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December 5, 1999

No Discussion

Dear Discussants:

Our latest little outrage, Andrea Carlson writes below, is that the petty bureaucrats of the DC public school system forbid the discussion of charter schools on DCPS property. Now, I thought that the charter schools and the public schools were supposed to cooperate, to work together in the interests of the children. In fact, one of the primary impulses behind creating charter schools in the District was to protect DCPS against the possibility that their students could escape to a good education through a voucher system.

Since General Becton, the District of Columbia Public Schools have had “Children First” as their motto. An educational system that put the welfare of school children as its first priority, ahead of its own institutional interest, would certainly work together with charter schools on behalf of better education for all of DC's children. But then, that would require the people who run the public schools to really believe its motto and act on it. Why would we think that children come first with the people who ordered, out of spite and meanness, that the Garrison School playground be paved over so that the students couldn't have a ball field, or with the people who cut the pay of lawyers representing students who need special education in order to limit those students' access to legal help?

Will any of the changes in school governance, in the composition or mode of election (or selection) of the school board that are proposed by Councilmembers Chavous and Patterson make a whit of difference in the attitude of the public schools' bureaucracy?

Gary Imhoff


DCPS Welcomes Competition from Charter Schools?
Andrea Carlson,

Some themail readers may be aware that the PTA at Phoebe Hearst Elementary School has received first stage clearance from the DC Public Charter School Board to start a charter school. We planned a meeting for December 1 to let the community know where things stood with the application. But our principal informed us that we were “not allowed to discuss charter schools on DCPS property,” according to DCPS Assistant Superintendent Bernell Holland. I phoned Superintendent Ackerman's office and spoke to a Mr. Young, who confirmed that Ms. Ackerman stated, “No one is allowed to discuss charter schools on DCPS property,” and that this is DCPS policy.

It's antics like those that drove us to file the application in the first place. The charter school idea gets more appealing all the time — not only as a ticket to freedom from harassment, but as a viable way to provide DC kids with a top-notch education.


The Kids
Ed T. Barron,

Mayor Williams says he is committed to helping the kids in the District. If he really focuses on that cause over the next three years he will earn reelection in a breeze (if he wants it). There is no better or longer lasting and effective way of improving life in the District for all than by making the schools work for our kids. A new School Board will help but a complete overhaul of the educational process is called for in a District that is failing to educate our kids. Of those entering the high schools (and many never make it there) less than fifty percent graduate and many of those are not really educated by most standards. I'm so concerned about this issue that I'm here at the keyboard pounding away when I should be enjoying Gus Ferotte pounding the Maryland Redskins. If the mayor really wants to help our kids, he can begin by freeing up some of the better condition empty and unused school buildings and offering them up for lease to more and present Charter Schools. This will be a major help to our kids and, over the long term, to the District as a better place to live and work.


An Amorphous State and George's Virtual Port of Columbia
Mark Richards, Dupont East,

DC and the federal govt. are blurred in many minds — one and the same. DC's not a real place, so why shouldn't DC's highest office holders think they can be Virginians or live out-of-state? DC is everyone's special District, so everyone gets to feed on it. Rights and responsibilities don't quite link in the amorphous DC space. After all, DC gets special privileges, pays no taxes, and gets mega bucks from US taxpayers, right? According to Frommer's Irreverent Guide to Washington, D.C., “There are only about 600,000 parasites” living here..., “economic parasites... and the tradesmen and servants and loafers and scum that feed on the highest average per capita income in the world. Washingtonians can afford to be tolerant because, down deep, they know how good they've got it. There are definitely some perks to living in this 'special' city. . . . The American taxpayer . . . picks up the tab for Washington's parks; and federal security forces supplement the budget-busted, woebegone D.C. police. (And don't think we're not grateful. As a Washingtonian, I want to personally thank all of you Americans for your generous support).” (I hope that “Washingtonian” got big $ from Frommers. BTW, Can anyone come up with something better than “Washingtonian?”)

Every settlement in the world tries its best to "pass things through" its location, via air or water, so they can tax stuff. Here's a proposal for all ye carp and catfish (bottom feeders) — help DC make ole George's dream a reality — make operational a virtual Port of Columbia and tax out-of-state for-profits who don't have the courtesy to open an in-District headquarters but who want the benefits of using DC's name (If they employ at least 10% of DC residents, give 'em a break). Here's another identity issue — rental cars: when I rent a car, it NEVER has a DC tag. I have to drive with a VA or MD plate. While “some of my best friends” live in those great states, having to drive around with VA and MD plates imposes a stigma cost on me! Can't rental car companies operating in DC be required to keep a proportion of cars with DC tags in their fleets?


Close Klingle Road
Isabel Furlong,

A big issue in NW is the discussion swirling around the final opening or closing of the derelict portion of Klingle Road that runs through Klingle Valley Park. The twisting, two-lane road was closed 10 years ago for safety reasons. Then in 1995, after public meetings, discussions, petitions, the DC Department of Public Works issued a decision that the road would remain closed, and would be restored as parkland and recreational area. Now, however, the city has money available. And they are "revisiting" the issue. But what about the declining tree canopy issue? What about the watershed? Pollution? Wetlands? As Peter Vankevich, President, Audubon Society of the District of Columbia wrote “. . . this land has far more value as a functioning part of the Rock Creek watershed, as habitat for wildlife, and as public green space in the heart of DC than as a commuter corridor — one acknowledged to be difficult and expensive to maintain and often dangerous in winter.” Check out the facts on the web site


What Now Mr. Mayor?
Ed T. Barron,

The mayor has had his first “neighborhood meeting” with three thousand attendees who raised some issues of concern. Will we learn which of those the Mayor considers worthy of addressing? Will we learn just what actions the mayor plans to take on the issues that he will address? We should not have to wait until the mayor has implemented some changes or improvements. We should see just what he is planning to do in response to the concerns of those he met with. If the Mayor wants real participation by his constituency in the next round of “neighborhood meetings” he should open up the books to let us know how he is responding to the concerns of those he has already met with. Let's have some government in the sunshine for a change.


Tobacco Fund Bonuses
E. James Lieberman,

A message from the DC Coalition on the Tobacco Fund Settlement: It is imperative that each and every member of the Coalition write, fax, call the Council, the Mayor and the Control Board to oppose the Mayor's proposal to finance city government employee bonuses with the tobacco settlement funds. Write, fax, call today — the Council votes on the proposal on Tuesday, December 7. The message to the Council: 1) Vote NO to the Mayor's proposal to finance the bonuses with the tobacco settlement funds. 2) Spend the money to improve the health and well-being of District residents. The message to the Mayor: 1) Find the bonus money somewhere else. 2) Demonstrate your commitment to children by spending the money on smoking prevention and on other health and well-being issues. The message to the Control Board: 1) Honor the consensus process in which health and well-being was the priority spending area for the tobacco settlement funds. Find the bonus money somewhere else. Should you have any questions about the issue at hand, details on what to do, etc., please call Susie Cambria, staff to the Coalition, at 234-9404.


Two Lawsuits
Jon Desenberg,

1) What was the final resolution to the class action suit against DC Cablevision? I believe they were found guilty of overcharging for late fees, etc. Did we all get a few cents back on our bill? We all deserve more. 2) How can the federal three judge panel possibly take so long in the DC Democracy case? I was in court that day and it was ages ago. Recently I had a chance to talk to one of the partners from Covington and Burling (they represented DC Citizens) and he couldn't believe the incredible delay. My guess: the judges know that disenfranchised DC citizens have a great case, but don't have the guts to come forward with a decision.


Mystery Drains
Ann Loikow, Cleveland Park,

Since the creation several years ago of WASA, the autonomous regional water and sewer authority for DC (and parts of VA), DPW may not be the entity charged with cleaning storm drains, even though it does do leaf pickup, as the storm drains are part of the sewer system. Since WASA is not under the Mayor, its track record of being responsive to District citizens is spotty at best.


WASA’s Storm Drain Blockages
Bob Andrew,

In response to Ralph Blessing and Steph Faul, for years DPW have been trying to get WASA to be responsible to clean out all storm drains (involves literally drilling out up to 15 feet of muck), if need be by moving the budget responsibility over to DPW. If and when this happens, residents will need to be vigilant when sweeping their leaves out to the street tree box to also rake leaves up off the street! Otherwise, the drains will just clog up again. At least DPW now has more new leaf vacuum trucks to help speed collection.


Public Library Online
Bruce Monblatt,

Does anyone know when (or why not) the District of Columbia Public Library doesn't yet have its catalog on-line via the web? I know that various suburban libraries including Montgomery and Arlington are available this way. Since a visit to the library frequently results in searching for one of the few catalog machines that is operational, on-line cataloging would seem to be beneficial. Having said the above, I don't want to give the wrong impression of the professionalism of the reference and desk librarians. They are fine.

[You may want to call Roxanna Deane, who replied in the last issue about the interlibrary loan question. Her telephone number is 727-2936. — Gary Imhoff]


Businesses Claiming to Be in DC
Kathy Carroll,

Interesting concern from Adam Marshall of Yale in today's edition. It used to be, as many of you natives will remember, that all of Bethesda and Chevy Chase had 200++ zip codes and businesses residing in those two areas could use Washington, D.C. or their actual geographic area as their home base for zip code purposes. But the DC Post Office couldn't handle the huge amount of business mail and the businesses located across “the great divide” wanted better service. So they got Maryland zip codes and are now enjoying better business mail service. This was in the mid -'70s when there weren't faxes, E-mail as we know it, or even Federal Express to provide instant business communications.

Today, you have to make special financial and pick up arrangements with the post office to use the mailing address, Washington, D.C., even if you've historically had a DC address. Many businesses, including the Marriott Corporation, have chosen to do that. I don't think there's anything sinister here. It's a Post Office, not a geographic designation. Of course, just try telling THAT to those who live in the Postal Service euphemisms of “North Bethesda” (Rockville and Kensington) and “North Potomac” (Gaithersburg). The history of THOSE ridiculous names is not historical and has more to do with status (aka "property values") and developer promises/greed than GEICO, Marriott, etc. Incidentally, The Pentagon and National Airport are within the District of Columbia and use DC zip codes even though they are across the river. Arlington (formerly known as Arlington Heights) and Alexandria were once part of DC as well. Now the boundary is based on a weird high water/land formula which I can't remember. Hope this helps clear up the issue!


Another AAA Story
Phil Greene,

Another AAA cautionary tale. While driving home on Connecticut Avenue recently, I ran over a metal plate (thanks, road cuts) and blew out a tire. I put on the temporary “donut” spare and went home. The next day I bought a new tire, but because the place was busy, I told them to simply mount the tire on the wheel and I'd pick it up the next evening. The next day, while crossing the Roosevelt Bridge, I hit a pothole and bent the rim on the donut, causing it to lose its air. I parked near my office, and called AAA. This was 4:00. I gave them painstakingly specific directions, the Washington Monument parking lot, between the Monument and White House, accessible at the corner of 16th and Constitution. I went to my car and waited. About an hour later, a tow truck from D.C. Arlington Towing, AAA's towing contractor, drove into the lot, passed me by, but I got his attention. He said he was looking for another car, not mine, and to be patient, my truck was on the way, and he sped off. By the way, he smelled as if he'd had a few belts. Was I jealous? You bet.

Another half-hour passed (5:30), I went back to my office, and was waiting for a AAA operator when I thought to check my voice mail. Sure enough, at 5:10 a tow truck driver called to tell me he couldn't find me, that he'd been to 15th and Constitution and I wasn't there. Of course, he was off by a block, I specifically said 16th (not to mention Washington Monument parking lot). I finally got on the phone with an AAA operator and, after venting my spleen a bit, again gave her specific instructions. She promised to make it a priority and to relay the instructions correctly. Again I went back to my car (6:00) and waited. By 7:00, I was furious. I'd had plans to meet a friend for dinner; those were dashed, and now I just wanted to get myself and my car the hell out of there. I again got out of my car to look for the truck, and noticed a tow truck at a dead stop about three blocks away, on the Ellipse. I sprinted across Constitution and managed to catch up with him, just in time to overhear him tell his dispatcher that he couldn't find me, and he was giving up. Knowing he was my way out of there, I politely told him where I was parked, and he towed my car home (since all nearby garages were closed by this point). I got home at 8:30, four and a half hours after calling AAA.

In the stinging letter I wrote to AAA the next day, I repeatedly asked how two tow trucks could fail to find the Washington Monument — my God, isn't that the whole point of the “no skyscrapers” law? I also asked, rhetorically, why I was paying $70 a year for (family) membership. I received a form letter of apology, plus a voucher for $46, ostensibly to cover my next year's dues (single membership only, not family). Gee, thanks. I wrote them back, demanding the full $70, and await their reply. As an aside, most car insurance policies cover roadside assistance, and charge only a few dollars a year for it. The trick is in getting a tow truck — with AAA they will dispatch one to you, based on your location. Without AAA or some other service, how would you know which towing company to call? Any suggestions?


Those Wee but Blaring Metrobuses
Tom Berry,

Mr. Buckley is absolutely correct about the PA system on those new tiny buses; they need a volume control. As previously noted about two months ago, I mentioned that my house is approximately 150 yards from a bus stop and that span is covered by a large house and several trees. The bus door opens facing away from my house. Early yesterday morning I was appreciating the privacy and tranquility of my throne room when, across that distance, then through an insulated wall with double paned windows, across a 14' room and through yet another wall, I was “welcomed aboard Metrobus.” Fie on whoever bought those damn things.

As for the short ground clearance mentioned my Mr. Buckley, it's no problem when it snows. The cow catcher on the front of the bus doubles as a snow plow. Hail to the farsighted purchasing agent. In the end my money says these wee buses will prove to be fragile and will cost far more than the real behemoths they replace.


Small Metrobuses
Tony Ross,

Just to toss my 2 cents in, being carless (or carfree depending on your take), I walk, bike, and use buses to get around DC, mostly in the Dupont, Cleveland Park, Woodley Park, Adams Morgan, Columbia Heights, Georgetown, and U-Street areas. I've seen loads and loads of these small buses coming and going, picking people up, dropping off, etc., and I have yet to hear the “loud 'WELCOME ABOARD METROBUS'” greetings that people seem so upset about, nor have I noticed that they are any louder than the rest of the traffic around them. Maybe it's just 'cause I'm able to tune things out more easily, or maybe my ears are just shot from going to punk rock shows since I was 14, but I'm just not hearing anything worth moaning about.


Internet Hoaxes and Viruses
Leslie Ruskin,

Whenever I receive one of these E-mails I always respond to every address I can find in that e-mail with a form letter informing them that this is a hoax, the ramifications of tying up all of the bandwidth with such garbage (I know that my response to every address I can find also seems to abuse the bandwidth, but I figure that I am relaying important info that can help curb this misuse in the future), and some links to check the validity of the E-mail's claim (such as: and and, which is Symantec's Norton Antivirus site and lists both hoaxes as well as an encyclopedia of all viruses known to them.


Internet Viruses and Hoaxes
Bob Summersgill,

David Sobelsohn asks in themail “Does anyone know if this hoax is actually being carried in an Internet virus?” The question, to paraphrase Bill Clinton, is that it depends on what your definition of a virus is. No, there is not a software virus that will infect your system in the text of an E-mail. Viruses spread by E-mail are contained in attached files. However, a virus is something that spreads using a host to replicate itself, usually causing harm to the host. Hoax warnings use well meaning people to replicate themselves. They generally contain a sentence or phrase similar to “E-mail all of your friends and warn them.” Or in the case cited by Mr. Sobelsohn, “For each person you send this E-mail to, you will be given $5. For every person they give it to, you will be given an additional $3.” This language is the reproductive “RNA” instructions that are passed to the host (you) to spread to (E-mail) — and infect — many other hosts. The damage they do is to waste time, money, resources, and to scare people.

For an excellent site on virus hoax warnings, look at I've never failed to find a warning that I've been sent on that site. If you do get a warning that you aren't sure about, check it out, or pass it on to your employer's computer staff. They are the only ones who should be warning staff about viruses.


Virus Hoaxes
Peter Luger,

As the network administrator in my office, my colleagues constantly send me virus warnings they've received from friends, loved ones and complete strangers. I immediately go to to verify whether it is a hoax or not. This is a virus hoax web site maintained by Symantec, which is one of the top virus software companies (they make Norton, among others). After I found out the virus is a hoax, I respond to the sender with the web site address suggesting they pass the information on to their sender. Hopefully, they'll tell two friends, and so on and so on and so on.


Internet Hoaxes and Viruses
Catherine Buckler;

The annoying Internet hoaxes that we all receive are only viruses in the sense that they clutter our mailboxes and steal our time and attention. I know of a couple very interesting web sites on urban folklore and Internet virus hoaxes. I've found them useful when I get a questionable email that sounds too good to be true or too dangerous to open. The Urban Legends Reference Pages,; Computer Virus Myths,


District Cable, StarPower, Satellite TV
Peter Luger,

In previous postings I've given praise to satellite TV, specifically PrimeStar, for reception and choices and complained about lousy service. PrimeStar is in the midst of being taken over by DirecTV, which will hopefully improve service. The DirecTV system does have more bells and whistles than PrimeStar. And, with the final budget bill just signed, satellite TV can now offer local stations. That is supposed to happen in DC within the next few weeks. (It happened immediately in New York City and Los Angeles, but they have congressional representation.) The prices seem comparable (you can look on the web sites of the satellite companies). The extra cost of satellite is for the boxes that you rent for each TV (something like $8 for additional boxes) and the up-front cost for the dish. There are usually deals that include the dish and installation.


Diverse Issues Addressed in December Edition of NARPAC, Inc. Web site
Len Sullivan,

The National Association to Restore Pride in America's Capital has revised its web site (See “What's New?” at with new headline summaries and new correspondence to key players. A summary and analysis (and editorial) are provided of the 1999 Annual Control Board Report to Congress, plus a preliminary summary and commentary on Mayor Williams' draft city-wide strategic plan — which seems far more oriented to neighborhood than city-wide issues. In a different vein, NARPAC summarizes a 1997 GAO report showing that high inner city auto insurance rates form a "poverty trap" making it tougher for welfarers to get to jobs they need. It has updated its sections on DCPS test scores, special ed problems, UDC issues, and school board options. Its latest editorial view is entitled “Taking the Easy Way Out: The DC Control Board Does the Pussyfoot,” pointing up several issues not treated that could make a big difference in DC's future and doubting the wisdom of underplaying them. C'mon in, read up, flip out.



Mount Vernon Square Events
Deering Kendrick,

1) Two plays in Warehouse Theater, entering still through 1019 7th Street (Sponsored by Molly Ruppert): Purlie by Ozzie Davis, and Mud by Maria Fornez will run until December 17th. Reservations can be made at DCAC at 202-462-7833. 2) Warehouse Party to benefit Warehouse Theater, December 18th, 1999, 8 pm on into the night. Art, performance, bands. Warehouse Theater, formerly part of Studio 1019, the home of Art Romp, is being renovated — new lobby and upgraded performance space. $10 donation at the door to benefit the theater 3) The Blagden Alley Neighborhood Association presents the annual neighborhood Winter Holiday Party and Fundraiser, Friday, December 10th, 6:00 p.m. Donations may be dropped off at 1219 10th Street. Begin at Rachel's, a shelter for homeless women, 1222 11th Street (between M and N). Light refreshments will be served. To volunteer or for more information, contact Anne at 371-6732 or


Norton on the Airwaves
Jim Farley, WTOP Radio,

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton will take questions live for an hour on "Ask Congress" on WTOP Radio at 10 am on Tuesday, December 7th.


Just Health Care Coalition Holding Planning Meeting
Maya O’Connor,

The Just Health Care Coalition is having a planning meeting for the February 2000 Just Health Care Fair and Teach-in on Wednesday December 15th, 7:00 PM, at Luna Books, 1633 P St. NW, Washington DC. The public is invited to attend. Just Health Care is a coalition dedicated to achieving a universal health care system in the US. Initiated by the DC Metro Area Labor Party, the coalition includes many groups involved in health care reform. The need for such a coalition is extremely urgent. Right now there are over 44 million Americans without health insurance. This means that one in six Americans is without access to basic health care, and the number keeps going up. The Just Health Care Fair and Teach-In will be an important way of getting the word out about the advantages and feasibility of health care for all. It will feature educational sessions and workshops on the health care system's problems and solutions to these problems. Most importantly, it will feature special training sessions on organizing methods, tactics, and strategies for how to build a movement for a new, just health care system.


Clean City Summit
Vincent Spaulding,

Join your neighbors at the Clean City Summit on Thursday, December 9th, 11 am - 2 pm at the Howard University Blackburn Center Ballroom. Registration is at 10:30, and lunch is complimentary. Come celebrate the certification of Washington, D.C., as a “Keep America Beautiful” affiliate, and participate in a discussion and workshop on how individually and collectively we can join together in our community beautification efforts to make a difference. The city is investing in new equipment to keep Washington clean, but part of the responsibility belongs to us — the people of the District of Columbia. Come share your ideas on how citizens, government, businesses, and non-profits should work together to keep our city clean. The Clean City Summit is an event you won't want to miss. To register, call Keep Washington D.C., Beautiful, 202-639-0630, or fax your name, address, phone number to 202-671-0634.


PSA 110 Partnerships for Crime and Disorder Problem Solving Training Session
Naomi Monk, Southwest,

This E-mail is asking those that live in the First District, Police Service Area (PSA) 110, to attend the first Partnerships for Problem Solving Training Session, at the First District Station, Community Room, 415 4th Street, SW, Saturday, December 11, 1999, at 9:00 to 10:30 AM. Join your neighbors and your PSA officers to identify and work on a crime or disorder problem in PSA 110. Your attendance is critical to build and maintain a safe and healthy neighborhood. The trainers for the event are Maurice Thompson, Master Patrol Officer (MPO) of PSA 110 at 202-607-0544 (voice mail) and Naomi Monk, PSA 110, Community Leader. For more information call Melvin Key, the Lieutenant who leads PSA 110, at 202-727-4611 or 202-727- 4932, #23393 (voice mail) or Masha Hott, Community Partnership Section, at 202-727-8751. In order that PSA 110 can have available workbooks and other material for those attending, please call and let us know that you are attending and leave your name and telephone.



Babysitters Wanted for Millennium Eve
Paul Penniman,

I have friends from Charlottesville wishing to celebrate the big evening without their two small children. Anybody have any kids looking to make some good money?



Used Car Wanted
Edna Small,

Interested in locating a Toyota or Honda sedan in good condition for young person. Please call 202-337-4906, or E-mail.



Apartment for Rent
Fred Davidson,

Premier “Old World” building near Metro, 4707 Connecticut Ave., NW, 1 bedroom, modern kitchen, oak hardwood floors, $1375, (202) 244-8598.



Prevent Child Abuse Volunteers Needed
Melissa Dichter,

Crisis and family stress hotline volunteers needs. Prevent Child Abuse of Metropolitan Washington is seeking volunteers to staff the Crisis and Family Stress Hotline — a 24-hour counseling, information, and referral hotline for anyone in crisis and adults under stress. Training provided in counseling and crisis intervention to deal with issues including sexuality, family violence, hunger, depression, parenting and more. Volunteers must be at least 20 years old and able to speak English fluently. Next training begins in September, call (202) 223-0020 for more information. Phonefriend volunteers are also needed to help children who are lonely, scared, or just need to talk. Staff the PhoneFriend supportline for latchkey children. Training is provided in communication and crisis intervention skills. Volunteers must be at least 16 years old and able to speak English fluently. Next training begins in September, call (202) 223-0020 for more information.



Looking for Realtor Recommendation
John Whiteside,

I'm looking for a realtor to help me find that perfect condo in Dupont/Adams-Morgan/Logan. (Yes, I am coming back over the river after my sojourn in Virginia.) If anyone has worked with anyone they really liked and who knows those parts of the city — please let me know!


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