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September 19, 1999

The Past Is Present

Dear Old-Timers:

As I work on themail, in the background my computer is downloading old radio shows in the MP3 format. Right now, I'm getting episodes of “Lux Radio Theater” and “Fibber McGee and Molly” from the 1940's. After they are downloaded, I'll load them into my Diamond Rio MP3 player and listen to them when I travel on the Metro from the new subway stop that opened in Columbia Heights yesterday. All of this modern technology — computers, the Internet, digital encoding, solid state technology — is being put into service to preserve, spread, and replay the treasures and the trivia of the past.

Mark Richards' recurring posts on DC history in themail always serve to remind me that we are far from the first generation to face exactly the same problems and dilemmas, and that we certainly aren't any smarter, cleverer, better, or braver than the generations that dealt with these problems before us. Our history is important to us, and in the District of Columbia we are also the custodians of a good part of our nation's history. At the Metro opening ceremony yesterday, at least two hundred fifty demonstrators were out protesting — not the Metro, but the Redevelopment Land Agency, which the week before had awarded the Tivoli Theater to developers (Giant Foods and Horning Brothers) who want to demolish ninety percent of that grand historic theater, saving only its facade. (They were protesting the rest of the RLA decision, too, but more on that later.) Some people don't understand the value of history, and think that progress means discarding the past, that economic development means bulldozing the best of our past. Oh well, I have about twenty episodes of the “Mercury Theater” stockpiled that I haven't listened to yet.

Thanks to all of you who kindly sent your congratulations on the “District Politics” article about DCWatch last Thursday, and on the recognition that the web site received from Campaigns & Elections. Dorothy and I appreciate it.

Gary Imhoff


A Dream, Bureaucracy, Agitation, and a Flag
Mark Richards, Dupont East,

In their own little ways, DC citizens have always been dreaming about and agitating for equal rights. In 1917, while working for a printing firm on a flag book for the 48 states, Charles A. R. Dunn noticed there was no flag for his DC home. In 1921 he sketched a design using George Washington's coat of arms, with three red stars above two red stripes on a white field. At that time, the Voteless League was set up by former women’s suffrage campaigners — they became the Voteless League of Women Voters of DC. By 1924, there was “considerable agitation” for a DC flag. The Evening Star printed Dunn's drawings. The Fine Arts Commission weighed in, saying a DC flag must emphasize that “DC is the seat of the central government of all states.” Dr. William Tindall of the DC government pointed out that the three stars could be said to represent the three federal branches. The issue, unresolved, died down. But the drive for rights did not. Theodore W. Noyes, in a nationwide WMAL radio address in March 1929, asked “Will not every red-blooded American who hears me tonight respond hopefully and vigorously to the District's appear for political equality? How long, O Americans, must we of Washington be compelled to say and to sing: 'My county, 'tis of thee Not land of liberty, For District folks; Where rights for which the fathers died Are now denied and crucified, Mock'd at as jokes'?”

A 1930s drive for Congressional voting rights and home rule led to a flurry of articles and comics. The DC commissioners were called “a national laughing stock,” and the DC government an ineffective “Adventure in Autocracy.” In 1933, young African-American college grads from the U Street community organized the New Negro Alliance, demanding that businesses hire some people they served. They picketed businesses and were arrested. It took until 1938 for African-American lawyers to establish the legal right to picket by the Supreme Court. Also in 1938, a Citizens’ Conference of 271 local organizations financed a plebiscite with two questions — “[D]o you want to vote for President and for members of Congress from the District of Columbia?, and do you want to vote for officials of your own city government in the District?” The District Suffrage League set up voting places in 38 public schools, and on April 29th dressed up like Paul Revere and paraded in the streets to publicize the event. 95,538 people voted on April 30th, most supporting both measures. In June 1938, a Flag Commission was created by Act of Congress to advise the Commission of Fine Arts. A contest was announced. The Heraldic Division of the War Department laid down rules. Dunn submitted his design. The Flag Commission couldn't decided between two designs, so they submitted both to the Commission on Fine Arts. In October, a joint meeting of the two Commissions chose Dunn's design. Along with the US flag, DC could now fly their flag along with the other 48. They gained an early symbol, but still no vote in their schools, in their local government, nor in Congress. In 1961, Dunn said “I think it is a good flag, and I am glad that an early dream of mine came true.”


Thirteenth Street, NW
Clyde E. Howard, Jr.,

On September 18th, the Green Line opened [at Columbia Heights and Georgia Avenue]. What is not open is 13th Street, N.W. 13th Street, N.W. will continue to have rush hour restrictions from 7 am until 9:30 am and from 4 pm until 6:30 pm, Monday through Friday, except for holidays and weekends.

How can you maximize the Green Line if you continue to offer the commuter an alternative to the subway? For fifty years the residents bordering 13th Street, N.W., have suffered the indignity of heavy traffic, pollution, trash and other matters. How do we push for a change for 13th Street so the neighborhoods will have peace and quiet for once after all these years? The rush hour bus service will cease on 13th Street as of the 18th, and all bus signs are scheduled to be removed by the 20th. But, no reference is made concerning the removal of rush hour restrictions. Let's see if we can make a difference.


Ed T. Barron,

In June it was announced that the Mayor has signed an agreement to raise $25 M for a Metrorail stop in the New York Avenue Corridor. That's mighty coincidental, since a study team evaluating sites for a new baseball stadium is seriously considering that location for a new baseball stadium for the District. It looks awfully suspicious that the selection of a location for a new stadium coincides with the location of that New York Ave. Metrorail station. Has the decision on a stadium location already been made? Are we being railroaded (no pun intended) into that location for a stadium? A coincidence? Nah.


Church and State
Larry Seftor,

I'm relieved that Superior Court Judge Wertheim has temporarily banned church parking on D.C. school property at Garrison Elementary School, but it is another D.C. travesty that the problem exists at all. Public property should never be used to subsidize religious activities, regardless of any “perceived” value to the community of the church. The fact here is that the Metropolitan Baptist church was politically powerful and school superintendent Ackerman caved in to the pressure that the church exerted. The separation of church and state mandated by our Constitution appeared to be in a state of suspension in the District, until Judge Wertheim acted. If the leaders of our schools don't understand such basic tenets of our society such as the separation of church and state, how can they teach our students? The tragedy here is not a little trampled grass, the tragedy again is a complete lack of judgment by D.C. officials.

(P.S. Speaking of rights, bravo to Art Spitzer for the success of the ACLU in getting the results of the marijuana vote released!)


Washington Post Campaign-Funding Info
Nancy Fiedler,

The Washington Post's on-line edition has what could be the best research tool available to activists wishing to track the local big-money interests. This is the Special Report on the 1998 Mayoral Race Campaign Funding — aptly called “Follow the Money.” It can be searched by candidate or by contributor, and can narrow the search to specify amounts of donation; business; or individual, etc.

The catch is: the site is basically disfunctional. Only the first page of any search result can be accessed, for instance. Does anyone have any ideas on how The Post could be prodded to repair the site?


John Whiteside,

Ed Barron criticizes the “provisional certification” requirements for teachers. My question: how does the provisional certification work? Is union membership required? A friend in Massachusetts just got his provisional certification to teach science there. The requirements were a solid college background in the subject, and an exam that he — one of the brightest and most well-read people I know — described as “very challenging.”

No union membership required, no training in education required -- but he has to go get it for the certification to become complete. Meanwhile he can teach. It sounds like a good system. What's DC's? Maybe the problem isn't the concept, but the execution.


Lack of Productivity Among DC Workers?
Harold Goldstein,

The mayor says too little management, some here say too much management. First, lack of productivity means the workers ain't doing their job, so don't sugar coat it. In general, their lack of productivity is usually based on incompetence and/or unwillingness to do the job, as has been the case here as long as I remember.

The solution is simple: tell them what's expected and, if it doesn't happen, you warn them and tell them again and, if it doesn't happen, you fire or demote them. More managers, ha! And many of you folks thought this Mayor would be the second coming. Right, the second coming of one Mayor Kelly.


Fun With Management
John Whiteside,

Ed Barron's dismissal of management out of hand is a bit short-sighted. Yes, there are lots of mediocre managers out there. Yes, they can be disaster for a city department of any other organization. No, the answer is not having more and more front-line employees.

If you've ever watched a good manager transform an organization, you recognize that good management talent can mean the difference between a large group of well-meaning but ineffective workers, and something that actually works. I've seen that transformation take place in the business world; I also think back to visits to DC's DMV as a great example of a lot of well-meaning employees who were never going succeed without changes in an organization that a good manager can implement. The solution isn't fewer managers, or more managers, it's better managers.


Car Registration
Ralph Blessing,

Brian Reeves identified one of the quirks of DC's car registration process. We noticed another when registering our cars this year: owners must submit not only a photocopy of their insurance card but also one of their driver's license. I recall the insurance requirement from past years, but not the need to verify licenses. Since the same DC government agency that issues licenses also registers vehicles, why can't they simply confirm the status of licenses electronically, or is this another example of two computer systems unable to talk to each other? When paper forms are being eliminated in so many facets of our lives, our local government is moving in the opposite direction! On the bright side, our notification came well in advance of the expiration date, and the turnaround time on the mail-in registration was less than two weeks.


Adventures with Inspection
Harold Goldstein,

Went to get my 1986 Van inspected this summer. It failed a few minor things, and emissions. Fixed the minor things and had emissions worked on; still failed but getting closer. Had some more emissions work done, but now the time had stretched, so it had to be fully inspected, came even closer on the emissions but failed a few different items. For example, they said it was illegal to have a fishbowl mirror on the drivers side — after twenty years driving around with it, it's illegal!

OK, that's trivial, but let's go with emissions. The law says that if you make a good faith effort, meaning spending $450, you get a waiver on that. I called, and they said yes, just bring us the receipts. So I do. First, they say, it has to be spent on parts — not labor. They volunteer to show me the law, which doesn't mention parts. Then they say that it has to be done by a certified emissions technician, or something like that and, yes the law says that.

So, I'm steaming, does this now mean that I have to go (if my garage can't produce a certificate) and get $500 more done! Another example of trying to help the consumer. The van runs well, it's just a bit over the emissions level. I satisfied the intent of the law. And meanwhile, my garage takes three days to do anything, but that's another story. (Anyone care to recommend a good mechanic in upper NW DC?) Has anyone had experience with something like this and know a solution?


Adams Morgan Day a Beautiful Success
Phil Shapiro,

This year's Adams Morgan Day Festival was a sight to behold. Top marks to the organizers of the event. It was a beautiful sight seeing that many people get together for a joyous, peaceful, clean celebration. Kudos, too, to the community organizations who worked hard to support the event. Photos at


Host Family Wanted
Faith Williams,

I work as librarian at Malcolm X Elementary School in Anacostia and am always looking for people to help. From time to time, I have the offer of a high school graduate taking an interim 2 1/2 months, to help. Such students need a place to stay, and would be willing to pay a small sum toward board and/or would be willing to help with sitting or with projects part of the time in the host family.

LOCATION: Metro to Congress Heights is not finished yet. Some place in NW (Lafayette E.S. area), along my route on Connecticut Avenue, or on the Hill, or in SE near the school would be best. If anyone is interested, please call Faith Williams at 202-362-0189 or E-mail


Household Hazardous Waste Collection
Evelyn Mittman Wrin,

Notices about DPW's collection of household hazardous waste are in the current issues of The Northwest Current and The InTowner, although there is no notice in today's “District Weekly” section of The Washington Post. For readers of themail who have not seen a notice, here's the information:

Household Hazardous Waste Collection — Saturday, September 25, 9:00 am to 3:00 pm, at Carter Barron Amphitheater Parking Lot, 16th and Kennedy Sts. NW. The telephone number given for more information is the DC Citywide Call Center at 727-1000. Household hazardous waste listed in the notice includes, among other things, old paints, solvents, pesticides, motor oil, and batteries.



Mount Pleasant Arts Festival
R.L. Shannon,

Don't forget the Mount Pleasant Arts Festival, Sunday, October 3 from 1:00 to 6:00 pm. Music, dance, artists, craftspersons, all at Lamont Park, Mount Pleasant and Lamont Streets, N.W. Artists and craftspersons who are interesting in vending can still request an application by calling (202) 745-5808. Only $10 for a 10 x 10 foot space. This event is sponsored in part by the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities and Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham.


Constitution Week in DC
Malcolm L. Wiseman, Jr.,

Monday, September 20th: DC New Abolitionists Society Christopher Byron Niles offers a radical perspective of the US Constitution on the East Steps of the US Capitol Building, 6:30 pm.
Tuesday, September 21st: DC League of Women Voters DCLWV President: Liz Martin (intro includes Constitution Week) Guest Speaker: Mayor Anthony Williams (providing health care for all) Opening fall luncheon, at Pier Seven Restaurant, 650 Water Street, SW, 11:30 am -- 20 for members, $25 for nonmembers.
Wednesday, September 22nd: Stand Up! for Democracy in DC Coalition Candlelight vigil in Lincoln Park, East Capitol & 11th/13th Streets, 7 pm.Thursday, September 23rd: DC Statehood Green Party Records their field trip to the US Senate asking some tough questions of the staff, Dirksen Senate Office Building, First & C Streets, NE, 5:30 pm.
Sunday, September 26th: Stand Up! for Democracy in DC Coalition Celebrates their First Annual Democracy Picnic with fellow freedom fighters in Malcolm X-Meridian Hill Park, near the stage by the Joan of Arc Statue — featuring food and entertainment — 12-6 pm, Free!

This schedule of events was brought to you by the Stand Up! for Democracy in DC Coalition. Meetings: National Council of Negro Women, 633 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, every 2nd and 4th Tuesday — 6:30 pm. All are welcome! Telephone/facsimile: (202) 232-2500. Hope you can join us sometime real soon!


Hearst Elementary School Open House
Anne Herr,

Attention all parents considering school options for 2000-2001: Although the Out-of-Boundary enrollment period for DC Public Schools does not begin this year until January 28, it's never too early to start gathering information. Hearst Elementary School, at 37th and Tilden Streets NW, is having an Open House Thursday morning, September 23, from 9:00-12:00. Come meet our NEW principal and learn about our exemplary early childhood program serving 185 children in grades PreK-3rd grade. Hearst offers high academic achievement in a warm and nurturing environment. For more information call the school at 282-0106 or call Anne Herr at 328-9703.


Break the Fast at the DCJCC!
Amanda Chorowski,

Where can you find hundreds of hungry Jews and plenty of food? At the J! Join your friends from congregations all over the city for traditional Break the Fast specialties! Bagels and lox, kugel, salads and more! Monday, September 20 at 8:00 pm. Members: $16.50, non-members: $22.00. Call (202) 518-9400 x362 or E-mail to register. Include your name, address, phone number, whether a member, and Visa or Mastercard number.


Shakespeare for the Modern Mind
Phil Shapiro,

If you love theater, check out “Bottom's Dream,” a new adaptation of “A Midsummer's Night Dream” by DC-area director Tom Mallan. Playing at The Rossyln Spectrum Theater from Oct. 8 to Oct. 16. Details at:



Free Printer, Table, Chair
David S. Reed,

NEC Silentwriter 95 laser printer, 30" x 60" folding table, and metal folding chair, all in good condition, free to someone who will come to our office in Friendship Heights and pick up the lot at our convenience. E-mail and suggest a time during business hours.


Foster Cats from the DC Animal Shelter Need Homes
Heidi Ridgley,

Adams Morgan foster mom is always searching for life-long companions for lovable cats up for adoption. If the New York Avenue shelter is inconvenient for you or you just can't bear the emotional trauma of such a setting, come visit some of the cats in my "half-way house." As soon as I place one, I take another home from the shelter. Call 265-1069 or E-mail me at for current descriptions. You can also visit the shelter's website at for current photos of cats and dogs in foster care and at the shelter.



Key West Condo for Rent — Christmas to New Year’s
Anne Drissel,

Celebrate New Year's Eve on Duval Street. Luxury waterfront condo ( ) two blocks from Duval. 2BR/2b; Sleeps 6. BR #2 lockout w/kitchenette. Pool; beach; dock. Available noon December 25 through noon January 1, 2000. Rent $625/night; 5 day minimum. 50% deposit; full payment due by Nov 15. Call 202-232-6517.


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