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April 2, 2000

Show Me the Money

Dear Auditors:

The DC annual audit is late and getting later, and heavy juggling will be required to keep all the balls in the air. For months, rumors have been flying that at least three or four city departments and agencies heavily overspent their budgets last year, and that it would take some creative bookkeeping to make the books look like they balanced. Now it appears that the problem is even worse — the budget problem is not just how to hide the overspending, but how to find forty to sixty million dollars that right now are simply missing. I know just how the financial experts feel. Sometimes, when I used to do my checkbooks by hand, the monthly reconciliation would be off by four to six cents, and I just couldn't find the subtraction or addition error. Same principle, isn't it?

The most worrisome consequence of the inattention that led to this problem is that the Control Board could be with us for at least another four years. Since we have to have four straight years of balanced budgets before the Control Board is dissolved, the calendar will be set back to year one. The Control Board is doing all that is in its power to put itself out of business. It put immense pressure on the City Council to try to prevent it from holding hearings about the audit, and it put immense pressure on the independent auditing firm to try to force it to come up with a clean, unqualified audit. But, as some very naive phrase maker said long ago, “The numbers don't lie.” No threat that the independent auditor will never again get any business from the city can overcome the threat that it will lose its license if it knowingly allows the numbers to be fudged. So the Control Board has played all its cards — except the card that it should have played throughout the past year, which is keeping a close watch on the city's finances. After all, “financial responsibility” is the first and most important part of the Control Board's name.

Gary Imhoff


Anthony Williams, Extraordinary Showman
David L. Burka,

All the publicity on how the DC government is improving its service to DC citizens appears to be show only. 1. My wife and I appealed our real estate assessment in 1998 and our appeal was lost. In 1999, we appealed again, but this time we learned from experience and got a receipt for the filing. Never heard a word again. Got our tax bill in March 2000 and found our assessment had been slightly reduced. We never received a notice of reassessment and we never got a chance to agree with the revised assessment or to appeal further.

2. I received notice for renewing my auto tags and parking permit. Sent in a check covering both the auto tag renewal and the parking permit and I got the sticker for my license plates, but no parking permit. Called the DMV and was told to come down to the DMV and bring my canceled check. Only problem was that I wasn't due to get my canceled check back from the bank for another 22 days. The DMV was very helpful; they said call back in 72 hours and they will have an answer to my problem. What a joke. Called back and was told to come back in again. Told them no returned check yet, and I needed the parking permit. They could not trace my check or check on the transactions. Was told they would send out a replacement parking permit and it would take 5-7 days. It is now 15 days and still no
parking permit.

Williams is still making promises to repair the torn up streets left by the fiber optic cable installation. Obviously with all the time he spends on the streets he can't make any more promises for the DMV or the Office of Tax and Revenue.


Who Are Those Guys?
Ed T. Barron,

After a week in Aruba, swimming with the fishes, I'm ready to renter the fray. My questions this week concern the Mayor and where he is getting his information. A man is most well known by the company he keeps. This leads me to ask who is the mayor surrounding himself with? Either the Mayor is not doing his homework, or he is relying on advisors who are not doing their homework. The Mayor proclaimed, during his “State of the District” address a few weeks ago, that citizens of D.C. who do not own a computer could trot down to any one of twenty-six local recreation centers to use a computer there to surf the Internet.

Those who don't have access to the Internet at home should not put their jogging sneaks on just yet to run down to any of their local “rec” centers, since there is not one Rec Center in the District that has a computer hooked up to the Internet for public use. Since all of those reading this input don't have that problem, I am posing the question, “Where does the Mayor get his information from?” Is he relying on advisors who have not done their homework? Take a look around you, Mr. Mayor. You will be judged by the company you keep.


King Demos Hath No Clothes, and Doth Not Care
Mark Richards, Dupont East,

After reading the majority opinion of the courts, it struck me that the federal government is wholly responsible for retarding the development of democracy in D.C. They noted that for most of its history, D.C. “has had nothing that could even roughly be characterized as a legislature for the entire District.” They discounted the Council as D.C.'s legislative body, saying, “such a body is not constitutionally required.” They said, “A right to vote that depends upon the existence of such an occasional institution can hardly have been what the Framers contemplated.” I'm no lawyer, but this suggests that an Amendment would have to include republican protections for local self-government, not just voting rights, or Congress could actually take over our legislature and appoint their own people? The majority also wrote that, “Moreover, it is clear that the ultimate legislature the Constitution envisions for the District is not a city council, but rather Congress itself." And to think that we're not only excluded, but they ride our budget each cycle so we're forbidden from spending our own money to lobby for our own interests in our very own 545-member legislature. In this District, the federal government doesn't even bother putting up a voting facade to “bamboozle king demos” (as Marx put it). In 2001, D.C. should — as a group — put its federal tax money in an account withholding it from the government. I'm not sure of the legal implications, but it would have to be a massive movement. It would get national press attention — a sort of tea party. Compared to the 50 states, we pay the 2nd highest per capita taxes to the feds. And right about now, that is looking like a lot of buck for no bang. Stand Up for Democracy talked about passing out tea bags with a little message on 4th of July last year. The problem with that date is that the D.C. message is a big downer for everybody coming to the city to have fun, so it falls flat. Maybe we need to pass out tea bags at the D.C. part of the Folklife festival: 200 Years Without Democracy. Anybody know if that exhibit will address D.C.'s “issue,” or will that be censored, too? (The Smithsonian's tourist guidebook is titled “Virginia and the National Capital Region.” Hope that's not a clue.) Another radical event that will never happen
would be to simply walk off the job — self-abolish ALL of our local institutions and let the feds do what they want. I'm pretty sure the only reason they put in Home Fool was to restrain demagogy, and buy off a few political elites, a sort of safety valve. Given the lack of interest in full self-government in D.C., it seems to have worked. It might be time for a trip to Miami, I'm sounding far too flip!

During the discussion of the lawsuits on Diane Rehm's show, someone commented about the Amendment that gave D.C. electors equal to the smallest state (vote for President), to which Diane got excited and blurted out, “Well, that was nice, wasn't it?”

To quote Vanessa Dale Burns: “I'm under oath, but I'm no fool.”


First-Rate Service by the Office of Tax and Revenue
Kenneth Nellis,

I am duly impressed! On the inside front cover of the D-40 Individual Income Tax Booklet (1999) is the heading, “Customer Service Must Come First.” It says, “Our goal is to provide first-rate customer service, a proactive outreach program that provides taxpayers with information regarding their tax liabilities, [sic] and easy access to data when needed.” Faced with an unusual tax situation and uncertainty as how to complete my D-40, I decided to take them up on their word. I encountered a multitude of pleasant surprises: When I called the number (727-4TAX), I got an automated menu system (expected), but, opting to talk to a real person, within a few minutes, I was talking to one! This person understood my question on the first attempt and made an appropriate referral. The new person wasn't in (expected), but her answering machine encouraged me to leave a number where she could call me back. She called me back! Within the hour! She understood my confusion and worked through the problem with me. When I didn't have all the numbers with me to continue the exercise, she said she'd call me back in the morning. She did! and was able to show me where I went awry, and all the time with patience and a pleasant demeanor. I consider that first-rate service, indeed!

That said, let me conclude by saying how unnecessarily backward I think the D-40 form and booklet are. Page “1” is two thirds towards the back of the booklet. On the form, you have to fill out Page 2 before Page 1. And Part IV, when it applies, must be filled out before Part III. Now, back to the fun: shuffling numbers back and forth between the husband and wife columns to see what works out best when filing as “Married Filing Combined Separate.”


PG County Woes
Ralph Blessing,

I was somewhat amused to read in the Post recently that PG County Executive Wayne Curry is ticked at the District for renovating housing in Southeast, thereby (in his view) flooding PG with a torrent of poor residents in search of cheaper housing. As a result, he expects some sort of assistance from the DC government, or at least a halt to the apartment demolitions taking place in SE, so that the alleged drain on social services by these newcomers can be controlled. Funny, but I don't recall ever hearing Curry offer his support for a reciprocity (commuter) tax to compensate the District for the services it provides to PG and other suburban commuters.


Chutzpah from WASA
Steph “The answer to your question is obviously 'yes'” Faul,

The classic definition of the word “Chutzpah” involves someone who kills his father and mother and then begs for mercy because he's an orphan. Fortunately, a new, shorter definition is now available: WASA. After doubling rates for water a year ago, and after wasting thousands of gallons by neglecting to fix numerous gushing leaks, the Water and Sewer Authority has sent out a notice that they're raising the rates again. Enclosed with the letter is a “Home Water-Saving Kit Leak Detective” that contains dye pellets, to show toilet tank leaks, and that asks in big blue letters, “Is Your Water Bill Too High?”


Renewal of Liquor License
Vivian Henderson,

The item “Club Gets Renewal of Liquor License,” that appeared in the March 30 issue of The Washington Times disturbs me greatly. It seems that when the Police Chief and residents of an area want a neighborhood nuisance gone, it should disappear. But time and time again, here in DC this is not the case. Who is on the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board? Are they residents of DC? If so, I feel that they have no love for the city.


Block News
Jon Desenberg,

Couldn't agree more with the administrative note asking for more block by block news. I find it far more interesting than some of the current “philosophical discussions.”

On that note, let me share good news from my block. The Washington Hilton planned to push forward a huge expansion at the corner of 19th and Florida, adding to the endless stream of diesel spewing eighteen wheelers blocking my street and endangering kids at the Adams elementary school. The Hilton sought to expand meeting space in a doomed attempt at competing with the new convention center. The neighborhood got mad and organized quickly, money and volunteers started rolling in and poof, like magic, bye-bye expansion plans (for now anyway). Score one for neighborhood action, thanks in part to E-mail discussions and listserves like this one!


St. Patricks/F St. in City Paper
Michael Berman, Downtown Artists Coalition,

Thursday's Washington City Paper has a well informed and in depth cover page article regarding the F Street/St. Patrick's controversy (“God Is In The Real Estate: What do you call an outfit that evicts struggling artists and demolishes historic buildings in order to build a high-rent office tower? On F Street, you call it divine.”). Thanks to Kevin Diaz, who did a wonderful and balanced job covering the many complex issues.

[This article is online at — Gary Imhoff]


Don’t Waste Your Time
Ed T. Barron,

Some are calling for making contact with Al Gore, The Democratic Candidate for President, to inspire him in getting voting rights for the citizens of D.C. That, to me, is a big waste of time. Al Gore will likely receive about 80% of the votes cast for President in D.C. Why should he bother spending time and effort in courting D.C. on a cause that will likely cost him votes in places outside D.C.? Al Gore will be spending much of his time pandering for votes in places where he is at risk of losing electoral votes. Just look at his latest foray into the case of the little Cuban boy in Miami. Al wants the Latino vote so bad that he is proposing an amendment that will deny the boy's father the right to raise his boy in his birthplace in Cuba.


DC Voting Rights
Richard Steacy,

I was surprised to learn about Bill Bradley having been removed from the DC May 2 Ballot. However, Democrats can still send a signal to Vice President Gore by leaving their ballots for President (and Gore delegates) blank. Again, political pressure needs to be applied to the Democratic Party to get the DC Voting Rights issue on the election agenda. It is a national issue A) Because it involves the representation of a half-million U.S. citizens; and, B) The federalness (and thus federal responsibility for) of the District.

Mr. Gore (like President Clinton) has not spoken up effectively for DC voting rights. There have been two inaugural addresses and eight State-of-the-Unions. At no time has the current administration evoked the national issue of District voting rights. Sympathy is nice. Thank you, Mr. Vice-President. We now need action. Leadership on the national level. Where are you Al? Until we hear from Mr. Gore, leave the President blank on May 2. And lean toward the Green Party in November.


The American Way!
Larry Seftor,

I've been feeling pretty bad lately about the fact that DC residents don't really have a vote. This has been magnified by the recent court ruling (which I haven't had the heart to read yet), and by the fact that I have just been called for jury duty by the same court. (Suggestions about how I can express my outrage to the court without getting thrown in jail would be appreciated.) The one Federal election that we can vote in, for president, is really a sham. DC is always heavily Democratic, and my vote is essentially worthless. Regardless of whether I vote Democratic or Republican, I am lost in the DC Democratic landslide. Then it occurred to me: even though I live in DC I can vote the American Way, with my wallet. I can give money to the candidate of my choice and really make a difference. Gore will naturally get DC, but any money I might consider giving to Gore would enhance his chances elsewhere in the nation. And if I were to give to Bush, I help him, regardless of the fact that he will lose in DC. I really feel better now, now that I know I can fully participate in what really counts in American politics — cash contributions! Seriously for a moment, despite the flippant tone of this note, it is all true. I really do plan to make a significant contribution to a candidate. Making such a contribution will allow me to express my will in an election in a way that will have more impact that any vote I might cast in DC! It is sad, but true.


Gore and District Rights
David Meadows, Candidate for Al Gore Delegate to the Democratic National Convention,

In response to the numerous remarks made by Bradley supporters to ease your concern about Gore supporting District rights. Al Gore was one of three original Senators who sponsored the District of Columbia Statehood bill (Bill S. 2647, introduced 5/17/90) (S. 2023 reintroduced by Gore 11/22/91). Where was Bradley's bill? Twenty-two years ago, in 1978, Al Gore voted for full voting representation in Congress (CQ #78 3/2/78). In 1999, Gore appointed DC Democrat, activist, and statehood advocate Donna Brazile, Chief of Staff to Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, as the first African American and first female to manage a national presidential campaign. I could go on, but I hate it when people write essays to themail.


DC Statehood and the Gore Campaign
David Sobelsohn,

In last Wednesday's issue of thermal, Ann Loikow urges that DC residents put pressure on presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Albert Gore to become a national spokesperson for DC statehood. No doubt this will help Gore win votes in key swing states like Wisconsin and Ohio. Without apparent irony, Loikow quotes the 1841 inaugural address of President William Henry Harrison, in which Harrison went on at length about the injustice of our disenfranchisement. Harrison, of course, hatless on a cold, rainy March day, went on at length about so many things in his two-hour inaugural — the longest in history — that he contracted pneumonia and died a month later. Somehow I suspect Harrison's example won't encourage candidates — at least those, like Gore, who know American history — to make DC statehood a priority. Maybe it even suggests they shouldn't.


Capital City Public Charter School
Andrea Carlson,

A new public school option is open to DC families. Capital City Public Charter School will open its doors in September, 2000 (location TBA). Our small school will serve students Pre-K through Grade 4 and gradually expand through Grade 8. The school features a challenging academic program designed to stimulate the natural curiosity of children, encourage creativity and critical thinking, meet individual needs, provide enrichment opportunities, and emphasize respectful social interaction. To learn more about the school, please come to an information session on Wednesday, April 12, from 3:00 to 4:30 at Mt. Pleasant Library, Lamont and 16th Sts., NW. Applications are being accepted through April 25. For more information or an application, E-mail or call 202-387-0309.


DC Bicentennial
Kathy Carroll,

Does anyone know of any DC Bicentennial events?


DC Public Library
Bruce Monblatt,

I really love the District of Columbia Public Library system and I have ever since I came down to D.C. as a student in the 1960's. It has a marvelous collection, reasonably convenient branches, and extremely knowledgeable librarians. The new CityCat is very useful at finding out what they have and where it is available.

I am, however, not that happy will the way that security operates. When I wander down at opening time on Saturday, the long line becomes longer because of the security devices that everyone has to go through. I don't really mind the scanner but last Saturday, I wandered in about 10:15 and saw one of the security force walk through electronic equipment with all the heavy metal that they tend to wear and there was no reaction from the machine. Are these working or just for show?


Asking for Library Books to Be Returned Is an Outrage
Phil Shapiro,

If you stop to think about it, you'll soon realize how outrageous it is for libraries here in DC, and elsewhere, to require that books be returned. This is a practice that must stop. Learn why at


District Clause
Charles Cassell, Former Chair, DC Statehood Constitutional Convention, 1982-1985,

To themail: Thanks very much for the new insights re the formation of the District of Columbia and its illogical and undemocratic domination by Congress over the years. This is pertinent and potent information.



Enormous Yard Sale
Liz Kastor,

200-family yard sale at Lowell School, Sunday, April 9, 2000, from 9 A.M. to 3 P.M. The enormous sale will be feature everything from furniture to sports equipment to adults and children's toys, books and clothes. The school, which has 275 students from pre-school through fifth grade, has been collecting donations for months from its 200 families and has rooms filled with a wonderful variety of items.

Profits from the sale will benefit Lowell's Financial Assistance Fund, which supports Lowell's tradition of an economically diverse student body. Lowell is an independent, non-profit school. It is located on Kalmia Road, NW, just off 16th Street, on the edge of Rock Creek Park and only several blocks south of Silver Spring. For any additional information, please call Sandy Bainum at 301-656-6829.


Chevy Chase, DC, Volunteer Work Day, April 8
Evelyn M. Wrin,

Join members of the Chevy Chase D.C. community in a Volunteer Work Day on Saturday, April 8, outside of the Chevy Chase Library and Community Center on Connecticut Avenue, NW, between McKinley and Northampton Streets. Come with your gloves and marked tools for an hour or two between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. This clean-up and beautification activity is sponsored by the Chevy Chase Citizens Association. Rain date is Sunday, April 9, between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. For further information call Nancy Wilson at 966-5286.


Evening at Guapo’s to Support Hearst Elementary School
Sue Bell,

Bring the family for tasty Mexican food and support Hearst Elementary School all at the same time. On Monday, April 10th, Guapos Mexican Restaurant (the one in Tenleytown next to the Metro) is generously donating 5% of the cost of all food and drinks purchased by Hearst supporters. The money will be donated by Guapos to the Hearst PTA to support Spanish language instruction for the next school year.

To participate, present this E-mail to your server at Guapos anytime after 6 pm on Monday April 10th. Tasty food. Great margaritas. Wonderful company. And you will be supporting Phoebe Hearst Elementary school, a DC public school with an early childhood education program for children aged Pre-K through third grade. For more details, call the school at 282-0106. See you there!


National Mobilization for Debt Cancellation
Jeanne Thum,

Sunday, April 9, Noon - 4:30 pm at the Mall. People of faith and all who care about justice for indebted countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America will be gathering to be part of a massive public witness supporting debt cancellation for the world's poorest countries. The Jubilee 2000 movement proposes cancellation of the backlog of unpayable debt of the poorest countries by the year 2000. Speakers include: Archbishop Oscar Rodriguez, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras; Linda Chavez-Thompson, Executive Vice President, AFL-CIO; The Rev. Jim Wallis, Editor-in-Chief, Sojourners; Rabbi David Saperstein, Director, Religious Action Center of Reformed Judaism; and Ricardo Navarro, President, Friends of the Earth International. Musicians include: singer Dar Williams, the Waza Bakula African band, and the Grace Lutheran Church Rainbow Choir.



Editor Wanted
David Reed,

We need a full-time writer/editor to produce a quarterly magazine and several newsletters. Experience with PageMaker and color publications required. $40,700 plus benefits plus opportunity for advancement. Please send resume to Reed Public Policy, Inc. at or FAX (703) 995-0484.



Apartment Wanted
Kelly Mack, Advocacy Institute,

Quiet, professional woman seeks wheelchair accessible studio or single bedroom apartment in the District or within walking distance of a Metro station. If you know of buildings or vacancies, please E-mail



Tim Cline, Columbia Heights,

You all were most helpful in recommending a plumber, so now I hope to pick you collective wisdom and find some recommendations for painters who are professional and work quickly (we are willing to pay for good work) to do the entire interior of our house.


Leslie Yezirinac,, Washington's premier online community, offers up-to-date content regarding all aspects of the Washington DC community. Surf onto our site and use our searchable database to browse over 10,000 pages of regional web site directories, articles, photo galleries and calendars of events all pertaining to the greater Washington area. We are currently featuring an extensive gallery on the National Cherry Blossom Festival. If you missed the blossoms, visit our day by day photographic gallery of the blossoms dating from their first opening on March 16. You'll want to continue to visit for similar comprehensive reporting on other upcoming DC events, including our forthcoming gallery on the April 22 Earth Day rally on the Mall. Currently, you can also read about spring fashion trends in an article featured in our Shopping Section about Inga Guen, fashion consultant for Fox Channel 5. As Editor-in-Chief, I am looking for writers and suggestions for ways to continue to promote every aspect of the DC community. Feel free to send me your comments and ideas at!


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