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June 9, 1999

E-Mail Worth Its Weight in Gold

Dear Correspondents:

Many thanks for your useful responses to some of the questions asked in the last issue of themail, and for continuing to send in the news around you. If you read to the bottom, you'll even find something worth this message's weight in gold — two recommendations for good plumbers. But please remember to sign your submissions with your name and E-mail address; I've had to return too many unsigned submissions recently. (By the way, I do know E-mail doesn't have a weight, but you know what I mean, don't you?)

To start the issue: Tom Hall of the Washington Business Journal kindly sent themail a copy of an editorial in their latest issue, “TonyGate: Hiring Candidates Is Bad Business.” I've reprinted it, since it isn't on the Journal's web site.

Gary Imhoff


TonyGate: Hiring Candidates Is Bad Business
Thomas C. Hall, Washington Business Journal,

Washington Business Journal editorial, June 4-10:

Mayor Anthony Williams has apologized for failing to disclose two “jobs” he accepted from prominent local businesses during his mayoral campaign last year.
The mayor’s apology is sincere, but off-target.
Williams should not be apologizing for the tardiness of disclosure, but for accepting the money in the first place. Nor is the business community blameless in TonyGate.
Well-meaning, civic-minded District business leaders concocted a scheme to give Williams an allowance to tide him over while running for office, following his June 1998 resignation as the city’s chief financial officer.
When Williams was deciding whether to run for mayor, he dropped hints that it would be a financial hardship for him to quit his $118,000 job as CFO for the six-month campaign.
It now seems obvious the $40,000 Williams received as a freelance consultant for NationsBank and Arthur Andersen & Co. was really a thinly disguised campaign contribution.
Williams, the bank and the accounting firm concede he did little to earn the $10,000 in lunch money he was given by NationsBank or the $30,000 Arthur Andersen paid him to think. Both companies do considerable business with the District, leaving themselves and Williams open to second-guessing about potential conflicts of interest.
While candidates ultimately bear the full responsibility for any questionable contributions accepted, businesses should not be “hiring” the candidates they support. To do so circumvents laws limiting political contributions.
The irony is that Williams was recruited, ran and won on a good government platform. That image is now tarnished by Williams’ political naivete and faulty logic in accepting ill-conceived gifts that violate the spirit, if not the letter, of campaign finance laws.
We're still not sure Williams gets it. Even while apologizing for the late disclosures, the mayor defended his actions, issuing a statement that “nothing improper occurred.”
Illegal? Probably not.
Improper? Yes.


Money Making Opportunities
Mark William,

I like the idea of getting paid to speak and to go to parties. Now if I could just get people to start inviting me. I am sure those thousands of dollars in my pocket would not cloud my perspective. I mean, really, how could anybody insinuate that a few hundred thousands of dollars, in toto, could be a conflict of interest? The real question is: how could anybody say, with a straight face, that it was not a conflict of interest? I suggest we citizens ask for his resignation. If he wants to make city government accountable, let's let him start.

Also, after hearing Tony William's press release on how his office has cleaned up the DMV I have to admit I fell for having raised expectations. Had been down there months ago and ONLY waited 35 minutes — a new short term record. Now, the new “improved” system took 1 hour and 35 minutes plus one has to listen to the incessant drone of the wait by the numbers announcer. Really irritating. Looked around and wondered why the city wonders why so many people are so anxious to get out of this town. To top it all off, my vehicle's title did not have an empty weight printed on the title (it is stated in the Blue Book). I now have to get my vehicle weighed at the inspection station, then wait in line at C Street all over again, then go back and get it inspected. What a needless waste of my time. Incidentally, there now appears to be 3 to 4 times as many staff members doing even less than they used to. Hiz honor just lost any credibility he had with me.

Must admit, although I was born and raised in this town, that was the straw that broke the camel's back. I am now seeking to move as soon as I can do so without taking any major financial losses. Changing politicians in this town is about as effective as changing furniture on the Titanic. Yet, the band does keep playing as long as the tax revenues keep streaming in. At least, with the others, we all knew they were stealing the silverware when we bought them a meal.


The Consumer’s Corner
Larry Seftor,

Since I absolutely cannot bear to think about Anthony William's conflict of interest payments for a minute longer, I thought I'd pass along a couple of consumer items that I've run across recently. The money involved is small, but it gives one a sense of empowerment to control even a few dollars. The first item is long distance phone charges. I make few long distance calls on my home phone these days, since long distance is included in my cell phone plan. And when I do make calls the charges, minimums, and taxes are ridiculous. So I uncovered a simple solution: call Bell Atlantic and tell them that you no longer want a long distance service. For a one-time charge of $5 they will remove any long distance service from your account, with its minimums and taxes. You can still make toll free calls as before, and using a 10-10 service you can make any other calls you like. The 10-10 service I picked provides 10 cent/minute within the U.S., and 11 cents/minute to the U.K. (For 10-10 comparison shopping, see Consumer's Report's recent issue.)

The second item is the “scanner tax.” This is the additional charge you pay when the checker at the Supermarket accidentally scans an item twice. Although you might consider this to be an uncommon occurrence, when my wife and I started checking we noted that when we weren't careful about picking a checker, we could find a double scanned item about a third of the time. This past weekend we went to a new checker who double scanned one item, just stopped himself before double scanning a second item, and who was going to double scan a third item before I stopped him. My guess is that in this guy's shift his carelessness led to hundreds of extra dollars of revenue for the store. Be forewarned and keep an eye on that checkout scanning to avoid the “scanner tax.”


Marion Barry Support Prison
James E. Taylor, Jr., The Park Skyland Civic Association,

Marion Barry's effort to sway the prison debate should be taken as seriously as his efforts to introduce any other meaningful economic development to this east of the river community. He ranted and raved against the proposal to move an educational facility to this area because we are undeserving of the thought of this kind of quality institution. But now he rants and raves about the economic benefit a prison will bring and how befitting this is for this east of the river site. The prisoners, he contend, will do better because they will be near their families.

Excuse me! Weren't these same people near their families when they committed the crime? Mr. Barry contends that the prisoner's transition will be more successful because the prisoners are placed close to home. What Mr. Barry really need to understand about the opposition is that while these prisoners are located close to their loving families they are ALSO close to the very elements that likely caused their criminal behavior. I am sure that Mr. Edmunds would have salivated over the possibility of being incarcerated in such a facility. He would be thriving in business today. He proved that he could operate his drug operation from prison! Now the ex-mayor wants to make it possible. Don't do the crime ... you won't have to move. I think our tax dollars should be better spent protecting our communities, not based on whether a person is going to change characteristics because he or she is close to home. This is all about money in the pockets of the proponents of building a prison we don't want or need! I hope our NEW mayor, unlike Barry, who opined that east of the river deserves better, sticks to his reasons for opposition. Can you envision future sightseeing tours ... the Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial, White house, Prison.... Oops, escapees.


Copied to themail
Mark Richards,

Dear Mayor Williams, In your welcome letter printed in the 1999 Capital Pride Guide, you wrote “Thank you for choosing Washington, D.C., as the host site for your event. While you are here, I hope you will take the opportunity to visit some of our famous historical monuments, museums, theaters and diverse neighborhoods — all of which make this city our nation's capital. On behalf of the residents of the District of Columbia, you have my best wishes for a successful and enjoyable festival.” I would like to point out that the Capital Pride Festival is a local, Capital area, event — not a national one. (San Francisco and New York would take us to task for claiming otherwise!) DC was “picked” as the “host site” because we live here.

DC citizens are proud to be a multiethnic, diverse, and tolerant community. DC is one of the nation's most gay-friendly communities. DC citizens elected two openly gay representatives to the Council — and their sexual identity was never an issue. Yet DC is the only community in the U.S. that is prohibited by Congress from implementing local policies its citizens widely support, such as domestic partnership registration and adoptions by unmarried couples. So it is thanks to local citizens that the nation's capital is gay inclusive, not because of an enlightened Congress or because it is the nation's capital. And until Congress grants DC the same voting rights as other U.S. citizens and refrains from meddling in our local affairs, all DC citizens — including the gay and lesbian community — are at the mercy of individual members of Congress who do not respect local opinion. Sincerely, Mark Richards


DC Homebuyer Tax Credit
Adam Jay Marshall,

Although I haven't used the DC First-Time Homebuyer Credit (i.e., I don't own a home), I am pretty sure that the guidelines are fairly straight-forward: If you make $70,000 a year or less ($110,000 if filing jointly with someone), and you have not owned a home in the District of Columbia at any point during the past year, you're eligible for the credit. No matter where in DC you buy, you receive a $5,000 credit on your federal income taxes. The best place to call for up-to-date information is Eleanor Holmes Norton's office, as they are the ones who have fact sheets, the latest income cut-offs, and application instructions on hand. The number there is 202-225-8050.


Your $5K Credit Is In themail
Thomas C. Hall, Washington Business Journal,

In answer to Rich Mintz's question about the $5,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers in the District: Every realtor in D.C. knows how to help you get this federal income tax credit — they are marketing it to the max as an extra benefit for prospective homebuyers. The best source, however, is D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton's office, 202-225-8050 and her Web page, , which spells out the eligibility and income limits, which are generous.

The credit itself comes via an IRS form you file with your federal income tax return for the year in which the home is/was purchased. The original bill authorized the credit for five years (Aug. 1, 1997 – Dec, 31, 2002) but Norton is trying to get that extended, as well as allow buyers to use the $5,000 tax credit as cash at closing, rather than wait several months to get the credit.


The First Time
Kirsten Williams,

In response to Rich Mintz' question regarding the Federal Tax rebate for first time homebuyers in DC. The full $5000 credit is available to anyone who has not owned a primary residence in the District for the previous two years with an income level under $70,000 (AGI) for an individual and $110,000 for joint filers. The credit is reduced after $70k AGI, and eliminated completely over $90k AGI for individuals; for joint filers it is eliminated after $130k AGI. (AGI is adjusted gross income) I believe it is Federal tax form #1089 that needs to be sent in. Hope this helps. This is a great program! Feel free to email me with detailed questions.


Credit Where Credit Is Due
Mark Eckenwiler,

Rich Mintz asks about the federal tax credit for first-time DC homebuyers. In a nutshell, you get a $5,000 credit (not a mere deduction, but an actual bottom-reduction in amount of tax) if you satisfy two criteria. First, you must not have held any present ownership interest in a home in DC within the 12 months prior to closing. Second, for you to get the full credit, your “modified adjusted gross income” must be less than $70K (single, married filing separately.) or $110K (married joint filers). There's a $20K phase out range, so a single filer making $90K gets no tax credit; making $80K, he or she gets a $2,500 credit. All is made clear on one page Form 8859, readily available from the IRS web site.


Closing Q Street
Art Spitzer,

Bob Levine, , wrote: “This Saturday [Tudor Place was] entertaining and as a result blocked off Q Street, frequently for long periods of time. This was enforced by a police sergeant who was off duty and had been privately hired by Tudor Place to facilitate the logistics of their party. The permit for this had been issued by Chief Ramsey's office to Tudor Place. The above information was provided by SOD (Special Operations Department. . . .”

Somehow I doubt that the permit actually permitted a street closing. But if there was a permit, it should be in the files at the SOD (Special Operations Division, of the MPD), which is at 2301 L Street, N.W., where you can see it. It's a public record and they should be happy to show it to you. If they won't, you can send Chief Ramsey a Freedom of Information Act request and he'll have to produce it. Then you can see what permit was asked for, and by whom, and for what, and what permit was issued. Do tell us what you find out.


How to Offend
Paul Penniman,

The recent email complaining (is this really happening?) about Jewish get-togethers and the use of the world 'spade' was as offensive as any racial/ethnic hatred I have been privy to. Such drivel merely serves to trivialize real problems. Please, let's start spending time thinking of, for starters, how to educate the tens of thousands of poor (mostly black) kids in this city who are currently receiving almost no education. There are about another dozen or so public policy issues we should be discussing. Let's put this other garbage on the back burner -- or in the supercan, where it belongs.


Re: God Bless Us All, and May We Love All of Our Children
Frank Pruss,

If I'd wanted to see that garbage, the web link to AF was sufficient. I really don't appreciate getting “direct quotes” from the site in my e-mail. Now to re-format my hard drive ....


Garbage Truck in a Hurry
Art Spitzer,

Debby Winsten, , wrote: “My car was legally parked on a Kalorama side street when I discovered an index card telling me that it had been sideswiped by a DC garbage truck.... My insurance agent wasn't much help. How and to whom do I register my plight?”

I'm not sure what you mean about your insurance agent. If the accident was covered they should pay. If they don't, and you want to make a claim against DC, you must send a letter to the Mayor within 6 months, stating the “time, place, cause, and circumstances of the injury or damage” (DC Code sec. 12-309). Send it certified mail, return receipt requested, so you'll have proof. Typically you'll get a response giving you the name of an investigator at the Corporation Counsel's office with whom you can try to settle the claim, and that may be the easiest way to try to get compensation. Whether or not you follow up on that response, once you've sent the letter to the Mayor, you can sue the District in Small Claims Court (up to $5,000), where you don't need a lawyer. Just go to the courthouse at 501 Indiana Avenue and ask for the Small Claims Branch. Good luck! (But how are you going to prove the damage was done by the District? Did the garbage truck driver actually sign his name legibly?)


Re: Not What You Want to Find on Your Car's Windshield
Frank Pruss,

It's just the cost of city living. Get used to it or rent a parking space. I have long since given up getting the “side-swipes” on my car repaired. (Adams-Morgan — Mecca of drunk drivers).


Pooling Resources
Mark Eckenwiler,

Bob Levine asked for suggestions for outdoor pools in the DC area. One good one can be found at Cheverly Swim & Racquet Club, just east of DC in Cheverly, MD, near NY Avenue. Don't be misled by the tony-sounding name. (“Racquet club” makes me think of dowagers, leather armchairs, ball boys, and Thurston Howell III.) In fact, it's dominated by families with young children and has a very casual and friendly feel. (If you live on Capitol Hill, you're also likely to see numerous neighbors at the pool.) Amenities include a full-size pool; kiddy pool; 4 clay courts and 2 HarTru courts; basketball court; volleyball setup; snack bar; and a large grill (charcoal included) for outdoor cooking on Sundays & other designated “picnic days.” We joined last year & recommend it highly. Membership fees are reasonable, and last time I checked there are still openings for this season.


Plumber Recommendation
Calvin Eigsti,

In response to the person looking for a good plumber, I highly recommend David Stang & Son, based in Damascus. We found them listed in the Washington Consumer Checkbook 4 years ago, where they were given high marks for competency and price. The one caveat is that they have a minimum one hour charge, so make sure you have enough work for them to do so that you feel you're getting your money's worth.


A Possible Plumber
Rona Mendelsohn,

To the person seeking a good plumber, I use Andy White of A.D. Plumbing & Heating. He's very knowledgeable and prompt, as well as capable. You can reach him at (301) 260-1300.



Discuss “Angels in America” With the Director
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 Wednesday, June 16, we will discuss Tony Kushner's Pulitzer Prize-winning “Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches” (1991). Frank Rich in The New York Times called the play “vast [and] miraculous,” a “radical rethinking of American political drama.” The New Yorker's John Lahr called it a “victory for theater, for the transforming power of the imagination to turn devastation into beauty.” Our discussion takes place 7:30-9:30 p.m. (dinner at 6:30) at Luna Books, 1633 P St., NW, just 3 blocks E of Dupont Circle. It will feature director Lee Mikeska Gardner, whose current Signature Theater production of “Millennium Approaches” earned a rave from the Washington Post's Lloyd Rose (“unpretentious charm and intelligence . . . almost embarrassingly rich in wonderful performances”). For reservations e-mail or call (202) 638-0444. For more information visit the Footlights website at .



Light Meter for Sale
Nadine Granof,

Sekonic Studio Deluxe. Fantastic condition, barely used; manual and box. Best offer. Also, new Kindermann 10 oz. developing tank in box with instructions. Contact



Hotel, Flat, or Family Needed
E. James Lieberman, M.D., 202-362-3963,

Housing needed for two young (20, 22) French people (Jeanne and Francois) who are coming to Washington for a project from 16 June to 3 August. I will put them up for the first few days. They are looking for a “hotel, flat, or family.” Call or e-mail if interested.


Apartment for Sale
Michael Wilkinson,

Great space, great building, great location. 500sf efficiency in Best Addresses (p.107) building near 16th & U NW. Formal layout featuring entry hall with fluted ceiling, huge bathroom, large well appointed kitchen. Nine foot ceilings, original oak and mahogany hardwood floors, huge windows with thick moldings. Many original (c.1910) details, including claw foot tub in bath, glass pane cabinets in kitchen. Building was built in 1910, designed by Wardman, listed on the national register of historic places. Old world lobby with stained glass windows, grand staircase, faux marble walls. Full service co-op building, including 24 hour front desk. Roof deck with soaring views of the entire city, including Washington monument, National Cathedral, US Capitol, National Airport, etc. Located a half block north of U Street and east of 16th; close to Dupont Circle metro, U Street metro, 16th Street buses; everything within walking distance (Dupont, 17th Street, Adams Morgan, U Street, etc.) Building is very safe, neighborhood is very safe.

Asking price of $55K means about $525/month (minus tax break on mortgage interest). First-time buyers qualify for federal tax credit of $5000, too. Absolutely beautiful move-in condition. For more info or to make an appointment to see it, call owner at 202-483-2271 or e-mail at


Arthur Jackson,

Are you seeking a housesitter for your house, estate, condo? Writer/PhD. seeks to house-sit your property during the summer months. Will maintain house, grounds, redirect or hold mail, pay bills etc. Experience in security consulting, property management, landscaping and household bookeeping/billpaying. In the process of writing book and motion picture manuscript. References. Call (202) 508-1059 or (202) 574-1532. Short term or complete summer house-sitting contracts available.



AHJ Group
Arthur Jackson,

My new firm is seeking retirees, students, housewives, underpaid government employees and others to participate in our New Entrepreneurship Training Program. We are seeking District of Columbia residents to train as (1) business development consultants/planners. Must have experience in computers, business management, grants and proposal writing and/or business to business sales. Requires knowledge of Word/MicroPro and Business Accounting software. (2) Janitorial contracting entrepreneurs. Must have experience in building cleaning or maintenance, supervisory(helpful). Willing to work under contractor, as a subcontractor. Guaranteed contracts. Must have a vehicle and the desire to own your own business. For information on these projects call The AHJ Group (202)508-1059 Email or fax resume to (202) 331-3759.


Dave Nuttycombe,

From's Loose Lips column, appearing this Friday:
Williams' Woodies Woody: Last month, Mayor Anthony A. Williams traveled to Las Vegas for a convention of the nation's premier retailers. Among the messages
he received in his chats with the assembled Wal-Marts and Old Navys was that name-brand department stores and the like won't throw anchor in downtown D.C. until the city's core attracts more residents.
Armed with with industry's suggestion, you'd think the mayor would have come straight back from Las Vegas to install signs on every downtown corner proclaiming, “If You Lived Here, You'd Be Home Now.”
Instead, he opted for a different direction. On June 3, the mayor wrote a letter to D.C. Zoning Commission Chair Jerrily Kress pleading for expedited action on a proposal to downgrade housing requirements at the Woodward & Lothrop building at 11th and F Streets NW.
Read the entire Loose Lips column this Friday at

From's CITY LIGHTS page, here are a few early warnings for upcoming events:
Saturday, June 12: The Washington Romance Writers' all-day workshop, featuring authors Courtney Henke, Karen Alarie, Julie Moffett Czechowski, and therapist Diane Perkins, from 10:15 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. at the Reston Library, 11925 Bowman Towne Drive, Reston. Free.
Thursday, June 17 & Friday, June 18: “In the Beginning There Was Underwear,” a critique of a young woman's romantic notions that nonetheless acknowledges the appeal of such fancies, director Anna Negri's film screens at 8 p.m. Thursday, June 17, and Friday, June 18, at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, 7th & Independence Ave. SW. Free.
More details and more critics' picks are available online at


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