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October 17, 1999


Dear Advisors:

Newcomer Dru Sefton seeks advice on what the benefits are of living in DC, as opposed to the suburbs. Do you have any answers? How would you try to convince someone moving to the metropolitan area to live within our fair city?

Speed bumps are popular with themail readers, at least on their own blocks and corners. Let's hear more; once you get off of your own quiet residential block, do you want to drive to work or shopping over speed bumps?

Gary Imhoff


DC Dog Coalition
Victor Chudowsky,

Hi all, thought I would bring you up to date on DC Dog Coalition (DCDC), seeing as how the organization was started on themail. We were formed to fight the banning of certain breeds of dogs, so-called “pit bulls,” from DC. There is a very nice article in City Paper this week about us. I would just like to add a few things not covered in the article, which may astound and amaze you. 1) Some Councilmembers support the bill banning “pit bulls” (Bill 13-135) without even so much as calling the Department of Health to get a grip on precisely what the problem is. They do not even have any statistics on dog bites in the District. DCDC had to do this by filing an FOIA request. More entertainment will result! 2) Councilmember Graham refers to an instance where a constituent had to fend off a “pit bull” with a garbage can lid, after the thing killed a cat. What is not mentioned is that the city, through the normal administrative procedure for adjudicating dog bite cases, ruled that the person in question in fact provoked the attack, and was trespassing. 3) Through the existing administrative procedure, not a single “pit bull” has been deemed "dangerous" by the city.

4) This law, if passed, will result in dozens, if not hundreds, of dogs rounded up and killed (the Humane Society term “euthanasia” does not apply, as that is taking the life of a human or animal which is already suffering). The vast majority of these pose no danger to the public, and have not bitten anyone. Who will be responsible for this roundup? The police, that's who. So, in a city with over two hundred murders a year and over 1,000 assaults, our police will be playing dogcatcher, rounding up dogs which do not bite. Since an animal is property, they will require a warrant to do so legally. In these cases, our police will be spending time waiting in line to get warrants from a judge to round up dogs that do not bite. Oh, and by the way, you are approximately 4 to 5 times more likely to be MURDERED in the District of Columbia than bitten — not killed, just bitten — by a “pit bull.” You are many times more likely to be assaulted or raped. But don't bother calling a policeman — he's busy rounding up Fido! 5) The Washington Humane Society supports this ban — a bizarre stance given that their own animal control officers are on record as stating that irresponsible owners and dog abusers are at the root of the problem, and not the dogs themselves. Why? They'll tell you that 1/3 of the dogs that come into the shelter are “pit bulls.” So because of this storage problem, we have to separate fine dogs from fine homes, so WHS can kill them. If anyone can please explain how this is “humane” or “ethical treatment” please respond. 6) Cleveland and Cincinnati, the first major cities to try such a thing, are reversing their bans. The cost of housing an animal while its fate was decided was $2500 per dog. The taxpayers paid. Dog bite incidents did not decline. The ban made owners so angry that a lot of money had to be spent installing security equipment at animal shelters, and assaults occurred.

Anyway, thank you everyone for your support. Take a look at our web page, we'd like to hear from you. We've just scratched the surface — you'll be reading more! DC Dog Coalition:


Don King Day
Tony Ross,

Last issue, Helen Hagerty noted the unfortunate proclamation of Don King Day here in DC. Lest anyone think he's merely some harmless, colorful boxing “character” with wacky hair, let's please not forget that in the late '60s — in his previous occupation as a numbers runner — he beat a man to death. I seem to recall there was some murkiness as to how he got out of that with only a manslaughter conviction and 4 years in prison. Of course, King likes to remind people that he came out of jail totally reformed (shades of Malcolm X, another numbers runner saved in prison), but he's been the subject of multiple investigations regarding fraud, in connection with the management of his boxers' finances. While he is a great promoter, many in the boxing press have strongly criticized his relationship with the young (mostly black) men he manages, characterizing him as exploitative to the extreme. While under the Barry administration, a Don King Day would simply be par for the course, I'm a bit surprised to see Mr. Evans involved in this.


“Managed” Competition
Richard Stone Rothblum,

If managed competition is forcing governmental service providers to compete with private contractors for the right to provide services, this is an idea that has been around for a long time in the Navy. I watched these exercises in futility for years at the David Taylor Model Basin, where I worked. With few exceptions, the government's in-house providers got to define the problem, define their contribution, and define the cost of their contribution. The private contractors never had a chance, and there was no independent review of the process. For example, our in-house transportation department defined their job in part as providing a “taxi” service that would pick up anyone anywhere on the base and transport them to where they wanted to go, as a private taxi service would. They defined the in-house cost of this in the most favorable light to them, ignoring many ancillary costs, such as training, insurance, rent, and many capital investments. After the in-house people “won” the contract to provide the services, they then reneged on providing the services. This farce took place annually, and did nothing but undermine morale and waste time and money.


Same Thing Over in London
Ed T. Barron,

As I read the Daily Telegraph a couple of Saturdays ago in london while on the way to a grand two week vacation in Spain, I thought I might just be reading an article in the Washington Post. Seems they have the same problems on the UK side of the pond with their public schools that we have in the District. There is public outcry for vouchers that will allow all students to attend the school of their choice, either public or private.

Not too many years ago the British public schools were noted for their high standards and results. Socialism ruined these schools much like the Teachers' Unions have ruined the public schools in the U.S. It is interesting to note that the public schools in Ireland never succumbed, and their public schools are still performing as intended and providing an excellent education to all Irish students, even those in the cities of Ireland.


District Government Numerology
Mark Eckenwiler,

Ralph Blessing recently suggested that the Citywide Call Center (727-1000) deserves a grade of D. While I'm not sure I'd mark them down that low, I agree that the CCC isn't exactly the answer to our prayers. In my experience, it is not a good idea to rely on the Call Center alone. It adds another layer of bureaucracy, introduces some additional delay, and makes it harder to push for results if you're calling for a second or third time about the problem. Call them in addition to the specific agency responsible for dealing with your issue, if you call them at all.

BTW, I've created a very no-frills web page listing useful DC government numbers, along with my highly opinionated musings on the best way to cajole/induce/browbeat DC government agencies into providing the municipal services you need: Parts of the page are specific to my local PSA (so sue me); the rest may be of value to anyone in the District. Comments welcome. (And yes, I'll HTMLize the page someday in my Copious Free Time.)


Speed Bumps
Ralph Blessing,

Before we spend too much time discussing the pros and cons of speed bumps, it would be helpful to get the definitive word on their legality in DC. At a recent ANC meeting, a DPW higher up repeated the oft quoted statement that speed bumps are not permitted in DC. I've heard the same from a number of DC police officials. However, Councilmember Graham identifies a location where the bumps are, in fact, already in place. Likewise, last week's Northwest Current reported that speed bumps were to be installed — presumably by DPW — on a short side street in Woodley Park. Does anyone out there know what DC's official policy on speed bumps really is?


Richard Stone Rothblum,

Speed bumps are the most idiotic traffic control solution ever to be invented. Try driving over them with someone who is infirm, sick or injured. If a driver is determined to speed, the bumps are little deterrent, but might serve to throw a speeding vehicle out of control. Everyone wants traffic to proceed apace, except through his own neighborhood. This is known as “Not In My Back Yard” and is not a tenable approach to anything. Why don't we just let the potholes do the job?


Smooth Streets
Barbara Frank,

Please, please, please, NO speed bumps on the streets — they are as bad as I ever want them to be already.


Rumble Strips and Speed Bumps
Jessica Vallette,

Quite possibly rumble strips would severely cut down on the number of cars that try to pass on the right where 11th Street, S Street, and Vermont Avenue converge. The northbound lanes of 11th Street narrow from 3 lanes to 1 just after southbound Vermont Ave. empties out onto 11th. Many drivers don't see the lanes narrowing or just chose to ignore traffic stopped at the light at Vermont and 11th streets. One accident was so bad that a taxi narrowly missed my fiancé as he was working in our back yard after hopping the curb (the taxi took out 5 fences and landed in a brick wall).

The traffic on 11th Street needs to be slowed down and one good way would be to install rumble strips between S Street and Vermont Ave. in the right hand lane of northbound 11th street. To further slow the traffic that speeds up after the light at this intersection to catch the U Street light, a speed bump is needed at 11th and T Streets (only because DC refuses to install a 4-way stop at this very dangerous intersection).


The Steeper the Better
Alan Abrams,

In 1996, I had the opportunity to interview Karen Benefield (then) of the Design, Engineering, and Construction division of DPW, for an article on speed bumps and humps in the Takoma Voice. At that time, Benefield described the lack of success with DC's pilot speedhump program on 46th St. (dating back to the early 80's). She said the program was ultimately squelched by the Corporation Council, out of fear of liabilities arising from placing obstructions in a public roadway. However, reflecting on the popularity of speed bumps — and humps — in the 'burbs, Benefield told me she would like to revisit the issue. I attempted to reach her by phone recently; the phone call was not returned.

Living on Aspen St. NW, which in the past ten years has evolved from a relatively quiet residential lane to a significant commuter cut-through, I heartily support placement of speed humps. The steeper, the better, too. Nor would I object to a “front-foot” type tax assessment for the purpose.


Slow Traffic
Randi Rubovits-Seitz,

We on Woodley Place will be delighted to have speed bumps on our block. We hope there will be several, to prevent speeding up to or just after the bump. If we could get red-light-runner cameras at Connecticut and Calvert, that would be very useful, too. Who are the government officials we should contact about this?


Slower Traffic
Elizabeth M Wulkan,

I am unilaterally in favor of any means to slow traffic in D.C. A few years ago, a man waiting for a bus in my neighborhood (Alaska Avenue and Geranium Street NW) was killed by a speeding car that jumped the curb at the bus stop. The city declined to install a traffic light, even after the neighbors collected a petition with dozens of signatures and went to hearings. Traffic still speeds from Georgia Avenue to 16th Street. If a light is not possible, any other means to slow traffic is welcome — not just on Alaska Avenue but throughout Shepherd Park, other neighborhoods, and city-wide.


Slowest Traffic
Marie Collins, Shaw,

Slowing down cross-town traffic on Q Street NW is a concern of many of my neighbors. Commuters use Q St. as a quick eastern route to NY Avenue or N. Capitol (sometimes I fan my ire by counting the MD license plates). Problem is, Q Street is all residential past Dupont Circle. There are lots of kids walking home from Seaton Elementary (10th & R), Shaw JHS (11th) and Ujoma Elementary (8th & Q). Commuters could use RI or FL Ave. or P St. but like the directness of Q because of one-way traffic lights that seem to favor a +35 mph speed and no city busses to jostle with. We constantly have cars flying down Q from the turn-off from RI through to FL. We've had more than one incident in the last year of a child being hit by a car (thankfully no serious injuries — but it's only a matter of time). Our local ANC recently asked DPW to install a stop sign at the intersection between 7th and 6th Sts. in the hopes it would force drivers to slow down. He was told no can do because Q is designated a cross-town thoroughfare. Perhaps I'm ignorant in the ways of urban planning, but why is a wholly residential, one way street that harbors several schools being preserved as a thoroughfare when avenues like RI (three lanes each way and left hand turn lanes) and FL (granted, FL dumps traffic rather awkwardly onto NY Ave. — but you wouldn't avoid this if you took Q instead) seem designed for heavy traffic. I myself use Q St. a lot to cross town but would gladly accept speed bumps, at least at certain blocks where schools guarantee a heavy flow of child pedestrians, as a necessary inconvenience.


Wild Enthusiasm
Leslie J. Thompson,

I am wildly enthusiastic about speed bumps. We live on a one-way street with a stop sign at 5th Street, NE, and a traffic signal at 6th Street, NE. When a car is approaching the stop sign at 5th Street and can see the light is green on 6th Street, the driver floors the gas and roars down our block at unbelievable speeds. We have older citizens, kids, and dogs living in our block, and I am just waiting for one of them to get smashed by these drivers.


Traffic Calming in the Wild-Eyed City
Steph “Wearing my traffic safety hat today” Faul,

Washington definitely needs calmer traffic, and calmer drivers wouldn't hurt either. However. The most effective local example of traffic calming is, of course, “Tim McVeigh Park” in front of the White House, but it's possible to take less drastic measures and still make life safer for pedestrians. Dozens of techniques are available, including installing mini-traffic circles, as has been done in Seattle and Portland, to visually narrowing streets with paint on the pavement, as has been half-heartedly attempted on Western Avenue west of River Road.

Speed bumps/humps tend to irritate drivers, while other devices such as bulb-outs and chicanes can be more user-friendly. Textured paving is also effective at slowing traffic, which is one reason some of us actually LIKE our potholes. The Dutch have a concept called “woonerf,” which basically means that streets should be livable and usable for all types of traffic, including playing children, cyclists, pedestrians, and automobiles. We could use more of it here, that's for sure. For additional information about traffic calming techniques, see these sites:

Montgomery County:
General traffic calming strategies and pedestrian protection:


Gandhi and Collective Heroism
Jonetta Rose Barras,

Larry Seftor and others miss the point of Gandhi's comment. They may want to revisit the history of slavery in America. Then, tens of thousands of Africans snatched from their homelands and robbed of their dignity, believed the only vehicle for restoring that dignity and controlling their destiny was, in fact, to take their own lives. It denied their captors the pleasure of stripping them of their humanity while casting them as animals. A man like Gandhi ,who not only believed in non-violent civil disobedience but also the ability of a people to alter their destiny using this seemingly benign weapon, could only have meant to communicate what slaves already knew long before he began his fight with the British and long before Hitler ever thought of world domination.

As to his off-handed comment about the representation of Asian and Pacific Islanders in the mayor's office, Mr. Seftor should be careful. He forgets the history of Jews in this country and their struggle for access and equality. If he doesn't like the statue of Gandhi, that's one thing, but there's no need to taint a great man's reputation or cast aspersion on the government's attempt to serve all its citizens.


Not Everything Is a Case of Anti-Semitism
Larry Seftor,

Unfortunately David Sobelsohn misrepresented my comments about Gandhi. I never claim that he was anti-Semitic. I simply argued that there is a case to be made against placing a statue of Gandhi in D.C. I believe in free speech and the right of anyone, including Gandhi admirers, to advocate pretty much whatever they want. However, providing Government support — in this case by providing public space for a statue — implies admiration and some sense of support for the associated views. We live in an age where suppressive Governments are giving way, leading to a resurgence of ethnic rivalries, and instances of ethnic cleansing. By this I mean that one group doesn't simply want to gain an advantage, but wants to wipe out/exterminate another group. I don't believe that this is something that citizens of the U.S. (excluding Pat Buchanan) can tolerate, or would support (hence our recent bombing campaign in Europe). I find the concept of standing by and letting one group of people butcher another group of people reprehensible. I don't think it is what American's believe, and I don't think a public space should be given to someone who advocated this position in the quote I recently posted.


The Vibrant Cities of Europe
Ed T. Barron,

After ten two week holiday trips to Europe over the last twenty years I have concluded that the Europeans really know how to take care of their aging cities. The last two weeks were spent in Spain in Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, and Seville. All of these cities are vibrant. They are alive with residents from early morning until late at night. Most of these folks live and work right in their city. Apartments right in amongst the commercial areas assure that these areas do not go to sleep after the work force goes home. In Spain many of the shops close from 2 PM until 5 PM for a big meal and a siesta (that sounds pretty good to me). Traffic in these big cities (all averaging nearly a Million in population) is very heavy but also very fast moving. You must pay careful attention to the walking green man light.

The city governments and the State Governments seem to spend a good deal of budget on maintaining their cities and it shows. In Barcelona all the new expansion of the city (which began almost seven hundred years ago) was done with an interesting plan. At every intersection of two right angled streets, the corners of the building are lopped off at a forty five degree angle. This gives every intersection the appearance of being an open square. Actually quite clever, and it really enhances the appearance of the streets. Perhaps converting more of the run down office structures in the city to apartments and condos would enable D.C. to become a more vibrant city. Someone recently suggested that for the old EPA office building down on Maine Avenue. Not a bad start, perhaps.



A Newcomer Seeks DC Advice
Dru Sefton,

Hello! I'm new to the area, as well as to this list. My husband and I are house hunting and find ourselves overwhelmed with the all the various possibilities: Maryland, Virginia, Annapolis, Inside/Outside the Beltway, this county, that county. What I'd like to ask of all of you is, what are the benefits of living in the District? Other than being closer to downtown, that is. And how about the disadvantages — does it bother you not having national political representation, for instance? And are the rats really *that* bad? Thanks for any feedback!


Old College and Legal Textbooks
Clare Feinson,

You're in luck — Politics and Prose is collecting books, especially educational and legal books, for a books in prison project. I just took all the rest of my law school books up there tonight and it felt wonderful — it beats using the books to press salmon (see 29 Reasons Not to Become a Lawyer -- great book!).


Old College and Legal Textbooks
Austin Kelly,

Rachel Hines asks about donating old textbooks. If they are still fairly current (not Lotus 2.0 for DOS texts, for instance), the Civic Education Project occasionally ships donated textbooks to Eastern European universities. They can be reached at As a CEP alum (Bulgaria, 92-93) I can assure you that the odds of the books actually reaching the shelves of a university are much better than average. CEP has lecturers in the universities where the books are donated, and they do check up on these things.


Guide to Private Schools
Sarah Eilers,

Does anyone know where I can find a written guide to area (mainly DC) private schools? If so, please e-mail me at the above address. Any other pointers on the whole information gathering, testing, school application process would be appreciated as well.


Masonry/Plumbing/Chimney Recommendations Wanted
Mark Eckenwiler,

My house needs some repair work on the exterior window seams (gap between window frame and brick) and a couple of other leaky brickwork spots (e.g., where an exhaust vent passes through an exterior wall). I'm looking for suggestions on a reasonably priced, competent masonry service. Also needed: suggestions for heating/plumbing repair and chimney service. Bonus points for businesses located on Capitol Hill.



Public Utility Deregulation — Electric, Gas, Telecommunications.
Evelyn Mittman Wrin,

On Tuesday, October 19, Elizabeth Noel, People's Counsel, will discuss public utility deregulation at a meeting of Chevy Chase Citizens Association. The meeting is at 7:30 p.m. and will be held at St. John's College High School, Military Road & 27th St. NW. [Use the driveway on 27th St. near Military Road to park and enter the building.] Representatives of the utility companies have been invited. The meeting is open to all interested persons. For further information call 202.244.5744.



Give History for the Holidays! Do You Know Your House History?
Paul Kelsey,

You should! Let us research the owners, architects, and builders associated with your historic house or building in DC. Find out who they were and where they worked! Its great for renovations, as a marketing tool for sellers, or provides that perfect gift for someone who has everything. Photos, maps, and written research presented in a full color chronological report at reasonable prices by professional historic preservationists. For more information or a free estimate contact Paul Williams at Kelsey & Associates at (202) 462-6251 or


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