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August 30, 2000

Begging the Question

Dear Correspondents:

I think that the referral to the Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy in this issue is a first for themail, but then the application of any kind of philosophy to DC life and politics is rare, and should be encouraged.

Gary Imhoff


Candidates in This Election
Keith Jarrell,

We need change. We need it now. We need people that will react to what the people want not to what big business wants and dictates. Jarvis needs to go! Brazil never should have been! These two seats begin changed would drastically give the people that do serve us well a shot of help in getting our city cleaned up.

I urge everyone to think before they cast their vote this time, and just because a name looks familiar doesn't mean they're the best choice. Do the right thing and choose! Think and choose! Shouldn't be all that hard now, should it? These two are the last of the old Marion Barry mentality, and that is gone with the wind. We need to show them the door, and let someone else give it a try.

500 million dollars spent on a new convention center and H street NE looks like a war zone. What was Jarvis thinking? A telephone monopoly, and Bell Atlantic, now Verizon, a multi-billion dollar company and still doesn't give us any better choice, or none at all. How much did they contribute to her re-election? Wouldn't we all like to know that? I encourage all of you to think this through, and to vote for change. It's an important time with extra money for the city, we need to be assured that it's spent where we most need change.


Whom Should We Write-In Against Brazil?
John Vaught LaBeaume, Dupont Circle,

The recent City Paper article which chronicles Harold Brazil's uninspiring DC Council tenure certainly encapsulated well my own disappointment with the at-large Council Member's lost potential. I voted for Brazil in both the primary and the general in 96 thanks to the reputation he had striven to project as the council's voice of fiscal responsibility. However, I had decided long ago to vote against Brazil in 2000 for the above reason and the judicial committee record he has compiled that is not very friendly to civil liberties. Sadly, no challenger for Brazil's re-nomination has emerged, despite eight candidates having stepped forward for the open at-large seat in 98.

I am planning on writing in one of those candidates from 98, Greg Rhett. I got involved in the Rhett campaign at the last minute in 98, and while most voters had by then committed to another candidate, most were impressed by Rhett nonetheless. Rhett's record of community service in his Ward 7 neighborhood would serve him well on the council. Does anyone else have any suggestions?

There seems to exist much dissatisfaction with Brazil, and certainly there is little enthusiasm. DC has struggled for voting rights in the past. Yet here comes another uncontested election! Incumbent Council Members should offer a compelling reason for returning them to office. Brazil has failed to do so. Let's put DC's hard won democratic rights to good use and send a message to Brazil. A noticeable write-in vote against him may encourage Brazil to clean up his act. Let's decide on someone to coalesce around and mount a grass roots democratic write-in effort. Please drop me a line with any thoughts.


Close D.C. General
Ed T. Barron,

There is now ay that D.C. General can be rescued or recover from the point they are currently at. It's much like the situation at the UDC. They are far beyond the point where heroic, Herculean efforts can save these big losers. What should be done to take care of the indigent folks needing health care in Ward 8? There should be street clinics established in several locations of Ward 8. These clinics should be the equivalent of a MASH unit (hopefully with the equivalents of Radar O'Reilly, Hawkeye and the rest of the gang) to handle emergency trauma cases right near the scene of their trauma. These patients, when stabilized, could then be evacuated to other facilities designed to handle their particular trauma. The street clinics could also treat all the minor episodes that need medical attention without forwarding to a better equipped medical site.

This type of deployment of medical services would be far better than what we have now in terms of cost and in getting the services needed to where they are needed to serve an underserved community.


At the Zoo
Ralph Blessing,

Reading in the Post how the National Zoo's orangutan escaped the first time he ever ventured onto the climbing towers outside the Great Ape House, I couldn't help but think of the line in Paul Simon's late-60's hit “At the Zoo”: “. . . orangutans are skeptical of changes in their cages. . . .” Obviously Mr. Simon did his homework before penning that song. I'm surprised that Post reporter David Montgomery didn't quote it in his article. Too young to remember it perhaps.


Dan Tangherlini Schedule for Street Repair
David F. Power,

Excuse me while I DON'T fall down in gratitude before the DPW altar for the web site release of repair schedules for DC streets. DPW is now supposedly promising a “Two-Year Street Rehabilitation Program” at its web site address:

I'm sorry, what year is this? Is this August of the year 2000? What year did we elect the Mayor to clean up the crap in our streets? I thought we ALREADY had “two years” of promises to clean up the crap left behind by fiber optic pirates. Did we already have two years of construction or not? Did I miss something? If we could not rely on the campaign promises of 1998, why should we think we can rely on the DPW promises of the year 2000?


Street Repairs List; Where Is Reno Road?
Lucy Mallan,

I went to the web site and looked in Ward 3. I didn't see Reno Road. Am I missing something? It's a mess between Porter Street and Tilden, and I just assumed that it was going to be fixed in the near future. But now it looks as if it's not going to be fixed in any future. Are we waiting for more cuts before it goes on a list? I'm tired of having to decide whether to put my right hand wheels in the rut or take up two lanes of traffic. How do you E-mail Mr. Tangherlini?


Fueling Buses
Elliott Negin,

The Natural Resources Defense Council-Sierra Club Clean Bus Campaign needs help from the readers of themail. We would like you to write letters or send E-mails in support of our campaign to convince the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Metro) to stop buying diesel buses — which spew toxic contaminants into our air every day — and begin to buy buses powered by compressed natural gas (CNG), which are infinitely cleaner. Transit agencies around the country — in Atlanta, L.A., New York, and next door in Montgomery County — are now buying only CNG.

Metro plans to buy 100 new diesel buses next year from a bus manufacturer that also makes CNG buses. We want Metro to change its contract and buy CNG buses instead (two Metro board members have told me that the agency has the money to cover the extra cost). Metro also would have to convert one of its fueling stations in the District to handle CNG, but there are private contractors that will convert a facility for free in exchange for a long-term contract to purchase gas. The Metro staff, which is fighting us, plans to make formal recommendations about the 100 buses to the Metro board on September 7. If you would like more information and/or contact information for the Metro board, contact Elliott Negin at


A Response on the Split Rate Tax
Danilo Pelletiere,

It is my understanding that Richard is correct that vacant properties pay a higher rate than owner-occupied homes. The rub, however, is that they pay the same rate as occupied properties within their class that are not owner-occupied. Today, within each class of property, the District applies the same tax rate to assessed building values and land values. As a result, maintaining or improving the quality of your building results in higher taxes. However, allowing your building to deteriorate lowers your assessed building value and results in lower taxes. Thus boarding up or razing the building results in the lowest tax of all.

The current tax system encourages vacant housing (very little of what you see is really abandoned!) and reduces the stock of available housing in the city. Vacant housing and building also attract crime, arson and other problems. At the same time the tax system punishes those who maintain or improve the quality of their buildings. A split-rate tax would REDUCE the tax rate on buildings and raise the land tax rate to offset this reduction. A split rate tax puts the proper incentives in the tax code. Because most homeowners (and most small business properties as well) have most of their property value in their building, most homeowners would see a net reduction in their tax. Owners of boarded-up buildings, vacant lots, and surface parking lots would see a tax increase because most of their value is in the land.

Jurisdictions that have used this “split-rate” property tax have found that the number of vacant lots and boarded-up buildings declines, permits for building improvements go up, and taxes on most middle- and low-income homeowners go down. For more information people can contact Deborah Katz at the Washington Regional Network for Livable Communities, 667-5445.


Traffic Citations — or the Lack Thereof
Ralph Blessing,

A couple recent postings about rather trivial traffic citations highlight the tendency of police to go for the easy mark while overlooking the more serious violations that create a truly dangerous driving/biking/walking environment or that contribute to our massive congestion problem. A good example of the this is the double- and triple-parking that occurs every morning in the 300 and 400 blocks of Indiana Avenue and C Street bordering the District courthouse. The culprits appear to be DC police who are making courthouse appearances. This creates a hazardous situation for pedestrians, including large numbers exiting the Judiciary Square Metro station on their way to work. More than once I've nearly been hit in a C St. crosswalk, an area not immune to these violations (today two police cars were parked in that same crosswalk), because my view and that of oncoming drivers is obstructed by illegally parked cars. But, of course, none of these cars — most of them private vehicles — is ever ticketed. As with the incidents when DC police cite residents for sipping wine on their front stoops while ignoring complaints about drunken students at Catholic U. or the disruptive characters who wonder around town with bottles in brown bags, the issue is consistency. I doubt that most of us would object to the trivial citations if we felt that there was a genuine effort to be evenhanded, and that includes ticketing their own. And can't Police Chief Ramsey or the Mayor make alternate parking arrangements available to police who need to be in court?


TV’s District
George S. LaRoche,

This is best addressed with the adage, “fight fire with fire.” Contact Fox network and sell them a new drama series: “The Executives,” about a group of overpaid, impotent executives at a major television network, detailing their arduous struggles to decide what sort of pabulum to market and to discern which idea from which competitor network defines “this year's must-copy program,” all the while trying to hide their cocaine habits and keep their mistresses happy without giving their third wives reasons to seek divorces (of course, we all KNOW that all executives are guys, and white). Envision the set: a magnificent wood-paneled conference room; half a dozen fat white guys with long straight hair pulled back into a pony tail, debating whether they redo “Survivor” on an island or reset it on the top of a mountain in the Andes — perhaps with live mountain lions feasting on the occasional contestant, as opposed to just remaking “Gilligan's Island” but without clothing. We could call the series, “See B.S., for that's exactly what television offers, lot's of b.s.


Gary, You Are Out of Your Mind, Too
Buck Downs,

I lived in South Florida during the heyday of Miami Vice, and other than its impact on singles-bar fashion, I can safely say that nobody in Metro Dade gave a shit about Miami Vice, except for the creeps who wrote TV crit for the Miami Herald; it certainly was not the catalyst for the redevelopment of South Beach. The scenario you imagine is an ill dream of cultural relevance that is beyond even the most self-deluded television exec.

But Don Johnson's ghost does bring up last week's point again — do people in San Francisco give a shit about Nash Bridges? I was in Roswell a couple of weeks ago, and the folks I met while there were mostly oblivious to the WB series named for their burg. I can only believe that it is the misguided sense of self-importance endemic to the average Washingtonian (myself included of course, otherwise why even bother with such a topic) that has led to this confusion of telefiction trash with reality.


I’m Begging You, Please!
Gregory Diaz,

Ever hear (or see in The Washington Post) this combination of phrases put together by a “journalist”? “So-and-so did (or said) such-and-such, and that begs the question. . . . ” This increasingly popular (lemmings come to mind) journalistic flourish is followed by the reporter actually posing a rhetorical question that he or she iimagines is impelled by the introductory clause. Last Friday a grinning babbler on Fox TV News squirted the phrase all over the screen. “Oil prices are up, and that begs the question: what is the White House doing about it?”

Argh! Stop me before I strangle again. Will somebody please tell these people and their editors that “to beg the question” does not mean to elicit or impel or induce or invite a question. It is a term of formal logic that describes a form of circular reasoning (see, The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, Cambridge 1995, p. 124). To beg the question means to avoid answering the question put to the respondent. This epidemic usage is almost as annoying as dogs pooping on my lawn and people tearing down inconvenient parking restriction signs — a form of self-help apparently now in vogue in our neighborhood.



Runnymede Singers
Renee Schwager,

Do you enjoy singing? Haven't sung in a chorus since high school or college? Come join the Runnymede Singers. We rehearse on Tuesday nights in the Dupont Circle area. For more info, contact Renee Schwager at


Fall for the Book Literary Festival
Lois Kirkpatrick,

Join us for the 2nd annual Fall for the Book Literary Festival, September 21-24, sponsored by the Washington Post, George Mason University, the Fairfax County Public Library, Borders, and the City of Fairfax. Most events are free, and include workshops, seminars and readings by more than 50 authors, plus a street fair and activities for kids. For more information, go here:


The Poor Clares Concert
Bill Adler,

The Poor Clares will be performing at the Cleveland Park Club on Thursday, September 28th at 7 pm. The Poor Clares' songs range from enchanting to vibrant, and almost all have a strong traditional backbone. The Poor Clares are one of the most gifted American Celtic groups; and while their songs are strongly Irish in nature, there's often a dash of jazz and folk in their music. Dirty Linen Magazine said that The Poor Clares are “one of the south's most exciting Irish acts: command of a wide range of instruments, several excellent singers, plus good taste and good humor . . . one of America's best Irish groups.” September 28th's 7 pm performance will be an all-acoustical show. You can read more about the Poor Clares at (Of course!)

The Cleveland Park Club is located at 3433 33rd Place, NW. It's off Highland Place, NW, off Newark Street, between Connecticut Avenue and 34th Street. Tickets are $20 for general admission. For reservations or more information, call 202-986-9275 or E-mail me at


Women’s Ice Hockey
Kathleen Lannan,

Washington Women's Ice Hockey Club now recruiting for 2000-2001 season. No experience necessary — all levels welcome. Wednesday, 9:30 pm and Saturday, 7:30 pm. For more info call 800-505-1644 or E-mail


Upcoming NIJL Events
Jill Levin,

The National Institute for Jewish Leadership (NIJL) in cooperation with the American Jewish Committee, American Jewish Congress, and Jewish Community Council invite you to the Jewish Community & Local Government (Part II): Meet the Candidates Forum, Tuesday, September 5, 7:00 pm, DCJCC, 1529 16th Street, NW. Reception to follow. Members $6, nonmembers $8. What can your local government do for you? A need for greater Jewish community participation in DC government has been called for in recent times. Please join us for a forum with incumbent Charlene Drew Jarvis and candidate Adrian Fenty, democrats running for the Ward 4 DC Council seat. It is expected to be a competitive race with much at stake. Come take part in this important event. Contact: Jill, (202) 518-9400, x362.

Future events: 1) Marjorie Agosin: A Poet Speaks to Her Country, presented in cooperation with the American Jewish Committee, Thursday, September 7, 7:00 pm, DCJCC. Reception to follow. $10. Marjorie Agosin, world-renowned Jewish Chilean author and poet, will engage in a dialogue with His Excellency Genaro Arriagada, the Ambassador of Chile, focusing on the Jews of Chile. This program is presented in conjunction with the Ann Loeb Bronfman Gallery's exhibition I Carry My Roots With Me: Touchpoints of the Latin American Jewish Diaspora. Tickets: Box Office Tickets, 800-494-TIXS. Contact: Kate, 777-3251, 2) Steering Committee Meeting, Monday, September 11, 7:00 pm, DCJCC. Help plan future events, speakers and discussions on politics and public policy. Your input is critical to bring in the personalities you would like to meet and issues you want to learn about. Contact: Jill, 518-9400, x362. 3) Embassy of Argentina, Wednesday, September 20, 7:00 pm sharp. Members free, nonmembers $20.00; pre-paid registration required. Insider Embassy Nights are unique to the Washington public affairs scene. Join us as we go “inside” the life of the embassy, see the building after-hours, and meet dignitaries from all over the world. This month, we will learn about Argentina, its people, and explore the Jewish life within the country. Reception to follow. Contact: Jill, 777-3238, 4) Common Ground: How We Respond to Acts of Bigotry, Monday, October 23, at the Embassy of Costa Rica. NIJL welcomes the opportunity to host a Jewish/Latino dialogue. Please join us for a discussion with leaders from the Jewish and Latino communities as we share experiences on coming to grips with bigotry. We will discuss how to educate, sensitize, and build coalitions to prevent opposition, found even within each of our communities. Contact: Jill, 518-9400, x362.



Seeking Apartment
Kathleen Kuster,

Young professional couple currently living in Mt. Pleasant seeking 1BR apartment. Our current unit is being sold. We'd like to stay in NW if possible. Please E-mail


House for Rent
Lenora R Fuller,

Rental property. House currently completing rehab in NW DC (Ward 4) between Fort Totten and Takoma Park Metro stations. Quiet area. On street parking. With 3 bedrooms, 1 full bath and 3 half bathrooms, den, dining area, living room with fireplace. Attic for storage. Hardwood floors. Newly painted, new appliances. Unfinished basement. Security system installed. Big yard with privacy fence and shed. Pets ok (extra). Available for viewing September 9th. Asking $1500 month plus utilities. Great for teachers. Leave phone number, time to call and name. Call 726-1329 between 8:00 and 5:00 Monday through Friday.


Parking Space Wanted to Rent
Annie McCormick,

I know this is a long shot, but I am looking for secure parking near 14th and N Streets, NW. My building does not have any parking available at this time, and I'm on a waiting list at another place, as well. Anyone have anything for rent? Call Annie McCormick, 626-5748.



Library Seeks Volunteers
Martha Saccocio,

The Friends of the Tenley-Friendship Library are seeking volunteers to help with our semi-annual book sale. We need help in the coming weeks sorting books and on the day of the sale, October 14. We also are accepting book donations of all types. For more info, please send an E-mail to For those of you who work during the day, the library is open Tuesday and Thursday evenings until 9 pm and on Saturdays from 10 - 5:30.



Wanted, an Orange Cat
Margaret Yoma Ullman,

Wanted: orange, male, DHS cat to adopt in a loving home. Leave messages at 364-8714. (No kittens please.)



Computer Help
Margaret Yoma Ullman,

I must buy a new computer and, as an individual user with low technical skills, I need help. Does anyone know of a person or business that provides advice on what is required in a new desk-top and hands-on help moving data from my old machine to the new one? Please contact


Dave Nuttycombe,

From's LOOSE LIPS column, appearing this Friday:
MEA MAXIMA CULPA: Few things matter in D.C. politics as much as race. Whether we like it or not, race often dictates the outcomes of votes on everything from school reform to D.C. Council contests to the allocation of the city's $5 billion budget. That's why everyone in the local political scene — elected officials, citizens, and journalists -- should exercise particular caution when it comes to this critical issue.
LL last week failed his readers in this most fundamental of missions. In an item about Mayor Williams' influence in this fall's elections, LL misstated the race of potential school board president candidate Peggy Cooper Cafritz. LL said she is white; she is, in fact, African-American. Any mistake of this ilk on the printed page is heinous. In this case, however, it is doubly so because the subject is a highly visible public figure who founded the Duke Ellington School for the Performing Arts and is familiar to nearly all those who monitor the D.C. political scene. Except for LL, of course.
LL hereby apologizes to all those who faithfully turn to his page for the latest take on politics. A special apology is reserved for Cafritz herself, who is mounting a run for public office and shouldn't have to deal with columnists who can't get their facts straight.
Read the entire Loose Lips column here:

From's CITY LIGHTS page, here are a few early warnings for upcoming events:
SUNDAY: The Sorrow and the Pity, 4 p.m. at the National Gallery of Art's East Building Auditorium, 4th & Constitution Ave. NW. Free.
THURSDAY: Wine Boot Camp, 7 p.m. at the Wyndham Hotel, 1400 M St. NW. $35.
More details and more critics' picks are available online at


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