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August 13, 2000

Promises, Promises

Dear Candidates:

Be careful about your campaign slogans and promises. Mayor Williams made a big point about “accountability,” which he also chose as the slogan for his campaign for the School Governance Charter Amendment, and now he's stuck with being accountable. He's accountable for the conditions of the streets, since he's already announced four or five major new initiatives to deal with potholes and street cuts. He's accountable for his appointees and the work that they've done or haven't done at DPW, DCRA, Human Services, and Parks and Recreation. By this time next year, he'll be accountable for the conditions in our schools.

And it's all his fault. If he hadn't talked about responsibility and accountability, and had instead campaigned with a slogan like, “I'm not Marion Barry, and I'm not a sitting Councilmember,” he would still have been elected, and he wouldn't have broken any campaign promises by failing to improve city government. So choose your campaign slogan wisely. Make it something like, “At least I'm not the other guy,” or “Look at my smile,” and cover yourself in case you're actually elected.

Gary Imhoff


My Position on the Election
Keith Jarrell,

As far as City Council goes, we should all stop and think of the current members that are seeking re-election. Three of whom need another life: Jarvis, Brazil, and yes Evans. We need and deserve a better direction. It's not all about big business and advances, it's about our neighborhoods, your street, my street. It's about the potholes, the sidewalks, the disappearing trees, the lack of good solid city management in area such as our parks and on and on and on. The focus on the three above mentioned, have been primarily about things that will change due to change on the neighborhood level. But they've left us out. They spend hundreds of millions of dollars on things that we could have done without, or that would have developed after smaller, more neighborhood-related, things were changed. They are changing the face of our city. They are wasting our money, and none of these three is being responsible. We must now be and vote for the alternative on the ballot.


Martin Thomas for U.S. Representative
Mike Livingston,

The Statehood Green Party is appropriately proud of its Council candidates (housing activist Arturo Griffiths at large, union litigator Renée Bowser in Ward 4 and schoolteacher Tom Briggs in Ward 2), but I'd like to call the themail community's attention to a less conspicuous race that deserves to be taken much more seriously than it is: the office of U.S. Representative, nicknamed “shadow” or "statehood" Representative. Our duly elected Senators and Representative, until they are recognized as such by Congress, are elected lobbyists for our federal interests. Since that's a pretty loose job description, the office is exactly what we make of it — so it's important to elect committed and tenacious activists to these posts. When I ran for shadow Rep two years ago, the question I heard most often (besides “what the ... is that?”) was “Why do we have that in addition to Eleanor?” No matter what you think of Del. Norton, you gotta admit that she is in a very weak position to advance the interests of our colony: as a nonvoting observer member of the House, she has no way to amass political capital and cannot bring home any bacon (or pork) without kissing up to other people's Representatives. Our elected congressional delegation, in contrast, has the political freedom and mandate to be a more uncompromising voice in our defense against the likes of Bob Barr and Ernest Istook. Ideally, the shadow Rep is the "bad cop" to the D.C. Delegate's “good cop.” Martin Thomas, who hasn't even been elected yet, was one of the "Democracy 8" arrested at the Capitol last month for yelling “Free D.C.” during a rules vote on the annual evisceration of the D.C. budget. He has, for his age, a long resume as a peace activist (his day job this summer is coordinating the Summer of Nonviolence activities for the Fellowship of Reconciliation) and he has written a book about energy efficiency in motor vehicles. He coaches Little League. During the IMF protests, he performed a service of mutual benefit to the District and the protesters: he served as housing coordinator, placing thousands of activists in volunteers' homes so they didn't become vagrants at night. And Martin is articulate, persuasive, fearless and charming — he can give a challenging, rabble-rousing speech in such a friendly and disarming manner that you don't even realize there are people who object to the things he's advocating: budget autonomy and full representation for the District, social and economic justice, and citizen participation. He's exactly the sort of person who should represent us — with a vote — in the House.


Five Council Candidates Excel in GLAA Ratings
Bob Summersgill,

The Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, DC announced its ratings for candidates in the Primary election for DC Council on September 12, 2000. Five candidates earned high ratings, well above the rest. Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) received an almost perfect score of 9.5 out of a maximum 10. Carol Schwartz (R-At Large) and Charlene Drew Jarvis (D-Ward 4) each earned an 8. Challengers John Fanning (D) running in Ward 2 and Arturo Griffiths (Statehood Green) running At-large were the only candidates to agree with all 18 questions. Fanning received a 6.5 rating and Griffiths received a 6. “Jack Evans, Carol Schwartz and Charlene Drew Jarvis are three of our best friends on the DC Council, and their ratings and questionnaires reflect their commitments to our community and issues,” said GLAA President Bob Summersgill. “It is also important to note that three Democrats, a Republicans, and a Statehood Green candidate were all rated very highly,” said Summersgill, “Incumbents and challengers alike rated very well.”

[The complete GLAA press release, as well as other endorsements and ratings, will be available on the DCWatch site as they come in. — Gary Imhoff]


How Do You Get Basic Services?
John Whiteside, Logan Circle,

The scene on my block, Friday night at 7: trash. DPW skipped our block on both trash pickup days this week. No surprise; since I moved here two months ago, we've had only one week in which trash was actually picked up on both scheduled days. One time is the norm, not at all is not unusual. Not surprisingly, the block looks awful — ripped trash bags, junk blowing around, and I hate to think about how appealing it probably is for rats.

I've been on the phone to the city call center; that worked a few weeks ago, but not this time. I've talked to a friendly and helpful fellow at DPW who returned my calls, but no trash has actually been carted away. Tonight, when I got home from work and found nothing had been done, I called the city call center again, and left a message at Jack Evans' office. So, fellow readers, can anyone share some strategies for getting the city to take care of these things? Someone else I should be calling? Or is it time to take all the trash down to DPW and throw it in front of their offices?


Street Signs — Missing, Stupid, and Hidden
Gabriel Goldberg,

What's led to the large number of street/road signs missing? Many major intersections, sometimes many adjacent intersections, lack indications of street names. Unless you're a native or frequent visitor to the locale, this makes navigation by car or on foot a challenge. I notice this a lot in DC but it also occurs in VA/MD. If it's caused by replacing street lighting or traffic signals on which signs were previously placed, shouldn't a project checklist call for restoring signage to at least its former condition, if not making it better? And what accounts for seemingly idiotic signage, where one sign hides another or a sign can't be seen until you've already made a decision that would have been helped by the sign's information? Finally, aren't jurisdictions supposed to trim vegetation before it makes signage unreadable? With road rage increasingly making driving an adventure, it would be nice if local governments strove to keep signs in place, adequate in number, logical in placement, and unhidden by Logan's Run-like overgrowth. (For non sci-fi fans, Logan's Run is a great movie, with a scene showing people emerging from underground life to find a thoroughly overgrown Washington, DC.) Has anyone successfully complained about missing, stupid, or hidden signage?


Cutbacks in the D.C. Government
Ed T. Barron,

The likely result of cuts in D.C. Government. employment are likely to be far less satisfying to mayor Williams, with far less cost savings, and reduced services to the residents of D.C. Don't get me wrong. I think that there are many very good candidates to be left out of the D.C. government in a very bloated and ineffectual bureaucracy. The problem with cutbacks is implementing them in a union environment in such a way as to eliminate those who cannot cut the mustard.

In a union dominated environment, layoffs occur only at the bottom layer of the organization. Those with the lowest salaries and least seniority are the ones who will be let go. Anyone with seniority has the right to bump someone lower in the organization with less seniority. Thus the average salaries paid to D.C. government employees rise, and those left in any organization are forced to do work that was previously done by underlings — not a pleasant working environment, and one that results in even lower productivity. The real way to cut an organization is to pare off the same percentage of non-performers at every level in the organization. In this manner you retain the morale of those who are left in the organization and the same average salary structure, with the work performed at the level intended.


Mark Richards, Dupont East,

Does anyone know the history of D.C.'s World War I Memorial on the mall — how it came about, why D.C. built a WW I Memorial on the mall and the federal government did not? Jan Scruggs wrote (Washington Post Outlook, Aug. 13, 2000): “It was dedicated in 1931 by President Hoover and contains the names of District residents who died in 'The Great War.'” He said one member of Congress is considering legislation to make it the national WW I Memorial.


Taxation Without Representation Plate
Shaun Snyder, NW Washington,

DC Vote has a bumper sticker available that looks like small a DC license plate with the words “Taxation Without Representation” on the plate. However, I noticed that if you cut up the bumper sticker, the words fit nicely over “Celebrate & Discover” on the current plates. In case you don't want to wait for the DMV to print up the real plates, take a look.

Photo of license plate


Litigation Against Property Owners
Stacey Whitmire,

Unfortunately I have nothing to add regarding litigation against slumlords. However, I felt a bond with Mr. Pansegrouw and his housing issues. I lived in a building just across from the zoo in Adams Morgan that was just barely kept up by our slumlord. This building was built in the 20s and, apparently, there has been no substantial maintenance against the aggressive deterioration of the building. We lived in a unit for one and a half years and withstood broken windows that were broken before we moved in, chicken wire security on our first floor windows, walls that didn't meet up with the baseboards, ceilings that fell down, horrible power (using the iron would case the lights to flicker), rats, roaches so big they had necks, leaks, and no air conditioning (goes without saying). Occasionally we would catch our slumlord touching up the black line of paint that lined all the walls in the building. And all this “luxury” came at a fairly high rent. He was unresponsive to our complaints.

We moved out and later learned that a non-profit agency that places homeless people in housing placed some of their clients in the slumlords buildings, and these people complained about the condition on the building. Even people who have suffered homelessness thought the conditions were unlivable! What is especially egregious is that housing like this is often filled with low-income families that feel like they have no alternative. I was lucky. I took a better paying job and could afford to move out. Incidentally, I also know a few people who rented a house at 10th and O, NW, from a man who, as they later learned, did not own the property (which explained why he always wanted his rent in “cash money.”) Apparently he took over this abandoned house. Whenever the water, electricity, or gas was turned off, he would take one of the residents to the utility and get his friends at the utility company to turn it back on. Frightening.


Nuisance Properties
Paul Karr,

In response to David Pansegrouw's question about how to deal with nuisance properties, I wanted to point out that DC has a program called Operation Crackdown, which gives neighborhood associations the legal right to sue land owners of nuisance properties for damages to the community. It also provides pro bono legal service to assist the community association through the legal process. It has worked in my neighborhood and could be a useful tool in other areas. To my knowledge, no land owner has actually gone to court through this process. They all decide to settle outside of court! For more information, you should call your City Councilmember and ask if they can provide details on Operation Crackdown.


Betty Ann Kane,

In response to the query about whether sidewalks are required in the District, here is the relevant provision of the DC Code. The bottom line: the Mayor has the authority to decide if the public safety, health or comfort requires a sidewalk be built, on his own or in response to a request. The abutting property owner pays half the cost and the District the other half. As an aside, I am often concerned about the speculation as to what the law is in messages in the mail — particularly the speculative responses — when it would be quite simple to look up the answer in the DC Code instead (it is on line free by link from the DC Council site, at least through March 1999 enactments.)

§7-607. Assessments for sidewalks and curbing. When new sidewalks or curbing are required to be laid on streets being improved, one-half the total cost shall be assessed against abutting property, in like manner and under the law governing in the case of assessment and permit work: Provided, that abutting property shall not be liable to such assessment when sidewalk and curbing have been laid by the District authorities in front of the same under the assessment and permit system within 2 years prior to such assessment. (Aug. 7, 1894, 28 Stat. 250, ch. 232; 1973 Ed., § 7-606.)

§7-608. Mayor to submit schedules of streets to be improved. The Mayor of the District of Columbia, in submitting the schedules of streets and avenues to be improved, shall each year arrange said streets and avenues in the order of their importance, as determined by him after personal examination of said streets and avenues. (Mar. 3, 1903, 32 Stat. 962, ch. 992; 1973 Ed., § 7-607.)

§7-609. Improvement and repairs of alleys and sidewalks; construction of sewers and sidewalks. (a) The Mayor of the District of Columbia is authorized and empowered, whenever in his judgment the public health, safety, or comfort require it, or whenever application shall be made therefor, accompanied by a deposit equal to one-half the estimated cost of the work, to improve and repair alleys and sidewalks, and to construct sewers and sidewalks in the District of Columbia of such form and materials as he may determine, and to pay the total cost of such work from appropriations for assessment and permit work. (b) Said Mayor shall give notice by advertisement, twice a week for 2 weeks in some newspaper published in the City of Washington, of any assessment work proposed to be done by him under this section, designating the location and the kind of work to be done, specifying the kind of materials to be used, the estimated cost of the improvement, and fixing a time and place when and where property owners to be assessed can appear and present objections thereto, and for hearing thereof. One-half of the total cost of the assessment work herein provided for, including the expenses of the assessment, shall be charged against and become a lien upon abutting property, and an assessment therefor shall be levied pro rata according to the linear frontage of said property: Provided, that no such assessment shall be levied against abutting property for the cost of repairing alleys or sidewalks when the damage requiring such repair is caused by the growth of roots of trees on public space or the cause of such damage is otherwise beyond the control of the owner of such property. One-half of the cost of the assessment work done under the provisions of this section shall be paid to the Director of the Department of Finance and Revenue of the District of Columbia, as follows: One-third of the amount within 60 days after service of notice of such assessment, without interest; one-third within 1 year, and the remainder within 2 years from the date of such service of notice, and interest shall be charged at the rate of 6 per centum per annum from the date of service of such notice on all amounts which shall remain unpaid at the expiration of 60 days after service of notice of such assessment, which in all cases shall be served upon each lot owner, if he or she be a resident of the District, and his or her residence known, and if he or she be a nonresident of the District, or his or her residence unknown, such notice shall be served on his or her tenant or agent, as the case may be, and if there be no tenant or agent known to the Mayor, then he shall give notice of such assessment by advertisement twice a week for 2 weeks in some newspaper published in said District. The service of such notice, where the owner or his tenant or agent resides in the District of Columbia, shall be either personal or by leaving the same with some person of suitable age at the residence or place of business of such owner, agent, or tenant; and return of such service, stating the manner thereof, shall be made in writing and filed in the office of said Mayor: Provided, that the cost of publication of the notice herein provided for, and the service of such notices shall be paid out of the appropriations for assessment and permit work. Any property upon which such assessment and accrued interest thereon, or any part thereof, shall remain unpaid at the expiration of 2 years from the date of service of notice of such assessment shall be subject to sale therefor under the same conditions and penalties which are imposed by existing laws for the nonpayment of general taxes; and if any property assessed as herein provided for shall become liable to sale for any other assessment or tax whatever, then the assessments levied under this section shall become immediately due and payable, and the property against which they are levied may be sold therefor, together with the accrued interest thereon, and the cost of advertising, to the date of such sale. Property owners who request improvements under the permit system shall deposit in advance with the Director of the Department of Finance and Revenue of the District of Columbia an amount equal to one-half the estimated cost of such improvements, and in such cases it shall not be necessary to give the notice hereinbefore provided for. All moneys received by the Director of the Department of Finance and Revenue of the District of Columbia for work done upon the request of property owners, as herein provided for, shall be deposited by him in the United States Treasury to the credit of the Permit Fund. Upon the completion of work done as aforesaid at the request of property owners, the Mayor shall repay to the then current appropriation for assessment and permit work, out of the Permit Fund, a sum equivalent to one-half of the cost of the work, and shall return to the depositors, from the same fund, as application may be made therefor, any surplus that may remain over and above one-half of the cost of the work. All sums received by the Director under the provisions of this section on account of assessment work, and in payment of assessments heretofore made prior to August 7, 1894, for compulsory permit work, shall be credited to the appropriation for assessment and permit work for the fiscal years in which they are collected: Provided further, that the costs of service connections with water mains and sewers shall be assessed against the lots for which said connections are made, and shall be collected in the same manner and upon the same conditions as to notice as herein provided for assessment work. (Aug. 7, 1894, 28 Stat. 247, ch. 232; Feb. 20, 1931, 46 Stat. 1198, ch. 246, § 9; Sept. 25, 1962, 76 Stat. 598, Pub. L. 87-700, § 1; 1973 Ed., § 7-608.)

[The Internet address of the DC Code is, or you can always get the address from the DCWatch links page, — Gary Imhoff]


Who Is Mr. Clean?
Bill Leonard,

My version of the legend of Mr. Clean differs from that of Emily Piccirollo. Mr. Clean, introduced in the early 1950s, is indeed a sanitized male image. However, the image is that of our then current president, Dwight Eisenhower who, at the time, had a spotless reputation and was regarded as the savior of our world as we knew it. I have a 1954 Mr. Clean film commercial in my collection, and that Mr. Clean looks a lot more like Ike than the current version.



DC Preservation League Island Jim's Happy Hour

Most endangered happy hour, Thursday, August 24, 6:30 p.m., at Island Jim's, 901 Monroe St., NE. To introduce preservation-minded people to the DC Preservation League's Most Endangered Places (and one another), the League will (re)visit the sandy shores of Island Jim's, across the street from the historic Brook's Mansion in Brookland, for its August Happy Hour. Brook's Mansion has been removed from the most endangered list because a tenant committed to its preservation has signed on, but the fight to save the 1905 McMillan Reservoir Sand Filtration Site has just begun. Newly named to the League's most endangered list, the McMillan Reservoir Site is bounded by Michigan Avenue, North Capitol, Channing and First Streets NW. Since its purchase by the District government in 1987, the site has deteriorated severely due to lack of maintenance. It is now threatened by pressure for commercial and residential development. McMillan Reservoir was designated a DC Historic Landmark in 1991. DCPL supports the McMillan Park Committee and other community organizations that promote park and recreational use of the site.

The League will participate in the upcoming Community Design Workshops being sponsored by DC Office of Planning. For more information on the most endangered list check out Getting to Island Jim's: by Metro, take the red line to Brookland/Catholic University stop, exit right from the station, cross parking lot; Island Jim's is on the far left corner (next door to Colonel Brooks Tavern). By car, take North Capitol to Michigan Avenue (east), turn right on Monroe, Island Jim's is on the right side of Monroe across from the Metro station (next door to Colonel Brooks Tavern).


Leukemia Fund Raiser
Bill Starrels,

Please join Liz Starrels and her friends Kathy and Nadine at Clydes in Tysons Corner on August 16th from 6:00 - 7:00 pm for beer, wine, and hors d'oeuvres — all for only $10.00! There are also raffle items including SPA packages, box seats at MCI, etc. For information, call Liz at 338-1547 or E-mail DCNURSE@HOTMAIL.COM. All proceeds benefit the Leukemia Society of America!


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