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April 21, 1999

State of Denial

Dear Non-Voters:

Don't try it yourselves — I'm still going to send your submissions back if they're too long for the mail, and I'll still ask you to try to cut long E-mails back to two brief paragraphs. But Tom Matthes has slipped a long message by me by opening up a new and timely subject, and by taking a reasonable, rational, and untrendy position on it. Take your best swings at his pitch in the next issue, but see if you can meet him on his own Constitutional grounds.

Gary Imhoff


DC Voting Rights
Tom Matthes,

As city and private groups take their case for DC voting rights in Congress to a federal court, there are two relevant questions. First, should the people of the district have voting representatives in Congress? Second, do they have that right under the Constitution of the United States? The answer to the first is yes. Unfortunately, the answer to the second question is no and it isn't even close. “The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States...” The US Constitution, Article I, Section 2, paragraph 1. “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State...” The Constitution, Article 1, Section 3, paragraph 1. “New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union;” The Constitution, Article IV, Section 3.

With all due respect to DC residents impatient over their lack of full congressional representation, using clever lawyers to circumvent the plain English of the Constitution is more than a sheer waste of time. It is like spinning the wheels of a car stuck in the mud. You will only wear out the car engine and get no closer to the goal. Asking the courts to repeal the constitutional rule that only states be represented in Congress (which is why DC is only permitted a “delegate” in the House) and that only Congress can admit new states is the constitutional equivalent of President Clinton's approach to perjury (“It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is”). Efforts to get Congress to vote statehood for DC were thwarted by the constitutional requirement that Congress retain legislative authority over the district serving as the federal capital. But Delegate Norton believes that, this time, the 14th Amendment can trump the original text of the Constitution and that a court can order Congress to provide DC with the “equal protection of the laws” including congressional votes.

The honorable delegate should take another look: “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” (Amendment 14, Section I). Unfortunately, again, DC is not a State, but a district. Of course, it is possible that some federal judge will buy the Norton interpretation of the 14th Amendment and either declare DC to be a State or order Congress to admit a full delegation of voting members from DC. If Congress refuses, there will be a constitutional crisis. But if Congress obeys, what precedent is established? Will the Virginia and Kentucky resolutions, penned with the help of Thomas Jefferson in answer to the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, be revived to justify state nullification of disliked federal laws (including laws approved by votes from a district)? Will South Carolina once again try to nullify tariffs or other taxes? Or will states start dividing themselves to create new states in order to increase regional clout in Congress? I have no idea, but be careful what you wish for. Remaking the government by dismissing the obvious meaning of the Constitution will not mend our democracy, but end it.

The only ways to get congressional votes for DC are to amend the Constitution or seek retrocession back into Maryland. Neither will be easy, but trying to circumvent the “supreme Law of the Land” (US Constitution, Article VI, paragraph 2) is a detour into a cul-de-sac. The fastest way to an object is a straight line. It is up to the good people of DC to unite upon a constitutional method and go for it.


Whither the Water and Sewer Authority
Ed T. Barron,

Is this outfit a floating crap game or what?? In the past three years Water and Sewer has changed the mailing address for the place to send your checks three times. Each time there was no red flag on the bill to indicate the change in address. My bills are paid automatically (I call the amount into an automated 800 number) by Fidelity. They send out the check on the date I specify each quarter. Periodically I get a notice from the Water and Sewer crap shooters telling me that my service will be shut off in ten days if I don't pay the bill. Each time I make several calls and finally get through to someone to tell them that not only was my check sent in but Fidelity has a copy of the canceled check. The problem lies with the change in address (we got another new address last week) and the fact that I am not using their return envelope with the new address. It would help if they red flagged those bills that have a new address for sending the checks.


Delay Receiving Renewed Car Registration
Jon Katz,

Does anybody have any suggestions for dealing with D.C. delays in mailing renewed car registration stickers and cards? I sent my renewal request for registration and permit parking over one month ago, received my renewed parking permit, but still have not received my renewed car registration. When I went to DMV in Northeast D.C., I was told to wait a few more days, and that registration cards and parking permits are sent separately. My registration expires this month, so I may just have to revisit DMV.


Supercans and Dogs
Brian Reeves,

Does anyone know the law in DC is regarding putting trash in someone's supercan? I have a dog and have twice in the last week been confronted by people who don't want “that” in their trash. This is my first dog and I've had her for almost a year. Have not had any problems until now. I don't understand this behavior for the life of me. 1) This attitude discourages dog owners from picking up after their dog. 2) These are sealed plastic bags, so there is no odor to worry about.

If I'm close to a public trash can, I'll put it there. If I'm close to my home, I'll put it in my own supercan. But (as many dog owners do), if there is a supercan nearby accessible from the sidewalk or alley, it goes in. I called the police to ask what the law was. The officer I spoke with said as long as I did not go onto someone's property and as long as the bag was sealed, it was "OK." I'm looking for clarification from anyone else with information on this issue. Thanks.


Prisons, Prisoners, & Public Policy
David C. Sobelsohn,

Society should design correctional policy to reduce the rate of recidivism. Studies demonstrate that keeping prisoners close to their families makes them less likely on release to commit more crimes. So it's strange that Ed T. Barron refers to the family proximity argument for siting a prison in Anacostia as “humanitarian.” I suppose it is “humanitarian” to want to keep the crime rate low. But it's an odd use of the adjective, one not usually applied, for example, to increasing police resources. Yet both — increasing police resources, and keeping prisoners close to their families — have the same object: reducing the crime rate. Barron also argues that “if those prisoners really wanted to be close to their families they would not likely be in prison to begin with.” But what prisoners want should not determine correctional policy. We should keep prisoners close to their families because it will help keep them from committing future crimes, not because of what we think prisoners want.

We can make public policy thoughtfully and deliberately, based on studying cause and effect, or emotionally and irrationally, based on no study at all. Let's do what works, not just what feels good.


It’s Not Taxes
Ed T. Barron,

The D.C. City Council has formed a majority who would propose a 25 to 35 percent reduction in personal income taxes for District residents over the next three tax years. This would bring D.C. income taxes in line with those of Virginia and Maryland. The result of this reduction, it is claimed, would bring people back to live in the District. Wrong!!! it might attract a few folks, particularly those who have no children of school age. But it won't stop those who are leaving because of the poor public schools or the crime in the District. Those two factors are the defining factors that will preclude a large influx of folks moving to D.C.

I would gladly give up the $2500 I would save with a 30% tax cut each year to contribute to a fund that would provide vouchers to D.C. parents who want a real education for their children. Until parents have a real educational choice via vouchers or Charter Schools, they will not bring families with school age children into the District. The Education Bill being discussed in Congress, which would allow District students to attend public colleges and universities at in-state tuition rates, is good. But remember, the students will still have to qualify to gain admittance to these colleges and universities. Students with SAT scores of 1300 or more are finding it difficult to be admitted to local universities in VA and MD. We have to fix things at the Elementary and Middle school level first. Since that may be a millennium away for the DCPS we must offer educational choices via vouchers or Charter Schools.


Good Services
Alex Butler,

After watching and reading the weekly postings with interest, I thought that I would share a recent personal experience. I am responsible for launching the North American headquarters office on a global s/w and technology firm (headquartered in Europe) that focuses on enterprise level, intellectual property and asset management. We looked at New York, San Francisco and the DC areas and decided to put our office in downtown Washington (between Metro Center and the MCI Center). Some of this was for economic reasons, some was travel convenience to Europe, some was culture, attitude, employee-based, etc. However, much of our reasoning was based upon the trends and excitement that we saw wherever we looked in the city. Significant attention should be made to the good things that Washington is doing to attract new businesses and the resulting income of good revenue, taxes, jobs, etc. The relatively excellent DC transportation infrastructure also was a factor in our not locating in Northern Virginia's gridlock. Our downtown location is also helping us in recruiting great employees who want to avoid the traffic and "island" work environment found in suburban business parks.

The efforts and leaders of the Greater Washington Initiative, the DC Marketing Organization, and the new DC Tech Council also impressed us and our global management. Although I sense that not everyone agrees with their overall agendas, these organizations did help attract our company — we look forward to contributing likewise as we grow. Finally, believe it or not, we have had wonderful service from the DC government in such small, yet critical issues as permits and registration. They worked with us and everything was done easily and quickly. In fact, in sharing our experience with our other offices' management, DC has been much better from a business development standpoint than London, Paris, and Tokyo. Everyone should keep up the good work in promoting Washington, I travel at least once a week and a genuine buzz is developing -- thankfully, people want to come to our office now because they feel that DC is one of “the” places to be.


The Common Denominator
Kathy Sinzinger, Editor & Publisher, The Common Denominator,

In reply to Messrs. Harvey and Olinger (with whom I have also communicated privately) and others who might be unfamiliar with D.C.'s 10-month-old “hometown newspaper.” The Common Denominator distributes about 30,000 copies throughout the city every two weeks, so we're — unfortunately — not as widely available as The Washington Post, and our complimentary copies appear to be gone rather quickly in some parts of town. Once we get more advertising revenue, we'll be able to do a little more about that. There aren't any millions of dollars standing behind The Common Denominator — just me (an average middle-class D.C. resident for 18 years, who has lived in Brookland for the past 11 years and on Capitol Hill prior to buying my home).

We started out weekly but had to cut back to biweekly while we try to get our advertising revved up. We want to resume weekly publication as soon as possible. We can't afford a marketing campaign, so most copies of the paper have been distributed free since we began publication last June. Our most recent issue (April 19) hit the streets a few days ago. Complimentary copies are available at all D.C. public libraries, all D.C. police stations, at about 400 businesses throughout the city and for 25 cents from bright red vending boxes at every D.C. Metro station. Vending boxes also may be found at D.C. Superior Court, Reeves Center, Good Hope Marketplace and in front of The Washington Post at 15th & L NW. If you're interested, you may subscribe for home delivery in D.C. for $12 per year by calling us (635-6397) with your credit card number or mailing a check or money order to us at 680 Rhode Island Ave. NE, Suite N, WDC 20002. If you have trouble finding a copy of the paper, please call us at 635-6397 to locate a distribution point near your home.


Columbia Heights Development
Elizabeth McIntire,

All are encouraged to continue sending comments to RLA, Councilmember Graham (Ward 1), and the Mayor regarding the critical decision on 14th St development around the Columbia Heights Metro Station. Forest City's is the only development proposal which will cover all 4 city-owned sites on both sides of 14th Street between Monroe Street and Irving Street, NW, including both Metro station entrances. They will preserve the Tivoli Theater for arts/technology uses and place a grocery on the opposite corner (14th Street and Park Road). They are a strong national company with experience in urban retail. Since they would be managing all sites, they are also most able to fulfill requirements for the public benefit -- such as facilities improvements for the schools, police substation, community space, small business and entrepreneurial development, etc. The addresses to write: Secretary, RLA, 801 North Capitol Street, NE; Mayor Anthony Williams, 441 4th Street, NW, 20002, ; Councilmember Jim Graham, Ward One Representative, 441 4th Street, NW, 20002,


Fighting Alcohol Abuse
Rob Fleming,

You may have seen the article in Saturday's Post about a study by Drug Strategies on drug abuse in Washington. If you followed the jump to the inside pages, you saw that it said we're not doing a very good job of fighting it. The full report is available at , and starts with a discussion of alcohol abuse. Many years ago, the DC Alcohol Control Coalition was formed to fight for better alcohol regulation and treatment. We found that many neighborhoods had similar concerns, but little clout with the ABC Board and the Council as long as they worked only at the neighborhood level. The Coalition has been dormant for many years, but is coming back to life.

The next meeting of the DC Alcohol Control Coalition will be at the district office of Councilman Jim Graham at the Reeves Center (up on the mezzanine level) on Tuesday, April 27th at 7:00 pm. Please join us if you are concerned about alcohol sales regulation, public drinking, and the availability of treatment in DC.


WASA Contacts
Ann Loikow, Cleveland Park,

Marguerite Boudreau wrote about problems with her water bill and asked how to contact WASA. I don't know of an email address, but Libby Lawson and her staff (she is the WASA Public Affairs Director) has been good in responding to my queries for assistance. Her telephone number is 202-645-6296.


Stick to the Issues
Jason Juffras,

As an avid reader of themail, I was disappointed when the most recent issue included characterizations of people as “jerks” and “creeps” in a discussion of severance pay for the Mayor's Chief of Staff. Let's have a vigorous exchange of views, but please spare us the name calling.



Turtle Park Refurbishing
Ed T. Barron,

This coming weekend - 24 and 25 April -- will be a refurbishing weekend at Turtle Park on Van Ness St. (at 45th St.). Friends of Turtle Park have raised over $110K to refurbish the park and this weekend all new playground equipment will be installed by volunteers. Anyone interested in helping should come on down to the park on Saturday morning or call P. Kaye Hanifee at (202) 364-7353 for more details.


International Law Seminar
Steven Roy Goodman,

You are invited to attend a seminar entitled “Exploring Careers in International Law: Educational and Professional Opportunities Today,” to be held at The American Society of International Law, 2223 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., Tuesday, April 27, 1999, 6:30 - 8:00 p.m. Fee: $20. For more information please contact Steven Roy Goodman, Graduate Admissions Consultant, (202) 986-9431, or The American Society of International Law, (202) 939-6010,


Shepherd Elementary Auction Postponed to May 8
Donald Squires,

Due to the NATO summit, Shepherd Elementary's Spring Auction, scheduled for this Saturday, April 24, has been rescheduled to May 8, 4-8 pm. Details of the auction are in the April 18 edition of themail. Why is an event scheduled for Saturday and for a location nowhere near downtown postponed for the NATO summit? Don't get me started. But do come on May 8 to support our wonderful D.C. public school. Your $20 ticket gets you dinner as well as a chance to bid on some great items. The postponement gives you two more weeks to save up to bid for your one-on-one lunch with WAMU's Kojo or Mark Plotkin or any of our fabulous items! Here's a tip: because our community is less affluent than some others, our featured items are often sold for much less than you might expect. Email me with any questions. Thanks.



Dupont Circle Sublet
Patty Friedman,

Dupont Circle sublet, available May 3 through June 15. Gorgeous 1 b/r, w/d, d/w, patio, BBQ, close to metro, shops, restaurants. 202-232-3449,


House For Sale by Owner, Cleveland Park
Horace Howells,

One block from Cleveland Park Metro and Connecticut avenue, on 30th between Porter and Ordway. 1st floor, high ceilings with molding, 1995 kitchen, dining room and living room with fireplace. 2nd floor, master bedroom with bathroom, second bedroom, third room home office/nursery and a hall bathroom. 3rd floor, finished room. Basement, finished, has bedroom and full bath and large room with fireplace. The house was built in the late 1940's. It has oil forced water heat and central AC.


Helping a Friend
Wanda Klayman,

A friend and neighbor is in desperate need of a new house to rent or a long/short term house-sitting job. He's in his early 30's, very responsible and has a wonderful middle aged dog who is well trained, clean and not destructive. If anyone has any ideas for him, please contact him (Terry Fischer) directly at . He prefers to stay in or as close to the city as possible. Thanks.


Parking Space Wanted
Richard Gervase,

Who knew how foolish I'd feel driving around in circles after having made the decision to buy a townhouse without a parking space not far from Dupont Circle (“oh, it won't be that bad,” the buyers uttered, egged on by an eager broker, “we'll just park in the neighborhood”)? Well, after three years, we've given up. Any info on a parking space for rent in the vicinity of T to U Streets and 16th/17th Streets would be much appreciated. Please call 884-0210 or send an e-mail to . Thanks!



William B. Menczer, William.Menczer@FTA.DOT.GOV

Schwinn Sidewinder all terrain bicycle, men's 18 speed, 19" frame, excellent condition, $150 or best offer. Call 202-332-5663 evenings or e-mail anytime.


Dave Nuttycombe,

From's LOOSE LIPS column, appearing this Friday:
IT'S WAR! Ward 7 Councilmember Kevin Chavous began his April 15 hearing on the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) with a nasty look on his face. Seated before him was mayoral Chief of Staff Abdusalam Omer, an emissary entrusted with defending Mayor Anthony A. Williams' proposal to move the university from its Van Ness enclave to an unspecified site east of the Anacostia River.
From his leather chair atop the council dais, Chavous looked like a king among serfs. He blasted Omer for his boss's failure to honor the royal court, aka the council's Education Committee. “The mayor has testified before various committees based on what is important to him,” said Chavous. “It would be good to hear from him on this.”
When Omer suggested that he would capably represent the mayor on UDC, Chavous snapped like King John: “I don't think it's in your purview to determine whether [your presence] is sufficient for the council.”
Read the entire Loose Lips column this Friday at:

From's CITY LIGHTS page, here are a few early warnings for upcoming events:
Saturday, April 24: National Day of Puppetry, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Glen Echo Park, 7300 MacArthur Blvd., Glen Echo. Puppet version of “The Wizard of Oz” is $5; other events are free.
Wednesday, April 28: Richard Lederer will sign and discuss “Word Circus,” at 6 p.m. at the Museum of Natural History's Baird Auditorium, 10th & Constitution Ave. NW. $13.
More details and more critics' picks are available online at


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