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June 27, 1999

Impressive Seances

Dear Channelers:

You have summoned up some good spirits for this issue, with interesting messages from here and beyond. Read and enjoy.

Gary Imhoff


The Mayor
James E. Taylor, Jr., Park Skyland Civic Association,

Assessments of the Mayor and his first six months in office [in the last issue of themail, ] were right on target. I would also like to point out that the Mayor's obvious political naiveté about what actually could be accomplished in his first six months in office, is perhaps one of many reasons for his not meeting promised goals, despite his sincere desire. His tenure and authority as Chief Financial Officer, with total control and authority to move and shake up things, likely gave him a noble but false impression that as Mayor he could be as effective. He, hopefully, is now beginning to learn the difference.

The other subtle but important factor the Mayor and his advisors overlooked, as Mayor Kelly did, was the workforce in place to do the job. Not considered was the depth and strong entrenchment of unqualified and uncaring middle management employees of the District Government. This workforce system was and is embedded with malaise, bad attitudes, lack of protocol, motivation, and qualifications, initiated, over a number of years, by former Mayor Marion Barry to build his political support that even Mayor Kelly, with her election voter mandate, could not overcome. The only personnel group she was able to “sweep” out were the Washington Redskins.

Perhaps Mayor Williams is just beginning to learn politics 101, and maybe, I hope, his unrealistic expectations are over and he will listen, and discuss issues with us, before speaking out. My admitted political naiveté questions the mayor's propensity to bring outside talent as managers to run agencies they know nothing about. To this writer it is obvious that there is an over abundance of talent in this city who could fill these jobs, and be up and running with his policies a lot faster than people who are dedicated to the salaries and not the city which they call home. Why?


Band-Aid Management
Ed T. Barron,

“D.C. Police flood streets....” That's today's headline as the city tries to staunch the flow of blood in the streets with yet another Band-Aid (tourniquet?). The city only knows how to respond to symptoms by fighting brush fires. When will we see some real efforts to make the city better? Instead of treating these symptoms of real problems, instead of cosmetic changes in the District's and the DCPS' processes, when will we see real top level plans for the District and for the DCPS? If such plans exist they are certainly well hidden from the residents and from parents of school age children.

Any plan is better than no plan. If real progress is to be made in solving the City's problems, it will take a coordinated effort and a top level plan involving the D.C. Government, the business community, and the citizens of the city to make that plan happen. The same is true for the very poor performance of the DCPS in providing a practical and viable educational program for the kids in the city. Show us a plan, Mr. Williams. Show us a plan, Ms. Ackerman. Then we can stop the bleeding in the streets. Then we can get down to the real business of educating inner city kids.


Norton: “Get Off My Back and Get Out of My District”
Ms. Dorothy Persiflage,

Ms. Persiflage would dearly like to say that she is amused by the nonsense she has been reading in themail and elsewhere concerning the continued denial of second amendment rights to the residents of D.C., but alas, she is not. She is actually quite outraged at Delegate Norton's ludicrous and extraordinarily arrogant retort to Representative Goode's generous and common-sense effort to restore Ms. Persiflage's legitimate second amendment rights, and ability to defend one's person and property. Ms. P observes that the Founding Fathers were not graduates of D.C. public schools, and were actually (bless their hearts) able to read and write, in English, with acceptable precision. Because of that, they tended to use phrases such as “right of the People” with great care, and used them on rare occasions, such as in the very important second amendment. Ms. Persiflage knows that had they intended to secure the right of the states to raise militias, they would have written that quite clearly. Instead, they put that "right of the People" squarely into the Bill of Rights — designed to protect "the People" from the State, and serving in a very practical sense as the sine quo non for ratification.

Ms. Persiflage is, of course, under no delusions that she will change the minds of those who think that the answer to violence in our society is to abrogate the second amendment and ban gun ownership, but she at least wanted to go on record in this modest space to assert her strong dissent with the views of Del. Norton, and with those who choose to fool with the Bill of Rights — and especially those pesky second and tenth amendments.

By the way, those few themail readers who had expressed the view that Ms. P had some sort of intellectual affinity with George III were not very far astray, she is pleased to report. This Spring Ms. P had many wonderful opportunities to join some other ladies (including the First) for tea, cucumber sandwiches, and a spot or two of sherry in the Solarium. After several occasions, and as many sherries (Ms. P does so adore the bone dry Manzanillas from Sanlucar de Barrameda!), in which we spoke with Mr. Gandhi and Dear Eleanor, Ms. Persiflage was asked if there was any spirit in particular with whom she would like to chat. Of course she immediately identified George III, who, it turned out, was tickled pink to be called. Time and space will not allow Ms. P here to recount George's many regrets over “the American situation,” as he called it; his disappointment at what he expected to be “the wisest, purest, and most progressive administration of the Eighteenth Century;” his disappointments with Pitt; and especially with the notorious Wilkes affair. On the other hand, his hilarious descriptions of Wilkes' printing of the libelous parody of Pope's Essay on Man, entitled Essay on Woman, and Lord Sandwich's scandalous reading of its bawdy parts on the floor of the House of Lords, struck Ms. P as most thoroughly and eerily modern. Just imagine, after the Lords had declared the Essay on Woman “a most scandalous, impious and obscene libel,” portly Lord Sandwich indulging himself by quoting to the full House, with “histrionic moral indignation,” the poem's stark indecencies! Dedicated to Fanny Murray, a well known daughter of joy and, at the time, a mistress to many of the politically well connected — some present in the House of Lords during Sandwich's reading — the piquancy of the situation must have been positively breathtaking!

Readers of themail will be interested, Ms. P hopes, in learning that she did not let HRH get away without a question about his views on banning guns in the District. He was quite clear that he thought guns should be banned not only in Washington, but in all of America. He simply expressed regret that it had not been done much sooner.

A tout ta'.... Do


May I Ask Your Opinion?
Mark Richards, Woodley Park,

The Washington Post periodically sponsors a poll of DC residents in which they ask, “Do you favor or oppose the District of Columbia becoming a separate state?” (It has usually been asked after a series of questions, such as the quality of DC services.) I have partial data from 1993 and 1998. The data show that there is a big difference of opinion between African-Americans/blacks and Euro-Americans/whites on this question. In 1993, 58% of blacks supported statehood, compared to 39% of whites. In 1998, 57% of blacks supported statehood, compared to 39% of whites. As far as I know, The Post has not asked the follow-up question “Why?” If I had an extra $15,000, I would conduct a survey to examine this statistically. In the meantime, would anyone like to answer the question of why they personally support or oppose statehood? If opposed, what would you prefer — the status quo, an Amendment, Retrocession, or don't really care one way or the other? Also, any speculation on why our black and white residents disagree on this issue? If you're shy and don't want to post your thoughts, feel free to send them to me directly. Thanks, Mark


Success for All
Nelson Smith,

Ed Barron needs to do some homework. Despite his skepticism about educators, the fact is that “Success for All” is already being implemented in perhaps a dozen DC public schools — with strong early impacts on reading scores. It's also used in the Edison-Friendship public charter schools, and as Jay Mathews' recent Post piece indicated, getting impressive results there, too. It is difficult getting 80% of any school's faculty to agree on a new approach to teaching and learning. But decades of research tell us that schools with a mission tend to succeed. One reason for the impressive record of “Success for All” around the country is that the program requires serious buy-in by schools that adopt it.


One Brick at a Time
Ed T. Barron,

For those of you who have watched the bricks being replaced at the AU Law School building Massachusetts Avenue and 48th Street, a task that has been performed several times over the last few years, here's what has happened. The building was poorly designed to begin with (in addition to being the ugliest landmark in upper NW D.C.) and keeps water out the same way a peach basket keeps water in. The worst leaks occur at the tops of the windows where a poorly designed flashing system allows water to get through to the inside of the building. When AU replaced all of the windows in the building a few years ago they did not replace the flashing with a new design. Hence, the leaks continue. As you can see from the color of the new bricks there are many other leaking places other than the windows. Over the next few years we may see the entire building rebricked, one brick at a time.


No Asbestos Required
John Whiteside,

To Sara Cormeny: Please don't apologize for suggesting that laws be enforced! Parking laws are laws, people, and if DC can make a few bucks while enforcing the law, that's a good thing. What's more, parking is a quality of life issue. If you can't find parking near your home, it affects you. If there isn't a steady turnover of spots at meters, it affects nearby businesses. Now, when laws are enforced incorrectly, there's cause to complain; but for all the whining, DC seems to be about the same as any other big city. There are some contradictory parking signs — but not many. There are some cases where tickets are not legit — but how many out of the total number written? I saw, enforce away.


Potholes, New Trash Cans, and DPW
Mark Eckenwiler,

Apropos of Joan Eisenstodt's complaint that the apt. building down the block only got 2 new cans: actually, they shouldn't be getting any, since a 10 unit building is legally obliged to arrange for private hauling. And as for the notion that “for those who were already bagging the trash in heavy bags, the can doesn't make that much difference,” I'll note that “heavy bags” are not legal trash containers (because, among other reasons, they don't put an adequate barrier between rats and rations). Using the can may make a difference in keeping down our furry chums' population; it will also keep the inspector from ticketing you if sanitation enforcement comes calling.

On a different note, Constance Maravell reports a pothole on Van Ness. These can be reported through the new DPW call center (727-1000), or directly to pothole/sidewalk repair at 645-7055. (On weekends, your call will be routed to the Mayor's Command Center, which will pass along the report next business day.) Amazingly, this seems to produce actual results these days. And if you have a problem that isn't getting addressed — like the hard-to-locate pothole on Observatory Circle/Massacchusetts Avenue, NW, I reported 5 or 6 times — then call 645-7056 and ask for a manager.


DPW Responds
Andrew McIlroy,

DPW responds to email! On June 21 I E-mailed a request to DPW from their web site ( ) asking to have my street cleaned. On June 23, Linda Grant, the public information officer, sent back the following response. It hasn't been cleaned yet, but they did tell me they are now manually sweeping those streets that are not on the regular mechanical sweeping schedule.

The response: “I am so glad you made this request because the Department of Public Works has begun manually sweeping every street in the city; that is in addition to residential streets with high pedestrian volume that are swept mechanically on a weekly basis. Please you let me know if your block is in the mechanical sweeping program. If it is, there are street signs that ask motorists not to park there during certain hours on one or two days of the week. Also, for your information, the District government now has a new ‘one telephone number for service’ program. You may call 727-1000 for a variety of D.C. government services, including those provided by Public Works. Operators are available weekdays between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. The District is experiencing a serious hot, dry spell (only partially relieved by the recent rain), and our street trees are suffering. If you get a chance, please give them some water and ask your neighbors to do the same so the trees can continue providing us with shade.”


Tall Ones
Ralph Blessing,

I suspect that the advertisements Mr. Wellander spotted on utility poles contribute as much to the city coffers as do the other illegal postings on trees and poles around town. The city has gotten much better about removing those godawful Day-Glo concert posters that used to be so prevalent along Georgia Avenue, North Capitol Street and other commercial strips east of Rock Creek. However, the powers-that-be seem to be much more lax about the latest plague, namely, those somewhat indestructible “Work at Home” signs (they're styrofoam covered with laminated plastic) that are literally bolted to telephone poles at heights that can only be reached with a ladder. Hello, DPW, how about a dose of zero tolerance in dealing with folks who think our city is their own personal bulletin board?


More “What Are They Thinking?” Advertising
Gabe Goldberg,

Rob Fleming wrote about the David/Goliath story being distorted and used to sell sandwiches. Not exactly the same, but a current TV commercial seems in questionable taste in these times: it seems to show machine gun fire carving a car's outline from a sheet of metal. With the recent shootings, I'm not sure that gunfire would be my choice of association with a consumer product. But then, it's my association that's negative, maybe they ran focus groups showing that others saw it as positive. Like the line in someone's sig “Officer, arrest that man, he's humming a dirty song,” we all have our own inner landscapes.


River Cruises
David Sobelsohn,

When I called Odyssey June 24 they reported having no scheduled cruises without a full meal included in the price. They said that they sometimes do have moonlight cruises from midnight-2:30 a.m., and those don't serve a meal, but that they have none of these cruises currently scheduled. Thanks anyway.

Gee, it seems strange to think that DC has no regularly scheduled reasonably priced Potomac River cruises. I've taken a sightseeing cruise in Baltimore Harbor for $6.60; I think the boat leaves every 2 hours. By contrast, except for a morning cruise to Mt. Vernon, it looks like all the Potomac River cruises include a meal and cost at least 9 or 10 times the Baltimore Harbor cruise. I've never taken a Potomac River cruise; perhaps there's really not that much to see from the water?

[Two-hour cruises on the Seine in Paris can be had for about $5; a short cruise down the Thames from the heart of London to Greenwich costs about $10; and in both cities these cruises run all year. Any yachtsmen interested in starting a business? In the meantime, have you investigated the river cruises that leave from the docks in Alexandria? — Gary Imhoff]


F and G Streets, NW
Ralston Cox,

The re-opening of F & G Streets NW is part of a mitigation package on historic preservation issues made by the proponents of the MCI Arena when that project was going through various review(s) and approval(s). In exchange for approving the closing a block of G Street for the construction of the arena, the city agreed to re-open F Street between 7th & 9th, 8th Street between E Street and F Street, and G Street between 9th & 10th. If you want some idea of what G Street will look like when it's finished, go look at F Street — if you want details, call the Historic Preservation Division of DCRA or the folks at DPW.


G Street Mall Questions Answered
Matthew Gilmore,

You will find a description of the history and fate of the G Street Mall on our web site under Washingtoniana at Frequently asked Questions:



R L Widmann,

For sale, on Capitol Hill, 7th and Independence SE. Art Deco coffee table. Blue mirrored glass top, $125.00. White Ikea drop-leaf dining table, 31"x27", opens to 55", $45.00. Light green Ikea table lamp, 24" high, $12.00. Artist's display easel, $150.00. Wooden rocker w/carved back, $175.00. Wooden lectern/display for art books, $100.00. R L Widmann, 202-543-3015.


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