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July 7, 1999

Hugs and Disses

Dear Respondents:

Hot topics in this issue: pros and cons on the Mayor and almost all cons on District Cablevision. Bill Rice wrote me that he got many other replies privately about District Cablevision reception and service. If enough people move to Starpower or get satellite dishes, I'm sure that AT&T, District Cablevision's new owners, will put enough money in the system to upgrade both the system and their service. As telephone service, Internet service, and television all get bundled, the money to be made is staggering, and, when consumers get to choose among providers, companies will finally have a real incentive to improve service.

And speaking of improving service, Sharon Cochran, below, gives the administration credit for removing last winter's snow. Now, it did get cold for a few days last winter, but I don't remember more than a dusting of snow. Did the snow plows get sent out even once? At least a few times during Marion Barry's administrations, the joke went the rounds that Marion had a plan for snow removal: spring. If Tony's plan for snow removal is not to have it snow in the first place, I'll give him full credit —.that is a better plan.

Gary Imhoff


Congress Disses DC (Again!)
Anne Loikow,

On July 1, the National Capital Planning Commission considered for the second time Bell Atlantic Mobile's (BAM) application to erect two large monopole chandelier antennas (9 antennas each) in Rock Creek Park. In April, the NCPC had disapproved of the project. A 130' tall tower is proposed for the Maintenance Yard near the Nature Center, which is the site of some of the best bird watching in the metro area (180 different species of migratory birds have been identified in the last 10 years there). Tall antennas are notoriously hard on migratory birds and are often the site of many bird deaths. The other antenna, 100' tall, will be placed at the Fitzgerald Tennis Center. Both will have a 12' by 30' by 9' tall metal equipment shed next to them.

After hearing from 55 public witnesses, in addition to BAM and the Park Service, which is pushing BAM's application, and after significant pressure from Congress to quickly process the application, the NCPC voted (6/4) to retain an independent consultant to research alternative technologies and alternative sites that might have fewer negative impacts. While the Commissioners were discussing this motion, the House's representative on the NCPC, a staffer representing Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN), said that if BAM's application wasn't quickly approved, Congress would go around the NCPC and the Park Service and make sure that the cell towers go up. The Senate's representative, a staffer representing Senator Fred Thompson (R-TN), chimed in and told the other Commissioners they should not “delay the inevitable.” Both said it didn't matter what District citizens thought; Congress wanted the cell towers in the Park. One Commissioner, a presidential appointee from Maryland, noted that not everyone who testified or cares about the Park is from D.C. Never before have I seen two representatives of Congress so blatantly tell a Federal agencies and the District of Columbia that whatever Congress wants, Congress will get — regardless of the law, due process, or the public interest!

[This posting will continue in the next issue of themail. — Gary Imhoff]


Tunnel Vision
Ed T. Barron,

One of the Mayor's (and his close-in supporting staff's) problems is Tunnel Vision. When the Mayor sees something is not working he homes in on it and tries to solve that problem. This method winds up causing a host of problems since the solution is generally as narrow as the focus of the original vision. Case in point: moving UDC (and there are a plethora of other examples). The Mayor (and presumably his closest advisors) decided it would be a financially sound decision to relocate UDC to the other side of the Anacostia River. This might not be a bad idea but it was bound to cause a real panic in lots of folks who would be affected by such a move. None of these folks was consulted prior to the Mayor's proclamation. The Mayor recently appointed a new Director of Public Works. When he did so he never informed Councilperson Carol Schwartz, the Council's oversight representative on Public Works. When he traveled into Adams Morgan recently he did not inform the persons in Adams Morgan who should have been informed, and invited to participate, in his visit.

The Mayor needs to develop the process of what I call “Sideways Thinking.” It's really quite simple. Every time you get a bright (or not so bright, it may turn out) idea, think of who would be affected by that idea. Then go about the courteous running up the flagpole of that idea one-on-one with those most affected. This process will help the Mayor to get people on his side and also alert him when he is really "off the wall" with one of his ideas. The dialogue with others, who should be informed, will also be useful in making the original idea even better. My own technique was to come up with good ideas and then give them away (overtly or subtly) to those who would be involved in making that solution work. When it became their idea they would be sure to support it and to make it happen. It also doesn't take anyone with X-ray vision to see that the Mayor's closest advisors are letting him do all the work. His scheduling is lousy since he is trying to do everything himself and, consequently, focuses on the small stuff instead of the things that have meaningful, long term implications. Delegate, then lead, Mr. Mayor.


Give the Man a Chance
Richard Levine,

I wonder if Ed Barron flapped his lips so much during the 16-year reign of the Solar King, Marion Barry. This town is lucky to have a decent superbly educated man committed to real reform in the District. Marion sure was a better schmoozer, but schmoozers like that are the source of this town's troubles which will not be fixed overnight or in four years.

[Full disclosure department — Richard Levine is Mayor Williams' Ward 3 ward coordinator, and has served in that position since the primary campaign. — Gary Imhoff]


Give the Man a Chance II
Lenora Fuller,

There are times I become frustrated with the Mayor. I agree he needs to become a leader and present a “vision” for the city, but unfortunately, he must take care of some critical administrative matters — like cleaning house. There are too many “Marion Barry clones” remaining in DC government. They resist change and thrive on protecting their turf. I think that over time, Tony Williams will emerge as the leader many of us so desperately want. In the interim, I know that as a spokesman for the citizens, he still presents himself favorably. I am not embarrassed to know that he speaks for us on the Hill, at the White House, and before the American public.Give him a chance.


Things Have Changed
Sharon Cochran,

I'm excited to see the parade of cars that are coming down my street to look at the four trashed city owned houses that Mayor Williams has put on the sale block for the Homestead housing program. These are folks that want to move on to my street, buy a house and fix it up. This mayor has done more in six months to get this city working than was done in the previous six years. My car was inspected in less than 20 minutes, the license stickers mailed to me in plenty of time, snow was removed, streets all over the city are cleaner, trash is getting picked up, and phones are getting answered. Life in DC is good and getting better.


Trash Cans and Activists’ Coups
John Olinger, North Lincoln Park,

I appreciate folks' responses to my note on people not using their trash cans. All I can say now is don't blame the city for the rat problem. If people willfully decide not to use cans because they might get stolen, they might be (re)placed further down the block by the sanitation men (paint your house number or some festive design so you can identify your can if it wanders), or because they have a narrow alley, then it's no one's fault but their own. (On our block the trash truck and the recycling truck come down the alley, so that's not the reason.) Unfortunately, the rest of us suffer because of the curbside cafeteria our negligent neighbors run for the rats. It makes no difference whether the trash is put out before 6:30 pm (illegal) or after 6:30 pm (legal). Either way, the rats will find their way to it between 6:30 pm and trash pickup. I do appreciate the comments about the neighborhood association — it has been a while since this was discussed there. I have talked to two neighbors and we will see what happens.

One observation on Anne Drissel's characterization of Anthony Williams' election. I thought it ought to be pretty clear by now that Anthony Williams was chosen by the downtown business community, given some pocket change to tide him over, and foisted off on the city as the reform candidate. The neighborhood activists served a useful role in providing a touch of authenticity. However he got here, we would be fools to stop watching him, but we also would be fools to expect him to solve everything. As the trash can experience shows, a good part of this is up to us.


Roadside Advertising, Fer Sure
Charlie Wellander,

Thanks to Mike Hill for the info about the city's stated rationale for the familiar old BID (Business Improvement District) signs long flying from some downtown lightpoles.

And now, for something completely different: Those brand new advertising banners are on lightpoles along Connecticut Avenue in Cleveland Park and along Wisconsin Avenue in upper NW, and perhaps other locations. They appeared just about three weeks ago, and are still advertising tickets for sale for certain recent (but now past) Women's World Cup soccer games. I think there was a practice at George Mason U. and the games were at Jack Kent Cooke Stadium, but neither of those venues qualifies as being in the 'hood, or helping tourists know that they are in Cleveland Park. After looking again, I still think “Call 800-WWC-TIKS to buy tickets” does qualify as advertising in the strictest sense. So, are we (i.e., this city, a.k.a. we taxpayers) getting any extra pocket change from these billboards?
(Where's Lady Bird when we need her again?)

[Does anyone want to research whether DCRA or DPW has issued permits for these new banners that are sprouting up? When opponents of the Convention Center put up posters for their cause, the downtown BID tore those posters down and DCRA wrote tickets and threatened to have them arrested. — Gary Imhoff]


Death Penalty Consideration
Tim Cooper,

In light of Mayor Williams' recent consideration of a DC death penalty, anyone interested in establishing a citizens' coalition to stop any such possible legislation, please contact Tim Cooper at . I would very much appreciate hearing your thoughts on the matter.


The Death Penalty
Ms. Dorothy Persiflage,

Ms. Persiflage will no doubt shock Mr. LaRoche and his like-minded members (she assumes there are some other members) of the David Clarke Coalition to Stop the Death Penalty, by agreeing with them in their acute observation that the "death penalty" has no salutary effect on crime. That is of course true. It's executions which have an effect. Executions within the natural lifetime of the perpetrator, that is. Even if the District were to adopt a death penalty for capital crimes, Ms. P is extremely doubtful that it would be implemented in an effective manner, given the city's dismal record on crime and criminals. Over the years Ms. Persiflage has become very familiar with, and grown very weary of, the same-old-same-old practical “arguments” surrounding the application of the “death penalty.” She is much more interested in the general, subtle impacts such a final, irreversible penalty has on society. And so she was very interested in Mr. LaRoche's statement that there is “compelling evidence that a death penalty may aggravate the problem of societal violence.” Ms. Persiflage is extremely skeptical of this, and would be interested in seeing this “compelling evidence.”

In the contrarian view, and as Ms. P sees it, one problem with NOT having a death penalty is that there is no “bottom line” in society as to which behaviors are so abominable that it will simply not tolerate them. In short, when there is always the hope of a second chance — parole, a pardon, escape, etc. — society fails to draw a firm line which it is prepared to back up by taking the Constitutionally recognized step of killing the malefactor. In plain words: irreversible; no more chances; bye-bye; a tout ta'! Ms. P suggests that we dearly need such a secular moral anchor. Without such an anchor she believes that we will continue to founder. Ms. Persiflage is not optimistic that the District will ever change its backward laws on gun controls, the death penalty, etc., all of which tend to favor and protect the criminal over the law-abiding citizen, but she does harbor some hope that Congress will eventually do the right thing.

A tout ta'


Potomac River Cruises
David Sobelsohn,

Thanks to everyone who sent in suggestions for low-cost no-meal Potomac River cruises. I now have three leads: Capitol River Cruises ((301) 460-7447), Shore Shot Cruises ((800) 240-2324 & (202) 554-6500), and Potomac Riverboat Company ((703) 548-9000). All leave from Washington Harbour in Georgetown, and Potomac also leaves from Alexandria's Old Town.


Preparing for Y2K
Ed T. Barron,

For those a bit worried about what they should be doing to be prepared for the Y2K phenomenon at the end of the year, the most reasoned set of preparations you should take, that I have found, are in the May issue of Consumer Reports. The article is entitled “How to Prepare for Y2K” and is also available on the Internet at


Mover Recommendation Wanted
Bill Adler,

I'm looking for a somebody who can move a piece of furniture through a window. We have a desk that's too big to go through a door, and needs to be hauled up through a second story window. I've called some piano movers who say “we only do pianos.” Does anybody know a mover who can move things — carefully — through a window?


Clock Repair Recommendation Wanted
David Hunter,

My grandfather clock has sprung. Can anyone recommend a place for me to go get it fixed?


Summer DC Service Queries
Ted Gest,

(1) Re Bill Rice's query about cable tv service, we live in Chevy Chase DC and recently have been unable to get Channel 5 (WTTG) clearly enough to see it. This is the only major channel not visible. We haven't yet asked District Cablevision. (2) Does anyone know why upper Utah Ave., N.W. (between Rittenhouse and Tennyson, approximately) is torn up so much to make it nearly undriveable? I'm sure there's some reason — whether it's a good one is another matter. (Someone on this list referred all of us to the Department of Public Works web site, although it doesn't seem very usable). (3) Does anyone know why police typically don't view 13th St. NW as a rush hour route worthy of ticketing rush hour parkers? Ticketing usually takes place on larger streets like Connecticut Avenue, but somehow it
doesn't seem to happen on 13th.


District Cablevision
Diane Schulz,

In reply to Bill Rice and poor reception, we also have very poor reception on ABC, Channel 7, and CBS, Channel 9. As you have stated, Channel 4 has become unwatchable because in addition to the ever present double picture and resulting bars down the center of the screen, the sound is now unintelligible. We are also unable to watch Fox, channel 5. It has a double picture and moving horizontal lines. I have notified the company on several occasions and have been told that it was an area problem, a proximity problem, and a pole connection problem. In fact, they have scheduled a work order for the 13th to see if a “squirrel or other animal has chewed the cable.” In the meantime we wait.

We have also had three outages of more than two hours in the past week or so. They occurred in my neighborhood on Pierce Mill Road in Mount Pleasant on 27 June, 29 June, and 5 July. When I requested a credit for the outages I was given $5 for the three days. In addition to calling for credit, it is important to keep reporting any problems and outages to the service number (635-5102). As I discovered on 5 July, they wait to establish a problem before they call a technician and always try to make out like it is a personal problem instead of a systemic one.


Cable Reception of Channel Four From Northwest
Judie Guy,

In regard to Bill Rice's posting about bad reception of Channel 4 — we've never been able to get good reception of Channel 4 from here in Glover Park, where we're on DC Cablevision. We gave up entirely and just watch Channel 11, which, oddly enough, seems fine.


District Cablevision (Channel 4 Reception) and Starpower
Holly Olson, Adams Morgan,

Up until 2 weeks ago, I had District Cablevision, and my reception for Channel 4 was horrible. However, my apartment building was recently wired for Starpower, and I have since switched. Not only does one get many more channels with the basic package (including Comedy Central), but the cost is comparable if not slightly less, and the reception on channel 4 is much better. So far my experience with Starpower has been positive. They arrived when they said they would for installation and were courteous and efficient. Hopefully, this good luck will continue.



Follow “The Road to Mecca”
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 Thursday, July 22, we will discuss “The Road to Mecca” (1984), by “the greatest active playwright in the English-speaking world” (Time Magazine), South African Athol Fugard. In a remote region of South Africa, Miss Helen has transformed her house into a dazzling but controversial work of art. Her pastor wants her moved to an old-age home; her young friend from Cape Town hopes to keep her independent. “Spiritually exhilarating” (USA Today), “The Road to Mecca” raises “uneasy questions about freedom and conformity” (New York Newsday). The New York Times called the play “overwhelming” and “cathartic,” a “career summation” for Athol Fugard. Our discussion takes place 7:30-9:30 p.m. (dinner at 6:30) at Delray Vietnamese Garden, 4918 Del Ray Avenue, a few blocks N of the Bethesda metro. It will feature director Jim Petosa, whose production of “The Road to Mecca” opens in August at the Olney Theater. For reservations e-mail or call (202) 638-0444. For more information visit the Footlights web site at


PSA Rally
Bryce Suderow,

There will be a rally by citizens of PSA 510 in front of the MPD's Narcotics Squad HQ at 6 p.m. on Friday, July 9th. The purpose of the demonstration is to call attention to the fact that the Narcotics Squad is ignoring drug dealing in the neighborhood. The Narcotics Squad is located at 1215 3rd Street, NE, between Florida Avenue and M Street. If you're interested in attending the rally, contact Lorri Murray, 547-9235.



Orioles Tickets for Sale
Michael Buckley,

Sunday July 25 vs. Anaheim at 1:35 p.m. 2 seats — $25 for the pair. $36 face value. 11th row from the field, prime home run territory (usually hit by the other team) near the left field foul pole — Section 80, Row KK, Seats 6 & 7. See them at


Robert Gray,

1996 Honda Accord, fully loaded: AC, Leather Interior, Moonroof, Alpine AM/FM cassette stereo with 6-cd changer in trunk, well maintained. $16,000. Financing help available. Kitchen/dining room table-folding leaves expand from 2-to-4+ place settings, $35. Footlocker/Storage trunk, blue, $10. Stereo rack, walnut, space for albums/CDs underneath unit, $5. White lamp, 3 settings, $10. Blue lamp, needs new switch, free. Emerson CD player, 2 trays, needs repairs but does play, free. If interested, please call Robert Gray, 202-363-3929 (evenings), 202-338-4800 (days), or E-mail



Used File Cabinets and Used Photocopier Wanted
Jon Katz,

Law firm needs two to four used vertical file cabinets, preferably black. We are also in the market for a high-speed photocopier, and will consider a suitable used model, or else will buy new. Please call Jon Katz at (301) 495-4300.


Dave Nuttycombe,

From's LOOSE LIPS column, appearing this Friday:
COMPLETE CONTROL: When D.C.'s public schools reached their nadir in the mid-'90s, no diatribe against the system was ever complete without mention of the inevitable textbook delays. Whether students marched into the grungy halls of District learning on time or a few weeks late, it seemed, textbooks always arrived at least a couple of weeks later.
Although much in D.C. has improved in the intervening years, the schools haven't yet banished their yearly textbook bug. This past school year, for example, Superintendent Arlene Ackerman instituted a special reading program called “Success for All,” which required new textbooks for all.
That's where “Success for All” encountered its first failures. Several schools in the program failed to fill out their textbook procurement forms properly, which caused long delays in their delivery. Ackerman's minions reportedly complained to Chief Procurement Officer Richard Fite, who insisted that procurement rules must be obeyed. No one was happy with the outcome.
Read the entire Loose Lips column this Friday at

From's CITY LIGHTS page, here are a few early warnings for upcoming events:
Saturday, July 10: Urasenke Tradition of Tea, 11 a.m., 12:30 p.m., and 2 p.m. at the Freer Gallery of Art's Conference Room, 12th & Jefferson Drive, SW. Free.
Monday, July 12: “Creature From the Black Lagoon,” in 3-D. At 6:30 p.m. at the National Theater's Hayes Gallery, 1321 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Free.
More details and more critics' picks are available online at


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