Kate Boo for Mayor
Below, David Reed nominates Katherine Boo for Mayor. One thing is sure. If
Katherine Boo were Washington's Mayor, Jearline Williams would not still be the Director
of the Department of Human Services. Somebody would have been held responsible and
accountable for the scandal of community based housing for the mentally
retarded, and for the government's failure of oversight and supervision. I'll bet that she
wouldn't have given a free pass to the Department of Motor Vehicles for giving a driving
permit to the trucker with a long history of reckless driving who flipped his rig and
killed an honor student on Military Road, and wouldn't have supported DMV Director Sherryl
Hobbs Newman's irresponsible excuses for the process and workers who granted that permit.
I'd be willing to bet that we wouldn't have just empty Mayoral rhetoric about
responsibility and accountability, but Mayoral actions that redeemed those promises. Maybe
David is on to something. I wonder if she's willing to run.
The Mayor should be the person who tell us the truth, holds government to
proper standards, and makes improvements happen.
[Katherine Boo wrote the recent Washington Post article about the
mentally retarded people who died in residential care facilities, as well as several other
exposes in the past. Gary Imhoff]
Thanks to Bryce Suderow for reporting on the Council's hearing on the
police and Chief Ramsey's complaint about micromanagement. When it comes to the
Metropolitan Police, if it weren't for micromanagement there'd be no management at all.
There certainly hasn't been any reform. In reading his statements about improved crime
statistics, they don't square with experience. Since Chief Ramsey came along the woman on
our block who works out of her house as a prostitute (I recall with some amusement the
discussion in themail about people who have home offices/businesses) has branched out and
now also does a side business in the flourishing crack trade that continues in front of
the convenience store and its next door neighbor, the liquor store. We have a new,
flashier crack lord who, in his satin Yankee jacket, is visible to all but the police. The
traffic snarl in front of the two stores continues and every evening we see police cars
weave their way through the knot of illegally parked and double-parked cars. The only time
we ever see a police officer get out of the car is to patronize the stores.
Calls to Assistant Chief McManus and Lieutenant Gottlieb bring assurances
that things are better, that we are doing things we can't tell you about. (Did
they work in the Nixon campaign drafting the secret plan to end the war?). We've been fed
the line about secret investigations for so long, it's pathetic. Nothing changes. It just
gets worse. Every time we get a really good police officer (and there have been several
and they have achieved results), he or she either gets transferred or promoted. There are
lots of monthly meetings in which lots of new statistics are unveiled (my favorite was the
meeting where a newly assigned Captain got up and started to read statistics for the wrong
neighborhood; when this was pointed out, he replied that these were the statistics he was
given and he continued to read them). Residents are urged to do a better job policing
their own neighborhoods. And of course, about every six months we get a new structure with
a new PSA officer who promises that things will be different. Sadly, they never are. I've
lived on this block for fourteen years and in the last ten years have heard so many
reports of improvement that I think I am living in paradise; then I open my eyes and look
around and see that it's just a paradise for crack dealers, suburban crack buyers, and
prostitutes. I am glad that Councilmember Ambrose continues to try to get the police chief
to put more police officers on the street. That's where they belong.
In watching the brouhaha over Arlene Ackerman's crude attempt to stifle
charter schools in the District, I was reminded that when Julius Becton attempted to close
schools in 1996 in the face of strong community opposition, parents at those schools
threatened with closing were told the same thing: that discussion of school closings was
not permitted on school property. My children attended Woodridge Elementary School at the
time, which was closed, and I recall that we rebellious parents went ahead and met and
discussed anyway. This is an old DCPS tactic. It is also interesting to note that
Ackerman's attempt to deprive Paul Junior High of their building as they attempt to go
charter has resulted in emergency legislation introduced to the City Council by Charlene
Jarvis to prevent that happening. It seems that the council intended for conversion
schools to have first dibs on the school building they occupy, and that what Ackerman is
attempting to do goes against the spirit of the original legislation, and, if the new
legislation is passed, will simply be illegal. Paul Junior High would have a very hard
time converting to charter status if they didn't have an adequate facility, and DCPS has
been notoriously slow to let any charter schools make use of unused DCPS property. These
issues show very dramatically how poorly Ackerman solves problems, especially when faced
with any degree of community opposition. She does little or nothing to actually solve the
problem, which in this case would be making public schools good enough to withstand
competition from charters, and resorts to underhanded and divisive tactics to get her way.
It is time for Ackerman to go.
Stiffing Special Education Students
Dorothy Brizill, email@example.com
There is a new development in DC Public School's campaign to lower the
cost of special education by denying it to students. DCPS has informed parents of special
education students that they must provide proof of DC residence by December 15, 1999, and
last week it told the private schools in which special ed students are enrolled that their
payments will be cut off immediately for any students if proof of residence has not been
provided by that date. This may catch some students whose parents or guardians really live
in Maryland and Virginia, but it is likely to punish many more students whose parents
simply ignore, are unable to deal with, or are unable to read the letter sent out by DCPS.
No arrangements have been made to appeal these cut-offs on a case-by-case basis or to
challenge the termination of funding, except for requesting a hearing from the Student
Hearing Office, which has a backlog of several months. When students' funding is cut off,
the private schools in which they are placed will either have to carry them for several
months without payment, in the hope of eventual back payments, or they will have to
On Sale Means Not in Stock
David Sobelsohn, firstname.lastname@example.org
In several years of grocery shopping in DC, I've learned to predict which
items will be out of stock at my local Safeway: I just check Safeway's latest advertising
circular. If an item's on sale, it's likely not in stock, and won't be until
after the sale ends. If Safeway promotes an item as on sale but never has the item in
stock during the sale, doesn't that border on consumer fraud? (I seem to recall the phrase
bait and switch.) Safeway offers rain checks for sale items, but
many Safeway store managers. including Greg Davis of the notorious Soviet
Safeway on 17th Street, NW, refuse to issue a rain check until the very last day of
the sale, a policy calculated to make the sale moot for most customers. Any suggestions on
a way to address this problem? Does DC have a working department of consumer affairs these
days? Any lawyer out there want a class action?
Recently, there have been a lot of articles in the Washington Post
about how the City of Trees is no longer. But Mayor Williams and Co. are going to change
this and begin a replanting and tree maintenance resurgence. All this is well and good,
but if Pepco is allowed to continue to butcher the tops and sides of trees to prevent
interference with electric lines, our trees will continue to die or blow over in high
winds. (This situation was addressed in a letter to the editor in the Washington Post.)
Can we encourage legislation that requires Pepco to prune trees with more care and thought
to preserve the health and aesthetics of the trees while protecting power lines? Is there
a better approach to saving our trees from these crew cuts (sorry about the pun) and
preserve our electric wires?
Memories of Christmas Downtown
Stephanie Faul, email@example.com
I remember the Woodies windows quite well. The new installations seem very
like what I remember from childhood; I got the urge to go into the store and shop, and
felt sad when I realized I couldn't. (I looked around for Flora Moulton and her guitar,
too.) I miss the old downtown terribly. It felt exciting to come down to F Street, to see
all the different shops and people, with the wonderful mix of old buildings and little
stores. Now it's bland dull buildings. The only thing you can buy is a lunch, and even the
sandwich places close at 4:30. By the way, are they EVER going to finish the old
Garfinckel's building? That's the store I miss most.
It's sad that DC no longer has downtown shopping. I work in Tyson's
Corner, and see a lot of cars with DC tags pulling into the malls there. Which is even
sadder. I (a Virginian!) won't shop at Tysons because it's such a blight on the world, and
I would hope DC residents would support in-town businesses. I've gotten some great
Christmas gifts at Eastern Market, Kramerbooks, and in shops in Takoma Park, Cleveland
Park, and Dupont Circle. Or how about Millennium on U Street?
Tell your friends. Tell your neighbors. Not only can you buy neat stuff in
the city, you can do it without getting run over by an SUV in a mall parking lot. When
you're done you can stop for coffee at somewhere that's not a Starbucks. I fill in the
gaps with online shopping. And I don't set foot in a mall between Thanksgiving and
Christmas. Makes for much happier holidays.
Becky Grimm, firstname.lastname@example.org
This little story may not get anyone in the holiday spirit, but it's full
of memories. After graduating from a Montana high school in 1977, I came to DC to work on
Capitol Hill. After three weeks of working in a Senator's office, I knew politics wasn't
for me, so I quit my internship and went to work at Hermes World of Sporting Goods in
downtown DC. Not only was I with the type of people I really enjoyed, but my free time
during the week was spent wandering around downtown DC, and during the weekends, hiking
and rock climbing in the surrounding areas. I have many good memories from that first year
in DC, and some of my most vivid are my memories of the Christmas season; the decorations,
Woodies, snow!, the street vendors, card sharks, etc. To a seventeen year old
country girl, it was fascinating, definitely Winter Wonderland.
Fast forward 20 years when I once again found myself in Washington, DC. I
could hardly wait to get downtown as see my old place of employment, the yogurt shop I
used to frequent regularly, the book stores, pizza parlors, and all the other old
hangouts. Imagine my disappointment when I discovered none of them existed any longer. I
couldn't believe it, and I still consider it a tragedy. DC just isn't the same without its
vibrant downtown area of the past. I now find myself going to the malls when I have to,
but for the most part try to shop little out of the way places and strip malls in the hope
that they will not go the way of downtown DC. Let's hope downtown is revitalized so future
generations can enjoy it the way my generation did.
Lea Adams berates some readers for being confused about the confusing
details of the two DC voting rights cases, but then goes on to tell a tall tale about the
retrocession of Alexandria ("When President Abraham Lincoln, in the very first bill
he signed, outlawed slavery in the District, Virginia rapidly (I think it took two days in
Congress) took back its portion, so the booming trade in African people out of the port of
Alexandria could continue, unabated by any moral considerations") that has no
relation to fact. The Act of Congress retroceding Alexandria was enacted on July 9, 1846,
and can be found at 9 Stat. 35. James K. Polk was President at that time. He was succeeded
by Zachary Taylor, Millard Filmore, Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan before Abraham
Lincoln become President in March, 1861, nearly 15 years later.
The Two DC Rights Lawsuits
Jon Desenberg, JonDes@hotmail.com
Yes, in response to Ms. Adams, I do remember that there were two separate
DC rights cases argued in Federal Court back in April. I support both of them, but have to
say that the premise of the Adams case got hammered by the judges. Meanwhile Judge
McFerrin and the Alexander v. Daley argument sailed through oral arguments without a
problem, and the Justice Department got grilled. Most people left court that day thinking
it was the Adams, not the Alexander, case that was in trouble.
Dumb and Dumber
Ed T. Barron, email@example.com
The folks who run the Metro System are getting dumb and dumber. They have
determined that the increased number of New Year's Eve revelers will be more than double
the normal 350 thousand who travel home after midnight that night. Since the Feds won't
pick up the tab to pay for the increased service required, the geniuses running the Metro
have decided to require all passengers to pay for entry onto the Metro System. In the past
this night has been free, which is not only a great good will gesture, but is imminently
safer and far less chaotic at the downtown Metro stations.
That's dumb enough, but the even dumber decision is to save some money by
not starting the Metro running until 8 AM instead of at 5:30 AM on Friday the 31st of
December. How are those folks who are flying out of National going to catch their early
morning flights that day? How are those who get early trains out of Union Station going to
get there? How are all those folks who go to work that day by Metro going to get there on
time? Do the Metro folks think that everyone will know that the system is starting two and
a half hours later on Friday. Wake up and smell the flowers you geniuses at Metro.
Last night (Thursday, 12/9), I woke up as a very sound sleeper to the
sound of hammers on metal. I thought for sure some fool was breaking in a security gate,
but then I saw the flashing yellow lights. And there at 3:45 am was a repair truck
whacking off a long-ago damaged traffic light affixed to a pole not 30 feet from my
bedroom windows on Vermont Avenue and 11th Street, north of Logan. It's great to get it
fixed at long last (busted green lens, flattened sun shades), but geez, Louise, must they
fix it at 3:45 to 4:20 am? I was afraid if I went out to offer them coffee I might throw
it in their faces.
Rare Good Bell Atlantic Service
Deborah C. Fort, FortsKDC@cs.com
Having been the irritated recipient of so much expensive bad service from
Bell Atlantic that I tried to substitute another company, I finally got excellent,
generous treatment from Joe Harris at 703 712 2267. I neglected, however, to inquire about
phone books; I have also had bad luck with them. Does anyone know where and how to recycle
Reading the Washington Post every day is like being in a bad
relationship/marriage. You don't realize just how bad it is until split up and meet
someone else. There's been a lot of griping about the Washington Post in the past
few issues of themail. I agree with you 100%, but I have a suggestion. Read another paper!
I gave up reading the Post 4 months ago. I couldn't bring myself to read the Washington
Times. So I started reading the Wall Street Journal. And I have to tell you,
besides not getting a paper on Saturday and Sunday, I don't miss the Post one bit! It's
little bit more expensive. But it gets delivered by 7 am, and it's infinitely better. The
titles above each article actually describe what the articles are about (imagine that!).
The first paragraph of every article describes in further detail what the article is
about. The first sentence of every paragraph tells you what the paragraph is about. These
are pretty basic principles I learned in high school about how to write an article/story.
I don't know where the Post reporters learned to write.
The only way the Washington Post will ever change (hopefully for
the better) is when they see their readership going down. We deserve better. Boycott the
Post if you don't like it. And if you have the time, write them and tell them why you
canceled your subscription. Come on people, they're not going to change by magic!
Kathy Chamberlain wonders about getting Virginia tags when you live in DC,
and why people would do it. I have VA tags (I live here!) but have had DC tags in recent
history (I lived there!) so I can offer a comparison. Insurance can be way cheaper, but it
depends. However, getting Virginia tags means you must also pay Virginia personal property
tax. For a new vehicle, you probably save big on insurance and pay big on the tax. When I
moved here, with a 1.5 year old vehicle, my insurance bill dropped from $1400 to $450, but
I had to pay up about $400 in tax. Still a savings, but not a big one and besides
it's illegal! For an old vehicle the insurance savings are probably negligible. And while
DC is losing the vehicle registration revenue, it's also losing the costs. The real impact
would be on insurers
whose customers are lying to them to lower their bills.
Because of the tax implication, Virginia localities usually advertise a
number you can call to report people who appear to be your neighbors but don't have VA
tags. (You're supposed to get them within 30 days of moving to the state.) I noticed some
neighbors (4 single people with 4 vehicles and only one with VA tags suddenly ALL had VA
tags and Arlington tax stickers the same week. I didn't blow the whistle but suspect
someone did. Does DC have anything like that?
Praise for Spaulding
James E. Taylor Jr., firstname.lastname@example.org
I would like to second the motion of Ms. Drissel's description of Mr.
Vince Spaulding, who, for those who don't know him, put a lot of hours into making the
League of 8000 a formidable organization, along with people such as Mrs. Marilyn Groves,
Mr. Paul Savage, and many other citizens in this city who were fed up with years of double
talk. Vince Spaulding will be successful because he cared about this city's cleanliness
before his current title and responsibility. His decision to move on was likely due to
being tired of beating his head against the political barrier.
It is a heavy task that will, first, require him to overturn past years of
apathy because of favoritism, nonresponsiveness, and maybe incompetence in dealing with a
city population that was largely ignored in the process. I hope this mayor's initiative in
adding layers and layers of bureaucracy will not give truth to the impression that
the more things are changed, the more they remain the same. If you have one horse
(objective) why place five riders on it to guide? At least these gallant warriors can
confuse us by pointing blame, in a circle.
Larry Seftor wrote, Pepco in their radio ads promote a new phone
number that one calls during a power outage. The automated system uses caller-ID to figure
out where you are and take note of your call and your power problem. Larry, I don't
know about your phones, but all of mine plug into a power source, and hence would be
useless during a power outage! Sounds like a great idea to those in the Pepco Boardroom,
but out here in real life, the system won't work in my household. Reminds me of the time
the news captured a burning house on my block that looked like mine, and when I got home
from vacation, there were dozens of messages on my (burning?) machine from friends saying
they just saw my house on TV. Ummmm ... were they hoping a fireman would answer?
Power Behind the Phone
Mark Eckenwiler, email@example.com
Larry Seftor asks whether Pepco's new 877-PEPCO62 service which
automatically looks up your home address when you call from home and reports the status of
power service in your area makes any sense, given that phone lines, like power
lines, run through tree branches. Surely the answer is yes, because 1) there are plenty of
events other than downed trees that cause power outages (e.g., blown transformer), and 2)
the new service is an improvement over the current system or recorded announcements, under
which I don't quickly receive information relevant to my neighborhood.
Also, FYI, an 877 number should not use caller ID to determine
the caller's number, since CLID can be blocked (and on many home lines, is blocked by
request on all outgoing calls). If Pepco has any sense, what they're using is ANI
(automatic number identification), a similar but distinct service that cannot be blocked
by the caller.
Complaining to the ISP where the spam came from is a good plan, but it
does require learning to read the headers of the E-mail spammers often forge much
of the information. For an introduction, see http://spam.abuse.net/howtocomplain.html.
Many states (including Virginia but not Maryland or DC) have laws which may let you sue,
at least sometimes. See http://www.suespammers.org/
for details. Due to the global nature of the internet, laws will never be the complete
solution, and so you might ask your ISP whether they have plans to implement any of the
private blacklists or filters; some of the best regarded are at http://mail-abuse.org/. The one thing that is clear is
that spam is inconsistent with email continuing to be useful (because there is no natural
force limiting its volume), so don't fall for just hit delete or other
SpamCop ( http://spamcop.net/ ) is a
useful public service. You paste a copy of the offending E-mail along with all that
cryptic header information into a window. SpamCop analyzes it and traces back to the
E-mail's source. (This is very helpful inasmuch as many spammers forge return address and
routing information and thereby make it seem as though the message is coming from
somewhere other than it really is.) SpamCop then prepares a message addressed to the
administrator of the ISP, which you can send with a mouse click. The foregoing is free;
for a fee you can get slightly upgraded service. (I haven't subscribed so I can't comment
on its value.) I pretty regularly run my incoming spam through SpamCop. To be honest I
don't know how effective it is (I figure I get replies from ISP administrators about 15%
of the time) but it is satisfying to be able to send something back.
Many states, including VA (but, alas, not DC), have passed laws to limit
spam in one way or another. None of them is broad enough to be effective. Rep. Chris
Smith's Netizens Protection Act is the cleanest answer at the Federal level. It would
explicitly extend the ban on junk faxes (47 USC 227) to E-mail. A court in Wisconsin just
ruled that this law already applies to spam, but it might be overturned. Be warned that
many supposedly anti-spam proposals are effectively pro-spam spam has a
surprisingly powerful lobby in this town. Numerous court decisions have held that free
speech does not mean that you have to pay for speech that you don't want to hear,
otherwise any one of us could simply demand that the Post run our rantings for free. And
spam is precisely that it's popular with marketers because the costs are shifted
from the sender to the recipients. As the late spam fighter Jim Nitchal liked to say,
Speech isn't free when it comes postage due.
Rob Pegoraro, firstname.lastname@example.org
What you need to do is parse the headers of the junk E-mail and try to
figure out who sells the spammers their Internet connection. Then yell at that company,
not that it always works. A more effective tactic is prevention keep your address
from showing up in public places. For instance, if you post to newsgroups, enter a bogus
return address in the settings of your newsgroup client. On that note, I see that the Web
archives of themail include the address of every poster. That information should be
deleted or camouflaged (see how I've listed my address above; fix the typo to send me a
[All submissions to themail have to be signed, simply because individual
posters are taking responsibility for what they write. Signing also allows readers of
themail to correspond with each other. For those who are concerned about spam, Rob's idea
works if the alteration in the E-mail address can be easily spotted by humans but not by
the automated spiders that are used to mine web sites and newsgroups for addresses. This
is a continual race, as spammers work to make the spiders more intelligent and capable of
correcting deceptively altered addresses. Gary Imhoff]
Fictional D.C. ZIP Codes
Thomas C. Hall (email@example.com)
I hate to un-ZIP Kathy Carroll's belief that National Airport and the
Pentagon are geographically in the District of Columbia. They are not. A recent Washington
Business Journal (Inner Loop Nov. 26-Dec. 2) item gets to the bottom of this.
Airports Authority lands in D.C.
Everyone except tourists, taxi drivers and postal workers know that both of
Washington's airports are actually in Virginia. Or are they?
'National and Dulles both have a Washington, D.C., postal address,' said Tara
Hamilton, spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.
Taking this fiction to new heights, the authority is announcing that it, too, is moving to
Washington at least on paper.
After 10 years of leasing office space in Alexandria's Canal Plaza, the address of
the authority's new headquarters is now '1 Aviation Circle, Washington, D.C. 20001.'
But don't take a cab downtown: It's in the former Hangar 10, just north of the new
terminal at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.
Ed T. Barron, firstname.lastname@example.org
Switching from D.C. Cablevision to a satellite dish for TV was one of the
better moves I made a few years ago. And now, the feds have approved the inclusion of
local channels on the offerings of satellite signals. I have always been able to get very
clear local channels 4, 7, and 9 (via a small wand antenna) to supplement my satellite
signals, but channel 5 (Fox) has always been a poor signal. Now I'm getting 5 via the
satellite and all the channels are clear. For those who have been held captive by the
cable and get poor service and poor local channels, the satellite signal providers now can
solve all your problems. Note: I sold my Hughes stock (DirecTV) two years ago.
Short-Term Housing Available, Jan-March
R.A. Bird Anderson, email@example.com
One small bedroom in 3 bedroom apartment at 19th and Florida, NW,
available for short-term lease. Living room, dining room, kitchen, porch, laundry in
apartment, 3 bedrooms, 1 bath, to be shared with 2 working female professionals. Fully
furnished room. $550/month (negotiable), includes utilities. Available January 1 through
March 31. Possibility of extension but only if Bradley wins the nomination! If interested,
please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Randi Rubovits-Seitz, email@example.com
Anybody got a KAYPRO keyboard you don't need any more?
Valerie Kenyon Gaffney, firstname.lastname@example.org
I can recommend with confidence James Scaldaferri, (703) 631-1245. He has
done considerable work over the years in the DC area, particularly in Georgetown, and
should be able to furnish any number of references. Feel free to use my name when you
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