themail.gif (3487 bytes)

February 2, 2000

Mea Culpa

Dear Kingmakers:

You probably didn't realize it, and wouldn't believe it if I didn't tell you myself, but I have made mistakes in the past. Even in the recent past, such as the last issue of themail. When people write about an issue that they have a vested interest in, I encourage them to reveal their connection. When they don't, and I know about the connection, I note it myself. But I jumped to a conclusion — an inaccurate conclusion — in the last issue. There, Bob King (in “Winners and Whiners”) praised Mayor Williams highly, and I noted that Bob King was recently Mayor Williams's Ward Five coordinator. The trouble is, there are two Bob Kings (imagine the odds against two people having a name that rare), and themail's correspondent isn't the Mayor's coordinator. I apologize to both Kings for the confusion.

Aside from Bob King, who E-mailed me to alert me to my mistake, I was called by Marie Drissel, who recently resigned as the Director of the Office of Boards and Commissions. Marie suggested that I just assumed that anybody who supported the Mayor had to be on the payroll. Well, that certainly wouldn't be unusual in DC politics, and I certainly am enough of a cynic to. . . , well, Marie could just be right. And in general, though not specifically in this situation, so could I.

Mark Richards, a frequent contributor to themail, has allowed DCWatch to publish a paper he and his sister wrote on how guidebooks to the District cover our political situation and history. I recommend it to those interested at

Gary Imhoff


An Open Letter to the City Paper
Bryce Suderow,

I was amused by your January 28th Paper Trail. In that column, you stated that Marcus Garvey Charter School President Mary Anigbo's assault on Washington Times reporter Susan Ferrechio three years ago constituted “one of the biggest stories of the year.” Alas, that was not your attitude three years ago. At the time of the assault on Ferrechio you smeared the Washington Times for even reporting it. You accused them of “flame-thrower tactics.” And you lauded the Washington Post for its initial decision not to cover the story and, later, for minimizing its coverage.

Four questions come to mind in response to your column. First, three years ago you said that the Anigbo-Ferrechio affair was not important and it should not receive coverage. This week you say that it was a major story. Are you willing to admit that you were wrong and that you and the Post erred in not covering more fully and in a more timely fashion? Second, three years ago, you said the story should be not covered or covered only briefly — in the interest of maintaining what you or Mark Plotkin or Tom Sherwood called “racial harmony” in this city. In retrospect, won't you admit now that you really wanted other papers as well as your own to censor themselves? And don't you now agree that in taking this position you violated your creed as a journalist to report the news honestly? Third, you applauded the notion of damping down racial tensions. Don't you think that you were advocating a double standard that turned a blind eye to black thuggery and corruption? Is it not a possible corollary that you would have acted very differently if a black reporter had been assaulted by a white school principal? Might even you, current praiser of reporter Ferrechio, have been leading the lynch mob against that white principal? Fourth, do you still maintain a double standard when it comes to covering black people, in the interests of “racial harmony” of course?

This kind of political correctness has only the appearance of open-mindedness. It's really anti black AND anti-white all at once. We need more honest reporting on race in our city — there is so little. I look forward to your reply.


Has the Mayor Lost Contact with His Mother Ship?
Philip Blair, Jr.,

I know I am not alone in feeling that the Mayor is acting deeply, deeply weird with regard to DC Public Schools governance. At the Neighborhood Action event last Saturday at UDC, he barely mentioned his plan to take control of DCPS. It was the Dog That Didn't Bark. He certainly didn't want to be booed by his own pep rally. (At my table — Brooklanders mostly — we were unanimously in favor of the elected Board of Education.) A rational person might have thought that he was cutting his losses and folding.

He sure didn't want to take the chance of using his magic computerized instant-voting set-up to find out what people at this event thought about his proposal. Yesterday, Council discovered (again) that they can't figure out what he is going to to either. What he says on Monday bears no relation to what he does on Tuesday. I, for one, am scared by this erratic behavior.


More of the Same
Ed T. Barron,

In nine months the voters of D.C. will decide whether the School Board will be an elected board of nine members or a board of five members appointed by the Mayor. That's not a great selection of choices. If the voters, as I suspect they will, vote for a nine person elected board, we will likely have more of the same that we have right now. That's a politically oriented board that is territorial in nature with all members looking out for only their Ward and their own political survival. On the other hand, we would have a Board appointed by Mayor Williams and it would likely be a pretty good Board. The problem I have with a Mayoral appointed Board is that some day, maybe sooner than later, we will have another mayor like Barry who would appoint a squadron of his bimbos to the Board.

So, we have a Hobson's choice the way the two proposals now stand. Neither is acceptable to me for the reasons above. My proposed solution is to have an elected Board of seven members. All members would be elected "at-large" thus defusing the territorial and survival issues. This kind of an election would draw out many qualified candidates, those truly interested in DCPS reform. Then, those seven elected persons would choose their own Board President, who would serve as president as long as the majority of the other Board members wanted him as their President. Over a period of time it is likely that several of the Board members would have a stint at being President. If we really want reform of the District Schools then we need a better selection of options than the two that are currently proposed for voter choice in November.


Churches, Parking, Etc.
John Whiteside,

It's sad that Metropolitan Baptist Church is leaving DC. It's contributed a lot to its community over the years. But as I watched the parking controversy unfold, I quickly ran out of patience with those who found it acceptable to turn a playground into a parking lot. Everyone else traveling into DC from the rest of the metro area faces the reality of limited parking. So we take Metro, we carpool, we take cabs, we hunt for a legal spot, we walk a few blocks. Why does all this change when church is involved?

Just try to drive past many DC churches on Sunday morning. You'll find double and triple parked cars, and drivers trying to squeeze though the limited remaining space. I hate to think what could happen if emergency vehicles needed to get through. it's unsafe, and it's illegal. I don't think it's unfair to expect churchgoers to obey the law. And there's nothing terribly righteous about endangering, or even just inconveniencing, your neighbors because you don't want to walk a few blocks.


DC Cable Crashes
Jon Desenberg,

On Monday Morning, January 31st, my cable was out and a call to DC Cable finds a message of a “system wide failure impacting zip codes 20003, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, etc.” The question: how many people lost cable and how long will we be without it? The bigger question: will we be able to deduct the costs of the lost days of service without the typical fight? I guess we should just be happy it waited until the Super Bowl ended to cut out.


Alternatives to Bell Atlantic
Ralph Blessing,

Now that Bell Atlantic has erected its steel monstrosity in Rock Creek Park, I am determined to find another local phone carrier. Aside from what I've seen as part of a cable package (e.g., Starpower), I know of no other local carriers. Does anyone out there have any suggestions?

[Local and long district telephone services from Starpower is available to everyone in DC, even if the company hasn't run its cables down your street yet. They're leasing Bell Atlantic lines and selling the service at a discount, and switching people to their proprietary lines whenever they are installed. To my knowledge, the many other telephone service companies gearing up to provide service are going to serve commercial businesses in the downtown area primarily. Anyone know anything different? — Gary Imhoff]


Mugging Alert
Sender's name and address removed by request, December 2003

My friend [name removed at the request of the individual] was walking with Guillermo Silveira near 43rd Place Friday night about 10 pm when they were mugged by two men. One of them had a gun. [My friend] said they are very well coordinated and extremely strong. They told them to not scream and to give them their wallets. [My friend] had some trouble getting hers out of her pocket. She said the way the man held her was very precise. Also, when he pushed her into the snow, he did it with a martial arts flare. The police said these two men have been mugging people in Georgetown and Tenley Park for the last two weeks. They prefer to work on fairly deserted streets.

They are two African American men, in their 30's, 5' 5" to 5' 7', dark complexion, husky, muscular builds. They wear dark clothes, not decorations or identifying marks, and matching knit caps pulled over their eyebrows. The police are actively searching for them.


Nope, It Wasn’t Plowed
Joan Eisenstodt

When I arrived back in DC on Sun. a.m. before the new snow/ice storm, found our street (5th S.E.) musta had a teeny bit of plowing, 'cause the snow was a bit higher around the cars but not much. Clearly there was no other treatment: the mounds of ice and snow in the road made it a difficult trip for the cab.


Trash Pickups
Kenneth Nellis,

Today is Monday, Jan. 31. Our trash is scheduled to be picked up every Wednesday from the alley behind our house. No pickup was made the last two Wednesdays. A box in Friday's (or possibly Thursday's) Metro section of The Washington Post gave special directions to those with alley pickups. For us, it said, we would have street pickups that Friday. So, we dutifully wheeled our supercan around to the front where it has sat, since, untouched and full. In two days it will be another Wednesday. Where should we put our supercan?


Snow Removal
Bill Starrels, Georgetown

It would be hard for the snow removal to do anything but improve in Washington. As a resident of Georgetown, the city did a great job with M Street and Wisconsin Avenues, and not much else. Perhaps the Mayor's office should look at contracting with neighborhood snow plow operators and have them run their trucks through the side streets. The hot line number for snow operations is 202-727-6161. The people who answer the phone are nice and will put your street on a list. What happens with the so-called list after your call is anyone's guess. Thankfully the snow and ice will eventually melt.


Lee Perkins,

Now that they have the streets under semi-control, they should get the janitors and building engineers of DC-owned and inhabited buildings with the program. A good place to start is the DC data center at 3919 Benning Road, NE. The building has a slanting sidewalk in front of it and a steep sidewalk down to the parking in back of the building. Needless to say, neither was shoveled.


Willie Schatz,

As we say in my native land, FUHGEDDABOUT whose street was plowed (that's my 1800 block of California -- once, but that beats nunce — during the first storm) and whose was not (that's my block during the second hit). If this town really is a rising star, why did its schools open two hours late Tuesday? And why did my yoga instructor tell our Monday night class that she used her four-wheel drive ONLY after crossing the Potomac in our nation's capital during her 90-minute trek from Strasbourg? And a garbage truck? Been so long I can't remember when. As for recycling, my stuff will recycle itself before it's picked up. Meanwhile, did it snow in Montgomery County? Coulda fooled me bigtime.


Democracy Is Alive and Normal in DC
Malcolm Wiseman,

Then I'd have to ask NARPAC, “normal compared to what?” We in DC get to start at abnormal, and never get to leave it. Mr. Sullivan's choice of terms is right-on, though the “nudges” are more like “imposed policies and suspensions.” What sort of “democratic processes are there for people who are controlled by “overseers?”

Something limited and peculiar, I'll bet. Probably the kind of democracy that gets re-negotiated and mutates every fours years with the “oversight” Congress.

DC's “democracy” is certainly a lot less “cumbersome.” Especially for those who would withhold it from us. There's hardly any waiting period for providers of the Congressional crap to which we're regularly treated. “Marching to the same drummer” doesn't sound all that great.


DCPS Graduates Are Alive and Normal in College
Tracy Hadden,

Ouch. Wow, I spent 12 years participating in a “national disgrace.” Mr. Sullivan, I can think of a few DCPS graduates who would be pretty offended by your suggestion that we be recalled, like those playpens that kill little kids. And I can think of a few more that would be pretty angry to hear that you think we're “second-rate adults.” Your point is well taken about the need for reform, the abysmal standards, the embarrassing test scores, the violence, the lack of progress, social promotion, misspent funds, and on and on. We know. Yay, NARPAC. But please don't throw insults. Maybe the education I got from DCPS doesn't look so hot next to the stories I hear in college about private schools or even Montgomery County. But I had some great teachers who prepared me for college so I would not need to be “recalled.” I know I'm the exception, rather than the rule. I know you probably didn't mean to insult me or deny me. I feel your frustration, concern, and urgency. But I want everyone who read your post to know that I exist. I am a product of DCPS. And I read themail. Please acknowledge that.


DC Remains a Mixed Bag in February
Len Sullivan,

Land use planning East of the Anacostia is really very rudimentary. The contrasts in household income, property values, and employment opportunities around the city are still growing. Arguments over the school board still don't recognize that DCPS performance scores are in large measure neighborhood performance scores — which can't be fixed by the board or the superintendent. Ever been to the Department of Education's web site for Special Ed programs? Ever looked at the changing immigration patterns in the US and DC? All this and more awaits you on NARPAC's February update at Never closed due to snow.


Elian Gonzalez
David Sobelsohn,

In his post, “Democracy for Elian Gonzalez?,” Malcolm Wiseman makes some valid points about congressional, mostly Republican, posturing. But he's wrong to suggest that Congress is about to “strip this child of his Cuban nationality.” Even if by “nationality” he means “citizenship,” the U.S. can't, under international law, unilaterally take away anyone's citizenship in another country. It depends on the laws of the other country. I once knew of a Brazilian-American who'd moved to the U.S. as a young woman and raised a family here. Years later, when her American-born son was 18, she took him on his first trip to her homeland. Brazil promptly arrested her son and began proceedings to induct him into the armed forces. Under Brazilian law, his birthplace didn't matter. He had a Brazilian mother, so was a Brazilian citizen, and thus subject to the Brazilian military draft. Elian will remain a Cuban citizen unless and until Cuban law decrees otherwise.

Even for someone, like me, who thinks U.S. policy towards Cuba is basically wrongheaded, Elian Gonzalez's case is very troubling and extremely complex. After more than two months, why hasn't Elian's father traveled to Miami to see his son? Do U.S. government representatives in Cuba have the expertise to discern his father's real relationship with Elian, and especially whether he's in any measure an abusive parent? In a land where saying the wrong thing can get you shot, should we trust what Elian's father, while in Cuba, says he wants for his son? But is there any way, short of having Elian's entire Cuban family travel to another country, to learn his father's real wishes for his son? Why did the person hosting the Miami meeting between Elian and his grandmothers, after the meeting, change her mind and decide that Elian should stay here? If we look at this situation free of all the politics and emotion, as a case of a mother who took a son away from a father about whom we know very little and who has reason to dissemble about what he wants for his son, it's not such an easy case to decide.



DCPL Black History Month Programs
Diane Mohr,

The District of Columbia Public Library is having a number of notable programs this month, with the kickoff events on Wednesday February 2 at the Martin Luther King Memorial Library. On Thursday February 3, retired Congressman Ron Dellums will discuss his autobiography Lying Down with Lions at 6 pm. On Thursday, February 10, at 6:00 p.m., Prof. Derrick Bell, author of Gospel Choirs, will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the song “Lift Every Voice and Sing” with a local church choir lead by musical director Kenneth Lewis. And on February 24, and 6:00 pm the Rev. Jesse Jackson and his son Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr., will discuss their new book It's About the Money! All of these programs are free and open to the public. Contact Public Information Officer Debra Truhart at 727-1184 for more information.


National Building Museum Lecture and U Street Tour
Sara Cormeny,

Lecture: Paul R. Williams, Architect Extraordinaire, Tuesday 2/15/00, 6:30 - 8 p.m., National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square Metro station. Paul R. Williams, the first African-American member and fellow of the American Institute of Architects, was one of America's most prolific architects from the 1920s to the 1970s. He designed hundreds of buildings in Los Angeles, as well as mansions for Frank Sinatra, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, and Lon Chaney. Karen E. Hudson, Williams' granddaughter and director of his archives, will discuss his numerous southern California commissions as well as other homes, banks, churches, and country clubs he created in Paris, New York, Memphis, and Washington, D.C. After her presentation, she will sign copies of her book Paul R. Williams, Architect: A Legacy Of Style (Rizzoli). Presented in celebration of Black History Month. $8 Museum members; $12 nonmembers. Registration required.

Tour: U Street/Shaw, Past and Present, Saturday 2/19/00, 10 a.m. - 12 noon. This tour, which celebrates Black History Month, highlights buildings and institutions built by and for African Americans. After convening at the African American Civil War Memorial , the tour will proceed to several sites along U Street, Washington's “Black Broadway,” including the Lincoln Theater, Thurgood Marshall Center, and the Reeves Center. Cosponsored by MANNA Community Development Corporation. $5 Museum members and full-time students; $8 nonmembers; $13 for families of one adult and up to three children. Registrations must be pre-paid and received by February 15. For more information contact Mike Hill, Outreach Programs Coordinator, National Building Museum, 272-2448,


ANC 3E Meeting on Ft. Bayard Park
Tad DiBiase, ANC 3E03,

The Friends of Ft. Bayard Park (the park is located at the intersection of Western Avenue and River Road, NW) are presenting preliminary ideas for park improvements, discussing where in the timetable they are, and soliciting input or comments from the community at the ANC 3E meeting on February 10th at 7:30. The meeting is held at St. Mary's Armenian Church at 42nd and Fessenden, NW.



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


Virginia Johnson,

Nikon 35 mm camera with 50 mm and 70 - 210 mm Nikon lenses. New shutter. Price: $300.00 or best offer — it'll probably be your best offer. Please respond by E-mail to:


Bathroom Goodies
Ralph Blessing,

Free to a good home: porcelain wash basin and toilet, the latter of the 3-gallon variety no longer available in stores.



Looking for a Reader
Andy Squires,

If you have an interest in geneology and aren't afraid of tape recorders, I'm blind and am looking for someone to read through a small pile of information on my family. I want to record and then transfer it to the computer. I'm in the DuPont Circle area and will pay $10/hr. I think there's about 2 or 3 hours of work. E-mail or call 986-1658.



Short Term Quarters Needed
Judie Guy,

Very responsible, middle-aged married couple, both government managers, looking to house sit or rent small quarters in DC or close in burbs for three months beginning in March while their own home in Kalorama is renovated. Call 202-483-4661 or E-mail


Dave Nuttycombe,

From's LOOSE LIPS column, appearing this Friday:
LONG-TERM CONTRACT: Last spring, as word reached Constance Newman that D.C. public schools were once again having trouble procuring basics like textbooks and computers — not to mention facing another threat of delayed openings over bungled boiler and roof repairs — the control board vice chair called a couple of meetings to plow through the mess. “If the schools don't open on time, heads will roll, and it will be the heads of some of the people in this room,” Newman declared.
One of the participants at the control board meetings, though, didn't have to worry about Newman's ax: Lawrence S. Herman, the partner at accounting firm KPMG Peat Marwick who manages most of the firm's business with the D.C. government. Herman's place at the table explains in part how KPMG has inked more than 50 D.C. government contracts, worth an estimated $60 million, since the 1995 onset of the control board era.
Read the entire Loose Lips column here:

From's CITY LIGHTS page, here are a few early warnings for upcoming events:
SATURDAY, Feb. 5: Hypnotherapist John T. Cox and self-described “romance coach” Leslie Karsner present a flirting and romance workshop, 9 a.m. at the Tysons Corner Marriott, 8028 Leesburg Pike, Vienna. $99.
MONDAY, Feb. 7: Joe Queenan reads from his new books, “My Goodness: A Cynic's Short-Lived Search for Sainthood” and “Confessions of a Cineplex Heckler,” at 7 p.m. at Olsson's Books & Records, 1200 F St. NW. Free.
More details and more critics' picks are available online at


themail@dcwatch is an E-mail discussion forum that is published every Wednesday and Sunday. To subscribe, to change E-mail addresses, or to switch between HTML and plain text versions of themail, use the subscription form at To unsubscribe, send an E-mail message to with “unsubscribe” in the subject line. Archives of past messages are available at

All postings should also be submitted to, and should be about life, government, or politics in the District of Columbia in one way or another. All postings must be signed in order to be printed, and messages should be reasonably short — one or two brief paragraphs would be ideal — so that as many messages as possible can be put into each mailing.

Send mail with questions or comments to
Web site copyright ©DCWatch (ISSN 1546-4296)