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March 19, 2000

Street Cuts and Cherry Blossoms

Dear Mole People:

We have plenty of time to think about the condition of the city's streets these days, since we have little else to do as we wait in garages for our automobiles' tires to be patched and suspensions to be repaired. Even bicyclists and drivers, normally at war with each other, are on the same side of this issue; all of us appreciate a smooth ride, and frequently travel to the suburbs just to find one. Street cuts and potholes have been as abundant as cherry blossoms but, while the cherry blossoms are fleeting, symbolizing to the Japanese that nature and life are transitory; street cuts and potholes are eternal, symbolizing to Washingtonians that incompetent city management is permanent.

Perhaps, instead of having an annual Cherry Blossom festival, Washington could sponsor a pothole and street cut festival. A major advantage would be that tourists could be assured of always having an abundant crop to view, no matter what time of year they came. We could decorate the utility cuts, elect a Pothole Queen, and sponsor sightseeing tours in Hummers and other off-road vehicles. We should take a tip from the hucksters of self-esteem, and celebrate our shortcomings. Just as our moles are merely beauty marks, our potholes and utility cuts are simply safety speed bumps in reverse.

Gary Imhoff


DPW Director Has to Go
Ron Eberhardt,

D.C. Deputy Mayor Norman S. Dong's pronouncement overnight that the Mayor is fed up with the lack of performance by DPW director Vanessa Dale Burns — particularly with regard to city streets — is a breath of fresh air, but at least 60 days overdue. The fact that the mayor and his staff take responsibility and acknowledge the dismal performance is in itself commendable, and a first in my 20-year memory of living here. Frankly, I have considered if a criminal investigation is not warranted. After all, the same District Government is punitive and highly unfavorable to excess business in general. In this case they have “given” our city streets to the telecommunications industry without fee (authorized by the council three years ago), without bond and most importantly without enforcement of time rules that would prevent our streets from looking and feeling as though they have been carpet bombed! The trench work, however, is not the complete explanation for DC's dismal streets. NO maintenance and regular replacement is at the core of the never-ending problem. Many of DC's worst streets are not the result of trench work. Yet they are so deep pocked that a vehicle, going 15 MPH, cannot avoid all of the massive holes that will wreck your car. Year after year I drive across the Potomac River into Virginia and seemingly their streets are never in as horrible condition as DC's. Previously, the District has blamed the deficiency on lack of funds. Now, supposedly, we have a surplus of funds. In reality what this has always been about is lack of effective, competent leadership and management. Ousting Burns without further embarrassment, and likely a dozen or so other DPW officials (including those in charge of traffic signaling) will be a start to rid the District of this embarrassing and annoying problem. Let's get on with it, Mr. Dong.


More on Street Cuts
Jim Feldman,

A front page article in the Post today [Thursday] focused on the long-term damage to our streets caused by utility cuts and those fiber optic trenches. But there have always been utility cuts of some kind in the streets, and I am much more concerned with the short-term issue, which is the miles of chopped-up streets apparently caused by the laying of fiber optic cables. It is particularly mysterious that, according to the Post, even after recent reforms, utilities are given four months to fix the street from the time that work begins. FOUR MONTHS. I cannot understand why it takes that long, and I do not believe that any suburban jurisdiction would permit their streets to remain chopped up for that long. Especially once the new concrete layer is put down, it seems to me that the utility can and should be required to do the surface patch within a day or two. Connecticut Avenue between McKinley Street and Chevy Chase Circle, for example, has been ignored since well into the last millennium, even though the concrete base was long ago put in. Other streets have lain chopped up for weeks or months. It seems to me that it costs the utility the same amount to patch the street, regardless of whether they wait many months or patch it as soon as the concrete layer is in. So why can't it be done right away?


Whose Streets Are They Anyhow?
Ron Eberhardt,

First the District Government gave away taxpayer provided and paid-for streets to the telecommunications industry. Now come city paid contractors who are supposed to permanently close these trenches and other openings by utility companies. Instead they pose emergency no parking signs for a week and never show up. Yesterday the city announced resumption of mechanized street cleaning that unbeknownst to most of us had been suspended for the winter. Nevertheless, that did not stop for one day DC police and parking ticket queens from writing thousands of tickets for residents otherwise legally parked except for weekly street cleaning that the city knew was not going to happen. There was no accompanying suspension of enforcement and the resulting parking tickets, I can personally assure you. Given our present and required future investment (street decay and repairs) in the telecommunications industry wiring of the city, we should all be stockholders. Contractors should be required to limit no parking lane closures to four-hour periods one day at a time rather 40-hour periods over a week's time. Furthermore, contractors should be fined if they post no parking signs and then do not make the repairs. The mayor should instruct its terrorist-type ticket writers to suspend enforcement of no parking restrictions for street cleaning when none is going on! Contractors have far too much leeway to slap emergency no parking signs about without concern for its impact on traffic and parking. The city ought to manage this. No lane of parking should be allowed to be blocked weekdays without a city traffic engineer deciding the impact and providing other lanes to ease the congestion. The real answer is that DC finally adopt rules that require all but emergency street openings be conducted between 8:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. in the downtown commercial area. All of this seems quite logical and it is. What's it all about? The same it has always been about. Gross incompetence by those who we pay to serve us. And what's more, they simply do not care. I hope the Mayor and Deputy Mayor read this and take action immediately to stop this absurd abuse of those of us who pay for and own these very streets that others want to limit our use of.


DSL, DPW & Big Brother
Tom Berry,

Paul Penniman hit a nail on the head with his latest comments about DSL and “why and how did we jump on this bandwagon?” DSL is all the rage. When my company finally upgraded to an ISDN line a telemarketer from our ISP immediately tried to sell us DSL. And the ink was barely dry on our ISDN contract with them! But Mr. Penniman has the future right ... it's wireless. So who, in light of what the future holds, made the decision to allow our streets to be cut (multiple times; no cable sharing here, folks) to lay technology cables that will probably be obsolete in 5 years? And these cuts will take approximately five years off the lives of our streets, according to recent same-day front page articles in both the Post and Times. Also, these cuts are not “temporarily” patched in a timely manner in accordance with the supposed rules set by DPW. (By the way, some of these temporary patches have been there so long they have eroded to nothing.) Heads deserve to roll at DPW.

Government, in its infinite wisdom at every level, continually espouses the virtues of competition as a benefit to the consumer. The trouble with government is that it has no competition of its own to benefit the consumer, aka the taxpayer.


Freeloading Utilities and Municipal Downsizing
Lucy Mallan,

Did anyone else wonder why the city is not charging utilities for long and short term damage to city roads (Reno? Cathedral? Nebraska?) but proposing to fire 1000 employees to save money? Any way to transfer funds from one budget to another? How to register this question with a responsive city official?


Don’t Look for Any Real Savings
Ed T. Barron,

At long last the Mayor has announced that there will be cutbacks in the bloated D.C. Government bureaucracy. One thousand positions will be cut according to the announcement, which will "save" $37 Megabucks. What will really happen is that most of these “savings” will not really materialize, since they will be merely the elimination of unfilled spots. There is no question that the D.C. Government lacks both efficiency and effectiveness with much of the current workforce. Far deeper cuts could be made if there were improvements in what city employees do and how they do it without any real impact on the resulting services.

A far better way to act as the Mayor would be to find ways of improving services performed by those in the workforce who can perform when empowered and given the right tools (including education and equipment) to do their jobs. This would make D.C. a better place to live and work. That may be too much to ask for. We might have to settle for fewer non-performing persons and the same old services, or lack thereof.


DMV — A 100-Minute Wait
Ted Gest,

Sorry to see Jason Ziedenberg's report about snafus at the driver's license office, but what about the car inspection station? I thought I had seen stories (maybe on this list) about the refurbished Half Street S.W. facility's improved efficiency. But I showed up at 6:30 a.m. on Mar. 16 (it opens at 6) and had to wait until after 8 for the inspection. I don't recall that long of an early morning experience over two decades of our recent mayoral administrations. The actual inspection took less than five minutes; no problem with that. The moral of this story may be not to expect quick action in the early morning; and of course, the station can't be blamed for an unusual crowd on a random morning (although this didn't strike me as such a gathering). Is 100 minutes too long to wait?


DMV, Better or Worse?
Ed Rock,

I can't comment on the process for first time driver's license or car registration, but I've never had to wait more than 30-60 minutes to renew my license or tags. The secret is avoiding DMV's main service center at C Street and going to the H Street center which can process renewals for licenses and tags. Best of all, it has Saturday hours. The Center is located at 616 H Street, NE, and hours are M-F, 11 am to 7 pm (Wed. hours are extended to 8 pm) and Sat., 8:15 am to 4 pm. Details can be found at DMV's web page at


License Renewal; Bad But Not As Bad As All That
Harold Goldstein,

We've read recently all sorts of rumors about all day waits for license renewals. Here's my experience. I arrived at 3:25 one Wednesday afternoon at the C St. facility (Weds is when they stay open till 8). I was on one line for 15 minutes to get my actual number. Then I sat for 90 minutes till the number was called. Then 5 minutes to take eye test, pay, take picture, and get license. So under 2 hours; about comparable to previous experiences. But this time you could sit and read or whatever while waiting instead of standing on these stupid serpentine lines. So bring a book and relax and it ain't that bad.


Klingle Road NIMBY
Nora Bawa,

Wouldn't it be fine if we could all enjoy a “cool shaded ... haven for bikers, walkers ... without rats like the rest of the city”! We would also enjoy a city without clogged roads and traffic jams. Too bad the residents of DC and Maryland don't cooperate by taking public transportation to work, so all our parks could remain pristine, for everyone. Unfortunately, until such time as we're all prepared to leave our cars at home, the streets ARE congested. Some residents used Klingle and want to use it again. Porter Road does not “do the job just fine.” and neither does Rock Creek Parkway. You may not need to use the public roads to go to work, Harry Homeowner, but there is such a thing as the “common good,” which is why we pay taxes to maintain roads.

I never used Klingle and wouldn't need to if it were open now. But the cavalier attitude expressed in Mr. Desenberg's E-mail is offensive. Marie Antoinette would have felt right at home with you folks.


Advertisement Posters in Public Space
Kathy Chamberlain, Hillcrest, S.E.,

The District's laws prohibiting posters in public space are weak and unclear. Many in my neighborhood wish that laws would be strengthened so that posters of all types would be banned from public space. Recently and to our delight, our PSA Lieutenant caught a Maryland-based entertainment company stapling posters on trees throughout our neighborhood. He fined the leader of the group and confiscated the remainder of the posters and the staple gun as evidence. Hurray for Lt. Goodwin of PSA 610! The company owner wrote a complaint to Chief Ramsey, saying that Lt. Goodwin's actions were unreasonable because there were so many posters and other trash all over the District that a few more shouldn't make any difference. He went on to say that the police should be addressing serious crime rather than public space violations. The complaint wasn't taken seriously by MPD, but it illustrates an all-too-common attitude of people who see the District as a dumping ground.

Even if police throughout the city would enforce poster regulations like Lt. Goodwin did, it wouldn't be enough because the regulations are strong only where posters are placed on trees. We residents need to lower our tolerance level for poster trash. There is no law against individuals removing them from public space, and until our laws are strengthened, we have found this to be the only effective way to control the problem. In Hillcrest, Penn-Branch, and other nearby neighborhoods, we remove advertisement posters very soon after they go up. It has taken a couple years, but the message is finally getting through to advertisers that they are wasting time and money in our neighborhoods. While posters used to go up almost every weekend, we now see them once every few months. As for political campaign posters for non-DC candidates, one very large plywood one for Albert Wynn of Maryland was recently erected at the entrance to our neighborhood. A few calls to Mr. Wynn's office had the sign removed within 12 hours. Had Wynn's people not removed it, we would have removed it.

As a concession to what little democracy we have in the District, we would not remove campaign posters for DC political candidates until after the election although they are just as unsightly as other posters. Some jurisdictions do not allow political posters on public space, but only on private space — not a bad idea for the District since our political candidates, especially the losers, cannot seem to remember to remove their posters after the election.


I’m on the Trash Brigade
Jessica Vallette Revere,

It is sad that with all the new money being infused into my neighborhood, the city can't clean the streets (or pick up the trash) on time and without lots of prodding from me. In fact, strangely, when I called last week I was told that street cleaning had been suspended for the last two months. Whose bright idea was that? We have rabies in our neighborhood, and it is a concern that a dead squirrel has been in the gutter of Vermont Avenue since the beginning of February. Meanwhile, my confirmation number languishes in the system.


No More Apologies
Greg DuRoss,

[In response to the past discussion of Mayor Williams's phone calls apologizing for snow removal:] And how many thousands of your tax dollars would you like them to spend calling us, instead of buying a new truck for plowing snow, or paying some overtime to do spring clean-up in badly needed areas of the city, or buying a new garbage truck. Give me the services. They can then call a press conference to say this is what we bought instead of paying for phone calls. It was a stupid idea and a waste of money.


Sentencing Commission Hearing, March 22, 2000
Jim McLeod,

On March 17th, the District of Columbia Advisory Commission on Sentencing issued its proposed recommendations. I believe the only pubic hearing for citizens to comment on the recommendations will be the Judiciary Committee's budget hearing this coming Wednesday, March 22, at 2:00 p.m., in the Council's chambers, 441 4th Street NW. To testify or comment, call Ms. Thomas at 353-7797 by noon March 21, 2000. By April 5, the Commission must recommend what the City Council should do regarding amendments to the D.C. Code mandated by Congress (per the “Revitalization Act”) with respect to the sentences to be imposed for felonies committed on or after August 5, 2000. Congress is mandating that the District do away with parole for most felonies. This legislation will have a profound impact on our city.


Race and the Census
Steph “Human, Allegedly” Faul,

You want to talk about race? Let's talk about the census form, which resembles some sort of performance art document rather than a meaningful government inquiry. Nearly all of it is taken up with questions of race, and not in any logical way: It distinguishes between Japanese and Korean, but lumps Somalis, Nigerians, and black Americans into one category and Turks, Danes, and Appalachian whites into another. This is absurd: “Chinese” is a nationality, while “white” is a skin tone. Both cover a wide variety of ethnicities.

I told one friend I was planning to check “Other” and write my race in as “Jewish/English.” She is of German extraction, and said the whole thing made her so mad she just wrote in “Master.” “I know it's offensive,” she says, “I was offended.” Oh, and the census form also asks for birth date AND age. Surely the first bit of information eliminates the need for the second?


Incensed by the Census Form
Lonna Shafritz,

I was one of the lucky 1/6 of the population to get the long form. However, in addition to a number of bizarre and/or poorly worded questions, the census publicity and form drive home the fact to DC residents that we are not real citizens of this country, since our information will not have any effect on distribution of representatives. And, adding insult to injury was the request for which state you're from — I felt like replying “NONE.” Happy census-filling out, fellow non-staters.


Official Mayoral Residences and Registered Voters
Len Sullivan,

Gary Imhoff sagely questioned my support for an official mayoral residence by asking how many other US cities provide them. Calls to the mayors' offices in 32 US cities above 300,000 in population produced only three: New York, Los Angeles, and Detroit; none in cities below 1 million in population. Governor's mansions, of course, would be a different story, and might be a valid reason to pursue statehood! A poll of foreign capital cities might yield more encouragement for my position, but not on my phone card.

Re voter registration, I fully subscribe to Mr. Binder's exhortation to “prune the voter rolls” in DC. Our NARPAC estimate, at, is that the rolls may be overstated by 20-25%. If 1998 claims for increasing registration and decreasing population continued, there would be more registered voters than adults by about 2002, and more voters than total adults and kids by about 2012. Wouldn't say much for the responsible exercise of local democracy.



Ward 2 Democrats Forum on Campus Plans
Budd Lane,

The Ward 2 Democrats are having a forum on campus plans, with a primary focus on Foggy Bottom and the George Washington University Plan, on Wednesday, March 22, from 7-9 p.m. The forum will be moderated by Bill Rice, and will include Bernard Demczuk of George Washington University, ANC Commissioners Barbara Spillinger and Barbara Zartman, a a representative of the GWU Student Association. For more information, call 234-7921.


Morehouse College Glee Club
Patricia Pasqual,

The District of Columbia Public Library is once again hosting the Morehouse College Glee Club on Friday, March 25, at noon in the main lobby of the Martin Luther King Memorial Library at 901 G St. NW. Visit the Library's web site,, for directions to the Library. The concert is free and open to the public. No reservations are required. For more information call 727-1186.


Leukemia Fund Raiser
Bill Starrels,

Join fellow Washingtonians for an evening of fun, great food, and silent auction on March 28th at I Matti, one of DC's best restaurants, in Adams Morgan. Full dinner with a choice of entree. Cost only $40.00 per person. Money benefits Team Leukemia. Please RSVP by March 21 to Liz at 338-1547 or by e-mail:


Basketball Benefit
David Booth,

On Wednesday, April 5, members of Congress will square off in the 13th annual Home Court basketball game against Georgetown University Law Center faculty. Proceeds from the event will go to the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, a nonprofit that provides free legal services to homeless individuals and families in Washington, D.C. Tipoff at 8:00 p.m., McDonough Gymnasium, Georgetown University, Main Campus, 37th and O St. NW. Hill's Angels (The Congressional Team): Rep. David Bonior (D-MI), Rep. Steven Buyer (R-IN), Rep. Lane Evans (D-IL, Team Captain), Rep. Gene Green (D-TX), Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA), Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL), Rep. Mark Udall (D-CO), Rep. James Walsh (R-NY), and Cheerleader Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX). Hoya Lawyas (The Faculty Team) Team Captains: Assistant Dean Everett Bellamy, Professor Mitt Regan. Tickets for the event are $5 for adults and $3 for children under 10.


DCity Mag Events
Alan M. Salgado,

We will be hosting two events this week at Max's of Washington, 1725 F Street, NW, 842-0070. Wednesday, March 22, 7:30-9:30 p.m., a cognac and cigar tasting. Featured cigars, Arturo Fuente 8.5.8, Hoyo Excalibur II. Matt Krimm and Duane Webb of W. Curtis Draper Inc. will be in to talk about the cigars. Featured Pierre Ferrand cognacs, Reserve aged 20 years; Cigare Reserve, Havana, aged 25 years; Selection des Anges, aged 30 years; Abel, aged 45 years. STEPHANE DEFOT of GABRIEL & ANDREU fine spirits will be in to give the cognac tasting. Tickets are $20, which includes the 2 cigars and a tasting of these four cognacs. Space is limited. Call 842-0070 to make reservations or E-mail Thursday, March 23, 5:30-9:30 p.m., Mor Vodka/DCity Magazine Happy Hour. Mor Vodka's brand manager, Dallas Vipond, will be there to host the event with us and give away the first Mor Vodka drink. There is a dress code: no jeans or sneakers please. We'll have food and live entertainment (TBA) and video coverage by City Club Cam There will be a $5 cover charge at the door. Please RSVP to 842-0070 or E-mail



Earth Day 2000 — Be Part of Something Really Big
Liz Karan,

Earth Day 2000's Washington D.C. team is seeking energetic and dynamic individuals to help prepare for its flagship event April 22nd on the National Mall. Flexible volunteer shifts are available all day every day between now and April 22nd. For more information contact us at or call 202-408-ED2K.



Daycare in Brookland
Suzanne Griffith, Brookland,

We are looking to share the baby-sitter who has cared for our children and others in Brookland for 7 years. She is loving, energetic, very reliable, and available from 8 am to 5 pm, Monday through Friday. She currently takes care of a two-year-old and a one-year-old in a home near the Brookland Metro station. The third child in her care just “graduated” into preschool. Her primary language is Spanish, but she speaks a modest and growing amount of English. Please call Suzanne Griffith at 832-0589 for more info.



Ping-Pong Table
Rick Lord,

Ping-pong table with playback option, top quality (Harvard Sport/Sears), excellent condition, net and paddles included, $199 (retail price $249). Send E-mail or call Rick or Debbie at 703-319-9262.


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