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January 23, 2000

Goodbye School Board

Dear Witnesses:

The dismantling of democratic institutions in the District is far from over, and the elected school board will be the next and chief victim. Tony Williams's political power grab has failed only temporarily. The composition of the Board of Education is determined by the Home Rule Charter, and the Charter can be amended only by a bill passed by the City Council that is then affirmed by a public vote. Only two City Councilmembers supported the Mayor's bid to abolish the elected school board and replace it with a board that the Mayor would appoint. The Council, however, has given preliminary approval to a mixed plan, in which a school board with fewer members would continue to be elected, but the Mayor would appoint the school superintendent. The Mayor has said he will veto this bill, and there aren't enough votes for it on the Council to override a veto — only seven Councilmembers voted for the Council plan promoted by Kevin Chavous. And were the Council plan or the Mayor's plan to come to a public vote, either one would probably fail, since neither has excited any public interest, and neither Kevin Chavous nor Tony Williams has explained how his plan is going to improve education for the District's children.

It looks like a stalemate, but it probably won't be. Alice Rivlin, chair of the Control Board, has said that she will keep power in the hands of the inept and secretive “Emergency Board of Trustees” until and unless the democratically elected school is abolished, and Congress is ready to give the Mayor his wish in the face of Council and public opposition. So it doesn't matter what you or I want; or whether the Mayor has public support for his plan. My bet is that we're going to lose the elected Board of Education, along with any remaining shreds of parental control and public accountability of those responsible for education.

Gary Imhoff


Tales from the Snow
Bob Levine,

Trying to drive down Wisconsin Avenue during Wednesday's snowstorm traffic was backed up worse than I had ever seen it. It took me two hours to go from Calvert to R Street. The obstruction turned out to be five Metro busses taking up both lanes going into Georgetown. The busses were located halfway between Calvert Street and the Safeway. They had left just enough room to go between them very slowly one car at a time in an intricate z blockade pattern. There were no visible Metro personnel about trying to correct the situation. This was the traffic obstruction that blocked Wisconsin Avenue from Bethesda to R Street. I've heard rumors that many Metro bus drivers walked off their busses at the end of their shifts in mid route. Does anybody in themail know any more about the wonderful service Metro gave us during the recent storm? Is there anybody from Metro out there that would like to comment on blocking Wisconsin Avenue?


Snow Emergency and Taxis
Joan Eisenstodt

I called Yellow Cab today, January 20, and they said there were no snow emergency fares. I tried to call the Taxi Commission, and no one answered. Two drivers today told me two different things. One said no, as long as the City was operating, there was no emergency fare basis; the other wanted to charge me double. I refused. How is one supposed to know? What IS the guideline, or is it arbitrary?


Malcolm X / Meridian Hill Park
Jon Desenberg,

As a neighbor and frequent visitor to Meridian Hill Park, I was surprised to hear that some are asking for a playground, community center, and other projects on the top level of the park. The park is gorgeous, and a playground and other development would rob it of its beautiful character. The field on the top level is wonderful, and there's plenty to do in a well maintained open space. I understand the need for playgrounds, but trashing the historical beauty of this special place with jungle gyms and swings seems akin to placing them on the Mall downtown. Are the Friends of Meridian Hill behind this proposal?


Imagine Something Could Change
Mark-David Richards, Dupont East,

For three weeks I've not heard much English spoken, haven't listened to any “news,” or paid attention to the time or date. I returned yesterday from Brazil and today find it weird to put my backpack on the snow at the bus stop instead of on the sand at the beach. I've been scanning the foot tall pile of newspapers and reading themail to see what's new. I read there are three racist white women on the majority white DC Council. How interesting. I know one of these white women, Carol Schwartz, and laugh in disbelief: this assertion seems so silly, so mean, so careless, so small. Maybe that's why nobody said much when this poison arrow was shot. I still have images of the thousands of people of so many skin tones, so mixed, many poor, who meet on the beach after work in Rio to watch the sky churn and the sun set, and stand, clap and cheer as it drops below the horizon. “Goodbye sun until tomorrow, we will miss you!” The samba starts, and the dance begins. One man with dark black skin showed me his tan lines and told he was getting white, losing his tan. In Brazil, people who seem light may say they're dark, some black say they're white — it's not clear how anyone knows, or if many people care. Yes, they had 400 years of slavery, and still have racism, like everywhere. One well traveled Brazilian complained to me that too many Brazilians think small: the country has so many resources, but hasn't made the economic progress of US. Standing in line after line is common — DC looks efficient. But in some ways I envy these “small thinkers,” for at least they are alive and spirited. Walking around Salvador, Bahia, and Rio, people look at one another -- really look -- from head to toe. They acknowledge one another, reinforce one another's presence: their eyes say, “I like you!” or “You're interesting!” or “Who are you?” They seem to live for the moment, with the attitude “Lets see what happens next. . . .” It is warm, reassuring, and life-giving.

I read an article by a Brazilian writer questioning whether the new Millennium would be a time of advance toward the dream or the eternal return. For DC, the perpetual race "discussion" (hardly! — it's more like throwing a pipe bomb than a discussion!) makes me think we live the eternal return. I don't want to trivialize the historic injustices — they were real. And the current ones perpetrated by people of all tones, and unjust systems . . . yes, they are real, there is so much to do. But to generalize too much is to drift from the truth. Accusations and assertions are diversions from facts and solutions; they breed hopelessness and bitterness, and without hope people give up. If one isn't careful, anger and bitterness grow like plants in a greenhouse, and poison ideas colonize whole communities like viruses. Tonight, a big snow is said to be coming. I recommend running into it, clapping, dancing to the sky, and shouting “free at last, free at last, thank God, I'm free at last!” Why not? I dream of an anti-virus for this poison that haunts DC and brings us all down. I dream of having an American Indian on the DC Council. And a Hispanic. And an Asian. An Ethiopian. A Peruvian. A Brazilian! For the next week, look into the eyes of everyone you see — from the deepest black to the palest pink — and just smile or nod affirmatively. See how many people look away fearful, wondering what you want . . . and how many cannot hold back a smile, beam, and look away a bit stunned. You've just touched someone's soul. And they're going to do the same thing, too. They won't be able to help it. The future is ours to make, and or repeat. A warm smile passed to a stranger is like feeling the warm sun on a cold winter day. We can all bring more warmth to DC, and it costs nothing. That's my wish for the new year.


I Deserved That
Clare Feinson,

I apologize if I offended anyone but Ed Barron with my recent posting about UDC. I did not get any spam in response (which I expected), but I did get a little carried away there at the end, and I deserved Bob Donahue's reprimand. One step forward and two steps back seems to be the story of my life. In the meantime, UDC recently held the Faculty Convocation that starts every semester. One of the speakers was the director of the UDC Aerospace Program, which trains airline mechanics. This is apparently a very well regarded program, with 100% job placement of graduates, and many of these graduates work for major airlines in our area. If you have ever flown out of any of the local airports, there is a good chance that at least one of the people who serviced your plane was a UDC graduate. Perhaps Ed Barron might want to consider flying under an alias next time he travels. . . .


The Language We Use
JePhunneh Lawrence,

Evaluating the post nomination debate with respect to the recent mayoral nominations to the UDC Board, I take the liberty of sharing an observation on the general tenor of the debate both pro and con: it appears that as we focused and crystallized political issues during the course of debate, some of us tended to become a bit too strident. We must be ever mindful of the language we use to stimulate political debate lest that same language be construed by some as personal attacks. As advocates for political and social change, most of us have no desire to be part of or to engage in personal attacks. While we may well differ on issues as we move along the path to a restructuring and revitalization of our City, those architects of the debate ought not personalize it. The many complex problems confronting our city and the solutions to those problems will require our full time and attention.

However, there is at least one sophomoric person out there who added nothing to the debate but apparently derives some warped sense of self flagellation from sending racially derogatory threatening, and offensive material through inter state and or intra state wire communication. I suspect that sometime very soon, one “Harold Goldstein” aka Harold Goldstein,, will get a knock at his door from federal authorities with a warrant in hand.


Willie Wilson, Continued
Bonnie Gantt,

Since my last posting about Rev. Wilson and the incident that resulted in the boycott for which the reverend is being labeled a racist, I heard an interview with Rev. Wilson on a local radio station in which he gave the full details of what actually happened. A black woman bought a soda in one store and entered another to buy food. The Asian storekeeper objected to the woman buying a soda in someone else's store and bringing it with her into his carryout. When she protested, she was run out of the store by gunpoint. Around the same time, an Asian storekeeper at another location beat a young man to near death with a bat. From my own FIRST HAND experience there is a pattern of disrespectful behavior on the part of some Asian shopkeepers towards black customers. Especially children. On the other hand, I know of other Asian shopkeepers that are cordial towards all their customers and they have the respect of their black customers, as well as all others. So, I still say, Rev. Wilson is not a racist simply because he speaks up for justice.

[Even were we to accept at face value Rev. Wilson's self-serving and distorted account of the incident that served to ignite his protests, the fact would still remain that he stereotyped all Asian merchants in his Ward, led protests against them as a group and class, and called for a boycott against their stores based solely on their race. You call that justice; I call it racism. — Gary Imhoff]


Mark Nadel,

I signed up with Starpower for cable TV and telephone service about nine months ago and, while I still haven't been connected to Starpower's telephone service, I am very pleased with the basic cable service. With the discounts I was eligible for, my total bill is $35/mo and this includes many good independent films on The Sundance Channel, The Independent Film Channel, and Bravo, as well as more commercial films on TNT, TMC, The Comedy Channel, etc., and it includes sports from ESPN, ESPN II, and a few other sports channels. I think that there are about 70 “basic” channels in all.


A Tourist Guidebook to Washington City 130 Years Ago (1869)
Mark Richards, East Dupont,

My dad gave me The Sights and Secrets of the National Capital: A Work Descriptive of Washington City In All Its Various Phases, a 512-page hard cover tourist guidebook published in 1869. It introduces Washington City as “the pet child of the Republic,” and reports that the capital is “unknown to the majority of the American people.” A chapter titled “The Social Evil,” explains that “It is commonly supposed throughout the country that Washington City is the most immoral place in the land. That there is a frightful amount of immorality prevalent in the city is true, but it is not fair to charge it to the citizens. . . . There is . . . an average floating population during the sessions of Congress, of from ten to twenty-five thousand persons . . . [with] a vast amount of leisure time . . . the usual consequences of such promiscuous intercourse follow.” And, if promiscuous intercourse wasn't enough to convince readers to visit, “Washington is the paradise of gamblers, and contains many handsome and elegantly fitted-up establishments. It is said that at least one hundred of these 'hells' were in full blast during the war. . . . The majority . . . are located on 'Pennsylvania Avenue'. . . . You may recognize them by the heavily-curtained windows through which gaslight shines dimly. . . . The table and wines are free to all, and you can play or not, as you please.” The guide tells that the city is governed under the authority of a charter derived from Congress, with a Mayor and an elected Common Council that carries on municipal business at the City Hall on Judiciary Square. “Congress showed a decided unwillingness to contribute anything towards it, and even begrudged the sum necessary to make it habitable. It is at present a plain, awkward building, situated in one of the handsomest parts of the city.”

On schools: “The public schools are, as yet, in their infancy. There are five large 'public schools' as they are called, which correspond to the 'high schools' of most other cities, and a number of primary schools. They systems is still incomplete, and capable of great expansion and reform.” On the press: “The city has no first-class newspaper, such as the Capital of a great nation should have, and its press is so entirely local in its character as to be utterly devoid of interest to any but residents of the city.” On the Freedmen: “. . . it became evident to all that it was the purpose of the General Government to receive and protect all slaves from the surrounding country who sought an asylum in the District. This conviction spread rapidly among the negroes in Maryland and Virginia, and they abandoned their masters and old homes, and came into Washington in great numbers — to such an extent, indeed, that it seemed the city would be overrun by them. . . . Fresh from the bonds of slavery, fresh from the benighted regions of the plantation, they came to the Capital looking for liberty, and many of them not knowing it when they found it. Many good friends reached forth kind hands, but the North is not warm and impulsive. . . . The change was indeed too sudden, and the poor creatures were utterly unprepared for it. . . . The colored people proper of the District, by which term we mean those who were born in it, or have lived in it many years, are very different from the refugee freedmen. . . . They are, as a class, intelligent, respectable, and industrious. Nearly all of them have some steady, honorable employment, at which they work faithfully. They hold themselves aloof from the freedmen in the camps or villages, and consider themselves vastly superior to them, and justly so.”



1992 VW Jetta GL
R.A. Bird Anderson,

1992 Jetta GL Sedan, only 83,500 miles. Good condition: 5-Speed, AM/FM Cassette Bensi Box Pullout Radio, Moonroof, AC, Cruise Control, Tilt Steering Wheel, Velour/Cloth Seat. Many new parts. Black, grey interior. Valued at $5,780 by, for sale for $4,500. Tel: 757-622-5993 or



ISO Reputable Car Mechanic and/or Oil Change Place, Preferably in NW DC
Lonna Shafritz,

New DC car owner looking for reputable car mechanic and/or place to change oil for Buick. Prefer Dupont/Adams Morgan area, but willing to consider any highly recommended place (even MD or VA). Please E-mail or call me at 202-884-8784. Thanks. (Last issue had wrong phone number. Sorry if you tried to reach me!)


Dupont Realtor
Sara Cormeny,

My better half and I were very pleased with the services of Jeff Jackson of Tutt Taylor Rankin, who worked with us for about six months to find a house in Dupont Circle. Work: 202.939.1233, Home: 202.829.8910, Fax: 202.265.6156, Main: 202.234.3344, Work Address: 1755 S St NW, E-mail: We were in the house, not condo, market, so I can't speak to his familiarity there. But he was able to get us into a number of houses before they went on the market, vital to the hunt in these crazy times. He also was extremely responsive to our needs and desires, and I was very impressed by how “close” to what we wanted each place he showed us was — he truly does listen and saved us a lot of time in avoiding properties in which we had no interest.

Another friend of mine has recently passed the realtor exam and is working his way up through the small property route. A lifelong Washingtonian, he can be a real help in finding neighborhoods that match your ambition and your budget. Scott Purcell, Realtor, Long & Foster, Work: 202.483.6300, Home: 202.387.4905, Fax: 202.483.8876, Mobile: 202.277.5892, 2601 Connecticut Avenue NW. Best of luck in the hunt!


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