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October 27, 1999

Awards for Arts Awards

Dear Arts Appreciators:

I'm going to say something nice about living in DC and about city government. Don't panic. This is only an aberration, and I won't make a habit of it. On Monday night, I attended the Mayor's Arts Awards, an annual event sponsored by the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities. In prospect, this event didn't seem very promising. Even aside from being sponsored and produced by a government commission; it was, after all, an awards program, and they are deadly by definition. But it turned out to be a real pleasure. Surprisingly, it wasn't an occasion for politicians to praise each other for how much they had done for the arts. Instead, it highlighted local arts and artists. Nobody made a long, boring speech. The evening actually moved along at a constant pace.

And the entertainment! Gorgeous jazz vocalist Sunny Sumter sang with a gorgeous tone; Washington Ballet soloists Ju Hyun Jo and Runqiao Du solved very difficult human geometry problems set to Stravinsky. And the evening ended with the entire audience dancing down U Street from the Lincoln Theater to the Reeves Center behind the DC Caribbean Festival Dancers and the Image Band. DC isn't really a party town; we're not New Orleans by a long shot. But occasionally we can break out in surprising ways. If a government agency can lead us dancing down the street, we're not completely lost.

Gary Imhoff


Myopia, Tunnel Vision, and a Pair of Rose-Colored Glasses
Larry Seftor,

I have read the replies to Dru Sefton's query about living in DC. Of particular interest are the postings from long time residents who deign to perform a competitive assessment with no memory of living elsewhere. As an adult I have lived in the Mid-West, the Far-West, the South-West, the West Coast, Canada, the DC suburbs, and DC itself. I believe that the DC metropolitan area is a relatively good place to live, but DC itself is a poor choice. Everyone has their list of woes (just read “themail” a bit); here are a sample of mine. [1] With a few exceptions the concept of a “reverse commute” in the DC area is disappearing. (Just try I66 inbound in the late afternoon if you doubt.) [2] Metrorail by its (flawed) design better supports those in the suburbs who travel to DC rather than the reverse. Because of the size of the investments involved, this will never change. [3] Self determination (most visibly through the lack of a vote) is missing in DC. It does matter — after all, people have died for it. The fact that people in DC say that it doesn't affect them reflects a self-selection process in which those who care don't live here. [4] Taxes are higher. Despite claims that nearby MD suburbs are roughly comparable, I calculated my taxes for both DC and MD last year (including property taxes), and DC is higher. [5] Services are either non-existent or unreliable. (As an example, consider that the MD-based Chevy Chase rescue squad serves Northwest DC, since DC rescue services are unreliable.) [6] Services are either non-existent or unreliable — it bears repeating. (As a second example, when parts of DC and all of the suburbs were plowed in a recent snow storm, my neighborhood was NEVER plowed. My car was trapped for a week. While Metro riders such as my wife thought this was quaint, it was a full-blown nightmare for me.) Nevertheless, the postings regarding DC are helpful in one respect to Dru. They show that it is possible to be quite happy living in DC. All that is required is myopia, tunnel vision, and a pair of rose-colored glasses.


What I Used to Like About Living in DC
Jean Lawrence,

I left DC for Arizona three years ago. Here is what has not faded in memory: The Zoo at 6:30 am, leafy trails dipping into a sudden coolness like slipping into a pond of water. The fountain outside the Pan American Union (we used to skinny dip there in the '60s). Annie's Paramount (gone? I heard that). Poor Roberts bar (gone, for sure). The Uptown, naturally. And — for some benighted reason I cannot explain -- the Building Museum. That's the weirdest place in DC — a building about buildings. I loved those drifty shows such as “The History of Casement Windows” and so on. DC dreaming.


Why I Love Living in DC
Naomi J. Monk,

Is there any other place to live other than DC? I do not think so. Where else can I walk across the street to the Waterside Mall with the Waterfront and Southeastern University Metro station, Safeway, CVS, banks, cleaners, restaurants and other stores. Where else can I walk across the street to catch a bus or cab or call and receive sedan service within several minutes, walk one block to the beautiful Waterfront walkway along the Potomac, walk one block to the Arena Stage, walk to many different churches within several blocks, walk a few to several blocks to a number of restaurants on the Waterfront, the Fish Wharf, the Titanic or Banneker memorials, the L'Enfant Plaza, the Smithsonian and other museums, to the Post Office, to the library, drive a few blocks to interstate 395, 270, 66 to MD or VA. Yes, I can walk downtown to the Capitol Mall. The First District Police Station support is readily available throughout the area and is located only several blocks away.

Good public schools are within close proximity. There is access to a number of cable companies and the internet provider: Bell Atlantic direct service line. I live in a diverse neighborhood where many neighbors know their neighbors and work with the Southwest Taskforce and other organizations to maintain a viable neighborhood. I am in hopes that Congress, MD, and VA will pay their fair taxes or costs and support as well as other states to DC to make DC “The Model Capital of the World.” DC Mayor Anthony Williams and other officials cannot do it alone because DC infrastructure is unique.


What He Likes About Maybe Living in DC
Tom Sherwood,

themail — I think you should call up fire chief Donald Edwards and ask him why HE likes living in D.C. NBC4 reported last week that he has a small apartment at the Rittenhouse on upper 16th Street but a $220,000 home in nearby Adelphi; that his DC phone number is forwarded to the Maryland address; that he has a Maryland driver's license, and his car is registered in Maryland. The chief avers that he does pay DC income taxes, but that seems the extent of his willingness to be a District resident. The Mayor is investigating and says “technical” residency is not enough for his cabinet. Stay tuned.


Water, Water, Everywhere, Nor Anyone to Think
Steph “Keeps her powder dry at least” Faul,

Monday I spoke with Kathy Patterson's office about the water leak in front of my house, not to mention its associated pile of dirt. (Yellow subsoil, from the look of it.) I got a call back from WASA saying they'd get an emergency crew out Tuesday night, Wednesday at the latest, honest, they were really sorry about this. According to my calendar, today is Wednesday, it's now too dark to work, and the pile of dirt still stands in front of my house and the associated stream of water is still gushing a supposedly valuable substance into the drain. So DC WASA is not only incompetent and wasteful, they're also liars.

Kathy Patterson's office, on the other hand, called me back to find out if things had been fixed. I said no.


Groovy Roads
Kelly Mack,

Lately I've been having problems with my commute to work, not because of traffic or train delays but because of grooves in the road. I use a wheelchair to get around and find it next to impossible to navigate over those grooves. I am thinking particularly of 18th and L, NW but in trying to avoid the possibility of getting stuck in the road with no way out I traveled down L street as far as 22nd without finding a safe cross way. I know this must also be inconvenient for those driving cars, but I find it dangerous and certainly damaging to my wheelchair. These grooves have been there for a couple weeks now. Anyone have a clue about why they are there? And for so long? Are they just not thinking of the safety of our citizens with disabilities?


Response to Michele on Taxicab Rules & Regs
Kurt Vorndran,

The laws are very clear. The cab must take you to your destination if it is within DC. As a carless community activist who lives in Upper Northwest and regularly goes to meetings in all parts of the city, I have had my share of unhappy cabbies. The key is to enter the cab, sit down and shut the door BEFORE you give your destination. Inform the driver where you want to go, don't ASK IF they will go to a certain address. Some may grumble the whole trip but few will tell you to get out once you are in.

I have had situations where the driver keeps the door locked. Before he can ask where I'm going, I politely ask “are you on duty?” If the driver still asks where I am going, I repeat my question once without responding to his question. After that I move on to find another cab if I don't get cooperation. Hotel lines are a special case. These cabs are looking for airport trips. I have found hotel management is quite good about barring non-compliant cabs from their cab stands if the passenger complains.


Stanford 9 Test Results
Bill Starrels,

As a Georgetown resident and active public school parent, (former PTA President at Hyde Elementary School) I would like to tout some good news about a number of our public schools. The test results for Hyde and a number of other public elementary schools are excellent. They show over three quarters of the students are testing proficient or advanced for both math and reading! The number of students testing below basic are in the low single digits.

A common misunderstanding about some of these schools, is they attract a sizable number of students that qualify for free or reduced lunch. The schools also have a sizable number who have “limited English” ability. Hyde also boasts 40% out of boundary students. Why this is important is the common argument against schools like Hyde and Mann, etc., is that they are “west of the park,” which was the term former Mayor for Life Barry used to invoke to fire up Washingtonians of all races. Hardy Middle School, whose Principal came from Hyde, showed great improvements in all test areas. Both Hardy and Hyde (among others) prove that small schools work, and children of all demographics, and from either side of Rock Creek Park, can learn well.

Hopefully Ms. Ackerman and our school board members will use the current test results to understand why the investment in smaller schools is worthwhile. They work, and it gives a standard for all DC schools to aim for.


Hearst Elementary and Charter Schools
Michele Rhodes,

While Hearst and Paul schools certainly deserve to be hailed, we at Hearst didn't apply for a charter to “shake free from the bonds of DCPS slavedom” [Ed Barron, October 24, themail]. We also don't feel oppressed by the teachers' union. What we want most of all is to be able to work with the administrative offices and better the entire school system, as well as making Hearst the best it can be and protecting it from future closing attempts. Unfortunately this has proven very difficult (often impossible) and the charter application is just another tool with which to safeguard Hearst if that should become necessary. Yes, if forced to, we would make Hearst a charter school so that we can continue this very special program; but not all of us feel that this is either a first choice or a decision that would necessarily improve Hearst or the rest of the school system.


Charter Schools AGAIN
Rich Mintz,

I recently moved from DC's Logan Circle to Atlanta, into a historic neighborhood called Grant Park that's “transitional” in the same way that many DC neighborhoods are: effectively controlled by prostitutes and drug dealers 15 years ago, it is now a stable, revitalized community of historic homes, largely inhabited by young couples (straight and gay) without children. Also like many DC neighborhoods, the gradually expanding stabilized portion in the center is ringed by rougher patches, which aspire to become part of the stable middle and, over time, tend to succeed thanks to the persistent neighborhood commitment of their residents. Atlanta is like DC in other ways, too: the quality of the schools has declined precipitously, and is now slowly but surely inching up. In fact, the city is building a brand new elementary school about three blocks from my house.

Here's my question: the neighborhood association is pushing hard to have this new school named a charter school from its very first day forward. From a community building point of view and from a property values point of view, do I want to support or oppose the idea of a charter school in my neighborhood?


Historic District Designation
Rich Mintz,

The City of Atlanta is preparing to designate a historic district encompassing most of Grant Park (a residential neighborhood mostly built between 1890 and 1910), including my new house, built in 1907. The vast majority of properties in a neighborhood of roughly 100 square blocks will be included. There is a hearing next week at which we property owners will be permitted to express our opinions. This sounds like a good idea to me, so I'm inclined to speak in favor; but from the perspective of those who live under similar restrictions in the DC area, are there any hidden costs or negatives that I'm not aware of? I have reviewed the umbrella ordinance and the specific neighborhood regulations, and they do not appear to impose any restrictions that I would not have abided by anyway.


Being Close
Kay McClenon,

I was in Shanghai about 15 years ago; that is being close to each other. The sidewalks wouldn't hold the pedestrians, so they were in the street too, which pushed the bicycles to the middle of the street, so the buses didn't have room to get through, but NOBODY bumped into anyone else. I really don't mind being sort of crowded, IF ONLY people would be attentive and considerate. The bicycle messenger is a prime example of inconsiderate. The person in the supermarket whose cart is in the middle of the aisle blocking people from either direction is an example of inattentiveness. What about a movement for more civility?


The Ballad of Madame Schumann
Mark David Richards,

Panic struck when Madame Jean Schumann of EPA learned of the letter from the “selfish” DC Council to the rulers at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, asking for help to have their civic symbol back. Madame Schumann has nightmares of being trapped at Waterside Mall (“Stuck at Waterside Mall,” Washington Post, 10/24/99). Federal taxpayers, she gasped, will "foot the bill" so DC can buy back its City Hall, just so they can have it all. “What about the schools?,” asks Madame Schumann, who apparently dashes from a hazardous EPA environment to her car to escape the horrors. She is incensed that she is, in part, paying “to kick herself out of her new office space.” She is perturbed that DC's elected officials think City Hall a sacred cow (after all, under duress, they auction off parts from time to time). Can you hear Madame Schumann's distress, M. Plotkin? If DC uses all of City Hall, EPA may be stuck at Waterside Mall! This is the ballad of Madame Schumann, who may suffer for a symbol. Chorus... DC Council sings of Madame Schumann's Grande sacrifice and grants her a Certificate of Recognition for extended suffering caused by the turbulence of DC's struggle to helm a self-governing glass polis on a monster-filled sea. The Mayor proclaims the day elected officials move in to City Hall full suffrage for DC day. Madame Schumann gasps in dismay as DC thanks EPA.


Deer in the City
Connie Ridgway,

We see deer frequently in our community garden at Newark and 39th Streets NW, next to Glover Archbald Park. In fact, many of the gardeners now have fences around their plots because the deer eat things, and I mean EAT. They ate all of our tomatoes and most of the green beans (we don't have a fence — just can't stand the thought). It's a nuisance but also a fascinating phenomenon — it seems that more hawks are in the city too. I guess they know we won't hurt them, so why not get some food and good shelter in the city?


Deer Watch
Bonnie Gantt,

I, too, have noticed the appearance of deer within the boundaries of neighborhoods surrounding Rock Creek Park. Once, I saw a whole family of deer seemingly sightseeing along Blagden and in someone's front yard. I'm also seeing more and more opossums (Could it be that all the development going on has caused an onslaught of forest animals into the "civilized" sections of the city? I worry for them.


Deer Environment in the City
Lea Adams,

For you, Greg, “31st Street” is a “neighborhood.” For the deer, based on hundreds of generations of instinctive memory, it's just another piece of the Park. And, speaking of the Park, does it occur to any of the supporters of cell phone towers that, if one feels unsafe in Rock Creek Park for any reason, at any time, one can choose to stay out of it? The roads through RCP were not designed as thoroughfares, but as access to the solace and serenity one finds in a relatively unspoiled urban oasis. What I'm still trying to figure out is why the nightmare I had some 20 years ago in which people were walking down the street talking on telephones has come true! There was life before the cellular age; if we are mindful and vigilant, citizens who care can ensure that the fragile life in DC's limited natural environment will continue to be protected against the self-serving interests of commerce and the “business-friendly” community.



Parents Council of Washington Fall Meeting
Peggy Robin

The Parents Council of Washington, an organization representing the parents, faculty, and administrations of 60 Washington area independent schools, is presenting its fall program on “A Practical Focus on Mental Health in the Family.” The speaker is Chris Essex, Co-Director of the Center for Work and the Family. Georgetown Prep School's Figge Theater, 10900 Rockville Pike, North Bethesda, MD 20852, Tuesday, November 16th, registration at 7 pm; program begins promptly at 7:30 pm. The program is free and open to all, but a donation of $3 per person or $5 per family would be appreciated to help support the Parents Council's programs.


Retreat to the Country Near the City
Connie Ridgway,

Longview Retreats is a beautiful place just 15 miles south of DC, on the river with a view of the Washington Monument and Mt. Vernon. This Saturday, October 30, 10 am - 4 pm, is "The Creative Spirit," a workshop for women on nurturing creativity. $50. Bring your lunch. We'll provide snacks and beverages. And prepare to see bald eagles and lots of other wildlife. On Saturday, November 13, 9 am to 12 noon, come for a morning of “Creative Wellness,” a combination of qi gong (a Chinese healing art), guided imagery with music and artwork. Cost is $30. Contact me to register at or call 202-966-1485.



Ann Bond,

'98 Winnebago Brave, 32' long, 13K miles, sleeps 5, master suite/queen bed, full bath, heated basement storage, am/fm stereo/CD player, 2 phones, 10" color TV, CB radio, 2 AC's, 3 burner gas stove/oven, microwave, refrig/freezer/icemaker, 85 gallon fresh water, neutral tan interior. $54,500. Ann Bond,, 202-994-4390.



Seeking Company that Prints Pens, etc.
Jon Katz,

My law firm seeks a company that will print our name on pens, coffee cups, and other products. Do you know of a place that does a good job at a fair price? Thanks.


Looking for a Handyman
Judith Turner,

I am trying to find someone who will take down a room divider and lift and haul carpeting away, install ceiling fixtures, install a complicated (well, to me!) front and back doorbell, fix a ceiling, etc. If you've had good experiences and want to share, please let me know.


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