Fingernails on the Blackboard
As earnest students of good government and good governance, we are still
in search of more constructive suggestions. The elected school board has failed to improve
schools, and is a public embarrassment. The appointed trustees have failed to improve
schools, and the only reason that they aren't a public embarrassment is that they don't
work in public, but in secret. The City Council and the Mayor are most interested in
making sure that people understand that they aren't legally responsible for improving
schools. Some thoughtful commentators have begun to call for abolishing the elected school
board; everybody agrees that it's a good thing the Emergency Board of Trustees is going to
be dissolved. So what's next? If everybody else is at a loss, your thoughtful model of an
effective, workable way to run schools in the District will certainly be adopted by
default. Do I see a hand raised in the back of the room?
Department of Corrections: Rachel Roberts points out that the new head of
the Department of Motor Vehicles is Cheryl, not Cynthia, Hobbs Newman. That's Cheryl Hobbs
They Aint Makin Em Like They Used
Ed T. Barron, email@example.com
And I'm talking about the elected School Board in D.C. In the many urban
and suburban communities that I lived in before coming to D.C. some 12 years ago, these
communities all had elected school boards. Almost all of those elected and serving on
these boards (in unpaid positions, by the way) were concerned parents or concerned
taxpayers. All of those who made themselves candidates for election to the local school
board had a mission. When I ran for, and was elected to, the school board in the community
we lived in, prior to coming to Washington, my own mission was to ensure that the four
kids I had in my district's schools would be getting the best education possible. These
local boards had their share of political infighting (I can show you my scars for the six
years I served) but it was merely a fraction of the divisiveness and mean-spiritedness we
find on the D.C. elected board. The mission of those running for the school board in D.C.
is entirely different. They all want to gain notoriety. (Not fame, that comes only after
you are dead. Ask John Kent Cooke.) They want this notoriety so that they can run for
election to the City Council. And then they want (as we have seen on today's City Council)
to use that position to run for Mayor.
In spite of the somewhat political nature of the community school boards
that I have worked with, these boards were, invariably, committed to making things happen
that were in the best interest of the students. When things needed to be done by these
boards, they stepped up to the plate and worked together as a team to get them done. Not
so here in D.C. And now we have a hue and cry for an appointed school board to replace the
elected Board. Now that's another chuckle. Who will do the appointing? Why the
politicians, of course. And so we go full circle. The guy who thinks he has all the
answers to D.C.'s problems is really stumped on this one. All I know for sure is that when
it comes to school boards in D.C., they ain't makin' 'em like they used to.
Constructive Suggestions on the School Situation
Andrea Carlson, BintaGay@aol.com
The first, most immediate thing that needs to happen is for the Control
Board to hold Arlene Ackerman accountable. Reportedly, they had planned to slip her a
sweetheart of a deal (outlined in detail in the Common Denominator's most recent
issue) without informing the public. Isn't it ironic that the board set up to enforce
accountability is pulling the same kind of tricks that got our city into trouble in the
first place? She was supposed to design her own performance evaluation criteria (don't we
all wish we could do that?), but hasn't even bothered to submit that, let alone any
evidence that she's actually improving schools. It seems only fair that those being
served, i.e., parents of schoolchildren and students themselves, should have
some input here as well. Before awarding any kind of raise, the Control Board ought to
send out surveys to all households with students enrolled in DC public schools, asking
them detailed questions about their satisfaction with the services they're receiving. The
city needs middle class families if it wants to become a healthy, functional place. Folks
in charge would be wise to start treating us, their paying customers, with more respect.
Steph Certified querent, some say certified lunatic Faul, firstname.lastname@example.org
OK, somebody PLEASE explain to me: What's all the fuss about finding
certified teachers? Is there any evidence they're better than plain vanilla
teachers? I'm puzzled for several reasons: (1) I went to a fancy pants private school
where people now pay $10,000/year tuition and half the graduating class heads off to the
Ivy League, yet I don't think any of the teachers are certified. (2) Certification in
general has traditionally served two purposes: to earn money for the certifying
organization and to keep new entrants out of the field. Thus the requirements for becoming
a CPA keep getting stricter, ditto various other sorts of professional certifications. (3)
Universities cheerfully hire adjunct faculty qualified only with an advanced degree in the
field they'll teach. Why can't high schools?
Frank Method, email@example.com
Regarding the school police cars licensed in VA it has taken a
year, but I understand that they have now been re-registered at least they were
instructed to do so by the Council. The registration of the cars, however, is not the main
point. To the best of my knowledge, the DCPS does not have a police force. It has a
security contractor which provides school security personnel. There is no legal basis or
even clear authority for calling this a police force. Just because they paint the words
School Police on the cars does not give them police powers, particularly off school
property. Note: one way to be sure of the difference between the legitimate police forces
and the proliferating security services and other ersatz police entities around town is
that only the police are allowed to use the red and blue lights on their cars the
others use amber or other colors.
A Glimmer of Hope
Ann C. Barron, firstname.lastname@example.org
In a Post article this week spokespersons for UDC attributed the
decline in enrollment at UDC to the Mayor's announcement that the school would be moved to
Anacostia. That's a bunch of tripe (both the move and the reaction to the announcement).
But, buried in that same article, was a glimmer of hope for UDC. UDC officials say that
they plan to begin offering courses that will prepare graduates from D.C. High Schools to
enter the work force. That's the first sign that UDC recognizes that they must change
their mission to be successful in helping the students of this city.
Congress wants to prevent our government from implementing a host of
social programs, but the great legislative body at 1 Pennsylvania Avenue is considering
two provisions that would lower our tax burden. Surprisingly, the language to help our
city was included in the bill's Senate version at the behest of a Republican Sen. Connie
Mack from Florida. Surprising because the GOP is not known usually as a friend of this or
any city. It is not important at this stage that President Clinton vowed to veto the $792
billion bill. What counts is that the current bill will provide a blueprint for a smaller
tax cut bill that could be enacted this fall. So, the D.C. language must be included in
the final version of the veto bill, if it is going to be enacted this fall.
The fate of the D.C. tax cuts will be determined later this summer when
the Senate, which approved the incentives, and the House, which did not, meet to iron out
their differences. If the D.C. provisions survive this conference on the veto bill, they
probably will be included in the smaller bill that will emerge this fall. There are two
D.C.-related tax provisions: 1. The $5,000 tax credit for first time home buyers that is
set to expire at the end of next year would be extended until December 31, 2001. The
credit still is only $2,500 for married couples filing separately and is phased out for
couples earning between $110,000 and $130,000. For individuals, the credit is phased out
for those earning between $70,000 and $90,000. 2. The zero percent capital gains tax rate
for assets held more than 5 years would be extended to the entire city, not only to those
areas below the 10 percent poverty rate. The zero rate would still only apply to qualified
enterprise zone businesses. Congress should be scolded for trying to decide how the D.C.
government should spend on its (our) money, but, on this local issue, those guys and gals
up on that Hill are not all that bad.
Re: the drought and the heat; you would never know this from the way DC
Water and Sewer behaves. The corner of 29th and Cortland NW in Woodley Park has a water
main breakage which has remained unfixed for more than five weeks. In that time, they have
managed to paint a few lines on the ground and set up some orange cones, despite
continuous calls from residents. Meanwhile, there is a veritable tsunami of water running
down the street and into the sewer. Thousands of gallons a day, representing a sizable sum
of money. On some days there is a little geyser coming up out of the ground, like a
miniature Old Faithful. We are so used to it, that now we are ready to plan waterfront
cookouts, beach volleyball, and kayaking expeditions. Fishing, even.
The City Paper raised a red flag this past week regarding Mayor
Anthony William's special guest status at Rep. Istook's (R-OK) forthcoming
fundraiser. While I believe that Mayor Williams can legitimately claim to be engaging in
the well-worn art of DC realpolitic by communing with the Congressional head of the House
District Committee, his visible participation in this event quickly brings to mind a
campaign pledge he made last summer at the Stand Up for Democracy mayoral
candidate's forum, moderated by the inimitable Tom Sherwood.
At the forum, then candidate Williams pledged to establish a
democracy trust if and when he was elected to high office. According to
Williams, this activist trust would be comprised of some of the best minds and talent
available to reach out for the requisite national support to secure true democracy and
equal rights for DC residents. His thought was to compliment that force with a significant
level of funding, thereby creating a war chest to support his grand strategy. I believe it
is time that Mayor Williams revisited his campaign pledge made last August, and embark on
a guided mission to establish his "democracy trust" in the name of high
principle and basic rights for all Americans.
DMV is improving in sectors, apparently. The license renewal, tag renewal,
and other routine fill-in-a-form, pay your money and get your document system is
incredibly swift and efficient, using the system the passport people use: i.e., take a
number and wait till you're called. So fast it's difficult to get the form filled out in
time, so that's good.
Car inspection not so good, at least the day I was there was very hot and
they had one lane open. So the wait was as long as it used to be in the so called
light period of the day. About an hour from arrival to start of inspection at
2 pm. The good news is they have a nice place to wait while your car is actually being
inspected, but that's never been the long part of the wait. So that's bad. Apparently the
hole (sic) is still greater than SOME of its parts.
I'm writing in response to Ed Barron's moaning about the demise of clam
diggers. ED! Be HAPPY! And head out to Adams Morgan on Friday night. You'll see more clam
diggers and petal pushers than you've seen in years. They're quite the rage
especially among the young professional set. I, myself, have two pairs! Black for evening
and stretchy jean material for the daytime. I agree that they are fun, flattering, and
classier than a pair of shorts any day. And with the right pair of flippy platform shoes
... well, my calves never looked so good. Heehehe.
Stephanie Faul, email@example.com
I don't miss 'em a bit, Ed, in part because I have a 33" inseam so
virtually every pair of women's' pants already fit me like clam diggers. My suggestion:
buy a pair of pants. Take them to the tailor. Pay $10 to have the legs shortened. Presto
Clam diggers! If you're married or have a girlfriend or something, she might even
do it for free, or show you how to do it. But you do need a second person to pin up the
legs so they're the same length.
Oh, and one more thing: if you don't think knees matter, rent and watch
Claire's Knee, directed by Eric Rohmer. You'll never diss knees again.
Are non-Jews allowed to go to the Israeli Embassy event? (just kidding)
RLA Columbia Heights Hearing
Dorothy Brizill, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Redevelopment Land Agency is going to have yet one more public hearing
on granting development rights to four land parcels that are key to commercial development
in Columbia Heights, on Wednesday, August 4, at 7:00 p.m., at Sacred Heart Church, 16th
Street and Park Road, NW. The purpose of the meeting is to bring the three newly
appointment members of the Redevelopment Land Agency Board up to speed on the four
competing proposals for the redevelopment of five acres of city owned land near the future
Metro station in Columbia Heights. This land has remained undeveloped since the city
assumed ownership after the 1968 riots. The pending RLA vote to award development rights
has been postponed from early May until September so that Mayor Williams could appoint
three new members to the Board. The meeting place that the Board has chosen isn't air
conditioned and has no windows, isn't handicapped accessible, lacks a public address
system, has no off-street parking, and has has inadequate restroom facilities, but the
meeting is important for neighborhood economic development, and as many people as possible
should still attend.
Mount Pleasant Dog Show
Julie Makinen Bowles, email@example.com
Attention zany dogs and your humans: Mark your calendars for Mount
Pleasant's annual Pups in the Park dog show. Saturday, Aug. 28 in Lamont Park, at the
corner of Lamont Street and Mount Pleasant Street, across from Heller's Bakery. Contestant
check-in begins at 9 a.m., and the contests start at 10 a.m. Contests this year include
best bark, most obedient, waggiest tail, best trick, most adorable and more. Prizes will
be awarded! We will also have presentations by the D.C. police department K-9 unit, a dog
trainer and a groomer. It's all free! You don't have to live in Mount Pleasant. In fact,
if you've never been to our neighborhood (just north of Adams-Morgan and east of Cleveland
Park), this would be a great chance to come explore. To register your dog, volunteer to
help out, or simply get more information, please call Julie at 202-986-7876 or send an
email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Glover Park. 3 bedroom house with piano, deck, clutter. Available all or
part of 8/7 to 9/15. Can be rented or shared. 202-337-4906
CLASSIFIEDS FOR SALE AND WANTED
For Sale Sail into Summer
Nick Keenan, NBK@gsionline.com
Catalina 22 22 foot sailboat. An excellent recreational boat, easy
to sail. Hull is 1976, sails, mast, and rigging are about 6 years old. You can get an idea
of what one looks like at http://www.spiritone.com/~mack/c22pics/index.htm
. Currently it is docked on the Potomac in SW DC, and slip fees are paid through March
2000. Has a Honda outboard, VHF radio, inflatable dinghy, 3 sails, lots of accessories.
All this for the give-away price of $1000. Will also consider donating to a worthy cause.
The Search is on, looking for a shiny compact, 2,3, or 4 doors vehicle,
that's stingy with gas, but has great windows. Only two real requirements: cold
air-conditioning (heat too) and automatic transmission. Contact Wayson@Juno.com ASAP
Seeking up to four used laser and deskjet printer(s) for our PC's. HP
4L/6L, etc. are fine. Please call Jon Katz, Marks & Katz, LLC, (301) 495-4300.
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