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August 18, 1999

Mangoes and Figs

Dear Gourmets:

I picked figs from our tree today, and Dorothy made a mango and fig chutney for the chicken. Go talk among yourselves about the city's problems. As the sage, Alfred E. Neumann, has been known to say, "What, me worry?" I'm going back to dinner.

Gary Imhoff


Those Pesky Parents
Lucy Mallan;

You don't have to be a very deep thinker to notice an inconsistency between complaining about non-involved parents and also about parents who want to have a voice in their kids' education. Cluelessness about what to do with parents is only one element in the stew our schools are in, but let's look at it.

One thought would be to have in each school a parent ombudsman whose job is to channel communications from parents or from the HSA and report back. A Dr. Gridlock of the school. That is only a start, of course. What is really needed is a change in the climate of suspicion and contempt toward parents who are, in the right climate, a terrific resource.


DC Teachers’ Certification and All That Jazz
Judith Rosenfeld,

There seems to be agreement among themail readers that certification does not a good teacher make, nor lack of certification a bad one, so let's get creative and look to a successful system that selects highly qualified albeit uncertified candidates for its teaching tasks: the Teaching Assistants program in force at colleges and universities throughout the country.

How about a little symbiosis? Masters and Ph.D. candidates are chosen as Teaching Assistants for their scholarship, their promise, and their ability to deal with students. If they're good enough to teach college courses, why don't we enlist them to teach high school? With so many colleges to draw from, the District is uniquely well situated for a program that draws on a proven selection process. Since there are usually more applicants for TA-ships than are granted, and since most colleges limit the number a student may apply for over the years, the District may well be able to attract a good number of qualified people working in disciplines that jibe with our high school curriculum requirements. True, these are not Education majors. Well, excuse me, but who cares? They're academics. They need money. They could certainly cite the experience on their CVs when they apply for college teaching positions down the road. The District can certainly talk to colleges about this, offering to reimburse TAs for their time, with a hefty bonus for completion of a year of teaching. Reactions?


Generating a World Class Public School System
Len Sullivan,

Oversight of the DCPS needs a major overhaul. Restructuring the school system should take into account four broad issues: 1) future urban schools (at all levels) will be very different than those designed — and staffed — in the '60s, and serve a variety of community functions other than basic education (from child day care to adult night classes); 2) DCPS policy and management should be coordinated with other municipal functions (viz., public housing, police, welfare) because the impediments to educating DC's kids — and drop-outs — go well beyond the school system's purview; 3) DCPS should avail itself of strong cooperative technical assistance from beyond DC's borders: it is, after all, surrounded by some of America's finest, fastest growing, and most efficient school systems — within the metro area; 4) really tough choices are seldom made by local voters and local unions: DCPS needs the equivalent of a top-notch, court-appointed receiver (viz., David Gilmore at DCHA) for day-to-day supervision, and decisive support from a tough “virtual” state school board.

NARPAC recommends a very small (3-4 person) non-political, very autocratic, executive committee, appointed from a considerably larger, composite 17-member advisory school board comprising 8 elected members and 9 Council approved appointees. The latter should include, say, 1 federal, 1 local college level, and 2 regional educators; and 4 members from DC agencies such as police, health and economic development. Both committee and board should be led (driven?) by one world class, uncompromising, (ex-receiver?) public school miracle worker. These numbers and allocations are notional but the underlying issues are fundamental. Details will be on NARPAC's web site next month.


More on Garrison Elementary School
Glenn Melcher,

To set the record straight, the church which has an illegal use agreement to use the Garrison Elementary School ball field for a parking lot is Metropolitan Baptist Church. Jessica Vallette is right, however, that the church pays a measly sum — $5000 a year (less than $100 a week to park 350+ cars) to render the playing field unfit for any other purpose but parking. The situation recently became even more outrageous. With the help of Councilman Jim Graham, the Friends of Garrison Elementary School recently arranged for alternative parking in the District's Reeves Center Building parking garage for Metropolitan Baptist Church. The church signed a lease for 353 parking spaces.

Problem solved you say? Not a chance with this greedy church. They have applied for a new use agreement for the coming school year for the Garrison field. The reason: according to Rev. Hicks, the additional parking at the Reeves Center is supplemental, and not intended to replace the closer parking at Garrison. Rev. Hicks would not retract his request for parking for the next school year, even after being informed that school's benefactor, David Hudgens, was willing to regrade and seed the field at his own expense, if he could be assured that no further parking would occur on the field. Needless to say, he has been stymied in his efforts to do good for the children of our community. The decision on the application for the use agreement rests in the hands of DCPS head Arlene Ackerman. If you want to help, please call her office and express your opposition to her entering into yet another illegal use agreement which denies our children the right to a field on which to play.


Another Response to Garrison School Question
Andrea Carlson,

The problem with the Garrison School Playground isn't so much about the church, or their parishioners, as it is about Superintendent Arlene Ackerman. She routinely makes decisions that are illegal, unethical, and even immoral if it suits her interests. Her handling of the playground lease is just one of many such examples. Unless someone, whether it's the elected school board, an emergency board of trustees, some new group of experts, or Alice Rivlin, begins to hold Ms. Ackerman accountable, we can expect to suffer from school management decisions made on the basis of politically expediency, cronyism, or personal vindictiveness for a long time to come, particularly if the Control Board opts to award her with the handsome severance package, hefty salary increase, generous bonus and long-term contract extension she has requested. Ms. Ackerman claims DCPS puts children first? One look at the Garrison field exposes the ugly truth about where children stand in Ms. Ackerman's priorities.


The Hypothetical State of Greater Columbia
John Whiteside,

Ed Barron points out (correctly) that if the District of Columbia can't govern itself, it's unlikely that making it a state would help. But the population of the theoretical state that encompasses the whole area has, for the most part, shown itself able to govern itself. Here in Arlington we have responsive local government, an involved community, low taxes, good schools, great services — in a jurisdiction that in many ways is more diverse than DC. Most of the communities around DC are similarly well governed. The majority of “greater Washingtonians” don't live in the District, and have never voted for Marion Barry!

Ed also identifies one of the areas where we do very badly around here, and which would benefit from such a setup: transportation planning. I know it will never happen but it's an appealing thought.


Yes, That Statehood Theme, Again and Always
Aaron Lloyd,

Ed Barron is wrong. We “earned” the right to genuine representation the day we were born. The area that is D.C. was within the original 13 states that declared that all men are created equal, not became equal through efficient government and proven ability to fill a pothole. Our founding documents state that “consent of the governed” is necessary and the Constitution guarantees us “equal protection” under the law, and not just when we are sure to elect candidates that will please Ed Barron.

The small “exclusive Legislation” section of the Constitution that Congress uses to justify denying us in D.C. all the other rights of the Constitution will fall in time, as slavery and poll taxes did. The Constitution only recognizes two categories of persons: “citizens of states” that have all the rights enumerated in that document, and everyone else. If you are in a territory, a district, a commonwealth, protectorate, or “home rule” fantasy land, Congress can rationalize that you don't have those rights. That is why that “Statehood theme” is always going to come up, Ed, because I and other D.C. residents are not going to accept anything less than full citizenship.


A Plan Worth Trying
Ed T. Barron,

The District is trying hard to get illegal guns off the street and that is a great way of preventing major crimes. The recent “Buy Back” program of guns in D.C., successfully removed some illegal 500 guns from the city (purportedly a mere drop in the bucket). Our neighbors to the South, in the city of Richmond, have successfully implemented an innovative program to combat gun crime called “Project Exile” over the last year. This program requires that any person committing any crime, who has in his/her possession an illegal firearm, that person will do five years (or more for repeat offenders) in a federal penitentiary. There are no appeals, parole, or plea bargains. It's a minimum of five years of hard time — end of story.

The results of implementing this program, according to the current issue of Time Magazine, is that murders were down from 140 in 1997 to 36 in the first six months of 1999. Many of the hardened repeat offense criminals are no longer packing their firearms when they go a-criminalizing. The risk of doing five years of hard time is really working and is highly publicized in Richmond (including billboard advertisements). This is a program that should be tried here in D.C. if we really want to reduce the major crime rate and to get the really bad guys with illegal guns off the street.


The New Curfew
Nick Keenan,

I just got this, and thought that other readers of themail might find it interesting:

“The Metropolitan Police Department will begin enforcing the District of Columbia's curfew law beginning after Labor Day. It is important for you, your family and your neighbors to know what the law says, how it will be enforced and what programs exist for young people seeking alternatives to hanging out on the street.

“The MPDC has published a Fact Sheet on DC's curfew law. It can be viewed on-line at the Police Department's Web page: (follow the path for “Safety Tips”). Hard copies of this Fact Sheet are also available by calling the Department's Corporate Communications Office at 202.727.9346.” Hmm.


Put the Cops Where the Crime Is!
Nick Keenan,

I live in Shaw, which is kind of place that people think about when they say the cops should go where the crime is. While the police presence has increased dramatically in the past two years, there is a feeling among most residents that our area does not get its fair share of policing, and that the more affluent parts of the city are overpoliced — and reading about police “blitzes” in neighborhoods like Adams Morgan and Dupont Circle doesn't help that perception.

With the advent of the Crime Reports web site ( ) it is now possible to get (somewhat) hard numbers to back up your hunches, and there I went prepared to find evidence of inequity of the highest order. I came away a little surprised. Here are the total reported crimes, by PSA, for the month of July: PSA 308, Dupont Circle: 42; PSA 304, Adams Morgan: 30; PSA 311, Shaw West: 21; PSA 312, Shaw East: 17. Gee, I hate to admit it, but maybe the cops really are going to where the crime is — or at least to where it's being reported.

[Crimereports is a commercial web site that aims to be a central location for police departments' crime reports nationwide. It is based in Arlington, and DC and Arlington are two of the earliest departments to post to the site. The information on this site is individual listings and descriptions of all reported Part I crimes — the old “police blotter” — not just compiled statistics. My problem with DC crime reports is that the Department always releases statistics only for Part I crimes, which are the few most serious and violent crimes. It has always been impossible, no matter how many times people ask the MPD and how many times it agrees, to get statistics from them for Part II crimes, and these Part II crimes seriously affect the quality of life on our streets. — Gary Imhoff]


Stephanie Mencimer,

In reference to the question about RFK and the filming of the movie on the Redskins: I believe DC United has five home games during the month of August, more than one per week, which would make filming a football movie at RFK a little difficult, since the field is configured for soccer. I don't think the RFK field even has goal posts set up anymore, so I don't think you can blame the Sports Commission for screwing up anything this time. They're much smarter to make DC United — their only tenant — happy than to inconvenience the team and its loyal fans to make a few bucks off a lame Redskins movie.


Metro Traffic Reports
Adam J Marshall,

I appreciate the fact that WTOP's Jim Farley took the time to answer a recent question about traffic and parking reports. I just wanted to add another comment to his suggestion box as he continues to build WTOP's local news programming.

The traffic reports we hear on WTOP and other radio and television outlets seem designed EXCLUSIVELY for people who commute from the suburbs to the city. It is extremely rare that we, as DC residents, hear any traffic reporting that affects OUR commutes. Personally, I would be very interested to hear the latest details about city roadwork, accidents, blockages, and the like, rather than an ad nauseum commentary about the Beltway and its various tributaries. An accident on Massachusetts Avenue affects me (and many drivers) far more than the latest backup in far away places like “Newington” and “Powder Mill Road.” Mr. Farley, is there any way that a traffic report can be produced that's more relevant to the District? I realize that you probably receive your reports by contract with Metro Networks, but do you, as a station executive, have any influence on what they compile? After all, 550,000 of us still live within city lines!


The Lions
Kerry Jo Richards,

In reference to David Hunter's question about the Lions — I heard that they were being rehabilitated by a sculptor and his students. Can anyone prove/disprove this statement? I thought I saw some kind of special on cable one day — they looked like they were having fun working with them.


The Lions
Ann Loikow, Cleveland Park,

David Hunter asked whatever happened to the beautiful lions for the Taft bridge going over Connecticut. DPW has been working hard to get them back on the Taft Bridge. Because the concrete they were made of had so badly deteriorated, DPW hired a sculptor who is replicating them. Much of the lion's faces had eroded away, so a lot of research had to be done to figure out exactly what they originally looked like. The Northwest Current had a long article on the lions not too long ago.


Home Occupations and Zoning
Connie Ridgway,

The guy operating a business with two employees out of the home may or may not be violating zoning regulations. You can obtain a valid home occupation permit and have an employee (I don't know about two). The level of activity is what constitutes whether it's in line with a residential area — it's something like, you can't have more than eight people per hour going in and out of your home.


Drawing the Line
Ann Loikow,

Larry Seftor wrote about the burgeoning number of home offices in Friendship Heights. Section 203 of the District's Zoning Regulations (Title 11 of the DC Municipal Regulations or DCMR) specifically regulates home occupations. You can get a copy of the complete Zoning Regulations from the Office of Documents (727-5090). Among other things, a Home Occupation Permit is required for a home business to be permitted in a residentially zoned area.


Voting Senators
Ann Loikow, Cleveland Park,

Claiborne Porter asked about the progress of the American University law professor who is helping D.C. obtain a voting senator or senators? Jamie Raskin of AU's Law School inspired one of the two lawsuits pending before the US District Court for DC. A three judge panel heard the two related cases on April 19, but the decision on the two cases has not yet been issued. More information on the status of the lawsuits can be found at .


Erica Nash,

Gelato means ice-cream. Nothing more, Nothing less. It's like calling a sandwich a "panino." It's the same thing! Italian ice-cream is different from American ice-cream, though. The cream based ice-creams are creamier: my guess is they use the full-fat cream to make the ice-cream, not low-fat or skimmed, etc. The watery ice-creams, like American sherbet, are more dense. Probably because the water is different there. Italians tend not to mix up flavors as Americans do; i.e., you would not find something like butter pecan with rum raisins, or cookies and cream with praline, etc. You would have simple flavors like raspberry, blueberry, banana, Malaga, vanilla, cream, chocolate, pistachio, hazelnut, walnut, blackberry, chocolate. Nothing with chunks, sprinkles, M&Ms, etc. The flavors are fresh, bold and simple!

For a pretty good ice-cream/gelato, try Gifford's in Bethesda, behind Madelaine's restaurant on Woodmont Avenue, behind the Safeway. The difference between American and Italian sandwiches though, is vast!


Analog DMX: It Is All Over But the Billing
Larry Seftor,

For a number of years I have subscribed to analog DMX (30 channels of commercial free music) from District Cablevision. District Cablevision decided to terminate analog DMX, apparently providing similar service through their digital service. I was actually notified of the termination of the service by letter, and the DMX service stopped on time, on August 9. However, no one seemed to have told the billing service for District Cablevision. So they continue to merrily charge me for a service that is no longer offered. I called District Cablevision's billing, and instead of hearing “I'll be glad to take care of that for you” I spent 15 minutes arguing that they would have to correct my bill since they no longer provided the service. I eventually prevailed, but a customer service based business should not make customers fight to correct a vendor mistake. (As a Post Script, I was asked for my Social Security Number at the start of the call. I refused to give this information and eventually the call was allowed to proceed anyway. District Cablevision has my telephone number, my account number, my name, and my address. They don't need my Social Security Number and they should not be soliciting this information. Forewarned is forearmed. Don't give it out.)


BAM, Sprint, or ?
E. James Lieberman,

I use a cell phone rarely. First year with Bell Atlantic Mobile is ending. Aside from Rock Creek Towers issue (I oppose), what good alternative services should I consider to BAM?


Vernor’s Ginger Ale?
Joan Eisenstodt,

Have called a few grocery chains to see if anyone in the DC area carries Vernor's. It's the “ginger ale of choice” for Midwesterners! Would appreciate any leads. (Internet search didn't yield much.)


Seeking a Refrigerator Recycler
Jon Katz,

When I looked up “refrigerator recyclers” in the yellow pages, I came up empty handed. Anyway, I have a dorm-sized refrigerator (a double-cube size) with a busted freon unit. I have to get rid of it, but don't want it sitting in a landfill forever and a day. Any suggestions beyond my calling some recycling businesses? Perhaps one of you collects used refrigerators for a hobby? Thanks.



New NIJL Class at the DCJCC
Amanda Chorowski,

The National Institute for Jewish Leadership cordially invites you to join us for a new class designed for those interested or involved in public policy: Torah perspectives on leadership and policy, taught by Rabbi Lei Shemtov, Director of American Friends of Lubavitch, September 9, October 7, and November 11, 6:30 pm, at the DCJCC.

Rabbi Shemtov will focus on the roots of leadership in Judaism and the application of our leadership roles to contemporary social action. Members: $10 / Non Members: $12 (For the series.) Attendance is limited. Contact Amanda (202) 518-9400 x271 or by September 2 for pre-paid registration. NIJL participants receive priority registration. A kosher meal will be available for $10 from the DCJCC own Center City Cafe. Please indicate if you are interested when you register.


Mount Pleasant Arts Festival Needs Artists
Rebecca Shannon,

We've got funding, we've got dance and music, and now we need arts and crafts persons to participate in the Mount Pleasant Arts Festival on October 3 from 1:00 pm to 6:00 pm. Only $10 for a 10 x 10 foot space. For an application, call 745-5808.



Administrative Assistant
Margaret A. Siegel,

Busy consultant seeks flexible experienced part-time administrative assistant to help her keep her head above water, and the paper from overflowing her Cleveland Park office. Systems are in good order, but filing is desperately needed, and help in organizing materials for busy fall. Fall work will include reviewing materials, assisting with data base, and handling correspondence. Please respond to Margaret A. Siegel, (202) 244-4636, fax: (202) 244-9566,


Dave Nuttycombe,

From's LOOSE LIPS column, appearing this Friday:
HERE WE GO AGAIN: Since signing on in May as a municipal bonds consultant for the New York-based investment banking firm M.R. Beal & Co., Mayor-for-Life Marion S. Barry Jr. has no doubt had to get acquainted with the lonely reality of the corporate drone. Reporters aren't always following you around, you have no civic goodies to offer, and pundits aren't hanging on your every move.
Hunger for the old sort of attention last week apparently inspired Hizzoner — or a pal who can hardly be discouraged by anything the former mayor has said since — to plant gossip about a Barry return to electoral politics as a candidate for one of the two at-large D.C. Council seats open next year. At last Thursday's memorial service for former Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas, the “Barry at-large” rumors were moving faster than the hand fans used by sweaty mourners to cool their faces.
Read the entire Loose Lips column here:

From's CITY LIGHTS page, here are a few early warnings for upcoming events:
FRIDAY: Private eye Ed Pankau presents a seminar, "Hide It All and Disappear," 6 p.m. at First Class, 1726 20th St. NW. $39.
SATURDAY: Telegraph Melts, 33.3, Threnody Ensemble, 6 p.m. at DCCD, 2423 18th St. NW. Free.
More details and more critics' picks are available online at


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