basic services were not maintained, crime was threatening and the physical fabric
including historic structures were not cared for. These are not factors that are taken
into consideration in the general scheme of economic development, yet it is
economic development, growth, huge cash intensive projects
(i.e..stadiums) and bowing down to big business that politicians and the government goes
out of its way for, that the media hypes and that citizens are brainwashed into believing
are the most important issues. I hope Williams will do right by the District and expand
the notion and the reality of what is good for the city the bottom line is not the
bottom line, the issues not addressed by the market or economic development are just as
important to the well-being of the city.
Parents of DC public school students are being asked to again complete the
Impact Aid form (the one required by the feds for special grants) that is submitted at the
beginning of the school year because those turned in last September, according to a memo
from my son's principal, were LOST when the Board of Education moved to new offices. We're
talking about individual forms for every public school student, in other words 70,000+
forms. How does one possibly go about losing 70,000 forms? And what degree of compliance
do they anticipate in getting a second set completed by parents three quarters of the way
through the school year? And we wonder why, once again, millions of dollars in available
federal grant moneys went unclaimed by the DC school system.
Crunching the Wilson Bridge Numbers
Nick Keenan, firstname.lastname@example.org
Some of the numbers that are being thrown around in the discussion of a
new Wilson Bridge: The current bridge handles 200,000 cars per day, and opens about 220
times a year for boats. The new bridge will cost about $2 billion, about half of that cost
will be to make it a drawbridge, and it will require fewer than half as many openings.
What does this mean about the cost and who is bearing it? My guess (with no basis in
reality) is that the annual cost of operation and debt service will be about 10% of the
construction cost, or $200 million. Since half of the cost is due to the bridge being a
drawbridge, that would mean $100 million allocated to cars, and $100 million to boats.
200,000 cars per day times 365 days per year = 73 million cars per year = $1.37 per car
per crossing. 100 drawbridge raisings per year = $1 million per drawbridge raising.
It has been stated that the bridge will not be a toll bridge, as it would
not be cost effective to recover the cost from motorists. I will concede that $1.37 seems
nominal if just barely. But boats are another matter a million here and a
million there, and pretty soon we're talking real money. Does anyone know how much, if
anything, boats have to pay now to have the Wilson Bridge opened? There has been very
little debate about whether a drawbridge is necessary due perhaps to the fact that
the current drawbridge benefits mostly the Washington Post most of what
you read treats it as a foregone conclusion that big boats need to get into the area
between the Wilson Bridge and the 14th St. Bridge. But would there be any demand at all
for a drawbridge if boats were forced to pay the real cost, a million dollars a pop?
Just thought I would report some good news in these early days of spring
with hopes that such news will continue. We filed our DC tax return around February 28,
1999. Our tax refund arrived on March 16, 1999.
In his posting on a location for a DC big league baseball stadium, Phil
Greene writes RFK Stadium is in Anacostia. My knowledge of DC geography is a
little fuzzy. Isn't the neighborhood known as "Anacostia" south of the Anacostia
river, and isn't RFK north of that same river?
Since when is RFK Stadium in Anacostia? I must admit I get inordinately
riled when people mix up their SE/SW geography as it seems to me the assumption is that
everything over there that's not in the immediate ultra-tony Capitol Hill
neighborhood is all part of one large (unsavory) neighborhood. A little clarification is
in order: Anacostia is on the southwest side of the Anacostia River, and RFK Stadium is on
the east side. If RFK can be said to be in a neighborhood (and since it's such a behemoth
astride the edge of the river, it's sort of beyond the edge of a proper neighborhood), I'd
say Capitol Hill/Lincoln Park, but never Anacostia. It's like saying that the White House
is in Georgetown, or that UDC is in Chevy Chase only off by one or two miles, but
still, a world of difference when you think about it ...
In her posting on the closing of Ciao Baby Cucina, Annie McCormick writes,
in effect, good riddance, because of the unpleasant service. I too was unimpressed by the
service at CBC, which is why (after the first time) I went there only for the happy hour
food, the best no-extra-charge happy hour food in DC. Not only was it a huge amount of
decent food for no more than the price of a drink, but you had minimal contact with staff:
it was all (except the drink) self-service. Maybe too many people had the same idea . . .
Utility Rates for Churches
Andrea Wyyat Sexton, email@example.com
As far as I'm concerned, churches, synagogues and mosques ARE commercial
establishments. Not only should they pay their utility bills, but they should also pay DC
real estate taxes. I'm perfectly happy for those establishments to take whatever
charitable deductions the IRS allows (feeding the homeless, etc.), but stop forcing the
rest of us to bear the financial burdens of lifting your spirits.
Utility Rates for Churches
Jonathan Abram, JLAbram@HHLaw.com
What on earth are they thinking of? That is Barbara Lock
Goodman's response to charging churches, synagogues and other charitable organizations
utility rates at the commercial level. We [at Hogan and Hartson] have been
fighting this battle for some time now with respect to water and sewer rates. Until 1997,
the District had a long-standing policy of providing water to charities at reduced rates
(or free), in recognition of the important services these groups provide to needy D.C.
residents. Churches and other groups relied on these discounts to make ends meet. Two
years ago, the Water and Sewer Authority, without warning, put a halt to that practice and
raised charities' water and sewer rates to the full commercial or retail
level, sending many charities reeling. One of the hardest hit groups, a community based
non-profit housing provider, saw its bills increase by $100,000, a burden ultimately borne
by its low income tenants.
WASA knew the public outcry that would result when news of this rate
increase came to light. Perhaps fearing such an outcry, WASA raised the charitable rates
in a secret meeting and, when the non-profit community tried to protest, WASA literally
refused to give them a hearing, even though the law requires one whenever rates are
raised. WASA compounded the problem further three months later, when it raised rates again
by an additional 42 percent. We are pro bono counsel to hundreds of
congregations and community organizations who have gone to court challenging WASA's
attempt to increase charities' rates without even so much as a hearing. The groups have
asked the court to invalidate the increased rates until WASA gives them the hearing the
law requires. The case will be argued in the D.C. Court of Appeals later this year. If the
local charities prevail, they may finally get the public hearing required by law, at which
they will recount the harm that "commercial" water bills have done to them and
to the needy people they serve.
The Greaseman's Influence; Baseball in Our City
Paul Penniman, firstname.lastname@example.org
Larry Seftor may not believe this, but the Greaseman's forum (and
appreciative audience) is every bit as injurious to our citizenry as a publicly addicted
mayor. The less we have to hear the likes of Mr. Tracht, the less our disenfranchised
feeling comrades on the other side of the Anacostia will feel compelled to vote for any
black man who appears to be on their side. John Thompson had it right two weeks ago when
he advised Tracht to go talk to middle school suburban kids and not inner city church
On the subject of baseball, the discussion needs to return to the
following question: following the model of Baltimore, Cleveland, and Denver, how would an
inner-city ballpark benefit our citizens? (To be economically tenable, a new ballpark or
new guts for RFK would have to be built, at great expense.) It would be a great morale
boost and lots of fun for people like me who are well-off and have been known to spend as
much as $30 to watch a baseball game. But can we please start reversing the tide of not
educating legions of people before we start building multi-hundred-million dollar play
fields for the wealthy?
Hate to break it to you, Larry, but what Marion Barry did was to himself,
was not a hate crime against another person, and did not involve senseless murder of
another human. There is no comparison -- regardless of Mr. Tracht's profession, there are
some issues which should be left off the table when it come to irreverence i.e.
hate crimes. In my opinion, Mr. Tracht, and every other American, should have been just as
appalled as the jury which convicted King, if we are to believe in any of our founders'
precepts, although our system has many flaws. Yes, there are many murders, all of which
are egregious, and all of which should be as outrageous. We could debate for days as to
why every murder does not evoke the same response of outrage. But face it, MURDER IS NOT
Couple a Things...
T. Jr. Hardman, email@example.com
First but not foremost, Connie Ridgway takes issue with my suggestion that
everyone arm themselves for possible Y2K disruptions. Actually, my suggestion is less that
people be armed, and more that they be organized. There are career military and law
enforcement personnel scattered throughout Washington's neighborhoods -- they probably are
armed, and know how, when, and most importantly why to use, or not, their weapons in the
common defense. Get to know these people. Secondly, we must finally and thankfully commend
the Williams Administration for at long last taking aim at some of the worst
abusers ever to leech off of the City reforms have begun in Human Services. The
mentally retarded once again are protected instead of being used as pawns to defraud
Medicare/Medicaid. We can only hope that similar reforms will be seen in services dealing
with the mentally ill. A choice between St. Elizabeths or freezing on the street is no
choice at all. Most freeze.
Thirdly the Onlining of Washington. There's no question that there
are huge turf wars to be fought in this arena. But first let's dismiss this notion that DC
is a state in the internet domain name system or should have state in the
domain name. That's already implied in the dc.us part of the name. However, the .ci should
probably be .gov. But the turf wars aspect of Onlining Washington is simply intolerable.
Ridiculous infighting over the last two years has resulted in a situation where Congress
has to spend enough just to fix the City's Y2K disaster to put a new Pentium
II in the hands of every single District resident, including City employees and
babes-in-arms. And if you even try to mention free Linux software to these people they
just hang up on you more due to Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt than through the
slightest understanding of technical issues. This is absurd. The software cost savings
alone could make that Pentium II for every resident into a top-tier laptop.
E. James Lieberman, firstname.lastname@example.org
[In response to a request for recommendations for a Spanish tutor ]
May I recommend a computer program put out by Transparent Language? It's amazing
you can even record your voice and compare it with native speaker on words and phrases.
Also I recommend Tempo Bookstore near Tenley on Wisconsin Avenue NW for language
books/courses (including TL). TL has a web site if you want to get a sample of what they
have. It may not be a substitute for a live course but it makes a great
Author-photographer Peter Penczer presents Washington, DC: Past
& Present, a slide lecture featuring scenes of Washington then and
now. Book signing, refreshments, free admission! Tuesday, April 6, 1999, 7:00 pm,
Cleveland Park Library, Connecticut Ave. & Macomb St., NW (one block south of
Cleveland Park metro on the red line). For information, call (202) 727-1345.
The 1968 Riots and its Effects on an Inner-City
Catholic Parish in Washington, DC
Christopher J. Pohlhaus, email@example.com
The Spring meeting of the Catholic Historical Society of Washington will
sponsor a lecture and discussion: The 1968 Riots and its Effects on an inner-city
Catholic Parish in Washington, DC, by Rev. Raymond B. Kemp, STL. Sunday, April 25,
1999, 4:00 p.m. St. Ann's Church, Tenley Circle, 4400 Wisconsin Avenue, NW. Father Raymond
Kemp, a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington and a senior fellow at the Woodstock
Theological Center, will speak about the riots in Washington, DC, following the
assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1968. As a native Washingtonian and young
priest assigned to Sts. Paul & Augustine parish at the time of the riots, Fr. Kemp has
unique insights into the events surrounding this tumultuous period. The effects of the
riots on this parish and the surrounding community will be discussed. Prior to the
presentation will be a short business meeting. Refreshments will be served.
St. Ann's Church is located one block south of the Tenleytown/American
University Metro Station. Parking is available on the street and in the church parking
lot. Enter the church from the Yuma Street side and proceed downstairs to the Collins
Room. The Catholic Historical Society of Washington was founded in 1976 in order to
preserve and promote awareness of Catholic history in the Archdiocese of Washington, which
includes the city of Washington, DC, and five Maryland counties (Montgomery, Prince
George's, Charles, Calvert, and St. Mary's counties). The society sponsors four lectures
each year, a quarterly newsletter, and occasional tours of historic Catholic sites. Annual
dues are $20 and may be sent to the Catholic Historical Society of Washington, 924 G
Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001.
CLASSIFIEDS HELP WANTED
Legal Assistant Bilingual Spanish
Jon Katz, firstname.lastname@example.org
Bilingual Spanish/English legal assistant and receptionist sought by
downtown Silver Spring trial law firm. P/T & F/T available. Great experience. Near
Metro. Fax res./cov. let.: Jon Katz, Marks & Katz, (301) 495-8815.
CLASSIFIEDS ARTISTS WANTED
Mount Pleasant Arts Festival Call for
Becky Shannon, email@example.com
We're planning an arts festival for Mount Pleasant, scheduled for Sunday,
October 3, 1:00 pm to 6:00 pm. The scenarios is this: we're inviting D.C. artists to
display their wares around Lamont Street Park, while we have a schedule of mellow
entertainment a swing band, Brazilian dancers, etc. on the park stage. We're
renting cafe tables for listeners and browsers who want to enjoy the performance or light
fare from several food vendors and surrounding restaurants. The entry fee is cheap ($10
per space) to encourage amateurs. If you have a local art appreciation group or know
interested amateurs or professionals, pass the word around or send me a contact name so I
can get in touch.
CLASSIFIEDS SPACE FOR OFFICE AND AUTO
Office Sublet, Silver Spring
Jon Katz, firstname.lastname@example.org
One office and up to one secretarial space available at downtown Silver
Spring law firm in nice building. Near Metro. Beautiful view of Woodside Park. Conference
room and waiting area. Reasonable rates; short-term lease possible. Call Jon Katz, Marks
& Katz, (301) 495-4300.
Any Suggestions for Off-Street Parking
Lonna Shafritz, email@example.com
I'm looking for a parking place, as close to 19th and California as
possible, starting early April, with easy access. Would prefer actual covered/protected
garage space, but ANY ideas welcome. reply to above email or phone: 202-884-8784.
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