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May 3, 2000

Dead of the Night

Dear Voters:

Last night, while DC voters recovered from flooding to the polls (8.2 percent of the registered voters turned out, greatly beating the record 5.5 percent turnout in the 1997 election in which Linda Cropp was first elected Chairman of the City Council), Dorothy and I attended a dead-of-the-night meeting of the Board of Elections at which the Board set the date for the special election on school governance. On June 27, the DC government will pay about $370,000 to run a special election on the Mayor's and the City Council's proposed Charter Amendment to divide the Board of Education into two factions, one faction democratically elected by the people and the other faction appointed by the Mayor. The Board of Elections did its best to keep its meeting secret — it held the first evening meeting in its history, on the day of an election, and it announced the meeting only by a classified ad in The Washington Times that very morning and by posting the announcement on its web site. It passed an emergency resolution (when there was no real rationale for an emergency and no notice of the resolution in its ad) revising its regulations in order to make holding the special election legal, and then it set the June 27th date, adding the fourth election to be held in six months.

This action was well in line with the cynical contempt for the citizens that the Council and the Mayor have displayed on this issue. Their calculation is that in a special election, with limited publicity and no other issues to attract voters to the polls, enough citizens can be kept away from voting to allow the proposal for a divided School Board to pass. The tragedy is that they're probably right. They can win this vote if they keep the turnout low enough, but it will be a morally bankrupt victory.

The Mayor's initial argument for an all appointed Board of Education was that in his wisdom he would make much better appointments to the Board than the voters would ever elect. His record of appointments doesn't support that contention. Today, he announced the Presidential and Mayoral appointments to the National Capital Revitalization Corporation. The NCRC, as you remember, is a pseudo private corporation that was legislatively created to shield important economic development decisions from public scrutiny and review. All of the appointments announced today were representatives of special interests with a record of anti-neighborhood, anti-resident activities, including long-time Barry cronies and the real estate agent who leads George Washington University's efforts to buy up Foggy Bottom housing and drive residents out of the neighborhood. Fasten your seat belts; we're in for a bumpy ride.

Gary Imhoff


The Toy Democracy
Larry Seftor,

Every so often when I am walking around I see a toddler with a plastic toy camera. The idea, of course, is that the child wants to be like Mom and Dad, who are taking pictures. The parents know that the child can't understand a real camera, so they provide the toy, which for a small child works just fine. Unfortunately, democracy in the District is the same as that toy camera, and citizens who live in D.C. are treated like children. We have elections and we vote, and it really makes no difference at all. These are toy elections in a toy democracy. And despite Gary's suggestion that we take this past Tuesday's election seriously, and despite the fact that I personally have always voted in the past, this is all a charade and we do ourselves a disservice by being a party to it.


Shaun Snyder, Ward 3 Republican, Chevy Chase,

Michelle's belief that our turnout in an election will help us show others that we "deserve" voting representation in Congress is as ridiculous as Mayor William's belief that he could help us "earn" voting representation in Congress. We still have Washingtonians who don't understand that we deserve representation because we are Americans -- we don't need any other reasons.

And don't expect an Al Gore administration to actively pursue voting representation for the District. Why should they? They'd have to convince a skeptical American public, and for what? This city will give the Democrats its 3 electoral votes no matter what; they have no incentive to devote resources to securing votes that they already have locked up.


Taxation and Representation
Mike Livingston,

I know Ed Barron thinks we're a bunch of radical democracy freaks for insisting on the same basic political rights almost all other Americans take for granted, and for arguing that our colony, having participated in the American revolution, should not now be excluded from the spoils of that victory; but guess what? I'd be happy to pay my fair share to the federal government if I got something in return like everybody else — specifically, an equal voice in the body that collects and spends our taxes. I'm a shareholder in this country and I have an obvious right to be heard at the shareholders' meeting. Do advocates of D.C. tax relief also support Eduardo Burkhart's demand for a refund of all federal taxes collected from D.C. residents in the past?

Be careful here, neighbors. If we give up on representation and focus on taxation, our colony will be politically weaker than ever. (And representation alone will not correct the fact that other people's elected deputies — from Georgia, Texas, etc. — can overturn our most ordinary and democratically legitimate local decisions. That's why statehood is the only justice.)


Fighting DC Taxation
Donald Lief,

The Thompson-Williams piece in the Post was good, in not arguing about commuter taxes. That's not going to take place. Their analysis of constitutional references to states and taxation was the best I've seen. But, if there are no constitutional grounds for levying federal income taxes on DC residents, shouldn't the legislative history of the actual federal income tax be part of the discussion? It might be fruitful to research how DC was regarded at that time around 1913. If the language of the law relies on specific constitutional authority (I'm guessing it does) and that authority may not be applicable to DC, as the Post authors contend, one would assume that the DC government might bring suit, challenging federal income taxes' collection from residents, just as in Puerto Rico.

Such a suit would be considered directly by the Supreme Court which has jurisdiction in state-federal suits. Although the Court might ultimately rule against DC, the provocative discussion before and afterward would garner substantial media attention and, one hopes, develop a much more widespread national understanding of the unfairness — not to mention absurdities — inherent in DC's governance by outsiders.


Crucial Issues
Erica Nash,

“The Mayor intends to run for a second term in 2002 based on his new fund raising campaign. . . , the report cards are due in December… Let's make sure he is accountable for all his proposed and budgeted line-items.” That was the essence of Ed Barron's plea to us “listeners.” But, Ed, you gave me an example of the Mayor's poor management by outlining that he might not be able to plant 6000 trees, only 2500. I commend your investigative efforts, but what about focussing the investigation on where money for long-term care is going, ambulances, fire department, education, social work, after school programs. Please investigate and let me know about these crucial budget issues, not trees.

I read each themail the following way: I diligently read all the headline of each posting, the first paragraph, then decide if I have the time to finish reading right then or put it away for night reading. An article about DC votes, and what is wrong about it, usually captures my attention, and I read it through right then. On this day, I got to the end of the article about what is wrong with residents of DC having representation, and it says “Let's vote for no taxation (instead).” I was so amazed at the fact that someone could propose starting a “no-win” battle, that I was compelled to “page-up” and see who wrote it. Not to my surprise, it was Ed T. Barron. Come on, Ed, there is no way a national precedent will be set in DC; voting for no taxation is a waste of time.


Voting Rights Petition — E The People
Steve Leraris, Ward 4,

There's an online petition for DC Voting Rights — — go to “Most Recent Petitions” section.


Da Mayor on TV
Joan Eisenstodt,

Tried to watch it as an “outsider”/non-DC resident might view it. Even as a resident, I found myself liking Mayor Williams more than I thought I did. He's made mistakes but, as I travel the country, I find that so many cities have greater problems in general and with their elected leadership that I wonder if sometimes our perspective is skewed. We've had such a diversity of styles in our few mayors. Mayor Williams's is so different. On 60 Minutes, he came across as smart (albeit “nerdy,” but then I like that!) and willing to make the city better. Was my viewing wrong?


Traffic Cameras
G. Hanssen,

Dear Mayor Williams, I am impressed with the way you are correcting many problems of the District, and especially enjoyed your 60 Minutes piece. I do have a question, and will be brief. Last Saturday (29 April) I received a Default Notice from the Automated Traffic Enforcement group of the MPD, saying a ran a red light on 10 Feb. 2000 at 9:14 PM. The only thing right about the letter was my tag number, which is a 16-year-old second vehicle. I did not get the first notice they indicated was sent, and they enclosed no picture of my vehicle in the Default Notice. I was not, and my vehicle was not, in the District that night. I am 72, and was undergoing cancer radiation treatments that caused great fatigue and was in bed by 9:00 PM most of February. At my age, I avoid driving at night as well. The vehicle, a rear drive small pickup, was in our garage most of February because of the snow.

I called 289-7384 at 8:30 Mon, 1 May, and was told to leave my number and someone would call back. No one did. At noon I went to DC offices at 301 C St. After waiting in two long lines, I was told to go to the Traffic Adjudication Office at 65 K St. There the lady at the information desk sympathetically told me to write down the facts, which she put with a stack of other similar notices, and said not to worry about it.

This is serious business and I took it seriously. The Default Notice said I must pay the $150.00 fine by May 4, or I would be subject to license suspension and summary arrest if I drove in the District. Further, it threatened to notify Maryland DMV and have my MD licenses suspended. My question is, how can they make such a mistake that caused distress and the inconvenience of driving 25 miles to DC, finding a parking place (twice), only to learn that it appears to be a common occurrence?


DMV Update
Frank Pruss,

Well, I took my car into my mechanic last week, had them give it a thorough safety inspection, fixed a few minor problem areas, and added some more significant cosmetic repairs. Today, Monday, I went to Half Street at the “crack of dawn.” Well, I got in line at 5:50 AM, anyway. The line was wrapped around about two block lengths. Not too bad, I thought. I got out of the Inspection Station at 7:30 AM. My car was failed due to “exhaust leaking.” I immediately took it to my mechanic's shop. Two of their mechanics combed over the car and declared it perfectly fit.

At this moment I recalled that I had noticed that an unusual number of cars seemed to be getting “failed” stickers this morning. I called the Mayor's office and complained and then called Half Street and spoke to the supervisor. They both said there was nothing to do but bring the car back down and run it through again. I took the car down again at 5:00 PM. This time the line was about one and a half block lengths. Better, but ... Anyway, when I got to be “number one” at the stop sign inside the gate, about 5:30 PM, I talked to one of the inspectors and explained the situation. He took my car right to an empty bay. It seemed like a team leader spent about 15 minutes using my car to conduct a small “seminar” to three inspectors. Then they tested it. It passed. I got out of inspection station about 6:10 PM this time, having missed the wait time that comes after you get passed the internal stop sign.

Go figure, but to me it seems to open the door for a lot of fraud by unscrupulous repair shops.


Papers Served
Alvin M. Hattal,

Gabe Goldberg and James McLeod posted complaints about the Washington Post on April 30, and I'm sure their complaints were justified. But as a former denizen of Silver Spring and Potomac for a few decades — and whose hometown paper now is the Los Angeles Times -- well, I knew the Post, and the LA Times is no Post. The New York Times, Chicago Tribune and maybe a handful of other papers are in a league of their own. (By now I assume you've heard of the LAT's publisher's idiotic effort last fall to tear down the firewall between the editorial and advertising departments — and the resulting firestorm of protest from the writers and editors of the paper. David Shaw, the paper's media critic, has just won a National Journalism Award from the Society of Professional Journalists for his 14-page critique of the fiasco, which the editor was forced to publish. And now the LAT has been sold to the ChiTrib, which has named a new publisher and a new editor. This in a city several times larger than DC.)

Count your lucky stars.


Census Records
David Sobelsohn,

Should we take seriously the Census Bureau's report of response rate for this year's census? Someone from the Census Bureau knocked on my door earlier this week to ask me “a few questions. I told her I sent in my long form, questions answered, weeks ago. Oops! Is my experience common or an isolated error?


New Tag Slogan Is a Stupid Idea
Ron Eberhardt,

Just when you think you have heard every idiotic idea the District of Columbia is capable of coming up with, surprise! There is another one. The nutty and offensive idea to put the negative and politically motivated message, “Taxation Without Representation” on the license plate of those of us who live here is an idea whose time hopefully has not come. I have lived here for 20 years and have constantly been aghast by those who spend city resources and political capitol pushing this notion that is more symbolic and political then anything else. How dare the council or anyone else decide that such a divisive statement may be proclaimed for all. I for one will put tape over such an absurd and embarrassing statement if it becomes law. The District often enough looks absurd and out of touch to many Americans. Must we participate in another foolhardy notion? I hope not. This makes the old saying that Washington DC is “69 square miles of fantasy surrounded by reality” all the more real!


Fixing the Schools
Michael Bindner,

Nancy Henderson wrote that perhaps we need to fix the central administration, when commenting to Ed Barron's post that we need to hire well qualified principals. The question is then, how do we do both of these. Currently, in public school systems, the job of principal is a stepping stone to a job in the central administration. This is the crux of the problem. Principal should be the end job. Perhaps the answer is to dismantle as much of the central administration as possible, either by abolishing it or by decentralizing it to the individual schools.

I remember when I was on the Mayor's staff and the Children's Defense Fund donated five playgrounds to the schools. The principals did not have the facilities information for the playgrounds; it had to come from the central office. Perhaps facilities for each school, with facilities staff, should be reporting to the principal.

The principal could then be accountable to an individual school board made up of three parents (one of which could be out of boundary), the ANC commissioner where the school is located and the NEA shop steward. High Schools would have two parent reps (one in boundary, one out of boundary) and a student member. The Archdiocese of Washington (which includes suburban Maryland) has six people in their school administration, with empowered principals and boards for each school. This, more than the right to reject students (which Catholic schools don't do — all parish kids go) is why they are so successful. Perhaps DCPS might follow their lead.


A Lesson Not Learned
Ed T. Barron,

The schools in Kansas City, Missouri have lost their accreditation and will be taken over by the State of Missouri. Despite pouring almost $2B (with a capital B) into making the schools showplaces, the graduation rate was only fifty percent from the city's schools, and the reading level of graduates is at the third grade level. Well, we have some of those same unsuccessful schools right here in D.C. Who will take away their accreditation? Who will intervene on behalf of the students to see that they get a decent education?

And what about the results of pouring all that money into the schools? Wasted money, since the kids got no better education than before the schools were made into palaces. What makes the educational processes work are good teachers, good administrators, and good support at students' homes for a decent education. That's the kind of reform that is needed in the DCPS. The Mayor should take a very close look at just how the added $85M will be spent in the DCPS. If that money will bring in good classroom teachers then that is a start. An even better approach would be to find ways of getting more parental involvement in the education process in those schools that are doing poorly.


Police Conduct
Todd Hettenbach,

Dear Mayor Williams: I had a terrible experience downtown last weekend that I wanted to share with you. On Sunday morning, after hearing days of hype regarding the World Bank/IMF demonstrations, I took a trip downtown to learn more about the protests and the controversy surrounding the World Bank. Some time between 11:00 and 12:00, I was sitting on the grass at the corner of 15th and Pennsylvania when I noticed a number of buses filled with MPD officers in riot gear approaching. The officers were slowly arranged into lines of 10 or more officers wide and a few deep standing shoulder to shoulder. I had a feeling that something bad was approaching but was not prepared for what happened next. After an order was given, the officers marched down the street in formation. When five young kids stood in their way, the dozens of officers did not slow their pace or attempt to remove the protesters. Instead, they kept marching, threw the people to the ground, and proceeded to march over them. At the same time, officers on motorcycles cleared the sides of the street by, in some cases, using their cycles to push pedestrians and bicyclists out of the way. The line of officers kept marching, turned the corner up 15th Street, and eventually cleared protesters away from the police barricade that was blocking the street. I saw a number of people lying on the ground after this confrontation, including an older Asian man whose only crime seemed to be that he was photographing the incident.

To MPD's credit, serious abuse on the parts of individual officers was limited; however, I am quite disturbed that these officers were directed into such a violent confrontation in the first place. The protesters did not pose a threat to any officers or pedestrians prior to the assault. These were not “anarchists” or any other violent group that we heard about on TV. They were merely kids standing in the street, and I thank God that none of them fought back against the police. If the protesters were breaking the law by standing in the middle of the street, then I believe that the proper response should have been to arrest (if necessary) and to remove them from the street peacefully.

I did not go down to the Mall to participate in the protests; however, I fully supported the right of peaceful assembly. Chief Ramsey's statements before and after last weekend suggest that he also supports this right. That is why I am concerned that somebody at MPD ordered a relatively violent confrontation with peaceful protesters. That example of poor judgment has left me feeling uneasy about my city's police department. To allay my concerns, I hope that you can supply me with the following information:

1. Whose decision was it to line up dozens of officers and confront the passive protesters in a relatively violent fashion. 2. How was this conflict justified. 3. What actions are being taken to ensure that situations like this are not repeated in the future.

According to the news reports that I saw, it appears that MPD performed in an admirable fashion. It is possible that I witnessed the only act of unnecessary violence; however, I can't remove the image of that confrontation from my mind. I have forwarded this letter to my council representative, Mrs. Patterson, and to Mr. Brazil, the chair of the Judiciary Committee. Thank you very much.

I sent the above note to Mayor Williams and Councilmembers Patterson and Brazil on April 23. Mrs. Patterson wrote back and said that she is trying to get the Council to hold hearings on the subject. I still have not heard back from either Mayor Williams or Councilmember Brazil.


Suzanne Kramer,

We have an infestation of caterpillars this year. They are about two inches long, brown and everywhere (I just swept up about 20 crawling on the front porch). Does anyone know what they are and why so many this year? Are they tent worms? Thanks for any information.


Gypsy Moths! Arrggghhh!
Stuart Weiser,

Here in N. Cleveland Park (Van Ness and 37, to be exact), we suddenly have a plague of gypsy moth caterpillars. I know from having lived on Long Island, NY, as a child that these buggers devastate trees. I moved to the neighborhood in the summer last year, so I don't know if this is a new phenomenon. Does anybody know if the city is doing anything about this (he says, knowing what the answer is likely to be), and if not, whom I should contact? Is there anything I can do on my own property at least?



Men on the Verge of a His-panic Breakdown
Mark Richards, Dupont East, mark@bisconticom

For an entertaining trip to the ‘burbs, check out “Men on the Verge of a His-panic Breakdown,” presented by Round House Theater,, through May 14th. Actor Daniel Luna, a good friend (from DC, via Seattle, now living in NY), performs this one-man show of first-person monologues by different characters — a combination of comedy and tragedy related to immigration, race, gender, sexual identify. Monologues include: The Gay Little Immigrant That Could; Goodbye to Sugar Daddy; Hispanically Correct; Federico Writes Again; Castro's Queen; ESL: English as a Stressful Language; Drag Flamenco; Epilogue — The Marriage of Federico. I saw the show Sunday evening — great! Covers a lot of bases/issues, lots of laughs. Tel. 301-933-1644 for tickets. It's a short cab ride from Silver Spring or Wheaton Metro. Near Connecticut at Veirs Mill Road. PS — Tell Daniel Luna you're waiting for his DC monologues.


Hearst Elementary School Auction, Saturday May 20
Sue Bell,

Hearst Elementary School, a DC public school located near Tenleytown, is holding its annual auction Saturday May 20th at Fannie Mae on 3900 Wisconsin Avenue from 6:30-10:30 pm. Join us for live music, food, beverages while you bid on great auction items. Great deals to be had on tickets to theater performances, sporting events, getaway weekend packages, and all sorts of children's activities from swimming and gymnastic lessons to free passes to King's Dominion. All proceeds benefit the Hearst PTA, which helps support our music, art, science and (new) Spanish program. Call Sue at 244-4595 or E-mail for additional information or advance tickets.


Wilson High School Book Sale

Book lovers! Come to the Wilson SHS book sale on Saturday, May 13, from 10 am to 4 pm. Nebraska and Chesapeake Streets, NW, Tenleytown Metro. Huge supply of books. Refreshments sold. From noon to 1 PM, there will be student performances of music and reading. Proceeds to benefit the Wilson Peaceable Schools Initiative.


Y’All Come
Philip Blair,

Everybody is invited to the Oyster Bilingual Elementary School's annual FIESTA! Noon until 4 p.m., Saturday, May 6. The place is not Calvert Street, the site of the old building, and of the new building under construction. Instead, Oyster is located this year at the K.C. Lewis School at 300 Bryant Street, NW, just south of the Howard University campus. There will be an auction, great food, recreation for the kids, and entertainment. You can also see a great school community in action — the staff, teachers, parents, neighbors and, of course, the kids themselves. (A bilingual kid is one who does not do as he is told in two languages.) The Oyster program is recognized as an international model of what bilingual education should be: it is high time to build on this DCPS success and replicate the school.


May 6 Rummage Sale at Eastern Market
Mark Eckenwiler,

On Saturday, May 6, 2000, St. James's Parish on Capitol Hill will hold a Rummage Sale from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Location: Antiques on the Hill, 7th and North Carolina, SE (north end of Eastern Market). Items include clothing, furniture, books, rugs, and bric-a-brac.



Investigator to Assist Attorney
James McLeod,

Person interested in criminal justice field to work as investigator to assist attorney(s) representing indigent persons accused of crimes. $10/hour plus expenses. Work involves going to all parts of the city (and thus having a car is desirable).



Sub-Lease Needed
David Hunter,

Looking for someone to sublease furnished room in house May 1 through August 31 to share with female, professional Hill staffer. Near Chevy Chase Circle DC (Tennyson and Utah Street). Fantastic quiet neighborhood near Rock Creek Park. Bus line goes next to the house right to Tenleytown Metro. Walk to Friendship Heights Metro. House is charming Tudor style, rent 750.00 plus utilities Call Robin Schepper at 244-0322, or E-mail for more info.



Listserv for the Meetings Industry
Joan Eisenstodt,

If you are, or have a staff member or know someone, who is, involved in planning and managing meetings, recommend — a free, international listserv for those in the meetings industry. I'm the “Listmistress” who helps guide discussions.


Apartment Cleaner Sought
David Sobelsohn,

I'm looking for a cleaning person or cleaning service to clean my SW DC apartment, preferably with their own equipment. Please respond to me directly. [And, as always, when you have a good recommendation, please send it to themail, too. — Gary Imhoff]


Dave Nuttycombe,

From's LOOSE LIPS column, appearing this Friday:
WARD HEALER: Ward 4 Councilmember Charlene Drew Jarvis has learned many precious political skills in her 20-plus years on the D.C. Council: how to say yes to every big-time developer in town; how to hit up political friends for donations to Southeastern University, where she is the sitting president; and how to cultivate allies in city government.
No surprise, then, that as soon as Mayor Anthony A. Williams was inaugurated in January 1999, Jarvis began acting like a lifelong supporter of the short-timer.
Now, though, Jarvis is about to learn a lesson about mayoral gratitude towards allies: There isn't much of it.
Read the entire Loose Lips column here:

From's CITY LIGHTS page, here are a few early warnings for upcoming events:
FRIDAY: Sidney Perkowitz lectures on “Galaxies, Beer, and Baked Alaska: The Science of Foams,” at 3:30 p.m. at the Goddard Space Flight Center's Building Three Auditorium, 8800 Greenbelt Road, Greenbelt. Free.
WEDNESDAY: Paul Beatty reads from and signs copies of Tuff at 7 p.m. at Vertigo Books, 7346 Baltimore Ave., College Park. Free.
More details and more critics' picks are available online at


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