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May 26, 1999

Brevity Is the Soul of Wit

Dear Long-Winded Contributors:

Bless Mark Richards: he sent in some jokes, so I'll keep my promise and refrain from ranting. If brevity is the soul of wit, keep it short. If you keep it short, themail will be shorter. And if you keep it short, I will too. Just like I'm doing now.

Gary Imhoff


A Simple Answer for Williams
Larry Seftor,

Many years ago I was in the U.S. Air Force. During my service it was made very clear to me that, even as one at the lowest rung in the service, I was to be held to the highest standards of conduct. Not only was I to avoid a conflict of interest, I was to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest. To make sure that I really, really, really understood this, I was required periodically to read the appropriate regulation, and sign a certification that I had done so. If peons in the service with no power to control Government funds have to avoid conflicts of interest, the Mayor of D.C., with great power to influence the expenditure of Government funds, should also.

Anthony Williams should not have accepted funds during his campaign for Mayor from business entities that do business with the D.C. Government. This appearance of a conflict of interest is unacceptable. There are two solutions. The hard one is for Williams to resign. The easy one is for the two organizations who gave money to Williams, and who certainly knew better, to avoid doing contract work with the D.C. government during the period of Williams term.


He’s No Better Then the Rest of ’em
Harold Goldstein,

Put food on his table!! Give me a break. Lets call a spade a spade. Williams is revealed to be no paragon of morality. Ms. Drissel wants the other candidates to fess up to income received but the other candidates are not the issue; we know how our fat cat politicos line their pockets before, during and after their terms in office but this one was supposed to be different! Now he's revealed to be just like all the rest. “Guys, I'm here, ready to take on any legal contracts that may or may not be conflict of interest but are still legal.”

Conflict of interest? Is there any question? Of course it's conflict of interest. Whenever anyone gives you something for money and they are doing business with you (and meetings, schmeetings, they give him nice bucks for zippo in exchange and they do business with him and it is conflict of interest sure and simple. You people who are ready to let him off the hook woulda all but hung our dear Mayor Barry. And this is after he stuffed the pockets of his crony simply because, as he himself put it, the law allowed it. So Mayor Williams is just another in a long line of DC politicos ready to stretch the law as far as it goes so as to benefit himself and his buddies. Now he may yet be a competent mayor, we'll find that out, but he sure is no paragon of virtue.


Financial Disclosure
Kurt Vorndran,

While I'm not particularly interested in defending the Council vis a vis the Mayor, at least in recent weeks, I think Anne Drissel may have over spoke herself in challenging the Council members who ran for mayor to make a financial disclosure. As members of the Council they already do. These reports are on file at the Board of Elections and Ethics and are available for public inspection. This requirement has existed since the beginning of Home Rule.


For Ms. Drissel
Kevin M. McCarron,

Dear Ms. Drissel, why did you issue your challenge only to candidates of political parties funded by corporate interests?


Let’s Just Make Up Some Jokes
Mark Richards, Dupont East,

ONE: Why did the chicken cross the road? (We can add to this list. These are supposed to be funny, not offensive.)
Dr. Seuss: Did the chicken cross the road? Did he cross it with a toad? Yes the chicken crossed the road, but why he crossed, I've not been told!
Mayor Williams: We're setting up performance indicators and you'll be able to judge us by improvements we make for all of our citizens, even our chickens.
Camille Barnett: Because DC people eat their young, even the chickens know that.
Norman Dong: I did not mean to hit the chicken with my clipboard.
The Washington Times Editorial Page: The Founding Fathers never intended for DC chickens to have equal rights.
Marion Barry: There is no proof that the chicken crossed the road, but the chicken commissioner will get back to you, all right now?
Tom Davis: Because we gave DC chickens the choice to attend any chicken school in the country, and my guess is he was on his way to our superior school in Virginia.
David Howard: I've learned that we must be sensitive to our city's diversity, so I'll refrain from commenting until I understand their sensitivities.
The Washington Post: It took Alice Rivlin to stop Catania and Evans from giving tax breaks to rich chicken owners, who, it appears, don't manage their chickens well.
Eleanor Holmes Norton: That is a home rule issue, so I won't comment on it.
Jesse Jackson: If the TV cameras are there, let me know and I'll walk with it across the road.

TWO: A little boy came home from school one day and said to his father, “Dad, what can you tell me about politics? I have to learn about it for school tomorrow.” The father thought some and said, “OK, son, the best way I can describe politics is to use an analogy. Let's say that I'm capitalism because I'm the breadwinner. Your mother will be government because she controls everything, our maid will be the working class because she works for us, you will be the people because you answer to us, and your baby brother will be the future. Does that help any?” The little boy said, “Well, Dad, I don't know, but I'll think about what you said.”
Later that night, after everyone had gone to bed, the little boy was woken up by his brother's crying. Upon further investigation, he found a dirty nappy. So, he went down the hall to his parent's bedroom and found his father's side of the bed empty and his mother wouldn't wake up. Then he saw a light on in the guest room down the hall, and when he reached the door, he saw through the crack that his father was in bed with the maid. Because he couldn't do anything else, he turned and went back to bed. The next morning, he said to his father at the breakfast table, “Dad, I think I understand politics much better now.”
“Excellent, my boy,” he answered, “What have you learned?” The little boy thought for a minute and said, “I learned that capitalism is screwing the working class, government is sound asleep ignoring the people, and the future's full of poop.”


Community Policing
Ed T. Barron,

Police Chief Ramsey made a big promise to introduce Community Policing into the District as a way of getting major reform in the Police Department and reducing crime in the District. Community Policing means putting more police in the neighborhoods and interacting with the people who live in those neighborhoods. This approach has worked in many cities and, certainly, there is a need for more trust between community residents in many areas of the city and the police who are trying hard to control the crime in those communities. The problem is that Ramsey has not really implemented this process. He has, in contrast to adding more police to the streets, added seventeen more high paying “suits” in his top heavy bureaucratic administration.

Ramsey was hired from a lackluster pool of applicants when Barry was still mayor. At that time the District could not attract any applicants with decent credentials since nobody wanted to be a part of the city while Barry was mayor. I say it is time to put Ramsey on notice. Put your money where your mouth is. Let's implement community policing and get a good relationship established between the residents and the cops in high crime areas. This will result in dramatically reduced crime rates and the apprehension of many more of those committing the crimes. If Ramsey cannot, or will not, implement this process then we should begin the effort to find a competent replacement. We should be able to attract more qualified candidates this time.


The Local Post Office
Nuhad Jamal,

I have been in the DC area for nearly five months, and on the whole, I think the experience has been worthwhile. I don't miss Boston one bit, except for one thing: Why does it take so looooong for the post office to deliver the mail? I have paid some attention to this. When I lived in Boston, I could count on receiving something I know was sent from another state in two or three days, no longer. Here, the average is over a week. Is it my imagination, or does DC have a particularly slow (incompetent) post office?


Thousands More Parking Spaces? Woohoo!
Parke Wilde, Dupont Circle,

Please, nobody read this note while your blood is still hot after struggling in vain to find a parking space (see Joe Davidson in themail last week). It will just make you madder. With cool deliberation, though, we have to think that thousands more parking spaces means thousands more cars. And more cars in DC are a very bad idea. If the parking problem were completely solved — picture a free 100-story parking garage on K street or at 18th and Columbia — the next biggest bottleneck would be the streets themselves as cars come into and out of town. You know: the same streets that meet in intersections blocked from entrance to exit by a suburban minivan that ran the last yellow light long since turned red. The long run politics work like this. if the parking problem were completely solved, the public pressure and motivation to widen streets, expand freeways, and construct bridges would grow that much faster.

Instead, contemplate in your mind a healthy, livable Washington with no transportation stress. Birds are chirping in the background. What do you picture? Either 1) what you picture is not possible or 2) it requires a much smaller population than actually exists or 3) it includes still better public transport and bikeways and fewer cars. Look for these features of the real livable city, and we won't have to waste our time in frustration looking for thousands more parking spaces.


Lights Out
James E. Taylor Jr., President, The Park Skyland Civic Association,

Bob Phillips wrote, “you can't sell the cow and have milk too!” and “It is difficult to save money when your neighbors keep buying things you can't afford.” These quotations should be made part of the oath of office for council members. They have soon forgotten that the reason for the Control Board's existence is because they have sat on their hands during budget sessions for so long that their “instant tea” knowledge of the budget is a strange revelation to those who have watched this sudden transformation from, know nothing and do nothing, to know all and do anything.

My second complaint, is sick trivia: How many of you would believe that there is an entire street in this city without light fixtures. Well if you said no, you are wrong! Resident's of the Park Skyland community on the 2300 block of Skyland terrace have been trying to obtain a solution to this safety problem for over eight years. All we have gotten from the past and present mayor is “I will forward your situation to DPW for response.” The problem is that DPW does not respond and there is no follow up mechanism in place for the mayor to know if the problem has been addressed. At this rate I will likely have to wait until a new mayor is elected to pose this safety question again.

You would think that this mayor would sense that something is really wrong with a scenario in which part of a tax paying community is without pole lights for their entire block. This, we wrote, is not a matter of convenience, this is a matter of safety! The only way out for this community to get lights is for one of us to get hurt or die in this darkness in order for officials to hurry up and install lights! Until, however, if you must visit beautiful southeast, come on by, we will leave our porch lights on for you.


Last in the Nation
Ed T. Barron,

Last Sunday's CBS edition of 60 Minutes described the preparation by local governments to be ready for the year 2000 (Y2K). Our beloved city of Washington is purported to be dead last in readiness of computers in critical systems for the turnover to the year 2000. The person hired by the District to ensure readiness was hired less than two years ago and found that the 67 agencies of the city were totally unprepared. Her analysis of what will be ready by the end of this year — fugggedaboutit. Instead, the city is going to plan B. That means retraining all those recently trained persons (to use the District's computers) in using manual systems when the computers don't work. This is a giant step backwards toward stone tablets and carbon paper. But the message is clear. If you live or work in the District, bad things are likely to happen.

The most initially visible of these bad things are: unsynchronized traffic lights; water system stoppages, and failures of automated systems on the Metro. It is likely that PEPCO has things under control from a power delivery standpoint. Eventually these malfunctioning critical systems will be made to work. And someday, in the next millennium, all the critical systems will be made computer ready. There will, likely, be some discomfort for a while.


She Was Joking, Right?
Jean Lawrence,

The head of DC's Y2K project said on “60 Minutes” that a two week power outage in DC was a possibility. Uh, wouldn't that be sort of ... bad? Of course, I should talk out here in Phoenix — 2 weeks without air would be pretty fatal.


Auto Insurance
John Whiteside,

A reader notes that she saved by escaping GEICO. I'll second that. When I moved to DC their rates were double anyone else's. (I have a perfect driving record, and am supposedly the kind of driver they like to insure.) I called for a quote a year later and they quoted something reasonable. I asked what the story was, and the agent told me that they charge a lot more for people who have lived in DC for less than a year, because they have more accidents in that first year. No other company seems to have found this, if rates are an indication. I told them they'd lost my business forever.

I've also heard that they charge a lot for urban ZIP codes because they don't really want the city business. Anyone heard similar things or is it one of those urban myths?


In Defense of NARPAC, Public Information
Mark David Richards, 17th Street Strip,

The question of NARPAC's legitimacy to speak on behalf of the interests of DC residents is not surprising in this peculiar political jurisdiction where rhetorical dominance and special interest access is often more important than the vote of local residents. Our nerves are sometimes raw. Yet, NARPAC provides an extraordinary service to District citizens who wish to sharpen their rhetorical arguments on public policy issues by making accessible on their web site hundreds of quality reports and data about District issues. The reports were produced by diverse groups with many interests — and NARPAC is open to adding reports and links to the web site. NARPAC is particularly interested in how this region can cooperate and gain efficiencies from which we could all benefit, a subject that deserves more thought. No doubt, NARPAC (like all groups and individuals) has biases, which they show in their editorial positions. So what? We can agree or disagree. In either case, their contribution is unique and important, and I appreciate that greatly.

Sadly, the quality of NARPAC's information providing service is superior to most of what is offered by our tax funded institutions, including our Legislative and Executive offices. NARPAC has set an example that our paid officials should examine. It is imperative that our citizens have access to information. How are we to know if people like Ms. Holt, who previously sat with sealed lips in budget meetings where data was clearly cooked, won't do that again? The only way is for citizens to have access to information. And for at least a few to wade through it and speak up when the Holts of the world fail to convince their colleagues to be honest, sit with lips sealed, an accomplice to a situation for which we in DC get punished.

One more point. District residents get incensed when not just Congress but neighboring jurisdictions think they know what's best for DC, on top of the voice they have in their own state, county, special districts, and local jurisdictions. An example of this mentality is a poll sponsored by the Federal City Council in November 1994 in which they interviewed (1) DC residents and (2) suburban residents. They asked both groups about local DC issues, such as police presence, prisons, sentencing, judges, court capacity, public schools, the most important issues facing DC, and best solutions. That survey did not ask DC citizens questions about the suburbs — only the other way around. Certain issues are for residents only, local VOTERS whose money pays for the services. Example: DC doesn't offer advice on whether Fairfax should own their own satellite or not, nor should Fairfax advise on public funding to UDC. Which decisions about DC are national, which are regional, and which are local — can someone answer that? We should have clarity on that question, and we obviously don't.


Sandy Allen, Medicaid, and Addiction
Rob Fleming, Mount Pleasant,

Sandy Allen has taken heat here and in the Washington Post for allegedly cutting part of the Mayor's request for Medicaid matching funds. Medicaid currently gets seven dollars in Federal Medicaid money for every three dollars it appropriates, so this appears to have a big impact on our struggling public health care. A closer look will show that it will have a big impact, but for the better. First, DC should be able to qualify for an even better Medicaid match, but the city's Medicaid administrators have not filed for the waiver that would make it possible. Second, the city's Medicaid program has not managed to spend the money it had in the first place. In FY '98, it returned $48 million to the treasury (where it was used for debt reduction). This is more than the combined appropriation cut and Federal match. It would be good if there was no Medicaid surplus, because health care providers complain about slow pay, no pay, and underpay for the services they actually render. Third, the cut was not made to the original budget request for the Commission on Public Health, but from funds added on by the Chief Financial Officer late in the game.

Fourth, the Mayor's budget came to the Council in the form of a plan to cut direct funding for DC General, neighborhood health clinics, and other services and put the money into an expanded Medicaid program that would extend coverage to everyone, including single men and undocumented aliens, making less than 200 percent of the poverty level for income. While this was applauded as good, many health care providers and patient advocates questioned whether the system could make the transition to Medicaid quickly or effectively. Many current providers are not Medicaid-qualified, and even if they are, questioned whether severely impaired individuals (including the mentally ill, addicts, and recent immigrants) could actually get over the paperwork hurdles to join Medicaid and be sufficiently proactive to get services in a managed care environment. Fifth, Sandy Allen used the money to enhance services, including Child and Family Services, Maternal and Child Health, more inspectors for foster homes and group homes for the mentally retarded, and AIDS and substance abuse services. In some cases, Medicaid does not cover these services. For instance, the Administration's plan would have cut direct funding for Detox and In-patient substance abuse services, which are not covered by Medicaid unless there is a co-occurring mental or physical disease. This in a town where half the adults say they know someone with a drinking problem and a third know someone who abuses drugs. Finally, the Budget, with Councilmember Allen's reallocations, passed the Committee on Health and Human Services, the full Council, the Control Board, and the consensus process involving the Administration. All of these bodies have members quite capable of overriding Ms Allen if her actions were so misguided and personal.

When you read beyond the headlines and the vitriol, the reallocation looks more like an enlightened response to an underperforming Medicaid system, a clear public need, and expert opinion from the provider and patient community. Maybe Medicaid will get better at getting Federal money, making payments to providers, extending coverage to more people and more services, but right now, it does not make sense to put all our eggs in that one basket.


FY 2000 Medicaid Budget
Sandra C. Allen,

After reading the recent posting regarding cuts in the FY 2000 Medicaid budget made by the DC Council, I think it is important that the readers understand the Council's actions. The Department of Health, which the Medical Assistance Administration is a part of, submitted a budget request for Medicaid in the amount of $242 million in local funding, which is actually a decrease from the amount budgeted for FY 1999 ($247 million in local dollars). The Office of Budget and Planning (OBP) added $19 million dollars in local funding to the Medicaid budget. We asked for an explanation of what and how the additional $19 million dollars would be used. Not only was I not provided with a satisfactory answer, but neither were my colleagues on the Council nor the members of the Control Board.

The District's Medicaid program has enjoyed huge surpluses in past years. In three out of the past four years, the Medicaid budget has enjoyed double digit surpluses. In FY 1998, the Medicaid program ended the fiscal year with a surplus in excess of $48 million in local dollars, all of which was used to eliminate the accumulated deficit. Last year, my Committee reduced the OBP recommended baseline budget by $10 million in local funding. Even with that reduction, the Medicaid surplus was sufficient enough to fund all FY 1999 expenditures for the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and Healthy Families expansion. As of a week before the Committee on Human Services mark up, the Medicaid Director was anticipating a surplus of $7 million in local funding. Faced with real pressing health needs, my Committee redirected some $13 million dollars to other health related programs. The Chief Financial Officer provided the Council with an extensive list of omissions that were left out of the budget. I redirected the majority of the $13 million to programs that had been “mistakenly cut.” The Medicaid Director could not persuade the full Council, the Control Board or the Mayor to reverse my Committee's actions. He could not justify the increase. During the consensus process, we did give him $3.5 million back, thus increasing his budget by $9 million in local funding over what the agency had requested and at least $4 million dollars over his FY 1999 budget. When Mr. Offner could not persuade policymakers to further increase his budget, he met with hospital officials and threatened to reduce their rates if he did not get a budget increase.

Mr. Offner's does not have to cut rates. He has more money than he received last year. Mr. Offner has enjoyed a slush fund of millions in past years and has returned millions in unspent surplus funds without increasing anyone's rates. When the Medicaid budget enjoyed huge surpluses, Mr. Offner did not increase rates to doctors or group homes or hospitals. In fact, he was able to achieve those surpluses in large part because he cut rates to doctors, hospitals, pharmacists and other providers. As a Councilmember, I have a duty to ensure that our tax dollars are well spent. I opposed the Mayor's budget proposal to expand Medicaid benefits to all uninsured District residents because the proposal's underlying assumptions were not appropriately analyzed, financing was speculative and inadequate, and because of the potential to jeopardize the District's “safety net.” I will continue to fight and oppose Medicaid policies that threaten the financial stability of the hospitals and the “safety net.” However, I did support a compromise pilot program to be implemented in FY 2000 and the formation of a committee of all the stakeholders to jointly implement health care restructuring for the District. In the FY 2000 budget, I increased funding for HIV/AIDS, and increased funding by 20 percent for substance abuse programs that have been cut year after year, put money into the Child and Family Services budget to provide services to children and families in distress, put money into Maternal and Child Health to further address infant mortality, and put funds in the budget to increase the numbers of inspectors for day care facilities and group homes for the mentally retarded. Why? Because I understand the major problems currently facing our children, youth, and families. As many of you know, Greater Southeast Hospital is in serious financial trouble. I am also working with the Mayor, the Control Board, Greater Southeast Hospital, and an advisory group on developing a rescue plan to save the hospital. I introduced legislation, which the Council passed last week, that would enable the District to make an emergency loan to a hospital in a medically underserved area that is financial trouble.

I have been a leader in health care related issues since I took over as Chair of the Council Committee on Human Services and I will continue to be one. I will continue to put the needs of children and families first, and fight for the most needy residents of the District of Columbia.


Good Buffet Sundays at Yenching Palace
Constance Z. Maravell,

Sunday I was very pleasantly surprised when I took a friend to Yenching Palace. They have an excellent buffet. I found it better than their regular cooking. The vegetables were crisp and tasty without too much oppressive sauce from a jar — the only exception was the mixed vegetables that had some gooey white stuff on them but the mushrooms were delicious none-the-less. They also had their hot and sour cabbage. My friend ate the meat and she said the chicken prepared in a variety of ways was good. The buffet costs $6.95. Fortune cookies for dessert. No tea or maybe I just didn't ask.


TV Repair
Joan Eisenstodt,

Know we've probably discussed but looking for good reliable TV repair in the area. Thanks!


ISO Portrait Photographer
Heidi Summers,

I'm recently engaged and looking for a good, local photographer who specializes in location portraits (for our engagement photos). I'm not interested in a studio shot. Please write with referrals. Thanks!


First Time Homeowner Seeks Advice
Richard Rosenthal,

Anybody have any advice for a first time DC home buyer? What would a 700+ sq ft 1BR with a roof deck and parking in Dupont Circle cost? What are property taxes around there anyway? Any other thoughts or comments would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!



Star Wars for Dummies
Lois Kirkpatrick,

Despite nearly a year (or 20, depending on how you count) of hype, you still don't "get" all the hoopla surrounding “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace: Episode I.” This briefing is for you. Saturday, May 29 at 2:00 p.m. at the Fairfax City Regional Library located at 3915 Chain Bridge Road in Fairfax. If you have already seen SW:TPM:E1, and are a certified, rabid geek, you can come too. Just don't scare the newbies.


Esperanto Event
E. James Lieberman,

Update on Esperanto, the international language. History, current status, and introductory lesson: 2 hrs., by former president of national Esperanto organization, near Chevy Chase Circle. Free. Call 202 362-3963 for information and state weekday time preference.


DC Taxes, The Progressive Alternative
David Schwartzman,

A town meeting to discuss the tax cut and budget legislation that favors the wealthy, and alternatives that provide real tax relief for low and middle income people while restoring and expanding our safety net Wednesday, June 2, 7-9 pm, SEIU Auditorium, 1313 L St. NW. Tyson Slocum, Citizens for Tax Justice, Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy; Jennifer Thangavelu, Washington Regional Network for Livable Communities; David Schwartzman, DC Statehood Party, DC Economic Human Rights Coalition.



Office Space Wanted
Jill Ginsberg,

Our documentary video production company is looking to lease office space in Dupont Circle, beginning as soon as possible. We only need four offices for our operation, but we also need some office support — at the very least to share the reception area. If anyone knows of a company that is looking to lease out some of their office space then please contact me at 301-429-1809 or e-mail me directly at .



Vacation in Vermont!
Lynn Dorman,

Are you thinking of a Vermont vacation? Hiking, biking, kayaking, swimming, relaxing? Ex-DCer has a one BR apartment and 2 B&B rooms available in southern Vermont. Rent by the day, week, month or longer. Email for more information.


Dave Nuttycombe,

From's LOOSE LIPS column, appearing this Friday:
Keeper Of The Shame: Each year, Congress goes out of its way to remind the District of its colonial status.
Seven years ago, Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby forced the city to hold a referendum on the death penalty following the Capitol Hill murder of one of his aides. Last year, Georgia Republican Rep. Robert Barr decided that District residents couldn't be trusted to decide their own drug policy, so he enjoined the city from counting the results of its medical marijuana ballot initiative.
That same year, Rep. Todd Tiahrt also forbade the city to spend its own tax dollars on needle exchange programs, those nefarious promoters of illicit heroin use.Lest the Hill's colonialist tradition lapse in 1999, Tiahrt is cooking up a meddlesome little rider for this year's D.C. budget cycle. The Kansas Republican is still fuming over revelations last November that the District had funded more than 700 abortions in violation of federal law in 1997 and 1998.
So he wants the District to give the money back.
Read the entire Loose Lips column this Friday at:

From's CITY LIGHTS page, here are a few early warnings for upcoming events:
Thursday, June 3, and Friday, June 4: After Life, Japanese writer-director Hirokazu Kore-eda's film about the blandly institutional, somewhat shabby processing center for heaven, where each new arrival must choose the one and only memory that he or she will take into the world beyond. At 8 p.m. at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, 7th & Independence Ave. SW. Free.
To June 16: “Fantasy,” artwork on view from noon to 3 p.m. Tuesday to Friday and from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday to Wednesday, June 16, at Fraser Gallery, 1054 31st St. NW. Free.
More details and more critics' picks are available online at


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