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October 1, 2000

Where There’s Smoke, There’s Few

Dear Mailers:

This issue of themail is a little short, but that's not an indication of the amount of mail I got about the item in last Wednesday's issue on the confirmation of Ronnie Few as DC's fire chief. Thank you to those who sent private E-mails, and special thanks to readers from Augusta, Georgia — public officials, fire fighters, and private citizens — who sent additional information about Chief Few's career and political involvement there. Not that I believe that any of this information will have an impact on the confirmation process here. At Chief Few's confirmation hearing, Few's supporters, especially Stephen Harlan, who led the search committee, pointed repeatedly to the awards that he listed in his resume as evidence of his suitability for the job. The most prestigious of these awards was the Fire Chief of the Year award given to him by the International Association of Fire Fighters. When Dorothy, in her testimony, revealed that the IAFF was an AFL-CIO union that had never given an award to Ronnie Few and had, in fact, never given any award called “Fire Chief of the Year,” the Council reacted with indifference and a complete lack of interest. It is the Robert Newman syndrome again — write whatever you think will be impressive on your job application, and the administration will help you correct the misstatements after you get the job.

Well, as I repeatedly beseech you (and forget myself), let's get back to the neighborhoods and the blocks. Jeff Itell, the founder of this missive, often referred to it as the electronic backyard fence over which we exchange the news and the gossip. So, what's new with you?

Gary Imhoff


Sell Our Schools . . .
Nick Keenan, Shaw,

. . . and everything else! It is the height of fiscal irresponsibility for the District to hold any land that is not being actively used. Here's why: in my neighborhood, which is about average for the city, empty land sells for about a million dollars an acre, and a decent building lot is about 1/20 of an acre. If the city has an acre of unused land, it could either keep it and do nothing, or sell it to someone who might build twenty $200,000 homes. In the first scenario, the city has a piece of property worth a million dollars. In the second scenario, the city gets a lot more: a million dollars for the property, plus $24,000 in transfer and recordation taxes. When the houses are built the city gets about $30,000 in building fees, and another $96,000 in transfer taxes. In the future, each household will generate about $7500 a year in income taxes, about $1600 a year in property taxes, and about $500 a year in sales taxes. In addition, on average each house will sell once every seven years in the future, at which point transfer tax will be paid again, an average of $685 per household per year. The current value of that stream of payments is about $5.1 million dollars (E-mail me if you want the calculation). So by selling the land, the city gets $1.15 million today and a future revenue stream of $5.1 million, for a total of $6.25 million. By not selling the land, the city has a piece of land that worth a million dollars, and is more than five million dollars the poorer. Each new household is worth over $300,000 — no wonder our suburban neighbors are falling over each other to build houses and entice our residents.

This analysis doesn't even consider the negative effects on neighborhoods of fallow land. In almost any community east of Rock Creek, unused land is a major scourge, and the biggest offender is the District of Columbia. It has been argued that the city needs to stockpile land, because we might not be able to buy land in the future because it is not available or is too expensive. That will never happen. The city has the right to take land by eminent domain, so land will always be available. Since the City depends on real estate taxes for a major source of revenue, land will never be too expensive — as the price of land goes up, the City gets richer in lockstep. The reality is that we can't afford to keep this land. Sell it all, to the highest bidder, the sooner the better.


Charter Schools Not a BandAid
Andrea Carlson,

Ed Barron says, “The D.C. School System, like many inner city and urban school systems, can't be fixed,” and then goes on to call charter schools a “band aid” for the problem. For increasing numbers of us DC residents with school-aged children, charter schools represent a viable and attractive alternative to DCPS-administered schools. Rather than a patched up version of the same old same old, my daughter's school is an innovative, vibrant, and responsibly run organization with high expectations of students, teachers, administrators, and parents. All are held accountable. It's a refreshing change. Parents can't wait around for a bold overhaul of the system — we need to provide our children with quality education today. Let's not underestimate the value of school choice, especially given the state of things in DC. Like Ed, I continue to hope that DCPS and those responsible for its oversight will one day be humble enough to institute real reform measures so that more kids have a shot at a good education. In the meantime, I have a responsibility to my child, and I'm delighted to report that I don't feel we're making any compromises on the quality of her education by sending her to a charter school. Quite the contrary.


Who Pays Taxes in D.C.
Steph “Taxed but not represented” Faul,

So if living and working in D.C. means you have to pay taxes here, even if your voting residence is elsewhere, why doesn't the President have to pay taxes here? He lives and works right smack in D.C., George Bush's hotel room in Texas to the contrary. And while we're on the topic of Presidential addresses, why can't the Post shut up about “opening” Pennsylvania Avenue? Today's Ben Forgey piece makes me think he needs to adjust his medication: It's anything BUT a “war zone.” I walk across it every weekday morning, enjoying the quiet, the safety, and the way German tourists cluster in front of the White House muttering “Aber es ist so klein!” The ridiculous plan to “open” Pennsylvania Avenue only to passenger cars reveals the true motive: the Secret Service should just give Donald Graham a special pass to
drive through that block and the whole issue would disappear.

Better yet, let's build a nice big plaza in front of the White House, incorporate motifs of Corregidor and Normandy and Monte Cassino into the paving, and have THAT as a WWII memorial? You can't beat the location for prestige, it would look more attractive than the present asphalt, and it would spare the Rainbow Pool.


Fire Chief, a Flame of Problems
Keith Jarrell,

Clearly, this chief should never be confirmed. The problem what is he doing here in the first place. No one at the level of chief should be brought on board until final approval is done by the council. This along is a rule that should be revised and redone. This man is a problem. Where there is smoke there is a FIRE. Hello, haven't we been here, done this before, with many officials. We the voters — no, me — believed in Marion and gave him chance after chance, only to really be taken to the cleaners, and still we don't know all the damage he caused. Brazil hasn't been much better. He's afraid to deny this confirmation to the mayor. He won't stand up and do what is best for the city. I am tired of the race card and if he is continuing to play it then the federal government should be brought in to investigate why this city thinks that being black qualifies you to lead. Brazil needs to go; the voters should wake up and begin the process with him and hand him his walking papers. He is weak; watch him listen to him, he can't even finish a sentence without placing non-words in between his words and thoughts. I encourage everyone to flood his office with calls threatening not to vote for him if he confirms this potential fire chief.


Fuck Off, Gary Imhoff
Marquais Smith,

Surprise, surprise Gary Jagoff, I mean Imhoff, racism still exists and yes black political leaders are targeted. The new fire chief is going through the process and that's all he has to do. What more do you want? White people like you make me sick. The minute someone tells the truth, they are playing the race card, whatever the hell that is. You offer not one iota of evidence that this man has been convicted of any wrongdoing, or that he is unqualified, yet you go on a diatribe smearing this man and 50 politicians you don't even know. And you — city dwelling white boy you are — are supposed to be one of the enlightened ones. Fire does not discriminate. Do you think black folks in this town don't want the most qualified and ethical fire chief they could get? Do you think we'd risk life, property and possession, just so a “brotha” could get a thankless, freakin' fire chief's job? You really think we're that stupid? The real “charade” is this virtual piece of garbage E-mail newsletter. Oh how I wish all of you disgruntled white people would just pack up and leave DC.


Ann Loikow, Cleveland Park,

Heidi Scanlon wrote about her recycling not being picked up until after she called. I had the same problem Wednesday and called. My recycling was picked up, but so was my recycling bin! Hope this doesn't mean I won't get any further recycling pickup.


Trash Pickup Problems
John Whiteside, Logan Circle,

Heidi Scanlon writes about recycling being missed on her street. Sounds like she has had better luck with DPW than me. I've had intermittent problems with trash pick-up since moving into my house in June; at worst, two full weeks with no pick-up of anything. Calls to the citywide call center didn't help. Calls to DPW didn't help. Finally I got Jack Evan's office involved, and that has worked twice.

I'm glad Ms. Scanlon had better luck through the proper channels than I did -- I hate the idea that I have to call my city councilor's office to get basic services — but the larger issue is, what is the problem at DPW? I understand that there are problems in getting city agencies to work right, but ignoring citizen complaints crosses a line where there needs to be serious action. Anyone from Mayor Williams' office reading?


Random Permit Number, Random Utility
Kevin Morison, Chevy Chase DC,

Mark Epstein is absolutely correct that one can request a D.C. driver's permit with a random license number, as opposed to the standard Social Security number. However, the utility of that random number can be somewhat random itself. I recently rented a car on a trip to Chicago. The clerk at the rental desk took my license and tried entering it into his computer system several times, presumably to verify its authenticity. After the third or fourth attempt he stopped, looked at my license carefully, and said, “Oh, D.C. I'll need your Social Security number. That's the only way I can get into your city's license records.” So much for protecting the privacy of my Social Security number . . . at least with Avis Rent-A-Car.


Radio Static
Steph “The voices in my head told me to write this message” Faul,

I went to Alice Deal in the early 1960s, when the area around the Dancing Crab was known as “Television Hill.” (Raise your hand if you remember Pick Temple!) WTOP may well have moved since that time; most things have. But radio pollution persists, not, I am afraid to say, that most D.C. stations are worth listening to since station franchising became the normal business model.



Annual Quaker Bazaar: Eclectic Treasures Amazing Bargains
Tim Cline,

The annual Quaker Bazaar will once again feature some of the most interesting shopping to be found this side of the Casbah. Everything from antiques to clothes to household items to electrical appliances to crafts and gifts. Lunch will be available along with homemade baked goods, a knockout silent auction, and lots of surprises. All proceeds of the Bazaar are donated to Quaker affiliated causes for education, peace and justice, and anti-poverty work.

Saturday, October 14, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Quaker (Friends) Meeting House, 2111 Florida Avenue, NW (just a block west of Connecticut Avenue near the Dupont Circle Metro).


Book Sorting Volunteers
Martha Saccocio,

The Friends of the Tenley-Friendship Public Library will host our semi-annual book sale Saturday, October 14 from 12-4 pm. We are holding a “Book Sorting Party” on Thursday, October 12, from 5-9 pm. If you are interested in volunteering some time (and getting free pizza in exchange), please contact Martha Saccocio at


On the Path with the Jewish Study Center
Virginia Spatz,

Examine the origins of religion in human sacrifice, participate in a Jewish/Buddhist dialogue, explore the Kabbalah, or get a new perspective on crucial issues such as globalization, biomedical ethics, and infertility with the Jewish Study Center. Fall courses begin October 12, in late October, and throughout November. Full listings available on the web at, or call 265-1312 for a brochure.

The Jewish Study Center is an independent, non-profit educational organization, founded in 1978 to provide participatory adult Jewish learning. The Study Center welcomes participants and teachers of all faiths. Courses are offered at four area locations, including Dupont Circle and Capitol Hill.


Community Dialogue on Children
Susie Cambria,

DC Action for Children's October 4 First Wednesdays community dialogue: building resiliency in children and youth. Panelists are: Brenda Rhodes-Miller, DC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy; Joy Majied-Taylor, DC Link and Learn; Shanterra McBride, Empower Program; Linda Whyten, Far Southeast Family Strengthening Collaborative; and Ditra Edwards, LISTEN, Inc. The dialogue will be held from noon - 2:00 pm in Conference Room C, 1400 16th St. NW (the building attached to 1616 P St. NW). For more information, call 234-9404.


Trash Force Lifts Its Mighty Head Once Again!
Paul Nahay,

Believe it or not, I have returned safe and sound from the Ukraine, and am finally getting my act together enough to get Trash Force off its collective, dormant duff. That said, Trash Force's next outing will be this coming Saturday, October 7, meeting at 10:45 am at the Pierce Mill parking lot in Rock Creek Park. As always, those who come out will be encouraged to help clean up along the banks of poor old Rock Creek itself, which doesn't get much help other than from Trash Force itself. Directions and info are at

Please let me know if you're planning to attend (and also if your plans change), and don't forget to bring lots of plastic bags (at least a dozen) and gloves, if you want them!



Part-Time, Flexible Childcare Needed
Virginia Spatz,

We are seeking a part-time, flexible childcare provider for two home schooled children, ages 7 and nearly 10. Hang out, take kids to lessons, library, etc. (all within Capitol Hill area). Early evening hours will involve some light meal preparation. Good pay, hours flexible, but must include Tuesday afternoons and one morning per week. Must drive; own transportation a plus. Eastern Capitol Hill area. Please respond to



Oak Wood
Victoria McKernan,

Enormous oak tree must come down. It is healthy, but has far outgrown its space, crowded between two buildings. It is probably 100 feet tall, with a straight truck about three feet in diameter. I'm looking for someone who would want the wood for furniture or building, smaller pieces for firewood. A tree company is cutting it down, but can adapt methods and size to desired use. Please E-mail


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