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November 28, 1999


Dear Brunchers:

I hope you had a very nice Thanksgiving weekend. I certainly did. It was topped off by brunch today at Gabriel, in Dupont Circle. Their Sunday brunch, crowned by a roast suckling pig, is a winner, leading to dreams of holidays on the Spanish Mediterrean coast. Pleasant temporary escapes from the permanent frustrations of DC politics are needed, if you actually care about the right thing being done, and don't just view the government as entertainment on the level of the Three Stooges.

In this issue, there are more comments on The Washington Post, saying opposite things, both of which are true. Bryce Suderow writes that the Post doesn't print bad news in order to protect certain government officials. There are plenty of recent examples of that -- not only Mayor Williams and Chief Ramsey and Arlene Ackerman, but also Camille Cates Barnett and General Becton of recent memory. At the same time, E. James Lieberman writes that the Post doesn't often print good news about the community and community events. That's true, too. Now the City Paper is behaving just like the Post — for example, killing a well researched and documented story critical of Chief Ramsey and running a personal attack on citizen activist and police critic Bryce Suderow instead. Thank goodness for the Internet.

Gary Imhoff


Is That Your Final Answer?
Thomas C. Hall,

From the Washington Business Journal, November 26, the latest on developments in Columbia Heights:

The battle over the Tivoli Theater's future is beginning to resemble a popular TV quiz show. But there are still no “final answers” in the ongoing series, “Who Wants to Develop Columbia Heights?”

The D.C. Redevelopment Land Agency has narrowed its multiple-choice options to the same two developers it had chosen Sept. 9 to transform the historic Tivoli into a Giant grocery and build a retail/entertainment center on another city-owned site nearby. But the board has already used all three of its “lifelines” without making its final decision on the $148 million deal.

That will come Dec. 16, according to RLA Chairman Robert Walker, who clearly doesn't like being cast as this show's Regis Philbin. Walker and his four fellow board members are itching to take the money and run, but their choice of Horning Bros. and Grid Properties has proven controversial with the audience. Following a lawsuit by Columbia Heights residents, Mayor Anthony Williams on Nov. 5 ordered a 30-day review of the RLA's decision.

“We're in the advanced stages of hurry-up,” Walker said, irritated that the RLA could not advance to the next round.

The RLA planned to give Horning and Grid the go-ahead the morning of Nov. 23, but it had a problem. The mayor's review team had yet to meet — its first meeting was not scheduled until that evening.

“Do you think that would have looked bad?” Walker said.


Neighborhood Action in Columbia Heights
T. Jr. Hardman,

Even through I live in Rockville presently, there were many years that I enjoyed life in the District, and interestingly enough, as much as I've lived near or hung-out around Dupont Circle, I've always had an obscure fondness for the Columbia Heights neighborhood. I know many of the foibles of the place rather well, the astounding problems it has faced over the last decade or more, and so on. I got invited for some reason to participate in the Neighborhood Action citizen summit even despite a Rockville Maryland mailing address. So I decided to attend under the assumption that someone from Rep. Connie Morella's voting district who happened to be committed to District Revitalization couldn't be a totally bad thing. I wound up at Table 157, which later became the Columbia Heights/Mt. Pleasant/Park Row neighborhood table.

Getting in a bit late, I found the table to be mostly older folks from SE in the morning, with a few rather outspoken and rather inflamed younger folks as well. I got drafted to be the laptop operator, and wrote up the group consensus summary drafts, and most of the people agreed, and then I sent in the summaries. In the afternoon Neighborhood Group session, I filled in the same role. I sent in the summaries where it was noted that the primary concern in that neighborhood was a combination of clean-up and beautification, and safety — basically the neighborhood primarily wanted the vacant lots cleaned up and fenced away, and the neighborhood cleaned of dealers and their clients, of trash and abandoned cars full of fornicating addicts. Next was beautification, everyone wanted to have children's' playgrounds restored and beautified, and neighborhood beautification was expected to be concurrent. Also emerging was a very strong desire for a wide variety of grocery shopping opportunities, and in general the RLA development plans which gutted the Tivoli were rejected. Also noted was the need for programs to reach out to youth and prevent them from getting involved in crews and gangs, and in particular, the lady from the Latin American Youth Center was hoping to get special assistance in helping immigrants and their children adapt to life in the US and in Washington, DC, with an emphasis on community involvement.

As for the whole concept of Neighborhood Action, this whole affair was carried off with such supreme organization that I do in fact have great hopes for the ultimate success of the Williams Plan. There was no need for me to jump up and start railing about Emergent Systems and the need to steer the flock; clearly these folks had me anticipated “from jump” and did a phenomenal job of making sure that something that could have been a monumental balls-up was instead one darned fine start to something I expect to continue and be “Really Big.” And yes, Mr. Williams: the reason “government that works” came in last on the priority list was because we do indeed presume that that had to be a foregone conclusion or nothing else will come of it. And besides, I guess most of us figured that if Mr. Williams is doing the job he was elected to, that foregone conclusion will in fact be a foregone conclusion.


The Post, the Mayor, and Bad News
Bryce A. Suderow,

Andrea Carlson mentioned in her email that the Post has failed to cover the fact that many people are unhappy with our school superintendent and she wonders why that is. I noticed the Post also has not scrutinized the records of the new police chief and the new mayor. Generally, after six months and again after a year, the media takes a close look at the performance of new public figures and assesses those performances. The Post has never reviewed Chief Ramsey's performance and its review of Anthony Williams and Arlene Ackerman's performances was so muted that it was a joke.

I think the Post is indulging in a little bit of propaganda here. It is trying to entice businesses and residents into the District, so it is scaling back its criticism of our failed public officials. It is in effect saying, “It's a new day here in Washington D.C. folks. We have a new mayor, a new police chief and a new school superintendent, and things are much, much better. If you are a business, please invest here by moving to the District. If you are a homeowner, come live here. You'll like it!”

By the way, did anyone attend Mayor Williams' summit on Saturday and what did they think of it? I thought it was amusing that on the same day he was trying to sell the fact that we are living in a new era, six people were shot within a two hour period. Also, what did you all think of his response on Monday to the complaints of the cab drivers about public safety? Among his other suggestions, he mentioned putting global positioning units in every cab. He mentioned everything except asking  the police to do their jobs.


The Post, the March, and Bad News
E. James Lieberman,

The Washington Post saw fit to announce the 12th annual Help the Homeless Walkathon but not to report on it! If there had been a brawl, or someone had tried to assault Mayor Anthony Williams or soccer great Mia Hamm — who both spoke to the assemblage of over 30,000 walkers at Freedom Plaza — there surely would have been a story. What gives? It was a great occasion, walking 5K with a diverse (age, race, residence, occupation) group in an important cause, benefiting agencies (also diverse, remarkable and too little known) and expressing something positive about community responsibility for all its members. Shame on the Post.


Dangerous Inattention
Margaret Yoma Ullman,

On Saturday, Nov. 19, I went to Union Station to meet a relative coming from New York on a train due in at 11.30 a.m. While waiting, I noticed an unattended lunch bag under a seat. Torn between provoking a bomb scare and so delaying the train and my civic duty, I finally went to Security and reported the lunch bag. I have spent too long in airports being told of the dangers of unattended baggage to be able to remain uninvolved, although it was probably a perfectly innocent lunch bag. The two security men to whom I spoke did nothing.

Following the tragic accident in Rock Creek Park on Friday, November 26, about which I learned at 2.30 from a woman who had been held up by traffic in consequence, I was surprised to learn from a friend who commuted from Capitol Hill to Northwest starting at about 5.15 that traffic was allowed to reach the Kennedy Center before being diverted. A warning at the Tidal Basin would have allowed her to divert up 17th Street much more easily. Nor did the radio station my friend was tuned to while driving to give her any warning about the holdup, referring only to problems further out of the city. I love living in DC, but on some days it's harder to maintain this affection than on others.


D.C. Sentencing Law Legislation
Richard Schmitt,

The topic of sentencing laws and the City Council's obligation to confirm or enact new laws is discussed by law school Prof. Paul Butler in a piece published in the Legal Times. The piece can be read at The time to inform our council members about our views on this very important issue is now, not after the Washington Post laments in April about the April deadline.


Interlibrary Loan
John Heaton,

Methinks that David Sobelsohn is being BS'ed by the DCPL. The DCPL has full reciprocity with nine suburban library systems: Frederick, Montgomery, and Prince George's Counties in Maryland; the Cities of Alexandria and Falls Church; and Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William Counties in Virginia. (Ironically, the only local library system that does not participate in the reciprocal program is the City of Takoma Park.) Residents of DC can go to any branch library in any of the above library systems, obtain a library card, and borrow anything they want. And the books can be returned to any library in any system (except books borrowed from DC or Frederick County; those must be returned to the branch from which they were borrowed). Given this reciprocity, it seems highly unlikely that DCPL can't arrange an interlibrary loan. One wonders if this is an example of someone saying “it can't be done” because they're too embarrassed to say “I don't know how to do it and I don't feel like getting up to find out.”


AFI Shutting Down?
David Sobelsohn,

The Kennedy Center recently installed a performance stage at the American Film Institute theater. Apparently, the KenCen plans to start using the AFI theater for live performances and to decrease even further the frequency of AFI film screenings. As taxpayers, we can influence the choices made by the management of this government funded facility. Washington has many many stages for live performances and a shrinking number of screens for quality films. If you want to maintain the AFI's large screen for both classics and high quality hard-to-find recent foreign films, write to Larry Wilker, President, Kennedy Center, Washington, DC 20566, urging continued use of the AFI theater space for films.


The Odds of Fixing the DCPS School Board the Chavous Way
Len Sullivan,

Salvaging DC's public school system requires long-term efforts from fully experienced, tough-minded, hard driving leaders cooperating across the School Board, the Superintendent's office, and individual schools — with help from outside experts. The DC Council is proposing relatively small changes in the current representational election process, plus better definition of the board's duties. NARPAC believes that an appointed Board (approved by elected officials) can bring to bear more professional expertise from a broader government and regional base. We doubt the requisite professional talent can be elected.

For the Chavous scheme to attract the needed talent, all the following conditions would have to be met: a) the pool of DC residents include all the requisite skills; b) those skills be evenly divided among the eight wards; c) each ward's well qualified be willing to run for elective office; d) all those who run carry the proper political attributes to win; e) the few who vote for school board members recognize those qualities; f) those elected serve effectively under a separately elected chair; and g) the board so elected not need guidance from other DC or regional agencies.

The odds against success are daunting. To improve those odds, NARPAC suggests that at the very least the new School Board Election Bill encourage respected present/retired school principals to run for, and be paid to serve on, the Board without forfeiting current position, salary, or pension. They could run from any ward they chose, regardless of residence or school location within the metro area, but their school test scores would have to be in the top quartile.



“Haunting Vibrations” at Millennium's End
David Sobelsohn,

Footlights — DC's only drama discussion group — meets monthly to discuss plays from the modern theater. Membership is free. At our meeting Thursday, December 16, we will discuss “On the Verge,” or “The Geography of Yearning” (1985), by Eric Overmyer, “one of this nation's most accomplished and imaginative playwrights” (Seattle Times). “A frolicsome jaunt through a continuum of space, time, history, geography, feminism and fashion” (New York Times), “On the Verge” follows three Victorian women as they explore 20th-century American culture from 1888 to 1955 and beyond; their journey sets off “fresh and sometimes haunting vibrations between past and present” (San Francisco Chronicle). Our discussion takes place 7:30-9:30 p.m. (dinner at 6:30) at Luna Books, 1633 P St., NW, 3 blocks east of Dupont Circle. It will feature Catholic University theater professor Jackson Phippin, who directed the world premiere of “On the Verge” and who greatly influenced the shape of the play. To make reservations for our discussion, e-mail or call (202) 638-0444. For more information visit the Footlights website at


Hyde Elementary School Christmas Tree Sale
Bill Starrels,

The annual Hyde Elementary School Christmas Tree sale will be held Saturday and Sunday December 4th and 5th at Hyde in Georgetown. Located on the 3200 block of O Street west of Wisconsin. Free delivery in DC! All proceeds benefit the kids and teachers at Hyde!


Chanukah Kickoff Party and Children’s Toy Drive
Michael Karlan,

Thursday, December 2, 1999. Sponsored by the D.C. Society of Young Professionals and Israel Bonds. Includes music and dancing. This party is a lot of fun and a great chance to experience the spirit of Chanukah, regardless of whether you are Jewish. Over 400 people attended our last party. 7:30 p.m. to midnight. Shark Club of Bethesda, 2915 St. Elmo Ave. Admission fee of $10, but $8 if you RSVP by 3 p.m. on December 2 to or (202) 686-6085. Additional discount if you bring a toy to be donated to a child at Children's Hospital. For more information, or to be added to our email list to hear of future events, please visit, email, or call (202) 686-6085.



Apartment for Rent
Sarah Gammage,

1 bedroom basement apartment (all above ground) near Adams Morgan/Dupont Circle/U Street, available January 1st, $625 plus utilities. Non-smoker, no pets preferred.



Kitchen Remodeling
Bob Levine,

Help neighbors who aren't wired into the internet. They need to remodel a kitchen in Georgetown and don't have a clue. Does anyone out there have suggestions for whom to use for remodeling a kitchen? They need a designer and a contractor and anybody else who is necessary for a full kitchen remodeling. I've promised to print out all responses for my unwired neighbors.


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