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March 1, 2000

Private Mail

Dear Correspondents:

I'm going to answer a few private E-mails in public. After my rant about the Washington Post in the last issue, Eric Wemple wrote to ask me if I didn't nominate Post reporter Kate Boo for Mayor just a few months ago for her series on deaths in group homes for the mentally retarded. Actually, it wasn't me; it was David Reed, but I seconded his motion. Eric's question points out one of the Post's real strengths. A few times a year, they do excellent investigative series about the District, and they devote extensive resources and endless column inches to them. It's in daily reporting about the District that the Post falls down. The paper has more than enough reporters and resources on the Metro beat. The Post's editors just don't think that the stories these reporters gather on a daily basis are important enough to print, so we never see them.

A television reporter who shall remain anonymous writes that it's true that other stations get most of their news leads from reading the Post, but not true of his station. I'll take his word for it.

Stephanie Faul wrote to say that she thinks themail used to be more interesting when it had more neighborhood news and reporting about local, street level events. I love those kinds of postings, but I pass on the messages you send. If you want more local, street corner news, write it yourself and send it in today. Our real strength is that we have more local reporters than even the Post, and that most of us actually live in town.

Gary Imhoff


Tax Cuts, Round 2
Ed T. Barron,

The City Council is preparing to drop the other shoe on Mayor Williams' foot with a second round of proposed tax cuts. If there is to be a second round of tax cuts, then let the cuts be made where they will do the most good. A very practical tax cut would be to eliminate the sales tax in the city. As painful as this might seem to those who collect these taxes, the cuts might just wind up being offset by the economic growth that would follow such a tax cut. The real beneficiaries of such a cut would be those who spend much of their income on taxable items and who live in the city — those who are on the lowest rungs of the income ladder. Tax credits and lower tax rates don't really help those who pay little in income taxes to the District.

Eliminating the sales tax would also encourage the largest dollar wage earners who get their income working in the city, but who take that income out of the city to spend it elsewhere, to spend some of it right in the District. Retail businesses now located outside the city (like Circuit City, et al.) would be very encouraged to open branches of stores in the District, to capture the increased sales that they are losing to the Internet because of sales taxes. The increased business income would result in a substantial increase in business taxes paid to the District, thereby offsetting the loss of income form sales taxes. This is a win-win proposition for the District and its residents.

[To get copies of the six different tax relief bills that have been introduced in the Council, go to — Gary Imhoff]


National Airport
Ralph Blessing,

Mark Richards' postings on DC history are one of themail's true delights. However, if my memory doesn't fail me, he was off target in blaming Clinton for the renaming of National Airport. I recall it being a congressional move not long after the Republicans gained control of the House. Perhaps Clinton may be guilty of signing the bill, but he certainly didn't initiate it. Coincidentally, I was about to send a message to WAMU threatening to withhold my annual contribution if they don't stop referring to the airport as Reagan National. The name Reagan is only one of the two names identifying the airport. To me, the station's use of the term Reagan National is a politically motivated move to avoid incurring the wrath (or garnering the favor) of the Reaganites who foisted the name on us to begin with. Yeah, I know, practically everyone in the media now calls it that, but at least we can make our voices heard at the non-commercial stations. And when the Dems regain control of the House, down come those RN signs on the GW Parkway!


Decentralizing the DCPS
Ed T. Barron,

Len Sullivan's posting last Sunday which suggests that several school districts be formed, each with a School Board and with a central district Board overseeing and providing support to the local Boards, seems to make some sense. Putting the control of the schools more closely in the hands of those who have to make things work is empowerment, and that works. The local boards would then be comprised of folks who live, work, and have kids in their own community. That's a demonstrated way school boards can work. These local Boards should be made up of elected members who would serve on a volunteer basis, as do most of the school board members in local districts across the country.

Sounds like this might work. How do we get a referendum on the ballot next Fall to give this proposition a chance?


The Post
Ralph Blessing,

For coverage of the day-to-day issues that affect many of us, the Northwest Current, City Paper, and Common Denominator do a much better job than the Post. The Current is the best, in my view, but even they have a narrow purview. Although their masthead says "Serving THE Communities of Northwest DC," their coverage (and distribution) is limited to the NW neighborhoods west of Rock Creek Park. In fact, I can pick up a copy of the Current in downtown Bethesda, but not anywhere in my NW community just a stone's throw east of the park.


Red Lights Late at Night
Theresa Davison,

I was driving home late last night. I saw a D.C. Metro Police officer go through two red lights. This officer slowed down first, then when the coast was clear, went through. The officer was not in any pursuit (for the officer would have had the lights on and would be driving faster). Basically my question is this: why can they do it, but we “civilians” cannot? It's not a big deal; I'm just curious. Also, do cops in squad cars ever get pulled over?


NBC's “Fleecing of America” DC
Gloria White,

I wholeheartedly agree with the displeasure expressed by Ms. Eisenstadt about last week's NBC “Fleecing of America” piece on DC. It was grossly unfair and insulting. My husband had the misfortune to arrive home just after it finished running and I was into full tilt in my outrage at the misrepresentation and incredible over-simplification of the whole story. I enjoyed Ms. Persiflage's comments about the media and feel that they tend to be either overly cautious or overblown. They seem often to, unfortunately, promote the controversial and avoid the parts of the story that might be more logical and reasonable. While D.C. certainly has its problems, it was unfair of NBC to frame the story the way they did. D.C. surely doesn't need that kind of notice and more attention should be given to the improvements occurring and the continuous meddling (and role in the chaos) of Congress.


The Mayor’s Mansion
Thomas Smith,

Further thoughts on a residence for the mayor: I think as a progressive community we should set the standards for how the different classes of people are treated by government. Now normally this line of thought is directed toward the less wealthy and less powerful, but this latest giveaway by the ruling elites prompted my previous letter. I personally feel that NO politicians should be subsidized in their living expenses; if the salary is not enough, don't take the job. This argument that we can't get GOOD people if the perks are not gold plated is suspicious at best. The market is always open for more competitors, go get an executive job in corporate America! When the law makers and rule makers have to live within the same economic boundaries that we have to, perhaps real tax reform will actually happen, perhaps the draconian and often stupid parking fines will be revoked. When our elected officials only have as much money as the average household and they have to use the educational and public facilities as we do, perhaps the playgrounds and recreation centers will be fully funded and really functional, perhaps our schools will never be short of books, toilet paper, instruments, telephones, Xerox machines, science labs, and teachers! Now let me get to writing checks for the rent, electricity, gas, insurance, water (up 200%) and hope they don't all get to the bank at the same time! I am sure the mayor is worried, too!


Whites Only Exhibit at National Building Museum
David Sobelsohn,

A couple of weeks ago, I wandered into the National Building Museum to see their exhibit “See the U.S.A.: Automobile Travel and the American Landscape,” running through May 7. The exhibit focuses on the years before “the 1950s and 1960s [when] the interstate highway system bypassed the older highways and downtowns” (quoting the exhibit brochure). It has several parts, including “gas,” “food,” and “lodging,” and deals with its material with some charm. The exhibit is also profoundly distorted. In the years before the 1950s and 1960s many roadside establishments, especially in the American south, and including some of those featured in the exhibit, refused to provide food or lodging to Americans of African descent. For African-Americans, "see the U.S.A." was an empty slogan, almost a bitter joke. Although white Americans could frequent any of the variety of picturesque establishments portrayed in the exhibit, black Americans — whatever their wealth — had to bring their food with them, and took their lives in their hands to travel without a pre-arranged place to stay for the night.

The exhibit completely omits any mention of the experience of black Americans in the time period it covers. There's a single, unexplained artifact: the cover of a travel guide called The Negro Motorist Green-Book. The cover has on it the warning “You May Need It.” Without context, “You May Need It” sounds like just another advertising slogan. And the exhibit provides no context. It would be easy enough to find a standard reference work and print up a brief text panel acknowledging how difficult it was for racial minorities to “See the U.S.A.” for much of the twentieth century. I wonder why the Building Museum hasn't done so.

Does this museum exhibit bother anyone but me? If so, I can provide information on how to contact the Building Museum.


Degraded by Internet Connections
Anne Drissel,

Funny someone should mention degraded internet speeds. Last week I called Bell Atlantic to complain that my connection in Mt. Pleasant had “suddenly” dropped from an average close to 50,000 bps to 38,000 bps. I've had this happen when there are conflicts on the line, producing “noise” that interferes with reception. It's happening again. They sent out a service truck to check the outside connections, but the problem persists.


Violence in the Comics
Stephanie Faul,

Memo to Ed Barron: You're worried about children being corrupted by something they READ? How very, uh, quaint.



Sports Journalism with National Sportswriter!
Amanda Chorowski,

The First Annual Shirley Povich Sports Journalism Lecture, with guest speaker David Kindred, 1998 National Sportswriter of the Year! Monday, March 27 at 8:00 pm, DC Jewish Community Center, 1529 16th Street, NW. Members: $5/nonmembers: $10. Contact Amanda, 518-9400, x382, More info: “Povich brought to his work an elegance of language and a long view of history. Maybe 5-feet-6, Shirley was the truest Washington monument.” — David Kindred, June 1998.


Fresh Fields Wine Dinner
Fadia Jawdat,

Olives Restaurant, 1600 K Street, NW, Thursday, March 9, at 6:15 PM. Hors d'oeuvres, 2 courses and dessert, while tasting California Ravenswood Wines. Special presentation by Ravenswood wine growers Joel and Mady Peterson. $90.00 per person. For information, reservations and ticket sales, E-mail:



Editor Wanted
Bill Adler,

Responsibilities include: Tracking book proposals and submissions, maintaining our computer database, evaluating manuscripts, book promotion, researching, writing books, talking with publishers and authors, sending proposals to publishers, filing, and general office tasks. Adler & Robin Books is a book packager and publisher. As a packager we create book ideas, write the proposals, then put a writer together with a book publisher; we also publish books ourselves. You can find out more about us at Requirements: Office skills, excellent language skills, superior writing ability, attention to detail, proofreading ability, computer proficiency, Windows 98 expertise, and a willingness to work hard. Salary: $25,000, plus fully paid health insurance, and other benefits. Contact Bill Adler, Adler & Robin Books, Inc., 3000 Connecticut Ave., NW,


Humanist Congregation Seeks Sunday School Principal (Part-Time Paid Position)
Peggy Robin,

The Jewish Cultural School of Beth Chai, a Jewish Humanist congregation, meets Sunday mornings, approximately 2-3 times a month, September through early June. Planning for the 2000-2001 year begins this spring and the principal can begin work immediately. The school accommodates between 35-60 students in 4 or 5 separate classes, and is expected to grow. Students enter anytime between kindergarten and 5th grade and continue until they complete the bar/bat mitzvah class (7th grade). Adult education is conducted concurrently with the children's classes but is managed separately and is outside the scope of the principal's responsibilities. Candidates should have an interest in and commitment to Jewish education but are not required to have a scholarly background or training in religious
education. More important is the ability to develop and implement a program along the guidelines laid out by the congregation leaders. Interested candidates should contact Peggy Robin,, for a more detailed job description and additional information.



For Sale — New Queen Size Bed Frame
Greg Jones,

We recently bought a new box spring/mattress set, and they threw in a metal, queen size frame, which we do not need, and which is still in its unopened box. I have no idea what it's worth, but you can have it for $25.



Responsible Summer Housesitters
Jo Radner,

Our friends, a young couple with a newborn baby, will be returning from a UN posting in Addis Ababa at the end of May and would like to house-sit for the summer either in DC or Takoma Park. Beginning and ending dates are flexible, but they would be available to house-sit from late May through September. We'll transmit any inquiries to them.


Duplex For Sale by Owner
Rhoma Battle,

My neighbor is moving to southern Maryland and wants me to help him sell his duplex at 3425 Carpenter Street, S.E. His is one of only twelve duplexes in a neighborhood of approximately 500 single family homes. Built in the 40's and 50's, every home is different, and every duplex is different. We live in what is called the “quietly kept secret” of Hillcrest/Penn-Branch. Like a suburb in the city, the Penn-Branch neighborhood is quiet, clean and safe, with mature tree-lined streets, surrounded by federal park lands and located at the intersection of Pennsylvania and Branch Avenues, Southeast behind the Penn-Branch Shopping Center. Like my own, his duplex has two bedrooms, one bath, living room, dinning room, kitchen, and basement. $115 negotiable. Believe me, homes that are selling from the high
100's to low 200's do not last long in our neighborhood. As it was for me in 1994, this is an excellent opportunity for a first-time home-buyer. Drive through and see for yourself, or E-mail me and I will answer what I can and pass your information along to the owner.


Dave Nuttycombe,

From's LOOSE LIPS column, appearing this Friday:
CREDIBILITY DEFICIT: Over the years, Americans have learned various approaches to outfoxing legislative committees stacked with hostile inquisitors. First off is the Ollie North model, which entails strapping on a uniform, wrapping yourself in the flag, and looking like a puppy dog. On the other hand, if you don't have cut a sufficiently telegenic figure, you could try the approach favored by North's Iran-Contra crony John Poindexter — just say you forgot everything.
Local D.C. added a sly variation last year. Invited by a livid D.C. Council to testify on the renovation of the Wilson Building, developer T. Conrad Monts simply blew off the meeting.
None of those folks, however, possess the durable evasive acumen of Chief Financial Officer Valerie Holt. A 14-year veteran of the District bureaucracy, Holt doesn't lie, diss, or duck out. She simply strings together non sequiturs, sentence fragments, tautologies, tangents, and afterthoughts designed to make her audience forget the question that brought them all on.
Read the entire Loose Lips column here:

From's CITY LIGHTS page, here are a few early warnings for upcoming events:
Monday, Feb. 28: “Salute to Richard Harrington: 20 Years of Style!” featuring Ron Holloway, the Keter Betts Trio, the original Rosslyn Mountain Boys, Mike Auldridge, John Jennings, Chuck Brown, the Billy Hancock Orchestra, Eddie & Earl Jones, Catfish Hodge, the Orioles, and “surprise guests.” 7:30 p.m. at the Birchmere, 3701 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria. $12 (proceeds benefit So Others Might Eat)
Saturday: Ron Holloway performs his version of “The Greatest Jazz Concert Ever” at 8 p.m. at Dumbarton United Methodist Church, 3133 Dumbarton St. NW. $24.
Tuesday-Saturday: Bob Somerby & Chip Franklin, 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 7, to Thursday, March 9, and at 8 and 10:30 p.m. Friday, March 10, and Saturday, March 11, at the Improv, 1140 Connecticut Ave. NW. $12-$15.
More details and more critics' picks are available online at


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