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April 28, 1999

Memories of Wyoming

Dear themailians:

Friday will be John Hill's last day as Executive Director of the Control Board. Regardless of what DC citizens think of the Control Board's existence or of its accomplishments, it's undeniable that John Hill was professional, knowledgeable, pleasant, and even cordial to deal with, whether or not you agreed with him on an issue. Those are rare qualities in our government circles, and the Control Board's reign would have been much different without him. There, now that that's done I don't have to say anything nice about anybody else for months.

Gary Imhoff


One Point Five Million Dollars
Ed T. Barron,

That's the cost of the seventeen new positions Police Chief Ramsey has added to the payroll of the Police Department. Now let's look at some of the titles of these new positions: Asst. executive director, corporate support; Program Manager, organizational development, Executive Director organizational development; Program manager, research and development; Asst. executive director, organizational development; etc., etc. Does anyone really think that adding any of these seventeen new high paying jobs will reduce crime in the D.C. streets one thousandth of one percent? Do we need all these bureaucrats and watchers who will, undoubtedly, create chaos in administering the force through conflicting approaches? Do you know how many cops can be put on the street for $1.5 M each year? Probably about forty cops each day could be added to patrol the streets for that amount of money. You don't reduce crime in D.C. by adding a bunch of high paid watchers to the payroll. You reduce crime in D.C. by putting your money where the real problems are, on the street with uniformed cops. A competent Boy
Scout Troop Leader could do a better job in getting the Police Department organized to fight crime than the top heavy bureaucracy we have. I think we have another Camille Barnett (albeit with a mustache) on our hands. Don't worry about reducing tax rates in D.C., folks, there are plenty of our so-called leaders who are salivating at the thought of that surplus.


Taxes and Facts
Mark Richards, Dupont East,

Some facts — Washington Times (4/26/99): 1. Bruce Bartlett, National Center for Policy Analysis, shows data from new Treasury Department study with “the amount of taxes raised as a share of a STATE's taxable capacity.” DC tops list (we're usually counted as a state, aren't we?). We raise 58% more revenue relative to our taxable resources (why?). DC is followed by Connecticut (40% more), Delaware, New Jersey, Alaska, Wyoming, Massachusetts, New York, Nevada, and New Hampshire (14%). 2. Raymond Keating (author, DC by the Numbers) says DC, compared to 50 states, has 4th highest personal income tax rate, 2nd highest corporate income tax rate, and the highest capital gains tax rate. Bad for residents, jobs, revenues. Council proposes tax cuts (Schwartz, Catania, Evans lead). Arguments: in good times, need to make cuts to be competitive with suburban jurisdictions, jump start DC economy, increase population and business tax base, more revenue in the long run. For Jack Kemp, “it's the right thing to do.” The Times praises Council.

More facts: The Post editorializes caution, headlines Deputy CFO Gandhi's view: “DC Tax cut too risky, ...could leave city bankrupt.” Gandhi reports only $127 million available for cuts, Council proposal could cost $1.3 billion. Arguments: proposed cuts cost 2-3 times more than stated, will lead to DC govt. cuts, may lead to massive deficit and stall city from getting back limited Home Rule. Council defends proposal, says Gandhi is cooking numbers, spreading alarm. Buried fact in Post Business section (4/26) shows only 13% of the region's workers live in D.C., while 26% of region works here — more unequal than any other jurisdiction. Fact: Annapolis and Richmond take in about $1 billion/year from DC jobs, enabling lower taxes outside beltway. Fact: 83% of DC residents earn under 50 K/year, 27% of this group is moving out; 12% earn 50-100 K/yr, 63% of this group is moving out; 5% earn over $100 K/yr, 10% moving out.

Request to Council and Mayor: Please be strategic, work together, agree on facts, and invest dollars in an approach with reasonable risk and most likely to bring best results in 5 years (more resident taxpayers, small businesses). Can tax cuts be linked with a plan to equalize regional benefits and burdens? Rivlin can help — she knows range of facts, is respected. Williams says he'll cut waste, Congress is still warm to him (timing!). Develop a proposal to level the regional playing field! DC NEEDS A LEVEL REGIONAL PLAYING FIELD.


Resumed State
George S. LaRoche,

[LaRoche is the attorney for the plaintiffs in Twenty Citizens of the District of Columbia v. Clinton. The first half of this message appeared in the last issue of themail, ]

The law is settled that, no matter how much power Congress has, that power can be restrained if it violates the rights of the citizens. For well over a century, the courts have regularly struck down Congressional enactments over the District of Columbia which violate the rights of the citizens of the District, so the power is clearly not unlimited. Mr. Matthes' statement that “DC is not a State, but a district” replicates the argument made by the Department of Justice last Monday. It seeks to settle a legal
question by reference to abstract definitions. But Judge Garland challenged DOJ to explain why the definitions are dispositive, and DOJ had no answer. In fact, the definitions are part of the problem challenged in the Twenty Citizens case.

As for Mr. Matthes' arguments against Ms. Norton's position, I agree. But then she is speaking ONLY about the case of Alexander v. Daley, and she has consistently ignored the Twenty Citizens case. So it certainly cannot be said that her suggestions are at all pertinent to our case. Mr. Matthes states that “the only ways to get congressional votes for DC are to amend the Constitution or seek retrocession back into Maryland.” This is incorrect. The citizens of the District would be represented in Congress (and in a state legislature, and would be able to run for either, and would have many other rights respected as well) if the District were EITHER a part of a State or were a STATE, itself. NEITHER would require amendment of the Constitution. But BOTH of these alternatives are wholly political. They cannot be achieved by litigation, but litigation can make the status quo untenable and open the door for the political process.

Clearly, Mr. Matthes favors retrocession. That's a political choice worthy of respectful debate (though I support statehood). But it does not enhance this political preference to dress it up as a legal necessity or to construct arguments which indicate that the Constitution militates against statehood. In conclusion, the clients I represent have chosen a wholly constitutional method of seeking redress of their grievances: they ask the court to protect them from continued violations of their rights. They do not ask the Court to “give” them a political status. They are content to continue the fight in the political arena, once the court fight is over, for the eventual status which will allow them to exercise their rights. I urge all readers and subscribers to this list to learn the facts OF BOTH CASES before judging either. To that end, please visit our web site: , where we are posting ALL substantive documents in the case. EDUCATE yourself and JUDGE for yourself. That's what self-government is all about.


DC Voting Rights
Tom Matthes,

The frustration of DC citizens over lack of votes in Congress continues to rise. Sometimes it damages common sense. Take Friday's column in the Washington Times by Jonetta Rose Barras. “Federal lawyers also claim that the Constitution gives Congress full authority over the city…” she writes. But legislative control of DC is listed as one of the powers of Congress, along with raising taxes and declaring war, in Article I, Section 8. Use of the word “claim” in this context treats the Constitution as an obscure, ancient document in need of complicated translations, not a document written in English and available to all. Clever lawyers are needed for issues such as whether the commerce clause extends to gun controls in schools (the Supreme Court says no) or whether the First Amendment exempts students from reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag on religious grounds (the Supreme Court says yes). Attorneys are not needed to tell us that Article I. reserves votes in Congress to the States.

Some of the postings in the last issue argue that, if you take a phrase from the 14th Amendment here and a few words from the 5th Amendment there, the courts can rewrite the Constitution to slip in Senators and Representatives from DC. And Paul Strauss, the shadow senator, suggests that citing Article I against votes for DC is quoting the Constitution out of context because of the “one man, one vote” principle. But the very existence of the US Senate, where Wyoming has as many votes as California, violates “one man, one vote.” And Article V forbids any future amendment to the Constitution that denies any State “its equal Suffrage in the Senate.” If the courts can rewrite such basic provisions of the Constitution, the document loses any permanent meaning. And a government in which the courts wield such absolute power is no democracy. Also, every federal judge owes his or her authority to the president and the Senate, even though neither is elected in accordance with “one man, one vote.” Must the Supreme Court order the Senate dissolved, then disband the federal courts for lack of proper authority to sit? The Barras column last Friday laments that a number of leaders (including Bill Clinton and Jesse Jackson) skipped the rally for the lawsuits seeking DC votes in Congress and an end to congressional control over the city. I think they know a lost cause when they see one. The Constitution is not like a medieval exercise in alchemy, in which people with secret knowledge can turn lead into gold or transform a district into a State. The just cause of providing all US citizens with a real voice in Congress is too important to lose any more time with fanciful lawsuits. Let's do what it takes to amend the Constitution or return DC to Maryland, and get it done.


Let’s Not Forget Wyoming
Larry Seftor,

In a recent issue of themail Stewart Reuter makes the really interesting assertion that the District is too small to be a state and DC citizens, therefore, should have no right to vote. Mr. Reuter might find it interesting that according to the census department the estimated population of Wyoming (for July 1, 1998) was 480,907 people, which is somewhat less that the District's estimated population of 523,124. If size is the standard of merit, therefore, it makes sense to merge Wyoming with another state, perhaps Colorado. In fact, there are a number of states with a population near that of the District that could be merged in the name of reducing unnecessary layers of bureaucracy. For example, the population of Vermont is 590,883, Alaska is 614,010, North Dakota is 638,244, and South Dakota is 738,171. Considering that “real” states such as Texas (with 19,759,614 people) have over 30 times as many people as (say) Vermont, there is really no reason for Vermont to struggle on as an isolated entity. Setting aside this absurd discussion for a moment, the “ulterior motives of the complainers” that Mr. Reuter refers to are really quite simple: equal rights under the law and equal representation in the bodies that make the laws. After all, it is the American way.


Private School Violence
Tom Sherwood,

This is a blatant attempt to gain difficult information. With all the hubbub about PUBLIC school violence, etc., does anybody out there know how to crack what amounts to tight secrecy about what kinds of trouble PRIVATE schools have? They have very little if any reporting to police and ultimately troublesome kids can get kicked out of private schools into public schools — where they become statistics about how bad the public schools are. All this for a possible news story. Thanks.


Charter Schools
Ralph Blessing,

Before folks start touting charter schools as our salvation, perhaps they should examine the quality issue at closer range. As parents of two DC public school students, we received a mailing from a newly approved charter school trying to drum up business. The flyer identified the school as one that would emphasize high academic standards, a college prep curriculum, etc. Unfortunately, it's misspellings and blatant grammatical errors gave the impression that it was just another scam. Of course, that doesn't explain a letter written in similar “style” that I recently received from Councilmember Kevin Chavous, who just happens to be chair of the council's education committee. What to do!?!


The New Department of Public Works
Dorothy Brizill,

A month and a half ago, a street light on my block fell. Because it had not been maintained and repainted, it had corroded and rusted through at the base. For the last several weeks, the pole has lain next to the sidewalk and the live wires have protruded from the base. My neighbors and I have repeatedly contacted DPW, through both telephone calls and the web site complaint form. This morning, I called again, and spoke to Mike Dorsey of the street light division at DPW. He promised that someone will remove the downed pole and cap the wires within the next few days. But he said it will take at least a year to replace the pole. He told me that there is a backlog of more than four hundred downed poles awaiting replacement, some dating back to 1993. The pole on my block is next to a large apartment building for senior citizens, and across from a corner pocket park that has long been a problem site for drug dealing. And now that half of the block will be dark for the next year or longer. Wake me when DPW really gets better.


Dispatch from the Pothole Wars
Mark Eckenwiler,

A few more data points on street repair: over the past several weeks, I've reported several potholes in various parts of town (17th and Massachusetts NW; 6th and C NE; Mass. and North Capitol; etc., ad nauseum), and I think the system is working pretty well. While the turnaround time is more like 4-5 business days than the hoped for 48 hours, the patches are getting done, and (to all appearances) done competently. Note, by the way, that I've been leaving these reports with the voice mail system after hours, meaning that some civil servant is actually listening to and taking action on messages left on the system. (What a concept!)

Also, the Mayor's Command Center (727-6161) seems to be doing a good job of handling after-hours reports on other fronts. I called them a few weekends ago about DPW pickup of trash filled bags left over from gutter cleanup, and about a defective traffic signal on busy Connecticut Avenue, and both problems were resolved promptly. (Dead tree removal is another matter entirely; more on that anon.)


Residential Parking Stickers
Mary Darby,

Re residential parking stickers: When my sticker didn't come with my registration renewal, I called BMVS at 727-1159. I got bounced around a little bit, but I eventually got hold of someone who actually took my information, and lo and behold, only a few days later I got my sticker. Actually, I've generally had pretty good experience with BMVS. I don't think they're as bad as people think.


Planning, Teamwork, and Passion
Mark Richards, Dupont East,

Until District residents are welcomed back into the fold by the greater republic, expect them to continue doing whatever they can think of — from filing lawsuits both domestically and internationally to crashing the self congratulatory parties of the ruling elite as a reminder that this issue is not going away. Citizens have supported both an Amendment and statehood. Retrocession has been unpopular since the original District was fractured, foreshadowing the Civil War. In 1995 at the height of D.C.'s fiscal troubles, a representative survey conducted for the Federal City Council found 19 percent in D.C. who supported retrocession (25 percent in the suburbs). Support for statehood was 53 percent in D.C. (32 percent in the burbs), an indicator that whatever solution is agreed upon, D.C.'s 120 neighborhoods wish to remain intact.

Until District residents get upset by — ironically — the same issues that upset George Washington and friends (i.e., exclusive legislation by Parliament, intrusions into local affairs, taxation without representation...), and get plugged in, organized, and agitate, they will not achieve equality. Whatever the outcome of the lawsuits, the issue must eventually move onto the political agenda — the lawsuits may accelerate this. In the meantime, we need to prepare. Our citizens groups need to work together, build one another's confidence, and put their foot down on egoism and petty fighting. We need to unite our 120 neighborhoods across class and identity and to highlight our commonalties and build pride in our group identity. We need doctors, lawyers, marketers, artists, school kids, etc. to get involved and informed, get creative, have fun, and raise the profile of the issue. We need to agree on our next direction (status quo, Amendment, statehood, retrocession). And then we need a coordinated strategic plan with indicators and milestones. Teams with clear cut responsibilities. And a coordinated message strategy. If they are consistent, Congress will prohibit the use of our own tax money, so it will fall where it nearly always has — to citizen groups. The question is whether they, with limited time and resources, can set aside disagreements, egos, jealousies, class and identity disputes, and develop a coordinated plan.


Last Word on the Common Denominator
Lorraine Swerdloff,

I subscribe to the Common Denominator and recommend it highly. Kathy Sinzinger is doing a great job of reporting on city info we need to know.


Deck Builder Recommendation Wanted
Elizabeth Wulkan,

We are planning to have a deck built on the rear of our house in Shepherd Park. Can anyone recommend a builder who is reliable, creative, and good at what he/she does? We would appreciate recommendations.


Mover Recommendation Needed
Stuart Weiser,

Can anyone recommend good movers for an intra-DC move? I basically need about 3 people with a decent-sized truck (more than a van, but not an 18-wheeler).


Columbia Heights Development On-Line Petition
Elizabeth McIntire,

There is now an online petition supporting Forest City for developer of the Columbia Heights Metro parcels. You can sign it at . For every new 15 signatures, email will be sent to Councilmember Graham, Mayor Williams and members of the Control Board. The email will contain the subject of the petition and list the names, addresses and E-mail of the petitioners. There is also space for short comments. Please take a minute and sign the petition, and let your neighbors know too.



Youth Action Institute
Amy Quinn,

Saturday, May 1, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Georgetown University Law Center, 111 F Street, NW (near Union Station). The recent horror of violence in Colorado drives home the urgency to empower young people to understand, critique, and take action on issues affecting their lives. Young people across DC will gather to tackle tough issues, build their activist skills, celebrate social justice through music and art, and earn community service hours. Mobilize youth in your neighborhood to come out to the Youth Action Institute this Saturday at Georgetown University Law Center. To register, contact Melodie at the Alliance for Justice at 202-822-6070. Free and open to all DC area youth!


Charter School Meetings
Cynthia Brennan,

The DC Public Charter School Board and the DC Board of Education were given the authority to charter schools by the DC School Reform Act in 1996. Under the guidance of these two boards, there are currently 19 charter schools operating in the District and 10 new schools scheduled to open next school year. The law grants charter schools a great deal of autonomy, but also sets high standards of accountability.

The DC Public Charter School Board has recently released its 1999 application guidelines for starting a public charter school (for fall '00) and will be holding a series of public information meetings for those people who may be interested in starting a charter school in the District. Board members and staff will give a presentation on the application and answer all questions about the process. The meetings will be held at the following dates and locations: Wednesday, May 5th, Israel Baptist Church, Meeting Room #3, 1251 Saratoga Avenue, NE, 6:30 - 8:00 PM; Thursday, May 6th, Martin Luther King Memorial Library, Room 221, 901 G Street, NW 6:30-8:00 PM; Monday, May 10th, Lutheran Church of the Holy Comforter, 3321 Alabama Avenue, SE, 6:30 - 8:00 PM. For more information or to request an application, please call the DC Public Charter School Board at (202) 887-5011 or by email


Cable Television Refranchising
Jeffrey Hops,

The DC Office of Cable Television will be holding a “refranchising town meeting” on Tuesday, May 4, at 6 p.m. in the District Offices at One Judiciary Square. The meeting is being held in order to solicit community input for the “needs assessment,” a crucial component of the cable refranchising process. On behalf of the Advisory Committee on Cable Television, I hope that you will take the opportunity to make your voice heard with respect to the quality and services offered by AT&T in the next franchise period. With your help, the capital of the free world will have a telecommunications infrastructure that it deserves.
Please feel free to call me at (202) 588-9258 if you have any questions about the refranchising process.



Party Facilities Wanted for May 22
Kathy Crawford,

Looking to celebrate upcoming college graduation in an informal meeting space. Looking in the Dupont and/or Catholic U neighborhood, but am flexible. Attendance looks to be about 20-30 people. Any and all inexpensive ideas welcome. Thanks!



Moving Sale
Nancy Davidson,

Books, records, linens, household and kitchen items, furniture, art, gardening tools. Help us down size from a house to a condo! Saturday, May 1, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. (no early birds, please). 3510 Edmunds Street, NW (one block above Observatory Circle, just off Massachusetts Avenue).


Air Conditioner for Sale
Mark Eckenwiler,

DC's horribobble summer weather will be upon you in no time. Wouldn't you like to buy my used cool-zephyr-maker? Details: Sharp 6500-BTU in-window unit; 3 fan speeds; adjustable louvers; excellent operating condition, low mileage. $175 OBO. Call 202-616-0435.


Dave Nuttycombe,

From's LOOSE LIPS column, appearing this Friday:
TAX EVASIVENESS: Last May, At-Large Councilmember Harold Brazil thought he had harnessed a winning campaign theme for the 1998 mayoral race. Standing before a crowd of supporters at Watkins Elementary School, Brazil tied his fortunes to resentment of D.C.'s oppressive tax burden, citing his triumphant record of negative votes against overspending and fiscal mismanagement. “They didn't listen. They passed unbalanced budgets anyway, and now we have a control board. I have the dubious distinction of saying, ‘I told you so,’” said a proud Brazil.
The hulkiest plank in Brazil's mayoral platform was a tax break ranging between $800 million and $1 billion for every sector on the rolls: individuals, businesses, and property owners. The candidate pitched the proposal all over town, at candidate forums, stump speeches, and during his self-proclaimed blitz to reach the average guy on the street. Unfortunately for Brazil, the average guy didn't seem to care.
Given his ill-fated romance with supply side economics, it's no surprise that Brazil ceded the tax break pulpit to colleagues Jack Evans and David Catania. On April 15, the pair introduced the Tax Parity Act of 1999, which goes after the city's revenue structure with all the gusto of Brazil's campaign kickoff.
Read the entire Loose Lips column this Friday at:

From's CITY LIGHTS page, here are a few early warnings for upcoming events:
Saturday, May 1: Home Plumbing Workshop at 10 a.m. at the D.C.'s Water and Sewer Authority's Blue Plains Central Operations Facility's second floor cafeteria, 5000 Overlook Ave. SW. Free.
Friday-Sunday, April 30-May 2: Pet Portraits by Deborah, from noon to 6 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday; and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday, in the storefront next to Danker Furniture at Congressional South Shopping Center, Halpine Road and Rockville Pike, Rockville. $10 (proceeds benefit the Montgomery County Humane Society).
More details and more critics' picks are available online at


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