Lifes No Picnic
Bryce Suderow and Ed Barron say they don't see the improvement. If you do,
let us know where you found it. But don't tell me the potholes have been repaired I
was out driving around the city today, and the streets are in good repair like the
Emperor's new clothes are beautiful. To relate this to the government salary discussion we
continue in this issue of themail, if we're paying higher and higher salaries (and
sky-high salaries compared to other cities), what are we getting for it? Please be
Parenthetically, I hereby award Lee Perkins themail's conciseness award.
You'll see why below.
I enjoyed reading Amanda Ripley's piece on the Mayor's picnic in Ward 6 in
this week's City Paper. Actually, the picnic was even more of a disaster than she
was aware. Some weeks ago, Mayor Williams' office informed people that there would be a
picnic in Ward 6 in early October. Then, out of nowhere, the Mayor's office decided to
hold the picnic on Saturday, August 21st, and they made the decision only a little more
than a week before the new date. Anyone familiar with Ward 6 is aware that the month of
August is the worst time of the year to hold a picnic. Nearly everyone leaves town.
Apparently the Mayor's office didn't think of this. They also seem to have failed to
publicize the event. No one I have talked to ever saw any flyers or notices sent out by
the Mayor's office. Consequently, here on the Hill, very few people even knew there was a
About one week before the Ward 6 picnic, the Mayor's office began to worry
about attendance at the picnic. They phoned the D.C. Library system and begged them to
ensure that people attended the picnic. Accordingly, Roxanna Deane, one of the top
officials in the Library system, phoned SE Branch Library about a week before the picnic
and asked them to send a staff person to the picnic to help boost attendance. Since only
two staff members were scheduled to work on the day of the picnic, they could not comply
with the request. Only about 40 people showed up for the event, a pathetic turnout. The
Ward 8 picnic would have been as big a fiasco at the Ward 6 fiasco if citizens like Sandra
Seegars had not publicized the event by passing out flyers and if Ward 8 businesses had
not raised money to buy the food.
If the Mayor's handling of these two picnics was an isolated example of
incompetence, I wouldn't be alarmed. But City Council members tell me that the entire
staff of Mayor Williams' office is constantly fumbling the ball and unaware of the most
basic problems out here in the rest of the city. Metro reporters tell me off the record
that the Williams administration is just as incompetent as the Sharon Pratt Kelly
administration of a few years ago. A group of citizens and I met with the mayor's staff on
three occasions and we found that so-called public safety experts from the Mayor's office
Monty Wilkinson and Eric Christian were completely unaware of and
uninterested in the crime problems on the streets of Washington. The poor performance of
the Mayor's office raises a number of questions: If the Mayor can't even put together
something as simple as a picnic, how can he hope to close this city's drug markets (as he
claims he will do in August 26's Post? How can he reform the D.C. Government? And
won't public faith in this city's government be severely shaken when people realize that
Anthony Williams who ran as Mr. Fix-It is unable to govern this city?
Wheres the Beef?
Ed T. Barron, firstname.lastname@example.org
It has been ten months since we elected Tony Williams Mayor of D.C. and
eight months since he took office. Like many others, I voted for Tony because he seemed to
have all the characteristics and personality traits that would allow him to evolve into a
true charismatic leader. I knew it would take a little time for him to adapt to his new
role and to begin to overcome the built in resistance to change. To date, however, I don't
see any real efforts on the part of our new Mayor to evolve as a charismatic leader. I see
a lot of reactionary activity in response to things that happen in D.C., but I don't see
any pro-active activities to make the right things happen. Where's the beef?
Full of the Dickens
Mark Richards, Dupont East, email@example.com
In 1842, just before Alexandria retroceded, Charles Dickens arrived in DC
from Philly by steamboat. In American Notes for General Circulation he
described Washington as the head-quarters of tobacco-tinctured saliva because
so many officials chewed tobacco and spit ... on the walls, floors, everywhere. Here is
more of what he wrote: The hotel in which we live, is a long row of small houses
fronting on the street, and opening at the back upon a common yard, in which hangs a great
triangle. Whenever a servant is wanted, somebody beats on this triangle from one stroke up
to seven, according to the number of the house in which his presence is required; and as
all the servants are always being wanted, and none of them ever come, this enlivening
engine is in full performance the whole day through. Clothes are drying in the same yard;
female slaves, with cotton handkerchiefs twisted round their heads, are running to and fro
on the hotel business; black waiters cross and recross with dishes in their hands; two
great dogs are playing upon a mound of loose bricks in the centre of the little square; a
pig is turning up his stomach to the sun, and grunting thats
comfortable!; and neither the men, nor the women, not the dogs, nor the pig, nor any
created creature, takes the smallest notice of the triangle, which is tingling madly all
It is sometimes called the City of Magnificent Distances, but it
might with greater propriety be termed City of Magnificent Intentions; for it is only on
taking a birds-eye view of it from the top of the Capitol, that one can at all
comprehend the vast designs of its projector, an aspiring Frenchman. [BTW: Major Charles
Pierre L'Enfant, a temperamental gay man, was loved by G. Washington and locals for his
design, but not by the three commissioners, whom he infuriated.] Spacious avenues, that
begin in nothing, and lead nowhere; streets, mile-long, that only want houses, roads and
inhabitants; public buildings that need but a public to be complete; and ornaments of
great thoroughfares, which only lack great thoroughfares to ornament -- are its leading
features. . . . To the admirers of cities it is a Barmecide Feast [illusory abundance]; a
pleasant field for the imagination to rove in; a monument raised to a deceased project,
with not even a legible inscription to record its departed greatness. Such as it is, it is
likely to remain. It was originally chosen for the seat of Government, as a means of
averting the conflicting jealousies and interests of the different States; and very
probably, too, as being remote from mobs: a consideration not to be slighted, even in
America. . . . Few people would live in Washington, I take it, who were not obliged to
reside there; and the tides of emigration and speculation, those rapid and regardless
currents, are little likely to flow at any time toward such dull and sluggish water.
DC Government Salaries
Anne Drissel, firstname.lastname@example.org
The days when we as a nation got away with paying public officials
comparatively low salaries to run multi-million dollar agencies affecting the lives of
millions of people are over. Skilled, competent, dedicated people are in high demand in
every industry, not only in this country but abroad. Most of these high achievers tend to
"follow the dollar" into jobs where their earning potential is highest. Sure,
there are many who forego high income in order to serve the people. But these
people are increasingly rare. Meanwhile, the complexities of demands on local, state, and
federal public employees is growing. People are demanding quality, efficiency, and
effectiveness of the corporate performance of government agencies comparable
to the private sector. That calls for staff with skills comparable to the private sector
and competitive salaries to attract and retain such high-quality staffing.
The bottom line: we get what we pay for. If we expect to turn this city
around, we are going to have to pay for the salaries to attract the competent staff. It
means paying medical staff rates for medically trained officials handling administrative
duties a common practice nationwide. It means paying executive level salaries where
the market is highly competitive. Not all positions will have the same apparent valuation.
Appointing officials including the Mayor will make mistakes. There will be
turnover, terminations. We'll be stuck with paying out severance pay or severance clauses
on employment contracts for senior officials and other contractual employees if necessary
when things don't work out or circumstances change dramatically. It also means we should
keep DEMANDING performance for what we're paying.
But then again how is it that the DC Schools with some of
the nation's highest school system salaries at all levels has one of the most
dismal records of performance in the nation?
You Get What You Pay For
Ed T. Barron, email@example.com
Or so says John Arbuckle. The problem I have with all the big salaries
being paid out is that there are so many of them. The District Government is way too top
heavily loaded with highly paid administrators. This top heavy hierarchical bureaucracy
that was created during Barry's heyday is still with us and we have seen no attempts by
our new mayor to restructure this government. Pay should be based on performance and
solely on performance. That could be in the form of bonuses for individuals or teams that
make things happen.
If we had a more efficient and effective organizational structure
(functional and team based) we would need far less watchers and could pay the people who
make things happen a better salary for better performance. The problem in most
organizations is that many people do not have specific targets for their jobs and,
therefore, they cannot be measured against a standard to see how well they are performing.
When raise time comes around they are told they did not jump high enough to clear the
invisible bar. It's timely to step back and to re-form the District's organizations into a
much more efficient structure where each organization has a clear measurable mission and
time oriented goals. Translate these goals into individual goals and you have standards to
measure performance. The invisible bar becomes visible.
I believe the U.S. poverty level is defined as an income of $28,000 or
less for a family of four. I find it shocking that the median family income in D.C. is
only $32,000 today's (8-26-99) Washington Post reported that the median
family income in Fairfax County is $87,569 and in Montgomery County it's $74,898!
But I don't think a jurisdiction's median family income should dictate how
much its government workers earn. I think they should make at least as much as their
corporate counterparts, where counterparts exist. And whether corporate counterparts exist
or not, ask yourself: is it important to you that potholes get fixed and trash gets hauled
and thieves get arrested and kids get taught? If it is important, then pay people
government workers enough to attract the best and brightest who will get the job done.
And yes, I agree that a top D.C. official should not make as much as the
U.S. President. Maybe the President should make more.
For years, people entrenched themselves in government jobs because they
were decent paying (not high paying) had good benefits (including pensions) and
vacation/sick time, they were pretty secure (nearly impossible to get fired from) and the
work hours were exactly 40 hours per week, with flexibility in the schedule to work late,
work early, work four 10 hour days instead of five 8 hour days. Now that the private
sector has taken off and people are making more money, suddenly those government jobs
aren't so great anymore. Well, there was supposed to be something admirable about
performing public service that made up for the money. Apparently not. Any government
worker is free to apply for the many, many available private sector jobs that they believe
they have the skills to perform and are so underpaid doing for the government. In a couple
of years, should the economy take a downturn, they may clamor for their old jobs back.
As far as elected officials, underpayment can be a serious problem,
although in DC, where it's a part time job, I don't believe they are underpaid. Granted,
some of the Council members work much more than part time (I believe Kathy Patterson, Jim
Graham and Carol Schwartz have all given up outside employment), but they could change the
job to full time through legislation. I doubt Jack Evans, Charlene Drew Jarvis, Kevin
Chavous (and whomever else I've unfairly left out of the list) would want to give up their
lucrative full time jobs that they couldn't possibly spend anywhere near 40
hours per week pursuing. In the Federal Government, most of the elected officials, whether
I agree with them politically or not, work extraordinary hours and have heavy demand that
they can't possibly fulfill. At the very least, Congressman and Senators should receive
stipends based upon locality. It would seem to be a lot cheaper for Sen. Mikulski of
Maryland to go home to her state every day than it does for Sen. Feinstein of California.
Gary, there are many of us in the District who do not work for either the
local or federal government. To that end we may not have an idea about the level of
salaries for various positions. Before we can comment on the underpayment or overpayment,
a range of salaries for certain positions would be helpful. It would also seem obvious at
the outset that Lois Kirkpatrick does not even take into account the many other benefits
for working for the government.
Too much. [In response to: Are our elected officials, our top
managers, and our line employees paid enough? (Or too much for the actual work they do?)
And how should we measure enough?]
About time, too! [In response to: UDC is under FBI investigation,
Tom Sherwood noted. . . .]
Secret Service Hit and Run?
Tony Ross, firstname.lastname@example.org
Last night at about 7:45 pm, as the rain started getting heavier, I was on
the corner of Connecticut Avenue and Ordway Street, NW, and saw a valet parking guy from
the Yanyu restaurant crash into a parked car (it looked like he threw it into drive
instead of reverse), knocking the car so forcefully that it rammed into the car parked in
front of it. The interesting thing was that directly next to him was a Secret Service
patrol car. I saw the officer look at the accident, sit there for a moment, and then drive
on not to return and then moments later the valet parking guy drove off. I
heard two or three people exclaim, Look at that, that cop drove right off! I
wondered myself if the officer maybe didn't want to get soaked dealing with some little
fender bender, and thus took off.
So, my question is this: what are the responsibilities of uniformed Secret
Service patrol officers in situations like this? I could swear I've seen them handing out
moving violation tickets from time to time. The problem is that even if they have no
responsibility in a situation like this, it creates a bad impression of DC Police. I'd
like to think that most DC residents are savvy enough to distinguish between the various
kinds of police we have in this city, but obviously that's not the case. Who can I
I probably missed this, but does anyone know whether or not the District
will get its own quarter? I think these new quarters are great and look forward to seeing
new ones when they come out. If we are going to have our own quarter, has it been decided
what will be on the back? And, does anyone else out there think it odd that New Jersey
chose a scene of someone leaving New Jersey?
Does anyone know who, what, why the trees along the railroad next to the
Anacostia Freeway got such a hideous butcher job during the middle of the drought? It's
not as if these trees were growing so lushly that they were blocking visibility. (These
trees were struggling like all of our urban trees.) They did, however, provide the
citizens of Anacostia with a very minimal buffer from the noise and fumes of the freeway
and the rail line. I had long thought that the buffer needed to be widened. It is
heartbreaking to find it carelessly destroyed.
Reverse Commuting Discovery
John Whiteside, email@example.com
For those such as Jeffrey Itell and myself, who commute out to the distant
Virginia burbs from DC or just outside, this may be useful: finding myself sans vehicle
for a day, I checked out Fairfax Connector's schedules. Much to my shock, they've changed
everything since I first considered commuting by public transit (and discovered it was
incredibly slow and expensive). There are lots of buses, and the fare from West Falls
Church out to the Dulles area is just 75 cents 25 cents with a Metro transfer. I
took it from Arlington to Herndon today; transit time 35 minutes (vs 30-40 by car), cost
$1.80 (metro + bus), vs (at 33 cents a mile for gas and tolls and wear and tear) $8. (That
doesn't include wear and tear on ME.)
Since I got a call from the shop (where my vehicle is now) to tell me
about $300 in unanticipated repairs, this is kind of appealing. There's a web site with
schedules at http://www.co.fairfax.va.us/comm/trans/Connect.htm
DC Voting Rights: The LaRoche Amendments
Tom Matthes, firstname.lastname@example.org
Amend: to change or revise (a legislative bill, law, constitution,
etc.) Webster's New World College Dictionary. When George LaRoche
claims that the Adams vs. Clinton case does not ask the courts to amend the U.S.
Constitution, he must have neglected to coordinate his spin with the folks who put
together its web site. The Constitution does not read, New States may be added by
the courts into this Union. That power is delegated to Congress by Article IV,
Section 3. But that would no longer be true if the courts accept the arguments in Adams
vs. Clinton. The web site for this lawsuit (and the alternative lawsuit of Alexander vs.
Daley) says of the Adams case, If Plaintiff's [sic] win: Congress will be forced to
stop segregating DC from the rest of the U.S. DC citizens can choose to either to join a
state or to become a state. Until that time, DC would manage its own affairs. In
addition to revising Article IV, Section 3, this would repeal (or change) by judicial fiat
the provision in Article I., Section 8, that assigns Congress the power To exercise
exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever over
the Seat of the government of
the United States. Therefore Mr. LaRoche's statement that Adams v. Clinton does not
ask the courts to amend the Constitution is false.
There is nothing wrong with advocating statehood for DC, but the Adams
remedy would destroy our constitutional democracy. If the courts can strip from Congress
its legislative powers over DC, they can assume the other powers listed in the same
section, such as declaring war, raising taxes, establishing post offices, etc. If the
courts can unilaterally make DC a state, they can also create other new states. If they
can attach DC to another state, they can alter the borders of other states. If the courts
can take away the powers of Congress, they can also remove the powers of the president.
The federal government would no longer consist of three coequal branches; to paraphrase
George Orwell, the judicial branch would be more equal than the others. Moreover, since
Article V reserves the power of amending the Constitution to Congress and the States, our
written Constitution will be meaningless, because the nine justices of the Supreme Court
will be able to rewrite it at will. Mr. LaRoche will have done his part to make the world
safe for oligarchy.
District Cablevision, AT&T, Bob Johnson
Jeffrey Hops, Interim Chair, DC Cable Television Advisory Committee, email@example.com
Re: Richard Rothbaum's comments: First, all cable consumers should know
that on March 31, Congress eliminated virtually ALL cable rate regulation in the United
States (with the except of basic cable the package with only broadcast
stations and the access channels, which most cable operators won't even tell you they are
required by law to offer). Secondly, most state utility commissions have no jurisdiction
over cable it is completely a matter of local authority which city councils
have chosen to exercise to varying degrees. In the district, most day-to-day regulatory
authority is exercised by the Mayor's Office of Cable Television, but the DC City Council
has comprehensive oversight, particularly Charlene Drew Jarvis, head of the economic
Internet and local telephone access to cable platforms is THE hot issue in
telecommunications. Open access equals competition; closed access equal continued
monopolization. For people interested in how this will ultimately play out at the Supreme
Court, see the District of Oregon's decision, posted at http://www.mhcrc.org
(that's Mount Hood Regulatory Commission). A great deal of information is also available
at http://www.natoa.org (National Association of
Telecommunications Officers and Advisors).
Bob Johnson's name is in here because the untold story of the proposed
sale of District Cablevision's remaining interest to AT&T is that Bob Johnson is the
major remaining local shareholder in District Cablevision. According to the information
filed with the District, the amount of money Mr. Johnson (founder/owner of BET, etc.)
stands to make from this proposed deal is substantial. And when his interest is
extinguished, there will be no more effective local or minority presence in the ownership
or control of District Cablevision. And AT&T will have free rein to bring the nation's
capital its vision of the open market in action. As always, please feel free
to contact me if you want more information on internet/cable/phone or other related
telecommunications infrastructure issues.
Re: Nanny Stories
Michael Stempel, firstname.lastname@example.org
And will these stories be investigated for validity by the producers of
this national talk show by interviewing all parties involved, or should I just make up a
tale of high nanny drama and wait for my airline ticket?
I received a large amount of E-mail in response to my posting about a new
business being run in a house on my street. The story is not over, but I wanted to provide
a status report. In response to my request an inspector VERY promptly visited the house.
She found a business that was in violation of DC regulations since they had no Home
Occupation Permit, and she gave them two weeks to comply. More than one non-resident of
the house works there, but as this business is a partnership (an architectural firm), the
inspector views these outsiders as partners rather than employees. The inspector told me
that exempting partners is DC policy. This is my dispute with city officials.
DC Municipal regulation 203.4-d states that No more than one (1)
person who is not a resident of the dwelling unit shall be engaged or employed in the home
occupation. I'll admit that a partner may not be employed (although that is subject
to debate about the use of the word here), but a partner is certainly engaged. I plan to
write the DC Zoning Administrator, Michael Johnson, but I remain concerned that DC
officials seem to have a policy of seeking loopholes for scofflaws. I'll write to themail
with further developments.
Plumber and Electrician Recommendations Wanted
Steve Leraris, Crestwood, Leraris@aol.com
We're in need of a plumber and electrician for a bathroom installation.
My friend Pamela is in need of a good real estate agent who knows the
condo market in D.C.'s Red Line neighborhoods (Chevy Chase, Cleveland Park, Woodley,
Dupont, etc.). She's anxious to find somebody quickly because her financing package
expires at the end of September. If you know of someone you'd recommend, please email
Pamela directly at email@example.com .
Singles Night to Benefit AIDSWalk Washington
Kathy Carroll, firstname.lastname@example.org
Thursday, September 2nd, Singles Night to Benefit AIDSWalk Washington at
Singles Night to benefit AIDSWalk Washington at Fresh Fields/Arlington. Food, fun, music
and perhaps that special someone! Prizes too, including two United Airlines
tickets to anywhere in the continental US (one heckuva first date!) as well as other great
first date packages from the Washington Wizards, the Washington Capitals and
Universal Pictures! Tax deductible donation of $5 to support AIDSWalk Washington. For more
Footlights DC's only drama discussion group meets monthly to
discuss plays from the modern theater. Membership is free; we pass the hat to make
expenses. At our meeting Monday, September 13, we will discuss a farcical fantasy about
rebellious robots, R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots) (1921), by Czech
playwright Karel Capek. The first work of art to portray mass-produced robots,
R.U.R. spawned a whole genre of literature and film. When R.U.R.
opened on Broadway the New York Times found it radical and
subversive, even nihilistic. Robert Benchley (in Life magazine)
called it excellent and true, its climax devastating.
No other play on modern technology has so captured the public's imagination
(W.E. Harkins, Karel Capek (1962)). Our discussion takes place 7:30-9:30 p.m.
(dinner at 6:30) at Luna Books, 1633 P St., NW, 3 blocks east of Dupont Circle. It will
feature director John Spitzer, whose production of R.U.R. opens in September
at DC Arts Center, 2438 18th St., NW. To make reservations for our discussion E-mail email@example.com or call (202)
638-0444. For tickets to the Saturday, September 25 performance of R.U.R.
E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (301) 897- 9314.
For more information visit the Footlights web site at http://www.footlightsdc.org.
themail@dcwatch is an E-mail discussion forum that is published every
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