themail.gif (3487 bytes)

August 4, 1999


Dear Copy Editors:

Stephanie Faul wrote to me criticizing the use of “sic” in Lucy Mallan's posting in the last issue. The sentence in question read: “Apparently the hole (sic) is still greater than SOME of its parts.” Stephanie thought that the “sic” was mine, and that I was commenting on the spelling of “hole,” and she pointed out that an editor's comment, such as “sic,” should be placed in brackets, not in parentheses. But actually, the parenthetical “sic” was Ms. Mallan's own; she was emphasizing that she was intentionally making a double pun (the hole and the some; the whole and the sum). Don't worry, if you make a spelling error and if I catch it, I'll just correct the mistake rather than point it out in order to make fun of you. I don't need to ridicule themail's subscribers — somebody else is sure to write in and do that for me.

Illustrating that, in the last issue I made the correction that the new head of the Department of Motor Vehicles is named Cheryl Hobbs Newman, not Cynthia Hobbs Newman, as I had written. And now Oscar Abeyta writes me, under the subject line “Correction Correction,” that her name is actually Sherryl, not Cheryl, Hobbs Newman. That's Sherryl Hobbs Newman, and I wish that woman would stop changing her name.

Gary Imhoff


DC Schools and Politics
Jean Mammen,

I have a strong interest in DC schools. I help youth committed to family court, in a volunteer capacity. I want these kids to get a strong start in life. A good school is often their best chance. Patterson, next to a drug market near South Capitol, and Janney, in AU Park, were both great schools, because they had great principals who put together great teams. But the system wide backup wasn't there, so such successes did not reinforce each other, nor were they easy to duplicate (or create). 

Options Public Charter School, DC's first public charter school, was founded on the elected school board's watch back in 1991. I placed a seventh grader there in 1994, and currently have a sixth grader and an eighth grader there. It works for its public of youth at risk of dropping out whose English and math skills are at least two years below grade level. At-risk of dropping out means they barely attend school now and have no motivation to stay in school or work at school work. Options has very small classes, stresses basics, and includes a lot of anger management and conflict resolution, as well as motivation and enrichment. Maya Angelou, a “Control Board” charter school, is the flavor of the month. Options has had its own share of good press in the past, but I guess being well established and “elected school board” disqualify it from flavor of the month. Ooops — there I go with a divisive comment.

Anne Gay, formerly principal at Janney, now charged with Special Ed, should have a chance to spread her approach to special ed throughout the system. The people who recognized her talent and persuaded her to move may be good talent spotters and support builders who deserve a long period in which to work.

I detest the race baiting and personality politics that too often envenom the atmosphere, distract from the real task, and prevent people from working together on the real task. Starting arguments based on the premise that people who live on the “other” side of Rock Creek park, east or west, or of the Anacostia, east or west, get their roads plowed or their schools fixed, and people on “this” side never do, prevents people from seeing or working on the fact that nobody is getting adequate services. Two questions: Ever taken a close look at Hardy Middle School, opposite the social Safeway in Georgetown? Does it look better or worse than Francis? or Thomas Jefferson? or Kramer? or Hart? or Backus?

Does Tonya Kinlow have higher political ambitions? Not to my knowledge, and I talk with her several times a month. In fact, I asked her that question on August 1. She was astounded. She also said, No, she does not. Ooops again. I have just revealed myself as the friend of a person currently under attack. Will this color how people react to my earlier comments? I hope not..


Elected School Board
John Whiteside,

Ed Barron is right about the problem of elected school boards becoming vehicles for political advancement. This was a big issue in Boston when I lived there; eventually there was a referendum on replacing the school board with one appointed by the mayor, which passed. It was controversial, and there was an unsuccessful effort to repeal it, but the bottom line is that it happened and it seems to have helped. There's still accountability — the mayor has to answer for his school board picks — but board members are more removed from politics, and hopefully more focused on — gasp — education. Could it work in DC?


School Criticism
Ed Dixon,

Most of the criticism, and I agree with most of it, has to do with the responsiveness of the elected bodies or supposedly responsible bureaucrats downtown not following through on their duties. Ignore the administration. Go grass roots. Adopt a school. Take a friend. Go in the front door. Ask for the main office. Ask for the school's volunteer coordinator. If they don't have one ask to talk to the principal. Ask what you can do at the school as a volunteer. Reading or tutoring? Watering trees or planning a mural? Starting a club or team? The public schools in this town that work (yes there are some) do so because people want to be with kids and help them grow. Almost every neighborhood has an elementary within walking or biking distance. If you want help, go to one of the many organizations that work in the schools, College Bound, Hands On DC, Parents United. Build a relationship with a child who wants to learn. Many of the schools (that means children) are in the state they are in because they are being ignored ... and not just by our highly paid administration, federally imposed board of trustees and democratically elected school board.


UDC Officials Don’t Even Have a Clue
Harold Goldstein,

It was suggested that since “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 they recognize they need to better formulate a mission. Hate to say it but UDC “officials” don't have the slightest clue how to help high school graduates. Many, many times over the years the inherent absurdity and failure of the “developmental” (read remedial) programs at UDC have been shoved in their faces and they've ignored recommendation after recommendation.

And these are the same people who suggest that loss of students is due to Mayor Williams, somehow ignoring that enrollment began to decline about seven years ago and fell precipitously when they fired one third of the faculty (myself included).


Livin’ in a Foreign Land
Mark Richards, East Dupont,

My parents were here for July 4th and we went to the Congressional concert. My dad said “I wish I had my binoculars.” What a great idea, I thought, remembering how handy they had been for watching wildlife at their place in South Africa — so I ordered a pair. Yesterday, I received a form letter from customer service in Central Islip, New York, saying they “do not ship outside USA.” Attached was my order form with “foreign” written on it. I had written “Washington,” crossed out “state,” and spelled out “District of Columbia.” My sister said New Mexico suffers this problem — when she worked on a cruise ship quite a few Americans thought New Mexico was “foreign.” Maybe the DC school board should go to New York and set them straight.


Car Inspection Comment
Rick Prescott,

Following up on the posting on DC DMV and car inspection status: I had my 89 Honda inspected last Thursday at Half Street. I got there about 7:30 am. They had three lanes open. I found myself getting impatient because, even with three lines, they didn't seem to be moving as fast as they should. Then it dawned on me they were doing a more thorough inspection then previously. They checked license plate lights and flunked one person because his was out. They looked under the car with, seemingly, great scrutiny. After they took over the car and I went into the new waiting room area (a nice touch) I stopped paying attention to their procedures. They passed me and told me I had a bad rear windshield wiper blade and I needed to get it fixed but, the man said, “I didn't knock you for it.”


Highlighting DC’s Exclusion
Mark Richards, Dupont East,

Rep. Ernest J. Istook Jr. (R-OK), Chair of the DC Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Commission, carries around a pocket sized Constitution with his favorite paragraph, the “exclusive legislation” one, highlighted (Eric Lipton, 8/1/99). Istook explained why he gave “city officials a bit more deference than the Constitution requires” because of the new mayor's efforts. He, in essence, says DC is on a short leash. And, I have no doubt that some of Istook's staff and our local elected Republicans, who will be participating Thursday evening in a fundraiser for Istook at Georgia Browns, helped get a little more leash. I appreciate that. But the fact that some of us were thrilled to see a Republican allow DC to decide how to spend its own money on a few items says mountains about our peculiar situation. I am of two minds — on the one hand we need détente; but I'm angry at the injustice Istook and others seem to accept. Look closer:

Istook's 5th District has between 524,264 (1990 census) to over a million people (Istook's website). Oklahoma has 3,347 million citizens (1998 census estimate). They are well represented -- they have 2 US Senators, 6 US Reps, a Governor, Lt. Governor, 48 State Senators and 101 Representatives, AND 1,799 local governments (77 county, 592 municipal, 578 school districts, and 552 special districts). They elect an attorney general, state auditor and inspector, corporation commissioner, insurance commissioner, labor commissioner, state superintendent, and state treasurer. True, they have a lot of space — 69,957 square miles. But compare their economy to ours: their Gross State Product is 76,642 million, DC's GSP is 52,372 million (Source: BEA, 1997). Istook is only one of 535 constantly changing members who must be persuaded to be fair — we would need a HUGE Congressional Information Program (CIP) just to keep up, and with no guarantees. The only way to change this is to change our Constitutional status. I hope our elected officials will convey the frustration and anger DC feels — as well as the solution DC has: DC wants what his constituents have — equal Congressional representation and equal protections under a republican self-government. You can bet a lot more citizens will put down their picket signs and cross the road at his fundraiser if he helps DC achieve that goal.


Response to Steph Faul on Uncertified Teachers
Claiborne Porter,

Case in Point: The City of New Orleans hired uncertified algebra teachers to teach algebra. When the children took the required algebra test to rise to the next grade an absurdly low number of students passed — 4 out of 700. Now, this could also be a problem of educational environment as well but the fact remains the students had to retake the test after being instructed by certified teachers. New Orleans apologized but many students could not proceed to the next grade. Your “fancy pants” school that sends kids to the ivy leagues is not a Ballou or a inner city New Orleans high school. A Southeast D.C. school generally cannot attract young, progressive, and smart teachers at the rate a high paying private or wealthy neighborhood school can. So certification can be a guarantee to some schools that the teachers they are employing can actually teach.


Construction Begins
Ed T. Barron,

The demolition phase of the new construction in the front of the AU Law School on Massachusetts Avenue (at 48th Street) has begun. The new construction will add a fountain and some sitting places in the unbeautiful barren open area at the main entrance to the building. This is another step in the beautification of what was once a very ugly duckling in the AU/Spring Valley area. We'll have to live with the unlovely four (or is it five?) story behemoth but the AU folks have made major strides with the landscaping (and this new construction) in making it a much more attractive place in the neighborhood.


Agate Tilmanis,

A while back themail asked if anyone had heard any good jokes. This was forwarded to me and I'd like to share it. A fellow stopped at a rural gas station and, after filling his tank, he paid the bill and bought a soft drink. He stood by his car to drink his cola and he watched a couple of men working along the roadside. One man would dig a hole two or three feet deep and then move on. The other man came along behind and filled in the hole. While one was digging a new hole, the other was about 25 feet behind filling in the old. The men worked right past the fellow with the soft drink and went on down the road. “I can't stand this,” said the man, tossing the can in a trash container and heading down the road toward the men.

“Hold it, hold it,” he said to the men. “Can you tell me what's going on here with this digging?”

“Well, we work for the county government,” one of the men said.

“But one of you is digging a hole and the other is filling it up. You're not accomplishing anything. Aren't you wasting the county's money?”

“You don't understand, mister,” one of the men said, leaning on his shovel and wiping his brow. “Normally there's three of us, me, Joe, and Mike. I dig the hole, Joe sticks in the tree and Mike here puts the dirt back.”

“Yeah,” piped up Mike. “Now just because Joe's sick, that don't mean we can't work, does it?”



City Guild of the Historical Society of Washington
Robert P. Scheller,

Happy Hour at the E Loft Cyber-Cafe in Dupont Circle, 1605 Connecticut Ave., NW, 2nd Floor, on Thursday, August 5, 6:30 to 9 pm. Explore history online, sip wine and enjoy the opening of a new photo exhibit: photographs of Washington by Stoff Smulson, a DC native and member of the City Guild.

The City Guild is the young professionals arm of the Historical Society of Washington. Annual dues are $45 and membership is open to those aged 23-39 who are interested in the history of the City of Washington. For more information, contact Robert P. Scheller, 703-289-9217,


Political Bullpen, Friday, August 6
Kathy Sinzinger, The Common Denominator,

Newspeople, newsmakers and all others come Friday, August 6, after work (around 6:30 pm), at the Senators Sports Bar in the Holiday Inn directly across from the Capitol Hill Hyatt on New Jersey Avenue, NW, a few steps from 1 Judiciary Square.



Part Time Assistant
Ross S. Delston,

Lawyer in home office needs organized person who knows Quicken and has car to work variable schedule, 5-10 hrs/wk, $14/hr. Call/fax/email resume and references to Ross Delston, (202) 362-2260, fax 362-2754,



Truck for Sale
Ed Dixon,

1993 Ford F-150: 105K miles, power brakes, power steering, manual transmission, am/fm cassette, dual tanks, matching cap, many new parts, have records, super work truck, many good miles remain. $7000/obo. Call Ed, 202/337-7658, or


Dave Nuttycombe,

From's LOOSE LIPS column, appearing this Friday:
THIS IS YOUR SCHOOL BOARD: Westy Byrd's years as a Georgetown advisory neighborhood commissioner apparently didn't teach her much about coalition building. On June 25, as the whole city now knows, Ward 2's current school board rep caught board President Wilma Harvey (Ward 1) allegedly having staffer do personal work for her. A sad denouement played itself out on July 22, when Byrd and five colleagues voted to oust Harvey from the presidency. Harvey is now vowing to sue, and a consensus is emerging among D.C.'s political and media elite is that the elected school board ought to be abolished.
The “scandal” that Byrd witnessed, however, merits neither her Office of Campaign Finance complaint, nor the palace coup, nor the citywide ridicule that has accompanied the dust-up. Instead, it belongs right alongside other alleged miscues in Byrd's file on Harvey, a set of complaints that can be unsheathed when the board conducts its annual presidential vote next January. But Byrd only compounded the error of her over-reaction with a disastrous choice of allies: Dwight Singleton (Ward 4) and Don Reeves (Ward 3).
She should have stopped there.
Read the Loose Lips archives here

From's CITY LIGHTS page, here are a few early warnings for upcoming events:
FRIDAY-SUNDAY: Monster Rally '99, featuring actor Christopher Lee, stop-motion god Ray Harryhausen, and local celebrity ghoul Count Gore De Vol, who warped young minds as the host of Chiller Theater on Channel 20 15 years ago. From 3 p.m. to 3 a.m. Friday, Aug. 6, 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 7, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 8, at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City, 2799 Jefferson Davis Highway, Arlington. $20.
MONDAY Japanese Screens. Kids will view some of the exquisite Japanese screens on display at the neighboring Freer Gallery of Art and then retire to the Sackler's Education Classroom to make their own screens in the Japanese style. At 10 a.m. at the Sackler Gallery's Education Classroom, 1050 Independence Ave. SW. Free.
More details and more critics' picks are available online at


themail@dcwatch is an E-mail discussion forum that is published every Wednesday and Sunday. To subscribe, to change E-mail addresses, or to switch between HTML and plain text versions of themail, use the subscription form at . To unsubscribe, send an E-mail message to with “unsubscribe” in the subject line. Archives of past messages are available at .

All postings should also be submitted to , and should be about life, government, or politics in the District of Columbia in one way or another. All postings must be signed in order to be printed, and messages should be reasonably short — one or two brief paragraphs would be ideal — so that as many messages as possible can be put into each mailing.

Send mail with questions or comments to
Web site copyright ©DCWatch (ISSN 1546-4296)