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September 22, 1999

Back to Schools

Dear Fellow Students:

We keep learning, if we're lucky. The problem is that the lessons remain the same, and their disappointing themes become tedious the more they are repeated. In DC politics, lesson one is that everything will be reduced to race sooner or later. At Garrison Elementary School, neighborhood advocates of the students wanted to reclaim the school's baseball field for the students' use. The problem was, the school system thought that it needed to placate Metropolitan Baptist Church and its politically powerful preacher, H. Beecher Hicks, and keep leasing the ball field to the Church as a parking lot. For the DC school system, the suburban adults who wanted to park were a higher priority than DC school children. When it became obvious that the Church and the school system didn't have a legal leg to stand on, and that they were going to lose a lawsuit filed on behalf of the students, the Rev. Hicks preached an ugly and vicious sermon, full of hateful lies. The sermon was excerpted in Monday's issue of The Washington Times, for those with the stomach to consult it. Hicks tried to create and exacerbate racial division, accusing anyone who would dare to speak out for the students of Garrison (nearly all of whom are black or Hispanic) of racism.

In Columbia Heights, at nearly the same time, rabble-rousers and long time Barry allies like Robert Moore, head of the Development Corporation of Columbia Heights, and Lawrence Guyot have tried to make a racial issue out of the choice among potential developers for the Redevelopment Land Agency sites. They have promoted the “black” developers, Dutch owned conglomerate Giant Foods and white Joe Horning, and accused their opponents of racism for supporting a vastly superior development plan.

These cheap appeals to racial animosity aren't the problem — somebody is always going take the lowest road. What is disappointing is that “responsible” people in Washington don't repudiate the people who use these disreputable tactics, but instead continue to speak of them respectfully. Where is the politician who will speak out against racism when the racists are black? Where is Mayor Williams' denunciation of Rev. Hicks' sermon? Where are Jack Evans' and Jim Graham's renunciations of these tactics when they are used in debates in their wards? Where is Eleanor Holmes Norton's press release scolding them? (She issues a press release on everything else under the sun.) Where is the Washington Post's editorial? The Post had volumes to say about a tiny and eventually nonexistent Klan demonstration in DC, but remains silent in the face of homegrown racial divisiveness.

Lesson two: we're on our own.

Gary Imhoff


D.C. Schools Mismanagement
Ralph Blessing, Shepherd Park,

Here we go again! Parents United's most recent newsletter reported that Arlene Ackerman's office was considering a change of the out-of-boundary registration date from October 1 to January 28. As we are considering out-of-boundary registration for our daughter, and since October 1 is right around the corner, my wife launched an effort to determine whether the date had, in fact, been changed. The principal at our local elementary school knew no more than what we'd already heard, and repeated calls to Wilson, the school where we'd need to register, were never answered. When a fellow parent's calls to Alice Deal yielded a different set of dates, my wife decided to call downtown for the "official" word. After a lengthy hold, she was told that, yes, the date was being changed. She asked when there would be official notification given the proximity of October 1, the apparent lack of information at the affected schools, and the fact that few parents received the Parents United newsletter. The response was that the new date appears in the 1999-2000 DC School Calendar — which, of course, has not yet been distributed. Finally, my wife asked what the rationale was for the change in view of the fact that earlier is generally better when it comes to planning (late January/early February may be too late to apply to some alternate schools should one's out-of-boundary plans not pan out), not to mention the fact that lining up outside, as is the norm for out-of-boundary registration, on a late January morning is not likely to be very user-friendly. The person at the other end was not able to come up with an explanation for the change, which left us to wonder if this is not Ms. Ackerman's way of subtly discouraging parents from even considering sending their kids to out-of-boundary schools.


Inclusion at Janney School
Ed T. Barron,

The inclusion (mainstreaming) of students (formerly in the Special Education programs of the DCPS) in regular classrooms of the Janney School is causing significant problems for the teachers in this highly regarded elementary school. Inclusion is an effort to reduce the costs of Special Education which now eat up about a third of the total school budget while providing services to only about ten percent of the District's students. This process, now administered by the former Janney School Principal, has created some very poor environments in the classrooms at Janney. These new students are creating disruptions in the classrooms that require much of the teachers' time and energy. In the meantime the rest of the students are losing out.

Janney has earned a reputation as a fine elementary school because it has very competent and dedicated teachers and great support from the parents of students who attend Janney. It is most unfair to burden these dedicated teachers with problem students who cannot control their behavior and really do belong in an environment where they can get the closer attention by trained specialists in Special Education. If inclusion is to be a major thrust of the DCPS then they must provide the schools where inclusion is used with an ample trained support staff to work with the teachers in the classrooms so that the proper learning environment can be maintained.


Public Works
Clyde E. Howard, Jr.,

The utility cuts in the many streets in DC are awful. The temporary repairs make matters worst because of the ruts and pot holes. Isn't there a law on the books that requires all who make utility cuts in the streets to permanently pave the street? It seems that DPW is not enforcing the law in a timely manner. Downtown streets are beginning to look like and feel like Tobacco Road.


There’s Something Happenin’ Here; What It Is Ain’t Exactly Clear
Willie Schatz,

Ah, our beloved DMV; can't live with it, can't live without it. Much to my surprise, Friday 10 September was NOT a day that will in infamy. Expecting the worst — like blowing the entire morning — I took the Red Line to the usually Haunted House at 300 Indiana Avenue. I'd lost my license, my registration was going to expire the next day — yes, I'd gotten the mail renewal in plenty of time, but didn't have the economic wherewithal to take advantage of same — and I didn't want to push the envelope any further.

So I get there at 0800. There's a huge line and the doors aren't open. That's all she wrote, says I; I'm here for the duration. But NOOOO! The doors open, the line moves at Warp Factor Seven, I go to one of FOUR — count 'em, four — information desks, at which an incredibly courteous public servant gives me the right forms and a little ticket with my assigned service window and MY ESTIMATED WAITING TIME! Now I'm thinking I'm in the wrong solar system. Not only that, a (very disembodied, but nonetheless helpful) voice announces "now serving...." The same information is displayed on an overhead screen, which also showing the latest news! I get my new license, renew my registration and my RPP — even though I'd forgotten to fill in my inspection number and didn't have proof of insurance, for which I was absolved when my insurance faxed same — and I'm his(her)story in about 90 minutes. What a difference from my last visit! Moral: at least this slice of the DC government worked this time. Too bad such an event still is the rare exception rather than the rule. But, one small step for (hu)mankind...


Vehicle Inspections and Bad Nannies
Russell Cramer,

The solution, Mr. Goldstein, to the treatment you received from the vehicle inspectors, is for us to inspect them for any possible collusion (for kickbacks) or pressure from the association of garages/mechanics/or spare parts (if there are such associations). They are a surly, rude bunch who seem to fail vehicles at whim. Just the other day my neighbor's car was failed for a bad muffler, but when he took it to be replaced the garage said there was nothing wrong with it, and gave him a letter to that effect — which he produced to the supervisor in charge who was forced to then give him his valid sticker.

For the lady who wanted “bad nanny” stories: I have lots of them in my Ward (3) involving people who exploit the poor, uneducated and vulnerable from Banana Republics south of the border.


Word of Warning
Margaret Siegel,

Last Friday, I encountered problems with two nonfunctioning parking meters, one on 8th street SE and one on Connecticut Avenue in Cleveland Park — after putting money in, the meters still registered there was no time left. Got a ticket at the second meter and have appealed the decision by writing to the Bureau of Adjudication, since I had put money in the meter and didn't check to see if the money had registered. Anyone having similar problems? Are the new meters already breaking down in such great numbers that several of them have a sticker with a telephone number to report a broken meter?

[After Eric Lipton's story in the Post revealed that DPW and Lockheed Martin were aware that many of the parking meters didn't give credit for coins with minuscule flaws, all the meters were supposed to have been "recalibrated." What is your experience with the meters? Are they better, or are they still robbing us? — Gary Imhoff]


Metro Again
Harold Goldstein,

It's not only that the design life [of Metro] is 50 years, vs. 100 years, it's that a transit system for the 21st century was built with technology from the 19th century! Imagine suggesting that you purchase a horse and buggy to replace the car. Well, when the technology used in our Metro was first applied, in NYC among other places, people used horses and buggies.

Even worse, there were no other technological alternatives considered during planning. And the cost; they knew that the original $2 billion estimate was a crock but that it wouldn't be approved at a higher level. Once approved, they knew, it became the standard cost over-run process — just increase the budget. The subway system here in DC is a big real estate boondoggle. It was terribly ill conceived. It adequately serves very few; those with good access to the system from home and who work near it (i.e., the work trip downtown). A system like that could never be expected to make a significant change in a region's modal choice.

And it didn't; auto traffic actually grew as a direct result of the new jobs generated around Metro stations. And most of the Metro ridership was “stolen” from prior bus ridership. And the people who owned land around the Metro stations made lots and lots of money. No public transportation system in the US can successfully compete against the auto unless it provides a trip that takes less time. Period. The planners knew that; they just had their hands tied.


New Business at Connecticut and McKinley, NW?
Gregory Jones,

Forgive me if this has been covered already, but does anyone know what business is going in at the NW corner of Connecticut and McKinley Avenues, NW (the former Boston Chicken location)? Thanks.


Apartment Cleaning Recommendation Wanted and Given
Annie McCormick,

Does anyone have a recommendation of someone who cleans apartments? I am looking for someone about 1X a month and can afford $50. I do have a friend of mine who cleans apartments who is very good (Jim Davis, 202/265-6733), but he does not clean apartments of friends.



Fairfax Library Fundraiser
Lois Kirkpatrick,

Spend a Night at the Stacks: Thursday, September 23, 7 p.m., Herndon Fortnightly Library, 768 Center St. A 60th anniversary celebration and fund-raiser for the Fairfax County Public Library. Features novelist Sharyn McCrumb, Washington Post reporter Juan Williams, and Alan Cheuse, author and book commentator for National Public Radio's “All Things Considered.” Also musical entertainment and silent auction. $60. Reservations: (703) 324-8300.


Schoolyard Habitat
Mary Vogel,

Since I have heard so much about school property lately, I'm including the notice of the next meeting of the Maryland Native Plant Society. If you want to carpool from Capitol Hill, let me know!

Grounds for Play, Grounds for Learning: Children's Gardens and Schoolyard Habitat, Tuesday, September 28, 1999, 7:30 p.m., Hyattsville Municipal Building, 4310 Gallatin St. From the beltway or East-West Highway, go south on Rt. 1. Turn right onto Gallatin St. (just across from Franklin's Hardware). The municipal building will be on your right, one block west of Rt. 1. [see a map]. Meet in the multipurpose room on the main floor.

Elmina Hilsenrath is author of a chapter on “Native Plant Landscaping” in the Maryland Department of Education Manual Conserving and Enhancing the Natural Environment: A Guide for Planning, Design, Construction, and Maintenance on New and Existing School Grounds. She has spoken and written on many topics related to environmental restoration, including reforestation, sustainable landscapes for highways, and schoolyard gardens and habitat areas.


Library 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 (Members of the Friends will be admitted at 11:00 am for a one-hour preview sale). We have thousands of books at bargain basement prices. The Library is located at Wisconsin Avenue and Albemarle Street, NW, across from the Tenley-AU Metro Stop.


1999 Latin American Film Festival
Luiz Coimbra,

The Cultural Foundation of the Americas has the pleasure to announce the 1999 Latin American Film Festival, September 14 - 26. All films will be shown at the American Film Institute (AFI), in the Kennedy Center. We are going to have movies from Mexico, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Guatemala, USA, Chile, Costa Rica, Canada, Spain, Peru, Portugal, Ecuador, Paraguay and Argentina. Also there will be special appearances, interviews, and debates by actors, directors and producers. All of them will be available on the festival's web site, For any additional information and for a review of the schedule of activities check our web site.


Educational Theater Company Classes
Stan Kang,

Educational Theater Company (ETC) fall classes for young people, taught by local theater professionals. Shakespeare and improvisation classes offered in both Arlington and DC (ages 8-18). Classes start October 12, call for a brochure today! (703) 841-0277, E-mail:


Introduction to American Wines
Michael Karlan,

Who says the best wines comes from Europe? Or South America? America is not just known for its hot-dogs and apple pie. We also have some of the finest vineyards in the world! Do you want your chance to be a real patriot and learn about American wines? Learn to distinguish between regional vineyards, as we present you the opportunity to sample wines from a range of different states. A reception follows the wine tasting. Tuesday, September 28, 7:00 p.m.- 9:30 p.m. Andrew Dowe will be on hand to teach everyone the art of drinking and enjoying fine wines. He will also explain to us the distinction between the different American wines. Andrew Dowe has served as the wine distributor for Sam and Harry's, the general manager of Vidalia, and the Director of Operations for Wine Source. He is an extremely dynamic speaker, and we are proud to offer his services to you. Phoenix Park Hotel, located at 520 North Capitol Street, N.W. (Across from Capitol City Brewing Company and one block from Union Station). $35 in advance. For reservation, please call (202) 686-6085, email, or check out our web site at


ANC 3C Meeting
Ann Loikow,

ANC 3C will meet on Monday, September 27, 8:00 p.m. (Meeting will follow Police Service Area (PSA) 204 Meeting which begins at 7:30 p.m.) Second District Police Station, 3220 Idaho Avenue, NW (Community Room). Agenda includes deregulation of electrical industry (Pepco), public forum on Giant Development, and Council hearing on NCS bonds. ANC Office: 2737 Devonshire Place, NW, (202) 232-2232, FAX: 232-0667.



In Search of Office Space
Michael Buckley,

In search of 200-500 sq. feet of office space in downtown DC.


Sublease Near Silver Spring Metro
Jon Katz,

1400 Spring St. Sublease one windowed office near Georgia Avenue with beautiful tree lined view of Woodside Park. Near Metro and District Court. Conference room to share, and secretarial space available. 24-hour access for tenants; lobby remains unlocked (with heating/air conditioning) through 1:00 p.m. on Saturdays. Month-to-month lease possible. As low as $500 per month. Call Jon Katz, Marks & Katz, Attorney at Law, (301) 495-4300.


Dave Nuttycombe,

From's LOOSE LIPS column, appearing this Friday:
WHITEY'S ON THE LOOSE! Mayor-for-Life Marion S. Barry Jr. often said that in the District, any issue can take on a racial dimension. Hizzoner's observation, from back in the '80s, predated the eastward march of gentrifiers through D.C.'s inner city — and came long before the ongoing turf wars in Shaw and Columbia Heights. But subsequent demographic changes have alterered his truism not at all.
In Shaw, there was a time when the dispute involving the Metropolitan Baptist Church and the Garrison Elementary School field was simply a matter of weighing the interests of local children against those of a venerable D.C. congregation.
But at last Sunday's service, Metropolitan Pastor Dr. H. Beecher Hicks stepped up to his see-through pulpit and held forth on what he saw as the real conflict at hand: Race.
Read the entire Loose Lips column here:

From's CITY LIGHTS page, here are a few early warnings for upcoming events:
FRIDAY: Singer-songwriter Mike Elosh, at 8 p.m. at St. Elmo's Coffee Pub, 2300 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria. Free.
THURSDAY: Lewis Black, Thursday and Sunday and 8 and 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, to Oct. 3, at the Improv, 1140 Connecticut Ave. NW. $12-$15.
More details and more critics' picks are available online at


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