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November 24, 1999

Happy Thanksgiving

Dear Subscribers:

Happy Thanksgiving. To celebrate, I'm not going to write about DC government; I'm just going to clean up a few housekeeping matters. A lot of subscribers got two copies of the last issue of themail. I apologize, but it was a hiccup caused by Windows freezing while the message was being sent. For once, it wasn't my mistake. Many people have asked how to get back issues of themail that they have missed or deleted. All past issues are archived on the web at, and the current issue is usually available with an hour or two of having been mailed. Are your copies of themail badly formatted? If you're getting the HTML version of themail, you may have have to switch back to the straight text version; if you're using recent versions of Netscape Navigator or Internet Explorer, you should be able to switch to the HTML version, which uses bold color headlines to make the issue a little easier to read. Directions for
switching between text and HTML versions are printed at the end of each issue.

themail is always sent as a straight text or HTML message. However, issues of themail are longer than most E-mail messages. Several correspondents have written that their ISP or network either packages themail as an attachment, delivers it as a blank message, or truncates it. If you have one of these problems on a network, complain to your network administrator and have the length restriction changed. If the problem is your ISP (I've just been informed that AOL has modified older versions of their software so that they cut off themail midway), complain to your ISP, upgrade to a newer version of their software, switch ISP's, or catch up with themail over the web.

Gary Imhoff


How Stupid?
Nick Keenan, Shaw,

I thought of two DC-specific aspersions:

She's a couple of ANC commissioners short of a quorum.
His voice of reason is a non-voting delegate.


Even Stupider
Ralph Blessing,

Here's a way to describe a rather dense Washingtonian that fits right in with some of the discussions we've been having:

He/she's one cell tower short of full coverage.


Citizen Action in Ward 7 (Draft Greg Rhett)
Rhoma Battle,

A group of friends and I have formed an organization in Ward 7 called the Citizens Action Committee for Ward 7. We are a group of civic minded residents who have come together from all parts of the Ward to urge Greg Rhett to run for Ward 7 City Council. Our principal endeavors include distributing flyers, organizing events and educating the public about a man who has become a real force for change in Ward 7, and whom I and others believe has the professional background and community service credentials that make him eminently qualified to serve as Ward 7's next City Councilmember.

I'm putting this information out to themail because I want to begin a conversation about how people feel about the current leadership (or lack thereof) in Ward 7, (and please don't tell me that you “like what he's doing with the schools,” which tends to be the standard blank stare, no-brainer answer I've been getting from some Ward 7 residents who can't even figure out what he's done for them or the Ward in nearly eight years of being in office). Our group is inspired by the notion that citizens in our community deserve (and should now demand) “a Councilmember whose foremost ambition is to serve the residents of Ward 7.” It seems to me that Councilmember Chavous is using his position as chair of the Council's Education Committee to further his own ambition to become mayor — while folks out here in Ward 7 can't even get his leadership in getting the “normal” amenities of a decent grocery store, or a decent sit-down restaurant in Ward 7. He's neglecting the basics in Ward 7, and our group intends to hold him fully accountable. What do you think?


Congress Extends Tax Credit
Robert Marvin, Dupont Circle,

Well, D.C. residents got one gift from Congress this session, an extension of the tax credit for first-time home buyers, which was set to expire at the end of 2000. President Clinton plans to sign into law the bill that extends the credit until the end of 2001 during the week of November 29. Could the extension mean that the real estate boom, which has been ongoing for the last year and a half or so, will last until 2002? The extension suggests that Congress will continue renewing the credit year after year. For those that don't follow the machinations of tax policy, there is a short list of items that Congress extends “temporarily” year after year. If the D.C. credit has joined that list, and it appears that it has, this is certainly a good thing.

I don't know about the folks who want to endlessly debate the merits and debits of D.C. living, but I am wondering when to cash out my very modest holding(s). Real estate agents, for better or worse, are talking about Capitol Hill gentrifying all the way to the Anacostia. I have not been that way recently, but even the hoods across the other river have been getting serious interest as well, if you believe City Paper. My dark and gloomy side, however, reminds me that, credit or no credit, the boom can't last forever. Any thoughts? How high can prices go?


Talk of Cleaning Up the Eyesore on the Potomac’s Right Bank
Mark Richards, Dupont East,

Here's a passage from a guidebook to the District 69 years ago: Washington, City of Mighty Events, by David Rankin Barbee, Garrett and Massie, Inc., Richmond, Virginia, 1930 — “In the original District was included land from Maryland and land from Virginia, taking in both Georgetown and Alexandria.... In 1846 Congress ceded back to Virginia all the land on the west bank of the Potomac, and since that date only the original grant from Maryland has been included in the District. Strange as it may seem, it was not until the 80’s that the country became reconciled to the fact that the Capital was to be permanently located in the South.... This accounts for the tardiness with which Congress provided the funds for building a Capital worthy of the Nation. Having outgrown its original environs and spreading out into Maryland, a movement is now on to have Virginia recede Alexandria and her portion of the original grant. This may become necessary in order that the Government might clean up the Virginia section adjacent to Washington, which has long been an eyesore.”


DC Public Library
David Sobelsohn,

The folks at the DC public library tell me they can't use interlibrary loan to get books from other library systems, even those in the Maryland and Virginia suburbs. Does anyone know if this limitation is exclusive to the DCPL system or if the suburban libraries are similarly restricted to their own collections?


DCPS to Destroy Charter School
Patricia Howard-Chittams,

My eldest son attends Hyde Public Charter School. This is a Character First program, one of the first in the nation. This program is based on boarding schools located in Bath, Maine and Woodstock, Connecticut. This program is run by the founder of both schools, Mr. Gauld. The principles of this school are integrity, courage, concern, curiosity, and leadership. The students learn that they are their brother's keeper and must use peer pressure in a positive way. All students are required to participate in extracurricular activities (performing arts, newspaper, arts, sports). Parents are required to participate in Discovery Groups, which assist in unlearning past mistakes and learning how best to assist our children in this voyage called life. This past weekend, over 65% of parents and students participated in a parent weekend over two days. This is more than ever shows up at a regular PTA meeting.

The issue is that DCPS is planning to place an alternative program in the same school. This program, called “Choices,” is for the worst students in DCPS. Students who have been suspended or expelled from other DCPS schools will be sent here. This is not congruent with the Hyde program. We, as parents, wonder, if these students are not to attend regular DCPS schools, why should they be placed to commingle with Hyde Students? The thought is that DCPS wants to destroy the program. With so many schools unused, why can't their program be sent there? Hyde desires to rent the entire building. It stated this from the beginning. DCPS has thrown stumbling blocks in its path from the beginning. The first school it negotiated to purchase was Tech, but it moved into Langley after intervention from Connie Newman. It has put over $500,000 into both these buildings in renovations and repairs. Hyde should at least be allowed to succeed or fail on its own without interference from Ackerman and DCPS.


Mystery Drains
Steph “Are there alligators down there?” Faul,

Every storm drain in D.C. has been marked with a dot of Day-Glo green spray paint, and some have a sticker saying “Counted by C&F” as well. Does anyone know what this is about? What do the green dots signify? Why are the drains being counted, if that is what it is?


Closing UDC
Marc Kevin Battle, Brookland Park,

As a recent graduate of UDC and a current student at the Howard University School of Law, I must argue that closing UDC would amount to closing many opportunities to District residents and others. A junior college system simply does not prepare students for the professional and educational requirements for success in today's society. District residents have the same right to affordable, quality higher education in the same way that state schools function for states. In achieving this, residents should not have to be exported all over the country to receive an education they would be denied in their own backyards.

UDC is still the favorite whipping boy of this city. Media accounts paint a bleak educational picture, while they ignore the countless success stories emerging from this institution. At the root of the misinformation is the fact that UDC is simply a non-traditional university serving a predominantly non-traditional college population. A significant percentage of people attending UDC attend for continuing education purposes. They do not enter intending to graduate — only to brush up on some skills. Others enter UDC and then transfer to larger colleges offering more resources and course selections. This is not what usually happens at “traditional universities.” The graduation rate, therefore, is not an accurate indicator of the success of UDC.

An accurate indicator would be an honest assessment of the goals and intentions of UDC attendees. At any rate, the option of attaining a college degree should remain for those who wish to fully exercise this option. As an individual fully intending to pursue the law, UDC was an excellent choice for me. I entered law school fully prepared to compete and excel in this rigorous environment. UDC prepared me to do this, and UDC should remain to prepare others yet to come.


Subtexts in Urban Space
Mark Richards, 17th Street Strip,

It is interesting to think about what we don't say (and thank the Buddha some things are left unsaid!). Here are more thoughts on the JRs discussion, directly linked to the liquor Moratorium on 17th Street. The area is mixed use — not like the suburbs, where everything is zoned apart and cars are needed. The ANC voted against their increasing their space because they oppose “lateral expansion.” The reason for the recently renewed moratorium is to limit restaurants, pubs, and clubs (which serve alcohol) in hopes of encouraging business diversity. It is believed that the restaurants drive up the rental costs, which drive out businesses that operate on a small margin (antique stores, etc.). Since nobody has come up with a way to address the "balance" issue directly (excepting the Soviets and the 5-year plan), the moratorium is considered by the ANC, and I believe DCCA, as the most effective tool “to preserve neighborhood character” (a worthy goal). I am not aware of hard data to support this notion, but that was not considered necessary when the moratorium was renewed. There are new stores on the block — clothing, furniture, a bank, and a nail place — but one can argue that the patrons of the pubs are why the new places exist (same clientele). The argument can go on and on.

The problems thought to be exasperated by the restaurants, pubs, and outdoor cafes, which bring DC revenues and residents, are parking (outsiders come in — the High Heel Race has become a regional event, making many unhappy), noise (people walk and talk), trash (stuff blows), rats (eat the trash and food behind the places), and sometimes panhandlers (who patronize the patronizes). People live here for the very things that cause the uproar. I did a random survey of about 75 people in The Cairo in '97. People said they moved here because of the vibrant neighborhood and the easy access to everything one needs within walking distance. They said the thing that distinguishes the neighborhood is the vibrant sidewalk culture — outdoor cafes and bars, it's alive after 5 and fun outside of business hours, lots of singles, active nightlife, eclectic, has an edge, the international flavor of residents, diverse lifestyles welcomed, the supportive and visible gay community, and the self sufficient neighborhood.


DC Vehicle Registration
Ed Kane,

I had an unusual experience this afternoon (Tuesday, November 23rd), when, driving south around Chevy Chase Circle, on Connecticut Avenue, at about 4:00 p.m., I happened to glance at the tag of the aged automobile in front of me. The DC plate (number provided upon request) showed an expiration date of February 92 (repeat 92). Now, obviously, this vehicle has not been inspected since 1992, or earlier, and therefore represents a potential threat to all other drivers on area roads. But my quandary is this: what do I do about this sighting? Do I report it? If so, to whom? I solicit input from themail subscribers.


Wrong Side of the Street, for Whom?
Rob (I hate cabs) Fleming,

For the writer who said cabbies took him to task for being on the wrong side of the street, this may be DC's infamous Taxi Zone system at work. Cabs charge according to the number of zones they carry you across. If you live on a border, you may get charged more, or less, for your trip depending on the side of the street you got picked up on. The same is true at your destination. The Washington Hilton has doors in two different taxi zones, so cabbies are notorious for delivering you to the one that gets them one more zone counted in the calculation of the fare. I think there is supposed to be a zone map in every cab, so take a look next time and see if you live on a border, and if the cabby is trying to save you money or hike his fare. Take this into consideration when you calculate the tip.


Bad News in the Post
Andrea Carlson,

Phil Shapiro accuses The Washington Post of “Bad News.” I would argue that its greater sin is selectivity in the news it chooses to report. For instance, editors have chosen to ignore the fact that teachers across the city are being underpaid — and that they're leaving in droves as a result. There was a tiny blurb in the Metro section “update” section that noted that the teachers' union plans to demonstrate on Tuesday in protest. Why isn't this front page news? I've asked the same question of the Post's ombudsman and gotten no reply. My daughter's teacher, who is new to DCPS, is being paid $4,500 less than her annual contract specifies. One new teacher at our school waited in line downtown for eight hours (and you thought DMV was bad!) just to get her paycheck. Veteran teachers aren't getting their due, either. In a recent meeting, Elois “Henchwoman” Brooks told principals that Ms. Ackerman didn't want to hear about teachers complaining about paycheck problems. Shut up and put up, in other words — the DCPS motto. Those who can't stomach it walk — I've heard that 30 teachers have already left the system this year. At Garrison alone, three teachers have split. In an era of teacher shortages, is this any way to treat people? Let's see what the Post thinks when (or if) they report on the teacher demonstration Wednesday.


Starpower Reception
Bob Summersgill,

In response to Brian Reeve's questions about Starpower “Anyone out there have it yet? How's the reception?” The reception is excellent. The channel line-up is (at least for me) superior, the price is lower than DC Cablevision, everyone at Starpower has been polite and friendly -- if not necessarily knowledgeable about their products (but I chalk that up to all of them being new.) I'm considering adding other services including high speed internet access. I have not gotten their phone service because of limited options for long-distance carriers which all cost more than my current service.


Starpower Cable et al.
Michael Handler, Logan Circle/Shaw,

In regards to getting Starpower's cable TV service (and high speed cable modem Internet access) in DC: unless you're in an apartment building with a Starpower contract, you're out of luck. At this point in their buildout, Starpower is only providing service to multi-unit dwellings, and won't be starting to build out to single unit dwellings until sometime in 2000. My sense is that they're not prepared to do the full-scale advertising blitz and manage the single unit installer crews in the field yet, and they'd rather concentrate on apartment buildings, where word of mouth, sales info in the lobby, and access to the building's telco room is sufficient to sell and hook up new customers.

It's a shame, since District Cablevision's channel lineup and customer service are pretty anemic, and the channel lineup on the Starpower web site is pretty enticing. In all fairness though, they have gotten better: when I first moved into DC in January of 1997, the earliest time they could schedule an installation was six weeks in the future; recently, my ex-SO got her service turned up in her new place in under a week. Service calls on existing service have always been fairly prompt, too. C'est la vie. (Full disclosure: I'm an employee in RCN's Internet division; Starpower is a joint venture between RCN and PEPCO.)


About the City Paper Classifieds
Lea Adams,

What's up with the City Paper "classified" listing? Just when I was beginning to think of themail as one of the true "ordinary citizen" web sites, where I can read and exchange ideas and information about my hometown with my neighbors, along comes a damn infomercial to ruin it. And from Loose Lips, no less! Next you'll be running previews of Plotkin on the DC Politics Hour! If I want to read the ship-sinker ahead of time, I'll go to their web site and do it (and that will be the day hell freezes, Jesse Helms and Jesse Jackson call for a joint photo op, and they re-name Reagan National Airport for Marion Barry). Enough, already! Dump the previews and stick to flea markets, goods and services recommendations, and free pets to good homes. Puleeeze!



Book Talk
Jill Bogard,

Ted Mason discusses his novel, Hostage to Fortune, on Thursday, December 2, at 7:00 p.m. at the Cleveland Park Library, Connecticut Avenue and Macomb Street, NW (one block south of the Cleveland Park metro on the red line). For details call (202) 282-3072. Ted Mason is a retired Foreign Service and Army Reserve Officer, with overseas postings in Europe and in the Third World. As a political analyst for the Air Force and later the US European Command Headquarters, he covered the tumultuous events leading to independence in France's former colonies. As a Public Affairs Officer, he directed American Cultural and Information activities at U.S. missions overseas. A graduate of Yale University, he now lives with his French-born wife Genevieve in Washington, D.C. Book description (from “A mercenary invasion? A coup d'etat? Civil War? Or maybe it's all an elaborate plot to discredit the American Embassy in the island republic of Sharqiya. Ambassador Hal Potter was once a professor, and an expert on French colonialism. Now he will need all his knowledge — and diplomatic skill — to hold his fractious team together in the face of the dangers that threaten to destroy them all.”


DC, Is This the Way It Must Be?
Malcolm Wiseman,

The citizens of the District of Columbia are under the absolute power of Congress. The city of nearly 600,000 is segregated from the rest of the United States and treated as an inferior, subject territory. This doesn't have to be. Come learn how a small group of citizens is trying to open the door of the cage to full and equal democracy. Rejoice with them in how far the door has been forced already. Come hear discussion, questions and answers on DC democracy and the Adams v. Clinton et al lawsuit. Plaintiffs will be introduced. The struggle is historical. Sponsored by The Petworth Library Friends. See for background. Monday, December 6, at 7 pm until 9 pm, Petworth Branch Library, 4200 Georgia Avenue NW (near Upshur Metro). George S. LaRoche, Esq., and plaintiffs representing Adams v. Clinton et al. (aka Twenty DC Citizens lawsuit), will conduct the discussion with ample time to address audience questions surrounding issues of rights and democracy in the District of Columbia.


You’re Invited to an Alternative Gift Market
Anna White,

Tired of the holiday commercial bonanza? Wish the holidays didn't bury you alive in more stuff? Want to give your loved ones presents with real meaning? The Center for a New American Dream's Alternative Gift Market offers an abundance of “gifts” that empower people in crisis, protect our endangered planet, and help your loved ones have more joy, less stuff! Honor your family and friends, while supporting programs that benefit people, communities, and the environment both locally and globally. Takoma Park Presbyterian Church, Maple & Tulip Avenues, 2 blocks from Takoma Metro Station (red line) — only 3 stops from Columbia Heights Metro, 12-4 pm, Saturday, December 4th.

As part of its annual Simplify the Holidays campaign, the Center for a New American Dream ( ), a national nonprofit organization based in Takoma Park, is sponsoring an Alternative Gift Market the first Saturday in December. Alternative Gift Markets allow people to bypass the annual stress of holiday shopping while honoring friends and relatives and supporting life-giving projects in our local and global communities. At the Center's Alternative Gift Market, people will be able to “shop” from a diverse collection of local, national, and international organizations with established track records of helping people and environments in need. Gift giving opportunities will include local organizations, e.g. Capital Area Community Food Bank, Samaritan Inns, Casa de Maryland, and Montgomery Coalition for the Homeless, as well as national and international programs, e.g. neighborhood gardens (US), solar powered water systems (Honduras), tree planting (Haiti), and animal husbandry (Mozambique). Alternative gifts range from $2 to $50 and are all tax-deductible.

Those who make “purchases,” i.e. donations to various charities, will receive beautiful holiday or all-occasion cards with their gift inscribed by calligraphers; these cards then become alternative gifts to be given friends and relatives. (Sample inscription: “Two chicks have been donated to a Guatemalan family in your name Jane Doe to further peace and well-being in our global village.”) Every year Alternative Gift Markets raise thousands of dollars for important causes. The Center for a New American Dream invites the local community to join us for an afternoon of fun, fellowship, and giving this holiday season!



Apartments Available
Lynne Mersfelder,

1) Short-term furnished sublet available; charming Adams Morgan condo for $1000 a month; move-in date negotiable; available from December 1 - January 10 (or approximately). (2) Charming 1-bedroom condo for rent in Adams Morgan (near Adams Mill Rd and Calvert Street). Pet friendly 1910 re-habbed deco building, great location, close to restaurants, 10 minutes to metro; balcony off bedroom, sunny exposure, track and mood lighting, ceiling fan, W/D, great customized closet space, bike and other storage.



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 out of the shelter. Call 265-1069 or e-mail for current descriptions. Visit the shelter's web site at for current photos.

Here's a sampling: Sunshine is a shy year old orange tabby male that was thrown out a window onto barbed wire! Chaplin is a black and white two-year-old little buddy that fetches. (No lie!) Mimi is a tubby little year old brown tabby that loves other animals but hasn't had the same luck. She ended up at the shelter twice because other pets wouldn't accept her into their home.


Dave Nuttycombe,

From's LOOSE LIPS column, appearing this Friday:
LIGHTS, CAMERA, “ACTION”: Discussion around the Shaw/Logan Circle table at Saturday's “Neighborhood Action” summit was amiable and constructive until the topic of economic development surfaced. Shaw resident Ibrahim Mumin seized the opportunity to lash out at fellow participant Thomas Smith for attempting to block construction of the new Washington Convention Center.
“Why would you try to stop the project instead of recognizing the priority of getting locals involved in the construction?” asked Mumin.
“Well, at least I didn't get paid off,” responded Smith.
Mumin: “I didn't get paid off. You're a chump.”
After a brief lull, Smith ended the dialogue with these conciliatory words: “I'll stomp a mud hole on your ass.” (Now that's what LL calls neighborhood action.)
Read the entire Loose Lips column here:

From's CITY LIGHTS page, here are a few early warnings for upcoming events:
MONDAY: “Getting Publicity in the Print and Electronic Media,” at 6 p.m. at Howard University's Fine Arts Building, in Room 3001, 2455 6th St. NW. Free.
TUESDAY: The Master of Disguise: My Secret Life in the CIA, 6 p.m. at the National Museum of American History's Baird Auditorium, 10th and Constitution Avenue NW. $13.
More details and more critics' picks are available online at


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