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July 11, 1999


Dear Consumers:

There is more in this issue about the cellular telephone towers that Bell Atlantic Mobile wants to build in Rock Creek Park. If we want to stop these towers from being built, we need to exercise our muscle, but first we have to realize where we have muscle. DC residents normally don't have political muscle in Congress, but against a big contributor like Bell Atlantic, we're the 97-pound weakling who gets sand kicked in his face. (Does anybody else remember the Charles Atlas ads?) Let's face it, Eleanor Holmes Norton isn't going to fight for DC residents and against Bell Atlantic in Congress; she's not going to pull her madwoman routine against this violation of home rule. But we don't have to rely on nonexistent political power; we also have economic power. If we oppose the towers, we can vote with our pocketbooks and take our business elsewhere.

Nobody has to be a Bell Atlantic customer. Bell Atlantic Mobile customers can switch to Sprint or another cell phone company. But there's no reason to limit a protest to the Mobile division. Any Washingtonian can switch home and business telephone service, too. Local telephone service is available now anywhere in Washington from Starpower (the same Pepco/RCN company that's wiring for cable), and a dozen other companies are trying to break into the local telephone market in the central business district, where it's most lucrative. All it takes to switch telephone companies is, ironically, one telephone call. Bell Atlantic isn't competing on service since telephone service is so reliable that service isn't an issue. And it's not competing on cost; it's more expensive than any of its competitors. It's betting on its customers' inertia and reluctance to change, and it's competing on its corporate image: “We're your friendly, neighborly company; we contribute to charities and wire schools for the Internet.” Well, if they're not good friendly neighbors, if they're really hostile bullies, we can overcome inertia and dump them.

If the civic associations in the Rock Creek Park neighborhood boycott Bell Atlantic, the company should lose a couple thousand residential customers in the first month; if citywide civic associations and environmental groups join in, they could pry loose several thousand more customers in the following few months; and if the organized Democratic, Republican, and Statehood Parties try hard, they could account for another twenty or thirty customers among them. If the Mayor and Councilmembers claim they're helpless to influence Bell Atlantic, ask them when they'll introduce legislation to forbid the DC government from doing business with the company if it builds the towers. If Marie Johns, the president of Bell Atlantic, and also the president of the DC Chamber of Commerce, gets a few hundred letters from former customers telling her why they switched to another company, she'll feel the sands shifting. And the company will really sit up and take notice if it starts losing business customers, where it makes its real profits. If the downtown nonprofits and law firms that use Bell Atlantic start disconnecting, and let it be known that they're changing service providers because of this issue, Bell Atlantic will abandon the idea of building the cellular towers in the park, and suddenly discover that it's just as feasible to erect antennas on tall buildings around the edges of the park. After just a few months of weight lifting, the 97-pound weakling will be able to go back to the beach and be admired by all the girls for his powerful new muscles.

Or we can keep eating sand.

Gary Imhoff


Congress Disses DC, Part II
Ann Loikow,

At about the same time the NCPC was voting on Bell Atlantic Mobile's (BAM) application to put two large cell towers in Rock Creek Park, the Senate accepted without debate an amendment by Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD) to force the National Park Service to put the BAM towers in Rock Creek Park. The amendment would require the Park Service to implement its April 7, 1999, Notice of Decision approved by the National Capital Regional Director within one week of the enactment of the D.C. appropriations bill. “Neither federal agencies or local agencies should block this,” Mr. Daschle said, according to the Washington Times. Daschle's amendment also directs any federal agency receiving applications to locate wireless communications antennas on federal property under its control in the Washington, DC, area to complete consideration of such applications, and take final action within 90 days of receipt, including right of way permits at market rates. It further declares that any agency receiving such applications may consider, but is not bound by, decisions or recommendations of the NCPC or any other area commission or authority. The DC appropriations bill still has to be voted on by the House, but heaven knows what they will do.

So much for good planning or respect for the integrity of national parkland (much less consideration of the interests and views of DC residents or park users from other parts of the country)! This is an open invitation for there to be an antenna farm in Rock Creek Park if I ever heard one. I also think this is a strong indication of how Congress is willing to desecrate national parks for the benefit of a single company (and campaign contributor).


Cellular Towers in the Park
Joseph Davidson, jhd@Radix.Net

Two weeks ago while riding on a bicycle path in Rock Creek Park, I got involved in a nasty bicycle collision caused by a downed tree blocking visibility. I suffered a bicycle-tire-track shaped bruise across my chest, while the other guy (apparently) broke his collarbone. He had to lay there in pain for longer than needed because we were in a cellular dead zone and others with cell phones were unable to call for help. Thank God it was not more serious. The towers should be built! Some side notes. The ambulance arrived quickly after being called. The decision should be made by the District, not Congress. I do not own a cell phone — and do not intend to get one.


The Miracles of Modern Science
Ed T. Barron,

We are being treated to a good bit of misinformation when we are told that adding two new 100 foot communications towers to Rock Creek Park will increase the safety of those who use or transit through the park. Adding these towers will likely decrease the overall level of safety as more folks with their cell phone toys will be using them while driving to and from work. This is a dangerous phenomena today. Washington, DC, is one place where it takes all the concentration you can muster while driving to avoid conflicts and collisions with those who are paying less attention to what they are doing while driving. Using a cell phone while cruising through Rock Creek Park is a major distraction that creates an accident just waiting to happen.

I'm not opposed to new technology. In fact, I probably have cornered the free world's supply of digital gizmos for entertainment and communication (with the exception of a cell phone, which I eschew). I have a mobile phone in the Bimmer but have never made a single call or answered a single call on that phone while the car was moving. This input to themail is being crafted on, and sent by, my 6-ounce shirt-pocket-sized Palm Pilot. This giz is ideal for my holiday trips. With it I can send and receive my E-mail daily from any phone in the world (even cell phones). A lot better than even my laptop computer (weighs in at about 7 pounds and won't fit into anyone's pocket.)

No, we do not need to defile the bucolic environs of Rock Creek Park with the erection of 100 foot phallic-like symbols that will only encourage more people to abuse the technology of their cell phones by making calls while driving through the park.


Mayor Williams on Democratic Governance
M-D Richards, Dupont East,

The July/August issue of Harvard Magazine features “Democracy's Prospects,” a discussion about the outlook for democratic governance held April 6th at the Kennedy School. The six participants, including Mayor Williams (great photo), were chosen from a multidisciplinary group involved in a project called “Visions of Governance for the Twenty-First Century.” No mention of DC's “peculiar” undemocratic structural arrangement. Here are a few excerpts:

“...I was elected because people didn't trust the performance of the District's government — so they elected a career bureaucrat. That's a very ironic statement by the voters, maybe because they didn't trust elected officials to move government forward, and they wanted someone who knew what he was doing, who knew government organization. You have governments now trying to move into the next century, with state-of-the-art systems and approaches. Yet in the District, we not only were not using 1950s approaches, we had slid back to the turn of the previous century in many cases — that's how bad things were. Half the human-services network in the city was under federal receivership. So people wanted a change. There was also frustration, a lack of confidence, in local government, in that voters didn't believe elected officials were ready to make any difficult choices....”

“...There is an appetite for looking at different ways for government to perform its business. One impediment, though, is the mistrust not just of government, but of authority in general. I am not sure whether it is skepticism, or vanity politics, or exalted individualism, or something else, but everyone wants to be involved. No one wants to MAKE a decision, but everyone wants to have a check on decisions. Everybody worships process and pays very, very little attention to actual product. That's the situation you find sometimes, and you actually wish for the situation of 40, 50, or 60 years ago when there were political machines — when you could build an organization and it actually produced some outcome. One thing about Ronald Reagan's administration — there was an organization there, and outcomes were produced, whether you liked them or not. There is something to be said for that.”

“In my city, people DO want a discussion of values and morality around the political center. They don't want to hear extremes, but they do want this discussion of values. There is a notion in my city that things are torn completely asunder, for example, along the lines of race, and that there needs to be some discussion on bringing everyone together. I am not sure how you are supposed to hold that discussion, but people seem to want it.”

[The article is online at — Gary Imhoff]


The Mayor’s Vision Is 20/20
Sharon Cochran,

Mayor Williams got twice as many votes as Carol Schwartz and he won in every ward of the city. I think that the primary and general election results clearly indicate that most of us don't want business as usual. We don't want decisions made behind the scenes before the idea hits the light of day. I don't want a “sideways thinking” Mayor that checks in with a whiny city council that only finds time to give itself a huge pay raise, a paid vacation in the far east and takes the summer off. Mr. Barron seems to think that it is a problem that Mayor Williams tries to solve problems. I don't.


DC Libraries Open 7 Days a Week
Phil Shapiro, Chevy Chase DC,

I heard from a librarian friend of mine that the DC Public Libraries are still considering the possibility of opening 7 days a week, 12 hours a day. Those of us who volunteer our time to support libraries need to work harder to enlist the support of everyone else who cares about libraries. If you care about libraries, please consider joining the Friends of the Library group at your neighborhood library. Dues are usually no more than $10/$15 per year. The Friends of the Library groups need your added voice to say, “Yes! Yes! Yes! Open the libraries 7 days a week.” Friends of the Library membership forms can be requested at the reference desk of your neighborhood library.

Other ways you can support libraries are donating books for book sales and volunteering to help with the hundreds of small tasks the Friends of the Library undertake to make the libraries better for us all. Also, a fine way of supporting libraries is to invite a Friends of the Library volunteer out to lunch. (Italian food preferred. <grin>) Friends of the Library web sites you can visit include (Friends of Chevy Chase DC Library) and (Friends of Takoma DC Library.) The DC Public Libraries web site is at


Local Channel Problems with District Cablevision
Patrick Carroll,

There have been several messages recently from District Cablevision subscribers concerning local channel problems. Most of these problems can be resolved by scheduling a regular service call (202-635-5100/District Cablevision Customer Service). If the service tech is unable to correct the problem, he will route it to the Maintenance Department. If any District Cablevision subscribers have already taken this route and still find their local channels to be unwatchable, they should relate their problem, via e-mail, to District Cablevision's new e-mail address. That address is: . Leave your account number or a contact number and a District Cablevision representative will get back to you within 24 hours.


Second Response from District Cablevision
Fitzroy Francis,

Hello DCWatch users: I am the customer operations manager at District Cablevision and I can be reached via E-mail at or the customer relations group can provide assistance at . Regards, Fitzroy K Francis, District Cablevision/TCI/ATT, Customer Operations, Phone 202-635-5640, Fax (PC) 202-635-5107, Fax 202-636-5726,


Cable Reception of Channel Four
Frank Pruss,

In regard to Bill Rice's posting about bad reception of Channel 4: District Cablevision has always held that poor reception on Channel 4 is the result of improperly installed, and most likely illegal, cable connections on your segment of the neighborhood cable drop. When I had my first cable connection several years ago, Channel 4 was plagued by ghosts. This was shortly after all the drops were attached to houses in the neighborhood. I expect a lot of people just jumped on because the drops weren't sealed off initially. I dropped my cable account for several years, but started back up about six months ago. Channel 4 is very clear, using the same drop I had poor reception on in the past (it is right outside my basement door). It looks like they managed to clean the “scum” off their wire. You should be asking District Cablevision to get this fixed. Probably not always easy to find the taps, but in the end they will.


Cable Confusion
Rona Mendelsohn,

Living in Cathedral Heights, we too have trouble getting channels 4, 7, and 9. Adding to the mystery is that when we disengage cable, all these channels come in perfectly. Maybe it's time for a congressional investigation into D.C. Cablevision.


Better TV Reception — Not
Paul Penniman,

It's been true from the beginning that because of the way we receive our cable signal and because of the proximity of the local towers, we get a double signal, and our local franchise is not really going to address the problem. Better to get a TV that can get over-the-air signals as well as cable. Do these kinds of TV's still exist? I'm sure someone can explain the technicalities better. I know someone who had a technician (not from District Cablevision) come to their house to reprogram the tuners in the set (I think) to get the signals in synchronicity.


DC Cablevision
Dennis A. Dinkel,

Two years ago I bought a satellite dish and was amazed at the clarity of the picture and the crispness of the sound. I experimented with the different programs offered by Direct TV and USBS, two of the companies offering programming “packages,” and finally honed my selection down to an affordable approximately $40 package where I receive all HBO channels, a plethora of news and public service channels, what I call the “goody” channels: HGTV, Food TV, Bravo, Starz. About a year ago when I found it impossible to get a good clear picture on Channel 4, I canceled my DC cable subscription. I connected a cheap $29 indoor antenna to my television, with the result that I now get channel 4 crystal clear. District Cablevision is an idea whose time has gone — long, long ago.


DC Cablevision
Judi Kahn,

I finally gave up on DC Cable and got DirecTV. I could not be happier. The service from the installer was great. If you live in the city, you do need a $17 FM isolator to get the network channel. I now get 100+ standard Cable stations including all those “digital” ones that you have to pay extra for on DC Cable and every local channel from both Washington and Baltimore and PBS stations from as far away as West Virginia. I also get 4 Starz, 5 Encore, 5 HBO and 2 Cinemax channels all for about 60% of what I was paying DC Cable, and getting a lot less. With the first three months free, I will pay for the dish by September. It has also never been down more that 3-5 minutes and then only when we have a storm and it loses the signal for a moment. Like I said, it is great.

[DirectTV and Dish Network are the two remaining large satellite television companies. They both frequently offer deals in which you can get the satellite receiver and dish for free, or months of service for free, with a contract for service. They are roughly equivalent; Dish Network is a little cheaper, and DirectTV offers a larger number of extra-cost sports packages. The drawbacks are that neither offers the local cable stations — Channel 8 local news, City Council, Mayor, public schools, and public access stations — and that receiving local broadcast stations by satellite in areas where they can be received on-air isn't quite legal until Congress changes the law, which it is doing now. — Gary Imhoff]


Damian Buckley,

Ok, so we are having problems with AT&T's 75% stake in DC Cablevision. I agree that the lower channels on District Cablevision are bad. Is it their intent to get everybody to upgrade to digital perhaps? Is Starpower a viable alternative? Wednesday's postings suggested that it might be. How do we contact Starpower, please?

[While Starpower's local telephone service is available everywhere in DC, its fiber optical cables for television service aren't yet widely installed in the city. For information on either service, call 1-800-RING-RCN or go to the web site . — Gary Imhoff]


Refuse Collection and Post Error
E. James Lieberman,

The Washington Post reported in its Metro Section that there would be no refuse pickup in Montgomery County on Monday, July 5. I duly waited until July 6 to put my refuse out; my neighbors had none at curbside so I called the office and learned that the Post was in error — not for the first time — and that Montgomery County always follows a regular schedule of pickups when a holiday occurs on a weekend day. Only when it falls on a Monday, e.g. Labor Day, will the schedule be pushed back a day. In this case, because of the confusion, the County sent its trucks on a quick tour of Monday's route on Tuesday so folks like me would not have to keep a tub full of superheated garbage for another week. That's community service. Maybe they should bill the Post for the wear and tear on the trucks.


For the Birds
Stephanie Gerard,

Mark Richards of Dupont East asks “does anyone know what birds cohabitate with us in DC? I ask because lately I'm hearing one, both day and night, and in different parts of town, that has an amazing number of calls — loud, interesting sequences. Don't know if they have favorite trees (as with monkeys), but they hop from branch to branch, calling out. Have some tropical birds moved to town?” Those are mockingbirds, very distinctive with white wing patches; and they are ubiquitous from the south through the mid-Atlantic and now as far as New England. They are from the mimidae family (along with thrashers and catbirds) and sing (mimic/mock) the songs of other birds, generally running through a nice medley over and over. The male does a lot of singing in the middle of the night in the summer to attract females. Mockingbirds like conspicuous perches from which to sing, too, such as high in a tree, on a light pole, top of a stop sign. You can always spot them.


Dead Trees (And More to Follow)
Ralph Blessing,

Nebraska Avenue east of Connecticut will never look the same with the demise of all the stately elm trees that arched the roadway as recently as ten years ago. In recent days a number of dead or diseased elms along that stretch have been taken down. As if to add insult to injury, DPW (or the contractor hired to remove the trees) used tacks or staples to affix “No Parking” signs to all the surviving trees between Connecticut and Oregon Avenues. From what I understand, it is illegal to post signs, even those approved by the city, by any means that punctures the bark of the tree, since such methods only invite more disease. But I guess it's a good way to insure more work removing dead trees in the coming years.


Dead Humans
George S. LaRoche,

Tim Cooper suggests forming a coalition to stop any movement for a death penalty. The David Clarke Coalition, formed originally to oppose Senator Shelby's death penalty proposal years ago, reactivated to fight Senator Hutchison's proposal a couple years ago, is still in existence and is discussing Mayor Williams' proposal; if he takes it any further, the Coalition will certainly be quite active. If anyone would like more information, you may contact me or Sam Jordan, last active Chair of the Coalition and now the Director of Amnesty International USA's Campaign to Abolish the Death Penalty, at 202-544-0200. Of course, ANY work is welcome, whether as part of the David Clarke Coalition or not.

“Ms. Dorothy Persiflage” challenges me to prove my contentions that the death penalty does us no good and may do harm. But those who oppose the death penalty do not need to prove OUR case any longer, for the research has been published and republished and republished, even in the mainstream defining Washington Post. From now on, those who want blood must prove THEIR case. And what do the advocates of governmentally sanctioned barbecues of human beings offer in support of their macabre barbarism? Only “doubts,” “familiarities,” “skepticism,” and “beliefs.” No, Daniel, the burden is on YOU to prove the benefits of state sponsored murder to the District. Let's see your evidence: the proof, studies, and research showing that murder stops murder. You are the one who wants to change the law in the District, so prove your case.


Snow Removal
Alan Grossberg,

I don't know how well its removal was handled because I live in New England now, but it did snow twice in D.C. last March. National Airport received 8.4 inches on March 9 with nearly another half-inch on the 14th; Dulles received 8.9 inches on the 9th, 4 inches on the 14th, and 1.4 on the 15th. The city must have done something right, because it was gone when I visited in mid-May :>)


Winter Snow
Sarah Layton, sllayton@US.NET

There was more than a dusting. I know because I was trying to hold a January 8 meeting and several of the participants were waylaid at a variety of airports around the country because National was closed for a period of time. There was snow and terrible ice.


Financial Advisor Information Sought
Lorie Leavy,

Here's a real boomer request: has anyone had a positive experience with a local financial advisor? I'm looking for recommendations, plus a little background on how these folks typically structure their fees.



Ganz-Burstein Concert at Temple Micah July 18
Sid Booth,

Readers of themail are invited to attend a concert with world-renowned pianist Brian Ganz, together with violinist Joseph Burstein, playing a newly acquired Stradivarius violin, at Temple Micah on Sunday, July 18 at 7:00 p.m. Mr. Ganz will perform Chopin's Preludes, Opus 28, for solo piano, featuring all 24 preludes, each in a different key. In a performance of the Brahms Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, Mr. Burstein will play the violin and Mr. Ganz will play the piano reduction of the orchestral accompaniment.

Mr. Ganz, widely regarded as one of the leading pianists of his generation, has performed with the National Symphony and Baltimore Symphony, and with various orchestras overseas. He is Musician-in-Residence and a member of the piano faculty at St. Mary's College of Maryland, and has just been appointed to the part-time faculty of the Catholic University of America. Mr. Burstein, a member of Temple Micah, will be playing a Stradivarius violin produced in 1708 during the master's “golden period.” Mr. Burstein purchased the instrument recently and, with the Stradivari Society of Chicago serving as matchmaker, has made it available as a long-term loan to Janice Martin, a brilliant young violinist. Temple Micah is located at 2829 Wisconsin Avenue, Northwest, between Fulton and Garfield Streets. Tickets are $15 and available at the door. The performers will join audience members for refreshments to be served after the concert.


Cell Tower Press Conference
Ann Loikow, Cleveland Park,

Libby Kelly, Executive Director of the Council on Wireless Technology, a national organization looking into the impact of cell towers and the wireless technology, is bringing a number of experts to DC on Monday, July 12, for a press conference in front of the Department of Interior at 9:30 a.m. The Bell Atlantic Mobile application for Rock Creek Park will be used as a example of the problem. Afterwards they have appointment with Secretary Babbitt, National Park Service Director Stanton, and a number of folks in Congress. The folks at the press conference will be Linda Evans (the actress, who is an avid environmentalist and interested in this issue); Dr. Martin Blank, a professor at Columbia who is a biophysicist specializing in cellular research and the effect of environmental electro-magnetic fields on humans and other species; Jim Evans, an ornithologist and expert of bird strikes, i.e., the effect of antenna towers on bird geomagnetic (directional) senses; Jim Jones, ANC 4A08, from Crestwood in DC, who has been one of the leaders in the fight against the Bell Atlantic proposal; and, if he can come, Phil Mendelson. If you can come, please do and bring all your friends and pass the word along about it.



Refurbished English Basement for Rent — Mt. Pleasant
Anne Drissel,

Renovations ready for July 15 move-in! Newly carpeted large living/dining room, bedroom. New kitchen floor. Newly painted. W/D A/C Private entrances; use of patio. One block to Rock Creek Park; 5 min. via Crosstown bus to Cleveland Park Metro. Non-smoker; no pets. $650 + 1/5 electricity. 202-232-6517 evening; 703-364-2865 daytime.



Need a Sitter?
Andrea Carlson,

The teacher's aide from my daughter's class at Hearst Elementary has time available for babysitting. She's experienced, responsible, and nurturing. E-mail me for details.



Sad News about Philip “Pete” Walker
Gabe Goldberg,

Readers of themail may know gardener Philip “Pete” Walker, who occasionally posted here. He did some landscaping for us; we found him a sweet, funny, smart, talented, energetic fellow. He died recently; here's his obituary. His mother's E-mail address is

Philip A. Walker, Jr.

Asheville. Philip A. “Pete” Walker, Jr., son of Philip A. Sr. and Grace Walker, died on July 7 at St. Joseph's Hospital following a brief illness. Pete, born in Ruston, Louisiana, on September 6, 1960, attended public schools in Asheville, completed A.B. and M.A. degrees at UNC-Greensboro, and further graduate work at the University of Maryland. During his time of graduate study he held a number of teaching assignments in American History: at Guilford College, Greensboro College, High Point College, and Gallaudet University. He also published an article on his favorite research subject, President Lyndon B. Johnson, in the Presidential Studies Quarterly. His major interest, other than teaching and historical research, was landscaping, and for the last two years of his life he was owner of a landscaping business in Washington, D.C.

In addition to his parents he is survived by a brother, Kelly Walker and wife Bryson and nephews, Taylor and Wes, and nieces, Betty and Maggie, of Columbus, Ohio, sister Elaine Potter and husband “Bo” of Monroe, North Carolina, and sister Jenny Davids and husband Scott and nephew John Ross of Annapolis, Maryland, as well as other relatives and friends. A memorial service will be held at 3:30 pm, Saturday, July 31, at Grace Episcopal Church conducted by the Reverend William G. Edwards. Memorials may be made to the Grace Episcopal Church Outreach Program, 871 Merrimon Avenue, Asheville, NC 28804.


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