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March 29, 2000

Administrative Matters

Dear Mailers:

I'll repeat two rules and one recommendation, and one request for posting in themail. 1) Slippery rule: don't get long-winded, for goodness sakes. Two or three short paragraphs are the perfect length for this format, as it says at the bottom of each issue. 2) Firm rule: sign the message. All messages have to be signed with a name as well as E-mail address in order to be printed. 3) Recommendation: you're more persuasive if you're less personal. Calling somebody else names doesn't help your case. 4) Request: please write and tell us about what's happening on your block and in your neighborhood. None of us alone knows all about what's going on in all of the neighborhoods of this city, but together we have a pretty good idea.

Gary Imhoff


Bachus Middle School
Susan Gushue,

To those of you who have not stopped listening to what is happening in the schools get a load of this: in an attempt to win “the war against charter schools,” Ms. Ackerman has decided to requisition Bachus Middle School. Surely any community would be glad to get a state of the art Math and Technology Magnet installed in their neighborhood school. Not so. I attended a hastily called but well attended parent meeting Tuesday night at Bachus, where I discovered that one more community has been violated by La Ackerman. The school community at Bachus was never consulted about Ms. Ackerman's choice of Bachus for a magnet, and they were very upset that they would be losing their principal and teachers as well as adding ninth graders to their student body. (They may not be losing principals and teachers but they will be required to reapply.) The school is not being reconfigured because Ms. Ackerman is trying to fix an ailing school but because she is waging war against Cecil Middleton at the Paul Charter School. Children are the foot soldiers in her battle to keep her hands on the money. Not only will this magnet school have new teachers and a new principal, but it has a new curriculum — you guessed it, designed with no input from the parents or school community it is intended to serve. Why be so concerned about process? Aren't good schools the goal? No. Good schools are only a means to an end. The goal is well adjusted, curious, prepared kids ready to participate in their communities. The contempt that the congress holds for the citizens of this city which is a contempt that their superintendent shares is a guarantee that our school system won't turn around. It is very hard to be a good teacher while sneering at your students and their families. No amount of money from the private sector is going to subsidize the kind of love and attention parents, grandparents, and friends can shower on a child when given a chance, yet Ms. Ackerman courts the business community and leaves parents out in the cold.

The first step to fixing the schools is welcoming the parents in and acknowledging them as the primary care-givers of the children. What we have at the helm of our school system right now is a team that finds the children and their families, as well as the communities, a distraction from their goal — an exemplary school system. Oh what an excellent system Ms. Ackerman could have if only the children would do better and those “lying” parents would get out of her way. Unfortunately for Ackerman and Brooks, research has shown that the more engaged the parents the better the student outcomes. I want to remind you that Bachus is just another example of Ms. Ackerman's management style. She was completely unresponsive to the Montessori program at Langdon Elementary when they had problems with their administrator. Enrollment in that program has dropped by almost 50%. Ms. Ackerman destroyed the African Centered School in a fit of pique because parents dared to challenge her assertion that all her schools were ready to open in the Fall of 1998. The parents who wanted a safe environment for their children were painted as the bad guys.

Ms. Ackerman has done her best to destroy the learning community at Hearst by neglecting problems with the former principal and by transferring key personnel. Garrison playground became another battle Ms. Ackerman was required to wage in the interest of our children. Having a parking lot for Metropolitan Baptist was in the children's best interest. She has accomplished all this while spending more money, losing good teachers to the surrounding jurisdictions because of her punitive management style and her payroll problems, and failing to significantly improve test scores. While Ms. Ackerman would have the Control Board and the Post believe there are just a few unhappy parents and teachers out here, I can guarantee that that is not the case. An awful lot of people are just too discouraged to keep trying to make things better. Paul's defection speaks volumes about the support DCPS has to offer its good schools and administrators. Last night the approximately four hundred parents and students at Bachus felt that Ms. Ackerman had met her match and they are ready to fight back. We should all plan to help them.


Charter Schools Are Public Schools
Nelson Smith, DC Public Charter School Board,

Even with 27 public charter schools enrolling 7,000 DC kids, there still seems to be a lot of mythology making the rounds. Parents, neighborhood folks, and reporters need to know some basic facts about the rules governing charter school enrollment. If anything, charter schools are more “public” than the traditional public school system — where principals still get to select which out-of-boundary students they'll accept. The law says: “A public charter school may not limit enrollment on the basis of a students' race, color, religion, national original, language spoken, intellectual or athletic ability, measures of achievement or aptitude, or status as a student with special needs.” (DC Code:31-2853.16)

If charter schools get more applicants than spaces available, they must conduct a “random selection” process — i.e., a lottery. Charter schools can give an admissions preference to siblings of current students. And conversion charters (like Paul Jr. High) can give preference to students currently enrolled, their siblings, and students who reside within the school's attendance zone. (Note: Under the terms of Paul's charter application, as approved by this Board, the school will indeed give a preference to neighborhood kids.) So despite what you may be hearing from “activists” and those who are just confused, there are no entrance exams for charter schools and there will be no “screening” on academic grounds.


DC Voting Rights
Ann Loikow,

Richard Steacy is right. DC citizens should contact the Gore2000 campaign in order to get a commitment from the candidate that as president, Al Gore will aggressively seek a way to enfranchise DC citizens and give them control over their local government (through statehood or the equivalent) as well as voting representation in both Houses of Congress. We should also ask that DC statehood be a part of the Democratic Party platform and that Candidate Gore become a national spokesman for correcting this incredible injustice to over half a million American citizens.

The District of Columbia is the only part of the original 13 colonies whose residents fought and died for American freedom and the right to govern themselves, at all levels — local, state, and national, and then lost all of the political rights they had won in the war over ten years after the Constitution was ratified! As President William Henry Harrison said at his inauguration in 1841: “It is in this District only where American citizens are to be found who under a settled policy are deprived of many important political privileges without any inspiring hope as to the future. . . . The people of the District of Columbia are not the subjects of the people of the States, but free American citizens. Being in the latter condition when the Constitution was formed, no words used in that instrument could have been intended to deprive them of that character. If there is anything in the great principle of unalienable rights so emphatically insisted upon in our Declaration of Independence, they could neither make nor the United States accept a surrender of their liberties and become the subjects — in other words, the slaves — of their former fellow-citizens.”

As a Bradley delegate in “Congressional District 2” (Wards 3, 4, 5 and 7), I like his suggestion that a good way to bring the point home to Candidate Gore would be for DC's registered Democrats to vote for Bradley in the May Presidential Primary. However, to do that, one would have to write in Bradley's name on the ballot. Although we filed over 4,500 valid signatures to put the Bradley slates on the ballot in both DC “Congressional Districts,” the DC Board of Elections and Ethics, on its own initiative, removed the Bradley slates from the ballot, ostensibly to save on printing costs.


DCBOEE (or Is That DC Dem?) Funny Business
John Vaught LaBeaume,

Richard Steacy,, urges DC Democrats to punch their cards for Bill Bradley, “the only candidate to come out fully for DC voting rights,” in May's District Presidential primary election to put pressure on presumptive nominee Al Gore to take up the cause of full DC voting rights. A sound strategy. However, one that is no longer feasible. Much to the consternation of those of us who stood out in the cold for hours petitioning for Bradley, the DC Board of Elections has removed his name from the DC ballot! (   When I called the Board, I was referred to a public relations officer who informed me that once a candidate suspends his campaign his name is removed by Board officials. When I inquired as to why John McCain's name remains on the DC Republican ballot, the officer contended that since McCain has yet to release the delegates already pledged to him, he has not been removed. Curiously, I seem to remember Bradley taking that same route when he suspended his campaign. (According to the AP and CNN, Bradley still retains delegates:

To add insult to injury, the Democratic Presidential preference is the only line on any ballot in DC that does not allow a write-in option. So, those registered DC Dems who can not bring themselves to vote for that Dissembling Dixiecrat Al Gore have no other option before them May 2 but the unpalatable choice of perennial trouble-maker Lyndon LaRouche. A LaRouche Loonie found my name on a Bradley petition I circulated and phoned me up to insinuate that Gore loyalists were behind this move. Considering the source, the veracity of the LaRouchie's remarks are certainly open to question. Nevertheless, the DC Dem State Committee is notorious for its reflexive “circle the wagons” mentality. This blind devotion has not served the District well and there there is ample evidence that wide swathes of the DC electorate now consider them out of touch. The Dec. '97 at-large special DC Council election comes to mind, not to mention the State Committee's comical public soul-searching afterwards.

So, those tireless agitators for the full enfranchisement of District voters, on the vanguard of the Civil Rights movement as we enter the 21st Century, the DC Democrats, find themselves in the peculiar situation of restricting our voting options options and denying write-ins. What can be the strategy behind this? Since Democrats take DC for granted (which makes a strong case for voting Green, Libertarian, or even Republican in November), the one place where District voters could exert some influence on the process would be a competitive DC Democratic presidential primary. Yet still, the Nortons, Braziles, and lesser party apparatchiks scramble over each other to curry favor with a candidate who has yet to endorse full voting rights! I am fixin' to raise a stink about this. Is anybody else with me?


DC Voting Rights
Kurt Vorndran,

I have to take strong exception to Richard Steacy's comments against Vice President Gore. The Vice President already has strongly committed himself to enfranchising DC citizens. His record of support goes back to the days he was serving in Congress representing Tennessee, a considerably less favorable climate than New Jersey, one of the states that easily ratified the DC Voting Rights Amendment. Absent a silly and immature game of expecting the Vice President to show his support for DC representation by telling women's groups he is putting this issue above choice or labor unions he supports DC over a minimum wage increase, we could not have a stronger advocate.

I fail to see how voting for a withdrawn candidate with an inferior record sends any message other than you will never be good enough to earn our support so don't even bother trying.


Accuracy, Accuracy, Accuracy
Mark-David Richards, Dupont East,

I was told in journalism classes many moons ago that this should be the motto for journalists. I would also expect judges to consider accuracy important. Accuracy is not easy, especially under deadline. And, there is also the power of “myth” (in the “falsehood” sense). Once a myth is established, it takes on a life of its own as a fact. There are a couple of myths about the creation of the national capital that have been created and sustained for hundreds of years. These myths have been proven inaccurate by scholars such as Kenneth Bowling (The Creation of Washington, D.C. and Co-Editor, First Federal Congress Project at GWU) years ago. But the power of myth is just too much, I guess, because they keep getting repeated — in nearly all tourist guidebooks, in our local press, and even — of all places — in Judge Oberdorfer's memo on the voting rights lawsuits. Historians know this, and even this sociologist knows it, but I'm going to repeat it again. The first myth is that D.C. was built on a swamp. In fact, George Washington didn't pick a swamp, but rather a “wavy” hilly area with lots of water for cleansing, some of which were wetlands. This was important for a healthy city — most cities up to this time had been built on the coast, where they suffered from yellow fever. In my opinion, it is more accurate to say that Congress created a swamp. And that leads me to the next myth trumpeted in a front page history article in The Post recently.

This second myth was also repeated by Judge Louis F. Oberdorfer (“Opinion of Judge Louis F. Oberdorfer concurring in part — dissenting in part,” p. 8-9), where he cites — in support of the myth — the very person (Bowling) who disproved it. The myth as Judge Oberdorfer tells it is that, “In 1783, while meeting in Philadelphia, hundreds of angry Revolutionary War veterans surrounded the State House and demanded compensation for their services. Neither the city of Philadelphia nor the State of Pennsylvania acted to protect Congress from the disturbances. At the Constitutional Convention in 1787, mindful of this so-called Philadelphia Mutiny, the Framers sought to ensure that the national government would be free from interference by any State government and from dependence upon any State for protection.” I checked with Bowling about this. He said exclusive jurisdiction was put in the Constitution because of the mutiny. But the fact is the mutiny was aimed at the state government, and the federal government wasn't even in session that Saturday. The federal government involved themselves by calling an emergency session, going to “the mutiny,” passing by the soldiers, and entering Independence Hall, which they shared with the state legislature. Hamilton and his clever centralist friends basically saw the event as an opportunity to argue that the federal government needed its own EXCLUSIVE jurisdiction (early spin doctors!). Evidence suggests Hamilton set the thing up — the soldiers said they had been inflamed by three federal officials on Friday night before their Saturday demonstration when they apologized for their behavior; somehow, Hamilton had known about the timing. Centralists used the “mutiny” to muster support for a stronger central government — a controversial idea at the time, thereby creating the myth that has been sustained for 200 years. The myth backfired in the short run, as many Americans thought this just showed that the central government was incompetent. But in the long run, as Bowling writes in a paper he presented to the German Historical Institute Conference comparing Berlin and D.C., “The centralists gained nothing in the short run..., but the residents of Washington, D.C., have suffered the consequences for two centuries because the event brought out of the centralist closet a new and important constitutional idea: a federal government should have exclusive jurisdiction over its seat of government as a means of protecting its authority and dignity vis a vis the states. The concerns of the people residing under such jurisdiction were generally ignored as the idea gained support in the 1780s. Fortunately few nations adopted the idea, and the most prominent, Brazil and Australia, abandoned it in the 1980s.”

This information doesn't change the fact that D.C. residents have been disenfranchised by the federal government, which uses the Exclusive Jurisdiction (EJ) clause of the Constitution to make their case. That clause does not say that D.C. citizens should be stripped of political equality, but it gives Congress the right to take it from them (should they be so dishonorable!). The Mutiny/EJ Myth shows the founders used clever means to accomplish their goals. D.C. citizens have thus far not devised equally clever means. D.C. can celebrate 200 years of being host to the national capital. But it's hard to celebrate the lie that Congress needs EJ. Professor Charles Harris of Howard University (“Congress and the Governance of the Nation's Capital”) says that “the Constitution could be amended to allow Congress to intervene only to protect statutorily defined federal interests in the District. Currently, the federal interest consists of whatever a majority of legislators are willing to say it is. A constitutional amendment would allow District officials recourse to the courts if they felt that Congress had overstepped the legitimate boundaries of the federal interest.” Harris showed (before the Control Board) that since the home rule government has been in place, “the federal government intervenes most often for reasons other than to protect a legitimate national interest. Parochial interests motivate many of these intrusions.” I like Tom Sherwood's point, and I think this will be the concluding remark of my dissertation in which I've tried to understand why D.C. doesn't have equal rights after 200 years (whether it was a majority white or black area): “The toughest problem is getting people to care who could do something about it. The power structure is happy with the status quo and feels no strong need to change. Democracy is a nice concept, not an imperative.” That nicely sums up 200 years of D.C. history. Yes, some D.C. citizens have always had hope and struggled for political equality. But Americans are wearing federally sponsored rose colored glasses — they have been induced into a state of delusion in which local D.C. is invisible. The key to the D.C.'s Bastille isn't lost. The question is about who will use it.


Barron Bits
Erica Nash,

Ed Barron said: “...Be careful what you wish for. Who do you think the likely representatives to Congress and the Senate would be if left to the electorate of D.C.? Try Marion Barry and Jesse Jackson. That would set the District back ten years in the eyes of the nation. Residents of D.C. who feel so disenfranchised should move back across the border to MD or VA.”

Hmm, let me think....sounds a bit pregidious to me. Hmm ... hmm. If those same voters moved to MD or VA, would that mean that MD voters would vote for Marion Barry and Jesse Jackson?


Voting Rights Are for Whites?
Marc K. Battle, Howard University School of Law,

According to the “logic” of Mr. Barron, the citizens of Washington, DC do not deserve the full protection of the constitution simply because — with full representation — they may select congressmen and senators the likes of Jesse Jackson and Marion Barry. It is difficult to interpret such backwards thinking as anything short of unabashed racism at its worst. Perhaps, as gentrification inevitably sweeps across “Chocolate City,” Barron will think the newer lighter-hued residents more worthy of voting representation. I recall that the throngs of David Duke supporters, during his bid for public office, were somehow worthy of casting a vote for the candidate of their choice even as his life of racism, hatred and violence was on display for all the world to see. Whew!! Even as I drew that analogy, I shuddered to think that I was comparing two civil rights legends to a former leader of the KKK — but the incongruity only serves to make my point ever more clear. Citizens of this nation are supposed to be guaranteed certain inalienable rights — protected even when they elect some of the most morally corrupt and intellectually challenged men and women ever to walk the hallowed halls of Congress as this nation does time after time after time. But according to Mr. Barron, DC citizens are somehow different. There is a litmus test (or should I say, a brown paper bag test) that citizens of DC must pass in order to exercise their rights. And their rights must be subrogated until the demographics of the electorate reflect a likelihood to elect a non-Marion Barry or a non-Jesse Jackson type of leader. It is this kind of arrogant racism that demonstrates very clearly how far we have NOT come over the last 40 years or so. I can only thank Mr. Barron for voicing his ignorance so blatantly that the socially naive in our community can no longer claim that racism exists only in a card dealt from the bottom of the deck. It is alive and well in our own backyard.


DC Residents Deserve Equal Rights
Maya O’Connor,

Actually, Mr. Barron, Congressional voting rights are not reserved just for residents of states in the US. Why do residents of federal lands have voting representation in Congress — but not DC residents? This was the argument in the Adams v. Clinton lawsuit, of which you seem to have little or no knowledge. Leaving the actual merits of the case aside for a moment, I question whether DC's image on national TV is the most important thing for us DC residents to be concerned with. You are worried about “eyes of the nation”? What about the right to control our own government? Do we live in a democracy or a dictatorship?

You then imply that DC residents do not deserve voting rights, because we will (you think) elect representatives of whom you disapprove. Are you seriously arguing that an electorate has to only elect Ed T. Barron approved candidates in order to gain the right to vote? Do you really think that DC residents are not as worthy as other US citizens to have democratic rights because you didn't like our past mayor or shadow senator? Should Chicagoans be disenfranchised because they elected Jesse Jackson's son to Congress? This argument has been used endlessly by Republican politicians who want to deny DC voting rights because they don't want two more Democrats in the Senate. But it is irrelevant to the question of DC voting rights. Our (according to Mr. Barron) poor choice of elected representatives is no excuse to deny us the same rights that other Americans have. All we are asking for is equality with other taxpaying US citizens. Maybe it is you, Mr. Barron, who should move to MD or VA (if you don't live in those places already) for you obviously have much contempt for DC citizens.


Gimme a Break
Mike Livingston,

Ed Barron writes that we should remain excluded from the legislature that collects and spends our federal taxes because we would likely elect Marion Barry and Jesse Jackson to Congress. Let's pretend that's indeed likely. Well, I don't approve of (for one example) Bob Barr; should I propose that Georgia be expelled from the Union and subjugated to a federal junta? Come on. The District has been subject to an inherently unjust form of government for 211 years; how did our overlords rationalize it before Marion Barry came along?

But here's the solution Ed proposes: “Residents of D.C. who feel so disenfranchised should move back across the border to MD or VA.” Move “back”? I was born in this colony. And I was born in the middle class — unlike thousands of District natives who do not have the means to move. We are, however, U.S. citizens, and we should not have to move from our home town in order to have a voice in the allocation of our tax money.


The Evictions
Jim Graham,

This replies to a suggestion made [in themail] that I somehow planned to evict the tenants in the slum buildings in order to hand the buildings over, empty, to the landlords for development. The statement indicates a complete lack of knowledge on your part as to my involvement in this matter.

It is true that, once I had seen these buildings and walked through them, I was unable to simply ignore the problems. It is also true that I pressured for action by DCRA, something that no other public official had done before. It is absolutely true that I wanted repairs to the pressing problems observed. I also met with the landlords who would meet with me, and the tenants and the tenant representatives. My plan was to see existing law enforced. All of this started months ago, long before there was any public attention whatsoever. I then blocked the water being turned off at 1458 Columbia Road, in favor of tougher action against the party responsible who, of course, was and is the landlord.

What caused the first placarding at 1458 Columbia Road was gas leaks that were uncovered by inspectors that I pressed to come to the building. Had they not come, what would have happened? Would there have been serious injury or explosion? Although the leaks were fixed, the matter was so serious that the first notice of condemnation went up. The rest followed in suit. So the city went from complete inattention (1458 had been inspected in January 1999, with no follow up until November) to the most extreme actions. I am glad for the attention these matters are finally getting. I am hopeful that from this attention will come improvements. And, rest certain, that the last people I am concerned about are those who have exploited for years this vulnerable population.

Oh and one last point: The legislation which I will reintroduce on April 4 is not “gratuitous.” It is necessary because, if the buildings are closed, then under existing statutory law tenant rights (such as that to first right of refusal to purchase) would be extinguished. My bill — which was drafted by tenant organizations and landlord tenant legal experts — will insure that does not happen.


Graham’s Emergency Housing Legislation Giveth with One Hand and Taketh Away with the Other
Betty Sellars, David Conn, Tenant Action Network,

Ward 1 Council Member Jim Graham has introduced the “Multi-Family Housing Maintenance Emergency Amendment Act of 2000” allegedly to preserve tenant rights if a building has been, or is in danger of, being closed by the District Government for housing code violations that affect the life, health, or safety of the tenants, by providing that the tenancy shall continue for two years after physical occupancy ceases. Mr. Graham's proposed legislation would prohibit the owner from increasing rents under the city's rent control law, but leads them to the door for filing a Hardship Petition.

What rights Mr. Graham purports to grant to District tenants living in sub-standard housing, the proposed legislation eliminates by allowing owners to recoup their expenses or payments to the Government in a form of a real estate tax against those very same tenants. The Hardship Petition provision of the city's Rental Housing Act provides that an owner with an equity investment in the property shall earn a rate of return of 12% on the tax assessed value of the property minus any encumbrance, such as a mortgage. The owner's earnings are calculated by subtracting valid expenses, including but not limited to property taxes, real estate taxes, management fees, and interest payments, from the maximum possible rental income of the property. Should an owner's expenses increase during a one year period to make the income fall below the 12% rate of return, the owner can file a Hardship Petition to increase the rents of all tenants to restore the 12% rate of return. Mr. Graham's legislation proposes to add to the owner's taxes, any expenses the D.C. Government incurs for closing and securing a condemned building. This will increase the tax expenses of the owner which can then be recouped against the tenants.

While tenants can contest the proposed rent increases, if the Office of Adjudication at DCRA does not render a decision within 90 days, the owner may implement the proposed increase or an increase subject to an initial auditor's report on all of the tenants, subject to a refund Order. Therefore, tenants may face such high rent increases after 90 days, that they are forced out of the building and the owner will raise rents to gentrify the neighborhood. We just reviewed a D.C. Court of Appeals decision, in which the tenants at 1755 N Street, N.W., challenged the Rental Housing Commission's decision to allow a 192% hardship petition rent increase to take effect. We recall seeing higher hardship increases.

Anybody who proposes rewarding the owners of property in this city large hardship petition increases for failure to keep the building up to the minimal standards of the District of Columbia Housing Code is no friend of tenants. At best, the Graham legislation gives the tenants fleeting hope with one hand, while it taketh away with the other. At worst, the Graham bill falsely promises that tenants will be able to return and remain in their rental home comfortably, when they are on the verge of having rents increased well above affordability. It is time for knowledgeable groups to get together to consider the best tenant legislation possible and not say the legislation offered by Councilmember Graham is better than nothing. Tenants in the city deserve safe affordable homes, free from housing code violations and the threat of outrageous rent increases. The Graham Emergency Legislation does not do the trick!


The Mayor — Streets and Home Life
Ted Gest,

We should give ourselves credit here in themail for focusing attention on the streets mess long before the Post and the Mayor did. But now the Mayor has declared a digging moratorium, implying that it's the fiber optic firms that have done us wrong. This seems to evade the issue of D.C.'s failure to repair the streets promptly after the digging. That's the problem that should be of most pressing interest to taxpayers, not whether new digging is delayed, although that may be welcome while D.C. gets its act together. Has anyone heard anything resembling a street repair schedule?

Back to the “mayoral mansion” issue, we've been treated to several posts on interesting possibilities, but has anyone commented on the rather strange epic in the Post a few weeks back that blacks are concerned about Williams's failure to buy a house? Apparently, whites or other ethnic groups don't deserve to be consulted on this issue. And his basic reasoning wasn't questioned: that he hasn't had time to buy property. Of course, we all make time for what is important; I've got to infer he doesn't consider this important.


Metro Signs
David Sobelsohn,

In last Sunday's issue of themail, Paul Williams wrote that he had “noticed the large Metro electronic signs being installed in stations around the city, and welcomed their use; to tell passengers when the next train is expected (like London), what color train is approaching, delays, etc.” Has anyone seen one of the new Metro signs used for any of the purposes listed? Just curious. I have only seen Metro promotional messages on the signs, but that may just reflect coincidence and the times I use the Metro.


Up the Down Escalators
Bryce A. Suderow,

I remember reading in themail someone's comments on the Metro rail system wearing out. On Friday I noticed both escalators at the north end of Silver Spring's platform were shut down. I asked the station attendant what had happened. He said they were broken because they were 25 years old. If Metro decided to fix the two escalators, he said, they'd have to completely rebuild them and shut down the north end of the platform during the work.


District Cablevision
Ann Van Aken,

What's up with District Cablevision? I made a special trip to their office and turned in my digital box and remote on December 23, 1999, and left with a receipt. I was told that I would be receiving a $50.87 refund check in the mail. I called District Cablevision in February to find out where my refund check was. I was told that the cable installer had not gotten to my apartment building until January 22, 2000, to turn it off. He turned in his report, which was then sent somewhere in Colorado. It would take 6-8 weeks FROM THAT DATE for the check to arrive.

It is now almost April and I have yet to receive the check. What has happened to a cable company that's on the side of the consumer? Is District Cablevision, despite everything that's wrong with it, so bad that I have to wait more than 3 months for get a lousy refund check? Makes you wish you hadn't paid your bill in the first place so you could owe them!



Filmfest DC Opening Night
Ky Nguyen,

Filmfest DC 2000 launches twelve days of new cinema from 30 countries with the Washington, D.C., premiere of East is East, an award-winning feature by British filmmaker Damien O’Donnell. Headlining the “New British Cinema” series, East is East is a hilarious and often poignant look at a Pakistani father’s attempt to maintain his traditional culture while his seven children seek to become citizens of the modern world and taste the counterculture in 1970s England. The screening will take place at General Cinema Theaters, the city's newest, most modern film venue in Maze Gallery (5300 Wisconsin Ave., N.W.). After seducing both critics and audiences at the Cannes Film Festival, East is East has become a smash hit in the UK, recently receiving numerous BATA nominations (England's equivalent of the Oscars), two awards from the British Film Critics Circle and London's Evening Standard Award for Best British Film of the Year.

O’Donnell will attend the screening and celebration along with representatives of the British Council and NBC4's Arch Campbell as Master of Ceremonies. A Champagne and Dessert Gala featuring delicacies from the UK and Pakistan follows the screening in the atrium of the Maze Gallery. Tickets for the Premiere and Gala are $40 and will be available March 23 through (703-218-6500). Filmfest DC covers service charges on all sales. Complete Festival information is posted on the new Festival web site ( and also available at 202-628-FILM . The festival catalog with information on the more than 100 screenings will be distributed as an insert in The Washington Post on Friday, March 31. Most tickets are priced at $7.50.



Commuting Advice
Tim Cline,

I am about to become a DC (Columbia Heights) to B'more (Inner Harbor) commuter. I am looking for advice from people who have made this commute on a regular basis. How is MARC Penn vs MARC Camden Yards vs. other options (I could drive, but I rue the thought). Thanks for your thoughts.


Dave Nuttycombe,

From's LOOSE LIPS column, appearing this Friday:
POST POSITION: In his first year atop the D.C. government, Mayor Anthony A. Williams forged a reputation as a ten-thumbed politico. Among Williams' bigger blind spots was an apparent inability to lobby for his initiatives before the D.C. Council. Apparently determined to get a head start on his New Year's resolution to shape up, the mayor rang up a select group of councilmembers on Dec. 31. “I thought he was going to invite me to the White House,” says one call recipient, Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans.
Actually, Williams was calling about something every bit as sexy: a plan to scrap the city's elected school board and replace it with an appointed panel that would answer to the mayor.
Read the entire Loose Lips column here:

From's CITY LIGHTS page, here are a few early warnings for upcoming events:
SATURDAY: John P. Shaft, the model for the film and literary character, discusses his book Shut Your Mouth!: The Real Story of the Black Private Dick Whose Heart Belongs to Christ, at 7 p.m. at Good News Books, 428 Chesterfield Road NE. Free
TUESDAY, April 4-9: Washington Jewish Music Festival, at the District of Columbia Jewish Community Center, 1529 16th St. NW. Free-$25.
More details and more critics' picks are available online at


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