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April 12, 2000

Sneak Attack Election

Dear Suckers:

Those dirty, rotten, underhanded politicians — excuse me for being redundant — are at it again, trying to sneak a pernicious plan past the voters by scheduling an almost secret special election. What am I talking about? Well, when last we visited the Board of Education, the City Council and the Mayor had agreed upon a plot to cripple it and doom it to failure by dividing it into two factions, one part elected by the citizens and the other part appointed by the Mayor. This has two advantages for the Mayor and Council. First, the members of the school board would be permanently at loggerheads with each other, and unable to govern the schools effectively. Second, nobody could be held accountable for the schools' failures, since the two factions of the school board would blame each other. The elected members would blame the Mayor's appointees for obstructionism and vice versa, and the Mayor and the Council could claim that they were unable to make anything happen under this structure. Neither the Mayor nor the Council has yet come up with even the flimsiest rationale for how their plan would improve the public schools or the education given to our children in the classrooms, and the only reason they have given for supporting it is that it is a “compromise.”

The problem for the City Council and the Mayor is that the voters have to approve of this silly structural change, and the citizens of this city would never pass it in any fair election. The only way to weasel this ridiculous idea past the voters would be to schedule an election in which nobody would vote, and that is exactly what they have done. On Tuesday, the Board of Elections knuckled under before pressure from Councilmembers Cropp and Chavous and Mayor Williams, and approved a special election on the Board of Education scheme. This special election will be held sometime in late June or early July — the date hasn't even been set yet — and it will be the fourth citywide election to be held in a six-month period. The presidential primary election will be held on May 2, the DC primary election on September 12, the general election on November 7, and now this fourth special election will be squeezed in between the two primaries. Publicity about the special election will be almost non-existent (you haven't read anything about it in the Post or Times, or seen anything about it on television news, have you?), and the voter turnout is sure to be the lowest in the city's history. If the politicians can keep enough citizens away from the polls, they have a good chance of getting their cockeyed connivance passed. The cost to taxpayers for the extra election will be between $350,000 and $400,000, so we'll be paying the bill for being snookered. But in the years to come our school children will be bearing the greater cost.

Gary Imhoff


Ablaze in Color
Ed T. Barron,

The city of Washington has to be the most beautiful city in the world in the spring. All the flowering trees are in bloom, the tulips are up, and the azaleas are just about popped here in NW D.C. The whole area is ablaze with color. Not to be outdone by the new landscaping around the AU Law School Building, there is a whole new landscaping job done on the grassy median overlooking the Super Fresh parking lot on 48th Street, behind the Spring Valley Shopping Center. The newly landscaped plot has an abundance of tulips around each of the trees and also a garden of pansies near the entrance ramp. Coupled with the tons of tulips planted in front of the Exxon Station at the entrance to the Spring Valley Shopping Center, the area is a veritable arboretum. Who could move from this place?


Dear Mr. Mayor
Tom Berry,

Dear Mr. Mayor: Thank you for extending your moratorium on street cutting. And thank you for attending to the temporary patching of the tech cuts that have not yet been patched. I'm wondering, though, if it isn't asking too much to have the cutters repatch some of the temporary patches that have come unpatched. I can give you a couple of really neat examples. The northbound lanes of Connecticut Avenue from McKinley Street to Chevy Chase Circle were temporarily patched not so long ago. They were so temporarily patched that the patch is all but gone now. And the potholes growing under the former patch have blossomed with the rest of the spring flowers, if you can relate potholes to flowers. Speaking of McKinley, the south side of the 3700 block remains a travesty even after recent patching. It's so bad that I and others still find it a smoother ride driving in the wrong lane (when there is no oncoming traffic, of course) than navigating through the rapidly disintegrating temporary patches. I'm sure that others could point out more egregious examples of disappearing patches, but I thought I could give you a heads up on what could follow from them.

By the way, Mr. Mayor, does the city subcontract with the same pavers that the cutters use? I hope not, because they do a terrible job. But if you do, could you please send me some information on how to bid for some of that work? I know nothing about that business, but if there're big bucks in shoddy work then I'm willing to invest a few bucks in equipment for a substantial share of the profits. Thanks for your time.


Bad News for Kennedy Playground?
Randy Wells,

Until as recently as February, we understood that a Request for Proposals (RFP) for construction of a new Kennedy Playground Recreation Center (7th and P Streets, NW) this year was nearly complete — to select an excellent architecture and construction firm to build the center. All play equipment was even removed from the Playground as recently as this past Fall (with no warning to us, by the way), both for safety reasons and in anticipation of groundbreaking on the new center.

We have just been informed that entire RFP was botched, and must be reissued. It seems that the work is unlikely to begin until 2001 or later. That is unacceptable. Friends of Kennedy Playground (FOKP) has been patiently working with the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) and other city officials for over five years to totally renovate Kennedy Playground. Two years ago, a series of community design meetings produced plans for a new recreation center and playground. Both Mayor Williams (and before him Mayor Barry) and Councilmember Evans have vocally supported the project.

The level of frustration throughout the community is extremely high. We must find a way to guarantee that the Kennedy Playground Recreation Center goes forward this year; install age-appropriate play equipment on Kennedy Playground within the next month, as an interim measure until work on the permanent grounds and equipment can begin; and develop a plan to expeditiously replace the ball courts that will be eliminated by the construction of the new rec center.


DC Students Need a Champion
Nerissa Phillips,

In days long ago knights rode in on mighty steeds to save those in distress. Today the children of the District of Columbia Public Schools need a knight/champion to save them from the tyrants who deny them a good education. The children of the District of Columbia need an attorney who will file a $100 billion lawsuit against this city and the Congress of the United States for failing to provide the children with a good education. While I do not have the legal knowledge to present the merits of the case, I am certain that the legal issues are many — starting with issues of leadership. Are there any knights/champions out there?


Main Points at Press Briefing
Mark Richards, Dupont East,

Democracy First, DC Vote, and Stand Up for Democracy in DC held a press briefing on August 12 in which I presented three U.S. public opinion studies conducted by telephone between August-November 1999 as the Three-Judge Panel deliberated on the two lawsuits. The data was collected by three separate professional interviewing firms. Here are the main points I made at the briefing:

1. A large proportion of Americans are unaware of D.C.'s problem: 55% of college graduates registered to vote are unaware that D.C. doesn't have equal constitutional rights, such as the right to vote in the Senate and the House. 46% think D.C. already has the vote in the Senate and the House. 2. There is overwhelming agreement among Americans on the principle of equality for D.C.: D.C. should have equal voting rights in the Senate and the House — 72% of U.S. public, 69% of college graduates registered to vote, and 82% progressive state and local elected officials. This crosses party lines: 81% Democrats, 71% Independents, and 61% Republicans. 3. Americans are open to solutions: An Equal Constitutional Rights Amendment was most appealing to all groups. They were more divided along ideological lines on statehood and retrocession, but there is a base of support for both to build on. U.S. adults who support equal voting rights were asked about remedies: 82% supported an equal constitutional rights amendment, 57% supported statehood, and 59% supported merging D.C. into Maryland. All groups supported an equal constitutional rights amendment, across party: 82% U.S. adults, 88% college graduates registered to vote, and 71% progressive state and local elected officials. Progressives liked statehood (65%) more than merging D.C. with Maryland (35%), while college graduates registered to vote like merging with Maryland (63%) more than statehood (43%).

This polling data is a baseline to build on. Washington Post polls show that 58% of D.C. residents support statehood (February 2000), and a Wirthlin Group poll for the Federal City Council in 1994 showed 19% support for giving D.C. land back to Maryland (retrocession). The main area of division on statehood in D.C. is along racial lines — 63% African American favor, 45% Caucasian favor. Here is my opinion: public opinion is only one piece of information to consider — there are legal, political, and other issues to think about. D.C. citizens need to continue to build a foundation of consensus and teamwork, and to work together. Without that, D.C. is unlikely to succeed in accomplishing their goal — to have the same rights as citizens who live in states.


Traffic Cameras and Timed Lights
Steph “Wearing her professional hat today” Faul,

Speed-enforcing cameras have been used for decades in Europe, but have consistently met opposition in this country. However, red-light enforcement cameras have a 60 to 70 percent approval rating here. The obvious reason is that people know they speed, but think they don't run red lights. Red-light running is also seen as being more dangerous than speeding. Paranoia over setting the speed cameras to a ridiculously narrow margin is just that; a narrow margin is easily challenged in court and causes more trouble than it's worth.

As to the lights at Dupont Circle being “correctly” timed — they are “correct” for cars, not for pedestrians. Pedestrians must cross one lane of traffic and then stand exposed on a traffic island for several minutes before they get a light to cross the second lane. They dash across simply to make the crossing in one stage and to avoid standing on the island as cars whiz by within inches. In my opinion Dupont Circle needs a new traffic engineering study to make it more pedestrian-friendly and to smooth out some of the merges, which are also badly timed.

A note on cameras: in Europe, as in this country, the owner of the car receives a ticket and a photo of the infraction. Back in the 1980s I met a Swiss judge who said that at first the cameras sent a photo of the front of the car showing the driver and any passengers. When too many such photos ended up as evidence in divorce court, they changed to sending just the license plate.


Red Light Cameras — What’s the Law?
Lorie Leavy,

Under the District's traffic camera program, what exactly constitutes a ticketable infraction? Is it entering an intersection on a yellow light? On a red one? Failing to clear the intersection by the time the light turns red? What about left-turners who enter the intersection on a green light but wait until the red to complete their turns? And do the same criteria apply throughout the metropolitan area?


Inspection Station
Ralph Blessing,

For once an Ed Barron suggestion that I agree with! His proposal that the DC inspection station be privatized sounds very sensible to me. With privatized red light cameras and a somewhat similar arrangement with our new parking meters, the inspection station seems like an appropriate next step. It'd be interesting to know if there are any city or state inspection stations elsewhere in the country that are privatized and, if so, how it's working out.


Free Health Clinics
David Sobelsohn,

Does anyone know of a listing of free health clinics in the DC area? Someone told me the Washington Post regularly carried such a list on Thursdays. But neither last Thursday's issue nor last Tuesday's “Health” section carried one.


Great Exhibit
Ed T. Barron,

Many folks have never been to the Building Museum (right at the Judiciary Square Metro stop). This an architectural wonder that frequently has some dynamite exhibits. The latest one (March 29-Sept 17th) is a photo and model exhibit of the history of the White House. Outstanding photos and scale models (one of them 60 feet long). The large model is open at the rear and shows all the main rooms of the White House with miniature furniture. The exhibit traces the changes made to the White House since it was built and includes photos of the main rooms as they were decorated and redecorated over the years by the incoming presidents. This is a no-miss exhibit at a very under-attended museum.


Adios Mr. Itell, and a Thank You, Too
Tom Berry,

So, Jeffrey Itell is leaving this burgh for one called Pitt. He may leave, but he won't be forgotten and he surely isn't leaving without a big thank you from this correspondent. He created a workable format for many folks (who would otherwise stifle their thoughts) to vent, praise, argue, incite, enlighten, entertain and produce a bit of influence along the way. One could ramble on with gushy comments, but let's just say that what was started in 1994 continues strongly, and a simple thank you is due to the one who allowed us all this new freedom to communicate. Adios and all the best, Jeff.


NBC Nightly News Confuses Fleecers and Fleecees
Len Sullivan,

Tom Brokaw thinks DC residents are fleecing US taxpayers. Mayor Williams tries to implement his vision for DC. The US Conference of Mayors wants to link cities and their suburbs. The Mayor and both Control Board chairs doff their hats to John Hill. NARPAC thinks DC's stock is overpriced based on first quarter 2000 earnings: too many politicians and no statesmen in a top-heavy management structure with no common vision of the city's destiny. Details are available in the April update of the NARPAC web site at Tune in, not out.



Tasting Society Intl. April Calendar of Wine and Food Events
Charlie Adler, wine@TASTEDC.COM

1) April 13th, Thursday, “Evening at the Embassy of the Czech Republic,” 3900 Spring of Freedom, NW (between Connecticut Avenue and Beach Drive, just off Tilden St.), parking available. 7:00-9 PM reception and tasting, $40 in advance. 2) April 18th, Tuesday, “French Country Wines,” Radisson Barcelo Hotel, 2121 P St., NW, valet parking, Metro Dupont Circle (Red Line), 7-9 PM, $40 per person. Taste the best of France's countryside! 3) April 20th, Thursday, “Great Wines of Italy,” Radisson Barcelo Hotel, 7-9 PM, $40 per person. Join Ann Berta, wine columnist for Washingtonian Magazine, as we taste a fantastic selection of Italy's great wines. 4) April 27th, Thursday, “Wine Basics 101,” Radisson Barcelo Hotel, 7-9 PM, $39 per person. Our most attended event! Reservations: or call 333-5588.


Graduate Night
Daga Mrozek,

DJK and The D.C. Society of Young Professionals will sponsor Graduate Night on Tuesday, April 18, at Tequilla Grill, 1990 K St. NW, from 7:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m. Graduate Night will give all D.C. area graduate students and law students the opportunity to network with D.C. area professionals while partying the night away. The event will feature live music by Jonasay, an outstanding band that recently opened for Hootie and the Blowfish. While enjoying the music, the students will have the opportunity to network with representatives from some of D.C.'s most prestigious organizations, such as Voice of America. DJK is a small public relations agency formed by American University masters students, Daga Mrozek, Jenny Lepiesza, and Krisha Chachra, as a class project. The D.C. Society of Young Professionals is a social and networking group in the greater D.C. area.


Hypnosis Demonstration at MLK
Wayson Lee,

On May 3, at noon, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Library's Philosophy Department will sponsor an hypnosis workshop. Many people think hypnosis is staged tricks; I will show you its genuine power. Volunteers are not paid! Wayson Lee, trained by the director of The Hypnosis Institute of NY, is also available for private sessions. Identify yourself as a themail subscriber and get 50% off your first session.



I’m Looking for a Good Home
Stacey Kornegay,

Hello, my name is Maxwell Alexander and my mommy asked me to write this, because this is very hard for her to do. I am a 2 1/2 year old, neutered American short-haired cat and I need a new home. Mommy is expecting her first human baby, and had to move to a larger place. The new place does not accept animals, so I have been staying with my aunt. I am 10 pounds, black and white in color, and I am up-to-date on all of my shots. My last vet appointment was in February 2000. Of course, Mommy will provide all of this information to my next owner, along with my toys, feeders, litter box, etc. If you are looking for a cat or know of someone who will provide a good home for me, please give my mommy a call on 544-2753. Her name is Stacey Kornegay and she is really anxious to find me a good, safe
home. Thank you for your kindness. Maxwell.


Preserve Jars
Alex Morin,

We've got about 50 Ball preserve jars, one-pound size, in good condition, that we'll be glad to give to anyone who will pick them up. If interested, please call 686-9073.



Legal Assistant
Jon Katz,

Bilingual Spanish-English legal assistant for busy trial law firm near Silver Spring Metro. Minimum 1 year legal experience required. Salary starting at high 20's. Fax resume to Jon Katz, Marks & Katz, LLC, 301-495-8815. For more information, see



Glover Park Townhouse
Jo Radner,

We're looking for caring, compulsive adults to rent our furnished Glover Park townhouse from July 1 until July or August 2001, while we are away on sabbatical. Three bedrooms, 2 studies, 3 full baths. Modern kitchen, 2 decks, off-street parking, A/C, country antiques, original woodwork, piano, many other amenities. No smoking, no pets, no groups. $2300 month plus utilities. Call 333-7795 or 333-6951 or E-mail or


Columbia Heights English Basement
Caroline Polk,

Large one-bedroom plus den English basement for rent starting June 1, maybe sooner. Good closet space, use of garden. +ACQ-600 per month, plus utilities (all-electric apartment). 3 blocks to Columbia Heights Metro. Small pets ok. If you or someone you know is interested, just let me know.


Dave Nuttycombe,

From's LOOSE LIPS column, appearing this Friday:
NEVER-EVERSON: Anyone who attended Mayor Anthony A. Williams' March 6 State of the District address learned that the mayor has at least one die-hard supporter in D.C. To most of the pro-Williams crowd, the speech was a flat mishmash of programmatic details. But whenever the mayor reached his version of a rhetorical flourish, a cry boomed from the stands at the Ballou Senior High School gymnasium:
No one except longtime Ward 4 politico Norm Neverson gets that excited about this mayor.
Read the entire Loose Lips column here:

From's CITY LIGHTS page, here are a few early warnings for upcoming events:
FRIDAY: Gary Braasch: Polar Thaw--Global Warming in the Arctic and Antarctic, on view from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday, to Friday, June 30, at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1200 New York Ave. NW. Free.
SATURDAY: The Keyboard Meets Modern Technology, at the Ripley Center, in Room 3111, 1100 Jefferson Drive SW, and the National Museum of American History's Carmichael Auditorium, 14th and Constitution Avenue NW.
More details and more critics' picks are available online at


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