There's a good lesson to be learned from this issue of themail: check your
quotations first. But, speaking of abandoning hope:
After a rash of murders, Police Chief Charles Ramsey has announced that he
has found a way to put more police officers on the street. Does anyone remember that the
City Council wanted Ramsey to put more officers on patrol months ago, and Ramsey protested
against their micromanagement? Robert Newman has started an ambitious program
to get the city parks ready for summer sports by late fall. Last night, I went to Ward
Four's City Council candidate's debate between Charlene Drew Jarvis and Adrian Fenty, at
which Jarvis promised that in the next four yours upper Georgia Avenue really will get
economic development, just as she promised in 1996, and 1992, and 1988, and. . . .
Tonight, I attended the Ward One Neighborhood Action Initiative open house, where we were
told that this time city agencies really were going to cooperate and be coordinated, and
really were going to carry out plans to clean up the worst areas of the city. This time
they really, really mean it. Trust them. Oh, geez.
Charlie Wellander, jfa-cwr@CapAccess.org
Which is to say that some D.C. residents are exercising their right to
vote with their feet. On July 31 the U.S. Census Bureau (at http://www.census.gov/Press-Release/www/2000/cb00-125.html)
reported the latest data concerning voting age populations of the fifty states and D.C.
Between 1996 and 2000, the District of Columbia had a decline from 428,000 to 411,000
residents who are old enough to vote for full representation in the Congress if they were
allowed to vote for such representatives. Over the same period, every one of the fifty
states had an increase in the number of voting age residents (there, they are allowed to
vote for such representatives!). Maryland went up by 126,000 and Virginia up by 197,000.
The smallest uptick was in North Dakota, from 476,000 to 477,000 I doubt many D.C.
expatriates moved there. Of course, these changes are due not only to net relocations, but
also to additions of youngsters reaching majority and subtractions by death. Still, will
the last voter to leave D.C. please turn off the Constitution and Bill of Rights?
A Last Word on the Parks
Michael Bindner, email@example.com
I forgot to mention in my prior post that, until the 1998 Revitalization
Act, grass cutting for Public Works and Recreation and Parks was done by work crews from
the Lorton prison. As a result of the Act, the Lorton program stopped and has not yet been
replaced. I recently heard from someone who had seen the request for proposals for
non-prison grass cutting that no one responded because the request was vague on what
needed to be cut, so the work could not be priced.
There are three possible answers: take back the prisons and a federal
payment that would support them, possibly creating a regional system with Maryland and
Virginia, and recreating the Lorton program; write a decent RFP; or work out an
arrangement so that Virginia and/or Maryland prisoners cut our grass.
Time to Privatize the Parks Dept.
Ed T. Barron, firstname.lastname@example.org
Not all functions lend themselves to privatization, but here's one
Department where that could be done very easily. Merely set up a set of standards, and
goals and let outside contractors bid on the job. Let those contractors hire any capable
folks (if there are any) that are currently in the Parks Department.
The failure to perform by Newman and his band of non-performers is just
one more nail in the coffin that entombs the kids in the District. And one question
who paid for Newman's vacation trip to Canada?
New DC Parks and Recreation Web Site
Bob Andrew, Foxhall, RDAndrew@erols.com
After flirting with DCRecreation.com as a website, DCPR has adopted the
same look as DC's revamped main website www.washingtondc.gov. The new web site is http://DCPR.WashingtonDC.gov. Each page provides a
side navigator, with web links to services: Guide, Camps, Leagues, Fine Arts, Senior
Services, Sports & Fitness, Tennis Courts, Swimming, Computer Centers, Childcare,
Special Events, Facilities. Also, Director Robert Newman has posted a Short Term Action
Plan and Grass Cutting schedule. The action plan includes deep cleaning of all
centers, plus naming the ten already promised athletic field renovation and play court
projects to be completed by year-end. No later than August 12, DCPR will complete two more
playground installations and for all centers conduct deep cleaning and begin minor repair
blitz on items like fencing, lighting, plumbing, doors, A/C and other items as warranted,
based on recent inspections. On August 13, DCPR will start to put up interior signs at
each Recreation Center clarifying the programs and services offered at that center, as
well as rules and regulations about park usage in the District. By October 24, DCPR will
begin construction or major reconstruction on six centers. By August 4, DCPR will nominate
14 centers to have their restrooms modernized.
Additional staff development was conducted July 29 for summer camp staff,
in addition to getting them paid on time (after firing the official held responsible for
failing to pay over 100 seasonal workers).
Uncut and Unkempt
Vivian Henderson, VHende email@example.com
I too have been saddened by the uncut and unkempt neighborhood parcels. It
certainly takes away from the beauty of this city. It seems to me that Mayor Williams and
his administration only react. What can be done to make them act? They see these eyesores
and do nothing until the citizens complain. Alley cleaning in the Crestwood area is a
thing of past, and so is bulk trash pick-up. DC citizens certainly deserve a more
efficient local government.
Next time bring take some pictures. I've contested two tickets by mail in
the last year or so and won both times; I included photographs in each case. Both tickets
were similarly trumped up one was blocking an entrance at a metered
spot (it had probably been an entrance fifty years ago, since the curb was sloped, but
there was no entrance to anywhere anymore and there was a meter); one was at a bus stop,
although the sign clearly indicated no parking only within certain hours, which the ticket
Take a bunch of pictures from different angles so it's obvious where you
are and where you were parked. Having access to a digital camera helps, since it doesn't
cost anything to do this. Obviously if you don't get around the place of the ticket very
often this isn't too convenient, but I tend to get most of my tickets parked legally near
where I live or work.
This is not to say the system isn't broken it's obvious there is
either systematic corruption or serious training problems in DC parking enforcement, and
the appeal system is ludicrous. I hope that our mayor listens to our continuing pleas for
reform. In the meantime, however, having irrefutable proof of your innocence helps sway
even a hardened bureaucrat.
If one is going to cite Auschwitz as a metaphor for anything, in the names
of the memories of the millions who perished there, it ought to be reserved for something
truly horrific and I've got to say Traffic Adjudication lines (annoying as they may
be) don't come anywhere near close to qualifying. But Thomas C. Hall compounds matters by
not even getting the quote right: the words on the gate were Arbeit macht frei
(meaning Work will make you free a bitter joke for the inmates, given
that the only way out for ninety percent of them was death. Abandon hope, all ye who
enter here, was, I believe, the sign on the gates of Hell in Dante's Inferno.
Now, as far as the substance of Mr. Hall's complaint is concerned, I have
a suggestion that may help in future cases. (Actually, the idea is my husband's but I'm
taking credit for it, because I'm the one who took the trouble to write in.) Keep a
disposable camera in your car. If you ever return to your car to find yourself ticketed,
when the signs near your car say it's legal to park there, take a photo of the sign.
Rather than waste time going in to dispute the ticket, send in the photo and write up your
side of the story, and mark the ticket Deny and send in your letter and
evidence to be adjudicated by mail. Whatever the outcome, at least you haven't wasted half
a day waiting for your case to be heard.
Regarding Peg Blechman's ticket if you live a block from a
residential zone, you should either be able to get a permit, or perhaps your street should
be so zoned (allowing you to get a permit under current rules). This is a different
situation than what people were arguing for (letting everyone in a ward get a permit no
matter how far from crowded areas they lived). I think this underscores why we should have
more zoned areas, and the zones should be smaller.
Regarding Thomas Hall's parking-adjudication-as-Auschwitz metaphor
Ugh. Yeah, getting stuck with a parking ticket is a lot like being dragged out of your
home, stripped of your property, thrown in to a labor camp, gassed, and thrown in a pit.
You get the award for ugly, tasteless contribution of the week. (And by the way, the sign
over Auschwitz read, I believe, Arbeit Macht Frei (more or less, work
makes you free). Which makes your metaphor a non sequitur, as well as
Abandon Hope at Auschwitz
David Sobelsohn, firstname.lastname@example.org
In the most recent issue of themail, Thomas C. Hall writes that
'Abandon Hope, All Who Enter Here' read the sign atop the wrought iron gate to
Auschwitz. Although Auschwitz was a pretty close approximation to Hell, the
abandon hope line actually comes from Dante's Inferno. The sign
over the entrance to Auschwitz actually read (with truly evil irony) Arbeit Macht
Frei (Work Makes You Free).
Dante vs. Dachau vs. the DMV
Steph Former copy editor Faul
ALWAYS check your quotes. Dante Aleghieri wrote Lasciate ogni
speranza, voi ch'entrate (All hope abandon, ye who enter here) as a
warning to those about to enter Hell. Arbeit Macht Frei (Work Brings
Freedom) first appeared over the entrance gate at Dachau in 1933. (Dachau was a work
camp, not a death camp, though a number of its inmates were worked to death.) The phrase
was added to the entrance gate at Auschwitz when that camp was constructed in 1940. While
Dachau, Hell, and the DMV may all be places of great suffering, it's unfair to equate
Dante with Rudolf Hess.
[Cheryl Fox, email@example.com;
Dean Costello, firstname.lastname@example.org;
and Mark Richards, email@example.com, made the same
point, while George S. LaRoche, LaRoche@us.net, added
that, If there's a difference, it's that, as bad as the devil is, he's an honest
creature of his word, while the Nazis were the epitomy of smirking cynicism.
Two messages in the last issue of themail asked for advice in dealing with
routine DC government activities and responsibilities (in one case building permits, in
the other alley cleaning). Perhaps these people had already tried this route without
relief, but in general I've had pretty good success by calling the mayor's
line, 727-1000. In the couple of times I've called, I have been referred to the
right office and my query has been handled appropriately.
My experience is also that you can get a tracking number from
the operator with whom you speak. Your mileage may vary; I haven't figured out whether
they ALWAYS provide that tracking number. If you can get one, it's of course always wise
to keep a paper trail. Should your needs not be met, you can call back and
complain with honor, and most importantly with details. As well, it's part of a long urban
tradition to call your council member as well if the city hasn't managed to satisfy
(again, keep that tracking number!). My experience is that the council members' offices
will indeed place a call on your behalf, to the appropriate agency. In the bad old days of
the mid-eighties, this was often the only way to get bulk trash picked up, for instance.
Finally, in this wired world, there's lots of information online at
http://www.dc.gov. I do actually find the city's Web site reasonably useful, though far
from as good as calling the mayor's line it's just nice that on evenings and
weekends you can jump-start your search for help.
[I've never had any luck with 727-1000 when I've tried to find government
employees through it; either the operators don't have listings for the employees or, in
some cases, they refuse to give out the direct telephone numbers. What has your experience
been? Gary Imhoff]
Good Things in DC
Kerry Jo Richards, firstname.lastname@example.org
Wanted to share my excellent experiences recently with the DC government
web site (http://washingtondc.gov/). The first time I used the site was when the light in
my alley was out to be honest I laughed while filling in the form. At least this
will be a good joke, I thought. But then suddenly my light was FIXED! Amazing! Excited by
my good fortune, I called a phone number listed on the site to get information about an
odd vehicle registration situation. They referred me to a specific office, who told me in
no uncertain terms that I must tromp down to the main MVA office to handle my request. I
begged and cajoled to no avail. So then, just to see what would happen, I submitted my
question online. Happily, they informed me that I could handle my request by mail with no
problems. Whee! Life is good for
we online citizens!
I spoke to Paul Vance, the new Superintendent of Schools, at some length
today and told him about some of the problems in the D.C. school system. I also urged him
to subscribe to themail because it presents a good and uncensored cross section of
community opinion. I was impressed by Dr. Vance's willingness to listen to what residents
of the District have to say. I wonder if subscribers could write to themail and list what
they think the problems in the school system are, so that Dr. Vance can read what they
have to say.
Baltimore and Latin Americans
Bruce Monblatt, email@example.com
Vic Miller raises some interesting points about the treatment of Latin
American players by the Orioles and attributes the team's decline to this factor. This
seems to be too glib, particularly since Palmiero and Alomar went elsewhere for more bucks
and Benitez represents what has been wrong with Oriole relief pitching for the past
decade. The real problem is an ownership that can't keep the good players and the good
players who they kept are growing old. Although the Latin countries have given us some
great players like Roberto and Marichal and Cepeda among others, I recall that the
pathetic Senators of the 1950's were stocked with Latin Americans and it didn't seem to
Road Warriors and Doggie Calling Cards
Victor Chudowsky, firstname.lastname@example.org
Re: Gregory Diaz's post: I totally agree about the Duke Ellington bridge
road warriors. I am an avid bicyclist; I also ride my bike to work (Woodley Park to Adams
Morgan). Crossing the Duke Ellington bridge wakes me up more than any cup of coffee
it is an experience of sheer gut-wrencing terror. People FLY across that bridge; even the
bus drivers speed. And the faded bicycle lanes which run along Calvert across
the bridge are a joke. They are really not much more than an emergency lane for cab
drivers and others who routinely cross into the reserved area. The interesting thing is
that there are actually not a lot of cars on the bridge, compared to Connecticut or
Wisconsin Avenue. There is rarely stalled traffic. That is why people speed across it;
they have the opportunity to really open up before hitting Connective Ave. or
Adams Morgan. It is like our own little race track, really. Cameras or speed bumps should
be looked at as a partial solution.
In the spirit of our listmaster's request for our neighborhood based
gripes and complaints, I also like Gregory's suggestion about taking photos of people who
let their dogs leave fecal calling cards on one's front lawn or walkway.
However, one must admit that the options for the honest and responsible dog owner are
limited when it comes to disposal of this product. First, there is the option
of simply letting the chips fall where they may, in other words, not cleaning
up after your dog. I agree with Gregory that this is an abhorrent practice. In fact, it
should be a felony. Second, one can go to PETCO and buy one of those clever pooper
scooper contraptions, which have a long handle and a spring loaded shovel. But what
do you do with this thing when you get home, leave it on your front porch? Bring it inside
your house? Wash it? Where in the dishwasher? Plus, they look SO uncool no
casual acquaintance will stop and talk to you while you are holding this smeared device.
Third, you can use the fairly unpleasant bag method. But then what do you do
with the bag? Without a public trashcan close by, the unlucky dog owner is often forced to
walk several blocks holding a fragrant bag of used dog food. Any dog owner who does this
is familiar with the feeling of, gee, I hope nobody I know sees me and they want to
chat, or worse still, shake hands. Throwing it into someone else's trash can cause
complaints, and I have read that you should NOT throw these bags into a sewer drain
because they cause all kinds of problems. I have also read that dog feces are a
contributor to rising levels of dangerous bacteria in our streams and Chesapeake Bay.
Further, a recent article in Atlantic Monthly takes an evolutionary biology perspective on
domesticated dogs, and concludes that they are nothing more than highly successful
parasites. Really, the only answer is to get rid our homes of these ridiculous animals
which serve no useful function in a modern society, and chew up our shoes and scare the
mailman besides. NOT!
A (Hopefully) Final Reply to Mr. Matthes
Michele Rhodes, email@example.com
(With apologies to Jon Desenberg I prefer the neighborhood news as
well. Where else can we get it?) When I previously replied to Mr. Matthes, I tried to
separate a First Amendment question from an equally fundamental question: democratic
representation. My point was that American citizens should by right have full
representation in their government. To me the fact of that right is the simple starting
place of any discussion about representation. Therefore, I continue to be surprised that
someone can disagree on this basic point. Of course there WAS a time when the franchise
was limited to property owners or European Americans or men but I rather thought we
were past all that. Then I moved to DC and encountered the arguments of people like Mr.
Matthes. He would like citizens of the District to pass a test before he extends the
franchise to us. Certainly, Mr. Matthes does not advocate tests for individuals, such as a
poll tax or a literacy test. Rather, he promotes a kind of collective test. On this point
Mr. Matthes writes: Why should the residents of the 50 states grant votes in
Congress to a polity so contemptuous of individual rights? Why indeed? Is it
possible that we citizens of the district are the enemies of the constitution
With all due respect to Mr. Matthes, we have heard enough hyperbole. What
town or city is Mr. Matthes from? If I opened the history books would I find that city
innocent of ever trampling some of its citizens rights? If I did find something, would Mr.
Matthes advocate revoking the franchise of that city until they passed some test? Is there
ANY polity that has not at some time been gripped by passions detrimental to individual
liberty? I do not defend the actions of the city council. I merely suggest that we in the
District are no different than people anywhere else. Mr. Matthes has supplied no evidence
to the contrary. And since we are no different than other people, we should have full
representation, just like other people. It is that simple. (By the way, if it takes
statehood to get there, I am all for it.)
An Offer I Couldnt Refuse
Ed T. Barron, firstname.lastname@example.org
Despite being a confirmed technophile, with nearly every electronic gizmo
invented (and generally the first on the block to have one), I have eschewed the
ubiquitous cell phone. Until now, that is. What has turned me off about cell phones is the
distraction and intrusion factors that come with most of the users of cell phones. It is
very common to see folks making calls in restaurants, while driving their cars, and in
very public places etc. I consider that a major intrusion in my life and an unnecessary
distraction. I can see the benefits of cell phones for use when you need to be contactable
or must contact someone but cannot use a regular phone. What changed my mind? Economics.
As I added up my AT&T long distance bill, with its abundance of
totally unintelligible charges, and despite the fact that I have a 7 cents per minute
anytime long-distance plan (at a monthly premium of $5 additional dollars), my total local
and long distance phone calls average out at about 12 cents per minute. A wide area cell
phone plan offered to me (six states in their local area no roaming in those
states) encompasses the states in which three of my four kids and all my grandkids live.
For a total charge of $40 per month I get 500 "anytime" "local"
minutes per month and 500 weekend anywhere minutes (U.S. and Canada). Despite
the fact that I will not likely use all of the allotted minutes, my phone calls should
average out at about 7 to 8 cents per minute (even including amortizing the cell phone
cost of $70 over three years). In addition I have voice mail, call holding, caller ID, and
a host of other features , many of which I likely will never use. By giving my cell phone
number only to those folks who need to call me in an emergency and keeping a single Bell
Atlantic line (instead of having a second line for the computer) at home for the computer
and to receive incoming long distance calls, it is likely that my total bills each month
will be just about the same as we now pay. It was an offer I could not refuse.
Yes, as Donald Lief notes, sausage is the right food for DC -- pork
I wrote in a posting that there are 14 appropriations bills. That is
inaccurate; there are 13, and the 13th one is for the D.C. budget. By the way, the number
of general provisions (72 riders) was cited by Rep. Moran during the hearing in the House.
I wish that Eleanor Holmes Norton would publish a full list of riders (in layman's
language) on her website during each budget cycle.
New Report Available
Danilo Pelletiere, email@example.com
The New Columbia Chapter of the Sierra Club has released a new report
entitled Restore the Core! A citizen's guide to building a livable D.C. The
report covers issues such as public safety, schools, development, employment, and of
course parks, rivers, and green space. Along with a straightforward discussion of what a
livable city is, this report provides a resource list, advocacy primer, and a
lot of other useful information. It is available as a PDF file on-line at http://www.sierraclub.org/chapters/dc/rtc.pdf
or as a paper copy for a $5 donation. For a paper copy, send a check made out to the New
Columbia Sierra Club to: Restore the Core, % New Columbia Chapter, Sierra Club, 408 C
Street, NE, Washington, D.C. 20002.
CLASSIFIEDS CITY PAPER PREVIEW
Dave Nuttycombe, firstname.lastname@example.org
From washingtoncitypaper.com's LOOSE LIPS column, appearing this Friday:
BRING BACK THE GOON SQUAD: Maryland resident Dennis F. McCarthy has a gripe plenty of D.C.
residents have heard before. On a Saturday in late June, McCarthy pulled his Ford Explorer
into an open, legal parking space in front of the old Woodies building at 11th and F
Streets NW. When he returned to his car, he found one of those ghastly pink parking
tickets affixed to his windshield. Parking in a bus zone, read the charge on
McCarthy took a second look at the position of his car; it protruded 5-and-one-quarter
inches from the signpost. I measured, says McCarthy.
That kind of persnickety ticketing is supposed to have disappeared two years ago
even when the unlucky target is a soulless suburbanite.
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:
MONDAY: Forbidden Planet, at sunset (8:12 p.m.) at the National Mall, 17th and
Constitution Avenue NW. Free.
INDEFINITE: Rube Goldberg: Comic Art and Invention, on view from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
daily at the National Museum of American History, 14th and Constitution Ave. NW. Free.
More details and more critics' picks are available online at http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/pix/pix.html
CLASSIFIEDS FOR SALE
Alison Krauss at Wolf Trap
Phil Greene, email@example.com
Two lawn tickets (value $17 each) for sale to see Alison Krauss and Union
Station at Wolf Trap, special guest Robert Lee Castleman, on Wednesday, August 16 at 8:00
pm. $34 for both or best offer. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
B.B. King Blues Festival 2000 at Wolf Trap
Laurie England, Topspindc@aol.com
Two lawn tickets (value $20 each) for sale for the B.B. King Blues
Festival 2000 at Wolf Trap, Wednesday, September 6 at 6 pm. $15 for each or best offer.
Knitting Program Request for Volunteers
Peg Blechman, email@example.com
Did you know that knitting was the latest rage? Do you knit or want to
learn how? We'll teach you! We're looking volunteer knitters to help with the knitting
program at Bancroft Elementary in Adams Morgan this school year. Even if you're a beginner
or if you want to learn, let me know. We'll train you. We work with a teacher trained in
the Waldorf School Crafts curriculum. So we teach the kids (8, 9 and 10 year olds) using
their methodology. Last year, we were at the school on Monday and Wednesday afternoons
from 12 noon to 3 pm, but one day a week or even a couple of hours would be great.
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 http://www.dcwatch.com/themail/subscribe.htm.
To unsubscribe, send an E-mail message to firstname.lastname@example.org
with unsubscribe in the subject line. Archives of past messages are available
All postings should also be submitted to email@example.com, 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.