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March 28, 1999

The Whole Story

Dear Pen Pals:

David Harvey is angry. He thinks that I'm covering up for the city government because the last issue of themail didn't include his entire pothole report, and the meaning was completely distorted by leaving out the last three sentences. Sorry, David, but I didn't deliberately truncate your message — I just completely missed the fact that it had a second screen. To show my good intentions, I'll reprint the whole thing right at the top of themail.

Mark Richards, , has suggested that we all include our neighborhoods in our signature lines. I don't have a strong feeling about this, so I'll leave it up to you. If you want to add your neighborhood, please feel free to do so. If you don't want to, then don't.

Gary Imhoff


The Whole Pothole Report, and Nothing But the Whole Pothole Report
David S. Harvey,

More on my pothole report ... Called 3/17 repeating various calls and messages left since 3/2. Told “They picked up the ticket...” Came back afternoon of 3/18 to find potholes patched. However... as of Monday, 3/22, one of the patches is crumbling away, and there are two holes which they missed. Is this progress? I'll leave others more charitable and less cynical about this continuously dreadful government to decide.


Lee Perkins,

Regarding the Mayor's plans to make big bucks off the sale or lease of the UDC property: Don't bet the farm on it! For nearly 6 years, I worked on a recently ended Federally funded project housed at UDC-Van Ness. As long as I worked there, the surrounding office buildings were perpetually for rent and perpetually unrented. Our project investigated moving into one of them. The agent indicated the landlord could negotiate on a lot of our points. (Why not? At the time of our inquiry, the space had not been rented for 2 years.) The building we were in was owned by UDC, but had formerly been a bank that went belly up after mismanagement and the economic turmoil of the late '80s. They couldn't sell it, and the City seized it for unpaid taxes, turning it over to the University. An owner of a nearby building, a nice one too, right on Connecticut Avenue, as a tax thing, tried to donate it to the University, but the administration was too incompetent to consummate the deal!

In the meantime, the Safeway went, GHA went, and many of the little shops changed hands several times. Even the pizza place, which you'd think was a sure winner next to a University and a METRO exit, folded. For some reason, business has not made a great showing of being attracted to the place, despite its apparent advantages. The Mayor and his planners are aware of all this. (If not, they should be). On the other hand, the neighborhood is safe and pleasant with good transportation — ideal for students. What amazes me is that the parents of the students haven't landed on the Mayor like a ton of bricks for wanting to dump their children into a war zone in order to balance the books.


UDC — Yesterday's Newspaper
Ed Barron,

No I'm not referring to when I read Tom Sherwood's article in the NW Current. I'm characterizing UDC in today's world. UDC may have had a viable past, but those days are long gone. If there are five hundred universities in the Northeast, then UDC would rank 501. This underutilized and under managed school is not providing legitimate opportunities for the graduates of D.C.'s high schools that will serve them well. Mayor Williams may well be putting UDC into a death spiral by moving the remains to Anacostia. But that might be a fitting end to an era that is long gone. The University is dead. Long live UDC.

In its place let us begin anew with a school or set of schools that will provide opportunities for our high school graduates to develop some real skills that are in demand in today's marketplace. Along with a new school at the college level we should also build a technical (not vocational) high school modeled after the one in Brooklyn, called Brooklyn Tech. That's a magnet school with a dynamite reputation. For those students requiring esoteric courses, they should be allowed to attend other schools, in or outside the area, using the “local tuition for D.C. students” bill being discussed in Congress. The new UDC (and please change the name for the sake of those who would attend) should establish a whole new mission and goals that would allow the school to bring the high school students up to a real college entry level. Then they can begin to provide educational courses and a curriculum that will meet the students' needs.


The Story of Cinderella of the Swamps, Her City Halls and Mayors
Mark Richards,

People call Washington many things, but I came across a new one used earlier in the century in a 1922 article about the “The Sunny Southwest”" Cinderella of the Swamps! Isaac Marcosson, who used the term, “felt sure that Cinderella of the Swamps would arise and find her golden slipper in the Southwest.” Pending legislation “to beautify the river frontage” caused the author to write “Cinderella is not only about to find her golden slipper but she is about to find her good two shoes there.” Wouldn't that be a cool name for a bar?!

More historic trivia: According to an article on The District Building (1922), it's built on the bed of the Tiber or Goose Creek, the foundation has 4,000 piles, and there is “a copper box containing a number of documents relative to the establishment and government of the National Capital” planted in the foundation — if it wasn't looted yet. Wouldn't it be nice if we could find it and hidden treasures that we could use to buy back our City Hall? Our fearless unelected leaders abandoned our first City Hall on Judiciary Square in 1871 (with the sculpture in front that District residents put up in honor of Lincoln) and sold it to the feds in 1873 for half ($75,000) what they paid for it 51 years earlier. (Back then, they had rented half of it out to the courts to help pay for it — sound familiar?) In 1871, Congress established the territorial government, and we got our first Presidentially appointed Governor, David Henry Cooke (Feb. 28, 1871 to Sept. 1, 1873). He was succeeded by Governor Alexander Robey Shepherd (Sept. 13, 1873 to June 20, 1874) ... who we all know brought us an excellent sewer system, wonderful roads and trees, and a real estate boom in Dupont Circle. And, of course, 100 years of authoritarian rule for proving “representative” government didn't work...

In case anyone was wondering who were DC's elected mayors in the early years (1802-1870), here's the list. As I understand it, they were all elected by the City Council with the exception of the first one. Robert Brent (June 1, 1802 — appointed), Daniel Rapine (June 8, 1812 — elected), James H. Blake (June 14, 1813), Benjamin G. Orr (June 9, 1817), Samuel N. Smallwood (June 14, 1819), Thomas Carbery (June 14, 1822), Samuel N. Smallwood (June 14, 1824), Roger C. Weightman (October 4, 1824), Joseph Gales, Jr. (June 11, 1827), John P. Van Ness (June 14, 1830), William A. Bradley (June 9, 1834), Peter Force (June 1, 1836), William Winston Seaton (June 8, 1840), Walter Lenox (June 10, 1850), John W. Maury (June 14, 1852), John Thomas Towers (June 12, 1854), William B. Magruder (June 9, 1856), James G. Berret (June 14, 1858), Richard Wallach (August 26, 1861), Sayles Jenks Bowen (June 8, 1868), Matthew Gault Emery (June 13, 1870).


Connecticut and Calvert Brouhaha
Margaret Siegel,

Could someone please explain why the old American Security bank building at Connecticut and Calvert should be considered historic? Is the whole building an a perfect example of 50's architecture, or just the facade? It feels as though this is a smokescreen for some other issue — do people want more parking, some residential space there? I'm worried that the wonderful townhouse facing Connecticut Avenue will be left to rot before the bank mess is sorted out.


Juan Williams on Thurgood Marshall
Phil Shapiro,

Last month I attended a spellbinding talk by Juan Williams (Washington Post reporter and political commentator) on the life of Thurgood Marshall. Several of my friends wanted to attend the talk but couldn't, so I videotaped this presentation at the Takoma DC Public Library and have put audio and video clips up onto the web. If you have the free RealMedia Player software installed on your computer you can hear and view these files at:

Juan Williams' previous book, Eyes on the Prize, was the companion book to the PBS documentary series chronicling the struggles and achievements of the civil rights movement. His new book, Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary, received a glowing review in the New York Times in late December. I say we're lucky to have such a distinguished scholar as a resident here in DC.


Number of People in an Apartment
Herschel Browne,

I was told by someone who does building management for a living in DC that the rule on how many people may occupy an apartment is two times the number of rooms plus one. (“Rooms” don't include bathrooms or kitchen.) The typical one bedroom apartment, then, with no separate dining room or den, is two rooms, and can hold up to five people as a matter of right — that is, a landlord may not refuse to rent to a family of up to five people. Once rented to two people, of course, the lease may restrict occupancy to that number.


Concrete Praise of a Concrete Contractor
Gabe Goldberg,

Our front walk has some shifting concrete, and — more alarmingly — there's visible erosion under our front steps. I was concerned that the erosion could cause the steps to crack or separate from the house. So I called a concrete contractor whose ads I'd seen a couple times in the local shopper newsletter. I like the ads, since they emphasize quality rather than cheapest possible work. The owner, Mike Murphy, arranged to visit the day after my call. He looked at the sidewalk and erosion, and said that the steps were in fact supported adequately, that the erosion was cosmetic, caused by ground settling since the house was built (13 years ago) and could be remedied by filling gaps with dirt. He said that replacing the shifted walk concrete panels — which I'd thought would simplify filling under the steps — would cost $1,200 and wasn't worth doing. We talked a bit about issues related to concrete; he described different ways of doing the work. I was happy to save the money by not doing the work, was impressed with his honesty and demeanor. If I ever need concrete work, I'll call him. He's at (703) 748-0453;



“Hypnosis Is Real!”
Wayson P. Lee,

At the Chevy Chase Library, Connecticut Avenue and McKinley, south of Chevy Chase Circle. From Friendship Heights Metro, E-2, E-4, April 7, 1999, 7:15-8:45 pm. This is question and answer and “how to relax & get rid of stress.” WWW, aka the Wizardry of Wonderful Wayson, received his training as a Certified Hypnotherapist from the Hypnosis Institute of NY, a BA from UDC, and AA from Montgomery College. His next movie, he's a concerned parent in a high school gymnasium. Twelve hours+ in a gym, for just a few minutes of screen time! “Cherry Falls.”


Latin Jazz with a Back Beat
Sven Abow,

Bombs on Europe! In the safety of the New World I'll be playing with Mike Wheaton and his band Jaleo this Friday, March 26th from 7-9 pm in the Borders Books/Music store at the Pentagon City Mall. On bass fiddle will be Grant Smith, with whom I'm also co-producing some music with in my cute studio in my cute house in the cute forest.


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