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August 22, 1999

Public Service

Dear Public Benefactors:

If DC is ever to be a state, I propose renaming it the state of High Dudgeon, because that's the state it keeps me in. Doesn't the phrase “public servant” have an outdated, obsolete sound? Ivan C.A. Walks, the city's newly appointed public health director, is going to receive $227,000 a year in salary and benefits. Arlene Ackerman, the superintendent of schools, is negotiating a multi-year contract with comparable terms. High level city officials, who used to serve at the pleasure of the mayor because, after all, they are political appointees, now get generous golden parachutes when they are fired or leave the government. Camille Cates Barnett, the former city administrator, got a package worth well over $200,000 when her services were no longer required after less than one year; Reba Pittman Evans was Mayor Williams' Chief of Staff for around three short months before she was given about fifty thousand dollar in severance to leave quietly, and many other officials have received similar nice going away gifts. Our city councilmembers had to have the full weight of Congress fall on them to cut back the fifteen percent salary increase they had granted themselves to raise their part-time salaries close to $100,000.

There's a new attitude among the current crop of our city's employees: “public service” means the services the public can do for them. They enter government careers to do well rather than to do good. The excuse that the new crop of plushly compensated government officials use when their salaries and benefits come to our attention is that we should think of the DC government as a $5 billion corporation, and should compare the salaries they get in government to what the officers of private corporations are paid. Well, the government isn't a corporation. It spends public money, our money. It exists to promote the public good, not to produce profit for its managers. If we can't find public servants with a sense of mission and purpose, a sense of dedication, we should at least pass up the people who are in it just for the money.

Gary Imhoff


The Inequity Club
Larry Seftor,

The Post reports on Thursday that we are on the verge of water wars. Maryland officials feel that restrictions on water use are required while DC and Virginia officials believe that “reservoirs were built for just such a drought and that mandatory restrictions are unnecessary now.” I believe that the real problem here is the hurt feelings of those who live across Western Avenue from me. They are frustrated by the inequities in water use and want DC residents to cut back since they have to. Welcome to the inequity club. Now those folks know a little how I felt when their streets were plowed in all those snow storms and mine were not. For the first time in memory, living in DC provides an advantage!


Party at My House
Ed T. Barron,

Following the Mayor's example, and wanting to instill a sense of community among the many readers and contributors to themail, I thought about hosting a party in the infamous Barron driveway for my supporters and detractors. I will provide the concrete area for the party. If there is a huge response I will ask the AU folks if I can use that vast expanse of concrete at the front of the AU Law School Building just up the street from my house.

As for the refreshments, I will happily provide ample quantities of water (not yet restricted in D.C.). All other beverages and food will be the responsibility of those attending this party. I'm working with a limited budget of about $11. You'll have to bring your own chairs.


Larry Seftor,

Living in DC means that one always has demons. My personal set includes Marion Barry, General Becton, and the Vermont Avenue Baptist Church. And right there at the top is PEPCO. I'm sure they would term the power outages a number of us suffered on August 20 as acts of God, but the outages are really the result of decisions by business people. Rather than capricious, these events are undoubtedly predicted with some accuracy by PEPCO's models, then balanced against the cost of repair. PEPCO has made the “cost-effective” decision to let the lights go out. Of course these models do NOT include the cost of customer inconvenience and disruption. (Has PEPCO ever offered to reimburse you for the cost of an outage?)

Despite that fact that all new installations are buried, PEPCO refuses to bury existing power lines due to the cost. (Although as a statistician who worked for the CENSUS department once told me, “just tell me what conclusion you want, and I'll supply the data.”) However, in Northwest DC the answer is simple and cheap. Rather than string power cables in the front of houses where the trees cause problems, string the power cables along the alleys, where in many cases there are already utility poles. The power lines would be less in jeopardy and less an eyesore. In fact, in light of all the rewiring for the upcoming internet revolution (optical fiber and all), it is the perfect time for PEPCO to correct its past blunders and move power lines to where they should have been all along.


DC Voting Rights: The Y2K Question
Tom Matthes,

The latest postings on the subject of DC statehood remind me of the famous campaign slogan, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” As I argued previously, DC citizens ought to have full home rule and votes in Congress, but activists in the city resemble a car driver spinning his wheels while stuck in the mud. Proof comes from the musings of John Whiteside about a “Greater Columbia” (read the “State of the Beltway”), while he concedes Maryland and Virginia are not going to surrender Arlington, Alexandria, and parts of Fairfax, Montgomery and Prince George's counties. Meanwhile, Aaron Lloyd complains about the “small ‘exclusive legislation’ section of the Constitution” that gives Congress control of DC. Must Mr. Lloyd be reminded that this “small” section is the same one that empowers Congress to declare war, raise an Army and Navy, and provide for the “common Defense and general welfare of the United States?” That's some small section. The Constitution uses a much smaller section to make the president “Commander in Chief.” And Mr. Lloyd is annoyed by Ed Barron's concern that the city learn to govern itself before seeking statehood. All over town there is discord and division on issues requiring unity and singleness of purpose.

As the millennium approaches, DC seems to have its own Y2K problem and not the one in cyberspace. Is DC closer to winning congressional votes and full home rule now than it was a hundred years ago? I think the answer is no. This year's efforts are being wasted on lawsuits that almost certainly will be rejected by the Supreme Court, if not by the lower courts. If they do succeed, the courts will have seized the power to amend the Constitution and assumed powers reserved to Congress — and the United States would cease to be a democracy — a modern equivalent to the Vietnam War (“We destroyed this village in order to save it”). I have more thoughts on the ongoing problems for DC voting rights and home rule, but will save them for another posting. Is there anyone out there with a serious argument that DC is making progress on these matters?


Dreams of Making the “Diamond” Whole
Mark Richards, Dupont East,

Whiteside said that northern VA and western MD have more in common with DC than other parts of their states — which is probably accurate (just ask the other parts of their states!). For many years, there were dreams of making the “Diamond” whole. Here is a bit of the history: attempts to retrocede began just after the federal government assumed jurisdiction over the three cities in George Washington's hand-picked District — Georgetown, Alexandria, and Washington. The first efforts were made in 1803, followed by attempts in 1804, 1818, and 1834. Georgetown and Alexandria advocated retrocession, but not Washington City. By 1846, as the slavery/property issue intensified, Alexandria City led the Virginia portion in retrocession, and the federal government quietly agreed — contingent on Alexandria's approval by referendum (the referendum excluded Alexandria Country). (I believe this is the only instance the US government used a referendum.) The referendum passed, 763 for, 222 against. After, citizens of Alexandria Country raised hell, saying “The country portion of the inhabitants of said county were not consulted ... or advised of the intention to seek a change of our allegiance, the whole proceeding having been concocted and determined upon in secret meeting of the corporation of Alexandria, an irresponsible body....”

There was also disagreement about the wisdom and legality both in the District and in Congress. Lincoln urged reclaiming it in 1861, and some in Alexandria, having been occupied by the military for four years, requested it. But after Lincoln's assassination and with reconstruction, the issue died down. In 1908, Amos Casselman wrote a paper for the Columbia Historical Society contending that retrocession had been against the public interest and unconstitutional. Lawyers both affirmed and denied this. In 1875, an attempt was made to get a decision by the Supreme Court, but the court, avoiding taking a position, held that the US and VA were the parties to the act and, if both were satisfied, it was not competent for a private litigant to question the constitutionality of the act. In 1886, the Senate Committee on the District of Columbia considered the issue (the McMillan plan revived interest in restoration). But the Department of Justice wrote that the constitutionality had not been judicially determined. In 1902, a joint resolution was introduced in both house of Congress directing the Attorney General to bring suit to determine the constitutionality, and it was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee. That committee determined that it was a political, not a judicial question, a fait accompli. It went no further. Until 1920, there was talk of restoration, but Constance Green writes that when Alexandria County was formed, that hope was dashed.

I couldn't disagree more with Barron's statement that “We have not earned the right to genuine representation yet.” We were born with the rights and responsibilities of citizenship; our good deeds do not improve on our birthright. Even so, the people of DC HAVE earned it by sacrificing their most basic right for 200 years while the federal government grew strong roots. Today, there is no reason for DC's exclusion, any more than blacks or women should have been excluded previously. When DC has real rights and responsibilities, with worthwhile elected offices, quality leaders will fight for them. But DC is little more than a government agency or reservation, granted limited “home rule” status in exchange for the right to fund the whole charade — this municipality owns nothing, really. Some may be proud that the District is still a ward of the state. I'm more ashamed of that than anything.


What’s Going on at Arizona and Nebraska
Kerry Jo Richards,

Most mornings I travel across Northwest and end up taking the left turn onto Arizona Avenue from Nebraska Avenue. The intersection is usually fine, stop signs all ways. I go slow down Arizona because it is a residential street, but often have people zooming around me — so I'm always wishing for a speed trap. But instead I've noticed that the last week (8/16 - 8/19 ish) there has been a police presence standing at the intersection (on foot) looking into cars as they pass with a stern look. People are certainly coming to full stops now, but a long traffic jam has ensued. Does anyone know what they're looking for? Is it just a bid to get people to stop running through stop signs (although it seems silly to have three men out there, just in case, right in plain view!)? I'm just curious to know what it's all about! Thanks.


DC Schools Back in the Good Old Days
Mark Richards, East Dupont,

In 1968, the year MLK and RFK were assassinated and riots broke out, DC was granted the right to elect a school board. That was over 30 years ago. Here are excerpts from articles in Bill Adler's Washington: A Reader (1967): Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy: “We’ve got the finest public buildings in the world here in Washington; but our school buildings are shameful. We have the world’s greatest books in our archives; but the books in our schools are fourth-rate. It's easy to get action here when there's an explosion in Saigon or Caracas, but you can have an explosive situation a few hundred yards from the Capitol and key officials look the other way.” Bill Davidson (1963): “Under the grotesque system of government set up by Congress in 1878, the three D.C. commissioners (who share their limited power with other agencies, such as the Board of Education, which is appointed by, of all people, the Federal District judges) must come hat in hand to McMillan and Company for legislation -- even for the money which the city collects in local taxes.”

Ben Bagdikian (1965) wrote, “there are 2,100 elementary school children in Washington who attend school for only half a day for lack of space.... Public school enrollment is 90 per cent Negro. In 1954 the schools integrated, there was a noticeable migration of white families from the District to the suburbs.... Today the physical plant is decrepit. A third of all Washington school buildings are over 50 years old; the school-administration building is 97 years old. Only half of the elementary schools have room for libraries because children are crowded into every available bit of space, including basements. Two years ago there was one elementary school librarian in the entire system of more than 140,000 children. In 1941 Congress was asked to replace a junior high school known as 'Horrible Hine,' now 78 years old. The new building was completed this year. In 1948 Congress was asked to replace another junior high known as 'Shameful Shaw.' Congress still refuses funds, though there are 1,434 students in the 63-year old school, which has 1,167 capacity. Over the last 10 years Congress has granted millions of dollars to school systems all over the country for the education of children of Federal employees stationed in their areas.... It refused until this year, to provide any such funds for Washington, though Washington public schools carry about 30,000 children of Federal families stationed in the city.” NY Times Guide to the Nation's Capital (1967): “Their (DC citizens) school system is at the mercy of people who may never spend a night in Washington. ...[T]hose who are well-to-do and have influence outside the colony live well. The public schools are decaying. Public housing is inadequate. The municipal orphanage is a local scandal and the welfare program is designed to destroy the family that is destitute. By contrast, the police force is good.... In effect then, government in the District works for the benefit of the minority in the Northwest and the middle-class suburban commuters, whose Congressmen are usually entrenched in the ruling communities.” Are there any measures of how things have changed in 30 years — surely they're not worse, are they?


Life in the City
Dorothy Brizill,

Just when I've had it with DC, and just when trips to the relatively hassle free tranquility of the suburbs only seem to highlight the difficulties of living in DC, I experience one of those brief simple moments which make living in town worthwhile and glorious.

Early Sunday morning in Dupont Circle. No tourists or suburbanites, just local folks, so it's easy to find a parking space. A double latte at Xando, the coffee shop at Connecticut and R. Sitting at a sidewalk cafe table, reading the Washington Post and the New York Times. (Interesting articles about fall/winter travel deals to Europe.) By 9 a.m., the farmers' market on the Riggs Bank parking lot opens with the best of late summer farm produce. Twenty varieties of tomatoes, five varieties of peaches, fresh herbs. Vendors and neighborhood residents kibitz and trade recipes. Now, this is real community, and DC at its best.


DC Does It Ad Campaign
Patrick Shaughness, Palisades,

Bus advertising read on my way home: Keesha says “I was real scared to get tested for HIV. But I was real glad I did. My test came back negative — and I just want it to stay that way. So these days I insist on condoms. I always keep one with me just in case.” This is from the DC anti-AIDS campaign, which leaves unanswered the question “In case of what?”

Lately it's been in fashion to beat up on those mean conservative Oklahoma Republicans who wouldn't let us count our medical marijuana votes or have taxpayer-funded needle exchanges. On this particular issue, Keesha, or her sisters, or maybe her daughter, would be better off if her city was governed by the starchiest, most abstemious Republican we could find.


Mobile Phones
Peter Luger,

I signed up for Sprint PCS about two months ago and I'm considering throwing my phone out the window (but I promise I won't do it while driving on Rock Creek Parkway). About the only good thing about Sprint is there is no service contract, so the only thing I've lost is the money I spent on the phone ($120). While in Rehoboth Beach two weeks ago, I had bad service, could not access my voicemail and people who called me got a message that my number was not in service. Rehoboth is supposed to be a covered area on the PCS network. When I phoned Sprint, from the PCS phone, they said, “maybe you're out of the service area?” I said, “but I'm calling you from my phone.” They weren't moved.

This past weekend, I was in Chicago, another PCS area. I, again, could not access my voicemail. I also got reports from friends that when they called they got messages that my phone was not in service. I called Sprint when I returned from Chicago and they “discovered” that THEY had forwarded my voicemail into oblivion. So, I thought all was well until yesterday when someone told me they had been trying to call me all day but kept getting a message that the phone was being checked for trouble. The phone was sitting on my desk, turned on, and I had used it. I had not reported any trouble. I'd look into Nextel. A friend has it and he rarely complains, although I don't know if he uses it out of the DC-Baltimore-Annapolis-Rehoboth area much.


District Cablevision
Randi Rubovits-Seitz,

Encouraged by the communications in themail about District Cablevision service, and subsequent personal communications with Bill Rice and others, we called Patrick Carroll (635-5521) about our long-standing inability to watch channel 4 at all, and intermittently unacceptable picture on the other network stations. We'd long ago given up on this, as repeated phone calls and service visits in the past yielded no improvement, and we were told, repeatedly, that nothing could be done about it.

Mr. Carroll was very responsive, pleasant, efficient and effective. He had service technicians to our house at our convenience, and also had them working on the cable machinery in the neighborhood. When the first round of servicing made no improvement, he sent others, who did indeed find the problem and corrected it. He followed up with phone calls and credited our bill for some months of cable charges.


AT&T Seeks Council’s Consent to Buy Remainder of DC Cablevision
Jeffrey Hops, Interim Chair, DC Cable Television Advisory Committee,

On June 22, District Cablevision filed a request with the District to transfer the remaining 25% partnership interest in the District Cablevision holding company to AT&T, giving AT&T 100% ownership and control. According to paperwork filed with the City, this deal is worth approximately $50 million. The franchise agreement and District law prohibit the transfer without the express consent of City Council, which must act upon the proposal within 90 days — September 20, 1999. (See DC Code Sec. 43-1820).

The Council may consider, before approving the transfer, whether or not AT&T will provide adequate minority and local ownership and control of the franchise, and a satisfactory record of performance, timeliness, integrity, business ethics, organization, experience, and technical equipment and facilities. AT&T must comply with the terms of the franchise, which requires District Cablevision to provide adequate facilities, consumer services, programming, infrastructure (including telecommunications infrastructure for use by the city government) and overall performance. One specific provision of the franchise requires that minority persons comprise at least sixty percent of the cable operator's governing body and the trustees of the voting trust. In its application, AT&T submitted paperwork pledging to comply with the terms of the franchise as written. I would be pleased to provide copies of this franchise for interested people.

The District government needs to hear your voice with respect to this proposed transfer. Please contact Darryl Anderson, Director of the Office of Cable Television at (202) 671-0066, or your member of City Council to express your support for or opposition to this transaction. And of course, I invite you to contact me at any time if you are interested in this proceeding, the upcoming renewal of AT&T’s cable franchise with the city, the upcoming franchise negotiation, cable access to internet services, or any other matter concerning telecommunications services in the District.


Traffic Reporting in the District
Jim Farley, VP, News and Programming, WTOP Radio and,

Adam Marshall asks why WTOP's traffic reports cover only Maryland and Virginia, not the District. Our traffic reports DO include DC. We hear from listeners who think we cover only Maryland, or only Virginia and sometimes, yes, only DC. The most important traffic situation at given time is the one YOU happen to be in. We report the biggest problems at the times we know about them.

There is, however, a difference between DC and the two states. Virginia and Maryland provide an extensive system of traffic cameras aimed at their busiest highways. Some counties (Montgomery, for example) supplement that with their own traffic cameras. And they have traffic command centers hooked up to state and county police to provide us with a steady stream of information. The District? Nothing of the sort. Not even a half-hearted effort by police to keep traffic moving (don't get WTOP's Bob Marbourg started on THAT subject!). Worse, there are zones of exclusion where our traffic airplanes cannot fly (like over the White House or the Vice President's residence on Massachusetts Avenue).

One of our traffic partners, Metro, has installed new traffic cameras for us, including one on top of the Willard Hotel that can turn 360 degrees. More will follow (at our expense since DC does not do what MDOT and VDOT and Montgomery County do for their citizens). And we invite readers of themail to phone in DC traffic problems to the WTOP Traffic Center. It's open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Pound 1500 is a free call on Bell Atlantic Mobile. Star 1500 is a free call on Cell One. Otherwise it is a local DC (202) number: 895 5047. We read themail regularly here in the WTOP newsroom, located right here in the District. Most other “Washington” radio stations fled to the 'burbs.


Restore the Taft Bridge Four
Charlie Wellander,

The lions have been away from their bridge since April 1994, and are currently sojourning in Southeast. On February 14 of this year, The Washington Post reported that the lions were moved from an underground storage area near Third and New York Avenue, NW, to the workshops of Professional Restoration, Inc., 1338 Half St, SE. That company has a $750,000 contract and until August 2000 to finish the work of making new lions (exact replicas of our old buddies) in the type of concrete and exact shade of yellow intended by the original sculptor, Roland Hinton Perry.

There's additional interesting history and some great photos at . Do note, however, that the lions' web site has not been updated since 1997.


Vernor’s Ginger Ale
Janet Hess,

I once served Vernor's to a friend and she thought she'd gone to heaven! She's from Canton, Ohio, and had sung the praises of Vernor's; I happened across a six-pack at Brookville Market here in Cleveland Park. I haven't seen it there recently, but if you call Jim at Brookville, I'll bet he'll help you get it. BTW, I'd never had Vernor's before and really enjoyed it. Good stuff!


Tom Arrison,

As of last week, the Giant on Wisconsin Avenue in Cleveland Park was stocking regular and diet Vernor's in cans. On the eastern end of the store, between the ice cream and baked goods, there's an aisle with somewhat exotic items, and that's where it is.


Vernor’s Source
Cheryl Fox,

Not sure if you're up for a drive, but Graul's supermarket just outside Annapolis carries Vernor's. BTW, I bought a six pack a little while ago, but still can't figure out what it is. The can says “ginger soda,” but it's nothing like Canada Dry. Just wondering.


Lame Redskins
Dave Nuttycombe,

Stephanie Mencimer wrote: “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.”

LAME Redskins movie?!? May I remind Ms. Mencimer that the movie, tentatively titled “The Replacements,” stars Keanu Reeves and is directed by the guy who gave us Odd Couple II and Grumpier Old Men. I'm there!


More about Figs
Judith Turner;

I'd love to put a fig tree into the garden. When I read about it the first time, I was told it had to be protected from winter with a chicken wire cage filled with leaves. Has anyone done anything different and had it work? How much sun? How much protection? We love figs!

[I'm the quintessential anti-gardener, so, if our fig tree survives — with no care whatsoever — yours probably will, too. We moved into the house after a bitterly cold winter, and the fig tree had died back to, and been cut back to, nothing but a stump. Within three years, it was bearing again, and it has had increasingly large crops of figs every year since. Does anyone who actually knows something about horticulture want to advise? — Gary Imhoff]


Mangoes and Figs
Gene Hoffman,

I don't give a fig a bout the city's problems in light of the chutney. Let's focus on important things and let the city take care of itself for a change. Could you post the recipe?

[Chutney is nothing but fruit and spices, hot or cold, as a sauce or relish. Dorothy uses whatever is available that seems to work together. The trick is good fruit. You probably won't find fresh figs, since they spoil too fast to be sold commercially in large quantities. Right now, peaches or nectarines are a good substitute. If you don't find good ripe mangoes, a great substitute is frozen mango chunks — a pound bag is just 99 cents at Trader Joe's. Chutney can be spicy — add chopped onions and peppers if you want — or it can be sweet, with a little extra sugar and spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. Dorothy promises she'll measure everything the next time, and post a recipe then. — Gary Imhoff]


Optometrist Recommendation
Lorraine Swerdloff,

Can anyone recommend an optometrist who's careful and keeps up with developments in the field — and who also has staff with good judgment to help with frame selection (and good choice of frames)? Thanks!



Memorial Vigil for Joseph Ileto
Jon Katz, Vice President for Programs, Philippine-American Bar Association,

All are invited to a memorial vigil for Joseph Ileto, who was killed on August 10 shortly after the shootings at the North Valley Jewish Community Center in California. Mr. Ileto was Philippine-American, and worked for the postal service. The National Day of Remembrance and Memorial Vigil takes place on Thursday, August 26, 1999, Jewish Community Center, 1529 16th St NW (corner 16th & R). 5:30 p.m., press conference; 6:00 p.m., memorial service; 7:00 p.m., community forum; and 8:30 p.m., reception. Numerous community and national organizations, including Filipino, Asian, and Jewish organizations are co-sponsoring the event. To co-sponsor the event, or to obtain a faxed flyer or more information, contact Jon Melegrito, NaFFAA, , 986-9330, or Gloria T. Caoile, APALA, 529-1101. Please publicize this event.


Dog Days of Summer
Julie Makinen Bowles,

Dogs and owners of all shapes, sizes and breeds are invited to Mount Pleasant's annual Dog Show, Pups in the Park, on Saturday, August 28 at Lamont Park, at the corner of Lamont and Mount Pleasant Streets. Contestant check-in begins at 9 a.m., and the program starts at 10 a.m. Compete in categories such as Best Bark, Best Groomed, Best Trick, Waggiest Tail, Dog/Owner Lookalike, Most Obedient and Most Adorable. There will also be an audience's choice award. We will have refreshments and demonstrations by dog trainers, groomers and the DC police k-9 unit. Registration is free! You can win prizes!

For more information, check out our registration form at , send an email to , or call me at 202-987-7876.



Need Help Finding a Workshop/Seminar Space in DC and Arlington
Steve Anderson,

I am new to the DC area and need to find a seminar/workshop space in DC and Arlington. It doesn't have to be a large space, but needs to accommodate a minimum of 20-25 people. Does anyone have any thoughts or ideas? Most of my programs are development work for an upcoming publication called “Redefining Success for the 21st Century: Moving from the Era of Accomplishment to the Era of Fulfillment,” and are donation only, so a low cost or free space would be ideal. E-mail or call me at 202.462.1286.



So Fer Free
Phil Shapiro, Chevy Chase, DC,

I don't know quite how to couch this, but I have a sofa to give away. Functional, not fancy. First come, first served. Light brown upholstery. Upper northwest DC.


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