Red Pencils at the Ready
Only three people responded to the opportunity to grade the mayor and
council on the first half year of their new terms. I'm sure that many of you want to say
something more. Please don't hesitate; you know the address.
On another matter, Charlie Wellander wittily notes that our exchanges on
those thieving parking meters have been picked up by the press. Not only the Washington
Post, but also all the local television stations, have reported on the situation.
Charlie wonders why themail doesn't get credited in news stories. I'm of two minds about
that. Of course, I'd like for more people to know about DCWatch and themail; the more
publicity we get, the more people visit the web site and both subscribe and contribute to
themail. On the other hand, we don't compete with the local newspapers or television
stations. Jeff Itell, who started themail (as DC Story), described it as an
electronic back fence over which neighbors could talk, and that's what we're
doing. I'm delighted if people in the press either participate or eavesdrop over the
fence, and if they find story ideas here that they can develop and report. If reporters
had to give credit to themail, I'm sure that their highly competitive and territorial
editors would veto a lot of the story ideas that germinate here.
By the way, Eric Lipton's stories yesterday and today about parking meters
brought out at least three new points that interested me: 1) DPW didn't tell the public,
when it knew for months that the meters were set not to give credit for coins that had
very minor flaws. Is anyone giving DPW the message that this cover-up was wrong, and will
any DPW official be penalized for keeping the public in the dark? 2) The same problem with
this parking meter model had already surfaced in other cities, and Lockheed Martin still
bought it for the District. Did Lockheed Martin tell District officials about the meter
problem when they were negotiating the contract? Since the company gets a percentage of
the take from the meters, was the extra unearned profit a factor in their decision? Those
quarters add up. 3) The contrast between the attitude in other cities, where the parking
meter problem was openly acknowledged and bad parking tickets were forgiven, and the
attitude in the District we don't want to give up the fines citizens pay because of
bad meters shows that our city government still doesn't understand that it works
for its residents, not the other way around. Incidentally, does anyone really believe
DPW's story that this problem affects only one percent of the meters?
I like the analogy of The Student Mayor. It sounds like the
title of a light opera, hopefully a comedy. It also makes it a little easier to accept his
misbehavior before the semester began, given that the pupil in question still shows great
promise. However, I would reduce his grade in Congressional Relations 101, because an
assignment which he volunteered to take on is apparently incomplete. In the first week of
his class, Tony promised to follow up promptly on Congress' withholding of the results of
the medical marijuana ballot initiative. To the best of my knowledge, he has completely
forgotten this assignment.
Sold Out Downtown
Steph DCs Dead Zone Faul, email@example.com
My biggest disappointment about Mayor Williams is that he appears to have
sold out to the real estate industry in record time. First there's the approval of the
convention center a huge waste of money that benefits resident taxpayers not at
all. Then there was the ludicrous idea of building a baseball stadium downtown, while RFK
rots away. Most recently there's the probability he'll allow the old Woodies' building to
be turned into yet more offices instead of retail and residential. A stinging local irony
is that tourists come to Washington for the history, yet not one downtown
building out of six is more than 25 years old. The few remaining antique structures are
rapidly disappearing and being replaced by offices, more offices, hotels, and offices.
Williams talks a good game about a living downtown, but his actions show his
real loyalty. Only six months into the game, and he's already in Oliver Carr's pocket.
The Williams Administration
Dorothy Brizill, firstname.lastname@example.org
I'd give Mayor Williams a C-, or maybe a D, for his first six months,
because he hasn't accomplished what needs to be done in the early days of any
administration. His own office's staffing is still unsettled and in flux; his scheduling
doesn't serve either him or the community (he's turning out to be as consistently late as
Barry was, and he has completely missed several important events); his small circle of
close advisers from his days as Chief Financial Officer hasn't opened or broadened at all;
he hasn't made many key appointments, especially that of City Administrator; several
boards and commissions lack key appointments; and he has failed to make the necessary
changes he promised in government and to remove many administrators he identified as
incompetent months before he was elected.
In the field that Williams himself identified as his key priority,
economic development, he has failed to make any appointments to the new National Capital
Revitalization Corporation, though he proposed legislation to reduce public scrutiny and
oversight of its actions; the Department of Housing and Community Development is under
temporary management; the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Economic Development is an arm of
the big developers, uninterested in neighborhoods and actively hostile to community
interests; the Redevelopment Land Agency has had to put off key development decisions for
months because of his lateness in appointing new board members. And he compromised his
primary qualification for the office, his honesty and clean reputation, by taking tens of
thousands of dollars from city contractors for showing up at lunches, parties, and
conferences and by still not understanding what's wrong with doing it. His major
accomplishment so far has been to increase the size, staffing, and funding of the Office
of the Mayor by so much that no one in the office even knows what most of the new Special
Mark Eckenwiler, email@example.com
Denizens of downtown DC especially those who frequent M.L. King
Library are well aware of the wretched state into which G Street NW (900 block)
deteriorated. The fountains long ago stopped flowing, and the planters became repositories
for trash instead of flowers. Massive cracks in the pavement went unrepaired. Only a
contingent of homeless people ever lingered on this urban moonscape; for everyone else, it
was a block to avoid (or if necessity commanded, to pass through as quickly as possible).
The same used to be true of nearby F Street NW (from 7th to 9th), where an equally
decrepit pedestrian mall was cleaned up and re-opened to vehicular traffic 18 months ago.
(According to a November 1997 Post article, these malls were the product of
misguided planning in 1974, at the dawn of Home Rule.)
At last, G Street is now being ripped up, but I have yet to see any
reporting on what's planned. The Post's Metro desk has been singularly impervious
to suggestions that they devote a few column inches to this issue. Can anyone point to a
good resource on what G Street is going to look like months hence?
Two Cheers for Gun Laws
Philip Murphy, PhilMurphy@aol.com
Something about Adam Jay Marshall's posting regarding the lifesaving
nature of gun laws made me want to respond. Marshall gushes Could you imagine how
bad the crime rate in this city would be if gun ownership were in fact easier? Now
I'm no gun nut, and I believe tougher gun restrictions make sense in almost every
situation but I must admit that if I lived in Benning Heights and lived in terror because
the police didn't or couldn't enforce the law on my street I would want a gun to protect
my home and family and perhaps level the playing field with the criminals. And I would
loudly advertise that I had a gun, too. Would I be targeted by criminals because I had a
gun? Just the opposite, I think. Frankly, if the safety of a neighborhood cannot be
guaranteed, why compound the injustice by making it illegal for neighbors to protect
Sure, it's a mindless cliche to say guns don't kill people, but culture
does play a role. After all, imagine if the government issued every adult male citizen an
assault rifle and required them by law to keep them in their homes. Bloodbath, right? In
America, unfortunately yes. But in Switzerland, where gun ownership is virtually the law,
there is peace. Obviously, there is something more complex at work than a sound bite. But
that would require questioning some comforting assumptions, wouldn't it?
Home Rule vs. Gun Control
Tom Matthes, firstname.lastname@example.org
Get off my back and get out of my District. Eleanor
Holmes Norton, to Virginia Congressman Virgil Goode, on a motion to end the city's ban on
private possession of handguns. For the length of a TV news sound bite last Friday,
Delegate Norton was the champion of local government. Bravo! Why should what's good for
Goode's constituents be imposed on the District, when DC's elected Council has voted
otherwise? The debate between Charles (every man should be armed) Heston and
Rosie (the Second Amendment is a relic of the War of 1812) O'Donnell will last
as long as the right of the people to keep and bear arms is part of the
Constitution. But why does Congress have to impose a one size fits all policy
on guns? Let Montana (where one's neighbor might be the Unabomber or a militiaman) and DC
(where innocent people are shot on the streets or in their homes during gang wars) make up
their own minds and let the NRA and Handgun Control, Inc., take their objections to the
courts. For one brief, shining moment, Delegate Norton took her stand for local decision
making. Alas, it was only an act. No sooner had the Goode amendment failed than she left
the House for a rally of gun control advocates demanding their will be imposed everywhere
else. There is no doubt of Ms. Norton's sincere support for strict gun controls, but to
advocate local control in DC while opposing it everywhere else is hypocrisy. It is the
triumph of a partisan agenda over consistency and fairness.
More important than this lack of principle is the damage it does to the
ongoing efforts to convince the nation at large that DC residents deserve control of their
schools, budgets, police and laws. Residents of the 50 states are not going to be
impressed by the moral argument for DC democracy after that performance. Arguing for local
prerogatives, by the way, is no longer a battle of liberals versus conservatives. The
latest debates in Congress have included calls for teaching creationism over evolution and
for school vouchers, in addition to the attempt to legalize handguns in DC. Both sides now
have national agendas at odds with the democratic principle of looking to local solutions
first and to continental solutions only as a last resort. DC citizens who believe they can
run their affairs better than Capitol Hill need to acknowledge the same right for others,
or the case for home rule will not play in Peoria.
Success in Our Schools
Ed T. Barron, email@example.com
A program being run in some schools in Maryland that has demonstrated
success in teaching children in urban schools with large minority enrollments recently
tried to get the program aboard at an Alexandria school. Before the program is implemented
at any school, the providers of this program insist that 80% of the teachers in that
school, in a secret ballot, vote to bring the program into the school. If the votes are
not there, the provider of the Success program will not provide the program to
that school. The vote in that Alexandria school, by the way, was only about 50% for
accepting the program.
But herein is revealed the secret to making things happen in a school. If
you can get 80% of the teachers in any school to agree to trying the same thing you have,
in fact, formed a viable team with a mission. Once you have a team with a mission the team
members will break their buns to make it work, because they had a part in saying what
should be done. Can you imagine in one of the District's poorer performing schools trying
to get 80% of the teachers in that school to agree to changing to one program. You could
not get 80% of the teachers in these poor performing schools to agree that they should go
to lunch on any given day.
In my own consulting work, conducting Team Building and Process
Reengineering, I have been very successful developing teams and creating viable processes
in private industry, federal government agencies, and with staff elements of universities.
I have never been able to get university professors to agree to be a part of a
Team. I think the same would likely be true of many (perhaps most) of the
public school teachers in the District. It appears that the slowest learners are in the
field of education.
In the last issue of themail, Mark Eckenwiler raised the issue of using
the cop in trouble ploy to get speedy response to calls for assistance. I
realize this was largely tongue-in-cheek, but it should be noted that this is MORE likely
to result in broken heads than useful assistance (not to mention that it's
illegal). In recent years, the NAACP's Metropolitan Police and Criminal Justice Review
Task Force has investigated SEVERAL instances in which MPD had blanketed a restaurant or
home with officers who proceeded to crack heads. Seems an officer on each scene felt
unable to deal with a situation so, apparently, called in one of the codes which indicates
officer down; this brought everyone on wheels, ready to rumble. Not judicious.
Another View on Parking Enforcement
Sara Cormeny, firstname.lastname@example.org
I know I'm going to be unpopular for saying this, but I charge forward
fearlessly. It's wrongheaded to complain that the city is spending money on parking
enforcement but not on schools. Overall, parking meters and parking enforcement make money
for the city that is one reason why, when there have been furloughs in the past,
meter maids are still on the job. It's a revenue producing sector, and I say bully to
them! I would of course like to see the occasional glaring errors/liberties on the part of
the enforcers eliminated (for instance, ticketing at 6:50 am on a spot that is legal until
7 am). In general, though, I'm very impressed by the clarity of street signs and the
aggressive posture on parking violations. And in case you forgot, it is a violation to
park at a broken or headless meter. It's certainly a violation to park in a two-hour zone
for more than two hours, operating meter or no.
On the traffic-enforcement front, I'm also thrilled to see that the city
is finally going after red-light runners and gridlock-creators downtown. It's a small
effort so far, but I hope it expands and serves as a deterrent to those dimwitted
motorists who contribute to the very gridlock that's slowing everybody down, in a vain
attempt to speed their own commute. Please save any flames for somebody else I'm
wearing my asbestos gloves and will just delete them.
In response to Sheila McCormick's inquiry re baseball in DC, it is alive
and well at Friendship Playground/Turtle Park at 46th and Van Ness, NW. There are T-ball
teams for the little ones, minor and major little league. The older guys play softball.
John McCarthy runs a baseball camp there all summer, Home Run Baseball Camp, for kids 12
and under. There is also little league in the Capitol City League, which won a regional
championship a few years back. There is baseball elsewhere in the city, and a citywide
playoff each summer.
For the older kids, the Police Boys and Girls Club runs programs for 13-15
year olds. Then the high schools take over. True, you see more soccer, but there is
definitely baseball if you look around. Talk to Bob Haldeman, the rec. director at
Friendship, for more information.
A League of Their Own
Mark Eckenwiler, email@example.com
Sheila McCormick asks whether there are any tee-ball leagues in DC. As the
parent of two budding sluggers, I can confirm that there's a group of teams on the Hill
(schedule on the web at http://voiceofthehill.com/Sportscal.htm ). Alas, I suspect all the
teams are filled for this summer.
Our kids have played t-ball, baseball, and softball over the years in the
Takoma Park and Montgomery County leagues. Both permit non-residents (as we are) to play.
Sign-up is usually in March. For more info, you could probably contact the recreation
departments in those jurisdictions.
Bless em All . . . the Short and
Charlie Wellander, jfa-cwr@CapAccess.org
Speaking of various small- and large-statured revenue enhancers for DC: On
the Short side (parking meters on stubby poles misappropriating quarters), themail got
very short (i.e., zero) credit for its part in Tuesday's Washington Post Metro
story (at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/WPlate/1999-06/22/155l-062299-idx.html
until Independence Day). Congrats to themailers Gabe Goldberg, Ann Loikow, and Constance
Maravell for becoming the only people on the cyber-street to be quoted. (Reporters save on
shoe leather these days.)
The Tall ones are the streetlight poles above the parking meters, which
recently sprouted large advertising banners flying way up there from semi permanently
attached hardware. Does anyone know who owns these and how much rent the city is
collecting for this further degradation of the streetscape? I'll keep mum on the
infelicity of Adam Sandler's public micturition adverts (don't want to get into that
prissing contest); but if he starts dissing on us from high poles as well as
in the Metro, I just hope he misses us.
If you were offended by the Big Daddy poster of two people
pissing on the wall, how about the Subway sandwich shop ad that features David and
Goliath? David asks politely for a bite of Goliath's sandwich, and is rudely refused. So
little David loads up his sling and caps the big guy. Now as I remember the original
story, David was defending his city in a war that came down to single combat, not mugging
someone to get a free meal. What kind of message is Subway sending? Given the recent
history at Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts, I don't think a fast food store chain should be
advocating the use of weapons to procure their products.
Im Trying to Pay a Ticket, Darn It!
Kathy Carroll, firstname.lastname@example.org
Last year, I made a left turn onto Observatory Lane from Massachusetts
Avenue after 4:00 p.m. and a nice gentleman in blue was waiting for me. It was a $25
ticket. I went home, fired up my bill payer software and sent the gentleman's employers a
check. The check was returned to me because I had not included the ticket number. I hadn't
kept the ticket after paying it, so I waited for a second notice so I could write the
ticket number on the check. None came. Six months later, my bank sent me a nice letter
which apologized but noted that the D.C. Treasurer had not cashed my check in 6 months and
it was, therefore, void.
The check carries my social security number, and that's my driver's
license number. They were obviously able to find the ticket and credit me with the
payment, so why did they send the check back? I'm not encouraging anyone to be a scofflaw,
I just hope someone in charge reads this and can make sure it doesn't happen
Metro Bus Stop Maintenance
Annie McCormick, email@example.com
I called Herb Leonard of Metro today at 12 noon. He called me back at 3
p.m., saying that, yes, the bus shelter in question is supposed to be maintained by the
District. He said that he would call them to report it so that I would not have to. That's
the end of the story. I'll let you know IF it ever gets fixed.
Trash Cans Courtesy of the DC Government
Joan Eisenstodt firstname.lastname@example.org
Interesting the delivery was this weekend with a note about how and
why. But for those of us without storage, the can now must sit out all the time. The
apartment building down the street got two cans not nearly enough for the ten units
in the building. More, for those who were already bagging the trash in heavy bags, the can
doesn't make that much difference. For those who weren't, I can't imagine they'll buy
heavy-duty bags and then put the trash in; rather, the trash is likely to go directly in
the can, which is easily turned over! Good idea in theory; we'll see about execution.
Windshield Sticker Waltz
Rick Rosenthal, email@example.com
Here's a good one I have to replace my windshield, so what happens
to my Zone 3 sticker and inspection sticker? Do I have to go through the dreaded DMV line
again, or can I get a replacement? Got a sinking feeling it's the former.
Dangerous Pothole on Van Ness
Constance Z. Maravell, Zinnia@CompuServe.com
It is on Van Ness as you drive from Nebraska to Wisconsin Avenue. It is
almost in the center of the lane and it is hard to see.
The tenant who rents the basement apartment in my house reported that he
was seeing rats in the backyard. He called the Rat Patrol and they said they'd be out
within three days. He asked that they call him at work one hour before they arrived so he
could meet them at the house. Two days later, they called him. When he showed up at the
house, they were there waiting for him. We have been very careful about keeping our trash
secure and our alleyway is pretty clean. The Rat Patrol suggested it was probably a pile
of firewood that has been in the backyard for years.
They spread poison and plugged up some holes (with newspaper, to keep dogs
and cats away from the poison). We think it may have worked, although we're not totally
sure. However, we were greatly impressed by their response time and attention to detail.
Does anyone have information about Potomac River cruises? I'm especially
interested in evening no-dinner cruises and cruises from lines other than Spirit of
Washington & Dandy Cruises. Please reply directly to firstname.lastname@example.org ; it's for
friends coming to town this weekend. Thanks!
[And send a copy to themail; the rest of us may want to cruise down the
Potomac sometime later this summer. Gary Imhoff]
Tasting Society International June & July 1999
Calendar of Events
Charlie Adler, email@example.com
1) June 23rd, Wednesday, Last Tango in Argentina: Wine, Dinner &
Romance! 7-10 p.m., Wyndham Hotel, 1400 M St., NW. $55 in advance, tax and tip
inclusive. Argentina is a country that sizzles! Join Argentine Embassy diplomats as we
experience the carnal pleasures of this South American country. The Ambassador claims that
not only is their beef an aphrodisiac, but so is their wine! We'll include a full buffet
dinner with this wine tasting including imported Argentinian beef, Empanadas and other
delicacies (Vegetarians are welcome!). There will be a wide selection of this country's
fine wines served in an informal format. Last, but not least, a tango demonstration and
lesson will be included with a live band, so bring your dancing shoes. 2) June 30th,
Wednesday, French Wines For Summer with Ann Berta, Wine Columnist for Washingtonian
Magazine, 7-9 p.m., Radisson Barcelo Hotel, 2121 P St., NW, $40. France produces
such a wide variety of fantastic wines that it's very difficult for the consumer to choose
quality producers. Join Ann Berta as she helps take the mystery out of French wines. We'll
primarily taste wines that pair well with the lighter foods of summer. 3) July 21st,
Wednesday, ZAP's America's Heritage Wine Tasting, 6-8 p.m., The Westin Grand
Hotel, 2350 M St., NW, $40. (ZAP Members get $5 Discount.) Over 50 Zinfandel producers
showcase America's greatest wine treasure. Over 100 Zinfandel wines are expected to be
sampled. Special hors d oeuvres will be served. This tasting will focus on
Zinfandels that may soon be available in the Washington, D.C. market. Call (530) 274-4900
for Reservations. 4) July 22nd, Thursday, Wine 102: Tasting Like A Pro, 7-9
p.m., Radisson Barcelo Hotel, 2121 P St., NW, $35. You understand the wine basics, but you
want to impress your friends, business associates, or other acquaintances with your wine
knowledge (this is great for that next job interview!). Our speaker will show you in under
2 hours how you can taste like the pros and impress anyone with your new found knowledge.
5) July 28th, Wednesday, Mixology 101: How to Make Premium Cocktails, 7-9
p.m., Radisson Barcelo Hotel, 2121 P St., NW, $35. Drink Better! Tired of the same old Rum
and Coke? Well, our Bartender will demonstrate how to make each new specialty cocktail
using the finest premium spirits available, and you get to taste each of them! We'll taste
variations on old standards such as the Martini and Margarita, and a variety of Shooters.
Light hors d'oeuvres included. Reservations, RSVP at (202)333-5588, email: firstname.lastname@example.org , or https://labyrinth.dgsys.com/clients/tastedc.com/order.cgi
Very neat, quiet, non-smoking male GWU student seeks furnished/unfurnished
room for July and August. References available.
Room in Shared Student House
Phil Shapiro, Chevy Chase DC, email@example.com
Room in shared student house. Available for July and August. Walk to Red
Line subway stop. (Van Ness/UDC.) Separate phone line. $375/month. firstname.lastname@example.org
CLASSIFIEDS CITY PAPER PREVIEW
Dave Nuttycombe, email@example.com
From washingtoncitypaper.com's LOOSE LIPS column, appearing this Friday:
IF YOU CAN'T MAKE IT THERE...In a recent sweep through upstate New York, first lady
Hillary Rodham Clinton found out just what the folks on the home turf of Martin Van Buren
think of her Senatorial ambitions. Carpetbagger go home! and Go back to
your village read the signs of the anti-Hillary homers in the state's rural
So LL has a better idea for Mrs. Clinton: Skip New York. If you want a post-White House
career in public service, there's no better place to start than the troubled city outside
the executive mansion's gates. After all, where else to showcase your pet issues
children and health care than the District? Your adopted hometown, after all, ranks
51st in the nation in infant mortality, 51st in the nation in child poverty, and 51st in
the nation in reduction of teen birth rates. Don't those numbers stir your Children's
Defense Fund compassion?
Read the entire Loose Lips column this Friday at: http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/lips/lips.html
From washingtoncitypaper.com's CITY LIGHTS page, here are a few early
warnings for upcoming events:
Sunday, June 27: Caribbean Comedy Festival at 7 p.m., Howard University's Cramton
Auditorium, 2645 6th St. NW. $25.
Monday, June 28: James Burke discusses his new book The Knowledge Web at 8 p.m.
at the National Museum of Natural History's Baird Auditorium, 10th & Constitution Ave.
More details and more critics' picks are available online at http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/pix/pix.html
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