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September 1, 1999

Entertainment, Entertainment

Dear Audience:

Hurry, hurry, get your tickets early!

Gary Imhoff


Theater Season Gearing Up
Sara Cormeny,

Seeing David Sobelsohn's Footlights-related posting reminded me that it's time for the theater season in DC to start back up — and I'm very excited! In that spirit I'd like to pass on some theater tips for those who haven't experienced “the scene” here yet. David has written a really good article on seeing theater on the cheap: Opportunities not included by David include the innovative young peoples' discounts that Arena, Woolly Mammoth and Studio, among others, are offering ($10 tix if you're under 25, in Woolly's case). Also, both the Shakespeare Theatre and Woolly Mammoth hold free readings of plays that they are considering for the next season; I believe Arena does the same.

But if you're willing to fork over some money, I've got a tip on an upcoming benefit: Woolly Mammoth is holding its 20th Anniversary party with a reading of “Hate Mail” starring Sarah Marshall and Floyd King at the DCJCC on Monday, Sept. 27. Details are available at Follow what's up in DC theater in the Post on Tuesday's with Jane Horwitz's Backstage column on Style page 5 — you'll be an insider in no time. Also, a Georgetown professor has put up his own Web site of DC-related theater stuff, mostly links to the sites of theaters and theatrical organizations around town:

Those in the know consider DC's local theater scene to be second only to New York's Off-Broadway offerings — we have a thriving group of professional theaters with exceptional actors. Among other things, we truly have the best regional Shakespeare going on in the country at the Shakespeare Theatre. If you dive in, you'll see that we're really spoiled here for theater! Happy viewing.


From Potholes to the Ward 3 Picnic
Richard Levine, RL44W@NIH.GOV

I don't know where you all live, but in North Cleveland Park all potholes that I used to run across have been fixed. If yours aren't, call it in yourself at 645-7055. If after a week it has not been repaired or if you have another problem to report with city government, call the hotline at 727-1000. Furthermore in my neighborhood several streets have been scraped and resurfaced (viz: Albemarle, portions of Van Ness NW), innumerable streets have been given new sidewalks and curbs, and many alleys have been paved and provided with new concrete entrances. Just about every tree that I see has been trimmed by the city tree people. We have had virtually a summer blizzard of street repairs.

In case you want some fun and free ice cream and an opportunity to speak with the mayor directly about anything you wish, come on Sunday, September 12 at 4:30 p.m. to the Ward 3 Sundae with the Mayor to be held at the Palisades Recreation Center in the 5100 block of Sherier Place NW between Dana Place and Edmunds Street. Edmunds intersects with MacArthur. From this intersection it is a short 1-2 blocks. Y'ALL COME, Y'HEAR!


Fewer Beefs from East of the River
Kathy Chamberlain,

In response to “Where's the beef?”, I see a big difference since Mayor WIlliams took office, especially in the attitude and responsiveness of city agencies. Not only does someone answer the phone when you call, but in most cases they actually give you an answer, resolve the problem, or get back to you with a good reason. Yes there are potholes, but that might be because no one has called them in. Once called in, they're usually fixed within a week. DMV is much improved. Getting title, tags, and registration for a recently purchased used car took only 20 minutes. The new inspection station at Half Street, S.W. is a breeze to get through. And has anyone noticed that the city is cleaner? For example, the SE-SW Freeway, especially the SE end, used to be strewn with mufflers, tires, couches, and junk that fell from trucks. Now in the wee hours of the morning, a DPW truck makes the rounds to pick up such debris. On weekends, overflowing public trash receptacles used to be a common sight. Now they're emptied. Entertainment posters on trees and utility poles are being taken down almost as fast as they go up, thanks to DPW, police, and citizens. Sidewalks are being repaired or replaced, and we even caught DPW replacing faded traffic signs in our neighborhood. Our police are doing a better job of patrolling the neighborhoods and enforcing speed limits and traffic controls. Personally I don't care if Mayor Williams is charismatic, as long as he gets the job done. He's done more in 9 months than I expected he could.


Real Property Tax Surprise
Kenneth Nellis,

I just received my latest semiannual Real Property Tax Bill. It was a shocker because, not only was it charging me my expected six-month tax, but also the amount for the previous six months plus a 10% penalty plus 9% interest. Indeed, my check register showed that I had not paid the previous half year. But neither was there evidence that I received a bill, which I maintain I never received.

Several points: (1) The interest rate of 1.5% per month (18% per year) seems excessive. Is that rate justifiable? (2) If monthly statements were sent out to delinquent accounts, I would have incurred only one month's interest instead of six. Is it reasonable that I not receive notification of an overdue payment until six months have passed? (3) I resent being penalized for not paying a bill I didn't receive. (4) The penalty rate (10%) is excessive. Is this how DC is trying to attract people to move to the District?

I called the Office of Tax and Revenue and the nice woman on the phone said my only recourse is to request a waiver in writing, which I plan to do. I was wondering if any readers of themail would be willing to share any sure-fire points to clinch my waiver.


Raising the Test Scores
Ed T. Barron,

The main thrust in the DCPS is to raise the test scores of all students. This is a daunting task. To raise the scores of those who traditionally, in urban schools with minority enrollment, score the worst in standardized tests, will require a major culture change. The current prevailing culture spurns academic achievement and dismisses scholarship. Many of the District's students have been led to believe that they are doomed to fail and, thus, they pretend that academics are not important.

There's no federal government or local government that can change that culture. The change can only come about with incredible influence and discipline from teachers and parents. We have to find a way to bring parents and teachers together to develop the discipline and support techniques that will foster this cultural evolution. Until the parents and teachers truly believe that they can change the culture, the test scores will remain mired in the muck and our students will be stuck in the mud for many, and perhaps, all their years.


Living on Wavy Watery Land with Many Views
Mark Richards, Dupont East,

Tobias Lear, G. Washington's private secretary, wrote one of the earliest monographs on the DC area (“Observations on the River Potomack, the Country Adjacent, and the City of Washington”) in 1793. He described the benefits of the site: “The ground, on an average, is about forty feet above the water of the river. Although the whole, when taken together, appears to be nearly a level spot, yet it is found to consist of what may be called wavy land; and is sufficiently uneven to give many very extensive and beautiful views from various parts of it, as well as to effectually answer every purpose of cleansing and draining the city. . . . No place has greater advantages of water....”

Lear also wrote that the U.S. public/feds had gained “possession of more than ten thousand lots [from the 19 original owners for free], from which funds are to be raised to defray the expense of the public buildings, (in addition to 192,000 dollars, given by the States of Virginia and Maryland, for that purpose,) and to effect such other things as it may be incumbent upon the public to do in the city.” Lear gushed that “the large surplus of lots will remain the property of the city, which hereafter may, and undoubtedly will be so applied, as to defray the annual expenses incident to the city; and the citizens, and their property, will be forever free from a heavy tax, which is unavoidable in other large cities.” In fact, many of those lots were used to pay the DC municipal government for services provided to the U.S. public/feds, until they ran out. All told, the U.S. Public/feds “spent” a total of $110,000 (borrowed money) to establish Washington City, loans that were repaid by DC citizens with interest. Of the original 19 proprietors, only David Burnes benefited. BUT, as seen this summer, Tobias Lear was right on one thing — we are living on wavy watery land with many views!


No Quarter Given
Bob Summersgill,

In the Mail, August 29, John Olinger, asks if DC will have a quarter. The legislation authorizing the new quarters provides only for the states, but Del. Norton is seeking to amend that legislation to give DC, and the territories their quarters as well. As to New Jersey's quarter design, Washington crossed the Delaware River into New Jersey for the Battle of Trenton. He did not leave it. It was one of the more successful battles of the war for the revolutionaries.


The New Jersey Quarter
Peter Luger,

I believe the scene is of George Washington crossing the Delaware River FROM Pennsylvania TO New Jersey for the Battle of Trenton at Christmas, a key battle to winning the Revolutionary War. And, by the way, as long as someone has bothered to bring up New Jersey (and the tendency to bash it), consider this: New Jersey has rivers, lakes, oceans, mountains, beaches, casinos (if you care for such a thing), proximity to New York and Philadelphia and, most importantly, a rational, moderate group of people and politicians who attempt fiscal responsibility while at the same time respecting the rights of ALL people (and that's with a Republican controlled State House, something I would not typically stand up for). (Yes, I'm from New Jersey....and at least I got to vote for Congresspeople and Senators!) Sorry for discussing non-Metropolitan DC related items, but I felt the need to defend. And now back to our regularly scheduled programming.


DC Quarters
David F. Power, Upper Northwest,

“Washington Crossing the Delaware” is the picture on the back of the New Jersey quarter. Washington was invading Trenton, New Jersey, not leaving New Jersey. It was Christmas Eve, and all the Hessians in Trenton were drunk, so we beat the mercenary army of King George VI. Every Philly-area child learns the story in 3rd grade, then goes on the field trip to Valley Forge, which is where Washington's army spent the winter before that famous Christmas Eve trip INTO New Jersey.


Re: Secret Service Hit and Run
Kathy Carroll,

Hmmm interestingly provocative titling. Not to criticize, but what I would have done was to complain to the restaurant, the employer of the evil valet, and then I would have gotten out of my car in the pouring rain and made sure that I left a note on the hit vehicle telling the owner who bashed in his car. After all, I too would have been a witness. I could be wrong, but I don't believe that the Secret Service has any authority to issue tickets in the District of Columbia. They are employed by the Treasury Department. And perhaps he did report the incident — hard to tell.


Secret Service Hit and Run?
Richard Stone Rothblum,

Tony Ross wondered whether a Secret Service uniformed officer who ignored a minor automobile accident acted properly. This is an old issue, and the answer is that, unless someone's life is in imminent danger, Secret Service agents must concentrate on their primary assignment. That is, to protect the lives of their wards. An assassination scenario might include an incident such as Tony described, for the express purpose of distracting the victim's protectors.


Calculating the Cost of Automobile Transportation
Richard Stone Rothblum,

While I am all in favor of using public transportation wherever possible, I have to say that John Whiteside in his “Reverse Commuting Discovery” greatly overestimates the marginal costs of traveling by automobile. John figures automobile mileage costs at $0.33/mile. This may approach the total cost of automobile ownership, including depreciation, taxes, insurance, repairs and gasoline. However, most of these costs are fixed — independent of mileage. So, if one must own a car because there is often no alternative to travel by car, the cost of additional mileage is only gasoline and some portion of maintenance. Gasoline costs for a fuel-efficient car (30 mpg) is only about 1/30 X (fuel cost per gallon) = about $0.04/mile. A rule of thumb is that maintenance costs (oil, tires, repairs) are about equal to fuel costs, so the total marginal cost is only about $0.08/mile. This means that the marginal cost of John's trip by car would be about $2.00, assuming that he must own a car anyway, for other reasons. Therefore, there is no economic advantage to using public transportation. An unfortunate consequence of urban sprawl and low-density housing is that public transportation is generally not cost-effective. The only way that public transportation can compete is by (justifiable) massive subsidies. Metro fares do not cover even operating costs, much less capital costs.


Setting the Record Straight
Roxanna Deane,

Bryce Suderow did not have the facts straight as they pertain to the Mayor's picnic and the D. C. Public Library. First of all the Mayor's Office never called the Library to ask staff to attend this event. Second I never personally called the Southeast Library. Finally, though there was no staff available to attend the event a member of the Friends of the Southeast Library did go and take some fliers, etc., from the branch.

Here are the facts. I had been told by a friend in the community that there was going to be an event to celebrate 8th Street SE and that the Mayor was to attend to offer support for development projects. Nothing was mentioned about a picnic or that the Mayor was the sponsor of this event. I don't think she knew. The Library is trying to raise its profile in the community and would like to be more involved in community events. This event so near a branch library was perfect. I spoke to the person who is leading this effort. She called the Southeast Branch Librarian. It was the Branch Librarian who arranged for someone from the Friends group to attend. That is the end of the story.


DC Voting Rights: the Marbury Lesson
Tom Matthes,

Advocates for winning DC votes in Congress through either Adams vs. Clinton (filed by George LaRoche) or Alexander vs. Daley (filed by Charles Miller) should ponder the lessons of Marbury vs. Madison — the case that established the principal of judicial review. Marbury was to be a recipient of one of the so-called “midnight appointments” of lame duck President John Adams, who tried to fill as many federal jobs as possible with Federalists before the Democratic-Republicans of president-elect Thomas Jefferson took power in March 1801. But Marbury’s appointment papers were not delivered before James Madison, the new secretary of state, took office. When Madison refused to hand over the papers, Marbury sued to get his job and the case wound up before the Supreme Court. Although Chief Justice John Marshall ruled Marbury the winner, he still didn't get the job. That's because Marshall also ruled the act which entitled Marbury to his job was unconstitutional and thus unenforceable by the courts. So, while the courts established their power to invalidate laws incompatible with the Constitution, poor Marbury joined the bread lines.

What has this to do with the two lawsuits asking the courts to grant DC voting rights? The Marbury precedent demonstrates that an appellate court is not obliged to resolve a constitutional dispute the way the parties want. The Supreme Court, assuming it is willing to repeal the power of Congress to rule DC, may choose to make the district a ward of the court. Would anyone like to contemplate Clarence Thomas as the head of the DC municipal courts, Antonin Scalia as city manager or William Rehnquist as superintendent of schools? There are no guarantees when you take a case to the Supreme Court. Also, Article III, Section 2, Paragraph 2 of the Constitution allows Congress to make “Exceptions” and “Regulations” to the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. What is the Supreme Court to do if it orders Congress to grant DC statehood and Congress either refuses to obey or declares cases involving DC outside the courts jurisdiction? Since Article I, Section 6, Paragraph 1 makes members of Congress immune from arrest except for “Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace,” the courts can't order federal marshals to jail the defiant senators and representatives. Finally, judicial review does not empower the courts to declare part of the Constitution “unconstitutional” (for the logical absurdity of this, see the “Theory of Types” by Bertrand Russell); only laws approved by Congress or the States are affected. The Adams and Alexander cases both ask the courts to repeal the powers of Congress to admit new states and amend the Constitution. Don't bet your life savings the courts will try to pull it off.


If Adams Wins
George S. LaRoche,

Mr. Matthes' condemns the Twenty Citizens' law suit (Adams v. Clinton) and me on the basis of some text he quotes from the web site Unfortunately, Mr. Matthes overlooks two key facts which void his arguments. First, the text on which Mr. Matthes hangs his argument is not from any document filed in the law suit. It's clearly from an explanatory flier prepared by a neutral third party, providing a very general overview of the case. This one page flier doesn't even try to replicate the hundreds of pages of legal arguments filed in the suit, which are really at issue in Mr. Matthes' diatribe.

Second, Mr. Matthes misconstrues the text, disregarding the grammatical structure of the document he quotes (though he correctly identifies a grammatical error in the text he quotes). The first clause of the first sentence he quotes (“If the Plaintiff[]s win”) is actually a HEADING. The plain inference of this heading is that the text which falls UNDER the heading concerns what might happen AFTER the “if,” AFTER the Plaintiffs “win.” AFTER the law suit is CONCLUDED. The plain language indicates that the only result of a “win” in which the COURT would have a role would be restraint on Congress from segregating the District from the rest of the United States.

Adams v. Clinton asks the Court to restrain Congress from exercising certain powers over the people of the District, insofar as and because those powers violate the citizens' constitutional rights. Federal courts regularly issue such restraints elsewhere in the United States; why not here? Following victory in the suit, the citizens of the District would have the opportunity to debate and frame the future status of the District. Since Congress would no longer be able to perpetuate the status quo, statehood or retrocession would be possible futures. These are questions for the people of the District to debate and decide. Following the citizens' decision, Congress (and only Congress) would have the constitutional prerogative and power to admit the new state or to cede the District to Maryland. The Court would have no role in the choice or in making the choice a political reality. The Court has no power to “admit” the District as a State and the Court lacks even the prerogative to opine whether the District should be a state or part of a state. This is the law and this is the position stated before the Court on behalf of the Plaintiffs in the Twenty Citizens' suit.

In short, the Twenty Citizens' law suit is based on well settled legal principles, presents conclusively documented facts, and does not ask the Court to impose any political status on the citizens of the District of Columbia. Mr. Matthes' arguments otherwise are merely political. And by the way, the Adams law suit is not “the alternative lawsuit of Alexander v. Daley,” as Mr. Matthes states. The two suits are absolutely independent, by every conceivable criterion.


Be Nice and Give Credit Where Credit is Due
Mark Richards, Dupont East,

Tom Matthes wrote that Attorney George LaRoche “must have neglected to coordinate his spin with the folks who put together its web site,” and after giving his interpretation of LaRoche's work, states “Mr. LaRoche will have done his part to make the world safe for oligarchy.” Matthes should be thanking LaRoche for trying to explain his work in a public forum, not twisting his work or attacking him — that's not nice. I'm writing because I developed the one page flier on the two DC lawsuits pending before the three judge panel of the US District Court that Matthes quoted (Adams posted it on their web site). The flier was reviewed and approved by both Rob Wick (Covington and Burling — for the Alexander case) and Mr. LaRoche (for Adams). I'm not a lawyer, but my guess is that the courts will not do anything to unravel America or the Constitution or to grab undue power over Congress — I think they're fairly conservative. On the other hand, DC citizens can be expected to do whatever they can within the law until they have equal citizenship rights. Many are working for democracy in DC, in different ways, and I appreciate that. Some think lawsuits are a way to go — so let's try, and time will tell.

What I've seen, aside from the fact that claims are regularly thrown about by people not associated with the cases, is this: (1) Few, in the press or public, seem to understand the differences between the lawsuits — otherwise, I would expect to see more comparative information. (2) Because the Alexander case has the backing of Delegate Norton, the municipal government, a top law firm, The Post, and 55 citizens, it has been treated by the press with greater status and recognition than Adams, which has been pushed off the stage, so to speak. [The Times editorial page just outright scoffed at both.] Adams is an equally important effort that picked up speed back in 1997 when George Will said DC doesn't deserve democracy — it was developed under the guidance of LaRoche for twenty DC citizens (some I've gotten to know and appreciate). For me, the fact that the court accepted both cases in their own right and on their own individual merit is important. My purpose in developing the one-pager was to identify language which both lawsuits could agree to about what they each are doing (for my writing) — a little “DC Democracy Lawsuits 101” flier — an intro. I'm waiting to see what the courts have to say; that's what counts. Personally, I don't want a half-way vote and partial rights in Maryland, nor the right to vote in the state of my birth, where I now have little stake — DC votes would be diluted and worthless. So if Alexander wins, I hope that will not be the outcome. If Adams wins, DC citizens will have to decide between retrocession and statehood — I don't have a problem with having that debate. In the meantime, it would be great if the media, from whom most get their info, made an effort to understand the claims, merits, and potential outcomes of each case.

ON A RELATED SUBJECT, what does Virginia and Maryland have to lose if DC becomes a state? And what does Virginia have to lose if DC joins Maryland? I'm interested in this.


Re: You Get What You Pay For
Richard Stone Rothblum,

I like the revised version of this saw: “You Get Less Than or Equal To What You Pay For.” Giving incompetent employees raises doesn't make them competent, but prospects are slim for hiring and keeping competent employees for less than they could make otherwise.


Government Salaries
Lois Kirkpatrick,

Damian Buckley stated: “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.”

I mentioned in my first post on this subject that I am, in fact, a government worker, although not in DC. Having worked in both the private and the public sectors, I haven't noticed many differences in benefits. I've also seen executives and managers in both camps working nights and weekends; people leaving government to work for private companies; and government workers being laid off. Many of the old stereotypes about us are not true anymore. Including the one about how we should not get equal pay for doing similar work.


Recommendations Needed
Stuart M. Weiser,

I recently moved into a house in N. Cleveland Park, and need recommendations to deal with my new status as a landowner (I didn't have these problems in Dupont Circle!): 1) I need a landscaper/gardener to do a one-time maintenance job on my shrubs and trees and remove ivy from my house (with the possibility of being hired for ongoing work next year). 2) I need someone to grade my property with fill dirt. 3) I need an exterminator to deal with some bugs in the house.



Book Sale
Martha Saccocio,

The Friends of the Tenley-Friendship Branch of the DC Library will hold its semi-annual book sale on Saturday, September 25 from 12-4 pm. Book donations are currently being accepted at the library and can be dropped off during regular hours (the library is open Tuesday and Wednesday evenings until 9 pm). If you have lots of books and no easy way to drop them off, send me an E-mail and we'll see if we can arrange a pick-up.


DC Cable Television Advisory Committee Meeting
Jeffrey Hops, Interim Chair, DC Cable Television Advisory Committee,

The DC Cable Television Advisory Committee meeting will be held Tuesday, Sept. 7, 6 p.m., at the DC Office of Cable Television, 2217 14th Street, N.W. The agenda will include the status of Arnold and Porter's franchise compliance audit, and the sale of the remaining portion of District Cablevision Limited Partnership to AT&T. Please feel free to call me at (410) 786-3111 or (202) 588-9258 if you have any questions or concerns. See you next Tuesday.


Storytelling Class with Jon Spelman
Robert Revere,

Do you want to learn to tell stories, or brush up on your technique? Telling Tales is an eight-week workshop that provides a relaxed, supportive, and artistically challenging arena to explore storytelling. No previous experience needed! Students begin with personal reminiscences to recreate a known world, then use their imaginations to create the worlds of folk or fairy tales. The class is taught by Jon Spelman, an internationally known professional storyteller. You may remember his show “Three Stories Tall” on Channel 4.

Monday evenings, 7:30 - 10:00 pm, September 27 through November 15, 1999, The Dance Exchange, 7117 Maple Avenue, Takoma Park, MD (2 blocks from Takoma Metro), $190. To reserve a place, send a non-refundable $50 deposit (check made out to Washington Storytellers Theatre) to Jon Spelman, 1612 Ballard Street, Silver Spring, MD 20910. For information: write, or call Jon Spelman at 301/585-5784, or WST at 301/891-1129.



Part-Time Family Aide
Kathy Patterson,

Part-time position ideal for college student: 20 hours per week, 3 to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, $180 per week, lots of study time, and use of a family car. The job: looking after teens, 12 and 15, including driving to practices and lessons, supervising in-home “study hall” and occasional errands. We'd consider a job share with two college students. Requirements: good driver, reasonable sense of direction, good sense of humor. Household includes two dogs. E-mail Kathy at



Car Deals
Paul Penniman,

I got an offer in the mail: Test drive an Oldsmobile, and get a dozen golf balls (Ryder Cup insignias, no less). Well, I don't think I'm going to take the financial plunge, but I can recommend my salesman: Enzo at Fitzgerald's in Gaithersburg (on 355, just above Montgomery Village Ave.). He also sells Toyotas, and they're practically giving away '99 models. His phone number is 301-921-0300.


Dave Nuttycombe,

From's LOOSE LIPS column, appearing this Friday:
LOOSE LIPS is on vacation. His column will return next week.
In the meantime, read and argue over the archives here

From's CITY LIGHTS page, here are a few early warnings for upcoming events:
SATURDAY & SUNDAY: Washington Irish Festival, from noon to 10 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 4, and noon to 8 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 5, at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds, 16 Chestnut St., Gaithersburg. $20.
WEDNESDAY: Tommy Cecil, 8 and 10 p.m. at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave., NW, Rear. $14.
More details and more critics' picks are available online at


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