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September 27, 2000

Playing a Few Race Cards

Dear Potential Fire Victims:

Councilmember Harold Brazil held a charade, I mean a confirmation hearing, today on the nomination of Ronnie Few as DC's fire chief. The outcome — Few's confirmation — is a foregone conclusion, but the process stinks to high heaven. If you read the Washington Times you know that serious questions have been raised about Few's history as Fire Chief of Augusta, Georgia, and Mayor Williams and Councilmember Brazil (and, so far, the Washington Post) are determined to ignore and disregard those problems, to sweep them under the rug. Brazil pledged that he would send an investigator to Augusta to look into them, but that was a lie. He never intended to, and he never did. Nobody on the go-along, get-along Council asked any tough questions. A example of the depth of questioning was Brazil's probing interrogation of Few: “Can you give me three of your top characteristics?” and one sentence from Few's answer, “I feel like I'm the world's greatest fire chief.”

To testify in favor of Few's nomination, Williams and Brazil called up from Augusta some race-baiting politicians of the crudest type, and Brazil and his committee, most notably Vincent Orange, fawned all over them and reinforced their nasty tack. Is Few the target of a long-running Grand Jury investigation? Well, you know that those Grand Juries are all racist, and besides, Few isn't alone; all of us in the Augusta government are being investigated. If he isn't currently under indictment, there's no problem. Did the Georgia Bureau of Investigation seize Few's and the Fire Department's records just last week? Well, you know they're racist, and they just did that to embarrass him at this confirmation hearing. Did Few charge hundreds of dollars of personal calls to his government cell phone? Well, he repaid the charges when he got caught, and that's up to our standards. If you think there's anything wrong with that, you're a racist. Did Few use favoritism in distributing pay raises in his Department? Well, that's what the newspaper printed, but the paper is racist, and the City Council retroactively approved of the raises. Don't even mention the problems with what he charged Augusta for moving expenses, or the unpaid expenses of the fire chief's conference that Few hosted, or the problem with the Augusta fire fighter who wrote the specs for equipment that he sold the city, or the problem with the black fire fighters association meeting that excluded whites, or the call by Few's political allies to eliminate Augusta's Office of Equal Opportunity when the director of that Office protested the segregated meeting. Did Few reveal any of these problems to the search committee? No. He was asked whether there was any embarrassment that could arise, and he said no, and, since he still thinks that he has never done anything wrong, he gave the right answer. And so on, and so on. Any criticism is easily explained away by the accusation that any critics are racists.

When Dorothy began to ask questions about Few's background a few months ago, she was confronted with the warning, “You don't want to cause problems for a black man, do you? You must prefer a white candidate.” As late as Monday, a Brazil staffer tried to discourage her from testifying with the same innuendo. This has been the Williams's administration's major tactic to grease one more bad nomination through the City Council — to sway Councilmembers receptive to this kind of argument and to warn away questioning ones. And it worked. Victory with dishonor.

Gary Imhoff


It’s Broke and It Can’t Be Fixed
Ed T. Barron,

The D.C. School System, like many inner city and urban school systems, can't be fixed. There are band aids being used such as vouchers, charter schools, and home schooling. But the real problems in the way schools are currently run cannot be fixed. We have evolved a completely dysfunctional system with processes that cannot succeed in providing a quality education to our kids. George Bush talks about an educational recession. We have a full blown depression here in Washington's schools.

The solution lies not in more band aids but in a complete reinvention and reengineering of the system and its processes. It means starting with a clean sheet of paper to produce an effective and efficient system that is performance and results based, with incentives for those who excel in providing quality education. This must be a system that is not monopoly based, but one which allows free choice without domination by the teachers' and the custodial unions. A whole new approach to an educational system for inner city kids will likely smoke out some excellent teachers who would not be willing to teach in today's schools.

It will take a bold and courageous visionary in the White House to fund a program that will cost a ton of money and take, perhaps, ten years to craft, evolve and demonstrate that a new approach can work in providing a good education to inner city kids. I would hope that this city would be selected for a pilot program for a whole new school system. A successful pilot program would result in a model that could be applied in other urban areas. It's time to take that bold and courageous approach. The current system is broke and can't be fixed.


Cram the Spam in a Tram, Sam
Charlie Wellander,

There must be fifty ways to deal with spammers. I too have received spam thanks to 'bots that scoured themail for addresses. Gary Imhoff's suggestion of simply deleting and going on with your life is the best, and I strongly second his advice never to follow any of the spammers' instructions (particularly including buying anything from them!). For those who prefer getting even to getting mad, I recommend This free service will parse all the headers (and HTML body text, if applicable) of the spam, then automatically generate a spam report to be E-mailed to the appropriate system administrators.

Another approach is to get a free Mission-Impossible-style E-mail address at Mail to such an address (e.g., the one I used for this posting) will be forwarded to you at your normal mail server. After a period of time that you specify, the temporary address self-destructs in a puff of cybersmoke, and no further messages (spam or any other) to that address will ever get through to you. You can get as many different addresses as you need.


A Huge Mistake
Ed T. Barron,

The Mayor is making a huge mistake in his endeavors to secure the year 2012 Olympics at a combined city pair of Washington and Baltimore. First of all, the quest will be in vain. Second, this city cannot manage a one-car funeral much less a very complicated event that will require a dozen major venues, transportation, and the presence of some 250,000 additional visitors for six weeks during the summer months. This city has some major problems to focus on, namely the education of our kids and crime in the streets. We do not need the major distraction of the Mayor gallivanting around the world in a lobbying mode. We cannot afford the monies it will take to market D.C./Baltimore as a potential Olympic site. Let's focus on the problems that the city faces right now and get rid of the major distraction of the year 2012 Olympics.


Someone Else’s Credit
Joan Eisenstodt,

It only happens to others, I thought! But I need to know where to call to make it stop: someone we've never met has been getting dunning notices from a local hospital and now from collection agencies, all at our address. It's compounded because someone sold a list to credit card companies and now we are also getting all kinds of applications for these credit cards in this person's name. I've called the two credit agencies. I tried to call Equifax and D&B credit reporting groups, but you get vmx and can't get out! HELP! Whom do I call to get this away from us?


Realtors Drive Cars, Not Prices
Kirsten Williams,

Mr. Mazer wrote in the last issue. “Residence prices are zooming out of sight. Every few years, a realtor-driven buying frenzy occurs in DC, particularly in Georgetown.” I am a realtor, and can assure you we don't drive prices up or down or create buying frenzies. That statement is the equivalent of claiming your stockbroker determines the price of a stock. We live in a free market economy, and it is good ol' supply and demand. But we do spend a lot of time driving in our cars.


Recycling Missed
Heidi Scanlon,

Paul Penniman asks, “Did anyone else miss their recycling pick-up today (Wednesday)? There has been no explanation yet from DPW.” What happened when you called to let them know? Our neighborhood's recycling was not picked up on its regular day last week (Tuesday). Wednesday afternoon, I called the all-around complaint number (727-1000), and a service report was taken by a competent, efficient, and friendly woman. The recycling was picked up Wednesday afternoon.


Vehicle Registration
Betty Ann Kane,

DC does charge differently for vehicle registration depending on weight. For vehicles under 3,500 pounds the charge is $55 a year. For vehicles over 3,500 pounds it is $88. There is also a mandatory $10 inspection fee, whether or not the car is due for inspection that particular year. The optional residential parking permit is another $10. This information is available on the DMV site at under registration and title. FYI by comparison, I had an extra car registered in Delaware at my beach house and the charge was $20 a year total. Delaware is in the same population range (around 650,000) as DC and of course geographically much larger, so the DMV operational costs one might expect to be the same or a little more in Delaware. Go figure. Drivers licenses in Delaware are about $20 for four years, and they set the renewal on your birthday, so it's easy to remember.


D.C. Driver’s License Without Social Security Number
Mark G. Epstein,

Not only is it possible to get a DC license with a random number — for privacy protection — it's remarkably easy. I had an hour to waste between meetings downtown, and, since it was a nice day, I wandered over to the Municipal Center on Indiana Avenue. I was pleased to see that DMV has an “express” one-stop office just next to the lower level semi-hidden entrance on the eastern side of the building.

In ten minutes I got instructions on filling out the form, submitted the form, got my photo taken, paid $5 by check for the “duplicate” license, and received the new license — all from the same pleasant and helpful staffer behind the counter. In fact, the only hard part was finding the one-stop room — if you go in the main entrance, as I did, there are no signs — you just have to go downstairs and wander forever until you find it.


A Quote in Any Other Form
Larry Lesser,

I'll bet George LaRoche knew that his Shakespeare quote was a little off. He was probably just testing us. “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” (Not “the same.” Good one.


Reply to Steph Faul
Jim Farley, WTOP Radio,

I'm not sure why Steph Faul would have heard WTOP on that projector at Alice Deal Junior High. The WTOP-AM towers are in Wheaton, Maryland, and the WTOP-FM tower is in Warrenton, Virginia. Our newsroom and studios are, however, located in the District. We have no connection to that monstrosity going up across from Krupin's.



Free Washington Symphony Orchestra Performance
Vivian Henderson, VHende

The Washington Symphony Orchestra will perform Sunday, October 8, 4:00 p.m., at Sixth Presbyterian Church, 16th and Kennedy Streets, NW. This will be an exciting free concert — don't miss it.


Hispanic Heritage Month Programs at DCPL
Patricia Pasqual,

Sponsored by the Washingtoniana Division and Washington Area Performing Arts Video Archive (WAPAVA). Tuesday, October 4, 6:30 pm, Dangerous Border Games, video of the production co-sponsored and co-presented by Washington Performing Arts Society and GALA Hispanic Theater. It will be introduced by Abel Lopez of GALA theater. Tuesday, October 11, 6:30 pm, Sins of Sorjuana, video of this year's Helen Hayes new play award, introduced by a member of the company. Screenings will be at Martin Luther King Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW.


Family History in DC
Matthew Gilmore,

Tuesday, Oct. 3, 5:45-8:45 pm. A workshop on family history in DC begins at the Historical Society of Washington DC and concludes at DCPL's Martin Luther King Memorial Library. Matthew Gilmore and Gail Redmann introduce materials, resources, and research strategies for doing family history and genealogical research in a variety of institutions in Washington DC and opportunity is given for hands-on use of the resources of both facilities visited. Cost is $15 (members FWD/HSW) or $20 (nonmembers). Subway fare is included in the fee. To make reservations, call 785.2068, ext. 111, or E-mail Gail Redmann (HSW) at


D.C. Democratic State Committee to Host Presidential Debate Watch Party
Linda Finkel-Talvadkar,

Join your fellow Democrats in light fare, great company, and a stimulating Presidential Debate on Tuesday, October 3, at Poli-Tiki, 319 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE (between 3rd and 4th Streets) on Capital Hill. Festivities begin at 7:30 p.m., and the Presidential Debate will commence at 9:00 p.m. Tickets are $15.00. To purchase tickets or for more information call Norm Neverson, Chair of the D.C. Democratic State Committee, at 882-7175.


Storytelling Class
Robert Revere, managing director,

Telling Tales, a storytelling class for novices, will be offered by Washington Storytellers Theater on Monday nights, October 2 through November 20. The class provides a relaxed, supportive, and artistically challenging environment to explore the basics of effective storytelling. It is taught by Jon Spelman, an internationally known performer who has performed to critical and popular acclaim for the past twenty years. Time: 7:30 - 10 p.m. Place: The Dance Exchange, 7117 Maple Avenue, Takoma Park. Cost: $190. To register: call 301-891-1129, or send a $50 deposit to Jon Spelman, WST, 1612 Ballard Street, Silver Spring, MD 20910.



Volunteer Tutors for Junior/Senior High Schoolers
Susan Ousley,

Are you looking for a way to help a DC student with homework and the ups and downs of adolescence? Our 39-year-old Study Hall provides DC teens and their tutor/mentors a weekly opportunity to work together, 6:45-8:15 pm, throughout the school year. Yes, 150 teens and 180 adults CAN share a room, learn, and have fun. See or call Co-Director Dave Brown, 484-8626, to learn more. Come 6:15, with references, for Orientation your first night. Come soon, if you want to get in on our Camp weekend.


Dave Nuttycombe,

From's LOOSE LIPS column, appearing this Friday:
GRAY MATTER: “I didn't call her a fat Jewish bitch; I called her a fat bitch,” says Phil Pannell.
Disputes of this nature are best settled by going to the source. “He called my wife a racist fat white bitch,” contends Larry Gray, whose version was corroborated by his wife, Diana Winthrop.
“I just can't get these adjectives together,” says Pannell.
Read the entire Loose Lips column here:

From's CITY LIGHTS page, here are a few early warnings for upcoming events:
SUNDAY: Mount Pleasant Arts Festival, from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. to Lamont Park, at the intersection of Mount Pleasant and Lamont streets NW. Free.
TUESDAY-SUNDAY: Jake Johannsen, 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 3 to Thursday, Oct. 5, and Sunday, Oct. 8; at 8 and 10 p.m. Friday, Oct. 6 and Saturday, Oct. 7. At the Improv, 1140 Connecticut Ave. NW. $15-$17.
More details and more critics' picks are available online at


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