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July 4, 1999

Holiday Fireworks

Dear Firecrackers:

Well, as you probably guessed, nobody came up with the $10,000 fee that I wanted for attending a Fourth of July party, so here I am at my computer sending out themail. I have reluctantly concluded that getting paid for taking lunches and going to parties isn't really a viable career choice for most people. That's a shame, since it leaves work as the only alternative for the rest of us.

Gary Imhoff


Time for a Change
Ed T. Barron,

The article about the performance and behavior of the Mayor, entitled “The Big Choke,” in last Friday's City Paper, is a bit harsh but it's basically an accurate portrait of Tony Williams in his first six months in office. It would not be surprising to see a very similar article on Arlene Ackerman, the head of the D.C. Public Schools. Mayor Williams continues to use his “management” skills to micro manage the District Government. This is a far cry from what we need in a mayor. If dramatic and needed changes are to be made in the performance of the District's agencies, those changes must begin with the mayor first.

Anthony Williams must “reinvent” himself to evolve from a manager into a leader. A leader is a team builder, an enabler, and person who empowers others to make things happen. The management skills needed to be the District's Chief Financial Officer are far short of what is needed to lead the District out of the morass of crime and poor public education. Micro management might fill some potholes, but it won't bring new residents into the city. The same can be said for the District's schools under the similar micro management methods of Arlene Ackerman. The mayor and the DCPS Superintendent need to step outside their respective skins to take an objective look and to see what needs to be changed in themselves before any real changes can be made across the board in all elements of the D.C. government and the DCPS.


DCPS Summer Session
Mark Eckenwiler,

An interesting article in Friday's Post Metro section says DCPS summer enrollment will be around 20,000, giving a 12:1 student:teacher ratio. The article remarks that the Voyager enrichment program's enrollment is less than half the planned 5,000, largely because of the very late (dare I say tardy?) roll out. One wonders if the drop in remedial enrollment (from 30K to fewer than 20K) is a sign of improvement (how so, since test scores didn't budge this year), of parental indifference, or of a relapse toward the old policies of “social promotion.”


Vive la Revolution!
Mark Richards, Dupont East,

Generally, I agree with Anne Drissel that “we should support the new city leadership in their efforts to make changes” and that we shouldn't set our expectations too high, because changes do take time. Maybe that's why I didn't grade him. And, I also appreciate Anne's good words about Chief Ramsey, although Greg Rhett's posting makes me think there are inequities in the distribution of police officers across the city. I'm willing to wait and see — if Mayor Williams succeeds in stopping the bullets from flying through people's neighborhoods and helping our city workforce improve the way they deliver citizen services, we all win. And if he helps to recover the political rights DC earned in 1776 and lost in 1788, he'll be remembered for generations.

But I suspect that if Mayor Williams were perceived to be more inclusive more people would support his policy choices (people don't feel respected when they're cut out, nor do they become informed of the thinking that led to the policy choices). Anne's comment that, “It is important to remember that the election of Mayor Williams emerged from a citizen's campaign for a new government. We chose CFO Anthony Williams to represent us as our identified leader” is intriguing — it sounds like a cadre of activists led a coup d'état. Is that how it works? Whoever captures the office gets to impose what they want, and the rest of the city sends them notes of encouragement? Personally, I like to think Mayor Williams tries to represent the whole city — including the few activists who rode his coattails to power and the DC contractors for whom he “consulted” during his campaign. Without the rest of the city, he won't win a second term. And since there are no quick solutions, he'll run out of time before he finishes changing all those bad DC attitudes.


The Death Penalty
George S. LaRoche,

Thanks to Tim Cooper for bringing attention to the Mayor's recent declaration that he's beginning “to think” that the death penalty might be the solution to the District's crime problem. Mayor Williams is a very skilled and experienced fiscal manager, who won the Mayor's office on a promise of “good government” and “efficient management.” So Mr. Williams should not forget how he succeeded in his last job. Did he manage on the basis of what he “thought” would work? Or did he manage on the basis of what his research, study, and analysis of facts? (For comparison, does a physician prescribe medication on the basis of what she just “thinks” will work? Or does she medicate on the basis of analysis of facts, which is to say, on the basis of careful studies of the factual effectiveness of the various medications?)

As a member of the David Clarke Coalition to Stop the Death Penalty, I hope that Mayor Williams will not start executing his constituents, just because he “thinks” it might be a good idea. There's no basis in fact for the conclusion that the “death penalty” has any salutary effect on crime. At the same time, there is absolute proof that innocent people have been convicted and sentenced to death and there is compelling evidence that a death penalty may aggravate the problem of societal violence.


The People Have Already Spoken
Ann Loikow, Cleveland Park,

Timothy Cooper wrote that he was shocked to learn that the Mayor was considering instituting the death penalty in DC. District voters several years ago overwhelmingly voted against having the death penalty in DC. I can't remember the exact year, but I'm sure someone on themail list will.


Parking Permits
Corinne Rothblum,

I'd like to add my gripe about parking regulations to Steph Faul's. I have lived in DC most of my life. Over the course of the years, I have obtained a number of visitor parking permits at the Second District Headquarters for friends/families, or when I have borrowed someone's car with out-of-state tags. Yesterday morning, I went to the station to request a temporary residential parking permit for a used car I have just purchased (which has West Virginia tags) so that I can park it on the street until I get to the DMV to register it in DC. I was informed by the officer I requested the permit from that I could not have one, as they are for visitors only, and that I would have to go to the DMV at 301 C Street to get a temporary residential parking permit.

I explained that I was on my way to work (I metro) and could not afford to take two mornings off, one to get a temporary residential permit, and one to register the car. (Why not register the car now, you may ask? I am waiting to receive the original title from the former owner's bank. Even though I have a bill of sale and documentation from my bank that the car is mine, I do not dare go to the DMV until I am fully armed with every possible piece of paper I can lay my hands on, lest they send me packing.) The officer was unsympathetic, as was his supervisor, whose suggestion when I told him that I could not go to the DMV that day was “Well, you had better park your car in a parking lot then.” Fortunately, my family lives close by and I was able to leave the car there temporarily. Can someone explain to me the logic whereby tax-paying residents can't go to their local police station and obtain a temporary parking permit, but have to schlep down to the DMV (taking time off of work), yet out of towners and students posing as visitors can saunter in to the police station and get one?

I was so irritated when I got to work that I decided to try to contact the mayor's office and lodge a complaint. I went to the Internet site that I have bookmarked for the District government. Lo and behold, whose face popped up on the screen but Hizzoner Marion Barry. My heart skipped a beat. Please, if anyone from the DC government is out there listening, track this sucker down (I deleted the url, alas) and ZAP it.


Trash: Cans Good — Pickup Problematic
Gaelyn Davidson,

John Olinger, wrote: “A week ago, everyone in our neighborhood received new heavy duty trash cans. . . . This morning, I noticed several of my neighbors had their trash in plastic bags sitting at the curb. And he wonders how this is helping the rat control effort.”

My thoughts: 1) how long will it take before our nifty new cans are pinched, just like our nifty new recycling boxes? There is a psychological phenomenon called “beaten dog syndrome,” and I think this applies; we're all a little gun-shy — “if I put the nifty new can out, someone's gonna take it!” Or maybe they already have. 2) Even if they're not stolen away from us, the sanitation engineers take a carefree attitude about replacing them where they came from. I have retrieved my old trash can from the other end of the block, from the front lawn of my neighbors 2 doors down, from the parking lot next door. I thought I lost my can last Friday, only to find out that a neighbor down the street assumed the can fairy had left her a second can! Just pointing out that there are lots of reasons why people may not be able to use the “gift” cans. Unfortunately, you're right, this only aids and abets the rats.


Can, Do!
Mark Eckenwiler,

John Olinger notes that despite the recent delivery of trash cans, many of his neighbors have trash in plastic bags at the curb, and he wonders how to rewire their thinking. First off, I'd suggest having the neighborhood association include a prominent reminder in its next newsletter. A more aggressive approach would be to drop a nicely worded Dear Neighbor note in the door of the offender(s); a couple of years ago, Stanton Park Neighborhood Association distributed such a form for use as a reminder of the trash rules. And if you really mean business (and other efforts haven't paid off), you could drop a dime on them to Sanitation Enforcement (645-6179).

Before taking that last step, you may want to consider whether using a can is really an option for your neighbor. Because of the angled avenues, many Hill alleys are not accessible to trash collection trucks, meaning that trash must be left at curbside. Moreover, many houses on the Hill don't have a good place to keep a can in front on non-collection days. (It's un-scenic, and surely a code violation for those of us whose front yards are actually public property.) This leaves a lot of unappealing alternatives: keep the trash can inside your front door (yeah, sure), keep it in the front yard (eyesore and also a violation), or drag a trash can the long way 'round the alley to the curb twice a week. If the neighbor is in this predicament, and is obviously making an effort to be good otherwise (e.g., only putting trash out after 6:30 p.m. the night before), you might just let it go.


Air Conditioners and Guns
Mike Hill,

In response to Aaron Hirsch's claim that free air conditioners will solve crime problems in Columbia Heights, I think this is, at best, a simplistic answer. Mr. Hirsch is assuming that the only reason that people go outside is to cool off, eliminating motivations like actually wanting to meet your neighbors, visit a local store, get fresh air and exercise. I doubt Mr. Hirsch feels his own activities should be restricted to the point where he has no chance interactions with people on the street. I also doubt that residents will feel “safer” in their homes if they know they are expected to stay in them after dark. It's funny that friends of Joyce Chiang, the young lawyer who disappeared a few months ago, are holding vigils in Dupont Circle, and women's rights groups are marching by candle light to “take back the night,” but the best we can come up with for people in transitional neighborhoods is “lock up tight and turn on the A/C.”

Arguably, the problem with violence is that people don't care about their neighbors. There's no evidence that reducing the numbers of people on the streets makes a community safer, and ample evidence to the contrary. Malcolm X Park, just a few blocks west of your home, is a perfect example of a place that's become more safe because neighbors decided to take back the park. Now people have planned activities and informal interactions. The park is safe because lots of people who are law abiding citizens are patronizing the park, and criminals prefer abandoned locales.


Air Conditioning Units
Annie McCormick,

In response to “Air Conditioners, Criminalize, Decriminalize,” by Aaron Hirsch, : This is a very good idea. But this was done a few years back during a heat wave — I believe cities such as Chicago and states such as Florida purchased and distributed air conditioners. In the winter months, pawn shops were inundated with air conditioning units that people were trying to sell for cash. So no matter how you try to help people, the gesture will be forgotten and attempts will be made to make money off the charity of others. And next year everyone will be in the same situation....


Street Permits, Potomac Cruises
David Sobelsohn,

Recently I spoke to one of the organizers of the Caribbean Carnival on Georgia Avenue, NW, June 26 and 27, about the timing of the Carnival. She told me the Carnival, by city law, had to get off the street at 8 p.m. but could then re-open at midnight. I seem to recall on-street activities — for example, Halloween on 17th Street, NW — that lasted after 8 p.m. Can someone explain the situation regarding the Caribbean Carnival?

Thanks to all those who reported an inexpensive Potomac River cruise leaving from Georgetown. Can anyone send me a cruise name or telephone number? Thanks much!


Virginia Is Not a Suburb
John Whiteside, Arlington, VA,

To RJ Fox — before you go off on a tirade about how Rep. Goode is typical of members of Congress from the Virginia suburbs, check your facts. Rep. Goode is not from the Virginia suburbs; he is from a district in Virginia far from Washington. It's a big state, and most of it is outside the Beltway. I realize this is in conflict with the DC persecution complex that's so prevalent, but the reality is that most of us who live just outside the city actually like Washington (and often are former residents with positive opinions of life there), understand its importance to the region, and would like nothing more than to see a thriving city with true self-government and Congressional representation. We're not your enemy.


Calling All Bar Hoppers
Richard H. Rosenthal,

Anybody who can remember what the Lucky Bar used to be before it was Planet Fred gets a gold star and a mega-"we're-not-worthy" exclamation of adoration. You know the place — on Connecticut Avenue south of Dupont Circle across the street from the Whatsa Bagel.

[The restaurant that was there was Le Souperb; it had pretty good soup and bread lunches. Is that what you're asking about, or were there other businesses there between Souperb and Planet Fred? — Gary Imhoff (okay, it was really Dorothy who remembered the place's name, but I already give her too many “we're not worthy” exclamations of adoration)]


Hotel Recommendation Needed
Lorraine Swerdloff,

Can anyone recommend a reasonably priced, conveniently located hotel for out-of-town guests who will want to use public transportation (or walk) to get to the Mall?


Air Conditioner Repair Needed
Lori Nitschke,

My window air conditioner is on the fritz, but I think the problem is minor. Can anyone recommend a repair shop or person?


DC Cablevision
Bill Rice,

Our NBC, Channel 4, cable reception has recently gone from bad to poor to unwatchable. Now the sound is unintelligible. I would like to hear from anybody else who has like problems with channel 4 and other cable reception problems. (We live at 48 & Brandywine, N.W., AU Park/Tenleytown.) Bill Rice, 483-2037.


July Edition of NARPAC, Inc., Web Site Concentrates on DC Finances
Len Sullivan,

The National Association to Restore Pride in America's Capital has revised its web site for July (see “What's New?” at ) with new headline summaries and additions to its “art gallery.” All major new materials involve different aspects of DC's finances. Most important is NARPAC's first detailed analysis of the functions and spending of the various agencies involved in DC's Human Support Services programs — which now consume a full 40% of DC's gross operating funds. A detailed discussion of the FY2000 DC budget is provided, noting the major changes from the mayor's March 15th proposal — including a much larger capital investment program. All in all, we believe the budget is an outstanding start for the Williams Administration.

Building on NARPAC's prior analyses of “people productivity,” a new analysis demonstrates the impact of income mix on DC's overall per capita operating costs. Not surprisingly, as middle income taxpayers decline in numbers, and/or poverty level tax consumers increase, government costs can easily rise from $5000 to $10,000 per capita — at constant levels of bureaucratic proficiency. Our latest editorial view is entitled “The Very High Costs of Self-Interests.” It identifies hundreds of millions of dollars in unavailable revenues and inappropriate expenditures resulting from the special interests of the Congress, the suburban jurisdictions, and the DC Council itself. DC's finances are not likely to become competitive with those of other urban areas without correcting some of these inequities. G'won in — it's cool in there.



Bilingual Spanish-Speaking Legal Assistant Wanted
Jon Katz,

Silver Spring trial law firm near Metro seeks Legal Assistant who is fluent in Spanish and English, and who performs quality interpretation and translation. Legal Assistant provides litigation and administrative support, and works closely with clients, in serious injury, criminal defense and immigration matters. One year of legal or clerical experience preferred. Please send or fax resume and cover letter to Jon Katz, Marks & Katz, LLC, 1400 Spring St., Suite 410, Silver Spring, MD 20910 (Fax: 301- 495-8815). All applications are kept in the strictest confidence.



Rental House Hunting?
Mary Vogel,

Let's look together — or do you have a place where I'd fit in? Are you a professional woman looking for a place on Capitol Hill? If you feel simpatico with what's below, let's look together. I'd love to find a 2-3 BR house with space to plant flowers, native shrubs and maybe a few vegetables. Although I love to escape to wild areas, I firmly believe in making where you live a paradise too! I'm active in the Native Plant Society and plan to be active in the Capitol Hill Garden Club and Trees for Capitol Hill. Some criteria I'm looking for in a house are: a quiet, lovely, tree lined, two-way street that is not a major arterial or near the freeway (prefer NE Capitol Hill). I enjoy living with others who care about their community and do a little something to make it a better place to live. I'd like to share with one or two other people. If you're someone who picks up litter on the street or plants trees in public spaces or avoids owning a car or does anything else to show you care about the earth, call Mary at 301-702-9517 if you want to look together. Mary,


Furnished House/Apartment Needed September-December
Paul Williams, U Street,

Married mature couple, academic types, from Colorado are looking for a furnished one bedroom apartment, house, paid house-sitting, or condo near a metro in the city from September 1 to the end of December. No need for fancy, just relatively safe. Even willing to house swap; wouldn't you love to spend four months in Boulder, CO? $1-1,500 per month price range. Even willing to paint your garage or carriage house apartment as a gift! Added bonus: rent to a celebrity and learn from the former Mayor of Boulder! Leslie Durgin can be reached directly at , or I will forward any leads.


House History
Paul K. Williams,

Can you answer when people ask you about your house or building history? When it was built, who built it, who lived there, and what they did? Ever wondered when that rear addition was added or your fence repaired? Find out! A professional house history narrative, complete with copies of your building permit, first deed, maps, and sometimes even historic photographs. A terrific and unusual gift. Selling your home? Have potential buyers fall in love with the history, and you have your sale. Our prices range from $535 to $735 for the average DC townhouse. Call or contact us with your address for a free estimate, or visit . Many happy themail customers served! Kelsey & Associates, 202-462-6251.


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