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May 12, 1999

The Fix Is In

Dear Neighbors:

Yesterday the City Council passed the FY2000 budget that includes the tax cut agreement it arrived at with the Mayor and the Control Board. It should have been a good, proud day — politicians had successfully accomplished what politicians do, which is to arrive at an unsatisfactory, jerry-rigged compromise that satisfies no one, but that is workable. That's good work. But the Council's process was as bad as ever. The Council meeting, scheduled for 10:00 a.m., didn't begin until 2:15 p.m. The public and the press were kept waiting for over four hours, without explanation, while the Council members held a secret, private meeting outside of public scrutiny — and illegal under the sunshine law — in order to hammer out the final agreements among themselves.

The tax debate has frequently relied on the report of and the research done for the Tax Revision Commission. That Commission's web site is scheduled to be taken off line this summer, so the report and all the research papers are now available on the DCWatch web site at , where you can refer to them if you are real gluttons for punishment.

We've neglected the news near home for the past few issues. What's going on in your neck of the woods, and what is a wood's neck, anyway?

Gary Imhoff


Tax Cuts Don't Add Up
Steph “Figures don't lie, but...,”

One thing editors learn fast — always check the numbers. And the new tax cut numbers just don't add up. The current top tax rate is 9.5%, right? The new tax rate is 8.5%, right? That's a difference of 1%, right? In the “projected savings” table of today's Post, this 1% miraculously swells to 2.5 percent for the $30,000 earners, 2.4 percent for $50,000, 1.9% for $75,000, and 1.7% for the $100,000 households. Is this the result of that “new math” I learned at Alice Deal, back in the '60s?

In any case, what we really need is a cost of living cut, not a tax cut. As an ironic coincidence, the tax story is next to Courtland Milloy's tale of petty theft in the big city. Crime imposes a huge “tax” on D.C. residents, in the form of higher insurance premiums, added costs for alarms and locks, and of course replacement of the lost goods. In D.C. poor schools “tax” parents with private school tuition costs, bad roads “tax” drivers with increased repair costs, and so forth. But fixing those things is hard. Cutting taxes is easy. My own windfall should just about cover the cost of a new security door.


Tax Cut? Efficient Spending? Who Knows?
Harold Goldstein,

People asked: “Why does the DC government need a 9.5% marginal tax rate .. to function?” and “Look at what DC spends and what DC does and clearly, things are very wrong.” Very intelligent questions, WHICH NOBODY IS ANSWERING! not the Mayor, not the City Council, not the reporters for our towns “great” newspapers and, finally, not the “pundits” who offer opinion in this venue. I don't pretend to know the answers to these questions and neither should anyone else here since they are not obvious and they DO need answering before we can intelligently decide on the issues presented. Has anyone recently brought up the tax revenue lost from federal properties? Are we getting a bargain in terms of what the feds provide in exchange or not? DC spending? Has anyone done a recent, thorough study of DC services in view of the city serving as city, county and state? How can anyone here sit back and pretend to know all the answers until this happens?

And with self righteous and relatively incompetent city councilmen (after all, city councils are traditionally the reserve of politician wanna-bes who can't make it in the real political world and so play they play politician in hackland) it is unlikely that we will ever have any of the answers.


Tax Reform, Lower Taxes Yes! D.C. Council Plan NO!
Danilo Pelletiere,

I think what many of the commentators in the last themail failed to appreciate is there are tax cuts and then there are tax cuts. Few people from the Mayor, to Council members Mendelson, Graham, Cropp and Jarvis, to Evans, Catania, and their “posse” to the rest of us, would say that the city's resident's don't deserve some tax relief. Still fewer would say that a tax cut is not an apt symbolic and significant gesture to signal the recent changes in the District and the city's commitment to change the way it does business. And while a tax cut may not attract droves of new businesses, a tax cut alone will certainly not drive them away.

That said, the Catania-Evans plan as originally proposed was down-right silly. We have had so many studies of the tax and revenue system in this city, Evans and Catania (or one of the non lawyer council members who should know better) should have understood this. Jack “read faster” Evans should have been able to quickly digest the recommendations of the Tax Revision Commission, the Brookings Institution, the Rivlin Commission etc. and come up with an aggressive and plausible tax cutting scheme, that lowered annoying and economically stifling taxes, broadened the base, and introduced an element of progressivity to D.C.'s tax code. In other words, what this city needs is tax REFORM so that its tax code is ready to meet the challenges of the next decade, is able to address the problems that have arisen since it last was revised, and is able to take advantage of the many opportunities that now are appearing. Mendelson, Jarvis, and Williams all have a piece of the puzzle and I am glad that Evans and Catania appear to have started listening. When we get tax reform and not just cuts, only then will it truly be a new day in the District and only then will the Council have provided the leadership they should have all along. This debate shouldn't be about services vs. tax cuts and shouldn't be laced with reactionary rhetoric, it should be about achieving real reform.


DC Taxes
David Sobelsohn,

I don't know if it's good public policy to cut DC taxes. I'm inclined to think that, in prosperous times, it makes more sense to save money and reduce debt, and plan to cut taxes in hard times to stimulate the economy. But I do know it's an exceedingly silly argument — not even an argument, really, just a catch phrase — to say “It's our money.” So what? It's all “our” money: private investment and private consumption, prisons and police, Social Security and pension plans, defense and Food Stamps. The question is what we get for “our” money. In some areas, collective spending works better than individual spending to get what all of us want. As Oliver Wendell Holmes once wrote, “I pay my taxes and I buy civilization.”


When Rats Grow Furry Tails...
Mark Richards,

YES! Our Mayor and Council worked together and found a middle position on tax reform — it's good to have a diversity of viewpoints in these bodies, it means clearer thinking and a better end product. To top this, the big dying elm out my window seems to be taking well to tree therapy (leaves are green this year) and was just wrapped in yellow (plastic) ribbon with a sign: No parking — tree work. Looks like DC government is going to trim the big dead branches off. Maybe it's the fragrance that is blowing off those trees with purple flowers along Rock Creek, but even the air seems fresher. I'll know it's all a hallucination if the rats start growing furry tails and looking cute.


A Mere $21 Million
Ed T. Barron,

The Mayor has said he wants to help the kids in the District. The best way he can do that is to do what Mayor Daly of Chicago has done, take charge of the the failed DCPS. Since taking over the schools in Chicago, they have dramatically improved their attendance rate, graduation rate, and the numbers of students who are passing the mandatory standardized tests. Mayor Daly supports choice, Charter Schools, and vouchers. In the DCPS, meanwhile, the District schools administration has passed on nearly $21 Million in Federal grants. Why?? Beacuse they claim they had no staff to apply for those grants or staff to implement the grants. This whole sorry mess is in gory detail in the GAO report GAO/HEHS-99-1. The 35 page report can be accessed via the GAO Web Page at

This is merely a symptom of the sorry state of affairs in the DCPS. Let's look for the root problem here. In Nov. '96 the Control Board took away the powers from the elected School Board and installed the nine member Board of Trustees. The Courts later ruled that that Board was improperly delegated powers. The result: the superintendent, Arlene Ackerman, was assigned the sole responsibility for managing the schools. Ms. Ackerman is in way over her head and we have no oversight from the elected School Board since their powers have been taken away. It is timely for the Mayor to take charge here and to do what Mayor Daley has done in making the urban Chicago schools more competitive. The Mayor of Chicago has the power to hire and fire school principals and even tenured teachers. By doing so, the three year results clearly show that Chicago is doing a better educational job each year with their students.


Specious Education
Philip Blair, Jr. (Ward 5),

Peter Luger's posting (9 May) is yet more evidence of the complete melt-down in special education in D.C. Public Schools. Unless she gets hopping, Special Education will be for Arlene Ackerman what the three-week delay in opening the schools was for Facilities czar General Williams, and what the $60-odd million budget surprise was for General Becton. That is, a one-way ticket out of town. Like the generals, she is playing chicken with federal judges and like the generals she seems to think that time and the tides will just have to wait for her until she is good and ready to do the obviously overdue.

But there is a larger lesson to be learned here. In the nearly three years since the Control Board and the Emergency Trustees took over, the special education crisis has been steadily growing. The Control Board and the Trustees have made a fetish out of management from 50,000 feet. They brag about the way they don't "interfere"; in fact they don't really supervise at all. The Post and the Washington Times have railed against “micro management,” and the result is no management. If it hadn't been for Kevin Chavous taking a hand in the special education transportation crisis, there would have been no progress at all: it's amazing what a little micro management can accomplish. I am one of many parents who will be happy to see the end of Congress's experiment in putting the schools under the Control Board and Trustees, who have demonstrated the failure of three monkeys management (see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil).


Whither Cash Management?
Ted Gest,

I have the same concern as Frank Pruss: it seems to take DC a long time to cash tax checks. Sure, many are received at the same time but one would think it would be cost-efficient to work overtime to cash them...maybe in these flush times the city doesn't need the money so fast?


Adam Marshall, Palisades,

In Sunday's issue I saw yet another posting telling readers to check out one of NARPAC's latest proposals for the revitalization of our nation's capital. What I want to know is, what is an organization based in CHEVY CHASE, MARYLAND, doing telling us how to run our city and to reform our government? It seems to me that NARPAC is yet another critic that is perfectly happy to sit outside of city lines, take pot shots at us, and keep its tax dollars in Maryland. Any organization dedicated to the redevelopment and revitalization of the District of Columbia should be located IN the District. Only then does it become a partner in our effort to bring Washington back. Until then, it's just another critic, like the Congress that sits on Capitol Hill and interferes with our daily lives! Talk, as the old adage goes, is cheap. NARPAC is not where it is needed most — in DC neighborhoods.



Chevy Chase Citizens Association
Evelyn Mittman Wrin,

“Congressional Representation for D.C. Citizens” will be the subject of a presentation by American University Law Professor Jamin Raskin at the annual meeting of Chevy Chase Citizens Association. The meeting will be held on Tuesday, May 18, 1999, at 7:30 p.m. Because of on-going construction and renovation at the Chevy Chase Community Center, this meeting will be held in Chadsey Hall at the Chevy Chase Presbyterian Church. The Church is on the east side of Chevy Chase Circle, between Oliver and Paterson Streets. Councilmember Kathy Patterson will also be at the meeting and will present a 90th anniversary resolution in recognition of the 90th year since the establishment of Chevy Chase Citizens Association in 1909. For further information, contact Evelyn Wrin by telephone at 202.244.5744 or by e-mail at .


Saturday, May 15, Sidewalk Sale
Ann Carper,

DC Strokes Rowing Club is holding a sidewalk sale this Saturday, May 15, from 10 am to 3 pm at 1880 Columbia Road NW. (It's a fundraiser for us and part of a larger Kalorama/Adams-Morgan neighborhood sale that day.) Good assortment of books, clothes, housewares, odds and ends, knick-knacks, gimcracks, and bibelots!


Yard Sale Update
Paul McKenzie,

The Shepherd Park Yard Sale on June 5 will be held at each participant's home, so there will be no need to bring all your things to a central sales point. We are trying to keep the sale as convenient as possible for the participants in order to encourage as many neighbors as possible to join in.

We will prepare maps to hand out to customers identifying every address with a participant. Each participant will be furnished with a balloon as a visual cue to customers. We will handle all the publicity (newspapers and signing along the thoroughfares). You keep all the money you make. All we ask is that you pay annual Shepherd Park dues of $15. But that is purely at your discretion. You may participate in the yard sale with no obligation at all to Shepherd Park Citizens Association. Please call Gracie Baten at 882-6162 to sign up for the sale. Leave a voice mail if she does not answer. Please encourage neighbors to participate and give them Gracie's number as well! If you know of anyone who wants to help with the organization of the sale even if they won't be selling themselves, have them call Gracie. We need volunteers to lighten the load.


The Foundry Players Present Schoolhouse Rock Live!
Chad Eric Hickerson,

The Foundry Players, Washington's longest running community theater, are proud to present the wildly entertaining, toe tapping, sing-a-long salute to 1970's Saturday morning television — Schoolhouse Rock Live! The show's story features a nervous teacher, preparing for the first day of school, who manages to draw the Schoolhouse Rock characters out of the television set. The newly freed characters respond by presenting the “greatest hits” of the beloved animated musical that has run on ABC for over 25 years, including such classics as Conjunction Junction, I'm Just a Bill, Elbow Room, Three is a Magic Number and Interplanet Janet. The Players are located at the corner of 16th and P Streets, NW, three blocks east of the Dupont South exit of the Dupont Circle Metro.

Performances of Schoolhouse Rock Live! run each weekend from May 7 - May 23, Friday and Saturday evenings, at 8 pm and Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2:30 pm. Tickets are $12/person with discounts available for seniors, children and groups of 10 or more. For more information please see our web site at or call 202-332-3454.


The Society of Young Jewish Professionals

Sunday May 16, the Lox Trot at the Shark Club located at 4915 St. Elmo Avenue, Bethesda, MD. Doors open at 8 pm. For directions call 301-718-4030. The party will feature dancing, hors d'oeuvres, pool, outdoor seating, hundreds of Jewish singles, for ages 21-49. Order two dinner entrees and get a free bottle of wine. Cost of the party is $10 before 10 pm and $15 after 10 pm so get there early! Any questions or comments contact us at or call us at 202-452-5541. Please visit our web page at


“A Dazzling Comedy” by “A Star Writer”
David Sobelsohn,

Footlights — DC's only drama discussion group — meets monthly to discuss plays from the modern theater. Membership is free; we pass the hat to make expenses. At our meeting Tuesday, May 18, we will discuss “a dazzling comedy” (Vogue): “The Cripple of Inishmaan” (1996), by Anglo-Irish playwright Martin McDonagh. In 1934, residents of a remote Irish village learn a Hollywood director will soon film on a nearby island. Everyone wants to audition, especially Cripple Billy, an unloved boy who spends his time gazing at cows. “Indescribably funny” (Philadelphia Inquirer), with “a heartbreaking tenderness and a shy warmth” (Wall Street Journal), “Cripple of Inishmaan” “confirms McDonagh as a star writer” (The London Sunday Times), “destined to be one of the theatrical luminaries of the twenty-first century” (The New Republic). Our discussion takes place 7:30-9:30 p.m. (dinner at 6:30) at Delray Vietnamese Garden, 4918 Del Ray Ave., a few blocks N of the Bethesda metro. It will feature Dr. Christina Hunt Mahony, associate director of Catholic University's Irish Studies Program. For reservations E-mail or call (202) 638-0444. For general information about Footlights visit our web site at


Coral Reef Panel Discussion
Lynne Mersfelder

The Women's Aquatic Network and The Cousteau Society invite you to attend a Coral Reef Panel on May 18 at 2105 Rayburn House Office Building, Capitol Hill. Wine/beer reception 6:30, Panel begins at 7:00. Speakers:: Phil Dustan (The Cousteau Society), Marea Hatziolis (World Bank), Lauretta Burke (World Resources Institute). Moderator, Sally Yozell (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration); Invited Remarks: Congressman Saxton. A discussion on the issues affecting coral reefs in the United States and throughout the world.

Dr. Phillip Dustan is a Professor of Biology at the University of Charleston, SC. He is a coral reef ecologist specializing in the ecology, photophysiology, and vitality of corals and coral reef communities. Much of his work has centered on detecting change in the coral reefs of the Florida Keys. He is the principal investigator on the USEPA Florida Keys Coral Reef/Hardbottom Monitoring Project and Science Advisor for the Cousteau Society. For more information check out . Marea Hatziolos is a senior coastal and marine resources specialist in the Environment Department of the World Bank and has a background in tropical marine ecology and ethology. Since 1994 she has been at the World Bank, helping to build a program in Integrated Coastal Zone Management and Marine Biodiversity Conservation valued at several hundred million dollars. Ms. Hatziolis is currently leading preparation of GEF financed regional project for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System. This project aims to protect the world's second longest Barrier Reef, and to bring benefits from its rational use to the four countries which border it, Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras. She also serves as the Bank's representative to the International Coral Reef Initiative. Lauretta Burke is a Senior Associate in the Information Program of the World Resources Institute. She is an author of Reefs at Risk: A Map-Based Indicator of the Threats to the World's Coral Reefs. Over the last several years her work has focused on the development of global and regional map based indicators of environmental condition and stresses on the environment, including watershed based estimates of sedimentation and a global indicator of threats to coral reefs. Prior to joining WRI, Ms. Burke implemented a Global Information System (GIS) in Guyana to support urban infrastructure rehabilitation planning and performed analysis on the impact of potential climate change on fisheries, wetlands, and biological diversity for U.S. EPA's Global Climate Change Program. For more information on "Reefs at Risk", check out

Directions: Located on Independence Avenue, Rayburn Building is on the House side of the Capital and is accessible from Capital South Metro (Orange and Blue Lines) and Union Station (Red Line). Parking in the area is limited but available on side streets off of Independence Avenue. The panel will be presented in ROOM 2105.



Cleaning Person Available
Paul Penniman,

My cleaning person just got laid off from her day job by some bad guys. She is good and reasonably priced. Call her, Ruth, at 301-942-4934, or email me for more info. She will be unavailable during July and August.



ISO Studio/1BR Apartment in Kalorama
Amy Hardison,

I'm looking for a studio or one bedroom apartment on Biltmore St. in the Kalorama area, either in a townhouse or a small apartment building, with central air and heat, a security system or 24 hour desk, hardwood floors, and good size closets. I can pay up to $700/month plus utilities and I am looking to move in August or September. Please send responses to .


Apartment for Rent
Courtney Cuff,

1923 Kenyon Street, NW, 1 BR basement apartment, $600/mo includes utilities. Apartment includes living room area, separate bedroom with large closet, kitchen area and bathroom with shower (no tub). Located just across the park from the Cleveland Park Metro station (red line) which is accessible by bus. Close to several other bus lines. For more information, please contact Jessie Jenkins at (202) 879-4286.


Basement Efficiency
Edna Small,

For June and July — efficiency apartment in Glover park, between Georgetown and American Universities. Separate entrance. $600/month. Or can be rented on a year's lease for $575.00 month. Includes utilities. Call 202-337-4906; 202-328-1083.



Desk Wanted
Nick Cobbs,

I am looking for a good quality, traditional, executive desk, preferably dark oak, walnut, mahogany. Prefer 76" x 36" with ample drawers. Delivery to downtown D.C. a plus. Please email description, asking price, and phone number to or phone Nick Cobbs, at 202-452-8222 (days).


Edna Small,

Wooden window shutters, 2 sets, 28x291/2 and 32x291/2; single box spring and mattress, $45.00; child's riding helmet, $18.00; 3 Japanese dolls, $25.00 each, 3/$60.00. Call 202-337-4906; 202-328-1083.


Dave Nuttycombe,

From's LOOSE LIPS column, appearing this Friday:
PULLING UP THE GRASSROOTS: Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6A Chair Daniel Pernell carved out a new boundary for grass-roots political rhetoric at a meeting last week: “I gave up my sex life...for the ANC,” said Pernell to a packed audience at St. James Episcopal Church on 8th Street NE. Pernell had a good reason to play up the sacrifice theme: He was facing removal as chair by fellow commissioners opposed to his leadership style. Pernell's opponents had begun circulating a resolution calling for his ouster following revelations that the chair had solicited a $20 contribution from Ethel Harper, an H Street restaurateur with business before ANC 6A.
Pernell deposited the contribution into his own checking account — an ANC rules violation that prompted an investigation by D.C.'s Inspector General.
The referendum on Pernell's tenure turned into a big political event — drawing such luminaries as At-Large Councilmember Harold Brazil, renowned flake Faith, and community types Sally Byington and John Capozzi. Pernell himself justified the cost of admission, employing stall tactics that could slow down only a deliberative body as lame as the ANC. With each utterance, Pernell sank the city's' 23-year experience with neighborhood democracy into further disrepute.
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 15: Armenian Festival, includes craft exhibits, performances by Armenian folk dancers, musicians, and singers, and tasty Armenian foods. From noon to 6 p.m. at Market Square, 301 King St., Alexandria. Free.
Tuesday, May 18: Linda Lyons, co-chair of the preservation committee of the Art Deco Society of Washington, gives a slide lecture about the carved stone, pressed metal, and polychrome mosaics of such landmarks as the Kennedy Warren apartment building, the Uptown Theater, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Department of Justice — plus a few more obscure storefronts and assorted bijoux. At 6:30 p.m. at Martin Luther King Memorial Library, in Room A-5, 901 G St. NW. Free.
More details and more critics' picks are available online at


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