Enough rhetoric, already. I'm all out of fruitless exhortations, for now
at least. How do you recommend that those of us who are staying in town celebrate the
Fourth of July? Does anybody suggest going to the Mall for the fireworks or (as Yogi Berra
said) does no one go there anymore because it's too crowded?
The Triviality of the Referendum
Harold Goldstein, email@example.com
I have read and read, the various pros and cons concerning this absurd
referendum. But today, in the Sunday Post, I read an article (teacher
certification rules in VA) with which is infinitely more important than this meaningless
referendum and the political bickering it has engendered. After all, it is about educating
the kids of the city, isn't it? So why doesn't anyone focus on that issue? I've seen a few
mentions of the fact that there is no evidence that the make-up of a school board, be it
hybrid, appointed, or elected is any indication of the quality of the school system or the
quality of its product. And, that being the case, this boils down to purely political
If the people here, and elsewhere, have the time and wherewithal to write
reams about the political significance of this election, sue to stop the election, spend
money to support the election, were to ask instead what they can do to get rid of the
gross incompetents that prevent the school system from working, of the stupidities that
exist in our school system as in others concerning the issues in that article as well as
other issues, then something real would be happening.
I would vote no on Tuesday, if I had the time and inclination, simply
because it implies that somehow, if his royal mayor would make appointments all would be
better. We all know that whether elected or appointed these people are political animals
and are beholding to some interests. Another example of the sham that is Mayor Williams.
For him to imply that he (and all that follow him) will appoint professional educators
that do the best for the system and not for themselves asks us to ignore all common sense.
But vote yes or no and realize that in terms of the kids who are the victims of this
school system it does not really matter. They are being defrauded out of a decent
education, and they are the losers in this election no matter what the result.
Let Them Eat Cake
T. Jr. Hardman Rockville, MD, firstname.lastname@example.org
Len Sullivan, email@example.com,
wrote: 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. I swear,
Mister Sullivan, you may always be counted upon to hit the nail square on the head.
What is it about this town? People would, one would hope, have grand
visions and get with the whole spirit of the place as the Capital of a great nation and
potentially the Planetary Capital. But there must be something in the water that gives a
mean spirit; I've seen so many come here with grand ideals and leave disillusioned by the
pettiness of it all, and more so by the vigor with which the locals will bring
exceptionally large guns to bear to achieve their small aims. The best lack all
conviction, and in the worst, a passionate intensity to quote the poet. But
paraphrase that to and in the activist, a trifling pettiness and I think it
would apply. I just wish the folks would wise up and stop patting themselves on the back
about how much has been done for the District; we've got bigger problems here, which are
best described with a riddle: what do you get when you do a million dollars worth of
plastic surgery on an aged prostitute? You get a reasonably attractive
As you say above, it's time to go beyond matters of pride and cosmetics,
the fundament remains rotten and that fundament is the general public's public school
education. Without a first-rate education to be had by all, the District is doomed to
failure and in a less remediable manner than the doom from unfunded mandates one
could (and we have done so) throw money at the unfunded mandate and the financial damage
that caused, and it will heal pretty quickly. But it takes a generation's passing to fix a
generation's worth of non education.
Democracy is three wolves and a lamb taking a vote on what to have for
lunch. It is inherently flawed and the USA is founded on a system that tries to avoid it.
If we fail to teach this elementary political lesson to our children, then we have only
ourselves to blame for the results. That said, I'm not yet convinced that the proposed
solution to this inherent defect in our School Board's selection process will
be fixed by the Mayor's proposal.
The problem as I see it is the School Board has, for a variety of reasons,
become a forum for political agendas remote from assuring competent provision of
educational services to the children of DC. In fact, it would seem that, for the current
board, the education of the children of DC is the ONLY thing they are NOT interested in. I
don't see how this proposal addresses this core problem. I don't buy the argument that
because this Board is failure, then ANY change in the selection process must be good. The
cure CAN be worse than the disease. I think the current proposal will produce
a near gridlock. There will be years of struggle focused solely on which members are
the REAL board rather than on addressing the problems in our schools. In the
meantime, the lives of the children in DC will continue to be sacrificed on the altar of
I'd like to see proposals that make the Board positions unpaid (or
nominally paid, to cover expenses), and proposals that limit the scope of the issues that
the Board can address. These are more important, in my view, than the selection process
used to determine membership.
With all due respect for Mr. Imhoff's fervor in expressing his opinions, I
found his diatribe against our elected officials, and his oversimplified
lessons about democracy, to be well beyond the pale. Democracy is a tough and
pliable form of government whose success is not measured by counting elected officials. It
includes a set of checks and balances that make it the best form of government devised to
date, but it obliges its constituents to act with some level of prudence and decorum to
maintain that equilibrium. It has mechanisms for change, and change is basic to
maintaining viability. It may involve squabbling, but it surely doesn't have to tolerate
bad behavior indefinitely.
Democracy does not oblige its citizens to ignore failure, accept
mediocrity, or keep electing officials they don't trust. It does not require that what
works best in one area will work equally well in another. The search for what's best for
the people and their kids will often require going beyond individual
neighborhoods or local people willing to seek public office (in the face of such demagogic
abuse). And I see little point in denigrating successful professionals who make more or
know more than I do: I pressed my kids to do both. Beware of anarchists and ideologues
dressed in a cloak of false democratic sanctimony.
Having properly and successfully taken the mayor to task for his
inappropriate use of government resources to influence a decidedly political election, I
wonder if DCWatch's watchdogs of propriety intend to challenge the tax-exempt status of
local churches that used their pulpits to influence the same political election.
[Does Mr. Sullivan want to challenge the tax-exempt status of local
churches whose ministers opposed the referendum, such as the Missionary Baptist Ministers
of those whose ministers supported the referendum by passing out the flyers distributed to
them by the director of the Mayor's Office of Religious Affairs (http://www.dcwatch.com/election2000/charter7.htm),
or of both? I don't generally support attacking the tax-exempt status of churches because
it is a tactic selectively applied by governments against religious bodies that oppose
them. If you could guarantee me that a government would even-handedly pull tax-exempt
status from both Martin Luther King and Pat Robertson, and not just from one or the other,
I might be convinced to go along. Gary Imhoff]
Dear DCRA: I've been informed that your agency is responsible for
enforcing the DC Board of Elections & Ethics rules which prohibit the placing of
campaign posters on traffic lights (see below, which are from www.dcboee.org). I would
like for your agency to do this enforcement. There are posters along Mass. Ave., NW (5th,
6th. St.) and near Union Station, Thomas Circle, 13th & U St., NW. These are only a
108.1 No person shall affix a sign, advertisement or poster to any public
street light or traffic signal, except as provided in accordance with this section.
108.9 Signs and posters shall not be affixed by adhesives that prevent their complete
removal from the fixture, or that do damage to the fixture. (It is illegal to use tape in
affixing signs to lampposts.)
If you have any questions feel free to contact me.
Whats the Measure of Police Performance
Eddie Becker, firstname.lastname@example.org
Reports in this discussion group on the DC police reluctance to file crime
reports, got me to thinking that perhaps the crime statistics that measure the rate at
which crime is reported might not be the best way to evaluate police effectiveness. A far
better measure of policing could perhaps be the closure rate. Just how many crimes were
solved? A statistic which the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) doesn't
advertise on its web site. But they do compile it, and it's free for the asking. For
instance, The percentage of cleared Felonies for CY 1999 was 17.7% (a total of 7,838
arrests and cleared by exceptional means) out of 44,386 offenses). Not a very high
number, doesn't sound like felonies were given much priority. It's almost as if they had
to catch the crook in the act to make the arrest.
On the other hand the number of cleared homicides in 1999 was 61%, pretty
good in comparison to felonies. Homicides are given a higher priority. But wait, what that
61% means is that they arrested someone for murder, filed a form PD 252 or PD 163, and by
doing that, they cleared a case. Now, whether they collected enough evidence to convict
someone or even to get the DA to look at it, doesn't matter. It's just the arrest that
clears a case, not a conviction. Such was the case with the two men recently arrested in
the shooting death of the 76-year-old grandmother on her morning stroll, both men were
previously charged with at least 31 crimes in DC including one count each of first
degree murder, though charged, the cases never were officially entered into the court
system. But just with the mere fact of the arrest, the police were able to clear the book
on those murders and add to the total statistic. Certainly there should be a better way of
measuring police performance.
Metro Needs to Get Its Act Together
Leila Afzal, Leila.Afzal@hdq.noaa.gov
Monday morning, June 26, the red-line was shut down between Cleveland Park
and Dupont Circle. Metro supplied buses at Van Ness and Farragut North to
shuttle people passed the closed stations. However, those of us who enter the system
between those stations were out of luck. Buses would not make stops between Van Ness and
Farragut North. We were told we would have to take buses north on Connecticut to Van Ness
and catch a southbound bus there. This is an idiotic way to run a railroad. I understand
that some buses can be designated as express buses to speed people along.
However, some buses need to be designated as local to pick up metro and
regular bus riders from the closed stations as well.
Ron Eberhardt wants the death penalty to make him feel better. Ms
Persiflage wants us all to carry guns so we can be safe. A final thought: The safest city
I ever lived in was Boston (and I lived in a relatively high crime neighborhood).
Massachusetts has strict gun control laws and no death penalty. Boston has about 550,000
residents more than DC and about 50-60 murders a year. Perhaps Eberhardt,
Persiflage, and company can give us an example of a city where their plan has worked. To
find that combination of gun-toting citizens and we fry 'em faster legal
system you have to go to Texas, whose large cities are no prize in the safety department.
Boston is in many ways like Washington. It's less interesting in many
ways, but has a great city government and a populace that's wonderfully involved in local
politics. It also tossed out its elected school board while I was there and when a
referendum came along to go back to the elected variety, it was soundly defeated.
Bostonians, who prize good city services and neighborhood involvement, seemed to figure
out easily that the school board is no place for electioneering. I hope DC follows suit,
even with a half step. John, not voting tomorrow because he's still 36 hours shy of being
a DC resident and homeowner.
Two comments about the death penalty. The first is, we have a de facto
death penalty in some communities because the police department is either incapable or
unwilling to bring most murders to justice, and is abetted in this by the community itself
either through fear of retaliation or distrust of law enforcement. This leads to revenge
killings, which prompt more revenge killings, etc. I suggest that, instead of quibbling
about capital punishment, we first pull the murderers off the streets and convince those
communities who do not cooperate with police that we value them as much as we do the
citizens of Ward 3 and assign officers as spend money accordingly (or maybe the problem in
this city is that we don't).
Second, lets abandon the notion of criminality and treat drugs, crime,
alcohol abuse and violence as public health concerns. This would, of course, require the
spending of real money to fight these concerns, which taxpayers in much of the District
are loathe to do. Services for the mentally ill and addicts are already woefully
underfunded (although I would propose establishing a regional mental health authority
funded by a regional income tax for this purpose). Also, (and I know my civil libertarian
friends will denounce me for this) we must make it easier to treat dangerous people,
harder for them to be released and much easier to be readmitted if someone is
already adjudicated as ill or violent and they are not acting toward their disease
responsibly, society's response must be swift. Then the streets and the families of
perpetrators will be safe, as well as the rest of us. Our current system of playing cops,
robbers, court, and jail makes no sense and makes the problem worse for everyone,
including the violent.
Security System at MLKML
Patricia Pasqual, email@example.com
In response to several questions about the security system at MLKML I am
forwarding a reply from Plez A. Jenkins, head of security for DCPL.
The recent addition of security measures (x-ray
machine/magnetometer) located at the main lobby is there to prevent and deter weapons from
entering this facility . . . and up to this point I believe it has been very effective.
This office is well aware of the shortfalls within the garage location. Despite this
shortfall we have been working diligently to reduce our vulnerabilities. Hopefully, you
noticed the manual bag checks. Although not as fancy as an x-ray machine, this measure has
been proven effective while inexpensive. We do recognize that more can be done and is
being done. We will soon procure another magnetometer for the garage entrance.
I'm the Advocacy Coordinator at So Others Might Eat, or SOME, a nonprofit
now in its 30th year of service to individuals and families who are homeless in D.C.
Unfortunately, Sue Bell's experience last week trying to find shelter for a woman who was
homeless and suffering from hunger, heat exhaustion, and schizophrenia was not uncommon.
Both directory assistance and the Metropolitan Police should in theory have been able to
give Ms. Bell better information. In reality, as Ms. Bell learned, this often doesn't
happen. The District operates a 24-hour hotline for shelter: 1-800-535-7252. In the
summer, whenever the heat index rises above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the District opens
cooling centers and has several vans that will bring people cold water and
also transport people seeking shelter. In the winter, the same hotline links people to
blankets and hypothermia services including shelter.
Problems with the shelter hotline itself can be reported to the Community
Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness, the umbrella organization that coordinates
the District's public emergency shelter system, at 543-5298. I encourage Ms. Bell and
anyone with a similar experience to write the Mayor and Chief Ramsey. The police
non-emergency operators should have the hotline number and be able to provide it. I'd also
be interested in knowing what Community Services number she was given. Sadly,
it is exactly this kind of confusion and lack of information that frustrates the
commendable efforts of good-hearted citizens like Ms. Bell and leaves some of our most
vulnerable residents without aid.
On Monday, our DC Council urged Mayor Williams to issue an executive order
to change the DC license plate slogan from Celebrate and Discover to
Taxation Without Representation. The reason for doing this by an executive
order instead of a bill is to make it slightly more difficult for those in the Big House
(and Senate) to block it. I say we should Celebrate, then Recover. If Congress allows this
change, that's because they think it is of little consequence. Virginia has about 150
license plate options. How about some suggestions for DC from themailers? I offer this:
Some say you've got to have a hole in your head to live and pay taxes in DC (that kind of
open-mindedness). For DC residents who don't yet have such an aperture, Congress blithely
operates on us in return for our two billion dollars in federal taxes. Thus,
Trepanation Without Reprehension.
Defensive Shooting? I Doubt It!
David Pansegrouw, firstname.lastname@example.org
Excuse me, Ms. Persiflage, but I seriously doubt Carl Rowan was defending
himself from anybody that required shooting. And Mr. Rowan's case also shows what
connections can do for you when you break the law. And may the adventure tour folks find
their DC operations bankrupt very soon. Too bad they don't have better things to do with
DCs Scariest Places Survey
Marc Battle, Howard University School of Law, Nonchalant1906@hotmail.com
The scariest place in DC is Capitol Hill that haven for
hypocritical lawmakers who suppress democracy in their own backyard while trying to shove
it down the collective throat of the rest of the world.
Scariest Spots in D.C.?
Steph Some rob you with a six-gun, and some with a fountain pen Faul, email@example.com
Oh, gosh, where to begin. Capitol Hill. Hill & Knowlton. CIA
headquarters. Alan Greenspan's office. The Palm. Carr Realty. The Cato Institute. Any
major law firm. The list is endless.
Seeking a studio or one bedroom apartment for September 1st in the DC
area. I am relocating from Albuquerque, New Mexico, and am making Washington my new home.
I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CLASSIFIEDS CITY PAPER PREVIEW
Dave Nuttycombe, email@example.com
From washingtoncitypaper.com's LOOSE LIPS column, appearing this Friday:
CHECK IT OUT: Sometimes LL gets the sense that people in this city are battling one
another to prove who's the most inept.
In December 1997, the Fannie Mae Foundation issued a $10,000 grant to the Southwest
Neighborhood Assembly (SWNA) toward the purchase and redevelopment of the shuttered Syphax
Elementary School. Although the neighborhood association itself was not purchasing the
building, it was acting as an agent for the project's developer, low-income-housing
provider Manna Inc. In that capacity, the association promptly wrote a $10,000 check
payable to the D.C. Public Schools for Syphax School Purchase.
The school system gladly accepted the check and placed it in a file. And never pulled it
Read the entire Loose Lips column here: http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/lips/lips.html
From washingtoncitypaper.com's CITY LIGHTS page, here are a few early
warnings for upcoming events:
TO JULY 15: Rare Chinese Graphics and Early Works of Art. On view from noon to 6 p.m.
Tuesday to Saturday, to Saturday, July 15, at the Robert Brown Gallery, 2030 R St. NW.
SATURDAY: Celia Cruz & Jose Alberto, at 7:30 p.m. at George Washington University's
Lisner Auditorium, 730 21st St. NW. $25.
More details and more critics' picks are available online at http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/pix/pix.html
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