Some of you may have seen the article about DCWatch in this week's Washington
City Paper. Anytime that I personally am the subject of press attention, I appreciate
the wisdom of the Victorian era Boston adage that a gentleman's name should appear in the
newspaper on only three occasions: when he is born, when he is married, and when he dies.
But Dorothy and I escaped from press attention relatively unscathed this time
and our relief is palpable. However, even though it seems ungrateful, I must
complain about one thing: the article's title, Mr. and Mrs. Clean. What
insufferable prigs Mr. and Mrs. Clean must be. Unless you think of us as the big
bald-headed guy on the cleanser bottle and his wife although I must admit I never
quite imagined that character as a married man. That makes us a bit easier to take.
Cartoonish, but friendly.
The case of Graham v. Catholic Church continues to dominate themail in
this issue. We must have something more pleasant to talk about. What's going on in your
neighborhood? What's the latest?
Len Sullivans Comments about DC Government
Richard Layman, Northeast, email@example.com
I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Sullivan's comments with regard to
benchmarks, etc., for improving city services in meaningful ways. Under the Williams
administration I find a lot to be happy about. (1) Trees were planted on my block a couple
months ago. (2) Scheduling a bulk trash pickup is simple and they came when they said. (3)
It took me 20 minutes to do a name change for my drivers license (although I've never
really had problems at DMV). (4) I never have problems really with snow removal or trash
pickup but then, I live at the intersection of two major streets in NE.
On the other hand, while I do feel that District government workers have a
new attitude that favors treating citizens as customers, I found a recent experience at
the DC Tax Service center to be unsatisfying. It took four trips total to get the
information I needed. My perception was that while the desire to help was there, the
follow-through wasn't. And every time I see a Water and Sewer truck with the "how's
my driving" sticker on the back I get infuriated. I feel that why should they solicit
calls on how someone drives to the exclusion of focusing on fixing broken water mains. In
1998/1999, it took eight months for WASA to repair a broken water main at 1st and K
Streets, NE. The road is still broken as a result.
Repeated calls by me and others yielded general comments of the nature
that "it's on the list." When the Post ran an article about broken
water mains on New York Avenue in the winter, I left a message along the lines of Mr.
Sullivan's. I said, why don't you write an article comparing Wash's activities to
other agencies in the region, comparing benchmarks, etc. They did produce an article
like that last summer. I still get angry when I see the trucks, or when it floods under
the K Street bridge EVERY time it rains, or thinking about the millions of gallons of
water wasted just from that one broken pipe, when I read about upcoming increases in
Now NARPAC wants us to refrain from criticizing our government!
Ill-informed pundits, impatient activists, and misguided 'overseers' do not help
this difficult, multi-year process by impugning the intelligence and efforts of those
recently elected and hired to effect the cure. As early as I can tell, they're working at
it pretty hard and getting a lot of the residents' other, simpler complaints
addressed at the same time. I think they deserve our support. (Our?
Whose elected servants are we talking about? Col. Sullivan lives and votes in Maryland; to
be fair, Mr. Bindner lives in Virginia.)
Briefly, this is what our elected servants are working at... pretty
hard: embezzling taxpayer money to campaign for a referendum to surrender rights our
ancestors died for, and to give Marriott and AOL their own permanent seats on the school
board; conceding the mandate of the sovereign voters, conveyed in the statehood initiative
of 1980, in exchange for vague promises of tax relief, to cement our position forever as
second-class citizens; giving taxpayer assets away to the hotel industry (Shaw), the
incarceration industry (Oxon Cove), the telecommunications industry (Rock Creek Park) and
the Abe Pollin industry (Gallery Place) with no strings attached; and reenacting 1960s
debates about contraceptives while other people's Representatives reverse the legitimate
decisions of the District's electorate. This voter will continue to impugn the
intelligence of any official who continues to miss the point of ninth-grade civics class
and of any ill-informed pundit who questions the duty of every voter to
criticize the government when it doesn't fulfill its purpose. (To paraphrase the
Declaration of Independence.)
Ed T. Barron, firstname.lastname@example.org
Len Sullivan finds my suggestions to flatten the D.C. bloated bureaucracy
woefully inadequate. Len has obviously missed my many postings over the last
three years that have provided a step-by-step approach for Tony Williams to evolve the
D.C. functional organizations into efficient and effective teams supported by ample
educational courses for employees and the requisite resources (funding, computers and
Evidence of a Structural Flaw
Mark Richards, Dupont East, email@example.com
The latest example (in my mind) of a structural flaw in the D.C.
decision-making method and the relationship established by Congress (by the authority
apparently granted them in the Constitution) is the contraception feud. The
Northwest Current (July 19, 2000) editorialized that they would like to see the Mayor
veto the Council legislation as passed, because they believe it can be improved and
maybe it can be improved. They write, The absence of any such provision [a tight
conscience clause] invites Congress to interfere, which may well result in wording that is
overly broad. I doubt anyone was trying to invite Congress to interfere, and I
expect if there were a real religious freedom issue (should the law pass), it would be
identified by the courts without Congressional guesswork. But the way the D.C. governance
structure is designed results in a historic pattern of failure that would normally be
solved through the balancing of powers, without overlords. This is a structural problem
that can be fixed. District citizens and their elected officials (Governor/Mayor and
Legislature/Council) should be able to have their local discussions/feuds locally, where
the outcome impacts citizens directly, without mid-term or end-term meddling, or outright
override, by members of Congress who do not retain a District voting address. (Define
Federal Interest, please!) The result of the D.C. structural flaw created and sustained by
Congress is the over-the-shoulder-effect, which results in a nasty neck kink!
D.C.'s structural flaw encourages what Epaminondas had described (around 1800, before
Congress assumed exclusive legislative authority over D.C.) as the recipe for the
disastrous mixing of the great (national) and small (local) issues.
A Last Word on Jim of Ward I v. John Paul II
Michael Bindner, firstname.lastname@example.org
While I agree with the vote, even as a Catholic, I am profoundly
displeased with Mr. Graham's comments, which do harken back to the Know-Nothing Party of
the prior century and much of the anti-Catholicism still present in society
which is not all due to the Church's stands on homosexuality (which I also disagree with)
and contraception. Granted, some of the anti-Catholicism of an earlier day was well earned
by the religious warriors of the counter-reformation. However, some of it is just pure
anti-Irish, anti-German, anti-immigrant (and I expect now anti-Latino) racism. Jim (and
Sharon), be very careful about echoing this language, as it was not long ago that it was
accepted in American society, and it is still very hurtful.
Of course, the Church does invite some of this, as the prohibition on
contraception is not based on science. (As any geneticist will tell you, human life begins
at gastrulation, when the embryo begins using the genetics of both parents which
occurs after implantation in the uterine wall, long after the effects of the pill and the
IUD have had a chance to work. Indeed, most embryos die naturally before implantation
because the genetics of the sperm and egg contributed just don't mesh, so they should not
be protected either legally or morally even if you are anti-abortion).
The Church's position on this is more about Catholic identity than
anything else (as is its position on homosexuality). As such, it is political and open to
attack and discussion. However, one does not use inflamed rhetoric when attacking a
religion, especially the largest in Washington and indeed in Ward 1. We expect more from
our Councilmembers, who were elected to and responsible to the people even more so
than the Church, which we can take or leave.
The exclusion of contraception by Roman Catholic insurance providers might
or might not constitute a threat to public health, but what amazes me is the passionate
debate over a matter so minuscule compared to DC's greater health crisis, and the complete
failure of private coverage locally and nationally. Over 80,000 District residents can't
afford coverage (45 million people is the national figure), and those who do enjoy it are
subject to all sorts of restrictions. I'd like to see some rage from our Council members
and Mayor over the fact that profit-based HMOs and insurance companies continue to exist,
and that we haven't replaced private coverage with a plan for national health insurance
similar to Canada's system. (Canada's health program is quite successful, despite recent
bad press in the US; ask any Canadian if he or she'd prefer the US system.) HMOs and their
lobbyists are snickering in their K Street suites over the DC contraception squabble. They
know that whatever counter-accusations of religious and sexual bigotry fly back and forth,
their investments in DC's pols render them safe. This past January, the DC Statehood Green
Party, with the support and participation of the Alliance for Democracy, the local Labor
Party, and ACT UP, sent detailed testimony to the Mayor's Health Care System Development
Commission which demonstrated that guaranteed quality health care for every DC resident
might be possible if we removed for-profit coverage from the equation, and challenged the
Council and the Mayor to appoint a study commission on the feasibility of such a plan.
Alas, loyalty to HMOs (and their representation on the Commission, while consumers were
excluded) and the Mayor's own worship at the altar of privatization prevailed. Neither the
Mayor, Council members, nor the Commission itself even bothered to comment on the
Statehood Green recommendations. (I can provide E-mail copies to anyone interested.)
Final observations: (1) Is DC government serious about making
contraception widely available? I lived in Cincinnati for 11 years, until 1993. Every damn
gay and straight bar in town had a fishbowl full of condoms next to the jukebox, provided
by the health department and local AIDS organizations. It's something I've never seen in
DC, whose AIDS crisis dwarfs Cincinnati's. (2) I didn't find Jim Graham's remarks
offensive, merely candid. Jim probably remembers, as I do, how the Catholic Church tried
to block public health measures to fight AIDS over the past two decades. The late Cardinal
O'Connor's role was especially pernicious, fighting against comprehensive education about
sex and sexuality in public schools. In Catholic hospices, people with AIDS were pressured
to repent of their homosexuality; some of the dying were secretly baptized against their
will. (Hence all those all those ACT UP demos at St. Paddy's 10 years ago.) The Pope and
his blessed hierarchy continue to damn queers. Does knowing history make one a bigot? (3)
Whatever we think of Graham and our Council members, our message to DC Appropriations
chair Istook should be: We elected them, we'll deal with them ourselves. Go back to
Oklahoma and #&*@ yourself.
In response to the DC City Council's recent decision to require certain
employers to use health insurance plans that cover contraception, Mr. Matthes made certain
comments which I feel compelled to respond to. Although I too am concerned by the
Council's actions, I am also disturbed by Mr. Matthes's evident disregard for my civil and
human rights. He wrote: Every parent, at some point, has to ask an unruly child,
asking for something unreasonable, 'What part of no don't you understand?' . .
. . Memo to all advocates of DC statehood: . . . Don't you think you ought to put your own
Council in order before you ask the rest of the country to take your dreams of self
As a democrat (small D) and an American, it is my firm belief
that I am required to prove nothing in order to have the right to have full representation
in my government. While statehood may not be the ultimate answer, I am certainly entitled
to representation with my taxation, no matter how many boneheaded votes the Council takes.
That right comes from God or Nature or simply being human, and does not depend on the good
opinion of Mr. Matthes (or anyone else). How dare Mr. Matthes impugn my rights as a human
being because he doesn't like what the council is doing? If Mr. Matthes is a resident of
the District, and if he is concerned about this issue, allow me to suggest more fruitful
avenues of response. Suppose the Council's actions are unconstitutional, as Mr. Matthes
seems to suggest. I believe he (or injured Catholics) have recourse to the courts. If the
Council's actions are within their constitutional rights as a governmental body, let Mr.
Matthes (and other concerned citizens) organize to elect new leaders. By all means let Mr.
Matthes and like minded people speak up when they see injustice! But let then not heap
injustice on top of injustice.
What Part of Free Don't You Understand?
Tom Matthes, email@example.com
Lee Perkins responds to my defense of the First Amendment rights of the
Catholic Church by writing them out of the Constitution. He says the amendment only
prohibits establishing an official state religion. Not true. Congress is also
ordered to make no law . . . prohibiting the free exercise thereof. What part
of free don't you understand, Mr. Perkins? One cannot be forced to pay for
what is free. The City Council is literally reaching into Catholic collection plates by
forcing the church to pay for contraceptives. If they can get away with that, on health
care grounds, what is to stop them from making the church open its confessional booths for
Planned Parenthood abortion counseling?
Mark Eckenwiler defends the contraception bill by noting that the Supreme
Court allowed Oregon to enforce a valid and neutral law against the use of
peyote by members of the North American Church. He too needs to read the First Amendment.
Oregon is a state. The District of Columbia is not. It is under the exclusive legislative
control of Congress, and Congress is banned by the First Amendment from making any law
restricting freedom of religion. That means any act by Congress empowering the DC
government to interfere with freedom of religion is forbidden, too. Married life and
sexual virtues, or the lack thereof, are central to religious life, not an exotic practice
like the use of a drug such as peyote. Mr. Eckenwiler supports the effort of the
politically correct DC Council to replace Catholic dogma with secular dogma.
Happily, it is clear Congress is going to do its duty by upholding the Constitution, even
when the panjandrums of the capital city don't like it.
JIM GRAHAM IS DOING THE RIGHT THING FOR THE RIGHT REASONS. GET ON BOARD.
[No, he isn't; no, I won't. Gary Imhoff]
Not by Mid August
Ed T. Barron, firstname.lastname@example.org
After a two week hiatus at the end of June, construction of the new plaza
at the front of the AU Law School building on Massachusetts Avenue (at 48th Street) has
resumed with the installation of the free world's supply of marble for low walls and large
concrete block patio blocks for the sitting and walking areas. The fountain base is in
place with all the requisite plumbing installed. The chances of this new construction
being completed by the scheduled mid August date are somewhere between slim and none. The
prognosis for an attractive addition to the neighborhood, however, is quite good.
I was heartened by the response and large number of people who spoke at
the hearing on the WW II Memorial design. I was glad to learn that the Reflecting Pool is
considered part of the Lincoln Memorial, according to the NPS Interior study. That should
be reason enough to stop the design site right on its tracks. It's amazing that the
Republicans (Mr. Dole) would want to build on top of a memorial honoring another
Republican Lincoln effectively hushing and dampening his legacy. It also
does not do justice to a monument to those who fought in WWII, which should be
stand-alone. I think the design for the WWII is hideous.
Motor Vehicle Registration Fees
Greg Jones, email@example.com
While visiting my mother in California recently, I noticed that this
year's registration/licensing fee on her 1996 Nissan Maxima was $325. Apparently the
California fees vary and are based on the approximate market value of the vehicle. That
makes the $65 fee charged in DC seem pretty reasonable. In fact, I'm a bit surprised
supporters of the so-called progressive tax structure we have here haven't
tried to adopt a California-like system. Does anyone know what the story is in VA and/or
Hechingers to Home Depot Meeting
Tad DiBiase, ANC Commissioner 3E03, TwoDeacons@aol.com
The new owners of the old Hechingers site on upper Wisconsin Avenue, NW,
are hosting a public meeting with the Home Depot folks who will be leasing the store on
July 25 at 7:30 p.m. The meeting is to seek input from the community regarding the site
and to inform the community about Home Depot's plans. If people can't make the meeting,
but want to support the idea of Home Depot leasing the site, they can call me at 246-2083.
English Basement in Mt. Pleasant for Rent
Anne Drissel, firstname.lastname@example.org
Quiet street across from Rock Creek Park. Large living room/dining,
kitchen, bath, bedroom (small). Private front and rear entrances. W/D; AC. Available
August 21. $750/month including utilities; year lease. Non-Smoker. Sorry, no pets. Call
232-6517 or E-mail email@example.com.
Our house, near Connecticut and Davenport, has a vacant basement room that
is available for the rest of the summer; if anyone out there needs temporary lodging. The
room is furnished, air-conditioned, and newly carpeted.
If you are a fence-builder or have someone to recommend, we'd appreciate
hearing from you! E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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