themail.gif (3487 bytes)

June 25, 2000

Teach Your Children Well

Dear Teachers:

It's all about the children, and what we teach them, say Mayor Williams, Council Chairman Cropp, and Delegate Holmes-Norton. Here is the lesson that these three want to teach our children: “Democracy is just an option, one among many ways of governing. When democracy doesn't work smoothly (and it will never work smoothly), abandon it. When elected officials squabble and behave badly (and they will always squabble and behave badly), replace them with appointed officials who will be more amenable and compliant to the powerful. When the people don't choose good representatives democratically [and who is in a better position to judge that than Mayor Williams, Council Chairman Cropp, and Delegate Holmes-Norton?], eliminate the people from the decision making process.

“Democratically elected school boards work well almost everywhere else in the United States. But we must teach our children that as citizens of the District of Columbia they are incapable of making the democratic choices that other citizens make as a routine part of their lives. We must teach our children that other, more capable and wiser people — who have proven their worth by becoming dot-com millionaires and by underwriting a campaign to undermine the District's democracy — are better suited to make those choices for them.”

On Tuesday, teach your children well and, if you are so inclined, teach your “leaders” a lesson in democracy as well.

Gary Imhoff


Another Reason to Vote “No” on the June 27th Referendum
Helen Hagerty,

I just read the article in the Post about delaying the tally of school votes. Did anyone catch the fact that before the council's final vote, “the council added language saying that after four years, the council — without another referendum — would decide whether to maintain the same school board structure or alter it.”

When did citizens have an opportunity to comment? When were we going to find out? How unbelievably sneaky of the council to try to slip this one by us. Parents should be especially outraged that the council would attempt to be the sole deciders of the school board structure. We would then have no say whatsoever in the structure of our school board. What an outrage! We must vote “NO” on Tuesday.


Focus Should be on How to Improve our Schools
Jim McLeod,

At the ANC-2A meeting June 21st, there was a representative of DC Appleseed who talked about the School Board Referendum. His comment about the problem with ward members of the school board being more focused on their own wards and not necessarily what's best for the city as a whole, caused me to ask a couple of questions. One, when the Appleseed group studied the City Council, did they find the same problem? Two, in their review of the school board, did they go back and ask those who created it why they structured it the way they did? (A couple of years ago, I discovered that a Professor of mine from long ago, Peter Teachout, was one of the drafters of the legislation that created the school board.)

His answer to my first question — that their study on the Council was focused on how they could improve the legislative process and didn't look at the question of restructuring the composition of the Council, made me wonder (1) why they seemed to first look at the structure of the currently powerless school board, and (2) underscored that this referendum is not focused on how our schools can specifically be improved. And, strangely, his answer to my second question was that, no, they didn't look at the initiating legislation because they didn't see a flaw in how the school board was originally formulated.


Notes on the 6/21 School Board Meeting
Anthony Watts,

A few notes: 1) This was the last official meeting of the Board before the July/August recess. The SB bid farewell to Arlene Ackerman. Most members had more or less positive things to say. However, unless I am sorely mistaken, Westy Byrd said nothing about Ms. Ackerman one way or another; she simply abstained from speaking. Also, Gail Dixon was absent for the duration of the meeting; her absence was not explained. 2) Wilma Harvey officially announced that she would not seek reelection to the SB. 3) Ackerman announced a long list of schools that met 4 of 6, 5 of 6, or 6 of 6 yearly academic goals — goals set, I assume, by the Superintendent's office. (She did not specify the nature of those goals.) Interestingly, one school that did not make the list was Banneker High, supposedly a flagship high school that many have said is the best public school (at any grade level) in D.C. I would be interested if Banneker did not meet its goals because they were set very high, given the past academic success of students there, or because Banneker students are performing below past levels of success. 4) SB member Bonham attempted to get the SB to write a letter supporting the efforts of a community group operating in his ward. Several members indicated that Bonham was operating contrary to SB procedure (i.e., the matter should have been placed before the proper SB committee). A few members also said that they felt the info given about the group was incomplete. Bonham downplayed the first criticism and denied the second. 5) Several speakers made impassioned speeches to the effect that D.C. should adapt an Afro-centric curriculum (or at the very least, a curriculum that went beyond “mere” multiculturalism, and into the realm of very strong emphasis on African history and affairs). 6) At the end of the meeting, SB member Lockridge gave an impassioned (some might say unnecessarily harsh) speech to the cameras, to the effect that the upcoming referendum on SB structure was undemocratic and something of an insult. 7) After the meeting, I received a copy of the SB Transition Report (the report that the SB was mandated to complete as a condition of transferal of full power back to the SB). I may post about this later, but this is a document that folks should get a hold of as soon as they possibly can.

Any comments or corrections pertaining to this overview are welcome and encouraged. On another note: does anyone know what disgraced former Super. Franklin Smith is doing now? Despite massive moral, ethical, and legal problems with his tenure in D.C. (see the 5-part series in the Post that was published some years ago), the man was given a free pass to leave the city without so much as a slap on the wrist. Just wondering if he's managed to mask his incompetence and pull in big bucks elsewhere.

[Gail Dixon was at the Green Party national convention; see Mark Richards's posting below. — Gary Imhoff]


School Board Referendum
Richard Steacy,

I'll be voting “Yes” on Tuesday. The existing system has not worked. At all. It's time to try something new. This is it. Let's try it. Maybe by combining ward seats, candidates and members will be forced to reach out to a broader constituency. My one regret is that Wards 8 & 3 aren't combined! Maybe by having appointees — appointed by an elected mayor and approved by an elected city council — some professional voices will be added to future debates and solutions instead of mere emotion and politicking. Maybe having an elected board president will strengthen voters' say in the board's leadership. Maybe none of this will happen, necessitating another change four years from now. Nothing is or will be carved into stone. I would rather see something new attempted than continue preserving a status quo that has not worked. This new board will not be undemocratic. Different; but not undemocratic. Scare tactics disguised as arguments, proclaiming a threat to representative government in DC if the referendum passes, are inaccurate. If anything, board members will be subject to extra vetting prior to taking their seats. The People will be represented. Perhaps better. We the voters have to help take charge of our School Board. We can do that by voting on Tuesday; voting “Yes”; and following the elections, appointments and performance of our future board.


School Board Referendum
Ed T. Barron,

Although the chances of me being selected for one of the "appointed" (anointed?) spots on the hybrid School Board are somewhere between slim and none, I will vote YES on this referendum next Tuesday. My reason is that it is the lesser of two evils. I don't believe that voting down the referendum will do anything except continue the chaos that exists in the policy making oversight of the DCPS by the current elected School Board. I am willing to try most anything at least once and the hybrid Board might just work out.


Don’t Look Now, But.....
Len Sullivan,

That good ole, messy, wonderfully human, democracy! Isn't it time to take a look at the wasted human lives dribbling through the cracks while we play at partisan politics? Thousands more kids each year are doomed to be mired for life in a dispirited underclass while we twitter in the grandstands about license plate slogans. Looking for live people to hit up for reparations for entrapment? Try DC's voters and non-voters in 30 years of local school board elections.

(What are reparations? That's what DC law firms now pay DC's freely elected Council members to make up for their poor job performance.)


Frustration at Gap in After Hours Social Services
Sue Bell,

Last night I learned that the services for homeless/mentally disturbed people are extremely difficult to access if someone happens to need assistance after regular working hours. And the police are not able or willing to provide any help or suggestions. At about 6:30 a woman (let's call her Debbie) was walking down our street, obviously in need of help. She was confused, hot, hungry, and thirsty. The immediate problem was that Debbie needed to call her mother and, luckily, knew the number to reach her. When it became apparent through their conversation that her mother was unable or unwilling to help her, I talked to her mother and learned that Debbie had not taken her medicine for schizophrenia and had left the shelter where she was staying. Her mother told me that she wasn't supposed to allow Debbie to come home and provided me with Sister Barbara's name thinking Sister Barbara could come pick her up or direct her to a place for the night.

Sister Barbara was on her way out to minister to someone else and told me that the woman had been staying at the Open Door Shelter. She told me to send Debbie back there and she was hopeful that they would take her. On that, my neighbor and I were reluctant to send her to a shelter without any confirmation that she would have a place to sleep. The condensed version is that directory assistance had no street address or phone number for an Open Door shelter but they did have a listing for what sounded like a ministry with a similar name. But we only got a voice mail. Thinking of St. Columba's outreach program, we called three numbers there only to get voice mails. We called St. Luke's men's shelter in Glover Park but only got voice mails. We called the non-emergency police number and was told they couldn't help, and they referred me to a “Community Service” phone number at which there was only a voice mail.

The good news is that Debbie was capable of verifying the shelter address where she had spent the previous night and believed that she could direct the cab driver to the approximate address provided by Sister Barbara. We gave her some food, paid the cab driver to take her to the shelter and said good-bye. The bad news is that if this had happened to someone with more diminished mental capacity we would have been in trouble. Does anyone have any suggestions?


Something Missing . . . Let's See. . . .
Jean Lawrence,

After four long years baking away in Arizona, I snuck back into Washington a week ago and hung out for a spell. It was during that ungodly humid weekend — you remember. People kept saying, “Isn't Arizona pretty hot?” You people could eat our lunch! Secondly, my hotel, the Marriott Wardman Park (nee Sheraton) decided my room would be $119 on the weekend, but leap to $240 for the weekdays! Very tourist-friendly, people! I switched to the Day's Inn, which had awesome water pressure though was less frou-frou. (I concluded that Washington doesn't work for me anymore without an apartment.) So, overall, how did I find the joint? After a day or so walking around in Cleveland Park, it dawned on me that something was missing . . . panhandlers! I wasn't annoyed once! What did you do with them? Not that I am complaining. Overall score: My beloved Washington, home for 35 years, about a 6. It was an epiphany to realize that AZ is home now.


The Moron Strikes Again
Lorie Leavy,

Outrageous, irresponsible comments are nothing new from Rep. James Moran. In case anyone has forgotten, just a year or so ago he publicly commented, in the context of rush-hour traffic disruptions, that D.C. residents suffer no great inconvenience as they can merely pop into their favorite local watering holes to wait out any delay, whereas Rep. Moran's more highly evolved constituents have actual adult lives and responsibilities such as picking up children from daycare or driving them to after-school activities. As a result of that episode, I promised myself I would write a check to any Democratic opponent he faced in the next election. I can't bring myself to do the same for his Republican opponent, who rather sleazily attempted to make political and racial hay out of Rep. Moran's recent perplexing run-in with one of his younger constituents.


Kudos to Statehood Greens
Mark Richards, Dupont East,

I am very proud of the Statehood Greens for their cross country Freedom Ride and for informing other Green delegates at the Convention about D.C. issues (I listened to the convention on C-Span). I look forward to seeing what delegates to the other party conventions do. I find people to be shocked to find out that D.C. pays very high amounts in both federal and District (“equivalent to state”) taxes, but does not have a say in one and control over the other. This comes as a shock — they understand the problem without explanation.


DC Jail Agrees Not to Destroy Identification Documents
E. James Lieberman,

As reported in the City Paper (Annys Shin, Apr. 28 and June 8, 2000), DC Corrections (Odie Washington, Director) had a policy of destroying inmates' property, including ID (social security card, driver's license, non-drivers' id., birth certificate) if not picked up within fifteen days of incarceration. Many homeless individuals had no one to do this, and no place to send them. Social agencies, notably Volunteer Assistance Corps (VAC, at Chevy Chase Presbyterian Church), had to devote time and money to replacing these items when the inmates were released and looking for work — you cannot get a job without ID. Carol Lieberman, Director of VAC, first wrote Mr. Washington in June 1999; he promised to review the policy but justified it on grounds of storage space! Nothing more was heard; she wrote again in November. Things got moving with an April meeting on halfway houses. Annys Shin wrote a fine article in the CP, and the policy on inmate properly was changed, effective May 22, 2000. Carol is convinced that the City Paper article made the difference. She had spoken with a Washington Post reporter but only a generic sentence on the problem appeared, and no mention so far of the change.

Here's an example of how an awful DC policy got changed, thanks to the City Paper.


Death Penalty Non-Debate
John Whiteside,

Ron Eberhardt writes, in response to several writers (including me) that he's suggesting an approach to crime that has never worked, complains, “So, instead of debating the value of the death penalty, then lets just say that some of us believe that if you callously take the life of another person that you lose your life. It makes some of us feel better, ok? At minimum it reduces the amount of tax money spent to re-catch, prosecute and jail these barbarians.” That's exactly how I feel about red light runners. So can we start executing them too?

If Mr. Eberhardt wants a serious discussion of the death penalty, he should try getting it started by sharing some evidence that it would make DC safer, rather than non sequiturs.


Death Penalty II
Ms. Dorothy Persiflage,

Mr. Ron Eberhardt wrote three issues ago asking the excellent question, “How many more senseless murders must occur in the District before its liberal thinking population rethinks the death penalty? As expected, two writers responded espousing the same tired thoughts including no proof of reduction in crime, and that we ought to get at the root of these problems — in other words NO real solutions, lets keep the status quo -- mayhem.”

Ms. Persiflage deeply shares Mr. Eberhardt's frustration with the District's ideological paralysis — akin to a deer in the headlights — in facing the facts (see Mr. Lott's “More Guns, Less Crime”) and increasing evidence with respect to the best way to deal with capital crimes, punishments, and guns. But she firmly believes that Mr. Eberhardt at least deserves an answer to his question. By Ms. P's reckoning it will require 100,000 senseless deaths, or about a third of the random population, to get the community off the dime and to take effective action. On the other hand, if the senseless deaths should turn out to be over-represented in the liberal-thinking community itself, that number would of course drop.

Such crimes may drop when the District has an efficient death penalty, but significantly so only with the expansion of Second Amendment rights to its citizens, including lawful concealed carry. The obvious facts on this are there for anyone with common sense and an open mind. Ms. P's view on — and hopes for — the future proper course for this city was somewhat fortified several years ago when a true liberal such as Carl Rowan ably defended his DC home against some skinny-dipping kids by shooting one of them with the loaded handgun he kept handy for just such purposes. That suggested to Ms. Persiflage that buried somewhere in even the most deeply non-Euclidean liberal and politically correct mind set, there may actually lurk an ounce of common sense. At least when their own self-defense is at stake. And therefore, Mr. Eberhardt, take courage, there is cause for hope that one day such self-defense privileges will be extended to the rest of us. A tout ta' Do


Death Penalty III
Peggy Robin,

Ron Eberhardt writes that it makes him “feel better” to know that murdering scum get put to death. Sure, and it would probably make him feel even better if he knew that they'd be drawn and quartered, but as a society we hope to move beyond barbarism. Do we really want punishments set to satisfy our lowest emotions? How does that make us any different from the criminals' way of thinking? Eberhardt suggests that some criminals may “think twice” about committing a murder out of fear of the death penalty. Just the opposite seems to be the case: the death penalty contributes to a general cheapening of life; the message the criminals get is that it's a kill-or-be-killed world, and that the strong and powerful can kill with impunity. Risking execution seems like a brave thing to some twisted minds. On the other hand, having to spend the rest of your life confined to a little box seems like a horrible punishment. One final point: if the state makes a mistake and prosecutes the wrong person for murder, we can always correct the mistake by freeing the person. How many of you who live in D.C. trust our government never to make a serious mistake?



Great Exhibit
Ed T. Barron,

The Corcoran Museum has a dynamite Norman Rockwell exhibit with a slew of his paintings and all of the Saturday Evening Post covers that he illustrated over a fifty-year period. The prolific Rockwell, more than any other American artist that I have seen, captures the spirit, emotions and culture of Americana in this extensive exhibit which is open until 24 September. For same day tickets it costs 8 bucks for seniors during the week. There was hardly anyone there this past Friday morning when the museum opened at 9:30 AM. The museum is open until 9 PM on Thursday evenings. Time of entry tickets can be purchased ahead of the day you want to attend via the normal ticket ordering places by phone (at an extra charge).



Mariuccia Marolo,

1996 Volkswagen GT VR6. Windsor blue black leather interior, 32.5K miles, two alarm systems, stereo, sun roof, great shape. Must sell. $16,000. Call 237-1019.


Linda Clausen,

Four-piece dark wood Drexel Esperanto bedroom set: high bureau, long bureau, king size headboard and night table. Great space, heavy solid furniture. The knobs will have to be changed as a couple are broken. That is why I am selling all for $250. Dark solid wood Spanish style wine chest with closed bottom and spirals spaced across the top so top is partially open. Hard to describe, but attractive piece of furniture and storage, $300. Medium wood computer cabinet, storage for
computer and monitor with door to close them off, $130. Metal table and four chairs that need sanding, painting and seat covering (easy), $75. E-mail Linda at



Carpenter/General Contractor Needed
Josh Gibson, Adams Morgan,

Adams Morgan business owner seeks talented carpenter/general contractor for renovation work. Must be able to work independently with little supervision. Please contact Josh Gibson at with any recommendations, which will then be passed on to the business owner (I'm posting on his behalf as a favor.)


A Home Doctor Par Excellence
Deborah C. Fort,

I would like to recommend carpenter and handyman Marcotulio Orellana and his company “The Home Doctor.” (301) 942-7768. Cell phone. (240) 604-4742. Marcos finished our restoration begun by a crooked contractor and half finished by his nice subcontractors until they too walked off the job. Marcos and his staff comes with twenty years of local recommendations; he gives fair, firm estimates free; his work is done quickly and well.


Help Us Pick the Scariest Spots in D.C.
Jim Myers,

We are a small promotional group hoping to break into big time adventure tourism with tours that combine the thrill of danger with the allure of exotic locales most tourists never get to see. Also, we note that Washington, D.C., still lacks a must attraction for a world-class tourist destination: a good thrill ride.

For our upcoming adventure tour, “D.C. Down & Deadly,” we plan a guided drive-by of the top drug markets and notorious crime scenes in Our Nation's Capitol. We will send our buses far off the conventional tourist trail into hidden Washington realities like: 1) “Smell the fresh reefer/PCP smoke outside the Syphax, James Creek and Greenleaf projects in Southwest!” 2) “Hear the bullets whiz by in the lawless crack and heroin fiefdoms on Eastern Capitol Hill!” 3) “Witness the wreckage of Orleans Street, where the young Rayful Edmond III got his start!”

We also plan a special discount for police and D.C. officials, so they, too, can learn about their city. But first, we need your help in picking the “Ten Scariest Spots in D.C.” that our officials should visit. Forward nominations — or Ten Scariest lists — to Serious replies only, please. An official “Ten Scariest Spots in D.C.” list will be announced in August.


themail@dcwatch is an E-mail discussion forum that is published every Wednesday and Sunday. To subscribe, to change E-mail addresses, or to switch between HTML and plain text versions of themail, use the subscription form at To unsubscribe, send an E-mail message to with “unsubscribe” in the subject line. Archives of past messages are available at

All postings should also be submitted to, and should be about life, government, or politics in the District of Columbia in one way or another. All postings must be signed in order to be printed, and messages should be reasonably short — one or two brief paragraphs would be ideal — so that as many messages as possible can be put into each mailing.

Send mail with questions or comments to
Web site copyright ©DCWatch (ISSN 1546-4296)