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September 20, 2000

A Plague on Both Your Houses

Dear Patients:

Nobody gained any glory from this week's City Council hearings on DC General Hospital and the Public Benefits Corporation, but then, nobody deserved even minimal credit. Regardless on your position on the future of DC General or the PBC, it is clear that both of them have had terrible financial management and uncontrolled deficit spending for the past several years, and that both the administration and the City Council let it go on unchallenged. Mayor Williams, who in previous years was the Chief Financial Officer and a member of the PBC Board, not only didn't correct the problem when he was CFO — he didn't even raise any alarms about it. On the other hand, the PBC/DC General budgets passed by the City Council for the past several years have been deliberately inadequate — if the agency overspent its budget every year, year after year, then the Council should have known that it either needed more money or should have been abolished long ago. And it turns out that not one of the seven community clinics operated by the PBC was even licensed until recently. How could that have happened?

The Mayor wants to scale back massively — nearly close — DC General by January 1, but his administration hasn't developed anything but a sketchy idea — certainly no reasonable plan or reliable financial figures — for how that can be accomplished and still provide free medical care for the indigent. And the Administration is still developing its plan almost in isolation, without either expert help or, more importantly, without the community input that is vital to any plan's success. The City Council is right not to sign on to anything the administration presented to them on Monday. On the other hand, the grandstanders and show boaters on the Council — Brazil, Chavous, and Graham most prominent among them — simply harkened back to the bad old days of the city's mismanagement, calling for a free-spending policy on the PBC and DC General. Damn the deficits; full speed ahead. We have a few months to come up with something that will actually work. Health care advocates and unions will call for massively increasing the funding for DC General and the PBC; if the administration intends to counter that call, it needs to come up with a credible plan that shows how services will continue to be provided to the poor. It needs to do so quickly, and it needs to involve the public in that planning in order to convince the public that the plan will work. You can link to the key testimony at Monday's hearing from

Gary Imhoff


Sell Surplus School Property
Sharon Cochran,

David Pansegrouw expressed concern about selling surplus school property due to overcrowded classes. I do not recall reading anything recently about overcrowded classes in DC. My understanding is that there is more of a problem with finding teachers to fill classroom in the entire metro area. If classes are overcrowded, it is more likely due to poor resource management of the existing open 148+ schools than the surplus school properties. According to the US Census Bureau population estimates released on August 30, 2000, DC is still losing population. We are not losing population as quickly as in prior years, but we are losing families with children. The folks moving into DC have fewer children or none. The US Census Bureau says that DC has over 20,000 fewer children 18 years or younger than in 1990. The big loss was with children under the age of 6; we lost approximately 9700 in that age group. There is a slight growth bulge in of children in the 6 to 9 year old group. Hopefully the school system is capable of adding a classes for this age group and decreasing them in the age groups of that have losses.


Ted LeBlond,

One reader complained about renewing her tags. Ha! Try renewing a dog license!


Jeffrey Hops,

Infill/density rezoning is going to be one of the hot issues for DC this decade. Unfortunately, though, the discussion is filled with a great deal of cant, false piety, and hand wringing. DC residents have to decide whether they want growth or preservation — they can't have both. Unless advocates of growth AND preservation together resort to some sort of disingenuous NIMBYism to suggest that someone else's neighborhood is less wonderful and unique (and therefore more deserving of the wreckers' ball and construction crane) than theirs (which to my mind is not an intellectually defensible option), DC residents will have to make this binary choice. On the one hand, urban sprawl and all its attendant miseries (including a dissipating tax base) as would-be DC residents move to Loudon and Howard counties, where they are welcomed with open arms and relatively inexpensive town homes; on the other hand, more congested, construction-ridden, parking-less streets and neighborhoods, as new types of neighborhoods and new enterprises come into existence in the District. It's a difficult choice — and at the moment, I'm glad I don't have to be responsible for making it. But when push comes to shove, I would rather see DC turn into Manhattan, New York, than Manhattan, Kansas.


Car Renewal/Car Inspections
Ann Carper,

My car renewal is due next month and I also have a question on the benefits of one-year vs. two-year renewal. If I renew for two years, does this mean I only have to have it inspected once during this period? Also, in contrast to Ralston Cox's rates, mine is $75 for one year and $150 for two. Perhaps the age (1987) of my car is the reason?


Jack Evans Is Not Pro-Business
Nick Keenan,, Shaw

Jack Evans is often described as being “Pro-Business,” but the reality is exactly the opposite. Business are comprised of people, and for the most part the people who make up businesses want the same things from their government as everyone else, and the things that make for a good business environment are the same things that make for a livable city: Safe streets, good schools, reasonable regulation — in short, good government.

The problem for Jack Evans is that providing good government is hard work. It entails attending tedious oversight hearings, mastering the mundane details of legislation, dealing with whiny constituents, and delving into the intricacies of the notorious bureaucracy. It's a full-time job, at least, and Evans is just a part-time councilmember, with another full-time job. Fortunately for him, none of that drudgery is necessary. He has found that if attends dutifully to the needs of just a few constituents — large institutions, some of them businesses but many of them also non-profits, some of them in his ward but many of them outside the city — he can keep his part-time job. In the past four years, Evans has raised over $1.2 million in campaign contributions, almost all of it from large institutions, and almost all of it from outside his ward. In the same period he has steered more than a billion dollars to his supporters, in the form of the Convention Center, the MCI Center, and a raft of special interest and emergency legislation. The Evans regime has been very good for some businesses, not for business.


Voting vs. Voting Rights
Oscar Abeyta,

In response to Helen Hagerty's observation about low voter turnout during the primary election last week, she states, “I don't know exactly what percentage of registered voters showed up on Tuesday, but it's hard to make a case for voting rights when no one votes in our local elections.” The case for congressional representation is made with two words: we're Americans. Full citizenship rights are ours by birthright; they are not something that have to be earned by electing an acceptable mayor or learning to balance our checkbook or even, yes, voting. It's deplorable that only 12.7 percent of us chose to vote in the election, but other Americans have similarly low voter turnouts. Only here is that used as an excuse to impugn our rights to have a voice in our national government.

I'm sick of it.


What Would be REALLY Interesting
Anne Anderson

Kurt Vorndran notes the lack of candidates fielded by the minor parties as an explanation for lack of media coverage. I agree that the lack of candidates is a serious problem for our democracy and I hope that more people will run in future years. I would have been satisfied if the media had noted the same in their coverage, and stated the fact that, even though there are few candidates that will be running against the Democratic party candidates in November, voters should be taking a look at all of them, and listening to their ideas. That would be useful coverage, educating the public on the process of a democratic election that I believe is supposed to offer a forum of ideas and plans generated by candidates so that voters can decide who will represent them best for the next cycle.

What would really be interesting: for voters to vote "other than Democratic" in November, for any other candidate that seems promising, as a way of waking up the media and the Democratic party. After all, why bother throwing your vote away on a done deal?


Third Parties and Primaries
Martin Thomas,

In Reply to Kurt Vorndran's message about the primary elections: the DC Statehood Green party does not control who is on the ballot in our primary any more than other parties. The process to get on the ballot is controlled by the DC Board of Elections and Ethics. To get on the ballot, one needs only to be registered in the party and collect a small number of signatures. I assure you that we have lots of healthy intra-party debate about the elections. The fact that we had unopposed primaries is a sign of confidence in our candidates and general consensus that focussing our efforts on the November elections is the best strategy.

We have succeeded at putting five candidates on the ballot in November along with two candidates for school board (non-partisan races). Finally, I'd like to invite you to come in from the sidelines and help us elect candidates in November. To volunteer, give me a call at 332-6558.


Campaign De-Signs
Adam J Marshall,

A quick comment on the campaign poster issue: while I understand the candidates' quibbling about the number of posters per block -- after all, they are unsightly — I am more concerned about the REMOVAL of these items, which tend to become forgotten eyesores following election day. I would direct this comment most to Messrs Fenty, Evans, Ross, Fanning, Brazil and Mrs Jarvis, all of whom seem to have plastered their placards everywhere (Mr. Evans, with extra cash in his pocket, even put his posters all over parts of Ward Three, which makes it all the more likely that he'll forget about them). Here's hoping that their respective campaigns complete their civic duty by getting rid of these posters before they become yet another DPW nightmare.

By the way, I don't want this to sound like I am anti-poster. After all, they play a vital role in local elections. Historically, though, some candidates tend to deal with poster removal in an extremely poor fashion.


Campaign Signs
Pete Ross,

[In response to Ralph Blessing] Please give me the address where you noted three signs on one utility pole. I set up all of my own signs, so if there is a violation, I am the one to blame. If the signs are “back-to-back” or in pairs (such as the Jack Evans signs) or wrapped in a triangle (which is what I did), the signs are legal. If this is the case, you will note many instances where I have three signs on one utility post.

What is illegal is to place two sets of doubles (one on top of another) or two sets of triples (one on top of another) on a single post. Please call or E-mail me and let me know the situation. 487-0000 (cell), 338-9240 (home)


Campaign Posters
Steve Leraris,

If the city isn't enforcing the laws regarding posters how about a lawsuit against the city and the offending campaign?


Pricing the Post
Jessica Catlin,

In response to “Name-Your-Price Comes to Newspaper Subscriptions” from the recent themail: the Washington Post subscription rate is a steal. You get one of the best newspapers in the country for far less than other major newspapers charge their local readers. Don't take it for granted.


Naming DC
George S. LaRoche,

Re: “Naming the District of Congress” by Mark Richards, 9/17/00: In answer to Mark's questions, Tindall is fairly but not completely accurate, but his factual inaccuracies are less important than an assumption apparent in his work: Tindall seems to take the question of names (especially with regard to an assumed distinction between “district” and “territory”) as indicative of legal or constitutional status, but this assumption is not valid. As Shakespeare said, “a rose by any other name would smell the same.” For the District this means that whether this place be called a “district” or a “territory,” it would remain under the same kind and degree of congressional power and would not be a “state” or a part of a state. Thus, it should never be assumed that the formal name given at any time was indicative of the present or future status of the District.

Turning to Mark's second question (“Do we live in an 'unnamed' Territory with a municipal corporation known as 'The District of Columbia'?”): the possible absence of a statute naming this place doesn't derogate from the fact that, for almost its entire history, it's been called "the District of Columbia," and that's worth something. But Mark is quite astute to note the strange and confusing fact that the governmental institutions which run the District are referred to as “the District of Columbia.” This strange usage is a remnant of the history of municipal corporations. From long before there was a “District of Columbia,” “shires” and “towns” and “boroughs” were not places, but were legal franchises granted by the King to govern places. Congress was merely following the tradition of municipal law inherited from Great Britain when it chartered a municipal government for this land and water, and under that tradition, “the District of Columbia” is not the place itself — it's the government of the place. So our present reference to this venerable assemblage of dirt and running water as “the District of Columbia” would be considered merely a convenient circumlocution, from the point of view of the history of municipal law.

But this circumlocution, indeed, has devoured the history, in most places. We now speak of “the government of” a place referred to (for instance) as “the City of New York,” distinguishing the institutions of government from the physical place, which itself is now called “the City.” But beware, calling a place a “City” (or even a “state”) does not mean the residents of that place will have the power to govern that place or to do the things other people in other places do. Mark's last question (“Do all of us in D.C. live in the 'seat of government,' but only some of us live in 'the Federal Capital'?) is especially interesting if we try to answer the question with the assumption that these names are indicative of something substantive, but this assumption — as I've said above — is erroneous. No one I know in the District lives in the actual (distinguished from the merely nominal) “seat of government,” because no federal functions (“seatings”?) are carried out in or even close to their residences. Most don't even live within sight of federal property of any kind. The District embraces far more land than the federal government uses or likely will use as its “seat,” and it's well past time for Congress to relinquish control of all the District not used as the “seat.” That would change the substantive legal reality of the District, and settle these questions, once and for all.



Retirement Party
Matthew Gilmore,

Sept. 22, 3:00-5:00. The Washingtoniana staff invites you to a Retirement Party for Mary Ternes, Photo Librarian in the Washingtoniana Division on September 22 from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. in the MLKML A Level staff lounge. Please bring a beverage or food to share (non-DCPL-ers need not bring food) and join in the fun as we say goodbye to Mary and celebrate her long career at the Library. RSVP by responding to this E-mail or calling 727-1199 or 727-2272.

###############’s Calendar of Wine and Food Events
Charlie Adler, wine@TASTEDC.COM

1) September 20, Wednesday, “New Restaurant Series: Yanyu Restaurant 8 Course Wine Dinner,” 3435 Connecticut Ave., NW. Metro: Cleveland Park (Red Line), 7-9 PM, optional valet parking available ($5 valet charge). $70 per person, tax and tip inclusive. Chef and owner Jessie Yan (owner of Spices and Oodles of Noodles) is back from her Far Eastern tour with an 8 course menu paired with wine!: a) lily bulb dumpling, b) sea scallops with plum sauce, c) big duck, d) crab cucumber sonomono, e) honey roasted sea bass, f) pan-seared tenderloin in orange sauce, g) sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaf, and h) trio of desserts. Seating is provided. 2) October 4, Wednesday, “California's Hot New Varietal Wines,” Radisson Barcelo Hotel, 2121 P St., NW. Valet parking, Metro Dupont Circle (Red Line), 7-9 PM, $48 per person. California is now producing some fantastic wines other than Chardonnay and Merlot: Cal-Italia & Rhone varietals like Sangiovese and Viognier, just to name a few. Join Robert Cavanaugh, formerly the Sommelier at the Ritz-Carlton in Palm Beach, as we taste California's new wave of exciting wines! 3) October 5, Thursday, “Burcak Harvest Festival with Live Jazz at the Embassy of the Czech Republic,” 3900 Spring of Freedom (Between Connecticut Avenue and Beach Drive, just off Tilden Street), NW. Parking available, 7-9 PM Festival and tasting, $45 in advance. Burcak is the still fermenting wine that Moravians drink during the “Vinobrani” (Wine Harvest). It's sweet and low in alcohol, but don't be fooled: the day after has come to be called the Curse of Burcak! We'll accompany this drink obtained from Sand Castle Winery in Pennsylvania with a menu of fresh salads, fruits and foods from the harvest. The evening features guest appearances by Torzo's leading artist, Zdenek Macku, and the renowned Czech jazz singer Jana Koubkova. Dress is very casual for this event and the spirit will be joyous! 4) October 18, Wednesday, “Wine Basics 101,” Radisson Barcelo Hotel, $40 per person. Our most attended event! Learn how to order wine in a restaurant, determine basic wine styles and varietals, pair wine and food and more! 5) October 24, Tuesday, “New American Wine Dinner at Tahoga Restaurant,” 2815 M St., NW, 7-9:30 PM, $70 per person. Join us for a 5 course meal at Tahoga Restaurant, one of the area's premier restaurants specializing in regional American cuisine. The dinner will include an appetizer, salad, fish course, meat course, and dessert, all paired with Breaux Vineyard's (their 1999 Viognier won the “Best of Show” at the VWGA Virginia Wine Competition) award winning wines. Space is limited to only 35 people, so please sign up early! Dress is business casual. 6) October 25, Wednesday, “Fall Wine Xtravaganza,” Cafe Soleil Restaurant, 839 17th St., NW, steps from Farragut West Metro, street parking, 7-9 PM, $35 in advance, $45 at the door if available. Xtravaganza's are a great way to taste over 35 kinds of wine in an informal setting and also purchase them for 20% off per bottle and 25% off per case (sales are handled by a local D.C. retailer). William-Harrison Imports is showcasing their portfolio of hand-picked French wines from the Loire Valley, Bordeaux, Burgundy, and the south of France. Light hors d'oeuvres will also be served. Dress is business casual. 7) November 4, Saturday, “Oyster and Wine Festival,” Christopher Marks Restaurant, 1301 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, 1-4 PM, $65 per person, tax and tip inclusive. Oysters, oysters, and more oysters, and great wine! Taste a variety of at least 15 different types of oysters freshly shucked on the half-shell from both the East and West Coasts paired with wines from New Zealand and California (think incredible Sauvignon Blancs) and France (Muscadet from the Loire Valley, oyster's perfect accompaniment!). Executive Chef Robert Polk (formerly of Bistro Bis under Jeffrey Buben, and Occidental Grill) will also prepare Oysters Rockefeller and a tasting of other prepared oyster specialties. If you love oysters, don't miss this one! Dress is very casual for this
standing event. Reservations, phone 333-5588, hpps://



Pre-Moving Sale
John Shores,

Moving, and have the following items for IMMEDIATE sale: Bicycle, Miyata 210, 12-speed touring bike with drop handlebars — $50. Matching set of three bookcases (72x30x12 inches, oak finish, 3 shelves, with 24" closed cabinet below) — $40 each or all three for $100. Bookcase, wooden, six shelves (72x36x12 inches) gray — $35. Television, color, 17 inch Zenith, with remote control — $25. TV stand, swivel, 25" high — $15. Microwave stand, white, two shelves, cabinet below (42x25x15) — $25. Typewriter table, metal, with wheels — $5.

For LATER pick-up, after open house (available late Oct or early Nov): Double bed, Sealy Posturepedic mattress and box spring, frame, pad, and linens. Very clean and in good shape — $150. Sofabed, opens into queen-size bed, blue/green/peach/gray abstract pattern, clean (80x35x32 inches) — $90. Dehumidifer, Holmes model HDH25A, 25 pints/24 hours — $50.


Share Caps Tickets
Paul Penniman,

Is anyone interested in sharing two tickets to 11 games? I want to get tickets in the first row of the upper deck “end zone,” which is the closest to the ice surface you can get if you are upstairs. The tickets are $22 each if you order in bulk.



Short-term Housing Needed
Alicia George,

Friends of mine are moving to a new home soon, but face a brief period of homelessness because of construction delays at their new place. Their needs are really basic: a small place (one room) where they can sleep, bathe, store clothes, plug in a computer, and cook. It can be furnished or unfurnished. It can be Monday-Friday only. They don't smoke and have no kids and no pets. They prefer someplace close to Metro. They need housing for the month of October, but are willing to rent from September 23 through November 30. If anyone has any leads, you can respond to them directly at


One-Bedroom Apartment Wanted
Peg Blechman, blechman@ACCESS-BOARD.GOV

My cousin, a professional female in her early 40's, is looking for a one-bedroom apartment along the Connecticut Avenue corridor from Dupont Circle to Chevy Chase Circle. She just got back from the Alaska bike ride for AIDS to find out her landlord is selling the house she's been sharing. She is very responsible and reliable tenant. She's looking for a place by November 1st for around $650 a month. Any suggestions would be appreciated.


Short Term House-Sitting or Rental Wanted
Rosa Balkcum,

Couple with 11 year old girl and quiet, well behaved dog seek short term (2-3 months with possibility of longer stay if desired) house sitting job or house or apartment rental. Please call Rosa at 244-9701.



Home Improvement Help
Karen Leuthy,

Fall is a great time for fixing up the homestead. Well, it's been a wild and woolly summer, but I'm now ready to take on new clients for a fall season filled with fixing and sprucing and beautifying our wonderful historic homes here in district. Right Hand is a unique new service that evolved in response to the wave of home improvement questions and frustrations that have been bouncing around my neighborhood and the rest of the city over the past few years.

Here's how it works: you, the overworked homeowner that has better things to do on your evenings and weekends, have a number of things that you'd like to have done around the house, but you don't have time to chase all the different people down, call references, get quotes, wait for them to show up, etc. You call me, I do all the leg-work and research for you, help you decide what materials you need and buy them for you, supervise the work as it's being done and make sure it's all up to snuff. The idea is that your time is better spent bringing home the bacon and enjoying your family, not playing phone tag or sitting in traffic on Rockville Pike.

Right Hand is also an excellent resource for brainstorming. I've got tons of literature, catalogs, books and magazines for you to pour over and be inspired by, whether or not I'm the one overseeing your project. And yes, I also do Feng Shui sessions! Right Hand is licensed, bonded and insured. Initial consultations are free. Let's get to work!


Dave Nuttycombe,

From's LOOSE LIPS column, appearing this Friday:
GUFF FOR THE GATEKEEPER: Like just about any political beehive, One Judiciary Square, the District's seat of government, processes rumors as routinely as time slips. Every week, it seems, city hall insiders roll their eyes over the latest alleged flare-up between Mayor Anthony A. Williams and some contumacious councilmember.
Last week, though, the rumor mill ground out a story more suitable for political rumination: Williams was ready to replace mayoral Chief of Staff Abdusalam Omer with Bernard Demczuk, a former aide to Mayor-for-Life Marion S. Barry Jr.
Read the entire Loose Lips column here:

From's CITY LIGHTS page, here are a few early warnings for upcoming events:
WEDNESDAY: Gore Vidal signs copies of his book The Golden Age to benefit the Eric Friedheim Library at the National Press Club. At noon. at the National Press Club Ballroom, 529 14th St. NW. $35.
SEPT. 22-OCT. 1: Arabian Sights 2000. At Cineplex Odeon Foundry, 1055 Thomas Jefferson St. NW. $8.
More details and more critics' picks are available online at


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